How I Received $200 to Fund My Garden Project (From Reading a Poem on Instagram Live)

MaKayla Lorick is a black freelance writer with tons to say about black identity & resilience, motherhood, writing, and apparently gardening.

I first created an Instagram profile in ninth grade where I would post 2-3 selfies with my furry caterpillar-like eyebrows a day. In high school, social media gratification did not exist at the forefront of my adolescent mind, and my reach (or followers) didn’t have the global context that it does today. For me, it was just about showing my face and using the tool without the sophistication of algorithms, explore pages, and reels.

I really began consistently writing and posting videos of myself reciting poems on YouTube once I started work with Goldie Patrick, a phenomenal writer, playwright, director, and actor located in the Washington, D.C. area. Goldie mentored (and continues to mentor) me alongside a small group of black girls from D.C. based out of her non-profit, FRESHH (Females Representing Every Side of Hip-Hop) which partnered with the Kennedy Center in D.C. from 2013-2020. We affectionately call her Sister Goldie as she taught us with a fierceness of civic engagement and cultural awareness through hip-hop theatre. 

Goldie made us believe we were beautiful and gave us an African diasporic history of which to be proud. She would introduce us to different members of her tribe, and we would call them “Mama” so and so or “Baba” so and so in a delicate way that forged us together as family. This piece is important because it is the foundation of my writing, but also, it gave me an important cayenne-pepper-like kick a few weeks ago that brought me here. 

Luisa Igloria, the poet laureate of Virginia, reached out at the beginning of 2021 through Facebook Messenger and asked me to submit a poem as part of an April series hosted by Slover Library in Norfolk, Virginia. She informed me that a couple of my professors from my alma mater, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia recommended me to participate in a collective of Virginia writers for National Poetry Month. I screenshotted the Facebook message immediately and posted it on my story on Instagram. A friend from college who works for the L.A. Times responded: “You still write? Would you be interested in submitting here?” I responded, shyly, “I’d love to” — while thinking, “Once I submit, they’ll know I’m a fraud!” 

I almost had not responded to Luisa had it not been for my friends on social media encouraging me — “What is there to lose?” they would ask. “You BETTER submit” others would demand. “Don’t be afraid” they would affirm. A little voice I had turned off in 2020 crept back in with a mix of fear and a little courage — “There’s no better day to start sharing your writing than now!” at the beginning of the pandemic had felt like a slap in the face to my stalled artistry. But suddenly, that call-to-action seemed a tad less insidious and a bit more hopeful.

I submitted, fell asleep, and the next day Luisa emailed me back letting me know she would be using my poem “morningglory” in the project. Once that project became live, I instantly shared across my social media receiving several DMs. A lot were from people I had known congratulating this new step in my journey. came from Goldie, who wrote that she would be reading on Instagram Live that Sunday in partnership with the Kennedy Center and wanted me to read a poem. I did not hesitate this time, I just said yes.

I got on Instagram Live that day having not gotten dolled up. My four-year-old daughter was being a bit clingy that morning, so it was difficult to get ready and at a certain point, I knew it was just about poetry — not looks! I satisfied myself with tying my hair in a headscarf, because I knew my audience would not mind as much as I did. I listened to Goldie read in a captivating cadence, a familiar sound from my youth. When the time came for me to join her on Instagram Live, she asked me what I needed right before I read. I answered: community. She responded, “Aṣẹ.” 

I let them know that I would be starting something new, that this poem was fresh out of my heart and part of a series designed to help me reconfigure my untended Section-8 patio through a frame of writing. After reading she asked me to leave my CashApp handle in the comments. I did and received $200 USD immediately. I was floored, humbled by their willingness to invest in me and completely encouraged that they saw something in me that was beautiful.

I took the money straight to Lowe’s and began hammering out my vision, buying heavy bags of marble rock, soil, flowers, seeds, and pots. I continue to post videos on my Instagram documenting my process, to let folks in just a little. Since beginning the project, I have grown into a habit of writing which I think is a nod to the process of gardening itself. You cannot just pick up a shovel one day and decide “Hey I want to do a garden,” plant a bunch of flowers or produce, and leave them unattended for weeks. Creating this space became about nurturing my craft, my garden of poetry daily. It has resulted in a lot of trash, but also unending beauty. 

I implore you all to use a tip or two of mine today in your practice and to ultimately understand the value of your work. Bryan Stevenson, a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer, spoke at Howard University’s graduation the other day and said something that moved my spirit: “It won’t be your grades that measure your capacity to change the world, nor will it be your income. It will not be the job that you have post-grad, not even the ideas in your head. Ultimately it will be the conviction in your heart that measures your capacity to change the world.” When I feel overwhelmed, one saying I do not mind hearing my partner repeat over and over to me is “Start where you are.” 

Tips for Curating a Social Media Village:

Find your community, your village, your space. Engage with them continuously. You have something to contribute, find a place that welcomes your voice and challenges your creativity. For me, it was about reconnecting with Goldie and her tribe, which also became mine. They had seen my growth from a young age and were invested in my journey, even my stumbling. Search hashtags that you believe in, like #womenempowerment or #blackgirlmagic. Follow folks, reply to their journeys. I’ve done Live sessions with friends, workshops where I post content that came from the session. Whatever you do, stay connected in your own way.

Decide: Is it about distinguishing or telling your story in the best way you can? My focus was not so much on being different or influencing others, but on reigniting my creativity and sharing my willingness to learn. When I began my project, I was honest and told the folks after reading my poem, “Look this is only the beginning. I’m saving up to transform this place so it will be little by little.” In an age of social media where much is fabricated, it is exciting to be vulnerable and launch yourself into ownership of your story. Even mundane details are poetic, trust me!

Be realistic and have fun on social media. If you become overwhelmed by the idea of consistently engaging your followers, own how you would like to engage. Some people have the capacity to post every day, others biweekly, yours may be once a month. Whatever it is — be realistic and have fun! Never forget, art begets art!

Drop your CashApp. You never know who may be watching. $MaKaylaLorick 

How Teaching Dance Got Me Out of My Creative Slump

Jeana Jorgensen is a folklorist, writer, educator, and dancer — and now, a dance teacher.

I’ve been a belly dancer for over 20 years, and while the pandemic changed how I dance — I mostly teach classes on Zoom now, and perform virtually rather than at hookah bars and art shows — I wasn’t expecting to find inspiration in teaching online. I viewed Zoom as a burdensome necessity, not something to get excited about… yet that all changed just a few months ago.

