Resolutions or Goals? – A Re-evaluation

To some, the start of a new year is the beginning of promises, a fresh start, a time to try again.  Even though it’s just another calendar year, there’s something mentally stimulating for many to take on a new challenge in a new year, to better themselves, to start a new hobby, or whatever.

To others, the start of a new year is just another day.  The Christmas decorations come down.  The festivities are over.  They prepare for the winter doldrums.  They hunker down and try to get through the darkest time of the year, both in the amount of daylight and mentally.

It’s now the end of January, late enough in the new year to evaluate a few things.  Many people who had well-meaning resolutions have probably already stopped trying.  They’ve thrown up their hands in failure for not making it to the gym regularly, for smoking after stopping for five days, for eating too many calories, for not taking enough “me” time, the list goes on.

Stop beating yourself up!

There’s a more positive spin of looking at resolutions, or, as I and many others like to call them, goals.

When I posed a few simple questions about resolutions, most people said they didn’t make them.  Those who did make them said that they like to set ones that are measurable and realistic.  In the short-term, like a month, a person might say they wish to read a certain number of books or try a new recipe.  Or try to not complain as much.  That’s a hard one!  Over the course of the whole year, those months add up, and they found that it’s easier to stick to short-term goals.  By saying how much weight a person wants to lose per week versus a whole year, it’s not so intimidating.

These short-term goals could be classified as resolutions, but they are manageable.  They aren’t the type of vague resolution that’s far-reaching.  Many people admitted to not making resolutions any longer because of past failures, saying they didn’t wish to feel even worse about themselves.  So, in this vein, it really is better to break down large goals into smaller ones, whatever they might be.

Often, just taking it one day at a time, stopping and taking a deep breath, and slowing down can go a long way toward helping a person feel better about themselves and their goals.  Days turn into weeks and into months, and before you know it, a whole year has elapsed.  By keeping a positive attitude, goals and tasks don’t have to be overwhelming.  They become more achievable.

If you want to declutter your house, for example, don’t say you’re going to tackle the entire kitchen in one day.  Start with one drawer or cupboard.  Work on it for fifteen minutes per day.

If you want to lose weight, don’t just suddenly cut out all your favorite foods and say you need to work out at the gym every day for an hour.  Cut out one bad food this week and then another the next.  Try to add on eating more vegetables, even if you still need your chocolate.  Join a class with a friend at the gym.  It makes you more accountable if you have a buddy and a set time each week.

What else can you do to stay on track with your goals, since we’re pretty set on not calling them resolutions?

bullet-journal-38

Journaling is great for some.  Although I don’t regularly journal, some people swear by bullet journals.  If you go on YouTube and do a search, you’ll find plenty of videos explaining what they are and how to set one up.  Many people claim these journals help keep them organized and on task, achieving their goals and moving forward.

Or get creative and make a goal board.  Turn on some of your favorite music and cut out pictures from magazines that inspire you or words or phrases that mean something.  Paste them all on a large poster board and keep it somewhere to look at, to remind you of what you’re aiming to get out of this year.

Or, going back to the evil “resolution” word, resolve to do something that you’ve been meaning to do for a long time.  Maybe it’s getting back in touch with an old friend.  Maybe it’s finally getting your finances in shape.  Again, break it down into smaller, manageable goals.  Of course, reconnecting with an old friend is a lot more fun than finances!

Then there are those, like me, who will work on a goal whenever inspiration strikes.  Almost two years ago, I sat down with the intention of finally writing an original story.  That was 2015, which was nine years after I had the idea to write a story based off my late grandma’s life.  I’d written a few paltry chapters and had written down some notes from her primary sources, but the idea intimidated me for years.  I was much more comfortable in the realm of fanfiction.  I spent twenty years writing fanfiction, even before I was online!

It’s funny.  Looking back, I am amazed that I spent so much time writing fanfiction when I could’ve been working on original stuff and doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing — writing stories that are my creations.  Now, here I am, in 2017 with that story written and self-published, a second story completed in the first draft and going through edits with an amazing writers group at my local library, a third story nearing completion in the first draft, a fourth story in the beginning of its creation, and an idea for a fifth!

