How To Be A Perfect Author

In order to be the perfect author, you must sit your butt down in a chair every single day and write, even if it’s only a sentence or two. But not every single day because an author must also live a full and meaningful life, and chaining yourself to a rigid schedule like that might actually be hindering you. You must also visit social networks every single day and stay on top of the publishing scene. If you don’t know what’s going on out there, how do you expect to be successful? But don’t overdo it because if you spend too much time online, you will be distracting yourself from your true vocation of writing.

Once you are published, you must not read your reviews. You must stay off Goodreads and must never check Amazon rankings or BookScan numbers. But again, you really should be in touch with readers and know their true reactions and feelings for your writing. Interacting with only diehard fans who find no fault in your writing is not going to help your writing. After all, how are you supposed to improve if you are completely ignorant to how real readers are reacting to your work? And how do you expect to market your work better if you don’t know what’s working after you’ve tried it? You need to have an idea of sales numbers as they happen instead of two or twelve months later. But don’t read those reviews and check numbers because they. will. drive. you. crazy.

You must never, ever say negative things online about writing or publishing. You do not want to appear ungrateful toward the fact that you actually got published when so many authors would die to be in your shoes. You do not want to appear jealous of any other author because that would be sour grapes and may affect your sales or the good image of your publisher. But you must appear honest and approachable. If you flout yourself too much and never share anything negative, you’re going to look like a complete fake and others are going to start resenting you. But be careful. If you say anything remotely negative, you may incur that same resentment, as well. Just. Be. Careful. And don’t even think about retreating into a shell and never saying anything online anywhere. Because didn’t you read that first paragraph were you need to be online every single day? I once disappeared from online and never said a word about my books anywhere and my sales plummeted. So you cannot disappear. But your writing will be best if you stay offline as much as possible because then you will not have those distractions eating away at you. You might even create masterpieces that will blow away the world if you retreat into obscurity like the best authors do. But you really should be visible everywhere.

You must avoid adverbs in your writing because adverbs are horribly evil. Because the word horribly in that previous sentence wasn’t necessary, now was it? So avoid those adverbs. Chain yourself to rules others have made up for you and do not experiment to figure out what your own rules are. After all, it’s the books that feel like all the other books that sell the best, isn’t it? You want to be well known and well paid as an author. The perfect author is well known and well paid.

This is most likely not the first time you have heard all of this conflicting advice. It certainly isn’t the first time for me. The nice thing is that I am not writing at the moment. Taking a step back has helped me see how ridiculous and conflicting it can be to listen to everything. Taking a step back has helped me see myself a lot more. Taking a step back has helped me see that I was right in taking a step back. Intuition. It shouldn’t be ignored. I’m not a perfect author. Perfection, I believe, is right in front of us all the time. It is not a place, but the ability to choose what will work for us and kindly saying no to the things that won’t — even if those things work for others and they are successful and we are not.

CAUTION: DANGEROUS EXPLOSIVE. HANDLE CAREFULLY.

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I’ve had people come and go in my life. Some of these friendships were fierce and strong. They were relationships that I thought would never, ever fade. I thought I would always be close to these people. I would always feel I could spill my deepest thoughts with them. We would never grow apart. But as most friendships do in our lives, they softened and eventually drifted apart. To me, they are like fireworks in the tapestry of my time here. They light up my sky, hot and powerful and bright, wowing both of us before they finally start fading away. But they always leave a lasting impression, good or bad, and that’s something I can always count on. Even now, I’ve got some amazing fireworks lighting up my sky. I hope some of them last a very, very long time.

Like these fierce friendships, my writing is fierce and bright. It has lit up my sky at certain points in my life, and at some points, it has fizzled out completely. The last time I stopped writing, it lasted five consecutive years. So it’s interesting to me that just over five years later of pursuing writing once again, I’m burned out, like one of those fireworks.

The thing is, back when I quit for five years, I was happy. I was discovering other things about myself, just like I do when I make a new friend. Those five years were quick and fierce, and then gave way to a new round of fireworks. Writing came back into my life, but I feel like the current spark — that burst of energy and heat — has faded.

