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Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Seven Year Itch (PJ Sharon)

Just as the moon has its cycles, we humans are always changing. It has become increasingly clear to me that I suffer from seven-year-itch syndrome

No worries, my husband and I are happily married and way past the seven-year mark, but creatively, I’ve found that I’m good for about seven years of dedicated effort to learning a new skill before my passion wanes, or I find another new endeavor that captures my attention, leaving me no choice but to move on or risk stagnation. 

So far in my life, I've been a figure skater, martial artist, opera singer, Physical Therapist Assistant, massage therapist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and author. And I've loved all of it! These diverse experiences have offered me endless opportunities for growth. I've met amazing people along the way, forging friendships that will last a lifetime. And challenging myself in new ways keeps life interesting.  

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying I wasn’t one of those writers who had no choice but to write. I had gone to a financial seminar when I was about forty where the presenter spoke about creating passive streams of income for retirement and suggested that writing books was a way to do that. You write the book, put it out there, and collect the royalties in perpetuity. Sounded simple enough. I was a decent writer, loved English class in school, and figured I had enough drive and ambition to make it happen. After all, I had twenty-five years until retirement, so I was sure I could make it work. My kids were pretty much grown, I had moved to the Berkshires with the love of my life, and was just starting my massage practice, so I had time and flexibility to start a new project. Once I made the decision to try, ideas came flooding in.

Those early days were exciting. It seemed I had endless story ideas and the focus and discipline to see my projects through to the end. Writing made me happy. I couldn’t wait to get home every day to dive in, sometimes staying up until the wee hours pouring my heart out onto the page (I wrote my first draft of Savage Cinderella in ten days while I was home sick with the flu). It was stimulating, cathartic, and although there were plenty of hair-pulling moments, writing fed my soul.

I began writing young adult fiction for several reasons. Initially, it was because I realized I didn’t want anyone I knew reading my steamy adult romances, lol. Then, in my effort to learn to write in deeper POV through a first-person narrative, I found my voice and style were most suited to the YA genre. But mostly, I knew I had some important stories to share with teen readers. My own young adulthood was mired in drama, conflict, and tragedy—the perfect recipe for writing YA. It turned out my seventeen-year-old self was still working through some old stuff and had a lot to say!

By the fifth year of my writing journey (around 2010), I had written four full-length novels, ~500,000 words, and had the requisite 10,000 hours of practice Malcolm Gladwell says in his book, Outliers, that it takes to become an "expert". After much consideration and research, I decided self-publishing was the way to go. For me, autonomy, control over my creative process, and the success I was seeing for other self-published authors in those early days of the boon was appealing. It was a huge learning curve, and a lot of work, but I didn’t let that stop me. I was determined to bring my stories to readers—and so I did. What I didn’t count on for the next ten years was the demands of the profession or the endless minutia that goes along with the job. I found the marketing, promoting, technical challenges, and ever-changing world of publishing to be a soul-sucking part of the process I had not anticipated. For many of us, the “business” of writing can sap the joy and fun right out of the creative process.

To combat the solitary nature of writing, most creative types need life-affirming experiences to fill their creative well—a return on our investment so to speak. A pat on the back from our editors for a job well done, positive feedback from readers, and even financial compensation for all the endless hours of effort we’ve put into our art. But when so much of the job is “writing to the market” or dealing with the million to-dos’ of selling our books and maintaining an online presence, it can take the wind out of our sails and leave us feeling like our creative well has run dry. Add a global pandemic, divisive politics, and climate chaos to the mix and it’s no wonder so many of us are struggling to get words on the page.

So, what’s a writer to do?

I say, give in to the “itch” and try something new. For some, that might mean switching genres or trying out a new medium like writing a screen play or working with an artist to write graphic novels. I can totally see my Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy or Savage Cinderella series in graphic novel form. But my pragmatic self understands that no matter what I write, I still need to treat my writing as a business to make it worth the time and effort. The mere thought of it makes me squidgy, so I’m going to see if trying something completely unrelated to writing spurs my creative spark. I’ve been toying with the idea of taking art classes, hoping to reclaim some of that joy and excitement of learning a new skill. We’ll see where that leads me. Maybe I can combine my efforts and those graphic novels will take shape!

I still have time before I retire.

Peace and blessings,

PJ


A licensed massage therapist by day, PJ Sharon is also an award-winning author of young adult novels, including PIECES of LOVE, HEAVEN is for HEROES, ON THIN ICE, and Holt Medallion-winner SAVAGE CINDERELLA. You can follow Brinn’s story in the Savage Cinderella Novella series which includes FINDING HOPE, LOST BOYS, SACRED GROUND, BROKEN ANGEL, and LIBERTY’S PROMISE.

In addition to her contemporary YA lit, Ms. Sharon’s YA dystopian trilogy, The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, which RT Book Reviews calls “An action-packed read with a strong female lead,” is a sci-fi/fantasy adventure inspired by her fascination with “prepping” and her passion for environmental causes, as much as by her love of romance and the unending “what-if’s” that haunt her imagination.

PJ has two grown sons and several adorable grandchildren, and lives with her brilliant engineer of a husband in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA where she writes, kayaks, and plays in the dirt as often as possible.

3 comments:

  1. How do you keep your love and passion (for your art) alive?

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  2. Oh, man, I second that giving in to the "itch"! It really does help to send the creative juices flowing in new directions...

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  3. Let's hope we're both right, lol.

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