How Morning Pages changed my brain

I’m having a hard year.

Things started falling apart in January, and by mid-year I was determined to do something. Anything. There was not a lot I had control over, but it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something I have been hearing about for years.

I admit I have not (yet) read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, but basically everything I’ve heard about it praises Cameron’s concept of Morning Pages.

I’ve been doing Morning Pages since about mid-May 2015. At the time I was in the middle of a course on prosperity, and our coach challenged us to just try what she was suggesting. To commit to the process, in spite of what we might think is silly or outside our comfort zone. I approached Morning Pages the same way.

I began them when I was going through a giant life upheaval and I think I’ll always wonder how much harder that experience would have been without the quiet, calming, letting go practice of writing every morning.

I had heard about Morning Pages for years beforehand, but I always thought ‘I don’t have time for that’. The first week or so I timed myself — 20 minutes.

20 minutes of journaling instead of 20 minutes of Twitter? I can handle that.

In the months since I began, I’ve missed maybe a dozen days. The first one because I just couldn’t handle thinking about things for any more time. The others because I was traveling and already getting up VERY early.


Morning Pages are my form of meditation. I have so much going on in my brain at any given time, I have had an impossible time trying to do real meditation, but taking 20-30 minutes to empty my brain writing longhand helps in a very similar way.

I love this post about the benefits of morning pages. I have absolutely found the same thing to be true.

Granted, I don’t really have a control-level to test it against — my whole life was a disaster when I started. But I totally believe I would be more of an emotional wreck without the daily brain drain as I pour everything on to the pages.

It’s part “dear diary”, part walking myself through that day’s to-do list, part big-picture future dreaming. I don’t know that I have come to any lighting-strike-realizations, but I certainly feel more calm and more in control of my life after starting morning pages. Both VERY important considering how the first half of my 2015 was.

How I do it:

  • Silence. No music. No one else awake in the house.
  • I write the date and exact time at the top. My morning routine is important to me and my productivity, so recording that data is an easy way for me to keep on track. It also serves as the perfect writing prompt at times. “Late start this morning because …. ”  or “I love being up before the sun. I feel … ” or similar.
  • Same place every day.
  • This pen. This notebook. 3 sides of paper. Fast handwriting. No editing.

I never put it “away.” I never have to hunt it out. I don’t have to think. I just start the coffee, then sit in a nearby armchair where my notebook sits the rest of the day. I usually finish my 3 pages shortly after the coffee is done brewing.

I’ve missed some days, but they have pretty much all been when I was traveling and my schedule was thrown off.

I have been LOVING this practice. It has totally changed my brain for the better.

Further reading about Morning Pages here ….

Try it this week.

P.S. I’ve started this Pinterest board about Notebooks and Journaling. Have any more good resources for me?

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My story (so far)

*this story was posted this morning in the private blog for Onward an Upward 2013. Register here to be ready for Monday’s first session!*

When I was little I wanted to be a teacher.

And an actress and a singer and a writer and a magazine editor and an artist and a photographer and the General Manager of the Phoenix Suns.

I did all kinds of extra curriculars in high school – choir, drama and musicals, speech and debate, and the vocalist for the school’s Jazz Band. In fact, my mother got a job at Cal Arts so I could attend for free in the unlikely event that I get accepted for vocal performance.

But then I DID get accepted and I realized I didn’t want to be an Opera singer. I may have really enjoyed singing (and still do), but not enough to put in the kind of work that would be required to *maybe* have a chance at a professional singing career.

Singing was NOT a true passion for me.

So, instead I decided to go to my local community college and try studying some other subjects (I’m sure my parents loved that).

At the start of my second year I discovered English. I have always (always) been a big reader, but it wasn’t until this particular English 102 class that I discovered I also really enjoy analyzing literature and writing papers (no, really. I actually really love writing papers and editing/analyzing content).

