Archive for category The Writer’s Life

Dip Happens—What Do We DO When Nothing Seems To Change?

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Often I blog about things I am going through. Sometimes just writing things down, sketching out a plan of action, recalibrating MY perspective helps a lot. Hey, if nothing else, I have a blog post :D .

Lately, I’ve been in what Seth Godin calls…The DIP. In fact, I am even talking about The Dip over on my Dojo Diva blog for those who want more (and also a better chance of winning my 20 Page Death Star Critique).

*dangles carrot*

What is THE DIP? The Dip is that span of suck before the breakthrough. The Dip is where character develops, where dreams grow, where WE grow. Bad news is this is also the place where most people give up.

I’d love to say I’ve never given up when faced with a particularly tenacious Dip, but I am a terrible liar. Dips are tough. Why are Dips so hard?

Dips Come Out of Nowhere

We are zooming along and then it is as if an invisible force field comes out of nowhere. Maybe you started eating healthy and were losing weight steadily. Then…nothing. Another week? Nothing. Another week, I gained three pounds? WTH? And another and another and pretty soon, why bother?

A little story…

Before I got pregnant, I was 130 pounds and a Size 2. When I was pregnant, I did two-a-days the entire time I was pregnant. I did step aerobics in the morning (which was nothing short of comedic when I was almost 10 months in) and swam a mile a day, six days a week even though I felt like I should be a show at Sea World. The night they induced me, I stopped at the gym and did an hour workout before Hubby took me to the hospital.

Eleven days after having The Spawn, I was back in the gym. I’d get up for the 3:30 a.m. feeding then go to the 24-hour gym.

For the most part, I have still kept a strict diet and exercise regimen.

These days I do 6-8 hours of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a week…and am STILL a size 10-12. No matter how disciplined I am, it doesn’t seem to want to show on the outside. We go to restaurants and I watch people eat onion rings and fried cheese and have dessert while I am GF, dairy-free, low-carb, soy-free, no sugar, etc. etc. I drink water, not soda. And yet?

Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

This is the first main problem with The Dip. Sometimes, we can’t figure out why it is there or worse…why it won’t GO AWAY. After blood panels and doctors and experts, they all agree. I am the picture of health, but am overweight.

No kidding.

We might be doing something GREAT that shows nothing on the outside. Granted, I might be a fluffy size 10-12 for the rest of my life. I have amazing flexibility, can run for miles, can outfight and outlast teenagers and my heart and insides are amazing.

Funny, though. I rarely think of my shining cholesterol levels when I have to shrug into Spanx.

I wonder how many calories we burn trying to put on Spanx?

The next problem with The Dip is there are often others who will rub salt in the wound that we are IN The Dip.

On Saturday, I went for an hour of rigorous BJJ training, ran home, cleaned up then attended a 2.5 hour Judo workshop that I paid for. I was feeling pretty good about myself until…

I was in the middle of learning a new throw and could tell I wasn’t pivoting my weight the correct direction. Sure I was throwing my sparring partner, but I was landing in the wrong spot. The teacher comes over and tells me I am doing it all wrong.

Okay, I KNEW that.

But then, he tells me that I need to work out more. That the reason I can’t do the throw is that my legs are weak and then says, “Have you thought about going to a gym? Maybe trying some squats?”

*suppresses urge to stab him in the face*

He corrects my posture and the next throw I did? I nailed it. He probably could tell from the look on my face that I might have been envisioning him.

*growls*

Of course, Judo is all about physics, not about strength. I didn’t point that out. I also didn’t point out that the rest of the attendees had slept in while I was one of the handful who came to the early morning class anyway (even when I knew there were 2.5 hours of additional training ahead). I also didn’t point out what should have been obvious. I was the only older female in the workshop and if the sport wanted to attract more like me? Insinuating we are out of shape is a bad plan.

After the Judo workshop, we had a family day at the zoo and all I wanted was to throw in the towel and eat all I have denied myself for a decade…in ONE day.

I know you guys probably have no idea what I am talking about ;) .

The Dip is REALLY common in writing. You are working on a novel and it is going great and then? You get stuck. You KNOW you are stuck. Maybe you can’t even figure out WHY you are stuck. Then, when you are about to tap out for good and OD on brownies, someone in your life is there to point out that “Maybe you just aren’t trying hard enough…”

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Yeah, because we didn’t already think of that.

Some Important Things to Know About Dips

First of all, people who don’t attempt anything remarkable, never have Dips. Thus, if we are experiencing Dips, it means we are still pressing for something better. The only way to get out of ever dealing with Dips is to just drift along on the tides of mediocrity and ambivalence. Don’t know about you guys, but I can’t do that. This means I have to take my own advice and Suck it up, Buttercup.

The second thing is that we can more painfully feel Dips when we get our focus on the wrong things. If we stare at Dips we get intimidated. This is partly why I refuse to get on a scale. I found myself obsessing too much. Yes, I would love to trim down and get into my “skinny” clothes, but is that my only objective behind eating and living healthy?

Groceries at our house.

Groceries at our house.

I am extremely fit. Working out helps me release stress. I look far younger than peers because I am healthy. My family is all involved working out together. Spawn  learned to walk in the gym nursery. Now? We do martial arts SIX days a week together. Spawn has been sick ONE TIME in his entire life because I cook super healthy foods. He has to be told to stop eating so many vegetables and eat some protein.

Am I willing to abandon ALL those other benefits because ONE objective—trimming down in size—refuses to cooperate?

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Same with writing. For years I blogged to The Great Nothing. At first, I did it to get “views” but after a year and a half of blogging to the male-enhancement bots, I got seriously discouraged.

Since I’d invested too much to give up, I decided to focus instead on ALL the benefits of blogging that had nothing to do with outside approval.

I learned to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner. I learned to eat deadlines for breakfast. I became a better writer because I was TRAINING. I learned to be self-motivated and self-disciplined. Granted, even if NO ONE ever cared about my blog, these traits would serve me well in other areas.

Of course, eventually, when I got my eyes off the numbers and focused on what I COULD control, THIS happened. Can anyone see THAT DIP? When I finally busted past it?

Kristen's Blog Stats Circa 2013

Kristen’s Blog DIP

Dip Happens

The last things we need to appreciate about Dips is that they are not permanent but yet they are. 

One Dip alone is not permanent, but The State of Dippery is. Yes, DIPPERY. It is a word :P . Unless we give up, we will face more Dips and bigger and longer Dips.

For instance, as writers, a common first Dip is to finish the book. YAY! Then the next Dip. Getting published. Oh, if I could just be published, THEN I’d be happy. We get published and the next Dip is BOOK SALES. Then there is the next book and the next…and you guys get the point.

