:: Looking back at January ::

After several sessions of wondering (i.e. overthinking) if my little monthly review is worth the time and effort, I’ve concluded that it is a nice exercise for me to reflect on the highs and, if I’m being honest, omit the lows, from each month. If you’ve been following along, I completely skipped over December, which was unintentional but c’est la vie. (In spite of the holiday, it was a pretty quiet month. We didn’t travel home to the PNW and enjoyed our first Christmas in Los Angeles.) Anyway, I’m just going to pick it back up with a fresh recap for the first month of 2018.

Before I proceed, I will say that January is a hard month for me. All of them are difficult, not just the current one. In the span of days between Christmas and New Year’s, I get caught up in the energy of goal setting and planning and creating a number of unrealistic expectations for myself and my life.  Then, usually about two weeks into the new year, I get bitch-slapped by reality and return to regularly scheduled programming: feeling overwhelmed by too many ideas, paralyzing procrastination, and an existence that doesn’t quite measure up to that vision board kind of life I desire.

So, yeah, the year is off to a great start.

BUT, there have been some of those aforementioned highs and that’s where I’m trying to focus my energy!

➼ I celebrated my first full year of sobriety on January 5th.

➼ I worked out. A lot! I did a combination of four types of Crossfit classes (including regular classes, Olympic lifting, mechanics, and cardio conditioning) totaling 40 sessions. I also ran 15.75 miles.

➼ I set new personal records in the power clean and front squat (3 rep max.), and saw significant improvement in my pull-ups, handstand/handstand walk, and rope climbs.

➼ We welcomed the new year in the company of my brother and his family.

➼ I experienced my first red carpet.

➼ I was welcomed back by Sportland Tea Co. as an ambassador for another year.

➼ I submitted queries to two online publications. I received a response back from one of them and they will be publishing an article I wrote in the near future. Yay!

➼ I finished two books (one I started in December) and began a third. (My goal this year is to read a minimum of 20 books. Hopefully more!)

➼ I wrote alot too. My manuscript word count is currently up to 67,280.

 

I hope your year has started off with a bang – in the best way possible – and that trend continues into February and beyond!

 

 

 

 

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:: What Feeds YOUR Creativity? ::

* This post is in response to a writing prompt from DIY MFA Book Club which I wrote about here.

The fourth writing prompt in the series is:

When I first sat down to ponder this writing prompt, I had a hard time coming up with something so I put off writing about it at all. Can procrastination count as fuel for creativity? Unlikely, I suppose.

After finally diving in and giving it some consideration, the few things that stood out to me were my odd interest in the lives of people who were/are associated with historical figures, my compulsive Instagram trolling, and – no surprise here – my love of vast, awe-inspiring landscapes. I’m a very visual person. Not that I am necessarily a visual learner but I find a lot of inspiration in images and seeing how other people live.

I also get fired up by witnessing other creatives living fully in their passion and weirdly, by images of their creative spaces, i.e. where they make their magic.

While I know that writing prompts, such as this one, are a common and popular tool for getting the juices flowing, I haven’t allowed myself enough exploration to see if it could be a good resource for me too. The closest I’ve come is half-finished sentences when I pause or take a break from writing that I have to complete when I return to working.

Okay, I’m procrastinating again. I’m off to work on my manuscript! (Right after I check Instagram.)

:: Mid Month Check In – Jan. 2018 ::

We’ve officially passed the midway point in the first month of the new year. Whew.

During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I was vibrating with ideas, and goals, and plans, and… and then January actually arrived and I remember that this is when I deliberately go into hibernation. It’s winter after all. The days are still short, the weather frigid (well, that is if you live anywhere other than Southern California. We hit the mid-80’s this past weekend.), there are still 11 more months ahead in the year to tackle all of the things I’ve set out to accomplish, and I’m on a serious slow living kick right now. So why rush?

But despite taking it “easy”, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’m writing! Freelance projects are starting to trickle in. I’m in the process of drafting an article for an online magazine and working on a second to submit to another publication. I’ve written another chapter for my manuscript.

