I am reading Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please right now [love]. I especially enjoyed the preface, entitled “Writing is Hard: a Preface.”

amy-poehler-yespleaseThis year more than others I’m intimately aware of that statement. Writing a book is a bitch, but one that is worth it.  The thing is it’s not about the result–it’s about the work. There is beauty, bloody guts and somehow magic in it. And when you are doing something you love, even when it’s hard, it fulfills like nothing else.

Here are some words, better than what I have for you, from Amy Poehler’s preface:

“So what do I do? What do we do? How do we move forward when we are tired and afraid? What do we do when the voice in our head is yelling that WE ARE NEVER GONNA MAKE IT? How do we drag ourselves through the muck when our brain is telling us youaredumbandyouwillneverfinishandnoonecaresanditistimeyoustop?

Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out. You may still hear the brain and all the shitty things it is saying to you, but it will be muffled, and just the fact that it is not in your head anymore will make things seem clearer. And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book.

So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready…”

Keep it up my friends! Find that thing you believe in doing and do the hell out of it! Happy New Year.  Here’s to many wonderful years to all of us!

A friend posted this on Facebook today and I had to share it with you. Jim Carrey is one of my favorite comedians, but he is also profound.

Go ahead, ask the Universe for what you really want. Work toward it, let go of how it comes to pass. Have faith.

Do what you were meant to do.

If you want to see the speech from which these excerpts came, check it out here:

Mariah Carey’s self-titled album (her debut album actually) was the first CD I owned.  I can still remember sitting on our back deck one summer, at dusk. Our brand new black boombox that had a–wait for it–CD player, was set near the steps.  I peeled the cellophane wrapper of the CD and in a rare moment of secular-music-listening-pleasure, I heard Mariah’s stunning voice, clearer than any radio broadcast.

I still love me some Mimi (even though she ditched her curly hair) and when this song popped up on my Pandora feed today I just had to share with you.  It is one of my faves from that era.  A time in my life when I felt small, but had big dreams.

So keep going y’all!  I know I am.  I am making this happen. And for the first time in my life, I feel like I am living to my potential.  I hope you are too!

“If you believe in yourself enough

And know what you want
You’re gonna make it happen
Make it happen”

For those of us who are struggling to produce something worthwhile, striving to make our art, perhaps even our magnum opus, it can sometimes seem like we’re just treading water. Like we are barely keeping our heads above the waves, let alone being able to swim to shore.

We want our work to be great – earth-shatteringly so. But we know it’s not quite there yet. We know we’ve got a ways to go. (ooh, that rhymes)

This video defines that ‘gap’ (& what to do about it) through the art of Ira Glass and David Shiyang Liu and Frohlocke.

Sit back and enjoy this little nugget of inspiration:

Ok. Now, back to work!

A walk in the park.  Our busy lives make it seem so difficult.

I’m making the simple act of walking more of a priority in my daily life. And boy howdy, does it change my mood. It was good to just be in the moment. To feel the wonder again. Here are a few photos from my stroll this morning. (I’m no photographer, but hope these bring you some peace anyway. )

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start admiring the little things again.

 

I’ve so got this, I thought one afternoon, driving down the freeway.  I was thinking about a new section of the book I was writing.  I felt so happy, so lucky.  I had been trying to figure out how I was going to structure this one part of the book and it had finally come to me.  I recorded an audio note on my iPhone as I drove to my writing class.  Excitement and passion swelled my chest.  I whispered a little prayer of thanks.  In that moment I could visualize all the pieces falling into place, my dreams materializing.  Fuzzy figures in the distance, they transformed into sharp focus.  God, it was a good feeling. Awesome, in fact.

The next day, good feelings gone, I muddled through a thoroughly critiqued (by my peers) chapter of my book, trying to find the right words. That old familiar feeling resurfaced–fear & self-deprecation.  My Inner Negative-Nelly chimed in:  Really, you think you can do this?  You couldn’t even do this one chapter perfectly.  Maybe you aren’t really meant to do this.  Maybe you have no idea what you’re doing, or worse, maybe you just don’t even have it in you to produce something good.  Maybe you should just give up.

