1,026 Days in a Row.

1026 days

Image found via Pinterest.

Today marks the 1,026 day in a row that I have written.

I’m kind of bummed that I missed the 1000th day but this is still something to acknowledge and commemorate.

See, I still carry the belief that I am lazy, that I don’t work hard enough, that I don’t follow through enough. But the fact that I have written something every single day for 1,026 days in a row seems to disprove that belief. But beliefs aren’t grounded in facts. They are built on feelings, on those stories we hold in our bones.

When I was first starting out in my twenties, I could not bring myself to say that I am a writer. I didn’t have a degree in english or journalism or communications. I didn’t even have a Bachelor’s degree, much less the much lauded MFA. I had an Associate’s in Fashion Illustration. I also had a love of books and a desire to explore the world through language. I jumped into that yearning and proceeded to fill notebook after notebook with writing practice. I went to classes, attended week-long writing retreats, formed writing groups, even taught writing workshops to moms with young children. Still, I hesitated to call myself a writer.

I’m not sure when that changed. But it did. Not completely. I still take a breath before I say the words, waiting for the inevitable question of where can I find your books? I can list the places I’ve been published. I can declare that I have one completed novel and that I am looking for an agent. That I am halfway through novel number two as well as into writing a YA fantasy trilogy. These are all facts. But they aren’t what matters.

Now, that I am in my fifties, what matters is that  I know that writing is no longer something I do, it’s not even a label or title I need to claim.

It’s who I am.

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A Love Letter to Indie Bookstores.

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Image found here.

“Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”

~ Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books

Dear Indie Bookstores,

Thank you.

Thank you for your love of books, of stories, of community.

Thank you for standing strong in the face of e-books and on-line selling.

Thank you for your passion.

That you for knowing the difference between fiction and non-fiction. (I’ve been to chain stores where this was not the case.)

Thank you for not only knowing what book I am trying to describe but offering another book I might like as well.

Thank you for being a third place for us to gather, allowing neighborhoods to thrive.

I love how you support writers, how you give them a platform to connect with their readers.

I love how you respect your customers by knowing us, knowing books and knowing the communities you are part of.

I love how when I walk into an indie bookstore anywhere in the world, my soul feels like it has come home.

 

Fear Compass.

Fear compass

“Fear compass.” I heard this term on NPR this morning and it reverberated through my whole being like a tuning fork.

It got me thinking not only about fear as a compass, but any strong emotion. They all reveal something.

Envy reveals what I desire for myself.

Anger reveals where a boundary has been breached.

Fear reveals what is important to me.

Liz Gilbert’s suggestion to live life with curiosity rather than fear also resonates with me. Wonder becomes a door into and through fear.

I wonder if this agent is a good fit for my novel, instead of only focusing on if they will like it.

I wonder what happens in this next scene, instead of being paralyzed into writing nothing because I have no idea.

I wonder if I could be a yoga teacher, instead of letting anxiety about my looming empty nest crush me.

Wondering if I could combine writing with yoga led me to find my authentic voice and create a sacred space for students to find theirs.

So, it seems that fear points me in the direction of curiosity, leading me to live a creative life in awe of the wonder around and within me.

Where does fear point you?

 

The Company of other Writers.

Write Smart, Write Happy

Today, I find myself sitting at the bookstore cafe with a grande soy chai, notebook and laptop open. Not an unusual scenario.

What is unusual, these days, is for me to be drawn to a book on writing. A book that promises to help me “become a more productive, resilient, and successful writer.”

Now, I used to devour these books daily when I first knew I wanted to write. It was how I taught myself to write. I read books on writing fiction, writing essays, writing from prompts, writing practice, the writing life, writing goals. You name it, I bought it and read it. What I didn’t do was write very much.

Oh, I’d write Morning Pages and I filled notebooks with writing practice gleaned from Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones.” I loved how she made writing so much more accessible by declaring that just as an athlete practiced drills or a pianist practiced scales, a writer also needed to practice. It bought writing back from that lofty pedestal I had placed it on. It took the fear out of it by calling it practice.

I hunkered down into my writing practice for years, filling notebook upon notebook. The problem was, I got stuck in practicing. Don’t get me wrong. It served me well. I learned to put pen to page and write under pretty much any circumstance. I learned how to make space and time for writing in the life I was currently living ( a stay-at-home mom with young children) instead of waiting for the perfect time. I learned to write past my censor.

But I didn’t use what I had learned to actually get in the game of writing. When I finally began writing stories, taking classes and workshops, that’s where the bulk of my learning took place. Writing and finishing stories taught me how to write.

