personal

“I’m real” and other lies we tell ourselves

That’s not to say it should be a lie, but more that, as I’ve learned, it often feels like one.

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to Imposter Syndrome, the feeling that you’re not actually worth your accomplishments and that, at any moment, someone could pop up and shout, “You! You aren’t actually the thing you claim to be, so sit down and stop pretending that you are!”

This sort of fear is good if you are, say, an actual fraud. Perhaps it will stop you from doing something fraudulent.

For the rest of us, it’s the irritating voice in our heads that stops us from celebrating/talking about/recognising our own achievements to anyone beyond our immediate toddlers or cats. And even then, it might be a whispered “Woohoo”.

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Ever feel like this when people ask you about your goals and ambitions? This image basically sums up most of my social interactions if ever I think that question will come up

I was facing my own inner heckler early last week. Here I am, getting ready to publish my 11th novel since Nov 2013, and I’m still sitting here firmly believing that I don’t know enough about my business after three years to make this a successful launch. I just shouldn’t make a big deal out of it, because whatever. It’s just a story.

“I’ve already published a book this year. People are going to get tired of hearing from me, so they’re going to ignore/unfollow/block/report me for spam” <—– ACTUAL THOUGHTS, PEOPLE.

How am I supposed to sell books when I’m too worried to stand up in front of wonderful readers who tell me they love what I write and let them know I have a new book? How am I supposed to reach new readers, if I don’t feel I’m worthy of the incredible reviews and messages I get from my existing readers?

So I took these thoughts and insecurities to one of the few Facebook author groups I love, and within an hour, I had a dozen replies from other authors (many of whom I really look up to and admire) telling me they experience the exact same thing.

This made me feel so much better!

I might be a fraud who is incapable of retaining a single piece of information about the business that I have dedicated three years to building…… OR I could be like so many other people and just think I’m a fraud who is incapable of, etc.

THE BRAIN IS STUPID, FOLKSIf you haven’t figured that out by now, then you are the most well-adjusted person in the world and should probably talk to someone about that. It’s not healthy.

Of course, as I was realising this about my business, I also realised how much I do it in the rest of my life, as well. I got married two weeks ago. Hitched. Was made an honest woman out of. I shared the news on social media, but sort of in passing. During all of the lead-up, during the planning for all the events that go with the big day, I felt really awkward and uncomfortable making a big deal about it. I didn’t want to appear vain or self-absorbed, so I internalized everything, and, as a result, ended up walking away feeling a bit like not many other people cared. Why would they? If I’m all calm, cool, and collected, then where is their motivation to be all bubbly and excited and bouncy?

This is a mistake I will not make for the reception in July, gosh darnit.

So why am I posting this?

Because I want you to know that you’re not alone. Yes, I’m making an assumption that you feel like this, too, but that’s only because every single other person I have spoken to has expressed understanding, empathy, and “THAT’S TOTALLY ME” whenever I’ve brought it up.

It might not be over everything. You might go crazy and shout as loud as you can when you get that promotion at work, but maybe you hush up when something you’ve been working on (your garden, a poem, a song, a robot you plan to use for your eventual world domination) goes really well, because you don’t feel that you’re REALLY a gardener, a poet, a musician, or an evil mastermind. You’re just playing at it. It’s not REAL.

But there’s the true lie. If you do it, it’s real. You really are those things. It’s time to admit it.

So I challenge you to do so in the comments. What’s something that you’re really proud of yourself for achieving/doing, but are never comfortable telling people about? I want to know!

Do What You Love?

As I reach the mid-way point in my 12-month “Full-Time Author Test”, I thought I’d share some of my experiences and perspectives on the mission of “following my dreams”.

When I first stepped into the FT arena, I had a plan. I weighed out all the pros and cons, talked through every element that I should watch out for: money, isolation, mental health, etc. I waited until I was sure I had a solid foundation before I took the leap.

At the end of January, my plans fell through. There were delays in my latest book release, and that delay led to a drop in sales, and a delay in the release of my next book. Those delays and sales drops meant a hit to my finances, and in May, I was sure I’d have to cut my 12-month trial off early to go back to work.

