Diving In

pool

Summer is heavy breathing down my neck – and for some reason it’s not freaking me out.

Early next week school ends for my kids, and so do my two mornings of uninterrupted writing time. I’ll have to find new ways to squeeze in my work, which might mean a combination of getting up earlier, watching less Netflix at night with my husband, and giving the kids TV time-outs (ha).

Normally, this change in routine fills me with dread, but this year I’m feeling a sense of calm as spring winds down. I’m almost welcoming the forced surrender it will require.

If only I could stay this calm all summer long.

If only I could be this calm.

Last summer, before our big move from city to country, we bounced around like pinballs, living out of suitcases, but this summer we’re home. We joined a pool so the kids can stay busy and wet, there’s a beach trip scheduled for August, and a few weeks of camp mid summer, which will no doubt be a sanity saver.

But summer with two kids mostly at home means certain sacrifices will have to be made. Summer means loosening my grip.

It’s also an ideal time to reflect on my writing goals. Over the last few months, I’ve been feeling fragmented and scattered, due in no small part to an excessive use of social media.

In some ways, joining Twitter and Facebook has been great – I’ve made many new friends (not just the kind you tally up, but real ones) and discovered some wonderful blogs. But on the flip side, so much distraction has been, well, distracting.

Not simply because I can’t stop scrolling through my Facebook feed (although that IS a problem, just ask my husband) but also because I’ve discovered many more writing opportunities.

The good news is that I’ve picked up a few exciting bylines, most recently an article on The Mid that I wrote after a traumatic bathing suit shopping trip. I also have several articles out for submission, including another anthology. I’ve been honing my essay writing skills as well as my ability to roll with rejection.

But on the flip side I’ve been neglecting my novel and fiction writing in general. Writing essays for online publications is fast work compared to the long slog of a novel. If my piece is accepted, I’m rewarded with the buzz of recognition, and it makes me want more.

Which is all fine and good…except I’m not a freelancer.

I know it’s not all or nothing. I don’t have to choose sides, so to speak, but I do need to choose priorities. I’m still interested in writing essays and improving my craft, but I also want to finish my novel and continue writing short stories.

That is why summer is the perfect time for me to step out of the rushing river of social media and submissions, and give myself some space to examine my goals and dreams.

river

I love living along this gorgeous river.

I’m in good company, at least. Two writers that I admire greatly, Nina Badzin and Lindsey Mead, have both written blog posts in a similar vein. It’s important that everyone, not just writers, take time to step out of the busy pace of life to reevaluate and examine, to track their steps and see if they want to continue along the same path, or change directions.

My little guy at a crossroads.

I was listing to Krista Tippet’s On Being podcast the other day and was struck by something her guest, writer and thinker Maria Popova, said:

“Identity is this perpetual process, it’s like constantly clearing out and rearranging an attic, and it’s as much about throwing out all the furniture and trinkets that no longer serve us as bringing in new ones. In that sense, it’s just as important to continue defining who we are, is to continue eliminating who we are not.”

As I veer headlong toward my fortieth birthday, it’s actually something of a pleasure to dive into this self-work – this vital sifting of who I am, which I believe I’m better equipped to do now more than ever.

 

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25 thoughts on “Diving In

  1. I so agree, that there’s value to reevaluating and assessing, to noticing where we are and touching base with where we want to go. Enjoy your summer! xo

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  2. I love this post as it speaks to me too Dana! And actually this is the first summer in a while I am not feeling anxious about how I will fit in writing time. I’ve had a busy few months with deadlines and now eager for a break. I just want to hang out with my son and BREATHE. Just BE in the moment, whatever that is. And you helped me remember that we change and shift and grow and move on – and every summer wont be the same, we won’t be the same – our kids wont be the same. So we have to roll with the river as it flows! Love this line: this vital sifting of who I am. We must continue to sift through ourselves to grow and thrive!

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    • Donna, thank you so much for this lovely and thoughtful comment. How wonderful that you’re not feeling anxiety this summer. It’s such a perfect time for a break after such a busy and successful spring! Yes, you’re so right, every summer won’t be the same because we won’t be. So glad to know you 🙂

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  3. I wrote to Lindsey the other day to let her know how glad I am to know that I am in good company and with you, my good company grows! To blog. To freelance. To get off the train altogether. These are questions that seem to be paralyzing me right now. I do know that I have missed my time visiting blogs like yours so perhaps that answers my questions a bit. Here’s to introspection- it is helpful when it is not making me spin in circles!

