A Look Back to Move Forward

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So….

Crazy ride this last year, right? Looking over my site, the beginning of 2013 began with the announcement of finding a literary agent in February. And now I sit here on the cusp of 2014 and I am once again sans agent.

And…that’s okay.  Stuart Smalley

Long story short, things changed for both my agent and myself and we decided to amicably go our separate ways. It happens and honestly, I was okay with it.

Over the past year, I experienced a lot of firsts in the publishing world as well as a lot of personal issues. My family and I moved from Arvada, CO to Colorado Springs, CO (about 1.5 hours apart) only to have to move again in July back home to Georgia when my husband unexpectedly lost his job. And that was MAJOR.

When real life bops you in the nose and forces you to deal with it, things seem to slow down. The latter half of 2013 has been full of introspection. While I miss Colorado, I’m glad to be home. My children are around their extended family more and boy, have their grades and attitudes improved because of it. My husband and I battled his unemployment ennui over the past six months and thank all things good, he finally found work and his first day is Thursday! The awesome part (beyond a steady paycheck) is that this job was just created out of the blue, like perfectly made for him. And it’s moments like that when you have to realize no matter how difficult the situations you faced, there was a reason behind them.

I’ve meditated more this past year, learned to deal with stress day by day, and realized I need to be thankful for all things, even the tiny stuff. Looking ahead to 2014, I’m still here, healthy, with a wonderful husband and family. I’ve continued writing and I know I’ll snag another agent and get my work published. If this last year taught me only one thing, it’s to realize that things will work out in their perfect timing and stewing about it won’t make it happen any quicker.

Here’s to everyone having an awesome 2014 and if 2014 for some reason isn’t full of celebratory life moments, that’s going to be okay too! Love you guys and thanks for all your support this past year!

2014 happy new year

Lesson Ten – Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

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This blog post serves as the tenth in a ten-part series based on the wholehearted living guideposts found in Brené Brown’s fabulous book, Daring Greatly! Her book is more general in its aim to help people live a more authentic, “wholehearted” life but I will be taking her principles and applying them to writing. The great news is they make the transition very easily.

If you missed the earlier lessons, feel free to check out the Wholehearted Writing category and you’ll find all the posts there.

So here we are at our last installment of the guideposts to wholehearted writing with Lesson Ten - LETTING GO OF BEING COOL AND “ALWAYS IN CONTROL”

Now this is really self-explanatory in a lot of ways. Sometimes our desire to not appear foolish stifles our ability to experience life. I would like to think for the most part writers and other creative types don’t fall victim to this as much as other people because without putting ourselves out there we fail to really create anything.

I see this with moms in different parenting situations. Maybe at the school fundraiser where delicacies are being sold for the raising of very important school funds. And it’s obvious all the other moms decided to get together and color-coordinate their outfits but didn’t call me. Kids are acting silly, running around and playing. And their mothers’ eyes bulge from their sockets in silent restraint, all while sending telepathic messages to their children to please behave and chill out.

And I’m all over in the corner like this:

Are you feeling me? We have to get outside of ourselves and our comfort zones in order to live a little. A few months back my kids who are in the 5th and 2nd grade had a sock hop at their school. Why this sock hop consisted of mainly songs like “Thrift Shop” and the “Cha Cha Slide” I still haven’t figured out, but it was really fun nonetheless. Now most responsible parents were seated alongside the gym wall in tiny plastic chairs, enjoying nachos and soda. Where was I? I was busy getting down with my kids right in the middle of the dance floor. At that moment, I didn’t care if I embarrassed myself or my kids. I’ve never been able to avoid a good beat and this was no exception. In my mind, I’m pretty sure it looked like this:

But it may have been more like this in reality:

Either why, pretty awesome, right?

I decided to go a little .gif happy with this post to hopefully bring some happiness to your day and to remind you that it’s okay to not always be in control, even when you’re wearing your grown-up pants. For writers, experiencing some of life’s biggest oops really influences our work the most. In high school, I had a terrible habit of only participating in activities I was sure to excel at. It worked out great because I was pretty good at a lot of stuff but it left me with some regrets, too. I’ve tried to rectify that since then and I think the absolute biggest way I’ve opted to let go of being cool and always in control is by WRITING A BOOK. Boy, did I really overdo it with that one. Can’t possibly be less in control when you decide to write a novel and then hand it over to the Universe to do with it what it wants.

