Finding Some Balance in Life

life balance

Somedays I feel like I’m doing pretty well. I’ve got my priorities straight, things under control, kids all headed in the right direction… It’s all good.

And then there are other days- like today- when I can hear Life laughing at me and what it thinks as my feeble attempts to make any progress.

I’ve got a job that keeps me running during the day, sometimes into the evening, and a volunteer list that fills up quite a bit of my dance card fairly often. But my girls are out of the house, leaving me with just a pooch that’s needy for attention. So, why is it that I still can’t seem to get a good work, writing, volunteering, exercising, sleeping, fun-time schedule figured out?

I homeschooled my girls for multiple years and kept a pretty rigid schedule during the day. We had to in order to meet the goals I’d set out for them as students. While I was in my both of my master’s programs I had a detailed schedule for reading, homework, research and writing. And I’m proud to say I was a great student. 🙂

So again, why is it that with others or when others are involved I’m better at trying to ensure everything is good to go. But when it comes to just plain me– exercise to feel better, write more often because I love it and plan to sell someday, sleep more because my body needs it– I keep falling off the wagon?

I’m wondering if it’s my need to help others or focus on others rather than focus on myself. Sometimes that’s a good thing– others before self. Sometimes, it’s a bad thing– help others to the detriment of self.

It’s about balance. That’s what I talk to my girls about. So, I’m thinking it’s time for me to practice what I preach.

Recognize that if I want to sell a book or feel healthier about my body, then I need to do something about it. Make it a priority just like I make thinking about others a priority.

So, I ask you, is there something you’ve been wanting to do or thinking about doing that you keep putting aside? Is now a good time to work on that or try that? Maybe, maybe not. Only you can decide.

But I’d love to hear how you’re coping with finding balance in your daily life. It can be a struggle. Hearing how others handle it, make it work, or maybe flounder sometimes, too, helps me realize that I’m not alone in this. And maybe something that helps one of you might be a great tip for me or our readers to try.

Thanks for sharing!!

Servant Leadership

servant leadership

As a person, a professional, and a mom I try my best to live as a servant leader—doing for others, keeping others’ needs in the forefront. I have to admit, I feel a sense of satisfaction when I’m able to help someone, whether it’s something small like opening a door for a person whose hands are full or spending hours in one-on-one time helping a student improve a scholarship essay that could potentially help them pay for college (a big life changer).

I try to model “doing for others” with my girls, especially so as they were growing up. Now that they’re older and off on their own, my prayer is that they remember my example and continue to see that in me. I tell ya, it’s a beautiful thing when I see or hear about something they’ve done to make another person’s day or week or whatever, a little more positive.

And I really enjoy hearing about others who strive to bring good and do good in our world and communities.
Over the weekend, while watching the Sunday morning news, I learned about one such person: Ariel Nessel, founder and board member of the Pollination Project.

http://thepollinationproject.org/grants-awarded-all/

Since its inception in January 2013, the Pollination Project has given “$1,000 seed grants to individual change makers, every day of the year, emphasizing projects that expand compassion in the world.” According to their mission statement, they believe in the “power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

Wow, what a motivational statement!

Now, I’m not a vegan, so I have to say that I’m not 100% on board with all the organization’s ideas, but I love how they value “compassion consciousness.” Thinking about how your decisions and your choices affect others and the world around you. How many times have I reminded myself of that or mentioned a similar idea to my girls?
We could all benefit—heck, the world, our countries, our cities, our neighborhoods can benefit—if we all tried to sharpen our compassion consciousness a little more. At least on some level, in some manner.

As a mom, I strive to be an example of this for my girls.

In my day job, I strive to do the same.

As a writer, my hope is that a reader’s day will be happier or a stress in her life forgotten for a little while because she’s chosen to spend some time with my characters.

Servant leadership: to me it’s an important value.

I’d love to hear some other values you live by and try to instill in your kids. And if there are any other non-profits you participate with in some manner. There are so many great ones out there, let’s spread their good word today—and every day! 

