Category Archives: Interviews

Playing Big by Tara Sophia Mohr + 2 kinds of fear

I met Tara Mohr for the first time when we sat together at Spirit Rock meditation center for a daylong workshop with Rachel Naomi Remen. (We are both huge fans!) I adored Tara immediately and hoped we would intersect again. To my delight, we would continue to weave into each others’ lives in the following months and years.

Tara is wise and articulate and someone you want as your teacher. She’s got smarts and soul. And lucky for us, she put all that brilliance + heart into a book, Playing Big that you can pre-order this week.

I was grateful to get my hands on an advance copy + wanted to share one of my favorite pieces of the book – a teaching about 2 kinds of fear from the late Rabbi Alan Lew. Watch the video above! then read the rest of her post below.

Congratulations Tara! This book is empowering, beautifully written and a must-read for anyone who wants to play bigger in the world.

 

As discussed in the video, Rabbi Alan Lew explains that in biblical Hebrew, there are several different words for fear.

Pachad is “projected or imagined fear,” the “fear whose objects are imagined.” That, in contemporary terms, is what we might think of as overreactive, irrational, lizard brain fear: the fear of horrible rejection that will destroy us or the fear that we will simply combust if we step out of our comfort zones.

There is a second Hebrew word for fear, yirah. Rabbi Lew describes yirah as “the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to inhabiting. It is also the feeling we feel when we are on sacred ground.

If you’ve felt a calling in your heart, or uncovered an authentic dream for your life, or felt a mysterious sense of inner inspiration around a project or idea, you recognize this description.

We often conflate or confuse the two types of fear, and simply call what we are experiencing “fear.” But we can discern them more closely, and in doing so, more effectively manage fear so it doesn’t get in our way.

Next time you are in a moment that brings fear:

1. Ask yourself: what part of this fear is pachad? Write down the imagined outcomes you fear, the lizard brain fears. Remind yourself that they are just imagined, and that pachad-type fears are irrational.

2. Savor yirah. Ask yourself: what part of this fear is yirah? You’ll know yirah because it has a tinge of exhilaration and awe -while pachad has a sense of threat and panic. Lean into – and look for – the callings and leaps that bring yirah.

 

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Interview with Jennifer Lee: Building Your Business the Right Brained Way

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So thrilled to talk about this book today! Jenn has written a book for people like us! Listen in as we talk about doing business the right-brain way. Jennifer Lee has a way of making this creative entrepreneur thing feel so fun and easy. There is so much permission in this book + in this interview to be exactly who you are!

Click here to listen to the interview with Jennifer Lee + Andrea Scher

 

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Jennifer Lee is the founder of Artizen Coaching and the bestselling author of The Right-Brain Business Plan, which has helped tens of thousands of entrepreneurs around the world launch their creative businesses. She lives in the bay area and her website is the Right Brain Business Plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing Changes Until You Do

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Today we have a special treat! We are celebrating my pal Mike Robbin’s brand new book: Nothing Changes Until You Do: A Guide to Self-Compassion and Getting Out of Your Own Way. I have known Mike for many years and have always admired his ability to be vulnerable + real and do his soul work.  I’m so honored to know him and  appreciate his powerful + compassionate voice in the world. Enjoy this interview!

Tell us about your new book, Nothing Changes Until You Do:

I’m really excited about this new book- my first in 5 years! This book is about what I believe is the most important human relationship we have – the one with ourselves. Sadly, many of us don’t have a very healthy, empowering, or positive relationship with ourselves – and we spend a lot of time thinking that our value is based upon what we do, how we look, what people think about us, the status of our relationships, our outward accomplishments, and more. None of this is true. In Nothing Changes Until You Do I share stories, insights, and lessons about how we can have more compassion for ourselves, accept our lives as they are, and take responsibility for making healthy and positive changes.

How did this book evolve? And was it hard to share so much of yourself in it?

This book came about over the course of a number of years.  I wrote my first book, Focus on the Good Stuff, in 2007 and my second book, Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken, in 2009, but took some time in between my second book and this new book for a variety of reasons.  There have been some big ups and downs in my life in the past 5 years, we went through some challenging financial times, including doing a short sale on our house, my mom died of lung cancer a few years ago, and my wife and I had two miscarriages – all of which were very painful and difficult experiences, yet they taught me a great deal.  We eventually got ourselves out of debt, figured some things out about parenting and marriage, and my business really took off in a wonderful way. In addition to all of the external highs and lows, I feel like my own sense of myself and my own growth has deepened and evolved a great deal…in addition to my awareness of others and what lots of people are going through.

