11--Searching for Authentic

This is Loose Leaf, the podcast of an author with multiple personalities. My name is Charity Bradford, lover of all things science fantasy. I'm also River Ford, writer of contemporary romance. 

You may have noticed it's been almost a month since the last podcast. I've been doing a lot of searching for what it is I really want to say on these and why I'm doing it. And I think today is going to be a very different kind of podcast than I've given you so far. So, bear with me because I'm not really sure what I'm going to say. It's something I think I need to do for me. And I'm hoping as I talk through this and search for whatever is deep inside me that needs to be said, that the process will perhaps help someone else who needs to do the same thing. 

You see, when I started this podcast, I had a certain idea in mind of what I wanted to happen and what I thought that looked like, but just like the rest of my life, I'm finding that it was all based on what I think everyone else says it should look like and what I expect people to get from a writer or an author. As I've thought about this, it's brought about a lot of soul searching over this last month. It'll be interesting to see where I go from here, because even though I had fun learning how to do a podcast and some of the things that I could talk about, I don't think I've really found my voice. And I think until I do that, this is not going to feel authentic. And I think that's something that I want to be. And I think that's something that other people will connect to. 

So let's, uh, let's look at that first little tidbit I mentioned. So as a writer, I think I've always done what I thought a writer should do. Um, at least for the last seven or eight years, that has been the case. In the beginning, I was a nobody, and I was just writing for me, but I had this dream of becoming published. And during that time, I think I was definitely more authentic. I had a blog and that was all I had and it wasn't about me.

Well, it was, it was my journal of my journey and where I was going and what I was learning and what I was doing. But more importantly, it was a community. There was this amazing group of people that I learned from every day. And yes, I was on there every day. I followed hundreds of blogs and I had hundreds of followers and we were just friends.

We weren't trying to sell each other anything, we weren't trying to be something we weren't. We were seriously just looking to learn about writing craft and what it meant to be a writer and how we could finish the story that was in our minds and in our hearts. And then a lot of us were like, okay, and what comes after that?

How do you get an agent? How do you get a big publisher? What does that look like? You know, we were learning about query letters and all this stuff and, and it was really fun because it was something that we were doing together. Once I was published. Things got really crazy because all of a sudden there was all of this anxiety attached to, Oh my goodness.

I have a book out there. People can find it, people can read it, they're going to like it, or they're going to hate it. And I was ready for it. My world has change. And it didn't. Um, I think a lot of people who are writing, who have never been published, think once you're published, things are different, but it's not, it's really not.

You just have more anxiety over the possibilities. And then there's the anxiety that things didn't change. You know, life is still the same from one day to the next and you have to figure out. Well, why am I doing this? And is it worth it? And you know, what was the point? Because I think as a creative personality, and I'm just making an assumption that a lot of other creative personalities, whether it be through song or artwork or, or whatever medium people use to create.

You start doing it because you need to do it for yourself and you put your whole heart and soul into it, but by the time you're finished, you want to share it and you want to know what other people think. And sometimes that can be scary, but I was prepared for the haters, if that makes any sense. And I know that's weird, maybe I'm just always terrified of the negativity that I know is out there, but I was prepared for that. And I actually thought to myself, it will be a badge of honor when I get my first one star review, because that means the haters have found me and I'm good to go. You know, that's, that's what you tell yourself in the beginning, because everybody says it's going to happen. 

But what I was really hoping was that these things that I was sharing by creating a story would actually touch someone else that they would be able to connect with something. And I don't think I recognized at the time that what I really wanted was to feel that connection with people, with me, not necessarily even, even what I wrote, not the story or my characters. But a writer really does put so much of themselves into their story.

And there's usually one character that is a lot of who they are, even if it's this deep, dark, hidden secret part of themselves that nobody else knows about a writer does that subconsciously. And I think it's our way of trying to figure out who we are and what we believe and what we want and what we're afraid of.

