Tag Archive | lessons

Lessons Learned

I released my first book into the world in 2013. It was like releasing my heart, raw and vulnerable, into a tank full of sharks and doing it terrified me. I nearly hyperventilated  the moment I hit publish, as I paced my bedroom and wished for the floor to swallow me whole.

I was terrified and had so many doubts running through my mind.

Maybe nobody will read it.

Maybe EVERYONE will read it.

Maybe nobody will even notice. 

 Worse yet, what if someone reads it and hates it?

What if I can’t write and this story is crap?

What if people love it?

Oh God, what if they think it sucks?

What if they think that I suck?

What if I really do suck and I’m a bit fat phony?

The fear was palpable and paralyzingly. Then I posted that I published my book on Facebook, and I had no choice but to look ahead. I had done something that I’d always dreamed of doing from the age of fifteen. Even though it scared the living hell out of me, after the fear fell away, it felt right and I was finally a complete person.

The process  wasn’t perfect.  I’ve hit a lot of bumps along the way but have learned much since releasing that first unedited, Createspace-generated cover for Leaving Eva. I haven’t just learned technical skills, but also marketing and writing skills. Most importantly I’ve discovered who I want to be (and don’t want to be) as an artist, and what is important to me in this journey.

I’ve learned from doing, watching, and listening to others who know more than I do. I’m a religious podcast listener and Joanna Penn and Tim Grahl are two of my favorites. I consume their experiences and learn from them regularly. It just makes sense to learn as much as possible from successful and experienced people in all of life. Joanna covers countless helpful topics with an endless backlist, which has helped shape my mindset as a Creative.

I’ve learned much, which applies to life, not just to publishing :

  • Use your resources. If you don’t know the answer, just ask. There are many others who have the answer if you don’t. I’ve spent the past few years getting to know so many wonderful people in the publishing world and they are always so generous with their knowledge and time.
  • Don’t be afraid to learn something new. Once you’ve mastered one thing, learn something new. It can be extremely daunting to begin but like Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of any work.”
  • Read! Read anything and everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, and blogs and books that you might not normally read. The War of Art, Your First 1000 Copies, and The Successful Author Mindset  have been inspiring and interesting non-fiction reads. I also love reading classics, YA, Women’s Contemporary Fiction, and books/blogs that are outside of my normal wheelhouse because they are interesting and inspiring.
  • Stay away from the drama.As with anything, in the book world, there is drama; lots and lots of drama. I make it a point to stay far away and while its important to be informed, it’s also vital to stay out of it. It can be ugly, divisive, and distracting from your work.
  •  Don’t compare your journey to others. It can be hard not to get discouraged by watching the successes of others if you feel that your own is struggling. You have to remember that everyone is on their own journey and that it’s important to be happy for others! Everyone’s story is different and every road has its own twists and turns. Focus on yours and don’t get off track. When success does find you, share it by paying it forward to others. Call it karma or just being a good person, but your path is your own, so work hard and you’ll get there.
  • Know thyself. Do you write for money, for recognition, for the love of the craft? Knowing why you write is crucial in order to recognize your own success when it comes. 
  • When you get discouraged, don’t quit. Pick yourself back up.When I get discouraged, I go back through old messages, or read positive reviews to remind myself that what I’m doing is worthwhile. There have been plenty of times that I’ve wanted to quit but then I remind myself why I’m writing. I’m doing it for myself, for the love of the story, and for those I meet a long the way who want to share it with me. If I ever stop loving or needed it, then I’ll quit. 
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in the same basket!  Keeping your options open in this precarious business can be important. Publishing Houses open and close and your rights are crucial to your lifelong success. Be careful with your eggs and keep them close to your own basket! 
  • Not everyone is going to like you and that’s totally okay! You’ll get reviews from people who didn’t like your book or don’t like your style and they might not be that nice about it. People can be mean and there are a lot of trolls out there with big internet balls. Ignore them. When the feedback is negative but constructive, pay attention to it and grow from it. When the feedback is mean, ignore it. Find your tribe and embrace the ones who care about you. If you’re kind, there will be plenty who do. The ones who don’t… well, they’ll just be missing out on the wonder that is you!
  • Put yourself out there and share your journey. Being a more private person, I’ve always struggled with this. How much do I share? How much do I keep?  My writing doesn’t always reflect the entirety of who I am, and I’m learning to be more open. I’m learning to share more of myself, even the stuff that scares the hell out of me. I’m tired of being afraid that people will know who I am deep inside and I’m learning that transparency and openess are important (though there are still limitations). The parameters vary per person, so you have to learn what you’re comfortable with and what works for you. Your comfort level may be drastically different than someone else’s, but I would be remiss not to stress that internet safety is crucial. There are a lot of people out there you’ll want/need to stay away from and you’ll recognize them pretty quickly. (Don’t be afraid to defriend and block anyone who freaks you out.)
  • Have fun. Writing books is fun! Authors, bloggers, and readers are fun! Book signings and events are fun. Takeovers, reader groups, and meeting new people is fun. Enjoy it. All of it. Because it’s pretty amazing. 

