Posts Tagged family

Is Your Life Out of Control? What Can We Do When Nothing is Going Right?

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

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

One of the things I’ve strived for with WANA, this blog, my teachings is to offer practical lessons, honesty, tools for growth and change and support. Change is tough, right? I love to serve, to help, but I’m challenged daily to live the life and walk the talk. I have good days and bad days and OH DEAR LORD IS THERE A REWIND days (been having A LOT of those recently).

I believe our character will impact our dreams, our relationships, our well-being. And I would love to tell y’all I’ve got it all together, but I’ve been struggling…a lot. And I have some seriously clever excuses involving alien abduction, but….sigh. Tempting as it is, I won’t go there.

The Infestation

I remember a dream I had in 2008, and it’s been such a guide in cleaning up my behaviors and attitudes. I dreamed I inherited a beautiful cottage-home. From the outside it looked almost perfect. Just needed a little bit of paint…

.…yeah.

So in the dream, I begin to paint and notice the wood is loose. I know I can’t paint bad boards, so I pull them back with a pry bar.

AAAAAGHHHHHHHH!

Vermin everywhere. I scream, get them cleaned out and prepare to paint. But then I open the cabinets. WTH? OMG! You guessed it. More rats, roaches, termites. I’d just about get it pretty then see another layer and another and another. I couldn’t even DO any of the fun stuff—painting, decorating, picking out cute curtains—because what was “beneath” was infested and rotten.

My subconscious knew me better than I did. Pretty on the outside, but LOTS of problems on the inside.

It sounds strange, but I’m happy I’ve had to earn things the hard way when it comes to being an author. Growing up, I was naturally smart, the person who didn’t study and made As. As much of a blessing as it was, it was really a curse.

I could cruise through “appearing” to have it together, but it created a lot of BAD habits and rotten attitudes and behaviors. I’ve cleaned out a lot of the “infestations” but there are always more. Also, even if we do rid our “homes” of rats, mice, roaches, termites, we have to be in a habit of keeping the place clean so we don’t invite in new unwanted guests.

Cute but DESTRUCTIVE little buggers.

Cute but DESTRUCTIVE little buggers.

Living Mindfully

There are dumb things we can do that can have serious consequences. For instance, out at our ranch, one of my relatives forgot a bag of feed corn on the porch. When we got out there, there was CORN EVERYWHERE. You couldn’t open a drawer, a cabinet, a closet that there wasn’t some well-fed family of mice with a lovely stockpile of corn. The mice chewed through wiring and the hoses on the dishwasher…which then spewed water all over the floor.

A momentary lapse of mindfulness created hours of expensive, dirty and dangerous work. Not only that, but guess what LOVES to snack on mice? Rattlesnakes. Snakes that normally would have been quite happy out on the property discovered there was a SWEET buffet at the Lamb Ranch if you hung out on the PORCH.

Hubby and I spent an hour trying to coerce a rattler off the homestead property. I have this hysterical video of Hubby flinging a very annoyed rattler through the air. And yes some people would shoot the snake, but why? We invited him for dinner. Snake was just doing what snakes do.

And there is one brain-damaged snake now wandering our property with head trauma and a grudge.

Which is to say that life is always moving forward. We think life is a static picture like a magazine, but it isn’t. The kitchen will always need cleaning, there will always be more laundry and more bills. We need to shower more than once in a lifetime, and this also applies to our attitudes and habits.

If we slow down (and I am LEARNING) we can be more mindful about where we commit, what we start, or what we need to finish. Give ourselves grace, but be brave enough to address small problems early before they rage out of control.

Name It and Claim It

We can’t change what we won’t face. I have a saying. Name it and claim it. To offer a bit of insight, this has been a rough couple of years. It’s like everyone in my family is getting sick, ill, injured or dying. We’ve lost four family members in just the last year. Five in the last two. FOUR major surgeries, three of them life-threatening. As a person who loves and honors family I chip in to help the best I can.

I’m sure you guys have been through seasons like this. It’s as if life DOG PILES you and just about the time you come up for air, you get hit again.

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

But the thing is this is life. When I became published, no cute forest creatures showed up to style my hair and help me clean.

LUZRS.

Times of trial can be crucibles that reveal our weak points. I used to be a MAJOR WHINER. Oh poor me. I just about get going the right direction and SOMETHING happens. I was at the mercy of situations.

What these recent life events have shown me about myself are embarrassing, but I have to face these flaws even though truth stings.

I need to be better at communicating. For some weird reason, I will work myself half to death before I think, “Hey, I could possibly ask for HELP. Whouda thunk?” I’ve come to see that I overcommit. That is a BAD habit. If I give my word, I need to follow through because I want to be a person of integrity. This means I need to strive to be better at saying, “Let me get back to you.”

I’ve also developed this awful habit of cramming my schedule to the point that I can DO everything…so long as everything goes smoothly and the planets perfectly align. They WON’T. We NEED margin. If the Internet goes out, the weather goes nuts, the car breaks down, the business hits a rough spot, the kid gets sick, a spouse loses a job, it will affect everything else.

I’m working diligently to be more honest and realistic. Sure, I want to help people, but if I just flake out, forget, lose stuff, I’m doing more harm than good.

Yes, I need to give myself grace, but I can always seek to come up higher, too.

We NEED a Support System

Stress is a lot like being drunk. Our bodies default to limbic brain. We run on adrenalin. As a survival mechanism, we cannot harness our higher thinking centers. Apparently pondering Nietzsche while running from a bear is BAD. Yet, in modern society, we have the equivalent of bears all the time (and they look a lot like the unfinished WIP, piles of toys, a stack of bills and the IRS :D ).

This is why we need the similar equivalent of a Designated Driver. We need people who love us and are honest enough to say, “Go sleep. Say NO. Finish what you promised.”

Jay Donovan is a fantastic friend. Why? He encourages me. He is there for me. But, he’s also unafraid to send me a kind but scathing e-mail when I need my butt kicked correcting. I have a looong list of stuff to finish, but baby steps.

You guys have been an amazing support team and I’m so grateful. When I was up all night with The Spawn in the ER because he knocked out all his front teeth, people on-line were there to keep me calm and offer prayers, love and support. Same with the deaths, etc. You are the voices that make the world more lovely and never lonely.

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

But last week I had a major revelation. My husband, The Spawn and I are too isolated. We have family, but no one who lives nearby. I have no one to lean on when I am sick, worn out, overloaded or on the verge of just crying for a month. We’ve lived in this house for almost five years and know none of our neighbors. We don’t have any friends in the local community.

Last week, I stepped out of the comfort zone. I needed more. I NEEDED people close who might let me have a day where I can take a long nap. I can’t run forever on sheer force of will. As much as I love social media, it can’t be our only resource of support.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a GREAT resource, just like chainsaws are AWESOME for cutting up trees downed in a storm (but not so great for hanging pictures on the wall). We need to diversify our relationships. I need to as well even though I am an introvert. On-line friends are far less terrifying than talking to…*shivers* neighbors.

But, Suck it up, Buttercup.

It’s OKAY to BE WEAK

We aren’t robots. We live, laugh, love, screw up, start over, do better, blow it, then try again. I do. And there is a blessing to being weak. It offers others the gift of being strong for us. When we allow others to help us, we are giving them a gift. We feel good when we can help others. Why would others be different? So many of you take time to comment, encourage, offer help and you guys make me better each day.

We are not alone ;).

What are your thoughts? Do you feel like renovating your attitudes, habits, behaviors is overwhelming? Do you get discouraged too? Are you bad about overcommitting or not stopping to realize maybe you could kinda-sorta-maybe use some HELP? Are you hesitant to make friends with neighbors? Do you work your schedule off plank time? LOL.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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 a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.

, , , , , , , , ,

65 Comments

Life’s Unseen Blessings—Are We Really Thankful?

Pippa claims she is "helping" with laundry, but I KNOW she is hiding her mouse friends.

Pippa claims she is “helping” with laundry *head desk*

I make it a point to begin every day with an attitude of gratitude. I think it is important, especially these days where it seems like every commercial tells us we aren’t thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, happy enough. We always need more “stuff” to be enough.

