because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

When Writers Meltdown

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Not too long ago, I lost it.

I mean, I totally lost it.

Clay Morgan of Educlaytion posted a piece “3 Keys to Managing Your Life,” in which he wrote about how he works to achieve balance between his professional aspirations, his need for family time and sanity time, and how he squeezes works writing into his days.

And I felt my lip start to tremble because I had really been struggling with my juggling act. Balls and plates had been falling for days.

Clay instructed:

Get with someone who will both push and understand you, a big-hearted person with a pom-pom in one hand and metal ruler in the other.

I read his words and I went a little bit whacky-jacks. Because, sometimes, I don’t feel very supported. Sometimes, I feel like I am lost in The Sahara, caught in a sandstorm without a guide, alone with this writing thing. Here I am, working on a blog (alone) and a manuscript (alone) and a query letter (alone).

And I thought: Who do I have? Who’s my support person?

I posted a full blown vent, a rant – really – that ended with me wondering if I should just put down my pen and stop writing.

I said I felt like I was wandering around in the desert and that I was floundering.

Lord, I wrote, a little sign would be nice.

I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic.

In grad school, I did a little stint as a back-up singer and — later — as a dancer on a hydraulic lift. In college, I was in some obscure shows. In high school, I had speaking roles in Mame and Hello Dolly! In middle school, I had a bit part in Cheaper By the Dozen. One August, at summer camp, I landed the lead role as Peter Pan after I sang “Happy Birthday To You” to the Drama Director. Another summer, I sang a bunch of cabaret songs including “I’ve got Steam Heat.” I was in plenty of plays in middle and high school. If you you want to go back to elementary school, I was Flower #6, Bird #3, and eventually I worked my way up to Glinda from The Wizard of Oz.

Why am I giving you my acting resume?

I don’t know?

Where was I going?

Oh yes, to Best Buy.

The day I posted that horrible post, I needed to find a new camera because Monkey was taking my old almost totally non-functional one to summer camp. Buying a little camera should have been a job done in under 30 minutes. And it should be noted, the people at Best Buy tried to help me decide between the Canon and the Nikon; I just kept crying.

It was one helluva performance.

Except it wasn’t a performance.

It. Was. Ridiculous.

Later that same day, Leanne Shirtliffe a.k.a Ironic Mom alerted me that my comment had brought a lot of support at Clay’s place. So I went back to peek. And then I really started weeping.

Because I had asked for a sign, and all day I had been receiving cosmic signs.

I just didn’t know.

One sign from the universe came in from Kelly K at Dances With Chaos when she showed up with a post at Red Dress Society about that terrible inner voice that tells you that you are not good enough to be a writer. And I started wondering, “Did she just whip that off for me?”

And Carl D’Agostino just so happened to call me that night. And Leanne emailed and offered to Skype. And Chase McFadden emailed. And Eric Rumsey from I Swear We’re Not Crazy sent me one of those little invisible awards where he said, “Without Renée, I wouldn’t be blogging.” And TamaraOutLoud said something similar. And a new friend, Clay Watkins, from Making The Days Count told me he was inspired by a few of my posts to write two of his own: this and this. And then I saw Kathy English had run a post on Mom Crusades inspired by something I had written, and I figured, well, sheesh, if this many people are digging my stuff, I have to be doing something right. Right? And then Jeff Goins showed up with a manifesto which offered me some major piece of mind.

That day could best be summed up in a scene from “A Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Only I was playing Sissy Spacek playing Loretta Lynn in the scene when Loretta is on tour, running around everywhere, trying to be everything to everyone. And there is a part where Ms. Loretta Lynn kind of looks blankly out at the lights and calls for her husband: “Doo…” she says, “Doo… Things is happenin’ way too fast…” and then she collapses right there on the stage in her fancy blue dress.

That’s how I felt that day.

Only I looked out and I didn’t see any Doo. (Okay, I know that doesn’t sound right, but you know what I mean.)

I read Clay’s blog and realized I have been so focused on writing writing writing that I have lost my balance. I have been on red-alert, code-red, mayday-mayday, “we’re-going-down-with-the ship” mode. Which is not like me. I’m the cheerleader. I’m the happy one. I’m the shimmy and shine girl.

Except on that day.

That day I was an old piece of crap computer that had gone into severe meltdown mode.