The tendrils of paralysis began to twist and unfurl their way into my motivation. Realizing what I was headed for, I spurted, “Nope! F-that.”  I’m not slipping down that spiral again.  Screw it, I’m going to muddle through this whatever it takes.  Because sometimes, I am awesome. Even if I don’t feel like that right now.

Those who risk doing something they love, something they feel drawn to do, something they feel strongly about, will experience doubt.  It’s human nature. It’s normal.  And honestly, I think it’s the universe testing your resolve.  It’s probably not going to be all smooth sailing for most of us.  But that’s precisely what gives the experience intrinsic value.

We’ve all heard the adage: If it was easy, everyone would do it.  I’d also like to add: If it was easy, it just wouldn’t be that great.  If everyone wrote like Mary Karr, Joan Didion, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, their craft would not be so powerful.  If everyone could paint like Picasso or Michelangelo – their art would be considered average.  While there’s no doubt these artists are insanely talented, none of them just woke up one day and were perpetually awesome.  They tried and failed. Their work “sucked” sometimes, but through that failure they did not give up.  They didn’t give up because they knew deep down they had something special to share with the world.  You’ve got that thing too — that thing that only you can give to this world.

If you’ve already committed to following your dream, whatever that may be, the question is no longer whether you will continue, but rather, how well you will do this thing.  But when you’re drowning in that sea of self-depreciation, flailing and feeling like shit about your efforts/talents, you need some kind of buoy to cling to.  Allow me to throw you your buoy (or life-raft): remember a time when you were awesome.  As your negative thoughts pull down on you fight back by recalling a time when you felt like you could conquer the world.

Here are some prompts to get you thinking about times when you were awesome.  Go through this list.  Write down your ideas.  Next time you feel like you’re drowning, you can grab on to one of these and begin swimming back to shore.

-Describe a time when you felt most at peace. What had you done to get there?

-Think of the moment when you first had the idea to do this (whatever it is you’re venturing to do)

-Remember a moment you realized that you were going to be OK.

-Recall when you received a compliment that meant a lot to you – what was it? Own it.

-Write down an occasion when you finished something you were proud of.

-Note any goal you’ve achieved (whether it’s losing a pound, telling someone how you felt or anything).

-Recall a fear you faced (& maybe even conquered).

-Savor the memory of a meal that you made especially well.

-Make note of an award you received.

-Stumped?  Ask some trusted friends what it is that they like most about you, or one of their favorite memories of you.

and the list goes on…

You get the idea.  Build up the cadre of examples of when you were awesome and you’ll beat back the doldrums quicker than ever before.

Hope that helps.  Remember:  Believe in yourself, even if you’re the only one who does. (If you build it, they will come)

So the next time you’re feeling low, just remember when you were awesome.

If you have other tips, please share below. 🙂 Or if you want to share something about yourself that is just, well, awesome please do!

 

 

First, I want to just give a shout out to all of the wonderful people in my life who’ve encouraged and supported me through this first year – especially my boyfriend. Thank you all! And thank YOU, for actually reading this! I’m humbled and honored that you’d even want to read it. I hope it inspires you in your journey. 😀

I started this blog one year ago, today. I’ve been wracking my brain for days/weeks trying to figure out what to say, how to update you on this past year’s progress. I’d love to tell you that I’m now a best-selling author and I’m touring the world inspiring others. But of course, real life is so much more complex than that. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m decidedly not a best-selling author, yet. 😉

I’d like to share a story with you.

When I was 10 years old my family threw a party at our local water-park, Windsor WaterWorks. It was an uncharacteristically gloomy August day in Sonoma County. Gray clouds covered the sky and threatened rain with occasional random drops here and there.

“It’ll clear up,” my dad said, as we packed our car and piled in. It was a special occasion, a joint 6th birthday party for my cousin Vincent and my brother, Luke. We were not about to let a few clouds get in the way of the celebration.

The clouds began to dissipate a little as we arrived at the park. Before the adults could set down the bags of party supplies at the picnic tables under the oak trees, we kids started begging to go on the water slides. I was so excited. We had driven by this freeway-side water park so many times and now there we were, about to actually glide down the water slides into the pools below. Vincent, Luke, Aunt Victoria, my Mom and I headed toward the first tower of slides. At the bottom of the wooden staircase an attendant handed us flimsy, blue foam mats.