I’m not here to discourage you, but we cannot exist in a permanent state of happiness and satisfaction. It is a brief moment of sun and then? Back to work. Anyone who promises us a Dip-Free life is lying and probably selling something…like DRUGS.

Dip Therapy

Dips suck. They are long and painful and necessary. Dips weed out the uncommitted. Many people will give up on something remarkable because there is no instant payoff. Can we still LOVE writing when there is no outside evidence we are going to gain? Can we still keep eating healthy and exercising even if we never get to wear skinny jeans?

NO! Wait, okay fine *rolls eyes* I’ll keep pressing *grumbles*.

Dips make us value what we EARN. One of the reasons I get frustrated with our Everyone is a Winner Society is that is dilutes the genuine feelings of authentic achievement. A black belt is only valuable when it took years of sacrifice (busting past Dips) to earn it.

Dips train us for the mentality of the successful. Often others see what we have. They don’t see what we gave up to get it. And that is the reality of things. Successful people “get” Dips while others give up. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that most of the successful writers I know aren’t necessarily all that more talented, but they are far more tenacious.

When we face Dips, outside circumstances may never change, but we will.

Dips teach us to ignore outside opinions. Where would I have been had I listened to all the people who told me blogging was dead and that it was impossible to be a successful writer? We can choose to take that pushback as an excuse to quit or fire to fuel us forward.

Yes, I am frustrated with a LOT of Dips in my life, namely the “weight thing.” But am I going to let one outside jerk opinion derail me?

No. And the reason is that I have had extensive and intensive Dip Training ;) .

Tips for Busting Through the Dips

Remember the WHYs. Why are you doing whatever? Why are you correcting your kids when it feels like you just repeat yourself a million times? Why are you eating healthy? Why are you writing that novel? Focus on the why. If we write books simply to become millionaires? Could happen, but burnout probably more likely. Instead, focus on how much you LOVE writing. How much you LOVE your kids. How much you LOVE feeling good because you drank water instead of a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke.

Baby steps ARE steps. Never underestimate the value of simply showing up. Every sentence is one step closer to a finished book. Small actions over time DO add up.

Remember “Dip Happens.” 

If we know that Dips are inevitable, we are more mentally prepared for the challenge. It is more a sign we are doing something right than a great cosmic plot against our happiness.

I hope you guys feel more encouraged. Remember that the summit is only that beautiful because of the climb.

What are your thoughts? Have you been in some Dips lately? Are you feeling like it will never END? Did you know that this was natural? If not, do you feel a little better about being stuck? Do you have those around you rubbing in that you are in a Dip? Have you ever made it past some particularly tenacious Dip and are better for it? What was it? Share your story! We need the encouragement!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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The Doctrine of the Doers—5 Principles of Achievement

Same can be said about writing a book...

Same can be said about writing a book…

Success has a LOT of common denominators. Whether we want to be an excellent parent, run a thriving business, earn a promotion, have great friendships, become published, lose weight, one day have enough money to build a secret lab in the side of a mountain…? There are fundamentals we are wise to understand and apply.

Thus today, we are going to talk about 5 Principles of Achievement or The Doctrine of the Doers because I dig alliteration :D .

Principle #1—Understand What We are Doing is HARD

Pros make stuff look easy. I can listen to Donald Trump ten minutes and believe I, too, could be a financial genius. When I was four, I recall being allowed to watch Wonder Woman and she did these amazing handsprings. Well, pshaw! I totally could do that…or not.

And my cousin found me semi-conscious and confused why my arm was going the wrong way.

I made this mistake of not understanding I was seeing the END result of a lot of training. Outsiders make this mistake all the TIME. They see a thriving business or someone who drives a nice car and…that person must have “inherited money.”

When I was a teen, I was in marching band, the swim team and taught karate in the evenings. This meant I was up before dawn marching until 9 a.m. I then swam laps from 2 in the afternoon until 4:30 just in time to get home and pack up my gear so I could teach martial arts at the local recreation center.

One night, I was taking a break and a woman—holding a candy bar and a Pepsi—bemoaned how I was born so naturally fit. 

Really?

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Success is NOT natural. What’s natural? Entropy. Disorder. Chaos. Those who write a book, finish a book, have a thriving blog, a strong business, great kids, a clean house, a smoking hot body often worked hard for it. 

We must do what others are unwilling to do. We are not the AVERAGE. Even those of you who are just starting out. You are NOT the average. Most people never try.

We must always guard ourselves from thinking someone “better” than us achieved whatever easily. If we don’t, we will get discouraged and are more likely to give up. The other side of that is if we DO the hard work? Expect someone to believe whatever we achieved was purchased, inherited or the result of “magic.”

Principle #2—No Company Better Than Bad Company

Lions don’t hang with sheep. Show me your three closest friends and I’ll show you your future. Complaining, excuses, procrastination, laziness are contagious because they represent the natural order of the universe—ENTROPY. When I began as a writer, I had A LOT more “friends.” Now? Not so much.

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Even in martial arts, I don’t roll with people who are reckless and lazy. It’s a good way to get injured and it won’t make me better. I won’t spar with the guy who always shows up to class conveniently after the grueling warmup is over and who needs a water break every five seconds.

Choose people who are willing to do the hard stuff. If you’re a writer, hang out with people who WRITE, who are willing to read and take classes and are always pushing their skills to a higher level. Yes, there will be fewer of those, but it’s worth it.

Principle #3—Basics Trump Cleverness

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There are always people who want the shortcut. They want the Shake Weight Success and instead of being “successful” they look more like they are….ok, *leaves that to your imaginations*.

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From music to writing to business to parenting to marriage to martial arts, there are fundamentals we should master because they never outlive usefulness. From white belt to black belt, the Kimura is one of the most successful tactics in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu even though it’s one of the first we’re taught.

Writers? Proper grammar, punctuation and tight prose never go out of style. I see way too many new writers so busy trying to come up with a plot never written in HUMAN history and they do this at the expense of learning and mastering the essentials.

Principle #4—There Will Be BLOOD

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We live in a world that tells us we can have it all. NO. We can’t. That’s a lie designed to sell us stuff. We must choose and then focus and then sacrifice. Often, people see how much I write and think everything else is perfect in my life. Nope. I gave up the idea of having a Martha Stewart house a looooong time ago. Also haven’t had my hair done since last summer. I focus on family, writing and martial arts. Anything else? I’ll get to it.

*whimpers*

*whimpers*

Principle #5—Achievement is a PROCESS

It also never ends. We have to be careful we aren’t comparing the highlight reels of others to our own “behind-the-scenes.” When I started blogging, NO ONE cared except the man-part-enlargement bots. I was thrilled to pass 40 visits in a day.

I read a lot of other blogs to hone my skills and still do. And, even though it’s common for this blog to have triple digit comments and thousands of shares, I still read blogs with 27,000 or more shares and have to maintain perspective.

