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Do What You Can With What You Have

Ever feel like you’re less than? Like there’s something you really want to try, but you’re convinced that you could never be skilled enough or talented enough to make it worthwhile?

And if one more person tells you, “There’s always somebody better than you, and there’s always somebody worse than you,” you are going to scream.

Because you’ve already repeated that mantra to yourself a hundred times.

A few months back I wrote about feeling that I’m not made for novel-writing because I can’t come up with stories with super-interesting plot twists. How the suspense and thriller writers do it is beyond me. Even straight-on formula romance writers often engage their characters in an intriguing settings and interesting events that have me scratching my head and doubting my creative ability to write fiction.

Taking it back even further: I used to want to sing like Julie Andrews or Barbara Streisand (I’ve mentioned that in a blog post, too).

I’d finally gotten over myself enough to go on and write another novel, and now I am writing the second book in the series. But while writing the first book, every once in a while I would look at my plot and think, “Gee, this isn’t exactly a page-turner.”

Neither was it as humorous as I’d intended it to be (although it’s probably the most light-hearted novel I’ve written yet). The novel I’m working on now is even less so.

What’s the deal?

And why, at age forty-seven and having read more than my share of self-help and motivational books, and having declared myself on my blog as having been cured from this self-confidence issue, do I continue to struggle with not being My Ideal Self?

Once again, God speaks to me through a book

I just got done reading the novel Home by Ginny Yttrup. It’s published by Barbour Publishing. Ever heard of them? Yeah, being a Christian publishing house, it’s not the biggest, but any avid reader of inspirational fiction and/or Christian non-fiction will have heard of them.

The characters are real. So is the story. No FBI agents saving a kidnapped woman, no fugitives running from Interpol, no family feuds. Just real people, dealing with issues that any of us might have.

Not a page-turner by any means. Well, except one page, the way Ginny ends one of the chapters. But for the most part, the plot is nothing that makes your heart pound in anticipation and forget to eat because you have to finish the book today.

Yet…I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Though it’s down-to-earth and simple, I found it worth reading. Actually, it blessed me in a personal way, helped me appreciate my marriage (and my husband) more.

And did I mention that this is not an Indie novel, but one published by a traditional publishing house?

The book blessed me in a personal way, yes, but God also used it to speak to my professional life. My author life.

As a matter of fact, He led me to reread the book. Right away.

Ask J how often I reread a book.

Hardly ever.

Once I’ve read a book, I’m done. Hand me the next one! I don’t know if I’ll ever figure out J’s desire to reread the same book dozens of times (no exaggeration).

But I re-read it. And this time around, I realized something.

The second time’s the charm

Actually, I realized several things.

  • A great story doesn’t have to be filled with barely-believable events and superhero-like protagonists.
  • Many (perhaps most?) readers appreciate a serious story as much as they enjoy a humorous one.
  • I can write a story like this – a story, that, a-HEM, a literary agent or traditional publisher might accept.
  • However humorous I can make blog posts or non-fiction books, my novels tend to take on a serious tone.
  • That’s okay, because many (most?) readers appreciate a serious novel.
  • Therefore, why am I trying to be someone I’m not?

Bringing the message home (no pun intended)

There are a lot of “gurus” on the Internet, trying to coerce into buying courses or e-books so that you can be just like them. You will lose weight like they did. You will make money with a blog like they do. You will retire from your day job by flipping websites like they did. You will learn how to play the guitar like Eddie Van Halen. Like, of course, they did.

Et cetera.

You may have a passion for writing, for entrepreneurship, for health, for music, for art, for crafting jewelry, for teaching, for any number of things. And you know you have developed your skills and knowledge to a level somewhere above beginner.

And you want to put yourself and your skills and talent out there to the world in some form or fashion.

You have two choices. You can do what you can with what you have. And start going somewhere.

And feel fulfilled – happy, even.

Or you can look at the gurus, realize that you will never be able to achieve exactly what they have achieved, and throw in the towel.

Which are you going to choose?

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I’m starting over with my online business; namely, my writing, blogging, and video-making.

No, I’m not taking down this blog. But remember the post I wrote a few weeks before this one, confessing that I didn’t like the name of this blog? That it didn’t really fit where I was heading? I said I wasn’t going to abandon or take down the blog, and I will stick to that.

