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.

Advertisements

The Best Times Are the Hard Ones

What if I told you, all of you who are just starting out as a self-published author or internet entrepreneur, that right now, when you are often frustrated, sometimes lost and occasionally pissed off, this is the best time in the life of your business?

“Karen, stop drinking,” would probably be your first response. And while I have been drinking more recently (holiday tradition) I’ve also been gob-smacked by the Universe with this message and compelled to share it.

It all started with Adele. In an interview she explained that her new hit, “Hello” is not about a couple or lost love, it’s her talking to the girl she was a few years ago before, as she says, “the world fell at our feet.” When you listen to the lyrics from this perspective you hear someone who isn’t unhappy to have found success (on a mass scale in her case) but someone who fondly remembers being young and free and hungry for the fame she now has.

Once the song got me thinking I started to see the same theme everywhere. The end of the year is a time for reviewing and reminiscing. It seemed like every TV show I watched or podcast I listened to was waxing nostalgic for the past–be it a year, a decade, or just the past in general. Over and over I heard people sharing stories about their trials and hurdles and how they overcame them. What I heard in all those stories was a deep sense of pride for the ah-ha moments when they found solutions and for persevering. I heard a lot of funny stories about working together and forming bonds over late night deadlines, sparsely-funded road trips to meet potential buyers and three-person staff meetings over a five-dollar pizza. It seemed like everyone who had “made it” missed some of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants excitement of their early years.

It was definitely a message I needed to hear. I tend to focus on my next challenge, what I still need to do, how far I am from where I want to be. I forget to stop and look around me and note where I am now, how far I’ve come already and the really great people I’m meeting along the way. I’m currently struggling to create my 8-novella series. The two novels I’ve already published (link here) had been percolating in my mind for years before I got the stories down on paper. When I did start writing I was able to complete each one in a few months.

Vivienne’s story is newer, revealing itself as I write (and rewrite). I’m proud of what I have so far but it has been ten times harder to produce. There are definitely days that I wonder if I’ve bitten off too much. Book eight feels too far away for me to even picture. The trick I’ve discovered on those days is to project forward and pretend that all eight novellas are completed, published to great reviews and solid sales. If I look back on today and see my frustration as part of the process I feel better. I feel less like I’m spinning my wheels and making little progress.

In other words, the trick is to see now from the other side.

As we all gear up for 2016, working to grow our businesses and create our art, take a minute today to appreciate where you are now. Journal your hopes and dreams, challenges and fears. Appreciate how much all those drive you to keep going and do better, that way when you get there you can stop briefly and rest on your laurels then jump into a new challenge knowing you’re ready to enjoy the process of getting there all over again.

Now open a tab for YouTube, que up Adele’s “Hello” and sing to the struggling you as loud as you can.

How Do You Know When You’ve Won?

Favorite book title, ever: “She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana” by Haven Kimmel. I fell in love with it because it celebrates, in a huge way, what might look like a simple, everyday act. And it reminds me that we, not society, get to decide when we’ve had a big win (and then celebrate, of course).

It’s been on my mind lately for two reasons. One is Vivienne, the main character in the series I’m working on. In the story she flies to the top of the private jet industry (punny, I know). But in creating the story I had to think about where the top would be for this character and how will the audience and the character know when she has reached the pinnacle. Does she have to own her own company to be at the top? What if she owned the smallest company in her industry? Would she still be “at the top”? Society seems to have some definite ideas about success until you try to define them. If she did become CEO but only lasted a year would she still be a success?

I don’t want to give the plot away, but I will say that writing this series has caused me to take a long, hard look at goals and success. Part of her definition of success will be based on where she began. In Vivienne’s case, in book one she is a secretary with a high-school diploma. She comes from a blue-collar area where a good, solid job in a large company is seen as a fantastic goal. These facts will not only shape her goals but how she feels when much bigger opportunities come her way. In the end, her start in life will also cause her to question whether she really has won the grand prize of life when she is livin’ large.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my own goals and accomplishments. As the CEO (and lone employee) of Karen Gordon, Author, I like to set time aside a few times a year to look at my goals and what I’ve accomplished. In a recent post, Gretchen Rubin noted that September is the new January, in other words, this is a great time for setting goals. I agree. When my kids go back to school I start a new season and I’ve been floundering lately, in need of a little structure and direction. I decided to use Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map book as my guide. If you don’t know her work, Danielle LaPorte is a savvy businesswoman who’s style vacillates from spiritual guru to potty-mouth BFF. I love her.

Most people would have very clear-cut ideas about what success would/should look like for an author–sell a certain (large) number of books, make the NY Times or USA Today best seller list, have a movie made from your book. And my first instinct is to automatically put any or all of these down as my goals. But are they my goals? Each would require that I focus my energy in a different direction, they aren’t the package deal that most people think they are. And I’m not sure any of them would really make me happy, make me feel like I’ve won the self-publishing game.

Through The Desire Map book I’ve been determining and focusing in on goals that will not only make me happy when I accomplish them, but that I enjoy the process of reaching them. Personal goals, things that might not look like crossing the finish line to others, but will make me immensely happy. As I noted in my post about working from home it pushes you to set goals so you can have structure to your days and so you will know when it’s time to celebrate your accomplishment, which on some days might be nothing more than getting up off the couch.

Do you work from home and set your own goals? How do you know where to set the bar or mark the finish line? Do you have a favorite book on the topic you can recommend? Comment below and let me know.