Whoever is getting those 27K shares didn’t get that Day One. Just like I blogged for over a year and a half before real humans started outnumbering the spammers who commented on my blog.

I so lick your blog. Wonderful poinsettias you make. I must tell my brother about you’re genius. What web browser do you use? Is there a grate spam filter?

Apparently not “grate” enough…

Have any idea how HARD it was not to delete these comments in the beginning? Um, maybe the commenter is writing English as a second language?

THIS is how blonde I was when I decided to blog. I started my WordPress site and posted…and immediately got MY FIRST COMMENT. Proof I was awesome! *does bad Cabbage Patch dance* It was a lovely and thoughtful comment from this dude named…Akismet?

What kind of name is that? Must be foreign.

Or an automatically generated message from the WORDPRESS SPAM-FILTERING software *head desk*.

What if I’d given up? We all start somewhere. Goals will always be shifting and evolving. We never cross a true finish line unless we decide to quit.

And we’ll need to remember to take that moment where we can enjoy our achievement, but new level? New devil. I was so STOKED when I earned my second stripe on my BJJ white belt. I felt bad@$$! Those two stripes cost me a broken nose, a few broken toes, sprains, strains, time and sweat. I was EPIC (in my own mind).

Double-rainbow all the WAY!

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***For those who don’t know, in BJJ you are a white belt FOREVER—okay, about a year to a year and a half. Four stripes and then blue belt. Most people QUIT.

I basked in my awesomeness until the next class when I got my tail beaten like a drum.

With writing? Finishing a book is life-altering? Publishing it? Holding it in your hands? OMG! Then you get the scathing review from someone who loved the book, but gave you two stars because there were four typos in 70,000 words.

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Also, once that book is out? It’s back to the beginning with the next book and the next. We are always starting over and reaching higher than the last time. It’s why we need a solid relationship with being a beginner ;) .

You can DO this! I know you can. Just remember baby steps are steps and the most valuable stuff in life, money can’t buy.

What are your thoughts? Ready to rule the world? Do you get frustrated with people believing what you do is easy? Or people who want the fruits without the work? Maybe people who dismiss all the sacrifices you’ve made? Do you find you do better if you keep revisiting these basics? I do. If it can be overcomplicated? I AM your GIRL!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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Life on Purpose—What to Do When Dreams & Goals Fizzle

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

We’re a few weeks out from the New Year and many of us are struggling. I don’t think I am saying anything crazy when I assert that most of us would LIKE to improve. We want to learn and grow and be better over time. No one dreams about being broke, stressed, overweight and unhappy. That’s a given and you might even laugh at that notion.

Yet, nature abhors a vacuum.

I dream of a floor I can’t find because I’m SO behind on laundry it’s more of an archaeological project than housework.

Yeah…NO.

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But I need to ask the hard question: If we aren’t dreaming of all that bad stuff? What are we dreaming about?

I’ve consulted countless business people and writers. Conversations are VERY telling. Some people are so afraid of failing that they never make a decision. Yet, no decision is STILL a decision. Additionally, I will talk to people, and they’ll tell me ALL the things they can’t do. Okay, tell me what you CAN do.

See, if we don’t focus on something positive, achievable and actionable, we leave a vacuum and that’s where entropy (chaos) loves to creep in.

Since no one sane is likely to have a goal of never finishing a book or living in stretchy pants forever or being sick, broke and tired, we can already dismiss this notion that we deliberately set negative goals. Most of us aren’t going to do that.

Ah, but we can end up inadvertently setting negative goals by not putting something we WANT in the vacuum.

We are born to create. Humans are creative beings. Now, we can create beauty, destruction or wasted space, but our nature IS to create. To deny our nature is a formula for frustration.

Leave a preschooler unattended ten minutes and this proves my theory. If we as parents/adults fail to provide that kid with something positive to act upon? Lord help the electronic devices, because that kid is going to test the theory of “How Many Goldfish Will Fit in the XBox?”

I look away FIVE MINUTES!

I look away FIVE MINUTES!

Thus, the first step to changing is to set goals. We’ve talked about this before and setting goals is a great start because we can’t get to a place we haven’t taken time to define.

And this is not Inspiration Guru Positive Think Your Way to Wealth Stuff. The nature of our JOB as authors has changed and we are much more active players in the business side of our business.

Show me a business with no mission statement, no business plan, no actionable and measurable goals? I’ll show you a space that will be up for rent within the year.

The Mind is POWERFUL

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

I love reading inspirational works. I highly recommend them. Why? Because society is seriously screwed up. And it MAKES money off keeping us screwed up, so society has zero intentions of EVER being positive and healthy.

When we were kids and wanted to be a writer or dancer or astronaut, adults all clapped and cheered. Then we hit this age when suddenly the grown-ups changed their tune. “Yeah that’s cute, but time to grow up, Kid.”

This is when most dreams die. We are bombarded with negativity. We are told that dreams are reckless, dumb, unachievable, blah blah blah. In fact, we are told this SO much, we need deprogramming or we can become our own worst enemy.

We can’t achieve what we can’t conceive. Our mind is the map, so stop letting others spill goo on your map!

This is one of the reasons I’ve done a lot of blogging about relationships and setting boundaries and limiting contact with toxic people.

We all have them or have had them. People who like to complain, make excuses, indulge in their feelings all the time. People who have a new dream every other week. I wanna be an actor, no a writer, no a vacuum salesman, no a journalist!

Ditch writers (and other people) who spread stinking thinking. Laziness, apathy, and whining are contagious. Treat excuses like EBOLA. A friend coughs blood excuses all over you, and, within two to three days, you start coughing up blood excuses, too…until your dream of being a writer liquifies and bleeds out and I hope you’re happy with yourself.

Killer.

Faith Without Works is Dead

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We’ve already established that the condition of our mind and spirit is VITAL. We are going to have a really hard time achieving anything notable (like getting out of bed) if our mind is crapped up with:

I’m too old, too poor, too short. Why bother? 

Okay, I gotta stop typing before I depress myself. Y’all are smart and get the idea.

However, this next step is where I believe a lot of inspiration-self-help falls short. YES, we must learn to discipline our mind and emotions. Show me a successful person and I will show you someone who developed self-discipline.

Here’s the thing. I can “envision” I have the body of an athlete all day long. It’s probably better than going around calling myself fat all the time.

But the rubber must eventually meet the road.

I need to get in the gym. What we feed will always grow stronger. If we feed the idea we can do nothing? Guess what? If we feed the idea we can achieve something remarkable? It grows. Starve out the bad and feed the good. How do we feed? With thought and ACTION.

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My goal is to one day be a New York Times BSA. Great goal, but I only have limited control over this. Remember, goals should be defined and actionable. Since I am fairly sure no unfinished book has become a NYT runaway success with an HBO series, I can start with, “I am a finisher.”