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    • That’s so funny! I was feeling the same way when I read her post and Nina’s. It’s been on my mind for a while, but I’ve only been able to articulate it recently. Here’s to introspection and finding who we are and what we want to do when we come out the other side 🙂

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  4. I deeply appreciate your words here Dana. I just sighed audibly with relief! I too would like to get off the roundabout of social media and just, well, write. Recently I’ve been wondering about my “voice” and what I’m really trying to say when I write. Summer will be the perfect time, as you say, to loosen the grip, take a look, reevaluate and maybe discover something new or simply wonderfully familiar. Looking forward to the journey and hearing about yours. xx

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    • Yes, right?! Sometimes it feels like a roundabout, and for someone who dizzies easily, that’s not a good thing! It’s like the moment I started up with Facebook it felt like a race. A fun one, and with lots of wonderful company, but dizzying. So glad to be on this journey with you 🙂

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  5. Dana, I can really relate to re-evaluating writing goals. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do. I really want to write a novel but I also love the buzz of “I’m published!” in anthologies and on other sites. It’s so hard to know where to focus. When I blow off Facebook for a few days, I feel good but then when I get back on, I feel so out of the loop and worry that nobody will remember me in the groups I’m in. Gah. I’m trying to embrace the summer more and not stress out about it so much. Thank you for the reminder.
    I love your outlook and hope that your summer brings you time and clarity and lots of fun and relaxing as well.
    Your river rocks, by the way – what a great place to live!

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    • Kristi, I completely understand and relate to the feeling/worry about being forgotten/left behind if you step away too long. I get that A LOT and it fuels my need to check, click, comment, etc. But it can become compulsive and then I think, oh man, I really need a break. Then the worry cycle begins again! But I’ve been trying to remind myself that the connections I’ve made online, like you (!) do not disappear even if I do. Real life friends drift in and out, depending on what’s happening in their lives, and we don’t write them off (without good reason). So know whether you post a lot or a little, comment a lot or a little, I will still be around, perhaps being quiet myself, on the other side 🙂

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  6. It’s funny how many of us have been having similar feelings about which writing avenues to pursue. I’m right there with you.

    I remember getting a bit panicky that I wasn’t submitting my writing to more sites and blogs. There was a lot of second guessing myself. It was so uncomfortable, I think, because I felt like I wasn’t keeping up. But keeping up with who?

    It made a big difference when I decided to focus on the few projects that are meaningful to me and not worry about the things I thought I “had” to be doing.

    Here’s to “diving” into summer! 😉

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    • Yes, panicky is the exact way I used to feel, and sometimes still do. But I try to remember that the only person I need to keep up with, ultimately, is myself, and all that matters is focusing on my goals. It’s hard though, a constant work in progress, like most things 🙂

      I like your advice about focusing on a few meaningful projects instead of spreading oneself too thin. That is one of the things I’ll be journaling about this summer! Thanks as always for reading, Jackie, and for your lovely comments.

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  7. Great post Dana, I love that quote, I think we are a work in progress until the day we die. We can always learn something new, or sharpen our skills. Its nice to take a step back and see what is most important to us. Most of all keep writing, any writing is better than none.

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    • Thank you so much Kath, and yes, a work in progress indeed! I’ll definitely keep writing, but will try to make sure what I write is serving my dreams and goals.

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  8. Hi, Dana. I’ve just come across your blog, and this post, along with Nina and Lindsey’s, has me thinking about my own writing goals. I’m sort of at the beginning of the journey, trying to make some time for my writing and blogging with 3 small children. I’d like to eventually submit essays to online publications like Mamalode, but I’ve also always been drawn to poetry and short fiction. Reading your experiences, from further down the road, makes me wonder if it’s all worth it? Do you ever regret the time you’ve put into building social media connections, and the bylines you’ve acquired? Do you wonder where you’d be if you’d just put all of that time into your creative writing? Or are the two things linked now? Is an online presence necessary to success in more traditional venues?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your process. Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

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    • Tara, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment! I’m so glad you stumbled across my blog. I can’t wait to read yours, so please include a link here if you’d like 🙂

      Congratulations on starting a blog to begin with! As a mom of two, I know how hard it is to commit to writing with small kids underfoot, so it’s no small feat (ha, pun intended?!) to make your writing happen.

