Seen

One of my goals for 2017 is to put myself “out there” more often and with greater intentionality. I’m applying for more freelance editor jobs, revamping my website and setting myself goals for freelance pitches. Plus writing my second novel with a deadline of February 28 to have that sucker ready for edits. (Eeek…when I write that down it feels crazy, but I’m gonna try!!)

I’ve been reading blog posts and a couple books, listening to smart people on podcasts give me ideas for how to extend my reach and find more clients. How to gain traction and visibility in a noisy Internet world. And time and time again, the answer is: show up.

Provide quality content on a consistent basis, absolutely. But connect with people. Reach out, build relationships, establish connections.

I listened to one woman today who said, “and don’t tell me about being introverted; I’m not asking you to get up on stage or walk into a crowded room and start talking to everybody. Small steps, small connections, one-on-one relationships.” And as I listened, I thought about how wise that was, but I also felt something deep in my gut—panic.

It wasn’t at the idea of speaking to people, not really. Yes, I’m definitely an introvert, but I lean toward the social end of the scale and I’m not afraid of people. So I couldn’t really put my finger on what was bugging me.

I thought back to when I first really discovered blogging. My kids were newborns and at the bottom of an article I’d read online was a link to the author’s blog. I typed it into my Google search bar and discovered bloggers. I voraciously read through old posts and new posts. I filled my Google Reader to the brim, discovering new voices every day it seemed. I didn’t enjoy all of them, of course, but I found some of my favourites back then. Those days and early years are filled with such sweet memories for me; I’d found people who identified with me, who knew what it was like to feel overwhelmed by the presence of little people. I found encouragement and humour and a peek into other peoples’ lives. It was inspiration for me to start my own blog, and I wrote through the first few years of my kids’ lives, finding therapy in the words I spilled on the page.

But do you know what I didn’t do?

Comment.

You remember blogging when it started. No one was posting blogs on Facebook or Twitter (which were still just babies). Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist. People read blogs and then they commented. But I never, ever did. I loved those blogs so much, and I had thoughts and encouragement to give, but I never wrote anything. Why?

Because I was afraid to be seen.

It wasn’t that clear of a thought, of course, but looking back, I know that’s what it was. I know because it still happens to me. I don’t comment on a Facebook thread, or reply to a tweet, or post an Instagram story because I’m afraid to be seen. Because when I’m seen, people can make judgements or say nasty things or decide that what I’ve said or created isn’t any good.

I didn’t seek out reviewers for my first novel and I always have crazy anxiety when I ask people to buy the book or post reviews. I feel awkward when people (in real life) know I’ve written a book. Never mind a blog or a Facebook post.

I know, I’m neurotic.

I’m writing all this because I think it’s important to say it outloud, to say that I’m afraid of being seen, to speak the lie that someone else’s opinion of me matters more than my opinion of myself, or the opinion of the people who know and love me. I’m writing it because it’s holding me back, it’s letting fear keep me hostage. And I don’t want that to be true anymore.

I’m stepping out this year. In big ways and small ways, I hope. I want to give voice to my thoughts and wishes, my desires, to my work. I want to speak proudly of my work and ask for help when I need it. I will close the sale and make the pitch and remember that I have the right to do that.

I have the right to be seen.

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Hope

 

I have tried to write this post at least three times, but I’m having trouble narrowing it into something that isn’t a long, rambling stream of consciousness.

True to my introverted self, I fall into deep reflection mode this time of year. I know that there isn’t anything inherently magical about the turning of the calendar, or the switch from 2016 to 2017, but aren’t we all anxious for something that resembles a fresh start? We get so few of them as we get older.

And this year, I find myself especially desperate for a fresh start. I hit the toughest writing rut of my life in 2016, and I have a manuscript that is both finished and not even close. I have work to do on it, but my time was swallowed up by family and life last year, and I was hoping that 2017 would bring the kick in the ass I needed to finally carve out the time I need to finish that book, because not writing is stealing all my joy.

I’m going to turn 35 at the end of this year, and I am tired of giving my time and energy and self to things and people that don’t bring me joy. I know the privilege that is in that statement, and even the reality that while there are parts of my life not bringing me joy, that unfortunately I’m not in a place to dramatically remove them from my life. So I wait.

