My long time blogging friend, now turned famous Sirius XM Radio host and stand up comedienne Jennifer Fulwiler dropped her third book, ‘Your Blue Flame: Drop the Guilt and Do What Makes You Come Alive’ this week (affiliate link here and below). I was blessed to get a copy in advance, but because I never updated Jen with my new address it went to my old house where my husband finally picked it up from our tenants on what was the book’s official release date. They also gave him a loaf of homemade banana bread so it made the day extra special for everyone.
When Jen released her second book ‘One Beautiful Dream’, she offered a bonus to those on her email list, or who preordered a copy- I can’t remember which- called ‘A Quickstart Guide To Find Your Gifts’. I still have the 16 page pdf file saved in my Google Drive. At the time I thought, “This is great. This could become a book in it’s own right!” And low and behold it has. Jen took the basic questions she outlined in that short ebook, and turned it into a great resource for helping people discover and follow their passion.
When I answered the questioned as originally outlined in Jen’s bonus, I felt no closer to discovering a new special “blue flame” as she calls it, than any other time in my life. I wanted more- I wanted 2020’s ‘Your Blue Flame’ back then! At the time I enjoyed writing, thus the blog, but for years I struggled to figure out what the goal of the blog was. At first it was a release from the stresses of parenting and homeschooling a pack of young, wild children. Soon after I felt the pressure to grow it, to find my “niche” and make money somehow. But I couldn’t figure out what it was that made me and my writing unique. I didn’t like writing about just homeschooling, so I couldn’t be a homeschool blogger, same with fashion, my faith, and even humorous posts- I didn’t want to limit myself to just one type of writing, despite the fact that becoming an expert in one thing seemed to be the only way anyone made a name for themselves. At least that’s how it seemed to me. I started to not enjoy blogging for it’s own sake because I was too busy comparing myself to others and feeling like a failure. Why didn’t I have more readers or followers? Why did the products I develop not sell as well as the products of others? I blamed my poor writing, laziness, and overwhelming family obligations for what I perceived as a lack of success in what originally was to be a hobby I started just to make myself and maybe some other people laugh and forget their problems! My blog was already not feeling like a blue flame when I read Jen’s bonus, but I couldn’t see what else I might be called towards. I also didn’t see how resistance, imposter syndrome, an external locus of control- all things Jen very eloquently discusses in this new book- were preventing me from enjoying all the things I had accomplished with my blog.
I have lots of interests and things I would love to try, but homeschooling, caregiving, parenting, financial setbacks, etc. gave me limited time, energy, and resources to go too crazy. So I started writing a book. I’d always wanted to write a book, most of the bloggers I admired had written books- it seemed like the next logical step for someone who wanted to write, but needed a new outlet. Encouraged by Jen, I started typing out a memoir and after pouring out my heart every Saturday for months into my laptop, I hit a wall. I didn’t know what else I wanted to say, or what the point of my book even was, so I reached out to an editor that had approached me before with a possible book idea. I told her what I had and that I wanted to do something with my story. With her help I was able to see how I could take my experiences and not just share them, but organize them in a way that was useful to other parents. I’d hoped that by telling my story, other special needs parents might glean some helpful advice, but now I saw how this new framework would allow me to share my experiences in a way that would help Catholic parents raising special needs children in concrete ways.
Just like with homeschooling, humor, etc. I didn’t want to be “just” a special needs blogger, in fact I didn’t like sharing too much about Fulton and Teddy and what it was like to be their mom early on in my blogging days. It wasn’t until other parents started emailing me that I realized maybe I was supposed to share a bit more of that side of my life- that it might help other people. Eventually I got a book deal with the help of that editor, and as I worked on and researched for my book, I saw where resources and support were lacking for Catholic special needs parents. And as I scrolled through Facebook groups, I saw how so many parents were struggling in ways completely unique to Catholics. I worked harder to make sure my book would be useful to these people. Because I knew it would look good to my publisher if I got more speaking under my belt, I looked for places where I could speak and encourage Catholic special needs parents….and I didn’t find any. I asked around- surely there were events for Catholic parents in need of this unique type of support, but no one knew of any. So I just started a conference and made big bold promises I wasn’t even sure I could keep.
At some point between finishing my manuscript and throwing together a conference, I realized I’d found a new purpose, a new blue flame. Sometimes I’d worry about this new niche I’d fallen into- it was too narrow! I should try to reach special needs parents of all faiths! or find a way to make my message about joy and hope apply to all Catholics! How could I ever sell enough books, gain enough followers, speak at enough events, if I focused on only this relatively small group of people??? Would I lose all my non-special needs readers? But ultimately I remained undeterred. Even after the conference was not as successful as I would’ve liked, I didn’t think for a second that I should abandon my new mission, but I started to think about how to make another conference better, and while in the hospital with Teddy while he recovered from pneumonia, I created a whole new website to house a collection of resources, and started a new Facebook group with the hope of bringing together Catholic parents who needed help learning to “accept the gift” of a special needs child. Once I settled into this blue flame, I realized I was no longer comparing myself to other people either. Someone else’s successful book or blog or whatever was great! I had no desire to try to mimic their style or success because I’d found my focus, and I didn’t have room for anything outside that, not even envy.
I’m glad Jen’s book came out now because I’d been feeling discouraged during quarantine because I haven’t made as much progress on parts of the new website as I’d hoped. Distance learning and caregiving is eating up all the time and energy I thought I’d have to update things, and many of my contributing writers (special needs parents themselves) are also stretched extra thin right now. But reading “Your Blue Flame” helped reaffirm my belief in what I’m doing, and I folded the corners of many pages to remind me of additional steps to take to pick myself up when I’m feeling down, and how to refine my vision further and make sure my “why” is clear to everyone.
If you have a blue flame, this book will motivate you to keep going and fight against the voices that tell you what you’re doing doesn’t matter. If you don’t have a blue flame, this book will light a fire under you to find one and give you a clear road map to follow. You don’t need to be Jennifer Fulwiler to find your blue flame; that’s one myth she lays to rest right away. The goal isn’t to be the next Jennifer Fulwiler, your goal is to find what makes you as happy as Jennifer Fulwiler when she’s talking about gangsta rap for two hours or killing it on stage. Finding satisfaction in life by cultivating your blue flame is possible for anyone. You are the only thing standing in your way. Certainly, there will be circumstances that make it hard to sometimes follow your calling, but see them for what they are, bumps in the road that slow you down, not road blocks that prohibit you from moving forward entirely.
Obviously, I’m recommending the book. Especially right now for people who have time on their hands thanks to the quarantine. Even if things seem crazy right now, or you’re not flush with free time, this book might put you down a new path once things start to get back to normal. Who knows? If the rest of the world is changing, seems like the perfect time to break free from whatever is holding you back and try something new.
In the mean time, write down some takes and link them up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!
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Thanks for the review! I’m putting it on my to-read list as we speak.
I wondered if the Blue Flame had a referent in the Bunsen burner.
[was very chary and wary in the experimental science work as a young thing].
Getting a picture in my head of Beatrix Potter and how she drew this mouse and a Bunsen burner for her Uncle who wrote a Science textbook.
If my blue flame story turns out anything like yours…I’m not going to lie, I’m a little terrified of where it might lead me.
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