Getting spooked

Sorry that it’s been a while.

I freaked out.

Last August, I woke up from a nightmare while on vacation in Tuscany. I tried to walk it off through the early morning hours in the tiny town where I was staying, and in the process got into quite the conversation with myself about what I continue to hold onto years after a relationship ends.

Then I shared it.

Because that’s what I do. When I uncover greater understanding, I hope what I learn helps you, all of us, dislodge the thoughts that keep us separate from one another, and find more ways to reach out, be ourselves, love and be loved.

Good news / bad news: the post was read.

One of the first responses I received was from one of the last people I imagined would read it. We both knew who the story was about though neither of us referenced it directly. The email simply said to have fun on vacation.

That was enough.

From however many thousands of miles away, I felt exposed as if we were in the same room together. I wanted to hide.

So I did, for six months. (And also ate a lot of cake. How could I resist this table in the Tuscan inn?)

It’s not that I wasn’t writing, it was that I couldn’t bring myself to hit Publish. Almost as if I was physically unable to.

When feeling vulnerable, my go-to response is the classic deer-caught-in-headlights.

In their defense, it’s a decent tactic in the woods. Stand perfectly still, and fade into the background until the coast is clear. Those damn headlights change everything, rendering deer even more visible than if they had just kept going. Now we all have more time to stare.

The longer time passed, the harder it was to move again. This blog lay dormant, and it became increasingly difficult to post on my coaching blog too. Lucky for me, you were busy with your own life and probably didn’t notice my absence as much as I worried that you did.

Thanks to those who did notice — that helpful flick of the high beams that woke me up out of my trance — I’m back.

Being asked about my writing reminded me how much I missed it, in particular the act of sharing it. The connection fostered between us.

Then I could see what had happened. I got spooked. The perfect topic to share for my return.

That thick skin of successful writers who continue the output no matter what is said? God bless them. I hope to be there someday. Maybe this post will keep me going.

Hopefully it will keep you going too.

I missed you.

 

Advertisements

Breaking my word addiction

Words create connection.

I believe that if we understand one another, then we love more easily. It’s why I’m a writer, to understand, to feel understood, and therefore to give and receive love.

Words can also get in the way of that connection. I can lean on them like a crutch when being silent is uncomfortable. I can over-share. (You’ve probably noticed.)

Taking this photo in the yard of my parents’ house in upstate New York was a helpful reminder:

 

 

After, I could not for the life of me figure out what to say about it as I uploaded it to Instagram.

It was seriously bugging me. I think that says more about my social media addiction, and how immediate I felt this needed to be shared, but it is also about words. I need them a little too much. Looking around, again on social media, I can tell I’m not the only one. We are a culture of over-sharers.

Of course if you really look at it, the photo says enough all by itself.

Does it speak to you?

Do you feel something while looking at it?

My eyes are drawn to the delicate fuzz of this first growth of the new season, like a baby’s skin, and then to how sunlight shines through the outstretched leaf exposing all of its veins. I was delighted that some of the branches were in focus, while others blurred.

I have words for this image now. It’s taken me four days to find them. Actually it’s taken me not finding them, enjoying the photo instead, reminiscing about the moment when it was taken, and then the words were there.

That seems about right.

Spring, and life in general, is fleeting. While I searched for words, this growth is already twice its size, and will be a distant memory in another week as everything else in the yard blossoms. Having the time that afternoon to appreciate this new little life, that is the true source of connection, understanding, and love.

I wonder how to create a balance between expression and enjoyment. How to allow things to be (eek!) unsaid. How wonderful it might be to feel my way through moments with the people I care about.

What would happen if we felt more and talked less?

Well, what do you think?

 

 

Do you want posts like this in your inbox?
Click here to sign up.

The best rejection

If there is such a thing as rejection phobia, I have it.

spend a good deal of time avoiding anything that I’m not good at in order to make sure I’m never bad enough to be rejected. There are the bigger things like applying only to my safety schools during my senior year in high school, and the small ones. You should see me attempt Big Fat Noto casually play mini-golf. I barely crack a smile.

Recognition is the first step to change I tell my clients, and sometimes I actually take my own advice.

