Portrait of a Missionary

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As a writer, I am fascinated by people.

No two people carry the same stories. Their life experiences, their worldview, and their hopes and dreams are uniquely their own. No work of fiction can compare to the beauty and complexity of the world around us, but, caught in our jobs, our routines, and our day-to-day tasks, it’s easy to lose sight of the richness of life amidst the mundane.

In this series, I would like to reawaken your awareness of the extraordinary.

A.R. Geiger

Not everyone has the privilege of a returning missionary sitting at their dinner table.

As I was setting out our plates and sitting down opposite my visitor, I was very aware of this. Even in my unique position as this particular missionary’s sister, I only get the chance to have dinner with him once every other year or so. Armin Geiger is a youth pastor in Vanuatu, a collection of islands in the South Pacific, and he returns to the United States very rarely.

When he does, I like to make sure I have at least one evening with him.

He didn’t hesitate when I told him I wanted a story. His life in Vanuatu is a strange mix of the mundane and the fantastical, of office work, a regular job, and schedules, and, scattered throughout, adventures worthy of a far longer post than this one. He always has a story ready when I ask.

“We were in west coast Santo on the medical ship last year,” he told me, already forgetting his dinner. “Giving care to the local communities. But their clinic location was set up in one village, and all the other people had to travel to get there. We knew a lot of elderly and disabled people needed medical care. So a local, one other girl, and I took a tender—a small speedboat—and drove forty minutes up the coast from where the ship was anchored.”

He sat back in his chair, pausing to remember. “We arrived and the waves were stronger than we anticipated. So I hopped off with this other girl, and we go off with the local to find these two old ladies. In this small woven hut, we find this one lady who was practically deaf, hunched over, frail as a bone, with this stick that she used to walk. She was in her seventies, I think, dressed in a classic, flowery gown that they wear in the islands. My friend began to walk her toward the shore, while I went to get the other patient, who ended up being an old lady who had no legs. Not as old, probably in her forties or fifties, but she had no legs and some sort of odd, wheelchair type thing that didn’t work so well.”

“So we half-carried, half-wheeled her to the shore, which was probably 200-300 meters away, and when we arrived, the waves had gotten even bigger.” He ran his hand through his hair, looking out the window. “And so the challenge was to get these two old ladies into the boat with waves that were up to my chest and not kill them or drown them. Cause at that age, you’re very frail. The guy on the boat had it running because you had to keep it running continually. So he’s running it with prow pointed out to sea, hitting every wave and riding it out. We’re timing it with the waves. So I scooped up the old grandma with the walking stick, and when a wave comes and it runs down, I run in and chuck her on board.”

I laughed, and he grinned, continuing, “She’s sitting there, freaking out,” he lets out a yell that sounds as much like an older woman as a twenty-something man can sound. “Then we go back for the next lady. I’m carrying her in front of my chest and the boat comes down—‘cause when it’s on a wave it’s up high, like above my head—the boat comes down, and I go for it to put her in. Then the wave comes a little sooner than we anticipated, so I lift the lady up high above my head, and the wave hits me in the chest, drenching me, ruining my phone.”

He lifts his arms above his head, demonstrating for me, totally caught up in his story now. “So I’m holding her as high as I can, and the waves are still coming, and then the boat comes down again and I chucked her onto the side and the guy on top grabbed her and pulled her up.”

“Pretty intense couple of moments,” he tells me, pausing again as he remembers the boat trip and the struggle to get the women aboard and back down the coast, “because if she fell in, that would not have been good. But we got them safely to the location, where they got medical care and glasses.”

I got up to refill his plate, marveling that, to him, his story is a fairly normal part of his life in Vanuatu. To me, it sounds as outlandish as one of the history books I grew up on, and the realization serves as a reminder that the extraordinary still remains hidden among the mundane.

But, as I said, not everyone has the pleasure of a returning missionary sitting at their dinner table.

Sending Off An Adventurer

My sister left this week.

One of my sisters. I have a few.

