New Year’s Resolutions and Working Happier

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You know those New Year’s resolutions that we all make, but never keep? Well, I made one to read some of the books on my to-be-read pile. I started with Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and enjoyed it. It was thought provoking, though I don’t agree with everything he proposes, it still had a lot of new ideas, new ways of looking at things, and that turned out to be something I needed. I came away with one personal insight that was very valuable to me. I realized that the one positive thing I hadn’t been able to give my daughter was to show her my happiness with my writing, my life’s work. She saw the deadlines, the tours taking me away from her, the research trips that did the same, and I guess I put all my negativity that I wouldn’t allow anywhere else in my life on my work. I didn’t realize I had done it, but I have. Maybe that’s why my very artsy daughter doesn’t want to make a living as an artist of any kind. “It’s too hard, mom,” she says. She’s right. If you don’t want it more than anything else in the world art will eat you alive, and spit you back out. Most of us never make enough money to live well, if at all. Many writers have to keep their day jobs forever, and write on the side. Most actors spend more time waiting tables than being on stage, or in front of a camera. I have worked very hard for my success, and been very lucky that what I want most to write so many people want to read. I’m one of the ones that made it, but for every amazing success like mine, there are hundreds that aren’t so positive.

The next book I picked up was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and that was also very well timed, because it got me thinking about happiness. I’d been working on my personal life for over a decade to make it happier. It had led me to leaving my first marriage and finding my husband Jonathon. I realized that one of the things that made my first marriage fail was that I wasn’t really cut out to be monogamous, so from the beginning Jonathon and I were polyamorous. It means to love more, even before we knew that poly was a word and there were other people out there doing it, we dated other people and added them to our lives. Thirteen years together as a couple, or more, and it just gets better. Part of truly being happy for me meant letting go of old ideas of what I thought marriage would be and embracing what worked for us.

Which brings me back to my career, my writing, what was once the passion of my life and had become a job. I’ve worked harder, faster, smarter, but I decided that I would try to work happier. I started to try and figure all this out while I was writing the newest Merry Gentry novel, A Shiver of Light, I gave myself permission to write anything I wanted part of the day, as long as I got my pages on the book done, too. Before this, with rare exceptions, I had forced myself to stay on one project at a time and write until it was complete, but when I was writing two best selling series for two different publishers, the deadlines were crushing. It was one of the things that led me to consolidating my two series under one publishing roof, though ironically the two publishing powerhouses have merged. Allowing myself the new freedom to spend part of the day on other projects didn’t slow me down on writing Merry, but seemed to energize me. It led to two e-specials. Dancing which is a novelette featuring a more happy domestic and relationship side of Anita Blake, my other series character, and tow of her boyfriends, Micah, and Nathaniel, along with a visit to see Detective Zerbrowski and his entire family at home. It was a lot of fun to write and many of you have told me how much you enjoyed reading it, so yay! I also wrote, “Shut Down,” which was an e-special gift to all of you for free while our government was behaving so childishly. I couldn’t make the politicians do their jobs, but I could give you a short story featuring Richard, our handsome, but self-loathing werewolf, and Ulfric (wolf king). Then I started what I thought was a Jason short story, and it got out of hand. It wouldn’t end and I began to fear I had a short novel on my hands. I finally had to stop working on it and let Merry and her world eat everything for awhile. For me, as a writer a book eventually consumes everything. It’s not unusual for me to work eighteen hour days for weeks on end as I finish a novel. I’d love to not work like that, but it’s simply the way my muse and I work best. Every time I try to write a few hours, then quite, and hit it the next day, my productivity grinds to a halt.

I finished the Merry book, and was exhausted, drained, used up, as I usually am at the end of a long novel. This book had been unusually exhausting and emotional for me. It was the first Merry novel in four years, the babies were finally born, and I had to remember some personal sorrows so I could do Merry and her story justice. I went to some pretty dark places to write this book. I cried more than once, and came away feeling like I’d broken my own heart. As you can imagine, it takes a bit to recover from something like that, so I didn’t force myself to write something else right away, as I usual did. I didn’t even make myself finish the Jason piece. I wrote if I was moved to write. I wrote if an idea came to me. I made notes on ideas. I made notes on Anita. Eventually I even made some notes on Merry and her crew. I’m world building at least three brand new worlds, and some day, one of the three will raise it’s hand and be ready to be written and shared with all of you.

