I was heartbroken to learn of Aretha Franklin’s death yesterday. It was the kind of loss you feel based on some wish that I’d had a chance to get to know her. Like now the (irrational) opportunity was definitely gone. I’ve always kind of seen her as a mama bear. As a kid I listened to the Oldies and Aretha was a big part of my soundtrack. There were definitely R-E-S-P-E-C-T singing sessions in front of the mirror. 😉 What I hadn’t known about until yesterday was just how hard Aretha Franklin’s life had been.

She just had that power, confidence, and strength to her voice—something I did not feel like I had.

When any famous person dies, we all know that there will be a deluge of all things Aretha for a month or so. While I don’t hold any secret knowledge of her, yesterday I was struck by a few facts about her that I hadn’t known before.

There is no question that Aretha had reached heights so many dream of. Many of us have our own personal connection to her songs. But I am always interested in the personal lives behind massively successful celebrities. I mean, I guess we’re all interested in that or there wouldn’t be so many biographies and shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, right? Americans are especially interested in how the wealthy and successful live.

I’m not so interested in that part though. What interests me is what she did to make her dream happen, while life was still pounding her with hardship.

The truth is that Aretha was very private. So maybe I’ll never know how her own mindset really fed into her career and life. But there are a few facts about her life I hadn’t known before her death, things that make me think.

A few milestones in Aretha Franklin’s Life:

Her parents’ relationship was strained and her mother left when she was only six.

Her mother died a few years later, just before Aretha’s 10th birthday.

Aretha was a pre-teen mom. 

She had her first child at twelve-years old. And her second at fifteen. Can you imagine what may have led to two pregnancies when she was just a child? I don’t know and I won’t assume, but it’s a helluva thing to be a mom when you’re still a child.

Despite losing her mother and becoming a mother so very young that she was able to set sights on her dream and continue to pursue it at such a young age. Her first album came out in 1956, when she was only 14. That was IN BETWEEN having those two children. Wow.

Her first husband abused her and their marriage ended in divorce.

Anyone whose been through a divorce knows how devastating the ripples of that shit-storm can be, let alone when abuse is involved. But she kept going. And not just in her career…

She was very active in the civil rights movement, even while her career was just taking off.

She and her family were friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. and she toured with Harry Belafonte to raise money for the movement. Her commitment to activism despite a life of complications, pain, triumph, and complexity astounds me.

When she signed on with Atlantic in 1967, she adamantly took creative control over her work.

She made sure that she had the final say on all lyrics and that no producer could usurp her vision for a performance.

Not only did she have an incredible gift that she used to the absolute fullest, but she fought for things she believed in, and kept going despite myriad of setbacks and personal pain that would knock any one of us on our asses. To me, that is even more incredible than her voice.

Her backstory—or rather the little bits of it we have access to—both inspires me and scares the shit out of me. 

I’m deeply inspired by her commitment to her dream and the incredible things she had to overcome to keep going. But I’m also daunted by her seemingly superhuman abilities.

On the one hand, I look at my own life and the things I’ve had to overcome (teen motherhood, abusive relationships, financial issues, mental health issues, etc. etc.) and feel a kinship in her story. A sort of, if she could overcome what she did, than I can overcome my own stuff, too.

On the other hand, I think we all have different gifts and abilities, and frankly, desires. I know deep down that there are certain things I don’t want bad enough to pursue come-what-may, while there are other principles that I would die for. Maybe my road and my capabilities are different than Aretha’s were—okay, not “maybe”—but I know what I want and what I’m willing to do (or not do) to pursue it.

The thing is, if we give up the things we aren’t really willing to give up in pursuit of our dreams we won’t be genuinely happy. Conversely, if we try to keep everything we want, we may endanger our dream by never stepping out of our comfort zones and making necessary sacrifices.

So I ask you (and myself) this:

What do you want so badly that you won’t allow anything to stand in the way?

What are you willing to give up, let go, or compromise for it? And what aren’t you willing to compromise on?

I think this is one of those considerations most of us avoid thinking about—like taxes, or your final will and testament. I think it’s also a major reason many people don’t pursue their dreams. They get stuck in the murky, sticky, paralyzing indecision phase so long that all of the sudden they’re 65 years old and wonder why they never pursued that dream that was so important to them.

There are always reasons or excuses to NOT do something. It takes faith and guts to risk in pursuit of dreams, but also decisiveness and a knowledge of boundaries.

I want to keep running confidently in the direction of my dreams. There’s a freedom in knowing ahead of time what you’re willing to compromise on, and what you’re not. Maybe that’s the only security when it comes to pursuing something that seems impossible—knowing what you’re willing or not willing to do.

I’ve been thinking about this and will continue to do so. I encourage you to do the same. Spend some time getting clear on what you really want, and where your boundaries are with what you’re willing to do or not do. Even if you’ve decided in the past, it’s good to revisit and adjust.

We only get this one life, so in the years we have left, how do we accomplish the dreams we hold most dear while still juggling the struggles too?

I believe it starts with figuring out where our boundaries are and just how badly we want to pursue the things we care about. And then, commit to them.

Decision Fatigue Can Rob Your Creativity

Have you heard of capsule wardrobes? Or entrepreneurs who eat the same exact thing for breakfast every day? There’s a reason they’re doing this. And I’ve totally been resisting it. But I think it’s time to change that.

Did you know that American adults are estimated to make 35,000 decisions per day? Holy shit. No wonder I sometimes feel like an incoherent blob the end of a hard day.

Research shows that we have only so many good decisions in us, on any given day. This phenomenon is called decision fatigue.

decision fatigue robs your creativity

Any given day we choose what to eat, wear, buy, believe, how to work, where to go, and the list goes on. As the day wears on our willpower and ability to make quality decisions deteriorates.

And yeah, it’s totally worse if you have kids, a disability, others to care for, a household to run, deal with discrimination, have health issues, etc. (more factors=more decisions)

This is where tools like the capsule wardrobe come in.

Leaders and entrepreneurs like President Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Nicole Richie have adopted capsule wardrobes because it reduces the need for another creative decision in the morning. The theory is that the less good decision-making “credits” you use up the more reserves you’ll have left for important choices throughout the day. Have one navy suit, two ties and two white shirts? Boom, you know what to wear, with little to no consideration needed.

