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How Liz Gilbert Kicked my Ass.

I have a handful of badass lady authors who I absolutely love. I love them for their realness, candor and unbelievable talent. I love them for their examples of what it means to live authentically without apology, to be who you are, do what you love, and fearlessly bare your soul for all to see. On my shortlist of lady author heroes is, of course, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Elizabeth Gilbert is probably most famous for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love. It’s a beautiful story about getting out of our comfort zone to find out what we’re really made of. And, though I’m always fascinated with memoirs and true life stories, my favorite Liz Gilbert book is not her memoir. It’s a book called Big Magic. In Big Magic, Gilbert talks about the creative process, and how to give ourselves permission to be creative and follow our ideas where they lead us. After publishing  Big Magic, she made a podcast called Magic Lessons, where she talked to people about their creative projects and the roadblocks they experienced. She would then bring in a famous friend to help mentor that person and help them overcome their obstacles.

As a baby author, I was incredibly inspired by the stories in Magic Lessons. It was amazing to hear peoples’ stories and all the different ideas and the absolute confidence Gilbert expressed in everyone’s ability to make their dreams come true. With laser precision, she would identify what was holding them back and why. Then, she would give them homework to do until their follow up. I listened to every episode, then I listened to them again, and again.

I had the fortuitous opportunity to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak in Nashville last night. She’s currently touring with her new novel City of Girls. I’m not even going to try to lie, I was fan-girling super hard. I almost cried when she walked in the room, because that meant that I was in the same room as Elizabeth Gilbert, and it’s not every day you can sit in the same room with one of your heroes and listen to them talk about their life and craft. She was just as I imagined her. Beautiful, poised, eloquent, and sassy. She’s an expert public speaker, and seemed totally at home in front of that podium.

She talked about City of Girls, and all the reasons why she wanted to write a book about women and sexuality, and the loose girl who enjoyed her life without ruining it. She read to us for a  little while, then, offered time for a Q&A. I thought this was a very brave thing, as you just never know what someone will ask in a situation like this. But, she’s Liz Gilbert, and she’s fearless, and somehow always knows exactly what to say.

Naturally, I raised my hand when she asked for questions. I had about one hundred questions for her, this hero of mine. When she pointed at me, I stood to speak and chose one that only she could answer. I told her how much I loved her podcast, admitted that I listened to every episode at least three or four times, and asked if she planned to bring it back, or do something else in that format. Then, maybe without even knowing it, Liz Gilbert kicked my ass.

She thanked me for listening, and said how much she enjoyed the experience of making the pod cast to go along with Big Magic. She explained that she stopped recording the pod cast when her partner, Rayya Elias, was diagnosed with cancer. Of course, I knew this, because she’s freaking Liz Gilbert. But, then she said something I didn’t expect. She said that she’s on an “integrity cleanse”, something her friend Martha Beck wrote about, and during such a cleanse, she has to always tell the truth.

The truth she shared with us, was that she got bored with the podcast, because every story was basically the same. It was someone with an idea, a talent, a project they couldn’t seem to finish. She would help them figure out what was holding them back, make suggestions, “write permission slips” as she says, and set them up with someone she thought might also have good advice or expertise in their craft. After two seasons, she felt that she had said all she could about the creative process.

“People have all kinds of excuses, but it all comes down to fear. It’s about feelings of unworthiness, not being good enough, or worrying too much about what other people think.”

She laughed, pushing her hair aside and said, “What I suggest you do, is listen to those episodes three or four more times, because I’m just saying the same thing over and over.” She joked that she was all out of famous friends, and couldn’t make any more episodes anyway. Then, she admitted that by the end of the podcast, she was starting to resent her time in the studio doing podcast stuff, because it was keeping her away from her true love- writing.

So, there I was, in the same room with one of my heroes getting a big ol’ gut check. She was literally speaking directly to me when she said, we have lots of excuses, but it all comes down to fear. So, I had to ask myself, what am I afraid of? In all of my procrastination and distraction, there had to be some fear.

