Hi, again. It's been a bit, huh? This past year has been the hardest in my life--watching my Dad suffer and finally pass from pancreatic cancer. But through the bad, through the ugly, through the pain, God showed up, time and time again. His mercies were new every morning. His blessings were so very personal. And while the bad was bad, the good was oh so good. Here's what life has looked like lately:
My mom and I took a much needed getaway after my Dad's service. Went down to Newport, a family destination spot of ours, and relived all of the memories. Remembered Dad; cried; ordered room service; watched movies; laughed; shopped; and just enjoyed being together.
My best friend since birth spent the weekend leading to my Dad's service with me. Her presence was such a calming and precious gift. And what better way to celebrate friendship than with a trip to Disneyland? We've never been just the two of us, so this was extra special. And extra memorable, especially since it ended with a dead battery, a ride in a toe-truck, and a pick-up from my husband, all well after bedtime.
My Dad passed on September 1st at 11:58pm. My Mom and I were actually there, beside him when it happened. It was the most surreal moment in my life. One moment he was here. The next, he stood before Jesus, whole, healthy, and happy.
My brother and sister-in-law welcomed their baby girl Lucie into the world! She is the sweetest little bundle. She came about a week before my Dad died. And it was one of God's greatest gifts to the family. New life came in just as one was leaving.
Dear friends visited from near and afar. I can't tell you how sweet their presence was. Nothing can substitute showing up during terrible times. It's something I've learned and hope to carry out with those I know who may suffer from something in the future. We didn't talk much about my Dad--but we laughed; we hugged; we just were.
And my husband. My greatest supporter and comforter. He just knew how to take care of me during this time--loved on me, laughed with me, listened to me. We had some sweet adventures together--an anniversary celebration up in Santa Barbara; date nights; Disneyland trips; new restaurant outings in LA; Netflix binging; and lots of snuggling.
Like I said, there was pain. There was pain like I'd never known. But because of that, the good was sweeter than ever. And that's God's goodness right there.
Anyone care what the day in a life of a writer looks like?
Most of the time, it's rather boring. I think people have this idea that writers wake up, filled with creative ideas and spend the next several hours typing furiously away on a laptop, in a cafe, marveling at how brilliant we are. A draft is produced, perfectly, of course. And then we spend the rest of the afternoon lallygagging through a park.
I won't lie. Sometimes. SOMETIMES, it's like that. On the rarest occasion, this is what my day looks like. And it's amazing.
Here's what a typical day looks like.
I wake up, a mess. I'm NOT a morning person (and those who have lived with me can verify this) so no matter how much sleep I've gotten the night before, tearing myself out of bed is an ordeal. I will say, having a dog has helped me get up at a normal hour--after all, no one wants the dog's bladder to explode.
Once I'm up and have taken the dog out, I'll make the breakfast (it's been smoothies lately) and the coffee (always Starbucks) and spend a bit of time with the Lord. If I'm to create, and he created me, I need his guidance, his help.
Next, I'll hop on my laptop; check email; check self-pub book stats; and do some social media "shtuff"; this includes everything from posting on Instagram to writing a new blog post to connecting with followers to responding to emails (I don't get many). I can quickly fall into the black hole of the Internet if I don't stop myself.
So I try. And fail. And try again to ready myself for the writing. I typically pour my second (or third) cup of coffee and start. Since I'm going through the 90 Day Novel again (PRAISE THIS BOOK IN ALL ITS WRITING GOODNESS), I set aside two solid hours of working on my new story.
Now, don't get fooled. This is an ugly process. It looks rather boring. And lonely. And lame at times. I sit, pen in hand, journal beneath it, and write stream-of-conscious exercises for the next two hours. All the while sipping coffee, peeking at emails, slipping onto social media. Basically wasting time when I should be writing. Getting distracted is my (and probably every writer's) biggest enemy.
Somedays I get in a solid two hours. Sometimes I get distracted. I'm not proud of it. But that's the truth. Because, like I said, the distractions begin. The dog. (Play with me.) The laundry. (Fold me.) The dishes. (Clean me.) The beds. (Make me.) The groceries. (Buy me.) Being a homemaker is part of my "job" (I love it), so I can often put those responsibilities above writing.
When I do manage to power through, shutting the door on those distractions, I feel pretty pleased. I'm in the beginning stages of creating my story--which means, the excitement is high. The love of the unknown is thrilling. There's a bit of extra magic in this stage of novel creating. Less self-doubt. More imagining.
I know this part won't last. That the magic will fade. And the work aspect will kick in hard. Which is what isn't talked about much. There is boring work in writing. There is fog and muck in there too.
But if I can remind myself of how good it feels to finish a first draft, to hold that story in my hands, I push past the junk and write.
The rest of the day? Freelance, when I have it. Work-out, when I do it. And Meal prep, when I'm completely on top of my game. Then, when the husband comes home, the laptop turns off. And relaxing begins.
I've been discouraged lately. With writing, creating, blogging. That jealousy monster is creeping in again and I don't like it. Not only does it rob me of my own happiness, but it also kicks me down and keeps me from creating.
Anyone else deal with this?
