This is a very special post. But! Before diving in, I really think you will dig the back story.
Let’s rewind to 2011 for just a second.
I was drinking spa water + wearing stretchy pants + listening to my girl April Bowles-Olin’s interview on BlogcastFM. And I remember thinking to myself, “Damn, my friend is wicked smart. How does she do it?”
“How does she do what?”, you may be asking.
“How does she NAIL IT every freaking time?”, I mean.
We all have that perfect friend + colleague + sister + relative. That person in our lives who seems to have it all figured out.
It’s tempting to stay there. In admiration land. Just gazing in utter awe from the sidelines of the ring. Clapping. Hercules, Herculeeeeez. Eating popcorn. Getting fat.
But! I’ve never really liked the cheap seats anyways. Or expanding my waistline with fear calories. The worst kind.
Half intimidated by April’s ability to answer every question so eloquently, half inspired by her courage to put herself on the line like a BOSS, I decided to get over myself + e-mail the podcast host, Srinivas Rao.
I basically waved my hands real high up in the air + exclaimed: “Pick me! Pick me too!”
Yeap. I literally invited myself to someone else’s party. Who does that? Apparently, me.
That year, my little interview slowly made its way to the “Best of 2011” list, alongside Danielle LaPorte + Seth Godin + Tim Ferris + Ramit Sethi. It became the most watched + most clicked + most shared + most downloaded episode of the year.
And there I was, sitting on the top of my #1 hit single. Feeling like I had just won a Grammy. For showing up. For trying. For channeling my inner April, the most badass girl boss I know, and realizing, “Hey! Maybe I have something to say too.”
Fast forward to present times.
Srini knocks on my inbox. Invites me for a second interview.
“It’s been quite some time since we’ve spoken. Our brand is totally different. In fact so much so that I think our audience would love you even more now. And of course I’ve done about 300 interviews since you last spoke with me so I’ve gotten better at it. Would you be up for a second interview? Would love to have you back.”
I wanted to throw up.
Cuz that’s what we do, right? Flake. Duck. Get sick.
The first time around I had nothing to lose. I was no one.
This time, I felt everything was on the line. My shiny crown with the invisible #1 on it. I didn’t want to give that up, you know? My prestige. My recognition. My badge of honor.
“Go away Srini!” That’s what I wanted to say. So I said “Yes” instead.
Cuz isn’t that the ultimate goal? Commit to the act of showing up, in spite of being afraid? Dare greatly, before we feel ready?
It’s tough. But so am I. So are we.
So without further ado…
Here I am. Back. Talking about how to turn life’s messes into stories of triumph.
- Letting go of the fear that nobody will show up.
- Putting ourselves out there.
- Dealing with unwritten cultural dogmas.
- The tensions between what we want + what’s expected.
- Why we need at least one biggest fan.
- The rocks that life puts in our journey.
- Embracing screw ups as part of the creative process.
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to beat my own record, but if I don’t at least I’ll have the perfect story for Oprah.
This month we’ve got the funnest kid on the block. Ladies + gentleman put your hands together for Charlie Chaplin.
(Sorry this is a couple of days late. I accidentally saved May’s wallpapers on top of April’s + had to start from scratch. I cried. A lot. I sincerely apologize for the delay. Thanks for being so patient + understanding.)
Click the images below to download your BONUS April Wallpapers. Complements of da’ house of mess. You’re welcome.
May all your dreams come true this month + all your devices be totally pretty.
Illustrated by Mayi Carles
Hand-lettered by Random Olive
Photographed by Marcela Macias
A Revolutionary Concept That Will Change The Way We Live + Love + Make Babies + Parent + Adopt Puppies + Work + Build Business Empires
Despite your best intentions to downgrade our awesomeness with things like comparing yourself to strangers on the Internet or worrying about all the things in the world that “might” happen: You still pretty AMAZING, you know that?
And talented. Ridiculously so.
I’m actually beginning to think you’ve been here before. Past life: Walt Disney. This life: You.
Wait a minute! You don’t fantasize about this sorta’ stuff? Oh. Yeah. Me neither.
All I’m trying to say is: I know you’re smart, but I also know you’re struggling.
