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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Crushing Creativity

Although it’s been a bit since my last blog post, I have been up here in Northwest NJ having some Oprah “Ah-ha” moments. I’ve decided to unfurl myself from the fetal position, put on my big girl panties, stop using my creativity as a scapegoat and start being a grown-up.

I’ve realized that I have done more in the last several years to crush my creativity than I have to allow it to flourish. Admittedly, there has been a heck of a lot of fear, distraction, and sheer laziness that has kept me from completing and submitting any written works. Ultimately, though, I finally realize I’ve been crushing creativity at every turn with my habits and my mindset.   

I have been winging it. Successful people don’t wing it. I’ve fooled myself into thinking that this is what creativity likes, spontaneity.

It is a lie.

Deep down I’ve always known this.

Now I am going to own it.

First, I have decided that I will no longer put pressure on my creativity to support me financially. Now that my youngest is in school full time and my oldest is half way to college already, it is time for me to “get a job.” I could shut down. I could lambaste myself and my creativity for failing, for not “becoming a writer,” for not bucking up and paying the bills. Instead, I am telling creativity: “I got this.” I will support you. I will find some way to give you what you need while still helping my family financially.

Second, I have decided that I will no longer use creativity as an excuse. My poor sweet fragile creativity, I have thrown you under the bus more times than either of us can count! I have allowed things to fall by the wayside. I have allowed laundry to pile up. Dust bunnies to multiply. Stacks of papers and books to accumulate on every surface of the house. And creativity has shouldered the blame. That alone is crushing. Never mind, the fact that creativity cannot possibly live in an environment of disorganization and chaos. Instead, I am telling creativity: “I will create a place for you to live.” I will get rid of the clutter and get organized.

Third, I have decided that I will stop wasting my energy, my talents, and my creativity on time-sucking activities. I will schedule my time so that I can proactively pursue my passions instead of reacting to others. Because at the end of every day that I have let myself get sucked in by every distraction imaginable, I only become bitter and resentful. Instead, I am telling creativity: “I will create time for you.” I will start each day pursuing my own goals. I will be intentional with my time. So there is always time for creativity instead of it being an oft-forgotten afterthought.

I am (finally) organizing my life for the sake of my creativity (not in spite of it!).

Because I want to do more than wish on stars, I want to achieve my dreams.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Things Are Just Too Easy Not To Do

We are coming to the end of the second month of 2016. Did you make any resolutions/goals? How are they going?

If you are like most, probably not well.

Why? Why do we make goals for ourselves but never achieve them? Why have I been airing excuses and declaring goals on this very blog for over THREE YEARS?

Of course, we can examine some underlying psychological reasons or maybe we are lazy or maybe truly too busy -- there's a plethora of excuses (years worth).

Maybe it's just that our goals are too easy NOT to do.

It is just too easy to remain content in the status quo, in our comfort zone. Even if the steps to achieve our goals are just as easy TO do. Wait. What? Easy to do AND easy not to do?!

For example, here are some of my own personal goals -- the steps of which are easy to do AND easy not to do:

Get up everyday and exercise.
I know that it is best for me to exercise first thing in the morning before I get distracted by all the daily stuff. And, it really is "easy" to do this even if I am not a morning person. Just set an alarm and drag myself out of bed. If the house was on fire, I could get up. If a kid was vomiting, I could get up. If a baby needed to be nursed, I could get up. But it is soooo easy to hit snooze and tell myself that I will exercise later. I am a stay-at-home mom of school aged kids, after all, I have all the time in the world (ha!). Easy to do/easy not to do.

Eat right.
I know how to eat right. I've always known how to do it. It really isn't that hard for me. But sometimes I find myself mindfully putting junk food in my mouth. Or even taking a third helping of a healthy dinner after I am full. Or, conversely, sometimes just not eating until I am so hungry I don't care what I eat. Easy to do/easy not to do.

