Two Year Blogiversary – Remembering How My Blog Saved Me

Last week marked Jen’s Pen Den’s 2nd blogiversary!

I know. I’m surprised my blog has lasted this long too.

But since it has–and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon–I’ve decided now’s a good time to remind myself why I created Jen’s Pen Den, and to think about how far I’ve come since its inception.

You see, for those of you who don’t know, my blog wasn’t born out of boredom, curiosity, or a desire to build my author platform. It was created in a moment of desperation, right when I was on the verge of giving up on my writing dreams.

In the summer of 2013, I hit a low, low point.

The option contract on my YA manuscript had expired after two years of hard work, and my attempts to find new representation had failed (again and again and again). All I kept hearing from agents, producers, and publishers was, “I like your story, but I don’t love it.” In other words, “It’s meh.” In other words, “You suck, your writing sucks, and you’ll never be good enough to succeed in this business.”

I was devastated.

My writing came to a halt, and I spent the better part of six months debating what to do.

I could shelve my YA manuscript and write a new book. But, ugh, why bother? I was a meh writer who wrote meh stories. Nobody would ever want my work. So, then what? Throw in the towel and pursue a new career? That sounded worse than wasting a billion hours on a novel that would inevitably get rejected. I could hide under my bed and wait for my problems to vanish on their own–ha! Or wish upon a star and pray for a superhero agent to emerge from the gloom and save me from my deep, dark despair–haha! Or I could just curl into a ball and cry. Which I did…a lot.

I was beyond lost. More lost than I’ve ever been in my life.

In a last ditch effort to save myself and my dreams, I decided to start a blog.

I had no idea what blogging was, or how to run one, or if starting one would help me climb out of the black pit I’d fallen into. But I had to do something–anything–that might get me back on track.

Turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

Within a few days of publishing my first post, I clawed my way out of that horrible, black pit. And within a few months, I rose up and struck back at all the vicious doubts that had taunted me since my option contract expired.

Soon enough, the negative voice within me changed from, “You’re not good enough, and you’ll never be good enough!” to “Get the hell out of my way, I’m coming through!”

I can’t explain how grateful I am I started this blog. Jen’s Pen Den has given me everything I’ve needed to ditch the past and focus on the future. It has gifted me with a supportive community, countless learning opportunities, and a therapeutic outlet to voice my hopes and fears.

It has also helped me pave the way to my dreams.

During the past two years, I’ve written a dozen short stories, made it to the finals of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge twice, and came to terms with who I am as a writer and began working on a new novel. I’ve even started an editing service.

Looking back now, it frightens me to think how much I would’ve missed out on if I hadn’t started my blog: Newfound confidence and passion. Valuable writing lessons. New story ideas. A never-say-die attitude. Amazing, supportive, “I totally get it” friends.

Let’s face it. Without my blog, my life would be completely different. I wouldn’t have discovered what I’m capable of or met so many incredible people. And I definitely wouldn’t know, for a fact, that writing is what I love to do.

And I’ll never consider giving up on it again.

In honor of Jen’s Pen Den’s 2nd blogiversary, I wanted to share my top ten posts from the past year. Thank you to everyone who has made this blog what it is, and for allowing me to share my experiences, stories, and random ramblings with you. You guys rock!

Top Ten Posts

  1. The Ark – 1st Round Entry – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge
  2. Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2015
  3. Inevitable – 1st Round Entry – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Entry
  4. La Jolla – 1st Round – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge
  5. Jen’s Editing Tips: The Power of White Space
  6. The Accidental Fall – 3rd Round – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge
  7. Confession: Rejection Has Made Me Stronger
  8. Oh, The Horror – Round 1 – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge
  9. Jen’s Editing Tips: Kiss Your As’s Goodbye
  10. Confession: When It’s Time To Move On
  11. It’s Official – I’m A Freelance Editor

Here’s to another year of blogging and writing!

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Confession: Rejection Has Made Me Stronger

So, 2015 hasn’t gotten off to the best start for me. Since January 1st, life has punched me in the gut more than a few times. I won’t go into details, but things have been rough lately–emotionally and financially. And it seems every time I regain my balance, something else happens and I’m knocked down again.

Last week, during a conversation with my family, I threw my hands up in the air and declared, “That’s it! The only way I can handle the negative is by being positive.”

Right after I said that, it hit me: My writing and alllll the rejection that has come with it has made me a stronger person.

Yes, as strange as it sounds, rejection has strengthened me. Years and years of “No!” from agents, publishers, and readers has made me more determined, more resilient, and more optimistic.

How, you ask? Well, let me explain.

Big dreams take a lot of work, a lot of patience, and a lot of perseverance. Every day, you’re forced to find “the light at the end of the tunnel,” even when there isn’t one. When your tank runs out of gas, you have to keep trucking along. When you get knocked down, the only thing you can do is pick yourself back up and fight ten times harder.

And it’s that “never say die” attitude that has gradually seeped into the rest of my life: Family. Work. Relationships. Finances. Health. When the going gets tough, I get tougher. When things around me fall apart, I pull them back together. When every possible solution fails, I find another–or make one up and pray to God it works.

Honestly, if I hadn’t heard “No!” again and again during my long writing journey, I wouldn’t be who I am today, I’d crumble easier, I’d lose hope faster, and I’d constantly get bogged down in the past and refuse to look to the future.

So, let me reassure all of you who are feeling down and out because you’ve received yet another “Thanks, but no thanks” response to a query letter, or a bad review, or some other form of “No!”

It’s okay.

Really.

I know rejection hurts–a lot. But, I promise, it will make you stronger in the long run. Whether you’re aware of it or not, every “No!” will thicken your skin, fuel your determination, and teach you the fine art of optimism.

And, before you know it, those valuable traits will carry over into all aspects of your life.

…Especially those “punch in the gut” moments that drop you to your knees and try to keep you down. Thanks to rejection, you’ll have the strength to get back up and keep moving. Keep fighting. Keep hoping.

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Music Monday – Superheroes – The Script

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicA few weeks ago, a good friend of mine introduced me to a song that has quickly become one of my new favorites: “Superheroes” by The Script.

So, if you haven’t noticed from some of my other Music Monday features, I tend to put my characters through the ringer: Betrayal. Doubt. Loss. I force them to experience the lowest of lows so they can then question whether their hearts, minds, and wills are strong enough to survive life’s curveballs.

That’s why I love “Superheroes”. It inspires the emotions my characters need to feel when dealing with the cruelties I toss in their paths: Determination. Hope. Tenacity.

484887857_640Simply put, the lyrics in this song are amazing. And they’re beyond motivating to listen to as I write those chapters where my characters must pick themselves up and dust themselves off.

She’s got lions in her heart
A fire in her soul
He’s a got a beast in his belly
That’s so hard to control
‘Cause they’ve taken too much hits
Taking blow by blow
Now light a match, stand back, watch them explode

So, if you’re like me, and you need a song to help boost your characters after you’ve thrown them for a loop, then check out “Superheroes” by The Script!

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

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http://thescriptbible.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/u-for-unique-sound/