“Which slide do you want to go on first Andrea? Level 1 or Level 2?” my aunt Victoria asked, her hand on my shoulder. Mom stood just behind her, an inquisitive smile on her face.

“Let’s do Level 1 first and then I want to try all four slides!” I bubbled excitedly. I could picture myself sliding down, feeling the wind in my hair, the rush of the water splashing my cheeks. My mom and aunt followed close behind as my cousin and brother hurried up the stairs ahead of me. As we crisscrossed back and forth, going higher and higher, I looked down. My heart jumped up into my throat. Oh, god what had I gotten myself into? We were up so high. The wooden beams didn’t seem so strong now. As we walked under the blue fiberglass slide it would shake and sway a little as the shadow of a person slid quickly past. When we reached the top I could see the twists of the blue tube and the small pool below. It didn’t look nearly big enough to catch a person flying down the slide at those speeds.

At the top, my cousin and brother flung down their blue mats with ease; one after another sitting and scooting themselves off into the tube slide. It was my turn. I stepped into the little pool of water at the top of the slide. I could feel the water pulling, rushing past my legs and down the slide. The attendant waved for me to put my mat down. I looked back at my mom, eyes wide, face contorted with utter dread.

“It’s ok hunny, you wanted to do this, remember?” she attempted to reassure me, with a smile.

“It’s ok, Andrea, just sit on your mat, you’ll see it’s not that bad.” my aunt said. She stepped into the pool beside me. I laid my mat down on the platform carefully and held my aunt’s hand as I positioned myself on it.

“I can’t do it, I’m too scared,” I squirmed, realizing the error of my ways, as the water rushed past my hands.

“C’mon, Andrea, if Luke and Vince can do it, you can too. We’re coming down right after you.” Mom pleaded. The attendant grimaced at us and impatiently asserted for me to go. The line was backing up behind us. I looked down at the tube again.

Unbeknownst to me, Mom motioned to Aunt Victoria to just go ahead and push me, that’d I’d be fine.

“Trust me,” she whispered to my aunt. All of the sudden I felt a firm push on my back and I was sliding into the tube. I screamed, flung my legs out to the side and slowed down a little. I hung on to my little blue mat with a white-knuckled, abalone grip. Taking a breath, I realized I was actually having fun. I splashed into the little pool at the end of the slide. Surfacing, I blew the water out of my nose, and swam to the side.

“What took you so long?” my brother whined, hand on his hip, smile stretching across his face. His white-blond hair swept back by the water.

For the rest of the day I rode that slide, and only that slide, nearly non-stop. Mom knew best.

Last year I was able to push myself to start pursuing my dream before I was ready to. (Thanks for the lesson, Mom) It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I flailed about in the beginning, trying to get my bearings. But let me tell you, now, I am having such a good time! I am so excited and fulfilled, knowing I am actively participating in crafting my dream. I don’t have the guilt nagging away anymore. That “I really should start that book someday” feeling is gone because I started it, and I’m doing it, day by day, making my dream come true. Every day is not a cake-walk, but it’s so much better than before.

Here are just some of the things that have changed since I committed to following my dream, one year ago:

  • The universe has aligned in ways I can’t be specific about yet, but I am blown away by how things have fit together and worked out this year. I feel like I have a new life.
  • I left two jobs that were no longer right for me.
  • I started going back to school –and I LOVE it!
  • I did several personal writing challenges – writing every day for 30, 60 & 90 day increments
  • I met some amazing new people who share the writing lifestyle
  • I started reading and doing the exercises in The Artist’s Way, as well as other creativity-building activities.
  • I write every day, except weekends. (But sometimes those too)
  • I feel happier, more peaceful and more fulfilled.
  • I have learned so much about writing, and how there is so much more to learn. Ha ha.
  • My relationship with my children has deepened – no easy task with teenagers.
  • My relationship with my boyfriend has deepened.
  • My children are happier and more actively pursuing their dreams.
  • I started actively writing the memoir I have wanted to write for the past decade.
  • I can now see the vision of my dream coming to life in vivid lines and color. And boy, is that a good feeling.

