Tag Archives: dream

Sarah Leaps Letterpress (?)

3 Mar

As I’ve been trying to find my voice as a writer, one thing I’ve noticed that I like and can do reasonably well is short form, like taglines and stuff.  It makes sense, if I look back on myself through the years.  In high school and college, I was a notorious quote collector.  In my years with ALC, I learned about marketing and discovered my love for it. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I came up with little bite-sized nuggets of my own.  Plus–let’s face it–who wants to read a whole blog?  We’re all much too busy setting our DVRs and trying to figure out Google’s new privacy policy.

So to help us all out, I started boiling the lessons I’ve learned down to one or two-liners (okay, sometimes a third line sneaks in).

Then, I used my rudimentary designs skills to make some of them pretty (hint: black backgrounds always looks classy), like so:
Doing it is hard

Now, I’m doing some market research to see if maybe these bad boys are sellable.  I’m thinking 6″x6″, on letterpress.  They’re not cards.  They’re not posters.  They’re just little squares of stuff.  If you want to see these things go to market, weigh in on the Sarah Leaps Letterpress Facebook page.  No hard feelings if you don’t; paying rent is overrated anyway.  But should there be enough interest, I might figure out how to bring these to market.  I’m not sure how I’ll do that, seeing as how I have absolutely zero cash to front on this, but whatever.  Either way, this little list is alive, so I’ll add more as the journey continues.  But for now, here’s the launch of “What I’ve Learned So Far (in three lines or less).”


  • Doing it will be hard.  Not doing it might be harder.
  • It’s going to fight you.  Fight it back.
  • If you need a break, take one.
  • Read whatever inspires you – every day.
  • Learn things for free.
  • You’ll be terrified in ways you weren’t ready for.  It’ll be okay.
  • Guilt, shame, doubt, and creative drought will be lobbed at you.  Have a mental racket ready and just keep swinging.
  • Step away from the computer and get off your phone.  Stop consuming media long enough every day so your brain can produce its own.  I promise the emails and social media updates will be there when you get back.
  • Do your homework.  It’s possible you’ll find a shortcut, but it’s more likely you’ll just need to work. Incredibly. hard.
  • At some point, your goals will probably feel crazy, unattainable, and maybe even detrimental to your own financial (or mental) well-being.  It’s totally normal.
  • Don’t pad your resume or make up qualifications.  What you’ve accomplished has been enough to get you this far–no need to lie about it.
  • Be willing to explore all opportunities–keep the ones you want, and walk away from the ones that aren’t for you.
  • Enjoy the freedom of being able to work anytime, but don’t work all the time.
  • Have a few different projects going on at the same time.  That way, if one thing isn’t working at the moment, you can work on something else.
  • Have a good handshake.
  • Put visual pep talks, notes, and reminders out for yourself to see every day.
  • Dogs generally make everything better.

Money & Resources

  • The money doesn’t always come.  Be ready for some very lean times.  Think now about what you could cut if you had to.
  • Never pass up an invitation for free food, drinks, or rides…or free anything, really.
  • Money isn’t the only way you can pay someone.
  • You don’t need to pay for PR, business cards, or meeting space.
  • It’s okay to give people a deal, but never sell yourself short.
  • Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth.
  • If people really want what you’re selling, they’ll find a way to pay.
  • When times are tough, cut your pay.  Don’t cut your employees’.
  • Take stock of every skill you have–even the seemingly irrelevant ones–then price them out.  You never know what you’ll need to do to keep you afloat.
  • Sometimes, you’ll only take a gig for the paycheck.  Perfectly acceptable.
  • Find ways to make money while you’re sleeping.

Working with others

  • When you find someone who believes in your vision and does something better than you, find a way to bring them onto the team.
  • When you need it and it’s offered, accept help.  And ask for it if it’s not.
  • If they really want to talk to you, people will leave a message.
  • Your parents will probably worry about you, so don’t tell them everything – like how you haven’t eaten a real meal in 3 days.
  • When you find people who are who or where you want to be, spend as much time as you can with them.
  • Always thank people for their help–and if it can be publicly, even better.
  • Share what you learn–it’ll help others and be a reminder to yourself of how far you’ve come.
  • Call bullies out when they’re being mean to you, but keep your response focused and professional.  Never fire back–especially if you’re not face-to-face.
  • Find ways to collaborate with people you like, even if the connection isn’t apparent at first.

So there you have it.  Another little effort to help others (and myself).  If you like what you see, visit that Facebook page (you can feel free to comment here, too, but the Facebook page is really where I’ll be measuring interest).


As Long As You’ve Got Friends, You’re Still in the Game

28 Feb

I got some mail today!

It wasn’t the usual junk and bills; it was a real-life box, with a handwritten address and everything!  When I opened it up, this is what I saw:

Now THIS is a box of cereal!

Now THIS is a box of cereal!

My good college friend Kim had sent it.

My first thought was, “That was truly the sweetest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  I think I’m going to cry.”  Seriously, I am still kind of on the verge of bawling over the thoughtfulness.

My second thought was, “That’s a lot of cereal!  I won’t have to buy any for like 2 months!”

To the average eye, this might just be a cute stunt.  To me, it’s a gift of presence.  Kim and I haven’t seen each other in at least 10 years…maybe more.  We live on opposite coasts and don’t talk often.  And here she is, suddenly at my doorstep.  Her handwriting, her spirit.  She had to go shopping for all of this cereal–or maybe she had it lying around, in which case, maybe she needs to start blogging–and she boxed it all up and sent it off.  It’s a gift people don’t often give or receive much these days.  It’s one of pure thought and love.  It’s an old friend, taking time out of her busy life of being a CFO, wife, and mom to two boys…to follow my humble writings and to give of herself.  It is just so freaking thoughtful.

