“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.” –Lewis Carroll

For as enthusiastic as I was a few weeks ago about the book Take off Your Pants, I am equally invigorated right now by Stephen King’s brilliant On Writing. And yet…I sort of feel like I’m chasing my own tail. While Pants got me to outline and think ahead before writing in a way I’d never done before, King basically throws an arm around my shoulders and tells me, “You’ve been doing it right all along–keep going.” Which I love, of course, but it just reinforces for me what a solitary, unique pursuit writing is. What works for me may not work for you–and vice versa–but according to King, that’s just fine and dandy. In the same way that the universe drops the right people, jobs, and situations into your life just when you need them (I’m still waiting for the universe to drop the right lottery numbers into my lap–that definitely needs to happen), I think it also slides the perfect book under your nose at a time when you’re searching for exactly what lies between the covers of said book. Take off Your Pants was timely and helpful as I floundered with my own process and wondered what was missing, and On Writing fits the bill as I move forward and think about the parts of writing that bring me the most joy.

And I find that joy in the creative place where time evaporates. That place where I start writing and working and the next time I look at a clock, three hours have gone missing. During these spells, the characters take on a life of their own and move the narrative forward in a way that makes me feel like my hands are just holding the planchette on a Ouija board while some unseen spirit does the work. King agrees with me here–the magic is in the way that you pull a story from the ether (his analogy is of unearthing a fossil carefully, of trying to keep it intact as you extract) and in the way that you get to essentially be the first reader as well as the creator–the story is as much of a wonder to you during the first draft as it is to your readers. Beyond that, his suggestions for tighter writing and editing are beautiful. If nothing else, I’ll walk away with the metaphorical toolbox that he helps his reader build, as well as with the knowledge that you have to slay the evil adverb. In our final edit, Holly and I are going through our manuscript right now and stabbing every adverb we can find, tossing molotov cocktails into our sentences wherever we see modifiers like “angrily”, “sadly”, and “pitifully”. We’re on a mission to get our narrative tightened up so that it corners like it’s on rails, hums like a tuning fork, and moves the reader along at breakneck speed like the Shinkansen bullet train racing through Japan. It’s been an exciting journey so far, and we’re speeding towards our first stop (book one’s publication!) on this adventure. All aboard!

On turning 40.

For all the years I’ve wanted to be a writer (which is as many years as I can remember), I’ve cut myself a bit of slack by saying, “Well, it’ll happen someday. Someday I’ll be a real author.” But when you have a big birthday like I had this week, it forces you to assess and reassess all that you know to be true about yourself and your life. This birthday–more than any other–has been one of personal growth. For the first time ever, when I said, “I really don’t want anything for my birthday–I already have it all!” I really meant it. I do have everything I want or need, and if I don’t, the responsibility to obtain those things is mine and mine alone.

Holly and I are just a couple of weeks away from publishing the first book in our series, and we’ve got a summer of writing ahead of us. We’ve been super-creative lately, thinking of story lines, picture ideas (she took the one above in our neighborhood park yesterday after I brought home all of the balloons that my wonderful coworkers and students gave me for my big day). It’s an exciting time, as she’s also wrapping up her years in elementary school, growing about two inches a day (or so it seems) and turning into a young lady who makes me so very proud. This journey we’re on together towards publishing has been the very best writing adventure I’ve taken so far, and I know I will always hold it in my heart as one of the most successful things I’ve done as a mother, even if we aren’t ultimately the world-famous authors that we imagine ourselves becoming!

But for as scared as I was of turning 40, I have to say it’s been fabulous so far. If I could share a few words with my younger self–the one who always wanted to be a writer, but beat herself up for not making it happen–I’d tell her so many things, first and foremost that she should keep cutting herself some slack, and that someday will come…and all too soon.

And I’d tell her this: You’ll do okay–I promise. You’ll marry your high-school sweetheart, move across country to Florida with your childhood dog, your 1983 Toyota Tercel with no AC, and your new husband. You won’t have jobs, and you’ll discover that the modeling you moved to Miami to pursue isn’t what you thought it would be.  That the agencies and clients don’t love you as much now that you’re old enough to call your own shots, and you don’t want to do all of the things they tell you to do.

You’ll stay in Florida for ten years, get your Bachelor’s degree, live through an incredibly challenging stint as a child welfare caseworker, try your hand at grantwriting, and meet some people along the way who you’ll carry with you always. You will give birth to the most wonderful creature you’ve ever known (no bias there, of course…), and while holding your infant in your arms, you’ll be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Because the combination of these two things bring uncertainty and fear, you and your husband will decide that moving back across country to be with family is your best option, so you’ll make that leap–with a baby and two cats in tow (and everyone on that cross-country flight will despise you, but so be it.)

Back in the northwest, you’ll be a stay-at-home mom, manage a non-profit for a few years, and will ultimately get your Masters in Education so that you can take on the biggest challenge and most enriching job of your life. Being a high-school teacher will bring you immeasurable joy, and some of the most amazing people you will ever know will come into your life simply because a counselor assigned them to your class. They’ll walk through the door of your room, unsure about who you are, but prepared to teach you about heartache, patience, humor, and loving other humans even if you can’t “fix” them. Stay strong–you will be rewarded.

So all of these things will conspire to make you who you are at 40, and they are all things that should thrill you and make you proud. You are here, you are (mostly) healthy, you have love, and–most importantly–you have learned to give of yourself without expecting anything in return. The rest is gravy. Now go and write that damn book, girl! Someday is now!

Sometimes you’ve just gotta block out the world.

Editing and revising tries my patience. And sometimes bores me to distraction. When I feel like something is done, I feel like something is done. To me, that means: go create something fresh, dig deep for a new idea! MOVE ON TO WHATEVER COMES NEXT! But it’s not that simple when it comes to finishing a novel. Getting to the end of a first draft means that you’re about to turn around and start from the beginning again, this time blending out the lumps, blurring the harsh edges, and tightening the slack as you go.

I have big plans to outline our next works as co-authors (as well as to formulate a solid outline for my own book, which is flopping around in my head like a fish on dry land, gasping for breath), but all of the free time I can carve out for writing lately is consumed by forcing myself to rehash the novel that I’m ready to publish. I know it’s not ready to be published, but I’d love nothing more than to move on and meet new characters right now.

For the time being, I’ve had to leave the newsletters and self-publishing video links to languish in my inbox while we edit book #1, but as we do that, we’ve also been working with an awesome book cover designer who is bringing our vision for a cover to life. She’s amazing, and I can’t wait to post her work when it’s done! Each and every piece of this process is still exciting and new, but I’ve been really easily side-tracked of late, (“Oooh! Instagram!”) and have found lots of reasons to avoid editing (“But I really need to watch the last episode of Broadchurch on BBC America…”) It’s really time to pull it together and get this thing done. We’ve got goals and plans. And I’ve got editing to do!