Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Which A Rabbit Sheds His Skin and Laughs At The Wind

Photo of the plant tinctures in my clinic. 
Sometimes I feel as if I have been devoured by my own life. Which is to say, I have not blogged here for a long time, and (like many an apologetic, absent blogger) I am very sorry. Life has taken me on a long and winding path the last year. Family and friends have passed away, jobs have changed, and the person inside is changed and changing.

After a very hectic year in 2013 involved with teaching workshops, writing, seeing patients, working in a health store, and also studying a degree, I had to simplify everything. At the beginning of the year I dropped my workshops, my freelance projects, and decided to focus on my clinical herbal practice, my job at the health store, and my person creative writing that I do for myself. 

Hallelujah! That decision saved my hide. I was burning out, fast. Very quickly I learned the only thing harder than saying "no" to what you don't want, is saying "no" to things you do in fact want very much. But for various reasons, can't do. 

Life is confusing. What is "right"? What is a "mistake"? Sometimes I really feel like I analyze each possible pathway to death, for fear of making an error or being wrong and regretting it. 

But I think I did the right thing. My clinic has never been busier, and it is a wonderful gift in my life to be able to help and guide people with their health problems, to offer safe and natural health solutions, to connect people back with ancient medicines that have now been supported by evidence and research. Plant medicine is our heritage, our birthright, and somehow my role in bringing it back into people's lives feels important to me. 

In addition, I have been reading and writing poetry more than I have in years. I have been eating books whole, ravenous for words and ideas. And then at some stage later I poop out a few poems. Maybe that isn't the most eloquent way of putting it? Oh well. Who cares. I am actually quite pleased with the writing and poetry I have been doing. 

Sometimes as a writer you secretly think that your latest project is quite clever or inspired. But you doubt yourself. So in the middle of the night you wake up, sneak out of bed, open the latest draft of the project and sneak a peak, just to see if your sleep addled mind will allow you to see the flaws in your work that your waking mind, full of ego, has hidden from you.

But no, I am happy with my writing. I have done a lot of inner work this year about being more comfortable with myself, with my voice, with Joel and all his imperfections and flaws and weaknesses. I think that it has begun to translate into my words, and also into the work I do in my clinic. 

You see, I have had to learn I will never be the perfect herbalist, the perfect poet, the perfect freelancer or the perfect teacher. Nor will I be the perfect son, the perfect brother, or the perfect friend (far from it). I can only be the best that I can be. The best version of myself, to date. 

And like Microsoft Windows, I will keep updating and developing new versions of myself. Shedding skins throughout life is what I have always done, with the newest skin always resembling something closer to my true self...

So, here I am, blogiverse. Just me, plain and simple. And it feels sooooo good! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Take a Step In The Direction of Your Goals

When you start a project that feels risky, public, and with a big-ass time-limit, you just KNOW that you are going to fail miserably, with your face in the dirt, for all the world to see. But then, maybe not. 

I've made a pledge to earn the same amount of money ($2000) I would have earned working for a project and a client that I really hated, instead by doing the work that I love in a way that supports both myself, my community and my environment. 

Well it is a few weeks into the project and I haven't made the goal yet. But I still have time, and I have already earned $220 from doing some really amazing work with some people I enjoyed working with. 

That's a big improvement, so excuse me while I go and high-five myself.

What's more important, it has given me the kick up the butt I needed to think about my life direction.

A person's life is made out of lots of small steps. If you don't stop looking at your feet and start looking at the horizon, those small steps might take you somewhere you never actually intended to go. 

With that in mind, I know I will reach my goal by taking many small steps in the direction I choose.

Wish me luck! 

In the next post, I will write about the selected charities that will be benefiting from this project, and I'm going to explain why I have had to change my underarm deodorant. Yikes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What To Do When Editors Hate You

Sending manuscripts, concepts and article pitches to editors and publishers is and always has been a difficult process for writers. Not because we are frail, creative flowers, trampled by the heels of an uncaring publishing world. Not completely, anyway.

Imagine this. You are standing in the shower, wrapped in steam and soap suds, when the idea of a LIFETIME strikes you down like lightning. Gasping and barely alive, you pick yourself up off the bathroom floor and stumble to the computer, where you concoct, with dripping fingers, an e-mail to an editor/publisher you might somehow or other know.

 In this e-mail, you summarize the concept of your idea, how it will be delivered, who the audience is, etc. and save the draft. 

Then you go get a cup of coffee, and return with your caffeinated beverage to begin the 3-hour editing slog it will take before you are sure your e-mail is perfect. 

Then you save it again, read it again, do a few more tweaks (mostly line spacing this time) and then, tight with anticipation and dizzy with legal stimulants, you click "send". 

Deep, deep down, you know that it may take days, weeks, months, before said editor replies to your expertly crafted e-mail. It doesn't stop you from checking your e-mail every 20 minutes for the first three days, and then 2 hourly for every day after that, though. You're not stupid. These things take time. 

But when it really does take weeks, and months, the fear and doubt creep in. 

Maybe you're idea is not that good. Maybe it sucks. Or maybe it is so good, that it has already been overdone. Did you do enough market research between the bathroom and the computer chair? Were you too hasty? Has the editor seen your portfolio and realized that you are completely ridiculous? 

Does the editor *gasp* hate you?  

I go through this all the time. Whenever an editor takes too long to get back to me, I become convinced that they hold nothing but contempt and avarice for me and my unworthy ideas. Sometimes they do get back to me with apologies over the long awaited reply, and other times, yeah, I never ever hear a reply. 

