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Here you'll find some snack sized samples of what we wrote in April 2012.

Peggy's Progress
        (Not to be confused with John Bunyan's tale of agony and doom!)

This excerpt is from the April 29 issue.

Over breakfast last week, the Afghan Ambassador to the United States, Eklil Hakimi and I were discussing the climate in Washington and Kabul. Well, okay truth be told, it wasn’t a conversation about the geopolitical climate, but more at the level of how’s the weather in Kabul compared to D.C.? Although I was curious to know what he thought about our President Obama I didn’t even begin to know what to say about his boss and President Hamid Karzai. And while we were indeed eating at the same time, it was only by chance that the Ambassador just happened to sit at the same table during the pre-investiture breakfast for the new President of San Jose State University. The Ambassador and I were both there to celebrate the inauguration of Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi as the 28th President of San Jose State University (SJSU). As he told somebody while introducing me, Mo and I first worked together 25 YEARS AGO when he was my boss at SJSU! Turns out Mo is the first Afghan American to be appointed as President of a major American university.

Lest this be solely an exercise in shameless name-dropping, I bring Mo up to share with you a remarkable story about a remarkable man. In his inaugural address, Mo said of his becoming University President, that

"It strengthens my belief that our great nation is truly a land of opportunity. For where else can the son of a carpenter with only an elementary school education from a war stricken country like Afghanistan become the president of this historic and vibrant university?"

Seeing Mo so exultant and energized in his new role, I was struck by the fact that 25 years after I worked with him, he has an even greater passion for higher education and the role it can play in our lives and communities. His siblings include doctors, and a classical violinist and his wife is a clinical dietician and well-known Persian poet. For him and his family, education was not only a way out of the chaos and strife in their own country but each has achieved great success in their chosen fields here in the U.S. I don’t think he sees himself as remarkable and he is genuinely humble about his life story. He says this is the story of so many American families.

Those of us who worked with him knew he wanted to be a University President someday. He not only achieved his goal but he’s incredibly skilled and successful at his job and also as a leader in Silicon Valley, the Afghan American community and with his involvement in bridging US-Afghan relations. What I admire most about Mo is not simply his accomplishments, but his deep, visible passion for what he does. As Ken Robinson would say, he is truly in his “element.” (If you don’t know what I’m referring to here you can go back to my November 27 article.)

In his inaugural speech Mo talked about the challenge to universities everywhere and to society in general where technology rules, and in which:

"Roughly 30 billion pieces of content were added to Facebook in just one month.
More than 32 billion searches were done on Twitter in a month.
The average teenager sends more than 4,700 text messages per month.
And more than two billion videos are watched on YouTube on a daily basis."

What was encouraging to me was that as much as Mo is a product and an advocate for advanced learning and teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (known collectively in academia as STEM) he is a staunch believer in a true liberal arts education and believes that

"Art enables us to escape the limitations in nature and empowers us to seek change through our imagination. . . Art is our fingerprint in the world. Art connects humans with their humanity."

And this from an engineer with a bachelors, two masters degrees and a doctorate in engineering (oh and just for kicks an MBA). And it was Mo’s own imagination that enabled him to see beyond the obstacles in his native Afghanistan and that led him to the American University in Beirut, then on to this country.

As I was sitting there listening to Mo recount those staggering statistics about how technology pervades modern life and the lives of most young people it reminded me of another remarkable person. He’s someone I don’t know personally and I only came to know of him via Facebook and YouTube...

The article above was part of our Outside the lines member's note from Sunday morning, April 29. To get all the content we send to our members:

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Last month I went to a show at a local art association gallery in a nearby town. It was a good juried exhibit. There were about 30 artworks on display from a variety of two dimensional media. The show was of local artists' work. I worked my way around the room slowly and deliberately with my people's choice ballot in hand, ready to mark down my favorite piece in the show. It was a difficult process, because while I felt that all the work in the show was good, nothing leapt out at me. As I worked my way around the room, I finally came to a blank spot on the wall. In the center of the blank spot and just above my eye level, there was an empty nail. To the right and just below my eye level was a label for a painting. It had the name of the artist, the name of the artwork, and the price. Beneath that label was another, indicating that the piece had taken second place in the show. Next to these labels was a red dot, indicating that the work had been sold. I suddenly wondered if my illusive people's choice vote had been sold out from under me.

The picture was gone. The viewing and voting public no longer had access to this prize winner. This was alarming to me. What kind of show was this that would allow work out while the show was in progress? How could the people's choice be meaningful? How could the show maintain its integrity with its viewers? I felt cheated and frustrated. The art association had gotten their commission, the artist had gotten his payment, the buyer had walked away happy, but it felt like an injustice had been done. The show, the jurors, and the viewing public had been betrayed. I felt as if the show had been raped for a buck.


