Wednesday, December 3, 2014

One lesson I hope people take away from the book


Well, despite the rewrite, the downtime in Maui, the ER, and the EVERY STUPID OTHER THING that showed up in my path I actually AM publishing in December.

December 16th to be exact!

I'm pretty damn excited.

I hired my friend, the enormously talented Kerri Antes to do a photo shoot so I would have some professional pictures for my author page and also for my website and other promo materials.

Here are a couple.

People, there are thousands of pictures of me on the web joking around, making faces etc. There are none that I can think of with me just looking nice.

I hired someone else to catch my good side because I needed some distance and for someone else to "show me" my good side.

This is pretty bad news (not that I could take a photo like this by using selfie mode on my iPhone).

No, because it's a pretty tight parallel to the way I've been treating my book project.

People come to me to help get over the baggage that keeps them from putting themselves out there, to take risks and to drop paralyzing perfectionism.

I want my clients to be aggressively on their own side and refuse to take crap from anyone who isn't on board with whatever crazy fantastic thing they want for themselves.

When I was working with my own coach this week (yes, I have one) she nailed me on my doubt on being able to draw an audience for the book.

"Why don't you think you can do that"?

"I guess I don't have the evidence that I can. I don't know if people will like it or find it valuable".

There is something stupidly incongruous with putting as much effort as I did in distilling down the information my new book contains if I have some lingering doubt that people won't find it valuable or be drawn to its content and lessons.

Good lord! I'm glad I didn't have this evidence requirement when I started writing. There isn't a whole lot of power behind the thought "I'm going to write this thing and maybe someone will read it".

No--you write a book because you want to reach the world.

And you can't wait for the world to tell you it's ok.

I've spent tens of thousands of dollars and years in effort acquiring the knowledge and experiences that fed the content of this book. I threw out everything and started from scratch so that the content would be concise and accessible. I did it because I wanted my audience to get something solid.

Being aggressively on my own side on this one.

If you undertake any new endeavor, don't cheat yourself with foolish thoughts such as "I don't know if its good enough" or "why bother".

Don't.

Just don't.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I finished my revised draft!!! Here is a big section to check out!

I'm so freakin' excited I can barely stand it! Just minutes ago I sent my fully revised draft to the editor. I'm late for publication this December publication but REALLY EARLY for January. Good stuff!

Look, a turtle! Also, my booty.
I'm feeling exceptionally grateful and lucky. Last week I took a soul cleaning vacation with my sister, my sister's husband and Miss Keri.

I brought my laptop with every intention of working on the draft while I was out there starting with using the uninterrupted time on the flight.

Long story short, I fell asleep on the flight over and was completely out for nearly 5 hours.

This never happens.

When I arrived, the warm balmy air enveloped me and I found all my productive fantasies evaporate. I just let it be.

Deadline, shmedline. This girl needed to rest. Come to think of it, you probably do as well.

As a little Thanksgiving gift, here is a section that I think everyone will find useful (whether you read the finished book or not--which I hope you will).

Assemble your team
Even if it feels like your goal is something you are working on alone, you will need help. Think of these helpful people as your team—the ones you will go to for training, advice, guidance, support (mental, emotional and physical) and feedback.

Anyone who is on your team will understand what you are undertaking and express in no uncertain terms that you are capable of accomplishing what you are setting out to do.  This is not to say they should give you false confidence or blow smoke at you. Ideally your team members will have at least some insight into the pitfalls and difficulties of your goal and be there when you run into those things to either give you courage or much needed help to surmount what ever fresh hell pops up.
Here is my short list of the folks you should include on your team (as well as the ones that should stay the hell away).

Yourself—You are the only one who has 100% stake in your goal so you are the leader, the majority shareholder and the only one who needs to be satisfied with whatever it is you set out to do. You and only you set the standards, the pace and get to make the decisions on this. You may ask for help, for input, for advice but at the end of the day you are in charge and responsible for everything. Just own it. Its better to let everyone off the hook and acknowledge up front that whatever happens along the path you made the decision to go there. If you decide to change course or even bail it’s a whole lot cleaner if you do it for your own reasons than to point your finger at someone else or some external circumstance as the reason. Are you going to do it or not?

Experts (teachers, coaches, consultants etc)—See the above paragraph. These individuals are not in charge of your reaching your goal but can be very helpful when you are trying to learn a new skill, overcome a hurdle, or navigate your way through territory that you are not yet expert in. They just can’t do it for you.

Beware of any expert who demands slavish adherence to a fixed method or set of ideas. Also, beware of advice to keep doing the same thing (even harder) if your progress has come to a stand still. No matter what “experts” say, there is always more than one way to do everything. Keep any such experts at arms length.

