How to be a Minimalist With Kids: Figuring it out Part 2 (Finding YOUR Kind of Minimalism)

If you remember my last post on Minimalism and sacrificing the junk–both physical and emotional–in your life to get what you want, you might remember that I said that I would be spending the next 30 minutes cleaning with my kids. Well, life happened and my son ended up getting a pretty nasty cut instead. He’s fine–just really freaked out by wounds, though his pain tolerance is super high.

Anyway, I went upstairs later that night, looked in my son’s room, then my daughter’s room and I was reminded of a light bulb moment that I had previously had. Everyone needs a different amount of stuff, so everybody’s version of minimalism–should they choose to practice it–will look different.

Feel free to read our ongoing journey, or skip to the tips bullet-pointed below!

Did you know that I happen to not eat meat/fish/chicken? I also happen to try to avoid most dairy products and try my best to eat lots of whole grains, fruits and veggies. If you were to put a name to this, it might be Vegetarian, Plant-Based, Vegan, Herbivore, Crazy or who knows what else! After having lived with a few health issues and completely involving myself in the world of Vegetarians and Vegans, I’ve learned that my body isn’t stereotypical and I just can’t camp 100% with most of those titles.

What it comes down to is that I don’t want somebody’s ideals imposed upon me–I want to eat to choose for myself. To illustrate this point, I’ve got the perfect story for you. I was once given a plate of rice and veggies at a social event. I was very grateful that they had made a plate for me that didn’t include meat and was about to take a bite when the person that gave it to me questioned whether I would eat the rice or not–it had been made with chicken stock.

I thanked said person that seemed to be testing me, told them that I had noticed, but that I would go ahead and eat it anyway–I didn’t want to make a fuss when they had already gone to the trouble for me. What I didn’t say aloud was that, along with not wanting to be rude, I also didn’t want to disrespect the life of the chicken by wasting the food that graced the table due to said chicken. While I wouldn’t eat full-on pieces of meat due to health reasons as well as having gotten an aversion as a child that led to not wanting to eat animals, at the time, I just didn’t feel it would be right to not eat the rice and throw it in the garbage.

The woman then said some of the words that made me begin to realize that I didn’t like sharing with others that I was Vegan. In a snippy tone and loud enough for everyone at the table to hear, she said, “So then, you’re not really a Vegan,” and walked away. Honestly, it was humiliating. And it made me mad. As I’ve thought about it over the years (yes, I need to let it go), I’ve decided to not stand in those camps and I created my own because this is my life and I want to do things my own way.

Why do I tell you this? Well, calling yourself a Minimalist might bring on strong reactions from others and I want you to know that–in my opinion–it’s ok to find your own kind of Minimalism. That’s exactly what my husband and I are doing.

Honestly, this is what I didn’t understand when I rejected Minimalism after clearing out 75% of our stuff five years ago. Making Minimalism work for 1-2 people is very different from 1-2 people plus 1 or more children that are four years old or older. Instead of rejecting it, I wish I would have made it work for me/my family in our own way.

Everyone needs a different amount of stuff to be fulfilled in their lives. My son needs more stuff than my daughter. Not realizing this fully simply caused me to ditch minimalism, which resulted in too many toys for my kids–particularly my daughter–and then not teaching my son to share with others what he didn’t need anymore. So, now they have too much stuff because we bought things for our daughter that she would never play with, while I indulged in allowing my son to accumulate and not let go.

As I talked about in my last post, too much “stuff” gets in the way of actually living. It takes too much time to care for it all, costs too much money to purchase it all, and gets in the way of achieving dreams. On the flip side, not finding your kind of minimalism might make you give up if you find it overwhelming to persuade your teenager, spouse or ten children to donate/sell 75% of their stuff.

