Just 2 Things…

I’ve been on a kick with lists here lately on the blog and I’m going to continue that trend today, but with just two things. These are just things that have been swirling around in my mind about life and such, and I wanted to share them. Are you ready? Here we go.

#1 – We have arrived.
This phrase inspires all sorts of images of having made it. Most people interpret that as all goals accomplished and the new Ferrari arrives on Wednesday. However, that’s not what I mean.
A big part of the college experience was dreaming of our futures. So many late nights spent discussing where we hoped to go once we left university, so many conversations with advisers and professors about career paths and long-term goals. This time in our lives was just an extension of the high school years, where we were studying and dreaming about life once we got in the real world and were fully in charge of our own lives.
One of the most frustrating things for me about being in school was feeling like I was stuck in stasis, focusing on school instead of building my life like some others my age.  Don’t get me wrong. I loved my college experience and wouldn’t trade it, but I feel like it does put you in stasis on life for a while. That’s probably why some people are so afraid to leave college, that stasis is a safety bubble.
Sometime within the last year or so, particularly after Jelly Bean was born, it dawned on me: I’m not in stasis anymore. This is it. This is what I was working towards when I was in college. Does it look anything like I imagined? No. Do I have my “dream job” and all that entails? Heck no. But still. This is it. This is life.
What does that mean? For me personally, realizing that I’m living what I’ve been planning for for most of my life makes me feel almost giddy. Also, I feel incredibly thankful and like, if this is it, I need to be enjoying every second of it and making the most of the life I’ve been given. As far as we can be sure of, we only get one lifetime y’all.

#2 – I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.
It’s taken me a few years, but I feel like even as a veteran writer, I’ve entered a new phase. I’m back to my high school habit of always having a notebook on me, always having my WIP on me. One of my biggest regrets in college was that I lost that piece of myself, giving into the shiny lure of the laptop and losing the longhand aspect of writing. More than that though, I’ve finally hit a phase of being able to finish what I started. I just don’t have patience for anything else. I cannot move forward as a writer unless I finish what I started.
It’s an extension of #1, but I’ve realized I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. I’m a writer always writing. I almost always have my WIP in a notebook with me. I write nearly every day, and currently haven’t missed a day in 38 days. I may not be any closer to publication than I was a year ago, but I feel happy, blissful, ecstatic even, with what I’m doing.

It’s a simple realization, but these two things put all the bad days into perspective. Life’s not perfect. I have had and will have nights where I burst into tears because Jelly Bean wakes up every single time I try to set her down. There will be days where it seems like everything that could go wrong, did. There will be days I want to send Bear to his corner and not speak to him for a while (almost 11 years into our relationship, it happens).
Bad days do not equal a bad life.

Another aspect of college life was a feeling of freedom and possibility that died a quiet little death immediately after graduation. It’s taken time, but I have managed to frankenstein those sensations back to life with the help of a good vibes, positive attitude only mindset. It’s all about perspective, and we create our reality with our thoughts. A dear friend of mine believes that when they say God created us in his image, they did not mean a literal physical appearance, they meant the power to create with our thoughts. It’s an empowering idea. What we tell ourselves, we believe. What we believe, we create. Dismiss it as new age, hippy crap, but I think it’s true. I seriously doubt our creator put us here to be miserable, so get to finding your happy, seeking your bliss, and creating your best life.

Okay, new age, self-help rant over. Back to our regularly scheduled snark. Have a good day everyone!

Kelswitch, over and out.

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Lessons #MomLife Taught Me About Writing

I think being pregnant last year rewired my brain. It’s probably a combination of that and just being a mom in general that has changed my approach to writing and some of my habits simply because I do not have time to mess around anymore. So I thought I’d share some lessons and things being a mom has taught me and changed about my writing process.

#1.1 – If it sounds stupid in your head, write it anyway.
I used to suffer from draft killer lines. I’d ignore the voice in my head, if not outright argue with it, about what the next line would be for my current WIP (work in progress). This led to a stalemate and the story would die a quiet little death on my shelf. Now I don’t give a shit. I write the shitty line. If I catch myself hesitating, I give myself a mental slap on the wrist and put it down on paper.

#1.2 – Sometimes you have to write the shitty line to keep going
This is a big thing I’ve learned in the last year. Sometimes there is no getting around writing the shitty line if you want to keep going. By all means, you can fix it in revisions, but when you’re writing that first draft, the muse will be a stubborn little devil and will not let you pass without putting that shitty line down. It’s almost like it’s a gatekeeper to make sure you’re paying attention. Just remember you can fix it in revisions and keep going.