I decided to give rejection a whirl. Dip a toe in, you might say.

In the last six months, I applied for two book awards, and submitted an excerpt from my forthcoming book to five magazines. Each time I hit send the ol’ gem, This will be a good experience, whispered in my ear, and I made peace that no response could be my only answer.

Weeks and weeks and weeks later, the submissions were so far out of my mind that when emails appeared in my inbox, I assumed they must be newsletters I’d forgotten about, or spam.

Nope. They were rejections, and little did I expect a good experience to be true.

In addition to “no, thank you,” they offered:

  • We wanted to let you know we think you’re on to something here. You have a great voice and an ear for framing…We hope that you will submit work to us again in the future.”
  • “Oftentimes life’s big events – a divorce, the death of a loved one, a life-threatening illness – provide the impetus for a book. I’M SCARED & DOING IT ANYWAY falls into that category…the story makes perfect sense and immediately engages the reader…its power is in the execution and in the writer’s voice. Because every word is deeply felt and considered, the reader is…genuinely moved.”

I’ve received praise from people I admire and respect before, but from these strangers means something different.

They make being a writer more real.

Who would have thought that rejection could be so encouraging?

 

 

Do you want posts like this in your inbox?
Click here to sign up.

Sifting through the truth

I’m in the middle of writing two books right now, both about stories.

In one I showcase the successes of a few of my favorite clients through the years, what brought them to coaching with me and where they landed as a result. The other divulges personal, sometimes brutally personal, secrets from my dating life, what tripped me up and what I learned about myself.

I’m not sure if I’m telling the truth in either.

Or really, what is the truth?

I think I am honest about my feelings. I think I have a decent memory of the past, but that doesn’t mean that my recollection is true from another person’s perspective.

Does everyone have to agree with my memory?

Do I need a disclaimer like what people put on their Twitter profiles? “Opinions are my own, and not a reflection of my company or anyone else.”

It’s kind of important to know the answers before I can move forward. Safely saved on my Mac right now, these book drafts are basically journal entries. I’d hate for them to stay that way.

If you read my first book, I’m scared & doing it anyway, you probably noticed how I tippy-toed. Many readers wanted to hear more about my ex-husband, AJ. I seemed to take care of him, some said. I did. I felt I had to.

That right there is probably what’s underneath all of this: my desire to keep everyone happy.

Hopefully my clients will be happy about their stories, because hopefully they are happy about their careers and lives after our work together. I can check with them, of course, to make sure.

With the other book though, I have no plans to seek permission from former boyfriends. I will share my experiences, in which they played a starring role for a period of time. If the book is a hit, if they read it, if they recognize themselves…they may disagree with what’s said and at least in a few cases will not be happy with how they are represented.

Is that my problem?

The better question is why am I making it my problem?

Oh, pick me! [my hand stretched high in the air] I know that answer!

There is a younger person inside of me who learned early on to work hard to be liked, at all costs, and who gets worried now that my adult world will come crashing down if people don’t like me.

I’m reminded of my friend Ernesto Gluecksmann who advised years ago that you have arrived once you get your first hater. (He also said Haters Gonna Hate, Huggers Gonna Hug, which made me very happy.) Having haters means you’re saying something that people are interested in enough to have strong opinions. You’re having a real conversation.

Maybe that’s what these books will be…using my perspective on the past to talk about what’s really happening in the present.  

I think I can live with that.

(I hope you like the stories, too.)
 

Do you want posts like this in your inbox every two weeks?
Click here to sign up.

 

New cover, new cover, and sale!

I’m thrilled to show off the brand new cover of my book, I’m scared & doing it anyway: How a little white blob changed my life. [Thanks to Rebecca Nolen and Lisa Helfert for the beautiful design and photography.]

I hope you like it!

This is a chance to revisit a story that I love, and love sharing. I learned first hand that I have the power to change my life in immeasurable ways, even in the darkest moments. You have it, too.

Are you scared & doing it anyway?

Do you know someone who is?

In the readings and conversations I’ve had since my book was published in 2013, I’ve found that it most resonates with two groups: fear-facers like you and me, and concerned loved ones feeling at a loss for how to help someone else in crisis.

