2015: A Year in Review

Hello friends — Merry Christmas!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a fantastic year. I’ve made lots of big changes in my life — many of which came about as a result of my Life Audit back in February. If you haven’t done one of these yourself, I highly recommend it. I’ll definitely be repeating the process when I make my New Year’s resolutions.

Here’s a little recap of what my year has been like:

I Became a Full-Time Author

Back in March, I went part-time at my day job and transitioned my non-author work from editing to writing. Then in September, I went full-time as an author. This is the most monumental change I have made so far in my adult life, and it was a great decision. Of course it’s not without stress and some growing pains, but I’ve really enjoyed being my own boss, and I think I’m going to achieve big things in 2016 as a result.

Despite having more time to write, my writing projects didn’t quite go as planned. I only released Fringe III and IV. I do have several partially completed manuscripts on my hard drive, but I set these aside to focus on other projects that fit my brand better.

I know most of you are anxiously awaiting Fringe five, but to be perfectly honest, I was in no shape to write it after I released book four. I’d been focusing almost exclusively on the Fringe world for such a long time that I knew I’d begin to feel burnt out if I delved right into the finale. I’ve been working on a different mini series that I think you’re going to love, but rest assured that Fringe five will be out by mid-2016.

Although I definitely skipped more than my goal of 14 writing days this year — I’ve made a conscious decision to take back my weekends for fun — I thankfully surpassed my financial goals for the business. A lot of this is due to stepping outside my comfort zone with marketing and being lucky enough to grow a tribe of really fantastic readers. Thank you.

All the books are now in print, and I’ve gone wide with distribution, which means you can buy digital versions of my books on all the retailers (Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, etc.). On an exciting note, The Fringe is also being adapted for audio! Stay tuned!

What I Learned When I Turned 25

This month I turned 25, and I realized that this has been one of the biggest learning years in my life so far. Yes, I learned a lot in college, and yes, my first year in the workforce was an education all its own, but having more headspace to think and grow on my own has been absolutely life-changing.

Here are some things I’ve discovered this year. (Sidenote: If you’re older than 25, a lot of these things will seem like no-brainers.)

  1. Hard work is respected everywhere you go.

If you’re worried about being accepted, this is the most reliable way to ensure that you are. I’ve found this to be true in writing communities, in my family, and in MMA — yes, you read that right.

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2015 was to try mixed martial arts, so in May, I took my first class. I was so nervous. I knew I would be the only girl in the class, and I was. But it didn’t matter. The strange thing I’ve learned about marital arts is that the tougher, more skilled, and more hard-core people are, the nicer they tend to be. And when you work hard, people respect you. Everyone in class was super welcoming, and I’ve learned so much.

Months later, I’m no longer the only woman in class. There are even days when we outnumber the men. I’ve taken lots of punches, but it’s gotten easier and my sparring has greatly improved. I absolutely love it.

2. The things we worry about seldom come to pass, so it’s better just not to worry.

OK, so this one is easier said than done, but there was one exercise in “The 4-Hour Workweek” that I found really helpful for getting off the worry train. Whatever you’re afraid of, just imagine the worst-case scenario, and then imagine how you’d react to it.

The best example was when I was getting ready to quit my day job. My biggest worry was that my sales would come to a grinding halt and I’d go broke. I imagined the worst-case scenario. Would I be homeless? Would I starve? Probably not. I guess I could always move in with my parents and eat their food until I came up with a creative way to make some money. I’m pretty fucking resourceful. I’d be OK.

When I think about the little things I worry about, they’re usually pretty stupid: That I’ll get hit really hard in MMA and start to cry. Well, I’ve done this in Krav Maga — multiple times — and it’s not that bad. That my family will find out that I’m secretly a raging liberal. Well, the cat’s out of the bag on that one. I think my dad even finds it amusing that I’m all “Feel the Bern!” for 2016.

If I could sum up my shift in attitude this year it would be (insert shrug) “Eh. It’s really not that big of a deal.”

3. Life is full of what seem like contradictions. Embrace the dragon and the unicorn.

I recently read “Do Nothing and Do Everything,” which is a fantastic primer on Taoism. I highly recommend it. I learned so much from this book and from the Tao Te Ching, which is one of the most studied texts of Taoism. One of the biggest insights I got from Taoism is the idea that you shouldn’t fight everything. Sometimes it’s best to let things progress naturally. There’s also this idea of dualism — yin and yang — where everything needs its opposite to be revealed (e.g., we wouldn’t see good for what it is without evil).

I first noticed this stark contrast when I came back from New Mexico. I’d been lulled into such an extreme state of relaxation and hippie harmony with the world that the idea of going to MMA practice to punch someone in the face was laughable. It took me almost a full week to regain my inner dragon, but I realized that I could access that unicorn-like calmness to make myself more relaxed and clear-headed in sparring. Here’s a little passage from the Tao Te Ching that really embodies how to make these seemingly conflicting forces work for you:

The Tao has three treasures

which the wise man guards and cherishes:

The first is compassion;

the second is economy;

the third is humility.

If you are compassionate, you can be truly brave;

If you are economical, you can be truly generous;

If you are humble, you can be truly useful.

4. Your health is everything.

It makes me crazy when I see people my age killing themselves at their jobs while neglecting things like sleep and exercise. It’s entirely possible to work yourself past the point of being effective, and I find I’m much more productive (and happy) after a good night’s sleep and when I’m getting enough exercise.

It’s no coincidence that people often make major life changes after a health scare, like quitting their job or giving up smoking. We realize both how fleeting these big important commitments actually are and how much our health is actually worth.

I hope you had as rich and fulfilling of a year as I did. Did you accomplish any big goals? Let me know in the comments below!

And stay tuned to see the results of my next Life Audit and my goals for 2016. I promise Fringe five is at the top of the list. You can look forward to the finale coming mid-2016!

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