Here are some tips on finding your kind of Minimalism:

  • Your kind of minimalism might mean none, one or two of an item–it’s all about what is actually useful to you. A question you might ask yourself–and your family–as you sort through items: Is it more valuable to have this item and all of the care/space that comes with it, or is it more valuable to donate it and have that time/space back? What will bring us more time and value to our lives?
  • Our kids are going to have a different kind of minimalism. Work with them to get their spaces in order, be calm, and remember that they may value certain items differently than you do. Letting them choose to keep one item over another will help them feel empowered, in control of their possessions, and (even if they get rid of something that they regret down the road) will help them to practice decision-making skills.
  • My kids have more hobbies/sets of items than they have time to use. We will be sorting said items into groups, then doing the following: We’ll require them to sell/donate a determined number of sets, then we’ll require them to box up a determined number of sets to go into the garage for a few months in order to swap toys out and make space in their rooms. If the toys in the garage haven’t been asked for or missed, we’ll address whether they should be kept or ditched at that time.
  • Set a 30-minute timer to sort through items to give away! Since the last post, we’ve been doing this and it works very well. As I work in their rooms with my kids, I know the clock is ticking, so we work quickly. Decisions are made more easily because we work fast and don’t have time to think about emotional attachments. Pull out a timer–you won’t regret it!
  • Offer a reward! Although I put this in the last post, I think it’s worth noting once more. I want my kids to know that having less has its benefits! Just don’t give them an object as a reward. It needs to be an activity or something that is used up; i.e. candy, going out for french fries, going to the park, watching a movie, going to a museum, going for a nature walk, etc.. I’ve been offering a reward for each cleaning session that we get rid of stuff. They really want the reward, so they’re more willing to part with stuff!
  • Make a goal and then work on it together! Although I am overwhelmed by their mess and all that needs to be done over time, I’ve been making goals for each of my kids, as well as myself, for each cleaning session. For example, today I worked on books and stuffed animals while they cleaned up crafting projects in their rooms. Once we were done, I didn’t complain about how much was left, I simply told them that they’d done a good job, told them it looked better and let them know that I was glad they were working hard, even though they aren’t really happy about letting go of so much stuff.
  • If you know your kids have way too much stuff, but they’re not too keen on letting stuff go, set a number of items to be donated, or assign a space that a certain collection must fit into. As an example, today when we worked through the stuffed animals, I told my kids that the stuffies had to fit in our toy bench. I would hold up an item and ask if it was ok to donate, if they said yes, it was tossed into the bag quickly so that the little stuffed animal eyes didn’t get to them with their sad, pseudo fur faces. If my kids said no, then I said, ok, but find something else that you will donate instead. It worked quite well and I have a garbage bag of donated stuffies, now. While somebody else might not think that the toy bench full of stuffed animals is very minimalist, for my kids, it is. They actually play with the ones that are left!
  • Accept your goals, efforts, and journey to your kind of minimalism! It’s ok if your kind of minimalism looks different to somebody else–isn’t Minimalism living with less and only what you need in order to live a richer life? If you’re doing that or making your way to it, I’d say you’re right on track. Even if it means that you have a few more items than the Minimalist Next Door.

What does Minimalism have to do with my author blog and author efforts? If you remember in this post, I talked about my goals to be a successful independent author and the sacrifices that I need to make in order to do so. My husband and I have a major goal and getting rid of the excess “stuff” is one of many steps toward said goal. And, as we take certain steps, I’ll be sharing our goal with you. We’re just not quite ready for that yet!

So, I want to be a successful author and am sacrificing in order to do so. What goal is your “stuff” sucking time away from?

If you’d like to support my efforts to become a successful author, please take a look at my books HERE–every purchase or kindle page read makes a difference! Thanks in advance!

Also, if you’ve already read my books, will you please leave a review? I honestly can’t tell you how important that social validation is on Amazon! It makes a huge difference in determining whether a customer will try my book or not. Thank you!

Live Piano Composition Session

Did you know that I’ve started performing LIVE piano composition sessions on Instagram Live?

It’s true! I sat at my piano and composed piano pieces on the spot tonight. It was really fun!

I have a Bachelor’s in Piano Performance and music composition is a major part of the way that I create story lines and develop characters. I’ve been trying to find an interesting way of showing/sharing this part of my creative process with you, so I was excited when the idea came to me–why don’t I compose live?

Honestly, I’ve been playing through my stories for so many years now and I do this several days of the week, anyway, I decided I might as well let you all be a part of that process!

