growing through it: reflections on my new book


GTI_Preorder_Launch

 

It's hard to believe it's been months since I've written a post! This year, for all of us, has been such a strange one. For some, it's been heartbreaking. For others, merely unusual. But, regardless of what's happened in your life, 2020 has been a year of change. Like it or not, 2020's smacked us all over the head with one of life's universal truths: things change and, as a result, we change. 

Change isn't my favorite thing. I love a good routine, a safe space, the comfort of the known. It's that love of sameness that prompted me to write my soon-to-be-released book, Grow Through It: Inspiration for Weathering Life's Seasons. When, like me, you're not a fan of change, you realize just how often it occurs, and that's what prompted me to pen these pages. Rather than resist life's inevitable changes, I wanted to learn to accept (and even embrace!) them. And that's just what I did while creating this book.

Traveling from Spring to Summer, through Autumn and Winter, Grow Through It explores the metaphorical highs and lows of each season. The book is arriving at what I believe is the perfect time for me -- and for all of us. It's been a year of tremendous transformation (even if, like me, your daily life hasn't changed all that much!), and Grow Through It looks at the many ways we can learn and grow through life's changes. 

This year has been... a lot. But if there's one good thing to come from it, it's this book. I've written many books, but this one is just different. It's the most me in book form that I've ever created and I'm incredibly proud of it. Grow Through It is something special. Maybe it will only be special to me (feel free to pre-order a copy to see what you think!), but even if that's the case, I'm fine with that. To hold something in my hands that I worked so hard on and to feel like it really represents how I felt when creating it, how it felt to be moving through all four seasons as I drew and wrote and edited, is nothing short of magic. 

It's my hope that you, too, will feel the magic in this book, that this little tome of transformation will help you cope in some way with the chaos of 2020. The book is so different from what I've done before, which feels fitting in this different-than-ever-before year. It's different, yet it's somehow the most me

So, you know that feeling when you put on an outfit you know looks good but something feels off so then you put on another outfit that's just so "you" and you suddenly feel more relaxed and confident? That's how Grow Through It makes me feel. And it's how I hope you feel when you read it. I hope it reminds you that, amidst all of this change, you are still you. You will survive whatever you go through, and you will continue to grow and change even when it feels like growth is impossible.

This year has been a year of change, which means a year of growth. (Yes, I know the year's not over, but, as it's my birthday,  the end of August always feels like a new year and a fresh start!) Growth is hard. Growth is often messy and uncomfortable and challenging. But's it's always where the magic happens. And I hope that's what I've harnessed in Grow Through It -- the messiness and the magic of growth. 

2020's not over yet, and I know there's a lot of change to come, but it's up to us to make the most of whatever the coming seasons bring. I know I'll be flipping through the pages of Grow Through It for the next few months to remind myself of all the ways change is possible. I hate to toot my own horn, but this book really is something special. I hope you'll love it as much as I do, and I hope it'll help you in some small way as we make our way through the rest of the year. 

Learn more about Grow Through It: Inspiration for Weathering Life's Seasons here (with links to all of the booksellers you can order from, as well as details on how to get your exclusive 2021 Coloring Calendar!).

 


40 free + fun things to do at home


Positively Present - Things You Can Still Do

 

Another list featuring things to do during stay-at-home time? I don't blame you if you're rolling your eyes. But, after doing some research, I've found that a lot of these curated lists rely heavily on two things: having someone else in your home with you and having the money to purchase all kinds of stuff to keep you entertained. Having neither a companion nor discretionary funds, I thought I'd come up with my own list of things that (most) people can do if they're solo and unable to shell out money for online classes, gardening tools, or baking supplies. 

I've tried my best to get creative here and come up with ideas that you won't find elsewhere -- no "watch a classic movie on Netflix" or "learn a new language!" on this list -- and I've also done my best to avoid ideas that fall under the "productive" category. While decluttering closets or going through old photos might work for some people at a time like this, it's important to keep in mind that we're going through collective trauma right now and, for a lot of people, seeing recommendations to "tackle that to-do list!" might lead to feelings of frustration and worthlessness. 

Most of these activities can be done alone (or by reaching out to others virtually) and most of them require no special tools or items. I hope they give you a bit of inspiration for how to stay entertained (or at least mildly distracted...) during such a difficult time. 

