advice

What Happens When You Dream

Over six years ago, I walked into a room that would change my life forever. My parents had just taken a 30-hour personal development course, and could not stop raving about it. When I heard that my dad, my stoic, reserved dad, cried during this course I had to check it out.

I’ve assisted at The Living Course (TLC) every single time since my initial course, and I learn so much about myself and humanity during these intense hours (after you take the course once, you can come back to every course afterward for free!). One of the focuses of the course is realizing a dream that is bigger than yourself; a dream that can guide your decisions and instill your life with purpose. The second time I assisted at the course, I told a room full of people that I was going to create an artist’s colony where creative people can learn from each other and support each other.

As soon as I proclaimed this dream I realized I had no idea how I would achieve it, and I didn’t even know where it came from. Mind you, this was years before I started The Heso Project (but the course was one of the reason why I started The Heso Project). TLC gave me an environment that was so supportive, so loving, and so energetic that it allowed me to tap into an intuitive part of myself that I never heard before.

T4Years go by and I’m constantly recognizing lessons from TLC popping up in my life, but the dream I had announced didn’t seem to stick. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized I was taking huge steps toward that dream I put into words during the course. The Writers Work Conference is a supportive and nurturing space for creative people. I am now setting up a retreat for writers in the Catskills for this winter, and a reading in Manhattan for emerging authors this November. These are concrete steps toward the dream of creating an artist’s colony.

I’m so grateful to The Living Course for asking me to find my dream, giving me the support to go after it, and helping me to unburden my past. The world would be so much more passionate, nurturing, and fun if everyone took this course. I hope you will be the next person to enroll. The next course is Nov. 7-9 in Rye, New York. If you sign up by Oct. 15, you’ll get $100 off! If the price tag scares you, I ask you to take a moment and really question how much you are worth. You deserve to spend that much money on yourself. You deserve this course!

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?

When to spend money on your dreams

Going after your professional dreams is already a scary endeavor and it can be especially intimidating when there’s money involved. Oftentimes you have to make a large investment before you have any guarantee that your ideas will pay off. I’m a huge advocate of staying thrifty in the early stages. While my baby product idea didn’t work out, I saved thousands of dollars by making my own prototypes and I had a lot of fun in the process. I wrote about how great it was to save hundreds of dollars by having my friend do a photo shoot for my Brutal First Impressions website. But recently I’ve been changing my tune. I paid for an amazing photographer for my first writers’ conference and I hired a talented graphic designer to create the logo for the conference series.

me at conference

I could have relied on my friends to take cellphone pictures like this of the conference…

Go social media!

but it was such a relief knowing that a professional was capturing all the great moments and that I would have something really beautiful to present to future sponsors.

So here’s how I’ve decided when to spend money and when to save:

When to be frugal:

  • If money is your excuse for not taking the next step.  Pare down your idea as much as possible and see what you can do on your own.  Taking a cheap, baby step forward will help you feel more comfortable when it’s time to take an expensive step forward.
  • If you enjoy doing it. I have a friend who makes beautiful jewelry. She could expand much faster and make more money if she hired people to help or outsourced the work entirely, but that would ruin the fun for her.
  • If it’s important to have a personal touch.  I wanted our wedding guest books to be personal. I could have spent a fortune to have someone else make them, but I loved giving out a hand-made gift with lots of personality.

When to spend:

  • If you’re supporting a friend in a new business.
    When Callan announced her new graphic design business I jumped at the opportunity to help a friend out while also benefiting from her services. If you’re starting a business, you’ll need your friends to support you, so start setting up the precedent by supporting them now!
  • If you’re not taking yourself seriously.
    I know if I put on a nice blazer I instantly feel more professional, and the same goes for the image of your business. Get some nice business cards, upgrade your website, get a real logo, sign up for a networking event. And while you’re at it, invest in a wardrobe that matches your dream job. Spending some money will remind you that this is not just a hobby but a future career.
  • You are asking others for money.
    How can you ask others to invest in you if you’re not willing to invest in yourself? Spend some money to present the best possible package to your potential investors and send a clear sign that you are serious.
  • If you’re stressed out.
    If you dreamed up the business, your creativity is your most important asset. Don’t distract yourself with things that someone else can do. If you have no intention of becoming a professional programmer, don’t waste time learning how to build your own website. Hire someone who needs the money and will do a much better job than you in half the time. Spend your energy on what you’re good at.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you decide when to save and when to spend? Was there something that was so totally worth it? Was there something you shouldn’t have wasted your money on?

How to Talk to Your Future Self

???????A few months ago I was feeling anxious about money and not sure if I should continue focusing on my writing career. I opened a random page of a notebook by my bed and wrote: “Tracy’s Patterns: As soon as you get somewhere with your writing you start panicking about money, and distract yourself with odd jobs and job searches.” I felt better as soon as I wrote this, and closed the notebook to return to my writing.  And forgot about it.

