Usually, the monthly Virginia Romance Writers meetings take place in Richmond. To get there, I simply hop on interstates 81 and 64, and two hours later, I’ve arrived. It’s fast. It’s familiar. It’s not particularly relaxing.
This past weekend, the VRW meeting happened in Fredericksburg. Let me tell you, there is no direct interstate route between Harrisonburg and Fredericksburg. Oh, I could take interstates, but it’d actually tack time onto the trip. Instead, I dutifully followed Google and traversed the smaller highways, 33 and 20.
It was heavenly. It was stunning. It was an unexpectedly delightful experience, both coming and going.
I had to slow down, literally and figuratively. Literally, because wending your way across the Blue Ridge Mountains on 33 is not for speed demons. Neither is navigating highway 20. And figuratively, because my eyes continually flew to the scenery around me – the lush mountain views, the endless fields full of cows, the charming black and white fences.
As I drove, I said to myself, “On the way home, you must stop and take pictures. This is too gorgeous to forget.”
I arrived at the meeting calm, relaxed…and realizing I need to get off the interstate more often. Literally and figuratively. In life, and in writing.
It’s hard not to get swept up in the expectations. There’s immense pressure to produce as quickly as possible. There’s always an unending list of to-dos, more research to do, more social media to manage, more promo to work on. This could easily be an 80+ hour a week job.
But I don’t have 80+ hours to give it, even if I had the energy (which I don’t). I’m still wife and mom first, with a husband who’d like to see me once in a while and kids who need attention and carpooling and homework help and…and…and… I still have a house to care for, friends to see, a life to have beyond writing (even though I love writing, and much of my social life now regularly includes other writers!).
I keep trying to cram more into less time. Occasionally it works. Often it doesn’t.
Puttering along the serpentine highways this weekend, I thought numerous times, “If I were on the interstate, I’d see none of this. Not that darling old house, not this amazing view, not those undulating hills dotted with farm animals.” Basically, my brain was telling me I needed to stop and smell the flowers. Or at least look at them more often.
And slowly, slowly, over that two hour drive, I realized that not only do I need to do that in my writing life, too, but that it’s okay to do that. It’s okay to say, “I cannot publish something every 30-60-90 days, so I can’t take full advantage of the Amazon algorithms.” It’s okay to say, “I cannot do every social media site and every promo opportunity, so I’m going to have to pick and choose, and take time to learn what I need to learn.” It’s okay to say, “I have 50 bazillion things on my to-do list, but right now I really need to go for a walk, or pet the cats, or watch one (or two or five) episodes of Parenthood.” (Yeah, maybe that last one isn’t quite as okay.)
I need to use my time wisely and not waste it or indulge in too much procrastination. I can’t learn how to do that if I’m always barreling down the road, driving too fast to notice what’s around me.
But my brain constantly chants, “You need to read more / learn Scrivener / watch those YouTube videos on Amazon keywords / network with authors for signings. And maybe, you know, actually write.”
And that’s fine. I do need to do those things. But I need to take the time necessary to do them well, and I need to give myself time to do other things, too. Like breathe.
So here’s to getting off the interstate and seeing where some of those other roads take us, even if the path is slower. Perhaps especially if the path is slower.
Because, as Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.”