Monday, October 27, 2014

Robin Gianna & Keeping the Muse Alive

Please welcome Robin Gianna to the blog today!
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When Life gets Rough, how can you Keep the Muse Alive?

First, thank you, Jemi, for having me here today!  I’m going to share a bit about my recent life
challenges, in the hope some of you may find what I’ve learned in the process helpful to your own writing life.

Everyone handles life’s challenges differently.  I know people who find solace in their writing.  When life is otherwise full of problems, they retreat into their imaginary world of story to replenish and heal.

Unfortunately, I’ve found myself to be the opposite of that, which has proven to be a not-good thing!  About five years ago, before I was published, my parents had one health crisis after another before my father passed away.  I was responsible for taking care of everything—getting them in and out of the hospital and rehab, doing their grocery shopping, and you-name-it.  It was challenging,  especially since I had all three of my children still at home then.  My writing was the first thing I threw aside, because it seemed the most expendable.  And what that really shows, I now realize, is that my own needs and wants are always the first to go, which isn’t the best way to keep myself healthy and able to care for everyone.

This year, my mother’s health has dramatically declined, and again, it’s been up to me to manage all that entails - doctors, hospitals, caregivers, bills, hospice.  I have only one child home now, but even college kids need  help moving into new apartments, and obviously being with them is something I love to do.  I feel guilt when I don’t spend time with my dying mother, and guilt when I don’t spend enough time with my children or my husband.  And now that I’m a published author, I feel guilt that I’m falling short there, too.

Believe me, there’s more guilt than you can imagine that my current manuscript is quite late!

I’ve been beating myself up about all of this, because I think that’s what women do.  We try to be everything to everyone, and eventually it takes its toll.  So I’ve finally learned a few things about handling crises while still somehow keeping our muse alive:

1.   Ask for support and accountability from writer friends.  Agree on some kind of daily word count you will be accountable for.  Even if it’s something very small, it will keep you in the story, give you a positive feeling that you’re still making progress on your wip, and you’ll have the emotional support of your friend/s as well.

2.   Find a place in your wip where you can use some of the emotions you’re feeling.  If you’re going through a divorce, think about how that pain can apply to a character’s past or present.  If you’re losing or have lost a loved one, is there a character who has had to deal with that in their past?  Mine those emotions.  You may find it enriches your manuscript at the same time it’s an outlet for the feelings you may otherwise be keeping bottled up.

3.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  I have a tendency to say to myself, “But Author X writes 5,000 words a day!  Why can’t I do better, get more done, since I’m so behind?”  The answer is, because I’m not Author X.  There are some days I can crank out that kind of word-count.  But on a consistent basis, I just can’t.  And that’s okay.  I have to find what works for me, especially when I have so many other demands on my time.  But do sit down and write, even if it’s only for half an hour.  You’ll be happier knowing you haven’t thrown your writing completely aside, which never feels good.

4.  Ask for help.  I don’t know about you, but I think that, when times get tough, we tend to put our heads down, grit our teeth, and GO, taking everything upon our own shoulders.  A couple months ago, I felt like I was drowning in all I had to do while feeling emotionally drained as well.  Something happened that showed my husband how really on the edge I was, and he said in surprise, “Are you feeling stressed?”  At first I stared in disbelief, then felt angry.  How could he not know I was beyond stressed?  Then I realized it was my fault.  It was because I was doing that head-down and go thing, not sharing how I was feeling, and not asking for help.  That was eye-opening to me, and I began to open up more and ask for help from him and from my kids. 

5.  If you’re published, be honest with your agent and/or editor.  While I was trying to convince myself I really could finish the book in time, I was reluctant to be honest with my agent and editor about what was going on with me.  When I finally did, it was a tremendous relief.  Both were sweet, understanding and helpful.  Knowing they were supporting me instead of frowning, and learning it wasn’t a problem for me to have a little more time, went such a long way to my feeling better.  Consequently, I was able to relax enough to get the juices flowing and make my muse smile again.

6.  Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself credit for doing the best you can, even if it feels like you’re falling short.  Take that long walk, or hot bath, or get that haircut you’ve been needing but felt you didn’t have time for.  Know that others understand.  And if that book takes longer to write than you wanted it to?  The sun will still come up in the morning, and soon, the days will look brighter.  They will.


After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’. While on vacation, lying in the sun with a beach read, she realized she wanted to write the romance novels she'd loved since her teens.

Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she's not writing, Robin's life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat.

Robin Gianna on the web:
Website             Facebook         Twitter

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***
Wow. Timely post for me. We lost someone very special in our lives just last week and the stress for the last several months has been beyond believable (still is). You've expressed it so well here. I also tend to do that head-down thing. Time to lift up my chin! Thanks!!

How about you, any of Robin's pointers helping you out as well!

