The other night, as we all hunkered down in our respective homes away from COVID-19, a friend told me she was going to stay in and “do some writing.” 

Wait, what? 

This woman had never, not once, expressed an iota of interest in writing! 

As an office manager, she doesn’t have to do “content” for her job. But she feels called to write. 

I love this. And, while I’m surprised, I’m kind of not. 

Writing isn’t just a job—it’s an act: A powerful way to tap your creativity, but also to take back a sense of control. 

And when so much feels out of our control, writing empowers, grounds, and pushes back against fear. It’s an exercise in sovereignty and sanity. 

I think of it like running. 

I run, but not because I’m good at it. I’ll never be the best at it, I’ve never won a race, and that’s not the point. 

The point of running, for me, is to run—because of how it makes me feel, because it reminds me I have a capable body and one that feels best when it’s used. 

That’s what writing is like. 

It feels good to do—but not when the goal is to win a race or a contest. Yuck. It feels good when it makes you recognize what YOU are capable of. 

Since no one is going anywhere, anytime soon, what if you took some time to do some writing, too? 

Join me for 30 Days on the Page.

I designed 30 Days on the Page for you—wherever you are. Every day for 30 days, you get an email from me with a 20-minute audio program. All you have to do is sit down, press play, listen, and WRITE.

That’s it! I’m with you the whole way.

The program will help you break new ground on your new ideas, and gain momentum in developing, fleshing them out, and making them real and ready to share with the people you most want to reach.

Seriously, check it out. The sense of accomplishment you get from spending time on the stuff that matters to you is like nothing else.

And it’s $1/day! So don’t wait.

How do you feel about the word “cute?” 

Maybe it makes you think of babies or puppies or Hello Kitty backpacks. Small, harmless things. Or, miniature replicas of larger things. 

Maybe “cute” to you is just shy of pretty and a few blocks from gorgeous.

My friend, writer Becky Karush, believes cute is underrated. 

Becky hosts a refreshingly different podcast called, “Read to Me,” where each week she reads a short literary selection and shows us how to listen for what we love. In a recent episode, she read a children’s book by Juana Martinez-Neal and said:

“There is a place for cute,” she says. “It’s undervalued, I think. Sort of commodified as a way to sell things or devalued as just a girl thing. But the sincerity and passion inside cuteness, there’s a real thing there. Someone should write an essay about that.”

Ok.

Cute, at first glance, is … is appealing, attractive, approachable. But the closer I look, the more there is to it. Because what’s most interesting about cute is that it doesn’t know that it is. 

Trying to be cute? Not cute. Humble brag? Not cute. Self loathing? no. A little self deprecation? Sure. A blush of self-consciousness? Yes. 

True cute isn’t self aware. It doesn’t know it’s cute, which is, of course, partly why it is so damn cute.  

It’s why cat videos dominate online: Because cats aren’t trying to be cute. They’re going about their business quite seriously—and it’s very adorable. 

And: Cute is everywhere, if you know how to spot it in the wild.

Catching someone in the moment of cute is to see someone being so fully themselves, so unguarded and rapt, so sincerely present to whatever they’re doing, that we kinda fall in love with them (but not in a creepy way). Which is why someone can be cute when they’re eating…or raving mad. 

I’m lucky because I get to see people at their absolute cutest—a lot. 

When I work with people (in a workshop, in a private session) I give them spill-proof conditions for their sincerity, creativity, vulnerability, and strength to safely emerge. 

They take great care in writing their ideas down, then read them out loud to me and each other. 

No one is trying to be cute. But it is a very real side effect. 

Here’s why: There is, in cuteness, an inherent trust. When someone’s being cute, they’re showing you who they are, trusting no harm wil come to them. There’s beauty and vulnerability in that. 

Now—contrast that with our modern culture and its reflexive snark, its snorting and eye rolling, its irony and indifference—all of it a coping mechanism for mounting despair.  

Cute brings us back from the edge of being “over” everything, and helps us reengage in a fresh, vital, even innocent, way. 

You can’t aim for cute. But I do think that kind of un-self-awareness, the ability to be open and to trust and just be you without trying to be any other thing. That is undeniably cute. In fact, it’s something to aspire to.

…I have created a place where people can be cute and disarming and 100 percent themselves. And for you, it’s right in your own house.

It’s called 30 Days on the Page.

This 30-day audio program will help you break new ground on your new ideas, and gain momentum in developing, fleshing them out, and making them real and ready.

Let me tell you, finding freedom on the page can uncork all kinds of brilliance, if you’re willing to trust it—and yourself.

