Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Hey, everyone!

I spent NaNoWriMo trying to write a story that was entirely within my comfort zone, and I wasn’t feeling it. It felt boring and trite, and I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that I wasn’t challenging myself. I wasn’t even feeling my own voice coming through the writing.

I didn’t care about it.

My characters were lifeless. My setting was undeveloped. My conflict was muddled and unclear. But it was fantasy. It was the first genre I had ever loved writing; the first feeling that I actually loved a craft as more than just a hobby. Fantasy was once what defined my writing.

This last novel wasn’t something I felt in my soul anymore, and it broke my heart. Today, I want you do what I didn’t have the foresight to do!

I want you to step out of your comfort zone!

Write Outside of Your Genre

It doesn’t have to be something long. It doesn’t even have to be something you plan to publish or submit. All you need to do is pick a genre you’ve never written before, and give yourself room to breathe.

You can outline it! I’m not a pantser by any stretch of the imagination, and, if you aren’t either, I encourage you to outline to your heart’s content! This isn’t an exercise in off-the-cuff writing, so don’t panic.

Once you decide on the genre you want to test out, find your conflict. Or, if you start with characters, discover who they are and what drives them. However you begin, get yourself started! Don’t be afraid, because this is just an exercise. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even like the process in this new genre!

When I need a refresh period in another genre, I generally choose characters I’m already familiar with. I’ve written romance and feel-good material for my Amity Dawn characters. I jumped into mystery (poorly; I did not enjoy it) with characters from Glass Dragons.

Every new genre brings its own experience, and you can learn from all of them.

Write Something Controversial

Do you have something to say about a current event? DAPL? The election? Ghirardelli vs Lindt?

Fear can often drive us to keep our mouths shut on things we’re afraid will attract conflict. The internet is the perfect place to get chewed up and spit out for having an opinion, but I encourage you to hold your ground! Nothing was ever accomplished by keeping silent.

Once you have your story/blog post/what-have-you written, share it. Share it! Seriously. It can be so empowering to make yourself heard. It gives you a voice and it lets others know that it’s okay to stand with you or against you! It’s okay to feel something!

Overcoming your fear of having a voice by expressing yourself can lead to all sorts of unlocked inspiration. The fear of writing what you mean and writing what you feel is pushed aside, and you can experience a new confidence in your subject matter. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated.

Invite Someone to Read Your Work

It’s scary to open yourself up to criticism, but, remember, criticism teaches us how to improve. We can’t grow if we stay in our own little bubble. Reading, writing, and experiencing new things are all amazing ways to grow as a writer, but it’s allowing others to tell us what’s missing that gives us perspective on our own work.

Allow a beta reader into your Writer Bubble. Let them read your work, praise what’s good, and question what needs attention. We can only see so far into our work. We know what we meant to say in that line that’s awkwardly worded. It doesn’t read awkwardly to us!

Did you use too many commas in that sentence? Did your protagonist just do something totally uncharacteristic? It won’t make us cringe if we read it with writer-eyes. A beta can catch that for you.

It doesn’t mean your novel isn’t your masterpiece. It just means every masterpiece goes through a draft period; a period where it needs tweaking and molding until it resembles the vision in your head. The value of a second set of eyes can be absolutely priceless.

Be Authentically You

I’m not saying you need to incite dissension in your readers. If you’re a professional and quiet person, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things light and encouraging! If you’re a little more abrasive, that’s okay, too. I have a tendency to be that way. I have strong opinions and I like to voice them—not for the sake of argument, but to connect to other people who might feel alone in their views.

Regardless of who you are, what you believe or do for a living, where you find your peace, always be authentically you.

Battle on!
Kit

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Goals! A New Year Approaches

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This is not a New Years resolutions post. I don’t generally do the resolutions thing, but I think it’s important to have goals all year round. I’ve been fiddling with blog post prompts lately, and one of the prompts that crops up the most often is a “goals” post. All in all, the post is meant to outline your goals and any steps you’ve put into place to complete them.

I feel like you all know me well enough to know that I’m an organizational nightmare. My goal-setting skills are trash.

I do have goals, though!

Naturally, I want to publish my sci fi work. I’m getting there. School and work in the last few years have kept my creativity and writing time to a minimum, but I’m slowly breaking away from that. My degree program will resume next summer and I’m currently freelancing exclusively! More time!

I don’t want to focus on that, though.