      As far as social media being worth the effort, I can honestly say yes, definitely. Not for the reasons a future publisher might give – I’m not exactly racking in page views or likes, but for the community and support it has given me. Some of the friends I’ve made online – whom I’ve never met – are more supportive about my writing than some people in my real life.

      My advice is, blog if you enjoy it. If it feels like work and is not fulfilling, then it might not be worth the trouble. Blogging is a great way to practice and stretch your writing muscles – though you can certainly do this offline. Create a reasonable and flexible schedule for yourself. You can blog once a month or once a week, or whatever suits you. But if you want to blog seriously, it is nice to have a schedule of sorts, even if you shift or change it.

      BUT, if you want to write other things beyond blogging, such as articles for Mamalode for example (great site!), or fiction, then make sure your online time – including blogging and especially social media – doesn’t overtake your writing time. It’s hard. I certainly find this hugely challenging. But it is doable.

      Lastly, publishers do like authors to have a presence online, be it blogging and/or social media, but if you are so busy building a platform that you neglect your actual writing, then it kind of defeats the purpose.

      I hope this helps, and sorry if it’s overload 🙂 Looking forward to reading your words!

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      • Thank you for taking the time to reply! I do enjoy blogging, and right now, trying to commit to one post a week is a great way for me to develop some discipline as a writer. That’s always been a weak point for me!

        It sounds like it’s all about finding balance between writing online and off. But the benefits of maintaining an online presence are definitely worth it! Finding a supportive community of writers is a huge motivator for me.

        Also, I wanted to say earlier that your blog title is great! I do all of my writing at the dining room table. : )

        (and I’d love if you’d check out my blog! Tara Borin Writes)

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  9. Summer hasn’t even started for us! A week from Wednesday, it starts. I’m sure I’ll have to switch it up a bit. The kids will have camp but only for a few hours and my blessed free time is coming to an end, BUT, I’m also so over the school thing for awhile.

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    • I hear you about the school thing, I’m over it too! I can barely get through these last days 🙂 I’m actually looking forward to summer, despite the severe shortage of writing time, however, check in with me in a few weeks to see if I’m still sane.

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  10. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Popavo’s quote. Thank you for sharing that. And thanks for sharing my post. You know I relate to every word here– especially the quick feel-good buzz of having a piece accepted and sharing online . . . and then the reality of how short-lived that buzz is. It’s important to keep our longer-term goals and not our shorter-desires-for-a-high in mind. I started as a (hopeful) novelist and became a freelancer. Now that I’ve had that taste of success but have found it lacking, I have to go back and ask myself what do I want to do!? I’ve also accepted that the answer to that question can and will change, even often. I still have the answer that works for now, but I intend to spend the summer playing and experimenting a bit so that I might feel once again I’m on a path, even a short-term one, that feels right, and that I’m not just stepping on the treadmill of byline chasing, which I have definitely been doing for the past year.

    Okay, sorry I just basically repeated my post. 😉

    I’m glad we’re doing this evaluating and re-evaluating together.

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    • You’re welcome, and I loved reading this comment! The short lived buzz feels so good, but if it doesn’t serve the long term goals, it’s not worth it. I’m so interested to see what direction you turn to next.

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  11. Wow. You just described my existence in a nutshell. I also write novels, short stories and essays. In my spare time I have a blog (which seems to take up to 80 hours a week). Time management is a huge concern and sometimes the best thing you can do is step back and take a deep breath. Let the next step come. I’ve learned that the hard way many times. Sounds like you’re doing great. Good luck with all your projects.

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    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Laurie! And I will check out your blog asap since we seem to be on a very similar track. Stepping back is key, as is breathing 🙂 Both of which I often forget to do. But I’m working on it this summer.

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    • Also, I just read through your blog and love it! But I often have trouble commenting on Blogger 😦 I left one for your weekend away post, but if you don’t get it, know that I wholeheartedly agree!

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