At the end of the day, I think that the most important and challenging human relationship we have is the one with ourselves…and this is what the book is all about…making peace with ourselves. I shared so much of my own experience and so many vulnerable stories because that’s just how I roll in life. I also believe that we often teach best what we need to learn and my approach with this book (and most of my work) is to share my process in a real way, with the intention of both touching and teaching others in the process. It does feel a bit scary to open myself up like this, but it is also liberating and it is, what I believe, is the best way for me to connect with others in a way that can make a difference for them.

 

The subtitle of Nothing Changes Until You Do is “A Guide to Self-Compassion and Getting Out of Your Own Way.” Do you think we’re the biggest obstacle to our own growth and success?

Most often, yes!  Much of what we do in life is fairly easy, it’s dealing with ourselves that is often the hardest part.  When we’re able to treat ourselves with kindness, love, and respect, we set ourselves up for true success.  When we look outside of ourselves for success, we always fail or at least fall short, regardless of the circumstances or situations around us.  The more able we are to make peace with ourselves, let go of limited thinking and negative behavior towards ourselves, and embrace our own beauty, power, and strength, the more life can flow with ease and abundance.  Although this is a fairly simple concept that many of us understand…it’s not always easy for us to remember and practice in our daily lives.  However, when we do remember, practice, and embody self-compassion, our life tends to flourish.

How do you describe self-compassion?

Self-compassion is made up of three primary components:

1. Awareness – we have to be aware of how we are thinking about, talking about, relating to, and feeling about ourselves.
2. Kindness – a sense of being kind, forgiving, and loving towards ourselves – regardless of the circumstances, outcomes, or situations we are experiencing.
3. Common humanity – remembering that we are not alone, we’re part of the human family, and whatever pain, challenge, or difficulty we might be facing or experiencing – we have shared emotional experiences with the rest of humanity

What are the benefits of self-compassion?

The benefits of self-compassion are huge.  When we’re compassionate with ourselves, we cut ourselves some slack, give ourselves a break, and let go of the erroneous and damaging perfection demands we often place upon ourselves.  This allows us to let go of unnecessary pressure, stress, and negativity.  Self-compassion also gives us space to make mistakes, be vulnerable, and ask for (and receive) support from others.  It is a much more peaceful and healthy way to relate to ourselves and life.  And, maybe most important of all, when we are compassionate with ourselves, we have the ability to have authentic compassion for others. As the saying goes, “We don’t see other people as they are; we see them as we are.

In chapter 17, you say “Imagine what our lives, our careers, our relationships would look like if we stopped blaming our experience on other people or external circumstances.” You suggest we take 100 percent responsibility for our experience…how can we do this when we are so impacted by external circumstances. Any quick tips for doing this?

This is another thing in life that is simple to understand, but not always easy to practice.

One way I like to remind myself about taking responsibility for everything that shows up in my life, is to change the word “to” to the word “for” in the question, “Why is this happening TO me?” which we often ask in our heads when things aren’t going the way we want them to.  Asking “Why is this happening FOR me?” changes the entire context of how we are relating to life.

 

My money memoir

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Dear Superheroes,

I’ve just bared my soul about something tremendously personal: money!

It’s part of the Money Memoirs Series: a free, month-long gathering for healing and truth-telling about money, hosted by my dear friend and colleague, Bari Tessler Linden. Bari is a financial therapist who leads a year-long global money school, The Art of Money.

For the entire month of October, Bari has invited some of her favorite people to share the tender truth about their own money stories. We’re bringing our money stories out into the light. To spread a message of healing, un-shaming, and love, and to create a sacred doorway into the opening of her year long Art of Money program, which will happen in the middle of the Money Memoirs month.

Click through to Bari’s blog to hear my Money Memoir: my triumphs and challenges, how money has affected my relationships and career, and what I’ve learned from it all.

I hope hearing my story will inspire your own honest and loving un-shaming about money. And, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating everyone who shares their stories with Bari, the entire month of October. Please join us for this intimate gathering as we bring healing, humanity, and empowerment to our money relationships. Click right this way to hear my Money Memoir.

What’s up with the green smoothies? A cleanse + interview with health coach, Lacy Young

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Hey Superheroes,

We are doing something special this week!

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you might know that I recently got a Vitamix. I’ve become a convert! and I’m starting to understand this whole green smoothie craze.

In an effort to understand the health benefits of all this talk about drinking our veggies, I called upon Lacy Young – a friend and wellness coach- to give us the full scoop. I hope you enjoy this series! I’ll be blending right along with you. XO Andrea

 

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Sweet + Gentle Smoothie Cleanse: the What, When, Why and How

Hi! It’s so nice to meet you! I’m Lacy Young.

