To Honor the Failing Darkness

Vincent Van Gogh – Landscape in Stormy Weather

Trying new things is hard. Returning to old things is hard. Doing anything worth doing is probably hard. 😉

But as the darkness of ignorance falls away we become more comfortable, less afraid, less annoyed.  The new is always challenging, which is why we rush past it — getting to know that new boyfriend, wanting to ace that class, mastering that new exercise routine. Basically, we want to light up the new landscape and turn it into a comfortable old one as fast as possible.

I know. I’ve been trying a lot of new things (and new old things) these last couple of years — dating for the first time in over a decade, taking a screenwriting class after almost two decades away from that medium, trying a whole foods diet, wanting to start camping around Georgia, giving away 90% of my possessions, making secret BIG plans for 2019 (coming soon!)…every week I’m out of my comfort zone. It’s a challenge. I sometimes do want to wave a magic wand and be better — be great — at all this new stuff.

But honoring the darkness of not knowing even as it falls away, is important. The more comfortable I can be in this state of pre-knowing, the more I’m willing the return here. To try unusual things. To be willing to laugh at myself — when I fail, when I fall, even just when I have no freakin’ idea what I’m doing (Podcasting: “Hello, hello? Is this thing even on?”).

According to Wikipedia Shoshin is a word from Zen Buddhism which means “beginner’s mind“. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

I would argue that when starting something new, you should also have a ‘master’s calm’. You want to be open and learn but you also want to be in a place of joy and play and have faith in yourself. We often judge ourselves far more than other people do, and we’re embarrassed or ashamed when we make mistakes, when we fail. It seems hard-wired into our brains to look at a single failure as a reason to give up — “Oh well, I guess I’m just not good at that.” But the truth is that everyone really good at “that” practiced to get there. And even if you don’t want to become a master, you’ll be surprised how a few months could make you much more proficient.

from
skillshare.tumblr.com

When you can stand in the place of not knowing, not yet achieving, you honor your worth outside of your accomplishments. And then you feel less confined to what you already do well. I’m very good at my retail job, but it has nothing to do with who I want to be, or what I want to do in the long run. And so while it’s addictive to stand where you’re already lauded, is it ultimately fruitless if it is not your true home.

Better to step into the darkness, lost, the tiniest flame in your hands and the widest, wildest landscape before you. Better to fail at what you love. Better to succeed along the margins of your destiny. Better to honor yourself before others honor you. And to find peace in the nudging hours of the growing dawn instead of waiting for the riotous applause of the noonday sun.

Better to dance in the darkness and stumble and rise again. Better to join the stars in their magnificent twirl across the heavens.

Better.

Always better.

from
balletforadults.com

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How to Turn ’18 Up to ’11’

Hi! Good to see you; I know it’s been awhile ;-).

So, this year has been crazy. And awesome. Crazy-awesome? Yes. And I’ve wanted to get back to the website for a while but I’ve never found the perfect thing to say, the ideal reentry into the form. But… who cares? I’m just gonna jump back in, explain a little about what I’ve been doing this year, and package it in a way that hopefully inspires you to greatness this year too.

