How to Keep the Faith When Shit Ain’t Working

how to keep the faith

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I can see the future. Well, at least, my own future. Towards the end of last year, as I was coming out of the new mommy haze, I began to brightly see what the road could like for me if I could just stay on course.

Those visions we have while daydreaming seem so real. It’s like we’re already there. That’s why wandering off to fantasy world was one of my favorite pastimes as a kid, especially during math class.

Well guess what, if our mind can see it, if our hearts can believe, and if our souls can feel it…the vision is real. Meaning, if you put blinders on and focus on that vision, you will get there.

Ok, awesome. Most of us know that right? Get clear on what we want and then go after it. No brainer.  But what about the time in between? What about the times when we’re crossing the desert to get to the promise land and nothing seems to be working out? Then what?

This is when faith comes in. I love that word. It’s full of so much hope, strength, and self-discipline. At times when I would hear that word, it sounded like a virtue that was above me. In the past, I’ve felt too weak to have faith. I mostly lacked the self-discipline required to wake up every day and believe, although everything around me was telling me not to.

But you know what I learned? Faith is not above us. Faith is a choice we’re all invited to make. And whether we know it or not, we each do have faith. Because every day we close our eyes to go to bed and agree to wake up the next morning, we’re choosing to have faith that tomorrow will be another day filled with life. We are strong enough to have faith, because we already have it inside of us — even if it’s really small, it’s there.

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The thing about being in the desert is the disappointment we feel when we get there. When we arrive, we almost feel embarrassed. It’s similar to when we open up our heart to someone only to see them break it. We feel stupid for believing in them. How could we have put our guard down, let them in, and then allow them to disappoint us? The same goes for the dreams we try to pursue.

What we forget is that many times the desert is inevitable. We were so excited to hit the road and get on our journey that we didn’t realize we forgot a few things. The desert brings those missing resources to light. The shitty times when nothing seems to be working is simply telling us what we need for the journey and what we don’t need. The drought of that space is not a sign that our vision wasn’t real. It’s simply a conversation the universe is trying to have with us. It wants to tell us what we really need to get to where we want to go. It tells us the skills we need, the resources we need, the beliefs we need, and the strength we need. The desert is bootcamp for dreams. The desert is where we get naked. The desert is growth.

If we can understand that this time — a time that feels like abandonment — is part of the process, faith will follow and carry us through. Embarrassment and failure will only come if you turn around and retreat to the old person you were when you started. Even if the road doesn’t take you exactly where you thought you were going, you will cross that desert and come out anew. And after all, we only start a journey when we’re ready to evolve into the next level of self. That’s the vision.

keeping the faith

Writer's Curse

how to be a better writer

The more I write, the more I begin to believe that writers, innately, must be insane people.

I subject myself to the same anxiety that comes with looking at a blank sheet paper that must magically transform into something legible, day after day. And this is a practice I believe to be fun. Really? Staring at the ceiling, while grasping my hands so tight that they begin to turn a blush white, and simultaneously praying to every god and saint (even the ones my mom considers to be of the Santeria variety) for divine intervention, is something I consider to be enjoyable?

In the midst of me stretching the skin on my face diabolically, while trying to complete my writing assignments for the day, it hits me: It’s not only writers who feel this. The feeling of constant self-doubt coexisting with a type of bright-eyed hope is an experience reserved for anyone who his crazy/romantic/brave enough to have the desire to create something… anything.

So why go through the pain? Those of us looking to create a business, a purpose, a painting, a revolution; are we all just crazy? Or is there something bigger than ourselves that drives us?

writing mentor

The answer is yes. And while there might not always be a logical explanation as to why we strive to create, there’s a responsibility that comes with hearing the call. You must answer. Even when the self-doubt screams louder than the peaceful feeling of knowing that something is pushing you to move forward with your creation. We just have to trust and obey.

Author Anne Lamott said it best in her book, “Bird by Bird.” “You just have to keep getting out of your own way so that whatever it is that wants to be written can use you to write it.”

That quote gives me such comfort. And it rings true for anyone who feels moved to create something, conquer a goal, or live a dream. You just have to push the self-doubt aside and go on with your bad self.

writing classes online

When a thought is constantly popping up in your head and guiding you to make a move, make it. Yes, while taking the step you might think, “What the F am I doing?” It happens to me every day. But just because you don’t answer the call doesn’t mean the phone will stop ringing.

Answer it. And surrender to your calling. As for the self-doubt, well, you can always use it for creative inspiration.

The Secret to Crafting Engaging Interview Questions

how to write good interview questions

If I could interview people all day, I would. Listening to the stories of others is one of my favorite journalistic roles. But just because I’m a lover of people and life, doesn’t mean I was a natural when it came to interviewing. Drawing insightful information out of someone — especially those who are media trained — is a skill. It’s a fact, I feel, all new writers and bloggers should respect. You want to write better stories that service your readers and the person your interviewing? Read on.

