Embracing the Gig Economy

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I don’t mean to date myself or anything, but back in the day “gig” was a term used by my musician friends who were playing a Saturday night show downtown at a little bar I know called Drink Beam ‘Til You Puke. (Ahem… *coughs*)

Not anymore, my friends. Not anymore.

There’s a whole lot of hoopla surrounding the word “gig” nowadays, and especially around the concept of the Gig Economy.

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find millions of articles about it. Politicians are flying in experts to talk about it as they gear up for elections. Money mags are writing about it. Labor leaders are worried that the gig economy “threatens to undermine the very foundation upon which middle-class America was built.” Well…to quote Clark W. Griswold, “Hallelujah, holy shit… Where’s the Tylenol.” The middle-class is already in cousin Eddie’s proverbial shitter, isn’t it, folks?

Suffice it to say, the word “gig” means a whole lot more than hangovers, hot pho and lost bras. (*who? me?*)

What Exactly is the Gig Economy?

Put simply, the gig economy speaks to “freelance work.”

But, according to Google, there’s another definition: “A job, especially one that is temporary or that has an uncertain future.”

Sounds scary, no?


As a Visionary Business Coach I suppose you could say that I help folks move from the crumbling middle-class to set up shop in the gig economy and to live a work-life that curls their ever-lovin’ toes.

I myself have been part of the gig economy since 2003. And… I’ve had my fair share of scary worst-case scenario moments as I’ve waited for new gigs to show up. I’ve imagined myself “living in a van down by the river” and “eating a steady diet of government cheese.”  I’ve panicked and freaked out, and even considered one of those tiny houses that are all the rage at the moment. (That is, until I looked at my beloved bookcases, and slapped my own self with my first American edition of Animal Farm.)

I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t have to be so scary, even through the ebbs and flows, and ups and downs. Because here’s the thing… none of my corporate jobs lasted forever. Even when I thought I had a certain future, it was a myth. Life is chaotic and ever-changing. There are no guarantees.

So… what if we were to wholly embrace the gig economy on a much deeper level? What if we were to consider gigs nestled within the gig economy? What if we said YES to temporary?

What would that look like for you?

How Can You Be Part of the Gig Economy?

  • First, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, people. All of the memories, tools, adventures and experiences you’ve had thus far in your life can come into play when considering what gigs you might offer to the world. We have a tendency to look at all of our past careers as “back then” or “over.” But I believe that all these seemingly disparate paths we’ve taken in our lives can coalesce into a big, beautiful lake of awesome that our clients can bathe in. (*eww*) These paths and experiences are what make us uniquely us. Un-copy-able. And these are the services that only we can offer in our own unique ways.
  • Second, you don’t have to quit your day job. Yet. In fact, I recommend that you offer up gigs in your down time until you have a steady flow of clients or customers. Unless, of course, you have a billion dollar nest egg and are set financially to soar off on your own with nary a care in the world.
  • Third, consider gigs within gigs. Let’s say your main gig is Life Coach. (Make no mistake, Life Coaches are a huge part of the Gig Economy.) Your clients, humans first of course, are also “gigs.” Meaning they aren’t likely to be with you until the end of time. If you’re a decent coach, in fact, they’ll be off and running and successful sooner rather than later, and you’ll likely never see them again. That’s sad to say when you grow to really enjoy working with them, but that’s your job. So… underneath the main gig of Life Coach, what are some other gigs you can offer? VIP weekends? Retreats? eCourses? Books? Group programs? Stuff outside of the box? Make a list of every single thing you love. Don’t leave a single thing out. And begin to look for patterns and start to imagine how these things might pool together into a gig only you can offer.
  • Fourth, understand deeply that everything is temporary. Even our cushy corporate jobs may be outsourced to squids at the bottom of the Atlantic. They are the smartest invertebrates, you know. The thing is… you never know. So… when you’re building a business within the gig economy, it’s important to fully embrace the temporary. You’ve gotta become zen, and Buddha, and non-attached, and all that shiz. You have to release one client who’s thriving to make room for a new client who’s ready to thrive. It’s ever-flowing, ever-changing, and awesome. An added bonus? You’ll likely never be bored.
  • Fifth, for crap’s sake, make sure you LOVE what you’re offering. Money is a great motivation. I adore money, and I firmly believe money is just a form of energy. But… often, if that’s the only motivation behind a gig, it won’t land and take root. I’ve found it to be more true that when I do something I’m absolutely, joyously in love with, that the money then follows.

In Thoreau’s words: “Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” Then create a gig or two or three out of it. You can even make gig soup.

What say you? What gigs might you offer up in the world? And, if you’re already neck-deep in the Gig Economy, how’s it going? Have you considered any gigs within your gig?

For my visual peeps out there:


Reconciling Passion & The Leap


I’ve been working on the same novel since the beginning of time.

In my first incarnation I probably wore mammoth furs and carved this story onto a cave wall with an antler dipped in red ochre.

As a slave, I likely told it orally at the close of an endlessly long and grueling day. My “master” wouldn’t have allowed me to learn how to read and write, but that didn’t stop this creation from wanting to come through me. So I must have whispered it in the dark to my children as I tucked them into bed.

In my pioneer days, I imagine myself putting up tomatoes, scrubbing the diapers of my twelve children on a washboard, and pausing every few hours to pick up my goose quill and scratch out pieces of this story, only to have it end up in the fire because we needed starter.

Countless incarnations, same story wanting to be born through me.