Be more organized.
I am just a hot mess when it comes to organization even with all the best intentions. Here are some easy organization steps that I NEVER do (or if I do, it doesn't last long):
*Deal with paperwork immediately -- take the action and chuck the paper, put it in your calendar, register, rsvp, write the check, do the work, file it, etc... So easy to do! Instead, I do the other easy thing: pile the papers and procrastinate. Easy to do/easy not to do.
*Put things in their place -- take your coat off, hang it up. Shoes off, put them away. Use a dish, stick it in the dishwasher. Brush your hair, put the brush away. And so on. Instead I leave things for later. I let things pile up until I am running around spending hours putting it all away. Easy to do/easy not to do.
*Schedule your activities -- I know that if I say from 6-7 I will exercise; then eat breakfast, then feed the kids, then make lunches, then clean the kitchen. Block 9-10 for responding to emails, social networking. Block 10-11 for direct marketing work. From 11-1 for writing. From 1-2 for lunch. From 2-4 for household chores. My day would go smoother if I followed a schedule, I know. But I struggle with that daily, I push things around, I reprioritize, I procrastinate, I get distracted. I get inspired by something (like this blog post) and I forgo all the other items on the list including eating and drinking water (hmm, I'm thirsty). Does it really matter when I do things, after all? Couldn't I write from 6-11; exercise from 11-12 eat breakfast and lunch together from 12-1... Etc... But you can imagine how that goes (see hot mess comment above). Easy to do/easy not to do.

Write more (revise, finish, and submit more).
Writing is really not difficult for me. I don't experience writer's block. If anything I suffer from writer's plethora (too many ideas, can't finish anything). When I sit my butt in a chair, the words come. Is my writing always beautiful? No. Far from it. But I have trouble sitting my butt in the chair (see above about scheduling issues). When I finally do sit down, I rarely do anything with the work. That's where the revise and FINISH come in. Again, I am pretty good at editing. I actually like to edit. Hone words and sentences. It's fun. But I have trouble letting go. Declaring something finished. For instance, when this blog post is published today, I will reread and edit it throughout the day. Crazy, I know. How hard is it to write, edit, finish, and move on? Easy to do/but so easy not to do. Submitting. Ah! That thorn in my side. Submitting short stories is soooo easy these days. Most literary magazines use a website called Submittable in which you type a little cover letter than upload your word doc and done. You can check periodically on the status of all your submissions in a nice list. I have one in there for 2016. And one from 2013. I can't even tell you how many times I have gone in there and just simply not clicked the submit button. Easy to do/easy not to do.

Be more prayerful, mindful, grateful. 
This is a big one because this is so important to me. What's crazy is that it is at the bottom of this list and all to often gets moved to the bottom of the list daily. Because as easy as it is to say a quick prayer. To say a quick word of thanks to yourself, to God, to your loved ones. We get too busy and distracted to do it. How easy it is to mindlessly spend your day doing bullshit tasks that take you away from the very core of who you are? We are all obsessed with being busy, but is it even necessary? Maybe we need to be still -- be prayerful, be mindful, be grateful. Easy to do/easy not to do.

Where is the easy button going to take you in 2016? Is it going to take you towards your goals or away from them? Love to hear from you: comment below, share on Facebook, shoot me a message -- whatever is easiest for you! ;)

Got this whole mind-blowing idea of easy to do/easy not to do by watching some coaching videos by the beautiful Susan Sly. Check out this video to learn more about Susan or head over to

If you are new to my blog, check out my very first entry written in October of 2012.

Friday, December 4, 2015

I've Got "BIG MAGIC" And A Permission Slip From Elizabeth Gilbert

There is something undeniably magical about inspiration.

When a teeny tiny little spark of an idea pops into your head out of nowhere, sending shivers down your spine, giving you seemingly boundless energy and excitement that compels you to leap to your feet and immediately DO this thing - to blow on that spark so it ignites lest it extinguish forever - that is MAGIC. Inspiration - whether divine, spiritual, or inspirational fairy dust - is undeniably BIG MAGIC.

Sadly, for many creative-types somewhere along the way - maybe at the beginning when there is only that tiny spark or maybe towards the end when there is a roaring fire - a many-headed monster comes swooping in and snuffs creativity out. That creative-magic-murdering monster is fear.