Later, I asked about the missing painting. I asked several different members of the local association what was going on that they would allow a juried show in progress to be compromised by stripping out artwork immediately when it sold. I had only ever seen it done this way once before, and that time the show organizers had taken a merciless thrashing for doing it. But now, in this group, everyone I asked had the same answer, almost verbatim. "If we make a buyer wait until the end of the show to take their purchase home, they'll tell us to forget it. We have to let them take it immediately or we'll lose the sale."

"But don't you think it detracts from the show to have a gaping hole with a sold sticker where a painting once hung?" I asked. "No! It's wonderful! It tells people that art is selling, and it generates enthusiasm from the public. And we owe it to the artists to do everything possible to sell their work."

This situation sets up the biggest dilemma that artists wrestle with: the sometimes conflicting priorities of sales and exposure. Both are important, and arguments can be made either way.

One of the benefits of writing here is that I get the last word...

The article above was part of our Outside the lines member's note from Sunday morning, April 22. To get all the content we send to our members:

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Demons & Daimons

This is the first of what I plan to be an occasional series. It's about the things on one hand that utterly do you in, and on the other hand, that drive you to the heights of motivation and inspiration. Demons torment us. Daimons are the spark that drives our creativity to new heights. Today we are going to look at one common item from each of these categories, and some ideas for coping with them.


The Sales Demon

Sales is one of the toughest things for most highly creative people. You are so motivated by your creative vision, so hyper-focused on your work, and the idea of having to go out and find a way to make it pay for itself is so damned mundane. Selling is traumatic for many of us. But don't get me wrong, we love it when work sells, especially when it sells for a good price. Unfortunately though, the process of finding a buyer is so emotionally charged, so threatening, that many of us simply refuse to engage it.

Add to this emotional charge, the fact that there is what might be called a glut of good art being made, and a very limited range of qualified buyers. To be a qualified buyer, one must appreciate the art being sold, understand how to map that value on to a realistic dollar figure, and have those dollars available to spend buying it. All that is a complicated way to say the supply far outstrips the demand. And what that means is that a lot of very good art goes unsold.

Nothing in the two preceding paragraphs comes as a surprise to readers of Outside the Lines. But what can we do about it? You can't grab people by the collar and force them to write a check for your work. You can't make them like it. You can lower your prices below your cost in order to try to move your work, get it into the hands of collectors, and out of your precious little storage space. But that is not a solution really. It doesn't always even work.


The best thing you can do is to set reasonable prices that cover your costs and feel respectful of the work, and of you, and of the patron you hope will buy it. In other words, a fair price. Once you have set this price, stick with it and forget about it. If you have gallery representation you'll work out that price with their help. If you are focused on selling in shows and juried festivals, you will be on your own to work out your pricing. But the crucial thing is to settle comfortably on the price and stop thinking about it. Don't second guess yourself. Don't change your prices with every show you enter. Maybe, once a year, it would make sense to reevaluate your pricing. But the important thing to understand is that buyers are a special and rare commodity, and you won't find one under every bush. Too much energy spent on fiddling with your prices will not change that.

The article above was part of our Outside the lines member's note from Sunday morning, April 15. To get all the content we send to our members:

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Now and Then

Here are the first few paragraphs of the April 8 installment of Outside the Lines.

Eckhart Tolle photo
Life is always now.  —Eckhart Tolle

It's time to talk about Eckhart Tolle. His name has popped up in about a third of the interviews we have done so far. The concepts that he presents in his lectures and books are remarkably simple and powerful, and have a direct bearing on our ability as creative people to keep our balance and navigate the treacherous shoals and reefs that lurk along the course of the lifestyles we have chosen.

We first encountered Eckhart when he conducted a ten week series of interviews with Oprah Winfrey back in 2008 for her Soul Series program.

As you might recall, 2008 was a rough year for the economy. It was the beginning of an extended period during which not only our Windhook building fund, but also our personal day to day finances went into free fall. It was a time of great anxiety and difficulty for us, culminating with the short sale of the house we were living in at the time. The discovery of Eckhart's ideas, and more importantly, the effectiveness of those ideas in helping us to keep our bearings through that time was remarkable. It felt providential. And while the economic situation has begun to settle a bit, the value and power of these principles is as remarkable today as the day we first heard them.


