All posts by Anna

My goal is to inspire you, get the gears in your head turning, and tickle your imagination.

My Path to Healing

Hi Epic Dreamers!

This is kind of a part 3 to the last two posts I wrote, but I didn’t want to call it “Attaching Self-Worth to Achievements part 3” because we aren’t talking about worth or achievements. Instead, I’ll be sharing the steps that helped me to take a step back from this idea that I was only as worthy as the things I achieved.

This post will make sense even if you haven’t read the previous two, but if you would like to read the posts leading up to this one, here are the links.

 

In these previous posts, I share how attaching my self-worth to my accomplishments caused a tremendous amount of difficulty for me to do the things I love (mainly writing stories).  I also explained how this damaging belief that I was only worth what I accomplished came from my family and the way I was treated as a child.

Because I don’t want to leave you all on a sad note, today I’m going to wrap up these series of posts by sharing some things that are helping me heal.

It is my hope that they will be a guide to helping you to move past any damaging beliefs so you can become a more authentic version of yourself.

 

Recognizing who and what caused the damaging habit/belief

For me, the deeply engrained belief that my worth was attached to checklist of achievement came from being raised by narcissistic parents who were incapable of seeing me as anything more than an extension of themselves instead of an individual with separate wants and desires from their own.

Mika in Arendelle — Okay can we talk about how freaking awesome the...

I was given the message that I was only “loved” when I did something that helped them in some way. I wasn’t love because of who I was– their daughter–I was “loved” (given displays of affection) because of what I gave them (an ego boost or tasks I did for them).

It isn’t until you’ve recognized the reason for the belief that you can do something about it.

 

Gather information

If your self-sabotaging belief came from childhood (which most, if not all, do) then it is helpful to spend some time learning about what exactly it was that you went through, rather than simply knowing your childhood was rough or that something just didn’t feel right between you and your parents or siblings.

Gillian flynn GIF on GIFER - by Silverweaver

I’ve spent the last year or so learning about narcissistic traits, affects of being raised by a narcissist , CPTSD, dissociation, and other topics like those.

I’m not going to say much else on this topic, because I think it would be better to let the experts do the talking. 😉

Crappy Childhood Fairy

Dr. Tracey Marks

These are the YouTube channels I’ve found most helpful in learning about these topics. If you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, had an emotionally-abusive parent, or any kind of toxic or abusive relationship, I highly recommend spending some time with these wonderful, insightful people.

 

 

Limiting contact with toxic people

If you realize that a person or group of people are at the root of your damaging belief, then it might be time to put some space between you and them.

I’m not saying that the moment you realize your friend/dad/grandma treats you in a way that is toxic that you should unfriend them on Facebook, block their number, and refuse to speak to them if you happen to bump into each other. But I am saying that, for me, learning to put emotional and physical distance between me and the people who were at the root of my self-sabotaging belief was the only way for me to begin healing.

Heal GIFs | Tenor

This may not be the case for you. You may be able to talk to the person who unknowingly caused you heartache and make changes in the relationship so that it can continue without compromising your well-being.

Sadly, this is not the case in my situation. I had to learn the hard way that there wasn’t any reconciling the relationship, and found that keeping my distance was the healthiest thing I could do.

The reason for this isn’t to be mean or spiteful. It is to protect the progress you’ve made. It is difficult–maybe even impossible–to grow and heal if you keep subjecting yourself to the very thing that made you broken in the first place.

protect gifs Page 2 | WiffleGif

Putting distance will look different for everyone. It could mean going to events with the person, but not sharing anything personal with them. It could mean only speaking to the person over the phone, where it is easier to make a get away if they begin to speak to you in a manner that isn’t healthy.

I’m not saying that once you put some distance between them and you that magically everything will fall into place and all you unhealthy beliefs/thinking patterns will go away. It is like this quote from Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, “Shame started as a two-person experience, but as I got older I learned how to do shame all by myself.”

But if you are trying to cultivate self-respect, self-love, and self-worth, keeping people around who continuously plant the opposite in you is counterproductive.

You can’t grow a plant if you keep allowing someone to trample all over it. You can’t grow emotionally if you let someone continue to stomp out the work you’ve done.

 

Take time for self-reflection 
A huge part of recovery, for me, came through meditation. It was only when I learned to settle my mind and look at my behaviors and emotions through a detached, but empathetic lens that I was able to let go of beliefs that weren’t true.
Alex In Colour
Take some time to look at what is going on internally. Be honest with yourself, but also be compassionate. Take some time to give yourself the comfort that no one else in your life gave you.
If you want to give meditation a try, I absolutely adore the beautiful, meditative music by Mei-lan.

Knowing someone who likes you for who you are, not what you do

First, having just ONE person (my husband) in my life that is able to cut through the crappy self-image that has been thrust on me has been detrimental to being able to heal. Being shown that love isn’t something that is conditioned by what you contribute or by whose ego you stroke has been lifechanging.  I can’t describe the absolute lifeline that my husband has been for me in the last few years. He shows the same love and respect for me whether I publish a book or not, whether I am healthy or not, whether I have a great financial contribution or not. It doesn’t matter if I am achieving or simply being, he doesn’t change his love/respect for me.

Paradise by your dashboard light — and at last I see the light and at last  they kiss...