The one face of fear we all recognize has us shaking in our boots, stomach whirling, heart racing, leaving us paralyzed to do anything because we are just too scared. But fear shows itself in other ways such as guilt, procrastination, perfectionism, distraction, and other such lame and/or legitimate excuses.

In her new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses how to embrace the inexplicable magic of creativity and banish fear (at the very least, to the backseat). Big Magic oozes with the honest, endearing, comical, and down-to-earth beautiful grace that is Elizabeth Gilbert (Or, Liz as I call her in my head -- the kindred spirit that spoke each word of this book directly to me).

Here are a few little bits of advice Liz whispered to me in the book:
  • My very being is perfectly designed to live in collaboration with inspiration.
  • I don't need a permission slip to live a creative life (but, in case, I do she scribbled one just for me).
  • My soul has been waiting for me to wake up to my own existence for years.
  • There are no requirements for creativity (like a specific education or life experience).
  • I am creatively legitimate by my mere existence.
  • Done is better than good. 
  • Be a self-disciplined half-ass.
  • Put my work forward in stubborn good cheer again and again and again. 
  • Some people will like it. Some people won't. Make my art anyway and they can go make their own f*ing art.
  • Don't ask my creativity to earn a living for me.
  • Maybe one day I'll get lucky. Or not. No pressure. No guarantees. 
  • Getting a job doesn't mean I'm a failure, it means I'm a grown-up.
  • Put my work out there in the world knowing that failure or success is irrelevant. 
  • It matters enormously, and it doesn't matter at all.
  • It is sacred. And it's not.
  • Just get back to work. Have fun.  
In short: Create. Release. Repeat.

Check it out, she might just whisper to you too.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Some Excuses Are Worth It

I’ve spent YEARS sporadically writing this blog among various pieces of fiction currently hibernating on my hard drive, lambasting myself for the excuses that get in the way of my being successful at anything. I figured it’s about time I set the record straight: Some excuses are worth it!

Hands down. Like death-by-chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream or a hot fudge brownie sundae. There are just some things you can’t say no to, ever. EVER. No matter how many burpees you have to do the next day (the burpees, any excuse for skipping them will do!).  

Sometimes, it really is important to stop what you are doing and read an interesting article on Huffington Post, like which Kardashian marriage is on the rocks and which one is on the mend. Or, which “health” food is currently a no-go and which one is trending. And don’t forget to keep up with the recalls (last week it was cucumbers from Mexico). Certainly, I couldn’t parent without reading conflicting “how to” articles from experts with one well-adjusted child or the mom with the three year old she is training to clean up after herself because she will NEVER do it for her (ha! good luck with that!). Evidently, my day would not be complete if I didn’t know what you ate for breakfast or what route you took on your 10 mile run.

All kidding aside, there really are some excuses that are worth it (cheesecake, from New York, I forgot cheesecake…).

Here are some of the things I did this past summer when I didn’t put a single word to paper (yes, I know we are deep into fall but, eh, I got excuses...):

Totally worth it!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Give Me a Sec While I Readjust My Focus

One of my many running mantras is:
Everyone has the time and energy to do what they value the most…
Ultimately, I feel, when we make excuses like “I don’t have time”, or “I’m too busy”, or “I’m too tired”, that it is just another way of saying “It really isn’t important enough for me to make the time.” This is both liberating and restraining because I can tell myself if I really want to do something, I will make time for it but if I haven’t done it then it must not really be that important to me. So if I didn’t make time to write, or exercise, or cook a good meal, or play with my kids, or spend quality time with my husband  –  I guess it means I don’t value those things. Yikes, right?

I have been working on focusing my goals so that at the end of the day I can feel that I put my time towards the things that are important to me. Every day I have been waking up with a positive attitude (or so I thought), telling myself (with a big smile on my face) all the things I am not going to do with my day:  I am not going to waste time; I am not going to be lazy; I am not going to eat junk food; I am not going to lose my patience with the kids, I am not going to be fail at this whole writing thing. At the end of the day I beat myself up over all those things I swore I wasn’t going to do but did anyway. Hmmm. Sounds very negative. I thought because I was happy and smiling, I was being positive…  But, here I am walking around every single day focusing on what I am not going to do, beating myself up for all the things I didn’t do. Every single day I am focusing on the negative. Huh. Who knew?

