Last week I talked about how connecting with a larger community of creatives by listening to an inspiring podcast gooses my creativity. This week, I want to share how connecting with myself keeps me inspired.
I started meditating.
Sounds so fancy, but for me it’s not. I Googled “best meditation apps” and read reviews until I settled on two free ones and downloaded them: Mindfulness (I apologize for the Apple-centric link. Take note of the icon if you want to find it in your digital world. It’s different from The Mindfulness App.) and Insight Timer. I’m so happy with Mindfulness that I haven’t even explored the other one. I’ve worked my way through the five weeks of guided introduction meditations twice, making note of my favs. I discovered that spending ten minutes in the morning breathing means I breathe more deeply throughout the day, often becoming aware of my breath just as tension and frustration begin to tighten my shoulders, my mind, and my spirit.
Mileage may vary, but the life concepts introduced in these meditations make a lot of sense to me. Somehow, I’d forgotten I could choose my own path. That I can change paths if I want to. I’m such a trees person, that I forget my life is a forest. Remembering that every day, connecting to my breath, my inner self, keeps me focused on my goals, my people, my priorities.
So I’m trying to actually DO the things that goose my muse.
Listening to Unlocking Us is one of my things. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that a show called UNLOCKING US makes me think about myself, others, the world, and connection, but I’m not always the brightest bulb. The current topic on the show is one of my favorite Brené books: The Gifts of Imperfection. Yes, I bought the ten year anniversary hardcover edition. Yes, I also sent a copy to my sister. Because Brené and HER sisters are discussing the book together every week in July! How cool is that?
Listening to Brené’s conversations with writers and artists makes me feel connected to the larger community of wounded, growing, healing, creative people. I didn’t know I needed that until my short commute to work led me to Unlocking Us. Now that my commute is over, I’ll have to find another space in my life for this podcast because I’m not giving it up. Other incredible conversations:
Dr. Clint Smith, author of How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America. I can’t stop thinking about this conversation. A must read book.
Alicia Keys, author of More Myself. This led me to Alicia Keys’s song “Fallin’” which is totally inspiring my new book!
Ashley C. Ford, author of Somebody’s Daughter. I had to stop in a parking lot and make some notes while listening to this one. Damn. I get tears in my eyes thinking about it. It took me ten steps closer to writing a book I’ve been thinking about for nearly twenty years.
By the way, my mother objected to my “Try Different Shit” motto last week. I knew it! Ha. I told her I was okay with that. It feels brave to me. Determined. Very “I laugh in the face of danger!” Invincible! Resilient with a sense of humor. (I love you, Mom.)
Writers and Goal Seekers, I encourage you to step out of your bubble and connect with a larger community of creatives, even in a way as introverted as listening to other people having a conversation which inspires you to read a book. Inspiration doesn’t always come from within. Sometimes you have to go looking for it and invite it to come inside. Find a podcast, a book, a song, a painting, a connection to something in the world that might open a portal to your own creative spirit.
I’ll see you next week, when I share another thing that has nothing to do with writing that is helping me create.
How do you live a creative life when you have REAL bills to pay?
Folx, I’ve been struggling with family/adult responsibilities versus my desire to have a writing career for several years now, and I have come out on the other side. Well, this other side. I have no doubt more struggles will come, and there will be other other sides, but for now: EPIPHANY.
Mine, to be clear.
Your mileage will vary. We are not the same. The things we desire are not the same. The way we make decisions is not the same. The things that move the needle for you are not the same things that move the needle for me. (My needle is stubborn, and moving it requires a ridiculous alignment of seemingly unrelated things, so I hope your needle is less intractable than mine.)
I am so down with Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic when she wrote, “Don’t make your muse pay your bills.” Okay, that’s not exactly what she wrote. She was much more poetic. But that was my takeaway from Big Magic. (Which is fantastic. Read it for your own Big Magic takeaway.) If you expect your creativity to pay your bills, and it doesn’t, bad things can happen to your creative spirit.
At least, bad things happened to MY creative spirit when my Hot Nights series didn’t make a zillion dollars, solve all my financial problems, and prove that I’m a creative genius. Add in the facts that my three kids were suddenly old enough that I could go back to work full-time, and my part-time grocery store job offered incredible benefits. There was no way I could know going full-time was going to be physically and emotionally exhausting. Or that my terminally ill father was going to pass away. There was a lot I didn’t know.
Fast forward six years.
And a freaking pandemic.
Obviously, there are those who are making so much money with their creativity, they don’t have to worry about this happening. Good for them. For those of us who aren’t making enough money with our creativity to support our lifestyle or families and we STILL want to be creative, BUT we’re exhausted/discouraged/afraid, how do we go on? How do we get started achieving our big, hard dreams when we’re already pooped, we’ve tried and “failed” in the past, and our inner critic is holding a Whack-A-Mole hammer and bonks us back down in our hole every time we see a sliver of creative light and start to climb toward it?
Crass—I’m sorry. I spent some formative years working in kitchen, and my inner voice uses a lot of profanity. So does my outer voice.
