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Alley art on my block.

As the rush to the year’s end commences, I tend to get reflective. I look back on all that I’ve accomplished and, more so, on what I have not. There’s a third novel with only four chapters done. A passport that remains expired. Yoga mat now collecting dust and running shoes that wouldn’t mind going for a walk.

But there was a second novel released at the start of the year. A new venture that’s beginning to blossom. Opportunities that have connected me with readers and other authors. Friendships have grown and I have evolved. Somehow, it’s easier to focus on what wasn’t achieved, no matter the number of one’s successes.

The greatest challenge for me is to be in the absolute moment. It’s nearly impossible. There’s always somewhere else I need to be. Whether it’s rushing off to a day job, getting chores done, honoring appointments, meeting up with friends, connecting with connections, or scenes/characters/dialogue impatiently clamoring to be written, there’s not a free minute to be in the moment.

While I’m currently failing at another NaNoWriMo (it’s hard to write when your allergies have you busy blowing for the first 13 days), I’m learning to take a solid pause. When you can’t do what you want/should/need to be doing, the only choice is to sit still. There’s no other place for me to be but here. And, when I finally surrendered to it, I realized that’s not such a bad place to be.

However, when you want to be someplace else — successful in your desired career, living in your dream home, luxuriating on a tropical island, collecting that lottery money — it’s difficult to enjoy where you’re at, that here, this moment. That’s what usually gets in the way and takes away from enjoying what we’ve already got.

We’re told we need to be hyper-focused on the goal in order to achieve it. Any faltering in that allows failure an opportunity to creep in. Keeping a keen eye on the prize is necessary to a degree; but, if that were indeed the magical method (“The Secret, if you will), don’t you think we’d see a lot more people living their dream life? Hard work, focus and determination are necessary ingredients for success, but they can also wear you down and burn you out.

The truth is that luck, timing and perseverance are also factors in success, and only one of those do we really have control over. One achievement worth striving for is actually loving what you do. Right here, right now. Yes, I know that’s trite and, God forbid, we settle for anything less than the goal of massive success/world domination. But, if this were it, if this was all you were ever going to achieve, could you be happy here? That’s not an easy question to answer. There are likely lots of compromises made, figuring they would be temporary yet they have somehow stuck around. But, as a writer or artist, if you don’t love what you are doing, right here and now, insanity is around the corner. Falling in love with the process itself is the first brick in the foundation of success because there is much more “failure” and rejection involved in being a creative soul than there are accolades (or money).

As these allergies persist (despite superhuman attempts to quell them), I’m letting the novel stall 17,000 words in. I’m not giving up or setting it aside; I’m simply giving it room to breathe. I’m giving myself the same. For the rest of the year, I’m going to slow down, not push, not rush, and put the hustle on hold. I’ll be here, in the now, embracing the moment. Things will still get done; there’s a lot on my calendar and much prep to be done for next year (both for the L.A.L.A. Society and the launch of Emotional Intelligence at the Ventura County Line…when it’s done). But I’m (finally) learning I can’t put my cart too far ahead of that nag. I’ll be taking my time with what’s in front of me, not in a hurry to get to the next. That won’t be easy; I’m an Aries, A-type personality. But, sometimes, when you quit pushing, you fall into the flow. Sometimes, when you come to a stop, you’ll know exactly where to go.

The L.A.L.A. Society

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At the end of March, the idea of gathering local authors to help promote each other’s work and introduce ourselves to readers and bookstores in our neighborhoods struck me. While book releases garner attention, it’s difficult to continue that promotion. There are many months between one book release and the next. How does one keep that ball rolling?

Authors today not only have to craft their next book, they must continue marketing themselves nearly nonstop. Not many have a publicist behind them, even if they are with a major publisher. The bulk of the work resides with the writer. It’s exhausting and not exactly a natural act for those who are introverted, or bad at faking otherwise. Operating off the theory of strength in numbers, the goal of the L.A.L.A. Society is to make the introduction of authors to readers much easier and organic. Having events centered around a topic more than a tome opens the calendar. Having more than one author, preferably in different genres, helps broaden the appeal, and removes some of the pressure.

The L.A.L.A. Society welcomes authors, aspiring writers, avid readers, those who keep meaning to read more and local booksellers. We should all get to know each other better.

For more information, click here.

Finding My Tribe

I’m the kind who will look for signs. A huge fan of omens, I’m always looking for a burst of neon to flash, “Yes! You are on the right path!” Sometimes, you just need that little cosmic hint. It could be something as simple as a Rhode Island license plate (a long story I’ll spare you here) or Journey shouting, “Don’t Stop! Be-lee-ee-vin’!” randomly while having a conversation.

There are times when it comes in the form of a dinner with a friend you’ve had for what seems forever, though you only met once a decade before, finally seeing each other for an overdue dinner that plants the seedlings of a collaboration. Or a stranger who sends an Instagram DM and a few days later you aren’t strangers anymore. A last-minute movie viewing ends up introducing you to two kindreds. All of these things, these signs, those omens, the little twists of fate that curve the road carefully so you can meet up with members of what is, and will be, your tribe. It’s rather a beautiful thing.

Tribes are important to have. They go beyond just your circle of friends to include colleagues, compadres and brutally honest mentors. These are your ride-or-dies and then some.

The month of June, so far, has been generous — despite its horrible losses. In the first ten days, I met nearly twenty new friends, three of whom are authors of the smart, funny, generous and open variety. All, but one, of these friends are women. My dance card has been full and I am wonderfully exhausted.