I recently came across the quote:
What we focus on, we become.
Here I am focusing on all the things I don’t want to be: I don’t want to be a failed writer. I don’t want to be fat. I don’t want to be a bad mom. Why is it at the end of the day, these are the things I feel like I am? It’s the basic law of attraction! It’s like when I tell my son not to hit his brother – what do you think the first thing he does when he’s within striking distance?? Duh. Why would it be any different for me?

It is time to readjust my focus. It’s like I bought a really expensive camera with fancy lenses but have been faking it in point and shoot mode expecting fancy pictures. It’s time to learn how to use my lenses the right way to get the quality pics I want. I need to learn how to focus on the positive, not fake positive focus when I’m really just saying “I won’t! I won’t! I won’t!” then when “I do. I do. I do.” I think “I suck! I suck! I suck!” See how that’s no good?

What I give time to, I value.
What I focus on, I become.
It's not as easy as it sounds! I might need a bit of time. Give me a sec, while I readjust my focus!

In the meantime, here are some other blog entries you might like:

Excuse Me While I Beat Myself Up
No Parking In The Comfort Zone
ISO: Excitement
Excuse Me!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Excuse Me While I Beat Myself Up

I am in the family room of my dirty, cluttered, unorganized home in my PJs, hat covering my unwashed hair, with unbrushed teeth. I have not exercised yet today. I just finished last night's dishes. I can't do anything else until I fold last week's clean laundry because the dirty laundry has overtaken the upstairs. While I fold I am listening to the inspirational podcasts of Elizabeth Gilbert, Magic Lessons.

My eyes are filled with tears, my chest is tight, there is a knot of guilt inhabiting my throat. I am so full of dread and anxiety that I am about to throw it all down and go find a job because now that the kids are in school all I am is a financial burden on my husband. I'm a sub-par housewife and mother and I'm not even writing. Everything Elizabeth Gilbert is saying about living creatively and writing, I already know. I already know the root of my procrastination is fear. That all the other things I do instead of write is just another way of giving myself permission to not do this thing gnawing away at me. I already know that I need to just sit down and write and forget everything else -- forget about who's going to read it, forget about if I'll get an agent, forget about if I'll ever get published. And yet I don't write and somehow my house is still in chaos. I sit here knowing that if I were to ask Liz Gilbert to call me for her podcast, she wouldn't because she'd have nothing left to say to me that she hasn't already said. I just suck and can't seem to do anything right, I can't even write. 

And then suddenly in Episode 6, she and Ann Patchett reach their hands out of my computer screen and grab me by my filthy old sweatshirt and get right up in my stinking face and say to me:
Don't let not writing be one more thing in your life you feel badly about. Don't let it be another weapon you hurt yourself with.
Wow. I guess she does have something to say to me after all. Because, as she says in Episode 7, any talent you don't use becomes a burden. If writing is nothing but a burden, nothing but another chore that I suck at tackling, then it takes away from the very creativity of it. 

So this is what I will try to do: I will try to just sneak in pockets of creativity when I can, try to plug away at this latest project, and not let it be a creativity-sucking source of self-loathing. I will write my blog when I can and not get bogged down with the date of the last blog entry (3 months ago, June 12th). I will embrace my disorganized home as a sign of life being lived and not of my incompetence. If I have to get a job because the kids are galloping towards college, it is not a sign of my failure as a writer. (I will work on believing that last line) 

Thank you for allowing me to take a moment to beat myself up. Now I will get up, brush myself off, and move on. At least I've accomplished one thing today: I've written a blog. The other things will get done eventually... I may even brush my teeth and exercise. Possibly shower after.
The clean laundry
The dirty laundry
Dirty me with my dirty teeth in my dirty bathroom

Friday, June 12, 2015

#BookCon2015 Is In The Bag

BookCon Schwag: Free Totes
BookCon 2015 is in the bag. Literally. Fine, not literally as these bags are clearly empty. BookCon is spread around my house in organized looking piles. Now that I'm finally getting around to writing my BookCon round up blog, maybe I'll officially put all the schwag away. Or, maybe I'll do laundry. Or exercise. Or write a novel. Anything is possible!

