The Art of Observing

On really seeing things


A few months ago I sat down on a Saturday afternoon with a rare couple of hours to myself – no baby, no client, no housework. For the first time in about five years, I pulled out my watercolors and dusted off my brushes. I didn’t know what I was going to paint at first, but there on my desk sat a little leaf that I had picked up on a walk one day.  My subject had presented itself. But before I could begin putting paint to paper, I had to do something else:

I had to look.

As I did, I quickly became lost in this little leaf. Its curves, its color, how the light and shadow bounced off its surface. I was entranced by the details and depth of this object no larger than my pinkie finger. Time stopped for me. Brain chatter dissipated. I felt calm. The only thing that existed at that moment was this little leaf. And within it, an entire, previously unnoticed world. I wasn’t just looking at it, I was seeing it for the first time. Appreciating its quiet beauty, considering its loneliness, its impermanence…and wanting, in my own way, to capture its existence before it crumbled into dust.

I realize now that this practice of studying something – making time to look deep into what’s in front of us – is rare these days. I’m just as guilty as anyone. I sit in front of my computer all day, skimming headlines, tweets and photo filters, never really focusing my attention onto anything long enough to truly consider its essence or significance.

I interact with little regard or commitment to any one thing. I do things simply to get them done. And then I lay my head on my pillow at night, feeling confused and helpless that another day has slipped by without notice.

Without punctuation.

Can you relate?

What I realized since looking at that little leaf is that observation punctuates.

It removes us from the (often delusional) world we create in our own heads. It turns previously mundane moments into profound ones. It reminds us that we are not, in fact, the center. And it requires nothing of us other than stillness and the willingness to really look.

Maybe it’s the construction of a tiny leaf, maybe it’s the way your daughter’s face scrunches up and relaxes as she’s learning something new, maybe it’s a patch of grass in your backyard that holds an entire ecosystem, maybe it’s watching the flux and flow of human activity in a busy city park, maybe it’s sitting and listening to the birds outside your door. Or maybe it’s turning your attention to your own breath, your own heartbeat.

Whatever it is, I encourage you to find something that punctuates your day today. Choose something to look into so deeply that you’re moved to tears simply by its existence.

I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

(And if you feel so compelled, please share your own experience observing in the comments.)


When I Was In Prison

A personal memoir about choice, fear & love.
Ten years ago, I made a decision that would change the rest of my life: I decided to live. That choice didn't come easy. I had to descend to the deepest, darkest place I've ever been in order to see light.

When I was 21, I checked myself into an inpatient treatment program for an eating disorder that had controlled my life for the previous seven years. I will point out that checking yourself in to a hospital for any mental illness is no small task. Insurance companies want the order from the doctor – not the patient. Yet, I seemed to be the only person who realized that I was on the brink of death (other than, perhaps, my parents and close family who were an infinite well of love, support and patience – and who took me seriously when I said I needed to do this… a love worthy of it’s own memoir.)

I perceived my doctors to be failing me – stringing me along to continue profiting from my disease. The psychologist who nodded off during our sessions; the psychiatrist who could barely hide her disgust of me. I knew this was it. This or nothing. Life or death. My last resort.

Seven years prior, I was an A+ student-athlete who suddenly found myself with a copious amount of time on my hands after a devastating sports injury. Hours previously spent with teammates working toward a common goal turned into sitting at home alone, internalizing my victim-hood, growing hips and boobs and curves, and stewing over what I was missing.

It’s important to note that this sports injury wasn’t the reason I developed an eating disorder. That would be drastically over-simplifying things. Rather, the injury was the catalyst for adopting the thoughts and behaviors that lead to an eating disorder. In fact, it was crippling depression that acted as the umbrella illness for all of my other abnormal behaviors. This was the result of a complicated web of lack: of self-worth, self-love, self-esteem (a topic with so much of it’s own weight, we’ll unpack it another day). For the reasons of this article, understand that I didn’t feel good enough. Overwhelmed with fear of my own potential, I wanted to disappear.

My solution, like so many others, was to try to do just that. My weapon of choice was bulimia. I had dabbled in restrictive eating and extreme exercising early on, but something about the binge and purge routine took firm hold. It was also easier to hide bulimia. At least, that’s what I told myself. Bulimia is how I got good at lying.

