To the Young, Broke, Lost, and Extraordinary: Part Two

A young man named Karl wrote me asking for advice. In Part One, I talked about Jobs vs. Careers and how to be the kind of person anyone would love to know. Here, in Part Two, I answer the rest of Karl’s questions.

from Best Joel Osteen Quotes

Will I be able to pay my own bills?

Like I said in the ‘Jobs’ section, employers always want good people who WORK HARD. So hopefully, you can get and keep a job. Remember to be flexible about where you live: a lot of people around here pay a lot to live in town when they could save money living out in the country and driving in each day. Also, remember that we live in a consumer society (whatever you live, it’s becoming more like the USA in that way, I’m sure) and there’ll be companies trying to sell you things your whole life. I’m not saying to buy nothing; just buy the things you care about most. Movie buff? Buy that new DVD but not that album. Buying less is equal to earning more in some cases.

Many areas and countries also have programs or assistance to help students (and former students) figure out how to manage their finances. Online also has more help than you’d imagine. Just by ‘Googling’ your question I found a lot of good articles. There is help out there — and people who care.

from engelta.hubpages.com

I feel lost. I have no courage at all in facing the reality I am living on. 

First of all, know that fear is normal and healthy. We are all afraid when we are attempting something new, scary, or momentous. Being age 20 heading for 21 is assuredly all these things. You’re doing great. In fact, you’re rockin’ it out! Because you’re reading this, you’re looking for answers, and you sense there’s something better or more out there. That’s WAYYYY ahead of a lot of people your age.

I know feeling lost sucks. One of the things that’s been great about aging to 37 is that I still feel lost sometimes, but I now have the faith and the insight that being lost is sometimes the first step to being found. At age 20 I’d written two screenplays but then just lost all interest in writing more. I wondered what was wrong. For six months I thought I might not be a writer anymore and the idea saddened me. I was lost. Then I got a new story idea, and tried it as a novel — and BAM! I loved it, and found my true calling. But I never would have started it if I hadn’t ‘lost’ screenwriting. Just trust that this feeling is important and will take you to the amazing place you are supposed to go.

Another thing I’ve learned is ‘Fake it until you make it’. Which means basically that you just start acting like the person you want to be — the courageous, excited graduate that can’t wait to take life by the horns and charge off to their grand destiny. I know, it feels fake. It feels hard. Everyone will know you’re a fraud. Except, they won’t. Because we’re ALL doing this, especially us more mature adults — we’re all faking our way through being parents and teachers and mentors and self improvement blog writers — we’re all lying… and we’re not. That’s kind of what being an adult is, a lot of on-the-job learning, and lot of saying ‘yes’ when it scares us, and a lot of doing our best and letting the rest go.

I know this doesn’t sound helpful, but now you are like the rest of us. And while that may be scary, know that every one you love and admire has been in the same place you are now.

And know that it does get better. So, SO much better. I enjoyed my teens. I liked my 20s. But I’ve freakin’ love my 30s. Your best years are just starting: you’re going to discover so many things you love, things you didn’t existed. You’re going to become an expert in subjects, in important things that change people lives and in trivial things that most people think are stupid but a few people will revere. You’ll see sights more beautiful than you thought existed, and meet people you feel lucky to be on the same planet as. You’ll start to see life as a game and you’ll start getting that cocky, king-of-the-hill feeling because you know how to play and play well. You’ll build mountains out of molehills.

from
inspirationalpicturequotes.blogspot.com

But I do remember that at your age I wanted clear, straight answers, not a lot of details and ‘feelings’. As a young writer, if I had a problem, I wanted a solution. Right there. Right then. Obviously, I don’t know your life (though I’m happy to hear more) but here’s the short and sweet version of my advice to you–

Katherine Cerulean’s Guide to Getting From 20 to 37 With a Minimum of Heartache and a Maximum of Superhero Awesomeness:

  1. Take care of yourself. Learn to cook. Learn healthy foods you love. Go easy on the sports that ruin your body, but exercise in positive ways that will keep you trim, healthy, and happy. Use protection during sex, every time.  Make time for the activities you enjoy.
  2. Be the person you’d want to know. The ‘Golden Rule’ really helps. Treat your girlfriend how you’d want to be treated. And your family. Be the employee and coworker you’d wish to have. Be kinder than you have to be. Basically, you can ‘get away’ with acting like a selfish, lazy jerk — but in the end you always lose something — your lover, your friend, your chance at a promotion. Forget that crap and be the person everyone wants to know. Be a hero.
  3. Work hard. I’ve emphasized this again and again because I think it really is the key to my success. When you’re willing to work hard, you don’t mind doing the dishes, helping out your coworker, and submitting that resume for the 40th time. Do it with a smile if you can.
  4. Figure out what you want most and go get it. Discover what you really love and keep learning, working, and fighting for it.
  5. Trust the universe. Whether you pray to a god, gods, or just feel that something larger and more important than us is out there, know that you are just where you’re supposed to be to end up where you’re supposed to go. When you desire anything, remember that you are really asking for ‘This, or something better’, and keep an open mind if your first wish isn’t answered.
  6. Never spend time with people who belittle, hurt, or upset you. I know it’s hard when you’re young, but you need to know that you are strong and awesome and you rock. When you are heading out to spend time with someone, do you feel excited, happy, and peaceful? If not — cut them out of your life. Find people who believe in you and share your hopes and dreams. And remember that Jim Rohn said, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’
  7. Enjoy life — say yes to adventure. As long as it’s not life-threatening, say yes to new things, weird ideas, awesome projects, and once-in-a-lifetime moments. Life actually does pass pretty fast and you’ll want to look back on your 20s with a lot of great memories.
  8. Become a master at life. This is a phrase of Jack Canfield’s and it means to me that you should use everything, every day, as a feedback loop. Hated feeling hungover? Don’t do that again! Love watching a sunset? Remember to do that more. Write down healthy meals you like, fun exercises, and hobbies that make you feel alive. You’d be surprised how great life can be if you just string together a million little things that you love to do.
  9. Beware the BIG things. Children. Drugs. Jail. Home ownership. Some of the best and worse things about life can turn your world upside down. It can make work harder, moving around and adventures more difficult, and even can kill you. So, like the places on old maps that read ‘Here be dragons’, just remember to slow down and be very careful when you approach these things. Just say no to that dumb friend who offers you drugs or a smoke. Use your birth control. If something seems like a dumb idea, just don’t do it, go home, and maybe get some new friends. When you’re ready for the big, good things, you’ll enjoy them far more than adding something big now on top of all your other worries.
  10. Find your people. Join classes, websites, walk around museums, start a website — but most of all keep looking for people you really like, who share your interests, and make your world a better, more beautiful place.
  11. Find out what you were put on this planet to do.  And then go do it.