So, you can find me on Instagram HERE, and I’ll be performing another live piano composition session again on Monday, April 17th if you’re interested in hanging out with me while I jam. I’ll likely start playing around 8:30, though that time is tentative and I will post on Instagram on Monday the exact time. Go ahead and click that FOLLOW button in order to stay up to date if you’re interested. I hope to see you there!

How to be a Minimalist with Kids: Figuring it Out Part 1 (Words into Actions)

If you remember my last post, you’ll recall that I was talking about becoming a successful author. And minimalism. And yes, they were related topics! We definitely need to sacrifice physical and emotional things in order to change and get something that we want. This post will include key parts of our ongoing journey to living intentionally, as well as some tips below!

Some of you may know that about five years ago, my husband and I got rid of 75% of our things and our house was usually super clean. We also had more time and money to do some things that we wanted to do. It was great! However, our children were two and four at the time, and the four year-old was never terribly interested in “things”, but rather, events or activities. Smart girl, that one. I want to be like her when I grow up 🙂

As our son got older, he had many stereotypical boy interests and he soon had trains and building toys and cars and remote control whatevers. It was a slow build-up over a couple of years and it was at this point that I sort of rejected minimalism as something that only worked for singles, couples, and people with very young children–not those with kids that accumulated things due to hobbies. I mean, have you seen those lists of “toys” from the most extreme minimalists? I think the last post that I read on how to be a minimalist with kids included a picture of a–YOUNG–child that had a shoe-box sized box of toys. And that was it.

That would not work for my boy.

It was during this time that I felt that my kids were accumulating belongings and then that stuff would stick around as they got more things and it seemed as if they used all of it, so how could we get rid of it? We also try to live within our budget, so buying toys again after we’ve gotten rid of them isn’t something we’re interested in.

However, there has been a shift. I’ve realized that my kids really have grown out of certain things (whether I like them getting older or not). My daughter has become more invested in books and activities while my son has stopped playing with certain toys as he focuses on others.

The outgrown toys have remained on their shelves, though. We haven’t gotten rid of much of anything in a while and my son’s room now kind of looks like a hoarder’s room. Looking around, I wonder how on earth it happened and how many hours it’s going to take to clean it up and sort it out.

The other problem? While my daughter has willingly and gladly given certain toys away, my boy has become sentimentally attached to his belongings. So, now he has a room full of stuff that makes a giant mess, that he can’t even imagine living without. And it’s more than he can care for on his own.

Yes, you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t have scoffed at that shoe-box of “toys” that included a string of beads and a wooden sewing needle with yarn.

Going through their rooms with giant giveaway bags is probably a horrible idea, but I’ve come to the point where something must change. So, what have I done? I’ve decided to be the example. I’ve been piling things up that I’m ready to get rid of and sticking them in plain sight so that my children can see my sacrifices for change.

I went through my kitchen and wardrobe first and found the things that had lost value, usefulness, and meaning. I think that these two areas have been pretty easy to start with. First off, if you’re the in-home chef and like me, you get tired of looking at certain things anyway, so getting rid of them isn’t too bad. And certain items of clothing have been classified as traitors because they’ve grown too small, so it’s easy to get rid of a bad relationship with a shirt, as well.

Wherever you start, though, here are some tips that will, hopefully, add to your success.

BEGINNING THE “MINIMALISM WITH KIDS JOURNEY” TIPS:

