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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?).

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's A Mom Thing

I'm not huge on these made up greeting card holidays especially these days as it feels like they have turned into over the top social media competitions. But I am all for excuses to eat, drink, and hang out with friends and family.  And since Mother's Day is centered around me, I guess it is an OK fake holiday. A bit hypocritical, I know. Eh. It's a mom thing.

My mother's day started out similar to many other days: with a five year old slapping me in the face to wake me up then jumping on my back to tell me to stay in bed -- repeated every time I almost fell back asleep. Then this happened and you can't beat that:

So I spent my mother's day hanging with old friends, hanging with my mom, then hanging with new friends. Again, can't beat that.

As with all holidays, fake or otherwise, you tend to think back and remember those you've shared it with in the past. This year I thought of all the beautiful mom-friends I have had the pleasure of knowing over my 10 year stint at this stay at home mom gig -- they have really been the best co-workers a lady could ask for.

When I made the decision to stay home with our first baby, I really had no idea what it would entail. My visions of peaceful walks in the park and picnics by the pond weren’t exactly as I planned. But even though there was a lot more laundry than I expected and far less sleep than I anticipated, I really thought I had the whole stay-at-home-mom-with-a-colicky-baby thing covered. So when I first saw a flyer for a moms group at our local library, I didn't think it was anything I needed. Their byline, after all, was Moms Offering Moms Support – I didn't think I needed support but since it was cold outside and I realized that I was beginning to speak baby talk non-stop, I decided to check out a meeting anyway.

I walked into the library room that winter and there they were: Moms with babies who, like me, didn't looked showered and maybe even forgot to brush their teeth. And moms chasing toddlers. And moms chatting while their kindergartners did crafts. And, moms dressed in nice non-spit-up-stained clothing drinking coffee while their kids were at school.  I had found more than a group of moms to offer me support; I found a community I didn't even know existed.

I am grateful that I found those moms who, it turned out, I did need for support on occasion and vice-versa. My daughter started kindergarten with kids she’d known her entire young life.  And, I had a community of best friends I didn't even know I needed -- friends to lean on, friends to share in the small daily tasks, the milestones, and the big life events. We don't have to agree on every choice we make as moms, we know it's a mom thing, and support each other in our journey.

Cheers to all the beautiful moms I've known over the years! I hope you had a wonderful mother's day packed with bed jumping, kid wrangling, homemade gifts, overeating, mimosas, mud and more...

Some of my previous blogs on motherhood:

Because One Day The Kids Will Be Grown

I Wasn't Prepared For THIS!

I Used To Be The Best Mom

It's In My Purse

I Am Not Meant For This!

Did I Really Just Say That #thingsmomssay