Surprise!

My sister is finally, finally home, after traveling about like a crazy adventure woman for six months.

I am so happy she’s here.

Don’t get me wrong, living alone is lovely. The house is quiet, I have my own space, and—and that’s the only plus sides I can come up with right now.

Now that my sister is home, I have someone to read with in the evening, someone to bounce ideas off of when I’m in a creative mood, someone who makes dinner when I am at work and has it ready when I come home, someone to grocery shop for, since grocery shopping for one person is no fun at all . . . 

Basically, I have about a thousand reasons to rejoice that she is finally home and isn’t planning to leave again for—some amount of time. Hopefully not in the near future. But we’ll see. World travelers sometimes don’t stay in one spot very long.

Now that she is here, I can tell you the secret I have been saving up since the beginning of May! Or was it April . . . or . . . never mind, it doesn’t matter.

Ta-da!

I painted my house!

As you can no doubt guess, it was badly in need of it, and this was my welcome home surprise for her. Thus the reason I didn’t post about it.

I started painting sometime around the middle of I-Don’t-Remember-Maybe-April when I was waiting for news after several job interviews.

So, yes, I was stress painting.

I got the first coat finished with the help of some semi-enthusiastic siblings and then . . . I got sick. So things paused for a few weeks while I laid around on my couch in a cold-medicine induced stupor and watched episodes of Winnie-The-Pooh on Youtube to keep my stress levels from crashing through the roof. Because obviously, I couldn’t stress paint anymore.

You do what you gotta do.

But eventually—after a very long wait—my cold got better and I was able to finish the second coat. Now that my beautiful tiny cabin is no longer an awkward shade of pink, it has turned into a sort of secluded hermitage. (For those of you who are extroverts, I just want to clarify that this is a good thing.) The green and brown blends into the trees, and when you’re driving up the road, you’d have to know just where to look to notice that there is a house hidden away up here after all.

Which, as a secluded sort of hermit, is just right for me.

Also, my sister loved it. So all my stress painting ended up all right.

Have you been working on any home improvement projects this year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Finding Normal

blue-blue-sky-clouds-708188.jpg

My new morning commute is forty-five minutes.

One way.

Does that sound a little crazy to anyone? That means every week I am driving about 7.5 hours back and forth to work . . . not including the time spent on the road if I happen to need a trip to town on a weekend.

I’m scaring myself just by adding up the numbers.

But do you want to know a secret?

I love it.

When I was first offered the job, one of my friends asked me if I was going to move into town to be closer to my new building.

I said no.

She understood.

First of all, I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere and have a tiny writer’s cabin tucked away in the middle of a pine forest surrounded by farmland and country roads. When I wake up in the morning, I hear magpies and bluejays and woodpeckers outside my house . . . not traffic and people and all the other city noises you can think of. I have deer and turkeys in my yard. I can go for walks at midnight down our dirt road if I feel like it. (I don’t usually feel like it.)

But besides loving where I am, I just . . . don’t hate my commute. In fact, as an author running a blog, writing books, and working full-time, my commute is some of the only time I have to really remember how much I love books myself.

Thank goodness for libraries that let me borrow 24 audiobooks at a time.

Really, my commute has been the saving grace for my reading habits. Thus far this year, I have read 66 books. Most of those have been audiobooks. With 7.5 hours of driving to do every week, I figure I can plow through at least a book a week. Maybe more, since I have lunch breaks too.

Finding out my library loaned out copies of audiobooks was a revolution for me. I have been devouring them while I paint for my mum, while I drive, while I work sudoku puzzles on my phone to keep my brain sharp . . . really just any time I have a few minutes of silence. I’ve been rediscovering some old favorites—right now I am listening to A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engleas well as discovering new treasures—Michael Hyatt’s Living Forward and as many of Agatha Christie’s books as I can find. As an author who still believes the best way to learn to write is to read, I am very grateful to have an unlimited library on my phone.

And plenty of time on my way to and from work to take advantage of it.

What are you reading these days? Any suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them!

On Your Mark . . . Get Set . . .

Panic!

No, not really. Nobody panic. Especially not me.

Although I do happen to feel a little panicky right at this moment.

Know why?

Today is July 1st, and also the first day of my new job, working as a writing assistant for Focus on the Family.

Are you shocked? I was. Also very, very excited. This will be my first experience with an office job and with working a nine-to-five, so I’ve been rushing around the last month to get myself prepared and brush up on my business casual knowledge.

Oddly enough, this meant buying a lot of clothes.

Like, a lot of clothes.

A whole wardrobe, actually.

How many of you knew I was a nanny before I got this job? Well, I was a nanny. And when you’re earning your rent playing hide-and-seek and going on trips to the park with little boys, you don’t wear business casual clothing.

You wear a t-shirt. And jeans.

Because when you hang out with toddler age boys, stuff happens. Stuff with water, stuff with mud, stuff with food.

And stuff with snot.

Yep. I said snot.

So, no, my wardrobe did not include anything remotely business casual.