This “time” around the story began to nudge me in 1999. On and off for sixteen years I’ve heeded the call—through my divorce, my cross-country move, countless surgeries, and some of the brightest and darkest days of my life.

Last year, I trashed 224 pages of it, and began again.

Yep… still the same story.

As I begin to wrap up this first book of this trilogy, I’ve been pondering my life/lives as Writer & Storyteller. And… as the Universe so oft does, I’ve been witness to some pretty incredible serendipities surrounding my thought processes.

Case in point was a conversation I listened to a few days ago between Elizabeth Gilbert and Brené Brown. It was the finale of the season of Liz’s Magic Lessons podcast.

Brené was talking about taking leaps and experiencing failure. And something she said struck me, “I don’t leap or jump for the landing. I leap for the experience through the air. Because you cannot predict the landing.” She went on to say, “I used to ask myself this question all the time: what would I do if I knew I could not fail? But now the question becomes for me: What’s worth doing, even if I fail?

(I hang my head in shame over the number of times I’ve asked a client: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?) But, since Brené is the Shame Slayer, I forgive myself and understand that was the old me. The new me that is being born, squalling and covered in slime, would much rather reflect on “What’s worth doing, even if I fail?”

Liz responded by saying she has always wanted to take a Sharpie and place an editing carrot over all the “What would you do if you knew you could not fail” bumper stickers in the world, and replace them with these questions instead:

What do you love doing so much that the word ‘failure’ doesn’t even have any meaning?

What would you do even if it was a total failure?

What do you want to do because you don’t have a choice?

Then Liz asked this question: “When did inspiration promise us that it owes us anything?”

And… all the way back to the very beginning of my soul’s time, the massive quantities of hair on my caveman body stood on end.

Liz continued: “As far as I understand inspiration, it owes you nothing, except the transcendence of the experience of working with it at all. That’s the only contract that we have with inspiration.”

Finally Liz quoted Clive James, saying: “Failure has a function. It asks you if you really want to go on making things.”

Let me repeat that, and bold it, and underline it. Here you go… Failure “asks you if you really want to go on making things.”

And the answer for me is a resounding “HELL YES!”

The Landing

Now, all of this is not to say that I don’t have intentions for my “landing” as a writer:

  • I intend to sell my speculative fiction trilogy within the next two years to tremendous success.
  • I intend to write and sell a few books a year after that, again to tremendous success.
  • I intend to make a beautiful living as a writer.
  • I intend to hit the New York Times bestseller lists, every single time.
  • I  intend for my all of my books to become International Bestsellers, again, every single time.
  • I intend to go on a worldwide book tour.
  • I intend to have tea with Philip Pullman.  Lunch with Patrick Rothfuss. Dinner with…

And… if all of the above weren’t to happen, I would still be a writer. I would still write. I would still leap and revel in my time in the air. After all, I believe my soul and all its incarnations is that of storyteller. It seems there’s no getting around that.

I can’t begin to tell you the freedom I feel to create whatever is within me.

As I pondered all of this for days, I realized that it’s been informing my work since the beginning without my realizing it.

I’m not here to help my clients write a book in 30 days (though I have some amazing colleagues who do just that.) I’m not here to help them hit the #1 category on Amazon, which usually equates to:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

#1 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Gnats > Bugs > Bug Anatomy > Extraneous Parts > Goo

Nope. I want to help them become writers. I want to be part of the leap and not the landing. I want to help them “apply ass to chair” and truly experience the process: the journey, the healing, the laughter, the tears, the transcendence. I want to help them learn how to translate what they see in their mind onto the blank page with clarity, so that others may see it as well. I want to help them dig into the dark of their internal world and bring it into the light, allowing their readers to learn something new about themselves and the world.

I want to help writers to “tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. [A] tale [that] will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. [To shape the future.] ~ The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I can’t count the number of clients who’ve come to me with business plans, and “shoulds”, and money-making ideas based on their past work histories who, after three or four sessions, finally utter this one truth: “I don’t really want to do all that. I don’t. I just want to be a writer. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

That, for me, is the crux of Liz and Brené’s conversation – to fully own and integrate our soul’s whisper (or scream, as the case may be); our passion, regardless of the outcome. And it will forever inform my work in the world as writer and Book Shaman. I want my clients to yell, midair: “YES, YES, YES… THIS, THIS, THIS.”

And… I jest with the Amazon blurb.

Sort of.

As you can clearly see from my own landing intentions, I fully support dreams, “going big or going home,” and the longing to make your mark on the world; to be seen and heard. I’m not opposed to success and bestsellerdom. I want those things too. And I know the process of platform building, marketing, getting on “the list”, managing a book tour, blah, blah, blah. I’m happy to share this experience with clients. But, my main focus needs to be on the “what”, the “calling” itself—yep…the leap.

It’s the same for my business coaching. I’m not concerned with blanket statements like this: “you have to have an opt-in with a freebie gift to get folks to sign up for your newsletter.” Instead, what feels true for you right now? What feels like freedom and love, and what inspired action can you take around that? I wholly believe:

[tweetthis]We are only responsible for inspired action and what we are called to create.[/tweetthis]

It’s time to let go of the results, the “shoulds”, the “have-tos”, and other folks’ reaction to our creations.

One of the final things Brené shared on the podcast was a quote that is tacked up on her wall that says: “Creativity: We don’t have to do it alone. We were never meant to.”  We don’t have to suffer our art, folks. We don’t have to be starving artists, huddled alone in our darkened rooms, sacrificing, slicing up bits of our soul, peppering it with spices, and serving it up on a platter. We really don’t. We just have to fully embrace and enjoy the leap, and not concern ourselves so much with the landing.

