Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Month: February 2013

Progress

I made pretty good progress this week, I think, though I did better in some areas than in others. For one thing, I picked a terrible week to start Couch to 5K, because it snowed on what was supposed to be my second day. And we have an actual blizzard warning for tomorrow, so I guess I’ll be holding off on re-starting it until the bad winter weather is out of the way. But I did faithfully do the first day last Monday, as promised, as soon as I got home from dropping Sasha at the vet, and I didn’t die (even though it felt touch-and-go there for a little while), so that’s a victory.

Speaking of Sasha kitty, in case there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t follow me on Facebook and who is wondering, she’s doing great. They were able to cut out all of the bad stuff (as far as they know) and she’s recovering. I knitted her a sweater to wear over her sutures so she doesn’t have to wear the Cone of Shame anymore, and since I put it on her last night she’s seemed much happier.

Anyway. One thing I did manage to stick with all week was getting up earlier on a consistent basis, and I also managed to sleep better for the most part, save one morning when I woke up at 4AM for no apparent reason and couldn’t get back to sleep. Unfortunately, I was still too busy with freelance work to translate any of that into consistently making writing time, although I did get a tiny bit written on Eucha Falls.

I also surprised myself this week by writing a new song. It’s only the second one I’ve written, but I like it well enough that I wish I could make more time to cultivate my musical abilities so I could actually do something with it. But it just sort of occurred to me, the same way my best stories usually do, which is a positive sign, because I’ve been feeling so uninspired and creatively drained lately.

It’s probably no coincidence that it came to me the morning after I bit the bullet and let go of one of my unprofitable contract jobs, and made the decision to wrap up the other one and phase it out as soon as possible. Making those decisions felt akin to laying down a big bag of wet sand that I’d been carrying for too long. I’ve still got a lot to do to wrap up the other job, but I can see the light and it’s clear enough and close enough that I’m pretty sure it’s not a freight train barreling down on me.

I also wrapped up and launched a client’s website, freeing up even more room on my plate. I’ve got one more web dev project to wrap up (I’m waiting for the client to pick out a web host), and then I’ll be down to just writing for Demand Studios — which is FINE. I mean, DS isn’t something I want to do long term, but it’s a decent gig for keeping the lights on while I take a step back to figure out where I want to take my freelancing business next. In the mean time, I think I’m going to take a break from worrying about that and focus on novel writing, on marketing my books and cultivating my fan base, and on helping Matt build his photography business, all of which I think is WAY more conducive to my ultimate goal of noveling full time than the kind of work I’ve been stuck with lately.

But really, you guys, it feels so good to have some breathing room again, I can’t even tell you.

Problem Solving

This is the first weekend I’ve taken off in at least a month. I’ve been stuck in a cycle where I worked through a couple of weekends out of necessity, and then by mid-week my brain broke and became completely useless, and then I would have to work through the weekend again to make up for the lost productivity in the middle of the week. I actually didn’t plan to take this weekend off, either–I had to take a couple of days off this week, so I had planned to make it up this weekend.

See, a couple of weeks ago, my uncle passed away. It wasn’t unexpected–he’d had a major heart attack a month or so before and had basically been in a coma. He regained consciousness, but it was clear that he was never going to be the same, or be strong enough to breathe on his own, so in the end he asked to be taken off of the respirator and allow nature to take his course, and his family respected his wishes. So, that sadness has been hanging over everything for the last six weeks or so.

Anyway, his funeral was Thursday, in Moore, which is a three-hour drive from Tulsa. And then he was interred at Fort Sill National Cemetery, which is another hour and a half or so from Moore. Matt and I rode down with my mom and sister, and between the ceremonies and the road tripping and dinner with extended families, we were gone all day. And then on Friday, I had to spend the day running errands, including taking Sasha, one of our cats, to the vet to check out a mass on her side and discovering (more like confirming, really) that she has cancer. I crammed in what work I could on that day between errands and Bible class, but it wasn’t much.

So by Saturday, I was plumb worn out. Work of any kind just wasn’t going to happen. To ease my guilt I told myself that I was making a compromise and that I could spend Saturday reveling in sloth and then spend Sunday catching up on work.

Except that, even after a Saturday spent lying on the couch and staring at moving pictures, today I still felt exhausted. And I realized that the world probably isn’t going to fall apart if I actually take the whole weekend off, and that I’m going to be useless all week if I don’t take this opportunity to rest and recharge my batteries, and really, I need to knock it off with the guilt.

So that’s one problem hopefully solved, now that things are reset — the problem of being stuck in this workaholic, no weekends cycle that was really making it difficult to enjoy life.

I have a few other problems that are also making life difficult and unpleasant, and it’s high time I do something about them.

