Back in January, I’d had high hopes. Bought a fancy planner, one for each quarter (yeah, I was even badass enough to break my year up into quarters), and set lofty—and, in hindsight, damn near impossible—goals such as Build mailing list by 100 subscribers each week and Create a series of online courses based on The Writer’s Habit.
Seriously—what was I thinking? Because by February, I was paralyzed.
I’d also set a personal goal of leaving my comfort zone as much as possible. And, at the end of the second quarter, I wrote a bit about the ways in which I did that. The move to Maine, of course, was the epitome of that. So was, among other things, joining a pickleball group at our local YMCA, having never played before.
By quarter three, I had changed up my goals completely. And achieved none. Looking at them now, I can see how far adrift I was, and not in the good, leave-my-comfort-zone way. I was lost. Afraid.
I needed to find my way again.
I wish I could tell you that I have. Or rather, to what. But the truth is, I’m not yet sure what the way is. I might already be there. I might not be. But what I am sure of right now is that I don’t need to know. Thus, my final goal for 2018, and entering 2019, is:
Trust the unknown regardless of the outcome.
In the meantime, I’ve set the bar way lower. Instead of aiming for 100 new subscribers each week, I smile and give thanks for just one. Instead of wanting to reach 10,000 readers, I’m overjoyed when just one takes the time to tell me how one of my books has touched her. Instead of creating an online course empire, I connected with one student, face to face, and we talked about way more than writing. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t accomplish this year, I marvel at what I did just in this remaining quarter:
Most of all, I love and appreciate that so many of this year’s achievements start with We. Not because being with someone is so important, but because I love who he is.
I began the year thinking big. And I did achieve my ultimate goal of leaving my comfort zone. I also have goals for 2019. (As always, I’ll keep them close to the vest.) But I’m thinking way smaller this time. What I’ve learned is that setting the bar low can sometimes be a really good thing, in that less-is-more way.
The journey continues. And that, of course, is the greatest gift of all.
Early last month, my husband and I went to the Y to sign up for a new membership in our new town and state. I’d had one in Billings, but had barely used it all year. A few days later, we made our first visit and did a two-mile walk on the track. I was feeling accomplished and renewed to resuming an exercise routine— heck, downright looking forward to it—until I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the door when we walked back to the car.
I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been.
I didn’t need the reflection to tell me that. I’ve been feeling it in my clothes all summer. I’m down to one pair of jeans that fit. T-shirts that used to hang loosely now hug me tight. I’ve been avoiding photos.
In fact, since my wedding two years ago, I’ve gained twenty pounds. And I was already close to twenty pounds overweight back then.
I recoiled when I saw myself.
And then I called myself a load. Out loud.
My husband admonished me, albeit lovingly. He was right to do so, of course. From there he gently reminded me why we’d reinstated our membership, and that day by day, we’d get to where we both wanted to be: healthier. Fitter. More energetic. We’d try again and again. We’d do a little better and a little worse and a little better again. We’d succeed and fail and succeed again. And it would be OK. We were OK. He told me that he loved and desired me—and my body—regardless of its size or shape.
In short, he was kind to me, whereas I was not.
There’s no way I would ever be so mean as to call my husband—or anyone else—a load. I would be downright ashamed to be that person. I can’t stand when comedians resort to fat jokes when taking pot shots at a politician like Chris Christie, for example. I hate when sitcoms portray overweight people as having no self-control (I could go on and on about that alone), being too lazy to go to the gym, and/or equating girth with klutziness.
And yet, I didn’t think twice about speaking to and about myself in such a cruel manner. I thought nothing of judging myself with such contempt and shaming my body based solely on appearance. I cared little about self-condemnation until after I’d done it. I didn’t acknowledge that calling myself a load was as mean as calling someone else I loved, or even someone I didn’t know, a load. I didn’t even feel remorse. Not until later, when we came home.
