I’m not ashamed to say it: I’m socially awkward. It’s one reason I like being a writer. Through words, I create worlds where I fit in and can be me. Places where I can bring the joy. [Read more…] about Bring the Joy!
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!
When I sit down at my desk in the morning, night is still fully in place. My companions are the muffled sounds of cars speeding down the Gardiner Expressway, the tick tock of the living room clock, and my partner’s snoring seeping through the walls. It is — living in a busy downtown Toronto neighbourhood — by all accounts … quiet. It’s the time of day I am most focused, when I can hear myself think.
I wrote this blog post last November. Then, the weather changed on a dime. Strong, 100km winds one day, then rain, and then the potential for snow. We feared winter’s ugly wrath, and that there was no way to sidestep it. All we could do was suck it up. And as Canadians, the plan executed flawlessly — was to spend the next few months complaining about how cold it was, how miserable it was outside, and how we couldn’t wait for spring.
Now, it’s April. The snow is (mostly) gone. It’s warmer (I’m running in shorts). The days are longer. And we’re still complaining about the weather!
And like we can’t sidestep winter or the early April snowfalls, sometimes you can’t sidestep doubt.
Don’t Open that Door
I write frequently about doubt. Why? Because it’s a constant companion on my creative journey, especially when I’m nearing the end of a project, taking on something that’s outside of my comfort zone, or anticipating my editor’s critique of my manuscript. The biggest challenge sometimes is to not open the door to doubt.
There are times when it’s too tempting to let doubt in, and if we do it can throw us off course. Instead, maybe we need a little pep talk, and here’s what we could tell ourselves…
Dare to dream. Dare to imagine that we live in a world where we can — without the judgment of others, without asking for outside approval — be ourselves. It’s a world where we can follow our heart’s true desire. It’s a world where we can freely do what it is that we want to do and what we feel called to do. It is a world of hope and possibility.
What I Say to Myself
I am a writer. I say that with conviction. It is, today, an affirmation of who I am. I am a writer. Not because of my novels or other published works. I am a writer because there is, deep within me, a will far greater than my own that compels me to write. It is a calling. I have chosen to heed the call.
My day is not complete if I have not put in time at the page. It reminds me of the days when I went without having a coffee. I was cranky. (I don’t drink coffee now, so if I’m cranky it’s for an entirely other reason). When I do not write, or when I don’t write enough, I’m irksome and irritable. In a way, I lose my humanity. That’s why each day I show up at the page. If I don’t, I risk losing myself. Writing grounds me in the day, helps me to be present in the now. Writing, I hang on to myself.
Weather the Storm
Stay focused on the work before you. Perhaps doubt is trying to tell you that the road ahead is somewhat uncertain. Even so, you can’t let doubt have dominion here. All you can do is show up, begin where you are, and the rest will follow.
What challenges do you face daily in your creative pursuits? Are you weathering the storm? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Life is a journey. It takes us to many different places, some filled with optimism and joy, others clamouring with sadness, anger and distrust. But no matter where we find ourselves, we must find a way to shine — make the best of our situation — because anything is possible.
I’m on a journey that challenges who I think I am, and makes me doubt I can be who I dare to be. The scary part is that one question keeps poking at me: am I crazy?
Crazy to believe that I can achieve my goals? Crazy to believe that there’s an audience for my writing? Crazier to believe I can accomplish everything I set out to do?
No, I’m not crazy. Sometimes, though, feeling overwhelmed blinds me to the progress I’ve made. Am I headed in the right direction? I hope so. Brendon Burchard reminds us that “With the right mindset, focus, and habits, you can shape an extraordinary quality of life and contribute at world-class levels way beyond anyone’s expectations.” So, one day at a time, with courage and determination, I’ll keep pushing on.
Anything is Possible
If you have the courage to take on the challenge(s) staring you down, then anything is possible. How do I know? I look at the example of my friend, Lori.
Just before the Canadian Thanksgiving in October 2018, Lori was admitted to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre here in Toronto. After fourteen years in remission, the breast cancer was back with a vengeance. She was in pain, couldn’t sleep, didn’t have an appetite and couldn’t keep down food. And her lungs were failing.
It didn’t look good. They stopped the chemotherapy and she was told that nothing else could be done. The doctors gave her seven days to live.