I know what my excuses are:

  • Time – Our schedule is packed, too many commitments, too busy doing all the crap we need to do to do the things I really want to do…
  • Energy- Too tired to be creative at the end of the day, need downtime for relaxing and writing feels like work, my day job is sucking the life out of me…
  •  Inspiration- Waiting for the perfect time, place, situation to write. Feeling like I’ve said it all before and I’m bored with it. Wondering if anyone will ever read this book if I finish it, or is it all for nothing…

My writing partner and I call our excuses “stomping and lamenting”. If we spent as much time actually writing as we do with all of our excuses to not write, we’d both be able to quit our day jobs by now. Instead, we whine and throw little pity parties for ourselves, and honestly, it’s kind of pathetic. We frequently talk about this, and ask ourselves and each other, “why?”. Why do we cling to our excuses and allow them to keep us stuck? Why do we fill up our days with other stuff, at the expense of the things we say we really want to do with our lives? The answer, as Gilbert said, always goes back to fear.

So, what am I afraid of?

  • The unknown- The publishing process/industry is still a great mystery to me, and I have no idea how to navigate that world. I’m a baby author, not a marketing guru, and the numbers games and selling myself are things I just don’t know how to do. There are no guarantees that my book will ever be published, or that I won’t get ripped off my a scammy publisher, or that I will even finish this thing at all.
  • Success- Who will I be if I become the best-selling author and public speaker I imagine I could be? How will my relationships change? How will our family change? Will Liz Gilbert become my new BFF instead of just my lady author idol? (Call me, Liz!) I don’t know what will happen, how I will handle it, or if I’m even cut out for that lifestyle. What if I get all the things I think I want, and realize I don’t really want them after all? Then what? What if it’s more fun to have the dream than it will be to do the work?
  •  Failure- What if I give my whole heart to this dream and it never works out for me? What if my book sucks and everyone hates it? What if nobody hates it because nobody ever even reads it? What if I crash and burn? What if this is a monumental waste of my time and energy?
  •  General insecurities- What if I suck at writing and this is a stupid dream? What if I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough to do all the things I think I want to do? What if it’s too much for me? Who am I to tell these stories? Who am I to give advice? Does anyone even care? Have I lost all my momentum? Did I peak with Elephant Journal? Is it too late for me?
  •  Legal issues- If I tell my whole truth will it ruin my life? Will people freak out and try to destroy me? Will I have to wait for everyone to die before I tell the whole story? Can I do it any other way?

So, there’s all of that. Lots of excuses to not be who I want to be, which is perhaps the woman I was born to be. At the end of the day, it’s up to me to choose: either push through the fear and drop all the excuses, or spend the rest of my life wondering what might have been if I had dropped the excuses and pushed through the fear.

Gilbert went on to talk about her own creative process, and how when she’s actively writing a book she has to do it all at once, and with almost complete isolation. “Dogs are fine,” she said, “but no other humans.”

This gave me some validation on my own process, as I also require almost complete isolation, and prefer to just go off and disappear somewhere all alone to do my thing without interruption. When I was single and lived mostly alone, inspiration was with me every day. I had ample alone time, and endless hours with my thoughts, and though my teenagers were in and out, they didn’t need much from me, and were very respectful of my need for quiet time to be creative. Since moving in with my husband and step babies, writing has become much more challenging. I think a large part of that is that I get significantly fewer hours by myself to contemplate life, the universe, and the human condition. Inspiration is fleeting, illusive, and sometimes just plain absent. But, as they say, a writer writes. So, excuses be damned, if I’m going to do this thing and give my heart to it, I have to find a way to move it back to the top of my priority list, and make it work in my new life with my new family.

I guess that brings up another whole set of fears for me. What if everyone thinks I’m a selfish bitch for putting myself first? What if I can’t be everything to everyone while also pursuing my dream? What if I sacrifice family time, and things that are also important, in the name of making this thing happen and I fail anyway? Will I regret the friction that might come from me doing me if it doesn’t work out as planned? Will I embarrass myself and everyone who loves me?