(You can listen to the whole podcast here. It’s well worth your time.)

Self-Worth = Financial Worth?

When I was sixteen I got a job at Curly’s Dari Freeze.

Curly himself was short, squat, and lacking hair, so I’m not sure where the name “Curly” came in, but he was a jovial guy, and I usually only saw him when it was time to collect the monies at the end of the night. Who knows? Perhaps he liked to play with words. At least that’s what I told myself when I would wonder why the word “dairy” was misspelled. But, I digress.

I started out making malts, shakes and sundaes, but was quickly promoted to cook where I slung hamburgers, dropped picadillies into the fryer, and cut footlong dogs down the middle, slapping them on the grill for a sear.

I would go home at night and smell as if I’d rolled around on that sizzling hot grill with my hair hanging in the fryer in a lover’s tryst of Animal Farm meets spatula slathered in vegetable oil.

My senior year in high school I enrolled in the work study program and was promoted to opener at Curly’s. I’d arrive at 5:45, bleary-eyed from staying up all night reading bodice-rippers, and start the coffee. My first day of the new shift one of my regulars, Bob, asked for breakfast and I told him it was my first day, but I could make him french toast, french toast or french toast.

Suffice it to say, he ordered french toast.

It wasn’t very long, however, before I was flinging flapjacks, and cracking eggs into a round silver disk and carrying three plates on my arm. One of which was always for Bob.

I don’t remember what I made at the start of that job, but I think it was around $1.85 per hour, but with each “promotion” I got a bit of a raise. (And… to a girl who paid for her own car, insurance and extra school clothes, each additional cent meant a new banana clip or a pair of jeans I could sew my own legs into, thereby cutting off my circulation as was the fashion.)

When I graduated from high school I tore off my greasy apron and went to work for Petrolane. I made around $8.00 an hour filing manila folders, answering the phone, making collection calls, and doing my best not to freeze my fingers while filling propane tanks. I won’t bore you with the details, but over the next three or four years I became Office Manager of the Salt Lake City district office at $14.12, and a few years later was promoted to Credit and Collections Supervisor covering 167 district offices across the United States, and bringing in $30.00 per hour. This was around 1994ish. I was 24.

The story is the same, so we’ll fast forward through my helping-individuals-suffering-with-mental-illness-to-manage-their-SSI/SSD; my chap-wearing-tequila-slinging-liver-curdling bartending days; and my eighty-hours-per-week-Virtual-Assistant–eventual-CEO-of-Online-Business-Visionaries-until-I-was-so-burned-out-I-could-hardly-lift-my-pinkie-toe days…

And so we arrive where I am now as a Visionary Business Coach, Book Shaman and Story Shape Shifter. During my coach training I had a lovely coach buddy and we spent an hour a piece each week coaching each other for free before I felt confident enough to charge for my services. All this despite the fact that I had been coaching without getting paid for years.

So… Why the Resume?

I’ve been pondering the correlation between self-worth and financial worth as of late. I can feel that the two are related, but grasping an exact understanding is like trying to grab a handful of smoke from Curly’s grill.

Then I read this Guide to Killer Confidence by Mindy Kaling and knew that I had to add confidence and hard work to the above correlation.

Let’s break it down:

Hard Work = Part of what I love about Mindy’s article is that she doesn’t apologize for hard work. I would expand on that to say that there’s a huge difference in working hard in a job you loathe and working hard at something you’re passionate about. When I’m doing something I love it doesn’t feel like work at all, but you can bet I’m “working” hard. I truly do think “hard work” gets a bad rap these days. (← A blog for another time.)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a professional chef opening her own restaurant and gaining Michelin Stars by nuking bean and cheese burritos topped with cheesy puffs, and spending eighteen hours every day playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Or a New York Times bestselling author like Stephen King writing four words a day on every fifth Thursday of the year.

Or a flautist with the London Symphony Orchestra whose flute is so dusty it makes her sneeze when she plays it once every decade.

Self-Worth = “The sense of one’s own value or worth as a person.” ~ Dictionary.com

Confidence = “Belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities.” ~ Dictionary.com

Financial = “Pertaining or relating to money and credit.” ~ Dictionary.com and Worth = “Having a value of” / “Excellence of character or quality as commanding esteem.” ~ Dictionary.com

You see, when I started at the Dari Freeze I had very little confidence. I would angst over how many nuts to sprinkle on a sundae, or whether the maraschino cherry was too hammered in its own juices to use.

With hard work at each new job, and with each new experience, my confidence grew, resulting in promotion after promotion, and raise after raise. And so on, ad nauseam.

Hard work → confidence → self-worth → financial worth. The energy that you put into an endeavor is equivalent to the energy you get back (monies). After all, “money is just energy, dummies.”

I’m still noodling this theory, so you can bet I’ll continue to write about it, but I’d really love to hear whether this feels true for you, or if you have a different experience.

For my visual peeps out there:


Love vs. Fear: The Experiments


I know. I know. You’ve heard the concept of love versus fear about a trillion times, so I’ll just let Oprah boil it down briefly: “Every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.”

This idea has knocked around in my head for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I pulled it from the recesses of my mind to conduct a little experiment:

Every time I go to make a decision, I have to ask myself if I’m making the decision out of love or fear.

Experiment #1:

A few weeks ago, I wanted to go to a new farm-to-table, upscale Southern restaurant with people I love more than anyone on the planet. They said they wanted to go too. Later that day they opted for Olive Garden. (Let’s put aside my disdain for chain restaurants momentarily.) They were getting ready to move and were sticking to a budget—something I totally get.

