About laurapatrice

On laurapatricewriting.com, I'm chronicling my journey to reach my ultimate goal — getting published.

Adopting an Endurance Mindset

Endurance workouts are my favorite type of workout, and I’m pretty sure that makes me a masochist.

But you know what? I think a life long tendency toward endurance, toward going the long haul, will be helpful during this month-long shelter in place experience we’re about to go through, and I’ve already been working from home three weeks as of today. (Trust me, for an extrovert who lives alone, this is no easy task, but more on that later.)

From Marathons to Orangetheory: What I’ve Learned

After burning out on running after my second marathon in 2014, I stopped training, stopped racing, and with the exception of the odd run here and there, I didn’t run with any purpose until I joined Orangetheory Fitness in December of 2018. Getting back on the treadmill was a chore, to be honest. But over the last five months of finally getting my shit together health-wise, I’ve seen nothing but improvement.

And so, I decided to return to my favorite race this year, the Door County Half Marathon. It was scheduled for May 2 and I had just started training when all of this started, and for obvious reasons it’s not happening as originally scheduled.* But I’m still running. With Orangetheory closed and social distancing restrictions in place, long walks and runs, in addition to the online workouts, are my bread and butter these days.

Even though I stepped away from serious running for a number of years (2011-2014 was my running heyday), what I learned during that three year period is still there to keep me moving now. And what I’m learned at Orangetheory over the last 16 months is there, too.

All of these lessons have led to an endurance mindset, which is as helpful for enduring life as it is a tough workout:

  • Set small goals along the way.
  • Tell yourself those little white lies.
  • Remind yourself that if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

Let’s break these lessons down and put them into action.

From Lessons Learned to Lessons Executed

Set Small Goals Along the Way

I do this when I’m on a distance run and when I’m carrying out tasks in my every day life. Just yesterday, I set small goals as I was carrying a heavy load of groceries back to my apartment from the Mariano’s around the corner. (I ditched my car this year. Good timing on that, huh?) Two heavy bags and two cases of La Croix really gets my muscles burning, and no matter how fast I walk, I need to take little breaks along the way. I pick a light post and aim for that. If I’m feeling okay when I get there, I keep going. If not, I set the bags down and take a break. Simple as that.

For me, April is Orangetheory’s Marathon Month, so I’ll be tracking my miles. Fortunately my studio is running the challenge on its Facebook group, so all the runners will be aiming to get in 30 miles this month. Last year I hit 32.08 miles, so I’ll be looking to surpass that. I’ll break that down into weekly and daily goals to keep myself going. Tracking my progress is also especially helpful.

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What are some small goals, or light posts that you can aim for over this month?

Tell Yourself Those Little White Lies

Lies can be good sometimes. When I’m working out, I lie to myself all the time. “Oh, I’ll only go three miles today.” “I’ll stop and take a break at X landmark.” “I’ll stop running after X amount of time.” I tell myself these lies to trick my brain into thinking that whatever I’m doing is going to be easier than it is. I trick myself into thinking that I’m going to do less when I’m really going to do more. This approach not only gets me out the door, but it makes me feel extra accomplished, so that’s a bonus!

I did this very thing on Monday this week. I went out with the intent of doing a 5k, but by 1.5 miles, I felt pretty good and decided to press on for 4, which I did.

When it comes to running, I also often lie to myself about my expectations. Either I don’t set them or I keep them low, thus surprising myself when I do better than expected (or … not expected). My mile times on Monday sort of blew me away, as I consider myself a pretty slow and steady runner. But surprises can abound when you don’t set expectations!

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I will fully acknowledge that this approach might not work for everyone. Without an intrinsic drive to push yourself, lies might become truths. But what does it hurt to give it a shot? You might surprise yourself.

If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Doesn’t Change You

I touched on change in a recent post. It happens to us, or we make it happen. There’s plenty of unwanted change challenging us at the moment, but right now, I want to focus on the change that we make happen. This kind of change comes from the challenges that we give ourselves and will ultimately help up reach a goal and self improvement. Arguably, changing ourselves with challenges we have some control over will also better prepare us for those unwanted challenges and changes.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” is something I picked up from Orangetheory. And while it might be a bit cliche or cheesy, it’s really f**king true.

