Summer Break

Everyone needs a break, including, apparently, this author. I’ve been quite busy.

First, I went here:

Disney 1

The famous author and her husband.

I’m sure you can figure out where that picture is from. My husband and I spent our 15th Anniversary chasing kids around Disney. We also were able to enjoy it with my sister-in-law, her two kids, and my mother-in-law. Fun times! I’m a big goof, and I LOVE Disney. It is one of my most favorite places. Kids and adults have fun there. I also did it right, and we didn’t start going to Disney until my youngest daughter turned five. The food. The rides. I think it’s all great. If you haven’t been on the new Pandora ride, you need to drop everything, book a trip and go down. It was hands down my favorite. And walking through the line, the gardens were absolutely beautiful:

Disney 2

Then I came home, and I started concentrating on my short story. Okay, I’ve written about two sentences on it. I really started concentrating on eating better, running, and avoiding writing again. But, I decided I needed to start writing again today. I’d like to enter my short story into the Masters Review contest, but that’s due July 31st, and I’m not sure if I will have it finished and edited by then. I entered their flash contest, but winners will not be announced until September. The waiting game–it’s real, y’all.

I keep thinking there will be a time in life in which I will be able to just write. Or, you know, fit it into my schedule. I do a lot of procrastinating. I tend to have to set mini-goals or sprint to write. Once I start sprinting, I usually get on a roll and can keep going. So my goal this week is to sprint once a day and finish my short story by next Wednesday. If I can do that, I may possibly have enough time to edit and submit it.

I hope to continue sharing some of my short pieces with you all, and I plan on getting back to posting about once a week.

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Thoughts on Writing

It’s been two weeks since I last posted a blog post. I started and stopped a short story this week. I’ve worked on my novel a little bit. Progress is slow, but steady.

Currently, I’m trying to figure out whether to resurrect and work on Little Birdhouses. I believe the story has potential. The ending sucks. Just saying. It needs work. And I started the daunting task of editing and stopped. I think I’ve edited the thing about 17 times, and something about the structure needs to change at this point. That’s not hard to do, it just takes time. And time is in short supply since school is back in, and activities, and church, and Christmas is coming—just to name a few time-sucks. Plus, structure changes usually mean a visual layout of the work (aka printing it and moving around the chapters on the floor).

But my mind has been back on writing and that is a plus. I stepped away, and when I did I didn’t miss it. I truly believe in order to be a good writer one has to live their life. Creativity ebbs and flows. Sometimes we need to experience and sometimes we need to write. Sometimes we do both. I wish I could write every day, but when I do I start to have a sense of burnout. I also tend to push others away and live in my imaginary world. I’m pretty sure that’s not a good place to be when you have a husband and three children depending on you!

Being married to a writer must be tough. I know I’m not the easiest person to live with. I am introspective. I think a lot. But, unlike a lot of other writers, I’m outgoing. I do withdrawal into my own cave and own little world sometimes. I like to have my alone time, and I’m perfectly content being by myself in most cases. When I’m not, I want meaningful conversations not just small talk. My husband is great about letting me be creative, or letting me be by myself when I need to. In that respect, we’re a perfect match.

I have been thinking a lot about my characters in relation to myself lately. All writers put a little (or a lot) of themselves in their books. I read Full Dark No Stars by Stephen King a few years back, and one of my biggest take away from that book was that King must be scared to death of rats. Recently I watched 1922, which I’d read, and seeing the rats on screen was quite disturbing.

Writers write out their fears, their dreams, and pieces of their lives. They bleed part of their soul onto paper and hope their readers will gain some kind of meaning from it, some kind of oneness. Because, after all, the point in writing is connection. Giving a sense of part of your world to others and hoping they find meaning in it, or even just entertainment.

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Another Time, Another Place?

For a long time I felt like I had been born in the wrong time period. When I was a kid, I had imaginary friends named Jonathan and Thomas. They were my brothers who time-traveled to me from the Civil War era. I knew where our house was: under a large mountain, a log cabin, where I lived with my brothers and my mom while my dad was away fighting. I kid you not.