I wrote a blog ages ago about focusing on success, that we tend to drift where the eyes focus. Race car drivers learn that if you want to cross the finish line, never ever take your eyes off the goal line. Look at the wall and you will hit the wall. I believe everything is that way. If we focus on where we are lacking, we run the danger of being ungrateful for what we have, and that can be an extraordinarily defeating way to live.

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 9.18.48 AM

The Spawn is “helping” me edit….

Lately, I’ve had a hard reality to face. I’m so busy potty training the toddler and teaching him and correcting him, but have I taken enough time to ENJOY him? There are the dishes, the laundry, the dusting, but am I ENJOYING the home I have? I love serving writers, blogging, teaching, but am I taking a moment to ENJOY all of you? I have the world’s best husband. I make it a point that, when he gets home from work, a fresh, hot meal is made and his clean pajamas and towel are laid out next to the shower, but am I ENJOYING him?

Am I truly giving thanks?

I don’t know about you, but I know this is an area I can ALWAYS come up higher. Grateful people are happy people.

Thanksgiving seems to be the middle child of holidays. Halloween is fun and glitzy and exciting. Christmas is cute and we adore it and look forward to seeing it…and oh yeah, there’s Thanksgiving. Hey, do we even have decorations for that? Christmas is this magical time, and we often hear how we need to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. Well, that is a great idea, but we would be wise to keep Thanksgiving there too.

We have all kinds of ways to be thankful and many things to be grateful for that we might not even notice. The next time you go to complain, I challenge you to think of the blessing that inconvenience really is. I do this myself when I hear complaints and grumblings coming out of my mouth. I’ll show you what I mean…

I am thankful for all the laundry I have to do, because it means I have clothes to wear.

I am thankful for the dishes that need washing, because it means I didn’t go hungry.

I am thankful for the big electric bill, because it means my home has lights and heat.

I am thankful for the sheets that need to be changed, because it means I own a bed.

I am thankful for all the reading I have to do, because it means I’m literate.

I am thankful for the car that needs all new tires because it means I don’t have to walk miles and miles to get what I need.

I am thankful for that parking space waaaaayyyy out in the back, because it means I don’t have to park in a handicapped space. I can walk.

I am thankful for the garage that needs to be cleaned out, because it means I am blessed with plenty.

I am thankful for the chores to be done, because it means I have family who love me enough to travel to see me.

I am thankful for the litter-box that needs cleaning and the dog blankets that need washing because it means I have pets who love me unconditionally.

I am thankful for the split ends I have, because it means I haven’t lost all my hair to chemo.

I am thankful for the Christmas cards I need to send, because they could as easily be funeral announcements.

I am thankful for the traffic snarls that catch me, because the body the firemen pulled out of the fatality accident could have been me.

I am thankful for the gutters I need to clean, because it means that I have a home.

I am thankful for all the Christmas shopping I have to do, because it means I’m not alone.

I am thankful for my less than perfect thighs. It means I didn’t lose my legs in a car accident or to diabetes or an IED.

I am thankful that I sometimes have doubts and confusion about my future and my purpose when I think of the lives cut short before they ever had a future.

I’m thankful for the government I like to gripe about, because I don’t fear going to prison or being shot if I disagree with my country’s leadership.

I am thankful for my freedom and the amazing men and women who put their lives on the line to protect it.

I am definitely thankful for all of you who bless me on this blog by giving me your time. Time is the most precious commodity we have and we never seem to have enough, but all of you are so generous to me. You share the very thing we all need more of….TIME. Thus, I’m immensely grateful you guys give to freely to me. I’m WAY thankful for my amazing WANA community. You guys are the bright spot to each and every day in my world and the world around you. It is such an honor and privilege to serve you.

What are you guys thankful for? I’d like to hear your comments (which I am super especially thankful to get, by the way).

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Make sure you check out all the awesome WANA International Classes. You take care of your family, why not yourself? Sneak away. We won’t tell. And Dollar Store Bags make AWESOME wrapping and they will all get better gifts once your book is a best-seller, right?

Yes, I am an enabler. But we are more fun :D .

, , , , , , , , ,

73 Comments

Hell Month and How Social Media Saved Me

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

When we write, life doesn’t stop. Things happen and bad things like to happen all at once, apparently. I’ve blogged faithfully for over five years, through death, sickness, and even when The Spawn knocked out all his front teeth and needed emergency surgery. Even when we found out my husband was being deployed to Afghanistan.

I enjoy blogging. I enjoy all of you. Talking to you, teaching you, and connecting with you. I know I kinda disappeared off the planet, so here’s the story (and I asked permission to tell it, btw).

October was a beating. We worked our tails off all August and September to put together WANACon (recordings available here, and it’s great stuff if you missed it). We thought, once we were finished? Ah, rest.

Yeah, about that.

Early October generally is hard for me anyway because it marks my Dad’s unexpected death (October 9th) and the death of my favorite aunt last year (October 4th). But those are just sad days, and I pushed through.

Then….

My nephew suffered a football injury. Crushed thumb (requiring surgery) and major concussion. Okay, I’m still good. Then, my AWESOME sister-in-law had to go in for laser surgery on both eyes to reattach her retinas (congenital issue). All right. Still going. Then I get a call my Nana is in the hospital, but stable. Okay. The next day? She passed away.

I wanted to go to Florida to attend her funeral, but something told me to stay home. The rest of the family was going to Florida and Sister-In-Law couldn’t travel. She was up and around, but something could still go wrong.

Boy did it EVER.

Last Sunday evening Sister-in-Law calls me bawling in pain. I’ve known this woman 14 years and have seen her cry three times. She couldn’t see anything but flashes and shadows. I didn’t sleep a wink and rushed over early the next morning to take her kids to school and her to the doctor, then another doctor, and another. Bad news.

She needed surgery again on both eyes; one surgery MAJOR, horrific and painful (for the curious, she needed a Vitrectomy on left eye and laser again on right eye on the same day). I call my family who is in Florida at the funeral and say, “Hey, it is what it is and it sucks, but Hubby and I have it handled.”

Monday night, no sleep because I’m all nerves about what my favorite person in the world is about to go through. Also, I had to keep her up to midnight (minimum) so she could eat and drink as much as possible because surgery wasn’t until the next afternoon and she was going to have to endure a looooong time with no food or fluids.

Tuesday afternoon, the surgeons worked on her eyes for THREE hours. She comes out of the anesthesia and the pain starts. Though it delayed our leaving, I asked the nurses to give her another round of hard-core IV pain medicine and sat…some more…clenching my teeth so hard I thought they might crack.

The 40 mile drive home was a nightmare. We, of course, hit rush hour traffic and are on the other side of the world from where she lives. Not only that, all I could think of this entire miserable ride home was some idiot texting and rear-ending us. That would be catastrophic. My mind just kept playing images of her getting hit in the face with airbags after surgeons just spent half a day reconstructing her eyes.

And, of course, on the way home, every yahoo with a truck bed full of crap HAD to pull in front of me. At one point, we were cruising along and a car broke down in our lane. I had to maneuver around between cars doing 70…with a nauseated patient in pain. By the time we get to the street where we need to pull off for her home? I thought I would have to pull over and puke from nerves.

So, I finally get her home and…her pain is skyrocketing. The med they gave at the day surgery center isn’t making a dent and she is crashing fast. I have to call in something stronger. It’s 5:30 PM and the country pharmacy closes at SIX. I zoom over and refuse to let them close until they fill her new med.

“I will SLEEP on THIS floor near the TUMS, THANK YOU! You going to leave me in here? O_o”

I rush back to her house and give her the new med, but it doesn’t seem to be working. KILL. ME. NOW.

Hubby races over with The Spawn and Pippa (my dog) in case Sister-In-Law needs to go to ER. Oh, but there’s a catch. Hubby is also watching over brother’s business while he’s at the funeral and needs to check on a job a few miles away….so he leaves. Also, we find out that one of our company trucks has been stolen.

Yay.

So I have The Spawn, a tiny dog who looks eerily like one of their big dog’s chew toys (they have two HORSES dogs that weigh almost 70 pounds a piece, and Pippa is 7 pounds). Also, the house has a steep set of stairs and now I have a toddler. The older boys aren’t home from football, I’m alone, and can’t locate a baby gate.

I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. But, I didn’t. I focused on other things. I set up Pandora in Sister-In-Law’s room to play soothing music and rubbed her back and her hair and brought her ice packs.