I’m currently challenging myself to hit a specific goal weight before this month is over. Going back to the example of the 4 mile run on Monday, I really wanted to stop during that last mile. The last quarter of that mile, I repeated that phrase over and over again while begging for my Fitbit to vibrate and announce that I’d hit my goal. Those moments at the end seem the hardest, but it feels so good when you hit the finish line and can recover knowing you gave it your best.

Turning to a non-fitness example, I’m also challenging myself during this time to do some work around relationships and figuring out what I want. Dating makes me queasy, and maybe that’s because online dating is simply awful. But it might also be because I’m not entirely sure what I want and how to best approach the dating world. Most of it just makes me want to stick with what I know and what’s comfortable. But jumping back to my mention of being an extrovert living alone during this time, I keep thinking about whether or not being alone is what I really want for my entire future.

I’m good on my own. I’m happy on my own. But maybe I could be happier with someone else. Self discovery, time, and maybe some pain from putting myself out there when I’m allowed to be near other people again, will tell.

What challenges can you give yourself this month to bring you to a better place by April 31?

Closing Thoughts

I’m already mentally preparing myself for the finish line on this thing to change. What right now looks to be 31 days could easily move to 60 or 90. We simply don’t know. I’m preparing my endurance mindset for 31 days right now, knowing that maybe it’s all a lie and I’ll have to keep going once I reach that April 31 light post. I hope not. But when the time comes I’ll be ready to keep on going if I have to.

I’m going to try to keep these lessons in mind as I work toward my goals this month. I hope you will, too. But if all else fails, knock a nagging or long-forgotten task off your list to keep yourself from going stir crazy. Heck, I just finished a baby blanket last night that I started 5 years ago. It’s not great, but at least it’s done. Better late than never!

Stay safe, stay sane, and above all else, endure.

*As of right now it’s been rescheduled to October 31. If you’re looking for an amazing run in an amazing place, I highly recommend checking out the community tab on the DCHM Facebook page, as many people are looking to transfer their registrations.

Got Excuses?

For the most part, I feel like I’ve got this shelter in place lifestyle down. My fridge, freezer, and cupboards are stocked. I only leave my apartment to go for a walk or a run, and the weekends and evenings are spent connecting and reconnecting with friends and family. I’m killing my at home workouts and tracking every single piece of food that passes my lips. My weight loss journey stops for no pandemic. And get this — I’m even on track to finish a baby blanket I started five years ago. (Better late than never, right?)

But the one thing I’m not doing, or barely doing, is writing.

This whole situation should low key be a writer’s dream. Long stretches at home with no where to go? I should be cranking out those pages. I should be getting lost in my story. I should be killing it.

But guess what? I am not killing it.

Maybe social media is to blame. I can’t seem to put down my phone and I feel compelled to post way more than usual lately, which is saying a lot. I even re-upped with Twitter (@NoCoastRomance, if you’re interested) so that I can get my thoughts out without bombarding my other social channels. I think part of it is a thirst for connection, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t step away from the phone now and then.

Maybe I’m mismanaging my time. Even though I’m home now, the days don’t feel any longer. I’m one of those people lucky enough to still have a job (*knock on wood*), so I spend my days trying to focus so I can get my work done so I can keep that job. Routine has been helpful, but my time after work isn’t structured enough. I might have to reapply some structure.

Maybe I miss writing on the L. It’s the only place I seemed to get those words on the page. Since I started working in Chicago in June, I’ve filled two notebooks and am working my way through a third. After finally finding a flow that worked, everything changed. But that doesn’t mean I can’t write in my notebook at home, right?

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There are probably more “maybes” I can list here. But you know what those maybes are?

EXCUSES!

We’ve all got ’em. They might be why you find yourself opening the fridge for the umpteenth time today. They might be why you choose to sit on the couch rather than getting up and getting a sweat session in. They might be why you haven’t changed out of pajamas in days. (But trust me, keeping up on hygiene and putting on normal clothes will do wonders for your mental health right now, along with exercise and eating right.)

Or your excuses might be why you’re not writing!

On the writing front, I’m pleased to see that NaNoWriMo is ramping up for an April Camp NaNo. National Novel Writing Month doesn’t always get me on the accountability train, but it’s time to ditch my writing excuses, and this is going to help. (Big surprise, but I’m Laura Patrice on there, if you’re a writer and want to add me.) I’d like to come out of this coronavirus crisis with a draft I can get through some serious editing.

I have to get after it!

So I’ll pose the questions to you now.

  • What do you want to accomplish during this time?
  • And what excuses will you have to work through?

