Wednesday, October 28

Find the Joy by Cheryl St. John #WordWranglers

I recently read the most recent two of Cheryl St. John's long list of books. I loved them, because...you know, Cheryl St. John. I read something in her bio in one of those books, which, paraphrased, said, I’m only write books I love. It went along with so much of my thinking lately, so I asked her if she'd come and talk to us about how she reached that point. Please make her welcome.

For a several years, one of my goals each year was to Find the Joy. I used it as a blog theme and a social media theme. I wrote it in my planner and encouraged myself to follow through. I was able to find joy in many areas, but the more time passed, the more writing became a struggle. I was writing…but I wasn’t doing it joyfully. Sometimes I’d feel melancholy about my beginnings—those days when I wrote for the pure joy of creating characters and stories, blissfully, blindly ignorant to the errors in my techniques and the elements that didn’t go over well with mainstream fiction.

In the early years I did write what I loved, but the markets narrowed, and it became more and more difficult to earn a living without writing more books per year. In those days many authors completely changed genres, and I admired their flexibility, but I plugged away, eventually contributing to bestselling category lines as well keeping a toe in the genre I enjoyed. I found myself writing to the specifications of marketing studies. ‘Readers like this. Readers don’t like that.’ I’ve worked with wonderful editors and am thankful for every last one of them. I learned a lot and I have always appreciated their faith in me. However, line requirements became so restrictive that I often found myself writing a book that had become nothing like the one I’d imagined.

I know this isn’t a new scenario, nor am I alone. I have a lot of writer friends who’ve had similar—and far worse experiences.

I’ve always had a rule that we practice in my critique group and that I teach in workshops: Don’t ever budge on that one element that excited you about a story in the first place. That spark that inspired you to write the story is what will carry you through the middle and to the end. Not all books are easy, even when you love your subject matter and characters, but books are double-down hard to write when you’ve lost the joy of the story. But when editorial asks you to change something on book #2 or #3 in a contract and you’ve been paid an advance, what do you do? You change it because you’re a professional.

Sometimes being professional sucks the energy from a project. You might know what I’m talking about. But when you have a good thing going, a publisher who likes you and pays you, writing is still better than other jobs because you’re working from home, able to take care of kids or grandkids, don’t have to drive in snow, are able to set your own hours. Writers get paid to think up stuff and drink coffee, right? The perks outweigh the compromises.

Until they don’t.

You’re doing your best, but it either shows in your work or your health or your personal life. I had been under contract for over twenty-five years, usually writing three books a year. Everyone knows a career isn’t your only responsibility. Most of us have spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, church or volunteer work, and a few hobbies we’d like to enjoy sometime. Eventually I realized I needed a break.


By fate or a stroke of luck or God’s timing, whichever your belief, a line closed and I didn’t have an option book. I’d been in that place before and it had felt scary. This time it felt good. Like someone took an 800-pound boulder off my shoulders. And in this timing of events, we also had a new grandchild due.

To my daughter’s immense relief, I told her I’d care for the baby for the first year. I had a few weeks to decompress and prepare, and then the baby came. I had forgotten how exhausting it is to take care of an infant, but it was a good exhaustion, and I enjoyed every minute of it. We nurtured each other, and I’ll always treasure that time. After the baby was a year old, my daughter had a neck surgery, so I cared for both of them at their house every day, so this hiatus stretched into about sixteen months. During that stretch of time, I did eventually miss writing. I got ideas. But I knew I didn’t want to go back to where I’d been before. I wanted to write, but I didn’t want to be under contract to a publisher who had the right to make the calls on the content of my stories. I didn’t want to experience the pressure of deadlines.

And so I made a decision that from then on I would only write books that I love. I vowed to continue my career in a manner at and a pace that I set for myself. So far I’m writing two books a year, and it’s comfortable.

Choosing to make a change was a huge step. Indie authors don’t have the distribution advantages of traditional publishers. They don’t get advances. Indie authors do all the work. But they can choose to do the writing and marketing at a pace that’s comfortable for them. There’s a lot to be said for comfortable.

Every year I buy a new planner ahead of time and prep it for the upcoming year. I have always set career goals, and that hasn’t changed. Ahead of time, I write a message to myself on each week of the planner, and it’s amazing how many times that note is exactly what I need to read. They say things like:

·         I don’t compare myself to others.

·         No one can steal my joy.

·         I embrace the fact that I’m not the same writer I was five-ten-twenty years ago. This one has taken on new meaning for me. I’m not the same writer. I’m a different writer. I’m a writer who only writes books I love.