I thought I’d be finishing the Jason novelette first, but then two other shorter ideas got my attention and I wrote on them, but . . . they weren’t ready. As my writing group, The Alternate Historians, says, “it wasn’t soup yet”, so I let the stories simmer and didn’t push myself, normally I would have. Then came two weeks of travel that included one of the most fun Geek-loving weddings Jon and I have ever participated in – we got to be part of an arch of light sabers for the Bride and Groom to exit through! Yeah, that kind of wedding! We flew straight from that out of state wedding to Spring Break with Jon’s parents, and our daughter, Trinity.

We left this overly long, overly cold, overly snow-filled winter behind for tropical beaches, Caribbean blue oceans and 80F temperatures. It was glorious. I usually try not to write when I’m on family trips. First, it’s incredibly difficult with so many demands for my attention. Second, because sometimes, I feel punished when I’m writing while everyone else is playing in the sun and surf. It’s like being in a pretty cage. Yeah I can see the sunshine and ocean, but if I can’t touch it, what’s the point? But it had been so many weeks without really writing for me, that I began to search for a place to write.

I was poking at every flat surface that would hold my iPad and full-size keyboard. I put on my new Bose headphones and made notes. But one day, I wrote enough that it felt like writing, not just notes and it was an older idea, but suddenly a new idea had bumped against it, and there was a spark. I wrote until that spark faded, and it was time to have dinner with my family.

I’ve been letting myself write on whatever my Muse and I wanted to work on, and that’s been fun. I’ve had more ideas come to me in the last few months than I’d found in years. I’ve let my Muse and I play, and it’s been glorious, but I need a deadline, a focus. Its been so long since I’ve let my mind wander through the Looking Glass without worrying about where I’m going, or when I’ll get there, that I’d forgotten that deadlines are my friends, not my enemies. They help me concentrate and narrow my vision down to a laser point and create. I had three stories ready to go, but no idea which was cooked enough to be soup. I let myself write on any of the three, and then suddenly one of them took the lead and we were off!

Today, for the first time since I typed, the End, on Shiver of Light, I wrote so long and so hard, that when Jon interrupted me for lunch, because when you eat healthier you really have to eat regularly during the day, I was inpatient, snapping at him. I knew it, I apologized, but I felt like if he didn’t get out of my office and let me finish the scene I was writing I would scream. He kissed me, and left to fetch lunch. He let me know when he got back, but today was his day at gym, not mine, so he had to eat on time, I could fudge it a little. When I was done with the scene, my injured arm hurt like hell. (It’s a permanent injury, more muscle helps which is one of the reasons for my dedication to the gym.) I was dazed and almost stumbled downstairs with the dogs trailing around me. I joined Jon in the other part of the house. We had a few minutes together while I started eating and then he had to go to gym. I put my feet up for a few minutes and cuddled the dogs on the couch and watched CSI. It’s one of my go-to shows when I’m writing well and want to be entertained, but not distracted from my story. I think we got through the first five seasons while I was writing Merry, so today was the beginning of season six. Then I went back to work. It was mostly notes, but I know exactly what happens next in the story. I know which idea I will finish next. I’ve given myself about two weeks to complete the story. I want it done before we get on the next plane for our next trip, which is about two weeks away. (I actually didn’t make that deadline, but finished it on the plane for the trip.)

I told Jon that I knew what I was writing next. He said, “I know.”

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Because this is the first time since you finished Merry that you were frantic to write and shushed me, so I’d leave you alone to write.” He smiled, kissed me, and left me to work.

I love my husband, and part of why loving each other works for us, is that he understood that me practically snarling at him today was a very good sign. He didn’t take it personally, he understood. He married me after I was established as a novelist, so he knew what he was getting into as much as anyone can that marries an artist. We are not always easy to live with, and if you expect us to play by muggle rules then you will be sadly disappointed. But since Jon is no more a muggle than I am, it works for us.

I don’t know if I’ve figured out all I need to work happier, but I’m getting there, and it’s not the view from the top of the mountain you need to love, it’s the climb up, because you can’t stay at the top of the mountain forever. That gets you one goal accomplished. I’ve got a whole mountain range spread out before me, and I want to climb them all.