I have plans to write this year, plans to query a novel. I want to read 60 books and revitalize my editing business (I’m even taking some courses this year, and I’m excited about the possibilities). I want to enjoy my kids, because they’re 7 and this is just the most amazing age, and I know how quickly it is going. Watching them grow is the single greatest joy of my life, but I don’t want to miss it either. I want to be present for them, and I want to be present and joy-full in my own life so they can see their mom passionate and excited about her life.

I didn’t have a word this year, nothing to guide or serve as an overarching theme to my life (check out One Word 365 if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). I’ve had freedom and breakthrough and dig. Some have been more meaningful than others, but since I didn’t have anything in 2016, I wasn’t all that concerned when December was drawing to a close and nothing had resonated with me for 2017.

Except it started to feel pressing. I was thinking about 2016, about what worked and didn’t, what kinds of things I wanted to focus on in 2017, how I wanted to feel and what I wanted to accomplish, and there was a weight. The weight of a word that I couldn’t find, couldn’t touch, couldn’t hear. A few times I thought I had it, but it wouldn’t stick. Nothing settled on me.

And then last night, I was writing in my journal, furiously scribbling about frustrations and prayers and pleas for the next few months, when I wrote it without thinking.

Hope

And as soon as I wrote it, my breath caught. There was a shiver and a tightness in my chest. I stared at the word and felt its possibility, all of what that one short word could hold and I knew. I knew it was my word.

I really feel like there’s a lot to unpack in that small word. And I want to spend time this year doing that, but for now, I’m holding onto it, because it feels like my truth for this year, in my small corner of the world, and on a global scale as well. Hope can be subversive and rebellious. It can be daring and defiant. But it’s also the light peeking through in the darkness, the comfort we seek when life gets tough, the strand we’re holding onto when something seems impossible.

It might be all that gets me through some days, as I tackle some big and scary changes in my life this year. I’m promising to push myself outside of my comfort zone, to do the hard things, to make time for what I want, to say no when I have to. And I think it’ll lead to some times when I’ll want to quit, when I’ll want to go back the easy way, when none of it will seem worth it.

But I don’t want to give up this year. Not on myself or my dreams, or my belief in a good and gracious God, or that good and right and justice will win out in the end, no matter how impossible it feels at times.

So, hope.

Hope for 2017.

 

 

2016 in Books

The last few years, I’ve set myself a reading goal, something that I would be challenging but achievable, and each of the last 2 years, I’ve missed it. So I decided not to set a number goal for books this year, and just read.

Well, I read 52 books this year. It’s the most I’ve read in the last few years, and while I was sort of hoping for more, I feel pretty happy with that number. There were a few months where I didn’t pick up a book at all, so if I can eliminate those dry months next year, I bet I can bump that number up a bit more.

In 2017, I’d like to read one non-fiction book a month on a topic I’d like to learn more about (I have a couple fields in mind), and try to push that 52 to at least 60. We’ll see how that goes (you can always follow me on Goodreads if you want to take a look at what I’ve been reading).

I wanted to share some of my favourite books of the year with you, in case you need some inspiration for 2017! (Think of these as sort of a highlight; I read some great books this year, and this list is hardly exhaustive.)

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng

This is the last book I finished this year, and it was one of my favourites. Beautifully written, this book tackles topics such as race and interracial marriage in the 1970s, family dynamics, and the crushing weight of parental expectations. Equal parts haunting and redemptive. Absolutely stunning.

The Sun is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon

This was another late-year read that skyrocketed to the top of my favourites list. I’m not the biggest YA fan, but the depth of this novel was fantastic. I love novels that focus on the complexity of relationships, and this book does that fabulously well. I thought the ending was really well done, and I loved the way Yoon worked in a number of different points of view, giving such a richness to the story and characters.

Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton

Melton’s second book did not disappoint. She tells a compelling story with honesty and vulnerability, and such grace. There is pain and beauty and redemption and love in this book, and knowing how her life has changed even since publication sheds new light on this book and the journey she has taken. Such a profound book.

