Believe it or not, it’s actually not that big of a leap to go from advocating for parents of transgender kids to writing a romantic medical suspense novel—well, not for me.
While my passion for transgender rights is not waning by any stretch of the imagination, I think it’s important for parents of trans kids to know that we still have a life outside of being a parent. I am a writer. I was a writer before my child told me he was transgender, and I will probably be a writer as long as I can hold a pen or tap on a keyboard.
Where did this sudden leap come from?
My dad died a year ago July 4th, since then it’s been a year of introspection and what I’ve called my mid-life crisis. I put my business on ice, enrolled in University, and took a job way below my paygrade. More recently, I have released my literary agent from her contract for my memoir and I’ve decided to self-publish a fiction novel that has been sitting on my hard drive for 8 years. It took some serious contemplation to convince myself that releasing a romantic suspense novel would not confuse my following or affect my branding or prevent a publisher from looking at my memoir. I am a whole person with a whole life. In addition to being a mom and a writer, I am also a coach, an advocate, a communications professional, a human services student, an entrepreneur, and a community leader. I am done calculating every step I take for the sake of making seven figures or in case I want to go into politics.
You can be complete and whole too
If this worldwide pandemic has taught us anything it’s taught us to be adaptable. We are in a new world dealing with a new virus and ever-evolving information. It’s been a scary world too. Many of us have been affected financially, mental health-wise, and physical health-wise. These situations—pandemics or the upheaval of a child transitioning—remind us to put our oxygen mask on first before we assist others. For me, self-care is often the escape of a good story. It’s reading a novel in a bubble bath. Escapism at its best. It’s how I recharge to be able to face another day. Knowing the value of a diverting fiction novel, and knowing I had one sitting there just waiting to be published, I just had to put Clinical Trial out into the world while people need the diversion the most.
What can you expect moving forward?
I will be publishing Clinical Trial this fall—it’s a fast-paced suspense with murder and sex and four-letter words. I will also educate about, and advocate for, transgender children and their parents. I will continue to work on both my memoir and a book about what to do in the first 100 days after your child comes out as transgender. I will write school papers, blogs, and articles about the importance of progressive laws and politics because all humans matter, and their rights are not disposable for anyone else’s economic benefits. I will unapologetically be all of me and I know that in the end, this will serve my children even more.
As much as we want to leave the past behind us, it comes up for re-examination every once in a while. Memories resurface during the holidays, people say things that resurrect an old hurt, or in my case, we go digging in the past as we write.
This week, I am remembering and writing about the most horrific time in my life. I am writing from the point of view of an innocent eleven-year-old girl facing confusion, pain, and betrayal by the very people who I expected would protect me.
The emotions that memories bring up are real, and our body’s response is real too, but they both stem from thoughts—dancing with ghosts that are not here in the present moment. Whether you lean more towards the scientific realm of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or The Work by Byron Katie, we have been taught to question our thoughts and turn them around to thoughts that serve us better. As scary as it can be for me to dive into the deep dark past, I also know that I can change what is on the screen of my mind at any second.
My advice if you are writing about the past, or have it resurrected for you… face it and embrace it. Most of us respond to unpleasant emotions by trying to avoid them. Wine, screens, and the plethora of life’s other distractions. I have found that avoiding the ghosts just invites them back when we least expect it. It also atrophies our resilience muscles. The more we face the unpleasant feelings head on, and let the wave eventually subside, the more we learn to tolerate them.
Of course, I dealt with the most horrific parts of my past in therapy and I am not suggesting you white-knuckle your way through life’s most difficult moments. As I am writing about my past, the emotions come back, but they are fuzzy and duller than they had been at the time. I am taking my time writing about it, taking many breaks, and practicing being in the present moment when I’m not exploring the past.
Luckily, I don’t dance with my ghosts everyday or for very long, but they are important characters in the story of who I was and who I am becoming. Writing about my life gives me a chance to practice self-care and exercise my resilience. If you have some ghosts come out to play over the holidays, or while you are writing, know that they’re only thoughts, and you can change your thoughts at any time. Take care of yourself and distract responsibly.
