Category Archives: Lessons Learned
What’s the John Lennon Quote?
Yep, that would be the one.
Living creatively is as much about stopping and experiencing life as it is about creating things that will enhance it for yourself and possibly others. It is impossible to create constantly. If we do we deplete the well of experience and inspiration that we draw from. Once in a while, it is necessary to stop and smell the roses. Whether that is literal or proverbial is entirely dependent on the artist.
NanoWrimo is a huge undertaking even for published authors. 50,000 words in a 30 day span is a huge commitement. It takes planning and foresight. Not to mention everyone in your life being on the same page as you and willing to pick up the slack if you are working full time. Planning is a must if you expect your story to have any sort of flow or cohesion at the end of November. And sometimes, life happens and you know you aren’t going to make that goal.
For me, when it happens, as in previous years, I don’t just stop. Whether I finish a self-imposed ludicrous deadline, or not, isn’t the end of the world. We can’t plan for all the interruptions that can happen in a month.
For example: You get sick. Your attention is pulled away on a project at the office, requiring you to work late most nights. A dog that is persistent in his need for extra snuggles or play time. (Don’t laugh. Have you ever tried to write something with a chiweenie yapping at you from the end of the bed? Impossible! I really need some noise cancelling headphones.) Kids needing attention or homework help. Not to mention extra acitivities with them being off from school or prepping for plays etc. Spouses that want attention or need something from you when you’re in the middle of a huge plot twist. (Suddenly I’m very thankful for my single status.) Toss in a major family holiday to the mix.
The point is. Life happens. No matter how much you plan your schedule or think you have all the distractions in check, life will eventually find a way to pull you away from the projects in your head. And that’s okay.
When you find yourself completely flustered with all these things; sometimes all you can do is embrace them. Enjoy the moment. Be present with the people you care about and who care about you. Whether they be big, small, or furry. They won’t be there forever. They will eventually leave you to your thoughts and projects. And you may find something in those moments that adds just what you needed to your projects.
For me, it is all about embracing this journey we call Life.
We are quickly approaching the end of 2017.
To be honest, it’s been a bittersweet year for me. I’ve tried new things. I’ve dealt with some major health issues. I’ve worked, I’ve played, I’ve procrastinated, been distracted, and at times had a sort of laser focus. The one thing I have to admit is that I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I wanted to this year. Procrastination is not your friend, as I’ve learned. But, there are still two months and a major writing challenge left in the year and I’m going to make the most of it.
It doesn’t make sense, to me, to start a quarterly goal list now. So I’m just going to set a few goals for the next two months as I prepare to tackle 2018 and make it the year of the writer.
- Finish my draft of the second Slauson Cove book. – Tentatively titled The Castain Curse, this WIP has been much requested by my current readers. You’ll likely be happy to hear that this project is taking a front seat. I’ve made it my NanoWrimo project so you can follow along on progress by going here: Anne Belle but keep in mind that the goal of NanoWrimo is to complete 50,000 words in 30 days. I already had about 18,000 words drafted when I started. The over all goal for the novel is to have at least 100,000 words to make it a complete novel. So my Nano efforts will likely get me about 3/4 of the way to completion. Completing my first draft by December 31st will allow me to start fresh in January with edits and getting beta reader feedback .
- Start that darned YouTube Channel – Yes, you read that right. I’m stepping in front of a camera. This has been on my mind for over a year. I’ve gotten so much motivation and clarification on writerly things from watching videos from other writers who have been generous enough to share their journey to publication with the world. Not to mention giving a more realistic picture of what the writing life entails. For me, it helps me feel less alone in this process. I’ve had a difficult time connecting socially with other authors in my area because of this crazy work schedule. So, I’ve decided to add my own voice to the writing community online. And I can’t keep procrastinating based on appearances. Like many a plus size person, I usually avoid the cameras for fear of not being taken seriously and it turning into a circus. But, it is high time to face that fear and just do it. I see plenty of bold and beautiful plus size people doing this so, I can do it too.
- Create a plan for marketing new and old work in 2018- This means I need to figure out a budget, how much time to spend on things like social media, blogging, videos, and all the other things that go into it. I need to do some face to face marketing so, I need to research conferences and events at which I can go and sell my books. This is, quite frankly, just as daunting as that camera. But it needs to be done. And I know so many things need major updates if I am going to make a serious go of writing fiction as a career. So, getting that plan in place is my first step.
