Is 2016 The Year to Realize Delayed Dreams?

My oldest son is sixteen and he’s in the middle of the frustrating process where the whole world starts to ask him what he wants to do for the rest of his life. He has to start thinking about a career, so he can plan on a college, so he can plan his high school classes, etc. Like most kids his age he doesn’t want to think past the next comic con.

Through him I’m remembering that time in my life when I considered so many options then had to discard some as unreasonable, too expensive, out of reach. Each career path I considered spoke to some part of me; my creative side, my logical/planner side, my feminist side, etc. I eventually aimed in the direction of advertising and PR then wound up in special events and teaching. (Because face it, very few end up where they thought they would at sixteen.) But some of those dreams never died. The part of me they represent never got a moment to shine or at least step up to the plate and try. It’s those delayed dreams that I’m tapping into now as an entrepreneur.

Now, this point in time in history, is a unique time that is perfect for so many people to be able to keep their day job (or not) and try something new, something they’ve always wanted to do.

Writing novels is that for me, and I get to combine it with owning my own business, another path I’ve always been interested in. I met a woman today who had always thought being an editor would be great. She’s a librarian (a great job for a lover of words) but we talked about how she could easily do side work editing books for self-published writers. It was such a fun conversation. I loved seeing the wheels start spinning and the lights go on that long-forgotten dream. It was fantastic being the person who is already on the path getting to point it out to her.

So, what are your lost dreams? Did you write them off because in the past you had to open a brick and mortar store and start-up costs would be too high? Did someone tell you that you didn’t have the skills to compete in a particular market? Did you hear scary stories about how little creative people make and that you might end up living in a cardboard box if you take that career path? Well, the world has changed. You, my friend, and I are lucky enough to live in a time when anyone can open an online “store” and reach customers world-wide. You may not be an expert but you are still ahead of someone and they could seriously benefit from your knowledge. And creative work is still hard, but it’s easier to go around the gatekeepers and find your audience than ever before.

Next month I’m going to teach a series of classes on how to self-publish. Am I an industry leader? Hell, no. But I’ve been there and learned a lot of good lessons along the way. I’m green enough to remember what it’s like to be starting out with no clue what to do. Industry leaders are great but they can be so deep in an industry that their advice is too complicated for a beginner. It’s just another way that I’m following those dreams, going back to the what-if’s and exploring all the possibilities I saw when I was sixteen.

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Why I’m no longer satisfied working for someone else and what I did about it.

For the past nine years I’ve been an Instructor for a major university. It’s been a fantastic ride. I’ve worked part-time, often from home, doing something I love. But times, they are a changing. Like so many industries higher education is having to reorganize, revise and restructure to try to keep pace with post-internet society. The result has been chaos. Seems the Titanic can’t turn on a dime and I may have been thrown overboard in the process. As the need for Instructors has dwindled I’ve had fewer and fewer contracts. I’ve been sitting by the phone like some spurned prom date, waiting for it to ring, until I finally got sick of it. Luckily I’ve developed a strong entrepreneurial bent in midlife so I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

End of JobsIn his book “The End of Jobs” (my latest read, review coming soon) Taylor Pearson examines this exact scenario. My job is ending. But the book isn’t a doomsday dissertation, it’s theme isn’t “be afraid, very afraid.” The theme is “wake up, pay attention, there are opportunities out there. Go get em.” I felt this way before I heard Taylor speak on Joanna Penn’s podcast “The Creative Penn” but he gave me the numbers to back up my theory and the cheer leading I needed to get started.

So what am I doing about my lack of teaching contracts? I’m teaching. This April I am joining together with another local self-published author to teach anyone interested how to self publish and how to market your self published books so you can actually sell a few. It’s a process I learned the hard way and I’d like to save others some of my frustration.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be proactive. I’m juiced. I can’t relate to any of the Monday-sucks memes because I I love any day I make progress toward making this happen. I can’t wait to teach again. I feel like I’m flipping the bird to my absent prom date and going off to create my own dance. And it’s a hundred times more fun! I get to make it mine. I no longer have to worry that the energy and passion I’m investing might be for naught, overlooked on some annual evaluation.

Ok, so the downside, because there is one. I will not make as much in my first year as I did when I was getting one contract after another. But I will make more than if I continued to wait for another contract or if I spun my wheels hoping another University isn’t in the same boat (I’ve looked, they are.) I might not make as much in year two, possibly year three, but eventually I will. And in the mean time I will be a much happier person. I’ll no longer beat my head against the wall in frustration over inane rules and endless red-tape and paperwork. Being in control, having agency, is one of the greatest thrills in life. Another is making a difference in the lives of others. I’m killing both those birds with this stone.

