Monthly Archives: January 2013

The magic persists

from my walk this morning, shot with Canon 6D

 “Magic persists, with or without us…” an excerpt from a Charles Bukowski poem.

That moment this morning, in the kitchen.

That moment of respite in the midst of Nico’s whines, Ben shouting from the other room about Legos, the hustle and bustle of trying to get kids to school. There was this moment when I heard Nico giggle.

I looked over and saw him (bare-chested because he had only agreed to wearing pants today) tickling his own armpit.

“Tickle tickle tickle!” he said, then cackled.

“Tickle tickle tickle!” he said to the other armpit and laughed again.

And there it was – the choice.

The sanctuary, the oasis in the desert, the calm in the storm. Right there.

I laughed with him, teasing it out, wanting to stretch the moment a bit more, knowing it was fleeting. He has been SO sick this week – constant high fevers, four seizures over the weekend, endless snot, acetaminophan suppositories, constant tears — and then this moment.

It was so delicious. Perhaps for all of the misery that preceded it.

The magic persists, like a ripe apple, ready for the plucking if we could only look up and see the bounty overhead.

It’s hard to look up sometimes. Hard to step out of our narrow view of the world and see that there is another way.

My walk this morning, or really, any of my photo walks is proof of that. There is all this great stuff – glittery beads of moisture in the grass, the impossible beauty of the pincushion center of a dandelion, the way the light rests in a gentle stripe of orange on the tips of the trees.

The magic persists with or without us. It is indifferent to us, yet always ready, willing and available.


Creative Superheroes Interview: Danny Gregory


Dear Superheroes,

I’m delighted to introduce our next Creative Superhero, Danny Gregory! He is the author of several books, including Everyday Matters, The Creative License and a brand new illustrated memoir, A Kiss Before You Go.

I met Danny years ago and was an instant fan when I picked up Everyday Matters. His work is breathtaking. When he came to visit SF in 2004, I took him to the most California style event I could think of – a chakra healing at Psychic Horizons. We had great fun there! and spent the rest of the day sitting on stoops and drawing beautiful old Victorians. Danny has a way of making art a beautiful and accessible practice. Enjoy this interview!


What is your superpower?

I guess it’s the power to make things.

I feel compelled to fill my days with making all kind of things — drawings, books, ice cream, films, reservations — and to investigating ways to make other things. If I spend time just sitting at my computer, it’s because I’m trying to figure out how to light something or how to mix staining watercolors or how to cut PVC piping or cook delicious brussels sprouts.

I think this power has led me to my other power — helping make other people make things. People can be so scared of discovering their creativity, of making mistakes, of not having talent, and one of the main focuses of my own creative efforts has been books and films and blogposts and such that show people that it’s really just fun and that they should give it a try.  My ultimate gift to them is helping them develop the habit of creativity because you need to keep at it to build your creative muscles, at which point it really becomes awesome.

My arch enemy: that demon that sits in every person’s skull and works to convince us to give up before we start. And, ironically, convincing you that you suck takes a fair amount of creativity in and of itself.

What are your obsessions? and how do they make their way into your creative work?

I love diaries and journals. I love sepia ink and copperplate calligraphy and inkwells and fountain pens. I love debossed type and engravings and chunky handmade paper. I love leather book bindings and libraries with ladders and card catalogues. I love maps and diagrams and cross sections and step-by-step diagrams. I love children’s book illustrations from the 1940s with a single spot color. I love splotches and splashes and obvious evidence of error and spontaneity.

I put all of these influences into my illustrated journals, making them of the moment, yet timeless too.

What are the top 5 things you’ve learned so far as a creative entrepreneur?

I’m not really a creative entrepreneur to make money. But I am imbued with the entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to evangelizing on behalf of creativity, drawing and journaling. I feel a bit awkward and craven discussing my readers as ‘customers’ and my books and approach as  a ‘brand’ but for the sake of answering Andrea’s questions, I shall here.

1. Give away as much as you possibly can for free.   The best relationship you can have with your customer/reader/fan/ is a long term one based on trust and generosity.  So I give away ideas, lessons, advice, even the books I write. I wrote a novel and a memoir and sold them for as little as Amazon would let me, making 0¢ in profit, but getting my work out there to people who probably would have been glad to pay for it. Then, when my publisher puts out my next book, I know they will be interested in supporting me and helping me to share it with the world.