Now I’m not proposing you throw out 90% of your clothes. A capsule wardrobe, or eating the same thing for breakfast everyday isn’t going to change your whole life. But imagine the results for your creativity, or career if you consistently did this kind of thing with a bunch of daily tasks and removed the need to make a bunch of arbitrary decisions. Now that may make a big difference.

To be clear: I do not currently utilize a capsule wardrobe or eat the same thing every day (though I often eat avocado toast). I actually like to joke that because of my years of being a sometimes broke single mom, that I’ve had an involuntary capsule wardrobe for the past ten years. 😉

Seriously though, as I continue to tweak my lifestyle to fit my dreams, I want to cut the fat and optimize my life and career the way I really want it to be. I don’t want to waste precious time on things that don’t matter to me.

Chances are you know what it’s like to pursue your dreams in the midst of real life lobbing doozies at you at any given moment: extra bills, sick kids, job loss, or whatever you may struggle with.

These are events that are often outside of our control–inevitable roadblocks, bumps, potholes on the road. They require more decisions that can potentially rob us of our ability to accelerate as fast as we’d like down toward our dream life. Sometimes they even run the risk of knocking us off the road completely.

Paring down decisions can be one way to help you keep momentum when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed. They can help you hold on to your creativity and ability to make better decisions on a daily basis.

What to Do About It

So, below are some ways to reduce decision-making in your daily life. Obviously, not all of these things will work for everyone. For instance, I would get bored of eating the same thing everyday, while someone else might love it.

As a creative multi-passionate person I also have huge resistance toward- what I like to call -“a boring old routine.” But I’ve also found that a balance of routine and free time really helps my focus and progress on my projects. So here we go:

  • Plan the week’s meals ahead, buy everything and meal prep on Sunday (or whatever day starts your week off).
  • Eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch or dinner everyday. I won’t, but you know, you can. 😉
  • Convert to a capsule wardrobe
  • Set a clear work schedule (especially if you work from home) and stick to it as much as possible
  • Set a clear creative project schedule. Treat your creative project as important as work, or exercise–or whatever you naturally have an easier time prioritizing.
  • Embrace (or try for a month) a morning routine–time for yourself in the morning where you do the same thing every day: get your coffee, write your morning pages, take a shower, eat your avocado toast, do yoga, etc. whatever works for you.
  • Set your clothes out the night before.
  • Batch time/decision wasters: check email 1-3 times a day at set times (instead of incessantly all day), check the snail mail once or twice a week, do laundry only on certain days, etc.
  • Outsource mundane tasks (if you can) like cleaning, laundry, dry cleaning, design, bookkeeping, errands, etc.
  • Use IF/THEN decisions: “If it’s 5pm, I quit working for the day; if I have a glass of wine, I have a glass of water.”
  • Prioritize big or important decisions or tasks for the beginning of the day. Keep your To Do list short and execute like a bawse!
  • Ask if there’s a simpler way. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in options or “best case” choices. I’ve literally deliberated over types of milk in the grocery store for 10 minutes, before. It’s ridiculous. So more often lately, I’m trying to remind myself–what’s the simplest solution here? The least stressful?
  • Remember, done is better than perfect. Sometimes you just need to finish something. You could even possibly come back later when you’re fresh.
  • Stick to one task at a time until it’s finished. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been working and  save a big graphic file on my computer, that might take 30 seconds (max) to save, and I feel the urge to go check on some other project “while I’m waiting.” 30-frickin-minutes later, I realize I’ve actually wasted more time by switching tasks.
  • Meditate, do yoga, or something mindful each morning (or any time you’re feeling overwhelmed) to start your day and strengthen your good ole prefrontal cortex (aka the good decision factory).

When it comes to your creative business (or writing career), here are some additional ways to help get your best decisions made before you begin to burn out later in the day.

  • Set aside time to put together a real brand and marketing strategy once or twice per year. Knowing what you want to achieve, by when, with measurable tasks can then be then broken down and used as checklists, rather than having to remind yourself repeatedly what to do next, or decide on what the next promotion will be.
  • Take time to go deep and get a solid understanding of what you really want, what you want to be known for and what steps you may need to get there. I’ve found that a great deal of entrepreneurial decision fatigue develops when you’re not solid on what you really want to build.
  • Do the research and brainstorming it takes to really get to know your ideal cusomers/readers. Once you understand them on a deeper level, marketing, advertising, pricing, etc. decisions will become a lot simpler. Plus you won’t be tempted as much by the latest “miracle” marketing bullshit.
  • Keep a Creative Ideas folder on your computer/mobile device (or good old hard copy). This way, when you get great ideas (that you can’t necessarily act on right now or you’ll distract yourself) you know they’ll be in a safe place, waiting for when you have more time. I have both a physical folder and digital for this. Plus I also use Evernote.
  • Reduce or distill your larger 6 month/year goals down into monthly, weekly, daily goals. Smaller chunks, when written out, will help you just follow the list rather than feeling like you need to decide what’s next.
  • Plan out your week, every week in advance–schedule in specific time for tasks so you can just follow along (for the most part) during your work week.
  • Organize your creativity and/or business supplies in a way that works for your brain, makes things easy to find, and helps you stay in the flow.

Do you have any tips for evading decision fatigue and keeping your creativity flowing? I’d love to hear them.

 

This week we watched the long-awaited Incredibles 2 and it got me thinking about what will it take to change things in our world, and our own lives. 

Fourteen years after the original film, I wondered how this new addition would be different. After all in 2004 (when the first film came out), things like smartphones, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook weren’t really a thing yet, Trump had only just started a new TV show called The Apprentice, and George W. Bush had just been re-elected.

Boy, those were the good ol’ days, huh? Bwahaha.

The Incredibles sequel did not disappoint. It was a great film. While it touched lightly on a couple of specific political and societal issues—including our current obsessions with screens and escapism—it definitely danced (with skill) around some pretty deep philosophical struggles as well.

With all that’s going on in our world right now, I sometimes struggle with balancing what I need and want in my own life versus the chaos and very real threats to others. Indeed, this is a moral and ethical dilemma that many an open-eyed human has been wrestling with since humanity began.

And one that the Incredibles struggle with in the film, namely:

How do you save the world while still keeping your own family safe, fed, and cared for? And if you have the power to change things, how can you NOT use it?