This particular sister is nineteen. I’ve mentioned her before. She has been living with me for the last several months, but she is off now.

Off adventuring.

I drove her to the airport on Tuesday. We talked about boys the whole drive.

Okay, one boy.

Okay, Colin Firth, in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.

In other words, we had a great time. After a two hour drive, I dropped her off and left her all alone. By herself. She flew to Austin, Texas, then to Iceland, and finally to Amsterdam, where she was picked up by the staff of the school she’s attending.

A lot of adventure for a nineteen year old.

In case you were wondering, yes, I’m a wreck. She’s been my best friend for a lot of years, besides being my roommate (cabin-mate?) for the last several months, and I’m going to miss her terribly. I’m not saying I cried in the car on the way home, but I cried in the car on the way home.

Just a little.

No one will sit by the fire with me in the evenings, no one will read everything I write and tell me if it’s good or not, no one will make me tea or eat all my cooking and pretend it’s amazing.

In short, I’m devastated.

But I’m very excited for her. She’ll be living in Amsterdam for three months, then transferring to an—as of yet—undisclosed location for the remainder of her school. Thanks to Skype and Facebook, I’ll be able to keep in touch with her, but she won’t really have much time to talk to me. Classes and new friends will take up most of her time.

I went to a similar school when I was nineteen, one located in West Kilbride, Scotland. I spent three months living in a castle on the beach (above), then another two months backpacking through Cambodia. It changed my life to see the sun set on the other side of the world, and I am so excited to see my sister go through the same experiences.

So, yes, I’m happy for her.

Just sad for me, because I have to live without her for a few months.

Living Like A Writer

We are two weeks into January.

Almost two weeks.

What day is it again?

Basically, 2019 has been a whirlwind of activity, even in its first two weeks. I started coaching sessions, started the first draft of my sixth book, embraced this blog, sent out several resumes for freelance writing positions, and oddly enough, repainted and rearranged my mother’s pantry.

I also took a morning to chop wood.

Because I live in a tiny house. And the only way to heat this tiny house is with a wood stove.

And it is cold in Colorado.

The lovely part of gathering wood for my house has been the long walks through the woods, finding dead wood and fallen branches to chop up. I live on thirty-five acres of pastureland and pine woods, and out here, we don’t go to Walmart and buy wood.

Although Walmart does sell firewood. Which seems weird to me.

However, we also don’t chop down trees willy-nilly. Because trees take seven thousand years to grow in Colorado due to the lack of water. So instead, I’ve been collecting logs from neighbors who are clearing their land, dead branches and trees from our own property, and old lumber from a porch that we tore down a year or so ago.

My woodpile is a study in oddities.

The long walks to find all of this wood have given me, as a writer, so much time and space to think. They’re moments outside in the trees, with the blue sky and the deer tracks in the snow and the long, winding paths up through our property. I have loved every minute of it and found that, more than just giving me wood to heat my house, they have given me rest for my soul, inspiration for my writing time, and above all, a chance to pause and enjoy the beautiful place that I live in. I am a country girl heart and soul, and nothing feeds my spirit more than time in the trees.

And, if I can ensure that I don’t freeze in the middle of the night at the same time, it’s definitely a double bonus.

A Year of Gardening

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I love the freshness of a new year.

Really. It’s one of my favorite things. I love the feeling of having a clean slate ahead of me, of days and weeks and months that have so much potential and so few mistakes. It’s like having a brand new notebook to write in, or a new set of pens to replace the old, scratched up, inked out versions.

And believe me, as a writer, both of those things are hard to beat. Bliss.

I’m not much of a party person, and I like to spend my New Year’s Eve, and, if possible, New Year’s Day at home. I brew a cup of tea, light a fire, and spend some time with my journal and my bible, discovering what I want to see from this new year, and what God wants to see.

This year, I’ve discovered that what I would like more than anything else, is to garden.

No, not actually garden. It’s January, there’s snow on the ground, I live on land that is classified as high desert, and any water poured on this dry, packed earth is immediately sucked straight to the center of the earth and devoured.