This came at a moment when I was somewhat frustrated in my attempts to get too many projects off the ground and feeling little support. (Trust me, I know I’m not alone in that.) They say writing is a lonely and isolating endeavor, but the times when writers tend to feel most lonely and isolated is when we are promoting our work. Not all of us enjoy that. Pushing your project and, in essence, yourself on other people isn’t fun. It’s Sisyphean at best. Friends are fantastically supportive, but even they can fall victim to battle fatigue when you are the kind who’s constantly writing a book while promoting another with a side project to piece together and plans for a podcast, and maybe — just maybe — starting a writers’ group or retreat. These good friends, who make up the heart of your tribe, try to figure out which part to champion because they can’t do it all, either. (Writers will wear you out.)

This is why it’s important to have a diverse tribe that includes creative natives who get the endless push, the mental lethargy and emotional exhaustion that comes with filling up a blank page.  You need those who are also paddling upstream while juggling grenades to help assure you that you are not alone, not even close. And that maybe — just maybe — you can get it (all) done.

“It’s nice to meet another writer who’s happy for other writers. So rare,” one new friend wrote.

That made me smile, but it also made me sad. There are still too many creative types who see it as competition. And that’s bullshit. (Allow me to point out that the two more successful writing genres are Romance and Mystery; those authors embrace each other in big ways.) Collaboration is much more fruitful than competition. There is room for everyone, so I say pry open the door, get your foot in and don’t be afraid to let someone enter before you. But, once you get in, reach back and grab someone else to lift up and through. That’s the best recipe for success. There is an unlimited supply of opportunity as long as we are willing to create more of it. Too often, though, folks close the door behind them. They don’t bother looking back, even to give a nod of thanks. They are greedy souls and no amount of success will fulfill them. While they might fight the urge to glance over their shoulders to see where their competition lies, they should really keep an eye out for karma instead. (And I know this behavior is not limited to writing/creative industries.)

“We have to stick together and support each other,” I told her.

“Totally agree with you!!!” she replied, followed by a series of empowered emojis. Yep. She’s in my tribe.

She has written an amazing memoir and is in the midst of getting a television series off the ground. I couldn’t be happier for her. That is an incredibly hard feat and an emotionally arduous process. It’s like winning the lottery, but having to actually build everything you want — house, car, plane — all by yourself while other people stand around and watch, wondering why you aren’t enjoying it more. It’s not something you can simply celebrate until it’s actually on the air because, like playing Jenga on a fault line, without doing anything at all, it can simply fall apart (shout out to the writers of “House of Cards” for having to deal with that last minute jolt, and those hoping to revamp the reboot of “Roseanne”). I want this deal to come together for her, pray that the pilot is picked up and it goes for at least five seasons on a premium network. I want her to succeed and do so epically. Not only is she a nice person who has gone through a lot and deserves good things, her to success is a success for all female authors and every writer in that writers’ room. Any time a woman gets a TV series made, it’s a big fucking deal, people. Score one for the tribe, baby!

As the “likes” and follows, DMs and texts rolled in with these new friends/collaborators/colleagues/sisters, I felt more centered. It was nice to hear them extend their support for my projects. There was a sincerity in the, “Let’s get together soon!” exchanges rather than the breeze of polite blow-offs known to happen in L.A. Believe me, I’m not putting down my hometown, which I love more than I can express. Sometimes the best of intentions fall flat — it’s called traffic, something that doesn’t blend well with overpacked schedules. (You know I love you if I get on the 10 for you. Even more so if I hit the 101.) We are short on time, spread thin on effort. We are doing everything we can to get our own stuff done. We need some forgiveness if it takes a little longer to set a playdate…or we haven’t finished your book just yet. We are working on it. We are working on a lot.

I am fortunate in the tribe that I have, the OGs who have been there through the ups and downs of the Sisyphean hustle I’ve been dancing for so long. I am grateful for their support, which is instant and unquestioning. But few are writers and, by their own admissions, they don’t understand the process or the never-ending aspect of it.

“I don’t know how you do it,” one bestie said. “But you keep doing it and I’m so impressed by that.” This was said while I was sitting in her backyard sobbing over how everything was so fucking hard and I just needed one thing to be easy.

And then, that evening, one thing was. Like some weird magic. And it was all because of my wonderful and ever-growing tribe.

June is only half over and I have lots to get done before it goes. There are dinners to schedule, world domination to plan, side projects of friends to champion and potential collaborations to plot. Next month, my second novel will be in its first book club. That came about by another twist of fate — a Little Lending Library and an Instagram DM. The readers aren’t my typical demographic, which makes it even more fun. The door opens wider and the sisterhood of the tribe swells again.

Real work needs to be accomplished as summer begins, though. I’m only on chapter two of Novel Three, and I’m feeling the weight of not getting more done there. The rock is about to roll down the hill again and another big push is set to start. But those little omens keep dropping hints, lighting my path as I step through it. I see there are a few more members of the tribe to roll with me, others are there to cheer us on, more to give advice and warnings, some to provide opportunities. We all take turns playing the roles, giving support when it’s needed, taking it when we must. The best part is that we all want the best for each other — in it to win it, pushing the door open as far as we can and pulling others through it. The more the merrier. This is the tribe I have been wanting, the one I have been creating, and now the one I have. I’m so glad to have found them, and for them to have found me.