Say Yes. Think After.

(I posted this on LinkedIn on 4/5/2017.)

My son is a cancer survivor. Stay with me, this post is not about that. He was diagnosed with stage four cancer at age three. He beat the odds stacked against him and is now 11. I have been writing our memoir about that time for seven years. That’s not a typo. Years. There are all sorts of reasons and excuses for this, but if I’m truly honest with myself, the main reason is that… I stopped saying yes to myself.

I’ve been pretty unhappy in one area of my life. I allowed that stagnation to seep into every other aspect of who I am. I didn’t even know it was happening. I stopped listening to music in my car. I never took my full lunch hour, choosing instead to watch stupid TV while sitting at my desk. I gained weight. I gossiped with and about others (and I know they gossiped about me; if someone does it with you, they will do it about you). I was not creating.

A few weeks ago, in a moment of desperation (or clarity?), I signed up to participate in a “Pitchapalooza” event with The Book Doctors. I didn’t think I would get picked to pitch and honestly, I forgot I submitted my name. But, in that moment, I said yes. I would figure out the how later.

A few days before the event, I got an email outlining next steps. “Whoa boy, I guess I am doing this!” The pitch itself was one minute. Whhhhaaaat? One minute to summarize the most traumatic event of my life? I worked furiously. I wrote. I edited. I wrote and edited even more. I went inside and created. I wrote from the heart and it showed in my pitch. I didn’t think. I didn’t over-think. I walked on stage and told.

Here’s my Dear Boys pitch. (Please note that the video was captured by a dear friend of mine whom I recruited one hour before the event. He’s not a professional and my phone is a four year old Android, so be kind, thanks!)

The best things have come to me when I stopped thinking, or really, stopped doubting myself, and said yes. I said yes to the opportunity to stand in front of two incredibly helpful, thoughtful, and successful writers and tell our story. Then, I got three minutes of feedback from them. What a gift!

I learned two important lessons last week. 1: There is indeed an audience and a need for my book and I have the writing chops to make it happen. I will make it happen.

And more important, 2: Start saying yes. I need to think less and do more. Say yes to whatever creative outlet makes me feel alive. For me, those outlets are career coaching, writing, and obsessively redecorating the mantel in my family room. I’ve done a lot more of all three since the event last week. It was less than a week ago. I have made more progress on my memoir than I had in the last three months! Creativity fuels creativity. It is not a well that will dry out, it actually feeds itself.

Say yes first. Think after. Maybe. Say yes to yourself. I’d love to hear where your “yes” takes you!

P.S.- I also recently finished Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes, so I have no doubt that her advice was whispering to me when I signed up. I recommend her book to anyone feeling stuck and looking to make a leap.

#WisdomWednesday #amwriting #memoir #careercoaching #resumewriter

Blank Pages

It is always surprising to me how the various areas of my life converge. Not surprised in a “Oh my gosh, how did THAT ever happen?” way but, more of a sheepish, “I shouldn’t be surprised, because of course that is how life is!” way. Lately, I have been wanting to write more. Professionally about my dissertation research and my own journey as a mid-career mom. I have also been wanting to write about our journey through childhood cancer and how it is has impacted our marriage, our family, our faith, and our future.

Yet, excuses always stop me.

I don’t have time (not true).

Who am I to pretend to know about these things (well, I am someone who has lived them).

No one wants to hear what I have to say (if true, who cares?)

Two things recently happened within weeks of each other that have finally pushed me to sit here and write.

First, I was invited (thank you godesses!) to a meeting about how to write for publication. In that meeting, the Dean of my college asked me, “so Monica, when are you going to publish your dissertation?” Later in that meeting a colleague whom I deeply respect and admire said about her own research, “well, it’s not research if it’s not disseminated. I owe it to my participants.”

Gut check.

Isn’t this why I landed on my own topic as well? To learn something from my amazing participants and then, have the profession learn from their experiences as well?

Second, a young cancer warrior named Zach Sobiech died on Monday morning. Many people the world over know Zach because of his beautiful, soulful song, “Clouds.” We “know” Zach because he is a student in my sister-in-law’s youth group in Stillwater, MN. I am friends with his mom on Facebook and have occasionally written to each other as the moms of cancer warrior sons. Laura has documented Zach’s journey on his Caringbridge site. Her words, Zach’s life are awe-some, in the truest sense of that word. Laura recently wrote:

“Blank pages can be very frustrating and intimidating.  Where do I start? What words do I settle on this blank page when there are so many words clattering around in my head?  Sometimes it’s just easier to walk away and leave it blank. But, it’s our story.  It’s Zach’s story.  And I need to reign in these words and lay them out for today and for tomorrow.”

Gut check 2.

So, with that, no more blank pages on this blog that I started almost 2 years ago. I now have 2 goals for Summer 2013:

1. End the summer with a submittable journal article about my dissertation research. Submit to peer reviewed journal by August 31, 2013.

2. Blog, about whatever I want/feel, once a week.

The ten amazing women who were participants in my dissertation research have a story. I should help them tell it. I have a story. My son has a story. Maybe he will want to have these words to go back to someday. Maybe not. That’s okay. Either way, I have a voice. I want to write. I am going to try harder to do more of it. I appreciate your cheering along the way. Thank you.