Friday, March 22, 2013

Ditch the Expectations and Watch Out for the Good Stuff

I recently watched a movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. An exchange between two actors has stayed with me all week.

Evelyn: Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.
Muriel: Most things don't. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.

This couldn’t be more applicable for my writing journey. Many authors write multiple books before ‘the one.’ I was certain the first book I wrote was the next “Secret Life of Bees.” (It wasn’t.) Then, I was inspired to write my first young adult novel — which featured a ghost just as the market was getting oversaturated with ghost/paranormal stories. Then, my cozy mystery flowed so effortlessly (well, not that effortlessly) and was so well-received that I sensed I’d have a career as a mystery writer. (I didn’t.) 

Somewhere along the way, I went back to an idea that had been niggling at my brain for some time… a story about a high school girl whose face had been burned in her stepfather’s meth lab explosion when she was little. I had even purchased a couple of books on burn survivors for research purposes.

This week, that book (titled Facing Fire) is featured in two different online contests whose purpose is to get book excerpts in front of literary agents. My book is doing well in BOTH contests. One agent loved my excerpt so much, he asked to see the full manuscript immediately. In the second contest, my excerpt was chosen one of 60 entries that 15 agents will review next week. There were 427 total entries.

It takes some faith (and tears and chocolate) to keep writing, to keep revising, to keep querying. But when I put away my expectations for what a writing life should look like, opportunities opened up. I need to remember this feeling for the tears/chocolate times ahead.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rescuing the "Self" from Selfish

In late February, I spent more than 37 hours in the air or in an airport during an eight-day period. (One travel day was 17 hours because of snow delays.) I can’t even describe the exhaustion I felt upon my return. (Let’s just say there were tears involved.)

A family function I felt I had to attend in Texas piggy-backed a stressful business trip. The family thing was important, and I’m glad I did it. But it brings up some issues for me related to self-care. I kept telling myself “I have no choice! I have no choice!” That's a steaming pile of horse manure.
I always have a choice. To stay in my current job or venture into something new; to exercise regularly or watch more TV; to eat more protein or stress-eat with sugar; to foster nurturing friendships or guilt myself into staying in one-sided relationships.

The crux of the matter is that taking care of myself is the harder choice because most of us are conditioned from an early age to think that self-care is selfish. And the first baby steps we take to put ourselves first often results in guilt.
I’m convinced it just takes practice. What do you think?