2019: My year of focus

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I always dedicate the new year to a word. Last year’s word was confidence, and it was a life changing year that included clarity, a job change, expanding my comfort zone, and the birth of a novel after a devastating drought of inspiration.

If you’d like to read the details of my past 4 word journeys, including the game changing details from my year of confidence, here they are:

Part 1: The words that led me to my year of confidence

Part 2: A look back at 2018, my year of confidence

I’ve been considering my word for 2019, praying and meditating for the past few days on the one that will further my journey. My word for 2019 is FOCUS, and I’m so excited to take my life path to a whole new level.

But it goes further than that. The truth is, my word for the year is actually FIVE words: Pray ~ Plan ~ Focus ~ Execute ~ Persist. These words take the past 4 word journeys of intention, perseverance, faith, and confidence, and bring them all together to my 2019 year of focus—the year I stop getting in my own way. Over the past several years, I mistakenly believed my own worth was tied to how many plates I could keep spinning at the same time. It turns out I can keep a lot of them spinning, but I lost myself at the same time. Suddenly, the process became more important than the outcome. My dreams died a slow death as tasks became my bloodstream. I realized I was letting my family down, I was losing my dreams, and I had lost myself.

I don’t care what it is, anything that steals your zest for life needs to be stopped. I had lost my zest for life.

And then, I regained it.

Here we are, just about to enter 2019, and I have the promise of an almost finished novel in my grasp, one that gives me the same excited feelings I had when I prepared to publish my very first novel. That’s huge!

I have end goals in mind on this journey of focus. I expect this year will see strides made in my writing and publishing career, and in my overall health. But my attention is on the journey itself. What can I do now that will get me closer to my desired result? Which small goals can I make that will bring me further down this road? Instead of focusing on the big things I want, my focus is better served by looking at the steps just in front of me and continuously moving forward. And if I slip up, my focus needs to not be on the mistake, but on brushing myself off and moving forward once again.


A look back at 2018, my year of confidence

breaking free

If you haven’t already, go back and read my last post on the words that led me to my 2018 word of the year. Those words were:

2015: Intention

2016: Perseverance

2017: Faith

At the end of 2017, I was reeling from three months that included a massive fire that devastated my hometown, a failed book release, a writing project that took my failure to a whole new level, plus the realization that I couldn’t handle the busy life I had created for myself. I was still in school, working full time at a job that was eating me alive, volunteering as a mentor at my church, and completely failing my family since I had nothing left to give.

I was broken. I questioned everything about my life. I felt like a massive failure, adding up all the years I’d dedicated to writing books and the lack of success that had come from it. I forgot about all the accomplishments I’d experienced in past years because 2017 was just so bad.

My word for 2018 became confidence, because my confidence was utterly shaken. I needed a year to get a grip and realize my worth. It wasn’t just about confidence in who I was, it was also confidence in WHOSE I was. Despite every flaw I owned as my identity, I needed to remember that I was God’s daughter, completely loved and cherished. My mistakes, my flaws, my carefully laid out plans, my intelligence or lack thereof, my job, my successes, my failures, my extra 20+ pounds, my bank account, my ideas for how I wanted my life to be, and my disappointments in how I hadn’t yet reached that bar….none of these things defined me. What defines me is that I am God’s creation and He delights in every single thing I do. He knows what I’m capable of, and is excited to see me accomplish it.

But before I could accomplish anything, before I could understand my worth, before I could get even close to feeling confident in who I am and whose I am…I needed a break.

I knew this deep down, but I didn’t know how to make this happen. So God made it happen for me. At the beginning of the year, my mother-in-law required full-time care in her home. She was returning from a care facility following surgery after a bad fall, and was confined to a wheelchair. Much of her available funds were used up, and we were running out of options.

It’s you, I heard God tell me. You’re the one who is supposed to do this.

20 years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom to my firstborn, and was getting ready to start working again. After a brief stint at as a hotel worker, I decided to take courses to become a certified nursing assistant. Over the next few years, I was able to juggle motherhood while also working at a convalescent hospital, and working as an in-home aide to the elderly.

Two decades later, God was telling me to take those skills and apply them to caring for my convalescing mother-in-law. Here’s the thing—I had a rocky relationship with my MIL. A few years ago, we got into a blowup over something, and it ended poorly. The situation was never resolved, and both of us swept it under the carpet. However, I’m deeply affected by conflict. Every single time we visited after that, I’d end the evening in a full-blown panic attack that felt something like excruciating, doubled over stomach pain, triggered by anything that started to look like an argument. And I was supposed to care for her full time, 24/7?

“I’ll do it,” I told my husband.

The result was more than I could have imagined. Yes, there were some rocky moments in the time I cared for her. We had a few arguments. There were some frustrations. But more than that, we developed a better understanding of each other. I became fond of her, and protective of her well-being.

But there’s a deeper reason why God instructed me to take this on—I needed a break.

Caring for my MIL is a funny way to take a break, but that’s exactly what happened. After two weeks of trying to juggle my job and being a full time caretaker, plus hyperventilating about the college classes I’d signed up for that were just about to start, I took family leave from work. I got 6 glorious weeks away from the newspaper so that I could focus on my MIL’s care. I was also able to devote more energy to my classes, which included creative writing and literature, two classes that transformed my writing endeavors.