- Purge The Papers- I have more mail and paperwork piled up on my desk and in the nooks and crannies of my room than any one person should have. I have to take time to sort through them and organize myself. On top of that it won’t hurt me to do a general purge and clean of my space. The organization process may require me buying some file bins and shelves. But it will definitely be worth it to start with a clean slate in the new year.
Those are pretty big goals for two months time. So I’m going to stick with those. January, I’ll post some quarterly goals and a recap on whether I met these or not. Call it my accountability post, if you will. I think it will help though.
What about you? Do you have any goals for the rest of 2017? Share them with me in the comments or by email.
You know, it is funny how sometimes I have this overwhelming desire to have what is considered a “normal” life. You know the type. The white picket fence, husband, 2.5 kids. I’m sure that it works for some people and they are quite happy with it but for me, it doesn’t necessarily work.
I’m quirky and introverted. I’ve always been so. I don’t think that is something that I can change about myself and be happy really. It is also the thing about me that most “normal people” don’t get.
Now, I can pass for normal when I need to. I can don the dress, put on the makeup, and carry on a conversation with the best of them. But, where am I truly in my element and happy?
At home, in my pajamas, with my dog and my laptop, writing away at my desk or the kitchen table. That’s the usual spot. Sometimes you’ll find me on the couch watching Netflix with an embroidery project or at the easel with my headphones on. But mostly, it is just doing what I am right now. Tapping away at the keys on my laptop.
I think it is important for everyone to figure out where they thrive. I know that I spent way too much time trying to fit in where I never really belonged in the first place. All for the sake of having that version of normal I mentioned before.
Embracing yourself as you are is important for many reasons. I might be a baker and decorator but I rarely like to do anything that is cookie cutter even if I am aiming for simplicity. I try to think outside the box and do things that will make me happy more often than I just go with the flow these days.
So ask yourself these questions. Answer them honestly because, well, they matter to you.
- What makes you happy?
- What are you good at that you honestly enjoy?
- How much time do you spend of your week or day doing those things?
- What keeps you from doing them more?
I asked myself these same questions when I was just out of school and again recently as my life changed again. The answers evolved over the years. They were very different at the ending of my last attempt to be normal than I thought they would be. What I really learned from them was that I needed to find my bliss and stop reaching for something that I wasn’t sure would make me happy and focus on the things that did.
Your normal is likely different from mine. The truth is, it is up to us, as individuals, to create our own version of normal for us. Going with the usual social norms, is akin to letting society tell you how you should live your life without question. And that, my friends, is vastly overrated. Take what resonates with you from it but add your quirks and your own flair to life. Wear the funky ties or the bright colors. Take your notebook with you wherever you go. Sketch in the park or set up an easel and paint. Dance or play your instrument on a busy corner for the fun of it. Speak up at an open mic night. Or whatever else you feel moved to do.
Whatever you do in your life. Just be you. We are all amazing in our own way. So, just as I sign my novels when I meet people, I say to you; Embrace your journey! Your story is in your own hands to write. So make it a good one!
When you get to know me, you’ll quickly realize that I am all over the place creatively. Yes, my primary focus is writing fiction. There are tons of other creative interests in my bag of tricks though.
For example: Did you know that I sing? Yep, I even recorded an album with a band. I also performed in musicals back in the day. I also decorate cakes and cookies with my mom. (Psst… If you’re in East Texas. We have a facebook page and take orders. So check us out here.) I am learning to draw and even paint using acrylics. I do embroidery or other sewing, usually by hand, when I watch television. And I’m slowly learning to play the violin. I could list a bunch of other things. My point, however, is that I try new things and do my best not to limit my options.
But what helps me do that? Is there some common thread in all of these things that I do?
The answer is that there is something I do on a daily basis that helps me keep it all together. I journal. I don’t mean sit down an type on the computer either. I use an actual book and I don’t limit it to words. Granted, my journals usually consist of a ton of words but, I also doodle and sometimes design pages so that they are a bit more visual. The point of it all is to put my thoughts down however they manifest.
Well, how many times have you thought of a great idea for something to do and you get sidetracked by some chore or errand? You do the required whatever it is. Then, you come back to your creative space to manifest your idea only to have forgotten what it was.
It happens to us all. Don’t worry. I can’t tell you how many great book ideas are lost to the ether because I failed to write them down early on. Carrying a notebook everywhere is second nature to me now. You’ll rarely ever find me without a way to write something down when it pops in my mind.
