What Do You Do When Your Past Comes Back To Haunt You?

bubbles

Trigger warning.

You know it’s bad news when you see a photo of someone you know at the top of a news article. Last week was no exception. A man I knew when I was a teenager — let’s call him A. — was sentenced to 6 years in jail for trafficking child pornography.

I saw the article and was completely stunned. I emailed an ex-boyfriend who knew A., asking, “Did you see this?” Not only had he seen it, but he had been in court for three days, watching the case unfold. Furthermore, he was convinced the guy was innocent.

It all came back to me in a flash: when I hung out with A., I was 14, and he was almost 30, and there was definitely something off about that. I remembered the inappropriate comments he would make, the things he did, and his reputation among my teenage friends as someone you didn’t want to be alone with.

We had a complicated relationship. Mostly, I knew A. as “my boyfriend’s best friend”, as the guy who always had a house stocked with booze, a bookcase full of great fiction, a supersonic music collection. We would talk for hours online, about books, music, all that High Fidelity stuff. (“Books, records, films… These things matter.”) But sometimes the subject matter would veer elsewhere. I wish that was as far as it went. But it wasn’t.

I remember feeling really special whenever he wanted to spend time with me. A. was much older than most of my friends, and he was smart, funny, and pretty charming. He was a pretty good friend, really: always available to talk. One year he bought me all of Hunter S. Thompson’s books for my birthday, and all of Bret Easton Ellis’ for Christmas. I remember thinking that I must be pretty intelligent, funny, and unique for him to want to hang out with me.

I was intelligent, funny, and unique, but that wasn’t why he hung around me. That wasn’t why he hung around any of my friends. I was at a party once, standing in a group of other girls, and when his name came up, we realised we all had similar stories. There were several instances of “I was at his house drinking, and woke up with his hands on me, and his excuse was, ‘Well, you were drinking my alcohol.'” There were a few accounts of him asking girls in their young teens whether they’d be in the porn film he was supposedly making, getting angry when they said no, calling them prudes. He molested one girl when she was 13 years old, and left her $150 in cash and a note of apology afterwards. As we discussed these stories, none of us seemed terribly traumatised. Instead, we acted as if this was just a thing that happened in the adult world, a world we had quickly become a part of at the age of 14.

I drifted away from that social circle, moved on, and never really thought much about it. (Most people would call this repression.) In fact, years later, when I was an adult, A. maintained a friendship with one of my boyfriends. We would even go out to dinner with him and his wife. I still felt a little uncomfortable around A., and never wanted to be alone with him. I said as much to my boyfriend, but I never went into detail, and my boyfriend never pressed the issue.

When the news broke last week, it was the hot topic of the day among my friends from that time. Most of the women commented along the lines of, “He was always a creep, it was about time.” And the men? An old friend said, “It’s become apparent that it was very different being friends with him as a guy.”

The night that I read the article, I couldn’t sleep. My adrenaline was pumping. I stayed up until 4am talking to my husband about it, freaking out, reeling. I feel like I’ve been processing the news every day since it broke. I’ve been having flashbacks, and I feel tortured by my thoughts. It has been really hard to concentrate on anything else. I usually fall asleep easily, but every night since, I find myself staring at the ceiling.

My ex — who was in court — told me that the whole case was technically shaky. A. got six years, four without parole. He will be on the sex offender registry for life.

I don’t know if he’s guilty or not. While the details of the case didn’t feel like him at all, that doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. Maybe he wanted to get caught. Who knows? What I do know is that the odds of him having a taste for young girls, and later being convicted for soliciting and trafficking child pornography, is too much of a coincidence to ignore. I also believe that even if he’s innocent of these charges, what he did in the past more than warrants his current sentence.

As I process the information, I keep asking myself over and over, why didn’t any of us come forward or do anything about it? Why didn’t the other people we told — our friends who were a little older and wiser — encourage us to go to the police? Or to our parents?