How did I do it?  Perseverance.  By setting the goal of writing for just fifteen minutes a day, I was able to do all that.  There were days I missed here and there, but I didn’t let more than two days pass without writing.  Then there were days when I wrote for a couple of hours, so it balanced out.

I am living proof that by breaking down a huge goal into manageable, measureable, short-term goals, an amazing amount can be achieved!

Like what you’ve read?  Want to read more?  Consider downloading the e-book or ordering a paper copy of my original book, Hannah’s Rainbow, available on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

This blog will be updated at the end of every month.  Stay tuned for February’s blog: staying in love long-term! ❤

Pay It Forward…A Reminder

‘Tis the season…

To be jolly?

To go into debt?

To give.

Because God first gave to us His son, Jesus.

In the midst of the craziness of shopping, stressing, overspending, and stressing some more, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters.  Whether you’re Christian or not, whatever reason you celebrate Christmas–whether religious, secular, or both–I believe that this season can bring out the very best in people.

Goodwill toward men, indeed.

I went into this holiday season trying to not overspend on gifts.  Having three young kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying them things they just don’t need, especially when they’re inundated with commercials for the latest hot toys.  What five-year-old doesn’t tell their mom at least once an hour, “I want that, Mom?”  

It’s a trap.

 Seriously.

No joke.

I kid you not.

Kid.  Ha, I was talking about kids and wanting stuff.  Anyway, pardon my bad sense of humor.  I digress…

I fell into the same money pit this year by spending too much on my family, and I was torn between wanting to give, give, give and wanting to take some of the things back.  In the end, a mom’s desire to see her kids’ excitement on Christmas morning when it came time to open the gifts won out.

However, I am vowing to go about this insanity differently next year.  I want to donate or give to charity the same amount that I spend in gifts on my family.  That’s not an original idea, but I heard it somewhere, and it stuck with me.  I’m up for the challenge, and I’m not all talk. (Update: This was written in 2016. Now it’s 2017, and I am happy to say I lived up to this challenge of giving equally to charity what I spent on gifts.)

See, when I put my mind and heart to something, I can accomplish it.  Case in point: Almost two years ago, I sat down and said I was serious about writing an original story.  I would write at least fifteen minutes a day.  If I missed a day, okay, but I wouldn’t let more than two days pass without writing.  Ten months later, I had my first draft completed.  That was almost a year ago.  Now, I have the first draft of a second novel completed that’s currently being read and edited by a writers group at the library.  I have self-published my first novel after going through the arduous process of querying a hundred literary agents and getting many rejections, but I kept at it.  I am well into writing my third novel.  I have the first chapter written of my fourth and have an idea for a fifth. (2017 update: I have finished drafts of novels three and four.  I am well into my fifth.  I self-published novel number two.  I have ideas for six and seven.)

pablo (13)So, if I can write and be dedicated to it, I can be more generous next Christmas.  I can give more to those who really are in need and give less to my own family, who already has plenty of things.  We don’t need more stuff.

You might think, “Okay, that’s all well and good to make plans about what you’re going to do next year, but what are you doing about it right now?”  

I do regularly give to charity.  I sponsor two children through Children International, but for me, that wasn’t enough this Christmas.  I became aware of a family in need.  The father had just lost his job, and having a kid to support, you can understand why I wanted to help out.  Also, this family is close to heart, so if there was something I could do to help them, it would be all the more important to me.

I didn’t have the means to personally give them much as far as money goes, so I organized a Go Fund Me campaign and rallied my friends and family for several days to give to this family.  It was a beautiful thing to see the response.  Many gave, and it’s not a matter of how much you give, but giving what you can.  In the end, I was so happy to be able to give them a sizable amount of money to help them pay their bills and put food on the table, and while I was a part of that, I cannot and do not take full credit.  So many people stepped up, and I love that.