So, I’m not telling you all of this to toot my own horn. Far from thatI want you to know that no matter who you are and where you are in life you can start making your dream come true – today. But the key is you have to START and fully COMMIT to it.

For some it might be baby steps and others may have tons of time to devote to it. But I share this with you to show you that it’s not necessarily going to happen in an instant. It’s a hard, fantastic road, and you may, like me, not make it all happen in the first year (or more). But that doesn’t matter. It will happen. When it is meant to. But know this, even if things aren’t going great, when you’re doing all you can to pursue your life’s purpose, there is a peace and happiness that transcends the fear.

If you haven’t started yet, consider this your push!

(Oh & hey, if you still aren’t sure what your dream is that’s ok, keep exploring, it took me years to finally realize what my dream was.)

Hugs y’all,

Andrea

[Curious how it started? See my first post.]

Warning:  What follows is very raw, unpolished and deeply personal.  I cried as I wrote this.  I’m sharing it with you because I want you to know there is freedom from what holds you back right now.  And, maybe just maybe, if I show you my fears, you will realize you’re not alone in yours.

Have you ever faced your demons head on?  Have you ever written down what you were afraid of?  Last June I did this, in the form of a writing exercise from Courage & Craft (Barbara Abercrombie).

The gist of the prompt was this:  Write about what keeps you from writing (you could insert whatever it is you struggle with here).  Give this thing a color, shape, sound, a voice, a texture, etc.  

So here goes…

“6/7/2013

It’s a fire-breathing dragon at first, floating in the air, it comes from the right, claws tracted, sharp teeth bearing.  A guttural roar comes from its throat, like a thousand lions, it shakes me.  I feel that its talons will tear me apart. I can feel his flaming hot body warming my skin, his hot breath, sulfurous in my face. He is telling me NO!  I will tear you apart if you write this!  You are not allowed to write this, his gurgling roar says without words.  He’s floating there, menacing on the right side of my visual field.  It is dark all around and I’m scared to tears.  If I fail, he’ll tear me apart, but this drive within me keeps picking away at me making it more uncomfortable NOT to write.

The swirling gray and black pit now threatens below me.  A whirlpool of fear and doubt attempts to drag me down and then money, paper bills start falling from the sky over me.  The bills turn to stones and as I sink into the pit the stones pile up and cover me entirely. “

And then I kept writing anyway, in fact, even more.

We all have our fears and demons to exercise.  Mine are failure, what other people think (silly I know) and lack of money.  It’s hard to pursue something just for the love of it, for the absolute faith that it will turn into something worthwhile, something that transcends the value of money.  It’s scary as hell.  But I’m done playing small.  I’m finally standing up for what I believe in for my future.  I know I have something important to give – there’s no doubt in my mind.

How about you?

You have greatness within you.  Whatever it is that you want to contribute to this world – do it.  You only have so many years left to make your mark!

Try doing the above exercise yourself!  Write about your absolute worst fears – what paralyzes and shatters you. (& please tell me about it.)

 

Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re just putting your dream “out there” and suddenly the Universe/God takes notice and decides to throw you a bone?  Those moments are divine.   Last week was like a big “Yep, you’re on the right track, kiddo,” from God.  It seemed that inspiration came from every outlet I was exposed to.  Friends, colleagues and family provided new tools, so much in fact that it took me a few days to process.

It feels like optimism is literally flowing through my veins.  And I want to share that with you!

I have to taste-tested each of these resources before I recommend them to you.

Snag these creative resources to start your year off right:

Click image to download

1.  Visit the lovely Susannah Conway’s website and download her free Unraveling the Year Ahead 2014 workbook.  Sometimes we all just need a little hand-holding when it comes to figuring out what’s next.  This workbook is a great tool.  Thanks to my friend Emily for sharing this with me.

 

A Year of Writing Dangerously cover2.  Buy A Year of Writing Dangerously, by Barbara Abercrombie, well, that is, if you’re in to writing – even just for fun.

I’m only a few days into this book, but every day is another meaningful, meaty inspiration.  It’s so good it’s almost too good.  I haven’t stopped savoring the previous day’s inspiration when it’s already time for today’s treasure.  It’s like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet of carefully selected gourmet fare.