In other areas, I’m on track with my workout goals. I did four unbroken kipping pull-ups this morning among other milestones in the past couple of weeks. There has been a lot of reading and studying up on a variety of topics I want to explore on a deeper level.  I’ve also been invited back as an ambassador for Sportland Tea Co. which produces a fantastic line of tea blends aimed to help athletes (or anyone who loves good tea!) perform at their very best.

The Sportland Team.

All-in-all, 2018 is off to a great start!

:: My Storytelling Superpower ::

* This post is in response to a writing prompt from DIY MFA Book Club which I wrote about here.

The third writing prompt in the series is this:

 

Whoa. Like OMG, WHOA.

Included with the third writing prompt was a fun little quiz to help participants figure out their storytelling superpower. My result was The Survivor which was summarized as:

You’ve got a penchant for characters who will do whatever it takes to survive. Maybe they’re stranded on a desert island, captured by an evil genius, or fighting to beat a terminal illness. Or maybe they want something so desperately that not getting it feels like a matter of life and death. Regardless of their situation, you’re drawn to creating characters your readers will admire for their pluck, determination, and sheer creative willpower.

This blew my mind because my protagonist in the novel I’m writing, The Colonel’s Keeper, is a survivor, hands-down. My character, Mary Agnes, endures a tumultuous marriage filled with years of emotional abuse and a near-fatal shooting at the hands of her alcoholic husband.

Throughout this process, I’ve been amused by the idiosyncrasies that have surfaced. The discoveries I’ve made, being drawn to writing about survivors, for example, have been a pleasant surprise. My inclination to write works of historical fiction was another unexpected revelation, especially since history (edging out math only slightly) was my least favorite subject of study in school.

I’m not sure I’d call either of these a superpower but they are definitely themes that I imagine will recur as I continue to hone my craft.

:: Honor Your Reality ::

* This post is in response to a writing prompt from DIY MFA Book Club which I wrote about here.

The second writing prompt in the series is this:

In essence, this question is asking us how we balance real life with the writing life.

This is a tough one to answer because I’m still pretty inexperienced as far as big projects go. However, I think my recent attempt at participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) opened my eyes to the importance of setting realistic expectations. Writing is HARD. Sometimes I feel blessed by the writing Gods… making the time to write comes easily, the words flow onto the page and it all doesn’t completely suck. More often though, I’m tormented by the inability to find/make the time to sit down and work, I’m at a complete loss for words and what I do manage to write is unimaginative and dull.

The reality for me is that I’m lucky if I can knock out 300 words whenever I do force myself to park my ass in the chair and work. My outline is currently a mess because I’ve been indecisive about how many parts it should be based on a gap in time within my story and whether or not that will affect the number of chapters, word count, etc. (I know at this stage it is not supposed to matter but I can’t stop obsessing over it.) I *thought* I would be able to complete my first draft a lot quicker; I’m coming up on a full year and only have two-thirds of it completed. And, to top it all off, I have no fucking clue what I’m doing.

All of that has to be balanced with my responsibilities as a wife and mother while managing a household, paid writing work, projects and hobbies, health and fitness endeavors, and whatever else life throws my way. I guess, to be honest, I don’t know that there really is a true balance. The key though, I’m learning, is to ignore the unrealistic expectations and focus on doing what I can when I can.

To sum it up, I suppose that I honor my reality by showing up to write even though life is a big, crazy blur and my work is all a mess and complicated and I’m afraid that I don’t know what I’m doing. And I’ll keep showing up because I know that’s the only way I’ll achieve what I’ve set out to do.

 

:: How Did You Become A Writer? ::

* This post is in response to a writing prompt from DIY MFA Book Club which I wrote about here.

I didn’t set out to become a writer. It sort of sought me out.

