May 31, 2018

it's time to get my act together

I have a problem.

I've tiptoed around this subject in newsletters, on social media, and even here for (at least) the past year. But today, I'm going to spell it out explicitly, so there's no doubt.

I'm in trouble with my writing career.

This isn't specifically about the industry, sales, reviews, or marketing. (Though, in fairness, those are contributing factors.) No, my biggest problem is that I'm not writing. Sometimes it's just not writing consistently. Other times, it's plain not writing at all. I've spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out the source.

Am I too busy? That's kind of a BS explanation. Everyone is busy. I've always had a lot to do. But when I had something to write, I wrote.

So is that the problem then? Do I not have anything to write? The ideas constantly churning and swirling around and around in my head would beg to differ. I have tons of ideas. More ideas every day. All of them want to be told.

Do I have the writer's version of stage fright?

Do I just suck as a writer?

Do people hate my writing? And maybe me?

Do I hate my writing and myself?

On and on. And I'll be honest, it's maybe a little of all those reasons and more. But after spending so much time trying to pinpoint why I'm not writing, I've decided I've wasted enough time thinking about it. I'm sure the causes are all valid and worthy of consideration, but they pale after I came to this conclusion: I want to keep writing. To hell with fears, inhibitions, sales, edits, etc. etc. When it's all said and done, whether I (or anyone) want them, I have stories I want to tell and I want to be the one to keep telling them. At least for now. And as long as that's true, then I should do something about it.

Upon coming to this consensus, I realized I should probably do something about the not writing. It's not as simple as telling myself to sit down and write my book every day. I try that, and it doesn't work. So I really sat and considered when I was happiest as a writer, and I realized it was at the beginning of this journey. Years ago. When I made myself write a blog post just about every week day for a year, because I wanted to train myself to be a writer. And when I finished writing my blog posts, I found myself wanting to work on my stories too. While I didn't love every minute of it, the process made me happy.

That's when the idea popped into my head.

In an effort to duplicate those conditions (or to at least see if it'll jog some repressed memory of enjoying the ride) I've decided to write one blog post every day for the month of June. Just to see how it goes. Maybe some will be short and others long. Maybe it'll help with the writing. Maybe some of the posts will be good. Maybe I'll end up sharing a bunch of pictures of my cast. Maybe I'll write crap for thirty days in a row. (If so, this is my "sorry" in advance.) Maybe I'll realize I really do hate writing and I have nothing else to say. I hope that doesn't happen, but if it does, at least I know.

Whatever happens, I feel like I have to do this. If only to prove to myself that I can set a goal and fulfill it.

The rules are simple: One new blog post every day. It can be about anything. It just has to be new words I've written. I might write what's on my heart or mind. I might end up Googling "blog post ideas." (Hey, if you have any ideas you'd like to submit, please give me a shout on Twitter @lchapmanbooks.) I wanted to come up with some sort of cute name for this, but the best I could come up with is #junewriter. So, welcome to the #junewriter series, beginning tomorrow.

Thanks in advance for indulging me on this journey. Wish me luck.

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

May 27, 2018

the post where i get honest about fear

Blogger's Note: I wrote this post a couple weeks ago. I wrote it for myself. I wasn't sure if I could, would, or should share it. But alas, as I explain later, I decided the brave (or maybe just self-indulgent) thing to do would be to hit "publish." Here we go . . . 

Everyone keeps asking me about France. It's only natural to ask someone about a trip abroad in the first weeks after their return. "It looks like you had fun," they say, probably because they've seen the smattering of photos I've shared on Facebook and Instagram. They ask me what I did, what I ate, what it was like.

I'm quick to give my answer, the same almost rehearsed piece of dialogue. "It was a lot of fun. It was very busy and full. But it was fun. I'm so lucky I had time to explore." Then I might share an anecdote about finding the macarons Rick Steves wrote about in the backpacking travel guide I bought in 2012. When I still thought I might one day take off for eight weeks to see Europe with little more than a few pairs of jeans and T-shirts. Or I'll tell them how I was stung by a bee on my cheek for the first time ever. How I was trying to find the closest metro station to Place de la Concorde even while I worried I might discover a deadly allergy to bees. Or about being among the first people in the room to see the Mona Lisa after the Louvre opened on a Monday morning.

On and on.

I don't give these canned answers because I'm insincere. My trip was fun. Between balancing my work schedule and the long list of touristy to-do items in a limited amount of time, it was busy and full. I do feel lucky. Truly I do. I have new memories to cherish. Memories I'm grateful to have and wouldn't replace.

But I haven't told many the full truth. About how I really felt while I was in a place I've always wanted to visit.

