Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What have you learned from publishing your first novel?

Writing is only half the battle.

I mean, sure, you have to have a good story. You have to put in your hours slaving away at the keyboard. You have to learn how to craft your words and then rip them all apart and do it over again, only better this time.

But what they don't teach you in college English classes or at any particular point in the publishing process is this: No one will take you seriously until you dare to do it yourself. You have to independently decide that your words are worth reading. Otherwise you'll be trapped, waiting for someone else to validate you. I know lots of writers who wait for this. They keep sending out queries and keep getting rejected so eventually they stop querying. Or they keep rewriting and rewriting, too freaked out to even show their work to anyone else. You might not even know that they write. It's this dark, secretive thing for them.

And it's not just writers—though we do seem particularly prone this behavior. There are lots of people who wait for validation from others. They're the kind of people who obsess over their facebook likes, who would cheat to get good grades, or who do outrageously expensive things to their body to conform to a particular standard of beauty.

I know this because I've been there. (Well, not with the plastic surgery type of stuff, thank goodness.) But I've written in secret, convinced that my writing wasn't even really writing or that this was just some little phase I'd outgrow. 

I'm not saying it's wrong to want external validation. It's nice to be praised or told that your in the xth percentile. It's really nice when others recognize that you have worked hard. But you can't wait for that because it doesn't always happen.

Poor Sylvia Plath would probably hate this post.

The world is a big place. There will always be people out there who are more than you: more talented, more lucky, more rich, more experienced, more better. The point is that you are the only person who can decide to take yourself seriously. Others might see your potential or they might not. That's not up to you. What is up to you is how you see yourself.

And actually, if others believe in you more than you believe in yourself, that can be just as crippling. It's what happens to one-hit wonders or overnight successes. When success comes from outside you, before you're ready to see yourself as successful, it can't last. Until you dare to label yourself as an artist, you never really will be.

I know this all sounds like a bunch of motivational speeches threw up on my blog, but this is how I honestly feel right now and I'll tell you why.

I've been working on revisions for The Jane Journals. Beyond the rewriting, this has been a learning experience for me. I've never made it this far in the publishing process before. With Tiny Talks, I have to write and revise so fast that I don't have time to think about it. Before I can take a deep breath, the book is out on shelves and there's nothing more I can do about it. 

But with this book, each day is an exercise in self-confidence. Each time I sit down to write, I have to fight off that nagging voice that tells me I should just stop, that no one will want to read this book, that I'm not a "real" writer. What does that even mean? A real writer?

I think a real writer is one who keeps writing in spite of that nagging voice. I think a real writer is one who writes regardless of how many people are reading his or her words. I think I've been a real writer for a long time, I just never let myself believe that I was.

Well, to heck with that. This is my official statement: I write. I can't help it. It's what I do.

And if other people want to read my words, that's awesome. But it's not why I do it and it won't make me "real." 

So here's my challenge to you all. If you're cool, and I know you are because you're still reading this, then own up to your coolness. Don't feel like you need someone else to confirm it. Just keep being the amazing person that you are. Keep creating. Keep dreaming. Keep at it and don't hide your awesomeness.

The world needs more independently cool people.

And I need to get back to revising. 

That's the other half of the battle.

Monday, December 8, 2014

How does it feel to be 30?

Pretty much exactly like 29. But that's cool.

So some of you might remember that a while ago I made a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I turned 30. I thought about looking for the list and seeing how many I'd actually done, but I got lazy.

And honestly, I've done way more than 30 cool things, this year alone. Whether they were actually on my list is sort of beside the point. Not like there's much I can do about it now except start making a 40 things before 40 list. But I don't want to think about turning 40 yet.

Instead I decided to come up with 30 Things I'm Grateful for on My 30th Birthday.

In no real order, here they are:

1. The Atonement
2. My family
3. So many really, really, really good friends
4. The scriptures
5. A career that challenges me and gives me opportunities to grow and lead
6. The chance to be a published author
7. That I know what I want out of life
8. My niece and nephew—so cute!
9. Libraries and that there are always more books I want to read than time to read them
10. New places to explore
11. Good health—no major complaints
12. A home to live in that's all my own
13. My bike, Daphne
14. The dreams I have for the future
15. Good memories of the past
16. Technology and how much information I can access quickly
17. Teachers who taught me to be skeptical and think for myself
18. The view of the stars from Camp Ritchie
19. The girls I get to work with in my new calling with Activity Days
20. That my hair is curly
21. The fact that some of my favorite childhood memories happened in fictional places like Avonlea and Narnia
22. Modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and Netflix
23. 80s power ballads
24. That I'm going on vacation in nine days!!! And I'll be in SoCal. And there will be beaches. And it will be warm!
25. Enough delicious and healthy food to eat
26. Coworkers who make me laugh and help me solve problems
27. Temples
28. Punctuation and that I mostly know how to use it
29. Personal revelation
30. All of the kids I used to nanny—I miss them like crazy! And they're growing up so fast!

Anyway, it's late. I've had a wonderful birthday. Thanks to everyone who made it awesome!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Do you believe in love at first sight?

I hope so.

I always thought I didn't. In fact, there have been some dark days when I wasn't sure I believed in love period, at least not as a part of my life. I knew other people experienced it, but I was pretty convinced it wasn't something I'd ever get in on.

Luckily I've gotten over that hurdle. But I'm still stuck on this love-at-first-sight thing. 

I guess it depends on how you define "first sight." The 1940s movie idea that you can somehow fall for a person after exchanging glances at a distance without even speaking to each other? That seems a highly improbable to me. I mean, sure, he might look super hot from across a crowded room but then what if it turns out he's completely full of himself? So not attractive. 

