Letter #5: Pushing Through

Alt text: A photograph of an immense amount of yellow rubber duckies.

Alt text: A photograph of an immense amount of yellow rubber duckies. Image via Laura Collins Britton, lcbritton.com.

Note to readers: This post is part of a series of letters between me and my friend and author Katie Rose Guest Pryal. I publish our letters here on my blog, and she also publishes our letters on her blog. You can read all of our letters here. Check out Chasing Chaos, Katie’s newest book in the Entanglement series. 

 

Dear Lauren,

Last week, I either broke my ankle or sprained it badly enough that it makes no difference whether it’s broken. I’ve been chair-bound, nearly homebound, and I’m going stir-crazy. I tossed aside the crutches after a couple of days because HONESTLY, how do you get anything done on crutches. I have one of those big boot things orthopedists give you in lieu of casts these days, and I have follow-ups and MRIs and blarg this is so annoying.

Everything takes 3x longer that it used to. Getting the kids places. Getting the stuff that the kids forgot when I need to take them places. Getting the stuff that I forgot when I need to take my kids places. And on and on. And all the the time there’s me, limping around, making my foot worse.

Plus I’m so embarrassed that I did this to myself that all I’m wearing are maxi dresses to hide the stupid boot.

And YOU know that when I need to think, I walk. It’s how I write. I have a dang walking desk that my husband built for me. I don’t know if I can do this writing thing sitting on my butt. But I have to. That’s the thing about taking a nose-dive into writing for a living. You have to do it even when you don’t want to. Even when you think you can’t.

And right now it really feels like I can’t.

I did write a piece recently on how I don’t buy into the (terrible) advice that you have to “write every day.” I don’t think you do have to. I think sometimes the best thing you can do is NOT write.

Sometimes you can’t write. Taking care of yourself means putting the pen down.

But I’m going to be in this boot for at least a couple of weeks, and I can’t take a couple of weeks off from writing. That doesn’t make any sense. I’m going to have to find a way through this problem.

What would you do? You’d probably sit on your porch on your mountaintop and put your foot up, and presto you’d be in a really gorgeous spot, so gorgeous that you’d forget your foot was throbbing and write, write, write.

Me, I’m sitting in an uncomfortable recliner listening to fake coffeeshop sounds through my headphones. I’ve been ranting on Twitter and posting too much on Instagram. I’ve been mourning the closing of THE TOAST. There are only many things I can do from my a seated position.

But today, sometime today, I will get my comments back from my beta readers for my next novel. And you know what that means. This treading water that I’ve been doing? It’s over. It’s time to move forward. I have polish this next novel up, messed up foot or no.

Because that’s what you and I do. We push through. We always have.

Thanks for listening to me whine. I promise I’m done.

Katie

Giveaway Time!

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What’s better than winning a free eBook? Winning TWO!

This week I’m really excited to offer not just my debut novel, but Letters for Scarlet, the debut novel by my fellow VMP author Julie C. Gardner. Enter the giveaway below and you could win BOTH eBooks, just in time for your summer reading. You’ll be asked to enter a valid email address, but this is ONLY so I can email books to the 10 lucky winners. Your email will not be used for any other purpose, and you won’t be added to any lists. If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter “Writing Down South” and get a free copy of my story Beneath Our Skin, click on the bright orange box and get your instant download. Happy reading, y’all!

 

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Plant a Garden, Grow Your Writing Self

 

gardening
What does a binge writer do when she sends her manuscript off to the publisher? First, she wrings her hands for a few minutes, hoping they like it and it doesn’t put her in the dreaded sophomore slump.

Then she gardens. Or she tries. Even thought she is no gardener.

Why would she do such a thing?

I was thrilled to send my second novel off to my publisher in May. For most of April I was in nose-to-the-grindstone mode, struggling to hush my nagging perfectionist internal editor and make my deadline.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I sent that manuscript out. It was a great feeling to have it finished, to have successfully solved all of my plot problems and become the Mistress of Troubleshooting. But I was exhausted. My brain hurt. I love writing, don’t get me wrong. But it’s hard. Seriously hard. In the last week of revision, I spent 12+ hours writing and editing each day, and by the time it was over I didn’t even want to write a tweet.

But I have Novel #3 to plan. It looms over me like a thunderhead, because I have no idea what it’s going to be about. None.

My writer self said I had to get on that immediately. But some other part of me said I needed something different.

What I needed was to get outside. Get my hands dirty. Do some manual labor. So on my first day off from my regular job, I did not write. Instead, I went straight to the local nursery (Ray’s, the best around) and bought a flat of flowering plants. I had no plan, of course—I just grabbed one of everything that would come back next year and grow in the shade. (I owe a big thank you to Cathy, who has tremendous patience for greenhorns like me who point and say, “What is that? Can it take shade? Is it a perennial?” over and over, like a parrot with gardening gloves. She nodded her approval as I loaded my car with yarrow, salvia, peppermint, basil, black-eyed Susans, and a dozen others whose names I immediately forgot.

I’d never call myself a gardener, and I’m lucky nothing has died yet—but there’s something about shifting gears that helps me as a writer. Sometimes I have to give myself a break and stop looking at words, and stop crafting sentences—and stop putting so much damned pressure on myself. Don’t misunderstand—I can never stop writing completely, but sometimes when I freeze up thinking about the next book, the next chapter, the next scene, I have to take a time-out and do something different that uses another part of my brain. It’s my form of cross-training.

Sometimes as writers, we have to grant ourselves a vacation. I read once that if you’re struggling with a writing project (or any other that takes a lot of brain power), you should go running or do another form of exercise to give your brain a break. The argument was that by doing this, you relax your thinking muscles and create a quiet head space that invites creative inspiration. I’m no runner, but that tactic has worked in the past for me—swimming some laps or doing a little yoga has gotten me through moments of writer’s block and helped me troubleshoot my drafts with fresh eyes.

For me, playing gardener does the same thing. By doing something that uses my body and allows my brain to relax, I can make myself available to the muse. The cluttered thoughts disappear as I stop thinking so hard, and then I find the creative thoughts slipping in, and I see solutions that weren’t visible before.

I’ve given myself a month off now, and am finally feeling the urge to start writing my next book. In the meantime, I’ll plant these last few herbs and give myself permission to daydream about the possibilities of Novel #3. For all my writer friends who are feeling stuck, I’m giving you strict orders to cut yourself some slack. Step away from the computer or the notebook and get your hands into something else. Let your brain relax and make room for the creative thoughts that are circling around your head. You might be surprised by the bursts of creativity that come your way, and your writer self will thank you for it.

Download Your June Calendar

It’s that time again! To download your free desktop calendar, just click on the image below to get the high-resolution image saved to your screen. This month’s drawing was inspired by my sudden case of addictive gardening. I’ve spent the last few weekends planting lilies, phlox, salvia, tasty herbs, and a dozen plants I’ve already forgotten the names of. Then a fox came to visit. More on those adventures later.

Enjoy the calendar, folks, and check out my shop to view the latest additions. I’ve added variety packs of letterpress printed cards, and I’m experimenting with paper cuts. When I’m not gardening.

 

free june calendar