My ultimate goal is to open a writing retreat for writers of all skill levels, and make available a set of writing workshops that will help attendees develop the skills they need to make their writing what they want it to be! Ideally, this will be a fantastic source of networking and support for budding and experienced writers—something that I experienced during my formative years as a writer. We’re always growing, and I want to build a place to reflect and encourage that.

A fellow writer, Brooke D. Wheeler, and I have this super-plan to buy a barn in the middle of nowhere and make it our art-life. We’ll write and craft and live happily. It’ll be remarkable.

From a business perspective, though, I’d love to put together a bed-and-breakfast-style retreat for writers—artists, too, if they’d like! I don’t have steps in place to bring this into reality at the moment, but, when Jared and I settle down in a place that we intend to be a bit more permanent, I’ll be getting to work on that business plan. Should be about a year from now, if everything goes according to plan.

The Draws of the Writer’s Retreat

Since 2010, I’ve made it my passion and my mission to help other writers with their creative goals. The rewards of seeing someone’s name in print when you were able to be there for them during the dark times of that work is so rewarding. It’s knowing that you could help in someone else’s happiness and success.

Art is hard. It doesn’t matter what type of art it is. Writing, drawing, composing—they all come with unique challenges, and sometimes it’s near impossible to overcome them alone. The art may be solitary, but the act of developing your art doesn’t have to be. Now and then, a little social nudge of love and encouragement can make all the difference.

It’s sitting in a room with a few other people also struggling with their passion, and knowing that you’re not alone. It’s knowing that the person next to you, who you respect or whose art you admire, also has moments when they hate their work. It’s knowing it happens to all of us. It’s easier to love the work and push through the negative feelings when you have a support system.

The Business of a Writer’s Retreat

This is probably where I’m going to get hung up.

I need to buckle down on the technical and business-centered aspects of the writer’s retreat, and I’m not sure how. For this reason, it’s probably good that Jared isn’t looking for us to settle into a new place until next August. I need time to research, plan, and put together a concrete set of ideas, funding, and location possibilities. It will probably wind up being somewhere around New Smyrna Beach area. It’s nice and we’ll be close by!
At least for starters. ❤

Oh, guys, just talking about it is exciting me! Maybe I’ll get going on that business plan sooner than I expected!

Battle on!
Kit

What are your goals as a writer or artist? How do you view the business aspects of who you are?

How Do You Show Yourself Love?

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Being a creative person can be hard. You look at the world, and you see trends you’ve seen in fiction—that downward spiral before everything falls to hell. You look at your life and it doesn’t look like it does in your head, or like it should look on the page.

You’re not alone.

Studies have shown that creative people are very prone to depression and mood swings, leaving us susceptible to the terrible proclivity for self-neglect. It’s not that we want to be depressed, and we certainly don’t want to push our friends away, but sometimes we just need to recharge our batteries. This tends to be ten times worse if you’re in a creative rut, doesn’t it? Our inner Eeyore pops out with a compelling, “What’s the point?”

The point is: It will pass.

I’m not trying to diminish your feelings of inadequacy or loneliness or failure. We all have those feelings, especially when it looks like things are going down the toilet faster than we can swim. I just want you to know that it doesn’t last forever.

One day, you’ll emerge from the funk and get back to work, because your art is what you were born to do.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: We all feel like frauds sometimes. We all feel like failures sometimes. It does not make us less than we are, and we are awesome.

So, let me pose my question to you: How do you show yourself love?

I know it can be a nightmare just getting out of bed in the morning, but you still deserve love and you need it most from yourself.

Let me give you some pointers from when I have my bad days, or even days that I just work a little too hard and it doesn’t feel like enough.

1. Tell yourself it’s okay. You’ll get on it when you’re ready. Progress is important, and, unless you have a deadline that you really can’t miss, giving yourself some breathing room is the best possible way to love yourself. You can’t be expected to drive your brain into the ground! If you need to take a day off, take a day off. You don’t need to justify it to anyone.

2. Write through the block. Sometimes, taking a day off makes me feel worse than if I could just write something. So, write something! Don’t pick up your favorite work in progress, though. You may not be able to write to your satisfaction today, and that could make you feel a whole lot worse than you already do.

Try something different. Write a character letter or journal entry and get into your favorite protagonist’s head! Write a letter to yourself. Rant about something! Make list of all the things you love about writing or your current work in progress. Hell, make a list of the reasons you like the spot on the back of your cat’s left ear. It doesn’t matter, just write something. You’d be amazed at how easily it can get the ball rolling.