Without giving away too much, there was a primary argument in the beginning that I’d like to unpack a little bit, because I think it’s important right now (and always).

Early on in the movie the Parr family is faced with their ever-present struggle to do good in the world while in that very act (of using their powers) is illegal. (If you’ve never seen the Incredibles, superheroes are outlawed and must live like regular people, unable to use their powers). Parents Helen (Elastigirl) and Bob (Mr. Incredible), wrestle with whether breaking the law by fighting crime, in order to prove why the law should change is ethical, and whether a law’s morality is a big enough reason to defy it. In essence, how far can a law go before we defy it? And where do we draw the line?

On top of that, what happens to their family if they get in trouble for breaking said laws? Who will care for their equally super children?

I believe the U.S. is in the state it’s in partially because too many of us have been too apathetic, naive, or privileged, for too long. But also, and this is important, because those in power want to keep it that way.

Now I don’t want to go down a political spiral here, and I’m not advocating for going out and breaking laws. What I want to do is bring this back around to how we think about our lives, our creativity, and our money-making endeavors. Because all of this is actually governed by what goes on between our own two ears.

I hope you’ll forgive the borrowing, but as the saying goes “If you see something, say something.” This follows not only for the horrors of human-trafficking, and children being ripped from their parents at the U.S. border, but for all of our very lives.

What I see and what I must say is this: we need more compassionate, driven people to continue to step up, break some boundaries (maybe even laws) and build lives, businesses, and true leadership around the value of life, in all its… Click To Tweet

For too long, we’ve followed the rules of how we “should” do things. It’s time to make our way into higher levels of thinking (and doing).

This can be hard if you’re struggling just to handle your own life, finances, and family. Like it is for so many of us!  I get it. Boy, do I get it. Sprinkle in some anxiety or depression in there too and you’ve got a recipe for paralysis. Naptime, please!

But let me tell you something that’s saved me over the years—through some serious shit. Something I didn’t have a name for, didn’t even know I consciously had until a couple of years ago when I read Carol Dweck’s Mindset, The New Psychology of Success.

It’s called a growth mindset. And while I’ve totally struggled with a negative or limited mindset a ton, I’ve had enough of this growth mindset to at least get me this far.

In her book Dweck explores what she has observed and studied to be two basic mindsets that folks have: either growth or fixed.  As Maria Popova puts it in her excellent overview, the book is, “an inquiry into the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can have profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.”

Our beliefs about limitations, abilities, and even laws shape how we live our lives and determine where and how far we will go.

A fixed mindset dictates that our intelligence, personality, creativity, and overall potential are pretty much set. In other words, we can make some changes, but essentially, we are limited by what we were born with.

A growth mindset, on the other hand, loves a challenge and looks at failure not as evidence of our ineptitude, but as a tool for growth, a way to learn.

As you might imagine, those with a growth mindset tend to be more successful, have better relationships, and are generally happier.

Now, if like me you have a mix of the two mindsets, your first thought might be, “well, hey we have to be realistic about what our limitations might be.” To that, for now, I’ll say, read the book.

But then your next question might be, “Okay, but can I actually change my mindset?”

Of course that question is the fixed mindset talking, but yes, yes you can. And in fact, shifting your mindset can really free up your life. Dweck writes, “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.”

And there’s where we shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot. The more I try to prove myself competent the further I move from actually improving myself.

So what does this have to do with the Incredibles?

We are beginning to open our eyes further to the things that must change in our country and world, the laws, the practices, the atrocities; which is very important.


But what about the invisible laws at work within our personal lives? Unspoken personal laws, like:

I can only make a living at a 9-5 job,

I’m not smart enough to go back to school,

I’m too busy to write that book,

I’m too fat/ugly/boring to find someone to love me,

or someday when X happens things will be different.

Or this card that perfectly sums up some of my own moments of negative self-talk:

Available at EmilyMcDowell.com

 

What are the corrupt “laws” in your life that keep you from living up to your dreams?

Is it worth defying them? What will it take to change things? And is breaking those “laws” part of making your (and possibly others’) life better and more fulfilling?

I believe that real change starts within our own hearts and minds and if we’re going to change the world we must change ourselves. Conversely, though the time we’re in might seem dark, we must believe that things can change, that life is not limited by the self-centered rants and raids of megalomaniacs, that goodness can prevail.

Because if we don’t believe that, what’s the point? We must reclaim a growth mindset.

It’s the gift that has gotten me through some of the darkest times in my life. The belief that things can change, that our lives are not yet written, that we can still grow. Click To Tweet

I encourage you to watch Incredibles 2 and think about what your own superpowers may be—because you do have some. I also encourage you to read (or listen to) Mindset, The New Psychology of Success and think about what laws in your own thinking must be broken in order to live the life you truly want.

 

Post Photo by Alejandro Alvarez on Unsplash

Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. -Chuck Close

I realize this is a funny thing to say given that my work is largely infused with inspiration/motivation, but you’ll see what I’m really getting at. As writers and/or artists, we know that 90% of the battle is just putting your damn butt in the chair to write, or picking up the paintbrush (or pencil), or whatever implement you use to create. Yet all too often we expect this flash of inspiration to hit us like a gift from the gods.

Sure sometimes that happens, but more often than not it’s a slow build.

For me, creative writing, especially nonfiction about my life, is often an arduous process. There’s the occasional moment where the clouds part and the Universe says, “here you go, honey,” as they hand me a nugget of flow.

But usually, it pretty much goes like this:

 

As a kid I was a good student. I hated disappointing anyone almost as much as I hated being anything less than perfect. For the most part I got straight A’s. I was highly disappointed in myself if I didn’t.

Classmates would often remark that I was “so smart” or how they wished they could get A’s like I did. Frankly, this kind of pissed me off. Sure, on the surface this was a compliment, but underneath was the assumption that I just had some special gift that they didn’t. Bear with me, I know I sound like a bragging asshole right now.

I spent hours studying, doing drills, and practicing to earn those grades. In fact, in fourth grade when I got my first D ever (ironically, in spelling), Dad and I worked every night for months to bring that up to an A.

I was lucky that my parents definitely passed down their genetic propensity for traditional intelligence (make no mistake there are many different types of intelligence), but after that, it was up to me to get the grades even in subjects that felt like my brain was being torn apart. I’m looking at you math and conceptual physics!

