February Foibles or Learned Lessons 

The path to success is not a linear one. This road will be different for any why dare to cross it. It will be full of cliffs, valleys and peaks. You will find yourself running on ahead, stopping for a rest, or even backtracking over ground you already covered. Contrary to what all of the self-help and productivity books try to tell us,  there is no right or wrong path to follow. It’s a matter of grit and determination, of knowing when it is
time for you to surge ahead and when it is a time to fall back. We all have struggles to overcome, we all have strengths to uphold; we all walk different paths, even if our anticipated destination is the same. 
February was a month of learning and re-evaluating for me. Perhaps some would call it a failure- and if you look at the bare-bone numbers, perhaps they would be right. After all, I didn’t hit the well-defined goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the month. I told myself that I would try to  publish four new posts to this blog every week, and as you can all certainly attest to, I came nowhere  near that number. I also decided to set a 50,000 word goal for the month, and I only managed to get to  about 22,000. For the first time in a semi-Nano event, I missed my mark and fell short. Like I  said, if you look at the quantifiable data for my February- you could call this past month a failure. But I, in good conscience, cannot. 

You see, I have always been the type of person who likes to learn my lessons the hard way. I tend to take the long way around to come to the same conclusion that others may quickly arrive at. I  have always been the type to go for the experience to learn my little bits of worldly wisdom. And in some ways, I think I am better for it. I am no different when it comes to my writing- I have to try all of  the wrong ways before I can settle on the right one.  

What this past month really boiled down to was a lack of preparation. I went into February expecting one thing and receiving something completely different. February was anticipated to be a  relatively relaxing month- I was going to have plenty of time to get everything done. But the month itself quickly proved that it would not settle for basic expectations. Instead of a slow plodding, it turned into 28 days filled to the brim with last-minute plans and engagements, emergency problems and issues that  required additional time and effort. To put it bluntly, things just went sideways and got a bit crazy. And my big problem was that I didn’t prepare myself for these contingencies. I am a firm believer in  Murphy’s Law- if something can go wrong, then it probably will. Which is why it was rather silly of me to  expect to get by on a hope and a prayer; it wasn’t a sustainable plan, in fact, I don’t think I can really call it  much of a plan at all. I tripped and I fell; and in the hustle and bustle of life, I just couldn’t quite get back  to my feet. 

The beautiful thing about these kinds of ‘failures’ boils down to the lessons that you learn from them; you have to be prepared and ready for whatever may be tossed at you. Because of the issues I  encountered in February, I’m changing the game plan, and I will be charging into March with a much stronger footing. The key to my success is going to come down to my planning. I was starting to get a bit lazy, a tad sloppy with my work. I wasn’t giving the words time to breath, I was pushing through to publishing posts before they had a chance to ruminate and be properly edited. I didn’t give them a  chance to live up to their potential. And that is my fault as their creator; they were only granted as much life as I was willing to give them. Which is why I have a whole new process in place, going back to my  regimented days that I used when I first started this blog; and you know what, it’s actually a bit liberating. I always felt like the strict schedules were stifling, but in truth, they gave me the freedom to really focus on one thing at a time instead of scrambling at the last minute. I have a weekly schedule in
place with the different topics I want to cover each week. I’ve given myself a bit of room for flexibility, after all, you never know when the passion will strike for a particular topic, and I feel it is important to  give myself a touch of creative license. But at least for the moment, I have a backbone, a plan in place  when I feel like I just don’t know what direction to take next. I can get ahead of the pack, so to speak,  and start getting some ideas down in advance- give them the proper amount of time for editing before
they get thrust out into the world for anyone to see. 

This planning will also help me find more time to work on my actual novels; I wont be scrambling for blog posts as often, so I can focus on the bigger project. Not only that, but I am  scheduling specific writing time- and my intent is to stick with it. Even if I wind up needing to cut the  time short just because of life- at least I can get in a bit of work time. I’m taking into account which days I can invest more time than others, and giving myself enough room to enjoy some of those little ‘extras,’ like my reading or crafty projects. It’s all about the balance.  

Not only that, but I was finally able to figure out a work-around for my chronic technological issues that have left me at a near-standstill with my writing. I’ve been having intermittent issues with my
laptop since Nano; I’ve been forced to write virtually all of my blog posts on my phone (which I am not a big fan of), and I’ve been occasionally blocked from my word processor- which effectively blocks me  from doing anything with my current WIPs. I wont get into the boring details on what is wrong with it,  but suffice it to say that my document back-ups have been intermittent at best. But this past week I have figured out a temporary patch for my system- something that, theoretically, should work long  enough for me to upload my WIPs to my different back-up avenues. I’ve pulled my old laptop out of  storage and, while it has its own issues, it will at least allow me to type and back-up my work- the bare  essentials of my programs still function just fine (though I have to buy a new charger because my current one has  exposed wires that are in constant danger of potentially catching something on fire). But it will do in a  pinch until I can save up the money to invest in something new. In the meantime, as a back-up to my  Plan B, I am setting up my tablet, just in case my old laptop decides that it preferred retirement. The  tablet isn’t particularly convenient, mainly because of formatting differences that turn editing into a bit of a tedious headache, but I will at least be able to get some work done. So now I have continugency  plans; I wont just be stuck, all dressed up with nowhere to go. 