How to Be a Mom and a Writer: Part II

Last time I blogged, I chatted about time management and said the first step is to set goals. You need both long-term and short-term goals.

The next step is managing your time to ensure you meet your goals. First of all, you have to make sure your project is a priority. I’m not saying you ignore your child if he or she is sick or tell your husband you won’t cook for a month, I’m saying that the time you set aside to work is to be used only for that purpose. A lot of writer moms, me included, fall into the trap of spending too much time on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest during our writing time. That’s fine if you don’t have children who will need you later and your writing time isn’t limited. It’s not fine if that internet time is your only time to write.

2013-02-09 10.58.33

So during your work time, do not go online, do not answer the phone (unless it’s your child’s school), do not answer the door, do not do laundry, vacuum, empty the dishwasher, or any of that. Just work. If you’ve been trying to get your project or book done for a while and you’re having trouble finishing it, I am willing to bet money that it’s because you’re not working during the time you set aside.

Okay, moms, how do you find time to work with kids and husbands and all the rest? Take advantage of Mother’s Day Out programs or local day schools. My daughter goes to a school at church 5 days a week for half a day. That’s my time to write. Before she was old enough to go 5 days or to go at all, I had a college student come in two days a week for 4 hours so I could write. I wrote when she napped. I wrote after she went to bed and before she woke up in the morning. I still do! You can find 30 minutes or an hour a day. Whatever it takes to meet my page goal, that’s what I do.

2013-02-22 17.08.05

Now here’s what I’m not saying. I don’t watch TV (Winter Olympics? Haven’t seen them). I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like. I don’t go out with friends very often. I don’t sleep in. I don’t take weekends off (I may not write new pages, but I always have something I have to get done—like a blog, for example!). It’s not very fun to manage your time like this, but it produces results.

Still want to be a writer? Great. How are you managing your time?

<strong>Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama</strong>
I’m Shana G<strong><a href=”http://www.shanagalen.com&#8221; target=”_blank”><img title=”Shana Galen” alt=”” src=”http://freshfiction.com/images/authors/9443.jpeg&#8221; width=”150″ height=”152″ /></a></strong>alen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a four-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? http://www.shanagalen.com

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How to Be a Mom and a Writer: Part I

A lot of moms ask me how I manage to write books and be a mom, a wife, and do all the stuff that goes along with that. Here’s an admission: I don’t do it all very well much of the time. Sometimes I don’t play with my daughter enough. Sometimes I don’t spend enough time with my husband. Sometimes I get behind on work. Almost all the time I don’t sleep enough.

Still, I do manage to write and promote several books a year. How do I do it? I wish I had a really glamorous suggestion, but the truth is the answer for me has been stringent time management.

If you want to write a book, or complete any big task, you have to do two things. First, you have to set goals. Secondly, you have to make a schedule.

Let’s talk about goals, and in the next blog (February 18) I’ll chat about schedules. There are two types of goals—short term and long term. When I’m writing a book, my long term goal is easy—the book’s due date. What if you’ve never written a book or don’t have a publisher-set due date? Let’s chat about that more after we discuss short-term goals.

 2014-02-11 10.40.30

If you look at the above photo of the calendar I have sitting beside my computer, you can see (Maybe, it’s small!) on Sunday I have penciled in SS and numbers. SS is the manuscript I’m working on, and the numbers are the page number I should be on by the end of the week. So each week I have a short-term goal of 25 pages. Each weekday I have a shorter-term goal of 5 pages. My books are about 240 manuscript pages, so that means I can write the draft of a book in about 10 weeks. But I have to meet my goals everyday. That’s where time-management comes in, and I’ll chat about that next week.

Okay, so how do you know how long it will take you to write your book or complete your project?  It all depends on how much time you have in a day and how many pages you can write a day. Let’s say you have 1 hour a day, maybe during naptime, to write. Write for that one hour every day for a week and record how many pages you wrote each day. Average those, and you know how many pages you can do a day. When Princess Galen was a newborn, I could write 2 pages a day. Now that she’s 4, I can do 5. Let’s not even talk about the heady days before she was born when I wrote 10-15!