So there I was, seven years deep, on the verge of adulthood and scared out of my mind that I would enter into a world a damaged freak-of-nature who had no control over my thoughts, emotions or behaviors – and whose physio-chemical response system could be reduced to that of a laboratory rat. Mostly though, I was scared of myself. Scared of what I might do; scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it – and terrified that I couldn’t visualize myself living past my 20’s.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, I had years of therapy and a long list of prescription cocktails under my belt: anti-depressants, anti-anxieties, anti-psychotics. For me, personally, they were anti-feelers, which made each one harder to swallow. I also had plenty of destructive relationships to boast about: with people, substances, illegal behaviors – each one a novel manifestation of the same unworthiness I felt within.

I was talked-out, pilled-out, peopled-out, drugged-out. I understood intellectually everything about my condition. I had an elevator pitch. I’m sure it sounded either eloquently insightful, or just sad. Because my body and mind were controlled by insane behaviors, simply knowing the information wasn’t useful. I needed to feel. And to do that, I knew I needed to submit myself to a place that would strip away my freedom to perform the behaviors that gripped me so tightly. Forced vulnerability. It was that, or give up and die. So I voluntarily checked myself into what could easily be mistaken as a prison – except the inmates here were being protected from themselves, rather than the the world being protected from the inmates.

The treatment program was made up of a myriad bunch – mostly women, a few men. The majority young, a few middle age. We sat around. A lot. Think One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with a little less crazy. Or, who am I to say – I was the crazy. The facility was newly-built, made to feel like a sterile Hampton Inn. We had a few cushion-y chairs, and a patch of carpet when the chairs got too cushion-y. Our beds were standard hospital beds with remote controls because, hey, why not?

My comrades and I couldn’t ever be alone without supervision. Let me repeat that: patients could never be alone. This was for our own protection, lest we give into the destructive behaviors that put us there, or try to harm ourselves in a more permanent way. Attendants watched us shower and use the toilets, eyes glaring with suspicion at our naked bodies and broken spirits. We were forbidden to wear clothes that could easily hide things: sharp objects, food, feelings.

The one luxury I brought with me was my CD player. I remember having just one CD: Moby’s B-Sides. One night at dinner, I suggested to a nurse that perhaps the group would like to listen to something other than the Yani album that played on repeat all hours of the day. Just a little something to help make the worst part of the day (mealtime) a little more bearable. The group was thoroughly behind this decision. I chose whom to ask carefully and the wish was granted…for about three minutes. The screech of music was audible in it’s sudden non-existence. All eyes turned to me, as the director informed us that we were to listen only to the prescribed music, or nothing at all. Ouch.

Days later, I was lounging on the carpet when another patient began sharing her personal story within our small group. With, what seemed to me at the time the self-awareness of a fruit fly, she remarked, ‘Yeah, this is my ninth time here’.

This memory still makes my blood run cold.

‘My ninth time here.’

I was floored. As in, I felt like I was melting into the floor.

How could she say that?, I thought. Nine times? There is no more after this. THIS IS IT. Doesn’t she understand that? If this doesn’t work, there is only one other alternative, and it’s irreversible. There is no ‘Oh I’ll just check back into this hell hole’. I wanted to shake her. I wanted to slap her. I wanted to take my fist to her face. I had to get out of there.

A few days later, feeling trapped in a place I didn’t belong, I decided to call my ex-boyfriend, with whom I had had a madly-in-love but tortured relationship. I was trying desperately to re-build a house of comfort I had previously burnt to the ground with my penchant for emotional arson. He would have none of it. He shut me down in one swift punch to the gut. And over the phone nonetheless. It was the most life-changing conversation I’d ever had – and it lasted for about 10 seconds. He was the one person I thought I could rely on, other than my parents, to fight for me when I couldn’t (wouldn’t) fight for myself. But this time, he made it clear that he was done fighting.

I hung up the phone. Blackness crept across my field my vision. I lost my hearing. I was, for a moment, stunned. Then, something unexpected happened. Rather than my usual response cycle: hurt, guilt, anger and a heap of tears, I experienced some kind of personal, spiritual intervention. In that moment, in a flash of bright light (I kid you not – my memory of this moment is an overwhelming sense of light), I had an epiphany.

This is my life. This is my life. This is my life.


I repeated it in my head over and over, as if I was swiftly and powerfully rising from the bottom of the sea, about to burst to the surface and take life-giving breath for the first time. I certainly felt alive for the first time. I remember looking around the room, as if I had stumbled upon the meaning of life itself and thinking, ‘am I the only one who knows this secret?’

Suddenly, like rapid-fire, I had revelation after revelation:

I choose.
I choose to get well.
I choose to live.
I choose to be happy.
My doctors do not choose for me.
My parents do not choose for me.
My friends do not choose for me.