You know the old excuses adage. But here’s my twist:

Excuses. We all have them. But it’s up to you to kick them to the curb.

Be well. Get after it. And to all my writer folks, get writing!

Painful Change Births Beautiful New Beginnings

It’s ironic that this is the first time I’ve felt the urge to write in this blog since the eve of starting my new job in Chicago way back in June. At that time, I was amped up on the adrenaline of starting something new, of making real changes when I’d been feeling like I was going nowhere for such a long time. I thought the hard part — finding the job, making the initial jump — was over. But I was so, so wrong.

And now here we are, smack dab in the middle of a pandemic. When I carried my desktop monitor home on the L last week, I felt like maybe I was being a little extra. After all, I could work on my smaller laptop screen for a week or so, right? Turns out I was so wrong about how long this quarantining and social distancing would go on for, too. (P.S. I’m really glad I have that monitor, now.)

We keep hearing that things are going to get worse before they get better. And that’s how my summer got after the initial excitement of starting a new job wore off and I was hit full force with the pain of change. Long story short: It was a really dark summer. Change will do that to a person.

Now it looks like it might be a really dark spring, too. And yet, having gone through my own deep pain and coming out stronger on the other side, I feel better equipped to deal with this new period of change. And I have a lot of hope.

Here’s some things I’ve learned since I climbed out of my deep dark hole, and what I’m doing with those lessons in this insane world we’ve found ourselves in:

  • Taking care of your health — mental, physical, emotional — is of the utmost importance. Work out. Eat nutritious food. Avoid or limit drugs and alcohol.
    • Sure, I’d love to give in and stress eat right now. It would be so easy and it would feel so good … for a little while. But it would hurt me more in the long run. I’ve lost 40 pounds since October, when I started to see some light from the bottom of my hole, and I’m not throwing that work away now.
  • The power to control your attitude, thoughts, and reactions lies within you.
    • I’ll credit taking control of my health for this one. Is it easy? Nope. Am I perfect all the time? Hell no. Some squabbles I’ve had due to stress from these current times are case in point. Stuff gets the best of me sometimes. I feel awfully ashamed when I slip up, but all I can do is apologize, whether it’s to myself or others, and move on.
  • Once you start loving yourself it’s a hell of a lot easier to love other people, too.
    • I mean, I still don’t love everybody, but it’s easier to be understanding, forgiving, interested, caring and enthusiastic for the successes of others now that I have my shit much more together. My extrovert is dying a little at having to be alone in my apartment right now, but this feels like a great time to connect and reconnect with others. I’m hopeful that on the other side of this, we’ll have a greater appreciation for each other.
  • Change, whether we make it happen or it happens to us, will be painful, but we can adapt and come out better on the other side.
    • I feel like I’m living proof of that now. It’s not easy. It hurts. There’s a lot of self examination, sweat, and tears to be had, but it will get better. It got better for me as soon as I started taking control. And in a time that’s wildly out of control, I’m going to do what I have to for both the greater good and my own personal good. I’m going to look for a brighter future somewhere beyond. It’s better than giving up and giving in to fear.

Anyway, these are just my small, perhaps meaningless thoughts I’ve been kicking around in an unprecedented time. As a writer, I figure I’d put them out there. Because to someone they might matter. Right?

I guess that’s why writers write in the first place.

 

 

What I Want

On the eve of starting a new job in Chicago, I want to share an essay I wrote during the job search process. It’s been lightly edited from the original for relevance and was borne out of doubts I had expressed in my search. The hiring manager at a job I ultimately didn’t accept for fit reasons challenged me to write up an essay about what I wanted.

This was the prompt from the manager: Do me a favor and take some time to write me a lengthy response ( if necessary) to this question: what do you want?  I don’t mean the job, I mean what’s your purpose, what do you live for, what turns your crank and gets you out of bed every day? There are not a lot of people who cannot answer this question so don’t be intimidated by it.

Below is my answer to the question, written May 9, 2019:

Last weekend, I read contemporary romance author Sally Thorne’s second novel. Her debut, The Hating Game, was a runaway hit, and I pre-ordered this sophomore outing back in January. But after the book was delivered, it sat on my coffee table for a few months, waiting for me to crack the spine. Between long work days, attempts at working on my novel in the evening hours, time spent at Orangetheory Fitness trying to whip myself back into shape, and the additional time spent on my job search after deciding I wanted to completely shake up my life and come home to Chicago, reading for pleasure had fallen pretty low on my priority list.

