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.

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!

On Becoming a Writer

I’m a fan of Emily Giffin’s writing, and reading some of her answers to questions she is frequently asked increased my appreciation for her.  I can relate to this in several ways:  I went to law school, though I always wanted to be a writer.  I felt I had to have a “real job” first.  I was afraid (read: guilted by my mother) to take the leap into writing full time due to the possibility of rejection and/or failure.

My questions to you readers:  did you always want to be a writer?  What’s stopping you now?  What obstacles are you facing?

Hope you enjoy the interview!  I found it motivating.

 

Emily Giffin – On Becoming a Writer

“Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 

Yes. For as long as I can remember. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve reading books and writing my own stories. Perhaps because we moved around a lot, characters in books became my constant companions, and keeping a journal provided me comfort. In high school, I was a member of the creative writing club and editor-in-chief of our school newspaper—and although my interests became much more diverse, I was always the happiest when reading and writing.

Then what made you go to law school? 

I’m not sure exactly what happened during college, as I never lost my desire to become a writer. But looking back, I think I had the sense that I had to get a “real” job first—that I couldn’t graduate and promptly sit down to write a novel. I took a lot of history and political science classes—so law school became a logical next stop. If I’m completely honest, I also think I went to school because it felt safer—a more certain path to measurable success. I think it always feels riskier and scarier to go after something you really love and want because the rejection and failure hurts more.

Do you regret going to law school and becoming an attorney? 

Never. For one, I don’t think you can ever regret an education—even one that comes with a heavy loan burden. I learned so much—skills and knowledge that I still apply today in a very practical sense. I also feel that I gained real world experience. I learned about office politics and was forced to develop a thick skin while working at a large law firm. Most important, I’m not sure I would have moved to New York City without the safety of my law degree and job offer—and living there was certainly one of the most enriching experiences of my life. And finally, I made so many close friends at law school and my firm, relationships I wouldn’t trade for anything.

What made you decide to quit and go for your dream of writing?

Although I enjoyed law school, I loathed the actual practice of law—at least the big firm culture. And I discovered that misery can be quite motivating. So very early on, I devised a plan to pay off my law school loans and then write full-time. Meanwhile, I began writing a young adult novel in my free time (and sometimes while at work!). Four years later, my loans were paid off and my book was completed. I was able to land an agent, but over the next several months, I received a dozen rejection letters from publishers. I seriously contemplated giving up and keeping my nose to the legal grindstone, but instead, I quit my job, moved to London and decided to try again. It was then and there that I began writing Something Borrowed.”

(Q&A from http://www.emilygiffin.com/faq_onbecomingwriter.php)

Resolve

2013.  The year we weren’t supposed to reach because the world was supposed to end.  So they say…

Looking back, I can confirm something that I hoped at this exact time last year — 2012 was a year of transition for me.  In the last 365 days, I moved 2,000 miles away from everything I knew, I turned 30, I started a new job, my dad retired, two of my best friends got married, I finally put another stamp in my passport, and I’ve been offered the opportunity to teach on a collegiate level — something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl.  I’m omitting that I found love, because I lost it too, but at least I got myself back to a place where I was open to love.

I made writing goals for myself, I bought my domain name after solidifying a pen name — the name I originally intended to give my first daughter.  With the prospect of children being rather remote, at least right now, the name I selected was one of such importance that I just had to know it would be used.  Simone Marrise.

And now, to look forward, I think 2013 will be another year of transition.  This one may have more growing pains, but I think that I’ll be a little more fearless this year.  A little more willing to do for myself what I would always do for others.  More travel, and not just all of the work trips.  More outings and opportunities.  More chances to meet the goals I’ve always had for myself that I was starting to believe weren’t feasible.  I moved 2,000 miles to a place where I had no friends or roots.  It may sound unwise, but it was the best thing that I could have done for myself, because I proved that I can go anywhere from here.

2013.  I’ll turn 31 in two weeks, and my thirties are already infinitely more promising that my 20’s were.  My 20’s were so littered with loss that I couldn’t see any of my major accomplishments, like finishing college or graduating law school.  Great accomplishments, but there was too much going on for me really appreciate what was happening.  By this day next year, I’ll have at least one book published, hopefully I’ll have also published a scholarly article, I’ll be slated to teach another college-level course, and I’ll be settled in a state that is almost the exact opposite of my native California.  Maybe I’ll find love again in the next year, but I’m not rushing that, nor am I scouring the earth in search of it.  Maybe I’ll get another stamp or two in my passport this year.  Maybe I’ll get serious about the prospect of buying a home, but I think that’s still a few years off.  Hell, maybe I’ll win the power ball.  Whatever happens, happens.

Goals I didn’t think I could attain are so close now.  I’m gaining a confidence I thought I’d lost, and it feels so good to be at peace with the past and have a positive outlook on the future.  I don’t intend to force any of my goals to happen prematurely, but I’m going to do my damnedest to check a few more off of the list in 2013.

No waiting until June to realize that time is passing by so quickly and nothing’s been achieved.  Time to get started.  Planning and intentions are great, but there’s no substitute for actual effort.