January 31, 2017

the blah, blah, blahs

My brain is on vacation or hiatus. It hasn't told me which or where.

They're called the winter blues for a reason. Something about being cooped up inside and missing out on sunlight, which depletes our energy and gives us a funk. (It's science.) I've always found this to be an interesting sort of explanation, at least for me. While I definitely get the winter blues, I find it hard to believe it's all weather related. I mean, it's not like I'm an outdoorsy person in the spring or summer. So am I really getting that much less sunlight? (Maybe I am. I'm not a scientist.)

It's no surprise that in the final days of January, with the distance between the holidays and today growing bigger and bigger, I'm pretty drained. Unmotivated. Maybe even a little bummed--or bored. It's hard to say. It's not like I'm unhappy. Not even fully exhausted. Just ennui with a touch of apathy.

Yes, it's true. I have the blah, blah, blahs.

This really became more apparent to me yesterday when a fellow author/friend mentioned how nice I make the writing life look on my Instagram feed. It's true, I usually try to highlight the nice, because I truly feel lucky to be telling stories and have anyone want to read them. But it isn't always pretty and filtered. And maybe I'm not being honest by only showing the good in my attempt to be positive.

So here it is: honesty. The past few months have been hard for me as a writer.

For any number of reasons, the words just aren't flowing as nicely as I'd like. For one, my head and heart are full of thoughts and feelings that have little relevance to the stories I'm trying to tell. I could try to ignore them, but they're too important to erase. Also, as I mentioned, it's winter. I'm not outdoorsy, but I miss the sun and not wearing a coat or gloves. I'm also probably giving into temptation to buy donuts and cookies at the store too often (which is either a lack of willpower or an attempt to give myself short bursts of energy and excitement through the ennui). These and other issues are all swirling together to make me a bit of a pile. I'm an author pile.

I've tried all of my usual practices to get myself out of this funk: going to a favorite cafe, reading other stories that inspire, re-working my outline/character charts, drinking more water, taking baths. When those have failed, I've tried new approaches: ordering a writing desk to try writing in bed before work, carving out specific time to relax, etc. These attempts haven't been a total failure. I still managed to write some words this month. But each word feels hard fought. I feel like my head is full of cobwebs or slush.

Then there are the comparisons. Even as I'm painting a pretty picture of my world via photos and quirky posts, I'm comparing myself to others. If I could change one thing about myself, it would be that I'd stop holding myself up against others in an effort to see what they have that I don't have. That's not healthy. Admiring others--appreciating their successes--is okay. But looking at them to try to find some magical spark about them that proves why they're better than you isn't good for anyone. It's unfair and unkind to myself and to everyone else.

Still, I keep trying. Because if I've learned anything while living with anxiety issues and bouts of depression, it's that I have to keep trying, to keep moving on. Otherwise I get stuck, which feels worse.

I'm not 100 percent sure what I'm trying to say here with this post. (As I've mentioned, I'm struggling to put my thoughts together at this time--particularly when it comes to writing.) I guess my big point is that it's okay to have down times. It's even better to know when you're managing or when you need to do something more or different. Like for me right now, I'm managing. But that's about all I'm doing.

I've been managing for a couple of months now, and I need to do more than that. Maybe I go back into counseling. Maybe I carve out more time for exercise. Maybe I take more of a break from social media. Maybe I cut out processed sugars. (I really hope I can change my feelings and thinking without swearing off sugar!) Maybe I need to ask for more help. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay if everything isn't always pretty and filtered.

Other point of this post: It's also okay to sometimes write a somewhat (or maybe totally) nonsensical blog post or scene just to keep yourself writing through periods when the words aren't flowing easily. At least that's what I'll keep telling myself too.


*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. I post new videos on YouTube every Thursday and you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

January 17, 2017

anticipating the worst


On one of the first frigid mornings this winter, I woke the way I do most days: with my little boy cat, Bingley, scaling my back to come sit on my side. The temperatures had dropped rapidly overnight. Id failed to have the foresight--or maybe motivation--to add a thermal blanket or trade the cotton sheets for flannel, I'd pulled the comforter over my head like a makeshift cocoon. Apparently distressed by his inability to see my face, Bingley went about tugging the covers loose inch by inch. He did it biscuit-baking style, which only made this process more laborious.

This only gave me more time to consider what would happen next. Just what exactly did Bingley have in mind once he'd uncovered me?