This is why I don’t put a lot of stock in the Name It and Claim It. Or Envision It and It Will Magically Manifest. Yes, our will and emotions need training. When we’re new, our mind and emotions resemble a puppy that pees on the carpet and chews on shoes. Yet, wishing cannot replace working.

We can stand in the mirror and repeat, “I am a NYTBSA” over and over, but deep down, our spirit will call us a liar (because we are). BUT, if we make the goal of becoming a NYTBSA and break it down? We now have something actionable.

I am a finisher.

I prioritize writing/exercise/family/financial discipline.

Baby steps count.

I believe in sacrifice.

This is when small actions begin to reinforce our bigger ideas. When I finish cleaning out a closet, I am buttressing that new core goal that I am a finisher. When I turn down a movie to finish revisions? I have a small victory that strengthens that new belief growing inside.

Eventually these “small” victories create confidence and habits that are essential for achieving that BIG goal. Maybe I will never be a NYTBSA, but I stand A LOT better chance if I learn to finish what I start (and practice that habit in multiple areas of life).

Though it would be a super cool power, I have not wished almost 1000 blogs and 5 books into existence ;) .

Order is NOT Natural

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Geriant Rowland

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Geriant Rowland

Yes, we are creative beings. That is our nature, but we also have to appreciate the nature of Nature.

Whoa, that was deep.

Ever gone driving in the country? Maybe to some places people haven’t been? In your travels, did you round the bend and stumble across a field of perfectly lined rows of plants producing abundant crops and no weeds in sight? It just did it on it’s own. Like all the peach trees lined up one day and rebuked all dandelions and crabgrass?

Have you run across a perfectly manicured spot of ground? You know. All the grass was lush and green and only 1.5 inches tall and the edges perfectly sharp? And nature did this all by itself?

Um, likely not.

The thing is, Nature is awesome, but it’s also chaotic. Leave a parking lot abandoned a couple years and what do you see? Nature likes weeds and chaos and rubble. There are rocks and large ant hills and, if no rain falls, the soil (at least in Texas) turns into a BRICK.

What this means is that to make the most of our nature we have to tame Nature. We are going to have to do things that are VERY unnatural. It is NOT natural to sit and write 100,000 words. It is NOT natural to choose cleaning out the garage over going to a movie. It is NOT natural to eat chicken instead of a double-fudge brownie. When in a fight with a significant other? It is NOT natural to put aside ego.

In fact, when we make these New Year’s Resolutions, the largest hurdle we have is we are now doing a LOT of stuff that is NOT natural. And thing is? For most of us?

It never will be.

I consider myself a fairly disciplined person. I work out a lot because I do Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and I take a beating 3-4 days a week (which, willingly signing up to get your @$$ kicked is NOT natural). And I do great…and then the sink breaks and Hubby gets a cold and the e-mail piles up and, because of all the chaos? I get out of the habit.

EASILY.

Pretty soon that next season of Warehouse 13 is looking A LOT better than going to the gym. Pthththt. I can always start back next week. And I know I was going to make chicken for dinner, but then I’d have to clean the kitchen, and…

Why is this?

It’s because as disciplined as I love to believe I am? My NATURE digs entropy. My nature LOOOOVES stretchy pants and scrunchees. My nature starts questioning the sanity of walking up 105 flights of stairs that go nowhere… O_o .

Thus all of this is to say, yes. You probably are tired and likely that diet and exercise program started collecting dust about three weeks ago. You still haven’t finished the book and on and on and on and guess what? Don’t sweat it. Just start again. Drag out the mower and edger. Keep this as a cheat-sheet:

Clean up our thoughts. Nothing edible grows in poisoned soil.

Choose friends wisely. No company better than bad company and all gardens fare better with a FENCE.

Make the big goal(s).

Break down the big goal(s) into actionable pieces.

Act on the goal(s).

Smaller successes will reinforce the belief we can ACHIEVE the goal(s). Increased confidence=increased momentum.

Understand we will always be taming our nature. When setbacks come? Understand they will. It’s just how life works. It’s life. No one gets out alive :D .

You got this! Have you been feeling a bit down and out? Maybe you lost sight of where you were headed? Have you struggled against your own nature? I have. Didn’t always win either. Do you find it hard to set boundaries? Are there toxic people you KNOW are poisoning you and yet you just can’t seem to get that fence built? Have you learned to become a finisher? What did you do differently?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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Writing, The Glamorous Life & Finding Balance in the Madness of Branding

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

I will confess, being a writer is THE best job in the world. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t ALSO admit it can feel like we’ve been strapped to Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl.  As writers of the Digital Age we have a much higher chance at success than any writer in history, but we also have more work than any writer in history.

And, to make matters worse, spouses, bills, kiddos with snotty noses, dust bunnies and car troubles don’t go away the day we decide to become professional writers.

In fact, Spawn used more toilet paper than a crew of high school football players rolling the house of a rival team’s quarterback. And he flooded the bathroom. And I still have to clean the mess, but the liquor stores aren’t open yet.

So yeah, that is the glamourous job of an author.

ANYWAY….

RDD Can Make Us Nuts

RDD is what I like to call Reality Deficit Disorder. Like the flu, this disease seems to explode January of every year, normally brought on by New Year’s Resolutions.

We vow to be 18% body fat, debt-free, have an immaculate house, build a perfect social platform with a bazillion fans, and win the Pulitzer…all by March. We seem to collectively go crazy and forget that we can only do so much.

Many writers experience RDD when it comes to social media. We sign up for Facebook, and build an author page, and link to LinkedIn, and pin on Pinterest until our pinners are dull from wear. We weep over Instagram and mortify our teenagers by trying to tackle Tumblr.

Vowing to do everything, eventually we do nothing. We become paralyzed in the face of all we’ve committed to do.

Time to Get Real

Thus, the first step to preventing being overwhelmed is to be realistic in our goals and expectations. If we’ve already blown that, the trick to pulling ourselves out of the tail-spin is to sit down, rework our priorities, and commit to being more realistic.

Goals are written on paper not stone.

Successful people don’t just make a list of goals ONCE. The list of goals is always a living document in need of modification, reordering, or even being scrapped altogether.

Persistence is a wonderful trait. Persistence is noble. But persistence can look a lot like stupid.

If our GOAL is to summit Mt. Everest and we are trudging up Mt. Shasta? Helloooo? Helps to be on the correct MOUNTAIN.

For instance, my life DRASTICALLY changed when I decided to unschool Spawn. Instead of having six hours a day, five days a week where it was QUIET because he was in preschool? I have him here ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.

