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Married People Issues

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In case you missed it, #marriedpeopleissues was trending on twitter.  As someone who has been married for over ten years, I had to warn: “Married People, It’s a trap. Don’t chime in.”  And while I was joking, the truth is that Married People Issues are still, in some respect, a taboo topic. There seems to be two kinds of marriages:

  • Perfect Marriages (no problems here)
  • Troubled Marriages (what are they fighting about now?)

And since most couples want to fall into the Perfect Marriage category, they are hesitant to admit if there are “Issues” that need attention.  Whether it’s finances, or physical needs, or communication, married people often won’t acknowledge that there is an area in their marriage that needs work.  Marriage counseling or guidance is often viewed as a resource for Troubled Marriages, so frequently, small issues that could be resolved easily fester until they become huge issues.

But why?

I think it’s because we all believe that marriage should be a fairy-tale ending. Once two people fall in love, then everything falls in place. There’s the wedding, the honeymoon, and then forever.  If it’s not effortless, fun, and easy, than we’re doing it wrong, right?  I disagree.  Many people in happy marriages admit that marriage is “work.”  It doesn’t have to be hard work, but having a successful marriage requires that you show up to your commitment and actively choose marriage every…single…day. It means learning, growing, and building together.
So, maybe talking about Married People Issues is exactly what we need to do.  Maybe we need to admit the fact that issues can and do exist in all marriages, and it’s not a bad thing.  Maybe we need a third category of Marriages: Human Marriages, where two imperfect people actively work to address real issues, without any stigma attached, and still choose to stay together.

Remember Me

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Today was Eve Fishman’s funeral.  She was my husband’s aunt and passed away at the age of 48.  On days like today, the things I usually obsess about – the number on the scale, my credit card debt, or the word count target I haven’t reached – take a back seat to the “bigger picture.”  I think about things like: why am I here? or, what happens after I die? or, how will I be remembered?

Today, I thought about “stuff.”  You know, the things we accumulate during our lifetime.  At some point or another after someone dies, we have to rummage through our loved ones belongings to find pictures for a memorial slide show, or important papers, and eventually pack and remove their personal items.  And as we go through this stuff, it’s a reminder that in the end, we can’t take anything with us when we pass. So if we can’t take anything with us, then what’s really important is what we leave behind.

Sure, it’s nice to leave behind money or a house.  But what I’m really talking about is the impact that our existence leaves in the world.  When it’s all said and done, how is the world different because of us?

Though Eve is no longer on this earth, she left her mark on my life.  At a difficult time for me, she became like a second mom to my children and showed me immense compassion and love.  To me, memories like that are priceless.  Those memories are a gift that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

So though I don’t have all the answers to the big questions, one thing I know is that I want to live in such a way that I will leave a permanent mark on the lives of those who I love and who read my words.

How Taco Bell Got Me A Book Deal

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I love serendipitous events, and the real-life story of how I ended up signing with a publisher falls into that category for me.  I started writing my first novel f̶o̶r̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶g̶o̶ back in 2011.  At the time, with almost three years of article-writing under my belt, I thought writing a novel would be easy.  *Cue maniacal laughing now*  It wasn’t.  But after several online writing courses, in person classes, and critique groups, I had a finished novel I was proud of.

So, logically, I wanted to share the novel with the world, and based on my research figured finding a literary agent was the way to do that.  And while I’m sure that path works for many writers, after many heartbreaking rejections, I did not sign with an agent.

I know you’ve been waiting for it, so now is where Taco Bell comes in.  After a good year of querying, I was tired of rejections, and I decided to give up on the book.  I even wrote an entire different novel during NanoWriMo, and I figured, hey, maybe it’s just not going to happen.  But then I went to Taco Bell, picked up a mild sauce packet, and read the words: “Why not?”  Now, for anyone else, they would have squeezed the sauce on the burrito, tossed the wrapper, then went on with his or her life.  But see, what I haven’t mentioned is that my novel was tentatively titled “Why Knot?”