And creating my own classes is only the beginning of creating my brand, my own multiple-income business. This is another theme favored by Joanna Penn, Taylor Pearson and scores of other forward-thinking people because the other huge drawback to working for someone else is the reality of no income when they say good bye. Without a back up source of income it can be devastating, life altering. For many this is the catalyst that propels them into the world of international e-commerce. It was my line in the sand. When I first published I  was still getting contracts and working them. I may still get more, but in the mean time I’m going to keep moving toward self-sufficiency, agency to make my own destiny.

Let me finish by not only encouraging others to read Taylor’s book and figure out their own path in a “jobless” world, but also give you a few resources I’ve found that make this trip so much easier and more fun. It turns out that many of these new e-entrepreneurs also want to help others have the success they do. For the price of a search you can find ideas and support galore. Here are a few of my favorites:

Marie Forleo – Her Marie TV channel on YouTube has over 200,000 subscribers because she delivers sound business advice in an upbeat, sometimes silly, manner.

Danielle LaPorte – Not only is she a business woman with multiple income streams to emulate, on her website she shares her philosophy, successes and failures in a very real way. She’s a fantastic example of succeeding by being yourself.

Sarah Morgan (XO Sarah) – When I add fantastic business advice pins to my Chick in Charge Pintrest board they often come from XO Sarah. Follow her on Pintrest and you will find answers to all your e-commerce questions presented in an organized, easy-to-use fashion. She’s my number one source for badass blogging advice.

Joanna Penn – As I mentioned her podcast, The Creative Penn is where I find not only great advice from a fellow author but guests, like Taylor Pearson, who help me keep growing and learning and motivated.

So who’s with me? Let’s do this midlife (or earlier) end-of-jobs thing together. I’d love to hear about your journey into being an entrepreneur or your hopes and dreams to do so. Comment below with your story or your favorite resources.

**Anyone in the Memphis area who is interest in my self-publishing class can follow this link to my FB page. I’ll be posting sign up information there soon.

 

 

The End of Being Chicken Sh*t or Why I Self-Published

To celebrate my 50th birthday I jumped out of an airplane, got a tattoo and self-published my first novel. Of the three, publishing was by far the scariest but they were all part of my midlife journey, my campaign to live my life differently, more deliberately, for the second fifty years (give or take a few).

The night before my skydive a friend asked me why I was doing it. I told her that I couldn’t live as a chicken shi*t any longer. There were so many things that I feared, irrationally, at that time. I was scared to death of heights, but I knew that statistically skydiving was pretty safe. I was scared to do much of anything permanent, because I was scared of making a mistake and scared of regret. My tattoo is permanent and a constant reminder that I can trust my gut and the choices I make for myself.

And I was scared to death of anyone knowing me, who I really was, what was in my heart. Writing “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” was me leaning into that fear and pushing past it. It was me giving it the finger and saying that maybe I did have something to offer.

At first I was defensive of my writing and the topic, young love. But reviews told me that a lot of people really enjoyed reading the book because it mirrored their own high school experience and they loved reliving it. I began to apologize and back peddle less and own it. I showed up at writers groups and proclaimed that I write romance.

Other fantastic changes also happened when I hit publish. I was forced out of my very small world. I had to interact with other authors and ask tons of questions because I was so incredibly lost. I met amazing friends, people who are stoked about life and writing and helping others reach their dreams. My world expanded and filled up with great people. And I reconnected with others from my past. They read my book and contacted me to say they liked it and played the guessing game of who from our high school inspired certain scenes or characters.

A few days after publishing I created some flyers and carried them around with me (because I was still too chicken to ask to hang them). I had lunch at a local coffee shop and my friend/editorial goddess, Chrissy, pushed me to ask to hang one on the bulletin board. I can still remember how I described my book, with a long list of everything it wasn’t and a promise that the owner didn’t need to read it if she didn’t want to. Leanne, the owner of Pinks coffee shop is one of those really sharp, funny people who read people well. She welcomed my flyer (it’s still there now!) and read my book and recommended it to others. I have lunch there frequently because the food it really good and the coffee and hanging around Leanne reminds me how far I’ve come. I tell her all my writing plans now and I’m open to having a book signing party when I publish the Vivienne series in a few months, something that sounded absolutely painful two years ago.

This past Wednesday, February 4th, was my two year writing anniversary. I realize that in some ways two years isn’t a lot. I hope its the start of a very long career. But I’m commemorating it to celebrate just how far I’ve come. My bravery level is through the roof compared to back then. I do things daily that I would have been absolutely traumatic to the old me. Right now I am planning to teach a class on self-publishing locally starting in April. Going through all the steps to make this happen I still feel fear–fear of failure, fear of rejection. But I’m not the chicken shi*t I was in my 40’s because even if I am afraid, I do it anyway. I tell the negative voices in my head to shut the F up and I do it. And it feels amazing, life-affirming, crazy powerful. I’m pushing forward, past my fears because I want others to get a chance to feel the same thing.