I'm trying to come up with ways to combat this. Besides stuffing my face with cake, that is. (Though, that is an excellent temporary fix.) I've got a few in my back pocket that I always go to, that I'll share in a minute. But what honestly is the hardest for me is actually doing them. I can let discouragement rule. Start to mope. Drown myself in self pity. But when I actually apply my list of "Discouragement Fighters," I come out a different person. Stronger. Ready. Excited.
So, here's my list. I'd love to know what yours are!
1. MUSIC -- my first go-to to shed discouragement is always music. Putting on a playlist or album that takes my mind away from the noise helps me refocus. Currently, I'm loving Sarah Bareilles' "Waitress" album. Odd? Maybe. But Bareilles wrote all the music and lyrics to this musical about a woman rediscovering herself. As I listen to the songs, I almost feel as if I am this woman she sings of. Soon, I'm more excited about creative possibilities than swimming in my own discouragement.
2. DRINK -- stepping away from my laptop to make a cup of coffee or tea is one of my favorite things to do. There is something entirely comforting about filling the kettle / coffee maker; waiting for the waiter to boil / the coffee to drip; taking that first, delicious sip. I find if I can step away and take part in a small tea/coffee ritual, I become lost in the comfort of creating and shed the discouragement I was feeling minutes before.
3. READ -- I think when discouragement hits, it's mostly due to others' success. At least, for me it is. (Which sounds so selfish. But, I am human.) And it instantly makes me doubt my skills. If I take a step back and reread some of my pieces, I find myself reminded that I am talented. That I am a writer. That I am worthy of this craft. I get lost in my characters, in my prose and am excited to return to whatever project I was working on instead of dwelling in discouragement.
Share some of your discouragement fighters below!
photo credit: Heidi Ryder Photography
This is the longest I've ever gone without writing. Six months. Six entire months without putting pen to page, creating a new story, or editing an old one. I didn't journal. I didn't doodle. All I did was let my mind wander.
Sometimes, that's necessary. Sometimes, when I'm deep in a project, I can be so focused on an edit or a sentence or a period that I forget the creativity part of it all. That what drew me in to writing the story in the first place was imagining. Dreaming. Wandering. Observing.
I think one of my favorite things to do as a writer is observe. I am a nosey, eavesdropping observer in cafes, on street corners, in grocery stores, etc.. Wherever I am, I let my ears and eyes observe. (Don't judge. I bet you do this too.) It might be two people arguing in a tiny chic restaurant. It might be a family resembling a circus at a cafe. It might be nothing but the growing line of a Starbucks.
And while most of it is mundane, it feeds my soul. It reminds me that I create. That I create out of nothing. That I can take the mundane, the mediocre, the modest, and give it life.
Because that's really what storytelling is, isn't it? Taking the everyday and breathing new life into it? Most of the time, to me, that means a bit of magic. I can't help but want something fantastical to happen in every one of my mundane scenes of life.
So durning this break of mine, this six month break, I observed. I let my mind wander.
And now? I *think* I know who I want to write about. She's come to me a few times during this break. A sense of a girl. A strong girl who's not ready to let her insecurities break her. I've had no clue to anything else of her story. But, that's where now comes in.
Now is the time to create. To say goodbye to the slump and hello to the magic. Now is the time to meet my character and discover her story.
I feel as if every blogger out there does one of these types of posts every so often. So, who am I to mess with the norm? I know, I know, be my own person. Blah, blah, blah. But I truly love reading other's "Life, lately" posts and wondered, maybe, just maybe, someone out there would be interested in mine.
If not, cool beans. I'm gonna write one anyway.
Especially since I've been away for so long. Here's how I'll do it. Put life into subjects. As in, doing lately; reading lately; eating lately; writing lately; etc. Yeah? Yeah. Here goes.
Doing lately: Moving things around the house with the Husband. Turning my office into a joint office space, since he's now working from home on occasion. And turning our upstairs space into an actual guest room. Love having a room ready for an impromptu sleepover!
Visited Harry Potter land with Mom and Dad; Magical Castle with good friends; Vegas with the Husband and parents; hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve; and put together several puzzles during football season. So. Fun.
Reading lately: Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist. Guys. I'm reading this book with my Dad, and it gives me all the feels.
I'm also reading one of author James Aries' manuscripts. He's an awesome writer and friend of mine and I adore his stories. The one I'm reading now is the sequel to Verve Stones (The Legend of Spoon). Guys. It's AMAZING.
Eating lately: If you're in the LA area, there are a handful of deeeelicious restaurants that the Husband and I have been frequenting.
Watching lately: FINALLY watched Stranger Things. Loved. It. New favorite animated movie? SING.
Enjoying lately: almond chai lattes; blonder hair; loungewear; sneakers with dresses; fresh flowers from Trader Joe's; walks to breakfast; face masks; mint tea; puppy snuggles; Kayla Itsines' BBG guide; and creating again.
Ahhhhh. The feel of my fingers on the keys is as life giving to me as Spring is to nature. It's been too long. And yet, it's been just the right amount of time away. I've been able to unplug, enjoy precious time with family, and see how God truly wanted me to spend that writing break.
Verdict? With people.
