Pink Heart Society regular Barbara Wallace talks about what she does to keep from being a Crazy Cat (or Dog) Lady.
Quick. What do volunteering at food pantries, teaching CCD and going out for coffee have to do with writing? If you answered nothing? You’re right. And that’s the whole point.
Like every writer, I spend a lot of time in my head. Too much time actually. Once upon a time, I had a day job and a son to remind me that there is indeed a world outside of manuscripts and publishing industry “drama.” These days, however, I make my living writing full time, and my son is 52 Sundays away from graduating college. This means I’m alone most of the time and treading dangerously close to crazy cat lady territory. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a crazy cat lady. The dog however would find the concept highly insulting as it means there would be less time for him.)
Power struggle among my pets aside, it’s not healthy for a writer’s world to get too small. I’ve seen what happens when it does. Your perspective shrinks too. Suddenly things that shouldn’t be all that important – like industry politics or bad reviews – seem like Titanic-sized icebergs. The last thing I want to become is a person whose focus is so narrow that I lose track of what really is important. You know, things like life and death and taxes. Or, for that matter, so isolated that when I do face a real problem (like life, death, or taxes) I hyper-focus, unable to keep my perspective in check.
Beyond that, though, I simply don’t want to be dull. (Although, technically I suppose if you’re a crazy cat lady, you can’t be dull. Clichéd, maybe, but not dull.) You all know what kind of one-track person I mean though, don’t you? The one who can’t discuss anything other than one or two subjects? Like their book and their cats for example. (“Or a more superior breed of pet.” – THE DOG) I don’t want to be that kind of one-dimensional person. Nor, like I said above, do I want to forget what truly matters in this world.
That’s why, a few years ago, I began a quest to “get out of my head.”
This quest is similar to the artist’s dates we so frequently talk about at the Pink Heart Society although rather than filling my creative well, I’m filling my social interaction well. This is a lot harder than it sounds, by the way, as I am the queen of social anxiety and introversion. I’m much better at mingling on social media than I am at Starbucks. And I’d rather send email than chat on the phone.
All the more reason, I realize, to force myself to get out. Thus, I’m doing things like volunteering at the local food pantry. For two hours every month I’m reminded there are people with far bigger problems than bad reviews. This year, I also taught religious education to sixth graders. While my little heathens tried my patience every week, they also reminded me how fun it was to hang around kids again. Then, of course, there are coffee dates with friends, girls’ nights out or even “write outs” where my fellow writing friends and I create a virtual office so we aren’t working alone.
All of these activities expand my focus to beyond myself. Ultimately I’d like to spend a couple hours every week doing something that involves interacting with real people, just so I stay sane. I urge those of you who stay at home typing all day to do the same. Because, honestly, don’t we post enough about our pets on social media?
Join the conversation. What do you do to get out of your head?
Barbara’s latest release is A MILLIONAIRE FOR CINDERELLA, part one of her In Love with the Boss series for Harlequin Romance. The book releases June 1.
If you live near Massachusetts and Rhode Island in Massachusetts and want to have coffee, drop her a line at BarbaraWallace.com. (You can pre-order her title there as well.)
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