Author, Behind the scenes, writing

The Anniversary Challenge

the-anniversary-challenge

Well here we are, November 2020. This month makes one year since I started this behind the scenes blog! Cue the balloons and confetti. Play “Tony! Toni! Toné!’s “Anniversary” (remember that iconic song of the 90s?). Yeah, I often think in songs and TV or movie lines. 😊 Anyway, this anniversary creeped up on me. Much like other people feel in this strange year, I can’t believe it’s November already. So, I want to share my thoughts on taking chances and being open to opportunities as a way of leading to pleasant experiences.

If you have followed me from the start, you know I started this blog because I was asked to contribute to a friend’s blog. I hadn’t thought about writing a blog of my own, even when asked to submit to the other blog. Once I started writing, however, I felt that it may be something fun to do, especially to write in a different manner than my fictional books. Plus, blogs are a million times more instant than novels to get out to the you, the public. I can write and get it to you at the speed of a click, unlike my novels. The Difference is being published in 2021 and began the process last year, just to give you an idea.

Also, to write monthly for people who care about what I have to say, who want to know my experiences of being an author, and for those who love to read about behind the scenes of artistic endeavors (with a psychotherapist twist of course) started to become enticing once I shared my guest blog post and received a large positive response. But I still wasn’t a “blogger.” That title seemed to reserved for younger and cooler people. I have never been cool and I am a middle-aged woman, yet I thought “Why not? I’ll just try it.”

There have been other times in my life that I took a chance and it paid off. My first career job as a therapist was with the population of children. When I was in graduate school, I ruled them out as a desirable group to counsel. I just didn’t have an interest. I wanted to work with adults only. Well, life had different plans for me…for 13 years. I ended up LOVING child therapy. Now I do work with adults, but I wouldn’t give up that time with kids for anything. The experience I gained formed a solid basis for me to understand where adults begin their concerns. There’s more of course, but that’s for another day. Or another blog. Lol

So have you had an anniversary of something you never thought you would do in the first place? I think many of us do. All of these anniversaries would require taking a leap of faith to begin. Think about what times in your life include taking that chance. Go on. Think. I’ll wait.

Here are some questions that may help if you are struggling to remember:

  • What was something you REALLY did NOT want to do, but had to do? (Something you ended up liking and being happy you did)
  • What was something your heart said to do, even though your mind was yelling NOOOOO? (But you did it anyway and liked it)
  • Who did you give a chance to and they ended up being one of the closest people in your life, romantically or friendship wise? (Anyone you, dare I say, disliked at first)

It’s not only fun to think about these times in your life, these growth opportunities I would call them, but also to then notice the outcomes from your choices. Here comes another pop culture reference. Did you ever see the movie “Sliding Doors?” The idea is that one slight change can lead to a whole different life. One action or event can mean completely different outcomes, those of your choice or not. I often think about this idea when I am stopped a red light I was hoping not to encounter; “Oh, maybe I would have [insert horrible thing] happen if I caught the green one, so I’m glad I am staying here.” Yes, I know that is extreme, but that’s my thoughts sometimes. Think about the bigger picture, though. If you didn’t take the chance with the circumstance or person you thought about a paragraph ago, how different would your life be now?

It-is-well

If you haven’t thought of something yet, no worries. That just means you can make that choice in this present moment. In the next month, I anniversary challenge you to take a chance on something. And if you already have thought of something you did, why not do something else? I mean, I did add widget of a monthly blog catalog on the side of this page, taking a chance of messing up my website, just saying. It sounds silly, but every time I hit publish on here, I cringe then sigh from relief once all is well. See, it can even be something “small.”

Some mental health benefits can arise from challenging yourself. See if you notice these (or have noticed them when thinking about a past action):

  • Increased confidence
  • An improved self-image
  • Increased pride
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Gratitude
  • A new quality/talent discovered
  • A new identity

Taking the minimal risk of attempting to blog monthly was scary for me, but I am glad I did it. I now have monthly interactions with beautiful people. I feel supported by you rooting me on in my author journey, I feel inspired by your comments and stories, and I adore when you get inspired for your own paths. And don’t forget my new computer skills (ahem, the widget).

