It’s my turn over on the Romance Gems. This month’s topic: Life Lessons. My addition? TRUST
Until next time ~ Peg
Just as an aside, I am a member of an on-line chapter in my RWA organization, the Contemporary Romance Writers. Since this is what I write, it makes sense I’m a member, no? Hee hee.
CRWA has a blog that many of the members contribute to, including myself, and the other day a new post was presented that I swear on everything that’s holy was written exactly for me. I know it wasn’t – but it really could have been, because it was posted at a time when I was struggling with whether or not to compromise something I’d written just in order for it to be sold.
This is the post :Its’s Okay to Say No, written by author Brighton Walsh. The gist of the article is that you should never say a yes when you’re feeling a no to a writing situation. As an author – and still one who is relatively unknown – this hit home for me. Hard.
Let me e’splain it Lucy….
I received a phone call – yes, really A phone call, not an email!!! from someone in the publishing industry the other day to whom I’d cold-sent a new manuscript proposal. (Cold sent is what over the transom means nowadays. It’s basically an unsolicited email about a manuscript). This person called me and was utterly professional, very forthcoming and sincere, and really, really lovely and nice as he/she went about telling me everything that was wrong with my proposal and how I had to change it to make it something he/she could even consider worthwhile to try and sell. Everything from my character names, to their professions, even the plot arc of the book series was “weak” and cliched and needed to be tightened up. I was told that if I wanted to make all those changes and did – I could feel free to send along the new proposal and manuscript for re-review.
So here are the emotions that went barreling through me at that call: ( in order of their appearance!)
When the call ended I seriously don’t think I took a breath for a few moments.
Here’s the thing: I lovelovelove the story I wrote. truly. It’s got one of my favorite heroine/hero couples that I’ve ever written and every point in the story from their careers to the story arc is exactly how I wanted their story to unfold.
But this in-the-know person in the industry was saying if I made these changes the book might have a chance of being sold to a publisher.
See my dilemma?
Was I willing to change almost everything I’d written with the story just on the slim marginal chance it would be published? Was I willing to sacrifice a storyline and an entire series plot arc, rename characters and change their professions, just to get the story published? Was I willing to abandon all that I’d written and tailor-make it to someone else’s specifications inorder for my words to see print commercially?
I seriously gave myself a stomach and headache that afternoon from all the angst ripping through me.
And then I saw the new CRWA blog post.
After reading it, it was as if the sky had opened up and was shining after a downpour had moved through and darkened it. A little dramatic, but true. I was able to breathe again. My headache disappeared and my stomach pains went the way of the dinosaur. My decision has been made and I think you can guess what it was.
I’ve been talking a great deal about angels lately and how I think they are surrounding me and sending me messages almost daily. I truly believe that blog post was something I was meant to read and learn from. And, just BTW, it’s a really good blog post! You should read it because it can be interpreted for way more things than just writing.
The power of saying No to something that just doesn’t feel right deep down in your soul, is an amazing sensation. As women we need to learn to do that more often, especially if saying yes means we have to compromise our integrity. As writers, new and even established, no is a word that doesn’t get said enough.
If my story never gets sold commercially, that will be okay with me, because with all the options of self publishing available these days, I know I could release it on my own.
The power of NO. It’s, as Martha says, a Good Thing.
I’m not gonna go the writing route today for this topic. I could probably pick out 50 things I never want to do again with regards to writing, like line editing, spellcheck, ensuring grammar and tense are correct. I simply want to write and not have to worry about all that falderall!
But I’m not going the writing route, instead, I’m taking a detour into adulting because there is/are somethings I wish I never ever ever had to do again: housework.
There are days I wish I had a real-life, true-to-form, living with me in my house, fairy godmother. Or at least a simple version of Cinderella, only without the whole going to the ball and being married to a prince subplot.
I am sososoossoososososoo sick of housework in general and dusting/vacuuming/polishing specifically.
Where does the dust even come from? I’m alone in the house for, like, 14 hours a day. I’m not swishing around from room to room churning up air motes or leaving behind evidence I’ve been in the rooms. Most of my window blinds are closed to keep the midday glare out. But lo and behold, within one day, if I scrape my finger across a table it comes back with….crap on it. Dust crap.