However, from now on I am going to post content in keeping with its purpose, to inspire people to live a life of freedom, to go after their dreams. I plan to post one such article every week, although I will make no promises.

Perimenopause happens.

In addition, when I am into writing a novel – I mean, really into it – I couldn’t care less about my blogs. So if I end up posting less frequently than once a week, I am more likely to be obsessed with my latest novel than in perimenopausal doldrums.

I’ve finally grown up; here’s what I decided to be

It’s like I’ve gone through a series of midlife crises since we moved. I understand the reasons: a major life change (moving from the city to the country, and struggling to make homesteading work), magnesium deficiency, and perimenopause causing more and more intense physical P.M.S. symptoms – namely, fatigues and headaches – despite me getting enough magnesium.

All this and trying to adjust to my husband and son both trying to adjust. It’s been heavy.

But lately, things seem to be falling into place. I’ve done some serious soul-searching, and realized that I will never be “the next Erma Bombeck” because – HELLO! – I am Emily Josephine. I know I will write humor books one day, but with the consistency of Erma Bombeck?

Unlikely. Plots for romance novels keep scratching inside my brain, begging to be released.

So for the time being I am going to stay focused on writing “sweet, clean” romance novels – some of which will undoubtedly end up becoming romantic comedies and parodies.

If an inspiration for a short story hits, I will, of course, go with it.

Someday, humorous non-fiction will come along for the ride.

What I decided not to be is a writer of any more self-help books. The reason why is a blog post in and of itself, and I think I wrote that post here. You might notice that I took down all the images of my free e-books from the sidebar. That’s because I unpublished them from the Kindle store. I also unpublished all of my paid non-fiction books. Why?

  1. They haven’t sold well (MY self-help books, I mean, not self-help in general).
  2. They’re not my best work. I may put them back up for purchase in the future, but only after doing some serious rewriting.
  3. They no longer represent the brand of author I want to become.

Yes, I have started ANOTHER new blog!

I finally decided to bite the bullet and do what I should have done several years ago – buy a domain name with my author name in it, invite my book readers to sign up to my e-mailing list, and use that blog to connect with my readers.

There, I will write the humorous articles about my life. There, I will promo my books (although I will do it here for awhile as well since there are a lot of people who have only my liveyourdreams URL).

As a matter of fact, if you read my blog because you are a fan of my fiction work, consider this your official invitation to click over there and join my e-mail list. In exchange, you get five quirky/humorous short stories with surprise endings – and if you stay on the list you will always get a chance to receive a free Advanced Reader Copy of any of my future books.

Click here to sign up now. 🙂

Videos

I ditched YouTube for a LO-ONG time, for several reasons. One reason was struggling to figure out how to fit video-making into my schedule. Another was figuring out how to make much better quality videos.

I’ve finally done both, so I plan to start uploading at least one video a week to both my Crunchy Emily channel as well as the channel about the vegan lifestyle.

And, hey, remember how I laughed at myself for wanting to try to be a singer?

I did not return the Band In A Box software. In fact, I’ve already had a good bit of fun exploring it and even putting together my first song! Thus I decided that I will record my songs and either post them to my vegan channel or start yet a third channel.

To sum

Come back to this blog if you like the kind of posts such as this one and this one.

But if you like reading my humor-ized versions of my personal life, if you want to connect with me reader-to-author, check out Emily Josephine Writes.

Thanks, and either way I’ll see you again soon!

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The Ten Commandments Of Weird Living

A special note before you read

I believe that following certain principles are essential to being truly healthy, happy, and fulfilled. But some people go extremes. Please don’t get offended by the following article; I am making fun of my extreme self, not you.

Although, if the shoe fits…

Okay. On with the show here.

Tired of the status quo? Sick of mainstream living? Then it’s time to get weird!

But I have to warn you: once you step off the beaten path and dive into a weird lifestyle, your friends and family might try to hold an intervention on your behalf. Send you to a ten-step support group. Try to convince you that you’ve joined a cult that will cause you to lose your soul.

They won’t understand that you have finally, for the first time in your life, discovered your soul. Your True Self. They won’t understand, because they don’t understand freedom. They understand debt, bondage to employers, chronic sickness and early death.