All of the Inspector Gamache books, Louise Penny

I went on a reading binge when I got a hold of these books in the early summer. Penny’s writing is breathtaking, her descriptions of the small Quebec town made me ache. They’re mystery novels, but not gory and with profoundly layered and flawed characters. In fact, it’s the people who kept me coming back for more, the mysteries themselves an added bonus. I read all of these books in short order, something I hadn’t done since the Harry Potter series. So, so good. (that’s a link to the most recent one above)

The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Do we sense a theme? Troubled faily dynamics? I’m there. Cannot get enough of these kinds of these books, and Sweeney wrote this one so well. Characters I hated one second, loved the next. Characters I was rooting for and rooting against, almost at the same time. It was a little dark, a little hopeful, and so interesting. I couldn’t put this book down.

Rising Strong, Brene Brown

I feel like everyone’s heard of this one, and I don’t know that I can add anything that hasn’t already been said, but I appreciate Brene Brown’s voice so much, and this book was no exception.

Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark, Addie Zierman

I love Addie’s writing so much; her blog remains one of my favourite things to read, and I loved her first memoir, When We Were on Fire. For Christians who grew up evangelical in the 90s, her words ring so very true. I appreciated the honesty and transparency in this book as she struggled with her faith, wrestled with big questions, and I loved the premise of doing it on a road trip with her boys. There was no red bow at the end, neatly tying everything together, and I think I loved that most of all. This book is so beautiful and hopeful and honest. I loved it.

Like I said, that’s hardly an exhaustive list. Some other books that I really enjoyed this year are Americanah, Searching for Sunday, Between the World and Me, The Year of Yes and The Lake House.

If you’ve got anything for me to add to my list for 2017, lemme know!

Happy, happy new year friends!

 

 

Why There’s Swearing in My Novels

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time writing books. I finished a few of them, and they’re still bound in one-inch binders, stacked in my basement. More of them remained half-finished on my desktop, but there was one theme that ran throughout all of them, completed or not—they were Christian novels, with a very clear redemption storyline.

I grew up in the evangelical tradition, and a fairly conservative one at that, so swearing and sex and all those kinds of things were off-limits when I was writing, and I felt an obligation to have a prominent Christian theme as well.

But if you’ve read Remember Us, you know that it’s mainstream romantic fiction. There’s sex and swearing, and no mention of God or church or faith or anything like that.

I still consider myself a person of faith, although what that looks like has admittedly changed significantly since my teenage years (which is not really a discussion for this blog, is it?), but I no longer feel the need to write “Christian” books anymore. I’m an author who is a Christian, but I’m not a Christian author. Don’t expect I ever will be.

I wrote a long post on my personal Facebook page before I released Remember Us, preparing my friends and family for the content of the book. I was concerned that they’d be upset by parts of the plot and the language. Because, well, it gets a little salty. For the most part, it was really well-received, but I did have a few comments about the language I used, and I wanted to share some of my reasoning around that, especially since my next book will be very much the same, and even a bit darker as far as the storyline goes.

 

I know there are people who believe that swearing is lazy writing, that sex and violence are gratuitous and inappropriate, and that they don’t add anything to a book, but for me, it’s about believability.

My characters swear because that’s what people do. For me to write a book, especially one that revolves around a troubled, falling-apart marriage, without swearing, would have been ridiculous. And, not for nothing, there are only so many physical descriptions I can use to describe anger, when a well-placed f-bomb does the trick nicely.

I don’t have graphic sex scenes in my novels, because it doesn’t fit with my genre; same with violence. But unless I’m writing YA fiction, or there’s extenuating circumstances, adults are having sex. And if I choose to ignore that fact, my book is going to suffer. And we all need to remember that novels are fiction. My characters are making choices that make sense for them; it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’d endorse that behaviour or make the same choices myself, or that I speak the same way they do. It means that I’ve created characters who live, act and speak a certain way.

My job as a writer is to tell the best story I can. It’s to create a world my readers can immerse themselves in. It’s to develop characters they love or hate, but who make them feel something. It’s to invite them into a well-crafted world for a few hours, and one way I do that is to write the most believable world I can, with characters I think could exist in real life.