 

  1. WATCH BARDOT BRUSH CLASSESLisa Bardot has been hosting live drawing classes on her YouTube channel three times a week and they are amazing. If you enjoy drawing, she has wonderful prompts you can use to draw along with her, or, if you just like watching someone create, it's fun to tune in and watch her draw! (Get her brushes here.)

  2. FIND AND PRINT FREE COLORING PAGES. Lots of creatives are offering free coloring pages, worksheets, and other activities that you can download and print out. (I even have some coloring pages for you!) This idea might not work for everyone (if you don't have a printer or paper), but there are also online coloring apps you can download. 

  3. TEACH YOUR PET A NEW TRICK. I haven't tried this one out yet, but if you have a pet (who's probably also going a bit crazy from this quarantine), now is a good time to teach him or her a new trick. There are tons of videos and tutorials online to help you come up with fun ideas. (And even if it doesn't work, it's fun to have a little pet time.)

  4. MAKE YOURSELF A SELF-CARE CARD DECK. I created a series on TikTok called "The ABCs of Self-Care," and I ended up compiling all of the artwork into a digital download. You can access it here and print it out to create a cute little card deck. If you don't have the ability to print, you can still download it and pick one activity to try each day. 

  5. TAKE UP BIRD WATCHING. Alright, I know this one isn't going to be for everyone, but if you're stuck inside and there are birds outside your window, why not learn a little bit about them? And if you don't have any birds to watch, there are some amazing cameras online. Here's one featuring bald eagles that I love to check in on! 

  6. HOST A HOUSEPARTY WITH FRIENDS. I'm sure you've heard of people (or maybe you've been) using the Houseparty app. It's a fun way to connect with people virtually in a party atmosphere. Probably not the most fun idea for introverts like myself, but it's worth checking out (especially if you're an extrovert missing socializing!).

  7. DOWNLOAD TIKTOK. Anyone who knows me knows I love TikTok. I downloaded it late last year and I've been obsessed with it ever since. I know a lot of people think they're too old or it's just for dancing, but trust me: you're not and it's not. Anything you're interested in, you can find on there, and it's so much fun! 

  8. MAKE A CARD OR GIFT FOR SOMEONE. If you have any sort of art supply lying around the house (markers, paper, a pen), you have all you need to make something for someone you love. Even if you don't think you're creative, give it a try. Sending snail mail is a great way to brighten someone else's day. 

  9. PLAN A TRIP FOR THE FUTURE. For those who enjoy traveling, plan your next trip. You don't have to make reservations or anything, but just take some time to consider where you want to go and research what there is to do there so you have something to look forward to. (Even if you can't afford it now, it doesn't hurt to explore ideas!)

  10. GIVE YOURSELF A SPA DAY. If you can, give yourself a mani/pedi. If that's not an option, take a bath, or even just a nice, relaxing shower, massaging your scalp as if you're in a haircutter's chair. Research how to make face masks with things you might have at home. There are lots of spa-like things you can do without having any special tools or skills!

  11. LIST THINGS YOU WANT TO DO LATER. There's a lot that we can't do right now, which makes it the perfect time to reflect on the things you love doing and make a list of what you'll do when you can. Write down places you want to go, people you want to see, etc. (If you have the funds, you can buy gift cards from local businesses to help them out!)

  12. CURATE A SPOTIFY PLAYLIST. Music always helps me in times of trouble (which is why I'm made playlists for almost any emotional situation possible), and maybe it will help you, too! Make a playlist of songs you relate to right now, of songs that lift your spirits, or of songs that you've always loved. 

  13. ENTERTAIN YOURSELF WITH A GAME. There are tons of game apps online that you can check out, and many of them are free. Consider games you enjoyed playing as a kid and see if there are any digital versions available. Personally, I love word games (no surprise there!), but I know there are games for all kinds of interests! 

  14. PLAY SOLITAIRESpeaking of games, I've been playing some solitaire lately, and it's actually a lot of fun. If you have a deck of cards, you can play old school style, but there is also a version right in Google that everyone can access. I know it might sound kinda lame, but give it a try! You might enjoy it! 

  15. WRITE THE SILLIEST POEM POSSIBLE. Not a poet? No problem. This idea is all about creating the silliest poem possible (think: Dr. Seuss). Write about how you're feeling now. Write about something you miss. Write about what you see outside your window. Just write something silly! 

