For the past 29 days I’ve been on a mission to start my second book. This one is a little different. I started my first book in the structured comfort of my masters program. There were hard deadlines, regular feedback, continuous movement forward. Having no thesis to work towards, no advisor to impress and/or tap for assistance, and no built-in writers group with whom I can trade work, I am writing this book in a completely different way than I wrote my last.
This time I’m coming at the writing process from many different angles. In order to write the book I know wants to be written, I have to be in a really good place mentally, and I need to be wholistic about my work, my study, etc.
One of the things that means for me is writing all of the time. Journaling, working on the book, and the morning pages prescribed by The Artists Way. In addition to writing, I’ve been listening to podcasts for writers about writing, I’ve been reading like a mad woman – fiction, non-fiction, audiobooks, and blog posts. There has been no time in the past 29 days that millions of words haven’t been swimming through my brain at all times.
I also started meditating again. I haven’t had a consistent meditation practice in probably sevenish years and what I’ve done in that time has varied significantly. So even this was like using a muscle that had been dormant for ages.
In the beginning of all of this, I felt like a crazy person. It was so much information, so much knowledge being imparted, so many books read and tossed onto my overflowing shelves, and even more books being added to my “to read” list, so many great suggestions on how best to work, I was inundating myself as a way to get back into the zone. Basically the equivalent of dunking myself into freezing cold water over and over every day to wake my senses.
It didn’t go so well. Brains don’t function great when over-stimulated for days on end. When this happens to me (or, when I do it to myself as the case may be), I get to a point at which I either need to stop everything and stay in bed for a couple of days to let the crazy dust settle, or I need to start making decisions like a ninja to allow myself to focus on what is most important. Also? It can seem like insanity from the outside because, in the beginning, it’s hard to articulate exactly what I’m doing and/or why.
My husband and I had a couple of pretty rough weeks. In the beginning I was still trying to do all of the things. I think I mentioned an exciting project I had planned on launching early this year – this was one of the things. It was a good idea. A great idea, actually. I had offers for advertising dollars before I’d even gotten started. People were excited.
When you start a project or a business, you research competitors. I did so and found several that were doing something similar, but different. I dug deep into these and they all felt…off. I spent a weekend going through them and I could clearly see how mine would be different, but two questions came up again and again: a) is there an audience for something different? And b) even if mine were different, would the responses be different, or would it feel equally off? If so, how would it feel to manage that? Even if I made tons of money, how would the every day of that feel?
After several conversations with my husband, I came to realize that what I envisioned and the reality of what’s out there and what my project could become, were likely quite different. And, more importantly, none of it felt good. It felt gross.
This realization came at a time when my brain was at it’s most full and I was at the fork in the road, left was stay in bed, right was make decisions like a ninja. I went right.
I ditched the project. I took down all mention of it on my websites, I closed the social media accounts I’d opened in its name, and I went full stop. I like money – bunches – and I intend to make a stupid amount of it in my lifetime but I don’t want to do it in a way that puts me in a negative space a lot of the time. We’ve spent time there, our family, and I have no interest in living in that any more than I absolutely have to.
I always know when I’ve made the right decision if, post-decision, there is no nagging regret. Because I can regret decisions like a mother f-cker and ruminate on them for years (see law school). But with this decision, there was none, it felt like my mind finally had a little space to breathe. I plowed forward with my reading, and listening, and writing and it felt a teensy bit less neurotic. As the days turned into weeks, it all felt less frenzied, and I’ve found a good balance of writing, and reading, and listening that doesn’t feel like jumping into ice cold water over and over. I’ve been way better at hearing the quiet voice inside – the one that is drowned out so easily by life and other voices and the world – and as the days continue to pass the more aligned I feel with what is true for me.
It’s easy to trick myself into thinking I’m not a writer because I work full time (not writing – although my colleagues would argue I am INCREDIBLY verbose ALL OF THE TME), and because frankly it sounds arrogant and ridiculous, and it’s not like my name is on any best seller list, and (this is where self doubt has a field day!) on and on. But, at the end of the day, I am a writer. I have books that have been simmering in my heart/brain/soul for years that are just waiting to be written.
While the past 29 days have been sometimes felt crazy, sometimes tense, and have required tough decisions, and many heart to heart conversations with my husband, they’ve also gotten me to a place where I am bringing this book to life. And I’m excited and ready to continue with this blog (a completely different kind of writing). And, finally, to do the work that writing requires of me.
All of that feels good, and right, and true.