I hope you are glad I jumped and began this blog. If you feel brave, share your anniversary challenge in the comments. Let’s cheer each other on to gain new positive experiences. I know you can do it.

go-get-em

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Routine and Self-Care Are Your Friends

Routine

Routine. Who responds with excitement and who has a negative reaction to this word? I’m sure there are both reactions out there, along with a variety of in between reactions. I personally love routine and thrive with it. I like to leave freedom in my activities within my routine, but generally, even for my artistic expressions (which may sound counterintuitive, but I’ll explain), I have a routine of some sort. I think it’s grounding. This year, more than ever, I know we can all use a sense of feeling stable with predictability, so let me help you to get there, with intentional self-care thrown in for good measure.

I’ve known about my proclivity for routine for a long time of course, but recently it hit me with how valuable it is for my writing career. I’ve been working on my second novel, which is set in contemporary New Orleans and about an Italian American woman’s journey with trust and allowance of help from her community. I started in July and now have a first draft. It only took three months! The Difference (coming in 2021) took five years. Yes, you read that right. Now let me tell you, it was due to a variety of factors, with the biggest being that writing was a fun hobby back then. I did it as my mood shifted toward that creative outlet. After signing with a publisher and getting into the author world more, writing has grown to be another career for me (I’m also a psychotherapist). I prioritize writing and working on my craft consistently. This blog is part of that consistency, by the way so thanks for being a reader/follower. 😊

During the unknowns in this wild year, I think my Sunday writing routine helped me to have a loved task to look forward to and one which I could depend on weekly. As you know, when you have a passion you will make sacrifices for it. Giving up other interests, needed tasks of the week, or even quality time with my husband on Sundays was what I chose to do so I could get that book out of me and into the world (well, at least in my world right now). It gave me a sense of control in my life when the events around me were yet to be determined. I knew when the quarantine happened that I wanted to make the most of my “down” time and this new book is a huge goal I can check off as accomplished.

With routine there is another necessary factor, I think. It’s almost the flip side in my mind. The way to keep a routine consistently is to keep yourself energized and ready to go. How does one do that? Well, I do it with self-care. That’s kind of a buzz word now, so it may have different meaning to different people. But self-care, to me, means doing activities that bring joy, relaxation, and comfort to you so that your mind and body can recharge for the next step/activity/day. Oh, I hope you know that included in self-care are basic human needs like healthy nutrition and enough sleep. I need to make sure to say that since they are extremely important but are often overlooked.

There are obviously different ways in which people can gain a sense of relief through self-care. I personally do not love to be physically active (but do it because I should for my health and blah, blah, blah), but can sit on my butt for hours reading, crocheting, drawing, and anything else artistic. I love vegging out with TV, movies, and social media too. But you may have different needs. View my list below for some ideas for your self-care.

Physically driven people (If you love moving/outwardly expressing to feel relief)

  • Walking or running
  • Bike riding
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • Playing instruments
  • Yoga
  • Talk to a friend

Mentally driven people (If you love staying in a resting position and reflecting internally to recharge)

  • Arts and crafts
  • Reading
  • Listening to audio books
  • Taking a bath
  • Movies and TV
  • Puzzles
  • Journaling

I can literally go on and on. But those are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning. What do you think? Any seem enticing?

So, let’s make sure you choose a time in your day to do a little something. Maybe just one tiny thing, even if it’s drinking a cup of tea or smelling a fragrant candle. Imagine when you can integrate this into your life. Right now. Go on, do it. Ok, continue reading. 😊

Set a routine for the self-care! Maybe it’s before you get out of bed, before you go to bed, at lunch time, or for 5-10 minutes in the morning or afternoon. Let’s make it happen. I know you can do it!

I hope that this blog post sparked some ideas for you to flourish even more in your life. I’m happy when others feel inspired and motivated by reading my blogs, newsletters, and social media posts. Of course, my books are the biggest tools for conveying these themes, so I can’t wait for you to read them as well.

Always feel free to share ideas this gave you, ask me for input, tell me how you worked routine and self-care into your life, or even how you plan to do so on the near future. I love hearing about your intent and success. Happy routine and self-caring!

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Debut Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Dedicated to the One I Love

support-people-quote-misty-copeland

Did you know that an author needs more than good ideas, the ability to write well, and the hard (oh so hard!) work that it takes to make it in the publishing world? There is one other HUGE factor that sometimes is forgotten. We need the support of loved ones in our lives. For me, the biggest part of my support team is my husband, Jason. I also have friends and other family around me that continue to lift me up, keep me motivated, and help me out with advice. I know I couldn’t be where I am without any of these people, but this blog post is dedicated to my partner in life for almost 20 years. 😊

When I made the decision to write my first book, The Difference, I didn’t know it would affect my husband. Silly right? I have many artistic hobbies, so how is this one different? Oh yeah, because it involves not only creating and having fun, but building a business. Yes, authors, it’s true that our writing is a business once you share it with the world and intend on making money. Anyway, I didn’t want to or couldn’t think that far ahead because, quiet honestly, it would freak me out, which I have told you in past posts. I didn’t know what needed to occur to get my book published, but I knew I would get it done (and it’s coming soon! Eek, so excited).

