Sharing my Gifts

Julie speaking at IAMU Live event

Photo by Isabella Zaczek

Whew! I’m back from New York, where I had the honor to speak at Rick Tamlyn’s event, “It’s All Made Up Live!” I was up on the stage, in front of over a hundred people, talking about my message and my forthcoming book, The Creative Heroine’s Path.

As I reach out to share my work in the world, I’m connecting with people who want and need my gifts—and it’s both scary and exciting.

It’s scary, because being authentic and vulnerable in front of people whom I don’t know activates the awkward seventh-grader in me, the girl who’s afraid she’ll look stupid.

It’s exciting, because when I speak from my heart, people who are touched by my words thank me. That’s how I know my dreams aren’t just mine; sometimes they’re yours, too.

As I continue to walk on the Creative Heroine’s Path, I keep pushing myself to show up, to share who I am, and to offer what I have to give to others. In that spirit, I’m really excited to announce that I’ve opened a Zazzle store, to sell some of my paintings and photographs online!

Here’s the link to my new store.

Julie's art cards

Right now, you can buy greeting cards with three of my watercolor paintings, and one of my favorite photos. I am committed to keep sharing my art, so I’ll add more paintings and photos over the next few months.

I hope you’re having a wonderful summer with lots of light, music, nature, family, and friends.


The Creative Heroine’s Journey

Woman walking down road into sunset

While writing my novel, I’ve been thinking a lot about Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” By studying many cultures, Campbell identified recurring themes in stories, and distilled them into a universal pattern of human growth.

As a creative woman in midlife, I am on a journey to find new meaning in my life. Finding my voice and sharing my vision is part of that journey. And I find myself wondering, what is the “Heroine’s Journey,” especially for creative women in their middle years?

Although there is a general order in the journey, growth isn’t linear, and you might revisit each phase along the way. This is what I’ve learned so far.

Phase One—The Default Life

Woman with dirty dishes in kitchen

Whether your current situation is good, bad, or indifferent, you know it’s time for a change.

Maybe you came to your “default life” through a plan that led to exactly where you wanted to be. Or perhaps, life derailed your plans, leading you to where you didn’t want to be.

Regardless, you know you need to grow and stretch beyond your current life.

How do you know? You get a wake-up call.

Phase Two—The Wake-Up Call

Telephone receiver on clock

Your wake-up call might come as a subtle whisper, or a jarring scream.

It can be a rejection of something you don’t want: NOT THIS!

It can be a calling for something you do want: YES, THIS!

For me, it was a combination of both.

I did not want to work in a business that put numbers first and people last. But more importantly, I needed to express myself creatively. To not create was not an option, because creating is my calling.

The wake-up call can be especially poignant at midlife, because along the way, you’ve experienced real losses and narrowed choices, and the clock is ticking. You have a sense of urgency.

How do you discover and follow your calling? You simply start doing what matters to you. You take the first steps.

Phase Three—First Steps

Footprints in sand on beach

This is where you get to explore and discover. You get to play and make mistakes. I love this phase because it’s full of curiosity and wonder!

You follow clues and have insights. You try on many hats until you find the one that not only fits, but looks like you.

It’s exciting! You’re full of energy and enthusiasm. You’re having fun.

The world is full of possibilities… until it isn’t.

Here come the dragons. Here come the doubts and regrets, the confusion, the loss and grief. “Welcome” to phase four.

Phase Four—Lost and Found

Dark forest with fog

You know you’ve entered this phase when you feel alternately lost and found, hopeless and hopeful.

You might experience a roller coaster of ups and downs, marinate in a stagnant soup, or twirl in a whirlpool.

Round and round you go, until you find your own still center, at the heart of the moving wheel that is your life.

Here’s the key to this phase: Letting go of what is passed allows your life to expand again. It’s not easy. This phase is difficult, but essential. (See When Hope Evaporates for an example.)

This phase cooks away everything extraneous. It leaves you with the core of yourself, stronger and wiser.

Phase Five—Committing


There comes a point on your journey where there is no going back. This is where you make it real in a way that you haven’t before.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Begin it now.

— William Hutchison Murray

Commitment has been especially challenging for me. All sorts of fears come up, but foremost is the fear of not having enough. It jumps right into my path and demands that I deal with its taunts, that I won’t have enough money, enough food, enough help. Enough (already)!

To borrow from Campbell, this is where I have to face my inner dragon and make friends with it, because each time I try to “slay” it, it returns. It is teaching me something, painfully at times, that I need to understand.