No one has more power over how my life turns out than I do. No one benefits from me getting well more than I do. Why should anyone else care about me getting well, if I don’t care enough for myself?

I choose.

This moment was the first time in seven years that I truly believed I could get better on my own. Finally, I wanted it more than anyone else wanted it for me.

Writing this out, all these years later, seems a bit trite. I can see the headline clearly: ‘Angst-y, Privileged, Self-absorbed, Young Woman Learns of Her Existence and Becomes Enlightened, Privileged, Self-Absorbed Young Woman.”

I get that people may read this and roll their eyes as unwarranted Bon Jovi lyrics enter their heads. I’m fine with that. Because it saved my life.

Every perceived illusion I had told myself prior to that moment: the one about my doctors’ ineffectual treatment of me, my lack of compassion for another patient’s journey, my astonishment that the one person I least expected to give up on me did just that – they were all reflections of me and my fear. No one else.

And what did it take for me to understand this? It took giving up 100% of my liberties and privacy in order to discover what freedom truly meant to me: everything.

But what I’ve come to fully appreciate all these years later, is that the real prison had been inside of me. Walls made of fear, and I was the master brick-layer. A prison where I played all the roles: inmate, guard and parole officer. I firmly believe there are no scarier prisons than the ones we build around ourselves – self-imposed fortresses created to protect us from the outside world when, in reality, they simply keep us from getting out.

It took getting imprisoned in the physical sense for me to realize what I had done to myself in the metaphysical sense.

After I checked out of the program, I felt awake. The shred of hope that had kept me alive for seven years had turned into a tapestry of limitless possibilities. Yet, full-fledged re-entry into the outside world took time. The walls of my prison hadn’t shattered entirely, but they had been severely weakened. Just as it took years to build them, it took years to completely tear them down. But I made peace with this, because now, I knew that I had the time.

It took several more years to totally let go of my bulimic behaviors and tendency for emotional sabotage. But with each healthy, life-affirming choice I made, I let go of a destructive one. In the years since, I’ve created a life full of love, but I’m aware of my capacity to build new walls around myself, if I’m not mindful.

With every new phase of life, every new day, every new moment, we are faced with a choice to go forward in love or in fear.

It goes like this:


Love again.

Love some more.

One more time.


Yet, fear creeps in when I’m not looking. I have to continually check in with myself. When I become aware that fear is taking over, I try to look it in it’s face. This reminds me that I am separate from it. It’s not who I am. And I have the choice to either accept it, or let it go and choose love instead.

This is a daily battle, but it’s one I’m willing to fight. Because every day I wake up breathing, and every day I get to look over and see my husband, my champion, beside me, and every day I get to talk to my parents and sister and brother, and every day I get to walk into my daughter’s room where I’m met with a squeal of pure delight over the fact that I’ve shown up for her, I thank my lucky stars that I chose to show up for myself, all those years ago – and that I continue to do so, each new day – each new moment – of my life.

So, friends, what about you? Are you living inside your own prison? Do you know someone who is? Please share your story in the comments if you feel so compelled – or share my story with others, if you think it could be helpful to them.


10 Solutions For Creative Block

Recommendations for unleashing your creativity.
Dear Emily, I'm trying to figure out the best way to get my message out. I feel like it's in there, but is blocked by a lot of negative thoughts and fear! How do I dump my fear in order to express myself?

Creative Unblocking

Does this sound like you? Today’s question comes from Molly, who is struggling with creative block. In Molly’s case, her core message for her business is eluding her. But the actual message is secondary to the real problem: stagnation caused by fear. And if you’re like me, Molly’s struggle resonates deeply. I’m talking about that nasty little thing called creative block, caused by limiting beliefs.

Creative block can strike at any time and for any type of creative endeavor. Business-owners are particularly vulnerable since entrepreneurship is one of the most creative endeavors out there. Add to that, many of us are new business-owners, which means we’re voluntarily taking on a massive amount of unknown, untested responsibility. In other words: the perfect recipe for our inner critic to rear it’s ugly head and tell us all the ways we’re unfit for the job.

First thing first: take a deep breath and give yourself a break. Being your own boss isn’t easy – it’s worth it. Secondly: you’re entirely capable of doing this. But first, you need to get out of your own way.

Here, then, are my top 10 Actions To Unblock Yourself from Limiting Beliefs.

1. Write Morning Pages

If you’ve already read my 6-Step Clarity Guide, you’re familiar with my affinity toward Morning Pages. This concept comes straight from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and I list it here again because there is just no alternative to it’s effectiveness.