We want the world and we want it now. Now? Now!  Jim Morrison

Eckhart Tolle photo So what is this amazing thing? Quite simply, it is the realization that now is all there is. Not now in the sense of this day and age, but rather in the sense of this very moment. Everything you do, you do right now. You have never taken action in the past, and you will never take action in the future. Every experience you have ever had, or ever will have, occurred, or will occur, in the present moment. The past and the future are mental constructions comprised of memories and expectations. You cannot take action anywhere except where you are right this moment. We organize these concepts of past and future into what we call time. This organizing process is a necessity of the physical universe at some level, but the concept of time does not change the fact that you are always functioning in the present moment. This is not to say that past and future do not exist, or that they do not impact how we live our lives. But the place where they exist is entirely in our minds.

Introducing Mr. Ego

"OK, so what?" you ask. "How does this revolutionize the way I live my life?" The answer lies in the newest part of our brains, where the uniquely human logic centers operate. Tolle says that out of this complex of rational thought springs a tyrant that he calls ego. Tolle's ego is a bit different from Freud's ego. Tolle's ego is that part of your mind that wants to eliminate surprise and control outcomes. It is the part of your mind that lays awake at night imagining the future, certain that calamity can be prevented by worry and rehearsing the imagined scenarios. Ego is that part of your mind that searches the past for clues about the future, and obsesses over preventing possible calamity.

The article above was part of our Outside the lines member's note from Sunday morning, April 8. To get all the content we send to our members:

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The Windhook Interview—Nicole Rushin

Nicole Rushin photo Nicole Rushin is a remarkable writer in central Georgia. She writes a blog entitled Writing as Loud as I Can and a subscription journal called Dream-Speak, which is all about dreams and what she calls "Lucid Living." She also conducts workshops in dream work, and leads a private Facebook group for her Dream-Speak subscribers. We talked to Nicole at length via Skype a little while ago, and in spite of some minor technical hiccups, it went very well. The story of how we met Nicole unfolds at the beginning of the interview.

Michael: I want to start out with the way we found each other. I thought that was a very interesting thing, and I'd like to get your perspective. From my point of view, what happened was that I created this search on Google+ and the search was for life drawing. And Google+ shows you regular Google search results but also Google+ users who have something about your search topic in their profile or in their recent posts. It also shows you Google+ users who comment on posts as well. So I took the Google+ users that showed up in that search, and created a public circle.

Nicole: Life drawing? And my name came up?

Michael: Somehow, your name came up. Google probably found "life" and "drawing" separately in something you wrote somewhere. Anyway, I shared this public circle with all the Google+ users who were included in it. In other words, I shared the circle with itself. And that's when you popped up. That's when you responded to my share posting. I think you had gone to my blog where I had my art.

Nicole: Yeah, I saw your sculpture there.

Michael: So you commented on that and that's where the conversation started.

Nicole: Right.

Peggy: I remember I came home from work one day and Michael said, "You need to look at this." Because I guess at the time your dream letter was named "Between the Lines." And he said, "Look at that! That's crazy. She's 'Between the Lines' and we're 'Outside the Lines.'

Michael: And we're both writing publicly, and we're also doing something subscription-wise, and the names were so similar. It was just this crazy synchronicity. Anyway, I thought that was very interesting.

Nicole: I saw your art, and then I sent you the poem I had written about men.

Michael: Oh yes. That's right.

Nicole: Anytime somebody has women featured in art, I'm like "Well I'm going to put my two cents into this." [Laughter] I think men need to honored and portrayed more in art than they are. So I sent you the link then I thought, 'Oh, I hope he didn't take that the wrong way.'

Peggy: No. I remember he was really intrigued and pleased at that response.

Michael: Anyway, I thought that was a very interesting synchronicity.

Nicole: Yes. It was interesting because of the "Outside the Lines" and "Between the Lines" thing, but I've since changed it to Dream-Speak, and  photo I'm continually trying to narrow down exactly what I want to talk about. But I've never been somebody who's afraid to fail. I just do everything live. I put it out there and then pick up the pieces later. My website has been through many changes.

Michael: Well that takes us back to the beginning. We've looked at your "About Me" section on your web page and we've also gone through the notes you sent us, and you said some things there that were very interesting. I've got it on another screen here, and I want to read it to you.

Nicole: Oh no! Something I said.

Michael: Yes, I'm going to read something you said, and I'd like you to go off on that.

Nicole: Ok.

Michael: "School was a struggle, and I was not interested in it at all, but I somehow made it through. I graduated with no honors or colored sashes on my robe, and with no idea of where I was going. I carried with me the story that I was a daydreamer, and that I could never make a living writing. Not because I couldn't write, but because it was not logical to make a living out of your passion."

Nicole: Right. I grew up with parents who were not creative, and went through the run-of-the-mill public school system, and the public school systems are not designed for creative people. It's all very logical, you have a college prep curriculum that you follow, and you go to college or you don't go to college. I grew up with a disdain for authority because I secretly wanted to just be myself, but never felt like I could. I didn't really much like the church, and I guess my dad was kind of a rebel, because he grew up Catholic, but when I was young we went to a Lutheran church.

