Are We THERE Yet?

tough week death valleyThis has been a tough week, at least for me. World events have not been cheering; I’m feeling overwhelmed with writing-related stuff that’s all very important, but it doesn’t get words on the page; a college age kid can put a strain on the old piggy bank just when I thought we were making some progress; and I’m tired.

Tired of being tired, in fact. I try to get up early to tend to the writing tough week emptyfirst, but if I didn’t sleep well, that means waking up tired, and THAT means I’m not efficient through the day.

So I hit this weekend on empty, and now is when I’m supposed to leave a fat smoke trail of words across the blank screen.

When I’m in an energy cul-de-sac like this, mood often deteriorates too. What I do manage to write is invariably awful (I’m sure Captive_artof this). Stuff I’ve been able to ignore for long periods (sagging dog fence) is abruptly a source of irritation. Things I can’t control (Amazon, the weather) worry me though I know that’s pointless.

Everybody hits periods like this, and they can spiral into a sense of irritable frustration from one end of the day, week, and then month to another. Knowing it’s temporary, knowing some of this is post-Scotland let down, knowing nobody cares about the dog fence doesn’t help. I’m not a device, such that binary logic and HTML put in one end creates a rational outcome at the other.

So I’m resorting to what I know does work. I’ve played the piano for the first time in months, I’ve watched The Scarlet Pimpernel (the first tough week pimpernellspy novel, and written by a woman), I’ve kept flowers nearby, and I’ve worked on the writing project I want to work on not only the ones I ought to work on. I listen to my consolation songs. I focus on what I’m grateful for right now, no matter what.

I’m in good health. My bills are paid for this month. My kid is doing better. My parents’ situation seems to have stabilized. I have friends. My last book was well received. Out the goodness of his heart, tough week Jim MalcolmJon Paul Ferrara sent me a glicee of The Captive’s cover that is simply gorgeous. I’m not scheduled to be in court for the foreseeable future. I will go back to Scotland in the spring.

This gets me through. I don’t expect to wake up turning handsprings tomorrow, I won’t be the goddess of sweetness and light, but neither will I pour more energy into railing against the forces of nature or the publishing marketplace. I do the things authentic to me, focus on those, and try let the rest of the world go by.

touch week day liliesWhat do you do when the world is too much with you, late and soon? How to you shake off a funk, a slump, or a terrible, horrible, awful very bad week?

To one commenter, I’ll send a $25 American Express Gift Card.

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61 comments on “Are We THERE Yet?

  1. I read, usually Regency romances. If that fails, I watch Big Bang Theory. If that fails, I watch 5 minutes of the news so I’m reminded how small my problems really are and how lucky I am. If that fails, I eat chips. (Okay, not in that order…the chips get eaten first.)

    • Odd you should mention chips, Shelly. About three times a year, I have a small bag of Doritos. They’re awful, I know. The embodiment of everything nobody should ever eat, but the gratification of having what I want when I want it… that fixes something only those little bags of Doritos can fix.

      Now I’m hungry…

  2. I do a lot of the same things that you do Grace. Seek the positive. Count my blessings – sad as my life may be, it is so, so, so much better that most people in this world. And I truly thank God for that.

    Another thing that really helps me a lot is laughter. I enjoy a good laugh anytime but I really seek it out when I’m feeling down. I have “go to” movies, TV programs and books that will always make me laugh and they work every time. I even recall several jokes my dad use to tell that still make me laugh just thinking about them. He has been dead for over 25 years, but nobody could tell a joke like my dad.

    Hang in there Grace. You have such a gift and it is only going to improve with time.

    • I’m good at hanging in, Marie, though I appreciate the encouragement. You remind me that another tactic I adopt is to step back in time. Where was I a year ago? Five years ago(see last week’s post), and where do I have the potential to be in one year? Five years?

      That’s a cheering perspective, because I’m walking proof that dreams DO come true.

  3. I read, work crossword puzzles, pray and play with the grandkids. Sometimes I telephone two of my favorite people–Mom and my sister–and just talk. And I try to stay aware, even in those dreary doldrums, that this is just a temporary state. Thanks for an interesting post.

