Friday, May 6, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Writing My Next Book

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of signing the final docs on our current home.




I bring that up because I believe it's kind of relevant to what's going on in that shiny, spinny little orb I call my brain.

The SO and I celebrated with Chinese food (we finally have a good Chinese restaurant--well, take out--place again!) and good wine and Curse of the Jade Scorpion (which is one of our favorite Woody Allen flicks). It was a quiet, happy evening in our still-feels-new home. Lovely.

I fell asleep at nine o'clock, which is late for me these days. At the beginning of April, I came down with the flu (one of those respiratory things) and I haven't really felt 100% since. I was flat out sick for three weeks and the exhaustion has persisted. For a while I was going to bed at eight at night and sleeping until eight or nine in the morning. Which is unheard of for me. My natural waking time is 5:30-6:00ish even on vacation. I was craving naps in the afternoon. Even green juice --my never fail cure all -- didn't help a lot.

I was -- and am -- exhausted.

And of course I have a book due. Because that's how it works in publishing these days. I write for my bread and butter and I ALWAYS have a book due. Of. Course.

Initially I wasn't concerned because the book was largely outlined and based on my own trip to Scotland (well, minus the murder and mayhem). It's a cozy mystery, and that's a genre I know very well indeed. It was fun reliving my own trip and listening to my favorite folk music and watching documentaries on the auld country...but then I got sick and fell behind and the Dark Thoughts Came.

The darkest thought was the most obvious one: hurtling at full speed down a never-ending highway is not actually a strategy. What is my strategy? Do I have a plan for the future?

Yada yada yada.

By week three, I knew that well or not, ready or not, I had to begin writing again.



And...I couldn't do it. I was falling asleep at ten in the morning. I was falling asleep at my keyboard. Hm. But that made sense because I was still coughing, still recovering, still obviously a bit under the weather. Not to worry, Camille. We can fix it in post.

I couldn't help noticing however that when I woke in the morning, even before I opened my eyes, I was filled with a sense of anxiety. Depression. Something close to dread. A feeling that was vaguely familiar.

Where did I know that feeling from?

Oh yeah. Five years ago when I burned out.

Gulp.

I hadn't even noticed I was off the map and here I was teetering on the edge of the abyss again. I'm not burned out--I loved every minute of writing The Mermaid Murders and A Case of Christmas. But I'm close. Way too close to that edge.

The last time it happened was simply a matter of writing myself to a standstill. Fourteen stories in one year, including four novels--two of them to mainstream publishers. That'll do it to you. This time it was different. This time it was getting sick and having time to think...and while I highly recommend thinking on a regular, even daily basis, it forced me to realize a number of things I had been too busy writing to really consider.

Like the fact that I had not had time to deal with the business side of my writing career since Summer 2014.

A writing career is not just about selling your writing. But that's what mine has been for the past couple of years. In 12 months I've written three novels, a novella and a short story. I moved house. I went to Scotland. We had a dramatic REVEAL. And a slew of other stuff happened too. And while I can hire someone to answer emails and send books for review, I can't hire someone to plan the rest of my life, or even the rest of my career for me, and that's sort of what has to happen. It has to be me and it has to be now.

Also I had to realize that I've fallen back into the habit of overcommitting. It is so damned hard for me to say no, to disappoint people. But if you overcommit, you risk failing and disappointing them anyway, so sometimes no really is the best answer for everyone.

 On the bright side of all this is the fact that I realized in time what was happening to me. I actually listened to what my body and brain were trying to tell me. The message is STOP. It's not conducive to short term success or financial security, but that's the message and I'm heeding it. Okay, maybe a little belatedly, but I am listening. I can hear perfectly well when I'm upside down.



So that's where we are right now. I'm taking a break from pretty much everything while I break up the engine and examine all the parts. I'm considering a number of plans and projects and I'll be sharing those here...and maybe on social media. I'll be asking for your input and thoughts as well.

Even if I'm a bit scarce for a while, you know me, I get in these chatty moods and next thing you know I'm blabbing away everywhere. What I'm trying to say is don't be alarmed if I go off the grid for a bit. And while I may juggle a few projects, I'm not cancelling anything. Next year will still be almost exclusively devoted to sequels and series books as promised, starting with The Monet Murders in the early winter.















59 comments:

  1. So glad for you! It isn't easy to act on what we've learned from our past. Take your time, rest, and get well. We will be here for you.

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  2. Take care of you. We are here, always.

