A HeSo Lost and Found (Part 1)

“Find a way to get paid to do what you love.”

That ubiquitous advice used to drive me crazy because I had no idea what I loved to do besides for watching television and eating cookies – and I couldn’t find a single job listing for a cookie taster.

I started this blog as a public quest to figure out what satisfies my HeSo. In case you’ve wondered what HeSo means, it’s my nickname for heart and soul. Like a lot of people, I got to a place in my life where I had no idea what made my soul happy. There were lots of things that made me happy – but nothing on a deeper, spiritual level.

For so long I let fear (mostly fear of being poor) control my decisions. I didn’t know how to let passion take over. Besides, how could I let passion take over my decision-making process when I didn’t even know what I was passionate about. This blog was my permission to try new things, make mistakes, and ultimately figure out my HeSo project – or as the yoga sutras describe it:

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

Before starting this blog, I quit a lucrative job, and had $50,000 in savings. I was absolutely petrified that I would go broke and never be able to amass that sense of security again. But I had 40 loyal readers and I couldn’t let them down. In my first year on the HeSo project, I became obsessed with an invention I came up with for baby beds. I went through about $20,000 in savings for this project and ultimately had to let it go when I found out I couldn’t get safety approval. But here’s what I learned:

  • How to get comfortable taking a risk
  • How to run a small business
  • How to let go when something is not working.
Getting ready to give up on the foam

Me getting fed up with making the prototype.

It was really hard to let that dream go, and I retreated into a part-time job, thinking the security of a paycheck would help me feel like less of a failure. However, I’m extremely hard-working and that part-time job quickly became a senior management position and all of a sudden I was working sixty hours a week on a job I didn’t care about. I had to stop and remember the HeSo. I quit the next day.

By this time I was really giving into my writing urges. The dream of becoming a professional writer seemed far-fetched but that didn’t keep me from writing whenever I had the chance. Even though I was done to $10,000 in savings, I decided to take a six month break from searching for a career and focus on my writing. I took classes and began writing 750 words a day. This was really hard work, and even though it wasn’t fun all the time, my HeSo was growing – but so was my debt.

I reached a fork in the road. I realized I wanted to keep writing, but I also wanted to be able to pay the rent. I took on another part-time job that left me with enough mental energy to come home and write every day. At this time an amazing thing happened:

I told myself that I would apply for a “real” job once I dipped below my last $2,000 in savings, but until then I would push forward with my writing. Every time I came close to that threshold, money appeared from out of nowhere. First, I got a completely unexpected $1,000 refund from the government for a tax return from three years prior. Next, a client from my old job randomly decided to pay my bill which was overdue for four years. Later, I got asked to be in a focus group for one hour and the pay was $300. Again and again, money appeared when I thought I’d have to give up on writing. I decided to take that as a sign that if I was going to pursue writing, the universe will support me.

The beginning and the peak of BFI.

The beginning and the peak of BFI.

At this same time I came up with the crazy idea for Brutal First Impressions. I went to the park with a sign telling people I would give them my honest feedback about their general appearance if they gave me a few dollars. This was a HUGE hit, and everyone loved this idea – except for me. I take that back. I loved the idea, but I hated doing it. I’m naturally an introvert, so it was extremely uncomfortable for me to stand in front of a group of strangers and criticize them. Also, I love looking for the best in people, so my patrons were often disappointed when I didn’t give them harsher feedback.

I think this was the moment I realized I was done with BFI.

I think this was the moment I realized I was done with BFI.

I decided to pursue this idea anyway because everyone else was so excited by it, but deep down, I just wanted to keep writing. I started a website and got a few clients, and I did BFI in central park a few times, but it never took off and I think that’s because my heart was still in my writing. However, I did learn these valuable skills from it:

  • How to design and program a website.
  • How to market an idea
  • How to be ballsy

I am telling you all this because I love hearing about all the “failures” people go through before they discover what really works for them. The good news is that I finally figure it out. I found my HeSo project!!! … and I’ll tell you all about it in the next post :P

On That Elevator Pitch Game

Tracy:

This author is coming to my conference on Saturday, and here are the helpful tips she came up with when preparing her pitch for the agent.

