What Works?

A Duke Walked into a House Party by Brace BurrowesI’m on several author loops, and an abiding theme of the conversations thereon is, “What works?” What works to get the darned manuscript completed? To write an effective blurb for it? To market the books so they find the readers who will love them (and don’t find the other kind)? To foster creativity in the midst of dry spells and sanity in the midst of a very tough writing market?

What works?

In this still-chilly time of year, as I’m waiting, waiting, waiting for it to be warm enough to PLANT FLOWERS, I’m asking myself: What’s working? On June 1, I will celebrate two years of freedom from the lawyer job (wheeee!) and I’m taking inventory about what has gone well in this time and what needs some tweaking.

At the top of the going well column is a schedule full of hours and hours and hours of solitude. I go for several days at a time without leaving the property or talking to other human beings (I talk to the cats). This has two benefits: I like being home by myself, and when I do get out among people, I am appreciative of the company. Whether it’s the grocery store or the horse barn, the bank (yes, I still go to the bank), or the doctor’s office, I’m more attentive to other people and happier to be around them.

Another marvelous development: I am reading like nobody’s business. Whether it’s Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell mysteries, an ARC of Vanessa Riley’s, A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby, (LUCKY ME!!!), or “Switch–When Change is Hard,” by Chip and Dan Heath, my nose is in books of my choosing and I am loving all the reading time. Loving. It.

And the working well list would also have to include the whole writer gig. Revenue is down all over town, but I am still enjoying every writing day, and finding time to get after some backlist that needs to be republished. I am having a great time with my works in progress (Stephen Wentworth waves coyly from stage left), and I remain convinced that the romance readership is one of the purely nicest demographics anywhere.

So what’s working for me is writing, reading, tons of unstructured time, the company of cats and horses, and NO LAWYERING.

What works for you? What habits, routines, activities, or indulgences have you put in place or learned to avoid to keep yourself bebopping happily along from week to week? To one commenter, I’ll send a $25 Amazon gift card.

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14 comments on “What Works?

  1. I wonder if you ever took any education classes in college, Grace. Both of my degrees are in education (music education–choral conducting emphasis–and was required to take a TON of education classes)and we studied subtle ways to tell if what we were teaching was *working*. We studied data gathering and record keeping so we would be able to state, emphatically, “Jennie is playing her scales better because she practices them twice a day, every day.” Everything was hypothetical until we tried observational techniques on ourselves. I learned I am at my best vocally around 10am and the best time for me to practice the piano is after 1pm.

    It took a few years after I got my undergrad to figure out I could use those techniques and ways of looking at things for not only music teaching but chores of daily living. It’s made a difference. I have to get laundry going as soon as I get dressed in the morning or it won’t happen that day. And folding as I go along works some days but after dinner other days is the best. Reading for work or non-fiction for other reasons, my mind is most accepting after lunch, not before. And reading fiction after dinner or right before bed brings me the most pleasure and lets me wind down. And I have to wind down at least 15 to 30 minutes or I won’t be able to sleep.

    I write out menus, consulting the newspaper sale flyers, as I make out my weekly grocery list. I try to check my staples as I do so I have all my ingredients. The good thing about doing this is I don’t purchase things I won’t need during the week and everyone around here will know what we’re having. It’s cut down a bit on my anxiety about getting meals on the table–since I know what I’m making (or if we’re doing Take-Out)and I which days, I can plan my work day more efficiently.

    As I get older, I’ve learned who to keep close to me and who to let go. It’s sad giving up a friendship of many years BUT if it’s no longer pleasurable for either of us, the kindest thing to do is part ways. To keep bebopping along, I’ve done so recently and…..I’m okay with doing it FINALLY!

  2. I’m staying off my iphone as much as possible. Working out for stress relief. Trying to improve my sleep habits. And tweaking my eating regimen. I’m trying to stay as healthy and peaceful as I can.
    Wish me luck! I think I’ve made great improvements thus far, but I always want to do better.

  3. My week is full. I get up go to Weight Watchers early Saturday morning, get gas and run to the bank for my club. I go home and start the laundry, eat breakfast with Rose (the corgi). And get ready for obedience class which is a 30 minute drive.

    My friend was ill for three months and class was put on hold. I found that this didn’t work for me. I worked with Greg and Laci by myself but, it was not the same. I missed seeing my friends, their companionship and support.

    Saturday afternoons are divided between housework and reading.
    I am enjoying historical fiction and mystery books. Switching it up from the historical and contemporary romance has worked for me.

    Sunday mornings are quiet. I read, write and work on club business. Get my housework finished and make dinner and meal prep for work. Think color coded Tupperware. Have lost almost 15 pounds so it must be working. It’s easy to grab lunch in the morning.

    Organization works for me. I don’t alway get everything accomplished over the weekend. But, I try.

    I do daydream a lot about retiring…no commuting now that would work for me!

