I’m sitting on the beach, just chillin’, baking in the sun with a cool breeze blowing in off the water.
My fifth novel still isn’t finished, but I don’t care because my toes are either in the sand or in the water. Every so often, a thought flits through my head about something that is missing in a scene. I take a few minutes to jot it down, then go back to sipping my Piña Colada and burrowing my toes deeper into the sand.
Yep, this is heaven.
Maybe I’ll let book #5 rest for a bit. After all, it takes place in Phoenix, Arizona, and since I’m lounging on a beach, listening to the waves break, and watching the water lap up to my chair, it isn’t easy to write about the asphalt, concrete, traffic jams, and searing heat I left behind.
Perhaps I’ll start on a new book. Something different. Maybe it takes place on the beach. But will writing a murder mystery ruin the tranquility of this place? And bring my bliss to a screeching halt?
How about a romance? I’ve never written a romance novel before, but there’s no time like the present. And a romantic story would, without a doubt, fit in with my current locale.
Yes, this is truly heaven.
It’s also a big fat lie!
I’m still in Phoenix, trying to stay hydrated, trying not to overheat. Trying to keep cool—and not lose my cool—as people call with questions that I’m sure they can find the answers to elsewhere. I’m trying to remain calm as a man pulls up to the house next door and yells to my neighbor from his car, bellowing loud enough to be heard over his blaring stereo. Here’s a thought. How about turning down your stereo so you won’t have to yell?
I thought about sticking my head out the door and telling him just that, but I would just be adding to the noise. Not to mention adding a few points to my blood pressure. Besides, someone once told me you can’t change the behaviors of others, only how you react to them.
So, instead, I’m making myself a Piña Colada, plugging earbuds into my phone, and opening up the Nature Sounds app.
Relaxing Ocean. Just what the doctor ordered.
Taking the drink into my bedroom, I turn off the lights, relax into my chair, and close my eyes. With drink in hand and the sound of breaking waves in my ears, I’m back on the beach.
It’s hot. And I’m cranky. (Usually, I’m just cranky.)
That’s about all there is to say when it’s 100° at 9 a.m. and 117° by 2 p.m.
Air Conditioner Don’t Die on Me!
My air conditioner clicks off for about 30 seconds before it starts up again. Not good. I’m sitting here praying it can handle the stress. Please, don’t die on me now!
And the more it turns on, the more I see my electric bill soar. I hope I can afford to pay the bill when it arrives. I may need to get another job.
I’m Rationing Food
I’m starting to ration food. Not because I don’t have the funds to buy more. It’s because I don’t want to drive one mile to the grocery store. It’s not the drive that I mind. It’s walking from the car to the store that worries me. But what’s worse is walking from the store to the car and standing in the hot, blazing sun as I load the groceries into the trunk.
Sure, I could order groceries online. I could pick them up and have a store employee load them into my trunk. I could even have the groceries delivered. But the thought of having someone else suffer in the heat, doing something that I don’t want to do myself, doesn’t sit well with me.
So, I’ll just have to make do with what food I have. Hopefully, I can make it last until Monday, when the temperature is expected to dip below 110. Break out the jackets!
Even the Pool Doesn’t Help
I hear the neighbor’s kids outside in the pool. Less than 30 minutes later, they’re back inside. It’s a bad sign when kids don’t want to stay in the pool.
There is a Bright Side
But in all fairness, there is one good thing about Phoenix in the summer. The weeds can’t survive—no pulling or spraying is required. They die on their own. Or maybe they’re just smart enough to stay underground until it cools off. Smart weeds.
One problem, though. Not one of the six plausible excuses in the article explained why I hadn’t finished my novel during the pandemic. So, I decided to come up with my own list, with one minor change. A friend told me the other day that since I’m still working on my book, I had “reasons” for not finishing it in 2020, not excuses. Okay, I’ll buy that. Let’s see if any of my “reasons” resonate with you.
Reason #1: “I wasted precious time looking for toilet paper and baking ingredients.”
During the early days of the pandemic, some items were hard to come by—toilet paper, flour, and yeast were the most problematic for me. I had to buy a 25-pound bag of flour because I couldn’t find anything smaller. (Does flour have an expiration date?) My son and I made anything we could think of that would require flour. Cookies, cakes, and biscuits. Oh my! Baking is hard work and left no time for writing a novel.
Reason #2: “If I’m going to bake, I might as well cook, too.”
