Sunday, July 1, 2018

Bi-yearly check in – pat on the back or kick in the pants?


I’m staring at a blank page today, having some difficulty when it comes to what I want to say. That’s interesting, considering a check in doesn’t take much effort when I’m just looking back at what I’ve accomplished the first half of this year.

While it’s easy enough to go back through the past six months to take stock in what I’ve completed and make note of what projects I’m in the middle of, my focus is a bit…distracted. Funny enough, I don’t think I can put into words exactly what I’m distracted about.

I guess it’s just one of those days. It’s probably also the perfect time for me to do some free writing – might help me dig up what’s vying for my attention and figure out what I need to do about it.

But first, this post…

The first half of this year has gone fairly well, as I moved in to a new routine after finally deciding to give up the day job so that I could have more time to focus on my writing. I may have mentioned a change in circumstances and my schedule, but I have yet to really discuss what prompted the change or how it has been since I made the decision. It was not a decision I made lightly and has been quite a transition mixed with both uncertainty and excitement in what the future holds.

My distraction today may actually have something to do with my taking stock in what I’ve been able to accomplish these past six months. It means either giving myself a pat on the back for a job well done so far, or a kick in the pants for not being further along than I expected at this point. It means using the past six months as a gauge, and whether or not I’ll be happy with what the gauge represents.
 
When I look at the past six months, I see forward movement and that’s what matters most. I published my sixth book (4th in the series), took part in two events where I spoke about my books and my writing journey so far, attended a women’s business conference, took part in a number of online webinars relating to writing and the business of marketing, most recently which included a 12-day series for women entrepreneurs, and have continued to work on multiple book projects I plan to publish later this year and early next year.

Writing, researching, reading, learning – it all goes hand in hand and it’s what will help me continue to move forward. What I continue to learn, about myself and from others, gives me the ability to stay on task because I’m able to:
  •        set clear goals,
  •     ground myself daily,
  •     commit to moving forward,
  •     remain confident,
  •     have clarity,
  •     stay consistent,
  •     manage my expectations,
  •     be intentional,
  •     inspire others, and
  •     find balance between daily to-do lists and self care.

My favorite saying I heard most recently during the entrepreneur series was “where attention goes, energy flows.”

My attention has been focused on quite a few things, certainly, but each involve forward movement in my writing journey so for that, I’ll give myself a pat on the back.




Sunday, June 10, 2018

How to generate character and story ideas…just walk the dog.


It’s the time of year again when the calendar days fill up so quickly, it may become difficult to carve out your own free time. It’s a busy time with graduations and graduation parties (us included, with our youngest graduating from college), mixed in with birthdays, weddings and babies (we are expecting a great niece the end of the month 😊), in between work and family responsibilities. 
Visit to Budd Inlet, Olympia

I sit enough during the day while I work on writing projects so when I carve out free time, it doesn’t usually mean time to relax. It means getting out, walking, checking out a new trail, finding a new park, or finding new sights that I can enjoy and photograph. 
Getting out benefits more than just myself, since it means I can explore with my almost six-month-old puppy, Jozee. I’m not sure I’d get out as often if it weren’t for her, so I’ll give her credit when it comes to keeping me moving more regularly. Walking, getting some fresh air, discovering new places…the combination is not only good for a growing puppy, but also for my health and my creativity.

It’s been fun the past couple of months to find ways to get out and explore the sights with Jozee. We take walks around our property or at the local city park, which is fine when I only want to take a limited break from a project, but when we can take half a day or a whole day, my husband also joins us and we’ve had fun visiting old haunts (so that Jozee can see them for the first time) or exploring new places. Part of the fun is mapping out where we’re going to go next, what trails we might hike or which parks and beaches we can visit. Whether we’re visiting local parks or areas an hour or two away, the sights, people we meet and the adventure as a whole provide me the break I need and also food for thought when I’m mapping out new story or character ideas.
Visit to Pacific Beach
And meeting new people is a never-ending feature these days. One thing I’ve noticed now that I’m out and about with Jozee is how many new people you meet when you have a dog. It’s so easy to remain introverted and isolated when you’re by yourself; but when you have a dog with you, especially a puppy, the number of new acquaintances you meet is quite high, as most are dog-lovers who won’t hesitate to strike up a conversation. 
Being a self-proclaimed introvert, I’m still getting used to randomly having conversations with strangers at any given moment in a pet store, on a city sidewalk, on a rural trail, at the beach or even while visiting a rest area. On the plus side, meeting so many different people during various types of situations gives me a larger deposit of character and story ideas when I’m open to receiving them.