Most books are between 75,000-100,000 words. How long are your pages? 250 words? If you write 2 pages a day, that’s 500 words a day. You can write 2500 words a week (unless you also work on weekends). That means you need 30 weeks to finish your book. Want to finish it sooner? Write more pages a day.

The point is that if you break a big task, like writing a book, into smaller segments, you can get it done—even if you only have an hour a day!

**Since I’m chatting about writing, I couldn’t allow the chance to go by without telling you that I’m giving away free gifts!

Sapphires Gift

If you pre-order my upcoming release, SAPPHIRES ARE AN EARL’S BEST FRIEND, and send proof of pre-order to Casablanca@sourcebooks.com you get the free gift! Hurry because this ends February 28.

SAEBF13

Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a four-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? http://www.shanagalen.com

Barbies led the way…

original-barbie-dollWhen I was a little girl, my most favorite thing in the world was Barbies.  I loved them.  I loved dressing them and fixing their hair.  I never had one of those big Barbie houses, no, that was too limiting for me, I needed more space, more options than the doll house would provide.  No, I made furniture by stacking paperbacks and covering them with washcloths (perfect sofa!), and I had a great bed and using all the space in my room, they always lived in a sprawling mansion.  My friends loved playing with me because I would always create elaborate story lines and sometimes these games would last well into the night.  There was always adventure and danger and romance.  With lots of kissing.

It was a sad day when I had to put up those Barbies.  Much later than all my friends I had tried to keep playing, but somehow the magic had died for me sometime in between elementary and jr. high.  I still have all my Barbies, tucked away in my big, red suitcase, and someday they’ll be played with again, with my girls – I think they’re almost ready.

I learned a new way to play Barbies though.  A new way to create those adventurous and romantic storylines with lots of kissing.  And now I get paid for it.  It took me a while to realize that’s what years of Barbie playing was for me, I was cultivating myself as a romance reader and writer, learning the rudimentary steps of story and character creation.  Luckily some things have changed.  I no longer have to name my Barbies (uh…characters) Toni or Ashleigh.  Not that those are bad names, but they don’t really fit into Victorian times.  And my heroes, unlike Ken, aren’t plastic everywhere and have more than just a subtle bump.

I think about those times though.  Staying up way too late, listening to New Edition’s remake of Earth Angel or Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam’s All Cried Out, and playing Barbies who would dress in their costumes and go to Masquerade parties and dance and laugh and, of course, kiss.  I had no idea then that those times were building on something bigger for me, no idea that I was rehearsing for the coolest job on the planet.

I love creating stories.  I love coming up with characters that are unique and special in their own way, yet so familiar, you could swear you know them.  I love watching these characters hit obstacles and grow and change and become stronger, better people.  And I love making them fall in love.

Can you look back into your past and see tells of the adult you were meant to become?  And the real question…did you love Barbies as much as I do…uh did? 

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

I definitely haven’t started this line of questioning with my daughter. I’m pretty sure when I was a kid I volunteered the information more than I was asked. I wanted to be a nurse, a teacher, an opera singer, Madonna, and a psychologist at different periods in my childhood.

My mom stayed home, so I didn’t have her as a career role model. She always said I’d be a good teacher because I liked to boss people around. The other day my daughter, who is a few weeks short of four years old, offered up her opinions on her future career path.

Baby Galen: Mommy, you’re an author?
Me (cooking lunch or dinner or doing dishes): Yep.

Baby Galen: But you write books for adults.
Me: Yep.

Baby Galen: Mommy, I am going to be an author, but I’m going to write kids’ books.

Me: You are?

Baby Galen: Yes. But I have to wait until I get a little bigger.

Me: Yes, and you need to learn how to read and write.

Baby Galen: I know how to write! I can write A and B.

