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
I’ve perfected the art of not belonging.
I knew as much working my last flight to London. One thing about being a flight attendant that I like is not working with the same people every day. In theory, it minimizes the risk of drama and conflict. In reality, it’s still possible that you won’t necessarily click with every one of your colleagues. [Read more…] about The Art of Not Belonging
During a recent flight to London, when asked if I would be joining my colleagues for Happy Hour at the hotel bar, I gave my standard answer: “No, I don’t drink anymore.”
“Good for you,” was the surprised response. “Guess you’re saving a lot of money.”
Although I didn’t want to brag, my colleague was right. I have saved a lot of money by cutting alcohol from my life. But that wasn’t why I gave it up. [Read more…] about What’s the Big Deal?
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.
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.