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Pursuing Your Passion

I recently started another blog (mamainsanity.wordpress.com) focusing on parenthood and how crazy insane I feel at times trying (and failing!) to be a good Mom.  This post came from that blog but I thought it had relevance here too.  Enjoy!

 

I wish I had known when I was young that I would grow to love writing so much.  More than that, I wish those who’d recognized my talent/passion would’ve encouraged me to pursue it and helped put me on a path that would help it flourish in the future.  Instead I ended up majoring in Nutrition and graduated with both a B.S. and an M.S. in the field.

I do enjoy my job with the WIC Program – I like the aspects of nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, infancy and childhood.  After ten years in this specific field, I’m pretty darn good at my job.

But it’s not my passion.  I don’t go home still thirsting to learn more about nutrition.

Instead I spend my down time working over plots or character sketches or simply writing a story.

This true passionate talent gets relegated to the back burner because I pursued something else.

I’m 100% positive I’m not the only one.

I think it’s silly that those of us who choose to pursue a college education are expected to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives at the tender age of 18.  At that point in life we barely have our heads screwed on straight.  All we’re looking forward to is the chance to have freedom from Mom and Dad.

Granted, there are a few who know their passion and pursue it in four years and leave the rest of us in the dust.  It took me a whole semester just to decide to major in Nutrition.  Now, two degrees and thousands of dollars later, I wish I hadn’t wasted the time or money.

My hope now is that I can look at my girls as they grow, see what they’re both good at and truly passionate about, and encourage them to pursue that.  I want them to enjoy what they do and feel fulfilled by it.

This concept isn’t new and I think more parents need to pay attention to it.

When I got married I quickly discovered that one of my Mother-in-Laws favorite scripture passages is Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  At the time, my brother-in-law was a rather wild and rebellious soul and I think she clung to this verse hoping that it meant he would someday accept the much more conservative principles of her own faith.

In some ways, she’s right.  As Christians we are in charge of spreading the gospel to our kids.  It is then their responsibility to believe or not believe.

But this verse means so much more.  I didn’t dig any deeper until I picked up a Max Lucado book and he spent an entire chapter devoted to this one verse.  His interpretation of the scripture meant something entirely different.  He charged parents instead to help their kids discover their talents, to find what they are good at, passionate about, and built for.  Then we are to take every opportunity we can to let them practice and hone that skill so that they can carry it into old age.

There are many translations of that verse, some helping to see this viewpoint better than others:
“Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it.”  The Living Bible
“Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost.”  The Message
“Bring up a child by teaching him the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it.”  New Life Version
“Teach a child how to follow the right way; even when he is old, he will stay on course.”  The Voice

They all speak of a path or a course or a direction – and most assume that means the straight and narrow walk to Heaven.  However, it can also mean the direction of their life in general.  Help them discover who God created them to be.  We are all parts of one Body, that of Jesus Christ, and we all have different skills and assignments.  It is our job as parents to help our kids discover what God created them to do and be.  Beyond that, we need to put them on a course that allows them to use their talent to glorify God.

I only started taking my writing seriously when I turned 30.  For our anniversary my husband bought me a laptop and said, “I expect you to use that to write.  You’re good at it.  So do it.”

No one had ever said that to me before.  People humored me.  Some even read my books and told me they liked it or thought I was a good writer.  But no one ever pushed me to pursue it or helped me find the means to do so.

I had been writing for 19 years by that point, but only in the past five have I allowed my words free reign for the world to see.

Now when people ask me to define myself it rolls off my tongue without hesitation or embarrassment – “I’m a writer.”

I want my kids to have that kind of confidence from the start.  I want them to embrace and be proud of the person God made them to be.   So between all the temper tantrums and dirty diapers, spilled sippy cups and mountains of toys, I am quietly observing who they are.  What makes them tick?  What do they show a natural talent and interest in?

Those are the things I want them to pursue.