There’s nothing more distracting than a head cluttered with worries, fear, urgent to-do’s and negative self-talk. Morning Pages is a 30-minute, long-form (by hand, not screen), stream-of-conscious free-write. It’s called Morning Pages because (technically) you’re supposed to do it first thing in the morning, before doing anything else. I encourage you to do it first thing in the morning – and any time you’re feeling stuck, fuzzy, anxious or fearful. Get it out and then forget about it. It’s wonderfully freeing and I often find I have an ‘epiphany’ of some sort whenever I do it. It’s ok if you’re writing so fast that your handwriting is illegible. It’s not meant to be read again. Make it a priority.

2. Eliminate Nay-Sayers and Crazy-makers

Nay-sayers are people who never have a positive word to say about anything; people who reinforce negative beliefs, devalue, belittle and disrespect. They are people who allow their own inner critic to take hold and command the thoughts in their own head, thus forcing them to project their negativity on people close to them.

Crazy-makers (another nod to Cameron) may be charming and charismatic on the surface, but they wreck havoc on those around them. They create drama, hate order, disregard others time and effort – and, most importantly – are often blocked creatives themselves. They discount your reality because they are caught up in their own illusions.

Both Nay-Sayers and Crazy-makers are toxic. They’re a waste of your space. Your job right now is to create space for yourself – space to fall down without someone stepping all over you before you can get back up. Identifying these people (or person) in your life is a huge step toward unblocking… but it can be one of the scariest to implement. After all, your Nay-Sayer or Crazy-maker could be someone very close to you: a spouse, a best friend, a boss.

Once you identify the individual/s, begin taking steps to regain control of the relationship and your sense of self. Set boundaries. Take a physical vacation from them. Find refuge with a supportive friend. And during this time, evaluate whether it’s worth having this person in your life going forward.

3. Have Regular Heart-To-Hearts With Your BFF

You know that one person in your life that you’re comfortable – excited even – to pour your heart out to? You know how buzzed you feel after having an invigorating conversation with her? Call that person and make a date. Right now. This person is the opposite of your Nay-Sayer or Crazy-maker. She’s your Truth-teller, your Spirit-Igniter, your Positive Motivator – and you need her right now. She will listen when you need her to listen. She’ll give advice when you need advice. Most importantly, you can be uninhibited and vulnerable around her – especially when you’re finding it difficult to be uninhibited and vulnerable with yourself.

Think of this Action as your Accountability Check-in. Find that person who can be there for you – and be there for that person in the same way. Chances are, your BFF could use a non-judgemental Truth-Teller and Spirit-Igniter as well. Be accountable to one another. Be in the presence of someone who unabashedly accepts you for who you are. I bet you’ll find yourself pouring your dreams and ambitions out to her. You might even uncover that mysterious message you’ve been searching for.

4. Write a Gratitude List

This is probably the easiest and most immediately rewarding ways to move toward unblock. Gratitude lists remind us how wealthy we truly are – and also of the resources we already have at our fingertips that will help us toward our goal. The best part is, you can write a gratitude list anytime and as often as you want. In fact, I recommend making this practice a daily one. If you’re writing Morning pages regularly, perhaps you end the day with a Gratitude list. I bet you’ll sleep a lot better…

5. Move Your Body

This is it folks. A million people have said it before me, and it bears repeating: move your body. It works. Why? For a few reasons. Our body was made to move. It is natural and life-affirming to move our body. It declares that we are alive and healthy and it is an active state of being. Most importantly: it moves oxygen through our body. And guess what? The brain loves oxygen. The more it gets, the clearer it gets.

There’s just one tiny caveat: for creative unblocking, skip the monotonous trudge on the treadmill at the gym. Instead, swap it for a run/hike on a forest trail. The goal is to move your body in an environment that allows you to enter a state of flow. In other words, do something you enjoy and are even good at. Maybe it’s a solo dance party in your living room. Maybe it’s releasing some aggression on the tennis court, or perhaps it’s breathing through your stress on the yoga mat. Whatever it is, do it because it makes you feel good.

6. Write a Love List or Love Letter to Yourself

Here’s a novel idea: every time you have a negative thought about yourself and your abilities, you must immediately follow it up with something you love about yourself – or even better, an entire list! Make it a priority. Over time, I bet you’ll notice that you naturally move toward that love list, rather than the negative self-talk.

