Do It Scared

Boy jumping off boat into lake

I had a chat with my dentist today about creativity.

He was curious about my book, The Creative Heroine’s Path. Because his dental hygienist was unavailable, he cleaned my teeth, which gave us more time to talk. (Or, in my case, mumble.)

It turns out he is a talented musician, songwriter, and singer. Who knew? But then, so many creatives are hiding in plain sight. When I tell people that I mentor creatives, something comes alive in them, and they tell me their stories.

I mentioned that I’ll be giving an encore book talk at Barnes and Noble next weekend, and he asked how I went about getting scheduled there.

“Did you go in to the store and talk the manager?”

“I just called them up.”

He expressed amazement that I could call them like that, as though I have a huge amount of confidence.

I shook my head. “Do it scared,” I lisped.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said. “If you wait until you have perfect confidence, it will never happen.”


We tell ourselves stories about other people who are doing what scares us. That they are special or anointed or supremely confident and strong. Maybe some of them are, but I doubt it. Most of us are doing it scared, at least at first.

Think of something you do well now, that you have mastered. Was it easy from the start? Were you filled with confidence while you were learning how to do it? Were there times you felt quite vulnerable, even scared?

But despite all that—you did it.

What do you want to create next in your life? Will it stretch you beyond your current limits? How do you need to grow? Who do you need to become?

If it scares you a little, or a lot, do it anyway. To create the life you want, you must stand up to your fears. Over and over.

You can do it. Take imperfect action.

Do it scared. No one will know, but you.

The Power of Vulnerability

Small puppy peeking through bushes

Last week, I posted a blog about feeling hopeless. It was a little scary for me to share. Maybe a lot scary. I wrote it from a place of strength and wellness, but I was very open about a rough couple days I had the previous week.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately—as a writer and an entrepreneur—is showing up authentically. I’m good at the supportive, uplifting stuff. But sharing about the harder things activates all sorts of fears for me, and they all boil down to this: worrying about the judgment of others.

It just about kills me to admit that.

All my life, I’ve been proud of thinking for myself, not going along with the crowd. Peer pressure always seemed lame to me. I think when people try to pressure others to conform, it is often really about their own doubts about themselves and their choices. When you can see through the surface behavior to what’s really going on, it doesn’t have power over you.

Which brings me back to caring about what people think.

Of course, I care about how people react to what I share. In fact, I want them to react, because I want to touch people in ways that make a difference, no matter how small, in their lives.

But the truth is, some people just won’t relate to what I have to say. Others won’t like it, some will misunderstand it, and everyone will have some sort of judgment about it.

The challenge is to show up anyway.

When I was in fourth grade, my family moved to a new city. I left the group of kids I’d gone to school with for four years—all of my school life. At my new school, because I was new (and vulnerable), some kids were quite mean to me. For the first two weeks, I came home every day and cried.

Then one afternoon, I thought, “I would never  treat another human being that way!”

Something clicked. As soon as I realized I had no respect for those kids, I didn’t care what they thought of me.

And then, something interesting happened. The very next day, no one was mean to me—no cruel teasing or attempts to belittle me. It was that dramatic. Overnight.

Of course, there were a few times over the years, when a mean kid would say something to try to hurt me, but it didn’t get under my skin. That’s probably why it rarely happened.

I learned that there is real energy in our beliefs. Every time I “tried” to not to care, it didn’t work. It was only when I really didn’t care, that the miracle happened. And it was based on being true to my values.

I didn’t try to put on a “tough” skin, or act like someone I wasn’t. I stayed true to myself, and learned an important lesson about life. I could be both vulnerable and strong.

So—what is the power of being vulnerable?

You may help someone. You never know who may be struggling with the same thing. Sometimes just knowing we’re not alone makes a world of difference.

Your authenticity shines more brightly. Some of the energy caught up in hiding who you are gets released into simply being yourself.

You gain resilience. When when you practice good boundaries and listen to your intuition about what you choose to share, and with whom, you learn that it’s safe to be real. As others accept you for who you are, you learn to accept your own frailties, which strengthens you.

And the truth is, there are people who want to know who you are, what you think, how you feel. I’m thrilled to see the movement of energy in Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. I’m in awe when I read Rumi’s poetry. I laugh out loud at the cat videos people post on Facebook.

View through colored glass in kaleidoscope

The perspectives we share with each other are kaleidoscopes of meaning.

They are little stained-glass windows into someone else’s soul.

They enrich our experiences on this earth. They add depth, lightness, and beauty. And I am grateful for all of it.

To borrow a piece of wisdom from one of my clients, don’t “hoard” yourself and your gifts!

How can you bring more of who you are into your self-expression?
(And what are you waiting for?)

Your True Voice is Calling You

Woman on beach listening to shell

Ever have a day when you just feel off? When you can’t seem to muster much enthusiasm? And you can’t seem to write anything worthwhile?

