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Don’t Make Decisions Out of Fear

We’re halfway through the year.

And what a year it has been for me! I started off getting major surgery and recovering from it. Now, I’m figuring out what the next step in my careers is going to look like. I say “careers” because I have two.

I have my records management career that I’ve stuck with for almost twenty years. Ever since I graduated from undergrad school, I’ve been involved one way or another in this field. I enjoy it and it feeds a particular part of my personality that enjoys planning and organizing.

My other career is the fiction writing. I’ve been lucky enough to be published a few times, but I really want to do more. I’ve been using my time in between jobs to really focus on writing and submitting more. I’m currently on chapter four of the novel and I have nine submissions out.

Through this whole year, I’ve been trying to focus on how I made big decisions in my life. So many times I’ve been pushed into a corner and had to make a decision because, if I didn’t, I thought things would get worse. One big moment for me was back in 2014. I had planned to take some of my savings and pay for my last class outright, instead of borrowing the money. As soon as I pulled the money out of my savings, I got furloughed. Worried I might lose my job, I stuffed the money back into savings and went even further into debt. If I had just taken a few weeks and let the fear go, I would’ve saved myself hundreds of dollars in interest.

Sometimes it is hard to know. For me, I’ve tried to set myself up so that I don’t have to make decisions out of fear in the first place. When I lost my job, I had enough savings that I could take a breath and figure out what was next. With my health, I plan on never going back into surgery like that again, so I will be much more vigilant and take better care of myself. Sometimes emergencies can’t be helped, but health issues of my own making should be stopped. I knew about a year before surgery that something wasn’t right, but I ignored it and told myself it was not that serious.

With my fiction writing, I think I’ve done better. I try not to self reject. If I see a open call and I think my work is a good fit, I send it to them. I try not to let the fear of putting myself out there hold me back. It’s easy at times to talk yourself out of submitting. You tell yourself, “It’s not that good.” or “I need to rewrite it again for the hundredth time.” or “I’m not important and this place only publishes famous writers.” That is fear telling you this.

The best advice I ever heard was from a video. The speaker said that no one can see the future (at least as far as he knew). When you talk yourself out of things, or make decisions out of fear, you are predicting the future. You already know that the outcome is going to be bad, so why try? Truth is, YOU DON’T KNOW THE FUTURE. You can’t predict what is going to happen. All you can do it make the best choices for yourself to your benefit. Fear is a lie telling you the future. So ignore it and try anyway. You never know what is going to happen.

As I put down more and more words for this novel, the fear comes on strong. This is a long work and part of me hates to work on it, only for it to fail. So I have to keep telling myself that I don’t know whether it will fail or not. No matter what has happened in the past, I don’t know the future. I have to trust in my ability as a storyteller that this manuscript will be successful.

I have to trust myself.

 

On Why My Fiction Writing is Necessary

To date, I haven’t earned more than $20 from my writing. To be a full time fiction writer is a dream come true, but the reality is that even if you have multiple books published, you still might have to do something else to support yourself (and your family). More practical people would see my work in the past years as a failure.

“Whaaa? You still haven’t published a novel?” they say.

It’s hard for me to explain to someone, who isn’t a writer, why I continue to write. There’s no money coming in from it, so why bother? It’s a hobby — a pastime, that I tinker with but don’t ever seem to get any traction on. At best, I’m an undiscovered genius. At worst, I’m a hack that is deluding herself.

Neither one of these is true for me.

I think I’m a good writer. I’m good enough to be on the shelf with my peers, but I’m not Margaret Atwood, or Octavia Butler. My ego tells me I’ve got something special and my common sense reels me back and says I need to work on that specialness. That sounds pretty healthy to me. You have to have some sort of ego to be any artist. You have to believe people will care about what you create. Otherwise why bother putting it out into the world? Just write your stuff in journals and stuff them under the bed.

As I look for new employment, I ask myself what made me stay at my previous job so long? I was there for almost eleven years. Not only that, but the job I had before, I was there for six and a half years. Clearly, I wasn’t there only for money. What were the traits of that job that made me stay so long and how can I find to same qualities in my next job? That’s the questions I ask myself as I comb through job announcements and email my resumes.

The first time I decided I wanted to write, I was twelve years old. That was thirty years ago! This is a hobby/hopefully second career that I’ve stuck with for more than half my life. So why have I done it?

First off, I’m an introvert. I’m not good at parties and I don’t want to be around people all the time. Even as I type this, I’m alone in my place with no plans to meet up with anyone today. That sounds great to me. Yep, I’m in the yoga pants, t-shirt, and house shoes.

Yet, I don’t want to cut myself off from the world all the time. Writing helps me connect because I can do it in the comfort of my house, but then share with all of you. I can be vulnerable and still feel protected at the same time.

Second, I do love stories. Not even kidding when I say that I can watch the same movies and TV shows multiple times, even if I enjoyed the story the first time around. (And let’s not forget I have a pretty good memory, so even if I remember the story-line, I’ll still watch it.) I just recently found the reruns of Monk on Hallmark’s Mysteries channel. They are still funny, wonderful stories. Also, I will reread some of my all time favorite short stories again and again. Recently, perused through Ted Chaing’s “Story of Your Life” again. (The movie came on Syfy.)

So I write stories that I really enjoy and want to read over and over. It’s a challenge and exhilarating. I love to push myself to go outside of the box and really write a story that is unique, but familiar. Odd, but comforting. I love the challenge and when I feel like I’ve written something good, oh my it is a happy day in my house.

Lastly, I do write stories for you the reader. I love to brighten someone’s day. Make them laugh and forget the crap they are dealing with. Make them say “Wow, what fun!” Making someone else feel better, have empathy, see through fresh eyes, or simple helping them escape for a few minutes is the best job in the world.

