Friday, October 10, 2008

Finding Myself Again

Finding Myself Again
by Susan McBride, author of THE DEBS

As I write this, I’m on deadline for Book Three in my YA series for Random House, not even a month after THE DEBS debuted, and I’m gearing up for the Southern Booksellers convention in Mobile, AL, where I’m doing a panel and signing. Oh, and I’m celebrating seven months of wedded bliss (awww!) and thankful to have survived a flooded basement, recent landscaping, a TV appearance (fun!), and interviewing Sandra Brown for the County Library (she’s amazing!). Though I’m not quite on the hectic “travel and promote like a maniac for six months post book release” schedule I put myself through when I was writing my Debutante Dropout Mysteries for Avon, it still feels like there’s always more going on than I ever intended. How does a calendar that starts with such blissfully empty days turn crazy so quickly?

Is it just a woman’s duty to burn the candle at both ends? Are we born with this kind of driven DNA? Because I know my husband—and most of the males in my family, come to think of it—aren’t exactly Type As.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to shake things up, doesn’t it? While on two book deadlines during my breast cancer treatment in late 2006 and early 2007, I tearfully vowed to reprioritize my life. I’d taken on so many duties beyond my writing—like, joining tons of professional organizations, volunteering on boards, judging awards, and speaking at book clubs, libraries, schools, and mystery conventions—that I completely lost sight of myself and my original goals. At the peak of my multi-tasking, I met Ed, now my husband, after being selected one of St. Louis Magazine’s Top Singles, which required attending parties, being “sold” at a charity auction, and assorted other tasks. For awhile, it felt like I was squeezing in time with him between everything else. Not the best way to nourish a growing relationship.

This might sound weird, but I think it took the breast cancer to make me think, “Whoa! Something’s gotta give.” As scary as that period in my life was, it had a truly positive effect. I cut out all the extraneous activities I possibly could. I got off the Internet groups I’d submerged myself in for years. I learned how to say “no.” I put my health and my marriage first, refocused on my writing, and moved everything else off my must-do list.

Let me tell you, none of that was easy. After being so immersed in the mystery community—having made so many friends and acquaintances in that world—it felt more like losing a part of myself than finding myself again. But, little by little, I began to realize how full my real-life was and how much I’d missed feeling like a (fairly) normal human being instead of Stressed-Out Multi-Tasking Barbie. Ed and I established Saturdays as “date” days where I wasn’t even allowed to get on the computer. Instead, we stroll around the Missouri Botanical Gardens, stay over at a nearby B&B, or just hang around the house together. My writing—as opposed to book promotion—has taken center-stage in my career, and incredible projects have come my way.

I won’t say I’m all the way there: at the perfect zen stage where I truly know how to relax and breathe. I still feel like I’m juggling more balls in the air than I should, but I’m slowly learning what “having it all” means. And it ain’t running nonstop like a hamster on a treadmill, that’s fo’ shizzle.

I’d love to hear how y’all find peace in your busy lives! Other than eating chocolate, I mean (I’ve warned Ed that cookies are my Xanax). Oh, and thank you, Stiletto Gang ladies, for having me!

Susan McBride's YA series debut with Random House, THE DEBS, features four prep school seniors in Houston clawing their way through their debutante season. A Fall 2008 Kid’s Indie Next Pick, THE DEBS has been called "GOSSIP GIRL on mint juleps." The second DEBS book, LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS, will be out in June of 2009, and Susan's busy writing the third. Susan has also penned five Debutante Dropout Mysteries for Avon, including TOO PRETTY TO DIE and BLUE BLOOD. She’s recently signed with HarperCollins to write a trade paperback women’s beach book called THE COUGAR CLUB, about three forty-something women who date younger men. Visit her web site at http://SusanMcBride.com for more scoop.

13 comments:

  1. Susan,

    Having met you at a couple of cons, it's great to hear that you are well and happy!

    I sooo agree with all you said about being too busy to live. I, too, joined a bunch of Internet groups and traveled quite a lot to promote both my series. My family time practically disappeared, not to mention writing time. Like you, I decided to cut back on groups where I wasn't able to give or receive like I should. Also cut back on the long travels. Life is a lot less stressful.

