Any fellow planners out there? Nothing makes me happier than a shiny new goal and a world of possibilities. I don’t need to know all the details at the outset, but I need a general direction to get started. I am also a checklist girl from way back. I get positively giddy checking tasks off my to-do list and feeling like I am making progress toward a goal.
I should also add that I am very much a people person and spending too much time alone makes me squirrely.
Enter 2020 when life as we know it came to a screeching halt.
I am a licensed boat captain and love my job taking 5th graders out on the crystal-clear Silver River for our local school system. But Covid-19 cancelled all field trips. After 12 years of spending several days a week aboard the Timucuan with students, I missed it like I was missing a limb.
Suddenly, I was home alone with entirely too much time on my hands and way too many thoughts in my head. Logically, it should have been a great time to dive into my writing. Except focus, ambition and inspiration disappeared when my father died in 2018 after a valiant battle against Alzheimer’s. Between grief and exhaustion, I was burned out, frustrated and seriously considering flipping burgers somewhere. Anything other than staring at a blank page.
So, I did a bit of volunteering with our local elder care services, stayed in touch with family and friends via phone and zoom, and read lots of books, but it wasn’t enough.
I’m a writer at heart, and I’d forgotten that the writing always calls me back. Always.
One day I decided it was time to write the book I’d been thinking about for years. It wasn’t under contract, so I gave myself permission to write it however I wanted.
I created a new plan and a shiny new checklist. Slowly, gradually, one tiny word count goal at a time, I started writing again. The words felt awkward and stilted at first. But the discipline, the schedule, the daily practice, eventually pulled me back into the creative process. After a while, I started to feel like myself again. Oh, hello. There you are, I thought.
I also started a gratitude journal, jotting down big and small things I was thankful for, and then took a deep dive into some personal work I’d neglected for too long. I read great books, learned things about myself, let go of some festering hurts and somehow started the journey back to who I’d always been.
None of that would have been possible without the forced silence and inaction created by the pandemic.
Hubby and I also rediscovered the joy of simple things, like a day on the water and those rare and precious moments with family. We remembered that laughter really is good medicine and can help us weather a lot of storms.
One year later, I have finished my new novel and am very excited about having my agent shop it to publishers. Beyond Power, book 2 in my Florida Wildlife Warriors series, has now been released in print and e-book. I also got rehired to captain glass bottom boats at Silver Springs State Park, so my schedule feels a little less like an empty wasteland. Like everyone else, I’m still craving big family get-togethers and impromptu lunches with friends, the ability to travel and all the things we’ve always taken for granted.
Last year brought so much hardship and grief, but maybe the forced slow-down brought a few positives, too. Like so many others, I reevaluated my priorities, took a long look at some things I’d been putting off and used the cocoon of isolation to do some interior transformation and write a story I would have buried under busyness otherwise.
The lesson for me and I hope for all of us, I think, is to recognize that it’s okay to stop sometimes. It’s ok to be silent. It’s ok to examine and slow down and maybe take a different road. For those who’ve lost loved ones this year, I send my heartfelt condolences. I hope you give yourself permission to grieve. Acknowledge the feelings, sit with them a while and heal at your own pace.
The plans and to-do lists and busyness will still be there. But these days, I’m steering clear of the whirlwind and avoiding much of the online noise. I’m scheduling more downtime and consciously holding space for the things that matter most. I hope you’ll join me.
Connie Mann is a licensed boat captain and loves writing romantic suspense stories set in Florida’s small towns and unspoiled wilderness. Beyond Power, book 2 in her Florida Wildlife Warriors series is available now. She is also the author of the Safe Harbor series and several stand-alone titles. When she’s not dreaming up plotlines, you’ll find “Captain Connie” on Central Florida’s waterways, introducing children and adults to their first alligator. She is also passionate about helping women and children in developing countries break the poverty cycle and build a better future for themselves and their families. Besides boating, she and her husband enjoy hanging out with family and friends and planning their next adventure.
Connect with Connie online at: www.conniemann.com