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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Standing In Your Truth: Guest Post by Donna Alward

When Donna Alward contacted me about giving a presentation to the Romance Writers of America Professional Author’s Network about writer’s burnout and the brain, she mentioned her own experience with burnout. She shares her courageous acknowledgement and insights in this rewrite of a post originally published on her blog. Donna is the author of over 50 novels and co-author with Nancy Cassidy of a book of particular interest to writers,Joy Your Way to a Bestseller.

I started standing in my truth in 2017. And the truth was that doing the same thing and hoping for different results wasn’t working. There’s being persistent and not giving up, and then there’s holding on too tight and not facing reality.

Part of my writing slump in 2017 was the market; romance authors were feeling the crunch all over. But a big part was not honoring promises to myself about daily habits and not delivering on deadline promises to my publisher.

My income dropped significantly. In September, I learned that my contract with my publisher wasn’t being renewed. Considering that a new contract would have meant three books with half on signing, my 4th quarter looked bleak.

In November, I took the office as the Professional Author’s Network Advisor to the RWA Board of Directors and attended my first board meeting in Denver. The combination of getting away from my daily life, the sheer volume of new information, and the wisdom of my fellow board members about what it means to be a romance author right now, gave me clarity.

I needed to stop promising myself things would be better next week, next month, next quarter. I had to stop thinking about “when xx happens” and deal with the here and now. I posted this meme on my FB profile to remind myself how life-altering acceptance can be.

I needed to do things differently to look after my family. Things weren’t going to get better next month. They were going to be more of the same – if I was lucky.

Two things stood out clearly.

One, I needed to take responsibility for the downturn in my career. I had to accept that previous burnout and the recovery from it, along with a serious bout of depression, had taken a significant toll on my productivity. I didn’t need to blame myself, but I did need to accept that my inability to meet my obligations led to the current situation.

Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden highlights the importance of delivering on promises. Before 2014 I was an author who delivered on time. I was reliable. When burnout hit, I wasn’t. I need to be that author again.

Second, I had to accept that I can no longer make a living on writing alone. I asked myself why I should be different from the majority of authors have day jobs. Being able to write full time for the past 15 years had been a privilege. That privilege was gone. My editing gigs were inconsistent and payment wasn’t always on time. My family needed me to earn a regular paycheck – even a small one –instead of waiting for quarterly royalties that seem to shrink each quarter.

So I got a part-time retail job in December. It’s expanded now to 20-30 hours a week. Paychecks come in every 2 weeks to ease the day-to-day financial strain.

Even better, I found unexpected benefits. I signed a new contract and DELIVERED ON TIME. I have a new contract in the pipeline and I’m ENJOYING writing again. I enjoy my day job where I sell chocolate and books to generally happy people.

Working from home is great, but there’s something to be said about leaving the house, having social interaction and physical activity (moving stock). I no longer lie awake at night wondering how to juggle money to keep the lights on. That buffer of regular pay has been A-MAZ-ING.

I had to go through a period of reinvention and I feel more in control, less stressed, and happier than I have in years.

My goal is to keep moving forward with intention in everything I do. To stop being reactive and instead take each step deliberately – in my career and in my life in general. To keep standing in my truth.

Sometimes we hang on too tight. Don’t be afraid to make changes.

A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom, chocolate peddler and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west.

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2 Comments on “Standing In Your Truth: Guest Post by Donna Alward”

  1. donnaalward July 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm #

    Writing can be so solitary – I think we need to talk about the difficulties we experience so we don’t feel so alone. The big lessons I learned was to give myself time to recover and to deal with what I need to deal with IN THIS MOMENT. It has helped immensely. 🙂


  2. Catherine Brennan July 2, 2018 at 11:43 am #

    Wow Donna! You give a sister writer, and someone else who has struggled w/ depression(me), a clear-eyed, hopeful view of forging ahead. Thank you!


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