Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, The Road to Hope, Writing

Two novels, four months. Here’s how.

Back in November, I battened down the hatches and cleared my schedule to take part in yet another NaNoWriMo. As you may remember, I really grappled with whether I would actually write a novel this year. I’d just started school, and it was taking up a good portion of my time. I eventually made a last minute decision that I’d at least attempt a NaNoWriMo effort, and would give myself grace if I didn’t finish.

Well, I’m one persistent writer. I managed to stick to writing every day, even with a busy school and work schedule, and ended up with a rough draft novel by the end of November. I had chosen to continue the story I began in my novel, The Road to Hope, and it was incredible to revisit these characters I had grown to love when I first wrote the original story.

Thing is, the story wasn’t done when I finished that novel. Towards the end of the month, a whole new situation arose with these characters, and I realized I had another book in me. So when I finished that first book, I began the next. This time, I took my time in writing it. First, school dictated my pace. I entered a new semester with harder classes and more demanding homework. There were some weeks I could only write on the weekends.

img_8144This past weekend, I planted myself in a chair and spent three days completing the story. On Monday,  thanks to President’s Day and a work holiday, I completed the final hours of that manuscript and was finally able to type The End.

In my book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, I encouraged all you artists on ways to work your schedule around your craft, and to place priority on being creative. And then I started school. I seriously thought my creative life was going to have to be placed on hold for the next few years, and this killed me! Not only was I sure I’d be miserable, I was also afraid of being a hypocrite. It was easy for me to tell people to make time for their craft. It’s not so easy to make that happen in real life.

Not so easy, but not impossible.

reclaim tableI stand by everything I wrote in Reclaim Your Creative Soul, especially now. We have 24 hours in each day, and there is always space to include the things we love to do. I’ve sacrificed sleep, lunch hours, mindless television, and playing on my phone in favor of writing or just being creative. Sometimes, the sacrifice is painful. But it’s always worth it because a life without creativity is worse.

Do you have anything standing in the way of your creative endeavors? You are the reason I wrote Reclaim Your Creative Soul. If you wish you could be more creative, but aren’t sure how you could possibly fit creativity into your busy schedule, then I hope you’ll pick up a copy of this book. It could totally change your life.

Posted in Blog, Faith, Inspiration, Life as I know it, Reclaim Your Creative Soul

The story behind “Reclaim Your Creative Soul”

Last week, I was honored to speak to a group of people from my church about Reclaim Your Creative Soul, the book I published earlier this year about making more time for creativity. I began by telling them about my journey toward that book, and then I shared a quick rundown of the necessary steps to varying types of organization—both body, mind, and the space around them—so that their craft can be a priority.

This book is very personal to me. It shares many of the things I’ve come to know in my journey as a writer. I lay out the details of my writing practice, and the different ways I’ve created order in certain areas of my life to free me from distraction and allow me to focus on my craft. But more than that, it shares the spiritual journey I took toward actually writing this book. I’d like to share that with you here.

In August of 2015, I reached my breaking point. My writing was suffering because I felt like I had no creativity left in the tank. My eating habits were out of control, which resulted in weight gain, lack of energy, and a feeling of gross worthlessness. I felt overextended at my job, which was eating away at me even when I wasn’t on the clock. The successful writing career I thought I was going to have was nowhere to be seen. I actually felt like my desire to be a writer was a curse, because everything I wanted was so out of reach, and I was sure I’d be chained to being a 9-5 worker for the rest of my life.

That August, I reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like this huge weight on my chest was consuming me. I knew if I didn’t do anything about it, I was going to go off the deep end. Something needed to change, I just didn’t know HOW. So I did the only thing I could think of doing. I took a day off from everything to focus solely on the three areas of my life that were consuming me the most: my career, my health, and my creativity.

I called this day my “soul retreat.”

During that day, I spent time with God, addressing each area that plagued me and seeking answers on what I could be doing better. I not only came away with these answers, I also received a better understanding of who I was, my worth as God’s creation, and my purpose as a creative person. I gained clarity I was unable to reach before. Most of all, I learned how to breathe again.

