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Hello, everyone! I’m writing this post to reiterate that if you are a fan of my work and would like to keep up with sales, book announcements, release dates, or anything of that nature, you’ll want to be subscribed to my newsletter. It’s the first place I am going to be announcing things from here on out. Eventually (a few days to weeks), my announcements will filter through Twitter and Facebook, but not here on the blog. I like my blog to remain “ad-free”.

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What I’ve Learned from Being Quiet and Not Posting My Birthday on Facebook (Part 2)

It has been a few weeks since I posted the first part of this series, but I think that’s a good thing. Introverts like me are usually pretty deliberate in what they do, and I don’t want to rush my thoughts on this topic! Here are a few more highlights from Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. And don’t worry, I’ll get to the birthday Facebook mention later on down below.

A PREFERENCE FOR STIMULATION

“There’s a host of evidence that introverts are more sensitive than extroverts to various kinds of stimulation, from coffee to a loud bang to the dull roar of a networking event — and that introverts and extroverts often need very different levels of stimulation to function well.”

I covered this already in the last part of my first post, but I’m taking it a little further here. I think the most fascinating thing I’ve learned so far is that introverts highly dislike loud, highly stimulating environments because their brains don’t process stimulation the same as an extrovert. Babies, for instance, who are mild and calm tend to grow up to be extroverts. Why? Well, think about it. They’re mild and calm. They’re taking a lot of stimulation in as they awaken to the world and much of it doesn’t bother them in negative ways. One baby might wail in confusion and fear if someone jumps in front of them and does peek-a-boo, while another might calmly smile and laugh. The one who wails in confusion and fear? That’s the natural-born introvert. Of course, this is a high generalization. I gave birth to a daughter who was an extremely sensitive infant, but she’s clearly an extrovert.

“Extroverts, in other words, often find themselves in an emotional state we might call a “buzz” — a rush of energized, enthusiastic feelings … They are characterized by their tendency to seek rewards, from top dog status to sexual highs to cold cash … even their sociability is a function of reward-sensitivity, according to this view — extroverts socialize because human connection is inherently gratifying.”

In highly generic terms, all of this means:

INTROVERTS = don’t need as much stimulation because their brains already get enough from everything, even small things. Drop an introvert into a party and the loud music and constant chatting can feel like a wave of noise and confusion.

EXTROVERTS = need more stimulation because their brains don’t get enough from everyday living. Drop an extrovert into a party and they’re in heaven, feeding off all that stimulation to keep them at a comfortable level.

Here’s where I really come into play in this section — I’m not only sensitive and an introvert, I’m HIGHLY SENSITIVE and an introvert. I wrote an entire post on this subject, which I continue to get emails from random people on the Internet who run across it, surprised to have found something that answers so many questions for them. Needless to say, I was very pleased to find that the woman, Elaine Aron, who has coined the term “HSP” or the “Highly Sensitive Person”, was featured in this Quiet book. In fact, Susan Cain (the author of Quiet) even went to a HSP conferences hosted by Elaine Aron herself just to find out more about the whole HSP thing. The interesting thing is that Aron has found only about 70 percent of highly sensitive people are introverts. The other 30 percent are extroverts, like my daughter.

So what does all this mean? It simply means that if you’re an introvert, you’re most likely sensitive to all sorts of stimulation, and that if you’re sensitive, you could possibly be highly sensitive (HSP), as well, meaning you’ve got even more to deal with when it comes to interacting with the rest of the world and all that stimulation. Knowing this, however, is definitely powerful. It means you can not only stop blaming yourself for being shy and embarrassed and anxious and frustrated all the time and you can start making more informed decisions such as planning ahead:

1. Stake out a party/social event when — or even better, before – you get there and decide where you can retreat when it all gets to be too much. You’ll have the confidence that a twenty-minute break might give you an hour or two more of socializing without killing yourself. Or you can leave early without apologies to yourself or anyone else.

