2016 Year End Rundown and 2017 Goals

2016 Year End Rundown and 2017 Goals

A lot has happened in 2016! I published Moonburner and Burning Fate, edited Sunburner, and finished the first draft of a new book, The Confectioner’s Guild! I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time, produced an audiobook, teamed up with some amazing YA authors to publish That Moment When Anthology of short stories, and brought you some great giveaways too. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing books.

Sometimes I get a little envious of authors who write for their day job, marveling at how many books they publish each year. But when I think of what I’ve managed to do while working as a lawyer, I feel pretty good about how far I’ve come (and realize why I was felt stressed for a lot of the year)!

I’m looking forward to 2017 being even better. Overall, I want to keep learning, keep enjoying the process of writing and editing, while connecting with more authors and fans, and selling more books. Oh is that all? It’s important for me to find balance–making forward progress while still not driving myself insane with ALL the things I could be doing, because there is basically an endless amount of work that could be done.

Some specific goals for next year (because if you write them down AND share them, they’ll be much harder to ignore!)

  • Consistently get up early to do my author work before I head to work
  • Finish revising Sunburner and publish it, with a goal of a June 2017 launch
  • Start a street team to help with the Sunburner launch
  • Finish editing The Confectioner’s Guild and submit to literary agents (and hopefully get an agent!)
  • Write the first draft of the sequel to The Confectioner’s Guild in November and December
  • Work on connecting with local schools and bookstores to do some in person events
  • Connect with more writers and authors in person, though attending the PNWA Conference and PNWA and SCWBI events
  • Grow my email list to 10,000, my Facebook following to 2,000 and my Twitter following to 5,000
  • Lastly: keep learning & keep reading!

I think that will be plenty to keep me busy throughout next year.

Thanks for following and reading!

Is Following your Dreams a Pipe Dream?

Is Following your Dreams a Pipe Dream?

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” I love that quote by Kurt Vonnegut, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was a writer. To set out to write a novel for the first time is a cliff-jump. Anytime you set out to try something you’ve never done before it’s like jumping off a cliff. With no parachute and no wings. Except the ones you grow on the way down.

When I talk to friends and acquaintances about the fact that I’ve written a book and that it’s getting published, most of them seem impressed or astonished that I’ve been able to make it this far. And don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the time and effort I’ve put into my writing career, but I also don’t see it as that extraordinary. I decided what I wanted to do, and I did it. Is that so unusual?

But…I guess…it is. All of us have dreams that end up ditched in the gutter. Why? Why don’t we even try to achieve them? Sometimes circumstances outside of our control get in the way: financial hardship, health issues, obligations. But more often, we get in our own way. We are afraid. Afraid to take the leap of faith, to trust in ourselves, to risk failure or vulnerability. It’s safer to stay in our comfort zone where we know that we can handle what comes our way.

What else gets in the way? Self-doubt. Feeling we aren’t good enough/smart enough/rich enough/productive enough/etc. to accomplish our dreams. That we don’t measure up to the people around us, or worse, to who we want to be. That we can’t start working on our dreams until we are _________ enough.

Right now, I am close to publication. Close to the point where my work will be out there for the world to see, to judge as a success or failure, to love or hate, to debate, critique, and pick apart. And so I feel those things—fear and self-doubt. They are there and ever present. But they also aren’t crippling me. And it makes me wonder why. Why was I able to overcome them?

First, perhaps, it was a gut thing. A feeling, a passion, that I could do this. I was recently listening to a podcast interview with Joanna Penn, who is a wildly successful fiction and non-fiction author. She was joking about how new authors come with what she called a “heavy dose of over-confidence.” It’s true. I have it. You have to have it to dare to dream.

But more importantly, I think it was because though my goals were measurable in an external way my main goal was an internal one: don’t be satisfied with the status quo if it isn’t fulfilling.  Inside me was desire to set aside fear and self-doubt and try to develop a life that makes me more happy and more fulfilled. Perhaps try and fail, but perhaps try and succeed. Without the try, there only ever could be failure. (Sorry Yoda, but I think you sold the try a little short). Isn’t the chance to achieve your dream worth the risk of failure? For me, it was. And even though I’m just on the path, and who knows where it will take me, it feels damn good. It feels like a win.

I also think I’ve been able to overcome fear and self-doubt because my external goals were generally things that I had control over. They weren’t totally dependent on what other people think or other people’s acceptance.

First, what was my short term goal? To sell a million copies? Nope. To write and publish a book. I could accomplish that even if I self-published and never sold a copy. I will hold it in my hands knowing I created it. Selling more than 10 copies to my immediate family will be just icing on the cake. Do I want to sell a million copies? Of course. Will part of me be disappointed if I don’t? Yup. But it’s made better by the fact that I’ve already accomplished my goal.

Second, I have a long-term perspective. I’m not chasing instant gratification; I’m playing the long game. It takes the pressure off tremendously. If I could write and publish a book every year, by the time I retire from lawyering, I will have thirty books! That’s pretty awesome. Even if they weren’t all runaway hits, if I’m doing things right and improving my craft as I go along, I should have some sales to show for my efforts. And how cool to have a legacy of writing as a part of my life. To leave that behind. So even if my first book doesn’t find much success, maybe my second will. Or my seventh. Or twelfth. You get the picture.

