That is a number that today, I am very proud of.
At the start of September, I was stumbling with a novel I have been working on this year. I have put months of research into historical and cultural traditions, years thinking about the premise, and it just seemed like it was going no where. I decided I would put it aside for the day, and I began to research writing contests. Maybe if I found a writing contest that peaked my interest, I would find something that pushed my creativity.
In my search, I found a plethora of options and I am proud to say that I entered five different contests last month. Each contest had a different purpose, topic, and set of requirements. Some of the contests were for my Not for Profit, The Common Thread Collective, and some were just for pleasure. Overall, it was the perfect push that I needed to refocus and retouch some various skills.
The largest challenge came when I stumbled across the Quirk Publishing website. I had just finished reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, largely because the photos were intriguing and I wanted to see how the author developed the different characters and their actions. I wanted to know more about the author, Ransom Riggs, so I decided to check out his publisher. When I loaded up their website, I noticed they were having a big, fat, book writing contest.
The only catch? It had to be a love story.
The book I had been working on was sort of a love story, although that isn’t the main focus (I mean, seriously, it seems like every book has a love story in it somewhere). I tried to twist the plot around in my head to convince myself that it would qualify as a love story, and, that my manuscript would match the style of the publisher. It wasn’t going to happen.
It was too late, though, the seed was planted. About a week later, I had a crazy idea for a quirky love story that didn’t feature vampires (their request), or zombies, werewolves, or bigfoot (my request). The minimum word count was 50,000 and the average publisher wants your novel to be around 50,000-80,000 words for his genre.
I took a look at my schedule. I just started my Masters in Professional Writing, I had a stack of grants that I had been working on for The CTC, we are in the process of beginning the legwork on our 2014 campaign, I have a folder full of style sheets and design concepts that I have to pattern, we are completely rewriting the curriculum in our tailoring program and working on obtaining actual certification as an East African trade school, my fabric designer in Kampala emailed me to let me know they accidentally transposed a few numbers in the Pantone shade when dying the yarns for a new client, and I was trying to convince myself I could also be a better blogger. Oh, and did I mention I am also the Creative Director for a socially economic driven home accessories line? I was suddenly thankful that I had finished the planogram, patterns, and fabric specs for 2014 two months ago!
There was no way with just an idea, 16 days before the deadline, I could manage all of this and throw in writing a manuscript. Or was there?
I went to my favorite enclosed coffee shop one afternoon (a lot of Indian cafe’s are open and set amidst the greenery, which is beautiful but can also be a little loud and mosquito-y during monsoon season) to qualm my latte craving and just tempt the idea.
Five hours, two lattes, one large bottle of San Pellegrino, and one delicious slice of green tea cake later, my husband was calling to tell me he was at the security gate and would be up to pick me in a few moments. I had been so focused and just wrote my little heart out. We went home, strapped on our running shoes and set off for our nightly hour of cardio and the story began to play out a little bit more.
I still wasn’t convinced that I could do it, but I wanted to try, and promised myself I would dedicate my free time to the project. If I finished, great. If not, well, it goes on the pile of things I have started and need to finish (that’s kind of deep). No harm, no foul, right?
Part of my goal right now is to be a better me, to be the best me that I can be. That involves finding what it is I’m scared of and challenging it, to stop telling myself that I can’t because then I won’t, and to finish something. By nature, I’m a starter. I get the idea, I can set the plan, I can put the ball in motion, and then I jump off that train. Over the last two years, this has slowed down significantly, but I realized that I am putting a lot of hard work into a lot of things and then just handing them over.
This reinvention of sorts involves finding any and all negative influences and turning them into positives. If they can’t be turned into a positive, then they have to be removed. A large part of this involved people and I had to really look at my interactions, my personal actions, my words, and how I was impacting and being impacted by those I chose to surround myself with. I realized I had to really cut some ties, some with people I truly cared about, because we had a toxic environment.
When you choose to cut ties, it isn’t saying you’re the better person, it isn’t saying the other person is horrible. It is simply acknowledging that together, you don’t bring out the best in each other. The people I cut are individually fantastic people with amazing talents, and I have no doubt that they will continue to be so. I always saw strong traits in everyone and I genuinely cared for each and every one of them or else we wouldn’t have been friends. Caring for someone or recognizing what a strong person they are doesn’t mean you need to be friends or have a relationship, and I began to recognize this. You can blame someone else for being a bad part of your life, or you can recognize that the two of you worked as a team to bring each other down, fed off the toxic parts, and neither of you were being a good friend to the other one.
Neither of you are bad people, you both have amazing talents to share, but you really need to just cut the cord. Even though I choose to not be an active part of some of these lives, I will remain happy for all of their blessings and find joy when they achieve major goals and milestones. Everyone deserves happiness and it should always be shared.
In the last two years, my life has changed dramatically. My priorities have changed, the things I care about have changed, the things I want to talk about have changed. I am not the same person that I was when I left the USA in 2011 and as I grow and develop, I have found myself drifting farther apart with little to no common ground with those I left and held so dear. I don’t want to hold on to those pieces, and I can’t hold on to those who want me to hold on to those pieces. I want to share my life with people, and when we have nothing left to share because doors are closing, there’s no sense in trying to wedge in a doorstop.
When I met my husband, my world changed. We lived apart for one year and until we were married, we had never been on the same continent for more than 3 weeks. Most of our dates were over Skype with me tucked under a mosquito net trying to see the screen through a candle because power was out for the third day in a row (but I made sure to take my lunch break at the coffee shop with the generator to charge my computer). We would talk about anything and everything, our dreams, our goals, and we have both always been amazed that we come from two different cultures, continents, languages and religions, but it never feels like we are different people. I wasn’t entirely sure I believed in soul mates before I met him, but when you find yours, its undeniable.
He drives me to be a stronger person and if he finds out that I am passionate about something, he pushes me to follow it. He holds my hand when it needs to be held and he kicks my butt when it needs to be kicked (figuratively). He never complains when I have a trail of paper, rulers, french curves, pens and pencils from my office to our living room, and he never says anything when I am pulling a weeks worth of all nighters to meet deadlines and haven’t touched the cleaning (I am the only wife in his company that doesn’t have a full time housemaid, we only call our buddy Vish for ironing because I burn things). He knows me better than I know myself, he knows what I’m capable of and he takes no excuse when he sees I am making one. He is always sending me uplifting quotes and messages for no reason other than he has a happy soul and chooses to live with as much laughter as possible.
I really can’t imagine my life any other way. What he has brought to my life is the push to be a better person, a stronger person, and to live with a more organized mind. One of the first things I did when I came back to India was to sit down and set a goal list for the next 18 months. This list was made of physical goals, mental goals, strength goals, and career goals. Slowly, the boxes are being ticked and the one I am proudest of is “Finish Something.”
So at 60,100 words, it isn’t about wether or not I win the contest. Lets be honest, the manuscript was written in 15 days with a completely fresh concept, in a genre that I have never dabbled in, I didn’t plan my characters, make an outline, or do anything while writing except know how it started and how it would end. The rest just filled in as I went. Each chapter would end, and the next would start with a completely blank slate. At 60,100 words, its that I finished something. In doing so, I gave myself the push I needed to see exactly what I am capable of, I pushed myself creatively, and I woke up today feeling like I conquered so much more than my first finished manuscript.
Now, however, I have to reconquer my sleeping schedule because it is completely off time and I’m sure my body would love to know it has more than 4.5 hours a night to enjoy. Wait, who am I kidding? I still have a lot of check marks to tick (and a pile of paperwork to tackle).