I don’t think that it was a coincidence that it wasn’t until after he came into my life that I realized how toxic some people/beliefs were and began to heal. (Guardian angels do exist…sometimes they are in the form of people 🙂 )

I realize that everyone doesn’t have a person in their lives like this. I didn’t for most of my life. I wish I could give you a step-by-step guide for finding someone who will cut through the crap and let you know you are worthy of love and connection even when you fail/get sick/have a set back. But a checklist to finding a someone like that doesn’t exist. At the risk of sounding cavalier, I believe that the right person will come into your life at the right time.

If this is you right now, I am truly, truly sorry. My heart goes out to you. I know what it is like to be disappointed by those who should have had your back. I wish I could wave a wand and bring a supportive person into your life immediately.

Conclusion
Am I saying that I am “healed” and never feel the need to compare myself against my accomplishments to see how I measure up in the worth-something-as-human-being department? Absolutely not.
But I am learning to be kinder and more accepting of myself. I remind myself that it isn’t what I achieve that makes me worthy. It is who I am. I am working to be more authentic, more loving, more giving, more forgiving, and more at peace.
Thank you all for reading this quite lengthy post. I hope that thing things I’ve shared inspire you and let you know that you aren’t alone. You are worthy. Worthy of love and peace and fulfillment.
Until next time, keep dreaming.

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Attaching Self-Worth to Accomplishment Part 2

In my last post, I promised to spill all the juicy details about why my attempts to write have sucked so much lately. So here it is. (Just so you know, this is extremely different than the kind of thing I normally post…some tough subjects, soul searching, difficult quests and dragon slaying. So, yeah, I guess it is the norm.)

As I said in my last post, I’ve come back from a nine-month sabbatical from blogging (and social media in general). It wasn’t entirely a conscious choice. I was simply burned out from every avenue in my life leading to a dead end and realized that maybe my subconscious, God, the Universe,  was trying to tell me something. So I stepped away from everything to listen. During this time of (forced) seclusion and self-reflection (thanks a lot, Universe, for conspiring against me) I realized that the reason my writing wasn’t going anywhere was because I was holding on to it too tightly.

I was looking at it as the thing that contained my identity–the thing that made me valuable as a person. Deep down, I believed that it was the only thing that made me worth anything.
Spider Man Tony Stark GIF - Spider Man Tony Stark If Youre ...
 
As you can imagine,  this is a very damaging belief. What happens when you realize that you need to retire the story you’ve been working on for months because it just isn’t working? Or you have a case or writer’s block? Or you don’t meet your self-imposed deadline for releasing a new book?
 
It is completely devastating.
 
Because it isn’t just a time of mental block you are experiencing or a learning process that you are working through. When you believe that an achievement is all you are worth, and you don’t “achieve,” it means that you aren’t valuable as a person. You aren’t worthy…of happiness, life, love.
 
This may sound completely ridiculous to some, but to some of you reading this…you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve already had this revelation or maybe it is hitting you just now.
 
Why would someone even have such an awful belief?
 
I know the reason for holding such a damaging belief may be different for all of you, but for me, it came from the environment in which I grew up.
 
My parents weren’t the type to affirm me in my ability to achieve my dreams or even to affirm the most basic need of a child: to know that they have a place in the world and that they are valued and loved.
Animated gif about love in Disney by Private User
 
The message given to me early on was that I wasn’t valued. I was either a burden–an inconvenience–or I was there to serve them. They weren’t interested my interests unless I did something that made them look good…that gave them a way to heap attention and praise on themselves.
 
I wasn’t shown love unless I did something that benefited them. And “love” was quickly withdrawn when I failed to be useful.
 
I wasn’t part of a family. I was part of a business…or perhaps more accurately, I was a part of a machine. I was a part, that if no longer serving a function, would be shoved aside.
 
I never felt that I was truly loved or safe. Life was always shaky ground. I was always trying to guess what would keep myself from being undeserving of my parents demonstrations of affection (because false love is better than none to a child).
 
This damaging game caused deep rooted beliefs to integrate itself into my core being: the belief that I wasn’t worthy of love, acceptance, relationships, or safety. The lesson I learned was that I was so deeply flawed that only by giving people what they wanted could I receive a shadow of acceptance and affection.
 
Best Tangled Mom GIFs | Gfycat
 
With my parents, the amount of affection shown was directly proportioned with how my achievements boosted their own ego.
 So of course,  that sent a strong message that I was only as valuable as my achievements. My entire worth is in what I do and how I am perceived by others.
 
It is a harsh and lonely “reality” to live in.
 
It limits your ability to form real relationships because you “know” if you don’t present a front–somehow figure out what people want you to be and be that–then they will reject you, hate you, criticize you. If your own parents only wanted you around to meet an emotional or egotistical need, why wouldn’t everyone else?
 
This belief also leaves you trapped setting high goals for yourself and alternating between maniacally working to achieve them (because you have to prove your worth, your place in the world) and dropping them in despair because some deep part of you knows you will never do enough to prove your worth.
 
Because, even if you prove your worth to others, no amount of impressive feats will ever prove your worth to yourself.
 
disneyysidekicks.tumblr.com - Tumbex
 
There isn’t an award, a position, or an accomplishment that will make you believe that you are worthy.
 
Our lives are valuable because of more than a career or certain set of achievements. We are more than a set of accomplishments. We are the love we show, the compassion we give, the lives we change with our presence.
 