It is said that we often don’t see the correlation between our chosen career path and what we are called to do until we look back over our job history and work experiences. This is certainly true for me. I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until about 2010 when I discovered that I had two non-fiction book ideas floating around in my head. One was about dreadlocks with a working title of A Head Full of Dreads and Nothing to Wear (no, I’m not kidding) and the other was a cookbook that focused on bean recipes and was titled something along the lines of Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit. (Also, not kidding.)

In 2010, I was laid-off from a job in the fire service. I’d spend the previous five years in the role of Community Liaison Specialist and Public Information Officer where my duties included writing press releases, public service announcements, and an endless array of material for publications on fire prevention. Prior to that, I’d spent about eight years working for a radio station where I wrote news stories and advertising copy.

A throwback to my fire service days. (The house behind me was being burned down intentionally, FYI.)

Following the layoff, I started teaching yoga and created a monthly newsletter that included articles about the practice or specific poses that I sent out to my students. In early 2013, I started training for my first marathon and subsequently started a blog to chronicle the journey which I kept active until the end of 2016. I was also asked from time-to-time to help write things for family and friends; copy for a website my brother was building, an obituary for my husband’s grandmother upon her passing, a guest post for a friends blog, race previews for Run Oregon.

All the while, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

At some point in 2015, it became clear. What I was meant to do, I had already been doing for years! Regardless of job titles, I had always found a way to weave writing into my duties whether it was asked for of the position or not. Writing gave me joy and it seemed to come naturally. In fact, one of the best compliments – albeit slightly backhanded – I ever received was from the Fire Chief I worked under. He once said to me that “despite not having a college education, you’re a pretty good writer.” That comment has stuck with me all of these years and I still try to live up to that praise.

Writing – with the ultimate goal of being a published author – is now how I dream of spending my days.

 

:: DIY MFA Book Club ::

As a writer who aspires to become better at my craft, I try to regularly participate in activities that are in alignment with that goal. Reading and studying various texts by seasoned authors and authorities on the subject is a prominent piece of the puzzle. One such book that I picked up last summer and have been slowly making my way through is DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira.

For the sake of full disclosure and transparency, I do not have a college degree. In fact, I dropped out of community college when I was 17 years old before completing the first term. (Honestly, I don’t think I even made it a month!) While that is another story for another day, I will say that on many occasions over the years in professional settings especially, I’ve allowed the lack of a certificate to make me feel less than enough. Now, 23 years later, I still find myself occasionally wishing that I had followed that path because I would love to have a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. However, at least at this point in my life, it’s not in the cards.

So back to DIY MFA. I was drawn to it because Ms. Pereira has created a do-it-yourself alternative to the college experience and teaches her readers how to apply the fundamentals of the MFA program – writing, reading and building a support network – without stepping foot on a campus or going into crippling debt.

In addition to the book, she offers a number of resources and coaching opportunities to help writers refine their skills. One such program I’m currently participating in is a book club that works through some of the concepts in DIY MFA and includes challenges such as writing prompts in which we are asked to write about a specific topic and share our work. Our first assignment is based on the question: how did you become a writer?

I’ll be sharing my response to that prompt in a forthcoming post as well as future ones throughout the event.

DIY MFA Book Club Participant

Participant badge.

 

 

:: 2018 Reintroduction ::

Happy New Year!

I hope 2018 is off to a great start with the promise of good things to come. To kick off the year, I thought I’d take this opportunity to reintroduce myself, my services, and what you’ll find here at www.hylaridenour.com.

Hyla Ridenour, Writer

First and foremost, this website houses all of the information pertinent to my business. I’m a freelance writer offering a variety of related services including copywriting, blogging, product descriptions, copy for web and print, and social media content. You can find a complete list of what I offer on the services page.

You’ll find my rates and contract for services housed on the pricing guide page. New this year, I’ve eliminated a package pricing structure. Working with a number of clients over the past two years, I’ve found that an flat or standard hourly rate better meets the needs of my clientele so, in an effort to simplify, I’m no longer offering packages.

To get an idea of my offerings and writing style, you can view my portfolio page to see a sample of my work.