from habitualbliss.tumblr.com

Lastly, an itemized list of what I would do in if I was in your shoes —

  • Buy your girlfriend flowers today (or write her a handwritten note about how much she means to you).
  • Google for resources to help you get confident about your finances.
  • Google to find mental help resources for graduates stressed out about money and being ‘new adults’.
  • Get a local job right away.
  • Work hard.
  • Spend little.
  • Feel like a great and valuable worker.
  • Make a budget and stick to it.
  • Spend a weekend really questioning how excited you are about your degree.
  • If you’re excited, work on it in all your spare time like it’s a magnet pulling you toward your perfect job.
  • Email people who have your dream job, asking politely how they got started.
  • Train, learn, and improve to make yourself the best candidate.
  • Look for jobs and internships online.
  • Keep saving money if possible — even a tiny cushion helps.
  • Talk to your girlfriend about her hopes and dreams for the future and tell her you want to help her and be a part of that future, if possible.
  • Help those less fortunate. It will make you feel capable and grateful.
  • Buy or rent self improvement books and read them (or listen to books on CD). If that’s not possible, search the web for self improvement sites and free podcasts.
  • Get more fit — especially take walks in nature, because it will calm and center you.
  • Keep looking for the right job or opportunity in your field. Or look at going back to school if some other field is more exciting to you.
  • Trust yourself. Write down lists of goals for each week (even small things), and for each month.
  • Look back in a few months and be proud of your successes.

    from
    BookBub

In the end, it’s a little like the game ‘Minecraft’. Childhood was a world. And so is high school and college. Those worlds were once scary and unknown. Unmapped. You started with nothing but maybe a stick. You knocked down a tree, built an ax, then built a little,  sad-ass house to keep the biggest spiders away. But by graduation, no matter how many hardships you’d endured and how hard you’d had to work — you knew that world. You’d visited every nook and corner of the map. You had armor and knew which monsters you could best and which ones to avoid. You’d built a chest, and a forge and your house was sweet and awesome. But then you start a new world after college and are shocked to be back with one little stick and a giant, dark, unknown world covered in spiders (and Eldermen!).

So that’s my imperfect analogy. Of course you feel lost. And a little afraid. We all do when we start something new and vast and exciting and unknown. But you’ve got what it takes; you’re the hero of your own story. And just like in ‘Minecraft’, you have to work hard to build your perfect life, one piece a a time.

But remember, life’s also a game and a fun one. Things will get better, easier. You’ll find or make the tools you need. You’ll discover amazing new vistas. You’ll win. And you’ll learn.

And when you reach age 37, you’ll probably come across something from this time and smile, and wonder what you were so worried about. Your older self will wish he could have reassured you that it was all going to work out great. He’ll probably whisper under his breath, ‘Don’t worry — you’ve got this kid.’

And he’ll be right.

from thegoodvibe.co

To the Young, Broke, Lost, and Extraordinary: Part One

from Oh So Beautiful Paper

Hi readers! I got an email a few weeks ago from a young man in Asia who had questions about his life and hoped I could help. I answered him as best I could but his questions were really interesting and made me ponder what I would tell myself if I could talk to a 20 year old Katherine Cerulean. I hope you find the conversation as interesting as I did. 🙂 

Hi Karl,

Your email today really got me thinking. A lot of people I interact with are like myself, a thirty-somethings or older who is at that time and place where we’ve been one thing for a long time and we’re ready to grow into something else (some people call this a midlife crisis). But what about you, and the millions of other Young Extraordinaries out there? You’re still growing into your first skin, and learning who you are and how to navigate through life.

I feel wholly unqualified to offer advice to you because —

  • Our lives are probably so different
  •  My upbringing and past are so unusual
  • I’m still figuring out life myself

BUT there’s one unmistakable advantage I have over you — I’ve been doing this (life) 17 years longer than you have. And hopefully my advantage is a vantage point from which I can see a few of the pitfalls and help a little as you move forward.

from tipjunkie.com

I’m going to address each of your questions in turn —

I feel like I have nowhere to go right now. I am still 20, a fresh graduate. But I am very anxious as to how my life would be in the next coming years. Will I find a job? 

Great question! Hard question. In my mind, there’s two things — jobs and careers.

JOBS: My mother and her mother were always beloved and valued by almost every boss they ever had, and when I was a teenager my mother said it would be the same for me — and she was right. Every place I’ve work at, every manager I’ve worked for, has at the least been glad I was there. Why? Because of work ethic. Hard work. I’ve seen it again and again — it’s not the brightest, or the most outgoing — it’s the person who —

  • Shows up on time
  • Has a good attitude (no complaining)
  • Ask questions so they can improve
  • WORKS HARD and steadily
  • Wants to become better and seeks to exceed expectations
  • Treats everyone with respect
  • Is grateful

If you can do even half the things on that list, every manager will want to keep you; if you can hit them all most of the time, then your future is golden. You can start tomorrow at a local restaurant, and you can end up managing or owning it one day. Just tell people that’s your dream and WORK HARD almost everyone will want to help you succeed. And if you find the rare person who’s a jerk to you, then leave right away and go work somewhere else — the world is full of good people.

So know that ‘a job’, something to put food on the table, is available if you work hard enough, keep looking, and even work for free for a day to show how useful you can be (of course some people have disabilities that can make it impossible to work — all the more reason for the rest of us to be grateful and put in our best effort).

from The Things We say

CAREERS: This is harder; this is what I still struggle with. I presume that you want not to just have a job but to have a career, hopefully in the field of your degree. I know times are tough out there but tough doesn’t mean impossible. I think here you have to decide one thing (for now, you can always choose differently later on): do I love my chosen field? No ‘maybe, ‘kinda’, ‘sorta’. Do you love something about it? Do you think it’s important? That it makes the world a better place in some way? Are you helping people, even just to understand their tax return? Do you lose time — and hours fly by — when you’re doing or studying it?

I ask because you are going to do your best work, and be most successful in a career that has at least some of these traits. And every job has these, but not every job has these traits for you. So if you have a different passion, believe me, start looking at making that your career NOW. It might take more schooling down the road, or interning, or learning a craft, but if you love something and don’t follow it, you might end up regretting it.