I am weeks, maybe days, from finishing the second draft of my novel. Just as I was on an incredible wave of momentum, I crashed into wall of anxiety. I’m going to go broke writing this stupid thing that no one will ever read. I’m almost 30, I should have a real job. It went on and on, but I won’t bore you with the details because if you are pursuing something creative, you’ve probably had all the same thoughts. I decided to end all this anxiety once and for all and start the never-ending job search again.

The next day I was cleaning up my apartment and I found a notebook that I rarely use. I opened to a random page and there it was in writing : “As soon as you get somewhere with your writing you start panicking about money, and distract yourself with odd jobs and job searches.” I nearly dropped the book on the floor. I had completely forgotten I wrote those words. It felt like I had paid a genius psychiatrist  to study me and write down her findings in my notebook. Actually the most comforting thought was: this is me from the future saying don’t worry it’s all going to be okay as long as you listen to your heart and not your fears.

As soon as I realized I was continuing a pattern to hold myself back, it was so easy to let go of the anxiety. Yes, I don’t have enough savings to last me forever, but that should be motivation to finish my book sooner, not get another job. Since finding that journal, I’ve been writing like crazy and any time I think of looking at my bank account, or looking at a job listing, I repeat my findings to myself, and keep writing.

What is your pattern? Leave it in the comment section below or write it down in a journal. The next time you start to doubt yourself, revisit your comment and see if your anxiety is based on truth or based on a belief that is holding you back. This was so helpful for me, and I hope it can help you as well.

The worst thing a writer can do

Never read a great book when you’re in the middle of writing a novel. I’ve read three books in the last month (Lone Wolf, The God of Animals and Little Bee). I hated the first and loved the last two.  I was angry the whole time I read Lone Wolf. I gripped the pages, my knuckles turning white, thinking “I can do so much better than this.” While I read that book I wrote a lot, and I loved all of it.

When I read The God of Animals and Little Bee, I felt completely incompetent while writing. I couldn’t believe that those amazing authors used the same tools as me, and yet, with their words they stung together beautiful descriptions and complex characters while I could only cobble together a few clunky, boring sentences. Needless to say, I had a lot of trouble writing while I read these great works.

I had to remind myself:

  1. A published novel went through many drafts and was critiqued by an agent, publisher, editors and friends. Many people helped polish and improve the final product that I’m unjustly comparing to my work in progress
  2. There’s a wide range of writing styles and talents, and the library would be a boring place if everyone wrote the same. Readers want variety.
  3. I am reading for pleasure, not for comparison.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy amazing writing. By all means, fill your life with beautiful, compelling works of fiction; however, I suggest saving that inspiration for between projects. If you’re feeling stuck with your own work, pick up a crappy book. The anger you feel when someone who is not as good as you is successful can be incredibly motivating. There’s only so much whining you can do before you actually need to prove that you’re better.

An Interview with Krista Giffin, Life Coach

KristaWhen I moved to New York City six years ago I lived with Krista Giffin right above Central Park. We only lived together for a short time but I still remember the great advice she gave me about dating. No wonder she’s a successful life coach now. You can check out her website, or follow her on Facebook. She is generously offering a FREE 60 minute life coaching session to the first thirty people who reach out to her! The beautiful and talented Krista is telling us about her journey. The field of life coaching seems to have exploded in the last few years. It seems like people are either really receptive or really skeptical  about it. What would you say to someone who’s skeptical of life coaching?

We all have patterns that we have created over time in order to succeed in this world. Much of it is from our childhood, where it suited us. Often a certain way of doing things is the very thing that keeps us stuck.  A life coach truly listens and reflects what they hear back to the client as well as posing dynamic questions to open up the client’s views on life.  If you’re skeptical, do your research.  Find people who have used coaches and see what they have to say, or try out different coaches. I often offer complimentary sessions as a way for people to get to know me and my coaching style.  I have been trained in ontological coaching, which is about how who you are being, affects the way things happen for you in the world.  It’s easier to grasp once you’ve tried it out.  Another great comparison is this: Many people work out on their own, but if you hire a great personal trainer, you are going to get results that much faster.  Coaching offers speed and velocity toward your dreams, but you still have to be committed to doing the work.

What got you interested in life coaching?

My step-mother passed away from cancer and I think it had to do with her stressful job, which made it harder for her to overcome her disease. We spend so much time at our jobs so they should be fulfilling. I have always been a HUGE believer in having a job you love. The important question is, “Does your job give you what you need?”  I had already been encouraging people to do what they love and to find a way to make things work for them in their lives and careers. At the same time, I was looking for a career that could blend my passion for acting with my background in teaching but could also be location independent because I’d like to see my family more often.  (They’re on the West Coast and I’m in New York).  This seemed like the perfect marriage.

