Just Write #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

You’re the genius we’ve been waiting for…

I don’t care what anyone else tells you, there are no rules to writing, except to just write.   

There’s no set time you’re supposed to write. It doesn’t matter if you write all day, or just for a few minutes… You can write at 3 in the morning, or 9 O’clock at night.  The TV can be on in the background or the music playing, or it could be quiet with only the ocean waves hitting against the sandy shore…

It doesn’t matter how or where you do it, at a library, at your desk, sitting in your car – truly,  there are no rules to writing my friend, just one – to write. 

There’s no style that’s better either – using a pen, paper, typewriter or keyboard. Maybe you’re a storyteller who needs the beginning, middle and end of every great moment.  Or maybe you’re a journalist who just reports on what’s happening here?  Again, it doesn’t matter. Do both or do none. Or do something in between. Seriously, I swear, write however it suits you. But write, nonetheless.

Maybe you write scripts easily or a novel just jumps out of your head.  It’s true, you could also provide content on a blog or scribble profound thoughts on a napkin instead. All of it, yes all of it – makes you a writer, I swear it, my friend.

Did I just sound like Dr. Seuss? Of course, I did!  But what better example of a great writer to stick in your head?    

Look, there are no brownie points for how long your piece is. You can write gibberish or poetry. There really are no rules — and don’t worry, you’re not a better writer if only you’d read a bunch of books.  People keep peddling that one over and over again and I know it makes you feel bad – but don’t let it! It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t read books. But does it help?  Of course, it can!  But there’s no correlation between how many books you read verses how great of a writer you’ll be. Trust me, there’s no rule that says you’re better at anything because you’ve read 400 books, instead.  And while I’m here, blogging is surely writing.  Writing articles for a paper or magazine doesn’t make you more of a writer. Content writing means you can write and seduce people to buy things or to look over here. Cool, if that’s your thing.  You write scripts? Great. Good for you.  Writing is what makes you a writer. Period. End stop. Don’t compare yourself to others or make excuses for what you write.  You be YOU. Unapologetic-ally. And if you aspire to be better, to do better, then bravo take those steps when necessary, but stop putting yourself down and comparing yourself to others – if all it does is stop you from writing, then you’re doing it all wrong my friend. Pick up that pen and piece of paper and write, write, write!      

If you wake up every morning and you believe you’re a writer – then my goodness, lucky you, guess what?  You’re a writer! No one said this better than Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to A Young Poet”. Think about it, someone was saying this way back then, and I’m sure someone else shared it way before that too – I’m sharing the same thought by the way, right now – NO ONE can tell you, NO ONE but you!

There are so many great writers who share some real truths.  And here’s my favorite one of them all – most great writers don’t spend most of their time writing!  Oh my God, what?   Writers think, and spend time mulling, dreaming, taking it all in!  …all of these are part of the process of being an artist, of being a writer. If no one ever told you, let me say it to you now:  It’s okay to do it your way!  If you write every day or weekly or monthly. Be proud! If you write notes, in a journal, on a blog or for a company. If you write in English or Spanish or Korean or French. All of it is welcome. Yes, you are a writer my friend. I promise you – I promise you,  you are! 

We stifle so many people by telling them “rules”. And then we stifle ourselves by believing it all too.  The best writers, the best artists I admire always break all the rules – ever notice that?   

I’m giving you permission damn-it, the world needs MORE writers, more artists, more genius and I think we’ve done a disservice by not telling the truth – there are no rules, no secrets to writing. Just write my friend, start writing, right now if it’s true!   

And once you’ve put down your words, once you’ve started down that process – everything else will start to unfold.  All will reveal itself, in time…. I promise you, it’s true. 

——————————

The great thing about being a writer is a writer can be so many things – A poet can write songs – tell me Freddie Mercury wasn’t just a poet with an amazing genius band? Have you heard Bohemian Rhapsody?   Writers can teach and move you to believe in a better world – A writer named Aaron Sorkin comes to mind. He wrote the TV show The West Wing among others – I learned all about politics because of that show!   I bet you could name great pieces of work that all started with a stroke of a pen or keys.  When I think on it a bit,  I think everything starts with a piece of writing…Hmmmm…There are so many uses in our world for writing… writing is not just one thing.  So, I don’t know who needs to hear this again – but DO YOU.  Write your booty off and don’t question it so much! 