It was so kind…and more than that–it’s so USEFUL!  I mean, sentiment is all well and good, but man…it takes a true master to blend emotion with PRACTICALITY, yo.  Truth be told, I would have had the same reaction had she boxed up a plastic baggie of Cheerios with the note.  It’s a great bonus that I can actually get some mileage out of this–wow!

This was beyond nice, and really proves ol’ Clarence right: “No man is a failure who has friends.”

And cereal, apparently.

As Long As You’ve Got Cereal, You’re Still in the Game

19 Feb

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged.  I’ve struggled to compose this “re-entry” post nearly as long.  The easiest way to explain my extended absence is that I just fell into the hole.

It’s part of leaping.

Sometimes, leaping works–the net appears or you have enough trajectory to propel yourself across the canyon on your own–and you think you’re pretty hot stuff.  You’re like, “hey look at me!  I took a huge risk and it paid off!  I’m so self-actualized and gutsy!”

sometimes, leaping works
And then, sometimes–the whole thing goes to hell.  You lose momentum and start plummeting…and that dang net suddenly disappears just when you need it the most, and you plunge into a sinkhole.  At first, you’re like, “whoops, ha ha–clumsy me!  I’ll just find my way outta here…let’s see…I’ll be going now.  Peace out!”  But you can’t.  Every door shrinks away, every window melts before you, and every ladder disintegrates.  It’s then that you start to grasp the situation at hand, but of course, it’s too late.  “Oh shit,” you think, as the light of your hopes, dreams, and fighting spirit gets swallowed up by the darkness.

And that’s what happened to me.

I guess it started in September and it is now February and I’m still stuck.  Not all of me…I mean, I at least pushed my head and hands through long enough to type something.  How lucky this laptop was within reach!

zombie stole a laptop
I really wanted to blog during that time, but I couldn’t do it.  The whole reason I have this blog is so people can see the reality of taking risks, of trying to do your own thing.  It’s not all book deals and puppies.  It is really, really sucky and terrifying sometimes.  And that’s important for any dream-chaser, leaper, entrepreneur, artist, “do-it-my-own-way”-er to hear so they may fortify thyselves!

What started it is that I basically ran out of my cushion money and the glut of well-paying gigs dried up.  The advance from our book is long gone and we probably have another 5 years before we see the pennies roll in through royalties.  At first, it was okay because Bark kept me/us afloat, and I launched a new business, NinjaDog Concepts, to fill in the gap as well.  But tried as I did, it wasn’t enough.  And it still isn’t, truth be told.

Here’s a glimpse at the state of affairs:

  • I’m making probably somewhere around $12k for the year right now.  Did you know that the average author makes just $9k, according to the Author’s Guild bulletin I just read?  So I guess I have that going for me.
  • Between my writing gigs (mostly magazine articles and greeting cards right now) and NinjaDog work, I’m able to cobble together enough for my share of rent every month.  But nothing more…so my expenses like car insurance, phone bill, and food come out of money we make through Bark.  And I can’t even address my credit cards.  I’m not sure when the last time I made a payment on those was.
  • One of my car tires blew in October when I was on a lost dog case.  It wasn’t even dramatic–I pulled away from the curb, and there it crumpled, withered from age and mileage.  The car limped home with the donut (thanks to my brother, who talked us through changing a spare over the phone), and I parked it in my driveway, where it sat until just last weekend, when a friend bought me new tires.  I didn’t have any extra money to get them, so we had been operating as a one-car family.Man, am I tire-d
  • I’ve learned how to do what I call “consume strategically,” which is basically a fancy way of saying “how to eat on no money.” I do things like make the same batch of coffee last for days, accept invitations to places and events that feature free sustenance, and asked for grocery gift cards for the holidays.  We save our “eating out” dollars for business meetings or someone’s celebration.  You’d think with this light eating, I could get rid of my muffintop.  But, no such luck.  Ah, the cruel irony of it all.

Muffintops are mean because they're ugly

So all of this stuff’s gotten me down, man.  I feel like a loser because I can’t make enough money to pay bills, let alone get a haircut.  I feel like a criminal 3 times a day when I send the creditors’ calls to voicemail.  I feel like an idiot because I can’t figure out how to put all of this together in a funny, yet poignant book proposal that resonates with the masses and sends a contract my way.  I feel like a failure because I started off strong and now I’ve totally blown my lead.

But the good news is that I’m still here.  And Kim is too.  And so are our dogs (they’re the only ones whose food and care we don’t compromise).   The other good news is that things ARE happening.  I have definitely had my share of little triumphs over these past months, and they are:

