Birth From Wrath to Realization, #365StrongStories 33

The day before you were born, #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy It had started at one in the morning. By midday, I was frustrated and angry and already tired. And then Husband looked into my eyes and said “this can’t be like the last time.”

Cue the rage of every birthing mammal in the history of the earth.

Yes, dear, let me make sure I keep the groaning, writhing, and screaming to a minimum. Yes, dear, this time I will clean up after myself as soon as that cord gets cut. Yes, dear, I’ll have her tucked into her own little bed in time for kickoff.

I hissed. I spat. I thundered off as only a woman in the midst of a very slow, so far uneventful labor could be.

It was Super Bowl Sunday, you see. To say that my husband is big fan is to say that natural childbirth is hard - understatements of the century. So, when I heard him tell me that he didn’t want this time to be like the last 28-hour ordeal, I was certain that he was more concerned with the big game than he was with my big belly.

How is it that the human race creates the relationships that make beautiful babies when we can't communicate in such crucial moments?

Time collapses on itself when all you want to do is meet the creature who has been sitting on your bladder for months. I’m not sure how long it took for me to accuse him “you care more about a bunch of stupid linebackers than me and our baby!”

But I still remember the pained disbelief in his eyes when he said “What are you talking about, babe? I don’t give a damn about the game. I know how tired we are and I don’t want us to have to do this at five A.M. again.”

In that moment I realized that pregnancy may be a long, lonely journey, but birth isn’t. Not when you ask the person you love to watch helplessly while you storm about in the boredom of early labor, struggle in the wilderness of transition, and turn yourself inside out in the final push. Not when you ask him to hold you up so the midwives can do their work of catching the person you created together.

Not when you expect him to hold the little one’s other hand while you hold the other and, together, you promise to teach this child to navigate the world.

Like Mother, Like Daughter, #365StrongStories 29

Like mother, like daughter. Please. Help. Thank you. #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy “What are you going to give me if I write it?” The rage of million distracted mothers wells up and I snarl, “What am I going to give you? You are writing a thank you note because you were already given something!”

I leave her to her folded bits of computer paper and the array of pencils she’ll use to painstakingly craft every letter in a different color. The mom I want to be admires her creativity and attention to detail. Generally, the mom I admit to be sees this artistic devotion as a stalling tactic.

We’re five weeks past Christmas and after rehearsing this scene a few times, all of the thank you notes are in the mailbox. Though I have lost track, I am reasonably certain that sending this round of cards will cancel the debt we have running from October. It seemed tacky to say “thanks for the 6th birthday gifts too!”, but I am hoping this transmission of gratitude covers all presents received in the last quarter of 2015.

But it’s family. They understand that manners (and a clean house and a recipe that includes all the essential ingredients) are something that Marisa strives for, but can’t always deliver on. My standard excuse would be “but I’m good at other things!” Heck, in 2016 I’ll be able to say “sorry I didn’t mail a note, but I celebrated your generosity in a story!”

But back to that flash of anger at what was actually an innocent question.

We have a child who believes “help” is a four letter word. She buries her nose in books and drawings and growls at anyone who dares interrupt her to request she lend a hand. I’ve explained to my husband that this is just history repeating itself, but that doesn’t make her behavior any less frustrating.  

So we bought her a piggy bank and promised to arrange some sort of incentive plan for helping around the house. After all, we want her to develop a positive relationship with money, it seems important that she connect value with her efforts.

But clearly something hasn’t been communicated. As usual, I was busy being good at other things… like writing a story about how I felt about the whole affair.

The Love Story that Came With the Frame, #365StrongStories 8

“I have a surprise for you! See you at the pub at 9.”

My college roommate left me a voicemail before I arrived in New York City. It had been a few years since we’d seen each other. I’d been busy falling in love and had just gotten married. She’d been fully occupied with the wrong guy.

But when she walked in, I realized her whole story had changed.

A tall blond man - because that’s what he was, now - swept in and swirled me around. It had been ten years, but I knew my dear friend’s first love as soon as I heard his great, sweet laugh.