Colorado is brutal.

No, I mean I want to garden. In my life, in my soul. I want to till up the habits and routines that I’ve established in the last few years, pick out the rocky bits, and start fresh. I want to pause, to dig into what this year is going to be, and to scatter some seeds.

I have a lot planned this year, and a lot of uncertainty ahead of me too. I know where my priorities are, I know what I want and what I’m after, but I also know that life has a way of sending the unexpected. And, sometimes, the unexpected isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it really is the best thing in a garden. So I’ll leave a bit of ground open for what’s coming that I haven’t planned for, and focus on growing and tending what I know I want to cultivate in the year ahead.

And maybe, while I’m at it, I’ll try my hand at some real gardening and see if I can get a few lavender sprouts growing. Maybe Colorado will agree not to kill them right away.

What are your hopes for the year ahead? What would you like, more than anything, to see from 2019? Tell me down below!

2019, Goals, and Celebrations

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I have an announcement to make.

Ehem.

It is now . . .

2019!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

I’m guessing some of you are still asleep after a very long night and some wild parties, but you’ll wake up sometime this afternoon, and I’ll shout at you then. Or possibly just make you a pot of very strong coffee and leave you to recover in peace.

That might be kinder.

We’re one day into 2019, and already the year is in full swing and jam-packed with new adventures.  For Christmas, my sister gave me a pass to Gordon Ramsay’s masterclass, and I’m seriously excited to spend some time learning proper cooking techniques and recipes from a chef who has so much knowledge. Besides that, I will be stepping into coaching for the first time, welcoming a new child into our house, starting a new job, and preparing for the Fall release of my new book, Of Bullfrogs and Snapdragons.

Besides that, I am also planning on expanding this blog, continuing to post my stories and blogging more about mental health for writers and my own journey as an author. My full-length book series is still with agents and publishers who are considering it, and I will continue to send it out until I have a contract under my belt. 2019 promises to be a year of expanding my boundaries and experiencing new things, and I am EXCITED!

So tell me! What are you excited for in 2019? What are some of your goals and resolutions for the coming year? Any changes coming up that you would like to share?

The Reality Of Being an Author

This morning, I woke up to find that my bank account was maxed out.

Overdrawn, actually.

Not the best news to find out on a Monday morning, especially when every penny I’ve made in the last several months has gone toward absolute essentials. Bills. Groceries. That’s about it.

This is humiliating for me to admit, honestly. I’m the kind of person who likes to be on top of things. I like my bills to be paid a week in advance. When I go out to dinner or coffee with someone, I like to pay. When I get support letters from friends on the mission field about this need or that one, I like to be able to respond immediately with a check.

But, the reality is that I’m an author.

And right now, I don’t get paid.

For almost anything.

I’ve been a full-time author for about seven years. I’ve written eight books in that time, amounting to more than a million words in drafts, blog posts, and other various projects. Two of my books are published and available on Amazon. One—a biography I was commissioned for—is in the final stages of revision. Four others are in varying stages of revision and editing.

One is, at this very moment, in the hands of an actual real-life publisher, being reviewed for possible publication.

None of these books, as of yet, are ready to translate into anything resembling income.

Seven years is a long time. It’s a long time to work on a project without a great amount of hope or encouragement. It’s a long time to make no money and to support hundreds of hours work with several other jobs.

If I look at the last seven years from the perspective of retirement, bank accounts, and income, I have utterly failed.

Seven years down the drain. Time to pull the plug, because this idea was obviously a dud from the beginning.

Except it hasn’t been.

It hasn’t been, because of the girl who messaged me to say that something I wrote made her feel that a part of herself was beautiful, rather than strange or weird.

Or the seven-year-old who—when reading one of my books through for the second time—declared that it absolutely deserved five stars.

Or the man who commissioned the biography I wrote telling me that it was like reading through his life and that he couldn’t help tearing up when he read it.