And so it just kind of follows that subconsciously. We're looking for some kind of validation and those people who have agents and big publishers, that's a big part of that. I mean, you've done it. You've caught the eye of the big people in this sea of millions of fish that are trying to get published.

But for those of us that don't get that, there's always something that I think we're still looking for. And it's at least for me, it's really hard to. Except that I'm doing this because it's what I want to do. And that should really be enough. And I think that's what. What I struggle with because in my head, I know that it should be enough that I did this and I accomplished it, whether it's perfect or not, because it never will be.

And I understand that, but I should be proud of the fact that I accomplished what I set out to do, and that should be enough. But as I said, There's always this need to just know. And I think that's come across, uh, in some weird ways with me. And I want to, I want to throw that off because I think a lot of times, I don't say what I'm really thinking.

And I don't say what I feel should be said, because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and I don't want to alienate them. And I don't want them to. Not read my books because they think, well, she's just not a nice person, but it's okay to have opinions that are different than anyone else. And this is something that I've been learning this month.

And. I'm actually reading a book called not nice by, I don't even know how to say his name, but Dr. Aziz Gizapura. I'm not sure how to say that, but I'll put a link down there and I've only read the first part. It's it's kinda thick and I don't do non-fiction. I read to escape and so nonfiction and reading to learn something.

I think I. I stopped as soon as I graduated from college, but I'm, I'm waiting through it. And it's an interesting read. And in this first section, I'm just recognizing all the things about myself. That are causing me problems. They're really hurting me inside and I have to let it go. And I haven't moved on to part two.

The book is about learning to say no and learning to recognize when you're doing something. Out of fear because you're afraid someone won't like you, if you say no, and you're afraid someone won't like you, if you don't help them do this or that, or they won't like you, if you disagree with them. Uh, and I, I do recognize that I've lived most of my life that way.

I mean, I've always been a yes person. I've always pretty much based my entire life on what. Others expected me to be and do and sound like. Um, even if I disagreed, I would simply nod my head and not say anything, which is, it's just as bad as, you know, as doing the opposite of what you believe in, because you're not standing up for what you, what you really think.

And it's okay to, to disagree with people. And especially in today's society, we need to be able to say what we really think, but my problem is I've done. What everyone else. Or at least what I think everyone else expects from me for so long that I don't know where I stand on a lot of things. And so that's why I've, I've kind of paused this podcast because I need to figure that out.

I need to figure out what is it that I believe? What is it that I think and how is that going to play into this? I mean, maybe I'll never do another podcast. That would be sad because I've enjoyed it. And my favorite ones were the ones where I got to interview other authors and, and even my kids. And I think if you, if you miss that episode where I interviewed my family, that was probably the first episode that I did solely for me.

I mean, my husband was like, why are you doing that? No, one's going to want to listen to it. And I said, I don't care because I enjoyed doing it and, uh, no offense to anyone listening. But I think that was a breakthrough for me to say that I could do something simply because. I wanted to do it. And because I wanted to be able to look back in years to come and have that recording of our kids and what they were thinking on that day and where we were and hear them laugh and talk all over each other and just be a hot mess because that's what, that's, what life is.

Life is messy and life is crazy and chaotic and, and wonderful because of that. And I didn't want to lose that. And so I'm glad that I did that. And then of course the interviews with friends, I think those were so much fun because I felt like I could be me and I felt like we could just have a conversation.

And I really enjoyed that. And I hope that whatever I find my voice to be and whatever it is that I want to talk about on future podcasts, whether it be about writing or just life in general or. What I really think about what's going on in America right now, which I've totally avoided because that is, that is a real hotspot.

And, uh, and I've just avoided it. But. Maybe that's something that I need to sit down and figure out and that I can talk about. And maybe I can find a way to connect that with the things that make me me. And I guess that's what I've been thinking about a lot lately, if I always change, um, most of the time it's subconscious, I've the last couple of years I've really started paying attention to it.

But if, if I change the way I act based on who's around me, that's not being authentic. And, you know, I've tried to decide what is it about me that has stayed the same over the last 40 years? Because that would be, what's my core. That would be me. And I have to dig down to that part and then build from there.