3. Take a bath or a walk. Go to a part of your city or town you’ve never been to before and explore a bit. (I mean, don’t trespass or anything. Be careful and respectful.) Just settle in and listen to music awhile. Recharge and clear your mind, however you like to do that. Yoga With Adriene is one of my favorites. Regardless of what you choose to do with this ‘down time,’ make sure you take care of yourself doing it.

4. Make a list of all the reasons you became a writer or artist in the first place. It might help rekindle that passion. Remember, though, this is for fun and to show yourself love, so keep the reasons positive!

If you chose to write because you had something bad happen to you that you need to get out, don’t let that dominate your reason. Your reason may be better viewed as using writing to heal or help others. Getting that negativity out can still be positive.

5. Spend time with friends or family. Jared is the one person I know I can rely on to pick me up when I need it. He’s funny, even if he doesn’t have any idea what to say when I’m sad. He knows what I like and what I need—even if it’s Star Trek: Voyager and a cup of coffee.

I know this is a hard one for some of you. I spent several years in Florida, away from the people I love and with no friends in the vicinity. It was hard for me, and I can’t express what it felt like to have no access to my Tribe. If you feel this way, it may not be much, but you can contact me. I’ll be your Tribe. ❤

6. Know that you are enough. That’s it. That’s the bottom line and the pinnacle of self-love. You are enough, and it can be hard to remember that, but it’s ALWAYS true. Always.
You are enough, and the world needs your art.

Battle on,
Kit

What do you do to show yourself love?

Have you ever felt like you had no love for yourself to offer? (<—Then reread number 6, okay?)

J is for Jared #AtoZChallenge

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I know what you’re thinking. “She could have picked a more writerly-centered topic for J—like anything writing-related.” You’re both right and wrong.

This post is about the people who love us, encourage us, and hold us accountable.

I love Jared more than anything. We’ve been together just over a year, and he’s been an absolute freight train of encouragement for me. When we first started dating, he stalked every possible corner and crevice of social media for what I might be like as a person, and discovered my (then intermittent) writing on Goggles & Lace.

Being creative is cool, but, let’s face it, some of us are a little less than motivated when we’re feeling inadequate. If you’re like me, the more you have to do, the less likely you are to do it, and you just sort of pill-bug into blanket burrito and binge watch something you have tepid feelings about on Netflix for 77 hours. It’s not pretty, but that’s real life. I’m all about the bloggers and creatives that are all “PRODUCTIVITY AND CONQUEST!” Hell yes. I totally agree! Productivity and conquest… hypothetically. I want to be productive, and that’s a fact. I want to be able to power through novel after novel and edit a thousand things before lunch, but you know what? Depression and inadequacy are intensely real feelings, and sometimes it’s just hard to push past them.

In my last post, I talked about investing time and love into the things and people that mean the most to you. That’s still true. I mean that with every fiber of myself. Make those people feel loved and valued, especially if they reciprocate. It’s easy to drain yourself on people who don’t give a flying monkey fart whether you fail or succeed. Hell, I even have a few friends who are like, “Oh, damn. That’s too bad,” but are definitely feeling a little victorious over my failures. Whatever. You can’t make those people your priority.

Jared came to me at a time in my life when I was considering giving up. I tried to restart Goggles & Lace and move my career forward, but I didn’t have the emotional capacity to invest that love in my work.

And you know what?

Sometimes I’m just lazy.

There. I said it. I’m sometimes just like, “I want to eat mac & cheese straight out of the pot while not wearing any pants and watch Young Justice for the fortieth time.” (Also, when I say “sometimes,” I really mean “usually.”)

We all need someone to help us combat that feeling. There are great benefits to having that one person look at your writing and call you out on things! Seriously, I encourage you to sit down and make a list of things that your person is great about when it comes to your creative ventures. Then I encourage you to give them that list in some form or other. Here’s mine, for example:

  • Jared calls me out on my bullshizzle science. Science and math are his things, so when I’m writing science fiction and something doesn’t mesh, I definitely hear about it. I can ask things like “I need a sustainable off-the-grid energy source” and he can list me options and tell me how they work. I love it. It gives me jumping off points for further research.
  • He says things like, “So, how’s Amity Dawn coming?” because he knows when I’m not writing and it shames me into getting my butt into gear.
  • Jared is a reader, not a writer, so if I ask advice, I won’t get it the way he would write it. He tells me what he’d like strictly as a reader. I love it.
  • When I get into a really great writing groove, when I’m done, he wants to hear about it. He treats me like my writing matters, and you have no idea how much that helps. Even if he’s never read it.
  • “I need a bigger space for planning,” led to him securing me a 24×36 inch whiteboard for our wall.
  • He’s BUILDING ME A COMPUTER so I can do creative things, work, and… you know… also play games. The laptop is great, but it’s not a practical work space for me anymore, and he recognized that. He’s a godsend.