I’ve been cleaning for the past few weeks. I’ve systematically gone through every room in my small town home, pulling out boxes and bins, looking in drawers and cupboards, sifting through piles of what now seems like junk. I’m donating an entire carload of this “junk” to charity. The true junk I’m tossing into the trash. Other stuff I’ve been selling on my neighborhood FB page. It seems there is no end to this cleaning, but I know I’ll eventually reach a point where this particular firework burns out, as well. My house will finally be dejunked, clean, and organized the way I like it.

All of this cleaning seems to be allowing me an opening to clean out my writing life, as well. The fireworks of my writing may feel like they have faded for now, but I have a feeling they’ll light up once again when some time has passed and I’ve had a chance to reevaluate what I really want out of all of this.

But I have no idea how long it will be. Weeks. Months. Years. I don’t know. I will continue to market what I do have out there, but that is all I can do at the moment.

Like a fierce friendship in my past, I feel like my writing has faded for now, but has left an undying impression. Friendships can sometimes be revived, and I figure my writing can, as well. One day I’ll find it again, a tightly wrapped package labeled CAUTION: DANGEROUS EXPLOSIVE. HANDLE CAREFULLY.

Here’s to careful handling. The most important things in our lives deserve it.

10 Ways To Find Your True Self

I think we construct ourselves for other people, and that’s okay … but not 100% of the time. There are times we have to be ourselves or we are going to wither away beneath our fear forever. Here are a few things you can do to uncover who you really are at the core.

All of these take courage.

1. Accept that negative things people say about you could possibly be true. And then dare to change. It’s that DARE part that hurts so much. But come on. I’ve had several people in my life tell me some pretty negative and hurtful things about myself. It wasn’t until I really dared to see what they were saying and accept that there might be some truth in what they said that I could finally face the pain and do something about it.

2. Really figure out if you are an introvert or extrovert. Nobody is 100% one or the other, but it has been proven scientifically in more places than one that everyone is bent more towards one or the other, and that we are born that way. It doesn’t change. We can often learn how to be really good at pretending to be the opposite of what we are, but it’s innate. Knowing what you really are and what that means is a huge, huge eye-opener. I’ve written a post about a book I read that might help you too.

3. Stop hiding from yourself. Literally. Look in the mirror every single day. Nothing can replace really looking at yourself in the mirror and learning to love what you see, flaws and all. I used to have horrendous acne. I still have scars, and I’m beginning to look past them now. It has been a difficult journey.

4. Make a list of what you judge about other people. It’s true what they say: the things you judge about others is what you’re judging about yourself. Sit down and figure out the judgments you make on other people. Those are the things you’re most concerned about in life, and probably the things you should try to work on for yourself instead of pushing it all on other people, even if it’s only in your thoughts.

5. Find a true hobby. Your hobbies and what you do in your spare time says a lot about you. If you don’t like that you’re playing video games four hours a day when you get home from work, maybe you should step back and figure out some other things in your life that you’d like to explore instead. Maybe you’re just an avid video gamer and you’re playing with your entire family. That says a lot right there too. Positive things! But step back and make sure you’re filling your spare time with things that you truly love, not things you’re doing just because it’s popular, or to avoid your true self.

6. Learn to say no. It’s hard to say no to people, or even opportunities, especially if it makes you feel guilty or selfish to do so. But look up at point #2. If you know what you tend toward — introverted or extroverted — you’re going to know more about your limits and the limits of others. That’s when it gets a little easier to start saying no to the things that aren’t really going to help anyone, or make them or you happy, in the long run.

7. Find some silence every single day. Life is loud. Life is crazy. Singling out some time just for you, and making sure it is quite literally SILENT, is essential … and not just for introverted people who prefer silence. I think it’s essential for human beings in general. How can you know yourself if you can’t hear yourself? Even if it’s just three minutes, find some silence to ask yourself how you’re doing and what you might need to do to alter your course, even if it’s just slightly, in order to find your center again. Sometimes that means following #6 and saying no to something. Sometimes it means saying yes.