They understand how to follow rules and worship tradition.

But you, my wannabe fellow weirdo, must stand strong and be of good courage. You must not let your desire to become weird waver in the storm of protests that are certain to come your way, once you make your decision known.

Adhering to the following Ten Commandments of Weird Living will serve as both a rock and a refuge during any storm the mainstream might throw your way. Read them, and rejoice, my friend!

Commandment #1: Look at what “the average person” is doing, and do the opposite.

The average person uses paper toilet paper. You use cloth wipes instead. The average person brushes their teeth once a day. You brush your teeth once a week. (And prepare for your romantic partner to ask you to start using breath mints.)

The average person doesn’t drink anywhere close to the recommended sixty-four ounces of water a day. You drink two gallons per day. The average person doesn’t like Brussel sprouts. You make sure they become your favorite vegetable.

And so on. A weird person should aspire to be far above average!

Commandment #2: Embrace confusion.

Once you embark on the zany lifestyle, you will encounter contradiction after contradiction.

  • The healthiest diet is 100% plant-based…or lacking all grains and beans and heavy on the meat.
  • The best path to financial freedom is to pay off all your debt and work three jobs…or to build a multi-level marketing business.
  • Fulfillment comes with the ability to buy anything you want…or getting rid of everything you own except for what fits in a child-sized backpack.
  • Digital technology is the way to happiness…or electricity is the devil’s invention.

Yes, once you decide to get out of the mainstream flow, you will be inundated with dozens of alternatives for every choice you have to make. They will often be the polar opposite of each other, even as both options make logical sense.

Embrace confusion. Fall in love with it. Because it will become your steadfast companion.

Commandment #3: Become a fanatic.

Despite your initial confusion, you will eventually decide which lifestyle choices are best. But don’t stop at thinking that they are best for you. Oh, no. You must develop a religious fervor about your choices, to the extent that you become the Billy Graham of Weird.

If you decide to become a vegan, rail on everyone you meet about how evil they are for eating meat. If you get involved with network marketing, remember that everyone is a prospect – every single time you see that individual. If you choose essential oils over herbal tinctures, be sure to pontificate about the oils’ superiority at every party you attend.

Weird people get passionate about their choices. This means you.

Commandment #4: Be honest to a fault.

Weird people – wanting to be above average, don’t you know – never lie. They never take home pens from work that technically belong to their employer. If they are a dinner guest and the host asks how they liked their meal and they hated it, they say so without apology. Weird guys, if a woman asks you how they look in a certain dress or with a certain hairstyle, don’t hedge – say exactly what you think!

Only don’t blame me when you get conked out by a hairbrush. You want to be weird, you must follow the commandments.

Commandment #5: Break all the rules.

I’d better point out first that rules are different from commandments. A commandment comes down from an Ultimate Authority, and must be obeyed at all costs lest you find yourself running into a Great Calamity. Say you break the third commandment and fail to become a fanatic about one of your beliefs.

Let’s say you believe that hair should never be washed with any kind of soap or shampoo, but with water only, and you never try to talk anyone else into your belief. You keep quiet about it. You don’t even respond when somebody comments that your hair looks like the local car mechanic dumped a quart of oil over it.

As a result of your non-fanaticism, you will eventually cave into mainstream pressure. You will begin to doubt your belief. One day, while walking down the aisle of a grocery or drug store where the shampoo is displayed, an unexplained longing to grab a bottle and run to the nearest shower will cascade over you and shake you to your core. And before you know it, you will find yourself at home, in the shower, scrubbing your hair with shampoo.

You broke a commandment, and a Great Calamity followed, the Calamity of doing what “everybody else” does.

So you don’t want to break any of these commandments of Weird Living. But you do want to break all the other rules. Go ahead and drive as fast as you want.

Wait. But then you may be faced with breaking the rule of paying a speeding ticket, and when you don’t you’d go to jail, and that wouldn’t be good.

Okay. Better obey the rules that are laws that will land you in jail or prison if you break them.

Let’s see, another rule…?

How about this one? Everybody else turns off the faucet when they’re done using water. So break that rule. Leave the water running all day.

Hold on. But that’s ultimately an inconsiderate thing to do, because you waste water that other people need. And wasting resources isn’t weird, conserving them is. So forget that.

