5 Tips for Dealing With Fear as a Creative Person

Fear comes up almost daily for me when I’m just about to write. Fear says things like: you can’t do this, nothing will ever come of this, you’re going to fail. One of the best things I’ve learned from author and motivational speaker Gabrielle Bernstein is that FEAR is False Expectations Appearing Real.

Unlike a horror movie where your best bet is to run away from the big bad fear, creative people have to be willing to stare that FEAR in the face and keep going. Here are my tips for fighting through the false expectations and keep creating.

1. Surround yourself with positive inspiration.

I have a quote on my wall next to my desk that says, “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.—Conan O’Brien.” It keeps me on track for those moments when I feel scared.

2. Develop a mantra for when FEAR shows up.

I repeat to myself, false expectations appearing real. Some times I have to say it multiple times before FEAR takes a hike, but it works. Whatever helps you clear the cobwebs, say it.

3. Write/create/develop through the FEAR.

Often I look at something I’m writing and think, ugh, that’s awful. But I combat that with, keep going, revise later, and finish this. Just keep powering through.

4. Remember that often the scariest moments in our lives bring us the most unexpected wonderful opportunities.

Any time I’ve been afraid to do something, but did it anyway, there’s been amazing results. I was afraid of moving to LA, but now I love it. I was afraid to date my best friend, and now he’s my husband. I was afraid to publish personal stories, but they have been my best work. Change was scary, but it changed my life for the better.

5. FEAR is good for you.

This might sound crazy, but FEAR is good for you. My therapist tells me that my FEAR is a terrible predictor for the future, but very good information for the present. What does she mean? What I fear most likely won’t happen, but it tells me what I need to take care of in the present. Write down your fears—what’s a common theme? Is there an action you can take to combat those fears? Just like this quotation from Mastin Kipp, founder of The Daily Love, fear is a compass. Use it to your advantage.

Thank You For Reading

Click the photo to take you to the shop that sells this as a cute stamp.

As a writer, a lot of my time is spent alone—contemplating, rewriting, brainstorming, pitching, and ruminating. A month ago, a personal essay I wrote for BuzzFeed about my miscarriage sparked an enormous response from women and men. I had received dozens of emails from all over the world, tweets, and Facebook messages from women who had gone through miscarriages and wanted to share their stories with me. Some had never talked about it to anyone. Some had told me that they were told to “get over it” by a friend or even a husband. Some talked about how sad they felt even years later.

Today, I found two Facebook messages that were buried in my “other” folder from two strangers. I was touched by their words, heartbroken by their sadness, but most of all, grateful that they felt comfortable sharing their deeply personal stories with me—a complete stranger.

It’s times like these that I’m thankful to anyone who reads my work and writes to me. I feel honored that my writing could help anyone else with their personal struggles. I’ve made it a personal habit to write to artists and authors who inspire me. If something moves me, I share that with the author because I think it’s important to express thanks for someone else’s hard work.

At the time I wrote that essay, I was completely terrified to share such a personal, sad story in such a public way. But deep down, I knew that I wasn’t alone and that if my story could inspire others to speak out and share their own—it would be worth it.

Thank you to those of you who have read my work. I am touched, honored, and grateful.

The Business of Being a Freelance Writer Told in GIFs

When A Client’s Payment Is Late

When a Source Doesn’t Get Back to You & You Have a Tight Deadline

When You Write A Piece That’s Controversial

When a Stranger Emails You That They Love An Article You Wrote

When a Troll Badgers You

OR

When Ann Friedman Mentions Your Piece in Her Amazing Weekly Newsletter

(Btw, you should sign up for her newsletter, if you haven’t, because it’s awesome. And I’m not just saying that because I made it in.)

When You Read the Comments

Sometimes, Working Solo Feels Like This

But Sometimes Being a Freelance Writer Feels Like This

Cookbook Review: The Lusty Vegan by Ayinde Howell & Zoe Eisenberg

I’m a big fan of guys who can cook. There’s nothing sexier than a man who can make a killer dinner (or breakfast or lunch for that matter). The Lusty Vegan cookbook is for couples whether one part of the couple is vegan or omnivore. If you know anything about vegans: We freaking love to talk about food and eat really good food. Cook us a dynamite meal, and we will love you forever.

I’ve had the joy of being part of chef Ayinde Howell’s dinners. One time in San Francisco when he hosted a pop-up night and another time at his apartment. Let me tell you, the man can cook. In San Francisco, he made this amazing version of smoked tofu that I STILL THINK ABOUT TODAY. And don’t even get me started on his legendary Mac n’ Yease. I will straight up push people out of the way for his family’s vegan take on mac ‘n cheese.

So, that being said, The Lusty Vegan is all about great food. Brendan and I made the faux Lobster Roll and fennel salad from the cookbook. The “lobster” is made with hearts of palm, and it is so simple to make and delicious. It was a total hit in our house. Plus, cooking with your partner is the ultimate date night in my book.

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The Faux Lobster Roll from The Lusty Vegan

To win over your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day (or any day that you want to woo your husband/wife/significant other), definitely grab a copy of The Lusty Vegan and whip up something special.

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The vegan Bibimbap from The Lusty Vegan. Brendan made this for dinner for me, and it was great!

5 Great Vegan Products at Costco

Whenever I’m at Costco, I’m always on the hunt for the new vegan products that they have. While Costcos vary from store to store on what they carry, I always like sharing what I’ve found with my readers, just in case they’ve found it, too, or want to know what’s currently available.

