Posts filed under soft

when writing is not glamorous.

Yesterday, I published a book. 

I woke up like I do every morning, my dog whining and looking at me with her eyes reserved for pleading that she needed to go outside. 

When I came back inside, I worked a little in making sure links were where they needed to be and thanked a few people for sharing the Amazon page and then realized: it's been an hour. I haven't eaten. I should probably do that.

Here's where I tell you it's been a pretty rough week. This summer has kicked my husband and I around a few times, and September has been no exception. However, when I started making macaroni and cheese and realized we didn't have any milk only after boiling the noodles, I may have lost it a little bit. 

Like, screamed the f-word a few times and threw the noodles down the disposal and then made myself some nachos out of generic cheese and stale tortilla chips.

Last night, my husband and I ate leftovers and watched Criminal Minds and I tried to keep from refreshing the Amazon page to watch my ranking. (This is a horrible idea, by the way. Stay far away from the refresh button on your release day. Stay far away from the internet, really).

This is not how I imagined release days when I started thinking hey, I may want to write a book or two.

To me, release days looked like popped champagne and copious amounts of celebration. It looked like a table full of your book(s) and friends and family and those who read your writing gathered around, cheering you on as you sign copies. 

It did not look like a mix of ugly crying (because vulnerability) and desperation (because where are the reviews? will anyone leave a review? what about the reviews?) and joy (ohmigosh I did it. I published another book. THOSE ARE MY WORDS AND PEOPLE ARE READING THEM AND I PUBLISHED ANOTHER BOOK).

This post is a dose of reality. 

Pursuing your dream, in whatever form, is hard. Some days, it kind of sucks. Like, there-are-no-more-groceries-and-pay-day-is-tomorrow-and-our-car-needs-repaired-and-how-will-we-make-rent sucks. 

But here's the secret, and I need you to pay attention: life doesn't have to be glamorous in order to be beautiful. 

Living the life that aligns with your purpose isn't always easy. Most times it kind of makes you want to quit. But the brilliancy of pushing through and doing it anyways because you love it is what makes everything worth it in the end. 

Before I went to bed last night, I received a message from a friend who finished reading Somewhere Between Water & Sky — thank you for writing hope, she said. 

I smiled. 

Mission: complete.

Posted on September 19, 2014 and filed under writing, soft, the in-between, fiction.

risky business and peonies.

When I got married and it was time to choose an arrangement for my bouquet, I had no idea where to begin. I'm not the girl who likes roses. I mean, they're pretty and all but a little over-stated. Despite my hemming and hawing and mentioning that I kinda like gladiolus, the florist nailed my bouquet. 

Since then I haven't gotten much better. I just don't know much about flowers. I know I love bougainvilleas. I know chrysanthemums make me happy. The Texas highways in the spring are my worst distraction. But there was never a flower that made me suck in my breath and get all misty eyed because of the beauty. 

That is, until I came face-to-face with a peony.

Before I saw them in the floral section of our local grocery store, I had only heard about them—I'd never actually seen one. The moment it happened, I knew. This is the one—this is my favorite. I want them always.

.::.

A few days ago, I texted my business coach and told her these past few weeks have felt like a crash-course in an advanced MBA program. When I started The Story Unfolding, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Workshops and seminars on high-brow literature? Yes. Courses about writing and getting your work out there? Sure. 

Owning my own business? Bringing on multiple brilliant coaches to expand the reach? 

...hold on just a second. Let me grab my inhaler and some gin & tonic.

In the beginning, I researched my ass off. I worked with a story-consultant who is also a friend and brilliant and worth probably ten times his pay in what it means to build strategy within my brand and social media reach. It helped—within the eight weeks I worked with him my mailing list doubled and I gained deeper clarity on what Story Sessions, a branch of Story Unfolding, meant as a community. Within three months of his coaching I launched Story 201, the Story Sessions' subscription began, we brought on interns and coaches, and in January, the website went live. Somewhere during this time, I began whispering to other people I have a business.

For six months, every single development was built out of necessity.

