Vacation Lessons: I Want Your No’s

Last month, the BF and I went to Ireland for a week. We flew into Dublin, rented a car, and drove across the island to a village called Fanore (though, let’s be honest, the place is more like a hamlet). It’s in the Burren, a geographical area of stark, desolate beauty and raw power. Think limestone cliffs and crashing waves (the Cliffs of Moher were about a half hour south of where we were staying). Since we were spending all this money on a vacation, I made the decision to leave my laptop at home, despite being on multiple deadlines and could have used the time away from the dayjob to get ahead of some of those deadlines.

I realized something during that week, and in the weeks after: I have trouble saying no. Worse, I have trouble saying no to myself.

Back in December, my critique partner invited me to be in anthology with eight other authors after one of the original participants dropped out. All I needed was a 20k story set in New Orleans, and it needed to be on the steamy side. Not necessarily erotic, mind you, but still hot. When she asked me, I was in the middle of a) edits on Game of Shadows; b) revisions on Game of Vengeance; c) drafting Game of Lies; and d) probably something related to Broken Down, though at that point it wouldn’t have been anything of consequence, since the bulk of the work was already done.

Still. Three projects.

To this day, I don’t know why I said yes. Maybe because it was short? Probably because box sets and anthologies have proven to sell large numbers over the last couple of years and it could boost my author name? A temporary lapse of sanity? Whatever the reason, I should have said no. I had my Plans (yes, with a capital P). But I figured those Plans were always intended to be fluid, and I could adjust. I am nothing if not flexible.

Writing Sultry has been like pulling teeth at times. I’ve had to settle for writing in 500 word bursts because my brain just cannot push past that barrier. I said before I think Broken Down is the most difficult book I’ve ever written, and, given the emotional depth and subject matter, I still think that. But Sultry is a problem child; the story just does not want to be written. Case in point: I have finally – finally – reached the last chapter. I have a thousand words to go. I cannot think of a single word to put on the page. It’s been like that since the end of January, when I started this draft.

Sultry turned out to be the first in a string of ideas I thought were good at the time and have proven otherwise. Fireside Fiction has Daniel Jose Older as its guest editor (!) and I figured, hey, I can turn War Heroes or A Lesson in Vanishing into a 3,000 word short story and submit it. Brain Mill Press is looking for essays for its series Makers on Making, and you know, I can do that. A plot bunny came to me after reading Jennifer Garner’s Vanity Fair interview, and I ended up writing most of the first chapter before I had to move on to something else. A Wattpad reader emailed me, wanting to know what happens next for Lex and Drew in Touch.

Then there’s the books I’ve said I’ll review and the projects I jump between and friends and family wanting to get together and I just…I can’t even. Not anymore.

A few weeks ago, when I was struggling to settle into the writing/revising groove after a week of not doing either, I found myself wishing it were the middle of May already. May is one of the worst months of the year at my dayjob, but it’s also the start of the Seattle International Film Festival. Those two things combined make getting authorly work done more difficult than usual, and I figured it would be a good way to take a break. Three weeks where the only work I’d do would be whatever edits are thrown my way. It means Sultry needs to be basically finished, and I’d likely lose some ground on getting one of my projects ready for submission, but my brain is already telling me it needs another vacation.

The weird thing is, I don’t have problems saying no when it comes to things I don’t particularly want to do. It’s when I want to do something I end up saying yes more often than no. I figured writing a 3,000 word short story that riffs off something I’ve already written would take me a week, two at the most. An essay on the writing of Broken Down or the Game of Shadows trilogy? Piece of cake. No matter how much I have to get done, I still make time for reading, so if it’s a book I want to read anyway, I can write a review of it, no problem.

They pile on like cats. Fun and warm and furry and I don’t mind…and then they become suffocating and when I try to dislodge them, I get scratched for my troubles. And at this stage in my career, there’s this sense that saying no to any opportunity that could help boost sales would be a poor decision on my part.

I’m trying. It’s painful at times, because I can’t help thinking, “But what if…” I put aside any thoughts of short stories and essay writing. I replied to that Wattpad reader that I’d love to continue Lex and Drew’s adventure, but I had other obligations and it would have to wait. I have far fewer reviews on tap for April and May than I have in the last couple of months. I’m prepared to ignore call for submissions and requests to join Facebook parties and blog tours unless they’re my own.

No is too often synonymous with disappointment. If I say it enough, maybe it’ll come to equal relief.


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