Stumbling Onwards

I often feel like I’m flailing hopelessly in anything I set out to do. I’m not alone in that feeling.

I’ve resolved to keep my head down and concentrate on the project ahead of me, instead of focusing what I’ve done. Putting out more work and aiming for something better than the last, helps me to continue moving forward. The compliments and the accolades are nice and it’s good to garner feedback, but in the end, it’s only the work that’s important. It’s what lines your shelves or fills your inbox. It’s a confusing and often challenging process. I’d like to think there are other people who feel the same, and we have mutual struggles. Everyone is kind of wandering around trying to do the best they can with what they have and work hard. We are all trudging uphill and holding on to the belief the hill will eventually even out and we can just stop and rest for a bit; have a gander at the view and take a deep breath. I do a lot of research, read as many how-to’s as possible, but it’s tedious. It’s not always useful nor the best plan for me. I often end up doing my own thing and hoping it works out. Best put, I fly by the seat of my pants and I hope I don’t crash and burn.

In the meantime, if you feel like you’re the only one struggling up that hill, you are not alone. I’m right there with ‘ya. I’m the one with my head down and my sturdy shoes strapped on tight so I don’t trip over a pebble and roll back down. Also, I bring wine. Lots of wine…

Stay safe,

KJ xo

Handling Rejection

There are many writers who decide to publish their work independently for various reasons. Many are frustrated with the extended time it takes to propose traditional publishers. By the time the manuscript hits their desks, they read, and ask for more chapters only to reject it in the end, a good six months has passed. At least. In that same six months, an independent author could have the book edited, a professional cover completed, and hit the internet for sales. Many opt for the latter just for time constraints. I enjoy the process of self-publishing. I like creating my own covers. I had help on my latest, Kevin, and it was a joy to involve other talented individuals who understand your vision and want to help you realize it. I enjoy searching for the right images, I enjoy formatting and learning about fonts and which paper is best for the look I want inside the book, as well as out. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it’s frustrating and if you don’t want the hassle of doing any of that work yourself, then hiring a professional to do it for you is a great option. If traditional publishing is more your thing, being prepared for the many letters and emails you will receive is a must. Rejection is as much a part of that process as querying potential houses.

The rejection letters I have accumulated over the years have all taught me a thing or two. The form letters were not constructive, however, I have a few who took the time to give me pointers on what a traditional house would be looking for. Keep to their specific genre, edit carefully, take your time with the characters, etc. Initially, the letters stung. I took them to heart. I gave it a bit of time and after looking at them again, with more of an open mind and less swearing, they were actually useful. When I approached writing my first novel, I sat down and went through a more methodical plotting strategy. I went online and searched how other writers plot their stories. I watched videos, I bought novel-writing books and I researched how to edit. I downloaded editing software, I purchased a copyediting book, I wrote and re-wrote. I continue to research other ways on how to approach a novel. I structure things differently. I seek advice from other writers. I do all of this now, and never would have thought of doing any of it had I not been rejected. I value the opinions and I learn more everyday. It’s not a race, it’s a marathon and I learn something new with each book.

I’m preparing to write my third novel, the sequel to False Hope. I’m taking my time with it. I have storyboards in place and I will continue to read and write and work. The rejection letters are sitting beside my desk prepared to be read again. They’re not pleasant, but they remind me of how far I’ve come and how far I can go. Rejection is a natural part of any business, not just writing and accepting it as a tool for learning instead of a personal attack is far more beneficial. Take a look at those letters. Read them for what they are intended; as a guide and a tool, not as a means of sending you away. Good luck.

KJ xo

Is Validation Overrated?

We look for validation from others in order to feel accomplished, but do we really need it? Our own satisfaction from doing good work should be enough to propel us on to the next project, but we often look to others for their thoughts, input, feedback and yes, validation. Their nod that our work is sufficient or competent, often means more to us than our belief in our work. It should be the other way around. Our confidence should trump others’ opinions, but we are slaves to peer pressure and popular opinion. Collective agreement. I have to take a step back and be grateful for the ability to write stories I want to tell and have people enjoy them. That basic appreciation for why I write keeps me going. Look for your own purpose and appreciate the hard work you’ve been putting in to creating the best representation of you, out there.

Take care,

KJ xo

Writing

Too many times we imagine barriers that prevent us from following our passion. We erroneously think we need permission from others to follow our path when all we really need is to give ourselves permission to be who we need to be. I became a writer because I write. I became an author because I wrote books and self-published them. I decided to write them the way I wanted. I decided to publish them instead of waiting for anyone to tell me I was good enough to publish. If it fails, it’s on me. But if it succeeds…also, me.

Have a great week and believe in yourself enough to follow your passion. Whatever that may be…

KJ xo

My Mother's Chair

Last night, I dreamed I was sitting in my mother’s chair.  The one in which she sat during the day and drank her coffee and smoked her cigarettes.  The wooden chair at the kitchen table where she could look out the window at the goings on of the neighbourhood.  I dreamed I was sitting in that chair, seeing from her eyes. 

It was an odd dream.  I remember the kitchen well.  Small with a cube freezer sitting in the corner by the wall telephone.  She would put knick-knacks on top for a bit of decoration.  The table sat in the centre of the window and the refrigerator and stove sat to the left, the sink and counter across from the appliances.  It was small but big enough. 

I had lived there all my life.  The little townhouse in the back of the row of townhouses, hidden from plain view of the parking lot.  The window sat facing a brick wall from the adjacent row, but if she sat diagonally to the window, she could see up the small sidewalk.  She could see who was walking towards our door as we were the last row house on the end.  One couldn’t go any further.  There was a fence that blocked foot traffic from treading past our place to the side of our townhouse where there was a green space.  It led to another parking area for the duplex units situated there.  That’s where we would play tag and red rover until well after dark. 

The dream was as dreams usually go.  Brief, milky and hauntingly real.  I was sitting in the chair, looking out the window at the grey sky.  I could see the parking lot and the cars idly parked.  I looked around the empty kitchen and remember seeing the small curtains on the window.  At one point I got up and went to the sink.  There was water in it with dishes floating around waiting to be washed.  Instead of getting at them, I just looked and decided to go back and sit in the chair.  Even dreaming, I’m too lazy to do up a few dishes.

It was unsettling sitting in my mother’s chair.  She’s been gone eight years now and I can still hear her in my ear.  Especially when I’m talking to one of my not-so-much-a-kid-anymore kids.  Funny how now, I go back to that old town house to look out the window.  I sit at the old kitchen table in the precarious wooden chair.  I see what she may have seen.  A neighbourhood full of families and children.  Green grass in the summer with her marigolds sprouting from the garden.  The old fence a good backdrop for her tomatoes and morning glories.  The sprinklers spraying in the searing summer sun.  The lamp post on the corner beaten by hands of kids using it as a base for hide and seek.  I wonder what she may have thought as she sat drinking her coffee and smoking her cigarettes.  Would she have thought we would have made it out into the big bad world to have kids of our own and sit in chairs that belong to us?  Would we be sitting drinking our coffee looking out at our neighbourhoods wishing the same for our kids?

Maybe.  My life is very different than my mother’s.  My chair is a little sturdier and my behind a little larger (hence the sturdier chair), but I think we share the same hope for our children; that they will have a chair in which to sit, a cup to drink their coffee and a window for which to look out at their neighbourhoods to hear the children, see the flowers and wonder about the future.