Monthly Archives: November 2012

Creative Superheroes Interview: Vivienne McMaster

I adore Vivienne McMaster.

Besides being an incredibly talented photographer and writer, she also has one of the best hearts you’ll ever find. She is brave and real and tells the truth about her life. She is full of color + joy. She is pure pleasure.

We first met when she moved to the Bay Area several summers ago. She answered my ad to share an art studio and I adored her from the moment I met her. I still miss our lovely photo walks and studio chats. Lucky for me, we swirl in the same circles and I get to see her a couple times a year.

It is an honor to feature her today as a creative superhero!

What is your superpower?

One of my superpowers is the ability to spread whimsy and wonder.

For the most part, we tend to need to keep our whimsy contained.  I wish we all felt wildly free to skip down a sidewalk or just stop and stare at a ray of light in awe for 5 minutes, but we have busy lives and often need to be much more ‘serious’ than we might want to.

I feel pretty grateful that in my work I get to invite people to join in creative adventures with me and to bring on the whimsy. It isn’t wimpy to be whimsical. It is a beautiful innate way of being that kids have and my superpower is helping people see that they can access that wonder anytime, at any age.

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

My Nia dance class.  Each week I show up in a room full of strangers that absolutely feel like community.  We all let our guards down and let our inner wild-and-free dancer selves out.  It completely seeps into my creative work in the way I view community and especially the place I go to both when I turn the camera on myself or towards someone else.  Embodying what Nia taught me, to be present in my body and that beautiful place of freedom I can find in both that dance class and taking self-portraits.  Where I am totally in control of the experience, but simply knowing I am in control allows me to relax into the experience and just show up.

Creative Awakenings.  Helping people discover that they are a photographer or an artist.  I truly love working with people who don’t yet believe they are creative and taking them on a playful photo adventure (be it online or in person).  I love seeing when people are proud of themselves and that absolutely drives my creative work.

Rainbows.  This has become a new obsession as they keep on appearing.  We’re knee deep in the rainy grey of winter here in Vancouver right now and it is so easy to forget the wonders of rain.  This past weekend I was walking with a friend in the rain and all of a sudden we turned a corner and there was not only a rainbow but it was also a very brief break in the clouds that brought in the most beautiful golden light that was contrasting with the blues of the unlit street.  It was like turning the corner into a magical world, into wonderland.  It was a beautiful reminder that whimsy awaits us just around the corner and that absolutely makes its way into my photo adventures.  Photography itself feels like a tool to keep open to wonder!

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

Be Yourself 

This has been a big lesson along the way.  There are parts of my identity and self that I keep protected, keep offline.  For a long time I felt like I had to share everything to ‘be myself’ but I’ve learned that it isn’t about spilling all the beans, its about letting your self be seen in your work.  For me that ended up being about letting my playful silly side be more seen.

Ride the Wave

Being a creative entrepreneur is a lot of showing up for yourself, for showing up in fear and vulnerability and it can be a mighty tender experience.  You’ve got to stick with the lows as well as the highs.  The lows will make your business even stronger as long as you don’t close up and run away when they happen.

Small is indeed Beautiful

I’ve learned that growing my business at the pace it is going is perfect for me.  That having smaller class sizes allows me to really connect with the participants, which is so important to me.  I’ve learned that my business is growing at exactly the right pace and while we all tend to want to something to ‘take off’ and be really successful, there is so much that is beautiful about a truly small business.

Create a Support Network

One of the best things I learned was that you don’t have to go it alone.  It makes all the difference to find one or two people who have a business that are different but who are at a similar stage in their creative business journey.

You’ve got to show up for yourself

It hasn’t been a strength of mine in the past to really show up for myself, so in a way this creative path is a total gift but a total challenge.  Its not completely a place of ease.  Parts of them are bliss, like taking photos, portraits or self-portraits, creating classes and teaching them.  But the act of putting it out there, of promoting them, of making it all happen don’t come easily to me.  I’ve got to show up in my own life and make it happen!

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

The story of how I found photography is a good example of this.

A few years ago I was robbed twice in one week and had to come face to face with the person breaking in.  While I was unharmed physically, I felt my sense of safety shattered to pieces.  It actually wasn’t in the robbery where I felt like I had to practice courage, but in the aftermath of it.  Every day after that I had to show up feeling more vulnerable than I had ever felt before.  I had to sit with my fear.

I did that daily, letting it do what it needed to do be that looking out the window 50 times before bed or double checking the lock repetitively.  I let these obsessive fears have a place in my life for a while.  I felt like I needed to rebuild that feeling of safety, even if it took looking out the window 20 times a night to make sure there was no one there.

Slowly the wall of self-protection was rebuilt and the obsessive need to guard my safety relaxed until I didn’t need to peek out the window or check the locks any more.  I’ve never had to show up in my own fear and deepest vulnerability like that, day after day.

