Friday, January 3, 2014

My New Year's Resolution: Contentment


Oh, that elusive feeling: contentment.

It's a brand new year and I'm feeling daunted already. I add challenges and goals to my list faster than I cross them off and as a result, I'm always a bit twitchy. Jumpy. Overcaffeinated. I'm always working and rarely satisfied. My mind runs on black coffee and sleep deprivation. It's not a peaceful place in there.

It wasn't always this way. In 2012, everything about writing was shiny and new. The possibilities were endlessly lovely and I was happy. My small press even gave me an award for my enthusiasm at the annual Lori Foster Reader and Author Get Together. Those were good times, but the feeling didn't last. I soon started to struggle with knowing when I'd done enough and when it was okay to relax and enjoy what I'd accomplished.

As I sat down to write my 2014 reading and writing resolutions this week, I realized I was nervous. Jittery even. Faced with a brand new year of possibilities, I panicked. I realized anything can happen. Anything. Look. There are 363 more days where I can fall on my face and 363 more days of obstacles to conquer. I'm exhausted just thinking of everything I need to do. I wrung my hands together and put my head between my knees a while. While I was folded over, it occurred to me this wasn't normal.

In the interest of being transparent and taking full advantage of this blog as my personal therapist, (you don't mind do you?), I will confess that I feel like a failure as an author. Daily. It was only five short years ago I jostled a newborn in one arm, opened a search engine with the other and Googled "How to write a book." I signed a contract eighteen months later with a small press for a romance novella and I was so super happy... for five minutes. Then I wrote a bunch more sweet romance stories for them, but I was never really satisfied. The books came out. I celebrated and I kept writing. I kicked myself for not selling more copies or for not climbing the publishing ladder faster. I should have been happy with the progress I was making, but I wasn't. I was anxious. Worried. Frustrated. It wasn't enough.

I kept writing. I branched out. In fall 2012, I landed contracts with Carina Press for a cozy series and with Merit Press for a YA suspense. Both those contracts were a BIG deal for me. I'd moved up a baby-writer-rung on the industry ladder and I was elated. ... for five minutes.

I've continued writing and submitting new manuscripts, hoping for another contract. I spend hours online and weekends away seeking name recognition and praying readers will find my books among the millions available. It's overwhelming. I'm tired.

So, this year I'm not writing any resolutions. This year I'm setting my sights on inner peace and I'm making time to be thankful for the journey so far. In 2014 I want to write because it's my passion - not because I'm on a quest to climb ladders. I want to read because it's fun - not because I took the GoodReads challenge and set my bar unreasonably high. No more guilt in reading. No more guilt in writing. Somewhere along the way, my perspective tilted and I lost the joy.

I've had enough of the unnecessary pressure I put on myself. I miss my family. I'm taking back the good stuff.

This year I've given myself permission to relax. To breathe. To be content with where I am. If I never get another contract or sell another copy of anything I've written, that's okay too. The world won't end. I won't die and honestly, my kids probably wouldn't know the difference.

My singular 2014 resolution is contentment.

Three days in and I'm sleeping better already.

Anyone else need permission to breathe? I've got lots of room for company.

7 comments:

Ana Barrons said...

I can completely relate to the guilt and the pressure and the need to let go. I've had to take "contentment" breaks as well, but the problem is always restarting -- if I can't do it quickly enough all the guilt and pressure I'd tamped down hit me full force. I hope you can hold on to the contentment and restart more smoothly than I ever have! Good luck and thanks for this post, Julie.

Marcelle Dubé said...

You go, Julie. I understand completely. Pressure doesn't always make diamonds. Congratulations. I suspect you will be the richer for your decision. Certainly you'll be better rested. :-)

Julie Anne Lindsey said...

Ana, It felt so good to lay this all out there. It feels even better to know other writers go through this. Thank you so much for your encouragement!

Marcelle, oh, man, if only self imposed pressure made diamonds! Writers would be very wealthy LOL I love that imagery.

Anne Marie Becker said...

LOVE this post, Julie. I'll be right over and we'll chill together. ;) I'm tired of the pressure cycle, too. And I love what Marcelle said - "pressure doesn't always make diamonds." In fact, I feel like when I'm pressured, I don't write as well, so I'm with you...time to breathe. Here's to a happy 2014!

Toni Anderson said...

Lovely post, Julie. Right now I have no contract and frankly, over Christmas, it was the first relaxing break I've had in...years. I also had a new release and although I hit some social media, I basically chilled about the sales. C'est la vie. This is so unlike me :) 2013 was a fabulous year but pressure kills creativity so I'm writing what I love and I know what I want to write next, but I'm not letting it kill me. Actually I'm so chilled it's scary. Stand back. Breathe. Enjoy :) Taking the pressure off doesn't mean you have to stop producing either. It just removes the 'OH MY GOD' feeling that can sit on your chest and strangle you. <3

Suzanne Lilly said...

Julie, I love your honesty. And you know how you find love when you relax and quit looking so hard? Then it finds you. It's the same way with everything. Now that you're relaxing and enjoying your family and writing with joy again, you'll probably have the most successful year ever. Happy New Year!

J Wachowski said...

Hey Julie,
I'm in with the "contentment" resolution. Feeling your pain, baby! A few years ago, I decided to make a list of the writing goals I could control--one of my best ideas: make friends with other writers. A possible addition on your path toward contentment? :)