Writing Again

I shelved my 50,000 word work-in-progress almost two months ago. Since then I have started about five other novels. Each new work has ended at about 2,000 words when I decided I hated it. Not only did I hate the words I wrote for novels, I also hated every post I typed to Facebook, and every tweet I tweeted on Twitter. Nothing felt right. I wanted to break up with words entirely.

I hoped those feelings would turn out to be a phase. I tried not to rush it away. I tried not to freak out about it. Adding anxiety on top of depression was not going to help me write again.

But I have finally started a project that I look forward to writing. I have almost 4,000 words and they feel right. The storyline is just the right blend of comfort zone and challenge. I read over what I have so far and am happy with it. *Happy!* That has been a rare emotion lately when it comes to my work.

I have even found myself working today, a Saturday when my family is surrounding me with distractions. I am still able to work through a bit of chaos and feel good about the outcome.

Hopefully, this will last. But either way, I plan to make the most of it while I’m in it.

Three Day Quote Challenge: Day Two

I was nominated for the Three Day Quote Challenge by A Willful Woman. I don’t often get nominated for such things, and I really appreciate this one. I need a nudge to update my blog and get back into the habit of posting more often. I hope the bloggers I nominate will find this challenge equally helpful.

Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Publish a quote on 3 consecutive days on your blog.  The quote can be one of your own, from a book, movie, or from anyone who inspires you.
  • Nominate 3 more bloggers each day to carry on this endeavor.

Today’s quote is something my middle daughter said when she was six years old:

Love is the heaviest thing.

-Maya Towe

She was always very interested in the illustrations inside picture books, the lines drawn thick and thin, shapes, the marks created to show movement. When she told me “Love is the heaviest thing”, she was referring to the shape of a heart, how it is heavy on top and seeps down into its point as if the weight of it can not be held by the two sides of the heart meant to hold it.

But, of course, the quote has many meanings. Love is very heavy. It’s more difficult to love than be indifferent, and even more difficult than hating someone. As for being loved, it keeps us grounded. When someone loves us, truly, we have a responsibility to care for ourselves, too. And sometimes we don’t want that responsibility.

My kids, through the years, have given me lots to think about. The way they see the world has broadened my own views. Loving them sometimes feels like walking with weights on my wrists and ankles, but I am so much stronger now because of them.

I don’t know who to nominate today. If anyone wants this spot, let me know and I’ll add a link to your blog and update this post. Anyone feeling particularly sentimental about a favorite quote or three?

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

The Line Ahead

I never know what will happen next in life; but I often see the line ahead, the line where the way things are now fades and something new begins. I see that line, my line, coming up at the end of next week. The kids will be out of school for the summer. My new novella will have been just released. The novella I am writing now will have a completed first draft.

The changes coming are a mystery to me. I don’t know what they will be. But I do know *why* they will be. Changes will happen because I have a year of self-publishing behind me. I have learned enough to shift my POV to something entirely different than it was in the beginning. Throughout this process, I have tried to wrestle and pin down what exactly it is that I should do “as an author”. The author I am now is not the author I was and never will be again. I don’t know if I’m pleased about that.

Back in the 90s I wrote all the time. When I wanted to write, I’d write. I’d write in the car, at parks, in restaurants, at friends’ houses, and at work. Words were with me all the time because I carried around a constant obsession with understanding why things were the way they were. My head was full of curiosity and wonder. Writing helped me make sense of the world and our place in it. Not only was that why I wrote, but  I think it’s why readers read as much as they do. They crave the right words, the right story, to make it all make sense, or to feel like it makes sense even if we know it’s fiction.

Changes come about when acts and/or expectations are altered. Changes do not always mean things will be done differently. Sometimes it’s just a matter of doing the same things with different expectations. I’m not sure which it will be when I cross over the line I know is coming. But whatever it is, I’m going to accept it and do my best to find peace within it.

Books

Becoming an Author – My Year One

In January 2014, my husband’s 2013 W2 forms started coming in the mail. That was when it hit me. For the first time since 1991 (when I was 18), I had earned nothing. I had no income to claim. I had made zero dollars.

By all other standards, we were doing well in 2013. My husband had been offered a new job in Texas at the end of 2012. We moved 900 miles away from everyone we knew and landed in what I still think of as the “perfect house for right now.” It isn’t a small task to move six people across the country. There is the physical part of loading and unloading box after box. There is also the tedious job of moving our finances, making accounts for online bill pay, and creating an entirely new budget based on new income and new expenses.

And then there was the most difficult part, the emotional task of getting four kids settled into their new schools. One child needed Gifted testing, another needed to jump through dozens of hoops to get into a special ed pre-K program. One child had a 504 plan for anxiety, and another cried because we had to leave her best friend back in Tennessee. Also, with new insurance covering more treatments than our old, there were many doctor appointments, referrals, and therapies to schedule and transport kids to and from. The changes were a roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

I hadn’t noticed, through all the chaos and literal “work”, that I was not making any money. It was the farthest thing from my mind until my husband’s W2 forms started to roll in.

It’s strange how I can move 900 miles away from my family, have barely any time to breathe for the work which must be done, yet never feel trapped by the loneliness or trapped by the responsibilities. I felt at home with my tasks and my place in the world. But, as soon as I realized I had not earned a single cent in 2013, I felt walls shoot up around me, boxing me inside.

