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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: the writer’s life

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mage courtesy of HeikoHartsuijker Flickr Creative Commons

Often I blog about things I am going through. Sometimes just writing things down, sketching out a plan of action, recalibrating MY perspective helps a lot. Hey, if nothing else, I have a blog post 😀 .

Lately, I’ve been in what Seth Godin calls…The DIP. In fact, I am even talking about The Dip over on my Dojo Diva blog for those who want more (and also a better chance of winning my 20 Page Death Star Critique).

*dangles carrot*

What is THE DIP? The Dip is that span of suck before the breakthrough. The Dip is where character develops, where dreams grow, where WE grow. Bad news is this is also the place where most people give up.

I’d love to say I’ve never given up when faced with a particularly tenacious Dip, but I am a terrible liar. Dips are tough. Why are Dips so hard?

Dips Come Out of Nowhere

We are zooming along and then it is as if an invisible force field comes out of nowhere. Maybe you started eating healthy and were losing weight steadily. Then…nothing. Another week? Nothing. Another week, I gained three pounds? WTH? And another and another and pretty soon, why bother?

A little story…

Before I got pregnant, I was 130 pounds and a Size 2. When I was pregnant, I did two-a-days the entire time I was pregnant. I did step aerobics in the morning (which was nothing short of comedic when I was almost 10 months in) and swam a mile a day, six days a week even though I felt like I should be a show at Sea World. The night they induced me, I stopped at the gym and did an hour workout before Hubby took me to the hospital.

Eleven days after having The Spawn, I was back in the gym. I’d get up for the 3:30 a.m. feeding then go to the 24-hour gym.

For the most part, I have still kept a strict diet and exercise regimen.

These days I do 6-8 hours of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a week…and am STILL a size 10-12. No matter how disciplined I am, it doesn’t seem to want to show on the outside. We go to restaurants and I watch people eat onion rings and fried cheese and have dessert while I am GF, dairy-free, low-carb, soy-free, no sugar, etc. etc. I drink water, not soda. And yet?

Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.
Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

This is the first main problem with The Dip. Sometimes, we can’t figure out why it is there or worse…why it won’t GO AWAY. After blood panels and doctors and experts, they all agree. I am the picture of health, but am overweight.

No kidding.

We might be doing something GREAT that shows nothing on the outside. Granted, I might be a fluffy size 10-12 for the rest of my life. I have amazing flexibility, can run for miles, can outfight and outlast teenagers and my heart and insides are amazing.

Funny, though. I rarely think of my shining cholesterol levels when I have to shrug into Spanx.

I wonder how many calories we burn trying to put on Spanx?

The next problem with The Dip is there are often others who will rub salt in the wound that we are IN The Dip.

On Saturday, I went for an hour of rigorous BJJ training, ran home, cleaned up then attended a 2.5 hour Judo workshop that I paid for. I was feeling pretty good about myself until…

I was in the middle of learning a new throw and could tell I wasn’t pivoting my weight the correct direction. Sure I was throwing my sparring partner, but I was landing in the wrong spot. The teacher comes over and tells me I am doing it all wrong.

Okay, I KNEW that.

But then, he tells me that I need to work out more. That the reason I can’t do the throw is that my legs are weak and then says, “Have you thought about going to a gym? Maybe trying some squats?”

*suppresses urge to stab him in the face*

He corrects my posture and the next throw I did? I nailed it. He probably could tell from the look on my face that I might have been envisioning him.

*growls*

Of course, Judo is all about physics, not about strength. I didn’t point that out. I also didn’t point out that the rest of the attendees had slept in while I was one of the handful who came to the early morning class anyway (even when I knew there were 2.5 hours of additional training ahead). I also didn’t point out what should have been obvious. I was the only older female in the workshop and if the sport wanted to attract more like me? Insinuating we are out of shape is a bad plan.

After the Judo workshop, we had a family day at the zoo and all I wanted was to throw in the towel and eat all I have denied myself for a decade…in ONE day.

I know you guys probably have no idea what I am talking about 😉 .

The Dip is REALLY common in writing. You are working on a novel and it is going great and then? You get stuck. You KNOW you are stuck. Maybe you can’t even figure out WHY you are stuck. Then, when you are about to tap out for good and OD on brownies, someone in your life is there to point out that “Maybe you just aren’t trying hard enough…”

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Yeah, because we didn’t already think of that.

