The Question That Drives My Life

The alarm was set for 12: 45am.

I'm not sure how long it went off until I reached for the phone on my nightstand, groggy eyed and confused. Neruda, our chihuahua, stumbled off of his perch and blinked sleepily before snorting and settling in deeper in the covers against Russ. Trulee got excited and thought we were going to have a midnight excursion out in the park. She pranced around as I got dressed before finally giving up and running back into our room where there was warmth and snuggling.

It was a year ago. Earlier in the night, I picked up a red-eye shift for my new side hustle with Postmates. I wasn't entirely sure I could make it until 4am, but after a nap and a few stretches, I thought maybe it would be at least adventurous. I made some yerba mate, downed a glass of water, and sat in my writing chair until the tea kicked in and I felt like I could drive.

I knew the route I would take. MOPAC to 183 to Lamar and then Guadalupe. As I inched past Buffalo Exchange and Torchy's and Kerby Lane, my suspicions were proven correct: in a college town, all you need to do to find the current of life is to drive toward campus. And so I did. Packed dining rooms, sidewalks crawling with laughing and wide awake 20-somethings, whooping and hollering and carrying on as if it were stupid early on a Friday morning and they had yet to fall asleep.

My order came in sometime after 3am. I grabbed the necessary items and tapped the GPS pointing me down south. I was delivering to an apartment complex off S. Congress. If you've seen a movie with Austin as its backdrop, you've seen this road. As I dropped off the food and hurried to my car and waved at early morning (late night?) conversationalists setting up posts on their porches, I began to notice something: the inherent buzz of silence every city envelops when bars begin to shut down and dance halls close their doors. And then I thought of earlier that evening, sitting behind my computer and chatting with some of my favorite people.

My friend Lakin was talking to us about how desires — and ultimately questions — drive our lives. For her, the question is who are you? She wants you to know your identity — and to root down into who you're meant to be in this skin and bones.

I was thinking about this while driving home, wondering about what question drives me. I thought of those I'd come in contact with that evening: the various drive-thru attendants, the sleepy voice on the other end of the phone needing a midnight snack, the figure on the other side of a gate waiting for his delivery, the laughter from porches ricocheting off nearby concrete, the couple in the car next to me, the lone driver sharing S. Congress with me — and my question, the one that fuels me and keeps me going, rose up to greet me.

I want to know your story. But more than that, really. Because anyone can sit down and share some coffee and spill what happened to us when we were 5 and 10 and 17 and 23.

I want to know the story burning in your bones and just waiting for permission to stretch its wings. I want to know the story of how words began to settle into your soul and never let you rest. I want to know your story. You are not just the story you tell others. You are not just the tiny piece of worry that wrinkles your eyes normally turned up into the fringes of a grin. I want to know the whole of you, because there is where I believe we find our depth.

I am not just Elora, story coach and author and part time personal shopper. I am Elora, lover of story and aesthetics and lavender. I want to name my daughter Harper Gold. I have way too many story ideas to capture. I'm beginning to love blueberries and the way greens taste in a smoothie. I love to dance. I used to love to sing and am trying to find that piece again. I find comfort in dried-gesso on my fingertips and am fiercely loyal to those who find a way to break through all of the boundaries I place between me and others. I'm hopelessly in love with my husband. I cry a lot and when I don't, I know I'm running too hard. I want to travel but I crave home when I'm away. I'm a mystic, and I look for magic in my every day life because I believe it exists. I love Beyonce and Justin Timberlake and Debussy and AWOLNATION and Florence and the Machine and George Gershwin. Pragmatism depresses me but a dose of reality is good for my dreamy-feet that can't stay on the ground. I am all of these things and more. And what weaves these pieces together is my story. The one I've lived and the one I've yet to tell.

I pulled into the driveway around 4:30 in the morning. I kicked off my boots and cuddled with my pups and slid underneath the covers, heart racing with inspiration and life. And as I drifted off to sleep, there was a smile on my face. Because one of the most beautiful things about this question is that as a writer, I'm constantly reminded of the threads that join us together through story. What is your story? As a human, as an artist, as a romantic, cynic, analyst, dreamer? The answer to this question is the currency that will keep us connected, reminding one another that a living, breathing human waits on the other side.

