Faking it till You Make It (as an Author)

I saw this image on one of my favorite author’s Facebook page this week and had to smile.

Yeah, baby!

Yeah, baby!

I liked how such a successful author like her (we’re talking about the NY Times and USA Today bestseller status) could relate to the struggles of a way lesser-known, indie author like me.

In the four years since I started pursuing a writing “career” (I added quotes around the word career to show you how seriously I take it, haha), I have learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned how fragile my ego is, how much I base my self-confidence on what other people think, and how I do have what it takes to be an author.

Wait a minute, how did that last comment sneak in there? 😉 More importantly, is it true or is it just a lie I tell myself as I tend to my wounded ego?

The thing is, to be a writer (especially a fiction writer), you constantly need to make things real and believable (things you tell your readers and yourself). You create characters and settings and a plot line out of scratch. You add descriptions and dialogue and drama to give flavor and texture to the story. And you top it all off with a happy-ever-after, or some sort of meaningful ending, so the reader feels satisfied and fulfilled until their next meal, I mean, book. 🙂

If you were to condense my short time as a writer into a novel, it would be one of those “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” type of stories. The kind where the soldier rushes off into war with a youthful spirit and all the best intentions, only to emerge from the fight bruised and scarred and weary. But then, thanks to the pep talks of his loved ones, he goes into battle again with renewed hope and a belief that he can do it(!), and he comes out a winner.

Yep, like that soldier, I’ve been beaten down by rejection emails, gotten stuck in the trenches of writer’s doubt and considered giving up. But through the process, I’ve picked up lots of great tips from other writers, tried new techniques and developed literary muscles. And I’ve had to give myself one pep talk after another, talks that include just enough truth to keep me fighting.

Truth such as: “There was a lot good about this book, especially the life and faith lessons, but there were some problems, too. Head hopping was a major issue, because it went back and forth between different points of view so often. So much time was skipped in places it left the reader feeling as if they were missing out on too much of the story. For the first 60% of my kindle edition, there was a lot of thinking and second-guessing but little to no conflict. The tension picked up between 60% and 75% but then fell off again, and everything was resolved. The last part just tied everything up. I did like the book, but it could have been much better with just a little more work.”

That was a review left by a reader of my first book. When I saw it, I took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in my throat. Then I read it again and found myself nodding … because every criticism she gave was true. And because of her honesty (and those of my critique partners and beta readers), I know how to improve and what it takes to be an author.

The journey to becoming a writer is a bit like faking it till you make it. Faking it not by lying to yourself about how good you are, but by being truthful about the areas that could be better. It’s about showing up each day to do the hard work of a writer because that’s what you are. It’s about believing you have it in you to be a regal, strong and impressive white striped tiger, even when all you feel like is a tiny, clumsy kitty.

So, cheers to all of us kitty cats working on growing into big ‘ole tigers. Believe it, own it, and go for it.

I think the perfect song for this post is Katy Perry’s “Roar”, which I’ve shared before, but this time I’m sharing a cover of it by Olivia, a pint-sized contestant on The Voice Kids Australia (we need a US version!) who has one fierce roar.

What have you tried your hand at “faking it till you make it”? What did you learn from the experience?

 

Shedding the Past

A friend and I were sharing over breakfast the other day how we feel like we finally know ourselves better. It’s taken 30-something odd years for us to know our likes/dislikes and everything else that makes us who we are, but here we are – older and wiser. 🙂

I used to think I’d have it all figured out by the time I turned 20. I mean, come on, 20 years is over 7,000 days. That should give you enough time to grow up and be your own person, right? But ironically, I think those first two decades (which we hope would mold us into adults) may actually be the years we need to shed before we can mature.

A girlfriend asked me recently, “Why do you feel like you have to be perfect?”

I answered, “It’s how I was raised.”

Let me correct that – it’s how I was born and raised. Genes definitely play a part in who I am. I can’t help but be organized, cautious and structured (just like my son). But the way I was raised really “did me in” and locked me into a box I’ve been trying to make my way out of the past few years.

Image courtesy of Stoonn/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Stoonn/freedigitalphotos.net

I don’t have many memories of my childhood, but the ones I do have center mostly around the emotion of fear. Fear of speaking up, fear of the consequences if I didn’t conform, fear of being myself. One memory I do recall well happened when I was twelve. I had been eating breakfast at the kitchen counter under a fluorescent bulb. The sun had not yet broken through the dark sky outside the window. I heard the phone ring and thought it odd that someone would be calling at six in the morning. My mom answered and after a brief exchange, she came over with shock and sadness written on her face.

“Your cousin passed away.”

My teenage brain couldn’t digest this news. My dear cousin who was only 2 months younger than me had died. He had been my closest relative till then. My family had lived with his for a while after we immigrated to the U.S. and we had become good friends. Good enough friends that he once stuck a tic tac up his nostril in hopes of making me laugh.

The tears started falling as soon as I realized he was gone. My grandmother who lived with us at the time heard what had happened. She stood next to me, all five feet of her, and fixed her eyes on my face.

“Why are you crying?” she spit out, contempt dripping from every word. “Don’t cry.”

And just like that I wiped away my tears and tried to swallow the rest of my emotions down with my soggy cereal.