On I went through my college career, pursuing an English degree. I transferred to a university, changed my major to English (my Associate’s degree is in music) and took all kinds of fascinating literature classes. I loved it. I still have all those novels purchased for class full of my orange pen notations. As I got to graduation, I thought, “This could be my career.” Academia. Reading novels, writing critical essays and non-fiction books about them and maybe even becoming a college professor. My final year of undergrad I had a professor who just made the whole study-literature-as-a-career possibility incredible appealing.

I bravely declared I was going to be a college professor and applied for the Master’s program at my university, got accepted, and after just a summer off continued on with my education.

It was only about halfway through that first year that I realized it was not my passion either. Being a literature professor is not just about reading novels and talking about them. You’re also looking at spending weeks and months in the stacks of archives at some library, slaving away on a 5000-word essay that, even if published, would only be read by a few people and not REALLY make much of a difference to anything. Not to mention the fact that as a professor you have to move to the ONE college town that has an opening for a 20th-century American Lit professor (or whatever your tiny niche specialty happens to be).

Reading, critical thinking, and paper-writing may be enjoyable (and I genuinely love it), but academia as whole doesn’t really meet my criteria of GREAT WORK, or a career I can see myself doing long-term.

I went on to finish my Master’s degree and find an office job (where I didn’t need a Masters, but where) I could spend downtime reading for fun, where I could use my skills in proof-reading, at least, and where I didn’t have to stress about anything after I left for the day. But this day job was not my passion either. It’s not the best day job, but it’s not terrible either. But the work that I did doesn’t make a difference to anyone – so to me it doesn’t really qualify as my GREAT WORK. (but it paid our family’s bills while my husband pursued his dream so TOTALLY WORTH IT). So about 3 years ago I started to feel antsy and unsatisfied and disappointed in myself for wasting so much time at that kind of day job.

Keep in mind, of course, that I had spent years (YEARS) going to school full-time AND working at least 32 hours each week. Once I graduated from college and only had to work I found myself with no idea what to do with my free time.

In the meantime I started a wedding photography business, learned about blogging and marketing, moved to California for my husband’s job, and started Lemon and Raspberry. I graduated from grad school in 2007 and since then I’ve been kind of trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Toying with various ideas and interests and jobs, like my long-ago dream of being paid to scrapbook or even thinking about pursuing acting since we live in L.A. But none of that was really doing it for me.

Now, after several years of blogging and thinking and reading and learning and really considering a wide range of options I think – for now at least – I have found my passion … and that is creating projects and offering workshops exactly like Onward and Upward and BUILD. Kind of a life coach + small business tips. I genuinely love being able to help people, I love the research and critical thinking that goes into the problem solving, and I genuinely feel as though creating work like this DOES do good in the world and can change lives. … One person at a time.

You’ll notice this combines previous passions – for learning and research, for critical thinking, for writing and for helping. And adds the important layer of actually making a difference.

Although, I still haven’t figured out how to fit singing into my future career :)

But, of course, this isn’t the end of my story.

In June I had my very last day at my day job which makes no difference in anyone’s life …. You can read more about how I was able to quit my day job here and here and here. My husband started his career with a minimum wage internship and I was more than happy to support him through that. But now he’s making a grown-up salary and it’s my turn to quit. We still can’t afford anything fun or fancy (L&R in no way replaces my old income), but we are much much happier. I’m making big big changes this year – more still to come in the final months, even. I’m actually excited to be more or less starting over.

Bonus: With technology and the internet and marketing the way it is … I can actually pursue reading, critical analyzing and paper-writing FOR FUN (because I’m a weirdo). I started this website where I am reviewing all the U.S. History books I am reading (for fun) and I have plans to revise my Master’s Thesis and release it on Kindle. FOR FUN.

Other bonus: I’m currently a (very) part-time Studio Manager for a photographer friend. This combines my love of photography AND marketing, without actually having to lock myself into building a photography business (but that is a story for another day).