At first, I felt that the universe was taunting me.  The sauce packet was a cruel reminder of what I’d given up on.  But then, I decided I’d use it as motivation.  Give it a last shot.  Afterall, I loved this story.  The characters were like my friends that were so cool I wanted to introduce them to everyone.  I’d toiled for years and invested money to make this novel a reality.  No, I wasn’t going to give up.  I was going to try something new!

So, I decided to research small presses.  Shortly after, I submitted to Red Adept Publishing.  It was three long months of endless email checking, but when I got “The Call” offering representation, I was elated.  It’s been a great journey so far, and I’m looking forward to the road ahead.  But more importantly, I’m happy I made that trip to Taco Bell.

Writers often talk numbers at the end of these type of posts.  So here are mine.

Bottles of Wine Consumed: So many AA might give me a call if I answer truthfully

Knee Pads Bought: Too many as I prayed for this story to come to light

Times I would do this process again: Infinity and beyond if I end up where I am now

Cash Cow Dreams – Spending Money to Further Your Dreams

Merriam Webster defines the term “Cash Cow” as a “consistently profitable business, property, or product whose profits are used to finance a company’s investments in other areas.”  When I became serious about publishing a novel and asked for advice from my writing instructor, a five-time published novelist, he gave me great advice.  To paraphrase, he said, “Be careful because there are a lot of people who will try to get rich off your dream.”

From then until now, I hear his words when I’m thinking of investing to further my goals.  If you’re in a similar position where you have a dream and aren’t sure how much to spend to make it a reality, consider the three points below.

What Lasting Benefit Will You Receive?

A few weeks ago, my cousin called and said she was thinking of making an investment.  She wanted to know how much I’d spent on my writing over the years.  I didn’t have to calculate.  “$TOO much,” I told her with a laugh.  But then she asked a more important question: was it worth it?  I had to think about it, and I realized that some investments were and others weren’t.  Overall, most of the money that was spent on educational classes were always worth it because it was knowledge I could still use to this day.  Like B.B. King said, “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” But it depends on who is teaching the course, as I have definitely spent money on classes that ended up being a waste of time.

So like other investments that I regret, most of those were when I didn’t receive what I expected because I hadn’t done my homework.  If you’re going to pay money, first put some time into doing research.

What’s The Source

One of the best ways to research service providers is to get references.  After all, if you’re going to spend a lot of money, you should feel confident it will literally be worth it.  Often times, people post testimonials on their websites.  But you really shouldn’t stop there.  Most likely they are only going to post favorable reviews, and people might feel pressured to write a good review for a friend or acquaintance.  Actually speaking to someone who received the service and having a list of questions can be incredibly helpful to find out if you will get what you want.  One time, I asked an “editor” for references.  In response, she said her clients were “confidential.”  Huge red flag.  When people receive quality service, most likely they are more than happy to give a referral.

Is It Necessary…Now?

Once you determine that you want to invest in a service or product that will have a lasting benefit from a credible source, the last question to ask is if you need it, and more importantly if you need it NOW.  There are some services that can be obtained free through networking, such as critiquing work or exchanging manuscripts. But scammers will claim you have to pay, for example agents that charge a reading fee.  Do research to determine if you must pay.  If a fee is necessary, can you afford it now?  If the answer is no, is it necessary to incur debt or would it be better to save up and then invest later?  Rushing into a large purchase isn’t advisable – especially if you can’t afford it.  So, giving yourself a little space to think the investment over while saving up money is often a win-win situation.

With effort, intelligence, and business savvy, investing to reach your goal can be beneficial.

The New Year

So, it’s the New Year again *pops open champagne and gulps it down*.

And though some people will start the New Year with resolutions and high hopes, I’m more reserved this year.  Instead of writing a list of things I will do in the new year, or making a poster of the life I want, or rushing out and purchasing a gym membership (which I need after the holiday food I ate); I’m going to spend this time appreciating everything I DID do in 2014.

Crossing Off the Old List

What did you set out to accomplish in 2014?  Whether it was to run a marathon or run for president and whether you achieved it or not (sorry, but we all know which would lead to failure), there were small steps taken towards that goal.  Acknowledge that effort.  For me, I wrote a lot, I learned a lot, and I made strides toward accomplishing my goals.  I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m definitely closer, and I’m not going to lose momentum.

