Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dear Santa

Halloween is almost upon us, so you know what that means: It’s almost Christmas!!!!

What? What do you mean “Thanksgiving”? I have no idea what you are talking about. Oh wait, you mean that day of the year where everyone stuffs themselves with turkey and then the women clean in the kitchen and the men watch football and complain about the quarterback or the defense? Gee… can’t understand how I could over look that festive event.

But, while I’m on the subject of Christmas, I might as well get my letter to Santa out early. You know, beat the rush.

Dear Santa,

2012 has been a wild year for everyone and I’m sure life is pretty busy up at the North Pole. In the next few weeks, you’ll be getting letters from Kidlets 1 and 2 with requests for Legos and Pokemon games for the Wii and DS, but for today, it’s just me.

I’ve been very good this year. Yes, I know you hear that a lot, but in this case, it’s true… well, mostly. And, in light of my mostly goodness, I would like to respectfully submit my Christmas wish list, along with an explanation as to why it’s so important.

1. More K Cups for the Kurieg you gave me last year. You see, I spend a lot of time in a java induced state, between raising the kids, keeping our family life in order (barely) and occasionally cleaning the house. That doesn’t include the time needed to write my current WIP. Without coffee, it’s likely I would be committed to the funny farm where, it turns out, life isn’t all that funny. However, the rising cost of everything added to my husband’s, noble yet time consuming job mean money and time for fru-fru drinks at the fancy coffee place down the street is precious. The Kurieg has taken the worry out of my addiction, but sadly, I’m running low on those bad for the environment plastic cups that can’t be recycled and the golden grounds that reside within them. Please help me maintain a healthy balance between life and writing by dropping off a few boxes… or ten.

2. A new, ergonomic chair for my desk. Something that comforts me when my butt is in it but the ideas aren’t flowing as fast as I want them to. Good posture is not a luxury for a writer. It’s a need. So a request for a chocolate brown leather chair with massage and heat options isn’t really a luxury at all, as you can plainly see.

3. A signed copy of any JK Rowling book. I would prefer Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. (That would be the UK edition). If you’re having problems getting this, check out ebay…. Just make sure you get a certificate of authenticity… and  a picture of JK actually signing it. You can’t trust anybody these days!

4. A finished writing room. In order to get this, the kidlets will have to be moved into their new suite and the Wall-E mural will have to be primed, so I would take a gift card from Home Depot in lieu of the actual finished project, along with the power to freeze time so I can actually get the room painted.

5. A finished novel. I’ve been making great progress on the current WIP, but in order to secure the next item on my list, a finished, revised manuscript is needed. Perhaps we can implement the previously mentioned freezing of time to allow me to deliver this to myself. After all, I love a DIY project!

6. As I mentioned, I need a completed manuscript for my next request. It’s not a big one… oh, who am I kidding… it’s huge. I would like an agent. I’m not saying I actually want you to gift wrap and agent and shove him or her under the tree. That would be ridiculous. But an actual partner to help me navigate my (hopefully) marathon-long career of publishing would be much appreciated. Perhaps, if you are unable to deliver this one, I’ll be forced to turn to your nemesis, the Easter Bunny… I’m just saying.

And that’s it. I hope you don’t find my list too long or the items too difficult to deliver. I realize the time freezing one may provide a challenge, but you’re the big guy in red. If anyone can pull this off, it would be you. I know you are working hard to get your ride ready for the big day and I won’t keep you any longer. Good luck as you enter the home stretch of living out your PASSION for bringing joy to good girls and boys around the world. I’ll have some cookies, Coca-Cola® and Aleve® waiting for you when you stop by the house!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Voices in my Head

Someone once told me that writer’s block doesn’t exist. And, to a large extent, I agree. If you sit in the chair long enough, words are going to run through your head. They will. But what if the words running through your head aren’t yours? What if they are the words of every bitchy, jealous, hateful person who has tried to pull you down, disguised as your voice?

Like many writers, I battle against the forces of negativity every day. Most of the time, I’m able to swat them away like they’re nothing more than an annoying gnat on a summer day. But then there are the darker times. When what I want is to climb into bed, throw Poptarts at my kids when they ask what’s for dinner, and hide from the voices that tell me I’m no good, or that I’m foolish for thinking I could ever write something people would want to read.

Where does this come from? Because, if I’m being honest, I mean completely honest, I have practiced my interview for when I’m on the Ellen Show. I have imagined what it would be like to see my story up on the marquee at the local movie theater. I have dreams that, most the time, don’t seem unattainable.

So, what I’m saying is, I rarely lack for confidence. But there are moments. Moments when I question if my house being in shambles because I’m in the middle of major revisions or heading off to the local coffee shop to get a chapter or two done in one sitting while my husband stays home with the kids is really worth it.