And so I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I've had a lot of sleepless nights where my mind is just spinning and spinning and, and trying to figure this out. And I thought back to. Well, trying to figure out what hasn't changed and also why maybe I am the way I am, because I've had a good life, you know, there's not really being well.

Okay. There have been some traumatic incidents, but, but so many people have things worse that I was like, why, why am I like this? Why am I so, so codependent, why does my self-worth depend on what other people say and think about me because. That's just wrong. We need to learn to love ourselves. And that needs to be where our self-worth comes from.

I mean, that's why it's called self worth and self-esteem, it's how we think and feel about ourselves. And that should be the most important thing, but that's not been the case in my life. And, and so thinking about those two things. I went back in time and I thought, well, let's see, around the time I was three, my dad left.

And even though I was three, I'm sure there was some kind of emotions going on. Some kind of wondering if, even if it was just confusion about. Life has changed. Life is different. And so by that time I was learning that nothing is permanent. So many things changed after that. Not very much longer. My mom remarried and that's the guy that I called dad because I lived most of my early years with him and my most of my teenage years.

But we moved every year to year and a half. And it wasn't just from one house to another. It was from one state to another back and forth between Alabama and Kentucky, Alabama, and Kentucky. And then we finally settled in Tennessee when I was in the eighth grade. And while the moves didn't do much for me on the educational side, because back then we didn't have common core.

So you, if you moved in the middle of the school year, which was usually what we did. You could miss out on all kinds of things, math, you know, grammar, whatever, social studies, science, all of those things, different schools, different States, we're doing things right different times. So I had a lot of gaps in my education and the good thing was I learned to work hard and try to catch up because not only am I codependent, but I am a perfectionist.

And so that meant I couldn't not. Be where everybody else was. So I worked really hard on the positive side. I learned to be, make friends very quickly because I knew that there was no guarantee that I would get to keep these friends for very long. You know, we didn't have cell phones, we didn't have Facebook, we didn't have Twitter.

We didn't have Instagram. We didn't have all these things we do now where we can keep in touch with people that we've met and connected to. So the positive was, I learned to make friends with anyone and everyone, because. I needed that connection. It was great because I never felt any prejudice toward anyone of any color, any, any ethnicity or anything.

I just, I needed friends and whoever was willing to talk to me, they became my best buddy going back and forth between Kentucky and Alabama. That was. Crazy. Let me tell you, because I had a lot of family that was very prejudiced and I would go and live down in Alabama, where all of my friends were black and then I'd go home for some family vacation and listen to them talking.

It was so confusing and I didn't understand how they could talk about people that they didn't know. Um, and I was always so glad to go home. I, when I was young, I didn't like to be around. My aunts and uncles and cousins, because it was uncomfortable. And I think somewhere deep in my soul, I understood that that was wrong.

Especially since they're talking about people as a whole, that they had no idea about, and it wasn't just black people, it was fat people. It was, you know, all these other things and, and. And it always hurt me. And this is part of what I think at the core at my core is something that has never changed because of the way I grew up.

I learned to love people, just people there, there were no categories that I had to put them in. I mean, there were probably age categories cause I was a kid and anybody over, you know, 20 was ancient back then, but. It was just people. And, you know, if you smiled at someone and they smiled back then you could be friends.

It didn't matter where they grew up. It didn't matter how much money their family had. It didn't matter what color their skin was. You were good. You were golden at the same time, knowing that I wouldn't be there very long, at least, you know, it was never certain that we would move. But I think subconsciously I always felt like.

The next move was eminent. That's when I started to be what other people wanted me to be because I needed friendship and I needed those connections. So it was very easy to let other people lead and to follow them and, and agree with what they were saying. Listen to the music. They were listening to read the books that they were reading so that we had something to talk about.

It was very easy to, to just. Not think for myself basically is what it boils down to because I needed to be who they needed me so that they would like me so that I wouldn't be alone. While I lived there and I think that became just a part of my life to the point that I didn't recognize it. I didn't see it.