  • I was accepted into the pool of verse writers for Avanti Press.  Now THAT’S a fun job!
  • I’ve had not only my first magazine article published, but my second and third ones published…and I have more in the hopper.  So far, they’re all dog-oriented, and I really don’t want to pigeon-hole myself, but it’s where the opportunities are for now, so I’m gladly taking them.
  • Kim and I have seen an increase in commercial gigs through Bark, which is super exciting.  Our passion is obviously our private clients, but our commercial clients help us make a really big dent in our bills.  Plus, we’ve been lucky to get really good ones so far, like the cover of Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy’s new book, due out in May.
  • I’ve been brought on as a resource for a non-profit consulting agency that I worked with in my previous life.  This actually is a good tip, so listen up.  On a particularly scary day when I wasn’t sure if I was going to make rent (which happens periodically), I got an email from a former coworker that made reference to said consulting agency and it reminded me that I had not contacted them to let them know of my freelancing availability.  Wouldn’t you know it that right after I sent them an email with my resume, I got a response that was all, “Wow, what perfect timing–we could really use some extra hands!”  So I got steady gigs with them for a few months at the end of the year, right when all nonprofits beef up their end-of-year giving campaigns.  I haven’t gotten anything lately from them, but I’m grateful to be in their pool.  And I discovered I have a new skill that I’m actually really good at: Quality Assurance.  They give me the websites, apps, or whatever they’ve built, and I go through them and read everything, click every link, and put the whole functionality to the test.  Then I tell them everything that’s wrong.  It’s super intense but super fun.  The point here is: use every contact you have from anywhere.  Tell people what you’re doing, what you’re looking for, and how you can help them.  You just never know when they might be looking for what you’ve got.
  • I also worked a lot of hours for my friend Beth, who has the floral design business.  Her busy holiday season meant lots of prepping and delivering that she was gracious enough to let me do.  That helped me close the gap on my January rent.
  • I launched my own writing website: http://www.sarahsypniewski.com
  • And finally, a couple of our media bits have hit recently.  The local news did a spot on how I use technology in my operations at NinjaDog Concepts, a little show called Career Day included Bark in one of their episodes, and I was a guest on Marketplace Money to talk about how people make decisions when spending money on their pet’s health care.

So yeah…there have been really great things that have happened, and those things are my reassurance, my cheerleaders, my motivation.  They say, “you may not have gotten where you want to get yet, but you will.  You’re headed in the right direction, so quit your cryin’ and get back in there, slugger.”

Also, it’s super important to remember when trying to forge your own path: it’s work, man.  All of these things are really awesome…and often, when they happen, people respond with, “wow, you’re famous now,” or “you’ve finally made it!”

No.  We are not and have not.  Despite these wonderful, great successes that Kim and I experience, we are still hustlers.  We are still struggling to make ends meet.  We are not even close to where we need to be, let alone where we’d like to be.

So we keep working.  And working.  And working.

And that’s why this sinkhole terrifies me so much.  Living a leaper’s life takes a ton of motivation, tireless work, and a gut of steel.  And in that sinkhole, I don’t feel anything like that.  I feel totally defeated.  But more than that, I lose so much ground when I’m in that sinkhole.

Look–we all go through times of self-pity, depression, anxiety, or paralysis.  I went through it during my previous life as well.  But the difference there was, I still got paid.  I still made a living, even if I felt a little blue or if I called in sick or something.  If I call in sick or have a down day now, it impacts everything.

So the pressure is on.

It’s always on.

The ironic thing, of course, is one of the big reasons I left my career back in 2010 was because of the constant pressure I was under there.  This is similar, but different.  And even though I’m still dealing with constant stress, I’m glad I’m here.  I still wouldn’t trade it or go back.  Despite the constant threat of the sinkhole, I am actually quite content.

I guess the point of this post is to let you know that the sinkhole will probably find you too, and I just hope this might help you to be ready.  Be prepared for some really, really hard times.  There’s an amazing quote by Ira Glass that sums it up.  My sister was the first to bring it to my attention quite a few months ago, and I’ve seen it several times since.  I think it’s right on the er–money.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep fighting.  I’m not sure how much more I have left in me.  I may not be meant to be a writer.  I can’t figure it out.  I can’t find my place yet.  I can’t make a living, which definitely makes me miserable on a certain level.  But on the other hand, I still have this voice that eggs me on: “your place is out there.  Somewhere.  Keep going!”  That’s all well and good, but while I keep going, is it too much to ask for some cereal in the cupboard?  After all, that’s good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

It's good enough for Seinfeld

It's good enough for Seinfeld

We Have Liftoff: a 9/11 Journey Ten Years Later

10 Sep

*Apologies ahead of time.  This is not a funny cartoony post.  I’m sorry I’m not very entertaining at the moment.  Nonetheless, perhaps someone out there will see themselves in my post–perhaps someone will find solace here.*

The day’s here–I’m on my way to New Jersey to take part in the 9/11 Working Dog Recognition Ceremony.  I’m actually writing to you from the plane (thank you, Southwest Wi-Fi).

I’m finding it really difficult to put into words everything that’s going on in my heart and head.  I am overwhelmed with emotion already.  Kim and I watched some 9/11-anniversary coverage last night.  I was–as always–simultaneously horrified and comforted by the images and stories.  It’s hard to explain, but I have this need to constantly relive it…or bear witness to it…or…something.  And I wasn’t even there, you know?  I was not a victim.  I don’t understand it.

It’s been 10 years since I was at Pier 94 and my heart still feels like it’s breaking for all of those trapped people.  All of the people who tried to help them.  All of the last calls, mayday calls, and sheer desperation.  The panic in their voices.  The refusal of emergency workers and responders to hesitate.  Their dogs who went where they couldn’t.

There are some memories I have that I don’t know are real or not.  I remember the mission switching from rescue to recovery.  But how could I?  I didn’t even get to NYC until October.  It’s things like this that make me feel crazy.  I know this post isn’t even making any sense…but I have to just keep going to try.

It’s all jumbled.  What did I live and what did I see on TV?  What did I actually hear from a real person and what did I read in my archives the New York Post that I hoarded from my hotel?  And how have my dreams and nightmares warped it?

Going to New York to respond to 9/11 was my first visit to that great city and though I’ve been back there so many times over the last decade, every time I go, I still feel it as it felt in those weeks of post-9/11 madness, loss, and resolve.  The grief and comfort compete constantly.

And I wasn’t even there.  I was not there when it happened. I was not assigned to Ground Zero–and never even went there to visit.  Nonetheless, it felt like the whole city–the whole world–was Ground Zero.   We put on our uniforms, we moved through our operations, we took our orders from handwritten memos and posted flyers as policy and procedure was developed on the fly.