1. Dave’s Killer Bread

This two-pack ($8) is my favorite new find. I love Dave’s Killer bread, and normally, it’s pretty pricey elsewhere. If you see this, grab it. We usually freeze one loaf while we have the other in the fridge. It’s the perfect sandwich bread and great for accompanying tofu scrambles!
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2. Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Granola

Brendan was obsessed with this cereal so much that when we found it at Coscto, we squealed with joy. It’s great for making as the granola-layer of my açaí bowls, mixing in with coconut yogurt, or eating as cereal.
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3. Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Powder

I was excited to spot this powder since I use protein powder in my smoothies pretty regularly. I love a good chocolate smoothie post-workout with a swirl of almond butter in it. This is a great deal because it’s huge and it’s only $30!

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4. Nature’s Path Trail Mixer Chewy Granola Bars

I like having a snack bar on hand for days when I’m running around and need something in my purse so I don’t get too hungry. These gluten-free bars are delicious, not too sweet, and perfect for stashing away.
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5. Bambooee Washable Towels

I first saw these on Shark Tank, and loved the idea of reusable paper towels. Le and behold, I found them recently during a demo at Costco. I love that you can toss them in the wash, and wash them up to 100 times. Also, you can attach them to the bottom of your mop (we have a Shark electric mop) and use them to clean your floors. We bought a three-pack for around $30. Goodbye, paper towels!
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If you want more vegan products in Costco, check out:
8 Great Vegan Products at Costco
Even More Great Vegan Products at Coscto

My 5 Favorite Tools for Writing

Image: Jenni Creatives (click image for more info)

I’m the type of writer who thrives on organization. I love The Container Store. As a freelancer, I have to be organized in order to get paid, regularly have assignments, and turn in work on time. As a writer, I use these tools to keep me on track.

1. Scrivener

When faced with feedback from three readers on my YA manuscript, I freaked out. How was I ever going to incorporate all of their notes and rewrite?! ACK. A fiction writer friend introduced me to the BEST writing software—Scrivener. I don’t know why I haven’t used it before. Instead of having a million Word documents open, Scrivener opens projects in a digital binder so you can keep text files, images, and important links all in one place! There are many amazing functions, but the one I love the best is organizing each chapter as its own file with a little index card that I write a synopsis on and it’s there for me to refer. Plus, the character sketches allow me to write character bios more easily, even adding a photo of what my character looks like. LOVE this software. It’s worth every penny. Here’s a short video tutorial on how it works.

2. Call Recorder for Skype

Whenever I interview a source via Skype, I use Call Recorder for Skype. It’s a simple download that turns the call into an MP3. I can either upload it to iTunes or listen to it through my Quicktime player and transcribe.

3. Stopwatch

For my hourly rate for editing, I use the Stopwatch feature on my iPhone. I simply hit start when I begin. If I stop to answer a call or walk the dogs, I pause it.

4. Voice Memos

Some times I’m on the go, and I get an idea for a magazine pitch or I suddenly solve the problem in chapter one of my book. If I don’t have a pen and paper handy, I record a note to myself in my iPhone’s Voice Memos app. You can title your memos, so I usually title them after the project. This is so helpful to remember what I need to jot down later.

5. Voice Record Pro 7

For in-person interviews or any type of live recording, I’m a fan of the Voice Record app. I once did an interview on a busy street in downtown LA. I was worried that I’d only hear street noise instead of the person talking who I was interviewing. The app worked perfectly. Plus, all the features on it like bookmarks, playback speed, and labeling make it a winner for writers.

How to Find the Time to Write

Design by: hola!design. Click on the image for more info about the designer.

I was chatting with a writing friend about the day job dilemma as a writer. How do you find the time to write when you work full-time, just had a baby, or you have 18 million other things you must do?

Before I went freelance full-time, I worked full-time for 12 years while writing at various jobs from nonprofit work to magazines. Some of those jobs, my annual salary was just enough to cover rent, food, and transportation. And while a DAY JOB may seem scary and awful while you’re working on your dream, a day job can afford you a roof over your head and pay your bills.

What are some ways you can get that novel/TV script/screenplay/personal essay/memoir written while you’re very busy? Here’s what I did. Hope these ideas help you!

1. Apply to an artist residency.

My filmmaker friend David Licata encouraged me to apply to an artist residency when we worked together at a non defunct nonprofit. I did my first residency at Centrum, then spent two glorious weeks at Hedgebrook (all women writers should apply!). While getting into an artist residency isn’t easy, it’s worth applying. Here’s a great list of 21 writing residences. If you don’t get accepted the first time around, apply again. David talks here about applying to the MacDowell Colony FIVE times before landing a residency.

2. Get up early.

This is probably the most hard thing to do, but it’s worth it. When I worked as an editor at a magazine, I found that I was too tired post-work to write anything. Mainly because I had spent my day editing and writing. So I decided to get up an hour earlier each day—6 am—and work on my own personal projects. Sure, I was tired as hell the first week or so, but my body adjusted. I found that the quiet and solitude of the morning and the crunch time of 60 minutes let me write faster than at night. If you’re a night owl, try the same tactic at night.

3. Write during your lunch hour.

When I landed a few freelance assignments while working at a magazine, I used my lunch hours to interview sources, write pitches, and finish assignments. I made sure to pack a lunch and used my hour off as my time for my writing.

4. Take a writing class.

I love the beauty of taking online classes such as courses through Mediabistro or the Writing Pad. You don’t have to commute, you can “meet” other writers, and you have hard deadlines for homework assignments. It’s networking, learning, and writing all rolled into one.

5. Give yourself deadlines.

Saying that you’ll write that novel some day is basically like saying you’ll join a gym some day. You gotta to get your butt in a seat and do the work. I give myself set deadlines for projects. Some times I don’t meet those deadlines (unless it’s an assigned piece then deadlines are a MUST), but I get as close as possible. I schedule days on a writing calendar, which is a simply print out of my iCal calendar.