What I learned at my local writer’s group meeting (and then some)

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All writers need a platform.  I’d never heard the word pertaining to authors before, just politicians.

Because I’d read an article in The Writer’s Market that an author should have an online presence, I started this blog.  A writer now, has to do more than just write.

I am a somewhat shy, introverted person, so if it was up to me, I’d have someone else market my writing instead of me marketing myself.  I’d love to just be responsible for the creative end and have someone else do what I think is the grunge work.  However, in this modern era, such is not to be.

When I watched Return to Peyton Place (a worthless piece of celluloid that didn’t even pick up where its predecessor ended–I don’t refer to Peyton Place as a prequel, when it was such a fine, stand-alone film), watching Allison Mackenzie’s editor helping her edit her book, I remember thinking to myself, That would not happen today. 

There are so many ways to promote ourselves now (even from our mother’s basements), for instance, through YouTube videos (I’ve considered doing a series of reading my own nursery rhymes; if you’ve never seen the nineties TV-movie, The Story Lady, with Jessica Tandy, I highly recommend it).  Personally, I’d much rather scan a blog than have to sit there and watch a video, but that’s just me.

I am seeking out guest blogging gigs, and it was suggested to me that because I am a mother of a young child, writing for a motherhood blog would be a good fit.

Life experiences are the most fun things to blog about, because that’s where inspiration comes from, and I am always seeking to have more experiences, even if the new experience is nothing more than playing a new board game or trying a new recipe.  Going back to school in my thirties, I think, will be a more fun experience than the first time around, because I know what I want to do with my life, career-wise.

When I was twenty, I felt like Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30, but now, with thirty-three (which is considered someone’s prime, as Jesus was at His prime when He sacrificed Himself) coming up in less than a month, I feel I’m finally on the path that will lead me to becoming my best self.  At our writer’s meeting, we discussed self-actualization, and how so few people achieve it.  I’m not there yet, because I’m what you would call a constant work in progress.  I’m always trying to improve myself (or at least accomplish more).

Right now, I’m juggling a part-time job outside the home, a more than full-time job inside the home, and now school three-quarters time.  I’m still trying to get used to getting interrupted while engaged in a task, which often makes me feel less focused and less accomplished; I just can’t get into “my zone”.   I have never had to be so aware before.

I’m not where I want to be in my writing career; my problem isn’t that I don’t produce (I’m not the stereotype of the writer who goes away to some cabin and just sits there staring at his typewriter), it’s that I don’t submit enough.  I am committing to submitting at least one piece a month, but I often write whatever I want first, then try to find a market for it, rather than the other way around.

I am also setting aside at least twice a week to blog, write, edit, etc.  I’ll need the mental release from dry, medical classes, though at least I know studying hard will pay off.  I dropped my Intermediate Algebra class in favor of Anatomy and Physiology because that will give me a year to find out whether or not I have a learning disability when it comes to math.  I wouldn’t mind studying hard if I knew I was going to “get it”, but I could tell the instructor was going to be going too fast for me, and I knew I was going to have to devote all my time to that class, to the detriment of my others.

I had never considered I had a learning disability till one of the advisors strongly recommend I get tested.  I thought I would give it a try (I wanted to get the algebra out of the way), but I knew by the second class I should have bought myself some time, which I have done now.  I had spinal meningitis when I was six, and lost all hearing in my left ear.  My mom is convinced that that may have impaired me in some way (I never could learn to read music either, and I’ve always heard that music is mathematically related), so I am going to find out, because if I do have a disability, no amount of studying is going to make a difference.  It is frustrating that algebra isn’t required if you have a disability, so it’s obviously not needed for the field I’m going into (Health Information Technology).

Though I am enjoying being a student, I know I’m going to have to work twice as hard to make the same grade as some other students.  I’m going to have to stretch those memorization muscles.  At least my critical thinking skills are adept.  Had I chosen to become an English major, I know I wouldn’t have had to work as hard, but I chose the practical path, rather than pursuing my passion for creative writing (which I can do with or without a degree).

The Passion

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I am a big believer in doing what I love, so I’ll never have to work a day in my life (or so the saying goes), but I’ve never felt I had that luxury.  I always had to take what I could get, and it’s so easy to get complacent in a job (I don’t mind working, but I hate looking for a job), a year goes by and you realize all you’ve gotten out of it is a paycheck.  Unless the paycheck is pretty substantial and you have something to show for it, it’s not enough.

Not so much getting married, but having a baby has made me take a much harder look at my future.  I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, and because I had that, it didn’t matter what menial, low-paying job I settled for to get the bills paid.  I had something I loved to do in my free time, even though it wasn’t paying off yet in the monetary sense.

That’s not enough anymore.  A job, no matter how fun it is or how much I like the people, if it doesn’t provide, it’s not worth it.  I used to think all it took was hard work in an entry-level job, and the boss would notice and I’d be promoted.  I realize now I was never hungry enough to move up, because I wasn’t passionate enough (or ambitious enough) about the work to make it happen.  I worked hard, but the idea of working in retail for the rest of my life has never appealed to me, no matter how much money I had the potential to make.

For so long, I’ve avoided college because I didn’t believe I was smart enough to finish.  I know that’s not true.  I just have to work harder at it than others.  Any kind of math that includes the use of letters has never come easy for me.  For so long, I’ve tried to like things I hate (that includes certain healthy foods, as well), making myself miserable.  I am ready to be honest with myself.  I know whatever I like, I will naturally have a passion for.  I’ve always loved to write, so I’ve written.  I’ve always loved vegetables (never been a fruit person), and so I’ve eaten vegetables and the only kind of fruit I really care for is the kind that’s part of a sweet dessert (Campbell, Missouri peaches being an exception, and maybe a few other kinds, once in a great while).

My husband has always loved to cook, I’ve always loved to write, but those things aren’t paying off for us right now.  My husband has discovered, working in some of the local restaurant kitchens, that none are up to standard.  It was just this evening he realized he wanted to be one of those people who come in and turn struggling restaurants around, like on “Kitchen Nightmares”.  I suggested he become a health inspector, and it was like a light bulb went off.

As for me, I’d thought about becoming a nutritionist before, but it was daunting, knowing I had to go back to school rather than just take a test to obtain a license.  So, I’d forgotten that old ambition until several days ago.  I realized I was weary of working jobs that aren’t meant to be careers, or wouldn’t likely lead to a career–at least one that would interest me).  I’d started to think I’d gotten lazy, but that wasn’t it at all.  I’d just lost my enthusiasm.  What had satisfied me in my early twenties wasn’t satisfying me now.  I wanted more, and I’m becoming a better person for wanting more.

I’ve had a few wake-up calls, but they weren’t enough–I had to know what it was I wanted to do, I had to know what I needed to start working towards.  Yesterday, a tunnel stretched ahead of me, but I couldn’t see what was at the end of it.  Now I can.

Perhaps it’s that we don’t have the luxury of not knowing anymore.  I remember, years ago, watching a biography of John F. Kennedy, Jr., who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life till he was 30.  I don’t remember what that was, but sometimes, when you’re comfortable, you get comfortable, and you don’t progress.  Sometimes we need to be pushed, if we don’t push ourselves first.

I am in a good place in my life right now.  Now, I can understand why Jenna Rink from “13 Going on 30” thought 30 was where it was at.  I used to think 30 was old (I did on my birthday, and I still like to tell my parents I’m 29).  Now I just think of 20 as young.