Me: That would be a short book.

And off we went to another conversation, but what I thought about later was the fact that this isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation. I mean, it was the first in this incarnation, but it wasn’t the first time she told me she wanted to be an author. And it wasn’t the first time I thought, I don’t want her to be an author.

In the Wild

I promise you that when I was growing up the profession (I sort of laugh when I write that) of author never even occurred to me. I didn’t realize writing could be a job (again, laughing) until I was probably 25. Author is not a typical job, unlike firefighter, doctor, or teacher. Obviously, this interest Baby Galen has in being an author stems from wanting to do what her mommy does. Just like the kids of movie stars want to be actors and kids of engineers want to be engineers.

But I don’t want Baby Galen to be an author. Author is not a sturdy, solid, reliable job.  For most authors, writing is their second job. The rest of us have rich husbands, a trust fund, or have been doing it so long we’re finally breaking even or making enough to pay a few bills. There’s no health insurance, no unemployment benefits, and you’re only as good as your last sales report.

Yes, I love being an author. I love writing books, and I am extremely lucky to be able to do what I do. Would I have chosen this as a career if I didn’t love it so much? No way. It’s a lot of work for very little monetary reward and a hell of a lot of public criticism. There’s no job security. I want Baby Galen to choose a career where she doesn’t have to worry if she ‘ll still be employed in six months or whether she’ll be able to pay her medical bill if she’s in an accident.

Baby Galen

What did you want to be when you grew up (or maybe you’re still working on that)? What do you hope for your kids?

Guest Mom: Natalie J. Damschroder

Full Circle, from Child to Adult

Hi, everybody! Thank you so much for allowing me to be a guest with you this month!

DSC03657The balancing act we writer-moms battle with creates a never-ending discussion in all corners of the writing world. We sometimes feel as if we’re giving short shrift to everything…our families, our jobs, our writing, and our homes. But how often do we get to hear the kids’ perspective?

I started writing shortly after I got married and finished my first book a few months after my first child, aka Number One, was born. She just turned 18 and is leaving for Emerson College in about two weeks, where she’ll major in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. I thought this was a great time to get some perspective on her childhood, so I asked her a few questions about growing up in a writing household.

She had so many great things to say* that I can only include a couple of them here. Look for the rest at Everybody Needs a Little Romance on August 23.

*Note: She said all this completely on her own, without solicitation or guidance! LOL

Do you remember anything about your mom being a writer when you were little, and how that affected you?

For such a good student I have an absolutely awful memory, so most of the specifics from when I was younger have long since vanished. I always credit the fact that my mom is a writer as the reason I had such an avid interest in writing from such a young age, despite the fact that I can’t remember much from that time period. I think it was mostly that when you’re little, everything your parents do is the coolest thing ever. We had these writing periods in my first and second grade classes, and I just wrote the heck out of everything. I absolutely loved it, and I think the fact that my mother was a writer allowed me to love it. Writing was something that would be automatically approved of. I didn’t have to worry about parental acceptance and could simply let myself foster that love for writing, even though it was subconscious at the time

I do remember sitting on a couch in my first or second grade classroom with my mom, listening while she talked about being a writer to my class. Mostly I felt awkward because I sat there doing nothing while my class just stared at the two of us, but I remember being slightly nervous. I thought my mom and her job were so cool, and I wanted my classmates to think they were cool too. And they did, or at least didn’t act like stereotypical jerk kids. If they had, I probably would have felt a sense of shame, but I didn’t. That feeling of awe never really did go away, though obviously it has manifested into something different now that I’m older.

Overall, what has it been like growing up with a mom who’s a writer?

I don’t know, like growing up with any other mom? A good mom isn’t really defined by her job. Those with high-power jobs, like doctor or lawyer or CEO, they can have a more difficult job because they’re away from home so often and can’t give as much attention to their kids. Judging by the next question, I think the implication is that writers face that same challenge. But I honestly believe that if my mom had been a doctor or a lawyer, my childhood would have been pretty similar when it comes to my mother. She’s caring and attentive and has far too large of a guilt complex, and no matter her job, she would have made sure to be there for us in the same way she’d actually been.

