Saturday, January 25, 2020

LIFE AFTER 9-TO-5 by Nancy Gideon

The last time I didn’t have full-time employment outside the house was over thirty years ago. Back then, after quitting office work to start a family, I filled those hours when I wasn’t at the keyboard (or in the beginning, at the notebook and manual typewriter!) raising two sons, getting involved in their school activities and being an assistant Scout leader at every level from grade school to high school. I sold my first book when my oldest was two and continued under contract for several NY houses consistently after that. My writing was my job and I took it seriously, sometimes bringing in the bigger paycheck in our household. I went to conferences, spoke at conventions, did major promoting, belonged to professional associations because I was a writing professional and I worked hard at it.

Then when my sons were in high school, the bottom fell out of the romance market and my steady mid-list income went with it. It was time to go back to “real” work. I found my new niche as a legal assistant (who was also a writer). I had great employers who were supportive of the writing career that bolstered my income after I got divorced. Everything was good. Then 2019 reared its ugly head, becoming a year of chaos, upheaval and personal challenge.

After my fab boss retired and closed his small office in 2018, I got a job at a big firm with great benefits and wonderful people. I thought I had my forever 65-and-beyond plan in place. But due to unpleasant circumstances set in motion long before I started there, I decided to jump to another less stressful job at a smaller family firm – a job that looked like a perfect fit on the surface, but reality didn’t match the description I’d been given. I was over my head from day one. I left there feeling ancient, exhausted and without hope of ever being productive again. I couldn’t face the want ads. I didn’t believe I had anything left to offer. I couldn’t look at my computer screen. I wanted to give up on everything. I saw early retirement as my only solution and grabbed at that well-deserved gold ring and the dream of having all the time in the world to write. Right? Well, not exactly . . .

All the time in the world tends to steal away that sense of immediacy. My writing draaaaaagged on. I filled my time doing blogs and scrolling social media. I binge-watched Netflix and Amazon Prime (hey, 8 seasons of Dexter in one week alone!), sleeping in, playing Mahjong instead of editing the final book in my shapeshifter series. Never knowing what day of the week it was, I started adding back pounds I’d struggled to lose. Staying in my sweat suit and slippers all day became my new normal during the waning months of 2019.

No. Just NO! A trip to New Orleans in late November was a catalyst (along with two very insightful tarot readings!). Time away with great friends and great food (and my computer) in my favorite city brought new life back into this old gal. My problems weren’t anxiety over things I can’t control but rather the loss of the routine that kept me from feeling productive. Add to that, I was ending a 15-book series. After twelve years, it felt like all my best friends were moving away! Though I have plenty of other writing options, I had no plan on what to do next. Not a good place for someone with ADD/OCD. Sooo, I got out a diary planner that emphasizes overall monthly focus and goals with work and personal to do lists and daily calendars along with a month wrap up. I LOVE lists! After some breathing mediation every morning, I flip it open and jot down expectations for the day and list accomplishments. Now, I’m working to get ALL the month’s PR stuff done the first weekend of the month, so I don’t get bogged down in it at the end of each week. I’ll be pre-planning FB posts with a goal not to browse unless I’m posting and to browse only until that first cup of coffee kicks in. I’m meeting with writer friends! I’m going to the gym. I’m meal planning every Saturday for the following week, so I have no frustrating last-minute blanks that call for fast food fill-ins. I’m kinda loving that retirement time now.

And I’m finishing those dang edits so RISE BY MOONLIGHT can be off to Beta readers mid-February and the final to my line editor in March. Then I’ll finally have a release date before those three weeks in Ireland over my birthday in May where I’ll get into that next writing project whatever it might be.

Happy 2020. It’s better when you have a plan! What are yours?

Nancy Gideon on the Web


Diane Burton said...

I could have written your post. Well, the 2nd half--where you left a job with a toxic environment, retired, then found you had all the time in the world to write. No routine is hard to deal with.

BTW, George Peppard is the "real" Hannibal Smith. Love that series.

Maureen said...

Great post! I'm glad to hear you found your groove again. Congrats on getting the new book near the finish line.

Nancy Gideon said...

Di, George IS Hannibal Smith but I really adore Liam.