A guiding word

For the past few years, I’ve chosen a word to guide me through the year.

(This has become an increasingly popular thing to do—which I’m happy about!—so I’m guessing you’ve heard about the concept. But if not, I’ll share some resources at the end of this post that can help you learn more and choose your own word.)

This year, I’ve chosen the word LIGHT.

This word came to mind over and over toward the end of last year, so I started taking it seriously. Normally I do a more dedicated exercise to figure out my word for the year, but this time around, it found me. (More about that in a minute.)

Once I accepted light, I started looking up definitions—and immediately got overwhelmed. This word means a lot of different things, and while each definition felt right, I was nervous about how to keep it all straight in my mind as I tried to live by this word throughout the year.

But as I kept thinking about it, I realized the definitions I had read (and was reviewing often) really belonged in three separate buckets: internal, everyday, and work. Once I sat down and sorted them out, the overwhelm went away and I felt much more excited.

So here’s how I’ll be focusing on the word light internally, in the everyday, and in my work!

Internally, light will mean the opposite of heavy; unburdened.

Motherhood has opened my eyes to struggles I’ve been facing for years without even noticing. Having Nathan forced me to confront these things head-on, and while that was (and continues to be) difficult, it was also a huge gift. I will continue to move toward a feeling of lightness as I work through these things!

In my everyday life and work, light will mean nimble; requiring little effort.

I also want to bring more lightness into my everyday life and into my work. I tend to overcomplicate things, and I simply don’t have the time or energy for that any longer. I’ve been learning what really works for me and what doesn’t, and what things I’ll need to let go of to have the daily life I truly want. I’m feeling lighter already, and I’m so excited for what’s to come as I keep focusing on the feelings I want.

In my work, light will mean illuminating; something through which light can pass.

I want to help you feel unburdened and nimble as well. Throughout all the different iterations of my work (like copy editor and one-to-one content coach), this has been my goal. But more and more, I’m realizing that rather than simply being a flashlight that highlights only one direction, I want to be a lens through which you can truly see yourself and then work toward becoming the strongest version of yourself possible. From that place, you will be more equipped to create stronger content and a stronger business and life.

I’m excited about how all these facets of light will work together. But I’m equally excited about how it felt to find this word.

As I mentioned, I normally sit down and put work toward finding my word. And that’s totally fine. But it felt so good to have the word come to me. And it got me to thinking about why that happened.

Since having Nathan, I’ve been forced to make a lot of changes. Good, positive changes. And in the process, I feel like I’ve become much more open to the ideas and truths inherent inside of me—and learned to truly listen to my own internal truth and wisdom.

And I’m sure by now that you know I’m going to say this, but one of the big things that has helped me get here is writing.

Not writing for other people, but writing for me. Behind-the-scenes, sort-it-all-out writing.

But you know what’s funny? After having done this kind of writing for so long, I’ve found that I follow a similar process when thinking things through. I have a verrrrry active baby running around, and sometimes my brain is the only tool easily available to me—ha!—and it’s been interesting to see how my thought processes have changed over time. Often, I actually imagine myself writing through a problem.

Explore can help you develop your own writing (and maybe thinking!) process, and I’m almost ready to offer it to you. I’ve been going through the entire program to refresh, update, and add things that I think will make it an even better experience for you. I can’t wait to give you this powerful method of digging into your own internal truth and wisdom! Keep an eye on this space for more details when I have them.

Okay, now that I’ve shared my word and what I plan to focus on, it’s your turn!

Have you chosen a word or other guiding theme for the year? If so, I’d love to hear what it is! I’m always fascinated by what others choose and what it means to them. I’d also love to hear how it’s already showing up in your life as well as how you plan to keep it in mind as you move through the year. (Feel free to comment below or to share on Instagram right here.)

If you haven’t chosen a word, or you are new to the idea, here are some resources to check out!

