intelligence, nature

Beautiful: Make Time for Earthy Intelligence

542e8a91384a5311fba35b71ca8a7a06“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

I love to work hard. I enjoy a good solid rest, too, but if I don’t put forward my best effort every day, I lose a little bit of that tingle of being alive. Some people feel rejuvenated after spending a day in their PJs. I never do. I need to move to feel connected. I need to move before I can feel grounded.

I prefer to move outside of the creature comforts of my home. That’s not to say I never exercise at home – I try to do at least a little yoga and meditation every day as soon as I wake up. Then I need to get out there – to breathe fresh air, to experience the wind at my back, to feel the sun on my face. I always find a lot of solace out in the natural world. There’s a lot of truth in it, and a lot of mystery that keeps me constantly curious. It’s a delicate, perfect balance.

After a walk or a run outside, I trust the process of life a little bit more. I feel its wisdom and its support. Life’s a little less scary once we get out there, once we give ourselves over to the rhythm of its cycles. By surrendering to what it has to teach us, we become stronger, more capable of handling whatever it is that it throws our way. It never gives us the work without the lessons to we need to get it done.

change, creativity, dreams, make, time

Beautiful: You Have All the Magic You Need

6bb36dc4b3039aefdcf450f15558431b“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.” ~ J.K. Rowling

When it comes to the matter of pursuing dreams, we don’t need to hope for miracles or luck. Our own effort is a source of magic in and of itself. We have the power to make our dreams with our heart and our own two hands. Every moment, we make choices that affect the world around us. It’s up to us to decide what that effect will be.

So if you find yourself walking through your day and taking note of things that need fixing, recognize that you can fix them. With enough care, concern, and time, we can repair and renew almost anything. Nothing is ever set in stone; everything can be transformed. We have the ability to choose how and when that transformation happens.

books, comedy, humor

Beautiful: Jack Gray Recounts His Life With Anderson Cooper in His New Book, Pigeon in a Crosswalk

imagesWhatever you’re reading, I strongly suggest that you put it down immediately and walk your fingers over to to buy Jack Gray’s new book Pigeon in a Crosswalk: Tales of Anxiety and Accidental Glamour, a recounting of his rise to fame, fortune, and glory as a television news producer. You’ve never heard of Jack Gray? Don’t worry, no one has except his 1M+ followers on Twitter and Anderson Cooper. Just to put that in perspective, Kim Kardashian has over 17M followers on Twitter and Anderson Cooper has heard of her, too. Clearly, Twitter and Anderson Cooper have questionable standards.

In all seriousness, I loved Jack’s book so much that I have laughed out loud numerous times on the subway while reading it and missed my stop more times than I care to admit. I couldn’t put it down, even if it meant I was in danger of walking 20 blocks out of my way because I forgot I was on the express train and there was no uptown service at all on my line. I laughed so much I didn’t even care about the inconvenience of missing my stop. (Maybe the MTA should start handing out Jack’s book to disgruntled riders to improve morale.) My unbridled laughter while on the subway has caused passengers on the 2 / 3 train to clear a wide area around me and their facial expressions say something akin to, “Damn, here comes that crazy lady and her book about pigeons.” Crazy has its privileges.

For Jack, everything that’s ever happened to him and anyone he’s ever known is fair game for his comedy. Nothing is sacred. Not even the Kennedys. Especially not the Kennedys. Memoirs are a tricky genre. The book market is flooded with them. They’re so personal and it can be difficult to figure out if the stories in them have mass appeal or appeal only to people who know the author. Pigeon in a Crosswalk falls squarely in the former category.

Jack’s life caused me to howl with laughter, mostly at his expense, and he seems fine with that. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have written the book. Sadly, nothing gives us a good chuckle like self-deprecation and horrible strokes of bad luck happening to relatively decent people. (I have no idea why this is – blame it on our insane desire to feel better about our own lives at any cost.) Jack’s book has both of these in spades. But it also has something more that makes it special and memorable, even lovable.

