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Bad Girlz for Life

Approximately four years ago, I went to my very first conference: RWA Atlanta. Nothing like starting with a bang, am I right? I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, dreaming about everything this career could possibly bring. I knew exactly one person—Jeanette, who’d been by my side for many years prior and from that point on became my permanent conference wife.

I was overwhelmed in an amazing way, learning so many new things and meeting so many new people, including the Bad Girlz. Writing can be incredibly solitary. The majority of my work is done at home, by myself, with Twitter or Facebook as my only companions. But to see so many fellow writers all in the same place was extraordinary. Meeting people who not only shared this crazy dream of mine, but were doing everything in their power to actually make that dream come true? It felt like I found my tribe.

The Bad Girlz took me into the fold and laughed with me, danced with me, drank with me. They gave me conferences tips, supported me as I pitched for the very first time, and told me I did not look stupid in that tutu for the Harlequin party. They acted as if we’d been friends for years instead of days, and it made that nerve-racking time a little less so.

As fate would have it, by the time this posts, I’ll be on my way to RWA once again. A lot has changed since that first conference—for me, as well as the rest of the Bad Girlz. We’ve pitched and queried and gotten agents and book deals. We’ve seen those books in the hands of readers and on bookshelves. We’ve made this dream come true.

I’ve been to half a dozen conferences since that first one. I no longer need pitching help or conference tips, and I will rock my annual tutu for the Harlequin party without reservation. I will also squeeze many of the Bad Girlz before laughing and dancing and drinking with them, which will be a fantastic way for us to send this blog off in style.

Bad Girlz Write has been an awesome place to share writing tips, commiserate with the roller coaster ride that is publishing, and to convene with like-minded individuals. But it’s also been a solid foundation for friendships that go far beyond the confines of badgirlzwrite.com. And I know that even when we close the doors on this blog, those will continue on for many years to come.

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Bad Girlz with a Z

Once upon a time, seven writers decided to give blogging a go. We had no idea what we were doing when it came to writing or blogging, but we thought through the latter, maybe we could help others with the former.

We started the planning and building stages of Bad Girlz Write in the spring of 2012. Back when I still wrote paranormal. My child was two years old. I’d known EMichels for maybe a year, I only barely knew Jeanette, and I didn’t know Laura Trentham at all!

Fast forward five years. I have a boy now, instead of a baby. I’ve changed jobs, I’ve changed sub-genres, I learned how to write, found an agent, wrote 9 books, sold most of them, went from being a casual to a professional fangirl, and I’ve made some of the most awesome friends ever. In 5 years, I’ve considered giving up writing at least twice. Wait…yeah that sounds right. Two times. Maybe three? Anyway, I’ve been elated with writing at least ten times that, and I’m still here. With the Girlz, I’ve talked to the point I’ve lost my voice, laughed so hard I was sore the next day, and cried enough to give myself a headache. I’ve had people insult my writing dream and people in awe of it. I’ve drank my share of wine, traveled across the country, up and down the east coast, fangirled, flailed, danced (seriously, there’s so much dancing. Why are we always dancing?), squeed, limped, laughed, giggled and gawked with my writer tribe.

I could go on and on about all the fun the Bad Girlz had over the years. Even without a blog, there will be tons more to come, but since I love lists, I’ll limit my memories to a Top 5 List:

5. The very first Bad Girlz Retreat at Big Moose Lodge, a year or more before we were even Bad Girlz. This was way back when we actually did workshops and wrote while on retreat. (Heh. That was the first and last time any actual writing work got done when we all get together.) I believe we were preparing for Moonlight and Magnolias – the first conference for all of us.

4. The last Bad Girlz Retreat at Big Moose. No writing occurred, but that was when we decided to start this blog! Jeanette barely knew us, yet agreed to go to a remote, mountain getaway with 6 writer meeting proximity associates. Lucky for her, we weren’t psycho killers (Qu’est-ce que c’est?). To this day, we still laugh about the somewhat uncharacteristic audacity it took for her to go. ‘Twas meant to be, I say.

3. That BGW Weekend at Lake Norman. There were 2 or 3, and I honestly can’t separate them from each other. They’ve blended into one amalgam of seeing Tony Stark’s house, sitting on the porch, swimming in the pool,  going to the lake, eating too much guacamole, going out for “fancy” Mexican, and talking for HOURS. Mainly, I  just remember having so much fun, and that’s what matters.