In the meantime, I’m scrambling between calling doctors, keeping The Spawn entertained, checking on Sister-in-Law and praying her pain gets under control because if it didn’t, we would be off to the ER. Hubby and older boys finally get home and Kim is out of the rough (sort of). Pain is awful but she’s no longer crying which crying is BAD when one has had eye surgery.

Original plan? I was supposed to take her the next morning for the surgeon to evaluate her eyes and let us know if the surgery was successful. I delegate this to Hubby because I wasn’t safe to drive. Of course, this meant I got to be night nurse after being up three days.

I can do this! *cues “Rocky” theme song* Eyyyeeee of the tiger….

Wait, bad song choice?

I had to go in Sister-In-Law’s room every thirty minutes and make sure she was lying on her right side (off the left eye that had the major repair). I also had to keep giving her pain meds and liquids and make her sit up, face-down, 15 minutes EVERY hour all night. This is to help the retinas heal.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Benjamin Watson.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Benjamin Watson.

By morning, I was dead on my feet. I go upstairs to make sure Hubby is awake to take Sister-In-Law to the doctor and older nephew to school. On the way down the stairs? I miss a step.

Thunk, thunk, thunk, OUCH. Now I have a mildly sprained ankle and wrist and badly bruised arm and leg. Walk it off. No, I’m cool.

Hubby takes Sister-In-Law to the doctor and I finally get a little bit of sleep. When they return, surgeon is less than thrilled about the results (so please pray for her). I get drafted for night nurse again and THANK GOD for the WANAs and Facebook friends because they kept me awake chatting with me and keeping me encouraged.

I tried to sleep the next day, but with The Spawn and a set of stairs, that was NOT going to happen. Also, all three dogs insisted on sleeping with/on me or they barked and I was concerned they would keep Sister-In-Law awake, so I allowed it—all 150 pounds of snuggle-bunnies. At this point, Hubby has taken older boy to have the pins removed from his thumb and then is off to airport to retrieve my mom and brother.

My brother finally returns from out of town on Halloween, so I’m cleaning their house, packing and hand-making the younger son’s costume because Sister-In-Law can’t see to do it. The police call and tell us our work truck has been found. Yay…um no. Instead of going straight home, I follow Hubby to the location the truck has been found and we have to wait on a wrecker to come retrieve it lest the thieves return.

At 9:30 we stagger in and I have to cook dinner. Full belly. Home. Now sleep? One would think. I kept waking up every hour to check on Sister-In-Law and was very disturbed that I couldn’t find the bathrooms and when the hell did they get CATS?

Friday morning, I again tried to sleep, but everyone on the planet kept calling. I couldn’t turn off my phone because I had to be available in case something went wrong with Sister-In-Law or The Spawn’s school needed me (am also a TERRIBLE nap-taker, so probably wouldn’t have slept anyway). Finally, I gave up, cleaned house, did laundry, and made casseroles for the weekend. That night? Still kept waking up to be night nurse.

ARGH.

Saturday, Hubby and I collapse on the couch and watch movies. I was SO SURE I’d get sleep. Nope. I made the mistake of thinking about my unread e-mail and had my first panic attack…ever. Ten o’clock that night? Couldn’t breathe and heart rate shot through the roof so was awake doing yoga breathing and praying until 4:00 AM.

So last night? I KNOW THIS IS THE NIGHT. SLEEP! The Spawn is off to bed and I’m shutting off lights when I hear Spawn start yelling my name. I rush to his room…and he pukes all over me and the floor. And he has 100 degree fever. Hubby let me go to bed and took care of Spawn. Hubby gets to bed around 10:30 and sometime after that The Spawn crawled in bed with us and kicked me half the night, though I wasn’t waking up enough to realize he was with us. Hubby takes him back to bed and today he is home, still running fever.

Thus, if this blog makes no sense it’s because I’m down to five brain cells and three are currently on injured reserve. I am very grateful for the many kind people (many WANAs) who were there to pray, comfort me, and keep me together because I was seriously falling apart by last night. Even DC Lozeau wrote a super sweet piece about me that really perked me up.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Rachel Funk Heller lives in Hawaii and she was up IMing me to keep me awake through this so I could care for my loved one. Jay Donovan hijacked my blog to let y’all know I wasn’t dead. Lisa-Hall Wilson stepped in to guest post. Many of my Facebook followers who were nurses, IMed to walk me through what to do, how to care for Sister-In-Law, what to tell/ask the doctors, etc. I was able to keep a positive attitude and entertain all the kids and keep them upbeat and laughing.

We can’t control a lot in life, just our attitude :D.

I have THE BEST Sister-In-Law in the world. She is beautiful, kind, and just the best mom and wife in the world. It was an honor to be there for her. She’s just…there are no words to explain how wonderful she is.

People can say what they want about social media, but I could not have gotten through this without the love, help, encouragement and support of many people I have never met in person and I would name them but right now I am struggling with my OWN name. So, I might not be blogging the rest of the week. But if I go missing, please do NOT put my picture on milk cartons, ask for my picture to be placed on wine bottles because all my friends are writers :D.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a week, month, year that just beat the TAR out of you? Have you had social media friends who were your life-savers? I love hearing from you. I have missed you guys so much ((((HUGS)))).

, , , , , ,

121 Comments

THREE MONTHS OFF???? What I Would GIVE for a Summer Vacation

When even ur Kiddy Pool is not safe...

When even ur Kiddy Pool is not safe…

For anyone in the Denver, CO area, I will be presenting this Saturday (register here). I am STOKED, not only because I get to teach writers, but it’s like a little slice of vaca-childhood. Ah, summer vacation. The Spawn is about to be let out for three months under my feet toddler bliss.

I miss it summer vacation. I remember how the last three weeks leading up to school getting out were sheer torture. The poor teachers probably felt like prison guards trying to keep the inmates calm…only they didn’t have stun guns and a high-pressure hose (those were for the inner city elementary schools :D).

Though, now that I think about it, slap a sprinkler on the end of that high-pressure hose and we would have likely loved that.

Did you guys end your year with Field Day? Sorry. I hated Field Day. I think Field Day was invented by the same sadists who thought up Dodge Ball. Every year I spent my last two days of school getting my butt kicked in every sport imaginable. Good thing I was too focused on summer vacation to care. All I had left to do is clean out the 900 pounds of crap I had somehow fit into my desk and locker.

Oh, there’s that protractor thingie that was on the school supply list. What DOES that thing do, anyway?

That final bell would ring and it was over. I would spend the next two and a half months loaded with sugar and wrinkled from water. My grandparents had a swimming pool and when we weren’t there, we were wearing a hole in my parent’s lawn with a Slip and Slide. Remember those things? Good thing I grew up in the days before everyone went lawsuit happy.

Really? You dove head-first off the station wagon onto a piece of plastic and sprained both your wrists??? Well, guess you won’t do that again, will ya? Stop crying before I give you something to cry about.

Image via Jeffery Turner Flikr Creative Commons

Image via Jeffery Turner Flikr Creative Commons

Yeah, NOTHING was childproof. All the playground equipment was heavy-duty industrial steel, and you couldn’t play on it unless your tetanus shot was up to date. And back then little girls actually wore dresses, so the first sucker kid down the slide usually suffered second degree burns down the backs of her thighs.

So we would put the water hose on the slide and make our own water park. Between that, the dancing in the sprinkler and the Slip and Slide, I have no idea how my parents didn’t have a $600 water bill. Maybe they did, but it was well worth the money to keep the screaming hoard of wild Indians locked beyond the sliding glass door….which, by the way, was actually LOCKED. When cartoons were over at 8:30?

Out the door we went.

Need water? Go lap some off the Slip and Slide. See, like the dog. Just drink upstream from him. Go! Before I put you to work cleaning bathrooms.

Gotta pee? Man used bushes for thousands of years. Just don’t let the Robinsons see you.

The neighbors want to take you to Jewish Camp? Okay, but this time, don’t convert. You cannot have a Bat-mitsvah, and you’re going to Baptist Camp next week. The Lutherans have dibs on you after that.

My brother and I had the COOLEST gym set out back. Nowadays it would be considered an Al Qaeda training facility. It was 20 feet tall, had uneven bars, parallel bars, climbing bars, a rope to climb, and iron rings. It was the glorious centerpiece of the neighborhood. ALL the kids wanted to be at my house playing Red Dawn, also known as Kill the Russians.