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I was speaking on the phone to a business colleague as I packed my bag for a six-day retreat in the Canadian Rockies with Eckhart Tolle. “I’m actually nervous about this trip. I’m worried about leaving my business behind for six whole days and I’m worried about the money I am spending because I’m not sure this is going to do anything for my business.” In fact, I was so nervous about going away on this trip that my stomach swiftly kicked out my lunch before I got into my car to make the two-hour drive to Lake Louise.
I didn’t know what to expect. It had been 10 years since I read A New Earth, and though I swear it changed my life when I read it, I could only recite some platitudes from its passages. I didn’t remember it’s essence anymore. I racked my brain wondering why I signed up for this in the first place only to recall the year from hell I had last year and how much I needed self-care just to live another day.
I awkwardly stood in line for the opening talk and found a seat in the third row. The foundation leader came on stage to say that the room was filled with almost 700 people from 40 countries, to which I looked behind me to realize the size of the crowd. We dutifully turned off our cellphones—my link to my business and my children—and on walked Eckhart, slowly, purposefully, fully present.
I, too, slowly, purposefully became still. Fully present. Connected to my essence.
I remembered instantly how Eckhart Tolle changed my life, and I instantly found that peace again.
Over the five days that followed I met Fran, a mother of 9, who imparted her wisdom onto me when I said I wished I could give this awareness we learned on retreat to my children, to which she replied, “you never want to be so awakened that your children don’t struggle and grow.” That hit me like a brick and was exactly what I needed to hear.
I also met the beautiful and enigmatic Claudia. A spiritual goddess in her own right that allowed me to be adventurous and free as we acted as mirrors for each other’s life lessons. She introduced me to a Thai artist and musician and a former Thai monk, and I introduced them to Moraine Lake. I also got to meet successful conscious business owners which also served as a lesson for what I can do differently in my own business.
I won’t even attempt to write the lessons Eckhart taught us into a blog. Do yourself a favor and read The Power of Now and A New Earth. I will give you a short passage from my notes on Creativity because it is relevant to my biggest A-ha from this retreat.
“Creativity is the act of creation that comes from our connection to source. We receive it fully formed and are often overpowered with the insight, invention, music, and art. Creation needs a vehicle, the power needs to manifest into this world, and after many hours of practice you eventually are no longer the dancer you are being danced, you are no longer the writer you are being written.”
Why was I so nervous to go on this retreat? Because it meant that my overworking, artificially busy life might change, most importantly my ego was going to be challenged and die a little. I no longer identify so strongly with my business, my role as a mother, and my self-construct that was cutting off my connection to my true essence.
My big revelation came with regards to my intention with writing my next book and its underlying message. It has gone from being about my unspoken grief raising a transgender child to about how raising a transgender child has transformed me and brought me closer to my deeper true self, just as he dares to be his true deep authentic self. The book is writing itself and writing me.
I’m now back home and much more present to my children, much more present to my clients, and much more present in my writing. Though I am purposefully living in the present moment, I can assure you that I will not wait another eight years to recharge and attend another Eckhart Tolle retreat.
Most of the women I talk with on a daily basis hold these two core values: their number one priority is their family and secondly they want to make a difference in the world. Those happen to be some of my own core values. I am here to tell you that a very effective way to make a difference in the world, and subsequently in the lives of your children, is with your writing. Many of the writers I coach are writing specifically to impart lessons they’ve learned in life with the goal of helping others. Here’s how you can too:
Blogging for Change
Whichever way you are called to make a difference in the world, be it feminism or animal rights or spiritual healing, your words can influence others into action. Think about how many times a week you punch a search term into Google looking for information about things that matter in your life. We are also swimming in a sea of information in our social media feeds. When a headline comes along with a topic that resonates with your readers they click on it and read your words of wisdom and choose to make their own difference in the world. Blogs are easy to digest nuggets that most people read on mobile devices. The benefits of blogging are that posts don’t take very long to write, you can blog on many related topics, and blogs help build an audience and clout online.
