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?


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


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!

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.


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.


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.