Another friend told me about the local Elk’s Club wanting to give a large box of food and gifts to local families in need, and she thought of the family I was supporting.  Needless to say, I got in touch with the Elk’s Club, and they were so generous and kind to deliver such a box to this family. (2017 update: This family is doing well this Christmas, although her sister lost a child and doesn’t have the money to pay for much of a Christmas for her other kids because of funeral costs. Not only did the family I helped last year help this devastated family, but I was also moved to send them some gifts. There is always someone in need who you can bless.)

In the midst of all this, I have my own troubles, but to help others lifts the burden of my problems.  I firmly believe that reaching out and helping others is one of the best ways to help yourself.  Everyone benefits.  There is nothing lost, for, you see, love has no end.  It’s funny how the more love you give, the more love grows.  The more love you receive.

So, I did my little part in paying it forward.  I had no expectation of getting anything in return from those I helped, so you can imagine how moved I was to be on the receiving end of the generosity of others who felt they wished to help my family.  I never asked for it, nor expected it.

A Christmas card arrived from my church a couple of weeks ago with a hundred dollars in gift cards to a grocery store!  The card was simply signed “From your friends at church.”  I have recently expressed my heartache to some friends at church about the struggles my autistic son and my family are going through, so I can only guess that someone did this kind deed because of that.  I cannot be sure.

As if that weren’t enough, on Christmas Eve, my husband and I dressed to play Mary and Joseph and were waiting in a classroom for our entrance into the sanctuary when a friend approached me and handed me an envelope.  “It’s not really a Christmas gift,” she said, “but a couple of us from our ChristCare group (a Bible study group of sorts) wanted to help you out.”  I smiled, thanked her, and tucked the envelope in my purse.  Hours later, after the service was over, the kids were in bed, and the presents were under the tree, I opened the envelope to find three hundred dollars inside and a note that said, “For your son’s therapies.”  Tears streamed down my face for the second time this Christmas season because of the kindness of others.

So, as another year winds down, I am thankful.  It started around Thanksgiving with the extra intention of choosing kindness.  As Christmas came upon us, I made the extra effort to pay it forward in terms of generosity, just one form of kindness.  And it certainly came back around to touch me.  

If you don’t believe that what goes around comes around, maybe you’ll think my story is just that–a nice little story.  To me and many others, it’s more.  Much more.  May we all go into the New Year with a sense of wanting to reach outside ourselves, and you’ll see.  It will come back to you.

Merry Christmas!

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday, including book reviews, which will resume in January 2018!

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $3.99 here.

 

 

 

 

Choose Kindness

For the first hour of any given day, my mind is not awake.  My wish to ease into the day, to be up before my kids and get dressed and have breakfast alone, is ungranted.  It’s almost laughable.  In the midst of hurrying and scurrying to get three kids and myself dressed and fed in a little over an hour before the school bus comes, I usually grumble at the slightest provocation.  As a mother, I feel like I go through my days with a sense of irritation just below the surface.

As the day goes on, I silently lose my patience at the slow driver in front of me or for getting too many red lights.  I’m going to be late again.  Of course, someone needing to use the bathroom right as we’re stepping out of the house or me frantically searching for my keys or phone as, again, we need to leave, doesn’t help.

I look at my shirt that says “Kindness Is Always in Style.”  How easy is it to wear it on clothing, but how do I wear my kindness toward others?  Kindness isn’t something we just put up to look good and then cast off at the end of the day and put in the laundry (or cast off whenever it’s inconvenient for us).  At least it shouldn’t be.  Kindness is more that something we parade around and show off to the world.

It should be easy to be kind, right?  Holding the door, saying hi, please, and thank you, and offering a smile to a stranger might be the only light in someone’s otherwise bleak day.  It’s true that you never know how you might affect someone else.  You could very well be their sunshine, if only for a moment.

If I’m being completely honest, however, I believe that it’s easier to be kind toward a stranger than those closest to me.  Then there are those days when I walk right past people and stare at the floor, wishing I was the only person I could be around.  Heck, I even make myself miserable on those days!