Yes, it is true, some may say that February was an epic failure. But I am not one of those people. I have learned a lot, I am still figuring out my new routines and plans that will be best for me; and yes, I
still need to figure out how to add some fitness goals in here. But I’m trying. I’m getting organized so that I will be able to more easily take this one day at a time. I am setting myself up for success in March. I’ll get there eventually, I’m just going to take the scenic route along the way. 

Technology: Friend or Foe?

Oh technology, my strongest ally and my fiercest foe. Why do you constantly deem it necessary to torment me? My dearest laptop, after all of the time I have invested with you; all of those hours we logged together clickity clacking away on that keyboard, scanning page after page of research, bonding with faraway strangers at the speed of light, creating worlds and galaxies with nothing more than twenty-six letters constructed into infinite possible words. I’ve been good to you, haven’t I? I’ll admit, I’ve been a tad clingy in the past, especially during the frazzling Nano months; but we had a good time, didn’t we? And I’m sorry I spilled my coffee on you once- but your lid was closed, I cleaned you properly- will you ever forgive me for that accident?

You see, I hate to admit it, but I’ve come to depend on you. A lot. And yet lately it just doesn’t seem like you care as much as you did once upon a time. You are distant, you keep locking me out of my word documents- documents we created together, I can now only look at them through Microsoft Windows, but I cannot touch. I cannot even copy them to a new word processor. I can simply stare at that spelling error mocking me without the tools to correct it. It’s because you’ve disconnnected- from me and the worldwide web. You don’t like your old friend, the router. And so you just arbitrarily decided that you were done with it. But now I can’t even back up my work to the cloud, and my word processor locked me out because it can’t verify my ongoing subscription if it can’t connect to the internet. It’s a sad day when your best technical ally becomes your enemy, hiding your written secrets even from yourself.

I don’t want to move on, I don’t want a new laptop- and truthfully, I can’t afford one. I just don’t know why we can’t work together anymore. I always tried to do right by you. I’m not perfect; I didn’t always put you where you belonged, I let the baby type on you (with supervision), and yes, I have spilled my treats on you. But I’ve always tried my best, I’ve always ensured you got your updates and were protected from outside viruses. I thought we were close. 

And yet, here I am, having to pull my old laptop out of storage- you know, the one that is slow and clunky, the one that just got worn out and tired- the one with the exposed wires for a charging cable. It was supposed to be resting, enjoying its technical retirement- but it’s having to join the workforce again- my workforce. Because you left me. Because modern computers now need an internet connection for even the most mundane of tasks. Because the world has evolved and my dependence on your abilities is so much stronger than it used to be.

Please, I hope we can work this out. I dream of a day when I log in and see those little bars that mean you’ve decided to reconnect to the outside world. I won’t give up on you, my friend, even if it feels like you gave up on me. Because at the end of the day- we need each other. We are peanut butter and jelly, popcorn and butter- sure you could get by with one of us, but it is the combination that knocks it out of the park. Until then, I will miss you my friend. And I hope the old laptop is okay with coming out of retirement. I am so glad I held on to it.

Impromptu Weekend Write-In

I have a confession to make- I have been really struggling with my writing lately- especially these last few months.  I’m sure that’s probably not a huge revelation for anyone, considering the drop in the frequency of posts lately. I will have little bouts of energy, I’ll write feverishly for a day or two- and then it’s crickets the rest of the week. I could give you excuse after excuse; I could tell you that it’s because my laptop has decided to lock me out of editing documents due to a complicated technical issue I’ve been unable to fix. I could tell you it’s because I got sick again (seriously, this has been the year from hell in terms of health for me). I could tell you that life has just been too damn busy and I haven’t been able to squeeze in a few extra minutes to put some words down on the page. Or I could mention that everytime I sit down to earnestly start writing, that seems to trigger my dog to demand attention by singing me the song of his people and being a general booger. And while there is a trace of merit to these arguments, deep down I know that they are all a bit disingenuous. The bottom line is that I have been floundering and lacking motivation. I could have made time. I could have stayed up late an extra ten minutes to write just one paragraph. I could have pulled out my old trusty notebook when my laptop decided to toy with my emotions. I could have shoved tissues up my nose and medicated myself enough to type just a couple of sentences.  I could ‘down’ the dog when he decided to be crazy (this may sound scary- but it’s really just a trick he learned at puppy boot-camp where he has to lay down and relax for about an hour. Think of it like doggy meditation, I promise, it’s actually quite good for them). But I didn’t. I didn’t do any of these things, not on a regular basis at least. My motivation was gone, and sitting down reading a book or catching up on a show just sounded like the easier option.

But then I realized that this is the last weekend in February, and I have goals I want to accomplish, I have this shell of inactivity I’ve been hiding in, and it’s time to smash right through it. At the beginning of February I told a friend that I would do a little Nano-event with her this month. And it sounds like she is kicking ass and taking names, she is owning the page! I am so proud of her and all that she’s accomplishing. And me- I don’t think I’ve even hit 10% completion on my goal so far. And to be honest, it feels kind of bad, I am a goal oriented person, and I am highly competitive with myself. I know I can do better. But I’ve procrastinated. And there is only one weekend left, plus two work days that are already expected to be very busy. I’m sitting here in panic mode.