I spent it with my parents and family first and foremost. And while health continues to be an issue with my Dad, God has showed up in amazing ways over these last few months. As he does. Always. We went on a trip to Vegas; Dad and I started our own book club; dinners and sleep overs and sweet times were had on numerous occasions.
I spent it with my friends. Having a clear calendar allowed me to say yes more. Yes to coffee dates. Yes to house visits. Yes to impromptu gatherings. Honestly, this has been such a blessing. God has given me some amazing friends, both close and far. And having the freedom to say yes has allowed for me to be truly encouraged by the women in my life. Weekly phone calls with my best friend; coffee dates in Pasadena with sweet ones and their babies; long texts late at night that encourage my soul; sleep overs; game nights.
Now? I'm not sure. I don't have a story idea. I didn't have a break through. I still feel a bit lost and creatively empty. But. It felt time to come back. It felt good. It felt right. It felt exciting. And honestly, I hadn't felt that until today.
So, here's to a new season of writing. Let's see what comes.
Love you, readers.
My heart is heavy even as I write this. But after a few days of prayer and thought, I've decided to take a creativity break.
Let me explain.
As I've shared a bit previously, my Dad is undergoing some tough health issues. My Dad. My precious, brave, encouraging Dad. And it has taken a toll on me. I don't say this for pity. I only say this to be honest. Part of me has dreaded writing this post. Because I feel like it means I'm giving up. After all, when the tough days hit, shouldn't the writing flow? Shouldn't I be able to write through it? Create out of pain? Trust me. I've tried. But all that happens is my heart stays heavy; my fingers stay limp; and the writing stays terrible.
So, after the sweetest conversation with my husband, some thoughtful prayer, and encouragement from my family, I've decided to shelve my sequel for now. I've decided to limit my posts, my self-publishing push. And take care of my mental health. Take care of my family. I love this life--this writing life of mine. I will return to it too. But for now, I need to let my mind explore without timelines.
What will I do? Spend days with my family while my Dad recovers. Read. Freelance (bills must be paid, after all). Organize forgotten closets. Take care of household things. Write other stories. Or not. And most importantly, trust God through this tough moment in time. He'll lead me back to creating when he wants me to.
I hope to update this blog, here and there. To keep you updated on life. Until then, I adore you, readers. For your support. For your hugs. Looking forward to creating along with you someday again.
That little scoundrel. The jealousy monster. He's been rearing his ugly, pointy, scaly head again and man, have I had to fight him off. Hard.
When books don't sell like you hope they would. When reviews aren't pilling up like you wish they would. When your writing doesn't flow like you thought it would. Jealousy appears like a nasty beast.
"You suck," it says. "And those people? All those people out there--the writers, the authors, the successful dreamers--they don't."
"But, I'm doing what I can," I say. "I like what I've produced."
The monster simply scoffs. And grins. "Oh, really?"
And then a montage of everyone you follow's successful tweets and images and snaps flash before your eyes. Played to some stupid song like "We are the Champions"; but somehow with updated words like, "They are the Champions: And you're not."
Yes. Other people are successful. Will always be successful. And guess what? I want to be happy about that. Honestly--what right do I have to wish doom upon others, only until I too become as successful as they? I don't. What a hypocrite I would be too. To cast snide long glances and bad vibes on others as they share their successes--when all I want is to share mine.
Jealousy. It's a tough thing to battle. It's one of my weaknesses in life. Jealousy about others' fashion choices; income; hair length; weight loss; book sales; websites; follower count...and the list can go on. It can so easily consume me. To the point where I'm spending more time being envious over others' successes and less time being my own girl boss. And getting stuff done. Working on my own goals. Being confident about my own self. Joyfully accepting the path God has set me on. And rejoicing in being content right. Where. I. Am.
I'm working on this. This contentment journey. Always have been. Always will be. But it's something I constantly need to remind myself about. Especially when the jealousy monster appears in full force.
So. Here's to you. Your successes. Your goals. Your dreams. Can't wait to hear about them all.
Guuuuuys for a LIMITED TIME THE NAMING OF COLTON BLACK is ON SALE!
That's right, from TODAY until September 14th, TNCB is only $0.99 on Kindle!
The price will jump to $1.99 (still a DEAL!) on the 15th and last until the 18th, so snag one before the price returns to its original price ($2.99) on the 19th!
(And don't worry. I'll send out some reminders along the way :D)
This is going to be a WILDLY far fetched comparison, but I'm feeling it, so here it is. Lately, after publishing two books and having an amazing book signing experience, I've been feeling stuck. Almost like an olympian coming off the high of winning a gold medal. (I told you it was far fetched.) It's an odd feeling, being here. I thought I'd revel in it more. But I'm feeling--stuck.
I know I need to press onwards. Put my face out there. Contact more people. Go. Go. Go. And yet--where do I begin? I rode the wave for a bit and now, I've crashed.
Now, I'm not saying this for pity. Because I've made this choice. I guess I'm just being real. And asking for some help. Help in how to cope. Help in how to move forward. Help in how to stay connected and sell books.
I would LOVE some advice. Or an encouraging word!
Thanks, all. XOXO big time.