Me, too.

Sometimes, when I try to write anyway, I push through the inertia, tap into a current, and the words flow.

But other times, nothing works. When that happens, I need to sit with my mood to give it a chance to tell me what I need to know. Moods are messengers, and when I’m feeling seriously blocked, something needs my attention.

I resist the temptation to pretend I’m not feeling lost. I don’t dust my mood with sugar sprinkles.

Don’t get me wrong—I value positive thinking—but not as a diversion to keep me swimming safely on the surface.

Woman underwater diving with snorkel

When life gives you platitudes, dive into the profound.

(Yeah, I just wrote a platitude.)

It’s uncomfortable. I fidget a lot. If I’m not careful, I’ll unconsciously try to drown my discomfort with a chai or a cookie. (Or TV, Facebook, the latest New Yorker.) Or outrun it with activity (clean, sweep, go to the store).

But when I shut down the computer, put away my phone, turn off the TV, put down the magazine, stay put in the chair and simply notice—I’ll find a lot there that I haven’t wanted to feel. Grief. Fear. Confusion. Anger. Doubt.

Mixed in is the overwhelming desire to know everything will be okay, that I won’t fail. And behind it all is the existential whisper, “What if it’s all for nothing?”

I know that everything won’t always “be okay.” And I know sometimes I will fail. And existential angst will grip me many more times in my life.

Rocky floor at bottom of sea

These are the times to be with my vulnerability. Instead of trying to rise back to the surface, I need to feel the pressure, my shallow breaths, the tightness in my back against an unseen future swimming up behind me.

Where I’m feeling most vulnerable is a passageway to honesty. I know at some point, I’ll notice something bright and intriguing, and follow it to the surface. If a subtle current brushes against my skin; if a thought, an intuition, a feeling brings me buoyancy, I’ll listen.

But until then, I sit in the deep. This is where the real words come from, if you stay curious and open. Before you can describe the light, you have to brave the darkness. This is the difficult and exciting part of being alive, and finding your true voice.

Sunlight sparkling on water

Listen to what you have to say, especially when it’s just a whisper.

When you push up from the bottom, you might find that your fear and uncertainty brought poignancy and meaning to your words, floating beside you, up to the sun-dappled surface.

Diving into the Mystery Pool

When you’re making art, your mind and your subconscious play together. When you write, the narrative of your story—or the structure of your ideas—emerges with just enough surprises to keep you curious.

Hand holding lit match

It’s like walking in the dark, while your mind strikes matches and tosses them in the direction that leads you to the heart of what you have to say.

Sometimes, while you’re dancing with your curiosity, something deeper will tug at your consciousness. That’s when you know it’s time to stop dancing, and dive.

I call it “diving into the mystery pool.” It’s exciting. And challenging.

In the center of the pool, it’s so deep you can’t see the bottom.

Sometimes it’s murky and filled with shadows.

Woman underwater in white flowing dress

And just beneath the surface, you sense the fluid movement of your instinctive mind: eyes shut, yet watching, seeing, knowing.

Pay attention to what it has to tell you.

If diving to the deep places is exciting, what keeps you at the surface? What is challenging about diving into the mystery?

Perhaps the fear of being judged. Or feeling deeply. Or seeing the essence of something, when you wish it was something else.

Given all that, how do you find the courage to dive?

First, re-frame the ego’s point-of-view.

We all know to lock the inner critic—the uber editor—outside our study door when we’re just trying to get a draft written. But there’s a more insidious saboteur lurking in the corner of the room that whispers, “what will people think?”

Don’t let that question silence you. Let it inspire you.

For most of us, banishing judgment is easier said than done. On a deeper level, it’s about accepting that you are not here to be perfect, whatever that is. Mistakes are meant to lead us to a deeper knowing of ourselves, others, and life.

It helps us when we know each others’ foibles. We get to be comforted that we’re not alone, and we get to have an “ah-ha” moment—delivered by your insight.

We want your perspective. We want you to show us how you see the world. We want to follow your lit matches in the darkness, to find the treasure hidden there, that only you can lead us to.

That’s what’s so magical about art.

Second, commit to authenticity.

Being authentic is not just about being free of pretense, it’s about being vulnerable enough to feel the deep meaning of our lives, often through what we have lost.

When you’re committed to being authentic, you are willing to swim in the difficult stuff.

Your authenticity invites others to go deeper. The realness of your life means more than any idea of perfection. It’s your genuineness that moves us, because at the core, we recognize ourselves.

Even if your perspective is new to us, when you share it in a real way, we experience the universal in what you have to say: the clenched stomach; the open heart; the moment when we all peer into the abyss, and we see what only we are meant to see.

Third, the truth will set you free.

Nothing holds us in shackles more than the lies we tell ourselves.

For a while, it might feel better to skate on the surface. But when we look unflinchingly at what we are called to explore, we gain deeper respect for ourselves, grow stronger, and model the way for others.