  16. LEARN NEW WORDS. Now, I've seen "learn a new language" on a lot of these lists, but that seems like a lot of work and mental effort, which isn't always easy if you're struggling. But learning new words is much simpler, and, if you're a word nerd like me, is a lot of fun. Merriam-Webster has words of the day and lots more word-related content!

  17. TAKE PHOTOS OF YOUR DAILY LIFE. This might sound lame, but it could actually be really fun if you give it a try. You don't have to find something spectacular to photograph; just try to find mundane things around you and see if you can make them feel a little bit more spectacular. (Play around with free editing apps, too!)

  18. CREATE A JOY JARYears ago, I made a happiness jar, and I recently decided to recreate it as a "joy jar." I fill it with notes of little joyful things I experience throughout the day. It's a nice way to remind yourself that, even when things are bad, there are little bits of goodness still around us. 

  19. EXPLORE PLACES, MUSEUMS, AND ART GALLERIES. Travel & Leisure has rounded up a ton of places you can check out virtually, which is amazing! There are so many places to check out. I was going to pull a few of my favorites, but there are just too many to even choose. Check it out and explore from the comfort of your couch. 

  20. FIND NEW YOUTUBERS TO FOLLOW. If you're a YouTube fan like myself, you might find yourself sticking with the same creators you know and love, but there are always tons of new, up-and-coming creators, and now might be a good time to check them out. (One I'm loving right now is Jonna Jinton!)

  21. READ OLD POSITIVELY PRESENT BLOG POSTS. I've been doing this for well over a decade, so there's bound to be a lot you haven't read. If you go to "Categories," you can see all of the different topics -- everything from self-love to creativity to relationships and more! Pick something you want to work on, and do a little reading. 

  22. TAKE A FREE ONLINE COURSE (AT HARVARD!). Business Insider created a list of universities and organizations offering free online courses right now. Look through the list and find something that's always interested you (not something for work or "productivity" purposes!), and check it out. And if it doesn't hold your interest, no problem -- try another one! 

  23. SET UP A PICNIC IN YOUR LIVING ROOM. Again, this one might be a bit more enjoyable if you have someone to picnic with, but there's no rule that says you need more than one person to have fun at a picnic! (Plus, you can always FaceTime or Zoom with friends and have a virtual picnic.) Or, if you have a yard, take it outside and get some sun!

  24. PRACTICE YOGA WITH ADRIENE. I know "try yoga!" seems like one of those things you'd find a on "productive quarantine" list, but, really, it can be a lot of fun. And it can help you relax a lot, which is something a lot of us probably need right now. She has videos for almost every situation, so search her channel and find what you need! 

  25. HAVE A DANCE PARTY. I feel like this comes up a lot when I'm thinking of things to do, and it's probably because it's something I do almost daily. When I'm winding down my work day, I like to put on some dance-inducing jams (usually whatever's currently trending on TikTok) and get wild. (Bonus points: record your animal watching you dance and entertain yourself after!)

  26. DESIGN A BOARD OR CARD GAME. When I was a kid, we were given an assignment to design a board game (the only reason I remember what a biome is, tbh!) and it was pretty fun. There are inventive games coming out all the time (especially card games!), and why shouldn't you get in on the fun? If you need a head start, take a game you love and try to make it more "you."

  27. FIND 5 GREEN THINGS. Whenever I want to be more mindful, I give myself a "looking challenge." (Example: last summer I was sitting outside and started noticing just how many shades of green where around me. I counted at least 30! In one small spot!) It doesn't have to be green things (or 5!), but restrict yourself to focusing on a single color/shape/etc. and see what you see! 

  28. GIVE LUCID DREAMING A TRY. When I think of lucid dreaming, I immediately think Vanilla Sky, a film in which I first came in contact with the term. I've (unsuccessfully and half-assedly) tried it a few times with no luck, but it's always intrigued me. If it sounds a bit much for you, consider keeping a dream journal and looking up dream meanings!

  29. DRIVE TO A REMOTE (SAFE!) PLACE AND WALK. I'm all about staying inside (both now and in general), but I know there's a lot to be said for sunlight and nature. If you're able to safely drive somewhere new (away from people!), now might be a good time to do a little exploring. Just be careful. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Don't talk to strangers. 

  30. MAKE TOP 10 LISTS. You know how people will ask you what your favorite book, film, or song is, and suddenly you can't remember anything you've read, seen, or heard? Now's the time to put an end to that nonsense! Make top ten lists of all your favorite things. Some ideas: animals, food, words, scent, Will Ferrell films, names for cats, etc. 

