Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.

It’s been an unusual year, to say the least.

Those who know me might realize I’ve been pretty quiet. I won’t go into details, but 2017 has been pretty rough on me. Suffice to say that you know it’s bad when someone’s personal life is so stressful and traumatic, it deadens the blow of watching your own democracy turn into a banana republic.

You know that scene in The Sound of Music where Christoper Plummer and Julie Andrews sing about how somewhere in their youth or childhood, they must have done something good in order to wind up together? Yeah, I keep wondering what I did that was bad to get this kind of karmic retribution. 🙂

I’ve written scarcely 2 K in the whole year. I was supposed to have the final installment of The Sixth Sense series finished and submitted in March of 2017, and it just didn’t happen. I’m so far behind on my deadlines I’m afraid no one will want to read it when I finally get it written–which of course makes it harder to sit down with the characters to tell their story.

I’ve also seriously considered giving up writing altogether. The stresses of the last year might have been extreme, but they aren’t going to change very much in the coming year. My ability to produce books on a rapid, timely basis isn’t likely to improve. And while I got a tremendous kick out of Wil Wheaton sharing my Sense of Entitlement post, it made me realize my real claim to fame might be having written a blog post that went viral rather than being an author. Face it. I’m a hobbyist with dreams of being able to retire on my writing and that’s never going to happen. And as long as I have a demanding day job, my ability to write will be limited to what I have the time and energy to do.

But maybe that’s okay.

I have a wonderful mare. Big, beautiful movement, magnificent presence–the kind of horse that made people stop and stare as you went past with her. But she’s nearly died three times due to colic, once having to have emergency surgery that put her out of the show circuit for over a year. My own work schedule meant that I could only get to a competition once or twice a year. But that was okay. Because for that one day, she got to show the world her potential. And I knew at home we were doing first level dressage and that she could clear a  4×4 oxer with ease. And while I never got to do all the things I wanted to do with her before I had to retire her, she is still alive. And I know how amazing she is.

It took me a long time to be comfortable with that. To recognize that was enough for us.  That given everything we’d overcome and survived, it was a bloody precious gift just to be able to walk out into pasture and see her lift her head and whicker at my arrival.

But I haven’t gotten there yet with the writing. I still feel that unless I’m producing a story a quarter (something that is never going to happen), no one will know I exist. No one will be excited for a new Sarah Madison story. At the same time, I also feel that disappearing for good would be no big loss. So yeah, giving it up has crossed my mind more than once this past year.

But maybe it’s okay that I write on my own schedule. I’d rather take the time to write a story I can be happy with than to try pumping out stories I don’t even enjoy creating. My life is too painful right now to add more stress to it by killing the one thing that has brought me joy. I’ve been reading a lot lately about how if you’re not cranking them out, there is something inherently wrong with your process and any story that is taking you too long to finish should be abandonned for one you can punch your way through. Maybe there is some merit in that. But I know when you run the pump while the creativity well is dry, you can burn up the motor.

Anyway, this is a long drawn-out way of saying that I was considering closing the door on writing. But the truth is, I’m not going to stop writing stories, so I might as well publish, right? It’s just going to have to be at my own pace.

And if you think that an encouraging word at the right time doesn’t make a difference, you’re wrong. I woke up this morning to over 20 notifications from Twitter. What the heck? I discovered that Dianne from It’s About The Book listed Unspeakable Words as one of the best books she’d read in 2017. You should check out the post. There’s a lovely review but I am also in some pretty exhalted company. 🙂

Maybe it will be like showing my horse. I might not achieve everything I want to in the time I have, but it’s a miracle just to be there.

I guess I should get back to work on that next Sixth Sense book, right?

38 thoughts on “Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.

  1. I thought about giving up writing, as well. Like you, I dreamed of one day being able to make enough money to supplement my SS so I could stop scrambling for editing jobs.

    Didn’t happen. Probably never will.

    I still write though, and if/when I finish a book, I’ll publish it… and expect nothing. But at least it’ll be out there.

    In the meantime, I’m dealing with a slew of bills from my emergency appendectomy. First time I’ve been in debt in forty years or more. It doesn’t sit well with me, but neither does the greediness of our medical industry. You’ve had your own medical issues, so I’ll say nothing further on that.