I think we felt like no one would believe us. We were a motley crew: teenage goths, with substance abuse and self-esteem issues. We felt like no one would take us seriously. Maybe we thought we’d be in trouble. Or that if we told our parents, our freedom would be taken away.

This is, I’m sure you can tell, a difficult thing for me to talk about. Like I said, I’m still processing all of it. I think the most important thing I can share is that if you’re ever in a situation that feels off or uncomfortable, it’s okay to back away. I know it’s really hard to say “This makes me uncomfortable,” but it’s important to practice. Please don’t ever feel pressured into doing something that you don’t want to do, and don’t let someone talk you into something you’re not ready for.

At the time, I filed all of my interactions with A. away, thinking that it wasn’t really a big deal, and that I could just move on. I had no idea how much it would impact me in the future. It has had serious repercussions in my life, and has affected how I behave in my personal relationships. I’m taking action to heal, and if you have been in a similar situation, please know that talking about your experiences with a trained professional is very, very important.

It doesn’t matter whether the pressure comes from your boyfriend, your husband, a relative, an employer, or a total stranger, it’s still wrong. It’s your body to do with as you wish. No one has the right to make you feel like you owe them anything… EVER.

I asked a couple of my friends who had experiences with A. if they would write something about it, and their accounts are below. I’ve kept them anonymous. I hope that by reading their stories, it’ll help you recognise the importance of consent.

At the end of the article is a list of links for various help centres. Please don’t be ashamed to reach out.

Love,


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I knew Gala and her friends over a decade ago when we were teenagers trying to figure out where we fitted in. We mixed in the same circles, we all frequented the same internet chat rooms, inner city cafes and parties.

I can’t speak for them, but I was lonely, insecure, with such low self-esteem, and was desperate for people I could talk to about how I was feeling. I had no idea of healthier ways of managing my anxiety and depression, so I drank a lot and I drank often. I deeply disliked myself, and instead of showing myself kindness, I behaved recklessly and destructively. I soon discovered that I couldn’t tolerate being on my own and I craved constant attention and company. The internet is a great place to connect with people, and while I later met my husband online, I also met at least one predator. I am relieved now that he has been sentenced to jail but it has also opened the doors to memories of much darker times.

I chatted with A. a lot online, we had mutual friends, and met up often in the city. I spent time with him at his apartment, usually with my boyfriend and our friends. I was under the legal drinking age, and often when my boyfriend went to bars that I was denied entry to, I would end up at his apartment because I couldn’t tolerate being at home alone. He was always flirty and inappropriate, both online and in person, but it seemed to sit in a grey area which was laughed off by most people, even myself.

The first time he moved beyond innuendo it came as a shock. Was it just a joke? Was I imagining it? I had drunk a large amount of his alcohol and realised he was getting too close physically. I felt really uncomfortable, but he reminded me that he had supplied me with alcohol and I was in his house. I had visited him, he had listened to me and kept me company, and I should be grateful. After all, I had chatted to him a lot online and I should have known better how to keep myself safe. He was right, I hadn’t wanted to be alone and I had been craving alcohol. He had let me talk about my problems and had shown me sympathy and given me advice. He had provided me with what I felt like I needed, and now I had to return the favour.

Twice I can recall waking up after drinking too much and finding his hands under my clothing with him trying to kiss me. This was a man who knew I had a long-term partner and a history of sexual trauma. This was a man who knew I was heavily intoxicated, and in fact had provided me with the alcohol. This was not OK. When I complained again however he reminded me, angry this time, that he had given me what I wanted and made it again my responsibility. I am incredibly lucky that these events never progressed and that I was never again alone with him. It could have ended much worse, however it still had an impact on me.

These events made me believe that I was to blame for how bad I felt, that I was a slut, and that men were entitled to treat me how they liked. He knew I was vulnerable and he preyed on that and made it worse. I was an easy target for a man like him. Any decent human would try to help a distressed and intoxicated person. A decent human would make sure they are OK, get them somewhere safe and call for help. Only a predator will take advantage of their vulnerability.