  31. GOOGLE SOMETHING YOU'VE WONDERED. As someone who looks at (and draws) the sky a lot, I always find myself having questions about it. My most recent Google search was, "Is the sky more green in summer?" (Answer: yes, it is!) If there's something you've always wondered, look it up! Let yourself dive into the Google abyss. 

  32. SKETCH WHAT YOU SEE OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW. It was tough not to fill this list with creative things, but since I know that's not for everyone, I tried to control myself. But, seriously, drawing is therapeutic. There's a reason art therapy exists. You don't have to be good. You don't have to be perfect. Just give it a try! 

  33. MAKE A PILLOW FORT. This is, admittedly, probably more fun if you have someone to do it with, but it could still be fun and nostalgic to do on your own. A fort of pillows and blankets has a cozy-yet-exciting feel to it, which seems like something we could all use right now. (If you've got fairy lights lying around, add those for extra cozy vibes!)

  34. START A BLOG. Sure, it's not 2009 anymore, but who cares? Let's bring back blogs! You can create a blog on a topic that interests you, something you want to become better at doing (that's how I started Positively Present), or even just an old-school diary style account of what you're going through right now. 

  35. ASK A FRIEND FOR A BOREDOM BUSTER. DO IT. Obviously everyone copes with boredom differently, so if you're struggling to find an activity that engages or distracts you, ask other people what they do. Text a friend, put a poll up on you IG story, or email the fifth person in your Contacts. Who knows what ideas they might have!? 

  36. CREATE A COLLAGE. OR VISION BOARD. Credit to my mom for coming up with this idea! I love making collages (they were my specialty, along with mix tapes, back in high school), and there's a good chance you have some old magazines or catalogs you can cut up. If you're feeling ambitious, create a vision board of post-covid19 goals!

  37. GO ON A FACETIME WALK WITH A FRIEND. As I mentioned, I'm being pretty strict about staying inside, but if you have a space where you can safely walk without encountering people, invite a friend to go on a walk with you on FaceTime. Or, if you have a friend that lives in a cool locale, ask them to take you on a walk! (As long as it's safe for them!)

  38. BE WEIRD. This is very vague, but just do something you never do in your house. Lay on the floor with your feet up on the wall. Sit on the kitchen counter. Do jump jacks in the bathroom. Skip down the hallway. I don't know what's out of the ordinary for you, but just try something you've never tried before. See how it feels! 

  39. GET INTO PINTEREST. This is pretty specific, but I've recently rediscovered the joy of Pinterest. It's a great way to look at beautiful things (places, homes, food, quotes, art), and it can be a nice escape if you want to do some scrolling but need a break from news-heavy social media sites. Curate some boards or just scroll through mine

  40. SEEK OUT NEW, UPLIFTING ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that what we're consuming is helping (or at least not hurting) our mental health. Check out your social media feeds and see if you might need to incorporate some new, uplifting accounts. (Need some ideas? Find your favorite accounts and see who those creators are following!)

 

I know a lot of these ideas are silly, and it's not always easy to be lighthearted in times like these, but I hope some of them inspire you to do something new or escape into something fun for a little bit. If you have any additional ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments below! 

 

As always, almost all of my content is available for free. If you’d like to support what I’m doing, please consider purchasing a print in my shop, pre-ordering my book, or signing up to be a patron on Patreon. I appreciate your support! 


Let's Make This the Year of Trying...


Positively Present - Dont Be Afraid to Try


Much as I hate to admit it, I've never really been a try-er. If something comes easily to me or I only have to put in a moderate, not-totally-unenjoyable work, I'll do it. When I encounter anything I'm not immediately decent at doing (or something that is out of my control in some way, I find myself putting in a minimal amount of effort, doing what's needed to get things done (if I even do it at all). During a conversation with a friend a few months back, I was pondering why I do this. Why do I just not try at certain things? Or, when I do try, why do I not try particularly hard? 

I could be wrong (self-evaluation always comes with the risk of being deeply flawed), but I believe it's because I'm afraid. If I try my best and fail, I'll be disappointed or upset. If I don't try (or half-ass try), I can always tell myself, Of course you didn't succeed -- you didn't even really try! It's an odd act of self-preservation, this not-trying thing. I do it, I think, so I don't have to deal with whatever emotions might arise if I were to try my absolute best and fail. 

