It’s not OK.

 
 
 

My friend was waiting patiently on the steps of my apartment, reading a book.

I was running late because I’d been working on a writing project that took longer than expected.

I rushed towards her, out of breath and anxious, spewing apologies for my tardiness.

She smiled and stood to hug me.

“It’s OK! Don’t worry about it.”

I appreciated her graciousness, but I shook my head.

“Actually… it’s not OK.”
 

Like many creative, driven people, I have a tendency to go “above and beyond” when it comes to my work — burning the midnight oil to add that “one final touch” to a project, or diving deep into a book that I’m writing, barely surfacing to breathe until it’s complete.

There’s nothing “wrong” with this tendency to over-deliver.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve become successful at my craft.

It’s one of the things I like best about myself.
 

Devotion is very sexy.

What’s NOT sexy is when my devotion swings out of balance.

I have plenty of devotion for my career and my clients, for example.

But when it comes to my friends, I find that I’m consistently running… just… a… little… bit… late.
 

For years, I’ve told myself things like, “Nobody’s perfect!” and “You’re still a great friend!” and “Be gentle with yourself!”

All of that is true.

But sometimes, it can be incredibly powerful to admit to yourself & others:

“Actually… it’s not OK.”
 

It’s not OK that I’m (almost) always a few minutes tardy when I’m meeting my friends.

It’s a small thing and yet it’s a big thing.

Even if they don’t really mind, I do.

Even if it’s OK with them, it’s not OK with me.

That’s not the kind of friend and human that I want to be.

But I’d never make a firm commitment to do better, without first beginning with those three uncomfortable words:

“It’s not OK.”

 

Honesty + devotion = progress.

And THAT… is definitely OK.

 

xo.

PS. What’s not OK with you?

 
 
 

Read More creativity // inspiration devotion // liberty

GOOD QUESTION: How can I protect my energy when I’m living with a partner who sees “problems” and “darkness” everywhere?

 
 
 

Dear Alex,

I have a man that I adore, and I’m so blessed.

But here’s the issue:

He watches the news 24/7, while I prefer to listen to classical music.

He is really emotionally involved in all the injustice in the world, while I choose to focus on what is going RIGHT rather than all that is going wrong.

I don’t want to change my sweet dude, because I respect who he is and I understand his passion.

But I want to learn how to protect my energy and stay “in the light” while living side by side with a hunky news junkie.

Any thoughts?

–Jeannette

 
 

Dear Jeannette,

Your question gripped me by the heart, because… I’ve been there.
 

I spent several years in a relationship with a man who did not share my exact worldview.

In fact, we were polar opposites, in many ways.

I saw business possibilities everywhere — he saw a system that oppresses workers and makes it difficult to flourish.

I saw nice people who want to help out — he saw selfish people, only looking out for themselves.

I saw a glamorous plane trip to NYC — he saw carbon emissions, wrecking our planet.

And so on.
 

There were days where I wanted to shake him and say, “Brighten up, already! Life is meant to be enjoyed!”

And there were days, I’m sure, where he wanted to shake me and say, “Open your goddamn eyes! Not everyone is as privileged as you!”

Neither of us were completely “right.” Neither of us were totally “wrong.”

And, for a time, we were very much in love.
 

How did we make it work?

By finding a peaceful equilibrium.

A place “in the middle” where we could co-exist.
 

He would vent his frustration about the latest global crisis. Then, to create balance, I’d say, “Tell me three things you’re grateful for.” (Or just remind myself, quietly, internally: “What he’s saying is true. But there are good, kind and generous people, too.”)
 

In the end, we weren’t meant to be together, forever. But for a while… this equilibrium worked.

My advice for you, Jeannette, is to find that kind of equilibrium with your husband, if you possibly can.
 

This might entail setting some new ground rules that both of you can agree upon.

Rules like:

1. No matter what happened today, we ALWAYS end the night on a positive note — by sharing one thing we’re grateful for and saying “I love you,” before bed.

2. News coverage is not permitted in the house after 8pm, because it disrupts our quality time and sleep. (We need to get good sleep, in order to have the energy to fight the good fight.)

3. The first Sunday of every month is Happy Day. From sunup to sundown, conversations about global epidemics are not permitted. But amazing sex totally… is.
 

I completely believe that you & your husband can strike a healthy balance, Jeannette. Especially because you clearly adore him (and I’m sure he’s bonkers about you, too.)
 

Together, you can be like the sun & the moon. Lightness & darkness.

Opposite powers, yet both equally necessary.

Working, together, for a better union…

… and a better world.

 

“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” –Rumi

 

xo.

PS. Do YOU have a friend or sweetheart whose worldview is radically different from your own? How do you deal with it?

 
 
 

Read More good question

GOOD QUESTION: I want to write a book but it’s haaaard. Who can help me?

 
 
 

Dear Alex,

I am trying to write a book but I’m feeling stuck. Do you know any good writing coaches… or anyone who might be able to help?

