Lisa Manifold

Writing From the Top of the Street

Tag: Letting go

Post Turkey Day Reflections

This is not going to be my usual type of post. I want to talk about barriers. Hang on. This is a long one.

When we get older, we are imbued with fear. Well, I have been. I think it just happens. I was fearless when I was younger. My attitude was, ‘Well, why not?’ This applied to what I could do, couldn’t do, wanted to try, thought I might like, everything. The world was my oyster.

As I got older, I learned more of life. We all know how that goes. It shows you, first gently, and then with a hard bitch slap, that everyone has limitations. Or at least, Life wants you to think that way.

For someone who was only limited by what I felt were limits (and I just didn’t have any when I was younger, because I was convinced of my own fabulousness and ability to conquer whatever Life or anyone else put in my way) learning that someone or something else set limits and would let you hit up against them hard was an ugly revelation. I stumbled, then fell. Having done so spectacularly, I became cautious. Perhaps even fearfully so. I don’t know. I look back, and see where my fearful caution held me back. I think, Why? I know it seemed important at the time.

Living in any sort of state inspired by fear is an awful thing. You do it long enough, you don’t even notice it. It’s always there, part of the landscape.

fear of failure

I’m 45 now, and letting go of some of the fear. Why? Because I like me, and getting to this point has been a journey from that younger me who loved herself, and felt no fear. So fuck it. I like me. I’m not backing down or apologizing for that. Not anymore.

But an adulthood of fear of some sort or another is a hard habit to kick. That hit home with me this past weekend. I just started skiing again in the past several years with the family after…oh…twenty years since my last foray into trying to ski.

What I’ve learned is that I am afraid. Of falling. Of breaking something. Of something I can’t even articulate. We planned to go out on Friday, when everyone else was fighting over a TV at Best Buy or some other Black Friday thing. Everyone got up late. No one made the push for going – and I finally did, even though I was dragging my feet.

So on the drive up, I mulled over why I dragged my feet. I hate the walk to the slopes. Getting the kids ready. All the circus-like atmosphere to get a family out for the day.

On the ride up, I forced myself to shift my attitude. It was a beautiful day. Sunny, and the wind wasn’t kicking. Since I ski near the Continental Divide, no wind and sun is a gift. (Note: It didn’t go over 20 degrees all day, but we weren’t cold. It was too sunny.)

You know what? Getting the kids suited up and ready wasn’t as bad. My boots fit amazingly this year, so the trek to the lift wasn’t so bad. No whining from the aforementioned kids. It was nice.

On to the lift we go. First run down, and it’s not so bad. Little icy, which makes me nervous. Then I think, wait. Last year in spring snow I fell face first ass over teakettle, and I was fine. Thank god for helmets! So I fall. So what?

I spent that first run watching my kids and making sure I hadn’t forgotten everything. Then we go down the second time, and holy hell. It was better. I watched my kid (the one I was assigned to), and I leaned forward, and forced my shoulders to drop.

That run was fantastic. I got some speed, which I normally am not comfortable with. I’m always afraid I’ll lose control. One more aspect of the fear issue.

What’s so bad about losing control? Well, for me, and this will be different for everyone, when I lost control, I totally dropped my basket and my life went to hell. So I am negatively conditioned to hang onto control like my life depended on it.

Even to the point where I won’t go fast skiing. I changed that on Friday. I let go, and I went fast. Guess what? I didn’t lose control. When things got dicey, and I am sure they still will, I managed it.

I managed it. Take that, Fear.

docmeme

Which led, because my kids love the lift that takes an eternity, to more reflection. Look how much I enjoyed the day that wasn’t a full day, nor was it the most challenging day we’ve ever done. I had a fantastic day. I took more risks (no moguls or anything like that) than I usually do, and I did it skiing faster than I normally would.

Because what the hell? I’m not a crazy risk taker, but ANY step out of my normal is a risk for me.

And since then, I’ve had a weight lifted off me. Some of that weight is still there. I’ve spent too long keeping control and worrying and making sure that “something” doesn’t happen. My wariness and cautious nerves won’t ease up overnight.

