Small Victories

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.” —Enid Bagnold

I’ve blogged more this month than I have in years, since my Xanga days, and I already have a few more posts planned. Feeling pretty accomplished right now, and feeling even better that I have this outlet back. Steps closer to meeting my goals, and feeling more motivated to get this book finished and off to be published.

As I continue to do my research, I continue to learn the right and wrong ways to move forward. I set up a disclosure page to make sure that I’m in compliance as an affiliate, and I’m reading up on all things writing. ALL things. It’s overwhelming, but I’m enjoying the process.

Flu Season and Reference Blogs

I’m feverish and achy, and I barely moved at all today. I’ve gotten tons of sleep, and I have been drinking fluids, but I just want the dull aches across my back and flushed face/neck to cease. Now is not the time to get sick.

Since I stayed home today, I’ve been reading tons of reference blogs through Pinterest between naps. Blogs on writing novels, on monetizing blogs, on word counts, on motivation, and on burnout. Many thanks to shesnovel.com, thewritepractice.com, and nownovel.com for their insights. I feel encouraged, though I know that I’m going to have to push myself and be more disciplined with my craft.

I suppose this discipline isn’t far off from the discipline needed to lose weight. Starting a new practice, eating right, making time for exercise, and being patient with self. For writing, making time to write, making time to read, scheduling out the time to make writing a daily practice, and being patient with self. Not all days can go as planned, but without any plan, what will we successfully achieve?

Frankly, I could use more discipline in each of these areas, so I decided to create a schedule for the week that incorporates activity, writing, and  a chance at a good night’s rest. I’ve started really utilizing my WP editorial calendar, and I’ve created two writing calendars through Google Calendar (one for book, one for blog). I’m going to see if I can impress upon myself some good habits.

Keep calm and keep writing, friends.

Valentine’s Day

This post has been sponsored by Amazon and SiteGround, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

Such an interesting day. I get that Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday — one that benefits the card, candy, and floral companies — but I am enamored with any day specifically purposed for love.

I’ve never understood the folks who hate Valentine’s Day or the ones who celebrate “Singles Awareness Day.” Even if you don’t have a significant other to celebrate the day with, you have a special someone: you. Self-love is a real thing — a necessary thing — and I’ve never understood the amount of self-loathing that takes place on this day in particular.

Being single on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you should hide under a rock for the next 24 hours. A little self-love goes a long way. Pamper yourself. Go get a massage, buy yourself your own flowers or chocolate (just don’t eat the whole box). I used to send myself my favorite chocolates on Valentine’s Day as a reminder that it’s not really a big deal. Don’t allow the only way for you to feel special about yourself to be controlled by someone else. You can (and should) do that for yourself.

How do I spend the day? This weekend, I’ve been curling up with some good books, watching movies, I’ve been cooking and organizing the apartment, hosted a dinner, went to the salon, and I’ve enjoyed the peace and quiet. I love long weekends, and I am enjoying making my apartment a home. This doesn’t sound like some adventure-filled weekend, but it has been everything I’ve needed it to be. I’m relaxed, in good spirits, and I’ve removed some of the chaos at home (by cleaning and organizing my storage room). This may not be romantic love, but self-love is abundant.

Recently, I finished a book by Adriana Trigiani, entitled Brava Valentine: A Novel. Though the title is appropriate for this weekend, it’s not actually about Valentine’s Day. Rather, the heroine (Valentine) navigates a trilogy in pursuit of professional success, family business stability, love, and (in my opinion) self-realization. Through her missteps, she learns about what she wants for herself. Though she’s taken great pride in her work, she has an ah-ha moment and discovers that she really does want to be loved. She didn’t trust that honest love or passion were really possible, primarily as a result of familial infidelities.

Through the novel, the beauty of Italian country, good food, and funny quips come through. Brava Valentine is the second book in the trilogy, so I’m excited to read the third installment, The Supreme Macaroni Company: A Novel. As a writer, nothing gets me more amped up to write than reading a good book.

I’ve also spent a lot of time this weekend trying to optimize this site; to make this site really work for me. I’m so glad that I decided to self-host my domain, and that Siteground has been the absolute best choice for me. Though WordPress recommended Bluehost, I thought their service was awful, the attempt at transferring my domain was rough, and that maybe the company doesn’t have enough staff to truly support such a huge WP constituency.