The second reason I ask if you love your chosen field is because I’m about to ask you to WORK REALLY HARD in it, so I want to make sure all your effort is worth it. Because I live in a college town, and I’ve seen a lot of friends and coworkers get degrees, ‘try’ to find a place in their field for a minute and then give up and stay as retail workers (nothing wrong with that, I’m a retail worker, but only while I hone my writing craft). But I also know people who wouldn’t take no for an answer and are now having great careers. Just be ready to —

  • Move for your job, even if it’s only for a few years. If you are willing to do this then you will be ahead of 95% or more of your colleagues. If you really want this career, then be excited to go wherever you need to to make it happen. I know a professor who moved from one coast of the USA to another to get the job he’d been dreaming about. And I know a writer who moved from the east coast to Hollywood, even though the odds seemed long, and she ended up an Emmy-nominated TV writer with a successful career.
  • Never, never, never, never give up. Persistence is the one thing that really seems to separate winners from the quitters. I’m going to be a professional writer because that’s my destiny. My motto is that it’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’. I could be 80 years old but I’m going to do it. Don’t panic; I’m not suggesting a 60 year journey to get your career going. But if you really want it, keep at it. Ask people in the industry how they got their big break. Send out resumes (all over the country, remember). Look at going to other countries. Look at the one-step-down-job from your dream — can you start there? Should you start your own business?
  • Be flexible. There a wonderful story in The Success Principles by Jack Canfield (a great book) about a middle-aged man who wanted to become a movie producer. The only job he could get at the production company was in the mail room. It was hard and tiring work and coworker and after coworker quit because they wanted great jobs too and they hadn’t come Hollywood to sort mail. The man hadn’t either, but he saw what they didn’t — this was only a stepping stone. After a while he ran different errands, WORKED HARD and soon enough, got his chance to move up a level. Eventually he became a hugely successful producer. So always play the long game — will a job less than perfect now lead to the advancement you really want later?
  • Make yourself better. Whatever your field is, you can improve. Take more classes, read more online, do experiments at home, ‘stalk the gaps’ and figure out how to do things better than the industry’s doing them. Practice every day. Ask for help from mentors and professors. Learn how to be a better person, a better coworker, a better everything.
  • Go sideways. When you can’t find a straight path into the career of your dreams, go into it sideways. I wanted to be a novelist and in the process of doing that I’ve become a screenwriter, self improvement author, self-publishing guru, blogger, freelance writer, editor, founder of a writing association, teacher, public speaker, teleplay writer, poet, and more. I’ve been moving forward — more people know me, my work, and I’m respected in my little corner of the world. And when I get more well-known, then I’ll have all these skills and friends and connections to bring with me.

from POPSUGAR Fitness

Will my current girlfriend still be with me on in the near future?

Probably not. I remember my first love and how an older friend said, “The first one always breaks your heart”. He was right, and even if your current girlfriend isn’t your first deep love, the odds are you two still may grow apart and want different things as time goes by. But that’s alright. Enjoy each other now and if she’s not “the one”, then know that you have some great, perfect person living out in the world that’s just waiting, excited, for the day they get to meet you. The phrase “Unanswered Prayers” is very true — today I’m SO glad I didn’t marry my first love.

Whether or not you and your girlfriend stay together (and there are a lot of lifetime loves who DO get together young), here’s a few things that I’ve learned to help you become a great partner and person —

  • Always respect them. Their ideas, opinions, and fears are important to them. Seek to understand rather then ridicule them. In the same way, I think “kidding” people about anything they like or hate or fear can be disrespectful to them. Try to kid about things, not people.
  • Listen to them. I read once that a great conversationalist is a great listener. So really try to be silent and listen, and let people finish their thoughts before adding your own. And know that most of the time people aren’t asking for a solution, just sympathy.
  • Never use words as weapons. Like breaking a mirror, you can never undo a cruel word. And while you may forget the fight and what you said, the other people may remember it until their dying day. And every time they see you, they may think ‘He’s thinks I’m stupid. He called me stupid. He helped me do this or that because he thinks, deep down, that I’m too stupid to do it myself. Because that’s what he said that one time he was too angry to lie.’ That’s right, the other person will think your angry words are real and your ever-after kind ones are false. Avoid losing their trust by not speaking in anger. Just go for a walk alone and cool off.
  • Who cares most wins. Now, this only works if the other person isn’t a jerk, so don’t date jerks 😉 The rule for our family has always been, that the person who really needs something or cares about something, is the person the family supports. You talk, listen, and then give in — unless you really care. She really wants pizza and you’re ambivalent? She wins! You really want to move for your career and she happily works at home. You win. It’s also important NOT to keep score (“You won three times last week so…”).
  • Do things for them — and thank them when they do things for you. If there’s a competition, it should be about helping the other most. My sister and I live together and the ‘thank yous’ flow free and fast. She’ll thank me for washing dishes. I’ll thank her for cooking dinner. Heck, I’ll thank her for carrying my coffee cup back inside — because I didn’t have to do it. I appreciate that I didn’t have to do the work she does and she’s glad of all the stuff I do. Always be on the lookout for ways to make her happy, surprise her with her favorite take-out meal, or flowers, or doing a chore she was loath to do.
  • Work on being someone you’d want to be with. The truth is, people get with and stay with those who are “on their level”. So be a positive person, helpful, kind, fit, healthy, going somewhere with your career, and giving something back. Always be learning, growing, listening, interested and sympathetic toward others. If you worry about staying together with your girlfriend, ask her what her ideal night out would be, her ideal day in, her ideal husband. Ask what she loves about you and what opportunities she sees for you to grow and improve.
  • Be happy. Find a job, home, and life that you enjoy. Take time to play your favorite music, go on adventures, and learn things. Because if you’re happy, you’ll attract people to you.

from modernmommyhood.com

Next time we’ll continue this piece with a discussion about paying your bills, feeling lost, and how to be a superhero.

“Oh Penhallam, We Love You!” or, A Guide To How to Make the Next Six Months AMAZING


Saved by
屁 屁

So a few years ago I talked about the possibility of going to an elite academy to pursue the life of my dreams. And now, I’ve done it.

And you can too.

Because, you see, Penhallam Academy is made up. Not real. A fabrication of the mind. And yet here I sit, in class, learning, growing — writing. I just had breakfast (a lovely paleo sausage omelet), and the whole ‘school’ is beautiful, cleaner and more spacious than my home has ever been. And this is the first day of six months of dedication, learning, and being scored on how well I’m doing in working toward my dreams.

DO YOU WANT TO KICK BUTT IN 2017?

If you’re like a lot of us, you may have started 2017 with the best of intentions (and a champagne hangout). But let’s face it, January can be a terrible time to start a big change-your-life program. The weather’s lousy, water pipes tend to burst (or is it just mine?), and everybody’s sick for three out of the four weeks.

Honestly NOW is the best time to me. The weather’s great, flu season is over, and a six month plan still ends before the start of the holidays. So if your 2017 dreams are still in the incubator stage, don’t worry, you too can join a elite, prestigious take-no-crap academy that will make all your dreams come true. Don’t believe me? Watch this spot for the post six months from now.

from
cutewhenfrustrated.blogspot.com.au quote from ‘Treasure Planet’

What is Penhallam exactly?

For my sister and I, Penhallam Academy is a plan to act like we were given a scholarship to an amazing place of learning and accomplishment, one with an impressive and venerable record. You could also imagine your place as a writer’s retreat, boot camp, internship, artists colony, or anywhere else that is away from the world and has certain rules and/or expectations. Of course, I still have to go to work, but the rules still apply there (eating well, etc) and I still have to hit all my daily goals or classes when I get home.

