Note to reader: This is the second part in a two-part blog post. If you wish to read part one, click here. Otherwise, please read on, although note that this post a little more personal than my usual writing-related posts, so feel free to skim or skip.
The sudden and unexpected passing of our two-year-old beloved golden retriever Lulu (see part 1) has made for an unimaginable start to 2021. Not only that but in the past week we’ve also had our ten-year-old retriever at the vet for a suspected rare case of Masticatory Muscle Myositis (hopefully treatable), our fridge has decided to stop keeping food cold, the washing machine powerboard is playing up, and our solar panel system has packed it up needing repairs. It hasn’t been a good January.
I must admit there have been times this past week where my headspace has been so clouded it’s been hard to get out of bed. The sadness ebbs and flows, and maintaining even the most minimal of daily activities has seemed too overwhelming. The days are getting better. Slowly, my headspace is clearing above the haze. But I still have this gnawing feeling something needs to change.
We all had a tough 2020. Some worse – more imaginably worse – than others. And I’m sure we have all felt a murky combination of helplessness, frustration, fear, sadness, and hopelessness throughout the year. For me, 2020 was a mix of good and bad. Obviously the bad being Covid-19, home-schooling, and lockdowns. The good being our family and close friends have remained safe and healthy, our business is busier than ever, and as I work and write from home, life continued pretty much ‘as normal’.
But with Lulu’s passing, I seem to have been knocked off course. And although I know making major decisions or life-changes during a period of extreme emotion isn’t good, I feel there are changes I need to make. I just don’t know where to start.
I’ve tried to write this post a number of times. Tried to get my thoughts clear on all the things that have been causing me overwhelm. It’s been tough, but I’ll share them with you and I’m going to share how I’m going to try and recalibrate myself back to north.
Feeling like I need to ‘keep up’ with everyone on social media has begun to take it’s toll. I’m feel like I’m not running my own race anymore. I’m running the race I think I need to be running to be a successful author (whatever that is). I see what others are doing and think I should be doing that. I get caught up in trying to be everything to everyone. It’s exhausting. And I’ve lost myself in it.
I need to remember my Instagram feed doesn’t need to always be writing related. It doesn’t need to look picture-perfect, and every photo doesn’t need to be ‘Instagram’ worthy. What it does need to do is represent who I am and what I’m about. And if that doesn’t appeal to some, I need to be okay with that.
Writing and Publishing
From the outside, it may have seemed like I had it all together in 2020 in terms of my writing. Yes, I might have completed my manuscript to a publishable standard and completed the first draft on another, but behind the scenes, I was flailing like a turtle on its back. The pressure to decide on whether or not to continue on my indie publishing journey or query agents and publishers weighed heavily on me. One minute I was all ‘stuff the publishing gate-keepers, I’m doing this on my own terms,’ and the next I was ‘please read my manuscript and offer me a two-book deal. I’ll gift you my left kidney. Or a lifetime of chocolate. I’ll do whatever you ask!’
It should be an easy decision. One, or the other. Or even, the happy medium of querying and if I don’t succeed at that, indie publishing (which was the camp I was sitting in most of the time). But, for some reason, the whole thing became too overwhelming.
I’d see published authors flaunting their new books with pride (as they damn-well should) and I’d have a strike of envy. I’d see indies releasing their books to praise and pride (as they damn-well should) and feel another surge of envy (even though I’ve done it before). And at different times I’d longed for each of these. Then I’d see unpublished authors share their joy of scoring an agent or publishing deal and, as much as I hate to admit it, I’d feel a momentary stab to the heart right before being so happy for them.
Add to that I found myself over-analysing my writing. Rather than just writing and letting the story unfold I became too focused on plotting and making the story ‘perfect’. Even though I know rationally and intellectually that there’s no such thing as the perfect story, even though I know that what one person likes another person will see as rubbish, and even though I know I’m not trying to be a literary genius, I kept doing it! I got caught up in the ‘I need to do this’ and ‘I need to do it this way’ rollercoaster.
A few days ago I watched an Instagram live from author Marian Keyes* and she reminded me of something; I need to just write. I need to make my books the best I can without having them be perfect. Yes, so much easier said than done (as I proved in 2020), but being reminded of this lifted an invisible yet cumbersome weight off my shoulder.
*I recommend every aspiring author (even published authors) watch this. I love how she is so down to earth, even admits how little she knows about plotting and act structures!