But something left. And it’s not a bad thing. All because I took a deep breath, and said ‘What the hell?’ on the first day out of ski season.

So take a chance this week. It doesn’t have to be big, or even anything that someone other than you notices. It just has to be a chance for you. Bite your lip, take a deep breath, and just go for something. Something just for you.

Because that’s what this is all about. In our own way, we are all

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The Evil Voice Within

We all have it. None of us want it. What do we do with it? (A little Buffet-inspired intro to start your read here.)

One of the things I’ve been chatting with other authors recently about is that dreaded Voice Within. Or as I call it, the Evil Voice Within. You know it. The one that takes your self-doubt, insecurity, worry, fear, whatever that go-to negative emotion is, and makes it a fire-breathing dragon.

A real, live dragon, who’s in a bad mood, snarky, and rampaging around in your head. dragon

I want to evict the %)^$@^&%, but he always finds his way back.

Why is that? We’re doing something amazing. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone can write a book. Most of us can start, and get part way through, but finishing the thing? That’s a feat. I should know. My thumb drives are littered with sizable works that are not done. Writing it is only the first part of the whole thing.

Then, one must finish it. After it’s finished, you really need to read the thing again. For content. To see if it’s something you want to let out into the world. To see if you need to take your hacksaw and weed-wacker and do shaping and pruning. To see if you love it when you read it, or if you cringe. Hint: If you cringe, you don’t need to trash it. You may need to just leave it for a bit, and then come back and do some revising.

All along the way of the aforementioned journey, you have to listen to Mr. Snarky Dragon. Telling you all his stuff and nonsense, tossing in his one liners when you’re least expecting it.

So how to get around him? Everyone, no matter what you do, occasionally comes up against that dragon. I think authors have a particularly assy dragon, but I’m willing to admit possessing a bias.

Here’s how you do it. You ignore it. Tell it to )%$^#%^ off. Go read a good review. Go look at your latest craft book (folks, you need to be reading them. I am the worst about actually doing it, and now that I have, I am kicking myself for dragging my feet before).

Plan out your next marketing campaign. Then go and visit the social media of your author friends. Talk about their awesome cover, or let them know what you loved about their book. Discuss ways to market, talk about how to ramp up something for the holidays.

See where I’m going with this?

Own that you occasionally give Snark Dragon space in your head, and then move on. Know that you can and will be successful, and it will probably take some time. It’s also going to take work. Hard work. Sadly, I’ve yet to meet any authors who have that lovely cabana boy offering them grapes with nimble fingers and an adoring gaze. Or if they do have one, they’re being verrrrry low-key about the whole thing.

poolboy

We can all aspire to a pool boy, so to speak. We just need to get our minds around it.

But Lisa, you cry. I love me a good Ryan meme, but that’s a meme! I see no Ryan, nor any grapes! And certainly not peeled grapes.

Here’s what I do:

If I’m frustrated with a particular work, I walk away from it. I leave it to simmer on its own, and I go do something else. At this exact moment, I have a WIP I’m writing, another WIP I work on when I’m tired of WIP #1, and I am outlining a new series. So if I get caught up and stuck, I have something else to do. Not everyone can work on more than one project at a time, so if you can’t, get out of your chair, and go for a walk. Take the dog. Go look at nature. Hang out with your kids. If you feel you MUST be doing something, get a digital recorder, and talk out your story issues. Sounds silly, but it works. I also find if I’m stuck, a long shower helps. I think a lot in the shower. It’s relaxing.

If I find that my book sales are not where I want them, I go and look at what others in my genre are doing. Not to give SD ammo, but I want to see if they’re doing something I’m not, and ought to be. I am an avid reader of promo threads – forum threads where people write up their marketing plan for a set period of time, and then report on it. Reading the successes and challenges of others not only gives me ideas, but it reminds me I’m not alone on this journey. That’s important for us.

I said it earlier, but go read a craft book. I am a dedicated pantser. I don’t like to plot – or at least, I didn’t think I did. However, I’m reading a lot about increasing your output, and all the people I see who are doing it right, and creating success are doing so while using some pre-writing organization. So it’s worth considering, in my opinion. It can help you to get out of the corners we sometimes paint ourselves into.