I’m a health coach and the creator of the Campaign for Confidence. I grew up a mac + cheese eating, steak + potato loving, Betty Crocker cake baking kid! Loved every second of it. Fruit appeared in the form of fruit roll-ups. And veggies? Well, I would eat a salad every once in awhile if it were properly blanketed in ranch dressing!

My journey to health began as many do after profound sickness. My sickness had a big fancy name, Idiopathic Subglottic Stenosis aka suffocating scar tissue forming in my trachea. After 7 surgeries, countless pharmaceuticals (UGH Prednisone!), fifty extra pounds and deep sadness I began to return home to myself through whole foods.

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I literally started at square one. What’s a green? Why do I care? How do I make it NOT taste like fresh mowed grass?

As I discovered the answers to these questions and practiced a new way of eating, my life transformed so dramatically that I became a health coach + now support others on their journey to health! The magic of health coaching is that it’s about meeting you wherever you are and offering gentle, loving support, accountability + tools to reach your goals.

Your body is communicating with you all the time and cleansing is a wonderful way to tap into your body wisdom! I hope you’ll consider joining us on this 3-day smoothie cleanse! I’m so thrilled to be here with you!

To your whole health + happiness,
Lacy

What: Recipes, support and schedule for a FREE 3-day green smoothie cleanse.

When Is the Cleanse:
Anytime you want!

Why Cleanse:
This cleanse is designed to gently detoxify and keep your body cool this summer. This is NOT a starvation diet, and while you will be cutting out processed foods, white sugar and white flour, you will get to enjoy three healthy meals each day and snacks if you need. Rather than focusing on what you are leaving out, you’ll be focusing on all the goodness you are bringing in!

We all have toxic accumulations in our systems. They come from our food, skincare products and the environment (pesticides, chemicals, etc.). Accumulated toxins block our bodily channels and decrease the functioning of all of our systems, leading to varying symptoms and dis-ease. Really, all symptoms and disease are the result of toxins, but some of the earlier warning signs are:
● Digestive disturbances (gas, bloating, heartburn)
● Irregular bowel movements (constipation, diarrhea, mucous in stools)
● Feeling tired and sluggish
● Insomnia
● Bad breath
● Foul body odor
● Allergies
● Constipation
● Frequent colds and coughs
● Headaches
● Stress
● Dull or itchy skin, or skin rashes
● PMS symptoms (water retention, breast swelling, breast tenderness)
● Cold hands and/or feet
● Poor sleep
● Lowered immunity
● Depression and/or anxiety

How a Green Smoothie Cleanse Can Benefit You:
There are a lot of benefits to a green smoothie cleanse!

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Green smoothies are a REALLY easy way to get tons of nutrition-packed greens into your belly. Leafy greens are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids that are essential in keeping all of our bodily processes functioning smoothly.

When you mix food together outside of your belly, it is much easier to digest inside of your belly. This gives your digestive system a bit of a break. Eating this way for a few days in a row allows for a RE-SET!

You’ll be focusing specifically on green smoothies! Greens are the single most balancing food on the planet. I call them the ultimate Re-Set Button! Cleansing gives you a break on digestion and helps to ease any disturbances. We could all use a little more ease in life, yes? YES!

Your elimination may seem a little off when you start the cleanse because your body is working on processing toxic accumulations, but it should balance out by the end. With improved elimination comes clearer skin, better sleep and loss of excess weight. WAHOO!

Because green smoothies provide all the nourishment you need in an easy-to-digest form, your body can easily absorb and assimilate nutrients providing you with increased energy and vitality. The Sweet & Gentle Summer Smoothie Cleanse is a chance for you to reduce food cravings and help you develop healthier eating patterns! Stay tuned for the cleanse schedule + recipes tomorrow!

It’s so very nice to meet you!
Lacy

This one’s especially for the mamas.

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Hey Superhero Mamas!

This one’s especially for you.

If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted (hello, all of us!) and you are aching to live your dreams while still rocking it as a parent, I have a treat for you.

The (Free!) Radiant Mama Telesummit

Mama and fellow visionary Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici is hosting The Radiant Mama Telesummit~ Ignite Your Passion and Purpose to Create the Life you Desire. Sign up here!

Starting August 19th, I’ll be joining 27 other women authors, speakers and coaches sharing tips, advice and inspiration to help moms move out of Supermom into a life of more happiness and joy… 28 days focused on YOU.

My interview airs on Wednesday August 28th at 9:00a PST.  But sign up for the summit and you will get to hear all of the speakers.

With love,

Andrea Scher

Creative Superheroes Interview: Matthea Harvey

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The first time I heard about Cecil was over 10 years ago. My friend Matthea, who was visiting from NYC, told me she planned to write a children’s book about a little girl with a pet glacier named Cecil. I was captivated and continued to pester her about Cecil over the years that followed. Have you written the story about Cecil yet? This character captured my imagination long before the story was written and the book itself is even more wonderful than I could have imagined!