There is magic in what I do. In the lives I touch. In the moments when people have paused to read something I’ve written, and immediately felt the need to message me and say that I made them cry. Fortunately for my career, I have never—and will never—look at what I do in terms of cash earned, money saved, or bills paid. Because being an author is more than that.

In fact, in my very humble opinion, being a person is more than that.

As many times as I have faltered in the last seven years, I have never once questioned whether writing was really what I was supposed to be doing. It’s too much a part of me, too much a part of the way I love and think and live, to abandon. I may not be making a livable wage on it right now—in fact, I may never make one—but I’ve come too far and seen too clearly how deeply impacting my words can be to quit.

To me, that’s worth a lot more than getting a check on time every month.

Although the check would be nice.

Of Bullfrogs and Snapdragons: Coming Fall 2019

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Hedgehogs, O most faithful of readers, make excellent writing companions.

I would not admit this to anyone but you, for some of my friends would be terribly jealous if they thought that I was choosing favorites. Belinda Munkindot, who I am sure that you remember from my previous letters, would fly into the most ridiculous passion if she so much as suspected that I preferred a hedgehog’s company to her own. But there it is, dearest reader, and I do hope that you will keep my secret.

Since I have taken on the task of chronicles these small adventures for you, I have had many little visitors to my cottage. Lumpkin has come several times. He roams about beneath my desk, tapping on the walls, and occasionally will clamber up to sit on my shoulder, reading the page that I have so carefully inscribed for you and uttering a few complaints if the story happens to be about anyone but himself. Once, I caught him digging through my flour barrel, as if he really did think he would find treasure buried inside. I am afraid that I dusted him off rather roughly and ordered him to go home at once.

He is still sulking.

Belinda, too, has come to see me many times. She flits in and out of my window as she pleases, sometimes resting on my writing hand to get a closer look at what I am saying about her, sometimes tinkling in my ear, and sometimes admiring herself in the mirror I keep on my desk to distract her. Her tinkling is very bothersome, and as she seldom does anything but scold about the stories I’ve chosen to tell—or not tell—about her, I find it very trying to have her with me for long.

Wignilian would be a fine companion, I think, if he wasn’t so easily distracted. He scuttles about, sniffing this and nibbling that, and drives me quite frantic. I have been forced to banish him several times.

In the end, I have found that the only little creature I can stand to have rooting about on my writing desk is a hedgehog.

Actually, if I am to be most entirely honest, it is one hedgehog in particular that has snuffled his way into my good graces.

His name, dear reader, is Lester Winklestep.

Of Bullfrogs and Snapdragons, the sequel to Of Mice and Fairies, is set for release in the fall of 2019. Mark your calendars!

For The Writer Who Is Exhausted

In my very unprofessional opinion, there are two types of exhaustion.

Actually, there are probably more than two types, but as I said, this is an unprofessional opinion, and as I am not exactly sure where I put my encyclopedia, we are going to say there are two types of exhaustion.

The first is physical. You worked too hard, didn’t get enough sleep, or, if you are the awesome kind of person that does this sort of thing, you wore yourself out lifting weights or running or some other kind of exercise. Your feet hurt, your muscles ache, and what you really need is a good night’s sleep, or a hot bath, or just an hour or two to lie down and read a book or binge watch Netflix. Maybe a foot rub is in order. Or a glass of wine on the couch. Whatever spices your tea.

The second type is mental exhaustion.

This one is a little harder, and it’s the kind that writers deal with on a daily basis. Mental exhaustion is harder to identify, harder to explain, and—in most cases—harder to recover from.

We’ve all been there at one time or another. You sit down to write and stare at your computer screen for three hours without hashing out a single word. Or you force yourself to conjure up a sentence, or a paragraph, or even a full page if you have a lot of stamina, but it all goes into the trash anyway. Your ideas are flat and refuse to come to life, your characters haven’t spoken to you in a month, and there’s a deadline looming.

When writers are mentally exhausted, their stories lose their magic, the job they love so much becomes a drudge, and all the creativity that writers are supposed to have in unlimited fountains runs dry. In the end, we’re left with empty pages, a headache, and a mountain of frustration at our inability to just do the work we’re supposed to be doing.

So how do we creatively refuel? It’s a little hard to tell your brain to put its feet up and take the evening off. In my years as a full-time writer, I have had to come up with a different list of ways to give my brain some time to reset itself. Hopefully they are as helpful to you as they have been to me.

1) Give yourself time.

This is the hardest one for me. I like quick solutions, an extra hour of sleep, a dose of caffeine, some new vitamins, and off we go!

But mental exhaustion isn’t like that. It doesn’t clear up overnight. In my experience, for the writers that are well and truly burned out and fully emptied, the best thing to do is to just stop.

Just stop.

Stop writing, stop thinking about writing, stop working on plot points or trying to envision scenes or build settings.

Stop everything.

Three days in, you will have a tiny creative spark in the back of your mind. If you jump on that spark and try to write with it, you will kill it.

I’ve done this. It sets you back.

So just leave it alone. Take walks, do life, get coffee. But don’t write. Don’t think about writing. Don’t talk about writing. Give it a week before you even look at your manuscript again. More, depending on how burned you are. I’ve given it a month. Sometimes more.

2) Have adventures.

“Would you like to have an adventure now, or would you like to have tea first?”

~ Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

Your brain needs story fodder. It needs something to feed those wonderful, brilliant ideas that you pour into your writing, or it will starve. So take it adventuring. Take it to the beach, and walk barefoot in the waves. Look for seashells. Watch the gulls. Draw in the sand.

Go to the zoo, and sit on a bench and watch the tigers for a few hours. Or the turtles. Or the monkeys. Watch the people who are watching the monkeys.

Go to a new coffee shop and sit in the corner to watch the world go by, or go for a walk in a park that you’ve never been to. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be quiet—or crazy exciting, like a theme park—but it does have to be different.

Your brain needs something new.

A change in routine. A breath of air you haven’t been breathing for the last six months. Get away from your computer, get away from your office, or your bedroom, or your living room, and have an adventure.

3) Cut out the caffeine.

Caffeine gives your body a boost of energy when it is physically exhausted. It might help you stay awake through a six page college essay that’s due tomorrow morning.

It will not help you be creative, and it will not fill you up when you are empty.

4) Do not jump straight back into your writing routine.

My house is heated by a wood stove. When I build a fire, I build a frame with kindling and paper and tree bark, and light that. First a spark, then a little flame, yes?

And if I dumped a huge log on that flame as soon as it was big enough to get hot, it would die.

Instantly.

The same is true for that little creative spark you feel after three days. It needs time to become a flame, and then to grow a bit. Don’t dump a fifteen hundred word count goal on it, because I promise, it will probably die.

Start with small things.

Journal with your characters. Write a character sketch, or a setting description. Build up over a week or two. Start with a hundred words instead of a thousand. Ease into it, and take the time to remember why you love this story, these characters, and this plot line.

5) Refuel.

You cannot pour from an empty jar.

That’s just the way it is, dearest writer. You cannot give when you yourself are empty. So be willing to take the time to refuel your creativity and your mind.

Read wonderful books with characters that haunt you.

Sit down with your friends, or your family, or someone from work or church, and have the kind of conversations that go deep.

Put on music and dance. Sing at the top of your voice. Worship, read your bible, and talk to God about nothing and everything. Pick flowers, collect seashells, bake cookies to share with a friend. (Or eat them all by yourself, because I will not judge.) Cook good food, learn a new skill, and find joy in your life that does not revolve around words on a page.

The words will come. You are not washed up, your stories will not be empty forever, and you will find that spark of creativity again. Until then, find what brings you life, find what fuels your soul, and spend time counting the stars.

That, too, is part of writing.

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

How I Will Probably Die

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I find the bookshop on 47th and Willow, sandwiched between a pawn shop with a broken lamp in the window and a jewelry store selling fake pearls. The windows are shuttered, and a black cat is lying on the doorstep. She arches against my hand when I reach down and pet her, and when I step over her and go inside, I half expect her to follow me.