  • First off, possessions hold memories, both good and bad. KEEP CALM!! It’s ok if it takes a little time, or if you aren’t ready to let go of certain things yet. Do a little at a time and you’ll be able to work through the process much more happily. This applies whether you’re working through your stuff, or others’ possessions.
  • SET A TIMER. I’m going to spend the next thirty minutes working on my kids’ rooms. WITH THEM, of course. It might be frustrating, difficult, or emotional. Isn’t cleaning kiddo rooms always? Setting a timer will help all of us to have a goal and a vision of relief from a possibly stressful situation. Whether you’re working with kids or alone, setting a timer is a great idea!
  • OFFER A REWARD. I told my kiddos that, once we’ve worked through our timer, there will be a reward when they are done. I want them to immediately feel the benefits of having less stuff, so I’m going to offer to take them to the park, the library, have a popsicle, watch a movie together, read a book to them, play a game with them, work in the garden together, or something else. This gets a little tricky, because our rewards are often things. I want them to know that they are missing out on experiences when we aren’t living intentionally and our stuff takes away our time as we have to spend excess time to take care of it. Ultimately, I want my children to value experiences more than things. And, don’t forget! Offer a reward to yourself! A beautiful truffle, cup of tea, manicure, a nap, an extra chapter of a book or going on a walk.
  • PICK AN EASY AREA TO START WITH. I chose the kitchen on purpose! When I had finally found a much-needed set of pots to replace the ones I’ve got, I knew that I didn’t want to have both sets cluttering up my kitchen. So, getting rid of those pots was the first step and replacing them with a new, more functional, WAY SMALLER set felt great. Once those pots had started a pile, I added several items to it, then full-on attacked it the next day. One last attack, and the kitchen will be much less cluttered and full of things that are useful to me. Starting with sentimental items, or things that’ll take a lot of time to sort out will likely be discouraging.
  • GRAB GARBAGE FIRST. If you feel overwhelmed by your stuff, getting rid of things sounds awful to you, or you have a busy schedule, easier is better–you need doable! Grab a garbage can or bag and go through an area, room or your whole house. Toss old receipts that you don’t need, junk mail, that sock with a hole in it, or things that can’t be sold/donated that you don’t want around anymore. Going through it quickly makes this process easy and fast! You’ll notice the difference quickly, which will be motivating, and you will have less to visually overwhelm you so that you can actually see what you need to get rid of.

One thing to note is that, while many things can be purchased again if you free yourself of it too quickly, sometimes that’s just a hassle. Try putting items that you’re uncertain of in a dated box. Items that you pull out to use might be worth keeping and in fitting with YOUR kind of minimalism. For instance, I cook and bake a lot. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it to keep my two sets of measuring cups and measuring spoons–often having two sets makes the process a lot quicker. However, it’s also more to clean up and store. I’m going to decide what has more value, then keep or get rid of the items.

While being an example isn’t going to make my kids suddenly want to get rid of everything that they don’t use anymore, I have noticed them adding a few things to the pile, which is extremely encouraging. Now that the pile has been started and as we discuss the benefits of having less, we will slowly go through their things together, so that they feel comfortable and confident that their opinions and possessions are respected.

That confidence is important–I feel strongly that kids need to be respected in regard to their belongings. I do not want to create hoarding tendencies in my children simply because I forced them to get rid of stuff that they weren’t ready to let go of yet. This can often make kids hold on to things even tighter because they feel that they could be taken away at any moment.

Going back to my first post: I want to be a successful author. I will be sacrificing a bunch of my “stuff”–emotional and physical–in order to have that dream become a reality. Amidst trying to flip our house in order to live that and other family dreams, I don’t have time to take care of a whole bunch of possessions that have completely lost their meaning and value.

Ultimately, if I feel that way, I know that it’s affecting my kids, husband and our family as a whole. So, I’m beginning by putting my words into action and helping them to see that I’m happier with having less to care for, more time to enjoy life, and feeling great that my old possessions can better the lives of other people.

What about you? Has the spring cleaning/minimalism bug bitten you, yet? What are you doing to add value to your life?

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It’s not easy being an indie author, but I’m determined! Feel free to click the links above to support my goals and I’ll keep the info and books coming!

How to Become a Successful Author – Beginning the Winding Journey

My kids and I went on a walk recently and when I looked back, a profound thought struck. I’d been thinking about my journey as an author and this little pathway that my kids demanded I adhere to, and strictly, was a lot like my travels as a writer. Winding and wavering, but still, mostly a straight line from point A to B.

It seems that most people (including my old self) make a lot of assumptions when you say that you’re going to publish a book. They make assumptions about how long it takes to get published, the actual process of turning your manuscript in to publishers/agents, the amount of money you get, how much marketing and publicity you’ll get once a manuscript is actually contracted by a publisher, and where they will find your book. No, it likely won’t be on a physical bookshelf at any major retailer, let alone all of them.

After a short dabbling with rejections and offers of publication, followed by a whole lot of study of the independent author journey, I decided that I didn’t like the realities of the prospects of getting traditionally published and decided to take the indie author path. And, even though I’m just starting this journey and I can’t predict the future, I’m glad I chose this path.

