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Mental Health

Before I can move forward on this journey I have to lighten the load I’ve been lugging around for the past three years. That means unpacking the things I’d rather not look at over even acknowledge, throwing things out that don’t serve me and slow me down. That means forgiving myself for being afraid.

I have lived in this body, with this mind for twenty-seven years. I know how I think, how I operate, how I navigate the world. Most of the decisions I make are based on avoiding discomfort at all costs. But no amount of tiptoeing can save you from life. It’s constantly changing, evolving, and it expects you to change along with it.

That’s the point of the human experience–to have a human experience. To feel pain and joy. To be struck by dreams and disappointment. You need both. Always.

When I avoided doing the things that scared me, I thought I was saving myself from something. Protecting myself from more heartache. But I was actually robbing myself of what waits on the other side–transformation. A chance to be a better, stronger version of myself.

At this point, it’s not productive to dwell on what I’ve lost or what I didn’t give myself a chance to gain. I can’t be angry with myself for doing what I thought was right. For making decisions that were really out of love. But what I can do is try to show myself that same love in a different way.

Instead of running from discomfort, I can ease myself into it. Instead of questioning my own greatness, I can remind myself of it every day. Instead of holding onto the thoughts and feelings that burden me, I can let them go.

I can let go.

I can forgive myself for my choices, my inaction, indecision, and doubt. Unpacking them; leaving them behind. I can stop using my fear as a compass and start using my heart instead.

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Motivation & Inspiration

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The Universe is already listening.

I set the intention to move full force in the direction of my dreams…three days ago.

THREE DAYS

Here’s how I demonstrated my faith:

1) I set a retirement date from my current career.

2) I created an 18-month escape plan of tasks and goals, both personal and business related, to help me get there.

3) I cleaned out my closet and got rid of a ton of stuff I’d been hoarding due to my fear of lack.

4) I bought myself a ticket to hear a 5 hour lecture and Q&A from one of my favorite authors.

Here’s what’s happened so far:

1) I crunched my January budget for the hundredth time and I found an extra $400 to go toward completing my Emergency Fund.

2) A graphic designer who I was certain was completely out of my league actually responded to my email. After 2 weeks of thinking I was a loser they shouldn’t even give the time of day.

3) My boyfriend found a portable recorder in with some of his equipment for the podcast I’ve been fantasizing about but have yet to mention to a single soul.

4) The migraine I’d had for three days suddenly disappeared.

It’s creepy awesome!

So here’s what I’m going to do for me and all of the other indies and creatives who are dreaming of leaving their day job behind, of finding their true purpose, of getting rich, and being brave–I’m going to blog diligently for the entire 18-month period to capture all of the miracles, big and small, that come my way.

Because I know in those moments when Doubt’s whispers become shouts I will need proof. I will need reminding that my thoughts are magic and that instead of wading out into that fear I can climb onto my life raft, the one I am building for myself one prayer, one promise at a time.

Writing from the Top of the Mountain

Mental Health, Motivation & Inspiration

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For the past year I have been trying to figure out where it all went wrong. How did I go from being on the verge of having everything I wanted to feeling farther from my dreams than ever? When did I become a magnet for fear and doubt instead of a human rocket that uses them as fuel? Where exactly did I lose myself and how do I get her back?

If I retrace my steps, perfectly, honestly, I can actually pinpoint the moment when everything took a turn for the worse, when the wheels fell off, when I gave up on myself and my dreams, giving the universe permission to do the same.

I’ve written and reflected so much on the miracle of May 2015 when, seemingly overnight, my book sales skyrocketed. I’ve looked back on that time with awe and gratitude, with confusion and disbelief. I have looked back on that moment as luck finally meeting with all of my hard work. As the beginning of something great. But in the midst of that moment of greatness I did not choose to do something great, bold, or brave. Because I did not choose to leap.

Instead, I took the money that I’d made from writing fiction and I used it to apply to grad school. I used it to build a cocoon, to mitigate risk, to stomp out my fears of change and lack and failure. I used it to give up.

I didn’t realize at the time that I was giving up. But what else do you call turning your back on a gift that big and beautiful?

