The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stepping Off The Treadmill

Once upon a time, I decided to write a book.

I didn't know about agents or editors or POV changes or central conflict, I'd never heard of RWA or blog tours or royalty checks. I just had an idea in my head and I thought I would try to write something.

So, I did. I wrote three chapters of a werewolf romance story and I showed it to my college roommates who were visiting for a "girls' weekend." Well, they loved it. They asked me what my "goal" was. I was stymied. I was supposed to have a goal? My goal was to write a story, and I wanted someone to read it. You need to get this published, they told me.

And thus began my path to publication. I joined the NECRWA, I honed my writing skills with The Quirky Ladies. I entered contests. I finaled in contests. I won some contests. I bagged my werewolf story and started a new story. I finished that story. I sent queries to tons of agents and editors and publishers about that story. And finally, after months of rejections, I got an email that said....I love your story.

But I was soon to discover that getting a book contract was not the end of this path, it was just the beginning. Soon, I had edits and galleys and blog tours and reviews. I had a sequel to write. I had a deadline.

I missed the deadline. But I kept writing. And finally, months later, I finished my second novel. I submitted it to my editor and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

One week later I almost died.

Literally, I almost died.

I had a massive heart attack and had a stent put into my heart.

Suddenly, all of my old "goals" didn't seem so important anymore. Staying alive seemed pretty freaking important. Sitting in a chair for ten hours a day and writing was not conducive to me staying alive. I needed to stay active, exercise frequently, jet my sedentary lifestyle, and most importantly, decrease my stress.

My good friend Vicki, a Quirky, a writer, a mother and wife and artist and traveller and all-around well-balanced and awesome person said she wasn't interested in getting on "the treadmill." She observed that many folks are on a "treadmill of their own making"--and pretty much driving themselves nuts. (Yes, I noticed that Vicki is a very wise person).

I also noticed that Vicki works sometimes, and writes sometimes, and paints sometimes, and goes on camping trips sometimes, and enjoys martinis with her friends sometimes. She doesn't set stressful goals in her life that squash the joy out of her hobbies, and she keeps her priorities straight. This is not a simple task for many people, but it is an important task and one reason that I admire Vicki so much. She has rejected the treadmill and embraced her life, full of friends and family and multiple hobbies and moments of joy.

Which brings me back full circle to why I write. I don't need an agent or a multi-book contract or a bestseller list or a huge royalty check. I just want to write a story and have someone read it.


So, I'm back to writing a couple of hours a day. Pantsing the hell out of a cool idea I've had for a while. Don't care if I finish it this year or in ten years. I go for a walk before I write. Then, I go for another walk after I write. Then, I putter around the garden, play with the dog, chat with my neighbors, bike around the block with my kids, and cook dinner with my husband.

And hopefully someday soon, I'll be enjoying a martini with Vicki and the Quirky Ladies. (Or maybe a glass of heart healthy red wine!)

I am making a choice.

I am stepping off the treadmill....


Michelle Picard said...

You have captured the most beautiful part of life with this post. I hate that you had to go through a heart attack to reach this point, but its exactly the words needed to remind me how I am feeling right now. Ironically, my successes in writing coupled with my fortieth birthday have inspired me to reach out to the world to balance out that rich inner world and the subsequent business stressors we writers often find. Balance and mindfulness. Sigh. I hope I remember. Thank you Vicki for inspiring this post as well. Keep being wonderful Quirky gals.

Penelope said...

Hi Michelle! I love the word "mindfulness" is really important and usually forgotten in our busy lives. Most of us are living "mindlessly"--doing errands and accomplishing our "to-do" lists every day without taking the time to appreciate being alive. And remembering what it is that makes us happy to be alive. Thanks for being such a great friend! I think we need some Quirky time soon!

Ella Drake said...

Lovely post & it's come at a time when I'm putting things into perspective myself. I wish you hadn't had such a close call, but I'm so glad you're stepping of the treadmill & appreciating life. I think we could all learn from you.

Barbara Wallace said...

Good luck with the goal! We all forget how important balance is in life - especially when working toward something that's important to our being. (And let's face it, for writers, storytelling is as much a part of us as our skin.) Sorry you had to have a heart attack to learn balance is important. It would have been so much better if you learned it through say - a bad head cold.

Looking forward to the sequel.

Sherri Browning Erwin said...

Great attitude! Cheers to healthy choices-- and enjoying the writing without worries. So glad you're here to blog about it. :)

Penelope said...

Thanks, Ella!

Hi Barb....I hear you about the head cold! Sheesh! But I can honestly say a lot of good things are happening as a result of my heart attack (including my husband doing all the laundry and dishes!).