This is a hard one to reset. My current approach – flailing between trad and indie – isn’t working. But, I don’t know if I’m ready to settle for focusing on one or the other. I wish I could do the submit to publishers/agents and if no luck publish myself approach, but all it does is make me doubt the quality of my book. And heading into indie publishing with extra self-doubt isn’t a helpful mindset.
I just don’t know which way to go with this, but I do know it’s a decision I need to make asap.
In one way, deciding to focus solely on querying would take a load of pressure off. It would allow me to focus solely on the writing. I wouldn’t have to worry about all the associated writing and business things that go along with self-publishing (and that list is huge!). I would be able to write, rewrite, work the manuscript until submission, and then move on to the next one. Hopefully, getting better with each and every one. And maybe one day (if I’m lucky, if the stars align, if the right person reads it, if all ducks are in a row) I might be offered a deal. (And, yes, I know that in itself comes with added pressure and a whole new ball game!)
On the other hand, focusing on continuing to indie publish would mean actively moving forward with my next release and putting it out there which will be exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. I also feel like if I don’t continue to indie publish I will disappoint readers who are looking forward to my next book.
As you can see, I’m still confused on how to recalibrate this one! But, I need to make a decision one way or another. And it doesn’t mean it’s a decision I’m locked into forever. I might choose to follow path A for a year or two, then try path B, then maybe give path C another try. I just know, now, this year, I need to decide on one path.
Seems like a rather broad subject ‘me’, but I feel like I need to recalibrate myself. It’s a hard thing to admit when you feel like something is missing. Especially when you have so many good things in your life. I have a good marriage, a loving family, a small but important friendship group (and don’t you find out who your true friends are in the face of grief!), a good financial position, a roof over our heads, a nice car to drive, and I’m fit and healthy. I thought writing was the thing to fix this ‘hole’ I’ve experienced since becoming a mother – another hard thing to admit – and, for the most part, it has. But, I still feel I need something more. A sense of self. Whatever that means.
Another tough one. I’m not giving myself many answers here, am I?! But I think I need to do something outside of writing, and outside of my family. Is that in the form of a part-time job? Volunteering? Personal development? I not yet sure. But, I know I need to sort it out. To recalibrate and remember who I am.
Remember who I am.
It’s a weird statement isn’t it? Why have I forgotten? I’m not sure.
I think I just need to be me.
And who is that?
Me. Jodi. I love baking. I love books; reading them, writing them, talking about them. I love my pets, and my family. I’m a bit quirky. I have odd habits. I talk to myself. I answer myself. I set myself weird meaningless challenges like ‘make it from the bedroom to the kitchen in only eight steps’. I love dancing around the house and singing at the top of my lungs when no-one is home. I love being by myself. I can be hard to get to know – I’m guarded. But, if I let you in, I’ll be as loyal as the day is long. I don’t like asking for help, even though sometimes I need it. I want to feel accepted even though I’ll tell you I don’t care. I’m an introvert but still want to be asked to things. I want friends who will always ask me to do things and will understand if I say no four times and yes once and still accept me as one of them. I’m sensitive and deeply nostalgic, but not necessarily sentimental. I don’t say much sometimes, but when I do, it will be important. I can be quick-witted and have a dry sense of humour, yet sometimes I am lost for words because I won’t know how to best say the thing I want to say. Hours later it will come to me and I’ll smile and think ‘I wish I’d’ve said that‘. I both like and dislike confrontation, but only take it on when the stakes are worth it. I like order. I like being prepared. I like a clean house and everything in its place, but I’m not overly obsessive about it. I despise clutter, gadgets, and trinkets and at times have an overwhelming desire to sell all my possessions and move into a tiny house. I love walking, especially first thing in the morning. I love pushing myself with pilates. I love to eat right and wrong. I have a sweet tooth and wish breakfast could be the main meal of the day. Quiz shows and games bring out my competitive spirit and 80s pop-culture is my jam. Music is as important to me as books and can often determine my mood. I also like words. Writing them, reading them, and going way overboard at times like this very one right now! So, I’ll stop.
Sorry, I may have gone a little OTT with all that, but I needed to get it all out. I need to remember who I am and everything in my life needs to reflect that. Including how I progress as a writer and author.
So, where to from here?
Some deep thinking and decisions.
Writing this post may have totally bored you dear reader, and if you’ve made it this far I’m awfully proud of you! But, it’s something I needed to write. Something I needed to put out there publicly. Now the real recalibration can start. Wish me luck. (And, yes, I’ll let you know what happens.) Thanks for sticking with me.