I think people crave being a part of history. We learn about historic events and wonder what it would be like to live through it. Think about (or rather guess) how we might have behaved given the same circumstances.
Of course, this is a romantic notion. Because living through a pivotal event can be difficult and messy. In hindsight, we might be a percentage of the person we hoped we’d be. But we are human. Humans make mistakes.
These are some of the ideas that rolled through my brain while reading "What Unites Us" by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner. The book is a collection of essays, reminders of the past and telling observations on the cultural and political landscape of America today.
While I appreciated and enjoyed many of the sections—Freedom, Community, Responsibility, and Character—the section of the book on Exploration particularly resonated with me.
I realize I’m biased, that is clear from the impetus to even do this book-a-week project, but "What Unites Us" made clear to me is that I’m on the right path for my own development. I’m still reading the news, seeing movies, and generally being a part of popular culture, but the commitment to reading a book a week is about taking the time to fill my own creative well. Consulting books and art exhibitions and theater performances is a way for me to see different interpretations of what is happening around me. To expand my view of the human experience.
So, as I took this book in, I am again reminded to do what is in front of me. I’ll remember the essay titled Steady in the Character section. How there are times of anxiety, worry, and fear in life. When these happen, I'll remember to steady myself. To stay balanced, to be sensible. To do the things I can to make my life, and the lives of those around me, positive.
Read more. Create more. Participate more. Keep my senses attuned to what is happening. And, of course, vote.
I saw The House Theatre’s "United Flight 232" a few months ago, the story of an airplane crash told through interviews. Interviews with people on the doomed flight—flight attendants, passengers, pilots—created the script. It’s a fascinating story of hope and terror. The verbatim text from the interviews knotted together the tension, emotion, and immediacy. The audience was part of their event. Albeit in the safety of a theater, not in the grip of staring down death.
This comes to mind because braiding stories together is a tried-and-true way to add dimension and appeal. And I thought about all of this while reading “The Girl on the Train”.
Told from three different perspectives, the three women control the narrative throughout “The Girl on the Train”. Yet, the men they love (and lost) were so present, the story felt fleshed out from all angles. Particularly because one of the men - spoiler alert - is a pro at gaslighting, a process of manipulating someone by convincing them to question their own sanity.
I’m typically not a mystery gal, but a handful of pages in, I knew I’d see this one to the end.
Reading “The Girl on the Train” was a reminder of the strength of multiple viewpoints and unreliable narrators. Because, really, aren’t both of those true of stories in everyday life?
** Throughout 2018, I’ll be reading a book a week and posting about each book here. I’m not promising any revelations, just my musings. And a record, for me, of each read. Happy New Year!
About a month ago, I went to see The Rembrandt at Steppenwolf Theatre. There’s a lot about the play to talk about, but one topic in particular has haunted me. When speaking about grieving, one character announced that the way to get through it is to learn something new.
This stuck with me.
I think it can be applied to more situations beyond grief, too. It occurred to me that learning something new is a way to cope with any setback life throws at you. Because, learning something new not only distracts your mind, it enhances your life.
So, as we ready ourselves for the New Year, I plan to learn new things. As many new things as I can. For myself, and my business.
Want to be a writer? Then write.
It’s basic advice, yet many continue to dream of a book with their name on it without putting pen to page or fingers to keys.
Here’s the thing about writing, it takes discipline. Yes, some have more talent than others. Yes, there is an element of luck—as there is in any profession—but the best way to begin tallying up writing successes is to write. Daily.
Not sure where to start? Here are three ways to start a daily writing habit:
How about you? Do you write daily? What motivates you?
When was the last time you took a vacation? Why wait!
I recently left town for a few days and was surprised by how re-energized I was when I returned home. Turns out I needed a vacation more than I realized. I now plan to get more trips on the calendar and I encourage you to do the same.
Here are a handful of reasons to pack a bag and jump town for a few days (or more).
Challenge Your Comfort Zone
I love my work. I am thankful I’m in a field I enjoy but, too often, I use this as an excuse to put my vacation plans on hold. Then I remember, if I want to learn to ski, hike a new-to-me trail, or sleep outside under the starry sky, I should go whenever I can. None of us are getting any younger and getting out in nature refills my creative well.