Of course, if I was going to spend time baking new creations, it made sense that I would work on my cooking skills as well. I bought new gadgets—a crockpot/rice cooker combo was my favorite acquisition. So many things to do with that little gem! I spent hours searching for new recipes and even more time at the grocery store looking for ingredients I had never heard of before. Once again, there was no time to work on a novel. But the food was incredible!
Reason #3: “I’ve always wanted to have a podcast. No time like a pandemic to start one.”
I had no idea what I was doing, but it seems I’m not happy unless I’m working on a project that requires new skills. It required a lot of research, asking many questions of experts, and rounding up friends to help me with my endeavor. Again, no time for writing a novel. Oops.
Reason #4: “More people are reading. I should save them some money and create a boxed set.”
I packaged my first three novels into a boxed set and set the price as low as possible. Again, I’ve never done this before. It was new and different, and I love a challenge. The fact that doing something new takes up a lot of time, I didn’t get my novel written. Sad but true.
So, what do you think? Did any of these reasons (not excuses) sound familiar? Did I help anyone justify NOT getting their novel written in 2020? If not, what reasons (or excuses, if you prefer) kept you from getting the work done?
I started daily journal writing several years ago, although I’m not sure what I do can be called journaling. I follow the advice of Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way and write ‘morning pages’ and dump whatever is in my brain onto sheets in a cheap notebook.
Whatever you want to call what I do every morning, this is what I’ve learned from the practice:
1. Don’t buy fancy leather-bound journals.
I won’t use fancy journals. I like them. Most are beautiful, and that’s the problem. What am I going to do with them when they’re full?
I’m not one to keep things unless they serve a purpose. And keeping full journals doesn’t make sense to me. Besides, I feel like leaving evidence laying out in the open. Why would I do that?
Anything I’ve written that isn’t part of a book that I’m trying to sell gets shredded. That’s my rule. I haven’t disposed of any of my journals yet, but it may be impossible to shred a leather-bound journal when the time comes.
2. I can write two pages first thing in the morning. That’s it.
According to The Artist’s Way, morning pages should be three pages long. Sorry. I did that for months but had trouble getting the third page done. Then I thought, what’s going to happen if I write only two pages? Will the journaling police show up at my door and haul me away?
I decided to take my chances, and now I write just two pages each morning, and the stress is off. But I admit, some days two pages is still a lot. I’m a woman of few words (most of the time), so filling up two pages with what I’m thinking about early in the morning can be a challenge.
3. I’m an editor even when writing down random thoughts.
I worry about how things sound, how readers may interpret them.
Readers? What readers? It’s my journal. I don’t want anyone reading it, not even me.
But I still worry about someone coming along and reading my pages, so I make it a point not to use names, only pronouns—he, she, they, etc. I even stay away from saying “my sister” since I have only one, and it would be obvious who I was writing about.
So, using pronouns is the best I can do to protect the innocent (and possibly the guilty). And if someone still feels I was writing about them, that’s their problem. I mean, how narcissistic does one have to be to think I’m always using precious journal space to vent about them?
In the end, I’ve decided it’s not something I should worry about. If people are reading my journals, I’m probably dead anyway.
More on Journaling from Sheroes of Small Business
If you want to learn more about journaling, please join Delores Garcia and me on the June 8th episode of the Sheroes of Small Business podcast. We discuss this topic from different viewpoints and experiences. (SPOILER: I’m a little more serious on the podcast. But just a little.)
It’s Friday, and I wish I could say I’m happy about it. But this week has been—to put it nicely—awful, punctuated by a Thursday that was horrible in so many ways. With the help of a friend, I’ve determined that I can no longer be responsible for making my own decisions. Therefore, I have hired a Viability Advisor.
What is a Viability Advisor?
To be honest, it’s something I made up. I didn’t want to call this person a Life Coach or a Business Consultant because neither term would explain what this person’s duties would encompass. A Viability Advisor will be responsible for helping me make intelligent life and business decisions.
In other words, I can’t afford to hire a Life Coach AND a Business Consultant, so I’ve combined the two and come up with the illustrious title of Viability Advisor.
From this day forward, I will have to run all life and business decisions through my Viability Advisor, whose job it will be to determine if the task or project I’m thinking about embarking on will do one or more of the following:
Yes, that’s correct. Make money is on the list twice. That’s because I’m tired of working for free. I’m sure any entrepreneur or writer out there will know what I’m talking about. We help friends or family members out of the kindness of our hearts (i.e., we’ll feel guilty if we don’t), or we get a harebrained idea that sounds like fun but doesn’t have a prayer of bringing in a single dime. I’ve decided I want another opinion before putting in a crazy amount of time on these projects. I want someone to warn me before I get to the end of the week or month and discover I’ve fallen short of my income goals.