2. When someone invites you to another party that same week, you can explain to others that while you’d like to go, you’re booked up already. What are you booked up with? YOURSELF, because if you need to recharge, you need to recharge. That should always come first for an introvert — WITH NO GUILT. It’s not a selfish thing, by any means, which many extroverts may not understand in the least — so don’t explain it if you don’t need to. Everyone has personal needs they’re not obligated to explain, so don’t.

3. If you do end up panicking in a social situation, you don’t have to add guilt on top of all those feelings. Simply excuse yourself and find a quiet place where your brain can get the least amount of stimulation possible until you can get yourself together again. A dark, quiet, non-confining room is what works for me. Sometimes that’s not possible, so I’ll find whatever I can.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM NOT POSTING MY BIRTHDAY ON FACEBOOOK

This might sound off-topic, but it’s not. For anyone not on Facebook, let me explain. On your profile, you have the choice to mark your birthday as public or private or only visible to friends. If you mark public or visible to friends, you usually get a wave of HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! posts on your wall on the day of your birthday — from everyone and anyone. Most people, I’ve seen, seem to enjoy this. It’s special to receive anywhere from 15 – 150+ posts from people wishing you a happy birthday, right? It’s nice to know so many people are thinking of you! For most people not like me, yes, it’s awesome. For me, however, I’ve found it overwhelming. It’s like walking into a room and having fifty people surround me all at once to tell me nice things about myself — and feeling pressured to answer every single person with a “thank you, you’re so kind” remark … because I really am thankful and touched by all that thoughtfulness. But to have that happen all at once makes me want to run away.

This year, since I had read this Quiet book and was starting to understand myself a little better, I decided to mark my birthday as private only to me on Facebook, meaning nobody would get notifications that it was my birthday. I wanted to see how I would feel at the end of the day, if anyone would even remember on their own if it was my birthday, and if I’d be crushed if they didn’t.

Result? One person posted on my wall about my birthday. I thanked her and went on my merry way. It turns out that on my birthday I was also sick and had to go to the doctor and have some pretty horrible, painful stuff done on my tonsils. It turns out that if I had received a slew of Happy Birthdays on my wall, I might have totally lost it that day — more than I had already because of the doctor visit. In truth, I did feel bad for myself that hardly anyone wished me a happy birthday, but then I realized it was okay and better that way.

I think introverts often feel the need and desire to act like extroverts, even when we don’t want to. I think introverts can often crave the ego-boosting attention extroverts naturally get from just being extroverts, but if we do get it somehow, it can set us back in ways we didn’t expect. Turning off my birthday on Facebook taught me something valuable — I may want that sort of attention, but as soon as that time passes where I could have received it, I’m usually happy I didn’t seek it out. If it comes along anyway, great, I’ll deal with it and be grateful for it in my own introverted ways, but seeking it out is usually never a good thing for me.

It’s not that I don’t want to be wished a happy birthday. I do! It’s just that Facebook can feel like an almost too impersonal and overwhelming place to do it … for me, anyway. Awhile ago I might have thought I was crazy or weird or stupid for feeling this way, but now I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one like this out there. How about you?

**all quotes belong to Susan Cain or people she has quoted within her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.**

What I’ve Learned from Being Quiet — A Look Into the Book “Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain (Part 1)

I finally got around to reading a book many, many people have recommended to me. Why I didn’t listen to these people and read the book earlier, I have no idea, but now that I’ve been expanding my reading genres it has made it a lot easier to pick up something nonfiction. I’m now on a nonfiction streak, which is a good change of pace.

The book I put off for so long is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I think one of the reasons I put off this book was because I secretly thought it would just be one huge Validation Party for introverts. And even though I am an introvert, I didn’t feel extremely comfortable with forcing validation upon myself for being the way I am. Boy, was I wrong. While Quiet does give introverts much validation for being the way they are, it is not in the way I thought it would be. Instead, Susan Cain carefully, deliberately, and modestly presents her founded opinions and scientifically-backed information about both introverts and extroverts — and why both types of people desperately need each other in this increasingly extroverted world.