I can’t tell if I actually answered the question. It was normal, growing up with a mom who’s a writer. Only it was extra special because my mom’s success is tangible and evident and can be physically flaunted in front of my peers’ faces. Not that I’ve ever actually done that. Yet.

Do you wish she had spent less time at her computer and more with you?

I think the better question for my family is does she wish we had spent less time on the computer and more with her. 🙂 I simply jest.

Honestly, I think the only person it really bothers is her. She expresses her guilt all the time about how she’s always working downstairs in her writer’s cave of an office, how she never makes dinner or all that other “mom” cr**. My sister and I couldn’t care less about that kind of thing. She was always there for us when we wanted to talk to her, dutifully taking as much as an hour’s break to listen to me chatter away about things that really had no true point. I know my sister and I both, me especially, kind of appreciate needing to become self-sufficient. I will not be one of those yuppies next year in college who lives off of Ramen noodles and doesn’t know how to do laundry. And for that, I thank her. Besides, she cooks often enough that we all have favorite meals that she makes, and it’s not like she’ll say no (usually) if we ask her to make something special.

So, no, I don’t think I wish she had spent less time at her computer. I think everything worked its way out in the end.

What’s the worst part of having a mom who’s a writer?

Being the daughter of someone who is exactly like me.

What’s the best part of having a mom who’s a writer?

Being the daughter of someone who is exactly like me.

I hope Number One’s thoughts can serve to ease some of your minds. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to serve every need. The kids will grow up just fine.

And you’ll notice that she didn’t even mention a clean house! 🙂

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HeavyMetal-cover-mockupNatalie J. Damschroder is an award-winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance—Love with a Shot of Adrenaline. She sold her first book in 1999, and 2013 will see the publication of her 14th novel. She grew up in Massachusetts and loves the New England Patriots more than anything. (Except her family. And writing and reading. And popcorn.) When she’s not writing, revising, proofreading, or promoting her work, she does freelance editing and works part time as a chiropractic assistant. She and her husband have two daughters she’s dubbed “the anti-teenagers,” one of whom is also a novelist. (The other one prefers math. Smart kid. Practical.) You can learn more about her and her books at http://www.nataliedamschroder.com.

Natalie’s next release is Heavy Metal, book 2 in the Goddesses Rising series, available for pre-order now. Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell’s Books | iTunes/iBookstore | Goodreads Page

 

Total Mom Freak Out: Psychological Stress & Mothering

Do you ever have them? Total mom freak outs? Sometimes the stress of worrying about my kids’ health, happiness, and security gets me to the point that I lose it. For me, losing it means I get illogical fears. I feel sort of trembly inside. I think, “I’ll never be able to protect them,” and suddenly, everything feels overwhelming.

When this sort of cloud passes over me–through me–sometimes I think I should drink wine to deal with it. But I’m not a big drinker. I decided long ago that I don’t handle alcohol well. I become the woman you wish hadn’t come to your party because I’m dancing on your antique dining room table in my heels. It’s too bad–so many people have said to me, “Have a glass of wine!” But no. That fix doesn’t do it for me.

Other times, I think, “Get your butt outside and walk.” That does help.

And on the rare occasion, I’ll think about going on an anti-anxiety drug. It’s mainly when I’m at my doctor’s for a regular check-up and he comes in, white coat tails flapping, and says, “How are you? I mean really?” And he’ll sit in front of me, hold my hand, and look deep into my eyes with such compassion, I start to cry. I know sooooo many moms on anti-anxiety drugs! Or anti-depressants. I did try Prozac once. I lasted about a month and had to quit. I just never got out of sleepy mode, even though I was on a baby dose because the doctor knew I was scared to take it. I have a really sensitive nervous system and do terribly with most drugs. So anyway, I quit Prozac the day the pre-K teacher pounded on my car window–I had fallen asleep in the car rider line, and she thought I’d fainted.

