Category Archives: Sucess

On finding your voice when there is nothing new under the sun.

When I was younger I was a writer. The prose came easily and content generation happened like magic over night. The ideas were hot coals ready to be stoked and everything I came across seemed to stir them up. I was a writer because I wrote, and I never stopped to think whether or not what I was writing was original or valid or culturally sensitive or politically correct because I wrote more than I read, and a steady line of people told me it was good.
Things are so different now. The constant stream of information has put a damper on that once burning writer flame. My thoughts are co-opted by Facebook and Twitter 140 characters at a time. I’ve had editors and teachers show me the ways of the world, and it silenced me because I was unused to criticism, as constructive as it may have been.
When I was younger I was a writer, and I loved travel and I loved reading books about travel. I always wanted to write my own great soul-searching travel epic and I went to all the right places to gather material, but the story hasn’t come to me because the more I traveled, the more I met other travelers who were also writers. They were all so enthused about their own stories and, frankly, their stories sounded much more interesting than any of the ideas I’d been tossing around. It was intimidating to finally meet my peers and come out of the sheltered environment which had fostered so much creativity. The gully washer rush of ideas slowed to a trickle over time and then dried up altogether.
How does this work? Creativity, inspiration, collaboration. What is “the right amount” of outside influence to get ideas coming out of you before they can be stomped down and relegated to the trash heap of unoriginality and played-out thoughts. Feedback is valuable, but is there such a thing as too much? Education and awareness are important, but can you become so immersed in them that you lose your own voice?
I theorize that’s what has happened to me through the steady tutelage of twenty years of social media and exposure to other people’s ideas. People used to have to work hard to hear what others had to say about things. They wrote letters and waited weeks and months for replies. They consumed the rare newspaper or magazine or book voraciously. They traveled long distances to fellowship with other great thinkers and collaborate on new concepts.
By contrast, today I can research fifty topics before noon with a hangover and learn whatever I want to know about, say, orangutan dietary habits and family units with a few clicks of the keyboard. The consumption of media no longer holds value for me because it is so accessible, and I think I feel my own ideas are lumped into that. When I consider what I write swirling in the melee of Google and Facebook, something squeaks in my gut and it works on me until the overwhelming feeling of “what’s the point” takes over and I surrender to another night of Netflix.
I’m trying to change that, though. Trying to adopt new habits and push the noise to background. It’s certainly easier said than done for a content addict like myself. I’ve come up with a few ideas I rarely stick with (Facebook diets? Laughable!) but the awareness of the issue actually has been half the battle. Yeah…cliche as that may be.
I had to decide what I’m about and I’ve decided that I am not here to write another Toes In the Sand travel girl memoir. I am here to uncover that writer I used to be before I got too scared to be her and too disillusioned to bother trying to bring her out. In fact I’d like to revert wholly to that teenage self—that brazen, disdainful, irreverent thing. She was really something, I think, and I admire her don’t give a fuck attitude very much. Her voice, my voice, is valid even if I’m the only one that thinks it is. My stories hold value because they are not anyone else’s, and that’s enough. And even if nobody else ever reads a word I write, I am creating something worthwhile… simply because I am creating. It takes a certain amount of hubris to be a writer, and I think being bold in life is triggering a revival of the confidence I have desperately needed in every way for so very long.

On the unique challenges of thriving on lateral change

It can be bewildering to finally get what you want.
I’ve always been an obsessive person. I obsessively do just about everything I do, whether it is wallowing in my own misery, researching an interesting topic, dieting, or planning a trip. I’ve been planning on moving to Mexico since February of 2015. Since then, I took a lot of very big steps to get here (getting rid of all of my things, moving out of my house, buying an RV, saving money,) but ran into a series of infuriating road blocks that prevented success in achieving my goal until this past February, nearly two years to the date that the idea was formed and about a year and half later than I had hoped.
I’ve been here a touch over two months now and it feels “real,” finally. The shiny is wearing off and the reality of this new existence is setting in. My routine feels like a routine rather than a novelty, I barely hear the waves crashing outside my window, and the iguanas are more of a dog teasing annoyance than an enjoyable wildlife encounter. I get a lot of work done, but I spend a lot of time alone. Aside from the amazing view, my studio isn’t that much different from a concrete jail cell: sparse, functional, and isolating.
This is what I wanted, right? Two years, so much planning and preparation, so much worry, so much money. It was all for this. I made it.
Now what?
As you can possibly tell from my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalism lately and this week I read Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki. It’s the latest in a spate of literature that has modernized a lot of ancient ideas about the joys of simplicity and owning less. I was taken by a number of notions and plan on sharing a couple of other posts loosely related to subject matter within its pages, but the first idea that really struck me is that happiness and joy are things that are best triggered and maintained by change.
Not really a novel concept. In fact, this is something my gut has always known and I’ve done quite a good job on acting on it throughout my life without the affirmation of scientific studies or any form of philosophy to influence me. I have always struggled with stasis but spent a good portion of my life trying to combat that instinct to seek change, to keep evolving, because change is not compatible with traditional notions of American success. In American culture the only change we are supposed to strive for is progressive change. We are always building on past accomplishments and “leveling up” in a beguiling form of progression. This kind of change calls for a foundation to be built on though. It is a kind of change that requires stability, and roots. We go to to school to get an education to start a great career and achieve financial success through promotions and building wealth. We start a relationship to get engaged, to get married, to have children, to have grand children. We get a home to decorate and fill with things and put our stamp on it and call it our own. All of these seem like change—they are changes. But because of the systemic progression they aren’t dramatic changes and I suspect that that is not only sufficient, but preferable to most.
I’ve always needed something…more. I think I thrive on lateral change. The whirlwind, totally uproot your life, fake your own death kind of change. Or, you know, quit your job, sell all your stuff and move to Mexico kind of change. I’ve always thrived on the kind of changes that take every damn thing I’ve got in me to accomplish, and when I accomplish them the novelty tends to wear off quickly and I find myself looking for the next “project” to stimulate joy and engage my senses and creative efforts.
Which brings me to now. That dreaded “now what” that follows success. It’s not a bad place to be, really. It means I accomplished a huge goal. But that accomplishment comes with the burden of choosing my next adventure, which is a distinct privilege I am grateful to have these days.
So bear with me as I sort through the options, because there really are so very many. So many business ventures that are calling my name, so many places I could go next. Sometimes your direction is obvious and others it is much less so, but honestly…figuring it out is half the thrill.