But I so wanted them to experience the taste of the strawberry balsamic shrub on their tongues—the notes of vinegar, the seeds of the strawberries, the tangy, tart, weird sort of yumminess of it all. I wanted them to cut into a piping hot, fried green tomato and have the light batter crunch in their mouths, and I wanted them to watch as the butter melted into a pool on the iron skillet cornbread.

It wasn’t just about farm-to-table versus chain. It was about experiencing this food with people I love. It was about dining on the porch in the late summer sun. It was about watching them taste some of this stuff for the first time. I asked myself if my budget would allow me to help pay for dinner. My Inner Bastard went crazy:

Me: All the bills are paid. More money’s coming in. Let’s do it!

Inner Bastard: You’re one fried-green tomato away from the poor house and you’re gonna “end up eating a steady diet of government cheese and living in a van down by the river.”

Me: That’s ridiculous. I’m fine. I’ve got savings. I don’t even have credit card debt.

Inner Bastard: You better save the strawberry seeds from your shrub ’cause that’s all you’ll have to eat for the next few weeks.

I stopped myself. That was fear talking.

I redirected: Does it feel like love? Really, does it FEEL like love to take these people you worship to this restaurant and help to pay?

The answer was a resounding yes.

We went, and it was everything I hoped it would be, minus the fly that wouldn’t leave me or my spoon alone. (Let’s set that aside though as well, shall we?)

Experiment #2:

I’m tired.

Just plumb worn out.

Summer sometimes does that to me.

It’s like the first time I went to Europe, and I packed my bag so full that I ended up zipping my favorite gray cable-knit sweater right through the zipper. To boot, there wasn’t room to take anything back, so I had to buy a whole new bag while I was there to schlep all my new stuff home.

Summer feels like that—like cramming in too many trips, parties, barbecues, and concerts, until my very soul is stuck in the zipper. No wonder we hibernate in the winter. We’re exhausted.

Summer should be long, lazy, and sloth-like with space to sit around a campfire and try to remember all the constellations you learned in Astronomy 101 decades before. There should be time to head up to your power spot on the mountain, top down, with the pups in their carseats as their long, pink tongues flap in the breeze.

I told my family I would come visit them for my birthday. I keep asking myself if it feels like love or fear.

I’m afraid the answer is fear. I’m worried they’ll be hurt if I don’t come. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to nap, and read, and nap some more.

The jury is still out for me on this one. I’m torn. I love them beyond what I can express, so that part feels like love. Taking another summer trip doesn’t. My Inner Bastard doesn’t help:

Inner Bastard: They’ll never speak to you again. When you die, they won’t go to your funeral, and when your mom sends them little vials of your ashes, they’ll end up rattling around in the bottom of the grand-niece’s toy boxes underneath the Happy Meal plastics.

Experiment #3:

Nothing feels more like love to me than summertime reading. Or wintertime, springtime, and fall-time reading.

And… admittedly, I have some quirks around reading.

You see, I go in spurts with things. It’ll go something like this: I read every fiction book I can find that’s set in WWII/Nazi Germany until I can barely lift my head from the sadness, and I’ll only have eaten one single, solitary, sliced olive over the course of two days. Books like: Sarah’s Key, All the Light We Cannot See, The Book Thief, The Nightingale, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Ooh… pie? I immediately switch genres and read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and I fall so deeply in love with Flavia de Luce that I read all seven novels in Alan Bradley‘s series in just over a month. Once finished, I’m bereft. I sob. I grieve. I resign myself to waiting for book eight like all the other sad sacks in the world.

After a day or two of mourning Flavia, I remember one of my other favorite characters in literature: Scout Finch… Thus begins my annual binge of Southern/Southern Gothic fiction with young quirky characters in an epochal Bildungsroman (Coming of Age): Bastard Out of Carolina, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, The Secret Life of Bees, My Last Days as Roy Rogers, Whistling Past the Graveyard. And… on it goes until I find myself on a witch kick or a fictional Mary Magdalene obsession.

This is all a long way of saying that deep in the heat of summer I always come back ’round to my Coming-of-Age-set-in-the-South books. I inevitably end up worrying that I’ve read all books of the kind, but then I find: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, which leads me to Because of Winn-Dixie… because ice cream leads to store. Literally and figuratively.

So… aside from sharing my unequivocal reading neuroses, which may land me in a padded cell with no books whatsoever, I do have a point. I finished Because of Winn-Dixie the other night and felt profound yuck. How was I going to find my next book? I’ve read them all. I fell asleep with a lone tear barreling down my cheek.

The next day, before I’d finished my first cup of coffee, I had performed an exhaustive search on Google for books in that genre. Next thing I knew I had purchased The Pecan Man, The Secret Sense of Wildflower, and Orphan Train —-> because, clearly, I’ll be jumping tracks to orphans fairly soon.

Yes, I’m still getting to my point. Really. Just one more thing. Have I ever let leak the fact that I have over 200 kindle books? 75% of which I haven’t yet read? Or… did I fail to ever mention the fact that my bookshelves each hold double stacks of books that I haven’t yet read? I’ll bet you I have over 300 books in my “to-be-read” piles/shelves/whole bookcases.

And here we are, finally, at the point. When I performed that exhaustive search and bought more to-be-read books, I was acting wholly out of fear. Fear that I wouldn’t feel the same feeling with a single one of those three-hundred books I already have. Fear that the books I was searching for would suddenly be out of print. Unavailable. Not for me.

