What it looks like to slow down

snailOne of my main goals with taking a temporary break from publishing is to slow down. But what does that mean? Right now, admittedly, my life already seems kind of slowed down, at least by my standards. I’m on the final two weeks of my Family Leave, and haven’t stepped foot in our bustling newsroom at the newspaper since the beginning of January. I get to stay home most of the day with my mother-in-law, and don’t really have a lot of deadlines outside of my school work or her physical therapy appointments, or just the normal stuff I do like cleaning and cooking. At surface level, my life has completely slowed down. And yet, I still feel that pressure of stress weighing on my shoulders, and it seems like there still aren’t enough hours in the day.

What does it mean to slow down? And if I’m not spending the majority of my day at work, why does it still feel like I have no time?

1. I’m trying to do all the things at the same time.

This could look like physically doing more than one thing at a time, but often it’s that I’m thinking of the next thing I need to do, or things I’d rather be doing, or all the things I still need to do, or what I should be doing while I’m doing something else. It’s me being in all places at once, which not only keeps me from being focused, but is also exhausting.

2. I’m letting distractions win.

As soon as I sit down to, say, do my homework, I’ll grab for my phone to check email, my Facebook, my Instagram, my Twitter…. If I can’t find the right thought, or I’m bored with the reading, or I don’t want to be doing this, or I’d rather take a nap, my phone is back in my hand and I’m obsessively clicking. I’m masking the discomfort with distractions, and a project that should take me 2 hours ends up taking me all day.

3. I’m tired.

I’m up every morning at 5 a.m., getting my mother-in-law bathed and dressed, making coffee and breakfast, cleaning her room, doing her laundry, spending countless hours in her presence, answering her questions, making all-day small talk…. I’m not running marathons, but I’m basically doing odd jobs and socializing all day long. As an introvert, this is painful, and yet I’m not doing anything to create space in my day for devoted rest time.

4. I’m filling my day with “busyness.”

There’s not a ton on my to-do list, but there’s enough. And when there isn’t, I’m finding other ways to stay busy, whether it be getting ahead on my studies or scrolling through social media.

So, about slowing down….

Taking an inventory of my day, I realized I’m ruled by a lot of time and energy wasters. So, here are some new ways to do things:

1. Do one thing at a time.

Mainly, this means being focused when I’m in the middle of something. Set a timer and power through until time’s up. Fight through the uncomfortable feelings of not wanting to do what I’m doing. Breathe. Stop thinking of all the things, but keep steering my attention to the one thing I’m doing at the time.

2. Block all distractions.

Keep my phone off! The timer will come in handy for this, too, by telling myself I can’t touch my phone, the internet, etc. until the time is up. Every time I reach for my phone, I’m adding more time to the thing I’m doing.

3. Rest, for real.

First off, I really need to go to bed earlier than I have been if I’m getting up at 5 every day. Also, an afternoon nap isn’t such a bad thing…and not the nap where I lay in bed scrolling social media, but the kind where I actually sleep for 30 minutes. But the biggest way for me to rest is to purposely seek out silence. I’m with my mother-in-law all day long, she loves to talk, plus she’s watching TV nonstop. I need to break up the noise with quiet time so I can hear myself think, hear God think, and just rest my brain for a little while.

4. Feed my soul.

I’m actually okay with using some winding down time for watching TV, perusing the internet, playing on my phone, etc. But if all my downtime is used for these things, I’m not really getting in any quality ME time. What refreshes my soul? I love reading, doing yoga, going to the gym, taking hikes, sitting in the sunshine, doing henna, writing for fun… But lately, I haven’t been doing any of these things. I’ve been so busy caring for my mother-in-law, and when I’m not, I’m filling my time with timewasters, believing I’m having downtime. But my soul isn’t being fed.

5. Schedule my day.

If I want to be productive and refreshed, I have to map out how I use my time. Without a schedule, I’m letting the day own me. But by giving myself time slots to get things done, I can actually do more in one day, plus I’ll have an inventory of how I’ve spent the day. I’ve just recently started doing this, and it’s working like a charm. Sometimes I don’t get everything done, and that’s okay. But it keeps me focused on how much time I have in one day, and how much time to spend on one thing. At the most, this has helped me to stop spending all day long on one piece of homework because I now have a deadline when I need to move to the next thing.