I have my own principles: No email interviews unless you just need a few statements. Record your conversation and transcribe. And don’t ask any questions you can Google to find an answer.

Rather than go off just my experience, I decided to bring in some serious backup: two seasoned writers whose bylines have appeared everywhere from Glamour to O, The Oprah Magazine.

(In an effort to be completely transparent, I sent these two ladies the same questions via email because I was looking for clear, comparable advice you could put into action. For a true feature, you want to get people on the phone.)

For the audio version of this blog post, CLICK HERE.

REBECCA WEBBER

This Columbia University-graduate is a full-time freelance reporter and writer, whose work has been seen in Marie Claire, Martha Stewart Living, and Glamour, just to name a few. She also shares her wisdom during her freelance courses found on MediaBistro.com.

What do you feel makes a good interview?

Good preparation makes for good interviews. Ideally, you've already researched the person and the experience or the work you're asking them about. Have a list of questions drawn up, but just use them as an outline. You should feel free to ask follow-up questions, or new ones that occur to you as you're talking.

What types of questions do you like to ask?

I like to ask questions that take the information to the next level -- beyond what's already out there about the person, their experience, or their work. 

Otherwise it depends on the topic. If it's an interview about someone's personal experience with something, I like to ask questions about what was going on in their head. "How did that make you feel? What did you think when you got that news?" If it's an expert interview, I'm usually looking for some practical applications for their expertise. That is, what can a reader learn from them, and maybe implement in their life.

What do you think is the biggest mistake newbie writers make when interviewing?

I think the biggest mistake new writers make is trying to do interviews by email. With rare exceptions, most written interviews sound, well, written. We write differently than we talk. And it's exactly the spoken quality that comes across in a phone or in-person interview that enlivens an article. I know it can be intimidating to make these phone calls, and have the conversation, and then have to transcribe it, but nine out of 10 times, your piece will be better if you actually speak with your sources. 

Also, you will get much more material out of a phone interview. People talk fast! Even in a five or 10-minute conversation, you'll have a lot of quotes to choose from. If someone is instead replying to questions by email, you'll have more limited options. 

Email is fine for follow-up questions and clarifications, but you should get on the phone (or chat in person), if you can, for the bulk of the interview.

LINDSAY FUNSTON

Based in Brooklyn, Lindsay started her career in the food department of Real Simple magazine and was most recently the Food & Nutrition Editor at Fitness magazine. More than just wordsmith, she loves healthy living and food. Take one look at her Instagram account, and you’re sure to fall in love, too.

What do you feel makes a good interview?

Not following a script. You want to do your research on the person and make sure you're prepared with some types of questions, but don't just read from a list. The best answers are going to come from follow-up questions, so make sure you're reacting and authentically engaging in conversation with your interviewee. Listen, listen, listen!

What types of questions do you like to ask?

I remember the piece of advice that one of my editors at O gave me, which was to ask the interviewee to explain a concept to you like you're a third grader. Often times, people whom we interview in a niche field assume the interviewer has a base understanding of their expertise, which is typically far from the case! If you don't fully understand something when you're on the phone with them, you're going to have a heck of a hard time trying to explain it when you're off the phone!

What do you think is the biggest mistake newbie writers make when interviewing?

Never phrase a question in a way that a person could potentially answer as a yes or no. Always lead in with a way that will force them to answer with more description. For example, not "Did you feel bad when this happened?" but rather, "How did you feel when this happened?"

The First Step to Getting the Life of Your Dreams

making dreams come true

I used to be the girl who when asked if she needed help carrying out her grocery bags would say no. I can carry my own damn bags, thank you very much. Yes, I have a baby in one arm, a lost set of keys, and a pinky to push this cart, but I’ll figure it out.

But I’m also the girl who is the first to drop to the floor to help when a stranger spills her purse. I’m a giver. I just want people to feel at peace, so I’ll do my part to make sure that happens.

You, too? I’m not surprised. We givers find each other. 

(For the audio version of this blog post CLICK HERE)

A few months back I went to a local spiritual store to get my aura read. Um yeah, that’s a thing. And, it’s pretty amazing. So this adorable fairy-looking lady, who definitely is a descendant of the Peter Pan family, takes a photo of me with a special camera. Out comes an instant photo of me, sitting on a chair, with a burst of color covering my face and head.

Like a pensive doctor about to give you some not-so-great news, she looks at me and says, “My concern is that your aura is off to the side.” My aura is off to the side! What does that mean?! Am I dying?? I'm on my way out, aren't I?

It turns out my aura was trying to tell me I was a little off balance. Meaning, I was giving more than I was receiving. Of course, this is pretty standard when you’re a mom, but my issue was a little deeper.

There was help and gifts around me, but I wasn’t willing to accept them. Why? Well, on some level I felt I wasn’t worthy of them, and on the flip side I felt if I received help then that would make me appear weak. You know… just crazy beliefs we pick up along the way.

The problem with not being able to receive help from the grocery guy is that we are sending a direct signal to the universe letting it know that its gifts—everything from money, love, and career help—are no good around here.

