This month, I visited my publisher’s One True Pairing podcast to talk about one of my favorite celebrity couples, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. We played a little game called “Take the LEEEgend,” a play on John’s name and the title of the first book in my Dance Off series. I had a great time recording with Marissa and Erica. Also, congrats to John and Chrissy on the birth of their baby boy! You can listen to the full podcast here.
On December 9, 2015, after a week of listening to the Original Cast Recording of Hamilton non-stop, I went to the in-person lottery on a Wednesday at noon and won. I wrote this post in January, so I’m making H for Hamilton and finally hitting publish.
While the recording gives an accurate portrayal of what the show sounds like, there are a few aspects that are ten times more powerful on stage. Here are a few examples, in no particular order: Continue reading
Last year I was given a great piece of writing advice: “Don’t be so precious with your process.” How much time do we spend talking about the right or wrong chair, desk, noise level, playlist, snack, etc? There’s something to be said for having a chair and keyboard that don’t cause you pain, but while we might have some kind of “ideal work environment” in mind, how likely is it to have that all the time?
Last summer I managed to get away from NYC a few times to what I thought would be close to an ideal writing environment: Smalltown Connecticut, sunroom with a view, no responsibility, limited cell service. And you know what? I was so distracted! I couldn’t stop watching all the crazy birds and animals in the yard. I got too hot in the middle of the day, then too cold when the sun went down. The pull of fun outdoorsy things was strong (bike rides and tubing down the river), as was watching romantic comedies on TV with a grandma. I managed to get work done, but it was usually at night, hunched over my netbook on the camp bed.
The ideal writing environment is a myth, at least for me. As much as I like to tell myself I’d get a ton of writing done in a remote cabin somewhere, probably I’d just nap the whole time and be worried about crazy people in the woods. Continue reading
In February, while planning a huge plot overhaul on a WIP, I started to feel antsy. Restless. I wanted the novel finished yesterday
. I described it as “feeling impatient with myself,” but a well-timed Twitter chat with Amy Oscar
nailed the feeling as anxiety
Oh, yes, my old frenemy. So we meet again.
I realized the anxiety arose from the tension between feeling like I was here, in a place far behind where I should have been, and not there, an imaginary place where I felt I should have been already. In reality, I was now, in the moment, exactly where I was. If I could have been anywhere else, I would have been there. Those here and there places only existed in a story I was making up about myself in my head. Embracing the idea of be here now allowed me to rise above the story and make better choices for myself and my writing. Staying present has been a recurring theme for me this year, and sometimes staying present with a writing project requires reminders like this one.
A few years ago I heard Gabrielle Bernstein
speak live. I only remember one line: “Hold your dreams lightly.” Yes, I visualize and journal about dreams I hardly dare speak out loud. But staying present with the work, allowing creative flow, is the only way I truly get anything done. (This is something my coach Kirra Sherman
keeps reminding me).
Visualize the outcome. Say, “I ask for this or something better.” And then release it. Don’t choke your dreams, and be open to their manifestation looking different from how you’d originally imagined. Be here now.
“Share your strengths, not your weaknesses.”
I got this phrase on a Yogi Tea tab last week, and it got me thinking: obviously we don’t want to share our weaknesses, right? But let’s break it down. There’s more than one way to look at this statement, and it’s not so obvious.
How do you share in words?
1. How do you share yourself (or your life experiences) with others? In conversation (or status updates), do you complain about work, your health, your partner? Or do you share what’s going right in your life, what lights you up and makes you come alive?
This brought up a memory from June. Last month I had some overlap between work gigs, and I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. I went out for a friend’s birthday, and I saw another friend I hadn’t seen for a little while. She asked how everything was going, and I answered honestly that it was hard for me to approach that question without complaining, which I didn’t want to do. She didn’t push, and we eased into the conversation from a different angle. I felt good about being honest (and not giving more energy to the complaints), and she was probably glad I didn’t bombard her with my frustrations.
It’s not about being in denial. It’s about giving attention to what really matters.
This week I’m reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I have to share this gem from the section on dialogue:
“You write a sh**ty first draft of it and you sound it out, and you leave in those lines that ring true and take out the rest. I wish there were an easier, softer way, a shortcut, but this is the nature of most good writing: that you find out things as you go along. Then you go back and rewrite. Remember: no one is reading your first drafts.”
You can’t edit a blank page. And unlike real life, the lives and worlds we create with our words can be revised, edited, even completely rewritten. That’s part of the creative process. The biggest part, actually. A coworker once told me, “Writing is 10% first draft and 90% revision.” He probably got it from somewhere else, but 10 years later I still remember him sharing that in the break room, so I attribute it to him.
Takeaway: Get out of your own way, get the words down, then go back and fix them. You got this.
This morning I read a passage in The War of Art by Steven Pressfield that I found helpful for where I am in my writing process. (I’m revising, and this week it feels especially daunting.)
“[A pro] understands that all creative endeavor is holy, but she doesn’t dwell on it. She knows if she thinks about that too much, it will paralyze her. So she concentrates on technique.”
Takeaway: Focus more on the technique, the craft, the practice of writing, and less on the end result, the masterpiece, the goal. Enjoy the journey. Write to be a better writer.
Vision board party: gluing it all together
I’ve been told that I “seem to have it all together.” This always comes as a surprise, because I don’t feel “together” most of the time, and I don’t think I’m hiding the mess, either. If anything, I’m pretty up front about my journey, and I speak candidly about the more difficult times I’ve experienced. (Those are the moments when people usually say, “Really? But you seem so together.”)
Perhaps it’s my narrative, the way I talk about my story, that makes even the messy moments seem less threatening. Maybe it seems like I’ve already come out on the other side of it. It’s true that I’m more likely to share the parts of my journey that I’ve already processed and integrated, and I don’t vent on social media. (Usually whatever I’m angry or frustrated about doesn’t bother me for long, or I don’t need to be reminded about it when I check Facebook again.) And I’ve tried to eliminate the habit of beating myself up or worrying. But people have told me I “seemed so together” even before I started working on these habits, when I was plagued by stress and anxiety. So where does this viewpoint come from? What am I doing to project this image? Or, what are they looking for that they notice in me?
Debbie Ford said that what you admire in others, you are capable of being, doing, or having for yourself. If it isn’t something you are capable of accomplishing, you won’t even notice it about other people. So pay close attention to the people you admire, or even envy. Yes, they have what you want, but more importantly, they have what you can also have. And they can show you how to get there. (In this way, envy can be a powerful indicator.) We’re all just mirrors for each other, so when you admire something in another person, it’s your own capacity mirrored back to you.
Wearing my metaphorical photographer hat
Sometimes I think being well-rounded is overrated.
I’m a member of the “gig economy,” which basically means I’m self-employed and have a lot of different jobs. But wearing so many hats gets exhausting after a while. I attended a networking event this week and had no idea how to introduce myself. Normally I don’t mind the “What do you do?” question at all, but this time I felt scattered. My friend asked what I wanted to network for, and I didn’t know. And when I pulled out one of my old business cards, I realized I definitely needed new ones. This of course leads to the next question: What exactly do I include on them? (Creative Consultant? Group Facilitator? Private tutor? Graphic designer? Illustrator? Photographer? Writer? Personal organizer? Personal assistant? Social media manager? Babysitter?)
2012 Meditation flash mob in Union Square, NYC
When I met Deepak Chopra last year, I got to ask him one question. I asked: “As a creative person who feels pulled between so many projects, how do I make progress on them?” He replied:
“Focus on the one most important thing…for now.”