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!   

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

Create Your Own Challenge #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop #Writing

As I’m writing this piece, I’m in the middle of a 30 day challenge I created for myself.

The idea was rather simple: could I find a way to write — actually physically type — on my laptop some of my thoughts from my morning journal? See, I write — hand write — every day in a journal. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. And I keep those journals, which are black hardcover bound sketchbooks, and that’s how I came to write my first book. It wasn’t my intention but it was time to shred all of those sketchbooks I had in storage. So many boxes and taking up too much space so one day, I started randomly going through them. Some, if not most it, felt like junky writing — because, let’s face it — that’s what journaling is all about, writing anything and everything. But then I found these pieces. These moments in time. Scenes that made sense. They were heart-warming and poignant. The book Canela formed almost instantaneously.

I shredded about 25 boxes of journals.

For whatever reason, habit really, when I wake in the morning, I have to write. And sometimes that stuff is so good! And I keep thinking, “If I could just write like THIS on my blog, maybe other people would enjoy this or have feedback or help me with ideas…” or whatever. The point is, I always want to share parts of my journaling but I can’t. I just can’t.

And I had to ask myself why?

The biggest reason is because once I know I’m writing for someone else to read, OTHER than myself, my hand-writing changes. The other problem is that something’s lost in the translation. I write in English, so it’s not a language thing. But if I start typing out what I wrote by hand to put it up on my blog, I start editing, I start “fixing” sentences and hell, it just becomes such chore.

So, I wanted to see if I could change my habit and/or just challenge myself. I decided to try and share my thoughts with my blogging friends but instead of sharing my morning journal-therapy session with everyone, why not instead try to share something else? Why not type directly in WordPress at the END OF DAY and see if that churns up any decent thoughts.

I didn’t want to put too many guard rails on it. I wanted to feel like I could write about absolutely anything at all. One thing I do before I go to bed anyways is a recap of my day. It’s not a writing thing, just a thinking thing. I never to go to bed angry, so I always try and find something joyful to pull from my day to remind myself that no matter what’s happened, that the day had a piece of joy in it, worth remembering (actually this works, everyone should try it!).

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I think I’ve grown as a writer these past 15 days. I’m half way through my personal writing challenge as I’m writing for this #AuthorToolboxBlogHop and I’ve changed. How? Well, in the simplest way, I’ve been able to write more easily using the keyboard verses a pen. Clearly that’s a ME “growth” thing and most people probably don’t have this issue. But my morning journal is still my therapy, my private ramblings, but my evening writing has been this newfound voice and joy… That’s the second way I’ve grown as a writer! There’s a freedom in my writing that I hadn’t felt before this challenge. I’m excited, in a different way, to share. I still have the second half of the month to go — so who knows what else I’ll learn, but I do know this: it was a great idea to just challenge MYSELF instead of jumping on some other formal “competition” or “writing program” or another blog hop (I love this blog hop, I’m just saying).

Challenging yourself to something different in how you write just changes things up a bit. It’s like a refresh button. Or maybe a reSET button? I once challenged myself to only write a paragraph every day for a week after blindly picking a random word from a dictionary I had on my bookshelf. That was so hard! I remember being baffled by it. Most of the time I didn’t really understand the word’s meaning I picked. Ha! But it was a good challenge to change things up a bit. I’ve also done the normal kind of challenges where you try to write from a different perspective or tried different types of writing… I attempted to write poetry once. Uhem, so not my thing!

My point is simply this: Do something to challenge yourself. Stretch those writing muscles! Do it for a couple of days, a week or a month. But if you’re needing a little “pick-me-up” and/or you’re feeling like you could use a little change of pace to brighten up that old trusty writer’s brain or you suffer from that age old term, “writer’s block”, then give it a try. Try a little challenge of your own. Oh, and if you do, please share!

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 2

Friday, March 6, 2020 – 9:00pm – Random, TikTok, Client Advice

I’m already annoyed. Does anyone actually READ people’s blog post? I rarely comment on people’s post because I don’t want to say something mean, if I can’t say something nice.  But I’m shocked most days by how many people ‘like’ a blog post when the content is…well, NOT “likable” enough – and I’m just trying to be nice about saying it that way.  Wow. 

