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Care and Feeding of the Perpetually Peeved

I have a confession to make.

This blog post is the first new thing I’ve written in over a month. My WIP, which I mentioned in my ENTHRALL ME release day interview last month, is stalled out at about the halfway point. I can’t bear to look at how long it’s been since I last updated my manuscript.

ENTHRALL ME itself? I’m so proud of the book I wrote. Reviews have been great, but sales could be better. It must be said: this is rather a self-fulfilling prophesy, because I’m completely uninterested in doing the “Buy My Book!” social media pole dance right now.

Promoting my book feels…so inconsequential, like fiddling while Rome burns.

I’ve found 2017 to be a very challenging year to be in the happily-ever-after business, and the internet – particularly social media – is part of my problem.

I used to love Twitter. 

I used to appreciate the fact that, when an important news story broke, it broke there first. I felt engaged, energized, and well-informed. But then came 2017, the Year of the Dumpster Fire, and I’m drowning in a digital deluge of breaking news, political propaganda, apocalyptic weather events, nuclear threats, racist/sexist/homophobic/xenophobic screeds, lurking authoritarianism, literal neo-Nazis, police brutality, mass casualty events, terrorism, and too many #MeToos to bear.

The result? I feel chronically anxious, permanently triggered, easily distracted, and utterly exhausted. Apathetic, brain dead, sick to my soul, and perpetually pissed off. Writing-wise, words, phrases, plot points, and original ideas slip away before I can grasp them.

My brain is too busy processing other information.

The internet, and social media tools, provide so many ways for us to engage with the world, to stay informed, but over the last couple of years the ratio of good stuff to bad seems to have taken a distinct tip toward the toxic. So much of what I see online these days sends me spiraling down into an emotional sh*thole, but… There I am – *flick flick flick* – like a car crash gawker, or an addict needing her next fix.

It’s a really bad high.

They say the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. I have one.  It’s time for a digital detox.

Bottom line: I desperately need to move toward a healthier, more productive  head space, and to do that, I need to exercise more stringent control over where I go, and how much time I spend, online. (When the dude who invented Facebook’s “Like” icon makes a similar choice, I feel I’m in good company.) So! I’ll be scheduling more blocks of offline time in the upcoming days, weeks, and months, to try to decrease my anxiety levels and get my writing mojo back.

Other things I’m doing:  

  • Re-establishing my “no wireless at the coffee shop” rule. Over the last year, I fell into the bad habit of “just checking the news” on my phone before starting to write each morning. Talk about a slippery slope! Pro Tip: There will always be news, most of which I can do nothing about. Barring a nuclear attack or eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano, news can wait.  (UPDATE: I’m happy to report that this is working! Words! New words!! New words being written! By me!!! Wheee!!!!)
  • Raiding the keeper shelf, Part 1:  Comfort reads to the rescue! Reread, and wallow in, some old favorites. 
  • Raiding the keeper shelf, Part 2: Learn from those old favorites! Assess those keepers for craft. 
  • Rereading my own books to reconnect with the Underbelly Chronicles world.
  • Using social media with purpose. No more mindlessly flicking through Twitter and Facebook just because I’ve got a minute.
  • Scheduling a little bit of promo. Get SOMETHING out there, so I feel like less of a #promofail.
  • Stepping away from screens and engaging with the physical world more frequently. I’m going to try to pick up a physical book – or better yet, a notebook and pen – instead.

The simple act of putting these feelings into words, and coming up with some practical strategies to tip the scales in a healthier direction, has been scary, yet so very helpful! Now, to follow through and find the joy again. Wish me luck.

Ruby community, it’s your turn. Is anyone else finding 2017 to be a really challenging year to be in the happily-ever-after business? How are you holding up?

Please share your strategies for productivity, work/life balance, and self-care.

{{Hugs}},

-tammy

Cartoon by David Sipress, who can’t remember where it was first published.

 

They say that opposites attract, but this is ridiculous!

