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!   

Ten Things That May Surprise You About Me

Ten things about me that may surprise you:

  1. I’m a stutterer. I have been since I was a kid. Most people don’t notice.  Only those that KNOW may see how I work around it.  I remember being so sad in grade school and then being told that “…even James Earl Jones stutters and he’s the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars…”.  Well, that changed everything! I became okay with stuttering. Maybe even a little proud of it because you know, Darth Vader stuttered too. I worked hard to get through it with therapists and such, but knowing someone else stuttered and “made it” — that was everything!  How cool was it when I actually got to meet him on set and talk about our stuttering issues over a meal?  Yeah, priceless!
  2. I’ve never eaten Lobster in my life. I don’t eat shellfish, no sushi, rarely eat seafood at all.
  3. I’ve run three marathons. I’m not a fast runner by any means, and my last marathon was in 2004, but it was on my bucket list and it was GREAT to scratch that off the list for sure!
  4. I write in a journal every morning. I write – not type – with a pen and sketch book. I’ve done this since I can remember.  It’s as normal to me as brushing my teeth in the morning.  It’s my therapy/meditative time.
  5. I’ve gone Sky-Diving and would do it again in a heartbeat! I used to be afraid of heights and thought this would help. It did quite a bit, though I still have a little fear of it. It was quite the adventure for sure! (Check out the Video here!)
  6. I don’t like cut flowers. I love flowers, trees, plants – I don’t like that people cut flowers and put them in their home. I don’t like real Christmas trees for the same reason. Fake trees and flowers can be just as lovely and last forever!  One of my pet peeves is seeing Christmas trees lined in the alley way near the dumpsters discarded and dead a few days after the holiday.  Who knows how long those trees would have lived!  I feel the same way about flowers (sorry Oprah). I know, it seems a little crazy, but I said “..things that may surprise you…”. Side note: yeah, never bring me flowers – chocolate YES, flowers NO.
  7. I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, but I do not have a Boston accent and never really have. Part of that is because I traveled the states so much as a kid, but get me around a Bostonian and I can, just as easily, drop a few “R’s” here and there.
  8. I have always been a Sci-Fi “aficionado”. STNG over the original. BSG. Scully over Mulder. Only the original Star Wars…Eureka, Stargate SG1, Atlantis…you get the point if you enjoy the world.  I’m also a fan of most fantasy – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings…  Oh and don’t get me started on Marvel, DC Comics. Yes, I love all of it.
  9. For whatever reason, I cannot break eggs without a piece of shell landing in the mix. So, years ago I started breaking eggs in a separate bowl first so I can pick out any shells before adding it to any pan or recipe.  It really kills me that I can’t do it. Oh, and chefs who break eggs with one hand? I think are genius!  It’s a skill that secretly fascinates me! Ha!
  10. And this is NO secret to most, but just in case any newbies are visiting: I published my first book CANELA this past June and I’m now working on the beginnings of my second book. Wow. I’m now an “author”. I’m still getting used to that! 

I love reading about people’s “isms”.  We all got’em. It’s what makes us all unique.  Sometimes, it takes a long while to realize that.  But once you do and embrace all that you are, it can be helpful, liberating and kinda cool!  Being unique, or different, can be a GREAT thing! Sure, it can be challenging at times, but hopefully, always fulfilling – in the most positive ways ever!

Sweet day to you!

Carmen