I’ll go into the shit I’ve tried over the past six years in depth this month. Only one of my new things has to do with writing, but all of them support my creativity. How did I discover them? Trial and error. How do I know they work? I do them. I feel good. Better. More myself. More creative. I wrote a book in January 2021. I sold it to Liz Pelletier at Entangled Publishing. With two other books to follow.
Did I bury the lead? Probably. Dear readers, I sold three books to Entangled Publishing! More information to come, but I think I’ll put the details in a newsletter first, so sign up for my newsletter, if you want to hear more.
I am thrilled to be working with Entangled again. Over the freaking MOON. But I’m even more deeply delighted to know I’ve discovered things about myself that will support my creativity through the books and years to come. Because when the first shit didn’t work, I tried other shit. And I feel really good about it. And when this shit stops working, I’ll try other shit.
How are your creative goals doing? Have you found ways to blow on your precious spark? Do you have a thing you do that makes you feel good, so you keep doing it? Does feeling good make you do good things? Start thinking about it…
I’m going to pause this blog for a bit, so if you want to know what’s happening in Amanda Usen Land, please sign up for my newsletter. I send them approximately once a month. Be prepared for cat pictures, recipe links, and book news! If you only want book news, follow me on Amazon, which is what I do with my favorite authors.
And drinking. It’s totally a thing. My kids have stayed healthy, thank the Universe, but my daughter missed the end of her senior year in high school, and my son missed the end of eight grade. No big deal compared to what some are suffering. I get that. But it does make me want to nurture them. For me that means food. (Shocking, I know.)
Since I was working four ten hour days for a few months, that meant I had three days off a week. What that REALLY meant was that I had no good excuse to get out of cooking dinner!
I’ve made some old favorites and discovered some new ones, thanks to Pinterest and my FB friends. My favorite finds of 2020 thus far are: Homemade falafel, veggie burger breakfast sandwiches, and ramen bowls. All vegetarian, but not vegan, because of our pescetarian kid. Oh! And I put everything bagel seasoning on a pizza crust before I baked it. That was good, too. It’s raw dough from the grocery store, but the trick to making it awesome (which I learned from my husband, lol) is to let it proof, press it out, let it proof, press it out, let it proof, press it out…until it stays at the edges of the pan. Then top it. Let it proof…and ta da!
I’m a falafel fan, and this one from Foodie with Family is great. Don’t double it. I made that mistake. The recipe will make enough! If you make the tahini sauce, add water. It really needs it. This pic is from our Quarantine Birthday Passover Fafafel fest.
I can’t stop eating these:
Three friends and I go on a yearly writers’ retreat to an Airbnb above a vegetarian cafe where I had the most epic breakfast sandwich ever. Of Covid-course, it got canceled this year, but the cafe lists the ingredients on their menu! Wheee! TRY IT. My version goes like this: broil a quinoa crunch veggie burger for eight minutes. Flip it. Hard fry an egg while you broil the veggie burger for another six minutes. Okay, fine, maybe you prefer your eggs over easy or whatever. Do that then. 🙂 Get a bun. I like brioche buns. Put your veggie burger on the bun. Add cheese if you, like me, believe everything needs cheese. Put your egg on there too. Now, you are gonna have to trust me. Spread peanut butter, apricot preserves, and Sriracha on the top bun. I know. Sounds weird. Maybe you’d rather combine those ingredients and THEN put them on the bun. I’ve done it both ways several times. Like I said, I can’t stop eating this sandwich. OH MY GOD SO GOOD.
And I don’t know about you, but I love me a ramen bowl, and the kids do, too. HOWEVER, I am not spending hours in the kitchen making broth. Nope. I spend hours doing a ton of other shit. SO! I needed a recipe that was good but not too time consuming, preferably vegetarian. BOOM. Pinterest via Supper with Michelle delivered. I’ve made this a few times, and it’s super. My cheap hack: I use the packaged Ramen noodles minus the flavor pack. The in-laws gave us a space-age egg cooker for Hannukah, so I add egg, avocado, grated carrot, barely cooked zuccini noodles, scallions, baby pepper rings, kimchi…and I usually grill a chicken on the side for the omnivores in the family. Slurp, slurp, yum! And I don’t have to agonize over the broth.
Last, but certainly not least…an oldie but goodie. Since my husband built a bar in the garage…since the bar-age has recently acquired a commercial grade drink blender…since it’s June…since the past four months have been a little blurry anyway…my favorite homemade margarita!
I hope you are finding ways to nurture yourself, your people, and strangers during these strange days.
May the Fourth be with you! LOL. I saw these wookie cookies on Pinterest and had to make them at work, even though I had about forty other things I should have been doing. It’s the little things sometimes, even when the big things are looming!
Warning: I am struggling this morning. WordPress changed its format when I wasn’t looking, and I can’t seem to make this post behave. Or I could have the menstrual migraine I’ve been fighting off all week with Naproxen. Or maybe it’s the impending menses. Or the pandemic. Who even knows at this point? Bear with me. I have news.