Tamara Hogan’s latest book, ENTHRALL ME (Underbelly Chronicles Book Four), is available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and in paperback.

Visit her on the web at www.tamarahogan.com!

 

 

25 responses to “Care and Feeding of the Perpetually Peeved”

  1. A challenge? Understatement of the century. I don’t even do Twitter anymore. And the writing has taken a definite downturn. 2017 has been the first time in twelve years that I didn’t have a book come out. But… thanks to a couple RWA groups I’m a member of, I’m setting goals and writing again. And reading more now too. Those fun books you mentioned above. The ones that make me feel good. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      You’re definitely not alone, Vicky. I’ve lost count of how many writers I’ve spoken or Tweeted with who are struggling this year. I’m only coming to realize just how much my mental state has been influenced by the last presidential election cycle. 🙁

      Hang in there!

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Nearly every creative person I know is suffering right now. The difference in output is tangible. First time in twelve years, no new book. I’m sure that stings. I am a perpetual optimist, though!! I do believe we’re going to rally and save our democracy and our planet…assuming Yellowstone doesn’t blow. Hard times, but we are strong.

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  2. ELIZABETH LANGSTON says:

    Yes to reading. We are in the HEA business, and there are so many writers who are masters of the art. So, yeah, when I get too down, I read romances or watch the Hallmark channel or romantic comedies. With Twitter–I use buffer/app to post, so that I don’t even have to get on–unless I’m replying or retweeting photos of beautiful landscapes. Screw your courage to the sticking place!

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  3. Tammy, I hear you. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t come from SM. It’s hard to tune out everything 24/7 but minimizing the time the world intrudes does help.

    2017 has been a good year for me and I know the reason why because I work with other writers in our chat room in the mornings. There I shut the world out and concentrate not only on my writing, but studying the craft, promo such as newsletters, blogs and ads. So while I’m on-line, I’m encouraged by others to keep my brain focused. I also make an effort to read enjoy a few chapters every afternoon and most nights I watch shows with great plots and characters. I think writers really do work 24/7.

    The chat room is not for everyone. We all need to find our way. It does sound like you have a plan to tell the world to back off and to get own with your dreams. Kudos to you.

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Autumn, I think part of my issue is that I loathe seeing promotion everywhere I go, and it feels hypocritical for me to add to it. This has been a struggle for me ever since I sold my first manuscript and started writing for publication. Maybe it’s the Lake Wobegon Minnesotan in me, but overt promotion makes me feel as though I’m twirling on a stripper pole.

      This has led me to ask myself, “Why do I write for publication in the first place? Wouldn’t I be happier simply…writing?” The answer? “No.” It turns out that I like hearing from readers, getting good reviews, and finalling in writing contests.

      Apparently external validation is important to me. 🙂

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      • Tamm, I so get what you’re saying. I feel the same way. Sadly doing promo is part of the business.

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        • Tamara Hogan says:

          Some promo, sure. But being a ‘slow’ writer who’s just come off a four-year publishing break, with only five books under my belt, I honestly think my time is better spent writing. I feel like I’m starting over, and I need to find a workable balance.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      The morning chat room seems like a beautiful thing. I wish it worked with my crazy early work schedule and commute…if I’m not out the door by 7am (with pets fed and teen boy rousted out of bed) I’m late to teach my first class. Sigh.

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  4. Addison Fox says:

    Amazing post, Tammy! SO true and you’ve put into words in what I’ve heard from so many writers this year. I personally struggled from November last year through about February. It totally killed a few deadlines which I’ve just about dug out of and emotionally I just felt so miserable. A very well-timed vacation in March ultimately gave me the final kick I needed (who knew when it was planned the year before it would be just what was needed!!) but definitely a week away from the news helped me break the cycle.

    I’m so glad you’ve written this – it’s this sort of post and community of writers we need to reconnect and know others are dealing with the same things. LOVE this and I’m so glad you’re back to producing new words!!!