On Twitter today, I reminded people that social media isn’t real life [[[IT’S NOT PEOPLE]]]. I encouraged people to really find a way to talk to REAL people in REAL life because honestly, social media – especially Twitter is toxic as all hell most days. Social media needs to find its place in our lives and I’m afraid it’s finding the worst in all of us. The part of us that just wants to bitch and moan and complain and find fault in everyone but ourselves.  Wow. Horrible. People really need to focus on trying to be kind. Having joy. Seriously. I’m shocked by how much people thrive on being cruel to other people — most times, for no real reason. Sad.

Today was a tough day. Actually the entire week was hard. I had a great conversation with a client out on the East Coast today and somehow, I found some joy in that. She’s in the midst of making some hard choices, but today it felt so good to walk her through it.  It’s such a natural thing right?  When you have perspective, based on experience and you watch someone in the midst of that struggle — you want to assure them somehow that it will be okay, but it doesn’t matter what you say – it’s just something they’re going to have to feel and get through.  But I have this line I say – which is an absolute TRUTH – which always makes people feel better: I don’t talk about what I don’t know.  And I asked her; have I ever lied to you or been wrong about anything?  And the answer is inevitably NO – because again, I don’t talk about what I don’t know, period. End Stop.  So when I talk to a client about their business or project or whatever and I tell them – “A” is going to happen and then “B” will follow – I’m 100% positive.  Yeah, it sounds cocky, but it’s the damn truth so you know… whatever.  Anyways, that was my light this week. That made today a good day, even though it’s been a tough week.

I also posted on TikTok.  Ha!  Honestly, I feel bad being a voyeur on the app, so I have to start posting more regularly. But let me tell you, adults are going to ruin that app just like they’ve ruined every other app. Right now, the app is fun. Dancing, people expressing themselves – magic tricks, sheer silliness and sure, there are serious folk on there too – but the point of TikTok, once called “music.ly” was initially (I believe) to lipsync and dance to music.  You can do these little 15 sec or 60 sec clips. So much fun.  Now people are on there doing all types of things – it’s a mash of bad and good advice, silliness, serious dancing, videos on “how to” and…just everything.  It’s still fun. But of course, celebs are now on there – because it’s a great advertising and surely it’s interesting to watch so clearly a social media app about to change…from fun to not so much fun. I think it’s the legacy of most social media. Clearly Twitter is a mess…. I mean, it’s toxic as all hell. Crazy!  And I really do loathe FB and…eeh, Instagram is also kind of a chore… Oh well. 

So, the week is over. I’m so glad. It was a tough week – but I got so much done regardless. I wish I had finished my list, but there’s no doubt my lack of sleep this week, my stress level and just feeling generally under-the-weather, made it a bad week. But tomorrow’s another day. I’m looking forward to it. 

I did walk today. It was hard though.  I wasn’t feeling it at all.  And I did Centr6, but so half-assed it was kind of pathetic.  I hurt my knees… but, glad I got through it. I hope I feel better tomorrow. I have so much to do this week!!  Honestly.  Maybe that’s why I’m also feeling a little out of it. Do you ever feel like you have so much to do, but it’s really nothing you WANT to do?  I have like 5 of those things to get through this weekend and next week. I’m so bummed. Seriously, if anyone should win the lottery, it really should be me. I’m sure of it!  Hahahaha! 

Well, hasta manana.

Carmen    

The Hardest Part #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop #Writing

What’s the Hardest Part of Writing?

I guess most people would talk about “writer’s block” but I’ve already spoken about that phenomenon and it’s not the hard part of writing at all. To me, that’s just part of the process of writing. 

For me, the hardest part of writing has nothing to do with writing. 

It’s like anything else –  I’m sure there are highs and lows to being a doctor or teacher or a painter or whatever profession we may be talking about, but if you love what you do, you’ll accept those parts of the process that feel heavier at times than the parts that are light and somewhat easier. So, writer’s block is just a heavier part of the process.  Struggling to finish a chapter or connect the dots between characters, just part of the job.

