Every author will tell you that characters don’t always do what we had planned for them. And stories don’t always stick to the plot points in our outlines. (The nerve of them! Right?)
But that’s fiction. In real life, we can plan better. Prepare. Have each and every minute step mapped out in fine detail, and . . .
Dream on, fellow control freaks.
You don’t need to be an author to know none of that matters. No degree of obsessive organization will stop reality from crashing the party, making everything spin out of control and sending you down a different path.
Yep, I’ve been there . . . and I bet you have too.
It’s hard to believe we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of my debut novel release. The launch wasn’t perfect—as expected, I’d made some typical newbie mistakes. But I was figuring things out as I went along. And I was excited to be hard at work writing my second novel.
My dreams were coming true, and I was loving life. Ahhh . . .
**takes a deep breath to enjoy the moment**
Now, if life were a novel, this is the part where you’d expect a dubious plot twist. You know, that point where the author messes things up so the characters have to fight to find their “happily ever after.”
And you’d be right.
A few weeks after releasing my book, fate delivered the worst kind of plot twist—a family tragedy. (Read more on that here.)
As a result, so much of the past year has been a numb blur for me. Working a full-time day job, caring for my home and family, taking care of my brother and his house, and later handling his estate exhausted all of my time and energy—both physical and emotional.
There was no other option, I had to add another painful loss and put my writing career aside.
As much as I wish I could delete the past year and replace it with a better chapter, I can’t rewrite life. I can’t undo the events that took my brother or change the hand I’ve been dealt.
But I can revise parts of it—take what I have, learn, grow, make adjustments, and put my journey through life back on the path I’d envisioned—similar to revising an awful first draft. (And let’s face it . . . all first drafts are crap.)
I’ll admit getting back into the flow of writing has been far more difficult than I’d imagined it would be, and it’s quite a struggle at times. In many ways I feel like I’m starting over.
But . . . starting over is SO much better than giving up!
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and no matter how hard, I always try to find something positive in every situation. In this case, it’s allowed me to assess my priorities and decide what’s important to me, both as a person and an author.
At times I feel lost in this journey through life, but I’m stronger on the inside having weathered this storm. And I’m finding my way back to my chosen path.
My goals have shifted—along with my plans on how to achieve them—like I’m creating an exciting new version of my life: Awesome Author Career of CJ Andrews v.2.0
And, of course, that means I have some exciting new things in the works . . . which I’d really love to tell you about right now . . . BUT I can’t . . . not yet. Stick around! (Or, even better, click on that little follow button along the side so you don’t miss a thing.) ~CJ
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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