It’s all fragmented.  Flashes of stuff.  And even though I can’t put it all together yet in a way that makes sense to anyone outside of my head, it blankets me–always.  I can feel its weight often.  The confusing thing is I’m not sure I want to change it.  It’s been with me for ten years and sometimes it wraps me up and holds me in a certain way.  It’s weird.  Why can’t I put it down?  And why do I kind of not want to if I could?

I can remember the fall coming in–my favorite time to be in a city–taking the subway and walking through the autumn streets to get to my post at the Pier every day.

I will always remember those huge walls–inside and out–full of faces.  Mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children–all but gone–kept alive by one thin piece of paper posted amongst thousands.

I feel like an imposter, a stranger… like this was someone else’s tragedy but I can’t stop feeling like it was mine.  I cannot resolve that I do not have a right to feel this way but still, I feel it.

During my service, I lived the response 24-7, like everyone else…I did my job.  I served my clients and grieved with them.  And I gave myself over to New York.  I lived the response.  And then I came home.  10 years ago.  But I can’t stop living the response.*

It is for these reasons that I am so sad and so happy and scared and embarrassed and ashamed and proud.  As it’s been for the past 10 years, I don’t know where I belong or where to put my heart when it comes to 9/11.

So I’ll just keep flying until I land…

The pilgrimage begins

Going back ten years later


*to read more about my time in New York in 2001, visit www.tdi-dog.org.  My piece, How The Therapy Dogs Saved Us: Behind the Scenes Healing from 9/11, is on their homepage (under my original poem from 2001)

Well, I Didn’t Blow Myself Up

18 Aug

Well…I made it!

I have officially written and blogged for 7 days in a row.

That might not seem like much to you, but this is a major achievement for me.

I think about where I was a week ago…actually, I’ll back farther–like, a month.

I was smack in the middle of a slump.  We had finished our book except for the final edits, a big freelance account was coming to a close, and I just wasn’t sure what I was going to do.  I also had not one iota of desire to write.  And it was paralyzing.

It seemed all I did during my “previous” life was spend hours I didn’t have writing emails that didn’t need to be written…the kind full of narrative and exposition and you know…writing.  Just because I wanted to.  Just because I felt it.  And I’d find inspiration in my daily doings–sitting back in the middle of management meetings to watch my colleagues collaborate with so much heart and smarts or driving home from work in the moody but huggy fog–and I’d just have to write.

I left my life behind because in my soul, I just felt like I was a writer.

And immediately, things took off.  I was rockin and rollin right outta the gate, and I was feeling pretty dang pleased with myself.  And then somewhere around mid-June, it just started fizzling out a little and no matter what I did to try to fan that little flamelette, nothing was catching.  For a few weeks, I was worried, but okay.  After a month of it, I was consciously starting to ignore the depression that was tap-tap-tapping at my window.

I managed to push out the Freelance Hustle at the end of June, and then that was it.  I went into a dark hole of not having anything to write about or say and not knowing why.  And then I started doubting everything and trying to make myself as small as possible on the universal radar.  I even dissed Coacherly the Great because of a scheduling snafu that I couldn’t recover from.  We had arranged a session after a couple of tries, but a vet appointment for one of the tiny snarling beasts ran long on the day we were finally supposed to talk, and I felt so ashamed of not being able to keep a simple appointment, that I just disappeared.  When I’m that low, I can’t bear to face anyone, even after tiny hiccups that aren’t my fault.  I just can’t bring myself to lay my failure at anyone’s feet.

Luckily, Coacherly the Great is a talented and encouraging man.  He didn’t let me get away.  He used his powers of email to blast through my feeble wall, and caught me at a good time.

I was in a weeklong Grantsmanship Center training to learn how to write grants, and it had raised my mood significantly.  Going to class every day for 5 days was just what I needed.  I got to be around other people (something that’s distinctly missing from home-based offices, for better or worse), got to use my brain and collaborate and try new things and feel productive and like I could really do something with this new skill.  I felt alive again!  So when I got Andrew’s email, I responded and knew I would keep the appointment he invited me to try again for.  And well, you all know what happened during that.

The biggest thing that stuck with me from that session is the theory he had around why I wasn’t writing.  Or, why I wasn’t feeling like I had anything to write about, after I had totally changed my life to make room for it.

He said that sometimes, our internal saboteurs are crafty mothers, and they have a real way of messing us when we’re trying to just git er dun, you know?  It’s like the universe is testing us to see if we REALLY want what we say we do.  It’s just a big chess game, is all it is.  Like, I took the leap to leave my job and my immediate reward of a book contract kept me busy for 9 months (check), but I haven’t written much of my own stuff (brought my queen out too early).  So now that I have the time, the tricky, doubting devils inside have made me believe I have nothing to say (dang–took my queen).  Just to eff with me.  Just to see how badly I want this.  Well, I wanted it (still have my rook–didn’t see it there, didya?).

So I embarked on that Experiment.  And now that I’m at the end of it, here are my conclusions:


  • I can’t believe how fast it went
  • I will miss doing this every day–I don’t want this to end
  • I feel like I know a lot more about who I am as a writer
  • I actually believe that I am a writer–it’s not just an affirmation written across the dry erase board in my office

And most of all, my hypothesis was proven.  I thought 7 days would be long enough to create enough momentum to form a habit.  And it totally did.  And that–more than anything else that happened this week–is what means the most.  Because it means that even though I didn’t feel like I did at the time, I actually had faith in myself.  I couldn’t see it or feel it, but I actually was willing to believe I could write for 7 days.  And then I did.  This week was the vision I’ve had of myself–excusing myself to my office on a schedule to write, feeling articulate, having people to write to, staying up late, getting up early…riding the wave.

