Writing My Way Out of a Dark Place

A guest post by Bridget Straub.

Two years ago, I was in a very dark place. We had lost our house and were living in a dull apartment that bordered an alley. An alley that had its share of rumbling trucks, grumbling homeless, and on one awful night, a gang shooting. You are probably now imagining a far worse neighborhood than it actually was. In truth, it was right in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. Money, as always, was incredibly tight and I was deeply depressed. Our photography business, that had always sustained us in the past, was now a luxury that people couldn’t afford, or with all the new technology, were just doing themselves. I didn’t know what to do to change my situation.

In times like this music has always been my savior, and on this particular day I was listening to a song, “The Moment” written by my friend Laura Hall.  It is a beautiful song about how what appears to be an ordinary moment can instead be a defining moment. I really needed a defining moment, and little did I know that I was about to have it.

I began writing a story about a woman struggling to make sense of her life and her relationships with those she loved most. In three short days, I wrote a novel entitled “Searching for My Wand”. I read it to my sister who loved it, and then I nervously allowed Laura to read it. I waited anxiously to see what she would have to say, and while I waited I began writing another book, “If By Chance”. Much to my relief and delight, Laura had only nice things to say about “Searching for My Wand”. A few weeks later she even suggested we write a musical together, and we did!

I have not stopped writing since. Not only did we go on to write “Room to Grow”, our musical, but I have completed “If By Chance”, almost completed a sequel to “If By Chance”, completed two more novels, “Fingers Crossed”, and “On a Hot August Afternoon,” and I am 49,939 words into “The Salacious Marny Ottwiler”. I love all of these books and can’t wait to share them, which is why I have decided to go the self-publishing route. I don’t want to wait years and years for these stories to see the light of day, and with traditional publishing, that’s how long it would take.

I love writing. I have done it all of my life, but in the past couple of years things have changed and I’ve become better at allowing my characters to write themselves. I no longer fight the direction a story is going in because it’s not the direction I had assumed it would take. I now enjoy the journey that much more because it’s always filled with surprises.

As for that dark place that I was in two years ago, I have moved on. With a lot of help, I have been able to move to a much brighter apartment, and with renewed determination I have rediscovered hope. We’re still broke, the photography business is still evolving and changing, but we are doing our best to adjust. I am publishing “Searching for My Wand” and will do everything in my power to get it seen and read by as many people as possible. Laura and I will look for ways to produce “Room to Grow”, and with any luck at all, the New Year will bring some exciting changes to our lives. In the meantime, my kids are healthy, we have a roof over our heads and we are surrounded by family and friends, so I am feeling very lucky. “Searching for My Wand” should be available for purchase through Amazon, B&N, Sony, Apple, etc. on December 15, 2011.

Bridget Straub (author, lyricist) has written four novels, has her own blog at bridgetstraub.com  and is the co-auther of the musical Room to Grow with Laura Hall. Bridget’s first novel Searching for My Wand will be published in Dec. 2011.

Confessions of an Over-Committed Surburbanite

A guest post by Becky Lukovic.

Why is it that when I am the most over-committed, I get the least done?  Why do my wheels spin when my gas pedal is to the floor?  Tick-tock—tick-tock.  That’s how the clock is supposed to go….with a perfect cadence…like sands through the hour-glass (so are the Days of Our Lives)…..only…..my clock whirrs around like the hands of the electric meter in high summertime….going around and around at light speed.  I just can’t seem to catch up with my own life.

Tick-tock-tick-tock.  I run frantically from one project to another…from meeting to errands….to cocktails with a distraught friend….to an urgent phone call from my client….to the house…checking the email just one more time.  Rinse and Repeat.  Everything seems half done…just started…almost completed.  I am so overcommitted….but somehow, it’s glorious.

I swoop down like Superman…ready to save the day….to take charge….to give ideas and checklists….yes, we must have the checklists….  I have an innate need to rescue….not just kitties and puppies, but not-for-profits needing an extra hand, boards who need another voice, tasks that need to be done, wine that desperately needs opening….  Rescue 911 that’s me.

The Man mentioned rescuing is considered an unhealthy emotional behavior – that I should neither want to rescue nor be rescued.  But if I am in a jam, I need a rescuer extraordinaire–a McGuyver with his bag of tricks…James Bond running through the door….Han Solo….yes, I want to be rescued by Han Solo…sigh….  Why can’t I rescue with a good conscience??  Why can’t I leave a legacy of helping??

The problem is, with my over-commitment, I am doing lots of running, but little actual helping.

For me, there is no difficulty in saying “no.”  It just seems that I don’t want to.  No is such a “final” word…a negative word….a word two year-olds say to avoid eating their peas.  I try to improve…really…but the moment the oft practiced phrase, “Let me think about it” leaves my mouth, I know I am sunk….that I am yet again committed.  How am I going to say NO after I had just given them a “maybe?”  It’s like saying to a date, “call me sometime and we’ll see” and then having to tell them to “STOP calling me!”   All of my excuses scream lame! Lame! LAME the exact moment they escape my lips.  Lame!  What I really want them to hear is, “Becky is so wonderful – we must adore her.”  I feel like they can see right through me if I say “no”—if I tell them that I really just want to sit on my couch and watch another episode of Burn Notice.  But just like the box of Ding Dongs that tempts me from afar, the desire to be needed beckons…tempts…calls out to me.  It’s an addiction and it’s getting out of control.