    • I am so sorry to hear about the emergency appendectomy. I’m finally out from under the bills generated by my medical crisis, but my overall totals were much smaller, I’m sure.

      I I feel very similar to you do with regards to the writing. I’m going to keep doing it, but I’m not going to stress about schedules or reception afterwards. It will be what it will be.

      I hope you’re on the mend at least from the surgery!
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.My Profile

  2. Hi Sarah
    Thanks for sharing about your tough year. I’m sorry to hear of your mare’s health issues, but share your joy in knowing she is with you and healthy, and that you’ve accomplished so much together. Being a creative person myself, I fully understand how stresses in life can completely squash artistic motivation. I am so touched that my simple tweet, along with the responses of others, moved you. Please know there are countless readers such as myself out here who are hungry for more of your work, yet patient with your process. Sending you warm thoughts along with some good juju. 😉 ♥

    • We jokingly refer to the horse as The Mare Who Lived and say if you shaved her forehead, you’d find a lightning bolt there. 🙂

      Your ‘simple’ tweet had a huge impact on my level of confidence today. It helped me shift my perspective enough to realize that maybe even an occasional book is worth writing.

      All good juju thoughts gratefully appreciated.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.My Profile

  3. I so understand everything you’re saying in your post. I too find myself wondering about whether or not I can ever consider myself a serious writer when I considered last year a minor miracle because I managed to publish three books instead of just one. And I’m fairly sure I’ll be lucky if I ever manage three again, never mind more. But then again, I saw writing ass a hobby with benefits from the start and not a (potential) new career, so I’m not too upset about that.

    As for quantity. It does appear that the only authors who (still) manage to do it as a full time job are those who manage to publish at least one book a month. While I’m impressed they have both the discipline and the stories to do that, I can’t help wondering how much better at least some of those books might be if more time had been taken writing and editing them.

    In the end I think we need to stop comparing ourselves to others. We can only live our own lives and write our own books to the best of our own ability. Using others as the example we should measure ourselves against will only ever lead to feelings of inadequacy, and I refuse to go there.

    You do what is best for you. And if that means publishing one book every 24 months, I will still be waiting to read them as they are released.

    • I’m sure it doesn’t help that Americans are still attempting to deal with the horror that is Trump. This administration is making life difficult for so many, it’s hard not to get and stay depressed. 🙁 Creativity has taken a huge hit.
      fenraven recently posted..The Appendix Comes OutMy Profile

    • In the end I think we need to stop comparing ourselves to others. We can only live our own lives and write our own books to the best of our own ability. Using others as the example we should measure ourselves against will only ever lead to feelings of inadequacy, and I refuse to go there.

      I know that but still fall victim to the mentality from time to time. Okay, most of the time. 🙂 It’s one of the reasons I’ve been limiting my time on social media.

      I’m afraid I had fantasies of being able to write enough I could significantly cut back on my work hours, if not quit altogether. The sooner I lay that fantasy to rest, the better. But go you!! Three books in a single year? I am SO impressed!
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.My Profile

      • Thank you, but trust me; three books in one year (five months really) was an anomaly and is unlikely to ever happen again.

        On a more serious note, I do know what you mean. I had to rethink my whole life and all my expectations 20 years ago, and it’s hard. Saying goodbye to dreams is hard. Having to realise that things I took for granted was hard, and I can’t deny there are still moments when I think ‘if only’. But… most of the time I’m fine. I fought the battle with myself and came out the victor on the other side. Not the person I thought I would be, not with the life I thought I would have, but by this stage I no longer believe that things would have been better if I hadn’t faced those issues. But, getting there takes time, I’m afraid. <3

  4. I know you’ve been up against a lot. I appreciate the blog post. Some of the speed writers (as I’ve come to think of them) are not one person, but one name with several ghost writers. I couldn’t afford to start such an enterprise, but even if I could I don’t see myself as someone who would. Not judging, just that I only write because the writing is mine to do, if it makes any sense. I applaud your decision to keep writing and publishing, and to let it be what it’s going to be, and if you take your time to write I have a hunch your books will continue to be worth reading. And congrats on making Dianne’s list!

    • Yes, I’ve heard about a group of people collaborating under one pen name to generate a huge backlist. I can’t imagine how that would work though. How would you keep the individual author voices similar enough so that the transition is seamless? Or do they not care? I completely understand what you mean about the story being yours to write as well. I can only imagine what it would be like to be told you had to write to a specific formula.