    • LSU, I owe you a bunch books from the Fab 5 authors, so expect to see me in your inbox later today.

      Re-connecting with family helps me too, especially the one brother who was in business from himself before any of the rest of us. He’s a trailblazer and has a fund of philosophical courage that’s good to be near.

  4. First thing is usually just to “power down,” whether it’s curling up in a cozy chair with a book or going to bed early — both of which happened yesterday. (And thank you, by the way, for loaning Devlin St. Just to us all — he was a comfort yesterday.)

    Otherwise: a good walk, good music, dancing, a good visit with a friend, cuddling babies or hugging my nephews. I will try to spend some time today counting my blessings as well, because another crazy week is ahead and liable to leave me for a loop by the end of it.

    And sometimes — in times of true need — I run away from home. Granted, it’s usually only for part of a day, but sometimes I just need to put everything aside and escape for a while.

    • I ran away to Revolutionary France for a couple hours yesterday, and told myself I was de-constructing The Scarlett Pimpernel’s plot. The baroness who wrote the book wove conflicting loyalties with such skill, I don’t think she’s been equaled in the spy genre since, except by Joanna Bourne.

      I used to run away to the horse barn, and need to find a way to reconnect with that too, because it’s pure magic.

  5. I can usually be found on the front porch when I feel overwhelmed. Sometimes with a cup of coffee, a mug of tea or a glass of wine. I bring my book, IPad and Irish , the corgi. I take a deep breath, pat my my corgi and count my blessings. It works….most of the time.

    This past week was very busy. I worked a 10-hour shift Thursday (What was I thinking?), the college tuition bill came, husband was sick and Irish had to go back to the vets.

    Irish and I were on the front porch yesterday. Feeling tired and overwhelmed…not a good combination. I decided to focus on the positives. I took Greg and Celeste to class early yesterday morning. Celeste was good. No barking or carrying on when it was Greg’s turn. She remembered everything and we worked as a team. She made my day! Husband is feeling better, the tuition bill will get paid and Irish is here with us.

    Hang in there Grace!
    Loved the new contemporary chapter from last week! When will you post chapter 2? Thank you for posting the Mid week chapters…:)

    • Sue, you remind me that last night, for the first time in months, four cats spent the entire evening hanging out on my kitchen counter. I write at my kitchen table, so I could feel them there, REGARDING me, all four positioned to keep me in their line of sight.

      Now I’m thinking that was the support circle, sending me “Relax, human. We got this,” vibes.

      We’ll see full Chapters for A Single Kiss on October 8, November 12th, and December 23rd, or that’s the plan…

  6. It’s going to sound trite when writing the on an author’s blog, but immersing myself in a book is my best way of escape. If I can get lost In a story, then I’m not thinking about my horrible day. If I’m totally stressed out at work, I might pop out for a brisk 5 minute walk just to get the fidgets out and calm myself down if I’m stressing about something bad. I’ve been having to take a lot of walks this week due a parent’s health issues- ugh.

    • Michelle, I hear ya on the Aged P’s. Dad’s 93, Mom’s 90, and they almost take turns having crises. His femoral artery, her knee. His aneurisms, her eye sight, and then–what the heck!–EVERYBODY has to go to the dermatologist!

      For years I did exactly as you’re suggesting, and dove into books, sometimes having to LIMIT myself to one a day. I still read for pleasure, but I’ve grown very fussy. I want GOOD WRITING, and a lot of the strongest writers doing romance now (I think), are writing historical romance.

      I try to avoid them unless I’m between books, with a few exceptions (Jo, Mary, Loretta, Eloisa). And I do go back to my keepers again and again, which ALWAYS helps.

  7. A Grace Burrowes book does wonders to revive the spirits. All your books have characters who have vanquished danger or injustice or both, but don’t realize exactly how courageous and successful they have been (until, of course, they see themselves anew through the eyes of their true loves). The lesson I take from this is that when everything is bleak, it is time to change perspective and see things anew. Also, friends and lovers are helpful in this effort. And if I’ve not got the energy for a book or another human being, petting a purring cat also does wonders. πŸ™‚

    • Elaine, the first book of mine I’ve been tempted to read post-publication is The Captive. I think that’s the book where that progression you describe balanced out most effectively for both hero and heroine.