Oh, we were politically incorrect back then, too.

Those Russians were always taking Cabbage Patch Kids hostage. We knew they had a plan to brainwash them then reinsert them as Cabbage Patch Sleeper Cells that would kill us in our sleep…

…IF we ever slept. No we stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG. It was SUMMER!

Last night I stayed up until TWO THIRTY! Tonight I’m gonna stay up until FOUR. One day, when I’m bigger, I’m gonna stay up TWENTY ELEVEN HOURS! And when I grow up, I’m gonna have a Trans-Am and NEVER SLEEP EVER!!!!

Okay, yeah. We only stayed up that late when we went to my cousin’s house. They were…teenagers. We did all kinds of things we weren’t supposed to. We put on makeup, watched MTV (back when it actually had music) and watched scary movies and played Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…

Eh, she never did show, but that didn’t stop us from nagging her every Friday night.

My cousins are responsible for my current aquaphobia. If it ain’t chlorinated, I ain’t swimming in it. Jaws ruined me for salt water and Friday the 13th pretty much ruined fresh water. But it was okay, they had a pool too….and a DIVING BOARD.

Are those things even still legal to have now? We would spend all day long inventing new dives.

Oh, yeah, well I will raise your Cannon Ball a Bazooka Loaded with Banned Nuclear Warheads. TOP THAT, SUCKAH!

The first eight weeks of summer were magic. We’d swim and jump for HOURS on a trampoline and go to Six Flags and stay up late so we could walk to that small wooden health hazard shack that served as a snow cone stand for five months out of the year. We’d play in the streets until the street lamps flickered on and beckoned us home. Then we’d beg our parents to let us at least play in the front yard so we could catch frogs and fireflies.

Image via Lynn Kelly WANA Commons

Image via Lynn Kelly WANA Commons

Ah, but then eleven weeks would be over, and we’d have the Twelfth Week Itch. In Texas it is so hot by August that everything, including us kids, start to wilt. We were rested and ready for a new school year. Our parents started having to play warden and make us go to bed by nine so we could get our body clocks reset for school.

BED????? But it’s still LIGHT outside!!!!

As adults, what would we give to have three months to just play? Maybe that’s the secret to world peace. Maybe all of us are just stressed out and we need to have time to scream and yell and ride bikes up a ramp made out of a door someone threw away.

Maybe if the U.N. would just get all the world leaders together for the LONGEST SLIP AND SLIDE EVER!!!!! (Just tape all of Dad’s lawn bags to the end until you run out of space on the White House lawn). Maybe if everyone got a chance to play together and run off all the excess energy, maybe then we’d be too tired and happy to be stressed.

I miss summer vacation. How about you? What do you remember? What summer rituals did you have? Do you think our society would be better off if everyone was required to take summer vacation? Maybe we could alternate seasons so everyone would have time off. If you had THREE MONTHS OFF, what would you do? Where would you go? Would you learn to sing? Take up African dancing? Hop on a Slip and Slide?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of May, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of May I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

, , , , , ,

67 Comments

Pack Your Bags, We’re Going on a Guilt Trip

IMG_1947

I need a pedicure…and probably should shave, too.

On some level, I believe all women struggle with guilt, and, when we become mothers, I think the condition only worsens. I was a very different person before I married and had my son. I was always dressed impeccably, had my hair done once a month, and never missed a pedicure or manicure. I knew I’d worked very hard and believed I’d earned these simple indulgences.

In short, I thought like a man.

Trust me when I say that men do not feel guilty about relaxing in front of the TV when there is a sink full of dirty dishes. Rare is the man who puts aside getting himself dressed until he’s fully satisfied his toddler’s clothes all match. Most of the time, my husband isn’t even bothered if the toddler’s clothes even fit.

Just an aside…

I have NO idea how my husband does this. I regularly cull through The Spawn’s clothes and pull out what is out of season or no longer fits. Then when I delegate “dressing The Spawn” to Hubby, he somehow manages to dress our toddler in the ONE 18 mo shirt I missed and swim trunks…for church. I love my husband, and have THE BEST husband in the world, but seriously????

Mommy! I'm ready for picture day!

Mommy! I’m ready for Sunday school!

Believe me when I say that “clothes not fitting/matching” DOES NOT BOTHER A MAN. Neither do a handful of other things…

IMG_2142

When Mommy makes dinner….

IMG_1945

When Daddy makes dinner…

Anyway…

I recall, years ago, being a bit judgy when I’d see some frazzled mom, her hair (much in need of a dye job) pulled back in a scrunchee. I’d think, Good grief. Yoga pants and stained t-shirt? Does this woman even TRY? Her kids aren’t even wearing clothes that match. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Be careful how you judge, and, as my mother warns…NEVER WONDER.

I Deserved It

I look back at the way I used to judge struggling moms and I now know that I deserve this. I recall thinking, She’s married. Why doesn’t she just get her husband to dress the kids while she does something with THAT HAIR?

Now I know. I didn’t listen to Mom.

I wondered.

NOW I know that this mom probably did delegate. She probably managed to get her hair in a scrunchee just as she caught sight of her husband dressing their kids for church in their bathing trunks and part of their Halloween costumes. This mom then likely stopped doing her hair to intervene and at least get the kids in regular clothes.

Actually, this mother likely would have even had her child’s clothes all matching, but she forgot to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. Why did she forget? Because she heard the crash from her toddler unsuccessfully trying to scale the cat’s scratching post. And, by the time she stopped the bleeding, she’d long forgotten about the clothes…and this is why she is in yoga pants and the kids are still wearing their Halloween costumes…in MARCH!!! So just back the hell off!

Look at ME!

Mommy! Look at what I did!

The Guilt

I never feel like I am doing enough. Though I practically live in an apron, I can’t seem to ever feel caught up. My house isn’t clean enough, and I don’t read for an hour a day to my child and teach him French and art appreciation.

Then we have the magazines full of starlets posing in bikinis three days after they give birth. Despite working out with a trainer and living gluten-free, dairy-free, almost carb-free, I still can’t even wear my pregnancy pants. At a size ten, it is easy to feel like a lazy slacker because I’m not a size 0.

When did 0 become a SIZE?

Oh, but THIS is the standard. Terese Guidici right after giving birth. Yep, I hate her, too.

I gave birth this morning. Wearing a bikini so I don't need "fat pants."

I gave birth this morning. Wearing a bikini so I don’t need “fat pants.”

I need to get the gym more *scribbles on list.*

Regular Guilt is Bad Enough

Okay, I admit that I need to work on the guilt thing. I should be able to wear makeup without thinking that those 15 minutes would be better served sorting the recycling.

Crap! I threw away that jelly jar in the REGULAR trash. I’m destroying the planet! Worse, I am teaching The Spawn that it is OKAY TO DESTROY THE PLANET!

Most women (okay, maybe just me) already feel like we are not doing enough. If we have a choice of a day at a spa or a day baking for the church or school, donating stuff from the garage to the needy, or volunteering to shuttle Great-Great-Great-Aunt Thelma who’s 97 to CVS for discount butt cream, you can count on us for the cheapest butt cream in town.

Wal mart will price match.

But then there is Super Guilt. Super Guilt is often inflicted by strangers who don’t know diddly about our lives, but they feel they need to be extra judgy because they are your Facebook “friend.” I love social media. I love my WANA peeps and you guys make every day a joy. But then there are those other people…

Can I Donate My Kidneys? I Have One Extra

November was really hard. I work from home, and most of the time, I do this work with a toddler trying to scale my head…when he isn’t destroying the rooms I just cleaned (and yes, I make him pick up, but I have to stand there and hand-hold this grueling process of making my child a better, tidier citizen). Anyway, I worked all of November without a day off, often stranded in airports. I did the working Mommy thing all week then was on the road speaking and teaching in a new city every weekend.

I love what I do and serving writers is ALWAYS a joy, albeit a lot of work.

Anyway, I hadn’t had a haircut since the summer, and, having naturally wavy hair, I was looking like the cat sucked on my head. I’d spent the week cleaning and sorting and three days cooking gluten-free, dairy-free, organic dishes for Thanksgiving (after stumbling in from a late flight at midnight on Sunday/Monday).