I played with Jonathan and Thomas next to the blue hydrangea bush in my backyard on scorching hot summer days. I felt like they were real, maybe even ghosts, but probably they were just the result of my already overactive imagination. I loved anything Civil War when I was a kid. I had an obsession with Abraham Lincoln. I used to dream I was married to him, because after all I’d be a better spouse than Mary Todd. Then I told people, I thought I had been Abraham Lincoln in a previous life. I read anything about Lincoln I could get my hands on. My favorite poem, read on the lap of my dad, was O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether or not my writing would sell if I had been born in a different time period. Like, what if I had been a contemporary of Jonathan and Thomas instead of just their sister who lived in the rocking 1980’s future with big hair, jams, and all! Maybe I’d be a famous 1860’s writer, writing about the trials and tribulations of the Civil War. Because right now it’s damn hard to get published.

Here is a list of what it takes to get published in the year 2017:

  • Living in New York – I read once where an agent said New York City is the only place to live if you want to be a serious writer — No thank you.
  • Devoting every dollar you ever make to marketing your book and then some
  • Not having a working wage
  • Somehow acquiring an agent even though you have no writing contacts – it’s all in who you know, people, and I know noone
  • A finished and polished manuscript
  • Your first born child
  • Your tortured soul for all of eternity

No, but seriously, it’s hard to get published. I used to dream I was one of the Bronte sisters. Or Jane Austen. Some of my favorite authors are long dead. Katherine Mansfield—totally awesome. George Eliot—God, if only something like Middlemarch would sell these days. I’m in the wrong field. You know how some people say God is dead, well I think literary fiction is dead. Or at least I have no fucking clue how to market it to an agent and get it sold. Maybe I should start writing young adult vampire books. Or cat books.* There seems to be a great market for those.

Jane_Austen

Jane Austen

So I made a list of pros and cons for living and writing in the 1700s or 1800s.

Pros

  • Not much competition – a lot of people did not know how to read or write. Basic literacy could make you a success!
  • A lot of time – with no electronics there was a lot of spare time if you weren’t birthing babies.
  • There wasn’t technology to aid in procrastinating or distracting you.
  • Love has it all – romance sells, people! Who doesn’t want to hear about someone looking for the love of their life.
  • Epic novels with seemingly no plot, romance thrown in, a little bit about how the fields were doing, and what dresses people were wearing were all the rage.
  • Tragedy was an everyday part of life so people liked to read about it, and we know I love to write about tragedy and darkness!

I would have fit in, people, if it weren’t for the cons…

Cons

  • It’s hard to get published unless you pretend you’re a man – take George Eliot. I mean, I thought she was a man until one of my high school English teachers set me straight.
  • You’re probably going to die young of tuberculosis or some equally horrible disease.**
    • Katherine Mansfield died of tuberculosis on January 9, 1923
    • Jane Austen died of Addison’s disease on July 18, 1817
    • Charlotte and Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis on March 31, 1855 and December 19, 1848 respectivefully.
    • Virginia Woolf committed suicide — authors still do this in amazing abundance, because a large majority of them are tortured souls – do you know that?
    • George Eliot lived to the ripe age of 60 and succumbed to kidney disease.
  • There wasn’t technology to help you research.
  • Word-processing didn’t exist. Talk about hand cramps. And if you had dysgraphia, forget it! You’d never become a published writer.
  • Bad eyes – writing by candle light and reading all those books in the dark. Atrocious. I already have bad eyes, I’d probably be blind by now if I lived back then.
  • Men – they cramped women’s style by not wanting them to do anything but care for the kids that they were continually popping out. Plus they had an advantage by just being born with a penis. Heck, they still have that advantage today, but it’s gotten a little bit better. At least I don’t have to pretend to be a man to get published.

So maybe being born back in the good ole days wouldn’t be so great. I guess I’ll keep trucking along. As long as I have one reader then I qualify as a writer. Because to me, the most important thing is my audience.

Do you think you were born at the wrong time?

*I love young adult books, vampire books, and even books that feature cats as main characters. Cats are awesome, solitary, independent creatures. 

**All information was found on Google & Wikipedia. 

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Disclaimer

You know the disclaimer you see at the beginning of books:

This story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this novel are entirely fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, or things should be inferred.

It’s bullshit.

If you show up in my books, I’m sorry. But I’m pretty sure most writers make use of people, places, and things from their own life. When I write, my characters are filled with parts of me, parts of my husband, parts of other people I know. So one character might have some of my husband’s characteristics or several characters might be an amalgamation of him.

