Randomness

The time I almost quit

We give a lot of glory to the big milestones in this business. Finishing a draft, getting an agent, going on sub, announcing a book deal. The smaller wins get love too– things like writing each day, starting a new book on craft, or meeting a reading goal are celebrated. But sometimes what we fail to talk about as a community are those moments when we come close to giving up. The gritty underbelly of all of the good things tends to get glazed over with a pretty dollop of success. When you do see somebody’s good news, you rarely think about what happened for that person to get to that point. You don’t see the near-misses or the almosts, the messy drafts that go nowhere or the tears. I share a lot of my own good news on social media– book deal announcements, photos of my neat and organized writing space, snippets from what I’m working on. But today, I felt compelled to talk about the side I don’t show as often. My own gritty underbelly, in the form of the day I almost quit writing entirely.

Shelved, but not forgotten.

It was spring of 2013. I was getting married in less than a month, so needless to say, my life was incredibly busy with wedding preparation. I had been querying a New Adult manuscript since December with some interest and several requests, but no offers. I was totally convinced that it was only a matter of finding the right agent for my project. And one day, I got an email regarding one of the full requests. They wanted to set up a time to talk to me about my book. On the phone. It was THE call, I was sure of it! Much flailing ensued. This was my moment, after six months of querying. Everything was coming together for me.

But the phone call wasn’t an offer. It was an R&R, which I pretended not to be disappointed about. I tried not to get my hopes up, and I diligently set about making the changes that the agency wanted to see. I pored over my manuscript, certain that I was making it so much better. I could practically envision the book deal announcement. When it was ready, I sent it back and kept my fingers crossed for good news.

But it wasn’t good news. There was an email passing on the project less than a week later, on a Friday night when I was binging on Shark Tank in my pajamas. I’d like to say I took the news well, but I remember crying in my apartment. I had an opportunity and I fell short. What if another opportunity never came? I wasn’t good enough. My manuscript wasn’t good enough. Every single doubt I had ever cast on myself bloomed around me, sucking me into a dark cloud. I didn’t even want to look at my computer, and suddenly the dream of being a published writer was ridiculous and unfathomable. I was glad only a few people in my life knew that it was my goal to become a published author, because it was less embarrassing to only fail in front of my immediate family. With that one rejection– one person’s opinion– I convinced myself that I should just give up entirely.

And I did give up. For one week, two weeks, three weeks, a month. I didn’t open a Word doc or create anything new. I focused on all of the other good things in my life. My wedding. My mini-moon. My friends and family. My dog. Summer weather and patio season and long walks and barbeques. I think I needed that break, needed to let myself be upset over something that really hurt. I needed to let myself feel the sting instead of glossing over it the way I usually did. I needed that time away from writing.

I told myself that life was easier without the rejection and judgment that comes with being a writer, or trying to be. And it was easier. But it wasn’t me. I was happy, but I wasn’t creatively fulfilled, and for me, the two are tied together in a knot that can’t really come undone.

Picking myself up and trying again was not easy to do. But I did it, slowly at first. I sent more queries, knowing that they might end the same way, with rejection. But I also knew if I didn’t send them, my book would never see the light of day. I became more active on Twitter, despite my shyness, and I started entering contests. I worked on a different New Adult manuscript and let myself believe that it was my best work yet. I truly believe that the art of creating that book might have saved me from quitting entirely. (This is part of the reason why I believe always working on the next thing is so important!)

That new manuscript? I didn’t query it very widely before a new idea lodged itself in my head and wouldn’t leave. That book was Firsts, and I wrote it over a furious and magical three-week period. Then I heard about a contest called Pitch Wars, and my life was forever changed.

Not finding an agent with that second book really didn’t sting at all. It was a totally different experience then the first time around. All of my expectations weren’t hinged on one manuscript. I was so excited about Firsts and getting into YA writing that I felt a sense of possibility, like anything could happen. And a couple months after Pitch wars ended, my dream of getting an agent did happen, and then I dared to think even bigger and let myself believe the book would sell. After it did, I dared to believe I could keep selling books. And I have.