Matthea is a poet in every sense of the word.

She has published several books, teaches at Sarah Lawrence, has published poems in the New Yorker, but also in the way she lives her life. For example, Matthea’s wish when she got married was to have a striped dress, a striped cake and have topiaries all around the wedding site. For Halloween one year, she dressed as a bruise. Her cat is named Wednesday.

See what I mean? Her life is poetry. She is one of the most brilliant humans I know, and she is also one of the kindest. I love Matthea and I am a huge fan of Cecil the Pet Glacier. You will love them both too!

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What is your superpower?

Making dogs in the city stop and pull their owners towards me. This is a very useful skill since I love petting people’s dogs! Also, making robots out of things I find on the street.

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

If you look at my children’s books and photographs, apparently I’m obsessed with ice. I wrote Cecil the Pet Glacier (illustrated by Giselle Potter), then The Little General and the Giant Snowflake (illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel) and for years I’ve been freezing miniatures in ice cubes and photographing them, but it was only last year that I noticed those connections.

Often it’s the reverse of how you framed the question—my obsessions make their way in sneakily from my creative work into my life! I’ll write a poem about something (say, robots or mermaids) and then those things come into my life, so it’s almost the reverse. After I wrote “The Straightforward Mermaid”, I was invited to go to the first international mermaid conference in Las Vegas, so I found myself at a pool party with lots of people wearing tails!

Other things I’m obsessed with: graphic novels, my cat, silhouettes and most recently, embroidery. I wrote the text for a soundwalk, Telettrofono, and in it one of the characters, Esterre Meucci, was sewing handkerchiefs, so I started embroidering what I thought she would embroider (real and invented patents by her husband, like a wave metronome or a bone xylophone).

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

1. If you love someone’s work, tell them. I dithered for about a year before I contacted Amy Jean Porter to see if she would do paintings for my book of erasure poetry, Of Lamb, and she’s now a dear friend and collaborator.

2. Do projects you love even if you they don’t make you any money.
3. Sometimes you have to say no to protect your time—I’m still working on this one.
4. If an artist or musician you respect asks to use your work, say yes! Ani Simon-Kennedy made this film inspired by my poem “The Straightforward Mermaid” and I adore it!
5. When writing or making things isn’t going well, go to a museum, walk around the city or get into bed with a book.

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

This is something I have to do every day. Right now I’m finishing a book of poems, titled If the Tabloids are True, What are You? In it I combine text and image in a number of ways (photographs as titles, silhouettes as illustrations)… It’s scary to put myself out into the world as an artist as well as a writer, but I’m about to make the plunge! Joseph Quintela offered to make me a dress out of my book, Of Lamb, and I was both terrified and excited by the prospect (I usually wear all black and I don’t like being photographed). I screwed up all my courage, and said “yes.” He and Gabriel Don (who took photographs), came over, we drank some wine, and the result can be seen above! I’m so glad I said yes.

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 recently discovered that a children’s book that shaped who I am today (Fantastic Toys by Monika Beisner) was written by a school friend of my mother’s in Germany, so I was able to get her address—I used to lie in bed at night deciding whether I’d rather have wings, a glowing teddy bear or a heated sheep toboggan. I wrote her an effusive fan letter and sent her my recent books. When she wrote back to me I felt completely starstruck. She sent me her phone number and after a lot of deep breathing and battling of shyness, I called her and we had the most wonderful conversation.

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

That’s hard to say—I feel pretty transparent. Let’s see…I dislike the adjectives “quirky” and “whimsical” because they seem to only ever be used to describe work by women and gay men. Also, it might not be apparent that I’m a huge tennis fan or that I recently watched all the episodes of Torchwood. In one the first episodes, you meet “the last human being” and she’s had so much plastic surgery that she’s basically a pink trampoline with eyes and a mouth.

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

That I could shrink things with my eyes.

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

In the midst of writing a series of poems called “The Future of Terror,” this line appeared: “I invented / a motto for myself: Never Say Mayday / While There’s Still Marzipan.” The other day was National Marzipan Day, so I thought of it then!

matthea_dress_300Matthea Harvey is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Of Lamb (an illustrated erasure with Amy Jean Porter), and Modern Life, as well as a fable for children and adults, The Little General and the Giant Snowflake, illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel and a picture book, Cecil the Pet Glacier, illustrated by Giselle Potter. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and Wednesday the cat.

 

Creative Superheroes Interview: Danny Gregory

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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!

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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.

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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, www.dannygregory.com. 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.

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.

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!