Now, there are plenty of journaling resources out there. I won’t get into all of that. Some will tell you that you should only use a leather bound, lined, 80gsm paper, with an expensive fountain pen. And you should format the pages a certain way and all sorts of other nonsense. If those things suit you, go for it. But for someone who wants to keep things simple let me give you the basic break down of what you need.
A notebook. Any notebook will do. Pick one up at Walmart or Target. Back to school shopping is upon us so they are cheap to find. If you’re inspired by something fancy then, go for it and splurge. I do, however, suggest something you can carry with you. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Walmart usually carries a half size notebook that easily fits in my purse or messenger bag. When on a budget, that’s a go to item on my list.
A decent pen. Whether you prefer a felt tip like Papermate’s Flair Pens, Pilot V5s or G2, or Bic Crystal Sticks you can spend as little or as much as you like. I have all of the above along with a box of others. In fact, some of the best writing ball point pens were freebies from the bank. But, I also have a fountain pen that I favor. It really just depends on my mood.
As for formatting? Throw all of those suggestions out the window at first. Just be creative with it. Do what you do. I generally freewrite for a while in my journal before I get started on any projects. It clears my head of the clutter and allows me to process things easier. So, start there and focus on getting the ideas out of your head and onto the pages. Think of it as a reference for later. If you feel like drawing or painting, go for it. If not, that’s okay too.
Some days may be nothing but complaining about life and the circumstances you find yourself in. That’s okay.
Some days you may find that you have a brilliant epiphany about what you want to do next in life, in a relationship, in your career, or in art. That’s okay too. In fact, those days are just amazing.
And sometimes, it will just be a mess. It will seem incoherent and disjointed. And that’s okay too.
Remember, no one reads this but you. Unless, of course, you allow them to. Then I would hope that it is someone you trust.
For any artist the journal is an essential. It is the catch all for ideas, fears, and even for celebrations. It is a sacred space with it’s own special sort of magic. The more you use it, the more of yourself you uncover. That includes hidden talents and desires for your life. I encourage everyone to try it.
In fact, give it a go and tell me about your experience with it in the comments.
Also, if you haven’t already, subscribe up at the top so you don’t miss a post.
If you want to know more about my journaling experience, feel free to leave questions or suggestions in the comments. Maybe a journal walk through could be a good starting video for a Youtube channel. What say you?
Being a writer is not an easy way of life. Some people seem to think it is. They think we all sit around in our pajamas all day, sipping wine or a spirit of choice, tapping away at a keyboard and then playing games most of the time. Then we miraculously sell a book, make millions, and live on easy street while we play with our stories.
Oh how I wish it worked this way! I would be living the high life by now if it did. But, the reality is far different from what you see in the movies. In fact, the only reason that people take it on is because they love to do it or they have an idea that they just can’t let go of. For me, it is a bit of both. I have plenty of ideas that I want to put into words but, I love what I do. Like all writers, I want to do it full time.
There are things that I have to consider though. I have bills and a child to think about. While I want to write full time, that can’t happen without people buying my books and supporting what I do. It takes a great deal of time to produce a book. Then it takes even more time to publicize and promote a book once it is in print.
For me, there are challenges right now that I’m not used to facing. The fact that I have a child in the house full-time is new to me. It is a wonderful thing but juggling the kiddo and the writing is a big challenge for me. While I’m arguing to get her to finish her handwriting practice or reading a simple book my attention is wholly focused on her and getting that done so that she learns. As a mom I am responsible for her learning and understanding what she’s being taught. I take that seriously. But the moment the schoolwork is done there is the constant chirping of:
“Momma can I have a drink?”
“Momma what are we going to have for supper?”
“Momma what is that smell?”
“Can I watch a movie?”
“When will Daddy be home?”
“Can I go outside and play?”
“Watch this Momma!”
“Look at me Momma!”
So, it is a constant juggling act. My attention is rarely focused on the writing when I am working on it. I’m always listening for the silence and having to get up to see what she is into, when I send her to her room to play.
Charles did set up the desk at the window so that I could watch her and work at the same time. Where it is sitting I can see the majority of the yard. I only let her go out when there are other kids out there. Then there is the fact that we managed to get a TV and DVD player in her room. So, now, instead of having to write with Oliver and Company or the Care Bear Movie in the background, she can watch them in her room instead.
This whole process has been a learning curve for me. Trying to get keep it all in check, learn how to work with people around more often, and manage a household while trying to write is a challenge and a half. It is one that I welcome though. In fact, I wouldn’t have my life any other way right now.