Finally, I realize that no matter how much I love this career, I’m going to have some off days. That there are going to be times when it’s just going to be sucky. I am more thin-skinned than I ever realized, but putting myself out there as an author is forcing me to toughen up. To know that I am doing the best I can, that I don’t see this as a scheme, but as a long term career where I wish to put out commercial quality content for essentially the rest of my life. And that the one day where Snarky Dragon gets free range head space with me – it’s ONE DAY.

So kick your dragon back to his cave, and know that you’re on the right path. Even if it turns out not to be the right path in the long run – that’s the beauty of being a writer, and an indie writer in particular. We can change. We can shift focus. We can adapt.

And we will succeed.

Now go write.

Let’s talk reviews

I bring this up because on writer’s forums, there’s always a post or two that is discussing reviews – how to deal with great ones, what to think of harsh ones, etc, etc. I generally feel that people are allowed to review as they please. I DO feel that if the review attacks the person, rather than the work – eh. That’s a little much. You’re not reviewing the person. You’re supposed to be reviewing the work or the product. I know that’s the focus for me when I write reviews.

We all have a stereotype of what we think of reviewers. The sort of image that is often presented is something like this:

reviewer

In reality, reviewers, because I am also someone who reviews books, are more like this:

giphy

People review because they feel strongly about something. Good or ill.

I got a critical review recently, and of course, like most people, I have to look. I was a little nervous, honestly.

Ya know what? It was totally fair. And the reviewer – well, critical reviewers should take note. This person pointed out what they didn’t care for about the book. What they felt went against the standards for the genre, and what their problems with the story were.

They also threw me a nice compliment, so that’s good.

I read it, and then read it again. And I did something that I never, ever thought I would do when reading someone not liking my baby. I shrugged. Why? Because the comments were fair, and I knew there might be readers who felt the way this reviewer did. I’m totally good with a critical review that is balanced. Since this is the first time I’ve faced such, I didn’t know what I’d think/do/how I’d react.

I will also tell you, I went and look at the way in which I categorized my story, and the reader was correct, I wasn’t hitting the standards for one of the categories. So I changed it. Because it was a legit comment.

So the lesson for today? If you are not at a point where you can stay away from reading reviews, make your shocked face and then read it again, with an open mind. You may find there is just as much to a critical review as there is to a positive, glowing review.

To me, it’s no different than when I sit in critique group and hear what didn’t work for my crit partners. It’s hard. It’s hard not to jump up and defend our babies. But not all work will resonate with all readers, and I am glad they took the time to offer a fair, balanced critical review.

I also need to shout out to the wonderful reader who reviewed my book on two sites, and then put it on her blog! Wow! What a compliment! Thank you! Again, another thoughtful, critical review from someone who obviously knows the genre and is a dedicated reader. I LOVED it.

Last piece of advice for my fellow authors – DO. NOT. ENGAGE. This is something that I also see discussed. Just don’t do it. Reviews are generally not for us, the creator. They are for fellow readers, to let them know what’s what. We are just fortunate enough to get to read them.

Oh! One last thing – thank you to ALL my reviewers who have not posted spoilers. I read reviews of books I’m considering, and I don’t like reading spoilers in the reviews. I’m always thankful to read a review of my work or anyone else’s that doesn’t throw out the plot surprises. Or, a nice warning at the beginning of the review.

So there’s my PSA for today. I like to share with you all as I move through this journey of becoming a FT author. Not there yet, but every day is one step further down the road.

Now go write!

Thoughts on my first week.

Thea’s Tale went live on Tuesday. It’s been a great week. It’s getting a little traction. A couple of reviews, some borrows,some sales. I’m pleased. It’s staying in the top 100 for my genre, and in the Hot New Release section for my genre. All of that is fantastic.

So I’m browsing around Kboards today, and I come upon a thread that makes me go to Google, and see what I find.

What do I find? Evidence of the same thing the author of the thread was discussing. My book had been pirated.

In all honesty, I don’t know what to do. I want to be outraged, and in way, I am. At the same time, I know it’s part of digital publishing.