Highlighting What Still Needs to Be Accomplished

Instead of making a long list of new goals this year, I’m going to hone in on my old goals.   If slow and steady wins the race, then I’d rather keep going at what I started then abandon my old resolutions to begin something new.  The New Year is magical because it represents an opportunity to put all efforts toward goals we have in our sights.  And if the magic and knowledge from last year is coupled with this years magic and determination, I know I’ll be closer to accomplishing what I set my mind to.

Reevaluate Your Goals

Did you want to run away to the circus last year? or fly to the moon and play up there with the stars? (sorry, that was Frank Sinatra).  Sometimes we outgrow our goals.  We realize that what we wanted so desperately but didn’t get actually get turned out to be good for us in the long run.  When we reevaluate our goals, we don’t see those items we didn’t check off in a negative light.  Instead, we learn and grow from what we didn’t get, and that helps us get closer to what we really want and what is best for us.

To close, I hope 2015 brings health, prosperity, and happiness for everyone.  January isn’t just a new beginning but a continuation of a lifelong journey we are fortunate enough to all be on.

Conquering the “Impossible”

impossibleSince October 28th is the “feast day” of St. Jude Thaddaeus, known as the patron saint of desperate cases or lost causes, I wanted to reflect on “Big” goals.  Sometimes those of us who have our sights set on a big goal often feel desperate, like reaching that goal is a lost cause or impossible.  Maybe we’re even tempted to just give it up.  If you’ve ever felt like that, then read on for motivation when pursuing a goal that seems impossible.

Change Perspective

If you’re striving for a goal that you think is impossible, the first thing you have to do is look at it differently. Literally, stop what you’re doing, rethink your position on your goal, and start to know that it’s possible.  It’s like the word itself.  When you look at your goal as “IMPOSSIBLE,” then you become paralyzed and defeated before you’ve even begun.  Yet when you change perspective and see the “POSSIBLE” in your goal, your focus will shift and you’ll be able to move on to the next step to achieve your goal.

Break It Down

Again, like the word “IMPOSSIBLE”, you need to break your goals down so they become manageable.  Broken down, “IMPOSSIBLE”, has an “I”, and “IM”, and “POSSIBLE”. Likewise, your large goal can be broken down into smaller, manageable actions that will lead to accomplishing your goal.  For example, let’s say you want to publish a novel.  Sure, that may feel impossible if you don’t have a word down on a page.  But if you break it down to smaller goals like: 1) write every day until you have X amount of words, 2) Edit the finished manuscript, and 3)Find literary agent, small press, or self-publish, it becomes more manageable.  Then you can break it down further and plot small steps you can take toward those goals every day.  Don’t think about the ultimate goal as one large leap that needs to be taken over a huge gulf between what you want and what you need (that will tire you out – heck that long sentence tired me out). Instead, map out the practical steps that needed to be accomplished, like throwing out stepping stones, and then tackle one step at a time until you reach your destination.

Keep Going

Just because something is possible, doesn’t mean it will be easy.  Books like Carrie by Stephen King, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks were rejected multiple times before becoming bestsellers (seriously, where would we be without these books?).  Artists like Madonna and U2 were rejected before becoming global superstars. Business moguls like Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey were fired from jobs before becoming heads of innovative, successful enterprises.  The point is: setbacks will happen; disappointment will be felt; times will seem bleak.  But those factors should never stop you from attaining your goal.  If anything, setbacks and rejections should fuel the engine and drive you through that last mile.

St. Jude became associated with desperate situation because of a letter he wrote.  In it he said that you must keep going even in harsh or difficult times.  While that may be easier said then done, knowing it is possible to reach your goal; continuing to take the steps necessary to get there; and never giving up even when it gets hard, are sure fire ways to get you where you want to be.