2. Moonlight & Magnolias…2011? I think the year was 2011. Idek. It was my first writer conference and it was the one in Decatur, Georgia. Someone correct me if I got the date wrong. There’s something magical about your first writer’s conference. Decatur is a perfect little town within the metropolis of Atlanta, the restaurants were all to die for, and you could walk to everything. But it just goes to show, a little magic goes a long way. The hotel was literally closing down around us, they short-changed us on towels and ran out of hotel chicken, but that conference will always hold a special place. Everything was new, we actually participated in the newcomer’s orientation, Eloisa James’ keynote made me cry, Darlene made the best Cosmos, and I pitched a book for the first time ever. I didn’t sell said book, but by gosh, I pitched the hell out of it!

1. RWA San Diego. This conference was amazing! Not only were the writer vibes fabulous, but I can’t say enough good things about the city of San Diego and the hotel that hosted us. And the weather! I still day dream about 0% humidity and having good hair days at the end of July. I’m glad the cost of living is higher in California. It’s a high of 77 and a low of 63. Who lives like that?!?!

Last year’s RWA conference was heads above my first RWA conference, and I think that had a lot to do with where I am in my career. Last year, I was able to attend a few functions and parties, relax a little more, but learn a lot, and enjoy myself while feeling like I was truly participating in a professional industry conference. In short, I wasn’t as clueless as I was 3 years prior. And, I got to eat meals, sea-side, with my friends, while enjoying the gorgeous weather. I was able to spend quality time with people I hold dear, but only see a few times a year. RWA San Diego will be tough to beat, but next week, I go to RWA Orlando. 🙂 I’d love for RWA Orlando to be the best one yet!

Thank you to all of the Bad Girlz Write followers and readers for the last 5 years! Your comments and participation meant everything to us. I hope you picked up some tips and found a few takeaways over the years. That’s why we wanted to blog in the first place. And lastly, thank you to the Bad Girlz. I don’t think I’d be in this #authorlife if it weren’t for you, but I know I wouldn’t be having this much fun.

<3 y’all,

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My Favorite Bad Girl Post: How Do You Bounce Back?

To be completely honest, my favorite post in my 5 years of Bad Girl blogging is my Sebastian Stan post. I’m pretty sure anyone who knows me could’ve predicted that. However, in the years since, the pictures have had to come down and it doesn’t make much sense re-blogging an image-less post. Especially when it means robbing you of the beauty that is Sebastian Stan. Instead, I’ll simply include these 

and move along to a post of mine that I think was most helpful.

How Do I Bounce Back?

Resilience. Some people are naturally inclined to have it, others struggle. I’m here to tell you, if you’ve decided publication – of any kind – is your goal, you’re going to need it.

Resilience comes into play when you have to push through a rough part of your story, produce words when the words are being little bastards, bounce back after some hard truths from a critique partner, or when you get rejected by every agent in the universe – plus a few from the Delta quadrant. Then, even after you sign with an agent, there will be more rejection, in the form of passes from editors. Even after you sell to an editor or publish, guess what. You got it! You can still face rejection for other projects or in the form of low sales.

Aren’t I just a little ray of sunshine this morning?

So, how does one conjure up the resilience to keep going in this brutal business? After bouncing back from a recent rejection, a friend asked me, “How are you so resilient?” It got me thinking.

Part of it is who I am; the life experiences and beliefs that come together to give me resilience. I don’t say this to throw rose petals at myself. In fact, I wish I could’ve skipped some of those life experiences, but it is what it is. It makes me ME. The other part of bouncing back is habit. I have some bounce back steps, and today, I’m going to share those steps with you.

Step 1: Digest the rejection, in whatever form it comes, and grieve. I mean it. Being upset, angry, hurt, resentful, envious – whatever the emotion, don’t fight it. Be honest with yourself because if you deny that you’re disappointed and feel like you got slapped in the face with a cold fish, it will eat you up inside.

