Insecure Writers Support Group: Learning to Relax

I wanted to have this posted on Wednesday. Wednesday was yesterday. Yesterday was Insecure Writers Support Group Day. It only comes once a month. The first Wednesday of every month. You’d think I’d be able to make that. Especially since the optional question is posted weeks in advance. But here’s the thing: I’m just too busy.

That’s what I told a lady in church yesterday as to why it took me so long to answer her email: I’m doing too many things.

That was my excuse to my pastor when he asked why I haven’t submitted a new article to our monthly magazine: I didn’t have time, but September, definitely September! (Because the deadline for August was two Saturdays ago.) Now I kind of have write something for September because he’ll be looking for it, which makes me nervous…

And while I do plan to write one (I already have an idea circulating in my head), I have to figure out a way to make time, because the deadline for the September issue is July 29, and with a week-long cruise to Alaska coming up in 12 days (and counting…) that deadline will sneak up on me like a thief in the night. Then I’ll be saying, “October. For sure, October. I promise!”

And that brings me to the topic for today…

What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

It’s a lesson I’ve learned and am still learning: Don’t commit yourself to too much. I have a problem with starting five different projects at one time, and then wondering why I’m so frazzled. And I have to remember, overwhelming myself with too many tasks, too many self-imposed deadlines, led to my epic writer’s meltdown a year ago last month.

I mentioned this in a previous post. Back then, I was participating in the A to Z Challenge, I was a beta reader, I was a facilitator for a flash fiction writing challenge on my blog, I was trying to write a post every day on my blog and write new poems and short stories to submit to literary magazines, I was editing two different magazines, plus I had a mundane 9 to 5 job.

A year later, and I feel that meltdown creeping up again. So what am I doing now? I have three different blogs, this one, my fiction blog, and my Christian devotional blog. I post Monday-Friday on Lovely Curses, Sunday-Wednesday-Friday on Sunday Morning Word, and Monday-Wednesday-Friday here, for the most part. Wednesdays and Fridays are my busiest days. I’m still editing two different magazines, but one is starting to consume too much of my time. I’m more involved in church now; I’m there between three and four days out the week, either for Bible Study, ministry meetings, or classes. I’m still working my 9-5 job. And now I’ve ventured into Camp NaNoWriMo. If you’re curious, I’m at just over 6,200 words for my 30,000 word novella. Way ahead of schedule. 🙂

A few days ago, I nearly cried while looking at everything I’m trying to do, what I haven’t started on, what I have yet to complete, how quickly my self-imposed deadlines are approaching. It’s too much. It’s just too much. Something’s got to give. And I hate to admit that I have to let one or more of my baby projects go. But I want to sleep at night! I want to go to bed at a decent hour. I’m tired of having to tell people I didn’t finish something, or I got delayed. I admit I’m a bit of a procrastinator, but this is beyond procrastination now. I look at all the the unchecked items on my to-do list and just want to curl in my bed, under my covers and hide.

Yesterday, I read a post on the blog, Monday is Still Coming…  and it hit me. I’m busy. Too damn busy to be content with life. I can’t just sit down and do nothing. I can’t hold a conversation with friends and not talk about work. I can’t sip a cup of tea on my front porch on an early Sunday morning and just enjoy the breeze, the swish of the leaves in the trees, the calls of the birds, the scurrying of the squirrels. My mind will be racing with worries over all the things I haven’t done yet, that I need to get busy with.

When I start to feel stressed like this, I seek consolation in the word of God, and while there are so many scriptures about finding rest and peace in Christ, this is the one the Holy Spirit brought to me today:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30; NKJV

Another verse tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So I’m casting all my cares on him. What do I need to let go?

That’s when He showed me the project that has to go first. About three years ago, I started an online literary journal. At the time, it was something I was really passionate about. I worked on a literary-arts journal when I was in college, and after graduating, I didn’t want to entirely let it go. I just wanted to share and support the amazing talent of my fellow writers and artists, especially those who aren’t so lucky to get published often.

It started as an annual magazine, then quickly became a quarterly magazine. Now I’m publishing collections six times a year, but I feel like I’m reading, rejecting, accepting, and editing submissions non-stop. For just one person, it’s overwhelming. And I can’t ignore the fact that since this magazine has jumped off, I haven’t been able to pursue publication of my own work (or even write anything new) for over a year.

