Last month I had the opportunity, along with my friend (and amazing author!) Amber Smith to visit a classroom at UNC Chapel Hill to talk to high school students who were attending writing camp. It was last minute and casual – the young woman who was running the workshop had seen we would be in the area for a book signing and asked if we could stop by to chat about that week’s topic - revision. We both agreed it sounded fun, so we rearranged our travel plans to accommodate the visit. We arrived on campus and after stopping two different sets of people to help us find the building where the workshop was being held, arrived sweaty, apologetic and…stunned.
In my head I envisioned a small, stuffy classroom, maybe ten or so desks in a circle. Amber and I exchanged a quick glance that made me realize that she must have had a similar vision.
The classroom had stadium seating.
Air conditioning. (Yassss!!)
And about thirty kids. Maybe more.
Confession: My first thought as we walked down the steep staircase to the front of the classroom was I’m going to need a drink after this. (okay, third thought after don’t trip and wow I feel unprepared) I know, mature, role model thinking. Our faces, along with our book covers, had been projected onto a screen above the classroom. I realized how much I did not look like my author picture at that moment, as the sweat from scurrying across campus in the ninety- degree- plus heat, trickled from my temples. We sat at a small desk in front, and then, well, winged it.
My turn to speak came and I froze a bit. The last time I’d projected my voice was when I played Shelby in a community theater production of Steel Magnolias, so I was a bit rusty. I spoke about how I became a writer, and at one point my mouth and brain seemed to be working on two different tracks. Words came out of my mouth in hopefully coherent sentences but my brain was taking in this room full of teenagers, our target audience, and realizing we were losing them. We figured out pretty quickly if we didn't do something, it would be a snorefest, so we started asking them questions. And then they asked us questions. Good, thoughtful questions. We weren’t just lecturing but exchanging information about the writing process and publishing and how to create characters. There was laughter. We were conversing. Time flew and suddenly the camp day ended.
When I walked into that classroom I’d been worried about how we were going to fill the time, by the end I wondered Where had the time gone?
I felt energized. Giddy. And I couldn’t wait to get back to my computer to write.
Being on the internet has rarely, if ever, made me feel like that.
More often than not, I end up feeling like this:
So…you get where this is going, right?
I’m taking a social media break for the rest of the summer.
Let's try this...
I know – in the grand scheme of things, who cares, right? I think I’m writing this post more for me – to hold myself accountable. I’m always wary when the latest celebrity goes on a talk show to announce they are ducking out of the spotlight for a while.
Seriously, just duck out – who cares, we will KNOW when you get back!
Now maybe I understand it a little.
Just to be clear – I know I’m not a celebrity. Not even a little bit, but part of being an Author™ though, is being accessible. It’s sharing what’s in your heart and mind with readers and colleagues. It’s being equal parts excited and terrified when you see someone is reading your book. It's keeping up with industry gossip. It’s being happy when you see a friend sharing an incredible bit of news or success. It’s dodging trolls, and not losing your shit when you’re tagged in an unfavorable review. It’s promoting your work without looking like you’re promoting it. And lately, for me, it’s been mentally exhausting.
I’ve been promoting my new book, The Season of You & Me for the past three months – online and in person. I’ve loved it, because I have mad love for this book and the characters. It’s always fun for me to meet readers, bloggers and booksellers, and hang out with other author pals but -- my brain is zapped. Fried. So much so, that I’m having trouble tuning into that magical voice in my head that helps me get words down on the page. My muse has gone missing.
That scares, no, wait - TERRIFIES me.
I need to cultivate the positive feeling I had after that classroom visit. To rekindle the desire to create. To discover characters and not be afraid to put them into situations that may suck for a while. I need to be a writer, not an Author™ until I find my creative sea legs again. I’m already going through withdrawal, already reconciling the overwhelming FOMO. I hope you understand. I need this. My mind and heart need this. See you on the other side of the summer. Peace.