Rediscovering My Essence

Those of you who follow me on social media are probably used to seeing the hashtag #FindYourEssence following my posts. A few of my friends and I came up with this idea a few months ago to represent one of the themes of my debut novel Essence as well as the different ways we all seek to find meaning and purpose in our lives.

The idea of #FindYourEssence is that no two people are exactly the same. Therefore, the ways we connect with our spirit are very different as well. Some of us refuel our Essences by taking refuge in nature, while others seek companionship with our friends and family. We can find happiness at music festivals, on fishing boats, in the middle of crowded malls or snuggled up by our fireplaces with cups of tea. 

We can refuel our Essences anywhere; we just need to open our eyes to appreciate the beauty that is already all around us.

Easy for me to say, anyway. I have been seeking to capture photographs and document #FindYourEssence moments for weeks now, but I have only just begun to realize that I have been viewing this pursuit all wrong. I have been uploading #FindYourEssence moments because I wanted to show them to you, not because I wanted to actually experience them myself. 

("Wanted" is the wrong word to use there, because obviously I wanted to experience those #FindYourEssence moments. I just wouldn't let myself, because I was too worried about finding and posting interesting content to linger over them for too long.)

Social media's a b**ch sometimes, isn't she? 

There isn't a single writer I know who became a writer because he or she wanted to spend his or her days whittling away on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+, Tumblr or the Vine. We became writers because we wanted to write books, but the reality of this ever-crowded marketplace is that "just writing books" is no longer good enough. Now we must have a "platform," and we must invest countless hours of our lives into the social media machine. 

The problem is, everybody else is investing countless hours of their lives into it as well, so at the end of the day, we all end up exhausted and hoarse, and we have no idea if anyone has actually heard what we were trying to say or not.

The worst part about this investment? There are always more things we could be doing with social media, and there are always other people who are doing this better than we are.

I was at a writers conference recently, and I spent the bulk of my time attending marketing and social media workshops. When I wasn't in the middle of these sessions, I was usually sitting on a bench somewhere, frantically uploading my photographs to my pages. 

I met several new friends during the course of the conference, and one of our big jokes was the "Manage Your Social Media Platform in Thirty Minutes a Day" workshop we all attended. After listening to the presenter rattle off facts and ideas and lessons for what felt like forever, my friend Jamie Raintree finally raised her hand and tentatively asked, "Do you mind telling us exactly how we are supposed to fit all this stuff into thirty minutes a day?" The presenter couldn't give us a straight answer.

This was my second time attending this particular conference, and part of me longed for the first time around when I attended the craft classes about voice and pacing and structure instead. I had NO IDEA what was waiting for me on the other side of the publishing rainbow. 

Let me take a moment to make something clear: I am not ungrateful for the opportunities I have been presented as a published author, nor do I regret taking that fateful step that transformed me from an aspiring writer into a writer. The past year and a half since my debut novel was purchased by Strange Chemistry Books has been the culmination of a dream, and I wouldn't change it for anything. 

I would, however, make it a higher priority to maintain some balance in my life.

Like most new authors I know, I work a full-time day job in addition to writing. It's a pretty intense one, and during certain times of the year, I work well more than 40 hours a week. That means all things writing must be squeezed in whenever they can fit, and that's not always an easy proposition. Throw in the fact that I recently moved across the country and started my life over after more than eight years of living out West, and it's often an impossible proposition.

I have bills to pay, family and friends to make a priority, a wonderful new relationship that requires a foundation... I have meetings and pets and illnesses and setbacks. I have all of these things I'm responsible for nowadays, and I'm afraid I have begun to group my writing into "things I'm afraid to fail at," not "things that make me come alive."

Truth bomb: I haven't written a new word in months. I have been so consumed with my day job, my financial stresses and marketing Essence that I haven't even looked at my new manuscript since the summer. I figured I only had time for one thing--writing or marketing--and I better not just leave my debut novel out there in the cold like an orphan.

But, you know, my obsession with social media hasn't helped me much, anyway. I have begun simply "spinning out"--checking one social media page, then the next, then the next, then the next, until it's time to start over and recheck the first one. I have begun browsing instead of reading, liking instead of commenting... My head has become a twitchy, endless wheel of stress and time-wasting, and I think it's finally time for me to say enough is enough.

I have a new manuscript waiting in the wings. It's exciting, and I know it has the potential to be the finest thing I have ever written. I want to write it. More importantly, I want to WANT to write it, and I want to quiet the clutter in my brain so I can finally listen to what this story--and my life--is trying to tell me.

I want to continue marketing Essence (because that book means the entire world to me), but I want to take a step back and concentrate on working smart instead of working hard. I also want to make an effort to actually experience those #FindYourEssence moments I have been working so diligently to share with you. 

II want to stop slave-driving myself and worrying I'm going to fail myself or others. I want to stop comparing myself to other authors, and I want to start making my mental and physical health a priority again.

I want to be balanced. I want to be prolific.

I want to rediscover my Essence.