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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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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