I know you know how-to make better choices.
I know you know how-to make more money.
I know you know how-t0 rise above the mess + change the world.
We both got access to more information + more books + more websites + more apps + more scientific research than ever before. We know the how-tos, yet… we keep hitting brick ways… keep falling… keep feeling overwhelmed by all the “incompletes” in our live.
Why is that so? Why do we still feel so inadequate? I’ll tell you why. Because we don’t talk about the stuff that gets in the way. That’s why. We don’t. We don’t talk about what keeps us eating Doritos until we’re sick + numb.
Don’t get me wrong. I would love to skip over the cacophony bits… the embarrasing stories… the poo in the middle, but life doesn’t work like TiVo.
Instead of fast-forwarding over our lives crappy commercials, today I want to invite you to practice a revolutionary concept called: ASKING FOR HELP!
Here’s how it works: Anytime you’re full of anxiety + self-doubt seek out a friend who deserves to hear your story + have an honest conversation.
Is that simple.
Sure, you can drink wine. Or limoncello.
I promise you, it will change the way you live + love + make babies + parent + adopt puppies + work + build business empires.
Cuz, sometimes all we need is a little reminder that:
- No, it’s not just us.
- Crap is universal.
- We all have it.
- Yes, and we’re all afraid to talk about it.
- The more we hide it the more control it has over our lives.
Let’s heal. Together! Because sometimes all it takes to start a revolution is a small army of confidants.
With the rise of new social media platforms like SnapChat + Periscope, adding to the already exciting parade of options (like Facebook + Twitter + Instagram + Pinterest to name just a few), it’s no surprise people are questioning the power of blogging. Is it really necessary? Is it worth the hard work? Is micro-content enough or is a main HQ still important?
Do you want to know what I think? Do you? Do you?
Well I’ve thought long n’ hard about this one + I’ve come to the following realization: The internet is basically one BIG High School cafeteria.
There’s the nerds table + the mean girls table + the artsy kids table + the football team table + the book club table… and all the drama in-between. And every table has its unwritten instruction manual with rules of what you can + cannot do.
Instagram, for example, let’s you share pictures but the only active link allowed is the one on the bio page. Twitter let’s you share no more than 140 characters at a time. If you wanna hang out at their cafeteria table, you gotta obey their social code.
In a way these platforms are basically saying, “Sure, you are welcome to seat with us, but we get to call the shots.”
Maybe it’s agreeing to let the Periscope gang remove your videos in 24 hours. Perhaps it’s agreeing to let the Facebook folks use anything you post in their own advertising or charge you to interact with the audience you’ve built and fostered. Oh! And have you heard the news about Instagram’s new curated feeds?
And think about it. There are no guarantees. The luncheon dynamics can change. Anytime. People might get tired or disillusioned + decide to eat at the bus instead. Or the gym benches. This happened to MySpace. Closed shop. Forever. Gone. In the middle of the game. You can’t sit with them anymore, because they are no longer there.
I get the pro’s of sitting with others. I do. Eating your sandwich (or empanada) in good company is nice, especially if you’re the new kid in school who doesn’t know anybody + nobody knows you. Picking a table is not only a smart option, it’s survival. It can help you gain traction + popularity, or at the very least, be heard by a few who will listen. Your cafeteria entourage can even help you rise from oblivion into stardom. Think of all those YouTubers who became famous overnight. The platform helped them do that.
Now this idea of becoming a celebrity is so appealing, so tempting that people often forget about the drawbacks of picking a table at the cafeteria.
The downside for me is so obvious thou. It’s not your table. Your cute lil’ touchie might be sitting there, but it’s not your table. It’s not. You don’t own it. You don’t make the terms + conditions. You can get kicked out anytime without a 30 day notice. You + your meal + all your fans. Out! And the honey badger doesn’t care. The honey badger doesn’t give a damn if you were counting on that revenue stream or marketing outlet.
People somehow miss this important piece of the puzzle. Why? Consider why you tell yourself blogging isn’t worth it? Ask yourself why you convince yourself to stop trying?