Writing is a communication.  The ability to share with others. A therapy to help oneself.  It comes in all forms. Once you let go and just write and you start to feel comfortable with your own process, then and only then, will it matter what comes next.  Yes, you start deciding what kind of writer you’d like to be.  Sometimes the kind of writer you are, just presents itself. And it’s not that rare to realize you are more than just one thing.  A poet, a lyricist, a musician, for example.  Maybe there’s a story you’d like to tell?  A book you’d like to write, a speech you’d like to share – or a stream of consciousness, uhem, you’d like to scream… Well, surely, there are rules on how to do all of that – you’ll figure it all out when it’s time.  I promise it will happen, but just start writing, start right now.      

The next great something is right there within you!  You are the genius we’ve been waiting for….  

No rules, my friend, just write. And the rest will unfold as it should, I promise.   

With fierce love,

Carmen

Gang Form

For the past three weeks, I’ve been lacking a good night’s sleep.  There’s been that one cricket somewhere in a wall, near the doorway to my home that I just can’t find and kill.  What’s worse, I’ve been seeing crickets everywhere since.  In the kitchen, the bathroom, in my damn dreams!  The final straw for me, was the kitchen. Babies crickets crawling up a wall. Uggh.  After trying some home DIY remedies for about a day – “natural” type of things, I lost all hope and decided enough was enough. I called for pest control to come out and do its thing.

I spent the entire day and night elsewhere while they sprayed the space, and when I came home the following day, there were hundreds of dead crickets at my front door and doorway.  Clearly, my man from pest control had done his job well!  Never thought I’d be so happy to see such death.  But yeah, I was looking forward to getting a great night’s sleep.  First though, quick shower and a run to the grocery story…I washed my hair and threw on my baseball cap and ran out the door. 

When I returned from the grocery store in my car, the end of the alley way was closed off because of construction.  I had to back up and go around the block to get to my space from the other end of the second entrance. No biggy. It happens. 

As I made my way into the other entrance of my alleyway, a white van was parked on the ramp part of the entrance.  I could squeeze on by, but why would someone park right there?  It made no sense.  I waited for a moment and then carefully made my way past the small opening beside them.  As I passed on by, I looked over to see who it was.  I noticed it was a young woman, clearly looking frantically on her phone for what I assumed were directions. On the one hand, I thought it was smart that she pulled over to look for directions. On the other hand, it wasn’t the smartest place to pull over… I went on my way down the driveway.  And then I heard someone scream…

“What’chya lookin’ at, bitch?”

I checked my rear-view mirror.  From the opposite side of the opening to the driveway, this young Black woman wearing a white shirt and jeans was gesturing with her arms and now screaming, “Yeah, you. What you looking at? You have a problem or something?”

When I say it’s been years, I mean it has been decades since I did what I’m about to describe

I stopped my car, put it in park and got out the car.  I walked, almost ran, back up the driveway and when I got face to face to her I asked, “Are you talking to me?  Did you just call me a bitch?”

I was close enough to see the detail in the colorful, but mostly blackish grey tats across her neck, that ended close to her chin.  I stared straight into her eyes and said it again.  “Are you talking to me?”

She seemed startled but stood tough, her several long braids peeking out of her hoodie. “Yeah. What you lookin’ at?” 

I got closer. “First of all, I can look at whoever I want.  Second, I live here  and she’s not supposed to be parked there, my sista.  You sure you were calling me a bitch?”

She backed up a bit, pulling down her hood. “Naah, you didn’t have to get out your car is all.” Truth is, for all her bravado I could tell she was stunned that I was a Black woman and confronting her. I was so mad.

“Clearly, I did have to get out my car! Don’t be calling people names and calling people out for no damn reason because sometimes people will get out the car and confront you.”