Step 2: Wallow a little. This is your Big Black Moment, the part of your journey where all is lost. A pity party is to be expected. Eat some dessert, have wine. Have both together. Navel gaze. Beat yourself up, compare yourself to others, doubt everything you ever thought about yourself. Oh come on! You know you’re going to do it anyway. Own that sh*t! BUT, you are allowed no more than 48 hours of solo woe. It gets toxic very fast, so set a timer, grab some bon-bons, and make it count.

Step 3: Reach out to your people. Not just any people, because while your spouse or sibling is probably awesome, they aren’t going to understand this process. You need to talk to a writer friend who has been in the trenches too. Make sure they are wise and reasonable, not a hot mess who will lead you astray. Tell them what happened. Let them be upset with you and for you, and let them reassure you.

Step 4: Listen to their reassurances. Absorb it. You aren’t friends with dummies, so don’t be that guy who can’t take a compliment. Your pals know what they’re talking about. Let their words of wisdom soak in.

Step 5: Get over yourself. This is the hard part, but it’s time. You’ve had your moment of sad, now it’s time to dig deep and keep going. The black moment is over; it’s time to move toward your resolution. Focus on the facts. Look at the substantial takeaways from this experience. How can you improve? How can you grow? What can you learn from this? Take those lemons and make a lemon drop martini.

Step 6: Get out there and enjoy life. Do the things that make you happy, let the brain rest and renew. That is when ideas strike.

Step 7: Get your butt back in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard and WRITE THE NEXT BOOK. This is the single most important step for any author, regardless of the issue. The solution to 98% of every writer issues is Write. Keep writing. Then, write more. You will get better. Your voice will get stronger. You’ll find that hook or genre or magical formula that will put your story in front of readers. You will not move from where you are unless you keep writing, so go for it! Tell us the next story and start bouncing.

 

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Bon Voyage, Bad Girlz!

Five years ago, seven wishful writers sat around a large oak table at a mountain retreat, and decided they wanted to start a blog. A few months later, Bad Girlz Write was born.

Our hope and purpose was to help other writers on their journey toward and through publishing. Even those adorable, wide-eyed 2012 Bad Girlz knew the publishing industry was tough. We knew we’d need a cornerstone for all of the education and emotion required to write and sell fiction. Over the years, this blog served as that stone. More Bad Girlz joined the blog, and we shared the joy and laughter, the sorrow and stress, and the triumphs and defeats that come with being an artist and professional. (We shared some pics of hotties along the way too.) We hope this blog has served as a place of information and education, and as a comfy spot to commiserate with other writers. A place where you know you’re not alone.

But, we’re coming to a time when the Bad Girlz need to retire from adding new posts. The blog will remain here for years to come, but on August 29th we’ll have a huge final post to commemorate Bad Girlz Write’s retirement. Like all great parties, there will be music, dancing, drinks, and laughter. We hope you’ll visit the blog on that day, and party with us.

Over the next rotation, we’re going to post our “Best Of” or favorite posts from the blog. After that, each Bad Girl will share a post about the last 5 years; what she’s learned and how much has changed.

We want to send Bad Girlz Write off with a bang! This blog was a dream of ours that came true. Now, we turn the page toward new dreams and adventures, but we want to take the summer to thank our followers and celebrate all we’ve learned with you. Please join us over the next couple of months as we say Bon Voyage, Bad Girlz Write!

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Shenanigans! (Part 2)

As EMichels said in her previous post, sometimes the best way to begin your writing process is with some non-writing activity that clears the brain. With three different projects staring at me from my monitor, and less and less time to write with each passing year, I knew what I needed before I dove in: one of my closest writer friends to help me talk through the challenges, a day away from reality to cope with the pressures, and some shronking to kick back and relax. I bring you, more shenanigans!

It is way more difficult than it seems to get these distance pics just right! I’m supposed to be pinching the peach butt. Does it work?

EMichels is supposed to be biting the peach butt. After three minutes of setting up this shot and five minutes of me sitting on the sidewalk and giggling uncontrollably, I’m fairly certain we were not successful. We did entertain ourselves and a dozen or so passersby though.

Getting into the tiny cop car seemed a cute idea at the time. But a small child, I am not.

Finally, here’s EMichels doing some invaluable research on horses and cowboys for her upcoming series.

After my day of shopping, I was lucky enough to have a long girls’ weekend in Charleston, SC. The weather was perfect, the food delicious, the beach walks and talking and laughing, and even crying were exactly what I needed. Probably what everyone needs from time to time.