(I explain what happened in full detail in my book, and also in an earlier entry of this blog)

At the time, I didn’t know I was going to write this book. But the seeds began to sprout on the day I took my soul retreat. A few months later, I began laying out the bones of Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The Secrets to Organizing Your Life to Make Room for Your Craft. At face value, it was my answer to those around me who wondered how I was able to write books while holding a full-time job, raising a family, and everything else that kept me so busy. But more than that, it was a love letter to myself and those who needed to hear this message: The two biggest obstacles between you and what feeds your soul is fear and a feeling of unworthiness. More than following my guidelines toward structure and organization, my hope is that readers will began to believe they are worthy of contributing their creativity to the world, and that the world NEEDS this creativity.

Don’t get me wrong, the struggle I felt in August is not something that just magically went away . I still reach moments of overwhelm and an inability to focus. Right now, as I’ve rearranged my life to include college courses, I can feel that same weight bearing down on me. But whenever I feel this way, it’s when I know I need to pause and reevaluate where I’m at, where I’m going, and what I need to do to get there. And because of this book, I have a reminder on what needs to happen so that I can keep going.

If you are in a place where your creative life feels out of reach, I encourage you to pick up Reclaim Your Creative Soul and start working the steps toward creative freedom. Writing this book changed my life. I hope reading it changes yours.

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Writing

8 things I wish I’d known as a newbie writer

newbiewriter

As long as I’ve been able to write, I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. But as we all know, the desire to be a writer doesn’t create books alone. I’ve started writing novels, only to give up three chapters in. I’ve hidden my writing so that the world would never see my scribbles. I had aspirations of being a famous novelist, but didn’t know how to get there.

I was in my mid-thirties when I finally published my first novel. Three years later, and I’m gearing up to publish my fifth fiction novel and eight book. I can’t help wondering how many stories I missed writing because I lacked the courage sooner to write them.

Here are eight things I wish I had known as a newbie writer.

1. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start your book.
When people learn I’m an author, they usually tell me that they hope to write a book someday. Buy why wait? What makes someday a more perfect time than today? I put off writing a book for decades. When I finally started writing, it was a scary place to be. Publishing it was even scarier. But after that first book came the second, and then the third, and so on.
If you are waiting until your life gets less busy, stop waiting. There will always be obligations, a full calendar, and that 9-5 job. If something is crossed off your list, another responsibility is bound to take its place. That perfect moment to start writing may never exist. So make the time today to start writing your book.

2. Bad writing only leads to good writing.
The first attempt at anything is terrible. However, if you keep trying, things start to get better. This is true of anything in your life, including writing. I think back to the very first novel I ever wrote. It was awful! I put a lot of time and energy into that book, only to stuff it under my bed, never to see the light of day again. Without that first attempt at novel writing, I may never have gone on to write novels I was proud to share.
The same things goes for my rough drafts. I’ve stripped out chapters of books I’ve written that took days to create. While it hurt to let them go, I don’t regret having written them. They served as the bridge to the parts of the story I wanted to tell.

3. You are just as capable of greatness as the writers you admire most.
Many great writers had humble beginnings. JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter in a coffee shop, barely making it as a single mother. Stephen King initially threw away the manuscript that eventually put his name on the map. Diana Gabaldon started out as a freelance writer, taking any job that would pay her. Nicholas Sparks racked up years of debt and rejection letters before selling the manuscript to The Notebook.
If your writing isn’t where you want it to be, or your book is largely ignored, you may just be in your humble beginning. Remember this time. When you make it big, you can use your backstory to encourage other writers who are aspiring for greatness.

4. Write EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Once you start writing your novel, don’t skip even one day of writing. Even if you only write 50 words some of those days, you have to stick with that story. Otherwise, numerous obstacles are going to attempt war on your writing efforts. You’ll lose interest in the story. You’ll doubt your abilities as a writer. You’ll lose track of the storyline. You’ll fill up your writing time with other things.
To be a writer, you have to keep your writing muscle conditioned. Skipping one day may lead to a second skipped day. Before you know it, you’ll have missed a week of writing, and that novel will end up an unrealized dream.

5. Step out of the writing cave now and then.
Yes, you need to write every day. However, a great story doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Get out of your house occasionally. Visit with friends, enjoy the fresh air, and practice your communication skills. After all, you never know when an experience might make it into one of your stories.