Here’s how you can switch it. First off, start small. Say thank you when people pay you a compliment, and really accept it. A friend recently told me that my website looked beautiful and I told her I couldn’t take credit because it was a Squarespace template. But hold up, I made it. I did! So damn it, Nikki, say thank you and accept.

Secondly, start feeling worthy. And you can do that by not allowing yourself to play the victim role anymore. Everything you see out there that you want, that perhaps other have, is up for grabs. We’re all made of the same stuff, which means we all deserve the same things. Wake up in the morning saying this, “I deserve to have a happy, abundant, peaceful life.” And keep it going throughout the day.

Life has so much to offer us, but we have to be willing to open up our arms and receive with humility. It’s starts with the smallest things — from allowing someone to open the door for us to accepting work at a fair pay rate.  After you build the muscle, you’ll have the strength for the big stuff. I want to see you with the big stuff.

How to Know What to Charge a Client

how to charge a client_how to know what to charge a client-how to create a proposal

So you’re just starting to realize that people are willing to pay you for things you actually love to do like write stories, pin beautiful photos on Pinterest, or take pictures. I know… it is madness! Please, I always knew it was possible for you. I was just waiting for you to come around. Wink, wink.

Ok, so you have this potential client who wants to pay you for your services. Problem? You have no idea how much to charge or how to go about this whole proposal thingy. Allow me to share my process.

(Hey, if you're like me and sometimes prefer to listen, click here to get the audio version of this blog post.)

1. Identify the Type of Client

The service professionals I know all work on a sliding scale, meaning they slide their price up or down depending on what category of client they’re dealing with. I divide clients into three categories: Well Funded Clients, Opportunity Clients, and Passion Clients.

Well Funded Clients are the type of gigs that aren’t usually creatively exciting, but they have a nice budget and the client is easy to deal with. When I first started writing, a client came my way who needed website copy for his private jet company. Now, would I like to ride in a private jet? Yes. Am I passionate about the quality of leather on their chairs? No. But it was a good gig, the client was sweet, and pay was worth it. These clients pay more than let’s say a large media company (Conde Nast, NBC) because the work isn’t necessarily exciting, so in order to get a good quality creative they need to make it worth it.

Opportunity Clients are the Conde Nast and Refinery29 of the world. The pay they offer you is what you take (unless you’re an Annie Leibovitz, which would make me wonder how you got to my site and how awesome this would be, ha) because what will come out of the exposure is well worth it for you. And honestly, most Opportunity Clients (the ones that offer you the price) don’t pay bad, but definitely less than the Well Funded.

And then there are the Passion Clients. I love my 20-something ladies who are looking to create. I do my best to give them the lowest price I can, because that is where my passion is. Plus, working one-on-one with these clients help me understand them as a group, which later helps me create products that are consumed by the masses (like a blog post, a book, an online course). You have your own passions and your own entrepreneurial dreams. Use passion clients to help you make products that can serve more people and require less of your time. If this is your passion group, help them out with price but make sure to ask for something in return that can benefit you that might not necessarily be money. 

2. Set Your Hourly Rate

At this point in my career, I like to make $125 an hour. I know that sounds like a lot, but working per hour is very labor intensive especially for creatives. I love writing, but doing it all day is draining. I decided a while back that making money only writing was not sustainable for me. So if I’m doing it for a private client I have to make my hourly rate, because I chose not to work eight hours a day. The bigger picture is about making products that can serve more people and not need my physical labor all the time.

Decide on an hourly rate that feels right to you. There is no magic formula, but here’s an example. Let’s say you want to make $800 a week, so you need to make $160 a day. And let’s say you only want to work on client work 4 hours a day. That would make your hourly rate $40. ($160 divided by 4 hours = $40 an hour).

Next, you would make your sliding scale. Maybe it’s $35/hr for Passion Clients and $55/hr for Well Funded Clients. (Remember Opportunity Clients usually set they’re own price.)

3. Estimate Your Time

In order to give a proper price, you’ll need to know how long the work will take you. This is, I think, where people get the most confused and insecure.

At this point in your career, you’ve probably done similar work for free. Think back to the time you wrote an article for free. How long did it take you to write it? Or when your friend asked you to shoot some photos for her blog? How many hours did it take (minus the gossip break you two took in between, of course)?

If you can do a practice run, do it. One of my little protégés was just pricing out a web copy job. The client had given her the copy to look at in advance. She was being asked to edit it. I asked my mini me to edit one page of content and see how long it would take her to complete the task. She found that two pages took one hour. There were 10 pages, so that would take her five hours. Her hourly rate was $60. That times five (one sec… calculator break) is $300. She would price the job at $300

And that’s it, my friend. The next step is creating a really detailed proposal that educates the client on what it is you really do, and why you’re worth paying a certain rate. We’ll talk about that in another blog post.

Just remember, there is no magic formula. This is the best guide I can give you, but you know what is right for you. If you need additional help, please leave me a Q in the comments.

Much love to you.