In seventh grade this girl Mary and I competed for the best grades, we were often neck-in-neck for who had the best percentage A. This was when I realized there were smarter, harder working kids than me. She wanted it more and maybe she was smarter than me, too. I backed down a bit from my quest for perfection and sometimes settled for B’s or C’s (conceptual physics, you bitch). If I couldn’t be THE best, I’d get by with my reasonable best.

The thing is, I never applied this drive to physical activity as a kid. When it came to sports of most kinds, I was riddled with self-doubt and self-pity. If I couldn’t hit the ball, run fast enough, or catch often enough I just gave up. I needed to be at the top, and if I couldn’t I bowed out. It didn’t occur to me that hard work might just get me to “decent” eventually. I understood how to apply hardwork to school, but not as much to other things.

~

Fast forward twenty-some years to when I started out at UCLA X Writers Program. I entered thinking I was a pretty good writer who just needed to learn some tools in order to write better. From my first class, I realized I was an amateur. I was not even close to the top tier. Again, I wanted to be THE best. 

I secretly dreamed of being the next Joan Didion, or Mary Karr, until I realized I would likely not only would have to work for decades, but also was not born with their level of talent either.

Something had shifted. After a brief mourning period around not being born a golden child, I was able to better fight the urge to be perfect. I cared so much about becoming a better writer. Writing was something I’d wanted to learn since high school, and now I was finally doing it. I wanted to learn as much as possible, and push myself to my best, but not THE best. 

The initial momentum of my dream to become a writer propelled me, but it was the revisiting of it that got me through the hundreds of edits and thousands of hours of writing. I still feel as if I have a long way to go, but now just being on the path is enough to keep me going.

~

I liken creative work to walking. When you’re doing the work, you often feel as if you’re just staring at your feet as they step over the earth. You’re not sure where things are going, or even where you’ve been. There’s beauty in that presence, but if you don’t look up occasionally you’ll likely fall off a cliff or wander into a bad neighborhood.

On the other hand, if all you do is look up and around and your surroundings, looking for inspiration or motivation, you’ll never effectively see the path that leads you to your goals. And we all know the path is always a winding one.

I think then that our best bet is to do both. Observe what’s happening in our world, look forward toward our goals, our ultimate vision, as we call it in my personal branding course.  But we must also remember to look down at our feet, be in the moment, so we don’t stumble over that rock, or we can step over that brook, or clear out those branches that have fallen to block our path.

The rewards are all around us and even within the work of our path. But it’s that combination of steps, moving forward–the daily work–that leads us closer to our dreams, while that looking up that reminds us why we’re here.  

The more we do the work, the more inspiration follows. We don’t have to be the best, but when we are relentless in the pursuit of our calling, dream, or purpose, our most inspired work bursts forth.

This week I listened to an episode of the On Being podcast that made me reconsider how we humans survive trauma or hardship.

Krista Tippett’s interview with poet John O’Donohue was profound. I found myself rewinding and replaying segments that rang through my body like an ancient song of wisdom. I’d like to share with you what struck such a resonant chord with me.

Here’s the transcript excerpt of O’Donohue talking about the thirteenth century mystic called Meister Eckhart:

…one day I read him, and he said, “There is a place in the soul that neither time nor space nor no created thing can touch.” And I really thought that was amazing. And if you cash it out, what it means is that your identity is not equivalent to your biography and that there is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there is still a sureness in you, where there’s a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.

This simple thought made me feel like rewriting the story I’d been telling myself about my own life. See, lately I have been reclaiming the idea that none of us are our past, or “our story.” I think for so long I held on to the idea of figuring out my past in order to find answers to my identity. Years into researching and writing my own memoir, I now see that while my past has served to form me, I am so much more than my story.

Let me explain.

Years ago, there was a moment when the course of my life changed drastically. It was 1995; I was fifteen and engaged to be married to a man I wasn’t in love with (long story). Between my fiancé’s absolute joy, my parents’ financial investment in the wedding, and my people-pleasing mentality, I didn’t have the nerve to call things off. I told no one how I felt, but squirreled away my truth into a place so deep within my soul that I soon forgot it was there. I told myself I could do ‘this’—for everyone else’s sake. All it required was some denial and muscling through.

The new me continued in the forward motion of life, getting married at sixteen, pregnant at seventeen, and again at nineteen. I moved across the country with my then husband and children, and was a good Christian wife who submitted to him, and followed where he led. From time to time, my natural verve broke through and I’d challenge him on theological or philosophical assumptions, or what I believed to be my one area of expertise—how the children should be raised. But for the most part, I lived with eyes half-shuttered, ears muffled, and head down.

As the years passed, though I had an eternally deep well of love for my children, I grew numb to most everything. Soon the simple act of continuing to exist became painful. I slipped into a depression and then slipped back out (sort of) while taking Zoloft.

Andrea and kids in Europe

Me at 22, with my kids in Europe; daughter covered in chocolate, son passed out. Summer 2002

About six years into that murky time, we compiled student loans, a little savings, and a lot of credit card debt to fund a twelve-week trip across Europe with our four-year old and nineteen-month-old. It was there in Europe, exposed to a vast expanse of life, history, and culture that I realized there was more to life than how I’d been living. My head raised, eyes snapped open, and my ears suddenly heard what they couldn’t before.

But the problem with understanding that there is more is realizing that you don’t have it.

I began to see that my melancholy was caused by a slow bleeding-out of everything I once was before I got married. And because I had married so young, I had been losing my identity before it had had a chance to fully form. My soul was dying in the marriage we had constructed of silt and toothpicks.

But that secret part of me I’d hidden away almost a decade before began to crackle and glow within me and do its work to bust apart the layers of murky malaise I had lived in so long.

I’ve been working on a memoir for several years now and have always interpreted that “me nugget” I squirreled away at fifteen as a vestige of my former self—the girl I used to be. Through the fifteen plus years since that fateful Europe trip, my children and I have been through multiple serious hardships (more on that another time).

Lately, I’ve been wondering when I’ll run out of energy to weather the next life challenge, when or should it arrive. I have been looking at myself like a damaged warrior. As anyone who’s been through a marathon of personal battles will tell you, what doesn’t kill you doesn’t always necessarily make you stronger. Sometimes it drains you to within inches of your life.