  4. In June 2016, I retired after 25 years of serving as a lobbyist representing Arizona physicians at both the state and federal level. It was an intense, compelling and rewarding profession that I loved. Along with many other issues, I had the opportunity to help draft Arizona’s living will statutes and then work with a coalition to convince state legislators to codify it in statute. Essentially I spent 25 years being paid to talk persuasively for or against issues of concern to physicians and their patients.

    Retirement has brought glorious changes to my life. I have a regained control of my time. I no longer surrender my waking hours between November 1 and June 1 to the vagaries of the 1500 to 1800 bills introduced in the average state legislative session. It’s like drinking from a fire hose while remaining persuasively conversant in the fine points of hundreds of pages of proposed legislation. I savor Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family rather than struggling to eke out an exhausted, distracted 24 hours interrupted with conference calls and texts focused on drafting amendments. My golfer husband of 53 years plays 5 days a week leaving me blissfully alone to read and putter with projects that can take weeks to complete. We plan day trips when he’s not golfing or just hang out. I can spend long weekends with my daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren whenever I feel like making the 5-hour drive.

    I have my time and I don’t have to talk unless I want to.

  5. What works to keep me going? First of all, acknowledging that the things driving me up the wall really aren’t all that bad. What I have are blessings that are incredibly messy, stressful, and/or inconvenient at times – a job, husband, son, 3 large dogs, and 10 cats.

    I take little breaks after work and on the weekends and hide in my quiet bedroom where I have a reading area … and read.

    Two books I’ve read in the last few months that I would like to recommend are Kit’s Hill by Jean Stubbs, and The Mrs. MacKinnons by Jayne Davis. Both books have a good sense of place and time and make the reader appreciate modern conveniences and supermarkets so much. They are both available through Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. Kit’s Hill takes place over 30 years and was written in 1978 or thereabouts. I’d call it a saga rather than a romance novel, although there is one couple at the heart of it. It’s fantastic, and I don’t normally read sagas.

  6. I find that if I don’t use my morning productively housework wise, I will only get a bit done before bed. That’s it, maybe 10 minutes. I have a brain injury and find I just stall sometimes, but listening to an audiobook where my focus is on the story and my physical actions are peripheral I can trick myself into continuing. Strangely, I have a hard time sitting still while listening to a story even when there isn’t something I’m trying to get done, I seem to have accidentally trained myself! Except when I listen to my traveling book, The Trouble With Dukes, then I relax.

  7. Isolation, surroundings conducive to creation, excellent music, stacks of books in assorted genres for inspiration and the Do Not Disturb function on my electronics.

    I was voluntary self-quarantining before it was trending!

  8. Isolation, surroundings conducive to creation, excellent music, stacks of books in assorted genres for inspiration and the Do Not Disturb function on my electronics.

    I was voluntarily self-quarantining before it was trending!

  9. I am finally hitting my step goal most days by walking in the morning after I feed the cats and dog. While my allergies are horrible, I’ve been pacing in the house – tedious, but I can breath and go through emails on my phone while walking. I quit my job back in October. While I could (still can) do the lifting necessary, I was tired of the constant neck and back pain. I still have pain, but it’s not as bad and I don’t have to worry that I won’t be able to move at all a few years down the road.

    In addition to reduced pain and increase in excercise time, I am finally sorting through everything we’ve accumulated over the last 20 years. Oh, and we are spending less money since I have time to plan meals and cook. Then there’s the fact that everyone in the house is less stressed.

  10. I have found that my mornings and evenings are “me” time and I do my email in the a.m. and read in the evening (I watch hardly any TV). In the afternoon I can do “work” things (I’m on the board of my community development district–I think it’s a Florida thing) and I just cannot give them any of my pre-lunch time. I also started making myself go to bed after the 11 o’clock news and I get up at the same time every day. It was wonderful to stop using an alarm clock when I retired but I’ve found that regular habits for sleeping are working better for me.

  11. I actually have a hard time staying away from books. I could spend hours reading. I do quilt– but reading is my passion. I love your books and believe that I have read most of them.

  12. I can’t wait until I can quit the lawyering gig. I read and paint when I can, although it’s been really busy at my day job recently, so not much of either lately. Not sure when I can quit my day job though, with all the uncertainty around the world and people besides myself relying on my steady income. Love your books!

  13. When I was contemplating retirement about 5+years ago, after working for the Army 44 years, people asked me what I would do. I said “read my books, maybe some traveling”. Almost everyone one said, you’re going to have to find something to do or you’ll become a hermit. Well, I have become a hermit, at least somewhat, but I don’t find that to be a bad thing. I like being a hermit, I get out of the house when I want to, but if I don’t want to, I have plenty to amuse me.I still see my close friends and my family, I stay active with Church, but I don’t say yes to every invite, and I don’t feel guilty about it. I love my house and have made it a cozy nest. I’m going to sit on these eggs as long as the Lord allows, and I’m not going to let anyone make me feel guilty about it. BTW, thanks for heads up on latest Deanna Rayburn release, I’ve ordered it and eagerly awaiting arrival, I will have Valerian’s and Emily’s story finished” by the time Veronica’s arrives!