Seriously, check it out. Because you’re kind of adorable. And it’s $1/day! So don’t wait.

People seem to have no problem voicing their desire to buy a good pair of jeans or go bird watching. 

I detect zero self-consciousness from the person who tells me she wants to go see Mean Girls on Broadway. Or enroll in improv classes. 

But.   

When people want to write, they don’t say it loudly; they whisper it to me. 

They say it quietly, as an aside. They send me a note from their personal, not their business, email. They’d like to write. They used to, and want to do it again. But. 

Always a but. 

BUT…

…they worry they wouldn’t be any good at it. 

…they aren’t sure where to start. 

…they don’t have time. 

You know the excuses. The thing I find curious though is that whisper, that urge, that desire to do it but also be quiet about it. 

What’s that about? 

I believe it’s because writing speaks to something kinda sacred, and so incredibly personal. 

I don’t think you have to be special or an A student or even particularly gifted to make good and powerful use of writing in your work. 

Far too many of us are stuck (not to mention wounded) by the experiences we had in school. Those red pens left scars, and made us think we should be careful instead of creative. 

That’s a damn shame. 

This is precisely what I designed The Intensive for: People who want to write, to reengage with their work in a fresh, exciting, and fun way, without feeling bad about themselves. 

And having three days away with a small group, in an environment specifically set up for tapping your creative genius can change everything. 

April 30 through May 3, we’ll be hunkering down in a gorgeous, sprawling ranch just outside of Austin, Texas. And if this sounds like it could be a fit for you, I’d love to talk to you about it. 

⇒ Extended early bird offer – Save $1000 on The Intensive for a limited time

This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard about The Intensive from me. But it may be the first time you’ve really HEARD it. In a way that makes you think, “Hmm.” 

I’m looking for people who feel that impulse to write, to go deeper into it and emerge with thrilling new insights. Who are tired of ignoring that urge to express themselves and want to do it in an incredibly safe and supportive space. 

Sound like you or someone you know? 

Go ahead. Whisper it to me. 

P.S. Wondering what it’s like? Take a look at the video and see if it appeals.

 

Two things I love about my friend Jenn Lederer: She’s got an open mind and sharp opinions.

She’s cool with whatever you want to wear, do, pursue. “You do you, girl,” she says, waving her hand at everyone and no one.

But don’t get her started on footwear.

“Wedges? Fine. Clogs, cool. Tennis shoes ok. Rock a 4-inch heel if you want. But—” and here, the chin drops, eyebrow lifts, a long finger slices through the air like a blade.

“Do not come for me with your kitten heels.”*

It’s not just that she doesn’t prefer that shoe. Oh no. It’s much more.

“They enrage me.”

It will not surprise you that Jenn is, among other things, a comic, and so taking issue with harmless inanimate objects is part of the gig.

The problem with kitten heels?

“They put the heel at the center of the heel, not at the back—the most painful and annoying place to put a heel. It’s just an awkward way to walk for no reason at all. Though watching you walk toward me at full speed in them will be hilarious.”

Oh, she’s not done.

“They’re noncommittal,” she says. “It’s not a flat, it’s not a wedge, it’s not a heel. I just don’t know if I can trust your judgment if you wear this shoe.”

Ah! And there it is.

Pain. Awkwardness. The fact that they’re “noncommittal.”

THAT is what she ACTUALLY hates! Those qualities: undue pain, half-assed-ness.

This tells me about her values, and one of the things I admire about her—and I like to think we have this in common—is that we don’t half ass things. We go ALL in on what we do.

People who go full-tilt want that same commitment from others…and where that trust comes in is fascinating: Because she does not feel she can trust someone who won’t do the same. Shoes or no shoes.

I bet you didn’t think of that as the lesson here, and neither did I—until I started to unpack it.

Is there anything, literally ANYTHING you want to do (and really want to do, not just feel you “should”) in your life or your work that you can get by being half-committed?

NOPE.

Yeah, going full tilt means taking a full risk. But going halfsies on risk will yield about as much reward.

And one thing I’m sure we can agree on, tastes in shoes notwithstanding:

You do NOT want a kitten-heel version of your best work, your best ideas, your best anything.

Maybe you think the kitten heel version is…safer, because it’s lower to the ground, or more practical, or more comfortable. But in fact, they’re not! They’re just a smaller, less interesting version of an actual heel.

What would things be like if you chose the best version of what you want to do, instead of the safer version?

Now, God knows we can’t stomp around all day in stilettos. But at least a sneaker isn’t trying to be anything but a sneaker. A clog is like, Yo, I’m a clog. Not trying to hide it. Wear what you want! But wear it.

