Starcat’s Favorites: Books and Bookstores

Happy Independent Bookstore Day! Yes, that’s really a thing. Today’s a wonderful day to visit your favorite local bookstore.

I thought I’d kick off the festivities by sharing photos of my “to be read” and “currently reading” piles. The shorter pile is what I’m currently reading (or re-reading, in the case of Women Who Run with the Wolves). The ones I have underway on the Kindle are Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield-Thomas and Who the F*** Am I To Be A Coach? by Megan Jo Wilson.

What are you reading currently? Or looking forward to reading soon?

Here are some links for your weekend perusal, including some about…wait for it… books and bookstores!

The best bookstores in all 50 states (road trip goal, anyone?).

Some famous bookworms share their book collections.

The current popularity of D&D and other role-playing games. Love it!

For those, like me, who quake in their boots about a trip to the dreaded dentist.

A thought-provoking article on ways to use your time more effectively.

I hope your day is full of fun and plenty of good books.

Why YOUR Story Matters

To doubt oneself is a common experience in our modern culture. So many of us have a story to tell or a tale to craft, yet wonder whether or not our experience is unique or profound enough to share. We don’t fully trust our imagination, or the impulses that urge us to create.

If you find yourself thinking, “Who am I to write a book?” – pause and consider this.

You are a woman with a unique experience in the world. What you bring to the table – your skills, your wisdom, your service to the community – is the culmination of all the things you’ve learned and experienced throughout your lifetime.

Women’s stories, for centuries, have been left untold. Your wisdom has been silenced. The ways of women have been suppressed or discouraged.

Sharing your story will inspire others on their journey, and help you understand yourself and your unique vision more deeply. Writing your book will allow you to integrate your wisdom so you’re ready to learn and grow more. It will shine the light on all the ways you lead and inspire.

Writing is a tool for transformation. Tap into your creative wellspring, and write the book you can’t wait to share with the world!

Looking for support as you dive into telling your story? Join us.

Courting the Muses: 7 Ways to Get Inspired

I sat down to write this post about courting the muses, yet the background sounds in the room were distracting me. So I pulled up my Writing Inspiration playlist on YouTube.

That reminded me of a song I wanted to add. One of my yoga teachers has been playing it in class lately, and I love it. I added the song, and then looked through the whole playlist, which is a work in progress.

I had some inspirations for other songs to add, which then led me down a lovely trail of music, mostly geared toward the novel I’m working on.

That’s how the creative life goes, some days.

Courting the muses means following the trail of inspiration, even when it doesn’t go where you thought it would.

The Muses, in ancient Greek mythology, were demi-goddesses whose inspiration spoke directly to poets and artists. In my work, I use the term “the Muses” to describe two things: 1. The inner wisdom that whispers to you about inspired actions and 2. anything (or anyone) that inspires you.

Your pets or your partner could be your muses. The unexpected ideas you get at 2 a.m. are from your muses. Nature is an excellent muse, as are books and art museums and songs and conversations with strangers.

Our inner muses often communicate with us through synchronicity, which is a term coined by Carl Jung to refer to those meaningful coincidences that pop up in our lives. You know the ones. Like when a friend mentions a musician you’ve never heard of, and then their music comes up on the radio, and a day later, you encounter them again in yet another context.

The muses are actually always speaking to our creative souls, in one way or another. If we refuse to listen or to heed their call to create, though, they may wander off for a time. They like to go where they’re needed and valued.

That’s why, especially when you’re beginning a new creative project or phase of life, it’s helpful to court them.

How do you best court the muses? Here are some ideas:

  • Take time to get quiet. You can’t hear the whispers of your muses if your inner and outer surroundings are always filled with noise. Unplug for a bit. Take a walk outside with your notebook or sketch pad. Listen.
  • Create without focusing on the outcome. Instead of worrying about how your creation will come out, deep dive into the process. Revel in the feeling of crafting something inspired.
  • Try something new. Beginner’s mind can help you get beyond any blockages. Engage your Younger Self by taking a fun workshop, buying some new art supplies, or experimenting.
  • Listen to the wisdom of your dreams. Whether in nighttime dreams or daydreams, our inner muses offer us clues and symbols leading to greater creativity. Pay attention to these signposts. Allow the whimsical nature of these hypnagogic states to guide your creativity. Create something based on a dream image or story.
  • Set up a sacred container. The muses are more likely to visit you if you have regular time set aside for them. Make the time and space in your life to create. Think of it as a weekly date with your muses.
  • Collaborate with uplifting people. Who are the people in your life who are prolific and joyful creators? Seek them out and spend time together. Collaborate. Trade ideas and share communities. If you don’t have any of these people around you, go out and meet some!
  • If your creativity feels stalled, be playful. Remember, play is productive. Don’t take yourself and your creative work so seriously. Have fun with it!