What does a Viability Advisor do?
I will take every task to my Viability Advisor, and she will determine if it’s worth my time. If no money is involved, she will assess if it will bring joy or help out humanity enough to forgo any monetary gains. Otherwise, it won’t pass the viability test, and she will advise me to scrap it.
I’m hopeful that my Viability Advisor will help me fend off future awful weeks like the one I just had. But if not, I will at least have someone else to blame.
Why is it so hard for me to finish my fifth novel? What is my problem? Is it some sort of phobia?
Because I can’t seem to finish my book and need yet another reason to procrastinate, I decided to look up phobias since I’m sure I have at least one—probably many.
Okay, here we go.
Bibliophobia is the fear of books.
No, I don’t have that. I love books. I just can’t seem to concentrate on the one I’m currently writing.
Atychiphobia is the fear of failure.
Okay, I know I have that one. I have feared I would fail at nearly every endeavor I’ve undertaken. Not that it has ever stopped me. Well, maybe this time it has.
Achievemephobia is the fear of success.
Sure, why not. Maybe I’m not scared of failing. Perhaps I’m afraid of succeeding?
Two for three, so far.
Here’s one I’m positive I have. Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. It’s the fear of big words. I prefer using small, simple words. So, of course, it makes sense that I have this phobia.
But now that I think about it, I’ve always liked the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So, maybe I don’t have hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, but I am having fun typing that word.
Let’s keep going.
Panphobia is the fear of everything. I’m afraid of many things, but saying I’m scared of everything is a reach.
Phobophobia is the fear of phobias. After seeing the long list of disorders, I admit I’m frightened, but I don’t think I’m phobic.
Wait! I found it. I know which phobia I have. Chronophobia. It’s the fear of time. Or, more specifically, the fear of time passing by.
Time is going by too fast. Each project or task I attempt seems to take up more time than anticipated. Just going to the grocery store takes twice as long as I think it will. So, when am I supposed to find time to write a book?
Well, if I hadn’t wasted hours Googling phobias, I could have had plenty of time. So, until I finish the book, no more Google searches for me. Maybe that will cure me of my chronophobia.
While I’m at it, I’ll work on my hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. With tremendous assiduousness, I’m sure I can beat that one too.
Do you remember when you were young? Young enough to try anything because you had no idea you could fail? Or you knew you could fail, but you didn’t care?
Too often, we ignore our creative pastimes, our dreams, because we feel we need to focus our energy elsewhere. We give our all to our clients, our families, our friends, and ignore what we need to feel whole, to feel content and at peace.
We all need to take time to recharge. Most of us think this means watching a favorite TV show, going for a hike, or reading a good book. While all these pursuits are wonderful (and even necessary, at times), what we really need is to create.
Why not write a good book, instead of reading one?
Why not stop in the middle of your hike and take a few photographs or take a sketchbook with you and draw some of the beautiful scenery?
Now, you may be thinking, I’m not a writer. I’m not a photographer. I’m not an artist.
But what you should be thinking is maybe I am a writer, a photographer, or an artist. If you haven’t tried, how do you know you’re not?
Last week, I was on a Zoom call with my good friend, Janice Plado Dalager, when we got into a deep discussion about creativity, and how we need to find the time—and give ourselves permission—to work on a creative project that has special meaning to us, whether it adds to our financial bottom line or not.
Janice is this incredibly intuitive individual. She always seems to know what I need to hear, what I need to know, or what I need to learn. During our conversation, she told me she has often thought about writing articles or making videos so she can share with others some of the knowledge she possesses. The one thing stopping her is she isn’t sure she knows enough about a subject to teach it to someone else.
I was amazed that she felt this way. There hasn’t been a lunch date, an email, or a Zoom call where I didn’t learn something from her. At the very least, I would have an ‘ah ha’ moment; a moment where something I had been struggling to understand suddenly came into focus.
That’s Janice’s superpower.
She can sense what someone needs. She will share what she knows or what she has experienced, or she will simply be a cheerleader. Whatever it is, she makes it seems so effortless. It’s what she does.
Everyone needs a Janice.
So, I have volunteered to support (or, as we have decided to call it, challenge) Janice to write that article or create a video about something she feels will help others. In turn, she has challenged me to take on a project I have been thinking about for years. I’m going to attempt to record one of my novels. Having my books in audio format makes sense and I’ve always wanted to record them myself.