And then this thought came along on the podcast—through the centuries, through Meister Eckhart, and John O’Donohue: what if there is a part of me that is untouched by fear or trauma? What if there is an island of solace in the depths of each of us? What if there is an eye of the storm we can come home to when our lives are whirling in chaos?

What a relief. I don’t have to worry about being strong enough if I can retreat to my untouched soul when I need to regroup.

After I listened to the podcast, I discussed this idea over lunch with my son and daughter, now nineteen and sixteen. They brought up Eastern philosophies which teach not only a sort of untouched place in your soul, but that it is a communal space we all belong to. It is a central universal consciousness where we find refuge and connection with the entire human race and maybe all of earth itself.

We all have our own private struggles, some in the hard work of pursuing our dreams, some in the push of birthing beauty into this world, and others with massive health, economic, cultural, weather, or societal events that threaten to crack us open and bleed us out.

I’m not convinced there’s always a reason for when bad things happen. I mean, tell that to the child imprisoned as a sex-worker, or to the countless families who’ve lost their homes in Hurricane Harvey and Irma, or the refugee who lost his family.

I’m not saying there can’t be purpose in tragedy. But that line of reasoning has only ever comforted me when the stakes are low. Otherwise, it reeks of bullshit.

Still there are some of us who weather tragedy and hardship better than others. Maybe this unwounded soul thing is why.

I like the idea that there is an inner holy refuge built right into each of us, that it is something I can cling to when the storm is raging all around me.

O’Donohue went on to mention that the most direct way to connect with that part of ourselves (and our interior life) is through beauty, whether it is an impeccably performed song, a well-crafted book, the exquisite dance of nature, or a lovingly prepared meal. These corporeal pleasures fast-track us from fear to home (the home inside ourselves).

So maybe I never actually squirreled away that part of me like I thought I did. Maybe that untouched part of me was always there, waiting for me to reconnect. And perhaps that Europe trip came to me at the exact right time, when seeing masterful art at the Louvre, sipping beer in a German beer garden, savoring chocolate in Belgium, and standing in the Roman Forum connected me not only to that stalwart part of me, but bound me to the consciousness of my sisters and brothers throughout history as well.

I felt this while I was there, but never had the concept to wrap around the feeling. Until now.

Maybe that sureness is what has sustained me through my own personal hells. Maybe that is the super power we all have and we all share and need only access.

I choose to believe the beauty we see, the beauty we are, and the beauty we create has the power to truly change the world.

>> Listen to the John O’Donohue episode of On Being. <<

Namaste

Last year my daughter, then a junior in high school, was having serious anxiety over impending college doom. See, nowadays they put an insane amount of pressure on kids to decide what they want to do for a career, pick a four-year school, and run headlong into their (often ill-conceived) goals.

Problem is, many–I’d venture to guess it’s the majority actually–don’t know what the hell they want to do with their lives.

Let’s be honest now and admit that many adults still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. I think I was like thirty-two, when I finally figured it out.

There are a mess of opinions out there as to whether you should follow your passion, or even have one; just take a steady job and do what you love on the side; or heck that if you find your passion you’ll never work a day in your life.

#truthbomb: No one answer works for everyone. Click To Tweet

But I hope to give you some solid advice that I’ve gleaned from years of research and teaching. Buckle up, Buttercup!

The sky is falling

There’s a real stigma about death and dying, especially in America. It’s often impolite to speak of it. So let me be that a-hole. The truth is, we’re all going to die at some point. Nobody wants to hear it, but our time on earth is limited.

Strip that social moré away though, and death becomes a natural part of life. It’s an integral cycle that ties us in with the history of humanity itself.

What’s truly amazing though, is how much potential we have to live bigger these days. Many of the social constraints, limitations, or disadvantages of previous generations have been stripped away, or are fading into the distance. While we still have a ways to go, we live at a time where we have luxuries like women’s rights, running water, and dentists.

These modernizations potentially free us up to be able to create the life we truly want. Each of us has the option to make an impact; to help others and ourselves. We have the choice to live to our greatest potential.

And yet, how many of us actually do it?

We’re gonna live forever

The thing is, for most of our lives, death feels far off.

It’s like knowing we’ll age, but not realizing it’s happening until those age spots and crow’s feet appear in the mirror. It often doesn’t feel real until it happens.

Most of us suffer from the delusion of reprieve, in which we see the realities of life and death, yet somehow secretly believe that it’s not going to happen to us, and that somehow at the last moment we’ll be whisked away from death.

Obviously, we can’t spend each day worrying about our mortality, that would defeat the purpose of life. But the problem with avoiding it is that so many of us wait until it’s too late to say what we needed to say, or do what really wanted to do.

A deathbed story

So i’m going to tell you a story, one I’ve adapted from Les Brown:

Fast forward your life to the point where you’re on your deathbed (keep reading, it will get better, I swear). You’re laying there and you know there’s not much time left. All of the sudden several people walk in, people you’ve known your whole life yet never took the time to get to know on a deeper level. Each one of them represents one of your talents, passions, and ideas.

Maybe the first represents that book you wanted to write–the one that scared you into paralysis. Maybe the second is learning to dance salsa, and the third is starting that business you always wanted to try.

Whatever they represent to you, imagine you’re lying there and each and every thing you felt pulled to do, the hopes and dreams of your life, staring down at you.

One by one they open their mouths and softly they say, “We were born with you, we were the gifts you were meant to share with the world, but you never used us. And now we will die with you!”

Take a moment and let that scene sink in.

Wait, there’s more to you

I’m willing to bet, that right now you have so much more to give this world than what you are currently are. I’ll even venture that deep down below fears, excuses, and denial, you know exactly what some of these things are that you’re meant to do in your short time on this planet.

When I first heard that story I wept. Who am I kidding? I cry every time I hear it. I cried as I wrote it. And I do because I cannot bear the thought of dying like that, with all of those ideas and gifts left unused.

We’ve all got that gift or talent, or idea we’ve been imbued with since birth. So why the fuck aren’t we using them?

Busy and scared

Lawd knows, there’s so much to do. We’re distracted by our never-ending to-do lists, celebrity drama, stupid world leaders, and an overwhelming amount of information. (Did you know the average person is inundated with 100,000 pieces of information each day?)