–K.

 
 

Dear K.,

When people say to me:

“I want to write a book!”

What they usually mean is…

“I want to inspire people.”

Or: “I want to educate people.”

Or: “I want to entertain people.”

Or: “I want to move people, and make them feel things.”

Or some combination of those effects.

There are so many ways to inspire, educate, entertain and move people.

Writing a book is certainly one way.

Hiring a professional (like a ghostwriter or biographer) to channel the book for you is another way.

But books aren’t the only way to inspire, educate, entertain and move people.

You could also produce a podcast. Start a webTV show. Or a blog. Or not a blog. Or maybe just host a dinner party and tell rollicking stories around the table, while breaking open a nice, crusty baguette and sipping a crisp Rosé.

If you’re feeling stuck with your book, I’d recommend that you ask yourself — really honestly — if a book is truly what you feel called to create.

Maybe there’s another “container” for your ideas that would be easier to produce, or more suited to your personality and communication style. A different kind of “contribution” that you could offer to the world.

Stop. Check your Hut (heart + gut). And see.

And if you discover that — YES! — it’s a book, it’s definitely a book, it absolutely has got to be a book…

Then I DO have a few suggestions to help you find the support that you need.

Here we go…

 

If you can’t get motivated to write because life is so “busy”…

Read this (it will make you cry): http://dieempty.com/

 

If you want to tell raw, vulnerable, true stories that grip the heart…

Work & study with Laurie Wagner from 27 Powers. She’ll help you mine your gold: http://27powers.org/

 

If you want an inky fairy godmother to walk you through the ins & outs of writing a bestselling book …

Linda Sivertsen, aka the Book Mama, can help: http://bookmama.com/

 

If you want to join a writing circle that’s encouraging, not critical and nitpicky…

Dave Ursillo’s online community, The Literati Writers, is a great choice. Learn more at: http://daveursillo.com/

 

If you want to pick a veteran literary agent’s brain & find out how to make your book more appealing to publishers…

My literary agent, Kristina Holmes, offers brain pickin’ dates and consulting for authors. (She particularly loves spiritual, emotional stories that speak to the heart): http://holmesliterary.com/

 

If you need to write a book proposal & have no clue where to begin…

This program can help: http://yourbigbeautifulbookplan.com/ [I was on the team that helped to produce this program... and later, I used it to craft my own book proposal!]

 

If you need an editor or copywriter to help you find the right words…

I have a list of highly-recommended wordsmiths right here: http://alexandrafranzen.com/things-i-love/ [scroll down a bit to find them.]

 

If you’re writing a memoir or coffee table book, and you want somebody to edit, design and print it for you…

I’ve heard great things about this company: http://echomemoirs.com/

 

If you need someone to proofread your book & clean up all those typos…

Woz Flint is an eagle-eyed superstar (I’ve used her several times… with great delight!): http://linkedin.com/in/wozflint

 

If you want to self-publish your book & sell it online…

I think that’s a fine choice! Here’s a smart guide: http://lifehacker.com/how-to-self-publish-your-own-book/

 

If you dream about writing a children’s or picture book…

Simone Kaplan is an absolute delight (with 20 years of experience in the industry): http://picturebookpeople.com/

 

If you need someone to illustrate your book or design your book cover…

Rebecca Pollock is a queen! She did my very first print book, and created templates for most of my digital books, too: http://rebeccapollock.com/

 

If you just realized that you DON’T want to write a book, but actually you want to produce a MAGAZINE…

Shauna from We Are Branch does phenomenal web & print design, including gorgeous magazines: http://wearebranch.com/

 

If you want simple advice on how to get your blog & social media fans OH SO EXCITED!!! about your new book:

Talk to Sarah Von Bargen: http://sarahvonbargen.com/offering/secret-weapon/

 

If you need a therapist because you keep sabotaging your efforts to write & finish your book:

Please hire Dr. Gelb: http://drsuzannegelb.com/

 

If you want to stop making excuses & write your damn book, already…

Paul Jarvis created a free email course to help you do exactly that: http://mydamnbook.com/

 

If you would like to start (and finish) your book with me, by your side…

… or even hire me to ghostwrite the entire manuscript… that can happen. In 2015. For a very small number of nice people.

Hop on my mailing list if you’d like to stay in the loop. (I’m excited to share more… when it’s time.)

 

If you feel compelled to bring a book into the world… please do it.

Even if it’s only for your sweetheart to read… or your amazing niece… or your best friend in the world… or a handful of blog readers & clients who are cheering for you.

There’s nothing worse than moving through your life with potential, unfulfilled… projects, unfinished… books, unwritten.

Don’t be that person. Give it. Finish it. Make the contribution.

It is the BEST feeling. Trust me.

 

“Don’t go to your grave with your best work inside you. Choose to die empty.”
Todd Henry

 

xo.

PS. Do YOU help people write, edit, proofread, design, publish, promote or distribute… books?

Drop a note down below and share what you do!