Spend Time with Family
Traveling solo has appeal—you can keep your own schedule and choose your own interests—but vacationing with kids in tow can open new vacation possibilities. It’s an opportunity to introduce your little ones to destinations you loved when you were small, or take advantage of family-friendly resorts you never knew existed pre-parenthood.
Learn Something New
Is there a city you’ve always wanted to see? Or a music festival you’ve dreamed of attending? A trip is a great way to learn something new, from sipping wines in Bordeaux to attending a craft fair closer to home.
Relax and Rejuvenate
Ok, it’s true, vacations don’t have to be about learning new things, sometimes the best vacations are about letting things go. Sound good? If so, start planning for a cruise, disconnect and spend a week on a beach, or explore the depths of the ocean and scuba dive. Focus on your own personal enjoyment.
New adventures keep your mind fresh and your body active. As you move throughout your life, allow yourself to dive into whatever interests you. Experience the world through art, architecture, food, or stunning views. Choose your passion and roll with it.
So, make a plan…and travel while you can!
Yesterday, I had two articles due. In order to complete them, I was waiting on quotes from a couple local boutiques.
We’d emailed back and forth. I exchanged text messages with a few, too.
Nothing. No quotes.
So, I did something radical (well, radical for me). I called them. That’s right, I got out the old phone and used it for something other than its computer capabilities. Now, this is something I do not like doing. For someone who communicates for a living, I’ve come to loathe talking on the phone.
But, you know what? It worked. I had all the information I needed, lickety split.
I was amazed, but when I gave it a moment, thought about it, it made sense. Turns out, some people like talking on the phone. Especially people with super social jobs, like running a women’s clothing boutique.
You see, I enjoy writing. In fact, a large portion of my income relies on writing daily and returning emails and text swiftly and loaded with information. It’s my job. And like many others, my career is a direct result of what I’m attracted to. That said, it’s not everyone’s job. It’s not even something everyone wants to do. As a result, for some who likes talking on the phone, responding to an email or texting a blurb of copy goes to the bottom of the to-do list.
Whatever we don't like to do, we avoid. We drag our feet.
My comfort zone isn’t everyone’s comfort zone, but stretching myself and working in a new way achieved big results and unexpected pleasure. I realized a phone call is showing that I am dedicating my time completely to one conversation. My interviewees worked through thoughts while I listened, and those conversations grew and braided together new ideas I hadn’t considered. These conversations became the highlight of my day.
Yup, I’ll admit it. Talking on the phone was fun, and I wouldn’t hesitate to call those contacts again if I need more information. I chatted, learned, and enjoyed myself.
Added bonus? The articles are done and delivered, complete with lovely quotes.
So, stretch yourself. If you don't like calling people, do it anyway. Trust me, it works.
I used to live near a co-op, a natural food store that also produced a publication focused on wellness. I pitched a couple of ideas and began writing for them. I contributed to each issue for a year or so.
But, I moved away and the locality of the writing wasn’t something I could continue long distance. I thanked my editor for the experience and opportunities and moved on.
Later, that publication ended up being folded into another magazine. When the new site was launched, the older articles were nowhere to be found (there’s a lesson here, as much as we are told things online last forever…well, sometimes they disappear, too.) I didn’t think too much about it at the time, I was working on other projects and although I was thankful for the experience, those articles being in the rearview mirror felt right.
Maybe it also helped I knew I had the printed versions if I ever needed them. They were filed away. Waiting. A time capsule.
This past weekend, I was typing a blog post for a client when an article I had written for the co-op bubbled into my brain. Next thing I knew I was flipping through files and there they were, in all their newsprint paper stock glory.
Reading them now, I’m able to see how far I’ve come. I remember how nervous I was reaching out to authors and professors for quotes. The drafts I’d labor over, learning how to weave a story together. I can see now, through the power of hindsight, how much I’ve grown. Plus, seeing my past articles has given me fresh ideas, new seeds to fertilize my current projects.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you sit and read old work daily, or even monthly. That sounds like an exercise in procrastination. But do look back now and then and give yourself some credit.
