The Answer is Simple

#truth #life #direction #advice #amwriting

The buzz of the city amplifies your anxiety as you stare at the street signs. It’s a new place. You’ve never been here and perhaps you’re used to small town life. You want to ask someone for directions so you stand there-in the middle of the sidewalk-watching the faces as they move past you.

Their faces are cold and stoic. Each expression is carved in stone, immortalizing the “worker bee” hive mind. Finally, as if sent there just for you, an elderly woman shambles nearby. She’s bundled up in her wool coat and pink, knit hat, gazing into the windows displaying colorful clothes, flashy watches, maybe a best selling book. Her lips are softer than the chiseled-line mouths of the faces around her.

Yes, you think to yourself, this is the person I will ask for directions.

Rolling your shoulders back, you head her way, put on your best smile, and call out to her.

“Excuse me, ma’am. I’m sorry to bother you but I’m a little lost. Can you point me in the direction of the subway? I need to get uptown.”

The woman smiles and offers a small chuckle. Turning a half of an inch to her left. She raises her arm, extending her crooked finger, tipped with cotton candy nail polish, and points in the direction you came from.

“It’s over there stupid, can’t you read?”

And just like that, her smile goes from being sunny and warm, to sarcastic and full of ridicule.

The point of this little story is to point out how sometimes we let our own insecurities and fears keep us from seeing where we we need to go. We can’t see the clearly marked signs. We feel disoriented. We question our own judgement.

The direction is always easy.

Just go north.”

It’s right there in front of your face.”

However easy the direction seems, it doesn’t reflect how hard the path is to actually reaching your destination.

Focus on the direction, but work on the path.

It’s right in front of you . . . Dummy.

#WritingTips: 6/25/19

There are times when I try to give advice to authors and I feel like I’m failing. I know “time” is hard to negotiate between “real life” and our make believe sessions at a pen and paper (or computer, etc). The real question is, “Is this your real life? Or is it a hobby?” The question lingers overhead like a giant thought bubble taking up the space of breath between me and said author.  Do you think I don’t understand? Oh, I do.

Accountability: Own it. Whether it’s a mistake, a failure, a success, a lie, a truth … just own it.

If I don’t make time to write, that’s on me. No one else. I choose to not make that time. No one else but me owns my time.

You say, “it doesn’t pay the bills.” No, it doesn’t. Not yet. Because you’re not taking inventory and ownership of it. Trust me. I run a small press. No one is making a living off of this. Whose fault is that? Mine, theirs, ours. When my brain wants to explode and I shut down? I own it. When they need a break and life overwhelms? They own it (most of them, anyway). We all do the best we can.

Let’s finish with the coddling, now.

Only you can sit and write your story down. You have to do it. You have to push through the dry spells, the hectic life, the exhaustion, the depression, the loneliness, and the mania.

Make. It. A. Habit.

Give yourself a set amount of time a day. Most of us have a certain period (night, day, morning dump, etc.) where we are unbothered and can jot down a few words. Carry a notebook with you and jot ideas down. Seriously, this isn’t hard. Grab a napkin. Grab an old receipt. Keep all your notes in one spot and keep them organized. Maybe an index card box? A shoe box with cardboard dividers? An accordion file … whatever.

You have to believe you want to do it, in order to be motivated. You have to be your own cheerleader.

Stop listening to everyone else and listen to YOU. Are you proud of your progress? Are you proud of your growth? Are you proud of your words? If not, work for it. Earn your own approval. Stop wallowing in self-deprecation and make yourself worthy of YOU.

What I can do is give you the tools you need. What you can do is use the tools.

Now, stop what you’re doing and give me 100 words.

A Little of This, A Little of That

Sometimes when I sit down to write a blog post, the idea is clear in my head. As soon as my fingers hit the keys, I let out a sigh and realize it is a chaotic mess. I attempt to get all the ideas down into one post and discover I need to break them up. This is my challenge. I know a good blog is one where updates are made regularly but my thoughts don’t work this way. Conversations with other authors give birth to new ideas and, like the change of the wind, they dissipate into another direction.

I decided when I sat down today, this post doesn’t have a main goal. This post would be a menagerie of thoughts poured out in its raw format. I suggest grabbing a nice cup of java and curling up. This might take awhile.

I started this year with a goal. My goal was to help Stitched Smile Publications grow while simultaneously helping my authors grow. It is a daunting task. Stitched Smile Publications, affectionately referred by me as “The House of Stitched”, has approximately twenty authors. On any given day, almost all of them are active. This is a fact, and I love it. Because most of them are brand new, or have less experience than your average published writer they are hungry for guidance, input, attention, and direction. You may think this sounds like a bad thing but it is not. It’s a good thing, trust me. I don’t mind the pressure. I don’t mind the hours I put into it. Believe me when I tell you they reward me in ways I cannot begin to list here.

