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.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Setting Intentions

I thought, for this week, it might be a little fun to dive into a bit of whimsy.

For those of you who don't know me well, I have an interesting personal history with all things new age. I mean, with a name like Skye, this is probably not incredibly shocking. But I grew up in a household of hippies, with tie-dye, guitars, crystals, smudging, all that. When my parents separated when I was in second grade, my father really set out on this path. He led the Reiki club of Charleston (in South Carolina) in the early-90s, and when I went to live with him, he actually had me trained in Reiki 1--and I was only in late elementary school at that time. I performed hands-on-healing alongside adults. I learned how to send and receive energy, how to meditate, and more. And I listened to a heck of a lot of Enya.

My father died when I was 12. Colon cancer at 48 years old. I just moved on from my new age past, didn't tap into it for years. But I would find myself, in moments of stress rooting for my sports teams, with my hands falling into the interlaced position meant for sending energy, my dominant thumb on top, index fingers steepled, trying to help my teams. (Let's add a caveat that both of my parents had higher degrees in physical education and were coaches, so the competitive streak and sports-interest in my life is REAL) Slightly ridiculous to send energy to the sports teams I wanted to win, but it just felt very natural. My husband would just shake his head at me (probably also because my Gamecocks tend to be a hopeless cause).

As I got older, and self-care, yoga, and meditation penetrated the mainstream, I met people who were in this world, and it started to bring back fond memories for me. But it was not something I had time for in my busy, executive, city, mama, crazy life balance.

However, once I realized I was taking on this crazy but inspiring year ahead, writing all the time... what did I fall back on?

My intentions. And how to funnel positive energy for a new focused pursuit of writing. I revisited which crystals and gemstones would help me to do so and found ones I could wear when I want to channel them. (I also smudged all lingering bad vibes out of my office and out of my house. LOL.) Here is what I went with for my starter set...

The clear quartz, the bomb diggity, bringing clarity, manifestation, illumination. It's the master healer and meant to amplify your energy and balance.

The moonstone, representing divine feminity, but for me, even more important--new beginnings and destiny. It's meant to encourage growth and strength, and bring success and good fortune.

Blue Lapis--I already lost an earring back to these, so need to find one to replace it with, but brings awareness, inner wisdom, and trust. It has calming and sedate energy and is the universal symbol of wisdom and truth.

Citrine--representing happiness, positivity, abundance. It releases the negative, encourages optimism, enhances creativity, and attracts prosperity. 'Nuff said.

And lastly, Adventurine, which brings good luck, manifestation, and optimism.

These are the gemstones I chose to surround myself with when I launched my new adventure this year. I don't wear them every day, but I try to wear them on heavy creative output days, or on days I'll be representing myself as a writer to the outside world.

Some may see it as a bunch of hokey pokey, but I love how it makes me feel. It's weird how life changes make you tap into things from your childhood. These make me feel like I'm aligned with the universe and pushing in every possible way to achieve my dreams.


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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Manifesting Destiny

I am a full-time writer.

Wow. Did I just say that? For those of you who don't know... it's terrifying. When you've been working in the corporate world for your whole adult life/15+ years, deciding not to keep on the corporate track, to take a swing and follow your dream, it's frankly intimidating. Even when all your closest friends say, of course, this is what you were going to do.

I've been writing fiction in my spare time since 2013. Frankly, through Nanowrimo, I wrote my first book in about 6 weeks. I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, trying to hide out from my friends who would immediately call BULLSHIT if I wasn't drinking, and was like, well, I guess I should write that book I've always said I dreamed of writing. In 5 weeks, I cranked out 50,000 words. In January of 2014,  I wrote the remaining 10K.

I pitched agents/editors, and I had a lot of positive responses. But I also made many rookie mistakes, taking too much feedback, making my book a Frankenstein of what it was, losing my voice. Editing and re-editing the same book over and over and over. But I was learning. Getting stronger and better.

Meanwhile, I was a TV Executive running business strategy, then marketing, had two babies, renovated two houses, moved, lost parents, all the life things. Some weeks I'd do nothing with my novels. Most weeks, I'd get in 1-2 hours with my BELOVED Wednesday Night Writes writing group. Those people held me up. I may not have been doing much... but I was putting in an hour, maybe two, towards my dream. I wasn't giving up on it.

I worked at my corporate job for longer than my primary and secondary educations combined. Pretty much all of my adult years were spent there, minus a few shorter (but AWESOME I love y'all!) stints elsewhere before.

I talked to my career coach, to whom I have to give major props. She was like, are you serious about writing? You've been writing since 2013. And I was like, um, yeah, I've been a little busy. But later in our conversation, she started talking about beta readers and what feedback to guide them with, and I was like, wait a second, you seem to know what you're talking about. And she was like yes... I work with published authors. This felt like a fulfillment of destiny, a "meet-cute" sort of scenario, where we both learned okay... now we can see eye-to-eye.

I was weighing the idea of launching my own freelance business but she urged me to go after my dream. She was like, you can launch that business in two months. But give your dream a real run for its money. Give it a real chance.

It was one of the most liberating pieces of advice anyone has ever given me.

And so, I decided I was going to take that scary step. And not only that, I was going to claim it publicly.

I posted to my personal social accounts about this new chapter of my life... partly to help manifest my destiny because who knows what claiming your intentions publicly might lead to? Part of it was to hold myself accountable, so if people ask how your trilogy is going, well, it better be going. And part of it was to close the previous chapter of my life and let all my friends know this is my new life. I'm a full-time writer. And this is how you can support me. Follow me here:

My goal is to post once a week on Sundays. But I won't let it get in the way of my writing. Thank you for following along on my journey. I truly hope I write books you love. That's my ultimate goal.