Beyond all this, I’m refraining from taking on extra, unnecessary projects (I had a moment of insanity when I mused about starting a podcast at the same time I was trying to lighten my load), I’m trying not to look too far ahead at the future, I’m reminding myself that what I’m doing now (being a learner and observer) is actually productive, and I’m practicing gentleness with myself.

How are some ways you make sure your life doesn’t feel too hectic? What are some things you do to refresh your soul?


If you aren’t sure how you could possibly fit creativity into your busy schedule, then check out my book Reclaim Your Creative Soul.

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Truth telling: 5 years into this author journey, I need a change

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Five years ago this March, I published my very first book, A Symphony of Cicadas. I wrote that book on the heels of my wedding and honeymoon, sent it off to an editor, learned all about self-publishing, and then released it on a hope and a prayer, and lots and lots of expectations. Oh, I fooled myself into thinking I didn’t expect anything from this novel. I’d read plenty of blogs from frustrated authors to know that success wouldn’t be instant. I told myself that this book was just getting me a place on the map, and it would probably take 3 or 4 more books to reach the kind of success I wanted so I could quit my job and write novels for a living.

Now I have 10 books, and I have still not cracked the code for reaching the kind of success I once believed in. My expectations are different now, more pessimistic. I write the books out of love, adoring every part of writing and creating. But as soon as I near release day, my love becomes conditional. I place a heavy weight of expected failure on the books, and wonder how much less each book will sell than the last.

I haven’t been wrong.

I know that sounds terrible. I’m ruining the romantic notion of being a writer. Thing is, I’m a writer with a full time job and busy life, and my energy is wearing thin. The past few months have been especially trying. The beginning of this year involved my moving in with my mother-in-law for a few weeks, away from my husband and family, until we could move her into our home so I could care for her full time while on Family Leave. This is where I’ve been devoting most of my energy, and you guys, I’m tired. Some days are good, but some days I question everything I’m doing. I ended up leaving a volunteer position with my church I’ve been a part of for the past three years, just to free up some space in my life. I’m now thinking of a few more things I can clear off my plate. And my constant question to myself is “What’s the point?”

The arrival of my MIL is only one small part of this equation, though. Truth is, I’ve been struggling for years. When I wrote Reclaim Your Creative Soul, it was because I’d gone through a crisis of the soul over three specific things: my health (diet), my job, and my writing career. I had a mental breakdown, in a way, and didn’t see how I could keep going at the rate I was going. I wrote that book, sharing all the things I’d learned that allowed me to write books at a fast pace, even with a busy life. And I stand by what I wrote in that book, completely. But when, after that book, my life didn’t magically feel more peaceful, and when the things I was grappling with didn’t magically resolve themselves, I went into a major funk that has basically continued until present day. I have so many disappointment over the status of my book career, and have spent so much money on this dream, it’s ridiculous.

But my idea of success is ridiculous, too. I compare myself to big name indie authors, wondering what’s wrong with me that I don’t have what they have. But then I see the things they’re doing, and I can’t even wrap my mind around doing the same things. Regular book festival appearances in exciting places like London. Facebook Live chat sessions with fans. Daily giveaways. Being perky all the time. Never airing grievances. Basking in awesomeness. And I’m over here feeding my misery with calories and wishing I could have something for “nothing,” because being successful as an author takes so much more than just writing a book.

And so, I’m taking a break from publishing. I don’t know how long this break will be. It could be a few months, it could be a year, it could be several years, it could be forever. I don’t know. I’m focusing my energy on learning to write, taking a creative writing class, and seeking out other opportunities where I can improve my skills. I’m also figuring out if writing is even my thing. Maybe I’m just fooling myself, believing this is the path I’m supposed to be on. All I know is that when I look through my journals over the past few years, all of my lamentations are the same, and nothing has changed…I just have more books under my belt.

In the meantime, I’m not going away. I have 10 books, dammit, and I’m still pretty proud of them, even if they still haven’t given me financial freedom. I’m most likely returning to publishing once I’m more confident with my writing and much less burnt out. Besides, any books I sell will go toward any future sibling books.

Thank you for standing by me. There are a few of you who have been so faithful in buying and reading my books, cheering me on, and just being an incredible support team. I hope you know who you are, because your encouragement has sometimes been the one thing I needed to keep going on this crazy, soul-sucking, wonderful writing path. If I go rogue for a while out of necessity, I know I can come back and count on your love and loyalty.

