My friend (and valued member of my crit group) Richard Parry has some thoughts on his blog about the state of things. About the way people interact, about the negative feedback loops we sometimes get caught up in (go read it now, then come back. I’ll wait).
Some days, it seems like everyone in the world is just trying to annoy me, but then I remember that everything is relative and if I’m struggling I’m more likely to interpret other people’s behaviour in negative ways.
Everyone is doing the best they can, but sometimes that looks like being an asshat because they are totally tapped out.
I am trying really hard to remind myself of this. Having moved about 6 weeks ago, I am still getting my head into the right space. Still struggling to get a routine in place. Some days the dishes pile up and we resort to takeout, some days I forget to brush my hair, and the kids hang out in their PJs all day (who doesn’t like PJ days?) and all I can really manage is basic meals (ie: toast!) and to bury myself in a book. It might not look like it from the outside, but on those days, that is the best I can do.
Not every day, of course, and on fewer days the longer we’re here (for which I am grateful). But this being kind to others, and assuming they are trying their best means I have to try and believe that I’m doing my best as well. Which is interesting.
As I get back into writing, I am struggling to really disappear into the story and I have a long held habit of writing myself in-text notes. Historically these have looked like [WTF Cassie?!] or [this is such shit, you can do better]. And now, I hold back on berating myself. Now they are more along the lines of [while this is an inelegant solution, I can see you’re feeling your way through introducing this element to the story, it’ll clean up later] or [bring it back on track, Cassie. You’ve got this]. It might not be as hilarious when reading it through again, but I’m certain it will be more helpful, and in the now? It means I don’t feel so crappy about my attempts to write.
I’m not really sure if I have a point here, other than maybe we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves, and to others. We can never tell what’s happening inside another person’s mind or body. We don’t know what they are going through. Sometimes we can’t even tell what’s going on with ourselves!
Of course, some people are just assholes. But not everyone. And not me. I’m just struggling.
For years I have been running on deadlines, on sleepless nights (child and study induced), on jam-packing my whole life with ALL. THE. THINGS. I studied, I wrote, I raised kids and played the perfect housewife. I raced everywhere, mostly against the clock, and against my emotions.
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my life. My husband is my best friend, my kids are fucking epic. We’re incredibly lucky, and I am so blessed to be able to stay home with them. None of that changes that my brain is a bit wonky. I’ve always overcommitted and then burned myself out delivering. I have always taken on more than I can chew in an endless battle to fit more into the day/my life. I’d get so stressed out trying to do all the things that I resorted to binging everything. Work, study, housework even (yes it’s totally possible). I was the Hare, rushing rushing rushing to the finish line. I can go so fast! I can do it all!
I’ve tried many times over the years to stop these self-destructive habits – hell, I do so well juggling all those balls that people just kind of assume I’ve got it all under control most of the time – but I have tried. I learned how to say ‘NO’ more often, I put my own stuff first. I started saying ‘I’d really like to do that, but I need time to think about it before I can give you an answer’. Even then, I would still rush and push myself harder than I could. Well, until I fell apart and just couldn’t any more. And let’s be honest, I did that a bunch of times on a smaller scale over the years. Collapsing into a heap, exhausted, drained, unable to function well.
So in some ways this last round of major depression was a really good thing. I had to stop. I took my meds, and they wiped out my motivation so even though I kind of felt like I should be doing more, I just couldn’t. I could not. Nope. None of it was happening.
I think I really needed the break. All pressure was off, and if I felt tired and unable to do stuff, then I knew it was the meds, and that was a lovely thing to fall back on. Nope. I’ve just gone up a dose and am adjusting. Nope. I’m not quite where I need to be. Nope. Nope. Nope. No, I just can’t right now. I can’t.
And that was good for a bit. It was. And then I recovered, and now I am off them and OH DO I BURN. I want to do all the things. My brain is firing again. It gets excited and goes down rabbit holes and it feels all the wonderful pleasure of the world again. It’s a beautiful thing. The creative drought is over. I’m back, baby!
But the Hare is dead. I know I can take a breath. I know I can say no, and I can consider things, and I can put my needs ahead of others. My brain may be diving off, exploring options, but that incessant need to do ALL. THE. THINGS has dulled somewhat. I’ve got a voice in the back of my head, the ghost of the hare that tells me to run and binge and doitallnownownowNOW.
But I am the tortoise. I’ve looked at my daily habits, I’ve assessed my goals, and I know that burning out isn’t going to get me where I want to be. Since the beginning of the month I have written and revised more of my own work than in the last four months combined. And I’m not even working that hard. I’m writing a little bit. I’m revising a little bit. I’m doing my paid editing gigs a little bit. Each of those three things, every day, and the progress is delicious.