And yet, at the end of our lives most of those things will not matter to us.

I know I won’t be on my deathbed thinking, I’m so glad I always paid my cable bill on time, or I’m so glad I spent hours of my life on Facebook.

We live in a corporate message driven world, guided by what we think we should buy to fill the gap of desire in our souls.

Shedding the busy-ness only goes so far though, because at the root of distraction are two best friends: Fear and Addiction.

If we’re honest, most of us are a little bit (or a lotta bit) addicted to TV, social media, and the internet, just to name a few “busy” makers. But in the end it’s our choice every time. For most of us it’s a choice we’ve come to make on autopilot. Its as if our reptilian brains are in control. Oh wait, they are.

Which brings me to addiction’s best friend, the worst four-letter word ever: Fear.

About a decade ago a colleague from my business women’s group mentioned that she was training to become a life coach. Her training centered around busting through fears to create the life you really want. It was based on the philosophy of the book, Fearless Living.

She said that she was nearing the end of her program and that she was doing 12 week coaching for a few people for free. She offered me one of the spots. The thought of free coaching was appealing, but I told her, “I’m pretty motivated, I don’t think I have a lot of fears left to conquor.”

Kindly and wisely, she said, “that’s okay, even if you don’t, you might be surprised at how many subconscious fears people have.”

So I did the twelve weeks. Boy, let me tell you: it was then that I noticed that pretty much every decision I made on a daily basis came from some fear, whether tiny or huge. Things like:

  • not wanting my hair cut like a “mom” because I wanted to be seen as a cool young mom;
  • letting my ex walk all over me because I was afraid he’d retaliate;
  • not standing up for myself when a client stiffed me, because I feared I’d never be able to replace them.

The list goes on and on. But the point is that we are often unconscious of the role fear plays in keeping us from living up to our true worth and purpose.

Whether we busy ourselves with social media because of FOMO, or we stay in our “secure” boring/comfort zone job because we fear financial ruin, or we don’t pursue that crazy idea because we’re afraid of being judged, or we don’t speak up because we fear we might be wrong, or we don’t write that one book because we don’t want to fail, or we don’t take salsa dancing classes because we don’t want to look like “idiots” or even beginners; it all comes back to fear.

Don’t freak, move

I know how hard it is to face the reality that maybe you’ve been half living your life, or that fear has been ruling it. Obviously, I’ve totally been there. It took me years to realize how I’d squandered my innate gifts and purpose(s) because of my fear of being worthless.

The only way out from the guilt, fear, or sadness is to say, “no more!” And take the risk of really living. Whatever that means for you.

It doesn’t mean you need to run out and do everything on your bucket list (unless it does). It just means that it’s time to begin.

Crawl if you’re not ready to walk. But baby, do something.

Start before you’re ready, and before you have it all figured out. Take small risks because little changes have better, lasting results than drastically trying to change everything at once.

Remember the story about your deathbed? Guess what? It’s time to change the story.

A different kind of deathbed story

This time imagine now you’re lying on your deathbed, but now  you’re basking in the contentment of knowing that you’ve fulfilled your purposes on this earth. You have this sense of peace that you’ve done what you needed to do. Can you feel it? It’s like a warm blanket on a cool night. You’ve done the things that most pulled your heartstrings and now you can rest easy.

  • What are these things you imagined you did? Think about it.
  • Then write those things down on a sheet of paper and put it somewhere where you’ll remember to look at it.
  • Review that list every morning and let those ideas marinate in your brainpan for a few days.
  • Set yourself a deadline to pick the first one you want to work toward. And begin to take small actions.
Little conscious steps down the right path are much better than strides down the wrong one. Click To Tweet

Once you make the decision and commitment to pursue what you’re meant to do, whatever that is, you’ll begin to feel the deep river of fulfillment begin to trickle and flow into your daily life. It’s a feeling unlike anything else.

So here’s the two-ton question: What do you want to be known for? What will you do with this one life you have?

It’s okay to not know. I won’t judge you. But it’s kind of like going on a trip and not having a destination planned. If your goal is to just explore that’s great, but if you want to create a fulfilling career, live up to your potential, or want people to understand what you’re trying to do in your life or business, you need to have vision.

Maybe you like your life the way it is. That’s cool. But if you have a flickering desire for more, if you have some dreams, start taking action.

And if you’re wondering how my daughter is doing, she’s much more at peace knowing she will start community college next year and take a little extra time to tune-in to what she wants. I’m very proud of her.


Three ways I can help you:  Enroll in my personal branding course, book a one-on-one branding consultation with me, or sign up for my weekly email newsletter.


Image credit: Photo by Maxime Bhm on Unsplash

“She was too naïve.” I’ve heard this complaint from so many friends, even my daughter, after watching the new Wonder Woman movie. I get it. It was uncomfortable to see this powerful woman completely unaware of her power, sexuality, and equally naive to the corrosive properties of the dark side of human nature. But to me, it made perfect sense.

So often I think we’re taught to equate success and power with the expectation that we’re innately uber powerful and bold, but for many of us badassery is an evolution. We’re not all born kicking ass and taking names.

It took decades for me to move from wallflower to butt-kicker. Heck, I’m still working on it.  Every. Damn. Day.

I grew up in a strict evangelical-fundamentalist enclave where a woman’s place was in service to her husband and children. Feminism (or any kind of true equality) was a dirty word.

In high school I walked around, head down, watching my feet, with my boyfriend, wearing Christian t-shirts emblazoned with sayings like “No Jesus. No Peace.” I’d wake up at 5:30AM to read my Bible and pray, for fear I’d backslide and lose my salvation if I didn’t work hard enough at it. I began to orient my every move around my boyfriend who would eventually become my ex-husband. My vows to him included a line that I would “follow wherever he led.”

I lived in a constant state of blind fear, utterly unaware to the expanse that my life could have outside of this bubble world.

Over the years, I grew up and away from the strictures of a faith that no longer served me. It took years for a mindset of powerlessness to indoctrinate me, so it only makes sense that it would take years to claw my way out of those limiting beliefs.

Just like Diana Prince, I saw the world through a sheltered upbringing, naive to the realities of modern life–both the good and the bad. But in some ways my upbringing, like Diana’s, prepared me for the battles of real life. The ability to commit to a disciplined life, to share what I believed even though I was scared, helped me for what lied ahead.

