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Trust Your Instincts-When Something Feels Off, It Is

Trust your instincts—easier said than done sometimes, right? I’m an overthinker by nature, and I can talk myself into anything. That being said, I am an empath, and I have incredible instincts. So why, oh, why is it so hard to trust them? And why do I still make that mistake time and time again?

No one likes to make mistakes, but every once in a while, you do learn a thing or two about yourself in the process. I can safely say I am not the same person I was a year ago. I’ve grown and grown up. There was no handbook or guard rails for this last year. I made it through, but not without a few minor mishaps and one rather large one along the way.

I think I’m a pretty resilient person, and I’ve always been proud of that. I lost a mother after a long illness in my twenties, a sister suddenly in my thirties, and then a father in my forties. But nothing, and I mean nothing, I’ve been through prepared me for sending my oldest to college. I realize this may sound a bit dramatic, but if you’ve sent a child to college, then you get me. Letting them go is like losing a piece of your heart and soul. In the months leading up to August, I was in a haze of impending grief, still gripping to a reality I knew was about to slip away. That is partly why, last January, I decided to write my second novel, HOUSE IN BLOOM. It was my way of navigating and sorting through feelings that felt bottomless.

House in Bloom book by Jennifer O'Brien

As most of you know, my passion for writing materialized about five years ago. My cousin was writing a memoir, and it inspired me to bring my own stories to life. I wrote book one and found an agent. She got so freakin close to selling it, but it wasn’t in the cards. I spent an entire summer rewriting it, and yet it still sits in my drawer. From what I gather, this is fairly common for first manuscripts, but it doesn’t lessen the sense of failure. It was after that we amicably parted ways, and I began book two. It was finished in early April of last year. From there, I queried agents and publishers once again. It was daunting, to say the least. But I suppose it kept me looking forward instead of behind me, where all the cherished memories of motherhood still lived.

Be The Main Character of Your Own Story. City Farmhouse by Jennifer O'Brien

In mid-late April, I felt confident. A manuscript(or any piece of art) is NEVER really done, but I was happy with where it was. There was a mix of emotions. A part of me wanted an agent desperately. But I also knew I had waited so long already and wanted my work out into the world. I wouldn’t say I was impatient, but I knew what I wanted from a timing perspective. I had a good attitude about it. Let’s face it: getting rejected is never easy. But I believed in my writing and my storytelling ability. And since my expectations had matured, I thought from a logical standpoint I was in good shape.

City Farmhouse by Jennifer O'Brien. Shelter Island, NY

Typically, agents and publishers have two slow times of the year. The summer and Thanksgiving to New Year’s. So once June hit in my querying journey, it was slow. But I did hear back from an editor at a small press. After a few minor edits, I sent it back. I heard from them in late August, the day before we left to drop Shane off at College. And they had sent over a contract! To be traditionally published is most writer’s dream come true. I took almost the full four weeks to ponder the decision. You are giving away the rights to the book for the next five years. I asked a lot of questions, spoke with fellow authors, and thought I had all my T’s crossed. But something still didn’t feel right, and this was the origin of my mistake.

When Something Feels Off, It Is. Abraham Hicks

As a mother, woman, and basic human, my instincts are never wrong! Ever! Yet, I didn’t listen to them and signed with them anyway. The cover was my biggest concern because I wanted it to be an expansion of the brand (City Farmhouse) I built. The book has a Nancy Meyers meets If Walls Could Talk vibe and flavor. And what comes to mind when you think about a good Nancy Meyers aesthetic, summer, beach, and most likely the film As Good As It Gets, right? I was diligent in making my hopes known and even created visuals. Let’s just say we weren’t on the same page or even in the same book, for that matter. I ended up walking away from my contract. Which caused me an immense amount of anxiety and stress. All because I didn’t listen to my gut instinct.

Jennifer O'Brien Writer City Farmhouse

There’s more: the day I sent in my signed contract with the small press after waiting four weeks, I got a full manuscript request from an agent. I was beside myself thinking if I had waited one more day (I had 31 days). Because my gut was telling me to wait, and I didn’t listen, this hit even harder. But I did reach back out to her after I broke the book contract. And guess what? Rachelle Gardner is now my agent. It turned out still was still interested. You can read more of a book update HERE.

So, the lesson(s) here is to listen to your instincts, what’s meant to be will be, and be the lead in your own story. And when something feels off, it is.

Have a happy day,

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