I am beginning to accept that and find healing. But just how I did that is a topic for next week’s post. 😉
 
I hope that anyone reading who has had experiences that blinded them to their self-worth is on the journey to healing as well.
 
Has anyone else had a similar revelations later in life like this? Maybe you realized that the self-sabotaging things you do are programs put in place by parents or teachers. Maybe you noticed that you tie your self-worth to your achievements or don’t feel like you will be happy until you achieve certain things.
 
If you can relate, I hope you are on the journey to healing as well. 🙂
Next week, we’ll about the healing process. Until then, keep dreaming!
 
 
 
 
 

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Attaching Self-Worth to Accomplishment Part 1

Hi Epic Dreamers!
Whew, it’s been 9 months since my last post. I apologize for the long absence, especially after saying that I was coming back. I really wanted to, but it seems the universe had other plans.
You know how everything shut down in 2020 when covid hit? That’s how my life felt this year. Every area of my life went into complete lock down and I couldn’t force it back into motion. Everything I tried to start led to a dead end.  I couldn’t find my creativity or passion. Ideas that seemed like sparks that would reignite the creative flame tapered off or just went in circles. It wasn’t just writing that suffered, but every thing else. I couldn’t seem to find that “flow” in any area of my life.
I realized that this stuck energy was trying to tell me something. It was the same as the body giving you a sore throat or sneeze to alert you to being sick. Just like a cold or flue needs some rest and medicine to heal it, there was something that needed to be acknowledged and dealt with before I could regain activity.
Sick GIFs | Tenor
It turns out there were a lot of somethings, but I’ll focus on the one that pertains to writing.
After indie publishing The Hashna Stone, I decided that this whole writing-a-book thing was more than just an experiment or something I did for fun. I was ready to be a “real” writer. I decided that my next book idea was “the one.” It was brilliant and would get me an agent, and I would be a famous author and live happily ever after with a stack of published books to substitute for a white picket fence.
However, it was right when I decided this that things went downhill. The story I was working on wasn’t coming out on paper like it was in my head. Dialogue was awful (and I love writing dialogue!). The characters were cardboard cutouts, even though in my last book, characters were my strong point. I tried to redraft. I tried to step back and re-outline.
NOTHING was saving the story.
I finally decided that it was just not time for me to write this story and set it aside, but the writing muse still refused to bless me with her presence.
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 Writing became something I dreaded (not every day…I still had some nice writing sessions). When I would think of anything writing related, it made me feel like a failure. I didn’t understand why I could write one book, but not another.
Then I took a look at what was different between writing The Hashna Stone and my current WIP.
My first book was something I did just for the heck of it. It was a challenge to see if I could write a whole book. I wrote it so I could share it with all of you who loved the choose-your-own-adventure version. I wrote it because it was fun and I loved the characters.
But my current project wasn’t just something that I did because I loved doing it. I made it something that defined me. I put finishing a book and getting traditionally published on a pedestal and subconsciously made it the thing that would make life meaningful. That would make me meaningful.
Who Am I GIF - Who Am I Loki Tomhiddleston - Discover ...
Around this time, I was also learning a whole lot of things about toxic family and how growing up with certain types of parents causes you to have certain beliefs and behaviors as adults. It connected with this realization, but I’ll get into that next post.
I realized that I was holding on to this idea of writing a book too tightly and needed to give it some room to breath. Nothing can be received if your fists are clenched. Energy can’t flow when you’re choking the life out of it.
Sometimes achieving something means chasing it with all your strength. Sometimes it means letting it go.
This doesn’t mean I’m not going to write anymore or that I’ve given up the idea of being traditionally published or self publishing more books. It just means that I’m working on letting go of the idea that achieving success in this one area in my life is the only thing that will really make life valuable or that will bring fulfillment.
I want to do this because of my love for it, not because I’m desperately trying to fill a void my parents left (Uh, yeah, I promised I’d leave that for the next post).
I know this is a very different kind of post than my usual, but I want anyone out there who is struggling with this same thing to know that they aren’t alone.
Okay, so before I end up writing the next post here, I’ll go ahead and end. 😉
What about you all? Have you ever put an unhealthy amount of pressure on yourself to achieve something? I’d love to know if anyone else has had a similar experience/realization.
Until next week, keep dreaming!

Overcoming Writer’s Block

 

 

We all love being in the throes of that mystical thing we writers call “flow.” Those moments where hours slip away as we pour out our vividly imagined scenes onto paper (or computer documents).

We revel in these moments somewhat frantically, knowing that they won’t last. Knowing that as beautiful as these moments are, there is another, more sinister side to the coin.

Writer’s block.

It seems to come out of no where. One day you are writing happily along, the next you leave your writing session with nothing to show for your time. Or you can’t even find the motivation to sit at your desk at all.

We ask ourselves the question all writers have or eventually will: How can I keep writing when my writing muse has left?

Sadly, my muse has been cruel enough to leave me as well, so I’ve come up with some ways to get it back.  I’ve also learned that there are at least three reasons why writer’s block has suddenly reared its ugly head.

 

 

There is a problem that needs fixing in your story

Sometimes that feeling of not wanting to write is your subconscious trying to warn you that something isn’t working in your story so you can fix it now instead of plowing through and making a mess that will be difficult to unravel later.

If this is the case, then all we have to do to get our writing muse back is to fix the thing that isn’t working.