Lucky for me, I know how to rally when I start to see myself getting close to the wire. So you know what this means? It’s time for a weekend write-in! I haven’t done one in ages, and I am actually excited. Zach left early this morning to go skiing with some friends, so it will just be the fur babies and myself for most of the day- so much quality writing time right here at my fingertips. I have a mountain of ideas for this blog and a laundry list of my novel projects that need a touch of tlc. So in spite of my cranky computer, I am going to sit down and get to work.

I have always been a sucker for a good write-in. The trick is to set yourself up for success. Fist step for me is usually a quick trip to the store. I am a highly food-motivated person, so a little treat like Hershey’s kisses are a perfect reward after I’ve hit certain goals through the day. Not to mention the drinks: tea and coffee are top on that list, although I do occasionally splurge on a Monster (don’t judge me too harshly, I know they are terrible for me, but I’ve really decreased my consumption, and dang it, I like them). It’s also imperative to have some simple meals and snacks ready to go, otherwise you will find the excuse to go out and pick something up far too easy.

Next step: organize your area (if only just a little). I personally like a touch of chaos, but when my area is just a pure mess- I can’t handle it and wind up getting distracted along the way. Straightening up really fast before you start will typically save a world of frustration. One tip: dusting. I never notice how dirty my shelves get until I’m trying to write.

I only occasionally write with music, so at this point I may decide to pick out a playlist. I have to keep my kindle and my phone out of reach until my break times because I lack all sense of self-control (at least I can admit it). I might pull up a few little writing games- the nano message boards are usually perfect for this. Every now and then I’ll pull up the timer on my laptop and start running time-trials as I go to keep myself motivated. Like I said- I get very competitive with myself.

But in the end, these are just my own little tricks to stay on task and get the work done. The words won’t be perfect, and I will probably feel mentally exhausted by the end of the day. But I’ll have one hell of a word count to show for it if I did it right. So here goes nothing, my friends.

If anyone feels like joining in, if only for 30 minutes, let me know. It’s always nice to have others to commiserate and bounce ideas off of. Cheers to the weekend write-in, may the odds be ever in our favor. May the words come smoothly and the goals get scratched as quickly as I do when I try putting the cat in his dreaded carrier. Happy weekend my friends, with luck we will meet again much sooner than last time.

One Word Trailing Another (The Motivation Mambo)

When that beautiful mistress, the muse, is showering you with attention and sincere affection, writing is simple, the words rage from your pen like a river during flood season (apologies, my local area is currently under flood watch, so apparently these types of analogies have climbed excitedly to the top of my brain). This was me last week; like a snake who has been charmed, I could not look away from that lovely beauty, could not ignore the words that desperately wished to find solace in the blank page before me.

But then this week came. And can I just start off by saying that I am exhausted? You see, that balance between the literary life I crave and the real world that demands my attention- it is a hard line to walk. Some weeks I am a boss; I kick ass, I take names, I dance backwards in high heels while juggling legal briefs and homemade cupcakes. Some weeks I am a superhero; I can do it all and still manage to have enough time for date night on Wednesday, happy hour on Friday and meal prep for Sunday (did I mention homemade cupcakes- with pacman fondant?) Yes, some weeks I rule my own little corner of the world.

But other weeks I scrape myself out of bed after my second alarm. I grab my cardigan and I run out the door- only to discover when I get to work that it is not, in fact, my cardigan, but instead it is my fiance’s dirty t-shirt from the night before (true story). I go to sip my coffee only to realize I forgot to rinse all of the soap out. I hit the dreaded ‘reply all’ when I only meant to reply to one (that button really should come with a pop-up warning that asks you if you are really sure you want to send your message to the ENTIRE contact list). I guzzle immunity-boosting tea to fight off the cold that is once again nipping at my heels. I get yelled at by sweet old ladies who are deceptively mean when they don’t get their way. I dodge camera crews that are planted outside my office trying to get a sight of the defendant in our most recent media case. I burn the chicken at dinner and trip on the dog when I try to carry the plate to the table. I smile all day long, and crumple onto my bed when I get home.

Some days I’m the windshield, and some days I’m the bug. I used to just cave into these moments, chalk it up to a bad week and drop my writing goals at the door. I needed a break, I would reason (and occasionally still do). But the thing is, if you constantly push aside what you really love, what you deeply want in life- just because it gets hard sometimes- you aren’t going to get anywhere. You can drown yourself in your own pity, but it won’t help you float.

Trying to maintain a successful job/career, relationships and relatively clean household while simultaneously chasing that dream of writing; it’s not easy. It wasn’t meant to be. Chasing your true passion never is. It’s something you have to fight for, even when there’s nothing left inside to fight with.

So how do you do it? How do you sit down in front of your keyboard when your body and soul are drained, when you want nothing more than a strong drink and a soft bed? I’ve searched for the secret, climbed figurative mountains, read all of the articles the internet has to offer; but really, the answer is quite simple. You just do. You sit down. You put your fingers to the keyboard (or hand to the page) and you string one word after another until you reach the end of the sentence. And then you do it again. And again. Until you reach the end of the paragraph. And then you do it again. And again. Until you reach the end of the page. There is no mystical solution, there is no get-rich-quick scheme, I can’t spin this straw into gold. There’s just hard work in the face of adversity. Sometimes the frustration will make you want to cry- so you do. And then you string together one word behind another. Even if you only manage to fight through one sentence- you still took a step, you still did it. You are still a badass fighter, a hopeless dreamer, a dedicated writer.