8. Check your social media interactions. Consistently. I think a lot can be said about how we interact on social media. Take a good, hard look at how you interact and what it might be saying about you. Do you always want to prove yourself right? Are you seeking out ways to state your opinion everywhere to make yourself feel validated? What are you trying to validate and why? If you get upset after being on social media, why? Really try to figure out how social media makes you feel, how you’re interacting, what you share and why you are sharing it and what you’re expecting out of sharing it. Knowing these things and studying them can say so much about you. I’ve found that it often shows me where I’m feeling a lack in my life. That’s when I have to ask why, how, and what I should do to fill that lack.

9. Realize your true friends. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with #1. Your true friends are the people who know you best. Sit down and make a list of the people you’d tell anything to. Once you know who those people are (there probably aren’t a lot), sit down and have a chat with them about what they see as your strengths and weaknesses. If they truly love you, they’ll tell you the truth. It’s an eye opener.

10. Learn to admit your worst imperfections to other people. It’s a good thing to be able to admit to other people face-to-face that you are not perfect and there are things you’re working on. When you can realize and face your worst imperfections and admit them to other people, you are finally ready to see yourself as you are, your True Self, so to speak. Seeing that True Self doesn’t mean you’ll love that True Self, but it does mean you can start discerning between what is amazing about you and what might need some working on. And not obvious things, either, but the things that will get to the root of everything else you’d like to better about yourself.

I believe it’s only when you can see your true self that you can truly see others, as well.

Reading My Reviews Has Paralyzed Me

Although I’m always telling author friends of mine that they shouldn’t read reviews, the truth is that I do read reviews sometimes. I stay the hell away from Goodreads these days, but I didn’t always, and I do look at my Amazon reviews every once in awhile, mainly because there aren’t that many, and it’s easy to see when a new one has popped up, and let’s face it, as an author, it’s REALLY HARD NOT TO LOOK. And I still read them even though I know that 90% of what’s in them is what the reader brought to the table, not what’s actually in the book. Reviews are none of my business, but I peek anyway, and I think over the long run it has hurt me.

Why?

Because every time I sit down these days, I feel paralyzed. I have NINE titles out. Nine titles with reviews. Nine titles’ worth of reviews floating around in my head, taunting me. It’s a lot.

I write whiny characters. I write boring, slow-moving plots with robotic-like characters. My novellas are too short and not detailed enough. My female characters need to be more kick-ass. I need more sex in my stories. I need erotic sex in my stories. I need less sex in my stories. Those swear words need to go. There wasn’t enough real language. I need more world building. My characters are too timid. There is no emotional connection. On and on and on.

And yes, I know I can’t listen to reviews, but the bad thing is that I have in the past, and even though I’m a very forgetful person, those negative reviews stick like glue inside my head, especially when I see similar things said on multiple books. All the positive ones? Those seem to flit away on the breeze. Even if I read them now, their sparkle isn’t as bright anymore.

I really do listen to my editor and close beta readers and improve based on what they say, but that’s as far as it should go. I shouldn’t be changing my writing for other people. But it’s like I broke all of my fingers in the past and they’re just not healing. I’m allowing all the negativity I’ve read in the past affect what I’m doing today. It’s affecting my creativity. It’s affecting what I choose to write. It’s affecting me in ways I never thought possible, and I’m not sure how to fix it. Writing is painful these days, so painful that in the past few weeks, I’ve kind of stopped altogether. It’s not that I need constant praise and positivity to write, but I guess I’ve reached a point where I’m wanting to go in a different publishing direction with my writing, and I’m too afraid to do it because of that negativity hanging out in my head. If only I was ignorant to all of those reviews! I could write in that happy, blissful pre-publication state again. In other words, I’m a mess right now and I’ve got to figure out a way to write past all this. Anyone been here before?

 

Never Underestimate A 10-Year Idea …

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I’ve known Janci for several years. When I first met her, I had no idea she was a writer, and then when I was informed of the fact by other people around me, I was quite pleased. Not many people top the cool charts the way she does! Like me, Janci writes in several different genres, and what I’ve read of hers so far, I love. She and her husband both do what they love for careers – at home. They are an example to me of following your heart and dreams. Today, I’ve invited Janci here to my blog to talk about her new book, EVERYTHING’S FINE, and how it has stuck around for over 10 years. I know this feeling well, since THE BREAKAWAY was one such similar book for me. Read on! Janci has some great things to say here!