    Addison

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Addison, I’ve pretty much been in a state of existential angst since last November, and #MeToo nearly did me in.

      Writing the early drafts of this blog post were painful, but so cathartic. Reaching out rather than binding my own wounds has been hugely helpful.

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  5. Social media….its a love/hate relationship. I love seeing what’s going on in the world and what my friends are up to. I love funny videos and inspiring posts. But I have been on social media a lot less lately. I’m tired of the flame wars and fake news and inciteful memes. I hate becoming disappointed in people I respect by the messages they post. Not because I disagree, but because it is feeding the machine and people are losing the ability to use common sense and common courtesy. I see the destruction of society by social media most through my teen. As an adult, I can turn it off. Kids these days don’t seem to have that ability and their minds are being poisoned by images and standards that aren’t achievable.

    As for strategies for limiting use, I don’t have any other than to keep busy and sheer willpower. LOL!

    Great post, Tammy!

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Jenn, if you haven’t already, read the article I linked to in my blog post, about the second-generation Facebook (and Google, and Twitter, etc.) technologists who are wondering just what fresh hell we hath wrought with our digital platforms.

      It’s past time we think about the long-term ramifications of this digital experiment we’ve all been living for over a decade. My addiction metaphor is no joke.

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  6. Elisa Beatty says:

    I feel you, Tammy!!! I haven’t had to worry about nuclear war since I was a teenager. And now… ugh.

    But I’m delighted to hear your no-wireless coffee house time is working!!! New words are always full of hope!

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  7. Yes, it’s hard. I’m lucky in that writing isn’t exactly my “day job,” so I can use it for a refuge, much like reading. When that trick works, which it doesn’t always. One thing I do that’s helped is to have a fairly limited twitter list of people I care about and only going there on the bad days. Same with my best friends list on FB. Otherwise, I’m as lost trying to navigate all this as the rest of you.

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Nancy, I think another facet of this issue for me is that, in treating this like a day job, I come home from working on my WIP at the coffee shop in the morning, take a short break, then spend most of the rest of the day in my home office, editing, revising, formatting, reading contest manuscripts, etc.

      I spend too many hours per day in front of a computer screen. I need to take more breaks than I currently do. Maybe that will help with the eye strain, as well! *sigh*

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    • ELIZABETH LANGSTON says:

      Nancy, this is so true for me, too. I have a day job in the software industry (argh, I know social media from the other side too). I use both jobs to “rescue me” from the other. Right now, the writing job is tougher, so software quality is my respite this week. But I’m sure that’ll change.

      And it’s interesting about “no releases this year.” That should have been true for me. I thought I’d have a YA contemp come out in 2017, then StMartin’s slipped it to Feb. I pulled out a novella I’ve been working on and decided it was closer than I expected. I’m going to release it in Dec, with a couple of weeks to spare. But I will have a 2017 book after all!

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  8. Gwyn says:

    I wish I had strategies, but I’m exactly where you were: Tired, defeated, depressed, and helpless in the face of all that’s happening. Add a recent family tragedy, and the words may have vanished, if not forever, for a long time. As such, this struck such a chord. Can’t do squat about the family stuff, but social media is another thing altogether.

    Thank you for this, Tammy. While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, it’s good to know we’re not swimming in this toxic sea alone.

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      {{{Gwyn}}}

      I wouldn’t say I’ve entirely climbed out of the toxic sea you describe so beautifully, but I’ve got my nose above water. For now. I think all we can do is keep swimming.

      Love, peace, and infinite hugs to you and your family.

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  9. I love your ingredients for restoring sanity, Tammy. Especially the keeper shelf and taking time to unplug. I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t taken nearly enough time for just unwinding, but I need to remember to make that a priority. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂 I hope your detox goes well!

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      “Restoring sanity.” I like the way you phrased that, Vivi – that’s exactly what it feels like. It’s a relief to realize that I’m not powerless, that there are some specific things I can do to try to improve the situation!

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