Wednesday, November 17, 2021

We Did It!

I am so happy with how our writing retreat in Kiawah Island, SC went. Not only did we get a lot of words and a lot of work done, but my writing friend Keely and I also had a relaxing and wonderful time!

First of all our travel magic (h/t to our friend Angele) was in full effect when we arrived, as they decided to give us the white wrangler to drive around despite that not being at all what I reserved.

Then, we swung by the amazing Angel Oak tree on our way -- this tree is estimated to be over 400-500 years old, possibly one of the oldest living things in the country! When you touch the bark--you can feel the energy. It's truly special.

Perfect way to start with some inspiration!

Then we did a little drive around tour of Kiawah Island, got into my condo, made some lunch, and then took a walk to the beach to get the energy flowing again and set our intentions for the trip.

We got after some writing when we returned, setting up on the screened in porch, which turned out to be our primary spot of word-smithing for the trip--shocker--and I got in a solid 2367 words before we had to get ready and head to dinner at the River Room. Not too shabby! We pretty much gorged ourselves there--it was the beginning of us spoiling ourselves for all our hard work. ;)

The next day, we made breakfast, then went for a bike ride around the island to see some of my favorite homes and again get our blood flowing, and saw a big old gator! There's something about those prehistoric predators...

We got some writing in afterwards... made some lunch, and did a virtual check-in with another writing friend Gabriel who we were missing... then it was off to the Sasanqua spa!

We didn't enjoy that at all, ha. Drove over to the beach, passing by some deer buddies who we saw constantly throughout the trip:

And enjoyed a lovely walk to wake us back up after supreme relaxation!

Returning to the condo, we got back to work, reinvigorated and our writers' bodies not feeling quite so pinched. My masseuse had literally called me out for my chest muscles being too tight from sitting at the computer ha! I was like, uh, that's what I'm here to do. But all in all, I netted another 3037 words on Friday, so no complaints from me!

Off to the B-Liner at the Beach Club we went, with my favorite waitress there Sara, and really it's one of my all time favorite restaurants, so there is no going wrong. We ate well, we drank well, and had so many good chats about our work and our lives.

The next morning, we ate breakfast and then it was off to beach yoga outside the Sanctuary and man was that special. And the warmth of the sun on our faces during savasana at the end, I really didn't want to get back up. Our instructor was fabulous and the zen was in full effect, so we didn't get more words in until after lunch at the Marsh House!

However, there I did get in an additional 1617 words in after lunch, before having a writer's revelation that I need to do a bit more research on a specific topic, because I was beginning to feel like I was BS'ing my way through it, LOL. But that's okay. So that's where I left off with my writing, and that's what I have to get into this week.

We ended the trip by sitting out on the beach for golden hour, which was entirely out of control gorgeous and peaceful and perfect, and then enjoyed some shrimp and grits at Jasmine's Porch, which you kind of have to have while in Kiawah, SC. Lastly, we enjoyed LoveHard on Netflix, which was an adorable romantic Christmas flick--which we highly recommend!

Sunday morning I dropped off Keely, and got in one final really inspirational moment... kayaking with the dolphins!

All in all, pre-trip I was at 23% complete with my novel, with 19,648 words written. After our trip, I'm now at 31% complete, with 26,669 words written. Whoop whoop!

I don't know if I can still get this book done by the end of year, but damn it I'm making good progress, and it's only a matter of time!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Night B4 My Mini-Writing Retreat!

I am so excited I'm leaving tomorrow for a mini-writing retreat with another writing friend, staying for a long weekend in my rental condo in Kiawah Island, SC!!! Woo-Hoo!!!

I was real productive the first 3 days of last week, with the last day even achieving close to 4000 words! That was huge for me.

But then I had a special family member coming in town Friday, so had to prep Thursday, and then took the time off to enjoy being with her. Dropped her off at the airport this morning, and this day has consisted of packing and switching out my girls' clothes for the winter... and cleaning the house as it was in dire need. We'll see how well the hubs can keep it up by himself (relatively) with our two girls and pup, LOL!

When we bought this place in Kiawah "our happy place" early pandemic summer 2020, I projected, dreamed, of using it quarterly for writing retreat weekends. It's taken over a year, but FINALLY I'm getting to use it that way. I truly hope that I can make it a more regular occurrence in coming years. And I can't wait to see how much I can push myself to get done in one weekend.

