Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Red Alert! Panic Mode!

Allow me to whine, pass me the cheese, and then share with me your woes, because I know we all suffer this horrible feeling from time to time. It’s something I’m going to rant about just to make me feel better. As odd as it may seem, it’s comforting to know that we all have this frightening moment.

The past three weeks has tied me in knots on a professional level. Work is booming for lack of a better expression, and whenever I stop and think about what I have on my to-do list, the time I have to accomplish it in, and trying to schedule all of it around my oldest daughter’s online schooling, it tends to make me a li’l buggy.

Don’t take that the wrong way; I’m thrilled about my work. I really am. However, the stress? I could do without that part.

I write as F.L. Bicknell for my agented work and some of my more serious e-books, but I also have four other pen names. As a result, I have a lot of contracts to honor, but the ones that do my head in are the series. I have three contracted series I’m writing with two more under consideration [pass me the smelling salts].

Readers don’t realize the time-consuming stuff that goes into a contracted manuscript. The forms that have to be filled out for artwork, for shorter blurbs and long blurbs, and signing up for publishers’ loops (if it’s a new publisher you’ve signed with), the time it takes for some editors to answer questions, and then there’s the cover work that doesn’t fit the story, so then you have more correspondence with the can take days to sort out a lot of this stuff.

And it all goes on while a full-time freelancer is going full bore on projects.

I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I write full time—literally. I get up with my youngest and have him on the bus by 8 AM at the latest, take my 20-minute walk, then I come in grab a hot cup of coffee and start working. After about three hours, I break for an early lunch, do a couple of chores, maybe relax for 15 minutes, then I either grab the laptop and work with the satellite music on or go back upstairs if my dau isn’t doing schoolwork.

Later, I look at what I’ve done for the day. Sometimes it’s a mix of promo, blogging and writing. Sometimes it’s all writing. Some days it’s all online work.

Add to this list the private clients whom I edit for, and I also freelance edit for special publishing projects. I’m paid in advance for that work, so when I get a manuscript, I have to address it before anything else—but I have deadlines to meet on contracts too.

Now, where the “Red alert! Panic Mode!” comes in is when I’m lying in bed unable to sleep. Those middle-of-the-night moments when you wake up at 3:15, stumble to the bathroom, stagger back to bed, and crawl under the sheets and...



“Attention all K-Mart shoppers. The Brain is now officially on and fully functional. Have a nice day.”

Damn. I’m awake.

So you lay there and start thinking about what bills you have to pay that week, appointments that must be kept, things your kids have talked to you about for school, and then you switch to work mode.

Big. Stupid. Mistake.

A horrible piercing sensation hits you right in the middle of your stomach. You know the area, right there below your breastbone. STAB! Next, your breathing becomes erratic. You break out in a sweat. You sit up and pant, eyes bulging, more sweat coats your skin, and sometimes if it’s really bad, a whimper pops out of your mouth and you think, “OMG, I’m going to die! I can’t breathe! Air! I need air!”

At this point, I throw the covers back and wander around the house until the sensation passes. Sometimes it fades quickly. Other times it takes me a good half hour to calm down.

Yeah, you gotta love those good ol’ fashioned panic attacks, eh?

I’ve had a couple of these the past week. I love my work. And anyone who has known me a long time online has made the same comment to me: “Faith, you’re not happy unless your plate is too full. You thrive on it.”

Yeah, I guess I do.

But the panic attacks at 3 AM sucks ass!

Usually what I do is make a list and when I see I’m marking things off my list, the panic attacks go away. Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing the word count for such and such project and such and such series is going up, up, up that settles me down. But when all else fails, a hot bath in the middle of the night can do wonders to soothe the soul and the mind.

This is something we all relate to and that we all can commiserate on, so share with me your panic attack moments and any remedies for them. Is it a cup of coffee and an hour of mindless television? Maybe you read for thirty minutes?


trinity said...

Ha I have them ever day! Will husband keep this job? what bills can wait? What story is due next? Ugg the list is so long!

Usually a hot bath will help or a quick nap. But sometimes that will not work so I snap and I hate it when I snap at the kids.
Husband he can handle it.

Valerie Mann said...

I can totally relate with all the things I juggle! My biggest problem is I'm too ADD to stick to one thing long enough to finish it first go round OR, even worse, something else comes up that drags me away then I have a hard time focussing on it again. You're actually super organized, Faith! I don't have any suggestions for you, but I think you're amazing!

Elizabeth Black said...

Oh, God, can I relate to this. When I go into Deer-In-The-Headlights mode I e-mail all my friends and rant at them. Of course the ranting goes both ways, since I make it clear my friends can do the same to me when need it. My husband won't let me wallow in misery, though. He goes all R. Lee Ermey on me. LOL Just had a major episode on Monday and I'm still recovering from it. It was so bad I scared the cats. I'm convinced the wife of one of my friends thinks I'm certifiable by now. I have two moments of solace: 1) knowing it will pass eventually, and 2) actual DOING something like replanning my strategy helps more than letting my brain spin its wheels.

Maddie James said...