Her voice lowered but she portrayed a quiet toughness. “Yeah, but you still didn’t need to get out the car, though.”

I got closer.  “Let me say this again – if you’re gonna call someone a bitch, that someone may actually respond.  So you best be prepared to answer for your words. You hear me?” I said it with such old school gang authority, I honestly don’t know what came over me. I was so angry with this girl.

She still wouldn’t back down. No apology was coming from her – but I could tell in her demeanor she knew she had made a mistake. 

I heard a car horn screech. I had stopped my car in the middle of the alleyway and left it there. Now I was blocking someone else.  A neighbor from across the way. A White guy I’ve never spoken too but have seen several times before. 

The young woman now interjected almost in a gleeful whisper, “Looks like you need to move your car.  See, like I said, you didn’t need to get out your car, ma’am.” 

I was thrown by my neighbor needing to get by. But I seared into the young woman’s eyes and said clearly, “You best be careful who you call a bitch. Not everyone is out to get you. And looking at someone ain’t a damn crime.”

I headed back toward my car but before I could jump back into it, my White guy neighbor who’d been honking his horn to get on by decided to interject: “Why did you even bother getting out of your car? Why would you waste your time with her -she’s crazy?” 

I took a deep breath. “Because. She’s not crazy.  She’s a young Black woman, in a White neighborhood and I was wearing a baseball cap.” He looked at me confused. I continued exasperated, “I needed her to know that I, a Black woman, live in this neighborhood – and yes that she belongs here too.  Not everyone is looking at her because she’s Black.  Sometimes, people are looking at you just because we’re looking.” 

He nodded his head in agreement, but I’m not sure he understood at all. 

I got back in my car and went to my garage. I pulled the car in and sat there for a minute. My hands were shaking.  Two decades later and clearly you can take the girl out of the hood, but the hood is always a part of who she is…  and that’s not a bad thing at all. 

That night, I finally got a good night’s sleep. Crickets no more.

I Prayed In My Car

Yesterday, it rained.

This wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most, but I live in Los Angeles were “rain” is at a premium. 

Anyone who knows me, gets that I hate to drive to begin with, but hate it even more in mist, rain, darkness, anything but perfect sunny weather at this point. If I won the lottery today, one of the first things on my list would be to hire a permanent driver. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. I’ve been saying this since I got my license as a teenager.  I’ve just never been a fan of driving and I don’t care about cars at all.  But, I do drive and yes, I drive well – just like everyone else thinks they do – it’s just not my thing. But, I had an appointment to meet with a client and since I’m a stickler for keeping my commitments, I went anyways even though when I started to leave, the rain was really coming down hard.  I can’t lie, I thought about cancelling for a second — okay, maybe more than a few seconds – Yaaasss, because it was raining!  I would have come up with another reason of course, like I was “sick” or something, but I truly considered ditching the meeting because of the rain.  Hee! 

Well, I went to my appointment.  And in case you missed it, I hate driving. I hate rain while driving even more. 

I prayed in my car. I did. Honestly, I realized yesterday that I do that pretty regularly. I’m not religious at all, but prayer (wishes, hopes, whatever you want to call it) is a part of who I am. People don’t know this about me – well, maybe one person does, the one who taught me this when I was a little girl, but every time I go by an accident, or see someone in distress, or just have a fear or need, I do a small cross at the top of my forehead with my thumb. Yes, I know, how very Catholic of me, but I’m not. I was “raised” Catholic, but I consider myself a recovering Catholic and actually, truth be told, I can honestly say, I hate the Church and most religion any day of the week.  But my faith in something “bigger” and “after this life” is on point and strong.  I also believe that whatever keeps me hopeful, empathetic, considerate and in joy, is a good thing.  Yeah, I pray most every day, maybe sometimes twice a day.   