The truth is, my dreams didn’t change from when I wrote that first book. But my expectations did. I went from feeling like I would fail if a book didn’t get me an agent or published to being okay with any given book not being the one. Because I can always write more. The words won’t dry up if I write too many. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The more I write, the more efficient I get, and the less I get attached to any one darling. My advice? Get comfortable with whatever you’re working on not being “the one.” Don’t consider any writing you do a waste of time, because it never is. And let yourself mourn the losses. Admit that it sucks to be rejected. When you’re done grieving, I promise you’ll come out on the other side stronger than ever.

My first two books are currently trunked, but they were some of the best use of my time. Maybe I’ll go back to them someday. Maybe not. But they’re the foundation upon which everything else was built, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

Finding yourself without a map

Sometimes memories strike at random. Maybe it’s a smell or a taste or an article of clothing or a photo that Facebook shares with you that morning. And sometimes, memories are brought on by thinking about where you were, and who you were, ____ years ago.

Graduation night from Journalism school, thinking I had life figured out.

I was recently thinking about a time in my life that was almost 10 years ago exactly. I was waitressing full time, bobbing from one social event to the next, changing my hairstyle as often as I changed my clothes, and feeling like I was getting deeper and deeper in a meaningless rut. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do with my life, and I knew I needed to change.

Enter the idea of Journalism school. There was something about going back to school that signified a fresh start in a sharper and more concise way than almost anything else I could think of. School meant direction and purpose. School meant action. So I applied, was accepted, and as the summer drew to a close, I moved out of my apartment and started packing my life into boxes (and into a U-Haul, which would promptly go to my new apartment, in a different city nearly two hours away).

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from Journalism school. Maybe I was looking for the metaphorical flashing sign, some inner voice telling me that I had found my calling. I think part of me expected that since I had made such a big change in my life, the universe would go the rest of the way and let me know that what I was doing was the right path for me. But that’s not what I got. What I got was the bone deep knowledge that I was not doing what I wanted to do with my life, big change or not. I had simply veered from one lifestyle that wasn’t right for me in another wrong direction.

I wanted to quit. I recall a tearful conversation with my mom wherein I entertained the idea of dropping out because I knew the program wasn’t for me. But that didn’t feel right either. I wasn’t a quitter. I didn’t want to be one of those people who only ever saw how green the grass was on the other side.

So I stuck it out. And I actually grew to like it, at least some of the courses I took and things I learned. I convinced myself that I liked it enough to move to Toronto and take an unpaid internship that would hopefully lead to a job. Even though I knew my heart was somewhere else, I felt a sense of satisfaction at having chosen a life path. I felt like an adult for maybe the first time ever.

Fast forward a few months after school ended. I was living in Toronto, doing two different internships. My life had routine and a purpose. I should have felt good about that, but the truth was, I felt more lost than ever. What if I continued along this path and never found out what I wanted to do? Or what if I already knew, but lacked the guts to admit it to myself? 

Then a recession happened with the economy. Entire departments were cut and my internships did not lead to jobs. If I believed in signs, the universe might as well have lit that one in flashing fluorescent bulbs. I made the decision to move back home, and back in with my parents. I felt like I had failed. At that point, although I never would have said it out loud, I knew that writing books was what I wanted to do with my life, but I had no idea how to go about it. So what did I do instead? I signed up for more school, this time an honours specialization in English literature. I convinced myself that throwing myself back into academia would lead to the answer I was looking for.

It took me a couple more years to figure out that my checkerboard lifestyle actually followed a very decisive pattern. I was excellent at looking for distractions and finding reasons to convince myself why I would fail at writing before I could even get a word on the page. I was excellent at talking myself into things I wasn’t passionate about and talking myself out of my dreams. 

To be honest, I’m not sure what changed this. I’m not sure what made me finally open a Word document and start typing. I’m not sure what made me stick with it when I felt like a total hack and when I was sure nothing would actually come of it. There wasn’t one specific moment in time that made me realize I needed to write. There was no bell in my head, no glaring sign from the universe. I think it was the thousand small moments that finally built walls around me and ensconced me in my truth.

