In Which I Write a Sappy Thanksgiving Post

As I sit here writing this, a few days before Thanksgiving, I find myself debating about whether or not to write this post. Mostly because it's pretty much the week EVERYONE starts lamenting about how grateful and thankful and blessed they are -- and shouldn't we be doing that EVERYDAY? Shouldn't we be grateful and thankful more than just around the holidays? We should - but sometimes, we all need a little reminder that it's time to count our blessing and reflect. 

So I'm writing this today as a reminder. Both of where I've been, where I'm at and where I want to go. I never believed the theory that "so much can change in one year," when I was a child. But as I've grown into adulthood, I'm learning just how true that is. The last three years of my life have had more changes in it than any years past and you know what? They humble me. 

I've had some really really shitty times in the past couple years and some really amazing ones. But regardless of whether it's a good or bad time in my life, I need to remind myself of the blessings that I have. 

  • I am a smart, capable woman who has a great career and by all accounts - a dream job. I get to write books, help people write books, do what I'm good at doing. I get to sit in my pajamas and do the work! I get to take a nap in the middle of the day if I want. 
  • I have family and friends that support and love me - in spite of my bad habits and judgments and grumpy exterior sometimes. At any one time, I have no less than a dozen people I could pick up the phone and call if I were in trouble, or needed to talk to. 
  • I am able to channel my passions into creativity and enjoy the fruits of my labor. 
  • I have readers who love my words and tell me so and it makes my heart swell with pride and love that they are there. That I write for them. 

On Monday, I spent the day talking at my old High School to a group of creative writing students. Young adults who have yet to cross the precipice of the beginning of their adult life. They are cautious and curious and full of unbridled yearning to touch the real world. I admire that - because there is a sort of jadedness that comes from growing up. I watched their eyes light up when I told them that like a lot of them - I was told a lot what I "couldn't do," but that I stopped listening to those voices and instead turned to the ones that said, "you can." I watched them get excited when I explained that having a good job that pays well isn't something that is always linear -- or what society expects. That if you work hard and believe in what you want out of your life and take control of it yourself, you can do what everyone thinks is impossible. The economy is a scary thing right now and a lot of the generation is being told what they should do. The kind of jobs they should have. But I think it's important for them to hear that if that's not the direction they want to go, they don't have to limit themselves. They can do what they want so long as they have the drive and passion to do it.  

After the last question had been asked and I walked out to my car to drive home, I felt incredibly grateful and blessed to have that opportunity. That someone thought *I* was someone those kids could look up to. I've always known I wanted to help other and do something important with my life -- but I never guessed when I was younger that the way in which I would do that is by doing what I love to do and being me. My words help people. My knowledge helps people. 

And for that, I am beyond grateful, thankful and blessed. <3

What I LOVE About NaNoWriMo

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I remember the day I found out about NaNoWriMo. I was in my first year of college, working for IOWA Public Radio and manning the third shift by myself. During those nights - there was A LOT of time to do "me" things. Research, read, do homework, etc. It comes as no surprise that even then, I wanted to be a writer. So when I stumbled upon this magical thing called National Novel Writing Month - I was interested. The more I read about it - the more intrigued I became. Write an entire novel in 30 days? 50,000 words? That's crazy! There's no way... I thought. But I couldn't stop reading the forums and people who had done it and by the end of the night, I was convinced I was going to do it. 

And I did - and never looked back. 

I had documented it all on a blog that is now defunct and long-gone. How I wish I'd kept it (or at least kept the posts) so I could look back. But *spoiler alert* I did not win the first two years I did NaNo. I failed miserably. But at least I tried. It wasn't until 2009 (when miraculously, my book blog was started and I have Facebook posts to honor the memory) that I put my foot to the ground and said - I'm going to do this thing, no matter what it takes. This was when I moved to a new city - started a new University, a new job and a full schedule. And you know what?

I rocked the shit out of NaNo. Here's a little glimpse into that crazy month of NaNo in 2009:

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And here's an excerpt from my blog from that same day:

I DID IT! I fucking did it. How in the hell did I do it is what I want to know. I can't believe I'm sitting here and I actually did it. I'm freaking out here... and its like 2 in the morning so I can't exactly scream or jump around because everyone's sleeping. I'd have a celebratory drink except I cant find my parents liquor closet. Plus...again its 2 am..probably not the best idea.

LOL - so you get it, right? Why discovering NaNo was such an amazing thing for me? In the years following, there were many celebratory status updates and posts like this, but the first time is always the best. 

