The end of an era

Friends, I’ve decided to bring this blog to a close. This will be my last post.

Over the last while, blogging has become something I “had to” do rather than wanted to do. I’ve grown tired of the “voice” I write in here. The weight of 6 years of archives seems to be holding me back, rather than propelling me forward. I’ve grown weary of the falsities inherent in the ‘personal blogging’ sphere too. I think I’ve simply outgrown this space. The ambitions I had when I started are not the ambitions I have today. I’m ready for the next chapter.

Of course, I’ll continue to write on the internet. I have a new site & share my random thoughts on Tumblr. My roundups of articles and book/tv/film recommendations will continue there too.

If you want to stay in touch, my newsletter is the best way.

Thank you for being a part of this chapter. I hope you’ll join me in the next phase too.

With love,
Clare

P.S. I’m still available to you anytime. Just reach out via email: clareherbert1@gmail.com.

The Reading List #46

I’m late with this week’s reading list (deadlines + hot weather = busy Clare). But, there are some quality reads here. Enjoy!

  • Hope for all writers in “Two Damn Books“. I read an excerpt of her fiction too. Powerful stuff.
  • Related: Advice for the mother of a budding young writer.
  • And still related, on late blooming creative genius. (Gladwell’s archive is a treasure trove of gold!)
  • The lovely Nicole interviewed me about writing, entrepreneurship and the balance between making money & making art. She also took some great pictures!
  • Hannah rounds up an amazing array of long form journalism aggregators, publications and platforms.
  • Thanks to Jessica for including me in this great link roundup.
  • The racism beat. (& lessons for every writer with an activist slant).
  • Scary: the dangers of negotiating as a woman. (For the record, I always negotiate and it hasn’t hurt me, yet.)
  • A gentleman’s guide to rape. (Appreciated this perspective.)
  • Lots of books to read this summer.
  • Fascinating story about conjoined twins and the nature of identity.
  • The Unmothered. (Heart breaking)
  • And related, “Everyone has a Mother“. (On being the mother of an accused terrorist.)
  • On millennial travel. (aka my approach to travel & professional development.)
  • I love this line: “When I tripped, I reached reflexively to break my very real fall with my completely imaginary left hand. My fall was instead broken by my nose, and my nose was broken by my fall.” The story of losing an arm.
  • The man who rescues people from cults.

5 tips for every writer with a dream

I love writers. I love their capacity to suspend disbelief and to work in an industry built on such changeable foundations. I love the tension between creativity and commerce. I love that writers can mould their own careers, built around their own interests and ideas. It can be crushingly challenging – endless rejection, snarky comments and the monotony of creation takes it’s toll. It’s also a privilege to do the work, to have people read it and to be working in this golden age for content creators.

Writing well isn’t enough. If you’re striving to create a writing career that both feeds your soul and funds your life, you’ll need entrepreneurial smarts too.

Having strategized with dozens of writers at every stage of their careers, there are a couple of tips that I keep repeating. These are my greatest hits, the advice that I share with every writer regardless of their goal.

  1. Create a simple writing practice. Writers write. It’s as simple and as difficult as that. If you want to produce high quality, consistent work, you need to get in the habit of writing (even when it’s hard/boring/upsetting/exhausting). A few simple rituals can help you build a writing habit. I get some water, light a candle, open a blank document (or journal page) and write. Others write in cafes or curled up in bed. Still others dictate their work, and have it transcribed. Don’t let yourself be overly precious about it – the perfect circumstances don’t exist. Start a small, simple writing practice, say twice a week and build on it.
  2. Unplug the internet. It’s amazing how much you can get done if you stay off the internet. It’s equally amazing how difficult it is to stay off the internet. On my best days, I check in online in the morning, empty my inbox in the afternoon and stay out of the internet’s noisy chatterbox the rest of the time. Wandering is part of creation, but the internet is built to distract. Books, walks or real world conversations are better breaks for me when I write. That said, my work lives online so I need to spend some time there researching stories, connecting with readers and you know, wandering around. But, I try to limit it to afternoons/evenings. Freedom is a great program to make this easier, or just unplug your router. (I’d recommend blocking the internet rather than using willpower to avoid it. Decision fatigue is a real thing!)
  3. Get your stuff online. So much of the writing, publishing and media industries exist in the online space. If you’re not there too, you’re placing a major handicap on your work. A simple wordpress site is all you need to share a brief bio and portfolio of your work. If you don’t want a blog, sharing occasional posts on Medium is a great alternative. (All my resources for building your writing career are collated here.)
  4. Your life can be your muse. “I don’t know where to start” is a frequent problem for budding writers. I say: start with what you have to say today. Your life is your muse. Every life is interesting. Or answer the question: If I could write about anything, I’d write about _____. Sometimes, I imagine myself addressing a crowd of kind, influential people and ask myself: “What do you want them to know?” (I’m working on a GIANT list of writing prompts which I’ll share soon.)
  5. Be patient. Writing is a business, but it’s also a craft. Put in your 10,000 hours. Give yourself time to get good. There will be hard times, but the struggle is valuable too. The most successful writers I know love to write. They enjoy the process of it, even if their work was never read. It’s not about being lauded or financially rewarded (though those things are also important); it’s about self-expression, mastery and dedication. In this internet age, it’s easy to look at other writers and envy their success. But you don’t necessarily see the invisible work that brought them to this point. Focus on doing your best work today, share it with the world and show up tomorrow to do it again.