It has now been almost five years since I finished that first novel, which is now rightfully trunked. It’s now several hundreds of thousands of words later, some of which are published or will be published, and some of which will only ever be seen by me. But they all mean something to me. They mean I sat down and wrote that day. They mean I had guts. They mean I didn’t let my fear of failure stop me from being the person I want to be.

I still struggle with the fear of failure. I still get intimidated when I open a new Word document. But the difference is, I hold myself accountable. I don’t let fear stop me. If I could go back in time and give the version of me clinging to the idea of Journalism school a piece of advice, it would be to spend less time looking for signs and more time listening to my own instincts. I would tell that girl that she would never regret a single day spent with her butt in the chair and characters in her head. I would tell her that it doesn’t matter what other people think. I would tell her not to talk herself out of her dreams.

Last of all, I would give her a big hug and tell her to be kind to herself, because finding yourself sometimes requires a map that doesn’t exist.

On being a girl’s mom

Baby’s first photo shoot! Photo credit to the talented Shirley Konu of SVH Designs!

Hi everyone! I’m taking a brief hiatus from my monthly update posts for a reason tiny in size but monumental in importance… the birth of my beautiful daughter, Astrid Doreen Lucille Flynn! She was born at 2:00 am on May 26, and the days since have been a total whirlwind. Everyone says time goes by crazy fast when you have a child, and I’m realizing that it’s not just a cliché… it’s very true. Astrid is almost four weeks old now and I have no idea how that happened already!

It’s not usually hard for me to write about anything (generally, it’s the opposite… I have too many words and too many ideas and not enough minutes in the day or space on a page to express them all)! But writing about Astrid and how she has already changed me is difficult to do. I had no idea it was possible to form such an instant, immediate, fierce love and devotion for another person. I had no idea that an adorably gummy little smile would bring tears to my eyes, or that I would wake up in the night just to stare at her and make sure she’s okay, or that rocking her to sleep would be such a feeling of comfort, or that changing a diaper and using less than ten wipes would be a big accomplishment. I had no idea I could function and be productive on so little sleep. (To think I used to need at least eight hours a night… ha!)

While I haven’t been writing much since Astrid arrived, I have been thinking about my writing, and how being the mom of a daughter will influence it. Shortly after Astrid was born and I was holding my baby girl, I realized how much I want to write stories for her, stories with strong female characters she can see herself in. Stories with girls who aren’t perfect, but who are real. Stories with girls who follow their hearts, who are fearless and unafraid of going after their dreams. I want to write stories that will inspire her (when she’s old enough to read them)! And I want to introduce her to books by so many of my talented author friends, who write some seriously authentic and memorable girls. I hope that books are a part of her life, the way they have been such a huge part of mine and helped me discover things about myself. I hope they make her realize there is no dream too big for her.

I’m an unapologetically girly girl. I have a closet devoted solely to dresses and skirts. I love purses and shoes and makeup and spa days, the color pink, girls’ nights spent drinking blush wine and watching Say Yes To The Dress. My lipstick collection is out of control. My Chihuahua owns several dresses that I make her wear. But I have another side. I’m also a daredevil. I also love hiking and being outside and if there’s a body of water to jump into, chances are I’ll be on the highest ledge, ready to dive in. If there’s a new trail to explore, I’m on it. I’ll try almost anything once. Girls don’t have to be one way or the other. Girls can do and be everything. I’m the mom of a girl who is now my everything. I want to show my everything that she can do and be anything. I can start by continuing to live my own dreams and set my own big goals, by not being afraid of that intimidating book idea or venturing outside of my comfort zone. I can live by example, as a strong woman who takes risks, so that she looks up to me.

And I can only hope that in the meantime, when she looks up at me, she keeps giving me those magnificent gummy smiles.

March, briefly

My curious little helper!

Well, it’s official… March has come and gone. I’m grateful that I have quite a bit of new writing to show for it (not to mention, a bigger baby bump)! All in all, it was a busy, productive month, and exciting things are happening that I hope to be able to share with you all very soon!