You may be wondering how another person is affected by having an author in the same household. Let me count the ways. First of all, he experienced my hours upon hours of writing my book. As I got more serious about my craft, this took away precious weekend time. We both work full time, so weekends are the times we have all day together to relax, travel, see friends, and even run errands (which we think is fun to do together- yes we are weird). He always understood the need for me to spend the time working on my book, but sometimes it was hard to give up the “fun” time. Don’t worry, though, I gave myself breaks. 😉 Now he’s used to the time needed to write, especially since I’m in a routine of weekend writing. With the quarantine, we are working from home daily anyway, so we have plenty of time together. That’s something great to come from the world issue this year.

He’s also had to grow his patience with my social media needs. I’ve always been a photography lover. Wherever we go, especially in travels, I take about 5 million pictures a day. No joke, I have about 30 albums (yup, I’m old school like that). I LOVE to capture everything so I have lots of memories to look at and reminisce about, but now my habit has grown to also keeping an eye out for content to post in my feeds or stories. Since I post daily, I’m always on the lookout, even without being fully aware. My poor husband has had to wait so many times for me to get the perfect angle of something. He especially needs patience when I ask that he take a picture of me in a special location. My approval can take many photo attempts and I know it’s not easy for him (we are all our own worst critics, right?). Sometimes the writing of my post even takes away from what we are doing in the day, although briefly, but he understands it’s part of the gig.

Then there came the querying. This is when authors send their manuscripts and other content out to publishers and agents so they can get a publishing deal. My husband reaffirmed me every time I got a rejection. Every. Single. Time. He never gave up the hope with me that a deal would come. Some days the loss and need to try harder affected me more than others, of course, but he was strong for me, leading me to always be 100% sure someone believes in me and my work. I knew that already, but it’s comforting to hear in those moments. This graphic describes how I feel:

husband-qualities-happy-wines-club-book-quote

More sacrifices you ask? Well, this may be the biggest of all. As my business grows, I have added many responsibilities. There is this blog, my newsletter, marketing and promotion for my book, and writing my second book. Every step of the way, he has heard me talk about it nonstop. People, this is not an exaggeration. If you know me personally, you know when I have such a strong passion for something that it’s almost all I think about most of the time. It’s also a majority of my conversations with him lately. Whoopsie, I didn’t realize that until he pointed it out. And remember we are working from home daily together…all day long…every day…24-7? Oh yes, think about that one for a second. He hears me talk endlessly about every bit of my processes. Rarely does it bother him, so he’s basically a saint.

Along with all of the above, he has taken on many household chores that I usually did during our relationship. He gives me time to write by doing more than his share around the house, despite my rising guilt at times. I seriously couldn’t do it without him and I’m so lucky to be able to devote time needed to my writing. It’s because of him.

Do you have a major support person in your life? I sure hope so. Everyone needs a cheerleader. I know I’m privileged to be in this position. I also know the road ahead is still long, especially since I plan a prosperous and lengthy career of writing (I’m putting it out into the universe). My husband and I will remain a team for this goal of mine because it benefits us both. Have you ever heard “happy wife, happy life?” LOL, just kidding, but honestly, our individual goals become a couple goal all the time. I’ve supported him with his goals and will continue to do so, as will he for me. What more could an author ask for?

Venice-Italy-with-Husband
Jason and I- Venice, Italy

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Author, Behind the scenes, writing

Living in Two Worlds

Two-worlds

Have you ever felt like you need to be in two worlds, two places, or to think about two concepts at the same time? In today’s world, I know a lot of us experience being torn between multiple responsibilities. Multi-tasking is a way of life for most of us. It’s difficult to be fully invested in anything if you don’t feel grounded in the task of the moment, though. Needing to shift between tasks can be challenging. Obviously, this applies to many roles in our lives (employee, wife, friend…), but specifically for artists I think it can be challenging to switch mindsets and heart. Oh yes, my heart and soul is part of everything I do as an artist/writer, as you probably know by reading my past blogs. I think most artists feel the same way.