Peers (who get it)—These are the ones who are working on something like you are. Maybe not exactly the same thing, but in the same spirit. These boon companions will be the ones who are likely to have encountered similar problems and either have good information to lend or can help you work through a problem through shared experience. The friendships that come out of these kinds of experiences are the kind that can last a lifetime.

I can’t say this strongly enough—don’t accept unasked for advice or feedback from people who aren’t on your team. While it is true that you can get good insight from almost anywhere I am highly suspicious of people who pop up in the middle of my projects with a wealth of advice to give when they have little idea of what I’m trying to do and have no stake in my game other than to hear themselves talk. I know those poor souls are desperate to show someone that they know something, but not on my dime. I avoid them at all costs—I recommend you do too.

Also, be careful of getting into unnecessary competition with your peers. It’s very tempting to play this game and it starts innocently enough with one person sharing their progress and another person wanting to show they are also making headway. While it might not seem like a big deal in the moment, what purpose does it serve?

The better you are at understanding your emotional outcomes for your goal, the less of a problem this will be and the less likely you will be to take the bait. Like the unwanted advice giver, be sure to not include people who try to goad you into competition on your team.

Cheerleaders—This is not a group apart exactly. I would hope that the experts and peers you add to your team are also cheering you on to success. But you will have friends and loved ones who might not quite understand what you are doing but who at a baseline believes you are equal to the task and tells you so—especially when things are going to shit. You don’t need realists in this role--you will meet plenty reality along the way anyway so don’t invite people to offer that kind of help. 

Cheerleaders are not there to tell you to temper your expectations or aim lower. They are there to continue flying the flag of your shiniest vision even whey you aren’t able to yourself. 

The Helpful Cast of Thousands (or perhaps one or two)--Anyone who does the dishes, laundry, runs errands, or takes on any task that frees you up to do your thing---these people are actually angels. Treat them like the precious saints they are with lavish gratitude, praise and appreciation. Seriously, make this a priority. If you don’t have anyone in your life helping with these things seriously consider paying someone—and then shower them with gratitude, praise and appreciation as well.

You will add to this group of stalwart companions as you make progress on your journey.

Monday, November 10, 2014

REWRITE! How to keep going when things are total sh*t



Hey gang. I finished a big chunk of my manuscript but I felt things weren't quite holding together. I turned it over to my editor, Ginger, and asked that we do a review to see what areas should be built up and what should be discarded or deemphasized. I knew certain concepts needed more details but being so close to my subject I couldn't judge for myself.

I received a pleasant email from the editor saying she was really happy with my first draft (good job!) and that there was just some reorganizing needed. Cool! I was in a similar frame of mind and this really was better news than I expected.

Until I opened her edited copy.

I scrolled through to the final feedback and had to read it twice. While what was being suggested was indeed a reorganization of the book, in order to do the reorg I would have to mostly rewrite the prose.

I started to feel nauseous. I KNEW I would need to do some rewriting and reorganizing but this wedged my brain. I literally couldn't see past the monolith in my mind. I had been so focused on getting my first draft written, getting my ideas down and building the manuscript that it never crossed my mind I would have to do it twice.

In "Bird by Bird" by Annie Lamott, Annie wrote about having to rewrite a book treatment for her publisher three times (she holed up in a hotel room and was doing lines of crank if I remember correctly). She busted her way through it too using will (and crank) to get her manuscript where it needs to be.

Cool. I know what to do--be like Annie (but no crank--not even on special occasions).

I've read "Bird by Bird" book many times and know this temporary state is just part of being in the middle of the process--the swamp where I'm elbows deep in my own mire of thoughts and doubt (no biggie).

I met with Ginger on the phone to discuss the new approach. She was still pretty optimistic about the concept so I steeled myself to go in again with a short writing assignment and move forward. I set a time to work on it and let myself have a couple days to kick chairs and complain.

I put my house in order, took a trip to Carmel with Keri and another friend, and visited with my Mom. I allowed myself the luxury of griping. But when my date to write came up, I put that all aside and got to work.

Even faced with the rewrite I knew had made enormous progress. Books usually need lots of rework--sometimes several goes at it. I'm in good company in this regard.

Truly, almost any project that can't be tossed off in an afternoon probably will need some rework. Building in a place for that in both emotional and physical space is important. Its a good argument also for not doing your homework on the bus.

I'm still moving toward my deadline. I have a clear picture of how to proceed which I'm far happier with than what I originally drafted. I have several writing assignments scoped out that will take me forward until draft number two is completed.

Are you in the thick of things? How are you doing? Drop a line in the comments below and let me hear from you.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Can't really move my head--what does a physical setback mean when you are trying to be EPIC

At 2AM last night I ended up in the ER. I couldn't move my head and I couldn't escape my pain no matter what position I tried.

