scene from ‘in the margins’

I’ve been working on a story for nearly seven years. It started because I was in a creative writing workshop taught by Brady Udall, and the story I kept reworking was crap. “You obviously have talent, but this story is boring and cliche.”

Ouch.

So I made a deal with him the day before my final project was due. I would write a new story and take whatever grade he gave me from that one piece. He agreed, and I drove away crying and freaking out. It was one of those moments in time when you decide something rash, like, “If I get anything but an A, I will give this shit up forever.” I would take his criticism and stop trying to be a writer.

On my way to get my daughter, there was an interview on NPR about a playwright that was inspired by the notes in old scripts. Before I even got home, the story about an almost-13-year-old was formed. In the Margins would center around Dani and what could either be the worst summer ever or the one that changes her life. What could she learn from the widow of her infamous great-grandfather, William Keller? What would the scribbled notes in the margins of his books tell her about life?

Her friendship with Eliza – The Fourth Wife – was what Brady loved most. He gave me an A, and I’ve been slowly turning that short story into a novel that I hope will finally be finished this year. In the meantime, I’ve been adding excerpts to Tablo where the comments of strangers keep me moving forward.

Here’s a peek:

“Can I ask you something? It might come out wrong.” Eliza and I were sitting out on the porch swing watching the dogs chew on bones.

“What is it, kid? Spit it out. Hopefully, you’re figuring out that I don’t care a lot about being careful with words.”

“Well, it seems like…. You know how my parents are kind of young?”

“Yeah,” her eyes looked like they did when she was laughing.

“Why are they so scared all the time? Why are they so careful with their words? Why don’t they just say what they want like you do? I mean, they’re grownups, too.”

“Huh. Well, I think people my age have gone through wars and separation and, well, we changed the world. Your parents inherited a world that was already moving so fast and they didn’t have to do as much work. They are afraid of change. We created it. We remember when there wasn’t a car in every garage. We remember when little Jimmy down the street left for war and never came back. We decided not to fuck around with being careful because we couldn’t be – we were too busy having to be different daily. My mom wanted me to be a lady. Fuck that. I was a widow at 25. A widow with lots of money, too. Do you know how many men proposed? I picked Bill because he was famous and important – two things I wasn’t. I never wanted to be cautious. I knew then that life can be cut short, because I’d seen it, so I was going to live huge.

“The worst thing that will ever happen to your mom will be your dad leaving her. Do you understand how lucky that makes her? She’s famous, too, do you know that? For those books and pictures. Every day some kid gets one of her books. Every day she gets closer to being immortal. She could sell calendars and cards and magazines probably, if she was just a risk-taker, but she won’t be. You will, though. I can see it already. There’s more Bill in you than there ever was in any of his kids or grandkids. There’s something like lightning in you. I hope to see it when you’re fully charged.”

“I don’t feel like lightning. I mean, most of the time I feel kind of lost.”

“Do you think lightning knows where it’s going to hit? It heads for the highest peak, but that’s not necessarily where it hits. It can’t help but look for somewhere to land, and when it does… Well, nothing is ever the same. You might not have the nasty streak Bill did, but you definitely have the electricity. You want to know everything; you want to feel it all. That’s what you got from him that no one else in the family did. That courage. Feeling lost…well, that’s only because you’re willing to go off-course. You don’t need a map. You’re going to trust that your heart and gut will lead you to where you need to be.”

I stared at my shoe for a bit and let Eliza finish one cigarette and then start a new one.

“I think I get scared more than he did. I think I might be like my mom and dad, too.”

She took a few more drags and then dumped the butt into an old beer can.

“Here’s the thing, Dani. Your great-grandfather was an arrogant asshole. The worst fucker out there, really. But when he put his attention on you, all that would fall away. Beyond his selfishness, he was golden. It took years for me to get past the ass – and I tried a lot. I know it’s not right that he finally noticed me when I was ready to leave, but once he realized what he had, I was the luckiest woman alive. We had amazing years together, and I will never doubt that he loved me.

“But he was scared a lot, too. He would sit at his typewriter silent for hours. I would wait outside the door, sitting in the hallway, wondering what to do to hear the keys as he typed. I learned the hard way to never interrupt, so I would sit and – believe me or don’t – but I would pray. I would beg God or St. Francis or whoever was listening to please bring him words, because I knew that he could sit there for days. I heard him gulp down tears. I heard him snoring. I heard him curse the heavens. And when I heard him typing, I could finally move.