We caught up. We drank Guinness. I didn't know what it meant to see them together again, so I asked the question that I thought might reveal it all. “So, did you ever take the picture out of the frame?”The Love Story that Came With the Frame ##365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy

My youngest and I spending the afternoon with two little wheat-haired boys. During a brief moment of peace, I look at the collage with the wedding vows and the invitation for that 2009 ceremony. On the table beneath is a photograph taken in our freshman dorm.

I don’t have to take the picture out of the frame to know what’s written on the piece of paper tucked inside: “Remember, I will always love you.”

She had written the note in a moment of melancholy that 18 year-olds do so well. “Now, when he dumps me and starts going out with some other girl, he’ll feel totally guilty.”

Because there’s truth in the myth of true love and destiny, he never, ever took the picture out of the frame.

Can you be vulnerable and write “I don’t know” on your business blog?

Sovereign Standard, Issue 34MG_Header_w_biline_hires The writer looks like she is sitting at a keyboard or scribbling furiously in a journal. She seems to be occupying the same space and time as everyone else in the room, but, in reality, she’s exploring territory that she can explain, but never let you view directly.

Whether it’s fiction or theory or even marketing copy that comes from the heart, she’s deep in her own inner landscape. This marvelous space is only limited by the scope of her own imagination and knowledge.

This private world is not infinite. Instead, it’s an eternally elastic territory. The borders are pushed outward by everything she learns and by every experience that invites her to grow.

And yet, there are limits. The writer will reach her edge. Then what?

The Blogger’s Dilemma: The Question Without an Easy Answer

When I worked on the first draft of this week’s blog post, I found myself writing into a question without an answer.

Can you write into your "I don't know"?It was something so close to my “expertise” that I was shocked when I hit a big “I don’t know…”

Often the best questions don’t have ready answers - that vast unknown is the seed of a book, a career, or a life's passion. By the same token, the best blog posts don't necessarily follow the "proven" formulas.

But, in my case, it felt like I should have an answer (and I don’t even let myself use the word should). After all, I was writing about storytelling and this was “just” a blog post… Finding myself at the edge of my frontier of knowledge was as unexpected as it was unsettling.

Sitting quietly in front of a Word doc, I felt uncertain and exposed.

I felt horribly vulnerable - even though no one ever needed to know that there was something really important about storytelling I couldn’t write about with ease.

And then, the magic of the writing practice kicked in: describing the view from my own intellectual edge became more important than the expertise I thought my readers would need.

This is the Vulnerability Business, right?

Last week’s post was about being in the vulnerability business. If you seek to transform lives and make this world more beautiful, bearable, or bold, you have a stall in the marketplace of vulnerability.

You hold space for your clients’ shame and uncertainties. And you strive to recognize vulnerability when you see it - starting with your own.

The writing process gives you a perfect window into your own vulnerabilities. After all, it’s about showing people how you organized ideas and  crafted them to be understood by others. It's about being seen.

Something that wasn’t in the last post - writing can also expose what you might perceive as your “weaknesses.”

Remember, before Brené Brown taught us that “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity,” most of us just equated vulnerability with weakness.

The gift of “I don’t know”

That unexpected “I don’t know” dropped me into the “fraud, fraud, fraud” pit. I’m sure I needn’t tell you that no decent writing has ever been produced in that despairing hell hole.

Let’s take a moment here to celebrate one of the many gifts of the writing practice: you can write your way through despair all the way to retrospect - sometimes in the same writing session!

Now, I can see “I don’t know” as a tremendous gift.

It’s an invitation to see things in a new way. It’s an opportunity to forgive myself for being a mere mortal who is still learning every day. It’s a chance to hit pause and do some really delicious research - and perhaps even read those books on writing that I love to buy but never have time to read (because it would eat into writing time, of course).

I don't know is a gift - as long as you give yourself time to receive itBut what if you don’t have time receive the “I don’t know” gift?

New perspective, self-acceptance, mindful pauses. Lots of people tell you how wonderful they are.

Truth is, it is hard to see all the opportunities in “I don’t know” when you simply don’t have the time to wander and wonder and expand the bounds of the known world.