Peggy: In Georgia?

Nicole: No, this was in Ohio, actually. Yeah, Lutheran churches aren't that big here.

Michael: Right.

Nicole: My mom always said, "I don't know where she gets her creativity." And it's interesting that my dad was the one that introduced me to Joseph Campbell, who is a really big influence on my writing and creativity. I think Joseph Campbell took away that anger that I had toward the church. I was finally able to see the deeper meaning. I kind of had this attitude that nobody's going to tell me what to do and that the church along with the schools were just there to confine me.

Peggy: What age were you when you started reading Joseph Campbell?

Nicole: I was about 17 when I found this book that my dad was reading. It was the interview with Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell.

Peggy: Two of our favorite people!

Nicole: It's interesting that my dad is such a logical person, and always follows the rules. But he was reading this book that was so far away from structure. It opened my eyes to a more embracive way of looking at religion and religious symbols, and the dreams that I had always had. People had always said, "Well, Nicole just has strange dreams." So yeah. I grew up in a very structured, non-creative atmosphere. It wasn't until I was a senior in high school that I turned in a paper in English class, and the teacher said, "Why aren't you in advanced English classes?" And I thought, "It's a little late now, but thanks." I just got by, and so many kids are like that. The public schools are not designed for creatives.

Peggy: Did you write for yourself at that point, in high school?

Nicole: I wrote a little bit in high school. I started writing when I was about 12 or 13. I wasn't really a depressed child, I was just melancholy and a daydreamer. And writing really helped me to deal with that.

Peggy: But you didn't show that to anybody. Did you share it with someone?

Nicole: No. I never shared that. When I got out of high school, I took some creative writing classes, and I joined some writers groups, but I never thought I could do anything with that. I always thought it would be a hobby.

Peggy: What kind of work do your parents do?

Nicole: My dad designs interior sprinkler systems.

Peggy: Fire sprinklers.

Nicole: Yeah. So when I was young I saw the back of his head at his drawing table a lot. Because he would do freelance work, and he'd always bring his work home with him. He was always doing scale drawings, and when I later went to school for landscape design, I thought it was cool because my dad did design, and maybe I have that in me. But sitting at a drafting table drawing circles on a page, was torturous to me. I took the whole year to do my internship, up to the very last day to finish it. It was awful. I just couldn't do it. I had this feeling like it was fake. Like I needed to be in the drawing, or I needed to be in the nursery gathering the plants up instead of just sitting, drawing. It didn't work for me.

Michael: That's when you started writing some articles that went into a local magazine.


Nicole:  Yeah. I went to school for landscape design and horticulture, and I graduated and left my office job. I'd been there for seven years, so it was pretty terrifying leaving that job. I took a position as a nursery manager at a local nursery, and then I opened my own nursery, which was an outdoor container gardening nursery. You know, there are pros and cons to that, but most of the time I was just watering plants. [laughter] It was there that I started writing publicly. So I started publishing articles for a local magazine called About Covington to Madison and I got a really good response to those gardening articles. Some of them are posted on my blog. I can remember a lady bringing in one of my articles. She wasn't even there to buy anything, she just wanted to come there and tell me that she read all my articles. And I was like, "Ok, buy something." [laughter] At the time I felt like that was nice, but I was just writing this stuff for the heck of it and to gain recognition for the store. But then the customers would come in and tell me I made them cry. [Laughs] You know, is that good? I later realized that my writing makes people feel, it makes them nostalgic and dreamy. So the writing kind of redirected me and changed my focus. I could see that my garden center wasn't going to make the money I needed. We were in the middle of a drought and a bad economy. About this time, I got a phone call from a guy who read an article I wrote on water. I wrote about the gardening element of water, and about Dr. Masaru Emoto. The caller worked for a network marketing company, and he called me and wanted to come and talk to me. It was hot, the middle of summer, and I was bored. Somebody please come talk to me. [Laughter] So he came up there the next day, and of course I joined the company, and I tried to sell this stuff, but I just couldn't. It never took off. But, I'm so grateful for that experience, because I went to one of their training seminars in Arizona, and they had all this leadership training, and you know if you join network marketing for any other reason maybe it will be for the leadership training they give you. That was the best part of it for me, because it got me out of the box. It got me talking to people, and on social media, and connecting with people. I soon figured out that I couldn't sell somebody else's stuff. It was just kind of uncanny how writing that one article, and that phone call led me to where I'm at right now.

Michael: I gather that you've spent quite a bit of energy researching and studying various aspects of marketing, especially online.