I knew the ER docs couldn't do anything but I was in so much pain I needed to check this one thing off my list--see professional to prove I'm not dying.

They sent me home with pills (I already knew would make me nauseous) and the highly original advice to move as little as possible.

In the meantime I'm thinking "I am behind on my pull-up workout". That and working on all my other  physical challenges because its hard to do anything when you can't move your head.

Setbacks are setbacks. They happen--and with older warriors like myself, the bounce back time is somewhat elongated. Many (MANY) times in the past I would have given in to the temptation to just throw in the towel and indulge in the story of "see, I CAN'T do this stuff--look at what happens".

Repeat. Setbacks happen FOR EVERYONE. The question is, how do you handle them?

In yoga there is a pose called Savasana (corpse pose). It is my favorite pose. You simply lie still on the floor with your arms slightly out from your side and breath.

How is this part of the process? Growth and change have their own timelines. I can trace how I'm feeling back to my workout where too much weight on my dead-lift irritated my shoulder. The shoulder got inflamed. I got on an airplane and folded myself origami style so I could write to pass the time. A few more days of inflammation and then another origami plane ride resulting in the pain traveling to my neck, getting worse until I was in the ER. And now I am still, letting my body reset and rest. Offering it kindness.

Setbacks are an opportunity to look at how you are approaching your goal and to build in ways to cope when things seem like they are at a full stop/throw in the towel point.

Making a miracle happen either with your body or some other project is more holistic than engaging in relentless forward motion. Handling setbacks is just as important as the plan for progress.

In my mind and heart I am still moving towards the things I want. Today, the fastest way forward is propped up on pillows drinking turmeric tea and staying very still.

Got a gruesome setback going? I'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment below.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Advisors vs getting advised plus the role of criticism

I have three people in my life right now who recently gave me exactly the right feedback when I needed it. They were people who already had been where I am going, had been through the pitfalls and importantly expressed their faith in my ability to do the same. Powerful powerful powerful.

This kind of advice and feedback can lend the energy and clarity to move forward and get your endevour to the next level. Because of their help I was able to finish up a section of my book that I was struggling with and plan the final leg of my draft.

Lets contrast this with uninvited "advice".

I recall the day after one of my exams in pastry school--the all important wedding cake exam. The test was planning and executing on a wedding cake design. This included baking the actual cake, the filling, the structure, smoothing the fondant, piping decorations and the pains taking work of hand forming dozens of pink orchids from marzipan. Also, because I'm insane, I decided to create panels along the base of the cake all piped with stanzas from "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" (by Christopher Marlow). The whole process--the cake, the construction and all the decorations represented days of work. It all came off adequately and I was certainly over reaching my skill level--the next day I was dead! I was just happy to be done and excited I had made this multi tiered, highly decorated cake.

Because this was more than just another tray of petit fours, I brought in photos of my cake to show my coworkers. Later in the day one coworker came into my office and asked "are you ready to hear about your cake"? At first I didn't get where she was coming from but she picked up the photo I had and started saying "you should have added more elements of pink to the top to tie up the color scheme. We learned about that when I was in art school".

I can't tell you how poorly I received her correct but useless suggestion because the cake was already delivered and also WHO THE FUCK ASKED HER????

Nothing stinks more than uninvited feedback--I want you to feel free to dismiss noise from anyone taking your creation as an opportunity to stink up the room with their ill timed, unwanted opinions. Sharing your project isn't an invitation for arm chair feedback from someone with no stake in your game no matter how wise and insightful they think they are.

People are going to say what they are going to say. Just be clear that you don't have to sit still for it.

I am working with an editor right now on my book. This is a partnership that I invited. We are still building our relationship but our roles are clear--I provide content and direction for the book and she ensures that I'm clear, my prose is tight and consistent, and that what I produce is the highest quality it can be. She is a pro and I'm grateful for her.

I used to have a lot of confusion around being gracious about feedback. Let me say this to you--you might be working hard to put something into the world. You might be having moments of doubt. You also might have the sneaking suspicion that what you are creating isn't all it can be.

Be very careful about who you invite in to help you with feedback.

I had an online chat last night with a friend who suggested I was too hard on myself--its true that I have been known to lean into finding flaws in my own work. Also, its very tempting to personalize flaws--to draw the conclusion that something in your work that needs help is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with you.

Even so, learning and growing is based in actively choosing to work on areas you want to shine. You can only do that if you have awareness of those things--gaining that awareness is facilitated by partnering with people you can trust, who understand what you want to accomplish, and who can offer guidance that makes a difference.

Good feedback will help you distinguish the difference between something that isn't a big deal and something that will make your work sing. Not every flaw is worth hunting down and killing--if you are on a mission to ship something that makes a difference its critical to know what to sweat over and what to let go.