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    1. I think it's partly because of youse guys that I have the confidence to give myself a little time.

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  3. Health is no joke, that needs to be your priority. When I'm sick, I can't be bothered with anything, let alone writing and making up stories! Take good care of yourself!

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    1. Thank you! It's so easy to take feeling good for granted. That's the truth.

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  4. I am loving the fact that you recognized the signs before you became incapacitated. As always, you take the time you need. A happy, healthy Josh is the most important thing. Just be careful taking that engine apart, you KNOW there are always parts left over when you do that. <3. Be well, my friend.

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    1. Oh my God, that's the truth. I think I just saw a loose screw skitter under the sofa. :-D

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    2. Good think you don't have a cat...it'd be gone for good!!

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  5. Off the grid is good. Standing back and just...looking...is good. It helps you find the path that's better for you. I don't think we take enough time to just look. We're a rush ahead, full guns, sort of society. Stopping to smell the roses is good, but, you also need to stop worrying about pruning them, wondering what to feed them, and reading books on how to preserve them once they're cut, too.

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    1. Have you been peeking into my brain again? :-D Because this is so much the truth. Both literally and figuratively.

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  6. I adore your books and if taking time off means more books in the future? I can deal and so can every other loyal reader.

    You come first, always and forever. If, God forbid, never write another word, you've made a huge impact on so many people.

    So do what you need to do, step back and enjoy your life, your new digs, take some limeade out into the patio and just listen to the breeze and the gentle tweets of birds, the buzz of bees hard at work pollinating your flowers. Just breathe.

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  7. Okay this is the first time I've visited your blog, I feel I've jinxed your health and output 😯 Take care of yourself, most important, maybe try a dance circle like Harper Fox 😉

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    1. THANKS FOR NEARLY KILLING ME, BEVERLEY. CAN'T WAIT TILL YOUR NEXT VISIT! :-P

      Ha! Just kidding. Thank you for the kind words.

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  8. I can understand you so very good!! There had to be a balance between work, workrelated things and time for yourself. It is not so easy, to get that right, when you love your work and when you need that work, to have your bread and butter for you and perhaps not only for you. I think of you!

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    1. Yes! But it's so hard finding that balance, isn't it?

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  9. As others have said, the most important thing for you to do is to take care of yourself. I think everyone who loves you, whether it is family, friends or fans, want to support you in your efforts to be your best through health and a realistic work schedule. Take care of yourself.

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    1. Thank you, Janet. :-) I admit it's a relief that so far everyone, even my publisher, has been understanding.

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  10. Josh, take care of YOU. I totally understand that anxious feeling. I've had two mornings in the past few years - as soon as I opened my eyes, heart pounding, a feeling of dread. It's horrible! Over-committing - not good for your health. We're all here, your fans and future fans. We're not going away. LOL. Take time for yourself, enjoy your new house, Chinese food, long walks, binge watch film noir - breathe:)

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    1. It's oppressive, isn't it? Waking up and dreading the day. That's no way to live. I could have kept the day job if I wanted to live in a constant state of anxiety and frustration. :-D

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  11. Your health is the most important thing. Without good health, it's hard to enjoy anything else.

    If we have to wait a bit longer for a story, I won't complain, as long as it means you're in good health to bring more stories later on and not burning out. So take care of yourself first and foremost. We'll be here patiently waiting. :)

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    1. Thanks, Rosy5000! :-) It's amazing what having just a little time to catch your breath can do. I do already feel more normal again, more optimistic again.

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  12. Relax. Breathe. Take time to notice the wondrous world we live in: bumblebees, dragonflies, and dandelions. Enjoy life. Laugh loud and often. Love fiercely. Do something fun and wacky you've never tried before (I can recommend miniature golf). Take care of YOU.

    And now I sound like a damn greeting card.

    Bottom line? We (AKA, your loyal readers) care about you and are here for you, always.

    Sending virtual hugs, Judy Stone (j.stonewright@)

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    1. Dear Judy, thank you for the lovely greeting card! ;-D Seriously, thank you for these thoughts. I felt peaceful just reading that list.

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  13. So glad you caught it before it went too deep. We who love you are always here. No matter what or when.

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  15. Josh, do what is right for you. We'll be here for a chat or whatever you need x🐝x

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    1. Thank you for these kind thoughts, BJ!

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  16. You're doing the right thing, dear Josh. Take your time, make plans, choose those healthy choices. Make sure that your plans include things that make you happy. Inspirational, joyful things. Things that you can look forward to. Be kind to yourself and pamper yourself a bit (okay — a lot!). I have no doubt you'll find a strategy that will work for you the best way possible.

