Knowing When to Call It

I hardly know where to begin. When I look at the time stamp on the last post I wrote here, I’m reminded of the time warp this last year was for all of us. I did not lose anyone close to me during the pandemic–thank you, Lord–though I know a few who did. My family and I remained safe and continued to do our various kinds of work throughout 2020 and beyond. I finished another novel last summer and sent it in to my agent. Then I took an enormous writing break to have what I now suspect was an actual breakdown.

Is it okay to say that when others have suffered more? Maybe not, but I’m going to say it. I basically lost my ability to sleep (sometimes at all) for a solid year. That, of course, affected everything else in my life. I prayed about it, journaled, took sleeping bills, took a short course of anti-anxiety meds, thought about going on an anti-depressant, did not go on the anti-depressant, read books, raged, studied up on peri-menopause and the effects of hormones on sleep, and finally underwent a course of CBT-I. I saw some improvement in my sleep, but what became clear is that I was afraid and somehow couldn’t become unafraid.

God was, and is, gently leading me toward understanding some things I’d rather not know about myself, about the little security structures I’ve built instead of relying on him. This is good and holy work and I’m trying to be patient as I wait on Him to restore me. I know he’s doing something.

One thing, though: I cannot write and haven’t been able to for months.

If there’s one thing writers know about the traditional publishing game it’s that, if at first you don’t succeed (or, you know, twice or whatever), you try, try again. I have two novels out, and they’ve not found a home, so, naturally, I should be writing another novel. I should be doing a lot of things, but I can’t seem to do them.

True confession: I am thinking of quitting, not on life but on writing novels. Some have suggested I go indie, bypass the gatekeepers, etc. But I don’t think that’s the solution for me–at least not now. The very idea makes me tired.

Admitting this is not an attempt to throw myself a pity party. Indeed, there are many legitimate things to grieve from this last year, and writer ennui may very well not count as one of them. On the other hand, people are people. They are made of dust and get bogged down in profound ways, even when they survive a pandemic. They should be grateful, and they sometimes are, but more often they try to fight the feeling that there’s no real point to anything.

The Bible has an answer for that: we feel like there has to be something more to this life because there IS more to it. We’re meant for another time and place. I’m trying to figure out how to live in this now and not-yet, trying to be content.

I am hoping the words will come back.

Life Without Facebook

It’s been several weeks since I quit Facebook and I wanted to share a little of what it’s been like for me, both as a person and as a writer trying to make my way through the traditional publishing gauntlet.

Pro: I’ve been much more emotionally stable since quitting FB which has led to deeper and more frequent work sessions on my current novel. When I’m mentally churning about something, it’s hard to get into a place where I’m really focused. No junky FB input=clearer brain=better work.

Con: I do not wish friends a Happy Birthday until I accidentally remember several days after the fact. I did not know when a friend’s grandmother passed away recently. I found out days later and felt sad that I hadn’t been able to reach out when it happened.

Pro: I do not write statuses that are either superfluous OR controversial. I do not spend one second wondering if what I write will be misconstrued or ignored. I do not fear the rage police.

Con: I kind of don’t know what’s going on.

Pro: I like people more now that I don’t know what they’re saying online. I pray more for them instead of judging them. I’m helped to do this because I’m not in a constant state of outrage or disagreement. I’m a kinder person in my thought life.

Con: I can’t see my literary agent’s FB posts. These are an easy way to get the latest industry/agency updates or anything else she thinks we should know. It makes me uncomfortable that I have to email her with questions she might already have addressed.

Pro: I have less anxiety now that I’m not bombarded with endless hot takes on sensationalized news stories by people who may not know what they’re talking about. I’m sleeping better than I was.

Con: I’m a writer, and I’m not building a platform on the largest social media site on the planet. I don’t seem socially conscious or concerned because I’m not publicly commenting on issues. I’m basically invisible.

Here’s something interesting, though: a few weeks after quitting FB, I got a personal email from the editor of a major print and online publication (to be revealed later) asking me to write a column for their Jan/Feb edition. When I asked how he found me–after picking my jaw off the floor–he said, “I was on your website, though, honestly, I’m not sure how I ended up on there!”

To be clear, I did not query this publication. I did not go looking for an opportunity to platform build. This came to me, and I was shocked. As a Christian, I immediately knew it was a little sign, a gift from God reminding me that I don’t have to go insane in pursuit of publication or praise or platform. That he has my life in his hands and that, no matter what happens, I can trust him.

So, am I glad I got off Facebook, all things considered? Yes. I’m infinitely better off without it, and I have no intention of going back. But more importantly, I’m reminded that I do not have to do what everyone else is doing if it isn’t good for me. You don’t, either.

When It Comes to Nothing

Worry is a soul-killer and brain-washer. It makes us feel we’re doing something as it saps our strength and renders us lifeless.

Jesus said, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We know this is true, but we still borrow sorrow from tomorrow, as my mother likes to say.

Even now, I find myself sliding into an anxious place–not because of some big thing, or even a thousand small things, but because I’m letting my mind drift.

(I don’t mean I’m letting myself daydream. I mean I’m inching into the land of the Mean What-If’s. It’s good for novel writing, but not good for real life.)

A friend posted this poem by Mary Oliver, and it came at just the right time (as good poetry so often does). Maybe it will speak to you, too.