Believe it or not, I loved being a nanny. I loved my boys and all the stuff we got to do together. We have many cookie memories. And jumping-on-the-tramp memories. And how-did-you-beat-me-at-this-game-you’re-five memories. I learned so much from those jobs.

Mostly that my memory is terrible and if I play matching memory games with a five-year-old, the five-year-old will win. Every. Single. Time.

Don’t ask me how.

Leaving my nanny positions for an office job—albeit a writing position—has been a little tough. I’m going to miss those boys. I was there for a lot of memories. Learning to crawl, losing their first tooth, kindergarten, first grade, baseball games, and so many more. I’m not saying I cried a little bit when I left on my last day, but I cried a little bit when I left on my last day.

Okay. A lot a bit.

But the leaving is all finished now, and today I am starting something new. If you think of it, wish me luck! I’m pretty nervous, so any good thoughts or prayers are appreciated!

Anyone have any tips for the first few weeks in a new job? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Coffee Dates: Writing Alone

Good Morning, Creatives!

Sometimes I feel like I need a support group for introverts. Like, we can sit in a very small circle with only a few people who really understand us and say, “Hi, my name’s Abigail. Today an extrovert tried to sit down in my bubble and make small talk and I chose not to spill my coffee in their lap to make them go away.”

And then people would clap for me and it would be great.

Joking aside, I hate small talk. If you want to talk to me, I would love to talk to you! As long as we talk about your dreams and your fears and what makes you get up in the morning. Not how your great aunt’s hydrangeas are doing or why spring is late this year.

Part of being an introvert is abhorring small talk. Another—very strange—part is that, quite often, I like to be alone. I like eating in restaurants alone and going to the movie theater alone. I like walking alone and getting coffee alone. But—and here’s the weird part—I LOVE writing with people around me.

Thus, today’s question. Do you like writing alone? Or do you prefer having company?

My Process

I live with my sister. She’s an artist. So while I write at the table, she sits at the counter and does her wood-burning, or her ink sketches, or whatever else she happens to have a commission for at the moment.

And we don’t talk.

Okay, most of the time we don’t talk. Occasionally one of us will scream in frustration, break out into song, or make a joke that is funny to no one but the two of us. Then we laugh and go back to work. Because I have to push the buttons and she has to draw the lines and we both know it takes silence to do it right.

And it’s the best thing on this planet.

My Struggles Within That

She was gone for about five months. (I mentioned why here.) And I missed her. Dreadfully.

I don’t like to write alone. I like to have people with me who understand that I love their presence. I love being near them and having their soul so close to mine. Just the fact that they are there brings me so, so much joy.

But I don’t want to talk.

Most people don’t really get that. Introverts do. And other writers. Not many people can do it, though, and that’s why I treasure my sister and my writing group so, so much, because that’s how we all work. We understand that silence doesn’t mean I’m ignoring you, and conversations don’t always mean you’re connecting.

Your Thoughts

Do you need to be alone while you’re writing? Or do you like having select people around you? Or are you a coffee shop and train station writer, who feeds off of the hustle and bustle of the human race? Tell me about it in the comments!

Headed For Home

asphalt-cloud-color-561201.jpg

I’m going to be honest with y’all.

I’m writing this while we drive.

I think we’re in Alabama right now. Somewhere near Birmingham, I think, although I am directionally challenged and it’s very possible that I’m wrong.

Guys. Alabama is hot. Like, ridiculously hot. Like, if it wasn’t so beautiful I would never come here again kind of hot.

But the trees have flowers and leaves instead of needles and the grass is lush and green, and everything is beautiful. Also, the dirt is red. And today is cloudy and misty. So I’m trying to ignore the heat.

We’re headed for Texas right now. Then, tomorrow, our wheels will be pointed toward Colorado and home.

I’m excited.

I miss my cat. And my family. And my house.

I can’t swear that anyone misses me, but I have a little—possibly vain—hope that my cat missed me. A tiny bit. A very tiny bit. Like, she went to sleep at night in my big empty bed all alone with no one to cuddle with and thought, “I wonder what happened to that one person who used to feed me and would whine back when I whined at her.”

I’ll admit, that’s a little bit of a stretch. But I can hope.

As much as I am excited to get back home, this has been a trip and a half. We’ve been through twelve states so far and have four more to go, and I have loved seeing the country change along the highway. We’ve crashed in hotel rooms, been hosted by wonderful friends, eaten way too much fast food, baked on beaches, swam in the ocean, in hotel pools, lakes, and backyard ponds. My brother made friends with a lizard, I found baby clams and ate my first Po’Boy sandwich, my dad drove us through the town where he grew up and showed us where his dad’s mechanic shop had been and the house he’d lived in. We saw flooded rivers, Florida swamps, the sea, and a telephone pole shaped like Mickey Mouse.

It was wild.

And now we’re headed for home. Tomorrow night, I will sleep in my own bed, and one week from today, I will start my first full-time office job and get paid to be a writer.

Life is crazy, y’all.

Anyone have any crazy road trip memories to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Coffee Dates: Overwriter

Good Morning, Creatives!

Can I confess something to you guys? Like, heart-to-heart?

Good. Because I’m going to anyway.