The first time I visited Lori in the hospital I could see the pain in her face, watched her struggle to shift in the bed, and held back my tears as her voice cracked with emotion when she spoke. Was the cancer winning? Were the doctors right?
Maybe, but Lori wasn’t about to give up. She told me she wasn’t ready and that this wasn’t her time. She would fight, and fight she did. Hard.
Lori left the hospital at the end of November. The seven days she was given to live stretched into two and a half months. Lori passed away on 10 February 2019.
Do the Impossible
When we believe in ourselves, in the power of our dreams, we can do the impossible. So, it’s not crazy for me to believe that I can become a bestselling author. It’s not crazy for you to believe that you can be a world-renowned neurosurgeon or the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The important thing to remember is this: each task we complete, each step we take — no matter how big or small — is progress. That’s how we make our dreams come true.
I can’t promise that it’ll be easy or that it’ll happen quickly. It might take years or decades of trying, failing, and trying again. But when you show up daily, do the work, and believe in yourself, you dramatically increase the chances of your dreams coming true.
So, show up and prove that anything is possible.
Do you second-guess your calling? Are you afraid that you won’t succeed? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
When I moved to Toronto in March 2013, life overwhelmed. New job. New love. Figuring out how to make this new city feel like home. In an unexpected way, I found comfort reading Rhonda Bynre’s The Magic. Writing a daily gratitude list is a lesson and practice from that book that has stuck with me. When you count your blessings at the start of your day, it’s hard to be grumpy, cynical or pessimistic. Like writing, it’s an act that anchors me to the present moment.
Life is busy. I know. Building a career as a writer around a day job and other life responsibilities isn’t easy, especially with so much pressure for us to be ‘connected’ 24/7. But sometimes the greatest gift we can give ourselves — one that offers perspective and the possibility of unforeseen insights to move us and our dreams forward — is to step back and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.
Turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper, log in to your social media accounts … you’ll witness a startling truth. We live in an age where it’s not just easier, but more the accepted norm, to criticize, insult and belittle each other. Instead of working together to build each other up, we’d rather tear each other apart. We focus more on what divides us than what should unite us. We’re constantly separating ourselves into camps — liberal/conservative, republican/democrat, vegan/carnivore, introvert/extravert — convinced that one is better than the other. And worse, still, we show little or no willingness to understand the other point of view. It’s become an unattractive state of being.
Yet there is so much more to life, and we should relish the very gift of waking up each morning to see a new day. Cutting through the noise, my daily gratitude list reminds me of that. In this life, I’m grateful for my partner, family, friends, and job. For the people working to improve the lives of others. For the positivity I welcome into each day, doing my best to bring joy wherever I go. Grateful, yes, to see the beauty that is this world.
Doing What You Love
Everywhere you turn, someone is offering advice: Ten Ways to Maximize Your Instagram Engagement, Five Simple Ways to Advance Your Career, Eight Tips for Effective Time Management, et. al. We scramble to take it all in and sign up for multiple newsletters, online training/webinars, or search for the next great app promising to improve productivity (I’ve done it all). And the next thing you know — badda bing badda boom — you’re living someone else’s dream.
And that’s why I’m grateful for having had the courage to listen to that ‘still small voice’ that encouraged me to follow my heart’s true desire. Writing. It’s the one thing in this life that makes my heart sing. So, every day — no matter where I am in the world, no matter the challenges life throws at me — I write. It’s how I know, as my friend Adrienne reminded me, that I’m doing my best to “stay grounded in your conviction that you’re doing what you want to do and feel called to do.” And best of all … I’m doing it my way!
When you dare to declare your dream to the world, there’s bound to be people who’ll tell you you’ll fail. They’ll laugh or ask if you’ve been drinking. They’ll be a family member, friend, or colleague. Some will even stop talking to you. Why? You have something they do not: the courage to act, to imagine what is possible and go after it.
That’s why I’m grateful for my friends who’ve been with me from the beginning of my writing journey. Not sure how to proceed after receiving the umpteenth rejection letter, they encouraged me to keep writing. Sharing the news my first book was accepted for publication, they cheered, “Yay, you!” When a reader posted a harsh review, they told me to keep writing. And on the days I doubted myself and my talent, they told me to keep writing.
These are my personal cheerleaders who believe in me when others don’t, and that makes all the difference.
As Melody Beattie reminds us, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
That’s why today, and every day, it’s important to take a moment to count your blessings.
What’s one thing that you’re grateful for today? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.