Several possibilities came to mind. Most involved him sticking his nose in my eye or ear. He does that last one a lot, and it's basically the kitten equivalent of a wet willy. Only he usually accompanies that with a meow, which means a wet ear AND Bing in surround sound. There was also a good chance he'd lick me. While I'm flattered he loves me and wants to show affection, my friends, there are few things that feel stranger than a cat's rough tongue scraping over your forehead. (Plus, I have enough of Bridget Jones in me to worry that it's a sign I may wind up one day dead and alone, eaten by my cats. How's that for a morbid thought to start the day.) At least I assume he does it because he loves me. The cats always have some dry food and water in their bowls, so that's the only explanation I can come up with. That or Bing enjoys inflicting discomfort on others. It could go either way.

So I stayed there, keeping as still as possible, hoping he might give up on his mission all the while worrying about what he would do. Even though it probably took minutes versus seconds, he never gave up on his quest. The cover came down inch by inch, the cold air greeting my skin, sending even more chills down my spine.

I wonder if he's dreaming about new ways to wake me up.

At last Bingley succeeded. I froze, clenching my eyes shut, bracing myself for the moment he'd get me.

Seemingly exhausted from the effort, he collapsed heavily onto my shoulder. One paw was draped over my back, the other to my chest. His face leaned forward, his light breath chilled my neck. Then, he rested his furry cheek against mine and passed out.

It was maybe the cutest, sweetest moment I've ever had with my cat. Made even better by the fact I'd been preparing myself for the worst only to have him surprise me with a show of affection that I couldn't pass up. Even if it came before dawn.

I've been meditating on this exchange off and on since. I'm sure there's a lesson of sorts to be learned here. Something about how so often in life I often prepare myself for the worst. Maybe we all do that. It's a learned behavior. Something we've picked up after being burned before. It's hard not to worry. It's hard not to be scared when you don't know exactly what comes next. It's hard to forget about past upsets.

I do this all the time. I panicked about my trip to France last April. I acted like a real a-hole to other people and really braced myself for disappointment. It ended up being one of my highlights of the year. No, it wasn't perfect, but missing a train and ending up killing time with a plate of croissants and fresh-squeezed orange juice wasn't exactly a tragedy. I also came up with my current work-in-progress while I sat in a cafe one evening waiting out a rainstorm (and protest) that left us stranded several blocks from our home base.

I mean, seriously. Check out that set-up.
Not a bad way to spend a couple hours at all.

Life is full of surprises. Some of those surprises are sweet. Those deserve just as much consideration (maybe even more) than my always anticipating the worst. It's not easy to change something so ingrained in our personalities (or at least in mine). But it's probably worth a shot.


*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. I post new videos on YouTube every Thursday and you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

January 10, 2017

persevere


I know it was super trendy to say that 2016 sucked, and I vaguely recall a similar sentiment at the end of 2015 and probably 2014. So it's not terribly original of me to say that last year was tough for a lot of people.

Though my own woes feel kind of insignificant when you measure them next to others, I had a few toughies. There was having my publisher close suddenly and unexpectedly and my having to figure out what to do. There was the general up and down of learning how to be an Indie author. Then again the ups and downs of querying agents and publishers to see about that side of the business. There were personal issues. And so on. Fears. Doubts. Anger. Sadness. A lot of bummery in general.

It's hard not to let all of that get the best of you. Still, in 2016, I made it my goal to believe. That was my word of the year, and I literally wore it as a badge around my neck with my inscribed necklace from The Giving Keys.


Like a good little wordsmith, I seriously considered the meaning of that word: believe. According to good old Merriam-Webster's dictionary, the definition is simple:
a :  to have a firm religious faith
b :  to accept something as true, genuine, or real 
That's exactly what I needed going from 2015 to 2016. I needed to believe in myself and what I was doing. I needed to have faith that I was on the path I needed to be on in my life. I needed to accept that my actions and feelings and goals were true, genuine, and real. Whenever I got down on myself or where I was in my journey, I'd remind myself to believe. It didn't magically make things better, but it helped. A lot. Slowly but surely, I've come to truly and fully believe that I am on the path I need to be on at this point in my life. I've come to believe that I have stories to tell and that they matter.

And in a year that had some big downs for me--and others--I still found a lot to be happy and thankful for, because I could keep things in perspective. Because I believed, I had more confidence. (Most of the time, because let's be real. I'm a tad dramatic and am quick to feel like the sky is falling--though I've managed to minimize how often I jump to that place. So, progress.)