After a week of interviews, which included a rainy drive into the city and a steep climb up a dizzying and very packed parking garage, I was feeling overwhelmed by the “what ifs?” and the “what am I doings?” And the ultimate question loomed (and still looms): Will whatever choice I make be the right decision? With all of this on my mind, I turned to Thorne’s 99 Percent Mine and took a break from everything to lose myself in a story.

Author of Wired for Story, Lisa Cron, (who I’ve had the good fortune to meet in person) talks about story through the lens of neuroscience. She writes, “Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution—more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” She goes on to break down how writers can use this knowledge of the brain’s craving for story to write a novel that will keep your readers “hooked from the very first sentence.” The books that sell aren’t about a bunch of things that happen. They’re about change and challenges and real transformation. When I encounter these books, I devour them in long sittings and turn over the last page feeling changed in one way or another. A good story teaches empathy. It can dissolve stress and alleviate loneliness. It teaches us about the world and what it means to be human.

Reaching the end of Thorne’s story only reaffirmed what I want to do with my life. I want to tell stories. I want to make people feel the way I do at the end of a good book — less alone, more powerful, and deliciously full and happy (bear in mind that I’m mainly reading and writing romance at this point). In an “About the Author” section at the end of the book, Thorne expressed the difficulty she encountered writing her second book, and the following really stood out to me: “I learned a very hard lesson that I’m sharing with you now. That important, impossible thing that you have nearly given up on ninety nine times? Finish it. Whether it’s a success or a failure, no one can take your The End prize away from you. Finishing is the most important thing there is. It’s proof of how hard you tried.”

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So, there it is — I have my answer. I want to tell stories and I want that proof that says I tried. But knowing what I want and living what I want have always been two very different things, just as wants and needs are very different things. As I prepare to make my next move I have to be realistic about what I need in order to get closer to what I want.

From time to time, I’ve wondered if leaving the “9 to 5” world behind for an hourly service industry gig would be enough to pay the bills and give me time to write. I could theoretically be less invested (punch in, do the work, punch out, repeat), but after getting a taste of that world through bartending, I’ve concluded that it isn’t for me. I need new challenges (even when they’re scary and uncomfortable) that will help me grow. I need a full-time role where I can make meaningful contributions and find financial stability. As it stands right now, I keep taking on extra work outside of my full-time job to feel financially secure, which is eating into my writing time and breeding an undercurrent of frustration. It often feels like I’m treading water — staying afloat, but getting nowhere.

Another thing I need is to be closer to my family. I have friends up here in Wisconsin, I’m involved in writing groups, and I spend a good four to five hours a week at Orangetheory Fitness (I’m addicted, which is no small feat for me when it comes to exercise). But even with all those things in my life, I’m missing something. My heart isn’t quite set on making a permanent home up here — I’m hopeful I can find it or build it back in Chicago.

Earlier this week, I was letting the unknown get the better of me. The unknown is scary, but it can also lead to great opportunities. Sometimes I can get too locked in to how I think things “should” look. But that’s limiting, and it’s certainly won’t help me get any closer to fulfilling the needs that will get me closer to my wants. That’s why I started this job search in the first place. And when I tell my own story, I want to be able to show the proof that I tried.

Now, a full month later, it’s go time. I’m hopeful and terrified all at once, and I’m probably going to have to read this essay at least once a month for the rest of my life to keep myself on track.

But here’s to trying.

The Things We Learn Along the Way — Part 1

Aside from the obvious lesson that I am terrible at blogging consistently, I think it will be useful to take a look back at each quarter of 2019 and reflect on the lessons that I learn along the way. Maybe you’ll find these lessons useful, too.

I’ve been using the SELF Journal from Best Self Co. for well over a year now. Basically, it’s a 90 day planner centered around goal setting. In each journal, you choose 3 goals to focus on for those 90 days and then break then down into manageable and measurable pieces (think SMART Goals). The planner features a three month calendar, a weekly breakdown to set goals and summarize progress for each of the 12 weeks, and daily pages to set your schedule and help you focus on what needs to get done that day.

Each day, there’s a spot to write down the lessons that were learned. I haven’t been using this slot as well as I should have, and I haven’t been looking back on my past journals once I’ve completed them. So for 2019, I’m going to be better about looking back in order to reflect and move forward with greater confidence.