I’ve found a new, far more rewarding addiction. One I’d never thought would ever work for me. It’s called… pacing myself.
WTF. Yes. I’m still getting my head around it myself. But here’s hoping it serves me well for a long time – long live the Tortoise!
Seeing as February is the month of love (well, for some people, I’m not really a Valentines person, though I do love celebrating my wedding anniversary which is this month!), I thought it would be the perfect time to bring a little gratitude and joy to my blog. I’m trying to incorporate this more into my life and have definitely noticed that it’s easier to be grateful for things the more that I do it – even when life isn’t so great. If you can reach for one thing and feel some genuine gratitude for it, then the world looks like a nicer place.
In saying that, sometimes I’m just grateful for coffee. Like, really grateful. Or chocolate. Where the hell would I be without coffee and chocolate?
Anyway, friend and fellow author, Meryl Stenhouse, suggested I jump aboard her love train this month (okay, that might sound slightly wrong… it’s too hot, I can’t think straight), and I thought, yeah, why not? And then I thought, YES, let’s rock this shit!
So here I am. And what are we going to talk about today? I had hoped to get a video done for you, but that ain’t happening. I’m suffering some pretty major fatigue right now (I’m so grateful for the afternoon nap I got to have yesterday) so that will have to wait. I’m falling back on an old love.
Today, I am in love with words. Well, to be honest, I’m in love with them most of the time, but today, this week, more than normal. You see, I have been struggling hard to re-form my writing habit, but I’ve written something every day for a week now and that feels pretty bloody awesome. While the words don’t feel AMAZING, and I don’t think the story is going to blow anyone’s mind, I am PUTTING WORDS ON THE PAGE, and that in itself is an awesome thing. Not always an easy thing, but an awesome thing.
Because if you love something, you should do it. You should bathe yourself in that thing and just, you know, roll around, lounge in it, as much as you can. Because even if you’re not feeling fabulous, doing that thing? Finding your bliss? Well, it helps. It turns out that if I’m not writing on the regular, I don’t feel like a real person anymore. This is my thing.
Find your thing. And then do your thing. Love it hard, and don’t let anyone, or anything, stop you from enjoying it.
After my last post, I made some changes – the biggest of these was having an action plan. Plans are so very important. They give you steps to follow even when you don’t feel like doing much. They help you feel pro-active and in control. I’m a big fan of plans, and eternally grateful to my good friend Meryl Stenhouse for helping me to come up with this one.
As a result of this plan, I am already seeing an improvement in my mood – see, just having a plan helps! I didn’t even wait til today to get writing! I started on Friday, with just 300 words. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I can tell you this: I’d rather write even 300 words than nothing. It’s an achievable goal, even on the worst of days, and a jumping off point on the good ones. When I told myself I needed to get back into the habit of writing, I gave myself no goal, and so I flailed. I expected a lot, but never gave myself a chance to work up to it. Not only is 300 words totally doable, but if I can get them done before lunch it means I have heaps of time to get other things done.
Moderation. Balance. I’ve struggled with those things so for long, but I think this time I might actually be coming at it the right way. I’m writing. I’m exercising. I’m taking care of myself. I’m reading books. And I’m spending lots of quality time with my family – and not feeling frustrated, because I am actually fitting everything in!
I went to the Dr this morning, and she supports me in reducing my medication. We’re taking it slowly, and I’ll check back in with her in a month to see how I’m doing. I’m not so nervous about it now, because I think this is the right call (and I’m totally okay if it’s not. This is a journey, and I know it takes time and nothing is certain). I feel really good though, and I hope that at some point in the future I won’t need the meds. If I do, that’s fine, but if I don’t, then that’s cool too. I’m glad I tried them out, because they helped me through a rough patch, and helped me to find myself again.
Anyway, this is kind of all over the place, sorry! To sum up, I have a good feeling about February. I’ll be adding a second post to the week, so you can expect a ‘Friday, I’m in love…’ post in a few days time, on, you know, Friday. Looking forward to sharing with you some of the awesome things, which will help keep me feeling grateful 🙂
Following on from yesterdays post about the trip to Auckland, I thought I’d take the time to do a little break down of the good and the not so good – and a few lessons we learned along the way.