#2 – You have to take the time where you can
Particularly with the two items above, when you’re a mom and have less time to write than you used to, you literally do not have time to wrestle with the muse over a piece of the story you don’t like. You have limited writing time and you must make the best of it.

#3 – Bits and pieces add up to a whole
When you’re snatching bits of writing time here and there, you’re moving forward with your manuscript by mere inches. It can be discouraging if you’re not moving at an especially brisk pace, but I can tell you from experience, it adds up. In the month after my daughter was born, I was writing maybe a quarter page a day, probably around 50 words. But I kept it up and ended up writing nearly every single day that month.

#4 – You can pick up momentum 
By being a consistent writer (every day that I could possibly squeeze in the time), I have built up momentum. I went from writing a mere quarter page to this month where I’ve had several five page days. It doesn’t hurt that I’m no longer on maternity leave and my kid is sleeping through the night now (mostly). That has opened up a lot of little snatches of writing time because now it feels good. I have gone from barely getting thirty pages in a month to this month where I just hit eighty, and there’s still three whole days left.

#5 – Writing is a muscle, you have to exercise it
One thing I’ve learned in the past year beyond the shadow of a doubt is that writing is a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more you can do. If you write as often as possible, you get into the habit and can write every day with ease. If you keep pushing through shitty lines and writer’s block, it becomes easier to get the cogs moving right when you sit down and start putting the lines down.

I know a lot of these “lessons” bleed into each other, but I think they’re valid and I hope they help you somewhat. I just know it is possible to keep writing after having a baby. My next concern is how to keep writing when there’s more than one baby. I hope that by setting myself up with good habits, I’ll be a lean, mean, writing machine that nothing can stop, even two crying babies tugging at my pants leg. If a working mom can find the time and means to write a story, what’s stopping you?

#JustKeepWriting

Have a good weekend! Kelswitch, over and out.

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Dear Internet, I feel like an asshole

Dear Internet, I feel like an asshole.

No, I haven’t been trolling some innocent cyberbully victim. I haven’t been leaving mean comments on natural disaster relief posts on Facebook. I haven’t left even a slightly jerk-ish comment on YouTube, where no matter what the content of the video was, there will be an argument about religion in the comment section.

I feel like an asshole because of Camp NaNoWriMo. Y’all, I’m having an easy time of it this year. Like, hitting that goal every day with such ease. So far, I’m even having an easy time of writing every single day. I want to keep writing every single day until July 8th, which will be the one hundredth day. At this point, I feel obnoxiously sure I can reach that. I’m in such a good rhythm right now that I honestly feel a little guilty. Like, I’m that asshole everyone hates because writing just comes so easy to me. I feel really bad because it looks like the rest of my cabin on the Camp NaNo site is not having such a great time. I haven’t been looking at individual stats, but the overall cabin stats are low. Meanwhile, my stats look so damn good I get a thrill every time I glance at them.

Before you pick up your pitch forks and ready your vegetables to throw at me, I just want to say something. I worked to get to this point as a writer.

It hasn’t always been like this for me. It hasn’t always been this easy, and if I was relying on using my laptop to do all my writing right now, my stats would make my cabin’s look amazing. Writing by hand works for me. A three page a day goal works for me. Being a mom has forced me to make the most of my time in an entirely new way. If I want to write, and I do, I have to take it where I can get it. That may be ten minutes before I have to get Jelly Bean up in the morning, or thirty minutes at night before bed. That’s all there is to it.

I really believe that if you want to do something, you will make the time. Of course, there will be days when everything is working against you and it just doesn’t happen, but as long as you don’t get discouraged and keep it in your mind that you want to do it, you will get there.

It’s also worth noting that I conditioned myself for this. Over the last year, I’ve been training myself in good writer habits. I’ve been striving for a page a day, at least. I’ve been trying to write every day, even if it didn’t always happen. I didn’t just decide yesterday I wanted to be a writer and take on 75 pages in 30 days and 100 Days of Writing on my first outing. Runners have to train for a marathon, and writers have to train themselves to write and write often.

I will also say that having such a good month thus far does scare me a bit. What goes up must come down, and I know there will come a day where writing a single page is an exercise in torture. I just hope that day waits to show up until May 1st, and I plan to keep trucking along, even if I have to fling shit at the page just to keep the wheels moving. I’d rather not have to do that, but sometimes it is necessary.