There is only so much writing time per week. This time is not meant to be lavished on research or stumbling into terra incognita. It’s not meant to be spent on Facebook either, but that's another story.  

So, what happens when you write yourself into an "I don't know" shaped corner but you just need to hit publish?

4 Ways a Writer Can Respond to an Unexpected “I Don’t Know”

Research. The universe just may be telling you that it IS ok to skip this week’s post and put your writing time into developing your own answer to that big, scary question.

(Admittedly, this week I told the universe I would get back to it about expanding my mind after I found a way to write something worth publishing, baked cupcakes for my 6 year-old’s birthday, and finished the outline for my new membership group. This may be an instance of “do as the writing coach says, not as she does.”)

Release. “Release” may be about skipping or delaying a post (see above). Losing sleep or publishing something that isn’t ready just because it’s supposed to be on the editorial calendar is never in your best interest.

(Personally, I find it almost impossible to break the publishing promise I've made to myself. I often choose to understand “realease” as letting go of the troublesome topic and allowing another idea to emerge.)

Repurpose. Look back at past posts, particularly material that appeared on old websites or on guest blog posts. Redo the intro and the conclusion and let yourself off the “must create original material” hook. Remember: this is always an option.

(Do you even remember what you wrote last year? Chances are there's real gold there. Looking back to your past posts isn't cheating - it's using all your resources wisely.)

Reach out.  As I wrote this late into Wednesday night, I whined to my husband about being stuck in the blogging vortex. While I was happy that I had been able to release the original idea and repurpose the feelings that “I need to do more research” stirred up, I had well over 2000 words of wandering wonder. All I wanted was an intro, some useful content, and a compelling Invitation to Action! That was when the light went on - if only I had a writing coach!

All day long, I look at clients’ snarled up brilliance and help them pluck out the brightest, most evocative ideas and stories. It’s nearly always impossible to get perspective on your own work. If you can relate to this story, reach out to me and we’ll see how I can help you uncover your most brilliant thoughts.


This week’s post was inspired by many factors including my big scary “I don’t know,” the conversation that last week’s vulnerability post has generated, and the Bravery Blogging Project I stumbled across this week (thanks, Molly!).

Illana Burk of  Makeness Media is looking for her community to make “Real, original, difficult content.” I’m new to their world, but finding yet another circle of people who want to dive deep into an idea and risk writing outside the blogging “shoulds” stretches my mind in a wonderful new way. And it makes me feel like I can keep blogging about the “I don’t know” stuff and it encourages me to ask you to do the same.

The Words You Use - And Won't Use - To Describe & Market Yourself

The Words You Use - or won't use - to describe & market yourself

The Sovereign Standard, Issue 4MG_newsletter

Today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring. Your one chance for success is to be remarkable.

Seth Godin wrote that in Fast Company in 2003 when he was promoting his then new book, Purple Cow. Essentially, he was telling marketers and entrepreneurs that they had to be one thing: remarkable.

In the last 10+ years, this has only become more true and more important.  And because you’re a creative entrepreneur who tunes into the Godin Oracle (or someone emulating him) you take great care to prove that you’re a horse - or a cow - of a different color.

And So It Begins: The Quest for the Unique Job Title

Thank goodness we’re past the days when women were limited to “nurse” or “teacher.” Now, both women and men have the opposite problem. A whole new world of work has emerged in less that a generation - but so have the tongue twisting titles.

This article pokes fun at the self professed “Digital Overlord”  and the “Change Magician“ - actual job titles people have posted on LinkedIn. It’s easy to giggle at the “Wizard of Light Bulb Moments,” but then you might start to worry that your creative title could seem just as silly to the uninitiated.

To return to Seth and his barnyard:

We face two choices: Either be invisible, uncriticized, anonymous, and safe or take a chance at true greatness, uniqueness, and the Purple Cow.

At least the “Retail Jedi” mentioned in that “gotcha” post got noticed. And even if that guy was lampooned, there just might be a Leia out there who’s having trouble moving her back inventory of Ewok treats who really needs a lightsaber-wielding, product moving savior.