Fortunately, my support team is the best I could have asked for. My fiance and I sat down and rearranged our budget to make sure I could take another six months without any more of a hit. We’re currently working on some really fun promo material for my next series to try to get some new eyes on it. We’re talking about beginning a new project – a podcast about two artists living together, following different streams of our craft, and the ups and downs of it all.

Even when the pitfalls loom, I’m so grateful I have people who will help me stay on a solid foundation.

I knew before I went to full-time that money would be tight. I chose to skip Ottawa Comic Con this year so I could afford the GORGEOUS covers for my new series (the cover reveal is coming July 1 to my newsletter subscribers!). My social life is in a bit of a lull, because I don’t have the easy-access cash to go out very often. Every coffee I buy is a debate of whether I should get out of the house for a while and spend the $1.89 on a Tim’s cappucino, or if I should stay home and make one for free.

And money isn’t the only challenge.

One of the most common questions I’m asked when I tell people I write full time is whether I have issue getting to work in the morning and if I get distracted by everything going on at home.

My problem actually lies on the reverse side, as my fiance can tell you. I’m a bit of a workaholic. I begin my day when he leaves for his dayjob at 6:30a.m., and there are many times I’ll continue working until dinner 12 hours later. In my case, my self-discipline has grown in knowing when to walk away at the end of the day. To leave my work in my office as best I can and appreciate the rest of the day outside of my books.

The work-life balance is harder to handle when they’re one and the same (as they’ve always been, because an artist can never really get out of her own head), so I practice this by going out for long walks most days of the week.

There have been days where it’s taken all of my energy to sit down at the computer and get to work because I feel I’m not making any progress in my business. FAILURE is a terrifying word, and even though my rational brain knows that there’s no such thing – because even if the details don’t go according to plan, I’m still going to be ahead of where I was at the beginning of the year with so much more experience under my belt – it’s still a prospect that makes taking the next big step scary. Being your own boss, trying to make a go of it in the arts in a city where the arts have a hard time taking hold, means a lot of uncertainty.

I’m not saying this to whine or seek sympathy – again, I KNEW this would be the case. I’m sharing it for those of you who are on the fence to make the same leap and take risks with your dreams.

It’s a big choice. It’s a scary choice. If I were on my own and didn’t have the support of my family, I don’t know how well I would be holding up.

On the other hand, I can say, without any doubt, that I have no regrets about making my choice. For the last six months, while I’ve still had to wake up to my fiance’s alarm, I have never dreaded getting out of bed in the morning. My to-do list is always full of tasks I look forward to tackling.

I may cry, I may stuff my face with cookies, I may even bury myself in books for hours in the evenings, but every day I get to wake up and do what I love – do what I’ve always dreamed of doing with my life – and the reward for that is priceless.

So should you take the risk and jump into your dreams with both feet? That’s up to you. Be sure you’re ready for it and you know what’s coming. But once you’re really really certain – take a good look at what’s holding you back.

Life is crazy, loud, and full of uncertainty anyway – why not lose yourself in something that makes you look forward to greeting each  day?

 

Why Ravens?

I’ve actually been meaning to write this post for a while, considering it’s such a big theme of my author platform, so today I thought I’d touch on the question I’m sure you’re all dying to know: What’s with all the ravens?

I don’t know when the fascination really started. What I do know is that in my travel diary from 2007, I made a point of saying that if I hadn’t already been in love with the idea of Ireland, the fact they have ravens would have done the trick. Doing the math, that means at least 8 years of my life have been spent watching and learning about these birds.

I first noticed them when I was about 8 years old – on the drive up to the family cottage, I’d believed the crows had been bitten by radioactive spiders, causing them to grow in incredible sizes. For me, they were new. Some of you might wonder how that’s possible. They’re loud and EVERYWHERE, how could I not have noticed them? Fact is, the raven population in Ontario had decreased considerably by then. The wolf population in Algonquin Park and surrounding areas had grown too large, so the decision at the time had been to lay down poison to control it. The trouble with that is that ravens and wolves have quite the symbiotic relationship — the ravens eat what the wolf kills. When they changed their mind and allowed the wolves to return, the ravens started to come back.