I’m so tired…but so, so happy.  I managed to shake the cobwebs out and create some energy here (but not now. Now, I have to sleep), and I’m so grateful and excited.

The only question now is, what’s next?

I had a request today to keep blogging every day.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep that pace up, but I will definitely be doing it a lot more now.  It feels like a lifestyle now as opposed to something on a to do list.  And I love it.  So who knows what’s next?  Anything’s possible–so long as I continue to LEAP.


How about you guys?  Any of you fight with yourself?  How do you beat your saboteurs?  I hope you will share your stories of success or trade ideas here.  We’re all in this together.


Well, I didn't blow myself up





Day 5 or “How About I Reward You With a Freshly Pressed?”

16 Aug

**Disclaimer: this post is having an identity crisis.  I’ve changed its name twice now.  I can’t decide which I like better.  The alternate is “Day 5, Otherwise Known as Day AWESOME!”  I apologize for any confusion or discomfort this may cause.**

Gosh, where do I even start?  It’s almost 9 pm here in Santa Monica, and I’m trying to eek this out before the clock strikes twelve.  It is, after all, Day 5 of The Experiment, no matter what other plans Freshly Pressed has.

I’d really like to take you through every minute of today–every crazy, whirlwind, dreamy moment–and give you pictures to boot.  But, I gotta level with ya–I don’t have time for that right now if I’m to continue meeting my goal of a blog a day.  I’ll make you a deal, though–if you promise to come back, I’ll run the whole thing down for you tomorrow, complete with illustrations.  Deal?

For now, I’m still in awe.  I’ve been going full steam ahead since about 9 am, when my inbox first heralded the arrival of something special.  Not only did I suddenly find myself smack in the middle of sudden blogstardom, but I had a mean deadline to meet today.  The last thing I needed was another reason to obsess over my blog.  Before you start throwing things (like Malibu bottles) at my daft head, I’M NOT COMPLAINING!  Ha, not even close.  I just mean that it was an insane day–of the best kind–so I apologize for the timestamp on this bad boy.  I also must offer my olive branch for not yet responding to any of the amazingly supportive and generous comments I’ve gotten today.   I’ve wanted to–believe me, it took every ounce of my willpower to totally log off this afternoon so I could have any hope of scoring a couple of gigs I’m up for later in the week–but I haven’t been able to.  I guess it’s a good thing my self-control won the arm wrestling match of its life against my ego.  It usually doesn’t.  But what can I say?  Ol’ SC is a clutch player, I tell you.  CLUTCH.

But I digress.

My point is that before I sleep tonight, I will lovingly tend to all of the wondrous greetings and cheers you’ve been kind enough to leave behind for me.  I am so excited to meet all of you and I am beyond humbled and grateful that you clicked, you read, and you “get it”!  I know you can relate when I say I just never know if what I see in my own brain quite translates to the page–er, screen.  It’s tremendously gratifying to see all of the “me toos!” amongst you.

And as for the rest of you–you know, the ones who believed I had something worth saying before WordPress did–I write for you.  I’ve always written for you.  And that won’t change.  It’s nice that a few other someones who don’t share my DNA or FB wall think I’m worth it, too.  But I know you Early Believers will be around long after my hit count slinks back down the alley from whence it came.

Thanks for making my Freshly Pressed day amazing

Thanks for making my Freshly Pressed day amazing

More than anything, I’m left reeling in amazement at what happens as I continue to leap.  Not tiptoe, or scurry…not shuffle or crawl…but LEAP!  Like, with everything.  I started this blog back in October when I took the very first leap as a way to document whether a net would truly appear or not.  You might remember how I got a book contract a mere four months after I left my ten-year career (and believe me, I toiled over that decision for months…even a year or more).  If you weren’t with us back then, take a peek here.  That was the start of this whole thing.

Since then, I’ve been trying to make my way in this freelance/writing/I-hope-I hit-the-jackpot-but-if-not-at-least-can-I-make-enough-to-eat forest.

The last few months have been tough.  Luckily, Bark’s been kickin, so I’ve been living off of that pretty much.  But the writing’s been non-existent and the slump has been an evil, evil bastard…so when I accepted that challenge Coach McGoates put before me less than a week ago to blog EVERY SINGLE DAY, I felt like I had finally made the turn.  I just didn’t know how big of a turn it would be in 5 short days.  Let me repeat.  Last Friday, I agreed to go from blogging once a month (or less, if I wasn’t inspired) to blogging every day for a week, just to get myself writing.  Just to see what would happen.  Well something happened, alright.  The universe just high-fived me and bought me a round of Miami Vices, all at once.  Anyone want one?

Please, take one.  Join me in raising a glass to LEAPING.  To being caught in a freaking black hole and being willing to fight to stick a hand out.  To being presented with and recognizing an opportunity to grow–and to taking it.  To knowing that creating the life I want is not always going to be easy or inspiration-filled.  Sometimes, it takes good ol’ fashioned my-quads-are-burning-can-we-stop-now-WORK.  Sometimes, I have to look that mean ol’ bastard apathy in the face.  And then slap the smile right off it.

You know, Mr. Coach always likes to ask me how I measure success, how I want to celebrate things, or reward myself for achievements.  Going into this challenge, I told him (like I always do), the process itself would be the reward.  And I meant it.  I felt like if I could make it through a whole week of blogging daily, I would have discovered it was possible and I would have created enough momentum for it to maybe stick around a little.  And if nothing else, it would be a big F YOU to the monster of slumpville lurking in the shadows.  Of course, I pointed out, I’d use the hit counts and comments on my blog to keep me going when the times got tough.  And I reminded him that obviously, the dream of any blogger is to get discovered–for the right person at the right time to stumble across the right blog–and that I was no different.  He proclaimed, “I fully believe the right person at the right time will see you.”  And I said, “I hope you’re right.  But either way, I’m going to do this.  It doesn’t matter what the outcome is.  I’m just going to commit, and I’m going to leap.  It’s worked for me so far.”