Easier said than done, huh? If you knew what wasn’t working, you would have fixed it already and went on happily writing.

If you ask yourself why you don’t feel like writing and you feel that something isn’t working in your story, but you aren’t sure what, don’t panic. All you need to do is ask yourself more questions.

Consulting Detective [MB/S] - GIF Starters - Wattpad

How do I feel about my main character? If she is boring or I just can’t connect with him is the answer then go back to the character-creation drawing board and discover some things about your MC that will make them interesting and help you connect.

If your main character isn’t the issue, then move on to the other characters. If they aren’t the problem, then ask yourself about the plot, the dialogue, the tension (or lack of tension) in the scene you are working on.

There are so many more questions to ask yourself why you feel something is “off” with your story but can’t quite put your finger on what it is. There are so many, that I could write a whole blog post on that alone (and will 🙂 ).

Chances are, there is a good reason your brain seems to have checked out and refuses to write more words. Something is niggling at it, whispering that writing more words at this point is a waste until you fix the problem.

But what if you fix the broken piece of your novel (or find nothing is broken) and you still can’t find the will to write?

 

There is an emotional reason for your writing-related apathy. 

Early this year, I went through months of writer’s block because the project I’d spent a whole year on didn’t turn out as expected. Well, that’s putting it nicely. It turned out to be a disaster. Were there things I could pull from the wreckage to use in creating a new and improved version of the story? Definitely. Did I learn a lot from the process even it the end result wasn’t something publishable? Absolutely.

Was I enthusiastic about starting my next project with all my hard-won wisdom? Absolutely not.

Even though my logical side could see that the experience wasn’t a total loss, that didn’t stop my emotions from reminding me how much time was “wasted” on the project and sending a wave of doom over my next project.

If you find that your writer’s block is because of some less-than-stellar work you did previously or a case of imposter syndrome (where you have crippling self doubt that you can’t produce another book as good as your first), then there isn’t an easy fix. At least I haven’t found one (if you know of one, please share!).

But there are some steps you can take to overcome these emotions.

First, acknowledge that they are there and figure out what thought or belief they are coming from. Then, ask yourself if these thoughts or beliefs are actually true.

If you are afraid that your first novel’s success was a fluke and you won’t be able to writing something like that again, then ask yourself if this is absolutely true. Do you really know that you won’t be able to write another great novel? Is it an absolute truth that the project you are working on will turn out a mess like your last one?

NO. (If you are wondering what the answer is 😉 )

You can’t look into the future and see that this project is doomed for failure (unless you have some powers I don’t know about…in which case, share them with me!). You can, however, ruin your chances at writing a beautiful new story by allowing those thoughts and emotions to control your actions.

Sure, your WIP might end up being one that you shelve at the end, but it also might be one of the best books you’ve written. You will never know if you don’t keep writing it.

But, I get it. NOT feeling like writing is why you are here, so simply telling you to keep writing isn’t that helpful. I have no magic answer for banishing these gloomy emotions, but I do have some ways to get through them.

1.Stop writing. I took a break from writing for a month. Took some time to go back to the basics and read some great books and listen to podcasts on writing. Getting some new information in your head does wonders for those pesky, negative feelings. You might learn the reason your last novel didn’t turn out or learn a new technique that excites you so much, it pushes all those haunting emotions away.

If you are in the middle of NaNoWriMo and don’t want to stop writing, continue to number three. Or, heck, stop writing in the middle of NaNo. Quit NaNo if you need to. It is a means to an end, a tool in your hand. Winning NaNo isn’t the goal itself–finishing your story is–and if you need to take a break to do that, then do it.

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2. Write something new. Maybe you don’t want to take a break from writing altogether, but your current WIP has too many feelings of guilt or trepidation attached to it for you to look at it with fresh eyes. So, take a small break and work on something else. You could do some worldbuilding or create new characters for another project, or you could write a short story. When I am needing a break from my WIP, but I don’t want to start anything new and lengthy, I love to look up writing prompts on Pinterest and free write whatever comes to mind. It is a great exercise that gets your writing muscles moving again.

3. Add something new in your story to get you excited about writing it. A great way to get rid of unwanted emotions is to replace them. Brainstorm some ideas of things you can add to the scene or chapter that you are working on that makes you want to write it. The twist? This doesn’t have to be something you actually want to keep. Make it something completely unexpected and wacky. The crazier, the better. Does a storm come out of no where and blow your character’s ship off course? How would it change your story if the MC’s best friend suddenly died? What if a complete stranger barged their way into the conversation you are writing?

Don’t worry about how a sudden twist might change the plot or derails your story from the outline. You are only adding it to trick your stubborn brain into writing again. You can take whatever happens out in the next draft. Or you may like it and decide to keep it.

I added a new character in act three of my first draft of The Hashna Stone, simply because I didn’t know what to write and needed some spice to keep me going because I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I ended keeping her, and she is one of my favorite characters in the book.

Aladin - image #3710076 on Favim.com

You’ve fallen out of infatuation with your story

What if you’ve given your novel a critical look over and done some soul searching and determined that it isn’t a problem in the novel or some deeper emotional reason for your writer’s block?

It may simply be that you are feeling the magical spark of new-story-infatuation fade away. You know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s that obsession you have when you first get an idea, the bubbling excitement as you write your first chapter, the blinding adoration for your main character, and the absolute assurance that this story is going to be the one that gets you the agent of your dreams/lands you a book deal/sells a million copies.