In fact, I’d been so busy cooking and cleaning, I almost forgot that I had an appointment for a hair cut. Since I’d been posting pictures and GF recipes on Facebook all day, I posted that I’d almost forgotten my hair appointment.

Aww, my Facebook peeps are so sweet...

Aww, my Facebook peeps are so sweet…

But then I got THIS comment, which I deleted.

Screen Shot 2012-11-30 at 10.58.35 AM

Jerk.

And, yes, the commenter was male and didn’t know me beyond Facebook. Ironically, this person is also in business selling services to indie authors, which might sell better if he wasn’t a %!&*.

What I found interesting was my response to this crappy comment. Immediately, I felt bad about getting…a haircut. I felt I needed to tell him about my seven years in Rotary, and how I spearheaded an effort to send mosquito nets to Africa, water wells to Honduras, and wheelchairs to Mexico. I wanted to show him my c.v. of mission work in Syria and Belize, and my intentions to teach poor orphans in India how to read, after I taught my own child to read.

Note to self. Read more books to The Spawn.

Wait, maybe I could multitask, and teach The Spawn and the poor orphans in India at the same time. But I couldn’t, like, GO to India, because I have writers depending on me, and, besides, I couldn’t get wi-fi from the dumps in India.

Or could I?

Then I could teach writers how to blog, while teaching The Spawn and poor Indian orphans to read.

Yeah, but then I would so SUCK waving around my fancy laptop in front of kids digging through garbage for their meals. And The Spawn couldn’t go with me because then I’d be a bad mother exposing him to germs. But if I didn’t bring my child to India to read Dinosaur vs The Potty then I could be raising a narcissistic sociopath who cries when he doesn’t get a Porsche for his 15th birthday…so then he’d kill me and my husband for the insurance money.

Wait, I never got around to filling out the insurance paperwork. Got sidetracked cleaning the science experiments out of the fridge. Whew! Safe on The Spawn going all Menendez Brothers on me and Hubby.

Then I caught this STUPID thinking.

THIS was the final straw.

There was a time I would have left his comment and defended myself. And, as you can see from the image, I still did some defending. But come on! There has to be some middle ground here. I do feel very blessed. When I was in Belize, I tried to take a shower after swinging a sledgehammer and cutting rebar all day. Simple, right? The shower curtain rained SCORPIONS on me. I thank GOD for scorpion-less showers every day. In Syria, the Bedoin villages…okay, NOT going there. Just believe me when I say that every day, I say a prayer of thanks for electricity, running water, having a CAR.

But why do I feel the need to show my resume, that I DO CARE? Why do I feel sucked into this trollishness? Why am I thinking thoughts like, Well, you really only need ONE kidney, and there are people out there who need a kidney.

And why is it that I am not giving enough? Why is it wrong to want a haircut? Why does being excited about a haircut make me THIS person in John’s mind?

After the drama and angst, I can say that I’m grateful for the experience. The comment hurt, but when I saw my immediate reaction, I knew I was out of balance. I need to work on feeling good about feeling good. It is okay to be blessed so long as we remember to be grateful for those blessings and to share those blessings at every opportunity.

Sure, I could work 90 hour weeks serving even more people and teaching even more social media…but then I’d end up on a roof with a shotgun and pan of GF brownies…and it would be harder to serve others from a mental institution blubbering Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!

Sigh.

So, I deleted the comment and wrote an embarrassing (now) and highly defensive (*head desk*) note justifying why I was allowed to have a haircut. And, looking back, I wish I could delete that, too. But I DO know that a$$hats are alive and well, and likely this won’t be the last time I’m told how I suck for not caring enough.

Next time…next time I will do better. Hey, I’m a work in progress too :D.

What about you guys? Do you suffer from guilt? Is it hard for you to rest or do things for yourself? Do you feel guilty when you do? Have you managed to find a nice balance? Could you share tips or advice? Do you think guilt is worse for women than men? Or, do you think they just experience guilt differently? Guys! I’d like to hear from you, too!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of November I will pick a winner for the monthly prize (will announce October’s winner at the same time. Been on the road too much to effectively tally). Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

, , , , , , , , ,

108 Comments

Stress Less, Write More

Writers are no strangers to stress. Many of us work full-time day jobs and write, or we balance a family and write, or we balance a family, a day job, and school, and write. There is just so much to keep up with, and few of us are blessed enough to have a secret lab with a death ray that will vaporize intruders….though I’m still saving. Frequently, writers will whine say, “But I just don’t have tiiiime. Writing and work and blogging and social media. There isn’t enough tiiiiiiime.”

Granted, all of us are spread thinly, but the thing is we have the same 24 hours as everyone else. Often we DO have the time, we just lack focus. We don’t have a time management conflict, we have a values conflict. Very often we have plenty of time, we just have values or beliefs or weaknesses that are devouring our time.

For me?

I have always struggled with organization, and frankly, if don’t make a list, I will be sorting baby pictures or writing out greeting cards in three minutes flat. I’ve always been envious of people who run their homes with military efficiency. You know the people I am talking about; those folk who aren’t afraid of their closets and actually know what is in every drawer.

Show-offs :P .

Know Where You Are Weak

Yet, I have to say that just because something is our nature doesn’t mean that we are to be a victim to our innate shortcomings. In fact, Bob Mayer gives a wonderful exercise in his workshops. He says to look at our Myers-Briggs personality…then look at the opposite of our personality, and likely that is the area we need the most work.

I am going to take it a step farther. I believe that the opposite of our personality could be what keeps us from ever enjoying great success. That simple weakness could be where all your minutes are hemorrhaging away, bleeding out your energy unnoticed.

More on this in a second…

Procrastination is Birthed from Fear

One of my all-time favorite books is Eat That Frog—21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracey. For those of you who follow this blog, I’ve mentioned this book many times before because I love it. It WORKS. Anyway, in Eat That Frog, Tracey gives an interesting rule.

Rule: Your weakest key area sets the height at which you can use all your other skills and abilities.

Tracey advises that you sit down and write out all that is required for you to do your job. We’ll take five for our purposes today. As a writer I must:

  • Have a good imagination
  • A solid command of grammar
  • Possess a modicum of talent when it comes to writing prose
  • Have the self-discipline to write
  • Possess superior organizational ability

When it comes to the first four, I totally ROCK….and then we get to that last part *winces.* Superior organization? Oh yeah.

That.

First of all, even when you write non-fiction, information needs to flow in an optimal way or it won’t be enjoyable reading (this is part of that ever-elusive “voice” we’ve been talking about).

Same thing applies to fiction, and the way we organize and deliver the story is a HUGE part of voice. If we hope to be a successful novelist, we have to be masters at organization. We have to balance narrative plot points, character arcs, POV, setting, dialogue and keep everything straight and give it perfect timing.

The greatest part of dramatic tension is relaying the right piece of information at the right time. We have to manage all these components over the span of 60-110,000 words. This is one of the reasons many aspiring novelists never get beyond the “aspiring” part. They believe that the talent to manage all of this information is something writers are born with, when in fact it is a skill that 99% of the time must be taught, and then refined with a lot of trial, error and shots of tequila.

Writing a novel is an entirely different creature, yet many new writers mistakenly believe that they can jump from short story to novel with no problem. Sure. That is like creating a three-bar melody and then believing we are ready to compose a symphony with a 100 piece orchestra.

Not happening.

And, if I look at where I have had the largest struggles when it comes to writing…it has always been in my ability to organize (or lack of ability as the case may be).

Ah, but if we look at my Myers-Briggs, I am an ENFP, which means I am highly skilled at concepts and BIG ideas…but I fall apart when it comes to execution because I have to work extra hard to manage the small details. If we look at the opposite of my personality we get…my husband. Seriously, there should be a picture of my husband below the ISTJ.

Tigger married Spock.

ENFP (The Inspirer)——ISTJ (The Duty Fulfiller)

HUBBY: Kristen, you are being illogical.

I have creativity, imagination and enough energy to power a small city, but it is clear where I fall abysmally short. Ah, the devil is in the details.

I think this Myers Briggs test is a great exercise for getting a clear idea of what specifically is in our nature that needs to be addressed, the weakness that is the biggest time and energy suck. But I want to take it another step.

The Pareto Principle

In Eat That Frog, Tracey also introduces the Pareto  Principle. In 1895, economist Vincent Pareto noticed that society seemed to naturally divide into what he called the “vital few” and the “trivial many.” 20% of the population had all the wealth power and influence and the bottom 80% got whatever was left. He later discovered that this principle held true in all economic activity.