So, without further ado…

7 Ways to Turn ’18 Up to ’11’

from Oopsy Daisy

  • Set a goal that makes no sense. A year and a half ago, while eating mussels and drinking mimosas at George’s Lowcountry Grill in Athens, GA (highly recommended), my sister Sarah and I set a goal — almost more of an agreement. A goal to change everything, upset everything. And goal to move forward (a goal not quite ready to be revealed to the world in this post). Suffice to say, this goal could not coexist with the life we were living then. One facet involved getting rid of 50% of the items we owned. That’s been a huge change. For yourself, if small goals are not getting you where you want to go, it might be time for a crazy, audacious one.
  • Write out a list of everything you need to do in 2018 to accomplish that goal. My goal has three components — health, being a professional writer, and getting way down on possessions — so I wrote out about twelve categories and eventually 100 tasks in those categories, For example, one component is Less Stuff, a category within that is Mementos and and a task is getting down on the amount of personal papers I inherited from my mom. Clearing each task off the whiteboard is very meaningful to me and I only have about 56 tasks left on the board right now (a little behind schedule, but man — the progress I’ve made this year!).
  • Change the method. Over the last couple of years I’ve returned to my first love — screenwriting. I still enjoy novel-writing too but I’ve gotten very excited about learning more and working to bring characters to life on the screen. I’m not saying I wouldn’t make it as a novelist, but it felt like the right time to adjust my sails and find a fresh wind to push me toward my ultimate dream of being a ‘professional writer’. And it’s been so thrilling to learn through podcasts and web classes and books. I have advanced so much and feel closer than ever to my goals. So if you’re not making the progress you want, maybe change tactics and literally try a different approach.
  • Dump the Junk. Even if your goals have nothing to do with less stuff, please please consider spending a bunch of time deleting items from your house. It’s been to empowering and freeing to go through each room and purge. We’re following the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō and she insists on picking up every thing you own and seeing if it ‘sparks joy’. It works, and trust me, everything become easier, more fun, and more possible when your house and your life isn’t full of unneeded and unnecessary things.

Taken by the author

  • Go somewhere that changes everything. For years I’ve had a goal to see an old growth forest (very few remain east of the Mississippi River in the United States). And last year I settled on visiting Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in North Carolina (Kilmer wrote the poem ‘Trees’). So this summer, on the way back from a family reunion, we finally stopped there and walked among 300+ year old poplar trees. It was a life-changing experience and made much of our day-to-day worries seem trifling and silly. That place now serves as an inspiration — my north star is a forest.
  • ‘Hell yes!’ or ‘Fuck no!’. As I’ve made all these big goals and devoted my time to reaching them, I have had to step away from other things. Even organizations you like, people you have fun with, and activities that you enjoy may need to be set aside (even blogs you enjoy writing!). The idea here is that — if you want to accomplish your goals — everything, everything in your life is either a ‘Hell yes’ or a ‘Fuck no’. There is no middle ground. This is an Android Jones quote, and if you see his art, you’ll understand what that level of passion and commitment gets you. I’ve kind of given up living a normal life right now and because of that, I’m living an extraordinary one.
  • Just do it. Imperfectly. Now. Most of the things I’ve been doing this year don’t feel timely — is now really the perfect moment to write this screenplay? Do I have the emotional reserves today to look through Mom’s old things and toss stuff? Is this the opportune period to network and meet real professionals? Isn’t like… 2019, or never, a better time? But as Lemony Snicket said, ‘If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.’

Are you don’t have the rest of your life to wait. The rest of your life is reserved for something better.

What Will You Do in 2018?

loveprintstudio.blogspot.dk

Few people recognize the symbolic value of the blank slate, the clean page, more than writers. Whether looking at our characters, our projects, or the actual blank page in front of us, we know that possibility is a magic few recognize in all its potency.

The idea of  ‘New Year’s goals’ has acquired a cynical sheen in today’s society — many of us make them either in bad faith or we softly snicker at those who create such plans and count down the days until that donut is eaten, or that new project is abandoned.

It is easier to laugh at our human shortcomings than to embrace the profound weight of our enduring strengths. Because, as Spider-Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I love that responsibility. I love the power you and I have to create a 2018 for the ages. A year from now you can be in disbelief about how much you have accomplished, and so can I. The question then is: How much do you love the beauty you have been given?

We are storytellers, artists, wordsmiths and teachers, and within us lie worlds undiscovered and un-shared. Be like your heroes and write the words coursing through your soul, share the stories and lessons shining from their private and scared alters, and act in the manner of the glorious and the gladdened. Whether you create for yourself, the world, or a host of angels, this year take up the actions of your heart — and take them seriously.

 The next 365 days are yours. You may dance in them, adventure through them, cry at their indescribable beauties and at their searing sorrows. Be challenged by them, taught by them, confounded by them — but they are yours.