And I really appreciated everyone’s kind words because they did help me to feel less alone.

I had asked for a sign, and my Blogosphere Inner Sanctum delivered. I was blessed to have:

8 cyber-friends on one blog offering support

4 different cyber-friends contacted me via email

1 phone call from Florida

1 phone call from Calgary

3 private messages on Facebook

A heckuva lot of tweets

And I would be remiss if I did not mention:

1 best friend in real life reminding me to breathe

1 Monkey who made me a homemade ICEE and let me use the rest of the blue-raspberry syrup, which everyone knows is the best flavor

1 Hubby who brought home an extra large pizza for dinner that night.

That day I learned there is a voice that a lot of us writers have that sometimes is still and sometimes cannot seem to be silenced. It’s a critical voice that whispers in our ears. It’s the voice of judgment and self-doubt. It’s the voice that makes us consider giving up.

But we won’t.

We can’t.

Writing is the closest thing I come to having an addiction.

I can’t not do it. And, as Monkey pointed out, “Even if you stopped blogging or stopped working on your book, you’d still keep scribbling in journals, so why not just keep the blog since you have met so many nice friends there?” (Monkey was careful to emphasize “friends” with air quotes.)

Since that day, I’ve had time to reboot myself. Resurrect myself.

Let me introduce you to the new and slightly improved rasjacobson 2.0.

I now come with state-of-the art anti-virus software that can better detect struggling-juggling and critical inner voices.

So the next time that voice starts tapping at my noggin, I will try to smoke it out. I know now how well-supported I am. Kelly K. was kind enough to let me borrow her duct tape so I can hog-tie The Terrible Voice and bury its dark, invisible carcass once and for all.

That’s one murder I wouldn’t fret about.

And I guess if a person is going to meltdown — at least — summer is the right time.

What do you do when you feel yourself melting down?

Posts That Shimmy & Shake: Abby Has Issues, Paul Waters & Kristen Lamb

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This is the fun part of the show where I get to tell you about some great reads that you might have missed this week. As usual, I try to get one from the chicks and one from the dudes. This week, I even have one from “The Queen.”

From The Ladies: Abby Has Issues is a hilarious blog by Abby Heugel. This week she wrote a piece called My Marriage Proposal that had me considering the concept of a Sister Wife. I decided I really wanted Abby to move in with me – and my husband. Why? Because Abby has decided she would like to be a Consolation Prize Wife, which is not to be confused with a Trophy Wife. Abby’s totally cool with being a consolation prize, and she gives a lot of convincing reasons why you should be too. Let’s just say, she had me at Swiffer Wet Jet.

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From the Dudes: Paul Waters has a very funny post for all you little history buffs in the house. Or for folks who like naughty words that aren’t supposed to be naughty but they totally are. Poor Bastards. His piece is called “Are You SURE You Want To Take His Name When You Get Married?” I can’t say more without ruining the funny. Paul is one of the very first people I met when I landed here in the Blogosphere, and I have been enjoying his writing for a year now. It’s time to stop hogging him to myself. Read more of Paul’s stuff at Blackwatertown.

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From The Queen: If you haven’t yet been introduced to Kristen Lamb’s fabulous blog Warrior Writers, today is your lucky day! Thank goodness for premature button pushing! This week Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  accidentally released one of her dazzlingly gorgeous pieces of brilliance a little earlier than expected. Let’s just say, the unexpected bundle of joy entitled, “Sacred Cow-Tipping: Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad”  was received with much head-nodding and agreement that her spawn is, indeed, breathtaking. KL’s post explains why writers should not create blogs that are exclusively dedicated to writing about writing.

I am so glad I did not make the mistake about writing about writing. But I almost did. A teacher for 20 years, when I decided to start blogging, I figured I’d write about writing. My son (age 10 at the time) rolled his eyes and said, “Mom, that’s so boring. You don’t have to always be the teacher. You can also be the dumb one.” And he was right. I have so many stories where I am the Chief Twit-in-Residence, so instead of always having to be Mrs. Smarty-Pants, I can also be the wisenheimer. So instead of being locked in to talking about commas and semi-colons, I left room for options. Which is one of Kristen’s points. They don’t call her “The Queen” for nothing. (Well, they don’t. But I do.)

Before you check out these amazing writers, can you explain what’s up with that cat?

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