Have a feedback story to share? Leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chicago! Why am I here? And my latest snippet

Infinite Selfie Ops
This is just a quick hello! I'm taking a break from wandering around one of the most amazing cities in the world--Chicago! One thing I can't get over about this city is that almost everything that we think of as notable coming from here happened in the last 150 years. It was only a military outpost at the beginning of the 19th century and quickly grew into a city of 300,000 only to be wiped out by a full third in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It killed people, destroyed the old wooden infrastructure and left a open canvas to become The City of the Big Shoulders.

I guess you can come back from anything--even when it seems like the blazing end of times.

My friends and I are here to gawk, visit, learn and conduct some sweet natured mischief. And because we want to do all of these things and FEEL GOOD we've all returned to our rooms for naps (and me to work on another chapter).

Yesterday I was on an overcrowded flight with barely room for my body much less my laptop. I folded up the tray table, folded my body in and got in a good chunk of writing. What I saw was 3 hours of uninterrupted time, a fully charged battery and a word count goal. I can think of 1000 different times when I would have seen conditions that were too cramped, too cold, less than ideal and impossible for concentration. What's different? Just the way I think about it.

Right now I'm wearing a soft bathrobe and my bunny slippers--different conditions, same goal. I could be telling myself I'm wasting my time (The City of Big Shoulders calls) but I'm so content to be here doing the one thing I want to do right now.

Here is my latest snippet:


Your grand plan didn’t work. Again.

I don’t know why you decided to sign over your hopes, dreams, self esteem and identity to yet another overburdened ode to making your life into something other than what it is.
I think it all starts with the allure of an infomercial. Something out there has the perfect solution to the mess of your life. A multi level, multipurpose, multitasking approach to the perfect you.

Only it didn’t work, again.

I see you despairing at 3AM, googling to find your answer. Who or what has it? Why does everything seem so hard? And why can’t you follow through? It must be that crushing lack of discipline that has destroyed your ability to achieve anything. Or, actually, there is just something very wrong with you. Specifically you.

Why does everything you’ve tried to do feel empty? You crossed the finish line but it didn’t give you what you hoped it would.

I feel you. There is a whole industry out there trying to fix your life through plans, programs, degrees, etc. Surely one of these holds the answer to making your life seem better than it does. Shinier or like you fulfilled some promised potential you suspect you have.

It all seems very hopeful. That some course of disciplined and directed action can fix your life.

I want to introduce you to a radical thought. You had it right when you were about 5 years old. Drawing wheels on a box—all of a sudden you have a car. No, the car doesn’t run but this is a small experiment in taking a thought and creating something you dearly want with what you have in front of you—your infinite and resourceful mind and imagination. Before you run off screaming with the deep suspicion that I’m saying you can imagine things into being, that isn’t where I’m coming from at all. 

My point is that you are a learning/experimenting machine. We are designed to do this. 


Sunday, October 19, 2014

why are you doing that thing anyway? another snippet from my book in progress--

Why? because its there.

Today I needed to pull out my ice packs and ice down my legs and shoulders--over did it a little working on my splits and pull up and FINALLY am taking advice to respect my body instead of pushing through pain. There is nothing rad about injuring myself just to meet a goal--even one with a deadline I can see. 

Working on the next section for the editor--here is a taste:
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The problem with taking on an epic shit mission is that many times people under take them as surrogates for getting their emotional needs met.

But you ask "what about my Epic Shit Mission? Does that mean I don’t get to learn how to surf?"

Yes you get to learn how to surf. You also get to climb glaciers, hike in Iceland and do motocross. Anything! You have to ask yourself one teeny thing first.

Why are you doing it?

When Edmund Hillary was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest he didn’t say it was because he wanted to find love and prove to his father once and for all that he would some day amount to something.

No, he said he wanted to climb it BECAUSE ITS THERE. Not for love, not to impress anyone or even himself. He had a passion for the mountain. That was the difference.


It is far better to pursue one silly but truly sincere mission than to do something big and impressive because you really are trying to get some other need met.

----------------------------------------------------------

I was writing this section and contemplating the many times I took on some crazy goal and either having it blow up in my face or, on completing it, feeling kind of empty. Long ago I remember someone saying that you really only need one good reason to do something and if you have more than that you probably are trying too hard to convince yourself and should re-evaluate.

I wish I kept count on all the times I substituted action or achievement for satisfying unacknowledged emotional needs. I wrote this blog post before I fully digested my real motivations for going on a surf retreat. I believe the choices I made would have been different if I were more aware of my feelings at the time and chose to deal with them instead of run from them.

Just for today, think of one thing going on in your life that you are overloading with unspoken emotional needs. What can you do right now to satisfy one of those needs without putting all your eggs in one basket?