Visit to the Witch's Castle in Portland
Case in point is a woman we met last weekend at a rural rest area on our way back from Portland. She had a little white dog and we got to talking while her dog and Jozee got to know each other. She was from Portland and was heading up to Seattle to see her daughter while her husband was on the east coast at a business meeting. We were just getting ready to leave when I walked by her vehicle and she told me that she had accidentally locked her keys, her phone, and her dog inside her vehicle. One of the volunteers working at the rest area let her use their phone to call a couple of locksmiths, but she learned the soonest anyone could get to the rest area wouldn’t be for another four hours. Four hours! It was already around 8:00 p.m. at the time she called them. She was at a loss. She couldn’t call her daughter to say she’d be (really) late because she didn’t know the number by heart; she couldn’t call her neighbor to ask them to bring her the extra key because again, she didn’t know the neighbor’s phone number by heart. She could call her husband, a number she did remember, and ask him to call their daughter and their neighbor, but he was three hours ahead of us, could already be asleep and she didn’t want to call him and worry him if it wasn’t necessary. One of the rest stop volunteers tried to jimmy the lock, but that didn’t work. Finally, she used my cell phone after we discussed contacting the state patrol, to see if they’d be willing to figure out how she might be able to get help in a shorter period of time. The 9-1-1 dispatch operator put her through to the state patrol operator, who then said she would do what she could. Since we had no idea if or when she’d receive help, we stayed with her to keep her company. It was maybe a half hour later when a tow truck operator arrived, having been sent by the state patrol to assist. It was wonderful to see him drive up and save the day, and the dog! A quick stop at a rest area for Jozee’s potty break turned in to hanging out with a complete stranger for a few hours. It was completely out of the norm, as far as what we’d expect at a rest area, but as we left that day, my mind wandered… What if…? There are so many ways this ordeal could have worked out differently, and there are many endings I could attach to it, but for now what I like to think about are the number of characters I can attribute to this visit at the rest area. Each played their part and the end result was a good one. 
If we had left before knowing how things worked out, my mind would have wandered, leaving me with thoughts about the many “what if” endings my imagination could come up with. And I probably wouldn’t have been able to get to sleep because of it. 
Instead, when we finally left the rest area that evening and drove the rest of the way home, it was with the satisfaction of knowing that the woman and her little dog were safely on their way to Seattle. And I was able to sleep very well.
A good ending all around. 😊






Sunday, May 27, 2018

Practice Makes Perfect


I don’t believe “perfect” is the correct word…because I’ll never assume to be perfect, but practice does make us better. Case in point, author events where I’m not just showing up to meet readers and sign books, but to stand in front of a group to discuss my writing and publishing process and my journey as an author so far.

I attended this type of event last weekend, and I had such a good time. I enjoy meeting people who genuinely take pleasure in reading my books; again, it’s the surreal part of this process, the fact that others appreciate and enjoy the stories I come up with. But with practice, I’ve also learned to enjoy talking about my writing journey and my stories, so that I’m able to feel more confident in myself when speaking in front of a group.

Flashback to high school, when I had to take the most dreaded class of all: speech.  I wasn’t alone; I can’t remember knowing even a handful of other students who actually liked the class and what it required from us. It’s a necessary (evil) and useful class, I can admit as an adult, but as a teen I was fairly shy when speaking in front of even a small number of people, so the class was torture. Part of it was due to my shyness, while the other part was due to the fact that the subject matters we had to speak about felt forced.

Fast forward quite a few years later, when I was working as a private investigator, I was a member of a legal investigator association and I moved up from member, to board member and eventually to president. For a year in that position I ran almost monthly meetings near Seattle and had to put aside my introvert tendencies to speak in front of the members who attended the meetings and to introduce special guest speakers we lined up for each meeting. While I still had issues with speaking to large groups, this process was a great learning tool for me.

Stepping stones in life prepare us for what’s to come…

Now, I get to attend author events, I’m introduced as the guest speaker and I enjoy myself because I’m able to discuss a subject matter I’m extremely interested in and excited about. I’ve come full circle when I look back at my teenage self and how much I’ve grown when it comes to making speeches in front of large groups. I certainly enjoy myself now and I hope that my excitement about my stories and my writing journey give those who attend an enjoyable experience. I also learn from each event, so that I can make changes as needed to make the next event better, for myself and for those who attend.