In the belly dance world, we are having a number of conversations about cultural appropriation, how best to respect the source cultures our dance comes from, and so on. These are necessary but challenging conversations. However, between those and the burnout from my day job as a college lecturer, I was feeling my creativity wane in recent months. I would teach my college classes during the daytime, lecturing to a room filled with half my students while the other half Zoomed in due to social distancing restrictions, and then I’d teach dance on Zoom at night. I cooked most of my own meals and fit in exercise where I could. But my inspiration to practice dance on my own, rather than scrape by with the bare minimum needed to still be a good dance teacher, seemed to evaporate.

I was surviving, not thriving, and my art was suffering for it.

Then I got a wild idea.

I’d spent a chunk of summer 2020 taking online classes from a dance studio in Poland, where they study and teach the same type of belly dance I do: FatChance BellyDance (FCBD) Style, which is geared towards group improvisation, so we could theoretically dance together and sync up even if we don’t speak the same language. My teachers at the Siren Project had brought in flamenco props like fan and manton (silk shawl) to liven up the dance style, and, eager for novelty while in pandemic lockdown, I’d enrolled in a bunch of their classes. Because our shared dance style provided a basic template for the existing moves to have props layered onto them, I was able to pick up the stylization pretty quickly. The new props challenged and stimulated me, and gave me ideas for solo pieces to perform in virtual shows in the fall.

When 2021 rolled around, I was still just fiddling with these dance props in soloist mode. Burnout was creeping in. My dance students kept complimenting the solos I put on Instagram and YouTube, and finally it occurred to me: why not teach flamenco fan (the prop that I’m strongest with) to my dance students?

I got excited. They got excited. And then I got to work: in January I filmed a number of instructional videos and put them up on YouTube, unlisted, for my dedicated students to view. We organized some Zoom practices outside of our normal “class” times. I found myself motivated to polish up the movements and ensure that I understood them well enough to teach them, which meant more time fiddling around in practice mode. I had to film myself and see myself on video repeatedly to make this work, which also spurred me to make sure my form was excellent.

After a few months of this, a performance opportunity came our way: a show specifically devoted to dancing with props, open to any global practitioner of FCBD Style. Some of us would have to enroll in an online workshop in order for the group to be eligible to perform, but we were planning to do so anyway (all of the workshops were dedicated to baskets, another fun prop that we often dance with). I conferred with my troupe and my student troupe, and we decided to apply to perform. Both groups were admitted to the show, and that gave us extra drive to continue to learn and practice virtually, with a handful of masked in-person practices thrown in.

We realized fairly quickly that dancing even familiar moves with a wooden flamenco fan in one hand presents plenty of challenges: you have to make sure the fan is aligned against your forearm in many movements which takes body awareness, and you have to make sure the fan isn’t tilted too far to one side or another, to ensure that the audience (even if imaginary, even if virtual) can see the full shape of the fan. If, like us, you dance in long full skirts, then any time you bring the fan to hip level you have to make sure you’re not mashing it into the folds of your skirts. When learning to flick the fan open or closed, you have to learn not to accidentally fling it (we have all been guilty of this error at one point or another). Still, even our mistakes made us smile and laugh, and continue to bond with one another and study hard.

Given that I’d been feeling burned out teaching online for most of the last year, I hadn’t been expecting creative inspiration to come my way in the form of yet more teaching online. But I’d been lucky enough to figure out what sparked my motivation: getting to apply something I’d learned to a new situation and teaching it to a group of people that I absolutely love dancing with. And we are, to my knowledge, the only group of dancers in the U.S. studying this style so we can perform it live and improvised, rather than being forced to stick to solo work or rigid choreographies.

Not everybody is in the position to study with artists halfway around the world and then teach the material you’ve learned to a group of dedicated students that you may or may not have already cultivated, I get it. I think this idea could be reframed in a number of ways, such as offering to lead a session of your artist’s or writer’s group to implement a new technique that you’ve learned, or volunteering to run a short class for a local youth group. Simply going out of your way to learn something new, and learn it well enough that you could transmit it to an audience that it’s well-suited for in terms of technique/skill level, would hit the novelty and challenge aspects of creativity that can be hard to come by right now (not to mention community, which is an essential ingredient in my experience of the arts as well).

I was grateful to find a trick that would get me dancing beyond the couple hours per week that I was already committed to teaching dance on Zoom; for a few months, it felt as though my flamenco fan was in my hands for half my waking hours. I’ve come out of the experience a better dancer, as well as an artist with a couple more tricks in my creative toolkit to keep me engaged when feeling despondent.

Jeana’s students happily gave permission to be used in the header photo. Here’s a video of the dancers in action:

Art Says Stop: Exploring Rest and Recovery

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TSprofile_bw.jpeg

Tara K. Shepersky is a contemplative walker, writer, & photographer based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Her first book is Tell the Turning, a collection of poetry with pen-and-ink illustrations by Lucy Bellwood, to be published this autumn by Bored Wolves.

This is the latest installment in Tara’s monthly column about the creative practice.

If you connect with Tara’s work, consider supporting her Patreon. You can also write her a letter via The PenPalProject. 

I keep trying to give my recent poems the same title. Rest Awhile* has offered itself three times in the past year, for very different poems. Unadorned Rest showed up three times in the last month. When a title seems to fit all over the place, it is not in fact a title. It’s a message.

A friend told me today I am her patron saint of walking. I love this, and also, I’m feeling distinctly un-saintlike lately. The type of walking that’s earned me this identity is passionate, exploratory, semi-aventurous, regular, and done at some length. I’ve still got the “regular” part down, but currently the rest of it’s out to lunch. Along with my ability to feel, or enjoy, most things.

I went for a hike the other morning in a favorite landscape. After climbing perhaps a thousand feet (slowly, my main speed these days) — through pine and lupine and springtime grasses starting to go gold, through my new, strange bubble of inertia and indifference — I finally had something like a feeling: a distant, but distinct desire to join my being with the prairie, to rest inside it. 

So I sat down in the middle of the narrow trail. I placed my hands on the hard, cracked soil. I ignored all my training to use this moment: to compose a poem, to compose my body in space, to compose the memory I would take away from “the experience.” 