Why does this work? Because it’s a conscious effort to change our beliefs. A belief is simply a pattern or habit of thought. The thoughts we have about ourselves become our beliefs, which is why when we’re filled with negative self-talk, that negativity becomes our reality. When we begin to make space for loving Abundant Beliefs, we adopt a new reality – one that is primed and ready for creative abundance as well.

7. Find Yourself In Nature

Why does a walk in the woods rejuvenate, yet calm at the same time? For one reason: we come from nature. We’re part of it. Surrounding ourselves in that which we have sprung is confirmation that we are alive.

Nature doesn’t judge. Finding yourself in it’s abundance is a gentle reminder to stop judging yourself. Nature doesn’t lie. Reconnecting with it is an affirmation that many of the beliefs in your head are simply illusions. Nature just is. It’s not right or wrong. It is perfectly content on being. In fact, that’s what it does best. Reconnect with that from which you’ve sprung, and borrow it’s energy.

8. Make Art With The Intention Of Throwing It Away

Often, when we set out to create something, we have such great expectations for what it should be, that we miss out on the joy and journey of the process. This expectation can rob us of our sense of wonder and bog us down with what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

Creating forces you to be in the moment and allows you to be lost at the same time. Tweet It.

When you take away the burden of an end product, you allow yourself to focus on the process and freedom from right and wrong. Failure becomes obsolete; creation becomes a form of meditation.

Splatter paint on a canvas (and yourself), scribble crayons with your 2 year old, stack stones or sticks or leaves and then let the elements take them away. The purpose of this action is to create for the sake of creating and regain a sense of wonder and acceptance.

9. Write a Letter Forgiving Yourself or Someone Else

One of the most insidious forms of limiting beliefs is the inability to forgive. The burden you bear for past wrongs – either done to you, done to yourself, or done to others – can wear you down beyond recognition. It’s time to let them go and stop defining yourself by old injustices. It’s not who you are and it takes up too much space in your life.

It’s ok to never send the letter to the person to whom it’s written. In some cases, that person may not even be alive. The act of forgiveness is for you, not them. It’s ok to get angry in the letter, if getting angry gets you to a place of forgiveness. Often, it does.

If you’re forgiving yourself for past choices that you view as mistakes, take this opportunity to consider ways that your life is better for that mistake. A mistake is only a mistake if we fail to learn something from it. Forgive yourself for the momentary lapse in judgement and then commend yourself for soldiering on since then.

10. Swap ‘If-Only’ For ‘What-If’

The If-Only mentality is a sneaky little limiting belief that convinces us we aren’t ready to start – that we don’t have the resources, worth or skills to act upon something. Another version of this is ‘My Life Will Be Better When…’ mentality. In other words, you believe that what you have now is never enough. And it’s simply not true. It’s an excuse.

Instead, write a ‘What-if’ List. This is a list of endless possibilities. Then, consider all the things at your fingertips right now that can get you one step closer to any one of those possibilities. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things we need to do to accomplish our goal, but success doesn’t happen all at once. It happens step by step.

So, write that email to someone you admire and ask if they’ll mentor you. Reach out to that publication and ask if you can write a guest article. Go to that yoga studio down the road and ask if they’ll display your artwork. Begin with what you have. It’s much more valuable than you think.

A Parting Note
Some may be wondering where Meditation is on this list. I purposefully left it out because I believe that many of the actions on this list are inherent forms of meditation. The act of meditating is wonderful for curing creative block – and if you’re well suited for it, I encourage you to make it a daily practice. For those who aren’t, I hope you’re able to find the same benefits that meditation offers in some of the actions above.

Your Turn
What are some other ways you unblock yourself? Tell us in the comments!


My husband and I usually don’t fuss over one another on birthdays. But this year is different: it's his first birthday as a father. I want to make a fuss.

First-time parenthood is a rush — a flood of emotions, mistakes, tears and laughter. Too often, we focus on the needs of mama and baby and forget that new dads need love and support too. For many, they are the glue bonding new families together, carrying out silent acts of tenderness between the seams. I couldn’t have made it through the past year without my husband – and I can’t imagine going forward without him.

Dear Sean,

Happy Birthday. Last year at this time, when I wasn’t glued to the sofa, my head was in the toilet. The only food I could stomach were bananas and bagels, and I couldn’t stand the smell of you. Yet, I was giddy with excitement for what was to come.

Reflecting on the past year feels like reflecting on the history of mankind itself — and in many ways, for our little family, it was. This past year was monumental. Today, as I write this, we’re all three hunkered down in our little apartment during an early March snowstorm, and there’s no place I’d rather be. Today, I want to thank you.