I’m going to end with a quote from one of those amazing, stoked, life-affirming people I’ve discovered along the way. Danielle LaPorte creates Truthbombs, daily smart thoughts. This was one from the other day, yet another that nailed exactly what I was feeling. If you like it you can subscribe to them here.

blog second image feb 7

This Ain’t No Rest Home Missy

My kids and I had a conversation about brains yesterday, specifically how our brains are changing. As teenagers theirs are forming new connections and changing like crazy. We listened to a TED podcast that explained how their cerebral cortex is changing and unfortunately my brain is changing too. As a middle-aged woman, mine would like to turn off a few connections and start to relax a bit–to which I reply, “nope.”

By choosing to self publish and become a midlife entrepreneur I’m telling my brain that we will be forming new connections by learning new skills and pushing my creativity to new levels. Some days this plan definitely works better than others. 

Currently I am writing the second novella in an eight-book series that I have committed to releasing in early 2016 (January? fingers crossed). I’m also reading “Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb and exponentially expanding the underdeveloped social media section of my brain. Whether it’s due to being introverted or just not growing up with social media, I recommend this fantastic book if you, like me, need to decode the strange land of cryptic conversations on Twitter and other social media sites. No matter what type of business you are running this book will help. 

I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that I’m smarter than the average monkey so I will figure out (usually with the help of a book or YouTube video) anything that confounds me or stands in my way. Marketing my books was falling into that category. And it gets tempting to just walk away. Social media changes so quickly I would imagine it is hard for those in the know to keep up. For me it’s like going after a moving target or a finish line that’s perpetually moving another foot away. But I don’t give up because I’m just too damn stubborn and doing so would be to finally acknowledge that the average monkey is now smarter than me. (That day is coming, I know, but I’m fighting the good fight to stall it.)

Today I’m revealing my new author bio and redesigned website. It seems I’m not the only one in our family who has a relentless push to keep learning. My son Beau has been on a self-taught quest to improve his programming skills and I’m his favorite guinea pig. If you like it and are looking for someone to create a site for you (at amazing small-business friendly prices) you can contact him at Beau@DigiPhreakDesign.com. 

OK, enough pimping my kid. Now for the big reveals, the result of choosing to forestall my trip to the rest home by not resting on my laurels, by firing up all kinds of new creative brain cells. My new author bio:

I was sure I could never be a writer. I grew up too ordinary—a suburban, lapsed-Catholic, Irish, white girl who drank too much beer and kissed too many boys. I wanted to be different, unique; to live my life in some extraordinary place because I was sure that was where all the action was, where the fun was, where somethinginteresting was going on.
Then I grew up (sort of) and discovered something; there is passion and angst in suburbia along with pain and hope, it’s just hidden behind tan and beige exteriors and banal discussions about potty training and tree rot.  I discovered there is an art to reading between the lines and looking for clues, to finding raw humanity in a place designed to hide it.  I’ve always watched and studied people, questioned their motivations and agendas, wanted to know the stories behind their stories. As a writer I tapped into my over-active imagination to create those stories.
I tell the love story of the teens no one remembers at the thirty-year reunion, the ones that stood out to no one but each other. The woman who no one would vote as most likely to succeed but who does succeed by being the same quiet, smart girl they all overlooked. I write about the hysterically silly moments, inspiring wins and crushing letdowns that happen to us all and make everyone’s life extraordinary.
I still live in suburbia and have retained my embedded Catholic guilt. I’ve replaced beer with whiskey and boys with one man, who I kiss often. My life is still pretty ordinary, but my writing isn’t.

If you’d like to see my redesigned site you can click here

I welcome feedback on both so I can keep growing as an author. I’d also love to know what you do to keep your brain active. My kids are trying to sell me on gaming to sharpen my brain. Thoughts?

This Side of 50

Yesterday was it, my big 50 and I’m still here today.  (Probably because I didn’t try to party like I’m anything less than 50).

I had a wonderful day, starting with breakfast at my favorite place, Waffle House.  I’m a total sucker for waffles and cheez hashbrowns.

Me, my waffle, one of my fav. men, and one crabby dude behind me

I started preparing for yesterday two years ago, on my 48th birthday.  It was not my best birthday (in fact, it sucked) but it started the ball rolling for a heap of changes in my life. That day started this blog with my first post “I’m Not Supposed To Be Having This Much Fun.”  Whether I’m supposed to or not, I’m still having a lot of fun.  In the past two years I started this blog, wrote and published a novel and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane attached to one very cute Brazilian; all things I never would have dreamed of doing at one (low) point in my life.  And I’m not done yet.  I’m working on a second novel and I have my appointment scheduled for my tattoo.  The party continues. 