It can be stressful, yes. Publishing life is not conventional by any means. You have a due date. The due date can change. Running a company in this industry is like creating a monster and having to care for it without knowing anything about the species. You run tests and experiment, you sit back and watch, you keep them on a leash, and then you let them off … hoping it doesn’t turn around and devour you.

It helps knowing I publish horror and dark fiction which makes sense since I give birth to a stable of monsters … and some awesome books from those monsters (wink, wink).

Daily life is never boring. It is never predictable. I never use pen unless I’m signing a contract. My calendar is a living breathing entity.

Starting the year, I planned on attending maybe 3 conventions. As of right now I have surpassed this number. Each one is both exhausting and exhilarating. You walk in looking like a tourist and walk out feeling like you’ve aged 10 years. No matter what, I wouldn’t change a thing. Like all life “on the road” I miss my family, long for my own bed, and wish I could shut my brain off, but while I’m there speaking to each one of you I am fulfilled. This was my calling all along. Having discovered it before it was too late is my blessing.

One of the things I put off this year was mentoring. I had way too much to do, those who were in my group had “real life” stuff taking priority and then I lost one of them. Their time in this world came too soon and it rocked me harder than I thought it would. I wasn’t sure how to proceed and figured it was best to take a moment to heal. The staff of House of Stitched was understanding. Their leader had taken a near fatal hit and not once did they ever waver in their commitment or loyalty. Aboard our vessel you are either all in, or you’re all out. There are no gray areas because each person is a vital organ to the entire whole. We are a family. No one gets left behind.

Reflecting back over almost four years, I have to smile because I never thought we’d be where we are right now. I knew we’d be successful. If you don’t believe something will succeed, there’s no sense diving in. What we exceeded in my expectations was the strength of our bond. I don’t often get emotional, or “sappy” but when I sit and think of everything we’ve been through to get to this exact moment … I’m overwhelmed. Listen, it’s a fact. Horror is a male dominated genre. It is what it is. It doesn’t mean I won’t-or haven’t-earned my place. It simply means I’ve had to fight a little harder. I’ve learned not everyone is reliable, loyalty is hard to find, and people will jump ship at the first signs of a leak. Not everyone who glitters is gold. Not everyone is your friend. I’m sure I can come up with a hundred more cliche’ things to toss out at you. As an adult you think you know them until you wake up and find you’ve missed the signs.

Oh, how many times I wanted to give up!

Each time I threw my hands up and said, “That’s it, I’m done!” another person would message me and say, “You have no idea how much you’ve helped me.”

How can I let them down? How can I let myself down? I can’t just quit. Who are “they” (those slithering naysayers) and what makes them so much better than me?

I keep telling my authors, “Don’t give up.” I’d be a hypocrite if I threw in the towel because things got tough. LIFE is tough. Finding a solution isn’t always easy. Leaders are who and what they are because they can sort through the debris to find the hidden clues. They have insight to carry the ship through the toughest storms. My staff, my authors believe this about me, and so I must believe it about myself. I sound like a self-help book, now. It’s dawned on me. I don’t need a self-help book or inspirational speaker to tell me I can do this. I need to hear myself say it.

I’m glad I fought to stay focused because I’ve met amazing people, and have pushed myself harder and further than I’ve ever pushed myself. I still make mistakes (man, I make mistakes!) but I own them and learn from them. I eat up experience like Wheaties and push to the next benchmark. So, too, must my authors and my staff.

Four years.

Four years and I have full-time, dedicated staff who have learned more with us than in their college classes. Four years and I have life long partners (next stop, SSP Island!). In four short years, I’ve moderated literary panels, been invited to conventions, produced over thirty books, signed over twenty authors, traveled to different states, sold more of my own books, grown as a person, an author, a leader, and as a friend. There is no price I can put on what I’ve attained because I gave myself a chance to follow my passion.

My final, stray thoughts as I close this post?

I think of my parents who didn’t give up when we were so poor we had to hunt through couch cushions to find change for pizza. Who stood by one another, supporting each other’s dreams no matter the sacrifice. Who worked from the ground up to build a business from their dreams and elevated their life due to hard work and sound business sense. Who taught us it was not only OK, but imperative to speak our minds and to let our voices be heard.

I miss my dad who would’ve loved to be here with me, going to these conventions and meeting people who shared his passion. This was the life he loved but he passed before I could share it with him. I know his influence is always there with me but it still replaces the emptiness with a longing.

Most of all, I think of my SSP family and how they made this monster a little more human.