Um…er…thinking…

*Sigh.* You know what? Forget the commandments. Live in whatever way makes you happy. Just use common sense and respect for other people’s happiness and freedom. And make sustainable choices when possible and convenient.

Maybe the weirdest way to live would be to accept everyone else as they are right now, and support them on their journey. Because from what I’ve seen, there is way too much judgmentalism going around.

Love, don’t judge. Gee, that almost sounds like something God might say, doesn’t it?

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I’ll Take Boring Over This Kind Of Exciting

Sometimes, I feel like my life is incredibly boring. I do basically the same old things, day after day, many of them mundane and tedious. Doing laundry. Making smoothies. Sweeping the floor. Staring at the dust on the bookcases and wondering why the maid never gets around to cleaning it off.

My excitement comes in the form of starting a new batch of seeds, or yelling at B to take off all his wet clothes after he’s jumped into the little pond while wearing them instead of changing into his swim clothes first.

Sometimes, the UPS delivery person even shows up at our door. Whoopee!

Unlike J, who could go on living out the same routine for the rest of his life, I’m the kind of person that likes to change things up once in a while. So every once in a while I’ll get itchy feet. Develop Greener Grass Syndrome.

I recently read a memoir that may just have cured me of that. For a few days, anyway. We’ll see.

The memoir is entitled Gringo: My Life On The Edge As A National Fugitive, told by the former fugitive, Dan Davis, to a writer named Peter Conti. In a summary that does not even begin to do the book justice, everything you’ve ever read about in thriller novels, or seen on T.V. or in movies, regarding drug cartels and guerilla violence in South America is true. The memoir also reveals other things that might make your stomach turn. In short, the storyteller, Dan led an exciting life for fifteen years.

Looking for thrills in all the wrong places

He never says as much, but Dan is one of those dudes who needs a constant adrenaline rush. He started racing horses as a teenager, then started businesses trafficking various kinds of drugs, mostly illegal. He himself wasn’t addicted; he wanted the money. And boy, did he make lots of it!

Along the way he spent two years in prison (right after the only child he ever had was born, who died from SIDS a few months later), went through a terrible divorce, got into running marijuana, got married again, then got accused for a crime he didn’t commit and had to flee or face thirty years in prison. Good-bye, Wife #2.

Again with the excuses!

Throughout the book you can feel his insistence that his life went haywire, thanks to the unfair U.S. “justice” system. I don’t want to judge him. And I certainly don’t believe in punishing people for crimes they didn’t commit. But like Jim Rohn once said, you are the average of the five people closest to you. Who you hang out with matters. Not to mention the choices you make.

The fact of the matter is, if Dan had found legitimate opportunities to make money when he was young, if he had stayed away from drug dealers and bosses, he would never have ended up where he is now. In prison.

Your choices always bring consequences, some of which you don’t experience for a long time. They may seem unfair, even cruel, but you usually have nothing to blame but your own choices.

On the other hand…

How the U.S. government ended up handling him when they finally found him again was uncalled for and morally wrong. And scary.

I’m not going to give details here, in case someone wants to read the memoir. But, yeah, it’s like my grandpa used to quip, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Shoot. I can only hope that that kind of crap is doled out only to people with a criminal record. Still, to completely destroy a man’s life because he ran away from being punished for a crime he didn’t commit? To take away everything? Especially after he’d led a clean life (legally, anyway, if not morally) in the interim?

Not okay. The government may have the power to do this, but it doesn’t have the right.

Sorry. I digress. But I needed to say it.

All that to say…

I’ll take boring, thank you very much

My marriage is stable. Our financial situation is good. We are all healthy. We have no enemies (that we know of).

We do not live in an area where businessmen are assassinated every day on the streets by the drug cartel. Or where wealthy people are often kidnapped solely to make their friends and family cough up ransoms.

And where rickety public buses make stops in the middle of nowhere for women passengers to give birth in the ditch. To twins.

We have no criminal record, and so don’t have to spend our lives looking over our shoulders.

We are, in essence, comfortable. And that gets boring sometimes. But, you know what? I think I’ll take boring over a life filled with uncertainty, stress, and always having to look over my shoulder.

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