When I was younger, if I felt someone had wronged me, I wanted vindication.  I wanted to be right and to make sure they knew it.  I’ll never forget a big turning point for me in regards to this way of thinking.  When I was 29, I was in attendance at a lecture at the natural history museum in Cleveland, and the presenter was basically trying to prove that there was no God.  I remember thinking, “What does this have to do with science?”  As I listened to him, I silently fumed.  When question time came, no one in the audience seemed to be bothered like I was by the presenter’s topic.  I muttered to my husband and father-in-law, “I’m waiting for someone to knock him down a peg or two.”

Then realization hit me like a ton of bricks upside the head.  I was knocked down a peg or two!  I realized that I was more concerned with being right than being kind or having a concern for this man.  Regardless of his beliefs, they were his.  He wasn’t being disrespectful in how he presented them, so what was my problem?  My problem was that what he was professing didn’t agree with what I believed to be true.

So, I understand now that there’s a thin line between genuine concern for another and wanting to be right.  It’s not a kindness at all if my falsely-laced concern is just me looking for gossip or a reason to feel better about myself.

noactofkindness

Another lesson I’ll never forget is a sermon our previous pastor gave on kindness, probably four or five years ago.  He repeated the phrase “Never underestimate the value of kindness” three times, shortly and deliberately at the end of his talk.  Those words have stuck with me and molded themselves onto my heart like a brand.

There’s a definite shortage of kindness in the world.  Whenever we come into this time of year of holidays, most of us gather with family and friends, over-indulge in food, alcohol, and presents, having spent too much money and exhausted ourselves in every way possible by the New Year.  As a mother, I try to teach my kids the value of kindness by thinking about those who don’t have much and what giving means: that it’s more important to give than to receive, with no expectation of anything in return.  When the TV, radio, and the Internet are abuzz with ads for every type of must-have toy or that year’s latest tech, it’s really hard to drill that lesson into the mind of a young person…or even an older person.

A small group I’m in at church that’s been meeting every Monday afternoon for nearly six years to do various book studies that relate to the Christian faith has been doing a study on Advent.  It’s made me think about what I can do in small way to live out my faith better and in a more like-manner of Jesus.  Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit.  I can make an effort to be kinder.

But it’s not usually my first inclination to act in kindness when I feel slighted.  This is the true test of a person’s patience.  I was part of a Sunday morning group that met regularly at church for some time.  There was a single guy in his thirties who joined us, but after a few times, he wrote an email to the group, in which he said he was moving away and wanted to find a different group, one with people who had problems.  He was looking to work with people who suffered.  I got the jist of what he meant – people who suffered outwardly, who lacked resources or money.  He didn’t feel right in our vanilla suburban setting.

I was offended by what he said, for I thought, “Just because we aren’t suffering financially doesn’t mean we don’t have problems.”  Many people suffer silently.  While I could have gone off about such a thing, I held back.  I knew better than to come at him with claws out.  Hadn’t he spent several weeks in Sunday school with the same group as me?  So, I held my tongue and wrote an email, explaining that I was sorry to hear he was leaving, but that I understood.  I gently pointed out that I suffer inwardly a lot because my oldest son has autism.  I explained that just because a problem isn’t noticeable, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.  He wrote back, apologizing for the way he’d worded things, saying that it hadn’t been his intent to offend.  He got what I was saying and agreed, even opening up about his background some.  Because he had once been down and out and had been helped by others who had the means, he now felt the desire to pay it forward.  We split ways, mutually in understanding.  That was the result of choosing kindness.

With these examples in mind, I hope I can remember to choose kindness this Advent and beyond.  I hope you’ll join me.


Like what you’ve read?  Want to read more?  Consider downloading the e-book or ordering a paper copy of my original book, Hannah’s Rainbow, available on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

With Cyber Monday tomorrow, I’m putting my book on discount.  You can download the e-book for only $0.99 (original price $2.99) all week!  Looking for a Christmas gift for a lover of books?  Why not consider ordering a paperback copy of my book for them?


Please note: This blog will be updated monthly on the 27th.