They respond to you, to your beck and call, to your intentions and your actions. Under hard work, they bloom. Sprinkled with inspiration, they sparkle. Blessed with your faith and fanaticism, they will turn the next year into a paradise, a wonderland of exhaustion and excitement, of hard work and amazing victories, of goals sought and revelations found. There is nothing trivial — no meat for the cynic — in the land you and I are envisioning.

We see the beauty that is but the reflection of the seeker.

Diply

The successes of this new year will be built with strength, for inspiration, by dedication. The victorious will be the passionate and purposeful. They will illumine the Earth, and set the stars to jealousy.

Their work will realign the cosmos. Their journeys will become legend. The statues built in their honor will tower for a hundred years.

They will be you and me. We will be the prototypes of a new renaissance.

And when you share your vision with the world, the every one of us will see the beauty of this existence a little clearer.

I can’t wait.

B. Lovely Events

Upward and onward,

Katherine Cerulean

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

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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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.  😉

Five Tips to Actually Freakin’ Make Your Dreams a Reality in 2016

Found on salsalabs.com

Found on salsalabs.com

This has been a crazy time for me.  I work retail and I basically just become an eating, sleeping, and retailing machine for the six weeks before Christmas.  Then life gets back to normal.  I’m not proud to have fallen off on my exercise and writing goals BUT I am proud of how excited I am to get back to them in the new year.  I’m gonna be all right — in fact, in 2016 I plan to be spectacular.

And I’d like you to be spectacular too.  You can do it.  Whatever your dream is you can make a big step forward this year.  It’s not easy.  If it were easy you’d already have done it.  But it SO possible, that’s why you’re smiling a little now, why you’re getting excited somewhere deep within your soul.  The truth as I know it is that there’s a thin line, a sliver of possibility between the mediocre everyday and impossibly extraordinary — a path you can walk and — to quote Henry David Thoreau — “Meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Found on startupvitamins.com

Found on startupvitamins.com

But if you want to change your life in a significant way, as I did last year when I went from a size 18 to a size 12 and as I hope to next year with my writing — you have to understand that you only have so much energy — mental and physical — and it’s precious.  As far as I can tell, your regular life takes up 80% of your energy (work, relationships, day-to-day chores) so your success depends on guarding and focusing the other 20% on your goal.

Succeed and you’ll feel like you’re tied to a rocket blasting into the stratosphere.  For these suggestions, I’m gonna to assume you already have a goal (click here if you need some planning inspiration) and just are looking for ways to move your dream into reality.

So here’s my five tips to actually freakin’ make your dreams a reality in 2016:

  1. See yourself as amazing.  Just recently I gave a friend the wonderful book, Now, Discover Your Strengths , which encourages people to worry less about their weaknesses and instead see the greatness in their innate abilities .  I know I’m awesome, but seeing myself as someone with strengths in Inclusion, Intellection, Input, Positivity, and Responsibility helps me focus on the things that set me apart and come easily to me.  I know you can do great things, and you just have to believe it too.  Look at your whole life, what you’ve done, what you’ve withstood, the kindness you’ve given others.  Part of the book’s power is that it points out the special talents that come easily for you are the first things you overlook while saying ‘Everyone thinks that way,’ or ‘It’s nothing special.’  But you are special, and you can absolutely nail this — just go read some inspiring quotes and believe in your potential.

    Found on fitgirlsdiary.com

    Found on fitgirlsdiary.com

  2. Don’t spend your energy on negative relationships.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I RUN, I don’t walk, I run from negative relationships.  It doesn’t matter if the person meant to hurt me with their words, or absence, or choices — if I feel bad after talking or thinking about them — I move on.  I’m not callous, and I don’t judge.  But I don’t believe I can ‘fix’ anyone who isn’t personally asking for help (or looking for it on my blog 😉 ) or change anyone’s personality.  And I’m almost sure you can’t swim to the island of your dreams with the 500lb yoke of a negative realationship around your neck.  Stop trying.  Step away.  Give up.  And remember —

    Found on fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net

    Found on fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net

  3. Realize that this is not a time for ‘normal’.  From now till whenever you achieve your goal, recognize that you may be giving up a lot of free time, limiting outings with friends, working extra hard etc.  And that’s okay — no one’s asking you to give up the things you enjoy forever.  I gave up sugar for five months so I could be the size I’d wanted to be for 15 years — and so I could be the healthiest possible going forward.  Five months is nothing in the scheme of things.