And I started scaling back and learning to say no. I let go of a few obligations that were sapping my energy. I slowed down. I gave myself permission to stop writing books, and wrote only for me instead. I learned how to do one thing at a time. I’m not going to pretend it was all wine and roses—I was still caretaking, and I struggled with never having a moment just to myself. But life became simpler, my brain less foggy, and the weight began to lift from my shoulders. I started recognizing myself in the mirror, no longer seeing the unrested, emotional girl weighed down by that day’s top headlines.

As the layers of my trodden newspaper self began to peel away, my confidence began to increase. Remember my word for the year? Confidence. I was still in the infancy of this word when I began looking for other work, hoping to score something before my family leave was up. I had sought out work before, but I never actually believed I’d get hired anywhere else, even with a pay cut, because I didn’t have a college degree. This time was different. I knew I’d reached the point where I could no longer go back to the newspaper, even if it meant I had to take a pay cut….even if it meant I didn’t have another job. In my time away, I realized I was dying a slow death in my job, that this wasn’t the place for me. I’d been lucky to have this job, it opened a lot of doors for me and taught me so many things. But I was not meant to do this job. It belonged to someone who was passionate about this line of work, not me. I applied to a few interesting jobs, including a real estate marketing job that involved every single thing I loved about my current job, and left out all the stuff I hated. I applied, and wrote a killer cover letter that shared every single reason why I belonged with their company.

Long story long (you can read the full story here), I got the job! I worked at the newspaper for only two or so more months before I left. I’d been there a total of 11 years. In that time, we were owned by three corporations (including the New York Times), I met my husband there, I got my own column, we won the Pulitzer Prize (for our coverage of the fires), and I met a lot of wonderful people, some of which I know I’ll remain in touch with.

I know this is going long, and I apologize. Thank you for sticking with me this far. It’s just that this year has been one of transformation, all because I decided to focus on growing my confidence and letting go of a lot of things that were weighing me down. As I mentioned before, writing was one of those heavy things, which is crazy. But as I mentioned earlier and in my last post, my last few writing projects had failed. I was reeling from my horrible attempt at writing a book right after the Santa Rosa fire tragedy. I had released a book at the end of 2017 and another at the beginning of 2018 (the final installments of the Hope series), all to a lukewarm audience because my heart just wasn’t in it. All that work felt like it was for nothing, and I stopped seeing writing as something I loved to do, and started seeing it as something that was letting me down. It wasn’t making me any money. No one was reading my work. It was all a huge waste of time. Giving myself permission to stop writing felt like a huge weight off my shoulder. I also stopped blaming myself for these failures, offering grace to myself, instead. Somewhere I’d taken a wrong turn, believing MORE was the best option until my plate was so full, even tiny droplets were tipping the scale. The fire sent me over the edge, but if it hadn’t been that, it would have been something else. I’d lost my margins, to the point that writing—my one escape—no longer filled my soul. The idea that I might never write another book was both terrifying and relieving. I actually accepted that this was the end.

And then…

I woke up from a dream, a man’s face in my mind. I knew his fate. It was followed by a story that began flowing through me. The muse was back! I raced out of bed to my computer where I typed out the layout to my next book as fast as it was coming to me. I stayed there for hours, getting every detail down. Before I knew it, I had the plan for my next book, the characters, the setting…everything! This was a week into my summer vacation. I had planned on spending the summer reading everything I could get my hands on (thanks to my awesome literature class), and this novel was completely unexpected. Well, I did both. I read as much as I could, soaking up words from authors I loved, learning how they did it through each story. I read across genres, from classic literature to sensual romance to spiritual inspiration to contemporary fiction…and everything in between. And I wrote. The story snowballed as I wrote it, the characters becoming three-dimensional as they surprised me, told me their backstories, revealed their weaknesses, and took me on twists and turns in an adventure I’m not exactly writing, but transmitting. The story is flowing through me in ways I can’t describe. I’m just the scribe.

This brings me to today. The story isn’t done yet. I had to put it down while I finished my fall finals. Those ended last week, this week is Christmas, and after the holiday, I’m back to the story. My goal is to finish the rough draft by the middle of January, and have the rough draft done a few months after that. Once again, I’m excited about writing, and that’s the best feeling in the world.

To cap it all off, here are some of the accomplishments of this past year of confidence:

– I mended my relationship with my MIL

– I quit my newspaper job and found a new job (that I love!) in marketing

– I relearned how to slow down

– I started writing my next novel

– I read 53 books (and counting! The year isn’t over yet!)

– I became more sure of who I am, WHOSE I am, and what I actually want out of life

This last one is a work in progress, and probably always will be. Confidence will always be a work in progress. Any word I’ve worked on over the years is a work in progress.

I am a work in progress.

However, each word has taught me a little more about myself, and has paved the way for each new year’s adventure. Which leads me to my NEXT adventure—2019, and how I tied all of these words together for this next leg of my journey…

To be continued…

The words that led me to my year of confidence

Every new year, I dedicate that year to a specific word that will shape the next 365 days and hopefully take me further in my improvement journey. I always pray and meditate on this word, waiting on God to reveal the things in my life that need my attention and the theme that will guide me throughout the next year. At the end of each year, I’m amazed at how perfect that word really was, and how much it’s transformed my life.

