Overwhelmed?

This is just a quick post for your Monday morning. It is Labor Day in the United States so maybe you’re taking the day off from your day job and trying to get everything done for your side hustle. Or, it’s starting to feel like fall so maybe you’re gearing up for a new school year.

Whatever is going on with you this Monday morning …. don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. By all the options or opportunities or tasks on your to do list, or expectations you have for yourself or any of it.

If you’re overwhelmed with too many to-dos and too many options, try following Ramit’s Rules of Letting Go:

“Let go of “should do”s that you don’t actually care about: In the scheme of all the things you want to do, do you really care about this? When I went to my cousin’s wedding in India a few years ago, I saw one of my friends order his food in fluent Hindi, and I thought, “Hmm…I should take Hindi lessons.” But when I got back to NYC, I put it on my to-do list, only to skip over it for months. The truth is, I really didn’t care enough to do anything. It wasn’t important enough. When I acknowledged I wasn’t going to do it and crossed it off my list, I could focus on doing the things I wanted to do.

Let go of feeling guilty: STOP LYING TO YOURSELF! Do you really care about learning how to kiteboard? Or is it just because that random guy you met told you how fun it was, and you said, “Yeah, I need to do that”? Life is short. It’s OK to use this exact script: “That sounds really interesting, but I’ve decided not to tackle that right now so I can focus on a couple other things I want to do this year.” Nobody is making you feel guilty except YOU. We realistically have the time to learn maybe three new major things per year. Do you really want this to be one of them?

Let go of waiting for inspiration to strike: Inspiration is for amateurs. I wake up every morning, rain or shine, feeling great or sore, and I get to work. Not because I’m a machine, or a better person than anyone, but because I have systems that I depend on — not willpower or inspiration.”

I really think the best resource that I have come across recently is the SPARK ecourse from Campfire Chic (review here). I want to unsubscribe, resubscribe, and let the emails all come in day by day all over again. That daily reminder is exactly what I need to keep myself on track.

What are your best tips for not getting overwhelmed?

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Book Review: Uncertainty

As part of my attempt to stay BRAVE, I read Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields

I enjoyed this book – but it is definitely ‘light’ reading for me. Kind of a feel good, encouraging, don’t really have to think that much self-help book. The subtitle – Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance – is promising, but I expected the actual content of the book to more clearly show how to do it.

I guess I just have a very picky editor with high standards inside me that is hard to please. I mean, how many times in a 195-page book do you need to tell me what we’re “going to” be discussing? Just get on with it!

That said, there were some great takeaways:

Like this quote about living with uncertainty:

“One of the single greatest determinants of high-level success as an innovator or creator in any realm is the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of loss and exposure to criticism” (10).

As last was my YEAR OF BRAVE I’m still really trying (trying) to be more comfortable with uncertainty. Some of my brave choices have been incredibly nerve-wracking. I’m a planner by nature so having any kind of unknowns in my future is totally new to me.

I’m working on it. I don’t know about “sustained high levels of uncertainty,” but I’m getting there.

Another great idea Fields suggests is the power of ‘certainty anchors’: “A certainty anchor is a practice or process that adds something known and reliable to your life when you may otherwise feel you’re spinning off in a million different directions” (46).

For example, I heard Judd Apatow say in an interview that he will go to Gap and just by 12 polo shirts in various colors so he doesn’t have to think about it. Or, Fields uses examples from novelist CJ Lyons or blogger Darren Rowse who both structure their work and daily routines to be anchors in their life.

In my own life, I realize that this is why my husband and I pretty much eat the same thing all the time. In the summer we almost only eat salad. I don’t have to think too much when I go to the store. I don’t have to find new recipes or plan time to experiment. I buy vegetables, wash them, throw them in a bowl with whatever protein is on sale that week and we’re done. (In the winter I have about 4 soup/stew/chili recipes that I make over and over and over).

I think the longest chapter is actually about meditation, which is a little too much for me. Personally. I know plenty of smart, successful people swear by it but I am just not ready and reading about it in the middle of a work/business/self-helpy kind of book just seemed out of place.

I still think you should read Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields. At least once. Especially if you have any intention of carving out a creative life for yourself.

P.S. A year ago today is when BUILD ecourse launched!

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Are you prepared to be lucky?