This, as you might imagine, is not an ideal way to live. Yes, I've managed to do well in certain areas and find fulfillment in many of the things I do, but what am I missing out on by not trying? And what would it be like if I actually started trying, putting my full effort into whatever I do? 

It was back in the early autumn when I was having this conversation with my friend, and I decided then and there that I was going to try as hard as I could with my upcoming book, Grow Through It. It's not that I hadn't tried with previous books -- obviously, I did. But I didn't push myself to a level of trying that felt borderline uncomfortable. (This sounds like a bad thing, but when it comes to trying, it's actually good to push yourself a bit and not settle for what comes easily.) 

And so I did. I pushed myself harder than I had before. I perfected. I re-read. I redrew entire pages if they didn't feel like they were working. (In the past, I might have thought, Yeah, it could be better, but whatever, it's fine!) Could I have done more? Maybe? Of course I'll always feel that way because without time restrictions and deadlines (and things like sleep and maintaining somewhat of a social life), there's always a possibility that more could be done. But I know for certain: I tried harder than I've tried before. I will not be able to look at this book at say, Eh, well, I didn't really try, so who cares if it's not doing well..

I put everything I could into that book, and, regardless of how well it's received or the total sales (it debuts in early October! yay!), I feel differently about it than I do about other projects I've worked on. Even if no one else loves it, love it. I tried

Of course, the point of this post isn't to rave about my excitement for Grow Through It (though I am super excited for it!). It's to bring up the issue of trying. Maybe you're nothing like me. Maybe you try your hardest at everything -- your job, your hobbies, your relationships, etc. But I bet there are a lot of people out there who're just like me, who hold back on trying because they're afraid of failing. I bet some of you don't try as hard as you know you could because you worry that the end result won't reflect the effort you put in. 

But I'm here to tell you, as a (former?) non-try-er, that it doesn't matter. There's value in the trying itself, regardless of the outcome. The cliche "it's all about the process" exists for a reason. Sure, the end result will matter to some degree. Of course I want my book to do well and my hard work to pay off. But, in the process of all this trying, I've gained something really valuable: more self-respect. Sure, trying is scary. But there's something so powerful and motivating about actually putting in the work. There's a magic to putting yourself out there, win or lose, and giving it your all. It feels good

So, if you're like me and tend to half-ass try (or altogether avoid) things that are tough, I hope this inspires you to give something you really care about your very best shot. It might not work out, true, but it might, and wouldn't it be kind of cool to see what happens if you really put everything into it? Wouldn't it be something to have worked your absolute hardest and be rewarded for it, even if that reward is simply feeling more certain about what you're capable of? 

Trying is scary, but you should do it. I'm going to continue trying not to half-ass my trying (ha!). Like, recently I was nominated for a Shorty Award in Art (omgomgomg -- I still can't believe I'm writing those words!). A (big) part of me wants to be like, Don't promote it and ask people to vote for you -- that seems desperate and you shouldn't care so much about something like an award; you're just feeding your ego. But that's the scared part of me. The other (braver!) part of me is like, You know what? I want to win. Wanting to win an award for something I've worked really hard on doesn't make me a bad person. I'm choosing to listen to that second voice. I'm choosing to ask for votes, to promote myself, and, scary as it is, to hope I actually win. 

If I don't win, I'll be fine. Just like I'll be fine if Grow Through It isn't the smashing success I dream it will be. But I know now that I don't want my fear to hold me back from going after things I want. I likely developed this "don't try too hard / don't act like you care" attitude in my angsty teen years, but it's high time I let that shit go. I do care. I'm still scared to try, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. That fear inside my head is just static. It's muffling the sounds of what I really want, and this year I'm choosing to turn the volume down. 

I want 2020 to be the year of trying. I want it to be the year of giving a shit and not being afraid of expressing my desires. It's okay to want things. It's okay to work hard and hope for success. I'll leave you with this: 

 

If you've been half-assing something you really care about, stop letting the fear win, and start trying instead. See what happens...

 

Also, vote for me in the Shorty Awards! I really do want to win (even though I still feel embarrassed writing that, even after this massive blog-post-turned-pep-talk! *eye roll*), and every vote counts. You can vote once a day until February 20, 2020. Thank you so much to everyone who has already voted, and thank you in advance to everyone who votes after reading this!