2. Get your customers to be your partners.  I solicit advice and direction from my readers all the time. I ask them to help me pick out my book jackets, to give me detailed feedback on my books. I ask them how they think I should promote my books, which magazines to send them to, how to get them out there. They feel like they are a part of my success.  And they are.

3. Turn your customers into a community.  Nine years ago I started a Yahoo! group called Everyday Matters (or EDM) and now it has four thousand members who regularly chat and share their own work.  They get together in person too, and have formed a global network of people who like to draw   Then I set up a Facebook group which now has three thousand members who post their work online every day.   Another group on Flickr has posted over 70,000 works of their art to share. I have EDM communities on YouTube and Vimeo and Twitter too. Amazingly, there is very little overlap between the membership of these groups except for their newly awakened passion for making art and sharing it with each other. That’s thousands of people who are linked together, achieving their greatest dreams, and I am lucky to be the overlap of all these circles.

4. Work hard and keep giving.  For a period, I was an inconsistent presence online and my relationships waned.  But for the past few years, I have answered all comments and details, have solicited advice, made entertaining and instructional films, hosted competitions, giveaways, events and more. I work on these things as soon as I get up in the morning, during my lunch hour, in little breaks through the day, and well into the night. I am always looking for inspirations, for ideas I can borrow, for new technology platforms I can extend to.

Writing books and running online communities is not “my job” — I am executive creative director and managing partner of an 800-person ad agency — but it is my love, and so I give it all the time I can spare.

5. Give of yourself.  I tell strangers online things about myself that my neighbors, colleagues and most of my friends don’t know.  I share my struggles, dreams and losses with them, I spill out my guts quite regularly.  And we are there for each other — they tell me about their crises, their addictions, their struggles, and I do what I can to help. And when Amazon announces that my new book is available for pre-purchase, many of them plunk down their money for a copy sight unseen. But inspiring a a forty-year-old person to start drawing for the first time since elementary school, allowing themselves to be creative, to even think of themselves in some private moment as an ‘artist’ even with a lower case a — that  isn’t about making my small share of the cover price of one of my paperbacks. It’s about feeling like I have a purpose on this planet and something to give.

Tell us about a time when you had to practice courage.

My wife died very suddenly. One minute I was at work, the next I was telling my son that his mom had been killed. Every aspect of our lives turned upside down in an instant but we had to carry on (What choice was there?)  So I don’t know if strictly speaking my response was courageous …. anyway, over the past three years, I have changed many things about my life and about how I see the world. I decided that Patti would want me to make the best of this situation, that I would turn it into a creative act rather than a submission. That’s why I  wrote my new book, to show how one can face death and trauma and turn it into an act of love and creativity.  Making art out of the my experience was a key to this survival. I looked for beauty in the everyday, just as I had when I wrote Everyday Matters, the book that chronicles how we got through Patti’s accident and subsequent paralysis fifteen years earlier by looking for the light all around us.

I believe that vulnerability is a superpower. Tell us a story about how embracing your vulnerability.  What were the gifts on the other side?

I think my journey with drawing has been all about this. For years, I allowed my inner voice to shit all over notions I might have had about being an artist or even being able to draw reasonably well. Then, by allowing myself to fail, to make crappy drawings,  and then to share those with strangers on the internet and in my books, I got over it. I still fall down a lot but I know I am capable of doing good work sometime and that keeps me going.

I am always struck by the many people who share their drawings on the Everyday Matters community, particularly those who have obviously just started and are struggling to see clearly and draw confidently, struck by their willingness to put it out there nonetheless, and struck by the generosity of all those encouraging voices that tell them it’s great and to keep going.  I think criticism can be marginally helpful at best but time and habit are the most important ingredients in developing the skill of drawing.   I believe anyone can draw and be pleased with the  results if only they’ll persevere and have fun doing it (which is why you persevere of course). If you are thwarted and discouraged before you achieve any sort of competence, it seems a real shame. So I urge people to be willing to be vulnerable and to realize that this is the source of all strength.

What are a  few things people wouldn’t know by looking at you?

That I had my second birthday in Pakistan and that we had a trained monkey and dancing bear at the party.
That I worked in a slaughter house when I was eleven.
That I was a WHite House intern.
That I once had thick flowing hair.
That I went to the ballet last night.
That I never watch professionals sports — except for boxing.
That I am a really lousy typist.

