223: No Photo

223: No Photo, originally uploaded by jgandinle.

I made it 223 days before completely neglecting to take even one photo for the entire day. I didn't even realize I forgot until I closed my eyes at the end of the day. Instead of beating myself up, I just said, "Oh well," and fell asleep. A full year's photo-taking project wouldn't be real if there weren't a few imperfections in it.


214: Me

214: Me, originally uploaded by jgandinle.

A self-portrait exercise for Chookooloonks' The Beauty of Different:


201: Loss

201: Loss, originally uploaded by jgandinle.

Our beloved best friend, Mister the Dog, died peacefully today, his head on Chris's knee, in the care of our kind-eyed vet. He was 16 1/2. Even though he lived a long, rich life, even though we spent all day working at home with him for his last years, even though we knew it was coming -- it hurts. We miss our friend so much.


197: Angela and Macaw

197: Angela and Macaw, originally uploaded by jgandinle.

I love that these two clearly belong together -- they're color coordinated and everything!


The Crazy Box

I've invented something incredible. It might change my creative life. It is the physicalization of the brain dump, the morning pages, the swamp, Anne Lamott's radio station KFKD. It is the CRAZY BOX.


This is where I put the thoughts that need disposal. The thoughts that keep me inactive. I gave it four different faces, because the demons show up with different attitudes and it helps me watch for them.

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I believe in the power of words, of language, of writing your desires and mantras on paper. So at first, it felt weird to give my negative thoughts space on paper, making these torturous thoughts visible. Will it make these devils come true? Will this become my future?


Here's the great thing: the Crazy Box is like a nuclear containment device. Even better -- a magical nuclear neutralization box. Once you slip the paper in, the box strips its power immediately.

Here's how I'm using it:


You write the thought down that makes your shoulders slump, makes you feel "less than," makes you feel discouraged and like giving up. Yeah, that thought.


Or the secret blasts of megalomania that derail you from the actual work. I know I'm not the only one who has them.

Get them out. ALL OF THEM. The really specific ones, the ones about your best friend being smarter/prettier/more successful than you, the ones that know all your deepest shame and remind you of them often, the ones that short-circuit your enthusiasm into apathy.


Write it down, put it in the box, let it go.


Once a week (or day or hour, depending on how quickly your box fills up), I empty the box by the trap door on the bottom, and take it outside.

BURN IT. I happen to have a cauldron in my backyard for such purposes. Now, you might not be a earth-mama-hippie-writer-nerd-with-a-yard, so use whatever disposal method you prefer (I enjoy the purifying energy of fire).


It helps to have a few friends nearby as witnesses, to make sure everything gets released. I also wash my hands once I'm inside, to really really really get all that sticky energy off.

I warn you now -- as soon as I put this box into effect, I found myself grabbing for scraps of paper alarmingly often to write down mean thoughts in my head. That's okay. Tear up a ton of scrap paper and leave it close by. I think it's better to interrupt my workday five thousand times to expunge discouraging thoughts than to work straight through and let those thoughts sink into my groundwater. They are toxic and, eventually, they'll cause creative insanity.

How do you dislodge your crazy thoughts?

~ ~ ~

P.S. I work in public health, so when I say "Crazy," I don't mean actual mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. I mean the average, annoying, nagging thoughts that strip your energy and make you feel less than the divine creature in human form that you are.


185: Independence Day

185: Independence Day, originally uploaded by jgandinle.

Watching Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses for July 4th


Be Here Now (Where here = online + in the room)

I work from home full-time building at least three businesses: my creative writing career, my editing business, and, with my husband, Chris, Emotion Technology. I've been self-employed for over six years, and I love it. It comes with its challenges, no doubt, but for me, the sacrifices are worth the privilege of being able to set my own schedule, choose my colleagues, and have zero commute.

One of the biggest challenges began three years ago, when Chris also started working from home. Since we're two different people, we have different working styles, and merging them can be tricky.

Maintaining respectful relationships with your co-workers is important no matter where you work, but when your only co-worker is also your spouse, business partner, best friend, and roommate, the stakes are high. If I snap at him for interrupting my train of thought, it means more than an awkward eight hours at the office.

Your highest integrity and kindness is on call all day, every day.

There is literally nowhere to escape.

Which is why I loved Dr. Brené Brown's post on Monday called "They Don't Need Us to Be Sorry, Just Present." She's talking specifically about the relationship between social media careers and family, especially children, but I gobbled up her concrete tips on how she's trying to honor both.

Especially this one:

2. I’m employing the Nordstrom method of engaging. The salespeople at Nordstrom always walk around to the front of the register table to hand you your bag. They never reach over the counter. I’m trying to do the same thing. I’m trying to never talk to my kids over the top of my laptop or while I’m staring at the screen.

If I’m working and they need something quick (e.g., Where are my goggles?), I’ll pause, look them in the eye and tell them. If they need more attention, I say, “I want to talk to you about this. Give me ten minutes to finish my work.” Obviously, if it’s important, I shut the top and physically turn my body toward them. I started this a few months ago and now both of my kids will often say, “When you’re done can you . . . “

I don't have kids, but that last example makes my heart melt with gratitude and joy anyway. What a gorgeous thing to model -- two-way respect between work and family. Both of those satisfy basic human instincts in different ways, and this whole oil-and-water dialogue we've got going in the U.S. about work and family is so 2000.

When I'm feeling compassionate towards myself, I consider our work-at-home arrangement as our personal activism toward forging a new kind of family partnership -- another paradigm to choose from. It's time.


Writer Home

Certain places inspire us even as others knock the creative wind out of our sails.  Iowa City is definitively a muse town for me.  We were there last weekend on our big midwest road trip.  Between squeezing in as many friend and work dates as humanly possible in the span of two days (more than I can even accomplish in NYC, I think), I heard my nostalgic little writer heart say: Hey, remember living here?  Getting paid simply to write and to respond to the work of peers?  Buying a dozen pastries from the Co-Op and spending the day and night munching on them while collaborating on a whimsical screenplay?  Days in coffee shops and nights  at the Sanctuary, where each writer could be found with a favorite drink in hand?  One liked Maker's Mark.  Another hefeweizen.  A few joked about spending their entire fellowship on gin.  I don't think I'm romanticizing the place.  It's peaceful, if not too untroubled.  And there's little to think of there but your work.

Popping in and out of Prairie Lights, I said, "I really feel like a writer here."  Of course that's mostly what I was there.  A student, a teacher, but mostly just a writer.  Now there are other names I call myself that do sometimes compete.  But I come back to a belief that feeling results from doing.  And any time I want to "feel" like a writer and am not in Iowa City, I simply need to write.


179: Good as Gold

179: Good as Gold, originally uploaded by jgandinle.

We planted these marigolds as seeds in May, intending them to protect the rest of our plants from pests. They're just beginning to bloom!

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