Feeling the Need for Anything But Speed
After a long, scary work lull during the first quarter of the year, my docket of client projects is once again full and almost in danger of overflowing. I’m so, so grateful to be busy with billable work for a wide range of excellent clients – smart, enthusiastic people doing exciting and interesting work for great companies. I’m so grateful, and I’m so tired.
This is the bane of the freelance writer’s existence – the never-ending battle to find (and maintain!) some kind of equilibrium between feast and famine. Though we may have a few recurring assignments that can be scheduled well in advance (I love those!), much of our work is project based and comes at us more or less on the fly. I’m not complaining (after all, I chose this work/life style), but though I am happy to have the work, I do wilt a little during periods when it seems that everyone wants everything at the same time.
During such times, I desperately miss the small pockets of quiet and solitude that I usually try to carve out for myself. When things get really busy, important routines fall by the wayside – my morning pages, yoga, and meditation; my correspondence with friends; and my rare and cherished moments of doing nothing at all.
As writers, we need those moments of doing nothing most of all … especially when life gets extra busy. I know how hard it is to create an island of calm in the chaos of days that rip us off our feet and throw us head first into the tornado that is our busy life. We go from dawn to way past dusk – running and running, stumbling and tumbling, racing, striving, pushing, and eventually gasping for breath before collapsing into bed later than we’d planned and with the prospect of another crazy day ahead. I know. I’ve been there.
But, it’s so important to slow down. Without a pause, we cannot connect to our inner world – to that truer, deeper, slower state of mind that emerges when we free ourselves from external distractions and pressure. When you can create a moment of stillness, you can listen for – and finally hear – the deeper rhythms running through your bones in time with your breath and the beating of your heart. You can suddenly grasp the truths that you have always sensed, but couldn’t voice because it was too hard to capture them amidst all the noise of daily life.
It’s in these moments that you will find clarity of purpose and peace. It’s in these moments that you will understand what you must do next – when to say yes and when to say no, which paths to follow, which doors to close. Find stillness and you will find your answers. Then, you can begin. Only then.
Books I’m Reading:
Garth Nix is a versatile Australian writer who has been pursuing his authorial career full-time since 2001. He has published some twenty-six novels and several collections of short fiction in genres including children’s and young adult fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, and Regency romance.
His Old Kingdom series is, I believe, one of his better known works. I read the first book in the series, Sabriel, several years ago; but it was only recently that I was drawn back to listen to the audio version of the second book in the series, Lirael. Nix’s site calls Lirael a “spellbinding tale of discovery, destiny, and danger,” and I wouldn’t disagree. The story takes place in a world that is split in two by a massive wall. On one side is a world not unlike our own called Ancelstierre where school boys play cricket and politicians sit on committees and work deals behind closed doors. On the other side is a magical world called The Old Kingdom, a ruled by a king and the Abhorsen queen, Sabriel. The Abhorsen is the person responsible for dealing with the dead and the necromancers who raise them. Yes, this is also a zombie story.
My favorite part of these stories is the magic. Nix has developed a beautifully balanced and intricate magic system that involves symbols, charmed swords, healing magic, seers, paperwing planes that carry their pilots aloft on winds created by whistling, magic-infused artifacts, frightening creatures, and bells whose chimes can call, control, and banish the dead. Best of all, are the animal familiars. There are two in Lirael’s tale – Mogget the white cat and The Disreputable Dog. Neither is, in fact, an animal. Each is actually something else entirely, something that simply takes the form of an animal.
At its heart, Lirael is a story of a young girl’s search to find her place in the world – to belong. It’s a story of expectations and how their fulfillment isn’t always exactly what it’s cracked up to be. It’s about finding your courage and letting it lead you places you never expected to go. I highly recommend this entire series. I’m already listening to the third book in the series, and looking forward to exploring some of Nix’s other works as well.
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I also greatly enjoyed a short story by Hungarian American writer, Theodora Goss, on Tor.com. Red as Blood and White as Bone is a fairytale in the darker tradition, complete with a foreboding forest, peasant servant girl, mysterious princess, rogue prince, and magic.
I love these new stories that seem to be old tales, rich in folklore and myth but still fresh and surprising. I had not read Goss before, but I have now added a few of her other collections of short stories to my Goodreads To Read list. Hooray!
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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- Write. Read. Breathe. Repeat: 6 Self-Editing Tips by @HCWeiss
- Just Write the Damn Thing! by @SPressfield
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- How to Customize Your Email Newsletter Sign-Up Forms to Increase Reader Engagement by @kikimojo via @janefriedman
- On Keeping Blogging & Social Media Enjoyable by @RowdyKittens
- How To Navigate the Chaos of the Experts by Bella Mahaya Carter
- The reasons social media is exhausting by @madSMscientist
- What to Do When No One Shows Up To Your Reading by Matthew Norman
- Almost Six Figures. My Breakdown Of One Year Of Book Sales By Format, Vendor, Genre, & Country by @thecreativepenn
- 8 Ways Minimalism has Changed My Perspective by @joshua_becker
- 3 pieces of advice to writers (and to anyone creating anything) by @tarasophia
- I found your passion by @pjrvs
- 5 Essential Questions Every Writer Should Ask Themselves by @joebunting
THE WRITING LIFE
- Time lost and found by @ANNELAMOTT
- Notebook Versus Laptop by Kelly Robertson via @ourdeaddarlings
- Focus, and How to Regain it by Juliet Marillier
- The Writer’s Index by @vickjulie
Sundry Links and Articles:
For your viewing pleasure this week, a couple of videos that speak to the wisdom of creating without an audience, and the beauty and truth that can emerge from approaching your work this way.
First, the inimitable David Bowie:
For more advice from David Bowie:
And then, the lovely story of Marta Becket, which plays out almost like a fairy tale:
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to creating and guarding your own moments of quiet and solitude amidst even the most breathtakingly chaotic days. May your mind connect with your heart and send sparks of inspiration flying.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.