(Fact: I have had more than one kitten heel in my life. So, no judgment from me if you’re curling your toes inside a pair right now.)

I think you get my point.

The hard part isn’t doing the thing. It’s committing to doing it in a real way, not a safe, side-steppy, cute way. Half-assing isn’t cute.

Decide you’re all in. Don’t pamper yourself with excuses. Don’t tell yourself you’re too busy. Excuses are the kitten heels of life.

And please. Do not COME for me in your kitten heels.

…One way to go all in?

Join me for 30 Days on the Page.

This 30-day audio program is designed to stoke your creative flame so you can set the world on fire.

It draws on the principles of the Gateless Writing Method, which quiets the critic and invites ease into your creative process.

You get to get out of your own way—and feel your own work expanding, instead of feeling constricted by fear and self-criticism.

Seriously, check it out. It’s $1/day! So don’t wait.

The Zen Buddhists talk about beginner’s mind. Maybe you’ve heard it as ‘child mind.’ It sounds enlightened, to come at this with a clean slate, to adopt a beginner’s mindset in order to gain new insight. Cool.  

But what about being … an amateur? 

Oh god, we hate that. Please! We’re professionals! We’ve been doing this a long time. Who exactly are you calling an amateur? How dare you. (I’d argue that Imposter Syndrome is simply that: The fear that someone else will think you’re an amateur.)

And yet. 

In his book “Show Your Work,” Austin Kleon says we should all be amateurs.

Why? Because an amateur does a thing for love, not because she is paid to do it. And because the love of it is first, the amateur isn’t afraid of taking risks and making mistakes.

You’ve probably also heard someone (who was it again?) say that if you’re the smartest one in the room, time to find another room. 

For all our talk about being “vulnerable,” we actually are loathe to let go of our professional status. We use it as a shield. But you know who’s real vulnerable? The amateur. 

The amateur acts without knowing exactly what to expect or how it will turn out. She lets go of outcome or expectation. She may do something dumb. Who cares. She is alive with the potential and excitement of it, rather than dulled by the expectation of a certain level of “excellence” (eye roll). 

“That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.”  — Charlie Chaplin 

When was the last time YOU felt like an amateur—and what was it like? When did you last feel really alive and at risk as you tried to figure a thing out? Most of us feel a little like that all the time. And that sounds ok to me. 

I’d rather be an amateur who does a lot of things that I love than a professional who only does one thing because I get paid to do it. 

The minute I stop trying to figure things out, I think I’m just done. 

Last Friday I hosted a Pop Up Salon (I told you about it) in my home with 12 brilliant people. They were pros from everywhere: health care, data, law, business, leadership, marketing, visual arts. 

They didn’t come because they all have book deals. They came because they felt the pull of the page.

They didn’t know quite what would happen in that room, but they knew better than to ignore their creative impulse, because they know that’s where the next exciting thing is starting to sprout roots and leaves. And they’re right. 

Oh trust me, everyone was a little nervous. They knew they were going to be writing and sharing what they wrote. They told me in advance they “weren’t really writers” or that they’d be the “only non-writer in the room.” Or, they simply hadn’t written in years.

Once that fear was dispelled (and we dispel it quickly there so we can get to the business of writing), my god, what emerged was fantastic.

They surprised themselves with their own complex and rich ideas, they way moments in their own stories threw light around really big issues like power, challenged their own ideas about them. 

And it’s not like they all left feeling “cured” of their amateur feelings and fears. 

Instead, they were inspired and excited about the newness of it all, how free they felt now, instead of bound by old, ill-fitting suits they thought they had to wear. They walked out feeling seen, heard, with a new, insatiable appetite for all the things they absolutely must do. 

Imagine if every day felt like that.

…Now, if you’re reading this in April 2020, we’re not getting together in living rooms.

But I can show up for you, every day for 30 days, and be your guide and companion while you write.

I’m talking about 30 Days on the Page.

This 30-day audio program will help you break new ground on your new ideas, and gain momentum in developing, fleshing them out, and making them real and ready to share with the people you most want to reach.

All you have to do is open the email, click play, and write for 20 minutes. I’m with you the whole time.

Seriously, check it out. The sense of accomplishment you get from spending time on the stuff that matters to you is like nothing else.

And it’s $1/day! So don’t wait.

After I got laid off, I decided not to get another job. I just…didn’t want one. Simple as that. I decided to work on my own, from my couch. As a natural introvert, I was in heaven. 

And yet—it became clear I had to get out of the house. So I signed up for an improv acting class, which I’d always been meaning to do. 