My experiences alone made me feel like I had done something to bring about what happened. Now, talking with the other women and piecing together everyone’s stories, it is so obvious what he was doing. His behaviour is so typical of a predator, and while it is easy to see this in hindsight, it is much harder when you are immersed in it. He knew I would blame myself for what happened, he knew I would feel dirty and ashamed, and he knew that I wouldn’t tell anyone. I am sickened that his behaviour continued to escalate, and I am devastated that so many girls were hurt by him. I do however feel validated finally because now I know I didn’t imagine it or make it up and it was never my fault, only his.

I wish that I had believed in myself back in my teens, and I hope that these yucky events will at least continue to bring conversation and understanding. If you feel that something, anything, is not right then listen to yourself and tell someone. Keep telling people until you find someone who treats you with the respect you deserve and will listen. Don’t feel like you can’t talk about what is happening, or happened in the past. Abuse thrives on secrecy. It doesn’t matter if you were drunk or had taken drugs. It doesn’t matter if you had been chatting online or even had met up in person. They might tell you that you owed them for something or had led them on. These are tricks predators will play.”


wrist

As Gala has mentioned, we were young, too young to be hanging around with people in their late twenties and early thirties in the capacity we were.

Drinking, partying, sneaking into bars and shadow dancing to The Cure as baby bats. A friend at the time used to jokingly call us jailbait, which I didn’t really think about in depth. Now I hate the term, despise it. Implicit in the title is that as a young woman, a girl, you are a trap by merely existing. As though just by being out of the house, you’re subject to the impulses of people who should think of you as a little sister, a friend, someone to nurture and encourage, rather than someone to sexualise and objectify.

We wanted to live in a Poppy Z Brite novel. Dressed up, going to parties in the apartment of adults seemed perfectly acceptable to us, we were misfits, and our peers who had saccharin sleepovers and wanted to talk about which boy in Hanson was the hottest didn’t quite satisfy our social and intellectual needs.

Reflecting on those times now, as a married woman if my husband was hanging out with girls our age back then (13 and 14 respectively) I would have serious questions about why he was hanging out with young teenagers who are still classified as children by law. When you’re 13, the 30 year olds who hang out with you seem ‘cool’. When you’re 30, you realise that by ‘getting wasted’ with 13 year olds, they were socially defunct at best, and lecherous at worst.

Admittedly Gala and I were perhaps a little bit more informed about the world than some of our peers, but it didn’t negate the fact that we should have been tucked up in bed, in suburbia, getting a good night’s sleep before school the next day.

I had a tumultuous relationship with my parents, and A. seemed like a wise confidant, who had been through everything I was going through. When I had a serious argument with them and decided to make the move to leave home, he offered me a place to stay. As a young girl, who was naive in many ways, it didn’t even cross my mind that there would be an ulterior motive.

Everything is clearer in hindsight, but I can genuinely say the thought didn’t cross my mind. I stayed with him, and he was wildly inappropriate, criminally so, and he knew it. He was guilty about it. He tried to make reparation in a really sad way.

I won’t get into the explicit details, I don’t think that’s helpful, but what I will share is having a vivid memory of feeling like a helpless bug, the way they writhe, powerless when flipped the wrong way. I couldn’t find my voice. I was crippled. That hot, sick, feeling of being in danger rocked me to my core and yet I wasn’t able to scream at him, or communicate boundaries, or ask for help after the experience when I was confused and upset.

Why? The pressure to conform, to submit, is a sick and pervasive part of rape culture. If you object, you’re a prude. They’re a ‘nice guy’. You want to be cool, you want to be liked. Saying no seems like something uptight people do. Teachers say no. Parents say no.

I remember bawling and feeling more alone than I ever have. Why didn’t I talk to someone? Why didn’t I go to the police? Why didn’t I “protect myself” and be so foolish as to drink excessively with this MAN who behaved in such a predatory and inappropriate way with a teenager?

