In 2019, I published the third book of my award-winning psychological thriller/mystery series, Secrets of Redemption, and got to work on something new.
Which never came together properly.
I struggled with it and struggled with it, throughout the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.
Then, Covid came to town, the lockdowns started and the world changed.
My first thought when it all started was probably similar to many of yours. “Oh, that’s fine. It will give me time to get super productive.”
Yeah. Didn’t happen. And I got even further behind with my book.
Then, in April, there was a shift.
It began with a post I read in one of my author groups. It was from an author celebrating his completion of a book. Pretty routine stuff.
But, what was funny about this post was that the book he completed wasn’t the book he set out to write. He was procrastinating writing his initial book, and instead, wrote this other one.
That got me thinking. Was that what was going on with me?
The second thing that happened is I ended up injuring my eye and having to go to the eye doctor. (Long story, but everything is fine.) I couldn’t work for a couple of days. I couldn’t do anything, really - no watching TV, no reading (my eye was too sensitive to the light).
It was so easy and effortless. I knew exactly what needed to happen.
So, once my eye healed, I switched gears and got to work.
Roughly six months later, I published both books.
Great, right? But the story doesn’t end here.
You see, I never planned to write The Reckoning.
That isn’t to say the story wouldn’t have been told - it definitely would have. But it SHOULD have been wrapped up in one book, not two.
However, the moment story downloaded into me, I knew it was way too complex to be contained into a single book. In order to do it justice, I needed time and space.
Which meant The Summoning was destined to be a cliffhanger. There was no other option.
Which ALSO meant I HAD to finish The Reckoning as quickly as possible. I didn’t want a big gap between the two books, because I know how excruciating it can be as a devoted reader to have to wait too long for a story.
So, the moment I typed “The End” in The Summoning, I immediately started The Reckoning.
Now, I do realize this isn’t all that unusual for a lot of authors. They finish one book, and the next day, they’re starting on the next.
That’s not the case for me. I usually take a break between books. I need a little time to unwind myself from one story and begin living in the next.
The Reckoning was different. I didn’t have that luxury, as I was racing against the clock. And even as a continuation of The Summoning, it is also a very different book.
Without revealing any spoilers, I never thought I would take my characters on this journey.
And I was nervous. (Well, all authors are, really. It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve written and published, you’re still terrified to release the next one. In many ways, you’re only as good as your last novel. Which is not to say you have permission to stop writing. But it does mean that the fear never goes away.)
I was plagued with questions. Would readers like it? Would they find it satisfying?
They buzzed around my head constantly as I wrote, and really, the only thing that kept me going was that ticking deadline.
If I was going to publish The Summoning (which is getting rave reviews right now), I had to publish The Reckoning. I had to finish it.
All or nothing.
In a lot of ways, that deadline was a blessing. It kept me writing, regardless of the fear. Without it, I may have allowed the fear to keep me second guessing. I may even have allowed it to stop me.
And The Reckoning would never have made it into the world.
I feel like these two books are the best books I’ve ever written. But, as always, it doesn’t really matter what I think.
All that matters is what you, the reader, think.
Now, let’s talk about you.
If you’ve been struggling to sit down and write (especially during the very strange year that was 2020) I have two takeaways.
1. Get off the Internet.
I know, I know. The pandemic has pushed all of us where the Internet is now our life. We shop, work, socialize, exercise, entertain ourselves, etc. online. Even our children are educated online.
(Spoiler alert: This isn’t natural. We’re not robots, we’re human beings. We’re not supposed to live online.)
In retrospect, getting the eye infection was a blessing. It forced me offline, which is when the ideas started to flow.
This isn’t an exception. In December, I took another Internet break and BOOM, my next novel idea downloaded into me.
I’ve begun writing it and it’s coming together quite nicely.
Because of this, I’ve started to think that the Internet squelches our creativity. Make a point of taking time every day to put the phone down and just be. Give your muse a chance to talk to you without all the online noise blocking her voice.
It’s life changing.
2. Make friends with your fear.
Where there’s creation, there’s fear. That’s just the way it is.
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how when she starts a project, she knows fear is going to come along, so she invites it. BUT she doesn’t allow it to make any decisions or dictate any action.
That’s the relationship you need to cultivate with fear.
While I think every creator knows this on some level, again 2020 brought it into stark realization.
After all, 2020 was soaked in fear.
It was everywhere.
But, if you’re drowning in fear, it’s difficult to live. Fear cuts off the parts of our brain where we can make good choices and be creative. If we want to write, we have to not allow fear to have the upper hand.
Now, to be clear, this isn’t to discount the events that happened in 2020. There absolutely was plenty of terrible things going on and being afraid is a completely normal response.
Eventually, however, in order to move forward with your life, there needs to come a time where you are in control and your fear is not.
Remember, fear sparks the fight, flight or freeze syndrome. In crucial moments, those reactions can save your life. Long term, however, they can do a lot of damage. Learning to feel your fear without letting it control you is crucial for a healthy, productive life.
It’s not easy to do this, but it’s necessary.
One way to help you do this is to use the power of the deadline. That’s what I did. Having that ticking clock in the back of my head meant I couldn’t overthink things and couldn’t allow fear to overcome me.
Maybe a deadline would work for you, too, or maybe there’s a different strategy.
Regardless, do whatever you can to not allow fear to take over your life. You’ll be more productive and happier.
If you want more help wrestling your fear into submission, my Love-Based Money and Mindset book is full of more exercises and tips to help.