How to Beat the Overwhelm

Anybody else drinking all of the coffee lately?

I have big dreams.

That’s never been a secret around here.

And making those dreams into a reality takes work. And it’s work I’m excited to get done, even if it’s big and scary, like announcing my debut novel, which comes out in 77 days, btw.

My days and weeks are busy. I get up early. I work until midnight, and most of it has nothing to do with being an author. It’s cooking, it’s cleaning. It’s taking care of kiddos, and during weeks like last week, it’s a whole hell of a lot of taking care of myself.

If a week was ever gonna derail me from accomplishing my goals, it was last week.

I’ve been battling a virus that is mostly an annoying cold, but has really done a number on my appetite. (Read, for a few days I had none.) I slept in everyday. I came home from work early one night and laid on the sofa. I missed emails. There were days that I didn’t write. My to-do lists sat untouched.

I was frustrated. Guilt weighed me down as more and more stuff piled up.

As I’m emerging from the worst of the virus, I’m completely overwhelmed with the volume of things I need to get done over the next few days–stuff I probably won’t get done this week either, because it’s Felix’s birthday on Tuesday, and mom stuff always comes first.

But here’s the thing.

I’m OK with it.

Do I guilt myself? Of course I do.

Do I let it stop me from doing what I can?

Absolutely not.

Sure, I only got a fraction of what I wanted to accomplish done last week, but what I did do was important. Taking care of yourself is important, even if that means sleeping all days and drinking all of the kombucha and reading The Allure of Julian Lefray

Inventorying what I did helps put the overwhelm of what I didn’t into prespective: I finished writing a prequel to The Other Lane (more on that later). I bought ISBNs, because that’s the responsible author thing to do. I posted to Instagram TWICE. All despite feeling like shit.

Badassery achieved.

Giving myself credit for what I did already makes the backlog feel more manageable.

And tomorrow, I’m baking cupcakes to celebrate Felix and not apologizing for only writing 16 words.

 

PS, you should totally follow me on Instagram. I’ve been posting a lot of pretty desk photos, but also some teasers from The Other Lane. And , as always, there is knitting.

Announcing The Other Lane

Can’t wait for July and need a sneak peek now? You’re in luck, I have one.

On November 1st, 2014, I opened my laptop with a steely determination to actually win Nanowrimo and finish a novel by November 30th. I had been out of school for three years by this point, and the writing burnout from earning my creative writing degree was finally fading. My income had evened out. I was married. Living in a great house. Felix was about six months old and growing more independent every day.

The writing bug had been nibbling at me months. I felt that pull toward the keyboard. Write. Write. Write, it said, but I didn’t have a story in my head yet. I had zero clue where to start.

I also had zero excuses left not to do it.

And all I wanted to do that November was finish something.

So I sat down November 1st and wrote.

And then I did it every day for the next 27 days until I was done.

It was mess of a first draft. And it should have been. Despite the degree, I had never written a novel before. Two years of revision, a few months starting a second project and having another baby, and many late night pep talks later, I had a finished draft of The Other Lane.

And the most exciting news of all is that three months from now, I am going to hold a published book in my own two hands.

That’s right. I said it. I’m doing it.

I’m publishing my own books now.

And the first one is coming out July 10th!

I am doing what is known in the publishing industry as publishing “wide”, which means The Other Lane will be available on  nook, Kobo, iBooks, Amazon, and also available on library services like Overdrive.

There is still a ton of work to get done in the next few weeks, and I will be updating the blog as the big day gets closer. But, if you want to hear all the new before anyone else, join my newsletter. If you do, you’ll also get the first 50 pages of The Other Lane to peruse at your leisure on your favorite ereader.

Here we go big scary world. Let’s do this thing!

A New Experiment: Getting Up Early as Hell

This morning, I woke up at 5:30am. On purpose.

Egads it’s early. And Dark

I am horrible at this.

Back when I was working at the coffee shop, we opened at 6am, so I had to be at work at 5:30 in the morning. I used to stumble in the door with wet hair, still mostly asleep to start brewing pot after pot of coffee. Which worked out, because I always got the first, freshest cup, and usually by the fifth or sixth customer I could communicate with more than grunts and gestures. (I’m not even joking, some of my early morning customers and I had an understanding that no words were needed to complete their daily transaction.)

I would much rather stay up until 2 in the morning writing and wake sometime around 8am with the sun peaking through the windows and the birds singing pleasant little ditties just outside. Then I’d enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee while I journaled before getting in some yoga. Then around 10 am, I’d shower and get down to business for the day. I’d knock out my word count by noon, break for lunch, and then tackle the business part of being an author in the afternoon. Blog posts. Marketing. Revisions. Relentless checking sales reports hoping for that ka-ching sound Book Report is supposed to make.

That is so not my life.

I have kids that need to get to school in the morning, and we have to be out the door before 8 o’clock.  Rufus, who is 19 months old, only just started sleeping through the night 4 or 5 nights a week, so there’s that. I work until 10 or 11 pm three or four nights a week, which makes going to bed early impossible. And I have a ton of food issues which means I have to cook most of my food, because simple options like a turkey sandwich for lunch just aren’t going to cut it.

