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On The Road Again

Today’s blog post comes to you from a hotel room in Allentown, PA. I’m about 300 miles from my summer home and about 200 miles to my destination of Crozet, Virginia, where I’m kicking off a weekend of events in the mid-Atlantic.


Being on book tour this year has been… different. I’ve learned a lot about myself, which feels like a silly thing to say given the fact that I’m a grown woman and I always thought I was pretty introspective. Anyway, read on to learn about my newest discovery: Apparently, I’ve developed crippling anxiety!


It’s been… a lot.


Last year, when The Book Proposal launched, I had no idea what to do with myself. I saw other authors going on book tours – signing and chatting with readers in cities and small towns across the country. So, I gathered up all my courage and started cold calling bookstores, asking if they’d like to partner with me for events. I was so surprised by the willingness of these shop owners and managers – in fact, rarely, did anyone say no. Then, when it was time, off I went. And for as nervous as I was, everything went pretty well. Sales were strong, I made people laugh, took lots of pictures, and generally had a good time.


This year, in preparation for A Storybook Wedding, I went through similar motions – although (thanks to the success of the first book) now, some of the events were being put together by my publisher, Sourcebooks. That meant that some of the tour stops would be bigger and better than anything I could do on my own, and would also involve lots of other people and varying logistics with regard to travel. See, last year, I only went to places I could get to by car. This year, I’m all over – plane, train, there’s even one event that I have to get to by boat! But, overall, it’s been a mix of events – some that I do on my own, and some that are put on by SB.


During the first month of the tour I got really sick. It started with an upper respiratory thing that I couldn’t seem to kick, and then morphed into a stomach issue which resulted in me having zero appetite. So, I stopped eating. It felt better than always having to worry about potentially not feeling good after a meal and then being around other people when you’re not 100%.


Even when I wasn’t actively out there on tour, it just seemed I’d lost my appetite. I’d have a stressful day at work (don’t forget, I still have a day job) and I’d come home and skip dinner. My husband noticed. My kids noticed. I noticed when I looked in the mirror at how my jeans didn’t fit right anymore.


Finally, one day, Hubs sat me down and said, “Listen, I’m sorry, but if this book thing is only making you upset and sick, maybe you should stop. I know you love writing and I’m not suggesting you stop doing that, but if all the rest of it is physically hurting you…” The poor guy said this out of love, knowing that I already have a chronic pain condition that I manage as well.


“I think it’s just anxiety,” I replied. But as we talked more, I began to unravel all the pieces of what was bothering me. Together, we uncovered that it was actually a very layered house of cards I felt like I’d built, and the stress of worrying that it could all topple over at any given moment was what was causing me to be in such a state. That conversation led to some mindful changes in my diet (namely, start eating again) and also in my approach to the rest of the events I’ve got planned for this season.


First of all, anything that makes you physically sick can’t be written off as “just anxiety.” That’s your body screaming at you from the inside: “Hey! We don’t like this! This is bad!” And it’s really important to listen.


Secondly, I have the power to control where I spend my energy. I explained to Hubs that I felt like I’ve been spending all my time worrying about social media, public perception, and sales that I haven’t had the chance to write anything. Which seems pretty counter-intuitive. It was honestly this moment where I was sitting on an Amtrak train opposite Meghan Quinn, watching her bang out a cool 3,000 words during a train ride that I realized she had her shit way more together than I did. But weeks later, during that conversation with my husband, I was reminded that of course she did – she’s written 40 books and has been living this author life for like ten years. Despite my chronological age, I am still very much a baby author. I only released my first book 13 months ago. And I need to cut myself some slack and not compare my ability to juggle it all with that of a superstar like Meghan Quinn.


Third, I realized that I am allowed to say no to things that I don’t want to do. In fact, to take this further, I’m allowed to ask for help, and there is no shame in paying for that help if need be. So, now I’m actively beginning the search for a personal assistant. Also, possibly a therapist, if I can afford it.


Last month was Mental Health Awareness month, and even though I’m a day late and a dollar short with this, there are some great resources online for people who also struggle with whatever life has thrown their way. The National Institute of Mental Health is a great place to start. Learn more here.


The most important thing I’m discovering is that I need to be kinder to myself. I may not be the best author, best mother, best wife, best daughter, best worker or best friend in the world – but I’m trying. And there’s beauty in the striving.


So now, as I prepare to drive another 5 hours today down to Virginia for a trivia night that an author friend of mine actually put together for me, I feel a lot lighter. Sure, I’m still nervous, and overpacked, but look! I wrote something today. And yeah, I know it may not have been 3,000 words.


But it’s a start.


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