In short, 20% of our activity will account for 80% of our results.

This means that if we have a list of ten things to do, TWO of those items will be worth as much if not more than the other eight combined. But can you guess which items we are most likely to procrastinate on doing? The items that will cause us the most stress and sap most of our energy? Right. The two activities that could make the most difference. We are also most likely to procrastinate where we are weak.

Can you guess where I procrastinate? Yep, any activity that requires organizational skills. Whether it is plotting my novel or filing invoices, I do everything I can to get out of doing the chores that require I operate where I am weak. Yet, remember the rule I began with?

Your weakest key area sets the height at which you can use all your other skills and abilities.

This rule basically says that if I do not figure out a way to mitigate or correct my greatest weakness, that it will always be my single greatest limiting factor.

So What Can We Do?

First, buy a copy of Eat That Frog. LOVE this book and use its principles to get A LOT of work done. See, knowledge is power and once we become aware of our limiting factors, then we can take action. We aren’t at the mercy of our nature.

I know organization will never come natural to me, but it does come naturally to my mother, my sister-in-law, and my husband. When I need a system worked out for me, I have learned that I don’t have to do everything. I can delegate. GASP! I know! Cool, right? This frees me up to focus where I am strongest, which will make me more productive, which will alleviate stress.

Of course, delegating isn’t one of those things I do well, naturally either, so I have to surround myself with friends who will slap me correct me if I fail to delegate properly.

Hi, Piper! Hi, Ingrid! Hi Jenny!

I also make lists every day and no longer try to just “keep it in my head.” I then look at that list and whatever item makes me cringe when I read it (FROGS)? That is what I do first. Remember, 20% of our activity is going to account for 80% of our results.

When I tackle the toughest items first, I actually get more accomplished overall.

How?

When we do the toughest jobs first, we get an endorphin rush from the sense of accomplishment. Also, since our toughest jobs are out of the way, the other “less important” chores go faster since we aren’t dragging our feet dreading the FROGS.

And how does this apply to writing? Well, I know that my prose is strong and I suffer no lack of imagination, BUT I do not naturally plot well. I used to get lost in the details and had a tough time keeping everything straight.  This is why most of the writing books I now buy have to do with various ways to plot.

Instead of reading book after book studying my strengths (dialogue), I started to focus more on my weak areas, because those areas would be my limiting factor if left unaddressed. I also know that my writing will be faster and cleaner and require fewer revisions if I can strengthen this weak area. I also surround myself with fellow writers who are natural plotters because they can add even more strength to my area of weakness.

We Can’t Change What We Won’t Face

What is your weak writing area? Work on that FIRST. Find fellow writers who are strong where you are weak. #MyWANA is a good place to start.

Same in life and business. What is your weakness? Is it organization? Confrontation? Community? We don’t need to remake our personalities, and I do believe we should work to make the most of our strengths, but we must acknowledge and account for our weaknesses. Some weaknesses we can and must conquer if we want to be successful. Fear is a good example.

Maybe the two things I don’t want to do are because I fear rejection. Well, the best way to conquer a fear is to face a fear. Sometimes the only way out is through.

Other weaknesses? Those might be best delegated. I know I will never be highly organized. My brain doesn’t work that way, BUT I can delegate to people who are and, odds are, if they are good at my weakness then I am good at theirs. They help me and I can help them and then we are always working in the areas where we are strongest. TEAM.

Fact is, until we take an inventory, we can’t make a plan. Again, knowledge is power.

So what are some issues you guys struggle with and how do you deal with them? Any books or resources you can recommend? Are you a master at organization and maybe can offer tips? Or, are you like me? A junk drawer junkie? How do you overcome the clutter?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

268 Comments

Training to Be a Career Author–Writing is More than the Writing

Many of you who read this blog desire to be career authors, and kudos to you. It is a fun job and a great time. I used to be in sales. I literally hated my job so much that every day I would throw up on the way to work. Every day I died a little more. I just knew that writing was the life for me. Ah….but how little I really knew.

After almost ten years at this and a lot of bumps and bruises, I can safely telly you guys that being a career writer is more than the writing, especially now. There has been a major paradigm shift in the world of publishing and writers have more creative power than ever in history. Ah, but with more power comes more responsibility. When we publish a book, the laundry does not magically disappear.

I KNOW! I felt robbed too.

My two-year old is not in the least impressed by my fancy New York agent. In fact, The Spawn is addicted to the B-O-T-T-L-E (we can no longer say the B Word, so have resorted to spelling it). In fact he Joneses so badly for a B-O-T-T-L-E that I swear he has one taped behind the toilet. As he shrieks for the B-O-T-T-L-E that we have taken away, he has zero compassion for Mommy’s blog deadline…or ability to hear.

Dishes still fill the sink and the cat still pukes in my floor…and always at the crack of dawn, just enough to rouse me awake grossed out and afraid to get out of bed. The bills need to be paid and the yard keeps growing and I keep writing as I pray that, if God really is good, I can one day afford someone else to push the vacuum.

None of you can relate, I’m sure.

Whether you work a day job and eek in what writing you can will out of your tired body at dawn, during lunch, or in the evening OR if you happen to be like me and held hostage a stay-at-home mother, you know that this career so so much more than the writing.

Being a career writer is more than the book. Why do I tell you this? Because it is going to affect how you train. Yes, train. Writing is not a marathon, as many author-bloggers might have you believe. It is more like a decathlon….oh, but one of the events is a marathon. This career, as some of you already know, is so much less about talent and far more about endurance. I have talented writers I know who will never make this a career even if they publish. Their approach will burn them out quickly or keep them trapped at a certain level.

We’ll talk about why in a moment.

In a decathlon, there are ten events from running to pole vaulting to shot put, and athletes are judged on their collective scores.This means that, not only does a participant need to be able to run distance, but he has to be a good sprinter, and also strong and flexible. All aspects of his physique are going to be tested and then judged against his competition.

Same with writing.

We have to write, edit, learn about the craft, organize, plan, run a business, read, research, market, blog, speak, and teach. There is so much more to this career than just the writing.

Now that Mommy is a writer, I just feed myself with stolen pizza and a butter knife.

Yes, We Must Do A LOT to Be Successful

I can tell writers who aren’t avid readers in three pages. I can tell writers who haven’t properly researched pretty early on, too (and I don’t finish those books). It takes me less than a page to spot writers who haven’t read craft books. Writers who refuse to do social media? Well, their days are numbered.

We have to be organized (I’m still working on this one). First of all, writing a novel requires we be organized. Any work spanning 80-100,000 words is going to need to be plotted and the right events placed at the right point. People who just sit down and write until they stop? Yeah, that ain’t a novel. Novels that do not have narrative structure—antagonists and major plot points—well, they aren’t novels. They are an entity with no skeleton. Or, if there is a skeleton, some bones are missing or in the wrong place. In nature that is called an aberration. In writing that is called Book that Won’t Sell.

Organization will also be critical when it comes to the business end of this business. Tracking sales, filing royalty statements, receipts, deductions, and TAXES. Oh my!

Don’t get me wrong. Some of those things writers don’t have to do, but it could impact their final success. For instance, authors don’t have to do public speaking, but those who can and do have an added advantage. Authors who can present at workshops and conferences stand a far better chance of meeting the right person who opens the right door to take her career to an entirely new level.

I generally work six days a week….7 if one counts The Spawn.

Mommy, why are you crying?

This isn’t to have a pity party. I love my job. I loved every minute of spending time with my writing peeps. I love being able to support other writers and learn new things. I love being able to open up the world of social media for some newbies and make it more accessible. But I do have to say that you have to train to be able to endure this kind of schedule and still be productive.

Mommy, are you writing? I’m hungry. All my underwear is dirty.

Those kids hanging off our leg are still there even when we decide to write. In fact, as I type these words I have a two year old screaming….shhh B-O-T-T-L-E. If he isn’t screaming about that, then he’s upset  because I won’t let him climb on the table and play with knives. Despite commercials that say otherwise, the toilets still won’t clean themselves, and apparently they can put a man on the moon, but have yet to invent clothes that never need to be washed.

