What is YOUR art?
Do you know what it is… but you aren’t doing it?
Do you know what your art is, but are afraid to share it?
Back in 2011, I took a trip to San Diego where I spent some time with my favorite ladies, including Susan Wintersteen of Savvy Giving by Design (Episode 7 of the podcast). As we were in the car heading to Seersucker in Gaslamp, I said something like, “I would like to write a book….”
Susan, driving at the time, almost whipped around–but thought better of it, I guess, since driving–and said, “Then write your damn book.”
I went home a few days later. That was echoing in my head:
Then write your damn book.
“I would like to take six months off of working the lawyer gig to write a book,” I told the Expert.
“President Obama wrote a book while working. You can write a book. You cannot quit your job,” he said.
Who ARE these people, I thought?!
They are acting like writing a book is EASY or something. UGH!
Regardless, I was like, “Okay, I will write. I will. I will start… now. And go…”
But for a bit, nothing came.
I had this great idea to write a book about beginning triathlete as a “every woman”. A book title, while admittedly grammatically questionable, was purposeful; it was about capturing the idea that triathlon could be for EVERY woman.
And that book had not been written.
In fact, there were not many “every” women doing triathlon at all Ironman 70.3 Miami in 2011 in 2011, as was my experience at —where I was the only chubby girl racing. For real.
I knew I had to write it. The book was inside of me, because dammit, when I started the sport, I needed that kind of book. Slow Fat Triathlete was a book that came close, but it had so many holes for me… I was determined to fill those holes in for everyone.
But how? This was the question. I had two very young kids, a full-time job, a triathlon habit. What was I thinking. I didn’t know.
But came across a blogger and writer, Jeff Goins, and he published an eBook called, “The Writer’s Manifesto.”
The crux of the short eBook was: Writers Write. Write FOR YOURSELF. Don’t write to be adored. Just write. If you want to be a writer, then you better get writing.
Sure, I wanted to write a book. Which, ideally, people will like and read. But I was also writing a book because I needed to write the book. It was inside of me, and I needed to write it for me.
So. I started. I asked myself, “What do I want to tell about this crazy sport?”
I wrote about things that were now obvious to me. But these things, at one time, were not so obvious: how to pack a gym bag efficiently in order to transition to the day job after an early morning workout; how many lengths of a pool make up a mile; what are clip-less pedals.
On the podcast, Jeff quoted Derek Sivers: that we should write about things that are obvious to us, because they can be amazing to others. When I wrote, I thought, maybe this is obvious, but then I would ask myself the question: Did I know this when I started? Nope.
So I kept writing.
“You have to write the book that wants to be written…” – Madeleine L’Engle
Long story short, Jeff’s inspiration, coupled with Susan’s and the Expert’s advice, was the perfect trifecta for me. I published my first book—a massive 400 page tome about triathlon for the “every” woman–because this was the book that had wanted to be written.
Countless people reach out to me to “pick my brain” about writing a book or “hey, I want do what you do, can you tell me how.” Which makes me laugh, because I don’t know what the hell I am doing most of the time. Okay, so thank you for the compliment.
But here’s my advice: start writing and who knows what then.
[Sidebar: when you send someone an email and say, “I would like to pick your brain about writing a book” or “I would like to pick your brain about podcasting” that is probably the quickest way to NOT get a response.]
When I started the podcast, I reached out to Jeff Goins–he is on the short list of people who really made a difference in my life in a major way.
He said, “Yes” to the guest appearance, and we talked yesterday. (Episode to air end of July).
Jeff was easy to talk to. He and I were on the same wavelength about many things. But he gave me this overwhelming, amazing sense of calm about choices I am making.
Talking with him made me reflect back on the question of “WHO AM I” —an answer that is different from the Meredith of 2011. But it also grounded me… because I know who I am, right now.
It’s a good question to ask.
It’s no secret that I am in a typhoon of change right now. There are some MAJOR projects coming up for me—some that might change everything for my life, my family and more—it’s up in the air, and nothing is for certain in life or in dreams, either. There is another book project going down, which is scary too. And I’m doing that awesome marathon, too.