Readers obviously always have the final say in what kinds of things they want to read. I don’t read graphically violent books because the content really bothers me. I skipped whole passages in The Hunger Games and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for example, because of that. But I understand why it was there; I understand what it added to the book. And that’s the only thing I’d ask of readers who are wondering why an author uses the language they do, or includes violence or sex or other uncomfortable content. Why is it there? What is it telling you about the character? Most writers have very good reasons for why they include certain language, scenes, character traits, and I wouldn’t assume it’s to be offensive. If it’s not for you, that’s okay—we all like different things. But don’t villify authors for content choices; after all, it is just a book.

 

The Dream Job

Along with everyone else in the world, 2016 didn’t exactly turn out the way I’d hoped. I hate to be a person who is wishing time away, but I’ll be more than happy to greet 2017, and hope it turns out to be less of an asshole than this year.

This was going to be the year I published my second novel. In fact, at the beginning of last year I was well on my way, hitting the same word count and pace I’d seen for my first novel. I had dedicated writing hours a few mornings a week and I was committed to them, and by the spring my first draft was finished and I expected to be publishing my book sometime in the late summer, early fall.

Well, revisions ended up getting me stuck, because I was having trouble finding the true voice of the story. And then we bought a house, renovated that house, and moved. And nothing will destroy your creativity like the stress of moving. And, as I’ve said before, summer tends to be my creative wasteland anyway.

But nothing changed in the fall. At least, not around the writing. Some family and life things hit at the end of the summer, and my schedule and routine have been upended. And instead of figuring out how to make it work, I let the book collect dust.

Some of that is because I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to self-publish this time around. I bounced some ideas around with friends about editing and book covers, but nothing ever felt right, and in fact, it began to feel like I was pressing on something that needed to wait. And when I start to get that feeling, I know I need to step back and breathe for a moment. My implusive nature has landed me in trouble countless times, and at 34, I’m finally beginning to respect the signs.

It’s been a weird year. I’ve looked for jobs, I’ve dreamed about building my editing business into full-time work, thought about trying to break into freelance writing, I’m considering taking some courses. I’ve thought about walking away from writing, because maybe it’s not for me, and then a few weeks later wondered what financial magic I would need to perform to enable me to be home full-time so I could write. And came back again, because for whatever reason, I really believe that I am in the right place for me and my family right now. It doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated or restless, but it’s not time for big changes. I feel that in my gut.

So what now? Because I need my life to be about more than parenting and house responsibilities. I need something to do that excites me, that energizes me. And I’ve always known that thing is writing.

And as I started another day, same as all the others for the past few months, with a baby demanding my attention, and a cluttered house in need of tidying, I realized that my life isn’t going to get any less busy anytime soon. Flipping the calendar from December to January isn’t going to magically make my life easier to manage.

So I decided that if I want writing to be my dream job, then it’s time to make it happen. Not by up and quitting things or anything quite so dramatic, but by doing the small, quiet, boring things. I’m going to carve out time and protect it. And right now, it won’t be during my happy early-mid morning hours. Those aren’t times I have available to me, not for the next few months anyway. So it’ll be evenings and weekends, and maybe some early mornings before everyone else is awake. And it’s going to be tackling the revisions in this novel, even though they overwhelm me. And sticking with a story even when it’s not easy because it’s the story I was given, and the story I need to tell.

I’ll make writing my work by doing the work, instead of waiting for hours to open up, for inspiration to fall from the sky, for revisions to suddenly become crystal clear and easy.

And… *whispering* I’m going to query this book. It’s the thought, the nudge, that won’t leave me alone. When I wrote Remember Us, everything for self-publishing snapped into place. It was right. This time, though, it’s not working. And I know it’s for a reason. I don’t think that it’s necessarily because there’s a publisher dying for my book, or an agent who will be desperate to sign me, but I think it’s because I need to try. Because for so much of my life I have shied away from the kind of work that requires me to be judged and critiqued. I don’t want to find out I’m no good, or that my story is terrible. The idea of hundreds of rejections piling up does not fill me with glee.