And for the moment I am mostly just grateful to have a GREAT WORK goal to work towards and family and friends supporting that.

Things are working out :)

What about you? Where are you at in your story? What pieces of your history can you point to as memorable stepping stones to where you are now?

This? This whole thing is what Onward and Upward is all about.  Getting yourself in the mindset that you CAN change your life. That you CAN live something other than 40 years in a cubicle. To get you mentally prepared for starting over at the bottom of another ladder. Workshop starts Monday, October 7, 2013. Get more info and register here!

Click here to check out the syllabus. or click here for the FAQ

live your great work online workshop

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O&U 2013 registration open

Fall is here – which means my online workshop Onward and Upward is back!! O&U is an online workshop that will help you get rid of your rut and take things to the next level.

Most of the content will be the same as previous years but I’m also adding a whole new Foundation week where we’ll talk about sleeping habits, food, money and just taking care of yourself FIRST.

Click here to check out the syllabus. or click here for the FAQ

Through this workshop we will work together and work through:

  • recognizing the details of your life that make you most happy
  • discovering what your GREAT WORK is
  • working through any fear or hesitation in giving ourselves permission to do that GREAT WORK
  • encouraging each other how to best seek and do that GREAT WORK
  • gathering the action steps to make it happen
  • … and more!

Repeat attendeeKam of Campfire Chic said:

There is one workshop I make sure to focus on while it is active – Onward & Upward.


Because it scares the hell out of me and challenges me in ways that my day job doesn’t. It scares me how the readings make me really look at my actions and goals. It challenges me to analyze the steps I took in the last year to do my GREAT WORK. It’s a hell of a workshop, to say the least.

Unlike other workshops I join where the response portions are usually followed up with comments like, “looks great!” or “me, too!”, the responses from those participating in Onward & Upward spark a conversation and sometimes even crowdsources solutions to road blocks.

It’s fantastic.

The workshop officially begins Monday, October 7 and runs through the end of 2013 (with 2 weeks off in the middle). This will be the perfect platform to launch you into an awesome 2014!

A full THIRD of last year’s attendees have already signed up again (!!) which is so exciting!

Registration includes:

  • Immediate access to the private blog where all content will be posted
  • Option to place your blog/shop’s ad in the sidebar of the private blog
  • Immediate access to the private Facebook group to interact with other attendees
  • 9 weeks of extensive original content, including book recommendations, projects to reinforce the module and long lists of external resources
  • access to course material at least a year after the workshop ends

CLICK HERE to register and join us!

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How to overcome self-limiting beliefs

I’m not really the kind of person who works out.

But I think I want to try to be. (how noncommittal is that statement?)

This month as we get ready for Onward and Upward 2013 we’ll be talking a lot about finding and living our GREAT WORK. But to even start doing that we have to get past those things that are holding us back.

What are self-limiting beliefs

Any time you tell yourself you CAN’T do something? Any time you say no to a project or an opportunity because you’re afraid you can’t pull it off?

A self-limiting belief is something you think is true about yourself that keeps you from doing something. Examples: I’m not really the kind of person that does that. I’m not smart enough to pull that off. I’ll never be able to find that. I’m not a real writer/photographer/athlete/fill-in-the-blank.

Please notice that these beliefs about ourselves are not necessarily true to any one else. I may think that I’m not smart enough to be able to do this thing – while everyone who is closest to me believes I am. Other examples of self limiting beliefs

How to overcome self limiting beliefs

Learning how to overcome self limiting beliefs is kind of the first step. You want to first, recognize that these are beliefs – not facts. They are strictly you opinion and the ARE changeable.

Next: Work on breaking down that belief by replacing it with a new one. Beliefs are formed through repeated thoughts that, for one reason or another, you decided are true. So instead replace the self limiting beliefs with a positive thought you think or write or tell yourself over and over again. Change your story.