Little did I know, Freshly Pressed was even within the realm of possibility.  Mind you, the post they picked up was an old one.  But I fully believe my sudden increase in posting and traffic had a big hand in this.

So thank you, universe, for catching me as I continue to hurl myself off cliffs in the darkest of night, time and time again.  And thank you, kind readers, for being there with flashlights…just in case.


An Experiment in Terror

12 Aug

Okay, so I just got off the phone with my fabulous coach, Andrew.  He’s been coaching me on all sorts of stuff; not just my writing, although today, that’s what we talked about.  He had asked me what I wanted to work on during our session today, and I told him I really wanted to build up some momentum around my writing because I just don’t really feel like I’ve been doing any lately.  I told him I wanted to get into a rhythm and practice…you know, like all good writers do.

“And what would that look like to you–‘getting into a rhythm and practicing’?” he asked in his coachly way.

“Oh, I dunno…like, writing every day…about…whatever.  I wouldn’t care if it was even just five minutes, but I want to make it a goal to write every day so I can get into the habit and just shake the cobwebs out.  I mean, I just don’t feel like writing is a big enough part of my life.”

“Mmhmmm, mhhhmmm.”

(he’s very supportive and always actively listens).

“Well, you have a blog, right?”

I didn’t see it coming.  I should have.  I don’t know why I didn’t.  I was probably too busy trying to come up with things to write about for 5 whole days in a row, so when he said, “what if you posted a blog entry every day next week,” I was literally shocked–it was as if he had slapped me across the face.  If he were sitting in front of me, I would’ve punched him in the gut in response.  But (lucky for him) this was a phone consult, so instead, he heard silence.  And then,

“Well, that’s truly terrifying.  But also, it’s a little invigorating and exciting.”

I meant the first part–obvi.  The second part was mostly true, but in the same way an Ironman might be “invigorating and exciting.”

Usually, my posts take me two or more days to write, so cranking out one a day would be an achievement in and of itself, I told Mr. Coachy Coach.  Whenever I write one, I’m very focused on making sure my posts have something of value in them, are funny and smart, and stay true to my “brand…” all while not overburdening people’s inboxes.

In order to keep a one-a-day pace, I’d have to let go of all of it.  I’d have to risk posting petty, clichéd entries.  I’d have to risk getting boo’d offstage, looking like a fool, and radio silence from my “audience.”  I’d have to stop thinking about writing and just write.

The more we talked, the more terrified I became.

“That’s how you know this is something important!” Andrew assured me.

So we talked through it a little more and finally, I gave him my word that I’d accept this little challenge of his and see what happens.  After all, the worst thing that could happen is that someone scrawls hate messages all over the comments section (so what, I’ll delete them or beat them at their own game with my witty and cutting retort)…and then starts an Internet-wide campaign about how horrible of a writer I am (Facebook isn’t THAT big)…and then next ….oh, you know, like I’ll never have a hope of making it.  Meh.  No big deal.

So here it goes.  My experiment in terror.  I apologize in advance for whatever comes of this.  If you have to unsubscribe, I’ll understand (my goal is to have at least one remaining subscriber by the end of this).

It’s just a little exercise.  It’s been too long since I’ve leapt, so I figure I’m overdue anyway.  I’m getting a little soft around the middle.  With any luck, by this time next week, my keyboard will have a killer six-pack and you won’t think I totally suck.

There’s Something I Have to Tell You

22 Jun

I’m just gonna put this out there:

I have no idea what I’m doing.  No, seriously.

There!  I said it…

What a load off!

Maybe I should say it again:

<Ahem> I have no idea what I’m doing….oooo!  Yes, that feels even better…maybe I should shout it, and indicate that by using caps lock:


Niiiiccce….I’ve got goosebumps.

Now all I need are the hyenas from Lion King, and it’ll be an all-out tingle-fest.

Look…I’ve survived the past nine months of chasing this little dream here.  At times, I’ve more than survived.  I’ve actually enjoyed it and even found some bits of success here and there.  But I have no idea what I’m doing, where I’m going, or what I’ll do when I’m there (course, that’s assuming I recognize it when I arrive).

We all know my big declaration was that I want to be a writer, but I need to admit something to you all that I’ve been carrying around for way too long:

I haven’t the faintest clue what that means.

YES!  Another truth grenade, thrown right atcha.  Man, that feels good!  I should’ve done this MONTHS ago!  AHAHAHAHAHA!  It’s been weighing me down and keeping me up nights as I wait for the ambition police to come crashing through my windows at 2 am to unearth me from a dog pile (in my paranoid nightmare, I assume the dead weight of a 70-pound pit bull is nothing to them, since they are the ambition police after all, and they spend, like, 7 days a week in the gym–duh), wrestle me out of my quilt, and haul me into a holding cell designed for impostors and good intentions (you can tell where you are because of the freshly paved path just outside).

I guess I’m just not really sure what sort of achievements or jobs or contracts or deals one must possess in order to claim the title of “writer.”  I’m not sure how many days in a row I have to wear the same clothes and a hat because my creative process can’t be bothered to take a shower in order to earn the right to write.  And I’m not clear on how many gallons of coffee I have to drink whilst holed up in the corner of a café or diner or wherever I’m supposed to go to pound out brilliance.  I don’t know when I need to start carrying a notebook around with me or what exactly I should jot down in it…but I’m sure I probably need to do that before I can be considered decent and proper.  And I think I have to find some readings to attend. And I bet I have to belong to a group of my challenging-yet-supportive peers that meets every Wednesday in a big old house with a fireplace, hardwood floors, and a massive grey cat.  And I’m certain I have to start calling it “my craft.”