As soon as I felt as though I made it through to the other side and I began to heal, I felt something incredible happen.  I picked up a camera and discovered my love for photography.  Having no interest in it what so ever before then, it really felt like it was a gift from the universe for getting through it and not running away from it.

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

That I live in a truly tiny one room apartment (like, really tiny).

That I almost always do a silly dance when I take a self-portrait

That I have a neon pink velour cape in my closet (okay, maybe they would)

That I’m rather obsessed with eating Kale almost daily

That I’m an introverted Leo

That I love running

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

 Really early in my education (like grade 2) I started to believe that I wasn’t smart.  I was totally traumatized when kindergarten art and group work turned to tests, quizzes, desks in rows and ‘right answers’.  I just never felt like I could play the game and that my brain just didn’t work the same way other people’s did.  I really did believe that for most of my education.  People would tell me I was wise but I didn’t believe I was smart.

But I don’t believe that anymore.  In fact it makes a lot more sense with the work I do now as I always was smart just not within ways that were expected in traditional education.

Not believing I was academically smart has somehow lead me to a creative line of work where I do believe in myself and am committed to helping other people see their own creative wisdom.

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

One of my favourite  mantra is ‘Playfulness is an anti-dote to fear’.  That the best way to get past fear is to diffuse it with some playfulness.  I use that trick on myself all the time.

The other day I was totally being attacked by my own self-doubt gremlins.  Feeling like I didn’t have something unique to say and I was quite honestly getting tired of hearing that negativity in my head and the way it made me felt.  So I took charge and attacked the gremlins with two playful techniques.  I put on my ipod with some music that chills me out and grabbed my camera and went for a walk.  It truly didn’t take much more than walking one block before I felt so much better.  There is some growing I want to do in my creative work and it is indeed scary, so I like to take my own advice when the fear gremlins attack and get playful, make a silly face into the camera.  Scare ‘em away by making myself laugh.  Fear and laughter can’t exist together, can they!


Vivienne McMaster is a photographer with a big heart and a spirit of playfulness.  She is part whimsical, part urban, and definitely quirky.  She teaches a wide variety of photography and video based e-courses and believes that self-portraiture and creative exploration can save our lives.  She shares colorful visual stories over at her website.

Cyber Monday Super Sale! $49 for any class

Take your pick! Just enter the coupon code INSPIRE49

Enter the coupon code “INSPIRE49”

For more info on Cultivating Courage click here.
For more info on the Mondo Beyondo click here.
For more info on Elevate the Ordinary (photo class) click here.
+ BONUS: Treasure Hunt course is only $29! click here.

Gift certificates are also available at the 49 dollar price; this way they can take their pick!

Offer is only good until tomorrow night at midnight PST.

Color in a jar

My plastic bread tie collection is coming along well! It is slow going but I love the sound of each plunk into the jar and how each color adds to the palette. It was inspired by Lisa Congdon’s A Collection A Day project.

The best part is that Ben will often come home from school, pull one out of his pocket and say,”For your collection.”

What else?

Now I’m thinking about what else I can put in jars that will delight my eye. Vintage buttons? Spools of thread? Beads?

Can you think of more?

What I’m grateful for today…

Ben and his time machine

Grandmas that aren’t afraid to swing

Swings that look like thrones

Nico’s contagious smile and vampire teeth

Photos of Nico and Matt

My beautiful boys

Filling the well. How do you make space?

Stars at my feet, shot with iphone 4S

Perhaps you know the moment I am about to describe.

This is the moment when you need a break. You want to jump off the train and retreat. You need an effing break– from all of it — the writing, the thinking, the screens, the emailing, the constant status updates.

Lately, I”ve had the urge to give away all our belongings, delete the entire inbox, and unplug the DSL.

But there is reality right?

And so I sit in my backyard studio, listen to radio stories and make jewelry. I surf ebay and etsy to find new beads. I chat on the phone with friends and look up Eckhart Tolle podcasts. And it’s heaven you guys. Pure heaven.

I’m sure I will want to write again. But for now, I just want to go to yoga and make things and be quiet. I want to clean the house and bake banana bread and figure out how my rice cooker works. I want to go away, somewhere beautiful, to sit and do nothing at all.

I don’t want to compete, or rise to any occasions, or be brave, or pull up any bootstraps.

I want to watch PBS documentaries about animals and walk in the woods and push Nico in a swing and read the wishes hanging from the wish tree.

Julia Cameron would call this filling the well.

New ideas have been percolating in this space. I am seeing clearly how much this is part of the creative process. That without this there is only wringing out a damp rag, trying to squeeze something out of myself that is almost dry. Blood from a stone.

Can you relate? How do you create space for yourself?

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 November. 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.