Folly Pier from our condo’s balcony. Folly has a piece of my heart and always will.

Sunset at Bowen’s Island. If you like seafood, but have not been to Bowen’s, get thee to there anon!

Last week was a must-have for me, and I’m so grateful I had the time and opportunity to reconnect with friends and have non-stop fun for 5 straight days. This break gave me the rest I needed to forge ahead with my projects and kick off my process yet again. 🙂

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Calling It Quits

Recently, I did something that was incredibly difficult for me. I pulled the plug. I gave up. I walked away from something I’d put a lot of time and effort into.

That’s right. I trashed a work in progress.

To give you a little bit of background, I’m a (very, very) slightly reformed pantser who used to trash manuscripts all the time. I’d get excited about the premise for a project, pound out twenty thousand words or so, then realize there was no conflict and no point and get distracted by the next shiny idea dangling in front of my face.

That all changed a few years ago when I finally threw up my hands and recognized that I needed at least a liiiiitle bit of a plan in place before I started a project. Beginning to do some very basic outlining helped me ensure that a plot bunny had some depth to it—enough to get me to the end of it, at any rate.

The difference was immediate and dramatic. I started six projects and finished six projects. Everything was going great.

Then I had a kid.

My little bundle of joy is the light of my life, and for a few months there, she was also the destroyer of productivity and concentration. Desperate to get my writing career back on track in her wake, I started a new document. Something short and light. Something sexy and fun.

Something with no plan.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t go well. As will probably surprise absolutely no one, I pounded out about twenty thousand words and started to stall out. There wasn’t enough there there. The short, light, sexy, fun story wasn’t a great match for my brand.

In short, the project just wasn’t going anywhere.

The moment I realized this, naturally, I panicked. I’d been slogging away at this thing for a month, killing myself to try to write a few hundred words a day during my daughter’s naps and after her bedtime. This was blood, sweat and tears we were talking about here. And yet. I had to face facts. It wasn’t working out.

Resigning that manuscript to the dumpster pile was one of the harder things I’ve done in my writing career. I won’t say that it was a total loss. After a few months of self-imposed maternity leave, I probably needed to warm up a little before getting back up to speed with my writing, and working on a one-off project wasn’t a terrible way to get in the saddle again. Still, I’d been doing so well. I’d been staying focused. I’d been finishing things.

But in the end, I had to remember – there’s no point throwing good time after bad. I closed the file. I mourned.

And after a few days’ reflection, I went back to the drawing board, this time with a plot bunny I hope is a better fit for my brand, my voice, and my readers’ expectations. With characters that make a little more sense to me. Probably without as much of a plan as I should have, but with at least enough of one that I’m pretty sure I can make it to the top of the hill before my engine putters out.

When’s the last time you scrapped a manuscript? What made you decide to pull the plug? And in the end, looking back, do you think you made the right call?

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Burn Out is Real…and it’s Scary

I’m a burn out. Wait, wait! Let me rephrase that. I am burnt out.

I am in the process of writing my fourth book in a year and a half… During that time, four other books released. I know there are some amazing authors who can kick out a book every two months — or one month. I wish! But that’s not me, and I know that.

Let me be clear…I’m not complaining. NOT ONE BIT.

But I am admitting…
I’m burnt out.

As a debut author who had never signed a contract before, I didn’t realize how grueling a publishing schedule would be. I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to just put my head down and write as I did for years before I even tried to get a book deal.

Sure, I knew all about the other things that go into being an author—the editing and editing and editing, social media, marketing, conferences and continuing education workshops, author events and signings and more editing…and, of course, writing.

I signed my first contract in February 2015 and I haven’t been able to catch up yet. As soon as I signed that contract and put myself under a real deadline: Reality happened. Exhaustion and stress and life unraveling happened.

Real life doesn’t stop when you get a deal. And for me, it got a whole lot more complicated.

An entire re-write of my fifth book is staring me in the face. Minutes click quickly toward the date that it’s due (again). So how do I get my mojo back? How do I muster up the strength and energy to write the best damn book I possibly can?

I went back to my favorite place to write. A local French bakery in the “Noda” neighborhood of Charlotte called Amelie’s. It’s got such an eclectic vibe. There are always people there. Creative people. Business people. (Not that those two can’t be the same,) All ages from toddler to Betty White.