Thankfully, my husband is incredibly supportive. He’s an author, too, so he understands the creative process, and the time it takes to write a book. He is much more accomplished that I am, and has this ability to make writing appear to be effortless and carefree- which is truly maddening! But, also, I think he sincerely loves me and wants me to be happy and successful, which is a lot to take in for someone like me, because I’ve never experienced love like that before. There’s no competition or insecurity with him, no criticism or judgement- just encouragement, and sometimes frustration with my excuses and lack of motivation. But mostly, he gently nudges me back in the direction of the dream when I wander off and get distracted. He always says I’m a better writer than he is, which I completely disagree with, but it’s high praise coming from him, and it makes me feel like maybe I’m not totally insane for thinking I can pull this thing off.

After Gilbert’s talk, we went to dinner together. (My husband and I- I’m guessing Liz had a plane to catch or something, or we surely would have invited her.) We talked about how flawlessly she spoke, how well she knows her craft, and how wise she is about life in general. I asked him if he is ready for his next book tour, and if he would do the terrifyingly unpredictable Q&A at his future speaking engagements. “I think you kind of have to do it!” he said, though admitted that he may not be as articulate as my new friend, Liz. We talked about our excuses, our ridiculous schedule, and how important it is to make sure we both get to bring our dreams to fruition, so we can abandon our day jobs and write on the beach together, forever. That’s when I made a confession.

“I have romantic visions of riding a train cross country all by myself someday, sitting in the little sleeper car all alone, and writing a book while watching the world go by my window.”

“Then, you should take some time off work and do it,” he said. “I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too. But…”

“But?” he laughed.

“But, it would just be for a couple of weeks, and I would come right back home to you.” I smiled.

“If it makes you happy, baby, do it.”

And, I realized that even with all my bullshit excuses, and all the fear, I have something most people just hope and pray for. I have a partner who loves me, who will do anything to help me be my best self. Even if it seems selfish, even if he doesn’t love everything I have to say, even if I fail, or if I succeed and our life changes because of it, I know that he’s here, and he has my back, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do for me. I only hope that I can be everything to him that he is to me, and support him as completely as I feel supported.

So, Liz, if you’re reading this, and I just know that you might be, I’m ready. Maybe I just needed you to look me in the eye and tell me that fear is the only thing holding me back. I know that it’s ok to be afraid, but if I don’t push through it, I’m just another person with a half written book and a pile of excuses not to finish it. I don’t want to be another boring episode of a podcast you don’t plan to continue. And, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering what might have happened if I was brave enough to drop my excuses and get serious about doing the things I say I want to do.

I guess this is the beginning of my own integrity cleanse, where instead of saying, “I’m too busy to write today,” I will say, “I didn’t make my dreams a priority today.” Instead of “I don’t feel inspired,” I will say, “I didn’t take time to look for inspiration.” Instead of the excuses, I will acknowledge my fears, and take them along with me on this journey. And, maybe someday, I’ll stand at the podium as you did last night, and give people permission to be creative and afraid, to retreat into quiet to bring forth their masterpieces, and to honor the stories that live inside them.

Today, I choose to stop my pathetic stomping and lamenting, to drop my excuses, and acknowledge that big dreams are scary things to have. I choose to make my writing a priority again, to move it back to the top of my list, and to make sure I have the quiet time I need to create. I choose to push through my fears, so I can find out once and for all how my life will change when I step into the future I imagine for myself. And, when I make it someday, and some journalist asks me what my secret to success was, I will tell them that I had a story to tell, a husband who loved and encouraged me, and Liz Gilbert kicked my ass one night when she was in Nashville.

 

 

 

 

 

Walking My Talk, Even When I Don’t Wanna.

Our lives have been mostly consumed with wedding planning for the past couple months. We had a beautiful wedding, with all of our most favorite people there to celebrate with us. We spent a glorious week in Jamaica for the perfect honeymoon, then came crashing back into the reality of our everyday life. We returned with sun-kissed skin, the happiest of memories, and new vigor for making our dream life a reality in the years to come, together.

