Linda Castillo Guest Blogs
Linda Castillo , author of New York Times bestselling thrillers, visits TLC today!
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a recovering workaholic. Most writers are, even if they are loathe to admit it. (Some may not even realize it.) I’m originally from the Midwest where the work ethic is added to the water along with fluoride. Don’t get me wrong. I love my work. Writing books is an integral part of my life. It’s what I do every single day no matter what. For many years work was . . . everything. Aside from my wonderful husband, work was my universe and my laptop was the shuttle that got me around town.
But too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. I’ve published twenty five novels for three New York publishers since 2000. I was all forward motion, most of which was in the form of a sprint to some do-or-die finish line. The thought of balance never crossed my mind.
Eventually, wisdom reared its unfamiliar head and life began to feel like an out of balance tire thumping down the highway. I realized I needed something besides work in my life. I was in the process of figuring all of this out when I made the fourteen-hour drive from Dallas to Denver to visit my sister. Being out in all that open country did something to my brain. And got me thinking about things I probably had no business thinking about at this point in my life. Things like . . . horses.
That’s right. Horses. I grew up with them. They were a huge part of my youth. I began to ride at such a young age, I don’t even remember learning how. I rode western and did some showing; I rode some trails. And, unlike many of my horsey friends, I liked speed—the faster the better. Horses were always there, and I was always on one—and I loved it. But horses fell by the wayside when I went to college, got married, and entered the corporate world. I was so busy with life that I didn’t even realize I missed the lifestyle. My husband I were living in Dallas at the time, and moi, being a practical Midwesterner, knew owning a horse would be the ultimate in impractical. Right?
On Valentine’s Day in 2004, during a snowstorm, I bought George, an eight-year-old unregistered appaloosa gelding. He was dirt cheap with no pedigree and a rather wily personality (which isn’t necessarily a desired trait in terms of the equine personality). When he was delivered to the boarding stable, all I could think was: “What the hell have I done?” I was light years out of my comfort zone. I needed to be writing. I had a deadline looming! I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was about to embark on a remarkable journey that would change my life in ways I never imagined.
I’d always assumed the old adage “Once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget” was also true for horses. Not even close. I was shocked at just how wrong I was. As a teen, riding was like breathing. What a difference twenty-five years makes.
But like most writers, I am tenacious. I was determined to make this so called balance thing work. It helped immensely when one of the more experienced riders took pity on my stupid ass and helped me through those first days. She put George and me in the round pen with my butt in the saddle and by golly I rode him.
And so I wrote in the mornings and then made the twenty-six mile drive to the barn where I boarded George. Every day. For the first time in years, I was out of doors in the middle of the day. I was on the back of a horse and we were on a dirt road without another human being (or computer) in sight. I was in the moment! Yes, there was guilt. A little voice in my head telling me I needed to get home and get to work. But, I was able to calm that voice because I knew my characters would be waiting for me when I got home.
My relationship with George was the beginning of something special and marked the beginning of a wonderful new era in my life. We learned together. We grew together. All of the things I thought I’d forgotten about horses came back, and George became one of my best friends. We spent countless hours in the arena. We braved the burning heat of a Dallas summer. The spring mud. And the cold, wet winter. He challenged me, but I challenged him right back. The mistake I thought I’d made turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
Finding your balance doesn’t have to detract from the time you spend with your other endeavors. In fact, I have found that my “down time” has actually increased my productivity. I still work hard. I still write every day no matter what. But I worry less about deadlines and negative reviews; I agonize less when the scene I’m writing isn’t quite working.
Balance isn’t a one-size-fits-all. But finding what works for you and implementing it into your life is a worthwhile undertaking that can bring many unexpected rewards.
Linda Castillo writes Amish-country set thrillers for St Martin’s Minotaur. The first book in the series, SWORN TO SILENCE, was a New York Times bestseller and received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist. The third book in the series, BREAKING SILENCE, will be released in June 2011. Linda lives in Texas with her husband and is currently at work on her next book, also set in Amish Country and featuring Chief of Police Kate Burkholder