But I think I have to do it. So I will. If for no other reason than because I know that this might just be a step along the way to self-publishing my book anyway, and I do want to see it out in the world. Also so that I get to working on another one!

Whew. That was a lot for one post. I guess I’ve had a lot on my mind the last few months, even if I haven’t been writing it all down.

2017 is going to be the year of work. Doing the work, trusting the work, believing in the work. Believing that the work of writing is valuable and necessary, and that maybe now more than ever, story is what we need.

Remember Us

Oh, this will be a self-indulgent post, so you’ve all been forewarned.

I released Remember Us a year ago today. Not my first completed book, but certainly my first published one. A story written from beginning to end, revised, edited and then put out into the world for friends and family and strangers to discover.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the entire process. On one hand, I am proud of that book and the work that went into. It is certainly one of my proudest accomplishments, and the young girl inside me who always dreamed of being a published writer still shrieks with glee that a book with my name on it can be purchased and read.

But it has also been an eye-opening exercise in how difficult it is to make yourself vulnerable to critique, how hard it can be to promote your work, and the struggle of being a small indie author.

I’ve learned in this year that the risk isn’t the writing. The risk, for me, wasn’t even in the publishing. The risk was one I didn’t take, and that was standing up and saying, I think this is good, you should read it. I was quiet and nervous and awkward about the whole thing. I didn’t seek out bloggers or PR or say much about the book at all because I was so damn scared.

What if it’s terrible?

What if I get bad reviews?

What if these people end my writing career before it’s even begun?

And so my first book release was very small. And in some ways, that’s okay. But the reason it stopped being okay with me was because I realized I was still hiding, and I was giving all these nameless, faceless people around an inordinate amount of power over my life, and my dreams. How could I begin to think that someone could steal my writing, my art, from me? Why was I paralyzed at the idea of someone not liking my book and leaving a bad review? Art, writing, it’s all subjective. I certainly don’t like every book I read (although I will say the nastiness I see in some reviews is completely unnecessary, but you know, THE INTERNET).

I took this accomplishment of mine, this story, and I hid it. I told myself that I’d taken the risk, put it out there, done the hard thing. But I don’t think I ever did. I think I found a way to make it look like I didwithout ever actually doing it.

Art is personal. While Remember Us is fiction, it was born from a very real place. It holds truth in it, and the characters and story are real and alive and most definitely personal. And once art is made public, I can’t always trust people to handle with care. And I guess that scared me. Maybe because I was afraid they would be right. That it really wasn’t very good.

Whew, the mind of a writer. Exhausting.

Here’s what I’ve learned, and am still learning—readers find the books they need. Books find their readers. Stories are powerful, a way to unlock something in us that very little else can. It’s no wonder we feel so strongly about our favourite books.

I can’t go back and change the launch of my first novel. And that’s okay. It was really beautiful in its own way, and I received so many lovely personal messages from people who connected with my characters, who enjoyed the story, who said they couldn’t put it down. It was a brave thing, and it took a lot for me to even tell my friends and family that I’d written a book (my writing has always been intensely personal, so that was scary enough). While I plan to do things differently with Book Two, I can’t say I have regrets about Remember Us. Because it’s still there, finding its readers. It’s still my very first published novel.

But as I work through Book Two and wrestle with the ways that it has been different, I can sense that this experience will be about putting myself out there a little more. Risking more for my art, for my readers, so that this story lands in the right places too. I want to make a bigger splash with this book, even if it feels really really scary.

I wrote a book! And it’s been in the world for one whole year! And I will write more books, and sometimes, I’m so ridiculously thankful that I stumbled back into this life that I can’t quite believe it.

Here’s to taking risks! *clink!*

PS. If you’re interested in reading my book, there’s a link on the homepage of this site.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

Kylie Bartlett’s marriage is crumbling. There are fights and misunderstandings and words that no one can ever take back. Marriage can be hard, but she never expected this.

And then, he’s there. That boy. The one she loved first, a lifetime ago, the one who left—the one who she thought would be her one great heartbreak.

He’s back. And he’s not going anywhere.

Kylie never thought she’d have to make this choice again. And now, with her marriage in shambles at her feet, she wonders if this is the way it was always meant to be. Or should she leave the past where it belongs?