As I’ve looked back, though, it hasn’t been a straight shot and the road of this path behind me is so similar to many in life. We sometimes believe that our road will be a straight line from point A to point B and, although we know that achieving our goals won’t always be easy, we don’t realize what this path will really be like. As in, we don’t realize that A to B is more like a zig-zag line with about 50 different points.

Also, B isn’t usually what we think it will look like, so it’s really more like A to D–just a little off from that B that we were trying to achieve.

On this journey, I’ve been finding a question placed before me over and over. The question is, “What do you really want?” As I answer that question, I believe that I can have what I want, but like point A to B, I’m find that what I really want is point D…or E.

Once again, answering this question has led me on a different journey than I thought I would face, but I feel that being honest with myself is going to help me to have a life that I want for myself and my family.

The difficult part? Sacrificing those things that aren’t helping me to get where I want to go or that are directly or indirectly blocking my way. Things that take up too much time, things that take up too much energy, and things that take up too much emotion.

A few years ago, my husband and I got rid of 75% of our possessions and it was awesome! I felt free to do what I wanted and we focused on life instead of things. However, things have a way of creeping into life and so I would definitely say that we are no longer practicing minimalism.

I’ve realized that some of these possessions are keeping me from my author goals and as I look around, we’ve traded a certain amount of our life for things again.

Minimalism and becoming an author don’t really sound like they have much in common, but becoming a successful author is my goal and my things are taking up too much time and energy. They’re taking up writing time, editing time and when my house is messy, my creativity is stifled.

It’s interesting to me how, when we have a goal that we are completely determined to succeed in, light shines on the stuff that we have ignored for a long time; stuff that we didn’t realize was getting in the way and sucking away our energy.

So! I’ll be filling you in about our journey to living that more intentional life–one where stuff doesn’t get in the way of goals, happiness and those experiences that are truly important.

To be successful at something always requires some kind of sacrifice. I feel that this idea of asking yourself, “What do I really want?” combined with ridding yourself of long-ignored road blocks can make us successful in any goal. So, for me, becoming an author means getting rid of the material possessions in my house that are killing my creativity and taking up too much time to maintain. It means exercising so that my physical and mental health are on track. It means ruthlessly scheduling creative time. Ultimately, it means sacrificing the garbage in my life, which, when put that way, sounds like it should be easy! Of course, I know it won’t be.

Once again, I’m grateful that my books, writing, and generally being creative have thrown in front of me that question; What do I really want? It makes the winding journey much more meaningful.

What about you? Any goals that you’ve been working on?

Failure Will Never Overtake Me

 

Have you heard this quote before? I found it the other night and I absolutely love it! I made some pretty hefty goals this year and–so far–they’re going well. Of course, I know that it’s only January and as seasons and life changes, certain things will appear more important than others.

While I accept that I may not make every single one of my goals, I know that by trying, my path will be further traveled than if I hadn’t.

I happened to find this quote at just the moment, however, when I was about to give up hope of succeeding or trying at all with one resolution in particular. Sometimes certain beasts appear too large to defeat, and this one happens to be my arch nemesis. At that pivotal moment when I was deciding whether I should give up the conquering of this monster in order to focus on other, more pleasant things, I found this quote and I knew that to not try is the true failure.

Whatever your goals, life difficulties, I hope that this quote helps you in some way, as well.

Onward!

The Power of Being Told, “No!”

We have a super old, tiny little netbook laptop that we occasionally allow the kids to use for writing projects. This thing is so decrepit and was used for so little that it doesn’t even have a trial version of Word on it. Also, we’re afraid to hook it up to the internet because we fear what the time-travel to the current state of powerful and virus-ridden programs might do to it. Plus, we wouldn’t (without monitoring) give our kids something that can be hooked up to the internet, anyway.

So! This old, tiny laptop is kind of perfect for the use of our kids.

We don’t let them use it often, though, and today, when my boy asked if he could use it, I told him, “No.”

After going through the usual question-answer-upset cycle, my son did something that has become a bit too regular that I’ve been thinking about a lot.

