Authenticity, A Sign #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #Writer

My first book was not intentional. After receiving a large bonus check from the company I worked for at the time, that basically amounted to more money than my mother had probably made her entire life, I realized I hadn’t gotten here on my own. I wanted to reach out to everyone who had helped me. The process started out as a series of letters to specific individuals I wanted to thank for helping raise me after my mom passed away. I posted one of these “letters” onto my website and after receiving much encouragement from friends and strangers, I went through the creative process of finding a way to weave a connective thread through all the letters. That’s how my first book Canela came into existence.    


Now, I’m writing my second book. This time, it’s very intentional. The story continues on in the same vein, a “fictionalized memoir” – authentically true moments, captured in a chapter – spliced with other moments and/or characters to make a bigger point.  But this time, it feels a harder. It IS a harder.  

I’m still writing what I know and what I want to write, but my head now knows it’s for other “readers” or anyone who wants to read it.  When I wrote Canela, each “chapter” was specifically a letter to one person. The entire book is me having a conversation with one person. Taking those letters and going back and weaving together all the stories to make them into chapters was actually the part I enjoyed most, even though it was the most difficult.     

So, because I’m an “author” now and deemed a “real writer”, I’ve been studying and considering all the ways to go about writing this second book. You know, more professionally. More organized. Like a real writer would.  The best way to do that is to learn from the masters, right?  Read what they wrote, read all that I can about how to write, how to develop a story, how to create characters…

Damn, if I didn’t just get all messed up in my head real quick! Doubt set in almost immediately. I was waking up at night wondering, why am I even bothering? I never said I was a writer! I’m a friggin’ dancer. A performer. A goddamn financial adviser on my worst days. Writing?  When did I start writing “professionally”?  I already wrote one book. I can tick that off my stupid-ass bucket list, which seems to have things on it I never wanted to accomplish! “Author” wasn’t even ON my bucket list – so yeah, I’m done! WTF? Why am I putting myself through this again? I’m not a writer. I can’t do this anymore…  

I’m gonna go off on a tangent here but there’s a point. I got hung up on these four male characters. Real men in my life at one point or another – honestly, it’s not even really about them per se, but about my ability to write and portray them “correctly”.  The problem of course, is that while I’m writing, I’m learning about my own “isms” and it’s becoming emotional. There’s so much self-analysis in the process. This is part of what I’ve been contemplating:   the thing that makes a person (character) attractive visually is not the same thing that makes a person (character) attractive for real.

What does that mean exactly?

Well, we all know someone who is physically stunning, but the minute they open their mouth or a crisis appears, they reveal their true colors and somehow all that “beauty” you thought they had disappears instantaneously. That’s easy. But how do I write that for each individual person (character) in the scene/situation? To make it even more annoying, as I’m clearly over-thinking this writing process, I realize I’ve dated some major assholes in my life – regardless of how “pretty” they may have been! Since I’m the common denominator in all my relationships, clearly that says more about me than it does about them, right… Ugghh!  But I digress! 

And down the rabbit hole we go…

I got so hung up on “character development” that I ended up over-analyzing who these men were that I honestly just couldn’t write. It was emotionally draining. I just had to put the pen down. 

There’s a lot going in our world for sure, but this wasn’t about that. I got stuck. I got sad. I then reinforced the idea that I wasn’t a writer anyways, because look – I can’t even figure this out. So, see?  Why. Am. I. Bothering. With.This?

Then, there are signs. Whether you believe in it or not, when you’re least expecting it, even if you’re not hoping for it – you get knocked upside the head with an idea, with a solution, or just a reminder.

Jonathan Capehart, an American journalist for the Washington Post and also an MSNBC contributor, posted his latest podcast on Twitter that featured the magnificent Billy Porter.  Let me be clear: I don’t listen to podcasts EVER. I am the ONE person on the planet who does not enjoy listening when I can watch or better yet, when I can read. I don’t know what it is, but whenever I try and listen to a podcast my mind wanders and I’m off doing something else. I really have tried. I hate that I don’t enjoy them. It’s just not my thing. Until yesterday.

