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Unrealistic Goals and Rookie Mistakes

If you’ve been following my journey toward becoming a published author, you’ve probably noticed that my anticipated release for Dreamweaver didn’t quite happen and it wasn’t until I was staring down this impending deadline I had created that I realized I’d made a huge rookie mistake:

I set an anticipated publication time frame without understanding how long it’d actually take to research, outline, write, and polish my first novel.

The biggest eye-opener for me occurred when Spring came, and went, and I still wasn’t done writing my first draft. Like, not even remotely close. I’ve never written a book of any kind before, so everything I’ve done since ‘Day 1’ has been a part of my learning experience. How could I have known how long I’d need? I didn’t. And I set myself up for failure in that aspect because there is so much that goes into writing a novel. You don’t just sit and start with page one and write all the way to the end. It’s a labor of love, frustration, patience, and more coffee than any human should probably consume, and it is a chaotic, disorganized, daunting, and exhausting mess to navigate.

And then there was the extra stuff like learning my own unique style of organization, getting over how uncomfortable it feels to digitize everything for the sake of my poor hand, figuring out which program I’d use to compile my story in, and so much more. And on top of the learning curve I was already facing, I had to let an authentic, engaging story flow from a brain that was already rattled by other overwhelming details.

You know that dance of two steps forward and ten steps back? Yeah, that’s sort of what writing a novel is like. But in 20-inch stilettos…on ice.

This book requires more of me than I’ve ever given any other project and it’s terrifying to be under that kind of stress and pressure and know that you’re doing it to yourself. And then there’s the fact that being at home, especially with my kids, makes it so easy to just get lost in the day-to-day and let discipline slide. Sadly, the bank won’t do the same for my car loans…

Anyway, my takeaway from this has been pretty positive despite not hitting my original goal. I’ve come to understand what this process will actually entail and I have a great deal of newfound respect for those who have taken on this behemoth of a task and slayed it.

Coincidentally enough, I was scrolling through Facebook earlier and found an article titled, “10 Things Every Writer Should Do Before They Start Their First Book” and decided to give it a look since it aligned so perfectly with this post. It had some great information, but I found the first item to be especially important: manage your own expectations.

In it, the author stated, “Writing is a job, it’s a commitment. It involves long hours and painful moments, times where you feel as though you don’t know what you are doing, where you don’t feel like writing at all. You need to be realistic about what writing a book takes out of you – but then do it anyway because it’s still worth it in the end!”

And I think that will be what I leave you all with. Writing is a passion-driven and rewarding job, but it is still a job — one that requires fierce commitment and will probably provide you with some form of discomfort in one way or another.

But then you do it anyway because it’s worth it in the end.

 

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Why I’m Letting Balance Take a Back Seat

I’m starting to really dislike the word balance. Anytime I log onto social media or turn on the TV, I’m slammed with this message of maintaining steadiness within my life in all areas.

Whether it’s work/life, work/family, or just an overall sense of balance, I feel like we are being inundated with the urge to find and sustain equilibrium in order to achieve stability and happiness in our lives. And it’s starting to place a typically positive idea in the shadow of a concept we are told to avoid: perfection.

I’m not saying they are synonymous, but this strive for balance I see so frequently is beginning to remind me of the painful strive for perfection that robs so many people of the joy and contentment they are working so hard to attain.

What happens when we aim for perfection and fall short? Many people crumble under the idea that they are failing, or push themselves harder at greater personal cost to try and avoid said failure.

So what happens, then, when we also aim for balance? Better question — what happens when we aim for balance, maybe not 100%, but close, and then spend our days battling to hit this goal? Do we feel better? Like we are settling for a more realistic version of perfection? Or are we just placing more stress on ourselves when that balance is thrown off? I know that when any one area in my life loses balance, it’s like a domino effect: the rest goes catawampus with it. And then chaos ensues…

The only saving grace is that balance for me looks different than balance does for you, or Jim, Jon, or Sally, but if we are trying to get to a comfortable sense of the word, we surely aren’t half-assing it, right? We are still working toward a goal and we know what the outcome needs to look like in order to feel accomplished.

