Got Zen?

Four months ago, I did a blog post about the new popularity of archery as a sport, particularly in schools.  Today, my 12-year-old son participated in the Texas State Archery tournament. There were some jitters involved with this, and the kid was nervous, too. : )  I’m happy to report that T performed very well, scoring a personal best 262 out of 300 (we’ll find out rankings and how his team did as a whole later). If you can’t tell, I’m one proud Mama!

Zen stones

But the jitters involved in competition brings me back to the post I did last Friday, about Pressure.  We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform, often in clutch situations. I’ve spent the last week thinking about that, and determined I need more Zen in my life. Stress is good for you in some respects, especially as a motivator, but too much isn’t a good thing. So, Zen.

Or, in the words of that great poet, Mr. Lebowski, “The Dude abides.”

This will sound weird, but I often find my Zen in the gym, especially at the end of a hard workout. There’s just something very centering about it. I do my best thinking on the elliptical, too. Sometimes, though, I’ll be in such a hurry that I’ll skip my workout to fill that hour with something else–usually something that will add to my stress, rather than remove it.  That’s also when I notice I’m crabby, easily freaked out and tired. Huh, pushing my body makes me less tired–odd, right?  

Over the next two months, I’m going to try to find my Zen in the gym five times a week. Y’all keep me honest, okay? Then I’ll let you know how I’m feeling in April.

How about you? What’s your Zen activity?

 

Pressure

Happy Friday Rambles, everyone. Today I’m talking about pressure.

Stress. Anxiety.  I have it.

Why, you ask? That’s simple:  The Matt Archer series is doing better than I expected, especially Blade’s Edge, which is getting really strong reviews.

And it’s scaring the hell out of me.

Doesn’t that sound totally counterintuitive? I’m doing well, so I’m stressed out? WTF, Kendra?

Even if it sounds stupid, I get why. I’ve learned enough about the business to be nervous now.  MA1 (Monster Hunter) flew from my fingertips with a ton of joy and the fun of discovery. It was the 4th novel I wrote (the other three will never, ever see the light of day) and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Ignorance is bliss, right?

MA2 (Blade’s Edge) took a lot more work. I’d written a couple manuscripts between it and MA1, so I knew more about my craft and could see the flaws. I’d also gotten used to tough critique and sought out more this time.  The manuscript was torn from my soul with a pair of rusty pliers and bled onto the page like so much junk. Then I worked for months to clean it up—and it turned out better than I thought it might.

Much better.

Now I’m drafting MA3 (Title TBA), and I’m going through the same thing. Scenes I wrote a few years ago show their age. Scenes I wrote last week feel repetitive, derivative and stale.  Deep down I know there’s gold somewhere in the 90k+ words I’ve slapped on the page, but right now I’m worried it won’t measure up.

Here’s the thing…the story in MA3 is so much bigger, and MA4 will be bigger still. Some really epic crap is happening to Matt—and to Will, Mamie, Uncle Mike and Aunt Julie. Everyone is altered in some way by the end.  The question is…can I tell this story in a way so people will care?

The other issue is one of time. Can I write MA3 fast enough to meet the deadlines I’ve set for publishing it? I had a head start with the first two – they were drafted before I started down the road to publication. Now I’m writing against the clock and that adds its own pressure. I don’t want to turn out crap in a hurry, but I also don’t want people to wait a year  or more to find out what happens to Matt next. The benefit of self-publishing is that I can tell the story more quickly, without leaving readers hanging for ages before they get the next installment.  The flip side is that I have to write more quickly. I can’t agonize over a single sentence like a used to.  In some respects, that’s good. I’m getting more efficient.  In others, I’m having to fight for time to write and hope  it will be enough.

But it’s not all “woe is me” all the time—I love putting Matt into the world. I love hearing that people enjoyed the story. And thanks for the support y’all have given me on this journey. I know at some point I’ll pull my head out of its funk and things will be awesome again. I just have to have a moment of self-doubt every once in a while. But I’ll get past it–no one likes a whiner, anyway. :  )  

What gives me hope is a very simple fact from Earth Science in seventh grade:  How do you make a diamond?

Time and pressure.

 So how about you? Is there an endeavor that’s left you a little breathless, wondering if you’ll succeed? Or is there some mantra you think I need to try to get past my own doubts?