In the rearview mirror I can see the power and control dynamics that rendered me powerless. If he tried that now he would face an entirely different person.

I suppose predators choose their prey wisely, which is all part of the twisted appeal. I don’t like calling him a predator, even now, it feels bizarre. Supposedly he was our friend. He was cool. He was a nice guy. I can completely relate 100% to people who struggle to report incidents of abuse, molestation, sexual violence or statutory rape.

So what would I say to anyone who is experiencing similar behavior?

No matter what you do, how you dress, how drunk you are, who your friends are, what conversations you have, or what signals you may or may not give – your body is your own. No one has a right to touch you without your explicit consent. Saying no doesn’t make you a prude. It makes you strong and determined. It’s your right. It’s your prerogative. No is your default until you give your resounding yes.

Consent is given. Not taken. Talk to a trusted friend, an adult. Talk to rape crisis, talk to the women’s refuge. Talk to someone who you know has the right idea about what is and isn’t okay, because as Gala and I have learned, talking helps. It changes things.

I don’t care whether or not A. did what he has been convicted of, he asserts he didn’t. He did enough to us, and to our friends, to warrant his sentence.

On the flipside of this, if you find yourself attracted, or struggling with your sexuality in a way that would be illegal to express, seek professional help. It’s okay to talk about it and get help, it’s not okay to act on the fantasy. I’m really proud and happy that A. has people who are willing to stick by him, support him, and hopefully ensure he gets the help he needs.

I am terribly sorry for the victims of the crime.

You’re not alone. Do all the talking you need.”


If you need help, RAINN has a space where you can chat online with a trained volunteer. It’s an excellent place to start. Rape Crisis in England and Wales has a lot of resources too. RAINN has a listing of crisis centres in the USA. After Silence is an online support group that is open to anyone who needs it.

Images by Li Hui, Raquel Martins, and Mariam Sitchinava.

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Radical Self Love Letters
 

Got The Itch To Change Your Hair? Try This…

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One of the best decisions I made this year was to hold Radical Self Love Salons. Spending a few hours in the company of magical women who are devoted to improving their lives is a huge pleasure, and it’s not something I take lightly.

The invitation says to dress in your Sunday best… And I always bring my A game. I love to dress up for my girls. So last month, I went blue with Garnier Color Styler! (While I love my haircut — the perfect lob — sometimes the compulsion to change my hair makes me a little antsy.)

Despite the fact that I love my cut, the urge to do something fun to my hair feels overwhelming. But I don’t want to go the peroxide route and fry my hair — it has only just started to get healthy again after years of abuse! What’s a girl to do?

Enter stage left: Garnier Color Styler, temporary hair colour that kicks major booty and washes out after just a few shampoos.

I had both Blue Burst and Purple Mania to play with, and play I did. I rocked blue bangs to October’s Radical Self Love Salon, and mixed the two together and streaked my bob for a lunch date. Best of all, there’s heaps of product in the bottle, so you can definitely use it more than once.

Usually, if you’re of the dark-haired persuasion, the only way you’re going to get candy-coloured locks is if you lighten your hair first. Well, the tide has turned! Garnier Color Styler shows up like mad, and I love the way it brought out the best of my blue-black hair colour!

What I love most about Color Styler is that it only lasts for 72 hours, so if your boss is a bummer, she never has to know that you were flicking your magenta mane all weekend long!

HOW TO USE IT

1. Make sure your hair is clean, dry and untangled.

2. Put on the gloves provided in the pack.

3. Section off the part of your hair you wish to color.

4. Shake the bottle vigorously to ensure color is mixed.

5. Gently squeeze out a few drops (3 to 4) onto your gloves.

6. Rub the fingers of the gloves together.

7. Apply a thin coat of the colour in a downward motion while smoothing the hair, starting at the root. Apply it in small sections until you have even coverage. Don’t use too much product, it’s better to use small amounts, and I probably went over each section between 5 and 10 times.