Janci Patterson writes fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary young adult novels. Her first book, CHASING THE SKIP, will be published by Henry Holt in 2012. Janci lives in Orem, Utah, with her husband, Drew Olds. When she’s not writing, she manages Drew’s painting business, and plays geek games of all kinds.

I wrote the first draft of Everything’s Fine in 2004, so this book was ten years in the making. The idea started with this line: “So I stole Haylee’s journal.  We might as well get that out in the open right now.”  As soon as I had that line, I knew it was the beginning of a book. I experimented with it. Why does Kira take Haylee’s journal? What is it that she’s trying to hide?

Across years worth of drafts, a few things stayed the same, but more changed. It got sent out on rounds of submission several times, and always I discovered afterward that the book still wasn’t quite working. Many times I thought about giving up on this book — about just declaring it a trunk novel and leaving it alone. But inevitably as soon as I decided that, I’d have an idea for how to make the book better, and I’d rewrite it again.

Because of its long road to publication, Everything’s Fine is my most re-written novel to date, and anyone who knows me knows I’m not shy about rewriting novels. I started over from scratch at least three times, and heavily revised it dozens of times over. To give you an idea, here are a few of the more recent changes:

  • If you’ve read the book, you know that every other chapter is an in-scene flashback from a different point in Kira and Haylee’s friendship. Those chapters didn’t even make it into the book until January, when I pulled the book out and rewrote it yet again, this time with the intent of sending it to my editor. I was having a hard time getting the reader to connect to Haylee, since she’s already dead when the book begins.  Alaya Dawn Johnson suggested that I take all the flashbacks out of the book and put them in scene, and it turned out to be just what the book needed. So grateful for that critique. Without it, I think the book might have hung out in limbo forever.
  • Kira is now an only child, but from the first draft in 2004 to the first draft that my editor read back in February, she had an older sister who came for Christmas with her college boyfriend. I loved Lainie and Derek. They had a lot of awesome scenes. But in the end, Lainie’s scenes were taking away from the space I had to develop Kira’s relationship with her mother, which was much more important to the arc. So out of the book they went.
  • For a long time, Kira’s secret was that she had an eating disorder. Then I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls, and realized I wasn’t doing any kind of justice to that concept. Then I had to give Kira a new secret … and I did, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.

I almost gave up on this book dozens of times, but now that it’s finished, I’m so glad I didn’t. I was ready to abandon it, Kira’s voice was never ready to abandon me. I think this is a book that wanted to be written. Who was I to stand in its way? It makes me giddy to see it finally done, and in a form that other people are getting to read. Kira’s character took a long journey with me, and getting to share her story is the best of all possible endings.

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Kira thought she knew everything about her best friend, Haylee. But when Haylee commits suicide immediately after her first date with her longtime crush, Bradley Johansen, Kira is left with nothing but questions, and a gaping hole in her life where Haylee used to be. 

Kira is sure that the answers to her questions must be written in Haylee’s journal, but she’s not the only one searching for it. The more Kira learns about Haylee’s past, the more certain she is that other people grieving for Haylee are keeping secrets—especially Bradley, and Haylee’s attractive older cousin Nick. Kira is desperate to get to Haylee’s journal before anyone else finds it—to discover the truth about what happened to Haylee— 

And to hide the things that Haylee wrote down about her. 

From the author of CHASING THE SKIP comes EVERYTHING’S FINE, a new contemporary YA novel about secrets and loss, and the winner of the 2007 Utah Arts Council award for Best Young Adult Novel.

Add Everything’s Fine to your Goodreads shelf.

Purchase Everything’s Fine on Amazon

Find Janci on jancipatterson.comFacebook, and Twitter.