    I'm so proud of you for hitting that brake pedal in time. You can do it!

    And like everyone else already said — we'll be here for you. We aren't going anywhere. In fact, I have my tent set up and my marshmallows ready as we speak.

    :-)

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    1. I am laughing WITH you, by the way, because we are always congratulating each other on the baby steps.

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    2. LOL! Oh yeah, there's definitely a pattern here. :-D

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  17. It's good that you recognized the warning signs this time before you worked yourself right over the edge. Take time, take care of yourself, be happy. And we'll be here to welcome you back with love and joy.

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    1. Thank you, Denise. The fog is starting to lift, which is great. Although it's slightly disappointing (and isn't that typical of me) that I'm not instantly energized for writing yet. But I know I'll get there.

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  18. Good for you that you recognise the feeling and take appropriate measures. We don't want another burn-out like the last one. Take your time, rest and heal and know we are always on your side. :)

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    1. Better a slow learner than a no learner. :-D I think hanging around all of you on Goodreads is why I've actually managed to recognize what's happening with me.

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  19. Sending love and giving you a warm embrace all the way from the Philippines. <3 <3 <3

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  20. We'll miss you, but want you well. Do take care of yourself -- enjoy your garden, rest in the sunshine, nap whenever you want to. In the middle of all that perhaps have a full blood test to make sure that there's nothing else physically which is making you feel so exhausted?

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    1. Thanks so much, Helena. This week is already a big improvement. It's like I can think again, plan again, get stuff done again. Also it's lovely swimming guilt free in the afternoons, I must say. Nothing like remembering that keeping fit is actually part of the job!

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  21. It is scary stepping off the treadmill for a while isn't it. But your health and well-being has to come first so enjoy the break.

    C

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    1. It's frankly terrifying. But the risk of actually burning out again is even more terrifying. So yes. A cautious step onto a shaky platform... ;-)

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  22. Glad you caught it in time, m'dear. Take good care. Big best loves from me and Missus.

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    1. Thank you, dear Angel. And love to the Missus. :-)

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  23. Take some time to get well and re-charge. Love the look of your new 'hood.

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    1. Thanks, Tony! That's what we call spring cleaning in this corner of the world. ;-D

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  24. Good on you for looking after yourself, Josh. It's the right decision. Hugs. :)

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  25. Sometimes we all have to unplug and regroup! Feel good Josh. You know we will be here re-reading while you take you time <3 <3

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  26. You've given all of us so much. Rereading and re-listening to the audiobooks will more than tide us over. I remember the days when one book a year by a favorite author seemed generous. We're spoiled by the bounty of your work. : )

    Of course this is scary when it's your livelihood. I also have faith that you are doing what is needed and right for you. Take care and more hugs sent your way.

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    1. I remember those days too! Wow. I remember spluttering my disbelief the first time a bookseller told me a new release every nine months was really the optimum. And now I feel like my career is over if three months pass without a new release. :-D

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  27. I love your books. They are always a great read. I would hate you to burn yourself out again. I am more than happy to go back and reread The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks and the Adrien English series (my favourites) and the rest of your backlist whilst you rest and recuperate and if I have to wait a bit longer for the next book then so be it. Health always comes first.

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  28. Glad you will take some time to recoup and hope you are feeling better every day....you scared me a moment there because I thought you were about to say no more stories for awhile...I so look forward to your books and posts... :)
    gotta admit, after seeing the house & pool pics,if it were me I would want a nice loooong break.....
    Rdafan7

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    1. Thank you! I'm already starting to feel a bit better, so that's the good news. The scary thing was how easily it was to fall back into the old habits -- and how close I came to not realizing what was happening.

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  29. I read your post with interest mixed with a touch of sadness as well as hope. Some times life can over take us and the journey rather then being a pleasurable adventure turns into a chore. For myself I think if life and/or something you love starts to be a job, a chore... A vocation rather than an avocation.. You know it's time to take stock and evaluate your choices. I am in the process of doing this myself. This can be difficult process but so worth it. Your health needs to take centre stage. Even if you start to feel better..don't forget those feelings that brought you to write your post.. In order to find your way..to find the path that transforms your writing from chore to joy again.. You need to take a break. Do it.. Enjoy it.. I for one will still be here waiting when you've found you happy place. Life should be a joy not a chore. Take care of you.

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