Look, life here in New York is a little like hell. Especially in February. It’s cold, dreary, windy, and getting more expensive by the minute (literally.) We all need a good, honest laugh as often as we can get it. Jack’s book delivers on the comedy front and he also has a wonderful sense of irony and hope. It’s a rare combination and a fine line that he negotiates beautifully with seemingly little effort. He’s just telling his story and we happen to be there in the front row. Please tell me that he plans to make this a one-man show. I’d pay good money to see it, and I bet Kathy Griffin would, too, as long as Anderson Cooper promises to be her date for opening night.

creativity, imagination, time, work

Beautiful: Take the Time to Journey Into Your Imagination

50afeed7247c211c9a96778c99eb8e34“If you want to know where your heart is, look where your mind goes when it wanders.” ~ Bernard Byer

There’s a little magic moment, a switch that happens, when we’re fully vested in creative work, when we give ourselves the opportunity to travel on a one-way ticket into our imaginations. We’re totally consumed. There’s no separation between us and it. We lose ourselves only to discover that being lost is how we truly find our way.

I suggest taking this little trip every day. Find some time, even a moment or two, to let yourself dream, without a destination and without judgement. It’s amazing what revelations emerge from a relaxed mind. They come straight from the heart.

creative, creative process, creativity, play, theatre, time, writing

Beautiful: There Is No Time Like the Present

0b458c7c03370c2046f32e8f87edfa96Yesterday I took a playwriting class. I started my career in theatre management so it’s a genre that I worked in and around for many years. I’d like to get back to it, but in a different way this time. I’m not sure if that means as a writer so I thought I would take this opportunity to explore the option. Also, I have a story I’d like to tell and as much as I tried to put it into narrative form, it’s meant to be seen as well as heard.

There were a lot of nuggets of knowledge in the class. I learned about dramatic structure, character development, story arc, and the role of timing. It gave me enough to get started. And that was perhaps the most valuable piece of insight.

Our instructor urged us to get going and finish as soon as possible. Dump a first draft out on the page in a month, 2 months tops. Don’t worry if it’s messy, disjointed, and rough around all of its edges. Just…get…it….out before it looses steam, before you get too scared to have the story you need to tell stare back at you. This is a time to be hasty, as hasty as humanly possible.

What’s true for playwriting is also true for so many projects in life. I firmly believe that we hold ourselves back far too often. We become so intentional, so purposeful that we lose sight of the joy found in spontaneity. We worry too much about failure, and when we’re done with that we worry too much about success. We have all kinds of reasons for not doing something we really want to do – most of them are rubbish.

There will be time to refine, time to tweak and fix and finesse. But that time is not at the start of trying something new, it’s not at the beginning of the beginning. As hard as it may be, put your perfectionism aside. Calm your mind by reminding yourself that no one has to see your first draft of anything. You don’t even need to tell anyone you’re creating a first at all. Just begin. Start. Try. Play. Make a mess. Now. There is no time like the present.

art, beauty, books, creative, creative process, creativity, illustration, photographs, pictures, technology

Beautiful: Creating Photos and Art with The Book of GIMP

bookofgimpIt’s more than a book; it’s a tome. Through No Starch Press, Olivier Lecarme and Karine Delvare just published The Book of GIMP, a complete and comprehensive guide on GIMP, a free open-source software program that successfully rivals pricey options like Adobe Photoshop. Visual design software can be intimidating because it has so many bells and whistles, as well as its own vocabulary that is foreign to people just getting started in design. Lecarme and Delvare demystify GIMP without dumbing it down in any way.

The book begins with a 24-page quick start guide that orients new users to GIMP. If you’re already familiar with the software and need help with specific functionality, skip to any one of the well-organized chapters to get in-depth knowledge on photo retouching, drawing and illustration, logo creation, composite photography, animation, and web design.

This book takes you through each area progressing from basics to advanced functionality, providing descriptive screenshots and step-by-step guidance. The mini-lessons and exercises in each chapter build upon one another so they are ideal for someone who just wants to complete a quick task or for someone who wants to know all of the ins and outs of GIMP’s many capabilities.

The reference section and appendices go into deep detail on settings and tools that are available to hone your masterpieces. It even has a chapter on the physiology of vision! And if that’s not enough for you, there’s always the section of additional readings, tutorials, related projects, and connections to the global GIMP user community.

Whether you’re just getting started in visual design or are a seasoned expert, The Book of GIMP is the best creative companion for all of your efforts to Make Something Beautiful.

courage, fear, time, worry

Beautiful: It’s Okay to Have Fear. Just Make Sure It Doesn’t Have You.

