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     You know those movies where people have studies or home libraries with floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with all kinds of old books?  The ones where someone is trying to piece together a mystery and they turn to some dusty old book on their shelves and find the missing piece of the puzzle?  Or the kinds where the books are actually levers to secret passage ways or hollowed out to conceal some important heirloom.  Well, it’s always been my dream to have a room like that.  A room where I am surrounded by hundreds of books that I can say, yes, I’ve read them all!

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     When I moved last year, one of the biggest perks of my new apartment was an office space lined with built-in book shelves!  The first thing I unpacked was my collection of books and yet, the shelves were still fairly bare.  In this electronic age, I had already started making the shift towards ebooks and no longer purchase paperbacks unless they are part of a series that I already own.  Not to mention that of the many paperbacks I own, only a handful are classics, none are signed/special editions and many are beat up due to wear and tear.  Not exactly the kind of library I envisioned.

    So my goal this past year has been to build my library and fill my shelves.  Barnes and Nobles’ leather bound books were exactly the kind of books I was looking for, but with two kids, bills to pay and still trying to put $ away in savings, I didn’t have the funds to blow in order to fulfill this dream.  Over the course of a year and thanks to gift cards received, I’ve bought myself three and each time, I was so happy to see them take their places on the shelf.

     Yesterday morning, for Christmas, I got four new books to add to my collection!  I get excited about the most random stuff, but yeah you can say I had a great Christmas!  I hope that everyone was blessed to have a happy and healthy Holiday and may you have a joyous New Year!

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We’ve all heard the old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  Well, in my opinion, it takes a community to raise an author.  For those of you who have been following my blog (previously on Chime.In) or know me personally, you know that I’ve only been pursuing a writing career since 2010.   During that time, I have participated in three NaNoWriMo’s, one script frenzy, one Camp NaNo and started my blog. I’ve done all of this, virtually, on my own.
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This year, however, thanks to my participation in NaNoWriMo and the introduction of communities on Google+ two weeks ago, I have had the good fortune of connecting with many people, much like myself; all writers at various stages.  Either I am lucky enough to have happened upon the most supportive groups of people I have ever encountered, or writers as a whole are a welcoming community.  More and more, I find myself believing the latter to be very true.

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In all my research on how to become a published author, one thing I found time and time again is that this is not something you can do alone.  Many successful authors credit their success to their support systems (family, friends, fellow writers , editors, agents and/or publishers) that helped keep them motivated and provided insightful critique on their WIP.  True, anyone can self-publish a book, we’ve all see the market flooded with poorly edited books, but if the intent is to make this a career, it will take much more polishing to achieve that goal.

I haven’t had any of the support aforementioned.  By nature, I am a very introverted person and I did not see myself going out into the world to find other writers to befriend.  How would I even know if someone was a writer without first engaging in conversation (something I don’t typically do with complete strangers)?  So, it seems the world came to me, in the form of community invitations!  And thanks to the kindness and support of these amazing people, I no longer feel alone in my journey.  Everyone is so full of enthusiasm and eager to lend a helping hand.  We all understand each others’ plight because we have all either been there or are there and rather than climbing over each other on the way to the top, we have extended a helping hand to our fellow authors in need.

This is not to say that they praise the work I have shared as being perfect, because let’s be honest, I have a long way to go before I get to where I want to be.  But rather than tearing my work to pieces (striking tremendous blows to my ego) or offering accolades (falsely boosting my ego), they not only point out what needs work and offer their suggestions on how it can be improved, they also highlight the good letting me know where my strengths lie.  I’m sure many of us have had that English/writing teacher that would give us a bad grade but never explain what we did wrong,  what we could do to improve or even what we did well.  This type of feedback only leads us to continue making the same errors time and time again, getting absolutely nothing out of the class and not providing us with the opportunity to grow in our craft.

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It is because of the kindness, support and encouragement received from the communities that my eagerness to write has increased, leaving less room for doubt and excuses.  I’ll admit that after sharing the first chapter of my novel and finally getting some real, constructive critiques, I wanted to cry.  Not because they told me it was horrible and I should never write another word again, but because my novel has become my baby and no one ever wants to hear that their baby isn’t beautiful and perfect just the way they are.  After allowing myself a moment of self pity, I pulled myself together, absorbed the feedback and am now hard at work editing the novel so that I can improve and share it with one of my communities.  I am both nervous and excited to get their feedback.  It will be my first real experience with putting my work on the “chopping block” so to speak.

If I’m really serious about becoming an author, then I’m going to need to toughen up and grow a thick skin; throwing my insecurities out the window and opening myself up to both the positive and negative.  What better way to start than with my own peers, people who understand the complex journey I am on and who are able to provide advice based on their own personal experiences on a similar journey?

 What does it really mean to think outside of the box? Typically, this term is associated with thinking of things in a different way than you are used to or looking at things from a different perspective. Sometimes it helps to get a broader view on a problem or situation in order to address it. 

 But what about those individuals that are already naturally inclined to thinking differently. Personally, I find myself going against the grain more often than not. It’s not something that I actively seek to do, but my mind just doesn’t seem to go with the flow. At times, I embrace this individuality and other times, I stifle it so as not to rock the boat. 

 Growing up, I feel that someone decided along the way, to put me in a box. Be it my parents or teachers, they packaged me up and labeled me, predetermining my course in life. Being young, naive and impressionable, I never stopped to think about what I wanted. This doesn’t mean that I went without a fight, only that I didn’t really understand the reason why I felt the need to fight. 

 In high school, while some of my friends were taking cool classes like art, I was assigned classes like typing and computers, to gear me for the business world. With both my parents and my step parents working in the business world, I never considered that there were other career options that I could explore. The only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to be able to have my weekends free to do the things I enjoyed. Now in retrospect, if I had thought this through carefully enough, I would have realized that if I found a career doing something that I loved, this wouldn’t have been a concern. 

 It’s taken me a very long time to climb my way out of the box I’ve grown so accustomed to being in, but I’m finally finding my niche in life, making strides to do what makes me happy. I envy those that are able to carve their own paths early in life. They encourage me to keep trying to be the best me that I can be; the me that is true to who I am meant to be rather than trying to conform to what I am expected to be. 

 Don’t ever let anyone tell you who you should be. Dare to dream and think outside of the box!

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