On Jealousy

Authors-AnonymousLast night, I watched the movie Authors Anonymous. It was a movie I’d only heard of yesterday, thanks to a friend on Facebook. Since I had spent the day bent over the toilet and feeling like crap from some sort of flu bug, I decided a movie was in order, so I rented it. I’m glad I did because it’s an interesting, almost painful story that hit me in several spots. The story is about a group of unpublished authors who welcome in a new author to their writing group. But this new author quickly finds an agent, a huge book deal, and a movie deal. Jealousy — extreme jealousy — sets in with the rest of the group. One of the authors, a Tom Clancy wannabe, decides to vanity publish his book with no success at all. The other authors — well, watch it to see what they choose to do and where that leads.

What struck me so hard was that I could relate in the most painful ways to these jealous authors. All of us authors know, or have even been, that successful author. Those jealous feelings are familiar. Needless to say, the story ends in a way I predicted, but satisfyingly surprising, nonetheless. One of the themes was:

THE ONLY WAY YOU’LL GET ANYWHERE IS BY STICKING YOUR BUTT IN THE CHAIR AND WRITING EVERY DAY

Which is true, absolutely, but even if you get everything you want, it may not last, and it may not be what you thought it would be. Plus, there is something to be said about getting stuck and not writing and figuring out important lessons along the way.

One of the authors has a picture of herself with the quote, “The only way you’ll fail is if you stop writing.”

True, true, but you’ll find failures when you keep writing too. And as I’ve said in an earlier post, the problem with the advice “never give up” is …“Never giving up will guarantee you exactly one thing every single time – experience – and sometimes nothing more.”

And the thing that really struck me is how important it is not to let success go to your head. None of the characters in this film were black and white, necessarily. Some of their stereotypes were pretty typical, but I liked how the film explored different facets of their motivations. It’s a stinging satire, filmed in a mockumentary-type style. Not everyone will appreciate it, but I certainly did. The one author who wasn’t truly jealous … let’s just say I’m a little inspired to make a few changes in my own writing life.

What a World of Saying “No” Is Like

being-sensitive-is-a-way-of-life.wps5_-724x1024As most everyone knows, I’m very sensitive. I thought I was crazy for most of my life, until I discovered that I’m actually an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) with a brain that processes things differently than 80% of the population. Basically, everything is more for me, so I am constantly going through these mini crises in my life. Just ask people I know. “Michelle is always going through some sort of Huge Event or Life Change or Big Decision,” I can hear people saying. “It must be exhausting for her.”

It is.

Sometime last year I decided it was time to start saying no to things. All those writer’s conferences so many authors insist are completely essential? I’ve said no to going. Signings? I’ve said no to many of them. Getting together with friends just to hang out? I say no probably far too often. All that photography I used to do? I’ve given it up. Church events outside of Sunday service I’m supposed to attend? I don’t attend. Play dates I should set up for my daughter? I don’t plan them. My husband’s plays? I don’t always go.

I’m starting to sound like a total deadbeat and hermit, I know, but it’s really just me pushing more and more things off my plate … to make room for what will fit. And what fits is time with my family at home, time to focus on my writing, time to focus on my spirituality, and time to exercise and stay healthy. That’s pretty much it. Everything else is extra. I love my friends, but I have had to make the difficult — and often lonely, I’ll admit — decision that those other things have to come first. I can keep in touch online or through my phone, if time allows. Maybe I’m a bad friend, I don’t know. But I can only stretch myself so much before I snap. Nobody wants to hear you are a burden in their life, and that’s not what I mean when I say no to things. All it really means is that I am creating the kind of life for myself that works for what and who I am, nothing more … so that when I do spend time with those I love, or I do find the energy to get out and play or help and support others, I’m not a total wreck. I also think it’s something that feeds itself. The more I find my own balance, the more I’m able to enjoy myself and also do for others in the long run.