I went to earth. I sank my hands in the soil. I grounded. There’s a reason we have all of these cliches. 

Skin-time, my aunt calls this, when she’s talking about a baby and their parent. A deeply restful, deeply needful, deeply vulnerable state. 

I rested a long time on that prairie soil. I know it was rest because it had no agenda, and I wasn’t trying to bang one together in a hurry. I felt present, and I felt that as enough.

I know it wasn’t enough rest, though, because getting back up was bleak. A pure act of obeying the training that both serves and stifles me. I had to do it, in the sense that I could not sit on that hillside long enough to effect some kind of recovery, without also encountering the need to eat, find shelter, go back to the money factory so I can pay my rent.

Every so often, we know we need to “take the day off.” We have learned to talk about “disconnecting for the weekend,” and taking the occasional “mental health day.” I’d like to suggest that the day, and even the weekend, is the incorrect unit of measurement to talk about any serious undertaking. 

Like, for example, rest. Like recovery. You can’t grate yourself year after year against personal, national, and planet-level crises — climatic, political, medical, economic — and then “take the day off” and expect to emerge anything like rested. 

This is the message my own art is unsubtly offering right now. My body is offering it too — can we say that the body and the art are separate? — because my intellect has been offering it for years, and I’ve been responding with “yes, you’re right!” and a thoughtful shift or two, and also without actually resting. 

Actually resting would involve… I don’t even know how to answer that invitation. I can just touch the edges of some answers, and they’re radical in ways I’m not ready to fully look upon, let alone embrace. They open up a yawning gulf directly in front of my exhausted feet.

Possibly what I’m lacking is courage to look straight at them. They’re big, and unmapped. But to paraphrase Christina Tran, if I so much as glance at them sideways, I see them staring back at me, straight on. They know: if you want to change your life, you have to change your life.

Ok. So that’s out there. This is a long-term undertaking, and I’m gathering the courage to look into its eyes and befriend it. Meantime, is there any hope for some rest in the day to day? 

This is where I can think usefully in a direction that might be more broadly helpful. What is rest, if it’s more than just “taking the day off?” What does it feel like? Until I can recognize it, I can’t invite more of it into my life, and disinvite more of what actively works against it.

From my own experience, I want to offer two characteristics of rest that are helping me sort out these questions, slowly.

Rest is about focus.

A partial list of things that aren’t restful: going for a walk while also answering email; checking my various text and chat apps on mobile while also working from my laptop; having multiple tabs open in my browser. 

I’m not saying these things are necessarily bad, I’m saying they’re asking my brain to task-switch continually, which prohibits focus. 

Rest is about focus, about presence. Rest is being able to hear myself think. It’s having the mental and temporal space to follow a thought or idea for as long as I want to, and to put that idea down and pick it back up again, usefully, at some leisure. 

It’s not necessarily not-working — the activity itself is perhaps less important to restfulness than how I go about it. Ursula LeGuin puts it like this: “How you play is what you win.”

I can “take a day off” from multi-tasking, or from the internet (which encourages multi-tasking), but the kind of rest I need is the sort that accumulates from living a life that encourages focus most of the time

Every so often, I might take a day or an hour off from that focused being. Maybe there is some really urgent shit going down, and I also need to take a walk. So this time, the mobile comes along. This is fine. 

But this is not how I live. I live in what I’ve previously called The Scatter. I dislike it, and I try to build in as many breaks from it as possible. 

This is the wrong direction of effort: pushing against what rubs me wrong, instead of aligning with what flows cleanly. Or I might imagine it as hauling a very large rock uphill, all the time.

No wonder my results are less than satisfying. Less than restful. 

Rest is anti-consumption and anti-accomplishment.

A way I imagine that I am resting is to read books. The grammar of that sentence shows part of the problem: books. Reading a book — with focus, at leisure — is restful. Reading books — consuming them, perhaps recording their consumption, always thinking about the next one — is not.

Relatedly, I imagine it is restful to sit down with a glass of wine or a plate of snacks, or in front of the TV. Sometimes it is. But half the time, I’ve rushed whatever I was doing before, so I could get to the part of the day where I’m “allowed” to consume alcohol or watch TV. Now that I’m here, I’m not sure what alcohol I want, or what film I want, or if alcohol or a film really is what I want, and I don’t have time to figure any of that out because I’m so damn tired; I need to rest before it’s time to do something else. 

Rest here has become another item on the to-do list, and consumption has become a shorthand way to check that item off. It’s a false flag, brought to us by an economy and social order that encourages us to think of ourselves primarily as consumers. To rest, I need to stop falling for it. 

I also like to assume I am resting as long as I am doing one thing at a time. But mostly that one thing is checking something off the to-do list. Answering my emails: one thing. Applying for a residency: one thing. Proofreading the typeset manuscipt of my forthcoming book: one thing. But none of these things are restful. They’re too focused on getting something done.

And they’re too focused on a schedule: getting something done within X minutes, hours, or days. An activity is most restful when it takes the time it takes.

Recently, my family started setting aside an evening a week to build a fire, pour adult beverages, and take turns reading three different translations of Beowulf out loud. This may or may not be your personal idea of a great evening, but here’s something it objectively is: high-quality rest. 

It’s focused. Nobody checks their texts; nobody cooks dinner while also trying to listen. We are not trying to fill time until the next appointment in front of a screen somewhere. 

It’s anti-consumption. We got the books through our library holds system. (Which took the time it took.) Alcoholic beverages (ok, yes, we picked mead) are an adjunct pleasure, not a goal.

And it’s anti-accomplishment. The object isn’t to write an essay comparing the translations, or do a podcast about them, or even to finish. It’s literally just for fun. 

Using this activity as a model is starting to teach me how to think about rest more regularly, what to look for when I go searching for it.

You know what else is restful? Creative practice. But only if what you’re doing is basically play. 

Making art is focus-work, and it’s the opposite of consumption. But for most of us, it’s also goal-based, and for some of us, it brings questions of consumption (are you making a book, for example?) into the spotlight on the other side of the stage. 

We love doing it, though. It can be hard to separate our work from our play, and maybe for some of us, the dream has been that we should not need to.

I’d like to argue that we do. Especially right now. As epidemiologists keep reminding us, the pandemic isn’t over just because folks are getting vaccinated. And as mental health experts keep reminding us, the social and emotional trauma is likely to be years in the unfolding. 