How is it that we don’t even recognize the ways in which we undermine ourselves? How do we expect to be loving toward others, and to be receptive of love from others, when we so vehemently refuse to love ourselves?
And then, in that typical Catch-22 reaction, I ate to feed my wounded self, to comfort her, make her feel better. My cousin Meg, who openly shares her struggles with anorexia, has talked about the counterintuitive sense of well-being she feels from not eating. I suddenly wondered if the well-being I felt from eating more than I needed was similarly deceptive.
Until this morning, I hadn’t been back to the Y since. (OK, some of that is because it’s not air-conditioned and we’ve had a rather humid month. I also spent time in New York and Southern New England. But still.) I decided to set September 1 as the kickoff date to commit to better eating and exercise habits. But I knew I needed more than that.
Because just typing the words “commit to better eating and exercise habits” fills me with more negative thoughts and feelings: Here we go again. How many times have I tried this before? What makes me think it will work this time? What makes me think I’ll even lose the weight, much less keep it off? I dreaded thoughts of deprivation. I dreaded accountability. I dreaded the idea of keeping food journals and measuring every chicken breast and fruit serving and policing every craving. Why didn’t any weight loss plan or diet ever ask you to track and measure and count your feelings?
What was I feeling when I ate five Mint Milano cookies in one sitting? What was I feeling when I made a smoothie with spinach in it because it was “the right thing to do”? What was I feeling when I was jonesin’ for chocolate cake for breakfast and told myself I was not allowed to have it? What was I feeling every time I saw an ad that described a certain food as “guilt-free?” (I can tell you the answer to that one: anger. It makes me angry that we’ve been taught to feel guilty about anything we eat, regardless of what it is or how much.)
For me, weight loss (or gain) has almost always had less to do with food and more to do with thoughts and feelings.
Yes, I need to change some eating and exercise habits. I need more nutrients and more activity. But I also need, for starters, to apologize to myself for speaking so harshly. For being so mean and critical. For not being more supportive.
I’m sorry for not loving you in that moment. I’m sorry for not liking you just the way you are. I’m sorry for not being proud of you for completing a two-mile walk, for returning to the Y and doing something you enjoy doing. I’m sorry for shaming you and killing your buzz. I’m sorry for not encouraging you to go back regardless of how you think you look. I’m sorry for not paying attention to how you were feeling, and then being dismissive and judgmental when you told me.
I’m so deeply sorry for calling you a load. I’m so deeply sorry for hurting you like that.
If I’m going to measure and record anything, it’s going to be how many times I express kindness toward myself. Compassion. Friendship. Encouragement. In addition to laps around the track, I’m going to do reps of “I approve of myself”s. As I plan meals, I’ll also plan dates with my husband and daily gifts for us.
And if it’s the last thing I do, I’ll take guilt out of the mix. Especially when I want—and have—chocolate cake for breakfast.
I’ll try, and try again, and try again.
I love myself enough to try.
I love myself.
At the beginning of 2018, I wrote a post in which I reflected on 2017’s successes and shortcomings, and made projections about what I wanted 2018 to be. This year I also began a new practice: using Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner, at the beginning of each quarter I’ve made a list of goals and habits I want to manifest or achieve, and have attempted to plan my days and weeks in service of those goals. Some days the entire day’s agenda has been nothing but check marks. Other days it’s been a complete washout.
We’ve just begun Quarter Three and the second half of 2018, and I thought it would be a good time to tell you how I’m faring.
Without sharing specific goals, in the January post I mentioned that I wanted this to be a year of leaving my comfort zone as much as possible. So far, I think I’ve achieved that in various forms:
Not bad for the first six months.
With each quarter, I’ve added some goals, deleted others, or revised the ones I’ve kept.
I also failed to achieve some goals, either because I made them too big (such as growing my mailing list by 1,000 subscribers each month), or I haven’t made enough effort, such as establishing rituals that improve overall health and wellness. And as far as leaving my comfort zone, some things, like creating an online course, for example, remain so far out of my comfort zone that I have yet to summon the courage to go there.