Though I may lament lost time and opportunities, I’m still thankful that I finally found someone who convinced me to take myself seriously.  Better late than never.  Even though I haven’t achieved “traditional success” – meaning I’m not published in print or in electronic form – I still feel like I’ve accomplished something for God.  I haven’t wasted my talent.

I have five complete novels posted on WattPad and all five of them are quickly and quietly racking up readers.  All but one of them focuses on a person’s journey to God – whether through grief, fear, anger or unforgiveness.  Better than the numbers and the followers are the comments I’ve garnered from my readers.

God is using my words to tell His story and people are responding to that.

Two of the best comments I’ve received were these:

“Absolutely loved the story line, the flow and character descriptions. You did a good job manipulating my emotions and reminding me of the various tough times that I just couldn’t pray or believe. Grief is not an easy road for many. You were quite effective in answering many grief related questions that people normally ask. All in all, this was an excellent story! This story is truly one of those hidden gems on Watt Pad. Keep up the awesome work!”

“The two stories I’ve read of yours have been a wealth of knowledge for me.  I’ve learned more about God and it’s given me some peace.  Your stories are excellent tools of learning and I hope you write more.  When Gabby threw the Bible I felt the pain rip through me too.  Thank you for beautiful stories of such deep faith.  I’ll treasure all I’ve learned.”

I have three goals when I sit down to write:
1.  Write real and raw.
2.  Point back to the source of my gift – God.
3.  Get it read.

I’ve accomplished those things with every single one and that makes me proud.

I don’t know it all and I’ve still got plenty of learning of my own to do.  But even in the middle of my mess – this crazy, insane, and totally brain-squashing thing called Motherhood – He’s still using me.

We’ve all got a gift or a talent, a passion that drives us.  Harness it.  Thank God for it and figure out how to use it to spread His message.

Beyond that, help your children learn who they are so they can do those things too.

 

*All scripture references were taken from BibleGateway.com*

*Max Lucado reference is taken from Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot*

 
 

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Bragging Rights

I think I’ve earned them.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

Even if I haven’t, I’m going to do a little bragging anyway.

I’m not checking this blog often, not because I’m not writing but because I’ve taken a break and slowed things down.  Since that writing conference in October and my realization that my goal is to be read, not necessarily “published”, I’ve been focusing on my WattPad account.  In the year since I first took the layoff and spent six months devoted to writing, I’ve finished four manuscripts.

FOUR!

Granted, all of them had been partially started years ago, but finishing all four of them in one year’s time is a feat I’m proud to brag about.

I’ve got plenty more where they came from, some with potential to become full blown novels.  I’ve also got at least three other stories flying around my brain that need to be started from scratch.  I’m not at a loss for material.

However, it’s been nice to set a slower pace.  I’m working part time, three days a week, at my “real job” and am happy to be back.  I love what I do there and I enjoy my co-workers.  Like any job, it’s got its bad points but overall, I enjoy the days I get out of the house to go to work.

That being said, my brain is still constantly tossing around new characters and plot lines, taking notes on the people around me and filing it away to weave into a future story.  It’s not something I can turn off no matter how far I try to step away from it.  There are days this gift takes control and I forget that I’ve got diapers to change or laundry to fold or a “real” life in general.

So, when I have the free time (and no one to neglect, at least too much), I’m still writing.  I’m currently posting the fifth finished novel to WattPad and watching its readers climb before I’ve got it all uploaded!  I LOVE this site and find it a much better outlet for my desire to write and be read.  The feedback is immediate and it’s from the audience that counts – my readers, not an agent or a publisher.

I don’t know if I’ll ever truly pursue traditional publishing.  Maybe someday I’ll self publish, just for the sake of it.  For now, I’m quite happy watching people read my stories online for free.  So happy, in fact, I wanted to brag a little.  ;-)

My current novels and numbers:

Unbidden – 104 reads  (has only been posted for 2 weeks and isn’t finished yet)

Chasing Amy – 1,045 reads (has been posted for roughly 3 months)

All I Never Wanted – 13,626 reads

Broken Vows – 33,306 reads

Full Circle – 7,156 reads

While I’m not the most popular writer on the site nor do my numbers even come close to some of the people on WattPad, I am extremely proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.