Over the years, I’ve grown to recognize when I’m in a weak psychological state. When the kids were little and we were first discovering that Nighthawk, our child with Asperger’s syndrome, had “issues,” I had panic attacks for a whole year. I tried the Prozac–you know what happened there. So instead of using meds, I wound up keeping a journal and telling myself to laugh every day, walk every day, meditate and pray every day, and keep writing about my feelings in that journal. I also decided to eliminate caffeine. The panic attacks did go away, and I went over ten years without another one.

My last one was two years ago when I went to Dunkin’ Donuts car line when I was stressed with more than kid worries. The concerns about my brood were still there–I could always list two or three child-related issues that hovered in my conscious brain–but I also had a short deadline. Money was tight. My parents were getting older and I was worried about my mom’s atrial fibrillations. I ordered decaffeinated coffee and two donuts, then an hour later, had a panic attack. The coffee, handed to me by an overworked or perhaps indifferent window attendant, was likely not decaf. That, combined with the ridiculous sugar rush (eating two donuts was an unusual event for me), destabilized me physically. Then I got a phone call from a really scary person who’s known for bullying people. Combine all that with my initial stress about the kids and my deadline, and suddenly, on the phone with this difficult person, I was lightheaded, my heart sped up, and I felt weak. Hell, I couldn’t even breathe….

So that was a wake-up call for me. I realized that I needed to be more diligent about taking care of myself. I let go of guilt (yes, it was that easy. I  just stopped kicking myself all the time!). I walked a lot more. I went to a counselor to get help with dealing with difficult people–those couple of sessions included learning how to let go of bad reviews online from people I don’t even know. The best part about the counseling was that she helped me remember I had the solution to my worries in me all along. I just had to think back to that year of journaling, walking, meditating/praying, and laughing.

When I stay aware of what’s happening in my life–not hiding my head in the sand about anything, including child, marital, physical, emotional, and work issues–I stay healthy. It takes courage to live in the now. But staying right here with the truth of my life is what keeps me strong and happy. So moms, if you find yourself getting emotionally frail–if your panic about your kids or anything else you’re worried about starts to affect you to the point that you aren’t living the way you want to live–consider paying attention to what your body and mind are telling you. Do this on your own or with your family doctor or a counselor. And remember, you’re not alone! So many of us moms deal with anxiety, depression, and stress. You deserve to feel better. So take action, or tell someone you trust so they can help you move toward where you want to be. We’re rooting for you here at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard! Hugs, Kieran 🙂


Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 24 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job. My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a senior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college junior; and my youngest, Dragon, is in tenth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy. www.kierankramerbooks.com

Guest Mom Tracy Brogan: Are We There Yet?

Love this woman. Love, love, love! She’s funny. She’s brilliant. She’s kind. And I’m so happy for her success. Returning PBK Guest Mom Tracy Brogan is a star, and like many stars, she’s not taking her success for granted.

I do wish for Tracy–and for you, dear readers–dreams to race toward and present-day joys. Thanks, Tracy, for reminding us that both are essential to happiness. And congratulations on your new release!!! 

Are we there yet? How often have you heard that whined/moaned/screeched/caterwauled from the backseat of your minivan? It’s so ubiquitous a question, I don’t even need to explain it. Kids are impatient. Whether it’s a 15-day day road trip to Yellowstone, or a 15-minute jaunt to the grocery store, they just want to get there.

These days so do most adults. Our instant gratification culture has programmed us to want to be there. Enjoying the journey is less important than arriving at your destination. For me, that is proving to be true in my writing career as well. I’m not taking time to smell the proverbial roses. I’m not stopping to savor each tiny victory. But perhaps the biggest impediment to me enjoying the process of getting there is that I keep moving the target.

