Am I Really Meant to Publish my Novels?

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I am constantly in awe at the synchronicity of the Universe.

I had this fleeting thought earlier today that maybe I wasn’t meant to publish my novels because of all the rejections I am piling up and because I find it so much easier to write here or on Instagram than to hunker down and work on my novel.

Then I opened up The Journal Compendium and saw this quote from Julia Cameron:

What you really want to do, is what you are really meant to do.

Whoa!!

I felt immediate relief reading those words. This sense of spaciousness. Of potential. Of permission to pursue what I really want even though I haven’t followed the common path, even though I am 54…so many more “even thoughs” are silenced, or at least soothed by these words.

Then I began to Mother myself:

Of course it’s easier to write for your blog or on Instagram. It’s just a moment moving through you. It’s who you are right now. You write it. You release it. You move on.

Writing a novel lives in whole other galaxy. It’s its own entity that requires constant care, attention and nourishment for a very long time. And chances are you will change during that timeframe, so who you were when you began writing it is not who you are at the end.

So, yes, it’s more difficult. It doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to publish your novels. There are readers out there who will deeply resonate with your stories.. You have already heard from them over the years. Your words touch people’s heart. 

There is an agent out there who is the perfect fit for you, who is your ideal reader and will champion you and your books as you both make your way out into the wider world.

Just keep sending your work out. Don’t take the rejections personally.

Just keep writing.

Just keep doing what you are doing.

Believe in yourself like I do, like your friends do, like anyone who has read and resonated with your stories does.

The answer to the title of this blog?

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Image found via Pinterest.

Now, I’m off to work on my novel.

F*ck Being Average.

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I’ve always considered myself a fairly average person.

I was a good student all through school and even made it into the Honor Society in high school but I wasn’t at the top of the class. I was average smart.

At the end of art school, I won Best Overall Portfolio and was stunned. I think others were as well. There was another student who illustrated the textures of fabric so convincingly that you wanted to touch them. We all assumed she would win. But I did. Did I take that to mean that I was finally above average?

Nope. I told myself it was a fluke. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy or embrace the win.

That average feeling has carried over into other aspects of my life. Average graphic designer. Average writer. Average body. Average life.

Not the worst, not the best.

When I saw the phrase “fuck mediocrity” today as part of my journal prompts, I thought I had no strong feelings about it either way. I felt meh about it. But as I started writing, I realized I have some very strong feelings about it. It is a rallying cry to rebel against norms. At first glance, I would say that is not me at all. If anything, I am an extreme rule follower and always have been.

I’ve always been a follower, not a leader. Always wanted to blend in, not stand out.

But when I look back on many of my life choices, I see that I did not follow the average path.

Instead of getting a liberal arts education at a 4-year university, I chose to get an Associate’s degree in Fashion Illustration at a for-profit art school in Center City Philadelphia, graduating two years earlier than most of my high school classmates did.

I was a stay-at-home mom while raising our daughters when that was not the most common choice. We had to make some sacrifices to make it work but we did it. And seeing what amazing women our daughters are, it was totally worth it. I did some freelance graphic design work over the years, but my main job was being a mom.

Another way that I strayed from the pack, is that I don’t consider my self Christian. I believe in God, in the Universe, in a Higher Self, in Divine Goodness. I believe Jesus was a man we can learn from. But I don’t go to church. I’ve explored many over the years, from trailing friends to theirs as a kid to dedicating our babies in a Unitarian Universalist church. But I am just not comfortable within organized religion. I chose what felt right tot me and trusted that. I try to live a good life, being kind, healing myself and letting all of that ripple out into the world around me.

Being a writer is not a common vocational choice. And being a writer without Bachelor’s degree much less the lauded MFA is extremely uncommon. But I haven’t let that stop me. It may have slowed me down. Kept me from taking my writing seriously  for awhile but I hung in there. I have studied with so many amazing writers over the years, I read constantly, write every day. I have basically been living my own self-designed MFA program. Now I have a novel-in-stories that I am submitting to agents, finishing up another draft fo a novel, and have a YA fantasy trilogy and memoir waiting in the wings.

Another way I’ve bucked the norm is that even though my husband and I both come from divorce, we have been married for 32 years! We’ve worked hard and as we slide into the permanently empty nest and his retirement is on the horizon, we find that not only do we still love each other, we still like each other.