Sometimes, when I walk into my dining room after sweeping it no less than an hour before, dust bunnies the size of friggin’ tumbleweeds will glide across the room, pushed forward by some unseen alien force hell-bent on making me crazy!
Seriously, I’m sosososo done!
I wonder what the other authors in this blog hop would love NOT to have to do. Check out their posts:
I had a random acquaintance ask me the other why I bother to blog. The way she phrased it was “does anybody really want to read about your daily life? I mean, all you do is write, right? That’s kinda boring.”
Those of you who know me probably think you know how swift, cutting, and murderous my reply to her was. You would be wrong. I actually stayed silent and just stared at her. She was probably thinking, “well she can’t even come up with a creative reply, so she mustn’t be that good a writer.” In reality, I was thinking something else.
And it wasn’t 75 ways to verbally vivisect her.
Her question got me thinking: “was she right? Would anyone who doesn’t know me, and even those who do, want to read a blog about my life as a writer? Why would they?” And the fact that I think people would, well, does that make me a little narcissistic in some way?
I had to take a step back and consider the reasons why I started writing a blog to see if I could truthfully answer that question.
The moment I signed my first book contract, the marketing instructions I was sent stated that I needed to begin an online presence so I’d have a platform to inform the public ( the people I didn’t know personally) about my soon to be released book. I joined Twitter, developed a Facebook author page, and then this blog. In the beginning, it really was just a venue to promote my book. It quickly turned into something more, though. I started writing about my life as a writer, my struggles, creative ideas to break through writer’s block that I’d learned from other industry professionals. It became a place to recap conferences for writers who couldn’t attend them, a place to promote good books I’d read, and new authors I’d found whose work I wanted to share.
And through all of this, I kept getting more readers and subscribers, to the blog- the majority of whom I’ve never met!
There’s a way on WordPress you can get your daily analytics to garner info on how many people are reading your blog, clicking it through it and when ( like, what time of the day). Every day when I check those analytics I see a lot of data and it’s all good, so that means people really do want to read what I have to say, receive what I want to share, get to know the authors I’m introducing. And that makes me feel good. Really good.
So, to the fringe acquaintance, if you’re reading this ( and who am I kidding because you’re probably not!) take that!
A few weeks ago I started reading this book: You are a Badass ( How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life). I’ll admit this freely: the reason I bought the book when I saw it in Target is because I liked the cover. Something about the color and the graphics screamed “Buy me!” at me.
The book is good. Really good. There are so many personal takeaways from each chapter that I could–literally–write a book about them! One of them I want to focus on today that spoke recently to me is the reason for this blog post.
Chapter 6 is titled Love the One You Is, and it centers around loving who and what you are and not comparing yourself to others. As a writer, I struggle with this concept daily. I am always obsessing that I am less than every single other writer. Less of a writer than Nora Roberts. Or Jill Shalvis. Or Sandra Brown. I will never write as well as, or as poignantly, or as humorously, as they do. I just won’t. One of Sincero’s tenants in Chapter 6 is, “Comparison is the fastest way to take all the fun out of life.”
Stop the presses! Forget about spoke to me, that line screamed from a mountaintop and echoed all the way to the moon and back.
I’ve always encouraged other writers to write the book of their heart. To write the best book, tell the story they want to tell, their way and not be worried about what editors or beta readers will think. Be true to yourself as a writer and someone will want to read your work because it will resonate with them. Why, then, have I never believed my own advice? Why, then, have I gotten bogged down in the notion that what I write is never as good as what other writers write? Why, then, have I allowed my insecurities to mount, all the while pushing others to do their best work?
After reading this chapter in Badass and this quote in particular, it was like the heavens opened up after a torrential downpour and I finally saw the sun in all its glory.