A lot of writers walk around with little notebooks to jot down funny little incidents they see taking place in their lives. They might write down the way the sunset on the lake makes them feel. Or they might write down how some lady sitting next to them at their son’s ballgame was using numerology to plan birthday parties—random things like that. Those scenes make it into books. We are, after all, part of the human experience. In order to make characters seem like actual human beings, writers sprinkle them with characteristics of people we may know or the stranger who did something shocking, funny, or weird.

When I wrote my first book, No Turning Back, which is still on Amazon I wrote about my past. I wrote about a relationship that hurt me and continues to plague me today. People who are/were close to me who read the book probably knew that. My sisters figured it out anyway. They say an author’s first book is always about herself. I’d say that most authors’ books are probably about themselves, the things they’ve seen or felt, or the people we know. Authors write for various reasons.

Here are the reasons I write:

  1. To Try to Answer Existential Questions
  2. To Deal with a Dilemma I’m currently facing
  3. To Deal with a Trauma or Pain from the Past
  4. To Deal with Depression – put the pain on the characters or have them solve the problems.
  5. To Try to Describe my Human Experience
  6. To Connect with Other People in a Meaningful, Deliberate Way

The more I get to know other writers, the more I think this is what writers do. They use their characters to deal with their life. It’s no wonder that writers often get described as tortured souls. The very thing that drives them can be torturous. The very thing that nurtures their creativity often threatens to suffocate them or pull them down into the darkness, the depression, the alcoholism—whatever the vice.

I find in myself, and you can see it in my pattern of writing, that I am driven by my restlessness. I write better and more often when I’m searching for an answer, when I feel unfulfilled, when I feel like the whole world might come crashing down at any moment. But at the same time, that work starts to provide meaning. It starts to provide a light. It starts to create hopefulness inside of me. It shows me my purpose, and aren’t we all striving for purpose in our lives? Ironically, the very thing that makes me feel better, creativity, often disappears once it has done its job. The plight of a writer.

Perhaps the hardest part of being a writer is feeling misunderstood. I’ve lived my whole life thinking too much, and writing eases that to a certain extent. All writers want their work to resonate with people. When the writing comes from a place of emotion, the characters often reflect that. And sometimes those characters come from real life, no matter what the disclaimer at the beginning of the book says.

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Identity and Genre in Writing

I recently read Rabbit Redux by John Updike. I read Rabbit, Run before, and I hadn’t been impressed. In fact, I hated Rabbit a little bit. The book stuck with me though. I’d think about it before I went to bed. I let some time pass (and my life settle down a bit), and I picked up Rabbit Redux and loved it. Updike is masterful at creating a flawed character. Rabbit seemed like he could live and breath as he learned the lessons that come with life.

RabbitReduxbookcover

I read John Updike’s biography, because I was interested in this man who could create such a life-like character. I have been struggling to write lately, and I needed some motivation from one of the greats. I’ve been focusing on reading, because sometimes when I read a lot the writing falls into place. Updike was a prolific writer. He wrote a book a year. He also didn’t let himself be pigeon-holed into a genre. He wrote the Rabbit series spanning from the 1960’s to the 2000’s, character-based writing like mine, that explored topics such as social norms, race-relations, and sexuality. But he also wrote some sci-fi-like, magical realism, historical fiction, and even prose.

I’ve struggled to find my style. I think all too often these days, publishers are looking for genre-based books. I mean, how many vampire books can we have? Romance? Humans love to classify information. Oh, Lauren Greene, she writes women’s fiction. Or, oh, Lauren Greene, she writes Southern Literature (not even listed as a genre on Amazon.com—what’s up with that?). But why? I write because I love to write. I write to solve my problems, the world’s problems (not likely), and because there’s something inside of me that doesn’t feel fulfilled unless I’m writing. I think Updike got that. I didn’t know him personally (I wish I had met him). It seems to me that he wrote what he felt like writing and his audience followed him. I’d like to be that type of writer. The one who follows her creative whims. But in order to do that, I have to sit down and write again. I have got to make it a priority. I have to decide that as a writer, I write, I seek publication, and I do the hard shit like marketing. Because in the end, I kind of want to be like Updike. I want to lead my life doing what I love, and I want it to show in the beauty of my writing. I want to mold a character into someone who feels real. Someone who my reader can relate to or even hate. Someone who sticks with the reader long afterwards in a familiar, comfortable sort of way. Writers are supposed to make their readers feel. And if I can do that then I’ll feel like maybe I’m doing my job.