Originally posted on Tricia's Remarks:

Nice little stream in the mountains

Nice little stream in the mountains during the Highlights Unworkshop

On Saturday, I’m attending my first ever writers’ conference–Writers Work, organized by friend and fellow writing group member Tracy. I admire her so much for starting this idea completely from scratch–even using her own money to invest in the project. This isn’t something that came together all at once. She’s been dreaming about this conference ever since I met her in 2012.

Which brings me to my current situation.

During the conference lunch, I have one minute to pitch an agent my book!

I can’t believe how much I’ve learned about my book through writing a pitch. I’ve completely revised my outline and found out so much more about my characters and what drives them.

What if I’d written the entire book before I figured these things out??

Perfect view of the Williamsburg Bridge

Perfect view of the Williamsburg Bridge…and please note the pirate ship

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Why you should get bedbugs

What the heck is this new musical, Bedbugs!!!, everyone is talking about? I got to see it a few nights ago and I was blown away.

After losing her mother in a tragic bedbug accident, Carly becomes an exterminator determined to rid the world of bedbugs and avenge her mother’s death. Despite warnings from her lab assistant, Burt, she creates a deadly concoction to kill the bugs, but it winds up mutating them instead. Meanwhile, Canadian pop-singer, Dionne Salon, tries to resuscitate her career, but these  mutated, hyper-sexualized bedbugs threaten to kill off all of her fans. At Dionne’s concert, Carly must decide between the bedbugs who have embraced her as their creator, and mankind who blames her for the apocalypse. In the end, it is the power of love that saves them all.

The show was hilarious, but even more fun was watching the audience crack up. I’ve never seen people laughing and enjoying themselves so much. Fred Sauter has written an amazing and unique show. Paul Leschen wrote music that is so catchy and fun you’ll beg to buy a cd.

Everyone on the team (on stage and off) is so talented, but the three leads will blow you away:

Grace McLean’s sultry voice adds depth to her rock ballads. The last notes of Silent Spring will send shivers down your spine. Her transformation on stage will make your jaw drop. There are few actresses that can play nerdy, sexy, angry, rocker babe, but Grace plays it all to the extreme.

If you haven’t heard of Brian Charles Rooney yet, you’ll never forget him after this performance as Dionne Salon. His comedic timing is only matched by his incredible vocal range. He owns the stage.

Chris Hall’s performance as Cimex, king of the bedbugs, belongs in the leagues of Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show and Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig. His voice doesn’t even seem possible. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of him. I don’t know what’s cuter, his over the top facial expressions, or his latex-clad tush. His performance is made even better by the incredible custom designs of Philip Heckman.

I know this show wouldn’t be where it is today without the enthusiasm and perseverance of my mom, Dale Joan Young, as the lead producer. Three years ago she saw a production of Bedbugs!!! at a bar and even though all of us loved it we didn’t see the potential she saw. She has lost her voice, broke her leg, and invested her savings all in the journey of bringing this show to you.

I hope you run out and see Bedbugs!!! You can buy tickets here and use the code HesoBitten for a huge discount. It’s playing at the Arclight Theater in NYC until October 26.

I Finally Get Twitter

twitterTwitter seems like a requirement for anyone with a business or a message. Everyone has it but I didn’t know a single person who actually liked it. When I asked friends if they were on twitter their responses sounded more like “Yeah I floss.”

Setting up my account for Writers Work (yes, please follow my new twitter handle), I finally saw why tweeting is fun. The key is you can’t just tweet about your own material and then never read the wall. Here’s why you should spend some time on twitter:

  • Unlike facebook, you don’t have to scroll through a thousand ads.
  • You can connect with big names. For instance, I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book and I wrote a message about it, using her handle, and she wrote back to me in seconds! You can’t do that with any other social media platform.
  • You can get really focused news. For instance, with my Heso twitter handle I follow a variety of people, but with my Writers Work account, I only follow writers. Now when I go on my twitter account for WW, I get to see hundreds of quotes about writing, and encouraging articles.
  • It’s really fast. Sometimes I don’t post things to my blog because it’s just a short thought, however that thought is perfect for twitter. I can post it, and go back to my writing without working for an hour to develop that thought into a fleshed out blog post.
  • It’s really easy to develop a following. I picked up 100 followers in the last week just because I’ve been posting more and following more people.

