Growing up, I attended church faithfully every Sunday. It was something we did as a family, (and the rule in our house). While I sat in abject boredom during the sermons, I loved it when the congregation sang the hymns or the choir performed. I’d belt out the words or ad lib during those old-time, gospel spirituals that had everyone standing on their feet and clapping to the beat. We were black and Baptist, and carrying on the traditions of our ancestors. The music seemed to uplift the soul, make a believer out of a non-believer. [Read more…] about You Got to Move
do what you love
In our household, my partner loves to watch Entertainment Tonight. We only have one TV, so he learns how so many people are heeding their calling (or at the very least who’s divorcing whom). But as soon as the credits start to roll, I flip the channel. Now he must ‘suffer’ through the last half of Murder, She Wrote. Compromise? Maybe. [Read more…] about Will You Heed the Call?
When I sit down at my desk in the morning, night is still fully in place. My companions are the muffled sounds of cars speeding down the Gardiner Expressway, the tick tock of the living room clock, and my partner’s snoring seeping through the walls. It is — living in a busy downtown Toronto neighbourhood — by all accounts … quiet. It’s the time of day I am most focused, when I can hear myself think.
I wrote this blog post last November. Then, the weather changed on a dime. Strong, 100km winds one day, then rain, and then the potential for snow. We feared winter’s ugly wrath, and that there was no way to sidestep it. All we could do was suck it up. And as Canadians, the plan executed flawlessly — was to spend the next few months complaining about how cold it was, how miserable it was outside, and how we couldn’t wait for spring.
Now, it’s April. The snow is (mostly) gone. It’s warmer (I’m running in shorts). The days are longer. And we’re still complaining about the weather!
And like we can’t sidestep winter or the early April snowfalls, sometimes you can’t sidestep doubt.
Don’t Open that Door
I write frequently about doubt. Why? Because it’s a constant companion on my creative journey, especially when I’m nearing the end of a project, taking on something that’s outside of my comfort zone, or anticipating my editor’s critique of my manuscript. The biggest challenge sometimes is to not open the door to doubt.
There are times when it’s too tempting to let doubt in, and if we do it can throw us off course. Instead, maybe we need a little pep talk, and here’s what we could tell ourselves…
Dare to dream. Dare to imagine that we live in a world where we can — without the judgment of others, without asking for outside approval — be ourselves. It’s a world where we can follow our heart’s true desire. It’s a world where we can freely do what it is that we want to do and what we feel called to do. It is a world of hope and possibility.
What I Say to Myself
I am a writer. I say that with conviction. It is, today, an affirmation of who I am. I am a writer. Not because of my novels or other published works. I am a writer because there is, deep within me, a will far greater than my own that compels me to write. It is a calling. I have chosen to heed the call.
My day is not complete if I have not put in time at the page. It reminds me of the days when I went without having a coffee. I was cranky. (I don’t drink coffee now, so if I’m cranky it’s for an entirely other reason). When I do not write, or when I don’t write enough, I’m irksome and irritable. In a way, I lose my humanity. That’s why each day I show up at the page. If I don’t, I risk losing myself. Writing grounds me in the day, helps me to be present in the now. Writing, I hang on to myself.
Weather the Storm
Stay focused on the work before you. Perhaps doubt is trying to tell you that the road ahead is somewhat uncertain. Even so, you can’t let doubt have dominion here. All you can do is show up, begin where you are, and the rest will follow.
What challenges do you face daily in your creative pursuits? Are you weathering the storm? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
We live in crazy times. Not necessarily crazy, but so much different from when I was a child. Technology has changed how we live and work. Politics are more divisive, and ugly, than I can remember. It’s a me-first world, and trying to keep up can leave you exhausted. And through it all, we’re trying to follow our own path, do what we love … be a beacon of hope in a world seemingly turning in on itself. To do that, to forge ahead, it’s important to bring balance to our daily lives.
Where We Were
When I think of my childhood, I think of simpler times. I was born in 1973. Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Prime Minister. Richard Nixon was President of the United States. Construction of the CN Tower began on February 6 of that same year. I grew up with the Atari game consoles, Commodore 64 and Vic-20. As a child, playing for me meant swimming in our pool, playing a game of Hide and Seek, Tag or Red Rover, building forts in the woods or going for long bike rides. During the summer, my parents took us camping, or on day trips to see relatives living in other parts of the province. In July, we always picked strawberries followed by a picnic lunch. In the fall, we picked apples.
Where We Are Now
Life is crazy. We know we’re on this planet for a limited time, and many of us have big dreams. To become the Surgeon-in-Chief at Mount Sinai. A bestselling author. A successful entrepreneur. And we’re trying to achieve our goals while balancing work, family and other life issues. Before we realize it, we’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of life — trying just to keep up, and unable to resist the temptation to rush, rush, rush.