Here’s a recap of the words I’ve chosen since I started recording them here:

2015: Intention

2016: Perseverance

2017: Faith

And then there was my 2018 word of the year: Confidence

To say this year has been transformational is an understatement. The goal of 2018 was to not only be confident in who I am, but WHOSE I am. It was to build myself up, because at the end of 2017, I was a complete shell of who I was supposed to be.

However, it’s hard to talk about my 2018 word without recapping the past year’s words. So let’s take a look back.

In 2015, my word intention was meant to ensure every action I made was intentional. What ended up happening was a mini crisis of the soul, leading me to a soul retreat in August of that year, which then led me to writing Reclaim Your Creative Soul—a book I published the following year that not only described ways to make creativity a priority in your life, but also explained the ways we block our own creativity and how to break through those blocks. Not only that, but the month before I wrote Reclaim Your Creative Soul, I live-wrote my Peter Pan prequel book, Loving the Wind, releasing chapters after writing each one. This was one of my favorite books I ever wrote, as it practically wrote itself. I ended 2015 with one published book (Come Here, Cupcake), two more books written (Loving the Wind and Creative Soul), and a feeling that my year of intention was a success.

In 2016, my word of the year was perseverance. I was riding high off of my 2015 accomplishments and was ready to continue the momentum. I mapped out each month of the year with lofty goals, and then tacked it to my wall so I could stay the course. What was supposed to be motivational ended up being incredibly stressful. By that summer, the list was gone, and I chose to go at a slower rate. Ha. My slower rate meant that I added college to my already packed life, and I ended the year with two more books written back to back—the 2nd and 3rd books of my Hope series. At the time, I reached a breaking point at my job where I knew I’d have another nervous breakdown (related to my 2015 crisis of the soul) if I didn’t find a new place to work. I’d always felt like I was stuck where I was, lucky to even have a job, because I didn’t have a college degree. I figured I had a handle on my life structure—I mean, I laid it all out in Creative Soul. I was an expert on this! And so, adding college courses was a piece of cake. I could totally succeed as a student while also juggling family life, a full time job, volunteer work, and writing books.


I ended 2016 with two more published books (the ones I wrote in 2015), two more books written (Hope at the Crossroads and Hope for the Broken Girl), an A in the two classes I took, and the worst flu of my life, possibly brought on by sheer exhaustion. Yeah, I persevered, but I ran myself ragged doing it.

In 2017, my word of the year was faith. While 2016 had been a success, I also realized I was trying to do everything on my own. I was also reeling from the 2016 election and was just feeling completely dejected over the direction our country was taking. And so I started the year with a 7 day fast. I was already super sick and my appetite wasn’t there. Still, surviving on just juiced vegetables was an incredible experience. Once I got past the hunger, I felt surreal. My body buzzed with a different kind of energy, and my mind was clearer than it had ever been. I spent those 7 days in deep prayer and meditation, and ended it with excited anticipation over the faith journey I was embarking on. It went fairly well until the last quarter of the year, when Santa Rosa was struck by the devastating Tubbs fire, and I watched my hometown burn. I still worked at the newspaper (remember that job I’d been trying to leave?), and I poured myself into my work. For two weeks, my job made sense. College classes were cancelled during this time, and I dedicated all of my energy into my job, working overtime and focusing on all fire-related aspects. I was all in, along with my colleagues. And when those two weeks, I crashed. The reality of the devastation was all around those of us who lived there. Everyone knew someone who lost their home. A whole portion of our town was missing. Dozens of people had died, and their stories were devastating. The adrenaline that had fueled me was gone, and I was left with a sense of survivor’s guilt and an overwhelming feeling that I hadn’t done nearly anything to help those who had lost so much. I still had my home. So many people didn’t.

To make things worse, I’d been planning on launching the 2nd and 3rd books in my Hope series around this same time. I held off a few weeks, releasing Hope for the Broken Girl at the end of October, but didn’t celebrate its release one bit. It was largely ignored because I just couldn’t bring myself to market it when my whole town was in charred ruins. I chose to wait until 2017 to publish the 3rd book, and I felt miserable that a book I’d been so excited about in 2016 was released in such a pathetic manner. Honestly, I should have waited much longer to publish.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I chose to write another book right after the fires. I thought it would be therapeutic to write after so much letdown. I was wrong. I’d chosen to write the sequel to Come Here, Cupcake, an adorable book that was different from every genre I’d ever written, and one I had been struggling with for years in coming up with a decent sequel. This was NOT the book to write at this time. The end result was a horrible rough draft and an intensified feeling of failure. I was coming apart at the seams. With this added pressure I’d placed on myself, along with college courses, a job I hated, and a tanking author career, I finally reached my breaking point.

Which brings me to my 2018 word of the year, CONFIDENCE.

To be continued….