I prayed in my car that my journey on the 405 & 10 freeways would be easy, that people would be kind, that other drivers would use their directionals (we call them blinkers – or blinkahs – in Boston). I prayed that my journey would be safe and that my car would not slip or slide and that my tires would hold out (the guy who changed my oil this year told me I needed new tires because they were worn out and then proceeded to show me the worn tread to make his point. This is in my head every time I get in my car. Thank you, mechanic guy.) – So, I did my little cross on my forehead with my thumb and went on my merry way. 

It was a lovely drive. I swear to God, or whatever you believe in, it was incredible! I mean EVERYONE used their “blinkahs” and even though there was one little mishap –  where a car tried to get into the next lane during a slow in the downpour while the opposing car was trying to do the same, they both noticed each other and one let the other by kindly. No horn honking, no middle fingers or exasperated looks – actually, there was a “It’s all good” wave by the person in the first car to the other car.  Seriously. In Los Angeles!  Amazing!

Now, do I think my prayer made that happen? Of course not.  I do not believe that’s how it works.  The God I believe in, isn’t messing with my head that way.  If that were the case, my “prayer” for a few million dollars would have already come true a long ass time ago!  Hahahahaha!  No, that’s not what prayer is for or about for me… 

When I pray, when I do my little cross on my forehead when going past an accident or seeing someone struggle, that pray is a reminder of my compassion. Prayer for me is about hope.  A wish that I be better than I used to be, no matter what happens. Prayer is what made me notice the best in people when a slight mishap occurred between two cars in front of me, in the rain, on the freeway, instead of being angry and frustrated that it ever happened at all.

Yeah, yesterday was a great day.

Best Life: Stop Feeling Bad About Money

Any time is a good time to start changing how you THINK about money. Even around the holidays. Maybe especially around the holidays! 

If you can grasp why you feel the way you do about money, you can start laying the groundwork to change your financial stress and/or stop living paycheck to paycheck.

Too many people have an identity that is tied to how much money they have or don’t have. Stop it!   

Imagine a day where you no longer fret over making enough money. Imagine making choices not based on how much you don’t have, but instead, on what you really want to do? It’s possible. You can even learn to save money for that special trip you’ve been wanting to take or buy those fabulous Tamara Mellon shoes you’ve been craving all year long  (Yaaaaassss! You say trip, I say shoes, tomato/tomahto).  The point is, it’s all possible. 

But first, it starts with understanding it’s taken you “this” many years to develop your views about money, so it’s going to take time to work and change it.  So, start today. 

Baby steps.

Understanding your backstory when it comes to money specifically is the first step in making changes to how you feel about money.   

We all have feelings about money. Those feelings are tied into how we were raised. Our experiences watching adults deal with finances had a significant impact on how we deal with money today.  If you were raised in a well-to-do household, you may have a distorted view of what it means to “earn a living”.  Doing volunteer work because your dad wouldn’t give you access to your trust fund is not the same as growing up watching your dad work as a teacher, janitor, secretary or carpenter and never knowing what a trust fund was/is. Some people never make enough just to put food on the table, let alone “summer” in France regularly.  It just doesn’t happen, it’s not even an option for most folk. In the same respects, kids born to wealth are not inherently ungrateful, selfish or unenlightened. Being born into wealth isn’t easier.  It’s just different.  Some kids born into wealth are raised by nanny’s – children of wealth may have constant feelings of being shuffled off and may feel like a nuisance to their parents. “Rich kids” may get everything they want materially but may miss out on relationships with their parent, which, let’s face it, is what every kid really wants. 

The point is no one should feel bad about what family financial situation they were born into. 

No one has a choice how they come into this world.  But we all have a choice in becoming better, in everything we do when you have the opportunity. That includes understanding what money is, what it can be and how we can be better about our emotional attachment to it. 

To be very clear: one story isn’t better or more evolved than the other. Just because you grew up not “summering” or having private lessons, doesn’t make you a better person.  But our past, matters.  Having a real conversation about WHY you feel the way you do about money is an important first step to fixing your current financial ideas about money. 

For most people whose parents worked regular 9-5 day jobs, money may have always been a scarcity, always hard to get, felt like some sort of relief whenever they had it, and easily spent away in one “important” holiday or unexpected emergency room visit. 