How do I choose??  How do I pick the puppies staring at me from behind the glass, pressing their little wet noses close to me??  How can I balance the need to be adored, revered and loved (read worship) with the need to spend adequate couch time with The Man??  How do I pitch-in and give some real, productive help while keeping my time boundaries??  I could say no to everything for a time (been there, done that), meh….  I could cancel all of my current obligations and re-evaluate (been there, done that)…meh….  Maybe the journey to having a healthy commitment level is to set up solid time boundaries.   Instead of getting the time that is leftover to reconnect and to recharge, give myself some priority time, don’t even look at the new puppies in the window….and not feel guilty in taking a whole day with nothing to do but a Molly Ringwald movie marathon.  Maybe…

Becky Pruitt-Lukovic is the owner of Bella Event and Travel Planning. She is the mom of two and step-mom of four (think Brady Bunch and you have her family). Becky is President of Helping Her Heal, a local grass-roots organization helping women diagnosed with female cancers. Cooking, chocolate, and wine are her passions along with all things shiny, sparkly and fabulous. You can read her blog at www.divorced-diva.blogspot.com. Be on the lookout for her new blog, Introducing HRH, the Princess of Argyle coming in January.

// Photo Credit: juliaf

Reinventing Lola: The Invention of a Writer

A guest post by Heidi Lee Munson

I never knew I was a writer until I hired Lola to fill the empty desk outside my office. The most genuine of souls with the kindest smile, some might describe her as Euro-trash based on the length of her hemlines in proportion to the pillars she called legs.

A bit too made-up but superbly saucy, Lola was the administrative assistant that my whole team adored. She had a Marilyn Monroe-like social life in which Senators and Executives vied for her attention, and a heart the size of a country. She loved life and the people in it. We, the office, loved her stories.

But Lola, you see, was an imaginary friend. I’d always been a rather unconventional Manager so this motivational method was par for my course. I led a team of talented salespeople; successful salespeople must be highly creative. I created Lola’s persona as a way to build team unity while also sparking innovative thought.

Our sweet, invisible assistant filled the space outside my office with creative energy. My employees would bring in framed photos of Lola’s male conquests, post-it notes reminding Lola to order in lunch; postcards suggesting romantic interludes in faraway places.

Monday mornings, we typically heard Nicole or Emily share their latest adventure with Lola. When I’d ask why my lovely assistant wasn’t triaging my phone calls, I’d get an earful about how her latest international lover took Lola to Paris … er, whoops … “Heidi, Lola called in with stomach flu. She’ll be in tomorrow.”

These stories helped bond my team and sealed friendships. One Monday morning, I shared my own Lola tale – a romantic first date with an Army Major she’d met through an online dating site. Lola had confided to me that she’d grown tired of meeting men in the usual places. I described her cozy evening in a quiet restaurant where Lola and her Major talked late into the evening about everything and nothing and forgot to order dinner!

My team, women and men alike, sat on the edge of their seats as I recounted Lola’s story. They wanted dirty details, frustrated to hear that she had played her date with traditional, tame values.

And then Nicole asked, “So, Heidi, you really like this Major, huh?”

They knew me too well. Nicole had always pushed me to do more. She suggested that I start writing my stories. “Heidi, your dating life is better than fiction. Write it down and share!”

So I did. One Monday morning, I encouraged the team to spill more of Lola’s adventures. They wanted my adventures instead, but I held firm. I had written a story that I would read – but not until Friday afternoon after they’d hit their weekly numbers. They balked and threatened to hold Lola hostage if I didn’t share, but I stood my ground.

Come Friday afternoon, I measured their weekly performance. Every single one had surpassed expectations. I called a Team Meeting – aka Story Time, watching my group gather in a circle like preschoolers snuggling their blankets.

After clearing my throat, I recounted my latest not very dramatic adventure, and they held onto every word. I heard genuine laughter, and I saw them connect closer to me. I realized that, with words, I could make people smile, and I could help them to feel. Go Lola!

I continued to write my stories and to share them at the end of the week. These tales morphed into a journal, and that journal molded me into a writer.

Today, I work out of my home. I rarely see my old friends, and I miss office Coffee Talk and Story Time. Today, I write to stay connected. I have my blog, and a growing world of readers to introduce Lola to. Still my more adventurous half, her hopes mean the world to me.

Warm Regards,

Heidi Lee

Sales Director by day; author and blogger by night, Heidi Lee shares her intimate online experience of mastering the Art of Toad Kissing before finding her own Prince Charming. Heidi Lee’s desperate hope is to help women and men alike benefit from her $99 subscription to the wacky carnival of online dating. When she’s not penning the moments of hilarity, heartbreak, and horror at discovering the prevalence of male bad breath that infuses her memoir, Heidi Lee can be found on Twitter @heidilmunson or sharing Toad Kissing secrets on her blog, www.theartoftoadkissing.com

Photo Credit: moonchaser

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