Below are some highlights of the book that I found especially helpful for me. I firmly recommend that both introverts and extroverts consider reading the book for themselves.

THE CORE OF WHO WE ARE

“Introversion — along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness — is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

The wonderful thing I’ve realized is that as an introvert I do not have to change the core of who I am. In fact, it is impossible to change the core of who I am. But, just as extroverts should be a little more understanding of introverts, introverts should also be more tolerant of extroverts. At the moment, in the world I’m living in anyway, this simply isn’t happening, and as Susan Cain says, many of us are living under the Extrovert Ideal and feeling as if there is something terribly wrong with us. Some of us turn to medication. Some of us even turn to suicide. Some of us simply learn how to pretend we’re extroverts. It’s sad, really.

THE EXTROVERT IDEAL IS FAIRLY NEW

“The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of ‘having a good personality’ was not widespread until the twentieth.’”

This is seriously fascinating to me because I can’t even imagine living in a world where I didn’t feel pressured to develop a charming personality in order to be truly successful and liked. But it’s everywhere we turn — from the workplace to schools to religion. If you are quiet, shy, or extremely sensitive, there is something wrong with you and you’d better snap out of it or you’re not going to get anywhere.

“Well-meaning parents of the midcentury agreed that quiet was unacceptable and gregariousness ideal for both girls and boys. Some discouraged their children from solitary and serious hobbies, like classical music, that could make them unpopular. They sent their kids to school at increasingly young ages, where the main assignment was learning to socialize. Introverted children were often singled out as problem cases (a situation familiar to anyone with an introverted child today). 

NOBODY IS 100% INTROVERTED OR EXTROVERTED

“Extroversion is in our DNA — literally, according to some psychologists. The trait has been found to be less prevalent in Asia and Africa than in Europe and America, whose populations descend largely from the migrants of the world. It makes sense, say these researchers, that world travelers were more extroverted than those who stayed home — and that they passed on their traits to their children and their children’s children.”

I know I have some extrovert traits, absolutely. I think everyone does to some degree. You can’t put people in boxes and just say HE’S AN INTROVERT or SHE’S AN EXTROVERT and then make judgments based on that. The most important thing is to get to know people and understand that if they lean more toward one trait than the other, it’s okay. Studies show that people in general do lean more toward being introverted or extroverted. It’s just natural, but we are all our own personalities too. So don’t put people in boxes — especially yourself.

INTROVERTS VALUE SOLITARY TIME, BUT EXTROVERTS SHOULD TOO

“What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach. … Only when you’re alone … can you ‘go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve what you’re doing you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”

And that quote goes for both introverts and extroverts. This is why I have an issue with how the education system is set up these days. I walk into public schools and they are centered around groups. The desks are in groups. The schedules are organized around group learning and thinking. The social structures and practices are group centered. Probably the only thing that truly happens in a solitary way is homework (maybe, since many times group study is encouraged) and test taking. I am sure there are exceptions. I hope there are, especially since I have a child in the public school system, even though she happens to be an extrovert. And don’t get me started on church organizations. The good thing about the religion to which I belong is that solitary worship is encouraged, to a degree, but there is also a horrifying amount of “group thinking” going on, as well. To an introvert like me, it’s discouraging and intimidating. Even if I do hold deep beliefs in my religion, the societal end can almost be too much if I’m not careful about how I approach it.

WHY INTROVERTS COME ALIVE ONLINE

“…[W]e’re so impressed by the power of online collaboration that we’ve come to overvalue all group work at the expense of solo thought. We fail to realize that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude all its own. Instead we assume that the success of online collaborations will be replicated in the face-to-face world.”