And if he looks like a nerd from across the room, which I happen to find even more attractive most of the time, there's really no way to tell if he's a nice nerd with decent conversation skills and a witty, sarcastic sense of humor or if he's actually a psycho killer with zero social skills who's trying to lure you in by masquerading as a glasses-wearing intellectual.

On the other hand, I can definitely believe in like at first sight. As in knowing that you want to get to know this person after only exchanging one or two sentences. That's happened to me before. I suppose that's more like chemistry than anything else. All I know is, it happens every once in a long while and it's super fun when it does. 

I seriously love that—when you meet someone new and you just instantly get along. It's pretty rare for me. You'll see why.

Generally speaking, I go through about six phases of getting to know someone.

1. The initial meeting/first impression. Most of the time I misjudge people at this phase. I'm not kidding. I'm terrible at this. My first impression of someone is wrong at least 68 percent of the time. Sometimes it's spectacularly off. When I first met my now-best-friend of seventeen years, I thought she was rude and devious and that she hated me. Turns out none of that was true. Thank goodness.

2. The apathetic phase. My primary love language is time. That may not mean anything to you, but what it tends to mean for me is that I often don't start caring about someone until we've spent some time together. Until that happens, you're on my periphery. I don't really give a fig what you think about me. I'll be polite, but reserved. I'm sort of waiting to see if you'll stick.

3. The lightbulb moment. This typically happens about three or four months after I first meet someone. Something clicks and I think, "Oh, I actually like him (or her)." It could be an especially funny joke he made or a time she let her guard down. It's a nice moment though. It's the moment I think, "This is the start of something. We really are friends now."

4. The awesome friends part. I LOVE this part. Friends are the best. All you have to do now is breathe a sigh of relief. You made it to the good stuff. Until . . .

5. The not-at-all-awesome maybe-we're-more-than-friends part. I HATE this part. (Obviously at this point, we're moving from platonic friendships with guys and girls to just talking about boys . . . er . . . men. Male people. Whatever.) Anyway, this part is the worst. I hate it because you just don't know. You don't know anything. You don't know if they like you as only a friend or if they like you as more than a friend and either way you don't know if it matters because even if they do like you they may not be willing to do anything about it and then you're stuck wondering if they're waiting for you to make a move or if you should just accept that this is a lost cause and try to move on with your life. See what I mean? It's the pits. I hate getting stuck here in limbo. And yet, I do get stuck here All. The. Time. Not cool, universe. Not at all cool.

6. Oh, so we're dating now. To be honest, this phase has only officially happened once in my life, but I'm pretty sure that if/when it ever happens again, it will most likely take me by surprise. Again. 

Why do any of you care about this? You probably don't. Sorry. But I've been thinking about it a lot because for one thing my dad was here last week and wanted to know why I'm not dating more and for another thing, I started up the online dating thing again a few weeks ago. 

I know. Online Dating: SO. LAME. But I have to admit, it hasn't been that bad. I've done it before so I'm over all the initial squickiness and I know what warning signs to look for and how to stay away from serial killers, etc. Now it just gets down to the actual mechanics of the thing. 

Frankly, I'm not sure I'm cut out for this. But whatever. It's not like I fare much better in real life so . . . yeah.

In terms of sheer numbers, online dating makes sense. I rarely meet single people in my offline life right now. Seriously, I pretty much go to work (99 percent girls or married guys), church (family ward), and the gym. And I'm not a social gym person. I've got my earbuds in the entire time I'm there. 

So it's nice to have a sort of built-in mechanism to remind myself that there are actual males out there. And some of them are single. And some of those single ones are genuinely cool, interesting people. 

One benefit of online dating is that if my initial impression comes from reading something someone wrote about himself, there's less of a chance that I'll get it wrong (assuming people are generally honest). Instead of misreading his expression from across a crowded room, I'll just read about how he loves working out and hates books. And then I'll move on to the next profile. But seriously, there is something to be said for having the opportunity to get to know someone before I get tripped up by my own awkwardness or my bad judgment.

On the other hand, online dating is . . . ugh. It's so hard. I hate it. Whine, whine, whine. Grumble, grumble. 

Okay fine, it's not that bad. If it were, I'd stop doing it. 

It's just that most of the time it takes just as long online as in real life to find someone you actually like. And the chances of him liking you back are also similar to real life, with maybe a slightly better edge online because:

a. Presumably he's also on this site because he's actively looking for a relationship—not the case with most guys you meet on the street (or even in the singles' ward).
b. You've already eliminated some key unsuitability factors by limiting your search criteria.
c. There's less commitment involved. If it doesn't work out, no worries. You never have to see him again. Unlike real life where that guy you went on one or two dates with is still in your ward or at work or in your group of friends. Awkward.

Honestly, online or not, dating of any kind is a pain and a half. It wouldn't be worth it at all if the reward at the end wasn't so great. For reals, though.

I guess that means I do believe in love at first sight because I have to hope that there's something easier than this long and drawn out process that I usually go through. But even if there's not, what I really need to hope for is courage. I hope that when it's right I'll either have the fast burst of courage to jump into something new with both feet. Or that I'll have the long drawn-out courage to not give up on the process and to keep my chin up when nothing seems to be working.

Whether it's love at first sight or love at five-hundredth sight, I have to keep believing in love. Life would be pretty darn boring without it. 

And besides, a little heartbreak is good for the soul. Trust me, I would know. You don't get to age thirty still single without getting your heart broken.

But it's okay. It's life. It happens. And the good moments make it all worth it.

Or at least that's what I hope.