·         Yesterday’s success is my greatest enemy. I don’t have to keep up with the pace I worked at years ago. Success is how I measure it. Success is what I choose it to be.

 I have writer friends who retired and never looked back or wrote again. Those were difficult choices to make as well. I can’t do that. I have to write, but I’ve chosen to write for my own pleasure. Selling books and knowing readers enjoy them is the icing on the cake. I still work toward finding the joy in every day, but it’s easier to be joyful in my writing. Others might sell more and have more recognition, but I’m okay with that, because once again I’m in it for the pure enjoyment of creating characters and stories.

If you’d like to see my entire list of affirmations, send me an email and I’ll send it to you: SaintJohn@aol.com

***

Cheryl is the author of more than fifty books, both historical and contemporary. Her stories have earned numerous RITA nominations, Romantic Times awards and are published in over a dozen languages. One thing all reviewers and readers agree on regarding Cheryl’s work is the degree of emotion and believability. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real-life situations.”

Amazon and Goodreads reviews show her popularity with readers. With a 4.9 star rating on amazon, Cheryl’s bestselling non-fiction books, Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict and Write Smart, Write Happy by Writers Digest Books are available in print and digital.

Links:

From the Heart Newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/CherylStJohn

Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y6js92y8

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/cheryl-st-john

Like her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/CherylStJ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/cherylstjohn

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_CherylStJohn_

She's a Pinterest junkie! https://www.pinterest.com/cheryl_stjohn/

Aspen Gold newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/k8k2i8

Visit her on the web: http://www.cherylstjohn.net/

Blog: https://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/

She was the girl behind the headlines

Laurel Whitaker has been her name for fifteen years. Anyone hearing her real identity would know who she was, and she’s had enough of cameras, questions and stares. Spencer, Colorado is a great place to remain indistinguishable among the tourists. Unwanted attention comes in the worst possible form—a tough, perceptive, and all too determined lawman.

Sheriff Joe Cavanaugh is accustomed to looking out for people—his large loving family, his teenage daughter, anyone in his county who needs him. But the mistrustful young woman staying in the lake house beside his property goes out of her way to avoid his help, and that’s suspicious. Instinct tells him she’s hiding something…and attraction motivates him to uncover her secrets.

Will Laurel’s truth be his undoing…or hers?

Buy links:

Whisper My Name: https://amzn.to/3hl5a5g

WMN Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/brWz97

 Excerpt:

Whisper My Name – Cheryl St.John

Now, with him looking at her and both of them kneeling before the fire, their nearness seemed awkwardly intimate. But what did she know? She felt awkward about everything, and yet this was the best awkwardness she’d ever experienced. He wasn’t looming over her or threatening in any way. He was one of the kindest, gentlest people she’d ever met, though she knew he was tough and aggressive at his job. That juxtaposition of strength and peace struck a chord and peeled away a papery layer of her fear and distrust.

She looked into his eyes. What did he think of her? The blaze now gave off enough light to highlight his features, the deep bow of his upper lip…the disquieting fullness of the lower one. Her reaction to him terrified her. “What are you thinking?” she asked.

“I was thinking you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. Strong, but feminine. Smart.” His gaze took in her hair, her eyes, her mouth. “You don’t flirt. You look directly at a person. You hold a lot inside, but what you do say is out there. No games.”

“Not the sort of woman you’re used to, I guess.”

“You’re like no one I’ve ever known, that’s for sure. And that’s a good thing.”

She raised her eyebrows. “It is?”

“It is. What were you thinking?”

She rubbed her thumbnail against her jeans. “I was…I was wondering what you were thinking about me. And now I know. Possibly.”

“What were you thinking about me?” he asked.

His steady gaze called her out, so she turned and looked at the fire. “You really think I’m beautiful?”

“I thought it from the first time I saw you.”

“Joe.”

“Yeah.”

A question was burning in her, the issue hotter than the fire. Her heart pounded, and she couldn’t believe she was going to say the words, but she couldn’t not. “Am I someone you would kiss?”

She made herself look at him to gauge his reaction.

His eyes seemed to darken even more, and the firelight reflected in their depths. “Seems like you’re fast becoming the only someone I want to kiss.”


3 comments:

  1. We are so glad you're here today, Cheryl. Thanks for sharing the wisdom.

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  2. I'm so glad you took the time to get the joy back. You are a delightful author and your work brings much joy. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom!

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  3. As a hybrid author I totally understand where you're coming from. Though indie publishing is a lot of work, I love having the control. Thank you for reminding me to look for the joy. Sometimes it's difficult, especially this year, but totally necessary.

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