So we need rest — we always have, but now we need it like we need to take Tylenol and lie down when our head is splitting. We need to figure out what rest is for us, and how to live it much, much more often than most of us do. 

A friend was telling me yesterday about the question she’s learning to ask herself, to manage some pretty intense external circumstances: what do I need right now? As in: this moment, not existentially. She answers this in various ways: a nap; a glass of water; to call a friend instead of texting; to spend the day researching, looking forward to some undemanding tv tonight.

I like this question for so many reasons. It’s easy, at least in the asking. It forces a person to take their own self seriously. It opens the door to healing right now. It’s kind and humane, and also it takes no shit. I’m starting to ask it too, and so much of the time, my answer is something focused, something fully-present, something that’s not about consuming or accomplishing. 

This, I think, is why even my poetry — sometimes a restful activity, and sometimes not, depending on how I’m pursuing or inviting it — is sending me regular reminders about the pre-eminent importance of shifting my life into a restful gear. 

My word for the year is Listen. I am trying.

Maybe my word — for the season? — is actually Rest. 

*The reference my brain is going for here is from the Book of Mark, 6:31: “Come away by yourselves to a desert place and rest awhile.” Desert here means deserted, not necessarily dry or cactusy.

I Tried Walking Off My Writer’s Block — And This Is What Happened

Natalli Amato is a freelance writer, a former assistant to the editor of Rolling Stone, and the author of two poetry collections: On a Windless Night and Burning Barrel (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press). Currently, she is working on her first novel.

It was late last August when I heard a voice inside my head. It was a stranger’s, but she introduced herself: the main character of the novel I would now be writing. She was a compulsive sharer. The Oasis b-side playing in the background? That was her favorite song. The purple smock I put on in the morning? She thought I was aging myself. The line of communication seemed like it would never close. I wrote a chapter. Then I wrote another. And another. And another. I followed the old saying: strike while the iron is hot. I pulled up Microsoft Excel and wrote a chapter-by-chapter outline. Once-blank journals were now teeming with details. Summer bled into fall which faded into winter and I surprised myself with my progress: I finished act one of my novel, and somehow I’d sidestepped the minefield that is writer’s block. My beloved outline was there to carry me through act two. Until it wasn’t. 

In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingways gives us this advice on how to make progress in our writing: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck.” I made a point to shape my writing life around this idea. Not only does it create an inherent sense of safety when you show up the next time to fulfill the old “butt-in-chair” adage, but it also gives a writer permission to write in quick spurts and still feel productive. Writing this way gave me permission to quit while I was ahead.

Soon, I was no longer ahead. My main character’s voice was still clear and I still knew where I wanted her to end up. But it was turning out that she had a different way of getting there  than I had planned for — which, given her rebellious teenage existence, I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn. Like all impatient teenagers before her, she wasn’t giving me directions. She was tapping her foot and sighing as I wrote, saying not that, not that, not that, not THAT! 

Here was the writer’s block that I couldn’t face down. This was not fatigue. I could not bargain a chapter out of my brain by offering myself a ThredUp online shopping spree afterwards. I put my butt in my chair every day because I wanted to. (Really.) What I didn’t want to do was put my face in front of my blank screen and admit that I just didn’t know how to move the story forward. 

This resistance to the unknown drove me away from my story. First it was for a day or two. Then it was a full week. Did it turn into two? I hesitate to admit that it did. Until this point, the things that had kept me away from writing this novel were the 8-hour work day that would jump into 10, or an evening bottle of wine with my partner. Things that prevented a night’s worth of writing but didn’t prevent me from doubling up the next day. 

It was in this state of limbo that I applied for a stay at the Rockvale Writers’ Colony a few months out in advance. Let the novel rest until then, I told myself. It’s okay. You don’t have to write a single new scene until you get there. 

If that self-talk was honestly in line with my desires, it wouldn’t have necessarily been bad advice. But it was rooted in fear. And besides, my main character couldn’t just disappear for three months and meet me in Nashville when I planned to become magically unblocked. Stubborn, silent, and tired — she was still very much present. 

That’s when I tried something different. Forget butt in chair. We would go for a walk. 

When I say we, I mean myself and my notebook and the fictional girl who now occupied a great deal of my brain. We walked without an agenda. We walked in silence. Then with headphones in. Maybe I would write nothing for the day, but I wouldn’t fill my would-be writing time with errands or Twitter or brunch. I honored my would-be-writing time with a walk. For most of these early walks, I heard nothing but the mourning doves who recently took up a residence in our neighborhood trees or the sounds of my own breath. Then, over time, that changed. 

One day, I heard the song that my character was playing on her iPod as she walked to her friend’s house while trying not to cry (and crying anyway). 

This fact climbed into my mind through the window I’d left open. What has been said to her that triggered these tears? I did not know. What I did know was that I now had a glimpse — just a glimpse — into a scene, and that it felt organic for the first time in weeks.

Here is something I need to admit about myself: I am lazy and I like to do things the easy way. Once I had this one good experience, I wanted another. I changed my routine to allow for more. After that first fruitful walk, I went home and wrote a scene — a scene that made sense, a scene that I was happy with. That alone left me more invigorated to put my butt in chair the next day. Instead, I put feet in shoes. I went for my walk, and like the day before, I walked until I found something, and wrote afterwards. 

Find something I did: a line of dialogue from a minor character that — once I sat down to actually write it into my draft- went on to set the tone for a small yet crucial scene. This time, I learned something important. Not every walk would yield a here’s-the-scene-I’ve-been-missing realization. But if I walked long enough with a clear mind committed to staying in the present, to simply walk and breathe and be, I would glean something useful. Following this routine, I walked my way into, through, and out of, act two of my novel. 

You can, too. 

I don’t know what will come to you when you walk. Maybe the air temperature on your skin will place you momentarily in your character’s body. Or you’ll pass a couple running and think my character would hate those people, followed by something more specific (and true): my character would glare at those people because she wants to be in a relationship like that. Maybe you walk around the block a dozen times and nothing presents itself for you to use, except for the pride in knowing that you honored your time and opened your mind. If that’s the case, be ready to put your feet in shoes the next day. And the next.

Because the more you make it a habit to be in the world — not as a planner or an analyzer or even a writer but as an open window — the more you will find inspiration coming in to meet you on the tails of the breeze. 

What Happens When You Fail at Your Creative Goals?