A little cliche, yes, I’ll admit that. But it’s the truth. From the moment I read those words and allowed them to sink in deep to my soul, I stopped comparing myself to other writers. I am the best writer I can be at this moment in time. Me. I may not be as funny as Jill Shalvis, or be able to weave an intricate plot like Sandra Brown. And I certainly don’t have Nora Roberts’ unending supply of plots and characters. But I am the best me, the writer, I can be right now.
And you know what? It’s a freeing notion. By not comparing my work to those I admire best, I have freed myself – some would say my muse – to write the way I want, what I want, and not worry about whether or not it will be liked. I like it! That’s what really matters. All the rest is cupcake frosting. And delicious though that may be ( I mean, come on! It’s frosting!!!) it’s not the reason I write. I write, first, last and always, for me.
yeah…I’m a Badass!
Every year for our birthdays, my daughter and I elect to give each other a memorable experience in lieu of a standard gift. (Full disclosure here: I still get her a gift!!) For her 25th birthday, we took a cooking class together, as an example. When my birthday rolled around this year, she asked what I wanted to do that we hadn’t done before and she gave me a few options. One of them was going to trapeze school.
I can hear you saying now, “Excuse me, WHAT?”
Yes, you heard ( or read!) correctly. I wanted to learn how to fly on a trapeze. On a bar. 30 feet above the ground. And yes, with a net under me. I’m not totally a moron or have a death wish.
Over this past weekend, my daughter and I went to trapeze school.
It was as terrifying as I thought it would be, but it was so much more.
My daughter gave me the option of going first. I took it. As I climbed the 25 foot ladder up to the jumping off stand, I started to run in my mind the last time I paid my life insurance policy, was it up-t0-date? Who was my beneficiary? When I got to the stand, shaking and feeling as if I was going to throw up the oatmeal I had for breakfast ( more on that later) I must have telegraphed my absolute terror to the man who was going to strap me in and basically shove me off the stand because he said, “first time?”
Jeeze. What gave me away? The fact the ladder was clanging from my shaking hands? The pallor of my face? The fact my pupils were constricted with fear?
Anyway…he was lovely, reassuring, and very strong, thankfully. I did as I was instructed: one arm out to catch the bar, one hand behind me holding onto another bar, bend my knees, breathe. ON his count, he made me switch to both hands on the bar, put ten toes over the ledge and don’t look down, just focus on the distance. Now, of course, you know when someone tells you not to look down the first thing you do is….look down!! And sweet, baby Jesus, was I high up. Like third story building high up. On the count of three, he said, “go.” And I…went.
You never know how much you value your life as when it flashes before your eyes.
From below, the main instructor was calling out instructions, the most important one? “Focus on my voice!!” I did. I straightened my legs, lifted them when told, swung them around the bar so that now I was holding on and my knees were clutching the bar. When he said, “Let go and drop backward,” another flash flew past me and I…let go and leaned backward. I think at this time I screamed “Holy, Shit!” but since neither my daughter nor my husband was videoing me, I can’t remember for sure. I do remember thinking “I’m actually doing this and not dying!! Then I thought, “yet!”
Next instruction? Lift back up, drop your legs and let go.
Now, upside down hanging from the backs of my thighs is a position I never in 1,000,000 years thoughts I’d ever be in. But, I was. Looking at the world from 30 feet up and upside down is…interesting. And, I will admit, a total rush. And a little nauseating…damn that oatmeal.
Okay, so after a few seconds of this experience the instructor yelled, “Put your hands back up on the bar, drop your legs, and let go.”
Okay, what? Let go? I guess I thought they would somehow lower me back down. The thought I had to DROP never crossed my mind. He said it again. “Let go.” So, I did.
The fact that I’m here, writing this, proves I didn’t die!!!
And, yes, it goes just that fast!!
So after the first time, when I was letter friggin’ perfect, you’d probably think it was a piece of cake after that and that the next time I’d be even better. Yeah…not so much. You never realize how much you weigh or what terrible shape your arm muscles are in until you are trying to hang with all your weight dropping straight down and someone yells “lift you legs over the bar.” So, I was a one hit wonder with the trapeze bar. Got a perfect 10 on my first try. I should have stopped there, but you know…competition! I tried 2 more times and then that damn oatmeal got the better of me and I got really sick and we had to call it a morning.