What did you believe as a kid that you no longer believe?

That my sister is an idiot.
That I should be a veterinarian when I grow up.
That marriages don’t last.
That artists starve in garrets.

What is your current mantra? Tell us about the last time you used it.

Last weekend, my beautiful girlfriend and I had just cooked amazing coq au vin for the first time, the setting sun was reflecting off the red stone of the NYU library across the street and bathing my living room in hot pinkness, my dogs were snuggled up together in a furry ball on the couch, and my phone buzzed with an email from Jack at art school with a photo of his first amazing oil painting, and I thought, “This is it. This is what it’s like. I am happy.


DANNY GREGORY is the author of seven books, including A Kiss Before You Go: an illustrated memoir of love and loss, An Illustrated Life, The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are, and Everyday Matters: a memoir. Tens of thousands of creative aspirants regularly visit his weblog, He has created illustrations for numerous books and publications and is Managing Partner and Executive Creative Director of a global ad agency. Danny lives in Greenwich Village with his miniature long-haired dachshunds, Tim and Joe.

Dear Nico.

Nico just up from his afternoon nap, shot with Canon 6D

Nico cranking up the cute, shot with Canon 6D

Dear Nico,

You can have anything you want.



Let’s increase our capacity for delight.

elevating the ordinary, shot with Canon 6D

“Whether success or failure: the truth of a life really has little to do with its quality. The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”
~ May Sarton

That’s what photography helps me do – increase my capacity for delight. A simple walk around the block becomes a moving meditation, one of the ways I can wake up to what normally passes me by. The tiny worlds that are hidden from view suddenly come to life.

It’s a way to say thank you.

Are you ready to increase your capacity for delight?

Elevate the Ordinary starts on January 28th.

I’d love to have you!

in love with this camera.

Ben running to Gioia pizza, shot with Canon 6D

Investing in Ourselves

Ever since I took the plunge and bought my new camera I have been thinking about this idea of investing in ourselves. I’ll never forget the day my friend Kim bought her first laptop computer. We stared at the box underneath her desk for a long time, chatting. She was afraid to open it — wondering if she deserved such a beautiful tool, worried she had spent too much money.

I did the same thing after buying the camera. It took some measure of courage to drive over to the camera store and just buy it already. It felt like an illicit act, something daring, maybe even a little bit dangerous. When I got home, I stared at the box in the middle of my living room floor. I could take it back, I thought. Wow. It is so nice… Do I deserve this?

It felt substantial in my hands when I first tried it out, awkward. I felt like an imposter holding this sophisticated tool. Am I a real photographer? Isn’t this camera supposed to be for professionals?

It takes courage to invest in ourselves.

And yet, every time I have ever invested in myself, it has paid off a thousand fold. Every new tool has launched me into a whole new realm of creativity. This camera is no exception.

Have you ever invested in yourself? How did it feel?


The acorn and the oak.


Ben crooning, shot with Canon 6D


Ben crooning, shot with Canon 6D

When I look at Ben these days, especially with a guitar in hand, I am reminded of the acorn and the oak. That there is a little seed in all of us with so much possibility. These photos feel like a window into some possible future… one that will hopefully bring Ben lots of joy.

These days, when Ben isn’t filming himself on the Flip camera, he will play for me and say, “This one’s the song that’s also the name of the album.” or “This one’s going to be a hit.”

He still needs to learn to play guitar, but he’s clearly got all the moves.

What seed still lives inside of us?

I saw an old photograph once of the brilliant photographer Alfred Stieglitz (well known for his stunning portraits of Georgia O’Keefe) He was about 3 years old and has a photograph wrapped around his neck attached to a piece of string. The caption read that he saw the photo and became obsessed with it; he wanted to have it close to his heart all the time.


Ben on the guitar at 2 years old


The obsession began early, Ben in an ad for Speesees clothing at 2

P.S. If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know I just bought a brand new camera! It’s called the Canon 6D and it is my first pro-grade, fancy-pants full frame camera. In short, I am thrilled. I’ve been snapping pictures all weekend long with a fervor I haven’t experienced in a long time. The first two shots of Ben are with the new gear. SO excited!