For a long time I didn’t see the point of twitter. All the hashtags and @ symbols were confusing and unpleasant to read. I didn’t spend any time reading other people posts. Nothing would happen when I posted a link to my blog. Like everything, the more you put into it the more you get out of it. You need to click the favorite button on tweets you like. You need to retweet the posts you like. Soon, people will start doing that for you!

Who are some people you would recommend following on twitter?

Are you waiting for permission?

I’m a huge fan of Amy Poehler’s videos on Smart GirlsIf you’ve ever wanted to start a large project, I suggest watching this video. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer met doing improv at Upright Citizens Brigade. They created a web series based on their unique friendship and sense of humor, and it took off, leading them to the hit show on Comedy Central. In this video, Amy interviews the writers and talent behind this zany comedy, Broad City.

I love it when they talk about finding your voice, and how to get started on a dream. Everything they said reminded me of starting Writers Work :)

Abbi Jacobson’s response when Amy asks how someone can copy their success says it all for me:

“A lot of people wait for someone else to tell them it’s okay to start doing something or they have to be allowed to do this. But, no, we create that. You just have to start. No one’s gonna give you permission.”

What are your ambitions? Are you waiting for permission to get started?

Please Give Me Your Hard-Earned Money

In an effort to offer a conference which is affordable, yet small enough so there is a strong sense of community, I have run into a small conundrum. Even if I sell all of my tickets, I am just going to break even. I was hoping to get more corporate sponsors but I keep running into the same problem: I don’t have non-profit status. I would love to continue creating this incredible conference series, but I need extra money to make it sustainable (I want to file for non-profit status, I want to continue bringing in amazing speakers and paying them a fair price for their talent, and I would like to make a little salary for all the time I put into this). Here’s where I’m hoping my amazing readers will come in and save the day!

I know this is a brazen request, but I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t believe these conferences will make the world a better place by nurturing creative people and helping to bring their art into the world. You can help support creativity by making a donation toward the Writers Work conference through PayPal. Again, this isn’t a non-profit yet, so donations are not tax deductible.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Where it asks for special instructions, type your name and/or website you would like me to advertise. For donations of $25 and up, I will be posting your link on this blog, my twitter handles for The Heso Project and Writers Work, The Heso facebook page, as well as on the programs for the conference. If you would like to make a large donation that covers a specific cost, here are just a few of the items from my budget (Donors will be acknowledged for this contribution on all promotional materials.):

Lunch – Feeding Creativity
$600 
Breakfast – The Spark of Inspiration
$150 
The Venue – A Room of One’s Own
$750 
Photography – Capturing the Details
$400
Logo Design – Leave a Mark
$100

And, of course, please keep telling all your writing friends about the conference! Thank you for your support :)

Meet My Favorite Author

Kyle_bookIt was a long shot, but I wrote to my new favorite author, Aryn Kyle, to gush and invite her to speak at my conference and she said YES!

A few months ago, I flipped out over her book, The God of Animals. Now I’m reading her short story collection, Boys and Girls Like You and Me. I normally have a hard time getting into short stories, but her writing style is so sensitive and evocative that I’m immediately immersed in each story of tainted adolescence. Her protagonists are mysterious, complicated, and observant. Her beautiful prose is filled with heartbreaking honesty, like this gem from The God of Animals:

“If you take something that isn’t yours, it will never belong to you. You can try to hold on to it, but somehow, it will slip through your fingers. If something wasn’t meant to be yours, it won’t be. No matter what you do to keep it, you will lose it.”

I’m so honored to have her as a speaker at my next conference on Saturday, September 20! She will be sharing her experience of turning an award-winning short story into a novel, as well as some tips on how to get into a writers’ residency (hint hint you don’t need to be a published author). When I started this series, I wanted to find speakers who would motivate other writers and share what they have learned. Aryn is one of my dream speakers. Don’t miss this chance to meet a wonderful, contemporary author and make sure you get a copy of her books so you can get it signed!