I am a big fan of Barbara Abercrombie, in fact she is one of the first authors I came across, years ago, when I was toying with the idea of becoming a writer.

Visit her site here:  barbaraabercrombie.com

3.  Sign Up for Monica Bhide’s Powered by Hope, a one-year long digital storytelling project.  It’s free and it’s just one  inspirational email per week, “to get you thinking,” and then on Fridays you can chat with Monica live on Facebook.  It just started on Monday, Jan. 6th so jump on board.

Powered by Hope Monica Bhide

I was immediately intrigued by Monica’s story because she too had a former life before becoming a writer and one day (ten years ago) decided to finally pursue her dream.  She has become quite the successful writer as well.  She is one of the top 10 food writers on Twitter.  In addition to several books, her work has been published in The New York Times, SELF, Food & Wine, Bon Apetit & more.

Her first email (sent Monday) helped me set my week with the intention of focusing on what I really want to do, not the 1,000 other things I could do.  I look forward to the next and subsequent emails.

So what are you waiting for? Go sign up before you miss too many inspirations! Plus it’s Free.  Join the Powered by Hope movement >

(You also get a pretty amazing free gift when you sign up – like whip cream on top.)

 

The Complete Artist's Way Julia Cameron4.  Finally, Buy & Use The Complete Artist’s Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice, by Julia Cameron. “Wow,” is the first thing I have to say.  I received this book for Christmas, from my wonderfully supportive mom.  I started working through the 12 week creativity reawakening exercises.  Let me tell ya, if you want to be a more creative person, whether it’s in your art, craft, writing, speaking, even work you will grow leaps and bounds by implementing the principles in this book.

I’ve been wanting to read/practice this book for years, but my life has been quite tumultuous.  I finally have the time and support to commit now and I am utterly enjoying it.  I consider myself a pretty creative person – a designer, brand strategist, writer, etc. but this book is helping me open the floodgates and court the muse like I never have before.

 

As you step into this New Year I encourage you to imagine the possibilities and visualize what could happen if this year becomes the year you finally commit to your dream(s).

Have some creative or inspiring resources?  Please do share!

The window near my desk is fogged up against the cold and rain outside. The drops cling to the dirty window screen like tiny crystals.  I’m sitting here in a coveted state of alone.  The whiz of cars on wet streets, the gentle hum of my laptop and the muted clack of keyboard strokes are the only sounds.  It’s lovely.  I feel the quiet fill me.  The space between chaos, to-do lists, shopping, cooking and work is here.

“I love you,” I almost say aloud, to this peace.

Of all the bustling I do in order to set aside a time of calm, is now worthwhile. To feel like I’ve run around like a chicken with its head lopped off and then to lie down and just bleed out, feels good.

As I sit here, it strikes me how much my love affair with writing is growing.  Writing is like that special someone from the past–that crush you wonder what could have happened with.  I’ve had friends who, after dating around for years, ended up coming back to an old high school flame.  Writing is like that for me, an old crush I never pursued before.  Now that we’ve found each other again, as worldly wise adults, we’re so meant to be, it’s ridiculous.

Sure it’s like any other relationship, hard to get enough quality time together; sometimes we fight, or don’t communicate or feel like we have nothing in common anymore.  But when I’m back here, at my keyboard or with pen and pad, I remember why I fell in love in the first place.

This is my home.  From the depths of my soul, to the inappropriateness of my jokes, this is where I can truly be me.  From emotional shit storms to oases of peace, I get to wrench out my guts and throw them down on the table, oozing and floppy, to dissect and cull, prod and discover.  And it doesn’t even matter who cares.

We’re all gloriously messy humans, sad, happy, conflicted or numb, but when we read someone who has been through it too, it becomes more than words, an alchemy of souls.  On the flip side, when you write and someone reads, then emotes, what you had set out to explore (and sometimes even more than you intended to share) – Oh my God, what a feeling!

Those were the connections I made, in my first Creative Nonfiction writing class (which ended this week).  People from all walks of life, being brave, shared the inner workings of their memories, their pains and joys.  People unafraid to explore the emotion of our lives, these are my people.  At 33, I found them, people who feel so deeply, think so expansively, strive so luminously to tell the stories that make sense of our lives:  Writers.