October 30, 2014

Name Your Doubt and then Banish it!

A quick little post for you all today, simply because I read this great idea in a NaNoWriMo pep talk from author Kami Garcia and I wanted to share it...

First, let me say that day after tomorrow, November 1, is the kick-off of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for 2014! I am both excited and terrified. Last year was my first year participating and I didn't quite make it halfway to the 50,000 word goal (I landed somewhere around 21,000 words). It was still a huge success for me since otherwise I would have written zero words, but I let life get in the way of getting my word count in. And, to be honest, to don't feel any better prepared this year to keep that from happening again. But I will give it the old college try!

Wish me luck!

Anyway, as a part of NaNoWriMo various authors send out these (usually awesome) pep talks to all the participating writers to get/keep them energized and inspired to reach their 50,000 word goal. Well, the first pep talk was sent out this week, as we gear-up to start. It was from author Kami Garcia and she wrote about this idea that was both new to me and fascinating/awesome: naming your doubt. 

We all have the voice of a doubter in our heads. A voice that plays on our insecurities and self-consciousness and self-doubt. A voice that tries with all its might to keep us from our heart's desire. A voice that makes us question our abilities and worth. And often times that voice sounds like our own. But it's not. And we need to make that much clearer to ourselves. If we can differentiate ourselves from that nasty little voice, then we can banish that voice.

So give it a name. That's what Kami suggests. And I think it's a great idea. Kami named hers Ozzy. I named mine Jason. (I honestly have no idea why.) But now, when that little voice starts harassing me about...whatever...my writing, my parenting, my looks...whatever it is, I can tell that it's not me. It's just a hater. His name is Jason. And he's an asshole.

Shut up, Jason. Go away. You're a jerk.

Now that doubt has a name, I can block his calls. I can banish him. I can ignore him like I would any hater I'd encounter outside my own head. He can talk to the hand. (Right now he's telling me that nobody says "Talk to the hand" anymore. So I gave him the finger and asked if people still do that. Man, that guy's a dick.)

So, name your doubt. Then banish it. Leave that hater behind and go do whatever your heart desires.

I'm gonna go write 50,000 words.

Until next time, keep on keepin' on. Peace out.

October 24, 2014

I am an uncool, mediocre failure. And that's okay.

I typed these words into my phone just before going to bed the other night...

Sometimes I fail amazingly at some things. Like, really amazingly. At small things and big things. At lots and lots of trivial things. For most of these things, I am the only one who notices. Or at least the audience is pretty small...my kids, my husband, occasionally some other family member bears witness, sometimes I share the embarrassment with a friend. But mostly it's just me who notices. (Thank goodness I am not famous!)

And I am not cool. I never was. Not. Ever. I was never most popular. I was never prettiest or smartest or best at, well, anything, really. I've always been good enough or okay at most things but never exceptional, never a superlative. This used to bother me. It used to make me sad. I used to long to be really great at something. 

I fail a lot. Everyday. And I'm not cool. And I'm not the best at anything. 

I've grown out of caring about cool (and my definition of cool has changed dramatically over the years). And I've learned that in the things that really matter to me, "the best" is a matter of opinion ("Mom, you're the best!"). And I think finally, FINALLY, I am learning to get comfortable with failure.

Kind of heavy for just before bed, I'll admit. But these things had been swimming around in my head that day. And they still are.

Failure has been weighing heavy on my mind lately, the littles and the bigs. It seems like nothing has been turning out quite right lately, from the dinners I've been cooking to my ability to get in my workouts or tackle my to do list. I can't seem to navigate corners without running into stuff or empty the dishwasher without dropping things. I can't seem to get enough sleep or make enough progress on my writing. And I seem to have totally failed to set my daughter up for a successful kindergarten year. Oh, what a miserable, fantastic failure I have been there!

The weight of all this failure has forced me to lay down and assess. To look at today and yesterday and tomorrow. And, to come clean. So, here you have it everyone:

Regardless of what you may have taken away from any of my blog posts or Facebook status updates or shared photos or smiley Christmas cards, neither I nor my life is in any way, shape or form perfect. I am thrilled that, to me, you all look so beautiful and your lives look so wonderful. My life is wonderful too. But not like a magazine photo shoot. More like an old Family Circle cartoon.

You see, I am in a constant battle with cluttered kitchen countertops and room corners. I cannot get a handle on the toys in my house. I have boxes sitting in my dining room of random stuff (deliveries, gifts, donations) that I just haven't dealt with yet. I have signs of half finished or just started projects all over my house. I have so many things that I want to be doing but I can never seem to get to any of the cool stuff because I am forever drowning in meal preparation and laundry and kid care and just trying to get a shower in. I still have polish on my toes from a pedicure in August. I no longer believe it's possible to get the flat tummy of my twenties back...and most of the time I don't really care. I look SO MUCH older than I did just five years ago. I oscillate between wanting to be super fit and look great and shaking my fist (or possibly my middle finger) at a culture that focuses on such superficial things. Lately I don't really enjoy cooking and many of my meals have been simply mediocre. And the inside of my car is a total mess.

I am always happy for friends when I hear of their successes. But I am also sometimes a bit envious. All of your vacations look so amazing, all the runs you go on are so impressive, some for their speed and others for their distance, your kids and pets look adorable and I'm so proud of all the things they do. I love it when you're funny and I tear-up when you're sad. You are all so awesome. But I just can't live up to the projected image. And I no longer want you to think I might be.