I’m not a crazed fan of Jonathan Capehart’s or of Billy Porter – both of these men are just fabulous at what they do and I have much respect. And for whatever reason, (SIGN. SIGN. SIGN.) I clicked on the link, thinking it was a written article by Mr. Capehart and when I realized it was a podcast, just listened to it.

In 30 minutes, I changed my whole perspective on writing my book. Again, the podcast is not about writing at all. Honestly, it’s just a wonderful interview with Billy Porter. But Billy Porter said more than a few things that just rang true to my soul – the most impact to my creative heart was this:  

“Your authenticity is your service…lean into that…”

My authenticity. It’s not only good enough, it’s needed! How I write a book, how I go about the process, however I choose to make it fit, is exactly what I’m here on the planet to do. I don’t need to be like anyone else. I don’t need to write like anyone else. I can’t. I’ll be unhappy. I’ll surely fail. But if I want to be of real service to the world, to my community, to myself, then I need to be authentically me.  That means being okay with HOW I write and how I go about the process of writing, creating, producing whatever it is. 

I am a writer. I’ve written for as long as I can remember. It has been my therapy, my best friend, my sounding board, my comfort. Writing is part of who I am. Just like being a performer, a dancer, an actor, will always be the best parts of me. It doesn’t matter the level of money I’ve received for my service, what matters is that being authentically me and sharing THAT with the world is my contribution. My talent, my greatness doesn’t lie in how I copy someone else’s work, but instead how I learn all that I can to be my best self and share all of me as best I can.

As far as writing those four beautiful men into fully developed characters…well, I was able to flesh out much more easily their entire ethos once I stopped trying to write like everyone else. Once I stopped beating myself up for being and writing like ME.  

I’ve got so much work to do. I honestly didn’t intend to write this much today, but at least now I can share this with the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. That makes me happy. For anyone reading this who doesn’t know about this Group, please click on the link and check it out. If you are a writer – this may be a great group for you to be a part of.

In the meantime, if you did listen to the Jonathan’s podcast, you’ll know he made reference to this clip. Oh, what joy!  I really am all about the JOY. And if you don’t know who Billy Porter is, find out – but also, watch this and enjoy true talent. This really is a beautiful soul creating authentically some fierce JOY. What an artist!   

This Little Light Of Mine

First Days in LA

It’s always comforting to look back and see what you’ve been able to endure. But while you’re going through it – whatever it is in the present moment, it really does feel unbearable.

There are gut wrenching moments like the break-up of a “true” love or when someone close to you dies unexpectedly like a parent or a friend. Those moments are deeply painful and seem impossible to get through while you’re in it.  Of course, once we muddle our way through and a little time passes, we realize it was “bearable” after-all.

I moved out to Los Angeles right after college. I came to the City of Angels not knowing a soul, having no place to live and exactly $800 dollars in my pocket. I remember counting the crisp 100 dollar bills over and over again right when I got off the plane – somehow hoping there’d be more if I kept counting. The fear I had in my belly that crept up to my chest was intense, but there was also a tinge of excitement. The move from Boston wasn’t just an adventure, it was a much-needed life change. In my head, I was reclaiming a life that had been ripped away from me for so many reasons. The most important reason: I was supposed to be a dancer but instead went to college. Moving to Los Angeles was compensation to finding my way to where I was supposed to be anyways. Righting a wrong sort of speak. That scary time in my life was about leaping into a new world to make myself whole. Mission accomplished by the way…  

Graduation Day

Another vivid time in my life where I remember being scared was years ago before online dating was the mainstream thing it is now. I started talking to a guy on yahoo personals. Yaaaas, it was THAT long ago. The site no longer exists. This was before everyone had webcams – instant messaging was the “cool” thing – and yeah, back then, online dating was an embarrassment. No one admitted to using it.  Honestly, I’m still amazed I was on the site myself back then. I’m a lot of things, being a “trailblazer” is NOT one of them. But online dating was new and I remember deciding to take the leap and agreeing to meet this man I’d been talking to for months. The thing is, I had to fly to another state to do it. Even as I write that I realize how fearless I was. Or stupid. Stupid is probably the right word there.  I’d taken every precaution necessary and controlled the situation as much as I could – and yet, I remember that fear too. It was the fear of putting myself in a dangerous situation with a stranger who could have been a serial killer mixed with the possibility of meeting “the one”. In my head it was that stark:  He’d either be a bad person or the one.  Ha!  Well, fast forward to him clearly not being a serial killer. But I remember that gnawing pit in my stomach – that incredible fear in my belly as I made my way to the airport to see him. Luckily for me, he turned out to be a decent guy, a good man. We’ve worked together over the years – but the dread of thinking I’d made a mistake getting on that plane years ago to meet a stranger…I still remember that gut-wrenching knot of uncertainty like it was yesterday.    