Wow, does that ring true. I honestly think it’s why more and more people are writing novels now — it’s so much more accessible to write and feel connected to other writers at the same time. I also think it’s why FB took off. I also think it’s why there are so many more problems with being online than we realize. Being online allows you to be solitary, yet participatory. But it’s a false sense of participation, at times, and I think that can lead to issues, especially with extroverts who may realize over time that being online is not nearly as satisfying to them as actually being with people. An introvert may blossom and open up through online interaction, so don’t be surprised if you meet someone face-to-face whom you previously got to know online and they are suddenly a lot more quiet and closed-off than you though they’d be. 

And like the quote says — online collaboration is NOT the same as group face-to-face interaction. Not. Even. Close. They are both so very, very different. Oftentimes you’ll find introverts are much more likely to participate and get busy with a project if meetings and collaboration are handled through online interaction rather than actual group meetings, of which I totally loathe *shudder*.

WHY INTROVERTS ARE SO BORED BY SMALL TALK … AT THE BEGINNING

“It’s not that there’s no small talk. … It’s that it comes not at the beginning of conversations but at the end. In most settings, people use small talk as a way of relaxing into a new relationship, and only once they’re comfortable do they connect more seriously. Sensitive people seem to do the reverse.”

Oy, is that true! Seriously, if you try to “small talk” me to get to know me, you’re in trouble. I will close off like a clam. I want a deep, meaningful conversation and then I’ll small talk with you. I never, ever understood why this was until I read the Quiet book. Now I understand it beautifully. However, it is quite a complicated process to get to the root of why this is, and for the sake of time I’ll boil it down to the roots.

There are two types of people (for the most part): high-reactive and low-reactive. High-reactive people are not extroverts. They are high reactive because they are, by nature, more sensitive to, well, everything. Not just people. Everything. Sound, smell, emotion, all of it. And some people are even more sensitive than that. They are the HSPs, or Highly Sensitive People, like me, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Low-reactives usually turn out to be the extroverts. It’s also good to note that these two types are evident from birth and stay with a person the rest of their life. Of course, there are no boxes here. This is all generalization, but still great to know. Example: My daughter happens to be high-reactive — even more on the end of HSP, like me, BUT she is an extrovert. She is one big ball of sensitive energy. It’s pretty overwhelming to her introverted, sensitive mother. She definitely does not fit into a box!

So the high-reactive people? Usually introverts, yes. This means they process everything differently than an extrovert. High-reactive people, or introverts, or sensitive people — whatever you wish to call them — tend to think in great complexity, probably because they are so observant of their surroundings because they are so sensitive to those surroundings.

“Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments — both physical and emotional — unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss — another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly. … [This] may also explain why [sensitive people] are so bored by small talk. ‘If you’re thinking in more complicated ways … then talking about the weather or where you went for the holidays is not quite as interesting as talking about values or morality.’”

I think this is a good place for me to stop today. I have so much more to explore, but this is already getting so long. I do hope the information I have provided has helped you see into the world of introverts and extroverts a little more. I’ll be back later with even more. If you’re hooked, go check out the book Quiet itself. Trust me, there is WAY much more in that book than I’ve touched on here.

**all quotes belong to Susan Cain or people she has quoted within her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.**

IWSG March 2014 — My Last Post

Insecure Writer's Support Group Badge As I have shifted my feelings for where I belong in the publishing world, and consequently what I want out of my writing, this blog and the way I use social media has shifted as well. Simply put, the kind of author I am is one who needs a lot more privacy than I’ve been allowing myself. More than anything, I’d rather be writing. It truly is the best way I can share myself.

This may be my last post for IWSG, but it is not the last post here on my blog. I’ll continue to post here, but my posts will be more project-centered, focusing more on my writing projects for those truly interested. Thanks to everyone who has supported me while I’ve blogged with IWSG!

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

IWSG February 2014 — Are We in an Age of Writing for Other Writers?

Insecure Writer's Support Group Badge

It was the late 90′s when I started writing my first novel. It was an era of adult novels, when John Grisham was having his heyday and there was no such as thing as a Young Adult section in the library or bookstore. It was also an era of isolation because I didn’t even know what an email address was, let alone the internet.