Well, I've been wearing the same jacket, hat, and chihuahua for two days. That must mean something.

So…I’m not sure when that will all happen, or if it will happen, or if I want it to happen.   Weird, huh?  I just don’t know.  The thing is, I love to write…so at least on some level, I feel mostly honest when I answer the question of “so…what do you do?” with “I write.”  That part I can handle.  What happens next–not so much.

The trouble starts with the inevitable follow-up question: “oh really?  So what do you write?”  That’s where the wheel comes off the cart.  It’s well-meant…probably full of kindness and interest, but my insecurity takes it as a major affront and desperately tries to redirect the spotlight.

“Well…you know…words. “

That’s how I’d like to answer that question.  But instead, I usually respond by prattling on about my latest jobs, sprinkle some unintelligible hums that show how ponderous I am throughout and finish strong with a mention of the book–ah, my anchor.

But really–I just write.  I don’t have a genre, I’m not working on a novel, and I don’t have a portfolio.  I write whatever I feel like writing or whatever earns me some rent money (speaking of…I’m currently available for anything you might need written or edited or turned into a screenplay of nothing but movie quotes).  I’ll write a resume, I’ll write website copy, I’ll write an article about how your grandma’s apple pie is like a Boeing 747.   I’ll blather on for pages about the camping trip I just took with you, compose a song about your dogs, or take over your company’s Facebook page and fill it with nothing but pithy and engaging status updates.

I just write…which is what a writer is in the simplest terms possible, I suppose.  But still, I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m not sure how much longer I can keep it up before I’m carted off.

And also–what’s my anchor going to be when this book is done?  I need another one–and fast.  I have a bunch of ideas…but that just brings up a whole new set of problems:

When do ideas shift from being a pile of amorphous clicks on a keyboard to an actual book?  At what point do I get to answer the “what are you working on now” gem with, “ah–brilliant of you to ask…I’m currently working on a wonderful memoir wherein I tell the life story of my late cousin through vignettes of my time spent in the woods of Michigan ” instead of “well, I’ve been scratching some things down on scrap paper from time to time and reminiscing about my childhood camping trips but really–I have no clue if these things will even fit together to form a sentence, let alone a book so really–I’m not working on anything except developing a taste for ketchup sandwiches ”?

I don’t really know.  I don’t even kind of  know.  But if you do…or you feel like trying to figure it out with me…or you want to hire me to create a loving yet humorous tribute to beer for your local Oktoberfest…or you just want to put me out of my misery, hit me up.  But please–email or text only.  I’ll need to flash that evidence to get out of the holding cell.

Life in the Heart Lane

3 Apr

I try to use this blog as a way to help others who are trying to follow their dreams.  I hope to provide some sort of roadmap (even if it’s only a sketch) so you can go out and pursue the career, endeavors, and life you want!  I try to document what I’m doing and what’s working (and what’s not) in my business and writing.

But a big part of living this life of a freelancer/entrepreneur for me is being available to spend time on the things I love…but that don’t make me any money.  A big part of this life is all about being available to appease my true heart and spirit for charity and service work…and, as you probably know by now, it’s all about the animals!

This weekend, something special happened.  But before I get to that, I have to back up to where it began.

Back in January, my friend and fellow animal rescuer, Sarah Grooters, made it her goal to raise enough money to buy beds for every kennel at the South L.A. Animal Shelter.  That’s 144 beds.  And they aren’t just any beds.  They are elevated, aluminum-framed, vinyl shelter-approved beds.  You see, the reason most shelters don’t provide fabric beds, blankets, or even towels to their animals is because those items are difficult to manage.  The beds get peed on (and worse), the dogs can tear them up and ingest them, and the shelter would need a whole team dedicated just to washing these items and maintaining them.  Sarah worked with shelter staff and volunteers to choose a bed that would work.

And she set her goal.

Kim sits on the board of Lu Parker Project with Sarah.  LPP, along with Shifting Gears Cycling Four Paws, Colors in Bloom, and Bark, of course, took up the challenge.  We decided to use Valentine’s Day as a launching pad and created the Have a Heart, Donate a Bed Campaign.  Thanks to Beth Brown’s procurement of donated flowers, we were able to give people a free bouquet and card for their $65 donation to the campaign.  And more importantly, we were able to buy one bed for the shelter in their name.

Sarah didn’t have any idea this would work as well as it did.  She thought it would take months to reach her goal.

Well, it didn’t take months.  By February 14, we had raised over $14,000–enough to upgrade to the aluminum-framed, large size beds for every kennel.

This weekend, we got to assemble and place them in the shelter…but that’s not the really good part.

The really good part just came a second ago.  Two of the tireless, amazingly committed, young shelter volunteers–Yesenia and Jamie–just let me know that some of the dogs have been sleeping on the beds ALL DAY.  And some of them are even SNORING.

This makes my heart sing.  Some of them can finally rest…after days, weeks, or months (or maybe their whole lives) of not being able to.  It’s an incredible gift to have been able to give–a gift of relief and of comfort.  It’s a tremendous thought to ponder that maybe these dogs will be able to relax, at least for a little while.  That maybe they will be able to take a break from their constant barking, pacing, and gnawing at the bars in anxiety.  That maybe–just maybe–they can climb up off the cold, wet floor and fall into a sleep so deep their bodies and minds might steal not only a moment to refresh and rebuild themselves, but also to dream.  Maybe they’ll be able to run through fields and play fetch with little kids, and hog the bed in some really rich person’s house.

