I am brave enough to continue.

This is my mantra. Because I commune with the daring trinity of Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Cheryl Strayed, I know vulnerability looks like courage in others and weakness in myself (Brown), expecting my art to support me was a bad idea all along (Gilbert), and the only option is to keep walking (Strayed.)

But this book I’m writing is straight-up kicking my ass. I’m worried not a single reader will remember my name by the time I publish it. I’m afraid that after all the effort I’ve put into it, it will suck. It’s been a lot of effort, thus the sucking will be worse because I tried harder. I’m overwhelmed by the process and expense of self-publishing. But really it all boils down to one thing: this is hard. And since I always end up deleting my first thought because it takes me two to get to the point:

I’m afraid of failure.

Yeah, who isn’t? I know. I jeer at myself, too, which makes it take longer to pull up my all-cotton Hanes bikini panties and get to the real work. I’m not just a writer anymore. I’m a writer-in-recovery which means I’ve rejected all the previous standards by which I judged my career. Most romance writers hold themselves to a daily word count and try to publish several books a year. It’s a good plan. I did it for five years. This is what happened.

I was single-minded and always on deadline. No one expected me at family events. I was perpetually exhausted, scrambling, and buried in work. And guess what? I didn’t make enough money or garner enough praise to justify the sacrifices. It is familiar and easy for me to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others while claiming I want to live a balanced life. When the words are flowing, I skip yoga, don’t make dinner, don’t clean the house, and my business life is a mess. And when the words aren’t flowing, I do the same thing because if I just put my BUTT IN THE CHAIR for long enough, the words will pour from me in a bloody rush of THIS WAS WORTH MY LIFE.

I can’t speak for all writers in this. Some of them are perfectly well-adjusted, don’t seek approval like it’s vodka, and write like Niagara Falls.

I admire them. Of course, I also hate them. They are happy. They believe in themselves. They don’t doubt every word. They don’t second-guess every thought. They do not tie their self-worth to what they DO. Some of them aren’t faking it, either. (I don’t really hate them. I want to be them.)

High school BFF, the finder of good things, sent me The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life by Ann Patchett. After reading it, it got easier for me to spend a few hours on writing and then work on the other things that give my life meaning. Right now that’s mothering, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and remembering to call my mom. I lent it to my writer pal, Jessica Topper, and she read it and sighed, “Forgiveness.” If you are an introspective writer-sort trying to survive in the tumultuous publishing world right now, you might like it.

Balance isn’t always comfortable. Yesterday, I cleaned up the morning school mess and called my mother. I wrote for two hours, went to yoga, stopped by Wegmans for a health screening (free lunch and uniform shirt – bonus!), shopped for glasses, cleaned ten years of cobwebs out of the kitchen windows, deleted a month’s worth of e-mails, and took my kid to pick up her new glasses. I was tired, but I felt like I hadn’t really accomplished anything. I was tempted to go back to work on the WIP. Against every instinct, I booted up the pilot episode of The Good Wife. While I admired Julianna Margulies’s stupendous eyebrows, all of my children showered. In other words, the heavens opened up and rained clean children, a sign I had chosen wisely.

I didn’t finish the book yesterday. Hell, I don’t even know how many words I wrote, but I kissed everyone goodnight. I exercised, ran errands, and battled inbox entropy. My kitchen windows look as good as fifty-three year-old windows can look. I put some time in on writing AND living. I feel spectacular.

Just kidding. Did I fool you? I feel like shit, which is why my husband – deeply suspicious of me watching television, of all things – kept giving me the fish-eye and saying, “Are you okay?”

Fuck no.

I want to finish this book, and it is taking so much longer than I think it should.

But I think this is what recovery feels like, so I’m going to keep doing it. 🙂

Happy Friday, everyone! If you struggle with writing, you should read The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life! All comments left on this blog, Mid-life Margaritas, and A Visit to the Ripped Bodice will enter you to win a book from the most romantic bookstore in Culver City, CA!

11 Replies to “Writer-in-Recovery”

  1. You my dear are beautiful and brave and such a talented writer. You manage to capture all the EXACT SAME crazy that goes through my mind. THANK YOU for writing this. Are you going to be in San Diego for RWA next month? I’d love to buy you a drink. My avatar isn’t cooperating (it’s totally WordPress’s fault, not mine at all) so in case you can’t tell, it’s me, Roxanne Snopek.

    1. Thank YOU, Roxanne. I appreciating you sharing your crazy with me. In my sane heart, I know a lot of writers have similar thoughts, but most of the time my crazy heart is in charge. That heart is convinced everyone else has their shit balanced. 🙂 Unfortunately, I won’t be in San Diego. But please say hi online often, and I’ll do the same. And I’ll take a raincheck for that drink!

  2. Hey, Robin! I was inspired to write this because I’m reading Brené Brown’s DARING GREATLY. Last night, I read a part about how we love seeing other people being vulnerable, but we want to appear invulnerable to others. So true, right? Hugs back at you. 🙂

  3. Right there with you. And the fear is SO MUCH WORSE because this book means more. And because of that it’s taking longer. And longer. And longer. And it’s not as long or involved as I want. And I hate it. And I love it. And I hate it. *sigh*

    1. “And I love it,” is an excellent point. Thank you for reminding me about that. Because that is the thing that counteracts all the negative things about publishing. Yep – I still love it, too. ❤

  4. I’ve never met more of an amazing person than I have with you! I mean that! The first year I met you I was intimidated, last year worked up the courage to talk to you! 🙂 I’m glad that you expressed what I think most of us writers feel, and honestly I don’t know how you do it! Thank you for inspiring others (I know a few :))


    1. Oh, Paige, if I seemed intimidating, it was only because I was trying not to FEEL intimidated, I promise you. Thank you for talking to me. I really appreciated it! (And you just made my day by telling me I inspired somebody. Seriously.) XOXO

  5. If I haven’t responded to this already, Amanda, THANK YOU again for writing such an honest account of the process. We are sisters under the skin, my friend. Afraid of failure? Check. Watching too much Good Wife? Check. Seeking balance? Check. Finding it? Hm… not so much.

    You are a gifted writer, Amanda.


    1. Thanks, Roxanne. It hasn’t been an easy year and a half of feeling like I would never finish this book. I kept re-writing the beginning, over and over. I got stuck in the middle. For months. I kept sitting down to it, giving myself a time limit instead of a word count. It’s working. I’m at 60K, and it’s fun again. I have ideas for two new projects. But I never thought I could get here from there. You are a wonderful writer, too! But it’s a brutal profession for the sensitive (which you must be, if we’re sisters!) so we must find other things we love and do them, too.

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