Conveniently, this post comes at the end of 2016, but I promise you, that’s coincidence. This is NOT a New Year’s Resolution Post. For real! This is a post I’ve not had time to write for two months. Also, I’m a teacher now, so the end of the year comes in June. December is a reality break, not an end or a beginning.
Anyway, a lot of things changed for me in the last few years. The last year has been especially full of super serious life changes, and I’ve done a lot of contemplating how to deal with it all. I finished getting my license in Special Education 2.5 years ago and I’ve been teaching ever since. My first job was pretty laid back–adult students and only on the clock four days a week (and let me tell you, I miss that schedule sometimes, even if they did pay me a pittance). I only worked about 36 hours a week, so I had lots of time for writing, and with every Friday off, conventions were a breeze. I continued to attend 8-10 conventions a year, and got a lot of writing done in my off time.
But I didn’t get to teach in that job, as great as it was in other ways, so ultimately I left to pursue a position at a school where I could do the thing. I don’t want to say that switching schools was a mistake–more on that in a minute–but the second school was not a good fit for me. It made me question whether I should be a teacher. Hell, it made me question whether I should be a person. I felt inadequate in every way. I started having weekly panic attacks. I noticed that I was more exhausted than everyone else, exhausted all the time, down to my soul, the kind of exhaustion that made me feel like I’d never stop being tired. I’d been fatigued before but never like this.
The upshot is that I went to a psychologist and got a new diagnosis: ADHD. I was skeptical until I talked to friends who have it (which, as it turns out, is like, most of my friend circle? Because of course it is) and read a book about how untreated, undiagnosed ADHD can manifest in adults. Once I saw how highly I rated on both the inattentive and hyperactive scales, I thought, well shit. And when the psychologist explained it to me–ADHD is an inability of the brain to prioritize and control impulses–I thought, well double shit, that describes me completely. I cried in his office. Not because I’m sad, but because I’m relieved. There’s a reason I’m like this. It’s not my fault, and now I can finally do something about it, something that’s more than just treating the symptoms.
I also got a new job. And this is why I don’t regret Job #2, even though I was miserable there and my boss made me cry more than once and I thought about jumping out a window every day. Because without Job #2, I wouldn’t have gotten Job #3. And this job, you guys. I love this job. I love the school where I teach. I teach in a beautiful building with amazing coworkers and supportive administrators and the kids are tough but that’s why I love them. Because nothing worth doing is ever easy.
This post is getting long. Still with me? Okay. You get a gold star if you’re still reading. I’m getting to the point.
I love my job now, but holy cow the long hours. This is a for real teaching job. I go in at 7:30 and I’m lucky if I leave by 5:30. I usually work six days a week. For the first two months, I was working every waking moment. They changed my job responsibilities, so now my schedule has gone from 80 hours a week to about 60, which is an improvement, but that’s still a lot. I barely see my friends and family. I don’t get much writing (or editing) done. I have a panic attack every Sunday, like clockwork, as Monday looms.
The point is this: my life has changed, so now some other things need to change. My time is suddenly very, very precious. I still want to be a professional novelist, as I always have, and my focus needs to be like a laser instead of scattershot to make that happen. Here are the changes I’m implementing:
- Fewer conventions. I used to enjoy going to small conventions where I barely break even on book sales, but now I find them really stressful. If I attend a convention, it needs to be one where I can network and/or benefit my craft.
- More writing retreats. If I’m going away for a weekend, it needs to have purpose. I need to get shit done, especially if I’m taking a day off work. Retreats help me do that. Plus, they’re relaxing AF.
- No more short stories. My focus can only be in one place right now, and that needs to be this novel. I’m going to finish the collaboration I’m currently working on, and then I’m done with short stories until I have a finished novel in my hands. I’ll continue to submit works I’ve already written, but I won’t be writing any new shorts.
- No more editing. I’ll complete Steampunk Universe and then that’s going to be it, maybe forever. If you want to know all the reasons, buy me a drink sometime and I’ll tell you all about why I don’t really want to do it anymore.
- Medication. For ADHD, specifically. Hopefully soon I’ll be less of an anxious wreck and better able to get long projects finished because I won’t get inexplicably bored after writing the outline.
Thus, for a while, at least, I’ll be turning down invitations to conventions (as a panelist) and short story anthologies (that pay less than pro rates). I don’t want to turn them down. It kills me to say No to anything, because some part of me still feels, after 5+ years, that I’m still a beginner in this writing game and I shouldn’t turn down any opportunity. But things have changed for me, and now I have to turn down anything that’s not going to get me from Point A to Point B. I don’t think I’m too fancy for your anthology that pays $50/story or your convention that has 300 attendees. I just can’t afford to take detours from the main route anymore, no matter how much I may want to.
Onwards and upwards in 2017. Here’s to a finished Young Adult Horror novel. I leave you with a picture of my dog, Princess Sophia McSnarfles, aka Tiny Bites, who I adopted in September, and who is pretty much the best dog ever and kept 2016 from being a total shitshow. Thanks for reading this far. In the comments, tell me about your goals for 2017.