The Finish Line

I have an unhealthy relationship with finishing things. The good thing is I’m aware of this. The bad thing is… well… I have an unhealthy relationship with finishing things.

I know, you’re thinking, “How can someone have an unhealthy relationship with finishing things? Isn’t finishing something good?”

Yeah, it’s probably safe to say it usually is. But what if it becomes compulsive? What if you open a box of cookies and somehow finishing the box gives you a weird sense of accomplishment? What if you feel more at peace if you know there are no half-eaten bags of chips in your cupboard? What if it feels like your duty, like it’s the RIGHT thing to empty a bag so that the “task” of eating said chips is done?

Or what if you start a new TV show on Netflix and you can’t stop watching? And, not because you just gotta see what happens next, but because you must complete it so you can check it off your list? You have now watched every single episode of Jane the Virgin. Job well done. Task complete. Time to move on to the next task… but not before you’ve finished what you’ve started.

I finish reading every book I begin. That means if I get ten pages in and it’s dragging and I hate it, I don’t toss it aside and say, “Guess that wasn’t for me!” I keep reading. I finish that book. Even if it’s torture. Even if it’s awful. Finish what you’ve started. You must complete the task.

I always shop for birthday gifts and Christmas gifts early. Is it because I’m just super-duper on top of things? Or could it maybe be because I must complete the task? Finish it. Get it done. Check it off your list. Not finishing is failure.

Finishing = Success.

Story time…

A few years back I was in grad school.

[fade to white, picture me slaving away at my computer]

After getting into every grad school program I applied to (yay me!), I ended up passing on all of them because they all required me moving across the country and uprooting my little family. I ended up finding an online program that I thought could fit my needs, and I applied and got in.

The university was a great university, and I did well—I had a 4.00. I got almost halfway through the program when I realized that sticking it out wasn’t a wise thing for me. I’d been applying for jobs in the field I was getting my master’s in (and my resume was legit!), but I didn’t even get a nibble. What I was missing was job experience in the field, but no one would hire me to get that job experience! If I hadn’t been attending the university online—if it were in person—I could have gotten an internship and then been able to get the “real” job. (The lesson here, kids, is if you don’t already work in the field you’re getting your degree in never do an online master’s program.)

I basically realized that I was throwing my money away, and by this point I’d racked up an extra $17,000 in student loan debt. To finish grad school it would take me an extra $20,000. I knew in my gut what I wanted to do, but the compulsive part of me that NEEDS to finish things was struggling.

I emailed an old professor/mentor and asked her if she wanted to get together for lunch. At lunch she asked me how grad school was going and for the first time I said it out loud—that I didn’t think it was going to lead to anything besides more student loan debt. She listened and then asked, “If you quit, what are you going to do?”

I answered, “I think I’m going to write.”

And my brilliant professor, the best mind I’ve ever known said to me, “Oh, that’s perfect.” And not sarcastically or condescendingly. She knew my writing and when I told her—a person with both an MFA and a PhD—that I was thinking about quitting grad school, she cheered me on.

It was still hard to do, though. I told the other people in my life who I was close to that I was quitting and at first most people didn’t say much. I interpreted the silence as support (I know… foolish). One person who had at first acted like they supported and understood my decision later asked me, “But, couldn’t you just finish?”

Finish. Finish. Finish. You must complete the task. Finish. You must finish what you’ve started.

The person treated me like I was quitting because it had gotten too hard. “Couldn’t you just take less classes?”

Finish.

I had a 4.00. I am actually amazing at all things academic. The queen of essays. I enjoy tests because I’m such a good test taker. Grad school was never hard. It was just fruitless.

I always finish the bag, the show, the book… but what do they cost me? My time? That should be precious enough. With grad school I could watch my student loan debt ballooning and it was easier to see what having to finish everything cost me.

I’m proud I walked away. My only regret is that I went at all. That was an expensive mistake.

But still I know there are people in my life who think my quitting—my not finishing—was a failure. That I am by default a failure. And I internalize this. Sometimes I don’t begin things because I am afraid of the pressure to finish them. Because I know if I start, the nagging in the back of my head won’t stop. I don’t tell people about what I’m doing because I don’t want them to treat me like a failure if quitting is the healthiest/smartest/best route. And I don’t want them asking me about how close I am to the finish line.

