The Year of the Mousicorn

I have blogged before about how much I love the fact that Twitter has connected me with so many writers and how we encourage each other through the writing process. {For those who don’t follow me yet, I am @mousicorn} I have been tweeting with some of these folks for a couple of years now, and I have seen many of them get published, or at the very least, finish their work in progress and start to query agents.

Recently, one of those writers {Jamie Handling – @JEHandling} Direct Messaged me asking if I would read and critique her latest work, and as I scrolled up to a previous conversation between us from October 2011, I was shocked by what I had tweeted:

“…I haven’t queried yet, but I am 90% done with my book, so I’m thinking early 2012 I’ll be starting.”

Then later in the conversation:

“…2012 is going to be the year though – I can feel it!”

It is not like it was an unrealistic goal to have set for myself. I really was 90% finished, and I knew what still needed to be added and/or expanded in order to be in great shape to start querying agents. I was so close, I could taste it.

Then my real job turned my entire life upside down.

In October 2011, I was still in the Sales Manager Training Program at JCPenney. I was chomping at the bit to get placed for my first assignment, and was heading into another holiday season. There is no chance of me writing anything during the months of November and December, because every ounce of mental and physical energy is spent on survival. This is not an excuse not to write, it is simply a fact of life in retail. There was a lot of extra effort involved too, since I was still waiting on being promoted and had to be 100% on my game. {Not that I am ever less than 100% on my game, perfectionist Virgo that I am!}

I knew that come January, I would have the chance to take some time off and that is when I get my best work done on my writing. {I know, I know – writers are supposed to write every day, but that doesn’t work for me – I am a binge writer}. That elusive time off did not happen because I was promoted and relocated to another state at the end of January. The first 3 months were a whirlwind of getting used to a new state, new store, new job, and new responsibilities. Each month put more and more onto my plate: The 1st month was the beginning of JCP’s four year transformation and I was responsible for training the team members on all of the changes; the 2nd month I had to administer annual appraisals to half of the store; the 3rd month was annual inventory. I was working long hours and trying to get acclimated to my new life, so there was no time to write.

Summertime is usually slow for retail, so I thought I would have some “me time” to get back to my writing. Then in the 4th month our management staff was literally cut in half company wide. I was thrilled to still have a job, as many of my friends were not so lucky, but I was thrust into a position that combined two positions that were higher up the chain. I used to be one of two Sales Managers with three other managers between me and the Store Manager. Now there was no one. I had to step up in a way that I was not expecting to have to do for a few years. Everyone else who was put in this new position was either in one of those two eliminated positions for a while, or had been a Sales Manager for a while…I had only THREE MONTHS under my belt! I had a lot of work to do and a lot to prove to myself, the higher-ups, and the people I had replaced. I could not let my guard down for a second, lest people would start to question why I had been put in a position that I was not at all qualified for.

In a normal situation, this would be hard enough, but JCP’s transformation added an extra layer of stress to all of us. Every month there was new construction happening, new procedures being introduced, and new technology to not only learn but train everyone how to use. Anytime we thought there was a day that we could take a breath and have the 30 seconds to exhale, something else would crop up! My vacation in May was cancelled due to all the layoffs, and then my vacation in July was cut short due to the Regional VP coming for a visit which could make or break my career. {I nailed it, FYI!}

The rest of July and August was Back-To-School, followed by more construction in September. In October I had to hire people for Holiday, and then all of a sudden it was November again! At this point, I was done putting off my writing for JCP, and I had resolved that I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo {National Novel Writing Month…it happens every November}. I was going to write during my lunch breaks {Correction: I was going to start TAKING a lunch break, and write during that time}. I was going to close my door and put a sign on the outside saying “Do Not Disturb”. The first two days, I stuck to the plan. I was doing NaNo! I was making time for ME! I was putting ME and MY LIFE first instead of my job! It was a great two days!

I came crashing down from writing nirvana after a meeting about the dreaded Black Friday. I had never been in charge of something as big as Black Friday before, and now it was up to me and the other manager to make sure that it went off without a hitch. Because of the transformation, this Black Friday would be much different than any we had experienced before. We literally had no way of knowing what would happen or how to plan for it. It was like planning a vacation without knowing where you are going, how to get there, or what to wear when you arrive.

My stress level had just been turned up to eleven.

From that day, I was all JCP, all the time. I rarely had a day off, and when I did, I was made to feel guilty about it. I was responsible for keeping my Store Manager calm for the two months in which he had historically been referred to as “Holiday Dave”, which was not a good thing. I had never had this level of responsibility in any job I had ever held. Needless to say, I somehow managed to not only hold it together without tears or a major meltdown, but Holiday Dave was kept at bay, which I take full responsibility for.

Obviously, there was no time to write. All year. 2012 had gone by in the blink of an eye and I was no closer to finishing my book than I had been in 2011. How could I have let another whole year go by without doing what I truly want to do? I was SO CLOSE to finishing!!! What the hell????

Well, that is SO not going to happen again. No job is worth killing myself over while ignoring the thing that I am passionate about. I have read through what I have written and made notes about what still needs doing. Now when I sit down to write, I can open the page with those notes and pick which one to work on that day. The final pieces are in bite-size nuggets now, making it less overwhelming. When I read it after being away from it for a year, I was surprised by some of the things I had written that I had forgotten about. It was like reading something someone else had written, and you know what?

It didn’t suck.

I am done putting off till next year what I can do today. I want to be the person on Twitter asking my writing buddies to read and critique MY book! I want to tweet and blog about the process of trying to get it published! I want to get this baby kicked out of the nest so that I can get back to the three book series that was screaming to be written during NaNo! I want to finally finish what I started so that I can move on!

2013 is the year. If it doesn’t happen in 2013, then it probably won’t ever happen. This is my year…The Year of the Mousicorn.



Filed under Writing

5 responses to “The Year of the Mousicorn

  1. Jamie

    You can do it! I know it’s hard but sometimes the writing is the only thing left to relieve the stress. Good luck!

  2. You rock! We know you can do it. After an incredibly stressful 2012, writing will be easy! And any time you decide not to write, we’ll put Jaws’ photo up of her guilt tripping you for cheese so you write. Who can resist her little face? hmmm? And we will be your beta readers once you’ve finished. Good luck!

  3. Just yesterday I said to my husband – I kid you not – 2013 is the year! If it doesn’t happen this year, it may never happen! It, of course, being finishing my book. Reading this post, I had 3 thoughts:
    1) I would never want to be in charge of Black Friday for anyone – you have cojones and spirit!
    2) 2013 IS the year
    3) If not 2013, it’s still going to happen…but it’s going to happen in 2013 because I am going to create some specific goals/steps to make sure it does.

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