I am a chronic overwriter.

Are you shocked? You should be. It’s true. I have a serious problem. My poor, poor editor is constantly having to cut things back and tell me to rein it in a little. (Hi, Beth! You’re my favorite!)

This week’s question is to soothe my own ego a bit. Or convince me to start a support group. Either way. Are you an underwriter or an overwriter? (If you’re not sure, judge it this way. When you finish a manuscript, do you have to add words or cut them out? Which do you have a harder time doing?)

I’m supposed to cut them out. I usually add them.

My Process

I love words. I love worlds. I love my worlds. So, because I love them so much, I love to spend a whole lot of time exploring them and showing all the little details, the cultures, the cities, the languages, and the people. I love to build cities and construct architecture and grow deep forests with lore that extends back to the beginnings of time.

One of my favorite authors is Victor Hugo. If that helps give you an idea of how bad I’ve gotten.

My Struggles Within That

Readers get bored! Stories need action, they need swift plots that plow through a lot of material and keep their readers engaged! As much as I enjoyed the chapter in Les Miserables about the Paris sewers, it didn’t move the plot forward.

Yes, I loved it.

Someday, I’ll write a book about those black labyrinths.

I’m strange that way.

But! Readers have to be engaged! And they don’t like pages and pages and pages of OVERWRITING! So I’m learning to cut back and do some of the exploring only in my mind. This issue is actually one of the reasons I started writing short stories. It taught me to say a lot in a very little amount of time.

Your Thoughts

What about you? Are you an underwriter, always struggling to flesh out your chapters and fill out your word count? Or are you constantly cutting sentences and struggling to get down to a certain point? Tell me about it in the comments!

A Writer’s Life: Expectation

What keeps a writer going?

That’s an interesting question. On the surface, it’s easy to rattle off a long list. Love of the story, dedication to their craft, or—as we talked about last week—determination.

But I’m inclined to think that at the base of it all, whether we admit it or not, the driving force behind our creativity is expectation. The expectation of a book in our hands, of our reader’s surprise and enjoyment of our book, of typing those exceptionally satisfying words, The End. Without expectation, the frustration and discouragement of writing can become too much.

Expectation

Expectation is so, so important for your writing journey. Goals, dreams, a solid idea of why you’re working as hard as you are is so important. If you don’t have that, you will peter out long before you reach the finish line. Whether you need a mantra, a dream journal, or a poster with your goals written out for you to see and read every morning, cultivating expectation is one of the most important things you can do.

Expectation is the trust that at the end of the journey, after all the bumps and snarls, there will be a finished product.

Everyone has dreams they’re running after, everyone has hopes . . . but sometimes we forget to define and hold onto those dreams and use them to drive their journey forward.

How To Make It Happen

Expectation should drive you forward—not hold you back with disappointment and frustration. It should be what keeps you together, keeps your writing, keeps you hoping on the days that are hard. Writing has ups and downs, and some seasons of the writing journey have more downs than ups. Without using expectation to keep myself moving, I would have given up a long time ago.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one solid dream.

Truth #1

Without expectation—or hope—the hard days will drag you down and eventually end your dream. We all have bad days. Whether you like it or not, there will be days when you want to give up. There will be days when it feels too hard and too impossible to continue.

Without expectation—without hope—your manuscripts have a good chance of ending up in the trash.

Truth #2

Expectation needs intentionality to thrive. An undefined dream won’t get you anywhere. Do you know where you want to be? Do you have a goal, a plan, something to shoot for and hold onto when things are tough? 

Expectation needs intentionality. Intentionality comes from a person who cares enough about their dreams to define them.

Three Tricks

  1. Know your dreams. Have a journal. Have a vision board. Know what you want and what you’re aiming for. Take some time to sit down and really define what you’re aiming at in your journey. Do you want to finish your book? Write a series? Be published? Hit a bestseller list? You need to know that and know that you know it.
  2. Plan big, and allow yourself to dream beyond your own limits. Instead of saying, I wish, say, I will. Big dreams are scary because they feel out of reach and impossible. But the first step to achieving a big dream is admitting that you have one—and turning it into a goal.
  3. Have step-by-step goals. A dream with step-by-step goals becomes a plan and becomes achievable. You want to be a bestseller? Write a killer book. Start working on your pitch, on marketing, on social media platforms. Work on what is in your reach now, and have steps to help you climb your mountain. You’ll get there.

One Solid Dream

Everyone needs a dream, an end goal that they can turn back to when things are hard and they are starting to question why they do the things they do. Struggling forward in pursuit of someone else’s dream will drain you—struggling forward in pursuit of your own dream will build you.

Writer, know your dream. Whether you want to be a published author or a teacher or a journalist or a blogger, know your dream. Set goals. Have a dream board, a place to go to when you are tired and discouraged and ready to give up.

Know your dream. Plan for your dream. And move forward in expectation.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What are your dreams for your future and your stories? Tell me about them in the comments!

This is the last installment in the Writer’s Life series. I so enjoyed this journey with you, and I hope you will tune in next week as we tackle nine truths in a writer’s journey.

Until next time!