“Fear is human,” she lit another cigarette and I watched as she inhaled with her eyes closed. As the smoke blew out, she opened them. She looked at me and smiled. “Bill tested his fear. He pushed it. He used to drive with the headlights off just to force that fear to the surface. He was crazy that way. He was constantly testing God. You’re smarter than that. You’re smarter than all of us, really. I knew that when you were three. Bill lifted you up when you were visiting and you looked at him, all stern, and said, ‘My mommy won’t let me fall.’ He had a great laugh over that.

“And your mom took you from Bill and said, ‘Not ever.’ You gave him such a look! He stared back with the same fierceness, and I saw at that moment that you were the one with the lightning.”

I was crying, not sure why, and she pointed her cigarette at me, “You are the product of greatness. No one in this world can drag you down. Never forget.”

All I could do was nod as she smoked. I would never forget

we’re all movers

We talk of movers and shakers as special beings, but we are all movers. I move hair from heads onto my floor. When I write, I move words from my head onto a page. Yogis move their bodies. Gamers move their characters.

And entrepreneurs move their visions of business from their hearts into reality. They don’t sit and wait.

Is this the year you’ve decided to take your vision and create something tangible from it? I encourage you to take even the smallest dream and move with it. Is your goal to make $500 extra a month or $5,000? I’ve talked with many business owners throughout the years. Many were the careful types – saving money or curating their credit until they could borrow what they needed. They sacrificed and took their time and made a carefully scripted plan. Many others, like me, jumped in and modified as needed.

Neither is better than the other, in my humble opinion, as long as you’re actively working, moving, to accomplish your goals. If your first goal is to increase your monthly income by $500 a month, what do you need to do? Make $16.70 more every day. If you only can devote weekends to your fledgling business, make $62.50 every Saturday and $62.50 every Sunday. Put anything extra you make into your business account. Actually start a business account.

Too simplistic? Maybe, but it works. Whenever I want to make more money, I look at that dollar amount and work from the starting point of “How many more haircuts do I need to do per day to get that?” It has always worked for me. How do I find those clients? The old-fashioned way – I ask my current clients to send them to me. I’ve done many other things: coupons, advertising, specials, etc. Nothing has worked as well as simply asking my current customers to help me. They have never failed to send me new people. An added bonus? I already know that those new clients will be likable and like-minded. After all, people I already like are evaluating them for me.

Maybe you own a store and want new customers. You want to sell one more tote bag each day to make $500 more a month. There are a lot of ways to get your current customers talking about you. I’ve watched my friends give away some pretty great freebies, knowing that their biggest fans will post to social media about it.

My friend Millie Hilgert is the perfect example of an entrepreneur that started out simple and grew her business from word-of-mouth. She started out selling her own handmade goods at the local downtown market; started expanding to art shows, specialty conventions, and Etsy; moved on to open a small store that included other local work in her art studio; and now has a bigger store in an up-and-coming area just off downtown Boise where she sells all of the above plus more. Her dressing room is the TARDIS – imagine how many people talk about that. She has been written up so much in local press that she’s considered “Boise famous.”

And here’s the thing: She isn’t afraid to ask people to talk about her. She gives them fun freebies. She invites them to use her space for creative meet-ups. She encourages them to tag her on social media. She gives them reasons to chat her and her store up. And they do.

Don’t be afraid to ask people to spread the word. Give them reasons to do so. Give away a few tote bags. Make them so great people will be stopping your customers on the sidewalk to ask where they found them. You’ll be making that extra $500 a month in no time. Then you can plan how to make another $500 a month for your bigger storefront.

Get your product out there and moving. Give your clients a reason to come back. Ask them to bring friends. Figure out how much you want to make and then make a plan. Chunk it down into daily goals. Work.

Move.

 

 

 

luck

Do you believe in luck? My belief in it comes and goes. I’m more into doing the work. It does seem, though, that some people are born a little luckier than others. For example, not all of us are able to get a small loan of a million dollars from our dad (don’t worry; this isn’t a political post).

Arnold Palmer said it best, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” You have to do the work.