    Good luck with your recent releases. Hugs, Lonnie Cruse

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  2. Susan: It is our pleasure to have you blogging with us today. What a beautiful post. It got me thinking about what I do to stay sane...although I'd like to say it's a daily walk by the river, it's really a thrice- or twice-weekly walk by the river. It's sitting quietly next to my 9 year old while he does his homework or my teenage daughter (who is loving "The Debs"!) while she reads. It's the "date night" with husband. It's all those things that I, too, took for granted or didn't do but am now trying to integrate, post-cancer. (Yep...me, too.) It's nice that we can look back on these trying experiences and find the positive. Because it's in there, if you know where to look. :-) Maggie

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  3. Hi, Lonnie and Maggie! I'm so glad to hear y'all have ways you've cut out stress in your lives and keep yourselves sane (okay, as sane as we writers can be!). I'm still working on letting things go (um, like not checking Amazon numbers or Googling my name!); as I've found that when I do stop thinking I can control everything, good things seem to find me. Like Maggie, asking if I'd guest blog here for example. ;-) Hi to all the Stiletto Gang ladies, and thanks so much for having me!

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  4. Susan: I have three goals for the new year/the new book: not checking Amazon numbers; not googling my name; not reading reviews (hey, it's worked for Philip Roth). So funny that you're doing the same thing. We are kindred spirits. Maggie

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  5. Maggie, I'm going to add "don't read reviews" to my list, too. Honestly, it's not like we can do anything about reviews, good or bad, any more than we can make our Amazon numbers go down by staring at them. Maybe we should start a support group for fellow authors who need to simplify their lives. Only, wait, neither of us could run it, because that would be stressful. Hmmmm. ;-)

    Your kindred spirit,
    Susan

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  6. P.S. Is that a widget above my guest blog with flying hearts and book covers? I love it! Can I steal it somehow? It's so cool!

    Cheers,
    Susan

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  7. Hi Susan,

    Thanks so much for guest blogging at the Stiletto Gang. Glad you liked the slide show of your book covers. We use Photobucket.com for our slides. It's free and generates the code to use on websites, MySpace, and blogs.

    Rhonda
    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

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  8. You're delightfully together, Susan! I'm so sorry it came to you in such a hard way. My husband's testicular cancer a few years ago re-prioritized out lives. But we've gotten a little crazy again since I published my first novel. I'm looking for some sanity as number two comes out this winter--your blog gives me hope! You'll notice I'm online, though, late on a Saturday night... ;)

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  9. Rhonda, thanks for the scoop on the slideshow! You're so technically savvy...I'm impressed!

    Laura, I feel a little more together all the time (still working on a few things though!). Amazing how cancer smacks you upside the head and makes you re-think how you're living, huh? Hope your husband's health is great these days (and stays that way!). Good luck with your second book! I love ISABELLA MOON's cover...and your web site rocks. Much success with everything!

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  10. I've been out of town so couldn't comment, but I did miss seeing you at Mayhem in the Midlands. Because I knew you'd gotten married, figured wedded bliss was taking up all your time.

    I'm so glad to hear that you're over your cancer scare and that you're enjoying your husband.

    I've had mine around for 57 years now and wouldn't trade him for anything.

    Marilyn

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  11. Hi Susan,
    I was at Bouchercon so am just catching up with The Stiletto Gang. Your blog is thoughtful and beautifully written. Thanks for sharing your insights into prioritizing our lives -- and for sharing the good news about your marriage! Mazel Tov!

    Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David

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  12. You are a busy girl, but prioritizing is key. We recently relocated to Texas [from California] just so we could re-prioritize our life with our 5 kids, so that I could stop teaching and write full time, and so that we could tame the chaos. It worked..for a month. Now we're in full swing of school and extra curricular activities, I'm on two committees at the elementary school, am volunteering in my daughter's classroom... But I'm writing more and feel balanced and life is good and that's what's important!

    Can't wait to read The Debs, Susan. It looks like a lot of fun. =)

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  13. Misa, I'm so glad you have more time to write, despite how busy you are! I think it's really easy to neglect ourselves--and what we need--when we're taking care of our families. So kudos to you for finding a balance! Enjoy your move back to Texas (my old stomping grounds...er, stompin' state?).

    Cheers,
    Susan

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