But really, my favorite part of these author events goes beyond the preparation, the butterflies I still feel beforehand no matter how confident I think I am, the time I spend talking or the time I spend signing books. My favorite part is meeting new people, finding new readers who are willing to give my books a shot, and having a good time in general with like-minded individuals who just love books. Take a look at some of my older posts, where I offer a few stories: whether I’m attending a book signing, an author event, a book club meeting, or a fair, there’s no end to the interesting people I get to meet.

Meeting interesting people is a key highlight on a long list of highlights when it comes to what’s so wonderful about being a writer. Why would I ever want to do anything else?  J

Monday, May 14, 2018

The many moments in the month of May (so far)


A photo my son captured of Jozee 
while we were at the beach
Sometimes everything goes as planned, and sometimes they don't, but that's not always a bad thing.
I had planned to post on my blog over the weekend, but…it was Mother’s Day weekend so I took some time off to play. What I wanted for my Mother’s Day was at least one day at the beach, which did happen and turned out to be a great idea considering how perfect the weather was. If you are also from the PNW, you’ll understand my excitement about the fact that we actually had a nice day at the beach, and in the month of May!


While May is only half over, it has already provided me with a good feeling on how this next quarter will end. All I can say is, hooray! In addition to spending a lot of time on one of my writing projects, here’s what I’ve been up to:
I finally completed a business plan – why now, you say? I just kept putting it off, maybe because in the back of my mind I believed I didn’t really need it. But, writing is a business when you hope your efforts result in making a profit so, I finally forced myself to work one up. Right now I’m sticking with revising my business plan quarterly, so that I can focus on projects actually pending at this time, but I plan to work up to six-month plans once I move in to next year.

Session at Inspire:
Women's Business Conference

I attended a women’s conference the first week in May for business owners – again, thinking about writing beyond the craft and what I can do to focus on the business end of things so that what I’m accomplishing involves both my head and my heart.
The women’s conference was a nice day retreat for me since my days are usually spent by myself (unless you count my dogs and cats), I met some great women and business owners and from each session I learned some useful business sense tips.
I’ll enjoy attending more of these events if the business organization continues to offer them. 

I finally signed up to become a member of a local writer’s association. By “local” I mean Seattle, which is a horrible drive these days from my locale, so I won’t likely attend many of the monthly meetings, but I’ll be able to access the relevant meeting information online, as well as other member perks. I can’t honestly say why it’s taken me until now to do this…I enjoy attending conferences, and I attend them when I’m able (which takes actual physical effort), while the act of becoming a member of an association was such an easy task I could have completed a long time ago (um, can anyone say online registration?) but just kept putting it off. I can’t explain my delay, other than it must be that writer’s procrastination issue I hear so much about. 😊
I had some fun designing new business cards and bookmarks – time will tell whether I like the business cards more than my original design, but because my books now include a series and not just the first book (it’s been that long since I designed the first business card), I decided to make a change since the time to update them was long overdue.
I spent some time promoting my series the past two weeks, playing with the P.I. writing about a P.I. idea, then for Mother’s Day, and also for upcoming book events I have scheduled this month and next month. Speaking of which, for those who are local, I have the following author events coming up should you wish to attend where I’ll discuss my books and my writing and publishing process and sign books for those who have or will be purchasing them: 
The first event is this coming Saturday, May 19th from 1p to 3p at The Firs in Olympia (426 Lilly Rd NE)
The second event is scheduled for Wednesday, June 6th from 10:15a to 11:30a at the Olympia Center (222 Columbia St NW)
I'm looking forward to both events and in meeting new people, so if you’re in the area and can attend either they are both open to the public.
So, the month of May for me has been a productive one. I see the last half of the month following suit and I look forward to that!




Sunday, April 29, 2018

I’ve lost a bunch of hats, and my head feels funny!


If you had to come up with one word to describe yourself or your current situation in life, what would it be? I can imagine coming up with one word might actually prove to be very difficult.

If you are like most, you’re wearing any number of hats on any given day given your current situation…parent, spouse, employee, employer, entrepreneur, chauffeur of children, coach of your son or daughter’s team, caretaker of a child, a spouse or a parent…and the list goes on and on.

Those hats change every so often, and especially when you enter each new season in life. From being young parents, to middle-aged married beings with high school or college kids and very busy schedules, to empty nesters to retirees; each season can bring about change that is gradual or very swift, but regardless of either, it brings about a change in the hats we wear.