- Story 101 members wanted a class that went deeper into the technicalities of writing. So I developed Story 201.
- The Facebook page for Story 101 members was getting cluttered with noise and there was a lack of focus within my purpose as well as those staying—so I created the subscription, opening up opportunities for weekly prompts, write-ins and more.
- Subscribers wanted a place to gather off the FB page—where we could offer the public a peek into our community and what we're creating. The blog was born and members gained access to a private page where additional resources, prompts, and inspiration were dropped.

All of it was good—great even. But everything went so fast the research and hours I spent on developing Story Unfolding seemed light years away. 

So I dug in. 

I came up with core values — rhythm, beauty, depth, luminosity, freedom, belonging and abundance. I drafted a coaching agreement for the brilliant women who are now independent contractors and trained coaches under Story Unfolding. I watched videos and listened to podcasts and read books from CEO's who paved the road before me. 

I remembered—and clarified—my why. 

It was hard. I fell under resistance and got migraines and stress rashes as a result. I led a retreat for Story Sessions' and came home more exhausted than I've ever been in my entire life only to jump right back into blogging and prompting and meeting the next week.

I fell. A lot. 

I bumped into my own fears and learned how to articulate my wants. I took the time and listed out my core desires — golden, rooted, abundance, embodied + sensual, la loba, rhythmic — and refused to flow with anything that went against these and my values. 

And eventually, it led me to a confidence I didn't know I possess. There is still much to be done. But I can—and will—do it. Story Unfolding is only just beginning, and after a year of tremendous growth intermingled with plateaus, I can't wait to see where the community will be in a year.

There's no limits to our dreams and what we want if we're willing to put in the work.

.::.

2013 was my year of risk. It was the year I jumped and started a business. It was the year I self-published Every Shattered Thing. It was the year I found myself underneath the safe exterior I desperately held onto because of past hurts and mistakes.

So when my word for 2014 revealed itself as soft. I thought maybe the risks were over. At least the big ones. I thought this was the year I learned about who I am really. And it's happened. I'm more embodied, more rooted, more confident than I've been in my entire life. 

What I forgot was that learning about yourself—your values, your wants, your desires, your beliefs—this is always a risk.

.::.

A few days ago I decided my new found peony obsession would need to be memorialized in ink. I started researching and finding designs I liked and the meanings behind the flower. Fortune is a common theme, as is compassion and bashfulness and love and beauty. But in one description, a word jumped out at me from the page. 

Risk.

I thought about the past few weeks and how crystallized my vision has become for Story Unfolding. I thought about the way the peony petals unfold and risk the falling. And then I realized—unless you risk, unless you sacrifice and say yes or take the time to really dig in to whatever this dream is you have—you're never going to get where you want. It's like my wedding bouquet. I got lucky. The florist made me a pretty arrangement that left me happy. That's not always the case. 

Do you know what you want? Can you articulate it? 

Even more so, do you have the guts to act on it?

As my business coach responded to one of my many texts about time spent on the perils of creative entrepreneurship— "E, if you never risk you'll never be awesome." 

Go ahead. Risking is huge—I get it. Articulating what you want or like or believe is scary. But you can't just stop there. You have to do it. You have to own it. This is what I've learned. 

Even peonies keep their beauty in the unfolding. 

 

If you are at all interested in talking more about how I snagged a business coach and who this brilliant mind is, let me know. Bianca Broos has changed the scope of my understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur and from the beginning has believed in me and my crazy-ass dreams. You want her. I promise you do.

Posted on July 6, 2014 and filed under creative entrepreneurship, desire map, soft.

anniversaries and grief

This was originally published in Story Sessions' PDF for February. I was working on our PDF for June, and stumbled across this piece, and knew I had to post it. I am a woman who marks time. I can't help it. And this weekend marks a year since grief came and made its home in our hearts. We've found joy since then, but we still remember—and we still hope—and we still lean into the grief because sometimes, it's the only way we know to take that next step.