I know that if I want balance, there is a mile-long list of tasks I need to complete each and every day and things that need to be a certain way (aka, my way). But as a natural perfectionist who doubles equally as a hardcore procrastinator, I can get pretty wound up when I have a lot to do and can’t get it all done. I’ve learned to show myself compassion and to be proud of what I can get done while saving the rest for the next day if need be, but I still aim high. And that can make balance just as nerve-racking for me as aiming for perfection would be.

Granted, balance does mean acknowledging the ebbs and flows and understanding that when one side of the scale lists, it’s possible to work back to a more even level. I just don’t like feeling like I have to keep up balance for appearance’s sake.

My life is a shit-show right now and I will admit that openly. Perhaps that’s why I’m a bit cynical about such an innocent word that is supposed to have a positive connotation. Do I want balance back? Of course. But I also know why I don’t have it and that it will take a long time to get there again given my current circumstances. The real “balance” for me right now is understanding that the scale will even out eventually, even if it’s dragging its ass on the ground presently.

I guess the moral of my rant here is to remind anyone who is struggling to meet some personal or force-fed standard that it’s okay to stumble — to have an off day, week, or entire season of life — but don’t for a second buy into some limiting idea that constant balance is what is going to give you a great life or that you’re failing if you don’t have balance in your life at all times, or even most of the time.

If you’re unhappy with how things are going or with what you are doing, change it. You have that power. But don’t give an outside source, whether it’s another person or society in general, the power to tell you how to do things. Don’t let them tell you that if you don’t have balance that you’re doing something wrong. We don’t have to be perfect or balanced to be living well or achieving great things.

Besides, what’s life without a little whimsy, eh? 😉

What do you think? Is “balance” starting to feel like the new “perfect?” Or is it just me…? Leave a comment below — I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Fall Session, Falling Back, and Falling in General

With the first half of my Fall session at ASU in the bank and the second half kicking off, I’m definitely feeling the pressure of my number one enemy: TIME. There is so much to do with this book and the clock just keeps speeding up despite my begging for it to slow down. I picked up two fairly heavy English classes for the second half of this term so my time spent writing is now time spent reading. I don’t mind that as much really, but it doesn’t make the process of writing a book any more efficient.

My saving grace? The fact that we’re about to fall back. I know it’s not technically a gain, but my brain tricks itself into thinking it is and that helps. If I think I have an extra hour, I feel more productive. Feeling productive makes me happy, and a good mood usually gives way to good writing — a win all around if I do say so myself.

Life has decided to throw a few more curve balls as well; some brief, others lasting, and it stonewalled much of my get-up-and-go. This is where that extra hour of trickery will come in handy (fingers crossed). I just hope my family can catch a break and I can catch a breath in there somewhere that allows me the clarity to organize this endeavor a bit better.

The point of this post, you ask? I’m just giving some excuses as to why I haven’t been present or working as hard as I should be on the novel. I really hate excuses, but it is what it is and sometimes things just move faster at times and slower at others. This is a slow time. But I think it’s also a good time to crack down and set a solid goal for myself that I can’t budge from. I’d really like to give the first peak at the world I’m creating by Christmas and I’m worried if I don’t commit to a schedule now, this dang story will never be told. And that’s a shame, because I think it’s pretty solid.

Anyway, to sum everything up — I’m slacking and I know it. Just needed to own that so I could cast off some of this overwhelming guilt and set a new line for myself. School is school. Fall is life. Life is in free-fall at any given time. But I’m going work on this story and have something to offer in the next 6-8 weeks. Maybe sooner if I have something I think is worthy of sharing to sort of amp up the excitement of a second sneak-peak.

In the words of the great Ernest Hemingway, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” And I’ve got a lot of it to do.

 

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A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes

It’s no secret that we all have our own unique ideas about what we want our lives to look like. They may change or evolve over time, but the wish to achieve our heart’s desire is always there, and I know this to be true because my own dreams have changed drastically over the years.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher. After having my daughter at 17, I seriously contemplated becoming an advocate for other teen moms and building a life coaching career around it in order to empower young mothers. In 2008, I gravitated again toward education and becoming a high school English teacher when I was hired as a paraeducator. I shifted again toward a focus on special education and Autism since my students had had such a profound impact on me, and I actually started college with the goal of a Master’s in Education with a focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Along with these paths, I also toyed with the idea of cracking down on my fitness and nutrition and building a career out of that because I felt it would hold me accountable and I could help others at the same time. And to build on that, I considered life coaching again after some great feedback from friends. I was also all but signed up to attend culinary school at one point but didn’t have the support necessary to be successful.