Specifically for my writing (since this is a behind the scenes blog of my author life!), I’ve noticed I work best when totally ingrained in the world of my story. I need to be inside the minds of the characters I am writing. I need to be imaging myself in their shoes, walking around in their setting I created. I can feel them with the emotions of the narrative and scenes. This is simply how I work. I see the story and the characters in my mind’s eye, mostly from the main character’s perspective, but I also have to get into the supporting character’s minds when writing their dialogue of course.

When writing my first novel, The Difference, I had a different luxury than currently; I could focus on one story. Don’t get me wrong I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to be able to have a writing career, but it takes a mind shift for a writer who works from total emotional investment. See, now I also need to keep moving forward with other stories I want to tell you as my readers. So I need to go back and forth between my novel I’ve worked on for years (for editing) and a new novel I am writing. It’s an incredible blessing but can be challenging. I tried to wait until edits were completely finished for my first novel before starting this WIP (work in progress), but I couldn’t wait any longer. The story was nagging at me to be told. Writers, you feel me on this, right? So now I’m officially living in two imaginary worlds. This picture of me at the Prime Meridian line shows how I feel sometimes, with each foot in a world I created.

split-at-prime-meridian

When I sat down to write my new story for the first time, I almost felt like I was cheating on Rachel, my main character in The Difference. Speaking as Mary in my current WIP took a little getting used to. Although I had her mapped out as a character on paper, to speak like her in my writing required me to keep viewing all the details I set out for myself on paper. I heard Rachel’s voice popping through a few times, but kept redirecting my thoughts to Mary. I had to essentially keep repeating “I’m speaking as Mary now. Mary, Mary, Mary!” I know this may sound confusing (because it is), but this is how it went for me. And I’m only involved in two manuscripts! How some authors can work on more than that at a time is beyond me. But anyway, what happens to me when I write these novels is that I feel I get in a state of flow, and this is helping me to stay in the world I need to be in at the moment. Have you heard the term flow?

Flow state was developed by the positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and he described it as being “in the zone.” He said in a TED Talk that “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity… [and] a sense of time disappears.” Friends, this is the magic part. This happens to me every time I’m writing fiction. I am a Type A person, but when in an artistic process, the rules and rigidity float away, and my concentration is at its height, yet is effortless. Before I know it, I have 1,000 words on the page. Flow state is where my best art comes from.

Now, I want to know if you have felt the flow state. I think it requires a few points to reach it, so if you haven’t felt it yet, maybe I can help with how I think it happens for me.

  • First, are you doing something you love? This is required, people, required. It has to be an activity that brings you joy, peace, and excitement. Remember, these thoughts are from my perspective so you may disagree.
  • Second, try to eliminate distracting noise. Can you have on music? Sure, if that is what you love to work with, but if you need silence, make that happen. I know it can be hard when you have others in your home, so it may take some negotiation or deal making for your needs.
  • Third, make sure you have a large chunk of time. I would say at least an hour, minimal. For me, it takes a little while to transition from the normal thinking to the creative thinking to the flow state. I view it as a meditative state in a way. So I need to allow time for the transition of total alertness to outside noise (typically beta state) down to more of an internally alert state (typically alpha state). Remember I am also a therapist, so I know this stuff, lol.
  • Fourth, go to it! Do your thing. Just let it…wait for it…flow. It will come if you are open to it. Just be. Be in the moment.

There you have it. Now we can all be in our own little worlds and never be present again. Um, just kidding. But we can be in our different creative zones and be in the flow state when we engage in our art. How exciting, right?

As I continue to work on my WIP, I have been leaving Rachel’s story in the back of my mind a little bit. I’m not releasing her or it, but just holding the story differently. Believe me, when I play writer games on Twitter (which is what we do in the #writingcommunity) and am asked to talk about my WIP, it’s the strangest feeling for me not to be talking about my first book. The moment I started referring to my new manuscript was jolting. Again, the cheating on Rachel! But I’ll be talking about The Difference the rest of my life, since that is what happens when you write and promote a book (especially so meaningful as my first published book). It’s okay that this new world of Mary’s is calling. And I have to tell you, being in the flow state again feels amazing. I haven’t experienced that in a while with writing because editing doesn’t allow that state for me (it uses more of my logical brain).

So, being in the two worlds is working out okay! Strange at first, but I am getting used to it. And as I dive into my different worlds of creation, I’m constantly thinking of more stories. One has been speaking a little more to me and may turn into a short story. I’ve never done that, and it may be fun to try. But, oh no, that’s a third split for me! I guess I’ll know I can handle it now. I look forward to the differences in character views, settings, and possibly the most enjoyable part…the flow. Immersing in multiple worlds isn’t so bad after all.