To your writing journey,

P.S. If you’d like more tailored advice for your writing career, I’ve just re-launched my strategy sessions for writers. I work with writers to create an entrepreneurial strategy that allows them to share their most important stories. To celebrate the re-launch, I’m offering 5 pay-what-you-can slots on a first-come first served basis. Email me for more details.

The Reading List #45

It’s been a long week. I saw Of Mice & Men, published a piece on completing a Masters for TheJournal.ie and spent far too much time watching Orange in the New Black (Season 2 is even better than Season 1). Now, let’s read:

  • “For every tech guy struggling to find love in San Francisco, there is one struggling harder to find novel ways to spend his money.” This article basically describes my personal version of hell: “I got shipped to Silicon Valley to date tech guys
  • Given rising rents and an under-supply of homes, the problem of hidden homelessness is growing problem. This story is an important insight .
  • Dubai is the richest place in the world, built on the poor emigrants. Molly confronted Donald Trump about his exploitative role.
  • “Imagine what would happen when the booze hit her blood. It would be an old guest prowling the halls
    bored and miserable” I, ironically, read this story of alcoholism in a bar.  (More Leslie Jamison, I’m hooked on her!)
  • The more deadlines I set for myself–both internal and external, the more I’m able to produce.” I find this too, though I am equally a fan of sitting down to write and letting the words take me where they will. Plans only take you so far in creative work.
  • Larson & Woodley are changing Hollywood, or at least trying to. Here’s how.
  • I may have shared it before, but this essay about anxiety is both important and heart-breaking (& includes a humurous anecdote involving The Kennedys).
  • Being Gay in Iran. What it’s like to be unwanted and unsafe in your own country.
  • When God grabs you by the balls. A hilarious tale about illness (& sex).
  • A sweet, modern love story.
  • “Trying to find the moment when one thought becomes another is like trying to find the moment when boiling water turns into steam” – Dani Shapiro on slow-ness (quoting Pema Chodron).
  • Also, I updated my resources list which includes the places that I usually find this stories.

Unburrowing from my creative cave (& some website tweaks)

In order to make a living as a writer, you must also be an entrepreneur.

That statement has been the basis of my work over the past few months. I’ve been beavering away on projects, mostly out of sight of the internet. Sometimes you just need to create a private creative cave where you can burrow in and work hard. I’ve loved it, but now it’s time to start easing myself out into the sunlight again.

My strategy sessions are back on the market.

Over recent months, I took a short hiatus from client work. I wanted to drill down into me methods and explore some new projects. Though I’ve informally been working with writers, I missed the buzz of finding an entrepreneurial style and strategy that allows writers to share their most important stories. To celebrate the re-launch, I’m offering 5 pay-what-you-can slots on a first-come first served basis. Email me for more details.

Evolution

In the brief eight months since I arrived in New York, both my work and my relationship to it have evolved hugely. It’s a little cringy to look back on the earnest Clare that set sail flight from Ireland. It’s full on mortifying to read my first posts from 6(!) years ago. This is a personal blog. It changes as I change. And this is where I’m at today:

I’m a writer. I write to share stories and ideas that are meaningful to me. Whether one uses the label writer/journalist/blogger/thinker/doer/entrepreneur is a more subjective choice. This tension informs my work too.