I’ve dabbled in many areas (including retail which I will gladly never do again, sorry not sorry) and while many of the things I have been interested in would make me happy, it wasn’t until I remarried that I was pushed to follow my biggest dream – one that I had always been told was foolish and wouldn’t provide for me or my daughter while it was just the two of us. I have always, always wanted to write for a living. Freelance work, novels, my blog; I just wanted to share my ideas and creativity with the world. But it wasn’t until my husband offered me his unconditional support in this endeavor that I decided to say to heck with the nay-sayers and go for it. I got into Arizona State University, but instead of working toward my original goal, I decided on a Bachelor’s in English. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. I am just a year shy of completing my program and have begun getting my feet wet in the writing world. I have two books and a screenplay in the works, a horror collaboration with a good friend starting up, this blog, and some freelance work happening on the side.

So why all of this talk about dreams? Well, I’m a firm believer, especially now, that you should do whatever it is your heart is set on doing no matter what anyone says. At the end of the day, this life is your own and you should spend it doing what makes you happy. Want to be a chef? Do it. Want to be an engineer? Do it. Want to work at NASA? Make it happen! There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t strive to give our hearts what they desire the most in this life and if we don’t, we are only selling ourselves short. I don’t know where my life will end up in five, ten, or twenty years, but I do know that I want to spend those years creating a career that I can look back on with a smile on my face and pride in what I have accomplished.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Any goal we set for ourselves that is worthwhile won’t be all unicorns and rainbows. It will take work, determination, perseverance, and tenacity, but if it is important to you, then the effort will be worth it in the long run. I see so many friends who simply throw in the towel because they don’t believe they’re capable of the work it takes or they opt to quit because someone is critical of their plans. Well, I’m here to say that I believe in each and every person who decides to make their dreams a reality, and I urge anyone on the fence because of someone else’s opinion to shut that negativity out. Everyone deserves to have the happiness that comes from doing what they love each and every day. Take it from me. Not only did I follow my dream of writing, but I now have a platform with this site where I can discuss and share my passions. Following my dream has given me the ability to address all of my diverse interests and gives me the opportunity to share my insight, ideas, skills, and knowledge with the world.

Another factor that prevents people from bringing their dreams to fruition is that they never act on them; they never bother to set goals or deadlines for themselves. If you want to do anything in this world, you most certainly need a plan. Heck, even running my house on a day-to-day basis requires a plan, better known as my “to-do” list. 😉 And an important aspect to remember about making plans is that they do change, so if this happens do not get discouraged! Adaptability is KEY. I originally started school with one degree path in mind and halfway through I completely changed it. Remember: it’s okay to change your plan when necessary, as long as you continue to have a plan in general. Adapting to these changes with grace will not only guide you down a positive path toward your goals, but it will also keep you sane. If I hadn’t learned to let go and let God, I don’t think I would have made it this far.

So, if you find yourselves questioning whether you’re truly doing what you want to do, I urge you to take a long, hard look at how you can get from where you’re at now to where you want to be. Trust yourself. Be confident in your abilities. Know that you are capable and understand that failure is a part of the game. But above all else, at least give yourself the opportunity to make your dreams a reality. We only have one short life on this Earth and too many of us spend it doing things that do not serve our souls or our purpose. If anyone stands against you, well, that’s their problem and most certainly not yours. You should not be defined by someone else’s standards.

And please, feel free to reach out to me! I would love to hear about your dreams and goals and how you plan to make it all happen! I will never tell you that you cannot do something; I will only ever offer positive and constructive feedback to help you on this path as well as support and encouragement. Leave a comment if you’re comfortable doing so, and if not, you can contact me through the link above or direct message via Twitter or Facebook. ❤