There’s a freeing inner shift that happens when you accept the truth of a situation, rather than fight it. Maybe it’s the release of all that energy it takes to pretend.

With your emotional and mental energy flowing again, you have access to a wisdom that enriches all that you create.

Fourth, honor your spirit.

Several years ago, my dad sent me some old photos of our family at the beach. When I looked at this one, it caught my heart.

Little girl standing on beach

In the full photo, I’m standing with my brothers and my mom at the beach. I’m holding my mom’s hand, and posing.

Looking at this earlier version of myself struck me to the core.

I reconnected with the perspective of seeing life as a huge panorama of possibilities. And my love for that little girl—for my self—made me realign with the potential I came into this world with.

I need to live deeply, and create from that place. I don’t want to let that little girl down.

Who are you? What is it that you do not want to leave this world without doing? Writing? Painting? Singing and dancing?

Honor your spirit. You’re here for a reason.

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart
and his friends can only read the title. — Virginia Woolf

Here’s to opening the leaves of your book, and getting to see life the way only you can see it!

Zeus is on the Loose

Sculpture of Zeus

The other morning I was lying in bed, the remnants of a migraine keeping me still. I waited while the faint light coming through the window shade slowly brightened the room.

I rose to a cool, gray, fall day. A light rain came and went, leaving wet dots among the yellow leaves on the back deck. The perfect day for a fire. When the flames were crackling in the fireplace, I ate a little breakfast and sat down to write.

Whenever I get a migraine, I’m reminded of how vulnerable I am—how vulnerable we all are. I’d been thinking about the difference between feeling vulnerable and being vulnerable since I woke.

The day before, I took my husband to the airport, so he could jam with his buddies in Austin. I was trying not to think about him hurtling through the air, in a metal tube with strangers at the controls. Somehow, he seemed more vulnerable without me being with him, as he stepped out of his everyday life.

When I looked over the back seat and watched him take his bass guitar and bag out of the car, I got a light, fluttery feeling in my stomach, like for a brief second, I was falling.

Kind of like the moment when a roller coaster crests the first hill, and you feel almost weightless, right before gravity snatches you.

After the feeling came and went, everything almost felt “normal” again: the floor of the car beneath my feet, my husband’s good-bye kiss, my hands on the steering wheel of my old Volvo. But as I slowly drove away, I felt disoriented, trying to focus.

Feeling vulnerable is just the awareness of our ultimate vulnerability. On some level, we carry this awareness all the time, but we push it down to live our daily lives. What would it be like to carry our awareness of our vulnerability all the time? Would it be terrifying? Exhausting? Distracting? Freeing?

While I was sitting in front of the fireplace and thinking about vulnerability, for a brief time, the space in front of my house became a stage. Predators and prey crossed the same path, missing each other by mere minutes, like some Shakespearean comedy of errors.

Fox standing on tree stump

First, a fox trotted across the yard. It went swiftly down the street, hunting something. Then it came bounding back, and off to safer spaces.

It always feels a little magical when I see a fox, because I see them so rarely. They still retain a bit of their metaphorical meaning for me. They are beautiful, smart, elusive tricksters.

Next came a woman riding a bike, holding a big dog on a leash. Luckily for the fox—and the woman holding the dog’s leash—they missed crossing paths by a couple minutes.

Tabby cat

Then, a tabby cat strolled by, very slowly, his head held high like he hadn’t a care in the world.

And finally, a neighborhood dog named Zeus came trotting by. Zeus, the god of sky and thunder, chief of the gods. Zeus the dog—like the fox—is also smart and a trickster, and a little wild. A thunderbolt, he darts through the neighborhood looking for mischief, and narrowly missing some.

If I look at that brief experience like a waking dream, what does it tell me about vulnerability?

The intersection of time and space determines which experiences and encounters we have, or do not have. We accumulate “ordinary” or routine moments. Then when something unexpected happens—like a fox crossing someone’s path—it can be dangerous (for the cat) or magical (for me).

The chance of things sometimes feels like a play, designed by an unseen playwright—tickling the tail of the fox, pushing the bike, touching the chin of the cat, and tossing in a thunderbolt. Through everything, there’s a wild, playful, dangerous life force that can change our lives in an instant.

When something unexpected breaks through our ordinary lives, it changes our perception of reality. We are reminded we are not in control. And yet, that’s where magic often happens.

It’s awareness of the temporal that communicates the meaning in our lives. It’s the sense of weightlessness, beneath the solidness, that makes us cherish the moments that crest, and then fall back into the well of existence.

We experience magic and meaning when we’re aware of our vulnerability. It transforms our consciousness from auto-pilot to awe.

The fox is always possible. And Zeus is on the loose. If we open ourselves—even just a little bit more—to the experience of being alive, how much magic and meaning will we see?

What magical, creative, unexpected part of you wants to dash through your life—and your art—at this moment?