And so there is is. I love being on this journey. Even if I’m like Edison who takes a thousand tries to figure out how to build a light bulb, it’s ok. I’m still gonna try.

You can reach for it too.  Your dream. You know what it is. What you really wish you could be doing when you are typing away in your office, or rushing out of the house, or stuck in traffic. It feels so good to step through fear and self-doubt and walk on a path you create for yourself. Even if it’s just the first step, try.

 

Slowing It Down: Maintaining that post-vacation zen

Yep, I’m back! Back in the United States, back at work, back to writing and blogging and all the rest! Our Epic South America trip of a lifetime was truly…a trip of a lifetime. Here are just a few of my favorite photos to capture the trip.

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Glacier treking on the Perito Merino glacier-El Calafate, Argentina

 

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At the top of our hike to Mt. Fitzroy-El Chalten, Argentina

 

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Gazing at the Torres from EcoCamp-Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

 

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Enjoying the colorful La Boca neighborhood-Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

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Exploring laid back Colonia del Sacramento-Uruguay

 

 

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Getting soaked at Iguassu Falls-Argentina/Brazil

 

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Back streets of colonial Paraty-Brazil

 

Foggy Christ the Redeemer-Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Foggy Christ the Redeemer-Rio De Janeiro, Brazil


The seeing new places, doing new things, eating new foods, it was all marvelous. But what I think I treasured most of all was the shutting off of all obligations. I didn’t do work. I was planning on outlining an idea for a new book I have, but I didn’t really feel like it so I didn’t. I read books (so many books!). I took pictures. I looked out the window. I stayed up too late and slept in. I ate ice cream and drank wine with no thoughts of dieting or calorie counting. I chatted with new friends and compared notes about cultures and life. I didn’t make new years resolutions (and I always make new years resolutions!) I just couldn’t be bothered. I was already living the life I wanted.

 

As we were nearing the last few days of the trip, I was looking forward to coming home, but I was also dreading it. I started remembering how I felt before the trip. I was a dark cloud compared to my currently sunny self. Burnt out on work, writing, perpetual social obligations…pretty much everything. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life and I know how fortunate I am. But I was just tired all the time.
http://pandawhale.com/post/59200/i-cant-adult-today-meme-please-dont-make-me-adult

http://pandawhale.com/post/59200/i-cant-adult-today-meme-please-dont-make-me-adult

So, on our four flights home, I thought a lot about how I could avoid that.  (No, I didn’t resolve to sell everything and become a travel blogger). I thought about how to cultivate a life where I don’t need a five-week vacation to get back to center and the person I want to be. I mean sure, I’ll take as many five-week vacations as I can get, but I don’t think I’ll get one every year. And I still want to enjoy the other 11 months of the year!

 

The biggest thing I noticed was that as soon as I landed, my brain started up again. The perpetual to do list that constantly runs in my head, refusing to let me relax even if I am “relaxing.” Always telling me what else I have to do. How to shut it up? How to balance the things I need to do to run my life and work and feel productive, yet also give myself the permission to relax and recharge?

 

Of course, I immediately started to think about all the things I should change to cultivate my new zen mindset, making my mental list. But then, in my post-vacation clarity, I realized that such a list would just feed directly back into the insanity of busyness and obligations and constricting self-imposed discipline.

 

All of this to say, I have a new philosophy, and I am digging it. I think it’s working. It’s not rhyming or catchy, but it is simple and somehow feels profound to me.

 

Do one thing at a time. Don’t do too much.
Do one thing at a time. This is rocking my socks off. I just concentrate on the task at hand and finish it. No more mind whirling into something else, getting up in the middle and forgetting where I left off. No more double tasking. When I watch tv, I just watch tv. If I am eating a meal, I eat the meal. I actually taste my food! If I am getting bored of a task at work and find my finger itching to go surf the net, I will finish the task, and take a break. Hanging with family or friends, I pay attention and listen, rather than thinking a million other things. It feels so amazingly decadent, yet I have been so much more productive at work and at home than I was before.

 

And don’t do too much. Always a risk. I’m a natural introvert, and without time to recharge, I wilt. I remember in the fall just craving an hour to sit alone in the woods. Just somewhere outside and beautiful and quiet. I had the time. I could have done it, but for my own self-imposed obligations and goals. So no more.  I’ve been saying no. I’ve been dropping out of obligations that fill me with dread. I know that I can’t have something scheduled every night of the work week or I’ll go mad. I will not attempt to write another novel in two months. I will give myself, a full-time working person, a reasonable amount of time to edit said novel.

 

I’m not quite sure why these two simple concepts have felt so profound to me, but they have. For a long time I have craved a slow down from the pace of modern life, and I’m excited and encouraged that perhaps I can find it by setting boundaries—that I don’t necessarily have to uproot myself and move to the middle of nowhere with some goats to get the breathing room that I crave.

