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January 30, 2011

Linda Castillo Guest Blogs

Linda Castillo , author of New York Times bestselling thrillers, visits TLC today! 

Finding Balance

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.

First barrel 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

 Breaking Silence (Kate Burkholder)



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Balance is essential. Glad to know someone has figured it out.

My people, we don't do moderation so well.

Thanks for visiting TLC, Linda!

Thanks for sharing your method of balance. Looking forward to reading Breaking Silence.

Oh, how you make me miss riding, Linda. I did six years of Pony Club as a kid and worked in the stables for my teenaged summers. And I know it would be hell getting back into it again, but totally worth it.

What a great post!

Oh, you make me miss horseback riding, too. I can't imagine taking that kind of time out of my work day. Clearly, though, it's possible. (Ooh, how tempting!) I checked out your website--you look great on George! I have your book on my TBR stack---I'm going to get it now. Thanks for being our guest today!

Balance--in several different ways.

My best friend and I were just talking last night about taking lessons again. Four years ago, when I was 55 and had never been on a horse in my entire life, she encouraged me to learn to ride so she and I could ride together at her ranch in Wyoming. Since then she also started taking lessons, for the very reason you had to relearn, Linda, because it had been so many years since she'd done any. We have had some lovely times together, and I found a joy I never realized I could have, in riding.

It's fascinating to have such communication with a horse, most of it so very subtle, isn't it? They're amazing creatures, and I always feel so incredibly blessed to share time with one.

Will look for your books! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Linda, what a wonderful blog post. I really love it, and you've got me thinking. . .what might be my version of a horse?

So glad to have you here. Thanks for leaving writing and George long enough to join us. :) I'm eager to read your books.

Kathy R--I so agree. We as writers--and women--don't do moderation well at all. If we could just have 36 hour days, we could probably get everything done. ;-)

Wonderful blog. We've had several horse-oriented blogs here at TLC - it seems to be a recurring theme. I'm glad you found George and he helped bring you balance, in more ways than one.

Your books look great - I'm off to look for them.

I think the brutal truth is that I don't actually like moderation so much as I like intensity. BUT, I might like spreading the binges of intensity around over more than the single activity of work. :) I'm pretty sure I'm not kidding about any of this?

Hey Linda! Great post. I went to the doctor recently because I've been tired...can't seem to shake it. He told me he didn't have a cure for my triple Type A personality:) Bummer. Maybe I'll have to think about the horses again...they were so much a part of my Texas upbringing. Good luck with the books! Sure enjoyed the first two.

A great blog about finding balance and beautifully written.

Karen--sounds wonderful. You should take those lessons.

Nancy--thanks so much for the invitation. This blog was particularly enjoyable to write.

Nice to see you here, Chuck. Thanks for dropping by.

Hey Deb! A horse might be just the cure for that triple Type A personality disorder. I have been put in my place so many times by George.

Your post hit home for me. I had wanted to write, dabbled around in it, but didn't do anything substantial until I started taking riding lessons at 45, and bought my first horse a year later. Now I've got two books out there, a third one looking for a home, and a fourth one started. Oh, and I write a weekly column for my local newspaper. Guess it took my little red mare to give me a kick start!

Linda, I dream of riding fast. It's not going to happen at this stage, but that photo of you barrel riding is very cool, and I'm green with envy at your obvious skill and chutzpah!

Great story, Gayle. There's just something about horses--and dogs--that are good for a writer's soul.

Karen--I recall a 62 or 63 year old woman making the barrel racing finals in Las Vegas. I was so inspired by her. Talk about chutzpah!

Karen, you could totally learn to ride the barrels! I'm sad to think I'd have to work hard to get back to happily riding the barrels after many years away, but, it's worth considering.
Linda, way to combat workaholism. I used to use ceramics as my version of a horse (Nancy P.), but the studio isn't available any more, so workaholism has been unfettered in recent years. Hmmmmm.
Looking forward to reading your books, Linda--thanks for your blog and interaction here today! Dallas folk keep showing up here, I notice (as a Dallas transplant to L.A.). Good folks.

Linda, you are a kick-ass writer and I am a fan!

And I cannot believe how productive you are while still churning out great, well-written books. While riding horses. You make me feel like a slug.

The art of balancing has somehow eluded me.
As most people my life has been a series of compartmentalizations with devotion to studies, work and child upbringing and now trying to run a seamless household to make our retirement enjoyable.

Somehow, I have taken up hobbies such as music, etc. to soothe my soul.
Linda, I admire you very much. You have learned the secret of juggling a beautiful career and a fulfilling passion. I am thinking that the writing and riding are both passions and you are indeed very lucky.

Harley, a slug? With three children? Please. You're a star. You just can't see your own brilliance, looking out from the center.

But, yes, as I look at unfinished manuscripts: you who complete, refine and sell finished stories of any size are stars. I'm no slug, but I'm not getting many stories completed these days, either.

Hi Linda! I so know the work ethic...but living in a Chicago suburb I didn't have a horse, or ride. Not sure my wishy washy courage would let me take on that challenge late in life...too hard on my knees :o) My own "George" strangely enough is writing. I did it long ago, got rejected, took it personallt, and limited my storytelling to my daughter. Then, although some people think it isn't "real" writing (and a disservice to the creators), I tried fan fiction for one of my favorite soaps...although truly fictional characters hobnobbed with those already filling the soap canvas. Two friends and I created The Twisted Thread...followed by The Silent Storm. We had a blast. My daughhter decided that if I could write that, I should be writing period. She gave me the gift of a year at Writers Village. And there you have it. I still get rejctions, but I'm tougher now, and I know I have a story worth telling. Several in fact. So, while my bookstore job gives me the opportunity to sell other author's works, I still write my own stories. Balance is a good thing!
PS. Love Kate. She is one of my favorites.

Oh...and I should mention that my proofreading is horrible, so I rely on others to catch what I just don't seem to see :o)

Thanks,Harley. I'm with Laraine. Anyone who has devoted their life to raising children is undoubtedly a star.

Thank you, Maryann. Yes, everyone needs a "George"--lol--whether it's in the form of music or writing or ceramics. Great post. And glad to hear you're enjoying Kate.

BTW, that 62 year old barrel racer who made it to the finals in Vegas a few years back is June Holeman. Just looked it up. She is amazing!

Linda, I am realizing that maybe I have been "a girl who can't say no" when it comes to duties.
However, I think I am ready to get on that "horse" and begin to realize my hidden desire to write.

That's wonderful, Marie. It's usually a good thing to say yes, but definitely a time to say no, too. Go for it!

Balance is such an elusive goal. I seem able to focus on one major endeavor at a time, with perhaps a few small diversions to keep me happy. I never could figure out how some people seem able to juggle multiple large commitments, but I admire them . . .

Hey, Linda, looks like you brought out a bunch of us former riders. But it's not like riding a bike? Eek. Glad you found George.

Thanks, Linda for the encouragement!!

I love the way you found your balance Linda. You and George are a team, partners, friends. Wonderful post! Enjoy riding out there :)

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