The hardest part of writing is what happens AFTER you finish your masterpiece. And this goes for all types of art – whatever it may be – whether a piece of writing, or something you’ve sculpted, painted, music or even mastering your acting skills – all of it, unless you’re planning on keeping it to yourself and just sharing it with family, has to become a business. The hardest part for me was NOT being aware of what to do AFTER I’d written my manuscript. I had no idea where to start, what to do – and so I did what many people do and started submitting my unsolicited work randomly to publishing houses hoping someone would read my “brilliant” writing and just have to publish it. 

That didn’t happen. 

After being thoroughly disappointed by continuous rejection letters, or worse, no response at all, I shelved my manuscript for a couple of years.  Of course, then naturally I started to believe it was a horrible piece of writing and a stupid idea. No matter how strong of a person you are – and no matter how many times people tell you NOT to pay attention to criticism, we’re all only human.  It grates on you.  Multiple rejection letters and terrible pieces of advice from strangers who clearly had NOT read my book – did a number on my confidence.  It was not a great time for me as a writer.  Self-confidence is a thing as an artist. 

So, my advice to anyone writing their first novel or script or poetry – START to think of your creativity today as a business.  I know it’s sometimes hard to find the time to write, but if you’re committed to your work, please also take the time –even if it’s just a few minutes a week to researching the “Business” end of your industry.  It took me so long to figure it out and even NOW I’m still learning some of the tricks to the trade. 

Here is some basic information to start you thinking about your creativity (whatever it is) as a business:

  1. Join LinkedIn (yes, even if you’re a writer, or actor or sculpture or whatever). I was never a big fan, but now it’s become the best place to connect with like-minded individuals.  Here’s why it’s great:  People in all types of businesses post their successes and failures and ideas and suggestions and it’s just another avenue to learn. Here’s my link if you want to add me:   https://www.linkedin.com/in/carmensbusiness/
  • Join BlogHops.  I never knew what this was until Author Raimey Gallant saw one of my blog posts and invited me to join!  This #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop is a great resource on so many levels!  But there are many “Blog Hops” and if you don’t know what they are – because I surely didn’t – then do a quick google search and get on board. It’s an easy way to connect with the community and share your thoughts and ideas as well as learn so much about the writing world as well!  (BlogHops can be for other topics as well…)
  • This piece of advice is mostly for my script and actor friends, but I bet it also applies to really anything at all:  know who the entertainment lawyers are for your industry. And if you can pay a retainer, or sign with a lawyer on a percentage basis, know that pitching your script is something a lawyer can help you do. Yes, everything is about money, so it might be harder if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer. But I learned THIS YEAR that studios, including places like Netflix and Amazon studios will be more likely to hear a pitch from a lawyer than someone who is sending out their ideas “unsolicited”. My book has been pitched to a production company for a possible deal with Netflix – NOTHING HAS COME OF IT YET and in this town that really means NOTHING. But, it would have never even gotten to this point – a legit hearing – if I hadn’t had a contact from a “legit” source.
  • Go to places that support writers (or whatever your craft may be).  Seek out organizations that have other ways to network and grow. For example, here in Los Angeles there is a great organization called Writer’s Blok.  It was much cheaper when I first joined back in the day and I can’t lie, I think the monthly costs are a little high nowadays – but if you join their mailing lists, they do have some free sessions and free events once in a while. The point is this is another great way to network.  I prefer NOT to write with other people – but I can’t lie, when I found this group and decided to try it, I took my manuscript off the shelf and finally found a way to get it published!  It was a great place to figure out what was next. Wherever you are on the globe, there might be a place in your neighborhood that has this type of organization.  I found this by going on MeetUp and just searching for “writers” within my neighborhood.  Best thing I ever did for my book!  And my confidence!

There is so much more I could list. But I just wanted to get the idea in your head that the hardest part of writing isn’t always about the writing.  It’s about realizing that in order to get your creativity SEEN, READ, HEARD – that you’re also going to have to wrap your head around it being a business!

There are so many people who write about self-publishing and/or how to get an agent and such – so I wanted to offer some other, less talked about ideas.

My hope is that this has you at least thinking about the business end of things… I hope this was helpful. 

‘til next time,

Carmen