Uh, one of the reasons I fell in love with my husband was because I felt like he saw me and I felt like I could be more authentic with him than I was with a lot of other people. And that was a huge blessing in my life. But. I think I have self-sabotaged our relationship many times the fact that we're still married.

Um, I think it will be 24 years. This year is a miracle that shows how patient he is and how forgiving he is for all of my crazy things, because you know, so many times he's told me if you don't say what you're thinking, I don't know. And that's the way it is with everybody we interact with. If you don't say what you're thinking, they won't know.

Okay. So let's try to bring it back to this podcast. When I started this podcast as a writer, as a published author, there were two avenues that I could go down. One was to write. To other writers and talk about the process and talk about my journey and share things like that, which I love to do when I'm out.

And I've talked at conferences and I've done other things, I've done workshops. And I love that. I love connecting with. With writers. It's so easy to sit and have them ask questions and go, Oh, well, here's some things I've learned and here's some things you can try. It just comes very easily. Part of that is my educational background.

I think it's just natural. And the fact that I love people I think comes through when I talk to them about the things I know, however, There are a lot of podcasts out there for writers by amazing writers. And so I automatically just shut myself down and I said, I can't do that because there are better podcasts out there.

There's no reason someone should listen to mine. And that's a, that's a self-esteem problem that I need to work on and fix, because even though we can talk about the exact same things and maybe someone else knows something different or more about one aspect of writing, There are things that I have learned that I can share as well, and it'll have my unique perspective on it.

And maybe that's what someone else will be able to connect to. And I need to tell myself that every day that it's okay to do that. It's okay to say something that someone else has said, but say it in a different way. The other Avenue that I could have taken and that I tried to take from the beginning was focused toward readers.

Because I thought, you know, are there podcasts out there for readers? And I tried to search for them and I think I'm horrible with the way I search, because I couldn't find very many. And I, I found a couple and one of them is someone who just, every week they read another chapter of their book and they had lots of followers and I was like, well, that's cool, but I didn't really want to do that.

I didn't want to just sit there and read my book. I mean, I've got audio books out. Why would I need to sit and read them? Because. Once again, the narrators that recorded my books are so much better than me. So who's going to want to sit and listen to me. You read it. And I just, I didn't feel like that was how I would connect, but I thought, well, what do I do?

What do readers want to know about it? I don't know, because whenever I ask on Facebook or Instagram or, or Twitter or anywhere else, it's like crickets. And I thought, well, let's start by telling them about my books. And as I went back and listened to those podcasts, I was like, Oh, these are just awful. I mean, they're not horrible, but yeah, they are.

And I just thought, Oh, that sounds so self-centered and Hey, let me tell you about my book. But originally I was thinking as a reader, when I read sometimes. My reader and my writer, brain connect. And I want to know, how did the author come up with that? What did they see? Where were they when that idea came into being and how did they work through it?

So, so to me, that sounded interesting, but when I sat down and recorded those behind the scenes podcast, it just felt awkward to me. Um, and that's why I haven't finished. I have. Two more novels and a couple of short stories that I, that my OCD says, you need to do these so that the collection is complete, but I haven't done them.

I actually have one recorded that I never posted, but I just haven't done it because I just thought, Oh, it's so awkward. And it feels so needy and I don't want to be that person. So you'll notice all these earlier podcasts are a mix of summer for readers. Some are for writers and. I'm like, is that really where I need to be?

Is that the kind of podcast I need you to be doing? Just talking about whatever I feel like, or I've had a couple of people send me notes and say, Hey, why don't you talk about this? Which would be great. I mean, if people told me, Hey, I want to know what you think about this. That would be so easy to just sit down and do something.

But. Realistically. I know that's not going to happen very often. A lot of people like to listen and they don't comment when I sit and think about it. I'm like readers probably really don't care if they're reading to escape. They don't want to think about all the behind scenes that, that remind them that this is something made up.