Try some of these ideas and see what happens. For more tips, particularly if you’re being called to write a book, join my newsletter list. As a thank-you gift, I’ll send you my What’s Stopping You? quiz.

Starcat’s Favorites: My Community

I’ve had kind of a struggly winter, blah blah blah. Who hasn’t? I hope you haven’t, actually.

But the cool thing is that I have such a vibrant and supportive community. I’m so thankful. I’ve surrounded myself with some extremely excellent folks. This wasn’t always the case.

I’ve been blessed with an amazing and close extended family. But over the past several years, I’ve consciously nurtured (and expanded) my tribe of friends, biz sisters, and acquaintances, and they are amazing. I’m so very thankful.

Here are some fun reads for your weekend:

I love Leonie Dawson. Here’s her list of The 12 Most Life-Changing Spiritual Books for Women – I got to add a few to my to-read list. She also wrote this excellent article about Why Successful Women Entrepreneurs Choose to Write Books.

As an empty-nester myself, this essay got me right in the feels.

Do you like quizzes and surveys? This site is quite captivating. I came across it thanks to an interesting Maine Calling program on the psychology of political polarization.

Longtime readers will know that I’ve been polyamorous for many years now. This video explains poly fairly realistically (though I’ve never attended an orgy or swingers’ event, myself). I totally agree that polyamory is not for everyone.

Decluttering and writing. Love it.

Also for the writers: A thoughtful essay on why writing is different with the advent of screens and the Internet. Also, why keeping a novel notebook is useful (I haven’t done this yet, but it’s a wonderfully intriguing idea).

Have a lovely weekend!


Opening Pandora’s Treasure Box

Pandora’s Box by Michael Hensmann, shared via Creative Commons.

It feels like writing about the Law of Attraction means opening up Pandora’s mythical box. On the one hand, there’s so much treasure in there, and it has helped me to vastly expand and improve my life. On the other hand, there are many misconceptions about the philosophy and its validity.

So of course BlackLion and I decided to write a book about it!

The book actually focuses on the work and teaching we’ve been doing that integrates the concepts of the Law of Attraction (LOA) with some of the practices of Earth-based spirituality. We’ll also address the prejudices and misunderstandings about what the LOA is and how to use it, ethically and practically.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a bit about using the LOA in your creative life.

The posts I’ve shared here over the past two months have focused on ways to move your creative work to a place of priority in your life, with ease and joy. I’m encouraging you to become a Thriving Artist (if it’s something that calls to you)

The power of the LOA lies in its focus on what you do want for yourself, your life, and the world. In mainstream society, we’re taught to focus mainly on what’s not working. In my experience, it’s much more productive to focus on what I do love about my experiences.

This takes some training. It takes practice to rewire your brain after years of habitual thinking. Don’t lose hope, though – it can be done!

In practice, the process of rewiring means using tools like gratitude lists, vision boards, meditation, and exquisite self-care. It means cultivating an awareness of when you shift into old patterns, and gently redirecting yourself. It means doing the heavy lifting of self-improvement and growth.

The over-simplified version of the Law of Attraction says that if you “just” think good thoughts, all your dreams will come true. That’s only part of the picture. First, thinking good thoughts is way easier said than done. Also, those thoughts need to be backed up with inspired actions.

In order to use the LOA in your creative life, I recommend you begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • How do I most love to express my creativity?
  • What were my favorite activities as a young child?
  • If I had a whole day to myself, with no responsibilities, what would I do with it?
  • What are my creative gifts and talents?
  • What new creative art would I most like to learn or try?
  • What do I enjoy most about my current (or past) creative work?
  • Who are my favorite creative role models? (artists, actors, authors, speakers, teachers, etc.)