Inside these pages is a chance to come along on my journey, and to see the choices I made that turned my greatest fear into unabashed, arms-outstretched l-o-v-e.

It will help you find the courage within yourself to keep moving forward, and it will help you to be there for others in a new way.

You may wonder why I’ve chosen now to change the cover.

I was too afraid to use the one I should have from the beginning. The one with My Face on it.

I’m not the first writer to hide behind her words — nor the first speaker who still hides even though she has stood in front of hundreds of people, and hugged on television.

It’s different when it’s your book, your cover, your face…but then it isn’t. I love my story, and am as excited to share it today as I was when I started writing. I want you to gain meaning and inspiration from it, and then I want you to share it with the people you care about. (And, please hug them!)

If you like the new cover so much that you want a new copy, that’s great!

There is a sale on the paperback until the end of the month.

From now through Sunday, March 1, you can buy it for $6.50, half-off the original price ($12) , which just covers the publisher’s printing costs. Click here to purchase your copy.

If you’re in New York or Washington, DC, I will happily hug my way to you and sign it in person.

Please know that your support of this little-book-that-could has meant the world to me. I’m continuing to write, and share, because you are out there.

Thank you for that.

Much love.

 

My love affair with Ann Patchett

I first discovered author Ann Patchett in the pre-Kindle days of 2001 when I saw people so engrossed in her book Bel Canto that they nearly missed their subway stops.

Moments after buying my own copy, I became a fangirl: a heart-shaped photo of her in the high school locker of my mind.

What I love most are the interesting and complicated characters she creates, who you are curious about even if you don’t like them very much. If you hang on for the ride, there is a secret prize at the end when you discover how all of them are connected into a larger story you didn’t know even existed.

In between you learn about encyclopedia-worthy topics — the Amazon jungle, opera, magic — that you can then discuss at cocktail parties as if you are an expert.

When I heard that she was a guest on Fresh Air with Terry Gross (don’t tell Ann, but I love her even more), my heart fluttered. Thank God no one was around to see the stupid grin on my face for the whole 40 minutes of the interview.

IMG_0009.JPGThey were discussing her latest book, a series of essays called, This is the story of a happy marriage, and I promptly reserved it at my local library. It took much longer to read, because first the library lost my reservation, and then I forgot to re-reserve it. I know, I know, some fangirl I am.

A year later, I was reminded to pick it up when David Sedaris recommended it on his book tour, referring to her essay, “The Getaway Car,” as a primer for every writer. (He’s right, by the way.)

The next day I finally went back to the library, and curled up with it that night.

I absolutely loved it, then hated it, and then loved it again with only slight twinges of jealousy.

Put simply: non-fiction is too close to home.

I can happily immerse myself in fiction, because I don’t write it. There are no comparisons to draw. Some writers read similar genres to their own for inspiration. When I do it, I can lose track of my voice and start using theirs instead.

And while I adore Ann’s tone and style, their polished perfection can add unnecessary pressure when I’m stuck in the third round of revisions.

It’s clear that she had hard years — her divorce, her childhood, waitressing at T.G.I. Friday’s — but the resulting essays made every misstep sound effortless.

The writer in me — green with envy while reading about her landing a publisher, and traveling to exotic places to write essays for the best magazines — wanted her to swim around in the muck a little more to make me feel better about my own messiness.

More than that, I wondered if I could ever summit the same Best-selling Author – Sought-After Speaker – Renowned Personality at ease with life and her place in it mountain. Man, does it seem steep from here.

I was impressed, and I kind of wanted to gauge her eyes out.

Then sanity kicked in, and I was reminded what I’ve heard from every successful writer, artist and businessperson — people make it when they never give up.

Or put another way, giving up gets you nowhere fast. Or put yet another way, jealousy is a good indicator of what you really want, so you better stick with it.  (Maybe that last one was just for me.)

Ann returned to the blank page every day, focused on her dream, and in time something amazing happened. Then rather than keeping the experience to herself, she shared what she learned with all of us.

Yep, still love her.

 

Do you want posts like this in your inbox every two weeks?
Click here to sign up.