8. After the color is vibrant, wait until the product is completely dry and then comb through using either a wide tooth brush or comb. You can use a hair dryer to speed up drying the color.

P.S. If you make a mistake or need to get to that interview the next day, apply hair oils to help remove the color quickly!

Here were some of the Color Styler looks I flaunted…

Got The Itch To Change Your Hair? Try This...

#TBT to the time I threw some blue into my hair for October’s Radical Self Love Salon (I used @GarnierUSA Color Styler!). I must say, I’m pretty fond of the way this colour matches my faux fur, also known as “the blue ocelot”! (Meow.)

Got The Itch To Change Your Hair? Try This...

Can we call this “athlechic”?! (Ho ho!) I’m on my way to get my ass KICKED at the gym. Hand me your least revolting protein bar, stat!

Got The Itch To Change Your Hair? Try This...

I’m definitely having a blue moment! Now that my hair is navy, the temptation to match ALL of my clothing is overwhelming! Sadly, I don’t own blue shoes. Maybe that would be a good addition to my wardrobe?! #bluesuedeshoes

Got The Itch To Change Your Hair? Try This...

Dancing in my bedroom… YEAH MAMA.

Got The Itch To Change Your Hair? Try This...

Meeting one of my babes for a lunchdate. I forgot how much fun it is to have a little bit of colour in my hair. I think I’m going to be using Color Styler a LOT. Next up: purple?!


Can you think of the perfect time or place to parade your (temporarily) pink, purple, blue, red or bronze ‘do? Visit garnierusa.com/funnestgirl and you could be the next #FunnestGirl.

Kisses from this blue-haired babe,

This post was made possible with the help of Garnier and Style Coalition.

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The Stars, The Surf, And The Magic Of Tulum…

stars

There are a few things in this world I’ve always wanted to do. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to visit the magical town of Tulum, but it never quite happens. I wish I knew more about astrology, but it seems like there are always more pressing matters at hand. Ever since I started working for myself, I’ve dreamed of going on a tropical retreat, to do yoga and be sublimely relaxed, but it seems to evade me.

That’s why I almost exploded with joy when I heard about the AstroTwins’ Become Your Own Astrologer retreat in April 2015. Tulum? CHECK. Daily astrology classes? CHECK. Yoga, relaxation, and divine reconnection? CHA-YECK!

I am GOING. I am going to take a beautiful break from the craziness of NYC and the hustle and bustle of my everyday life. I am making my health and happiness a priority. I’m can’t wait to get there… And I think you should join me!

7 days and 6 nights staying in a fantastic cabana on the beach in Tulum, listening to the waves from your bed, eating delicious food, swimming in crystal clear blue water, and learning about astrology at the same time… How could it be any more perfect?

tulum

The AstroTwins are good friends of mine, and they run AstroStyle, one of the biggest astrology sites ever. Ophira and Tali write horoscopes for Elle, have a web series on Refinery 29, have written stacks of books, and — perhaps most crucially — are two of the friendliest, most lovely women ever. They’re known for “bringing the stars down to earth” and that’s exactly what they do, by making astrology easy to understand, fun, and super-relatable.

I love the structure of the Be Your Own Astrologer retreat, because it’s really relaxed. (Who wants to be overly-scheduled? You’re on HOLIDAY, for crying out loud!) If you’re curious, here’s absolutely everything you need to know about the workshop, and this is the daily schedule.

Put simply, you have around two hours of astrological study every morning, where you’ll be learning about your own chart, life purpose, money and career, love and relationships, compatibility, and “divine timing” (love that!). The afternoons and evenings are free to do whatever you want. Yoga? Snorkelling? Massage? Exploring the Mayan ruins?!

Personally, I’m excited to do all of the above, plus check out Coqui Coqui (and their amazing spa), buy some bright dresses, eat amazing food, meditate on the beach, and just BE.