    Found on etsy.com

    Found on etsy.com

  4. Hard work is a form of magic.  By now I’ve come to see that gladly working hard is a rarity.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe parents punished you with work early on, maybe school made it boring and dumb and soul-sucking.  Maybe your peers taught you that only suckers go the extra mile.  Or maybe you think you’re smarter than the rest and are gonna find the ‘shortcut’ to success.  I really don’t know.  But man, you have got to work hard.  I wish I could wave a magic ward and make you love putting in the effort, because then you’d be so far ahead of the crowd.  Now, it’s never easy — and it’s only sometimes fun, but you get such amazing returns.  If you like working hard, that’s great — now just make sure you aim yourself toward things that matter (I’m still working on this myself).  If you don’t like work, try to work harder anyway — move faster, stay later, do the thing you’d rather not.  Because your dreams are possible but they are also on the other side of a lot of dedicated practice.  And as my sister Sarah, an artist, says, ‘I don’t think dreams ever come true with half-assed effort.’

    Found on quotesqr.com

    Found on quotesqr.com

  5. A good plan + hard work + time = success.  There’s really no secret to getting where you want.  You already know how to do this —
  • Set aside a couple of hours (hopefully somewhere alone and quiet) and write out your big goal.  Then break your goal into smaller monthly goals, then weekly goals.  If your goal requires several points (i.e. go to Ireland requires money, passports, time off etc) make sure each of these sub-goals gets broken down too.  Note: Actually writing them out is essential (don’t just think about them).
  •  Work hard.  Push yourself to do a bit more than you feel comfortable doing (i.e. 12 sit ups instead of 10).  Do something every day toward your goal.  Imagine you’re already world-class — how would you exercise, write, talk, dress, etc if you’d already achieved your goal?  Note: Doing a crummy job, I’ve learned, is just about as pointless as doing nothing.  Be all in.
  • Give it time.  Once you’re working hard at a good plan, stop second-guessing yourself!  You can refine a little from week to week, but for the most part just say to yourself, ‘I’ll see where I am in six months,’ because all good things take time.  Note: If you’re doing it right, your plan probably feel like it’s ruining your life almost immediately — for a time, things will get harder.  When this happens don’t change your plan — you are probably going full-steam in the right direction.  Give it six months. 😉
  • Prepare for success.  Dreams do come true.  And there’s no feeling like committing yourself to a big dream and then starting to reap the rewards.  For months last fall, everywhere I went friends commented on my great appearance and health — and I had the satisfaction of seeing a long-term dream come galloping — full-glory — into reality.

Let’s do it together in 2016.

 

 

The Inelegant Balance Between Being Right and Becoming Better

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Now, we all want to be right — to be smart, admired, to think for ourselves and not let anything sway our convictions.  But at a certain point does certainty inhibit progress?

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I’ve been asking myself this question a lot in 2015.  Firstly, as I move forward toward becoming a professional writer, I have started thinking more about what audiences want — and deserve.  A little background: I’ve been a follow-your-vision, write-only-what-interests-you, write-what-you-love-and-the-money-will-follow type for years and years now.  And as I started to discuss the idea of writing more toward the audience’s desires with other writers, I heard my own arguments returned to me again and again.

“I think you’ll be more successful if you just follow your heart.”

“It’s more interesting to just create what you like.”

“Doing what others tell you and chasing popular opinion is no way to live your life.”

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True.  True.  True.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that just being self-satisfied with ‘being me’ wasn’t — actually — helping me get better.  I wanted to take the confidence (and experience) of listening to my inner voice and pair it with something more — with the tumultuous seas of outside opinion.

Rarely has the universe responded so quickly as it did now. 😉  Within weeks of seriously starting to think about this issue, I was challenged with a huge question — Did I want to be right, or better?