“Your creative endeavors can never be thoroughly mapped out ahead of time. You have to allow for the suddenly altered landscape, the change in plan, the accidental spark – and you have to see it as a stroke of luck rather than a disturbance of your perfect scheme. Habitually creative people are, in E.B. White’s phrase, ‘prepared to be lucky.’” — Twyla Tharp; The Creative Habit

We have been reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp for the L&R Book Club this month and it is *so* fascinating to be thinking about creative work while I am testing the waters of writing fiction. This is a new-ish creative workspace for me, and figuring out what skills I need to work on and what methods work best for me and how I can more fully get the most out of my ideas … It’s all part of my everyday thinking.

I think a lot.

I plan a lot.

I feel like my planning is what allows me to be ‘lucky’. I create this structure, this scaffolding as a place to welcome ideas. So when a perfectly worded conversation between 2 characters pops into my head I’m ready. Or when some random topic rolls across my line of vision I know exactly how it can fit into to my next story idea.

Want to know how you can prepare to be lucky?

get luckyWrite down ideas every day

Be interested in a variety of topics

Always have SOMETHING with which to take notes.

Have a set working time (and be consistent)

Don’t judge the inspiration when it does come to you (there’s nothing wrong with getting an idea from a billboard or trashy reality show).

Don’t compare yourself to others. Or do anything else that can affect your confidence.

How do you prepare to be lucky?

It is worth noting that I did a few different online searches and could not find the original E.B. White quote she is referring to. Which I assume means that “prepared to be lucky” is a paraphrase.

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Make it happen: The Creative Habit

“Writing a book is like a long trek through unfamiliar wilderness. It doesn’t take long before you feel lost, disoriented, hungry, ready to give up, lie down, eat your hands, and let the book die on the ground next to you like a gut-shot coyote.”

– Chuck Wendig; 500 Ways To Write Harder

 I love the idea of having a creative routine. I’m just not very good at it.

It’s quite romantic to have a creative ritual that you do every day to call down the Muse to inspire you and show off how professional you are about the creative work that you do.

I love buying in to that idea.

That doesn’t work for my reality, though.

Instead, I just put in on my calendar and do my best to make it happen.

I’ve got WRITE scheduled for 2 hours every day. Some days I do it first thing in the morning, some days it gets pushed back and pushed back until I squeeze in 45 minutes before going to bed. On Friday, I actually wrote about 300 words by hand while I was hanging out with Andrew at his recording session.

But I really do try to write every day. Most days it’s crap. That’s the nature of first drafts if nothing else. A handful of magical days it just flows like I’m reading it instead of writing it. But either way, creating every single day makes the next day even easier. Writing three days in a row makes the fourth day easier. And every day I am that much closer to having a final and completed piece of creative work.

So … I may not have the whole regular ritual thing down, but just making it happen goes a long way to creating decent work on a regular basis.

I just have to remind myself EVERY DAY to make it happen.

We’ve been reading The Creative Habit for the L&R Book Club (in May and June). It’s a bit fluffier than I expected. Megan pointed out that it’s really just personal anecdotes, half of which don’t even have attribution.

The book is full of exercises (I think a couple at the end of each chapter), which I really appreciate. It lends a practical, useful point of view to the anecdotes, showing precisely how Tharp uses the info she is talking about.

If you’re interested in reading books on creativity, small business, and living your best life, and discussing these ideas with other readers, I’d love if you joined the L&R Book Club.

To join the L&R Book Club:

  • Get this month’s book. Amazon, library, local book store. Wherever.
  • Join the Facebook Group
  • Discuss

How to you maintain your creativity consistently?

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Nurture: One Little Word update

2014 is my year to NURTURE. I need to slow down, cut back, get to know my new life without a cubicle job and so much more.

It’s been lovely and relaxing. And (no surprise) makes me feel lazy. After years of working a full-time+ job AND running L&R AND launching new products on a regular basis, pulling WAY back like this has provided me so much more free time reading time than ever before.

This is my vision board for the year – although, can you really call it a vision board when it’s really just 8.5×11″? I wanted it to fit into my One Little Word binder AND I don’t have a ton of magazines that are cut-up-able so I went with the smaller size:

nurture

I think all of these images are from Sunset Magazine (I love that mag). You can see lots of images of green and the outdoors. I have been so excited about starting my garden this year! And getting out with Kam and plans to do some fun outdoorsy trips with Andrew later. It has been great making that a priority.

You can also see a lovely luxurious bed – unapologetic about naps this year. Also, an art museum and a reading bench. Because lord knows I want to just learn and absorb everything I can.

I have genuinely loved giving myself a break for the last 4.5 months, not feeling guilty about spending the afternoon reading or not setting aggressive deadlines.

This is totally the word I needed this year.

How is your 2014 One Little Word going?