6. Learning is a lifelong process.
There will always be things you don’t know about writing. There are writers who are more talented than you are. There are ways your novel can improve. Rather than throwing in the towel, aim to be better. Take workshops or classes. Seek advice from other writers. Read, read, and read! Never stop learning.

7. Write what you love, and stop writing what you don’t love.
There are going to be days when the story you’re writing just isn’t there. As a novelist, your job is to keep plugging away until you hit your stride again. However, sometimes the story just isn’t there. If the book you’re writing has lost its appeal for good, it’s okay to put it down and start something new. Why waste your time on something you don’t enjoy? It could be keeping you from the story you were meant to write.

8. Being an author is not a way to get rich quick.
Three years ago when I published my first book, I had visions of the mansion I would buy with my millions, the movie contracts I would sign, how my kids’ college would be paid for, the speech I would give my boss when I quit my job…. Three years later, I am still working the same hours at the same job. I am a hundredaire on the income from my books, though I still haven’t made more than I’ve spent producing them. No movie director has contacted me. And I still get excited over each sale and review.
There are times when I am frustrated that I haven’t hit the jackpot with my books. When I focus on my numbers, it makes me want to throw in the towel. That’s why numbers are the wrong thing to focus on.
As an author, you MUST remember why you are doing this. You love writing. You have stories to tell. This is your creative outlet. You are passionate about creating books.
Don’t forget the reason why you started writing in the first place, especially when success proves to be elusive. And if you started writing as a way to make millions, start looking for a different profession.

How about you? What advice do you wish you had known as a newbie writer?

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Writing

The risks we writers have to take to succeed

This week I have an interview for a job as the editor of a magazine website. I know the job inside and out, I love this magazine, and I’m passionate about being a part of a team to strengthen this particular website. And yet, I have probably talked myself out of this job at least two dozen times. The disqualifiers I have told myself include:

I’m not educated enough.

The other candidates are likely way more qualified than I am.

I may not be able handle the pressure of this job.

I better not get my hopes up, because I probably won’t get it.

What am I doing? I’m projecting my defeat before I even plead my case about why I am perfect for this position. Why would someone hire a person who can’t even believe in themselves?

Oak Tree in Winter

I mention this here because I know I’m not alone in having a defeatist attitude in the face of opportunity. As writers, we risk rejection every single day. We risk someone disliking what we’ve written. We risk someone leaving a bad review on our book. We risk our marketing efforts being ignored. We risk looking dumb or being laughed at or being looked down upon.

What makes this so scary is the fact that a piece of our soul is in what we have written. So when someone rejects our writing, it feels like they are rejecting us. And so, the natural tendency is to keep quiet about our writing, to avoid public speaking about our book, to do anything where we can remain behind the curtain and just pray that someone will come across our writing and spread the word for us.

But the truth is, that’s not going to happen. The only way our writing will be noticed is if we are the ones who put it out there for the world to see. We have to risk failure. We have to risk rejection. We have to risk looking stupid. Most of all, we have to believe in ourselves. If we don’t, we will miss the opportunity to shine, to be discovered, to fulfill our dreams as writers.

Michael Dell, founder and CEO of computer company, Dell Inc., once said, “You don’t have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream.”

If you love something, if you focus your energy on learning the ins and outs of this thing—be it writing or a new job opportunity—and if you believe in it and yourself, you (and I) are qualified. You may even fail at times. But rest assured, it’s only a stepping stone on the road toward success. ♥

 

Posted in Blog, Come Here Cupcake book, Inspiration, Life as I know it, News & Events, Writing

What is Crissi up to?

lovecupcakesIt’s been a busy couple of weeks, that’s for sure! My new book, Come Here, Cupcake, was officially released on October 5! I celebrated the occasion with cupcakes and perks galore for all of you readers. I have loved all of the feedback I’ve been receiving on this book!

My next big news is that I’ve finished writing a book on how to increase the creative part of your life. The title is, Reclaiming Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.

The book is expected to release in early 2016. Here are a few things this book will address:

  • Finding inspiration around you
  • Making the best use of your time
  • Maintaining a creative lifestyle even with a full-time job
  • How to take a soul retreat
  • Several life hacks: organization skills, meal planning, financial budgeting, etc.
  • Growing your creativity
  • And more!

I even include resources like a 30-day meal plan (complete with shopping lists!), and a budget sheet to organize your finances!