Let’s back up a little bit and start at the beginning. For most of my life I’d been one of those people who said, “I’m going to write a book someday.” I had all the requisite fantasies of becoming an international, bestselling author who frequented Oprah’s talk show, but no plan, and little real hope of that ever happening. Especially considering I’d started dozens of manuscripts and had finished exactly… none. Something always interrupted my grand scheme. A crying baby, a new house, an episode of Friends, you know.

When my youngest daughter started school, I realized it was time to put up or shut up. I had to either finish writing a book, or stop talking about it because my friends had taken to glazing over whenever I brought up the subject. So, step one – draft and polish a completed manuscript. Selling it wasn’t even on my radar at the time. I plugged away while my kids were at school and after they went to bed. The house got cluttered, bills were set aside, but in May of that year, I got’er done! I was so proud of myself!

For about 37 seconds.

Almost immediately, that goal was rendered meaningless. What good was a book, even a finished book, if no one would ever read it? Suddenly, the quest became to sell the book. And that meant getting an agent. I gave myself six months. It took three times as long. During the process, I became quite adept at dealing with rejection. Sometimes I’d deliberately slam my fingers in a drawer just to practice experiencing that sharp agony, although most days there was enough rejection and self-doubt to keep that pain fresh! (I’m kidding about the drawer slamming, of course, but it might have hurt less than some of the query responses.)

HoldOnMyHeart Best CoverI started attending conferences, and entering contests. Those seemed like minor accomplishments, too. I was networking, studying craft, learning that I had so much more to learn, And all the while I kept inching the bar higher. If I finaled in a contest I was pleased, but then I wanted to win. If I got a request for a partial, I wanted the request for the full to come soon after. I’d enjoy each moment for about a moment, and then it was behind me and I needed to leap the next hurdle.

As luck would have it, I managed to final in the holy grail of contests for unpublished writers, The RWA® Golden Heart. Not once, but twice. I was proud to sport that pink GH ribbon and I cherish every aspect of those finals. I am a Starcatcher and a Firebird. But by the second time around, I had an agent and my eye was on the prize of selling.

Once again, I’d moved my target. Rather than bask in the joy of the experience, I was looking to the next thing. In all that time, I never felt certain I was doing enough, or doing it right. I didn’t look back at the people just starting their journey and reminisce about how far I’d come. I only looked forward toward those ahead of me, and I wondered how to get to where THEY were.

It wasn’t jealousy making me ask that. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was respectful admiration for the effort they must have exerted to reach their place. It wasn’t envy. It was awe, and it still is. Surely those cool, fancy RITA girls know they have ARRIVED. Those authors with “best seller” added to their names must be confident in their abilities. They must have a system to their process. They must feel secure that they are loved by the masses and appreciated by their publishers. They must know the secret handshake.

Well, fast forward to today, just four years from when I started. I’m a RITA finalist for Best First Book, a double winner in the Golden Quill, and a finalist in the Book Sellers Best contest. My third book will be released tomorrow and I just signed my second three-book contract with my publisher. Although the NYT and USA Today won’t include my Montlake titles on their lists, both my books have sold enough copies to be considered best sellers. So I should be utterly confident in my abilities, right? I should be certain I know what I’m doing, yes?

Nope. I don’t feel it. Because there are more hurdles. There is the next book to write. Craft to hone. Marketing to master. Are we there yet? I’m starting to realize that as long as I keep moving the end-zone, I’m never going to stop to enjoy right where I am. And that’s a shame because I’m in a very good place. And this makes me wonder how many other writers create this same dilemma. Are you thinking about, and appreciating, all you have accomplished? Because you should! Or are you too busy looking at the road ahead and worrying how to get there? And then there. And then there.

I have a friend who compares this journey to sharks. If they stop swimming, they’ll sink to the bottom and die. I don’t want to sink, but I might need to pull over to the side of the ocean for a while and remember to enjoy this view.  Absolutely set goals, and absolutely continue to push forward toward new ones. But don’t forget to think about how far you’ve come.