My Inner Bastard had nothing to say on this one. He was buried under a pile of said books.

I had forgotten to check in before I clicked buy. I hadn’t asked myself the question. Am I buying these books out of love or fear? Typically, any type of book buying for me is a love thing, but sometimes it’s not. This time it was not.

The next day I told a dear friend about my experiments, and all about my thoughts on love versus fear and how it’s everywhere. Every. Where. And how it’s the foundation of everything we do in our lives.

She asked, “So what’s next for you?”

“Practice. That’s it. Nothing big or grand or deep. Just practice.” I told her, as I stroked my Kindle.

For my visual peeps out there:


It’s Okay to Be Big, Bitches


I’m having an anxiety attack. Palms sweaty. Breathing in gulps. Dark glob in my solar plexus. Checking Facebook like a freak. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

Refresh. Refresh.


Full Disclaimer: I’ve been drinking coffee for the past eight hours. But still, what’s with all the angst?

Well… I just posted something on FB.

It all started during a coaching call while I was taking notes on my giant Post-It pad as I’m wont to do. My client said something about getting too big for her britches and I erred and wrote “getting too big for her bitches.”

I was in love. What a novel idea. Getting too big for our bitches. I hung up the phone and went and made the meme below—snorting and guffawing the whole time. I thought it was, perhaps, the most brilliant Freudian slip of all time.

As soon as I clicked submit though, I started to feel anxious. What was it? Why was I so worried about a meme? My inner “good girl” went crazy…

…what if one of my dear friends thinks I’m calling her a bitch?

… bitch is such a negative word. It’s so derogatory toward women. Hey, subconscious, why don’t you make it okay by choosing actual bitches for the photo? Yeah, that’ll make it better.

… how dare I put something up about supposedly surpassing another woman? What’s that about? I don’t want to trigger that energy—that I would somehow surpass one of my kind. There are so many problems with that… “Bitches” gotta stand together. What is this? A competition? Ick. I would never want any woman to think I thought I was better than they are. I wouldn’t want them to be upset over any amount of success I might have.

Ah… and there it is, folks.

The crux.

That black, crusty wad in my stomach.

Somehow, if I dare to be big, my “bitches” (cringe) can’t be big. They’ll hate me. I’ll lose them. Gotta stay small. Gotta conform. Gotta be nice. Gotta be liked. Be a good girl. Kind. Gentle. Humble. Supportive. Nurturing. Fair.

Oh, dear Melanie, (and dear sisters), there’s enough. Enough for both you and I to be big. There’s truly enough: Love. Success. Joy. Money. Friends. Men. Or women. We can all have the perfect pair of jeans. We can all sparkle and shine. Indeed we can all be supernovas. In fact, when I shine my light it can only reflect onto others and cause them to shine brighter. That’s how light works, you see.

Postscript: Thank Goddess for punctuation, no? Otherwise the title of this article would read “It’s okay to be big bitches.” And, hey… no shame or blame if that’s your thing. Own that too.

For my visual peeps out there (Gulp):


Petition to End the Phrase “Honey-Do”


I stumbled to the coffee pot, poured myself a steaming cup, and put it in the microwave. Just like I do every day. I like my mornings to burn my tongue.

My guy was on the phone with his bestie making plans to watch the soccer game. Said friend was on speaker:

My guy: Whatcha doin’? You gonna watch the game?

Bestie: “I’ve got some honey-dos, but you can come over.”

My guy: “Better check in first to see if I have any honey-dos.”

Me: *Hair stands on end*

My guy: *Hangs up.* Anything you need me to do before I go?

The phrase “honey-do” drives me bat shit crazy. There, I said it. I mean… c’mon. Isn’t there just shit that needs to get done when you share a home? Don’t meals need to be cooked, dishes done, floors cleaned, gadgets put back together? Honey-do implies something special. But it’s not. It’s just every-day-stuff-to-do.


You may be asking why I’m bitching that my guy is offering to do some chores? Shouldn’t I just be satisfied? Aren’t I perpetuating the stereo-type of a nag mare nipping at his balls?

Nah. I’m grateful he’ll jump in and go to the grocery store. I’m happy that he’ll wipe down the stove a few days after he destroys it. He cleans the floors like a boss. I’m pretty lucky, truth be told.

I just don’t want to have to plan the awards ceremony when he does any of this. I don’t want to prepare the banquet meal. I don’t want to have to gather the plywood, hammer and nails to build the podium upon which he’ll stand to garner his sixty-foot award featuring a guy with a blue scrubbie.

I’ve decided to start a petition and I hope that you’ll sign it and send it to Obama, or your local congressMAN, or Cap’n Crunch. I don’t care who, really. Just sign and send it. Let your voice be heard.

Dear Obama,

Currently when a man does an odd job for his significant other a huge party must be planned which includes a twenty-tier cake with manly royal blue fondit, streamers in the color of his favorite sports team, a blow job, and various carnival rides, including the Tilt-o-Whirl. His favored dishes of some type of beast and tuber must be lovingly prepared while wearing a clingy shirt that reveals cleavage.

NO more, we say.

We, the undersigned, call on you to make immediate change to this policy. We ask that you urge our men to clean the piss-stained rim of the toilet of their own accord. Simply because it’s part of keeping a house and they’re the ones that peed on it to begin with. No more honey-do lists shall be made. No more questions shall be posed. One will simply look upon what needs tending and tend to it. No more awards banquets will be held. Let the phrase honey-do be banished forever. 