I hate to let it go. I truly do. I used to joke about how online magazines never last. People start them on a whim, and just as quickly, they’re gone. But I’m not going to pull a disappearing act. Eventually I will sit down and write a letter to send to contributors and subscribers. I’m terrified to do it, but I know I must. At this point in my life, it’s not a priority for me; even worse, it’s become a burden.

So what are my priorities moving forward?

Priority #1: Continue to strengthen my walk with Christ. Sunday Morning Word is a project I’ve been working on for longer than the magazine, and God has put it on my heart that Sunday Morning Word is what I’m supposed to do. So I will continue to dedicate myself to doing what HE has called me to do, not what I want to do, because what I want often leads to unnecessary stress.

Priority #2: Write. Write poetry. Write fiction. Finish that novel. Reserve flash-fiction and short-shorts for my blog. Dedicate no more than 20 mins a day to Lovely Curses blog posts and get back to writing that novel, to writing stories and poems to submit to magazines—like that new short story I’ve been saying for months now that I’m going to write. Sit down and write it already! Get in the habit of scheduling posts. Reshare old posts at least once a week to give myself a break. When participating in challenges, post when I have time, not when the prompt question is posted.

Priority #3: Self-love. Go shopping. Buy myself a new pair of heels. A new dress. Try new hairstyles. Enjoy my cruise to Alaska in 12 days (and counting…). Eat healthier, take walks in the park, go to the gym. Make tasty, colorful home-cooked meals. Stop complaining so damn much. Enjoy life. And then share precious moments I experience here and on social media. Promote positivity, because this world is too negative.

And that’s it. That’s all I want to do. July and August might still be a little busy, as I wrap up all open projects on the magazine (and eventually muster up the courage to send out that letter), but after that, I’m finished being a busy worker bee.

My only focus will be on God, myself, and learning to relax…

Nobody Blogs on Fridays

Nobody blogs on Fridays. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating here. WordPress is virtually a ghost town on Fridays, and I struggle to find a good posting time.

Throughout the week, I could have hundreds of views . . . well, let me be more realistic . . . tens of views . . . well I can give myself a little credit  . . . twenties of views on my blog, but once Friday hits, I’m lucky if I make into the single digits. This is not even a joke, the weekend (Saturday, and Sunday, holy day of rest!) is more active than Fridays!

What is it about Fridays that make people not want to work? In my office, half the department is gone by 3:00 every Friday afternoon. The only people left are usually me, the other temps, and the employees who have the misfortune of being scheduled for a 4:30 meeting. I never understood why people used Friday as an excuse to slack off work. Yes, it’s almost the weekend, and people are eager to dive into the weekend shenanigans, but the workday for our office still ends at 5:15 PM, people, Monday through Friday.

But let’s get back to blogging, and why my Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting habit is currently in jeopardy. I recently joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a place to share, encourage, rant, rave, and connect with other insecure writers like me. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day, and although last Wednesday I wrote about how I don’t always feel appreciated as a writer in my family, I still wanted to address the optional prompt for the June 7 IWSG blog hop.

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

Last year, I had a writer’s meltdown. I’m not sure what happened—if had worn myself out, or if I was simply overwhelm with all the projects I was trying to keep up with. Let’s name a few of the things I was doing before my meltdown:

  • The 2016 April A to Z Challenge — The challenge was to write a new post every day (but Sunday) for each letter in the alphabet. I wrote a novella called 26 Husbands—26 Unusual Deaths, a story about a grandmother living in a retirement home who makes some striking revelations to her granddaughter about her past life.
  • Beta reader for a self-published author — Though I was thankful for the opportunity, I wished I hadn’t accepted the task. I didn’t research the author before I committed to being her beta reader, and the novel was nowhere close to publication ready. To be honest, it sounded like something my uncle would’ve written, if he was a writer of fiction. But I was beta reading on my own time; I wasn’t getting paid for it, so I couldn’t edit it the way I wanted too. Personally, I thought the author needed to go back to the drawing board. The story was all over the place; it desperately needed a plot, and the protagonist was flat in the most pitiful way. After much debating with myself, I finally emailed her my comments and my suggestion for her to find a quality editor. A week later, she published the novel as is on Amazon. *sigh*
  • Hosting a flash fiction writing challenge called Moral Mondays — The challenge was to write a 100-word fable based on the moral prompt provided. While this was fun, I just didn’t have the time or energy to facilitate consistently every week.
  • Being a writer — I write short fiction and poetry, and for the pieces I don’t publish on my blog, I submit to magazines. I’m also trying write my debut novel.
  • Being an editor — Yes, I am an editor of an online literary-arts magazine, and I also edit my church’s monthly publication.
  • Day job — On top of trying to supply my growing readership with entertaining content on my blog, establish my brand, and write to be published, I work a 9-5 job. Talk about exhausting!