Dread mixed with uncertainty. Moving to Los Angeles on my own and yeah, meeting a stranger in another state. In a lot of ways, it’s the same feeling I’m having nowadays during this Covid time. And yet, it’s something deeper – more painful…

Even with things that were out of my control or bigger than my personal decision making, like 9/11 or the Challenger Disaster, straight up fear and dread is crippling. Not being in control of what’s next is hard for most human beings.  9/11 touched me personally in that I lost a college friend – Cesar Murrillo – in the twin towers who I’d just spoken to on the phone a week before.  And although I didn’t know anyone personally on the Space Shuttle Challenger – I was a teenager and remember exactly where I was when it happened. I’d just gotten off a bus in downtown Boston and everyone was talking about it. I’ll never forget the panic faces. The tone of sadness in everyone’s voices. Collective despair.  Again, that familiar fear of dread. Unknowing. No control.   

We’ve all been in challenging and scary situations at one point or another. And each time although it may be a different circumstance, that belly fear is the same.  While we’re IN IT and no matter how many times we experience it, it’s uncomfortable and confusing. You’d think that being scared on a semi regular basis would make us less prone to reacting to it the way we do, but no. Fear, unlike confidence, is not a welcomed feeling to the human spirit. We never get used to it no matter how many times we experience it.  And that’s a good thing actually. Fear helps us know when something is wrong, gives us an ability to reassess and re-consider things.  And yet, fear still sucks. Straight up. I don’t care how important and unavoidable a feeling it is to the human psyche – I hate feeling like this!     

The one thing I do know for sure about all of these fearful moments is We Do Get Through It. We endure. We get to the other side. This damn little light of mine keeps searching through the darkness always looking for the light. That has always been my super-power. No matter what comes our way, no matter how tragic, no matter how disappointing or dreadful, we persevere. The human spirit survives anyways. 

One of my favorite quotes that I’ve written way too many times is by Winston Churchill. It’s simple, but so tangible especially in this particular moment:

If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Don’t stay in one place, keep moving forward, find the light – it’s the only way to get out – keep walking through to the other side…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to see the light or positivity especially when we’re lacking leadership, people are losing jobs, there’s no income, no end in sight, and the death toll is an everyday occurrence in mind-numbing numbers. Being isolated doesn’t help either… and yet, we can do this! We can get through this. Together.

Finding Old Friends Again – Robert

I find joy in the littlest of things.  The kindness of early morning walkers waving to say good morning because masks cover their smiles. The act of people clapping on their balconies at 7pm at night to honor those on the frontlines or people being kind to cashiers and delivery people – it’s good to finally see, all of us finding our way to being nice to one another. 

I take joy and much needed comfort in reconnecting with old friends on zoom, by phone and the like – and yes, even that “man” I  flew to meet long ago named Robert on Yahoo personals who is still a friend today. Finding happiness in little moments daily against the large dark clouds feels insignificant as I write it, but all you need is a little tiny light in a dark room to brighten the entire space. I’ll continue to take the little moments and shine anyways…

We’re going through a difficult time. Yes, it’s scary. I’m not pretending it’s an easy trek. I’ve never been down this road before either. Personally, it’s a combination of dread, loss of control and an adventure I don’t want to be on. To be honest, I fall twice a day and cry every other – but when the tears let up, I get back up on my feet, wipe my eyes and look for hope. That’s the light. Choose to hold onto that. We will endure.

This little light of mine…

It’s always about the Joy.

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 15 (Final) My Epic Success and Failure

Friday, March 27th, 2020 – 6:24pm – The Ending Of my Challenge.