Finish. Finish. FINISH.

My voice is loud enough. I don’t need others’ voices added to my own.

I’ve got several books I’ve started writing and I haven’t finished. Every single day the thought of those books gives me anxiety. The task feels insurmountable. So I finish the box of cookies. Or I finish watching New Girl. Or I finish shopping for all the summer birthdays. Or I finish laundry.

I think I need to give myself permission not to finish things and then maybe the things that matter most to me will be easier to complete. I don’t HAVE to finish. I don’t have to finish. I don’t have to finish.

But it sure feels like I do. And it feels like if I don’t it will feel like grad school again. I’ll feel the judgement of others. The gavel will drop and I will be declared a failure by those waiting for me to finish. I’ve disappointed everyone. Again. Even though my choices, my life, and the tasks I complete really impact no one but myself and my spouse.

Wow, this blog post sure has spider-webbed. Anyway… I should probably finish this. Or maybe the better test for me would be to stop mid

Happy Anniversary to Rachel and Me!

Happy book anniversary, Rachel and the Mighty Arm that Built Egypt!

I know a lot of people call this the book “birthday”… but it seems to me it was birthed before it was published, soooooo I’m just gonna go with anniversary. It’s hard to believe a year has passed already, yet it feels a looooong time ago that I released Rachel and the Mighty Arm that Built Egypt. Time is weird.

In honor of RATMATBE’s anniversary I’m running a special free promo for the kindle version of the book. If you haven’t read it yet, now is an excellent opportunity to do so at no cost to you. If you want me to make money on the book you can still buy the paperback, read it on Kindle Unlimited (which won’t cost you any extra if you already pay for the service), or wait for the ebook to go back to regular price on Tuesday.

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I thought I’d have the sequel and the final book of the trilogy out by now, but neither book is complete. Until I’ve kept you waiting as long as you’ve waited for George R. R. Martin I don’t wanna hear you complain. (Okay, you can complain a little.) Lots of life has happened in the last year to slow me down, distract me, and sometimes discourage me. But that’s okay. Slow doesn’t mean never. Distracted doesn’t mean forgotten. Discouraged doesn’t mean given up completely. Because I still personally love the story—and after an entire year the reviews are all good from readers—of course Rachel’s story is still going to be finished.

I’ve been working on other (unfinished) projects, though.

These projects include a couple of non-fiction holiday books (ways to make every day special and add a little more fun to any and all holidays) and a few middle grade books that lean towards fantasy. If I can get all of my “in the works” projects completed I’ll have quite the catalog of work! I’m hoping to find my way back to a steadier writing schedule soon, which leads to more consistent output. Wish me luck and bear with me as it takes me time to complete everything!

I Haven’t Got A Time-Turner, Hermione

“It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled
It’s been a long time since I did the Stroll
Oh let me get it back let me get it back
Let me get it back baby where I come from

It’s been a long time been a long time
Been a long lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time
Yes it has”

-Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin

Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on?

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. Again. Yes, again. Only the last time I said it had been a while it had only been a month since I’d blogged, and this time it’s been five months.

Oops.

I’m not making any promises this time about how I’m going to try hard to blog more regularly. I’ve got a few blog ideas. I’ve got things I could share that would explain my long absence from blogging. Maybe I’ll write those blogs. And maybe I won’t. Like I said, I’m not promising anything.

When I started blogging I did so because I thought that’s what I had to do as a writer. There are just things you have to do as a writer. Like Twitter. Writers have to tweet and blog.

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But do they?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not deleting my blog or my Twitter account. I’m just saying if I’m not doing great keeping up with the blog and when I tweet no one really cares, why am I doing this? Both these things take energy. And isn’t my energy better spent writing another book instead of blogging and tweeting into the wind?

Maybe I can still do all three. I see other [super human] people who do. Lots of those people are parents, too, or have other full-time jobs. They must have 30 hours in a day instead of the regular 24 I’ve been given. Maybe all the time-turners weren’t destroyed, Hermione. I don’t know. Whatever it is—however they do it—they have my respect.