When I was pregnant…

Thank you for not taking it personally when I told you to get away from me because I couldn’t stand your smell.

Thank you for not taking it personally when I told you to not eat in front of me, because I couldn’t stand your chewing.

Thank you for not taking it personally when I told you to just get away from me.

Thank you for rubbing my back ‘with the touch of fairy wings’ every night.

Thank you for knowing what ‘with the touch of fairy wings’ should feel like, without asking me to elaborate.

Thank you for letting me leave for weeks at a time, when I just needed to be with my mom.

Thank you for never questioning our ability to be parents, despite my near-weekly meltdowns over the subject.

Thank you for never questioning my obsessive need to run to Target every day for a month before Ella was born.

Thank you for never asking how much I spent.

Thank you for riding your bike 7 miles to and from work in 100 degree temperatures, so that I could have the car, thus accepting the sweaty guy status at your new office.

Thank you for making me feel more beautiful, as each size of grannie panties increased around my growing belly, butt and thighs.

Thank you for wrapping your arms around me when I just needed to cry.

On the night Ella was born….

Thank you for simply following orders to frantically clean the apartment between my contractions.

Thank you for slow dancing with me during my contractions.

Thank you for not making fun of me when, upon seeing a fox outside our window, I believed it some kind of spiritual sign and decided to give our first-born the middle name of ‘Fox’.

Thank you for letting me realize, on my own, how bad of an that idea was, before submitting the birth certificate.

Thank you for sprinting back to the delivery room, abandoning the doula’s suggestion to go find me some broth (broth!?), after I was already 9 centimeters dilated and on the verge of needing to push.

Thank you for not missing the birth of our daughter for want of broth.

Thank you for not passing out in the delivery room, like you’re known to do when giving blood.

Thank you for standing by me, holding my hand and welcoming our daughter to the world with me.

Thank you for giving our daughter the longest eye lashes any human has ever had.

For the past 5 months…

Thank you pretending not to notice my unibrow.

Thank you for pretending not to notice my 5-day old leg stubble.

Thank you for giving me an ‘atta girl’ when I’m too tired to fold my laundry at the end of the day and throw it on the floor instead.

Thank you for never batting an eye when I’ve left you with a two-day-old pile of Ella’s poo-encrusted cloth diapers.

Thank you for Daddy, Mommy and Ella dance parties.

Thank you for scheduling Family Fun Days.

Thank you for repeatedly unclogging the shower drain of two-foot-long, rat-sized clumps of my hair, and laughing about it.

Thank you for going to the grocery store after work every evening, because you know how much going to the grocery store makes my skin crawl.

Thank you for cooking, even on nights you go to the grocery store.

Thank you for not rushing me back to work and Ella into daycare.

Thank you for getting up with Ella at 5am every morning, so that I can sleep in.

Thank you for making Ella and me feel like the most important people on the planet.

In general…

Thank you for always coming home after work with a smile on your face.

Thank you for putting a smile on Ella’s face every time she sees you.

Thank you for encouraging me to get out of the house, even on days I don’t feel like it.

Thank you never calling me out for lazy toothpaste-squeezing etiquette.

Thank you for letting me pick and prod at you like a primate grooming her mate.

Thank you for making me laugh uncontrollably.

Thank you for supporting every half-wit idea I have for making a living… and never questioning it if I don’t follow through.

Thank you for supporting every half-wit idea I have for making a living… and being my biggest champion when I actually do follow through.

Thank you for encouraging me to make art – even if I end up throwing it away – simply because you know it makes me happy.

Thank you for working your butt off for the past four years to secure a career that would allow you work anywhere.

Thank you for assuring me that, yes, even people on tropical islands need their taxes done, when I ask if that ‘anywhere’ can be a tropical island.

Thank you for making communication the cornerstone of our marriage.

Thank you for always seeing the best in people.

Thank you for being an optimist.

Thank you for being a phenomenal father.

Thank you for being a phenomenal husband.

Thank you for being there.

Thank you for making every new phase of our lives together the happiest one yet.

Happy Birthday. I love you.


Q&A: How To Boost Traffic to Your Site or Blog

A round up of top advice from the best in the business.
The short answer is: there is no short answer. Nor is there any trick or secret. Building an audience takes work and perseverance. But, it’s completely doable. Here are my absolute top 6 tips for attracting - and keeping - an audience.