But for a few quick hours I flew like a bird. An overweight, middle aged, not very strong bird….but one, nonetheless.
And it was friggin’ fabulous!
One of my favorite human beings is Eleanor Roosevelt. She once said, “you must do the things that terrify you.” And I did!
So, next year’s birthday experience? Sky diving sounds good, no?
I will admit this freely: I hate a preachy book. You know the kind. The book that just bleeds with not-so-hidden messages for the reader. The book that condescends to the reader, the author making sure you know he/she is so much more educated than you on the topic.
It even happens in romance books. I read a book years ago by an author who I won’t name ( and never read again!) whose secondary character was basically a doormat and let every person in the book walk all over her because she thought that’s how she deserved to be treated since she was a bastard. All through the story, her internal dialogue droned on and on about how she was unworthy of ever finding love because of this. In the end, she winds up alone and caring for the heroine’s two children. The life lesson I took away from all that drivel, and the one I really think the author intended: bastard children don’t deserve happiness.
Yeah…that’s why I’ve never read anything by this author again.
When I set out to write a book I don’t automatically think about the life lessons that should be incorporated into the story. For me, I think the story itself and how the characters move in and out of their lives, should decide this. Looking back on my books I can objectively say these have been the basic life lessons I’ve written about:
I don’t preach in my books. That’s not my job. My job is to entertain the reader. If the reader gains any insight into her own life, or sees parallels within it from the storyline, then that’s a good thing. What isn’t a good thing is if I’ve insulted the reader by presenting a situation or a problem that may be comparable to something in their own life, and then telling them this is how the situation should be solved. No. Not gonna happen.
Life lessons are important. No one is denying that. I just don’t want to get slapped in the face with it when I read. And, I also don’t want to be the one slapping!
I’m sure the other authors in this blog hop are just chock full of life lessons, so why don’t you hop on over to their sites and see who they handle writing these lessons in to their own books.
My facebook page has been deluged for the past two weeks with happy pictures of graduations, both high school, and college. I love sharing in the excitement and joy of all my friends and their families at these monumental achievements.
These young people have so much in store for them, ahead of them, and concerning them, their futures, their successes, and –let’s be honest — their disappointments, too.
I can clearly see the days I graduated from high school, nursing school, college, and then from my Master’s program. Clearly! At each, I remember certain emotions of the day that seem almost prophetic now.
High school: “Thank God I can get legally get out of the house now!”
Nursing School: “Thank God I can get a good job now!”
College: “I did something no one else in my family has ever done – graduate from a school of higher learning! Thank you, God, for giving me the strength and fortitude to do this.”
Masters: “Done! Now I can get married knowing my formal education is done!” ( I never wanted a Ph.D., so I knew I was stopping here.)
I was 27 when I got my Masters degree and married the man who gave my life meaning.
I’m now 57 and all I can think about is how fast those 30 years went by.
Marriage, moves to different states, childbirth, back to work, family obligations, deaths, more births… yadayadayada. Those 30 years flew. Really. Flew by. If the insurance statisticians are correct and the average American born woman lives to 79 years of age, I’ve already lived more than half my life. Way more.
People call this The Second Act of your life. What you’re supposed to do now, since you’ve gotten all the obligatory things out of way, are the things you’ve always wanted to do. Travel, invest, take up those hobbies you never had enough time for before now. Retire, learn to do the things you’ve always dreamed about learning to do. In the great scheme of things I shouldn’t be writing – that should have happened in the first act. But…it didn’t. The writing career I wanted– the one where I could financially support myself with my writing and have it be my primary job, my career, my way of existing — didn’t happen when it was supposed to. No. It happened when I turned 55. Way after graduation. Way after my life was already settled.
At my college commencement, the speaker asked the graduates to evaluate their education. Did it prepare us for the future we wanted? Did we feel we were adequately informed and prepared for what was in front of us? Did we feel we could go out into the world and change it?
My answer was a resounding NO to all those questions. Looking back now, I’m changing that to “HELL, NO!”