I settled into a seat and put my head down. No Internet. No writing companions. Just me, the music (because you guys know I need the music) and my laptop. And I wrote my ass off. I was there from 6pm to 2:30 in the morning. The next morning, I jumped out of bed and was back at a cozy table with black coffee and a delicious breakfast sandwich (eggs, spinach and asiago on a croissant—in case you want to get the full picture) by 8am.

The words were flowing. The ideas kept popping. It’s almost as if I had to get out of that pocket of life that was stifling my creativity and go back to this vibrant, happy coffee shop where I’d written so many words previously—before the contract.

Life. Moving. Jobs. Deadlines. Marketing. Motherhood. Social Media. Events. Separation. Moving. Kids. Time. Love. Loss.

There’s always going to be something. Find your happy place and get back on track. If that doesn’t work—mix it up. Try something you’ve never tried before (I just started yoga again after 9 years). Go where creative people are. Find meet up. Be in the presence of individuals who like the same things you do. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Find yourself. <3

After a few more sessions at Amelie’s, I’ve almost finished re-plotting and restructuring my current work in progress. And I’m going back tonight.

 

P.S. Photo: A scrumptious berry tart and dark chocolate covered strawberries. Happy Valentine’s Day to me. 🙂

Sophia Henry writes Heartfelt Flirty Fiction featuring hot, hockey-playing heroes. DELAYED PENALTY and POWER PLAY, the first two books in the Pilots Hockey series from Random House Flirt, are available now at all major e-book retailers.

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Find Your Focus

Perhaps you’ve seen the concept of a Word of the Year around the interwebs. The idea is to pick one word that resonates with you, something you want to really strive toward for the year.

The last couple months I’ve struggled to find my focus. I’ve fallen behind on multiple projects, hadn’t read a book in two months, and felt checked out from life, to be honest. It was like I was in a complete brain fog all the time. So it should really come as no surprise that for my word of the year, I chose FOCUS.

I picked this for so many reasons, but one of the key things for me was that it fit into all the different parts of my life. In my professional life, the word will serve to ground me and remind me of the goals I’m striving toward. I need to buckle down and focus if I expect to get anything done, because, uh, it’s just me. If I don’t do the work, mama don’t get paid.

In my personal life, the word will serve as a reminder to be present. So often my kids will tell me a story, and I find myself zoning out, thinking about the bathroom that needs to be cleaned/the groceries that need to be picked up/that appointment that needs to be made, and I totally miss what they’re saying. That kills me. Because before long, my twelve-year-old is going to be a fifteen-year-old who doesn’t want to talk to his mom.

FOCUS, as a WOTY, has proven to be incredibly inclusive of all aspects of my life. And while I haven’t been 100% successful with it thus far, I will say that having the word has helped me, well, focus.

Some key steps I’ve done to help implement my word:

  1. Limiting social media and/or phone time. I’m allowed 30 minutes a day of Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. And let me tell you, those thirty minutes fly by. Some exceptions are made if I’m learning something on SM. For instance, if one of my FB groups is having a discussion on productivity hacks, I take the time and read the responses. But if it’s just me screwing around and liking posts, that’s got a time limit. Likewise, if I’m having a conversation with a human being, the phone is down and I turn my attention to the person speaking so I’m completely present.
  1. Meditating. Of course I’ve known about meditating for a long time. True story, when I was in seventh grade, it was the “cool” thing to do, so I did it one night. And by did it, I mean I fell asleep while pretending to meditate. As an adult, I meditated for the first time several months ago, thanks to the suggestion of Marie Forleo. It didn’t stick with me then, but I picked it back up in November, and it’s been a saving grace ever since. I like the Stop, Breathe & Think app (it’s free!) because it’s easy to use, has customized-to-your-mood meditation, and offers both guided (with non-annoying voices!) and free-form where you can set a timer and background noise and go to town. I like to do this before I settle in to write for the day, as it helps clear all the other stuff I seem to have floating around in my head lately.
  1. Planning. True, this might not work for everyone. In fact, if you are normally a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person, having a plan—or even having to do a plan—might make you lose focus. For me, it’s the opposite. I like having that task list that I can easily reference to see what needs to be done next or what I can do when I find myself with some free time. That’s helped me work toward my goals—especially business—more than anything.