I used to call my life “Murphy’s Life” because, for years I felt like I was the perpetual target of a machine-gun firing shit sandwiches at my head. Between divorce, money issues, multiple health issues, deaths of loved ones, and too many things to name here, the experiences that challenged my beliefs catalyzed me to my shift from a lowly servant mindset to that of a woman who takes charge. As it turned out, strength, courage, and wisdom had always been there, deep down. I just didn’t know it yet.

[Spoiler] Throughout the film, we anticipate that Aries will find Diana. The stronger she gets, the closer he gets.

In the final battle scene of the movie, Diana loses a loved one and must face her impossible foe.  She’s on her back, pinned to the ground. It seems hopeless. She can decide to give up, or get up. Our hero breaks through what she thought she believed about herself (and the world) and taps into more power than she realized she had.

For me, that moment came when I had to make the hardest decision of my life: taking my children away from their father. My ex was abusing drugs and mentally abusing our children (and me). The stronger I got, the worse he got. It took me longer than I’d care to admit to patch together the courage to stand up to him. I’m sure I looked like a damned wimp; I sure felt like one. But after so many years of being under his control, pinned to the ground of my own life, I finally realized it had to stop.

For Diana, it took saving the world, to step into her power. For me it was the same, I had to save my world–my children. Les Brown says of being knocked down, that if you can look up, you can get up. And so I finally did. I got up, and strapped on my own villain-kicking boots in order to protect my children from their own father.

The things is, we humans ARE so much more powerful than we believe. We are blind to our own strengths and capabilities. But I truly believe we can become our own heros. And our world needs more of us.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman gives us a beautifully faceted hero, one whom we watch evolve into claiming her own latent power.

We’re all a different places in our life’s journey. We were or are all naive in some ways, and definitely–at some point–to our own super powers.

I think superhero movies are so popular right now because so many of us feel powerless against the myriad of injustices in our plugged-in, overwrought, global society. If we’re meant to draw inspiration from superheroes, if these fantastical myths are meant to give us hope and strength then this Wonder Woman is the hero we’ve been waiting for. Because when shit got real, she did not stop.

Sure it sounds cheesy, or even cringe-worthy, but here goes: be the hero of your own life. There’s so much more to you than you realize. You don’t have to feel like a badass to start being one.

Get up and into your life, trusting that you’ve got what it takes, and you’ll see that strength, courage, and wisdom has been there  inside you all along.

 

In a market of ideas, why do some take off while others don’t? Why do some authors have mega status while others continue plodding on in obscurity, or with only moderate success?

The literary market fascinates me. There’s this vast ocean of books, ebooks, audiobooks, etc.  published each year and just a handful of them hit it BIG. I won’t pretend to guess that I know the reasons, but thinking about this got me wondering if there are some common traits among bestselling authors.

I think if there was a magic formula we’d know. We’d know because only be those who fit that formula would get books published. But as a writer trying to make it–and by that I mean support myself with my art–I do keep my eyes peeled and my ears open to what seems to set wildly successful authors apart.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past few years or so in my work with writers, and participating in writing seminars, networking, workshops, and of course, my own research.

To be sure, this kind of mind-blowing success–I’m talking JK Rowling, John Grisham, Elizabeth Gilbert level–is not likely to just happen to most of us, but it can’t hurt to know what these authors have in common.

So, let’s dive in, shall we?

#1 They write a lot. And often they have been for a while. One of the big fallacies that I wish that some successful people would stop perpetuating is the idea that they just tried something and it worked. Sure there are those lucky ducks who get rich quick. I’m not saying luck never has anything to do with it.

But read enough success stories, or listen to enough podcasts like How I Built This or Being Boss and you’ll notice a pattern that successful people worked really hard for it. Whether it was practice, trial and error, or getting a degree, more often than not, it takes time and commitment.

There’s a reason they say “building” a reputation and not “sprouting” a reputation.

Neil Gaiman offers this advice, “Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.

And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.”  (Here’s his full commencement address at The University of the Arts: http://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012)

But before you go quitting your job, please read on.

#2 They submit/pitch a lot and are in it for the long game. One of the stories that has encouraged me the most is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk where she shares how she submitted her writing to publications for almost SIX YEARS before getting something published. That’s a long fucking time to wait. And that’s real commitment.

#3 They believed in their project(s). We’ve all heard certain authors say that they didn’t think anyone would actually publish their work. This is one of those moments where I wonder if their hindsight is really 20/20.

Who writes for so long and submits proposal after proposal if they think they have absolutely no hope?

It’s likely best not to have expectations, but I have a hunch that they believed someone would say yes, eventually.

When asked about her faith in her first Harry Potter book, before it was published, J K Rowling said, “You know, I can say this now, I was quite diffident about saying it for a long time. But I did have a belief, with Harry, that the difficult thing would be persuading someone to take it, because it didn’t fit. People said children’s books had to be half the length, and what an old-fashioned subject, a boarding school. I did have this feeling that the difficult thing would be persuading someone to publish it – but that if it was, people would like it.

(Read the full interview here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/28/conversation-lauren-laverne-jk-rowling-interview )

#4 They stood for something. Often something different/unique. These famous authors have instant recognition in our minds. We know them for their style, their voice, their subject matter, or persona of writing. I think a big reason many authors don’t get there is because they aren’t deeply rooted in who they are, what they offer, what/who they stand for, or what they seek to understand. Aka they don’t know what their brand is.

This of course, is of utmost importance in the stories we write as well. Depth of plot and character, as well as intimate knowledge of themes and what both you and your writing is about is key.

#5 They are as tenacious as fuck. They made time for their writing, they got agents, they created book proposals, they wrote essays, or stories, or whatever. The point is, they didn’t make excuses for finding the time to finish their work. They did the work. Stephen King wrote every night after his two day jobs, in the laundry room, on a makeshift desk his wife made for him.

#6 They are focused. Maybe this one could be combined with the point just above, but I want to emphasize it. Perhaps because I need to remind myself of this so often. I love ideas, always have. But the problem is, I find myself jumping on too many of them and doing way too many disparate things, which makes me fall behind on finishing the things I’ve already started.

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” –Ray Bradbury

What is clear is that all of these fabulously successful writers carve out time to write, consistently. They make it a priority.

