For a lot of students, this is their first week back to school after the summer break. Back to early morning alarms buzzing. Back to scrambling out the door to catch the bus. Yes, back to making up excuses as to why homework isn’t done. While it’s been twenty years (now I feel old) since I left university, this is the time of year I get back to basics. [Read more…] about Back to Basics
Writing is hard work. So is being a painter, a sculptor, a dancer. We show up every day to do the work, to share our vision of the world in the only way we know how. When the time is right, we release it into the public domain and wait. Wait for third-party validation. Wait to be told it’s good enough, or that it sucks. And as we wait, we’re already back in the studio, at the piano, or in front of the laptop creating again. We’re living our dream. We don’t give up.
No matter how great we think our art is — a novel, a series of paintings, a dance choreography — not everyone will like it. Don’t believe me? Check out my book, The Flowers Need Watering, to see the ratings that range from 1 to 5 stars, and some of the cutthroat reviews. But you roll with the punches because art is subjective, and what we create won’t appeal to everyone. And my goal isn’t to create for the masses. It’s to focus on a small group of people for whom I can, through my writing, be of service. That’s what drives me. Not the 4 or 5-star reviews or glowing praise, but that I’ve been of service.
Do the Work
Whatever your dream, embrace it and don’t give up. Don’t run away at the first (or forty-ninth) failure. Don’t think it’s impossible because it’s taking longer than you expected to get where you want to go. Show up daily and do the work.
My first novel, Freestyle Love, debuted and flopped in 2011. I’d been so emotionally invested it (it was my first book and I expected everyone to love it) that I couldn’t see that it really sucked. Big time. Going through the process of self-publishing for my second book — and working with an editor — allowed me to see all the mistakes I’d made with Freestyle Love. And it did something else, too. It gave me the courage to try again. So, I rewrote Freestyle Love because I still believed in it and, with more experience behind me, I knew I could make it better. I refused to give up.
A few years ago, talking about the writing process with a friend, she asked me this: What are some things that you’ve learned along the way that would help other authors who are trying to publish their first book? While I geared my answer to writers, it applies to anyone pursuing a dream. This is what I said:
- Art is subjective, so don’t take rejection personally. Be satisfied that what you put out for public consumption is your best work and let it shine.
- Be persistent. Keep writing. Keep practicing. Show up daily to do the work. ‘Do the work’ is the important part because when you show up daily, you create a routine. And the more you write or dance or paint, the better you become.
- Believe in yourself and in the work, and do it all for the love of it. It’s a challenge in today’s world, but try not to focus on your blog stats, Facebook likes, number of retweets, etc. While they are supposedly indicators of our success, they can drive you crazy if you feel like you’re not engaging enough or that no one is listening. Just be who you are, let your voice shine through and be of service. Focus on doing the work.
Bring the Magic
I know this much is true. The magic happens when you show up daily and do the work — not for fame, wealth, or recognition, but because it is the one thing you cannot not do. It is your purpose, your calling. That is the moment when the stars align, when your light shines.
What drives you to do what you do? What one thing could you do today that would move your dream forward? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Back in 2015, I did something kind of crazy. I declared it my Year of Selfishness. It was going to be ALL about me.
And it was … sort of.
How it all Began
I don’t remember exactly what I was looking for, but scanning the Google search results my eyes landed on “Three Simple Rules for Life”:
- If you do not go after what you want, you’ll never have it.
- If you do not ask, the answer will always be no.
- If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place.
Whoa! There it was, in terms so clear, the motive behind my ‘selfishness.’ I wasn’t looking to subscribe to the traditional definition of the root word, selfish: “(Of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure,” as defined by the Oxford Dictionary. The selfishness I embraced was about acknowledging what I wanted to achieve and having the courage to go after it. And since 2015, this concept of selfishness has been my modus operandi.
Put First Things First
It’s easy to let our creative goals get pushed aside for the wrong reasons. We’re afraid of what people will think if we tell them our dream is to be a writer or dancer. We’re afraid of failing the first time we try, and that can stop us from trying again. Or we feel guilty about taking time to do something that’s burning inside of us when surrounded by familial, work and other responsibilities or pressures.
So, sometimes being selfish is imperative to achieving our dreams, and that means putting yourself first. That can be difficult, and at times, uncomfortable. You don’t want to let down my spouse/partner, friends or family. You don’t want them to feel like you’ve abandoned them. But when you’re not being true to who you are — or if you’re not feeling like you’re moving confidently in the direction of your dreams — how can you be there for anyone else when you haven’t been there for yourself? You’re the one who you’ve abandoned.
Caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, we end up on autopilot and don’t follow through on our heart’s desire. Now it’s time to put first things first. So, maybe that means getting up early (I wake up around 4:00 am to write) or staying up late to have time to focus on your project. Take a vacation day (and don’t tell anyone) to finish the sound editing for your short film. Find a quiet place during your lunch hour (alone) and write the first sentence of the book that’s always been inside of you. And magical things happen when we put first things first.