 

The year to come is feeling full of possibilities, rather than obligations. I’m so excited to see where 2016 takes me!

Mission Accomplished!

Mission accomplished

A little over two months ago, I set out to write a 90,000 word first draft of Sunburner, my second novel. Well, I am happy to say I actually did it! It came in at 83,000 words, but wow, that feels good.

Would I ever do this again? I don’t know… maybe it’s like having a baby, you need to wait a few years to forget the pain. 1500 words a day for two months was… challenging. It was like NaNoWriMo on steroids. I didn’t always make my daily goal on the weekdays, so I had to make it up on the weekend, often writing 3,000 words a day on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I was pretty darn sick of it all by the end.

But, I did it! So who cares! No one makes it as an author without being a little crazy, right?

Refilling, Recharging, Rejuvenating

Photo credit Balazs Sprenc, cc license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode

Credit Balazs Sprenc, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode

After two long weeks, my trial is over. I can tell you that between the long nights and weekend prepping and two weeks of being “on” in court, I feel like an empty vessel. Spent.

I have missed working on my book so much over the past month, I want to dive right into editing, incorporating some of the great suggestions I have gotten from beta readers. But I also don’t. I also feel like all I have the energy to do is lie on the couch watching Netflix streaming like a limp noodle. My willpower is gone.

How to I recharge? In my copious free time, I have been sneaking in snippets of the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Roy Baumeister. As someone who is constantly trying to use my willpower to be more productive, work out more, eat healthier, etc (aren’t we all), I have found the book fascinating.

The first key takeaway is that willpower is a finite resource. While it regenerates, we only have so much for each day, and once we use it all up, bad decisions abound. The second key takeaway is that we use the same stock of willpower for all the tasks in our daily lives: staying productive at work, interpersonal relationships, dieting, etc. Third key takeaway is that the fuel that powers our willpower is glucose. So if we are hungry or short on glucose, we both crave quick sources of glucose (sugar) and have less willpower to make good decisions. Huh. Is that why I am craving chocolate?

There may be more key takeaways, but I am only about 1/3 of the way through the book. Cut me some slack, it’s a miracle I’ve had time to read at all working 80 hour weeks! But the science behind the conclusions I’ve read about so far is fascinating and compelling. I can’t wait to understand more about how willpower works (or doesn’t work) in our lives.

The conclusions I have drawn from this is that in order to recharge my batteries, I need to eat (yay!) and rest my willpower. Ultimately, I think it will be better to give myself a few days off before diving into my novel editing, rather than trying to force myself to do it when I don’t yet feel ready. While I hate to see more days slip away, I think my brain needs to be quiet for a while.

The Dark Side of Writing

The Dark Side of Writing

I was in a bookstore this weekend, perusing the fiction and young adult section. It is a past-time I normally adore, but for some reason, it had gone sour for me. Instead of reveling in all of the worlds before me that I could visit with only a turn of a page, I felt a trifecta of dark emotions: Jealousy. Doubt. Guilt.

As I looked at the books on the shelf, with their beautiful covers, New York Times Bestseller sigils, and quotes from famous authors declaring the work “masterful!”, I felt jealousy. I want to see my book on those shelves. I want some author I adore and respect to endorse my work as “the next great voice in fantasy,” or a “must-read!”

Then comes doubt. I am so far from that. My work may never even be picked up by a real publisher, let alone declared masterful. What if no one even likes it? I sent my finished product to a few friends to read for the first time this week, so I think I am feeling especially vulnerable. What if all the feedback I get is negative? What if all the areas that I think need work really need work? What a Herculean task to make it the best it could be…

Then comes guilt. I should have been working on it more. I could have been even further by now. I could have read more books on craft, taken more writing classes, spent more hours glazed over my Scrivener screen, editing. It could be so much better. How can it ever be good enough when I allow myself to watch Sunday night Game of Thrones instead of editing, or grab a drink with friends instead of editing. I should always. be. editing.

This is the dark side of writing that I am beginning to understand. With great highs and moments of pure creative bliss come dark days of doubt and fear. Why am I spending so much of my precious time on something that could be a huge, embarrassing waste of time?

Sometimes when I read, I have a hard time not feeling the trifecta. Instead of enjoying immersing myself in the beautiful fictional world the author has created, I feel jealous that I didn’t create it, despair that I could ever create anything as inspired. I find myself analyzing character arcs, plot lines, and foreshadowing–comparing them to my own, instead of just enjoying myself. I know I am not alone in this. A friend of mine who is an aspiring author recommended a book to me, explaining that: “It is so wonderful. I wish I had written it.” Isn’t that the truth.

Much of the time, I am excited and enthusiastic about my writing. I know that the joy of dreaming, creating, and finishing my book is enough to make the endeavor worth it, even if I never make the best-seller list. The rise of self-publishing means that I never have to fear that my book will not see the light of day. Even if it isn’t picked up by a traditional publisher, it will get published.

But at times, just now and again, I succumb to the dark side. In those moments, I place one foot in front of the other and tell myself not to take life so seriously. I know I will come back to the light soon enough.


Photo credit Bart van Leeuwen, cc license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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