It’s been a crazy few weeks around here.
I expected as much going into the new year because even though the second half of fifth grade and sixth grade involves absolutely no change at all from the first half, the girls still had to readjust to school and what normal life looked like with that. As they were getting adjusted, Wes and I were jumping into the 2018 miles in 2018 challenge. (Nineteen days in and I’m ahead on mileage. Woo-hoo! I also have a toenail that’s turned black and one that’s about to turn loose. Entirely expected.) The time that’s taking was an adjustment as well, and before I could get a handle on that, Wes was off to Kentucky for his last session of doctoral seminars. We got word halfway through the week that his grandmother, who has had Alzheimer’s for the last ten years, had passed away, and we began making plans to head out to Texas as soon as he got back to Louisiana at the end of the week. It snowed in Kentucky the night before he was scheduled to fly out, causing problems with the plane that was scheduled to fly to Atlanta, where Wes was supposed to catch a connecting flight to Baton Rouge. All this meant that he missed both flights, got moved around to different flights, then finally arrived back home twelve hours later than he was supposed to, groggy and not sure what planet he was on, clearly ready to drive ten hours to Texas. (I drove, and he slept, only waking up to clutch his pearls and gasp as I drove his truck through Houston. But that’s only because I like to honk the horn and wave my fist theatrically in congested traffic. Makes it more interesting that way.)
We made it to San Antonio for the funeral, expecting that we’d be back home in Vidalia the next day… which is when it snowed in both places (for real?) and all in between, making it impossible for us to drive back. I think that was probably providential as it gave us more time with Wes’s family. It also tested our commitment to this 2018 miles in 2018 thing as we had to run outside when it was 21 degrees. 21 degrees! I was so covered up that literally none of my skin was showing, and I was still pretty sure I was going to get frostbite and hypothermia both. (We’re lightweights, I know.)
In all of this (and this is what you’re really here to read about), I’ve been reevaluating where I’m at with my writing, given all the surprises and changed plans of the past few weeks. Before the new year, I expected that I would be up in my introverted hovel, meeting word quotas and churning out books like always. 2017 was a very good year for Jenn Faulk books, and in the back of my mind, I’ve been putting the expectation on myself that 2018 should see those same profits and rankings, which means producing books at the same rate regardless of whether or not I’m “feeling” it. And I’ve spent the past three weeks working on a book that I’ve not been “feeling,” to the point of dreading writing because it’s another thing on my to-do list. It’s been like pulling teeth to get words on paper, and though it all reads fine once I go back and check it out, there’s been no joy in the process. Plenty of people feel that way about work, though, right? But as Wes is always good to remind me, Jenn Faulk books is a hobby born out of something I love and a ministry that matters, not a business meant to make money or much of me. I see indie writers all over social media talking about how painful writing is and how they’re always depleted, and my response has generally been, “Then you need to stop writing.” Ha! But I kind of get it now, because it’s been painful for me here lately, and I think the pressure I put on myself has made it that way. It’s not the writing. It’s all me and my crazy self, totaling up numbers and thinking about pages read and promotions and…. ugh.
Well, being unexpectedly away from my computer and my self-imposed writing schedule for five days was probably the best thing that could’ve happened as it forced me to take a step back and refocus on what I’m doing and exactly why I’m doing it. This is probably more honest than you expected me to be, and I’m probably breaking every marketing rule out there, as it’s likely a bad idea to show your readers how much of a raging whackadoodle you are. (Or maybe you’re all identifying better with me now. You might be just as crazy!) I put it out there to tell you that this is where I’ve been and to let you know where we’re going. That book that I’ve spent three weeks working on with unflinching discipline has been put away. Lots of words and pages, all of them produced with great effort and desperation – all put aside because it’s not about churning out books because I have some goal to meet. Lest you think this is easy, it’s not. Those words were painful to write and were even more painful to put away. I’m sure that book will eventually have its day but not today. (And it’s a cute book! You’ll love it when that day comes. But for some reason, I was struggling to write it, started stressing out, and began the ridiculous game of doing this all for the wrong reasons, and yada, yada, yada…)
Anyway. Distance is a good thing sometimes, I’m discovering. And writing for no purpose at all, other than to just enjoy it, is an even better thing. I borrowed Wes’s computer on our last day in Texas, realizing that I could access all of my books through our shared files. I pulled up one that I hadn’t spent much time working on and looked it over. Then, I started fresh, reimagining it and writing a story without thinking about selling it, marketing it, and all that goes with that. I spent two hours on it and came away with five thousand words and a clear picture of where I wanted to go with it. Not like pulling teeth and not painful at all. Just fun, with a clear Gospel message. Which was the point of all of this all along, wasn’t it?
So, bear with me, friends. I know at this point every new year I have a book out and another one almost ready. I’m not there this year, but I think that delay and this re-evaluation is going to make for more authentic and enjoyable stories.