Tonight the last thing that I wanted to do was write. I am exhausted, this week has been one to try my patience and seriously make me wish I had the kind of job where I could just call in sick and hide under my covers all day. But alas, life waits for no one (and neither does my boss). I got to work an hour early, pushed through the day, stayed late, and picked up a salad on the way home. And while right now I would love nothing more than to find the comfort of watching Netflix until I’m comatose, I know that tomorrow morning I will regret that decision. So here I am, typing away, stringing one word behind another. And the funny thing is, once I started typing, I found myself enjoying it, finding comfort in the mere act of writing. Words breathe life back into my soul, no matter how hard I try to fight them sometimes. You must persist. You won’t regret it. Even if you hate every word that makes its way to the page; at least there is more than yesterday. Prove it to yourself- that you deserve this, that you were meant for this. Fight for it, even when the fight is hard. That’s what passion is all about. You are a badass, a fighter, the superhero to your own story- even if you don’t feel like it. You can do this. I promise (and have I ever lied to you?)

To Truly Live (A Hope for a New Year)

Happy New Years, my friends! I hope that you make 2017 one to remember fondly. I hope you walk away from this year with pride in all that you have accomplished. I hope you dare to live bravely, to challenge yourself, to find lessons in your failures as well as your successes. I hope you create an adventure that you will look back on in twenty years with a smile saying ‘I can’t believe I did that.’ I hope you slide into December 31st a little bit weary, a little bit ruffled, and with a contagious smile that just won’t quit. I hope you find joy and kindness, I hope you show the world what you are made of. I hope we all do.

I have always been a lover of New Years Resolutions, excitedly proclaiming my goals to my less-than-enthusiastic friends. I know that some don’t hold an abiding belief in this tradition, following the logic that change can and should be made everyday, not just at the beginning of a new year. And while I see the merits in their argument (I myself have decided on a random Wednesday that I had finally had enough and sought my change right them), I still can’t seem to refuse the hopeful joy I feel when that clock strikes midnight, the ball drops, and we all find ourselves collectively standing in a new time, a new day, a new hopeful beginning. It is like the first chapter in the sequel to a book you know and love. You are well aware of the pitfalls, the plots, the characters; but that does not detract from the magic of a brand new book.

There is a sparkle to a new year, a symbolic fresh start, a way to clean the slate and set tangible timelines to your goals. And while you are still the same person you were yesterday, you can look at your problem with fresh determination, even if it is only a change in your state of mind.

2016 was a year of foundations for me. It was a time for me to embrace the things I love and start tackling the maze that is the writing world. It was a year of change, of asking questions, of looking at myself in terms of my potential as opposed to my prior accomplishments. 2016 was a year of tearing down the walls that I had built, crashing through the limitations that I had set. And 2017 will be about putting on that hard hat and building on what I have started. It will be a time to view my life through a new lens, to begin answering the questions that I posed a year ago. 2017 will be a year of living and loving bravely, of baring my soul without apology. This year I resolve to take the next steps off the beaten path I have always so willingly followed. This year will be about potential.

There will be many failures; I am nothing if not deeply and profoundly human in everything that I do. I fail with the best of intentions. But this year I hope that I will not let those failures determine my path. I will struggle, and I will continue to question. I will feel discouraged and sad and wonder what the hell I am doing with my life. But my friends- that is to always to be expected. That is what it means to live a genuine life and be true to who you are. It is not an easy road, to follow your heart and your dreams. It is an unpaved adventure when you deviate from what is expected.

I have seen clearly what my life will be like if I don’t step outside of my box. I will continue to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and blearily hop in the shower to wake up. I will depend on my coffee as I drive to the same building I have worked in since I was 18 years old. I will be happy there; I have been happy there. I will bond with these people, occasionally go to happy hour with friends. I will plan vacations once a year to someplace new, saving every last penny. I will maybe have a few kids (to entertain the dog and cat). I will live a happy, ordinary life.

But when I come to those pearly gates, I will know that I did not live my life. I lived the life that was expected of me. It will be great, it will be grand; and it will be the epitome of everything I am not. I am organized chaos. I am a eternal optimist. But most of all, I am a girl full of dreams and stories that keep my head floating in the clouds. My closet is full of blazers and high heels, and yet I am happiest in my worn tennis shoes and literary t-shirts. I take pride in what I have accomplished, and yet I know in my heart that I am not living up to my potential.

We all know the dream, many of us carry it in our hearts and guard it zealously. Oh, how happy I would be to make my living with a pen in my hand and a story in my heart. And yet, I have come to a realization this past year: the outcome of my writing does not matter. If I never catch the attention of a publisher, if I never see my name on a best-seller list; that doesn’t mean that I failed. The true test is in the journey. If I keep writing, if I keep chasing that dream with wild abandon, if I still daydream about that one story I can’t get out of my head when I should really be reading the latest legal decision on that one case everyone is talking about; then I am winning, I am living my most genuine life.

