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!   

#30 Days Trying To Find Joy Challenge – Day 1

Thursday, March 5th, 2020 9:45pm – First Entry, Rambling Introduction

I write every morning, about 5:00 am-ish with my morning coffee. I use a pen and a sketchbook. Long-hand is the right word. I tend to like cheap pens, Bic blue preferably, with a red one around just in case I choose to draw hearts or arrows or who knows what. I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager.

There was a time when I was trying to post some of those entries and I got a lot of great feedback. There really is something personal and intimate about reading someone’s journal, right? And when it’s hand-written and so unique to that person, it feels even more real. But, when I did share those posts, it was hard because I’d have to re-write what I wrote and then it was clouded somehow by the idea that I was “writing for the blog” sort of speak. Something just felt so inauthentic. And, it was hard. It became a chore.

I don’t want to do that anymore. So, I’ve stopped sharing those outright entries. My morning journals are my private therapy for sure and maybe someday they’ll be shared with the world, but hopefully not. They aren’t very good after-all, just my random thoughts, while I’m drinking coffee and I’d love to think I’m brilliant when I’m writing, but eeeh, I’ve re-read some of that stuff and I’m positive, uhem, no. Not brilliant at all. In fact, it’s just gibberish most days. Venting about whatever, swooning over whomever and maybe, if I’m having a pretty fantastic day, something creative worth remembering to recreate later in my next book or something. But honestly, most days, yeah, nothing…

So, what am I doing? Why am I writing at 10pm at night on my blog and just basically riffing on a blank page? Well, I’ve come up with an idea — nothing too grand, but I want to write about my day for the next 30 days and see if I can see a pattern or maybe learn something more about myself. I’m actually not editing at all, not re-reading and not really paying attention to grammar or whatevs. I say all of that, as if in other posts, I pay attention to any of that. I don’t. I suck at grammar, spelling and the like. Can I be honest? As a “writer”, I almost find pride in that. Sucking at all of that and still calling myself a writer. Ha! Truth is, at the end of the day, grammar and spelling is the least important aspect of writing. To me, that’s what an editor is for! But creating a story, engaging a reading so much that they can’t stop from finding out what happens next, THAT’s writing! Well maybe more story-telling. But I’ve met many people who are great at story-telling and horrible at spelling and grammar, but I’ve never met the grand master of grammar and thought they were a gifted writer, orator and story-teller. I’m sure the unicorn of all of it is out there somewhere, but I’m not at all gifted in either, but enjoy the process of story-telling so much that yeah, I’ll keep calling myself a writer even if my spelling and grammar sucks big time! Ha!

It’s so late and I’m just rambling. I am. I’ve decided that for the next 30 days, I’m going to just account for my day. There are no rules except that I write something on this blog for the next 30 days, every day. My honest hope is to see if I can recognize any patterns and/or make any changes to just make life a little easier. At the very least, like I posted above I hope to find something positive in the day.

Life’s been difficult for quite a while in so many ways. I assume it’s what most people are going through, but keeping my spirits up and keeping myself on-point and engaged has been paramount. This is the next step. I need to account for my day and although I was doing it on my calendar it just isn’t the same. If I have to answer TO someone or, in this case, just answer to my nightly blog post, then maybe that will help keep me on-point!

So yes, this is a selfish activity. I’m not sure where it’s going or what it’s for and I have no real rules. Just, I want to write and update my blog for the next 30 days on a regular basis. I can write about anything that’s happened in my day. But other than that, no rules.

Today was a great day in that I went for a 2.5 mile run and then did a great Centr6 workout. I worked a bit today, but was on the phone most of day. My whole food thing was meh today and honestly if I could just conquer the food thing I swear I’d be golden! When I win the lottery the first purchase is a full-time chef. I swear it! I cook for myself and really do a decent job nowadays of eating well, but goodness, I’d love a CHEF’s meal any day over mine! I’m also just not that into cooking for ONE person — so I tend to cook for the week and then am so sick of eating the same thing by the end of the week that I find myself nibbling on other crap. Yeah, today was a bad eating day, again. Tomorrow’s another day. Crossing my fingers.

Other than that, I have nothing more. I interacted with a business colleague today about the possibilities of working for his firm. Kinda cool and not something I was expecting! That may be what’s next in my life — not sure. But it was real nice to talk to him about it anyways. I may be ready to to work for a big firm that does great work in my field. I guess I can go either way, continue my small business and working with individual clients or…yeah, I think I’m ready to move onward. More security maybe? Actually, who knows. But if there’s a firm I’m going to work for, it would definitely be his. He’s a good man and it’s a great company. Eeh, we’ll see. That might be a good thing.

That’s pretty much it. I also wrote down 10 possible podcast topics since I’m going to record something next week with another colleague/friend. Hmm… I may write more about that later. I’m crossing my fingers it goes well tomorrow.

So, that’s it. Boring I know. But I’ll post again tomorrow and maybe, at the very least, it will help me to SEE what work I’ve been doing and what I can improve upon.

Did I help anyone today? Eeeh, maybe, but I can’t remember anything significant. But, at the very least, I kept to my agreement from this morning and posted my evening thoughts exactly. Sorry if you made it this far reading gibberish. But thank you…

Okay, until tomorrow. I’m dead tired. But I’m still excited by the possibilities!