I so, so, so relate, Faith. Gah! You know me, I'm generally running to keep up with myself. I HATE to say no and have a lot of irons in the fire. I do have to say that I sleep like a baby (most nights, okay, 98% of the time) even if I'm heavily caffeinated, so I sympathize with your 3 a.m. wakings. I read a study recently that said that it's really impossible to multi-task, because nothing every really gets totally finished that way. BUT, I think we all learn to juggle and yes, multi-task very well. We writers, we moms, and so on... I've a number of deadlines looming myself, plus the pub biz, the promo, the workshops.... Same as you and everyone else. When it's your life and your income, you do what you do. Have found lately though that if I plot out my week on Monday, and devote unconditional time to one-thing-at-a-time, I do feel some success. But that's today. Who knows about tomorrow? :)

Great post. Hugs, my friend. You'll persevere. Oh. Take an Advil before bed...helps you to relax!

Faith said...

Trin, I tend to snap from time to time too and always feel bad about it as well. However, when I have tons of stuff to get done, I warn the hubby, and he runs interference with the kids, so he helps me a lot in that respect.

Valerie, I'm one of those people who can't rest until that one thing is done and I can move on to the next. That said, it doesn't necessarily mean I have to totally finish one thing at a time, but it's a chunk of work on each that I do. Maybe read through novella #1 during the morning, so I can manage another 5K written on novella #2 that afternoon.

A meltdown, Elizabeth? Oh heck. I had one of those about two weeks ago. I totally went off on my two girls because I'd been in my office burning the candle at both ends and then would come downstairs to find the house trashed and no one had lifted a finger to do a darn thing. "I need clothes, Mom." SNARL! I'm not the only one who knows how to run the bleepity-bleep washing machine! Yeah, I have meltdowns on a reg basis and all around me think I'm certified too.

As for venting, that's one reason it's great to have good friends. I can always vent to Trin, Tess, Emmy and Marci and vice versa.

So cool to see you here, Maddie! Seems as though I have a similar work plan as yours. One thing at a time or chunks as I was saying a coupla paras above. It's marking things off my to-do list that gives me a sense of "I'm doing it" and I don't stress quite as much.

Anthology Authors said...

There have been nights, Faith, when I actually get up to do the thing that is keeping me awake. As soon as I do it, I can crawl back into bed and get some sleep... except it's 7 am and everyone else is waking up. Can Mom go to sleep at this point? No, but she will most likely be a bitch for the rest of the day. (g)

Margie Church said...

I have had way too many of those 3 a.m. wakeup calls..or maybe they were nightmares. Sometimes I can jot a few notes about things I need to do. Sometimes I've fired up the computer in the middle of the night (my neighbors must think we NEVER sleep)and done a few things I was really concerned about. But recently, I realized that having a job and being a writer was taking over my family. I let go of a few projects and commitments that were making me unbearable to live with and I also reset a few priorities. My children are growing and I'm not young any more by any stretch. I sleep a little better more often. It sure isn't easy tho. I'm a workaholic.

Sarah Masters said...

I understand completely. I do the to-do list thing too. I have a note book with a list for the day on it, and I scribble them off when they're finished.

Like you, even though I sometimes get frazzled, I'm at my best when I have too much to do. It's a challenge to get through it all, to accomplish everything on that list.

In short, we're both sodding crazy. Actually, all four of us are crazy, because we all have to-do lists as long as our arms.

This is why we're called Four Strong Women. We haff balls off steeeeeel!

If we had balls. Which we don't. Besides, tits of steel just doesn't have the same ring to it.


Faith said...

Me too, Marci, me too!

Margie, my girls complain about the amount of work I do, the time I'm in my office, but I can't let the hubby carry the full financial burden, and in order for me to be home, writing works well. However, I make a point of making time to play Uno with the kids on the coffee table, watch SpongeBob and Courage the Cowardly Dog with my 6 yr old, and enjoy doing one another's nails with my youngest dau. I even use part of my breaks to play with my grandson. It makes for an action-packed day, tho!

Sarah, you are 100% right as usual, LMAO!

Fiona said...

I call those late night moments, "Late night willies". The things that don't bother you much in the daytime are so much more frightening in the middle of the night, when you can't do anything about them! I think it's an atavistic thing, a throw-back to when we were cave-people and we really WERE in more danger at night, from critters that might sneak up and eat us while we slept. But somehow that warning system goes awry and we are awake and having panic attacks! I usually roll over into a different position and concentrate fully on working through a scene in one of my latest WIPs. If that does nothing else, it gets me ready to do some writing the next opportunity I get.

Jaime Samms said...

Thankfully, I don't get panic attacks. Not like that. What I do get is that brain-frozen moment when I realize just how much I actually have to do and instead of organizing a way to do it, my brain simply shuts down and I go catatonic. My saving grace is that husband knows how to deal with me in that state. Simple projects, little acomplishments to get me going again. Sounds silly, but it works. Not sure if it's the small accomplishments, seeing something getting done or just the fact I completely give up control of everything for a few hours and just do what I'm told. Either way, it leads me back to the light lol!