“Always Be Yourself” / Elizabeth Maria Naranjo

twitterpic2Elizabeth grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming before escaping the cold winters and settling in the Sonoran Desert. She now lives in Tempe, Arizona with her husband and two children. Her short fiction and creative nonfiction have been published in “Literary Mama,” “SLAB Literary Magazine,” “The Portland Review,” “Hospital Drive,” “Phoenix New Times,” “Babble,” and “Bartleby Snopes.” The Fourth Wall is her first novel.

(The following post by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo first appeared on Colleen Story’s Writing and Wellness Blog. It is used here with Colleen’s permission.)

Physical Wellness

The biggest physical challenge is being sedentary. My two favorite hobbies—writing and reading—require no more from me than sitting still and turning pages or typing. And I’m way too comfortable with that. For example, I’d never look up from my computer and say, “Hey! You know what? I think I’ll go for a sprint around the neighborhood. It’s time to get out and exercise a bit.”

Another challenge is getting so caught up in work I forget to eat. Now that both my kids are in school full time, there’s no one around to feed. Snacking is not a problem for me; rather, it’s realizing that it’s noon and all I’ve ingested is coffee. Lots of it. Not great for your health, and definitely bad for your skin.

I’ve yet to find a solution to either problem, honestly. I’m not very disciplined. I’ll keep reading your blog for tips.

Emotional Wellness

The biggest emotional challenge for me is self-doubt. It’s a constant hurdle. I’ve felt validated in many ways the past few years;  I know I can write well, but I also know I can write crap. Other people see the good stuff—the version that went through countless revisions and probably an editor or two. I see the crap—in first drafts, second drafts, third drafts. All writers do, and you know it’s normal and part of the process, but it still makes it difficult to start new projects knowing they’re going to be terrible for a while.

One solution I’ve found is writing by hand. I grab a pen and notebook and start scribbling. Anything. Character sketches, bits of dialogue, random thoughts, scene outlines—it almost always helps me break through, and then I switch to typing.

The One Thing That Has Kept You On Your Path

The one thing that’s kept me true to my path is being a mother—because I need my children to know that dreams are never frivolous. When I was eleven, my daughter’s age, I wrote constantly. It never occurred to me then that I wasn’t good enough, or that I was wasting my time. I knew I’d grow up and be a writer.

But somewhere in my teens cynicism and self-doubt hit, and for a period of about ten years, I wrote almost nothing. During my first pregnancy, with Abigail, is when I began again. It would be many years later when I actually published my first story, but I never again gave up, because I wouldn’t want my kids to give up.  And now I have this beautiful memory of my daughter’s face when I told her The Fourth Wall was getting published. She makes me feel about ten feet tall.

Advice for a Young Writer

I would tell a young person dreaming of becoming a writer that the biggest challenge will always be yourself. The way to get past that varies for everyone, but it helps to keep the one person in mind who believes in you most and who makes all the hard work worth it. The one person whose face you imagine lighting up when you say you’ve had your first story/article/book accepted for publication. It may be a parent, a best friend, a teacher. Keep that face in mind when you’re writing. She’s your touchstone.