10 books that will change your life

It doesn’t matter if you make resolutions or not, most of us look at the New Year as a time to change habits, make things new, start over, and hope for a better year. As a book lover, I can’t think of a better way to incorporate these changes than by reading an inspirational book. Here are the books I’ve found to be extremely life-changing:

Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission.” Brené Brown, a vulnerability researcher, starts off Braving the Wilderness telling her own heart-wrenching story, a tale of childhood most people can relate with. Then she continues, sharing things we are all grappling with in this age of politics, moving fast, polarization, and the desire to belong, and how to move through them. All of Brown’s books are must-reads, and this one is no exception.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
In 2009, Elizabeth Gilbert gave an inspiring TED talk that has captivated millions of creative people, “Your Elusive Creative Genuis.” This talk was about two years after she released “Eat. Pray. Love.,” a memoir that inspired many a divorcee to drop everything and go on a global soul journey. Years later, this TED talk became the tip of the iceberg in her book on creativity, a bible for all aspiring creators called “Big Magic.” In this book, Gilbert shares how to overcome paralyzing fear that can stand between an artist and their art. She shares vital attitudes, approaches and habits that promote living a creative life.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
I know this book was on everyone’s bedside table two years ago, but the concepts in this book aren’t any less important. Marie Kondo shares simple ways to create order to your home, purging unnecessary items and making things, well, tidy in surprisingly painless ways. I still KonMari my drawers, thanks to this book.

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
A few years back, Gretchen Rubin struggled to find anything happy about her life. In an effort to change her perspective, she dedicated a year of her life to her own happiness project. In this memoir, she shares how she spent a year testing out wisdom and research from different times, cultures and more. The result? She not only changed her life, but she changed the lives of millions of readers.

Reclaim Your Creative Soul, by Crissi Langwell
Yes, this is a shameless plug, but still a book I believe is important for anyone who wants to find more time for their creative projects. In this guide, I share the secrets to how I’ve organized my own busy life to make room for my craft, and how you can, too. Not only that, I include access to meal plans and shopping lists (to save you time in the kitchen), a guide to creating a budget (to free your mind of worry), and a cheat sheet to inspirational quotes that can help you in any situation. It’s my hope that this book will be part of your journey toward a more creative life.

Promise Me, Dad, by Joe Biden
While serving as Vice President, Joe Biden suffered the devastating loss of his eldest son, Beau, who died from a brain tumor. “Promise me, Dad,” Beau said to his father in his final months. “Give me your word that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Biden gave him his word. In his touching memoir, Biden shares an intimate look at his son’s last year of life, and what he learned in the painful process of letting go.

The Wisdom of Sundays, by Oprah Winfrey
If you’re a fan of Super Soul Sundays like I am, this book wraps up some of the best moments from those conversations, and combines them with Oprah’s own spiritual journey. You’ll find some of your favorite moments, including excerpts from talks with Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, Shonda Rhimes, Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hahn, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer and more. This is everything you expect to get from a cozy episode of S.S.S., but now it’s right at your fingertips.

The Desire Map Planner, by Danielle La Porte
While technically this isn’t a book, this is one bound publication that could change the course of your year. Bestselling author Danielle La Porte created a unique engagement calendar that’s anything but your regular daily planner. With sections for gratitude notes, soul prompts and “stop doing” lists, this Desire Map Planner is for those “who want to put their soul on the agenda.” This planner corresponds with an actual book, “The Desire Map,” which, together, you could totally map out a whole new way of living.

Tribe of Mentors, by Tim Ferris
Most people know Tim Ferris from his best-selling book, “The 4-Hour Workweek” or his guide to successful habits in “Tools of the Titan.” Ferris continues the wisdom of his latter book in his latest publication, “Tribe of Mentors,” a collection of wisdom from those he’s looked up to in his life. The book shares everything from morning routines, how to bounce back from failure, the power in risky art, how to have real work-life balance, and more.

When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön
This is not Pema Chödrön’s most recent book, but it’s one that’s touched me profoundly. In this guide, Chödrön, shares the importance of moving towards pain and difficulties as a way of conquering them. If you’ve found yourself stuck in grief, stress, and hard times, this book is a way to open yourself up, transform your suffering, and rediscover joy.

What books have you read that have changed your life?

2018: My year of confidence

I should be writing in my novel right now. I have about 3,600 words to go before I reach the magical NaNoWriMo number of 50,000 (though there’s probably about 15,000 more words left of the story). But instead, I want to write here for a moment so I can share some things with you, and so I can document some things for me.

The New Year is coming up, and for many of us, that means making New Year’s Resolutions that will make our lives better. Of course, these rules are usually forgotten by February. At least, that’s the case for me.


For the past few years, I’ve done away with resolutions. Instead, I dedicate my year to a word, and I let that be my focus. In 2016, my word was PERSEVERANCE. That year, I published two books, and I wrote two more. My freelance career took off, providing a nice second income that carried my book writing expense. I also started college. I let go of doubts and forged ahead, and it was the most productive year I’ve ever had. I sold more books than ever. I proved to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to, I just had to keep putting one put in front of the other.

But by the end of that year, I was just as exhausted as I was inspired. I knew I needed a new word, and I decided on the word community. But when I prayed on this, God told me this was not my word. He kept pushing me to trust him, and I kept pushing back. He finally revealed that my word was FAITH, and that I was to pray into this with a week-long fast.