Blessings in Disguise – What Raising a Child with Autism Has Taught Me

 

“’Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise”

These words speak to me.  They aren’t mine, but they are powerful.  If you aren’t familiar with Laura Story’s song, “Blessings,” I encourage you to check it out.  It’s a beautiful testimony to how God can bring good out of tragedy in life.

I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago called You Don’t Know What Goes on Behind Closed Doors – Raising a Child with Autism.  If you haven’t yet read that post, I suggest you do so, as this post is a follow up from that one.

By now, you know I’m a mom of a son who has autism.  If you’re also a special needs parent, you know the extra challenges involved.  There are things that parents of typically-developing children don’t have to think about often, like extra therapies, taking longer with homework, struggling to dress your child, dealing with meltdowns, and trying to figure out what they want when their communication is limited.

Having other parents who understand the struggles I face has been vital to my journey as a special needs parent.  I’ve been a part of a support group for the past four years, and about three years ago, at one of our meetings, talk of faith and God came up.  While this is a secular group at meets in a library, faith plays in important part in many of these parents’ journeys.

faith

Questions arise: Did God really think I could handle this?  Why does my child have to suffer from _____?  Will my child ever get better?  Where is God in all this?

It felt like God was prodding me to lead a study on this topic.  I found a great resource called Unlocking the Treasure – A Bible Study for Moms Entrusted with Special-Needs Children, by Bev Roozebloom.  It was almost too easy how everything fell into place.  I talked to the right people at my church and secured a meeting room and time.  I got a group of about ten women to sign up and meet every other week for six sessions.  The resource was easy to find, and everyone agreed that it was perfect for our needs as a group.

That Bible study was very meaningful for those women and for me as the facilitator.  Every so often, I run into one of the moms who participated, and she shares with me that she still remembers it and how much it helped her.

Many of us have heard the phrase “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”   This simply isn’t true.  There are times when we are overwhelmed and cannot possibly handle everything on our plates.  That’s when we need others.  God works through others to carry us through hard times.  So, where is God in the day-to-day challenges of raising a special needs child?  Right here, working through other people who are blessings in our lives.  If we feel alone, that’s simply not true.  There are others out there who understand and who can and want to help.

While there are no easy answers for why some children suffer from certain disabilities, I do believe that God works through them to bring good from the bad.  If my son didn’t have autism, I don’t think I would have the awareness I do about all the people out there who struggle because of developmental delays and such.  I do not think I would be as open-minded, patient, or compassionate of a person toward others, in general, who may have any sort of disability, especially the “invisible” ones.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

I love this quote because it speaks to the essence that we’re all different.  We all have different abilities and talents, so let’s remember that just because someone has autism or some other sort of special need, that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as important and worthy of love as anyone.

To learn to be a better person by being more accepting and loving is a blessing, so at the end of the day, I can find some peace.  I can see that elusive silver-lining in the storm clouds that sometimes fly in during the journey of being a special needs parent.

I encourage you to find those blessings, too.  They are there.

Like what you’ve read?  Want to read more of my stuff?  Please follow this blog!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

You Don’t Know What Goes on Behind Closed Doors – Raising a Child with Autism

Many of you won’t know what it’s like, but there are many of you out there who understand what it entails to raise a child with autism or any sort of special need.  For me, it’s the most challenging part of my life that I face every day.  My oldest son just turned seven years old, and he was diagnosed with moderate-severe autism just before the age of three.

The first thing we noticed was a speech delay.  By age two, he was hardly speaking, but he was a happy kid.  We started speech therapy and got him in Help Me Grow.  From there, he began preschool in the public school system in a 50:50 peer model:special needs program.  He was on an IEP and was receiving services at school: speech, occupational, and physical therapy.  We were also taking him to private therapies.

We tried one year of preschool at an ABA-based (applied behavioral analysis) school, but it wasn’t the right fit for him.  Unfortunately, that was when we started seeing a big decline in his learning.  He was actually regressing.  Things he’d known for the last couple of years, like his ABCs and numbers, were no longer of interest to him, or he simply lost the ability to recognize them.