Remember Us is a story of love and marriage, of finding yourself, and of how things don’t always turn out the way you plan when you’re seventeen.

 

The Unpredictability of Creativity

This time last year, I was basically a week out from the launch of my first book, Remember Us. I believe I had even started the outlining and planning for what would eventually become my current work in progress. And at that time, my plan was to be publishing that book within the next year.

I finished the first draft with lots of time to be able to do that, and I had my cover artist booked. But, it didn’t feel right. There was a tug in my gut about the timing, and there was something not quite resonating with me about it. I pushed through, started work on my revisions, made a plan for editing. Shook it off.

But the nagging, as any good intuition, wouldn’t go away. And one of the things I’ve really learned in the last year or so is how important it is to listen to that small voice. Because if I don’t listen, then eventually the voice stops speaking…or I become numb to it, however you want to think of it.

Everything came to a screeching halt. I cancelled my cover artist, just in time, because he was just about to start work. I realized that I wanted to do some BIG work on the novel, to go in-depth on the revisions. I felt like I could make the book better. It was fine, but I was feeling like it could be great, and if that was the case, then I needed to do that.

Oh, the life of a creative.

I am learning that there’s no one way to do this. I’m learning that it’s okay to veer off course, to question, to wonder. I’m learning that just because something worked before doesn’t it mean it will work now. That I can change my mind, change my goals, embrace my own routine and methods. I’m re-learning that I need to listen to my intuition, to slow when it tells me, not to force things.

I don’t when this book’s time will be…I’m still aiming for 2016, but I know enough now that if I publish it before it’s ready, it won’t find the right readers. It won’t be the story it has to be. And that’s more important than when it’s published. Sooner isn’t better. When it’s ready is better.

Remind me of this next summer when I’m trying to launch a book in the fall—summer is just not my creative jam.

 

Over Consumption & Overwhelm

I totally grew up as the “read anything” kid— cereal boxes, instruction manuals, church bulletins left lying around. If it had words on it, I was game. And I am still so much like this…if I’m getting bored, I am looking for words to read. The problem, now, is that these words are usually found on my smartphone.

Sigh. I know. Another post about the overuse of phones and social media and how we all need to just walk away and take a break, smell the roses and all that?

Sort of. But hear me out. I am home with little people all day long, and sometimes it feels like my only connection to life outside of children is through my phone. Sports scores, news updates, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. I scroll to find something to read, something to pass the time.

Consume, consume, consume. That’s what’s happened. I am constantly taking in information, but not putting anything out there. Instead of engaging in dialogue on Twitter or Facebook, I’m watching someone else’s. Instead of taking the time to craft my own Instagram posts or blogs, I’m zoning out to others’. And there’s a balance, sure. I need to engage and take in from other people as well as put out my own information. But the over consumption is beginning to take its toll.

I was researching the other day, and it’s research for something that scares me. I’m trying to be intentional about learning more and stepping outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself. And so, I went to my old friend Google and began pulling up websites. And I read and I read and I read. And do you how I felt after a couple hours of this?

Overwhelmed.

Not encouraged or inspired. I didn’t feel ready to tackle the task. I felt like closing my laptop and forgetting the whole damn thing. Because when all you do is take in information, this is what happens. And I really believe that overwhelm is just fear in disguise.

I’m not going to make a grand declaration about stepping away from my screens, because I don’t know if I’ll stick to it. I’m trying to walk away from it. I’m trying not to use it to numb myself or kill time, or procrastinate the hard things I need to do. My first step is admitting that I can feel the over consumption, that I can feel overwhelm creeping in on me and threatening to take me down.

I don’t want fear to win, in any form.

So I’m going to finish this up, shut down my laptop and turn off my phone. I’m going to let thoughts settle and my subconscious work a little, and I am going to walk away from the screens. I’ve consumed enough. Now it’s time to create.

Dream Deferred, Again and Again

I have always lived in a very all or nothing world. If I can’t do something exactly the way I want, when I want, I freeze and do nothing. Yes, it’s perfectionism, but it’s also fear. (Maybe perfectionism is just a fancy word for fear anyway.) Fear that I will give my very best and still fail. Fear that it won’t look the way I’ve always imagined. Fear that whatever I give still won’t be good enough.