Recently I've not been blogging here much... mostly because I have actually been working hard on my "Green Writer Project" and trying to secure contracts and publishing agreements. So I have been working hard on the blog and project, just not blogging about it. You understand, don't you? Why of course you do. 

So far I have passed up at least 3 contracts to work as a ghost writer for little to no money for companies who wish for me to sell their products, I have pitched ideas to half a dozen local and overseas magazines, I have logged onto Elance and wiggled my butt for every editor and potential client I can find, and I have even written e-mails to a few newspapers (who I don't expect to hear from whatsoever) with some of my ideas. 

 It's all hard work and to pitch ideas and concepts to all of these people takes time, energy and heart. But I will stay strong. I believe in the cause, I have faith in the universe, and more importantly, I know I have achieved more difficult and more mountainous projects before. 

So here is my advice: yes, some editors might really hate and loathe you. They might resort to setting their laptops or iPads on fire before replying to your ideas and pitches. Somewhere out there at this very moment, an editor may be having some disquieted witch doctor create a voodoo doll, and fill its insides with the shredded and slightly charred remains of your letters. But just keep at it anyway. 

Success is more about tenacity than talent. 

While that editor is trying to figure out whether or not black magic will really work on someone like you, send pitches out to 10 more editors. Chances are, one of them will like you. Right?


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In The House of Unborn Stories

Now that I am looking into becoming a B-Corp freelance business (more on that in my previous post) I am re-examining my bucket list.

We all know about bucket lists, right?

Things to do before we die, countries to visit, exotic foods to eat...

As a writer I have a bucket list too, but it is more like, things I want to write about before I die.

Topics that maybe I haven't pitched to editors before, because I am not sure if anyone but me (in the whole world) would be interested in reading about that topic, or possibly just because I haven't gotten around to it yet. There are stories ideas in there, too, and unsung poems.

It feels like a risky business, pitching an idea to an editor of a magazine or web site, maybe for the first time ever. You want to make sure you put forward your best idea.

But then you have all these ideas sitting in the sock drawer of your mind, bouncing around, squealing to be let out. I may not be sure if they are any good, but that doesn't mean that they don't still want to be written.

 Some say that that is the test of a worthy topic to write on, actually, whether it is an article or a poem or a book. If you have been obsessing about it for weeks, months, years, then maybe there is something there.

So this is a good opportunity to air out my sock drawer and let out all the ideas. The good ones, the bad, the embaressing, the ones so close to my heart I have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use them...

So far I have pitched 4 of my "sock drawer" ideas to some magazine editors.

But I won't tell you which. Not yet, anyway.

Now, the waiting game.

Also known affectionately as the "refresh-your-email-account-till-your-fingers-are-completely-crippled-with-RSI" game.

More on my adventures on becoming B-Corp in a few days.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Going From Lean Man to Green Man: Can A Freelancer Go B-Corp?

Badger Balm provides not only natural,
but also ethical products.
It's hip to be green, right? 

With more and more businesses around the world joining the ranks of the B-Corps, the future of for-profit environmentally sustainable and socially responsible businesses is looking brighter and brighter. But what about the little guys - like me? 

There are millions of freelancers, sole traders, artists, writers, designers, journalists, and IT professionals around the world who aren't part of a company. They are just themselves. What can they/we do to make a difference?

In my other life, I work in a health store. while all our products are natural and contain botanically-sourced ingredients, that doesn't necessarily mean that all the companies that manufacture the various products we stock are sustainable or responsible.

Recently, however, one company did stand out to me. 

Badger Balm is an American company that produces natural balms and ointments. It has become famous around the world for the quality of their products, as well as for their mission and principles

I'd never really paid them much attention, but the other day after a conversation with a customer about Badger Balm, I decided to go online and see their website. I was impressed. Their integrity, what they do for their employees as well as their customers, was astounding. They give money to charities, give their employees paid lunch breaks, and even have community workshops you can attend by giving a donation. 

No wonder they are in the top 10% of B-Cop businesses around the world. 

So I thought, right. I want to be like them. 

I may not have employees I can spoil with health insurance or free workshops, but I do have a computer, freelance skills, and a buttload of determination. 

So here's the plan.

I have turned down a recent offer on a project that would have earned me $2000 USD. For writers, that's good dosh. Don't get me wrong, I need the money, badly. But I really have to search my soul during projects like this one. The sort of project that demeans your skill as a professional, that make you feel like a dirty, ghostwriting SEO writer, formulating articles not on the basis of good content, but to maximize Google search hits. 

  • I am going to earn the same amount of money ($2000 USD) in 8 weeks;
  • I will only write articles that teach, inspire, empower, and free readers;
  • I will work by the the ethos that earning money by doing what you love can and will result in both personal and public healing;
  • 10% of all my before-tax earnings will be donated to selected charities;
  • At least 5 articles will be given away for free to local community-based publications in my area;
  • If I don't love it, I won't do it;
  • I will take the opportunity to both eco-friendly my office, my house and my life.
So here, I go, wish me luck. 

I have 8 weeks to get there. 

Who knows, maybe at the end of all this, I can even make my freelance writing business B-Corp certified.

If I make it, not only will I be able to pay off my credit card (following my expensive midwinter wedding), but I will finally be able to put to rest the age-old question: can you really make money by being a complete idealist, a dreamer, and a fool? 

Let's hope so. 


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