Perhaps the title is a little out of touch with the rest of the world. Most people would likely argue that the world slowed down in 2020 and then fast forwarded in 2021 as everyone desperately tried to catch up. It would probably read better if I had substituted the ‘the’ for ‘my’, because finally, my world has slowed down.
I touched briefly in my last update (over a year ago) that I was attending grad school. In fact, I was attending grad school, working full-time and working part-time for a few months. It was all good fun. But now I’m, thankfully, graduated with a Master’s degree, have left both of my old jobs for a new one, and have found myself with an abundance of free time that I have mostly used to catch up on my reading and old tv shows. Oh, and I’ve done some writing, too! (I also spruced up my website in case you hadn’t noticed).
Yes, writing. You read that right. I’ve been making some decent progress, not to toot my own horn or anything. Not to give anything away, but I made myself cry while writing a recent passage. It’s hard, guys, knowing what’s going to happen before it happens.
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”
I’m currently working on the third draft of a story I started two years ago; after the publication ofJust Down the Street, Across the Ocean, and before I started grad school. I’d love to update you on details such as the length or wordcount, but, honestly, I do not know because I am writing it by hand in a beautiful journal given to me by a couple of writer friends. When it’s full, I’ll start typing it up and sharing excerpts, I promise. But for now, just know it’s very different than my debut novella. Or I think it is anyway. How would I know, really?
Lastly, if you’ve made it this far, I want to say thank you for reading this. And, also, thank you to many of you for the encouraging words. I’ll never stop being surprised by people commenting that they can’t wait to read my next book. Really? Are you sure you mean my next book? You are all awesome!
With that being said, feel free to drop me a comment and let me know what you guys have been up to. Develop any new hobbies over the last couple of years? Read any good books? I’d love to hear from you!
I’m embarrassed to admit that it has been almost two months since my last post. Life has become hectic, as it often does, and I have not made the time to update my website the way that I should. With that being said, I have been writing. Progress on my new novel has been slowly crawling along despite everything that is currently going on in my life.
This was not always the case. Being able to make time to work on my novel amongst the busyness of life was not always an easy thing for me to do. I know I am not the only writer who runs into this problem. It is something that plagues us all and we have to constantly work at it in order to accomplish our goals (which I would venture to say is just to finish writing the damn book already). I thought I would share some helpful steps that I have taken toward overcoming the “I’m too busy” mindset.
Join a writing group. This was the first, and probably the most effective, step I took toward dedicating time to write. I joined my writing critique group back around March 2017. At that time, I was attempting to rewrite Just Down the Street, Across the Ocean. And by attempting, I mean I had not written a single word in eight to ten months. I needed something to motivate me to write. Joining a writing group did that. This group not only held me accountable for submitting new and revised work, they helped me grow as a writer. They offered guidance in areas of growth and helped my find my voice. They not only encouraged me to complete my novella, but gave me the confidence to self-publish it. Throughout the last two years, there have been times that my commitment to the group has wavered, but I have always found myself returning.
Set a goal. This one may seem a bit obvious, and I’ve talked about it in my post Mondays are Good Days to Talk About Goals, but I can’t stress it enough, goals are important. They keep you accountable. If you are not the type of person who can keep yourself accountable, tell someone who will keep you accountable (like someone in your writing group!). Right now, my goal is to make time to write at least one page a week. If you think about it, this is actually a pretty small goal and can still be difficult to keep. Again, life is busy and writing is hard. This is why goals are important. If I decide that I’m too tired after work throughout the week to work on that one page, then I know Saturday morning I’m waking up, brewing some coffee, turning on my laptop, turning off my phone, and getting to work. That page is getting written, however painstakingly. Slow progress is better than no progress.
Make a deadline. Goals keep you on track in the day-to-day, deadlines keep you on track in the long term. When I was working on Just Down the Street, Across the Ocean, I made a deadline of having a finalized draft by the Summer of 2018. Not only did the deadline keep me on track, but it stopped me from getting in the cycle of rewriting, editing, rewriting, editing, and so on and so forth. I was then able to move on to my next goal of trying to get it published. I gave myself six months for someone to pick it up and then, as you know, I would self-publish it. Yes, it was a long process, but at least it is done. And now I am free to work on my next novel and focus on my new goal of completing my first draft of my new book by September 2019.
Basically, find the time to write. Make room for it in your schedule. That’s what all these helpful steps boil down to; they force you to think about writing and set aside time to focus on only that. Finding time to write isn’t going to magically happen, you have to actively plan it into your daily/weekly/monthly routine. Find an accountability partner (or partners!) to keep you on track and stop making excuses. So really, the only question that remains is, what are you waiting for? Go write!
My journal. The one that I took with me everywhere. The one I wrote Just Down the Street, Across the Ocean in. The one that I took with me to Paris cafes, the beach in Miami, the pool in Ft. Lauderdale. What do I do with you now? Well, to start, I wrote you a love letter.