I’ve come to the conclusion that these past few months, while I’ve been tackling time management alongside puppy rearing and playtime, I’ve also been tackling something I hadn’t realized was even an obstacle. That obstacle was my inability to realize that my expectations in life were drawn from how I managed myself when I was wearing previous hats, in previous seasons, under previous situations.

I failed to realize that I was undergoing a transition.

In my last post I commented on warmer days or my next vacation and, honestly, those days were just right around the corner because I left only a week later for a vacation in a warmer state to celebrate my birthday. And this wasn’t just any birthday; it was a big one. One of those birthdays you say doesn’t really bother you, because your age is just a number, right? Honestly, it really didn’t bother me, until I got to thinking more seriously about it.

What got me thinking more seriously about it was the fact that I’ve entered a new season, but my mindset might not have caught up to the idea that my life has changed quite a bit. My life is not what it was before when I wore all those hats as a busy mom, wife and daughter, who also worked for someone else or for herself while running her own business. I’m not an empty nester yet, but it’s close, and while I enjoy spending time with my husband, and having a puppy feels like having a child again (pure understatement, really J), my schedule is not wrapped around what everyone else in the household is doing or what an employer requires of me.

My schedule is my own.

That one little fact in addition to the entry into a new decade has left me just a little breathless. All those hats I use to wear, which we all know can get a little heavy sometimes since women are so terrible at finding time to take them all off to care for themselves, have dwindled down to just a few. Imagine, rather than the idiom reference, if you wore one real hat every single day for a whole year, how would your head feel when you finally took it off? It may feel very much like what it is to suddenly not be so many things to so many other people.

While I have been more committed to self care the past year or so, I thought it was just because I had finally realized how absolutely necessary it was. However, it may have been my way of preparing for the upcoming transition I was going to go through. I just hadn’t realized it at the time.

Being so many things to so many people for awhile begins to feel normal, maybe because the constant pull in so many directions gives a false sense of feeling grounded. But when change occurs and you’re not pulled in all different directions, you may feel a little off balanced if some of the tugging suddenly stops. That’s how I visually see things when it comes to what some women must feel like when this sort of transition occurs.

Writing is one way that keeps me grounded, which may seem funny since my books are all fiction. I also have a number of ways to focus on self care, such as journaling, yoga, and so forth, but as with anything, I’ll learn as I go to determine what works best for me. A transition also means change or evolution, which also means progression and development. It means learning more about yourself and evolving as you continue to move forward. It also means, no matter what age you are, how many hats you wear or what season you’re in, what you learn about yourself will help you through each transition and hopefully as you move on into the next.

Whatever season you’re in, however many hats you wear, I hope you take time to focus on self care and find what also keeps you grounded so that when all the tugging suddenly stops, you don’t find yourself unbalanced and flat on your back.



Sunday, April 8, 2018

Quarterly check in: April showers, fur babies & serial killer?


As I sit at my desk contemplating what I might want to blog about today, I’m hearing the constant downpour on the rooftop just outside my office window. The forecast for today indicates 100% chance of rain, but I really don’t need a weather app to tell me that.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest means this much rain doesn’t faze me all that much. In fact, I find it kind of soothing. Of course, what I really mean is that I find it soothing when I can remain indoors, warm and dry. If I have to venture out and drive in it, I’m really not all that thrilled. And, to be honest, as much as I don’t mind the rain, I’ll admit I longingly look forward to warmer days when I can spend more time outside or when I can take part in a vacation to a warmer climate.

Until those warmer days or my next vacation, today is a day when I’m staying put so if Mother Nature wants to treat us to an excessive amount of rain, so be it.

Since rain does mean staying put on a Sunday afternoon, I’m taking time today to go through my writing tasks to get a sense of where I am with them, or how far behind I might be, in order to run through a quarterly review. I’m already aware of the fact that I’ve had good days and bad days when it came to staying on task the past few months, for various reasons, so the fact that I’m behind isn’t a surprise.

Koa & Kai - inseparable
Having a puppy and two kittens that constantly demand my attention is obviously one of the biggest reasons I’ve been distracted the past two months. 

From the kittens chewing or scratching up papers, to digging miniatures out of my dollhouse, to sitting on my desk right in front of my computer screen, and from Jozee needing regular potty breaks and chewing on shoes and walls and the kittens themselves, I’m up and out of my chair more times than I can count. If I had a dollar for every time I said the words, “no” or “stop that,” I’d be set for life! But then the kittens eventually settle down, Jozee does her best to behave, and I keep telling myself to just breathe…it’s temporary…it’s just temporary…eventually I’ll get back on a regular schedule. And at least I’m moving more regularly and keeping up a good step count. J




Jozee

January was a productive month, and I was able to complete the tasks necessary so that the fourth book in my series was finally published the first part of February. Just in time, too, since the beginning of February was primarily focused on Jozee. 