I love you all.

Book number ten is in the bag

DEMO underwater girlWell, hello there! It’s been five days since Hope for the Broken Girl published, so I naturally did a bit of a disappearing act. Being my 10th book, I’m finally accepting that about myself. I put all my soul and energy into a book, and then want to hide under a rock once it’s out (see this post for reference), simultaneously hoping everyone reads it and no one reads it.

This book was a bit different, though. I’m not shy about this book, at least for the most part. I’m reluctant to suggest this book to anyone who is a sensitive reader or gets offended by hard language or tough situations. This book is gritty, and I didn’t mince words in the story. I couldn’t, to do so would hurt the story. However, I think most readers would appreciate that about this book. I hope it reaches plenty of people, as the story is so important. It addresses domestic violence in an in-your-face kind of way, and how something like that can even happen. Why does a girl stay when her boyfriend hits her? I hope this story helps people reach the answer.

Note: Hope for the Broken Girl is the 3rd book in the Hope series, and is available here. If you haven’t started the Hope series yet, here’s the link to all three books. The first book, The Road to Hope, is free for Kindle for the rest of today, so no excuses!

coffee
Behind that coffee cup is the forest view at my mother-in-law’s magical home, where I lived for two weeks before moving her into our home.

Still, the disappearing act did happen, sort of, but for different reasons. Things have been different on the home front. As most of you know, my day job is in the newsroom at my local newspaper. However, I haven’t stepped foot in the newsroom for several weeks, and won’t for several more. I’m taking some time off to care for my mother-in-law as she regains use of her hands and feet after spinal surgery. The experience has been both rewarding and frustrating. The wonderful part is that I’ve come to know her in a whole new way, forming a friendship with her. This is a miracle in itself as I have never felt close to her, and we didn’t really know each other all that well. The frustrating part, however, is just spending time with one person day in and day out with little reprieve. I admit I’m getting a bit stir crazy, and long for the time when our family has our house back (she’s temporarily living with us) and all of our routines are back to normal (though the time away from my more-than-stressful job is incredible). I know my MIL is also wishing for her regular routine, and can’t wait to have her independence.

In the meantime, we’re hanging out daily. She sits in one corner of the living room binge watching shows in between therapy sessions, and I sit on the other with my homework all around me. I got her into “This is Us” (oh my God, that Super Bowl episode!!!), so it’s been fun re-watching the 1st season with her. And she’s becoming more independent so that I can step out of the house for an hour or so without worrying she’ll fall.

That’s what’s going on with me! What’s going on with you?

This beautiful life

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Today’s early morning journaling.

Happy last day of 2017!

Something that’s really stayed with me the past few days is my tendency to compare my life with others’, or to be consumed by jealousy over things I wish I could do.

Here are a few examples:

– I recently saw gorgeous photos on Instagram this one woman did of these hanging succulent plants. She holds workshops, and I looked to see how much they were, and was put off by the $75 price tag. Sure, it’s the experience, but what I really wanted were those plants. My life would be more complete with those plants.

P.S. I found a much more affordable way to have those plants with this DIY tutorial.

– A friend of mine posted photos of him at this outdoor winery with these scenic views of the vineyards. It was just a simple post of his dog playing with the kids at the winery, but I was riddled with jealousy that he was experiencing that while I sat in my pajamas in my office, my laptop in my lap.

– I keep seeing photos of people going to amazing places, be it Disneyland, some tropical island, or some foreign country. When I’m slaving away at work and these photos cross my newsfeed, I am filled with both yearning and jealousy, and I hate the place I’m in.

– If someone is skinner than me, I am jealous. End of story.

– I have been perusing Zillow the past few days, looking at gorgeous homes right on the coastline, my dream spot for a house. I don’t even care where it is, if it’s looking at an ocean, I want it. Some of the homes I’ve seen have been magnificently beautiful, in all sorts of price ranges. None of them are realistic for my life right now. It makes my present house seem old and boring.

These past six months, especially, I have been overwhelmed with dissatisfaction. I’ve been so incredibly busy, I’ve had little time for anything. So when I see posts of beautiful things, adventures, and so on, my personal gremlin grows inside me, wanting everything that everyone else has, and hating everything that I have.