      Thank you. Once I decided I was going to continue writing no matter what, it only makes sense to keep publishing. And it was lovely being included among so many awesome authors on Dianne’s list! I really needed to hear that today. 🙂
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.My Profile

  5. I know a little about how hard this year has been for you, or 2017 I should say, and I think holding your head up every day is something to be proud of. I love your writing, the wonderful characters you create, but to be honest, I love you more. So, do what you need to do for you, and in your own timeframe. I think you’ll be happy you made this decision.
    Love you.

  6. I agree with the people above. The fact that YOU are such a stellar person is what I want to see. The books are a bonus.. I wish you could write more for your sake, and I do love your characters, but you have to be happy and content with your pace. I am just happy to know you, even if it is only online with blog posts and your books.
    Stay true to yourself, always.

    • The fact that YOU are such a stellar person is what I want to see. The books are a bonus..

      Goodness, that is very kind of you, thank you! I do think part of the reason I’ve slowed down so much is I’ve become hypercritical of my work. I suspect it’s a symptom of everything else I have going on right now and that it’s easier to tell myself ‘you suck’ than to accept my heart isn’t in writing at the moment.

      But I’ll accept a slower pace if I am content with the results. 🙂
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.My Profile

  7. I know it’s been tough for you with so many unfortunate thing happening. Like other have said, I wish for YOUR sake you could write enough to at least cut back on your work time.

    You know I love your stories. Of all kinds. I can only hope things calm down a bit and you feel like telling us more stories. John and Jerry first? Alexi and Tate again someday. Or perhaps even some new guys who capture your interest–because I know I’ll like them if you write about them.

    • *grins*

      You tempt me. You tempt me very much. 🙂

      I suspect when the economy goes into the dumper again, I’ll have more time to write. No one will be interested in buying books because they’ll be working too hard to survive, but that’s the tradeoff. 🙁

      Your words a very kind and encouraging–thank you.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.My Profile

  8. If it helps any, from my reader perspective, I can rely on social media, etc. to not “forget” authors who don’t publish–or even post–anything for long stretches… it’s how I came across this post, in fact. So I can more easily be patient for releases, to be happy to wait for authors to be happy with the quality of their work, and I wish to reassure you that however long it may take you publish more, I plan to be there to buy it when the time comes since I have really enjoyed what I’ve read so far. Romantic Mystery/ Suspense is one of my favorite genres, and it’s hard to find talented writers who do it well, such as yourself.

    I’m sorry to hear that you had such a rough year, and unfortunately, I can empathize (not just sympathize), having had a tough time of it too. I hope for the best for you going forward (and your mare is gorgeous; I’m glad she’s brought you happiness).

    • I’m sorry it took me so long to respond. This has been a heckuva week!

      I’m sorry too you’ve had a similarly tough year. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!

      Your thoughtful comments here make me blush a little, while at the same time make me determined to get back to the keyboard eventually, so thank you. Encouragement at this stage of the game means more than you can imagine.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.My Profile

  9. I am sorry 2017 sucked so hard and 2018 isn’t looking much better (my own were pretty grim as well). Stress like that sucks the creativity right out of you. But honestly I don’t know that being a hobbyist is a bad thing. You (and I for that matter) have a day job that took a lot of effort to get there and that’s not so easy (or affordable) to set aside and why should you? Maybe only getting one thing out in a year isn’t that terrible (or so I tell myself because I’m right there with you on that and hey it works for GRR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss). I would rather do that than be so overwhelmed by deadlines plus day job that I can’t write at all. Once I realized that I’d literally need to be JK Rowling, Stephen King or James Patterson to live off my writing (thanks to all that went into getting that doctorate and what happened afterward) the pressure rolled off me.

    People like what you write. The above mentioned awards prove that. Be gentle with yourself. I know there are those who swear you HAVE to put out something every quarter but what I’ve notice of those who do, the quality goes down (looking right at you James Patterson). Not everyone can nor should do that. Here’s to finding what works for you.

    • This is so true. In fact, it was a big factor in my deciding to let go any ambitions of being able to retire on my earnings and accept the fact I can’t afford to quit the day job, which means I will never be able to produce stories on the schedule needed to do so. And since that’s the case, I might as well slow down even further and enjoy the process. Or at the very least, be happy with the finished product.