I had sent my newest novel, the 1810s-set Society & Civility, out to several friends for feedback.  But this novel — you have to understand — it had become such a favorite with me.  Ever since I’d started it last fall, I had enjoyed its world and characters so much, reread it several times almost just for fun, and thought it was a huge step forward for me as a writer.  It was a lark, a love story — and the best thing I’d ever written.  SO.  When the reviews came in there was a lot of love (most rated it 7 to 8.6 out of 10) and a BIG problem.  Toward the end of my story it totally breaks with the whole Jane Austin genre.  I knew that might be a problem, which is why I’d sought feedback before completing any more drafts.  People didn’t understand or like ‘the twist’ (as it came to be called).

I held out hope that my sister (the last of my beta readers) would feel the same way as I did and ‘get it’ as it were.  Then the crushing blow came — she felt the exact same way as the other readers.  So my perfect novel wasn’t considered by others to be perfect at all — now what?

Found on coolartcanvas.com

Found on coolartcanvas.com

Well, here was the puzzle of pleasing the audience writ large: they loved the book except for the twist.  Did I hold fast and complete it as was — the way I loved it — or should I change it?  I knew I could just brush off the opinions of these smartest, kindest friends — all creators and lovers of this genre — and tell myself that *my* audience would totally get my choices — whenever and under whatever rock I’d find this mystery group.

But– but.  In my heart of hearts I knew these were my readers — and I’d let them down.  I could always have a copy of *my* edition, but now what?  Didn’t I want to challenge myself and make a story everyone could fall in love with?  Didn’t I want to become BETTER that I was?  The answer — after only thinking about quitting writing six times in one morning — was yes.

fatfreedom.net

fatfreedom.net

So far the rewrite is going well.

So when you come up against that question, that challenge — should I listen to others or go my own way? — I would ask yourself:

  1. WHO is giving you this feedback?  Are these people you respect, people you want to emulate, or people who have valuable experience?  There no point in following someone down a road you don’t want to travel anyway.  In the example above, I had every reason to admire these readers and believe that they would give good advice.  In a different example, a co-worker was recently applying for a job I’d previously held for two years and I offered to help them out and answer any questions they had.  They pretty well blew me off, believing they already knew ‘everything’ about the position.  I was someone with insight and a desire to help — and that could have been a powerful resource to help them if they’d been willing to listen.
  2. WHY are they telling you this?  Some people just like to complain, nitpick, or put others down and you should never be using these people to judge your work or your life.  But if you’ve asked someone for their advice, you should listen because you probably thought they had something valuable to say — you know, before they told you what you didn’t want to hear.  And if you are creating products you want people to buy, consume, or love — you need to listen double-hard.  Most likely, they are disappointed — and now they are trying to help you — maybe imperfectly, maybe in the human language of anger or frustration — but what they take the time to tell you are the words a hundred other customers may have walked away with still written in their hearts.
  3. Are YOU 100% happy with your results?  If the answer is yes, you’re done.  Stand firm.  Tell the rest to go to hell and hold true to your path.  Discover your fans and let them discover you.  But… if in your heart you know you could be better, then listen.  Acknowledge that you may be very good — you’re at least very smart and full of potential — but you not as good as you could be.  So learn a better way to jog, take a class to improve your painting skill, and be open to starting anew on that book.  If you see a gap, you owe it to yourself to bridge it and get better.  Even if the gap is just between the audience’s expectations and your design.
  4. Are you EXPERIENCED enough to weed out the noise?  This is high-level stuff, this balancing of being true to yourself and listening to others, and I want you to side 100% with your heart and intuition until you’re ready for this level 16 challenge.  Keep in mind that you always get to decide in the end — listening to others and getting feedback is nothing more than offering you more options to choose from.  And like I said, beware unsolicited advice, negative people, and anyone who truly doesn’t ‘get’ what you’re trying to do.  You really are trying to separate the wheat from the chaff here (okay, not really 🙂 — what you are looking for is that small bit of advice that interests you, challenges you, and makes you say ‘Damn it — they might be right’.
  5. Will this help you get BETTER?  In the end, it doesn’t matter if the critics are right or wrong if their advice hurts your progress.  Weird but so true.  With young writers, my secret feeling is ‘Yes, you are not there yet, but all you need is ten years of enthusiastic hard work.  Then you’ll be great.’  No one really wants to hear that, they want the shortcuts — but you can still bleed from those cuts.  Don’t wound yourself upon the opinions of others if you’re not ready.  I loved my first critique group but then came a time that I felt I must withdraw, and grow in secret like a mushroom, pushing out of the leaf litter and into the sun only when fully formed.  And now I’m ready to face the light.

