Adjusting Your Artistic Expectations (AKA My Past Self Owes Me Wine)

Below is the transcript to episode 21 of A Book and A Dream.

Megan O'Russell
So, no, I'm not just recording this so that you can be like, "Wow, she's a little bit psychotic and makes a lot of lists, and none of them work out."

Announcement
Welcome to a book in a Dream with Megan O'Russell: An Author's Adventure in Writing, Reading, and Being an Epic Fangirl.

Megan O'Russell
Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell, and welcome to Episode 21 of A Book and a Dream. Today, I want to talk to you about adjusting your artistic expectations.

As an artist, it is so easy to be hard on yourself. And I think a lot of that comes from the expectations that everyone else puts on us. As an author, as an actor, even if you're not an artist, as an academic as a whatever you are, especially as a parent. Oh, mom shaming. It's horrible. But wherever you are in life, it is so crushing when you feel other people's expectations weighing on your shoulders, and it can be even more difficult when you're dealing with your own expectations, and when you fail to meet your own expectations.

I wanted to talk to you today about adjusting your artistic expectations and figuring out how to move forward when you realize that your plan A isn't going to work. It's not a pleasant thing. We all look at our planners. We look at our work schedules, and we're like, "I'm going to get these things done." And sometimes it doesn't happen. And this is before, you know, pandemics. This is an "all the time" thing. And, yeah, everything is unprecedented now. That word gets used every day for everything. And in a lot of ways, it's true. So taking this time to look at how we can become more compassionate with ourselves as we change what our plans are is actually really important. And that'll help us come out of this in a better place with our mental health than if we just, you know, felt guilty every time you took a second to breathe while, you know, the world's kind of in panic mode.

Now, I want to be honest with you. I am one of those people who, once I have a plan A, I really don't want to change it. I get mad at myself. I hate myself a little bit for it, but you know what? Sometimes your plan A has to suck and be unrealistic so that you can get to Plan B. And it's okay if Plan B, or C or D are the ones that actually work out. And don't freak out when you're making your plan A that it may not work, because you can always fix it in post, but you can't work with a blank page. You know? You gotta have a plan.

So, I have some of my plans for you just because I wanna be real with you about how much we actually need to change these things. Now, usually with authors... obviously, like my theater schedule is shot. There is no, like, grouping together in a theater to see things right now, so we're not gonna talk about that because there's really nothing I can do about it. And it's not my fault. So, like, I can't blame myself for it. I am not powerful enough to start a pandemic. But I do have my author plans that I made, and sometimes like past Megan was kind of a jerk to present Megan. Like what... what was past Megan thinking here.

So we'll give an example of a plan A. I have papers and everything, look at that. So plan A was, for my publishing schedule for 2020... Feel free to laugh along with me. Because what was I thinking? How did how did I think this was gonna work out? In January, I was gonna publish Mountain and Ash. Okay, that worked out pretty well. In February, I was going to publish Feather and Flame, because Book three in the End of Ilbrea series, Ice and Sky, didn't exist. But then we discovered I'm incapable of writing a trilogy. Apparently everything I write is a four-book series, it's okay. We learn things, right? That's part of changing your plan.

Then I was going to have a novella published in April. That's...that didn't happen. And a box set of Ena of Ilbrea, you know, the trilogy, which didn't happen and has Inker and Crown, the first book in another series out. Then, in May, I was gonna have out the third Bryant Adams book. June, Bryant four, with a novella. July, I was going to start on the other series that happens in the world of Girl of Glass. I call it Lanni. That's the protagonist's name. I don't have a title for Book one yet, but I was gonna do Lanni one in July, Lanni two in August, Lanni three in September and a novella. Ah what? What?

And then October was gonna be a Bryant Adams box set with audio. November was gonna be Maggie and another novella. And then December was going to be another fantasy book.

What? Like where... in what delusional state of reality was I living when I did that? Like, present Megan needs a glass of wine looking at past Megan's mistake. But you know what? I'm not gonna hate past Megan for this completely unrealistic thing. That's OK. We're just gonna let it go and love ourselves and move on to... to plan B. You know, because that's what you do. You move on to Plan B.

This one is, like, a little more realistic. It's my writing schedule, not my publishing schedule. I didn't get far enough with this Plan B to get to a publishing schedule. It kind of all got shot before then. My original plan was that November and December I was gonna, like, take off of musical theatre work and just focus on being an author. Get so much done, dive really far into audio. My husband was gonna take some time off, too, because he does all my tech stuff for me. And he's my beta reader. And he does like the, um, formatting for all the books. And we were gonna, like, pound through things. Then he got offered a gig, playing in a pit, and it was very fun. But the schedule... hoo... this didn't even make it to a production schedule.