Now, you might think that everyone would be on board with this awesome thing, right? But that's not the case. There are a lot of people who vehemently detest NaNoWriMo for various reasons. Even my mentor doesn't love it. But I'm a huge supporter of NaNo, obviously. And I decided to break down my reasons.

1. Camaraderie - there is nothing quite like a group of people gathering around a topic/theme they are super passionate about. There's just this... vibe that surrounds the month. There's a sense of "belonging" that many writers often don't feel. The first year I did it - I found out that people gathered at the local library to write. It was a sense of community I hadn't found elsewhere. 

2. Developing habits - Due to the nature of the time constraints and word count - it FORCES you to write consistently. While I don't always prescribe to the thought that you should write every single day, I do think there's validity to the theory. But more than anything, I truly believe that habit begets momentum and momentum begets progress and progress = a finished novel. When you set a goal and work toward that goal every day, you begin developing habits and soon it becomes a part of your everyday routine. And I can't think of a better habit to pick up than carving out time to write everyday. Sometimes people just need a little nudge, or accountability and I think in a way NaNo does just that for writers. 

3. A sense of accomplishment - not everyone wants to be a writer who gets a book deal and becomes famous. Sometimes, someone just has a dream of writing a book, plain and simple (I know, it's hard to imagine for those of who do write TO be read). And even if a writer DOES write to be read - there's something to be said for wanting that, dreaming that and haven't yet been able to accomplish it. But with NaNo - even when you don't "win" - there IS a sense of accomplishment. Of finishing. Of seeing 50,000 words you wrote on the page. They don't have to be great (and most likely they won't be) but when you hit that 50,000 mark and it's the end of November - I'm telling you - nothing feels as great as looking at what you created and saying, "I did it!" I'm a fan of ANYTHING that puts you in motion toward your dreams/goals.  

4. Helps to silence the inner critic - When I'm NOT in NaNo mode - I tend to let my inner critic take root and my progress becomes stalled and sometimes even stops. But because of forward motion of NaNo, it kind of forces you to silence that inner critic and just keep going. Because you know what? You may have 50,000 words of crap, but that's what revisions, rewrites and additional drafts are for. You can't edit a blank page (said by so many people, I don't even know who to attribute it to). I know SO many writers who want to have a clean, near perfect draft... but I don't think that's reality. And it's definitely NOT my reality. No matter how fast/slow I go with my writing - I always have additional revisions/drafts I need to complete. So for me, NaNo is a way to get the story on the page faster and focus on revisions afterward. 

5.  You have a book you want to write - and there's no better time to start than with NaNoWriMo. Whether your a plotter, panster, first time writer or seasoned pro - there's no discrimination when it comes to NaNo. There's no age limit. NOW is the perfect time to bust out your idea or your dream to write a book and just start. You may surprise yourself with what you're able to accomplish.

So I hope if you were on the fence about NaNoWriMo - you read this post and find yourself excited to try something new. And if you're a veteran writer and haven't done it - why not try it, too? 

Me? I'll be attached to the keyboard this month, pumping out the first draft to my next novel. See ya on the flip side ;)

The Fascination with Horror

I have always openly admitted how much I love October, Halloween, the horror genre, and generally anything to do with the macabre. Why? I don't know! But I'm not alone. One Google search sent me to thousands (literally, THOUSANDS) of articles about why people are attracted to horror, true crime and documentaries about killers (both those rightly convicted and those not). I found this one to be particularly enlightening and this one, too. 

I've heard from various family members that they think it's "weird" that I'm so fascinated by this topic, especially since it stemmed from such an early age. I remember my father sitting me down when I was younger and we'd watched IT or Chuckie from Child's Play. When I was a young teenager, me and my sisters favorite thing would be when Friday rolled around and my dad came home with a handful of rented scary movies. In High School, I won a speech tournament using serial killers as my topic. You could say that I've been obsessed for a while. 

This love of the dark and disturbing has served me well in several of my novel/short stories - but oddly enough, I haven't ever written straight horror. Possibly for the same reason that I have never written Dystopian (another genre I love to read/watch). I'm intimidated by it. 

But with horror - I'm more scared of what it would say about myself. I imagine that the people involved in thinking up the horrific things that happened in the Saw movies are probably not exactly proud of themselves (well, maybe they are) - I, for one, would be a little embarrassed to admit that my mind is that warped. Possibly, I've never tried to write horror because I don't want to admit that I find pleasure/joy in writing about such dark themes. To be a witness, a voyeur is one thing. To dream it up, create it, write it -- that's something else entirely. 

