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…