I am nearly finished with my next book, You Are Important. I’m hoping to publish later this year, and so excited to see what I can do with it! Writing the book is huge, but my real mission is much bigger than the book. I truly hope to impact people’s lives- to help people see their potential, find their purpose, and foster unconditional self-love and acceptance. So, I decided to start a Facebook page where I can start some groups and gather people together so we can get some conversations going.

Of course, when you start inviting a bunch of strangers to an online forum, anything can happen. Typically, it’s wise to establish some ground rules, so I wrote up a little post and pinned it to the top of the page for all to read. In it, I asked participants to approach unfamiliar ideas with curiosity rather than judgement. I asked that people educate each other gently and with kindness, because we want everyone to feel comfortable. In our group, we are to speak openly, share honestly and agree that everyone is entitled to their values, opinions, and ideas. We don’t have to agree, and we don’t have to conform, but we do have to be kind and respectful toward one another.

Naturally, after you’ve put a statement like that out into the world, there will be a test. My test came this morning at the gym. I woke up early to do my favorite classes. I’ve been gone for a couple weeks with all of the wedding craziness, and didn’t know there would be substitute teachers in both Barre and Yoga.

I walked into Barre and got my equipment set up as the substitute introduced herself to the class. She seemed nice- friendly and enthusiastic. Then, she turned on the music to get started and I cringed. Hard. My ears were asulted with christian worship music, and my little atheist ass was not happy about it.

Number one, this is a secular gym. It’s actually a recreation center that is owned and operated by our local government. So, the separation of church and state thing should definitely be a thing there. Number two, it was early and I was un-caffeinated, which makes every annoyance extra annoying. Number three, I’m a Midwest girl, and this is a Southern thing. I’ve been in the South for almost twenty years, and I still can’t get used to the bible belt stuff. People in the South are used to christianity being ingrained into the culture- it doesn’t seem to bother them at all. But, for someone like me, who is neither Southern nor christian, it just feels disrespectful. People have no problem forcing me to sit through their prayers, worship music, and preaching- they don’t even ask if I’m comfortable with it. And, if I speak up and tell them that I’m an atheist, they clutch their pearls and promise to pray for me, because in their minds there is only one God, one religion, and one way to get to heaven. Their way.

So, it’s early, I haven’t had my coffee, I dragged myself into the gym for an 8am class on a Saturday morning, because I want to recommit to my fitness goals now that we’re back to real life. I’ve just made this public statement about allowing others to be who they are and respecting their beliefs even if we disagree. And now I’m stuck on a yoga mat fighting with myself. In the past, I have walked right out of classes like that. At my old gym, I knew which teachers played Jesus music in their classes, and I made sure not to go to them. I didn’t get a choice today. I didn’t even know we had a sub, and certainly didn’t expect her to come in with her worship playlist on full blast.

I’m in all black, tattoos out, looking like a pagan witch, ready to crawl out of my skin listening to this music. But, if I react poorly, if I allow my temper to get away from me, if I berate this poor lady who just showed up to fill in for someone so they didn’t have to cancel class today, then I am the asshole. I can’t go out like that. If I make her feel uncomfortable for being herself, I am a hypocrite. I hate hypocrites, and I hate assholes. I don’t want to be either. But, mostly, I want to be in integrity with myself.

I want my thoughts, words, and actions to always be in alignment, as this is my personal definition of authenticity. So, I have no choice but to suck it up, let the music play in the background, and just do my workout.

But, Renee! If you’re not christian, and christian music offends you, are you being fake if you just sit there and don’t say anything? Is that really being authentic?

