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You Can’t Bake a Cake Without a Cake Pan


Sidewalk labyrinth in our new neighbourhood of Kitsilano

In January, I felt like mush. 

Like I was rebuilding everything I knew about myself and my life. I went to a retreat with Jen Louden on Bainbridge Island, and when she asked us to choose a new name for ourselves, I picked Stardust. It spoke to me of the elemental, the unformed, the diffuse. Jen’s teaching encouraged me to go back to my long-ago study of the feminine journey, and I realized that I was not back at the beginning as I had thought. Rather, I was entering my third act.

I needed to gather support.

I was in the process of ghostwriting a book for a client, and I needed a nurturing environment to do that. I was finding it hard to get things done at home ~ I felt lonely, and it was too easy to waste time or do housework.

So I researched co-working offices and arranged to visit three downtown. This endeavour gave me some excitement and a sense of purpose. I also met with a guy, Mitchell, who was starting a co-working office in my neighbourhood. We discovered that we lived basically on the same block in Kitsilano! I thought he was a really sweet, terrific guy and I hoped he actually got his enterprise off the ground.

I also searched on Meetup.com and found a group that was like coffee-shop co-working for writers. It’s called Just Write Vancouver, and it has weekly meetings all over the city where people gather with their laptops and notebooks and just write. I started a Kitsilano group on Thursday nights, and there I met great writers who were all dedicated to their projects and their writing time.

Finally, in February, I finished the ghostwritten book! 

Some of my most productive sessions were at Just Write meetups or on my coworking days. And slowly I started getting back to work on Pilgrimage of Desire. I thought I would work on it full time, or at least a few days a week, but . . .

Alright, let me tell you about my work life. For seven years, I worked full-time as a tech writer for a software company. Then I quit in 2005 and did freelance technical writing and editing. I started my creativity coaching practice in 2010, but I still took writing contracts as I was building my business.

Between kids, travel, writing, and contracting, I haven’t made the time to build coaching into a full-time income. Many wonderful things have come of my foray into entrepreneurship:

  • I have worked with amazing writers and artists, and I have been privileged to accompany them on a leg of their journey to wholeness and flow.
  • I have expanded my professional network and made new friends.
  • I have learned sales, marketing, and copywriting.
  • I’m really proud of what I’ve written for my blog at gresik.ca.
  • Training as a coach and then articulating my philosophy of the art-committed life has loosened and strengthened my own artistic practice so much. I am a much more prolific, more inspired, more relaxed, more confident writer than I was three years ago.

As wonderful as these results are, they have not been accompanied by a big cash flow. Which I’m okay with. My life is still unfolding, and I know that nothing is wasted. I do believe I could build a viable coaching practice if I made it my priority and put the required labour into it.

But I know that coaching is not my first love. Writing is.

I pursued coaching in the first place because I wanted to make my living doing meaningful work. Tech writing felt hollow. It sucked the life out of me. I was good at it but it didn’t feed me.

With coaching, I had part of the equation. Meaningful work, check. Making my living, not so much. So I continued to take contracts. Then, a year ago, I got a different kind of client. He wanted to write a book to help people live more meaningful lives and make the world a better place. He hired me to do that for him, and you know what? Writing that book was easy. Not in the sense that I didn’t exert myself, but in the sense that I knew what to do ~ I had all the skills and knowledge I needed, and I brought them to bear with persistence and confidence.

So here I am in Vancouver, a very expensive city.

My kids are in daycare and gymnastics and art lessons. We started skiing, because how can you not ski when you live 20 minutes from a mountain? All that stuff we sold two years ago? We had to buy a whole bunch of it again (mostly secondhand, hooray for Craigslist!). We need two incomes at the moment. So I’m working full-time for the first time since we had kids six years ago.

Mitchell came through and I joined his new co-working office, Suite Genius. Every morning by 9 am I bike over with my laptop on my back. I work and work and work ~ copywriting, creating content strategy, and overseeing my client’s publishing and launch process. I have blocked all the naughty stuff I use to procrastinate (Metafilter and Boingboing and Facebook) using Chrome Nanny. I log my billable hours in FreshBooks ~ five hours in a day is a good day. Then I bike home and pick up the kids from their afterschool program. Throw some dinner together. Put a load of laundry in. Maybe watch an episode of Mad Men with Shawn and fall asleep.

Dude. Working full-time is hard!

The memories are all coming back to me.

  • So tired.
  • So behind on my email. I answer the urgent stuff and the rest just piles up alongside my guilt.
  • So squeezed. Like everything must happen back-to-back with no space to breathe.
  • So sad about not working on my memoir.

Thank goodness for my Thursday night writer’s meetup. It’s my guarantee that I’ll work on my book for at least three hours every week. I’m here now, writing this. At my last session, it took all night to write one new paragraph, the first one I’ve written since last September.

Tonight I was handwriting in my notebook, dredging up memories of working for that software company.

And I’m realizing I’m back in that place. In some ways. Not all ways, because the work I’m doing now feels meaningful and interesting and fun. But in the way of being tired and overwhelmed a lot of the time. And in the way of feeling swamped and always having 20 good reasons not to write.

And I’ve been thinking about you all. 

You are thousands of writers and artists from around the world who visit this site so I can talk to you. Be of service to you. Remind you you’re not alone.

For months I haven’t been able to blog because I didn’t know what the hell was going on with me or my business. I was sick and barely keeping my head above water. I had very little creative energy.

But I can feel my mojo coming back. The surge of inspiration that led to this letter. The craving to write that is no longer being sated by working on my client’s book. The way forward is coming into focus, the way I will re-create my art-committed life in this new place, under new conditions.

I am gathering support for my third act. 

That support takes the form of people, places, and systems that act as the cake pan for my gooey batter-y stardust self. Labyrinths that channel my creative energy in the meandering but relentless path toward the centre.

So that’s what I’d like to share with you, and that’s what I’d like to hear back from you. I don’t have all the answers; I’m still learning what works. But I am hopeful. And I am better with company.

Here’s today’s step forward.

Would you come to my Facebook page and tell me what your centre is right now? What is the touchstone creative project that compels you to keep moving toward an art-committed life? What’s the vision that won’t let you go, that dogs you day and night waiting for you to make it real?

Mine is Pilgrimage of Desire, of course. I’d love to hear about yours.

In love and solidarity,


P.S. Oh! I should tell you that I’m still coaching. I even have a Vancouver client who comes to my co-working office for sessions! You’re always welcome to book a free intro session with me if you’re interested in focused, personal support in designing your art-committed life.

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