I also believe sometimes you have to write utter garbage to get to the good stuff. It’s just one of the unpleasant realities of being a writer.

What I want any writers reading this to take away is that you can do it. We’re half way through Camp NaNoWriMo, but it’s not too late to make something of it. If you have to change your goal to something more doable, do it. If you have to change up your writing routines, do it. Find the rhythm that gets you jamming and stick with it. I promise it’s possible. I’m rooting for you.

Now get to writing.

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#100DaysOfWriting Challenge

How did I write for fifty-five days in a row?

It started out as an accident.

On April 7, 2017, I began a new story. Nothing out of the ordinary. I wrote, I tracked my pages in my calendar journal. Pretty much business as usual. Then a few weeks later, I noticed something in aforementioned journal. In thirteen days, I hadn’t missed a single day of writing. With a minimum requirement of a page a day to count it as a writing day, I had met that requirement for thirteen straight days.

Holy crap, I wonder if I can make it to thirty.

Fast forward to the end of May and getting ready to hit the road for Memorial Day weekend shenanigans and I, six months pregnant and armed with my special jugs of non-alcoholic sangria, sat down at the kitchen table while my husband was off finishing up something else to ready for our trip. In that ten or twenty minutes I had before we hit the highway, I wrote.

I made the streak last through June 17th, which was day number fifty-five. The streak ended on June 18th, when my daughter was delivered by emergency c-section. That was a Sunday morning, I’d been in the hospital since Friday afternoon. I wrote while in a hospital bed, those straps wrapped around my belly to monitor the baby, and feeling great uncertainty as to whether or not we’d make it to my induce date or even to the following Wednesday.

As far as I can tell, at least since I started really tracking my daily writing in 2013, fifty-five days is the longest I’ve gone writing every single day. How did I do it?

A very interesting challenge on Instagram has made me examine this question rather closely, in anticipation of trying a new streak, this time for one hundred days. One hundred days is a long time, but it’s just one day at a time.

Five rules. Five rules that have made me a more prolific writer. I am listing them below in hopes that they might help you become a more productive writer too. And if you care to follow along for the 100 Days of Writing Challenge, you can do so on my author Instagram account, @authorsbraxton.

Rule #1 – Make writing a priority.

This one should be obvious, but it’s something a lot of people lose sight of easily. If you want to write regularly, it has to be a priority. You must approach each day with the constant thought nagging in your brain that you need to write, that you have to carve out the time to write. Whether it’s five minutes before you hit the road for a trip, or ten minutes before bed, or maybe twenty minutes in the morning over coffee before you rush out to work, it must be a priority in your brain.

Rule #2 – Choose your weapon.

Google Docs, accessible on your phone or laptop, wherever you are. Microsoft Word with a small notebook to accessorize with when you’re away from your keyboard. Or, and this is my preferred weapon of choice, a one hundred percent pen and paper method. I use those $1 composition books, college ruled, from Walmart. I carry it with me everywhere.

Rule #3 – Set your own rule.

Once you’ve picked your weapon, you can set your rule. Do you want to do one thousand words a day? Two thousand? If you’re writing longhand, do you want to do a page? Two or three? Set your rule but make it something you can easily reach. In a good writing session, I can knock a page out in ten minutes so that’s my minimum I have to reach before I can count the day towards my writing log. After Jelly Bean was born, I lowered my minimum to a quarter page, just something small to get me back on the writing horse. Then I upped it once some time had gone by and I was comfortable again.

Rule #4 – Monitor your progress.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times my writing log. It started as columns I drew by hand in a ratty comp book. In the last couple of years, I’ve started using the monthly spread in my calendar journal. I put the pages I wrote that day and the overall total in the day’s box. I also tally it all up at the end of the month, pages and actual days written and write it out to the side. Seeing your progress, seeing how much you actually accomplished over a month does wonders for your productivity.

Rule #5 – Make it fun.

Writing should be fun, make it so. Something I’ve begun doing in the last year is covering the spine of my composition books in washi tape. It makes them stand out on my shelves and I know the ones with washi tape on the spines are the ones I’ve completed or the current WIP I WILL complete. I also set rewards for myself with last year’s streak. When I hit twenty-five days of writing every day, I ordered myself a new CD and a movie my husband and I had been wanting to watch but our copy was on VHS. Whatever it is, find a way to add enjoyment to the overall writing process, because sometimes your characters are too busy being PITAs to do it for you.