This month, I have been…

Working on: I had a creepy new idea for a YA thriller, so I started writing it, and a week later, had almost 50 pages. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here! (I think the key to my progress was writing at coffee shops a couple times instead of just at home, where I tend to get distracted very easily.) In the latter part of the month, I went back to revising last year’s NaNo book (also a YA thriller), and I’m still trying to untangle it and figure out what it’s really about. I have a feeling that revising in this case will involve a lot of rewriting, but that’s okay… the framework of the story is somewhat there, and I’m figuring the intricacies out as I go. It just feels great to have words flowing again after being in somewhat of a rut earlier this year, and I hope this momentum continues until baby gets here!

Reading: I read a seriously fantastic book that I’m still thinking about– Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Very quickly, I became pretty much obsessed with it. The writing, the intricate storyline and structure, the incredibly realistic characters… I was left with a book hangover for several days after I turned the last page. It’s gorgeous and evocative and so, so compelling, and I recommend it to everyone looking for a read that will really suck them in.

I also finished Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter, which is chilling and disturbing and twisty and compulsively readable. This was actually my first Karin Slaughter book, and I’ll definitely be looking into more of her thrillers going forward!

Watching: I owe a big thank you to the Lyon family of Empire for keeping me company when I had a horrific bout of the stomach flu early in the month. I was pretty much prone on the couch with crackers and Gatorade for a couple of days, and those Lyons kept me entertained! I’m on the third season now, and I seriously adore this show. If there’s a better screen couple than Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, I don’t know about it. My husband and I also watched the second season of Love on Netflix, which is such a quirky, funny show. (Gus is so adorably awkward!)

Now that April is just about here, I hope to finally be able to ditch my winter coat and boots for good! But in Canada, you never know…

My new writing space

With the new addition to our family due at the end of May, some shifting around had to happen in our house to make room for a nursery. Luckily, our basement renovation had just been finished, so my husband moved his office downstairs, and I took over his old office location, which is right next door to the nursery. When baby sleeps, I will try to write! (Or something like that…)

I was excited to have a new office to decorate, but struggled a bit initially with the layout of the room. It’s longer and more rectangular than my old office, which was more of a square, and I didn’t want it to feel narrow. Thanks to my husband, who is a genius at furniture layout, I was able to make the most of the space, and I’m really happy with the end result! The walls are painted a blue-gray color that I love (it’s actually the same shade we chose for the nursery), and I have a better desk and new computer monitor, along with my beloved desk chair and bookshelf.

 

One mission I had before moving into my new office was purge some things I wasn’t using anymore. Decluttering is one of the greatest feelings– there’s something incredibly satisfying about admitting you’re not using/wearing/reading something and donating it to a local charity instead. So that’s exactly what I did. It took a lot longer than I thought it would (this is a common theme with projects I take on…), but I was determined to have a fresh start in my new space without any clutter bogging me down. Some was thrown out, a lot was donated, and I repurposed some things I completely forgot I even had. I organized all my swag items and mailing materials, and found a spot for my massive collection of notebooks. There’s a saying about how a cluttered workspace = a cluttered mind, and I think there’s some truth to that, at least for me. As a person who errs on the scatterbrained side (especially with baby brain, which I swear, is a real thing), I can use all the zen vibes a space can give me!

 

My plan for the wall over my desk is to have all my future book covers turned into plaques and hung up. Firsts is, obviously, the first one, and when I’m slogging through a draft that I feel is going nowhere, I can look up at it and remember that I do know how to write books after all.

Now that my office is finished, I’m excited to get back to my writing routine and spend some quality time there before baby arrives!

My rock-bottom moment

2008 Laurie being generally ridiculous.

2008 Laurie being generally ridiculous.

The year was 2008, and I had just graduated with a postgraduate diploma in Journalism. I was living in Toronto, modeling part-time, renting a box of an apartment with my faithful little Chihuahua, trying to break into the news media industry. Some of my friends who had graduated with me already had internships, and some had actual jobs. Unfortunately, it was also a time in the economy when jobs were being slashed, so my internship had ended. I was struggling to fill my days, scouring the Internet for job postings and sending my resume to any job I thought might be a decent fit. I wasn’t expecting perfection. I just wanted to pay my rent and hopefully make some connections so that I’d be on my way to a job I liked.