I believe you can get 95% of the way to your goal under your own steam, keeping your secret counsel, and trusting your instincts.  But when it comes time to finese the final pieces, to push yourself further than you know how to go, you have to seek, to see beyond your own faith and fallacies, to press and push yourself ever upward — to become more than you are, more than you thought you could be.

To stop being good and to become truly great.

Found on llhdesignsblog.com

Found on llhdesignsblog.com

 

How to Tune Out the Noise

I recently led a class about ‘How to Reevaluate Your Life’.  Some readers will remember that I’ve talked about this topic a couple of times before and so I felt pretty confident.  I printed handouts, talked for over an hour, and thought I’d covered my bases pretty well.  Then — during the Q & A portion of the class — I got a question that threw me for a loop.

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Found on ritholtz.com

 

Jill Hartmann-Roberts — wonderful person, talented writer, and fellow Athens Writers Association founder, asked how I drowned out the ‘noise’ of other people and the world to live the life I wanted to live.  In essence, her question pinpointed a weak spot in my talk: I’d focused on how to realize if you wanted a different life, how to find goals that mattered to you, and how to pursue your goals.  But I hadn’t addressed:

  • How to deal with friends, family, and coworkers who continually ask for your help
  • What to say to people who belittle or challenge your goals
  • How to balance your idea of an ideal life with society’s definitions of success
  • How to say ‘no’ to extra work when you’re a nice person
  • Creating what you want even when others don’t like it
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Found on uniquelywomen.net

Of course Jill’s a super-nice person and didn’t ask her question in any way to challenge me.  But I was struck by what a good question it was.  I thought about it and answered as best I could (in the on-your-toes manner that talks necessitate).  But I thought that the answer also deserved a more complete response, because it’s really hard to live the life of your dreams and the life society has ordained for you at the same time.

This question is challenging for me because I kind of don’t give a fig about peoples expectations anymore.  But why and when did this happen?  I’m a sensitive soul (to quote The Lion King) and an unhappy customer at my retail job can almost reduce me to tears, so why don’t I feel the pull to follow your people expectations in my own life?

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To answer that question, let’s look at the sources of this ‘noise’ and how you can negate its impact on your life —

— Not So Fun Noise-Makers —

Well-Meaning ‘Correctors’

Whether parents, siblings, or friends, these people have life all figured out and want to point out the folly of your path.  Maybe they think you can only be happy married with kids, or by becoming an accountant, or by moving up the ladder at work.  At their best, they have found something that has brought them much joy and want you to experience it too (certainly many a yoga/health food/exercise fan has sought to convert others [I’m as guilty as anyone]).  At their worst, what they suggest has made them miserable but they still think you should follow their common wisdom.

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Consumertainment

Not exactly who we want to think is influencing us, but almost invariably ‘they’ are.  Who’s this ‘they’?  People who are paid to make us desire the latest car, the newest tech, and promise us the best night of our lives if we buy a certain beer or soft drink.  And even my beloved entertainment industry is little better, though I’d argue the sins committed there are more often from ignorance than cruelty (to paraphrase Anna Sewell).  There’s a great post about How The Karate Kid Ruined the Modern World.  Hollywood (and other pop culture) is about wish fulfillment, and fantasy.  I think back to how people wanted to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance and banter during the second World War — beauty and joy and escapism in a troubled time.  Fantasy has its place — but don’t let it ruin your real life.

