Life is an emotional journey. If you’ve read my bio, you already know I believe this. But what exactly does that mean?
To me, it means we need to embrace life, feel each moment as we live it.
Some of those emotions are wonderful. Some are painful. But we need to experience the bad times in order to appreciate the good. Right? Otherwise, how would we know the difference?
As an author, I imagine how my characters would feel in each scene—how I would feel in their place. When I write, I hope to bring those emotions to life so the reader can experience the moment along with my characters. Feel the moment.
The emotions I write are real, but the stories are made up. Fiction. In reality, I’m a private person and rarely share details from my personal life.
This week I’m making an exception, because some emotions are too strong to be contained to one aspect of my life. And in this particular case, my personal life has had a major impact on my journey as an author.
Last month I celebrated the release of my debut novel. Things were going as expected. I was getting great reviews, setting up spotlights, trying to make sense of all that crazy marketing stuff, and beginning to set up a team to help promote me and my book.
And, of course, I was back in the writing cave playing with my imaginary friends. (A.K.A. my characters)
Things were going good . . . and then I suddenly disappeared from public view. Why?
I’m sure there are people who thought I couldn’t find my way, couldn’t figure things out and gave up . . . faded into the abyss. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
So what happened? What could possibly be important enough to make me put all my hard work aside?
Real life . . . Family . . . An emotional avalanche.
See, putting one of my characters through fictional hell is pretty easy. Just pick a tragedy, draw on the vast supply of memories I’ve collected over the years to find something similar, then let the pain flow to the page.
Actually living through those rough times in real life? Not so easy.
It’s been almost a month since my brother went into the hospital for a scheduled surgical procedure with the expectation he’d be back home three days later. Things didn’t go as planned. Post-operative complications led to a mistake that has left him fighting for his life, a battle he has yet to win.
His pain is physical. Mine is emotional. But we share the same fear—the realistic possibility that this story may not have a happy ending.
Despite that, I need to stay strong. I am the one my brother leans on. The one comforting him and hoping my words of encouragement are somehow getting through. I am his advocate—the one fighting for his rights and pushing his medical team for solutions. I am the one responsible for decisions about his care and treatment.
By the time I leave the hospital each night, there’s nothing left inside to give to my characters. Spreading the word about my fictional book seems insignificant under the weight of my real-life drama. Thoughts of interacting on social media are unwanted and easily pushed aside.
Back at home, I crawl into bed for another night of prayers and restless sleep.
I hate the situation we’re in—it shouldn’t have happened—but I don’t regret the role I’ve accepted or the sacrifices I’ve made. We all have priorities, and this is mine.
There is one core value I’ve always taken pride in upholding, the one I’ve worked so hard to instill in my sons.
Family first. Nothing is more important.
Whatever the outcome, this will all be stored away in my collection of memories; and one day it will surely fuel a powerful scene or even become the premise of a fictional story. But for now, it is an all-consuming agony. A harsh reality.
A test of my strength and determination.
I may have fallen—or been knocked down—but I’ll get back up. I am a writer, and my (emotional) journey continues. ~CJ
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Shhh . . . and don’t you dare pinch me. I’m not ready to wake up. I am having the most amazing dream . . . so much better than the one I’ve been having for years.
You remember that one? I’m sure I’ve told you about it before—the one where I become a published author and share my fictional stories with the world.
Coming back to you?
Well, this time I dreamed that it actually came true, can you imagine. I went online to shop for a new book, and—what do you mean it’s not a dream? Are you sure?
Ouch! Hey, I told you NOT to pinch me . . . and that was a kinda hard, by the way. But wow . . . look at that.
You’re right. This isn’t a dream. I’m a published author! I did it!
And I’m still sane . . . for the most part.
Sure, my family and friends will probably tell you I’m not . . . or that I made them crazy along the way with my obsession for perfection and my self-imposed deadlines. But you’re not gonna believe them.
You’re not . . . are you?
Okay. Just checking. Phew . . .
Anyway, this has been such an exciting journey filled with many opportunities to grow—both as a writer and an individual—and I’m glad you’ve allowed me share the experience with you. Both the highs and the painful lows.