And I’m so glad I have. I’ve challenged myself and I’ve tried a new thing and although it’s not easy in the least or a sure bet, it has been so rewarding. So if you take nothing else away from this blog series over the past ten weeks, remember this: In order to live wholeheartedly, to write wholeheartedly, you have to put your WHOLE heart out there. Although terrifying at times, it is 100% worth it.

Thanks to you all for stopping by!

Lesson Nine – Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”

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Sylvia Plath quote

This blog post serves as the ninth in a ten-part series based on the wholehearted living guideposts found in Brené Brown’s fabulous book, Daring Greatly! Her book is more general in its aim to help people live a more authentic, “wholehearted” life but I will be taking her principles and applying them to writing. The great news is they make the transition very easily.

If you missed the earlier lessons, feel free to check out the Wholehearted Writing category and you’ll find all the posts there.

So, next to last in this discussion is Lesson Nine - LETTING GO OF SELF-DOUBT AND “SUPPOSED TO”

This one is so much easier said than done, especially when you’re a writer. The evil little voice that lives in all our heads really enjoys taking moments of doubt and ratcheting them up to a level that only ubersadistic sadists would enjoy. So, how to combat this?

Step One: Find some really supportive people in your life that will let you know that you’re not crazy and your work not terrible. Because that’s the truth. That voice in the back of your head that holds the pitchfork and is always at the ready to poke you with it is WRONG. And the more people you have telling you that you can succeed, will succeed, must succeed – the better.

Step Two: Argue/ignore/laugh at that self-doubt. Do anything but listen to it. It’s going to be there. It’s always there, lurking like a creep in a trench coat just ready to flash you with all its dirty bits (i.e. self-doubt speak). You have to realize it’s going to be there, but push through it anyway. I’m not saying you won’t have dark moments. You most likely will. The trick is to not let those moments overwhelm you.

Step Three: To the point of “supposed to”, take those and throw them out the window, too! Do you have well-meaning loved ones that tell you on an almost daily basis what you’re supposed to be doing? God love ‘em but let the Devil take ‘em because their well-meaning talk will only cause you to want to pull your hair out. When somebody pursues “non-traditional” routes of employment such as any profession in the ARTS, friends and family have a tendency to worry. About? Well, your mental state for one. Then, they worry about how you’re going to pay your bills and not become an undue burden on society. Let them keep that worry. It’s not your concern.

When dealing with supposed to, things pop up like this. Like if you’re a writer, you’re supposed to XYZ (wherein XYZ is THE ONE AND ONLY WAY TO PUBLISHING). Brené Brown points out that many people who express their creative outlets through careers feel the need to almost apologize for them. For example, maybe someone’s daytime job is engineering but at night they compose poetry, poetry good enough to be published. When someone asks them how long they’ve been a poet, they say, “Oh, I’m not a poet. I’m an engineer who just rhymes words.” It’s because we as a culture believe that there’s a supposed to way of doing things. If you’re going to write, then it’s supposed to be full-time. I don’t know about you but I still consider myself a writer regardless if I’ve published a book or not. That’s the outward critical success and achievement we may all be looking for but I’m a writer because I WRITE.

Truth

I’ll be honest with you guys. These lessons have been as beneficial for me as I hope they’ve been for you. Many times as I’m writing the advice I hope you heed, I myself am struggling with it. It’s tough putting your heart out there in whatever form you do and hope it doesn’t get trampled. It takes courage and perseverance and good Lord so much more. It’s beyond hard. Writing a book is often compared to birthing a baby, and in a lot of ways, that’s true. But you know, people have a tendency to offer leeway to you if you happen to birth an ugly child (although I’ve been told there are NO ugly babies). But write a book and the world descends on you like hungry vultures. Some of them have good things to say, but the point is, they’re not relegated to ONLY say good things. There are times when they say some terrible things, things no one would say about your baby, at least not without getting drop-kicked in the face.

From one writer to another (or human being in general), keep your head up. Keep pushing. Keep making beautiful things for the world to enjoy. You have the heart of a lion and the tenacity of a goat (couldn’t think of anything more regal). You can do it!

Now friends, join me one last time next week for the final installment in this series, which will be Lesson Ten: LETTING GO OF BEING COOL AND “ALWAYS IN CONTROL”

Lesson Eight – Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

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Take a breath

This blog post serves as the eighth in a ten-part series based on the wholehearted living guideposts found in Brené Brown’s fabulous book, Daring Greatly! Her book is more general in its aim to help people live a more authentic, “wholehearted” life but I will be taking her principles and applying them to writing. The great news is they make the transition very easily.