  • I’m interested in writing as a business and an art form.
  • I want to explore the overlap between entrepreneurship and journalism.
  • I’m as interested in the fabric of the media, as I am in the stories it shares.
  • I define success as both creative/intellectual fulfillment and financial reward.

Some days, this vision remain blurry but I know enough to pivot towards my right path. It’s a myth that everything needs to be crystal clear before you move forward. It’s by moving forward that you invite clarity.

While fighting the urge to burn everything I’ve ever created, I’m re-orientating towards what I want today. It’s these micro choices that create opportunities.

  • I choose to stop beating myself up for not “being a better marketer” and focus on doing great work instead.
  • I choose simplification.
  • I choose to stay in and do what I want, rather than caving to the self-imposed pressure to have “the NY experience”.
  • I choose to embrace and enjoy my introversion, rather than trying to get myself into groups that exhaust me.
  • I choose to let my work evolve, and not be wedded to old ideas.
  • I define success for myself.

More soon,

P.S. I did some website tweaking over the weekend, so let me highlight the new stuff:

It now features an updated resources page (complete with blog roll & my favourite reading lists). I added an “ask” feature, as well as a fresh FAQ page. The ‘best of’ and portfolio got updated. And I went through the cringe inducing process of re-writing my own about page.

P.P.S. If you’re not already on my newsletter list, I invite you to join us. It’s the best way to stay in touch with me and my work.

The Reading List #44

There’s been some really great stuff in the ether over the past few weeks, between #yesallwomen and what seems like an explosion of quality writing. Hope you enjoy…

  • A very important and thought provoking story on the issue of slavery reparations. “It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.”
  • Scenes from an abusive relationship
  • How Angelina Jolie manages her public image. Fascinating look at moulding and managing the perception of one’s life and work.
  • Am I still writing for that rabid feminist website? Yes sir, I am. It’s not a hobby; it’s my job. You know, just like you’re a full-time dickhead.” – This made me laugh and think, though I think many of the same principles apply to male writers too. Most writers I know get that head-tilty “really?” look when they describe their profession as ‘writer’, whether male or female. (Thought perhaps the men own it a little more?)
  • “Open, gentle heart. Big fucking fence.” – wise words on love and life.
  • My heart is being taught to hold hope and grief at once.” I adored Leslie’s Jamison’s book The Empathy Exams (review coming soon!) and promptly added all her previous articles to my reading list. This gives a great flavour of the book. The movie it discusses (Short Term 12) is also worth a watch.
  • On Google & diversity.
  • Faking cultural literacy – I’m guilty.
  • Life advice from amazing women.
  • On perceptions of beauty. Action point: schedule in time to look at average looking people. #really
  • On the evolution of language:

Recent Columns

It occurs to me that I’ve been lax in sharing my  more recent columns with this blog audience. Sorry about that!  Here’s what I’ve been working on:

More soon,

 

 

P.S. The very best way to stay up to date on my work is to join my occasional E-letter list. You can sign up right here.

The Reading List #43

In between enjoying my first ever Memorial weekend and an all-too-brief trip to San Francisco (loved it – full post soon!), I’ve been reading/watching/listening to some great stuff. So, let me break my “no work on Sundays” rule to share a few highlights:

 

Book Reviews: Spring 2014

Reading is one of those activities that I never feel like I do enough, or widely enough. As I type, I can see three big piles of books ready to be either read, thrifted or consigned to my bookshelves forever. A few weeks back, I removed about 90% of the blogs from my Feedly which made some mental space for “reading actual books”. Though, by the end of a long day, I’m usually drawn to more passive forms of escape (i.e. Netflix). It’s a good job TV is art too :)

Here are my favourite reads from Spring 2014:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Having watched both of Brene Brown’s popular Ted talks, I wasn’t sure that I’d learn much from reading the book but I was wrong. This is packed with interesting (and applicable information), like did you know that hope is a way of thinking, and not an emotion? As I read, I recognised just how ravaged our homes, schools, businesses and society is by shame and a corresponding lack of compassion both for ourselves and others. If you’re a creative or entrepreneurial sort, this book will be especially pertinent.