But I’ve weathered those storms, pushed through the times I felt defeated, and finally made it to the port of Published Author. And I’m just getting started.
What’s next, you ask?
My journey continues, of course! I’m entering a new phase of the publishing industry as an indie author-entrepreneur and learning so much more that I did as an aspiring author.
There’s a lot of work to be done. No time now to sit and chat—we need to keep moving! And I already have a few great stories and lessons to tell you about along the way.
Next stop . . . best-selling author.
I’m sure the road will be bumpy with lots of steep hills, but I’m determined to get there! Fasten your seatbelt and come along with me as I share the challenges, frustrations, and excitement of being an indie author-entrepreneur.
See you soon!~CJ
Dreams are important. We all have them. (you can learn about mine here) But simply acknowledging they exist isn’t enough. We need to do something about them.
Our dreams help us to set goals for our lives—what we want to do, who we want to be, where we want to go.
But it takes more than a dream and hard work to reach your goals. The path we travel on our journey is riddled with tests and challenges to make sure we are worthy of the reward that awaits us. It takes courage—an inner strength to believe in ourselves—to reach our destination. And it takes determination—the drive to forge ahead, no matter what.
Above all else, we must never give up.
As a new writer, there’s always so much to learn and do. One of the most important things is to build an author’s platform. The first time I heard that phrase, I had no clue what it meant…some days I still wonder if I really do.
For the most part, it just means establishing a base of followers on different social media outlets. By blogging, we hope to build a loyal following of fans who enjoy our writing and will eagerly await the release of our books . . . and tell all their friends about them.
I realized the importance of creating a blog, but I couldn’t imagine having anything to say that someone would actually want to read about. (Still waiting for the masses to prove me wrong . . . ) The idea of opening up and writing real thoughts, personal stuff, instead of fiction was somewhat intimidating. There were a lot of things to consider, beyond deciding what image I wanted to portray and what audience I hoped to connect with.
Since you’re reading this, I’m sure you already know I decided to blog about my writer’s journey. So far, I have to admit, it’s been pretty much fun . . . even on the weeks where my journey itself hasn’t been.
Sharing the low points and personal struggles of my life as an author is difficult, but it helps to get them out of my head where they could fester and do a lot of damage to my creative process. I just imagine I’m writing a personal journal that no one else will read and let my thoughts fall to the page.
As a friend pointed out, people really seem to connect with that, which surprised me. Unfortunately, it seems my lowest moments have been the most popular. So either misery really does love company, or those posts are the equivalent of an accident on the highway that everyone slows down to stare at—I haven’t been able to decide which.
The past few weeks were difficult for me. I allowed other people’s actions to affect the way I saw myself. I questioned my value as a writer. I lost my connection to my story.
How could I write about my character’s life when I didn’t care what happened to her? How could I push myself to meet daily word goals when I didn’t care how long it took me to finish my book?
I couldn’t. Instead, I spent a lot of time staring at my screen, or I’d simply pack up and call it an early night.
But I never gave up on my story—it means too much to me, and I’m not a quitter. I just didn’t care about it at the time, and that’s almost as bad as giving up. Almost.
To make matters worse, my muse abandoned me, taking my self confidence with him. Overcoming this has been my biggest challenge. I’ve felt lost and alone, but I’m learning to adjust.
In last week’s post I realized it was time for me to ignore everything around me, focus, and give my story the TLC it deserves. For the most part, I’ve done a pretty good job of that this week.
Today the elusive chapter 25 that I’ve been stuck on forever is going up for review in my critique group, and I’m really excited about the way it turned out. It’s a small victory. One I fought hard for. One that took a lot of courage, and sheer determination to never give up on my dream.
The power to succeed lies within every one of us. I’m back on my path, pursuing my dream, and ready to take on the next challenge that tries to stand in my way. Above all else, I will never give up. —CJ
Warning: Some plants were harmed in researching this topic. It was not my intention to offend or traumatize anyone. Especially them.
For years my family referred to our house as the place plants go to die. They even went so far as to openly pity and warn the newest
victims additions when I brought them home.
I love plants. Who doesn’t, right? They’re bright and cheery and add a cozy feel to our homes. They make me happy.
But, the sad truth is, my family was right.