So what did I learn in 2019 Q1? Here’s the list and my present reactions in pink:

  • 1.7: Stanford is not an Ivy League school. Oh, the things I learn at trivia on Monday nights! Now I know the ivy only grows on the east coast. 
  • 1.8: I’m really relying on that OTBeat screen. The board was down at Orangetheory that night and I kept looking at the blank screen way too much!
  • 1.9: Freeze under “View” in excel to fix that first row. Excel hacks FTW!
    You don’t always need permission. I find myself waiting for a go ahead way too often. I am an adult and I don’t need to wait for permission on everything.
  • 1.10: Can’t win ’em all. I have no idea what this was about, but ain’t that the truth. 
  • 1.14: Just defriend the dude, even though it’s the douchey thing to do. Make Facebook great again! I did some defriending and unfollowing for a chance at inner peace. 
  • 1.15: Instagram must think I’m fragile. I don’t remember what this was about! Eeep!
    Anything will get stale after a while. Too true. Gotta keep things fresh and interesting! I’ve realized that I get bored quickly with certain areas of my life.
  • 1.17: Should have gotten the library card sooner! Getting that card was the best thing I did in January.
  • 2.4: If something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Murphy’s Law. Duh. 
  • 2.5: Gallery view is only available on a local recording, not a cloud recording. Zoom webinar learnings! 
  • 3.5: Sometimes you get way less, even when there’s more. Grrr. No comment. 
  • 3.6: I’m rowing just fine. I asked my coach at OTF to check my rowing form and was assured I am doing it right. Phew!
  • 3.12: I shouldn’t get stressed out about not having innovative ideas. I can help in brainstorms and bouncing ideas with a group can help get me there. I feel so pressured to always have the best, newest, and freshest ideas at work. But I’m much better at building off a brainstorm session with other people. And I’ve decided that is just fine! 
  • 3.13: Sometimes you have to jump through the hoops, even when you don’t want to. Grrr. No comment. 
  • 3.27: I do already know this SEO stuff. Yup. I do. *hair flip*

My biggest takeaways from the first 3 months of 2019 are that I need to be better about recording the lessons that I’m learning, and I need to focus on my writing WAY more than I have been since the start of the year.

We’re already closing out the 11th days of April and I still haven’t set my goals for the second quarter. After reviewing this list, I know what my first goal is:

I will treat my writing like it’s a career, not just a hobby. 

What’s are your goals for the next quarter? What did you learn so far in 2019? I’d love to know!

The Mind, Body, Writing Connection

And just like that, it’s the middle of January and a whole month and a half has raced by since I last posted. Shame. Shame. Shame.

It’s hard to remember December at this point, but if I recall correctly, I spent much of the month feeling pretty low. Admittedly, that’s been pretty par for the course in my world. But with the extra chaos December brings, I wasn’t writing nearly as much as I would have liked, the break room at work was a minefield of Christmas treats, and my anxiety was through the roof. By the time January rolled around, I was so happy to say goodbye to the holidays that I welcomed back the normal work week with open arms.

Since 2019 has started, I’ve come to the realization that I thrive on structure. And I’ve been very careful about keeping myself to a consistent schedule, setting goals that I chip away at each week, and taking steps to reduce my anxiety. I write every day and I set word count goals. I’m vigilant about picking up and always doing the dishes right away, because that just makes me feel better in my space. I ruthlessly unfollow anyone who constantly posts political stuff on social media (especially stuff I don’t agree with — sorry, not sorry) because Facebook was making me feel even more like garbage than usual. I very recently started tracking my food. And most importantly, I’ve riding high off of the incredible mental health benefits I’ve been getting from Orangetheory Fitness (OTF).

Even though December felt like a dark slog, there was a little pinprick of orange light that came into my life. Orangetheory Fitness Wauwatosa officially opened at the beginning of December. A high school friend raved to me about OTF in the past, and I was starting to think about checking it out at the beginning of November. And as we all know, as soon as we have a thought about spending money on something, a Facebook ad will appear that speaks to that product. I guess social media can be good for something. In my case, an ad for a new OTF studio near my apartment popped up in my feed. I completed an interest form out of curiosity. Props to the team over there, because I got a call, text, and email within a day and in no time I found myself at the studio joining as a Founding Member at the Elite level, paying for 8 classes a month. This was all during the first week of November.

