It is Possible

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I don’t know where to start. Maybe with the last several posts that are snapshots of those brief moments between anxiety spirals when I was trying to remind myself to hope. Or maybe with the insomnia and the fears that almost stole that from me. I don’t know who to show anymore. Do I show the working creative who has written eight novels and who should now be exempt from failure? Or do I show the doubt-filled procrastinator who hasn’t been able to write in almost a month?

Obviously, the last several months have been rough and the time stamps on those blog posts about learning and growing and the fact that the creative process has its own rewards show just how few and far between the good days actually were. While waiting to come out of this, I have written about learning to give up control and being patient and showing gratitude. I have written about finding strength and trusting in a higher being and in myself. Each has not only been a declaration but a set of detailed instructions on how to survive. Because I know I will find myself in the darkness again, no matter how many constellations I’ve left to guide my way back.

I cannot change the way I am wired. I can only change how I care for myself when those wires begin to short-circuit.

Sometimes that means doing something even scarier than staring at a blank page and trying to force out magic. Sometimes that means not allowing myself to write at all.

There was a time when I was selling almost 200 books a day. Now, I’m lucky if I sell 10 copies. This means that if I don’t write and publish something new that number could drop down to 0. It’s such a tangible manifestation of failure, one I’m faced with and consumed by every time I try to write. There is no room in my brain for story, for my character’s voices, for their dreams and fears. I’m too busy wrestling with my own. And every day that I don’t produce something, is one day closer to another gigantic life change that will only hurl me in the opposite direction of everything I’ve worked so hard for.

But if all of this anxiety was stemming from not producing a single word in weeks, what would happen if I didn’t even allow myself to try? What would happen if I forced myself straight into that fear and chose not to write? Would disaster strike? Would the world end? Would I not be a real writer anymore?

The answer is—nothing—not one of these things would happen and I would sleep. I would sleep for twelve hours every night and wake up late on the weekends and my body would reclaim the rest it so desperately needed. Because worry does not just exist in your mind. It lives in your skin and your bones and every part of you that is working to keep you alive. The more you worry, the harder they work until they just can’t do it anymore. And then you must rest. You MUST.

And then you wake up and you start over.

It’s not ideal and you aren’t any less scared of it than you were before. But it is possible.

This is the latest constellation I have left for myself. It is possible. The starting over, the writing, and all of the other work that comes along with creating. I create things from scratch all the time. I can rebuild my career the same way. I can write this new book. I can finish it too. And if no one buys it…I can write something else. I can always write something else.

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Stop and Look

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I have started a million blog posts this month and swiftly deleted them all for being manic nonsense that would no doubt terrify anyone who stumbled upon them. That’s what happens when the vision you had for your life–a vision that you were slowly bringing to life–suddenly crumbles, leaving you with absolutely no idea what comes next. (I’m being dramatic–sort of).

And I have to know what comes next. I have to know so that I can meditate on it and obsess over it and live it out in my own head until the day the future actually arrives. It was working so far, this whole living in the future thing. Or so I thought. Now, the things that are causing me stress and anxiety and fear are forcing me to do something else too. Actually live in the moment for once.

Living. In the now. With my students. With my dog. With my boyfriend. With my books. I’m writing in short bursts, as if writing is just this quirky hobby that I do on my lunch break. As if I’m starting over. And for the past month this thought has absolutely terrified me. Starting over? I can’t start over. Not creatively. Not financially. But suddenly I have no choice. And I can choose to be scared or I can choose, for the first time, to give up some control–okay, complete control–and stare into the unknown with excitement and an open mind.

Choosing excitement, choosing to have an open mind does not erase my anxiety but it does make it feel less life threatening. It does make it easier for me to acknowledge that it’s there and then go about my day. It doesn’t stop me in my tracks quite as often. But when it does I try not to get lost in it. Instead, I try to breathe, to look around, and see all of the beautiful things in my life. Relics of all the hard work and long days. Relics I can actually enjoy now that I’m finally being forced to stop and look.

The Fog

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For a while I thought I’d start 2017 off with a TBR list or a WIP Wednesday (haven’t done one of those in forever). Something optimistic. Something about my productivity. But unfortunately, there hasn’t been any. And apparently I’m not the only one.

For weeks I’ve been waking up at 5:30 to write before school but instead of writing, my thumb swipes the twitter icon on my phone and before I know it I’m drowning in one awful thing after another. I read an article the other day about how much productivity has slipped across all job sectors due to the chaotic state of our democracy, as well as the world. People are living in a fog–anxious, helpless, unable to concentrate on the future or the possibility of it containing anything good.

Depending on the breaking news, some days the realization that I’m a teacher and the huge responsibility that comes along with that makes me feel even more helpless. On the one hand I am doing the most meaningful work I possibly could be right now. On the other, all of my students are immigrants and when they ask me if everything is going to be okay, if they are going to be okay, I don’t have an answer. I am just as worried and afraid as they are and I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a child in this world where even the adults you trust can’t offer you comfort.

The stakes right now are sky high and in my tiny classroom in my middle-class neighborhood I feel the weight of the world. I want to teach my students how to save it. How to save themselves. Us. Because I know that they are the only ones who can.

Unless we destroy everything before they even get a chance.

24

Happy belated birthday to me! My birthday was almost a month and a half ago but reflections are better belated than never, which is why I’m finally sharing my grand list of all the things I’ve learned in the past year. It’s a “sort-of” tradition I started a few years ago and is my chance to look back on all of the mistakes learning opportunities that have resulted in me being not just another year older but another year wiser. Here are my revelations from age 21, 22, and now, without further ado…23 the things I learned while being 23!24-2
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I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

This seems to be a disturbing trend of my twenties and even though those who are older and wiser have told me that being scared and confused is what your twenties is all about…I just can’t accept it. I need to be in control. I need my plans to pan out. I need to know myself and what I want. And I don’t. Not completely.

For the past five years I’ve been driven by dreams and by my relentless fear of having an ordinary life. I thought school was the answer. I thought writing was the answer. I thought money was the answer. But none of those things have given me the kind of success or security I’d hoped for. And for a long time I decided to just wait it out, to work in another job that didn’t fulfill me spiritually and didn’t pay me what I deserved, and to just write as much as I possibly could until one day something stuck. But I’m six novels in and I’m still not earning enough to make writing my full-time career. And I’m tired of waiting.

Maybe I’m not supposed to have all the answers in my twenties but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be proactive about finding them. My dream is to be a novelist but from now on I won’t allow that to be my only dream. I am smart and I am capable and I am ready for a new challenge. I’m ready for a new life. So, while I’ll still write every day, I’ve also decided to go back to school to get my master’s degree in education. I love books and there is so much more I can be doing in this world to contribute to the spread of literacy and love of reading. Great stories save and our young people need that now more than ever. They need righteous examples of faith and strong will. They need to be exposed to ideas that both inspire and challenge. They need to read. They need to write. To organize their thoughts and analyze their emotions and form opinions that can’t be easily swayed. Reading breeds empathy but writing breeds independence and teens in today’s world desperately need both.

I’ve always tried to write with these things in mind and to approach each story as a means of making my readers feel connected and acknowledged but there is only so much I can do from behind my keyboard. Even with access to the internet the reach of my novels is still limited. If I really want to make a difference then I’m going to have to step outside my comfort zone and join the fight for literacy on the front lines. I’m not sure if I’ll be a great teacher, or even a good one, but I know I’ve got the passion to try. I know I’m meant to make a difference in the lives of young people, and whether that’s through my novels or through teaching, that’s exactly what I plan to do.