But these past few days, I’ve realized there’s nothing actually stopping me from experiencing beautiful things in my life. Even more, I already am.

Yesterday, I cooked all day with my daughter as we prepared our food for the week. It was three hours of total bonding time with my oldest child, which is even more special since she’s been living on her own for the past half year.

Tomorrow, I’m spending time in Armstrong Woods with Shawn, starting out 2018 with some wonderful forest bathing surrounded by majestic redwoods.

Last night, Shawn and I sat in the hot tub under a million stars, sharing uninterrupted conversation about anything and everything.

I get to go to college and learn new things.

I’ve written 10+ books, dammit! 🙂

This past 365 days, I’ve been to Hawaii TWICE, I get to visit San Francisco on a whim, I stayed for a 3-day birthday weekend in Mendocino, and I live in beautiful Sonoma County with so many things to do.

This morning, I woke up at 3:30 a.m., and I’ve spend the last several hours sipping coffee, spending time with God, listening to music, and journaling.

All of this is so special. It’s my Instagrammable life. I don’t need to be jealous of someone’s highlights reel because I have my own,

This next year has so much potential for greatness, and it all depends on my attitude. My focus is on confidence—on WHO I am, and WHOSE I am. It’s about letting go of all those labels I never wanted, but carry anyway. It’s about shedding my preconceived notions of what people think about me, especially since no one has that kind of energy to focus on ME when they have their own stuff to worry about. It’s about losing my masks and being authentic, refusing to be fake to fit someone else’s ideal or to avoid a disagreement. We don’t have to agree, but I’m not going to pretend to be someone I’m not to make other people comfortable.

This is the year of owning the specialness of this life, in finding joy in every day, loving myself, and experiencing satisfaction. I don’t need more. I don’t need a bigger house, a million dollars, a lucrative book career, or a French bulldog puppy (though I won’t turn any of this away…especially the puppy).  I have everything I need. I get to sit in my very own office sanctuary sipping coffee and cream, listening to my favorite Spotify playlist, warmed by my blanket and heater, and read or write to my heart’s content. I am rich beyond belief. This moment is so special. I am filled with gratitude.

This is a beautiful life.

Happy New Year!

P.S. Here are my last several word themes of the year:

2018: Confidence
2017: Faith
2016: Perseverence
2015: Intention

P.P.S. I listened to a podcast episode recently on Super Soul Sunday with Shawn Achor on How to Find Happiness (see below). Everything he said was life-changing, but he ended the episode with this one tip that I’ve started to incorporate into the start of my day. For the next 21 days, start your day by writing down 3 things you’re grateful for (and you can’t use the same thing twice) and 1 meaningful moment from the day before. Then, write a thank you note or email to someone you appreciate in your life. By the end of those 21 days, you will realize how blessed you really are, and all the wonderful people in your community of friends and family.

Today is a new day.

dancerainHi. I’m back. Negative Nelly took over my blog yesterday, apparently, and had a field day. She does that sometimes. I think it has something to do with letting off some steam, so I allow her the space to do that, mostly in my personal journal, but sometimes here, as well.

She wants me to tell you that she’s okay, and feeling much better after releasing all that pent up tension in my blog yesterday. She still feels a little scared about her future plans and how they’ll pan out, and she still worries about whether she’s wasting her time. But she also knows that the best way out of sorrow is to first, tell the truth (which she did here), and second, to surround herself with good friends, which she did last night. She learned that she wasn’t alone in these feelings of stress and dread, that others were feeling this, too. She was reminded about how hard this past year has been, especially the past several months with the wildfires, tons of terrible current events, the season of political tension across the board we’re in, the stressful school semester she experienced, and writing a book at a time when she had so little of herself left. She realized she was drained, so no wonder she wasn’t feeling very positive.

Nelly has decided to have grace with herself, to be gentle and stop making rules to live by. She’s decided it’s best to live one day at a time, particularly while she’s on winter break. She plans to attempt to sleep in more, and maybe offset some of these negative feelings through eating nourishing foods and exercising more. But she also won’t beat herself up if she has something sweet or lays on the couch for the day.

In the meantime, I plan to let Nelly rest so I can finish editing Hope for the Broken Girl. My editor’s notes have been sitting on a shelf, waiting for me to have time to make the corrections and get this final book of the Hope series ready for publication on Feb. 5.