025452ff405960b936c014a1880afd7b“We must travel in the direction of our fear.” ~ John Berryman

A friend of mine called me late one night this week because she was panicking. She has a big trip coming up and she was worried about her safety while away from home. To be fair, this friend has a highly-tuned intuition, more highly-tuned than almost anyone I’ve ever known. She has good gut, so when her fears grew increasingly worse, she panicked. She couldn’t tell if her fear was valid.

I gave her my litmus test for fear. When I wake up in a panic, when my mind is on an endless loop of worry, I know that my mind is getting the best of me. When I am afraid but maintain a clear, calm resolve, I know that my intuition is on to something.

When my apartment building caught fire, I didn’t panic when I realized what was happening. My laser focus kicked in to get me out of the building as quickly as possible. There was no thinking in those moments as I scrambled down the stairs. I knew I was in danger and my only concern in those moments involved survival.

When I was considering leaving my corporate job to freelance full-time, I initially had some serious moments of panic. It took me a year to put a plan in place that gave me enough comfort to take the leap. My fear about going out on my own had nothing to do with my intuition. That fear was from that tiny voice in the back of my mind known as self-doubt. Here I am, 8 months after my leap, and doing just fine.  Self-doubt comes and goes, but it never stay for long anymore.

Don’t despair over your fear. It’s a natural reaction and everyone feels it, some of us more than others. Here’s the thing about fear: you really can’t hate it because it does mean well. On some level, it is trying to protect you. However, it does need to be tamed. You must learn to listen to it, take only what’s useful, and then keep going.

My one year plan that I put in place so that I would be comfortable leaving my job was well worth it. Fulfilling that plan has allowed me to take on projects in the last 8 months that have proven to be some of the best opportunities of my career. Fear served a great purpose and I am grateful for its counsel, but I didn’t let it become the focus. I didn’t let it paralyze me. You shouldn’t either.

It’s fine to have fear. Just make sure fear doesn’t have you.

determination, failure, time

Beautiful: The Journey of Falling Down

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

“Fall, then figure out what to do on the way down.” ~ Del Close

I fall a lot. You might say I’ve become an expert faller. I often choose to do something knowing that I’ll fall just so I can learn something. Given the choice between the smooth sailing road and a vertical climb, I’ll take the vertical every time. I try things that don’t work out as I hope or expect. I take up new hobbies, explore new interests, and take myself way outside my comfort zone on a regular basis. I’ve taken jobs that didn’t work out, moved to new cities in an attempt to find “home”, and been in relationships that crashed and burned and rose only to crash and burn and rise again.

Falling down makes me feel alive. All my senses are activated. When I fall, I am fully aware of where I am and what I’m feeling. I’m reminded that everything runs in a cycle. Birth, death, and renewal comprise a constant loop. There’s something thrilling about being out there on the edge, pushing the boundaries, reaching for things that are just out of reach. It makes me stronger. It helps me understand what’s important.

choices, decision-making, dreams, money, time

Beautiful: When It Comes to Dreams, Knowledge and Heart Are More Important Than Money

3c80a0916199a692da2f1c3a572eb9a0“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Money takes its lead from the heart and the mind. If we have true passion to do something, that kind of passion that refuses to take no for an answer, then somehow we will find a way to afford that dream. We will sacrifice for it. We will compromise and make certain concessions in other areas of our life in order to see it through. We will make the time for it. We will find a way to make the money to fuel it.

When we consider how to spend our time, we should put the logistics aside. They are important, but they are secondary. Our focus should be what we care about and why it matters. The “how it will get done” details will flow from there.

future, time, worry

Beautiful: Let the Future Take Care of the Future

d46d46a8f5aff4c29758f6de54629530“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” ~ Corrie ten Boom, Dutch writer

I’m all for planning, though as I get older I find that trust is a better companion. I trust that my hard work today will pay off tomorrow, even if it doesn’t pay off in ways that I expect. I trust in my own abilities to navigate any circumstance that arises, good, bad, or indifferent. I know now that even if something breaks me down, I can rebuild and be stronger for it.

From time to time, I do worry about tomorrow. I wonder how it will all come together and where it’s all headed. The difference is that I can put those worries aside and just keep moving forward. It’s not that I make them evaporate. I just keep them in check. When it gets to be too much, I use those worries as fuel. I think of all the other times in my life that I worried and how well it turned out in spite of my concerns.

And the most beautiful part of leaving tomorrow to tomorrow? We get the chance to fully enjoy today. After all, we will never be able to have this time again. Time does indeed evaporate so we need to make the most of every moment.