Just Write It.

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There comes a point in life when you have to tell yourself to suck it up. For me that point is right now.

I shared with you that I’ve been in and out of story ideas, fiddling around, feeling lost and confused.

And then last night I saw a post on pinterest about running. It said, “how to run: lace up sneakers, run.”

It’s so simple right? And yet I never thought about the equivalence between my new fitness hobby and my writing career. All it took for me to learn to run was to put one foot in front of the other and run.

My endurance increased, and as I lost weight my heart rate didn’t get so high. I could run further and faster, stop less and rejoice more.

I just, did it.

And now I have this book sitting on my hands that I wrote in 2013. I have a love/hate relationship with it as it keeps me up at the wee hours of the night and morning, but also love as it slowly forms into something beautiful I’ve created.

After taking my time and distance from editing I can finally look at it and say, it’s worth finishing. It’s on it’s way to beautiful.

So my friends, I commit to you my plans to simply, just write it. This year I will pitch it to agents again with more confidence and a new angle.

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A Burst of Color

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You’re probably wondering where I’ve been. I’ve been wondering that myself. I’ve felt so lost within my creative mind lately and its because so much has changed physically, spiritually and mentally in my life.

When your mind and body change, your writing changes too.

I’d compare it to a vampire in transformation. You know in Breaking Dawn when Bella’s writhing in pain, transforming into an ultra-gorgeous bad-ass? I kind of feel like that, though maybe it’s not as painful and maybe I won’t be as gorgeous or bad-ass.

But there’s this “tunnel time” where you can’t really do anything but live day to day, let the changes roll through you, past you, and let life’s current move you to a new path with a new direction and a new purpose.

I started losing hope that I’d find my way out. I thought I’d be stuck in my tunnel time forever, constantly being formed but never forming. And this morning when I woke up I awoke not as my old self but as a new version of me, and I awoke with a burst of color.

And for the first time in a long time I could do nothing but write.

Shake Your Trees

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Why is it we all want to fly, but rarely do we want to take the leap of faith from the nest to the air? We look at birds with longing, wishing we could live with grace and eloquence. And yet when it comes time to jump into the open, rushing wind, we second guess our ability to succeed.

I’m not saying anything new here. I probably sound like a motivational poster or a fortune cookie or maybe your mom. But it’s something that’s been on my mind lately as I’ve felt my tree being shaken, my nest of comfort being rattled, and my frail body preparing to fly.

It’s terrifying.

But I can’t help asking myself why I never shook my own tree. Things in my life haven’t been what I wanted, and yet they were comfortable so I lived with them.

Maybe I just wasn’t aware that I was settling. Maybe I just longed so much for stability that I didn’t realize I’d fallen into a rut. That I was staying stagnant when I was meant to evolve.

Whoever shakes your tree, whether its God, or your best friend, or yourself, be prepared to fly. You will feel frail, and small, and insignificant, but just remember that you can’t leave the nest if you don’t take a step.

 

Contentment is a Cuss Word

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My heart is heavy today–that verge-of-epiphany kind of heavy. I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness, and about the state of my career.

Contentment has become a four-letter word. Who wants to be content? We’re so busy chasing things, people, careers that we don’t have time or energy to be content. A good friend told me life is mostly a series of journeys. That may sound obvious, or cheesy, but think about it. How many times in your life have you been “there”? Right where you wanted to be? Not often, I assume. Most of the time you’re spending your energy trying to get somewhere. So if we are never content in transition, are we just never content, period?

I think there’s something beautiful about having a dream. Having passion. Having goals. And I think we should all take steps every day towards those goals. But there’s a fine line between chasing a goal and lusting after it, between wanting something and becoming obsessed with it.

I’ve become so obsessed with achieving some of my goals that I have forgotten how to live here, now, and be happy where I am. Writing is not solely about being published. It’s about the actual writing, then growing in your craft, then entertaining people, then attracting agents’ attention, and so on. It’s about a process. It’s about a journey.

So this week I am celebrating being a somewhat new author, editing my first book and preparing to send it out for representation. This is an exciting time that I don’t want to miss out on by focusing on how I’m not published. I’ll look back one day and remember how hard I was working for something I wanted more than anything else. And I’ll know it was worth every word, every late night, and every edit.

When Puzzle Pieces Don’t Fit

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The trouble with stories is they hardly ever come out linear, at least, not on the first try. I’m usually lying in bed trying to sleep when I realize I want Freddy to be a vampire who can’t stand blood. That seems compelling enough on its own but when I pair it with Freddy’s secret desire to be a fighter pilot and his reluctance to enter the state of Texas it gets more complex.