Most of my days are spent loading Rufus in and out of the car while we drop off/pick-up his brothers from school. Then I sit on the bathroom floor a lot because we’re potty training two boys right now. Then there’s the cooking and the cleaning, and requisite post-nap cuddle. When all that’s done, it’s time to go to work and hope I’m not smeared all to hell with peanut butter.

There isn’t a lot of time for writing.

I’ve been cramming my word count by doing 5-minute word sprints a few times a day. Which is great. I know I can get writing done. But I want time for all that other stuff too. The blog posts, the marketing, the time to actually consider publishing my books.

So this morning I got up, and bleary eyed, stumbled down the stairs to get the coffee going. Then I got in a quick work out, a short journaling session, then I grabbed my coffee and my laptop and sat down in my office to write before the rest of the house woke up.

And I am going to do this, every day this week. The goal is to not only spend a little time in my nifty studio that I never use, but get a little me time in before the business of everyday life intrudes. Hopefully this little experiment ends with me being a more patient mother, a more focused writer, and maybe even more blog posts for you.

Today, I hit my word count early, and as this post is going live, I should be out finishing up the Easter basket shopping. So I’m calling that a win. We’ll see how I feel when that alarm goes off tomorrow morning.

 

Hurray, it’s December!

And I made it through another year of Nanowrimo. I hit 50,000 words the day before Thanksgiving, and haven’t touched the story since…It still needs an ending, and I’m not sure I’ll ever do anything with this one, but it was a needed break from the novel I’ve been working on for a year, and it feels fantastic to hit that 50K mark.

For December, I have a few other goals in mind. First and foremost, I’d like to make up for some of that blogging time I missed in November. I missed you guys. I hope your Novembers rocked. (I know many of you are waiting for the latest installment of the Selling Wihtout Fear series. Look for that next week.)

My other goal for this month is to get some Christmas crafting done. I’ve been experimenting with candles lately–which could easily become a new obsession. Little tins like the ones in the photo below are so fun and easy to make.

Christmas gift crafting in progress.

A photo posted by Marla (@tinydinostudios) on

And of course, I’ve been making a little Christmas soap. I love how pretty the rose petals are.

Grapefruit Rose soap out of the mold.

A photo posted by Marla (@tinydinostudios) on

Something about winter makes me want to experiment with balms and body butters and bath salts. It’s all I can think about lately, but that could just be that my brain needs a wee break from fiction writing.

What are your plans for December?

Nanowrimo 2015

(All of you checking back for the start of my series on specialty retail tips I promise you, it is coming. Every time I sit down to write about, I realize there is more and more I need to cover to be truly thorough. Honestly, I could write a book on the subject. Maybe someday I will. For now, I’m just going to geek out over writing books.)

Print

Nanowrimo kicks off in just under two weeks, and I couldn’t be more stoked. I haven’t been writing regularly since I finished the latest draft last year’s Nano project at the end of September, and I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been reading like crazy, tinkering with the novel project, working on blog stuff, but really, I have been counting down the days to when I can sit down and lose myself in a new project.

At this point, most blog posts I’ve read celebrating the imminence of November usually give tips about prepping your story and how to develop your characters. All that’s well and good, but it’s not how I do things. I can’t outline shit. Never could, not even a term paper. I’m a total pantser. Writing for me is about sitting down and doing it. I discover my plot and my characters along the way. I’m totally one of those writers who talks about their characters like they are real people instead of figments of my imagination. Which means that I have no clue what sort of story I’m going to be writing come November 1st, because I don’t even know if my main character is a man or a woman. A criminal or a saint. A vagabond or a homebody. But I am itching to find out.

With nothing more than a starting sentence and a vague notion that it would be fun if there was a brothel and possibly some time travel, I have no idea where my story is going. I’m not giving myself any rules to follow. The project I’ve been working on for the past year was set in present-day in my home town. It should be no surprise, that for this new project, I have no clue, though I might pull a Harlan Ellison and call every place Topeka. It might be a cattle town in the past, or an outpost in the future. I’m sure I’ll know for sure by November 2nd or 3rd.

Do I sound crazy?

Once upon a time I used to think Nanowrimo was a little crazy. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days was insurmountable. Especially without a plan. I was lucky to get a couple hundred words out each day between work and kids and having no time to settle down and think about a story.

But then last year, I sat down and I did it.

That’s all it took. Sitting down and committing to getting 1667 words on the page each day.

They weren’t good words. I’ve changed most of them in the ensuing ten months, but it doesn’t matter. Out of those 50,000 words, I got a story. And I have spent most days since I finished putting just as much work into my manuscript as I did during November when I was composing my shitty first draft, and it hasn’t even been a sacrifice.

Join me this year! Do the insurmountable! Be my writing buddy! I’m tinydino. Find me! Keep track of my progress! (And if you’re curious enough, you might be able to find an excerpt from the (revised) first chapter of the novel from last year.)

Happy Nanoing!