Honeys Everywhere

Next up: Petition to Obliterate the Genre “Women’s Fiction.” I can’t even go there today. Stay tuned.

She & I… (& Rheumatoid Arthritis)



haven’t been able to bend my left pointer finger for the last six months. It moves far enough to form the shape of a claw. No farther. It’s as if I’m perpetually pointing at everything in my path. Look there. Go there. Over there. Right there. It’s pink and resembles a crooked sausage. The corrosion of rheumatoid arthritis is crawling into my palm.


types seventy words per minute, opens mason jars, and lifts mozzarella-laden lasagna out of the oven. She can scrub her hair and push down the pump of her favorite perfume. Her hands are beautiful and slim and her fingers rest together, straight and aligned. Perfect.


follow behind my boyfriend when we take our walks. I’m ten feet back. Limping. My right foot will no longer take my full weight. I just have to manage Chloé because I only have the one fully-functional hand. I watch him run through the grass with So-Kr8z and Sancho to get their pent-up energy out. My pent-up energy rests inside me like a ball of unrisen dough.


runs alongside them. She’s still really fast. In tenth grade her P.E. teacher singled her out for the track team. Asked her to join. This same teacher watches her now from the sidewalk as she runs through the grass with the pups trailing along behind her. The teacher nods, approving of her speed.


want to connect with my guy later that night. I’m on top and I ask him to hold on to my forearms so I don’t have to use my hand. I’m a lover in traction.


is an acrobat. She digs her fingers into his chest. She only feels pleasure.


try to remember the jump rope rhymes. What were they? My niece, Adri, and my boyfriend twirl the rope so I can show her how to jump in while its moving. I count one… sway forward and back… two… forward and back… GO. My bum foot hits the ground and crumbles underneath me, the rope burns as it stops against my calf.


doesn’t count. She knows the rhythm. She’s in. She jumps and jumps and jumps. Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around. Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Touch the Ground. Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Touch Your Shoe… 


decide hopscotch will be easier. I grab blue glitter sidewalk chalk and draw the outline, I make the boxes and write out the numbers. I find the perfect round rock and toss. It lands on six. “Watch me, Adri.” I make it to four. I stop. I try to show her with my words and direct her little body down the board.


hops—two feet, one foot, two feet, one foot, one foot. She picks up the rock one-footed and completes the course, hop-twisting her body to go back down. Showoff.


travel to Pennsylvania for my week-long master’s residency. I stay at a beautiful bed and breakfast where Sister Renata greets me with one of the best hugs I’ve ever received in my life and says, “Welcome home.” After a full day of classes and thesis readings, I sprawl on the floral bedspread at 7:00 pm, exhausted. I fall asleep as soon as possible, so I can keep going the next day. I haven’t drank since my thyroid was removed in 2011 except for three solitary sips of wine and a single taste of limoncello.


attends every science fiction/fantasy dinner and young adult writer’s meet-up. She goes to the Comic Ball as Poison Ivy. She belts out Don’t Stop Believing at the karaoke bar and she closes down the place that night with her fellow writers. She’s still the life of the party. She wears a construction cone as a hat. She dances the soul train at the hip-hop club, and the next night she clears the dance floor, just like she did at a discoteca in Zurich to rounds of clapping and cheering on of the “crazy American.” She orders orange mind erasers for all. She pays.


try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. No sugar, no gluten, no dairy, no fun. I make it five months. I cheat. I make tortillas out of quinoa and sour cream made with coconut milk. I cheat again. My Pinterest board is full of peanut butter and date ball recipes. I’m sick of eating cashews. I want a sundae with a cherry on top. Instead I order the avocado salad. I’m always hungry.


eats creamy mashed potatoes slathered with gravy. She eats Nerd Ropes and roast beast. She has seconds. She feels full. She is satiated.


gauge the movement of my joints before bed and decide whether I want to risk a steroid knowing they’re causing the new inches around my middle and the mood swings. I worry that what happened to a friend of a friend will happen to me. That I’ll be full of blood clots if I take one. I wake up groggy, there is never enough sleep for me to feel right. I test my hand and my toes to see how much movement there will be. And… I try to discern how many spoons I have to work with that day. I plan accordingly.


dives out of planes. She wakeboards in the summer on Lake Erie and she snowboards in the winter in New York, both sponsored by Redbull. She traipses through Europe with a backpack twice her size. She goes to the gym. She lifts weights. She runs on the treadmill. She rides mountain bikes. She does yoga. She climbs rock faces.


attack myself. Every cell.


loves me. Every cell.

On my good days, we merge.

On Writing the “Shitty First Draft”


I’ve been working on the same novel since 1999. Let me do the math for you. That’s sixteen years, folks. Now, mind you, I wasn’t “applying ass to chair” every day of those sixteen years. I took a five-year hiatus to drink my face off in Cleveland, for example. I was on break during my divorce and moves back and forth across country. I was definitely on leave during my five surgeries.

When I look back with my hindsight goggles, however, there weren’t many days that went by when I wasn’t thinking about my story and my characters. (Okay, perhaps while plugged into the morphine drip, but otherwise, yeah, I was writing in my head the whole time.)

On paper, I had written 224 pages of my trilogy. One day last fall I decided it was time to get back to it. (I’ve often wondered if I had a whole lot of living to do before I could tell this story.  I think there’s real truth there or, at least, that’s the story I’m sticking to.) Suffice it to say, I signed up for a master’s program, trashed my glorious 224 pages, plus notes, and started over on draft number two which, in essence, is really just another first draft because, just like me, my beloved novel had changed. I’m 128 pages in this go-round and, holy hell, is it awful.