Still, there's a lot of self-doubt. There are a lot of unanswered questions. I get fearful often and question myself and my world. Sometimes, I feel so out of control--and so anxious about it--I get overwhelmed. That's when I remind myself that everything will work out and I have to do my best. I have to persevere.
to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement
Meriam-Websters got this definition exactly right for me again. This year, I need to persist no matter what life throws at me. I need to carry on even when the unknowns seem daunting. In 2017, I am going to persevere.


I wrote about some of my goals for 2017 in last week's post. A lot of these are comparable to resolutions I've made in years past. I'm still such a big work in progress that I have to persevere, to carry on in the pursuit of being my best and doing my best.

In the spirit of The Giving Keys, I passed my old necklace on to someone else. I'll admit, it wasn't easy to do. I wore that necklace every day for a year, and in a way, it kind of felt like I was giving away a piece of me. But it wouldn't have been right for me to hold onto it when someone else maybe needed it more at this point in his or her life.

I asked my Facebook and Instagram followers to contact me if they needed a little extra reminder to believe, and I randomly selected one to send it to for the new year.

During the week submissions were open, I carefully read each message. Every person had a different and truly unique reason for needing to believe. There were personal goals, wishes for others, and desires for belief at large. While I'd known how important that word was for me, it struck something within me to realize just how much we all need to believe.

I wish I could have sent the necklace to every person who sent me their stories. Seriously. If you are reading this and are one of the people who sent me your story, please know that I truly appreciate your getting in touch and sharing your story with me. Each one gave me something to consider in myself, and I'm still thinking about the words you sent. So thank you for that gift to me.

Whether you're needing to believe in yourself or persevere this year--or maybe your primary goal is something entirely different--I wish you lots of luck on your journey.

(Disclaimer: Though the link to The Giving Keys is a referral link--you get one for having an account and can earn points by referring people--I am not directly affiliated with the company and have not received monetary or gift compensation. I just really love their product and believe in the mission and message.)


*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. I post new videos on YouTube every Thursday and you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

January 3, 2017

new year, new resolutions


A new year always comes with new possibilities. We hope they are good. We know some will be bad. But we carry on all the same, hoping that our futures will err on the side of good.

Maybe that’s why we do New Year’s Resolutions. I’ll admit, I’m someone who always comes up with a list of ways I’m going to make myself new and improved. I’ll also admit, I don’t really understand the origin of resolutions. Neither of my parents made them (at least not as far as I know). I don’t even really know where the tradition originated. I could do a quick Google search to find out, but that’s not really the point. Regardless of where the whole concept came from, I am a sucker for making resolutions every year.

And I suck at following through with them.

I am all about goal-setting and making lists. So when a new year rolls around, of course I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish, hopefully in pursuit of making myself better and making my year good. I also tend to overreach. I say I’m going to write three or four books, find a fabulous big publisher with a contract, eat super healthy and work out all the time so I can be ripped, and then pay off all my debt and save a bunch of money, so I’ll finally have my life/shit together.

At the same time, I neglect coming up with any plans intended to enrich myself emotionally or spiritually. I end up failing at those big goals, feel overwhelmed and end up tossing out my resolutions without much to show from them. I then go through a series of meltdowns and lazy periods filled with self-loathing and general bummery. That leads to me feeling pretty bummed about everything when we come to the end of the year and I realized I haven’t done all that much. So, of course, I have to set more resolutions to make up for my previous failures, and the whole cycle starts up again.

That brings us to today, to 2017. I could say, “not this year” or “no resolutions for me,” but darn it all, this is my tradition. And even if I fail in the pursuit of making myself a better person, well, at least I tried.

All the same, this year I’m doing a slightly different take with my resolutions. Rather than focus on weight-loss (which would be great, but is also stressful), bestsellership (which is awesome, but realistically, probably not in the cards for me this year), and deciding I’ll get my shit together at last, I’m going to focus on doing things that I think will bring me happiness and balance. I want to stop telling myself I need to be good and better and focus on doing good and making my world better. I want to be happy, not perfect. I want to live my best life and be my best me, even if that means learning to accept and love my flaws.

With that in mind, here’s my list of resolutions--or better yet goals and aspirations--for 2017.


Read 50 new-to-me books. 


I’m a big re-reader of stories, and I’m never going to stop doing that. Re-reading my favorites brings me so much joy. But, I become a better-rounded person and writer when I read other books. Bonus: I'm going to challenge myself to diversify my reading more. Last year I read more non-fiction, which really expanded my thinking. I should continue that, but I also want to read stories by authors from more diverse backgrounds to hopefully expand my world-view.