With every adoption of a new plant I’d swear things would be different, promise I’d take better care of them. I’d start out strong: watering them almost daily, adding plant food weekly, wiping down their cute little leaves, and telling them how beautiful they were.
I tried. Really, I did. *Sigh*
It always ended the same way, though: It won’t hurt to skip one day . . . or a few days . . . maybe a week. Eventually I’d notice their stems, once perky, were limp and sagging. I’ll take care of them tomorrow. By the time I’d discover them hanging over the sides of their pots, gasping and barely clinging to life, it was too late.
A good dose of water would revive them temporarily, but they were never the same. After a few more episodes of neglect, they’d meet their demise.
So young. So innocent. The poor plants just didn’t stand a chance.
Slightly unrelated side note: Don’t be fooled by the “Tropical Plant” labels attached to your lush beauties by the garden center. Taking one (okay . . . it was several) of those so-called tropical plants from your air-conditioned house and putting them outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine on a beautiful summer day won’t end well.
In my defense, I was trying to be nice to them—Was it my fault they couldn’t appreciate it?
I know, by now you’re thinking, “Well, that’s nice to know, CJ; but what does any of this have to do with your journey as a writer?” Aaahhhh . . . you always ask the perfect questions. I can answer that with one word (but you know I’ll use more):
Simply put—finding every conceivable excuse under the sun to avoid doing the one thing you’re supposed to be doing. And probably one of my worst habits.
Well, I actually prefer to think of it as time management—my method of setting priorities, deciding what can wait until tomorrow. And I am extremely good at my style of “time management,” but that’s not necessarily a good thing . . . just ask the plants.
Procrastination can have the same negative impact on my journey as an author, allowing an unfinished story or idea to wither and die. So I need to ask myself what I’m doing wrong. Why have I been stuck on writing the same chapter for longer than I’m willing to publicly admit?
Everyone is busy. Our personal lives are filled with work, home, and family responsibilities. Add to that all the responsibilities of a new independent author—writing an awesome debut novel, building a platform, networking, learning about publishing and marketing, and trying to figure out what all needs to be done (and in what order)—and life can get crazy real fast.
Accepting that I can’t do everything right away is difficult. Frustrating. I need to prioritize and determine which things truly can wait until tomorrow. But recognizing that I’m making poor decisions in what I allow to take those precious top-priority positions—the things I need to do first—is upsetting. I’ve lost sight of my goals.
I took a closer look at the things I tend to put off and realized they usually fall into one of three categories:
1- Things that I just don’t think are important enough to worry about right now.
2- Things that I really don’t want to do, but I’ll keep them in mind and maybe get to them. Eventually.
3- Things that I really want (or need) to do, but the risk of failure is high, making it difficult for me to push ahead. Face my fear.
The first two categories don’t bother me, sorry to say. The third is a problem, and one that is preventing me from moving forward as an author. Worse, allowing myself to put off things in this category can be dangerous to my creative process.
Yes, I am well aware that we all have the same twenty-four hours each day in which to accomplish as much as we possibly can. I get that, and I do my best not to waste any of it. The problem is there always seems to be far more “things to do” than there are hours to do them in. I’ve even tried giving up sleep in my attempt to create more productive time, but that hasn’t worked very well for me . . . (If you missed that post, click here to find out why.)
I envy people who manage to accomplish more than I can, and I don’t like feeling that way—I want to be one of those people. So this is me, being angry at myself, for allowing myself to get distracted and lose focus.
Clearly, my biggest writing-related priority has to be finishing my book. That means I need to shut off all the noise around me. I need to stop letting other projects or ideas lure me away.
This will truly be a challenge for me. It’s so easy to get side-tracked, but I need to make the most of those twenty-four hours each and every day if I ever intend to reach my goal and become a published author.
And I will. As an author, failure is not an option I’m willing to consider.
As for the plants? Well, I’ve raised the white flag there.
I am happy to report that my latest batch of plants has been thriving for more than a year though . . . thanks to my hubby. He couldn’t bear to sit back and watch the massacre any longer and took over the care of our happy little plants . . . who never sag over the sides of their pots or get scorched on a summer day.
My book deserves the same TLC, but that has to come from me. —CJ