Sydney Allen is a journalist from Indianapolis, Indiana who currently lives in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She works as a journalism teacher, writer, and editor and is passionate about all things communication. When she’s not working, you’ll find her attempting to surf, diving down YouTube rabbit holes, and zipping around on her motorbike.

As a burgeoning freelance writer and editor, my inbox is full of newsletters and stories about other writers and editors who’ve reached the level of success I’m working towards.

“Here’s how I published 100 stories in one month.”

“Top 10 tips for being a top-notch freelancer.”

“Meet the top 30 under 30 female journalists.”

When I’m feeling confident, these emails buoy, inspire, and motivate me. They help me find my creative flow, push me to work harder on my current projects, and give me a list of action items that I can apply to my own career.

But when I’m feeling low… let’s just say they have the opposite effect. 

What happens when you fail to act like a top-notch freelancer? When you miss your deadlines, turn in half-baked work, and fall short of your creative goals?

I’m interested in writing about self-compassion when you fail in creative spaces. And I’m going to start by talking about my own failures — as embarrassing and shameful as I may find them.

Last year I was contracted for a freelance writing opportunity for a magazine I greatly admire. The magazine asked for around 2,000-words — lengthy, but not entirely out of my wheelhouse — about sexual education in Indonesia, where I live. 

The truth was, I wasn’t the best person to write that piece. I wasn’t excited about the topic and didn’t have the background or inspiration to really make it shine. But I was so determined to get my work out there and driven to succeed, that I figured I could overcome those barriers. 

The following months were filled with a vicious cycle of procrastination and writer’s block. 

First, I had some health problems that kept me in bed for a couple of weeks. Of course I couldn’t complete the piece then; I told myself I’d do it when I recovered. Then Christmas came. I had to quarantine to travel, and after that, I postponed the piece in favor of family time. The whole month of December passed. Then I had to return to Indonesia and deal with a frustrating assortment of travel restrictions and COVID tests. I told myself I couldn’t possibly write under those stressful conditions. 

By then, it was February, and I was facing the terrifying reality that I was overdue, uninspired, and unmotivated to complete the piece. I was dodging texts from my editor and feeling a near-constant low-level panic. 

My paltry notes were sitting in an open Word document on my desktop. My To-Do List had an all-caps reminder to WRITE YOUR ARTICLE, which I conveniently looked past when I marked off my daily tasks. Whenever I considered starting the piece, I was ambushed by intense feelings of self-anger and guilt. I started getting stomach pains. When I tried to write, I’d feel my eyes prick and my stomach cramp and would immediately search for something else to do to distract myself. 

In the end, I didn’t complete it. Despite the guilt, dread, anxiety, and self-loathing I simply could not do it. 

I ended up passing the opportunity on to a friend and connecting her with my editor. I simultaneously felt intense sensations of failure and relief. I could breathe easily for the first time in months. It was such an obvious solution — I couldn’t do it, so I made way for someone who could. But it was also one of the hardest professional choices I’ve ever had to make. 

Letting go of this assignment taught me a valuable lesson about self-compassion: that sometimes it’s healthy to fail. While I’ve heard this line over and over throughout my life, it failed to truly sink in until I was faced to confront my failure head on and acknowledge that I had gotten in over my head. 

After I gave up this piece, I found myself in a much better headspace, able to focus on a multitude of other projects and creative ideas. I was able to complete other assignments that actually excited me — topics that I was passionate or curious about, which didn’t feel fraught or impossible to overcome. 

As a writer, I typically only see the finished products that my friends and colleagues produce. I don’t see them struggle. I don’t see them throw away drafts. I don’t see which pitches get rejected. No matter how successful someone is, they will have experienced failures, but those challenges are often invisible — and rarely make it into inspirational blog posts and top-ten lists. 

I know I personally would have appreciated some feedback about failure when I was waffling with my writing. At the time, I thought not completing an assignment was the worst thing in the world. Afterward, it became quite clear the worst thing was actually being stuck in a limbo, unable to complete the piece and unable to move on.

Choosing to fail — choosing to welcome failure, learn from it, and use it to improve the next time around — was the best action I could have taken.

I want to make more space for compassionate, honest conversations about the downsides of working in a creative field. Failures should not be a shameful secret, but rather experiences writers and creators can collectively learn from and use to support each other. 

With that in mind, I’d like to open a discussion about creative failure. Where have you fallen short of your creative goals? What have those experiences taught you?

In my case, I thought that not completing a single assignment signaled some type of long-term personal failure. If I couldn’t do this job, I must not be a real writer, a real journalist. But I see that that’s not true. Just because I struggled, and failed on this particular assignment, doesn’t mean my identity or competency are permanently devalued. It’s simply a sign that I should be more intentional about the work I choose. That I need to work on protecting my time and creative energy.

Let’s continue this conversation in the comments — because the more we know about the struggles involved in creative work, the better we can work together to overcome them.

What Writing a Pitch a Day Did to My Brain (and My Freelancing Career)

Anne H. Putnam lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their cat and writes about body image, relationships, and anything else that requires an awkward amount of vulnerability. You can follow her on Twitter for politics and random musings or Instagram for cat pics and baked goods.

I began this year with a resolution to prioritize my writing, despite having a plate so overloaded it was bending at the edges. I needed to find a way to fit it in — and also to get it out, which meant, in part, that I would have to ramp up my pitching productivity. 

I’d already made solid progress on conquering my fear of rejection (or worse, ghosting) by editors, but I was struggling to come up with ideas for essays and service pieces. How many angles could there possibly be on my two preferred subjects, relationships and mental health?

To be honest, I’ve always had a hard time coming up with ideas. While so many of my writer friends complain about having too many ideas and too little time to write them all, I silently hate myself for the crickets in my brain. 

Until I wrote my first memoir, I never thought I’d have a book in me at all; until I started my second book, I was sure I’d tap out at one. I’m always surprised when I have an idea for a story or an essay that actually feels like it can be fleshed out beyond a paragraph. But I was determined to try.

At the end of January, when a writer in one of my Facebook groups announced she was going to send a pitch a day in February and asked if anyone else wanted to join, I signed on. Not necessarily to send a pitch every day — that was a little too ambitious for me — but to at least try to write one. 