Watch more new-to-me movies. 

Like with books, I tend to re-watch the same movies, which is okay. But between $5 movies on Tuesdays and before 11 a.m. on weekends at our local theaters and my Netflix and Amazon subscriptions, I have a lot of never-before-seen movies at my fingertips. A few years ago, my sister and I went and saw bunches of movies during the first few months of the year. When I lived in Houston, I'd rent at least three new movies a week from RedBox. I watched things I loved, things I disliked, but all in all, I genuinely think it made me better. Plus, planning movie time is like planning productive downtime, which I really need.

Bake a loaf of bread every month.

I made my first non-quick bread in 2016, and it kind of changed my life. There was something so therapeutic about kneading bread and letting the smell of it fill my house. While I don't eat a ton of bread, I can freeze what I don't use right away. I hope this will be fun and a way for me to be more conscious of what I'm eating. That leads me to...

Try one new recipe every week. 

Of course this will vary based on travel/work, but I have this on the list for a few reasons. One, I need to stop defaulting to takeout/fast food, because I'm bored with my options at home. It's pricey and not so healthy. Two, I'm great at saving recipes on Pinterest to make later only to never follow-up. This is accountability. Three, like with the bread, I hope it will help me pay more attention to what I'm eating and discover a joy in cooking. Who knows? As an added benefit, maybe it will help me make healthier decisions when I eat all around. Plus, I like cooking. I just forget that.

Do 30 minutes of cardio five times a week. 

Yes, yes, this is pretty much the same thing I tell myself every year. Only, most of the time I say it as part of a plan to lose weight. This year, I want to make it part of my routine as something I do, because it is good for me. I want to find ways of enjoying these 150 minutes every week. I won't deny that dropping some L-Bs wouldn't be nice, but that can't be my main objective. I've tried that--and dieting--before. It works temporarily, then I rebel. Badly. And I do remember enjoying exercise. Not necessarily the act of it, but how I felt after doing it. I was less sluggish and had more energy. I could go for both.

Try the whole clean-as you-go-deal I keep hearing about.

I've read several articles that suggest doing a little bit of housework every day to keep you from panicking whenever you have people over. I've meant to implement something like this for years, but haven't. I still don't know if I'll be great at it. But basically, I'd be happy if I could make it a habit to unload the dishwasher when it's clean, load dishes as I use them, make my bed every morning, and take the damn trash out when it's full. These are all basic things, but I'm really good at being lazy.


Go on an adventure somewhere I've never been.

Last year I went to Nantes, France, and Western Nebraska for work. I'd never been either place. I'd even dreaded both trips at one point in time or another. Both turned out to be some of the most positive moments of my year. I am a homebody at heart, but I gain so much from exploring the world. I need to remember that.


Keep regular office hours for my writing career. 

It tends to be feast or famine with me when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing. I'm feeling more and more like an author these days, and I should start acting like it. I need to carve out consistent time so I feel less panicked about deadlines. I need to work at it every day so I can get better at it every day. Because all of this is a craft you have to practice over and over again. As such, I need to remember that when I write it doesn't have to be perfect. I can try scene from a few different perspectives--or start a story in different places--until it feels right.


Have a regular day of pampering every week.

Rachel Hollis, one of my favorite authors to stalk--I mean, follow--on social media, encourages women to do this. Whether it's going out and getting your nails done or giving yourself a manicure and facial at home, she says it's a great way to practice self care. All too often, I put things like this on the back burner, but making an evening of it--once a week, if even for half an hour--would go a long ways for me.


I don't know how I'll do with keeping these resolutions. They're pretty major, and I know I just have to do my best. Really, what a lot of this comes down to is making a good routine for myself. While I don't want to over-structure my life, I do need to have some. Otherwise, I end up doing nothing and feeling badly about myself.

So what about you? Are you making any resolutions? Do you have any advice for me on implementing and keeping mine? Leave a comment below.

(And, okay, after all of this, I was curious. I went ahead and ran a Google search to learn more about the origin story behind New  Year’s resolutions. Apparently it dates back to the Babylonians making promises to their gods each year to pay their debts. The Romans were in on it too. I don’t know. I’m not a historian, so I’ll direct you here or here if you’d like to read more.)


*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I post new videos on YouTube every Thursday and you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***