writing in WordPress on laptop

When I was a little girl and started visiting my friends’ houses, I remember being blown away by the fact that not every family did things the way my family did. It was a life-transforming revelation to me. Suddenly my world – which had never before seemed limiting – became HUGE, as I realized that there were literally endless possibilities for living one’s life. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the ways that other people live. That fascination is the reason I read so much, and so widely – because I want to discover my options.

I’m especially fascinated by other people’s work habits. One of my favorite blogs is From the Desk of… because it’s a voyeuristic look at writers’ and artists’ creative spaces. I also used to buy all those magazines featuring artists’ and crafters’ studios, for the same reason. I thought, If I can have a peek inside their workspaces, maybe I can begin to unravel how they do what they do. And maybe there’s some gold there for me.

Apart from assignments for school, I didn’t start writing regularly until my late 20s, when I first began seeking out work as a freelance writer. I loved being published (and being paid for my work!), but I found writing for a deadline agonizing. Most of my articles involved interviews with musicians and artists (which was awesome!), but that meant endless hours transcribing interview tapes. I hated transcribing. I also hated being tied to a word count, because that meant making decisions about what to include, and what to leave out. (In retrospect, this was a blessing. It made me a really good editor – quick to discern what’s essential, and what’s superfluous.) I never had a huge problem with procrastination – I always made my deadlines – but I did pull two or three near-all-nighters in order to submit a story on time, usually because the perfectionist in me fretted endlessly over word choice and word order.

Discovering blogging in the fall of 2006 was another revelation to me. For the first time ever, I got to write exactly what I wanted to write, and then see it immediately published. My writing exploded, and I created dozens of blogs as I came up with new ideas for subjects that I wanted to write about. (Most of these didn’t live to see the light of day, mercifully.)

Then I began working in the business and nonprofit sectors, and adapted my skills for proposal writing and technical writing. I still write every day for my paid job, and I appreciate this experience because it’s taught me to be a workhorse. The subject matter may not always be scintillating, but I’ve learned how to write when I’m not inspired, or don’t feel like writing. And I’ve learned that “perfect is the enemy of done.” I’ve learned to release the work to the world, and move on to the next project. I’ve acquired grit and stick-to-it-iveness and discipline. I’ve learned how to be fast and succinct. I’ve gained facility.

Since returning to regular blogging nearly a year ago, though, I’ve been experimenting with my extracurricular creative habits. I know how to be a writing drudge, but is that all there is? I hope not. I’m still looking for something deeper. I have a sense that there’s more to writing than just showing up at the screen. (Any blogger using WordPress will recognize the photo at the beginning of this post… and will probably also know the agony of showing up at that blank screen every time they write.)

I’ve read some amazing books in the last five months, including three by Steven Pressfield that continue to inspire me to explore what’s possible as a writer. The War of Art is about battling resistance to creative work. Do the Work is a step-by-step coaching session through a creative project. And his latest book, Turning Pro, is about crossing the mine field of addictive and diversionary behaviors that incapacitate the artist. It was humbling for me to read this book, because in it I recognized many parts of myself that I’m not proud of. I also recognized that I’ve spent most of my adult life engaged in “shadow careers.”

Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.

Are you pursuing a shadow career?

Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies that you know you have inside you? Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music? Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk becoming an innovator yourself?

If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for.

That metaphor will point you toward your true calling.

There’s no running away from that realization. I know what my calling is. And I know what I need to do. And so I’ll continue to show up, every day, in my free time. And write. And write some more…

why i’ve taken a cold shower every* morning for the past 3 weeks

shower head

*Full disclosure: Okay, two of those mornings I didn’t bathe or have a shower at all. But I swear – all the other mornings, cold showers were had.

Am I crazy? Why would a sane person take cold showers every day?

It’s all because of this book by Julien Smith.

It’s called The Flinch. It’s about recognizing those deeply ingrained habits that we all have – the habits of drawing back from the things that scare us, threaten us, or might hurt us.

The thing is, most of us have become so habituated to flinching, we don’t even notice that we’re doing it.

And the other thing is, it’s not just physical threats we flinch from. It’s emotional, and relationship, and career, and health ones…

And the other, other thing is, it’s not just obvious threats, like your toxic colleague or bad real estate deal.

It’s good things, too – things that can move you forward – things that can free you for the life you’ve always dreamed of – but things blocked by the unconscious fear planted by other, well-meaning folks. Fear you might fail. Fear people will scorn or laugh at you. Fear they will reject you. Fear (gasp!) that you might actually achieve what you want.

The book is free, by the way. In case you’re thinking you might like to read it. You can download it here.


Anyhow, this book has changed my life.

Without this book, I would never have started this website, or gotten out of bed a 5:30 a.m. every morning (even on weekends!) instead of sleeping in, or re-started my daily yoga, or stuck with my meditation practice. Or confronted a friend about a behavior of theirs that was making me uncomfortable.

And I have the cold showers to thank.


Throughout the book, Smith suggests several practial exercises for identifying your own flinches. Taking cold showers for a week is one of the exercises. And as he points out in the book, if you don’t actually go through with it, you lose all the benefits. Because the flinch is a visceral reaction, and the only way to overcome it is by pushing through it. And the lived, physical experience of forcing yourself to go forward (when every cell in your being is screaming “NOOOOO!”) is where the real learning happens. You can’t obtain it rationally.

So I get under that cold stream of water every morning because I don’t want to. I don’t want to, and… I want to learn how to do other things that I don’t want to do.


Take this morning, for example. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I feed my cats a snack every morning at 5:25 a.m., but today I wanted to crawl right back under my warm, comfy duvet as soon as I was done. I wanted to sleep for another hour or two. I had been awake in the middle of the night, after getting to bed late. I hadn’t had much rest. I deserved a lie-in, right?

Wrong. Number one, I get migraines if I disrupt my sleeping habits too much. I need to wake up at the same time every day. Weekends too.

Two, I could just feel the flinch as my mind tried to rationalize going back to bed. And the flinch was my alarm bell.

And because I make myself get under a cold shower every morning, I know what do to when I hear that alarm. I do the hard thing.


I’m sure you’re saying, That’s fine for you, but I don’t have that much discipline.

Yes you do.

You just haven’t trained it.

Like a muscle, it gets stronger with use.

But what good is it to force yourself to do things you don’t like, you may ask.

Speaking from my own experience: A lot of good.


I have many things I want to do before I die. (Someone in my life has cancer right now, so this topic has been heavy on my mind, lately.) I’ve spent many (many) years of my life putting things off until tomorrow. Those books I want to write? That career I want to have? Those works of art I want to create? I can do them all later, right?


Forcing myself to do things I don’t like has an added benefit: I learn how to fight Resistance.*


Yeah, I am pretty crazy. Crazy in love with the me I always wanted to be.

What are you flincing from?


*To learn more about resistance, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.