One of those problems is insufficient sleep. Actually, I think that’s just one symptom of a bigger problem, which is that I haven’t been making time to take care of myself. I haven’t tested my blood sugar in a long time, but it feels like it’s out of whack, and it’s no wonder, seeing as how I’ve been eating a lot of high-glycemic carbs and not working out. My energy is low, my focus is shot, and I just generally feel like crap all the time. I have a feeling that if I start exercising and get back on my low GI diet, most, if not all, of these problems will take care of themselves; I’ll have more energy, start sleeping better and my focus issues will improve and I’ll be more productive overall. ┬áSo tomorrow, after we get back from dropping Sasha at the vet for blood work and (hopefully) surgery, I’m going to start the Couch to 5K program.

The other big problem is that I’ve gotten myself stuck on this treadmill of low-paying contract jobs and freelance projects that demand so much of my time and energy that I don’t have any left over for things like marketing myself and building my skills and portfolio so I can find better-paying clients and projects. Actually, after reading this article on the tendency of woman freelancers to undercharge, I realized that the root of this problem is that I undervalue my own abilities and the services I provide, and I need to knock that off right now. The main reason I’m stuck in these low-paying arrangements is because, in every instance, when the person hiring asked me my rates, I was so desperate for work that I offered lower-than-normal rates in the first place; as if that’s not bad enough, when they told me they had budgeted an even lower number, instead of trying to negotiate a better fee I just accepted the rate that they offered.

That’s not a way to build a successful and profitable freelancing career, y’all.

I’m so thankful that I came across that article, because it helped me realize, for one thing, that I’ve been basing my freelancing rates on the bare minimum of what we need to get by instead of on what we need to get ahead. For some reason, I felt guilty factoring “luxuries” like health insurance and home repairs and other things that most people would think of as necessities into my fees. And guess what! I’ve been making just what we need to scrape by each month. Now that I’ve realized I’ve been doing this, I’m asking myself, what the heck was I thinking?

So in the coming weeks and months, I’m going to be raising my rates, and sticking to my guns, and making time to promote our services to a higher caliber of clientele — i.e., clients with budgets of sufficient size that they won’t balk at the new rates. I’ve also realized that I need to think bigger, and stop marketing myself to bloggers, individuals and small businesses who can’t afford to shell out big bucks for a fabulous website.

I know all of this seems completely obvious, but for me it’s a revelation.

Oh, and that other problem is lack of writing time. But that ties back into the not getting enough sleep — I’ve been sleeping late in the mornings to make up for my nights of insomnia. I just need to start getting up early, which will hopefully also help me fall asleep sooner at night. At any rate, it should get me the time I need to get back into my morning writing routine.

So, those are the plans. Do you have any big problems you need to tackle? Come along with me and let’s take charge together.

The Book Club Post

A while back, I was invited to be the guest of honor at a book club meeting where they would be discussing my first novel, Restless Spirits. After a couple of months of being various amounts of totally psyched, nervous, and completely terrified, that book club meeting finally happened on the last weekend of January. And it was lovely.

Before I continue, I have to ask, how can I start a book club like this? It was more like a book party, with cocktails and excellent food. It was awesome, and it was the most fun I’ve had in quite a while.

Of course, I had no idea of what to expect on my way there. The whole thing was arranged by a friend of a friend, and the first-degree friend was going to be there, plus they let me bring along my sister for moral support, so I was less terrified than I might have been otherwise. I had some butterflies on the drive over, but I was a lot more zen about the whole thing than I expected to be.

And then I arrived to a warm welcome, and people actually acting excited to meet me, and calling me “The Author” and telling me that they loved my book, and then they handed me a cocktail and already it was one of the best nights ever. Certainly of my writing career, at any rate.

And then we got down to business and started discussing the book. That was a fun and interesting experience in and of itself. It was the first time I’ve ever discussed my work with a group of readers as opposed to other writers, and there really is a difference. When you talk about your writing with other writers, the conversation starts out about the writing and the various challenges you face, and then it veers off into general writing life quirks, and eventually (at least in my experience and circle of writer friends) it lands on either George R. R. Martin, Joss Whedon, or Doctor Who. Sometimes (often), all three.

This discussion was much more focused. These ladies had some great and sometimes challenging questions for me regarding story decisions, and they also had some insights into the story that had never even occurred to me, causing me to view my own story in a whole new light. They asked about things I had done, parallels I had set up, and I had no answer because I was completely unaware that I had done those things. The whole discussion was excellent, and also a great lesson in finding more pure readers to beta read my books from now on instead of relying solely on other writers.

So that was awesome. And then we grouped up to take some pictures, and I signed some paperback copies, and then we had food and more cocktails and from then on it was pretty much all party. My sis and I bailed out around 9:00, because I’m too old to be hip and party all night and I missed my husband and my sister had a long way to drive to get home. But I heard via Facebook that the regular book club gals kept going until the wee hours of the morning. I mean, dang, ladies.

So thank you, ladies of the awesome book club party, for inviting me and making me feel like a writer version of Cinderella.

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