We all go through an infatuation stage with our story. It might last a few weeks, it might last a few months, but however long it lasts it won’t be for the entire duration of your novel.

If your lack of interest is because your story isn’t new and shiny anymore, know that this is perfectly normal. This is the easiest of the reasons fix, because there really isn’t anything to fix.

You just have to keep writing. There will be a moment in your story where you find that spark again. It may be as you write the ending or it might be in draft three when you discovers something that adds that special touch to a character’s arc that you were looking for.

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Whatever the reason for you writing apathy–a problem in the novel that needs fixing, hindering beliefs and emotions, or a fading away of new-story infatuation–know that it is temporary.

You are still a writer, even it you don’t feel like writing. Your story is still a work of art, even if you don’t feel it is. Writing is a process that is filled with ups and downs, mistakes and triumphs. No one writes a novel and has nothing but happy, rainbow feelings throughout the process.

Not feeling like writing is normal. Having a muse that leaves you at the most inconvenient times is normal.  Not all writing sessions are moments of “flow” and that is okay.

Figure out why you’ve lost the will to write, try different methods to get over that writer’s block, but whatever you do, don’t give up on your writing because of a season of “dryness” in your writing.

Keep learning. Keep writing. Your muse will be so impressed with your resilience, that they will have no choice but to come back.

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Enna, the Dragon Tamer

It would be much easier to tame a wolf pup if I didn’t have my little brother with me. Finn trudged beside me, bundled in caribou-skin coat, tan round face nearly hidden by the fur trimming the hood around his face.

My own hood was down even though the chilled air turned my bare ears to ice. Step one in taming a wild animal was to keep a keen eye on your surrounds, and I didn’t want my hood to block my view.

I pushed my mitten-covered hand into my pocket to make sure the dry meat I was going to feed the pup was still there. I didn’t want my brother to know, but I was feeling a little nervous. I may have read Taming Wild Things from cover to cover at least fifty times and knew the steps for taming all the animals listed by heart, but I had never actually tamed an animal before.

“Don’t you think we should get one of the older ones to help us?” Finn asked. He meant our older brothers and sisters, Bennjim, Sennori, Minnsy, and Ivinn.

“That would ruin everything,” I said.

“It would ruin everything if a wolf bit your hand off and you couldn’t knit anymore.”

“That, actually, wouldn’t ruin anything,” I said, blowing out a sigh that fogged the frigid air in front of me. I wasn’t good at knitting or needle work like Sennori, our eldest sister. She was so talented, that the trader that came in the spring would take the beautifully designed scarves and blankets she knit and sell them to villages miles away. After he brought her thirty-five silvers from her in payment for the things he sold for her, she was known to the village as Sennori, Silver Needle.

And everyone seemed to forget my name. I was just Sennori’s sister.

Then Bennjim, our eldest brother, killed the fierce white bear that roamed the mountains and brought terror to the village with a single roar.

Polar Bear Claws | How Long are Polar Bear Claws? • Polar Bear Facts

He became Bennjim the Bear Slayer. And I became Bennjim’s sister.

The twins, Minnsy and Ivinn were known for their skill of music. Minnsy had a voice more beautiful than any in the village and Ivinn’s played his lute so well that it brought tears to people’s eyes.

They were the Twins of Golden Melodies. I was the twins’ sister.

The only thing I was good at was being braver than Finn, which wasn’t very hard. He was only eight, three years younger than me, and mam said he worried as much as an old man. Which is why I couldn’t believe he wanted to come with me when he caught me sneaking off to tame a wolf pup.

“You smell like cheese,” I told him, catching a whiff as a gust of icy air blew around my uncovered head. Finn believed in that superstitious nonsense about cheese being a lucky food that warded off bad luck and was constantly slipping some into his pocket.

I hoped the smell didn’t make the wrong animal come to us and ruin my chances of finding a wolf pup. Today was the day I became Enna, the Wolf Tamer.

“I think we are being watched,” Finn said, ignoring what I said.

I rolled my eyes. “You always think that.”

“I’m always right.”

“Like that one spring when you thought there was a bear in the blueberry bush and it turned out to be Bennjim hiding in the bushes to scare us?”

“That was when I was a kid,” Finn sulked.

“What about the beginning of this winter when we were at the market with mam and you said someone was watching us. It was just the vender’s toddler under the table.”

Traditional Snowshoes w/ Monoline weave - Lure of the North

Finn frowned down at his snowshoes, seeming to concentrate harder on each step. “Who cares who it was? I was still right. Someone was watching us. My neck prickles every time, and it is prickling now.”

“So, what is watching us this time?” I teased. “A fluffy rabbit? An old woman with steaming hot tea?”

“You’re not funny.”

Before I could tell him that I was actually quite hilarious, something came flying towards me. I thought that Finn threw a snowball at me from the glimpse of something white, about the size of my hand.

Whatever it was came whizzing back from behind me, nearly hitting my shoulder. It didn’t fall to the ground, as a snowball should, but hovered in the air right above my head.

It blinked.

“Enna?” Finn squeaked. “What is that?”

I was trying to determine that very thing. The creature before me was no bigger than a bird, and had wings like one too, but that was where the resemblance ended. Instead of feathers, it was covered in white, fluffy fur. Unlike a bird, it had four legs, each ending in small claws peeking out from its fur. It had a tail that swished back and forth like an excited puppy’s. Its ears were hardly bigger than blueberries and were shaped a bit like a doe’s. Right above its fuzzy ears sprouted delicate, silver horns, twisting in twin spirals the size of my pinkies.