I think it’s a measure of how much I’ve read about this that my first thought, upon seeing the page with my work on there (other than, How in the hell did they get an audio book download? I haven’t done anything near audio yet!) was…Well, wow. There are reviews.

Wish they’d post them on Amazon. So I am posting them here.

Surprise! I actually like this.

OH MY GOD! This has got to be one of…if not the best book I have ever read. It was written so well, and the characters were all amazing.

This is it

In less than twenty-four hours, my book is live.

I’m so nervous, and excited, I almost don’t know what to do with myself.

Over the course of the year spent writing this, I have undergone several plot revisions, different directions, name changes, and it’s not the same book I imagined a year ago. It’s better.

Thea’s better. I like her even more than when I started. She’s grown, come into her own, stretched her wings.

I feel as though I have done the same.

After tomorrow, I can say, I’m an author. I write books. I actually sell them.

After tomorrow, my career is something totally different.

What a concept – to change your career and life with the click of the mouse.

Organization!!!!

I’ve been so busy with writing that not having a looming deadline has left me sort of at odds.

I’ve caught up on sleep. My house (see previous posts, LOL) is now clean. Organized…not so much.

I am one of those people who gets overwhelmed with trying to get organized. Lord, the paper piles in my clutter ‘Hot Spots’. Like many of us, I look at the clutter, and go, “Well, dang. What am I gonna do with this mess?” I consider where to start, and then get depressed just thinking about it, and go and watch a Jane Austen. I feel marginally better, because Hey, at least I considered it, right?

This means I have what my Dear Husband calls the Corner of Hell in our kitchen. It’s where paperwork goes to die. The kids have a Corner of Hell with their things – because I don’t insist on getting rid of stuff (my poor kiddos – I already see some pack ratting in them). I cannot even begin to discuss my closet and dressers. Yes, I have three dressers. They’re not all the same size – but one really doesn’t need three of them.

I was bemoaning this earlier in the year to some of the ladies in my Tuesday critique group. I think clutter is a universal language. Recently, one of the ladies shared what has become a solution for her.  It’s this.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KK0PICK/ref=kinw_myk_ro_title

The whole idea is to only keep things that bring you joy.

That idea is thrilling to me. One of the things I’ve struggled with over the years is that the act of acquisition is fun for me. Particularly if I can get it for a bargain. Lord-a-mercy, I love a bargain. For a long time, I didn’t bother to look and see if I NEEDED it. I paid attention to the fact that I wanted it, or thought I did. That meant I ended up with a lot of STUFF.

Home decor is a prime example of this. I have specific things I like to have in my home. I search them out, and the hunt is as fun as having them in the home. But I don’t have enough wall or display space for all the things I have. So I have begun to pare down my decor. It’s really HARD. I also bought two more display cases, but I’m not going to chastise myself over that. It organizes things, right? And with more space, it will allow for the things I have to be more readily enjoyed, right? LOL. I am actually moving one case down into my office, thus freeing up space for enjoyment in more places in the home.

I digress. Back to the book, and the premise behind it. Several of the ladies in my group have started working through their clutter hell based on this book. They report a high level of success so far. They also report that they feel better. Lighter.

I have company coming in two weeks. I want my house to show to the best advantage. So I am going to be employing the techniques listed in the book, and working through my areas of embarrassment.

I will keep you all updated on how it goes.

Book baby thoughts

So in two short weeks, my literary baby will be heading out to stand on its two little feet. Like any parent booting the kid out, I’m nervous.

Now that it’s finished, I know it. I KNOW it. My editor asked me a flurry of questions the other day. I knew the answers to every single thing. Some of it wasn’t anything that was in the story, but it was part of the arc that I knew. Know. By heart. After the amount of time it took to get those details sorted, that is a thrilling feeling. I’m all atwitter even as I type it.

Like a child, I know so much about Book Baby. I know the whys, and there are things that are non-negotiable. No, my character will not be buying a vowel (I used medieval spellings for some of my characters names. I’ve gotten a little…flack for that). No, I will not change that name. (Another character.) There are things that when I’ve gotten suggestions to change I think…eh. It doesn’t change what I want to share and makes the work flow smoothly, so sure. Why not? There are other things I get absolutely stalwart about and WILL. NOT. CHANGE. I’m always surprised by both.