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Begin Again

Self-sabotage. I think that little hyphenated word sums me up and a lot of other writers I know. I get into a funk, or I let busy get in the way, and I stop writing.

About a month ago, I started writing, yet another, novel. I wrote feverishly on it for about two weeks. I ended up with about 20,000 words. It was the most I’d written since Booktrope folded and The Devil Within went out of print. And then I stopped. I let the same old excuses stop me: I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never get published. I’ll never make writing my career. Self-sabotage.

The thing is: I will never be good enough if I don’t try. I have two hang-ups. The muddle in the middle where I think all my stories suck. And the end when I have to revise. I have a hard time revising effectively. It’s hard, in my busy schedule (excuses again) to find hour longs stretches where I can arrange, slash, and rewrite. But I’ve done it before. That should tell me that I have the capability. Still the human mind is completely adept at self-sabotage. I think it’s an innate fear or failure or success that makes me put the brakes on. Which is ridiculous. Fear can be a driver and a defeater. I’m ready to use it as a driver again.

So here I am. I promise I’ll blog at least once a month so you, the people, have something to read. Hopefully you get something out of it again. I’m going to stop defeating myself and start winning again.

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Thinking Errors

Blame Game

Every once in a while I start to question my ability as a writer. When this happens, I usually take a break from writing. Or I procrastinate. I put my writing on the backburner as if this will solve the confidence problem I have when it comes to my writing instead of just making my confidence plummet more.

This week, my husband went out of town. He works from home. As such, he also does the majority of making dinner and cleaning the house, and he picks up the kids from camp, etc. He is basically Mr. Mom. I’m not sure what I would do without him, because he LOVES doing that sort of stuff and I don’t. I was lucky, because my niece and nephew were in town so we went over to my parent’s house most nights. Taking care of the kids and making dinner became a collaborative effort. Single parents: I have the utmost respect for you. I could not do it.

But my tween seemed to be having a hard time this week. And he was blaming everyone else besides himself. This is common among kids, tweens, and teens. I was upset by my tween’s behavior. I went to the internet to search why he always deflected blame, and why when I addressed it the whole thing blew up into a huge fight between us, ultimately ending with me feeling guilty. And then I read this great article and realized: It’s a classic thinking error. I found out from reading this article, how to challenge thinking errors when dealing with my tween. His classic thinking error is in thinking the whole world is against him. He has painted himself as the victim, instead of the aggressor. He has done this over and over again, because he has limited problem solving skills, probably because his parents (aka me and his dad) have not modeled correct problem solving skills when faced with certain issues, or we’ve been inconsistent in addressing issues when he’s in the wrong. In his way of thinking, when he hits a kid or gets into a fight it’s the other kid’s fault because that kid was “bothering” him. I challenged him yesterday. And I think it hit home. I’m trying to change the dialogue between us so he can start growing up and realizing that making himself the victim is a thinking error and won’t help him in the long run.

And in thinking about this, I started thinking about my own thinking errors. I have no time to write. I’m not a good writer. If only, I didn’t have a full time job, three kids, and 5,000 activities. I’m laying the blame for my failure to write everywhere else besides in myself.  I’m not taking responsibility for the fact that I’m ceasing to create. I’m making excuses. I’m procrastinating, when in reality I have the ability to change the dialogue. I have the ability to tell myself I can write. And I know this, because I’ve done it before even when I was busy. I made the time. I stopped making excuses.

Overcoming thinking errors is hard, because thinking errors aren’t just mistakes. Thinking errors occur over and over again, because we’ve learned to use them as coping mechanism so we don’t have to face the reality of our actions or the intensity of our emotions. People use thinking errors to try to protect themselves from getting hurt. Thinking errors are justification to ourselves when we’re doing something wrong. They serve a purpose of trying to keep our self esteem intact when our self esteem is plummeting. When we don’t take the blame, we perceive an injustice to us that’s not there. When we procrastinate, we tell ourselves that everything else is more important than what we’re meant to be working on. These are all ways to protect our ego and to protect our identity as we see it. But the problem with thinking errors is that they’re destructive. Do we really want to go through life feeling like we’re a victim of our circumstances? Do we want to make excuses or procrastinate until the opportunity doesn’t exist or we feel so hopeless about our own destiny that we throw up our hands and we cease to create, cease to strive for better? I don’t want to be that person.