You try. Fill in the blank. Say it out loud. Write it on your mirror or in your planner or add it to your nightly prayers:

I’m the kind of person who _____

Lastly, practice practice practice. Yep, PRACTICE telling yourself something you don’t yet think is true. Practice starting or being brave or telling people that you are a photographer. The first time is petrifying, the third time is slightly less so, and eventually the 700-th time you do that thing that is against your long-held self limiting belief you will even be be believing it. “If you want to do something different, you have to adopt the identity of the kind of person who would do that thing.”

The second module in the Onward and Upward online workshop is called You Can Change Your Life – and it is exactly like this post. Workshop attendees will spend the whole week thinking about what changes they want to make in their life and learning to believe that they can make those changes.

I would love if you would join us and the ladies already signed up!

Sign up for the email list here and get access to the pre-registration price and goodies!

live your great work online workshop


O&U 2013: pre-registration opens tomorrow

The 2013 Onward and Upward workshop pre-registration opens September 9 (for newsletter subscribers ONLY). I’ll be sending out the email tomorrow morning with the link to pre-register at 35% off! (Pre-reg sign up will be available for any new subscribers for the next couple weeks too)

2012 alumnus Amy said:

Onward & Upward is a great e-course, and Amy has put a lot of thought and time into putting it together. There’s a plethora of resources from books to read, articles, blog posts, and interviews with other bloggers that expanded my view on what it means to be successful. Amy has inspired me to keep moving forward in my life, and to not get stuck in a rut.

Make sure you’re signed up to get tomorrow’s email – not only will you get in early and get to meet your fellow workshop attendees, but you will ALSO get:

… all just for registering before September 22!

If discounts and free consulting and free ebooks aren’t your style, you can wait until September 23 when registration opens for everyone.

2012 alumnus Helen said:

[I learned that] There are many unconventional ways to make money/jobs via the internet.

I got off my butt and figured out how to make a blog and I now have a simple little blog going. I hope to improve upon it overtime and I was inspired to do it via this course.

Workshop begins Oct 7

This version is even bigger and better than previous years’. The course runs for 11 weeks, with 2 weeks “off” (the 4th week and the 8th week) to catch up, think, simmer, etc. PLUS I’m adding 1 week of content covering self-care (sleeping, eating, finance)


Week one: Foundation (October 7-12)
You gotta get healthy to begin with if you’re going to be able to focus on the rest of your life. Basic Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This week we’ll talk about sleep, food, staying fit(ish) and overall self-care.

Weeks two and three: You can change your life (October 13-26)
We’ll discuss the big ideas like how do you want to be remembered when you die and the risk of challenging assumptions. This will be the first step in moving through the rest of the workshop and it is not for the faint-of-heart.

WEEK OFF (October 27 – November 2)

Week four: Commit 
The second week we will be focusing on the realities and the real work that are involved in changing your life. Watching another reality show is not going to cut it. We’ll commit to ourselves, and commit to being accountable to each other. This is the week that being part of a group will really pay off (and why I may need to limit the workshop size)

Weeks five and six: Find your passion 
The third week we will start getting more specific in the direction we want to take. We’ll look at our ideal days and discuss what our cause or message might be – anything from being a mom to being a crusading environmentalist.

WEEK OFF (November 24 – 30)

Week seven: Make it awesome 
During this week, we’ll talk about different inspirations and methods of doing our GREAT WORK. Maybe a charity can use your skills, maybe you are leaning toward starting a business. This week is about finding a new and memorable way to make your mark.

Week eight: Get it done 
This week is about productivity. It’s about committing to the next step. It’s about FINISHING.

Week nine: Onward and upward
During the final week of Onward and Upward, we’ll talk about continuing the commitment and how to stay out of the drudge and plateaus that may have kept you down in the past.

 Still not convinced? Check out the FAQs here or, 2011 AND 2012 alumn Kam said:

This started during the perfect time at work for me…a down time…And when I was saying yes to too many things and none of those things were going to help me with my GREAT WORK. This workshop has helped me get my mind back on track and even one of the resources reminded me that I can say no without being mean.