That is all. Thanks for all the love you’ve sent Negative Nelly!

Truth telling: That pit of dread in my chest

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It depends on the day whether I’m fine or not. There are days when I’m so damn grateful for everything I have, everything I get to do, every single way I’ve been blessed in this overabundant life of mine. But then there are other days like today, when I feel like I’ll explode if someone asks me to do one more thing.

My school semester is over, and it was the hardest one I’ve experienced so far. The first semester of college, I couldn’t understand what the fuss was. It was easy, a piece of cake. The second semester was a little bit harder. For those of you following along, my English class kicked my butt in all the best ways, challenging me to dig deeper with my words. I ended that class with an A, but I fought for that A.

This semester, I was pushed way out of my comfort zone. I took no English classes, deciding to take a break because my last English class was so hard. Wow, did I regret that. I was stuck in classes I had no interest in, and the lessons were like being placed in an advanced French class with a 1st year Spanish understanding.

I shed many tears this semester.

After weeks of stress, tearing my hair out, questioning my existence, and dreaming of running away, I took my last final on Monday. I totally bombed it, but I was past the point of caring. My brain shut down and I had nothing left to give. Even the simple questions drew blanks from me. When I handed in the test, I knew more than half of it was wrong, and I hoped my teacher would count my effort as part of my credit, and that the rest of the semester’s work would outweigh the bombed test.

Here I am, two days later, and I’m still recovering. I drove home from work today with a huge knot in my chest as I regretted everything I felt stuck in—my job, my finances, several more years of school, and every other thing that forces me to work a 9-5 I dread while my dream job travels further and further away.

I have regular sessions with God about this whole dream of mine, and we’ve mapped out a plan together on how to make it happen. The simple answer right now is that I need to take a short break from writing books (my next book publishes Feb. 5. After that, who knows?) and focus on getting better at my craft through school and personal writing. With time, I will have learned things I can apply to my books, and it may help move my dream career along. But it’s going to take time.

Time. Patience. Keep getting up and doing the same thing day in and day out so that one day you can do the things you want to do. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I wish it didn’t have to take so long. I feel like I’ve wasted so much time, and regret the things I should have been doing instead of taking shortcuts. I regret the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on publishing my books, and the hundreds I’ve made back. Each book sells less and less, costs me more and more, and I don’t have it in me to do the hustle. Because of that, I wonder if I even have it in me to be an author. If I can’t sell my books, what business do I have making this a business?

Thing is, I’ve lost my faith in my books…. There I go, admitting things I should never admit to potential readers. But there it is. I can’t suggest you read my books when I worry about how many things you will find wrong with them. This tiny admission is probably better in my personal journal than out in the open, but I find honesty is a more courageous thing to share.

At any rate, I feel guilty whenever I get stuck in this place. I prayed for this life, and I got it. I’m the one who decided to go back to school. I said yes to every single thing that now wants a piece of me. I wrote a damn book on organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft, and ever since, I’ve been so weighed down I can’t even breathe. Seems that every time I project an absolute, God laughs and proves me wrong.

I’ll be okay, I’m just having a moment. I’m sorry to be such a bummer! Tomorrow I’ll probably be back to counting my blessings, and the next day I’ll be back to lamenting my failures. It’s just the cycle I’m in.

My last week in my 30s

When I was a little girl, my parents always chose to wait until the 2nd week of December to put the tree up. My birthday is Dec. 7, and they wanted to make sure I didn’t feel like my birthday was absorbed by the holiday. I love Christmas, though! Waking up to a Christmas tree on my birthday is the best way to wake up. When I found out this was their reasoning, I put a stop to that quick. Now I have a tree before my birthday every year.

This year, I needed it. I wasn’t feeling too Christmasy, and when the hubby suggested we put the tree up, I was less than enthusiastic. I forced myself to do it, though. He put the tree up, I put on the Christmas music, then we both placed our favorite ornaments on the tree. It was exactly what I needed to get me out of my funk and remind me of what matters. Some of the ornaments are from his past life with his son and first wife. Some of mine are from my days as a single mom before I knew him. Some are ones we’ve bought together in the decade we’ve known and loved each other. All are memories that led us to this day, this hour, this moment when setting up a tree together is just a regular thing to do, but years ago it was unimaginable. This life, it’s perfect. Sure, there are times when I’m not myself, my expectations aren’t met, and things feel heavier than they should. However, I prayed for this life, and I got it. I got the man who loves me with his whole heart, the home that is always warm and bright, the writing nook to capture creativity, even the day job, the one that sometimes feels overwhelming as I chase my author dream – I prayed for it, and I’m blessed.