So, in December, I was gonna write Ice and Sky, the third book in the Ena of Ilbrea series, because by then, I had realized I was incapable of writing a trilogy. Then January, I was gonna do a book and a novella. February, a book. March, a book. April, a book and a novella. May, a book. June, half-a-book. July, half-a-book. August, a Book. September, a Book. October, prep a book that's already written but needs some polishing to go out, and start writing a book. November, finish writing that book, and then December, write another book.

Now okay, okay, legitimately, that plan may have worked. If I had had those two months to just sit down and, like, pound through a bunch of stuff. I could have gotten far enough ahead that I was never overlapping edits with writing, and then that becomes fairly realistic. I write between three and five thousand words a day. So, if that's a 60,000 word book, which is like The Tethering-length book, the first book in the Girl of Glass series. That takes me about 15 to 20 days if I actually do that every day. Really, more like 20 because, you know, details and not being able to stare at words anymore, you know, little things like that.

So, this one was like, "Okay, okay." Like I can, I can live with this. This past Megan, like, owes me a beer, but we're good. We're still friends. We're chatting at the bar while I drink? Not like glaring across the bar, being like, "It's gonna be two weeks before I even consider speaking to you again."

Plan C. Now this one, like, almost worked. January, published Mountain and Ash. Like cool, I did that. February, box set, I did that. March, Ice and Sky. I did that. April, don't release a book. Winning at that one. Have not released a book in April, so proud of myself. May, Feather and Flame. June, Inker and Crown.

Okay, like okay, past Megan. We're doing a great job, but then I gave up. Like I didn't... that's it. That's as far as I planned my life. I don't. Maybe I, like, new weird things were gonna happen. Maybe as I was planning this, it was like, "Well, and that's when you know everything is going to get shot, so don't even bother with it." And now, I've moved on to this, which already has scratch marks on it. And it's just not even a "plan" plan. It's a list of like, oh, those things and maybe this order if I don't get distracted, and that's where I'm at in life.

So we went from, like Plan A, which is like a book to a book-and-a-half every month and being super productive, to "Who's to say? We're gonna write some things and publish them." And you know what? I'm totally okay with that. Even, like, my type A, nit picky, hyper-achiever self is like, "You know what? Past Megan was inexperienced and not realistic in any way." Because, yeah, I've been writing for, like, eight years. But the whole indie lifestyle, the having control of my schedule. This is only the beginning of year two for me. So, I'm on a learning curve, and I'm jumping deeper into audiobooks and into different kinds of publicity and ads and this and that. And so those things all take up a lot of time, and I have to let myself have that time. And I have to let myself learn from this experience and create a schedule that I can live with, with some kind of a "work-life balance," which is sort of a concept I don't understand. But that's okay.

So, no, I'm not just recording this so that you can be like, "Wow, she's a little bit psychotic and makes a lot of lists, and none of them work out." Yes, all of those things may be true. I'm doing this because you are not alone. We all had... I was, when this whole quarantine started, I was gonna learn, like, three songs on the guitar a week, and I was going to do so much yoga. And you know what? We're getting through it, and that counts for life, too. Whether you're an author, an actor, a singer, composer, a doctor, a stay-at-home mom, a janitor, a whatever you are, it's okay if you have this really great unrealistic plan that you were super proud of and it didn't work out. Don't give up on it because your plan A didn't work out. Go for plan B. Go for plan C, D. Ask for help. Find a mentor in your field who can help you figure out how to make a schedule that's actually going to work for you, because it's gonna work out. You just have to have enough compassion with yourself to get yourself over those speed bumps to the end.

It's hard. I know, it's so hard. Ugh, God, so hard. Past Megan owes me so much wine right now, but you can do it. So what are your goals? What are your unrealistic goals? What is your plan F? Have you gotten that far in the list? I want to be there for you, like, let's commiserate here.

So share it in the comments or go on Instagram, go on Twitter or Facebook, let me know, because we are all surviving these unprecedented times. And if we can learn to have just a little bit more compassion with our little artistic hearts, then we're gonna make it through this, and there's gonna be some incredible art waiting for us on the other side. We just have to figure out what the next plan down the line is. I'll see you next time.

Megan O'Russell

Fantastic Worlds. Unlikely Heroes.

Megan O'Russell

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