I did my 200-YTT just as my girls were getting ready to leave for college. That is a very common occurrence these days. But I created my own space within our community by combining yoga with writing. The class faltered for a couple of years. I even let it go for a year or two but then I kept being drawn back to it. I really believed that there was a place for it. So, I rebranded it, got a slot on the schedule and tried again. It struggled but I kept showing up with my passion for these two practices that changed my life even if there was only one student. My trust and perseverance paid off and now I consider that class a bedrock of our community. Five used to be the maximum number of students who showed up, now that is usually the minimum. And I see the growth and healing and support and light generated each and every week. It has exceeded what I imagined it could be.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who plays it safe, doesn’t take risks but looking back I see that isn’t true at all. At pivotal moments I followed my heart and gut, stepping off the beaten path and onto my own, creating a life that is far above average, far beyond mediocre.

Creating a life far richer and vibrant than I ever dreamed.

 

Opposite of Stuck.

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I can’t tell you how often I have felt stuck over the last few decades.

I have so many books with the words “stuck” or “unstuck” in the title.

Stuck in my body.

Stuck in judging my body.

Stuck in believing I am not worthy.

Not enough.

Stuck in the rut of zero motivation.

Stuck in fear.

You name it, I have probably been stuck in it.

I’ve been clearing out bookshelves lately as my husband gets ready for his annual pilgrimage to Arizona, hauling books to one of my favorite bookstores to trade in for me. When I come across some of those titles now I feel…nothing. Not angst. Not shame. Mostly gratitude that I had them when I needed them and gratitude that I no longer need them.

I no longer feel stuck. 

And I owe that to my two main practices: writing and yoga. 

They both allow me to flow which is the opposite of stuck. 

I flow in my body on my mat and, hopefully, off my mat as well. 

I meditate and allow the thoughts to flow  past. Well, not always, but it’s a process. It’s a practice.

I still struggle with societal conditioning on how my body should look but I am no longer stuck in that morass. The minute I notice it happening, it’s a win for me.

I flow on the page. Again, not always. But those words and thoughts and stories and beliefs find their way out of my head and onto the page where they are no longer stuck.

These practices keep me grounded in the present. I can see now how I was often stuck in the past or projecting into the future. 

I didn’t start yoga or writing to unstuck myself. Or maybe I did. Maybe a part of me, that wise self knew exactly what she was doing.

All I know is that even if I do feel stuck these says, it is a passing thing. I notice it, feel it, and am able to move through it.

And for that I am oh so grateful.

Write Every Damn Day- It’s Not Just a Hashtag Anymore.

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I started this board in 2016 to help me write every single day. (I got the idea from Jerry Seinfeld.)

While I had high hopes and high expectations for myself (always true at the start of a new year) I didn’t actually, truly believe that I would be able to write every day for a whole year much less almost 4 years!

But I have.

I wrote through the flu.

Through having my wisdom teeth pulled while I had the flu. That was a fun time!

I wrote on vacation.

I wrote when I was happy.

When I was sad.

Or anxious.’Or depressed.

Or enraged.

I wrote in my journals.

I wrote morning pages.

I wrote blog posts.

I wrote in my novel.

I wrote when I was motivated and when I didn’t want to write at all.

I wrote when I knew exactly what I wanted to write and when I had absolutely no idea what to write.

I wrote in the morning, the afternoon, at night.

I wrote at my desk, at the bookstore, at the coffeeshop, on the beach, on planes, in the car, on my yoga mat, on the deck, in bed.

I wrote alone and with others.

I wrote my way out of stories that had me all tangled up.

I wrote my way into myself.

Now, writing is no longer what I do. It is who I am. Writing is like breathing and reading. Non-negotiable.

#writeeverydamnday is no longer just a hashtag.

It’s an intricate, essential, sacred part of each and every one of my days.

 

 

#NaNoWriMo2019 Results.

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My goal was to finish this draft of my current novel.

I didn’t meet that goal. But I am totally okay with that because I learned a lot while trying to reach it:

  1. Consistently showing up really churns up the story in my mind. I find myself having breakthroughs and ideas even while I am not actively writing.
  2. Forward momentum is what gets a draft done. I found myself hitting the same place I keep getting stuck which is the soggy middle and I forced myself to just keep plowing ahead,
  3. Showing up day after day brought clarity to a story that felt incredibly murky. I was up to over 113K words and ended up at just over 62K and that was perfect. I saw what was dead weight, I cut strands of the story that no longer fit and I have a clearer vision of where the story is headed. I don’t know the exact ending but I know and trust that I am headed in the right direction.
  4. I trust myself as a writer. I trust my process more, no longer questioning the fallow times, knowing that my creative energy needs to ebb and flow for balance, to recharge. I trust my writing chops. I learn more and more with every sentence, every scene, every chapter I write about character, setting, dialogue, plot, motivation.

So, while I didn’t meet my goal, I am still celebrating.

I am celebrating all the progress I did make.