Just so you don’t think I’ve let it all go to my head – I still give credit to God for this gift and the ability to share it with others.  As much as I love writing and creating, my ultimate hope is that He somehow uses my small efforts to make a big impact in someone else’s life.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

In case you’re intrigued enough to check out the stories, here’s the link to my WattPad account:

http://www.wattpad.com/user/AbbyCraig

Happy Reading!

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Reading, writing

 

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Experience: The Most Brutal of Teachers

For those of you who didn’t know – I went to a Writer’s Conference in October and had the opportunity to sit down with an agent and talk about Broken Vows.  Surprisingly, he was interested enough to ask me to write a proposal and email it with my first three chapters.  Holy Cow!

For those of you who follow me on Facebook – you saw me whining about my anxiety and insecurities enough that I’m sure you wanted to block me from your news feed!  ;-)  For anyone who didn’t, thanks for being so nice!

If the stress leading up to the conference and my agent appointment wasn’t enough, I found myself completely overwhelmed when he asked me to write a book proposal!  So much so, I ended up with a head cold and fever blister that left me ready to remove my head for a week!

C.S. Lewis once said, “Experience: the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

He wasn’t kidding.  When I returned from that conference I spent a week on the web getting a crash course in writing a book proposal.  The agent knew this was my first foray into the professional world of publishing; even so, I didn’t want my proposal to be weak.  I didn’t want to come across as the scared greenhorn that I am!

Not having anything to compare it to, I feel I wrote a pretty darn good book proposal.  He found it compelling enough to move on to the chapters of my book.  Phew!

Alas, that’s where this particular journey ends.  While he felt that my topic and theme are needed and poised to become popular in the Christian Romance market, he didn’t feel my writing was strong enough to pursue at this time.

Thankfully, he was very kind.  He pointed me to some blogs to learn more about my craft and suggested I work on my “platform” to make myself more visible to readers.

Was I disappointed?  Sure.  Surprised? No.  Relieved?  You bet!

I learned way more than how to write a book proposal through this process.  I learned my true goal as a writer and what is needed for me to feel satisfied, as if I’m fulfilling my purpose.  And it isn’t what I always thought it was.

I love to write.  I feel it in my bones.  If I don’t write for too long I start to itch inside, like I’m having withdrawal.  This desire is as much a part of me as the color of my eyes or my addiction to chocolate.  I can’t escape it.  I enjoy it.  Creating characters and other worlds is fun!  Many times it’s also cathartic and allows me to work through some of my own pain and demons or helps me make sense of the insensible of this world.

When I sat down to edit my manuscript and write the book proposal it was the first time that writing ever felt like work.  I learned how to do both, and learned how to do them well, because it’s necessary if you want to get anywhere in the world of professional publishing.  It’s also part of my inherent nerdiness.  When I learn, I learn the right way the first time.  It’s never half-a**ed.

I sent the proposal off with a sigh of relief and sat back to wait.  While I waited I realized that I was now more afraid of him saying yes, more afraid of success than rejection.

Why?

Because if this manuscript went beyond this agent and got selected by a publisher it would mean more work.  Editing, revision, marketing, etc.  I could easily see the joy of writing getting sucked away by the process of publishing.

The day writing becomes work for me is the day I no longer want to write.

That epiphany made me really look at why I write and what I want to achieve.  Beyond writing for my own enjoyment I only have two goals – for my work to be read and for my story to connect with my readers.

I’ve already accomplished both of those goals.  Sure, there are no books in a book store or on anyone’s Kindle.  I’m not making a cent when someone chooses to read my stories. However, the prestige and the money are not the things that flame this desire.

I feel content and satisfied to have my works posted on Watt Pad and watch the stats climb as new readers add me to their reading lists or vote for my stories.  I have plenty of friends and family who have read my stuff and are excited to pass it on via word of mouth.

So even though my first foray into the world of agents and publishing has hit a dead end (at least for now), I don’t care.  I may choose to pursue it again in the future.