Nicole: I've been dragged through the dregs of online marketing. For a while I did personal branding training, and I've tried to sell myself as an online marketing trainer, and probably followed a lot of the wrong people, but I think I got what I needed out of all that. But one day I asked myself, “What is the point of all this marketing, if you never sit down and have anything to market. What am I marketing?” It is like marketers selling marketing to other marketers, and you never leave the little circle. So I just threw my hands up one day, and said, "I'm done with all this!" I unsubscribed from almost all of the marketing newsletters that I was getting. What I needed was to write, and I needed content that would inspire me instead of telling me how to do things. So I started connecting to artists, and photography sites, and all that happened about the time I got on Google+, and when I got on there, I was more clear about who I needed to connect with to push that forward. And then that's when I met Michael.

Peggy: Emoto is the water crystal guy, right?

Nicole: His name is Masaru Emoto, and he's the one who did all the studies about how you can change the structure of water with your thoughts.

Michael: And he was featured in the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know!?.

Nicole: Yeah, they had the photography up in the train station.

Peggy: That's right.

Nicole: Another ironic thing is that I added that at the last minute. I got a phone call from the publisher of the magazine, and he said, "You still have a little bit of space in here." So I just stuck this thing in about Masaro Emoto. And if I hadn't added that, I don't know if I would have ever gotten the attention of the network marketer who called me. I added a photo of water crystal and that was what caught his attention.

Michael: You have an ongoing project called Marketing for Daydreamers. What can you tell us about that?


Nicole: It's about just getting into action. What I call being stuck in the bathroom is when you get into constant prepare mode, and you never completely bring what you have to the table. So you can spend a lot of time learning and reading and training. I flew all the way to Connecticut for online marketing training. But all these things they were telling me were simply to prepare me. Eventually, I had to just do it. Do what? My real work is writing, poetry and prose—not teaching people how to market them selves. And it's really about bringing what you have and offering it to people. A lot of people who are creative and who are daydreamers or artists get stuck in that prepare mode. They're perfectionists, and they never get over that hump. In the end, my intention is to have a collection of poetry and insight and to share my journey with others. The journey of how I found marketing in sharing my work and engaging in my life. It has been a long journey. At first glance people might not understand the title, but I believe there are two schools of thought. One is based in logic and plans and the other is based in inspiration and creativity. I was never able to follow goal sheets or 90 day plans. I just needed a vision. And I needed to keep writing. I decided to start publishing Marketing for Daydreamers live in segments on my blog because I need to have that accountability, just because of the way my mind works, I don't know if I would ever get it done otherwise. The bigger message is making room in the world for productive daydreaming and creatives. We have been governed by logic and structure for way too long. There is another way to go about marketing.

Michael: It's sort of like sitting in front of the mirror putting on your makeup all evening and never getting to the party.

Nicole: Yeah. You're always in prepare mode. I need to learn how to do this first, or...

Peggy: I totally get that. That's what I do. I'll research it to death, I'll go to the library and get books on it, and I never just do it.

Nicole: Yeah. You don't even need all that stuff. So that's why I don't have any fear of just doing things live in front of people. Although I probably have more fear of doing it in person than on my blog, and on line. I don't really have any barrier to that. Here I am. I'm going to fail or I'm going to succeed, and you can see it happen.

Michael: It's the difference between the performing arts and writing and visual arts. Because writers and visual artists work privately, and then they present what they've done when it's ready. Whereas the performing artist has to be on. And once it's out, it's done.

Nicole: Yeah, my ex-husband used to call it blogger's remorse. Because I would put up a post and the next day I would say, "Oh my gosh! I can't believe I said that." But it's there. It's done. You can't do anything about it. You can't take it back.

Michael: Social media and blogging have given writers the opportunity to be like performance artists.

Peggy: I really like what you say about what you want to do is help people get out of their own way. That's a big thing for a lot of creative people.

Nicole: Yeah. You can get muddled up in your own head, and your limiting beliefs about what things are about. The tool that I've always used for that is dreamwork. I not only use it at night, through real dreams, but also during the day. People don't hear the things they are saying. I have a way of listening to people, and I can be very objective. So I'm like, "Well, did you just hear what you said to me?" and I feed it back to them. The project that I have called Dream-Speak is really about letting people say their own words; allowing people to hear what they are saying.

Michael: I really like your concept of lucid living.

Nicole: Yes. Living out loud.

Michael: I love the title of your blog too. Writing as Loud as I Can.

Nicole: That came from a poem I wrote years ago called Ghost Writer: "Writing as loud as I can because I have been plagued with a voice like wind whispering in the sand."

Michael: I think we could unpack this idea of lucid living a little bit more. I'd like you to talk more about the relationship of the conscious life to the dream life.