So here's where I left off--23% complete, at 19,648 words. I'll report back after the weekend!

*Happy to give credit for all memes featured on this page--could not figure out original creators!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Pulling Teeth & No Nonsense


Writing for me lately has been like pulling teeth. I've been told time and time again that you can't wait for your muse. See that time I saw my fave Nora Roberts talk at the Washington Post. You just have to practice BICHOK aka "Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard."

I know this; I practice this. But even when I write 1000 words in 45 minutes, it doesn't feel like it's flowing for me in the past couple of weeks. I THINK or HOPE it's because I'm a better writer now. The first time I wrote my book in 2013, I pumped out 50K words during the infamous Nanowrimo in November. And man my hands just flew across the keyboard. It all came so easily.

Now I agonize over every decision. Is there enough conflict? Are the characters following their growth arcs? Are they showing attraction to one another too soon for my current primary trope? Don't forget the setting and the weather. Make sure the opposing hero/heroine is in the room in some way, they need to be together more. More white space in my dialogue, people don't talk like my brain. What physical intimacy level should they be at now? OMG, I am going to make myself crazy.

With knowledge is power. Hopefully, my writing is sooo much better. But at the same time, I can't write with the freedom I once did. My brain is in the way.

Regardless, my accountability partner and I had our weekly call this morning, and talked about how we were going to "get after it" in November. That we wanted to co-commit to a specific writing time. I created a document that captured all the guidelines we are agreeing to follow in the upcoming month and named it "No Nonsense November". What I have to remember is:

I mean, given, the whole reason I'm rewriting a book that I already wrote once, and edited into a Frankenstein version, is because it needs to be better. But I've maximized (my #2 strength) the hell out of this book for the past year, and so at some point I have to let something be "good enough".

So anyhow, here's my updated progress chart. Keeping on with the transparency. I'll just try to share a few times through November how it's going! And also I have a little writing weekend planned with a fave writing friend at my fave place (I watch this whenever I need to transport myself to some peace), so hopefully I'll take a big chunk out then!

Slow and steady wins the race? 😉

*Happy to give credit for all memes featured on this page--could not figure out original creators!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Writing is Freaking Me Out

I'm writing, and it's freaking me out. I've spent so many years working on this novel. And then so many months this year, reworking the plot and thinking through every angle. And editing the crap out of the new Chapter 1 to make sure I don't make mistakes throughout. And now I'm finally really diving into rewriting this novel, and it's happening and flowing, not easily but in a way that I approve of and it's terrifying and exhilarating me.

Yesterday, I was really happy with the words I wrote, though slowly. Today, I feel like the pacing is too slow. Lots of words, but dragging things out to get to the point. But I'm not going to worry about it. Just get it out. I can always tighten up later right? (Did I mention I hate editing my own stuff?)

It's cool though, I'm making progress and I'm moving forward, each day a little more. I was at the immersive Van Gogh exhibit last week with a writer friend and one of the quotes was about how sketches are seeds from which a painting grows, and I was like, aha! My plotting are seeds from which I'll write words and add color!

It made me feel so much better, because the plotting, at least for me, is crucial--and yet you don't feel like you're moving anywhere, which is frustrating for someone who has high Achiever strengths.

My more recent goal was to finish this first novel by Halloween. However, I have a better understanding of how many hours I'm getting in per week, and my pace, and so I entered it all in to -- a great site for those looking to calculate how long it will take to finish your novel, and I've come to realize Thanksgiving seems more realistic now. It's still aggressive, but I think doable. Pray for me, haha.

According to my current goal of 86,500 words in 64 days, I'm at about 6% complete right now. And then once I get there I'll have to edit at some point. Ughhh. We'll get there when we get there. My current mantra I keep repeating to myself, "Progress not perfection."

Yesterday, I heard about the new "ultra white" paint, which I researched heavily and have already worked in to the story about my green roof architect.

Today I looked up how to format text messages in your novel. It is hard to make it aesthetically appealing and have easy readability.