Right now, I’m happy to take a break from writing and focus on the rest of my life. I have two small kids who need my time and attention plus a “real” job that I happen to enjoy, once you get past all the political red-tape.

Above all else, writing remains something that I enjoy.  It remains fun.

I’ve got enough work in my life.  I don’t want writing to be a part of it.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in christian, Indie Writers, Reading, writing

 

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Subtle is not my Forte

Sometimes I wonder if anyone actually reads this blog. . .or my posts on Facebook. . .or gets tired of hearing me talk about writing.   Sometimes I wonder if people really support this rather reclusive gift that takes me out of myself and into another world. . . and away from the laundry or thoughts of dinner or the fact that my children have dropped the atomic bomb in my living room.

You may say you do. . .but do you really?

We all have our own lives, our own desires and dreams and responsibilities.  It’s very hard to stay focused on, and supportive of, someone else when you’re busy juggling the 52 crazy pieces of your own life.  I try not to be pushy because I get it.  I want your support and I want you to read my stuff and I want your feedback.  However, I understand that you can’t always fit it in and that it may not be a priority in your schedule.  You want to offer me something but at the end of the day there just isn’t anything left.

Believe me, I’m right there with you.

So when someone slides a little subtle support under my nose it tends to catch me off guard and I’m like, “Oh, wow, I guess they really DO care in their own little way.”  Yay!

Take my mother-in-law for instance.  She knows I write and she knows I’ve posted stuff online.  But I’m not convinced she’s ever read one word – even the title – of any of my books.  She’s not the type of person I can sit down with and dreamily ramble to about my characters or how many hits I’ve gotten on Watt Pad or my next plot idea.  Sometimes I wonder if she even takes my craft seriously.

Then out of the blue she sends me an email telling me about a Writer’s Conference coming to our area.  Huh.  I guess she does take me seriously after all.

I’m loathe (and a bit ashamed) to admit that I read the email and then promptly forgot about it in the midst of cleaning up the bomb in my living room.

Then I get a phone call from my husband this morning and he says, “Hey, I heard this ad on the radio about the West Branch Writer’s Conference and . . .”   He goes on to tell me about the workshops and the registration fee and the fact that I can schedule an appointment with a real, live, in the flesh editor or agent to get some tips and feedback on my manuscripts.

I immediately remember the email my mother-in-law sent and resist the urge to face-palm myself.  Since my oldest daughter is at Preschool and my baby is down for a nap I decide I better look into while I have the chance!

I’m also impressed that my husband A)  heard the ad and B) took the time to call me and urge me to register.  His words were something along the lines of “I think you should do this.”

Why am I so impressed?  One, because the conference runs from 8am to 4pm on a Saturday, so guess who will be watching both girls alone that day?

Yep, that’s right.

And two, because there are many times I wonder if he regrets his decision to buy me this laptop and urge me to take my writing seriously.  It came as a gift for our ninth anniversary and has been put to good use in the two years since.  There are probably days he thinks I love my laptop and my characters more than I love him.  He comes home more times than not to laundry half done, toys strewn everywhere, recycling devouring our kitchen counter and no dinner in sight because when I have a free moment from my kids I’d rather be writing than accomplishing anything else.

He probably wishes I’d spend more time in reality than in fantasy land.  My only excuse?  I just can’t help it!

These ideas find me, I don’t go chasing them.  And then they run around in my head, picking up speed, until I absolutely have to get it out or I’ll explode!  Or at least not be able to sleep at night.

So yes, his adamant declaration that I attend this conference caught me off-guard.

On the other side of that coin, he probably tires of hearing me lament about my dream to quit my day job and write full-time, to be a published author.  And that’s never going to happen if I don’t put myself out there and make contact with the big wigs.  Maybe this is his way of saying, “Shut up already and do something about it!”

See. . .subtlety is NOT my forte!

The bottom line is this. . . .I am grateful for their support even though my dream of writing may not be one they understand and may take me away from them more often than not.