We returned to the public school system for kindergarten and had a much better experience.  He’s in the intensive needs classroom with just a few other boys, a teacher, and two aides.  In first grade, he continues to be in the same setting, luckily with the same teacher and aides.

But these are all facts.  Facts are easy to share.  What’s hard is the emotional journey that we travel as a family every day, knowing that this is lifelong.  This isn’t something that will just go away like a cold or the flu.

luke_toothless_smileThere are a few well-meaning people who tell me, “You never know, he might grow out of it.”  While this may be possible, as there are cases where autistic children suddenly make huge progress at later ages, the hard truth is that most don’t.  I’m not being a pessimist here, but rather a realist.

If I’m being frank, progress hasn’t been what I had hoped for when we first began this journey, but I’ve learned to celebrate every tiny victory.  My son loves swimming, for example, and he has shown remarkable improvement in lessons lately.  He has begun to swim on his own, which is huge.

But there is the admission that every parent is afraid to make to themselves: their child isn’t progressing like their peers.  It’s hard, really hard, to see your child struggling where other children seem to have it so easy.  When the child’s younger siblings bypass them in speaking, writing, drawing, reading, and so on, the gap continues to widen as time passes.

There are days when we barely seem to be keeping our heads above the water.  Usually autistic children have other diagnoses, and such is the case for my son.  Earlier this year, it was confirmed that he also has ADHD.  So, he has sensory meltdowns caused by autism and hyperactivity as well.  Trying to find a medication to help with the ADHD hasn’t been easy, for the side effects are often unpredictable in autistic kids.  He’s had more meltdowns when on stimulants, making the lessening of the hyperactivity not worth it.  So, here’s the question: Do I want to deal with a kid who does impulsive things, like unrolling a whole roll of paper towels or opening a jar of applesauce and spreading it all over the floor, or do I want to manage a kid who is melting down every fifteen minutes and trying to find a way to make him calm?

To others on the outside, I may seem to “have it all together.”  Whatever that means.  Let me assure you that this is an illusion.  I don’t know how I manage to keep my house as clean as I do, take care of two other kids, run errands, cook dinner, etc.

There are many days when my patience is at an end and I have just had enough.  I cry in my closet, angry that I can’t be a better mother or frustrated that MY kid has to suffer where others don’t.  I want to rant and rail at God, that it’s just not fair!  Why did You think I could do this?  I feel like the least equipped mother in the world sometimes, especially when I know that punishing an autistic/ADHD child for behaviors that he cannot help is not going to help anyone.

Some people tell me that I let him get away with things I shouldn’t.  Some tell me that he knows better, that he’s testing me.  There are times I believe this, and while there are cases when this thinking can be correct, it often isn’t.  Trying to discern when it is and when it’s not correct isn’t always easy.

For example, let me be clear that a sensory-induced meltdown is not a tantrum.  They may both result in the child crying, screaming, kicking, and flailing around on the floor, but a tantrum is the result of a kid not getting something they want.  A meltdown is caused by sensory-overload (like loud noises, bright lights, uncomfortable fabric, certain food textures, odd smells, etc.), and it may be that we don’t even know the cause!  We’ve all put on a scratchy sweater that we just had to take off.  We’ve all felt our heads spin from being too tired when walking around in an over-crowded store.  Imagine feeling overwhelmed ALL THE TIME.  This is an autistic person’s reality.  Then imagine someone punishing you for freaking out over feeling overwhelmed.

What I can tell you is that in the midst of wondering what good can come from of this, I have found that I am a more compassionate person, a more aware person, because my child has autism.  I understand that everyone deals with something at some time during their lives, whether it be depression or loss of the ability to walk.  Everyone is fighting some sort of battle, and it’s often behind closed doors.  Start talking to anyone, and you soon discover that person has a loved one who’s dying from cancer, that they’re in financial ruin, that they’re going through a messy divorce, or that their grown child has just been drafted overseas.