Wait, what? No food for 7 days? Are you kidding me?

I eventually agreed, and planned to start Jan. 1. God had different plans, and made me sick as a dog in the last days of December. That’s when I heard His whisper. Do it now.

So I did. I lived on juiced fruits and vegetables for almost a week, then just vegetables during the last few days. It was an amazing experience. During that time, everything became so much clearer, and I realized that my word really was FAITH.

This past year was life-changing. I leaned back and let God lead. I stopped trying all these wacky things to sell my books, and instead talked with God a lot more. I relaxed.

Admittedly, my sales plummeted this year. This is a frustrating side effect, to be sure, but I knew this going in. I’m in this for the long haul, not in it to get rich quick. This past year has been about listening to God and leaning on Him, about coming back to center, about recognizing what’s important. I’ve also realized that my faith journey isn’t ending just because the year is. Rather, it’s an introduction.

Now that I’m nearing the New Year, a new word has surfaced. I’d asked God, once again, if my word was community, as I’d thought the year before. He quickly shot that one down, telling me instead that my word was CONFIDENCE. But this word has a separate meaning. It’s not exactly about appearing sure of myself to others. It’s more about knowing who I am, and WHOSE I am. Who am I trying to impress when I deny my feelings and remain meek? Whose opinion do I care about when I hide in the shadows or refuse to speak up? What is it that I’m trying to say in my stories, but holding back on for fear of offending others?

Confidence is saying what I mean and standing behind it. It’s about not censoring myself. It’s about writing books where the characters are messy, use foul language, and make mistake after mistake. It’s about being vulnerable. It’s about writing a blog post about faith and God, and publishing it here, on a blog that I sell books on, instead of putting it in my Faith Blog so non-believers won’t be offended. It’s knowing that some of you are going to turn away from this blog in disgust because your feelings about God don’t match mine, or because I’m not your version of a perfect Christian, and posting this anyway.

It’s about telling the truth, and that’s what I want to do this year. Tell the truth. Tell my truth, that being an author is both the best and worst decision I’ve ever made with my life. Tell my characters’ truths, that they do terrible things and suffer the consequences, and are completely human in every way.

I’m an author who loves Jesus, and says fuck, and allows my characters to be gritty and imperfect. I’m an author who has intense faith and debilitating doubts, sometimes in the same breath. I’m an author who doesn’t fit in with non-believers because of my faith, and I’m an author who doesn’t fit in with believers because I write sex scenes, cuss words, and drug use.

I’m me. And 2018 is my year to stop apologizing for it.

Expect a lot of truth from me in this New Year.

Organizing your finances to make room for your art – Part 3

This post is Part 3, the final part of a 3-part series on finances, excerpted from the upcoming book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The Secrets to Organizing Your Full-Time Life to Make Room For Your Craft.

To read part 1, click here.

To read part 2, click here.

Why am I talking about finances in a book about making room for your craft? Because finances are one of the major areas that can hinder your creative process. I want to relieve you of your stress about finances so that you can better manage your money and can focus better on your art, whatever your art might be.

I have 4 steps to set you on the path toward financial freedom. Today I will share the final 2 of these steps. (again, see the first two steps in Part 2 here)

Credit Card / Gold & Platinum

3. Dancing the debt snowball.

Have you ever been to a snowball dance? This is when one couple starts out on the dance floor. As soon as the music stops, they separate and find new partners to dance with, thus inviting two more people on the floor. The music stops again, and then those four people will find four new people to dance with.

In a way, this is the dance we are going to do with your debt.

Glance over the debt you have listed on your budget, and order these items by the amount you owe. The first item will be your largest, which will probably be your mortgage if you own your house. Next is probably your student loan or your car payment. Next are your larger credit cards, followed by your store credit cards. And so on. Now I’m going to give you some advice that might seem controversial: pay only the minimum payments on every single bit of your debt, except for the smallest debt you owe. I know this seems totally backwards, but trust me on this.

Note: If you are already paying only the minimum payment on every single bit of debt you owe, you are going to have to adjust your budget one more time so that you can pay more on that smallest bit of debt.

The idea behind this method is to get that smallest debt completely paid off as quick as possible. This means you need to throw as much money as it as you can until it no longer exists. Once you’ve done that, pat yourself on the back! You officially have less debt!

But don’t stop there.

Take that amount you were spending to that first bit of debt, and apply it to the next smallest debt. Pay that amount until you have erased that debt. Then repeat. As you continue to pay off debt, the amount you can pay on that lowest bit of debt will get larger and larger. However, you won’t be spending more of your income to do so. As each debt is paid off, the process of eliminating debt gets faster and more satisfying.

For example, let’s say you have three credit cards. The first has a balance of $8,000. The second has a balance of $5,000. And the third has a balance of $2,000. You have been paying $200 to each of them a month to try and pay them off, which is more than the minimum payment. For this example’s sake, we’ll just say the minimum payment on each is $150. To follow this step, start making $150 payments to the credit cards with the largest amount of debt, and then take that extra money and apply it to the smaller debt. With $50 extra from the first two cards, you can now make $300 payments to the smallest debt. In less than seven months, that smallest debt will be completely paid off. Once that happens, apply that $300 payment to the next credit card. So instead of paying $150 to take care of that $5,000 debt, you will now be making $450 payments, and will pay it off in a little over eleven months. Finally, apply that $450 to the $150 you are paying on the $8,000 debt, making it a $600 payment. In just over thirteen months, that debt will be wiped out.