Weekly Letter from the Creative Underground

Writing is more than articulation, it's allowing yourself the space to hear the truth that you have something to share. Letters from the Creative Underground is the fuel you need to remember the truth: you are a writer. You have a story. 

And we desperately need to hear it. 

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Posted on January 31, 2016 and filed under Your Story.

Why Your Creativity is Hiding in the Shadows

Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest will take care of itself — Elizabeth Gilbert

I've been letting other people tell my story. 

I realized this last week while journaling. I'll have something to say, and I'll be just about to start talking about it, and then someone will pop off and say their piece and suddenly...I don't want to speak anymore.

It's not insidious. I don't think these people do it on purpose. In fact, there's legitimately only one scenario where I know for a fact it was a speak before Elora gets her chance type of motive, and I can count on one hand the amount of you-know-what that I give about that whole cluster.

No, this is mostly a confidence issue. This is mostly me looking at what others have shared and somehow deciding their story is enough. 

But it's not. Because it's not my story.

And just because they choose to process their side first, that doesn't automatically negate my own perspective. 

.::.

A few weeks ago, I received a message on Facebook accusing me of copying someone's brand. This person posted on a Facebook page about her latest idea for reaching a specific target group, and I missed the niche in between the lines of her explanation. So a few weeks later, when I shared Write Your Worth, a brand I'm building with Alicia Caine, she immediately assumed I took her idea and molded it for my own benefit. 

Even though Alicia and I have been brainstorming since June. 
Even though we built the eCourse and launched it before she even posted her idea. 
Even though our audience is already well-developed and hyper-focused.

I laughed when she suggested we not proceed. Her reasoning? When she learned I was a story coach, she decided not to work with writers, out of respect to my brand. My exact response: "don't even place that type of manipulation on me. If you want to work with writers, you work with writers. There are plenty of us out there and I guarantee there will be more...but that doesn't mean we don't need you in whatever capacity you're meant to work. There's more than enough room at this table."

Same idea. Different people. Two separate (but needed) brands.

I was quick to shut her down, letting her know her worries were unfounded and she still needed to proceed where her own inspiration led her.

But. 

Boy do I get that inherent fear that pushed her to message me.

.::.

In Big MagicElizabeth Gilbert talks about the organic matter of ideas. Mostly, that when an idea's time has come, there is multiple discovery. 

When the nineteenth century Hungarian mathematician János Bolyai invented non-Euclidean geometry, his father urged him to publish his findings immediately, before someone else landed on the same idea, saying, ‘When the time is ripe for certain things, they appear at different places, in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.’
— Elizabeth Gilbert (page 62)

I can relate. Maybe you can, too? Once I had a brilliant idea for a novel, twisting the stereotype into something I've never seen before....until the very next day I saw a preview for a new movie with the exact same plot. 

Another time I started planning an idea for an offering with Awake the Bones, only to be re-routed by a full time job. In January, another brand launched their offering — an exact version of what I imagined back in March. 

And this is just with creativity. This isn't just you know...talking about what's going on in my life.

What I'm figuring out is that the quickest way to silence myself is to let the progress of others prevent my own.

It's the sneakiest sort of comparison. 

Oh well she's already shared the story so....I guess I don't need to write about it. 
Since there's a movie I can't write a book about it. 
People will think I'm copying if I launch with that idea I had last spring....

Slide the tape open, break it apart, slap it on my mouth. 

I'm so sick of it. 

It's the worst kind of censorship, knowing that you are a willing participant because you're doing it to yourself. Even after I realized what was happening last week, it still took me a solid seven days to write about it. I've decided in 2016, one of the ways I can become a student of my own creativity is to follow the inspiration. 

So the book idea I had before, I can still use it. Except, instead of it being the entire plot, I'm going to use it to create depth of characters and story line.  
And the offering I planned on sharing? I'm still going to do it. But it's going to be created with my unique giftings and core genius, and not how others envisioned it for their dream clients. 