Then there are the challenges that all writers face. The midnight oil burning as you pour over the manuscript wondering if you’ll ever be satisfied enough with it to call it finished. The agonizing over a pivotal scene and details like; whether or not the hero should have worn white or burnt orange as he slays the villain. The plot twists to add to the story come to mind. Did you put enough description into the prose? What statement about social issues are you presenting and will some humanities professor tear it apart and call you insane like they did Van Gogh.
We can’t forget the question of how to get the book into the hands of readers. Decisions about whether to hire an agent or not, traditional or indie publishing, and of course how are you going to market and get the book into the hands of readers all come to mind. You see, so much about writing isn’t really about the writing. Now it isn’t enough to simply write stories that fascinate people. You have to be fascinating yourself and wear a multitude of hats in order to put your work out there and get noticed.
It is all one big challenge after another really.
For me, I’m trying new ways to reach an audience. I’m attempting to narrow down who I am writing for. I’m looking into the options of crowdfunding the sequel to The Secret of the Storm and I’m trying to engage my audience using Facebook. And now I’m in the process of starting to set up a local area book tour. That will enable me to get out and meet the people who are making it possible for me to follow a dream and help support the family while staying home to be a mom and teacher to this little girl.
For everyone reading who has a creative person in their life: just remember that they need a little room to do their thing. I’m one of the lucky ones. Charles understands my need to work like I do. He’s a huge supporter of my work and what I do. In July there will be big changes for me in the writing field. I’m hoping to be able to announce a release date by the end of the month on The Fallen One. And I’m looking forward to promoting The Secret of the Storm locally as well. If you haven’t picked up your copy in print or for Kindle you can do so here.
Just remember folks, when you support an independent author, artist, or even a local business you aren’t padding the pockets of executives. You’re helping people stay in their homes, feed their kids, buy that jersey for a sport or leotards for dance classes etc. You’re helping to make lives better and giving back to your community to those who are giving what they know how to give to the world.
My post about the Kickstarter fiasco last night. You know, the one where the douchebag was trying to produce a how-to guide on “getting women” that was more a guide on how to on sexual assault. The petition was met with some resistance initially. In fact, it seemed that Kickstarter was just ignoring the 60,000+ people who were against the funding of this project. However, as a signer of the petition I got an email from dosomething.org last night stating that “We Won”.
Kickstarter issued a formal statement of apology. You can view it here: Kickstater Apology . They donated $25,000.00 to RAINN, which is commendable considering that they gave Mr. Hoinsky the $16,000.00 + that was donated to his project. Apparently Mr. Hoinsky has agreed to meet with petition organizers though, what good that will do, I’m not entirely sure. I find it difficult to think that such a person can turn this into a positive project if he continues to produce what his examples exhibited.
I did a great deal of thinking and talking about this issue. My fiance and I actually discussed the whole situation at length and I realized a few things.
Yes, I was angry with Kickstarter for even allowing such a project to go onto the site and be presented to the public. I mean this, for me, is not considered a creative project. The project was not presented as satirical. Frankly, even if it had been presented as a comedic piece, I still would have found it offensive and in bad taste. However, if it had been presented as such, I could have justified it’s inclusion as a creative work. But the bottom line is that the examples submitted were nothing short of promoting sexual violence. I understand the reasons that Kickstarter hesitated and then funded the project. As a creator, if my project had funded, I would have expected to receive the funds as well. They wanted to fulfill their end of the bargain. Fact is, the process is so automated that by the time they acted, it was too late to stop the transfer of funds.
I get it. Really, I do. It still seems like too little too late.
There was no reason, given the severity of the allegations against this project, that it could not be suspended pending an investigation into the project and its compliance with the terms of service. As a creator, yes, it would have been an inconvenience to not receive the funds immediately. The fact is, if my project was on the level I know I would have received my funds once their inquiries were concluded. The fact that Kickstarter failed to act at all is my complaint.
After all the discussion – especially with Charles – I realized that while I was upset with Kickstarter, I was more upset with the fact that there were people out there willing to promote and support such an endeavor at all.
We’re living in the year 2013. I had hoped that, by and large, we had evolved beyond thinking that one sex or the other is there to be objectified. That we would somehow find a way to get past the nonsense that says women are there simply to fulfill some sort of physical need. That we can find a way to respect one another and live with a certain amount of respect for our fellow human beings.