In our example scenario, we took $15,000 of debt and paid it off in two and a half years. Do you see how easy that was? And do you see how much money you will be able to put to better use once your credit card debt is wiped out?

Finally, make a vow to never take on debt again, especially through credit cards! If you don’t have the money saved for it, you can’t have it. End of story. To ensure you never use a credit card again, I encourage you to cut up each card, and then cancel the card as soon as it’s paid off.

4. Save $ for the big things

Earlier in this chapter (or in part 1), I mentioned our family trip to Hawaii. Years ago, a trip like this would never have happened unless we financed the whole thing using credit cards. A week in the tropics would end up being years of debt while we tried to pay it off.

I’ll have you know that this past summer, we flew our family of five to Hawaii, stayed in a penthouse suite, ate out for many meals, enjoyed a few excursions, and came home without adding any amount of debt to our expenses, even though the vacation cost around $6,000. We paid cash for the whole vacation, and even came home with a few extra dollars.

So how did we do this? The obvious answer is that we saved up for it. But it only took six month for us to do so. We budgeted an amount that was easy for us to put aside each month, and then worked backwards from there to decide how long it would take to save the full amount. We budgeted out vacation much like we budget our monthly expenses: we figured out where we wanted to go, the cost of airline tickets, where we wanted to stay, the activities we wanted to enjoy, and the cost of food, including groceries and eating out. We even budgeted an amount for souvenirs. Once that figure was established, we could pick a date for the vacation, factoring in how much we could save each month and how long it would take us to save.

It feels wonderful to enjoy a vacation when you don’t have to worry about the bill afterwards. We were able to completely detach from our lives at home and enjoy a week of relaxation. We could spend money freely (the first time in a long time!) because we had planned it that way.

What made this experience even sweeter was the contrast our vacation spending held to our spending habits at home. For one week, we were able to live without strict money rules (at least inside of what we had planned).

Think about it this way. If you have dessert every single night after dinner, it becomes less special. Sure, it still tastes good. But it becomes an expected part of the meal. However, if you save dessert for special occasions, it suddenly tastes so much more delicious. The same goes for money. If you spend frivolously all the time, it just doesn’t hold that same feeling of pleasure. You have to spend more and more to be able to gain that high you get from gaining something new. But if you stick to a budget and refrain from treating yourself, it feels that much more special when you are able to indulge (and especially because you have planned for it!).

If there’s something you want and you don’t have the money for it, you need to really search your soul about whether you need it, or if you just want it on impulse. If you really want it, you can have it. But you need to plan for it.

Let’s say you want a new computer. Check the price for the model you want, and then coordinate the money you can put toward it with when you want it purchased. If you want it sooner than your income will allow, you may need to adjust your budget a little more to make that happen. If that’s not possible, you’re just going to have to accept that your computer ownership days will be later than you want.


To wrap things up, I want to make a couple of points very clear. Living by a strict budget is going to take time. Don’t beat yourself up if for the first few months you go over your budget or end up using your credit card. It may be because your budget needs to be worked at a little more until it’s manageable. Or it could be because old habits are hard to break. Be gentle with yourself. And be patient with the results.

Next, recognize where your satisfaction is coming from now. Before, you may have experienced feelings of happiness from gaining new things. While living on a budget isn’t nearly as shiny and exciting, doesn’t it feel good to be the boss of where your money is going? Don’t discount that satisfaction of being in control of your cash flow.

Third, and the reason we are even talking about money in a book on creativity: how is that mental block going? The desperation that comes with money issues can affect your art in a real way. Your creations could take on the odor of that desperation. You might be prone to sell out, being untrue to your creative desires just to make a buck. Or worse, you may decide to give up your art altogether because it isn’t making you the money you need.

If you can manage your income and limit your expenses, you will experience freedom with your art, and will find it easier to create for the sake of creating, instead of as a means to an end.

And isn’t that why we became artists in the first place?



Baby Step: I want you to create your own budget. As I referenced before, I have created a spreadsheet to get you started, which you can access at bit.ly/CreativeSoulsExtras. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s what I refer to with every single paycheck to ensure I’m living within my means.

*Note: This  link will add you to my mailing list, and will offer you a preview of all of the resources I offer in Reclaiming Your Creative Soul. Please enjoy this gift from me to you, but don’t share it with anyone else! Once I email you the link to my resource page, click on “Financial Budget” to learn more about handling your finances, and to download your free expense sheet.

Level Up: Reduce your debt by creating a debt snowball. Outside of your mortgage, set a date for when you can be completely debt free!

Be Hardcore: Take a Financial Peace University course. I receive no financial gain whatsoever by referring you to this course. However, I believe in it so much, I think everyone should take it. To find a course near you, visit www.daveramsey.com/fpu and search for a nearby location. These courses are Christian-based and are generally held in churches. Nonetheless, the course tries to keep religious talk to a minimum. People of many faiths, and a few of no faith at all, attended the course my husband and I took. Financial Peace University helped all of us to gain a much better handle on our money and live without financial stress.