But most of all, I didn’t know a single other writer doing what I was doing — writing novels.

I wrote in complete and utter bliss. I look back on that time with wonder and awe because not only was I writing whatever I wanted how I wanted, but I was never once told that I was doing something wrong by another writer. If I felt that at any point, it was only because I was comparing my unpublished novel to published novels.

All of this changed, of course, when I entered the realm of college and became a creative writing major. I was suddenly surrounded by writers, professors, and even published authors. I felt pressure. I felt lower than low. I stopped writing novels and focused on only poetry and short stories instead. My ego was crushed probably a thousand times. But it was all good! I grew as a writer.

Now, in an era where just putting my big toe into the waters of social networking and blogging, I am surrounded even more by opinions, advice, and ways to compare my work. It seems everywhere I turn — online and offline — I am surrounded by other writers. Sometimes it feels like EVERYBODY WRITES, and if they don’t, a large portion of them seem to want to write. I’m not even sure why I get unnerved by this, but maybe it’s because I feel heavily influenced on so many sides now. For a long time, I’ve often felt I am writing, selling, marketing, and getting feedback from only one group: other writers. I know it’s not entirely true, of course, but sometimes it feels that way.

In all honesty, especially when I’m feeling insecure, I don’t know if this is a bad thing or a great thing. After all, writers are readers too, and if more people are reading, that’s a good thing right? It’s also good to interact with other writers and make those incredible connections. I do know nobody can tell a story exactly the way I tell it, but I’m not sure if the rest of the world sees it that way, especially when there are so many books and it’s getting harder and harder to be seen, let alone read. I guess that’s my true insecurity right there — I’m afraid of getting lost in the grand shuffle of the ever-growing realm of writers. Are you?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Depression and What You Can Say Instead

To most who know me, it’s no secret that I’ve dealt with depression for a large portion of my life. Ever since my early teens, I’ve suffered from intense feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness, and even suicide. This depression was worsened after I had my daughter. Postpartum was literally almost the death of me, but I managed to survive thanks to some lucky circumstances and wonderful people who loved me enough to help me. Since I’ve struggled with this problem for nearly 20 years, I’m serious when I say I know a thing or two about what hurts when those who don’t understand depression try to help or understand in the worst possible ways. I’m not one to begrudge anyone’s good intentions, but sometimes it’s important to get some information out in the open just to make it all a little clearer for those who truly do want to help and don’t quite exactly know how. Here are a few things I’ve heard through the years that have rubbed me the wrong way — and some possible things to say instead.

1. Isn’t it just all in your head? If you try hard enough, you can make yourself happy. Happiness is a choice.

Why, yes, it is all in my head. Correct! Clinical depression — at least the kind I have — is caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain. No amount of thinking or wishing is going to fix it. Happiness isn’t a choice when something is physically taking that choice away.

What to say instead: I’ve heard it’s a chemical thing and very hard to deal with. Would you like some help or support in finding a treatment for this?

2. You should not take medication. Medication is bad.

Unless you’re a doctor I’ve chosen to visit or I have specifically asked you, I don’t want to hear your medical advice. Someone’s choice to take medication is a very personal decision that is only between them and their physician. If you’re a loved one and see a possibility of the prescribed medication harming a person without them realizing it, then you might have a right to step in, but unless you’re invited to help, please don’t contribute to a person’s already fragile depressive state by belittling their decision or by trying to talk them out of it. Finding the correct medication, or balance of medications, can take months and months, sometimes years. During that delicate time period, it’s important for the person to receive as much support as possible.

What to say instead: I’ve heard medication can really help some people. I’m happy you’re trying something you feel might solve some of these problems you’ve had in your life.

