For the most part, I was raised by my dad. He was (and still is) one of those rare men who could do it all. He worked a great job, fed us, tidied the house, and even took us to church . . . a LOT. While our family was far from perfect, I will never forget the feeling of laying my head on his chest and listening to the deep rumbling of his voice as he read to me almost every single night. It’s probably why I love reading so much to this day, and why that spark–that love of reading–was able to evolve into my new found love of writing.
That said, my writer’s fire didn’t really ignite until shortly after the arrival of my first little hellion. Four days before his due date, my doctor decided to induce labor. After a month of weekly ultrasounds to measure his slowing growth rate and the waning supply of amniotic fluid in my womb, she concluded my little guy would be better off out than in.
His delivery was scary.
The nurses fitted my stomach with monitors which recorded his little heart for signs of trouble. Because of the limited supply of amniotic fluid, my contractions contracted him, and his little heart wavered back and forth between beating in a tangent to hardly beating at all.
After hours of labor I was rushed to an operating room. My husband was given a gown and mask, most likely to protect me the horrified look on his face. Despite all our worries, the myriad of doctors and nurses surrounding me managed to save my baby and delivered him into the world, face up, with the help of a vacuum. They discovered his umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck. Every one of my contractions had not only compressed his fragile six pound body, but also cut off his oxygen supply.
I’ll never forget the intelligence behind my little hellion’s expression when the nurses laid him on my chest. He was born with a head of white-blonde hair, grey eyes, and a layer of soft wrinkled skin just waiting to be inflated with a perfect layer of baby fat. He stared into my eyes not only as if he as if he knew me, but as if he knew everything.
Other people noticed his keen awareness, too. When we brought him home from the hospital, the comments were all the same. “He is such an old soul.”
And one day, a story began to whisper in my ear. Because, what do we really know about souls and where our consciousness comes from? What if he really was an “old soul,” on one of his many passes through life? Could he have had other mothers? A past love? Would they meet again in this life? And, what if there were people looking for him? People who needed him? People who lost him when he died a thousand years before, and who never gave up hope they’d run into him again?
Gradually, Jaxon grew into the boy he is today–a happy little string bean who loves riding his bike, bugging his brothers, and *gasp* talking to girls on the phone. But the story he planted in my mind has taken on a life of his own.
Lucien Navarro spent years trying to ignore the dreams and delusions that led to the death of his only childhood friend. But, when a woman claiming to know him from a life ten-thousand years before asks him to return to their great family, he abandons his medication to discover the truth.
His soul is immortal.
Once the leader of three hundred beings who incarnate over and over throughout the ages, Lucien must unite his kind again to rise up against the cult set on their destruction, take a stand in a war which has raged behind the veil of human awareness for millennia, and fight for a love that transcends the boundaries of time.
This story is why I am attempting to teach myself to write. It’s why I wake up early and go to bed late. It’s why I contribute my every spare moment to my writer’s group, building my author’s platform, and opening myself up to criticism. This story fuels my fire. I read because my dad raised me to read. I write because my son gave me a story.
I have always been a fiercely self-conscious person.
When I was a teenager I wore baggy clothes, thinking that if I camouflaged my body I wouldn’t get looked at. As a young mom, I often worried what “older” mommacitas thought of me. I kept a spotless house and agonized over every detail of raising my babies. Now, I’m confident in my skin as a woman and mother. My anxiety is ebbing. I made three PEOPLE with this body. I wear whatever (the hell) I like. My house is still tidy–most of the time–but I’ve learned to let the little things slide. Our family is happier because of it. And, because of my new found confidence, I’ve shifted ranks from “Helicopter Parent” to “Free Range Parent.” (Although, as my precious hellions will attest, even I still have some boundaries.)
But, my anxiety is bleeding into a new aspect of my life, as I take on the role of budding author. While *gasp* presenting my work to other people to read, I feel like I’m presenting myself as an awkward tween all over again, which wasn’t pretty ladies and gentlemen: picture legs like broomsticks, ears like doors, and a mouth that often ran off before my brain could catch up. Every week, I submit my work to my critique group to get torn apart . . . on purpose. Every now and then, I receive a figurative pat on the back–a series of comments about the dramatic improvement of my writing, and a flood of excitement over the latest plot twists.
I also receive a truck load of criticism.
I am lucky enough that I have two main “critters” who have followed my story from the beginning. I value their opinion more than anyone else’s, because they put in the time and give kick-a@# advice. They want to help. One of these crazy cats has even stepped up as a mentor to me. When I lose confidence after a particularly painful critique cycle, he tells me to smart the hell up and start writing again.
Which is great!!
But, the time has come to pull up my socks. No more taking three weeks off my critique group because I can’t hack the criticism. No more rocking in the corner, singing Last Dance With Mary Jane while I twirl my hair around my fingers (okay, I have never done that, but I HAVE felt like it). Because, it’s tough out there, folks, and as an aspiring author, this is just the beginning.
Stephen King has sold 350 million books and receives criticism every single day. Does he care about the haters? I’m going to go out on a limb here to guess that he doesn’t. And, if he did, he could just cheer himself up by diving into a giant pool full of money. The ability to take criticism in stride is something I’ll have to master, too. In the real world, people are going to say things that will sting a little when my book is published. That’s the reality. In fact, the better my book sells, the more scathing reviews it’ll receive (alongside many AWESOME ones, too, of course).