Organizing your finances to make room for your art – Part 2

This post is Part 2 of a 3-part series on finances, excerpted from the upcoming book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The Secrets to Organizing Your Full-Time Life to Make Room For Your Craft. To read part 1, click here.

Why am I talking about finances in a book about making room for your craft? Because finances are one of the major areas that can hinder your creative process. I want to relieve you of your stress about finances so that you can better manage your money and can focus better on your art, whatever your art might be.

I have 4 steps to set you on the path toward financial freedom. Today I will share 2 of these steps, and tomorrow I will share the final 2 steps.

budget1. Make a list of all your expenses

Before you do anything, create a list of everything you spend in a month. Don’t leave anything out. Include regular bills, debt bills, food costs, money spent on entertainment, clothing expenses, and anything else you regularly spend money on throughout the month. If an expense varies, write down the average amount you would spend on that item. Be honest in this process. You are the only one seeing this list, and any discrepancies will only make it harder to gain the upper hand with your money.

Once all you have listed all your expenses, place them in one of four groups: primary living, secondary living, debt, and extra.

Primary living expenses will include things like your rent, food costs, utility bills, and any other bill that is vital to your life.

Secondary living expenses will include bills that you need to pay, but won’t impede your quality of life if you don’t have it. For example, this could include things like gas money or car payment and insurance (since you could take the bus), or your cell phone or Internet bill (since shutting it off would be an inconvenience, but you’re not going to die).

Debt includes bills that you can eventually pay down to a zero balance. This expense list will include your mortgage, car payment, credit card bills, and student loans.

Your extra expenses will include items like beauty (hair care, makeup), gym membership, clothing costs, entertainment costs, gift-giving costs, and vacation costs.

Once you feel like you’ve itemized every one of your expenses under these four groups, scrutinize it even further. Are there costs you’ve included in your primary living expenses that could actually go under secondary living expenses? Are there secondary living expenses you could classify as an extra cost, instead? Prioritize the items of each group until you are satisfied with the complete list.


2. Create a budget

Here’s where this list is going to come in handy. Create an excel spreadsheet that lists every single one of your expenses. I’ve created a handy one that you can access at bit.ly/CreativeSoulsExtras to help you get started.

Note: This  link will add you to my mailing list, and will offer you a preview of all of the resources I offer in Reclaiming Your Creative Soul. Please enjoy this gift from me to you, but don’t share it with anyone else! Once I email you the link to my resource page, click on “Financial Budget” to learn more about handling your finances, and to download your free expense sheet.

On your budget list, write the expenses in order of the groups I had you list in the first step: Primary living, secondary living, debt, and extra. Now that you’ve done that, there are a few more expenses I want you to add to your budget: an allowance of pocket money, and an emergency savings fund. The pocket money is yours to spend as you like. But remember, when it’s gone, it’s gone. You do not get to borrow from other funds if you’ve used up all your pocket money. The emergency fund is for all those expenses you weren’t expecting. These are the things you would normally grab your credit card to pay for—a new car transmission, your dog’s broken leg, a chipped tooth, a new washer…. Ideally, this fund will hold $1000, but don’t let that number scare you. With a strict plan in place, you are perfectly capable of saving enough to cover emergencies (just a side note: please be clear on what an emergency is NOT. For example, a night out on the town or a new outfit is NOT an emergency).

Next, pay attention to the grand total of these expenses. How does it line up with your income? Are the expenses less than what you bring in every month? Great! You’re in the minority! Put that extra income to use by adding it to your savings. For the rest of us, we have some work to do.

One of the biggest stresses about money is that we often feel managed by it. With a budget, you are essentially taking back that power. You make the money, so why is your money controlling you? Tell your money where to go, as Dave Ramsey, the creator of Financial Peace University, often says.

Your goal is to create what’s called a zero-based budget. This is where your expenses and income will cancel each other out completely so that the total equals zero.

I understand this is kind of a terrifying concept. The first time I heard about zero-based budgeting, I wanted to take my paycheck and run. Are you telling me that I can’t have any of the money I just earned? Thankfully, that’s not what it means at all. It does mean, however, that you are going to need to budget your extra money instead of just spending whatever you have left over.

Now that you have your expenses listed and see that they equal more than your income, seek out areas where you can trim. I recognize this isn’t easy. You are going to have to sacrifice a little to ensure you aren’t spending more than you make. First, look for the things you can give up easily. Can you live without eating out? Can you let go of your Starbucks obsession? Can you decrease the amount you are spending on clothing? Is your food budget too high?

If your expenses are still more than your income after you’ve trimmed all the extra costs, you are going to have to dig deeper. If there’s nothing left on your list of extras that can be reduced or deleted, you are going to have to start scrutinizing your secondary living expenses. Can you reduce the services on your cell phone? Can you live without television and/or Internet? Can you start taking the bus instead of driving, at least until your finances are more manageable? Or the extreme—can you sell any of your belongings to reduce any of your debt? Can you sell your car and take the bus permanently? Can you hold a garage sale? Can you put a few items on Craigslist that you no longer use? You may need to make some hard choices, and it won’t be comfortable. But these sacrifices are only until your debt is paid down and your budget is much more manageable.