The bottom line is, it’s important to have someone who understands your needs, period. As a writer or artist, those needs are just a bit more niche than they might be if you were doing something else. Praise the people who care enough about you to treat you like your work matters.

Battle on. ❤

I is for Investment #AtoZChallenge

Where you invest your love-You Invest your life

When people think of investments, they tend to think of money, I think. At least, I did for a long time. Coming from a family who struggled financially my entire life was difficult, and everything I did or wanted to do was always put into categories of financial manageability. There were many years I went without school pictures or activities, was too afraid to be a strain on the family by asking for anything beyond basic necessity, and stayed away from social activities that would cost money.

My mother was fantastic, of course. She got me a class ring, tickets to every semi-formal and prom, bought my dresses, and managed to scrape together what I needed for field trips so I wouldn’t miss out. We were always fed and always had a roof over our heads, which is more than so many people get. I’m not complaining about my life up until this point. I’ve had a good life, though a hard one, and it’s taught me a lot. Hell, I didn’t even go to college until I was 28 because I was terrified of the crippling debt. The words “I don’t know, that’s a lot of money,” defined my life. When I heard them, regardless of who was saying it or their intention, whatever I was planning was pushed aside and I went back to school or work, deciding I wouldn’t be able to do it anyway.

Over the years, though, I’ve learned that money isn’t the only investment. Sure, investment and financial responsibility will take a person a long way in life, but it’s not the end all and be all.

Investments also consist of time, passion, attention, and love.

  • You wind up finding the people that become your tribe. The people that encourage you, no matter what the cost. If you want it, if you need it, you’ll find a way. Those are the relationships you invest everything into—it’s not about money. Family is important, but family isn’t just the small unit of people you were born into; it’s the group of people you build for yourself. Whether they’re permanent or transient, they’re the people who touch you, and investing time, attention, and love into those relationships, however brief, can change you for the better. I’ve learned this pretty intensely, after moving so damn much in my life. Not everyone sticks around, and that’s okay, but don’t let that connection mean nothing.
  • You find your passion(s). I love writing. I love working with creative people and helping them to become better at what they do. Investing passion into those things can be hard sometimes, since they don’t pay the bills just yet, but they add more to life than the “Well, I can’t afford to do that” moments. It’s not monetarily expensive to love something, but it’s more rewarding than fat bank account. (The bank account helps, I’m sure. I mean, we all like to eat, but think bigger picture for me, yeah?)
  • You will find love. I’m not saying romantic love, necessarily, but you’ll find love. Sometimes it seems bleak and lonely, and it’s hard to put in the effort to find people like you, who enjoy the same things you do, but you’ll find them. Hell, maybe you will find romantic love, which is great! My greatest hope for you, though, is that you find love in yourself and in being alone. You’re of value all on your own. Not just as a friend or a girl/boyfriend or wife/husband. You’re worth your own love more than the love of anyone else, and that’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes. Invest in self-love!

The point is, invest in the things that matter. Invest in yourself. Invest in health and awareness and love. Invest in the people that speak to your soul. Invest in your art and your writing and your music.

You’re the creative. You’re the ones who keep emotions stirring and that’s what keeps the world turning.

Battle on. ❤

What would you add to the list? What have you invested in that propelled you forward?

F is for Fellowship #AtoZChallenge

So it’s been a week of change for me and, as such, it’s been hard to keep to a schedule or even keep my head in one place. I haven’t even looked at my writing or editing projects since last weekend. I’m a huge slacker, but we’re settling back in!

I want to talk about fellowship. Not the programs creatives slit throats to get into or that churches sponsor or that are created around evil jewelry.

I’m talking about a bond.

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In all the years I’ve been writing and working and failing and picking myself back up, the one thing I can always count on is the fellowship of other writers and creatives. We’re an odd bunch. We stick together. When something falls through for one of us, you can bet the lot of us will commiserate, shout obscenities, and pour hot coffee down the throats of our fallen comrades.

“It was all out of love, I swear,” she said to the officer taking her statement, as her ‘fallen comrade’ pulled the shock blanket tighter around her shoulders.