Ghost writer

I am writing as loud as I can
Because I have been plagued with a voice
Like wind whispering in the sand
My words are the ghosts
Rustling in your upstairs room
They move
Across the back of your neck
A thud on the stairs
A clang in your attic space
I have been plagued with a voice
Like wind whispering in the sand
I am writing as loud as I can

Copyright ©Nicole Rushin 2009

Nicole: I don't differentiate between being asleep and awake, and I think a lot of people will use dream analysis and they're ok with analyzing dream symbols, but for some reason when it comes to waking life situations, they can't turn around and do the same thing. For some reason they don't trust in the messages. I was just reading in a blog today about a lady who saw a tree burning from the top down. And she was getting all this response but nothing about the esoteric meaning. If you dreamt about that, you would probably take the time to understand it. But I think people don't trust in the messages, and I think that a lot of disease comes from the emotional realm, and if we can understand the messages that are coming to us in our waking life and our dreams, we can heal on that level, and it makes it easier to heal on a physical level. It's always been a process for growth for me, similar to yoga or meditation. It's a practice for me. Like when I see something, or take a photograph, I try to understand it on a deeper level, without over-analyzing it. If I dreamt this, I would look at it this way. So why not trust in the symbols and the messages while I'm awake.

Michael: That's very insightful. I've never heard anyone else say that.

Nicole: One of my blog readers sent me to a book called Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy and there was a chapter about that very thing. And I thought, "Oh, I'm not crazy!" That was encouraging.

Michael: So you are embarking on a new phase with dreamwork workshops, right?

Nicole: Right. I had my first workshop on February 23rd, and we did some energy work, and dream analysis, and gave the attendees some simple tools to look objectively at their dreams and the symbols that are coming through them. There's a lot of neat things you can do, like you can look at the similarities between money and food in dreams. Sometimes if you can't get to the bottom of why you struggle with your relationship with money, it's easier to look at your relationship with food and vice versa. Some people have issues with food or weight issues, and maybe if they look at their relationship with money, they can translate it.

Peggy: Wow.

Nicole: They're both fuels. Money fuels our economic system and food is the necessary fuel for our bodies. Sometimes in dreams they're interchangeable. And in life they are too.

Michael: That's very interesting. Once again, I've never thought of that before.

Nicole: I tend to have low blood sugar, and I tend not to eat enough. I'll eat breakfast and then I'll see how long I can not eat. And I'll do the same thing with money. I'll have chunks of it and I'll see how far I can stretch it. So understanding that gave me some insight: I need to have a steady trickle of income at all times. People with blood sugar issues have to eat frequently, a steady trickle of it all day. It's the same thing. Not having that financial trickle coming in really wears down on my energy, whereas not eating wears down on my physical energy.

Peggy: This is something we ask everybody. How do you balance your creative path with money to eat and have a place to live and all that?


Nicole: I am in a situation right now where I'm pretty much totally taken care of. It's kind of ironic. I ended up in a relationship with the publisher of the magazine that I was writing for. I would have to say he's one of my biggest fans. I just came out of a bankruptcy, divorce, losing my home, my cars, everything. I have very few bills, but ended up here, so I'm kind of taken care of right now. I guess a lot of people would look at that situation and say, "Well, I can just goof off" but I really think it's given me more drive. I like being taken care of, but at the same time, I want the independence. It's been an interesting balance. I've got to have gratitude for where I'm at right now, but at the same time I've got to push through and get the independence and success that I want, and pursue the dreams that I want to go after. Reed is very encouraging for that, so I would say he's my biggest fan and totally supports me in my writing venture. I don't know if that answers your question. We all have very specific and intimate relationships to money. None of them are the same.

Michael: This is an issue that people wrestle with. People purely on the creative path rarely make enough money to make it work. It's unusual when you find that magic combination where there's enough income coming in and you don't have to think about it. So there are all kinds of things that come into play. Some people don't ever really get started until they are at retirement age and they've got a pension or something. Or other people are in a relationship. We know a lot of painters and various artists who have a spouse or significant other who really covers the money side of it. That's a very common thing.


Nicole: Yeah, my ex-husband said he supported me, but then he said, "Go get a job." So that was a hard situation. I don't discourage people from getting jobs. I could easily go get a part time job. I don't discourage that at all, but I think a lot of people have some spiritual hangups with money. And then there's the whole starving artist mentality. We just have to break through all that stuff...

[Skype crashed at this point. We picked up again when we got our connection back.]

Nicole: We were talking about balancing creativity and money.

Peggy: Yes.