29 comments:

  1. Great tips here from Robin...and Jemi, I hope things settle down very soon for you and become less-stressful.

    I particularly like the "be kind to yourself" advice. We all tend to do so much and then forget about taking care of ourselves.

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  2. Very sorry you're having to go through that with your mother right now.
    Good tips, especially don't compare. I'd add know when to say no. (Which could tie in with getting help.)

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  3. We really do, Elizabeth, and ultimately it just drains us. Taking care of ourselves is an important element in staying well enough to take care of others. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Great advice, not just for writing, but for life in general.

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  5. Thank you Alex. And you're right - learning to say no needs to be added to the list!

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  6. Thanks, Jeff - I would definitely agree. Finding a balance in the midst of chaos is essential to getting through it. I appreciate your comment!

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  7. I've found pouring my own emotions into the story to be very therapeutic.

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  8. I agree, Diane, and yet, for quite some time, I wasn't doing that. I unconsciously shoved it all down instead of acknowledging it, but didn't realize until I finally let it come to the surface. Glad you're more aware of how therapeutic it can be than I'd been! :-)

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  9. Robin - thanks again for dropping by - great post!! :)

    Elizabeth - thank you. It's been a tough year so far!

    Alex - great addition :)

    Jeff - you're so right!

    Diane - I have to try that!

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  10. Very interesting… great tips! I think we all tend to toss everything aside during times like that. Of course it's hard to write (or whatever the creative outlet may be) in the middle of the turmoil of undigested emotions… even though it would help us to keep sane and focused, still easier said than done.

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  11. I went through being torn by so many important and urgent demands. I understand 100%. It passes,but while it's going on, you really don't think it will.

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  12. It's very true that it's difficult - and sometimes impossible - to write during the worst of times, A. I often took my laptop to the hospital or nursing hom intended to write, but just couldn't. I found that shoving it aside, though, simply ended up adding to my stress and anxiety. Thanks for your comment!

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  13. It does feel like you're trapped in the middle of some terrible tornado just spinning and spinning, doesn't it? And finding a way to slow the spin to a manageable speed can seem impossible. Thanks for stopping by :-)

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  14. So much great advice here. It would do all writers good to read this post a few times a year just to keep ourselves on track.

    Hi, Jemi.

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  15. Agnes - yes! Definitely easier said than done.

    Lee - it can be so hard - almost debilitating at times. But we do get through.

    Carol - so true! Real life crops up and steals our creativity, but we are able to steal it back :)

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  16. Carol, as you probably know it's hard to stay on track as an unpublished writer anyway! Throw a catastrophe in the mix, and it gets even worse. Having a clear plan for both good times and bad is key, I think.

    Thanks for your comment!

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  17. Thanks Robin for the tips. Have to be good to yourself for sure. I'm going to treat myself to nachos later today for reaching a certain milestone in my WIP.

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  18. Good for you Stephen! I'd say you deserve a double order with extra cheese! :-) Congratulations on reaching that milestone, and best wishes for more.

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  19. Robin, great tips. It's easy to put yourself last when taking care of everyone else. So sorry for what you're going through with your family and wishing you much success with your writing.

    Jemi,so sorry for your loss. Hope things become less stressful for you soon.

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  20. Stephen - nachos is a great reward!!

    Mason - thank you so much! It's been a tough time, but we're hanging in :)

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  21. Thank you, Mason - I truly appreciate your well-wishes.

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  22. "...doing that head-down and go thing, not sharing how I was feeling, and not asking for help."
    I'm also guilty of this. And it's not pride. It's simply the I'm-strong-and-people-expect-me-to-handle-this kind of mentality...

    Jemi, sorry to read about your loss. I'm sending positive vibes & special hugs, all the way across the blogosphere---
    (((UBUNTU HUGS)))

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  23. I agree, Michelle, it's not pride that makes us behave that way. You put it perfectly - the 'We're strong and we can handle it' mentality. And we can if we have to. But it's not the best way to handle it for the people we love or for ourselves, is it?

    Thanks so much for your eloquent thoughts.

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  24. Michelle - thank you! Those hugs & vibes mean a lot :) And reaching out for that help is something I'm working on too!

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  25. My condolences, Jemi.

    It is hard to write facing such issues, especially when it's immediate family. I've also felt guilt all around.

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  26. Thanks Medeia -that's exactly it :)

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  27. It's extremely difficult, isn't it, Medeia? And the guilt over all of iit adds to the emotional weight, making it even harder to write even though you know you must!

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  28. What an excellent post. I appreciate Robin's honesty. Hearing how she has learned to deal with stress is very helpful. I think we sometimes take on too much until we feel like we are going to break. It's good to have strategies to help us not get to the breaking point. Talking about out feelings is so important (and a great reminder).

    Thanks and wishing Robin the best of luck and maybe a massage in her future too. :)
    Jess

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  29. Jess - agreed! Talking does help me too - and I'm learning to say no (not doing it very well yet, but I'm learning!) :)

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