Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day (and more)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I chose today to blog since this is my favorite holiday of the year. (My daughter also turns 11 tomorrow). Anyway, in my last few years of college, I used to go to the University of Missouri—Rolla, cover myself in green, and celebrate with all my friends who were members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. St. Pat’s was huge when I was there in the 80s.
I have to admit, many a times, I didn’t know my limit and drank way too much green beer. Rolla was a party school, and I could tell you many stories we won’t even get into here. Now I’m older and wiser. But sometimes I still struggle with limits, especially in writing. I may have only a limited time to write. My publisher only has limited spots to place my book. My writing may be limited by my creativity. And worse, I can be limited by my own self-doubts.
But once I began to look at setting limits as positive things, I discovered that by setting beneficial limits, I had more control over who I was and how much I could accomplish. I could remove restrictive limits and replace them with positive ones that helped me reach my goals. I eliminated the limits that held me down, and added limits that protected my creativity.
Just as our characters have limits, authors also have tolerance thresholds. While we analyze our characters and establish their limits, many times we don’t spend enough time contemplating our own. Worried about our careers, we may push ourselves into areas in which we may be uncomfortable just so we get a sale. We may agree to a PR tour we don’t want to do. We may commit to writing faster than we normally do, at the expense of our family and our sanity. We have pushed ourselves beyond our limits, and that can lead to burnout, frustration, and doubt.
Limits you set for yourself should not be limitations. Limits are self-imposed and self-directed, based on doing what is best for you. Just like limiting how much you might spend on promotion, or limiting how much food you eat, limits should be positive choices that yield positive benefits. Knowing your limits can eliminate guilt and self-doubt. Once you choose to create positive limits, you’ll be in control. Limits allow you to set priorities, and say no to those things that aren’t important.
So evaluate whenever you feel something is askew. Ask yourself whether the limit you’ve placed on yourself is harmful or beneficial. If it’s bad, change it to something that benefits you. For example, you may find you get more writing done if you limit the time you spend on line reading blogs or posting on message boards. Or you may find that you need to limit your writing time slightly so you can create an online presence. You may choose to limit the amount of chapter activities you do so that you can spend more time with your family. Setting personal limits that you are comfortable with is healthy. The person you answer to is yourself. You should know where your limit is long before you reach it.So what are the limits you’ve set that are holding you back? How can you get rid of them, and turn them into something positive?


Sally MacKenzie said...

Michele, I've been thinking about this recently as I try to strike some balance in my life between family and writing. Setting limits is one way to gain control of your time. One thing I've done is get a laptop without internet access. When I'm working on the internet computer, I hear all those voices in cyberspace calling to me. I'm lured away from my wip for hours checking email and other fascinating stuff.

Um, I guess I should go work on the laptop and get off this blog, hmm?

Bronwyn Jameson said...

Terrific post, Michele. I so agree in the benefits of setting limits--just like saying "no", it's sometimes necessary to draw the line...and to recognise where and when that line needs drawing.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder said...

Excellent post, Michele!

Setting limits is crucial if a writer wishes to safeguard creativity, remain productive, and stay sane.

I went into my writing career wide-open but quickly learned that not everything in the world of a published author is sunshine and roses.

And being a sensitive soul, I also learned that I needed to set up shields to protect myself from things that might undermine my ability to work well.

That meant deciding early on to keep a low online profile. I stopped peeking at online romance review sites and their message boards, I refrain from looking at reader commentaries on amazon, and I do not google my name or any of my book titles.

Lucky for me, I have an iron self-discipline and am able to do this.

Sure, I might miss seeing some nice things said about me, but, more importantly, I avoid stumbling across something nasty that might not only ruin my mood but thwart my ability to meet my page quota for that day.

And with several simultaneous deadlines going all the time, I cannot afford to let some glaring piece of online negativity plunge me into a black pit.

So these limits work in a positive way for me. And since I am pretty much allergic to trumpet blasting and limelight, I do not mind not having the snazzy online presence many authors do these days.

Readers won't find me on online boards or in chatrooms. And my website does not have a blog or message board. Nor will my alter ego, Allie Mackay's.

My sole self-promotion is my website (and Allie's) and the newsletter I send out to those readers who sign up for it.

And I set limits for my newsletter, too. I do not 'harvest' e-mail addresses. One of my first 'rules' or 'limits' was knowing that I only wanted readers on my mailing list who specifically asked to join it. No one else goes on there. Only those who sign up themselves. I may not have the huge mailing list some do, but I know that every reader on there, wanted to be on there. And that means a lot to me.

One perk in staying off the romance boards and not having a personal blog, is that I have much more time to respond to my mailing list readers.

And I do. These are my most cherished readers and each one of them is special to me as I hope they know. Many have been around since my first book, DEVIL IN A KILT. I treasure these readers tremendously and always respond personally to their e-mails or cards. I doubt I could do that if I were all over the Internet or running a blog. The time just wouldn't be there.

So my limits work well for me. I avoid getting bruised and dented by steering well clear of places I know are dangerous for me and I have more time for my long-time, dedicated readers by not trying to be a dazzling presence online.

Those readers who enjoy my books and want to hear from me will find me. And when they do, I respond warmly and am there for them.

That's more than enough for me.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Alfie said...


I love your positive spin on setting limits. I've always been the type to resist and resent any limit set on me. Maybe my self-discipline would be better if I didn't feel that way. Hmmm. Lots to think about.