As a recovering teacher’s pet and a forever student, I love any challenge with an external structure. Show me an outline and I’ll write you a blog post about tech marketing; give me some plans and a mitre saw and I’ll build us a garden box; tell me I need to write 1667 words every day in November and I’ll draft 75 percent of a fairly terrible novel. As an established writer but a relatively recent student of the art of freelance pitching, I figured this practice could only do me good.

I quickly realized that this was much harder than those other structured challenges. I went into week one with a few ideas up my sleeve, a couple of notes-to-self with topics that had been rolling around in my head for the past few months, but by February 8 I was tapped out and panicking. I was sure I’d never have another idea — after all, I’d used up nearly a year’s worth of original thoughts in just one week!

But later that day, as I baked cinnamon rolls to soothe my anxiety about not having anything else to write about, I listened to a little Taylor Swift, and the lyrics poked at the memory center of my brain and sparked an idea. I’d made it through the day with my brief streak intact. Now if only I could keep going for another 20 days…

And I did. I started every day with the wind whistling through my brain and the fear that I’d never come up with a pitch, and every day I hit on an idea. They came from songs, from conversations, from Twitter, from my own experiences, and from the recesses of my memory, where thoughts that wouldn’t leave me alone had been huddling for months or even years. 

On February 15, I put on a pair of leggings to go outside the house and then rushed to write a pitch about what a jerk I used to be about people who wear leggings as pants. On February 23, during a conversation with a friend, I said “writing is bloodletting” — and wrote a pitch about that as soon as our Zoom ended.

I stopped feeling like I had run out of original thoughts — and (more interestingly) I began seeing the world differently. Just as I found myself framing every new experience as verse during a brief (and doomed) dalliance with poetry in college, I now found myself distilling everything around me into its pitchable core. 

I interrupted heated conversations with my husband to send myself emails, ignoring his probably-excellent next point so I could capture my previous pretty-good one in a pitch. I stared off into the middle distance while attempting to read, no longer satisfied with letting my thoughts be provoked temporarily by a book — no, I had to follow those thoughts, catch them in a butterfly net, pin them into a 300-word essay idea.

As I turned the corner to March, I realized I’d strengthened my pitching muscle dramatically. I read through the 28 pitches I’d written in February, seeing them all together for the first time now that I didn’t need to be so fixated on forward momentum. Not all of them were good — probably more than half were pretty bad, actually — but none was irredeemable. There were some pretty interesting nuggets in there, in terms of “things I could write about,” and the breadth of subject matter and focus was impressive. 

I guess I’m not such a two-trick pony after all. 

Whenever I’m stuck, I push myself to do a challenge like this: the same hard-but-manageable exercise every day, including weekends, for a definite period of time. That last part is essential, because the ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel is what keeps me pushing through the hardest days. 

Practice has yet to make perfect, but these sustained efforts never fail to make me feel like I’ve developed a new muscle in my brain, a living, aching, growing part of my mind that leaves me feeling hopeful and capable and ready to keep working. I feel stronger, and (maybe more importantly) I feel confident in my ability to learn new skills and strengthen the ones I already have.

So if you’re feeling stuck, I highly recommend pushing yourself with a structured, consistent, short-term challenge. (Jami Attenberg’s #1000wordsofsummer is another fabulous example, and is coming up in June.) You just might surprise yourself with what you can do.

Oh, and if you’re wondering: yes, this piece came out of one of my February pitches.

Dear Friend

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TSprofile_bw.jpeg

Tara K. Shepersky is a contemplative walker, writer, & photographer based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Her first book is Tell the Turning, a collection of poetry with pen-and-ink illustrations by Lucy Bellwood, on Kickstarter right now!

This is the latest installment in Tara’s monthly column about the creative practice.

If you connect with Tara’s work, consider supporting her Patreon. You can also write her a letter via The PenPalProject. 

I am just in the door from my afternoon commute. This consists of a mile’s easy walking in a circle from my house — marking the close of today’s hours at the laptop-enabled money-factory, and reminding me gently of my physical body, its welcome tether to the seasons and the earth. 

In the moment before this one, I opened the mailbox to find two letters from friends. I smiled at them — a real smile, like I was greeting the friend named in the return address. Now I fold back the top of my little correspondence desk, and lay the letters inside. 

I will wait, and shape a space to give them my full and slow attention. 

Letters, in this last apocalyptic year-and-a-bit, have become for me a particular source of pleasure and perspective — and creative ballast.

I learned to write letters the first time as an adolescent, because writing was the only inexpensive way (remember long-distance phone charges?) to keep the friends I had to leave behind every few years, when the U.S. Navy stationed my dad somewhere new. 

I didn’t learn well, though: I had good intentions, bad follow-through. For one thing, I didn’t know how to write and read letters, in the sense of understanding what I hoped to give and get from the exchange. I had plenty of ideas, but precious little discipline to help me explore them. Thus, when my mood or mindset didn’t line up with my goal, I had zero motivation. So I stopped putting pen to paper. So I lost my penpals.

Letters are a fruit of slowness and attention and care — qualities I cultivate, though often with stunted success. I have found my way back to letter-writing by paying attention to that cultivation, false starts and failures included. (I was learning to garden at the same time. This has perhaps influenced the metaphor.)

First, I noticed how much nourishment I’d begun to derive from some very long exchanges on Twitter. 

I’d ramble for days at a time with people I didn’t know at all well, about books, walking, memory, landscape. We stacked ideas on top of questions on top of enthusiasm. Our conversations were generative and exciting and connective. We lost the thread a lot, in all the excitement. I wished often for the same conversations but slower and deeper, with everyone and every thought given more time to bloom than our present suite of communication technologies allows. 

At which point, I realized I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. I asked for an address or two. 

Also, I noticed the ways I was missing my friends. These folks are many and various. They live across town, or a few miles downriver. Also in Montana, California, Iowa, Alaska, Pennsylvania, England, Germany. We used to meet at workshops, at church, on boats, on trails, in restaurants, in backyards. 

It’s not like we ever met a lot. But I think about my friends often, and I used to store up things to turn over when we saw each other next. Going nowhere and seeing almost no one has not injured me — a solitary — as it has most folks I know, but I have absolutely missed the opportunities for depth of conversation that arise from a life lived at least partially in physical community. 

There was never a time when I realized all of these connection opportunities in person. But with the sudden inadvisability of in-person contact, relying on texts and Zoom and Twitter began to feel more hollow than before. Instead of handily filling in the gaps, those tools have become primary platforms to maintain entire friendships. They’re not, generally speaking, equal to the long-term task.