Now I don’t share this memory to paint my grandmother as a monster. She didn’t have an easy life, and circumstances (and likely genetics) played a part in making her who she was. She was in fact a very tough woman who raised four children after her husband passed away. She was also the person who raised me.

Knowing what I know now about child development and attachment and so forth (my degree in counseling wasn’t all for nothing!), I understand why I am the way I am. Why I’m so hard on myself. Why I’m so hard on other people, too (namely my kids).

But the more distance I have from my past, the more I am able to see myself apart from it. It will always be a part of me, but its sticky, tar-like grip on my heart has loosened over the years as I experience grace and love from God, my friends and my family. I know now that it’s okay to feel, to express myself and to be who I am.

It’s good to keep learning about yourself and to keep growing. That’s the beauty of growth. It’s never too late and there can never be too much.

Take a listen to Katy Perry’s song “Roar“. I can really relate to the opening lyrics.

What would you like to shed about your past? In what ways do you hope to keep growing in adulthood?

Measuring Love

Recently, E asked me, “Who do you love more, me or C?”

Not this again! Didn’t C just ask me this question the other day, too? My eyes opened wide in exasperation and I, like any other smart parent in the world, replied, “I love you bloth!” (Bloth is how the kids pronounce “both”, don’t ask me why.)

Why is it that kids like to make us squirm with their probing questions? If it’s not about the birds and the bees, it’s about equality and justice. I for one think the former topic might be easier to address than the latter. It’s easier to remain objective when discussing facts (ie. “Well, God took a part from me and a part from Baba and put them together to make you”), especially when you can still remain vague about the details (whew!), but it’s much more difficult to talk about the ambiguous stuff.

Like stuff you can’t quite measure with a yard stick or a scale. Stuff you never thought you’d have to justify, especially to your kids.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/freedigitalphotos.net

Stuff like love.

Even though this four letter word can be hard to quantify, I thought I knew the answer to E’s million dollar question (in my head of course, not out loud). My initial response was: The kid I love more is the one who is more cooperative, obedient, easy to manage – really, the one who makes my life easier. Makes sense, right? But then I realized there are several ways to answer his question. Merely giving that first answer only trivializes the true meaning of love.

To love someone means more than just accepting them on their good days. To love your child means not giving up on them when they are having their fourth meltdown in a day; deciding to stay calm when their whiny voices grate on your nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard; choosing to not yell when your child screams that the parking space you chose at the library was too sunny and the next space you chose was too far away (true story, by the way). If you are talking about that kind of love, then my answer would be: The kid I love more is the one who teaches me to be more patient, forgiving, unselfish – in essence, the one who pushes me to my limits and deepens my understanding of love.

However the more I thought about E’s question, the more I realized neither of these answers were true. Who do I love more, E or C? Well, to be honest, I love myself more.

How do I know this? Because often times I value my needs more than theirs. I love myself more when I’d rather check Facebook than play with them; when I don’t accept them for who they are and want to change them; when I choose not to empathize and understand the reason behind their actions; when I hold them to standards they cannot meet.

Yikes.

This realization has been very humbling and challenging for me. I know there is no perfect parent, but I still struggle with guilt over how far I fall short in loving my children. There’s the perfectionist side of me that keeps count of the number of times I sigh in annoyance or speak harshly to them. I even find myself hesitant to say “I love you” to E and C because I feel like my actions don’t match up to those three weighty words.

But I’m trying not to get stuck in the negatives because guilt is the last thing I need yelling at me on the sidelines of this marathon I’m running (which is what parenting feels like at times). So I remind myself to focus on progress, not perfection. To put my phone down more often than pick it up. To make eye contact and listen, really listen to my kids when they talk. To put myself in their place and imagine how scary it must be to have someone twice their size yelling at them. To appreciate their unique personalities, including the strong willed parts. To enjoy their presence each and every day because they are growing up so fast.

The bottom line is this: I’m learning to love myself less in order to love them more because they are so precious and worth it.

The song for this post is Katy Perry’s, “Unconditionally”. I like this lyric: “I’ll take your bad days along with the good.”

In what ways have you learned to love yourself less for the sake of loving your loved ones better?

Monday Mentionables: Hawaiian Memories & Roar

By the time you read this, I will be heading back to the mainland. It will be sad to say goodbye to the fresh ocean air filled with the occasional scent of plumerias and drinking pina coladas by the pool, but life must go on. 🙂 Hubby, the munchkins and I totally enjoyed our time together and are (somewhat) ready to go back to work and school now. Here are a few neat things from our trip to share with you.

There are some cool bugs in Kauai. Check out this Hawaiian version of a ladybug!

 

A random happy face on the road. 🙂
Can’t help but smile when you see this!

 

The chicken that almost came home with us 
(did I mention Chloe is passionate about chickens?!).

 

A sign I saw in a store that will be my next DIY project.
I think I’ll need one of these in each room of the house and maybe the car, too!

And as we head back to reality, I will be humming Katy Perry’s new song, “Roar”. It’s a great song to get you going on this last week of August. It’s so very catchy and empowering. The lyric video is fun, too – you’ll love it if you’re into emoticons.

Happy Monday everyone!