In today’s world, there’s so much pressure to be someone you’re not. If you don’t follow the crowd, you’re branded weird, different, or strange. And as we’re documenting almost every moment of our lives on social media, judgment is sometimes swift and acerbic. That makes it tempting to be like everyone else. My golden rule is this: just be you. [Read more…] about Just Be You!
Not normal: not following the crowd; living your life your way; following your heart’s desire.
That’s me. Every day. Doing what is in my heart and not waiting for — or concerned about — third-party validation. And in a world where so many people are chasing instant success and stardom, that makes me … not normal. [Read more…] about Not Normal
I’ve perfected the art of not belonging.
I knew as much working my last flight to London. One thing about being a flight attendant that I like is not working with the same people every day. In theory, it minimizes the risk of drama and conflict. In reality, it’s still possible that you won’t necessarily click with every one of your colleagues. [Read more…] about The Art of Not Belonging
A couple of weeks ago, I received my editor’s critique of my latest manuscript. I’d been waiting for it, eager to get this particular book project moving again. As I digested all the comments — good and bad — I stalled. I didn’t know where or how to begin. Then I started second-guessing myself, that maybe this wasn’t as good of a story as I thought it was. Would anyone be interested in reading it? Then I hit rock bottom and thought … maybe, I should chuck it all.
I’d let the drama from the page spill over into life. Taking a step back, I realized my editor was doing his job. As always, he hit on all the big-ticket items — character and plot development, structure, continuity, story arc, theme development, repetition and plot holes. Even before having the manuscript edited, I’d tried to address some issues that had been raised with regard to my previous books: Make the main character more likable. Give the reader a happier ending. Explain what motivates an action so that the reader isn’t blindsided by the reaction.
That would, no doubt, make the book more popular, accessible en masse.
From the beginning, I knew that this book wasn’t going to fit snugly in any one genre, and that that might make it harder to market. The word on the street was that it needed a near-total rewrite, or it risked only receiving 1-star reviews. And there is room for improvement. My editor offered many great insights that will help make the story better.
Strangely, this time around his questions and comments had me wondering if making something ‘popular’ meant ‘dumbing-it-down’ to the level of a ten-year-old. I believe readers are smarter than that and deserve better. Or am I wrong?
Worse still, it felt like I was moving in the opposite direction of my dream instead of closer to it. The terrifying part? I wasn’t sure who’s story I’d be writing anymore — mine or someone else’s.
All I know at this point is that I must trust my art.
I let myself wallow in self-pity for about a day, tempted to ditch it all — not just the book, but writing. All because a familiar question, when doubt reared its ugly head, poked at me: what’s the point?
I’d forgotten my why. Writing is why I’m here on earth, my purpose. And I’m doing it — challenging norms and breaking the rules — to, I hope, change the world, make it a better place … be a beacon of hope. That is my why to life, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
We know that in this life, not everyone is going to like what we create and share with the world. But when you know your why — and are living it — it’s time to stop giving a f*ck about what other people think. Living your why, you’re not compromising your truth or your character. You’re being who you are. Stand up and take a bow.
This is your life, your mission.
Embrace it and your why.
Then roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Are you living your why? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you!
I didn’t always want to be a writer.
Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a writer. Growing up in a fairly religious household (staunch is, perhaps, the more apt word) and possessing a natural talent for the piano, I was encouraged to use my gift for the ‘Glory of God.’ So, I did … use my ‘gift,’ and spent my childhood and adolescence playing in church. And much to the dismay of the church elders! When I sat down at the piano, I could almost hear their moans and groans of disapproval before my fingers touched the keys. I had a penchant for doing the unthinkable: rearranging classic hymns like ‘How Great Thou Art,’ ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘There’s Power in the Blood.’ I was doing something that — to my parents’ chagrin — came naturally to me. I was breaking the rules.
Although music dominated my formative years, I was a closeted writer. I wrote stories in notebooks and journals, which I hid under my bed. Returning to Canada after studying for eight months in Nice, France, that was when I realized writing — more than music — was my passion. And I gave myself over to it.
I quickly discovered that writing is a messy affair and that the road to success is paved with many obstacles (and rejection letters) along the way. But I wouldn’t be dissuaded. Despite how daunting the writing life could be, I knew it was my calling. And I had to heed the call.
So, I wasn’t surprised when, in the early part of 2005, I sat down and wrote a story about rules that mirrored my own life. My late teens to early twenties were turbulent years, and I needed rules to govern my daily life and to ground me. Those rules were … unbreakable. And that story, published in September 2005 and entitled, “Malachi and Cole,” later became my first published novel, Freestyle Love.
When Freestyle Love hit the electronic bookstores in 2011, I hoped for a bestseller. That didn’t happen. And that disappointed. I thought I’d written a good book. After all, I’d worked hard on the manuscript — editing, reediting and editing some more. The publisher told me they loved the story and asked for very few changes. The reviews — some good, some (many) not so good — had me doubting my talent as a writer. The book limped to a slow death, and was pulled from online when the rights reverted back to me five years later.
During those five years I kept writing, working to hone my skills. I read books on writing to find anything of value to help me become a better writer. I had also written another novel, and began researching what it would take to self-publish. So, I decided to go the self-publishing route with The Flowers Need Watering, which is available on Amazon.
I learned a hard lesson with Freestyle Love, one that I wouldn’t repeat with The Flowers Need Watering: the importance of a professional editor. In reviewing the manuscript for The Flowers Need Watering, my editor hit on all the big-ticket items — character and plot development, structure, continuity, story arc, theme development, repetition and plot holes. He didn’t only point out what wasn’t working, but also what worked well. Through that process I realized something else. Maybe Freestyle Love, despite what I thought at the time, wasn’t my best effort. Now I knew I could do better. So, I decided to try.
Taking it to the Next Level
Everything He Thought He Knew is a complete rewrite of Freestyle Love that has been through two rounds of vigorous editing by Dave Taylor of thEditors.com. I am eternally grateful for his insights and wisdom.
Throughout my writing journey, I’ve often felt ‘caught’ (Caught was the original title of Freestyle Love before publication) between the life expected of me and the one I imagined. Malachi Bishop and Cole Malcolm may or may not be caught by something more sinister: the idea of true love and its sure path. Malachi, a writer and professor of creative writing, is a rigid — even awful — man paralyzed by a long-held grief knotted around his heart. He is, perhaps, not the most likeable protagonist, but it’s my sincere hope that he is a real one. Cole, a successful management consultant, is older and unafraid of the things that love is all about. Everything He Thought He Knew tells a story of two men caught by love and betrayed by it. It is a journey of self-discovery that forces Malachi and Cole to confront their present and their past, bringing into question the larger fantasies of home and their place in the world.
Everything He Thought He Knew doesn’t guarantee the normative happily ever after ending of the romance genre. My hope is that it transcends it.