And there you have it, my five rules/tips to help you weather and survive an attempt at writing every day for one hundred days. Everybody cross your fingers I can stick this out, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Status Update: What to Expect

The Kelswitch is back for regularly scheduled blogging! It’s been a while since I regularly blogged. I did it most of the way through college and for a year or so after graduation, but have since fallen off the bandwagon. So when I sat down Sunday night to write a blog, I could hear the groan and creak of the rusty wheels trying to turn to no avail, which is why this is coming late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

I have always enjoyed blogging. I began it as a way to express some thoughts I had about my developing beliefs when I was in college, and it morphed into Carolina Kel and Words to Midnight as they stand today. Even though this blog has been around for several years now, I thought to mark the beginning of a new era it would be good to lay out what you can expect from the Kelswitch from this point forward.

Words to Midnight is, obviously, going to remain a blog about writing. I plan to post it every other week on Wednesdays. The Kelswitch, my main blog located here at Carolina Kel, will be the catch-all for everything else, posted on Mondays.

From here on out. I promise.

I want to resume the Reader Rambles feature on this blog too, which I will do once a month. The content the rest of the time is up in the air. I may ramble aimlessly about something completely off the wall, or do a focused topic, I am not sure. One thing I will say is that I am going to pointedly avoid politics. Not just because it is considered bad form for an author platform, but I am also just sick to death of them. If you want opinions on this or that in the political arena, the Internet is full of sources for such, but you won’t find that here.

The Kelswitch is going to be about books, writing, music, motherhood, adulting as a millennial, and life in general. I hope you join me on this new ride.

Next week, I’m going to start the regular Monday schedule for the Kelswitch, and there will also be a blog on Words to Midnight. Stay tuned for that, and thanks for reading!

 

Kelswitch, over and out.

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Where We Going Jack?

It’s been a hot minute, y’all. Let’s see, what have I been doing since that last “is this the end of Carolina Kel” post?

I made an official author Instagram. I’m still writing. Just this past week I began watching Kristen Martin’s writing videos with pen and paper in hand to take notes. I’m starting to learn more about the process of self-publishing, namely how much it’s going to cost. Maybe this is bad writer form to talk about this on my blog so I won’t go into specific numbers, but guys, I had no idea. I’ve always admired them, but now I have newfound respect for all the struggling self-published authors out there. Trying to put out a quality product is a big up front investment and when you’re independent, there’s no big publisher bank account to pick up the tab. I’m feeling a little intimidated.

I’ve been thinking and trying to plan and trying to begin laying the footings for an author platform I can stand firm on. When I get overwhelmed by all that lies ahead, I just remind myself one step at a time. I also can’t help but think I wish I had started this process four years ago.

Ehhh, I kinda did.

Four years ago, as of just a few days ago actually, I self-published an e-book on Amazon Kindle. If you go to my old blogspot site, you can still see the tab and link for it, even though the book has been taken down. Why did I take it down? Well, to put it succinctly, because I didn’t know shit.

That book was such a mistake in so many ways. Any seasoned indie author could probably spot all the rookie mistakes a mile away, ones I’m partially ashamed to cop to now. A cover made in Microsoft Paint. Only two cursory “edits” by yours truly. No professional cover. No professional editor. No marketing for the book prior to release. Not to mention it was the prologue for a series I wasn’t ready to put out in the world and it ended on a cliffhanger.

Please, put your fruits and veggies down. I took it down, didn’t I?

All I can say is that book was the result of a less than peachy season of my life and pressure to do something with myself and my time, something that could make money and make it quick. Indie vets, stop laughing. I can hear you from over here. I said I didn’t know shit, didn’t I?

So where am I at now? Where am I going from here? What’s going to happen to this site?

 

I’m focusing on branding myself as an author of paranormal romance. I’m really close to finishing a second handwritten draft of a novel I’d like to self-publish. I’m beginning to think about turning it into a series of somewhat related but stand-alone novels centered around paranormal romance in North Carolina. I’ve got another story that is all but officially outlined that I could turn my attention to next, alongside typing up my current WIP and beginning to edit it.

I’ve decided for now to stick with this website and wordstomidnight. I may change the address, but I don’t think I have to pull the trigger on that right now. So for now, you can still find me at www.carolinakel.wordpress.com. I have not made a new Twitter account, I’ve got my old carolinakel account on lockdown until I decide what to do with it. I do, as I mentioned above, have a new author Instagram account. There’s not much for me to update on currently, but I plan to post there when I have new blogs so if you want to give a follow, I’d appreciate it.