There is truth in what the dragon says; it’s just a matter of degree. Facing the dragon diffuses the drama. It turns the raging beast into a little lizard. It’s still there, but it’s not going to destroy my dreams.

There are no guarantees, except that one day, this life will end. It matters immensely how I choose to live the life that I have left on this beautiful earth. I choose to create.

Phase Six—Finding Your Voice

Woman singing into microphone

As you take your first steps, find and lose your way over and over, but commit to your journey anyway, your unique creative genius emerges.

No one sees the world exactly like you do. No one else looks through your eyes, no one else shares your mind, your soul, your experiences that make you who you are.

Sometimes, I start to talk myself out of doing something, because “someone else has already done it.” Of course someone else has already done it! That’s not the point.

The point is, no one else can do what you do, the way that you do it. Sing loud and strong!

Phase Seven—Sharing Your Vision

Woman looking through fingers

When you develop and share your gifts, you are giving in a powerful way. You touch people beyond your circle of family and friends. This is profound.

Creative women who are also caretakers, often think they’re being “selfish” when they take care of their own needs—let alone follow their calling. They must face the “Selfish Dragon.”

If you’re struggling with this, let me offer you a new perspective: When you follow your calling—when you write your novel, paint your masterpiece, sing your soul—and share it with the world, we all benefit.

That is what I mean when I say, “The world wants your gifts!”

My life, your life, everyone’s life is a journey of discovery. We’re all exploring some facet of the universe, using the gifts we bring to this world. When we share these gifts, we enable others to look through the lens that we see through. It expands our lives. And that is thrilling!

Don’t hoard your treasure. Don’t waste your gifts. Share them with us!

If You’re Waiting for a Sign, This Is It

Sign that says NOW

If you’ve been putting off your creative dream until—
      the stars align…
      you retire…
      your family approves…
      your ship comes in…
      or your children are grown…

This post is for you.

Because, really, what are you waiting for?

Go after your dreams. Start NOW. Don’t wait!

I know many things compete for your time and attention. I understand how your best intentions can fade away.

But I also know you can commit to spending 30 minutes, or an hour—every day, or once a week—to do what you love. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish when you stick with it.

When you honor your commitment to yourself, after the first month, you’ll experience progress, even with setbacks. After the second month, the time you spend creating will be a regular part of your day or week. You’ll have a solid habit.

Where do you want to be two months from now?

Go ahead. Take imperfect action.

Print this page, cut out the sign, and post it somewhere you’ll see it every day, to remind you.

Because the world needs your gifts.

Make a Compassionate Commitment to Your Art

Woman writing on desk with flowers

In September of last year, I began a class to train as a yoga teacher. My goals are to get stronger and healthier, and to lose weight. And I want to be able to offer morning yoga classes at my creativity retreats.

My intention was to attend yoga class five times a week. But, as happens, life has intervened the last few months (the holidays, a deadline, an injury).

Each time something keeps me from my yoga practice, and I take that next yoga class after a couple weeks without practicing, there’s a little voice that tempts me to give up.

I’m very familiar with that voice from my creative life. It’s my impatient saboteur. What does it care about? “Being there” already!

Woman jumping


Sometimes, my saboteur whines about all the time, space, and effort between the excitement of starting something new, and reaching the goal—“Nirvana!”

Buddha statue with flowers



Because doing the work involves routine. (You know, that regular focused action that moves you forward, but can also suck the life out of inspiration.)

Creative people have a love-hate relationship with routine. Too much, and it’s stifling. Too little, and we drift.

So what’s a creative soul to do?

In the past, when faced with setbacks and roadblocks in my creative pursuits, I might have given up, telling myself I was putting it off until a “better” time. But my experience being coached—and coaching others—has taught me a lot about that sneaky saboteur:

She’s wrong. There is no better time. Now is the time.

Although I can’t eliminate my inner saboteur’s voice, I can out-smart her. And so can you—by making a compassionate commitment  to your art.

Practicing both compassion and commitment is a balance between soft and hard, yin and yang, being and doing. Too much of one and too little of the other, and either you don’t accomplish much, or you force yourself to meet a goal, losing a little soul along the way.

It’s normal  to get in slumps, or fail to follow through, now and then. Stop judging yourself for being like the rest of the human race. Instead, choose to treat yourself with compassion.

Many sensitive people struggle with being kind to themselves. If you are one of those dear souls, ask yourself this:

Would you treat a friend the way you treat yourself when you make a mistake, or don’t follow through?