I also accidentally found out that "edging" has a double entendre and so definitely used it as such. 😂

In non-writing news, I dyed my hair red this week, so that was fun, and makes me feel like I have extra fire 🔥 to make things happen!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

It's a Big Week

So... I'm going to keep this brief because I have work to do. Today I'm working on translating the work I've done, putting my story beats into a chapterized format. But the big thing is, I am definitely starting writing this week, maybe even tomorrow. It's been a long time coming. It's exciting and nerve-racking to finally start the actual writing again. But I've been working towards this day for a while.

I have a little bit of time to get some work done this morning, then I'm off to an REI-sponsored women's learn to kayak class with a friend. I have kayaked plenty, so I probably won't learn much new, but it will be nice to be out on the water on such a hot day--we'll be hitting over 90 in DC, and it's still May!

Anyhow, I'll keep everyone posted on how things go this week; it's the next big step. I've already written this book once, edited it thrice... so hopefully, the rewrite with show all I've learned in... OMG, 8 years! Ahhh! I can't think about it. I hope I've learned something. Wish me all the words!

Sunday, May 9, 2021

When I Thought About Walking Away

So one thing that my writer friends and I talk about ALL THE TIME is StrengthFinders. A close-knit group of us have all taken the Write Better Faster, and related courses with Becca Syme, and knowing your strengths and how they can work for you is one of the key takeaways. And it's fun because we all know each other's and can help each other see if our strength is working in the balcony (in top form) or the basement (bringing us down).


My #1 strength is Self-Assurance. No, it's not what you think. I'm not hyper self-confident. According to CliftonStrengths, it says "people exceptionally talented in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to take risks and manage their own lives. They have an inner compass that gives them certainty in their decisions." It says how I can thrive is to "Trust your gut, and live life on your own terms."

But frankly, lately? My decision-making has been all over the map. I am spiraling and have no idea which way is up.

I was planning to take at least a couple years to give this writing gig a real shake. But when you've been in the corporate world for the past 15 years, it's a little hard to make that shift. I was NOT looking for jobs, but then a dear friend saw a job they knew would be perfect for me, and it kind of turned my world upside down. Do I apply for this? But this is my year to write! But jobs like this don't come up every day. In fact, I've seen ZERO jobs to this point that even tempted me.

And truthfully, I was feeling a lack of confidence about my decision-making around my book. My plot just hasn't been where I want it to be. I don't believe there is enough conflict, but I can't seem to figure out the right way to introduce more. And when self-doubt enters the picture for a creative, the grass starts to look greener where the group health insurance lies. LOL.

But I convinced myself that I will stay focused on my writing and stop thinking about how I can help dream marketing corporate job achieve their goals. Then, I had my Wednesday Night Writes meeting, and my writer friends were like, what's it hurt? Throw your name in. You don't have to say yes! And I thought, oh what the hell, and applied the next morning.

Then, later in the day, I was thinking about how every job I've ever landed has been through networking. So... I called up the hubs, who happened to have charity work ties into this job, and asked him if he could pull a few strings. I knew there were almost 200 applicants and figured that he could make sure my application didn't get missed, if nothing else. And the hubs said, "I really just want you to write." I was like, wahhhh? I knew I needed to dig more into that response. Did he want me to write because it was my dream? Did he want me to write because he liked having me at home more, having a flexible schedule to support family home life and travel more, or what was driving this comment? Because these are important factors to know in my decision-making.

So the next day, I probed further into his comment. And he basically revealed that he wanted me to write because it was my dream because we're in a good place in our life right now for me to give it a fair chance. He didn't want me to take a job and a couple years from now and be like, "I wish I were writing..."

I was like, this makes sense. He's right; this is what I need to do. And it's so awesome and amazing he supports me in this way.

And THEN I saw another job on my neighborhood listserve. This one was part-time, 15-20 hours a week (supposedly), like a block from my home, something easy and fun that would give me health insurance. (Can you tell that I just lined up our private health insurance and am suffering from some sticker shock?) But I started to do the math on how many hours that would consume, and then picking up kids and running them to their activities, etc... and realized I still don't think I'd have much time to focus on writing. This won't work either.

So the good news is--I went through a week of questioning and self-introspection and found my way back to where I THOUGHT I was confidently headed back in the right direction, focusing on my writing. And I could remove these distractions and really turn up the dial with the writing.

EXCEPT... I started digging into my conflict and the issues with my story and literally pulled the rug out from under myself. I worked, and I worked pulling at all the threads to try to figure it out, and I was getting more and more frustrated when I couldn't solve it. And that's when the self-doubt starts really rearing its ugly head. And you start to question if you're any good and if you can really do this.