So maybe I’ll blog again soon. Or maybe I’ll see you in 5 months. 

Hoping It’s Really Mine

“You live in a dream; you manufacture illusions.”

-Tennessee Williams

As the days march on from that first one where I clicked “publish” on Kindle Direct Publishing, it feels less and less real. I thought it would be the opposite—the more time that passed since publishing Rachel and the Mighty Arm that Built Egypt, I thought it would feel more real, more concrete, more natural, more like, “Of course I wrote a book. I’m a writer.” But instead I feel more detached, more like it was a fluke, more like it was a mistake, more like it’s not real.

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I just clicked to enlarge the image of my cover on Goodreads. “Wow,” I thought, “that looks like a cool book.” Not my cool book. Just a book someone wrote. Me? Logically I know that I did, but I’m back to feeling that paralyzing fear of failure, that writing books is too big… even though I’ve already done it.

I’ve got partial outlines and an absurd amount of notes on the two sequels I have planned for Rachel and the Mighty Arm that Built Egypt. I’ve also got three partially written non-fiction books that I meant to have finished by October.

That’s not going to happen now.

Forgive me the cliché, but… life has gotten in the way. My health has been awful all summer. With the stall in my writing due to my health, the seed of self-doubt has had time and room to grow again. I’m well practiced in self-doubt, self-sabotage, and low self-esteem. The struggle is not deciding I’m a failure just because I’ve had a setback.

This is me just being real.

I really do love my book, too. And I know I’ve got so many more books in me, but right now I’m feeling stuck. There are so many other stressors in life and there’s my poor health. I want to pretend like all of the world doesn’t exist and wake up feeling well and just write book after book. Unfortunately the stress of life adversely effects my already poor health. So I’m just struggling through each day. Not even opening up a word document to work on my books. Writing a blog post once a month. Hardly posting on any social media. Wondering when/if I’ll finish what I’ve said I would. Feeling like a fake and a failure. Staring at the beautiful cover of my published book. Hoping it’s really mine.

Five Stars and Recommendations

You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy books and that’s kind of the same thing.

-Anonymous

I haven’t posted a blog for a while, and  I’ve been feeling terribly guilty about it, so I figured now was as good a time as any to post. Today I got another five star review on amazon. It fills me with giddy anticipation every time I see someone new has rated my book. I am simultaneously excited and horrifically nauseated as I scroll down to see what my latest reader has to say. Fortunately, so far folks are really enjoying my book. And I have no problem admitting that makes this author feel extremely validated.

5 stars

I know reviews aren’t everything. We all have different tastes in books. Heck, we have different reasons for reading books. Rachel and the Mighty Arm that Built Egypt might not be your ideal. But it thrills me to know that so far folks like it.

My hope is Rachel and the Mighty Arm that Built Egypt becomes that book that maybe not everyone has heard of yet but you recommend to friends and family. Do you have those books? Or is that just me? I try to find those special books that might not have gone supernova mainstream yet and share them with my loved ones who have similar tastes.

Lately I’ve been recommending almost anything by Charlie N. Holmberg. I generally start with The Paper Magician, but most recently I picked up a copy of The Fifth Doll as a gift for a cousin. I think the thing that makes a great book is the writer’s voice, and Charlie’s writer voice is clear and easy to follow. Her stories are fresh and creative as well.

I’ve also gifted and recommended more than one copy of the first of the Island of Fog books by Keith Robinson (and gotten folks hooked on the series, thank you very much). I had the treat to beta read for Keith on two of the books in the series. Such a fun set of books, especially for those of us who love mythical creatures and daring adventures.

For fellow Disney nuts, I wholeheartedly recommend The Disneyland Quest and its sequels. Author Matt Ainsworth knows Disneyland top to bottom and his descriptions make you feel like you’re in the park.

And then there’s The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. I’ve lost count of how many loved ones with whom I’ve shared that delightful book. It’s such a fun fantasy, and I read somewhere it was one of the books which inspired J.K. Rowling to write Harry Potter.

Thank you, readers, for the wonderful, thoughtful reviews and support! And if my book becomes one of those books you share and recommend with the folks most special to you, thank you for that, as well.