      It also means being kind to myself. If I want to take a night off to watch Olympic ice skating then I will. 😉

      And speaking of being kind, thank you for your kind words here.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Take a Deep Breath. It will Be Okay.My Profile

  10. Hi:

    I am so sorry to hear 2017 was not a good year for you. It was a tough year too for my business and my family, but I am looking forward to 2018 being a new start and I hope you find that too.

    Never EVER think we will forget about you. I thoroughly enjoyed your novels, and will always jump on a new one when you find your creative spirit again. I love going back, re-reading a series to catch up, and in drooling anticipation of the next installment. So I will be waiting, however long it takes.

    I hope you find that sweet spot and start writing again and that 2018 brings a lot of love and strength for you!

    • Aww, that is so very kind of you to say. Thank you. I’m thinking about doing a writer’s retreat next month and hopefully will find my creative spirit again. 🙂

      And yes, here’s 2018 being better for all of us.

  11. Would be great if you felt able to keep writing – I’m really looking forward to the next Sixth Sense book. But if it doesn’t work out for you, thanks for the pleasure I got from the first three.

    • In all honesty, I should have written and submitted the final Sixth Sense series book a year ago–THAT’S How far behind I am. And it’s still not written. But I promise to finish the series. I won’t leave you hanging. 🙂

  12. I’m not a writer but am an avid reader. I really enjoyed your Sixth Sense series and decided to see if you had a website with an update about the next one and here I am. I, I think like many others, are happy to wait for another book in the series to come out on your timeline and not ours. Yes, it would be great if series were released one right after another but that’s never going to happen. Look at a lot of movie series where they come out years apart and yet they still have a big following. I’ll reread the first 3 when then 4th comes out to remind myself of the plot and will probably enjoy it even more then. It won’t stop me from rereading the other 3 in the meantime either. Long story short, I hope you continue writing and you can count me in as someone who will definitely purchase the new book as soon as it’s released, even if it’s 2 years from now. I also want to thank you for updating us on your current situation. As I said, I don’t mind waiting for a new book in a series, I do however get frustrated when there’s no update by an author to let us know is a new book will ever come, especially when the last book is a cliffhanger or it’s a series about 3 brothers and only 2 have stories. So, thank you. I wish you the best.

  13. It’s awful that you’ve had such a tough time of things the last year and that you’ve still got a rough road ahead. I understand what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and defeated (though not about writing) and want to just let things go so that there’s one less thing to worry about. I’m sorry that you’ve had to face that and though it sounds trite you will get through it, even if a little bruised and battered by the end.

    If you enjoy/love writing then hold onto that; don’t let outside pressures dim the light it gives you. Finding things we are good at (you definitely are!) and love is often so hard and it would be sad for it to no longer bring you the comfort it seems to have in the past.

    Whilst I can’t speak for everyone, know that for many of us we will wait years upon years to finish series we love. I have, in the past, waited many years for the next instalment of a series I love. At the end of the day the best stories get people to have an emotional investment in the characters and their lives, and time very rarely strips that away. Having loved the Sixth Sense series so far, I will always love to know what’s happening now for John and Jerry, whether that knowledge is imminent or not. I, in fact, only stumbled upon this post because I had just finished rereading the series (having originally started late 2014) today and was interested to see if the newest instalment was out. People check back when they like a story! Plus theirs those like me who have come to the series later on and haven’t really waited at all :).

    Anyway, what I’m trying to say, in a rather long-winded manner, is that I hope you keep finding joy in writing and don’t let the worry of having not kept to a timeline (whether self-imposed or by another) diminish it. Don’t worry, your fans will always be waiting for the next instalment, whenever you are able to write it. We’re a patient lot ;).

    • Aw, thank you. Truthfully, I do worry about disappointing readers with a long wait, but I am also concerned my publisher may decide they don’t want it because too much time has lapsed (I *still* haven’t written a bloody word–had another death in the family recently). It’s not the end of the world if they don’t. I can always self-publish it should it come to that. But I wish I could break this block on the story and get back to it. You made me smile here today–that means more to me than you could know. It’s not my intention to leave them hanging forever. 🙂

  14. Really its heart me when I knew that your last year situation. However, you have completed your “The sixth sense series” congratulation for that. I really love it.

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