“I wish I could write on the laptop…there’s nothing else to do…I wish I could write on the laptop…”

And so it goes. On and on. He doesn’t really whine, it’s not exactly addressed to me, and it’s usually pretty quiet, so his words don’t necessarily draw enough attention that I feel that I have to talk to him about it right away. It’s about the twentieth time, though, when I finally realize that he’s still sitting there complaining.

Well, a light bulb went off today! After we had this exact conversation, I observed him quietly laying on the ground, softly complaining to nobody in particular. And that’s when it hit me.

Jonah was going through the same process we all go through during trials. That whole cycle-of-grieving, thing, but on a very small scale.

1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance.

Watching him on the floor, I realized he was on number four: Depression. Maybe mixed a little with Bargaining–he still wasn’t over Bargaining yet.

As often as I do it–and don’t like it–I realized how good it was for me to tell him “No.” If I never tell him no, then he won’t learn how to work through the grief cycle when his trials are much bigger, or think more creatively about a problem and actually solve it. Or move on.

It then hit me; how often do I sit there, symbolically laying on the floor, wishing for something that I can’t have, instead of quickly accepting that I’ve been told “no” and coming up with a creative solution to the problem? Probably a lot, my friends.

Realizing exactly what was happening, which felt like an answer to my prayers because, quite frankly, this has been happening a little too often, we had a chat. I was glad I’d gotten him to Depression–it’s easier for him to listen than when he’s in the Bargaining stage–but it was time to Accept and move on.

When I repeated that he couldn’t have the laptop right now and pointed out that he could be having fun instead of laying on the ground, he sort of agreed. Then, I asked him exactly what he was going to do instead. Amazingly, his attitude switched pretty instantly. After we worked through a few options, he chose one and he went off to play with some Star Wars toys. Good, job, son. You used LightSpeed to jet yourself into Acceptance!

Being a parent has about a million pros, but one of my favorites are these kinds of moments when I see something in a simple form in a small problem, from which we both learn together.

With the start of 2017 comes a list of goals that will require stamina, physical and mental strength, as well as discipline to accomplish. In one way or another along my path, I know I will often be told, “No”, but I’m glad I had this insight today. It’s just another reminder of how much power we actually have.

Being told, “No” doesn’t mean we can’t actually accomplish that goal–sometimes it just means that we must work harder to get over a hurdle. Other times, like my son, the answer is “no” for right now and we have to accept that and move on. One of the options I offered was for him to write with a pen and paper. While he didn’t choose this, sometimes that’s what needs to happen–we have to choose a different option for accomplishing our task.

Resiliency is key when forced to come up with a different solution, but it can make us stronger and smarter. I’m definitely going to try to keep this in mind as I push myself to work harder to actually complete my goals and work through my problems.

Filling the Cup

If you’ve been checking my blog posts or hanging out on Facebook with me, you’ll know that I’ve been working on a clean and quirky romantic comedy. I wrote it for NaNoWriMo in the month of November, which was a major accomplishment for me. Over 50,000 words and a completed manuscript in a month is a pretty strenuous task. In case you’re wondering, I ordered the paperback proof and it should be ready to be released withing a few weeks. I love it and am excited to share it with you all!

To add to the chaos of the month, I also published my four completed books in November; Inheritance Aflame and the first three books of Broden and Cookie, the ongoing chapter book series.

While November was awesome author-wise, I was ready to slow down a bit for a few days once December came around. With all of the Christmas festivities and a slight feeling of exhaustion from what I had accomplished in November, I wondered how my body and mind would react to the craziness of my newly-launched venture.

Let me tell you, after about a week, it became apparent that I had needs that demanded fulfillment! I was drained. However, the problem wasn’t that I wanted to stop creating/editing/writing/illustrating–those things generally fill my cup. However, I knew that my current route wasn’t necessarily the correct one. Or at least, I needed a detour.

Well, I didn’t really listen to myself and I kept editing the current project/outlining my next project to happy music (Cyndi Lauper radio on Pandora) and pushing away thoughts of other manuscripts that are on my list for 2017.

The problem was, I’m a rather broody sort. Bands like Iron & Wine and Tycho were my best friends when I was writing Inheritance Aflame. Even though they’re not necessarily bands that make “Happy” music, I feel good when I listen to them.