Susannah Conway’s (free!) Find Your Word class

I’ve mentioned this before, and I’m gonna keep on mentioning it. This is a great, free five-day email course that will help you sort through your possibilities and choose a word that feels meaningful for you. It’s what I’ve used in past years!

Nicole Gulotta’s blog post

I’ve been following Nicole for years over at her literary food blog, Eat This Poem, and I’ve loved seeing her unfold a new direction as well—helping writers balance work and creativity. She wrote a great introductory post about finding your word.

Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map work

This is another resource I’ve talked about before and that I’m sure will come up again. Danielle’s process leads you to find a few words (I think three or four is ideal) that will help you focus on how you want to FEEL as you move through life. A wonderful process (and one I’m planning to work through again soon, to find some supporting words)!


I would love to hear if you use any of these resources, and if so, how you like them. I'm wishing you lots of love and light in this coming year, no matter what your word or guiding theme or wish!

Until next time,
Erica


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Finding focus amidst chaos

Let's talk about life.


You know how nicely cafeteria trays separate out each piece of your meal? Everything is neatly divided, potatoes not touching green beans (or quinoa salad not touching sauteed spinach—whatever’s your thing). These items all exist within the same whole (the tray itself), but there’s a clear line between each element.


My life is not like a tidy cafeteria tray. Not one bit.


And I’m guessing many of you can understand that, whether it’s because you're a parent...or a creative working on your business while also working full-time...or a caregiver who’s also trying to maintain their own life...or just a human being living in a world that (unfortunately for so many of us) isn’t easily compartmentalized.

Currently, for me, the chaos is coming from parenthood. We made the decision for me to stay home with Nathan while also working as much as I can. We knew it would be an adventure, an experiment, and it's one I've been thrilled with—I love our days at home together and our adventures and the freedom to continue being my introverted self. I know how incredibly lucky I am, believe me.


But I’ve always been someone who does well with a cafeteria-tray kind of world, keeping each portion (or part of my life) carefully divided out.


I like separation between work time and personal time. I like to finish a project before moving on to the next thing. I prefer not to work on vacations at all. I like things neatly compartmentalized.

But life with a baby is not like that. Lately, my days are all about changing. Switching tasks. Turning my brain from one thing to another with lightning speed. I immerse myself in work, then I pick up a hungry baby. I immerse myself in play, then it’s time to eat lunch. I begin doing laundry, then it’s time for a nap (for him, and occasionally for me). I go back to the work, trying to pick up the thread of a half-finished sentence, but a call comes in about scheduling an appointment. And on it goes, over and over.

For someone who’s always been easily distracted anyway (I’m famous for switching over the laundry and forgetting to turn on the dryer—or boiling water, turning off the kettle, and then never making tea), this jumping around is tough. Some days I feel like I have a handle on it all, and some days it wears me out. And it’s meant some things have been sacrificed—I’m moving much slower on the work front than I’d like, even as my brain buzzes with ideas and plans. (I mentioned that here.)
 

But I’m content with where I am, truly, so I’ve been looking for ways to struggle less and simply be where I am each moment—while also honoring the part of me that needs some measure of focused time (even if it’s a small amount).


For me, right now, that looks like: exercising each morning (shout out to The Balanced Life Sisterhood, which is currently saving my sanity), meditating for about three to five minutes each morning using an app or guided meditation (still working on finding something I truly love; open to suggestions), and writing.

Yep, writing. Not for someone else—obviously I’m not writing to you guys all that often (sigh)—but writing for me.

These days, that looks like spending about five to ten minutes each morning doing my own version of a gratitude practice. I write the thing I’m grateful for, and then I write a little more about it—what I’ve learned, what I still have to work on, why that thing is on my mind that morning. It’s more about exploring my feelings and ideas and where I am currently; the gratitude part mostly provides structure and a way in. It’s simple enough that I’m able to fit it in most days, and it makes me feel more grounded (especially when I do all three things—exercise, meditate, and write, which only takes about 30 minutes total).