“It’s a dragon,” I breathed, scarcely able to say the words.

The dragon seemed to understand, doing a kind of hop in the air and making a series of sounds that reminded me of the yipping of playing foxes.

“Dragons are bigger,” Finn said in a confused, yet awed voice.

“Not snow dragons. The largest ones are only as big as a man’s hand,” I said, remembering the words from our village’s only book on dragons. I had read it a dozen times, like every other book in our dusty book shop. I ran through the facts it listed about snow dragons and realized that it had, unfortunately, left out the ones about how to tame a snow dragon. Taming Wild Things didn’t have anything about taming dragons either, so it looked like I was on my own.

I held my hand out.

“Don’t do that!” Finn yelled. “It will bite you.”

His voice startled the dragon, who took off flying towards a cluster of trees.

“You scared him!” I tried to hurry after the dragon, but hurry wasn’t a pace you can go in in snowshoes and I ended up falling, mittened hands sinking deep into the snow.

“You can’t run in snowshoes,” Finn said, unhelpfully.

“This was the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us,” I huffed, struggling to pull my arms from the snow, “and you ruined it.”

“You were going to get bit,” he insisted.

“I was not!” I yanked my arms from the snow. One of my hands came up without a mitten. I rolled over and collapsed on the snow. “We’ll never find it now.”

A yipping sound made me sit up. A little, white puff ball was diving into the hole my arm made in the snow.

“It came back!” I crawled to peer into the hole and nearly got my head smacked as the dragon came whizzing out with my mitten captured in its mouth. “It got my mitten for me,” I said, delighted. I reached to take it, but the little dragon darted away, letting out an excited yip.

“It stole your mitten,” Finn said, sounding horrified.

“It can have it,” I said. “It’s Minnsy’s old mitten and it is too big for me anyway.”

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But I knew mam would be angry if I lost it, so I made another attempt to snatch my mitten from its pin-sized teeth. The dragon darted out of the way again and I nearly fell face first into the snow.

Finn, who was standing behind the fluffy dragon, tried to sneak up on it and capture it between his hands (which was quite brave for someone who is as scared of everything as he is). The dragon made a chortling sound and flew out of Finn’s reach.

I thought it might disappear again, but it came to hover in front of my face, huge silver eyes blinking at me.

“I think she is playing with us,” I said, grinning.

“How do you know it’s a girl?” Finn squinted at the dragon.

“Silver eyes are girls. Blue are boys,” I said. “Haven’t you read any of the dragon book?”

Finn didn’t answer because he was too busy toddling on his snowshoes towards the dragon who bobbed playfully in the air.

I grinned and joined him.

Finn and I did our best to get the mitten back from the cheeky little dragon. Our snow shoes slowed us down, but the dragon always came back for us if she got too far ahead. Soon, we had gone back down the mountain, and I had forgotten all about taming a wolf pup.

“I am going to keep her,” I said, reaching my bare hand into my pocket. Instead of Enna the Wolf Tamer, I would be Enna, the Dragon Tamer. That title was much more impressive.

“How are we going to keep her?” Finn asked, “She is too fast to catch.”

“Watch,” I said. I pulled out the dry meat intended for the wolf pup I was going to tame and waved it in the air. The dragon’s eyes widened and, with a happy squeal, she dove toward it. My glove fell at my feet as the dragon traded it for the meat.

“Thank you,” I said, scooping my mitten up and pulling it over my icy hand.

The dragon landed softly on the snow and used her two front talons to hold the meat to her mouth. Her small teeth worked at the tough meat, but she didn’t seem to be able to break into it.

Frustrated, she dropped it on the snow and tried to shred it with her claws. When that didn’t work, her silver eyes turned up to meet mine and she let out a disgusted yip.

I laughed. “That’s what I think of it too.”

She looked back at the dried hunk of meat in front of her and a stream of light came from her opened mouth.

Not light. Fire.

I hopped back and watched as the dragon made more tiny bursts of flame appear until the dried meat was black and the flame sizzled out by from the snow.

“I guess that made her mad,” Finn said.

I stared helplessly at the burned meat and ball of white fluff that was my only chance at standing out from my brothers and sisters.

“Here,” Finn pulled something out from his caribou coat pocket and knelt down to offer it to the dragon.

I was surprised that he wasn’t afraid of the dragon after its display of fire, even if its flames were only as big as a candle’s. Even I was wary of sticking my hand next to its mouth like that, just in case it decided to char my fingers for giving it an insufficient meal.

“Dragons like meat,” I said, seeing what Finn was offering. Cheese.

She took the cheese in her tiny claws, took a dainty sniff, then nibbled. She made a humming sound in the back of her throat, which I guessed meant she liked it because she stuffed the rest of it in her mouth.

“She likes it.” Finn looked up at me, delight playing all over his round face.

“Let me try,” I said, eager to win the dragon’s favor. Finn let me have a piece of cheese and I offered it to her.

We took turns feeding her until Finn ran out of cheese.

The dragon must have still wanted more because she fluttered to my shoulder and perched there, large silver eyes blinking at me.

The dragon licked her mouth and nuzzled her face against my cheek. It was as soft as the baby chicks we had running around our yard every spring.