So this world of saying no is a tough one not everyone will understand. But it’s one that allows me to see past the fog. It’s one that allows me to uncurl from my fetal position and actually live my life — even if that life is more solitary than other people’s lives, and even if that life is one most other people do not understand in the slightest. I’m lonelier now than I was a few years ago, I will admit. But I’m more at peace. So it’s a tradeoff, I guess. I like to be social, but if I’m not careful, I can let too many social events eat away at me until it literally takes me months to recover. It’s not just a mental issue, either. It’s physical, often erupting in issues like headaches, extreme fatigue, bouts of depression, and increased anger and anxiety. It has taken me years to figure this out, unfortunately, and even longer to figure out that it’s not only physical events, but online activity as well.

I’m not sure why I’m even sharing this. I guess it’s because I feel like I’m not understood in the writing community, or in other circles, as well. I feel like mental issues like this aren’t greatly understood unless you’ve suffered from it yourself, and it’s helpful to put it out there in some sort of explanation, even if it feels like a lame attempt at describing something truly impossible to describe. I don’t mean to hurt anyone when I say no to things, and I don’t mean to come off looking like I’m lazy or that I don’t care or don’t want to be a part of things. BECAUSE I REALLY, REALLY DO want to be a part of things, more than you can even imagine … but picture yourself at a rock concert, surrounded by thousands of disorganized, loud people, even louder music thundering through your ears and body, heavy smoke in the air, and trying to solve complicated math problems for an exam you have tomorrow. That’s kind of like the inside of my head 24-7 if I’m out of balance.

But if I’m in balance, I’m eager and excited to do all those normal, extra things! And I’m much more likely to say YES.

Here’s a good video about being HSP and saying no vs. letting go

How I Lost Weight

At the expense of exposing a page out of my “highlight reel”, here are all the sounds-easy-but-it-wasn’t/isn’t way I have lost 35+ pounds since November of 2013. I’m putting this up on my blog because I keep getting asked about the weight and thought it might be nice to answer it all in one spot. Firstly, however, I never thought of myself as completely unattractive or ugly or disgusting. I just happened to look at our family pictures in October of 2013, realized I was a lot heavier than I used to be, actually weighed myself on the scale, and said, “Oh … that’s why I’ve been having to buy such larger-sized pants. Duh …” And here I was thinking it was the fashion industry’s fault for mis-sizing pants. Wake up call. Right? Right. I was really good at deluding myself and ignoring facts right in front of me. That was when I decided I was finally in a place where I felt like I could start an exercise and healthier eating routine. Here’s how I did it.

It wasn’t a diet. I lost 35 pounds in 6 months, which is a good, healthy weight loss for me. Not too fast, not too slow. Not too much. I’m sure you want a list of how I accomplished this. Also, please keep in mind that what works for me won’t work for everyone. Some people have medical issues that complicate matters. Some people just burn fat differently. I’m not a doctor. So, now that that’s out of the way, moving on. This is what worked for me.

Reasons to Lose Weight

First, I want to make it clear that I didn’t lose weight just so I could look better. I lost weight because I felt unhealthy. I was depressed (more than usual), my skin had problems, my digestive system wasn’t up to par, and I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be. So I decided to make exercise and eating healthier foods and portions a priority. I GAVE UP A LOT OF STUFF to do this. I still give up a lot to do this. I give up a full 1 – 2 hours every morning to exercise (time I could be writing/cleaning/playing/sleeping …). I give up money buying better food. I give up time cooking more food at home, and keeping my kitchen clean. That all adds up, but it’s worth it to me right now.

Food Diary

This was absolute key for me. I used MyFitnessPal on my phone to track my calories each day, staying within a specific goal after researching how much I wanted/should weigh with how many calories I should be eating a day to safely lose 1 – 2 pounds a week. I used a FitBit wristband for 7 days to more accurately calculate how many calories I actually burn every day by just existing and going about my normal schedule. I hate things on my wrist, so the FitBit then went to my husband, but I at least knew now how many calories I burn on a normal schedule. This way I could figure out what I should be consuming to lose weight. For the record, the FitBit tracked almost exactly the same amount of calories that most sites averaged I was probably burning at my current age, weight, and activity level, so it’s nice to know you don’t have to get a FitBit to do this.

I still keep a food diary even though I’ve lost the weight I want to lose. I take weekends off from tracking, but track my food Monday – Friday to maintain the weight I’m at.