I’ve had this one particular dream since I was a young girl—I want to go to France. I know, this is hardly unique. There are millions of people who have fallen in love with this country. I’m bordering on cliche here, but it is what it is. All things Francophone captured my heart when I was young, and have held on for all these years.

My husband and I have this dream of staying in Europe for two months or so one year, taking our kids and immersing ourselves in European culture. I mean, honestly, if we’re dreaming big dreams, I want to live there. But I would settle for a months-long stay.

We’re not there yet. His job still keeps him tied here, with only a couple weeks for vacations. Financially we can’t afford it yet, on a few different levels. And it just doesn’t feel like the time in our lives to be up and practically moving someplace else for a few months.

So I tucked it away as one of our “someday” things. And expected that would be the only way I would see France. In a big, grand travel moment.

And then I was reading this book last night, set partially in Paris, and I got that familiar ache, that pang. I want to go. I mean, what if the stars never align for us to take that trip? Am I willing to keep putting off this dream trip simply because I feel like the only way to do it is in this HUGE WAY, or no way at all?

I made a line in my budget today. France. And I’m saving now, a little bit at a time, and I have a new goal: France next year. For a couple weeks. Is it perfect, the way I’ve always imagined it? No. It feels like not nearly enough time. But what’s better? A little bit of time in a country I’ve been dreaming of for most of life, or no time at all?

It’s not all or nothing. It so rarely is. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to put off big things, to hold us back from doing stuff, from shipping our work, from seeing dreams come true. All or nothing is just a way we let fear win, with some modicum of practically and logic. I’ll do it when the time is right. I’ll do it eventually. I have time.

Today is as good a time as any to start throwing a little bit of money toward a dream.

 

Mid-Year Resolutions

I’m a big goal-setter. Every year, around late December I start thinking about the things I want to accomplish in the coming year. And last year, I only had two real “goals.” I wanted to read more, and I wanted to write more.

I was early in the writing of Book Two, and set myself a goal of finishing it in 2016 (check! It’s in the editing phase right now, with a planned release for Fall 2016). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to write every day, and I also knew that my best writing happens in the morning hours. Once I hit the afternoon, I become pretty useless when it comes to creativity. I had three days a week where I was going to be kid-free and able to write without interruption, so I put the hours in my calendar and did my best to stick to them every week. I also made a goal in Scrivener for how many words I wanted to write each day, and I borrowed an idea from my friend Elora Ramirez and tracked my word count on a whiteboard in my main hallway. Being able to write another 5k on my board kept me motivated and accountable. I didn’t finish the book as quickly as I wanted, but I did finish it, and that’s all that matters!

2016-04-27 21.31.21

Reading. I love books, and I’ve never really needed much outside motivation for that, but I’ve been really trying to push myself lately to read more books. I started out strong, but then I hit the same reading slump that’s plagued me the last couple years. I know there are a few reasons for this—I get frozen by decision paralysis, so I’ll finish a great book and not have something else lined up, and then I can’t decide what to read next. So I read nothing, and it kind of snowballs. And then I find myself sucked into my smartphone. Also, I was editing a couple manuscripts and I find when I’m in the swing of writing, I don’t read as much (everyone’s different, that just seems to be my process).

So. I’ve decided that I am not going to let the last few months kill my year, which has been my pattern in the last couple years (I have a serious “all or nothing” problem). It’s time for some mid-year resolutions, and mine revolves pretty exclusively around increasing my reading. The kids and I are heading to the library tonight to grab some books, and I’m turning off Netflix and putting my phone down for some reading. I’ve got plans for some series that are new to me, so at least if they’re good, I’ll always have something new to pick up.

I’m doing some pretty detailed tracking of my reading this year and really enjoying it; I love seeing what I’ve read. I haven’t been keeping track of what I’ve started and abandoned, though, and I think I’ll do a better job of that this time.

Do you have any summer reading goals? Read anything fantastic lately? What are your tricks for reading more?