This year I want to explore my boundaries. I want to re-discover what I really love and what I truly want. I want to do it for myself, not to check a box off of an ever-growing to-do list. This year I am going to be brave and start looking at the bigger picture. While I love my job, I know that I am settling by doing what I do. I am not challenged like I hope, I’ve hit the top rung of my current ladder and I am not satisfied with my view. I am capable of more than what my current task-set allows. And while I don’t think I will be plunging head-first into any new careers this year, I will start the journey to figure out what really brings me joy. I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I also envisioned a big glittery question mark that begged the question of ‘what else’? As I ramble down my literary road, what else out there will leave me fulfilled? I want to find out, I want to see what I can accomplish if I set my mind to it, I want to rediscover the passions that I fell in love with once upon a time. If nothing else, I will learn something new about myself and perhaps find some fresh fodder for my literary endeavors. I am forever learning, observing and soaking it all in.

These are my hopes for 2017, the dreams and adventures that I wish to look back on fondly next December as we prepare to ring in yet another year of change. While I thought about writing out my well laid plans on here with all of their lovely little bullet points and step by step directions, I think my purposes are best served with the intentions, the heart of what I am hoping to accomplish. Each month will bring with it a new challenge that I will set out to accomplish; and each task will be met in its own time.

2017 will be a year of self discovery; of learning to slow down and listen to myself, to follow my interests and desires and see where they will lead. It will be a year of taking a step back from the hold that mindless technology has taken on my brain and revitalize myself out in the tangible world. It will be a year of cultivating my mind and body, making small changes now that I will be grateful for in the future.

2017 will be a year of writing, of finishing what I started. It will be a year to explore the possibilities of publishing and facing my fear of public opinion. It will be a year to dedicate to this lovely little space that allows me to bring voice to my thoughts and feel a little bit less alone. 

2017 will be about finding myself in small adventures; whether they be as simple as the pages of a book I would normally not read or as grand as a vacation to someplace I never would have envisioned visiting. It will be about finding the good in things that I all too often spot the negatives in.

2017 will be a year of investment; exploring new cultural experiences, finding common ground with people who feel like strangers, searching for a place to fit in a world that wasn’t necessarily created for people quite like me. 

In this year, I hope to build, to grow, to look within myself and find a new perspective to color my views with. We have a world of possibilities at our feet and a choice in our hearts; to walk down the path so readily laid before us, or to take that leap and jump into the rambling woods beside us. This year I choose to live my true life; whether I succeed or fail doesn’t matter in the end. It’s going to be one hell of an adventure as we carve this road. I hope to see you amidst the trees, my friends.

Too Much of a Good Thing (remembering who I have become)

Have you ever watched the movie ‘Matilda,’ you know, 90s classic that was a staple for me growing up. Oh how I always wanted to be like her; reading the entire library, able to move things with my mind and bubbling over with adorable charm. Yes, that was the dream- minus the horrors of Ms. Trunchbull. We could all do without that little gem in our lives.


As it turns out, lately I have been a lot more like Bruce Bogtrotter than Matilda. He was the infamous cholocate cake boy (who incidentally grew into a pretty handsome man, only proving my theory that cake is a the most amazing human invention and can fix anything in your life). 


Now- what do I mean when I say that I’ve been Bruce Bogtrotter? Well, remember how all he really wanted was some chocolate cake, and he just couldn’t resist so he stole a piece from the grinchy principal? His punishment after that sounded amazing: to eat an entire chocolate cake all on his own. Yes, it was a dream come true- until it wasn’t. As it turns out, too much of a good thing (even with something as glorious as chocolate), can still hurt you. The key has always been balance; something I am continually working on. After Nano ended I decided that I was going to give myself a little break, I reasoned that I had earned it- I hit my crazy big goal in November, and honestly, I was a bit tired. I craved the free time I never had, I desired that freedom the same way Bruce craved that cake. I simply couldn’t resist, though I knew the dangers of falling back into my old ways. So I opted to take time and relax, read my books, ease off of my writing projects and just give myself a bit of a break. Which was wonderful. Until it wasn’t.

All work and no play makes Katie a dull girl, and conversely, all play and no work makes Katie fall asleep far too early and lose her pizzazz. I loved the first week or so, well, actually, I still love it- it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit and read my books guilt-free without the constant nagging in the back of my mind on what I should be doing. So I read, and when I got burnt out on my current paperback, I started poking around online. A lot. And, as usual, the holiday season is a busy one for me- with ugly sweater parties, Christmas tree train rides, holiday plays, gingerbread houses,  a first attempt at a wine tasting, family frivolity and friendly festivities. But as it turns out, a lot of other things fell by the wayside as I spent more and more time indulging myself. This blog even- it started to fade into a late night afterthought, a tinge of guilt, but no real desire to sit down and work. One of my projects has been languishing, neglected and alone on my laptop. Even my laundry has been a mountain that has flooded over the top of its hamper, continually threatening to topple on the unsuspecting cat who only wants to play with the dangling sleeves of my sweaters.

And you know what happened? It stopped being fun. All of this extra time I had on my hands- it was a waste. I was standing still when I have spent the past year pushing so hard to inch forward, one toe at a time. It felt like I was losing all of the ground I had fought for. To suddenly find yourself languishing, and knowing it was all your own doing- it kind of sucks. It’s like sitting in the bathtub until the bubbles are gone and the water is cold, you’ve overstayed your welcome and the relaxation turns into anxiety. I found myself killing time that was once such a precious commodity to me- by mindlessly scrolling through the interwebs, checking my Facebook way more than I should, and even finding myself so bored at night that I was falling asleep early, kindle still propped on my lap. There was no stimulation, no motivation, no fire burning me up from the inside and sparking life into my soul. I had become dull and faded without my inspiration to guide me. I had become the girl I was once upon a time when I would dream without doing and wonder why my life wasn’t changing.