Super Sponsor Spotlight

Our Superhero Journal sponsors are, well, super! So take a minute to check out all of the amazingness they are offering up in January. Also, if you’d like to see your e-Course, Etsy shop, blog or business on the sidebar or in an upcoming Super Sponsor Spotlight, we’d love to have you. Just send a quick email to Amber at: [email protected] to get all the details.


Create Your Incredible Year Workbook + Calendar — Leonie Dawson

Are you ready for 2013 to be your most incredible year yet, in life or in business… or (gasp!) in BOTH?

Leonie Dawson is here to help you do just that… easily, cheaply + powerfully.

The uber popular Create Your Incredible Year Workbook + Calendar is back for 2013!

And this year, it’s TWICE as fantastic: For the first time ever and by popular request, there’s the original Life version and the brand-spanking NEW edition just for Business!

New Year’s resolutions and goals have a bit of a reputation of being a one-night stand kinda relationship. They don’t last long, they don’t create profound change, and what’s more, we usually have regrets and hang-ups about them.

The Create Your Incredible Year workbooks are DIFFERENT. They are powerful catalysts of change that not only inspire a new direction but make you feel good about yourself at the same time! They call out your highest potential, and your ability to make it all happen.

It’s your year: are you ready to make it incredible?


The Highly Sensitive Thriving Artist — Claire O’Connor

Attention artists, beauty-makers, poets, writers…

As creatives, our unique way of being-in-the-world is a two-sided coin. We have a uniquely-wired nervous system that requires special care and attention in order for us to truly thrive and blossom with ease.

The traits that give us our sensitivity, depth and vision are the very same traits which can often leave us feeling jangled, depleted and overwhelmed.

Join me, Claire O’Connor, in a 4-week interactive, live and experiential ecourse, beginning January 23…

The Highly-Sensitive Thriving Artist eCourse

You’ll learn tips, tricks and techniques for caring deeply for your sensitive system… These are potent, body-centered, spirit-centered replenishment tools that work like a charm when you’re feeling frayed and frazzled. Learn easy, doable methods to prevent system overload in the first place, without alienating those around you.

FREE Info Call
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
[2:00]–2:30pm Eastern Time
Learn more HERE…

Join us! 15% off tuition for Superhero Journal readers


Creative Courage — Stephanie Levy

Are you looking for an extra boost of courage to kick start your creativity in 2013?

I’d like to invite you to join Creative Courage, an online course about finding, following, and realizing your creative dreams.

Creative Courage guides you in reaching your goals, provides you with practical business tools, and helps you connect with like-minded women all around the world.

Our next 6 week session of Creative Courage runs from January 28th – March 8th, 2013.

Twelve special guests will join us for exclusive Creative Courage interviews: Grace Bonney, Kelly Rae Roberts, Lisa Congdon, Faythe Levine, Diana Fayt, Helen Dardik, Maya Stein, Alicia Bock, Andrea Jenkins, Laurie Wagner, Cynthia Morris, Julia Rothman.

This amazing group of women will share their secrets on how they have published books, built online businesses, created films, developed workshops and e-courses, and are now thriving as creative artists, illustrators, photographers, and authors.

Creative Courage is your personal invitation for 6 weeks of fun, color, inspiration, and tools to begin an inspiring, new creative life in 2013. I hope you’ll celebrate the new year with us!


Chris Guillebeau – The $100 Startup

Imagine a life where all your time is spent on things you want to do.

Imagine handing a letter to your boss that says: “Dear Boss, I’m writing to let you know that your services are no longer required. Thanks for everything, but I’ll be doing things my own way now.”

In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau shows you how to lead a life of adventure, meaning and purpose – and earn a good living too. Here, finally distilled into one easy-to-use guide, are the most valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment.

You don’t need an MBA, a business plan or even employees! It’s all about finding the intersection between what you love to do and what other people will pay for.

The $100 Startup is packed with 300 pages of action to get you on your way. Or come meet Chris and a fun group of independent-minded people in a city near you on The $100 Startup Tour. There may even be cupcakes…


Ruby Loves

Valentine’s Day is coming!  Get Free Shipping with the code RUBYLOVESFS when you place your order by January 26th.

Life is bright again.


Succulent, shot with Canon 6D

I’ve been mulling this post over for a while now. How do I sing the praises of Zoloft without sounding like a nut?

But to be really honest, those little blue pills are rocking my world. Maybe even saving my life.