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On letting go of a past dream

Wedding portraits at Terrenea ResortThis month has been about finalizing some big changes.

I have finally been BRAVE enough to do that thing that I’ve been thinking about for about 2 years.

I dissolved my photography business. Officially official. The state of CA has my paperwork and the bank has closed my account and the only think I have left to do is take down my site and close my email account.

My emotions have completely swung the whole gamut over the last couple years, fighting with myself, talking myself into it, admitting things about myself that I have only recently discovered. It would have been fascinating to watch if it wasn’t happening for me. As it is, I’m glad I’m through it all.

I think that I am a good (enough) photographer. I think that I am a good (enough) businessperson. I live in SoCal where there are plenty of people who have money to pay for wedding photographs. I genuinely love weddings. I genuinely love documentary-style photography and I think everyone should have fantastic wedding photos that they love. I am still proud of the work that I’ve done for couples since 2008.

All of that said – being a professional wedding photographer is not for me.

There are a lot of reasons. Big reasons and little reasons. Tiny preferences, practicalities and discoveries about my personality. Being a professional photographer is A LOT OF WORK …. so it had better be work you definitely want to do.

And it’s not for me. Not for the rest of my life.

It took me awhile to get here, but I am looking forward to ending this phase of my life and having more focus to move forward into the next one.

I’m really really excited about it!

If you are also letting go of a past dream….

  • Allow yourself time to mourn. I’ve been thinking about this decision for at least 2 years. At least.
  • Be realistic about why. Know if you could have done better. Know if you made poor decisions. Know if it is just that your goals have changed. You’re not a failure – you’re just a different person than you were when you formed that dream.
  • Jump into your next dream. Take as much time as you need, but be BRAVE and keep moving forward.

 Be BRAVE. Fail big. Fail often.

P.S. Thanks Maggie for these shots of me working!

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Garbage in, garbage out

I read Steal Like an Artist over the weekend.

I didn’t mean to.

Steal like an artistBut I picked it up, flipped through it for just a couple minutes and the next thing I knew I was already a third of the way through and only put it down because I wanted to go find a blank notebook like Kleon recommends.

I love books like this. Kat said it well, I love books that are made up of “things you know but maybe needed to hear, things you didn’t know that you knew, and things that shift the way you look at creativity”.

Kleon talks throughout the book about how each artist is influenced by dozens or hundreds of artists and thinkers that came before. You learn one thing from one person, and pick up another technique from someone else and are inspired by a third person’s big idea. It is the combining of all these ideas that you “steal” that makes your work original.

I love that idea.

To that end, and to make sure that I am only spending my time on work that truly inspires me, I really want to refocus my consumption habits. We haven’t had TV for pretty much our entire relationship, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t let all kinds of junk into my brain. I need to let go of my completist tendencies. For example, I should not have finished the Divergent series. I’m not calling it garbage, but I didn’t love it, and I knew it.

Some other filtering I’m doing:

  • I canceled a couple books on my library hold list that I’m not excited about
  • I deleted a bunch from my Amazon wish list
  • Goodreads To Read List – I’m coming for you next. I already try to only add U.S. History books with an average rating of 4.0 or higher, but still.
  • I’ve got about 5 boxes of books to get rid of, and I’m looking to filling more
  • I need to purge probably half of my Netflix queue

In the meantime, maybe I’ll read a few of Austin’s picks. And stay off sites like Facebook that just offer very little. Constant vigilance.

Pleas commit to the ‘Garbage In – Garbage Out’ mantra with me!

No more ‘hate reading’ of certain blogs. No more forcing yourself to read that chick lit (or classic) you think you should for whatever reason. No more trashy TV (you define what that means). (And join the L&R Book Club, while you’re at it)

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The benefit of limits: Break through a creative block

We’re about a quarter of the way through the year – are you still feeling that new-beginning high that you felt in January? Are you still powering through your to do list and ideas? Or are you in a slump?

Those frustrating creative blocks pop up all the time. Out of nowhere. You’ve got 14 million ideas going and are plowing full speed ahead and then all of a sudden you hit a wall.

If you’ve got a creative block right now, I have a little bit of a counter-intuitive tip for you:

creative blockGive yourself limitations

That might be a time limit – force yourself to write a blog post in only 30 minutes. That might be a medium limit – make a scrapbook page using ONLY cardstock (no patterned paper or embellishments). What you decide the limit is depends on what the project is.

The best way to think outside the box is to know what the box is.