How to get blog traffic
Before I begin, I’d like to give credit where credit is due: the following recommendations are a curated list of strategies first proposed by Marie Forleo in B-School and Derek Halpern in his fantastic program, Blog That Converts. These are tips that I’ve found most effective for myself and my clients. It’s not exhaustive by any means. Rather, I hope it will serve as a starting point for helping to build your audience.

(p.s. Just a head’s up that I’m an affiliate for Marie’s B-School. I’m not sure that Derek has an affiliate program for Blog that Converts, but I would totally be on board if he did — it’s excellent).

1. Capture Emails to Build Your List

List-building is the #1 rule to comes to running a successful blog or site. You build your list by placing what’s called an ‘Opt-In’ Form on your site, asking visitors to provide their email address in exchange for something. That something could be as simple as weekly blog updates straight to their inbox, or you could offer a free gift as an extra perk (and motivator) to signup. Whatever you offer, it’s critical that it create value. And, just because you’re offering it for free, doesn’t mean it can be shoddy. It should represent your best work.

How do you get an Opt-In form on your site? First you need to sign up for an Email Marketing Account. Personally, I use and love MailChimp. Their user interface is clean and simple to use, and they provide ready-to-embed opt-in forms that you can easily drop into your site.

Once you have the form in place, you’ll want to make sure you have things like confirmation and welcome emails in place, so you can make your new subscriber feel welcome and remind them how much they mean to you.

And, don’t get discouraged – list-building can be a slow process. Stick with it. Even if you have just a handful of subscribers for awhile, they are your biggest fans and are hungry for what you have to say. No one but you knows how large or small your list is — and it shouldn’t matter. What matters is that you provide your members with high-quality content that will improve their lives.

2. Write Consistently and Regularly

Now that you have subscribers, they will expect and want to hear from you. If you engage your fans with regular, high-quality content, they are more likely to share that content with others and keep the conversation going.

Consistency is key. Don’t let too much time lapse between email blasts, but be careful not to bombard your subscribers with so many emails that it becomes an annoyance. To ensure consistency, I recommend creating an Editorial Calendar for up to 6-months in advance. Whether you’re writing daily, weekly, or monthly, the idea is to plan out your topics ahead of time, so that you aren’t scrambling around for a good idea the night before content is due.

Google Calendars is a great tool for keeping an Editorial Calendar. And, if you use WordPress, you can create Saved Drafts in your Posts section and even schedule their publish date for a specific time in the future (if you use that WP feature, just make sure the content is ready to be published when the time comes!).

I like sending out a newsletter to my list once-a-week. If I feel inspired to write more than one blog post in a given week, I still only email my list once, but I make sure to link to all the content I’ve created that week, so no one misses out on anything.

Another perk to writing regularly: it will inject your site with organic SEO-building keywords, which can only mean good things for your Google rankings. This is a topic in and of itself, so I won’t get into SEO now, but rest assured that if you make writing consistently a priority, good things will happen.

3. Write Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that doesn’t lose relevance. It holds as much value two years from now, as it did the first day you published it. This allows you to focus on quality over quantity.

Evergreening your site or blog will allow you re-promote top-performing content at different times. Maintaining a successful blog does not mean creating content to exhaustion. A better strategy is learning how to promote your most valuable stuff over and over again, to attract new folks who are just finding you for the first time.

So, when creating your Editorial Calendar, ask yourself: is this topic time-sensitive, or will it stand the test of time?

4. Contribute to Other Blogs and Sites

When you’re found your groove, contributing to other sites and blogs is a huge step in gaining more traffic. The key is to approach other blogs that attract your ideal audience. This may take some time, as you may need to go out and find where your audience is conversing. But, I have a hunch that you may already be in those spaces.

If you feel uneasy about approaching the blog’s owner about contributing, make a presence as a valuable commenter first. When you’ve established your value as part of the engaged audience, feel confident in approaching the owner about contributing more.

When you’re ready to do this, I recommend having content prepared and ready. Perhaps something that you’ve written specifically for that space and catering uniquely to it’s audience. Most importantly, add value.

The point of all this, of course, is to be seen – to get your content in front of audiences larger than yours, so you can expand your reach. Keep in mind that the goal is not to steal fans from one site and bring them to yours — the goal is to align.

One more note on this: don’t be afraid to reach high when guest contributing. It’s good to have a wishlist of places you’d like your writing to ultimately appear, But, when just starting out, also be open to approaching site owners who are in the process of audience-building themselves. Those folks will probably be very eager to collaborate, as they can also benefit greatly from aligning audiences.