I don't tell them I was scared. Terrified. The whole time. Not about the protests or strikes I knew to expect. Not even the possibility of a terrorist attack. I don't let myself be afraid of that. Refuse it. No, I was scared of the one, small part of my trip that came at the end. I was scared of climbing aboard subways and trains before dawn and traveling across a city I don't know, and where I don't speak the language, clad with multiple bags of luggage. Alone for the first time on this trip.

I'll be a sitting target, I thought to myself. I'll stick out as a woman traveling alone. More because I'll have suitcases and a purse that will undoubtedly carry my credit cards and American passport. People get mugged. Women get abducted. And worse. I've heard the stories. Unlike any apprehension about terrorism, I'm unable to steel myself against the fear. To tell myself it will be okay. From a week before I left for France, and until the moment I made it to the airport to return home, I was scared I'd let down my guard and become a victim. I covered for this by telling people I was afraid to miss my flight home, because it would suck, but really the fear was more raw and struck me at my core.

When it was over, it hadn't been so bad. It took me a few more days to think it had been silly of me to worry. It took another week still of off-and-on reflection to realize that it was sad, even. For a couple of reasons. It's sad because I let fear be my constant companion and taint what was truly a wonderful opportunity. And sad because, in reality, it's a fear so many of us live with, because the world we live in can be hard and cruel.

I talked about this a little with my parents. My mother nodded knowingly. She understood. My father launched into a few stories about his own European adventures and how he'd spent them alone. It was in the middle of this I interrupted and told him it wasn't a fear of being alone. It was a fear of feeling weak and like a target. It's the same fear I feel walking to my car late at night. While going on a bike trail. Or the when I hear fluttering in the attic, and it takes me a few moments to remember it's probably a mouse or a squirrel. As much as I've come to appreciate my alone time, it also becomes what I'm most afraid of when things go bump in the night.

No matter how much I rationalize the odds or tell myself it will be okay, I can't shake the fear. Even in my twenties, when I traveled for work alone, I was scared. I was probably better at managing it then. That's not true. I might walk into a motel room that didn't feel great. I'd push a chair against the door and set my alarm for an earlier hour so I'd spend as little time there as possible. But perhaps the fear didn't feel so strong, because it was so constant and I was in better practice of how to deal with it.

And it's a shame. It's a shame we teach our daughters and sisters and friends how to carry their car keys in a defensive manner. It's a shame we have to talk about carrying ourselves with a certain air. It's a shame our world isn't kinder. It's a shame fear plays such a strong role in so much of our society. Because we're all afraid of something. Of someone. I wonder if there will ever come a time when that isn't true. A utopia of sorts.

During all this contemplation, I reached for The Handmaid's Tale.

My copy of Margaret Atwood's book has moved with me to the dorms, my first apartment, my last apartment, and everywhere in between. I had to read it for AP English my senior year of high school. At the time it was one of only two required books I'd had in high school written by a woman. Already a self-described feminist, my seventeen-year-old self clung to the book and immediately named it my all-time favorite required read. I felt terribly mature and wise reading the book, picking up on the allegories and symbolism. When I read it again in college, I still carried that same air, seemingly telling people that I was "woke" before it was cool. I've always been a little pretentious like that.

I meant to read the book a few years ago. When I turned twenty-nine, I set a goal of re-reading my thirty all-time favorite books before I turned thirty. I didn't make it very far down the list, and I abandoned the idea a few months into the year. I decided to try again the year I turned thirty, but again, the plan never came to fruition. In fall 2016, when I heard about the Hulu series, I told myself I'd re-read it again, for certain this time. I always try to re-read a book before I watch a film or TV adaptation. But then I couldn't bring myself to do it or to watch the show. It's amazing, I've heard. The critics and awards love it. Still I didn't watch. I was too raw or fragile to open myself to a dystopian story that had opened my eyes when I was still basically a child.

Whatever the reason--the constant advertisements or a basic need to feel brave--I grabbed the book. I only meant to re-read a scene that had popped into my head. I wondered if I remembered it correctly. One scene turned into two, then into three. Before long, I was back to page one and reading every word, sometimes several times. In some ways, it was like reconnecting with an old friend--or mentor perhaps. Yet it was like reading it for the first time. I suppose it was a first reading of sorts. The first time reading it as a woman who has lived more of life. I was halfway through the book before I realized I'm now the same age as the heroine. The full weight of that reality rocked me. As a teenager, the idea seemed so distant. This happened in another time to people much older than me. But this time, I was reading the horror story of someone who'd lived as long as I had. That connection somehow made it seem more real.

I saw the story differently. I didn't just read the book and contemplate the horror of the society. For the first time, I read the book more in Offred's shoes, understanding the fear mingled with bouts of resignation. I don't know if I truly understood fear or apathy back in my teens as I do now.

I still don't understand how a lot of life works. The older I get, the more I realize I don't know. Will never know. That's so different than it was when I was a punk seventeen-year-old who thought she knew everything, or would soon.