For others who may have been born into wealth, money is hardly discussed but always shown. Children of wealth have similar but different problems with money. Being given a Honda instead of a BMW for a birthday gift is a real problem.  The status of driving a Honda among friends may be seen as “not good enough” when your parents could have afforded a “Beemer”.  It may feel as some sort of punishment.

Again, to some people reading this blog, the idea that a car would be gifted to a teenager may seem unfathomable and many would dismiss the issue as the wealthy teenager being ungrateful. But you would be wrong.  For the purposes of this discussion, none of that matters.  What does matter is that the stories we personally have about what money means affects us into adulthood regardless of wealth.  It can be detrimental to who we are as adults. Our past defines how we relate to money and how we feel about it today.  In order to change our emotions about money, it’s important to acknowledge why we believe the things we do. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. When was the first time you remember learning that you were rich, poor, middle class or anywhere in-between?   On page 26 of my book CANELA I discuss opening presents one Christmas morning and realizing there was no Santa. And although I always knew we weren’t rich, being poor was solidified for me that day.  There was no Santa and when you write a letter asking for what you want and don’t get it, it’s because your mom can’t afford it. My first feelings of not having money is that being poor is bad. We must be bad people. I’m not worthy to have things I want, because we’re poor and being poor is bad. See how that works?     
  2. When you were a child and first heard adults talking about money, what were they saying? I remember mostly the bargaining and the begging from my mom needing another week to pay this or that. The negotiating. The hoping she could afford something. I remember her stress and reaction when I asked for something we couldn’t afford. I remember going without because she didn’t have enough.  So, money to me has always been a negative entity. Money has always been associated with people with power being cruel to people with no money. I grew up not liking what money did to good people. And thinking that all bad people were mostly people with money.  Now, of course today we know that power is a whole other animal and really what that was about. Nonetheless, my issues with money are associated with that experience.
  3. Was money the main topic of discussion in your house growing up? Were there arguments about money you overheard? Money was always discussed in my childhood. Money was the reason for why things did and did not happen. Dreams were based on money. I couldn’t dance because I couldn’t afford new dance shoes or afford expensive “real” classes.  Money and not having it was the reason for everything. It became the reason my mother died at 49. Not having enough money to get proper medical care and having to work while sick, is still what I maintain killed her. I absorbed that as a child. Money was cruel. Money was evil. People who had it were horrible to let my mother die. Again, none of this is really the entire truth, but at 11 years old, this is what defined my ideas about money and wealth.   
  4. When you wanted something and it cost money, were you made to work for it or was it given to you with a heavy dose of guilt attached or was it a simple transaction? I learned to stop asking for things because it was painful to watch my mother tell me we couldn’t afford it. After I lost my mother, I always felt a burden to other people, so I made-due with what I had and my only goal was to never be a problem. Wanting anything more than what I already had came with a heavy dose of guilt.  Self-esteem and self-worth always in flux during those years.
  5. Do you think you have a healthy relationship when it comes to money? Today, yes. But it’s because over the years, I’ve worked with and been around various kinds of people from so many different financial backgrounds – from extremely wealthy clients to individuals starting out with less than two rocks to rub together. I’ve learned from first hand experience how extremely similar all people are about money, regardless of their bank accounts and “net worth”. 

The one common denominator that’s changed my views about money is that most people, regardless of the amount of wealth they have, can be very unhappy and struggling. And it usually has to do with how they define money in their lives. 

It’s incredibly fascinating. Terribly sad. Totally fixable. And oh, so freeing! The best part: fixing how you feel about money, has nothing to do with how much of it you have or don’t have. Feeling good about who you are regardless, is…well, forgive the cliche, priceless.  

Once you understand why you feel the way you do about money, you can take steps to start deconstructing those ideas and get to a better place.   