      Or I’m finally getting comfortable with the material I’ve been trying to address all along?

  8. I repeat the mantra, “this too, shall pass.” I also forge on with my routines as usual (often while repeating that mantra!): wake up/go to bed at the same time, exercise and walk lots, drink iced decaf coffee with soy milk or an iced hot chocolate made with raw cacao powder and coconut sugar (my treats), and keep on reading. I also try to laugh by watching Seinfeld episodes once every day! πŸ™‚

    • We need our micro-treats don’t we? And we DESERVE them! Laughter is wonderful medicine. Caught Robin Williams’ schtick recently on the origins of golf. REALLY profane, but also hilarious.

  9. When I get in a funk, I like to read a book I know I will enjoy and spend some time with my dog. Or watch my favorite TV shows Frasier and Arrested Development since I know that they will make me laugh.

  10. Grace, as others suggest, I read YOUR BOOKS. Right now, my Mother is dying and I wish you had a new book coming out every week (LOL!)to keep me occupied when my mind and heart start to break down.

    As well, to get myself through the dark places, I immerse myself in the busy, no brainer parts of my life’s work. I am a musician–a conductor, in my real life–so I do research on pieces I plan to program in the future for my chamber choir, listen to recordings of things I have in rehearsal and write program notes. I speak to my singers of getting to my *Zen Place* by concert time and sometimes feel like I am *climbing* up the side of Mt. Fuji with my bare hands, ripping out the bonsai trees as I go to get there !

    Just keeping busy with things that are my household’s busy work has helped me in the last few weeks. My frigs are spotless and the ovens are to be tackled this week, all the while going to the oncologist and helping Dad accept what no one wants to accept. I’m planning their 60th anniversary party in two weeks we hope Mom will be able (and around for)to attend. No one cares about the Iris napkins but helping Mom and Dad choose them has gotten our minds off their troubles for a bit.

    I have eaten several bags of….Pizza Rolls… bad as your Doritos….but hot. I enjoyed them as I ate, and then felt a bit queasy after…and a bit embarrassed I did it!

    Thank you, Grace, for this opportunity to share…that helps get us all through it too.

  11. Reading my favorite novels, cuddling with my big honey of 44 years, taking walks along the beach, playing with the dog, grabbing one of my kitties & snuggling, and spending money that I shouldn’t on roses helps. I envy your abiliyy to play and hear music. Since my hearing loss has become so bad, I play music I remember in my head. It is a comfort and an enjoyable exercise. One of my favorite writers has had a horribly crummy week for which I am sorry. As my honey says, the sun will shine tomorrow. You can look forward to that or not, but it will still shine.

    • I think of Beethoven–stone deaf, and all he knew was music. I think of Schumann, father of five, mentor many, losing his wits by the time he was my age. I think of Bach, burying eight of his twenty children. I think of Brahms, alone his entire life; of Chopin, touring for the last ten years of his life as consumption stole all his fire.

      You bet I’ll look forward to the sunrise, and I will rejoice in it.

      • Thank you for the sunshine you bring into our lives with you vividly people, and masterful plots with all there depth and feeling. Maybe you forgot that you are the sunshine for many people. There are days when my medication doesn’t work well for me and you and several other authors have helped me from going scream through the house because the “feelings” are too much. That’s when I turn to you and others and find the sunshine. Yes, the tragedy of the composers you sited shames some of us because we are far from those situations. Thank you Grace for you piece of sunshine.

  12. I’m very fortunate in that I don’t have those feelings very often, but what gets me through is talking to my sister, getting out of the house for a nice head-clearing walk, and most of all, setting everything aside and immersing myself in a really good book.