As a side note that I promise has a purpose, I’m going to tell you that I love music as a tool for provoking a feeling while writing. Finding music that captures the essence of my story really helps me to quickly pick up where I left off and begin typing away during the time I make for my craft. Thus, I listened to Cyndi Lauper radio while writing my romantic comedy.

Having my goal of finishing edits on my new manuscript, I pushed away the desire to retreat to my homeland of quiet solace and deep thoughts by keeping on with Cyndi and not doing what I really wanted–spending time drawing out some sketches for a new trilogy while listening to Tycho.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Even though I love my romantic comedy manuscript, my mind needed something different. Because I was doing something that usually feeds my soul, which allows me to care for my family, but wasn’t actually what I needed, it was draining instead of filling my cup.

After refusing to accept this, my body finally had to force me to stop what I was doing with the editing and do what I actually needed. My brain went on strike and it simply would not edit another word. After staring blankly at the laptop for thirty minutes one night, I finally put it away, pulled out my sketchbook and too-expensive pens, then switched my station on Pandora.

I ended up sketching out things that I’ve been imagining for a long time, as well as some new characters. I’m not sure if she’ll ever appear anywhere other than here, but the above witchy woman was one of the sketches that moved from mind to paper that night.

While I listened to the music that allows me to hit a heightened creative flow, it actually felt very meditative. I didn’t really have any coherent thoughts about my life as my brush-tipped pen moved across the page. I simply created and felt a peaceful fulfillment of my needs.

I slept amazingly well that night and I woke up feeling great the next morning. When I went back to editing, my mind was clear and I was able to move quickly because I was totally rejuvenated.

Ever since my little “A-ha!” moment, I’ve been trying to pay better attention to what I actually need. While I haven’t needed to pull the sketchbook out again, I might end up swapping my next two writing projects in the lineup. And, I’m listening to more “fill-my-cup” music.

What about you? What fills your cup?

Lessons Learned From Winning NaNoWriMo2016!!

nanowrimo2016-winner-lessons-learned

I officially won NaNoWriMo2016!

National Novel Writing Month officially begins November 1st and ends November 30th; you win if you write 50,000 words of a novel within that time. My goal was to actually finish the novel in the 50,000 words, not just begin it and I’m very happy that I was able to do so. It ended with roughly 50,900 words. On to editing!!

I have to say, it was very relieving to write this story! It’s been bottled up in my head for about three years now, morphing and changing over time until my characters and story developed enough to write the outline. Of course, it’ll go through another metamorphosis during editing, but the key elements will remain the same and my characters simply are who they are. Characters have a funny way of doing that–turning into people that think and do for themselves, whether you, the author, wants them to or not.

Although it’s a little way off, I’m excited to see this Clean and Quirky Romantic Comedy get through editing. It was a lot of work, a story I totally laughed through while writing and, again, it was gratifying to finally get it onto paper.

While there were some really crazy moments in November when I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to publish all four of my books and write a book in the month of November–on top of homeschooling my children, taking care of my husband and all of the other things that I prioritize above writing–a few different mantras kept me working through the difficult times.

Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time

Wow. I heard somebody say this recently and it was exactly what I needed! I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned in the last 6 months of this Indie Author life I’m now living, but “one bite at a time”, one word written at a time, one techie thing learned at a time has gotten me through things I didn’t ever think I would be able to do. It totally got me through my word count goals each day for NaNoWriMo.

Envisioning the End

While this isn’t a mantra, it helped me to remember how awesome it would feel to know that I finished NaNoWriMo. When I can imagine how great it’s going to feel to finish something, it is often the number one motivator in pushing me through to the end.

Finishing this book means a lot of things for me, so I was able to include these things as I practiced positive thinking. First off, I can feel the great satisfaction of knowing that I’ve written five books–awesome feeling and a personal goal achieved! Secondly, this is a book I’ve wanted to write (yes! I’m mentioning that again–it shows just how much I wanted to write it!) for a long time, so woohoo for having it done!

Lastly, this is yet another book that I will be editing, then publishing. I have no idea how many people it will reach, who will enjoy its humor and sweetness, or how many people it will make happy because it’s a romance novel that doesn’t have a greased up man on its cover. But! I can imagine those things and this helped me to finish.