The rest of February and much of March were hit and miss when it came to making real headway on my projects, but between my young adult, another book in the series, and a short story, when I do find the time to work I have plenty to work on.

Between watching Jozee and the kittens to working on my books in between naps and play time (seriously!), here are just a few other notes with regard to my recent progress:

I shared in one of my last blog posts that I had started reading “The Artist’s Way” and that I was going to try to make use of the morning pages idea – that didn’t really pan out for me. I was too busy with Jozee first thing in the morning and by the time I was able to sit down to work on anything, I wanted to use my limited free time to work on my books. I’m probably going to try the idea again in another month or so.

I did, however, begin reading again “The Writer’s Workout” by Christina Katz. Right now this type of book is easier for me to stick with and the daily tips will continue to push me as I move forward and continue to adjust my new writing schedule around the daily distractions of fur babies and whatever else pops up.

I also shared in a past post about my attempt to start using a bullet journal – I’m finally getting the hang of it and I really enjoy it. It’s messy, compared to all the pretty examples I see others sharing, but it works for me and I love the freedom I have to make it my own so that it works for me.

I got our taxes done – have to celebrate that one! J

And, odd fact, I was running through and updating information on all the characters in my series – I found it interesting that I’ve killed off 12 characters so far. I’m a virtual serial killer. Not sure what to think about that!

Although I feel behind on some tasks, I’m still making progress as I’m able, and as long as I continue to do that, all will be well. Just like the little saying I have at the beginning of my bullet journal, “A little progress each day adds up to big results.”

Have a great day!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

My desire to inspire has no shelf life


I’ve been sharing blog posts for over six years now…ever since I decided to shed my fears and share with family, friends and the online world that I had a secret desire to write and that I had completed my first novel.

Sharing that news was probably the bravest, and scariest thing I have ever done.

Why? 

Because I was sharing a part of myself that I had kept locked away from everyone for a fairly long time, even my closest family members. Because I wasn’t sure how others would react to my passion to write and become a published author. Because I wanted to share my excitement in what I had accomplished and while I wasn’t in search of validation, I couldn’t deny my apprehension and how I might react should anyone decide to stomp on my dreams.

When my news began to spread, the response from both family and friends was amazing and encouraging. I realize I shouldn’t have expected anything less, but when you open yourself up in a way that makes you vulnerable, it’s going to cause some anxiety. Unless you don’t give a crap what anyone thinks or have the biggest ego of all time, you’re going to hope others will be happy for you and will share your excitement for what you have accomplished.

But what might have happened if I hadn’t received such a positive response to my news?

I would like to think that I would have plugged away, because writing is my passion and because I thoroughly believed in my story and wanted to share it with others.

But there’s also the chance that I might have lost all confidence in my dream and deflated like a balloon, only to go back to writing for myself and never sharing anything again.

I shudder to think of that possibility.

Except it does happen…how many people have a dream they would like to explore, only to be shut down by their closest family members or friends? How many people fear sharing that part of themselves because of that possibility so that they never even try?

I’m sure the number is too high.

When I was working through my reflections for 2017 and my intentions for 2018, there was one area I kept coming back to: it was my desire to inspire. Not only the desire to inspire others, but to constantly inspire myself, as well. Writers have issues, such as being creatively blocked, dealing with procrastination and ignoring their own inner critic. I deal with those issues and work though them the best I can and I’ve learned a lot from other authors who have already been through this process for many years. Based on what I’ve learned, I don’t believe it ever changes, the issues writers face, but knowing what to expect and finding ways to work through the difficult times will keep me inspired and on track.

When I first began this blog, it was my intent to share my writing journey where ever it may lead and my hope was that others would follow because they wanted to see where the journey would take me. But over the course of the past few years, even as I’ve dealt with some of the most difficult times in my life, I discovered that I had another desire. That desire has merged from sharing my thoughts as I continuously inspire myself while I write through the highs and lows of life, to the hope that I inspire others who may be dealing with their own issues while working on making their dreams a reality.

My desire to inspire will be a continued effort for as long as I carry on with writing and sharing my passion. So…

Cultivate your dreams.

Rediscover what boosts your motivation.

Find what energies your inspiration.

Be confident in yourself.

Continue to pursue your passion and be happy.


And have a great week!