Friday, August 22, 2014

Video Interview on Juggling Cancer, Life, and Growing a Creative Business

Earlier this summer, Vanessa Laven of and Survival Organs launched a video series in honor of her birthday and I helped her kicked things off! As a young cancer survivor herself, Laven wanted to interview other creatives about their personal journeys through "worst case scenarios" and how they juggled a small business with all the craziness of diagnosis, treatment, and recuperation. Watch my interview below to learn how I handled the rollercoaster of being diagnosed with breast cancer soon after creating Porcupine Hugs, how I struggled to reconcile my ambitions with my new limitations, and why I was too stubborn to let cancer change me.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Commitments Are Not My Strong Suit

It's a wonder that I've been able to maintain a relationship for 4+ years because it seems that I don't take too well to commitments. Among the new habits I've tried to take on this year alone and failed to permanently incorporate into my life are:

Yoga. It was beautiful while it lasted. For all of four weeks, A. and I would wake up at 6:30/7pm, bang out a workout and I'd make us breakfast while he got ready for work. It was a good way to start the day.

#dorkysdraws. In an attempt to get the old gears moving again, I took on the mission of drawing a doodle every day and sharing it on Instagram. Nothing too involved, just a little something to force me to stop and be creative for a few minutes each day. Real work seems to keep yanking on my attention, but after a month-long break I've picked up my Micron pens once again.

Dry As Toast. Oh poor little blog. Once I gave myself a chance to relax so I could focus on my health last year, I let the whole thing go. Now it seems to take such an effort to share my thoughts with you. Sometimes I feel like I've got nothing left to say…and sometimes what I want to say feels way too personal now. Is it growing older that's left me reluctant to bare my feelings for all to read? Would anyone still care? Or maybe I just feel tapped with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all vying for a piece of me.

Creativity. In this I'm lumping in Porcupine Hugs, calligraphy, photography, DIY projects, pen palling, and all the arts I enjoyed. They all fall under Things I Need Another 24 Hours To Do, But Spend The First 24 Hours Thinking About.

Every now and then I'll raise the following question to A.: What does success mean to you? Is it more important to be happy or to be ambitious? In that last question I'm not insinuating that the two qualities are mutually exclusive as I know you can be both happy and ambitious, but in my case ambition feeds this restlessness. If I'm not being productive or chasing some goal, I can't relax. I feel like I'm wasting time. It could be 6 in the freaking morning and as soon as I regain consciousness my mind is turning. "What should I do today? Should I get up? I'm still tired, but maybe I should be making better use of my time..." Oh what I wouldn't give to have a lazy Sunday without the guilt. I'm sure A. would be thankful, too, since my "Let's do something!" mentality tends to spill over onto his plate when he wants none of it. So I wonder, if I let go of all these goals on the list, things I keep thinking I need to accomplish in order to be Successful, and stop holding myself to a high standard, would I be happier? Or would the thought of settling into a calm mediocrity always leave me feeling unfulfilled?

In June, I attended a Creative Mornings session in which Squarespace founder and CEO Anthony Casalena gave a talk minimalism. In it, Casalena explained how to do lists can lock us into a path of short-term priorities making it hard to step back and focus on the true essence of the project. A point of his that really resonated with me is the idea of letting go of good ideas and his coming to the painful realization that he only has so much creative energy to devote to goals. How often don't we guilt-trip ourselves into chasing all these different leads, thinking we have to grab them all in order to feel good about ourselves? Well Casalena advised the audience to keep their key goal in mind and then use that to discard the things around it - good or bad. Letting go will feel liberating, he said.

"It feels very good in a way to close the chapter on something and it just frees your mind to do so many other things. I think too often people try to leave too many doors open at once in their life and they're just afraid of losing optionality," Casalena said.

So that's what I've been somewhat doing this summer. Instead of chasing down every creative whim, I'm accepting that right now my focus is on work and finances. I'm still writing for and helping a large law firm prepare its new website for launch next month, but on top of that I've taken on a new freelance writing gig with Mamá I've gone from struggling financially with a part-time job in 2013 to tackling three different jobs a day. It's a blessing; I'm finally getting a taste of financial security and love the flexibility in my schedule. It's also a curse because sometimes all I want to do is run off to an island for a breather. I don't think I've taken more than two or three consecutive days off all year (and even then WiFi availability = Dorkys working), but starting this weekend I'm taking a whole week to unplug in the Nevada desert and dive into that "feeling of liberation" in other ways.

Because I'm returning to Burning Man.

I admit that in the flurry of all the changes that's entered my life at the end of 2013 (new job, new apartment, moving in with the boyfriend, work, work, work, another new job), I'd forgotten just how amazing I felt out there on the playa. This year has been about putting my head down and crawling out of the hole that was 2013. Even if it's meant putting some things aside and even if I'm not on here sharing every detail of my life, I feel good knowing that I'm alive and doing just fine.

So tell me: what have you been up to this summer? Is there anything you'd love to let go of or are you hacking away at your key goal?

Image: David Stewart for the Lost and Found Show