If you missed the earlier lessons, feel free to check out the Wholehearted Writing category and you’ll find all the posts there.

Without further ado, I give you Lesson Eight: LETTING GO OF ANXIETY AS A LIFESTYLE

As Brené pointed out in her talk with Oprah, one thing was a common thread among all people who lived a wholehearted life and that was taking a minute to process something before FU-REAKING out.

In writing, I find there are many times when I want to scream and pull my hair out and punch the nearest wall and/or person, but the key is to NOT do these things. Maybe you get some feedback from a CP or beta reader that makes you want to zip off a totally unprofessional email that insinuates your reader has no clue and that their breath probably stinks too, but is that productive? I would argue, probably not.

When you get some feedback that starts up your rage machine, take a minute to BREATHE, process the information, and then give it some time before saying anything to anyone. Normally, once some time has passed, you will look at the situation in a much more constructive and sane light. And really that’s a good thing for everyone.

Perhaps if one Anne Rice had done this recently, she wouldn’t have sent a mob of loyal fans to blast a blogger over one bad book review. Or that time when she went nuts on Amazon over comments about her book a few years back. Hey, Anne, maybe I’m talking to just you on this one and if so, just cool out, okay?

Trust me, this is a very difficult practice for me. Anxiety is first nature to me. I stress out about stressing out but there needs to be some calm and stillness in my life. It helps the creative process. It helps me be a better person. Remember folks, stress KILLS.

This week’s post is rather simple in its message, but as previous posts have been, possibly complex in its application. Give it a whirl. I don’t think anyone will ever regret stepping back from a situation for a moment and taking time before charging ahead.

zen frog

Take a hint from this little guy

Please stop by again next week for the next to last post in this series, Lesson Nine: LETTING GO OF SELF-DOUBT AND “SUPPOSED TO”

Lesson Seven – Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

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Freeplay

This blog post serves as the seventh in a ten-part series based on the wholehearted living guideposts found in Brené Brown’s fabulous book, Daring Greatly! Her book is more general in its aim to help people live a more authentic, “wholehearted” life but I will be taking her principles and applying them to writing. The great news is they make the transition very easily.

If you missed the earlier lessons, feel free to check out the Wholehearted Writing category and you’ll find all the posts there.

I know Lesson Seven is lengthy but it’s worth it: LETTING GO OF EXHAUSTION AS A STATUS SYMBOL AND PRODUCTIVITY AS SELF-WORTH

Long story short? TAKE A BREAK!

Stuart Brown is a researcher who defines play as time spent without purpose. I can hear you all now. Are you insane? Most likely yes but that is for another blog post. As writer-types, and really all human beings, we need some time to decompress. Get out of our own heads and chill to the out. Many of us multitask like it’s going out of style and sometimes, just sometimes, we may wear our bedraggled, too tired to sleep persona as a badge of pride. I’m not sure if this affects non-Americans as much as it does Americans because we seem to have the market on workaholicism. I take that back. We probably rank lower than China. They’re are after all like #1 in ALL things.

Speaking on behalf of mothers and parents and women, we especially are guilty of overextending ourselves and working insane hours all while maintaining our homes and children’s playdates and for what exactly? Do we get an extra shiny medal for nearly killing ourselves? Is there a secret club I’m not aware of that we’re all collecting points for that we can then trade in for an all-expenses paid vacation? Probably not. (But seriously if you are aware of this club, please email the deets.)

Point being, we all need balance. Moderation in all things is one of my favorite go-to quotes to make me feel better about my life choices. But also because it’s true. There’s a bunch of science out there and I don’t want to get all science-y on you but I may throw out words at you like “studies” and “research”. These aforementioned science words point to the fact that we as human beings need to slow our proverbial roll and smell the roses every now and again.

Now you may be saying, how does one go about this new concept of play and rest? I don’t want anyone to injure themselves diving into this uncharted territory head first. Do some light stretches first and then ease into it. Possibly the idea of taking an ENTIRE day off to just mellow out and have no identifiable goal in mind is a little terrifying. So maybe you want to start small with just an hour of free time. Set it aside for some “you time” and don’t make any notes, outlines, plans, or bullet points about what you’re supposed to do.