Moving over to Siteground came with more than really responsive service. It also opens up the world of plugins, which you cannot use if you’re hosted on WordPress.com. Opening up the worlds of Adsense, affiliate programs, the editorial calendar, and a ton of options makes this process a little overwhelming but a lot gratifying. Taking 100% onus of the site means that it can be done my way, can make me money, can have whatever content I need. This part of my writing journey is coming together, which frees up more time and focus for my books. Finally.

Web Hosting

Mindfulness

I’ve been chomping at the bit to blog the last two weeks, but (as you may have noticed), my site has been undergoing some changes. I’m officially self-hosting my domain (as opposed to having my blog hosted by WordPress. The transfer process took longer than I anticipated, but I’m finally master of my own site, and I’m excited to explore some of that potential.

I read a quote yesterday that stuck with me:

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nat Hanh

I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset lately, about making sure I’m in the right headspace when it comes to work, health, body. About being unapologetically, 100% me.

It’s not that I’m afraid to show who I am, insecurities and all. It’s more that I’m fighting with having these insecurities. I see some of them as silly, but here they are. They’re in my thoughts every day. And I’m working on many of them, but we are in this age and time now, where we want such instant results with everything. The truth is, none of these insecurities developed overnight.

There are things that I’ve found hard to accept over the last decade. Physical changes, professional challenges, loss, differences among friends. And I know that experiences help to shape who you are, circumstances can humbling, the people you cross paths with can influence you. But through all of this, I’ve been fighting with acceptance.

I let some really strong words from other people influence how I saw myself and my abilities, and I accepted for a long time that they were right. That all I amounted to were what they said. That they said what they did as some sort of “tough love” or “I’m your friend so I’ll tell you the real truth” kind of intention.

I never for a second questioned the people making the statements or their motives. Instead, I believed them. Blindly. Like a lost puppy. And I have to own that; it was my mistake to think their opinion mattered more than my own. That I could know better than others I held in such high esteem.

As I work on this novel, and I push her through some uncomfortable realities, I realize that I’m facing them myself. A part of my block is that I need to get to the other side of the tunnel as much as she does. I have to accept me for what I am now, and not who I can be, who I think I should be, or who anyone else believes me to be. I can strive to be more, try harder, and improve, but I can’t deny present time.

Sometimes, I think we worry so much about the future that we never really pay attention to right now. Where are we right now? Who are we right now? What can we be grateful for in this moment? When I saw “we,” I guess I’m talking about myself.

Anyway, one of my resolutions this year is to be more present, take more ownership, and really affect the change that I want to see in myself. If nothing else about me changes, and I’m in a vacuum exactly as I am now for the rest of my life, I am good with me right now. It’s taken a lot for me to be able to say that.

Do I see areas where I believe I can improve? Absolutely. But I’m accepting who I am, where I am, how I am. It’s all a testament of where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, and how I’ve handled myself. I can’t be mad at that, and I won’t apologize for being me.

I actually think I’m inherently good, kind, and generous to others, though often to a fault. I need to be more generous to myself, but I’m working on that. I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far, and I feel like there are some personal accomplishments that I’m not far from reaching. I’ll keep plugging along, but I’m going to stop and take breaths to enjoy moments as they happen.

Snow Days

I’m actually pretty grateful for this weather. I’ve been able to relax a bit, get my mind right, and put in work. And by work, I mean both the traditional sense and the creative sense. All with the backdrop of a beautiful snowfall. It’s been a quiet, cathartic snowcation. There was probably no other way I would have had a day off this time of year.

No, I haven’t answered all the questions that have been swirling in my head; I’m just going to take it day by day. I don’t know which way the wind will blow, and I’m trying to chalk up the butterflies I’ve been feeling as just being the new kid on the block.

This weekend has been baking and cleaning, laundry and reorganizing, adjusting this new home to rid it of as much chaos as possible. I want it to feel like that place of refuge at the end of a long day. It’s the first place that’s felt like “home” in the past few years. Maybe the past decade. It feels safe, and secure. It’s spacious enough not to go stir-crazy, but big enough to host my favorite people. It’s somewhere I could be stuck during a blizzard and not mind one bit.

All weekend, the one thing I’ve missed, is I’ve wanted to get away to smoke a cigar. LOL. Well, that’s a lie… Some company would have been nice, but a cigar is actually readily available. Craving is real, and I blame my friends for getting me started. Not that I fought them. My building, even my rooftop, are smoke-free areas. Not that I want to stand outside in the snow… Maybe it’s just the bourbon that’s been keeping me warm — cigars and brown liquors just make sense. I’ll switch to scotch tonight.