I think that someday, I'll give writing horror a try. I have a million pieces of inspiration all around me - so why not? 

Would YOU write horror (if you don't already)? Could you? Do you read it?

Why I Write Short Stories

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I've long heard over and over from readers and writers alike "I hate short stories... they're not long enough. They're not worth it. They don't make money. They leave you wanting more. Waste of time." And you know what? It makes me really sad. I LOVE short stories. Both as a reader AND a writer. Sometimes, I really want to quench my reading thirst - but I just don't have time to read a novel. Sometimes, I am really jonesing for a certain theme and find an anthology of short stories that is filled with stories on that theme. And sometimes, my favorite authors throw out a few short stories to fill the void between their next book. Whatever the reason is, I love it!

But as I writer - I love writing short stories! Here are few articles I've found that boil down the most basic reasons quite succinctly:

But for me, personally, it's a mixture of both of those articles. And I guess the biggest thing is this: I'm good at them. I don't say that in arrogance or to boast. I say that because you know when you're good at something, and you FEEL good doing it and when you finish, you have a sense of contentedness and accomplishment? It can be coloring or painting, singing or heck, cleaning the house! Whatever you're good at - you do it because you're good at it, you enjoy doing it and it fills you with a sense of joy.

That's writing short stories for me. 

When I was a teenager and started to take writing seriously - I honestly didn't think I'd ever write short stories. I thought it was for MFA students who were "super prickly and stuffy" and for those who didn't have the "chops" to write a novel. But the truth is that writing short stories is actually a lot harder than people think. Which is another reason why I do it. 

You have to do in a short story, what writers are allowed to do in a full length novel. All the elements still have to be there - a beginning, middle and end. A compelling first line. Three-dimensional characters. Conflict. Tension. Climax. It ALL needs to be in a short story and you don't have a lot of room to make all those things happen which is why if you can master the short story, you are actually strengthening your skills as a storyteller. 

My short stories have always been challenges to me. To make my characters sharper, more distinct. To make the plot tight and all-encompassing. To make the depth of the story and character arcs enough within the timeframe allotted. 

I have to be honest and say that some of my FAVORITE characters and stories have come from writing short stories. If I had never taken a chance on diving into my craft and taken the challenge of trying to write a short story, I wouldn't have come up with the stories that my readers love (despite them being short stories!). 

I really do urge you to try reading a short story if you haven't (a few of mine are FREE and/or .99!). And if you're a writer - I urge you to try and challenge yourself with a short story. You might surprise yourself with how much you learn from the process!

Is New Adult dead or did it even have a chance to live?

When I was in college and shortly after, there was something I desperately needed. Books that represented my life. I yearned for books that had main characters that were my age and who were going through similar situations. I also looked to books to see how others my age were exploring their new-found freedom. How they were navigating the decisions that seemed so hard to make. 

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When I realized that there weren't many that existed - I was determined to write one of my own. It just happened to come right before the whole "New Adult" category craze. This category promised to be so much of what I was looking for. What I needed. And what so many other readers wanted. It promised to feature characters of "New Adult" age - 18ish to 25. It promised to touch on so many of the life choices a new adult has to face during that age range. 

But then something weird happened (and to be honest, it was mostly due to the evolution happening in self-publishing) - the category seemed to shift radically from all of the above things to one thing: sex. 

Now don't get me wrong - sex and finding your sexuality and exploring sexual relationships is a HUGE part of being a "new adult." But let's be honest here (I mean, REALLY honest), it's not ALL of what being that age is about. All of a sudden, the category I so desperatedly needed and wanted was tainted by sex, sex, and more sex. And there exceptions, for sure. And even some of those books that were sex, sex, sex were very good. But the truth remains: New Adult was doomed before it ever got off the ground. It was ruined with sex and angst and gave readers a very clear definition of the category so that when someone didn't write a sexy, angsty book with characters that age - it wasn't deemed a "New Adult" it was deemed another category featuring protagonists of that age. Which is a huge shame. And it leads to my next point.

The whole yearning and desire for relatable books with characters my age hasn't gone away. It's increased and per the usual, there are very few book out there to satiate my desire. Why? I don't know. Let's look at the facts here for a second.

There are Middle Grade books for Middle Grade age range (8-12) and they often explore themes/topics/issues that happen at that age. 

There are Young Adult books for Young Adults (13-18) and they often explore themes/topics/issues that happen at that age. 