I’ve written dozens of short stories, some published, some not. I have a completed novel-in-stories (looking for an agent). I am well into my second novel, about 6o,000 words into the first book of a YA fantasy trilogy and am beginning to gather notes for a memoir on writing and yoga.

So, with all that writing under my belt, why  do I find myself drawn to this particular book today?

Because it’s a process.

Because I am always a student.

Because I am not afraid to be a beginner.

Because of course I want to be a more productive, resilient and successful writer.

Because now I know that I can read a book like this but, more importantly, I know I have to follow through with action: writing, querying, submitting, reading, setting goals and meeting those goals.

I know there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to being a writer.

I know that merely reading about becoming a successful writer is not enough but I am humble enough to be open to advice from others along the path.

I know that I am willing to put in the hard work necessary. And these kinds of books feel like my own personal cheerleading squad, telling me I can do it. Telling me that I am not alone.

Telling me that it’s okay, that we can walk this path together.

I am grateful for their company.

Facing the Challenge of the Agent Query

Keep calm and query on

I worked on my agent query letter yesterday.

I am finding it truly difficult. It’s not just the logistics of paring my novel-in-stories down to 100-200 words that give enough info to pique an agent’s interest but without giving everything away—though that is challenging.

It’s also the idea that I am committing to sending these 60,000 words out into the world. Once they are out there I have no control over how people react or respond. That’s a little ( okay…a lot) unnerving.

There’s also this other piece of the puzzle that dawned on me yesterday. I don’t like asking for things. The query letter is all about asking an agent to take time out of their already hectic schedule to read my book. I am asking them to help me get it published.

I understand it’s their business and they are in the market to take on a book they feel passionate about and they have a vested interest in getting it out into the world. But it still feels like I am asking for a favor.

So, instead of letting all that stop me like it has before, here’s what I did:

I felt all the feelings: nervous, scared, excited, vulnerable with a little bit of guilt and dread thrown in.

I breathed through it all (thank you yoga).

And I revised my letter. I read other successful query letters and decided what fit best for my voice and the voice of my story and I just did it. It’s still not quite right but it is getting there.

I’ll let it sit for another day and read it again with fresh eyes. Meanwhile, there’s this YA novel that I am about 40K words into…

 

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The Numbers Game

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Ever since I started writing for elephant journal almost 4 months ago, I’ve been waiting for one of my pieces to reach the magic number that would catapult it into the Popular Lately category. I’d compulsively refresh the page throughout the day to see how many views each article had, eventually seeing the numbers stagnate shy of that magic number.

Then it happened. Yesterday this piece seemed to really connect with people and I saw the numbers steadily climb and I was so excited and then, there it was, on the front page under “Popular Lately.”

I’d done it.

Yay!

Then what happened?

Well, first this: I saw other articles which higher numbers. Much higher numbers. And that bummed me out. And made me question myself. Even though I had just accomplished the goal I had set for myself. I didn’t even give myself time ( a mere minute) to enjoy that accomplishment before longing for higher numbers. More, more, more.

So, there was that.

Then what happened?

Well, nothing.

It was cool, for sure. I was honored and grateful that my piece had resonated with so many people. I mean, that’s why I write, right? To connect. To have my words move even one person.

But, as I’d found myself checking the numbers over and over I wondered if that was true. Did I really only care if only one person was affected. My actions seemed to go against that premise. My actions seemed to suggest something slightly less altruistic: the more the better.

That got me thinking. What did more views really mean to me? The more views, the more poplar I was? The more views, the more liked I was? The more views, the better of a writer I was?

Then I started thinking about all the ways we measure our success on-line: Facebook likes and shares and comments. Blog subscribers and comments. Twitter favorites and retweets. Pinterest likes and repins.

It’s like we are reducing our society to the social dynamics of  junior high all over again.

I don’t know about you, but I hated junior high.

So….what does this all mean?

I’m trying to build a writer’s platform so I need to be part of the social media scene—a scene I actually enjoy. I enjoy connecting with people beyond my own small circle, connecting with other creative people all trying to share their words and stories. I enjoy being part of this on-line tribe of creatives.

I guess what this all means is that I need to stay mindful as I continue to put my work out there. Do my work, put it out there, help it make its way into the world then put my head down and work some more.

My hope is to have a book published and there are so many ways to measure a book’s success that I can’t let myself get caught up in the numbers game.

Sure, numbers mean something but they can’t mean everything.