Once again, I had a call with my Wednesday Night Writes folks. And what it did was made me realize what a mess I had made of my story. I had the two old versions of the book I wrote, and I had this new version with NEW, BETTER conflict! And I couldn't even tell what my core story was. It was too complicated. I was losing sight of my original vision. (Let's be honest, I lost sight of it a long time ago. That's why I moved on to book 2 of my trilogy a while back.)

I have to admit I was disheartened the next day to realize my self-assurance compass was still spinning with no clear direction. My STRATEGY #3 strength and my MAXIMIZER #2 strength were all freezing me up... BUT I was also feeling incredibly driven--probably largely because I had just disbanded all whims of going and landing a "real job," and damn it, was going to be a writer. So I went at it again, hard, the next day. I literally sent two of my writer friends in the next 24 hours three versions of my synopsis. Not to mention researching every aspect of the business ends of my book like a maniac to know what was realistic.

Today as I'm writing this (it's Friday before this blog will go out), I had a call earlier in the day with one writer friend. We talked, and we talked, and it was so good to have someone to listen to all my doubts and insecurities, help me see what's working and what's not, and help me focus on both simplifying and staying true to my core story. To have someone remind me to trust my gut. But what she said to me that I really needed to hear was, "You're closer than you think." So thank you to that friend; you know who you are.

Here's to me cracking this darn story's nut... hopefully soon (or my ACHIEVER #10 strength is going to lose its mind).

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Spring Break Hangover

After two weeks of spring break in Kiawah Island, SC I have a bit of a hangover... but not in the I consumed too much alcohol way, LOL. I'm just out of the swing of normal life!

I did writerly things... mainly volunteering for the Washington Romance Writers annual retreat as the editor agent pitch coordinator. It was the first year we've done it virtually, and while I believe it was a success, I can't lie that it was chaotic and consumed a lot of time.

I've learned my lesson--I am the WORST about overcommitting, and this plus the Vivian judging kind of put me over the top. I didn't realize it'd all hit in one week, and at the same time as having to oversee virtual schooling for my 6-year-old and host family in our condo.


Such is life--and I definitely feel that I made some good writer friends through it all so it was worth it. But NOW... I have to get after it. So I've been revisiting all my goals and timelines to see what's doable. I still intend to output my full trilogy this calendar year... but the editing will have to push into next year. So sad. NOT! (And now I've aged myself... again.)

Next week, I'll check-in and let you know if I stuck to my deadlines to hold myself accountable publicly!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Throwback: My 1st Tattoo Story

So since Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest, and I suppose of all days Easter should be, I'm re-purposing an old Facebook post for y'all, but it's a goodie. This is the story of my first tattoo--that is both tied to my writing and my spirituality--so I think fitting.

From February 2, 2019:

So I got my first tattoo today at the ripe old age of 37. Thanks Hannah!

I’ve been wanting this tattoo since a sermon my pastor gave on October 4, 2015. However, I’ve been busy, you know having babies and whatnot, so it took a bit for me to pull the trigger.


I’m a spiritual person, but don’t make it to church often. But this one message really resonated with me. My pastor spoke of the “power of yes”. That yes is ultimately a word of affirmation that we are all looking to hear.


This “yes” represented many things. Saying “yes” to God, and God saying “yes” to you in return. The life-giving force when parents say “yes” to their newborn, though figuratively by their embrace. The yeses we deliver and receive when agreeing to marriage, offering or receiving a new job, acceptance to college, or even to sit at someone’s lunch table. Yes to life, yes to ourselves, yes to each other.


To me, the longer I’ve dwelled on it, yes is not only affirmation and acceptance, but empowerment and attitude and ultimately fearlessness. Of course, there are times to say “no.” But aren’t we all looking to hear a little more “yes” in our lives?


So when my husband looks at me and says, “Hey babe, let’s take X trip.” I try to say “yes” whenever I can, even when in my head there may be more work and personal hassle than might make it worthwhile. When my 4YO little girl says, Mommy let’s build this STEM toy (which is always time-consuming), more often than not, I try to put the dishes and the laundry out of my head, and say “yes, baby, let’s do it,” and her joy is so simple and fulfilling.