The not so good:
The venue was large, but out of the way, which meant that there was no foot traffic passing by who might decide to pop in for a gander. It was fairly quiet on the Saturday, and I had hopes that Sunday would be busier – it was QUIETER!! If I am going to attend again, it would need to be in a more central location where more people would come to. I sold more books than I expected to, but I know of quite a few stands who sold virtually nothing 😦
Even if you think you’re prepared, something will go wrong, or not work the way you wanted it to. Despite testing out my banner stand at home and having no hassles with it, come Saturday morning it was a nightmare to get sorted! My dad and step-mother decided to take over the task, but even then they had issues, and the banner fell down later that day.
It was kinda cold. With the front doors open to welcome guests, and our location in the second aisle (which had a door at one end) it was pretty chilly at times, especially on the Sunday. The temperature changed between being warm enough and being cold, and it was a real nuisance lol.
The largest group of visitors to the festival would have to have been made up of those supporting exhibitors they knew, and writers/indie authors coming to either check out what other authors were doing, or make new business connections with printers etc. While that’s kind of understandable, it meant that there were not that many there to buy books, and my books are not going to appeal to everyone. A lot of eyes simply slid over our booth as they walked past.
The good: There were lots of awesome exhibitors! We made some good friends, and made a lot of great connections. I will talk more specifically about that tomorrow 😉 It wasn’t just the exhibitors who were great though, I got to meet a bunch of people I’ve only known online, some I knew might be there and others who were a total surprise! But I loved all of it.
Contrary to my belief that I would be completely shattered after the weekend, I’m feeling pretty upbeat. I’ve learned that not only do my anti-depressants help me cope better with tough situations, they also help me to feel more confident in myself. I was able to talk to people with little to no anxiety, and that was awesome!! Someone even commented that I must be the most extroverted out of our group, and I had to laugh. Very much an introvert, but I do like to talk to people, and I geared myself up to do so that weekend – very grateful it hasn’t resulted in any slump. In fact, I miss hanging with everyone!
I sold more books than I expected to. The number was still fairly small, but I’m really pleased with it. Highlights were a twitter friend coming in to meet me for the first time and buying a copy of each of my books – totally unexpected, but SO awesome! And then on Sunday another twitter came by and grabbed a copy of Sun Touched. I felt so special.
We got heaps of compliments on our stand, from the professional look of our books, banners and promo stuff, to the way we presented ourselves and interacted with attendees. Some people even reckon we had the best looking stand, which was a lovely compliment! It felt good to get such positive feedback, and to have the experience of being at a festival like this under my belt, with close friends alongside me.
We learned a lot. Which leads to….
Things we learned:
People don’t like coming into what can be perceived as personal space. We had our two tables on either side of the booth and it was one hell of a mission getting anyone to come IN. The vast majority of people stood at the front, which meant that not everything was being seen, and we didn’t have space for many people to talk to. The lovely Janine from across the way gave us this feedback on the second day, telling us how she had tweaked her own stand on the second day to make better use of the space. While a table across the front might seem like it puts a block between you and potential buyers, it actually allows them to stay in their space and not ‘invade’ yours, which feels safer – really good to know, and I am keen to test this out! lol
Having promotional material that is not directly related to your book is a really worthwhile investment. Keitha Smith, in the booth next to us, had these gorgeous, non specific book marks, with her book information on the back of them. Appealing to anyone, even if they didn’t buy a book. And Janine, across the way from us, had colouring pages packs, and gorgeous cards and butterflies which really drew the eye and meant there were a range of things to buy that weren’t books.
The vast majority of book sales were to people who already knew about us. 100% of Leigh’s sales were to people she knew online, and I would say about 70% of both mine and Tee’s were as well. Some of these were other exhibitors, but also people who had read digital copies and wanted print ones, or who had come across us online and then come looking in person.
While on some levels this might suggest an online presence really IS important, I’d like to think that it means that building your audience, and being a real person, is. The two twitter friends who came to see me and buy books were both people I think are lovely online (and proved to be just as cool in person!), and I think if I hadn’t been ‘authentic’ with my online presence, that might not have happened. It felt like I was gaining new irl friends, rather than readers.
As well as that, of the two exhibitors who I traded books with, and the one who purchased a copy of my book, I believe it was all down to them liking me as a person – that, combined with an interest in the premise of the book meant an exchange occurred. If they hadn’t met me, and enjoyed interacting with me, I don’t think they would now have my books in their possession.
I think these lessons were valuable, and combined with the ‘good’ things, mean that I feel like the festival was worth the time/money/energy investment I made into it. While I think there are a tonne of things that could have been done differently to make the turn out better for everyone, I’m really pleased I went 🙂