Explore, to me, is a similarly grounding experience. It’s quick—no mega commitment needed. But there’s also accountability and a reminder—an email in your inbox each day—which makes less work for you as you try to get into the routine. (I had to set a reminder until I got into the habit, which is another way to go!)

I had planned to open Explore to you before the holidays, but I’ve dedicated less time to it that I planned—see the above about all the crazy. Just know that I’m working on it and I’ll get it into your hands as soon as I can.

I’m also working on a new website, which will speak more to my focus these days—a blend of connection (with yourself, your ideas, and your audience), the tension between knowing and doing (which I talked about recently), and sustainable growth and change (something that’s really on my mind lately). I’m excited to keep working at whatever pace I can, and look forward to sharing more with you along the way!
 

Until then, what are some ways you can find focus in your own chaos?


Some ideas:

  • a five-minute walk (yep, just around the block...or your backyard)
  • a simple meditation (simply lie on your back and think of a light traveling slowly from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head as you breathe)
  • a quick workout (search for one online that's under ten minutes that you can do at home)
  • five minutes of free-writing (just write about anything or pick a topic)
  • enjoy a snack without distraction (no Instagram, news-reading, podcast-listening, etc.)


The idea is that you spend a few minutes focusing on what you want to focus on rather than getting swept away in the tide of the everyday. I'd love to hear what other ideas you have!


Okay, that's it for today. Happiest of holidays to you! I'm wishing you many moments of focus as the year draws to a close.


With much love,
Erica


P.S. If you’ve already done Explore, I hope these emails are a good reminder to you about why the practice is so important. When I’m ready to release Explore again, I’ll be emailing you to see if you’d like to do it again (for free, of course)! So keep an eye out. I can’t believe it was a year ago that we were all preparing for the first round! Whew.


More Thoughts


>  There’s one more technique I’ve been using for my sanity—you can read about it on Instagram!

>  I haven’t done much planning for the New Year yet (and I'm feeling strangely unstressed by that!)—but if you’re in that mode, check out this post I wrote a couple of years ago. Lots of options for you there. I particularly recommend Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year—so, so good and totally free. Her Word of the Year email course, also free, is a great companion. Wishing many good things for you in 2017, whether you plan or not!

The Tension Between Inner and Outer

In the last seven months (Nathan was born at the end of March), nearly everything in my life has changed in some way or other.


Things have unexpectedly have either fallen into place or fallen away. Things I wanted before no longer matter or have come much more sharply into focus. Ways of thinking have completely shifted, and some of the healthy habits that previously eluded me have finally clicked while others now seem unimportant—or I’m content with waiting for the right time to pursue them. The things I read about, think about, dream about, spend my time pursuing—all have changed at least a little.

Overall, I feel that I’ve moved more deeply into myself, who I am, and what I want—I see and understand myself much more clearly than I did before Nathan was born.

But at the same time, I’ve moved more out of myself (my head to be specific) and into my life—I’m more aware and more alive than ever before.

And that tension between the inner and outer is what’s really making me interested right now.
 

So as I get back into working—slowly, slowly—I’m thinking about how I can help you with your own tension. The tension between knowing…and doing.


I’ve lived in the knowing for so long. The gathering of knowledge, ideas, and truths. There’s immense, immense value here—but it can be taken too far. And indeed, I look back on my life pre-Nathan and realize I felt safe wrapping myself in a cozy shawl of information and plans and dreaming. I made way more space for possibility than for actuality.

But life (and content and business and babies and friendships and love and so much more) requires doing. It demands that you take all that knowledge you collect—about who you are, what you want to do, what you believe in—and you do something with it.

It’s not enough to know the kind of content you want to share. You have to do something to make it real and get it out there.

It’s not enough to know how you want to help people through your business. You have to do something to get your services / products / ideas / knowledge / encouragement out there.

It’s not enough to know your core desired feelings or how you work best or what you want your ideal day to look like or where you want to be in five years or the title of the book you want to write—you have to act on all those things to make them real.

