When Writers Don't Read

ella sheridan, writer, author, romance author, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, erotic romance, reading, what I've been reading, refilling the well, creativity and readingIt's terrible when you have to schedule reading time so you can write a blog post. That's what has happened to me over the past few months. In order to write my monthly "What I've Been Reading" posts, I've had to schedule reading time -- not because I didn't want to read, but because I simply didn't have time. I hesitate to go into the "why" for fear of sounding, well, why-ney. :) But the truth is, life's been kicking my butt. Getting TRUST ME out by Christmas has been my number one priority, and unfortunately, my writer brain has not been cooperating. Of course, neither has my kids' sports and school and orthodontist schedules, my husband's work schedule, my work schedule (that's right; I work a day job in addition to writing)... You get the drift. In fact, for a little while I feared TRUST ME would not only be late releasing, but would not release at all. Everyone has those times when the avalanche descends and you wonder if you'll make it out alive.

Well, I have, but only because I made some tough decisions. And one of those was making time to read.

Last month in Birmingham I heard Sylvia Day speak. It was at a readers' luncheon, and of course she talked about reading. Or rather, her lack thereof. She discussed how, when she ended up in a crazy publishing schedule that took every ounce of time she had, she couldn't squeeze in the minutes and hours it took to read. And when it came time for a particular deadline, she realized that the book that was due just...wasn't going to happen. She was done, dried up. Her creativity was taking her nowhere with this story, and she didn't think it ever would. In fact, she didn't think she'd ever write another story. Ever.

So Sylvia contacted her editor and gave her the bad news. After much discussion and pushing off of deadlines, Sylvia said her editor finally asked one all-important question: When was the last time you read? (A book that wasn't yours was implied.) And Sylvia told her, I don't remember. So her editor gave her an assignment, not to finish writing, but to go read. It was the spark Sylvia needed to see the light on her own story and find her well of creativity again. She read other writers' novels, eventually finished her own book, and rediscovered a piece of herself in the process.

As a writer and a woman (mother, spouse, sibling...), I think I fell into the trap many women fall into: that something we find pleasure in is unimportant. My kids spend hours a day playing video games and reading books and watching TV/movies, and I WORK. Day in and day out, I work, because that's what a good mom and wife does, right? But my need to write was going nowhere. And then I heard Sylvia speak and realized, other than my scheduled monthly posts, I haven't read a book for pleasure in...I can't remember when.

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance author, erotic romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, reading, refilling the well, creativity and readingFor a writer, it simply isn't possible to sustain your creativity without nourishment. And for a woman, it isn't possible to sustain your supportive, positive, hard-working attitude without taking time for yourself as well as others. I knew that, but the tyranny of the urgent was louder than what I knew, until the urgent couldn't be taken care of because there was no fodder for the fire. TRUST ME wanted to be written, but I wasn't giving myself enough fuel to sustain the creative need. We have to feed ourselves, body and soul, if we hope to continue feeding others. I wasn't doing that, but now I am! And it is oh so sweet to find that place of comfort and pleasure again. :)

Reading again has made a huge difference in my life and in my writing. And next month, I'll share again some of What I've Been Reading -- without the whole scheduling thing. I hope you are nourishing yourself too, taking care of you so that you can take care of others. So tell me, what have YOU been reading? What else do you do to feed your soul? What difference does that make in your life?

~ Ella

A Little Secret

The weekend before last I was given the privilege of teaching a small workshop at my local Romance Writers of America chapter's annual retreat. I wanted something new and a bit different from other workshop topics I'd heard often, since the writers' circuit tends to focus on certain areas (craft, business) and not on others. Say, for instance, the personal and private fears of an author. So of course that's what I chose to talk about. (I like to torture myself that way, ya know. ;) ) http://gamemoir.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/doctor-wait-what.gif

Wait, pause for the smirk. *smirk* Okay, let's get serious again.

What personal and private fears did I talk about? Fear of failure and perfectionism. I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm a perfectionist. I know, I was shocked too, but it's true! I really am a perfectionist, a hard-core one, in fact. And that drive for perfection led to some very real fears when I decided to pursue publishing, the biggest of all being, What if I fail? Now that I'm published, that fear of failure has morphed, not gone away. What if my next book isn't as good as my last? What if my publisher doesn't want any more books? What if my book doesn't perform as well as expected?

ella sheridan, author, romance, erotic romance, paranormal romance, failureWhat if, what if, what if? It can become like a rat race in your head, literally driving you crazy. That's what happened to me. The "crazy" became so bad I couldn't write. All I could hear were those questions spinning through my head, unending, paralyzing, blocking out the voices of my characters and my love of writing. A problem like that doesn't just go away -- it takes time and kindness to yourself and patience and, sometimes, help from outside sources. But it can be made better. You can learn to deal with it, walk through it. It doesn't have to kill your love of writing or anything else you love to do well.

ella sheridan, author, romance, erotic romance, paranormal romance, failureThe number one thing I learned as I suffered through this tough time was this: Failure is not inevitable, but if it does happen, it's not the end of the world. (Again, shocking, I know! :) ) But I learned something else too: Failure can be just the beginning of some very satisfying things. Sometimes we have to slug through the struggles to get where we want to be.

There is a Chinese proverb that goes like this: "Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up." Don't refuse to get back up. Failure happens, but it's not always a bad thing. We don't have to be perfect; we just have to keep trying. That's what I'm striving for this year, to keep trying, keep getting better, keep moving forward. Whether that leads to failure or not, I firmly believe that it's the trying that makes us a success.

~ Ella