Basically it’s a dare — if someone offered you the most amazing education, from a place where graduates went on to have a unbelievable success, would you go? Oh, but there’s one thing — you’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. Would you be willing to struggle and strive from now through October if it meant you would be in the best place of your life — health-wise, career-wise, person-wise — in six months?

Only you can answer that. This is about all-in. This is about change your world forever. I’ve spoken to several people recently who have been undergoing that quarterlife/midlife crisis deal (myself included!). And to me, it really comes down to one question — who do you want to be for the rest of your life?

If you’re ready to dig deep, I’ll give you a step-by-step of how I got accepted into Penhallam and how you can too.

First stop — your dreams and goals

You have to know where you want to go, so you need a destination. Then you need a road map. There are many wonderful posts about goal setting (including mine) so we’ll skip that part here. The main idea is to find 3-5 goals from different areas of your life that scare you a little and excite you a lot. Not the things you coulda, woulda, shoulda do because other people think they’re a good idea — but things that excite you. And they should be clear, verifiable goals that can be accomplished in six months.

My goals are —

  • Finish my novel
  • submit 50 query letters to agents
  • write six teleplays
  • have two sit-down meals a week with my sister
  • get rid of 50% of the things I own
  • Be able to cycle 25 miles again
  • Be a size 12 instead of 16+
  • meditate for 600 minutes in the next six months

Okay, so that’s not 3-5 goals. You’ll see how I’m going to do it in a second.

from Life Light Up

Second — What should you spend the next six months doing?

Once you’ve got your goals, you need to know what ‘classes’ you should take to get there. What can you do every day and every week that will help you reach your goals?

The classes I get graded on are —

  • Writing
  • Exercise
  • Eat a paleo diet
  • Yoga
  • Clean the house
  • Wash the dishes

Lastly — how do you get scored?

The idea is that a ‘perfect week’ would get you a 100 points, an ‘A+’, a 4.0 GPA. See the chart here. So after you after you decide on what actions or ‘classes’ will help you accomplish your goal, you need to divide your 100 points between them. Note: I just have writing time whereas my sister Sarah (an artist) has classes for drawing, oils, etc. You can make as many or few classes as you want but do what excites you. And do what works for you: I get lots of great work done whenever I can make myself sit down to write. In contrast, my sister has no trouble putting in the hours but sometimes needs more structure to finish things.

My point system —

  • Writing — 25 hours a week — 1 point per 30 minutes — total 50 points
  • Exercise — 30 minutes, five sessions a week — 3 points per session — total 15 points
  • Eat a Paleo Diet — eat right each of the seven days — 2 points per day — total 14 points
  • Yoga — yoga every day — 1 point per yoga session — total 7 points
  • Clean the house — pickup and straighten every day — 1 point per day — total 7 points
  • Wash the dishes — all dishes clean at least once per day — 1 point per day — total 7 points

As you can see, this totals 100. Also, we can see that if I didn’t spend any time writing, I would be getting an ‘F’ even if everything else was perfect (only 50 points). Because writing is important. Whereas if I blew off washing dishes for seven days, I could still get an ‘A’ (93 points). Because if I’m writing for 25 hours, eating great, exercising etc, I’m rockin’ it out — even without having the dishes sparkling.

from
bodywork.blogg.no

Remember, you’re the teacher AND and student.

One way to help yourself is to think from the point of view of a confident and successful teacher who has just taken you on as a student. The student has promise and potential. What are their strengths and their weaknesses? What kind of class plan will help them reach their goals? In my case, I knew paleo could help me lose weight, so if my goal is to lose those pounds that have crept back on, then doing something I know works is a smart teacher move — better than trying something I have no experience with. Is it easy? (five minute break for laughter here). No, but it gets the results I want.

So see all the potential within yourself — and recognize how hard you’ll need to work to bring it out.

The key —

Be serious. Be excited. Be committed. My sister and I bought special necklaces to wear and a banner and welcome mat in the Penhallam colors of teal and gold. I know the Penhallam fight song — I wrote it. I’m ready to work hard and push myself to the max. Because in six months, I’m going to SHOW YOU what I’ve accomplished, what my GPA is, and how much closer I am to my dreams and goals.

So join Penhallam and send me updates at katherinecerulean@gmail.com. Be part of the graduating class in October. Or create your own amazing school (start here to find a kick-butt old English name for your academy).

Is it silly? Is it a waste of time? Or is it exciting, unusual, and a great way to start to see yourself and your goals anew?

by Sally Murray
THE REAL PENHALLAM!

FIRST DAY UPDATE:

It’s now about 6:00 pm (this will probably post a few days from now) and the first day of Penhallam is almost done. When I complete 45 more minutes of writing time, I will have a perfect day and have gotten 25 points on this first day of the new week (since I work full time, ‘off’ days have increased importance).

I’m tired. But it’s been great. My sister has cooked us amazing paleo food (and chia seed pudding!). I’ve taken a walk and done yoga. The house looks great. And I’m writing this post, I did one for the Athens Writers Association too, I’m changing my office in a big way (getting rid of two book shelves), and I’m reading submissions for an AWA comedy collection. I’ve done a lot. I’m tired (wait, did I already say that?) but I am looking forward to the rest of this week, to getting my first ‘grade’ on Sunday, and to seeing just how far and how fast I can go.

After all, Penhallam is an amazing academy — I’ve got a lot to live up to!

by Shannon Honeyford

Welcome to 2018

Happy New Year! And congratulations! I know 2017 got off to a bit of a slow start for you, but man — you picked up the ball and ran with it. The last eleven months have been full of hard work, new challenges, and amazing accomplishments. You might not have gotten everything completed on your resolution list but you achieved a lot! You’re better positioned to live your dreams than ever before. And maybe more important than WHAT you’ve done is the ATTITUDE with which you’ve done it. Wow — you are an inspiration to all you meet.

from luna---belle.tumblr.com

from luna—belle.tumblr.com

Eleven Months Earlier

Things didn’t look so good. The best of intentions at New Year’s ran smack dab into the harsh wall of reality. It was kind of funny actually; it was like the moment you got serious all the little monsters and bugaboos crawled out of the woodwork and made you set aside your big dreams to deal with them.

By the end on January, things were ‘back in hand’ but you were exhausted and wondered if you could ever regain your momentum and make this the year that mattered and that changed everything.

by David Hirst

by David Hirst

How You Made 2017 Into a Rocket Ship

As the calendar turned to February, you started to feel excited again. Unreasonably excited. Sure, you were still tired, still bruised from your battles. But deep in your heart you started wondering if those January monsters were not just guardians at the gates and now that you’d bested them, you were in exciting, new territory. The year was young, the year was yours. And you were ready to fulfill the promises of January 1st.