Tracy Brogan 2013 RITAPast or present, Tracy Brogan loves romance.  She writes funny contemporary stories about ordinary people finding extraordinary love, and stirring historical romance full of political intrigue, damsels causing distress, and the occasional man in a kilt.

She is a best-selling author, a 2013 Romance Writers of America® RITA Best First Book Finalist for CRAZY LITTLE THING, and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist in both contemporary and historical romance.

Her next contemporary romance, HOLD ON MY HEART, releases June 25, 2013. If you’d like to see the trailer, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUB7zan3dCc&feature=youtu.be

Tracy lives in Michigan with her husband, her children and their overly-indulged dogs. Please stop by her website at tracybrogan.com, or visit her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorTracyBrogan

Working At Home and the Art of Saying No

Monday I said to my husband: That’s it. I’m getting back on a 9-5, 5 day a week schedule.

This was funny, mainly because I don’t think I’ve ever successfully maintained that schedule for more than a day, so ‘back on’ is something of a…dirty lie from the pit of hell. I’m not good with schedules. I’m sort of disorganized, I like to keep my options open. People sometimes ask me how many hours I write a week…and I rarely know the answer.

Because…well, because. Because I don’t keep track. Because I’m very fluid with my time.

This though often leads to me working evenings, and weekends so that I feel like I’m caught up. So NO MORE, I decided.

Monday came, and I did great!

Then I got invited out to go to lunch and shoe shopping on Tuesday. Also, Tuesday (it’s Tuesday as I write this) I had a book coming out, so I was already anticipating that my actual ‘word count’ work would be low because…well, because. I get distracted when I have books come out. And I flail. A lot. I flail a lot.

So already, before Tuesday even hit I had temptations to ditch the schedule.

So much of the problem is me, and I know this. I’m not not good at drawing a hard line and saying: I am WORKING because…well, I’m not scheduled for an eight hour shift at Starbucks. So when I say no to things I feel like everyone is thinking: But you could. IF YOU LOVED ME ENOUGH. (okay, maybe not that last part. But that I COULD)

And the things is, I could. Butt he problem with that is…well, it quickly devolves into seven nights a week of work where I feel restless and edgy all day because the THE WORDS are looming yet ahead of me. So I never have that feeling of: yayyyy done. Instead I have: not getting it done not getting it done finally getting it done sleep.

Add kids to all this and, well…yes, I CAN come look at that. Why yes, I COULD come and spread the jelly for you because you think I do it better than daddy (cuz, awww).

This is what happens to me as a work at home parent. I know that stay at home parents experience similar. The idea that, because they don’t have a ‘boss man’ putting their name on a schedule they’re completely flexible and FREEEE. Yeah, no.

But again, in my case at least, my real problem isn’t necessarily that everyone around me needs to learn that I have a fixed schedule (though…that would be nice) the real problem is that *I* need to learn to say no. I’m bad at saying no. Like really bad. I don’t like to disappoint anyone, and I agree to things often to my detriment. I have good intentions, but  often my perpetual need to say yes sees me either being drive crazy, or forgetting a million important things because…I’ve agreed to DO too many things!

I love that when I need it to be, my schedule is flexible. That when I want to pile in the car and go to the animal park and write while my husband drives, I can do that. When my son has a class party, I can do. I’m not chained to my office, and things shift, and I LOVE that. But the flexible nature of the job is often hard for me because I DO put that ‘people pleasing’ ‘yes man’ pressure on myself.

So I’m searching for the balance. Will I find it in this hard line, 9-5 schedule? (Which I have trumpeted to family and friends…) I don’t know.

One thing I do know about balance and schedules is that re-adjusting is something that has to happen. Often. Balance, once achieved, is not necessarily kept.

In the meantime…I said no to lunch and shoe shopping. It was hard. I didn’t want to. But I respected my OWN schedule, which is definitely something that has to happen before I ask anyone else to do it.

How about you? Is saying no easy for you? Or are you afraid of disappointing people like I am?