Everything Changes

By on May 13, 2011 in Blog, Writing

When 2011 began my best friend and I felt as if we were about to share a magnificent adventure together. By my birthday at the beginning of March those plans were in ruins, and we found ourselves on different and arguably much more difficult personal journeys than I think either of us had expected.

 For me, the incredibly gut-wrenching months that kicked off 2011 led to more soul-searching than I have done in years. I realized that it was high time to reassess my wants, needs, dreams and failures, and make a positive plan for the future. A plan that included me.

 And, surprisingly, the most important thing that came out of being forced to focus on myself was the realization of how little I did that in my day-to-day life. For years now, all my other responsibilities have come before my responsibility to myself. My personal priorities have always ranked last on the to-do list. And, believe it or not, I never stopped to think what effect that might be having on my emotional well-being. As it turns out, it was making me unhappy and much more prone to burnout.

 Something needed to be done. Something that would actually work.

 So once I got my clean bill of health, I set upon changing my life. Of course, I’ve tried these sorts of overhauls in the past with only limited success. This time I needed to take a different approach. To try to change everything at once would ultimately change nothing. New habits needed to be broken in one at a time. Hence, my thirty-day plan. (Popular wisdom suggests it takes thirty days for a new habit to become rote.)

 But where to begin? That choice ended up being remarkably easy. My biggest regret has always been not having enough time to write creatively. I’d get on a good tear with the YA novel, then production would hit at Rue Morgue or a Burning Effigy release date would approach and I’d drop my own writing entirely just to facilitate getting that other stuff done. Then afterwards it would be hard to go back to the novel because by then all momentum had been lost.

 So I began with making a commitment to myself. One hour each weekday (either from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., or 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) would be “me” time to work on the novel. During that time, I’d write whether I felt like it or not, until the thing was done. And my beta reader would hold me accountable for delivering new pages each day. I’m proud to say, it’s worked like a charm. I needn’t even have worried about what I would do if I suffered writer’s block because I don’t. That one hour has quickly become the most anticipated and sacred part of my day. I also challenged myself to work chronologically on the book for as long as possible, and even that’s turning out better than expected. Just over two weeks into my new habit, I have nearly 40 solid pages of first draft to show for my efforts. And my story is evolving and solidifying faster than I can churn out the words.

 The best change, however, has been the return of my personal happiness. I love my job and my press, but somewhere along the way I forgot to love myself. And while I wouldn’t wish what I went through at the beginning of this year on anyone, I’m very thankful now for every horrible moment of it, because if none of that had happened I doubt I would have found the courage or the commitment to embark on changing my life, even just one hour at a time.

 

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