I’ll tell you why. Because:
- It’s more convenient to blame someone else. Your Kickstarter campaign failed miserably? It’s easier to say, “Kickstarter doesn’t work” than to say, “I was not able to recruit enough supporters to fund my project.” Thin line. Easier to complain + dismiss + procrastinate than to assume responsibility.
- It’s less work. Sure, posting a pretty picture of your breakfast with a cute caption is easier than putting together a thoughtful + valuable post about morning routines. Whereas the first option is cheaper + faster, the later is much harder + scarier + more time-consuming. So our monkey brain encourages the easier + seemingly better option.
Social media is easy + fun + gives you instant gratification. In the animal world that works just fine. If you are a monkey, for example, who spends all day doing nothing but eating bananas, you’re a huge success. But unfortunately for us humans, we have a big ass brain that allows us to recall the past + make decisions in the present + transform the future. Being a homo sapiens is a hard gig. So is blogging.
Blogging comes with a huge deficit because it takes planning + effort + momentum + guts. It might seem less pleasant than scrolling social media all day, but epic things happen when you don’t let your monkey brain take the stirring wheel.
I’m not lobbying for a riot at the school cafeteria. I’m not an anti-social media billboard. All I’m saying is that it’s dangerous to solely exist + build buzz in someone else’s ground. That’s all.
Anyone… any place… any thing that makes you check off a terms and conditions box to hang out with them shouldn’t be your number one hang out, much less your business strategy.
And there’s no excuse. These days, the internet let’s you build your own site in minutes, affordably.
I set up a basic blog on WordPress. Got my own mailing list up n’ running. Why? I’ll tell you why. Because this way, I get to keep my power + my work + my voice intact. But more importantly, there are no Illuminati censoring my content + editing my ideas + gatekeeping my gigs. It’s MY intellectual properly. MY audience. And the best part? I get to call the shots. Heartmade, this blog, is not a democracy. I decide who plays + who doesn’t. What? You’re a troll who spams the comment box with links to fake Kate Spade bags? Expelled! You’re too cool to be nice to my virtual family? Fired!
Sure I still hang out with my friends at the cafeteria. My besties over at the Instagram table are so much fun to be around. And don’t even get me started on my Pinterest gals. They are the bomb. But I always make sure to come back home, to my HQ + give clear directions with links or call to actions to where people can find me if they want to know more.
The charm of the High School cafeteria is obvious. It’s entertaining. But if you want to make sure you always have a safe space to eat your peanut butter and jelly sandwich + an open mic to share your brilliant ideas with the world, you’ve got to build your own playground. An online headquarters for your content that Google can easily find. A place where you can try out your coolest tricks + make meaningful stuff. Make it a friendly place for people to come visit. Often. Let them wear their paint stained pajamas if they wish. Bring your heart, your humanity, your value.
The reality is this: You only get out what you put in.
I’m not here to endorse hype-y fantasies around being your own girl boss, like working 4-hour weeks while dipping your feet in warm sand. That sh*t ain’t real. I repeat: that sh*t ain’t real.
Wanna make a living online? Put in what you want to get out. Simple as that. And I’m not talking about busy busy busy work – the kind where you pull all-nighters + skip breakfast + cancel lunch dates with your girlfriends to browse Pinterest and call it research. I’m talking about committing to the act of creating + sitting down to write when you don’t feel like it + hitting publish in spite of being afraid.
Not everyone is willing to do it. But then again, you are not everybody.
This lil’ blog is still the heartbeat of my business. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that blogging isn’t for lazy people. Trying to keep up the pace of posting regularly + creating original content (not just echoing what the entire blog galaxy has already said) can wear out anyone who’s not built for this. Those of you who have blogs know exactly what I mean.
So if you’re pondering: “Oh! boy, but I’m already too busy running a shop + updating my about page + doing the laundry + perfecting my skills + inventing my new product line + preparing for a craft show + invoicing, do I really need to have a blog?” Here’s why I think you should give it your best try:
1. Blogging helps you build strong relationships with clients. Through your blog you let your personality + charisma + passion shine. This helps your customers relate + connect with you on a deep human level. And a customer that has empathy is a customer that connects with you + trusts you + befriends you. This is a rare + beautiful thing.