Plus, I need to update my website yet again. Will have to put that on next week’s “Big Three” to-do list.
Something else happened this year. When it comes to my career, in terms of leaving my comfort zone, I felt as if I lost my sense of direction. Although, if I am to be truly honest, I think I’ve been drifting for a couple of years now, and doing it mostly in silence. For one thing, I’ve been mourning the loss of writing as a sustainable living, and I’m facing looking for additional employment. Yes, many writers have second and even third jobs, so I don’t mean to be a spoiled child complaining that she has to fly Comfort instead of First Class. Writing, like other artistic ventures, is a feast-or-famine business. I was one of the few and fortunate to feast for as many years as I did, and never took that for granted. Who wouldn’t want to keep on feasting?
But it’s more than that. I’ve also found it difficult to be creative during such tumultuous times. I still love writing. I still want it to be my full-time, sustainable gig. I still want the freedom and the joy it’s given me for so long. However, for the first time since 2005, I don’t know if I have another book in me; and if I do, I don’t know what it looks like or when it’s going to show up—next week, next year, or five years from now. And that has frightened me terribly. I don’t want to let anyone down, especially myself. I don’t want the well to run dry. And I don’t want to do anything else as much as I want to do and have loved doing this.
So, what’s next?
Among the many gifts this move has given my husband and me, one of them is a blank canvas. They’re always a little scary, but I’m no stranger to re-inventing myself. It takes time to fill that canvas, to get an idea of what the picture will look like. A lifelong challenge and lesson for me has always been about maintaining patience during those periods of unknown. Trusting that everything I want and need will be revealed and available to me at the right place and time. Recognizing what actions I can take in the meantime, and making peace with the disappointments.
Throughout my life, following my heart has always been the guiding force. My heart has never taken me down a wrong road, nor has it ever taken a shortcut. It’s taken me out of my comfort zone for sure. But it’s also taken me over the rainbow and straight into pots of gold.
If the first six months have been about leaving my comfort zone, then perhaps the second six months will be about creating a new path along the way, one step at a time. And maybe, just maybe, deep down I already know where I’m going. I might even be there already.
I'm pleased to reveal the official cover for my upcoming novel, Faked Out, the companion novel to the internationally bestselling Faking It! The book, told from Devin's point of view, will be released in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats on June 1.
I've had a vision for this cover for a long time, and my wonderful husband executed a fabulous design. (And you thought he only wrote books! He wears many hats.
See the back cover copy below. And don't forget to leave a comment too!
Are you a fan of Faking It? Here’s the other side of the story...
Is this your introduction to Devin and Andi? Settle in for a one-of-a-kind love story...
As an escort, Devin has it all—an upscale loft in Manhattan, an extensive art collection, a hefty bank account, and an endless stream of satisfied female clients. But when writing professor Andi Cutrone proposes a unique arrangement—lessons in sex from him in exchange for lessons in writing from her—he eagerly accepts, intrigued with Andi’s direct manner and obvious intellect.
Soon, however, Devin discovers he got more than he bargained for with an arrangement he says is all business but increasingly becomes something else entirely. The more time Devin spends with Andi, the more he realizes he wants out of the escort business—and, more than that, he wants her. But just as he’s about to cut the cord, Devin’s estranged father reveals not only that he has cancer but also that financial troubles are threatening his parents’ home. Devin’s only chance to make peace with his father and secure his mother’s future is to keep doing the one thing they despise, and to keep Andi at arm’s length, even as he longs to hold on to her forever.
Elisa Lorello’s Faking It books have been worldwide bestsellers. Now, she’s brought all of the passion of the original to this, its companion novel. With Faked Out, readers will feel like it’s their first time all over again.
Want to read a FREE teaser? Enter your email address below and I'll send it to you!