I am celebrating my tenacity to stick with a project over the long haul even though nobody, and I mean nobody is expecting anything from me. This motivation is all internal and that is huge for me.

I am celebrating that I can see me easily finishing this draft by the new year.

I am celebrating myself as a writer.

Enough with Not Enough.

I am always looking for topics to inspire my writing and specifically topics that ask me to inquire deeper into my own writing life. When I came across the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by the Positive Writer, I knew I had to explore it.

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Typewriter image found via Pinterest. I am enough found via Pinterest. Photos merged using Photos Merge.

Enough. It is a word that has haunted me for years. 

There is an entire advertising and marketing industry designed to make us feel like we don’t have enough, don’t do enough and aren’t (fill-in-the-blank) enough. Thin. Strong. Curvy. Blonde. Rich. Spiritual. 

I have especially felt this tug of not-enoughness in my writing. See, I didn’t go the traditional route, which I used to consider a hindrance but eventually came to see as a strength. I earned an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Illustration right out of high school. No general education courses. No literature classes. Just art.

I worked as a graphic designer for years which allowed me to eventually ease into a freelance career so that I could stay home and raise our two daughters. 

Along the way, I kept up with my own voracious reading and sporadic journaling. At some point I stumbled across a book called “The New Diary” by Tristine Rainier. It opened up a new way of journal writing that was more spontaneous, deeper and even (gasp) fun. I began filling up blank pages with my words.

The next turning point came when I discovered “Writing Down the Bones.” Just the title gave me goosebumps. I picked it up, stroking the image of ink spilling across the cover, already aware on some level that my life was about to change.

I began filling notebooks with what Natalie Goldberg called writing practice. Practice made it easier to approach. I wasn’t “writing.” I was practicing. I continued to practice and read. A lot. My work colleagues were used to seeing me with my nose in a book at lunch, usually a different book every couple of days. A friend finally commented that at this pace I’d soon run out of books to read and would have to start writing my own. Hmmmm… the seed was planted.

Once we were settled in Arizona, writing found me over and over again. I was fortunate enough to attend a week-ling retreat in New Mexico with Natalie Goldberg where I filled 3 notebooks in 7 days. I also discovered a fantastic program through the Phoenix YMCA called “Writer’s Voice.” They offered a “MothersWrite” class. It was a free, ten-week writing class that provided childcare. It was a lifesaver. A sanity saver. It allowed me to keep connected to that tenuous creative part of myself at a time when I felt stretched thin with the demands of motherhood. They also offered various creative writing classes as well as Master-level workshops that required you to submit work in order to be admitted. It took a long time for me to take the step of submitting my work but when I did I was accepted and attended an intense ten-week workshop with Elizabeth Evans and later, a second one with Simon Ortiz. Later I audited a fiction writing class with Melissa Pritchard at ASU. I always felt slightly out of place in these academic since I was usually the only one without any kind of four-year degree backing me up.

Over the years, I’ve considered going back to school to get that degree. Or maybe attend a low residency MFA program that would waive the Bachelor’s Degree. They’re out there. I’ve looked. But with two girls to help put through college, I really couldn’t justify the expense. It’s not like I want to teach at the college level. I want to write. Realistically, all I need is a pen, paper and if I’m lucky, a computer, all of which I have. I’m more envious of the experience of the MFA rather than the physical piece of paper. I salivate at the thought of immersing myself in writing for two years– eating, breathing, talking, dreaming books and writing. But really, my life can’t hold that right now. What it can hold is this: a writing group; occasional workshops; lots and lots of books; and lots and lots of writing.

Yoga has also played an essential role in my writing. As soon as I began to practice yoga, I saw the connection between the two. Both require me to show up, to meet myself where I am and to be present. I now teach 7 yoga classes a week including one I created that combines writing and yoga called “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace.”

Yoga has helped me cultivate a relationship with my mind. With my whole self, not just the shiny parts. It has helped me see beyond the veil of not-enoughness to the deep truth that I am more than enough exactly as I am.

As of today, I have filled dozens upon dozens of notebooks. I have written many short stories and even had a few published. I have a novel-in-stories that is complete and looking for an agent. I am deep into the third draft of another novel. Then there is the YA fantasy trilogy simmering as well as a memoir based on my journey with yoga and writing.

At the age of 54, “enough” has a totally different connotation. It is no longer a word I use to judge and bludgeon myself with. It has become a word that fills me with hope. With a sense of ease and grace.

I write every day. Some days I write more than others. And it is enough.

I show up to the blank page. And it is enough.

I read as much as I can. And it is enough.

I submit my novel and stories and essays. And it is enough.

I have created a life that not only makes space for writing but truly nurtures it. And that is more than enough.