Posted by at 8:48:25 am on April 14, 2014

19 Responses to New Year’s Resolutions and Working Happier

  1. Stacy says:

    Thank you for posting this. I am glad your writing is working out for you and you’ve found a new way to spark new and interesting ideas in your work. :) We all benefit from your dedication and talent. Happy writing and happy loving to you! :)

  2. Brittany says:

    LOVE. Love, love, love this article. So many of us forget to go back to the reasons and things that made us love what we were doing in the first place. It is good to be reminded. Thank you.

  3. Gayle says:

    Thank you for posting this. It is nice to know that you can go to such dark places to write but strive for a happy life. I think the reason you have been such an enduring author for me is that all of your characters are 3 dimentional. When you read your novels the characters come “alive” for me, something I have not found in very many other authors. Thanks again for all of your hard work, I really appreciate you and your muse.

  4. Beth says:

    Two nights ago I was agonizing over getting my outline “just right”. It was frustrating until I just said “shit, this is not what I want to read!” Then I realized that I can do anything I want, write whatever I want, turn the story on it’s tail and blast off! I’m writing for me. I know what I like to read, and many others read the same authors I do. Why not write for myself! If it doesn’t fly, at least I’ve got the story out of my head! And I have multiple stories on pieces of paper that I add to constantly. The one I’ve settled on right now is my “baby”, the one that holds most of my attention. But when those other ideas come knocking at my brain, I have to acknowledge them and jot them down or they just start tossing a ball against the wall and it’s damn annoying! Thank you for your books, your honesty and your tips (whether you realize you’re giving them or not!). all the best.

  5. Anne says:

    Great article – thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Pegi says:

    Thanks for writing this. I have been trying to get back to painting. I used to paint every day. I was mostly happy and mostly easy to be around. Then I was convinced by someone well meaning that painting and sculpture cannot sustain me (in any way) but especially financially. I have gone through my paints to get rid of dried old paints and find out what is still usable. I have bough paints I absolutely need. I have done the same with the brushes. I bought 4 canvases (now to get some canvas and wood to make my own). I have so many ideas. I even organized some/many of them
    I can’t think of anything else to keep me away from painting. It must be time to get to work. My muse is screaming at me. Thanks again.

  7. Norma says:

    Laurelly,
    Thank you. I really love that you’ve been able to search deep and come up with the answers to make your life better (work and personal). I also envy that. I am now at a point in my life where I think I need to do the same. The clock is ticking and time waits for no one. I have some soul searching to do. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jinia says:

    Absolutely loved this..as always..thanks for not just entertaining but welcoming us into your home.

  9. Pansy Petal says:

    “When Mama’s happy, everyone is happy!” Whether it is your family or your readers, we all benefit! I appreciate you sharing the journey to a happier you. You have been an inspiration to me ever since I picked up Guilty Pleasures for the first time. Thank you for all you pour into your stories. They have helped me in ways that even I don’t totally understand, but I know they are my friends and I love them. So, by extension, I love you. Be happy!

  10. Doreen Queen says:

    I’m glad you’re trying to instill joy into your writing. This may sound silly, but is there a way to get a copy of “Shutdown” now that it’s over???

  11. shana says:

    my husband and i have an adopted son. he has fetal alcohol syndrome and a few other mental health issues. he can be a major handful and trying at times. long story short i needed some down time and started reading your books. its amazing how your writing can take me away to another world just for a little while. it truly helps refresh. i’ve finished the anita series to date….that was a sad day. will be starting the merry series next. other than to thank you so very much for keeping my sanity in check…i heard a quote the other day. my first thought was “that’s something anita would say” and i chuckled out loud. so here it is: not my circus….not my monkeys.

  12. crystal says:

    I really am sorry you bleed so much for us. And. Some of us bleed with you. Some of us bleed and want to point some stuff out but we are not the author and keep our frigging mouths shut the hell up. Rightly so. We adore you regardless. Please keep doing what you do

  13. Sam says:

    Thank you! I absolutely love everything you have published- as others have mentioned your characters are real to me, they breathe and bleed as we all do. I only hope that you continue to share their lives with all of your fans. I write for me, not being brave enough to put my thoughts out there for possible rejection… and struggle with the process of actually writing it down. The ideas and thoughts are flying, but committing them to paper and thus making them real hasn’t been a strong suit of mine. They zing in and out incessantly and have actually been keeping me up. I dream about them sometimes when I do sleep- it’s disconcerting to say in the least when I realize the depths to which my mind creates. I will be keeping a notebook by my bed from now on… maybe the little bastards will let me sleep if I can get them out of my head. I’m hoping I can get to a point where my goals are attainable rather than astronomically out of reach, and in doing so can become a happier person by accomplishing them. I want to be on my way up the mountain not stuck at the base thinking “I’ll never…” Thank you for every word you write, because they all matter even the ones not read.