At this phase in my writer’s journey the people in my critique group are trying to help me. Some are published, successful authors who have set aside hours upon hours of their time to point out areas of my work I can improve on. Sometimes, when the stars align just right . . . they even show me how to fix my blunders. Right now I am wading in the kiddie pool. In less than six months I’ll be swimming with the sharks. So, how do I harden my shell?
I recently watched an interview Oprah gave to . . . God help me, I can’t remember her name. I even searched for the interview online, but couldn’t find it. The author said something I’ll never forget. “My book, my work, does not define me.” This quote has changed my entire perspective on writing. When I show my work to people, I am not saying this is me, this is all I’m capable of. The chapters are a snapshot of my ability of that time. I am a new author, just like I’m a new blogger. I will make mistakes.
A friend of mine recently invited me to check out some of his older books. He added that his writing has improved quite a bit since he wrote them. He didn’t say it because he was embarrassed, and he wasn’t forgiving himself for past blunders, or excusing himself to me. He said it as a fact. He lived through the awkward author years. Soon, I’ll be that confident in my skin as an author, too. My anxiety will ebb. The rules I so fervently stick to right now will become less important, and my author’s voice will shine.
Just like in life, my mistakes do not define me. My ability to accept those blunders as part of the learning process and improve, does.
To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.
So, how do I move forward from here? I’m going to take my criticism, and be something.
When I graduated high school I had no patience for anything. Although I’d been accepted into college, (with a cute little scholarship, I might add) and worked four jobs to save up the money to attend, I was burning with the desire to break out of my small-town life. I wanted to see the world. Before I left for Australia at nineteen years old, I had never seen the ocean. I lived a secluded life in a secluded town and attended church eleventeen times a week.
I didn’t have ants in my pants. My pants were on fire.
When my dad dropped me off at the airport, he gave me a quick hug and a peck on the cheek. In a couple hours I was on my way to live in a car, fall “in love” with several dashing young backpackers (and one true-blue Aussie) lose my passport(s), various wallets, my previously paralyzing inability to socialize with new people, and my general sobriety.
Sufficed to say, when I surfaced from my travelling fog almost two years later, I was flat broke. On my way back to Manitoba, (Canada) I landed in Vancouver. I was supposed to buy a bus ticket home but . . . yeah. I didn’t have a dollar to my name. I did, however, have some loose change I picked up in a few different countries, none of which was Canadian.
After tracking down an old friend and sleeping on his couch, he graciously donated some cash
to get me out of his house to get me as far as Calgary to meet my sister. I ended up staying. I met the jam to my jelly and produced three gorgeous blonde-haired hellions before moving to the east coast so my hubbie could run a bar, nine years later.
Which brings me to now.
My youngest little guy will be attending school this September.
That thought is scary.
Since I had my first son, I have defined myself as a mother. A stay-at-home mother, for the most part. My husband is a worker. A hard worker, and smart as hell. His brainpower is one of the qualities that first attracted me to him eleven (twelve?) years ago. Because he worked so hard, I took over a large portion of the household stuff and raised the kids. Sometimes *gasp* I took other little hellions into our house while their parents developed their careers. Sometimes I took waitressing and bartending shifts just to get out and talk to grownups. But, my first priority has always been my children.
And, with the beginning of the school year in a few short weeks, a large portion of that responsibility will be gone when my youngest son walks into school.
Enter early mid-life crises.
Although I put full time hours into this book thing between hours of editing, building my author platform, and critiquing the work of the other authors in my writer’s group, currently, I don’t make any money. As a mom with a dream, I don’t watch television. I don’t exercise the way I used to, and I don’t really socialize. Today, a woke up at 5, wrote till 10, submitted an article to “A Bar Above” (more on that next week), wrote 2 rather long-winded critiques on my friend’s current work-in-progress, interacted with 400 of my newest followers on Twitter, posted to my new “Author Page” on Facebook, and edited this blog post. Now, I have to take my kids to the pool, feed them lunch, do two loads of laundry and put in about an hour of housework before running to work at 5.
And, after day-dreaming all year a publisher would walk up and hand me a million dollar advance for Old Souls, I’ve realized the time has come to pull my head out of those particular clouds and get a day job. But . . . what kind of job can I get?
After ruling as Queen of My House for ten years, I am faced with entering the dreaded OFFICE WORLD on the lowest rung of the totem pole.
Tension is building.
I found that I’ve been very hard on myself over the past few months. How did I end up at thirty-three years old without furthering my education? A friend of mine visited from Calgary this week, and before I realized what I was saying, the words tumbled out of my mouth that I had made bad life choices.
Bad life choices.
But, were they that bad?
I might not make much money now, but I will. I have three beautiful hellions, a supportive husband, and I have almost completed my first (kick-@$$) book. I’ve travelled the world. I’ve lived all over Canada. I sacrificed an extra income to raise my children. Every day, I wake up early to do what I love.
I’m finished apologizing to myself about my “bad life choices.” I’m finished thinking I might not have what it takes.
Because I do. My book is going to kill it.