I may discover I’m not any good at it—in other words, I may fail—but I won’t know until I try.
So, what is the creative project you’ve been wanting to take on but have been afraid to try? Picture yourself as a younger you and refuse to let the fear of failure stop you. Give yourself permission to create something incredible.
So far, 2020 has been a wild ride. A ride I’m hoping will end soon.
I had big plans for 2020, as I’m sure a lot of people did. Then a pandemic was thrust upon us and my confidence in the future took a huge hit.
Events I had hoped to attend this year have been canceled. Jobs that would have brought in income have evaporated. On top of all that, someone stole my identity and an individual has been sending me messages to my author email account professing his undying love and calling me his ‘beloved wife.’
I’ve never met the man. And it’s obvious he’s never met me, otherwise I’m sure he would never use the word ‘beloved.’
Despite all this, I decided I was going to use Arizona’s stay-at-home orders to my advantage and finish some big projects. By the end of April, I had published my fourth novel, compiled my first three novels into a special-edition box set, made major changes to my website, and built the Millennium Falcon out of LEGOs.
That last one wasn’t on any to-do list, but I’m still counting it as a major accomplishment.
Unfortunately, May was not as productive as April. I lost my momentum. I lost my focus. Anxiety, and a tad bit of depression, had set in.
I haven’t been able to check off one single item on my May/June to-do list. The list that seemed attainable in April now feels like fantasy—a wish that has little hope of coming true.
(Hmmm…sounds like a pity party to me.)
Upon further reflection of May, it wasn’t all that bad. I may not have crossed anything off my list, but it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
I had Zoom meetings with a couple of friends, trying to flesh out an idea for a podcast. And I worked with some wonderful people on a three-day, on-site project. Most importantly, I spent a lot of quality time with my son. These things weren’t on my list, but they all meant a great deal to me.
It also makes me realize that instead of trying to work on my fifth novel, which requires a lot of solitary time, what I need right now is to be working with other people. It may be through Zoom or WebEx, but it helps to be communicating and collaborating with others while we wait for things to return to normal (or whatever the “new” normal may be).
So, the first week of June will be spent connecting with friends and colleagues, discovering how we can help each other in this odd and difficult time.
And then, I plan to put my project management skills to use. I mean, I am a certified project manager, after all. I should be able to come up with a reasonable plan to get most of the items on my to-do list done by the end of June.
Which raises the question: Why is it so much easier to do these things for other people? What makes their projects so much more important than mine?
For one thing, managing projects for others pays better.
Or rather, they pay. Period.
But while my projects may not add funds to my bank account (at least not right away), they do add to my self-confidence and my self-worth.
Project managers and authors have the same goal in mind –
giving their clients/readers what they desire. To do this, PMs and authors need
to give the key players in the project/story room to expand and explore.
The author’s job is to give the characters enough leeway to
tell the story without allowing them to hijack it, taking it down a different
path, turning a short story into an epic novel.
The project manager’s job is to allow their team of creatives
to work unhindered, while ensuring they don’t deviate too far from the project
plan or turn a simple project into a massive enterprise.
It can be a tough balancing act.
Creative teams shouldn’t be bogged down by the intricacies of
managing a project. Creative individuals need room to think, to process, to
A project manager’s job is to allow this to happen. To
sometimes work in the background, but always remain vigilant to what is
happening with the project, stepping in when problems arise or when the team
needs a little boost.
While team members can appreciate the job the project manager
is doing, they don’t need to be aware of every step the project manager makes
to ensure the project remains on track.
Just like with a story, the reader knows it was written by the
author, but if the author does the job well, the reader won’t be reminded
constantly that the author is there. The story becomes about the characters. An
author must know when to lead the characters along the story’s predetermined
path and when to let them choose a different course. Allowing the latter can
result in a richer, less predictable outcome.
The same goes for a project manager. A PM needs to know when
to lead the way and when to step back and observe the project from the
sidelines. Allowing team members to deviate from predetermined objectives can
lead to more imaginative and innovative deliverables.
Giving the characters/creatives enough room to imagine and
explore, allowing them to tell the
story, is always the best route.
Don’t waste your time listening to naysayers. If anyone tells you you’re not good enough to do or to be something, especially when you haven’t been given the opportunity to try, don’t believe them. You should be the one to decide if you’re good at a task, an activity, or a profession. If you listen to those who say you can’t or say you shouldn’t, you may be faced with regrets later.