In my mind, staying in class and choosing to ignore the music was the most authentic choice. One of the things I hate most about religion is the arrogance it breeds. Everyone is so sure their religion is the best one, right one, true one, only one… This is why religion creates so much division around the world. Think about how many people have died in holy wars, in the name of someone’s god. And, think about how judgmental people can be where religion and the implied moral code therein is concerned. If you don’t practice the same religion, or call your god the same thing someone else calls their god, they are likely to turn their back on you, to write you off completely, or try to convince you that you’re wrong and you have to learn what they know if you want to be saved or whatever. Walking out of class or demanding she change the music today would have been equally arrogant and dismissive. Even if I was totally justified to request secular music, calling her out in front of the class would have been a dick move, and that is why I chose to let it be.

Being in integrity with myself today meant being kind and accepting of someone who unknowingly made me feel uncomfortable. In the end, the way we make people feel makes a greater impression than anything we say or do. Even though her insensitive music choice made me cringe, I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or judged. About halfway through class she switched to disco music- which felt like a huge upgrade. I thanked her at the end of class, and went about putting away equipment and getting set up for yoga.

When the next substitute teacher walked through the door, I was nervous. I adulted for 30 minutes of worship music already. Could I take another hour of it? Or worse, what if she was one of those white people who only teaches “christian yoga”. That’s an actual thing in the South, because the ancient art and science of yoga is considered “witchcraft” in many churches. So, they totally rape the ancient traditions, remove all the language and teachings that don’t align with their flavor of religion, and replace it with English words and junk from the christian bible. It’s completely insufferable, and I definitely didn’t want to end up stuck in there for an hour of that.

I half considered packing up and going home. But, I made a commitment to myself to get my two hour workout in today, to atone for the champagne and cheese plates in Montego Bay. I decided to stay and take care of my health- even if the soundtrack was not to my liking. Thankfully, the yoga teacher played quiet, secular music and the class was perfect. I sweat my butt off and left feeling fantastic.

Being in integrity with myself today meant honoring the commitment I made to my physical health. I know that staying active is important, and that I always feel better after I exercise. I could have used the early start time on a Saturday morning, the absence of my gym buddy, the christian music, the substitute teachers, or any number of other excuses to get out of my commitment. The only one I would have hurt by doing so is me. I could have ripped that teacher a new one for playing her worship music in my Barre class, but it would have made us both feel bad, and wouldn’t have changed either of our minds about the validity of religion.

Sometimes, we have to get pissed off and roar. Sometimes, we need to shout from the rooftops about this injustice and that tragedy. Sometimes, we have to say the hard things to people to help them do better, even if it hurts their feelings. But sometimes, it’s better to protest silently- to be offended without reacting- to choose our battles wisely, because being kind and open is the only way to start real conversations with people who don’t know what they don’t know.

Authenticity comes from being true to ourselves. Sometimes, that means standing up for what you believe in. Sometimes, it means behaving like the person you want to be. If you can do both of these things at the same time, that’s some next level shit.

Please, come join the discussion at You Are Important and help us navigate all kinds of topics. Let’s come together with purpose, to expand our minds, to learn and grow together, and change the world with love.

 

 

I Made a Thing.

They say when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. They also say that writers should avoid clichés, but this one really works for me…

There are lots of ways to make lemonade- to focus on the positive, to find a place of gratitude in our struggle, or make things sweet even when they just kind of suck.

Writing is my lemonade. It’s the best therapy I’ve ever found, and the only way I’ve ever been able to make sense of my life.

Today, I published my first book, Dysfunction Diaries. It’s a collection of short stories from my early years as a humor writer. It’s ridiculous, vulgar, and exactly how I had to tackle the impossible job of becoming an author. It was my first little blog, the first website I built all by myself, and today, it’s my first book. That feels pretty awesome.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be surrounded by so much love.

Namaste

xo Renee

 

 

I have a new title… and it totally freaked me out.

Recently, I was asked to speak at a summit called, “Unleashing the Real, Raw Uncensored You”. It’s all about authenticity, and living the life of our dreams.When the organizer reached out to me to ask me to speak, I felt a combination of pure bliss and utter panic.

I mean, this is what I want to do! I want to share my story, and write books, and speak to groups, and help others find the kind of healing and empowerment that has changed my life. The invitation to speak felt like a big step in that direction- that was the bliss part.

