Breaking the Ice

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash and has nothing to do with the post. I just like it.

It’s always hard to start again, or to know what to say, after a long break from the blog, especially an unplanned break. But I guess sometimes the best thing is to just dive in and start and let the words come as they may.

So, long story short, all our plans and projects got put on hold at the end of May when our landlords let us know they wanted to sell the house. Since then our lives have mostly centered around getting and keeping approval for financing, hunting (unsuccessfully, so far) for an affordable home that includes our nonnegotiables and also meets the extremely stringent standards of our financing program, and packing everything we don’t need to live. And let me tell you, this is not a good time to be shopping for a home. Especially when the only loan you could qualify for won’t cover manufactured homes or fixer-uppers and finding a move-in ready house within a budget you’re comfortable with is next to impossible. And every time we think we’ve discovered such a unicorn, it turns out to have some fatal flaw that disqualifies it.

And ’round and ’round we go.

Houses aren’t the only thing I’ve been hunting for. I’m also on the hunt for more freelance writing clients, so that we’ll be able to afford the monthly payments on this loan that keeps forcing us to increase our budget. Really, if I could find just one or two more big brand content marketing clients on the level of my current clientele, who could give me just a couple of assignments a month, we’d be set without me having to take on a ton of extra work. So that’s what I’m hoping for. But I’m also kicking around the idea of offering special rate packages for small biz/startups. I can see some benefits in going that route, such as a more consistent and predictable writing schedule instead of being handed assignments at random, but I can see a lot of potential drawbacks, too. So I’m reluctant to go that route if I don’t need to.

And I’m also trying to muster up the motivation to pitch articles to paying publications. I just really hate pitching and I don’t want to.

But that’s not all! What else am I on the hunt for?

An agent.

Yes, you read that right.

Being forced to step back from all my self-publishing plans for this year got me to reevaluate things. If you’ve been here long, then you may recall how a couple of years ago I had a bit of an existential crisis (didn’t we all?) around whether I even still wanted to be a fiction author, because while I still love the writing part, I kind of hate the author part and all that it entails. But I realized in these last months that it’s not so much a question of being an author, as it is being an indie author, which has been nothing but a struggle for me.

And as much as I had some issues with my previous traditional publishing experience, it definitely provided some benefits, not the least of which was that it provided structure and the external pressure of being contractually obligated to keep my deadlines. As much as I hated writing to someone else’s schedule, I realize now that I need that external pressure and accountability to keep me focused and motivated. As you’ve seen with all my delays trying to finish my Dominion trilogy, I’m terrible at keeping deadlines I set for myself. My brain just sees them as suggestions and feels free to ignore them.


So I’ve decided to seek representation for my Christian romance novel. I’ve got my dream agent all picked out, and some backups in case she’s not interested, and I’m working on putting together my proposal. Currently I’m proofreading my manuscript and making notes on what to include in the synopsis, and then I’ll need to draft said synopsis. And then it will be ready to send. And when I think about sending it I panic a little and just want to go back to my self-publishing plan, but then I shake it off and press on.

Which is another reason I’m doing this. I realized that the biggest reason I decided to self-publish in the first place was because I was afraid of rejection. When I saw the shiny new tool called KDP that people were using to publish their books, I said, “You mean I can skip all of the pain and humiliation of submissions and just put my book out there where it can find its fans?” And my rejection-sensitive self said, “Woohoo! Sign me up!”

But in those days, self-publishing was much less competitive and it was easy to find fans and make a little money. But now in order to succeed, it takes a set of skills I don’t possess and can’t muster, like the ability to write and release a book a month and to be incredibly genre-savvy when it comes to covers and marketing.

I really struggle with genre-appropriate covers, and I’m never going to be a speed writer or rapid releaser.

Also, if I’m being completely honest with myself, being a self-published author was never Young Jean’s dream. That dream got hijacked by Tired, Anxiety-ridden, Rejection-sensitive, Middle-aged Jean. I think it’s time to get out of the way and give Young Jean her shot at her dream. Even if the publishing landscape has drastically changed since she had visions of (Stephen) King-sized royalty advance checks dancing in her head.

So I’m going for it, is what I’m saying. And if it doesn’t work out, KDP will still be there.

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. But as all these hunts stretch on without bagging any game, to stretch the metaphor, I’m getting antsy. My brain is itching for some creative work, and it feels like it’s gearing up for something, but at the same time I feel overwhelmed and unmotivated. I’m feeling like it might be about time to start working on a novel, but I can’t decide which. The second romance I started in the spring? The urban fantasy horror I started in 2020 (…or was it 2019?) that I’ve been harping about for ages but lately I haven’t been feeling so inspired about? Or the YA gothic romance that’s been perking in my brain for the last several years, which kind of feels like it’s the one screaming the loudest for attention? The indecision is paralyzing me. See what I mean about needing structure and the external pressure of contractual obligations?

For now I’m not forcing anything, but I’ve been taking in a lot of productivity advice that’s specifically geared toward my ADHD brain and working on developing better systems that will help me stay on track. I’ve pretty much just relied on both my bullet journal and fitting work into the rhythms of my day for the last several years, and while that has worked well at times, there’ve been times (like this current season) where it hasn’t worked so well, and there’s definitely room for improvement.

So I’m giving some other tools a try. One of those is keeping a weekly calendar. I’ve always shied away from keeping a schedule or a calendar, because it makes me anxious when I don’t keep it perfectly, or feeling like I have to work on a certain thing at a certain time if my brain just doesn’t feel up to it or is inspired to work on something else. But I’m coming to realize a few things, which are probably super obvious to all of you:

1. My bujo is great for making plans, but not for visually displaying those plans where I can easily see it mapped out, which usually means my plan for the week derails after a couple of days because I forget what all I wanted to accomplish.

2. Calendars are for capturing and displaying a visual map of your plan that can help keep things on track.

3. Calendars — and plans — are changeable. Nothing is set in stone. A plan is an ideal, and a calendar reflects that ideal, but both are subject to reality, and as such, are flexible.

It’s that last item that was my biggest AHA! moment. I can change or move things around on my schedule, or erase them completely, just like I do in my bujo, and that’s okay. I don’t have to feel guilty about it. Putting a task on my schedule for Wednesday just means that Monday Jean thought it would be a good idea to tackle that task on that day, but Wednesday Jean is free to disagree.

More important than what I do on which day is that I’m trying to shift things around so that I can have two solid blocks of uninterrupted time each day to do deep work. But also recognizing that sometimes that deep work will look like just sitting and thinking or like taking in ideas and refueling, because I’ll burn out if I just try to do output all the time.

I think a more structured daily and weekly rhythm is what I’m going for. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So does any of this mean I’m going to be blogging regularly again? I don’t know. I would like to. But with so much uncertainty and upheaval in this season of my life, I’m not committing to anything. At some point, Lord willing, we’re going to find a house, and then we’ll have to finish packing and move and unpack and all the things. But as long as we’re stuck in house-hunting limbo, I might as well try to be productive at something and give my poor, neglected creative brain something to do before it atrophies from disuse.

I’ll let you know when I figure out what that something is.