Also, when I eat out, I’m more likely to choose restaurants that publish their nutritional content online. I wish every restaurant did this.

Weigh Myself Every Day

Some say this is just depressing. It actually helps me A LOT. I still weigh myself every day because it helps me keep in mind where I’m at and what I’m eating and doing every day to keep myself at that weight.

Choose Healthier Foods & Moderate Portions

This. Is. Hard. It’s very hard. I felt like I was starving for a solid month, honestly, but it was only because I was so used to consuming so many more calories every day, and now I was cutting back. My stomach had to shrink, and my body had to get used to not eating as much sugar or unhealthy, empty calories and carbohydrates. But now? I still eat unhealthy food sometimes, sure, but I eat less of it, and on the whole I’m choosing healthier foods. I also don’t eat as much sugar or bread as I used to.

As far as what foods I am eating now, I am not eating, like, wheat grass and green smoothies every day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not my style. I like normal-ish food, not diets I’m never going to be able to maintain for the rest of my existence, and that kind of stuff isn’t something I’m going to maintain, personally. So it has been a matter of not necessarily cutting out certain foods, just a matter adding more healthy foods and cutting down on how many unhealthy foods I eat, and when, and being aware of what is in my food before I put it in my mouth. If I’m aware of the amount of calories and carbs — and the kind of calories and carbs – in that bowl of ice cream, I’m more likely to eat 1 scoop instead of 2 or 3. But I still eat 1 scoop because, yeah, ice cream. And I’m not going to eat the other scoops the next day. Maybe a few days later, or a week later.

Here are some helpful links:

Basics of Carbohydrates

How Much Should I Weigh?

The Dos and Don’ts of Counting Calories

Believe it or not, you can eat normally and still lose weight. I have. I lost weight through the worst time of the year — holidays and winter. If I can do that, there’s something there. I think it actually helped because it taught me how to more carefully choose what yummy foods to eat, and to eat less and be satisfied with that. Not easy, but you get the idea.

Exercise

For most people, weight loss is a pretty simple concept. I know some people have health problems that inhibit weight loss, or medications can interfere, or genes, or other outlying factors. But for most people, it’s simply a matter of expending more calories than you’re consuming. And exercise is key for that. It not only burns calories while you’re doing it, but it will build more muscle to keep those calories burning even when you’re not exercising. Plus, it makes you feel good overall, which helps you make better choices about your lifestyle. Win win.

I exercise 5 – 6 days a week now, at least for 30 minutes. For a long time in those 6 months, I exercised for 60 minutes every morning. It’s a habit now. Sometimes I take the weekends off, but it’s okay. As long as I am exercising on a regular basis.

I mostly cycle on my stationary bike and watch Kdramas. Low impact. Easy to stay at home. Entertainment. Win win.

Consistency & Support

Support is essential. I found a friend of mine who wanted to lose weight, as well, and she and I allowed each other to see our food diaries, so we felt somewhat accountable to each other. My husband also decided to start losing a bit of weight halfway through my weight loss. He has lost a bunch now too. It was really helpful to have him on board since it’s easier to change my eating habits if the whole family is okay with it.

Consistency is also essential. I’m not sure what else to say. Just … stay consistent. Don’t give up. It will be hard at times, and it will keep being hard. I still do all the things I mentioned above. Every single one. I’m not trying to lose more weight, but I’m maintaining what I have because I’m keeping my lifestyle consistent with the goals I set. I didn’t “go on a diet”. I changed the way I live.

Other Changes

And for the sake of tying this into writing, I have to say that since I am healthier now, I feel a lot more productive with my writing. Win!

 This is me in the family picture I spoke of 

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This is me last week at the aquarium with my family

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How Light May Be Affecting Your Creativity

I had insomnia something fierce last week, probably because my stress levels were getting a little out of control. It was affecting everything, especially my writing. But what made the insomnia worse was something I had never considered.