Transcript. I’m not sure what to do with you now that the book is published. When I open you and feel your pages, I can feel it all over again. The joy and, of course, the pain. Oh yes, the pain. I was only first beginning to learn what I know now. The answer to the broken sprinkler and the tears that stain these pages.
When I flip through you, you tell more than one story. There are loose pages, receipts, hotel memos, stuffed within you that threaten to fall out and get lost forever. Memories that threaten to get lost with the passage of time.
What shall I do with you now? Fill the rest of these empty pages? Leave you to get dusty and yellow? Forget you until I need you to help me heal again?
I don’t have the answers. But I will do what I always do, I will write until it all makes sense.
Well, maybe not the best week, but certainly the best day of my life fell within this week. You might say what my boss said, “Rachel, that is a bold claim,” and I will tell you what I told her, “But you haven’t seen what I’m about to show you yet.”
Let’s start with Tuesday, January 22nd – the day I finally became a published author. Ok, first of all, I was a mess. I woke up around 5 AM, before my alarm clock went off, hopped out of bed, made a big pot of coffee, and turned my laptop on. Before my laptop was fully booted up, I had finished my first cup of coffee, quickly jumped up, got myself a refill, and plopped myself back down, thankful I didn’t have to impatiently stare at my computer as it warmed up (which takes, like, what, maybe one minute?). I IMMEDIATELY check my reports and find that five people (FIVE PEOPLE) have already downloaded my book. Furthermore, three of those five people bought it before the free promo kicked in and I was already almost on the floor crying because how cool is it that I made actual money off of something I created? After posting on social media, I texted all my friends. By this time, it was 6 AM. And it was not until I wrote this post that I wondered how I still have friends after texting them that early in the morning.
Between then and when I left for work at 9:30 AM, I was a ball of energy, floating between getting ready for work, texting those friends that were awake, keeping an eye on my stats, watching as my wonderful friends shared my book on social media. I found myself incredibly grateful for work, I needed that kind of distraction.
Very few people at work knew that I was self-publishing my book. I didn’t tell my coworkers on purpose, my thought process being, “if they don’t like it, I will have to see them every day and know that they have horrible taste in literature and I just don’t think I can live with that.” My boss was one of three people in the office who knew and, immediately upon seeing her for the first time Tuesday morning, she shouted, “Congratulations Author Rachel Potts!”
To which I replied without hesitation, “Thanks! The only problem is, now that I’ve achieved my only real goal in life, I guess I can just die now.”
After which, completely deadpan, she said, “You’re a psychopath.”
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. In-between work, I probably checked my stats every hour (definitely way more than that), I made plans with friends for when I got off because I knew I shouldn’t be home alone. And then I canceled all those plans and picked up overtime hours at work because there’s nothing like working a twelve hour day to tire myself out of the frenzy I had gotten myself into.
And it worked. By the time I got off, all I wanted to do was go home, watch an episode of Supernatural, and go to bed. I was so tired that I didn’t even check my stats before I turned off the lights.
The next day, Wednesday, January 23rd I woke up less anxious than the day before. I felt calmer when I made my coffee, more patient while I waited for my computer to respond. But, like yesterday, the first thing I did was check my stats.
Unlike yesterday, however, I gasped when I saw that my book had moved up to the #9 spot in the Free Kindle: Literary Fiction category. I clicked on the listing because, naturally, I needed to see my book in a top list. I was already grinning ear-to-ear when I saw it, my book casually keeping This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald company in the #8 spot. I stopped breathing. F. Scott Fitzgerald. One of my literary heroes. My name is next to…. I took a picture, sent it to all my friends (again, at like, 6 in the morning), posted it on my social media, and then, finally taking another breath, I cried. Like, wept. All morning, all the way to work, at work when I told people about it (because I HAD to tell them now). When I showed the picture of my book next to F. Scott Fitzgerald, my boss understood why Wednesday, January 23rd and not Tuesday, January 22nd, actually was the best day of my life.
All day I received texts and messages of encouragement from family and friends and people I hadn’t spoken to in years. People sent pictures of themselves downloading/reading my book and I cried some more.
I worked another twelve hour day and, again, it kept me distracted and calm. It also exhausted me, which again was wonderful because I was easily able to fall asleep when I got home late at night.
When I woke up on Thursday, January 24th I was still exhausted. All I wanted to do was roll over and sleep for the whole day. It’s strange, I can’t imagine why I was so tired. . .
I volunteer every other Thursday morning and this was one of those Thursdays. So, I forced myself out of bed, got ready, checked my stats, and was back at it by 10 AM.