I’ve learned much, but there is yet so much left to learn. Every day I discover something I didn’t know and it’s exhilarating and exciting to be able to gain so much in life. Each day brings a new person into my life, a new perspective and experience and I love it. I hope that as this journey continues that I’ll be able to share more of what I’ve learned with you. In turn, please feel free to comment below with what you’ve learned a long the way too.

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Life 101

I’ve spent a big part of my life reflecting.

Whether it’s been about life, people, situations, news, or politics, I love when things get my brain thinking and churning. I’m much like my youngest son who has an inquisitive and curious mind. I’ve always wanted to know the “whys.”

But what I’ve learned about life is that sometimes there just aren’t any answers, and it used to devastate me and make me feel helpless. Questions like,”Why did my niece have a brain tumor when she was fifteen?”,”Why did my dad have to have a major and debilitating stroke at the age of 54?”, “Why did my birth parent’s abandon me when I was a small child?”, or “Why did my good friend have to die of cancer?”  There have been many questions in my life and I’ve just had to learn to let it all go and accept that sometimes there isn’t a good answer.

The alternative option of holding onto it was giving me health issues, filling me with depression, and causing a great deal of anxiety. But when I finally was able to embrace the unknown, I found that I was more at peace with myself and able to accept that for no good reason, life just sucks sometimes. It’s then up to us to figure out how to move on.

I guess that I would categorize myself as a “Student-of-Life,” ever-changing, ever-willing to learn something new, look in the mirror, and have an open mind. With a long career in management and working with people, I’ve also learned how to be a mentor and teacher at the same time. But while I’ve gained experience and knowledge, I don’t think the path of knowledge can ever be complete. The excitement that I get from learning new things and gaining new insights just never gets old.

Part of my learning has involved reading a lot about life lessons. Erma Bombeck’s “If I had to Live My Life Over” is wise and beautiful and I absolutely love it. http://www.kalimunro.com/If_I_Had_My_Life_To_Live_Over.html

42 Life Lessons by Regina Brett is also incredibly thought-provoking and honest. http://unbridledfreedom.com/42-life-lessons-by-regina-brett/

I’m not as prolific, wise, or celebrated as either of those two beautiful women, but along the way I’ve picked up some observations of my own.