Nothing is as dangerous as a single story. We've seen the TED talk. Yet as creatives, we're so quick to disqualify ourselves. We step into the shadows as soon as someone else decides to stretch their muscles and venture into the spotlight. 

"We'll let them do the dirty work," we think. And as a result, the world misses out on our very real, very needed story that only we can tell. 

Here's the thing: no one else has the mixture of creativity and experiences and ideas that you have — even if what they share is similar, it's still not labeled as YOU. Don't let them share what's meant to come from you. Don't believe the lie that you're safe in the shadows. 

It's time that story, that idea, that piece of creativity came into the light.

Posted on January 13, 2016 and filed under Your Story.

Elora Reads: Favorite Books of 2015

You can read last year's post, my favorite books of 2014, here.

Let's just start off with the obvious: I didn't read nearly as much this year. Actually, scratch that — I didn't read nearly as much the second half of this year. Something about waking up every morning to be at work by 8am doused the late-night reading I'd grown to love. It's alright, though. There are still some good reads on this list, and if you come across one you're not familiar with, HURRY UP AND BUY IT ALREADY so you can read it. 

NONFICTION :: 

When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd

You know those books you keep on your list forever and never get around to reading because other books feel more important? That was this one. And yet, I read it in a day. Never have I ever experienced the synchronicity that I felt while reading this book. I know, that's kind of vague, but Kidd's story of spiritual formation moved me in a way I wasn't anticipating.

The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus

I read this with the Coterie back in the spring and felt as if McManus' words were somehow righting things in my creativity that had gotten topsy turvy. If it weren't for the book club, I would have rushed through the book, anxious for the next chapter. Instead, I let the words sit, reading them slowly. It was the only way to read and yet I know I missed some nuggets. This will be one I revisit in a few months just to let everything sink in completely. It's that good.

Wild in the Hollow, Amber Haines

Amber's words, dripping with poetry, cut to the marrow. There aren't enough words yet to articulate what this book did for me. I've been reading Amber's words for seven years and they always find a way to reach in and comfort while reminding me of my wild roots. This book was no exception. 

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

I can't tell you how many times I had to put this book down and take a few breaths because I felt like Gilbert had crawled up into my brain-space and started talking about me. Biggest takeaway from this book? Ideas are living, breathing things. 

FICTION :: 

The Bright Effect, Autumn Doughton and Erica Cope

I have no doubt: this is the best of Doughton and Cope. Their collaboration with this story captures so much: local color (seriously — they nailed the Carolina lexicon), dynamic characters, and a storyline that has you flipping the pages as fast as you can just so you can grieve the inevitable ending. There's so much within these pages, but you just need to trust the reviews and dive in heart first — you won't regret it. I came to the last page craving more from Bash and Amelia and once again so thankful for indie authors who put everything and more into their writing, creating an incredible manuscript that rivals any bestseller out there.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

Y'all. This book was so outta left field for me. I made a point this year to read books I normally wouldn't read, and this one topped the list plus turned into a favorite I never saw coming. I listened to this on Audible (totally recommend — Wil Wheaton narrates!) and the story came alive for me. I couldn't stop listening. I loved the world Cline created and am so curious about the rumors I hear about a movie. 

I'll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson

This was another book I started on Audible and then, because of the pure poetry behind some of Nelson's phrases, I promptly went and bought the hardback. I should have known. Back when I went to see Ransom Riggs at BookPeople, he was reading this while Nelson was writing and stunned by her phrasing. (Let's just pause and consider the literary trifecta that is Ransom Riggs, Tahereh Mafi, and Jandy Nelson....)

If you read my favorite books for 2014, you know Jandy Nelson is a repeat. FOR GOOD REASON. I have no words for this book. I just want to craft stories that move people like this moved me.

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So how about you? What books stood out to you this year? Also, coming soon: my top ten books every writer needs. I've been wanting to write this post for years, y'all. 

Posted on December 31, 2015 .