Then one day, I got an invitation to interview for a local news station. After days and weeks of silence on the job front, I was grateful for the opportunity. But the morning of the interview, I felt completely discombobulated. I remember that it was a freezing cold morning and no matter what outfit I tried on, nothing felt right. I didn’t feel right. I felt more like a kid playing dress-up, like I was pretending to be someone else. I shook it off, chalking it up to nerves, and took the subway to my interview. I shook hands and smiled, and things got started.

It was terrible. Worse than terrible, actually. It was like one of those nightmare where you have a huge test you forgot to study for and wake up in a cold sweat, except the nightmare was actually happening to me. I was asked questions I didn’t know how to answer about politics and news stories and events I hadn’t even heard of. I was quizzed, using photos of political figures I couldn’t identify. I was massively unprepared and the interviewer knew it. I felt humiliated and stupid. At one point during the interview, I was asked, “do you even watch this news channel?”

Honestly, the answer was no.

After an awkward good-bye (“don’t call us, we’ll call you!”), I stumbled back onto the snowy Toronto streets, called my mom, and promptly burst into tears.

It wasn’t that I didn’t get the job. It was that in that moment, I admitted to myself that I never wanted the job. I knew in that moment that I didn’t want to work in Journalism at all. It wasn’t for me. My heart was in fiction, in the stories constantly churning in my head, in the characters who whispered to me and prodded the inside of my brain. I was just too afraid to say out loud that I wanted to be a writer, that it had always been my dream, that it was what I knew I was supposed to be doing.

It took me another few years before I started writing on a regular basis, before I took it seriously and made it a priority. But I’ll never forget that day in Toronto when I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I was so miserable and depressed and certain that I’d made a giant mess of my life. But looking back, I’m glad I looked like an idiot in that interview. I’m glad I failed. Because if I hadn’t, I might have taken a job I didn’t love and pushed my own stories to the back of my head forever and dismissed them as a silly dream. That failure let me admit something that I might not have otherwise. This isn’t your path. There’s something else you’re meant to do.

Rock bottom hurts. It really, really does. You get up bruised and broken and it’s hard to start climbing out. But rock bottom happens for a reason. Find out that reason, and cling to it, because that reason is what you’re intended for.

Birthdays, milestones, and love

Today, my husband Steve is celebrating a milestone birthday. Firsts is dedicated to him—there was no question in my mind, from the moment I got my book deal, that it would be. To be honest, I had that dedication written in my head before I even had a book deal. I knew exactly what I wanted it to say.

His birthday got me thinking about love, and time, and how lost we writers would be if we weren’t moored by the support of people who adore us despite (or maybe because of) our strange rituals and weird routines and the click-click-click noise our keyboards are constantly making.

My husband and I have been a couple for just over five years. Shortly after we got together, I made the decision to seriously pursue writing. It was a big deal for me, saying that out loud to him. It made the dream more real somehow, gave it weight, instead of the fizzy quality of a dream. Before then, barely anyone besides my parents and sister even knew I was a writer.

I knew getting published was a long shot, but I decided to go for that long shot, and if I ended up falling short, I’d at least know I tried. So I wrote, and researched, and got ready to query. Steve and I had moved in together by the time I sent my first query letter. I was in our first apartment, sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, my heart hammering furiously as I hit “send.”

When I got my first full request, I was home by myself (I might have jumped on said couch, Tom Cruise-style, and squealed). Steve was the first person I called to share the good news with. When the request turned into a rejection, he was the first person I told, and the first person to tell me it was one opinion, that I was talented and capable and just had to persevere. He learned all sorts of terminology that was new to both of us, but becoming more familiar. Query and R&R and Pitch Wars and critique partner and NA and YA and out on sub. He learned them not because he had to, but because he loves me.

More rejections and requests trickled in over the next several months. In the meantime, Steve and I had many more firsts in our relationship. Our first Christmas together. Our first vacation together—Africa, a place we both felt drawn to. We got engaged and married and bought a house.