Think about these truths/facts:

  • You are not defined by how much money you have in the bank.
  • When people meet you, they don’t know how much money you have or don’t have.
  • People with healthy relationships with money, don’t flaunt money or care about designer anything. Good people with healthy ideas about money value quality over quantity. Quality over cost. Quality over everything.
  • There are amazing people who have a lot of money.
  • There are horrible people who have a lot of money.
  • There are amazing people who have no money at all.
  • There are horrible people who have no money at all. 
  • People with money have just as many problems as people without money – different problems, but just as bad, just as heart-wrenching, just as stressful (I promise you, this is true).
  • Poor people’s problems are just as valid as rich people’s problems. And just as important.  
  • You are worthy regardless. Period.
  • Wanting more money is not a crime. Having money is not a crime. Not having money is also not a crime. Stop feeling bad about any of it.

Till next time. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Carmen

(Carmen Suarez is an Adviser, Business Manager and Speaker to various start-ups and individual/wealth clients. For more information visit: carmensbusiness.com)

Exercising the Writer in You #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

My head gets overwhelmed at times with too much noise when I’m writing – when that happens, I know it’s time to put down my pen – or close my laptop – and go for a walk.  

About a mile in, I’ll start to exercise my writer brain by playing my “Describe the Character” game. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. What it does, is give you something else to focus on, while being a bit fun, easy – and if you’re lucky, you can actually develop the great beginnings of a character or scene out of the exercise.  In my first book CANELA, this was how I figured out how to combine characters.

Here’s how to play: simply pick a random item in the area and then, without justifying or qualifying, describe it as thoroughly as possible. In this case, about a mile into my walk, I saw a shadowy figure approaching me…without staring too directly, I took in all that I could.  Once I passed the person, I jotted down my thoughts in OneNote:

  • Tall, black running tights, white stripes, three.
  • Baseball cap, tight black shirt, pecs. Muscular.
  • Runner. Walking. Hurt. Long legs. Strong arms.
  • Smile, lots of teeth, white, capped. Bright blue eyes. Long lashes.
  • Brown hair, white, corporate, executive, Tesla.
  • Handsome, scruff, married, kids, forty-two.
  • Friendly, smirk. Head nod. Kind. Neighborly.
  • Deep. Fall. Cold. Confidence. Unafraid. Worthy.
  • Swimmer. Parent. Having a good day anyway. Nice.

When I’m having a tough time writing I see it as an opportunity to change things up a bit. As I mentioned in a past post about writer’s block, I like to think of these moments as opportunities.  It’s as if the universe is conspiring to have me try something else to get a different creative result.  And I have to say, after doing this, I’m hardly ever disappointed.  At the very least, it always gets rid of the noise.

I sometimes practice this at my desk as well. I can’t always just go for a walk, especially if it’s the dead of night, so in this case, there are other ways to exercise the writing jewels (my brain).  I’ll close my eyes, take a breath and let it out and whatever lands in my eye-line when I open them, that’s what gets described. Here’s what I wrote in OneNote about an ink cartridge:

  • Dirty. Complicated and expensive. Hate.
  • White, black, a mess of sorts.
  • Necessary. Important. Unavoidable, but useful.
  • Clear. Colorful. Toxic. Technology – Techy. Easy, home use.

Another way to do this is to put on any random song and describe how you feel immediately after listening… In this case, I listened to Lizzo’s Good As Hell

  • Positive. Joyful with an attitude. Walking like a model. Freedom.
  • Bopping. Swaying. Giggling. Laughing. Confident. Superior.
  • Happy. Smiling. Advising. Powerful. Elegant. Class. Proper with a touch of street smarts.
  • Beautiful. Fabulous. Building someone up. Feeling like you got more to do.

The point is, when you can, use tools available to exercise the creative juices.  I know writers who use flash cards or just do free writing exercises. The more ways you can self-motivate your creativity and learn to “unstuck” yourself, the better! Now, with these three descriptive pieces of information, I can start writing a new scene or develop a character.  At the very worst, I’ve had a little break and stopped the initial noise I had in my head. I can now get back to what I was working on. Win-win!

What tricks or tools do you use to keep yourself in that creative space? 

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Carmen

A Monthly Blog Hop for Authors Who Want to Learn More about Being Authors