Thus, I’ve had to rework my routine and sharpen my focus. In between lessons, I let him play X-Box. BUT, it is not uncommon for me to be writing and have to stop and yell:

“Conserve your ammo! Single-fire or burst fire! Those aren’t Hollywood guns! They actually run out of ammo and spraying like a ganbanger creates too much muzzle-walk….”

Okay, where was I? *stares at computer”

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Time to Face the Music

I tend to be a person of my word…to a fault. If I promise to do something I will half-kill myself to get it done if need be. But sometimes this is just plain DUMB. I’ve learned that most people will understand if we have to back out of something we’ve promised to do, but we MUST be honest with them and vow to make it right.

Look, Sally. I know I promised to blog every day for a year to raise money for all the starving children in Africa, but I am out of my depth. I overestimated what I can do given the demands of my schedule. I apologize. I was so caught up in wanting to help you, I didn’t think. Please forgive me. Is there anything I can do that might be a smaller job? Can I help you find other bloggers to fill my spot who do have time to blog every day for all the starving children in Africa?

Many times people will be forgiving (probably because they’ve oopsed a time or two themselves). If we just face the problem and offer to be a solution, more often than not, other people will be reasonable.

Whey they aren’t reasonable is when we just don’t show up, disappear or dump a mess in their laps without any offer of help to remedy the problem.

And, as a warning. Don’t do this stuff too often. Professionals always need to take time to think before they agree to doing things. I still struggle with this and I REALLY goofed a few times during those months with Shingles, so as I have one finger pointed at you guys, I have three pointing back at me.

Likely, this will be a lesson we continually learn and relearn throughout all our lives (especially Helpful Hannah personalities like mine :D). But we DO have to be careful or others won’t want to work with us because we are, essentially, flakes.

No one expects us to be perfect, but they do expect us to be honest and kind. We can do that. Yes, it is scary. It’s tough facing when we’ve erred, but making mistakes is just part of the game and how we learn.

We will learn more from our mistakes/failures than we ever will our successes.

Time to Face the True Causes of Our Angst

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Making too many commitments and then (mistakenly) believing we can’t change is one of the major causes of feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to be flexible.

Fortune Cookie Moment: The stiff oak breaks in the strong wind, but the reed that bends endures.

Remember, the commitment you made to yourself, that list of goals? It can be redone. The commitments to others? Those can be changed too, IF we are brave enough to admit we goofed, or maybe life just CHANGED (Hey, I didn’t PLAN on being in an ER three times from Shingles) and then we must be courageous enough to make things right.

Go around the leaf.

~Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”

Have you made a list of goals that is nothing short of ridiculous? How did you come to your senses? Did you feel guilty having to rework your list? Do you struggle with being over committed? Do you struggle telling people “no”?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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54 Comments

Want to Be a “Success”? Learn to Be an Outlaster

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Happy New Year! 2015 is now here and it is up to us what we will do with the time each of us is allotted. We all have heard the saying, “DaVinci had the same 7 days and 24 hours.” I would actually make a different point. Folks like DaVinci, Mozart, Shakespeare actually had LESS time.

There was no electric lighting and pulling all-nighters was a good way to go blind by candlelight. Thus, I’d say the difference is that these artists lived intentionally.

We all want to know the secret to “success.” First of all, I am going to add a caveat. “Success” is a very personal thing. What is “success” for you isn’t “success” for me. Yet, study after study shows that people who write down their goals are far more likely to reach them.

Why?

We have forced our minds to have a Mission Statement and our subconscious will use that to guide us. That is where the cool dreams and great ideas are born. Also, we are far more likely to recognize opportunity when we see it.

Living intentionally is vital because it allows us what I believe is one of the HUGE keys to reaching our dreams—learning to be an OUTLASTER.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

***I learned this term from minister and speaker Craig Groeschel and it has REALLY helped me.

We can take craft classes, join a gym, type on the WIP, start a blog, but the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is that those who make it KEPT GOING, even if it was just a tiny bit of effort daily.

Business

Actual image of Kristen's Guardian Angel

Actual image of Kristen’s Guardian Angel

I began W.A.N.A. International almost three years ago, and the business setbacks alone have been crushing. It is no easy feat to reinvent publishing and writing classes and conferences as we know them. W.A.N.A. was the first to have a GENUINE global writing conference (with a HUGE thanks to Tech Surgeons and Jay Donovan). We had real classes with NYTBSAs, agents, editors and attendees from all over the globe.

***W.A.N.A. stands for We Are Not Alone, btw.

And, though we enjoyed success, it came with a heavy price. It was one kick in the teeth after another. We were working with brand new technology, trying to schedule a conference that would accommodate everyone from New York to New Zealand. We also had legal battles, turnover, betrayals, LOCUSTS!

THANK GOD I had the great W.A.N.A. instructors by my side simply because they believed in what we are doing.  And we are STILL HERE!

Blogging & Writing

When I started blogging, I was THRILLED to have 40 visits a day. Granted, most were spam bots, but hey! They counted, RIGHT? One of my close writing friends and I were talking about how many people used to blog regularly 5 years ago and almost all of them are no longer blogging.

Blogging is crucial for a brand and selling books. It is the STRONGEST and most resilient form of social media, yet most people give up.

I also have noticed how many people were SO passionate about writing, would do ANYTHING to publish and write full-time. Now? Most are gone. New people filled with the wonder and dreams have taken their place, but how long will they last?

***Refer to What Are the REAL Odds of Being a Successful Author?

Here’s the thing. Starting is easy (okay, “easier”). It is fresh and wonderful and emotional. Starting is CRUCIAL. There might even be all kinds of people to cheer you on.

But how will you fare when the new wears off and those who pledged undying support and loyalty move on to a new shiny because we weren’t an overnight success?

The key to making it in ANYTHING from writing to business to marriage to losing weight is to become an OUTLASTER.

Traits of an Outlaster

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Outlasters have clear and achievable goals.

Notice I didn’t say realistic goals. Reach for the stars and we may hit the moon. BUT, my goal to be a NYTBSA is realistic because I am a writer. If I have a goal to become a high-fashion model? Um, at a fluffy 5’3″ and 40 years old? Uh…NO.

Outlasters write down goals and have CLEAR Mission Statements.

The Mission Statement keeps us focused. We learn where to say yes and where and when to say no.

If my goal is to become a NYTBSA in the next five years, I know it is unwise to volunteer for every church event, school event, and family drama need. It becomes clear that I need to set word count based off MY goals. My word count will be very different if I want to write ONE book a year versus THREE.

Three sayings I kept with me from my days in sales?

Plan your work and work your plan.

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

Coffee is for Closers.

Outlasters understand the power of letting go.

Yes, Outlasters MUST hold on, hold on for LIFE! But to the right things.

Often letting go is more important than holding fast. This can involve letting go of hobbies, hangups and habits or even WIPs that just need to be put to bed. But the toughest? Letting go of people.