The panic set in the moment I read the word “expert” in the speaker’s agreement.

The entire document referred to the speaker {me!} as “the expert”. Each time I read that word, I cringed a bit. Then, all my insecurities came for a visit, and I had no choice but to invite them in for tea and sit with them a while.

In the long list of words I might have used to describe myself, “expert” was not one of them. I wondered for a moment what exactly the organizer saw in me. Was I missing something? I certainly didn’t feel like any “expert”.

I started thinking about my story, and all the things that are important to me. I’ve been writing for a few years about feminism, health, parenting, love, and overcoming all kinds of things I’ve experienced. I’ve written about mental illness, addiction, surviving sexual abuse, eating disorders, suicide— you name it– but I didn’t feel like an authority on any of those topics.

Am I an expert? What qualifies me as an expert? An expert of what?

The theme of the summit is authenticity. It’s learning to be unapologetically yourself. To listen to your intuition, and allow it to guide you to your dreams. I’ve basically dedicated the past five years of my life to this- first to heal myself during a painful divorce, then to share the things I learned in those brutally beautiful years of discovery and growth.

I like to say that I didn’t become a badass bitch because I had an easy life. My strength has come from a lifetime of overcoming. The key to owning my shit was overcoming shame, and all the ways it made me smaller in the world. To fully own my shit, I had to learn how to love and accept myself without limits, restrictions, or conditions. I had to get so good with me, that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought.

Living without fear of judgement, without the need for validation from others is the closest thing to actual freedom I have ever felt. This freedom lends a safety, a comfort to life that nothing else can. When you experience this feeling of being totally at home in your skin, and seeing your scars as part of your perfection, all fear just fades away.

This kind of freedom scares the hell out of people who are not ready to own their shit and stand in their truth. These are the people who recoil when you say that really real thing that’s a little too much for them. These are the people who tell you you’re crazy for chasing that big dream with all your heart. These are the people who will encourage you to conform and play small so they can feel comfortable.

Maybe, that’s my actual area of expertise. Maybe, I’m an expert at making people uncomfortable.

My fascination with the human condition won’t allow me to be filtered, censored, or silenced. I need to know about, and talk about all the things that make us tick– especially the things we’re not suppose to bring up in polite conversation. I like to talk about sex, politics, religion, quantum theory, and my shitty childhood. I like to write about real life things that happened, and how they changed me. I like to talk about our patterns, how we learned them, and why we continue living in them, even when we really want to stop.

I’ve decided to embrace my new title– Renee Dubeau, “Expert”.

Expert lover.real raw

Expert dreamer.

Expert wine and cheese pairer.

Renee Dubeau, the expert comfort zone destroyer, and pattern crusher.

Renee Dubeau, expert sayer of the things no one wants to talk about.

Expert explorer of taboos and stigmas.

Renee Dubeau- expert owner of her shit… Yeah, that’ll do just fine.

Renee Dubeau– Authenticity Expert. That’s me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Remember what I Wanted to be when I Grow up.

I believe it was in the third grade. My teacher passed out paper and crayons to the whole class and gave us one simple assignment. We were to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was likely an exercise we did at the beginning of every new school year.

It’s such a huge decision at 8 years old. There were so many possibilities- some I didn’t even know existed yet. At the bottom of the paper was the phrase, “When I grow up, I want to be a ___________.” I didn’t have to carve it in stone, I just had to choose something to write on that line.

I agonized over the decision until finally, I drew a lady behind a desk in a suit. On the line below, I wrote “journalist”. Back then, I thought a journalist was the lady who read the news on the TV, or maybe wrote a column in the news paper like Dear Abby.

This decision is memorable today for two reasons. First, because almost all the girls in my class filled in their line with the word, “cheerleader,” and most of the boys said, “football player”.

There was one little boy who drew a dinosaur skeleton. He said he wanted to be a scientist. I liked that boy. His dinosaur took up two sheets of paper. I could tell he was different, like me.

