The Birth of a Story
It took 3 years and almost didn’t happen.
Once you read the story of Dreamer, you’ll understand how very ironic that is.
We were getting ready to move from Williston, North Dakota to Midland, Texas. My husband had accepted a new position with his company and was already busy working and finding a house for us in the town we would call home.
It was an emotional time for me. I was so sad to be leaving some of the best friends I had ever had. Yet, I was bubbling with the anticipation of a new adventure. I was tired from the logistics of trying to move, but fueled with the desire to support my husband in chasing his dreams. All while being secretly worried that I may be giving up on my own.
In the midst of my loneliness, uncertainty and box-packing, the story of Dreamer came to me.
I stopped what I was doing and spent the afternoon putting in down on paper.
When I was done, I emailed it to my husband, hopeful that it would encourage and inspire him as he was navigating his own big challenges.
This was his response.
“Please don’t ever stop writing or creating. I’m blown away by you EVERY SINGLE TIME! It’s magic. Keep going. “
I was so encouraged by his words that I decided then and there that this book needed to exist in the world and I would make it so.
But then, life happened.
Unbecoming to Become
About a week later, my grandmother passed away. I made the 16-hour road trip to Utah with my 3 young children and entirely too much time to think, grieve and consider the complexities of creating a life worth celebrating.
Tim met us there.
We said our “see-ya-laters” to one of the most amazing women I’d ever known, grateful that death only crystalized the memories and made them sweeter.
To say I was a hot mess is a bit of an understatement. My poor husband was my anchor and managed to survive my emotional roller coaster as he drove us back to North Dakota.
Then he left for another month. The next time we would be together would be to move and start a radically different life.
The next year proved to be more difficult for me than I ever could have expected and involved a long process of soul searching and self-discovery. I felt like I was reinventing my entire life from the inside out, both aching for change and running from it at the same time made everything painful and confusing.
Was I an artist? Was I a writer? Was I supposed focus on being a mom? Was I more concerned with making money or making an impact? Did any of this even matter? Who did I think I was anyway? Why would anyone ever listen to little old me? Was having a big dream of my own selfish? Was I even worthy of my big dreams?
Somewhere in the middle of all this, I remembered that little manuscript.
When I read it again, I realized that my life was following the same storyline as this book. The irony was almost laughable. I was once again fueled to get this story out into the world, so that perhaps someone else who was struggling with their own identity might be inspired to keep the faith and follow their dreams.
I started sketching illustrations. I shared on social media that I was working on my 2nd children’s book. I thought that would keep me accountable.
I was excited again.
But then, life happened.
“Hustle” Culture vs. 2020
My new-found enthusiasm made me want to do everything.
I started writing for our local Moms Blog Franchise, ended up becoming the content director/editor and spent much of my creative focus on planning and hosting workshops and helping our amazing writers.
I signed up for coaching programs, networking groups, conferences and volunteer opportunities.
I got caught up in “hustle” culture where the more you run yourself into the ground the more valuable you are perceived to be.
But chasing other people’s idea of success and piggybacking on their dreams was exhausting and unfulfilling.
At the beginning of 2020, I decided that this was going to be my best year ever.
I was NOT going to make a long list of fresh goals. Instead I decided that I would focus on one word: FINISH. I had been carrying so many old dreams and goals around that I was too weighed down to do anything new. I needed to rekindle my own personal integrity and finish the things my heart had once committed to.
I can’t even remember how I planned to make that happen, because (you guessed it)…
Life happened again.
The 2020 shitstorm that hit mid-March changed everything.
My focus shifted to my family, our safety and what the cloudy future could possibly look like.
Those first few months were a blur with bouts of depression, anxiety, eating and drinking too much, getting extra fluffy and desperately waiting for some direction.
I started making fabric masks to donate to healthcare workers. Eventually, I started selling some as well. Staying busy and productive saved my sanity during that time and gave me a small profit that would come in handy down the road.
Once I finally embraced this new rhythm of living, my creative spirit got busy. I saw that 2020 could be a gift if I let it and was willing to pivot.
I started selling more art on an online platform called Society6, and decided it was time to become my own indie publishing company and tackle the process of putting my art into coloring books.
The Belief of a Child
One lazy afternoon, my oldest son Roman wandered into my office where I was working and without a word picked up the skinny binder that held my Dreamer manuscript. He sat down in my big comfy chair and started reading. I curiously watched him while I continued my art project.
When he was finished, he sat for a few minutes and then said,
“Mom, you have to finish this. It’s way better than your first book, it leaves you with something to think about. So many people will love it if you just finish it.”
There was that word again, finish.
I could have cried. I knew he was right. I had given up on so many of my ideas so many times, but how could I let my son down?
I told him I needed him to be my project manager and he accepted the position with enthusiasm. He checked in with me each day, asking me how much progress I was making and what was next. He gave me deadlines and even put “Mom finishes Dreamer” on his own summer bucket list.
Putting in Work
It was a busy season after that.
I finished the illustrations within a few weeks, but that’s where my skillsets stopped.
I decided I would use the coloring books I planned to publish as my test subjects to figure out the process of being an indie publisher.
I had to learn it all, which forced me to swallow my pride and my desire for perfection many times.
I had to learn how to format books, how to get them printed and the best way to distribute worldwide. I had to learn about ISBNs, barcodes, Library of Congress control numbers, trim sizes, meta data, wholesale pricing and release timelines.
And that’s scratching the surface.
Everything I couldn’t figure out on my own, I had to outsource.
I was overwhelmed a lot, but I was determined to FINISH.
I was able to publish my first affirmation coloring journal,
Catalyst Ranch, on August 1st.
Thanks to my supportive tribe who purchased the book, I hit my goal of making enough to have it pay for itself and get into profit mode. I even sold a few copies in the UK. And even though it felt self-indulgent to tell people, I am quietly enjoying the fact that I am technically an international author.
I improved upon what I learned and released my second affirmation coloring journal,
Catalyst Gardens, on October 1st.
At the time of writing, just 2 weeks after publication, the book sales of the second book are already more than double the first!
I am incredibly humbled at the support of so many people.
Fear and Finishing
And now here we are, 3 years since I first wrote down the story.
Dreamer is finished. It will release on November 1st.
I’m so happy and yet, feeling so very vulnerable.
I want this book to touch people’s hearts and remind them of their powerful identity.
I believe in the truths tucked within it and yet I still struggle with them myself.
This book is the simplified, and slightly more whimsical version of the messy journey all of us dreamers end up taking.
And just like the boy in the book,
I know that even though I'm scared, it’s time for me to trust that my faith is enough and seize the day.
So here goes.
If nothing else, my children saw a mother who pushed through fear, chose faith and showed them what it looks like to believe in herself and her dreams.
That. Is. Enough.
And they have the book to prove it.