Change Your Perspective and Change Your Life

I am here to change your perspective and make those challenges your triumphs. Learn to do it anyway. Those kids that interrupt you every thirty seconds are a blessing. Think of it like running pulling a weighted sled. This is author training. If you can learn to maintain your focus despite all of life’s distractions, think of how amazingly productive you will be when one day you do have that private office and can afford a meth-addicted howler monkey with a sidearm to guard your writing time. Heck, you will probably be twice as productive at least.

Successful authors are a multitasking MACHINE. This is one of the reasons it is SO vital for us to brand our name when it comes to social media. We already have a lot of responsibilities, so streamlining becomes paramount. Spreading ourselves too thinly can be a formula to give up.

I see a lot of writers who will not make it in this business. Why? Often they aren’t doing the tasks that are vital to writing a great book—reading and learning the rules of the craft. This is like wanting to win a decathlon, but eating pizza everyday and not going to the gym.

These days, everyone can get published so a new benchmark of success is becoming book sales and list rankings. I watch a lot of writers who are too obsessed with the marketing side of things. They are banking everything on the success of ONE book and aren’t getting back to the computer and working on the next book and the next and the next.

Other writers are blogging machines. Blogs are GREAT for branding….if done properly. Many writers are wearing themselves out posting blogs that will do very little to brand their names. They are writing thousands of words a week that do…almost nothing. Or they are blogging, but never getting to writing the actual book.

These types of writers are only focusing on ONE aspect of their careers. They are like the participant in the decathlon who only focuses on one event. It is a recipe to lose.

Athletes who compete in decathlons use a lot of different skills—speed, endurance, strength. They walk this fine balance of giving an event their all….without really giving it their all. They still must have energy left to effectively compete in the other events and outpace the competition.

We writers must learn to give it our all….without giving it our all. The better we get at balancing our duties, the more successful we will be in the long-run. Writers who fail to appreciate all this job entails won’t be around in a year or three. They are like a runner who sprints at the beginning of a marathon. They will fall by the side of the road, injured and broken.

So today when you have to squeeze in that 100 words on your break from work, think I’m training. When your kids hang off you as you write, picture that weighted sled. Play the soundtrack to Rocky if you must. Hey, winning is always easier with a TEAM. Rely on your WANA (#MyWANA) teammates for help. Platforms take a lot of work and time to build, but, unlike the dishes, you don’t have to do it by yourself.

We are not alone!

What part of your life are you now going to view as author training? What setbacks can you reframe in the positive? What commitments are you going to make to be successful for the long-term? What have you been doing wrong? What problems are you having? What do you now think you could do differently?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the last bit of January and 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck! Will announce last week’s winner and January’s winner on Wednesday.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

, , , , , , , ,

116 Comments

Don’t Eat the Butt–Lies that Can Poison Our Writing Career #2

Last week I started a new series that I am calling Don’t Eat the Butt. Why? Because typing “butt” makes me giggle. No, I think there are some important lessons here. I have always found the puffer fish fascinating. There is only ONE TINY PART of the puffer fish that is not deadly. Oh, and if you don’t know how to cut a puffer fish correctly, you can unwittingly unleash deadly poison into the non-poisonous part.

Herb: Hey, this puffer fish kind of tastes like chick–…*grabs throat and falls over*

Fred: Note to self. Don’t eat the butt.

This idea of the puffer fish made me start thinking about our careers as artists. There are a lot of common misperceptions that can leak poison into our dreams if we aren’t careful. Thus, this new series is designed to help you guys spot the toxic beliefs that can KILL a writing career. In short, Don’t Eat the Butt. Some of us have been there, done that and got the butt-tasting T-shirt. I am here to hand down what I have learned from being stupid enough to eat the literary puffer butt and survive. Watch, listen and LEARN. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others.

Without further ado…

Don’t Eat the Butt Lesson #2

Lie: I will take my writing more seriously when others (friends, family, the FedEx guy) take me seriously.

Many of us, when we begin as writers, won’t even call ourselves writers because we don’t yet have a finished manuscript, an agent, a publisher. See DETB Lesson #1. When we are new, often we look to outsiders to give us validation and to take our careers seriously…so that we can, too.

*scratches head*

Okay, on what planet does this make ANY sense?

Hey, I’ve been there. I recall years ago when I first started out, I let EVERYONE interrupt me. When I had time slotted out for writing, all the sudden my mother needed me to take her for errands, my brother needed someone to watch his kids so he could go to Lowes, my friends needed someone to help them write a resume. And everyone expected me to just drop what I was doing and help…because it wasn’t like I was doing anything anyway, right?

Hold that thought. Notice how no one takes us seriously as writers until they need someone to write their resume for free? Then we get, “Oh, well I need your help because you’re a writer.”

Moving on…

So here my entire family would just assume that I wasn’t doing anything and would line up to take their share of my time and energy…but why wouldn’t they? Instead of putting down boundaries, I would comply and do whatever and then whine and moan that no one took me seriously.

Why would they? I didn’t even take myself seriously.

I had to shift my thinking in order to change the behavior of others. If I didn’t view my writing as a legitimate profession, I would continue to let others walk all over me because I had set out a Welcome mat. If I was a doctor or an accountant, no one would think of showing up at my office and dropping off their kids for me to watch, would they? No. So why were others doing it to me?

One of my favorite books is T. Harv Ecker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind and I believe there are a lot of principles in this book that can help writers tremendously. Ecker asserts that many people are poor or middle class not so much because of outside circumstances, but rather because of internal beliefs. Ecker asserts that if we don’t learn to think in the same ways as rich people do, this will keep us trapped in our social class unless we change.

We can get trapped into thinking that we will make different choices once we have more money, but we never get more money because we continue poverty thinking. This is especially evident when one pays attention to winners of the lottery. Those who were impoverished before hitting the jackpot very often soon return to poverty despite being handed a windfall of money. Why? Because they didn’t change the poverty thinking so they continued poverty habits.

Now one can easily substitute “successful writer” for “wealthy entrepreneur” and see why many of us will remain trapped unless we can shift how we view ourselves and our work. If we don’t think like successful authors, we can never become successful authors. And one key to being successful is to understand that the feeling must come from the doing, not the other way around. Do FIRST, then the feelings will come.

Instead of: When people take me seriously, then I will be better at boundaries.

We need: I am enforcing these boundaries so that people will understand I am serious.

We cannot wait for others to validate us before we get serious about boundaries, word count, output, marketing, etc. That is opposite thinking.

It is when we put down boundaries and then enforce them that others go, “Oh, wow. She really is doing this writing thing.” By enforcing boundaries and taking on the habits of a professional writer (writing so many words a day five days a week….no matter what) THAT is when we will shift how we view ourselves and this new profession. In shifting how we view ourselves, we will inevitably shift how others view us as well.

Act like a professional and others will treat us like a professional.

Our internal vision must shift first in order to change our outside reality. The internal locus of focus is the only one we really control anyway. As long as our locus of focus is external (people and circumstances), nothing will change and even if it does change, the change will not be for very long. Getting validation from the outside is like being strapped to a roller-coaster and makes a lousy foundation for a career.

Change begins with us. We cannot believe that we will set boundaries once we are successful, because we will NEVER be successful until we set boundaries.

Eventually I had to stand up to my family. I don’t like confrontation, but loving confrontation is part of all healthy relationships. When my mother wanted me to go out and shop all afternoon on her day off? I would say, “Mom, I know you are used to me being able to hang out with you any time, but I have work to do. But, tell you what. I can call you once I have my 2,000 words, and then I can have more fun with you because my work will be off my plate.”

It won’t be easy at first, but the more we confront in love, the better we get at it and do it enough? And friends and family will call and say things like, “I know you are busy writing, but can you get some time to go shopping with me?” Once we shift how we view ourselves, others will fall in step. And if they don’t? Well, that is a lesson for another day :D.

So what are your thoughts? Opinions?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Last Week’s Winner of 5-Page Critique is Ed Griffin. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. Congratulations.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

Happy writing!

, , , , , , ,

92 Comments

My Life is a Junk Drawer

As you guys know, my Great Aunt Iris passed away on Sunday. Been a crazy week, to say the least. My Aunt Iris is probably the largest reason I not only became a writer, but a successful one. Even though this woman started life on a farm in Paris, TX when people traveled by horse, she still read my books and even my blog. Of all the posts I’d written, this one was her favorite. So, today I am running the Junk Drawer blog again in loving memory of Iris Iona (Lamb) Jackson, born September 12, 1913, died October 2, 2011. She will be greatly missed by many people.