How do those elements fit together?

Narrative drive has become an evil term for me lately. I feel like I’m always asking myself, what does the protagonist want? How does he get it? What happens next logically?

Logic?

I thought I was a writer, not a mathematician or a scientist! There’s a reason I didn’t take math in college — Liberal Arts major, capital L, capital A. I thought being a writer excused me from having to use logic.

Well I was wrong, because writing is something short of solving a puzzle. The fun part is creating all of the elements — all the quirky characters, ominous settings and snappy dialogue. The headache-inducing part is linking it all together in a coherent manner, or creating a narrative drive.

After hours of racking my brain I might eventually decide that Freddy’s reluctance to set foot in Texas is absolutely related to his dislike of blood. Perhaps Texas is where his human best friend was farmed for blood (this is getting gory, isn’t it?) by the vampire government. Maybe Freddy senses the injustice of oppressing humans by imprisonment and making profit from blood sales. And maybe Freddy wants to be a fighter pilot because he’s preparing to turn against the vampire army controlling these human farms.

Wow.

That’s a different story than what I had before because, quite simply, it is now a story. Freddy is not just a vampire, he’s a vampire who craves justice and species equality. He’s active in fighting for his rights and brave enough to betray his own kind for it. Freddy is a dynamic character with a goal, motivation and plenty of conflict.

Creating stories is certainly fun, but when you find yourself jamming puzzle pieces together that don’t seem to fit it can be something short of torture. But luckily, if you let your mind be free, let your imagination run wild, you will eventually figure out how all of your elements connect, and you might even surprise yourself.

So hang in there troubled writers. No one can write your story but you.

Something from Nothing

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Q: How did you come up with your current novel idea?

I didn’t. I came up with something almost entirely different. A different facet of the same vision. I envisioned a girl meeting a paranormal guy who wanted to save her life and become her protector. I created a best friend that was like a brother. But that was it. I didn’t know what McDreamy was saving Roxi from. I didn’t know how or why he chose to protect her. But I knew she was fighting something bad.

The idea was nothing. Just a spark. A conflict. A tension. A plot point. And then I started brainstorming. Free writing. Scribbling on napkins, on old receipts. Getting up at 4:27 am to write a scene, a feeling, a kiss. I started letting my mind rule me, sacrificing time and energy to get my simmer of a spark to a full, raging fire.

I created something out of nothing.

And now in draft 5 I am still creating. I’m creating character, and tone, and transformation. I’m creating the heart of the story, the resonating feeling. The context, the vibrancy. I am a sculptor carving dimples and eyebrows and creases.

The beauty of the fine details is breathtaking. Hard work. So hard you want to quit almost every time you start. But more rewarding than I ever imagined.

Want to ask a question? Check out my new Q&A page.

Getting Emotionally Involved

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I think the hardest part about writing is dealing with all the emotion:

The fear, anticipation and excitement of staring at a blank page.

The sense of accomplishment after typing the last word.

The overwhelming panic that comes with the idea of revision.

The sheer vulnerability when showing your work to a critique partner.

The nervousness of pitching your book.

The pressure of making it when everyone says you probably won’t.

The agony of sorting through your thoughts, feelings, emotions and dreams to transfer them to paper. The process of psychoanalyzing yourself and your characters that makes you want to pull your hair out.

The idea that you have to get it right, somehow, no matter how long it takes.

And the small sparkle of hope that you will get it right, somehow, no matter how long it takes.

The creative process is not a flat journey. It has many ups and downs and sometimes those downs can seem so down you may feel like you’ll never be up. Writers in the Storm Blog posted a great article about what these emotions tell us, and I wanted to share a bit with you.

“If you quit writing for a month and you desperately miss it—perhaps to the point of snapping at loved ones and experiencing an unsettling lack of purpose—your melancholy is a reminder of how much you value writing. Fresh disappointment at yet another rejection reminds you of your vulnerability—the open, fluid state from which authors must write. Yearning that all but rips you in two will drive you ever forward toward your goal, no matter the stakes. If you feel deflated when re-reading what you thought was an amazing day’s work, your internal critic is whispering, “Keep working on this. You can do better.

I couldn’t say it better myself. After all, our emotions are a reminder of our passion, and our passion a reminder of our dreams.

Spinning Plates

Dance_with_spinning_plates2(js)Life is a constant act of balancing spinning plates. God forbid you drop a plate. God forbid it plummets to the ground and shatters into microscopic pieces.