Stepping out of the bathtub, steam danced off my skin. Everything felt heavy. My shoulders. My eyes. My fingers. I closed my eyes and pressed my face into the towel. 

The grief would end soon, right?
It doesn’t last forever, does it?

We were two days outside us getting the phone call that changed the trajectory of our lives. We were with my parents when it happened. At home, a baby swing waited in the living room, a onesie nestled comfortably on the changing table. Everything was in its place. 

And then nothing was.

Grabbing my phone off the floor, I gathered the courage to look myself in the eyes and document  even this—the breaking. The continual motion of caving inward.

The moon’s gonna rise no matter what. 

I hummed the song rooting itself  in my heart and ears and clicked the button.

I sat there and stared at the picture and felt my throat knot itself with recognition. 

After so many years separated, there she was—my shadow self. 

Even in that moment of wild grief, the inner warrioress was roaring to life.

My shoulders look as if they’re falling down toward the ground to meet my knees.

My lips turn upward in a sardonic smirk of protection—it’s either this expression or the crumpled mess of chaotic tears.

My hair is thrown up and around and cascades every which way—one lone tendril hanging by itself. 

And my eyes? My eyes say it all. 

I am done. I am done and I am spent and I am tired and pleasedon’tmakemefaceanymoreofthispain but I’m living and breathing and dammit if I’m not gonna make it another day because there’s a strength within me that wasn’t there before. And this mama-heart is roaring and moaning and my hands are clenching my nightgown but I am inhaling this next moment. 

I filtered it in black and white that looks like grey, because that was the color of my world, and posted it with these words: 

Some days, this curious hope ignites with fresh vision. Other days it disappears, waiting for me to find my way back. 

I realized something then. Sometimes, marking time by spilling words or clicking the lens means us leaving sticks in the dirt as a way to find our path back home. And sometimes, marking time is a simple way of finding ourselves returned. Embodied. Rooted.

I went to bed that night with a deeper understanding of this heart of mine. I always knew there was a lion roaring for her freedom in between my rib cages, but I never knew she’d bust loose from grief. I never anticipated that this moment would be the moment I’d finally hear her once and for all and know that she wasn’t meant to be enslaved or hidden or kept tame. Since then, I’ve done better at listening and knowing what makes her purr. I wait for the beating of her paws against my chest when something crashes against my Spirit. And I never forget this moment captured in time, when I met her in my eyes.


Posted on May 30, 2014 and filed under adoption, soft.

#amwriting

At the end of March, on a day I met a friend at the airport and had coffee and looked her in the eye as she said "just write the book, Elora. I know you have it in you," I started the next piece of Stephanie's story.

I couldn't tell you how it happened. At first I just processed verbally and worked the kinks of plot out with friends who know and love and understand these characters. I held it all loosely in my hands because who needs a deadline?

And then I realized—oh yeah. Right. Me.  

I built a playlist and rallied the women in Story Sessions to make me write—no really—make me write. And I sat down in my seat and shut my closet door and wrote the first line. 

I've heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.

I'm 30,000 words into the manuscript now, and I have beta readers and people who call me out in public to make sure I'm writing those words. I have a title (that I'm kinda sorta in love with) and a cover release date and an editor in waiting and new characters that make me giggle while writing (totally healthy). 

On September 18, a little over a year since Every Shattered Thing went live, the next chapter of the Shattered Things series will be released.

I'm learning this time around that writing doesn't have to be done in isolation. Often, the words themselves won't come to you without quiet and contemplation. It's nearly impossible for me to write fiction with music in my ears unless I know explicitly what will happen in the scene and I need it for the mood. I wrote much of the first draft of Every Shattered Thing in complete silence on the couch in my living room. No one even read it until I was almost finished and I thought why not? It's not like I'm going to publish it or anything...

But this book? It's being written in the midst of community and that's perfect, really. Because the community forming within the pages is breathtaking and redemptive. Despite the broken pieces still offering jagged edges that can break through skin and bone, these characters are learning the power of second chances and new beginnings and how the past will always come back to haunt you—it's what you do with that haunting that counts.