Some Important Things to Know About Dips

First of all, people who don’t attempt anything remarkable, never have Dips. Thus, if we are experiencing Dips, it means we are still pressing for something better. The only way to get out of ever dealing with Dips is to just drift along on the tides of mediocrity and ambivalence. Don’t know about you guys, but I can’t do that. This means I have to take my own advice and Suck it up, Buttercup.

The second thing is that we can more painfully feel Dips when we get our focus on the wrong things. If we stare at Dips we get intimidated. This is partly why I refuse to get on a scale. I found myself obsessing too much. Yes, I would love to trim down and get into my “skinny” clothes, but is that my only objective behind eating and living healthy?

Groceries at our house.
Groceries at our house.

I am extremely fit. Working out helps me release stress. I look far younger than peers because I am healthy. My family is all involved working out together. Spawn  learned to walk in the gym nursery. Now? We do martial arts SIX days a week together. Spawn has been sick ONE TIME in his entire life because I cook super healthy foods. He has to be told to stop eating so many vegetables and eat some protein.

Am I willing to abandon ALL those other benefits because ONE objective—trimming down in size—refuses to cooperate?

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Same with writing. For years I blogged to The Great Nothing. At first, I did it to get “views” but after a year and a half of blogging to the male-enhancement bots, I got seriously discouraged.

Since I’d invested too much to give up, I decided to focus instead on ALL the benefits of blogging that had nothing to do with outside approval.

I learned to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner. I learned to eat deadlines for breakfast. I became a better writer because I was TRAINING. I learned to be self-motivated and self-disciplined. Granted, even if NO ONE ever cared about my blog, these traits would serve me well in other areas.

Of course, eventually, when I got my eyes off the numbers and focused on what I COULD control, THIS happened. Can anyone see THAT DIP? When I finally busted past it?

Kristen's Blog Stats Circa 2013
Kristen’s Blog DIP

Dip Happens

The last things we need to appreciate about Dips is that they are not permanent but yet they are. 

One Dip alone is not permanent, but The State of Dippery is. Yes, DIPPERY. It is a word 😛 . Unless we give up, we will face more Dips and bigger and longer Dips.

For instance, as writers, a common first Dip is to finish the book. YAY! Then the next Dip. Getting published. Oh, if I could just be published, THEN I’d be happy. We get published and the next Dip is BOOK SALES. Then there is the next book and the next…and you guys get the point.

I’m not here to discourage you, but we cannot exist in a permanent state of happiness and satisfaction. It is a brief moment of sun and then? Back to work. Anyone who promises us a Dip-Free life is lying and probably selling something…like DRUGS.

Dip Therapy

Dips suck. They are long and painful and necessary. Dips weed out the uncommitted. Many people will give up on something remarkable because there is no instant payoff. Can we still LOVE writing when there is no outside evidence we are going to gain? Can we still keep eating healthy and exercising even if we never get to wear skinny jeans?

NO! Wait, okay fine *rolls eyes* I’ll keep pressing *grumbles*.

Dips make us value what we EARN. One of the reasons I get frustrated with our Everyone is a Winner Society is that is dilutes the genuine feelings of authentic achievement. A black belt is only valuable when it took years of sacrifice (busting past Dips) to earn it.

Dips train us for the mentality of the successful. Often others see what we have. They don’t see what we gave up to get it. And that is the reality of things. Successful people “get” Dips while others give up. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that most of the successful writers I know aren’t necessarily all that more talented, but they are far more tenacious.

When we face Dips, outside circumstances may never change, but we will.

Dips teach us to ignore outside opinions. Where would I have been had I listened to all the people who told me blogging was dead and that it was impossible to be a successful writer? We can choose to take that pushback as an excuse to quit or fire to fuel us forward.

Yes, I am frustrated with a LOT of Dips in my life, namely the “weight thing.” But am I going to let one outside jerk opinion derail me?

No. And the reason is that I have had extensive and intensive Dip Training 😉 .

Tips for Busting Through the Dips

Remember the WHYs. Why are you doing whatever? Why are you correcting your kids when it feels like you just repeat yourself a million times? Why are you eating healthy? Why are you writing that novel? Focus on the why. If we write books simply to become millionaires? Could happen, but burnout probably more likely. Instead, focus on how much you LOVE writing. How much you LOVE your kids. How much you LOVE feeling good because you drank water instead of a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke.

