For the long run

Every day for the last few months, I’ve been getting up at 6am and writing fiction for 2+ hours (usually more). I have spent lord knows how much money on learning about fiction writing and the self-publishing industry.

I am not going to lie to you guys, it is HARD work. Just yesterday (Sunday), I wrote 2400+ words and it took me until about 1 in the afternoon. Today I woke up and I have to do the same thing all over again. And tomorrow. And on and on until I’m done. Because I have a deadline and I have ambition and I don’t want to embarrass myself I have standards.

I have yet to earn a single dime from all of this time and money invested.

But I don’t even care, because this is a long-term game. I am in it for the long run.

(I feel bad for my husband. I apologize to him regularly that I am spending all this time without a way to help pay the bills. Fortunately he understands and is totally behind this plan.)

Twyla Tharp has a chapter in The Creative Habit about doing creative work for the long run. Steven Pressfield breaks it down to just getting on base and worrying about it from there. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, but spending hours, blood, sweat, dollars, tears and love on projects that may not pay off for a long time is what helps us grow as people. Instant gratification is for 1-minute rice and microwave popcorn.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have at least the next 15 or 18 months of this planned. Who knows when it will pay off?

 What is your long-game project?

P.S. I was interviewed recently about my fiction.

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October is for realizations

For the last few years, October has been a time of reflection and realizations. I’m not totally clear why, but I think it comes from a mix of the weather changing (and my favorite season really making me super happy) contrasted against all of the build of frustration elsewhere. It’s hard to describe:

In October 2010 I realized that I want to do work that matters and my day job at the time wasn’t it. I got a phone call at home, 6 hours before I was supposed to be there, about a comma. Completely unnecessary and very frustrating.

In October 2011 I was told my work schedule would change to Sunday – Thursday against my will. That was the only time I have ever cried at work and was seriously depressed. I realized I wanted to be some place where I’m not taken for granted and merit means something

In October 2012 I got physically ill (severe headache, dizzy and nausea) and then nearly immediately better after I called out sick. It’s incredibly powerful when you recognize how something negative in your life is really affecting you.

In October 2013 I decided to quit my long-time personal blog Those Crazy Schuberts, for many reasons. I freed up several hours of my week, and relaxed some of my personal anxiety by making that decision.

This year, October 2014 …. Feels like a sea change. For both Andrew and I — this October is for realizations for Team Schubert.

As I mentioned yesterday, Andrew’s work schedule has been ridiculous this year and we are starting to see what our lives can look like once all this hard work pays off. He is getting recording clients from literally all over the world. A band was just here from Oregon, but earlier in the year a band from Toronto came out to work with Andrew and a band from France hired him to mix a song.

That, combined with my projected new career as a fiction writer is going to change the entire structure of our lives.

It’s still far away; we both still have a lot (a lot) of work to do to make this new life pay our bills, but we are on this path together. We are each fully behind each other’s individual goals, as we work toward a better life together.

Having someone like Andrew on my team, supporting me spending hours (and hours) every day writing with nothing yet to show for it is the best. Knowing how I can help him work toward his goal of being 100% freelance has changed so much about how I spend my days.

This October has been hard, but so awesome so far. Can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

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planning the end of 2014

We have fewer than 100 days left of the year, so I’ve begun to plan. I’m a planner. I can’t help it. I like to know what direction I want to be headed. Even if my path ends up veering off, I like to know roughly where I want to end up. Knowing my big-picture priorities helps me establish my daily to-dos. There are things I want to finish, things I want to reassess and (yes) things for the future I want to plan.

This is the perfect time of year for me to review my tasks and my priorities, because I am beginning to feel overwhelmed. How did my year get so full?

Oh, that’s right. I said ‘yes’ to some amazing opportunities and didn’t quit anything else to make room. I remember now.

I just recently finished doing developmental editing for all 20+ stories in a short story anthology Beyond the Gate (releasing soon, for free). It was difficult and extremely time-consuming (one story alone took me 10 hours), but I loved it so much. I am hoping that it leads to more developmental editing clients, because good lord did I love it. Reading fiction, flexing my critical analysis master’s degree muscle, but also helping a writer to shape their story into its best form. LOVE IT.

I work part-time for a portrait photographer, and this time of year my work load doubles and triples. Already. Maggie was basically completely booked by last week, and now we are pushing her associate photographer. It will be like this until probably mid-December.

And then, on top of all of that, I am trying to write a book so it is ready to be published by March 1 (for larger world and marketing purposes). Complicating this are the facts that A) it is the first book of a series, so I need to do at least some big-picture plotting and B ) I didn’t actually know what happens in the book when I started writing it. As of the writing of this post I am still flailing a little, but certainly doing better.

It is all I can do to keep up with my self-imposed deadline. And I must keep that deadline if I want to produce something at least reasonably close to my own standards by March 1.

So, for the rest of 2014 I will be….

Keeping up with L&R: Blog posts, a couple more webinars, and creating a lot of content for my annual blog party on Jan 1 (email me if you want to pitch a guest post). I am being modest in my L&R-specific plans for now, since I’m not entirely sure how much time I will have to spend doing photographer-customer-service, or how much time getting a book ready to be published will take. Once I have a better handle on my schedule and limitations, I have tons of fun ideas for L&R (and US History Class and TravelScrap HQ and others)

Writing book 1: The goal is to have the first draft of book 1 done by October 31, and revised and ready for beta readers by Jan 1. Somewhere in there I also want to plot book 2, so I can start writing it on Jan 1. I also need to start marketing for this series (once I have a title and figure out what it is really about), source a cover design, etc. This is my fifth book (in first draft), but I have not actually finished one all the way to being published. All learning for me.

Fiction Unboxed 1.5: My friends at Sterling and Stone are writing a book live again, and I will be following along. Partly because I think it is fascinating, particularly their story meetings and brainstorming together. But also because I am writing in the same world, 20 years earlier. If they set specific world-building details (like, length of the prime minister’s term, for example) those are things I need to know for my own books. They are running it in conjunction with NaNoWriMo, so you can still sign up.

Date nights with Andrew: His freelance schedule has completely out of control since about May. Mostly because he is so good at what he does and so many people want to work with him, and he can’t say no. To the point where he sleeps at home only about once a week. True story. But, we are going to try to have Friday nights set aside just for us. He still might have his day job interfere, but he won’t be scheduling any sessions or concerts or anything on Friday nights. I’m so excited!

Read books: Because this is where my heart is. At least a few minutes every day. It’s really my only ‘hobby’ — everything else is work of some kind. I’m on track to read 100+ this year! Reading will always be a priority. It makes me sad all the writers who say things like, “I used to read, but now I just don’t have time.” I don’t want that to be me.

What direction are you headed in? What does the rest of your year look like?

SHIFT_free creativity guide

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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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