Soul Secrets to Success — Leonie Dawson

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between someone who has a thriving, successful business + life, and someone who is struggling?

Here’s the good news: Creating a thriving, joyful, successful life + business isn’t by accident.

And here’s the GREAT news: It’s completely + utterly LEARNABLE!

This is great news because it means if you aren’t getting the levels of shining success you want right now, you are just missing a few pieces of the puzzle.

In the must-see “Soul Secrets To Success” video workshop, heart-centered entrepreneur + business mentor Leonie Dawson reveals those missing puzzle pieces-all for free.

So why is she giving away these valuable insights for free?

“I’m a big believer in paying it forward,” Leonie explains. “I’ve made all my dreams come true, and I’m here to help other women make their dreams come true now too. I believe you have gifts to offer the world. I believe business can be a vehicle to help them go into the world. I want to see you thriving!


Santa Pause — Kristin Noelle

Hi! I’m Kristin Noelle of Trust Tending. And I’m joining a movement of gorgeous souls across our globe to treat this holiday season – a season that has historically been full of over-stimulation and overwhelm – as a chance to do something unheard of: to come more deeply ALIVE.

My move is this: for 30 days between American Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m creating one of my signature sketches – simple, heart-full drawings that focus in on what matters to me most: trust, deep presence, and softening into love.

And I’d love your company in pausing the many distractions of the season to quietly soak them in.

A community is gathering around this practice and for the 30 days the sketches go out, we’ll be talking together on a private Facebook page about how we’re navigating the season – the challenges we’re experiencing and the moves we’re making to trust, to soften, to come ever more ALIVE.

We’d be thrilled for your company. Will you join us?

Enter SuperheroLife at checkout to get $5 off the experience.


Tech Husband — Forest Linden

Tech Husband (aka Forest Linden) has created a step-by-step, online training program that empowers you to build your business dreams without tech frustrations holding you back.

His Tech Genius program teaches you to set up all the systems and software you need to offer information products like online home study programs, or services like coaching. 

And, from now until Sunday, 11/18 at midnight, he’s offering a free training that you don’t want to miss. In it, you’ll learn:

– How to transform your idea into an online revenue stream
– What software you’ll need and how it fits together
– Top recommendations that will save you years of trial and error.

  Watching Forest’s videos is like sitting at a coffee shop with the sweetest geek ever, explaining all the tech mumbo that makes your head spin.

He has a simple, gentle way of demystifying all those web tech systems that are essential for running your online business (like your website, payments, auto-responders, membership areas, email marketing and more…)

Click here to check it out!


Jen Downer, Portrait and Lifestyle Photographer

Jen Downer is a portrait & lifestyle photographer for beautifully messy, miraculously complicated, ferociously loving families. The kind that don’t own matching black turtlenecks — and prefer cookie batter & cuddle piles to chin-on-knuckles yearbook poses. Her Portland-based photography business, She Saw Things, is all about capturing real life, crazy love and all of its perfectly imperfect beauty.

Jen is excited to extend a special offer to the Superhero Life followers: The first 5 of you to book a She Saw Things photo session will receive $100 off of the session fee! (small print: sessions must be booked by October 31st 2012 and must take place in November 2012 in Portland, Oregon.). Email Jen to book: [email protected].


Chris Guillebeau – The $100 Startup

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…

Happy birthdays + the best gift ever

Sweetest birthday ever, my godparents, me, Sasha, SARK, John, Viola, Matt took this photo which is why he’s not pictured!

There should be a word for the very specific pleasure that comes from being a room with so many people you love. The pleasure of collecting your peeps, from disparate parts of your life, and putting them in a room together to love each other up.

This was just part of the deep joy that was my birthday this year.

I spent the afternoon wandering through downtown San Francisco, popping in and out of stores and taking in all of the action that is a Friday evening downtown. I bought myself an awesome new jacket and a fancy pair of boots. My godparents met me and we strolled around looking at the ice skating ring that just popped up in Union Square, the enormous Christmas tree, and the huge photo of Brad Pitt on the side of Macy’s. I felt like a country girl in the big city. Everything looked so exciting!

I think it’s taken me 41 years to figure out what kind of celebration suits me best. Is it a party? Is it quiet? Is it raucous and loud? Big or small? Night or is it day?

This year I nailed it.

It was hosted by my dear friend Viola in San Francisco who is an incredible cook. We had beef bourguignon, cauliflower mash, and a simple salad perfectly dressed. The cake was itself a masterpiece- made from hazelnut flour, chestnut flour, olive oil, honey, cardamom and orange peel. Served with fresh whipped cream. Divine.

And the best part? We told stories all night long. I heard the stories of how each of the people in my life met their partners, how each of us became friends… It was like a round robin of stories, one after the other, a spontaneous celebration of love and connection. Viola also told an unforgettable story about her time in Antarctica. (She and her husband go each year and study penguins) She described the extraordinary quiet there, so quiet that you can hear whales breathing in the distance, miles away.