It started off slow when I started the medication. The anxiety dissipated after a few weeks and I was grateful. I didn’t feel much different, but the stomach-clenching, hypervigilant, jumpy feeling had subsided. This had so completely become my normal, I just assumed it was me- wound up, neurotic, overwhelmed.

I didn’t know there was any other way. Last year though, I remember wondering often: Is this just life? Is this how everyone feels?

I started interviewing my friends – Do you feel overwhelmed all the time? Does it feel like there are too many people in the world? Do crowded grocery stores or trips to Ikea make you run for the hills?

Some would say yes. Others would nod slowly, looking at me suspiciously, like, Are you okay?

I assumed I was flawed.

That it was somehow my fault. That I was too sensitive. That the overwhelm was an issue of not being organized enough, or calm enough. I felt humorless. It was almost impossible to get me to laugh. I longed to be lighthearted.

I need to do more yoga. I need to start meditating. I need to do those breathing exercises everyone seems to talk about.

And those things would help, enough. And I would go on and muscle through. Buck up and deal. Soldier on with a curious kind of resignation —

  • Life is just hard.
  • This is what having small children looks like.
  • I just have to find whatever bits of beauty I can as the days unfold.
  • I’ll try to take better care of myself so I don’t yell so much.

I quit sugar. I hiked in the woods almost every day. I took my vitamins and supplements. I went back to yoga. I did therapy. I ate kale. I wrote, made things with my hands, took photographs and saw friends.

And it wasn’t enough.

I’m grateful for the panic attacks.

Without them, I would have continued on like this indefinitely. I wouldn’t have gotten desperate for relief.

They say it takes 6-8 weeks for the medicine to fully take effect. I didn’t notice a big change by this time and was a little disappointed, but grateful the panic and anxiety had calmed down. It was enough for me to feel grateful and happy about my choice.

And then.

Around week eleven, something happened. A friend called and asked me how I was. I’m doing great! I found myself saying. I didn’t recognize my own voice! I don’t think I have said those words (and meant them) in years. This was miraculous to me.

I’ve been watching myself over the past few weeks and marveling at my new-found hope. I love my life. I love my kids. I love my husband. I am hugging everybody longer. I am saying I love you. I am able to cope without getting whipped up into a froth. When someone asks me how I am doing, my voice doesn’t go up several octaves anymore with an oh fine…

I feel genuinely happy.

WTF? Pills are not supposed to do this! My new-age heart shouts. Yoga and meditation are supposed to do this. Hard work is supposed to do this. Copious amounts of therapy is supposed to do this. My mind is utterly blown.

I am funny again.
I am loving.
I bust out spontaneous dance moves to make my husband laugh.
I cry when I read a good book.
I don’t fantasize about death as a way to find relief.
I feel grateful for my life in a way I didn’t have access to before.

I am humbled, once again, by going down the road I didn’t want to go down. By opening the door I was afraid to open.


Stories that changed my life in 2012.


1. Q & A from StoryCorps

This conversation is one of the most moving + inspiring I have ever been lucky enough to hear. Grab a tissue and click on the above video. It’s beautiful and unforgettable.

2. The Gold Ring by Jeff Greenwald

I’m a new fan of Jeff and have been devouring his stories on Snap Judgment. (Okay, every story on Snap Judgment)

The Gold Ring is an incredible story about serendipity + magic. You can listen in here.

3. The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy

The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness: A True Story by Joel ben Izzy

I rarely finish books these days. Almost never! But I ripped through this inspiring memoir in a matter of hours. It has all the elements I love most in a book – beautifully told, full of wisdom, with ancient stories woven throughout. It is gorgeous you guys. This book will transform the way you look at your own life and your own story.

Anne Lamott blurbs it on the cover, ““What a gift, what a blessing, funny, brilliant, wise.”


4. A Kiss Before You Go by Danny Gregory

A Kiss Before You Go: An Illustrated Memoir of Love and Loss by Danny Gregory

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time you know that I am a big fan of Danny Gregory. He writes + illustrates gorgeous memoirs (Everyday Matters) and his brand new book is no exception.

In fact, it is breathtaking.

It chronicles the life and death of his wife Patti, and explores how we go on when something impossible happens. Pure poetry.

I was lucky enough to visit Danny and Patti years ago in NYC and will never forget her awesome spirit. Big love bursting out of this book. It’s a love story you will never forget.

There is a more complete review on this week. You can find it here.