Baby steps ARE steps. Never underestimate the value of simply showing up. Every sentence is one step closer to a finished book. Small actions over time DO add up.

Remember “Dip Happens.” 

If we know that Dips are inevitable, we are more mentally prepared for the challenge. It is more a sign we are doing something right than a great cosmic plot against our happiness.

I hope you guys feel more encouraged. Remember that the summit is only that beautiful because of the climb.

What are your thoughts? Have you been in some Dips lately? Are you feeling like it will never END? Did you know that this was natural? If not, do you feel a little better about being stuck? Do you have those around you rubbing in that you are in a Dip? Have you ever made it past some particularly tenacious Dip and are better for it? What was it? Share your story! We need the encouragement!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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Today, we have a holiday treat. My friend Liz Crowe (A.K.A. The Beer Wench) is here to help us make it through the holidays with our egos in tact. Liz is cool…like that zany cousin who let you watch Jaws when you were 5 and scarred you for life but then also taught you the proper was to  apply eyeliner (more always better), how to make a temporary tattoo last…and look real enough to freak out your parents.

She’s the friend who will dare then double dare you and might get you in trouble but who will also give you the best memories and help you learn to love you for YOU and feel good about telling haters to get bent.

Take it away, LIZ!

***

We’ve all been there. The highly anticipated dreaded Holiday Office Party. Or—even better—the Holiday Family Gathering.

We love ‘em. We hate ‘em. Kinda like jogging or ironing. No matter your chosen career path, they can be an exercise in one-upmanship that rivals any Kardashian backyard barbeque. Because try as we all might to deny or quash it, the innate human need to one-up each other will not be denied, especially if there are in-laws and booze in the same general vicinity.

Never fear, Grasshoppers. Liz is here to help you.

So settle down, take some notes and prepare to Be Awesome.

CAVEAT EMPTOR Moment: Because this is a Liz Crowe/Beer Wench advice post you can be assured that virtual alcohol and grossly overblown familial stereotyping is involved—for literary bloggy effect, you see. For anyone sensitive to this particular vice and sarcasm, you might just go ahead and hit the “next blog” button instead of lecturing Kristen for allowing her space to be corrupted in such a manner.

The first thing we have to accept as a pre- or eve post-published author is this: “Nobody gets what we are doing or (in the case of parents) why.”

Period. Full Stop.

During The Holidays there is a lot of dead conversational space to fill, thanks to the fact that a bunch of people are shoved together for hours at a time with nothing in common but a bit of DNA (or the fact of their marriage into said DNA string). And sometimes, these folks try to understand it by asking you questions.

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Be ready. These questions may force you to grind your teeth, grip your rocks glass so hard you break it or even…attempt to answer them.

Sure, while your body is in the overly warm room with a bunch of folks you are related to whether you want to be or not, your mind is back with your work. You’re grinning around the rim of your third glass of cheap box wine and mentally altering a Major Plot Point.

You’re sipping your over-poured, badly mixed gin drink and counting up all the word repetitions your recent editing torture session conjured. You are slamming crappy beers and quietly reliving your latest critique session—you know, the one where you cried and accused everyone of being against your future success?

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In short, you are “working,” kind of like you always are, whether you’re physically wandering the grocery aisle, at a PTA meeting full of helicopter parents, or now, at a Holiday Party—and your skinny, over-achieving sister-in-law is headed your way with a bit of a wobble in her gait and a half empty Cosmo.

“So,” she says, coming too close and breathing booze in your ear. “That book of yours…I went ahead and checked it out of the library.” She winks, guzzles the pink liquid in her glass then tucks her arm into your elbow companionably.

“Thanks,” you whisper, wondering how much closer to the bar you can stand and not be lying on top of it.

“I don’t really…you know… read all that much but thought I’d try and support the fam. Hey, hon, get over here and congratulate the Big Time Author with me!” She screeches across the room but given the general level of drunken loudness, her spouse, your super successful ER physician brother with a PhD in engineering and a Juris Doctorate on top doesn’t hear her…at first.

But finally, he leaves the group of kids enthralled by his balloon bending and banjo skills and makes his sober way over to you, still trapped by his social X-ray wife.