You need to know that I look like crap far more often than I look good. And even when I look good, I don't really look that good. And that's okay. Because who cares. Do you? No, you don't really. I am blessed with a beautiful, warm and cozy house. But you need to know that walking through our lower level is like an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course...there will be jumping over things and possible painful injury involved. I am exhausted from nights up with kids with bad dreams and a husband on a business in Europe. I am drinking too much coffee and snacking on things I shouldn't be and not doing my physical therapy exercises for my neck. We had frozen pizza for dinner last night because daddy's out of town. I didn't have time to shower this morning and I put my makeup on in the car in the preschool parking lot. I currently have 61 reminders on my iPhone, some have been there for a year. I have at least ten things on my to do list for today that I will never get to. At least one of these things is probably important and time-sensitive. I finally cleaned out a ton of old clothes from my closet and donated them and I bought a few new things. I still do not look cool.

I am an uncool, mediocre failure. And that's okay. Because, despite what I may think, most of you probably are too.

A wise children's book once said, "Everybody poops." And everybody does. We all poop and get sick and have bad days and get bad haircuts and make bad fashion choices and make bad life choices. We all make mistakes and pick our noses and yell when we shouldn't. We all have some less than stellar qualities right along with the great ones. And sometimes we're awesome parents and sometimes we're not. And sometimes we're awesome people and sometimes we're not.

Some days I am perky and energetic and full of life and I can do it all. And some days I'm not. Some days I am dancing Snoopy. And some days I am Linus + Pigpen + Charlie Brown with the rain cloud over his head. Today I might be a mess. But by next week I'll have my s*#t together again...at least for a day or two.

But even on the days when I have it all together I am still uncool. I am still mediocre. And I'll manage to fail at something. That's the real me. I guess the cat's out of the bag. I am not an image projected on Facebook or Christmas cards or when I go out dolled-up for date night or girls' night. I am the wake up with crazy hair and puffy eyes and pillow marks on my face stay at home mom of two adorable, smart, funny, crazy, loud, naughty kids and a sweet, broken, insane dog; I am a wife and a homemaker and a wannabe writer; I am the overseer of a million unfinished projects and the harborer of thousands of ideas that may never come to fruition; I am a cook and a decorator and sometimes crafter; I am a type A, work before play, get 'er done gal who never feels like enough but who is trying to change her ways. I am me. Just plain me. Preferably in comfy clothes.

And today, the real me raises my coffee cup to the real you: Here's to being authentic. Here's to being real. Here's to a world that celebrates the uncool, the mediocre, and the failures, those who get knocked down and get back up and keep going and keep trying each and everyday. Here's to the amazingly imperfect lot of us.

Until next time, be authentic and share your secret self with the world.

(Check out my new favorite song, Secrets by Mary Lambert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqqqV50zaAc for a little added inspiration.)

October 14, 2014

A Super Short Book Review: Love and Other Foreign Words

Hello friends!

I have something to report.

I have decided to cut back on blog posts for a while so I can focus my limited writing time on my fiction writing. (I've tabled the novel I was working on last fall and am focused on a children's chapter book and some picture book ideas. I hope to share some of that with you all at some point.) 

In the meantime, most of my posts will likely fall into one of two categories: short and sweet (like this one), and the more journal-like, cathartic essays that seem to rise up from inside of me when I just need to vent or think-write. 

I hope you'll continue to follow along with me. 

So here's my first short and sweet post: a Super Short Book Review:

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

Fun. Light. Entertaining. A YA book and a quick-and-easy, pleasant read. Kind of like reading a John Hughes Brat Pack movie. (If you're too young to know what that means, look it up.)

Until next time, read on, folks. Read on.

October 2, 2014

From My Nightstand: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I finished this book following a marathon, late-night, hundred-page reading session (almost unheard of now that I have small children), and I found myself in awe of Erin Morgenstern's ability to imagine, create and weave together such a wonderful, wondrous tale.

Spoiler alert: I'm in love with this book.

Story telling is a craft, and when it is done well, it leaves me in awe. When I finish a book that is so well-crafted, one in which the story is so intricately woven that it surprises you all along the way and you find yourself flipping back through the pages to reread sections and marvel at the breadcrumb trail the author left you, and you followed, without even knowing it...I just marvel. When an author creates a world so detailed and believable, even when it stretches the bands of reality, that you are sucked-in and standing: living and breathing in that world...I am in wonder. And, I am a little bit in love. I find myself smitten with writers who can do this. (And actors...great example: James Spader in Blacklist. He's so good. I totally have a crush.) Erin Morgenstern does this with The Night Circus.

While The Night Circus takes place in the late-18-and-early-1900's, with it's center in London, the traveling circus venue really suspends both place and time. Morgenstern creates her own world and draws you in. In her world, there is a traveling circus that arrives without warning. It never advertises, beyond word of mouth. It simply appears, is if from no where. It stays for a few days, then is gone once again. It is called Le Cirque des Reves and it's gates open when the sun sets and close when the sun rises. It is The Night Circus.

Visitors are entranced by The Night Circus's magic. But the magic they see, the magic they sense, only scratches the surface. What they cannot comprehend is the delicate balance, the painstaking work and the competition that lives "behind the curtain" in a world that does not follow the rules of their own.

Because of the book's complexity, you must bear with Morgenstern through the early chapters as she lays the groundwork for the story. It has the potential to be a bit confusing early-on as it quickly changes time and place and perspective, introducing new characters on what seems like a whim. But she is, in fact, weaving a tapestry for you and eventually you will see the beauty of the art and no longer the individual strings of yarn.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. If you haven't already, check it out.

For more recommendations on what to read next, check out the Books Worth Reading tab at the top of this page and the Books tag on the list at the right, or check out my Books, Books, Books board on Pinterest here: http://www.pinterest.com/amylorbach/books-books-books/.

Until next time, happy reading.