3. Depression isn’t real.

Happiness isn’t real, either, I suppose. Or anger. Or love. Or any of our emotions, since they’re all just a combination of some chemicals in our brains and bodies. Seriously, think twice before believing depression isn’t real, and if you still can’t believe it’s real, at least don’t tell someone suffering from depression that it isn’t real.

What to say instead: I have a hard time understanding depression at all. Is there a place I can go online or a book I can read that will help me learn more about it?

4. I know how you feel. I dealt with depression for awhile once. It was horrible.

There are “the blues” and being sad, which everyone has experienced to some point, and then there’s clinical depression. Even though they can both be difficult, they are two very different things. I get down about life every now and then; it feels quite different from my clinical depression.

What to say instead: It must be terrible for your depression to feel like it will never go away. I’m here to help you get through it.

5. Are you sure you aren’t getting depressed as a way to get attention? Maybe you should try serving others so you can see how good your life really is. That will snap you out of this.

Yes, I’m drowning myself in grief and pain and misery just so people will pay attention to me. It’s totally in my control. This is very, very untrue. Even if a person suffering from depression desires attention, it’s usually only a plea for help to get out of the depression — not because they’re selfish. Telling someone with depression that other people have it worse off than they do will not help. In fact, it will only make things worse, guaranteed.

What to say instead: I’m not going to abandon you, even if your depression frustrates me.

Clinical depression is often something a person will deal with their entire life. I’m finally in a good place thanks to medication and support from loved ones, but I know my depression will never truly go away. If you care for someone who suffers from depression and you want to help, don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing. Just use your common sense and learn all you can. If you truly care, it will shine through no matter what. Most of all, be there. If the person doesn’t seem to want you there, be there on the sidelines just in case. It has often been the “sideline people” in my life who have helped pull me up at the last minute, and for that I am truly grateful.

The Absolute Truth About Self Publishing

Selling four books a day every month might be a dream come true for one author and totally suck rocks for another. Some hire professional editors and some don’t and still manage to produce beautiful, quality books. Some make it to the NYT Bestsellers list and a lot don’t. Some are lucky enough to make a living off their books, while many work other jobs on top of the writing. Some get business licenses, hire website designers, and attend every writer’s conference known to man, and some don’t. Some design their own covers and some don’t. Some use POD printers, while some use printing presses. Some hit it big off their first book and some sell steadily and never hit it big. Some say pouring money into it will get you more money, while some will swear to you that marketing does nothing. Some only self publish and have no interest in the traditional route, while some do both. And the absolute truth about it all? There is no absolute anything when it comes to self publishing. It’s just like any other business (and any other form of publishing, for that matter). It’s hard, it’s easy, it’s rewarding, it’s disappointing. Whatever it ends up being for someone, it should never, ever be compared, belittled, or shamed. Because it’s different for every single author. There is no best way to do it. No guaranteed way to do it. And that’s kind of the beauty of it all. After all, some say self publishing is for those who give up. I think it’s pretty obvious it’s for those who don’t.

The Fear of Being Small

It’s no secret that compared to most adults, I’m small. I’m 5’2″, on the border between “small boned/medium boned”, I usually weigh between 125 – 135 pounds, and my voice isn’t very loud. In the midst of any crowd, I feel like an insignificant ant. Now, I know there are people out there smaller than me. I have a sister-in-law shorter than me, who is very much small boned and probably weighs about 100 pounds, even after having two kids. It often seems like two of her could fit in the space I take up, but … I still feel smaller, and it technically has nothing to do with my body. I do think, however, that it all started with the size of my body. Height neurosis, so to speak.

Yesterday, a good friend of mine pointed out for the 150th time in our friendship that I have an inferiority complex. It’s true. I really do have a HUGE inferiority complex. It’s probably the only truly enormous thing about me. Funny how it shrinks me down to the size of a pea. It’s so bad that I have already considered deleting this post about 20 times in the course of writing these two paragraphs because I keep thinking, “Nobody will want to read this much about you, Michelle. Nobody freaking cares.” But oh well.