What if I want to be a yogi? Or run ultras? Or go to cooking school (ha ha ha -never happening!) 🙂
Talking with Jeff gave me a great deal of peace about changing in the way I am needing to change.
That losing readers or “fans” because I change is okay;
That losing people because of other people who are lying, stealing, unethical dickwads is also not my problem;
What people think of me is none of my business.
I can keep going. And doing what I do. And trying what I want to try (and so can you… hello!).
“My people” will still want to hang with me.
They’ll want see what’s up and be a part of a journey–just as much as I want to continue being a part of theirs. They will realize that this isn’t about anything other than me continuing to do what I have done for almost 10 years—write about my life, struggles and what is helping me or hurting me, right now.
There’s almost a decade of material out there about me. Talk about references, sheesh.
“Can you put down three references?”
“No. Here’s my blog.”
How much do you (really) know about people you are putting YOUR trust in?
And maybe it doesn’t matter. That’s part of the change too. Try. Experiment. That’s the whole point. I am all about change.
People who are into reading about change are often fans of change themselves. Those are my people. It’s about reading and watching and pulling through the growth and the tough patches. And maybe we don’t all succeed all of the time, but we keep going. We take responsibility for ourselves.
We just keep moving forward.
But then there are folks who expect you to stay the same. But then, those are perhaps, not my people anyway.
I, personally, don’t want to spend my time following someone who thinks they have everything allegedly figured out. I don’t see myself or my struggles in these people, the food-shaming, know-it-all attitude. I don’t see a kindred spirit in those who pretend not to have any struggles.
Turns out, too, that these so-called perfect people are sometimes the most lying-ass of all. Then you have to learn that the hard way.
Struggle. Grow. Change. Be real.
Do Your Art.
I am not “swimming” or “biking” right now, so I am just
Swim Bike Mom. But here’s the thing. I was never really “Swim Bike Mom” anyway. I was just a gal who started writing about becoming a triathlete in 2010 on a blog.
Then I grew into an expert about beginner triathletes. Yep, an expert. Heck yes, I am. I never claimed to be expert on elite athletes. I can strive to be Bela Karolyi of triathlon, but I don’t see the point of that.
It’s not where my heart is.
I care about people who are trying to make their lives better—whether through sobriety, through triathlon, through nutrition—because that’s what makes us feel better about ourselves. It’s the end game, the long game—the long term stuff. Tackling health and sport and addictions are major to improving life quality.
I am a expert on taking everyday people and saying, “Hey. Me too.”
I am a former alcoholic, depressed, overweight fat girl with kids and stretch marks and issues from every angle—who has taken this body and made it into an IRONMAN triathlete. FOUR times.
I have also taken my career and made it what I want.
And that’s why I am an expert in what I do.
I can pull that out of everyday people who have also been sad alcoholic depressed un-athletic fat or lonely. Or, people who are happy as larks, but they want to figure out how to take ordinary to awesome. That’s my art, that’s my magic.
Sure, I can also read your power files just as well as other coaches can.
But sometimes the everyday triathlete doesn’t need her damn power files analyzed. She needs someone to understand what truly lies ahead—what being a IRONMAN triathlete means for someone who may not fit the triathlete mold.
I can and do read data. I also don’t make a big deal about data when that data will make an athlete spiral out of control. I also build communities of people who need other things—in triathlon, or not. (I learned this amazing art from Gerry and Brett… amazing coaches who read data and also don’t make a not-so-great athlete feel like crap about said data.)
And that’s where I fit in to this world. That’s my “art.”
So my “art” is two-fold: I am a writer and I am a community-builder. And like Jeff Goins says, real artists don’t starve.
When we do what we are meant to do.
When we know who we are.
When we know our value, our strengths, and we don’t pretend that we are perfect.
And then we write about it? Sing? Paint? Build? Blog? Heal? Create? Fight for justice?
Whatever makes us artists, then that is our art.
And real artists don’t starve. They keep moving forward… no matter what.
So again… what is YOUR art?
Do you know, but you aren’t doing it?
Do you know, but are afraid to share it?
Learn more about Jeff at www.GoinsWriter.com
Check out his new book, “Real Artists Don’t Starve.”