If you're remarkable, then it's likely that some people won't like you. That's part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise — ever. (S.G.)

Choosing the Right Words for the Right Reasons

The choice to devise a unique title for yourself or your work isn’t just about marketing. It is also about owning your story and the space your business occupies in the hearts of your perfect people.

Beyond Unique, Beyond Engaging, Be SovereignMy word? Sovereignty.

I’m taking a term that generally refers to heads of state and absolute authority, and giving it a new meaning for the contemporary creative entrepreneur.

If you’ve been wondering what’s behind my sovereignty story, I invite you to spend some time with this post - I’m terrifically happy with where all this is heading and I want you with me from the beginning!

And since we’re redefining sovereignty for the 21st century - crowning ourselves and ruling our own lives without impinging on the freedoms of others - we also have the opportunity to name ourselves. (Wouldn’t Louis XVI be jealous?)

So let’s do it, right? Open up the dream journal and pull a thesaurus off the shelf. It’s time to christen yourself a "Manifestation Magnifier"!

(Hm, or is it?)

Say you're a coach. How many coaches have received credentials in the last decade? If there are any industries that demand a creative personal title, life and business coaching are at the top of the list.

In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible. (S.G.)

Who wants to be an invisible coach? You end up lonely, broke, and suffering serious creative congestion.

If there’s power in naming - religion and literature surely prove this - then it’s time to use all of your creative powers to give yourself a title that differentiates you from all the rest.

Or not.

Abby Kerr takes the “just don’t call me a coach!” lament head on. She asks:

But when did the desire to differentiate jump the shark? When is jazzing up your job title taking it too far?

Answer: when your colorful language clutters comprehension.


There’s a balance to strike between staking an original claim and picking something so unorthodox that people say “huh?” before they wander away to find someone who speaks their language.

The Balance: It’s Your Story, But the Buyer is the Hero

Chris Brogan’s “make the buyer the hero” concept can be applied in many different ways, like in this piece about making content marketing work. Ultimately, the work you do and the story you tell about that work (your marketing) isn’t about all the neat stuff you do. Instead, it’s about all the wonderful things a client will experience when she invests in your vision and your solutions.

if the buyer is the hero what's your roleSo, apply that perspective to the title you give yourself, your business, or your signature approach…

In order for a stranger to become the hero in the story of your business, she needs to feel comfortable enough with the theme, the plot, and the main characters. That means the first words she sees must immediately show her who you are and what your role is - in words she can understand.

What do people understand? The words that “everybody” uses. To return to Abby’s example: "coaching," not some polysyllabic invention.

A greater proportion of the public understands  “pet psychic” rather than “animal intuitive.” It’s likely that “shamanic training” means more to them than “mystery school.” They’re looking for “marketing” not “buying community sustainable growth practices.”

Whose Story Is This Anyway?

Making the buyer the hero doesn’t mean you must be restricted to “the customer is always right” thinking or a contort yourself to fit the needs of the marketplace. It is, however, a good counterpoint if entrepreneurship - a deeply personal process these days - starts to become too personal.

Based on a realization that “ today’s marketing and business coaches are the therapists of the new century” Blair Glaser unpacks why entrepreneurism can be seen as the new therapy.

Blair's exploration rings very true… and I think the piece can serve to remind the "heart centered" business owner not to get so caught up in branding and self realization that the work and clear, well-considered communication gets lost in the process.

Yes, your creative entrepreneur's autobiography matters, but running a business isn't just about self expression.

So, how do you settle the "what's in a name?" question for yourself?

Personally, I don't have "coach" phobia. I didn't complete a program with dozens of other writing coaches all trying to pick the perfect colored cow - I gave myself that title based on my experience and expertise.

As I mentioned above, my word, my Purple Cow is Sovereignty. I apply the word liberally - to my newsletter, my #365project, and my developing products - but you won't see me calling myself a Sovereignty Scribe.

Ultimately, you set your own sovereign standard and you’ll have to decide whether clever trumps comfortable or vice versa.