Cut to my first VIP class that first weekend of December. As I was squeezing myself back into my workout clothes, I questioned my choice. What was I doing? Was I going to be able to handle the workout? Was I going to look ridiculous? Was I going to hate it? As someone who used to run marathons, albeit slowly, starting a new workout regimen is a painful reminder of how far I’ve fallen after I burned out on running. Since I moved back to Milwaukee in June 2013, I’ve gained 75 pounds and for the life of me I can’t seem to get that weight to budge. Simply put, it sucks feeling and looking terrible all the time. With all of this in my head, I rolled up to the new studio and had my first workout.

After my first couple of VIP classes, I was feeling pretty good. I ended up bumping my membership to the Premier level for unlimited classes while the studio was still offering reduced prices prior to the grand opening. At first, I was a little weary about going for the unlimited package. I’ve done that before with yoga and other memberships and ended up wasting money by not making the most of it. The pressure to attend would literally stress me out so much that I wouldn’t go. Stupid? Yes. But that’s how it went.

December pressed on. I think I was going to about three classes a week for most of the month. My friend asked if I was obsessed yet at some point in the last couple of weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve. I said that I was enjoying it, but that most of the time I didn’t want to go, but since I always felt better after, I had enough motivation to stick with it.

On New Year’s Day, after getting home from a lovely time with good friends in Indiana, I had a little meltdown about finances. Oh hi, anxiety! I started looking for things that I could drop to help with my budget. My first OTF workout of the year was the very next day. As I was driving to the studio, I questioned whether bumping up to Premier was the right choice. If I dropped back down to Elite, I’d be saving $50 a month. I made a bargain with myself that I’d wait until February and then cut back.

When I left class that night, I felt so much better. The tears and heart palpitations of the previous night felt far away. I went to classes on Saturday and Sunday the following weekend. And just like that, I was completely hooked. I was able to tell my friend, “Yes, I’m obsessed!” I owe her so much for being a cheerleader for OTF and for me. It did take a month to get there, but the first week of January made me a believer. The coaches are awesome and make you feel like you matter. I finally started getting out of my head and push myself every class. I actually look forward to going, and the hour goes by too fast! I always want to stay and keep burning those calories. I have NEVER been able to say that about any class or workout I have ever done in my life.

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My highest calorie burn to date. I look to beat this every class. You can read about heart rate zones here.

Looking forward, I have no plans to drop Premier for the foreseeable future. Being a member at OTF has already been worth every penny for the mental health benefits alone. I have no doubt the weight loss and fitness level improvements will come (I’m already getting a little faster on the treadmill), but it did take five and a half years to sink to a new low in this body, so it’s going to take some time to claw my way back. I’m not going to give up.

So … what does all of this have to do with writing? Well, to put it bluntly, now that I don’t feel like shit all the time, I’m excited to sit down and write after a workout (and after a shower and a meal). I have more energy. I feel more optimistic about my works in progress (WIPs). I’m still struggling to resist the urge to go back and edit, rather than writing forward, but I’m working hard to get myself to a completed first draft. I’m aiming for March 30 with my latest WIP.

The Write Touch Conference starts on April 5th and I have a lot to do before then. I owe a query letter and the first five pages of my WIP for the critique with an agent that I paid for. I have another entry for the Fab Five contest to polish up. And I have lots of reading to do in the meantime. Good thing I’m in a better place mentally and physically to handle it all.

Now I just have to work on getting enough sleep…. 🙂

 

When Everything is Going Wrong, Write

Sometimes, it feels like whatever story I’m currently working on is the only bright spot in the day. When I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions and everything is overwhelming and I feel completely worthless, that story brings me back to a place where I can focus and where I can find my purpose. It provides the best kind of escape.

Last week was rough, and this week wasn’t starting out much better. Fortunately, my writing life reached out and threw me a life preserver that I so desperately needed.

In November, I registered for the WisRWA Write Touch Conference, which is being held in April. As a promo for registering prior to December, my name went into a hat for a free night at the Milwaukee Hyatt during the conference.

Now, the conference agenda itself was enough of an incentive to register — amazing speakers, breakouts, a chance to connect with other writers, and Lisa Cron is running a four-hour intensive! Story Genius is one of the first books I was recommended when I decided to finally do something with my writing. I also registered to have a critique with an agent, which means I’ll be submitting 5 pages and a query letter by March 1. How’s that for a deadline?