I don’t know if people who aren’t in the industry understand how hard it is to be a writer. I’m not saying it’s the toughest job out there, not by a long shot. As my husband likes to put it, especially when I’m being particularly whiny, “It’s not like you’re working in a coal mine in Chile.”

Touché, dear hubby, and have fun sleeping alone on the couch tonight. Okay, I jest, but being creative, taking your work with you every single place you go, can sometimes wear a person out. How many of you have taken your laptops on vacation just in case you can squeeze in a few hours of work in the hotel while everyone else is asleep? I know I’m not the only one. Heck, some of my best chapters were written in a dark room at Great Wolf Lodge.

Okay, back to the negative thoughts. I’m struggling right now. And based on conversations I’ve had with other writers, I’m not alone. So what do we do? What do we, as a writing community, do when we see other writer’s struggle? How do we tell them it will get better and that yes, it’s okay to let your kids play an extra hour of video games so you can finish a really tricky scene?

And if it’s not writer’s block, what is it?

I have a theory. I think it’s a test. A way for our creative selves to push us past what we think is possible. To make us struggle. To make us want it all that much more. To force us to believe in ourselves more than anyone else and look that negative Nancy in the imaginary face and knock her lights out.

It’s a chance for us to be the hero in our own journey. We rescue our manuscripts from the evil clutches of the evil manila envelope and carry it safely back to the land of completion where it will live happily ever after, at least until Lord Revision comes to marry it.

Can you tell I’ve been catching up on Once Upon a Time?

I’m not saying getting published or even finishing that first, second, fiftieth novel is a slam dunk. We all make the rookie mistakes. The difference is who can push through the negativity and disappointment to achieve the highest level of literary success they possibly can.

No matter what obstacles are in your way, remember to BE PASSIONATE about what you’re writing. You are your #1 Fan!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Everything Changes

On Wednesday, everything changed. No, the sun did not stop shining and time continues on, even as the tears fall down my face, but it is different. I was just beginning to adjust to the fact that my grams, my constant supporter, no longer walked along the mortal plane when my 19 year old cousin was taken too soon.

And my heart shattered. It aches for her parents who watched her grow from a fiery, trickster little girl into an amazingly strong and fiercely independent woman new to her adult life. It breaks for her friends who were inspired by her. And I weep for our entire family. Being far away from her, I didn’t get to see her as much as I would have liked. That’s what happens when you leave home to start your own life… you are always missing out. However, I have definitely received a crash course in all things Becca over the last three days, and I am so proud to call this courageous, vivacious and impish woman part of my family tree.

When my grams passed away, I was relieved. Seeing my rock withering in pain was more than I could handle. But for someone so young and full of life to die is mind-blowing. It’s like the brain refuses to acknowledge it’s even a possibility. In fact, when I learned she was on her way to the hospital, I called mom, said a prayer, and went on about my day after making the post on Facebook for more prayers. In the back of my mind, I thought, eh. She’ll be fine.

And then she wasn’t. She was gone. And I screamed at God. It’s not fair. It’s not right. How could He? What more can He take from our family? How much more pain does He want us to endure? And when I stopped screaming (in the parking lot of Starbuck’s I might add… a place I visit often), I cried.

And the tears continue, even as I write this. There is sadness that I will not be able to return for the memorial, coupled with the fact that I will be attending another service this weekend for a friend who lost her fight against cancer. To say this is going to be a rough weekend is an understatement.

But here’s why this post is titled “Everything Changes”. Because what mattered to me most on Wednesday morning was not what mattered on Wednesday night. The things I feared when I went to bed on Tuesday were minor compared to what I feared when I woke up on Thursday. Twenty-four hours was all it took for me to realign what’s really important. And there’s something freeing in that realization.

I got a chance to take an inventory of the mountain tall pile of blessings that are in my life and give thanks for them. To hug my kids and tickle them until they can’t breathe, only to smoother their faces with kisses as the giggles subside. To welcome my husband home after he gives his time to provide for our family. We may never have a dream house. But no matter where we are, we will always be home. And I have another chance to reconnect with the people who mean the most to me: my family and friends. To reach out and ask how they are instead of scanning Facebook posts and making assumptions. And I get to follow my passion of writing, regardless of an agent’s rejection or a bad critique. And that’s what really matters to me.

Everything changed when Becca died. Nothing will bring her back, but I hope others will take to heart that life if fleeting. We have only so much time to fulfill our dreams. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama at the office or on the playground. It’s easy to get lost in our own ambitions without regard to the people we’re taking out on the way up the ladder. It’s easy to think there will always be tomorrow. For me, what has changed is that today is the new tomorrow. No more putting off going to the gym. No more wasting time when I should be working on a book because I’m afraid someone won’t like it. No more waiting for something good to happen when I can make it happen.

Perhaps there is some irony in the fact that my latest novel is about a girl who dies and is given one last chance to change her life… to make it better. It seems only right to dedicate it to Becca, who got it right the first time.