Over the years, my role had shifted. I had once been the parent who worked while my husband studied for certifications as he switched careers. When my second daughter was born, his career-switch was complete and he earned enough money for me to quit my job, but not without sacrifices. I had sold vintage clothes online for a while before becoming a substitute mail carrier. My availability plummeted when my son was diagnosed with autism and had almost daily therapy appointments. Add to that how my babysitters were no longer comfortable dealing with him. So, it reached a point I had to quit work. A month later, my husband landed the job in Texas.

Throughout our time together, my husband had gotten another bachelor’s degree and a plethora of certifications. He had chosen his path and accomplished his goal. He is now the happiest I have ever known him to be with his job.

And me? I have always felt it was important for me to stay at home with my kids. But I often felt I was neglecting the other part of my “self”, the part of me which is not just a receptor and processor for the needs of others. I am good at it, and I love it, but that is not all I am.

I resolved that I would have an income in 2014. I would start a business, like I had when I sold vintage clothes. Perhaps I would open and Etsy shop and stitch together patchwork dogs and owls and other animals. (I love to sew, so, so, so much!) But stitching up one animal would take me an entire day or longer. And there was no way I would make my money back from the hours I put in.

In the past, crafting, sewing, and resale had been things to fill up the few hours I had between infant feedings or diaper changes. I always had toddlers milling about, wanting to help, or screaming at each other from the other room. I made the best I could of it, always having a project to escape to on the rare moments when there was silence and peace.

But in 2014 my son was finally in Kindergarten, the last of my kids to go off to a six hour school day. For me, the first couple of months were one Netflix binge after another, catching up on all the adult television I had missed in the last 13 years. Then came the realization that I was doing “nothing”, earning “nothing”, becoming “nothing”. Crafting had been necessary therapy. But it was not my dream.

Writing was my bliss. Oh how I loved to write! All of my life I had loved it. All of my adult life I had wanted to write a novel, or a work of nonfiction, a children’s book, a collection of poetry, or ALL of it. The way it feels to look at an object and think of how it makes me feel, and then to roll around words in my mind until just the right ones come together to describe that very thing… I had forgotten what it was like, because it was impossible for me to do with the kids at my feet. I had let go of the dream after childbirth like I let go of skinny jeans and make-up. There had been no place for it. But suddenly there existed a place for it again.

“I’m just going to try this,” I told myself. “It’s not like I’m doing anything else with my time. I’ll just begin, see where it takes me.” I declared myself a writer.

What did I expect? Honestly… I expected to write a novel and make a couple thousand dollars in 2014, maybe more in 2015.

Naivety is a necessary stage we all must go through.

I wanted to do everything perfectly. I had a long list of things I needed: awesome cover art, an editor, proofreader, beta readers, a website (a cool one), social media accounts, ISBN numbers, advertising…. I had a long list and no money to pay for any of it. I refused my mother’s repeated offers to assist me. I refused to put anything on our credit cards. I needed, NEEDED, to become an author all on my own.

My first book was published in September 2014. The only thing I paid for was my “doing business as” license, ISBN numbers, and my cover art. In four months, my first novel earned about a dozen dollars more than what I spent to create it (not including time).

So far in 2015, I published my second novel, paying for that means I’m currently at a loss of a few hundred dollars. I basically dug a hole. But I have two books to show for it, two books which have received overwhelmingly positive reviews by those (few) who have read it. Those books will still be there, no added work needed, for the rest of the year. Hopefully they will gain some attention, but I am no longer foolish enough to expect anything either way.

I accomplished my goal for 2014. I became an author and I earned income. I no longer wonder if I am missing out on my dream, or worry that I might fail. I no longer exist as only a servant to those I love. My life feels complete with the work I do as a mother and the work I do as a writer. So I have no regrets at all. I am blissful.

Blissful, and still unable to support myself.

Take from that what you wish, new authors-to-be. I mean it to be neither encouraging nor discouraging. My only advice for you would be: Do not expect to make enough to repay your debts. The amount of your book’s awesomeness will not necessarily equal the amount of your book’s earnings. If that doesn’t scare you away, then carry on.

Books

A Fumbling Hand

Hey, why I am writing a blog post today? I mean, didn’t I just finish writing and editing my first novel? Shouldn’t I be celebrating or something? Maybe I should get busy with the next phase toward publishing it?

Right. That’s why I am writing a blog post. Because writing this blog post is easier than trying to figure out what I should do next. I need this panic to subside before I can even start researching information on editors, cover art, query letters, beta readers, writing groups, contests, self publishing how-to’s and not-to’s, and so much more. I think my head might explode.

Do you know why I write? I write because it connects what is inside of me to what is out there, to you. It is a hand that reaches, and hopefully without much fumbling, finds the hand of another. And there is comfort and validation that comes from that connection. It says, “Let me put words to this ache so we can let it go out of us and into the light where we can examine it together.”

Whatever I decide to do with what I have created, it has to be consistent with my purpose in writing it. It has to have readers or it is only a hand stretched out to nothing, waving in the wind.

So the big question is, which choices will help this story make more of those connections?

I don’t yet know the answer.