There's still three weeks left. This is what I keep telling myself. But it's going fast now and as of next Friday, my laptop and I are taking a break from each other. It will likely hurt me more than my laptop but I'll be too busy at the happiest place on earth to think much about writing.
It's been quite the summer. Personally, it's been wonderful. Lots of quality family time-- though I think my husband has just about reached his limit of 24/7 with me.
Seems hard to imagine there's a limit on that, I know, but apparently there is. We've hung out with friends, gone biking, paddle boarding, swimming, had BBQs, slept in, spent lazy days in pajamas, read, painted...we've done a lot. Every summer, I say it's the best summer and I'm sad to see it end and this one is no different. As I get older, the time seems to fly faster and I spend my time trying to grab onto the moments I don't want to slip away. There are so many of them. Too many to hold.
Professionally, in terms of writing, it's also been a pretty fantastic summer. It seems hard to believe I only signed with Fran just over a month ago. She's been part of my writing journey since what feels like the beginning. I am so excited to see where things go with her by my side. #Pitchwars, run by the amazing Brenda Drake, is happening and I love following the feeds, reading the mentor and mentee posts. You can't overstate the importance of connecting with the writing community, whether you're a new or seasoned author. In an upcoming interview on Amy Trueblood's 'chasing the crazies' website, I talk about why the people around you matter so much.
There's still much to look forward to-- including our trip to DIsneyland next week. Also, I get to meet someone I've 'known' for three years but never met IRL. Tara is one of the people I connected to thanks to Twitter. She's been an awesome friend, a valuable CP, and a great sounding board. It seems crazy to me because I have the "meeting people I've never met" nerves, yet I talk to her every week online. The power of the internet. It really makes the world a smaller place.
So it seems like it started forever ago, but we've managed to pack a lot of fun into these last seven weeks. As the school year starts, I'll be back to figuring out how to balance my time between work, family, and writing. But not yet...three more weeks. Plenty of time to read more, write more, and get in a few more lazy mornings. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their summer. Any exciting plans?
Surprisingly, the hardest part of writing, is not writing. In Amy Poehler's Yes Please, she titles her preface "Writing is Hard". But even as she talks about this, she says she can write a scene or skit in record time. Because putting the words down on the page is not always the most challenging part. It's everything that comes with it, after it, that can be soul-sucking hard. But if you want it, like really want to hold your book in your hands (and yes, e-books count), you have to accept that no matter how easily the words come, there is so much more to writing a story than getting words on a page.
Not gonna lie: EDITING IS HARD. It feels like putting together a 1000 piece puzzle, knocking it over, and starting again. But not being allowed to put the pieces back in the same order you did last time. And maybe not using all of the same pieces. And maybe not even using the same puzzle. Sometimes it's like scrapping the first puzzle, except for the corner pieces, and going with a brand new one. You're not even sure it's possible to do that. Because IT'S HARD. But it's satisfying to see something that you love, a piece of you, become something more, something bigger. Something that elicits all of the feelings in your readers that you meant to. And, rarely can you do that the first time around.
Making connections without being annoying
I'm still working on this one. I've made so many amazing and wonderful connections and I don't use those words lightly. The people I've met since I started writing are so supportive- offering advice and feedback and direction. I've developed what I know will be lifelong friendships with many people and there are many that I truly hope to meet in real life. However, I often feel like the tag along, the third wheel, the annoying girl who asks a deliberately complicated question in class when the professor says you can go early if there's no more questions. NO ONE HAS MADE ME FEEL THIS WAY. Which reminds me that my biggest problem is that I find myself annoying. I can't get out of my brain and it would likely be awkward if I did. So I annoy myself and then read into every little thing that means nothing and end up annoying myself more. Make connections. Be yourself. Chances are good, most people will like us just fine. Trust them. They're cool people that you admire and they don't have to help you. Most people engage and connect because they want to. And if you're genuine, open, and considerate, there's really no reason that they would find you a nuisance. Unless you're being annoying.
Listening to feedback AND ACTUALLY USING IT
This is a funny one because I didn't think I was bad at listening to or using feedback. When someone would say that I might want to change something or rethink it, I'd simply tell them why that's not what worked in my story. I listened. I heard. And they were wrong. I have improved in this area. Mostly. It is hard to take feedback and even harder to change things in a story that matters to you. But those people above, that you trust and admire? If they're willing to give you their opinion, listen. If your best friend is an insatiable reader and gets stuck on your plot line and wants you to succeed so therefore mentions it, LISTEN. You don't have to take all the advice or everyone's advice. But you have to be open about accepting constructive criticism if you really intend to grow and actually want to sell your work. If you believe the support group you have wants the best for you, then trust them. But trust yourself too. Ultimately, the story is yours. But if you plan to share it, you have to see it from other points of view.