God, that sounds so good.

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Want to join us? Earlybird registration is $2900, there’s a payment plan available, and it will be SO worth it.

Included in the price of the retreat: daily astrology classes, room and board, three meals a day (with vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options), an Aries moon ceremony, creation of a group altar, a detoxifying Mayan clay treatment on the beach, evening movement classes (like yoga or Qoya dance), paddleboards, fresh drinking water, shuttles to and from the airport, and wifi (ding ding ding!).

My magical friend Kitty Cavalier will be teaching 2 Qoya classes and a sacred sensuality workshop, too. Gosh! Talk about spoiled!

And in addition to all that, I’m going to lead a very special Radical Self Love circle! Get ready to shift your energy, leave behind what you no longer need, and draw in magic and positivity! A moonlit ritual on the beach… It simply does not get any better than that, my friend!

It is going to be a DREAM COME TRUE, you guys. I always talk about how desperately I need a break. Taking a rest is so essential for our creativity, our soul, and our sanity, and yet, I never get around to doing it. This is my chance… And it’s your chance too.

What could be better than a jaunt to Mexico in the springtime?! I’m already counting down the days!

Besos,

P.S. Need more motivation to book a flight? Have a look at 36 Hours In Tulum from the New York Times. DROOL. See you there!

Top image by Katie Leighton. Chair photo from A House In The Hills. Beach photo courtesy of Shambala Petit Hotel.

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Why I Write: Reflections On Almost A Decade Of Daily Writing

Why I Write: Reflections On Almost A Decade Of Daily Writing

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love to read about creative process. Few subjects are as intriguing to me. With that in mind, I noticed that sweet babeling Grace Quantock tagged me in this series about Why I Write. I don’t normally do this kind of thing… But this is such a fun subject that I couldn’t resist.

Hopefully, if you’re also interested in taking a peek behind the creative scenes, this will be enjoyable to read!


WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

Maybe a better question is, what am I not working on?! I tend to have a few projects on the go at any one time. I have always been a little bit like that. I like variety.

I am working on publishing Love And Sequins, and turning it into a very real, very tangible book. (I have some more news on that front, too. Stay tuned!)

I am editing, finessing, and beautifying Radical Self Love Bootcamp ahead of its relaunch in January. I created it back in 2011, and now I’m giving it an enormous revamp so that it is even more powerful. Radical Self Love Bootcamp is a a 6-week online course that shows you, step-by-step, how to transform your view of the world… And yourself. I’ll be opening it up for pre-order soon!

I am always working on blog posts and Radical Self Love Letters. I just created big, beautiful pages for Radical Self Love Bible School and DARE/DREAM/DO. And I have a whoooooole lot of copy to write for The Blogcademy.

This has been a crazy year. I have been planting a lot of seeds. I feel like 2015 is going to be really, really big. I’m ready.


HOW DOES MY WRITING DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?

There are a lot of people who do self-help, who write about self-love, who encourage others to dream big and live fearlessly. And thank god for that, because we all need to hear it.

So how is my writing different? I really and truly walk my talk. I transformed my life through applying radical self love concepts to my life, and in fact, that change was what gave me the courage to start my blog. Over the course of a few months in 2006, I morphed from a depressed girl with a serious eating disorder to one who was in love with life. When my boyfriend and I moved to Australia, I decided to pour my newfound lust for life into this blog. Of course, it was only a matter of time until I started to write about the metamorphosis I had gone through!

My writing is full of love and encouragement, but it has a serious undercurrent. I find excuses embarrassing, and believe every single one of us should be living up to our full potential. I abhor bullshit and value getting to the point. I dislike fluffy theory and I respect solutions, which is why my work is peppered with real, actionable ideas.

I believe in magic, in personal style, in self-expression. All of these facets of my life mix with my message of radical self love to make it fun, liberating, and super-powerful.

Why I Write: Reflections On Almost A Decade Of Daily Writing


WHY DO I WRITE?