And here’s another earthshattering idea. From time to time, when your poor overworked body is so, so tired, TAKE. A. NAP.

baboon nap

This little guy is my new hero

Let’s just try for a little while to slow down, allow our brains to free associate, and catch a few extra winks if our bodies are screaming for it. We may actually find that the time we’ve allowed ourselves will work in our favor with greater bursts of creativity and a refreshed mind ready to face the world. This week’s assignment is simple but many may find it difficult. Let me know if you give it a shot and how it works out for you. I mean I can’t foresee bad results from nap-taking but I will take all feedback into consideration.

Our time is winding down now with only a few more guideposts left, so please join me again next week for Lesson Eight:  LETTING GO OF ANXIETY AS A LIFESTYLE

I Hit 500 Followers on Twitter, You Hit the $25 Amazon Gift Card Jackpot

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amazon gift card

Starting TODAY, I will be having a giveaway. Upon reaching 500 followers on Twitter, I plan to give one lucky entrant a $25 gift card to Amazon. To enter, simply click the Amazon gift card pic above or the link below and you’ll be taken to the Rafflecopter site to enter. Tweet about the giveaway to receive extra entries and if you haven’t liked my author page on Facebook yet, you can earn extra entries for that, too. I’m ready to reach the big 5-0-0, but feel free to help me push it much higher. I happen to be very witty on Twitter. At times. At other times, I make random comments you’ll probably find confusing. But that’s just part of my charm, guys. Ok, get out there and spread the word!

$25 Amazon giveaway – Click here

Lesson Six – Letting Go of Comparison

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apples and oranges

This blog post serves as the sixth in a ten-part series based on the wholehearted living guideposts found in Brené Brown’s fabulous book, Daring Greatly! Her book is more general in its aim to help people live a more authentic, “wholehearted” life but I will be taking her principles and applying them to writing. The great news is they make the transition very easily.

If you missed the earlier lessons, feel free to check out the Wholehearted Writing category and you’ll find all the posts there.

Here we go with Lesson Six: LETTING GO OF COMPARISON

This may be one of the more difficult lessons, especially when it comes to writing. But this one is needed big time in order to cultivate creativity. Brené in all her brilliance said that untapped creativity is not benign. If we don’t find an outlet to create, we can truly suffer from it. So as writers we’re definitely tuned in to creating.

BUT…If we spend our time lamenting over our friends’ newest accolades or accomplishments, how can we be busy doing the work of writing? I’ve been actively involved in the writing community online through contests, websites, and social media for the past couple of years. In that time, I’ve been able to cheer on many of my friends who’ve gotten full requests, agented, and ultimately book deals.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I do find myself comparing where I’m at in the journey of writing to my colleagues. It can feel like all your buddies have gotten discovered as the geniuses they are because they’ve all snapped up agents and yet there you are, the only girl left at the dance with no partner. It SUCKS. I tried to make that more eloquent, but I just can’t. Sucks sums it up.

I’ve since moved on because I have now too joined the ethereal realm of “having an agent” but there are new challenges I face. Such as? Well, now I have to fight the urge to compare when and with whom I will ultimately publish my book with others I know who’ve already gotten deals. And we all know the comparisons may not stop there. You may start questioning was my book deal as big as XYZ. Will I get as much input on my cover as XYZ? Does anyone else thinks it’s weird that I have a friend named XYZ?

Listen, healthy competition is always a good thing. Honing your own craft to be the best YOU you can be is a great thing. But obsessing over the most minute detail of a friend’s book news (why do her headshots always look flawless) is not a good thing at all. I love the saying, “Stay in your lane,” which means to focus on yourself and what you do, not what others are up to. If you have twinges of jealousy or moments of doubt, deal with those. Scream into a pillow. Eat copious amounts of chocolate. Make a voodoo doll of someone you went to school with just to release all the frenetic energy you’re dealing with because things are just too insane in your life at the moment…NO, NOT THAT.

You are fabulous. You know you are. No need for comparisons. Diamonds don’t sit around and concern themselves with the shine of those around them. And you wanna know why? Because they’re too dang busy getting their GLITTER ON!

So, go forth, conquer the world, and join me again next week when we tackle Lesson Seven: LETTING GO OF EXHAUSTION AS A STATUS SYMBOL AND PRODUCTIVITY AS SELF-WORTH

shiny diamond