All you needed was what every adventurer needs — a faded but trustworthy map; a bag of food — fuel for the journey, a mind for exploration, and heart full of gratitude for this chance, this trail. You looked about yourself and gathered:

THE MAP

You had a list written and printed out, that clearly defined where you most wanted to go this year and step-by-step for how you would get there. You took this map and placed it where you would see it every day and could check it off as you got closer and closer. It was so exciting as the months passed to see your progress. Standing at your destination at year’s end, you couldn’t imagine how you would have made it without it.

THE FUEL

You can’t get anywhere on an empty stomach. So you found new inspiration — from a blog, a book, a new Pinterest board, and new friends. Maybe you read these wonderful books —

from the American Library Association

from the American Library Association

from Amazon.com

from Amazon.com

A MIND FOR EXPLORATION

As you watch the clock tick down the minutes until 2018, ‘Champagne’ glass in hand, you realize that most of your success this year came from changing your attitude. In fact, you’re a little angry it took this long to learn how to live your dreams. It’s not easy, but it sure seems simple now. You take a breath and realize that now is right on time. You were finally ready this year to become the champion you’ve always known you could be. So what if it took awhile to reach this place — it was SO worth it. You realize that the best things about your new mindset were —

  • finally embracing failure as a stepping stone
  • forgiving yourself, forgiving yourself for everything
  • seeing hard work as essential and exciting
  • seeing play as essential and exciting
  • knowing 100% that you were capable of becoming this amazing person you’ve now become
  • learning to laugh and enjoy the adventure

    from fodors.com

    from fodors.com

A HEART FULL OF GRATITUDE

I know. Back in late January you didn’t feel so grateful. It was cold (sometimes). You got sick. And mostly, your dreams felt at a standstill. But then you realized how lucky you were. Very, very lucky. You had amazing talent, unerring taste, and a dream that you never stopped thinking about and working toward. And you were now in a position to be able to follow that dream — even just a little bit — every single day. You had the drive and determination to turn your goals (your map) visible. And people now STARE in disbelief. They think you got lucky. And you get a little teary-eyed because you did get lucky, you got you — this amazing, able, fantastically dedicated person who said ‘Screw it; I’m going to be the exception. I’m going to be exceptional.’

And every day after that, all throughout 2017, you thanked yourself each day for being the person who went for it and chased after your dreams so hard. And you were also thankful to everyone and everything else that made 2017 such a success.

CONGRATULATIONS! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Now it’s time for those 2018 goals…   🙂

2016: Let’s Be Honest

from fromupnorth.com

from fromupnorth.com

So, I really want to have a knock-down, drag-out with 2016 to figure out what happened, what went wrong, and how to make 2017 amazing. I know a lot of people who have had similarly adversarial relationships with this past year.

That said, when I get honest I sometimes depress people by talking about the highs and lows in vivid detail (I think I permanently scarred my sister when she read an unpublished piece about my relationship woes; I thought it was funny stuff).

So, since this is mostly about me and the challenges of this year, feel free to skip it and we’ll pick back up with something more positive next time. BUT I do feel like the lessons of 2016 have propelled me into the most important new phase in ten years (more on ‘Phase Two’ in my next post).

For those who choose to remain: Beware, for here be monsters.

from theberry.com

from
theberry.com

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

This year I completed my best novel ever, the first draft of which I finished on a beautiful spring day while sitting on a hilltop and feeling as one with nature and the universe, and marveling at my own abilities.

I also cried like three times on my birthday in November — and none of those times were from joy.

So that about sums up 2016.

What went wrong?

Well, this year just had some challenges (though I’m very lucky and blessed overall). In January someone going 40 rear-ended me at a stop light and totaled our car. I was fine and his insurance paid, but it was a lot of stress at the time. We had a rat in our house for the first time, which lead to a month-long odyssey to get rid of him (my respect for rats increased multi-fold).

Then our grandmother died. Her health had been failing for a while but it was my and my sister’s first big loss since our mother died twelve years ago.

I also picked some goals that were not perfect in retrospect. My goal to enter a 60 mile cycling ‘fun ride’ in May was both ambitious and not super-fun to achieve, and it didn’t help me from slipping from fit to fat as the year wore on.

I also planned to submit 500 queries to agents, or resumes to businesses and websites— all in an effort to make something happen this year. I probably submitted about 150, mostly to no effect.

So that’s the bad. Oh yeah, and I was waaayy excited about driving a European musician from north Alabama to New Orleans (dreams and romantic fantasies included) only to have the trip be canceled last minute (amazing, heartfelt, 7,500 word piece about that is in the works).  😉

Oh, and the election was a heartbreaker for me.

It’s not that so many bad things happened, it’s just that I really wanted big, good things to happen. I wanted to get an agent and sell my novel. I wanted to get in my best shape ever. I wanted to get a boyfriend. And get out of my retail job.

None of those things happened, and as they say, expectation is the root of misery. On the other hand, a lot of very good things happened in 2016. Sarah and I always have a best of the year list, and mine included —

Highlights of 2016

  1. Finishing ‘Society & Civility’. My best book yet, and the one I had to rewrite the most. I’m very proud.
  2. Finishing one television pilot, one screenplay, and ‘Triad’ first draft. My young adult, superhero novel ‘Triad’ had been brewing more a while, as had my renewed interest in writing for the screen.
  3. The whole stupid canceled trip to New Orleans. I got to hang out with my sister instead, and felt more than I had in a long time (it was bad feelings but those too are valuable for writers).
  4. Hearing Frank Turner live again. The closest thing I’ve found to a shot of pure inspiration.
  5. Eating at The National (the best restaurant in Athens, GA) for the first time.
  6. Some other good stuff.

But as a whole, the challenges seemed to overshadow the triumphs. So what did go wrong? And how can I right the ship in 2017 and ensure that I don’t end up crying on my 38th birthday?