Eventually, I fizzled out. I couldn’t keep it up anymore. I crashed and burned. I stopped writing altogether. I virtually disappeared. I became a ghost.

After about five months of writing nothing at all, I started this blog to ease myself back into the habit. Starting a new blog is hard work. I can share share share my posts on my other blog until I’m blue in the face (or fingers?), but the likelihood of dedicated followers of my other blog actually clicking the link and coming here was slim. I basically had to start over from scratch. Trying to build a following of people willing to read my insecure ramblings on being single, or being a writer, or just my life in general, which is really quite boring, on a daily basis, especially in a world full of online trollers, is hard.

And so I disappeared for another five months, posting sporadically, coming back for a while and then dropping off again, posting once a month if at all.

Now it’s June, and next Tuesday will mark a year since my first disappearance. Do I feel another disappearance brewing? Not if I can help it! But some days, especially on Fridays, when I fear no one is reading me, I do wonder if it is all worth it…

Have you ever quite on writing? Tell me why, and what brought you back!

Do you blog on Fridays? Prove me wrong about readerless Fridays. Drop a comment! I need a confidence boost that I’m really not talking to myself.

And if you are the type to actually click a link when prompted, check out my Gravatar profile, which has links to all the blogs I manage. The latest posts to my other blogs are also in the sidebar . . . if you never noticed. 😉

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Will the Real Writer of the Family Please Stand Up

Not everyone can write. I know that’s a contentious statement to make in writing circles, so let me backtrack and say that not everyone can write well.

I have a lot of people in my family who think they can write, and hey, if you’re good, I’m not knocking you, but let’s be serious here. The true writer of the family is me, and it has always been me. But I never get the recognition I feel I deserve. Yes, my mom reads my work, and she brags to her coworkers, and they get hooked on the stories I post on my fiction blog. I have a brother in jail who has loads of time now to read the stories I send him to keep his mind off his unfortunate circumstances. As for my extended family—they make me feel like, oh, anyone can do that, or, it’s amazing when someone else does it, but not so much when I do it.

Memorial Day weekend, my cousin came down from Nashville to visit, and she told me about this memoir she and her parents were writing. It’s basically a history of the family, crazy life experiences, etc. It had a great premise, I thought, on account that every family has at least three outlandish stories to tell that would make a great book. The title was also badass, but I probably shouldn’t share it since the eventual goal, according to my cousin, is to publish the book.

During the entire conversation, I was under the impression that I was invited to be a coauthor in this project. Hell, we were on our way to their house to have an all-day writing session. She’d even given me the link to the shared Google Doc the memoir was on. I was so excited to be included, because for the longest time, I felt that this part of my family didn’t care about my writing, didn’t acknowledge it, or simply didn’t think it was that big a deal.

Unfortunately, when I arrived with laptop charged and ready, my aunt politely told me no, this project was for their family only, meaning mom, dad, sister, sister, no cousins, no nieces, no previously published fiction writers allowed. So while everyone else sat at the dinning room table, typing away in their assigned chapters, I tended to my blog and pretended not to be totally irked, by the fact that I was the only true writer at the table not writing in the memoir. The family memoir.

But I had many other projects on my plate. For one, the Short Story a Day challenge was nearing completion; I had three more stories to go. I was also gearing up to write a novella in July for CampNaNoWriMo in preparation for writing my novel in November for NaNoWriMo, which I spent all April planning.

Of course when I told them this, my aunt’s response was, “Do you get a prize or something for writing every day?”

“It’s more of a personal achievement,” I answered.

Then my cousin asked me to explain NaNoWriMo, and I was excited to tell her all about it since I will participating this year, and this is the first year I actually feel fully prepared and confident that I can start and finish the challenge.

Then my non-writing uncle chimed in. Allow me to roll my eyes for three minutes.

Let me pause to tell you a little bit about my uncle. First, he loves to talk about himself, but then I guess all writers do. Hell, that’s what I’m doing. I would take him more seriously if he was actually a good writer, but the man can’t even put two words together to form a complete sentence that makes sense when he talks, which is why it’s so mind-boggling to me that he was a preacher for 25 years. Preaching to whom? What congregation? Who could understand him?