We all have
enough of our own self-doubts without listening to the doubts of others. And
that’s all it is — other people voicing their own doubts and fears. Most of the
time, it has nothing to do with us.
My Naysayer Story
It took place in a 4th grade art class. I was nine years old.
working on a project that would teach us how to see and understand the correct
placement of facial features. We were instructed to find a picture of a human
face in a magazine and cut it in half the long way (one eye, half nose, half
mouth). We then taped the photo onto a larger piece of paper, leaving enough
room to draw the missing half of the face. Hopefully, by the time we were done the
drawn portion would resemble the piece that had been cut away.
day, I had shied away from drawing faces. I loved drawing mountains, flowers,
cacti, but avoided drawing eyes and noses.
was a project for a grade and I gave it my best shot. Surprisingly, I liked
what I had done. It wasn’t perfect and based on what some of my classmates had
created, I knew I had a lot to learn.
problem! It was my first try.
the teacher walking around the room helping each student, showing them how to
improve their artwork. I waited patiently for it to be my turn to receive some
I knew the
nose wasn’t quite right. The eye wasn’t right either. And the hair — we won’t
even talk about the hair. But I was really proud of what I had done and was
looking forward to making it better.
was my turn. The teacher was standing behind me and I looked up at her, excited
and anxious, waiting for her to give me a pointer or two. Instead, she shook
her head and said, “You’ll never be an artist,” and walked away.
crushed. I was nine years old and I was crushed.
day, I gave up drawing.
told my parents what the teacher had said to me. I never told anyone. I was too
Off to College
Years later when I went off to college, I enrolled in an engineering program. Since I loved math, it seemed like a logical choice. I was doing pretty well until I discovered a freehand drawing course was a requirement.
I spent the
next few days trying to decide what to do. The only way to avoid taking the
class was to change my major. That seemed a bit extreme. It was just one class.
Besides, a little humiliation wasn’t going to kill me.
just feel that way.
session of freehand drawing brought equal amounts of elation and frustration.
Elation arrived when the instructor told us she believed she could teach anyone to draw. The only requirement was a desire to learn.
I had the
desire but I also had my doubts. Hadn’t I already been told I would never be an
came when we were tasked with drawing four items — a chair, a table, a
computer, and the face of one of our classmates.
No! Not a
the assignment but wasn’t impressed with the results. Each one looked like it
had been drawn by a child.
nine-year-old to be exact, since that’s how old I was when I gave up drawing.
The good news is, I ended up loving the class. I enjoyed how the instructor taught us how to ‘see’ in a different way. Instead of simply seeing a building, I was noticing the lines, contours, and negative space; drawing each element until, like magic, the building appeared. It was amazing! I spent hours drawing everyday objects that were now anything but ordinary. For me, it was better than meditating.
The End of Class
The final day of class, we were tasked with drawing the same four items we had completed on day one. The instructor had kept the original illustrations with the intent of mailing them to us, along with the drawings from the final night so we could compare them and see for ourselves how we had grown as artists.
A couple of weeks later, I received a large manila envelope in the mail.
I opened it
carefully, not sure I wanted to see them, afraid I hadn’t learned as much as I
had hoped. In that oversized envelope was proof, one way or the other.
comparing the two sets of drawings, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe the
difference. I couldn’t believe how my skills had advanced in such a short
period of time.
most surprising part — I dropped out of the engineering program.
successfully completing the freehand drawing course, I changed my major to
Visual Communications. I took classes in Typography, Illustration,
Photostyling, and Graphic Design. I hung out with artists and graduated with a
And yet, I could still hear that 4th grade art teacher telling me I would never be an artist.
After several years as a Graphic Designer, I found myself in the role of single parent. In order to make more money, I went back to school and earned a degree in Technical Management. A project management certification followed soon after.
regret making this decision, but I do regret abandoning my artistic pursuits. I
should have found time to draw, at least as a hobby, but I was still hearing
that voice saying I didn’t possess the talent.
son is in college – taking art classes. I told him a long time ago not to
listen to anyone who says he’s not an artist. He is very talented, and to the
best of my knowledge, no one has ever said he isn’t.
A few days
ago, we made a trip to the art supply store, one of our favorite outings. While
surrounded by pencils, markers, pastels, and every type of drawing paper
imaginable, I was inspired to give drawing another try.
I’m not going to listen to the voice that says I can’t do it. I have wasted too
many years listening to, and worrying about, the opinions of others.