Now take the answers to these questions and pick just one idea to focus on. Make a list of baby steps to get you there. Go do them.

For example, if you’ve always wanted to learn to play the violin, your list of baby steps might be: 1. Do a Google search on violin teachers in my area. 2. Ask Aunt Karen to borrow her violin. 3. Look up beginner tutorials on YouTube.

If you came up with a fun and inspiring list of creative things you’d love to do if you had the whole day to yourself, your list might be: 1. Schedule a day off from work within the next two weeks. 2. Get a babysitter/pet-sitter for that day. 3. Get art supplies from the local craft store.

You get the idea. By turning your gaze to what you love about your creativity, rather than your doubts or the lack of time or resources or whatever, you’re putting things in motion. 

Setting intentions and taking small, bite-sized actions gets you on the path. Next time, we’ll expand the map a bit more by enlisting the help of your Deep Self and your muses.

I’d love to hear about your action items, and your work with the LOA. Leave a comment below!

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It…

In order to truly thrive as an artist, your quest is to playfully engage your Younger Self on a regular basis. But how do you accomplish that in the course of your very full daily life?

This is something I’ve been exploring in my personal and professional life for more than two decades. Over the course of that time, I’ve made some discoveries that helped me – and my readers and clients – to make play (and thus, deeper access to creativity) a priority.

Here are the basic building blocks to becoming a Thriving Artist – no matter what your day job happens to be:

Create the container. It might sound boring, scary, or restrictive, but the best way to thrive and play is to schedule time for it into your days. You’re not getting your play time now, so what have you got to lose? Schedule time in the upcoming week. Put it in your calendar, set reminders on your phone – do whatever you need to do to prioritize it. Treat it like you would a medical appointment or a promise to help a friend move. That’s the solid container – and the cool thing is, you get to let the contents be whatever they will. This is time for YOU – to play, to create, to think, or even to take a nap, if that’s what you need most.

Set the scene. As we talked about last time, Younger Self adores beauty and pleasing the senses. Choose a place where you’ll work your creative magick. You don’t have to have a room of your own in order to begin. It might be your favorite comfy chair, a spot at the kitchen table, or a meditation cushion on the floor. Now beautify your space, thinking of Younger Self. Add a candle, some crystals or beach rocks, a vase of pussy willows. Pick out some music you’ll listen to during your sacred time. Prepare the materials you’ll want for your creative time, from journal and pen to canvas and paints to woodcarving tools to Lego blocks.

Make it fun. Forced creativity quickly becomes boring and stilted. When you’re in your sacred container, do things that you want to do, in that moment. You might have decided to write a poem, but Younger Self would rather hula-hoop. Follow her lead. The idea is to let your creativity flow, and to be playful with it. Don’t let Talking Self dictate the terms of your creative time. Allow all parts of yourself to come into alignment and collaborate.

Be consistent. A solid container for your creative practice means being consistent. Schedule time each week, and honor that commitment. Jump back in when you wander off – which you will. We creative types are merry souls who often get distracted. There’s no need to berate yourself about it. When you notice you’ve stopped doing your creative practice, begin again.

Be kind to yourself. Playfulness and judgment don’t mix well. If you hear Talking Self say, “I’m not playing the right way, or fully enough. My creative time is being wasted,” gently redirect yourself. Ask Younger Self what she’d most love to play today, and do that. Be forgiving. You’re re-learning a skill that you might not have accessed since childhood. Go easy.

Trust the process. You might begin this work of play because you want to be a Thriving Artist, you’ve always wanted to write a book, or you’re longing for more fun in your daily grind. Over time, your intention will expand. Your creative practice will ripple outward into your life in unexpected ways. You could start out wanting to paint your masterpiece and wind up creating a series of graphic novels. You might play for a year and have no tangible creation to show others. That doesn’t matter. Creativity is a portal to deep connection with your Source. You never know where this quest will take you. Have faith that your Deep Self knows the way.

