A strange thing happened to me a year after I retired from my teaching career and transitioned to a full-time writing career—at some unknown point I seemed to lose my ability to make decisions. This was brought home to me when I realized it had taken me two weeks to make my annual appointment with my dermatologist, a decision that I would have had no problem making on a 35-minute lunch hour or the 4-minute pass-to-class time when I had been teaching.
Having successfully transitioned to the full-time successful writing career for which I had so longed to have more time, I found that during the transition, I had left something behind. My so-called ‘courage’. That indefinable gutsy essence that is essential for decision-making.
I was second-guessing decisions, procrastinating over things that not only needed to be done, but should be taken care of easily. I mean, come on, how hard is it to pick up the phone and make an appointment?
Writing is a lonely profession—while teaching I was surrounded by many people and there was a lot of interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but—what I do now, I mostly do alone in my office. Even editors’ meetings, where I used to interact with others in person no longer seemed to exist. That’s taken care of now by any of the myriad tech face-to-face apps, such as JoinMe, FaceTime, GotoMeeting, WebEx, and Skype. Let me state that I’ve been on all of them!
I wondered if my not having a whole lot of human contact during the day had anything to do with my procrastination and second-guessing. Did not being around other people adversely influence my ‘courage’? I was alone in an office with no one to even say a hello to me or ask questions. Or just be there.
After pondering this for a few days, I saw that the connection between solitude and interacting with people was indeed the crux of the problem. Now all I had to do was integrate more person-to-person connection in my daily work life.
The first thing that I did was gently insist that the weekly editors’ meetings be conducted in person in my office. At first there was resistance and excuses, the main one being wasted time driving. I insisted less gently—the person who was the farthest from my office only had a fifteen-minute commute—that this person had to be present at the meetings. I needed us all in one place, together, real, (not screen-time) face-to-face.
I was a very nice host. Instead of having people gulping coffee and munching doughnuts while maintaining a video presence, I made it much more pleasant. There was water, coffee, tea, and elegant pastries—along with cups, sugar, and cream—all arranged nicely on a side table in my office. I put comfy chairs around an old lawyer’s desk I bought from a retiring attorney. Interaction, including comments, suggestions, decisions, even polite arguments, were had around that desk. It was invigorating.
Food has a way of making work more pleasant and despite some initial grumblings, the editors actually began looking forward to the weekly meetings which I held on the mid-week ‘hump day’. A break in the weekly routine was good for everyone.
I then initiated a ‘hump-day’ business lunch once a month. Once the owner of the Italian restaurant saw that we were becoming regulars, he gave us a special price and everyone was happy.
The editors were happier with the new arrangement and I found myself regaining the ‘courage’ I thought I lost. I had, it seems, only misplaced it for a while. I was back. Interaction with the real world and not just with the ones I put in books, made a huge difference.
© copyright 2020 Kristen Houghton all rights reserved
Kristen Houghton’s new book, Lilith Angel, was published in April, 2019 and is already in the top “fiction top five” by Nielson Ratings. She is the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. The first four books in her best-selling series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, are now available in a special boxset. She is also the author of the Horror Writers of America award-winning Quick-Read, Welcome to Hell.