Nicole: I think it really comes down to the spiritual issue of how people perceive money. I think a lot of artists and spiritual seekers see it as kind of a dirty thing, and it doesn't have to be that way. There's a blogger and spiritual business coach named Mark Silver. I just mentioned him on my last Dream-Speak newsletter. He has some really good training on how to get down to the bottom of issues with money. For me it has a lot to do with valuing what I have to offer. Having the confidence to know that what I do is valuable. And it comes down to being able to put a price tag on it. And that can be hard.

Michael: Yes, it's probably one of the biggest issues that creative people have in a lot of different disciplines. Our culture doesn't value it sufficiently that the culture makes accommodations for it. "Yeah, we think it's wonderful that you're an artist, and we really like your work, and we want to see your work, but could you just put a Walmart price on it?" You have to figure out how to support yourself, but most people think of art as a nice hobby.

Nicole: Yes. This gets back to where we started. I was taught growing up that an artistic career wasn't possible, or logical. But it's not so. I think that in this era that we are entering into, there's going to be more space for artists to create businesses and bring their art into the world. Before we were in a logical education system, and now doors are opening up to other ways of thinking. Not everybody learns the same way. I didn't learn from sitting in a classroom listening to somebody yammer on. It wasn't helpful to me. I didn't learn well in the classroom in horticulture school. If I could just get to the dirt, get my hands in it, I could learn.

Michael: Well, your facility with language is compelling. I read your stuff, and I'm amazed. And it connects. It connects on a really solid level for me. In some ways you remind me of myself, because the poetry you write, I feel like I could have written it, but I didn't. Does that make sense? It's a compliment.

Nicole: I've heard that: write the book you've always wanted to read. I don't know if I'm being helpful to people about balancing money and creativity, because I feel like I'm still on that journey.

Michael: No, this is one of our favorite topics for what we write about, because we all wrestle with it. I don't think there's an artist out there, in any medium, that doesn't wrestle with this. We know artists that have been doing it their whole lives, and when you get them in a quiet place, they'll say, "You know, I still struggle with money. I still struggle to do what I need to do, and still have enough money to make it." It's the culture we live in.

Peggy: The other thing we've found is that the most comfortable creative types, and I don't mean economically comfortable but comfortable in their own skin, are people who either have a partner or family or some relationships where people do value their creativity. They put it as high as anything else.

Michael: You just need the encouragement. It's tough to be out there all the time and not get that encouragement. And if you've got people you value who really get it, that's very helpful.

Nicole: Yeah, I think I'm in that place right now, where I wasn't before. Tara Gentile had a quote on one of her posts and I thought it was really insightful. She said, "You don't make money from your passion, you create the opportunity for commerce around the way your passion inspires you to serve others." So it may not be the art that you're creating but the way that art is helping other people. And that's the way commerce comes into all of this. I love to write, but it's really how that writing is helping people. That's what's going to build the business for me. It has to do with giving people objectivity, allowing them to connect to their emotions again and letting them get out of their own way.


Michael: By the way, I really like your photography too.

Nicole: Oh, thank you.

Michael: It really compliments the writing.

Nicole: Well, you know, blogging is very visual. So I've always found that it helps to add photography into the posts.

Michael: I think most people do best with a blend of different senses contributing to their experience.

Nicole: The photography is something that I just started doing. I never really picked up a camera before. It was probably last Spring. Reed got a new camera, and gave me his old camera. I didn't know anything about taking pictures. And he said, "Well, it's easy. Photography is journaling about light." So I said, "Oh, so I don't need to take pictures of things, I need to take pictures of the light. OK." That was it. It made sense, and I have something that I follow, and I learned a little bit about this in landscape design school. They called it the rule of threes, but I call it the third element. Sometimes if there are only two things in a picture, if you can give a sense that somebody is there, watching, or has been there, you can create the third element. And a lot of times if there are three things in a picture, it gives you a better sense of scale. So it's about light and the third element for me.

Peggy: Where did you go for landscape design?

Nicole: I have a two year associates degree in environmental horticulture. I went to Gwinnett Technical College. It took me four years to get a two year degree.

Peggy: Well, yeah, going part time and working.

Michael: I understand that. I did end up with a theoretical linguistics degree from the University of Washington but it took me ten years to get it.

Nicole: Wow. But you finished.

Michael: I did eventually.

Nicole: Yeah, I finished. It led me places. I never felt like the doors opened in that area for me, but it led me to where I need to be. I enjoyed the landscape design principles class, and learning the botanical names of all the trees, most of all.

Michael: One of our favorite questions that we ask everybody is, "What would you tell somebody who's just getting started? With something like what you do, or any other creative lifestyle?


Nicole: You need a lot of confidence. And the ability to get back up when you're knocked down. You've got to be able to pick yourself back up because you're always gonna have bad days. I think working from home is one of the hardest endeavors you'll ever undertake, but it's well worth it. Just be prepared. People think having a work from home business is a piece of cake, but everything has its ups and downs. But the ups make the downs worth it. You just have to keep going.