  13. I find that when I have a horrible day or week that I have to stop and take time for myself. I either try to settle down with a great book or take a day off to relax at home while everyone is gone. I will go get a mani and pedi or have a spa day. I have to regroup and realize that it is not always bad and there are people that have it worse than I do. Ice cream usually helps too.

    • Boy are there EVER people who have it worse than I do, and I used to be one of ’em. I sometimes get out my old diaries, and geesh, that woman wasn’t having much fun. Then I started writing….

  14. First off I am Never a ‘goddess of sweetness and light,’ but I admire those who are and can be. πŸ™‚ When things are rough, I remind myself of the good things: my kids, my husband, my pets. I cuddle the dog and cats (when they’ll let me) and my husband (when he isn’t on a business trip, otherwise occupied, or occasionally, one of the sources of irritation. πŸ˜‰ ) When the Texas sun is not too blistering and the mosquitoes not biting, I’ll sit outside and just enjoy being out in nature for a while. I also escape into a good book.

    Hope next week is less depressing. πŸ™‚

    • There’s a lot to be said for sitting outside. My sister’s a Type I diabetic and has said for years she needs less insulin in the summer. Docs told her she’s full of baloney, it’s just that we get more exercise in the summer.
      Gail’s religious about exercising, and doesn’t vary her routine in the summer. Tuns out Vitamin D has a LOT to do with insulin metabolism, and that’s part of the reason most people drop a few pounds in the summer, not because we move around more.
      So, yes, get outside, get some rays, hug the dog!

  15. I consider Sunday a day of rest. There are a lot of things I could do. Clean, go to the grocery store, or buy gas. I did none of those things. I stayed in my pajamas all day. My husband bought me a paper. I read a romance novel. Christina Brooke, she’s not bad, but she’s not as good as Grace Burrowes in my opinion. I watched a marathon of “Bones”. I had purchased season 5. I ate skittles. Sometimes it is good just to play hookie from life.

    • I had marzipan for breakfast the other day, was still in my mightie (it’s sort of a sun dress) until 4 pm, and if that doesn’t recommend grown-up-hood I don’t know what would.

  16. I wallow in it for a bit and then look for the next holiday on the calendar. A nice thing about my job is that there all sorts of milemarkers through the year. Sometimes it’s becomes like running, pick a point ahead on the road and run to it and then you can walk.

  17. First line of defence is to read – if I’m super stressed, it’s more likely to be a reread as that takes less energy and is guaranteed to be a good experience. Second (and often part of the first) is to laugh – visits with friends, theatre, cat videos… Whatever it takes! Playing with, watching it just being near the kitty helps, too.

    Ultimately, it is time. So far, life has proven that nothing lasts forever and so sometimes I just grit my teeth, dig in my heels, hang on by my fingernails and wait it out.

    • And with a hearty, “This too shall pass,” sometimes I just go upstairs at 7 pm, grab the nearest vintage Loretta Chase, and am not heard from again until the next day.
      NEVER a bad idea.

      • There are no bad Loretta Chase books, but I’m especially partial to The Knave’s Wager and the more recent Scandal Wears Satin – the writing is especially witty in that one!

  18. I look forward to volunteering at a food pantry. Makes my problems seem few, and helps me see things clearer.

  19. I will either watch tv (I have a few shows that lift my spirits every time,) lose myself in a good book or if I’m feeling up to it, go for a walk. I love to walk on a nice night and just think and look at the stars. I’ll often make up stories as I go, I just wish I had the ability to get them on paper. To me you and others have set the bar high where writing is concerned.

    • But Alicia, I didn’t start out as a New York Times bestselling Whoop Dee Doo Whatever. I started out writing manuscripts that were more than 200,000 words long (that’s like two Big Macs for one story). I switched Point of View every paragraph, I put two spaces are every period. I used all the dead adverbs and then used them again.
      Mostly though, I had a great fun spinning tales. The polish comes over time, but if you have stories to tell, I’d urge you, for your own pleasure start telling them!

  20. I do some of the things you do: listen to music, watch a favorite movie, sit myself down and remind myself of all the awesome things in my life, tell myself to let go of anything I cannot control.
    The main thing I do is to focus on the good things and on how lucky I am. So many people have so many horrible problems, health issues, etc. Who cares if the laundry is piled up or dust bunnies are forming colonies under the bed?