So it kind of leaves me back again to, well, what do I do? And what do I say? And. And I thought, well, you know, I, I named this loose leaf, you know, I was thinking about loose leaf paper because I do like to write with pen and paper a lot, but then also thought it kind of tied into that whole idea of a loose cannon and where they're just a little crazy.

You don't quite know where it's going to go and what it's going to do. And, and I thought, you know, can I relax enough? And I allow myself to. Talk about whatever I want, whether it's about a garden or about some music I've found or about something that happened on the news that I just feel like I need to express myself.

And say something. Can I allow myself to do that? And then of course the whole, but you can't do that. You know, if you have a podcast, it needs to be focused or nobody will know what they're looking for, what they're going to get. And I realized, you know, that's one of my rules. One of my rules is I have to be very clear.

And, and that's why in the beginning, I had two websites to author websites, to author Facebook pages, to Twitters, to Instagrams to this because. Charity Bradford writes science fiction and, and people who want to read science fiction want to know that that's what they're going to get. And river Ford writes romance.

So you need a, something totally separate because the people who read romance, don't always want science fiction. And if you don't clearly. Draw that line in the sand, then people aren't going to know, and they're going to get frustrated with you, and then they're not going to like you. And then you're going to get negative reviews because they were looking for one thing and you gave them something else.

And so I created all this extra work. That really drained me. And it got to the point where I couldn't even write, because I was so frustrated with trying to keep up with all these things that were, that I was trying to do, because they say, Hey, you're supposed to have a Facebook and you need to have a Twitter and Oh, you should blog.

If you definitely can. And website, you need to, you know, Anytime something new comes on, like now there's Instagram and I'm sure it won't be long I've, I've stopped actually reading what authors are supposed to be doing, because I can't do it all, not if I want to have the calm and the peace of mind that I need to actually sit down and explore my stories and put them on the paper.

You know, maybe, maybe I don't need to do a podcast, but I have enjoyed. The learning process. And that's something else that I think has always been a part of me. So trying to pull those together, the two things that have always been a part of me is one. I just love people and I need that connection with them.

And two, I love to learn things. I think that's why. I studied education one. It was to help fix all those gaps that I had growing up. And two, it was because it gave me a chance to explore all these other areas. I didn't have to just pick one thing to study. I got to take a geology class and I got to take a literature class and you know, all these different things that were part of education.

And that was wonderful for me. Where to go from here. I don't know. I would love to hear your thoughts about it. I'd love to hear if. You struggle with saying what you really think and what you really believe. Because in the last few years I've found some wonderful friends who have no problem saying no, they have no problem speaking up and saying, I don't agree with that.

And they have no problem saying that's wrong. And then they move on. They don't feel like they have to justify what they've said, which, which they shouldn't. I mean, You believe what you believe and if you stand up for it, that's enough. It's okay. If not everybody likes you. It's okay. If not everybody likes me, but that's hard and this is not something that's going to change overnight.

Just becoming aware of it. And I'm thinking about it more is not going to completely fix me now, is there room to be kind to others? Yes. I think that's something that. I'm going to have to slow down and really think about, am I saying this, am I doing this to be nice? Because I want them to like me and I don't want to hurt their feelings, or am I doing this and saying this to be kind, because sometimes being kind is telling someone that you think they're making a mistake.

I mean, think about. The friends in your life that you love the most. They're the ones that will tell you the truth, whether it hurts or not. And I don't know that I've always been that kind of friend. And I want to be that kind of friend. I want to be that kind of person that can say, Hey, I don't know if you're thinking this through clearly.

I don't know if that's the right choice for you right now, but whatever you decide, I'm going to be here and I'm going to support you because you can disagree and still. Support those around you that you love. And that's something that I think the w the world in general needs more of. We need to stop seeing all the differences as a negative, because differences are what make us who we are.

What makes us unique. It's what helps us not get bored. I mean, think about it. How many of us have been sitting at home for months now with our small little circle of friends and we. Miss getting out and seeing all the diversity. I mean, I love going somewhere, looking around and thinking there are so many different kinds of people here.