When I was around 17 or 18, on my way to college, I told him about my aspirations to become a published author, and he basically told me to get a day job, I was wasting my time, no way in hell, it’s a one in a million chance that I will ever get published, might as well just give up now, major in something that will get me a job. After that, he showed me his scrapbook of all the articles he published in magazines back in the ’80s on activism and what not, and all I could think was, “Really? After you’ve just killed my dreams, you’re seriously gonna shove all your ‘success’ in my face?” Obviously, I’ve never gotten over it (even though I probably should).

And he still does that shit, to this day! Whenever I tell him, “Hey, I got a new story published,” he immediately goes to his office and grabs that stupid notebook to show off his writing from thirty years ago. Can I get one moment of glory, please, without you always trying to steal my thunder, Uncle?

And he writes just as “well” as he speaks—jumbled up rambling that spins the reader in circles. I’ve tried to read his published articles before, and each time I’ve found myself wanting to edit them.

So getting back to the story, my uncle adds his two cents. “50,000 words in a month? That’s extremely hard to do!”

Me: “It’s around 2,000 words a day.”

Uncle: “That’s a lot!”

Thinking to myself: Not really, that’s like three pages single-spaced in a word doc. Saying aloud: “Well, you have to plan ahead; you can’t fall behind, or it’ll be harder to catch up.”

Uncle after jumbling a few words: “You have to be a real writer!”

Me to myself: The fuck? I am a real writer! (in Eddie Murphy’s Mushu voice from Disney’s Mulan)

Auntie: “Well, she’s a writer too, honey.”

Me to myself: Oh, you remember now?

Uncle: “Well . . . ” *fumble jumble tumble bumble*  “. . . no.”

Me to myself: What?

Uncle: “I’m talking about a real writer. Yea, ’cause, ’cause, I know of this guy, you know, who writes like 10,000 words a day, a day! OK?”

Me to myself: He obviously doesn’t have a day job. Whatever, man. I’m done with this conversation.

So after we fell into an awkward silence, I decided to go to the link my cousin sent me and read what they had written so far. I could tell from the opening lines that this memoir was her idea. She’d written some great sections, hilarious, not too wordy, clever headings and titles (I should enlist her help with titling some of my stories, because sometimes I struggle). Then I came upon a section written by my uncle, and once I got through all the mumbo jumbo, it was again all about him, all about the great ministry work he’d done, a bunch of self-righteous shit jumbled together in run-on sentences. I was over it.

I didn’t even bother to read what my aunt had written. She’s not a writer. Period. She and my cousin spent ten minutes arguing over why she couldn’t randomly rename characters Pookie and Ray-Ray just because that was the title of the chapter (another clever title by my cousin, which I probably shouldn’t have named, but oh well). Pookie and Ray-Ray are caricatures of the ghetto. Every “hood” has at least one Pookie and one Ray-Ray. Obviously my cousin intended for that chapter to be about the types of people you meet in the hood, but if you’re going to name a character Pookie or Ray-Ray, that character has to fit the profile: Pookie, the ghetto fabulous, over-sexual hood rat, and Ray-Ray, the fast talking hustler, always trying to sell you some knockoff purse or pair of shoes, smooth talking a girl right out of her panties. These are just a few definitions, but there are many. The point is you can’t just name anyone Pookie or Ray-Ray, and the fact that my aunt could not understand that is proof (proof, I tell you!) that she is not a writer, at least not a creative one.

I’m the writer of the family, dammit! My cousin, I’ll say she’s good, from what I’ve read so far (and she’s pretty supportive of me, even from Nashville), but this is my livelihood, and it sucks that my family doesn’t respect it.

Maybe I’m a little selfish. Maybe my feelings are just hurt because I don’t get to participate in the family memoir. Since graduating from college, I struggle to find like minds who enjoy writing as much as I do. It’s why I immerse myself in blogging. I have a family of writers here online. But to have a writing session where the whole family sits together at the table to write and discus writing—oh my goodness, that is a writer’s wet dream! Unfortunately, I don’t get to be a part of it. Not with this family.

Even though I am family.

But I guess working with a real writer would be a little intimidating for them, especially since I can be an asshole of an editor too. Just ask my countless unfinished novels collecting megabyte dust on my hard drive.