This month, I’m looking forward to spending five days in the Santa Cruz mountains at the Northern California Writers Retreat, an annual gathering of authors. The workshops will be led by an agent, a freelance editor, and a visiting author. There’s yoga and food and solo cabins. Basically it’s a dream come true for any self-employed person who takes about two days off a month and is still trying to revise a novel. The best news is that the Creative Capacity Fund has partially defrayed my tuition with a grant.

After a solid year of building my 14-year-old business and working 12-hour days, I realize how difficult it has been to focus on (re)finishing my novel, THE STORY THIEF. Part of the battle has been using my daily writing time for writing and not business; the other part is, as always, mental.

Every writer struggles for success on three levels:

  1. Career success
  2. Project success
  3. Process success

I’ll admit it: I spent all of 2014 and 2015 on trying to create career success before I realized that it was mostly out of my control. I learned that if you don’t find an agent and publisher who are from your tribe, you might be setting yourself up for failure (both real and perceived). Still, I will own up to my beginner/intermediate-level mistake of focusing too much on career success instead of project success. It was hard to ignore the publishing world when working on manuscript that had a shot at a deal.

Project success is where the work happens. Usually I’m good at this–the roll-up-your-sleeves, make-time-every-day sort of work. As an editor, I can bring a lot of tools to the job, and as a business owner, I can usually figure out how to glue the seat of my pants to the chair and hit deadlines.

However, process success is where the magic happens. I’m only being a little bit figurative here. When I think about the books I’ve loved, they do seem a little bit magical. Writing a book means holding on to whatever sparkle of inspiration got you started. Over the course of years, you find a way to transform it into a story that allows the reader to experience that same glimmer, whatever it is. It is vital, and when you stay in touch with it, it is your “zone.” It also needs nurturing: free time, freewriting, artist dates, and the constant light and fresh air of new ideas.

I’m on a quest to recover my process success, and the first step is retreating: literally and figuratively into the unstructured time of a writing retreat. Wish me luck!