Michael: I once heard it said that far more important than talent is the dogged determination to get up and come again, every time you get knocked down. And the ones who succeed are the ones who just refuse to stop. The ones who just won't give up.

Nicole: I'm sure a lot of people think I'm crazy. "Haven't you given up by now?" I hear a lot of people say you have to have a why. I think that's kind of vague.

Michael: That may be true, but it might not be something you articulate as, "Well, I'm doing this because..." You do have to have a why in the sense that there's some reason that you just won't quit.

Peggy: And so many people we have talked to can't imagine themselves doing anything else. This is their life.

Nicole: Exactly. I think the reason I'm so determined, and why I don't quit, is that I enjoy it. In the end it has nothing to do with where you end up. It has more to do with the way you get there. How you walk your walk. Finding authenticity. Finding your truth. And for me it's about that every day discovery. So I guess I don't know any other way. If you focus only on your why, and the end point, you may end up giving up.

Michael: yes.

Nicole: My why is now.


Peggy: I wish you were closer. And I wish we had Windhook built. It would be fabulous to do a Dream-Speak workshop there.

Nicole: Well I hope I get good at them. Being on the internet I don't have to speak to groups but I've got to get better at it.

Peggy: Well, You get good at it and when we get our place built, you come out.

Michael: We all have work to do.

Nicole: I have done workshops before. I did marketing seminars to groups of about 25 people, and I did fine with it. But this is a little different, because it's more real. It's really what I'm about, so it's scary.

Peggy: Everything is invested in this.

Michael: Very much—more personal.

Nicole: I'm not marketing marketing to marketers any more. [Laughter]

Michael: And yet you strike me as knowing quite a bit about the online marketing process and how that works. I've learned quite a bit from tuning in to your comments and the people you refer to. I've found several people through your research.

Nicole: You know, when I gave up on the marketing thing that day, my intention was, "I think I can better serve people if I just show them how to market something. If I just do it myself. That would be a better resource to help them find their way. Lead by example."

Peggy: You had your garden center and it was a beautiful place, and people liked to just come there. And in a way you've done that on line. You've drawn people to your site, and your blog, where they can talk and read and share things with each other.

Nicole: I actually recognized that with my blog. I don't want to just create another beautiful place, although that's great. I need to make sure the business around it is solid. I think Tara Gentile and Mark Silver have some good business training to follow. Even their free stuff is helpful. It's nice to have a community, and a beautiful place, but if you want it to sustain you, you've got to make sure that you dig down. And like Tara said, the way your passion inspires others. I couldn't just sell plants. I should have figured out how my love for gardening was really helping people, and do my marketing and base the business around that. I like to write, but I have to define how this is helping people. That's what I'm working on right now. Building the business around that. I just recently saw the connection between Dream-Speak and Marketing for Daydreamers. They're both about growth, objectivity, and creative thinking.

Peggy: Yeah, I thought they were always connected. But we haven't been through your whole evolution.

Nicole: It's an evolution. You have to enjoy the journey. Have a why. That's good, but if you're totally focused on the end point you're going to be frustrated.

Michael: I think someday I'm going to have to start writing about Eckhart Tolle. Several of the people we've interviewed have brought up the importance of living in the present moment, and honoring the focus on what's happening right now, because it is really all you've got.

Nicole: And that's where true art comes from. When I first closed the garden center, I kind of lost the ability to function. I couldn't do little things like clean the house, or keep up with the laundry, or even go to the grocery store. I just felt overwhelmed by all the details in my life. I had to learn how to engage in all that again. If you want to be an artist, and you want to work from home, you have to be able to love all of that. It's kind of that carry water, chop wood thing.  photo I was so used to going off to a job, and saying, "Ok, this is my livelihood." And all of a sudden I was trying to immerse myself in art and work from home. It's taken me up until recently to be able to engage in all that again. I call it Live, Notice, and Share. The marketing end of it is the sharing.

Michael: What I hear you saying in that is that the difference between the kind of creative lifestyle you're in now and the everyday work world is that you can put your value out on some external thing when you have a job. But when you're doing it from within, you don't have that shield or diversion to keep you from having to face the reality that this right here in front of you is all there is.

Nicole: And then big time accountability issues come into play.

Peggy: You are your job and you are your boss and you are your first customer.

Nicole: And who is that? For me it's blue jeans and coffee and playing with my dogs and I had to really be able to engage in all that stuff. Because if you're not living, and engaged with your life, then you don't notice things. And it's in that noticing that you can create the art.

The interview above was part of our Outside the lines member's note from Sunday morning, April 1. To get all the content we send to our members:

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