Did you know that my seventh novel, The Second First Time, began as a different title? And did you know it was inspired by an (almost) actual event?
I’ll tell you all about it.
The Second First Time is about “a second chance at once in a lifetime,” to coin a phrase my aunt Gabriele often says of her marriage to my uncle Joe, the second for both of them. The novel, about two friends who make a second attempt at love after a false start and a cancelled road trip, was, in a way, a false start as well.
Flashback to February 2015…
I had been contracted to write Pasta Wars in late fall of 2014, and I was under a tight deadline to finish a first draft by March 1, 2015. I had recently moved back to my native Long Island, and I was nursing a broken heart. Pasta Wars was helping me in that I was determined to write true romantic comedy, and was writing scenes that made me laugh. However, after reading an article about a study in which two strangers were paired to answer questions that grew increasingly personal and intimate to determine if they, too, would connect in personal in intimate ways, the idea for The Second First Time—originally titled The Do-Over—was conceived. In fact, the idea was so loud and demanding to be written that I had to interrupt writing Pasta Wars and write as much as I could before I had no choice but to resume Pasta Wars and make my deadline.
I wrote 30,000 words of The Do-Over in two weeks.
The Do-Over had been an apt title in its original conception. I’d started writing the book when I thought my best friend—a fellow novelist who lived in Montana—and I not only weren’t going to get together as a couple, but also weren’t going to be able to repair our friendship that had taken a hit. One of the things I love about writing novels is that, as Nora Ephron said through her character in Heartburn, I get to control the story. Since my friend and I never got to take our road trip in reality, I figured we’d take one on the page, so to speak, and answer the questions I had seen in the news article. Only we’d do it vicariously through Sage Merriweather and Jonathan Moss.
In other words, I needed the do-over, a chance to work things out the way I’d them wanted to. I wanted to tell the story my way. And I figured as long as I’d get my way on the page, then the reality would be no big deal.
After those two weeks and 30,000 words, I resumed Pasta Wars. And then something happened.
Not only did we find our way back to our friendship (not in as dramatic fashion as Sage and Jon), but we also fell in love—the real deal, this time—and by the time Pasta Wars was done and The Do-Over was contracted for publication, we were engaged to be married. We even took our road trip!
Turns out the story did go the way I’d wanted to. We’d gotten our do-over before I had a chance to finish it on paper.
Obviously, I was overjoyed about the way things had turned out. But as a writer, this unexpected romantic turn of events had actually worked against me. I found myself at a loss for the emotional thread and motivation of the story. Whenever I write a novel, I need to be emotionally connected to the main character in one way or another. I need to empathize with her (or him). I need to relate to her struggle in one form or another, be it dealing with loss or rejection or self-confidence. The initial spark of the story had fizzled out, and the stakes were no longer present, if they ever had been in the first place.
The idea was still there, however. I just had to figure out how to make it work, and make a new personal connection to it.
In an earlier incarnation, I’d tried to work in a love triangle, but it didn’t seem authentic and the dynamic didn’t work. In reality my friend—and fiancé—and I had done the inner emotional work we’d both needed to do to be able to come back to each other. And we’d done it while separated. Sage, however, had a long way to go in terms of shedding her baggage, and thus the road trip was an inner journey as well as an outer journey for her. I had dug deep and thought about what I had struggled with throughout much singlehood in my twenties and thirties, and from there the new what-if was born. Sage’s do-over went deeper than working things out with Jon. She needed to re-purpose her life’s story, especially where her father was concerned.
The result was a story and a novel that was quite different from the one that had busted out of my chest like the alien during those two weeks in February, but also one I loved when I’d finished it.
The title change had been suggested by my publisher, Lake Union. I had been resistant at first, but my editor, literary agent, and fiancé had convinced me to consider it. My husband had said, “What about The First Next Time, sweetheart?” I made one little change, and we all agreed it was the way to go. I made some final rewrites and edits to the book to support the change, and then it was go for launch.
