In September 2015 I shared my first blog post as a novelist. At the time, I thought I had just completed the manuscript which would eventually become Waltz in the Wilderness and I was excited to begin sharing my writing journey with the world. Little did I know the many changes that manuscript would undergo before finally reaching publication in February 2020.
Days after that first blog post, I shared my first book review as a blogger. I had been reviewing books on retail sites for years, of course, but sharing that first review post about Mary Connealy’s Montana Rose was my first step into the incredible world of book blogging. At the time, I was eager to add my voice to those championing great reads and talented authors, but I had no idea of the incredible new friends I would make as a result.
For those of you who don’t know, let me give you a peek behind the book-blogging-curtain by saying that book bloggers—especially those who review Christian books—are some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever “met.” I put that last word in quotations because I have only actually met a couple of my fellow bloggers in person. Yet our virtual relationships have blessed me in more ways than I can explain in this post. For those special book bloggers reading this—you know who you are—thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Your support and encouragement through the years have been a huge blessing that I sincerely cherish.
It’s those very connections that make the purpose of this post so difficult. As incredible as the past two years have been, finally seeing my debut novel published, and seeing my second novel so well received by readers, the truth is that keeping up with it all has been a major struggle.
In addition to book blogging, I was now writing, editing, and promoting my novels as well as trying to keep up with homeschooling my four children and maintaining my marriage and being there for my friends. The thing is, I love wearing all of those hats. I didn’t want to give any of them up. So for the past almost two years I have been trying to do it all…and I have paid a price for that in my mental health, my physical health, and my relationships.
I have known for a while that we only have a finite amount of time and when we say yes to one thing, we have to defend it with a million no’s. I even talked about it in an interview a few months ago. In that same interview, I talked about how if God wants us to do something, He will help us find a way to do it. And God alone has gotten me through everything I have done these past two years. But He has also made it clear to me that I cannot continue trying to squeeze every last second, every last hint of energy from my life.
I pulled more all-nighters in the past two years than I did in all my college and high school years combined. I saw it as a badge of honor—like I was tough and committed. And I was both of those things. But living like that also meant I was missing out on being present in the little moments.
Without intending to, I found myself becoming that worn-out mom, wife, and friend, who just had nothing left to give.
Oh, I was doing the right things. I read scripture every day, answered my kids’ school questions, listened to my husband talk about his work struggles, and kept my weekly phone appointments to chat with my mom. Mostly. But more and more I found myself lacking the patience I needed to listen with the right heart and lacking the energy to reach out to my kids instead of waiting for them to come to me. My time with God got shorter and more rushed. I started slowly gaining weight and losing muscle because I spent nearly all day every day on my computer or my phone. I can probably count on two hands the number of meals I ate without my eyes and attention glued to my phone or computer in the last year. And yes, I even took my laptop to the bathroom with me.
The thing is, no matter how hard or long I worked, there was always more that needed doing. More that I could be doing, and felt I should be doing, to repay the book bloggers, fellow authors, historians, and everyone who’d supported me and helped me achieve this dream, not to mention repaying the publisher who took a chance on me and my novel. I was convinced that I had to do “all the things” to promote not only my own work but the work of all the people who’d helped me along the way. It was the right thing to do and it didn’t matter how tired I was. This was my chance to finally repay people for their faith in me and I wasn’t going to let them down.
After a while, I reached the point where I forgot how to truly relax. Even on the rare days when I did what my husband insisted was the right thing by closing my computer and trying to relax, I would obsessively check my phone and guilt would weigh on me. An incessant voice whispered inside that I was wasting time—being a bad steward with the precious life God had given me. I even questioned my Bible journaling—was it truly a good thing or was I just productively procrastinating by doing a seemingly good thing to avoid the thing I should be doing? (Stupid, I know.)
I recall one particular week when migraines knocked me off my feet and forced me to lay in bed with a sleep mask on in a fully darkened room, unable to look at anything without puking even after the migraine meds had time to kick in. So did I take the day to recover? Nope. I had a looming deadline, so I enlisted my thirteen-year-old to read my manuscript aloud to me so that I could listen for changes I needed to make. If I heard an error, I would stop his reading and tell him what to type for me. He didn’t mind. He actually enjoys reading my genre and has volunteered for this job in other circumstances. (Reading manuscripts aloud is a normal part of the editing process, but normally I’m the one typing in the changes.) But the point is that, even under those circumstances, I wouldn’t let myself just stop.