How to Be A Happier Writer (Especially If You’re Not Published)

35078_SMJPG_6M772307YD082424RAs a writer (regardless of publishing status, a writer is someone who writes), when do you imagine being happy, content, fulfilled? When you find an agent? When you are published? When you hit a best sellers list? When you make a certain amount of money from writing? When you are “famous”? What if the answer to when you can find happiness as a writer is now? Yep, today, tomorrow, and the next day, regardless of publication status, rejection letters, or a miserable day job. Whatever the stage in your career, the following are steps you can take to find happiness as a writer and even become a better writer in the process.

WRITE
This may sound ridiculous, but many people who have grand ideas of hitting bestsellers lists aren’t consistently engaging in the one activity that increases their chances of getting there: writing. Sure, they may think about writing; they may talk about writing; they might tweet about writing; heck, they might even outline a little. But until you have a consistent writing practice, the book, article, or blog post won’t get written. To remedy this, schedule the days and time to write, and stick to it. Just like working out, once you’ve made it a habit, writing becomes less work and more fun, hence increasing your happiness as you write.

JOIN THE RIGHT GROUP
Humans are social creatures by nature. Though writing is considered a solitary field, it’s vitally important that writers stay connected to others. To do this, beginning writers may want to find a class to learn and hone their craft. Advanced writers can benefit from regular critique groups while strengthening their writing. Querying writers might need support like grabbing a coffee while crying on shoulders as they dredge through the slush pile. Published writers may want to join forces with others that are more focused on marketing and taking their careers to the next level. Regardless of the group, finding like-minded writers is essential in order to fulfill social needs. Learning and sharing with others is a great way to improve your writing and increase happiness.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA
From interacting with other writers, learning about agents, and participating in contests, there are a plethora of reasons why engaging in social media is important. And now there is one more. Neuro-economist Paul J. Zak (Claremont Graduate University) has discovered, and scientifically proven, that social networking triggers the release of the feel-good hormone, Oxytocin. Just think about it: there’s nothing more instantly gratifying than writing something and immediately having it liked on Facebook, reposted on Instagram, or retweeted on Twitter. Writing and publishing can be a long and slow process, so writers need those feel-good, real-time encouragements that can only be given on social media.

SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY
Many writers have something they want to say or a message they want to get across through their writing. Maybe they had a profound event that changed their lives. Maybe they have a cause they want to support. Don’t wait for your book to be published to get your message across. Volunteer for a cause or raise awareness in different ways if you are passionate about something. Not only will this give you happiness now, but it will also help you build your author brand and connect with others interested in your subject – people otherwise known as potential readers.

To sum it up, when you are writing regularly, in fellowship with others both in person and virtually, and connecting with your book’s message, you’ll find that happiness is attainable now. Sure we all want to be successful, best-selling authors (apparently hope really does spring eternal). But let’s not put our happiness on hold until then. Instead, let’s enjoy every step along the way.

Cheers to New Beginnings!

cheersI’ve wanted to do this for a long time – create a page that is all my own. Not so much in the two-year-old, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” way, but more in the, “Welcome to My Home” way. My intention is for this space to be a place for newcomers to learn about me, friends to catch up with my progress, and professionals to offer me large sums of money. Well, two out of three isn’t bad.

So, as I write this first post, I also reflect on beginnings in general. Whenever something new begins, we have an array of emotions:
1. Excitement – this is new and great!
2. Nervousness – how will this actually work?
3. Fear – what if I fail 😦
The third, fear, often overrules all other emotions. Fear can keep us stuck in a job we hate, hold us hostage in a situation that’s destructive, or prevent us from going for what we want in life. When it came to building a site, fear definitely played a role. Will anyone visit my page? Will I be able to come up with new and engaging content? Will I have the time to do this right? I didn’t know the answer definitively, so I was scared to create a site and chose to do nothing instead. When fear wins, beginnings don’t stand a chance.

But when you conquer that fear and start something new, however large or small, it’s an accomplishment. If you’re reading this and are hesitant to start something new, I’d encourage to take the leap. Though this is just the beginning, it’s really the end: the end of doubt, the end of anxiety, and the end of fear. Now, in my opinion, that deserves a celebratory drink (though you’ll learn I really use almost any occasion to drink celebrate). So, cheers to new beginnings!