    • One friend put it to me this way: How said it would be if your epitaph was, “She kept a clean house.” Unfortunately, for women of the generation before me, that often all a lot of them felt they were allowed to aspire to.

  21. Firstly, I just read “The Captive”; a loud, and heartfelt, thank you! I’ve been coming across this notion of “The War on Women”, and every time I see another instance which supports this fact it’s driven home that it is a silent war. The news abounds about the casualties of War, the ptsd, the tactics which are used to gain information, and yet, this is nothing new to those who are victimized by their boyfriends, their spouses, their parents. It’s something that has happened to women in times of peace, and even more brutally during times of war. It still happens, and is brushed under the carpet, or not seen as a “serious issue”. The statistics which show the percentage of women who have been in a violent situation, so far outstrips the percentage of those that are in the military it is scary; and even scarier to realize not much is being done to cause society to find this violence to be completely unacceptable. Thank you for shedding light on this with your writing, if it can make even one person aware, it is enough to create change.

    • Anastasia, thanks for those comments. My job as a romance writer is firstly to entertain, but you make a good point too. Awareness of the violence against women is the first step to reducing and eliminating it. And the violence against children. The violence against elders, and minorities, and….

  22. Honestly Grace, I do not know how you pour out novels as often as you do. No wonder you are exhausted when you add life’s daily grind.

    However, no matter how tired, either a result of hormones or a lack of sleep, finding true north occurs for me when I listen to Christian music. Not the rock stuff, but something that touches your soul. A reminder of life’s true purpose. I find that the stress then seems to fall away and a moment of peace occurs. Re-energized. As HE is the reason for your great literary gifts, your daughter, and all the other moments in between.

    Try one as simple as “JESUS YOU ARE” by Paul Baloche. Then follow it up with the “Magnificent Obsession (Re:created) edition” by Steven Curtis Chapman and see if you then feel a little lighter. Close your eyes and just listen.

    It’s even better when I am in by VB Bug with the top down, eyes open of course, (since I do not ride horses) driving down a deserted road, cd turned up, with the wind traveling through my hair. Just a pure moment of joy.

    Peace and well wishes.

    • Thanks for those well wishes.

      The secret to pouring out all these novels is that I’m not pouring them out. I wrote and wrote and wrote for several years before attempting publication, and when you’re NOT published, you can be very productive.

      No social media to tend to, no two dozen blogs to visit when a book launches, no conferences to go to, no copy edits and galleys to spend time on… As a consequence, I STILL have a several manuscripts in the can that I can publish next year, and the entire time I’m publishing, I’m also writing, writing, writing.

      By next year, I’ll hit the end of the backlog, and then things will ease up. Until, then engine ahead warp nine, Mr. Sulu!

  23. I read this blog at the beginning of another stressful week and wanted to say YES! I feel you my has indeed taken me 5 days to come back and write a comment. My stress is job hunting and aging and rather ill and very needy parents. I heard and have helped a friend cope in the last week with finding out his Mother is dying of terminal cancer, brain tumor. All of this and the crazy world also made me cranky and anxious ….but then I thought I am not alone, we are all very human and all of us try to make life better,

    I took advice from your post, bought a bottle of wine, some sunflowers and about 6 new romances. AND I taught myself something new, adv excel ….it made me feel productive and good.

    I send all positive vibes your way ….

    And to all of us, Namaste

    • That learning something new stuff is powerful. One of the things I’ve come across dealing with young women who suffering eating disorders is that they balance the entire weight of their self esteem on a number on the scale. That number is who they are (to themselves).

      One strategy that helps pry them lose from that prison is the acquisition of new skills. It can be anything–drawing, rose grafting, bar tending, ANYTHING–and the shift in the brain chemistry and self-image can make all the difference.

      So yes, new skills!

  24. When I’m in a funk I get creative and quilt. Creating the top of a quilt is quite therapeutic. One cannot cut fabric or sew while indulging in adverse thoughts. Quilting has become my boost when family members become difficult or I feel just plain tired.