from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

— 2017 Plans —

  1. Set goals you can achieve. 500 query letters just wasn’t very realistic for someone who can only write about one every thirty minutes (and it might not even be the best way to get an agent).
  2. Align your goals with your dreams. In the same way, being out of my retail job by the holidays pretty much meant I would just have had to go find a different retail job — not really my goal. And cycling 60 miles in one day proved something, but it didn’t mean I’m healthier now than last year.
  3. Get back on track quickly. The best times of last year were the weeks and months that my sister and I were on track, getting rid of clutter, eating right, and working on our writing and art goals. But the aforementioned hardships (car totaled, Grammy passing, trip falling through) led to extended periods of eating badly and not doing much toward our dreams. In hindsight, I would have pushed harder to get back on course sooner.
  4. Figure out what you really want. Part of my unhappiness was born of really wanting to move into a new phase of my life (another longtime retail worker just mentioned to me that, between the two of us, we have been there almost 25 years — woof). I keep saying that I’ll have time for a boyfriend — when I’m living the life of my dreams. I’ll have a nice house when… I’ll be fit when… I’ll travel when… And these things have became tied to me being a professional writer who lives off what I earn. Oh, and I’ve decided it’s cool not to have children as long as I can have a great career. So, as you can imagine, each year that hasn’t found me becoming a ‘professional writer’ has added my confusion. Hence the crying on my birthday. When will this ‘pay off’? Of course, I have a great, enjoyable life as is, but I do have desires unfulfilled. I think I need to date and travel and make the house nicer now — not just plan for someday when I have my dream job.
  5. Make a perfect life here and now. A lot of my plans for 2017 involve living my dream life in the present moment. I want to write a lot and on projects that I love and that excite me. Basically, I want to act like I’m already being paid to write what I love most, like millions of people are clamoring for my next creation. I want to live in a minimal, clean home full of beauty. And I want to eat and exercise like I’m already achieving everything else I desire. And maybe I’ll even add in the happy chaos of dating someone.
  6. Realize that ‘Madness isn’t for everyone’ — but it might be right for me. That’s a new tattoo I’m thinking about getting (and an E.M. Forster quote). Basically, to me it means that the hard work, nay insanity, of living your dream life isn’t for everyone. A dream is a pretty thing that doesn’t take up much space but a goal — a dream unleashed — is a wild, vibrant, life-changing — and altering — force. I think that 2016 really saw me bringing my dreams out into the open and I think that caused a lot of chaos in my heart and in my life. My fantasies about the trip revealed my romantic side that had been neglected, while submitting queries and resumes showed how much I want to join the ‘professional’ writing world. These aren’t bad things, but they are hard. Saying our lives, and ourselves, are not perfect is never easy. I understand now that it’s part of the process of changing up my life and I’m prepared to suffer a little on the road to living my dreams.
  7. Do less. One thing about these big, new, exciting dreams is that they take a lot of effort. I think I want next year to be about doing a few things really well, instead of a lot of things okay. I’ve always loved the idea of boarding schools, or retreats — going somewhere and just living for one purpose. I’d love to really focus in 2017, and say I could end up with several great writing projects done, and the nicer house than ever, and feeling in shape. I want to back off on other things — bigger travel or even a new job — and really work on getting some amazing writing done.
  8. Let go. This year I pulled back from my role in the Athens Writers Association a little and told my writer friends of my plans to travel more and eventually live in other places. It was hard. It felt like I was abandoning them and destroying what we’ve built together. But it’s not my future. I created the group I wanted, and love all the wonderful experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met. But now I feel drawn in new directions and would feel resentful if I felt like I had to stay and oversee the AWA forever. If it is meant to be in the long-term, the AWA will belong to others. In the same way, my sister and I had some amazing trips up to visit our grandparents on the lake and those times are changing too. I think the more wholeheartedly we can release the rhythms of the past that no longer serve us, the quicker we can change our lives for the better and embrace our destinies.87955017bc1fa5715cea2f755db2b36b
  9. Read the writing on the wall. Honestly, some of the pain of 2016 came really from not seeing reality very clearly. Now, I’m a huge fan of dreams and possibility but I probably should have been more aware — that the dream trip might not happen, the Republican candidate could win, and that a Jane Austin-inspired novel might be a challenging sell. Big goals are still good, but it helps to be open to things not always working out as expected.
  10. Just ride it out. Stuff happens. That’s just life. There’ll always be little issues and annoyances. And one of the more important things that happened last year, losing our grandmother, had been on the horizon for a while. Life is always going to have its share of challenges. Even a ‘perfect life’ with the dream job and house, would still have colds and oil changes and accidents. Some part of life is just handling what’s thrown at you with grace. And 2016 threw a few things at me. I’m still working on the grace part.
  11. Spend more time on what you love. Some of the best times in 2016 were doing fun things with my sister, and cycling through the beautiful countryside, and writing. Especially the writing. Even now, when I’m tired, a little bummed out, and just about done with 2016 (I wrote the first draft of this mid-December), I’m still happy to be writing. To have gotten up early to write, and to be planning all the great fiction I’ll create in the new year.
  12. Grow better instead of just growing old. In 2016 I learned that I’m now in the ‘middle-aged’ group. I still feel young but I do know that time is passing. And I’m thankful because I feel like I’m so much more improved now as a person than I was 10 or 15 years ago. I’m a better person, a better writer. And I think the important thing is to take even bigger steps next year to become the person I want to be and live a life I love — now and for years to come.
from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

NOTE: Since I wrote this in late December, I’ve had a very exciting Christmas when my beloved sister Sarah gave me a replica of Thanduril’s sword.

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That character has always been special to me and this sword is a huge symbol to me. I’m ready to be worthy of wielding such a weapon, and it’s a reminder to be daring and ‘all-in’ in my writing and my life.

Sarah and I have made some awesome new habits in our life and when you do that, to quote Sarah’s 2017 mantra — ‘Everything changes.’ Next post I’ll get into what we are doing and how you too can make 2017 the best year yet.

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Ten Quotes to Lift Your Spirit

According to a lot of people, 2016 has been a tough year (myself included). Hopefully the holiday season will be especially cheery and bright this year and here’s an early gift of ten of my favorite quotes to improve your day —

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Hamilton the Musical

Hamilton the Musical

from imagevalley.co

from imagevalley.co

if-i-find-in-myself-desires-which-nothing-in-this-world-can-satisfy-the-only-logical-explanation-is-that-i-was-made-for-another-world