2. Blogging lets you show you’re a pro. It’s an opportunity to showcase your abilities + skills in a non-braggy kinda way. If you make the best brownies in town, give your clients an inside pick into how you prepare the dough + how you cut the brownies + how you package them the way you do, without giving away all your secrets of course. It will show customers that you sure know an awful lot about brownies + chocolatey things + baking without burning things in the kitchen + etc. And people love to buy from shops that they feel confident about.
3. Blogging helps you document your creative life. I love looking at my blog archives to see where my mind + heart were at 5 weeks ago, 3 months ago, 7 years ago. This time last year I know I was a lot more afraid. I dunno when I changed, or how, but I know at some point between then + now I built wings + set myself free. It’s like having my own little time machine to travel back in time + navigate through my creative stages + access my virtual diary. Helps me learn + grow, ya’ know?
4. Blogging lets you share updates with your fans. You just released an awesome new collection? You’re having your annual Everything Must Go sale? You were featured in US News? Sure, social media let’s you shout the news through the roof tops, but these channels go by so fast, that important information typically falls through the cracks. Your launch can be easily missed. Your TV appearance missed. And that’s just sad. Blogging gives you both a space to inform your clients about all the wonderful things that are happening, and most importantly it lets you archive them so they never go by unnoticed.
5. Blogging connects you with the indie community. When you blog, you become part of a cult of artist + designers + crafters + freelancers that get it without much explanation. When people ask me, how to do advertise your products, they’re shocked to know I don’t do ads. I don’t buy followers or run promoted posts. I let my customers do the talking. They are my brands true ambassadors, and in my humble opinion, the best kind of marketing there is.
6. Blogging gives you VIP access to Google. Blogs are built for search engines. They are indexed faster + more frequently than your shop is. They also have this cool optimization feature that reads your keywords like “business tips” + “planners” + “mess”, and connects potential fans to your site via those tags. This brings targeted traffic from people who are searching for exactly what you have to offer. Pretty neat right?
7. Blogging is so freaking awesome. When you get in the habit of blogging + write about the things you are truly care about, everything just clicks. It stops being hard. Blogging flows. And you become hooked. Our career choice as creators + innovators can sometimes be a solitary path, but blogging lets connect with readers all over the globe + start a conversation with people with similar interests + get instant feedback. All the sudden you realize, “I’m not alone in this”. It’s a comforting + uplifting + energizing feeling.
Yes, blogging is more difficult + requires work, because teaching + inspiring + launching is hard. But, it’s also how we get to do what we love for a living using this amazing tool called the internet.
So the next time someone asks, “Is blogging dying? Are blogs a thing of the past?” Will they not survive another month? You can tell them what I think. I’ll be sitting at the messy table by the corner with my vintage typewriter if anyone asks.
What do YOU think? Are blogs dying? Are they becoming diluted in a sea of social medianess? Drop your insight in the comment box. The best discussion always happens there.
*This post is sponsored by Kate Spade NY. All content + ideas + words are my own.
You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
And you is creative.
Except on those days when, well, you’re not.
Creative dips are real folks.
Blank screens. The words aren’t coming. Blank canvas. The images aren’t pouring in. It happens.
The problem for us creative professionals is:
- Most of our work is creative. The grand majority of the things we do depend on our ingenuity + innovation + imagination. Creativity pays the high speed internet + organic strawberries + that cute Kate Spade handbag. It’s only a small percent of admin tasks + e-mails + bookkeeping that we can get through even when we’re feeling crabby or downright depressed. But when 95% of our to-do list is creative work, feeling UGHH sucks.
- And most of our work is done solo. It’s different from going to a job where you work for someone else + there’s other people – other people to pick up the slack + help brainstorm ideas + get you out of whatever funk you showed up in. But when you work from home, that simply doesn’t exist. Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters? Sure you can cushion the drawbacks by meeting friends for lunch + getting on social media + making business Skype meetings + joining communities like this one, but at the end of the day, it’s still YOU that has to do MOST OF THE WORK, if not ALL THE WORK.
Being a professional creative is hard.