In 2010, I took my love of ravens to the next level and had one inked permanently into my skin.

The tattoo people only seem to notice months after they know me...

The tattoo people only seem to notice months after they know me…

Of course people ask me: why the raven? My answer is that, in many ways, they reflect who I am and who I aspire to be.

Ravens are caring – they mate for life and are attentive parents.

They’re creative – they think outside of the box to solve problems with an impressive logic; they band together to solve problems one couldn’t solve on their own. One of my favourite stories on this subject is the ornithologist who studied a particular group of ravens (for the actual story and full study, check out Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich). He tied a piece of raw meat to a string and hung it from a tree branch. Other birds came in and would fly at the meat, unable to get it because the string kept swaying. The ravens came. After only a few tries of grabbing it mid-air, one of the birds landed on the branch where the string was attached, lifted the string with its beak, caught it with its foot, and repeat until it had pulled the meat up onto the branch and could eat it without trouble.

My other favourite story would carry more weight if you watched it yourself:

Amazing, right? These blackbirds, I tells ya!

Another reason ravens and crows are creatures to pay attention to: they PLAY . Although it’s not obvious to hear them, ravens are considered songbirds; they’re natural mimics and can create all sorts of side effects (ravens with roosts near construction sites, for example, can often be heard mimicking the sounds of explosions). They’re one of the few birds to fly for fun and I have seen this happen. Driving with my dad one day, we were stopped at a red light next to a mid-rise building. I looked up and was astounded to see three ravens playing loop-de-loop in the air, riding the air currents in arcs, much like the sight of teenagers on their curved ramps. Each bird would take a turn. Also, how is this not amazing?

Love that video.

So sure, they’re loud and abrasive and enjoy the taste of dead flesh, but I still think they’re worth loving.

Do you have an animal you relate to?

Today I’m Grateful For…

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but obviously didn’t follow through. Let’s see if I’m any better this time around.

This blog was created oh-so-many years ago to focus on my books. My books now have a new home at www.kristawalshauthor.com, which opens up this blog to be a bit more versatile. A bit more… personal? I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing and exploring new ways to get my name out, and most of my ideas have come down to connecting more with my readers on a personal level. My most recent newsletter invited my amazing super team to join a Launch Team group on Facebook and I’ve really enjoyed interacting more directly with them.

Now I want that extend that personal touch to The Raven’s Quill blog, throwing in my random musings, show you more of the person behind the books.

So today I want to talk a bit about the new system I’ve implemented as part of my morning routine to (hopefully) encourage a more positive outlook on life.

About two weeks ago, I started a daily gratitude list. I try to sit down with it first thing in the morning, but if I miss that, then at least as the first task of my work day. For the first part of the list, I focus on the previous day, going through every single moment to pick out the best ones – the small moments that I would normally forget, but that make me smile when I remember. My goal for this project is to change my thinking – to make it easier to find those little moments, and so far I can say it’s working. I can now pick out 20, 30 moments in the day that leave me feeling warm and fuzzy, and almost completely wipe out all the negativity – the frustrations and irritations. It hasn’t yet helped me shrug off the rough times in the moment, but at least it starts my day off on a positive note.

The second part of the list is for the future. I write the things I want to achieve as if they’ve already happened. Not out of some expectation that these items are going to magically happen because I wrote them down, but with the belief that – if I have a concrete idea of what I want out of life – I’ll be more aware of the opportunities that will help me achieve those goals. I’ll be more likely to take chances and say “Yes” to these opportunities as they come up instead of second-guessing. Most recently, I agreed to ship off some books to reviewers who want a look at Bloodlore. Before, I might have weighed the cost of shipping against the benefit, but this time I jumped in and said “Why not?” Worst case, I get one more possible reader, but if they like it and spread the word, maybe I get 10 more, or 100 more!

So I hope to carry on with this project and slowly focus all of my thinking on the white space instead of the pencil dot in the middle of the page – focus on the possibilities instead of the problems. I’ll let you know how that comes along.

That’s my story for the day. What are you grateful for?