Then, I remembered that every time you turn on the television, watch the news, or read online or in print you see story after story about people being abducted, raped, beaten, murdered, and tortured. If it isn’t here in the USA, its somewhere else. That, is what is really disheartening for me. That we can’t just live and let live. We can’t seem to get past our propensity to hurt one another. That there are handbooks on how to do these things and then, there are people out there, like Mr. Hoinsky, who are more than happy to put the ideas in people’s heads to do nothing more than harm others.
Yes, it is just sad to me that we can’t seem to get beyond it all.
Sometimes, even writers, have to contemplate something other than writing and story lines. Every life is its own story. In fact, it is in living your own life to the fullest that you’ll find the greatest story you’ve ever read or, in my case, written. But, you have to truly live in it and accept it to see the gem of a tale that it is. I spent a lot of time in my life not accepting who I was and it caused me a lot of heartache, confusion, and ultimately taught me a good many lessons about myself and where I belong in the world.
I spent a lot of time trying to be something I wasn’t. I mentioned it before but, it warrants repeating. I tried to confine myself to labels that weren’t even remotely a good fit for my personality, beliefs, or goals in life. I explored, yes. In my exploration I was enthusiastic and wanted very much to understand. This often led people to think that I was a perfect fit in their world. For me these experiences were part of my life and part of my research for stories that I felt I needed to write. There are experiences that will turn into books as time goes on for me.
Just as everything that happens to you serve as a lesson, so too do the people who come in an out of your life. I’ve had many of these people in my time. I will never doubt their sincerity or their acceptance of who I was at that point in my life but, the fact remains, I am no longer the person that I was when they were there. I changed and so did they. And though I may wish them the best as they move forward in the adventure before them, I know I cannot be a part of that leg of their journey. So, you let go and you move on. It really is all that you can do.
Letting go is hard. It causes pain because you lose a part of yourself when you do it. Doors close and another opens for you to walk through. In fact, I think that life is a lot like these “pick your own adventure” books that I used to love as a kid. You come to the end of a scene and you’re faced with a decision about what path to take. If “A” happens, turn to page 45. If “B” happens next then go to page 94. If “C” happens turn to page 59. We chose a path, the other doors close and we move on to the next chapter. In life there are no do-overs or going back to make another decision based on knowing the outcome. You have to learn from the experiences and push forward and make the better decision next time. That means looking at where you were, what happened, and how you reacted to it first.
There was all sorts of hype about the year 2012. It was supposed to be this turbulent time of global disasters and upheaval. My ex-husband was obsessed with all of the end-of-the-world scenarios and it was practically the only thing he ever really spoke about with any degree of passion or intelligence. So I had a healthy dose of all the focus on the dark side of that. And 2012 was indeed a year of upheaval and destruction for me. But it was also a year of rebirth, growth, and acceptance.
I can almost pinpoint the day I knew that my relationship was over with my ex-husband. It was long before the final straw that had me moving out and the truth is, I likely should have left him long before I did. Though letting go and moving on from that was painful, there was something better waiting on the other side of it all. Yes, I grieved. But, I also picked myself up, remembered who I was before he came into my life, and I went on.
Picking up the pieces of my life wasn’t easy. I had to make some hard decisions and come to some tough realizations. It is true what they say, it is in your darkest hours that you’ll know who your true friends are. In that lowest point, I found out that people I’d once considered to be like family to me were nowhere to be found. But, I also found that the voids get filled somehow and you just press on.
The more of the baggage I lose, the more amazing things start happening. The book started flowing again. Ideas for marketing started to come. Ways to make things happen for myself became clear and doors began to open. My personal life took a dramatic turn and now, I find that I look forward to every day. Some of those days I’m working at a day job. Other days, I’m writing and marketing my book or spending time with family and friends. But, for the first time in a long time, I am the one calling the shots. Sometimes I still feel like I am floundering but overall I know that I’m putting emphasis on the right things for a change. My family, my faith, and my writing.
I can tell you that I won’t be relinquishing control over my life again any time soon. Of course, I find that my life isn’t filled with people putting expectations on me that I don’t have for myself. I am surrounding myself with people who build up my creative side, encourage me to follow my gut, and accept me and love me for who and what I am instead of what I might be or can be. That, dear readers, is really the best part of life; finding those people and enjoying the time that you’re given. Life is too short to be full of depressing thoughts, what-ifs, and people who only hold you down or degrade you.