After that talk with my friend yesterday, she made a point that I have realized over and over, yet just haven’t put into words . I voiced my fear about publishing my own work, how I’m afraid that I’ll keep at this for years and years and years and still not get much further than where I am now, no matter how many books I write and publish. “I’ll still be small,” I complained, and she shot right back at me, “SO WHAT? What’s so bad about being a small author if you love your books and do it right?” 

And it’s true.

Outside of painful, costly surgery, I can’t permanently change my height, and outside of heading down certain paths that will most likely not make me any happier than where I’m at, I can’t change the fact that I write “small, quiet books” (the death sentence thing to say in traditional publishing).

Sometimes I slip on a pair of high heels and pretend I’m taller. The world looks different up there. I can reach the cupboards in my house without a stool. I can kiss my 6′ husband without craning my neck. Sometimes I dream about writing a loud, exciting blockbuster novel filled with all the mainstream things the world seems to want. The world would be better up there, I think. People would see me differently. Treat me differently. I’d have more confidence. But we all know that’s not true.

Just keep writing what you’re good at and what you love. Keep challenging yourself to get better. Not taller, er, higher, er … you know what I mean. After all, what’s so bad about being a small author if you love your books and do it right? If your answer is, “I won’t make enough money,” then I’d suggest getting a separate job. I have, that’s for sure. I do cover design and formatting on the side, and have made more money from that than I have on my books. It’s depressing, but grounding. And if I’m smart, I will let all this stuff I learn from writing help me with my “height neurosis” too. That would be truly life changing.

Do you have the guts to share your greatest fear?

A Letter to An Author Friend on Her Debut

Dear Sara B. Larson,

I really loved your debut novel, DEFY! I’m excited  you’ve stepped into the world of the Published Author — a world I’m sure you’ve noticed by now is quite different for everyone. Like your main character, Alexa, who pretends to be a male warrior, I’ve found that I’ve also felt nobody understands me and never will, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to hide forever.

Today  I’m going to step away from my hiding and boldly dispel two things about being a published author — at least, things I’ve dealt with and seen many other authors deal with. You may or may not find yourself in my shoes at some point, or maybe you’ve already experienced some of these things. Whatever the case may be, I hope this dream you have reached continues to shine around the edges, no matter what!  

Jealousy

I think most authors get extremely envious of each other and don’t admit it. It’s not the nicest thing ever to talk about in public. But, I’ve found that if I admit my jealousy and face it, I’m a lot more likely to get over it quickly and move on with my life. I’ll admit I’m jealous of your success, Sara. You have an amazing, friendly agent who came to your launch! You are with a pretty sweet publisher, and you are tall and popular and pretty. Oh, I could go on.

The truth of it all is, however, that jealousy often means I want what someone else has, even though it might not be the best thing for me. The truth of it is that jealousy is an opportunity to turn myself around and face the reasons why I’m jealous and what I am overlooking in my own life. Opportunity is never a bad thing. So even though I’m jealous of you, that jealousy has helped me see myself better, and also strengthen my excitement and happiness for your success.

Other People’s Opinions, Namely Reviews

Published authors tell you not to read reviews, but 99% of the authors out there have read them at one point or another. Some of them continue to do so. I used to preach the “don’t read reviews” rule, but lately I’ve begun to see that at least when a new book of mine goes out there into the world, it’s actually quite helpful to know the feedback it’s getting — good and bad, even if it hurts. In the end, I have to admit that it has made me a better writer. If I lived in a sugar-coated world of five-star reviews (or completely unaware of responses on my work), I’m pretty sure I’d lose something important.

So I hope you don’t beat yourself up if you’ve read a few reviews, even if they sting. 

There are many great authors out there who can give better advice than me, but I hope you don’t think of any of this as advice — just me bravely stepping forward to share some of the things I’ve been afraid to admit publicly before. And I owe this to Alexa’s bravery in DEFY. Thank you, Sara, for being brave enough to chase your dreams. 