Disclaimer: My “glorious” 224 pages were awful too. A complete and utter heaping pile of bat dung.

I’m not being modest.

Trust me.

The state of my second attempt at a fecal first draft has me pondering the brilliance of Anne Lamott and her concept of the “shitty first draft.” I haven’t read “Bird by Bird” (my favorite writing book of all time) for years, but I’ve used the term “shitty first draft” a billion times since then in my writing coaching. I’m not going to try to recreate Anne’s words or write them in my own voice because you just shouldn’t fuss with perfection. Here’s what she has to say:

“…shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)”

Here’s the rub… As I re-read those words I realized I really did think I would get an exemption. A hall pass. An official letter that said, “Hey, you’ve read thousands of books in all the genres, you’ve taken every writing course known to man, you went for a bachelor’s in creative writing and now you’re working on a master’s in the same vein. You’ve studied all the craft books. You’ve been blogging consistently since 2009. You go ahead and write out your brilliance on the first take.” I quite literally believed that all of those logged hours of writing, reading, studying, and helping folks to birth their own books, would mean I was off the hook for the “shitty first draft.”

I wasn’t.

But in knowing this concept inside and out, what strikes me most is what a hard time I give myself over my crappy writing. I mean, this is my work in the world. I give writers permission to write their own shitty first draft every single day. I profess it like a mantra. I’m sure my clients would like to bash my head in sometimes. I also give writers full autonomy to write what comes and I advise them to keep the creation process wholly separate from the editing process so their inner critic can’t raise its ugly head so often, or so harshly. And their books are born that way. Yet somehow, I assumed that my book baby would rush out of my creative center devoid of mucous, cooing happily, and without the cone head.

What an idiot. Or not… How can I say yes to a shitty first draft? Well, for one, I know what I want my book to be and I know it’s not there yet. That is beautiful, people. Enough cannot be said about that inherent knowing of how you want your work to be in the world; of how you see it in its future incarnation; of how glorious is its potential. That’s where all my logged hours of reading and study comes in. I know what makes up a good book, for me, and I know I’m not there yet. So I get to sit, draft after draft, and clean off the slime. If I didn’t enjoy the process so much, I’d take up nail filing or something.

Regardless, I don’t get a hall pass. I don’t get an exemption certificate. No letter is coming anytime soon. I get to sludge through every gaping hole in my plot. I get to tackle every character detail disconnect until I know my characters as well as I know myself. I get to swim upstream through my passive voice and my cloyingly annoying adverbs and -ing words. <— See what I did there?

Just like every other writer in the world.

[tweetthis]No writer gets a hall pass excusing them from writing a “shitty first draft.”[/tweetthis]

Except that one woman Anne mentioned.

And… I don’t like her very much either.

For my visual peeps out there:

final3234 copy

Are Dogs & Kids Just Mirrors of Our Own Energy?


So… my boyfriend has been insisting that we get a shock collar for the love of my life. (No way. Ever. Not gonna happen.) When I went searching for kinder options, I was floored to find myself looking in the mirror.

I should preface this blog by saying: I don’t have kids. Unless you count my three pups, which I do. Let me introduce you:



12-year old son of my boyfriend whom I adopted posthaste the moment I met him. He’s a silky soft Chiuahua who is both mean and sweet and highly introverted like his mom. I’ve never met a more regal dog and yet he follows me around like I’m the pied piper. He’s highly food motivated and would do anything for a piece of popcorn or a nibble of cheese. Beef? Forget about it. His favorite place in the world is cuddled up next to me on the bed. (Under the covers, of course.)



5-year old Yorkshire Terrier. Even folks who don’t like dogs, love So-Kr8z. Warning: He will lick the back of your throat with his Gene Simmons-esque tongue if you let him. He’s addicted to licking sheets and chomping on squeaky balls. He doesn’t play fetch. Nope, he plays keep away. He’s more emotional than I am sans hormones, and barks at a grain of dust, hence my boyfriend’s idea of the shock collar.



6-month old French Bulldog. She’ll put anything into her gaping maw: pebbles, cotton, sticks, my arm. She likes to bound off our bed, stumpy limbs outstretched before she lands on the floor to bite her brother’s tails. She races around the house like Mario Andretti, her big bum sliding into bookcases and knocking things off tables until So-Kr8z catches her and puts her in her place.



So… there they are—the loves of my life, but back to the non-high-voltage options. I found an article by Cesar Millan in which he said that barking is how dogs communicate. Indeed, yet for the past couple of years I swear So-Kr8z has been desperately trying to tell me something BIGGER—perhaps we have a ghost, or there’s a meteor hurtling toward earth, or maybe it’s been too long since his last trip to the S-paw.

“Bark, bark, bark. There’s a grain of sand. Danger! Bark, bark, bark. There’s a leaf blowing by. Danger! Bark, bark, bark. There’s a cell dividing somewhere. Danger! Bark, bark, bark, bark.”

Cesar went on to say that you can’t cure a dog from barking when your energy is frustrated. Oh, wow! You mean chasing So-Kr8z around the kitchen island in my robe screaming for him to shut up, while Chloé chases me and bites my ankles with her puppy piranha teeth, isn’t the right energy? He goes on to say, “your dog will mirror your energy…. take a moment to curb your own internal barking first.” Ah… I knew this. It’s no different than becoming the lead mare in my horse whispering experience with Koelle Simpson and Martha Beck. If my energy is insane, his will be too. For years I’ve told anyone who would listen, “So-Kr8z is very emotional. He wears his emotions on his sleeve.” Hmmmppfff, didn’t I just actually state that in my description of him above? “Hello there, mirror, nice to see you again.”