I write notes to my daughters on their bathroom mirror every week. Sometimes I use erasable marker, sticky notes, or scraps of paper. Words matter. I love them. So I share them with my girls in this way and many others. This week I wrote, "If you tell yourself you can't do something, you won't. So tell yourself you can." That sounds all poetic and inspiring (and hopefully they're not someone else's words-- if they are, thank you for the quote) but if you were to check my iMessages, Facebook messages, or Twitter direct messages from this week, you would see the irony in ME writing that quote. Because in the last couple weeks, I've told myself repeatedly that I can't. Amy Poehler has a chapter about the plain girl versus the demon. The demon is the voice we all have that makes us feel negative about ourselves. (BTW: this is such an awesome chapter of writing. You should read it.) The thing about that voice is, you have to make them be quiet. They won't all the time, but you at least have to try to talk over it. One thing I realized is that I was measuring my success in the wrong way. Instead of letting all of the things that are happening sink in, instead of truly celebrating, my mean voice keeps telling me all of the things I have not yet achieved. I have a book coming out in April with my co-writer, Kara Leigh Miller. We have a second one coming out later in the year (if she'd just focus-- don't worry, that wasn't mean. She will laugh). And I have a picture book coming out in January 2016. My mean voice shouldn't get to talk for a few months at least. But it interrupts me constantly. We have to not let it.
There are thousands of quotes online about failure making you stronger, about great people before you who did not succeed the first several times they tried. Those stories are there for a reason. Instead of getting caught up in the fact that you got rejected, it's time to start asking why. I'm looking back now at a story that I love and was very personal to me. It got lots of attention and several full requests. But it ultimately got rejected. There is absolutely no point in focusing on this detail. Instead, I have to look at WHY and change it. So I'm going to go do that and if it still gets rejected, I have to decide if I want to shelve it for a while. I didn't think I could handle rejection well. But I'm doing okay. It really doesn't break you. If you want it badly enough, rejection will make you fight harder. Except on the days that it just completely sucks and you can't stay positive. Then you turn to those people that have all been there, the ones who will support you and pull you back up. Not too long ago I messaged a lovely writer friend and I didn't even say I was going to flat out quit. I was just being miserable and sad. And her message said: STEP AWAY FROM THE LEDGE. It made me laugh and I thought, not only does she get it (because that's exactly what it felt like) but she's right there. Be that person for someone else. I feel so lucky to have those people that help me face it and move on to be better. And, they make you laugh. That fixes a lot of things.
Other than actually putting the words on the page, what is the hardest part for you?
There are so many things happening around me right now that are out of my control that it feels impossible to sit still and encapsulate how I feel about that fact. Twitter and Facebook have been abuzz with #yesallwomen and I want to weigh in but I'm not sure how to summarize all of my feelings so I basically just read the hashtags all week. Because yes, I think, all women, but I also think, all people. We all have a fundamental stake in being good people. To others and to ourselves. Every day, we should be the kind of person we would want our kids to be proud of, be the kind of person we want them to be. And if you don't have kids, then be the kind of person you'd want to be friends with. The kind of person that you would count on. One of my favourite quotes (ever) is "The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday." We get a blank slate every day to right wrongs, make better choices, be better people. Women and men. Kids and Adults. All of us.
Something else weighing heavy in my mind is the politics surrounding teaching right now. It's horrible. It's horrible to watch and horrible to be part of. When you become a teacher, you want to work with kids. You want to make someone's life, day, next ten minutes just a little better. You want to see them succeed, get over the hurdles, and achieve their potential. There are a lot of deterrents in that path. There are crowded classrooms, higher needs, budget cuts, and mountains of curriculum. That's not what bugs me though. And no, it's not the wage either. What bothers me is the overall shift I'm seeing that makes me think that people are devaluing teachers. Not all, maybe not even most, but some. Margaret Mead says “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." I love this quote and find it quite true. The flip side of it though is that a small group of people committed to making you see the negative can actually create change too. When I was growing up, I loved a lot of my teachers. There is an undeniable bond, for most people, between themselves and a least one teacher in their memory. While we were on strike today, we talked about who that one teacher for us was. For some it was their home economics teacher. Others, it was their Language Arts teacher. For me, it was my high school drama teacher. Whoever it was, it is very likely that you had a teacher touch your life in a positive way. Teachers shape us, spend time with us, watch us grow, notice when we surpass our own expectations, applaud us, push us back up when we fall. When I was little, we studied community helpers: police officers, firemen, doctors, and teachers. They were people you could trust. People that wanted to impact someone else's life in a positive way. We still matter because your kids will always matter. They are the next generation that will make choices based on the core values that we instill in them, together.