The best analogy I can think of for this is climbing Everest. If we want to climb Everest, there are teams of sherpas that guide you to the first base camp. As you go to each higher level, the team gets smaller and this is necessary.

Not everyone in our life is meant for the summit. Some could even get us killed.

I’ve had some SERIOUS issues with this. A writer I spent many years mentoring was caught on-line wholesale plagiarizing, and giving ME credit for his WONDERFUL work. This was a HARD blow to my brand and thank goodness kind people sided with me and realized HIS inexcusable behavior didn’t reflect MY character.

But, my brand was far smaller at the time. What if this happened later, when the damage could have been catastrophic? Sometimes the only thing we can be grateful for amidst the pain is TIMING.

We will mourn people we need to let go of, but often this is a good thing. We WANT the friends who believe in us even when all outside evidence says we are a failure. We never know who our real friends are when life is all kittens and unicorns. We find them (and they reach for us) in the darkness.

Outlasters Know NOTHING is WASTED

2014 was a HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE year. I had to back off everything because we had so many family members die or become critically ill. Right after this past Thanksgiving, both my grandparents (who raised me) were sent to the ICU on the same day. I just got off the phone from that news and received a call five minutes later that my aunt died. This was also after four months of debilitating Shingles.

I’ve done my share of grieving, of feeling badly about what I needed to do, should do, and beating myself up. But that isn’t productive. This past year, I’ve not been the Kristen Lighting the World on Fire and yet? Most of you stayed. New people joined.

This taught me that I not only could be the light for YOU, but that y’all could also be the light for ME.

I learned the value of rest. I backed off and slept (A LOT) to remove myself from the fray and really see where my priorities needed to be. Sometimes we get so caught in the artillery fire of life that we lose our bearings.

But that lost job or lost friend? That sickness or setback might just be a gift in hiding. We choose. What can this terrible event or mistake TEACH us?

Failures can be tombstones of stepping stones. Our choice.

Outlasters WORK 

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Luck is fabulous and would LUV me some luck. But I still believe the harder I work, the luckier I get. This said, working smarter is key. Sure, feel free to handmade all your clothes, but running to Target for new t-shirts might be a better use of time if your goal is to be a pro writer instead of a clothing designer.

There are no shortcuts. We MUST endure. And endurance can be small. It can mean we are so ill we can’t see straight, but we post a couple things on Facebook or ask a friend to guest blog…then go back to sleep. It is the small deposits and investments that accumulate over time.

But we write that book, remove that debt, lose that weight little by little. That’s what endures. Fad diets and quick fixes don’t change our character. Just like eating well and exercise should be a lifestyle, being a writer is a WHOLE new way of living. It isn’t a hobby or a thing or our little fun…it is who we ARE. Writers WRITE.

Outlasters Understand the Long-Tail

If we look at life day by day we will get discouraged. It’s kind of like going back to the gym and then getting on the scale every hour to see what’s changed. Formula for a breakdown. Outlasters just keep writing, keep failing, keep learning, keep trying and they do it over and over and over and over.

Outlasters CANNOT Succeed Alone

Part of why I created the W.A.N.A. Community is that we are who we hang around. Show me your closest friends and I’ll show you your future. We need a team, especially in The Digital Age. There is simply too much to learn or know.

Too many predators who see dollar signs over the newbie writer’s head. Conversely, there are a LOT of great people in the industry and your connections can save you time and guide you.

Find positive, professional, driven people and you WILL come up higher. Psychic vampires, whiners and complainers need to GO. Take inventory and seek out those you admire. Study them. Listen and learn from them. This is a tough road, but no one ever said we had to do it alone.

We all fall, bump our noses and bloody our knees. That is GOOD. Keep pressing. You got this ;) .

So what are your plans for the New Year? Are you working on valuing baby steps? Reframing setbacks? Letting go of bad habits or toxic people? Any tips you might want to offer?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I will announce December’s winner later in the week when I have had some SLEEP.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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90 Comments

Time is Precious—Are We Investing Wisely?

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We always here that phrase about time. You know the one. “Well, we all have the same 24 hours.” DaVinci, Mozart, Newton, Elvis all had 24 hours.  It’s true. Yet why is it some people seem to make so much of their time and others have little or nothing (or even negative fruits) to show for it?

Today might be an uncomfortable topic, but if it helps any, it makes me uncomfortable too.

I don’t know if any of you are like me. Your attitude is, “Instructions are for SISSIES.” So I pull the pieces out of the box and just intuitively put stuff where it goes. Being an ENFP, we love doing stuff by gut. It’s comfortable…until it’s uncomfortable.

Because when I get to the end and am ready to plug in that lamp-endtable combo? It wobbles. Ah, hell, and there are these extra parts. I just thought they were being sweet and giving me backup screws in case I lost a few in the carpet.

So I have three choices. 1) Deal with/ignore wobbly lamb that leans like the Tower of Pisa 2) take the sucker apart and THIS time read the *rolls eyes * instructions and START OVER 3) PAY someone else to do it.

When we fail to plan we plan to fail, and there will generally be three outcomes:

1. Subpar thing/situation we just deal with and cringe a little every time we see it.

2. Cost us MORE time.

3. Cost us TIME and then MONEY (to buy someone else’s time).

See, if we don’t appreciate time and how it works or doesn’t work, we can leave ourselves open to chance, pain, misery, rework, etc.

Now, there are no right and wrong answers here. Why? Because you aren’t me and I’m not you. We ALL have different lives, challenges, gifts, constraints and past experiences. We all want different things out of life.

Thus today, these are some broad strokes that I hope will help you in writing, but also in ALL areas of life, because we need to be balanced.

Balance

Having any FUN lately?

Having any FUN lately?

I’ve been the person who had a LOT of money. When I was 28 years old, I was in sales and made more money than any twenty-something should make.

But…

I drove an average of 2500 miles a week. I didn’t date, spent no time with family or on my spiritual or physical health and guess what? It cost me my job and nearly my life. I almost died from pneumonia. AND, because I had no friends, no support network, and no close relationships with family, no one was there to think to check on me (and I was too proud to ask).

Thank God for pesky mothers.

I recall lying on the couch unable to breathe and realizing that I’d invested SO MUCH TIME into being “successful” that I could die and the only way someone would know the pneumonia finally beat me would probably be a from neighbor reporting a bad smell to the manager.

Low, low, looooow place to be. But, in retrospect? The best place to be and the greatest gift I was ever given.

Only We Can LIVE Our Dreams

Image with Twig the Fairy

Image with Twig the Fairy

My father was brilliant. He wanted to be a writer, but instead he tried to fit into what family and culture said was “successful.” He died making $8 an hour fixing bicycles. Well, I didn’t want to be a “failure” like my father, so I took a job I hated because it provided the title, the car, the money, and the outward appearances of happiness.