It Kind of is Now or Never
And for too long, I worried about what others would think if I told them I wanted to be a writer. That was why, in my twenties, I ‘wasted’ a lot of time after graduating from university trying to fit into the nine-to-five world. When I turned thirty, it felt like time suddenly sped up … like I blinked and my thirties were over. In my early forties, it was all I could do just to keep up. But I found the courage to do the things in life that mattered most.
Now, in my mid-forties, some dreams have become reality and I’m living my best years ever. But there’s a lingering sense of urgency, knowing my time on this planet is limited, to rush to get everything else done. And as that temptation to rush intensifies, I teeter on the verge of craziness as other goals and dreams stall. What must I do to get them moving again? And is there enough time in the day to do it all?
So, whatever you dream of doing, do it now. Don’t wait. Don’t put it off any longer. It’s no secret. The longer you wait to begin, the longer it’ll take to get to where you want to go.
Hold Fast, Hold Strong
The age-old adage to take life ‘one day at a time’ is sometimes a hard pill to swallow, but it’s easier to stay grounded when we’re focused on the day at hand instead of running off to some unforeseeable future. Each step we take, no matter how small, moves us forward. Don’t chastise yourself for things not done. Instead, celebrate writing the first sentence of your book, buying the paint supplies for the new series, or staying up late to start your dream.
Holdfast, hold strong, and don’t ever lose faith. Don’t ever stop believing that you can achieve your passion.
Now is the time to begin, or begin again, no matter where you are.
Are you holding fast to your dreams? Can you be ‘selfish’ enough to make your dreams a priority? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
I write every day. No matter where I am — in Toronto or London — I write. Some days writing isn’t easy, especially after a long flight when I’ve been up all night. Even as my eyelids sag, I’ll sit down at the desk in my hotel room and write. I might write 250 words or the first draft of a short story or blog post. But I write.
Showing up every day to do the one thing you’re most passionate about takes courage. It shows you’re committed, no matter what the odds. It’s the way to hone your skills and become better. It gets you excited and keeps the momentum going. Do it long enough, without fail, and it’ll show you who you really are.
It’s Not Easy
Nothing happens overnight. For habits to stick, it takes time and repetition. Believe in yourself, that you can, and will, succeed. Remain faithful to the cause. And remember … begin where you are. You’ll slip up and make mistakes, but you’ll survive.
Keep going. In the long-term, you’ll be better off for it.
Are you trying to create a new habit? How’s it working out? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
I don’t set an alarm. I don’t need to. I’m a light sleeper and wake up a couple of times during the night. But when my back starts to ache, when I’m just rolling from side to side, that’s when I know it’s time. It’s time to get to work. This is how I begin each day.
That’s sometime between 3:30 and 4:00 am. I don’t shower or brush my teeth. I put on my running gear (shorts and a T-shirt), prepare my Amino Energy drink, and sit down at my desk. Then I capture the moment — the sort of haggard, sleepy look — with the camera on my iPhone and post it to Instagram, and sometimes Twitter. Proof that I’m up writing. Proof that I’m sticking to my routine. Already, it’s taken fifteen minutes before my pen finally touches the page.
How I Begin
I take my latest notebook (I try not to use the same one twice, so I have a diverse collection) and begin with my Morning Pages. Afterwards, I start the first draft of a blog post. By this point, I’ve been up for an hour and a half to two hours. The blog post isn’t done, but it’s time to get out for a run. I run under the veil of darkness, and when I see another runner it does feel like two ships passing in the night. The cool, crisp morning air fills my lungs and, running, I’ve gone into ‘the zone.’ I quiet my mind. I try to hear life speaking to me. Now I’m ready to take on whatever the day throws at me.
Back home, I peel off my sweaty running gear, throw on one of the ratty, fraying yet comfy ringer T-shirts I bought from Old Navy ten years ago and just can’t throw away, and finish the blog post. It’s a draft. Is it any good? Will people find value in it? I don’t know. I’ll come back to it in a few days to tweak it, rewrite it … maybe even chuck it out and start again. All that matters is that I’ve written something without letting procrastination have dominion over me.
Keep it Going
Even though I’m a morning person, getting up early every day isn’t easy. Some mornings, my energy dips low around 8:00 am. As a result, I crawl back into bed for forty-five minutes to an hour. I don’t sleep. I just lay there, let my body rest. Afterwards, I get up, shower, have breakfast, and park myself at my desk. I work on my primary writing project, which is either writing the first draft of a book or rewriting one. When I’m just staring at the spines of the dictionaries and thesauruses on my desk, I know I’m no longer being productive. The writing day is over, usually around 1:30 pm. I step out of my writing world and into another.
I don’t worry any more about how many words I’ve written, how many pages I produced, or how good the writing may or may not be. I’ve shown up and done the work. That’s what counts for me.
This is how I begin. This is how I make it over.
How do you begin each day? At what point do you know that you’re no longer being productive and must step away from the work? Hit Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.