You may even find you’ve surpassed your goals. And then some.
I’m writing about patience today because lately I’ve been experiencing a bit of career jealousy.
Has it happened to you?
Of course! It happens to all of us. You hear the good news of a friend or colleague and you are happy for them (Truly! You are!) but you also feel a bit discouraged.
Why are they so far? Why are you so…well…not far?
I’ll tell you the thing I keep reminding myself, that they worked for it. They worked hard and are seeing the results. And the best thing we can do with our green-eyed monsters is to harness that energy and commit to our own work.
You see, desire is an energy. A spark that can fuel our own goals and help us to see our career path with a bit more clarity.
Here’s how I think about it:
When I’m on vacation, I’m always thrilled to see the city skyline as I travel home. “Almost there,” I say to myself, as a smile floats onto my face.
Now, I know it’s not completely true. If I’m in an airplane, there is still baggage claim and ground transportation. If I’m in a car, there is still traffic to navigate.
Yet, it still fills me with good vibes to see the skyline. Why? Because it proves I’m going in the right direction.
With my writing, I use a similar tactic. I see my goals as a building in the distance. If I stay on course, if I continue to do what I need to do, I’ll get there. I can’t do what other people are doing, it will only sidetrack my efforts. I’ll no longer see the skyline.
When I think about it that way, the bubbling belly of envy is transformed into a wave of gratitude. See what my friend just did? See how all her hard work paid off? Staying on path works.
I’ll reach my goal, it’s simply going to take time. I’m going to have to keep my head down and put in the work. I can see the sky, the land, and I can even see the building. I’m getting there.
I had a rough spring. I won’t go into it here, but trust me, it was rough.
We all go through hard times, and during those difficult stretches, things change. You eat more and sleep less. Or you sleep more and eat less. Or you exercise, or you don’t. Your schedule shifts and morphs until you realize you can’t take it anymore. You have to get back to where you were. Back to a place of comfort and productivity.
I’m finally getting there. How do I know? Because I’m reading again.
I was stunned for a while, I had experienced a loss and all I could do was read about loss. Then I didn’t read at all. But here’s the thing, I write for a living. So here I am, for months, zombie shuffling through life, taking contents out of my well without replenishing the water.
Writers have to read. We have to.
So, the magazines that were stacking up slowly enticed me, their pages like fingers motioning me near. Shortly after, I was in the library, loading my backpack with books.
The stacks grew—two next to my bed, one near the couch—until I found myself reading again. Every day. Scary books and cooking magazines and short story compilations and essays and funny paperbacks and graphic novels.
I missed it. I’m so glad it’s back. That I’m comfortable enough in my own life to dive back into the stories of others. That I’m able to lose time in storylines, characters, and dreams. That I can escape into other cities, romances, ages, and eras. Because if fictions are lies that tell the truth, now I’m finally able to face my own demons by staring down the demons of others.
Does that make sense? If not, I’ll blame it on my reprieve from reading.
But now I have books again, so I know it’s going to be ok.
Freelancing requires willpower.
Yes, I’m talking about constantly pitching and meeting deadlines without a manager giving you a timeline (Newsflash: You are the manager.) But I’m also talking about taking time away from the computer to take care of your biggest asset: yourself. After all, if we aren’t in good shape, there is no way we’ll be able to meet our income goals, right?
So, I’m sharing one of my favorite lunch recipes. It’s fast (we have work to do!) and healthy (in the yummiest way!).
What You'll Need:
How to Make It:
Put your water on the stove and prep the spinach, carrot, and onions while the water comes to a boil. Cook the soba noodles according to directions (should take about 3 minutes).
While the noodles are cooking, make your sauce. Combine peanut butter, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
Once cooked, drain and rinse noodles. Then, combine the soba noodles and your veggies. Pour your dressing over the top and toss. Then, give it a squeeze of lime.
How about you? What's your favorite healthy lunch recipe?