In Adult books - it's very tricky because you can have a book that is definitely FOR an adult, with adult themes but features a young adult protagonist. There are many, many books out there with protagonists who are my age - but they NEVER deal with much of what I'm going through. They focus on a bit older topics/themes or the book is focused on plot centered issues. 

Let me give you an example. At any one time - there are thousands of books about marriage, divorce, infertility, grief, cheating, etc. And those are great topics and many are great books. But what about this:

Where are the books about young women in a generation where marriage and babies CAN be less important than the career they are passionate about? What about when the time comes when society is telling that young woman that she is a selfish person for putting her desires ahead of what society thinks she should do? 

Where are the books about couples who are starting their lives on a shoestring budget because they're both paying off student loans and can't seem to find jobs in their designated career fields and feel as if they are failures? About the blossoming adults that feel betrayed on the broken promises left by the previous generation. 

What about the young man who busted his ass in college to get a degree he and his parents are proud of - just to end up living in their basement because the job market is impossible? 

You may see those topics and think, "whoa, how boring is that?!" and maybe that's why people haven't been more forthcoming in writing them. But I don't find them boring. They are what some of us are living through every day. Why do all other age categories get to be explored and not this one little gap of time? 

I realize that there are exceptions. There ALWAYS are. So for those that ARE writing about this age range and the topics and themes - I commend you. 

But the truth of the publishing industry is this: it's not so much defined by what the authors are writing -- but by what the readers are buying. What they're asking for. Craving. It's true that authors that stand up and write what they believe in make a difference, but when authors, publishers and agents see what the readers are buying -- they will shift the market that way.  So this is to say that a reader's voice MATTERS more than you think and when you start to talk loud enough - people start to listen. I encourage anyone who has passion for this age range and this category to raise your voice. Ask for what you want to read. WRITE what you want to read and put it out there. Champion it voraciously. Speak your mind. Support the limited authors who are writing FOR you. 

Just like any great zombie apocalypse -- nothing dead has to STAY that way ;) 

The Struggle is Real

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I didn't want to write this post, to be honest. I thought if I did - it would mean admitting my failures. Admitting that there's something wrong. But you see, there is something wrong. I am struggling right now. Conventional advice is that you should not air your "dirty laundry." That you shouldn't talk about "hard" or "bad" stuff. Because it depresses people. Because it shows your vulnerability. Because then you look like you want sympathy. I call bullshit. This is why we have depressed individuals who feel like they have to go through drastic measures rather than talk about it. But honestly? That's not really what this post is about. Sure, we'll talk about my depression and anxiety (as I've done herehere and here) but since this is my writing blog, I want to talk about the struggle of writing. The struggle you may not hear from writers today. Because again, who likes to admit that writing isn't always sunshine and rainbows and glittery ideas that flow from your fingertips?

WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH?!

Good question! I am struggling with a particularly nasty case of writing blues. I don't call it a block - because I don't really think I am blocked. I think I have reverted back in time to where I was ages and ages ago when I first started writing - fumbling around with not knowing what the hell I'm doing and doing more reading/talking about writing than actually writing. Why is this? Because I put other people and other things before myself and stopped writing for so long. I let the world close in around me and I bowed to it instead of pushing back like a badass and saying, "No. I deserve to write." And even though writing is like riding a bike, it's hard to get that momentum back. Especially when you've lost your confidence. When the industry has literally gone topsy-turvy on you since you left. The sad fact is that for a writer, even when you're not writing, you're thinking about writing. You're dreaming about it. You're missing it. 

And this is terrible when you feel like you can't write. You start to get resentful and jealous and the insidious thoughts creep into your skull, "you're not good enough anyway," "the market sucks right now," "you'd probably just fail, so why try," "the book you want to write is too hard." Man those thoughts just bash and bash at your brain until it's the only words you hear drowning out everything else. 

I let those words get to me. I let them sear into me until I literally wanted to give up. But I knew I couldn't. I know that I can't. I am a writer and no matter how terrifying these periods are for me, I know that there are better days ahead. But it doesn't change the fact that once I got back on the proverbial horse, that everything would be peachy keen. Because it's not. 

I started off with a small goal: write a 10k word short story for an anthology. When the anthology fell through, my next goal was: publish said short story on your own. So while I managed to do both of those things, I always knew what was up on the horizon. I used to lovingly (and sometimes resentfully) refer to it as "the plague book" because no matter how many times I tried to rework, rewrite, revisit it - it would fall to pieces and inevitably... so would I. It was the first book I wrote and finished. Realistically, I know that I should leave well enough alone and shelve it. It's what most authors do. I, like many others, did not publish the first book I wrote. I wasn't prideful enough to think that the first thing I wrote would be good enough. It wasn't. It still isn't. But I did something stupid during my second year of publishing. I promised it to my readers. I got a cover made, wrote a synopsis. Shared it with the world. 