I’m rewiring my thinking error about writing today. I’m telling myself that I do have time to write. I have time to blog, even if it is 5 words a day. I’m going to stop using procrastination as an excuse not to face my fears where writing is concerned. I’m going to do what I’m called to do even if I suck at it (which I don’t think I do). When we overcome thinking errors, we become more emotionally aware. We also become more capable of being happy, self-confident, and achieving success.

Do you have a thinking error that’s holding you back from achieving success, establishing friendships, or facing your own demons?

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Weekly Goals June 17-25

Today is June 17th. First of all, I’m going to report on how I did on last week’s goals. Then I’m going to assign new goals. And I’m going to let you know that I’m having a vacation week from June 25th-July 1st, so there won’t be goals that week.

Exercise

  • Run 4 miles on Friday, June 10 — I achieved this. I went to the Y and ran on the treadmill.
  • Run 6 miles on Saturday, June 11th. Try to keep up with my running partner who has suddenly become a speed demon. I ran. But I also walked. I struggled with the heat.
  • Sunday is a day of rest (I think this was duly noted somewhere thousands of years ago) I rested! And swam.
  • Glide on Monday, Yoga Tuesday, Glide Wednesday, Thursday short run, start over Friday — I screwed up in this department. I did Glide Monday, 2 mile run Tuesday, and then Glide on Thursday. I had lots going on this week, so I didn’t get to the gym as much as I wanted, and the heat and the humidity outside was too much for me.

Food , Drink, Weight

  • No alcohol on weekdays.I was doing so well, until last night. I had wine with my childhood girlfriends. It was worth it.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies Done!
  • Less chocolate Done!
  • No chips from my chip-pusher James.James didn’t bring chips! I didn’t eat ANY this week.
  • Strive to lose 1 lb per week until I hit my goal weight (12 lbs to lose) I lost 2.8 lbs this week. 
  • Write every day – I’m done with setting word limits, because sometimes I do less and sometimes I do more, but I find creativity flows better when I write at least a little bit every day. Blogs count too.– Achieved. 

So here are my goals for this week:

Exercise

  • Yoga tomorrow at the lake with my friends! And I may run if I get up early enough. If not, oh well.
  • Sunday-rest and recovery.
  • Monday – Glide
  • Tuesday – run AM – 2-3 miles/Glide Lunch
  • Wednesday – rest
  • Thursday — Glide at lunch or run the treadmill (2-3 miles)
  • Friday – rest

My food, drink, weight goals are the same as last week:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • No alcohol on weekdays
  • Less chocolate
  • No chips on weekdays (I may eat some this weekend, but anything goes then!)

Writing

  • Come up with a plan
  • Finish editing Little Birdhouses or at least work on it SOME.
  • Finish 2nd girl in the Daniel series and start 3rd.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and that you set and achieve some awesome goals in the following week! Let me know your goals for the upcoming week/month/year are!

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Satisfied

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Many of you know, that thanks to my sister Kelsey, I am currently obsessed with the musical Hamilton. (If you click that link you will be taken to a YouTube of the Hamilton song, Satisfied). 

I’ve been listening to this musical for about a month. I wake up singing it in the morning. I’ve always liked musicals, but I wouldn’t say I’m a connoisseur of musical theater. I simply listen to music and musicals I like.

In the song Satisfied, Angelica is making a toast to her sister, Eliza, on her marriage to Alexander Hamilton. Only Angelica is still in love with Hamilton, but gave him up for many reasons. And the scene zooms back to when she met him at a Winter’s Ball, and they talked about never been satisfied. I know this song is about a romantic situation, but it can be applied to other situations in life too.

