I am a legitimate businesswoman

I called my dad yesterday. We had the same conversation we always do when we talk about my job.  Even so, I was lucky we talked about my job. Usually he just talks about himself until he’s done, when he says “I’ll be talking to you,” and hangs up.

This time he asked how my family was doing. He asked about the kids. I told him and then he asked, “How’s your writing? Did you write anything lately?” I write in various capacities every day, unless I post the blog on Saturday, then I get Sunday off.

read more

Just What I Needed!

Ahhh, I feel so much better. A few weeks ago, I complained, in great detail, about my mommy burnout. At the time, I couldn’t see past my own misery to comfort my husband through a sudden, tragic death in his family and I felt horrible about it. I was hurting so much already that I just didn’t have any emotional energy left.

It felt good just to talk about feeling burned out, but I needed more. I needed to take action. And I’m happy to say that I did.

Immediately following the burnout post, we had houseguests come for a week. For a couple of days, I took care of them, but on the third day, I escaped to a grownup world. Every August, I attend a writers’ conference. This year, my conference just happened to coincide with my houseguests’ visit. Even better, my houseguests were primarily interested in seeing the kids, so they got their wish. While I commuted to the conference, and Matt worked at home, our guests entertained the kids.

Three weeks ago, I would have been happy to go to an execution, just to get away from being a mommy, but the conference was a hundred times better. I looked forward to it all year, and it didn’t disappoint. For one thing, I got to converse with grownups for a few days. And they didn’t just view me as a mom. They viewed me as a writer – a peer.

As if grownup conversation wasn’t enough, I got to attend seminars on the craft of writing. Since I’m not a Starbucks scribe, writing is a solitary practice for me. I don’t get to sit in a room with other writers and talk about writing. I try to improve my work with every piece of writing, so I love learning to hone my craft.

To top off the conference experience, I got to pitch books to literary agents and publishers. I’m really happy about how my pitching sessions turned out. I hate to say it because I’m superstitious, but people wanted to see my work. Publishing professionals are really busy, so they won’t waste their time unless the work has potential. That’s what I tell myself anyway. Most attendees believe that pitching is the biggest part of the package, and they’re right – unknowns don’t command five minutes of an agent’s or publisher’s attention any other way. But for me, the conference was so much more.

Attending the writers’ conference did wonders to perk me up and soothe my child-weary soul. Oddly enough, I ran into one of the moms from preschool there. We got to know each other better and although we did discuss one kid’s birthday party, we talked about writing most of the time. I won’t mind discussing the kids next time I see her but it’s great to know that we have something else in common.

On the fourth and final day, I was going to skip the seminar, but I couldn’t get enough grownup time and that seminar was my last chance before heading back into momdom. The extra time paid off and I went home feeling good – like a respected, competent adult.

I’ve been feeling good since the conference, but I’m still learning to take care of myself. The other day I wanted to go through the car wash. The car wash is my eight-dollar pick-me-up. I don’t do it for the car. I do it for sheer enjoyment. I just love going through the car wash, sitting in the middle of the bubbles, listening to a great song on the stereo. I have always loved going through the car wash and I regret the demise of the giant mops and brush scrubbers they used to employ. They were so much fun to watch.

I usually go to the car wash when I’m feeling down, so the other day, I almost stopped myself. I thought about waiting until I really needed it. But I talked myself into it. I realized that taking care of myself meant going to the car wash even when I felt good, so I could maintain my happy demeanor. I realized that I didn’t have to wait and that I shouldn’t, because it’s easier to prevent burnout than to cure it.

I’m planning to do more self-care. I just had a birthday, and I plan to take advantage of all of the free stuff I got from marketing promotions. Last night I had my free Red Robin burger (Yum!) This week, I’m going for my free chiropractic adjustment. I also plan to use my free ten-dollar gift card from World Market. Birthdays, and current marketing practices, remind us that we are special, and offer us opportunities to treat ourselves as such. We just have to remember that we need to treat ourselves all the time, not just on special occasions, because burnout can incapacitate us at the worst times, and we never know when those will come. Now I’ve learned that preventive care requires a lot less effort than recovery. But I’ll just keep that to myself and go to the car wash whenever the mood strikes.

Besting My Brooding

I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. ~ Mark Twain

Last week I had a shot at an amazing opportunity. To take it, I had to get some work together and make it the best it could be. Writing is an art. As such, it’s subjective. The artist can believe it’s a fantastic work, when in fact it’s really garbage, and she can hate something that’s pure gold. So whenever we writers seek to send a piece of work out, we first send it to other writers to get their opinion on it. So I did. And I waited. Anxiously.

I’m usually quite confident in my work, but this opportunity was so important to me, I began to second-guess myself. My friend sent me back a critique – a really good one. She told me what she liked and what she’d like to see more of, and she told me about my — let’s take a page from my old job and call them “opportunities for improvement.”

I read the critique on Friday night. I had purposely left my work alone when I finished editing that morning, and planned to pick it back up on Monday, just to get some distance from it, so I could read it more objectively. Reading the critique on Friday was my first mistake. I kept my vow to stay away from the manuscript but now I had a whole host of things to think about. It was a really good critique, and I agreed with her points. She identified my weak spots and appreciated my strong spots, but all I could envision was failing. I wasn’t sure I could deliver what she suggested.

All weekend, I worried. I worried that my best wouldn’t be good enough. I worried that I couldn’t develop the parts she suggested. I worried that if I didn’t, my opportunity would go “poof” and be gone.

For one night and two days, fear blossomed in my mind. And Monday, I sat down to fix the manuscript. I marked it up with my red pen and started a rewrite. As I added pieces and developed my narrative, something happened. I realized that it wasn’t so hard. I realized that I’d had this ability all along. And I realized that I had made the work exponentially better.

I’m not typically a worrier (see “Different Colored Glasses”), but when I do indulge, worrying is an attempt to gain control where I feel I have none. So worrying about something I have complete control over was new to me. I don’t think that my best efforts have ever been tested like this. What I know now that I needed to know then is that my best is all I can do, and whether or not I’m successful, it’s always good enough.