Overall, I’m super pumped for this conference. And then today, this happened:


I won the November giveaway! Drawings are totally random, but I’d like to think it’s a sign that I’m on the right track. And honestly, this week I kind of need it to be a sign.

This was also a good reminder that when life is getting crazy, I need to remember to focus my energy accordingly. And in my heart, I know I need to stay focused on my writing goals. Writing brings me joy, even as it challenges me. It gives me hope for the future and it’s connecting me to others in meaningful ways. And I’ve only just begun.

So, I’m forging ahead. Deep down, even on the days I doubt myself, I know I’m on the write* path.

Learn more about the WisRWA Write Touch Conference:

*I’m sorry, I had to …. 🙂

Starting New … Again

There’s something so enticing about a fresh start, isn’t there?

When it comes to writing, I love getting started on a new project. An idea will capture my imagination and I’ll race to my computer and open up a new project in Scrivener and I’ll let the momentum from the novelty of the “new” carry me as far as it can. But eventually, the wind will go out of the sails a bit. The “new” can’t stay new forever. I get mired in the middle and often, I don’t reach the end.

Problem.

There is nothing I want more than to traditionally publish a novel. And then many, many more after that. But to even consider publishing a novel, I’m probably going to have to finish the first draft. Seems logical, but I know I’m not the only writer who suffers from this problem.

Specifically, I have an issue with editing the hell out the first part of any work in progress (WIP). November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for those of you in the know, or not). In a nutshell, NaNo throws down the challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I won NaNo once, in 2011, and putting it bluntly, that work was total garbage. It might be why I’ve been NaNo averse for so many years since.

I wasn’t going to do NaNo this year. I have a paranormal romance WIP (basically it’s just set in the future — no sparkly vampires here) that I’ve been working on since the middle of the summer. I’ve basically been pantsing the entire thing — writing myself into dead ends, deciding I wanted to write romance and trying to shoehorn the original idea into a romance structure, and rewriting the beginning over and over and over again. I’m pretty sure my Thursday Roundtable folks at Red Oak Writing have heard several scenes multiple times with different revisions. In short, it’s a bit of a mess. And don’t even ask me to explain it. I can’t without difficulty.

An so, the allure of a new idea took me. “I should write contemporary romance,” I said to myself. Thanks to my full-time gig working at a media company, I starting thinking about how I could brand myself and about how my idea to write “No Coast Romance” would lend itself well to blog and social posts and multiple ongoing romance series. By “No Coast”, I mean stories based in the midwest, because unlike the east and west coasts, we don’t have a coast. Get it? Please say you get it. Anyway …. Long story short, I’m starting new … again. It’s November, after all, a time for aspiring authors to start fresh, like dieters on New Year’s Day.

After my writing roundtable on November 15, I went home, outlined a new story, drew up character sketches, and opened the new project in Scrivener. This one actually has a title — In Tandem — that I think I’m going to stick with. So unheard of — for me, at least. Almost as unheard of as me doing any outlining before diving in. The fact that I even took these very important steps this time around shows some evolution in my writing process.

The next day, I got my project into NaNo with a whole, legitimate blurb and everything! If anyone is doing NaNo and wants to be my buddy, my username is Laura Patrice,  because even back in 2011 I had the foresight to start writing and banding myself under my first and middle names. As of 11:59 p.m. on November 21, I’m at 15,082 words. Not too shabby for officially starting to write on November 16.

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The odds aren’t in my favor to finish all 50,000 words by the end of November. And for what I’m writing, a full story will fall somewhere between the 60,000 and 85,000 mark. I’m going to try my damndest, however, to win NaNo, because I’m bad with numbers and I love pinning hope on unrealistic odds. But in all seriousness, what I’m choosing to take from NaNo this time around is that pressure to keep moving forward, to get that word count, to write that full story. Will I go back and polish things up as I push forward? You betcha! But I’m holding off on the more serious edits and restructuring until I go in for the real, legitimate revision of the real, legitimate manuscript.

I’ve been taking some concrete steps to make the dream of publishing a real, achievable goal. Approaching this new WIP with the same urgency I feel when I’m actually participating in NaNoWriMo is just one of those steps. I’ll be chronicling the others in future posts, because in addition to writing novels, authors — and aspiring authors like me — have to keep up a website. Good thing I work in digital media. +1

So, world, I’m starting fresh. Hear me roar and etc. Writing career, here I come!

Here’s to new starts that actually lead to endings.