So even if I don’t have hundreds of readers flocking to hang on every word I blog, those of you who do take the time to stop in, read, and give me a thumbs up are appreciated VERY MUCH!

For those of you who may be cheering for me silently. . .don’t be afraid to be obvious.  I don’t do subtle.   ;-)

And I wouldn’t mind a few prayers either.  This will be my first writer’s conference ever and I’m nervous because I’ll be attending with a bunch of people I don’t know and I’m afraid the editor/agent I meet with will laugh in my face when I hand him my baby.  I mean my manuscript. . .

So a few petitions for confidence and kind peers would be great!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in christian

 

Second Place Ribbon

So. . . I am MUCHO excited to share with you that I won a second place ribbon in a writing challenge!

My FaithWriters website hosts weekly writing challenges, throwing out a one word topic and letting us run with it.  I’ve submitted two other articles in the past and while I got positive feedback from them, I never placed anywhere near the top three.

However, last week I made a last-minute decision to write an article concerning “Exam”.  And by last minute, I mean I was seven minutes away from not making the deadline!  Nothing like a little pressure to bring out the best in a person.

The results were posted yesterday and I logged on to find I had taken second place in my level.  I even got a little blue ribbon posted at the top of my article!  Woohoo!

It doesn’t really mean anything. . .I don’t get a prize for this, it doesn’t get published anywhere other than the website.  But it made me feel good!  Of all the entries submitted for that level, I came in second.  I was so excited I had to call my Mommy!   ;-)

If you would like to read the article I would be more than happy to let you.  You can follow this link:

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level2-previous.php?id=46792

I’ve also been keeping tabs on the three novels I have posted at WattPad.  I recently finished the third story, All I Never Wanted, and have been watching excitedly as it climbs in reads.  I’m only 10 reads away from hitting the 1,000 mark!  It’s attracted readers much faster than my other two, though I have a feeling it’s the success of Broken Vows that has led people to find it.

Broken Vows sits at 20,985 reads. . .it’s still ranked high on the What’s Hot list, though it has dropped to page three.   :-p

Full Circle is slowly picking up readers as well, again I feel because of the success of Broken Vows.  It’s at 5,353 reads and counting.

I’m so excited to watch the numbers and get positive comments and helpful feedback from my readers.  Even if I never land a paper novel onto the best seller’s list, I still feel accomplished.  I’ve finished three books and I’ve got people reading them!  Awesome!

I returned to my “real” job this past week so the two days I used to devote to writing are once again filled by nutrition counseling.  I’m glad to be back, I really do love the people I work with.  And surprisingly, they seem to like me too.  ;-)   At least, I’m assuming they do seeing as how I had a Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Muffin waiting for me on my desk Thursday morning with a welcome back note.   :-)

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing, it just means my time is limited.  I’ve been looking over some of the unfinished manuscripts I have, trying to decide if I want to return to one of them or if I want to run with a brand new idea I’ve been stewing over.  Right now, I’m enjoying the break from writing and letting my mind wander until it settles on the next great idea!

Thanks for all your support and please, keep checking in!

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in christian, Indie Writers, Reading, writing

 

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Looking Back

Well, folks, it is official.  I have been called back to work at my “real” job.  My two days a week of writing will now go back to two days a week of nutrition counseling.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m ecstatic that I can go back to the same hours I had and not have to figure out how to find a new job and afford daycare.  I do enjoy the people I work with even if I don’t always enjoy the work.

That being said, I will definitely miss these five months I’ve had to devote to my writing.  Actually, I’ll probably mourn them. . .

Even though I’m nowhere near a published author (yet) I have gained so much more in this process.

The biggest achievement for me is the ability to finally take myself seriously and call myself a writer.  These five months have allowed me to embrace this part of me and it has felt wonderful!  I no longer mumble when I tell people I write books.  Instead I say, hey, guess what?  I write books and I’ve got three of them on the Internet and I’d be SO happy if you’d stop by and read them!