Those of you who’ve read this blog for a while know I won an Air Force scholarship to become a doctor, because I thought it would impress my family. It didn’t. Then, I earned a premiere degree from a top university. Four people attended my graduation and I got a cake from a grocery store. So, I moved on to sales. If I made a LOT of money, surely they’d be proud. They weren’t. Then, I got into LAW SCHOOL.

Wait, do I even want to BE a lawyer?

Good thing for me the Brilliant Law School Plan came after the Near Death Experience with pneumonia. I wanted to be a writer, had known it since I was four, but I had to make others happy, right? I mean, when I said I was a writer they laughed, but if I had a LAW degree, that was writing….right?

And don’t get me wrong, I believe nothing is wasted in God’s economy. As a writer, I have used that three years as a Neuroscience major (the med school thing), and that degree in Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa (the pre-law thing), and the many hard lessons from sales (namely that I SUCK at it).

But look at all the TIME, MONEY, and REVISION because I wasn’t brave enough to go after MY dream. Other people’s dreams cost us less, but also cost us everything.

Because my father wanted to be a writer and failed, being a writer=FAILURE. I never stopped to think he failed to plan so he planned to fail. Since I was spread all over the map trying to make everyone but me “happy” I had no focus. When it came to my end goal of being a NYTBSA, I had a LOT of lost time to make up for.

We CANNOT Have Everything

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Time is finite. The media will tell us we can have six-pack abs, cook gourmet foods, have a Martha Stewart house, perfect kids and can be everything to everyone all the time.

WRONG.

We MUST choose. If we don’t, we will live the equivalent of the cheap All You Can Eat Buffet. Lots of choices, most that gets tossed away and never really satisfies (and might even make us sick).

When we realize we can’t HAVE everything, we stop trying to DO everything. EVERYTHING is NOTHING.

And this is a lesson some of us will revisit many times. Y’all know I have been battling Shingles. Here’s the deal. We can have the carrot or the stick. I chose the stick…again *head desk*

Hey, it was ORANGE. It fooled me.

In trying to do all the cooking, cleaning, washing, yard work, homeschooling, blogging, writing, traveling, running two businesses and caring for ill and dying family members? Guess what?

I FORGOT the painful lesson I’d learned with pneumonia…so I got a refresher with SHINGLES.

And it has cost me three months of work. I’ve nearly had a nervous breakdown with all the things I couldn’t do, and things I still can’t do. But, when I pan back? This has given me the opportunity to ask:

Just because I can do it, does it mean I should do it?

In trying to repair my relationship with time, I’ve realized (PAINFULLY) that time must jive with reality.

Looking back, there was no way I could keep that pace and it not catch up. But, time is tricky. It’s like taking a toddler to the mall. We MUST keep an eye on it or it WILL get away (and we might not ever find it again).

Priorities Take Priority

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Catchy :D . The problem is it is SO easy to mistake the urgent for the important (thank you, Mr. Covey). We wash the dishes, clean out the e-mail, volunteer for crap we don’t even WANT to do to impress people we don’t know or even like or are just too chicken to say no…and priorities take the hit.

Priorities will also shift over time…especially if you are hardheaded and been dumb like me. Since I DID NOT make rest a priority? Guess what I got to do THREE MIND-WRECKING months of? Sleep. Trust me. It is no trick for a workaholic to work more. Make them take a nap and wait for the weeping sounds.

Thus, I’ve gone back to my original list of priorities:

My Spirit—For me? I try to start every day with God. I love Andy Stanley, Joyce Meyer, and Craig Groeschel the most. I listen to their lessons while I’m waking up and getting caffeine in my system. I believe God will give me back the time I spend getting spiritually centered. I also take at least ONE FULL day off a week. Resting is now a HUGE priority.

Refreshing our souls is vital, especially creative people. Whether it is a walk, meditation, yoga, reading, or however you get spiritually grounded, ALL things spring from our well. Is our well refreshed and flowing? Or is it stagnant, stinky and floating with bugs?

My Family—My husband takes priority because the best thing for Spawn is to feel safe. Mommy and Daddy in love, working as a team is the best investment in his future. Also, I am enjoying the little boy Spawn is. I can have an aneurism over the 9 zillion Army men on the floor or that he’s sprinkled Chex like fairy dust through the house…or I can enjoy him being little. He will only be FIVE once.

My Writing—Self-explanatory. Yep, laundry needs to be done…after I make a certain word count. My mantra these days?

IT CAN WAIT. If an item isn’t in the first three of YOUR priorities? Odds are, it can wait. It’s urgent masquerading as important ;) .

My legs went to sleep an hour ago...

My legs went to sleep an hour ago…

Everything in our lives, our relationship with time, should ideally come after the first three. Writing is not my hobby, my “thing”, my fun. It is fun, but it’s my JOB. If my JOB takes over my spirit and family, bad things happen. If other “priorities” like a perfect yard, crocheting, volunteering, helping others with “their lives” creep into that top three? Time to revisit and recenter.

Time is finite, which means focus is vital. You matter. Your dreams matter. Thing is, only YOU can make them a priority. So take some time and invest in YOU. Brainstorm all the things you want then circle the top three and THAT is where I’d consider placing energy and time.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel like too little butter scraped over too much bread? Is it hard to say no? Have you lost your center and don’t even know what you want? Have you defined your priorities or are you letting others command the agenda? Do you lose too much time in helping others at the expense of YOU? Have you been through burnout? What did you do? Are you there now? Have you kept the same priorities out of habit and not thought about revising the plan? Have you ever gotten SO off-track you made yourself ill? Are you now more vigilant?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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76 Comments

A Writer’s Guide to Surviving The Holiday Party

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Today, we have a holiday treat. My friend Liz Crowe (A.K.A. The Beer Wench) is here to help us make it through the holidays with our egos in tact. Liz is cool…like that zany cousin who let you watch Jaws when you were 5 and scarred you for life but then also taught you the proper was to  apply eyeliner (more always better), how to make a temporary tattoo last…and look real enough to freak out your parents.

She’s the friend who will dare then double dare you and might get you in trouble but who will also give you the best memories and help you learn to love you for YOU and feel good about telling haters to get bent.

Take it away, LIZ!

***

We’ve all been there. The highly anticipated dreaded Holiday Office Party. Or—even better—the Holiday Family Gathering.

We love ‘em. We hate ‘em. Kinda like jogging or ironing. No matter your chosen career path, they can be an exercise in one-upmanship that rivals any Kardashian backyard barbeque. Because try as we all might to deny or quash it, the innate human need to one-up each other will not be denied, especially if there are in-laws and booze in the same general vicinity.

Never fear, Grasshoppers. Liz is here to help you.

So settle down, take some notes and prepare to Be Awesome.