We’re only a month into the year, but I’ve found these three things have really helped me stick to my word of the year and be more present in my daily life, whether that be personal or professional.

Did you do a word of the year? If so, what did you choose?

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Writers Who Lunch

Writing is a pretty solitary pursuit and, mostly, I enjoy this part of “authoring.” At my day job, people are constantly asking me for this, emailing me for that – tons of communication for 8 hours a day. I enjoy the not talking-ness of writing. However, if you attempt to author alone, you’ll quickly go crazy from the pressure, confusion, millions of questions that arise, and the stumbling in the dark that comes with publishing. In short, you need people. Writer people. But sometimes this is tricky.

I attend ~one conference a year, but one conference isn’t enough interaction. My chapter meetings mean more than 4 hours of drive time, and I have a child at that, “I will participate in a variety of activities that require my attendance every Saturday” age. Thus, I can’t make most meetings.

The solutions to this issue aren’t ground breaking, but they are worth recognizing in case anyone out there is in a similar boat. Allow me to present:

Writers Who Lunch

No matter where you are, geographically or in your career, you too can be a writer who lunches. All you need is another writer within about a 20 mile radius and a place to eat. Then, you get together every 4 to 6 weeks, share all that you’ve learned lately, solve the world’s problems, or just vent for an hour. It’s up to you.

Just last week, I met up with Laura Trentham and Fran Fowlkes for our January lunch. I think we’ve been doing this for 2 years now. (Two years?!?! How has it been two years?) Topics included everything from deadlines to deodorant, agents to ad campaigns. Lunch lasts about an hour and a half, and that little stretch of time is vital.

The Quarterly Meet Up

I have these writer friends who insist on living either far away from me or way far away from me. It takes more planning and effort, but we do our best to get together in a variety of ways. In February, some of us will attend When The Heart Dreams in Charlotte, NC. (Are you going? You should go!) In the spring, we’ll either meet up for shopping or a trip to the salt mines (not even kidding).

This summer, there’s the RWA National Conference in Orlando, Florida, where I hope to see my way far away from me friends (*pointed look at way far away from me friends*), and this fall there’s…well I don’t know. I’m not that organized. But there will be something!

How do you and your writer people stay in touch? Any fun suggestions for the at-large, super busy writers out there?

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Putting Writing First

Hey there everybody! This is my first post coming to you from the other side of becoming a parent for the first time. I’m the happy mom to a healthy two and a half month old girl.

And you know what else? I’m still a writer.

2016-11-13-dc1Before my tiny one came along, I have to admit that I had my doubts and fears. Kids take time and energy, and I always felt like I was barely meeting my word count as it was. How would I ever manage to keep up once I had parental responsibilities?

The answer, some days, is that I don’t. Kiddo has a bad day—or worse, a terrible night? Yeah. The words might not flow. Hell, I might not even get a chance to open my laptop.

And even on the good days, it sure isn’t easy. There are too many things to do in a day, and my tiny human needs so much. Even when she isn’t desperately, angrily in need of something, the guilt I feel that I should be doing more—playing with her, reading to her, teaching her calculus (okay, fine, maybe not that one…yet) is intense. The house needs cleaning, food needs cooking, laundry needs doing. It’s so easy to let the time just slip through my fingers. As I see it, in our current phase of life, I basically get to pick one thing to get done in a day outside of basic baby, life and household maintenance.

So here’s my secret—my incredibly easy, nearly impossible secret: I choose writing. Any day it possibly can be, I make that my one thing I get done.

This means my husband may come home to a disaster of a house. It means we might be having takeout (again). It means I may have to put on my headphones and pretend I don’t hear my daughter crying while my husband does his best with her.

It means I may only get about half of my pre-baby daily word count in. And it means I may have to be okay with that.

But it also means I continue to make progress. I don’t lose sight of the one thing I was determined to keep up with even after becoming a mom.

Make fun of me all you will. Tell me I’m hopelessly naïve or that I’ll see just how impossible it is once the tiny human becomes a little less tiny. You might be right. But here’s what I’m telling myself right now:

I take care of my kid, myself and my family. But after that? No excuses.

I put writing first.

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