The Second First Time launched about six weeks after Craig’s and my wedding. We even took a road trip across New England for our honeymoon.
My second chance at once in a lifetime is a love story. The Second First Time is also a love story, both the writing of it and the story itself. As a reviewer said, “This is how real life love goes. Ups and downs, insecurity, overthinking, honesty and communication it’s all there, wrapped up in love and respect.”
That’s exactly what I want my readers to walk away with.
Do you have a second chance story? Tell me about it in the Comments!
The time has come for me to reflect on what’s behind me and what’s ahead of me. In some ways, 2017 was a disappointment. In other ways, it was a pleasant success. And overall, it was a valuable learning experience.
I made 2017 all about gratitude. Save for a small handful of days, I kept a daily journal in which I listed ten (sometimes more) things, people, outcomes, etc., for which I was grateful. This practice was uplifting on good days and reinforcing on bad days. No matter what, I was never in shortage of gratitude.
Personally, I dug into my first year of marriage. People say that first year is always the hardest, and I believe it. My husband and I faced unexpected financial challenges, which changed our lifestyle trajectory, and health challenges, which have a way of putting everything into perspective. And yet, we were grateful to retain many of the qualities of our lifestyle we value—freedom and flexibility to take a couple of road trips (including Devil's Tower in Wyoming and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, Arizona to attend my brother’s wedding, and Texas to celebrate Thanksgiving with my in-laws); start a freelance editing and book-building business; and—something I had been wanting for many years—adopt a sweet tuxedo cat. My husband and I continued to grow as partners, lovers, and, most importantly, friends. We still laugh together almost every day. Even when we’re not in the same time zone.
We also made a decision to relocate to the East Coast this coming spring. Leaving the Billings, Montana, community that so lovingly embraced me, and the place where my husband’s roots are planted deep, is not going to be easy. But the idea of new adventures, as well as proximity to the ocean and other people and places dear to me, excites both of us.
Professionally, 2017 ended with several highlights:
Yet, I struggled in other areas. I had attempted yet again—and failed, yet again—to maintain a connection to readers via this blog. In fact, I spent much of the year wanting to engage with readers and writers via social media and other options. Other goals, personal and professional, fizzled out.
These are all first-world failures, so to speak. If these are the worst of my shortcomings, then my life is, and continues to be, well-blessed.
So what’s in store for 2018?
I wrote a blog post for The Writer’s Habit about setting goals—I had tailored the post to target my primary audience of writers, but it was inspired by a webinar I had taken hosted by Michael Hyatt for audiences ranging from entrepreneurs to teachers to students to creative professionals to employees of all kinds at every level. As Hyatt says and I have practiced for years, it’s not recommended to share your goals with people outside your inner circle, but I will share one with you here, one that I think will be the game-changer between 2017 and 2018:
Leave my comfort zone as often as possible.
When I examine what I didn’t achieve this past year, whether personally or professionally, the number one reason was that I had been too afraid or reluctant to leave my comfort zone, resulting in giving up on some goals and never getting started on others. I was afraid to take risks. I read and learned a lot, but had difficulty applying what I’d learned. This year I am committed to bringing this particular brand of courage to everything I do, be it writing, teaching, building/growing, and/or moving. I’ll do it with my best friend and favorite person by my side. I’ll do it by thinking from the end and working my way back. I’ll do it with positive affirmations and tracking/measuring my results. I’ll do it one day at a time.
I’d entered 2017 worried. I’m entering 2018 determined. That, too, makes all the difference.
What will 2018 be for you? I encourage you to aim high, leave your comfort zone, and, above all, keep reading.
Hello! I’m excited to tell you that my eighth novel and tenth book, Big Skye Littleton, launched successfully yesterday. At the time of this writing, the book is ranked in the Top 500 in the Kindle Store and the reviews keep coming in. I’m hearing things like “I can’t put it down!”