Grow and evolve. Your creativity will shift and change over time. That’s completely normal. This means that your container, your arts, and your attitudes will also change. Allow it. As long as you’re taking regular time to play and get aligned, you’re doing it right. Open your heart and mind to your unique journey as a Thriving Artist.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to begin today. Start with some baby steps – put a half-hour of creative time in your calendar, purchase or re-purpose a candle to burn each time you create, write an intention (perhaps in the form of a haiku!) for your creative work – you get the idea.

Start small enough that you won’t be able to talk yourself out of it. When you begin, you’re shifting your energy toward your ultimate success. That type of inspired action will be supported by the Universe.

Next time, we’ll talk about how to best access that support to propel yourself toward your deepest desires and life’s purpose. (You know, nothing big, just some small talk between friends. Heh heh.)

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your baby steps and your results. Comment below or sign up for my mailing list so we can keep in touch!

Play Is Productive – Younger Self and Creativity

The author’s Younger Self, age 2.

There’s a concept that I often share with my one-on-one book midwife clients and during various workshops. It comes from one of my favorite authors of all time, Starhawk. She’s a Pagan activist, writer, and leader of the Reclaiming tradition. I’ve read nearly all of her books, and recommend them highly.

In her classic work The Spiral Dance, Starhawk writes about the Triple Self that we each have within our psyche. It’s reminiscent of the id, ego, and superego of psychology, but not quite the same.

Talking Self is a bit like the ego. It’s the left-brain, waking consciousness part of the mind. Talking Self likes to make lists, plan things out, and sound knowledgeable. Buddhists refer to this as the “monkey mind,” the part that keeps on chattering, even when we’re trying to sleep or meditate.

Younger Self is the inner child. It is right-brained, wild, and imaginative. You might picture it as yourself before the age of 7 or so, if that feels right. A client who had a traumatic childhood prefers to call it the Junger Self, after Carl Jung and his notions of the collective unconscious, which also fits. Younger self loves bright colors, sensory input, stories, and playing.

Deep Self is our connection to the non-physical. It is the seat of the soul, centered in the heart. Deep Self is wise and intuitive, and its quiet whispers often go unheard. This is where the deep wellspring of creativity and magick within each of us resides. If you’ve ever had a creative experience where everything else dropped away and you were completely immersed in the flow state, you were aligned with Deep Self.

Here’s the really interesting part, the key to what I teach my clients: Talking Self and Deep Self can’t communicate directly. They need Younger Self as a go-between, a translator of sorts.

In order to fully access the wisdom and creative powers of Deep Self, of your soul, you must align all three aspects of the Triple Self.

The best way to do this is to connect with Younger Self – and what Younger Self loves more than anything is to play.

We don’t usually think of play as productive, but in terms of creative projects it’s essential. Actually, it goes beyond just our writing, art, or designs. Play powers creativity, and creativity touches on pretty much all aspects of life.

“Play is, in fact, one of the most practical methods of survival, both individually and for the species. Within its framework lie the secrets of creativity, and within the secrets of creativity lie the secrets of being.” – Seth through Jane Roberts

In order for our creations (and indeed, our lives) to have the impact we’d like, it’s best to involve Younger Self from the start.

How do you do that? Younger Self adores beauty and the input of the senses. It loves things like candles, incense, bright and fragrant bouquets of flowers, rich chocolate, sharp citrus, gorgeous spots in nature, sparkly crystals, and evocative music. When I listed these things in a workshop, one of my clients responded, “So, basically you’re talking about romancing ourselves?” Yes.

Romancing the Younger Self allows you to align fully with all parts of the Triple Self, before you sit down to create. It gives you access to the full creative power that is your Deep Self, which is connected with the entire cosmos. It grants you access to the Mysteries, if only for a short time.

In order to truly thrive as an artist, your quest is to playfully engage your Younger Self on a regular basis. Next time, I’ll share some ways to accomplish that in the course of daily life.

In the meantime, if you feel like you need to brush up on being playful, here are some easy tips. Enjoy!

Why You Deserve More Ease In Your Life

Have you been brainwashed to struggle through life? How to tell: you begin your day tired and feeling like you’re already behind, you complain more often than you express your gratitude, you finish the day lamenting all the tasks that didn’t get done, and you wouldn’t describe your life as “fun” or “fulfilling.”