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Author, Behind the scenes, Women's Fiction Author

The Art of Taking a Break

take-a-break

Does anyone find it ironic that nowadays we have to be conscious of taking a break? If you don’t, I admire you! I have to make sure to keep relaxation in mind so that I don’t overwork. See, I have a problem; I’m a workaholic when I’m passionate about something and my writing fits that category. My mind never stops running for ideas, things needed to be done, and planning for the future. “It’s a gift and curse,” as a favorite TV character says (anyone else love Monk?). This part of my personality allows for me to accomplish a large amount. It allows me to have success in my life, to never stop until I reach my goal…but it also tires me out at times. Finding a balance is important. I know this, but putting it into action can be challenging at times.

Recently I took my birthday week off because my husband and I planned to go on a vacation. Well, as you all know, that wasn’t a possibility this summer, so I decided to have a staycation. Although I have been working from home for my day job for the last 4 months, I knew it would feel different to actually be off the clock, even when in the same location. Somehow being home for work, where I don’t have to commute two hours a day, still doesn’t mean I can get everything done that is on my mental to-do list. Yeah, that’s because that list is endless and unrealistic. I know that yet still try time after time. Anyway, I told myself that week I would relax, breathe, chill out. Putting it into action was harder than I thought.

I did a good job overall with daily leisure. I saw a couple friends (safely of course), I drew and painted, cooked, read some books, played my ukulele, watched TV, and enjoyed swimming. But you know what’s coming…oh yes, I did a little author work as well. Of course I was interacting on my social media daily, but I don’t count that because it’s fun (and needed, yes). But, how could I have a week off and not do some of my author related tasks? That’s just ridiculous. I ended up starting my second novel. Yup, I spent a day getting my outline ready, formatting, and actually writing the first few pages. And you know what? It felt good! I had a weight lifted off of my mind by starting it and also had fun writing. That has to be acceptable, right?

I have to admit, though, I felt guilt either way, so I went ahead and was productive. At least that way I moved forward on my goals. Although I did all those fun and relaxing activities, I had that little voice in the back of my head telling me “Shouldn’t you be doing something writing related?” I had to keep reminding myself that it was vacation for me. I had to fight against my workaholic spirit to free myself to engage in the fun activities. And I did, except for that one day. Hey, I think that’s pretty good and will give myself a pat on the back, thank you very much.

Who else experiences this push and pull of the guilt? I think a lot of us feel it, especially in this unique year. So, does taking a break require a special skill set? Is there an actual art to it? I’m an artist so that should come easy to me. There is that word again, though; should. I try not to use it as much as possible because I’ve learned it creates more guilt. I help my therapy clients with avoiding that mindset as well, but it’s hard to apply to myself sometimes.

Back to the art of it, though. Maybe the art is simply having a balance. Maybe it’s just knowing when I am at risk of being drained. Burning out will be counterproductive in the end, so I don’t want to reach that place. Living where I can work and relax must be the way to go. Instead of push, push, push, maybe I need reminders to pause, pause, pause. Balance for the opposite ends of the spectrum is needed. I need to live in the gray and not the black or white, so to speak. That’s a fact. I know this, but sometimes my overachiever spirit tries to quiet the thought.

Okay, here’s the plan to lessen guilt by taking breaks routinely. I have a few realistic (key word for me) author tasks to complete each week, so this week I started to make a list of them. Checking them off as I finish them feels satisfying, which is a bonus to the completion of the actual task. I am making sure to also have a choice of 2-3 hobby related activities I can choose from each weeknight and on weekends. I work well with structure, but this is just enough to feel like I accomplish something and also hold myself accountable for down time. I’ve accepted that I require mental organization for even down time. I’m not a person who can “just relax.” My relaxing requires my mind to be as free as possible from the to-do activities, so having a plan is key. I work well with limits and rules., even when I make them for myself.

Look, there is always more to do. There is always a way to do better and be better in any area of life. That opportunity excites me, but I need to pace myself, my gosh. I do believe things come when the time is right, so it will just happen when meant to be anyway. What is in my control is taking care of myself, which means rest. That is how I will be my best for myself and everyone else.

Your art of taking a break may look different than mine, but that doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. I love learning from others, so always feel free to tell me how you do with the balance of work and play. Let’s all take care of ourselves during this year especially. It’s a great lesson to learn for the rest of our lives.

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.