Too often, we see our available choices as a series of either/or options. I either do this or I do that. I'm either moving forward in my career or I'm moving backward. I'm either on a traditional publishing path or an independent one. I'm either obsessing over writing all the time or I'm not a writer at all.
We have so many more options than our dichotomies allow. In fact, the world is just bursting with choruses of YES.
After my last post, more than one reader reminded me that I can still be a writer while putting my personal life first. "In fact," one friendly voice whispered, "you will probably be a better author if you do."
Two more sage and respected readers pointed out that my writing will always be with me, but this time with my mom is fleeting.
At LeakyCon this week, an agent I admire very much told me that she hears this all the time. A writer says, "but my agent needs this now." She shook her head. "Your agent---your editor---no one needs your work so much that you don't have time to take care of yourself."
Another agent said, "No one is going to judge the quality of your work based on how quickly it was published. No one ever mentions speed of publishing in a book review. You have time."
The gentle advice always makes me cry.
Tell me to write through the pain, to suck it up, to keep a punishing schedule---and I set my jaw and go. But tell me to take care of myself? To trust my writing voice? To be faithful to myself?
Well, to be honest, I usually ignore the gentle voices. Thanks, but no thanks. I'm tough. I can handle it.
Maybe it's an Idaho thing. I remember---years ago---my dad coming in the house from working on his truck, a viscous red trail forming behind him. Woozy at the sight of so much blood, I told him I'd drive him to the hospital. He looked at me like I'd lost my mind. Then, brow furrowed, he lifted the balled-up shirt from his hand. I know damn well he saw the glint of white bone as clearly as I did---before he jammed the shirt back down. "Just needs a bandaid," he said.
Throughout my life, I've settled for bandaids in all kinds of situations, physical and emotional, choosing to be tough over all else.
So I suppose it's as big a surprise to me as it is to you that I'm actually listening this time.
This time, I'm NOT doing the all-or-nothing thing.
I'm rearranging my schedule with flexibility in mind. Yes. I still plan to write every day, but I give myself permission to ignore the 5AM alarm if I've been up all night. Yes. I still plan to blog on my personal site, but this will be my last regularly-scheduled post for Gem State Writers. Yes. There will continue to be an #amwriting site, but changes are afoot.
It's funny. I thought pulling back would feel like giving up, but it doesn't. It feels very much like learning how to breathe again---like I'm fulfilling an essential step in moving forward.
Gem State Writers, I will miss you, but I know good things are in store for all of you. I wish you the very best.