After a year and a half of querying, I got my first offer of representation. I called Steve from work, overjoyed when a fabulous agent wanted to set up a call with me. He made sure I was home from work in time to take the call and when I came out of my room bouncing up and down like a crazy person, he was ready with a bottle of wine. Later, he left me alone during revisions and dealt with my obsessive email-checking while I was on submission. He is the reason this website exists (I’m honestly the least tech-savvy person ever). When I got the call from my agent letting me know we had an offer from an editor I was incredibly excited to work with, Steve was the first person I told. (And yes, it’s possible to flail with someone through the phone.)

Steve has been with me through so many firsts. This past year was a blur of Firsts, quite literally. He hugged me when I was stressed out or frustrated and celebrated my victories with champagne and pizza. He made me feel like I could do anything. Three months after publication, he still does. And he always will.

So, today I’m celebrating Steve, the love of my life, the person who has stood by me through so many firsts. The person who is my last, my only, my everything. Writers, hug the non-writer people in your life who love you. They’re endlessly amazing. And if you have someone like Steve in your life– well, you’re very lucky indeed.

 

#SixteensBlogAbout: Holidays, or My Scrooge Moment

It’s that time of year again, and the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about the holidays. I wrote a post for Pop! Goes The Reader earlier this month as part of her Authors Talk Holidays feature (you can read it here), wherein I shared how the meaning of Christmas has changed for me over the years. So I thought for this post, I’d share a bit about what it means to me now as an adult.

Namely, how I managed to suck the fun out of it.

This Christmas, I'm channeling this girl's big smile.

This Christmas, I’m channeling this girl’s big smile.

I’ll be the first to admit… when I was a little kid, I LOVED getting presents. I never thought anything could eclipse the sheer joy of ripping into a gift I had stared at, shaken, and obsessed about as soon as it was put under the tree. But as the years went by, that excitement got somewhat diminished. It wasn’t the presents I was looking forward to anymore but simply spending time with the people I care about.

But my December isn’t all about the warm fuzzies. Because the other way Christmas changed for me as an adult is that it stopped being fun and started being stressful. There were gifts to buy and trees to put up and things to cook and parties to attend and when all this combined with working full-time and writing, December became one big ball of stress as snarled and tangled up as the Christmas lights in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Instead of looking forward to the days leading up, I dreaded them. Instead of writing a list to Santa like I did when I was a kid, I was writing to-do lists so I didn’t lose my mind.

I won’t lie… this year, I have really felt the stress. Any time someone mentioned Christmas, my insides clenched up and I had this moment of panic, like it can’t be here already! When I was a kid, I started a countdown sometime in November and wished the days would speed up. Somewhere, that turned into wanting time to stand still or even go backwards.

Then I realized something: I’m making Christmas a chore. I’m making it yet another thing to cross off my list of things to do. Instead of enjoying the moments, I was looking at them as things to get through and check off. I was being exactly what I never wanted to be. A Grinch. A Scrooge. Somebody not fun.

The truth is, this month is insanely busy, this year more than ever. I’m probably juggling more things than I ever have before. This frenetic pace will continue, because FIRSTS comes out exactly ten days after Christmas. (Cue happy-dancing, wine-drinking, and general flailing!) I had to accept a hard truth: I will not manage to ever clear my to-do list this month. And you know what? When I accepted that fact, my anxiety actually decreased significantly. I started being nicer to myself. I have been on this amazing roller coaster that is debuting for months and now the roller coaster is about to hit the highest peak, the part just before your stomach bottoms out with anticipation. I don’t want to stop the ride, nor can I. So what is there left except to enjoy it, throw up my arms, and have the time of my life?

Now, if you need me, I’ll be drinking eggnog, trying to dress up my dog in a Santa costume, and watching Scrooged for the hundredth time. I’ll be squeezing my loved ones and squeezing all the magic I can from this Christmas season. Because there’s plenty of it.