Less than a year ago, when I had a respected colleague at my day job asked me if I was interested in moving departments, to head up something under him that was new to me and challenging, and leave behind the autonomy and comfort of something I’d known and owned for almost 12 years, I took that leap of faith, and said “yes”, following the advice of another mentor who told me “shed to grow.”


And for here, this account where I share my pursuit of becoming a published romance author, I say “yes” as an affirmation to myself and my writing, that I believe in the works I’m creating, in myself, and that I can do it. Placing this ink in my own handwriting, on my right forearm where I can see it, every time that I’m writing, is my special reminder.


So tonight as I relax with a glass of wine and contemplate my new and first! tattoo, I smile at having said “yes” to this little adventure. I went solo for myself and by myself, and can’t wait to continue to say “yes” to more adventures, to God, to writing, to fearlessness... knowing fear is the edge of opportunity. And to deal affirmation out as often as possible to all the people I love.

NOTE from today Easter Sunday 2021: I'm now going for my 3rd tattoo soon. Yes, they're addictive!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Finding My Way - Pt. 2

"Lean on me
When you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on..."

Sing with me now! We all know the good ole classic "Lean on Me" by Bill Withers. Although many will tell you writing is a solitary career, I've found that having a good support system is essential to my success. And a large part of that is finding your community of writing friends who will help you stay on task and lift you up when you get down.

When I first joined Washington Romance Writers, my local chapter of the national organization, in 2013, it took me some time to connect and find the people that would embark on this mutual journey with me. I didn't really even know what I was looking for.

Initially, through the chapter, I found a critique group of four people. But it ultimately failed. We were all in different phases of our writing careers, and the chemistry just must not have been quite right.

Then, I heard about writing groups from my friend's sister who is a writer. People just get together, and write! And sometimes talk about their writing. A form of group accountability to get in the words. I kept my eyes peeled, and found my first one I was able to join during the day, on a snow day, out in Arlington, VA. It was an awesome experience. But sadly, I had to work most days. And it was kind of far. But I knew this was a format that worked for me.

Then I found a group who wrote together on Tuesday nights, same location, but at least after work! One night a week they wrote together, one night a week they chatted about industry-related matters. I adored these people and the format, but I found that I just wasn't making it enough because of the location. So eventually I got the gall and a partner to launch another Write Night but in DC on Wednesday nights. Slowly a core group formed, and it worked really well for me.

Here's how this one would go, arrive 6-7pm, get dinner, and chat. 7-745pm write. 745-8pm talk about what we wrote, what we achieved. 8-845pm write (or edit or plot or research or whatever, writerly things). 845-9pm we'd chat and depart. I could make this regularly, and even when I worked and had kids and all the other "life" things, I could at least get in 2 hours of writing reliably a week, and feel like I was hacking away at my WIP (work-in-progress) and not giving up on my dream.

Since then, with both the pandemic, and my becoming a full-time writer... things have changed. Writers have writing and sprinting and co-working groups via zoom all the time! And once you're plugged into a few they start filling your calendar. Which is awesome and helps to commit more hours per day to showing up and putting words on paper. But at some point, I found it was helpful to pick a few time slots per day that were "my" time, or else you'd be like, I can just catch the next one... I'm busy doing (fill in the blank personal life very important thing).

Above and beyond co-writing groups, I've found an accountability partner. This is another writer who I have been friends with for many years, and we've been talking about serving in this function for each other for years. By pure serendipity, we find ourselves very much in same place in life, moving into writing full-time this year, and in the same place, rewriting manuscripts we've already written but need polishing because we were newbies and made a lot of newbie mistakes. We have committed to meeting every Monday for 30 minutes at 9:30am in the morning to set our goals for the week, and then for an hour+ on Fridays at 3p, to share what we've accomplished, potentially discuss challenges, critique each others' work, whatever is needed. Not a huge time commitment, but something that helps us both keep moving forward when it is so easy to be taken off track as a creative. And we both worked in the executive/corporate world before, so we function in much the same and "get" each other.

As additional, highly-valued support, my local romance writing chapter offers a mentoring program. I was lucky to be paired with a dear friend as my mentor, who actually beta read the first version of my first book, so the great thing is, she already has the background, she knows where I was, and where I am trying to head. We do monthly calls, and she has expressed she's more than willing to help me out by looking at anything at any time. It is so lovely to have someone of her skill and experience who is willing to put in the time to help you achieve your dreams.