Put simply, I write because I have to. My first real memory is of writing a story at the kitchen bench, and I never really stopped.

I wrote all through school, both in online journals which got me in trouble, and in an embarrassingly large number of diaries which now languish at my parents’ house. When I started working, I would write on the bus there and back, and on my lunch break. I would go to evening writing classes just to keep myself busy. I studied for a Diploma in Publishing while working in yet another soulless job.

But mostly I write because I wish that there had been something like this for me when I was going through my long dark night of the soul. Because I know that sharing my story helps others see that their life can be so much better. Because I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to share whatever helped them.

It would just be plain WRONG not to share one of my favourite Bukowski poems here.

so you want to be a writer?
Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Why I Write: Reflections On Almost A Decade Of Daily Writing


HOW DO I WRITE?

I write first thing in the morning. It’s when I’m most clear-headed. I wake up, light a candle, focus my intention, and get cracking.

As I write, I go back and forth between a few different locations: my desk (white lacquer, currently holding a Filofax full of rainbow paper, a bottle of Triple Rose Elixir, a huge chunk of amethyst, and a vase with boobs holding purple roses), my couch (this one, covered in rainbow sequin pillows), and the kitchen table (the wall is covered in polka-dots, meticulously measured and placed by my love).

And when I’m feeling stifled or rife with cabin fever, I take my MacBook Air and go to a coffeeshop. I am almost always more productive in a cafe than at home.

I often write on airplanes and sitting in airport lounges. In fact, some of my most lucid pieces have happened either on a plane or while waiting for one. There’s something special about any place where you can be alone, and yet surrounded by people. Somehow it creates an extremely fertile creative environment. There’s just enough stimulus and movement to keep your brain active, but no interruptions so you can stay focussed. I don’t know how to explain it, but I find it very satisfying.

I use a program called TextWrangler to write. It gives you the ability to have dozens of documents open at once and simply tab between them, so it’s perfect for me and my project juggling. (A sampling of the documents I have open right now: carousel.txt, galadarling.txt, quotes.txt, RSLbootcamp.txt, RSLL365.txt, theblogcademy.txt.) I don’t use any other apps for writing. When I have ideas and thoughts on the go, I simply email them to myself.

I do most of my planning in my Filofax. I need to be able to scribble, mind-map, and contain everything in sections.

I’ve experimented with a lot of systems over the years. I always end up going back to something simple. A system doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.


HOW DO I GET PAST WRITER’S BLOCK?

December 16th 2014 will mark eight years of galadarling.com, which is almost a decade of writing every single day. Even if I don’t manage to post every day, I still write every day. The only times I haven’t been able to do that was when I was insanely sick with strep, or that time I was in NYC and broke up with my boyfriend who was in Australia, and I had to go back and move all my stuff to New Zealand, before returning to NY. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

How do you define writer’s block? To me, it’s sitting down and being physically unable to put words on the page. Based on that definition, I’ve never had writer’s block. I can’t recall a time where I sat down and had nothing to say. Sometimes I think, ‘I could write about this but it bores me’, but that’s not really the same thing.

I have, of course, experienced periods of burn-out and boredom. When that happens, I do two things. Firstly, I take a damn break. Let’s be real: the world will not come to an end if I don’t post something on my blog for a few days. I take a little rest from social media. I go for more walks and read a few books. Secondly, while I’m having a break, I tend to come to the conclusion that I’m bored because I haven’t challenged myself in a while. I pick a challenge, and head in that direction!

Maybe a better question is, what keeps me motivated? My motivation is that I want to continue working for myself for the rest of my life, and even the bad days of self-employment are a hundred times better than the best days of working for someone else. When I view it through that lens, choosing to push on through, to evolve, grow, and transform both myself and my business is the easiest thing in the world.


I PASS THE BATON TO…

I never really expect anyone to do these… But I’d love to hear how Alexandra Franzen, Esmé Wang, and Danielle LaPorte do it. (Who wouldn’t?!) And of course, you are welcome to take these questions and answer them too!