In a room full of cheerleaders, I was the only girl who chose journalism. It was basically the story of my life. I wasn’t athletic or popular in high school. I was a band geek, a literature nerd, and a social activist. I loved to read, write and create. I was passionate about the environment and animal rights.

Life took many twists and turns for me. I chose the wrong career for a season, and the wrong marriage. In my years as a bored housewife, I started writing again. I started a silly blog to share stories about my family. I never guessed in those early days of Dysfunction Diaries that I would actually become an author.

I recently remembered that drawing from third grade. Somehow my soul knew even then what its purpose is.

I’ve intentionally avoided writing about politics in the past. For some reason, I didn’t feel qualified to speak on such topics. I didn’t want the drama that could come with expressing my unpopular ideas. But, I dipped my toe into that world just before the election. Then, Trump won, and it seemed all I could do it write about it.

This gift that even my 8 year old soul could see. This voice I have been given- I will use it for good. I will channel that feisty teenager who spent her evenings banging out letters to companies about their environmental practices on an old typewriter. Together, we will rise up in the name of every single person who needs a voice right now.

Finally, thirty years later, I remember what I wanted to be when I grow up. Truly, it was the only thing I ever could be.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

 

How NaNoWriMo helped me get my $hit Together

NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. A global event, in which writers compete against their toughest opponents. I’m not talking about other writers, either. I mean our real opponents- like procrastination, resistance, time management, writer’s block, self doubt, fear and distractions of the two legged, four legged, electronic, and imaginary varieties.

I first learned about this hard core writing event from a friend. Her husband participated in November 2015. He began a fiction piece, and abandoned it midway when he got bored with his characters. I was certain that it wasn’t humanly possible to write that many words in a month anyway. He was crazy for even trying, right? Who does that?

His story stayed with me. As November approached, I wondered if I was crazy enough to give it a try. I’ve been trying to write a book for about four years. Of course, I wasn’t going to write that book for my first NaNo. No, you’re supposed to write a new book. So, I started bouncing around different ideas. I have lots of ideas, and lots of books inside me. The challenge isn’t coming up with the idea. The challenge is staying focused enough on one of those ideas to write the damn book and not give up when it feels too hard.

I was discussing one of my book ideas with my boo on the phone one night, when I went to the NaNoWriMo website to take a peek. As we were talking, I decided to go for it. I signed up and made a profile. I didn’t announce my novel, because I didn’t know which one I would be writing. I just made a page for myself to hold space there. I used my little bio and headshots from Elephant Journal. It was a small step, but a step toward throwing myself into a huge goal with a fast deadline. And, why not? Why not write my first book during my first NaNoWriMo? I just needed to make a decision and start planning.

I had almost settled on an idea, when my boo changed the game for me. We were talking through my memoir- the cathartic, heartbreaking, soul liberating piece that I’ve been writing for four years. In four years, I’ve torn it apart and started over three times. In four years, I’ve put it on the shelf and walked away from it more times than I can count. In four years, I couldn’t do what he did for me in one evening.

I started telling him the story, piece by piece, scene by scene. Finally he stopped me and said, “Babe. You’ve got three books here. You’ve got to spread it out and give yourself space to tell the whole story. It’s too big for one book. It’s a trilogy.”

I was floored. It seemed so obvious after he said it. Why didn’t I think of that? It was brilliant, and exactly the shift I needed to get refocused.

With my idea all nailed down for the first book, and my big, scary, fast deadline in sight, it was time to start planning. Except, that’s not really my thing. Usually, I spend a bunch of time outlining, storyboarding, brainstorming, and so on. Then, I start writing in a totally different direction and throw all of it out. I decided not to spend too much time on all the organizing stuff, and instead just start thinking about it.

I did other prep work, like scheduling some time off at my day job, scheduling writing dates with friends,  and stocking the kitchen with wine, coffee, and snacks. I bought a shiny new notebook, rainbow index cars, and kickass pens. Priorities- check.