The good news is, in so many ways, my 30-day challenge, that I only ½ completed, was a great success. It pushed me to write at times I’ve never written before. That was huge.  Breaking out of my systematic way of writing by hand and then transferring written work to a digital format was/is time consuming. I feel comfortable in saying, I don’t need to do that anymore.   Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer to write with pen and paper, especially when it comes to my journal or writing the first draft of my second book, but I’m not against writing straight from keyboard anymore. In that sense, mission accomplished!   

My failure is that this coronavirus situation in our country and world has done me in something fierce.

Emotionally, I’m an absolute mess. I’m keeping it together, mostly for my friends and family. I have family who work in hospitals and clearly we’ve all heard the horrible circumstances they’re dealing with just not having enough of the basic equipment and gear (PPE’s) to do their jobs.  But there’s also a mental toll they’re taking on. Watching people die. That’s hard at any time.  Sure, it’s part of their jobs but it’s never easy. It’s made even harder because it’s continuous. And, I’m sure, some people would not die during this pandemic if we had been more prepared.  If our government… 

I can’t even go there. This is not about THAT. My point is, being there for my friends & family on the front line as best I can – listening to them when they finish a shift, is what I can do to help them.  But hearing them vent and just watching the toll it’s taking on them has been heart-wrenching to say the least. I don’t let them know I’m crying, I want to be strong for them. But inside I’m dying. And when I finish the call, I cry. Deeply.  And then I move onward.   

I have friends – mi familia – with young children who’ve never had to spend this much time with them regularly. In one way, it’s very funny.  I remember these friends wanting so desperately to have children. And of course, they love their kids, but yeah, damn!  I couldn’t spend that much time with a 6 year old either, let alone 4 of them.  I’ve done my best to answer every call and be the “Auntie” who’ll talk to the kids for a bit on WhatsAPP or Skype or Zoom just to give mom or dad a break.  I mean it’s not much, but it’s what I can do to help. Again, I don’t share how bad I feel for them – but after I’m done, I say a prayer for all them. 

I have a couple of friends whose marriages were on the rocks to begin with but now this situation is making it even worse in a lot of ways.  Relationships are hard always. Harder when you’re basically in quarantine and your responsibility is to your kids.  So… I’m happy to hear them vent too. One of my friends shared a glass (or bottle actually) of wine over Zoom.  I literally watched her get drunk via video cam, all while she complained about her fiancé.  Yikes!  

I’ve also had to revamp my own job/business. Like everyone else, I’ve been considering long-term changes to my own industry and possible job/client loss and adjusting accordingly. It’s tough.  I’ve seen major businesses get stuck in this and I’ve heard small business owners and CEO’s cry because they had to let their staff go and can’t pay them anything because they have no sales to cover the costs. Better to let them file for unemployment…  It’s been sad to listen too and yet I continue to do my job as well – even though I know I’m not getting paid either. It’s the right thing to do. 

My epic failure, if you will, is not being able to finish the challenge because by the time 9pm rolls around and I eat my dinner and think about my writing challenge, I end up falling asleep – lately on the couch, with the TV on, watching some show I was sure to start binging, humming in the background.

So, I’m okay with finishing my 30-day challenge today.  I didn’t complete it, but I accomplished my goals and for that I’m so grateful. 

More importantly, I’m so blessed to have so many friends and family who feel comfortable to talk to me or reach out to me when they need a hand. I wish it were like normal times where life was just doing it’s thing and we were all hanging out together because that’s what people do – but this works too.  Our true character is tested not when things are easy, but when things are hard.  And so far, I think I’m doing okay. 

I hope you are too.

Much love & thanks for stopping by.

Carm~  

This just made me feel so good… We all need a little more joy.

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 14 @DNICE Instagram Block Party

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 14

March 21st, 2020 6:30pm – Instagram Live with @dnice is what I needed

As I’m writing this, I’m still listening and watching live D-Nice on Instagram.  Fifty thousand people listening to this amazing talent spinning some old school music.  It’s exactly what we all need… being able to connect when we can’t really be near each other.  Dancing on Instagram with 50,000 new friends is really a thing! 