#7 Most of them had day jobs, so there’s no excuse. JK Rowling was a single mom with a low-paying job who was on state assistance while she wrote the first Harry Potter book. I try to remind myself of this when I’d rather be working out a storyline than getting my other/paid work done.

Besides I think writing in a vacuum often produces navel-gazing, academic, philosophic work, whereas having other obligations while writing, however you do it (doesn’t have to be a day job), produces richer writing and more interesting work.

Here’s what Maya Angelou said, in an interview with Harvard Business Review:

Interviewer: “When you were working at those early jobs, did you ever envision what you would become?”

Maya: “No, but I didn’t think I wouldn’t. I somehow got the feeling early on that if human beings did a thing, I could study it and try to do some of it too. And one thing led to another. If I had not studied Latin in school, I wouldn’t have found it as easy to comprehend the structure of language. Had I not danced, I might never have really listened to music and known I could compose something. You see? I understood early that not everything I did wasn’t going to be a masterpiece, but I would try to do it the best I knew how. I’ve listened to an inner voice and had enough courage to try unknown things. And I think everything in its time.”

And that brings us to what I think is one of the most important points of success.

#8 They had really great ideas/stories that were usually well executed. It seems to me that more often than not their stories or ideas were not only great, but were well crafted. How many times have you read a book, seen a movie, or watched a TV show and thought, well it was a good premise, but it lacked [fill in the blank]? These BIG successful books, essays, screenplays, etc. are (with definite exceptions) excellent ideas, well played.

I think we often underestimate the power of great ideas.

#9 They often felt a higher calling to write. One more quote from Maya Angelou, to sum this point up: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

Whether you or I ever get to the top of our mountains, I think Ms. Angelou’s advice is always good.  If you love what you’re doing, even if you’re making your money elsewhere, you’ll enjoy this life more anyway.

Here’s hoping that someday, your name will be in lights. Or at least that you get to do more of what you love.

artist sitting on the street with paintings behindThere’s this unspoken longsuffering ethos in the literary world that writers must suffer for their craft, always look at their work as inadequate; and be relentless in their pursuit of the grand art of it all. And the ultimate reward for this holy work? Being a part of a literary elite culture of back-patting and back-stabbing.

I’m calling bullshit.

Of course this rationale is also prevalent in the art world at large. When I was a child with a natural penchant for drawing and art, I was told at every turn how I could never make money with art. So I gave it up for a long while and became a preschool teacher (another high paying option, ha!).

As an adult writing student, most of my writing teachers encouraged us to submit to literary journals with readerships of hundreds and maybe thousands. It was rare that we’d talk about writing for a big commercial publication with readership in the millions.

The self-publishing deluge and mass of crappily written books out there would seem to support this higher literary calling mentality. But I can’t help but wonder why we writers must choose between these extremes. Isn’t there some middle-ground?

Look, I truly do believe that being critical of one’s own work is a great way to improve. It’s essential. And the relentless pursuit of art for art’s sake is worthwhile. But I would guess that many of us want to not only share our writing, but share it with the widest audience possible. So that tired writer narrative doesn’t serve us so well in the real world.

If all you want is to be in the great literary journals and perhaps be looked back upon as a literary genius of your time, that’s awesome. There’s no shame in that. Again, the world needs this high art  writing. I’m not saying I don’t want to be published in literary journals. I do, for sure (though I’m no literary genius).

But can we be honest in saying hardly anyone actually reads these literary journals? Many of them don’t even pay their writers and have six-month long acceptance cycles.

Can we stop holding this up as the ultimate in writerhood?

If I’m trying to sell a book–a book that I’d like to be commercially successful and of literary quality–it seems more likely to get a better deal if I’ve been published in the New York Times and O magazine, not just literary journals.

I don’t want to sacrifice quality, but if I’m going to spend my time honing my writing, doesn’t it make sense to get some commercial success out of it as well?

I want my writing to change minds now, and as controversial as it might be to say, I would love to have bestseller (let’s all stop pretending we don’t want this), and to someday support myself with my art (gasp). Maybe you do too.

I think the relentless self-bashing, pining for awards to give us  a sense of worth, and comparing ourselves to each other, does not serve our art, or each other.

I know it’s not popular to say, but I’m rejecting the idea that writers should be self-loathing, humble-braggers who are content with a hand-to-mouth existence in pursuit of their higher calling.

This is one of the reasons I am involved with BinderCon, because attending their LA conference was the first time I ever felt like I could actually do this writing thing and maybe even make some money at it.

Anyway, that’s my rant. Keep on going with your art/calling/passion/project/business! I hope this encourages you to make your own path, the one that suits your life.

On March 6th, two years ago, I started this here blog thang. But truly what I did was commit to my dream of becoming a writer. And this March 6th I totally forgot to post something to celebrate. Doh!

To those of you who have read my posts I thank you from the deepest part of my soul. One of my greatest joys in life is to connect with other people. I hope that you’ve been entertained and inspired by some of the things in this blog.

My purpose in this project was and is to be honest about the process of pursuing one’s dreams. Too often we see the successful folks put on a pedestal and we think perhaps we just don’t have what it takes to get there. And while, yes, I’m still not a best-selling author (yet), I am on my way. (And I’ve had some great victories this year [rec’d the UCLA X Writers’ Program Scholarship & I’m nearly done with my UCLA X certificate program]).

This post is pretty unpolished and unedited. But if you can look past that, what I want you to know is this: If you commit to your dreams, it may push you harder than you’ve ever been challenged before. You will feel like giving up, like you’ll never be any good. You will feel the pressures of money and family, friends and obligations threatening to overtake your dream. But even if you can just whittle out ten minutes a day for your dream, do it. It is insanely fulfilling to know you’re actively working on your dream.

Our goals can often seem enormous and unattainable. But take some time (and this is a reminder for me too) to block out all the noise and just imagine where you want to be. Be like a child, if only for a few moments every day. Notice the beauty, wonder and possibility that exists when we don’t put our dirty human hands all over it.

I haven’t been published in a literary journal yet, but I’m working on it. 😉 In the meantime I wanted to give you a present.

A Thank You for being among my first readers:

This is a flash fiction piece I did for a contest that I did not win. I still think it’s worthy of a read, even if perhaps it isn’t perfect. I hope you enjoy it.

{  “Iris” (click here to read)  }