I joined my local NaNo message boards and started getting connected with other writers. They have writing events all over the city during the month. At my very first one, I met a woman who was writing a screen play. We started talking, and she told me about Scrivener. There was a free trial on the NaNoWriMo website. I downloaded it and started playing with it that night. I’ve never used the words “life changing” to describe a software product until now. Holy $hit. I’ve never been so organized. Seriously, hands down, the most helpful writing tool I’ve ever seen.

Writing real life stuff can be tricky, especially if your story isn’t particularly happy. Usually, I feel like I have to be in the right headspace to tackle certain topics. Or, I wait for inspiration to find me before I start working on something. NaNo showed me that resistance is my way of avoiding the yucky things I don’t want to think about. Having that big word goal and fast deadline forced me to push through, even on the days I didn’t want to, when it made me cry, when my heart hurt, when I felt like this wounds might never heal. I had no choice but to keep writing. And, as long as I kept writing, inspiration kept showing up.

NaNo breaks down your 50k words into daily goals of 1666 words. Naturally, I didn’t do this consistently day by day. I wrote huge chunks of stuff in the beginning and got ahead of my target. Then, the election happened, life happened, work happened, and my vampire hours started catching up with me. There was a brief moment when I didn’t think I would finish. I was behind, and avoiding like crazy all the chaos I didn’t want to look at. But, I had made a commitment to myself. And, I had so many people cheering me on. Failure was not an option. I pushed through all my blocks, and kept writing my little heart out.

I finished my word goal around one o’clock in the morning on November 30th. With twenty-three hours to spare, I did it. I wrote over 50,000 words. My first novel was almost complete. I cried my face off. And, I kept writing.

NaNo was exactly what I needed to push past the fear that was holding me back. It gave me a reason to move my dream of becoming a published author to the top of my to-do list, and not let anything keep me from it. It gave me the opportunity to connect with other writers, try new tools, and come up with new ways to stay focused and keep writing when it gets hard.

Most of all, NaNoWriMo helped me prove to myself that nothing is impossible. Those big scary goals are attainable if we just keep working toward them a little bit every day. Each time we accomplish the next thing that we once believed we couldn’t, we realize our potential in a new way. We let go of the limitations we have imagined for ourselves, and begin to see how truly limitless we are.

With each victory, we become more prepared for the next big challenge, and we believe more completely in our ability to achieve that next impossible goal. When we step into our power this way, nothing can keep us from making our dreams our reality. Nothing can keep us from our dharma, our destiny, or the true desire of our hearts.

Namaste xo

Nee

 

 

 

 

The End of an Era

The time has come for me to retire my first blog, Dysfunction Diaries.  It’s a bittersweet decision for me. I started that site about eight years ago. It was vulgar, irreverent, and usually hilarious. It’s where my writing career began- poking fun at my family and all the ridiculous things they do.

Dysfunction Diaries gave me a space in which to find my voice. It helped me begin to see myself as a writer. The feedback and encouragement I received while creating Dysfunction Diaries ultimately gave me the confidence to start writing my book, to join writing groups, take classes and workshops, and eventually to reach out to Elephant Journal with my work.

As I’ve grown as a person and an artist, my writing style has changed significantly. I’m much more interested in sharing my story now in a way that can help others. I’ve got a crazy story, and I know that the desire to tell it has led me to my purpose on this earth. I am truly grateful for every experience that has brought me to this moment, and it is always my sincere hope to uplift and inspire others with my words.

As I move into this next chapter of my life, I will not forget where I came from. I plan to honor Dysfunction Diaries by self publishing a collection of short stories from the site on Amazon later this year. It seems appropriate to allow Larry and the gang to live on even after the site has been put to rest.

If you’re a new reader, or you’ve been with me since Dysfunction Diaries began- thank you.  I appreciate you supporting me, as I make my dream of becoming a published author come true. I am the luckiest girl to always be surrounded with love and support. I couldn’t do this alone, and even if I could, I just wouldn’t want to.

Namaste

xo Nee

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