Do you enjoy romances with kids/babies/pregnancies in them? Entangled Publishing has a dozen books on sale for .99 for Mother’s Day, and my book, Impulse Control, is one of them! The heroine has a fourteen-month old baby, and the tough-guy hero falls in love with him just as fast as he falls in love with her. The diaper-changing scene cracks me up every time, even though I wrote it. It also chokes me up a little because it reminds me of how hilarious and awesome my husband was with our kids. “Laugh it up, poopy pants,” Russ says, as he tries to convince the barely-walking baby of the merits of peeing standing up. Impulse Control is one of my favorites because the hero is a smoking-hot badass alpha dude, and he really and truly appreciates the curves and imperfections of a REAL woman. A mother. Who still has baby weight. Some stretch marks. Leftover baggage from a failed relationship. You know, A NORMAL WOMAN. Like all my books, it’s pretty sexy, and if you want to read part of why I love the hero so much, click here for a thrill. The excerpt is at the bottom.
And the sale page for all the books can be found HERE. The sale runs May 4th through May 11th, and I hope you download some of the books and enjoy them.
May the Fourth be with you, Happy Mother’s Day, and stay safe!
I’m on my way out the door to work in the grocery store, but I wanted to tell you all about this sale in case you are having a particularly stir-crazy day!
Entangled Publishing, LLC has made over a thousand category romances .99 and 176 first-in-series single title books FREE on ALL retailers, as far as I can tell! STOCK UP, bookworms, and stay home in your happy place! I have direct sales links for the Barnes & Noble sales pages, so maybe shop there and then search out your picks on your favorite retailer? B&N category romance: http://tiny.cc/BNcategoryrom B&N free romance: http://tiny.cc/BNfreeromance And, of course, here’s a link to all retailers for my HOT NIGHTS series: http://tiny.cc/HotNightsSeries HAPPY READING from Entangled Publishing!
I work in a grocery store. Last week was mostly normal. I was crunching numbers for Pi Day (3/14) and the only thing I was concerned about was the fact it was happening on a Saturday. I wondered how many teachers and math loving parents wouldn’t bother buying pies…
Fast forward a few days, and the shelves are bare of paper products and meat, and every bakery employee who is able to cash (including the department manager) is on a register. Bakery employee who can’t cash (that’s me) are cleaning like their lives depend on it, which they kind of do, or putting away the very unpredictable deliveries. In some cases, we don’t even stock the display, we just drop a pallet near the display. It’s faster.
…and NO ONE is buying pies. Or cakes. Or cookies. Or basically anything in the bakery except bread. Me? I’d totally bring home a sheet cake for the apocalypse, but evidence puts me in the minority.
My kids are home until late April AT LEAST. I’ve always know I’d be a terrible homeschooler, but I’m trying to keep up with the e-mails from teachers about how this next month will proceed. Even though I’ve always made their grades their responsibility, I suddenly feel the need to micromanage. My children are, for the most part, tolerant of my parental anxiety.
My oldest is headed for college next year. What will that look like? I just signed both of my girls up for expensive college-credit classes…now cancelled. Let’s not even look at the stock market.
The spring roll wrappers have probably been in the cupboard for five years. AT LEAST. And the black soy bean noodles have been spinning on the lazy susan for months, rejected. The cilantro somehow escaped taco night a few weeks ago and is still mostly fresh. Put them all together with this sauce and you’ve got black soy bean, cilantro, romaine, cucumber (and chicken for the non-pescatarians in my house) spring rolls! Culinary creativity at it’s finest. LOL. Which actually gives me an idea, as I sit here at my kitchen table. My son likes to cook. He might enjoy a “mystery basket” experience in the kitchen. Do you think *I* can handle the resulting culinary consequences? And the bomb that will be my kitchen? Maybe it will be fun?
Isolation isn’t easy for some people. Introverted bookworms like me are pretty okay. We hang out with fictional characters. Plus, I still go to work. At present, my job in the grocery store continues. But the people who thrive on social contact will struggle. Are you one of those people? How do YOU find ways to connect that don’t involve actually being near another person? Please share. 🙂
I’m off to work. Namaste (from six feet away) and stay healthy!
Oh but it is…in a grocery store. I can’t believe I haven’t blogged since November! To be fair, I did send out a few newsletters. (If you want to get my cat pictures and oversharing, sign up HERE.)
In my day job, I live from holiday to holiday. There are a few quiet days in January, but then it goes Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day…and on and on. Lately, I’ve realized that I’ve allowed my day job to completely take over my life. I’m an overachiever. I pour myself into EVERY project like it’s my only project. Bakery is a beast. We never get enough done. The work is overwhelming. The expectations are endless. And I don’t know how to quit.
One of my daily goals for last month was “leave on time.” During January, the slowest month of the grocery store year, I left on time SIX TIMES. I can do better than that. I must do better than that. Because I want to have energy for other things that matter. And when I work twelve-hour days, I don’t. It’s as simple as that.
Do you have a goal for February? What is it? How are you going to crush it?