People from both sides of the aisle like to take digs at Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump. They were, after all, born into wealth and basically handed dream careers in adulthood. The thing is, I’m not one who is going to say that they aren’t putting in the work needed to maintain and grow those careers. I’m a mom; I know what I’ll let my kids get away with. Being lazy and ruining my business isn’t high on that list. I’d fire them in a half-second, if they jacked-up something I’ve worked so hard to build.

My biggest goal for 2017? Work so hard that people think it’s my luckiest year yet. I have some business goals to achieve. I promised Maire a stack of rejection letters for my writing (proof I’m putting in the work), and they have to show up on her desk by my birthday in April, so I have less than 100 days. I’m president of a fledging business association that needs to fly, and I’m vice-president of a theater board that has pretty lofty goals for next season. All that and Pooka turns 12. There’s plenty of work waiting for me.

So crack open that fortune cookie – it’s our lucky year.

work with what you have

It’s no secret that I didn’t grow up with much money. I still don’t make a ton, which is my own fault, because all the decisions I’ve made over the last few decades have brought me to this point in time. And the choices my parents made formed my foundation, just as I’ve created Rhiannon’s.

All we can do is work with what we inherit and constantly work toward a better tomorrow, right?

I live a life that allows me to be right where I am at this moment – sitting on a red leather sofa next to a snoring dog while my daughter takes singing lessons. I even drove through a snowstorm to get her here. It’s what I do, making sure she knows how important she is. She knows I love her, and she knows what my expectations are. And I know she loves me and what her expectations are.

Yes; kids have expectations, too.

I’m still working out how to turn this life into one that makes a decent amount of money, so I can help her meet her own expectations. There are many options, and I’ve never been afraid to take risks, so I know it’ll happen. When you start out with very little, you’re less afraid. You know you’ll be okay, even if you have to drive $400 cars and eat a lot of beans (been there!).

In the meantime, I’m grateful that I own a business that allows me the time to be an actively involved mom, to volunteer, to work in the arts, to join committees that make a better community, to be the person others can call when they need help. To be free.

I’ve been able to braid all the many pieces into a beautiful life. I’m lucky.

As you think about 2016 and wonder what’s ahead, focus on how you can take this moment, this second, and expand it. Whether you’re the CEO or a new-hire, what can you do with what you already have so that you can sit at the end of 2017 and know you made the best of it?

busy

Time to make time for, well, everything. It’s been an amazing magical few weeks renovating the BENCH salon & gifts to accommodate The Husband Guy’s business (The Beard Mechanic) and get the kids eased back into school, BUT now I need to create a new schedule for myself. Seriously.

I’m on the board of Alley Repertory Theater. Our season is just starting. Oh, and we’re suing the State of Idaho. No big deal. Just artistic freedom. So there’s that.

And guess who’s the president of the newly formed Vista Bench Business Association? So there’s that…

Time to sit with a time management specialist.

2016: a fresh start

live your best life

I have always loved New Year’s Day. I like the idea of starting fresh, and a new calendar year has that clean slate feel to it. Does that mean I think that I can just forget 2015? Yeah, right. A lot happened, and a lot of it wasn’t so great. Still, if I’m looking back and reflecting, I did okay, you know? I cried a lot. I still miss my cat Cleo. I gained some weight and found out I am not as healthy as I thought.

But I survived and grew stronger. Cliche? Sure, but there is a reason for cliches; they’re commonplace.

And my year was not that uncommon. All people go through crappy times. They say good-bye to toxic people, even when they love them. They agonize over their pets’ health and death. They get sick. They struggle.

I like the way I handled things. Maybe it wasn’t as graceful as it could have been, but 2015 wasn’t terrible. There were some events that landed on my Top 10 Worst Days Ever, but the year was good. I started a new business that is closer to my original vision and gives local creators a venue. I got even closer to people that mean a lot to me. I made a lot of art. I fell in love with another cat. I did my Mom-thing. I started investigating the mystery that is my own body.

My goal for 2016 is to continue living the best life I can. Some days that will be reacting in the best way to outside forces, which isn’t my favorite. Most days, however, that will mean laughing a lot, digging down deep to figure out my “stuff” both mental and physical, and being the best version of GiGi possible. I’ll eat better, do some yoga, walk more, write more, CREATE MORE, and keep loving my people. I even plan on making/saving more money, something I never really make a priority. This year it will have to be.

It’s going to be great.