Now that I have another snow day scheduled, I can focus on getting more words on the page of one of my books. And maybe tomorrow, I will sneak over to the local cigar lounge for a little reprieve.

 

Snowcation Reverie

Being cooped up at home lends to reflection, especially when you’re alone. Even trapped in it, there is something so magical about the snow to me. I’m in awe. And it’s crazy, because this is the first time I’ve lived somewhere that gets a snowy winter, a hot summer, a gorgeous spring, and a true fall.

Blizzard-like conditions are said to be upon us for at least the next 24 hours, and though I’m cozy at home with plenty of movies to keep me entertained and food to keep me fed, I find myself drained thinking about work. I struggle to prove to myself that I’m not a workaholic, but work seems to be my primary stressor these days. I find myself worried about whether I’ll make the right decisions. Whether my efforts will be seen as such. Whether I will be a good leader here.

And it’s not that I haven’t been just fine elsewhere. I’ve certainly been challenged, and I think I ultimately handled myself well. I learned some important lessons along the way, personally and professionally. It’s just… I find myself waning. Questioning what I really want, whether I’m really happy or just happened to find something I’m relatively good at. Do I see this as a job or a career? It makes a difference.

In my mind, if I’m going to work 7 days a week, I want it to be something that I love. I’m not loving this, and if I’m really honest with myself, I haven’t loved this for a year or two. When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel so forced. Right?

Is it time for something new? Is it time to take some risks? Am I ready? I’m not really sure.

Per my usual, I’ll pray about it and mull it over. I never make rash or uninformed decisions. And who knows, maybe this is just a season, and the tides will turn for the better.

A friend of mine talked to me last week and helped me put some things into perspective; made me think about where I am and what I prioritize. What can I be doing to affect the change that I want to see? As much as I’d like to believe all of my motivation is due to my most recent muse (who may be a done deal at this point, who knows), the talk I had with my friend still weighs heavily on my mind. Lovers tell you what you think you need to hear (which is really what you want to hear), but friends tell you the truth. It may be a hard truth, it may be a humbling experience, it may show you where you where you went wrong. You may have to swallow your pride. The important thing is, coming from a friend, it’s always meant to build you up and steer you in the right direction.

If I’m not prioritizing myself, putting first those things that I really want to do/achieve, how can I really be happy with all of this other stuff? How can I meet the personal goals I’ve set for myself? How can you publish something you never finish? What’s a reasonable amount of time that I can devote to myself and my craft? Heavy stuff, my friend, but you were right on time.

Thank you.

Resolute

Hello, 2016.

I find myself in a new place this year. New city, new job, new home. The biggest difference is that I’m surrounded by friends, family, and a beautiful city full of history, gastronomy, and real seasons.

I had a talk with a friend yesterday, and it was thought-provoking for me. Lord knows I take my time to reflect, but fresh perspective is far more valuable than hindsight, because there is still time to act.

I’ve made several resolutions this year related to my writing. I want to blog once a week, work on my novel at least twice a week, and publish one of my novels by the end of the year. While this is certainly feasible, to put it plainly, I’m already making excuses. Work, work, work.

I’m currently questioning my position, the amount of time and effort that I put into this position, and whether this industry is where I want to be. Honestly, I questioned these things before I moved, but in those moments, all I knew was that the move needed to happen. Personally, I’m so happy that I relocated. Professionally, I’m still finding my way.

I think that the adjustment will take time, no matter whether I determine that I’m in the right career path or that I need a change. I just know that I need stability and support – in whatever I do – because then I feel more free to really give it my all. I’m happier, I sleep better, I’m more focused and committed. I’m more motivated, and I contribute more, when I feel like I have what I need.

I think that we all have moments of reflection where, no matter the challenge, we wonder whether we made the right decisions. Looking in the rearview mirror, did I choose the right education, the right career path, the right city, the right people to surround myself with? Am I where I need to be? At the end of my life, will I be able to say that I really went for what I wanted? That I really lived?

In my mind, I can do anything. In my heart, I’ll always be a writer. Writing has always been my very best form of communication. It’s the only way that I know that I can truly express myself, where I won’t be misunderstood. I get nervous speaking sometimes, because in my mind’s eye, I’m watch the words formulating and rearranging into the sentences that I need to say, but the articulation of these words isn’t as clean when spoken. When I write, I can take that moment to backspace and edit in a way that I haven’t mastered when speaking. Words tumble out of order at times, missing the mark or impact that I’m hoping to convey. But when I write, I can spin the story in any direction. I can evoke the right emotions. I can help people relate.