I also have come to believe that having a support system is crucial to going on this journey.  There are the teachers and therapists who work with my son who have been a godsend, but there are also people in my life who help me get through every day.  It’s often other special needs parents who “get it.”  Sometimes, we just want to commiserate with someone who understands.  We’re not looking for advice or the latest research article on special diets, genes that have just been discovered, or on whether or not to vaccinate.  We’re not looking for someone to come along and give us all the answers.  We just want to say “This sucks right now.”  We need to cry or rant or just be in silence.  I had another mom agree with me once and say “This is our reality, cleaning up poop.”  Yes, that was true, and it was reassuring to hear it from someone who understood.

And sometimes we need to remember to be thankful.  There are victories.  The small things DO matter.  At the end of the day, this child is still mine, and I love him.  No diagnosis can change that.

Like what you’ve read?  Want to read more of my stuff?  Please follow this blog!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

My Wonky Writing Procedure… Or Lack Thereof

After a week off, we now resume our regular programming…

How many of you remember the dreaded research papers you had to write in high school?  Raise your hand.  Better off, don’t raise your hand.  That’s too reminiscent of being back in school.  But anyway, I’ll tell you this: if I never have to write another research paper in my life, I won’t complain.

What I hated the most about the process was how formal and rigid it was.  When I was in school, the Internet was still pretty new, so we, the unfortunate victims, spent hours in libraries using dusty reference books that served better as paper weights and taking notes from pages with tiny print.  We had to write on 3×5 notecards in pencil.  We needed to come up with an outline, and this was to be done the proper way with the numbers, letters, Roman numerals, and I don’t even know what.  The rough draft was written in pencil, and yes, written by hand.  The final draft was then typed up.  I used my mom’s electric typewriter, as we didn’t have a computer with that now-antique Windows 95 on it.

At the end of it all, we turned the bulk of it in.  Of course, along the way, there were deadlines for each step of the process.  It was like pulling an absessed tooth.writing

Not only was there a process, but the whole thing was laid out in a certain way, the quotes cited correctly, and the works cited at the end.  Who remembers when this was called a bibliography?  It was never okay to use “I” when writing a formal paper.

Much of this process has faded into the past like the Grunge look and slap bracelets, being twenty years ago for me, but I still cringe when I think about writing research papers.  When it comes to creative writing, I am of the mindset that while there should be some guidelines for how to write a book, it makes about as much sense to force people to all follow the same rules as it does for everyone to wear the same size shoes.  We have different sized feet.  We have different methods that work for us when we write.

There are many writers who sit down and plan out (outline in depth) their novels before they even take up the pen…or, more likely, tap away at the keyboard.  They write up every character in excruciating detail.  They cannot write until they know every scene in that novel.

For me, this process would be hell.  Plain and utter torture.  Talk about tooth-pulling again.

I always know my beginning and my ending.  I do draft a basic outline and character profiles, but I am not afraid to waver from the path.  It’s fun and exciting to me to see how I will get to my destination.  My characters usually seem to direct a large portion of the story for me, so forcing them into a mould that doesn’t fit them is just plain idiotic.

I often have scenes play out in my head of a dialogue exchange between two characters.  When I start writing a scene like this, I just write.  The conversation between character A and character B flows naturally, as if I were listening to real chitchat.

For me, to just sit down and start writing is how I operate.  I may not write the story in order, but it comes together in the end.  The way I figure, the first draft is going to go through many edits before it’s published, anyway.  Getting the story down is my first priority, and then I go back and clean it up a lot.  With the help of others, the finished product is ready.

I’ve had enough experience over the years to know that my ability to tell a story is good.  My writing is far from perfect, but by doing it a little every day (even if it’s just for ten minutes), I stick to my goals.  Because writing is so important to me, I use a few minutes here or there to compose a half a page or even just a couple of lines.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re new to writing, don’t be discouraged, feeling that you must follow some sort of formula, set of rules, or incant some magic words.  Many other writers and authors I’ve spoken with operate in the same zany manner that I do.  I don’t know if we’re in the majority, but we do what we do because we love it, not because we wish to suffer writing another research paper.

Like what you’ve read?  Want to read more of my stuff?  Please follow this blog!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

The Value of Fan Fiction

My story has over a million reads and over six thousand reviews.  Wow.  Impressive, right?