kmba-ira-glass-quote

— Ira Glass

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from imgfave.com

from imgfave.com

from weheartit.com

from weheartit.com

etsy -- BlushBoulevard

etsy — BlushBoulevard

And one to grow on…

Matt Adrian / The Mincing Mockingbird

Matt Adrian / The Mincing Mockingbird

United: Why We As Americans Are Better Than People Say

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I think Hillary Clinton will make an amazing president.
As a ‘responsibility’ person I take seriously the choices I make for my life — who to spend time with, how I treat others, what I eat, and where I direct my energy in my brief time upon this earth.
I think, and re-think, possibilities. Every choice has weight, and merit. I try to balance enjoyment with hard work, chocolate cake with salad.
Hillary Clinton may be salad to you.
For me, I’m excited for the first woman president, but I’m most excited because all my reading and studying of the issues (and scandals) has instilled in me a belief that she will be A GREAT PRESIDENT.
Not a good one; a great one.
There been so much noise, and vitriol, and hate that’s it’s hard to come back to two human being interviewing for a job, but that’s what this is. And you don’t have to love all of Clinton’s choices (like every other human being on the planet, she also has sometimes made mistakes), and you certainly don’t have to want to have a beer with her. Just let her do her job. A job every living president, including Republicans, has refused to endorse Donald Trump for — because he’s unqualified. You can admire your nephew’s spark and personality, but if he fails at the lemonade stand, you can’t let him run the Buick dealership.
A word about Trump: I don’t hate him. While I personally never would want someone so rude and hurtful in his words to women and minorities representing us and speaking for us, I understand a part of his appeal. I grew up reading Doonesbury, and ‘The Donald’ was a larger than life, funny character. Later I watched the first season of The Apprentice. Trump was king, issuing interesting challenges and dispensing bite size business wisdom. The credit for that show might go mainly to the producers, but Trump was in his element — engaging, straight-talking, funny.
The White House is in no way his element. The White House isn’t fun. There is no throne. And problems in the Situation Room can’t be solved with bite sized mon bots.
And so it is his experience and judgement, not the many cruel things he’s said and done, that disqualify him in my mind. He thinks we might should default on the national debt, leave NATO, and go back on our word — our signed treaties — to protect our Asian allies. His ideas seem stark black and white in a grey world — but understanding those shades of grey is imperative to actually addressing and fixing our problems. When your kid suggests you throw that mortgage payment you don’t like into the trash, they think they have a great solution to your problem, to as an adult you know it’s more complicated than that.
Hillary Clinton is the adult. She’s the person you want as your doctor, your accountant. She doesn’t have to be your first pick, but between the two people interviewing who have a chance of winning — in my mind, in my judgement, she’s the only choice. I also think that she will be one of the most hardworking, problem-solving, and reaching-across-the-aisle presidents we’d seen. I actually think she and Paul Ryan would be a great team.
My last word though, is actually why I wrote this. It’s been a long, LONG, ugly campaign. The mud is now so deep that we can’t see the two human beings in this race anymore. So much mud has been thrown, in fact, that us bystanders have gotten it on us too. Well, it’s time — on this penultimate day before the election — to wash it off and show everyone, including those who don’t share our beliefs, how beautiful we are.
We’re Americans. I live in the deep south, in a conservative, rural area, and I live next to some of the kindest, most caring, most community-minded people I’ve ever met. I also work in a college town, a place with liberal people who work hard to improve each others lives and look after one another.
We’re a country full of good people, and we’re passionate about what we believe in. But I think we have a power greater than passion, a power those who lead us and write about us and ‘decide’ who we are don’t see — our power is a good-natured, bullshit-detecting, humanity.
Almost all of us crossed over oceans — in person or in our blood — to get here. It was often cramped, with bad food and little reason for cheer. But we soon-to-be Americans, we found a little light and huddled around it and sung and told stories and laughed together. We were better, and more beautifully-souled, than any hardship.
We’ve survived great wars because everyone pitched in and went to work. We’ve become more just, even though the path to justice always means having to examine ourselves and allow ourselves to change in sometimes painful ways. We Americans discard our outdated beliefs to make new friends — when was the last time you judged someone for being Irish or Scottish?
We Americans carry every bit of the best part of the founding father’s vision — and we do it with a what-can-you-do? smile and a shrug.
We come together in times of tragedy. We laugh in shared joy. We soar when joy finally comes to Mudville and the Cubs bring it home. We are better, more real, than any model. We are more forgiving and fill of grace than makes for good news-story prophesying. We get along better, work harder, laugh more, and love each other in ways that those who seek to understand us can never understand.
It’s been busy, loud, divisive, sometimes fun, and often disheartening. But it’s almost over. And tomorrow half the country, including maybe myself, will see our team lose the big game.
So be extra kind this week. Be extra American. Help your Trump-loving neighbor mow her lawn and listen to her concerns about the future. Buy your Clinton-loving neighbor a beer and listen to his concerns about the future. We have much to learn from each other. For every winner you hug, hug a loser.
The pundits, the media, and even the candidates themselves pit this as a larger-than-life struggle between two unyielding, opposing forces. And while it’s important to fight for what you believe in, it’s as important to live your beliefs, your values.
We’re better than they say we are. We fight and love and work together every day. We help each other cross streets, hail taxis, get directions. We help each other grieve, and celebrate, and achieve.
So whoever you vote for, know that America, and Americans, will be just fine. We’ve seen worse, and we’ve done better. This election hasn’t been our finest hour, but that’s because our finest hours still lie before us. America is the greatest country on Earth because we’re part of the greatest experiment on Earth and one that each of us is an integral part of of — and that is still in its infancy. We’re are America and we’re awesome — each and every one of us is awesome.
So vote. Then — win or lose — find a light. Gather with the victors and the defeated in love and shared humanity. Sing a song, share a drink, help someone you don’t know.
We choose the way forward, and as Americans that way is always up. As Americans we also know that the road upward is often hard, and full of hurt and disappointment. We are ever experiencing growing pains, but that is because we are still growing.
I’ve got you. We’ve got this. We didn’t became great by lacking bravery. We became great by rising to every challenge.
This election? It will define us for now. Our choices are important. We are responsible for picking a qualified, knowledgeable leader. But most of all we are responsible for each other. I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper. I know this will be a tough week, but together we shall be what we have always been — in spite of injustice, inequality, division, and hate. We shall be one.
United.
And let no one tear us asunder.
Now, who wants to go for a beer?

Moment: A Poem

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We, by nature, are creatures of want, creatures of need.  We need shelter, food, and even, I would argue, we need love.

Our wants of course, are endless.  From the noblest desire for world peace to the hope of people ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ our latest online pic, there is no limit to our wants.

‘More’ is one of our greatest wants. There’s nothing a small child loves more than a cookie — unless it’s TWO cookies. It is a natural desire, not necessarily born from selfishness or greed in my opinion, but in the best circumstances born from love.

We’ve enjoyed something so much, it’s bettered our life in ways un-imagined, and honestly we simply never want to do without it again.

When I find certain people — just a few times in my life, I want more. To paraphrase F.Scott Fitzerald, I want to do everything in the world with them.

But, in another way, just getting to meet someone IS the world. Time quite likely is an abstraction of our own making, and so I like to believe this meeting will continue and exist somewhere, forever.

I don’t have to be everywhere they are, involved in every conversation.  We were connected once — through a good conversation or a good laugh — and that moment will echo in a sacred glade where all the clocks have broken.

I probably think such things to lessen the pain of releasing friends and lovers into the world, to leave them to their wiles. I can only hope fate is kind, their loved ones steadfast, and that they sense, somewhere in their hearts, how very much they are loved.  Even if I only shared in a few minutes of their glory.

A few minutes.  For the ‘more’ crowd, that’s nothing, that’s pointless.  What’s an egg-timer-length conversation in a life? What’s one exchange, one joke? Surely that can’t change my life, or theirs?

And how can there be meaningful connection with someone who chooses not to be connected? Whether distance or work or love drives someone from your sphere — then they and you are nothing to each other and share nothing, right?

Not in my mind. A connection can only be the meeting of the eyes, a fleeting understanding between souls on a crowded street — lines running from infinity to infinity and only crossing once. On this day, in this moment.

In this moment.