Whether the plate is your fitness, or diet, or relationship, or sleep, or career, shattering it entirely can be devastating.

Something I’ve learned about our bodies is that they are always trying to reach a state of equilibrium. What I’ve learned about our minds is that they are trying to do the same thing. We crave balance and yet it’s so exhausting to seek it and so easy to upset the balance we do achieve.

For the past year I’ve been learning how to balance my priorities because I’ve learned that I simply cannot do it all. There will come a time that I have to choose between writing and sleep, between taking time to cook and picking up a pizza. Priorities come down to decisions, and what we do every day to work towards our dreams.

The reality is some dreams are bigger than others. And at times our biggest dreams may take backseat to a smaller dream that is more important in that moment.

My writing life has suffered as I’ve dedicated myself wholeheartedly to getting in shape. And at times I feel guilty about that. I feel guilty that I only wrote 10,000 words in July and only posted a blog every few weeks.

But what I’m realizing is that without me, without my health and sanity and stability there is no book. I cannot write if I don’t take care of myself. So while writing is my ultimate dream, right now I have to pick me first.

And that’s not easy to do.

Perhaps when I achieve my goals I can lift the writing plate higher and persevere with a ferocious intensity as I have before. But until then I’m learning to be completely content with not having it all, not doing it all, and enjoying the perfectly unbalanced spinning plates in my life.

 

Rain, Rain, Go Away

 

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Usually I’m a big fan of rain. It smells good. It feels good. It makes the grass look good. Rain is usually about new beginnings and new growth.

 

What I’m not a big fan of is grey clouds, the metaphorical kind that hang above your head.

 

Several of my writer friends are in slump right now, a funk, a rough patch, pick your cliche. We were pumped for the conference in May and afterwards we drooped into a serious case of the summers.

 

Perhaps we exhausted ourselves.

 

Perhaps we wrote too much, thought too much, critiqued too much.

 

Or perhaps, life, the big bully that it is, is simply placing a grey cloud of doubt over our heads, one that says you can’t, you shouldn’t, you won’t.

 

This, unfortunately, is the inevitable part of a writer’s journey — the part where the brain rebels and starts spewing lies at you until you believe they are true. Until you believe that you are the worst writer that ever existed and, honestly, what were you thinking trying to write?

 

But, if you can endure this grey cloud, if you can ignore the rain, you will have a new beginning.

 

The truth is we do suck at creating, sometimes. But other times we are quite awesome at it. No one is ever purely good or bad at something. It’s a process. A balance.

 

What I’m realizing is the only difference between a successful writer and an unsuccessful writer is perseverance. The willingness to keep going even when there are grey clouds above. Even when it feels like it’s raining and the storm is washing all your brilliance away.

 

You have to pick up a pen or open your laptop anyways, tell the grey cloud to get lost, and write a damn good story.

 

When Inspiration Strikes

I don’t have insomnia, I promise. What I do have is a writing problem. When I finally get to lay down at night and pull my blanket up to my neck, my brain kicks into high gear.

Before I started writing this is the time of day when I would wonder if Johnny liked me too or worry about a test coming up.

But since I’ve become a writer it’s turned into a different kind of worry. I worry how I’m going to get Moriah Grimaldi to save the world from the apocalypse and rescue the boy she loves. I worry about how I’m going to give her a character arc yet still surprise my reader with a plot twist.

I worry about fictional things, things that just don’t exist and yet in my world, they do. Because Rodalia, Roxanne and Moriah are all a part of me. Small bits of my soul. And the boys they fall in love with, I fall in love with too. After all how could I not just adore the guys that have come into “existence” because of my romantic fantasies?

Usually after half an hour of worrying I get a pang of inspiration. I usually feel like I’ve just found the cure for cancer or solved the mystery of space. It’s sheer brilliance in that moment and I become convinced that if I don’t write it right there, right then, I’ll never be able to remember it again.

And I’ve been writing long enough to know that’s absolutely true.

Because being a writer means being a slave to your craft. When inspiration calls you have to answer it, or risk losing it all together.

Consequently my sleep schedule has been erratic which makes it hard to wake up in the morning and take care of my responsibilities.

But as much as a pain in the tush it can be, I’m so thankful that I have a passion I can be a slave to. I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about Johnny or tests anymore, but that I  can create characters I become so invested in they don’t disappear when I close my laptop.

So my fellow writers out there, hold strong during the late hours, all nighters, and double shots of espresso. Just know your hard labor will pay off when you finally publish your masterpiece.