Letters are.

Why is this? I’ll offer two understandings gleaned from a year and more of writing deeply and regularly to friends and strangers. 

Both understandings require creative exercise — that formative, necessary thing you (you, reading this) need, and with which I know many of my fellow artists have been struggling, as deaths and lockdowns and vaccine worries and economic pain wear us down. 

First: To write to a person, or to read what they have written you, is to spend real time with them. It’s asynchronous, yes, but I think of it as sacred time, time-out-of-time, in which clock-time ceases to signify.

It’s real time because you are focused on that person. There is no room (indeed, no opportunity) to check your DMs or switch to a different channel, and there is only this one person you can listen to at a time. The conversation is very slow. You can read or write only one side of it at once, which forces a particular kind of concentrated presence. You can pause your conversation to think or feel about something your friend has said. You have what feels like infinite space and time to respond internally, to process, to enjoy. 

You are also doing the work, all this while, of creating your correspondent there in your mind and heart. To recall or imagine a friend is a creative act, and also a specific pleasure. A letter places this work at the center of your being for as long as it takes to write, or to read.

Also: Creating a physical object is an act of magic, or an act of prayer. 

I like to understand things intellectually. I used to think of magic as something abstruse, and I wasn’t really surprised when I couldn’t make it “work.” Obviously, I was doing something wrong. I used to be frankly baffled by prayer. How do you even start? 

Sometimes the answer is just to do or make a thing. The act of creation is… creation. You are taking the materials around you, and shaping them, with your hands and whatever expertise you own, into a new object in the world. 

To create that object with a very specific recipient in mind is to direct the power of your magic, or your prayer, to them, and to the relationship between you. 

A letter, hand-written, maybe illustrated or decorated, is a powerful, non-replicable piece of art, constructed with your hands and given life by your care, your interest, your attention. It forges something, both inside the writer and between writer and reader, that a text message can’t. 

My art has been my anchor in this last long terrible year, and my strong companion. Though poetry, my primary art, cuts as deeply as it heals, still I am fortunate that it has journeyed with me. 

I have written here before that I need to commune with my places to write the deep poems I love. This type of communion has been in short supply for some time, and it has followed that most of the new work I’ve crafted feels adrift, amorphous, unspecific. Not so my letters.

I have said that a letter is a piece of art. I think it is one quite as beautiful and valid as poem. This is the end of the similarities. 

I feel expansive when I sit to write a letter. Free-wheeling, like I’m embarking on an essay — yet much less formal. I can ramble in a letter, and excuse myself with phrases like “wandered off-topic again.” I can spell things wrong and cross them out and muddle my thoughts and still feel unembarrassed to put a stamp on the envelope. A letter feels unfinished because it is. This is a feature of the genre. 

All art is a conversation, but usually we have to remind ourselves that’s true. A letter knows that in its very form. By choosing to create, and enjoy, this physical art form, we assert to each other and we reassure ourselves that we’re not suffering, enjoying, analyzing, and exploring this life alone.

The regular work of this creative reassurance is, I continue to discover, infinitely worth the considerable time and effort it requires. Full and slow attention to ourselves — each other, our world, and our shared and divergent experiences — is yet another healing friend. Speaking for myself, but knowing I am not alone, I can say that I need to cultivate as many of those as I can.

Creativity Thrives in Community

Danielle Taschereau Mamers is a researcher at McMaster University, where she studies politics and media. She has expertise in settler colonial history, decolonization, and environmental politics. Taschereau Mamers has written about bison conservation for The Conversation, and has also been published in the Journal of Narrative Politics and Settler Colonial Studies.

For the past three years, I have been writing with others — not collaboratively, but in community. As a writer and researcher, my work is often solitary. By joining together with a small group of fellow writers and scholars, our writing practices have thrived. Working in community is the single best thing I have done for my creative practice.

In the fall of 2018, I was passing days alone in my office, surrounded by stacks of books, overflowing notebooks, and half-empty coffee cups. It was far from romantic. Adrift and mostly miserable, I needed creative companionship. I reached out to other women working out of the same research centre, who were also in solitary office spaces and similarly struggling with overwhelming writing projects. Perhaps, I ventured, we could write together, at the same time and in the same space? 

We started as a small group of four, meeting for two hours every Thursday morning. For the better part of a year, we soaked up the small luxury of having access to a well-lit conference room and fancy espresso machine at the centre. Each week, we assembled our laptops, reference materials, and drafts around the small table and declared our intentions to one another. Small statements of tasks that we could reasonably complete during our two-hour session. These tasks often felt trivial in the face of a book or dissertation manuscript: drafting a paragraph, summarizing an article, inputting revisions. Yet, as the year stretched on, the work we did together accumulated. Our projects inched closer to completion. 

That big projects are the accumulation of smaller components is hardly a revelation. The magic of our writing group is the articulation and celebration of those minor tasks as goals in and of themselves. Speaking aloud to one another what we would do and then checking in at the end of our two-hour work session, we were not just writing. We were also giving  narrative accounts of how our writing processes unfolded, and learning from one another the many ways in which writing can unfold. 

Working in these focused blocks helped me reckon with one of my biggest challenges: my sense of just how long writing takes. As a graduate student, I was forever dispirited by the bold lists of projects and deadlines I would set out for myself. Each day there would be much left undone, endlessly pushed forward to the next day. From week to week, semester to semester, my sense of what I wanted to accomplish was increasingly distant from what I was able to get done. I promised myself over and over again to work faster and more efficiently and for longer stretches. 

In writing and other creative work, the line between promising to work harder and haranguing oneself for not being enough is very fine. Over these years of not feeling smart enough, fast enough, or accomplished enough, it never occurred to me that my expectations were the problem. Writing in community, I’ve witnessed how common struggles with time and expectations are, while also coming to understand how different writers approach these issues. Together, we have found ways to be enough.

By working in community with other writers, I saw how others worked. Through our meetings, I listened to their descriptions of trouble with a particular paragraph or attempts to braid different narratives together or approaches to thorny peer-reviews. But alongside hearing different approaches to the writing process, I also came to better understand just how incrementally a manuscript comes together. More importantly, I saw that it wasn’t just me that wasn’t enough, but that the process is long for everyone. Settling into our consistent two-hour blocks, I set more modest goals and saw them through. While working in community hasn’t made me smarter or more efficient, it has taught me what I can do in two hours. Most importantly, our group has showed me how to consistently show up for modest writing goals. 