    • A lot of kids on the autism spectrum can reduce symptoms simply by having a soft, cuddling stuffed animal with them. Soothes anxiety, settled the brain, and lets them focus where they need to.

      I’ve done a little quilting, and found the piecing and design a lot of fun, and then to see my finished work, however rudimentary, keeping my daughter warm was lovely.

  25. When I am sinking into the overwhelming I lock my doors, turn off the phone, make a pot of soup (and sometimes some home made bread) and immerse myself in my books by Grace Burrowes. I love the long series that burn up an entire weekend….and then fill the evenings for the rest of the week. A heartfelt “Thanks” to you!

    • Thanks Jackie!
      Because I was nominated for a RITA award this year, my editor asked me to write out a little acceptance speech, and where I found myself going was: Listen to your reader. They’ll tell you that what you do makes a difference, and who cares what anybody else says–about romance as a genre, about your writing in particular.

      Julia Quinn puts it this way: We may not change anybody’s lives, but we can change their afternoon.

  26. Loved how you described your “funk” ! (But then you are a writer) Boy can I relate!! What do I do?

    * READ – especially books that end well but do have a plot and “issue” – such as yours!
    * EAT – sweets unfortunately so they aren’t allowed in the house
    * MOAN to my friends that have similar issues (via email so they can easily ignore my moans)
    * DREAM about a new purchase that I want but don’t necessarily need . . . usually clothes or a doll
    * PLAN to see our grandsons several states away

    Wish I could say I exercise – and I do – but because I have to anyway . . . not to cure my problems!

    Good luck – and thanks for your wonderful books! Barb

    • Barb, I especially like the part about moaning. It normalizes my grumpy days to think, “Yeah, so what? Be a grumpy as you please, but feed the beasts, write the words. Nobody steals your grumpy. Enjoy it, even…”

      Moan, in other words. Children know this. And hugs too, of course.

  27. When I feel sluggish and bogged down, I put on my big girl pants and get outside . I exercise at the gym, in the pool, walk the beach, and pull weeds. I look out and count my blessings and thank God for every single one. Although I absolutely love to read, nothing picks up your soul from shaking the jitters out by getting the minimum of 10,000 steps a day waking. Try it. It’s amazing how positive you will feel.

    • “It’s amazing how positive you will feel.”

      I’ve deleted four big long responses to that one sentence, Mary Ann, because I know hitting 10,000 steps has worked for you. It works for many people and is, in fact, saving their lives.

      All I ask is that you believe me: It doesn’t work that way for everybody. For some of us, it takes all our energy, leaves our minds flat, our joints aching, and our hearts bewildered, because once again, the sure cure, trust-me-this’ll-work prescription has left us feeling WORSE THAN EVER.

  28. I read!!! especially your books. I reread booka. I go for a walk but especially I go seek water and sit by it listening to the ebb and flow of nature. I live close to a huge lake in New Hampshire or I drive to the ocean an hour away were I walk and enjoy the peaceful sounds of the ocean. I also leave my home daily and return to visit the flowers blooming. I take pictures of them to enjoy later. The winter is harder I make chicken soup and cuddle under a blanket. I always call my siblings and enjoy their love. I then feel blessed to be alive and able to function as I have fought cancer for 4 years now so put on some music and go for a ride.

    • You’re winning, Judy! My parents are 90 and 93, and I think a large part of what has kept particularly my dad going is a 270 degree view of the Pacific ocean. To him, it’s like having a postcard directly from God sitting on every available surface.

      Water is a miracle. Plain and simple.

  29. Honestly, I count my blessings, which are many. Hmmm, this sounds awful, but I do know that blessings tend to be temporary so you should enjoy them while you have them. Such as having your child still living under your roof (mine goes to college next year), my husband’s health remains fairly decent, and we are all still here, with food to eat, a roof over our heads and laughter in the house. Basic primal things.

    Even when life changes – which it always does – there will be new blessings. I guess I am an optimist at heart.