You know how it works: You’re thrown into a scene with a partner with little more than a suggestion (“banana,” “circus,” “houseplant”) and…go! 

You don’t strategize. You simply start peeling an imaginary banana. You make it up as you go. It’s one part terrifying, one part mortifying, but five parts fun, so the ratio works.

Another thing you don’t do in improv class? Introduce yourself, spout your resume, talk about your big goals or your background. So, in the spirit of improv, you don’t have a lot to go on. 

We bonded fast in that room. Why? Because we were busy making something, instead of comparing ourselves. It’s been eight years since that first class—I took them for two more years with that same group—and I count them among my closest friends. 

I’ve long known that my friendships are no extra curricular activity; they are a critical part of who I am as a person, and how connected I feel to the world. 

And while research on relationships has long focused on family and romantic partnerships, scientists are starting to look at friendship a lot differently. 

A new book about the science of friendship reveals that friends aren’t just a “nice to have,” but play a critical biological role, too.

Science journalist Lydia Denworth, a woman I’ve gotten to know and work with over the past few years, has just released a breakthrough book that will change the way we see friendship. 

In Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond, she investigates the biological and evolutionary foundations to friendship, diving into the literature and her own life in an accessible way, and it’s fascinating. 

Lydia, in fact, was one of the people who participated in The Intensive last fall, a three-day writing retreat I run designed to tap your creative genius. Just like in improv, we don’t announce our resumes; we dive in and start making and sharing right away—which goes a long way to turning strangers into friends very quickly. 

Lydia, by her own admission, had doubts when she first walked into that room full of strangers. But she left with 9 people she now counts as friends. And I count her as one of mine, too.

In fact, one of the people at The Intensive is hosting a book launch party for Lydia next week! And of course, we will all be there. 

…As for improv? I never had designs on “being” an improv actor. But I learned a TON from doing it, and still use it.

What improv teaches you in approaching a stage, I have found useful in approaching the page. You need less in the way of plans, and more in the way of trust—which, as a matter of fact, is true for friendships, too.

You’d be surprised at what can happen when you follow your creative impulse. 

Where is that impulse taking you today? 

 

P.S. Hey, curious about how I teach writing? Check out 30 Days on the Page. It’s 30 days of guided prompts (seriously, you just show up and write, like spa for your brain) with me. And it’s just $1/day. Don’t wait!

When 20 of the nation’s top advisors walked into the room that morning, they probably thought we were about to debate the merits of logos and taglines.

Nope.

I told them to take out a pen, and I gave them a prompt:

Write about a time when you realized that what you’d always thought was true, wasn’t.

Then I said: “You have 10 minutes. Start writing.”

(I’m leaving out the part where I lay down a set of rules designed to make it a safe space—no room for criticism or judgment—and how to approach writing to the prompt. But I digress.)

“Ok. Time’s up. Who’s first?”

One by one, they started reading their work. The room went still as stone. They could have written about ANYTHING at all. They could have phoned it in.

But they didn’t.

They wrote about unemployed fathers and unhappy stepmothers. The time they couldn’t afford a baseball glove.

They shared near misses and devastating losses; the moment they realized that despite it all, their father was a good man.

At the end of it, we sat there, stunned.

Attendees approached me afterward—in the ladies room, in the hallway, later, on the plane buckled into seat 12B— “What WAS that?” “That was amazing.” “How did that happen?”

It wasn’t magic.

All they needed was to be given the space (sturdy, safe, shared) and prompted to fill it in a way that mattered to them.

What they walked away with were powerful insights into their work—and ideas for communicating it to the people they want to serve (including their team).

The process I use—informed by a specific set of rules—changes the way people think and talk about what they do.

When you give people the space to share their stories in a positive, nonjudgmental light, it shifts the dynamic of the group and helps everyone feel connected to the story of your brand.

And without story, there is no brand.

These advisors didn’t even know what they were in for! Imagine what it could do for you.

If you haven’t yet, grab a copy of my free guide, “5 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Genius” and discover how to tap your stories, ideas, and work on the page.

Like you, I’ve made some sacrifices to the New Year gods—more vegetables, a month without booze.

But one of the most important resolutions I’ve made for 2020 this:

To stop selling shit on Craigslist.

Why? Why’s that so bad? It’s not bad, inherently.

Longtime users of this stripped down, early-aughts online garage sale love that you can sell and swap goods for cheap. I know I did.

I’ve conducted hundreds of exchanges on it over the years. I sold earrings. Kitchen appliances. An iPod. An iPad. Not one but two Subarus (my mom’s and mine).