Inky kisses,

Images by Shell De Mar.

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Be Here Now: 3 Ways The Present Moment Can Help You Manifest Blessings

Be Here Now: 3 Ways The Present Moment Can Help You Manifest Blessings

Being — and staying — in the present moment seems like the great goal of the moment, and we’re hearing it from everyone, from Eckhart Tolle to Oprah to the yoga teacher on the corner. It sounds like a good thing to strive for, sure, but really: what’s the point? And why bother when it’s so damn challenging?

When you’re not present, your mind darts all over the place: fretting about the past, worrying about the future, and distracting you from whatever is going on right now. After all, the past is done and dusted, and those worries of the future may never come to fruition, so in a purely practical sense, thinking about it is a waste of time.

On the other hand, when you’re firmly anchored to the present moment, you have a sense of equilibrium. You’re focussed, full of intention, and unflappable. In order to achieve anything meaningful, it’s essential to get present!

You don’t have to sit on a meditation pillow every morning to get present (unless you want to)! Here’s a cheat sheet for being in the here and now.

Be Here Now: 3 Ways The Present Moment Can Help You Manifest Blessings

SAY NO TO MULTI-TASKING

One of the things that prevents us from fully engaging with the job at hand is a compulsion to multi-task. It’s never enough just to go for a walk: we have to be on our phone at the same time. We rarely stop to eat a meal without also gazing at the television or refreshing Instagram. Working lunches, TV dinners, constant conversations… None of this is good for productivity, and more importantly, it’s not good for our brains, either.

Do one thing at a time. When you’re walking your dog, just walk your dog — don’t listen to music or talk on the phone at the same time. Eat at a table, not on the run, and eat mindfully!

It’s okay not to be tethered to your inbox at all times. You don’t need to be “on” 24/7. When you take a break from work, or social media, or neverending discussions, you will quiet down, and tune into yourself. This is crucial stuff, and it’s also the basis of radical self love.

Be Here Now: 3 Ways The Present Moment Can Help You Manifest Blessings

BE THANKFUL

Practice gratitude relentlessly. If you feel mired in dark or depressing thoughts, one of the easiest ways to turn them around is to focus on what you’re thankful for. Any time you have a negative thought, or feel yourself spiralling, notice it, stop, and challenge yourself to come up with ten things you’re grateful for in this moment. Your list might as simple as breathing fresh air, that you’re wearing shoes, or that the sun is out today, and that’s great! There are no little or big blessings. They are all equally magnificent.

If you’ve got gratitude down pat, try this advanced move. Next time you’re thinking of things to be grateful for, name only what is real right now: no past triumphs or future excitement allowed. This is a little more challenging, but it helps to keep you anchored in the moment, and will really expand your capacity for joy.

Be Here Now: 3 Ways The Present Moment Can Help You Manifest Blessings

FOCUS YOUR INTENTION

Get really focussed in the mornings. I love to wake up and light a candle, and as I light it, I think about what I want to create that day. I visualise myself doing that thing, and it creates a container for focus and accomplishment. It’s really the best way to start the day!

Give absolutely all of your attention to your project of the moment. Turn off your wifi, set your phone to do not disturb, and dig deep. You might find it useful to work somewhere else. (I am always more productive in a coffee shop than at home.)

Of course, when you’re working on a task or project, it’s not unusual to get sidetracked or distracted by idle thoughts. You might worry about what could go wrong, feel plagued with doubt, or be gripped with fear. That is normal, but it’s your choice as to how you handle it. You can choose to stay stuck in those fears, to focus and fixate on them, and procrastinate all day, or you can bust through them by simply continuing to take action.

It really is as easy as that.

Be here now, mama!

Photos via Wildfox Couture.

P.S. If you want to increase your confidence, get creatively unstuck, and practice being present in a fun, imaginative way, check out Radical Self Love Bible School!

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