Who Are You?

I’m 37 now. My children are 19, 17 and 15. The oldest is out of the house for the time being, the middle one starts college in two months, and the last one… well as long as he has food and an internet connection he’s fine.

If you would have asked me who I was about five years ago I would have said “I’m a mom.” It was my identity. My job. My world. My entire life revolved around making decisions for my children.

Not so much anymore. My children have grown up and need me less and less every day. Now I am freer to be myself then I ever have been before.

The question “Who am I?” is subjective. The answer changes and shifts as the seasons change. Once you were a child, then a teen, then hopefully you grew up into an adult (though some people never grow up.) Life, responsibilities, education, loves, loses… all the things that change the fundamental being of who you are.

“Who am I?” is a scary question. I think that when you finally start asking it of yourself then that is when you start really growing up. That is when you stop being a piece of floatsome washed about by the circumstances of your existence, and you start really being YOU!

We are more then the sum of our circumstances. We have choice, and free will. We can make of ourselves something more. Or… we can chose to let go, and let circumstances dictate for us.

I feel like any creative person (artist, writer, director, musician) who takes creative authority over their creations has already said “circumstances do not dictate who and what I am.” This goes for any entrepreneur who searches out their own path, not the path handed to them.

It’s sometimes lonely asking this question of ourselves. And sometimes you find out wonderful things, or things you hate and want to change. But nothing changes until you start asking the question.

So… Who are you?

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That’s What He Said

I use to use google reviews as ways to check out new businesses. They aren’t scammy like yelp. But right now my company is trying to get google reviews. And boy are they pushing it.

“Look at this as an opportunity to practice promoting yourself” said my boss. He knows that I’ve published books, and that I’m struggling with getting noticed, reviews, and basically anything that says ‘hey look at me, I wrote this, you should read it’.

And he isn’t wrong.

It’s incredibly difficult to draw attention to myself, or anything I do. It goes against everything I was trained… stay unseen. Stay unheard. Your opinion isn’t valuable. No one cares. You’re not worth it. No one likes you. No one will ever love you.

So I find myself confronting all these things I heard for all of those years. And some days I make little breakthroughs and I can say ‘see, I did this and I think it’s good.’ (Well, mostly I say I think it’s ‘okay’ because I don’t want to disappoint anyone.)

And other days I freeze. The words get stuck on my tongue. I want to run, hide, cry, and just get everyones attention off of me somehow, anyway possible.

I recognize that this was caused by years of abuse. I recognize that the whispering in my head telling me that no one cares, and no one wants to hear what I have to say isn’t right. DEPRESSION IS A LYING BASTARD!

Half the struggle is recognizing this. Before I knew why this was happening I let my fight or flight system kick in and I would retreat. Get quite. Go unnoticed. After 30+ years of practice I’m really good at it.

But I don’t want to be that person anymore. I want to write, and I want to share my stories with people. I want to know that my words will live on even when I’m gone. I want to inspire others to follow their passions, and their loves.

And really… I don’t want to be broken anymore. I don’t want what he did to me to be what dictates my life from here on out. This is my life, and I am worthwhile, and I have something amazing to say. People do want to listen to me. They do want to talk to me.

So… I wrote a book. And I’m really proud of it. I hope you read it some day.

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Pity Party, Table for One

I have really been hanging out in the dull drums lately, and I’ve been trying to figure out why so I can kick the thing that’s encouraging me to be there. It’s like this little monster sitting on the edge of a pit, and every time I pull myself up he bites my knuckles and I fall back down again.

But… why? What is this little monster that keeps nipping at my heels? Why does it suddenly find my fingers so tasty?

I think it’s because I’ve been lathering my nuckels with salt and pepper just for his amusment. Someone kick me while I’m down? That’s okay, lets feel sorry for ourselves. It’s just a teaspoon of salt. Someone get that bonus I knew I couldn’t get? That’s another tablespoon of butter. (Because everything tastes better with butter, right?)

I’m reminded of Johnny B Truants little book, “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying ‘F’ About You“. That person at work didn’t know I could have used that bonus. That customer didn’t know I was already in the dull drums and their harsh words just hurt that much more. All they knew was they “deserved it”, and they “earned it”. How dare that person get in my way.

What if I had gotten the bonus? What if that customer didn’t snap at me? Would I still be chilling on the ice shelf that is called “eh, good enough”?

When people kick you, run you over, and get in your way, you can salt and butter your fingers and let that little devil push you back in the pit that is the dull drums… or you can say to hell with it all, and stop playing the game.

The truth is, that little devil is only a few inches tall. Sure, he has sharp teeth, and they hurt, but if you stop just wincing in pain and dropping back into the pit then there is a really good chance you can fling that little demon off into next week. Then when you catch up to him you just fling him again. Eventually you’ll get stronger, and you’ll be able to fling him into next month, next year, or maybe next decade.

The real secret? Get off that icy shelf called “good enough”. Do something. Learn something. Apply for a new job. Stop salting your fingers and start putting on metal gauntlets with huge metal spikes.

The universe isn’t going to hand you a completed book, or a finished painting. It isn’t going to turn off the game and turn on the camera. It isn’t going to send a knight in shiny armor to save you.

SAVE YOURSELF! First from yourself, then from the little demons biting at your fingers.

Now I’ve got writing to do!

“Has anyone been afraid to write their own novel?”

This was a question on Reddit not long ago. There was a lot of discussion, and some good personal stories. I thought I’d share my answer. I added some extra notes that I didn’t put on the original post.

*** *** ***

Yes.

About 10 years ago I got traditionally published (a few articles, some poetry, even a short story) in magazines and zines. I was suppose to get paid, but never actually did. (This was due to some confusion about foreign checks, and my bank which hadn’t ever seen one before.)

Then there was my marriage. It was falling apart around me and I wasn’t feeling confident about anything anymore.

So one part said my writing wasn’t good enough to actually get paid, and there was my marriage that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for anything.. I ended up quitting writing for 8 years.

Every time I looked at my manuscripts during that time I would freeze up. The ideas were their, the stories were fully formed in my head, but I had been convinced that I could never possibly do it myself. I even went so far as to look into ghost writers or collaborations a few times to no avail.

In the end I had to learn to trust myself again, and my writing. After the divorce I started working on little bits here and there, trying to get myself to work more each day. It wasn’t easy.

I started showing small bits to people, and they encouraged me often. Told me how great it was. Showed me where I could improve. Gave me honest feedback and criticism.

Lets be honest. Your first draft is going to be terrible. It always is. Even Stephen King has to completely rewrite stuff now and then. But that’s what edits are for. (Note I said “edits”, not “editors”. There is a HUGE difference.)

Don’t let your subconscious take away from what you truly love. And don’t let anyone else tell you differently. The mechanics of writing can be learned. It’s the passion, and the gift of a good story, that make a true writer.