I do want to quickly mention, if you happen to be one of the people who bought my novella when I published it four years ago, I still appreciate your support. It means a lot and if you actually liked that story, it is my hope that you’ll love what I put out next, whenever that happens. Thank you for sticking this journey out with me.

Kelswitch, over and out.

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My current official Author Photo. Find me on Instagram @authorsbraxton

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Is it the end of Carolina Kel?

We took life as it came this year. Oh, a funeral in Virginia? Pack up and hit the road, kids. Oh, they want me to go to the hospital because my blood pressure went up again? Okay, let me send the hubs home for the bag. Oh, emergency c-section? You’re not giving me time to properly freak out about it and for that, I’m grateful. Two more funerals before my preemie baby is six months old? Get the black clothes out of the closet and find someone to watch the kiddo, because I’m not taking my baby into the funeral home. Last time someone coughed and then shook hands with my husband. He turned up with a cold a few days later.

I’ve had one or two people remark to me that we’ve had a crazy year, and as they said it, I was dimly shaking my head. Like, no it’s not a big deal.

Liar.

With less than three weeks left in 2017, I’m looking back on all that happened this year and feeling slightly dizzy. Three funerals and a baby. Ba-dum dum. Sounds like it should be a punchline to a joke. My life still feels crazy at times, but I don’t have time to get bent out of shape about it. I’m too busy washing bottles, changing diapers, making sure the coffee pot is clean for the next day, and trying to write. One day, one week at a time. I even did NaNoWriMo this year, only to fail horrendously. But that fall was the best ride I’ve had in a while.

I’m not the same person I was a year ago. Likely it’s a combination of becoming a mom and losing three grandparents (four if you count the VA funeral) in the last 13 months, but I feel fundamentally different from the person I used to be. And because I’m a writer with a blog, you get to read all about it. Don’t you feel lucky.

I’ve said before that something’s changed for me as a writer. I worked on a draft for almost seven months this year, and finished it. What’s more than that, I started a second draft of another story for NaNoWriMo that I’m still working on and hope to be done with by the end of January. I’ve got plans forming in the back of my mind, and an eye for world domination. Or, at least domination of my corner of the Internet.

2018 is going to be MY year. The year of AUTHOR Stephanie Braxton. I’ve always called myself a writer but never an author, because in my mind authors are published, and I’m not published. (shhh, shadows rising, you don’t exist anymore) But 2018 is going to be the year I “get serious” and change that. With my current tentative timeline, I’m planning to prepare a story for self-publication sometime in January of 2019. I’m going to spend this next year writing, editing, and building my author empire…I mean platform.

Building an author platform means a complete overhaul of my entire public Internet presence, and I think it’s going to mean a new website. One with my name actually in the address. That was a hard decision to come to because through blogspot and wordpress, I’ve always been Carolina Kel. It’s my Twitter and Instagram handles. It’s the name on my current “writer” Facebook page (which will probably be removed in favor of a new one). Making a new website, probably with a blog, has made me wonder what I will do with carolinakel and wordstomidnight. I don’t want to remove them, but the fact is keeping up three blogs is kind of silly. Not to mention difficult.

My current plan is to build my author platform one social media outlet at a time. I’m going to start in the first quarter of 2018 with Instagram and then Twitter. I’ve come to have a bit of a love affair with Instagram. I’ve often thought about starting a YouTube channel, but I do not have a fancy camera, nor proper editing software to make quality videos. So I’m going to do Instagram and use the Stories feature instead.

I’ve been watching a ton of Kristen Martin videos on YouTube and she is giving me all kinds of insight and ideas for how to get started and make 2018 a great year. I know it’s not going to get any easier once my daughter finds her legs (and her voice), but it’s a challenge long overdue. I’ll be 27 in April, and before my daughter turns 5, I want to be able to say I’m a published author. By then I’ll be 31. I’ve got four and a half years to establish myself as a author. Even if I never make a living from it (like many writers don’t), I still want to have made the effort and see the beginnings of an empire. It may be a small empire, but it will be mine.

2017 was a year of vast change in my corner of the universe. Some of it great, some of it sad, but I know one thing. My family and I are going into 2018 with our heads held high and the sparkle of opportunity glistening in our eyes. We made it through this year in one piece, we can do anything. More than that, I want to teach by example to Jelly Bean that she can do anything she sets her mind to. Even if I don’t owe taking this chance to myself, I owe it to her, because she is everything to Bear and I, and she is the reason I got my bear face on, always.

Bring it, 2018.

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