A Message in a Book
A book, unlike a blog, is not as fleeting as a post on your newsfeed, but something much more substantial and everlasting. A book is a legacy that you leave behind influencing others for years to come. I often hear people say they’re worried that their idea isn’t new, or that others have covered the topic already. Maybe. But we all see the world through our own perception and the stories you share are unique to you. Some people may resonate more with the way you present the idea over someone else’s interpretation. We also live in a time where we are inundated with information and need to hear messages more than once for them to stick. Remember the last book that rocked your world, the one you told all your friends about? Imagine how you can help others the same way when you write your book.
The Long Haul
I’m a huge Brené Brown fan. Like most of the world, I discovered her through her Ted Talks and then read her books and took an online course she offered through Oprah Winfrey and another through Udemy. Brené Brown is making a difference for the long haul. Not only did she do research for twelve years and work as a social worker, she writes, teaches, and inspires others every day. This is known in the industry as building a platform, which is essentially having a firm foundation upon which you can share your brilliance with the world. Your writing can lead to a whole career geared towards making a difference.
Words of wisdom
Knowing that you are writing specifically to make a difference in the world is a complete gift, because we all—every single one of us—battle the inner critic, resistance, the saboteur, monkey mind, perfectionism, procrastination. Having an anchor for why you write can be a lifeline to keeping you moving forward on the days you think your writing sucks or “who do you think you are?” is the soundtrack in your mind. I work specifically on this stumbling block with others as a writing coach, and I’m no different as I have a coach who helps me turn down the volume on my inner critic and push ahead with my life purpose. I implore you, if you are called to make a difference in the lives of others and writing is one of the ways you’ve chosen to be of service don’t let your inner critic keep you from your goal. Reach out because I would be happy to help you help others.
Tell me, what are you writing? How are you being the change you wish to see in the world?
Looking for a little extra support on your writing path? Maybe an accountability circle is just what you need. Check out the next session starting soon click here for more information.
No, I’m not delusional from sleep deprivation. Yes, it can be done. I know because I did it. And, let’s be realistic, you won’t be writing the next New York Times bestseller during baby’s first month home when you’re feeding every 2 hours and staying up at night more than you did in college. But you will, both mommy and baby, eventually fall into a routine, and in that routine there is plenty of time to write. If people can write books during one month in NaNoWriMo, then surely you can swing it over a year.
Writing a book on maternity leave is a perfect time to explore all those thoughts and feelings awoken by your stronger sense of intuition, and that primal drive for your survival during childbirth and wanting the best for this new tiny human being. The intuition connects you to your most creative side, the part of you that doesn’t need to think, that part of you that just knows. Your awakened primal drive connects you to stronger and more visceral emotions. I have always said that the number one purpose of storytelling is to elicit emotion, what better time to capture those emotions than when we’re more emotional.
Here are some tips that will help you with your book writing goals:
Well Laid Plans
Remember the last time you had to drive in a new neighborhood or new city and how nerve-racking that can be? Remember how much easier it was the time that a friend gave you excellent directions with landmarks to watch out for? Your writing will be much easier if you give yourself an outline and signposts and landmarks along the way. However, before you embark on any road trip and before you set your trusty GPS, you need to decide on the destination. Decide exactly what it is you want to write. Will it be fact based like a self-help or inspirational book, or will it be fiction like a romance novel or a who-done-it mystery? What lessons do you want to impart in your non-fiction book, and what emotions do you want to evoke in your novel?