Between the three stories I have posted I’ve accumulated over 26,000 reads and that number climbs daily.  I’m up to 40 followers and 243 likes.  I’m not the most popular person on Watt Pad – but I’m slowly making a name for myself and becoming visible.  That in itself gives me a sense of accomplishment even if I’m not available on Amazon.

I’ve also stumbled across a HUGE network of fellow writers and published authors who are more than happy to share their knowledge and tips with us up-and-comers.  I feel like I’ve barely broken the surface of the support that’s out there and what I have discovered is already hard to keep up with!  I’ve got so many websites and profiles that I need to check there’s always somewhere that I forget!

Whether it takes me six more months or six more years to publish, this network will always be there and will be a constant source of guidance and wisdom as I take the plunge.

I have been surprised and elated to find that other authors are willing and ready to offer positive, supportive feedback and encouragement even while trying to promote their own work.  It is a community with an extremely positive energy and I’m glad to become a part of it.

As much as I’ve enjoyed writing my own stories I have also loved reading other people’s works.  There is so much out there that is GOOD and just not enough time to read it.  That includes published works filling up my Good Reads account to the fellow wannabes I’ve met on Watt Pad and Authonomy.  Reading broadens my world and opens me up to more ideas for my own stories.  I crave and devour books like some people do pizza.  It’s almost an obsession but one I have no shame for!

I want to give a shout out to JJ Bonds and Roberta (both of which I have provided links for you to visit their blogs!), fellow authors who offered me support, wisdom, and encouragement and proved that it is possible no matter how long it takes or what route you choose.

So even though I don’t have a book in hand – or on my Kindle – I’ve accepted that I am a writer and I make no apologies for it.  If you haven’t already, then get your butts in gear and read my stuff!  It won’t be free forever!

To end on a high note – I had taken a hiatus from my Faith Writers website and participating in their writing challenges.  Just one of those websites that got pushed to the back burner for a while.  But I checked in to the challenge two weeks ago and submitted another piece.  While I didn’t win top prize I got positive feedback from the judges and I placed 6th out of 18 in my level.  Woohoo!

Hey, it’s something. . . .    :-p

Thanks for everyone who reads, offers encouragement, or just in general harasses me (you know who you are!) to keep me moving forward.  Despite my return to the real world, I plan to keep writing.  And I’ll keep you informed!

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Indie Writers, writing

 

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Not so coincidental. . .

For those of you who bothered to read my blog musings yesterday, I wanted to share this with you today.  As a member of FaithWriters.com I get devotionals emailed to me daily.  I’m not great at logging in and reading them every single day, so (I’m sorry to say) a lot of them end up getting deleted without me ever reading them.

HOWEVER!

When I checked my email this morning I decided to see what today’s devotional had to say and I’m SO glad I did.  It spoke right to me.  And while there may be such a thing as coincidence in life, I don’t believe anything with God is a coincidence.  He knows what we need when we need it. . .it’s up to us to listen for his response.

The devotional talked about change and how everything in life has seasons. . .including us.  Even though the winter seasons are hard to go through they are important for creating new growth and new life in the spring.  It’s an opportunity for us to weed and prune all the overgrown junk of the previous season in an effort to get ready for the next.  It sounds a lot more “romantic” than it feels, but it did make me realize that while being in employment limbo for the past few months hasn’t been fun it HAS given me a chance to know myself better and come to terms with where I am in life and how I want to contribute.

It’s given me the opportunity to embrace a part of myself that I’ve always been a little embarrassed over. . .the Writer.  I feel like I finally acknowledged a part of me that God wants me to be . . .and the freedom in that feels exhilarating!  I tried to keep that part of me hidden or at least subdued because I thought no one would ever take me seriously when I told them that I write.  Turns out, I was the one who needed to take me seriously.

Even though I have no more knowledge about where I’m headed than I did yesterday, I have been reassured by a Heavenly Coincidence in my email that He truly is working and that no season lasts forever, including the bad ones.

Here’s the verse from the devotional; the part that hit home for me and made me realize this is how God speaks if we only take the time to listen.

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

:-D  How awesome is that?!

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in christian, writing

 

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