Add to that technology. Not just how it’s made our lives easier — online shopping and banking, high speed internet, self-parking cars — but also how it’s placed a, let’s use the word ‘burden,’ on us. Social media. We’re trying to study for the MCAT, get the kids out to hockey practice, or finish the edits to the final chapter of the novel it took two years to write. We’re already struggling to juggle work and home, yet it’s now expected to maintain accounts on several social media platforms if we wish to be successful. As if we’re not busy enough!
The question I keep asking myself is this: how do we find balance?
The Struggle Within
As a writer with a day job, balance doesn’t come easily. On my days off, I’m working hard on writing projects, building my platform and engaging with my audience. And I’m also investing time in other interests, like running, reading and cooking. It becomes almost impossible not to rush, rush, rush. I’m trying to make every minute off the day count. Is it a surprise that I often feel exhausted and overwhelmed? Not really.
I often equate (erroneously) increased productivity with success without really taking the time to see if I’m focused on what matters most. Yet it’s hard for my mind to compute that there are trade-offs, and time dedicated to one project/activity cannot be used for another. If I’m going to three hours on social media (I’m not on a social media diet), I have to realize — and accept — that maybe it’s going to take longer to write the first draft of a novel or complete the rewrite of a manuscript. It’s been that lack of understanding, ignorance even, about the importance and necessity of trade-offs that’s made me feel overwhelmed, like I’m stalled. Oliver Burkeman says it nicely: “[…] we make enormous efforts to ignore the reality of trade-offs — and, as a consequence, deny ourselves the best chance of a maximally fulfilling creative career.”1
How Do We Find Balance?
We find balance by taking an inventory of our life. How are we spending our time? Are we focused on what’s important to us? And are we making time for the things, and people, we love? Finding balance isn’t going to happen overnight. It may take several attempts to get it right. In six months’ time, we might have to again reassess if we’re focused on the right things and make more changes. And remember … balance will mean different things to different people.
Over the years, this is what I’ve learned: when we find the balance that we need, there’s a natural ebb and flow to life. Everything comes together, and joy blossoms in our hearts. It gives us the strength and determination, if only for today, to keep on keeping on.
Have you found balance in your life? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Life is a journey. It takes us to many different places, some filled with optimism and joy, others clamouring with sadness, anger and distrust. But no matter where we find ourselves, we must find a way to shine — make the best of our situation — because anything is possible.
I’m on a journey that challenges who I think I am, and makes me doubt I can be who I dare to be. The scary part is that one question keeps poking at me: am I crazy?
Crazy to believe that I can achieve my goals? Crazy to believe that there’s an audience for my writing? Crazier to believe I can accomplish everything I set out to do?
No, I’m not crazy. Sometimes, though, feeling overwhelmed blinds me to the progress I’ve made. Am I headed in the right direction? I hope so. Brendon Burchard reminds us that “With the right mindset, focus, and habits, you can shape an extraordinary quality of life and contribute at world-class levels way beyond anyone’s expectations.” So, one day at a time, with courage and determination, I’ll keep pushing on.
Anything is Possible
If you have the courage to take on the challenge(s) staring you down, then anything is possible. How do I know? I look at the example of my friend, Lori.
Just before the Canadian Thanksgiving in October 2018, Lori was admitted to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre here in Toronto. After fourteen years in remission, the breast cancer was back with a vengeance. She was in pain, couldn’t sleep, didn’t have an appetite and couldn’t keep down food. And her lungs were failing.
It didn’t look good. They stopped the chemotherapy and she was told that nothing else could be done. The doctors gave her seven days to live.
The first time I visited Lori in the hospital I could see the pain in her face, watched her struggle to shift in the bed, and held back my tears as her voice cracked with emotion when she spoke. Was the cancer winning? Were the doctors right?
Maybe, but Lori wasn’t about to give up. She told me she wasn’t ready and that this wasn’t her time. She would fight, and fight she did. Hard.
Lori left the hospital at the end of November. The seven days she was given to live stretched into two and a half months. Lori passed away on 10 February 2019.
Do the Impossible
When we believe in ourselves, in the power of our dreams, we can do the impossible. So, it’s not crazy for me to believe that I can become a bestselling author. It’s not crazy for you to believe that you can be a world-renowned neurosurgeon or the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The important thing to remember is this: each task we complete, each step we take — no matter how big or small — is progress. That’s how we make our dreams come true.
I can’t promise that it’ll be easy or that it’ll happen quickly. It might take years or decades of trying, failing, and trying again. But when you show up daily, do the work, and believe in yourself, you dramatically increase the chances of your dreams coming true.
So, show up and prove that anything is possible.
Do you second-guess your calling? Are you afraid that you won’t succeed? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.