Be Gentle to Yourself on New Year’s

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Ah, January 1. A fresh start no matter how you look at it. Even if you aren’t ambitiously making goals, it is still the first day of a brand new year, and there’s something to a brand new year.

If you are making goals, check out my last New Year’s post on how to take time for successful goal-setting.

But if you aren’t…read on.

Has life handed you challenges over the past few years? Is the thought of adding goals to your already-full plate enough to make you crawl back into bed?

Sometimes goals are overrated.

Yep. I said it.

Oh, I think they are important. To progress in life, we must aim for something. However, one thing we overlook is that word: progress.

Life happens. Illness happens. Job change happens.

When those things happen, our goals end up on the backburner, and we often say forget it. I can’t do it now. I don’t have enough time. I might as well just quit on it and try again next year. And then we quit. And we don’t progress.

Why don’t we cut ourselves slack and revisit and revise our goals instead of quitting on them–and on ourselves?

Last year, I wrote about my own need to revise my goals. I wasn’t sure how or when I would manage to revise my submitted manuscript, but I knew I would do it.

Then life happened.

I had an opportunity to shift from teaching English to Spanish, and, as something that has been in the back of my head since I began teaching (my Spanish texts have always sat alongside my English texts on my classroom bookshelves), I jumped.

People thought I was crazy. I have 13 years in as an English teacher. Why change now?

Why not?

It was one of the most freeing things I’ve done. Just making that choice, knowing that I could do it, created an epiphany for me: If you don’t grab those opportunities when they arise, will you ever see them again? (Cue Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”)

I also knew making that choice would impact my revisions. The paying job has to come first. Instead of giving up, I revised my goals. AGAIN.

As the first semester came to a close, out came my manuscript. I was so stoked to be back at it that I worked at it every single day. Looking back, the wait was good for me–and for the manuscript. Fresh eyes and a revived passion made a world of difference, and I’ve already made the first round of revisions.

Heading into the new year, I’ll begin the more arduous round of revising, but still with the same fresh eyes and revived passion. My new goal is to have it ready for submission by the end of May.

So don’t quit–on those goals, those dreams, or yourself. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing right now. Keep progressing, for that’s what we should really measure ourselves by.

Happy New Year!

 

Please share your journey with me! I love to hear from other writers. Not a writer? You should still sign up for my email list! There will be special freebies along the way, like snippets of The Devil Inside Me, backstory on characters, and explorations of the serial killing mind.

Yes! You Can Be a Writer!

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Who can be a writer? YOU can be a writer!

The first thing I learned from that half-done, now-shelved novel I mentioned earlier this week? 

WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE–and don’t be afraid to do it. Stop asking yourself “am I good enough to be a writer?” You’ll never know until you try, and, chances are, you’re already exhibiting signs. Not sure? Scott Kuttner discusses 12 of them. 

Everyone has probably heard the write-what-you-know mantra, but I’m talking about what books you love. Not just the relatable characters or the author’s unique voice, but the genre. From my ancient, well-loved Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory by J.A. Cuddon, genre is “a kind, a literary type, or class. The major classical genres were epic, tragedy, lyric, comedy and satire, to which would now be added novel and short story.”

Today, we can further break “novel” down: horror, upmarket women’s fiction, dystopian, steampunk, psychological thriller, historical fiction, urban fantasy, mystery, cozy mystery…I could go on and on and on…  

I was terrified to start writing in the genre that has always fascinated me: mystery. Why? I didn’t think I’d be good enough. I mean, when your favorite authors are P.D. James, Dennis Lehane, and Agatha Christie–those are some serious, red-herring-throwing heavy hitters. I’m lucky if I can beat my husband at a game of Clue. I love Sherlock Holmes, but could I even begin to think like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

And then it happened. The stars aligned and the concept for my current project nestled in my brain. I couldn’t dislodge it. I wished that Dennis Lehane would cross my path, so I could pitch him the idea and beg him to run with it.

Alas, Mr. Lehane never showed up in my rural Midwestern town. So I gave myself permission. Permission to try. Permission to acknowledge that while I may never be Agatha Christie, what harm could there by in trying to write a mystery?