Routine and Rhythm
Babies love routine. I had the hardest time with this because routine has been something I rebelled against most of my adult life. But, after four children, I eventually learned to embrace it in certain areas of my life, including my writing. I have learned to call a rose by a different name just to trick my brain. Thanks to the amazing book The Baby Whisperer I had watched my babies for their rhythm and adopted the book’s E.A.S.Y routine. Baby Eats, baby is Active, baby Sleeps, Your time. Once my little ones got into their rhythm, I was able to find mine. I tended to do all of the household stuff in the morning during the first nap and write in the afternoon during the second nap (which luckily was the last nap my kids gave up). Not so oddly, I still write more in the afternoons today long after all my kids have been in school full days. Other author friends of mine preferred getting up at 5 AM and writing for an uninterrupted hour when the house is still quiet, while others preferred skipping an hour of television after the kids went to bed and writing in the evening. Look for your optimal writing time and make it a routine.
We all have well-meaning people in our lives who inadvertently like to stifle our dreams. They don’t want us biting off more than we can chew, they don’t want us to be disappointed if our ship doesn’t come in, they dismiss our dream of one day being a published author as a “cute idea”. Those people are not your writing support system. It can be challenging when those people happen to be your real-life support system like your spouse or you mom or your best friend. I can assure you that you can indeed write a book without having to discuss the content or the process with the naysayers in your life. And you can find a support system outside of your usual circle of friends and family. Look for a writing group online, join a local writer’s association, drop in on a writing Meet Up group, or start your own Writing Momma’s Meet Up in your town or city. Writing can be an isolating endeavor so having a positive circle of like-minded people holding you accountable is a huge step towards completing your book.
If you’ve always wanted to write a book one day, take advantage of the halt in your usual work routine and those pockets of quiet time during your maternity leave to pursue your passion of reading and writing. Follow in JK Rowling’s footsteps, she wrote Harry Potter sitting in a coffee shop with her baby napping next to her in the pram, and look at her now! Tell me, what will you write on your maternity leave?
We all know what it’s like when life gets in the way, especially if you are a writer. You’re also probably quite familiar with the inner critic that constantly throws up obstacles in your writing schedule. I’ve tackled that problem for you! Download your FREE eBook – How to Write When Life Gets in the Way!
This article first appeared on Huffington Post. You can read the original post here.
Let me ease the mind of all of you who have embarked on a new journey of choosing to write a book and are now hesitating in front of a blank page waiting for the perfect sentence to flow out of your fingers, or are reading what you’ve just spent hours writing only to think it is complete and utter rubbish.
To write is to rewrite.
No one writes a perfect first draft from beginning to end in one fell swoop. It has often been said that writing a book is 20 % writing and 80% re-writing. Once you have written what Anne Lamott lovingly refers to as the “Shitty First Draft” in her book Bird by Bird, you are then in editing mode. During your first rewrite, you will go back and layer in all of the elements that were missing in the first go around and ruthlessly slash all of the parts that are not in service of the premise of the book. You will then repeat this process looking for flow and continuity and anything you missed during the first rewrite.
None of what I just described is self-editing.
Self-editing is when you write the first ten pages, and then you go back and rework those few pages to make them shine, and then you write another ten pages, and then you go back to the beginning and now work on those twenty pages to make them shine, and then you write ten more pages, and then you are caught in this never ending loop of perfecting the beginning of your book and never actually getting on with putting the whole book out on paper. I can’t tell you how many women I meet who say they’ve started writing a book but never finished. More often than not, the reason it’s thanks to the self-editing circle around the drain.
Self-editing is often the practice of letting your inner critic write a book, or as Stephen Penfield calls it in his book The War of Art—Resistance. What we need to do when writing that first draft from beginning to end is to connect to your inner knowing, your higher-self, your stream of consciousness, your muse, and just plow through. Print off a picture of Dori the fish with the caption “Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing, writing, writing.”
Here’s a Master Class tip:
If you have the strength of character and the will power not to self-edit, something that I have found immensely helpful for my productivity levels is to leave off one writing session without completing a thought or closing a scene. The next time I sit down to a writing session, I don’t have to think up what ought to come next because I just reread the last few paragraphs WITHOUT SELF-EDITING and continue writing from there. Before I know it I’m back into the flow.
If you are one of those women who’ve started writing a book and never finished, we need to talk. Book be for a one-hour consultation because you deserve to call yourself a published author and the world deserves to receive your important message.