When I checked my stats that morning, I had already surpassed my goal of 50 downloads for the entire free period. It was an amazing feeling and I was so excited. Unfortunately, I was so worn out that I couldn’t express my excitement at all. I didn’t realize until that morning that I had been running off of adrenaline the last two days.
After my volunteer hours, I went to work for my eight hour shift and felt like a zombie. I had been texting a friend about my state of being that day and about my stats and he told me that I should be careful not to obsess over the numbers. I wanted to argue, but quickly realized he was right. I had been too obsessed over the numbers the last two days. I resolved not to check my stats while I was at work that day. I checked them twice. At least that was an improvement, right?
I think it goes without saying that, as soon as I got home, I crashed into my bed. The last thought in my head was, thank goodness tomorrow’s Friday.
I’m going to combine both Friday, January 25th and Saturday, January 26th because they both went by quickly and, feeling much calmer, I was able to detach myself from my computer and phone and mostly act like it was just another normal day.
Friday night after work, I went home and indulged in cake and ice cream for dinner. It was the best way I knew how to celebrate by myself, eating my two favorite foods while watching Supernatural. Don’t hate.
Saturday, I went shopping with a friend and bought a new lipstick to celebrate (which I wore to celebrate my book release with some friends on Monday, January 28th) and then my friend took me out to get champagne so we could toast to my authorness (yes, I made that word up). Later that same day, I had another friend come over and we ate pizza and drank rum and coke while we watched my favorite Hitchcock movie, Vertigo.
It was a weird way to celebrate, considering I’m usually always extra about these kinds of things. Honestly though, it was exactly what I needed and I don’t think I could have planned anything to beat it.
In total, I had 168 downloads during the free promo, well exceeding my goal. THANK YOU to everyone who downloaded, shared, texted, and told friends & family to get my book. I couldn’t have done it without you!
As someone who couldn’t get herself out of bed early enough to go to the gym before work this morning, I thought today would be a good day to talk about goals. Well, my goals specifically. I wouldn’t pretend to know enough information to provide guidance on achieving goals in general (says the girl who took three years to publish her own novella), so my apologies if you clicked this link looking for advice.
Side note: I am terrible at giving advice. I’m one of those people that will say, “Well, I sure as hell wouldn’t put up with it. Oh but, you know, we’re different so….”
I’m actually pretty good at completing goals, believe it or not. It just always takes me longer to complete them than I originally planned. This is just in my personal life, by the way. My professional life is on point, which, honestly, makes it even more frustrating for me. Knowing that I’m capable of completing something quickly and thoroughly when it’s for someone else, but apparently not having enough respect for myself to maintain the same level of performance. Why does procrastination feel so good?
At this point, you know that one of my goals since 2016 is to publish Just Down the Street, Across the Ocean. I’m so close to accomplishing this that I’m literally dealing with nausea-inducing nerves everyday and it’s great! So, why did it take me so long to do it? I’d say for, mostly, arguably good reasons. But definitely also because of procrastination. I’ll own that and quit trying to justify it. I’m learning a lot from this experience of self-publishing and, hopefully, it will prevent me from falling into the same traps when I try to publish my next book.
My next book? Yes, my next book. I’ve started work on another novel and I am both excited and exhausted. It feels incredible to finally have a new project to work on – especially one that has been slowly developing in my mind for the last couple of years. At this point I’ve written maybe, ten pages? But I’ll never get over that magical feeling when a story goes from just existing in your head to coming alive on paper. That is why I write, to see my characters literally come to life right before my eyes. My goal for this story is to finish the first draft this year. It feels somewhat daunting, especially since I haven’t finished something in you know how long. But more than daunting, writing makes me feel alive and, since working on this new story, I have felt happier and more content than I have in some time. Writing is magic.
I have other goals as well. I want to work on my professional growth and I’m exploring options for what that might mean. I also want to maintain my fitness goals. I’ve been steadily going to the gym since April 2018 and the difference it has made in my life is huge. So far I’ve been doing a good job with that (let’s just ignore the incident this morning).
People say to set small goals for yourself to help you accomplish a larger goal. I’ve found this to be true. It helps deal with procrastination. In fact, it’s the only thing I’ve found that helps me stay focused. I can’t do daily goals, but I can do weekly goals. Instead of setting a goal to write a paragraph every day, it might be to write a page every week. Instead of telling myself that today I’m going to the gym, I’ll say just make sure you go four times this week. That gives me room to have a couple days a week to say, “I don’t feel like it,” and plop myself on the couch in front of my TV without feeling guilty about it. This is what I’ve started to incorporate in my life, slowly at first, and then to more and more things that I want to achieve and it has worked wonders for me. But like I said earlier, “Oh, but, you know, we’re different so…” who knows what will work for you.
I’m ready for 2019 and I’m ready for the challenges it will bring. Let’s just hope I don’t look back at this post six months from now, laugh, and say, “Girl, you were one crazy lady.”