On the flip side, I don't have a critique group. And I don't know that I want what at this time. I have lovely friends who are willing to jump in and take a look if I ask, so it's not formalized like that. And frankly, my last mistake was I took too much feedback, frankensteined my book, and lost my voice. That's why I have to re-write it.

Each writer has a different process and needs different support. Rookie authors try to absorb all the information out there about how to do this, but ultimately it's all about figuring out what works for YOU. Why did it take me so long to figure that out? Although I'm still figuring out what works for me... 😂

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Finding My Way - Pt. 1

One of the biggest things I've learned in 7.5 years of writing fiction regularly is that there is no one way to do this. Everyone has tons of advice, just like when you're having a baby for the first time. But ultimately, you have to figure out what is going to work for you--warning: sports metaphor... how you can keep pumping the knees and moving the pile.

It's taken me kind of a long time to figure out what works for me. Some of the things that worked for me when I was balancing an executive career, being a mama (not a super mom because who can be?), moving and renovating homes, etc., have changed since I've become a full-time writer and working from home. You have to be able to adapt and evolve and find your new right way.

For this blog, I'm mainly going to talk about the planner I'm using right now. I know RIVETING!!! Except for you planner junkies out there, I know this is like candy for you. Or at least affirmation, LOL. (Oops, sorry, Gen Z. Shhh... I'm sporting a side part too.)

Here it is... duh duh DUNNNHHHHH!!!

Listen, I've never been a planner type. I've tried; it's not that I haven't tried. But I could never keep up with them. I think it's because when I had a full-time job, I had my crazy work calendar and then surviving everything else.

But now that I'm a full-time writer, I'm someone that needs structure to my days. And I have to create it myself. What I love about this planner, which I won from my writer friend Tracee during a Washington Romance Writers Mini Session called "The Author Audit," is that it is so granular but also inspirational.

The planner itself is part of a larger brand offering called "Start Today" and was created by Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Wash Your Face.

You set your intention for the planner and what one major goal you're going to work on this quarter. It doesn't mean you have to achieve your goal in that time if you're goal is more long-range, but the hope is you find ways to stay motivated through this quarter to work towards achieving it. And then you dig down, quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily.

You look at in the past whether you've pushed yourself for more, stayed comfortable, or regressed. You come up with your goal per month and your power word of the month. Weekly you decide on your three big deals and block out time in the week ahead to make sure you're devoting time to them. And with your five to strive, you find 5 hours minimum a week to devote to achieving your one big goal, so no matter what, you're prioritizing putting time towards it.

I personally love that there is also a weekly theme song that you choose to help you stay motivated and play when you need it. And you catalog the results you're going to achieve each week rather than your goals. It is a simple twist in terminology, but it makes you think more positively and what the end result of your efforts should look like.

You also daily capture what you're grateful for, which I think helps keep you in the right frame of mind. But the daily calendar is really where I do get my mojo from. I make sure I've blocked out an hour and fifteen minutes every day for working out and showering, and I try to block out at LEAST four hours to devote to writing.

Since then, I've learned that I really have to treat writing as my J-O-B. Otherwise, I will let personal but important matters impinge on that time. And I really have to try not to respond to texts and the like. Or let people know, sorry I'm writing. It's been a recent learning, but it's making a big difference already.

So anyhow, I could go on about all the features of this planner, but suffice it to say, it's been really helping me now that writing is my job. When I don't plan out my weeks and my days, I notice that I go off track, and I don't achieve what I need to. And the fact that it's a big book, but really only covers three months, shows how in-depth it gets. I'll be wrapping this one up in April--and will try to remember to check back in on how the first three months of planning went.

The last thing I want to mention is Word of the Year. This came to me through my dear friend Keely. The planner highlights your power word for the month, but I constantly remind myself of my word of the year. Keely has had a bunch of us writer friends identifying our word of the year for many years. But this year, my word is DEFY, and I am really digging it. Because I want to defy people's expectations, but especially my own. It has so much power for me to push beyond any boundaries I have in my head.

Next week, in Pt. 2, I'll talk about the people I surround myself with--from support writing and sprinting groups to accountability partners and mentors--to set myself up for success.