What happened next was mind-blowing. I was much more invested in this idea than I ever was with my last project. I started plotting and researching and pantsing (more on this later) on some days. I was excited to write or research in some fashion every single day, despite having a demanding full-time job. It inspired me to finish my author website, to begin this blog, to reach out to others who are not yet published so that we can share our successes and our challenges, to reach out to future readers who would (gulp!) give me feedback.

Essentially, I gave myself permission to believe in myself.

Incredibly successful blogger and writer Jeff Goins pointed out that our hesitations may actually be because “we’re insecure, we don’t believe we have anything to offer, we think we’ll fail.” He also added that “no one’s going to give you permission to be yourself.”

And that’s the point: Give yourself permission. Permission to try. Permission to fail. Permission to succeed. (Need an extra kick in the pants? Read Elissa Altman’s guest post at Krista Tippett’s site, On Being.) 

Readers AND writers, have you ever had to go through this permission-giving process with yourselves, whether about writing or general life-events? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

Sign up HERE to get my blog posts delivered to your mailbox. You can always read them here, but email subscribers will receive extras along the way! Sign up today and receive a snippet of my current project: The Devil Inside Me.

 

The Journey Begins

As my grandma used to say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so, since I’m certain no one has experienced death-by-blogging, here goes.

Like many of you, I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can recall. When I was a child, my punishment was to go in my room to think upon my misdeeds. I loved my punishment–because it meant I could read! I’d lie down on my floor turning pages until my mom came in with her have-you-thought-about-what-you’ve-done look.

A love of reading is often a companion to writing. Story ideas have always popped up in my head, even in grade school, when a ballerina-turned-astronaut who gave dance recitals for space aliens was a concept I thought would be fascinating (I had a lot of career ideas tumbling in my third-grade head). I was applying the concept of asking “what if” before I even knew it was a thing. (Ever wonder where authors get their ideas? Here’s what Stephen King had to say about it.)

My problem was I never went much beyond the initial ideas in my head. Sometimes I would start writing, but I most certainly never finished. Finally, many years removed from those dancing space explorers, I had what I thought was a compelling-enough idea to sit down and write.  And write I did–60,000 words’ worth, until I finally admitted I didn’t know where it was headed. I couldn’t believe that I was going to do what I had scoffed at others for doing: I was shelving that novel. (AvaJae, author of the young adult series Beyond the Red, discusses this very concept on her writability blog.) It wasn’t me. It wasn’t right. 

But it wasn’t a waste.

I learned so much from that writing experience, and that is just part of what I intend to share here with you, dear readers. Along with dishing about my quest for publication (and all the wicked and wonderful rejections), my goal is two-fold: to provide something for both avid readers and aspiring writers.

Readers, I can’t wait to share with you the backstory and sneak-peeks of my current project: The Devil Inside Me. I would be thrilled and honored to have you all along for this ride. If you are a lover of mysteries and crime novels, if you are a lover of fiction that has some historical basis or connection, then subscribe today to have my blog posts delivered to your inbox! 

For writers, I hope to give you some of the inspiration and encouragement we can all use along this path, especially if you, like me, are an as-of-yet unpublished writer who has a hard time saying you’re a writer. Give yourself permission. My first piece of advice I want to share comes from writing/editing/publishing guru Jane Friedman’s blog post “What It Means to Be a Writer–and to Emerge as a Writer.” She says, “I like to define writer as someone who writes, not someone who is published for their writing per se. Let me qualify that a little: A writer is someone who writes regularly and consistently, someone who engages in the process. If you give yourself to that process, if you do the work, if you write regularly and consistently, then you are not emerging as a writer—you are already engaged, you are already a practicing writer.”  Brilliance.

So, welcome. I’d love to have you along for the ride, this journey of reading and writing and publication.

Follow my blog online, or sign up for my email list to get free snippets of my current novel, backstory on characters and setting, and writing guides!

Please comment and introduce yourselves! Are you a reader? What are your favorite genres and authors? What do you love in a book?

Are you a writer? What have your personal experiences been with writing and publishing? What struggles have you experienced along the way?