But when I went to rework it - I couldn't do it. It fell to pieces... again. So I pushed it off until I could look at it again. During a particularly good run of writing, I decided - I'm going to try something new! I'm going to use this book as an experiment. And I decided to rewrite it using the "chapter in a newsletter" method. I would write a chapter, put it in my newsletter unedited and deal with it from there. I got 13 chapters in before everything fell to pieces...you guessed it... again. 

This point was starting to coincide with my busy schedule, my depression and I threw in the towel. I gave up on "the plague book" once again.

Here's the BIG thing you should know about "the plague book," though - I love the premise of it. I deeply deeply love the idea of exploring the themes in this novel. Aside from Whiskey and a Gun - this is the only other book I've ever felt drawn to in a way that I can't get out of my head. 

So yeah, giving up on it always feels like a big deal, because I feel like I'm giving up on a part of me. 

Earlier this year, I thought I'd found a magic pill in the form of a workshop I was helping build. It was by a renowned story coach and my own mentor. The method seemed amazing and I thought to myself, "This is it, Jade. You're finally going to write the book the RIGHT way."

Do you think that happened? No. The same thing as always happened and I was devastated by it. Crippled by the feeling of failure again. Of giving up.

That was the last try before another bout of deep, dark depression. Another couple months of bashing myself and my inability to write a word. And then when I DID write - I bashed myself for not being good enough. Clever enough. Lyrical enough. 

So it makes sense that when I looked at my writing life as of late and saw that the common denominator was "the plague book" I would think of shelving it for good, right? I have to tell you - I was (am?) this close. I spent hours last week letting the tears fall down my cheek as I tried (and failed) to put together another plot. To try and think of character arcs. Goals. Motivation. I shut down my computer and I thought, "This is it, Jade. You're done with this story for good."

Some people might be sitting here thinking, "what's the big deal? It's just an idea." But it's not just an idea to me. This book... this story... it represents the last twelve years of my life as I started writing. It represents an idea that I'm still so very much in love with. Putting it away for good is not an easy task - I would have to mourn and grieve it's death and move on. 

But then I picked up a book called Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield. You may have heard of him - I certainly had which is why I picked up his book. And while it's filled with many great tips, tricks and anecdotes. There was something in particular that stuck out to me. Something that I read over and over and over again until it was burned into my memory:

When faced with the question “what idea should I work on?” the answer is always the same: Write your White Whale.
Here’s how you know what it is: You’re scared to death of it. Mediocre ideas never elevate the heart rate. Great ones make you break out in a sweat. The whale is your unwritten book, your unsung song, your calling as an artist. You die grappling with this thing, lashed to it, battling it even as it takes you under. You’ll know the whale by these qualities: It’s accomplishment will seem beyond your resources. Your pursuit of it will bear you into waters where no one before you has sailed. To hunt this beast will require everything you’ve got. 

Whoa. That's some intense shit right there. And I thought, "Hmm. Maybe "the plague book" is actually my "white whale." And instead of being scared of it - it filled me with a newly refreshed vigor to figure. my. shit. out. 

So "the plague book" is now my "white whale book" and I'm thinking of pulling on my big girl panties and trying once again. 

But when is enough is enough? 

IS GIVING UP REALLY THAT BAD?

My mentor Jennie Nash wrote a blog post called "Is It Time to Quit Writing  Your Book?" where she interviews our shared client Tracey Cleantis. I remember reading it and thinking, "Oh my gosh. No! There is no dream too big to give up on." Last week, when I was struggling with what to do about "the plague book" aka "the white whale book" - I took the "Dreams - Let it Go or No" quiz on Tracey's website and I was stunned with the answer: 

If you have 4-7 True answers: you may want to consider calling it quits. Your expectations for the dream are likely not realistic, and too much of your self-esteem and self-worth are riding on it. It is time to take a hard look at the consequences of the dream and be honest about what it is costing you.

Crap. I thought I would sail through the quiz and it would remind me that my dreams are important and I should follow them. But this dream? Could it be killing me secretly?

TO MOVE FORWARD OR NOT?