Finally, there is my blog. Here, I cover a variety of topics; some related to writing and my professional services, others not. I occasionally write about other themes dear to my heart including sobriety, adventures, and other miscellaneous topics. I’ve wrestled with whether or not this space is appropriate for sharing more intimate details about myself – such as my choice to ditch booze in 2017 – but I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to compartmentalize my life, my work, my adventures, or my stories.

Beyond my website and identity as a writer, I’m a wife, mother, daughter, aunt, sister, and friend. I’m extremely physically active favoring Crossfit and running, and eating (mostly nutrient-dense foods) is one of my favorite hobbies. I’m happiest outdoors and love hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, and beachcombing. I derive a lot of pleasure from bookstores and libraries. Travel is a high priority and I long to visit Iceland and Costa Rica. Within the next five years, I want to live in an Airstream fulltime and travel around the western U.S. while writing novels.

New year, same me.

Speaking of novels, I am writing one! I’ve actually been working on a historical fiction manuscript for a year a now and have more than 54,500 words written. I have a lot of work ahead of me – completing it for one thing – but I can’t wait to see my book out in the world and being enjoyed.

I also want to extend a thank you to my followers, visitors, and of course, my wonderful clients. Since focusing solely on writing, I’ve never felt more fulfilled or sure of what I have been called upon to do with my life. I look forward to doing more of what I love in 2018 and would be honored to help you with your copy or content needs in any way that I can.

One more quick thing: do you love coffee? My goal this year is to build my business via word-of-mouth and referrals and will be offering an incentive for each qualified referral I receive (i.e., the referral leads to paid business). If you refer a new client to me who enlists my services, I’ll send you a $20.00 Starbucks gift card as a thank you!

Coffee is on me!

Wishing you all the best in 2018!

Hyla

::Dry in January (and beyond) – Part Two::

Thank you for coming back to read Part Two! As I mentioned in Part One, I’ve been working to curate a comprehensive list of resources for anyone looking for some guidance or inspiration. Whether you’re considering going dry in January or giving booze the boot for good, I hope you’ll find some value in the following collection.

*Editors Note*

You’ll notice that I did not include a category for books. There are probably hundreds upon hundreds of great books on the topic. However, I’ve only read one so far (Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sasha Z. Scoblic), barely scratching the surface. If I follow through with my 2018 goal to read more (my recurring New Year’s resolution since at least 2010), I’ll happily add some reading recommendations in the future.

Also, I will update each category as I discover new resources. (I also apologize to any of my Instagram friends whom I’ve omitted in error.)

Sober Sisters

Ivy League Insecurities – Aidan Donnelley Rowley – Author and Creator of Drybe

Momastery – Glennon Doyle – Author and Speaker

Tammi Salas – Tammi Salas – Artist, Writer, and Podcast Host

Laura McKowen – Laura McKowen – Writer, and Co-host of HOME Podcast

Mary Beth LaRue – Mary Beth LaRue – Yoga Teacher, Rock Your Bliss Co-founder, and Writer

Meadow DeVor – Meadow DeVor – Yoga Teacher, Money Coach, and Writer

Gabby Bernstein – Author, Speaker, and Spirit Junkie

Nicole Antoinette – Nicole Antoinette – Podcast Host and Writer

Websites

This category contains a variety of websites that include blogs, courses, rehabilitation options, support, etc. Some of these sites allow you to sign up for a newsletter or be added to an email list if you choose.

Hip Sobriety

Bloom Club

A Girl and a Tonic

The Sober School 

One Rep at a Time

One Year No Beer

She Recovers

Rehab Finder

Alcoholics Anonymous

Podcasts

HOME Podcast

Unruffled Podcast

EDIT Podcast

Instagram Accounts

@thesoberglow

@hipsobriety

@sillylaura

@soberevolution

@thesoberkates

@soberandalive

@hello_its_michelle_

@dianaunlu

@onerepatatime

@hipsobriety

@laura_mckown

@fabulous13

@gloria_blecha

@muttonattacks

@mysoberlife

Instagram Accounts for sober CrossFit chicks – if buff, booze-free babes are your jam (because they’re mine!).