I had a lot of help getting the word out, and I want to say thanks with a giveaway. There will be three prizes total:
Winners will be announced on Thursday, September 7.
To enter, click here, enter your email address, and that’s it! Everyone who enters gets a FREE feng shui bagua map.A bagua map is a tool used in the practice of Western feng shui.
To use the map:
Have fun with this! You can map out your entire home, an entire floor, or even just one room. I even organized my desk using the map!
For some fun tips, you can go to this site.
Share with your friends! Tell them to go to elisalorello.com to enter the drawing and receive their FREE map.
Thanks, and good luck!
I made a series of four videos in which I discuss my new novel, Big Skye Littleton. In Part 1, I talk about the main character, Skye Littleton. In Part 2, I talk about what I believe the book's main theme to be.
Parts 3 and 4 will be up next week. Enjoy!
(Thanks to my brother, Mike, for his original music and editing!)
Great news! Big Skye Littleton, my eighth novel, will be officially released on August 22. Meanwhile, I've received some advanced copies of the audiobook version, and narrator Rachel Fulginiti did such a terrific job that I want to share it with you.
All you have to do is sign the form below and you will automatically be entered to win. If you've already signed up for my mailing list, then you're already entered! The drawing will be closed on Monday, July 24. Two winners--one for the MP-3 version and one for the CD version--will be announced on Tuesday, July, 25.
Skye Littleton said goodbye to her job, her best friend, and her home in Rhode Island to start over in Billings, Montana, with Vance Sandler, a gorgeous guy she met online. On her cross-country flight, Skye shares her happy story with her seatmate, Harvey Wright, a Billings resident who knows Vance—and his reputation for heartbreak. Harvey’s infuriating advice to Skye? Go home.
Lorrine T. asks: Hi Elisa- I've always wondered what it takes for a working, successful writer to get to that place of focus where you can be productive. I’ve heard some use music, and some create a special writer’s space. What helps you get to that place?
Elisa answers: That’s a great question, Lorrine. I think every author would answer this differently. My greatest weakness has always been poor time management skills, so focus and productivity is something I occasionally struggle with, especially in the last two years when so many life changes have happened. When I was single, I had more or less a set routine that focused predominantly on my work. Now I have spousal responsibilities that include helping to care for my father-in-law, a bigger household, and pets. We also have a side business now, so I’m not solely writing books anymore.
When it comes to writing, I need to avoid procrastination. That means finding the discipline to stay off social media and make writing the priority.
Space is important too. My husband and I each have a room in the basement for our offices. However, lately I’ve been ending up in other places in the house, like my bedroom, or I go to the library, where I can stare out the window. I feel a little guilty about that, given that I’ve got a perfectly good office space! I think the room needs a couch so it feels more like a studio and less like a formal office (although it’s painted tangerine—not many formal offices are tangerine). I need a more comfortable desk chair too. Both are on my wish list.
When writing, I need relative quiet. I don’t like to write with music or TV in the background. Writing in a coffee shop is different; for some reason, I’m able to tune out that white noise, although if the place is too loud or busy, then I’m unable to concentrate.
If I’m in the drafting stage of a novel, I set a word count goal and do my best to meet it. If I’m in the revision stage, I usually work on a couple of chapters per day, depending on how problematic the writing is. If I’m in the editing stage, then I set a page count goal. If I’m struggling in any of those areas, I either go for a long walk or drive, or take a shower for as long as the hot water holds out. All three of those things will help me get unstuck or recharge my battery.
I tend to work in 45- or 60-minute time blocks with frequent breaks. My husband and I are increasingly busy with additional projects and responsibilities, so we try to connect and touch base throughout the day whenever we can. Sometimes we’ll go for a walk. Sometimes we’ll have lunch. Sometimes we’ll take a nap. Sometimes we just pop in on each other and say hello. It’s very important to us that we maintain connection no matter what, for the sake of our relationship as well as our work.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.