“You’ve just made me Enna, the Dragon Tamer,” I told her.

I just made you a dragon tamer,” Finn corrected. He paused, face scrunched in thought. “Actually, I’m a dragon tamer too.”

I pursed my chapped lips for a moment, wondering if letting him share in my accomplishment would mean I was back to just being “so and so’s sister.”

“More like Finn the Cheese Hoarder,” I snort.

“You’re not funny.”

“I’m absolutely hilarious,” I said, and the dragon rubbed itself against my neck and made a purring sound. “See, she thinks so too.”

Finn shook his head in mock annoyance, then began clomping towards the village, snow shoes crunching on the snow. “Come on,” he called, his voice strung with anticipation. “We have to tell everyone that we are dragon tamers now.”

Never in all my daydreams about winning a title for myself did I end up sharing a name with Finn. But I never would have thought that Finn’s pocketed cheese would be useful, especially for taming a dragon.

“Slow down, Finn, the Dragon Tamer,” I called after him.

“I bet I can beat you to the house.” He laughed and made his voice deep and important, “Enna, the Dragon Tamer.”

 

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Three Best Ways to Outline Your Novel

Outlining a novel is a daunting task. When we sit down to write an outline, there are so many questions running through our head. Is it enough to write a sentence for each scene or should I get detailed and write a paragraph? What if I don’t know every scene that is going to happen? Should go back to brainstorming if I don’t know enough to make a detailed outline of every single thing that is going to happen in my novel?

It’s enough to make us freeze up and decide not to write an outline at all.

I wrote my debut novel, The Hashna Stone, without ever creating a formal outline, so for my next writing project, I had to go back to the basics and figure it out.

An outline can be as simple as writing a sentence for each of the major plot points or as detailed as writing a rundown of each scene. With such varied methods, it leaves us wondering which is the “right” way to outline?

The answer: there isn’t a right way to outline.

There are many methods out there and they might all be “right” as long as they work for the individual using them. Outlining is just like novel writing. Each writer has to find the process that works for them by trail and error.

That being said, there are some methods that are tried and true and will get you “the best bang for you buck.” To save you some time so your aren’t stuck trying all the methods out there, I’m sharing the three that I’ve had the most success with.

The Seven Point Story Structure

This method will probably be best for the pantsers out there (writers who don’t like detailed outlines and prefer to fly by the seat of their pants). It can be done relatively quickly and there is no need to come up with every little detail of your story.

For all the plotters out there, it may not be detailed enough for you to use as an outline, but is a useful tool for shaping ideas into a story.

Here’s how it works.

  • The Hook–Answer the question, “What keeps my reader reading after the first few pages?” Write down what it is that will make your reader wonder what happens next.
  • First Plot Point–This is the point of no return for your character (think when Harry finds out that he is a wizard and leaves with Hagrid or when Frodo leaves the Shire).
  • Pinch Point One–This is where something happens to make your character take action.
  • Midpoint–Your character makes the decision to start going after his problem instead of running from it. It dramatically changes the direction your character was going.
  • Pinch Point Two–Whatever is going wrong at this point in the story, make it get even worse. Make it so bad that it seems like the bad guy will actually win.
  • Second Plot Point–This is where your character gets the last bit of information he needed to defeat the villain.
  • Resolution–Defeat the bad guy, resolve the conflicts, and answer all the questions.

I learned about this method from Dan Wells in a podcast by Writing Excuses (give it a listen). It’s really fun and simple to use, making it a wonderful tool for developing ideas into stories early on, but it didn’t quite give me enough information to start writing my first draft.

Enter the 3 act-9 block-27 chapter method… (Yes, it is a mouthful)

3 act – 9 Block – 27 Chapter Method

This method doesn’t just have you come up with major plot points, but  gives you three “blocks” within each act and has you break down each chapter within those blocks.

I was looking for more detail. This method’s middle name is “detail.” In fact, it was a little too detailed for me. I got really excited by the thought that I could have my whole novel so neatly set up before  writing a single word of draft one but, for whatever reason, this method only worked partially for me.

I ended up with a lot of good plot points and a lot more information than if I hadn’t filled out this sheet, but I still didn’t feel ready to write the first draft after this. What I had under a lot of the chapters  were single lines like “they come up with a plan to escape” or “plan successful.” It wasn’t enough to tell me what exactly happened in each chapter. When I tried to figure it out, my mind went blank and I lost interest.

For the most part, I really liked this method, but I still felt like something was missing.

(This article explains this method in much more detail)

The 15 Beat Story Structure 

I didn’t stumble on this method until early this year, but I fell in love with it the moment I discovered it in a screenwriting book, Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. He suggests using notecards to come up with each beat, and even thought I’d used notecards before, the combination between them and this method worked like magic for me.

Act 1 / The Beginning

  1. Opening Image (0% to 1%) – A single scene beat that shows a “before” snapshot of the protagonist and the flawed world that he or she lives in.
  2. Theme Stated (5%) – A single scene beat in which a statement is made by someone (other than the protagonist) that hints at what the protagonist will learn before the end of the story.
  3. Setup (1% to 10%) – A multi-scene beat in which the reader gets to see what the protagonist’s life and the world are like–flaws and all.
  4. Catalyst (10%) – Inciting incident
  5. Debate (10% to 20%) – A multi-scene beat where the protagonist debates what he or she will do next.
  6. Break Into Two (20%) – Something big happens to make hero DECIDE to go to act 2.