South LA shelter dog enjoys his new bed

This cute little one got right on his new bed and wouldn't leave!

I know this isn’t the end all to total shelter overhaul.  But it’s a step.  And we’re going to keep at it until we DO overhaul it.

And I feel so happy and grateful that I have the time to give to this.

You don’t have to quit your job to be able to help the animals–believe me, they’ll gratefully use even just an hour of your spare time–but it’s a great, important perk to this lifestyle.

They say when you go into business for yourself, you work as much as or more than you do when you work for someone else.  I have found that to be totally true.  Now that I’m in business for myself, I spend a lot of time in the fast lane, busting my butt to do all the work I can get.  But I also have found that I am more willing to give up my billable hours and slide into the other lane (I can’t call it the “slow lane,” cuz anyone who does animal rescue KNOWS that’s not true, so I’ll call it my “heart lane”) to serve my animal friends, even though it comes at a higher financial price.

So when you set out on your path–your glorious, unseen but need-to-be-traveled path–remember to pave it wide so you can take your heart along.

To see more photos of the bed project, click here.

Don Your Yeti Sweater or “Don’t Worry; the Money Will Come.”

2 Mar

All of the dogs are sleeping, my deadlines are quietly gnawing away on the bones I’ve thrown them, and I have at least two and a half hours before Kim comes home.  Quick! How fast can I blog?

I’m trying to decide whether to recap the last few months for you guys or to give you a little “here and now.”

Well…I guess I’ll start by saying my biggest fear when I left ALC was that my financial runway would end before I could lift off with regular cash flow.  When I left, I had a ton of vacation saved up.  The way I figured it, the payout would keep me alive for about 3 months.  I had less than a quarter to get up and running.
Just in case, I paid big bills ahead—like my car insurance and credit card—so I wouldn’t have to worry about them for a while.  I started reigning in the spending and there were natural savings in places like gas for my car (good time to work from home).

Between that and the fact that jobs of different types started coming in right away, I’ve felt surprisingly stable and secure throughout, despite the lack of a steady paycheck.

Until now.

I’ve been working a lot and getting paid on time for the most part and all of that, but it just so happens that I’m waiting on several big payments and a couple of little ones all at once.  A forgotten invoice here, a check-signer’s vacation time there, a bank error over yonder, plus a few random big expenditures and voila!  I’m starting to sweat a little.

I’m not broke…you don’t have to come over with casseroles or hand-me-down sweaters or concerned looks (well, unless it’s a really good vegetarian casserole…or paella…or the Farmer’s Market Vegetarian Sushi Rolls from Ocean & Vine).

Nah, I don’t need charity dinners yet…I’m just ebbing right now.  Lots of things “in the mail.”  Soon, that ebb will flow.

I’ll tell you, though—it gives me a new appreciation for the little guys out here.  When I worked at ALC, we had a regular system for Accounts Payable, just like anywhere else.  Occasionally, there’d be a hiccup, and something wouldn’t get paid on time.  I always felt bad about that…but now I feel REALLY bad.  If you are a contractor I have ever paid late, please accept my sincerest apology…do you like casserole?  May I offer you a hand-knit tunic?


Bigfoot sweater

When I Googled "hand knit tunic," this came up. Though it is not a tunic, it is perfect. May I offer you a Yeti sweater?

And to all those big guys out there—remember that a missed pay period might not be a big deal to you, but to us small outfits, it basically means rent goes unpaid and food for our babies’ tummies goes uneaten.  And then everyone cries.  Okay, okay, I’m being a little dramatic.  Let’s be more practical: the electricity for your jobs goes unconnected.

I’m not complaining.  And really—I don’t hate the big guys.  Not at all.  I’m grateful for the work…and I do have a working cushion I keep for precisely this reason.  I just didn’t think I’d have to dip into it so soon.  This is also the reason I always like to have at least two or three jobs on deck as I’m working.  My goal is to always be:

  • working on a current project
  • waiting on a check—or even better, multiple checks
  • lining up a replacement gig for the current project

That system has been working pretty well for me so far.  I recommend it.  And if you have a big dude named Hans that can run your collections department, you might look into that, too.  All I have is 3 Chihuahuas and a Pit bull who thinks she’s one.

At least I’m busy with writing…and isn’t like practically the rule to be poor if you’re a writer?  So maybe I’m not “coasting on fumes,” but rather—“fully immersing myself in the experience.”  Wow, I’m so committed!

In all seriousness, I’m just a skosh over 5 months into this little experiment, and I’m making it work (a nose above water still counts as “not drowning”).  Another key to this has been having multiple things going on.  When the photography biz is slow, consulting is busy…and vice versa.  And writing?  Well, writing’s always busy.

Kim and I have figured out a really great system so we can write this book together without killing each other.  We have our first major deadline coming up, and we’re in good shape.  Our editor is awesomely supportive and smart and all that…and we’re just chipping away.  It’s intense—no question—but it’s exactly what I wanted.  Plus, I have a few smaller monthly writing gigs that keep me tip-tapping away.

So I guess this entry turned into a little bit of both.  Sure, I want to document my experience to feed my own nostalgia addiction, but I also hope to give tips and tricks…maybe a little cheerleading…to those of you out there who are itching for more…

Those who are starting to wonder or wish for something different…

Those out there who are trying to figure out if it’s even possible…

Those who want to do the same thing…

If I’ve learned nothing from this experience is that you must BELIEVE—whatever that means to you.

For me, right now, that means believing my money will come and my 3 tier system will keep working…as long as I do.

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