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Writing Through Adversity

photo by Jonathan Kos-Read

Today’s guest, Elena Greene [2], is excited to share what she’s learned about writing through adversity—and how the digital publishing revolution has helped. Elena grew up reading her mother’s Georgette Heyer novels, but it wasn’t until she went on an international assignment to the United Kingdom that she was inspired to start writing her own. Her first Regency romance was published in 2000 and was followed by five more Regencies and a novella. Her books have won the Desert Rose Golden Quill and Colorado Romance Writers’ Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, Lady Dearing’s Masquerade, won RT Book Club’s award for Best Regency Romance of 2005. Elena lives in upstate New York with her stroke survivor husband and two daughters.

From her new novel, Fly With a Rogue…

A village schoolmistress’s life takes a turn when a Waterloo veteran turned aeronaut crashes his balloon near her cottage. Passion sweeps them along, taking them on a scandalous flight across the English countryside. They must marry, but can they make a life together?

You can find Elena on Facebook [3], connect with her on Twitter @ElenaGreene7 [4], and read her posts on the Risky Regencies [5] blog.


Writing Through Adversity

The last time I was here, I talked about Making a Comeback in the Digital Age [6]. I talked about how I’d had some modest success writing Regency romances and how my career went on hold in 2009, due to my husband’s unexpected and disabling stroke. By the time of that earlier post, he had progressed enough that on many days, I could find an hour or two for writing and related activities. I had begun to self-publish my backlist and had also returned to work on the Regency historical romance I’d set aside for two years.

The ups and downs of stroke rehab, insurance struggles, and the needs of my two school-aged daughters continued to put demands on my time. Family came first, but I wrote whenever I could. Last month, I was delighted to finally give the protagonists in Fly with a Rogue a happy ending.

Along the way, I learned a lot about writing under difficult circumstances. I hope some of these things can help others dealing with similar challenges.

One thing I had to deal with was limited and unpredictable writing time. I tried taking it out of sleep, but I’m not creative when sleep-deprived and it wreaks havoc on my immune system. Some writers say they can trade sleep for writing, but for those dealing with a sick or injured loved one or similar life challenges, I recommend good self-care.

So I ended up having to accept that I would deal with starts and stops. I also knew that once the story was done, I’d spend extra time going through it to make sure it flowed as a whole.

I didn’t find any magic bullets for writing faster. What I did figure out was how to get out of my own way.

I used to sit down to work and just churn with resentment that I’d missed so many planned writing sessions and despairing that I’d ever finish anything again. Sometimes I felt guilty for taking time for myself. None of that was helping.

fwar [7]I was already practicing Buddhist meditation to help me handle the caregiving stress, so I turned those same techniques toward my writing. The goal was neither to suppress negative feelings (“It doesn’t matter if I can’t write”) nor to attach them to a storyline (“The Universe is telling me I shouldn’t be a writer”). The goal was to acknowledge those feelings (“Yes, it sucks that I can’t write more often”) and then let go (“I’ll write today and let myself enjoy it, because I deserve it”). I’m not saying this was easy. But once I started taking five minutes to meditate prior to writing, my sessions became more peaceful, healing and productive.

Along with my meditation practice, the other thing that helped my comeback was the digital revolution. My backlist books did well, hitting Kindle bestseller lists in their categories and bringing in some much-needed income. Just as importantly, they were giving me a chance to reconnect with readers.

Along the way, I decided I would self-publish this book too. The few industry professionals to whom I’d pitched it had been lukewarm, possibly because it wasn’t on trend for the genre. But it was the story I wanted to write and I knew there were readers who would buy it.

It also helped that I could set my own schedule. When I was traditionally published, I was always conscientious about deadlines, but that would be difficult now. The downside is that with self-publishing, it helps to be prolific. A lot of very successful indie authors write multiple books a year and spend more time than I do on social media and the like.

But life has taught me to take a broad view. I’m happy to be able to write part time, in a way that fits my family’s needs, and to make money doing something I love.

Have you experienced unexpected turns or adversities in life that have affected your writing? What are some ways you’ve adjusted your writing schedule and expectations to meet those challenges?  Are there specific techniques, like meditation, you can recommend that have worked well for you?