I have days when motivation just doesn’t kick in. Days where I work all day long only to end up with one thing finished. ONE.
Yes, Captain Mayi Pajama Pants has unproductive days too. Days when I just want to eat lava cake out of a cute mason jar + watch the entirety of Netflix from start to finish + ignore everything on my to-do list. And then I feel bad for not being motivated + not getting anything done, which makes me more grumpy + more unproductive.
If you’re stuck on that vicious cycle of feeling totally uninspired + one second away from breaking a flower vase + having a tantrum, I have tricks up my sleeve to help you make room for genius work on off days.
Let’s look at 12 different ways to bring continual creativity into your life + business, when your inner Picasso is on sabbatical:
1. Try Something New
When I hit a creative road block, I find a new hobby to pursue in order to give my creative thinking a new perspective. For me that means stepping out my comfort zone, away from my acrylic paints + paint brushes, and trying things I’m not a pro at. Things like hand-lettering quotes + photographing baby Olivia + cooking a new recipe.
For you, it might mean writing a short story + reading a book you wouldn’t have other wise picked up or going to a Zumba class.
Do something new to not only grow your creative background but to give a refreshing break to your usual practice.
2. Change The Scene
The very first thing I do when I’m not stepping into my zone of genius is to change my physical environment. While routine can be a great thing for personal productivity, sometimes it can kill your creative spirit. You get too used to the way things are + need a change to spark new ideas.
3. Take A Trip
Maybe it’s not enough to change spaces. Maybe you just need a trip out of town.
“New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain,” according to a study done by Adam Galinsky.
For two years I’ve been closing down my studio every Friday at noon to go to the beach. I used to hide this, ashamed that people would judge me, think I’m lazy or don’t take my job seriously. It’s a myth, that busy work leads to genius work.
With time I’ve learned that new experiences that are totally unrelated to creativity (yes even sipping mojitos in warm sand) can bring new ideas + perspectives when you return to the office.
4. Embrace Radical Silliness
It takes courage. To play in a world that has forgotten how to play. I know. I know. We are adults. But can we just lighten up a teensy little bit? Have a sense of humor?
It’s hard to have a bad day while wearing a tutu. I know. I’ve done studies.
Recall what you enjoyed as a child. That thing that made the hours pass like minutes. Got it? Do more of that every day! Finger painting with your fingers + snowmen building + tree forts + baking cookies. The only difference between then + now is that back then you allowed yourself to just play. There was no plan, no set goals, just an idea + the freedom to make whatever you wanted.
Give yourself wiggle room to play.
5. Take a Walk
Stanford researchers have found that walking improves creativity. On average, creative thinking increases by 60% when there is walking involved. Not only does inspiration form while walking, but then it continues to come even after you return to your desk.
6. Listen To A Podcast
Podcasts are great for car rides + turning monotonous chores like doing laundry or updating your website plugins into an adventure. Well maybe not an adventure, but definitively less of a pain in the ass.
Instead of listening to your favorite music stream, for a change, check out a podcast that will bring new insight to your life + work.
My current favorite podcasts are:
- Unmistakeble Creative hosted by my friend Srinivas Rao. You can catch my interview where I share How I Sold 5 Thousand Copies of my First Product right here! Psst… It won Best Episode that year!
- Cult of Hybrid run by two of my favorite messy alums Marcela Macias + Marbel Canseco, where they talk about how to turn brands into seduction machines.
7. Start An Ideas Journal
Keep an ideas notebook close by. Carry it on your purse. Put it in your nigh stand. Bring it on road trips. And fill it with quotes + doodles + checklists + a record of what you did that day + a story.
Let this notebook be your safe space to warm up + spill open. Don’t overthink it. Remember no one’s gonna see this. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Your ideas don’t have to be brilliant. Just allow your mind to wander + play.
An idea notebook will really show you how creative you are when you’re not so bossy with yourself.
8. Sleep On It
I remember solving math problems in my sleep or waking up the next day with a clear idea of how to finish that painting I didn’t know what to do with the day before.
Believe it or not, napping or getting a good night’s rest is not for lazy people. It’s needed if you want to keep the Creative Bunny going, going… and going, without falling through a cliff.