  14. Pinkoyote says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  15. Lisa Cobb says:

    I just wanted you to know what you and your books mean to me. There aren’t enough words to ever express howo they have helped me. I have had 5 back surgeries and I’m unable to do much of anything anymore but read. It pisses me off at myself that I can’t be the woman I once was. And being a Scorpio doesn’t help lol. Your books helped keep me off the pain meds when I flushed all of them after finding my daughter on the bathroom floor from shooting them up. I thought she was

    dead. She went to rehab and got clean.

    E
    Her beating on me was the cause of one
    of the surgeries and some broken ribs. I
    have only wanted peace and happiness in my life but at my age of 46 I guess

    I’m pass wishing on a star. I was molested fr

  16. Lisa Cobb says:

    I just wanted to let you know how much your books mean to me I’ve read them all about 20 or more times each. I have had 5 back surgeries and I am unable to do much more than read. It pisses me off at myself that I’m unable to be the woman I once was. By reading your books I’ve been able to stay off all pain meds after finding my daughter on the bathroom floor after shooting up the meds she stole from me. She went to rehab and got clean but that didn’t really change the way she is with me. One of the surgeries and a few broken ribs are because of her. You maybe asking yourself why didn’t I turn her in, all I can say is she is my daughter and I love her and couldn’t have my 5year-old grandson see that nana had his mom locked up. My faith has been shaken when they told me if I prayed harder and repented more my life would be better. Well I’ve repented until its worn out. I was molested from the age of 2 to 13. My mom knew but when I finally got up the nerve to tell her she didn’t believe me. She just treated me like it was my fault. My little died when she was 14 and I was 16 right in front of me mom said it should have been me. I married my first husband when I was 17 and mom made me drop out of school. He beat me and never worked. I had a son 3 years later then my daughter 2 years after that. I now have 4 beautiful grandkids that I want to do more with so badly. I remarried in 93 to a man I only knew for 3 months. I didn’t love him but he was great with my kids. And for 21 years he has been good with the kids and grandkids. He is just not good at sticking up for me and there’s no passion. But then again I’ve never had that outside of your books. Rod and I each have our own bedrooms now for years. I don’t leave the house much anymore because every thing nice I have ever had my daughter has either pawned off or I have he’d to sell to pay bills. My husband is a sports official and the pay is good when he work but he is 58 now and has 2 degrees that he can’t use because of my mom and daughter. Your books are all that has kept me sane. Thinking what it would be like to be Anita Blake , a kickass in control woman with men that truly love her and would do anything for her. Even though Richard and Asher are my least favorites, I think they need Dr. Phil more than me. lol. I would have loved to see more of Anita and Haven. I bet he would have been a great lover. Maybe a. short story? I woYuld love to see Anita become the queen of the shifters and tame them the way her and Richards beast fought. And I love Nicky the way he talks during sex is just flat out hot and would be great to see from the others too. Other than Jean-Claude my all time favorite is Nathaniel and Jason. I have been holding out hope that Anita would let them take her at the same time so they could feel each other in her. Please talk to your muse about that. I know you are way busy and I doubt you will even see this and I know that I am to old to wish upon a star but here’s hopping. I just had to tell you what you ment to me. I am no writer and I hope this all didn’t come across as cheesy and please forgive any typos. I’ve never sent an email like this but it kinda felt good to get some of it out. I always said if my life were a movie King would be out of business lol. Well thank you again for your awsome work love to and your family fr

    om the bottom of my heart. I would love to hear from you if you have time and happen to see this. Have a wonderful week.

    Yours Truly Lisa Cobb

  17. Matthew Brennan says:

    Could you please help me with something? I am a Lucid Dreaming and Psychokinesis wiccan looking for a Coven in the Ga. area

  18. Teresa Olson says:

    I have been wondering just how swallowing the mother of darkness would effect Anita’s power level.
    Be happy, write what makes you happy Laurell, love you writing and looking forward to whatever you publish. No matter if it is short or long or somewhere in-between.

    Teresa Olson
    aka Saroya Poirier

  19. Tabatha says:

    going back and re-reading some of your blogs. love this one. it is one of my favorites. xoxo

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