The best part

The best part though? Was having an experience of how loved and adored I am. This is something that I know intellectually, something that I could say in words. Yeah, yeah. I know I am loved… But to feel it? To be deeply present to my own goodness? is something else.

Is it the meds?

I’ll admit. I have been wondering this lately. Any feeling of well-being, of joy, of calm is followed up by a question: Is that the Zoloft kicking in?

I keep waiting for something extraordinary to happen. For the medicine to kick in so I will know if it’s working or not. But after six weeks I am seeing that it’s more subtle than that. What I’m seeing is that when I am in survival mode (anxious, worried, can’t breathe, panicky) there is no room for love. There is no room for gratitude. There is no room to do anything but check the next thing off the list, get through the day, feel relieved when everyone falls asleep, and get back to the desk in the morning to do it all over again.

There was no room for joy.

And maybe that’s what the medicine (and the exercise, no sugar, good food, space from the computer, etc.) has given me. Some room. Some distance from the circumstances in my life that feel hard. A break from the vigilant state I’ve been in for years.

I was trying to describe this to a friend the other day. “I don’t know,” I said. “I feel like I am saying I love you more to the people in my life and I actually mean it! Not that I didn’t before, but they were more like words, like a refrain. Now I feel like I am saying it in slow motion, like the words are suspended in the air. I am feeling into it like I’ve never experienced before. It is the most extraordinary thing.”

And that, my friends, has been the best birthday gift yet.

The wish tree

I made a wish tree with a friend last week. We had planned to go on a walk, but I called her and asked, “Wanna make a wish tree instead?” I love that she didn’t think twice when I said this and immediately get on board.

“I’ll grab sushi. You go to Staples. We’ll meet at your house,” was her response.

This tree has been a sweet spot in my days lately. There is a big sign hanging from the tree that says, “Make a Wish!” and then shipping tags and pens and yarn so people can write down their own wishes and add them to the tree.

Every morning Ben and I go outside and check on the wish tree. We scan for new wishes and read them to each other. It’s pretty amazing.

Here’s what we used:
1. Manila shipping tags from the office supply store.
2. Poster board (folded in half to be thicker)
3. Packing tape to “laminate” poster board after we wrote our sign.
4. Yarn to hang the tags from the tree.

Hot tip: We used the plastic box from the shipping tags as the dispenser for the blank tags and the holder for the pens. (We just duct taped the container to the tree)

Tie some yarn to the pens and voila! Ready for passersby to make a wish.

We are not above spying

Ben and I have also taken to spying on the tree from time to time. We watch people stumble upon it and then reach in and make a wish of their own. It has been a really sweet way to create community and feel like we are contributing something of joy and beauty to our little world.

If you hadn’t already guessed, the wish to “Be a ninja” belongs to Ben. ?

Your turn

Do you have a wish you’d like to add to our virtual wish tree here?

Happy Birthday sweet Nico!

Nico’s birthday, shot with Canon Xsi

Dear Nico,

You turned 2 yesterday.

You weren’t quite sure what a birthday was, or why everyone kept mentioning it, but I love that you sang Happy Birthday to yourself at odd times throughout the day. Unbearably cute.

There are so many things I love about you Neeks. Here are some highlights:

Your feet. They make me crazy. They are delicious and edible.

Your rainbow eyes. There is a particular smile you do that melts all of us- especially Ben. He will shout from the other room, “He’s doing it! He’s doing the rainbow smile!” and I will run over to catch a glimpse of it. It’s that cute. This is where you smile so big that your eyes turn into two squinty rainbows.

Your appetite. I love a kid with an appetite! and you’ve got it in spades. You are my best customer.

You’re a hugger. This is something else I didn’t know the pleasures of until we had you. You especially love to hug Ben. You have turned him into a hugger too.

Your nicknames for Ben. First it was B. You somehow made B a two-syllable word. “Be- eeee!” Beeeee?” Now you call him “Benda” which he doesn’t love but he’s getting used to it.

Really Neeks, everything about you is delicious. Just seeing your face makes me burst inside.

Your middle name is Boon because you are an unexpected blessing in our lives. Something to be thankful for. A prayer answered. Thank you for being such a perfect addition to our family. We didn’t realize you were the missing piece to our puzzle. And we love you ferociously and with all our hearts.


How She Really Does It!

Courage interview

So honored to be featured on the How She Really Does It radio show today! You can give a listen right here.

We talk about:

  • What courage means
  • Times when I felt like I didn’t have courage
  • How to build courage
  • Dealing with uncertainty + courage
  • Why I created the Cultivating Courage course

P.S. If it inspires you to take Cultivating Courage, I will be offering a session in the New Year. Class will begin Monday, January 14th!