It’s all out of love. Nothing creates empathy in other creatives like that very-shared feeling of inadequacy. There’s nothing inadequate about any of us, so long as we’re honing our craft, right? Point is, I would never have made it this far without the people I’ve met along the way. Writers and artists of all types—musicians and painters and poets and novelists—have fueled me just through the interaction I’ve had with them.

Never underestimate the power of a social writers group. Listen. Seriously. Critique groups are awesome, but if you’re not quite there yet, hunt for groups that are social and encouraging. Ones you can ask for help if you need it. Using these social groups to hone your craft—write, draw, paint more—and build your confidence in your chosen specialization(s) can impact you for the better. It can help you get ready for that critique group, to submit to that agent, to jam your resume into the faces of a hundred artsy positions at artsy or not-so-artsy companies!

If you can’t find one, start one! Even online, everyone likes to have someone to complain with, celebrate with, procrastinate create with. If you don’t know how to start one, Pinterest has some great ideas, Facebook groups are awesome, and there are always the NaNoWriMo forums (which is where I’ve enjoyed almost every online writing group I’ve been a part of).

You don’t have to create alone!

Have you ever been a part of a social group for writers or artists? What did you gain from it? What were the drawbacks for you?

C is for Creative Encouragement #AtoZChallenge

C! I’m running behind, I know. The thing is, with C, I really wanted to reshare something I experienced last year; something that would stress the importance of fostering creativity in the kids hitting the terrible school systems we’ve left behind. So, here it is:

Kids freak me out. I realize that makes me weird and unrelatable, but it’s a fact. I tend to talk to them like they’re tiny adults, and it doesn’t always go over well. (For instance, my sister and nephews lived with me for a short time, and, one day, out of nowhere, Caeleb, four-years-old at the time, bursts out with a pretty emphatic and frustration-fueled “Jesus Christ!” My sister instantly turned and glared at me. “He got that from you, you know,” she said, before appropriately disciplining her son and stressing that ” we don’t repeat the bad things auntie says.”) I just don’t relate well to kids–or maybe that’s not true. Maybe I relate too well to kids and the results are mostly just me totally getting what it means to be a kid and mentally devolving into exactly that.

I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist.

Punchline: I don’t “get” kids. Or parents. Or parenting.

Fade In: OfficeMax print center on June 5th.

This sweet German woman had been coming in off and on all day yesterday, handing me this cute little book her six-year-old granddaughter made. She wrote it and illustrated it herself, and even spelled words correctly and used certain words in correct context that six-year-olds typically don’t have a great grasp on. It was impressive, and the drawings were super cute. “Animals Small Stories,” it’s called, and it’s comprised of three stories, each a few sentences long, about a turtle, a bunny, and a koala. The grandmother raved about the little girl’s intense love of writing and drawing, and wanted to give copies to everyone in the family.

That’s impressive. I remember being about six and writing my first story about a little girl named Mara. I can’t recall exactly what it was about, but I wish my mother had kept it. It was a nostalgic thing.

Anyway, the final time the woman came in, she brought the little girl with her. They played while I made copies, and all you could hear throughout the whole store was the little girl’s hysterical laughter while she and her grandmother passed the time. When I was through, I handed the books over, and I asked the little girl, “Did you write this story?”

“Yes,” she said, ducking a bit behind her grandmother and tugging a bit at the little bow holding her hair in a ponytail at the top of her head.

“Well,” I said, leaning down and thumbing through the book, “I think your story is really good and your drawings are awesome. Are you going to make more books like this one?”

She edged out from behind her grandmother and leaned a little on the counter, fidgeting slightly. “Maybe. I think so.”

“Yeah? You should. This is really good. And when you’re done, you should bring them here so I can read them. I’ll make you more copies and you can tell me all about them, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.” She was beaming. It was probably the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my entire goddamn life. Next, though, she turned and whispered to her grandmother as I was ringing them up and bagging the books.

The woman laughed. “She wants us to make a copy for you, too!”

Again, probably the sweetest thing in the entire history of sweet things. I made a copy for myself and stapled the spine like the others, before sliding it across the counter. “You need to sign it now,” I said. “When you’re famous, I’ll get to show everyone. Can you sign it for me?”

And she did. Scrawled her name right across the back cover (she didn’t want to write near the drawings so I could look at them) and capped the pen like a little pro. I now have a copy of a Chloe F. original.

Moral of the story? Encourage little kids in their creative efforts. A little girl, hiding behind her grandma, totally came out of her shell and gave me a copy of something she created because she got some encouragement from a stranger.

A little kindness goes a long way.

Battle on! ❤