Her keynote at the 99U is also wonderful:

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

I heard Dani speak with Srini about this book, and instantly wanted to read it. I devoured it in 24 hours, during a lull in my own writing practice. It’s smart, sensitive and kindly encourages you to get your ass in the chair and start writing. She never romanticises the writing life, and is unashamed about admitting her failures and envies. I know I’ll be dipping into this book again and again, in the years to come.

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison

I watched the Netflix series based on Piper Kerman’s book last year, and found is both fascinating and vaguely terrifying. After seeing Piper speak at an event on female incarceration, I really wanted to know more about her story. It’s fantastically well written, gripping and entertaining. Kerman has turned what was a very traumatic experience into a beautiful and powerful story. Highly recommended.

Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York

Of late, I’ve been on a personal essay binge and this is the best collection I’ve read. I get the irony of moving to New York to write and finding so much to resonate with in a book of essays about writers who love but have left New York. This diverse collection of stories show that there really is no New York, but that everyone imbues their own idea/experience of it onto this larger concept.

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered

I reviewed it in full here.

Currently reading: The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer. First impression: honestly, I’m not a rabid fan after 7 chapters but I’ll keep reading…I’m still working on The Artist’s Way, though honestly I’ve been stalled at Week 4 for the past few weeks since it demands a ‘reading fast’ and I’m not sure I can commit to that.

What are your favourite book recommendations? Tweet them to me.

What defining success on your own terms really means (& my personal life checklist)


I’m tired of berating myself for “not being far enough along”.

I’m tired of seeing fabulous friends twist themselves into knots because their unconventional life hasn’t resulted in the traditional markers of success.

There are moments in my life when I look back and all I see is a trail of destruction – me, hopscotching around the world, leaving chaos and confusion in my wake. There are other moments when I look at my look at my online avatar and feel distinctly jealous of how this curated version of myself seems to have it all figured out. (The resume, the pretty pictures, the travels). The reality is somewhere in the middle.

If you are on a conventional path (feat. marriage + babies + house in suburbs + steady job), hooray for you. I wish you well.

If that’s not your ambition, it’s much trickier to evaluate your progress and it’s easy to be unduly harsh. It’s tremendously comforting to feel that you are on the right path, even if you have a steep, uphill climb ahead. Amidst all the detours, false starts and wrong turns, I think I have found my path.* Having a sense of one’s own progress is important. It’s emboldening, it means your hard work is paying off, it’s immensely satisfying.

Going your own way (as an entrepreneur, creative or pioneer) can be incredibly disorientating. Or at least it is for me. A big chunk of my mental/emotional bandwidth is absorbed by the uncertainty that accompanies this crazy life.

Of course, life can’t be reduced to a series of boxes to be ticked. This isn’t about reaching a financial target, a career high or the pinnacle of traveling. It’s about defining your own sense of what success is, and living your life in accordance with those metrics.

So, I took myself for an early morning coffee and hammered out exactly what success looks like to me.

This is what I came up with: (in no particular order)

  • Doing good work that I’m proud of and that helps people.
  • Having the courage to take risks and make hard decisions, even when they aren’t popular.
  • Having relationships (platonic and romanic) that challenge me to be more of myself. To be with people in both life’s inevitable dark moments and the joyous times too.
  • To have faith in my own voice, instincts and ideas. And, the courage to make them real.
  • To laugh often, prioritise my health and have fun.
  • Investing in the friendships and experiences that matter to me.
  • Saving a little money each month.
  • To write even when it makes me want to cry or puke or scream (like now).
  • To be there for the people I love, and let them be there for me.
  • Excellent food, amazing art and the mental/emotional/physical space to enjoy it.
  • To be honest
  • To trust that whatever happens, I’ll figure it out.

 

 

 
*famous last words

P.S. I gotta say: the conventional route is just as valid, and indeed sometimes even more subversive, than the pioneering one. The ‘normal’ path fulfils our human needs for stability, structure, a community, a solid income, and the drive to procreate. This isn’t about judging one path as superior, but acknowledging that progress along whichever path (or some combination of the two) matters.

P.P.S. If you’re feeling unsuccessful, consider Da Vinci’s path to acclaim: