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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Turning around the bad things

Wow! It has been a crazy few weeks in Danicaland. So many ups and downs, and unfortunately, I had something bad happen that made me hit a low I haven't had in a long time. Today, I was processing all those things, and a good friend made a comment that stopped me in my tracks. And while it was completely unrelated to the bad thing that happened, it put a new fire in me.

Actually, the seed of the fire was planted last week when I was at another transformational retreat. We talked a lot about our visions and who we wanted to be in the future. I've really struggled with defining what I do for writers, which is hard, because I truly believe that I have a lot of great information that can help my fellow writers- and I've had a number of them say so! And then it came to me- I help writers move beyond the things that are blocking them from success in their writing career. BAM! I was looking over my notes, and right below where I wrote and circled that ah-ha, I wrote a question. How am I out of alignment with that vision?

I didn't answer that question, because until today, I didn't have the answer. And now I do. You see, the bad thing that happened to me created a lot of inner drama. Because I wanted to think I was strong, I tried dealing with it on my own. But in dealing with it, I developed this fear, this place of hiding and not wanting to be seen because I needed to protect myself. Honestly, it has felt like a part of me died, and I didn't know how to get it back.

Then today, talking to my friend, I mentioned something I want to do, but don't know how to do it, and she was like, "DUH, the Holy Spirit lives in you. You have all the power of God inside you to take care of it." Which is when I realized that as much as I've been trying to control my life around the bad thing, it has been controlling me. The power of God lives inside of me, and I have been letting something horrible that happened to me override that power.

And so here I am, turning around that bad thing and saying, "you don't get to be the boss of me anymore!"

I'm going to tell you a secret. One that has me feeling vulnerable, and yet I also want to share it, because it's part of what has transformed me as a writer, and what I believe is the key to helping other writers. As I dealt with the bad thing, I completely abandoned my writing practice. I'm almost ashamed to admit it, because I know how bad it is to let your writing go, and to let something like that drag you down. But here's the thing: we all do it. And I'm convinced that one of the main things holding us back in our writing is that we let these bad things get in our way. I don't know what your bad thing is, and I don't really want to talk about my bad thing. But we have got to realize that we are stronger than those bad things. Bad things happen to all of us, but if we let them get in our way, they control us, rather than us being in charge.

Which leads me back to my purpose. I created my retreat because I want to help writers. I want to give them nourishment in ways writers need because they tend to lose themselves. I know, because I've found myself lost more times than I can count. But I am learning how to get un-lost, to be un-stuck, and to move forward. Which is what I want to teach others.

So... I've decided that I really want as many people to come to my retreat as possible, because I know I am not the only writer who has lost her way a time or two or three or more. Which is why I've decided to lower my retreat price back to the early bird discount rate of $97. A while back, I told a writer friend that for me, it's not about the money, except that I do need to pay for the space I'm renting at the hotel and honor my contractual obligations. So you guys are getting it at my cost. Writers need this information, and I'm going to share it.

We all lose our way from time to time. Bad things happen. But I believe we can turn it around, and turn into fuel to move us forward. I hope you'll join me!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The simplified process to achieving your dreams

I had lunch with a friend last week, and she asked me about the process it took for me on this journey to my dreams. And while there is a lot to the process, I wanted to share the basics, because the truth is, achieving your dreams is a LOT easier than you think.


It's easy?

Believe it or not, your dreams are often closer than they appear. 

When we decided to embark on the dream house process, almost a year ago, I told my husband I thought it would take 2-3 years. He wanted to shorten the time, and I was like, okay, go for it. We still thought we'd be about a year out. But then, as I started researching the possibilities, the spark of what we could do kept coming alive, and before we knew it, we were living in our dream house. What started as a "maybe we can do it in 2-3 years" only took six months! Here is what it took:

Step one: Dream
That sounds really basic, but a lot of people are afraid to take a look at what they want in life, because they're afraid they won't get it. They're afraid they might be dreaming too big. Here's the crazy thing: oftentimes, what seems like a HUGE dream is completely do-able, if you're willing to make the effort.

Step two: Research the Dream
Now this also sounds basic, but it's amazing to me to see how many "impossible" dreams were actually possible with little to no effort. For example, last year, we went on our dream vacation to England. We'd wanted to go for years, but thought there was no way we could do it. When we were planning a trip, we had a few locations in mind, and for curiosity's sake, I looked up how much flights to England were. Whoa!! Yes, it was expensive, but as I looked at our budget and what we wanted to do, I realized that it cost almost the same as another trip we'd been looking at. What seemed to be impossible actually was closer than I thought.

Step three: Focus on the Dream
How often do you focus on your dreams? I have a dream notebook I look at every day, reminding me of my dream, and allowing me to clarify what I want out of life. In that notebook, I have several letters to myself, where I talk about my vision, written in the future tense, expressing gratitude for having reached those goals. I read those letters to myself every day, not only reminding myself of the dream itself, but also of the why.

Here is a video I did today on Periscope showing my dream notebook.

Step four: Plan the Dream

You've researched, you've focused, but you also need to come up with a plan. For example, how much does your dream cost? Have you broken down how much extra money you'd need to make that dream come true? Have you created a plan for how you'll come up with that money? What if all you needed was an extra $50 per month? Or just one hour per week? I'm always amazed at how, when you break down the dream, and start making a plan, how much more do-able it is.

Step five: Move in the direction of the Dream

Sometimes the cost of the dream is more than anything you can see. My ultimate dream, when it comes to my writing retreat, is that I would have a retreat center in the mountains, where people could come and be refreshed. I figure that building the retreat center I want is going to cost at least a million dollars. Sounds pretty hard, right? But I am starting small, and I'm hosting a retreat at a hotel as a first step. Then I'll host more retreats, and find even cooler places to go. And with each step, I'm building a foundation to create a retreat center that it going to nourish so many people. Yes, it's going to be work. And no, it won't happen tomorrow. But it's going to happen, and it's going to be wonderful. Even though it's still a long way off, it's a lot closer than it was when I sat around, talking about how cool it would be with no real movement in that direction.

What's your dream? Have you thought about how you're going to reach it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

10 things that make you AWESOME!!

Well, okay, I'll admit right off the bat that I have no clue what makes you awesome. Well, maybe. Some of you, who I know personally, I could come up with a list. But the rest of you... I'm just going to assume. Because the fact is, we all have things that make us awesome, but we don't always claim it.

Why don't we claim it? Well, there are a lot of reasons, and I know for me, a lot of it goes back to childhood wounds where people mocked me for claiming my awesomeness. I was bullied and treated really badly by a lot of people, so it was easier to shrink and hide from the meanness that seemed to inevitably follow. But you know, the more we keep hiding our awesomeness, the more we let the bullies win. They drag us down, and keep us down, and if you think about it, they don't do it because we're not worthy of our awesomeness, but because they aren't. Our awesomeness threatens them, because they bought into the belief that if someone else is awesome, they can't be awesome too.

Which is a big, fat lie.

Here is the truth about being awesome. I am awesome. You are awesome. And your awesomeness in no way diminishes mine. My awesomeness does not diminish yours. In fact, if we both allow ourselves to be awesome together, in recognition of our mutual awesomeness, we make the world a better, more awesome place. We give all the people out there, hiding their awesomeness, permission to shine.

I did a great video on Periscope today, about the fear of putting yourself out there. Friends, I wish I could tell you that I am not afraid. But the truth is, I'm a big old chicken. Maybe that's why I love my chickens so much. I can totally relate to them. If you're not on Periscope, you should follow me and watch my scopes. Why? Because they're awesome! Anyway, in that video, I gave people a challenge to come up with ten things that make them awesome. I promised that I'd do it, too. Now, I did say I'd do it within the hour, but then I got inspired to do it as an art journal project with Princess, and I had to wait for the paint to dry, so it took a bit longer. But I am keeping my commitment to my viewers, to my friends, and to myself... the picture you see is the picture I made proclaiming my awesomeness to the world!

And, in case you can't read it, here is my list: Ten things that make me awesome!
1. I make mistakes, and that's okay! (I messed up the lettering in my art, and it's okay!)
2. I am a good mom.
3. I love chickens.
4. I like to help people.
5. I am a good writer.
6. I am creative.
7. I am a nature lover (as long as it's not in my house!).
8. I love to travel.
9. I like to learn new things.
10. I am resilient!

So here's my challenge for you. What makes you awesome? Make a list of your ten things. If you're not brave enough to share them all on my blog, share your favorite. Whether you admit it here or not, you are awesome. I don't know all the things that make you awesome, but I know they're there. So share! Let's be awesome together, and make the world a more awesome place!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Five Steps to Healing Writer Wounds

I had so much response to my post about writer wounds, and while I knew others had been wounded by other writers, I didn’t realize how much it hit home with people. I think it’s because we try so hard to do the right thing, and turn the other cheek, that we end up silently suffering for a long time.

Writer wounds are a different animal from a lot of the other wounds we face. There are a lot of reasons for that, but mostly I think it’s because as writers, we’re in this weird place of being in business, but in a way that makes us extremely personally vulnerable. 

After all, what is our writing, but our vulnerabilities out for the world to see?

Even though I’m listing out this process, recognize that it is a very personal journey, and these steps might be different for you. So don’t be discouraged if your process isn’t exactly like this. Part of why I am including this in my retreat is that it’s a bigger and deeper process than you can get out of a blog. More importantly, I believe that the unhealed wounds we carry around are part of what's holding us back in our writing success.

Step One: Acknowledge the Wound
Because we’re supposed to be professional, a lot of times, when we’re wounded as writers, we brush off the wound. The editor who just said, “your writing stinks,” is still your editor, and you’re going to have to work with that editor again. Or, the big-name author who stepped on you is still a big-name author and you’re going to have to interact with that person on an on-going basis. So, a lot of times, we push it down because we’re trying so hard to suck it up and move on. The trouble is, pushing it down never heals the wound, and eventually, the wound will come back up when we least expect it. The first step in healing the wound is to say, “this happened, and it hurt me.”

Step Two: Feel the Wound
Part of the pushing down process means that we never fully feel the pain of the wound. Maybe it’s because the wound happened at a time and place where having a good cry isn’t appropriate. But a lot of times, it’s because we’ve trained ourselves not to feel the pain. I’ve talked to a lot of counselors and coaches who all say that allowing yourself to feel the emotion is part of what helps you heal that emotion.

Step Three: Process the Wound
A lot of people stop at feeling the emotion. They feel it, and it hurts, and then they sit in the hurt. But you also have to take the time to process that emotion. Why did it hurt? What did that hurt remind you of? Is there an unexpected gift in that wound? A lesson that can help you grow? How can you care for yourself and love yourself in a way that is going to help that wound heal?

Step Four: Forgive the Person Who Wounded You
I have a daily forgiveness practice that I work through, and the thing I’ve learned about forgiveness is that it is never about the person who hurt you. It’s about softening your heart, and giving yourself the gift of letting go of the wound. One of the biggest misconceptions about forgiveness is that you can just say, “I forgive you, and move on.” Forgiveness is actually a process that takes time. You’re going to say, “I forgive you,” today, but tomorrow morning, you might wake up and still feel the pain. And you’re going to have to say, “I forgive you,” again. You may have to say that a whole lot of mornings before you actually feel the forgiveness. 

Forgiving the other person does not make what the person did to you right. 

In fact, you should forgive the person whether that person is sorry or not. Note that I did not make, “confronting the other person,” part of the process. There are a lot of reasons for that, but mostly because this process is more about you and your emotions. You can’t control the other person, or change them. The only person you have control over is you.

Step Five: Use the Wound for Good
I have a journey entry from when I was about 12 years old, and I was processing a hurtful situation. In it, I wrote what has become a driving force for my life. I decided back then, that I was going to use those painful places to help others- whether it be to help others out of a similar situation, or to prevent similar situations from happening. As writers, we also have a third way of using the wound for good. We get to use that pain, that situation, even that emotion, to inform our words as we write.

Being wounded happens to everyone- whether we like it or not. But in the end, we get to choose how we use those wounds. We can let those wounds fester inside us, crippling us, or turning us into mean grumpy people. Or we can heal those wounds, and use them in a positive way.

If you’re curious about my story about Matilda, and how it ended, here’s the result. Matilda and I haven’t spoken in about 3 or 4 years. I gave up after I couldn’t get past her assistant. I have never spoken to her about my hurt. And at this point, it doesn’t matter. If she called me up tomorrow, I would treat her like any other acquaintance who called me out of the blue. I’d be polite, but I also wouldn’t give her unguarded access to my heart. I had some good times with Matilda, but I choose to invest my energy into friendships that are more mutual. As much as what she did to me hurt, I’m grateful for the experience, because it opened my eyes to the kind of person I want to be as a writer. There are people in my life that I’ve asked to hold me accountable to that standard. And I’d like to think that as I become more successful, I’m going to be a person of integrity and love. Not perfect, of course, but hopefully my name won’t be synonymous with jerk. Plus, I’ve been able to use this story to help others, to know they are not alone in their pain.

So Matilda, even though I’m not using your real name, and I know you do not read my blog, thank you. What you did really hurt me. But I forgive you. It does not excuse your behavior, but I’m not holding on to it and letting it define me. In fact, I’m using it to help others heal. And while they don’t know who you are, they thank you, too. 

If you want to learn more about this healing process, I'd love for you to come to my retreat. We won't be spending the entire time at the retreat talking about this, but we will go more in depth than I did here on the blog. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Healing Writer Wounds

I’ll never forget the last time I saw her at a conference. I had been friends with Matilda (not her real name) for years. She was sitting at the bar, just hanging out, and I joined her. After all, that’s how our friendship had been year after year. But that year, something was different. Matilda seemed annoyed that I was there, and I noticed that she spent the whole time looking around the bar for other people. We had a brief, polite conversation, and then, when a bestselling author entered the room, Matilda ditched me. Our emails, rather than being the usual friendly sort, turned into her assistant very politely blowing me off. Basically, once Matilda’s star rose, she left me behind as a friend.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and it’s taken me a while to come up with this post. Because it hurts to go there. It hurts to be reminded of how, when Matilda needed help with a book, I contributed what ended up being the meat of a chapter, and in her acknowledgements, she thanked big name authors who, in separate conversations that they initiated, mentioned being surprised because they’d had nothing to do with her book. Yet, despite everything I’d done to help her, I’d gone completely unacknowledged. Not that I did it for the acknowledgement. As a friend, I’d been happy to help. But it became really clear that she saw people like me as people to use on her path to success, and once my usefulness was over, I no longer existed.

I wish I could say that Matilda was the only friend who did this to me. I have several friends, now bestselling authors, whose early careers I helped, who no longer acknowledge our friendship because I’m no longer an asset to their career.

So why do I share this story? It’s not so that you feel sorry for me, or question my judgement in helping friends who clearly aren’t, or even to get back at Matilda. I purposely hid her name and identifying details because my goal is not to hurt Matilda. She’s a fine writer, and I still believe in her work. I just think she was a lousy friend to me, and her actions really hurt me.

But here is the point: a friend of mine emailed me to tell me that she was interested in my retreat, but the real problem with why she’s stuck in her writing is that another writer hurt her and she can’t get past it. Boy, do I know that problem. So many Matildas in my life, and other hurts, and sometimes writing is hard. I have friends struggling with hurts from harsh editors, betrayals from friends, mean reviews, and a lot of negativity in their writing business. And guess what? They sit in writing paralysis based on those hurts.

I know that paralysis all too well. For a long time, I was afraid to be a successful author because I didn’t want to turn into the kind of jerk who abandoned all my friends because I was more successful than them. It was more important to me to be a good friend who was there for her friends than it was to be a successful author. For some reason, I thought those two things were mutually exclusive.

What a crock!

I realized that I have many friends who are successful authors, friends who are not about stepping on others to get ahead, but are reaching their hands down to pull others up. And that’s the kind of author I intend to be.

But here’s the thing: That wound paralyzed me for a long time. 

The wounds many of my friends have been dealing with are keeping them from moving forward in their writing careers.

Part of the work we’ll be doing at my retreat is looking at those wounds, and seeing how they’re holding us back. But also, finding healing for those wounds. One of the ways we writers are lacking in nourishment is in finding healing for our wounds. The wounds we carry, if they’re still festering, are shackles that bind us to the past and prevent us from moving forward. However, when we find healing for our wounds, we find the freedom we need to move forward in confidence toward success.
I can’t promise that if you come to my retreat that you’ll find full healing. But my goal, and my hope, is that you’ll be able to identify those wounds, and identify ways of dealing with them, so that you can move in the direction of healing.

If someone has wounded you in a way that has hurt your writing, you owe it to yourself to find healing. 

Carrying that wound doesn’t affect the other person at all- it just hurts you. I’m pretty sure that Matilda isn’t sitting at home, thinking about how awful it is that she hurt me. She looks at herself in the mirror every day and doesn’t give me a second thought. And that’s okay! So why do I spend so much energy worrying about her? The most freeing thing in my life has been healing that wound. 

And I want to help you find that same healing.

Obviously, my blog is a little too public for you all to pour out your hearts. But if you’d like to share on the topic, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you found healing for wounds? And if you’re struggling with a wound, and need to chat, feel free to email me privately at danica@danicafavorite.com.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Five Ways to Believe in Yourself as a Writer

I had a different post in mind for today, but when a fellow writer posted a question in a group I belong to, I realized that the core of what I do, and why this retreat is so important to me, lies in the answer that I gave her. You see, I think one of the biggest things writers struggle with is believing in themselves as writers.

The way this idea manifested today is that a person asked about the value of critique partners. And you know, while I did give her an answer, I didn't give her a complete answer. Mostly because it was way too long for a simple FB post, but also because it's a much longer explanation than, "should I look for a new critique partner?"

Over the years, I've had some amazing critique partners. I've also had some really terrible critique partners, whose cutting criticism of my work had me feeling absolutely worthless. Lately, though, I have not used critique partners at all. When I submitted the first book I had published, my good critique partners were too busy to read it. So I sent it in, with no one but me having read it. That book sold. In fact, every book I've ever sold has never been fully critiqued. If I have questions or doubts about a certain passage, I'll send it to trusted friends to give it a read-through. But it's usually something that doesn't take long, and is usually something very specific I want to know. My editor reads the book, and then I get my edits from her.

I struggled to sell my first book for a number of years, and during those years, I had dozens of critique partners, including well-known writing experts. Interestingly enough, the things that my editor didn't like about those books were all things that the experts told me to do. Now, I don't blame the experts, and, I have no intention of revealing who they are or what they said. I think they do know a lot about writing, and they've helped a lot of people. They just weren't the right fit for me, and I didn't have the courage to respectfully disagree.

The person I blame is myself. Because, as the experts told me their advice, I knew it wasn't right for my book. But rather than owning my story, I let the experts shape my story and turn it into what they thought it should be. I didn't believe in myself as a writer, and the truth is, that showed up in my writing.

My writing is different now. Not because I took a class that taught me a new technique, or because I read a fabulous writing book. But because I learned to believe in myself. To trust the story I had inside me, and to trust in the fact that I know how to write.

So does that mean people don't need critique partners? Absolutely not! I used to judge a lot of writing contests, and I read a lot of bad writing. There was one particular story, year after year, I would somehow end up judging in multiple contests. Every year, it was exactly the same story, and the author never changed anything. One year, I received a nasty email from that author basically saying that I had no idea what I was talking about, and how dare I say that her book wasn't perfect. I fought the urge to answer her back and tell her that after five years of not being a finalist, and not selling the book, she might consider that her writing could use some improvement.

There's also the author, whose work I spent hours critiquing and really trying to help, and finally, after not selling her book, decided to self-publish. To support her, I bought the book, and was horrified to find that she hadn't changed a thing- including the typos! So now, she complains everywhere that her book is not selling as well as she thinks it should be.

Where, then, is the room for being critiqued?

I know at least a hundred authors. Probably more. Of those authors, only one has told me that she doesn't have a critique partner and her editor never gives her edits on her books. However, she's also published more than a hundred novels, so I'm going to say that she knows a little something about writing. Every author has some level of editing done before the book goes to print. With the advent of self-publishing, more authors are choosing not to have the book edited, but I believe that's a mistake. There are things you can't see in your own work that you need someone to help you find- even if it's just typos.

Even though you'd think that not having a book edited means that you believe in yourself as an author, I'm going to take a different stance. If you do not have the courage to let someone else critique your work, and are not willing to listen to suggestions and make changes, I think that comes from a deep insecurity manifesting itself as pride. I've noticed that people who are overly prideful are people who have such low self-esteem that accepting criticism in one area means that they are bad people as a whole. None of us are perfect. We all have flaws, and one flaw doesn't make a person a waste of a human being.

So how do you balance the need to trust yourself and the need to have another set of eyes improve your work?

1. Recognize that you are not perfect.
And that's okay! You are not a failure of a human being for not being perfect. No one is perfect, so embrace your imperfections and choose to love yourself anyway. Even if someone tells you that your book is the most awful thing they've ever read, their words have nothing to do with your value as a writer. Even the greatest writers in history are criticized to this very day!

2. Recognize that you are a talented writer. You have a valuable story to tell, and it deserves to be told. There is something special inside you that deserves to come out. Only you can tell your story.

3. Recognize your flaws as a writer. There are people you will never please with your writing. My own daughter won't read my books because she hates romance. But there are people who DO like what you write. Have them look at your writing, and notice the patterns that come up. Part of why I don't use a critique partner, except for problem areas, other than the fact that I have an editor, is that over the years, I've seen enough patterns in critiques I've received. If you want to know my flaws as a writer, I can give you a list. So I know, when I'm reading through my work, what to look for.

4. Recognize your strengths as a writer. Sometimes we're so focused on our flaws, that we forget the incredible strengths we have as writers. There are things you do really well. Find out what they are, and celebrate them!

5. Recognize that being an author is a journey. We're all at different places on that journey, and because the journey is so full of different paths, you might be further on one path than someone who is further on a different path. And that's okay. We can learn from each other, support each other, and help each other along the path. A lot of people want to arrive at a certain place on the journey, but the truth is, you never really do arrive. There's always something new to learn and do, and when you embrace that truth, being a writer becomes so much more fulfilling.

Where do you need to go deeper in your belief in yourself as a writer?

I am hosting a retreat in November, and this is one of the topics we'll be addressing. I've talked to so many writers, and it makes me sad to see how many of us struggle with believing in ourselves and our work. The things we write are so valuable, and I really want to see us owning that value!

You can find more details on the retreat here: http://danicafavorite.com/retreat

And, for a little fun-spiration today, as I wrote this post, I had this great song going through my head. If you replace the life stuff with writing stuff, it's really the same story. The writing life is a dance you learn as you go! So take a chance on your writing, and let it out! You're worth it!