Once I sold a set of plastic drawers to a handsome devil. We went on two dates. I was sold, but he, unfortunately, was not.

Another time, I sold some fake plants to a lumpy guy who—not kidding—sniffed every one of them before handing me a fan of damp cash.

I got a thrill out of selling stuff online. It seemed like free money. And for most of those years, I wasn’t making much, so every bit helped.

But it isn’t free money; it’s a job; it requires marketing, sales, delivery, contending with fickle buyers and no-shows. You’ll always find something for less than you’d expect—and you’ll sell it for less, too.

Here’s what sealed the deal for me and made me rethink this practice:

Just last week, I spent nearly 2 hours of my life coordinating the sale of a nightstand I’d inherited from a friend, and sold for $15.

“You got $15 bucks for that?” my friend said later. “You realize I found that on the street, right?”

What am I even doing?

Unless you’re a supplier running a whole Craigslist business (and plenty do), it’s hard to make your investment of time pay off for the occasional sale.

The instinct to sell is obvious: You have something of value. The thrill of a sale is obvious: Someone else recognizes the value.

But of course, this isn’t just about Craigslist.

Though I do find it troubling that I rearranged my day around coordinating a single, one-off sale for a stranger whom I’ll never ever see again, and for whom my entire value exists solely in a piece of third-hand yard sale furniture.

What I really need to ask myself—maybe what we all do—is: What is our time worth? What investment of attention yields the highest, most impactful value?

I think about my own business, and how my best efforts to grow it have rarely been the low stakes cash grab.

The best investments have been: Crafting worthwhile content; connecting great people; building and serving the right tribe; creating offers that make sense for me and the people I extend them to. Reading. Writing. Sleeping.

If there’s one thing we all do in 2020 that we’ll never regret, it’s getting clearer, and stricter, about what we’re spending our time on.

Because your time is precious. And the high water mark of your work this year will be when you created something of value, not when you wrung it from whatever saleable merch you have lying around.

Your work can and should take you further than a nightstand jammed into the back of a Brooklyn-bound uber. That I can promise you.

​I just watched the new animated Netflix movie Klaus with some friends the other night, and if it’s not in your holiday movie queue, it should be.

Not just because it’s cute and well done. But because there’s a hidden and profound message for those of us in a line of work we never imagined we’d be in.

Klaus is a clever reimagining of the origins of holiday gift giving, which begins with…a postman. 

Actually, he’s a spoiled rich kid name Jesper who’s packed off to post office school by his well-to-do father, and then sent on assignment to create a postal service in Smeerensburg, a miserable, hateful little hamlet north of nowhere. 

It’s a seemingly impossible task because its inhabitants don’t send letters; they hurl garbage at each other’s homes and generally busy themselves with petty, ignorant nonsense. 

Even the town teacher has given up teaching and turned her classroom into a fish market.

Our reluctant hero does not have a passion for letters or mail delivery. He hates this job.

But then, he spies an opportunity. 

He gets the reclusive woodsman who lives outside of town to donate his garage full of handmade toys sitting there collecting dust—and says he’ll deliver the toys for free to every child who requests one by letter.

The woodsman—named Klaus—complies, as long as he can come along, too. And off they go, in a sleigh heaped with toys, dragged along by reindeer. Sound familiar? 

Why Christmas? Jesper chooses it because it’s convenient, a built-in occasion for boosting engagement around his campaign. 

(Also sounds familiar.)

While the more religiously inclined among us may not like this one bit, fact is, Klaus is in many ways more aligned with our modern cultural take on the holiday: An opportunity to engage customers (and move merch). Which Jesper and Klaus do to great effect. 

The moral of the tale is that one kind act leads to another. 

But there’s another lesson here that I like a lot, too: 

That even if we didn’t choose or don’t even like the job at hand, we can find in it opportunity for change and growth—and life-altering fulfillment.

It reminds me of what Seth Godin says: “You are not your resume; you are your work.”

We all know what it is to have to do a job we don’t want. And like Jesper, every last one of us is looking to improve our standing in the world. There’s nothing wrong with seeking opportunities where you find them.

But the real reward comes when we can engage deeply in the work, any work, and discover where our own unique skill set meets a need and fills it.

We are the work we do. And when we give to that work, it can give back tenfold. It can change you for the better. Maybe change your whole life.

Of course, Jesper changes his mind about his career, and even about the town, because by the end both are changed.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but you can probably guess it’s close to…happily ever after. 🙂

…P.S. If you think everyone has some kind of clear, obvious career path, think again. I was interviewed this week on the 4 Chicks Chatting podcast (great group of ladies), and I talk about just how lost I was, for a long time.