Here's the truth. I can't give up just yet. I have to give it one more honest go. One more guns 'ablazin, hooting and hollering go. Because if it's time to let it go. To bury the hatchet - I need to know that I did EVERYTHING and I really mean EVERYTHING to make it happen. To truly put it to death means knowing that I don't regret moving on. And that's the hardest thing in my opinion. 

WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THIS POST?

The pure struggle and gut-aching confusion of it is the point. THIS is what it means to be a writer. To struggle and cry over an idea. To write, rewrite, replot and then toss it all away to attempt a better version. To want to give up every time. To HAVE to give up sometimes. 

Writing is not easy. And ANYONE who says that it is easy is lying. Direct them to me so I can have a little 1:1 chat with them. Because they are not telling the truth. Writing also isn't all hot abs on covers and "Zomg, I hit 12k words today! #coffeebreak!" Yes, some rare times, it is like that. But mostly? It's heartache. It's loneliness. It's insecurity. It's pain. It's longing. 

It's wanting to be heard when you feel you don't have a voice. It's crying out to the void and listening as nothing comes back to you. 

But it's also inspiration and love and therapy. It's rewarding and triumphant and miraculous. There is nothing (and I truly mean nothing) better than the feeling of a writing high. When you've felt the words come together and your story takes shape. 

So we don't give up because of the darkness... we keep fighting because of the light. 

I guess the point of this post is to show you what it looks like to be a REAL writer outside of the glamorized social media lens. Because without the struggles and the darkness... we'd never be able to see the light.

My Love Affair with Audiobooks

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I'm not too proud to admit that I'm a converted audiobook lover. As in, I didn't always love them. To be completely honest, my prejudice and own silly beliefs had me thinking about audiobooks in a negative way. Why?

Because I thought it was cheating. 

As someone who has been a voracious reader of physical books my entire life, I couldn't imagine that audiobooks could touch the magic that is reading. Some will use the argument that the same could be said for ebooks -- but I don't agree. I think reading, whether it's on paper or a screen is relatively the same (at least for me and in my opinion). But audiobook? Well, just lump those in with movies, I thought. It can't possibly be the same! I would chuckle when I heard family or friends say that they were listening to an audiobook and enjoying it. I thought, hmm okay, maybe for a long drive where you have no choice BUT to listen to something... 

I know, I know. It was terrible of me. I did tell you I would always be honest, right? So this is me admitting that I was wrong. That I was naive and silly for thinking those things. But I'm not the only one! 

I recently read an article (which you can find HERE) that says that many voracious readers have felt the same way, but that actual studies have been done to show that not only is audiobook listening almost identical to reading, but that in some cases, it actually gives you a more enjoyable experience than physically reading text. Say what?!?!

I understand this now. It's funny, because before I left my corporate day job to write full time and build my business, I had the PERFECT excuse to listen to audiobooks - a long commute. But because of said above reasons, I never did. But it's incredible what time you can find to listen to audiobook - when you don't think you have time to pick up a physical book. When I'm working on something that requires less attention - I turn on an audiobook. Folding laundry? Yup. Taking a hot bath? Yup. Trying to fall asleep at night? Yup. 

I've discovered that I can "double dip" and not get confused when I'm reading a physical book and listening to an audiobook. I can get double the fun without having to do extra work? Yes please!

Something else happened when I started listening to audiobooks - it deepened my experience and love of the written word. Sometimes, when we read (especially if we're in a binge-reading session) we forget the language because we're wrapped up in the story (and that's exactly what's SUPPOSED to happen, mind you), but when you're listening to an audiobook - those beautiful lines stop you cold. I've paused and had to rewind just to listen to it over again because it was heaven to my ears. You know when a book gets adapted to film and you have a line from the book you REALLY love and can't wait to hear it said in the movie? That's how it is with audiobooks, too. 

The other thing I discovered is listening to an audiobook when you've already read the book is an amazing experience. You pick up on SO many things you didn't while reading and if the audiobook has a great narrartor, it transports your experience to another dimension. I did this with the Harry Potter series. Listened to them all on audio after reading them a bajillion times - and I can't even begin to describe how magical it felt to hear the stories come alive in a different way than reading the book and watching the movies. 

So obviously I've waxed poetic about my love of audiobooks. There are some cons to listening, though I feel that there aren't enough to outweigh the pros. So if you're hestitant... if you're thinking that it might be cheating... I urge you to not make the same mistake I did. Try one (you can try them for free you know!) and give yourself the chance to fall in love with literature in a new way. You will be glad you did!