 

Notice that I said “story” and not “book.”

 

That’s because what I’m referring to here isn’t an original story written by me that’s been published as a book.  Rather, what I’m talking about is a work of fan fiction.  Yes, I wrote this novel-length fan fic that I’ve been kind of bragging about, but the characters and the world aren’t mine.  They belong to the imaginative, wonderful J.K. Rowling.

 

I’ve dabbled and dove deep into the world of fan fiction on and off for twenty years.  I started writing it back in 1995 at the age of 15, before sites like fanfiction.net even existed and when the internet was still very much in its infancy.  My parents didn’t even have a computer, so I was basically writing the stuff for myself, re-imagining ways that the characters I loved would behave in different scenarios than had happened in their canon world.  For me at age 15, this was Disney’s Aladdin.

 

Before I continue, for the uninformed, which I don’t think is many, fan fiction is writing fiction using someone else’s characters.  The possibilities are endless.  You may choose to write them in a different world or do a crossover with characters from another universe (meaning story/movie/book).  You may have two characters fall in love who never did so in canon.  There are really no rules for fan fiction.

 

Why am I writing about fan fiction now?  Because, for me, it’s been a vital part of my writing history, and I don’t believe I would have gotten where I am today as a writer of original works of fiction without it.

 

Because of fan fiction, I also met many friends online and got to make connections with other writers, even if what they wrote was fan fiction.  Not only did I write my own stories, but I spent hours and hours reading the works of others and leaving my thoughts and even beta-reading for a few people.

 

Writing fan fiction was usually easy for me.  Using someone else’s characters and world they’ve already crafted is, of course, more simple than having to come up with everything from scratch for something original.  I was already in love with these characters, so I felt like I knew them inside and out and loved the endless possibilities that fan fiction posed.

 

I was one of the first to join the fanfiction.net community when it opened its doors in 2001.  To this day, I have an account there under the internet pen name of “Sindie.”  It’s funny the fame that my most popular fic (The Moment It Began) got, because to these readers, I was “Sindie,” a faceless writer of Harry Potter fan fiction.  I never expected anything I wrote to gain that much popularity, but what it did tell me was that I was capable of writing something novel-length that most of my readers would enjoy.

 

For any writer, I think, while we first write for our own pleasure, it’s also a wonderful thing to be able to share our stories with others.  Just knowing that there are people out there who read something by me and that they actually liked it is all the more rewarding and compels me to write further.

 

writingWhile I’ll be forever thankful for my history in fan fiction, I must admit that it held me back from writing original fiction for a long time.  The very thought of writing something original was downright daunting for many years, despite I first had the idea for what would become my first original story back in 2006.  In March 2015, I finally began to seriously work on my story instead of writing fan fiction.  Now, I wouldn’t turn back.  I’ve self-published it on Amazon after a year and a half of writing, editing, sharing it with friends, and editing more.  I’m now working on two more original stories.

 

All this got me to thinking: Do other authors and writers create fan fiction or did they write it at one time?  Did they find value in it?  Did they think it helped them become better writers?  So I asked.

 

The vast majority of them said they love fan fiction and have written it.  They agreed with me that there is value in it for many reasons: improving their own writing, practice at coming up with original ideas (even if those involved someone else’s characters), making connections, getting useful feedback, and bolstering their confidence as writers.  And it’s just plain fun.

 

A few said they’d never written fan fiction, but they had read it and could see how writing it could be beneficial for the reasons listed above.

 

There was a small group who thought it a waste of time to dedicate so much to using other people’s characters, but this was a very small group.

 

There is a general consensus that some fan fiction is just downright awful, but the same could be said of original stories, too.

 

Overall, it would seem that many writers are of a mindset like mine when it comes to fan fiction.  That’s good to know, for it validates what I already believed: that fan fiction adds value to our experiences as writers in a number of ways, the best of which is probably the practice it gives us by just doing what we love.  Write.

Like what you’ve read?  Want to read more of my stuff?  Please follow this blog!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only 99 cents on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

#writing #fanfiction