I’m making some changes to my schedule. To the amount of time I spend not writing books. Because it’s time to scale back so I can ultimately give more.
At a certain point, we all have to put our hours where our writing is. For me, it’s time to stop stealing time here and there and make my books the primary focus again. Which means I’ll be slowing down my retreat business a bit to shift the balance back toward my art. That’ll only make me that much better for myself, my readers, and my clients.
Do you ever think, “Wait! I’m a writer! I have to remember to stop forgetting that!” Me, too. I have moments where I remember that I forgot.
Certain things never escape me. Like how happy it makes me to prop up against the puffy pillows of my bed office in the a.m.—surrounded by dogs, my phone on silent—to dive into a storyline. The book ideas in my head and heart don’t stay quiet long enough to forget that.
Or, how often my fingers itch to flip through that book over there or the one underneath it (or the thirty-seven others strewn about the house on my must-read list). I don’t know about you, but my reading ache is a constant bedfellow to my writing one.
But despite how cognizant I am of the passing of time, because other passions can’t help but pull focus in my quest for a well-rounded life, I’m still tempted to bargain with myself, to deny, to forget how much time is passing. To take for granted that I can get to those books—mine and the stacks in my office—soon. ASAP! Because kids. Family. Horses. Friends. Romance. Home and hearth. All that make-life-worth-living stuff. Those little f-ers can really get in the way of productivity.
As does podcasting! Who knew that little endeavor would be what it is? Tom Hanks?! Glennon Doyle?! Van Jones?! Brené Brown?! There’s no chance I was going to say no to interview those guys. These days, publishing houses pitch me daily, so I’m humbled by the embarrassment of riches when it comes to who’s next. I think back to my agent saying a few years ago that I needed a bigger platform and just shake my head. I’ve never had 450,000 downloads of anything. Talk about a sweet surprise.
In case you haven’t heard, though: podcasting is a lotttttt of work. It doesn’t help that I don’t do anything halfway. But if I didn’t put so much prep into each show, would it work as well? I doubt it. Some weeks just reading all the books related to the guests and guest co-hosts feels like driving to Phoenix and braving a sandstorm on the eyeballs.
But it’s READING!
And then there’s teaching. Most successful writers I know teach. One-on-one to classrooms to workshops to retreats. And every single one of us LOVES it. More than we ever expected. I know this because when we sit down for heart-to-heart girlfriend truth talks about how we really feel helping so many writers birth their books, we all say the same thing. The process and connection and results are so fulfilling that we’re willing to slow down and even stop our writing for the honor and pleasure of being allowed to do this sacred work.
Are we tired? Sometimes, sure—but isn’t everyone? Overwhelmed by the emails and details? I’m not even going to answer that one. (Wink.) Do we admit to being a little scared by the demand and how quickly the years are speeding past us? Dang straight.
And yet, we can’t ever imagine not doing it. Pulling the plug. We joke we’ll be teaching in our pajamas in our nineties if they’ll have us. Please have us.
Because, what may have originated from a desperation for cash to keep our homes, marriages, or time for art intact, soon became so much more. A place we now crave for the connection and collaboration and care we rarely experience to this degree in the “real” world. The fact that teaching brings steady money becomes almost an afterthought. It’s unbelievably fulfilling being part of making someone’s creative dreams a reality.
Case in point: Just two mornings ago I got a text from a retreater who said, “Say a prayer. We’re going to publishing houses tomorrow!” She and I have been in phone and email contact a lot, so I knew this was short for: “My amazing agent at William Morris Endeavor has approved the final edits of my book proposal, loves it, and is sending it out to top editors at the big houses who are already waiting for it!”
Introducing her to this agent was my absolute pleasure. The man’s a doll and trusts I only send him projects I believe he’ll love, so it’s usually a match. And, since he’s one of the most sought-after dealmakers in publishing, he’s fast and effective. Everyone wins. Happy client. Happy agent. Happy publisher. Happy book mama. That’s a model worth sticking with. How could this not be addictive? How could I ever think of giving this up? I won’t. Probably not ever.
But. My writing. Lord, it’s flowing. Like a word dam has burst. Two of my four books in progress are writing themselves first thing every morning. And that’s not all. In the past few weeks, I’ve written three magazine articles to pitch (one just got accepted!—more on that when it runs), and four blogs to post. I can hardly keep up. Or stop marveling at the peace in my chest.
I’ll blame it on Dean Koontz. He reminded me. Something he said during our chat for the podcast last month (which airs next week) did it. Dean has sold 500 million books, seventeen of which have been made into films or TV shows. He’s one of the top-selling novelists of all time. None of that seems to surprise him much because as a kid he was “already a publisher, writer, editor, and agent.” Here’s how that looked:
“I was writing little stories on tablet paper when I was eight years old and drawing covers for them and stapling them down one side and covering the staples with electrician’s tape so nobody would hurt their fingers.”
As he talked, I could see the scene vividly because I did almost the same thing. Around that age. But here’s where our similarities differ. He took his stories and peddled them to relatives for a nickel. Whaaaat?! Me? I gave them to my father, who oohed and ahhed and filed them away for safekeeping. (Which had its perks, because I still have them today.)
But where Dean was making coin, I was begging Mom and Dad for candy money. My reaction was to blurt out this rather embarrassing statement on air: “I didn’t have the balls to sell mine!”
Maybe not then.
But I do now.
And I’m going for it.
If you’ve been to a retreat, no worries! I’m here for you! My Tuesday + Thursday afternoon and Friday morning appointments are still all yours. (If you’ve misplaced the link to my calendar, email me and I’ll send it on over.) This just means I’ll be doing fewer retreats going forward. The first four dates already scheduled for 2018 remain (Jan. 8-12th; Feb. 26-30th, April 16-20th, and May 21-25th), so if any of those call out to you, let’s talk soon so you’re sure to get a spot. Here’s the link to my retreat sign-up form. It’s a sizable investment, I know; let me know if you need a possible payment plan to make it work. (Your accountant just might high-five you on your next visit for getting this write-off in place before the end of the year you savvy writer, you.)
As for the rest of next year, I’ll keep you posted. I love Carmel and these groups too much not to do something in the second half of 2018, but I’m fairly sure I’ll be on book deadline, if not multiple—so we’ll see how things go.
I’m excited. Carmel-by-the-Sea is forever my favorite spot on earth. (Last week’s CARMEL magazine piece about me and my work was a serious life highlight.) To exit completely, the city council would have to run me and my pajamas all the way up Ocean Avenue and out of town.
So, here’s to writing! Yours, mine, everyone’s. It’s how we will heal our world. One story. One inspiration. One ah-ha at a time. In 2018 you’re going to see a lot more stories from me. Blogs. Magazine articles. Book announcements.
Because it’s time. And Time Debting’s just not my jam these days. As the hours, days, and weeks speed by, I’m determined to make the most of them. You, too? Let’s do this!
P.S. As usual, the conversation continues over on Facebook. Join us there.