Though I feel that I’m being pulled in many different directions, I’ve neglected my writing for so long that often I feel guilty when I finally allot time to this craft. Where would I be happiest? Honestly, in some cafe with a cappuccino, my laptop, and my book notes. I could spend the rest of my days doing that exact same thing, because each day would still be different. Watching characters come alive on a backlit page, telling the stories through the eyes of others, finding ways to relate to my characters and their idiosyncrasies. Seeing all of the puzzle pieces come together in a literary work where you can visualize the story as it unfolds. That’s where success lies.

Books were my escape as a little girl. Deep within their pages, I found refuge from whatever was going on at home, from whatever my own feelings were. From reality. I devoured books quickly, often checking out 5-10 books per week from our local library, sometimes reading books twice if I read my pile too quickly.

Writing helps me to create for someone else that escape that was so vital for me. An alternate plane where obstacles aren’t your own, but those of fictional characters. It’s time to get back to this. To make time for this. To acknowledge self by believing that this time is deserved and not squandered.

This is how I make what I want a priority.

 

Rededication

It feels like all of my time and energy goes to work, and hardly any time is put back into my writing.  If I were to hit the lottery some day, I would choose to write full time, but I feel like I could be doing more now to do what I love.  I’ve always been like my parents; I work hard, trying to earn my keep, and I put in more time than is probably necessary.  But it’s a part of how I was raised, and it’s a tough habit to break.  How do I reprogram my inner workaholic to prioritize my writing?

I need to get back to what I love.  Writing — in all forms — is what I want to do.  Guess I’d better make time for it then.

Days of Xanga

I first started blogging 11 years ago on Xanga.  I needed an outlet to handle my grief from my sister passing away, and the best way for me to deal with my feelings is to write about it.

One friend in particular has been with me the entire way — she was my first follower, understood what I was going through, and we’ve never lost contact.  Over brunch yesterday, we reminisced to our Xanga days, when we blogged daily and had a consistent following.  How much easier it was then, how blogging made so much sense.  Since then, we’ve both created new blogs, on multiple interfaces, but we’ve continued to follow each other, though our blogging is far less consistent.

The followers that we had weren’t in huge droves, but they were consistent.  They commented, they kept up with our daily lives, and we kept up with theirs.  We had true connections, rather than a bunch of strangers reading random lines and losing interest because there weren’t regular updates.

I want to get back to the Xanga days.  One thing that I can say is that daily blogging, even about random events or feelings, is that I had a sense of clarity.  I slept better.  Even if I didn’t go shouting from the rooftops all of my feelings and frustrations, they were on the page.  I had expressed myself, talked through it.  Maybe someone commented, maybe they didn’t.  Maybe someone could relate.  At the end of the day, it didn’t matter, because I’d dealt with whatever was going on and moved forward.  I slept better because I wasn’t going over the details repeatedly in my head.

I work hard at my job, but I’ve been neglecting my first love: writing.  I put so much time and effort into my work that I am too tired to write.  I use the excuse that I was brought up that way; trained and groomed to work hard and put my best foot forward.  But I think about what I would love to have time to do every day for the rest of my life, and it’s not work – it’s write.  If I want to do what I love to do, I guess I need to make more of an effort.  I can’t publish a book that’s never finished.

Time to renew the motivation, the commitment.  In doing so, my hope is that I’ll restore the connection with my readers (though not huge numbers) that I valued so much.  Time to return to writing.

Word Counts, Pages and Edits (Oh My!)

I really need to write a new blog post, but I’ve been back and forth between two novels lately.  As a quick update:

Definitely haven’t dated anyone since my last post… Not really looking, just letting time take its course.

A thought for a new novel came to me and interrupted what I was already working on… Thanks to friend, Derrick Jaxn, I’m plowing ahead on the newbie.  It just feels fresh so far.

I’ve been trying to set some count goals or page goals for myself, but I find it to be too much pressure.  Instead, I’m giving myself a certain amount of time each day, and focusing on adding to the body of the work (rather than editing — it’s so easy to keep going back to make adjustments without ever getting everything on the page).

Stay tuned, a proper post is on the way!