“Hey there,” he booms, smacking you so hard on the back you stumble and recall how much he teased you when you were kids. “So tell me about this…’job’ of yours. Writing, is it? You know, I love those Jack Reacher books, right hon? You know that guy, that Lee person? That’s one creative guy. Hey, when can I get your book at the bookstore anyway?”

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“Well,” you begin, mistakenly honestly believing you can explain the intricacies of the ‘indie publishing life’ to these people. “You see…”

“But your book was in the library,” sister-in-law slurs, hanging off her husband, your brother who is giving you that horrific, “Please explain it to me in ten words or less, I’m busy,” patient stare.

“Yes, well, I begged the libraries to take a copy. But the bookstores…”

“Hey, sweetie,” your brother says to his wife. “What about that book club you host at the club? Why don’t you offer up…um…what was the title of that book?”

“Oh, we still have to get through the Fifty Shades Trilogy and let me tell you we are having some fun with those! Grab me another, love bug,” she screams as your brother turns to the bar. “Why don’t you write books like those?” she asks, before you can escape. “Now that is some good writing…hot stuff…whew!”

 

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She fans her face before getting distracted by one of the many family spawn milling around your ankles. “Let me know when that happens!” She waves her fingers and moves away toward the sister-in-law cabal in the opposite corner, her be-supportive mission obviously concluded.

You wait a few beats, count backwards from a hundred, then get a refill and resume your mental counting of your Facebook likes and twitter followers, pondering how you’ll be so dry and amusing, recounting this little ego-smushing episode on your blog in a few hours. Just a few…more…hours…

By the time the excruciating day/evening/weekend is over, you’ve started no fewer than a dozen conversations with various family members attempting to explain why it takes “so long” to write, get edited, get cover art, get promoted for a single novel. Or how come you keep submitting to agents and publishing houses despite the growing mound of rejections.

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Or why you can’t write “like” (fill in the blank with the latest serial-flash-in-the-pan writer). Or how come they can’t get your book “for real” (read: in print form, at the local Barnes and Noble store when they buy their giant latte and grab their copy of People or Car & Driver on their lunch hour).

You’ve had to stop too many times before getting to the, “Well, Amazon’s algorithm changes mean I have to re-release every two weeks to get noticed,” bit, noting the general eye-clouding-over nature of whichever relative is attempting to make you feel successful over your little writing projects.

Why bother?

But wait! Before you run to the back bedroom and slam the door, think about it this way: No one is asking your brother to explain much about his job, or your sister-in-law(s) to relate her/their latest adventure in child rearing and crock pot meals after a long day of wage-slaving. What they do is pretty clear.

What you do…is mysterious.

And kinda cool.

Ok…VERY cool.

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Authors get to be GOD….

 

My advice is to OWN that. Crush your cool mysteriousness to your chest and do what you do best as a story-teller: make some sh*t up.

I tried this at a party once. Challenged myself to come up with two-three quick sentence descriptions of the general awesomeness of my life as “Author” – or “Novelist” which is an even more esoteric term.

It sure beats getting into long, dreary, inside-baseball discussions of “rankings,” and “formatting issues,” “crit partners,” and “blogging,” especially with your sister’s drunk boyfriend who hears you say “Amazon” and blurts out something like “I love amazons….they’re so hot!”

People who don’t work with these things every day like you will never, ever understand them. Stop trying to make them, especially at a holiday party.

So leaving out the fact that many days I don’t make it out of my sweats or brush my teeth but have written four books this year and have the entire cast chosen for the (as yet un-optioned) Netflix series, I have had some luck convincing family members that I Am An Author. 

And I Am Cool.

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You are too, be you pre-almost-post published. And even if you are one of the dreaded mid-listers at a “real publishing house,” you know of what I speak here. What you do is creative, internal, and mostly unexplainable to your average brother or sister-in-law. So grab your next cheap, badly mixed cocktail and own it, fellow scribbler!

You can get real sympathy on Facebook later.

Make it a great Holiday season, all no matter what or why you celebrate. I leave you with this, hard-learned lesson: Don’t mix red and white wines and never (ever) start with brown liquor and end with wine unless you want to celebrate a whole day completely out of commission.

You’re welcome.

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Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench
Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench

Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

Check out her first self-published series, coming in January 2015: The Love Brothers. Already garnering raves on Goodreads, book one (Love Garage) is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Click here for free chapters from all the books and to enter during the final days of a huge, multi-author giveaway (including some goodies from Kristen Lamb!)

Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.

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