What is BookCon? It is book lovers paradise! Every year the industry trade show, Book Expo America (BEA), comes to New York and gives industry insiders the opportunity to show their goods to each other and talk shop. But it's not generally open to the public for those of us that are fans and/or aspiring industry insiders (I think there is an option but if I recall it was cost prohibitive). Last year, they introduced BookCon which coincided with BEA to give fans a chance to get in on the action. An exhibit hall full of publishers, authors, bookstores, and other industry reps -- just begging you to take their free books (like bags full of advanced reader copies!). Book signings galore. And author panels. Like I said, book lovers paradise.

My sister's haul. I probably got more than twice the amount because mine included books and schwag for the kids. 
Now that I am a New York City suburbanite (of sorts), there was no reason not to go to BookCon this year! So early Saturday morning a couple weeks back my sister and I hopped on the ferry and headed to the city.

As I anticipated when I purchased the tickets last month, BookCon was energetic and inspirational for a wannabe author like myself. Every author was humble and human (go figure). And even though we missed out on Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak (damn young people waiting in line since 2 am), we managed to see everything we wanted and then some.

I don't think I can recap it all without losing you. But I'll give you some highlights.

BookCon was exactly what I needed. I do not need another $300 writer's conference telling me about Aristotle's three act structure or Freytag's plot pyramid. I do not need to hear about writing concise dialogue and deleting adverbs. I do not need to hear about characterization. I do not need to hear about finding my voice. I needed to hear successful writers talk about how they found their voices, how they had the confidence to listen, how they got from where I sit to where they sit. I needed to hear from authors I admire to just effing do it already....

I needed to hear Jen Sincero say our desire is all we have. It's what we are. Do what you are supposed to be doing in this world. Invest in yourself.

I needed to hear Rainbow Rowell say just write the story you want to tell don't think about the genre or the audience. Please yourself not your audience.

If not now, when? You only have this life, why censor yourself.

I needed to hear Candace Bushnell talk about working for three years on a project never knowing if anyone will ever publish it.

I needed to hear Jodi Picoult and her young (and I mean like can't drink young) daughter talk about just writing everyday no matter how bad it is.

I needed to hear Judy Blume talk about how she is certain that other writers could probably tell the same story better than her.

I needed to hear them talk about the creative process, the crappy drafts, and the days when they feel like they have no talent, but how they get through it...

I needed BookCon.

Author Panels!
Too many to choose from! Each one amazing. So inspirational to hear authors I admire talk about writing, their creative process, getting published, successes, and failures.

Writing and publishing with Jen Sincero, Tessa Elwood, Paige McKenzie

Rainbow Rowell

John Green talking about the film adaptation of Paper Towns

Women's Lit Panel with  Lily Koppel, Candace Bushnell, Emily Holleman, and Elin Hilderbrand

Wonderful YA Panel wth David Levithan, Jodi Picoult and her daughter Samantha van Leer (I like to call her Sammy), E. Lockhart, Meg Wolitzer, Jennifer Niven, and Nicola Yoon
Judy Blume and Jennifer Weiner

Coffee between panels worth the wait (for the coffee and, later, the bathroom)

Book Signings!
There were multiple signings throughout the show all day long. Many of them with free books!

David Baldacci (how cute is he?!)

Nelson DeMille (my dad's favorite) #fathersdayspoiler

Yes, that's Judy Blume

And general book nerdy fun!

Couldn't resist
BookCon is the ultimate celebration of books. BookCon is the event where storytelling and pop culture collide. BookCon is where authors become rock stars and grown women become teeny boppers at a One Direction concert that corner them in parking garages for photo ops:

Then this happened: I accosted poor Jennifer Weiner while she was playing with her phone and waiting for her car. But she was wonderful (oh, did I mention it was raining/pouring?).