Getting from knowing to doing is hard. It takes action—whether that’s taking a small step or asking for help or putting something on your calendar or giving something up or writing the first sentence or meditating for 30 seconds.

Guys, I’m well aware that I am largely speaking to myself here. I have been wresting with how to do this my whole life, whether consciously or unconsciously, and I certainly haven’t become an expert merely by becoming aware of the problem or desirous of a solution.

But I do have some pretty clear ideas about what it takes to bring more of this combination of knowing and doing into your content (which is what I’ve focused on for so long), your business (something else I was really focused on), and your life (where I’m heavily focusing right now).

And I’ve spoken with enough of you one way or another to know I’m not alone in the desire, the pursuit, and the acceptance of imperfection along the way.

So I want to use this space and my work to pursue the ways you and I—the dreamers, the knowledge gatherers, the planners, the lovers of possibility—can get those ideas sorted out just enough so that we can get them out of our heads and into our lives, whatever that looks like.
 

So I’m thinking about my work these days as having two parts.


The first is the gathering: Identifying your ideas, dreams, truths, wishes, thoughts, and knowledge, and embracing them as crucial pieces of information to have as you move forward in work and in life. Because these things are really important, and in today’s world, they're easily buried as we take in more and more information about what's true for other people.

The second (and this is where I’ve struggled for so long) is the action-taking: Getting all the information out of your head and into your life. And in the process, getting yourself out of your head and into your life. No easy task at times, but equally as important as understanding those ideas in the first place.
 

Ok, so down to details. What will my work look like as I think about the tension between knowing and doing?


Ahhhh, it’s hard to say. Those of you who’ve been around for a while know I’m simply not the kind of person that can map out plans a year (or two or five) ahead of time and then methodically bring them to life. It just doesn’t work that way for me.

So instead of sharing some big plan that I know will change over time, I’m going to simply tell you what’s coming next.

The first thing that's coming: I’ll be opening the doors to Explore again—this time, you’ll be able to simply sign up whenever you’re ready to begin. Explore embraces both the inner and the outer, asking you to dig into your thoughts and ideas—and then offering ways you can use what you find. (I had already created it this way before fully realizing this interest in the tension between knowing and doing! I love it when things line up this way.)

As we approach the holidays, you may find that a grounding daily practice is just what you need to keep you going—or you may find that you want wait to truly turn inward until after the hustle and bustle of a busy time of year. Whatever works for you! You’ll see a couple of emails from me about Explore before it opens, to set the scene about what to expect and help you decide if it’s right for you, so keep an eye out.

And the second thing that's coming: I want to begin writing and sharing again here. I’m finalizing some decisions about what that looks like—I’ve been writing furiously (on my phone in two-minute snippets, obviously) over the last seven months, and I want to share these reflections with you as well as encourage you to reflect on what’s happening in your world. Keep an eye out for more details about that as well. (Don't worry, these notes will be much shorter than this one! Ha.)
 

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll know my work has gone through a ton of shifts. And I expect that to keep happening.


I learn and grow every day, as we all do, and I am always breaking open new ways of understanding the world around me. I like bringing what’s on my mind to the forefront of my work, and I know that many of you have the same problems, desires, ideas, frustrations, and hopes as I do. So expect this to all keep growing and changing as I go! I'm embracing that as a key part of who I am and how I work.

(I'll note here that I'm not able to take on more one-one-on work right now. That makes me sad in some ways—I love working closely with people and digging deep with them—but my days are full with the clients I have, the other work I'm doing, and oh yes, Nathan. If I decide to open up one-on-one work with me again, I'll let you know!)

 

Nathan is just waking up, so I’ll end here.

But before I do, I want to say thanks for sticking around for this long (!) update on where I’ve been and where I am right now. It feels good to be writing to you again. I’d love to hear where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing as well. I may not be able to write back quickly (or at all—email time is very limited for me and I’m loving that!) but please know I will read every single email and send you lots of love as I do.

So glad to be back,
Erica