Much like the chocolate cake; when you eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it loses its appeal and pretty soon you find yourself craving an apple. You have to indulge yourself occasionally with a piece, but knowing it is a special treat makes it all the sweeter. That’s the balance I have to remember, I need to learn to teeter when I want to totter.

I don’t know who I am when I’m not writing, I lose my focus and start to feel like my very identity is slipping, I feel like a shadow of the myself. I have spent so much time this year working my tail feathers to the bare nubbins. And in spite of the dedication and laser focus it has required- it’s felt amazing knowing that I am doing something for myself, that I am taking steps towards a dream I have always had. So treading water- it doesn’t feel as good anymore. When I know what I am capable of, it hurts to do anything less. I feel like I’m wilting.

And so, here I am, frustrated with complacency and ready to strike back. It’s been fun, but I am sick of my holding pattern. So here we are my friends- Tipsy is back and ready to take a shot (I meant that in the dukes up, fight for myself kind of way- you know- hit me with your best shot; not shot of alcohol way, though technically that probably works too).

It’s time to come back to my new life, the one I fought so hard for. And now I can find comfort in knowing that I don’t think I am capable of slipping back into that girl I had once been- the one so full of unrealized dreams. Because I just tried, and though I did wilt for a time, I find myself blooming again. I can emphatically say: I am not that girl anymore. I am stronger than her, and damn it, I will keep on fighting for what I want. Because it’s the only thing that leaves me fulfilled and satisfied at the end of the day. Cheers, my friends, it feels good to be back. I’ve missed you. And perhaps I’ve missed me a bit too.

One Step in Front of the Other

A couple years ago my fiancé and I packed up the car and drove five hours to Leavenworth, WA during Oktoberfest. But we weren’t going for the beer, no, we were doing something much more reckless. The Oktoberfest Half Marathon! That is right- while college students were piling into beater cars and taking over the town for a weekend of boozy frolicking fun, we were pinning numbers to our tank tops and stretching nervous muscles in the freezing cold early hours of the day. This in itself wouldn’t have been a big problem- if I had taken my training seriously in the months prior to the final event. I stepped up to the starting line knowing that I was in way over my head. I don’t think I had run more than two miles straight without a break, and here I was expecting to push my body for 13.1 miles. Now, don’t get me wrong- a few weeks before the race I had decided it was important to know what I was getting myself into- my fiancé and I went for our ‘practice run’ one night. It took us hours winding through two towns to get in the full mileage. At one point I was running while dry heaving over the side of a bridge (that would be thanks to the pile of gummy bears I ate), but we did the full thing. So going into this event, I had an inkling of what to expect. And I knew it would involve a lot of pain.

The first few miles were fantastic, I felt like a superstar. There is something inspiring and invigorating when your feet are clipping in line with thousands of other people surrounding you, people who were just as crazy as you. We all went out there with something to prove, a goal to accomplish- and the excitement in those first few miles were palpable.

After a while though, even the buzzing thrill couldn’t keep my body motivated. The next miles were a collection of jogging bursts coupled with walking breaks. Intervals, they call them- and they seem to save my life every time. 

When we hit the halfwalf mark, we came across a woman dressed as a bar wench, in the full German gear- she was running with us while carrying a stein full of beer. Beer that she was actually drinking. College students in town for Oktoberfest were lining the streets and filling her stein for her as she went. And you know what really killed me? She was beating me. I like to tell myself that she was drunk enough not to feel the pain in her legs, but I know the truth; she was just better, stronger, and perhaps even a bit more prepared in spite of her inebriated state. Although I can’t help but be impressed; drunk me knows better than to go outside for a jog. Drunk me wants to sit in bed with hot french fries while singing old Backstreet Boys songs to my always-patient fiancé who simply wants me to brush my teeth and go to sleep (and upon his request, this is where you insert the lyrics from ‘You Don’t Own Me’- thank you First Wives Club for introducing this little gem into my bag of tricks. This is quickly followed by some Joan Jett ‘Bad Reputation’ in response. Oh yes, drunk me can be quite clever with her song choices. She also becomes a fiercely independent woman- until she can’t open the pickle jar.)

By the end we were exhausted, everything hurt, but we were almost there. When we got within sight of that finish line we started running, every muscle in our bodies screaming, our lungs ready to burst. When we hit the finish line we clasped our hands and raised them in the air in triump- until the race attendants pointed to ANOTHER line several feet (it felt like miles) away, saying that was the actual finish line and racers had been confused all day with the inexplicable first mark. I personally think they did it because they thought it was funny- it was the cruelest joke that has ever been played on me. So we shuffled forward, arms still raised painfully for what felt like another five miles- until we were able to joyfully cross the REAL finish line.

At the end were apples and treats, along with a winning tshirt and a medal. That first bite of my victory apple was the best thing I have ever tasted. Everything hurt, the journey had been a rough one and I had been horribly unprepared. But you know what? I did it. I fought through the pain, I pushed myself beyond anything I ever believed my body to be capable of. And I crossed that finish line. Both of them. Looking back, it isn’t the pain and the cold that comes to mind first- it’s the pride, the deep satisfaction in knowing that the chips were stacked against me and I still pushed myself to do it.