This is my last week of my 30s, a decade that has held the most growth and answered prayers of my life. My 20s were terrible, filled with abuse, divorce, child loss, poverty, uncertainty, and an identity crisis as I tried to figure out who I was and what I wanted. My 30s were made up of new love, new possibilities, new hopes, and the realization that my dreams were closer than I ever imagined. If my 30s were this great, I can only imagine what my 40s will bring. I’m excited. Bring it. 🎄

Fire in Northern California

A firefighter monitors a flare of the Nuns fire in the Sonoma Valley, Oct. 11. (photo by Kent Porter / Press Democrat

I woke up Monday morning to the smell of smoke. It was faint, but strong enough that I kept searching for the source. I made my coffee, checking the burners on the stove to see if someone had left something on overnight. My dog stayed by my side, his nerves matching mine as the source of the smoky smell remained a mystery. As the coffee brewed, I checked notifications on my phone. That’s when I came across the text from my college saying classes were cancelled due to fires in area. Well, that explained the smoky smell. I grabbed my coffee and headed to my office. Before starting homework, I opened Facebook. That’s when I was met with post after post about the fire. My work, the Press Democrat newspaper in Santa Rosa, had a Facebook Live video going, taken from the Kaiser hospital in north Santa Rosa. The scene was apocalyptic. A whole mobile home park torched. The hospital had been evacuated. Fire everywhere. I thought it was just that part, but soon learned that the town was surrounded. People had been evacuated. I immediately thought of my parents, and found out that they had also been evacuated.

Santa Rosa was on fire.

The sheer magnitude of what was happening began to unfold over the next several hours. There were fires in Napa, Calistoga, Kenwood, Santa Rosa, Windsor, Mendocino… It felt impossible as the fire grew, popping up in new spots. I spent the morning keeping our newspaper’s social media up to date, wondering if I was even going to be able to make it into work. I didn’t know if the freeway was open, if it was jam packed with cars, if I would be driving into the fire, if my own house would burn down while I was away. I felt pulled to stay and protect my family, and to go to work to help keep the public updated on what was going on. Luckily, my husband stayed home, ready to leave with the kids and dog should anything happen. I was assured that the freeway was clear. So I set into work.

The sky in Santa Rosa was a deep black toward the fire. Where my work was, we were safe, but the smell of smoke was thick. Inside the building it was just as bad. I soon became noseblind to it (though my head and sinuses have yet to recover), and set to work. All hands were on deck as everyone pulled together to gather information. Let me tell you, information was confusing. No one knew were the fires all were, where they were headed, who was in danger…nothing. We did what we could, but it felt like the world was caving in around us as information kept pouring in. A whole subdivision was lost. Then another. Hundreds of home, demolished. Thousands of people evacuated. So many unsure where their loved ones were, afraid they were part of the growing number of lives lost.

PDfrontpageThat first day was organized chaos. Our team of journalists shone in the worst situation possible. Several had been up all night, awake since the fire broke and in the office to do their job. Some were evacuated and still at the office, unsure if they’d have a home to go back to when all was said and done. Stories poured in. Video and photos poured in. People came to our page for information, wondering if we knew anything about their specific house. I tried to answer every question sent our way. Some left me feeling helpless, others I was able to give answers. The answers weren’t always good.

We’re about to enter our 4th day of fires. Yesterday there seemed a small victory as firefighters attacked a section of the fire near my childhood home. They lit a backfire, sending an alarmingly large plume of smoke over southeast Santa Rosa. Before knowing what was happening, it seemed like things were over. But the firefighters appeared successful; this morning, everything in that fire’s path is still standing.

Still, it feels bleak as the fire fight continues. The whole town of Calistoga has now been evacuated. Half of Sonoma is evacuated. Santa Rosa is still burning, and containment is unclear. It’s been 0% for days. My parents haven’t seen their house since they left early Monday morning, but we’re assured it still stands thanks to vigilant firefighters fighting defense on the hills around the neighborhood. We have no idea what we’ll see when….if…they come back home.