And while the writing of it was a solitary thing, the getting the book out there is NOT. Not at all. My editor has been invaluable. My bestest critique partner has been as well. My critique groups (I have two, I know, I know, but they both kick ass, so there it is) have shown me things that I wouldn’t have considered. They’re also completely unafraid to tell me the truth. It’s couched in the criticism sandwich, but they say it.

I’ve wanted to finish and publish a novel for…oh…years. I did some serialized bits last year, but it’s not the same. Technically, it is, but it sure doesn’t feel the same. I’ve been in a daze since I concluded that I was done. And ready for the editorial eyes to latch on like a lamprey.

I was reading a blog somewhere else – it was Hugh Howey, I think – and he said that he never wanted to lose the joy that came from publishing something new. I agree. I never, ever want to lose how wonderful this feels. Of course, being able to speak coherently in full sentences would be nice, but I’ll live.

So if you have that novel lounging around in your head, waiting to get out, time to get to it. I won’t lie – getting this finished – to the point where I was no longer saying, ‘Oh! Just one more thing!’ is not easy. But it is easily one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.

So there it is. tl;dr – Go write your own Baby.

Parental transitions

Like many of you, I’m a parent.  My kiddos are elementary school aged.  Thankfully, we’re beyond the kindergarten years.  They can tie their shoes, get themselves dressed, manage a lot.  Age appropriate things, but I am encouraging independence.

I didn’t always do that.  I did a large number of things for my kids because…why?  I don’t even know now.  I was – AM – somewhat of a control freak.  I like to do things my way, and get them done in a timely fashion. I don’t want people messing up my stuff – insert house, kitchen, laundry, whatever.  Even if I don’t like taking care of the chore, I like it done the way I like it.  Most of the time.  There are some things I do not care about.

But when it comes to my kids – I seem to care about a lot more than I ever thought.  Much to their and my dismay, LOL!

So last year, I went back to work outside the house.  I had worked from home prior.  It was very flexible, though, and my business partner and I always worked around our home schedules.  Then we found that our priorities had shifted, and dissolved our partnership.  All amiably.  She’s still my BFF.  (Tip – write a business plan and include in there how you plan to end the business.  How will assets be split, how will things be closed down.  Best advice we ever got, along with how to end a disagreement.  Ours was a coin toss.  My side was tails.)

So I stayed at home for a while, and then my spouse and I decided that we had plans for retirement that needed action now.  So I went back to work.  I’m glad that I have.  It’s afforded us a direction in life that we probably couldn’t have taken otherwise.  However, it has necessitated transitions.

The biggest one is as a parent.  As I said, my kids are much more independent than when we started our home business.  I’ve learned to step away from the cruise directing, as my family calls it.

Part of me misses it.  I worked a full day today, and had an event after work.  I didn’t get home until half an hour before the kids were going to bed.  Even though they weren’t totally interested, I made them come and sit with me, and snuggle, and tell me about their day.  I miss being the one who already knows how it went.  I worry that when they do stuff, they may do it wrong.  Or get hurt. Or have someone make fun of them. Or…or…or.  That list can go on forever, as my fellow parents know.

I always thought, when I was knee deep in stinky diapers, and multitudes of spit on clothes, and crying, and catching the wandering toddlers, that I couldn’t wait for them to get a little older.  It had to be easier, I thought.  I was right.  It is easier.

It’s also harder.  Letting your chicks venture out of the nest is scary.  I want to gather them to me and not let them go.  I know the world, and it’s not always the easiest or nicest place.

My kids are doing me proud.  They make mistakes, and when I see it happening, I nearly clench my fists to stop myself from jumping in to help.  I bite my tongue, and let things play out.  Kids get a great sense of achievement from navigating challenge on their own.  I have to remember that.

Some days, the mounds of diapers and spit on stuff was easier.  So go hug your kids a little extra tonight, while they’ll still let you.

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