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Braggarts

These people think they are better than you, or know someone better than you, and maybe just like to compare their favorite, most famous authors (artists, actors, etc) in history to you.  Even a ‘Ha ha, well it’s not Shakespeare!’ can hurt an author.  A lot of us may think ‘Hamlet’ is the greatest thing ever written in the English language and yet to be cut short, clamped down on — it stifles us and our potential.  And somebody will be the next Shakespeare.  And I will be the one and only Katherine Cerulean and being compared to people who are doing different things, with different aims, with more experiences, isn’t going to help me get there.

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The ‘Need’y

Oh, not the truly needy — the poor, uneducated, etc — by all means, take some time to give your energies or money to them.  Who I’m talking about is the ‘needers’ in your life.  If you have a job, and take care of your house/family, and are pursuing your dreams and goals — you are probably a hard-working and reliable individual.  And those are worth their weight in gold.  So you may find everyone — your church, your child’s school, neighbors, work friends, charities, interest groups you belong to — everyone may ask you for help.  What each person asks maybe be small, but it all adds up.  And if you say no, you may be called selfish.

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The Biz Experts

Whatever your dream is, there’s probably a business for it, and there are probably stars, CEOS, critics, trend-watchers, and more who will gladly expound on the ‘rules’ for succeeding.  And some of this can be very good advice.  But a lot of it is just what worked for them, combined with fear — business can often breed conservatism: do what worked before, and don’t try anything new.

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Second Guessers

This may be more internal noise than external.  You may find yourself wondering if your doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right field.  You might feel you should be doing more.  It can become stifling.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

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How Do We Tune Out the Noise?

It’s not always easy.  The people interrupting our flow are our friends, our family, even ourselves.  But if you want to do truly great things, we need to be able to concentrate and trust ourselves. So here’s how to deal with —

  • Well-Meaning ‘Correctors’  This is probably the hardest category because ‘correctors’ are often family members, and they have an out-sized influence over us.  The best defense I know is to remember is ‘they don’t know you as well as you do’.  You know if you can get in shape for that marathon, move to that new city, or ask that guy out.  At best they are guessing about your abilities and interest.  ONLY YOU KNOW.  It helps if you can (privately) find humor in their suggestions.  Keep in mind that they are probably trying to help you avoid pain, and that they may still see you as that little kid you once were.  In the end, they will be happy for you if you succeed on our own terms — otherwise they are people who you should have limited contact with in your life.  Period.

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    Found on onlybutaglimpse.tumblr.com

  • Consumertainment  Remember that the whole industry exists to sell you things (even if it’s only a movie ticket).  And the sellers have had decades to perfect their pitches.  Though you want to be inspired by people who are living their dream lives, look for reality first.  What are the best moments in your own life on a weekly or monthly basis?  Who have you met that seems happy and to be living the life of their dreams?  Reading articles and interviews can help you understand the day-to-day lives of famous people (though beware that a biography is also a product and may be filled with stories meant to sell it).  Recently, I started listening to the podcast Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin (it’s really good), and Alec said something that stuck with me.  He, while talking about Hollywood said something like, “There are things I like about it and things I hate about it.  I love my job, but it is a job.”  Some might say Alec is ungrateful; I think he was just honest.  No marriage, friendship, or career is perfect.  I love, love, LOVE writing — and yet it’s so much harder as a job than a lot of things I could have done.  It’s hard because I care.  It’s not just sipping lattes and daydreaming (for instance, right now I’m sipping a Starbucks dark roast not a latte).  So stop comparing your life to make believe — dragons and giant robots and the Entourage life are all products of Hollywood writers’ imaginations.  f6f93a195c6ea61fa9906ca2509e87a9
  • Braggarts Honestly, I have found that shutting them down or shutting them out is the only way to deal with this type.  If the comments under the ‘help you out’ category, then the first time I’d thank the person for their advice.  “Stephen King uses a lot less commas than you do.”  “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”  But that may only encourage the braggart to keep comparing your work to everyone (including themselves) who they think is better.  Then I would say something like, “Thanks, but I have my own style and am doing my own thing right now and I’m not really interested in comparing myself to anyone else.”  If the person still keeps putting you/your work down, you have to understand that YOU are not necessary for their monologue; they are looking to inflate themselves or their ego by putting others down.  They probably can’t help it, but they are never going to change.  Cut them out of your life or, if they work with you and you can’t, make it absolutely clear you don’t want their opinion.  “Hey, sorry to interrupt you, but I really don’t enjoy talking about my work with you or hearing about yours.  Can we talk about something else?  Like how much we both hate the (local sports rivals)?  I think we’ll find we have a LOT to agree about on that topic.”