I’ve been fiction writing for thirty years, and I plan to do it for at least thirty more.

Continuing On…

It’s a new month and a new reality for me. The dust is starting to settle around my unemployment. I still feel like I should be working everyday and often I find notes written to myself about a work thing I needed to get done or a goal I wanted to hit. I forgot to stop the alerts on my calendar, so stuff pops up every now and then.

But I’ve also waded through the paper work for unemployment benefits, healthcare,  updating my resume, and job searching. I have to say – It’s nuts the way almost every employer wants you to create an account on their site just to submit a resume. I have so many passwords now… LOL.

Hey you gotta laugh, otherwise you’ll cry.

One thing I do want to address is my fiction writing career. For the first time in a long time, I have the time to really write, everyday, without feeling guilty. I apply to jobs in the morning and then in the afternoon, I pull out the stories. I don’t have to worry about taking time away from anything else, because I’m not doing anything else. It’s freeing.

Even when I was working full-time and I would take vacation days, I still didn’t write with total freedom. Days off meant doing things I would have the chance to do like travel and do house projects. Now I really have the time. I have to keep myself busy and active. The last thing I want is to start waking up at 10am and not get dressed until the afternoon.

Nope. Not a good idea.

So, I’m up at my usual time of 6am. I do my usual morning routine: lemon water, vitamins, scripting, and exercise. Then it’s make tea, get dressed, plan my day, and see what’s going on the world (usually an hour or so of morning talk shows). Then at 8am or so my (new) workday starts. So far so good.

As a reminder, I had 4 writing goals this year:

-Finish my novel

-Write 6 new short stories (1 down, 5 more to go.)

-Write 100K words

-Gain more followers on the blog (Got a nice little bump in April.)

That should be plenty to keep me busy. Let’s do this!

A Turning Point

About a month ago, I mentioned that I got some bad news. Last week, the news got worse. After almost eleven years, I have been laid off from my job. The company closed its doors and is no longer doing business. All of my co-workers and I are sad about the end. It’s a new reality for us.

In some ways I feel like I am going through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. If I’m being honest, I’m probably in between the depression and acceptance phase. I have all these reminders around me of work left unfinished. There is a lingering voice in the back of my mind, which chime at two o’clock in the afternoon telling me I should be working. I realize now that I can leave it unfinished. I can pack it up, or throw it away. No one needs it anymore.

I do feel lucky. Lucky that I got myself out of debt, so my bills (for now) are manageable (emergency fund, unemployment, etc.).

Lucky that I had all of my surgery and other medical procedures done early this year. I’m healthy and have never felt better.

Lucky that I have friends and family who I can lean on for support.

And I’m lucky I got to work as long as I did at my former company. It’s rare to find a place with great people and work that allowed me to pursue my dreams too. At eleven years, I was one of the newer employees. There were folks who had been there twenty plus years.

So for now, I’m job hunting and focusing on my fiction writing (and sticking to the plan I thought about last month). I’m sad about the end, but, if I’m being honest, I’m excited by the future. This is a new opportunity for me. A new path, I didn’t see coming. I don’t expect it to be easy, just different. I thought my life was going one way, but the universe had a different plan.

Let’s see where it goes.

Keep Going!

Today I was reminded that it has been a year since I put a down payment on my first home. Two years ago, I lived in a different place and was plugging away at my goal to save up money. Time seemed to move much slower while I worked toward my goals. The days repeated over and over.

I felt like I would never get there.

I feel like that now. I’m plugging away at my novel and stories, but not really making any progress. Things are still unfinished. I know that I will be done one day. But that day seems so far off.

I have to remember that sometimes when you are in the middle, it is tough to see the end, but it is there. There is an end. You have to keep going and trust that you will get there.

I’ve done it before. I’ve gotten degrees, paid off lots of debt, saved up large sums of money, and written novels (and lots of short stories). All long-term goals I achieved. This should be a familiar thing to me.

And it is, but sometimes I need to be reminded. I need to keep going and until I get to the end.

Don’t Wait For Permission

When I was in my twenties, I was an insecure writer. Just starting to form my voice and style, I wasn’t sure people would get me. I wasted a lot of time wondering what people would say about my writing. Whether I was good enough.

The thing is, everyone around me was encouraging. My parents, my friends, and others were nothing but kind when I would mention that I wanted to write fiction. Still there was a voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough. Instead of plowing ahead towards my goal of getting published. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote my stories. They were never finished.

I would go to work shops to get critiques and even there, with people saying I how talented I was, or how unique the story was, I still shied away from putting myself out there.

I was waiting for permission.

Permission to be a writer, even though I already was one.

I was waiting on the writing gods to bestow upon me some benevolent sign that I was ready to be published. I did submit here and there, but not with any gusto. Basically, I was sitting on the couch waiting for life to happen to me. I was waiting to be discovered, instead of trying to make my voice heard.

It took me a while to realize that I didn’t (and shouldn’t) need anyone to tell me that I was a writer. I had to get over the self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety, in order to get to the place I am now.

What’s the saying? Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Once I moved past the doubts and started to re-imagine myself as a writer, I realized I no longer needed anyone’s permission to be the person I wanted to be. I didn’t wait any longer for someone (like a famous writer) to put their arms around me and say, “Hey I think your talented. Let me show you the ropes.” I was too busy doing to wait for that conversation.

If you are someone who is waiting for that permission (whether you are a writer or not), I’m giving it to you now. Be that person you want to be. Go after that dream. It’s not silly. It’s not wasteful.

Do It.

Now.