Everyone has that one thing they do when they need to relax whether it is taking a bath or drinking a hot cup of tea.
I turn to walking.
A quick walk to the store, through the park or a hike, clears my head and gives me the chance to just breathe. Then the thinking can begin. I work on problems with fresh insight, going over in my mind what I can do and the possible outcomes. Sometimes I just walk to relax.
We all get stumped by a problem - for me it is writer's block. I don't know how to write the next scene, where I want to story to go (even though I have worked on an outline) or I am simply uninspired and am struggling to write even one word.
Getting away from my desk does wonders for my sanity. Dragging a friend along makes things even better. Unfortunately, pressure and stress can only push us so far.
We all need a break.
We all need a breath of fresh air.
Find what works for you.
I write -
Historical romance for pleasure,
And historical fiction for interest,
I write what I love.
When I began writing the one thing I was certain of was that I wanted to write historical novels. I have always been passionate about history and used most of my elective courses in university to take as many courses as I could. I also loved reading historical novels and as a guilty pleasure historical romances as well.
I found myself debating if I should stay away from doing a historical romance novel or not. In the end, I chose to do both. I did not feel like limiting myself just because I was worried that people wouldn't take me seriously or judge my choices.
We are often told to not worry about what other people think but social stigmas are no less potent.
Over the last few months I was surprised to find how I had become apologetic for writing romance or even trying to start a writing career. It was as difficult as the time I had admitted to my friends that I enjoyed reading a regency romance novel - some of whom had turned up their nose at me for reading what they saw as "garbage". I have never been that brave person who stands up to people and fights to break social stigmas. However, I am not afraid to do what I want either. I am the passive rebel. I take the criticism with a smile and a shrug but keep doing what I love. Of course, the judgement still hurts and I will likely never learn to not let it affect me but I have learned to live with it.
Having written four novels now and hard at work on a fifth, I have not regretted my decision. The common thread between all my books is the exploration and building of relationships not just between two people but also between mothers and daughters etc. For example, in my novel Joan, I was curious to explore the relationship between a woman who by all accounts had a happy successful marriage but who would end up being betrayed by the man she loved. In The Stars Above, I looked at the powerful love between a child and her parents and how given the chance forgiveness can mend the heart.
My writing has included historical figures using the backdrop of real historical events and other times the characters and events were of my own creation. The romance is there. The hatred and drama is too. My goal has always been to write an entertaining story bringing history to life once more and not worry so much about what will impress others. Let them judge.
Someday in the future I may explore other genre's too but for now I will get back to what I know and love.
When I sat down to get to work today I noticed my work space as if for the first time. As I looked around at my desk covered with my notebooks, papers and pens, I wondered when this had happened. It used to be just me and my laptop.
Each of my notebooks has a purpose from outlines, business plans, research and snippets of scenes for my new novel. I had begun doing all my work from beginning to end on the computer but slowly, I had migrated back to the comfort of a good old notebook (some of these are over two years old).
In the past, I would amass journals and notebooks because of their striking covers or my fervent desire to start a diary - which never seemed to take off. However, luckily after starting to pursue my writing career they have now found a purpose and are getting my constant attention.
I would never have thought I would be relying on my notebooks so much to organize my thoughts and ideas but it is what I have gravitated towards no matter how backwards it might seem in today's digital world. I am reminded of how there is no "magic formula to writing". Some authors might write out their first draft by hand. Others might never make an outline. What matters is finding what works for you and focusing on meeting your goals. I am also comforted by the thought that one day my notebooks might become keepsakes, but for now I am reaching for them every day and plowing through them at an alarming rate.
Currently finished: 2
Currently using: 3
Currently blank: 1
Last April the chance and the final decision to leave everything behind and start over fell into my lap.
Would we? Should we? The logistical nightmare plagued me for days.
However, the excitement consumed me as well. I had been feeling bored and restless, not only at my job but my social life too. I tried to rationalize my thought process when making this huge decision but in my heart I already knew what I wanted. I wanted change. I wanted excitement and adventure. This wasn't as big of a change as moving to a completely new country where I wouldn't know the language. Nor, was it financially irresponsible because my husband had been offered a great new job. Nothing was stopping us.
The decision was finally made and by June we had packed up our belongings - throwing away a lot of our junk (very therapeutic). We sold our house, said goodbye to family and friends and with only a car full of our essentials we drove across the country with our little dog to our new life.
6 Months later...
Slowly, as I became settled in I became accustomed to life in our new home. We finally had furniture; I no longer had to rely on Google Maps to find my local grocery store & we managed to reconnect with some old friends.
However, I surprised myself one day by thinking that it wouldn't be so bad to move back. In fact, it might be what I wanted to do eventually.