Wow, you really created a career that blends your talents and gives you the lifestyle you want. Have you faced any challenges while coaching?
Getting people to believe in themselves is a challenge. Everyone has fears and doubts about themselves and their abilities, but we are far more powerful than we imagine. So much is possible, but it’s easy to shift back into our old ways of thinking and become dejected if we are not mindful. Once people understand their power they can truly create anything they want in life.  It’s a mind blower!
What is most rewarding about coaching?
Every step forward for my clients is rewarding for me. I love hearing about their lives, seeing all the different, cool, exciting things that people are doing, feeling their struggles, and recognizing we are all so similar. I love when they break through and really start to feel powerful on their own. I get so much from my clients.
Is there a particular area of life coaching that you’re drawn to?
I love working with people to get clear on what they want out of life.  Clients I’ve worked with have come to me with career issues, such as finding what they love to do or getting themselves organized and focused so they can run their businesses better. Clients have also come to me with relationship issues like getting married or getting the marriage they already have to the place where it truly supports and enriches their life.  My forte is getting people to make fun, relaxation and pleasure a priority, which helps them to achieve other things they want in life. 
In your opinion, what’s the difference between seeing a therapist and seeing a coach?

Coaching and therapy can work in conjunction with each other, but there is definitely a separation. Therapy works on healing trauma from the past.  It’s important to see a therapist and get yourself to the place that you feel well and whole. Coaching is future based. We take actions in the now with the future in mind. Occasionally we’ll look backward for a pattern, but we don’t stay there. Another great way to look at it is when you injure yourself, you may need to go to a physical therapist to heal that injury.  Once the injury is healed you can see a coach to move on to the Olympics.

What is your favorite piece of advice?
I have two. The first is meditate.  And I don’t follow it enough.  It’s very easy to become unfocused and distracted in today’s society, which leads to not listening to each other, break downs in relationships, and running around on our little hamster wheels.  It’s important to quiet our minds in some way in order to listen to our inner voice.  All of the answers are in there, but we need to slow down enough to listen.
The second is have fun!  So often we end up doing, doing, doing, work, work, work.  Take time out for yourself to have fun, play with your kids, watch a comedy, dance, spend time in nature, go on a date, get a massage, take a vacation.  These things fuel us and will make us more productive in the long-term, and just make life more enjoyable in general.  That in and of itself is worth it!
I could definitely benefit from some meditation. Thank you so much, Krista, for your wise words and your generous offer for a free 60 minute life coaching session. Anyone who would like to take Krista up on her offer should follow her on Facebook, and send her a private message.

4 tips on how to breathe

Man oh live I’ve been busy. In addition to starting Brutal First Impressions (please like it on facebook!), setting up a writers’ conference (I’ll write more about that soon), writing for two blogs, and doing background work for television (I’ll write about that too), I’m also editing the first draft of my novel. Phew, I get tired putting that all down in a sentence 🙂

As I work on the revisions of my story, I realize that editing is like breathing. Each inhalation is an expansion of thoughts, the exploration of ideas and character. Each exhalation is a purging of unnecessary words, the  fine-tuning of each idea. Throughout the editing process the word count for my story jumps from 50,000 to 90,000 then back down to 60,000. My story expands and contracts like a healthy set of lungs.

Here are 4 tips on how to breathe and write:

  1. Don’t hold your breath. Each breath brings life into your story. Fresh words keep it alive. Holding onto your original words will eventually cause your story to suffocate.
  2. Don’t take shallow breaths. Bring as much new air into your story and rid as much stale, used-up air as possible. The deeper your breaths, the more room for creativity.
  3. Stay where the air is fresh. Read books you love, take a class, surround yourself with people who support your work.
  4. Never stop breathing. If you are a creative person, art is your oxygen. I don’t write every day, but the longer I go without writing the crazier I feel. Don’t deprive yourself of what you need.

May the lungs of your story be happy and healthy 🙂

2 responses that will save you time and energy

friendsWe all want to be good friends and listen when someone we care about has a problem. However, you don’t always have time to listen for hours. There’s also the problem of friends who want to complain and never do anything differently. Listening to their never-ending problems can be really draining.

I have found that these two responses help save time and make sure that the person you’re talking to is as invested in their situation as you are.

“Can you remind me of this in a week?”

I get lots of friends asking me for feedback on their work. In more than one case, I read the work, spent hours writing a critic and then when I got back to them their response was “Oh, actually I’ve changed my mind and I’m working on something else. Would you mind looking at that instead?”

Man oh live!

Now when someone sends me something, I write “‘I’d love to look this over, but I’m busy right now, so can you remind me in a week?” If it’s not important enough for them to remember to remind me, than it’s not important enough for me to spend time on it.

“How are you going to handle that?”

I learned this gem from The Living Course. People love to complain. They can do it for hours. Sometimes they don’t realize they’re doing it. Asking this simple question stops the complainer in their tracks. It makes them concentrate on how they’re responsible for making the changes that will make them happier. Nothing I can say will make a difference. They are the ones who have to take action. If they start going into excuses about how they can’t handle it because it’s not in their hands, ask “how will you handle the fact that it’s out of your control?”

I hope these help you save time and energy. Let me know if you have any other responses that help you.