In all this, our community has formed a solid bond. We’re all in this together. People are reaching out to strangers. Donations of food, supplies, money are pouring into evacuation centers. Our newsroom has been well taken care of as people send food in every day for our hardworking crew. Friends are opening their homes to those who have no home to stay in. My aunt lost her home as her neighborhood was wiped out. My friends with a one-year-old left home with only the clothes on their back, returning to mere ashes. At least 10 of my high school classmates have lost homes, and several very generous people from our class have worked tirelessly to gather money and supplies for them. One of these classmates who lost their home is a fire captain, and he’s continuing to save other people’s homes even though his home is gone.

Me, I live in Petaluma. We’re still okay, but told to be prepared in case the fire comes this way. With the high winds expected today, it’s possible. I don’t even want to think about it. I’ve been devoted to the news while at work, and unable to detach while I’m at home. I’m praying it will end soon, trying to combat feelings of helplessness, that it’s all hopeless. I know it’s not, but when will this end? I’m trying not to be angry as the world keeps going on while our community goes up in flames. I’m trying not absorb the chaos, the desperate need, the sheer danger. What happens next for the people who have no homes? Where will people go when the evacuation centers can no longer hold them? It feels like the end of the world. It seems weird to open up the New York Times and see stories that have nothing to do with the fires here in California. Everything seems trivial while we continue to burn. Why hasn’t the president stepped in? Why aren’t there more planes fighting this in the sky? Why is the fire still burning?

I pray that this nightmare ends soon.

The temptation to give up

Today, an author I’m friends with wrote a post about giving up. “It turns out the world does not need my novels,” she wrote. “I have spent thousands and thousands of hours writing and reading about writing, and for what?”

I hate that she wrote this. And I get why she wrote this. And I totally understand why she is ready to call it quits on writing.

I have these arguments with myself almost every day.

In fact, I was just talking myself down today as I drove home from work . It had been an especially hectic day at my day job, and I’d left my desk knowing that if I lingered for even a minute more, thirty more minutes of work would land in my lap. So I raced out of there. And the whole drive home, I questioned what I was doing. Why was I working so damn hard at a job that sometimes feels suffocating, and it’s not what I want to be doing? Why hasn’t my dream of being a full-time author been realized when I’ve worked so damn hard at this for the past 5 years of publishing, and 3 decades of writing? How long can I sustain writing novels, working full time, going to school, taking care of my family, and every other part of my life, all at the same time?

What if….what if I wasn’t meant to be an author?

I’m always stunned into silence when this thought crosses my mind.

I love words. I love the shape of them, the taste of them, and the feel of them. I love the way they look on a page, how they smell in a book, and how they sound in other people’s mouths. I want to spend the rest of my life playing with words, and my dream is that this will always involve storytelling: playing with words, creating words, writing words, and then using them to create books that people love to read.

But what if the people never come?

Today I saw another frustrated post from a different author who had written 20 novels, and she still hadn’t seen any kind of success. Her books don’t suck, either! Meanwhile, I’m sitting over here with 8 books, believing my time should have come. Apparently there’s no number to these things.

It is really, really hard when you want something so bad, and it just isn’t coming to you. In The Alchemist (my favorite book), Paulo Coelho writes, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

But why does the universe have to take so damn long???

Coelho also writes, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

And this, my friends, is the meaning of life.

We all have dreams we wish to fulfill. And when that dream is realized, a new one must be sought after. After all, life would lose meaning if you had nothing to work toward.

Do I want to be chasing success this hard all my life as an author? Absolutely not. But I never want it to get old. It’s always going to be hard, and I’m always going to be striving to make it happen, as this is what I know I’m supposed to be doing.

Now, that’s not to say that my dream won’t one day change or evolve, or that my friend is wrong for “giving up.” Sometimes things just aren’t in the cards, as much as that hurts to write. However, no dream is a wasted dream. I truly believe this. An unrealized dream may just be the bridge you need to set you on the path toward the dream that’s meant to be.

Or, sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break so we can rediscover what we loved about our original dream in the first place.

___

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Running, writing, and changing your thoughts

running

This morning when I woke up at 6 a.m., I had a choice on how I could spend the next 30 minutes before I had to start getting ready for work.

I could go for a run.

I could sit and peruse Facebook and email.

I could cram in some editing.