For example, I ALWAYS have plenty of blog post ideas because I stick to an editorial calendar. I’m able to get all my blogging done for the week in about 4 hours because that’s the time that I schedule for myself. I’m able to put together minibooks and creative projects that I love with only a few supplies, because I don’t let myself spend money on more.

Giving yourself that kind of challenge makes your brain work in the opposite direction. Giving yourself limitations forces you to find an alternative solution – and can help you break through any creative block.

Here are some more resources to break through that creative block:

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On focusing and pursuing less

I am LOVING the L&R Book Club! Last month we finished up reading focus : a simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction. I think this was the perfect book to start off the year. While basically everything in it I already KNOW, I still need the reminder to simplify, let go of distractions and pursue less.

In fact, that is my #1 goal this year – to NURTURE what I already have and pursue less.

Between focus and my OLW and the recent business resources I’ve been consuming, the idea of clarity and single-tasking and pursuing less is everywhere.

This means some in-depth “spring cleaning” to purge books and craft supplies and other things that I don’t need. This means not launching a bunch of new products under Lemon and Raspberry. This means eliminating some of my commitments to give a better effort to the ones that remain. I started last fall with discontinuing blogging on my family blog, and right now I’m considering blogging fewer times here at L&R.

It’s all a process on focusing, pruning, pursuing less and nurturing what is left.

I love the discussion of this in this article The Disciplined Pursuit of Less: “The price of his dream job was saying no to the many good, parallel paths he encountered.” I tend to overestimate what I can realistically accomplish, which is why I’m trying to use this year to pull back and basically rebuild my workload along more reasonable lines.

The whole point of quitting my day job was to be able to work less and be more present during the (few) hours that Andrew and I have together.

Which means I’ve got to really focus.

How are you focusing this year?

Reminder: For March and April 2014, we will be reading Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? by Seth Godin

SHIFT_free creativity guide

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How to be awesomer: My #1 tip for motivation

be awesomer: Best tip for motivationI am all full up on motivation right now. I’ve done more writing in the last couple weeks than I did the full 3 months before that. I’m just about done with the first draft of my second novel, and I’ve started mentally outlining my third novel (and very very roughly fourth and fifth).

I genuinely want to be published. I want to finish these books, get them published, work on more books. I’ve started thinking about a pen name (whole different post) and reserved a URL and found a WordPress theme. I’ve started giving myself more and more time to write (doing even less housework than usual). And, honestly, my end game is to sell film rights and maneuver a way to work as a film producer on those films. And novelist when I’m not producing (yup, a tad ambitious. Not really embarrassed about that).

Anyway, the point is I am TOTALLY motivated. I am on a roll and I am making things AWESOMER.

You can totally replicate this motivation….. My top tip for motivation is:

Hang out with people who irritate you with their awesomeness.

Find someone who is doing what you want to do but in such an amazing, unbelievable, completely obnoxiously awesome way that it just irritates you to the point of making you say to yourself, “I could do that, darn it!” Gather people like this around you and roll around in their awesomeness and let that stubborn streak of yours (mine) spark your motivation.

How to “hang out” with people you admire:

  1. Read every single thing they’ve ever wrote – books, blog posts, twitter updates. Every day.
  2. Listen or watch every single place they’ve appeared – podcast interviews, TED talks, scour YouTube’s archives. Every day.
  3. Re-read or re-watch every single thing – Every day.
  4. Actually hang out with them – Skype dates, coffee dates if you possibly can. Not necessarily every day.

You just want to immerse yourself in their thought process. They are doing amazing work and the more you expose yourself to that work, the more their awesomeness will both impress and drive you crazy. And the more annoyed you are, the more motivated you will be.

At least, that’s the way my stubborn brain works.

So I’ve been listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast. There are a few years of archives, so I can listen to at least one a day. I don’t know what I’ll do when I catch up and only get 1 episode each week. I’ve also read their book Write.Publish.Repeat. (with plans to re-read) and Yesterday’s Gone and have downloaded the first episodes of a bunch of their other series.

Those jokers are OUT OF CONTROL. There’s 3 guys who, teaming up in various combinations, make a full-time income self-publishing fiction. Which is CRAZY to me! I want to be them when I grow up, and I get so worked up when they talk about how much they are writing. I think I can absolutely do that I totally get all full of motivation to write so I can finish all of these works I have partway done.

It is a HUGE motivation for me to listen to them talk for an hour about how THEY made this model work and I immediately get off and write for an hour or so. And now I want to go work on my novel. Because I’m so annoyed by how much they do the same.

Who inspires you to an annoying level?

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