If the answer is “no,” then why is it okay to treat yourself that way? It isn’t. (And all it does is make things worse.)

The beauty of practicing compassion is that, over time, practice can lead to proficiency. Like my yoga classes, it builds up muscle. It gets easier to brush that saboteur out of the way and be kind to yourself.

However, if you’re not getting anywhere, you also need to be honest with yourself about whether you are committed to your goal. That means seeing clearly without being judgmental  (remember the compassion part?).

Making a real commitment to your project, and to yourself, is key. It’s much harder to maneuver out of something when you make a commitment.

So say it out loud to someone—your accountability partner, perhaps.

Tell your supportive friends.

Small hands holding paper heart

Your commitment to yourself
is sacred.

Be true to yourself. Don’t hedge, downplay, or apologize. Use the word “commitment.” Because that’s what it is, and your commitment to yourself is just as sacred as your commitment to someone else.

Let me repeat that. Your commitment to yourself is just as sacred as your commitment to someone else.

Remember my yoga practice? Each time I go to a yoga class, I’m a little stronger. I’ve made a compassionate commitment to my health, and I’m getting there, two steps forward and one step back at a time.

Are Your “Shoulds” Sabotaging You?

Creative people are gifted rebels. We see things differently and we do things in our own way. This gets us into trouble, thank goodness! What’s life, if it’s just living the status quo? It’s not enough for us!

Woman holding a guitar

Some of you may be quiet rebels, living your truth without making a lot of waves. Others are shouting who you are from the rooftops.

Rebellious little girl

So sometimes, when you make your own to-do lists and tell yourself you “should” do something, guess what? Your inner kindergartener says, “you’re not the boss of me.”

Why? Because it feels more like a chore than your deep, inspired passion.

So you procrastinate. Or distract yourself. Or mope. You feed your inner critic bonbons. And you don’t finish what you actually want to complete.

Don’t get me wrong. I know you’re not a slacker. In fact, you are probably super responsible to other people. Just, perhaps, not always to yourself.

It hurts when you let yourself down. It can undermine your confidence, sap your enthusiasm, and seduce you into giving up.

So I need to ask you something. Why do you value what you want to do?

Stop. Don’t read any more of this blog post until you answer that.

Chances are, something came to mind pretty quickly, like “because I love to paint,” or “I want to make a difference in the world.” You might be sitting up a little taller, your backbone straight and strong when you say this.

Now, take that answer and go a little deeper. Ask yourself why that is important to you.

It could be that you feel more alive when you brush paint across a canvas. It could be that you want to make a difference because you care deeply about people. Do you feel a softening in your chest? Are you feeling a little more vulnerable? If so, you’re getting closer.

Watercolor painting of colorful tree

That beautiful combination of strength and vulnerability is telling you something. The value and importance of why you want to create are your energetic roots—and your wisdom. Tap into them. Let them ground you and nourish your enthusiasm.

What can you do with all that strength and enthusiasm? You can commit to anything that moves you in the direction of your goal. And mean it.

You can commit to painting or writing an hour a day, no matter what. Or playing the piano. Or knitting. Or designing your next piece of jewelry.

Yes, you can.

Ultimately, you have to make that choice. No one else can make you commit. There’s no magic potion, spell, or list of steps that will do it. It’s up to you.

We don’t always know why we finally choose to commit, or when it’s going to happen. It can be an accumulation of imperceptible inner changes, like an underground stream that travels a long time before it emerges into the light. Or it can be a swift response to an idea or situation, like someone flipping a switch.

All that matters is that you make that choice and then do it.

You can do this! I know you can.

If you’re hedging, here’s a tip: commit to doing something that is a stretch, but not too much. You want it to be doable, but not too easy. Why?

You need to make your goal realistic, so you can experience success, obviously. But you also need to make sure your goal stretches you, at least a little. Pushing yourself just beyond your comfort zone does three things:

  • It makes it more exciting!
  • It moves you further along.
  • It teaches you that you can do more than you realized.

Once you experience success, you’re more ready to take the next step, and make it meaningful. (And your inner kindergartner loves to get those gold stars!)

Woman's hands writing at desk with flowers

Honor your commitment to yourself by taking action.

A commitment you make to yourself is just as sacred as a commitment you make to your spouse, or child, or friend.

You’ll see how much you can do, and how far you can go, one commitment at a time!

IGB Post date: 2015-09-29