Satisfaction. Is anyone ever 100% satisfied? This song was in my mind, because I think I have a tendency not to be satisfied. For a long time, I looked for the little negative things in my life. I didn’t look at the bigger picture. I walked around with a smile on my face, but behind the smile lay a world unraveling. I felt wholly and sadly unsatisfied. I wanted what I didn’t have, and I didn’t want what I had. Finding writing again helped me curb the unsettled unsatisfactory feeling within myself.

In the song, Hamilton tells her she seems like a woman who has never been satisfied. And then he compares her to himself and says that he has never been and will never be satisfied either.

Hamilton was wildly successful, you know, besides being shot and killed by Burr. He wrote the majority of the Federalist Papers, shaped the US founding government, was the first State Treasurer, and started the banking industry (because of him I have a job). But he never felt satisfied (or the creative license would have you think that). And here’s a thought: the lack of satisfaction is a driving force in success. Why do people rise up from the poor? Because they’re not satisfied with what they have? Why do people change jobs? Because they’re not satisfied. Why do people become politicians? Because they’re not satisfied. Why do people write? Because they’re not satisfied.

Think about it this way. If a writer wrote a book and was completely satisfied with it, would they ever write another one? Part of what keeps people driven is the lack of satisfaction, either with their current situation or with the world around them. Not feeling satisfied is an unsettling feeling, but is also a key to success.

Why drives you? Are you satisfied?

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Countdown

Five days until the half-marathon. It’s crazy, because forever I felt like it was far away. And here it is. And I don’t feel ready. I mean, I can run 12 miles. Or at least walk/run and feel like I’m dying with my breathing or possibly my legs might fall off. The thing I’m most worried about is the heat and humidity. It’s supposed to be 90 degrees in Nashville on Saturday. The thing I’m looking forward to most is seeing my sisters. I love how this journey has brought us closer this year. We are all striving to do the same thing, and the common goal has brought us together. That’s pretty awesome if you think about it.

I haven’t been writing, and last week I didn’t even blog. I have been soul searching a little bit. (Of course, because don’t I always?) This week, my eleven year old told me that maybe he didn’t want to do gymnastics next year. And when I asked him why he said, “Because it’s gotten hard and it’s not as fun as it used to be.” In all my wisdom I said, “Well, if you want to quit you can. It’s your choice. But you have to make sure you’re quitting for the right reason. Are you quitting because it’s hard and you don’t like hard work? Or are you quitting because you’re ready to try something else?”

And then I went for a run with Sean on Saturday morning, and the first 2 miles were fucking amazing. Fast. And then I said I wanted to walk. And we walked/ran the last 2 miles. On the way home in the car I complained about running the half again. “Why the hell am I even doing this? It’s so stupid.” And Sean said, “You may have a bit of Caden in you. You want to quit when it gets hard.”

And he was right: I do. I’ve always had a huge amount of motivation, and I get to a certain point and then I just don’t feel like doing it anymore. So this weekend I was thinking of that in terms of my writing instead of my running. I’ve been in a funk. I started a difficult novel. And I’m 30,000 words in, and I’m stuck. But the thing is–I know what’s going to happen and how to finish it but writing it is hard. It’s hard for a million reasons, because of emotions, and the voice, and all the shit that will make it good in the end. And I also think that’s why I’ve had a hard time editing Little Birdhouses. I’ve always been the type of person who sets a goal, finishes something, then moves on to the next big thing. But I don’t want to be like that with my writing. I want to make it a lifetime of work. I want to work through the discomfort. I want to get to the end and really have produced something amazing that readers can relate to. I want to query, live through the rejection, and, eventually, become a famous writer. I have this incredible talent and this amazing dream, but I can tell you I’m never going to get there if my attitude is the same as it’s been the last few months. No one ever gets anywhere by not working hard and giving up before they’ve reached the finish line.

It’s funny, because after my talk with my running buddy on Saturday I went running with my girlfriends on Sunday morning and I had all this incredible energy. I think I could have finished the half marathon easily that day. My attitude had changed, and I felt like I’d just push through. Now if only I could apply that to my writing.

Innately, I know that success comes from hard work, and part of the feeling of accomplishment is working hard to get there. But in reality, putting that into practice is difficult for me. And yes, I know I have lots of valid excuses: three kids, husband, day job, and PTA, but in the end I need those factors to motivate me instead of serving as a roadblock to my success.

Suggestions are welcome. Do you feel like you hold yourself back from achieving your dreams?

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