In my quest to understand where it all went wrong (and therefore, how to fix it) I’ve been reading a lot about mindset, the power of positive thinking, and the rules of universal intelligence. Basically, universal intelligence is…well, you. And me. And everything. Everything is connected. Our reality is a shifting, changing thing that bends to our desires, good or bad, brave or fearful.

On some level, I have always believed this–that I am always in control of much more than I appear to be. But I also have an anxious overactive brain that can funnel just as much negative energy into something as positive energy. In fact, it’s much easier for me to funnel negative energy into something because most of my day is spent swatting away negative thoughts. I’m an expert at creating them. I can do it in my sleep, and often do, which is why I have nightmares almost every night.

But this hyperactive, extremely powerful brain of mine, when it focuses on positive things, can make miracles happen. On some level, I have always believed this too. The problem is, the line between positive thoughts and negative thoughts is coated in vaseline. I vacillate between them like an olympic ping-pong player.

Everything is awesome. I’m so happy. Look at all the abundance that surrounds me. So much excess. Things I don’t need. Things I’ve greedily hoarded when there are people in the world who are homeless and starving!

See what I mean? It’s a problem.

But a problem that I had (somehow) temporarily solved in the summer of 2015, at least long enough for something completely miraculous to happen. I keep thinking about that time in my life, trying to figure out all the ways it was different; all the ways I was different.

Here’s what I know for sure: I was frustrated with my current job. I knew I didn’t want to work there forever. I knew I hated my boss. But I also knew, with extreme certainty and clarity, that it was temporary. I felt a pull to do something bigger, greater, better. Something that would give my life purpose and make the world a better place. I believed that I was meant for that kind of responsibility and that I had unique skills and abilities that qualified me for such a role. I wanted to make more money so that I could buy a new car with a working A/C unit that didn’t stall every time I ran the heater while idling at a stop light. So that I could shelter myself from the kind of financial struggles my parents went through. So I could do good things for others.

Three years later and every single one of those basic desires is the same. What isn’t the same, is me.

In 2015, when I was daydreaming about my future, I was writing like my life depended on it, planning like my life depended on it, dreaming like my life depended on it. The things I wanted and the work I was willing to do to get them was nonnegotiable. My day job was temporary and this was also nonnegotiable. All of these nonnegotiable things were promises I was making to myself and to the universe. These promises became prayers. Declarations and then manifestations.

I told the Universe that I wanted to make a living as a writer. I showed it that I was serious by writing every spare second I had–early in the morning and late into the night. I paid for cover designs and copy editing and threw money at this dream even though it wasn’t earning me a cent.

And then the Universe answered my prayers. It gave me exactly what I wanted. Money. An audience. Control. Freedom.

But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to quiet those dark and doubting voices in my head. It wasn’t enough to make me believe that I deserved these gifts I was being given. It wasn’t enough to make me leap into that great unknown that really isn’t unknown once you realize you’re the one constructing it. Brick by brick. Every thought with the power to summon something you desire or something you fear.

I chose fear. In the face of my dreams, of my destiny, I chose fear.

Instead of trusting that the universe would continue to provide, I stopped swatting those negative thoughts away and let myself dwell on them. What will I do when the money runs out? What if I can’t write another book? What if I lose it all? What if I sabotage everything?

And I did. It took three years but every fear that I let stop me from taking that leap, every fear that has been following me around, tying me in knots, stealing my sleep and good sense, has come to fruition. And I have no one to blame but myself.

But this is also good news. Because if I’m the only one to blame for creating this problem then I’m the only one who can possibly come up with the solution. Believing this is also the first step in repairing my relationship with the Universe because it operates on the assumption that if I can change what I believe, I can change, well, everything.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get back in the driver’s seat of this human experience that could very well be the only one I ever get. I’m going to make it count by planning and dreaming and creating and trusting like my life depends on it. I’m going to claw my way out of that black hole and stand on the top of the mountain. I’m going to give myself all the gifts and I’m going to believe with everything in me that I deserve them.

We Are Not Alone

Writing Process

austin-chan-275638I’ve been in desperate need of a reminder that I am not the only person on the planet trying to make art their full time gig. I know I’m not alone because I’ve met dozens of artists with secret identities that allow them to function in the “real world”. But sometimes it can feel like everyone else is making progress in leaps and bounds while you’re backsliding into obscurity.