5. Use Your Friends

This may be a no-brainer, but do not limit sharing your work with just your email list (unless you’ve promised exclusive content). After you’ve written that brilliant article, blast it out to your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. If you believe in what you’re sharing, your friends will be your biggest champions.

6. Provide a Call-To-Action

This is the last tip, but a super important one. At the end of any article or blog post, you must, must, must have a call-to-action. A CTA is direct invitation for your reader to do something. It could be that you want them to leave a comment to keep the conversation going. Or perhaps you’d like them to share the article on Facebook or Twitter. Or maybe, the CTA is an opt-in form, asking new readers to subscribe to free updates.

Chances are, if you provided highly valuable information for free, your readers are going to want to thank you. Make it easy for them, and tell them exactly how you would like them to show their gratitude.

So there they are – my top 6 recommendations for building traffic to your site or blog. I can’t stress enough that doing this will take time and energy, and it won’t happen overnight. But, if you keep at it and implement every item on this list, I guarantee you’ll be rewarded.

Do you think these strategies are worth implementing? Do any of the tips feel daunting or unclear? Tell me in the comments!

To any new visitors out there, if you’ve found this post helpful and would like to submit your own question to my Q&A, sign up below for my list and you’ll have your very own chance to pick my brain. (You’ll also get my free guide Free Clarity Guide with signup).


What I Gave Up For Motherhood

Recently, my husband and I were visiting with a few friends who had come to meet our daughter, then two months old. After sharing a few requisite stories about getting intimate with our daughter’s poop, the conversation inevitably turned to a more sobering discussion on parenthood.

One of them half-jokingly refer to having children as giving […]

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Free Print: Change

Hi Friends, I made this for you today. Another gentle reminder that, while difficult at times, change is natural and good. Download the hi-res version here and if you get it printed and hang it, please take a photo and post in the comments for everyone to see (especially me). And as always, […]

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Free Print: Be Water

Happy Wednesday, Friends. To get us through hump day, I’m sharing one of my favorite quotes from the master of flow, Bruce Lee. I made this print for you – you can download your hi-res version here, print it out, hang it up – and then kindly share this link with others, so […]

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Urgent vs. Important

I am a list-maker. I like to makes lists at the beginning of the day and mark things off as I go. It’s exceptionally satisfying to see the progress I’m making throughout the day. When I became a new mother, this didn’t change – I still made lists. What changed was my waning capacity […]

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The Secret to a Strong Brand

I’m going to keep this short and sweet: How you treat your customers matters more than anything else when it comes to creating a brand. More than your name, more than your logo, more than your website.

That’s because how you treat people says more about your mission, values and vision – both as a person […]

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Choosing a Business Name

Since starting my own business in 2008, I’ve struggled with pinning down a name. At first I used my own name. Then I used ‘Artz Collective’, thinking that it sounded more legit. Then I slowly started going back to using my own name because I didn’t feel authentic calling myself a collective. Who is the […]

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The Good Opinion of Others

Recently, I was needing to make a critical decision that would change my business (and life) significantly. It was one of those decisions that caused a persistent queasiness in my gut, but I wasn’t sure if the queasiness was my healthy intuition or my fearful ego.

So I did what I’m sure a lot of us […]

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Travel Print Stationary

I loved my holiday cards from Pinhole Press so much that I splurged and ordered over $200 worth of their Ultrathick print sets. Getting them printed was the easy part… finding 25 photos decent enough to be printed from the thousands that we took while we lived abroad… no.

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Charleston Winter 2013

My husband’s wonderful family lives in Charleston, which means we get there about twice a year. Errrr…not nearly enough in my opinion! (As I sit here looking longingly out the window covered in frost).

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Holiday Cards by Pinhole Press

I stumbled upon a blog right before the holidays that I absolutely adore now: Poppyhaus. Lucky for me, her readers could score 30% off on holidays cards at Pinhole Press by using a Poppyhaus coupon code. Beautiful! And thanks to Miss Ella for cooperating during the photoshoot.

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Introducing Eleven by Venus

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Obligatory Pregancy Selfie

I’m sure this is on the list of ‘Selfies to Avoid’, but I don’t care. I can’t wait for this little beauty to get here. Seven months and counting.

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Control Freaks Anonymous

I struggle with the need for control. Argh, there, I said it. I have trouble trusting others to help me run my business.

I have a little problem I’ve coined the ‘MartyrDIM‘ Mentality — if you’re like me, it’s that little voice in your head that whispers ‘I might as well Do It Myself?’

You know what […]

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