Why I Write

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I recently took some time to dust off some of the craft-writing books sitting on my shelf and as I'm coming back to writing after taking a few months off - I figured it would be a great way to refresh myself with why I started writing in the first place. One of the books, The Writer's Guide to Persistence was one I hadn't even cracked open, but boy am I glad that I decided to. It was SO full of great advice and ways to come back to the core question of: why. Why do you want to write? What does it mean to you? I did the exercises and while they are really personal, I figured that this would be the perfect way to share a little piece of me. So here it goes.

GETTING TO KNOW YOUR "WHY"

WHY DO YOU WRITE?

I write to explore questions or what-if’s that I have. I write because I think I’m good at it. I write because it’s what makes sense to me. I write because I want to feel THINGS the way I feel them when I read. I write because I have all these ideas/voices in my head and this is the best way I know to get them out. I write because at times it feels therapeutic. I write because sometimes it’s hard and I like a challenge. I write because I want to be heard – I want someone to read what I write and say, “yes! I feel that way too.” I write because I want validation that I’m a good writer, that I’m worthy, that what I say has merit and value. I write because I don’t know how NOT to write. I write because it feels natural. I write because sometimes it’s how I make sense of some things.

 
TOP 5 REASONS YOU SPECIFICALLY WRITE:

  1. I write to explore questions or what-ifs
  2. I write because I want to be heard
  3. I write because I have voices/ideas in my head
  4. I write because I want validation
  5. I write because I want to FEEL things like I do when I read.

WHAT STANDS IN THE WAY OF MY WRITING?

The fear of failure often stands in the way. The fear of not finishing the story. The fear of it not being like it is in my head. The fear of finishing and it’s complete crap. The fear of everyone not just everyone hating it – but thinking I’m a shitty writer and I should just stop. The fear of not making any money off of it. The fear that my writing is never improving – that I’ve plateaued as a writer. The fear that I’ll never write a book that makes me feel the way Whiskey & a Gun did. 

 

DEVELOPING YOUR WRITER'S CODE

1. KNOW THE VALUE OF YOUR WRITING - WHEN YOU EXPLORE IN DEPTH WHY YOU WRITE - IT WILL LEAD YOU TO YOUR VALUES

I write to explore questions or what-ifs:

Sometimes, I get these questions or what-if’s in my head and there’s no answer (or at least, no GOOD answer) to them and it makes me want to write about it. Or if it’s a question/what-if that has been answered, how would I answer/respond to it. A great example of this is when I wrote Whiskey and a Gun. I, like many other people wondered “why do women stay with men that hurt them?” I knew the answer wasn’t simple and since I personally hadn’t had the experience to answer it, I thought maybe I could get the answer through research and exploring it in my writing. And I did find somewhat of an answer. At least enough to satisfy me. This deep longing to know more, to find out answers dovetails with my love of learning. So it makes sense that this is one of the deepest drivers of my writing. 


I write because I want to be heard:

This seems self-explanatory but it’s actually hard to answer. Why do I want to be heard? Doesn’t everyone? But in this case, when I found that I loved writing and then someone responded favorably to it, I  wanted to do it over and over again. I wanted people to hear what I had to say. Maybe because I’m not a great public speaker and I trip over my words and I’m not the greatest at explaining my thoughts/opinions. But when I have time to percolate, when I can formulate them in sentences, I feel much more confident. I suppose I write to be heard for the same reason people speak in conversations – they have something to say and they want someone to hear it. 


I write because I have voices/ideas in my head:

People laugh when writers say, “there’s this voice in my head and it just won’t shut up.” But it’s true. There have been nights when I can’t fall asleep because a character keeps talking, or I get visions of a certain scene in a certain place with certain dialogue. This is not me thinking about it. This is them inserting themselves into my head. It’s as if I have no volition of when they come or how or why. They just do. The same thing with ideas. Once an idea pops in my head, it’s like my brain decides to fixate on that idea and there’s no letting it go until it decides to leave on it’s own. Luckily for me, I don’t think my “well” of ideas will ever go away and that’s a huge part of why I write because I just have SO. MANY. IDEAS. 


I write because I want validation:

This has changed so dramatically for me in who I seek validation from – but the core of it has always stayed the same – that I simply seek it. I realized that I could never be one of those writers who writes quietly just for themselves. When I was younger and someone would read something I wrote and tell me how good it was, I wanted more. I craved it. I believe we all crave validation/praise when we do something right or good. Especially when it comes from a place where we started the project without expecting validation. I used to seek validation from everyone, but as I’ve grown more cynical in my worldview and my views of the publishing/writing industry as a whole, I seek validation from other sources. Don’t get me wrong – it hurts just as much when I don’t get that validation, but it also helps me focus in a little bit. I think this falls in line with a quote (that I will not appropriately phrase) from Stephen King, “write for yourself and ONE person. That one person is who you are trying to impress, captivate, encapsulate. They’re who matters.”