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    Found on mediawebapps.com

  • The ‘Need’y Jack Canfield (in his book, The Success Principles) says to ‘Say no so your yeses have more impact.’  Tell others that you have made a commitment to your family/job/dreams/health and you are going to have to say no to their offer/request.  You can soften the blow by posing a counter-offer — “Sorry, I’ve made a commitment to improve my health by running in a marathon in November so I’m going to have to say no to chairing the school fall festival this year.  But I would be happy give my notes from last year to the person you choose and they can email me if they have a few questions.”  Also, realize that you will do a better job on the things you do say yes to if you have less on your plate.  Lastly, think about the fact that as a useful person you will be needed to ‘help out’ from now until the end of your life, but that the best way you can help out — I’d argue — is to become a totally realized, extraordinary human being.  Being amazing at your life will bring money, connections, and even time into your existence which you can use to improve the world.  But, as Scott Adams says, ‘You have to be selfish first.’

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    Quote by Connor Franta

  • The Biz Experts There a quote from Steve Jobs — “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  I think that sums up a lot of my beliefs about experts — they don’t know what the great new thing is until they see it.  And I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t get a consensus about what works, or which paths often lead to success.  But if anyone says no one of your background, age, etc has made it, remember to add silently — ‘…yet.’  You could be the first, but there may already be tons of successes that other people don’t know about.  As you develop your talents and if you’re passionate, you will start to see these gaps — things you wish existed but haven’t seen yet.  And believe me, the world is hungering for you to fill those gaps, for something amazing and different and exciting.  I think the world needs some Katherine Cerulean and needs it right now so I spend my time trying to hone my vision, to improve myself, all while remembering that what makes me special is exactly the thing ‘expects’ would probably want me to change.

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    Found on spoken.ly

  • Second Guessers The best thing I’ve found for this problem is to think deeply about a issue/goal/etc — whether over a few weeks or a concentrated couple of days — and then make a detailed plan with a timeline.  I decided to go Paleo for 6 month to get to my ‘perfect shape’.  After I decided that, I didn’t have to think about it anymore.  I was paleo.  I’m not saying it was easy, but I didn’t wonder after three weeks if I should quit it and try a different diet — I had already thought this through and made a plan.  Short of any health problems, I simply wouldn’t even consider another course of action till I had given this one a chance.  A timed goal can work for anything — it says you don’t have to worry about something every day and yet are monitoring it.  “If I still hate my job this much in one month I’ll send out 20 resumes.”  “We’ll do six months of ‘date nights’ and then see a counselor if our relationship hasn’t improved.”  One screenwriter suggested that every six months you ask ‘Is this making me happy?’  He was talking about writing but that could work for anything — just remember to quiet the second guessers (even yourself) while a timed goal is going on — you got this in hand.

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    Found on babydickey.com

In the end, noise is all around us, and always will be.  What changed for me was when I realized a few years ago that everyone deals with these issues and feelings and challenges.  I could either continue as I had been and be shy, lonely, and questioning for the next 10, 20, 30 years or I could become the kind of person who inspires others by doing the thing and having the power.  I could feel the fear and do it anyway.  It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been so worth it.  And somewhere along the way I lost a lot of my fear of what people think.  I have no magic answer, but I do know one thing for sure: you are SO IMPORTANT and so special and you deserve to fight through the noise and never stop fighting and claim the unique throne that is held only for you.

The world may be full of noise but, in the end, only you can silence your roar.

And only you can give yourself the time, space, and confidence to show the world how special you are.  Go get’em.

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