Does this sound like something you might be interested in? To continue the discussion that starts in Reclaiming Your Creative Soul, I’ve organized a Facebook Group for other artists and creatives to come together and learn from each other. Join the discussion at bit.ly/CreativeFacebookGroup.

Finally, I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo! And for the first time in all the years I’ve participated, I have no idea what I’m writing! Originally I was going to work on the sequel for Come Here, Cupcake. However, it feels like too much pressure to work on that book. So I’m tabling the sequel writing until January, and planning to work on something totally new.

I just need to figure out what that is…

How about you? Anything new? And who’s starting NaNo on Nov. 1?

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Life as I know it, Writing

Idols, authors and humble beginnings

Last night, my husband and I went to see the American Idol Live Tour. I admit, it was a total impulse buy when season 14 of American Idol ended earlier this year. But we had become so enamored with a few of these contestants, namely Jax and Clark Beckham, that we just had to see them live. So we bought the tickets and waited for this night to come.

My hubby and I, waiting for the show to start.
My hubby and I, waiting for the show to start.

Sitting in the audience, it was pretty surreal to see these kids (omg, I’m such an old-timer) performing on stage in front of us. I say that because we had seen them from the start of their Idol journey. I remember every one of them from their auditions, when they came in front of the judges with hopes of showing they can do well in the spotlight. I saw greatness in Jax from the very beginning, totally blown away with her undercover talent. And Clark? Man that guy can wail! He has this southern soul thing going on that you just wouldn’t expect from a pretty white guy. I will seriously buy any album he comes out with.

The Idols were definitely more polished than we had seen them on TV. And they were already pretty polished at the end of the Idol season. But you could tell they’d received training on how to connect with the audience, and how to make the most of their time in the spotlight. Each one of them held the audience captive with, not only their voice, but with their personal stories of life before Idol – how they were consumed with a dream they just had to make true. They each shared their humble beginnings, and how, despite the challenges they faced as struggling artists, they refused to give up until their goal was met.

And this is the part I love – the story before the spotlight. Every single person who has reached success has this story. It’s the life they lived before anyone even knew who they were, outside of close family and friends. It’s who they were when they were just like everyone else, living with a dream they hoped would come true.

Whenever I come across an artist I admire, I almost always search out their beginning story. Anne Lamott shares a ton of backstory in her book, Bird by Bird, and I have read that book repeatedly, mostly to connect with the Annie that lived before the NYT Bestseller’s List found her. Liz Gilbert shares how discipline and hard work are vital to getting where you want to be, though aren’t a guarantee to reach success. However, she shares that if we love what we do, we should never throw in the towel. Colleen Hoover shared how she couldn’t even afford trash service at her 1000 SF mobile home several years ago. Now? She is every indie author’s inspiration as she cranks out bestseller after bestseller (and I cannot consume her amazing books fast enough). Sharon Hamilton, who I first knew as a real estate agent in my town and the mom of two of my classmates, is now a successful, bestselling romance author. She’s quite the inspiration for those of us who belong to her writing group. But you know what offers me the most inspiration when it comes to Sharon? The blog posts she wrote before her books became big, when she repeatedly shared her all-consuming dream of finding success with writing, and the few posts she wrote where she admitted her frustrations that it wasn’t coming as fast as she would have liked.

I love these beginning stories, because it’s where I hope I’m at now. The other day, I admitted my frustration at how I seem to be on this hamster wheel of authorship, working my ass off to go nowhere fast. But what if, years from now, that post is just a glimpse at my humble beginnings? What if all the work I’m doing now leads to something huge in just a few years? What if my story of frustration and feelings of defeat end up being an inspiration to the next small time author hoping to make it big?

We’ve all got to start somewhere. And if we truly love and believe in what we’re doing, we won’t give up.

Those Idol kids on the stage, they’ve come a long way from where they once were before American knew their names. And, they have a long way to go if they want to remain in the spotlight. They could be the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. Or, they could slip into the abyss that some Idol stars disappear into. Their success depends on them. But how cool that we got to see their journey from the time they were first discovered.

Here’s a video of Jax killing it on the keyboards. Btw, all photos and video in this blog were taken by my wonderful husband. So if video or photos weren’t allowed at this show, you can talk to him. 😉