Standing With You In Publishing Land,

Michelle D. Argyle

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Sara B. Larson can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books. Although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband and their three children. She writes during naptime and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” On occasion you will find her hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish. Find more about Sara and her debut DEFY on her blog.

“DEFY by Sara Larson is an amazing, fantastic book. It has everything you’d want: intrigue, awesomely real characters, suspense, and a captivating plot. All in a world that comes to life in your mind. Highly recommended.” ­– James Dashner, bestselling author of THE MAZE RUNNER

IWSG January 2014 — The Problem With the Advice, “Never Give Up”

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeI’ve been to a lot of book launches and signings in the past few years. Almost all of the authors who have spoken at these events have said one thing – Never give up! Their message is usually one of comfort and peace to the audience, which is bound to contain hopeful authors wishing they will one day be up there launching their own published book. They go home, their hearts filled with hope and a little bit of jealousy and a lot of motivation to just keep going. They think, If I keep going — if I never give up — I will get that. I will get exactly what I’m working for.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it usually works. At least, my little pessimistic brain and experiences have summed it all up as such. Never giving up  will guarantee you exactly one thing every single time — experience – and sometimes nothing more.

If you  work hard enough, it’s not going to guarantee you an agent or a big publishing deal or a best seller. It’s not going to guarantee you a lot of money and happiness. Hell, it’s not even going to guarantee you an equal amount of what you put in. Especially if that’s the reason you’re never going to give up.

I’ve watched some of my author friends work their fingers to the bone, certain that if they hit the right formula with marketing or self publishing, or tried hard enough, they’d be a best seller — never to become a best seller with that book, or the next books after it. I’ve watched some friends query for years and years and years, finally get an agent, never sell a book with that agent, and then finally leave that agent only to start over again at the bitter beginning. Never giving up.

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Me and Sara B. Larson at her launch for her debut DEFY. Sara never gave up.

And I’ve watched myself start out on almost every endeavor, absolutely certain that this is the one project that will get me exactly what I want — and discover that the only tiny point of “major commercial success” I’ve found so far was on the book that I didn’t do anything for, the one I had very little faith in, the one I just gave to my publisher on a whim because it was sitting there. So I foolishly decide that if I have little faith in anything and repeat that process, maybe I’ll get lucky and see that kind of success again. Yeah, right.

The truth is, life isn’t fair. And it’s incessantly unpredictable. Hard work sometimes gets you nothing but experience and bloody knuckles and a whole lot of frustration. Some authors never sell more than a few copies of their books a month. Ever. No matter how hard they work at it, and it’s not because their writing sucks or they aren’t trying hard enough. They’re often the ones who never stop trying. Some authors don’t hardly try at all and they hit all the jackpots one after the other, making it look easy. And some authors work their butts off and do finally get exactly what they want. For a minute.

But most of us? Most of us are the ones who follow that advice and never give up and find one small success for every ten, twenty, thirty failures — and then forget about those small successes because they seem so freaking far apart. They lose their luster and brilliance, like so many gold coins gathered in a dark, dusty bag at the bottom of our pocket. I imagine that over the course of time, however, that we sometimes dump out those coins and realize that we have gained something, and it’s worth more than we realized. I imagine that no matter the outcome of our “not quitting”, the experience we gain is far greater than those pieces of gold. I imagine our friends’ pieces of gold often look brighter than our own, especially when compared to one another. I imagine, however, that it’s not the actual pieces of gold that sparkle, but the glasses we’re wearing that determine their brightness. And I imagine, going one step further, that it’s the “never giving up” that gives us better glasses to see with.

So the problem with the advice to “never give up” is that I think it so often implies that you’ll get exactly what you want if you follow it. But that’s almost always never true. What you do get is often a quite different version than what you imagined, filled with disappointment, but also satisfaction and some sweet, sweet happiness — usually enough to motivate you to tell others never to give up either.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.