When you have your budget zeroed out, you can move on to the next step: reducing your debt. Warning, the budget you just created is going to continue to change.

To read the final 2 steps toward financial freedom in part 3, click here.

Organizing your finances to make room for your art – Part 1

I’m gearing up to release a new book next month called, Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The Secrets to Organizing Your Full-Time Life to Make Room For Your Craft. There’s a couple great reasons why this book came to me. First, the book was born from a soul retreat I took last year when I felt like life was caving in on me. The experience was so powerful, it changed my life forever. And this book started to form in my mind. Second, I’ve had a lot of people come to me, asking how I am able to produce book after book when I hold a full-time job, raise a family, volunteer, etc. I knew I had to share what I had learned over the years, because life should never get in the way of one’s art.

One of the sections of my book deals on organizing finances. Being that this is the beginning of the year, and many people are looking at ways to better manage their money, I thought I’d share this section over the next few days. I’m splitting it into 3 parts, offering you all a true sneak preview of this book before it’s even published (date still unknown).

Please let me know what you think in the comments. 🙂


money billsChapter 7 of Reclaiming Your Creative Soul: Managing Your Money

There’s a reason why the term “starving artist” is so popular. Hardly anyone wakes up one day, decides to create art, and becomes instantly rich and famous from their creations. The reality is that your art will not make you money in those first few years. There’s even a possibility that it will never make you a significant amount of money, and you will have to learn how to balance your art with other ways to support yourself until you retire.

Why are we trying to be artists then? Oh yeah, because we love this as much as we love breathing.

If you’re still reading this after figuring out that art is not a get rich quick scheme (shocker!), then I have good news for you—you don’t necessarily have to be starving to be an artist. You just need to learn how to manage your money better. Not only will this allow more of your hard-earned income to land in your pocket, but it will also free you from a good amount of stress you’re probably feeling that is standing in the way of true creativity.

Money is a passionate subject for me, mostly because there was a time when I had none. I know what it’s like to be days away from payday, and wonder how I’m going to make a can of beans and crackers stretch until then. I know what it’s like to have the electricity shut off and no money to turn it back on. I know what it’s like to depend on government aid to be able to feed my family and stretch my meager income. I know what it’s like to live without.

Through hard work and diligence, I was able to escape the clutches of poverty. I started working at the newspaper, and my income grew. I met my husband and we eventually moved in together, doubling our income in the process. I was able to build up my non-existent credit through a couple of low-balance credit cards. Financially, life was most definitely looking up.

Of course, more money, more problems, right?

With a larger paycheck and more credit, I suffered amnesia about what it was like to live a simple lifestyle. My expenses grew faster than my income, and credit became my crutch. While I lived in poverty, I had no debt. But out of poverty, my bills included hundreds of dollars that I was paying each month to credit cards. Not only did our wedding and extra book costs end up on credit cards, but so did some of our simple living costs. If I didn’t have money for something, I used my credit card to get through. After all, the minimum payments would only rise a few dollars, right?


It’s amazing how fast credit card debt can increase when you’re not careful. I remember looking at the amount of money I was spending each month and feeling disgusted when I saw much of my paycheck was going toward credit cards. There I was, making more money than I ever had in my life, and I still felt that same dread about money that I did in my days of poverty. I was caught in a never-ending money cycle—pay all the minimum payments for my credit cards, have too little left over after bills, use credit cards to make ends meet, repeat.

Around this time, my husband and I signed up for a money management course called Financial Peace University. Around this time, I still had a lot of pride about money, and I was sure that there was nothing this course was going to teach me that I didn’t already know. After all, I spent years living on a meager budget and living without credit. I figured this would just be a simple brush-up, since I was already an expert on budgeting.

Because, you know, my debt proved how well I handled money, right?

It became clear how little I actually knew about money. The lessons I learned shaped a new way to handle my money. It allowed me to reconfigure my bills so that I could break free from living paycheck to paycheck. I’m happy to say that I no longer have credit card debt, and I now have money left over for fun things, like taking the whole family to Hawaii over the summer.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to never be burdened by money again? Think about how good it would feel to devote your time to your art without worrying about whether it’s going to pay the bills or not.

The truth about money stress is that it tends to overwhelm every single aspect of your life. While it’s true that money can’t buy you happiness, living in debt can make you miserable. It hinders the creative process, fills your life with fear, and can send you into a pit that feels impossible to escape. Society has taught us that living in debt is normal. We’ve come to believe that credit is a way of life. We have become slaves to our money, and we’re okay with this. We’re told that buying things we can’t afford will make us happy. But where is this happiness when it’s time to pay the bill?

I am not a rich person in the least. However, I suffer very little stress when it comes to money. The financial course my husband and I took revealed so much to both of us about money, alleviating us from a lot of needless stress.

I want this for you, as well. So with the financial wisdom I gained from this course, along with living this wisdom in real life, I want to share four steps you can do right now that will free you from a lot of worry in regards to finances.

Read Part 2 by clicking here.