You might say you’re just trying to survive.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Modern Western culture is steeped in a “what’s wrong?” mentality.
Nearly from birth, we’re urged to accomplish more, get things done, work hard and play hard, just do it, never give up, endure pain to receive gain, and a whole bunch of other malarkey. Our main focus is on the problems or things that aren’t working well.

This way of living is making us stressed and sick. It holds us back from all the things that we really want to do in life.

What if I told you that you could have a life full of ease, right here, right now?

Some common responses:

  • Yeah, when I win the lottery, maybe.
  • I just don’t have time for that!
  • Sounds nice and all, but it ain’t me, babe.
  • Get real.
  • “Life is pain, Highness.” (William Goldman)

These are beliefs that we’ve held for most of our lives. They are the lens through which you view life and how to experience it. But that doesn’t mean that they’re right for you, or helpful in any way.

I’ve been exploring this theme of ease for a while now. What have I discovered?

I’m not only happier, but more productive and successful, when I’m focused on ease.

Yes, you read that correctly.

It’s true for my writing, my career, my relationships, and all aspects of life.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard, or even play hard sometimes. It’s all in the attitude. Instead of that stressful, go-go-go mentality, I’ve embraced going with the flow.

Let’s use writing as an illustration of what I mean. Say you have some writing to do – whether it’s a blog post, an important email, or a book draft. You sit down to write. When you approach it as another task to quickly check off the to-do list, or you’re pressured by a deadline, you might freeze up. Or maybe the writing is choppy and not flowing. You keep going back over the same sentence, trying to polish it. It’s taking forever! Perhaps you persevere, and the article is actually pretty good – but you hated the entire process and couldn’t wait to be done.

Now imagine sitting down to write from a place of excitement. You’ve been thinking about what you’re going to say, maybe while you sipped your morning coffee or prepared breakfast. Over the past few days, you jotted down some ideas and phrases in a journal that you’d like to include. You put on your writing playlist, light a candle, and sit down at your laptop. You take a deep breath and let the words flow onto the page, without censoring yourself. After you take a break to walk the dog or put the kettle on, you go back to what you’ve written and begin to shape the draft into a final product. You feel accomplished and inspired.

In the second scenario – at least in my experience – you took less time to finish your writing. You felt great throughout the process. The energy you brought to your writing comes across in the final version.

It’s about the energy, the attitude, the way you approach each task. Imagine bringing this ease to all the other things you do in your daily life: grocery shopping, driving to work or school, paying bills, having a conversation, or participating in a meeting.

Ease isn’t about not having to do anything. It’s not about wealth. It doesn’t mean you’re being lazy. It’s not even about denying your pain or your problems.

Approaching each moment with ease means realizing that this life is a gift. You get to do these things. You can focus on what’s delightful. You get to choose how your life unfolds, to some extent – but even more importantly, you get to choose, in each moment, how you respond.

You didn’t come here to this life to struggle. Yes, you are here to learn lessons and to grow – but who said learning couldn’t be fun and easy? (Oh yeah – the outdated industrialized school system that teaches that one-size-fits-all. Screw that.)

You deserve to live a life of ease, just by virtue of your existence. In fact, it will make you a more productive member of society. You’ll be healthier, and more able to give of yourself. There’s actually no rule stating that struggling is virtuous – or not one that you’re obliged to buy into. Just because people in the past did it that way doesn’t mean you have to follow in their unhappy footsteps. Truly.

Paradoxically, living with more ease allows you to get more done, and to feel so much better along the way. You’re more likely to pursue your most cherished dreams, and to take the time to do things that you truly love and enjoy. You’ll prioritize time with loved ones over rushing around doing meaningless things.

Try it. What have you got to lose? A bunch of stress, guilt, and just-getting-by? How’s that working out for you?

How to Be a Thriving Artist

Earlier we took a look at our culture’s myth of the struggling artist. It’s caused many of us to put our creative aspirations on the back burner, or even in the back of the freezer.

Yep, I’m talking to you. Is there a creative pursuit – or maybe even two or three – that calls to your soul? Have you set your art aside?

There are many reasons you might offer for putting your creative dreams on hold: you don’t have time, your day job takes all of your energy, you don’t have the resources, you’re too busy raising a family, you doubt that you have enough talent or skill. The list goes on and on.

