posted on August 12, 2022 by Amanda Usen

Don’t Give Up Before Joy Kicks In

Do you ever wonder if you’ve chosen the right path for your life? I know, I know, a deep topic for a fun writing blog, but I’ve got an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old smack in the middle of college. What are they going to be when they grow up? Have they chosen majors that will not only bring them financial stability but also give them joy?

We’ve all been through a lot during the last few years. Even if you escaped the worst of the hells the pandemic rained on our world, you survived uncertainty, collective grief, and change. Are you feeling it? Has your life changed? Do you know how to find the part of yourself that gives you purpose—and joy?

After 25 years of working in a bakery, I changed careers. Instead of slinging cookies and cakes, I write copy for a marketing agency. But right before I made that big change, I began writing ONE NIGHT STAND AFTER ANOTHER, the first book in the Unforgettable Fire series, a pure escape into sexy fantasyland.

Now I’m getting ready to write Book 3 in that series, and I told my editor that I’m not the same woman who plopped herself down in the kitchen in the winter of 2021 and wrote a road trip book with multiple you-know-whats, incredible meals, and life-changing vistas. I worked through most of the pandemic in Western New York’s busiest grocery store bakery, jumped into day-job free fall, and sent two kids to college in a freaking pandemic.

But no matter what changes in my life, I’m happier when I’m writing. I need to make time to plot one-night-stands, plan sexy sandwiches, and enter the zone where I’m not thinking, I’m just creating. Being. Entertaining possibilities. Feeling powerful…instead of powerless.

And nope—I’m not great at giving myself that time. So much gets in the way: the day job, the to-do list, anxiety, migraines, insomnia, alcohol, great TV…

But I’m happier when I’m writing.

What’s your thing? What brings you joy? Lights your spark? Here’s the real question: do you make time to do it? Do you put the oxygen mask on yourself first when the plane is going down?

If yes, PLEASE share how you keep your inner spark lit. What’s your strategy? Tell us about it in the comments! As an added incentive to join the conversation, one commenter will win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Meanwhile, I’ll share 7 things I do to fan my flames, jump-start my joy machine, and motivate myself to write my next ONE NIGHT STAND book:

  • Get a haircut. It works every time, am I right?!
  • Buy/borrow a new book. Nothing beats the glee of having a new book waiting for me. I hate finishing a book and not knowing what I’m going to read next. I feel so lost! Finding my next read always inspires me.
  • Set a timer. Almost every writer I know likes having written more than they like writing, and I’m no exception. Yes, I love the creative zone. But reaching it can be hell. Setting a timer helps. I can do anything for 20 minutes. And then another 20 minutes. And then another…
  • Eat the frog first. I do the thing I don’t want to do first. (Even if I only do it for 20 minutes.) I wrote ONE NIGHT STAND AFTER ANOTHER 20 minutes at a time first thing in the morning before going to work in the bakery.)
  • Breathe. Inhaling for 4 counts, holding it for 7 counts, and exhaling for 8 counts helps me with anxiety. For any yogis out there, alternate nostril breathing also helps change my state. And there’s scientific proof that deep breathing tells the nervous system that everything is JUST FINE. I recommend setting a timer for this, too. It’s too easy to give up before joy kicks in. (Whoa—truth bomb.)
  • Shower. Water is liquid magic.
  • Move. Exercise releases all the happy chemicals! But that doesn’t make it easy.

What brings you joy? Do you do enough of it? Do you, like me, have a love/hate relationship with your favorite thing? Hard questions, right? Forgive me—I have a deadline, and I need ALL the joy strategies to bring it in on time.

For the chance to win a $10 gift card to Amazon, comment and share: a thing that brings you joy, your strategy for enjoying it, OR your favorite trope/romance catnip. Thanks for reading!

Amanda Usen

Amanda Usen

Amanda Usen knows two things for certain: chocolate cheesecake is good for breakfast and a hot chef can steal your heart. Her husband stole hers on the first day of class at the Culinary Institute of America. They married after graduation in a lovely French Quarter restaurant in New Orleans. After enjoying the food and the fun in the Big Easy for a few years, they returned to Western New York to raise a family. Amanda spends her early mornings writing romance and the rest of the day writing copy for a marketing agency.She loves books, yoga, cheese, chocolate, and carbs in all forms. When she's not writing, she can usually be found reading a book or fooling around in the kitchen.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Give Up Before Joy Kicks In”

  1. Colleen C says:

    To help myself relax and unwind, I look forward to a book from my TBR… give myself that escape of a journey to a HEA… I can stress myself out so much during the day, that I have to have that time to unwind and just do something that I truly enjoy.

    1. Amanda says:

      Yes. So much that! Thanks for sharing, Colleen.

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