CAVEAT EMPTOR Moment: Because this is a Liz Crowe/Beer Wench advice post you can be assured that virtual alcohol and grossly overblown familial stereotyping is involved—for literary bloggy effect, you see. For anyone sensitive to this particular vice and sarcasm, you might just go ahead and hit the “next blog” button instead of lecturing Kristen for allowing her space to be corrupted in such a manner.

The first thing we have to accept as a pre- or eve post-published author is this: “Nobody gets what we are doing or (in the case of parents) why.”

Period. Full Stop.

During The Holidays there is a lot of dead conversational space to fill, thanks to the fact that a bunch of people are shoved together for hours at a time with nothing in common but a bit of DNA (or the fact of their marriage into said DNA string). And sometimes, these folks try to understand it by asking you questions.

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Be ready. These questions may force you to grind your teeth, grip your rocks glass so hard you break it or even…attempt to answer them.

Sure, while your body is in the overly warm room with a bunch of folks you are related to whether you want to be or not, your mind is back with your work. You’re grinning around the rim of your third glass of cheap box wine and mentally altering a Major Plot Point.

You’re sipping your over-poured, badly mixed gin drink and counting up all the word repetitions your recent editing torture session conjured. You are slamming crappy beers and quietly reliving your latest critique session—you know, the one where you cried and accused everyone of being against your future success?

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In short, you are “working,” kind of like you always are, whether you’re physically wandering the grocery aisle, at a PTA meeting full of helicopter parents, or now, at a Holiday Party—and your skinny, over-achieving sister-in-law is headed your way with a bit of a wobble in her gait and a half empty Cosmo.

“So,” she says, coming too close and breathing booze in your ear. “That book of yours…I went ahead and checked it out of the library.” She winks, guzzles the pink liquid in her glass then tucks her arm into your elbow companionably.

“Thanks,” you whisper, wondering how much closer to the bar you can stand and not be lying on top of it.

“I don’t really…you know… read all that much but thought I’d try and support the fam. Hey, hon, get over here and congratulate the Big Time Author with me!” She screeches across the room but given the general level of drunken loudness, her spouse, your super successful ER physician brother with a PhD in engineering and a Juris Doctorate on top doesn’t hear her…at first.

But finally, he leaves the group of kids enthralled by his balloon bending and banjo skills and makes his sober way over to you, still trapped by his social X-ray wife.

“Hey there,” he booms, smacking you so hard on the back you stumble and recall how much he teased you when you were kids. “So tell me about this…’job’ of yours. Writing, is it? You know, I love those Jack Reacher books, right hon? You know that guy, that Lee person? That’s one creative guy. Hey, when can I get your book at the bookstore anyway?”

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“Well,” you begin, mistakenly honestly believing you can explain the intricacies of the ‘indie publishing life’ to these people. “You see…”

“But your book was in the library,” sister-in-law slurs, hanging off her husband, your brother who is giving you that horrific, “Please explain it to me in ten words or less, I’m busy,” patient stare.

“Yes, well, I begged the libraries to take a copy. But the bookstores…”

“Hey, sweetie,” your brother says to his wife. “What about that book club you host at the club? Why don’t you offer up…um…what was the title of that book?”

“Oh, we still have to get through the Fifty Shades Trilogy and let me tell you we are having some fun with those! Grab me another, love bug,” she screams as your brother turns to the bar. “Why don’t you write books like those?” she asks, before you can escape. “Now that is some good writing…hot stuff…whew!”

 

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She fans her face before getting distracted by one of the many family spawn milling around your ankles. “Let me know when that happens!” She waves her fingers and moves away toward the sister-in-law cabal in the opposite corner, her be-supportive mission obviously concluded.

You wait a few beats, count backwards from a hundred, then get a refill and resume your mental counting of your Facebook likes and twitter followers, pondering how you’ll be so dry and amusing, recounting this little ego-smushing episode on your blog in a few hours. Just a few…more…hours…

By the time the excruciating day/evening/weekend is over, you’ve started no fewer than a dozen conversations with various family members attempting to explain why it takes “so long” to write, get edited, get cover art, get promoted for a single novel. Or how come you keep submitting to agents and publishing houses despite the growing mound of rejections.

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Or why you can’t write “like” (fill in the blank with the latest serial-flash-in-the-pan writer). Or how come they can’t get your book “for real” (read: in print form, at the local Barnes and Noble store when they buy their giant latte and grab their copy of People or Car & Driver on their lunch hour).

You’ve had to stop too many times before getting to the, “Well, Amazon’s algorithm changes mean I have to re-release every two weeks to get noticed,” bit, noting the general eye-clouding-over nature of whichever relative is attempting to make you feel successful over your little writing projects.

Why bother?

But wait! Before you run to the back bedroom and slam the door, think about it this way: No one is asking your brother to explain much about his job, or your sister-in-law(s) to relate her/their latest adventure in child rearing and crock pot meals after a long day of wage-slaving. What they do is pretty clear.

What you do…is mysterious.

And kinda cool.

Ok…VERY cool.

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Authors get to be GOD….

 

My advice is to OWN that. Crush your cool mysteriousness to your chest and do what you do best as a story-teller: make some sh*t up.

I tried this at a party once. Challenged myself to come up with two-three quick sentence descriptions of the general awesomeness of my life as “Author” – or “Novelist” which is an even more esoteric term.

It sure beats getting into long, dreary, inside-baseball discussions of “rankings,” and “formatting issues,” “crit partners,” and “blogging,” especially with your sister’s drunk boyfriend who hears you say “Amazon” and blurts out something like “I love amazons….they’re so hot!”

People who don’t work with these things every day like you will never, ever understand them. Stop trying to make them, especially at a holiday party.

So leaving out the fact that many days I don’t make it out of my sweats or brush my teeth but have written four books this year and have the entire cast chosen for the (as yet un-optioned) Netflix series, I have had some luck convincing family members that I Am An Author. 

And I Am Cool.

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You are too, be you pre-almost-post published. And even if you are one of the dreaded mid-listers at a “real publishing house,” you know of what I speak here. What you do is creative, internal, and mostly unexplainable to your average brother or sister-in-law. So grab your next cheap, badly mixed cocktail and own it, fellow scribbler!

You can get real sympathy on Facebook later.

Make it a great Holiday season, all no matter what or why you celebrate. I leave you with this, hard-learned lesson: Don’t mix red and white wines and never (ever) start with brown liquor and end with wine unless you want to celebrate a whole day completely out of commission.

You’re welcome.

*************************

Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench

Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench

Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

Check out her first self-published series, coming in January 2015: The Love Brothers. Already garnering raves on Goodreads, book one (Love Garage) is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Click here for free chapters from all the books and to enter during the final days of a huge, multi-author giveaway (including some goodies from Kristen Lamb!)

Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.

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