Quarantine is also bringing out the best in all of us…. 

Posted this today before the house party on IG — but see, I had a vision it was going to be a dancing kind of day!

Keeping it in joy for as long as I can!

Quarantine Fever: 50 Things I've Never Been Asked #30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 13

March 20th, 2020 8:30pm – oh, some fun questions

1. What is the color of your hairbrush? – I don’t use a hairbrush. Fingers only.

2. Name a food you’d never ever eat. – Shellfish

3. Are you typically too warm or too cold? – Too cold

4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago? – Checking out TikTok Dancing

5. What is your favorite candy bar? – Not a bar. Justin’s Peanut Butter cups DARK Chocolate only. Yes, I’m bougie like that nowadays.

6. Have you ever been to a professional sports event? – I’m originally from Boston. It’s mandated for every child born in the state.

7. What is the last thing you said out loud? – “Oh my God! You’re a f*cking Moron!” Screaming at TV watching “someone” doing a press conference.

8. What is your favorite ice cream? – I don’t eat dairy anymore. But it used to be chocolate chip!

9. What was the last thing you had to drink? – Water

10. Do you like your wallet? – I get compliments ALL THE TIME. It’s very unique.

11. What was the last thing you ate? – Spinach Salad w/Chicken

12. Did you buy any new clothes last weekend? – No.

13. The last sporting event you watched? – NBA Championship 2019 😦

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn? -Popcorn is not my jam, so just regular, I guess. At the movies, sharing it with someone.

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to? – My friend Mia

16. Ever go camping? – Yes!

17. Do you take vitamins? – No.

18. Do you go to church every Sunday? – If you mean the beach, then yes. I go three times a week at least.

19. Do you have a tan? – Born this way. Don’t be hatin’.

20. Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza? – I prefer Chocolate Cake above all else. But sure, Chinese food, if you mean American Chinese food over pizza wins every time.

21. Do you drink your soda with a straw? – No.

22. What color socks do you usually wear? – depends on the outfit. Prefer NO socks.

23. Do you ever drive above the speed limit? – Not on purpose.

24. What terrifies me? – The pain I see in others that I cannot fix or help them with.

25. Look to your left, what do you see?American Collector Magazine with Barack & Michelle Obama on the cover.

26. What chore do you hate? – Doing my own bookkeeping.

27. What do you think of when you hear an Australian accent? – Hot men?  My friend Andrea and I were just talking about how men with accents trump all other “must have’s” in men. Hahahaha! 

28. What’s your favorite soda? – Root beer

29. Do you go in a fast food place or just hit the drive thru? – Drive thru.

30. What is your favorite number? – 12

31. Who’s the last person you talked to? – Beata

32. Favorite cut of beef? – New York steak, short loin

33. Last song you listened to? – “River” Bishop Briggs

34. Last book you read? – “The Alchemist” again.

35. Favorite day of the week? – Saturday morning

36. Can you say the alphabet backwards? – Yes. (the trick: write it down first.)

37. How do you like your coffee? – with Almond creamer

38. Favorite pair of shoes? – My old school Jimmy Choo Classic Boots, Tamara Mellon MJ Patent, Office of Angela Scott  Mr. Colin Monkstrap  ßit depends on what I’m wearing that day.  Favorite pair for shoes is too big!

39. Time you normally go to bed? – 10pm-ish.

40. Time you normally get up? – between 4:30am-5:30am

41. What do you prefer, sunrise or sunsets? – Sunrise. My favorite time of day. 

42. How many blankets on your bed? – That’s too personal.

43. Describe your kitchen plates? – Blue-ish grey.

44. Do you have a favorite alcoholic beverage? – Red, with chocolate notes.

45. Do you play cards? – War? That’s all I know.

46. What color is your car? – “Champagne” – that’s what it says.

47. Can you change a tire? – Yes, but never have.  Nails.

48. Your favorite state? – To be in a state of joy. Laughter. 

49. Favorite job you ever had? – Speaking on stage.

50. How did you get your biggest scar? – I jumped out of a window and my knee caught the fencing and sliced open. I was a teenager.

That was fun — just for a little change of pace!

Hugs.

Carmen