I’ve always been aware that lower levels of light are better for me at night because the darker a room is, the easier it is for me to sleep. So I’ve always been careful about keeping lights off after a specific hour of the day so I can wind down. Last week, however, I found myself wide awake despite this routine. To try to make myself sleepy, I used some lavender oil and took some melatonin since my body didn’t seem to be wanting to produce much of it on its own. Didn’t work, even in the slightest. I started the worrying cycle. Maybe taking melatonin every once in awhile had screwed up my body’s natural production somehow, even though I rarely take it. Maybe I would never sleep again. I tend to get very dramatic late at night with no sleep.

I ended up posting about my insomnia on Facebook, and a friend of mine told me she installed an application on her computer that changes the colors of light on her computer screen and that this has helped her immensely. Interested, I went over to the site and tried the program (you can find it here — f.lux). Immediately, the more yellow/reddish colored screen decreased the tension behind my eyes. I spent another thirty minutes on my computer that night, and eventually closed it down and went to sleep. And I slept. I slept. It was fantastic.

So it wasn’t only the AMOUNT of light, I realized. It was also the COLOR of light that was affecting me.

I’m not saying that changing the colors of light on my computer screen have cured my insomnia, but it sure has helped being aware of such a thing. I was interested as to why, and went online to find some articles about light and how it affects our brains. I found this one, in particular — What’s In a Color? The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light — that really made it clear why we should be more careful about how we expose ourselves to light, if we can help it.

BLUE LIGHT SUPPRESSES MELATONIN

So all those times I couldn’t sleep and I’d open up my computer or my iPad to wile away the hours in an attempt to make myself sleepy … all that blue light was actually working against me in a very physical way, by suppressing melatonin, the very chemical that helps you sleep.

I also use a blue wavelength light during the day. It has quite literally helped my depression levels during the winter, and it helps me write better during the day, but I’ve noticed if I keep that light on past 5:00 p.m., I’m more likely to have trouble falling asleep that night.

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WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR WRITERS?

I know a lot of we writers write at night, so if you find yourself having trouble sleeping after you write, it might not be because your brain is filled with all those words and scenes. It might be because you’re using a computer emitting blue light, and you’re messing up your body’s natural rhythms. It’s something to consider.

On the opposite end, if you have trouble writing during the day, staying focused, etc., you may want to try a blue light. I have a Verilux Happy Light light I use at my desk during the day.

We all work better creatively when we are properly rested, so you may want to take into consideration the kind of light you’re exposed to during different times of the day if you’re having trouble with sleep or staying awake during the daytime. A blue light can improve your focus during the day, which is why I keep one at my writing desk.

It’s nice to know these things so you can plan and understand how your body is working.

I’M NO DOCTOR OR SCIENTIST

This post is only to share what I’ve discovered and how it has helped me, so don’t use any of it as actual medical advice, please. I wish you luck on your own sleep and writing schedules!

Have you had any experience with this or have any other thoughts than what I’ve expressed here? Please share in the comments!

Negative Review … Old Book … What Was My Response?

So, it used to be that I read all my reviews. You know, back in the day when my first book was published and my cute little naive feelings were so easy to crush like a glass under a freaking boot. Shattered. I’d spend weeks stewing over what people thought and said about my words, my characters, my beloved stories.

Today. Well, a friend of mine talked me into joining Tumblr once again. Which I have, and I’m doing it differently this time around and it’s much less stressful and lot more carefree. Anyhow. Today. I was on Tumblr and happened to run across a review of an older book of mine, published a few years ago. I decided to read it, even though I avoid reviews these days, because it was for an older book and I thought, “I wonder if I’ll care …”

The review was negative and objected some things I’ve heard objected before. I stared at the screen when I was finished, waiting for that old hurt and crushed feeling to come back. The shortness of breath. The urge to fly my fingers over the keys in some sort of angry response (which I’ve never done, but I get the urge).

None of that came.

I kept staring and staring and I felt nothing. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard it all before countless times on other books of mine back when I did read more reviews? Maybe it’s because I’m more distanced from that book now?

Who knows. But it was nice.

Not that I’ll be seeking out reviews on older books from here on out. Still, an interesting experience, to say the least. If it had been a review for my most currently released novel … the response would probably have been a lot different.