She doesn’t, even when I hold the door for her. I guess she likes it outside better.

A silver bell rings when I come inside, but there’s no one at the counter. A dusty book is lying open beside the register, and there’s a kitten asleep in a basket under one of the tables, but no people. No customers, no employees.

But there are books. The walls are lined with shelves that reach right up to the cracked ceiling, and the books that don’t fit on the shelves are stacked neatly in the corners, or arranged in rows on the creaky reading desks in the center of the room. I browse through, finding a few titles I know and some I’ve been looking for. I can’t find any price tags, but since some of the books are pretty battered, I figure they’re mostly second-hand, and the owner has a standard price that she—or he—keeps by the cash register.

The kitten is following me. I clump down a few steps into another room, this a little more messy, a little more scattered than the last. Big, sprawling plants are growing in pots in the corners, and the books are double-lining the shelves. Some of them have real leather covers, their pages so old that they crack when I open them. The writing is nearly illegible, faded by dust and years, and I’m tempted to buy a few to keep in my library, maybe on display. I’ve always liked old books.

Another cat is sleeping on the books, a big orange tabby. He yawns as I pass by, and I scratch him on the ears and under the chin. The kitten is rubbing against my ankles, purring as loud as if he hasn’t had any kind of attention for years. I pick him up, letting him rub his face against my cheek and chin as I venture into the next room.

It’s bigger than the last. I didn’t think the shop was so big. From the street, it looks like a one-room corner store, with maybe an upstairs room for extra stock. But I can’t find any stairs, and the rooms keep getting bigger as I go along. Several ferns and a few leafy vines are growing on the tables, and one of the shelves has Venus Flytraps growing next to the books. They’re bigger than I thought they would be, although I’ve never really grown any. Maybe they feed on book moths, or something.

The books are all leather now. I pull one off the shelves, and it’s so heavy that I have to set it down on a table before I can open it.

I can’t read the writing inside. It’s hand-lettered and smeared, and definitely not written in English. I put it back on the shelf, feeling a little funny, and go back through the door to the room with the orange tabby.

At least, that’s what I meant to do. The door was the same, or looked the same, but the orange tabby is gone, and this room has a bare wall with hand-drawn maps pinned to it and an old writing desk, with quill pens and an ink bottle with dust on it in the corner. The kitten is gone, and the books are chained to the shelves, like they were in the Middle Ages. I pull one off and open it up, and the pages are lined by painted illustrations that make my stomach turn.

I go back through the door I just left, thinking I’ll find the kitten and the right door, and go home without buying anything, at least today.

But the Venus Flytraps aren’t there, and the room isn’t the one I left. Three or four more doors, and I begin to realize that I’m very, very lost.

Either that, or this bookshop is playing games with me. A few hours, and the way it toys with me starts to feel very alive. As if it’s confusing me on purpose. The kitten appears a few more times, but I always lose it again.

It’s weeks before I give up. The bookshop seems intent on keeping me alive, whatever else it has in mind, like one of its cats. I find plates of stale cookies and lemonade set out for me, or sometimes a sandwich and a cup of milk. At night we have tea in the room with the squashy armchairs and the fireplace, and the kitten finds me.

It’s not so bad, once the panic wears off. Who knows? Maybe the last owner got eaten by the Venus Flytraps or made it outside, and the shop got lonely without them. I don’t think it likes to be alone, and someone has to take care of the books and give the cats the attention they need.

So why not me?

For The Writer Who Is Overwhelmed

We live in a competitive world.

Nowadays, there is heavy competition for just about everything. Especially for writers. Jobs are highly sought after, agents are overwhelmed by the number of queries in their inboxes, publishers refuse to even look at your manuscript unless you’re represented, and blog views are scarce simply because there are a million blogs and one you.

It’s rough.

For some people, the competition is exhilarating. They enjoy the challenge of making their voice heard and attracting attention in a crowded room. They have a knack for making people laugh and for presenting themselves in the best possible light. If that’s you, more power to you!