@teamcarleen

@oliviapartington

@fitpinup37

@krissymaecagney

@kelfitz11

Products

Curious Elixirs – Booze-Free Craft Cocktails (I haven’t tried these yet but love what they’re doing and they have recipes you can make at home!)

G.T.’s Kombucha – My favorite brand, overall, and easy to find in most grocery stores.

La Croix – Flavored sparkling water with a cult following and available everywhere.

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides – The single product that I believe has made the biggest impact on my wellbeing this year! (I drink it in my coffee and add it to smoothies and elixirs.)

Tips

I have compiled a list of the things that I’ve done over the past 350 days that helped me in the preparation of – and throughout – the journey thus far.

  • Make a list of your “why’s” and keep it handy so you can reread it frequently. Why is this important to you? What do you hope to gain by going dry?
  • Set a date. If you’re going to go dry in January but starting after the first, that’s okay. Just designate the 31 days following whatever date you select.
  • Clean out any remaining alcohol stock you have on hand. If it’s something special that you want to save, consider having someone store it for you. Drink what you must but give away the rest or pour it down the sink.
  • Have non-alcoholic beverages on hand. Lots of ’em. If you are partial to your evening drink rituals, you’ll need something to replace the sensation of holding a drink. But make it special. I always have La Croix and kombucha on hand. Sometimes I’ll swap in a good ginger beer or make a crafty mocktail. I’m not afraid to use a wine or cocktail glass either. However, that is going to be different for everyone.
  • Find distractions. Take up a new hobby or revisit one that you’ve put on the backburner. Set a new goal. Sign up for a 5k. Renew your gym membership. Take a painting class. Join a book club. Whatever floats your boat.
  • Plan to reward yourself. If you’re doing a shorter period, say a month, plan a nice reward after you complete your goal. A massage, tickets to a sporting event, a new pair of pants from Lulu, etc. Something big and as extravagant as your budget will allow. For those going longer, consider a small reward every 25 days or at the completion of each month. This was the strategy I used. Every 25 days, I would treat myself to a small reward with an average of $20-$25 (a book, a houseplant, crystals – yes, I’m that girl – to name a few ideas).
  • Connect with the sober community. I’ve given you plenty of rad people to be inspired by.
  • Ask for support from your closest friends or loved ones. As I mentioned in part one, I went at this alone in the beginning and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a very strong sense of resolve. Invite your spouse, partner or best friend to join you and encourage each other.
  • Create a toolbox. I have two. One is actually a small pouch that I carry with me most of the time. In it, I have Liquid Bliss, Rescue Remedy (oops, need to restock) and some other Bach flower essence, a couple sachets of tea, mala beads, a piece of amethyst and other gemstones, a stone with the word freedom carved into it, essential oil, a stick of palo santo, and arnica. The other is a list of things I can do instead of drink. It includes:
    • Make tea, a mocktail, matcha, or an elixir
    • Go get a latte
    • Drink some kombucha
    • Make a smoothie
    • Do some yoga poses or stretch
    • Meditate or practice pranayama (breathing exercises)
    • Light some candles, incense, palo santo, or sage (smudge)
    • Read
    • Write
    • Journal
    • Paint
    • Listen to a podcast
    • Bake or cook something nutritious
    • Nap
    • Buy some flowers
    • Take a bath
    • Put on a face mask
    • Watch a movie
    • Go for a walk or workout
Dry in January

The contents of my “toolbox”.

A Couple of Additional Suggestions

I also carry a reminder to myself to own my decision. It is not a sad consequence but rather a proud choice. It is a very powerful and totally badass act of profound self-love. Additionally, I printed out a small calendar to track my days. There are a number of apps out there that you can download onto your phone to keep track of how many days you’ve refrained from drinking but I prefer to write it down each day. It allows me to recommit to my choice daily and express gratitude for another day feeling clear and completely awake.