There were lots of positives that came from leaving behind everything but I was surprised by the negatives as well.
I miss my old friends - skyping is not the same as meeting up at 10pm to watch a movie in our PJs. My family used to live an hour away and we saw each other often (perhaps, too often), but now they would need to jump in a plane to come see me and that might only happen once a year if at all. We've missed out on more family events than we would have liked to skip out on. We got the space and change we craved but also the loneliness that comes with it. The biggest boon of this move has been how close my husband and I have gotten.
Life is different - it's not bad but nor is it the amazing exciting life I had imagined when I had jumped on the opportunity to drop everything and leave. I had definitely been in a rut back home or thought I was but I've come to realize that change can only do so much.
I come across countless of articles, blog posts, etc. of people proclaiming they've had enough or are looking to make a huge change. They are bored at their jobs, feel stagnant at home and just like I once did, they want to drop everything and just go...
I wrote this post as a word of caution. Dropping everything is not all it's cracked up to be and unfortunately, you might not realize it until after you have done it. Just because you have moved or are lucky enough to be able to travel around the globe does not mean your problems will not follow you. Leaving everything behind will not suddenly make you super happy (in fact, it may create even more problems down the line). Sometimes all you might need is a vacation.
So do some careful thinking before you turn your world upside down. I am sure there are plenty of stories out there both of people who have had positive and negative experiences of leaving everything behind. Feel free to share :)
I have a box of unfinished projects. It’s always on the back of my mind reminding me of my failures.
There is nothing new or special about my situation. Perhaps, my story will help motivate you to give discipline a chance.
My problem as I would discover is that I am easily motivated but just as quickly, I find I lose interest and give up.
Ten years ago, I watched Save the Last Dance, starring Julia Stiles. It must have inspired me a lot because after that I decided I wanted to learn ballet.
In the week following, I bought my shoes, signed up for 6 months of classes and read as many books as I could about ballet. Everyone commented on how passionate I seemed. Fast forward, three months. I no longer attended classes, and my ballet shoes were abandoned in my closet. I had discovered I was not a naturally gifted dancer, and the reality of dance was not as fun as what I had seen on screen.
I have many more examples. I’m sure you do too.
Last year, I was fed up and angry at myself. Why couldn’t I follow things through? Was I a quitter?
Then when another ‘potential’ hobby caught my eye, I was determined that this time would be different.
I pursued my new hobby with caution. Instead, of buying all the equipment I needed and signing up for a yearly commitment of classes, I opted for renting and relying on some helpful friends and YouTube to get me started.
I had decided to (try to) learn how to play the cello.
The first time I brought my cello home, I couldn't draw a sound out of it. I was ready to cry.
It took me four long hours before I could manage to play a note (my bow was lacking a serious amount rosin).
In the three days after my struggle, I didn't pick up the cello again. Had I given up again?
As it turned out I was lucky — this time. A friend I had approached to help me with learning the cello contacted me asking, how it was going. Shamefully, I replied that it wasn't going well and I felt like giving up.
That friend gave me some advice:
“Whatever you do, just pick up the cello once a day. Even if all you do is play one note for five minutes straight. If it helps, find a simple song that you like, learn the notes, and play it over and over again. Don’t stop.”
Determined to succeed, I did just that. By the end of two weeks I played “Mary had a little lamb” beautifully. The first day I managed to play through the whole song, I skyped my parents and played it for them. Twice. I’m sure they were annoyed.
In those two weeks, I had learned two surprising things:
I had always underestimated the powerful effect of being disciplined. If I had motivation, then I did not need discipline. Discipline was something left for school work or for your job. Hobbies should not need discipline. Boy was I wrong.
Of course, not all hobbies and projects will pan out but now with a bit of discipline, I hope to give them a fighting chance.
It’s been almost a year, and I still play the cello. I will never be good enough to play in an orchestra but it makes me proud that I stuck with it. I am so happy every time I learn a new song and can play it for my friends and family.
My experience with the cello has transferred over nicely to my writing. Five years ago I would never have had the discipline to finish a book. Now I stick as best as I can to a schedule every day - writing as often and as much as I can. In fact, it was this discipline that has motivated me to pursue more projects.
Can you think of a time when you had the motivation but lacked the discipline to succeed?
Recently, I published my latest novel: The Stars Above.
The story follows a young girl from the slums of Liverpool as she gets sent to Canada as a Home Child. Under the care of the Martin's she grows and learns to make her own way in the world. The full summary can be found on the books page.
Seeing as this has been an ongoing project for the last two years I did a lot of research on the topic in order to try to keep my story as authentic as possible. I thought I would share some of my findings here...