Day 14 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

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Image found via Pinterest.

I find myself getting mired in the murky middle of this draft. Again.

I am going back through it, taking notes on each chapter, seeing where the story is at, where it needs to go. Noting when something is a repeat. Filling in with new chapters.

But I find myself avoiding my novel. The enthusiasm to finish it this month has waned,

This morning I realized why.

I am editing when I need to just be writing.

Writing it through to the end. Not caring if I change tense or repeat a scene or throw a whole new story arc into the mix.

I can fix all of those things. But only after I have a full next draft done.

So, that is what I am doing now. Just writing the damn thing through to the end no matter how messy or imperfect or incoherent or poorly written it is.

I can fix messy and imperfect and incoherent and poorly written.

I can’t fix not written at all.

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Image found via Pinterest.

Day 12 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

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I haven’t been posting every day but I have been writing every day. There’s only been one day where I wrote but didn’t work on this novel. I’ll take it.

Learning a few things about myself and my writing as I get deeper into finishing this draft:

• I desperately need to learn the different between lay and lie (I had a cheat sheet at one point but I’ve lost it.)

• I also need to learn the difference between effect and affect.

• I need to write as early in the day as possible. My focus fades fast the more I get into my day.

• I am learning to write good enough for now. Good enough for this draft, this scene. Good enough to be able to come back and fix it up in the next draft.

• I am learning to use placeholders. Just put a random name in of a person or song or singer or street that I can then figure out later (with FIX IT in all caps after it). Don’t let “research” be an excuse to stop writing.

• I work best in 30-45 minute increments. Then I need to get up and do something for 15 minutes to get the energy flowing: yoga, browse the bookstore, play with the dogs or do some light household task.

• Accountability is key for me. I know that nobody really cares if I finish this draft or not, but since I declared that I would, I feel pressure to honor that.

• Planning for the next day is really helpful. I like to know when and where I plan to write and have little assignments ready to get me started.

• Mostly, I am learning to be my own personal cheerleader instead of constantly judging and criticizing my efforts. I mean, I am writing a novel! Another one, actually. Not many people do that. It is a huge deal. A huge commitment. It is helping me let go of the I-am-lazy story I tell myself and replace it with I-am-a-badass-writer-devoted-to-her-craft story.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, what are you learning about yourself? Your writing? Your process? I would love to hear!

 

#NaNoWriMo2019 ~ Day 3

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Change of plans today. My writing buddy is feeling under the weather so we are rescheduling. But since I had already planned on going out to write, I stuck with that. Brought a PBJ, got a soy chai and now it’s time to write!

Session 1: 12:17 PM Set Freedom for 30 minutes

It’s amazing how much progress can be made when I lift my perfection filter and just write a scene, even if it’s the shittiest scene ever. At least a shitty scene can be revised. Now for a short stroll through the bookstore to refresh my body and mid then time for another session.

Session 2: Set Freedom for 30 minutes

Finished a chapter. Moving onto next one. Making notes of pieces that need to move up earlier. 

Plan for tomorrow:

At desk by 7 AM. 2 sessions before going to yoga at 9:30.

Besides making progress, I am immersing myself in wondering and dreaming about this story and the characters again. so even when I am not physically at my desk, I am still writing. 

Notes:

Need description of Lydia’s house

Write Thanskgiving scene

Reward: Finally check out the new indie bookstore in town!

#NaNoWriMo2019 ~ Day 2

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Day 2

7:36 AM Set Freedom for 30 minutes

Just about wrapped up this chapter. Now that I am giving myself to permission to just stay at my desk, with my novel and allow my imagination to wander, I realize that I do a disservice to my work by merely relying on word count and it is why I have been avoiding it and focusing on what I consider “easy writing”: morning pages, writing practice, blog posts.

Sitting with what is unknown is uncomfortable. Writing shitty first drafts of scenes and chapters doesn’t feel good. Not being able to say here is a finished piece at the end of a writing  prompt leaves me questioning my so-called productivity.

But this allowing myself to stare out the window and write a crappy scene that gets the gist of it down and is no where near perfect is part of the process that I have been hesitant to dive into. Well, consider permission granted. 

I hereby give myself permission to leave blanks, leave questions, skip ahead or back in chronology, stare out the window as I try to see the scene unfold behind my eyes, and to write the shittiest draft necessary in order to keep the momentum moving forward. 

Plan for tomorrow:

~ Meet a friend at the bookstore to write together. Writing is so solitary that having somebody  else next to you is comforting. And accountability really really works for me.

~ Start with phone call to Grace. End of chapter.

~ Bring The Observation Deck to shake things up.