The onset of the pandemic coincided with moves across the country and new jobs. Our group moved online like the rest of the world. In a period that has brought isolation and distraction from creative practice for many, we have grown. An accumulation of modest goals and their celebration that began on Thursday mornings in a sunny conference room now unfolds two afternoons a week over zoom. 

When I hear writers and researchers express frustration over stalled projects or the loneliness of our vocation, I always suggest finding a writing group. Or making one. Finding just one other person makes a group. Drawing from the three years that our group has been writing together, I have four suggestions for building a writing community:

Be consistent. Set up a time and place where you will come together. We started with weekly morning meetings in a physical location that was comfortable and already a part of our working lives. Consistency needs flexibility. We check in seasonally to decide our meeting schedule. When we met in person, there was a season of shifting from Thursday to Friday mornings. When we no longer had access to the research centre conference room (and the pandemic meant we could no longer meet in person), we moved online and increased the frequency of our meetings. But as an online group, we are still together for two hours of co-writing where we hold space for modest goals and for celebrating their achievement.

Size matters. The size of our group is part of our success and key to being consistent. Our group has grown from four to eight over the years. It is small enough that we know each other and have come to know one another’s projects well. But it is big enough to withstand a couple of absences on a given week or season. In busy times when there have been just two members available, the consistency of community continues.

Prompt each other. After a few minutes of chatting at the start of each session, we write. Each session begins with a prompt: “In the next two hours, I will…” We finish this sentence aloud and then build on it with a few minutes of free writing. Sometimes we offer one another prompts to move the writing along. These include listing the key points we care about, writing out the things we do and do not know about a topic, or putting the feelings we have toward our work into words. Setting a timer and scribbling by hand together brings a special energy to getting started and to keeping going.

Create special sessions. Once a season, usually aligned with the beginning or end of an academic semester, our group holds longer retreats. We pick two or three days where we meet for full days and set larger, but still achievable goals. Along with focused writing sessions, we take lunch breaks together and build in brief yoga sessions to keep up morale. Whether in person or online, we conclude retreats with a celebratory happy hour. 

The impact of this community practice has been profound. Between us, we have completed book manuscripts, submitted articles, begun creative writing pursuits, and made headway on stalled dissertations. By working side-by-side (and now, screen-by-screen), we have learned the productive limits of two hours. When shared, these two-hour increments expand in ways that have made us better writers, committed to our craft and to each other.

How a Teacher Turned a Comms Habit into a Full-Time Gig

After spending 16 years in public education as a special education classroom teacher and district support specialist, Tim Villegas turned his communications habit into a full-time career. He is the Director of Communications for MCIE, Editor-in-chief of Think Inclusive, and hosts the Think Inclusive Podcast. He also freelances while working on a book about his journey from being an inclusive education skeptic to becoming a self-proclaimed inclusionist.

My first PR job was for an indie record label nestled in a second-floor office above the main drag of a sleepy suburb close to Los Angeles.

The president of the label handed me a phone book and a sheet of paper with dates and locations. “Here you go, book us a tour.”

I spent the next few weeks during off times from my studies at the university, cold-calling venues up the Pacific Coast to book our indie rock band tour.

It was a tough gig. But you know what? I loved every minute of it. There was something magical about using my conversational skills to convince other people to take a chance with booking our band.

Little did I know that my next official communications job would be as Director of Communications for a nonprofit — or that it would take 20 years of experience and education to get me there.

Initially, I went to school to become a counselor — but there weren’t too many jobs right out of college for Psychology majors. As a stopgap, I took a position at an organization that worked with young autistic children and realized that I had a knack for teaching kids. That’s when fate took over. 

When my job led me into a public school to support one of our clients, I surveyed the educators around me, and thought “I could do that!” The advice given to me was to become a substitute teacher and see if it was something I wanted to do. And I did! That year, I applied to a local teaching credential program. Within 18 months, I obtained a provisional teaching certificate so I could get a job as a teacher.

When interviewing for my first job as a special education teacher, I remember saying “I think special education has a PR problem.” Before taking my first courses in my teacher education program, I had no idea what it took to be a teacher — and working with students with disabilities was still a mystery to me and everyone else I knew. 

Not only did most people not know what teachers do, but it also seemed to me that there was a significant disconnect between what my teaching credential program taught me and the reality of public schools. My program was supposed to prepare me to work in schools, but the inclusive values instilled in me — that students (with and without disabilities) should be educated together, not in separate classrooms — were not evident with my first employer.

As it turns out, segregating too many students with disabilities into separate classrooms has been a big problem since the federal government passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1990. The United States has definitely made progress since then, but not enough. 

Although I had some allies, many people did not understand my passion for inclusion. It wasn’t until I moved from California to Georgia that I found the problems present in my first teaching job were very similar in my new job. I had the idea of creating a blog to share my thoughts about how educators could do a better job of including students with disabilities in general education.

I started a Twitter and Tumblr account as I was preparing to present at a disability rights conference near Atlanta, GA. Once I began writing and sharing, I realized how powerful social media could be — and how my writing could help connect me to like-minded individuals. 

A friend helped me set up my first domain,, and I was off and running, reading everything I could about blogging and website design. I asked friends that I met through social media to write blog posts centered around inclusive education. Shortly after that, I started a podcast to interview people who are actively working to change educational and societal systems to be more inclusive.

Promoting the blog and podcast felt very similar to the days when I worked for the record label — except this time, I was armed with the internet.

I kept up my side hustle for eight years; teaching during the day, and blogging, editing, and podcasting by night. I’m not going to lie. It was exhausting, and there were many times I took long breaks. A few times, I even said I would quit. But every time I was tempted to hang up my keyboard, I would listen to the whisper inside of me to keep going — and I am so glad I did.

Today, my comms habit has turned into a full-blown gig as the Director of Communications for a nonprofit dedicated to promoting and sustaining inclusive education. I’m writing, editing, and podcasting every day, and I wonder what my younger self would think if I told him what I was doing now. 

I’m grateful for everyone who ever told me not to give up. If there is one takeaway from this, it’s that you should always make your passions part of your journey. If writing is what gets you up in the morning, don’t let go of it. You might just find yourself back where you started, home.