 Can’t wait to see you in the workshop! Make sure you sign up to get the pre-registration price!

Onward and Upward workshop


Onward and Upward 2013 coming in October!

I am so pleased to announce that my 3rd annual online workshop Onward and Upward will begin again October 7, 2013!! Discounted pre-registration opens in a couple weeks to L&R subscribers.

Also, I have decided this will be the FINAL iteration of the workshop in this format. I have plans to revise and revamp it all in a different format, but if you like the live online workshop setting, make sure you sign up this year! I think I changed my mind again.

The past 2 falls, we had such a special group of ladies all working together to really find their GREAT WORK and work toward that.

Onward and Upward is a 9-week online workshop that will help you get out of your rut and take things to the next level.

Wait, did you catch that? NINE week! I’m adding a week to the content and refreshing the existing 8 weeks. PLUS, I’m adding in a couple weeks OFF from new content (to let you catch up on the homework AND they happen to fall around American holidays).

Check out the updated syllabus and schedule here


September 9: pre-registration info and discount goes out ONLY to L&R newsletter subscribers

September 23: regular registration will open

October 7: Workshop begins

What is this workshop about?

Once, not long ago, someone close to me made a crack about my ‘day job.’

Now, I’m definitely a sarcastic person and 99 times out of 100 I can totally take whatever I dish out. But this time was different. This time it hurt. Not just because it was true.

This little jab from someone close to me hurt because it was something I had been thinking myself and was kind of ashamed of.

She was joking about how what I do for work doesn’t make a difference to anyone.

Which is exactly what I was thinking when I started working on this class material.

We all have work we were put on this earth to do – it’s time to really discover what that is.

And act on it.

This year’s workshop will be extra special since I have been able to quit my day job since the previous one. I will be revising all the course content from this new point of view.

Through this workshop we will work together and work through:

  • recognizing the details of your life that make you most happy
  • discovering what your GREAT WORK is
  • working through any fear or hesitation in giving ourselves permission to do that GREAT WORK
  • encouraging each other how to best seek and do that GREAT WORK
  • gathering the action steps to make it happen
  • … and more!

The workshop begins bright and early Monday, October 7, but the private blog will be open immediately upon registration.

Onward and Upward 2013 will include, in addition to the scheduled workshop material:

  • weekly reads – extra links and resources to supplement the class
  • audio recordings of each session to add to your iPod
  • private Facebook group to connect with other attendees
  • sidebar column of blog buttons for each attendee’s site

This is really going to be a community where you can be open, be honest, and maybe even be vulnerable.

That said, please do NOT enroll if:

  • you have never made any mistakes
  • you always are right
  • you look down on others

(I honestly don’t believe anyone like that would even read Lemon and Raspberry, so I’m not super worried :) )

You can check out a breakdown of the workshop – or some FAQs here

And be sure you’re signed up for the L&R newsletter for pre-registration info and discounts!

P.S. There will be an alumni discount, but I’ll email y’all separately.


be brave: O&U registration closing

In Onward and Upward we’ve been talking about … many things. Among them giving ourselves permission to go against what our mothers want for us and deciding that a corner office is not necessarily our definition of success.

It can be really REALLY difficult to find the courage to go against convention, or to take even a small step towards doing something different than everyone around you.

You can be brave or you can be fearful. It’s your choice.

Maybe a community of like-minded creatives can help you choose to be brave.

I’m closing registration for Onward and Upward 2012 this weekend. It’s an 8-week online workshop, but you can catch up at your leisure as the content will be up for at least a year. Come join us!



Join the Onward and Upward community tomorrow

Onward and Upward 2012 registration is open and the workshop itself starts tomorrow! About a quarter of the 2011 alumni are returning again for 2012 and we already have activity in the private forum….

Come join us!

Last fall we had such a special group of ladies all working together to really find their GREAT WORK and work toward that.