It's wonderful because that means there are things you can learn about each other. I spent a lot of time in the West during my college years and on campus, there was diversity, but later can in the general. Public. Uh, it wasn't. And when I moved back to the South, it was actually a relief. I think the first time I went to church and there was a black couple there, I just it's like this, this feeling came over me that I was like, Oh, good.

I'm home where we're somewhere where not everybody is the same, because I mean, how boring is that? And I just, I think it hurts my soul that. So many people in this country still struggle with that, but then I stop and I think, is that really true? I don't think that's really true. I just think that the ones that are the loudest are the small group that just hate to hate, and it doesn't matter.

Who is focused at once this winds down, they'll find someone else to focus on and it will just keep going. Whether it's people of color, whether it's gays, whether it's women, whether it's men. I mean, the focus just shifts back and forth, back and forth, and it gives these people the opportunity to. Share what I'm coming to think of as their own self-loathing.

They don't like themselves and they can't deal with that. And they don't want to change who they are. So they turn that lens outward and focus that hate everywhere else. And they sweep people along in their wave. It's really disturbing because the rest of us who maybe disagree with what's happening with what's being said with what's being done, we keep quiet because.

We're too nice. And I don't know how we change that. I don't know what the answer is. I don't know what the answer is for myself. Even. That's something that I'm just now starting to explore and to try and get to the bottom of, and I hope that as I do. I'll find some answers for me. That's the only person I can change is the only person I can truly make happy.

Yeah. So, so there's that, I know this has been a very strange podcast. It's probably going to sound very awkward when I go back and listen to it. And for that reason, I'm probably not, I'll probably just put this up an edited with my. Stumbling around and everything, because if I listen to it, I'll freak out.

I'll get all self-conscious and I'll probably never post it. But my hope is once again, that somebody, if they find it and they listened to it, they'll at least think, well, at least I'm not alone and not knowing what it is I think, and where it is that I stand and that I need to make some changes because we're the only ones that can change ourselves.

You know, and if we don't and if we continue to just blindly go through our life, trying to do what we think everybody else expects of us, then we're going to be miserable. I mean, it's taken a long time. There have been dips and valleys for me. I struggle with depression. I struggle with anxiety and it's because I don't know who I am and what I want.

And that's my fault. That's not anybody's fault, but mine, those are things that whether consciously or subconsciously I chose, and now that I've recognized it, I have to make new choices and I know I'm going to make the wrong ones. There are going to be times when I don't get it right. That's just part of being human, but I have to own that and I have to take one step forward.

And if I fall down and slide backwards, I have to get up and, and keep trying, because that's the only way. I'm going to be happy in this life. And I want that for everybody. I want those of us who, who have good lives, but we're unhappy to sit down and really ask ourselves, why am I not happy? Because it could just be that you've lost yourself in the midst of everyone around you.

And. Maybe it's because like me, you were trying to make everybody else happy. And when they're not happy, you feel like a failure, but we can't make someone choose happiness. So until next time, those are some things you can think about. Do you know who you are? Do you know what it is you really want out of your life on a daily basis?

Not just sometime in the future. And if you do know, do you know how to get there? How to do that. And if you don't know. Maybe it's time to sit down and, and think about it. Maybe pull out a pen and paper and make some list on who am I really, uh, this book once again, I'll stick a link down in the notes called not nice talks about making lists of what your rules are.

You know, for instance, some of my rules are when I meet someone new, I smile, I make eye contact and I nod and I agree and. You know, I focus on them and I don't say anything about me because I want them to feel important and I want them to feel liked. And if they say something I don't agree with, I just keep my mouth shut.

And that's a rule that I need to change because it's okay to not agree. So until next time. Try to be kind to one another kind versus nice something to think about, but try to be kind, because even though we're all different and unique, we really do have more in common than we ever choose to see.

Charity Bradford. 

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© 2019 by Charity Bradford.