 Act 2A / The Middle (Part 1)

  1. B Story (22%) – A single scene beat that introduces a new character or characters who will ultimately serve to help the hero learn the theme.
  1. Fun and Games (20% to 50%) – A multi-scene beat where the reader gets to see the protagonist either shinning or floundering in their new world.
  1. Midpoint (50%) –a “false victory” or “false fail.”

Act 2B / The Middle (Part 2)

  1. Bad Guys Close In (50% to 75%) – 
  1. All is Lost (75%) – Seems like total defeat (usually death happens)
  1. Dark Night of the Soul (75% to 80%) – A multi-scene beat in which the protagonist takes time to process everything that’s happened so far. 
  1. Break Into Three (80%) – Hero realizes what they must do to overcome

 Act 3 / The End

  1. Finale (80% to 99%)– A multi-scene beat where the protagonist proves they have learned the story’s theme.
  1. Final Image (99% to 100%) (Should be the opposite of what the opening scene shows)

When using other methods, trying to come up with more than the most important plot points before having the first draft written left me feeling like I was hopeless at plotting or outlining (at one point, I was convinced that I was a pantser).

Suddenly plotting an outline went from something I mostly dreaded and struggled with to something I was excited to do.

This doesn’t mean that it is the best way to outline. It is just the one that clicked with me. I will probably continue using all three at some stage in the brainstorming/plotting process, but this is the one I use to get a more complete understanding of my story before I start drafting.

(Check out this blog post for a deeper explanation on how to use these plot points. I must have visited 50 times while plotting my novel.  😀 )

So while there may not be one “right” way to outline, there is a “right” way out there for you. You just have to find it.

I hope one of these methods will be yours. Try them all out with an old story you tossed aside or with your current work in progress and see what works for you. Who knows, maybe you will create your own hybrid outlining method. 🙂

Have you heard or tried of any of these methods before? What is your favorite way to plot/outline?

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I’m Back!

Well, hello there Epic Dreamers. I’ve missed you all. I’ve missed this blog and writing posts.

I didn’t really mean to take a break from blogging. It just sort of happened after so many times of sitting down to write a post and realizing I had nothing to say. Eventually, I stopped thinking about it and the next thing I know, it has been months since I’ve been on here.

I’ve enjoyed the break after seven years (how has it already been that long?!) of blogging, but lately I’ve been thinking how I miss the writing community here and feeling an internal nudge to start writing again.

I’m here now to announce that I am officially back from my unofficial sabbatical. 🙂

I’m planning on keeping the content the same: a mix of writing tips and short stories. So it’s back to the good ol’ Invisible World you know and love! I’ll be giving you different ways to outline your novel next week in honor of preptober (prepping your novel for November’s NaNoWriMo) and I also have a short story coming up after that (I’ve missed writing short stories).

Hopefully Indivisible World hasn’t been shoved down WordPress’s algorithm tunnels so far that all my readers are washed away. 😀

Let me know if you’re still here with a comment, if you would be so kind. And if anyone has any suggestions for future posts, I would be glad to hear them.

I look forward to chatting with you all again!

 

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The Most Important Thing You are Missing as an Author

Hey Epic Dreamers!

Do you ever feel like you are missing something in your writing journey? You have great ideas, you’ve studied the craft, you’ve put in the writing time, or maybe you’ve even published a book. But for some reason you still don’t feel like a real writer.

I saw an interview with Rachel Hollis the other day that made me realize there was a part of this being an author thing that I was missing that wasn’t the prose, the plot, or the characters. While studying the craft and knowing how to flawlessly weave these elements into a story is important, there is another element that is crucial to whether we will achieve our writing goals.

The Stages of Making ADRs, As Told By Disney Princess Gifs – Fairy God  Bloggers

That element is the mindset of the author.  Whether our dream is to be a best-selling author or to indie publish a collection of short stories, our success in achieving those goals is determined by our mindset. Our mindset is also what can hold us back from success, even if it is our most sought after goal.

Authors (or maybe just creative types in general) have a tendency to downplay their achievements and dreams. I know I do!

We may downplay our actual goals for our writing, telling family members or friends that it is “just something I play around with” because, we are afraid that they will judge us. We are afraid they will think we are arrogant for thinking that our writing is, or could ever be, that good or that they will laugh at us for taking a career in writing seriously.

As Rachel Hollis said, “None of us can step forward into who we are called to be because we are too worried about what [others] think of us.” 

 

What she said in her interview made me realize that there was no shame in having a dream, no matter how big it is. 

Believe you are ready to shine disney tiana

If you’ve struggled with taking your writing goals seriously or struggled with sharing you dreams of being an author with others, then take a moment to give yourself permission to dream. If you are feeling stuck with your writing it may not be because you haven’t read enough books on writing or because your plot isn’t exciting enough. It may simply be because you’ve hidden away the author side of you so much that it doesn’t dare to come out, even for you.

If you have a dream, don’t waste time being ashamed of it.  🙂

“I do not care what other people think of me for having dreams and goals for myself.” –Rachel Hollis

***I’ve started a monthly newsletter where I share videos that inspire me as a writer (ones like the interview with Rachel Hollis). They are short and to the point and only once a month, so I’m not spamming you to death. 😛