If we always want more, and believe only quantity matters — if years and joint mortgages and fifty year friendships are the only measure of worth, of connection, of love — then we are doomed to always desire more. We simply cannot have everything, all the time, with everyone. And like the child wanting that extra cookie, we may discover that more is not better.  Would your life really have space for forty best friends, six dream jobs, or three soul mates?

Perhaps life instead, gives us moments. Best friends for a day. That summer we thought we would become fashion designers. A few bright fall days when we felt we’d met a soul mate.

As a human, I desperately want more of everything I love. More beautiful walks in nature. More gourmet meals with my sister. More times of looking into someone’s eyes and understanding exactly what their words cannot say. More moments with you.

But there’s someone out there who has taken their last walk, and eaten their last meal, and they still are blessed and gifted by all they have seen and done. Memories is a dead term, I prefer to dwell in moment.

I have experienced so much and so joyfully that I can never be sorry for the brevity when the berth has been so great. I speak of longing but I sing of gratitude.

The day we release ‘more’ ironically is the day we are given everything. Perfect satisfaction. Perfect experience. True friendship. True love.

Because when you don’t need to possess anything, the whole world belongs to you. The length of a connection is no more meaningful than length of a sunrise — you either experience it or you don’t. You’re best friends for the length of a laugh, lovers for the batting of an eye, family for the duration of a meal.

Still, we are human and we want. I do not require a lifelong ally, or a lifetime of friendship. All I desire now is a million more seconds of connection with you.

And yet, in this moment, I find everything I seek.

What’s Your ’10’ Career?

Just a couple of days ago I sat down to make a business plan while waiting in a Chinese restaurant for my takeout order to cook (tip: if you can’t figure out a surefire plan for your business in ten minutes, then why bother? 😉  The only thing I had time to do was make a list of 11 money-making ideas related to writing, and then rate each idea on a interest/excitement level of 1-10 (ten being screaming-at-the-ceiling-excited [so what, I scared a few patrons]).  I put down the numbers as fast as I could, with a minimum of thought.  The idea here was to get an almost subconscious feeling for how much I wanted to pursue these options.  That idea may sound touchy-feely, but I believe that what draws you in is also where you have your greatest potential.

from AhteesDesigns on Etsy

from AhteesDesigns on Etsy

As I wrote down the numbers, I was surprised — there were strong feelings, and no hesitancy, in my actions.  When I looked back at the list, the path — usually so muddied by my indifference as to HOW I earned a living writing — was suddenly crystal clear.

My List:

  • Novels: Self Published      — 3
  • Novels: Traditional            — 10
  • Screenplays                         — 9
  • Self Improvement Books   — 7
  • Articles                                 — 1
  • Teaching                              — 2
  • Teleplays                             — 1o
  • Greeting Cards                   — 1
  • Editing                                 — -1
  • Web Site Design                 — 3-5

The truth, however scary, was right before my eyes.  I might enjoy writing articles (like this one!) and teaching for free, but my soul blanched at the idea of doing that as a job.  The problem with this ‘revelation’ was that I already was making plans to push it this fall and write for Huffingtonpost, set up paid classes, etc. etc.  But my list said (since I already have a ‘day job’ that pays the bills) that I should only really be working on four things — novels, screenplays, teleplays, and self improvement books.

Woah.  That IS what I want to be doing, but is it also what I SHOULD be doing?  To answer that, I need to go back and introduce you to a book that absolutely changed my life.

from mariongundersonart.com

from mariongundersonart.com

What are your strengths?

The online Strengthfinder test (which you get a code to take when you buy a NEW copy of the book ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths), has 34 themes or ‘talents’ that a person can have, like Includer, Intellection, Input, Positivity,  or Responsibility (those are actually my themes).  You get your top five revealed and for me, it was a life changer.

Like never before, I was able to see my positive qualities laid out before me.  These talents are so integral to who I am and come so easily to me that I took them for granted. They are the traits that, when praised, make us say with a dismissive wave of the hand, ‘Oh, everyone thinks like that’, but other people are drawn in and in awe of your abilities.  And we ALL have talents, but often we can’t see them without help — we’re just too close to their source.

Talents like ‘Intellection’ (the ability to think deeply about things), when combined with knowledge (like how to build a story) and skills (hours upon hours spent writing) equals a strength (fiction writer).  It’s soul-level compulsion meeting a thing you love to learn about and do on a regular basis.

from Huffington Post

from
Huffington Post

How does this fit into your life (and mine)?  Well, I highly (HIGHLY) recommend buying the book, just in case it gives you a fraction of the joy it’s given me.  But for now, look at the list of talents and see if any jump out at you —

Now, any talent can help any job — ‘Self-Assurance’, say, is helpful everywhere.  But, when combined with your personality and passion — your talents can push you in certain directions.  If you look back at my list of money-making writing ideas, you’ll notice that teaching rated quite low.  I’ve done it from time to time, and even enjoyed parts of the experience, but it’s also nerve-wracking, exhausting, draining.  I love the results — happy students and a chance to think more about a topic (that ‘Intellection’ again) — but the idea of doing it all the time for money sounds tiring.  Also, none of my talents involve people except ‘Includer’, so a ‘Maximizer’ or ‘Developer’ might be more at home in a teaching setting.

On the other hand, take novel writing.  I’m as happy as a pig in slop.  Oh, the work is still hard, but I want to be doing it all the time.  And it makes sense when you look at my talents:

  • Includer — I love to look at the misunderstood, broken, forgotten characters and try to understand them and pull them into the story
  • Intellection — Thinkin’ about stuff 24/7/365
  • Input — Learning about Victorian England, old-fashion carriages, the experences of orphans, the periodic table –everything’s interesting!
  • Positivity — Novels take a long time, but faith that I can finish and finish well keeps me going
  • Responsibility — Doesn’t tie in exactly, but it helps me manage myself and get the work done (sometimes)

 

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Now, doing what you love and enjoy can sound like an overly simple answer.  But if you think about it, even now, at whatever job you’re doing, there are facets of your job that draw you in and others that repel you.  Try doing what you love a little more and the things you dislike less.  Seriously.  Stop doing the junk you hate and see if anyone notices.  I did this at my ‘day job’ and now our department has risen to be ranked in the top ten out of over 1,000 stores.  I didn’t do it alone, but I’m sure spending time on the things I was more passionate about helped.

The risk in not following your talents and passions is that you can work very hard and not really get ahead or have anything to show for it.  You can give your life away to the ‘supposed-to’s and only end up with the ‘oughta-haves’.

But if instead you make your own list, and write down — real quick — your own 1-10s, you may discover what you should be doing with your life.  And if you find a way to use your universe-given talents in service of your passion?  Well then, we should all get out of your way, because you might just be about to take off like a rocket.

from Etsy

from Etsy

And now, I’ve got to get back to that screenplay.  And that novel.  😉