Onward and Upward is an 8-week online workshop that will help you get out of your rut and take things to the next level.

2011 alumnus Allie says:

One of the best experiences I’ve had in any “online class” was Onward & Upward 2011 from Amy of Lemon and Raspberry.   The community that grew around learning what our “great work” is, steps to take to reach our goals, and ideas for becoming more and more inspired to DO our great work? Amazing.

She loved it so much she is joining us again for 2012….

Through this workshop we will work together and work through:

  • recognizing the details of your life that make you most happy
  • discovering what your GREAT WORK is
  • working through any fear or hesitation in giving ourselves permission to do that GREAT WORK
  • encouraging each other how to best seek and do that GREAT WORK
  • gathering the action steps to make it happen
  • … and more!

This is really going to be a community where you can be open, be honest, and maybe even be vulnerable.

You can check out a breakdown of the workshop – or some FAQs here


O and U excerpt : Challenge assumptions

The following is an excerpt from week six of Onward and Upward. The eight-week online workshop begins next Tuesday, September 4. Onward and Upward is an 8-week online workshop that will help you get out of your rut and take things to the next level. Read O&U alumnus Allie’s review here or register today!

The first couple weeks we’ll talk about making that mind shift to recognizing and being ready for the fact that you don’t just have to do what your parents did, or continue in your cubicle job because of the benefits. The weeks following we’ll be talking about how to figure out what you want to do instead, what you should do. Your GREAT WORK. Until, week six we’ll talk about different inspirations and methods of doing our GREAT WORK. Maybe a charity can use your skills, maybe you are leaning toward starting a business. This week is about finding a new and memorable way to make your mark.

One important way to make your GREAT WORK awesome is to be sure that you really stand out – and one solid way to make sure you are standing out is to really challenge assumptions.

Challenge the way you’ve been thinking. Challenge the way your industry or niche thinks. Don’t just do things the way everyone else does just because it’s easiest – take a look at what assumptions your industry has and question question question!

For example, let’s take real estate. My husband and I last year went shopping for our first house. One of the first things our realtor eased our minds about was his contract. Unlike a big chunk of realtors in the industry, our realtor doesn’t require any kind of contract for us to stay exclusively with him.

Other realtors will have clients sign a contract so they can have a cut of whatever commission is earned when the clients buy the house, whether the realtor was fired before then or not.

So our realtor – Bryan Frieders with Firehouse Team – took a look at that model, that assumption, and just threw it out. His thinking is he wants his clients to be happy with whoever helps them find a house, even if it’s not him.

And let me tell you ….. SO refreshing. I’m sure a big part of why he gets so many referrals is that he does things differently and past clients are happy to refer new ones.

So, how are you going to make your GREAT WORK awesome? What can you do that is different than what your industry and competitors do? What assumptions and standards are you going to rebel against?

Think about:

What assumptions are you working within? What assumptions are made in your industry? What assumptions are your competitors working within? What is one thing about your industry, niche or GREAT WORK that has always bothered you and you can change today? What assumptions do you need to consider carefully before going along with it?

If you want a class that will change your life and how you look at your “great work” click here for more info and to register

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What do you want to do before you die?

I recently read this post: Playing B-ball with Obama: 6 steps to crossing anything off your bucket list

… and thought about it …. What is on my ‘bucket list’? What is it I want to DO before I die?

and the very first thing that occurred to me, almost immediately, was I wanted to write a novel that was made into a movie and be able to have a small hand in the movie-making process.

Just once.

Oh, yea, I fully acknowledge that my what-I-want-to-do-before-I-die wish is absurdly pie-in-the-sky. Especially considering I have written 2 short stories in my life. No novels. And the stories that I wrote weren’t even that good.

BUT. I may be a late bloomer, but I’m not dead yet :)

There’s still time for me to start. There’s still time for me to put in the work. I can still TRY.

It’s just a matter of knowing which direction I’m going.

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