But more important than these wild (at least for me) actions are the fears I am conquering with each one – fear of heights, fear of rejection, fear of making mistakes, fear of what others will say, fear that I’m actually a moron and everyone just forgot to tell me.  There’s still more, lurking in the darker recesses of my mind, but I’m slowly coaxing them all out, naming them, taming them. 

Last night my brother asked if I was ever going to grow up.  I told him, “No.  What kind of fun would that be?”  But the reality is that I am growing up and all my crazy is part of that process.  To me a mature, evolved person is not one who sits home, having given in to fears and given up on crazy dreams.  A truly mature soul knows that the odds are not in their favor,  that others won’t approve or will think they are crazy, that there can be negative outcomes; then they go ahead and do it anyway.  Because they (I) know that a life avoiding all the pain and risk isn’t really living. 

That’s my report from this side of 50. 

How Old Are You?


For years I would have to stop to think before answering this question.  Not because I wanted to lie or I was embarrassed about my age, but because I didn’t feel like my chronological age; not that I’m sure what my chronological age is supposed to feel (or look) like.  

Two things sparked my need to write about this topic.  One was the new trend in magazines to do fashion spreads by age.  The idea is, “here is the type of sundress you should wear when you are 20, 30, 40, 50, etc.”  These bug me.  I get that a 60 year old woman could look very silly in a youthful dress, but she also might be able to really rock it.  I hate the idea of some unseen magic that happens to you as you cross each of these lines.  “Oh, I’m 50 now, guess I should toss all those stilettos.  Of course, I looked hot in them yesterday, when I was 49.”  The whole idea smacks of all the fashion rules I thought were long gone; like when to wear white and or glittery clothes are only for evening.  I also think following these rules or guidelines can make you look older.  Most of the stuff shown for 50 year-olds looks stodgy to me and I would feel unsexy and matronly wearing it. 

The second thing that had me thinking about age is a discussion I had with my fabulous Mother-in-law about the benefit having friends of different ages.  There is so much to be gained from hanging out with and relating to people in all ages groups.  Sometimes I like to spend time with my teenage sons and their friends.  They are so clever and come up with some of the funniest ways of expressing themselves.  They’ve taught me things like using “kewl” when I am texting.  I love it.  It’s an even cooler way to say cool. 

One of my truly fun girlfriends is 20 years younger than me.  I forget our age difference when we hang out together.  I get caught up in her youthful energy and sweet optimism.  With my friends closer to my age I share a wonder and sometimes dread of all the changes; mental, emotional and physical that menopause brings.  And my friends that are chronologically older than me inspire me, like my retired neighbor who absolutely kicks my ass in Pilates class every week.  I would miss out on so much if I cared about age when I am looking for friends. 

Age is such a fluid concept for me I sometimes wonder if I was wrong to put the “mid” in the name of my blog.  Sure, I am having certain experiences because my body is almost 50 years old, but that doesn’t mean that my experiences and ideas are only relevant to people my same age. 

I do hate telling people my age when they ask, but only because I don’t want them to put me in a category or stereotype me before they get to know me.  Now when I am asked my age, my standard answer is; I’m old enough to know better, but I do it anyway. 

Last Road trip of Summer

There is something soft and quiet and peaceful about the day just before dawn.  The air is cool and heavy with humidity.  It muffles the sound of car doors and traffic.  My voice is whispery because I’m not quite awake.  The sunrise colors are soft pink, lavender and peach, muted by the heavy, wet air.  


I want to take note of all these things, I record them for you, but also for me because midlife has definitely sharpened my sense of time.  I want to capture this perfect morning for a roadtrip because I’m driving to pick my kids up from summer camp.  And being half way through your life makes you accutely aware that there are only so many summers left for family roadtrips and summer camps and a house full of noisy neighborhood kids.  Chances are I have decades of quiet mornings ahead of me, but that’s just it, they will all be quiet.  This peace and quiet is special because it is the calm before the storm.  In three hours the car will be full or camp gear and wet, smelly sneakers and two boys talking over each other to tell me about all the adventures they had during their week away from home.  

Quiet time alone is precious to me now, but only because it is rare.  I know I have maybe four or five summers left of alone time being golden, then it will be come the norm.  Then I’ll wax poetic and get excited about each time one of my son’s comes to visit on a college break.  So instead of grousing about having to get up so early I’m celebrating it.  I packed grapes and french bread and iced coffee for breakfast.  

I loaded my iphone with music and podcasts and driving directions.  And I stopped along the way to take a few pictures, note my thoughts, capture the moment of being a mom on the last road trip of summer 2013.