We went back to our hotel, took hot showers (oh how I deeply craved a tub in that moment), and then we joined the crazy college kids at the bar for a celebratory beer while proudly wearing our medals. It was an amazing day. And it doesn’t matter that I could barely stand for the rest of the week, or that stairs made me want to cry for my mommy. I still did it.

The thing that I’ve learned: this life isn’t that different from that race. Especially for us writers (and most certainly during Nano). We all are jumping into these dreams and adventures feet first, with nothing but hope that we will be successful. We don’t always know what to expect. We don’t know what struggles we will endure. Sometimes we are rockstars, zooming through the crowd. And sometimes it feels like that woman in leiderhosen has all of her shit figured out while you are bumbling around like a blind man. You lose your faith in your abilities, it seems like everyone else has the secret except for you. But you keep pushing and you keep fighting, even when every fiber in your body wants to give up and call for a ride home. We are fighters, we push through all of the odds. We are plagued with fatigue, with feeling ill-equipped, and occasionally with false finishes that hide the distance you still have left to travel. But you don’t give up. As a writer, I sit down in front of my laptop even when the words won’t come. I type out my blog on a tiny touch screen cell phone when a roadblock falls in my lap (yes, I am still raining curses on my laptop and it’s inability to miraculously fix whatever is wrong with it). We find a way, no matter what. Because it all that we know, because standibg still means defeat and we aren’t ready to throw in the towel yet. We owe it to ourselves, we deserve our success. We must believe it, even if we don’t feel we are ready for it.

Happy Halloween! (and may the odds be ever in your favor, Nanoers)

Happy Halloween to all of my ghosts, ghouls and goblins out there this lovely day! It’s hard to believe that October is coming to a close, and in a mere few hours the hustle and bustle of Nano (and the upcoming holiday season) will be settling in.

I will be honest, I did not accomplish everything that I set out to do in October. My editing projects floundered a bit, but I did get some good ideas ready to go for my Nano project, and got some fresh content for this humble little blog sorted out. All in all, I would rate it as a successful month. After all, I did get to run through downtown Portland dressed up as a banana while being chased by Gorillas.

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And I got to spend a little bit of time visiting one of my favorite spooky spots, Halloweentown:

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Not to mention trying on a few costumes at Target, and carving pumpkins with the family. I didn’t hit all of the holiday things that I wanted to do this year, but let’s be honest- there isn’t enough time in the month to do everything on my list.

I had a blast and went out into the world instead of spending so much time lost in my own thoughts. Sure, I could have managed to get a bit more work done, but every now and then we need to stop and remember that life is about more that a word count. And sometimes the best inspirations you will encounter will be out there in the world, not at home staring at a screen.

Now we are quickly hurdling towards November. I already went over my goals for the month yesterday, so I wont bore you by repeating myself. But I cannot believe that Nano will be here in a matter of hours! I feel like a little kid at Christmas, only instead of getting presents, I’ve been invited to work a season in Santa’s workshop- it’s a lot of hard work, but its also a dream no self-respecting child would pass up.

I planned ahead this year and even managed to snag a few days off from work so that tonight I get to indulge myself and stay up late for the midnight start! Woohoo! I think I’ve only managed to do that once or twice in all of the events that I have participated in.

So tonight, I will be dressing up the dog and taking him for our nightly walk. I will come home and eat pizza while I watch Hocus Pocus. I will glance at the clock every five minutes or so to see how close I am to midnight. And when that clock strikes, poof- I will turn into a moonlight writer, chasing my dreams through the flitting words on the page.

Good luck, my dear friends, have a safe and happy Halloween. And when you get a chance to sit down and start writing, my wish for you is that the words flow smoothly, the ideas never wane, and the characters dance through your dreams with a lively enthusiasm. This is what we do, this is why we can’t stop. We spill our souls onto the page and hope someone will read their own when they see the words. May the odds be ever in you favor.

Nano is Coming! November Goals Unveiled

Hidden amidst the costumes, the piles of candy, and the pumpkin spice coffees, dodging past Winnifred Sanderson, Michael Myers, Pennywise and Chucky- just beyond the veil of Halloween, a mystical adventure awaits the daring writer brave (or crazy) enough to wield their pen like a scabbard and charge into the unknown foray of the blank page. That is right, my dear literary lovelies, Nano is just around the corner. As in a couple of days away. The hourglass of October is nearly spent, the precious Nano prep time is coming to a close, and soon the curtains will part for November as the main attraction commences.

I will be honest with you, for all of the time I have spent organizing myself for November- I still don’t feel anywhere near being ready for the month. I don’t think I have ever starting November 1st feeling fully prepared, and perhaps that is where the adventure truly is. It’s all about walking into the challenge with the nervous anticipation clawing at you, asking whether you can make it or not. Will you take the castle, or retreat to find a dragon to help you slay your literary foes in December? We shall find out together, my friends.