 
I write because I want to feel things like I do when reading:

Only other readers and writers understand that magical moment you get when you’re reading a book and you’re transported into a different world. Not necessarily in the sci-fi/fantasy sense but in the way that you feel what the character is going through. You experience the pain, the joy, the sadness and hope that they do. You cry for them, as if you knew them in real life. From the first time I experienced this (maybe it was Old Yeller? I don’t remember…) I craved that feeling from reading and as I grew older and into my love of writing, I desperately wanted to recreate those feelings in my own writing. I want people to read my writing and cry or yell or scream or be hopeful. I want to give them the same feelings I feel when reading. 

Would it be nice to have money and fame from writing? Sure. But in addition to my wanting to explore the what-if's - the biggest driver for me is the desire to leave someone with intense emotions when they read my words. That's what I strive for when I'm writing.


2. KNOW YOUR WRITING RHYTHM

This one is really hard for me because I don’t feel like I have a peak time. I’ve done lots of data mining, and while the data shows that evening to late evening seems to be my peak time, I also know that’s when my brain is most fried from the day. And I have to wonder if even though that’s when I’m most “alive” for writing, if I need to force myself to shift to a time that may work better for my schedule. I do have the luxury to switch up when I write and perhaps I need to experiment again, under the new circumstances of my life situation to see which “session” produces the best results. In the last year, I’ve been very lax in the time and scheduling of when I write. I’ll say “oh I’m going to write today,” without setting a time or length to the session. Then it often doesn’t get done. I’m aware of this behavior and know I need to change it.


3. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE WILLING TO RISK

This is an interesting thought because it’s much different now than when I first started. I think that I’ve risked and conquered much since I began writing seriously. But I know that there are greater things ahead and risks I’ll have to take to get there. Although I’m very weary and cautious about traditional publishing, there is some interest brewing there. The risks seem much greater there in many ways. Risk of loss of control. Risk of loss of time (because it takes so long). Risk of rejection. Risk of not finding an agent/publisher. Risk of disappointment. Would taking this risk allow me to stretch and grow? I don’t know. That’s what’s so hard about it – not knowing if it’s something that would benefit me long-term thus making the risk something that’s up in the air.  

I do know that the next logical steps for me are two-fold. Producing more books and getting better at the craft. They sort of go hand-in-hand. I believe the risks for either of those are well-worth the outcome. To get better at craft, I know that I have to continue to write and put myself out there. I may even need to risk setting aside time to work 1:1 with a coach or editor or course to better my craft. 


4. KNOW WHO YOUR CREATIVE SUPPORT TEAM IS

While I whole-heartedly agree with having a creative support team, I also think that they are only as good as you let them be. Meaning, sometimes, they are exactly what you need – they say and do the right things, they respect the place that you’re at and lend a helpful ear or advice – but if you’re not in a place to receive it… it won’t matter. I have learned the hard way that my creative support team works only if I let them. Sometimes, I can’t see further than my own thoughts enough to let them help me, which in turn, seems like they’re not helping. Or they’re making me feel worse. That’s not the case. It’s me standing in my own way. 

5. KNOW WHAT PREVENTS YOU FROM WRITING

Outside of the other things I mentioned above that are standing in my way, I think it's excuses, really. I’m the worst at this. I do become the “Martyr” to avoid writing sometimes. “Oh, I need to finish X’s formatting before I get to writing this scene.” “Ugh the house is SO dirty. I need to clean it and then I’ll just be ready to start writing.” I am SO fortunate and lucky to have a business and a career that is so intimately intertwined with the writing world, but I also use it as an excuse. I do spend a good portion of my day talking, working and helping writers -- sometimes I feel like I need a moment to NOT be around it, even when it's something I love to do. But that's me putting everyone else before myself and something I need to work on. 

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So there you have it. A little looky-look inside of my personal thoughts about my writing. I think it's important for writers to do this sort of introspective work every now and again. It really puts into perspective where you're at in the process and showcases the holes in your thinking. After doing this exercise, I realized how many excuses I use to not get writing done when it's so important to me. But revisiting WHY I write gave me little jolts of inspiration and warm fuzzies. Hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little bit more!