I, however, am not one of those people.

My problem is that I am not at all competitive. I can play a hundred games of chess with my father, lose all but two of the games, and simply enjoy the fact that we were spending time together. Promoting myself as the best option for prospective readers, agents, and publishers is very hard for me.

And yet, for those of us determined to present our stories to the world and reach our readers, it is incredibly important.

Books are powerful. Stories are powerful. My book, We, the Deceived, which is currently being pitched to agents, was birthed from my time in Cambodia working with women escaping from prostitution. It’s a hard hitting, impacting story of redemption, the realities of slavery, and the worth in a single soul. I’ve put nearly seven years into this book, and I fully believe in it. I want to get it into the hands of a publisher, and even more, I want to get it into the hands of the readers who need it.

So, I keep pushing, despite how overwhelming the competition can feel.

But sometimes, just pushing doesn’t feel like enough.

We all know that feeling, don’t we? That moment when all of the hard work we’ve done feels pointless, and we feel like the last person in line. The runner who gets to the finish line when everyone else is gone and the volunteers are cleaning up.

Discouraging, right?

I have walked through moments like these. More than I care to remember, and yet, I’m still walking. Discouragement is never the signal to put an end to a project or a dream, and I have learned a variety of ways to keep myself sane and moving when it begins to feel impossible. Hopefully they will help you as much as they have helped me!

1) Breathe.

Realize that there is no deadline to your dream. If it takes months instead of weeks, or years instead of months, it will not lose its value. There is no hurry. Agents will not stop accepting new authors after 2019. Publishers are not going to stop printing books. The world is not going to stop reading.

So breathe, dearest author. Take a moment, calm your anxiety, and breathe.

2) Do the next thing.

Waiting around, bewailing our inability to ‘make it happen’ is not going to get us anywhere. And neither will grinding to a halt because we’re so overwhelmed by the huge obstacle in our path.

Take one step. Just one. Focus on that one step, and don’t worry about the next one until you need to.

Finish writing the book. (If you haven’t already.) If that’s still too far off for you to even think about, write the next chapter.

Add one social media account with your official author name.

Draft a query, or jump online to find some instructions on how to write a professional query.

Get feedback on your book, and adjust accordingly.

There are a million little steps in the long journey toward holding that book in your hands, so take the next one in front of you. Do the next thing. A little progress goes a long way toward fighting off discouragement.

3) Celebrate the victories.

Pop that champagne cork. Or open that bottle of wine. Or sparkling grape juice. Something. Don’t save all your celebrating until you hit that mythical moment of ‘success’. Because honestly, that moment will keep being pushed back. It will change depending on where you are in your life, and if you don’t celebrate your wins now, you never will.

So do it. Take yourself to dinner, or to that movie you’ve been wanting to see. Get your nails done, or buy that game you’ve been wanting. Celebrate your milestones. They might feel small now, but when you add them all up, they’ll be the ones that got you where you’re going.

4) Don’t make important decisions while you’re discouraged.

Just don’t. Tossing that manuscript in the trash, deleting your blog or social media accounts, or blowing up at the people who are supporting you might feel satisfying in the moment, but you will always, always regret it later. If you really are considering throwing in the towel, wait. Talk to people you trust. Give yourself time to change your mind, and to think it over when you’re not frustrated. The worst decisions are always made in a hurry.

5) Do not tie your value to your work.

Dearest writer.

You are not more or less important because of the number of hits you have on your blog.

The likes on that one post do not define you.

The rejection letter that agent sent you is not a rejection of you. They do not hate you. They do not think you are stupid, or worthless. They have simply decided that this particular project is not right for them at this particular time.

You are waiting for your book to be published, or your blog to make money, or to land a job as a writer.

You are NOT waiting to be valuable.

You are NOT waiting to be loved.

And you are NOT waiting to be important.

So whatever the problem, whether it be a rejection letter, or a scathing review, or simply a day of not being noticed, remember that you are still an incredibly brilliant human being with endless potential and a mind that cannot be replaced.

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