Ch-ch-ch-changes

Several months ago, I came home to find a stack of cardboard boxes blocking the front door to my apartment. This, of course, is not a rare sight for me. Since Amazon Prime came into my life, my front door has essentially been a daily minefield of packages, all wrapped up in that familiar blue Amazonian tape. The contents of these boxes, by the way, are often mysteries to me. Sometimes I open one thinking it's going to be something sensible like eye cream, but it turns out to be a geode or a whole bunch of gold thumbtacks that I inexplicably ordered in the middle of the night. The point is: I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon, but so do you probably. 

Anyway, on this particular day, the packages blocking my door were not my usual buy-now-with-one-click Prime purchases. Instead, they were a bit...special. Here's what was in them:

lifeless-pile-of-mush-boxed

If you can't tell, those are the printed pre-order copies of my book: Lifeless Pile of Mush! 

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post announcing that I was planning to release a book -- one that you could touch and smell, with pages you could dog-ear and spill coffee on. Now here in these boxes lived the fulfillment of that announcement. It was essentially a box full of dreams come true. 

And you know, I would like to say that I jumped for joy. I would like to say that, upon seeing these books, I attempted my first ever somersault, popped ten consecutive party-poppers, and high-fived a ghost. I would like to say that I called up that one kid I knew in 7th grade, and said, "Hey, it's Christy. Remember me? The girl you once said looked like a hairy snake? Well, guess what? THIS HAIRY SNAKE WROTE A BOOK!"

Sure, I would love to say that I did all of those things. But I didn't. Instead, I stood there for a moment, thumbed through one of the books, and eventually pushed the boxes to a corner of my living room. I would get to them tomorrow. 

It's not that I wasn't excited. Let the record show that I was indeed excited. After all, I poured a hefty amount of life force into creating that book -- drafting it, annotating it, formatting it, replacing sort-of-funny words with more-funny words. Plus, thanks to the cover design by Tim Bauer, it is absolutely stunning. I'm confident that if all of the pages were just filled with the phrase "I'm a big ol' hairy snake" people would still want to put it on their coffee table. And let's be real: that is pretty much all I am looking for. 

So why no jumping? Why no somersaults? Well...it's complicated.

A year ago, I imagined that receiving these books would be the physical representation of the completion of my life's biggest dream. And in a way, they were exactly that. However, along with being a symbol of completion, the sight of these books also felt a lot like a symbol of change. 

The truth is life has been strikingly different for me lately. If you check in here every once in a while, you may have noticed that I haven't written in this blog for over eight months. (I can't for the life of me remember the last time I went more than a month in my adult life without blogging.) As I have mentioned in previous posts, I started a grad program in mental health counseling, and needless to say, it's been busy. I won't bore you with details of my busyness because everyone is busy, and to be entirely honest, it's probably one of my least favorite topics of conversation. But the point is: it's been a lot. And more important, it's been a new type of a lot. 

When I started this program, I thought, "Oh, no big deal. I'll just integrate writing with psychotherapy. I'll make a hybrid career, and it will be easy. Perhaps I'll even have time for yoga."

But I have not had time for yoga. Or top notch hygiene, for that matter.

In fact, as is expected during a masters program, my life has been all but taken over by school. Along with my studies, I started a position as a graduate assistant, I am in the midst of my clinical fieldwork, and I have a whole heapin' helpin' of clients in my care. On an almost daily basis, I use words like "countertransference," "psychodynamic," and "neural integration." Hell, I recently submitted a fifteen-page paper titled "A Perspective of Holism: Subject Analysis Through Individual Psychology." Next month, I'll be presenting RESEARCH at a conference! WITH DATA AND STUFF!

The point is a whoooooooole lot about my life is different -- from the way I spend my time to the language I use to the things I care about. Sometimes I feel as though I must have somehow slipped into an alternate reality. A few months ago, I was a writer. Today, I am very much a therapist.