Carmen (PS. I won’t double check anything so please, forgive any and all of it. I’m just riffing here way past my bedtime and just seeing how this goes).

Definition of Success: A Different Vision

As always, enjoy the PodCast or the transcribed version below.

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I heard a motivational speaker on someone’s news feed this morning. They were talking about how – if you want to have success –  you have to leap.  You have to get rid of all this fear and just leap.

I was so frustrated.  I was so annoyed by it.  I immediately started writing.  Why is this bothering me so much?  Clearly understand what he’s trying to say and it’s not that I completely disagree —  I just have a different vision.

I also think it’s this weird concept that the only way you can find your true North or you can find “success” as he put it – is by somehow risking and possibly having loss.  To me, there’s something so negative about that.

I think it also comes from a place of experience for me. More times than not in my life I have leaped and many times I have landed on my feet and felt success, but many times I have to say I have leaped, and I have fallen (and I have fallen hard) and gotten hurt.  So, I’m not sure that’s the answer to success.

It’s probably good to define what success means though. So, clearly I think what he’s talking about is financial success.  I’m not talking about financial success – however, I think financial success and any kind of abundance in our life is all kind of the same thing.

I don’t put that much value in material goods but we do have basic needs. We also need to take care of our families and we also like to have the things we like to have — we all have a standard of life we wish to have.  So I’m not against financial success.  But I think when you pursue financial success as your only goal, you’re cheating yourself.

I say this because my experience working with so many ultra wealthy people and knowing so many (I guess) ultra poor people — the one thing I know for sure is that money does not make you happy.  And I know that’s a cliché, but that’s a true one.

If anything, I think wealthier people seem to be more miserable – because they had this idea that money would be able to solve all their woes.  But I know that being poor is also not any better.  So that’s all about financial and material-esque ideas.

I actually think the real purpose of success in life:  is learning how to walk through any situation you’re in.  I don’t think the point of life is to have as much material wealth as possible or to have as much stuff as possible – I actually believe that you can have all those things but what’s more important, is learning how to get through certain parts of our life and come out on the other side.

The first part of this is to think of life as a path – a journey. Again another visual cliché, but this is how I have always envisioned my life.  Walking along this pathway you’re going to encounter good times and bad times. And you’re going to encounter things that work and things that don’t work – and how you choose to go through those events in “our lives” is the ultimate meaning of success for me.

So yeah, I’m feeling a little down today but the way in which I choose to walk through it is: Do I dig the hole deeper? Or do I find a way to climb out of it and walk on through to the other side?  I always choose to climb out of it as quickly as possible.  And the more that you learn to deal with difficult things in your life in this manner the easier it is to get through things.

I also think we don’t put enough value in happy moments, in good times.  I think a lot of us have an expectation that life is always supposed to be good and in bliss — but that’s not true, and that’s the confusion with material wealth.  We think that people are always happy because they have everything they’ve ever wanted.  But actually, life isn’t about being continuously joyful and continuously happy.  If it was, you’d be in a mental institution – because no one can be continuously happy.  And the only way to really understand true happiness and true joy is to understand sadness and bad times.

So life to me is kind of this equilibrium where we experience all of these things. And the real true purpose is for us to learn how to walk on through each moment that comes to us and figure out how to get through it.

As time moves on and as I get older, and as I have more and more experience, I realize that even when bad times are happening to me, I find it easier to get through those than I have in the past.  With more time, comes some wisdom into how to deal with these things.

I’m also learning as I get older that I need to embrace the happy moments.  I need to really pay attention to those times when things are good.  And I think a lot of us kind of just expect life to always be good so we don’t really embrace happy times.  We’re kind-of like, “Oh yeah that was great…”  unless it’s something monumental — but even times that are content, even times that are just regular days that nothing happens, I’ve learned to really embrace and to really love and enjoy and find purpose in it.

So yeah, I don’t think that in order to have any amount of success you have to experience loss or be in a position of fear.  I think it is true that if you’re afraid to do something, that you may want to think about why you’re so afraid of it and figure out a way to walk on through.  But this idea of “leaping” and hoping you’ll fly and soar… it’s a possibility – and you could soar – that’s true.  But you could just as easily fail. How do you stand back up when you fall that hardHow do you get back up, dust yourself off and walk on through anyway?

That’s the trick.

And every time you learn that, you realize that things are not scary to try because you’ve already failed before because you’ve already been there before.  You know you can get yourself back up again and move on through.

Maybe there’s a few different concepts here that I’m talking about.  But I think it’s important to define what success means to you.  I think it’s also good to understand and visualize for yourself: what is your purpose in life?  And the third thing I’d like to leave you with is this idea:  how do you embrace the good times?  Do you take enough time to really enjoy when things are great?  And also, do you take enough time to embrace when things are just standard contentment. Just a regular day?  And if you don’t, then let’s start focusing on that!  I know that’s what helps me.

I know it helps me to focus my attention on the things that are good in my life and the things that I love to do like writing.  Today, I just did all this writing on this and now I’m sharing it with people and I already feel better even though this morning I woke up feeling a little bit blue or sad or whatever you want to call it.  I feel like I’ve gotten my energy back – and so again, how do we walk through those moments when we’re not feeling good – I think that’s the purpose of life.  I think that’s the true success that everybody seeks.  That’s the true wealth.  Everything else, is just icing!

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Have a sweet day and I’ll be back again soon.

Carmen