Hard Work Beats Talent Every Time

I checked in with #NaNoWriMo2016 on Twitter almost daily. While I was often intimidated by the people who were getting 5,000-9,000 word count days in, it was also inspiring to see their hard work adding up. At the same time, I didn’t discount my own. Remembering that I was publishing four books on top of participating in NaNoWriMo allowed me to appreciate their efforts as well as my own.

In the end, though, I know that everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo got to 1,000, 20,000, 50,000+ word count totals by November 30th because they worked hard. Talent and luck are not a part of actually finishing a goal–sheer will and determination are. A person can have all the “talent” in the world, but unless that person actually gets to work, said person’s talent will simply sit there and become insignificant as those who work hard end up developing greater talents.

I needed this reminder! I’m not talented, but I know that I can work hard. Finishing NaNoWriMo was symbolic–I can finish other goals that I have.

If It’s Not Challenging, It’s Not Fun

While I don’t think I’m a total “I love challenges” junkie, I do love learning, achieving and the empowerment I feel when finishing a goal. It’s something that I will remember for a long time–especially since I hung my awesome print-at-home completion certificate on the door of my secretary-style writing desk. Even though it’s only been a few days, I had a lot of fun juggling so many things in November and every time I look at that little piece of paper, I smile at the chaos of it all!

Accountability Buddies

While I didn’t actually ever ask anybody on Facebook to be my Accountability Buddy, I checked in often and, because the people I’m friends with are amazing, I got support. While I hadn’t been counting on that, it helped so much! I’m not even kidding–it pushed me so much! Every like, heart and comment was a little bit of fuel to keep the fire burning.

The Accountability Buddy system totally works and people are great! I’m always pleasantly surprised at what happens when I reach out for help. So thank you! Thank you for your support.

As a Final Note, I’m happy I joined the throngs of people that participated in NaNoWriMo. The twitter feed was awesome to scroll through–people receiving support, pats on the back for their achievements, seeing all of the different languages–super fun to know how world-wide the event is–and just a generally fun and productive community.

I can’t wait for NaNoWriMo2017!

What’s on the Inside of People…and Characters

Apple Pic

My neighbor invited us to come and pick apples last night and we happily took advantage of the offer. My kids were so excited and we had a great time talking about eating fresh applies, apple pie, apple cobbler and applesauce as we filled up bags of the delicious fruit.

As we were chatting, my neighbor kept warning me that there would be spots to cut out once I began working with them in the kitchen. Checking over the apples, I understood his warning of some, but I didn’t really believe him about the perfect ones. They were too…perfect!

My neighbor was right, though. Each apple that I have sliced into has some inner blemish. Every. Single. Apple.

This morning, I even chose one as carefully as possible–there wasn’t a single thing wrong with the outside of the fruit. But I sliced into it, and behold! Several brown markings, quite a bit like the apple pictured above.

Apple-wise, it’s fine. I’ll chop out the bad parts and the chickens will love it.

But my mind that often needs to be kicked out of the thinking-of-the-deeper-meaning pool, went for a swim. I couldn’t help but think about how profound it is that, like the apple, people–and the characters of our written design–need to be thought of with inner wounds and blemishes that we often cannot see.

For the sake of those non-fictional characters that we live with, we certainly need to give the benefit of the doubt. I can’t say that I know a single person that hasn’t had some tragedy in their life that wasn’t a factor that molded and shaped their mind and character. On the flip side of that, I have experienced the occasional burn of a person that looked nearly perfect on the outside but ended up showing different colors upon better acquaintance.

On writing, though, we need to make certain that our characters have blemishes and bruises that can be shown at the right time within our composition. Otherwise, our characters are unbelievable and difficult to relate to.

When I trashed 95% of the first manuscript of my first novel, I spent time a lot of time on character sheets. One particular character had me feeling just awful for the poor thing and if I remember correctly, I pathetically shed a tear or two for the figment of my imagination. But I honestly didn’t really care about this character until I gave the person dimension and obstacles that had been overcome…or not.

While I wish I would have given my characters more depth in the first place, I learned. And learning can be powerful. May yours and my characters be as three-dimensional as possible in the First Draft. And may we remember that people are pretty much never what they seem–a heart or possibly a shield are usually necessary.