And when those books showed up on my doorstep, that fact seemed to crystalize. Opening the packages felt somewhat like opening a gift from my former self. My writer self -- the quirky lady with the kooky, creative day job. Perhaps every author feels like that when they first hold the final copy of their book in their hands. That feeling of wait what, did I actually make this???? (Seasoned authors, can you weigh in on this please?)

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is less about the book and more about what the book represents: the fact that I was one thing and now I am something else.

And being something else is scary.

It involves being a living example of a concept that we always believe to be theoretically true but struggle sometimes to prove: that people can change. It's a double whammy, in fact, because not only can people change, but YOU can change. And you have changed, and now nothing will ever be the same. (It's perhaps not as dramatic as all that, but you catch my drift.)

Stranger still, sometimes change can be entirely internal. Sometimes you can wear the same sweatshirt every day and eat the same avocado on toast for breakfast and appear, by all accounts to those in your life, completely and utterly the same. And yet, there is something different. Something significantly, intangibly different. And tomorrow, you are thinking about adding some sriracha to that toast. 

All of that said, change is weird. We are right to resist it. It is uncomfortable and draining and, no one tells you this, but it also tends to be accompanied by emergent wrinkles under your eyes.

But on the flip side, change is also beautiful, wonderful, necessary, and if nothing else, natural. 

And that's sort of where I'm at right now. In the natural place. The place that is built on a sturdy enough foundation even though it lacks some refinement. I like it here, and I think I'll stay a while.

So as I have historically done at the end of these blog posts, I want to extend the same permission for others that I am trying to extend to myself: it's okay if you are changing. It's okay if life looks all kinds of different than you thought it would. It's okay if your goals, expectations, relationships, or interests change shapes entirely. It's okay.

At least that's what I'm telling myself. 

What I Learned From Teaching My First E-Course

Remember back in December when I was shouting from the rooftops about something called Do The Damn Thing? Well, for the last eight weeks, I have been doing the damn thing -- the damn thing being teaching my very first e-course, Do The Damn Thing

In teaching your an e-course, you may end up learning just as much as your students. In this post, I've included some of the lessons I learned from the amazing individuals who joined me for my first ever course on creative confidence, Do The Damn Thing. Click through to get the full scoop!

This weekend, I sent out my final module to my students just after shedding a solitary tear and just before popping a big ol' bottle of champagne (I'm a big fan of treating myself). Really and truly, I could not have asked for a better group of people to be a part of my first course. For the last two months, I've not only delivered them my thoughts and discoveries on the creative process, but I've also had the privilege of hearing their stories and walking alongside them as they embarked on the truly terrifying work of starting a creative endeavor. It's been a blast and a half. 

Do The Damn Thing is easily one of the biggest projects I've ever tackled, potentially the biggest, and now that it's over and done with, I figured it might be beneficial to reflect on some of the things I learned throughout teaching this course.

Now, just to set expectations, here's a disclaimer: this is not going to be a particularly business-heavy post. I'm not going to be digging deep into how I got people to sign up, what programs I used to deliver my course, or anything like that. While those things are definitely important, there are people on the Internet who are way more excited and far more skilled to talk about them than I am.

Instead, I'd rather talk about the actual emotional experience of coordinating a course of this nature as well as the powerful creative lessons I've learned from interacting with my amazing students.

Again, I really dig those folks and I've also got a lot of feelings, so yeah, let's do this. 

Why I did it

This last year has been a growing one for me in more ways than one. You may have recently read my uber honest post about how 2015 was the year I finally, after struggling for several years, found help for my depression. Around the time that I started seeing improvements in my mental health, I also noticed that I suddenly had a lot of creative desire that wasn't there before. I mean, I've always prided myself on being a creative person, and hello, I'm a writer by trade, but in the throws of depression, creativity seemed to be this thing that escaped me. Just like all of my emotions, I consistently lacked the "feeling" of creativity. 