Ah, it is time for spring cleaning. This past week I have been on a mission to simplify and organize. Yeah, easier said than done. I began with the refrigerator, battled the Spinach Ooze of Doom and The Casserole that Time Forgot. I stumbled away wondering how the hell I managed to buy 12 jars of pickles. See, that is the thing about being disorganized. It is wasteful. I am the proud owner of 635 pairs of scissors. They hang out with the index cards and bags of rubberbands. Have you ever noticed that? You have to buy a BAG or rubberbands and after using less than FIVE, the bag disappears????

But I digress….

This reminds me of my nightstand drawer. Hey, I’m a Texan! If only I could find the bullets….

So this week I am scrubbing and sweeping and sorting, all the while putting off the dreaded kitchen drawers. See, I happen to be an overachiever. Most people have ONE junk drawer. I happen to have…okay all of my drawers are junk drawers. DON’T YOU JUDGE ME! Thus, the thing I seem to put off most is cleaning out my kitchen drawers. I secretly loathe those people who can open a kitchen drawer and actually KNOW what is inside–Show Offs :P.

One morning, a few months ago, I was doing my early morning walk through the neighborhood, pondering the universe, when I had a profound thought. My life is like my kitchen junk drawer, and maybe that’t why they were so hard to clean. Stop laughing. It’s true. Sometimes, when I put in a lot of extra effort, it is neat and clean and streamlined…and then the Law of Entropy somehow takes over. It is a never-ending battle against my own selfish will to goof off. And yet, I have to admit, my junk drawer is usually one of the most interesting locations in my house.

The junk drawer is always full of things we don’t want to face—an unpaid bill, a child’s bad report card, a letter from some crazy family member we can’t throw away but try to ignore. Something sticky that we just can’t bear cleaning. Do it later. Full of unfinished business. Write that “thank you” note later. Pay that bill later.

My life is also full of these things I don’t want to face—my laziness, my tendency to procrastinate, my harshness with myself and others. Stickiness that I just can’t face cleaning. Will get organized…later.

Junk drawers are also filled with things of questionable value; an extra screw that we just can’t figure out where it goes, a single AA battery that we are too cheap to throw away, but too lazy to put with the other batteries (wherever they are). Oh, and a tiny calendar from a real estate agent that we will never use, but don’t have the guts to toss. Markers that work when you lick the tip and pens with schmutz clogging the end…but if you scribble real hard they still work. Packets of ketchup when there is a full bottle in the fridge. Packets of salt and pepper and sporks from fast food joints.

My mind, too, holds on to things of questionable value. I have all kinds of experiences and bits of knowledge that puzzle even me. I am flypaper for useless trivia, like the end of a shoelace is called an aglet and the element helium was discovered in the late 1800s when scientists were studying the sun, and it is named after the Greek Sun god, Helios. I don’t know why I know these things, but I do. I don’t know why I can’t find my car keys, but I can remember that Washington Carver invented peanut butter and that the first thing I ever took to Show and Tell in Kindergarten was Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (yeah, I am a nerd from way back).

Ah, but then there are the hidden treasures of the junk drawer; the sweet card from a husband for no reason at all, a photo that missed the baby book, a $20 bill we forgot we had, a rebate check we forgot to cash, ticket stubs from a memorable concert, or even wheat pennies and Canadian pennies that we have sorted from the real pennies since we were children.

Which brings me to my point. Yes, I have one.

Our lives are all like junk drawers; full of the messy, the missing, the mystifying and the magical. Sometimes I think that is why I became a writer, to “sort out” the junk drawer of my soul. So often my stories feature characters so similarly flawed as me. And, as I help them learn and grow…strangely, so do I. With writing, I can find use for random childhood memories, like the smell of Breck shampoo or the taste of coconut sno-cones. Through stories, I can give them new life in new context so that they can live forever…or at least longer. Through fiction, I can tend unfinished business, like a broken heart that never mended or a dream I was too scared to pursue.

With fiction…it all oddly makes sense.

And I will continue filling the drawer with experiences and information and ideas and dreams and heartbreaks and disappointments and tragedies. Then I will sit down and sort and take what will work and then I will toss the remains back in and label them “Miscellaneous” until I find them a home.

Can you relate? Are you like me and a Junk Drawer Overachiever? What do you do with random memories and experiences? How do you use them? Keep track of them? What cool stuff is in your junk drawer? Leave a comment and share.

I do want to hear from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of October, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

NOTE: For those of you who haven’t yet gotten your pages back, please resend to my assistant (if you haven’t already). I get about 500 e-mails a day, so I am redoing things so submissions don’t get lost in the ether. Thanks for your patience.

Gigi at gigi dot salem dot ea at g mail dot com. Gigi will make sure I get your pages.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

, , , , ,

48 Comments

Memorial Day–To Those Who Give the Ultimate Sacrifice

Memorial Day weekend is upon us (at least here in the United States). This weekend I will be grilling steaks and enjoying the company of loved ones. We might go hiking or spend time at the lake. This is a holiday that seems to just come with a sunburn. But I hope those of you who celebrate this weekend will give thought to what this holiday really means. We honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live free.

When one lives in a country as wonderful as ours, it is easy to take a lot of things for granted. I think this truth becomes clearest if we travel to other places less fortunate. Years ago, I lived in a refugee camp in Syria. I had never known what it was like to do without simple things…like clean clothes or water suitable to drink. Showers were an indulgence, and life in a police state was, frankly terrifying. I tend to be a person who likes to laugh and make jokes. Jokes in countries like these can get one thrown in prison or even shot.

In America, it is so easy to forget all that we have. It is even easier to forget the price others have paid so that we might have it. I believe the two best things we can do to honor our sevicemen and women and their families is to 1) remember why we have holidays like Memorial Day and 2) be ever grateful for the gifts that many of them have paid for with blood.

This weekend is a time where all of us can come together and laugh and love, but I hope we all remember who picked up the tab. Our servicemen and women and their families have purchased this freedom and we owe at least our deepest thanks. I am a proud military wife, and come from a family that has served this country in every war since the American Revolution.

My great uncle was among those killed in Pearl Harbor. A couple of years later, my grandfather served in Japan helping the same country that killed his brother rebuild. My father served during the Vietnam War. Every male friend he had in high school died fighting in Vietnam. Yet, years later, my dad would work for hours helping our Vietnamese neighbors do repairs on their home. Dad would even rebuild old bicycles to give to their children. My cousin has fought in Afghanistan, but he also has helped rebuild infrastructure, hospitals and schools.

My husband is a professional who gives up one weekend a month and time in the summer to serve. He was one of those who helped during Katrina, who gave safety to survivors and helped go look for the dead so they might rest in peace. My family members are just a handful of the countless men and women who have given so much to those of us who complain and grumble too often and offer gratitude far too little.

So, to all those who serve this country:

Thank you for my soggy, sprinkler-drenched, newspaper, because it means I don’t live in a police state.

Thank you for the right to disagree with my leaders without fear of being shot or thrown in prison.

Thank you for the political cartoons cluttering my e-mail, because it means we still can have a sense of humor without fear of execution.

Thank you for the college loan I am still paying off. In many other countries I would not even be permitted to read, let alone have a degree.

Thank you for the sleep I had last night, for a sense of safety that you have fought so hard to give me, yet that I too often take for granted.

Thank you for the time I spend with my family, when too often you only see yours in photographs.

Thank you for letting me watch my little boy grow up when so many of you must leave your little ones behind.

Thank you for all you give the ultimate sacrifice so that I might have so much. I don’t say it nearly enough, but thank you for defending this country and all she stands for.

So I hope all of you enjoy this wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Do you have any traditions? How do you normally spend this holiday? Are you a serviceman or woman? Do you know of one you would like to thank? Tell us about them! Maybe even stop by and donate to the Wounded Warrior Foundation, caring for wounded and disabled military heroes.

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of May, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

Together Everyone Achieves More!!!! SUPPORT THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF AMERICA! Spread the word and save a life. Sigma Force saves puppies and kittens, too. Ahhhh.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

36 Comments

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 34,744 other followers

%d bloggers like this: