Stop and Look

Motivation & Inspiration, Writing Process

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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.

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2013

Self Publishing

Was the year I stopped dreaming and started doing. It was the year I grew up and it was the year I stopped being afraid of fate.

I published my first novel the last day of 2012, a milestone that officially belongs in this year’s review because this was the year I decided to be a writer. A real one. And not because someone else bestowed me with the title or because I earned a bunch of money or accolades validating this fact but because I made it so. Because I made a decision to follow my passion and create my own identity. Because I decided to be brave.

And that’s truly been the greatest lesson I learned this year:How to be brave. It’s not just about facing fears. It’s not just about taking risks. It’s about giving yourself permission to be great.

I hadn’t even realized that I needed permission until I realized that it wasn’t just the fear of failing that had held me back in the past but it was the fear of not. Unfortunately, failure is more than just a possibility for most of us, it’s an expectation. Why? Because when we expect failure we’re allowed to make excuses and we’re allowed to settle for just good enough and we’re allowed to exist within our comfort zone undisturbed. And unfulfilled. I was afraid of failing but even more than that I was afraid of achieving the kind of success I know is meant for me. The same success that’s meant for all of us when we work so tirelessly at something we love.

I published three novels this year and wrote two more but despite all of that hard work I still didn’t reach the kind of success I’d always hoped for. I lived out one of my biggest fears this year. In a lot of ways, I failed and I was…relieved.

But it’s time to stop prolonging my destiny. It’s time to start being brave in ways beyond just declaring myself a writer. It’s time to open up and let people in. It’s time to stop being afraid of the one thing I want more than anything–success. And I don’t just mean the humble spiritual kind that could never be measured in something as material as money. I mean all of it. I want it all and I’m giving myself permission to have it in 2014.

So what’s so special about 2014? Well, first of all, 2013 was all about learning the ropes. I self-published for the first time and along with that comes the adventure of formatting and marketing and cover design and planning blog tours and sending out books for review and well you get it (all of which I plan to discuss here on my blog this month in my new feature “The Indie Experiment”  where I’ll do my best to be as transparent as possible in order for other future/current self-publishers to make better informed decisions). I made a lot of mistakes this past year and had to learn the hard way just how important it is to put yourself out there, lest you be forgotten or even worse (which has been the case for me) never discovered in the first place. Conquering obscurity has definitely been the biggest challenge for me and one I’m still faced with on a daily basis.

To put things in perspective, here are some cold hard facts about my first year as an author. *Takes deep breath* I have sold less than 50 (no, I’m not missing a third zero there) copies of ALL three of my books in the past year. I’m officially in the red by like…a lot. And despite the thousands (yes I said thousands thanks to a successful KDP giveaway, contacting reviewers, and one official blog tour) of copies I gave away my number of reviews is also under 50. Not the best results after an entire year devoted to getting my books out there.

I definitely subscribe to the notion that so much of success in the self-publishing world has to do with luck. But I also know that there are a few things I could have done differently.

1.Blogging before the book-I attempted this but not soon enough. Honestly I didn’t think I really had much to say and there’s also a certain amount of accountability you’re held to when you start blogging about your dreams and if you don’t make them come true then that failure is made public to the entire world.

2-Interacting more on social media-I never use my Facebook and I didn’t have a Twitter until just recently. But what I didn’t realize before I started blogging is that there’s an entire community out there sharing in this same artistic struggle and that they aren’t all there just to observe each other’s successes but to help one another get there.

3-Letting go of the naive idea that a good book will sell itself-I didn’t spend a dime on marketing last year and while I’m still wary of paying for something so unpredictable, I acknowledge its occasional value and plan on investing more in this area in 2014.

All that being said, this past year did come with its own unique successes, some of which have meant more to me than any monetary success ever could have. So what made this year totally worth it and one of the best ever?? One word–READERS! You may be few but you are generous. SO incredibly generous and encouraging and kind and the way you’ve totally embraced both me and my books is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I’ve received emails, yes actual emails from people who’ve actually read my books and not just read them but enjoyed them! I mean that’s just so insanely cool! And now when I’m having a rough day and feel discouraged creatively all I have to do is remember that despite the numbers and the stats, the truth is I’ve already accomplished the very thing I set out to do–to tell stories that mean something to people and that make them feel not only understood but appreciated for who and what they are, imperfections and all.

And that’s what makes 2014 so special. Because I’ve already accomplished something so sacred when it comes to writing any future success is just going to feel like icing on the cake. And despite any unmet expectations I may have had for my first year as an author, the truth is I was so incredibly blessed this year. I write every day and thanks to an opportunity to work from home writing can continue to be my number one priority, which means even more books in the coming year and more specifically a top secret YA trilogy that I can’t wait to tell everyone about. So here’s to 2014! To even more writing, more great books, and making even more great connections with all of you!