But suddenly and without warning, I found myself once again bursting at the seams with creative energy. It was wonderful, but it was also incredibly frustrating. Even though my creative mojo was back in full force, I had been out of the game for so long that I simply had no idea what to do with it. I couldn't figure out how to channel it effectively.

And thus came a major season of trial, error, and lots and lots of help. I started a local creative collective with a friend of mine, signed up to work with a creative business coach (best decision of my career thus far, by the way, and I'll definitely be sure to tell you more about that later, promise), and I started devouring any creative resource I could get my hands on. Like a weird, obsessive moth to a flame, I became fixated on the idea of creativity. Where does it come from? How does one channel it? How do the pros develop solid creative habits? Why do I know so many brilliant, imaginative people who aren't pursuing their creative passions?

In doing this, as is usually the case when putting considerable effort towards something, I started seeing some serious results. Unlike any other time in my life, I had a legitimate creative routine and I was feeling, well, prolific. In fact, people started remarking that they were noticing a marked shift in the stuff I was creating and releasing online. And I'm not going to lie, I was noticing it too.

As I was getting ready to launch this new website all about creativity and confidence, I knew I wanted to share these lessons in a way that was more in-depth than just a simple blog post. So one night, I sat down in front of my idea wall (yes, I have an idea wall. What of it?) with a ton of sticky notes and I started creating this mess:

That brainstorming process led to a course idea about getting creatively unstuck which led to a cheeky title called "Do The Damn Thing" which led to a sales page which led to incredible people signing on to get moving on projects that mattered. Blast off!

What I learned

You'd think that I, being the all-knowing authority on creativity that I purport to be, would have nothing to left to learn. But au contraire. As far as I'm concerned, Do The Damn Thing was not so much about what I knew, but rather it was my selfish attempt to gather a collection of creative experts around me. Sure, they were stuck creatives, as many of us often are, but they had plenty of wisdom to share. 

Throughout teaching this course, I also had the experience of learning those highly unsticky lessons -- the ones that are so valuable, so monumentally important, but for some reason, you have to relearn them over and over again throughout the course of your life. Here are just a few:

1. Creative blocks can happen to ANYONE

Let me give you a rundown of the kind of talent that was running rampant in this course. Here are just a few of the insanely amazing projects folks were working on throughout DTDT: a standup comedy set (from one of the funniest humans I've ever met), a creative services business (photography, writing -- this girl can do it all), a party supply company with the most fantastic premise that I'm dying to tell you what it's all about but I should probably keep it a secret (but ugh I want to tell you), multiple blogs, a gorgeous photography series, and a crime novel that I legitimately cannot wait to read. Among this group of creatives, we had a lawyer, two digital marketing specialists, a textile designer, an actor, a TV producer, a 7th grade teacher, a writer, a college administrator -- you know what I'm getting at: these Do The Damn Thing Folks = LEGIT.

AND YET even these brilliant, successful, good-head-on-their-shoulders kind of people all shared one common bummer: they were stuck. 

Just like bedbugs or having an anvil fall on your head or getting some kind of skin crawling bacteria from a hot tub, creative blocks can happen to literally any person in the world. No matter how successful you are, no matter how long you have been working at it, no matter how much of a genius your friends tell you that you are -- you can still get stuck.

It's one of those things I've always known intellectually, and of course, I've heard some of my favorite artists throughout history speak of their struggles with the creative process, but it's sometimes a hard thing to believe (SUURE, Stephen King, you had writer's block while writing Bag of Bones. SUUUuuUUUReee, Elizabeth Gilbert, you experienced creative anxiety after releasing one of the most popular books of the decade). Even in my own experiences with being creatively stuck, I have to admit that I felt unconvinced that others would struggle so similarly.

That said, if it can happen to the solid folks in this course, it can happen to anyone. On one hand, of course, that seems somewhat disappointing. But on the other hand, it's strangely liberating. It means that no matter how alone you feel in creative frustration, there is someone out there, likely someone closer than you think, going through the exact same thing. You're not alone. No one is. 

2. Providing clarity for someone else is an inexplicable joy

There is just nothing quite as gratifying as helping someone figure out a creative plan (maybe having a baby. Maybe. I mean, I don't know what that's like. People seem to really dig it. But I can't speak to it, so whateva).

Throughout this course, I really tried to keep my door open for anyone who needed a bit of extra help, and in doing so, I found that I became so invested in the stories these new friends were telling me. It's as though their struggles were my struggles and their victories were mine as well, which I realize may have been a little selfish, but whatever, I'm selfish.

Going into this course, I pretty much thought that Do The Damn Thing would be all about the content: the modules and the weekly group emails. And while those things were SO. FLIPPIN. FUN. to create, it was ultimately the interpersonal connections that provided me with the most joy. The emails, the messages, the phone calls I got to jump on with the students who opted in for consultations -- these were the highlights for me.

It was that unique experience of being able to afford someone else the grace and perspective that I often deny myself. It gave me the chance to look at individuals who impress me and say, "You have SO MUCH to offer!" with full certainty that what I was saying was true. In fact, I fell so hard for the idea of helping creatively stuck people find clarity that I've decided to continue offering consultations as a service (pssssttt...you can book yours right here). At this point, it's one of my favorite things to do, so I figured, why stop now?

3. Fear is not destroyed or avoided; it's challenged and followed.

Here's a short list of some of the fears that the people in this course expressed (myself included) that kept them from pursuing creative work:

1. Fear of not being good enough/talented enough/skilled enough to make something that matters
2. Fear of trying and failing
3. Fear of trying and succeeding and still being dissatisfied
4. Fear of pursuing something as frivolous as creative work
5. Fear of wasting time
6. Fear of being seen as vain
7. Fear of losing control
8. Fear of feeling like a fraud
9. Fear of messing up in front of people
10. Fear of not being as talented as ____
11. Fear of not being able to balance it all
12. Fear of not being able to do it perfectly
13. Fear of regret
14. Fear of discomfort

When we talk about fear, we often talk about "moving past it" or "conquering it," as though it were something we could just walk around or shoot with a laser beam. In fact, I've used these terms myself. Recently. But in watching the individuals in this course and in experiencing these things for myself, one thing has become abundantly clear: fear doesn't often go away.

Those fears that prevent you from living out your gifts and talents -- they are resilient. They are like cockroaches or Twinkies (I've heard Twinkies could withstand a nuclear apocalypse. Not feeling like fact-checking that, but do with that what you will). No matter how many creative courses you sign up for, no matter how far you advance in a creative career, your fears are likely here to stay.

So this calls for a different way of approaching fears -- a reframing of sorts. Instead of pushing fears aside or slicing them open with a machete, what if instead we decided to do something totally bizarre? What if we followed fear?

Even though we think of fear as this insidious creature, and that it may well be, at its core, fear is trying to tell us something. You may have heard Eleanor Roosevelt's advice to "do one thing every day that scares you." The reason for this is because fear makes its dwelling in the depths of our desires. 

Have you ever stood in a grocery store looking at boxes of cereal, thinking, "What do I want?" So often, we are clueless to our own desires, but there is one way to be sure: by noticing your fears. 

The people I've been working with over the last eight weeks have done a beautiful job of this. Truly. They've been doing things that scare the hell out of them, maybe not always in the time they hoped they would or in the way they imagined, but the important thing is, they're doing it. And that's really all there is to creativity. 


So that's what I've learned from my Do The Damn Thing crew. Without gushing too much and looking like a big ol' softy, I'd like to extend the biggest thank you to the people who not only helped me get this course off the ground (you know who you are) but those of you who participated in it, thus teaching me some of life's greatest lessons. You're all sparkling moon rocks that I want to put in my pocket.

If you didn't get a chance to take part in this round of DTDT, don't you fret! I am planning to rerelease it sometime later this year. If you want to be the first to know when that goes down, be sure to sign up here

Is there a creative lesson you've learned lately?