And sometimes, you know, that includes new friendships that remind us of the beauty of life.

Posted on April 17, 2014 and filed under writing, soft, fiction.

synchronicity.

"Are you writing?" 

She asks me this with a squint, leaning toward her computer screen as if she's about to reach through and grab my hand. This is what she looks like when she means business. I imagine her students are frightened of this stare.

I look away. 

"Depends on what you mean..." 

"Fiction." 

Her reply is quick, her eyebrows raised.

"....then no." I can feel the tears coming and I have no idea why her question makes me so emotional. I blink them away. 

She falls against her chair and crosses her arms against her chest. "You have to start writing again, Elora." 

And I nod, knowing she's right but not knowing how to begin.

.::.

The next day, I'm sitting with my husband during happy hour. 

"Tell me more about this dream," he says.

I begin cautiously, not sure if I can untangle the webbing around details and scenes. 

"Well have you started writing it down yet?" 

I stare at him. 

"No." 

"Sounds like you need to start and see what happens." 

"Yeah, but..."

"Just start, love. Remember your craft." 

And there's nothing more I can say.

.::.

We're sitting in my living room and catching up on life. I ask her how writing is going, and she tells me a story of moving slow, finding creativity, fighting pushback.

"What about you? Are you writing? Or are you just helping other people and not yourself?" 

I study the hem of my shirt and feel the pressure build in my veins. I laugh to keep from crying.. 

"Um, no. I'm not writing. At least not writing outside of content for Story Sessions." I glance at her and she's shaking her head.

"That's not what you're supposed to be doing, Elora." 

She says it with authority, and I can feel the weight crash against my chest. She doesn't know this, but her words have unlocked something within me. Conviction, perhaps? Maybe inspiration. 

Or simply a kick in the ass. 

Whatever it is, when others join us and begin talking about multiple books and publishing deals, I make a quick exit in order to breathe and call a friend. When she answers, I jump into the conversation.

"Hi. I hope you can talk. I need you to talk me down." 

She listens, and then responds. I can tell she's thinking because she's pausing between words—making sure she gets them right. And then something snaps and her words come out in a rush.

"You know, Every Shattered Thing hasn't blown up—yet—but it can still happen. What would it do for you to go from thinking it hasn't happened to it will happen? It's like Danielle LaPorte, you know? When people tell her her dreams are possible, she always says possible? My dreams aren't possible. They're a done fucking deal—what would happen if you believed that line of thinking instead of freaking out about what you haven't done? What would happen if you believed you'll write other books instead of freaking out because you haven't started book two?" 

My end of the line went quiet. 

"I'd probably be writing right now instead of crying with you over the phone." 

.::.

Earlier this month, I wrote about the itching of wings and how when I was younger, I took to cheerleading and became the base. The spotter. Because if I couldn't fly, I wanted to help everyone else get there.

I'm doing it again.

I've taken the role of cheerleader—standing at the base of the mountain, hollering at those above that they can do it—just jump, I'll be here, your words matter, your story deserves breath, I can catch you. 

Even though I know they won't fall. They are fully capable of flying on their own.

.::.

I'm talking with one of the people who knows me best on the phone. Her words come fast and hot like they do when she's trying to chase after them. 

"What's in your core, Elora? What do you need to do in your core? Go there. Do that. Worry about nothing else." 

I sit in the chair out back, staring at the trees blooming with spring flowers. I think about Stephanie and the ending I know she has—and the limbo I've placed her in yet again as I wait for some magical fairy to give me permission to begin. 

"I don't know why I doubt. I don't know why I chalk it up to a season of no writing because I know what I'm built to do—I'm built for words. I think...I think I'm just scared. Unsure, even. Maybe even frustrated? I don't know." 

"But you know what's in your core." Her voice has gone soft now, and I can hear the belief behind her words. "You know what you're meant to do. So do it."

I smile and feel the weight of untold stories dig into my shoulders. I close my eyes and everything begins to fit together. 

"I know." I whisper. "I will." 

Posted on March 24, 2014 and filed under soft, writing.