I’m clearly not the only writer here learning new lessons during this unprecedented time of stress, quarantine and involuntary restructuring of our daily lives. One biggie for me has been the importance of kindness.
I've always tried to be kind to others, of course, but that seems more important than ever as we’re all buffeted by the changes forced on us by current circumstances. Since March I’ve made a point of tipping more generously, paying more compliments, offering words of encouragement whenever possible and reminding friends and family members to be gentle with themselves right now. In other words, I’ve gone out of my way to be kinder than usual to everyone…except myself.
Like many/most writers, I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic. We need to be, or we’d never get all those books written. Not when it’s so easy to procrastinate with virtuous-seeming tasks like research, world-building, office reorganization, promotion (and everything that goes with it), financial spreadsheets…the list is endless. And that’s completely apart from all the regular Life stuff, which in my case has involved three moves in less than two years.
Since leaving traditional publishing and taking control of all aspects of my writing biz a few years back, I can honestly say I’ve never worked for a more slave-driving bi**h of a boss in my life. She makes me work through breakfast, lunch, in the evenings after dinner, and on weekends. (Shoot, I’m typing this during what’s supposed to be happy hour, though I do at least have a glass of wine within reach.)
If anything, I’ve been harder on myself than ever in recent months.
Since early Spring, I’ve been promising my readers a Summer 2020 release of my next Starstruck book. This book took a lot longer to write than usual, because it’s been so difficult to focus and sink into my story world with the stress of this new reality. I kept plugging away, though, and I was finally able to announce in my June newsletter that I’d finished the first draft.
I took one week “off” (hah!) by doing my taxes, then dove into revisions, still envisioning that Summer 2020 release date.
Unfortunately, I quickly discovered the book needed a lot more work than I’d realized when I typed “The End.” Among other things, I apparently left out most of the conflict necessary for an engaging story. An author friend with a similar issue theorized that we’re avoiding conflict in our writing because there’s so much of it in the outside world right now, between the ongoing pandemic and the increasingly frenetic news cycle. Um, yeah.
I’m currently fixing that and other problems and the book is getting better and better, much to my relief! But it’s a slow, slow process. Because I hate to miss deadlines, even self-imposed ones, I’ve been pushing myself harder and working longer and longer hours trying to make that Summer release happen. Yet here it is late July, and I just spent the last three days rewriting—and rewriting—chapter 12 (out of 27).
Kind to myself? Not so much.
After what amounted to an intervention by family members, I hope to change that. In the July newsletter I just sent out (today), I let my readers know I’m reluctantly pushing back the release date for the book—and why. It was that or risk damaging my health, marriage and sanity, or all three. I hope my readers will forgive me.
Going forward, I plan to build more downtime into my schedule. Here’s hoping I can remember how to relax and actually enjoy life, for at least a few hours a day.
If by chance you’ve also been beating yourself up over how little you’re accomplishing right now, please stop! While we navigate our way through the sometimes overwhelming challenges of this time, we all need to be extra kind and gentle to ourselves, as well as to others.
Take a break. Read a book. Binge-watch a show or series. Listen to music. Make cupcakes. Do something nice for yourself.
Eventually we will get to a new normal, but until then simply surviving each day as it comes is a triumph. Celebrate that.
Peace and love to you all.
Brenda Hiatt now hopes to release Convergent, the next book in her Starstruck series, in Fall 2020.