Eventually, I started to crumble beneath the pressure I was putting on myself. I won’t go into the many ways my life began to crack and tear at the seams. But it all came to an end when my body and mind went on strike. I woke up one day almost unable to get out of bed and utterly unable to hold a complete sentence in my mind. I couldn’t tell you what day it was, what I had eaten five minutes ago, or even if I had eaten. My husband would tell me something simple (like that he was going to take a shower) and literally two minutes later I couldn’t recall anything he’d said. Believe it or not, that day I had one of my kids bring my laptop to my bed (since I couldn’t manage the short walk to my office) and I tried to keep going on my edits, but my eyes refused to focus. I didn’t have a migraine, but my eyes were so blurry I literally couldn’t read. My kids were a couple of days behind on their schooling at the time so asking one of them for help was out of the question. I finally gave up and took a nap. I wound up sleeping through most of that day and the two days following it.
When I returned to work, I could only manage four hours of work each day before I had to close my computer. My brain wouldn’t function beyond that.
I managed to make my deadline, but only just barely. And that stressed me out. I had wanted to finish it early so I would have more time to work on marketing. But I had to let that ideal go and recognize that that was my goal and clearly not God’s plan.
I started trying to relax, but there were still so many commitments I had already made. I pushed my way through fulfilling my promises, but everything else was falling. And yet the compulsion to do more was still so strong that I literally handed my phone to my husband or my fifteen-year-old each night and told them not to give it back to me until the next morning. It was the only way I could actually ignore work. (My cell phone is our home phone so I can’t actually power it off.)
My husband had also had a very rough year (he was one of those responsible for the distribution of PPE during the pandemic) so in the spring of 2021, we decided to book a week-long staycation at a local mountain rental house. We would leave our computers at home and I would leave my phone in my suitcase for emergencies only.
That was the plan.
But less than a week before our trip, my family finally had an offer accepted to purchase our dream property. We had been trying to move for three years. So the vacation was canceled, I asked my publisher for an extension on my deadline, and we threw ourselves into packing, loading, and moving nine years worth of stuff for six people. It took nearly two months, four van loads, five huge rental trucks, and two rental trailers to get all our stuff moved.
And then I had just two weeks to finish the edits my publisher had asked for. So I did the only thing I could and put my blog on hold until July. By then my edits would be done and I hoped to be more settled in our new home.
I turned in my edits on time, but only managed to post one review in July.
It’s now the first week of August and we are still not unpacked, but we are settling into our new property. Plus, since turning in my latest round of edits, I have taken some time to exercise, breathe, pray, and seek God.
He has clearly shown me that I need to stop doing “all the things.” More specifically, I need to let my blog go. I have wrestled with this decision for weeks…months if I’m being honest. But it finally came down to one of those proverbial two-by-four-to-the-head moments. And I know, deep in my heart, that God wants me to step back from blogging. It is incredibly sad and a little bit scary for me to say this, but He has given me unshakable clarity.
This book blogging phase of my life has come to a close and I need to turn my focus to my family and the other blessings God has given me. It is a difficult step to take. I love sharing about amazing books. I love interacting with incredible book bloggers. I love supporting fellow authors whose books I want the world to read.
But I can’t do all the things I love. Not at the same time. It just isn’t possible.
And God has shown me that, for now, this is the part of my life He wants me to step away from. So this is me, stepping out in faith again. But instead of taking on something new, I am letting something go. And I am trusting God that it’ll be okay. He’s got this, too.
So, what does this mean? Am I disappearing from the interwebs? Am I quitting writing?
Absolutely not! I will still be writing the stories God has pressed on my heart, and I will continue to connect with my KRC and AAK members. In fact, I’ll probably move the focus of my book review shares to those two places. (When I read a good book, I can’t just keep it to myself!) I will still interact with readers via social media, but that interaction will almost certainly be changing as well. The details of that part of my journey are still unclear.
I hope that you understand my need to make this change and follow God’s prompting. If you have a moment to say a prayer for God’s wisdom regarding what else I should change, I’d be grateful.
If you have any thoughts on this topic or if my struggles are in any way relatable to you, I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or email me at writeKathleen at gmail dot com.