What if I told you that you can be creative, even in the midst of a busy life, and that your expanded creativity will enhance all aspects of your experience? It’s true, for me and many others.

Expressing your creativity will help you be happier, more centered, and more fulfilled. It also allows you to share your unique wisdom and stories with those seeking inspiration. You’ll be a role model for others who have repressed their creative side.

Plus, you can be a creative person without struggling endlessly or starving.

Here are some ways to become a Thriving Artist.

A note before we start: in this post I often refer to art and artists, and I want to make it clear that I intend these terms very inclusively. Your art might be writing, music, dancing, or painting, but it could also be knitting, carpentry, raising kids, writing computer programs, cooking, or any number of ways you express your innate creativity. No snobbery here. We are all creative.

Do it your way. Nothing damages your creativity more than trying to fit it into a box that someone else made. I’ve heard many, many stories about how someone’s natural affinity for art was quashed by a teacher, a casual critic, or even a fellow artist. There’s no “wrong” way to be creative. Let me say that again: there’s no “wrong” way to express your creativity.

Manage your expectations. So many people I talk to about writing a book are worried about the end of the process: What will readers think of my book? How will I have it published? What if it’s rejected? These are all useful questions, to some extent – but not at the very beginning of the process.

How can you thrive as an artist when there’s this much pressure on your creations? We recognize the absurdity of worrying about where your newborn child will go to college when she hasn’t even begun to hold her own head up. Why do we think it’s natural to treat our new creations that way? When you act as if your creativity is all about the end product, you’re putting a lot of pressure on the process. Relax.

Change your underlying beliefs. Most of us absorbed the beliefs of our culture, the ones that tell us that being a successful artist is extremely rare. Because of those beliefs, we often don’t feel that our art is good enough. We don’t think we deserve to reach our dreams or to enjoy creating. The good thing about this is that beliefs can be updated. By opening yourself to the idea of being a Thriving Artist, you’re already starting to shift them. When you feel fear or doubt about your abilities, acknowledge these feelings, and then create anyway.

Just begin. The best way to be a Thriving Artist is to create. Do something creative that feels fun. Don’t get caught up in doing it right, or what the end product will look like, or what other people might think. Put your focus on the process. Simply create, or practice, or whatever feels right to you in the moment.

When it stops being fun, you’ve had enough for now. Do it again in a couple of days.

Making the shift from struggling (or secret) artist to Thriving Artist doesn’t have to be hard. Don’t make it a Big Deal. Just get started, and see what unfolds.

Remember, creativity can be easy and fun.

Next time, we’ll talk about why we’re so addicted to struggle, and the value of embracing ease in our creative work – and life in general.

Starcat’s Favorites: Kitty Snuggles

As you probably know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, late winter is NOT my favorite. I keep getting emails and seeing memes on social media with messages like “it’s almost spring!” I delete them immediately, as in Maine…it’s not even close.

Our monthly family potluck was supposed to be this Sunday, with a tropical theme to get us through the tail end of winter. Um, yeah. We had to postpone it because we’ll be having sleet, slush, freezing rain, and other forms of precipitation that no one wants to drive in. Old Man Winter is laughing at us, I’m sure. (I’m trying not to even think about a year ago today, when Quester called me from an icy trail, lying on the ground with his ankle broken).

But this post is supposed to be about things that ARE my favorites. So, among the things that help me through the its-still-winter-but-its-already-spring-elsewhere months: kitty snuggles, fuzzy PJ pants, soft blankets, lots of good books, chai tea with almond milk and honey, and (as always) cool stuff I find on the web and want to share with you.

Here goes:

Have a challenging time being still for meditation? Try mala beads.

I don’t have teen kids anymore (I KNOW – my baby turned 20 last month!), but I loved this interview.

Speaking of kids growing up – are you feeling kinda peri-menopausal, ladies? Take this hilarious quiz.

The original “work smarter, not harder” guru: Thoreau.

I feel so lucky and blessed to know my soul’s callings. If you’re not quite sure about yours, this article can help. (Maybe it’s writing! Is it writing? Read this).

Looking for some good news for a change? I got this awesome link from astrologer Rob Brezsny.

Have an awesome weekend – and if you live near me, stay dry and cozy!