Permission to paint outside the lines + swap your daily to-do for a hammock… GRANTED!
9. Embrace Constraints
Dr. Seuss was challenged by his publisher to write a book using only 50 words. Green Eggs and Ham was the result.
Today, we can fall into creative fatigue not because there’s not enough choices out there, but because there’s just too many! Try to limit yourself in some shape + way or form to challenge the way in which you’re thinking.
Fifty words was quite a limitation for Dr. Seuss, but that very limitation made a masterpiece! See what happens when you remove choices, you might land yourself your next big thing.
10. Collaborate With Other Awesome People
When we hit a problem, most of us try to solve it ourselves. Raise your hand if you’ve got this superhero complex?
Sometimes, though, the solution will only be found when you talk it out with someone else.
The answer might be at the tip of your tongue or in the back of your mind, but without speaking through the problem, the solution will be left buried in our internal thoughts.
Last year I teamed up with the hot babes of UnderCover to power these Life is Messy Rainboots. Collaborating with them during a time in my life all I felt like doing was napping (I was expecting Olivia at the time), boosted my creativity. Working with them was one of the most rewarding work experiences EVAH!
Find someone nearby, talk it out, and collaborate on finding a solution.
11. Make Mistakes
If you aren’t making mistakes, then you aren’t taking any risks, which means you’ll never reach that next level. Epicness happens outside of your comfort zone. Take the jump. Or do I need to remind you of all our heroes who failed before they found their success? Cough cough… Walt Disney + Oprah Winfrey + J.K. Rowling.
Give yourself permission to screw up. Please! It’s part of the path.
12. Do Nothing
Creative people need time to just sit around + do nothing. Yep, that’s right. Take some time to do nothing, nothing at all. No matter how monumental the task at hand feels, you need to take breaks to unwind + recharge.
I remember in college my painting professor James Valerio always prompted me to step back from my canvas. Look at it from a far distance. Drop the brush. Take a water break. Only when I distanced myself + cooled down from being a push over perfectionist was I able to see what to do next.
Time away might seem counter intuitive, but it’s exactly what you need in order to come back completely restored + inspired.
If All Else Fails, Know This (This is Muy Importante)
It is literally impossible to be 100% motivated + GO GO GO + excited to work all the time.
No matter how on top of things you are, there will still be days when you sit down to whip our genius work nothing will come out. Days when even closing all your tabs + turning off all notifications on your phone still won’t get the job done.
Why? Because no matter how talented you are or what type of job you do, every single person in the planet has days when they just can’t make work work.
So it would help us all (me + you + all the lady bosses we know) to cut ourselves a little slack + treat ourselves more gently + remember that we’re only human. Flawed + fabulous. And that is enough. Good enough.
There you have it! 12 different ways on how to be creative when you feel absolutely stuck.
As Austin Kleon says, “It takes a lot of energy to be creative.” We need to not only protect our energy, but use it well.
Whether it’s taking a trip with friends + giving yourself permission to be silly or doing absolutely nothing – try out different ways to find inspiration + see what works best for you. What works today might not work tomorrow, so keep your creative mind alive + open to new possibilities.
Hope that helps!
Today I want to you think about three things:
- How do you treat yourself when you can’t get stuff done?
- What is your backup plan when this happens? Do you have extra blog posts pre-written? Do you have a VA that can go through your e-mail? Do you pad your schedule so you aren’t always running into your deadlines?
- What is your unmotivated plan of action? Do you get out of the house for a while? Turn on some bad reality TV? Jump in the bath with an inspiring book? What things can help to get you going again?
What comes up? Tell me. In the blog comments.
In the end of the day, remember this anytime works feels like a giant bummer + you want to put everything off until mañana (or next Monday): You still kick ass. You still a PRO. Your clients + readers + fans + followers will understand. Know why? Because they have shitty days too.
PS: I’ve been wondering all morning why my phone hasn’t stopped sounding like a cash register. Then I saw this – oh la la Creative Live featured this tiny Panamanian artist in their 17 Top Women Entrepreneurs Share How They Got Started in Business roundup. Honored beyond belief + grateful for the extra $$ in my piggy bank.