As per the usual, it is time to make my writing goals for the next month. The past few months I have been working on finishing old projects- mainly in the form of editing. And while I haven’t found as much success with these projects as I had hoped, I think this is a theme that I need to carry on with throughout the year. This is a year of finishing, of tying up my loose ends so that I can move forward with confidence into whatever 2017 has in store for me. And so, my Nano project is going to be an old one that needs some new life breathed into it. I’m going to be picking up a project I started in Camp Nano this last summer. I didn’t get very far into it, and what I did manage to do needs a complete re-write. So I’m taking that old idea and creating something new. The benefits: I know a little bit about how these characters act and how to make them translate on the page. The cons: everything that I had before is essentially being scrapped, so I will be starting with a clean slate. I’m excited to get it going, to finish it. It’s an idea that I find intriguing, and I am curious how it will play out. I have my general plot figured out, but I always leave a lot of extra wiggle room when I plot so that I have the ability to adjust if the story starts steering me in a new direction halfway through.

In the spirit of the ‘out of this world’ Nano theme we have going this year, I am going to be shooting for the stars: it will be a ‘go big or go home’ Nano. This could either be an epic year, or it could spark and fizzle out before the month is up. I guess we shall see. So, on to the goals:

Naturally, my minimum word count goal is 50,000, courtesy of the Nano challenge. But this year I am going to make yet another attempt at the crazy, coveted goal of 100,000 words. I have tried to hit this mark for a couple years now, but I have not managed to make it. I usually start to slow down and come to a screeching halt at about the 75k mark- a milestone I am still incredibly proud of, but I deeply desire to hit that ever illusive goal, mainly because I have tried and failed so many times in the past.

Second: I am going to try to post every day of the month (gasp). This is yet another goal that I have striven for the past couple of months, but haven’t even come close to. I’ve been struggling lately with the blog, and I think it’s been pretty apparent. Life has been incredibly busy, and I feel like I’ve lost my voice. The best way to fight this little struggle is to embrace it. I need to nurture my daily habits until I start to see myself again in my work. I have to push through my self-imposed barriers to remember who I am as a writer. So if you see me waning on occasion, feel free to leave a comment and kick me in the booty- there is nothing more motivating than the people who are fighting right alongside me.

I am so excited and yet also incredibly nervous. I am terrified that I am taking on more than I can handle, after all, the holidays are upon us, and that has always been a busy time for my family. Then again, if I want this type of life, these are the challenges that I must give myself every single day. This is my favorite time of year, and I get to immerse myself in my favorite activity. Whether I get a gold star on my goals or not- at least I am still out here trying. That’s really all I can ask of myself.

So today- after the football game, of course (GO HAWKS!), I will finish getting myself ready for November. I will work through the Mount Everest pile of laundry I have waiting for me (it’s embarrassingly awful at this point, but I wasn’t kidding when I said life has been busy, I haven’t even had time for this simple chore). I will clean the house and figure out a few simple meal plans for the moth. Then I will be off to the store to stock up on some of my favorite snacks and drinks (tea time for the win! And perhaps a few Hershey kisses as word count rewards). I will go on the Nano website and stare longingly at the travel mug I hope to reward myself with if I hit 100k. I will go over my prep work one more time and make a few minor adjustments. Then I will take a little bit of time to relax with the book I hope to finish by tomorrow (otherwise it will be a long month before I get a chance to read the conclusion).

Tomorrow I will let myself fully enjoy the excitement of Halloween, one of my favorite holidays. I will settle in and watch Hocus Pocus and The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. And then when the clock strikes midnight, I will begin my daring adventure. Care to join me, my friends?

Ghosts, Goblins and Ghouls: October is here

October is finally here! It is the time for pumpkin patches, corn mazes and haunted houses, the time for spiced cider, skull-shaped chocolate and silly costumes that I will try on in Target (spoiler: this has already happened).

It is the time of year I get to watch my favorite scary movies with my sister (and a few not-so-terrifying holiday gems: Hocus Pocus will probably be playing on repeat for most of the month). It is the time of year we will try to get through all of our spooky baking- brain jello molds, coffin chocolates, pretzel bones- a day or two of extreme sugar and lots of laughs. I get to re-read some of my all-time favorite books (Hello, Dracula, it’s good to see you again), and perhaps dust off a few of my unfinished writing projects to get into the spirit: zombies and vampires, oh my! This is the time of year where I get to feel like a kid again, with the single adult benefit of being able to buy as much candy as I want.

I adore everything about this season. I am infatuated with the holidays, I am head over heels in love with the promise, the sparkle, the fun frivolity that comes with the next few months. So please excuse my giddiness, my excitement for life knows no bounds this time of year. There are some things that you should never grow out of, and remembering to have fun is one of them.

That is why October is going to be a little bit different for me when it comes to my goals. I am still going to be working and writing- that never changes, I don’t know how to be me when I’m not doing these things. I will be continuing to plod the editing path while planning for my Nano project this coming November. But this is the season to step out of your routine and do new things, create memories, live adventures. And that, my friends, is what the next few months will be about. So this month there will be: creepy crafts with the littles (nieces and nephews), pumpkin patches with the family, baking and movie night with my sister, a possible Halloween party, a few treks through the haunted houses and races in the corn mazes. This month I am going to sign up for a class with my mom and reach out to some old friends I haven’t seen in ages. I want to break out of this comfort zone I’ve been cuddled up in. Halloween is the best time of year to face your fears and learn to have a little bit more fun. We could all use some more of that in our lives.

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