The biggest perpetrator of artist envy? Twitter. People rarely tweet about the bad writing day/week/month/year they’ve had and instead only hop online to share their triumphs. When other people’s successes are all you see it can make your own failures seem even more devastating.

What I’ve realized over the past several months is that only seeing when an artist has reached the finish line helps absolutely no one. Other writers might think that celebratory tweets about landing an agent or a book deal or a million dollar contract might motivate the masses, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. But the truth is these things are not helpful for an artist in the trenches. These announcements do not inspire me. They make me want to crawl into a hole and eat an entire tub of ice cream.

So if watching others reach the finish line isn’t really all that helpful…what is?

Well, the journey of course. The good, the bad, the ugly; the twists and turns and falling off a cliff that you didn’t realize was just around the bend.

I’ve been chronicling my journey here for almost 5 years now! But recently I’ve been gripped by this new idea for a massive, totally out of my comfort zone project. One that involves a nonfiction book, a podcast, and possibly setting up a Patreon. Oh, and talking to other human beings. Like face to face and not over the internet. A notion both absolutely terrifying and…somewhat exciting? I don’t know what’s gotten into me but I’ve already written the foreword for this thing and I really think it’s the next step of this journey, which I will continue to share the good/bad/ugly of, but possibly in a way I never would have expected.

How I lost over $150,000

Self Publishing

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Maggie Stiefvater recently wrote a post about the implications of piracy on her work. After receiving a mind-bogglingly low royalty statement she had a hunch that piracy was to blame so she and her brother conducted a little experiment to test her theory. They created a dummy file for her novel, The Raven King and uploaded it to pirating sites shortly before the book’s release.

Not long after people were chatting online about how they’d downloaded the file and discovered that it was a fake. And yet, despite the plea Maggie placed in the back of the dummy file for readers to procure her novels in a responsible and ethical way, these people went on to ask each other where to find a copy of the actual story. They persisted in their piracy without regard for how that choice was negatively affecting, not only Maggie’s livelihood, but also her ability to continue writing books in a world her readers had grown to love.

I used to be pretty ambivalent towards the notion of piracy. I couldn’t imagine there being enough people out there willing to steal my books for it to affect my bottom line. I mean, out of the millions of books available on pirating sites, who would seek out mine? And how many would do it often enough for it to infringe on my ability to earn a living?

Turns out, that number is 76,508.

After creating an account on http://www.blasty.com, a platform where content creators can monitor when their content is stolen and/or used for phishing purposes, I was not only able to find the websites that were illegal distributing my books but I was also able to see how many times they had been downloaded, which turns out is 76,508 times.

76,508.

My books range in price from Free to $4.99. Ironically, my free book, The Girl In Between, made less appearances on the pirating sites than the rest of my backlist. So most of those downloads actually equated to lost sales. Lost sales to the tune of $153,016 if you’re being conservative and $381,774 if you’re calculating at the high end of my backlist.

And here I am, begging bloggers to review my new release just so I can afford my new house payment. All because 76,508 people decided that my art–something I spend 8-12 months and countless painstaking hours creating–should be free.

This is not me taking a stance on whether or not art should be free. I believe that people should have access to good quality books regardless of their socioeconomic status or where they live. For many, this can be accomplished by visiting one’s local library. Most of my books are available via Overdrive, which many libraries subscribe too.

However, I know that this isn’t an option for everyone and I want my readers to know that you can ALWAYS send me an email requesting a book if you’re unable to pay. I’ve given away thousands of free copies of my work and I love connecting with readers this way. In fact, I made this offer in my latest newsletter and encouraged readers who couldn’t afford to purchase a copy of my new book to email me so I could send them a copy in the format of their choice.

BUT, these free books I’m giving away to readers aren’t the same as a free book pirated from a website. Why? Because I’m actually getting something in exchange–a connection, feedback, a relationship that may lead to one of those readers encouraging a friend or family member to buy the book or requesting it at their local library. I gain a loyal reader who may actually buy one of my future books when they’re in a better financial position to do so.

The point is, I want readers to have access to my books but I also want to be able to make a living someday doing what I love. That becomes an impossibility when thousands of readers choose to download my books for free rather than pay for them.