A few days later, forgetting all I knew, I watched Sancho guard the food bowl and bare his canines when So-Kr8z came near it. So-Kr8z whined and barked, “I’m starving, man. Cut me some kibble.” I couldn’t understand why Sancho was so protective. There’s never a moment in time when the food bowl is empty. He can have all the food he wants, day or night. The dogs actually have more food in the house than we do.

A few minutes later, hungry, I observed So-Kr8z going after every toy that Chloé picked up, regardless of the fact that there are always, at all times, at least thirty-plus toys on the floor. If she has a squeaky ball, So-Kr8z doesn’t care that there are five identical squeaky balls within a foot of him. He wants the one Chloé has. I couldn’t help but think: Sheesh. I don’t think dogs are very LOA savvy. It’s as if they believe there will never be enough, despite the abundance of evidence that there is always plenty.

Oh, you bastard of a mirror! I spend most days, at one point or another, worrying about not enough. There’s not enough time. I need to do this and this and this and this. I’m in school full-time. I coach all day. I run another business besides. I need to go to the store. I need to cook dinner. I need. I want. There’s not enough. I should.

And… not enough money. The bills are paid, but what if I don’t have enough next month? I have a plethora of clients, but what if they stop showing up? I have a beautiful home, but what if I end up living in a van down by the river, “eating a steady diet of government cheese,” despite my lactose intolerance? But what if? End up. Not enough.

[tweetthis]”‘Mirror, mirror on the wall,’ who has the most issues of all?”[/tweetthis]

Me? Or my dogs?

I’m guessing it’s not so different for parents raising kids. But, pray, do tell. Do you have experience around this with your children – furry or otherwise? How does your energy and your thoughts affect their behavior?

For my visual peeps out there:


Who is Your Ideal Client? (You Might Be Surprised…)


I love Aha moments… more than mashed potatoes with a pound of real butter… more than snoring puppies sleeping soft-belly up… more than baby violet crocuses punching through the last bit of spring snow.

A few weeks ago I was coaching a client through some business “muck,” and I asked her to write an ideal client profile.

You’ve heard of those, right? The process is pretty common, but essentially you’re getting clear on your perfect client by writing down their attributes, perhaps what they struggle with, and maybe even detailing their personality a bit. I do this process with most of my business coaching peeps. If you don’t know who you want to invite into the folds of your business, they’re not likely to show up, eh?

I’d grown to know this particular client fairly well over the weeks before I asked her to create her Ideal Client Profile, but when she read me the results, I was dumbstruck.

She was describing herself.

Well… duh! I know it seems obvious. Maybe you’ve already realized this for yourself. But I’d certainly never made the connection.

As soon as our call was over I sat down and wrote out my Ideal Client Profile to test my hypothesis:

My ideal clients are heavily focused on spiritual and emotional growth. They’re full of depth and are ready to dig deep. They’re committed to doing what it takes to get where they want to go. They’re ready to take responsibility for what they’ve created. They’re introspective, philosophical and pretty self-aware. They’re smart too – whip-smart. Often, their work is in being of service to others. They’re great storytellers, but their stories don’t always serve them. They want to become masterful storytellers, weaving tales that empower them. They are well aware that they are the hero or heroine of their own journey and they come to our sessions bearing a scythe to clear the brambles and briars from their path. They listen to the Afternoon Delight station on Pandora. <—- Cut that last one. I don’t really expect my clients to love The BeeGees as much as I do, though that is a bonus.

Yup. I had just described myself.

That was my first Aha, but there was another.

My second Aha came during the conversation that ensued after said client read her profile to me. I felt like I was channeling someone much, much smarter than me. (Boy! That there, folks, is the magic… the reason I love coaching… what keeps me showing up – when I get out of my own way and allow something bigger to speak through me.)

I told my client that I think the fact that we are our own ideal client is the reason that we so often attract folks to us in coaching who are going through something we’ve just passed through ourselves. This is a super common phenomenon that happens in coaching (and in therapy.) I don’t have a name for it – maybe there is one, maybe not – but, inevitably, clients come to you in the throes of an eerily similar situation/feeling that you’ve just worked through yourself. It’s insane and it happens more often than not.

(Disclaimer: As coaches, if we’re still stuck in something, we can’t effectively coach another person through it. We need to either do our own work first to get unstuck or find someone who isn’t sticky to work with that client.)

I then told the client to imagine a cave. If we’re trying to “lead” someone through the darkness and we’re four miles ahead with our flashlights bobbing ahead of us, the client can’t often see their way out. If, instead, we’re walking just slightly ahead, flashlight trained on the ground in front of their feet, they can make the whole journey that way. Borrowing from E.L. Doctorow, “You never see further than your [flashlight], but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Now, is this true 100% of the time? Nope. I have clients who are miles ahead of me, and I have clients who are just getting started. There is something to be said for hiring someone who’s already arrived at the destination you’re headed to.

But make no mistake, we’re all here enrolled in this school called life and we’re all learning from each other.

There were all sorts of Aha’s that stemmed from this. For example, if you are your own ideal client, then your business will morph when you change, no? It also may be why “the WHY” of your business changes.

Help me with this little experiment, won’t you? Write out your Ideal Client Profile and tell me if you see yourself in it? Or give me a kind and gentle chiding and tell me where I’m wrong. Let’s discuss here in the comments.

Melanie Bates – Professional Flashlight Holder