The last thing that is on my mind is the Book Expo of America. I'm an odd person in that I am intensely jealous of all the wonderful people that I "know" who are there now, walking the aisles with Rainbow Rowell, Neil Patrick Harris, Jeff Kinney, and so many more. I wish I were there. But then I think, what would I do if I were there? Most likely, I would freak a little at the thought of talking to these people. I'd be ultra nervous and quite certain that every wrong word ever invented would come out of my mouth at exactly the wrong time. I would laugh too loud and babble incessantly. Someone who was brave enough to say that yes, they were actually with me, would smile politely and yank on my sweater sleeve, trying to save the poor person I'm talking to. This is why my interaction is better online. The delete button doesn't work in real life. Which brings us full circle-- #yesallwomen, #yesallpeople because the delete button is not an option and we don't know what word or gesture, attitude or comment will impact the person around us, or how. We all matter. It's important that we not only remember that, but teach it to the next generation-- to your children, your friend's child. Manners still matter, thoughtfulness isn't out of date, thinking before you speak never goes out of style. And you really don't understand someone until you've walked in their shoes. So instead, walk beside them, without judgement, and just do your best to keep moving forward.
Sorry if this was just straight up rambling, but I did warn you in the title that it was #allthethings
There are things I want to say and share but I can't. Not yet. But because I'm antsy, I want to share something so I'm sharing some of my favorite words and quotes by others via my pinterest board. Words have an incredible power to soothe, hurt, heal, inspire, build up, tear down, linger, and last. That's why how we use them, where, and when matters so much.
I haven't blogged in a bit because I've had nothing to say. I've come to my edit screen, typed words, erased them, and closed down the computer in frustration. It's okay to have nothing to say...in fact, my husband quite likes it when I'm silent, but it was less nothing to say and more too many thoughts jumbling around in my head falling over each other and not forming coherent thoughts. In the past couple of weeks I've fallen back a bit from all of the social media because, while it can make you feel linked and connected, I find it can also make you feel lonely. You start to evaluate your day by who liked your post or re-tweeted your thoughts.
The other day I told my husband that Jennifer A Nielsen responded to one of my tweets (I was quite pumped up about this) and he said, "Wow. That's awesome. I have no idea who that is." So I got a chance to tell him that she's this amazing author who wrote The False Prince, The Runaway King and The Shadow Throne. But it occurs to me that a year or so ago, I would have come home and told him about the amazing book rather than framing it as, "I got a bit of attention from someone super cool." It is an exceptionally cool thing that you can reach out to authors and people you admire and connect with them. This is not something to be taken lightly, especially when I tell my students that you can use social media for this great way of interacting with people that you look up to (you should see how happy it makes me when Rainbow Rowell responds). It makes this great big world seem very small. It's important to remember though, at least for me, that the real connections, be it face to face or actual emails and phone calls, texts, anything that is more than 140 characters or summed up in a GIF, are still vital. I see how kids fall into traps on the internet as easily as they fall into the wrong crowds at school: the acceptance feels great, especially if you're feeling a little out of your element or low on confidence. On a day where I'm feeling particularly bad about my writing, a 'tweet' or 'favourite' from someone I aspire to be like is a pretty big mood lifter. The flip side is when my words or thoughts are not recognized on a day I'm feeling down, I let it get to me, push me into believing that there's a reason (and it's not because these people have lives and jobs...no it's more personal than that...it's got to be something about me.) This is when I have to back up and realize that I'm focusing on the wrong things.
Life is not measured in "retweets" and "likes". Yesterday, I instant messaged with a friend for quite a while. In that time, she was supportive, helpful, insightful and it was all in a private chat. No outside recognition even though she's someone I admire. And later that day when I realized she was having a bad day, I was able to reach out and make her smile a little. Again, no public declarations of 'look at me', just two friends being there for each other. So this is the beauty of internet. It can allow me to be friends with someone hours and hours away and establish a real bond, a friendship. But if you focus on the wrong things,, it can swallow you up and make you feel alone. We need to teach our children this along with how to balance our desire for recognition. Recognition is wonderful. Attention is great. Especially when it's something you have every reason to be proud of. But the best validation doesn't come from the outside, it comes from within. Even knowing this, it's easy to forget.
I'm not sure this post had any real point. It might just serve the purpose of seeing how many people re-tweet it or like it. Or it may seem that way. But for me, it helped me organize my thoughts, settle something inside of me about writing. It's not everything and it's not nothing. It's somewhere in between and every now and again, I need to remind myself of that.