Life is longitudinal. You keep moving on that line, having some success, having some failure, reformalizing goals and aspirations, but always moving. Sometimes the line moves up, sometimes down. Sometimes it just moves straight and steady from one point to another without fluctuating. But it always moves and we are always learning.
Our education doesn’t end simply because we’ve been given a piece of paper that says Graduate. No. We are lifetime learners. I learn something new every day. Every friggin’ single day. And yes, some of it I wish I didn’t know!
If I was giving a commencement speech the one thing I would emphatically tell the graduates if this: This is not the end of your education, of your learning, your schooling. Nor is it the beginning. It’s simply part of a continuum. Meet every day as a new challenge, a new learning experience. Keep your eyes, minds, and hearts open to new things, new thoughts, new ways of doing something. Don’t be static. Be dynamic instead. Embrace the new while learning from the old. Plan for the future, yes. Please do that. But don’t forget about the present. Enjoy it, don’t just look at it as a means to an end. Don’t NOT do something you dream about doing because you’re worried you might fail. Do it anyway. Failure is a form of learning; people tend to forget that.
Learn something new every day. Every. Day. You don’t want to get to a certain age in your life and think: “I wish I’d done that. I wish I’d gone after that dream. I can’t now because it’s too late.”
It’s never too late, especially for a dream.
I really think Mother Teresa said it best:
Last week we were charged with writing about our greatest strength. This week, the opposite, our greatest weakness.
Or my insatiable need to watch reality television shows like “housewives” and Kardashians, just so I don’t miss a moment of their fabulous lives.
Maybe I could write a blog piece about the diet I’ve been struggling with for 40 years.
But when it comes right down to it, my greatest weakness is none of those things. It’s my judgemental attitude toward people and events.
The Bible says In Matthew 7:1-29: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Apparently, I never got that message in religion class.
When I hear something I disagree with I immediately judge it wrong, simply because I don’t agree with it.
When I hear someone has done something criminal, or stupid, or negligent, I immediately judge them guilty with no questions asked as to why they did what they did. Or even if they did. In this country you are legally innocent until you are proven legally guilty. Not in my mind. If I hear you are to alleged to have done something, the word alleged is thrown away and you actually did it.
I’m not always right. I know. Shocker, right? And most of the things I have been wrong about were proven wrong to me after a quick judgment call on my behalf. So that old adage “think before you speak” fits in well with this knee-jerk judging reacting I have.
I struggle daily with being judge-y. I truly do. It has gotten better. Now, instead of immediately SAYING and giving voice to a judgment, I tend to keep it inside, quiet, and not share it. Okay, so I still have work to do on not being so judge-y.
But I AM working on it. I promise.
Please don’t judge me!
Since this is part of the #MFRWauthors 52 week blog challenge hop, you can click on the amazing authors and writer below to read all about their greatest weakness as well.
I lovelovelove Pinterest. For a writer who plots ( like moi) it’s a visual dream come true. If you click on my personal link in the previous sentence, you’ll see I use it for characterization, writing tips, plotting, and info I need for books about stuff I don’t know about, but that I want to use in the plot/story.
I also troll through recipes and how-to videos. I’m a kinesthetic learner, which means I learn how to do stuff by actually doing it. My husband and daughter can read a manual and put a truck together – or take it apart. I need to be shown how to do it because trying to follow instructional steps has never been my strong suit. I tell you this because I want to explain the title of this blog: EPIC FAILS.
I don’t drink coffee for my caffeine jolt in the morning, I drink DIET MOUNTAIN DEW. I know…don’t judge me! SO when I spotted a video how-to the other day about making Mountain Dew Ice cream, well, I simply lost my mind and knew -KNEW- I had to make it.
There were 4 ingredients: Heavy whipping cream, evaporated milk, DMD and food coloring.
Here are a few snaps of the process I took as I performed them according to the video.
After the requisite 4-6 hours in the freezer, I tried a sample:
I truly wish someone had been home with me to video my reaction when I tasted it. This is as close as I can come to thinking what I must have looked like:
Now I know why there is an official website called PINTEREST FAILS! Think I should upload mine to their site???