That's possibly the heart of it; the fear. The knowing I'll never know or understand everything completely. That no one will. That we'll never be able to truly predict an outcome for ourselves or our world at home. It's disappointing. It's terrifying.

Yet we have to push on. Don't we? Isn't that the meaning behind stiff upper lip and playing hurt? If we don't move forward, we get stuck. I find myself getting stuck a lot. Whether it's with writing, working, or living. I get scared, and it paralyzes me. It keeps me from moving on.

That's why I'm writing this post, I think. Like somehow acknowledging my fear, and that it may be my constant companion forever, will make it easier to keep going. Maybe someone will read this and acknowledge she's fearful of the unknown and the imagined too. It might make us feel less alone. Because we're not alone. Not in our fear and not in our world. We can only do our best to not let that fear completely take over. To let it guide us for worse. Some fear might be good, even. It's a fear of pain that keeps us from touching stoves or running with scissors. But that's little fear, Manageable. It's okay as as it doesn't become our master; as long as it doesn't keep us from living.

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

May 20, 2018

raining on a parade

I wanted to cry when my alarm went off Saturday morning. It was 4:15. I'd gone to bed little more than two hours earlier. With guests expect to arrive at 5, I had a number of last minute tasks to care for before they arrived. Egg bakes to make and place in the oven. Finger sandwiches to assemble and slice. Scones to place in a basket. Cocktails to pour. Plenty to do, so, sleep had to wait.

Seven years ago, a few of my good friends and I woke up similarly early to watch Prince William marry Kate Middleton. We made complimentary, but still unique, T-shirts. We sipped mimosas and commented on every hat and dress as they appeared on screen. We teared up at touching moments. Sighed during the fairy tale. And we went to work at 8, still buzzed on the spirit of the festivities (and, okay, the mimosas).

With nothing but happy memories from that day, I eagerly looked forward to holding another Royal Wedding watch party when Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. There are few things I love more than a themed party, so coming up with a menu, decor, and activities to commemorate such an occasion is one of my greatest joys. I started planning them all months ago, though I didn't get serious about it until about two weeks ago.

By the time my first guest arrived right on time, my vision had almost completely come to fruition. In the kitchen, I had a table set with Pimm's Cups and mimosas, English Breakfast Egg bakes, fresh scones with clotted cream and preserves, fruit, finger sandwiches, and even my take on the lemon and elderflower wedding cake. In the living room, I had a build-your-own fascinator station, Royal Wedding Bingo, and a ridiculous British photo booth.

Ain't no party like a Laura Chapman party,
'cuz a Laura Chapman party is themed.

My guests arrived. We chatted. We laughed. We teared up. We gossiped. When it was over, even though I was physically tired, my emotional and mental cup ran over. I was happy to have spent a fun morning making memories with my friends. My inner romantic was sighing at watching love declared. (I'm a sap at all weddings.) I was so pleased with how my plans for the party had come together. It's been a crazy few months at work. I've been on an emotional roller coaster of sorts for the better part of a few years. I'm a writer, but I can't find the precise words to explain how nice it was to have a few hours where I wasn't worrying about anything but what hat some stranger was wearing and whether or not anyone would flub their lines. It was fun. It was more than that.

Of course with anything that happens in this world, there were people who didn't care about the wedding. When I logged onto Facebook after my last guests left, a little of the feel-good wind behind my sails was knocked down when I saw a series of posts from people trashing everyone who watched. I hid the comments and kept scrolling, but the sentiments stayed with me.

It didn't bother me that someone else didn't want to watch or read anything about the wedding. That's fine. It's their right not to care. It's their right not to watch. But I wondered why we feel this need to say something rude or snarky about something harmless that brings another person joy. Whether it's about a game, a race, an awards show, or a royal wedding, why do we need to make public declarations to say we don't care? Is it to make ourselves feel better or seem better than other people? Or do we have to make every thought, every emotion known now for the world to hear it?

(I'm doing that now by writing this post.)

I don't really know the answers to those question. They're probably simpler than I'm making it, but maybe they're even more complicated than I can imagine. Thinking about this, though, has made me determined to do better at keeping my thoughts to myself (or to a private chat among friends). Whether or not something is my cup of tea, it might be someone else's. Maybe that person watching a game or show is feeling a little blue and this adds a little light and joy to their life. As much as it's my right not to care, it's their right to enjoy it without having someone diminish or dismiss it in any way.

Life can really suck sometimes. It's also too short. Maybe we should let each other enjoy our little pleasures when we can without raining on anyone's parade. At least that's going to be my goal.

Anyway, cheers to the couple. If you watched, I hope your experience was as enjoyable as mine. If you didn't, I hope you had a lovely Saturday all the same.

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***