I could close my eyes and get 30 more minutes of rest.

My preference would have been to lounge in bed, scrolling through social media. I’ve made that choice many times. But this morning, knowing I was due for a run, I got out of bed and put on the workout clothes I’d set out the night before. And then, before I could talk myself out of it, I walked out the door and hit the pavement.

Let me confess here that I am not a natural runner. Before I even start running, I HATE running. I’ve learned to just not think about it too much beforehand, because if I do, I’ll talk myself out of it every time. Instead, I have to set myself up for success by laying out my clothes the night before, and set the coffee so it’s brewed by the time I’m done running.

Once I’m running, the first few minutes are spent getting over the shock to my system. Remember, I’ve only woken up about 10 minutes earlier, so my mind is generally cussing me out. Not my body, mind you. My body is still unsure what’s going on, and is just going with the flow. But my mind is well aware that I traded scrolling Facebook for heavy sweat and aching muscles.

Here’s where the shift comes in. It’s up to me to pull my mind out of the mental gutter and focus on what’s going right.

***

Mind: @*#%@*&

Me: I’m not sure you should be using that kind of language.

Mind: Fine. This sucks.

Me: No it doesn’t. I’m powerful.

Mind: No, I’m slow.

Me. But I’m learning to be fast.

Mind: Everyone thinks I look stupid.

Me: No, everyone thinks I’m amazing for even being out here running at this hour. Besides, why do I care what people think?

Mind: I don’t even know why I’m doing this. Eventually I’m just going to give up and stop running. Then all this will be for nothing.

Me: I’m not worried about tomorrow, or any other day. I’m worried about right now. And right now, I’m running. And right now, this feels easier than it did yesterday, and the day before that.

Mind: Actually, that’s true.

Me: Yup. And I’m almost done running.

Mind: Wait, that was fast. And I kind of feel amazing. And powerful!

Me: See?

Mind: Still, I’m going to have to do this again. And it’s taking forever to make progress.

Me: But each step forward brings me closer to my goal. So I’m not giving up.

***

And you know what happens after my run? My calves ache. My body sweats. And I feel incredible. In fact, I feel like I can take on the world. Just 30 minutes earlier, I’d been filled with doubt. But once I pushed through it, not only did I feel amazing, but I felt triumphant to have accomplished today’s challenge. It was only 30 minutes, and I got it done and out of the way before the day even started.

This is the trick with any goal, and the exact way I tackle my writing career. Do you think I always wake up ready to write when I’m in the middle of a book project? No. That’s a big fat NO. There are some days when I just want to sleep in or take a day off. But if I do that, I know I’ll lose the motivation I need to finish my book. So every day, I wake up at an ungodly hour and I start writing. To ensure success, I always leave myself notes during the previous writing session so I know where I left off. And I make sure my writing station is (mostly) clutter free, all my materials are within reach, and the coffee pot is set to brew. Every morning I have the same choice of options as I do on my running days—waste time on social media, sleep, or write. To keep from making the wrong choice, I don’t even check my social media or email until after my writing time is complete. Then I dive right into my book project. I don’t even worry if it sucks (rather, that voice does come up, but I push it out of the way). I know I can fix it later. I don’t bother with necessary research, I just make a note to check it later. I write, going through the motions until I get in the groove, and I change my thoughts every time I start to get down on myself.

Regardless of the goal you’ve set for yourself, you have to change your mind’s thought process first. If you’re telling yourself that you suck, encourage yourself instead. If you tell yourself that you’re going to fail, focus instead on what you’re doing RIGHT NOW to succeed. If you’ve become buried under negative thoughts, find positive ones to take their place. Speak to yourself as if you were one of your friends. Leave inspirational notes around your bedroom or in your car. Read inspirational books that uplift you and make you want to strive for more (I recommend Man’s Search for Meaning, The Alchemist, and A Return to Love, to start). Keep yourself surrounded by the positive so you can chase away the negative. You might have to force it, at first. But do it enough times, and that voice of positivity might sound more and more like you.

Stay tuned, I have another blog coming on how to make goals and stick to them.


Do you lead a busy life and wish you had more time for your writing? Are all the responsibilities of your day eating up the time you wish you could spend on your craft? Do you often wish you didn’t need to work full-time so that you had more time to write? Learn how to have both a full-time job AND a fulfilling writing career with Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.