I realized on Tuesday, in the middle of a conversation with a friend, that I have two speeds: superachiever and yawn, why bother. I took 4 AP classes my senior year in high school, on top of a ton of family obligations. I decided last year to run a 5k, from ground zero, with asthma (read: a marathon, as far as my body was concerned). And I ran it (ran/walked, but still). I got the draft of Marked done from ground zero, in revised form and into the editor, in less than 4 months. That’s half of the time I had for Sharp, the second book. And I hit it. But I also go through long periods in which getting out of bed in the morning is a chore, and I rearrange the papers in my office, and try to figure out what’s next.
This year has been a year of the in-between. I haven’t been able to hit my big numbers in writing seemingly at all. I haven’t gotten over 5k in over a year, though I’ve been pushing 3k-4k sometimes, on good days, without a lot of trouble. On bad days it’s tortuous to hit 2. I’ve had to make a mountain of decisions, from what we’re going to do with the office and nursery, to how often do I go and check on the sick family member out of town, to how we’re going to handle everything from baby registry to hospital to birth to visits and maternity leave, childcare and working while pregnant (and after, when that happens). Oh, and how my career is going to work at this stage, without an agent or editor, with it all up to me. There’s no road map to this sort of thing, only decisions out into the wide blue sky of new territory, new adventures, and new challenges. I’ve also been tired–a lot. Tired to the point that reading a Dilbert comic seems like far too much work. Tired at a level I haven’t been in my adult life, not since I got pneumonia at 15, with similar trouble focusing.
The trouble with all of this is that I can’t comfortably settle into either of my two natural speeds. I just don’t have the stamina to manage overachieving. Some days achieving happens at half-speed, if it happens at all. And I’m too cussed stubborn to just phone in months of my life right now, so the why-bother speed isn’t happening either. So I’m stuck in this odd shuffle, this slow-motion push ahead that feels like walking backwards with both shoes on the wrong feet. I think this must be what real life is like. Real life is hard!
The good news is that I’ve figured out some things that help the exhaustion. Protein (as Sam puts it, I’m 3-D-printing a human being here and I can’t run out of ink), B12, and potassium seem to help a lot. Writing my outline and sticking to it has been immensely helpful. And I’ve found some great folks to help me get the book out the door–cover designers, editors, even the immensely fantastic people in my street team, who have been helping me pick up the slack. Things are happening. They’re just happening slower than I would like.
So I’m learning to let go. I fall down. I sleep. I get back up. I don’t give up. But I accept that life is a moving target right now. And I’m trying to let go. From what my friends who are parents tell me, rolling with the changes and getting back up are both going to be tremendously helpful skills when Pip arrives. She’s not going to be the same from week to week, and neither am I.
I’m sitting on the halfway point in the draft of Book Five. I’ve got a cover design coming for the novella. I’m starting to waddle a bit here in the third trimester, and to have days where I start feeling like a human being again. But I also have days where I stare at the screen and wonder where the story went. It’s all the thing. It’s all part of the process.
And I’m learning to let go. So if I haven’t spent a lot of time on the blog or the social media lately, if I haven’t gotten the kitchen scrubbed or the thank you notes written or a call returned, I am sorry. I’m afraid it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. But I am getting back up, and the words are getting written more often than they’re not. That’s a big victory in my book, and I’m proud of it 🙂
What are some of your victories lately? Any advice on learning about this third, “sustainable” gear? I’d love to hear your thoughts.