Hi Sherri...I have to admit it's great to just write for the fun of it again...very liberating!

Dalton Diaz said...

I think this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read.

Penelope said...

Hey DD! You are a sweetheart! Love ya, Penny

Tara Truesdale said...

Great blog post! I really enjoyed it - what a wonderful message. Stay well and be well.

Samantha Wayland said...

Yay Penny! What a wonderful blog. I'm so proud of you! Both for all the wonderful things you've written and shared with us, and for knowing you had to change your outlook and making a new, better life for yourself.

You're my inspiration.


p.s.- anyone else now have a cheesy 80's hit by Chicago in their head now?

Victoria Morgan said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing this story. It is sad how often we get caught up in stress of our own making. When I realized both of my kids are going to be gone in four years, I thought -- I need to slow down and not miss these moments with them. It's sad that sometimes it takes jeopardizing our health, a scare like your story, to forces us to realize this -- but at least you did. Glad to know, you are moving into the slow lane and taking time to smell the flowers. Love ya, Neen!

Penny Watson said...

Thanks, Tara!

Sam--I love Chicago and all of their cheesy songs!

Vicki--You are so right about enjoying every moment with our kids...soon they will be off to college, crazy but true. Thanks for your great attitude!

Ashlyn Chase said...

Hi Penelope.
(Ash waving from the treadmill)
I'm moved by your story and if anyone should heed your warning, I should.

Yes, I'm an obsessed writer and could easily drive myself crazy with it. Not only that, but my family's M.O is to die of cardiac problems. Hmmm...

Oddly enough, we just replaced the excercise equipment (including an actual treadmill) in our spare room with a bed for guests. Oops. Probably shouldn't have done that, but it wasn't getting any use and I was tired of dusting it.

Okay, okay. You convinced me. I need to take a walk every once in a while!


Penny Watson said...

Hi Ashlyn! I actually hate walking on treadmills! That's why I won't join a gym. I love walking outside, even if it's raining, snowing, etc. I feel a lot better when I get some fresh air and exercise outside. I have no doubt you can balance the publication treadmill, exercise and taking care of yourself. It's all about being happy! :)

Mina @cluttery said...

I'm so glad you're doing better.

I have always written very slowly. Thinking about writing is actually more fun for me than writing. Writing for long periods of time feels very unhealthy. I almost feel crazy afterwards and need 2 days to decompress after spurts like this.

I try to do something physical every day but sometimes I fail. I question whether my primary goal for the year should be to lose 40 lbs rather than finish my book. It's probably more important to my life as a whole and to my family.

I realized about 4 months ago, after seeing what people go through, that I might not want to be a successful writer. Someone at my table at the last conference told of writing 4 books this year, on deadline, and she was doing it on the soccer field and in the car driving to vacation, etc. I don't want to live like this. I want to see the game, see the view out the window on my vacation. I met another writer at the Orlando airport. She lamented the days before she hit it big, before she had all this extra "stuff" to do to sell her work. She was on the RITA list but she didn't look that happy. Maybe I don't want this at all. It made me question how much I want success. I know the world belongs to those who do the work. But sometimes I'm not sure.

I was so happy when Susan Elizabeth Phillips said in her RWA10 workshop that she writes 2 hours a day, 1 book a year at most. She walks 3 miles every day and spends time enjoying life. She was the best inspiration. She has the best legs. Her tan looked real.

We all need to find our balance. It's hard.

Mina @cluttery said...

And Penelope, thanks to you, I am getting up from blog reading now and taking my dog for a walk. It's a beautiful day.

Penelope said...

Hi Mina! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a message. That's a great story about SEP...she sounds like a very wise woman (and successful woman, too!)--I think you need to redefine "success"....just because it seems like everyone else is on this treadmill, you don't need to be. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is successful, and she's not cranking out 6 books/year. You need to decide what your own definition of success is going to be....maybe writing a couple of hours/week, and walking your dog, and enjoying other things in life, too. Don't forget to find the joy in your writing...otherwise, it's not worth it. Enjoy the beautiful day and enjoy your writing, don't worry about the treadmill!

Good luck

Linda Banche said...

Ah, Penny, stay healthy. When you come right down to it, if you're healthy, you can do anything. If you're sick, you can't. Since people like your books, they'll come back. So, keep writing for them. And since you'll live to be a at least a hundred, you can write tons of books, at whatever rate you want.

Penelope said...

Thanks, Linda. Good point. Health first, writing second. It's working for me!

Penelope said...
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