  • Be Kind. It’s a simple playground truth but not one that many people remember. The funny thing is, it’s not that difficult. Hold the door open for someone,  use “Please” and  “Thank you” every single time,  give someone an unexpected compliment, say something genuinely nice to someone for no reason at all and don’t expect it in return. Be kind simply for the sake of doing it and because you can.
  • Stick up for Yourself. Don’t let people walk all over you and don’t allow people to treat you poorly. People will treat you the way you allow them to and you should only expect the best. Have courage and don’t be afraid to tell someone that the way they are treating you is unacceptable and be willing to walk away from them if they don’t get it. Sometimes they’ll come back and sometimes they won’t, but if they can’t treat you well, then do you want them in your life to begin with?
  • Laugh at yourself. A lot. Life is short and you’re not perfect. Having a sense of humor about yourself is important and healthy, as long as you’re not being mean about yourself. Often we are our own worse critic but love yourself and don’t take your flaws too seriously. Everyone has them.
  • Don’t ever put things before people.  I’ve spent time with people I’ve loved  who were sick or dying and they’ve never said  to me,”I wish I’d had more stuff.” Ever. They’d always wished they had more time with the people they loved. Period.
  • It’s not always about YOU. We all like to imagine that the world revolves around us, but… it doesn’t! Sometimes people are on their own journey and are suffering, fighting, divorcing, struggling, sometimes they are sick, or hurt, or angry about something that has nothing to do with you. Stop thinking that it does! We are a world full of narcissists who think that everything is about us when it has nothing to do with us! Sometimes you’re the main character and sometimes your just a footnote and it’s important to be able to identify which one you are and when.
  • Be willing to walk away. Not every relationship is meant to last forever. Some are and some aren’t. Some relationships teach us how to be better and some don’t teach us anything at all. Not every person we ever meet is meant to be in our lives for the duration of our lives, but they’re meant to be there for some of it. While letting go is incredibly painful and feels downright impossible, sometimes we don’t have a choice or we need to because the relationship hurts us more than it does anything else for us. The people that love us often hurt us the most and the worst. But that’s because they are fighting their own demons and that is something they have to do alone. All we can do is love them, but loving them doesn’t mean we don’t love ourselves. This means we may have to step away from them in order to survive, whether it’s temporarily or permanently.
  • Laugh at fart jokes. This is different obviously than laughing at yourself, but when children hear fart jokes they laugh, out loud, big hearty belly laughs that are honest and true. When we grow up, we don’t laugh at such things anymore, but I think that if we just let ourselves laugh at silly things like fart jokes and we can remember what its like to laugh when we were kids, we would be so much happier.  My kids will genuinely laugh every single time at the word “balls” and when they do, it’s impossible not to laugh with them. Life is too short not to find humor in silly things.
  • Be surprised. Let yourself live a life where you can still be surprised. And even if you’re not, pretend that you are. People love surprises and love to surprise others. The joy we give and receive from life’s little surprises is something that just can’t be replaced.
  • Listen more than talk. When you listen to your children with all of your attention you’ll notice that when they are talking they’re smiling the entire time (up until a certain age). When you listen well, you’re giving someone the gift of your love and attention which has more value than anything else you can give them.

My list isn’t that long and it’s not complete. I’ve learned so much but have so much more to learn. I love that life is such a beautiful maze of truth and understanding and that everyone gets there a completely different way. And I love that I’ll never get past Life 101 because life is ever-evolving and ever-changing. I love listening to and learning from other people. One of my favorite people to sit and listen to was my GiGi. She would’ve been 100 this year and when she was alive she told the best stories and was such a pleasure to talk to. I’ve thought about her so many times throughout the years and wished I could talk to her and learn from her kindness and experience and I’m always reminded of how much more there is still left to learn.

What have you learned throughout your lifetime? What have you lost and gained? What would you share with the world from your experience if you could? I’d be interested to see your comments here.

Ten Vacation Lessons

We recently experienced our first big away vacation. While we’ve had a lot of stay-cations and a few smaller road trips, for many different reasons we’d not yet experienced the true “road trip” as a family. When I was younger I did a lot of road-tripping on my own and with friends  but as a mom with younger kids, we’ve stayed homebound for many years for many reasons.

  It’s been entirely too long since I’ve laid on a beach or sat in the sun pretending not to have a care in the world. But going far away from home on vacation reminded me of a few things, so I thought I would share them.

  1. I have new respect for the hot-spot. The mobile hot-spot to be more specific. I don’t know who decided that giving phones the ability to share the Internet with multiple devices would be a good idea, but I’d like to give that person a big, fat, sloppy kiss and hug. Having three children who are kept occupied with Internet access is priceless. It sure beats playing “I Spy”, the license plate game, and breaking up endless fights about “who is touching who.” While we still did some of all of that, they were able to occupy themselves for the most part while still interacting and watching the scenery around them when it got interesting.
  2. Travelling with four males is both funny and smelly. I’ll spare you all of the gross details, but if you’ve ever lived with one male, multiply it times four and you’ll understand what I mean. There was a lot of inappropriate joking, bathroom jokes, and multiple inquiries of “Who farted?” 
  3. This brings me to the third thing. After being trapped in a car for twenty hours and sharing a bathroom with all of these males, I’m reminded that I’m thankful that I can’t smell. Anything. Ever. Enough said.
  4. Humidity and bathing suits are not my friend. While my Asian skin loves the sun and soaks it up turning it golden brown, I also sweat profusely from  the top of my head like a man. This has always been embarrassing, incredibly un-ladylike and very unattractive. Gross! I hear Botox cures this which is would be the only reason to consider Botox. After all, I’ve earned my wrinkles but I don’t like literally melting when it’s the least bit humid. And while I’ve somewhat accepted that the days when throwing on a bathing suit didn’t give me complete and utter anxiety, are long gone, I also realize it’s up to me to take some personal responsibility. I can’t just throw in the towel and blame it on age and gravity.  I need to eat better, and work out. Period. No excuses.
  5. The world is really big and it’s my responsibility to teach my kids about its vastness and their place in it. While I don’t ever want to imagine a time that they aren’t near me, I don’t want them to live their lives feeling limited. I want them to feel the amazing, incredible, and endless possibilities of what their young lives can’t yet imagine. I want them to truly feel that the world is their oyster and that they can go anywhere in it and be anything they want to. By exposing them to a bigger world and showing them bigger things, hopefully they’ll understand that. I want them to imagine big things for themselves.  
  6. Going below an 1/8th of a tank of gas when you’re in the mountains and have no idea where you are going, in the middle of a thunderstorm, is going to guarantee a marital spat no matter who you are. Period. Always fill your tank when you have the tank because sometimes taking that risk causes unnecessary stress.
  7. Fun is what you make it! After you’ve nearly run out of gas in the mountains in the middle of a thunderstorm and gotten into a spat with your spouse, making fun of yourself for freaking out during the rest of your vacation is pretty funny. The sooner you can start laughing about it, the better. Truly this is something to remember in life. Attitude is completely a choice in most situations and while being lost in unfamiliar territory sometimes isn’t a choice, how you deal with it most definitely is.  
  8. My children are not perfect. It’s not that I didn’t already know this but when you love them so much, it’s easy to overlook their faults. Seeing them in different situations reminded me that it’s up to me to continue challenging them, encouraging them, and looking for opportunities to help them build their character.
  9. My children are so different from one another, yet so amazing and I can’t wait to see what they will become. Watching them experience new adventures and enjoy life with one hundred percent effort and joy is such a wonderful thing to watch. 
  10. Taking a vacation is good and necessary. It clears out the cobwebs and rests your body. I was reminded of how much I love to swim, even though I haven’t really done it in a very long time (see number four). I’ve been a swimmer since I was a kid, even life guarding for a summer in college, and I love it. Vacation reminded me that I don’t ever want to take a vacation that doesn’t involve swimming again. Lying in a pool in the middle of the mountains does something for the soul that no stay-cation gas ever done. Going away on vacation, unplugging from life for hours at a time, gave me such peace of mind and erased some of the stress from an otherwise tense and frustrated body.   

While I realize that going away isn’t always possible, the act of unplugging, de-stressing, and indulging in your family is priceless. We spent many moments escaping the heavy responsiblities of regular life, laughing at the most random things, and actively “freezing the moment” so we could remember our time together. It’s important to focus on the good moments and not dwell on the bad or the mundane. Thinking about the laughter and the good times in life get us through the more difficult times, until you can get to the good ones again. And time spent together can ultimately bring you closer when you let it.

While none of these are earth-shatteringly new revelations, they have been refreshing reminders. And I will hold onto them until the next time we go away, because there will definitely  be a next time. 

For the health of my mind and body, that is also my choice.