Regardless of whether you’re going dry in January or have elected to go for the long haul, take it one day at a time. When you wake up each morning, remind yourself why you don’t want to drink and tell yourself that you are going to choose to not drink that day.

Final Thoughts

There are so many tools out there that are readily available. Don’t be afraid to do some exploration. Go as deep as you’re comfortable; you will likely find that there is a vast spiritual component to sobriety. While I’ve been doing some digging on and off, because it is something that I crave in my life, I will be doing more of that work in the future. But like I said, do what is comfortable for you.

Remember, these are the things that worked for me. From what I’ve offered here and whatever else you find as you begin your journey, you can piece together your own protocols.

If you have any tips or helpful suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. The same is true if you need some support or have questions. You are not alone in any of this – by a longshot – so if you feel compelled, feel free to reach out! Email me at hyla@hylaridenour.com.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

::Dry in January (and beyond) – Part One:

‘Tis the season for gathering with family and friends to celebrate the holidays and ring in a shiny new year. The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Years are filled with endless preparation… planning, shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning… and celebrating… office parties, family gatherings, get-togethers with friends, New Years Eve soirees… Honestly? It’s no wonder we drink so much this time of year. It’s also not surprising that so many people vow to take a break or cut back come January.

Around this time last year, I was already plotting my exit from the alcohol-induced merriment that I’d grown so accustomed to over the previous twenty-some years. It was my survival mechanism. That is until I realized that I don’t want to merely survive the holidays – or life, for that matter. I want to experience it all fully. I want to experience every precious moment of this beautiful, messy, complex life without it all being dull around the edges.

Me. Not dull. (Oh, and I survived a trip to the mall – one week before Christmas – without a single drop of alcohol! I also left empty-handed.)

I’d wager a safe bet that I’m not alone.

After I “came out” sober, a handful of friends and acquaintances reached out with questions about how I knew I was ready to step away from the vino and go dry. (As a side note, I’ll tell you that coming out to my friends and family was really difficult. In fact, I didn’t even tell my husband what I was up to until I was 36 days in and he was the first person I told!)

As I approach the one-year mark, I’m acutely aware that there are a number of people in my circle who are trying to figure out what their relationship with alcohol is. You see, it’s not all black and white, cut and dry, one-size-fits-all. For those that, like myself, don’t identify with what we’ve been programmed to think of when we hear the word alcoholic or alcoholism, there is a lot – and I mean A LOT – of gray area.

Every single story is different. Every single reason for quitting is unique. Every single person is fighting their own battle. And every single story, reason, and person matters.

The reason I’m writing this post, and let me be frank, I never intended for this website to be laden with posts on the topic of sobriety. However, what I’ve discovered this year is that it needs to be talked about. These stories need to be shared. There is a real need for people to be transparent with their struggles surrounding alcohol consumption so that the stigma is removed and people feel safe to reach out to one another without fear of being judged or labeled regardless of whether they are fighting true alcohol addiction or not.

Besides, I’m a storyteller and the story I know best is my own so I’ll share as I please.

Anyway, a good friend sent me a text message a couple of days ago asking if I had time to chat. A few hours later, over coffee (though separated by at least 1000 miles) she asked me for some tips on going dry in January. I gave her a few suggestions based on a variety of practices that I relied upon during those first few weeks and months. Many of which I still utilize. Later, still thinking about our conversation and reminiscing my own start to the dry life – having no one to talk to, no guidance, no idea that there was a community of support and resources out there, and feeling like I was floating in space alone – I thought that I could offer what I didn’t have to anyone that is considering going dry in January or beyond. 

Therefore, part two of this post will be a comprehensive collection of every website, podcast, and Instagram feed, as well as products I’ve used, practices in my daily life, and tips that I discovered that have been a resource throughout my journey this past year. In the meantime, if you feel drawn to connect, ask questions about going dry in January, or just need to be reassured that you are not floating in space alone, please, please, please shoot me an email at hyla@hylaridenour.com.