#SixteensBlogAbout: Gratitude

This month, the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about gratitude. Any time is a great time to think of all the things you appreciate, but for me, no time is better than right now. With FIRSTS coming out in less than two months, gratitude is something that has taken on a greater meaning than ever to me. The truth is, it can be hard to get off the roller coaster, to stop and put things in perspective. But it’s also extremely important.

I’m not grateful that winter is coming, but I do love mornings like this.

I’m grateful for so much this year. I’m grateful to be in this position, one I dreamed about for years. I’m about to be a published author. My book will be on actual bookshelves in actual stores and actual people will read it who aren’t just my mom (love you, Mom)! I’m grateful to be working with such a dedicated team of rock-star people who believe in me and this book.

I’m grateful for my fellow debut authors, with whom I’ve grown close. They’re confidantes and friends and some of the most wonderful people I know. I’m grateful for their brilliant minds and generous spirits and listening ears and creative brains and most of all, their huge hearts.

I’m grateful for the whole kidlit community. The authors I admire who have said such wonderful things about FIRSTS. The bloggers who have shown so much love for FIRSTS, who have shared their support with insurmountable enthusiasm and kindness. I’m beyond grateful for this letter, which moved me to tears. (Thank you, Jamie Victoria!)

I’m grateful to my friends and family for putting up with me. For my parents, for always being proud of me and doing so much to make my life easier (thank you for all the leftovers… I swear, I’ll learn to cook one of these years). I’m grateful to have a sister who’s also my best friend and loves wine as much as I do, and a soon-to-be brother-in-law whose positive attitude is infectious. I’m grateful for a certain sister-in-law who may be more excited for FIRSTS to be out than I am (hi, Suzanne!) I’m eternally grateful for my husband, who gives me the space I need to create and loves me no matter how grumpy I am before my morning coffee. (And that’s a high level of grump, folks.) I’m grateful to my dog for sharing her lap space with my computer and making me laugh with her crazy antics.

Yes, I have a lot for which to be grateful. I’m grateful for creating new words and revising old ones. Most of all, I’m grateful for this journey—what has already happened and what’s to come. Because I honestly wouldn’t trade a single misstep, a single bump in the road, for anything.

There’s no crying over spilled words

So, I have a confession to make: On Friday, I cried over a grocery list.

It wasn’t the thought of all the meals I would inevitably burn that brought on the waterworks. It wasn’t the prospect of vegetables going bad in my fridge because I know I’ll reach for the chips instead every single time. It wasn’t even the vision of the crowded grocery store and excessively long checkout line. No, it was just a really random breaking point in a stressful day—one more thing to do on top of my already massive to-do list. I broke down and cried and my husband hugged me and refrained from making a joke about my cooking.

Confidence: The most essential ingredient of all.

Confidence: The most essential ingredient of all.

I’m sure I’m not the only debut author who has been there. As our release dates near, we’re sensitive and emotional, excited and anxious, sometimes moody (ahem, me before my coffee), and busy, busy, busy. Our attention is scattered across social media platforms, we’re writing blog posts, and working on new writing projects in our free moments. We’re reading ARCs like fiends and trying desperately to juggle book stuff with jobs, families, and social lives. We’re doing the best we can.

After the tears dried up, I had a realization: I’m sucking the fun out of it. I’m the one putting pressure on myself. I’m the one telling myself to get things done the second they come in, to immediately tackle every new item that comes up. I’m the one making my to-do list a do-it-now list.

So in the end, that cry was a great thing for me. It was cathartic. My to-do list isn’t pressing against my skull like a bad headache anymore. It’s there, and I’ll get to it when I get to it. In the meantime, I’ll make time for what takes my stress away. Things that aren’t on the list. Fast-drafting new projects. Drinks with friends. Long walks in the woods. Doing the morning crossword. Binging on Netflix with pizza and my own family-sized box of fries from Dominos (seriously, whose family does that feed)?

So yes, sometimes there is crying in writing. And that’s okay. As long as you wipe away those tears after, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that what you’re doing is enough. That you’re enough. That, in fact, you’re pretty freaking awesome.

Now, go get those groceries and make that crockpot meal you’ve been meaning to try. You have time.

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