My Bucket List

There are a lot of things I hope to do in my life. Some of them are not necessarily probable, but I’m hoping for them to happen anyway. Other things are ones that I can make happen, if I believe in myself and keep trying.

I want to resurrect my writing career. For several years, I was a published author, writing two very different types of things under two separate pen names. A few years ago, a combination of poor sales and some personal life things derailed the writing, and now I’m facing the first year since 2009 in which I don’t have anything under contract with, or even being considered by, a publisher. For the time being, I’m taking it easy and writing just because I enjoy it, but I hope to resume writing for publication.

I want to do public speaking presentations on my message of self-acceptance and the power to change. I was trying to build that from nothing other than some Facebook Live videos, but I found myself having difficulty finding venues to contact and, more importantly, believing in myself enough to contact them. (Yes, sometimes I have trouble believing in myself. I am, as I said a few posts ago, still on my journey.) So now I’m focusing on contacting libraries and schools to do presentations there, while I continue working on the other aspect of what I hope will become a career in transformational speaking.

I want to travel. I’ve done a little bit of traveling in my life, but there are so many places I’d like to go!

I want to sing onstage, with live musicians. So far the closest I’ve gotten to that is karaoke, which isn’t exactly the same thing.

Those are the big things on my want-to-do list. What do you have on your bucket list?

How I Started Writing

 When I was very young, I made up stories that I acted out with my dolls and stuffed animals. Sometimes I shared those stories with my parents; more often, I just kept them to myself. I lived in a very elaborate imaginary world, populated by imaginary people who sometimes seemed more real than the people I knew. I learned to read early, and I was determined that someday, my stories would be in books like the ones I read.

When I got a bit older, I learned how to make those little squiggles called “letters,” and that unlocked a whole new dimension for my stories. I could put them on paper and keep them to read later! Not only that, but I could share them with more people! The first story I remember writing, when I was five, was about a girl named Maria who went to live with her uncle. I wish I still had that story, but alas, it was lost to a flooded basement when I was eight or nine.

In kindergarten, I had a wonderful teacher who allowed me to read books from the classroom library and draw pictures about the stories as part of my reading curriculum. One day, I wrote my own story based on a picture I’d drawn, and she began encouraging me to write more stories. It was the first time an adult had told me my stories were good and had acted like they were something to be proud of.

So basically, I’ve been creating stories my entire life, and I’ve been writing them down since I learned how. Obviously I haven’t been published that entire time. My first published work, a phonics-based reading comprehension program, came out in 2002 (and 16 years later is still available!), and my first novella came out in 2009 (and is no longer available). But as a child and teen, I wrote dozens of stories, some novel-length, many of which I still have. They aren’t as good as I thought they were back then, but I’m still proud of them. Especially since I wrote them all longhand…computers weren’t available to me back then!

Thoughts on “Play”

Playing is a normal part of childhood, and it’s a big part of how children learn about the world. Whether it’s make-believe in which they pretend to be a parent, or playing a board game in which they have to follow rules and take turns, or sitting down with crayons and paper and creating whatever comes to mind, playing is important as a child.

It’s important as an adult, too, but we don’t always see that. For me, “play” was usually something I did alone as a child. I created elaborate worlds and used my dolls to act out roles in stories I wanted to write. Sometimes my dad played board games or card games with me, and very occasionally I had a classmate who was willing to be friends for a while. But mostly, play was a solitary activity for me.

As I got older, I learned that play wasn’t a good thing. I should do my homework, try to get good grades so I could get into a good college, clean the house, etc., instead of playing “make-believe” games that I was supposedly too old for. I learned that I couldn’t draw or color well, so I shouldn’t even try. About the only thing I continued with as far as playing were the stories I created.

Then I became an adult, and other things were more important. Things like making money. If I wasn’t earning anything from an activity, it was a waste of time.

That was the downfall for me with writing. I started earning money with it, but didn’t earn enough. It became a waste of time because it was something I was doing instead of working a “real” job. And I’d already long since lost touch with the playful side of myself, to the point where I didn’t usually even play with my own children, I just watched them.

I didn’t only lose play. I lost joy.

Playing as an adult isn’t a waste of time, though. It’s part of self-care. Whether it’s playing board games with your kids, or mucking around with markers or paints, anything that brings you joy and creativity helps to recharge and relax you.

That’s something I’m trying to shift my mindset about, and it isn’t always easy. I take things too seriously sometimes, and I have a lot of years of “don’t waste time, earn money” to get past. “I don’t know how to play and shouldn’t anyway” has become an ingrained part of the story I tell myself, and it isn’t as easy to rewrite as I would like.

But I definitely want more joy in my life, so I’m trying.

Not Writing

 As I said in my first post, I’m a published author. One might think that would make it easy for me to keep writing.

For a long time, it did. I could write the first draft of a full-length novel in six weeks or less, and I often had more than one writing project going at a time because writing excited me so much that the ideas never seemed to dry up.

Until they dried up.

For a few years, I loved getting published, but then realized my sales weren’t great. Since my publishers expected me to sell books, and I at least hoped to even if I didn’t completely expect it, the poor sales caused me to lose some of my motivation for writing. I got hung up on trying to write things that would sell, instead of things I wanted to write.

In fall 2014, something happened that triggered memories of some traumatic things that had happened to me when I was younger. And the thing that happened was, itself, traumatic. That started causing me to have flashbacks and panic attacks whenever I tried to write a certain type of scene in my adult romances. Between that and the sales issue, I gave up writing anything under that pen name.

But not having that pen name caused me to put too much pressure on myself to write the young adult fiction I did under my other pen name. That pressure caused me to start writing poorly, which led to books being rejected that might have been accepted had I paid more attention to quality rather than whether it would bring me money.

2018 is the first time in nine years that I’ve had nothing under contract with any publishers. And it’s kind of freeing not to have to stress about whether my books will sell, whether I’m marketing correctly, and so on. Of course I’m still marketing and promoting the books that are already on the market, but that doesn’t feel like as much pressure as writing new things and trying to get people to buy them.

Meanwhile, I’m writing for fun again, which is how I started. I’ve completed a novel and several short stories, and even though I catch myself sometimes tensing up over whether I can write something good again, for the most part I’m enjoying myself.

Someday, I hope to have more things published. But for now, I’ve given myself permission to write because I want to, rather than because I feel like I have to, and I think that’s making a huge difference in what I write.

Drawing a Blank

I sat here getting ready to write this blog post and realized I had no idea what to say.

And that’s okay.

I spend a lot of time feeling like I have to know everything that’s going to happen. I have to plan out what I’m going to post on my blog or write in the novel I’m working on. I have to know what my commute will be like, and the weather, and what I’ll be doing that day at work.

Except I don’t really need to know any of that. Except maybe the weather, because if it’s going to rain, it would be good to have an umbrella. And if it’s going to snow, I might have to freak out a little bit, because it’s July. Even in New England, it doesn’t usually snow in July.

So this time, instead of getting anxious and worried because I didn’t know what to type for this blog post, I just started typing about not knowing what I was going to type. Because even if it seems silly, or I feel like I’m just blathering, there is a point to this. And the point is that I don’t actually need to know. Some of my best writing–and, admittedly, worst–has occurred when I just put my fingers on the keyboard and see what comes out.

There are some things in life that it’s probably a good idea to plan in advance. At least have a guideline for. But you don’t have to do that with everything. Some things work out just fine even if you start without knowing where you’re going to end.

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