(Don’t forget to include a link to your website, blog, secret garden, post office box and so forth.)

 
 
 

Read More good question

What kind of “professional” do you want to be?

 
 
 

The room was filled with one of the most beautiful sounds in the world — at least, to my ears:

Typing fingers and scribbling pens.

It was the opening night of one of my writing workshops, and I had just given out the first assignment:

Write a short statement to introduce yourself to the room. In three minutes. Don’t over-think it.

Include your name and a few words to describe your work — not just your “job title” but the contribution that you want to make in the world.

Three minutes flew by. Pens returned to the table. I saw a few smiles of satisfaction.

But the doctor was not amused.

When it was Dr. Gee’s turn to introduce herself, she sighed.

“I really struggled with this exercise, because what I wrote down is so… unprofessional“, she said.

“When I started to write about my ‘work’ and my ‘contribution’, I didn’t write about my medical training. I wrote about how much I love to laugh.”

The room went silent, surprised and intrigued. Dr. Gee continued:

“I wrote about how I’m constantly laughing at work, with my patients — who are very sick people. How the other doctors can hear our laughter through the walls, all the way down the hall. I love to celebrate life, so my patients and I… we laugh every day.”

She paused.

“But of COURSE, I can’t say that on my website, or to a potential client or patient. Like I said, it’s so unprofessional. I mean… who’s going to want to go to a doctor like THAT?”

I glanced around the room, then back at Dr. Gee.

This was a woman who radiated love, joy and compassion from every cell of her being. I could see it. We all could.

So I said what everyone was thinking:

“Um… the answer is EVERYONE. EVERYONE wants to go to a doctor like that.”

The entire room erupted into nods and words of agreement.

Dr. Gee smiled.

“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for saying that.”

And then, the room was filled with another one of the most beautiful sounds in the world:

Her laughter.
 

. . .

 

Too often, we hide our humanity in a misguided effort to be ‘taken seriously’.

But why hide like that? It’s painful and ultimately, it serves no one.

Loving does not make you ‘unprofessional’.

Laughing does not make you ‘unprofessional’.

Caring deeply does not make you ‘unprofessional’.

It’s exactly the opposite.

When you deliver the results that you’ve promised… AND you make a positive imprint on someone’s heart… THAT’S the mark of a true professional.

Skill AND Soul. Expertise AND Humanity.

Both, not one or the other. Just like Dr. Gee.

So… what kind of ‘professional’ do you want to be?

xo.

 
 

GOOD QUESTION: How can I get un-hooked from Facebook?

 
 
 

Dear Alex,

How can I get myself un-hooked from Facebook? I know you’ve done it. Help?

–Natasha

 
 

Dear Natasha,

I remember the exact moment when I created my very first Facebook account.

It was just before my 21st birthday, and I had just experienced the most painful, heart-wrenching break-up of my entire life — to date.

Think: calling my mom at midnight, sobbing, suitcase in hand, begging to crash on the couch because I had nowhere else to go.

Like that.

A few days passed, in a fog of grief, and I got the notion to check out this ol’ thing called Facebook that everybody was talking about.

“Might be nice to reconnect with a few old friends,” I told myself, brightening slightly, at the thought.

It was nice. Too nice.

Before long, I was a glassy-eyed mess. I had spent nearly 24 hours straight, on Facebook, barely eating or sleeping, incessantly updating my feed, ogling photos, gossiping and spilling vulnerable details of my life to “friends” that I hadn’t spoken to in years.

Every new message was a little drip-drop of happy-making neurotransmitters, distracting me from the reality of my life. Yum-yum-yum. More-more-more.

I remember indulging in a highly flirtateous Facebook conversation with an ex-boyfriend from high school who had treated me horribly, and who I didn’t even respect — just because it felt so good to receive some attention.

It was then that I realized:

“Whoa. I don’t like myself very much, right now.”

It wasn’t Facebook’s “fault.” But Facebook certainly wasn’t helping.

I deactivated my account and never touched it again — except for a very brief interval in my mid-twenties, when representing my employer on Facebook was part of my job, in the communications department. (After getting transferred to another department, I no longer had to do that particular task. Freedom, at last!)

And that… was that.

When people find out that I’m not on Facebook, they usually react with a mixture of jealousy and horror.

“But how do you stay in touch with friends?”

I call them. Or they call me.

“But don’t you need it to promote your business?”

Apparently not.

“But what if somebody wants to invite you to a party, and they can’t find you?”

Well, I guess I’m not going. Or, if it’s really important, I trust that they’ll track me down some other way.

My advice to you, Natasha, and to anyone else who wants to get un-hooked from Facebook?

Ask yourself:

“Do I like the kind of person that I am, when I’m using Facebook? Do I feel like I’m using it for the ‘right’ reasons?”

If the answer is “Yes,” carry on.

If the answer is “Ew, not really”… then just stop.

Block the site from your computer for one month, if you need to.

See how it feels to be… you.

You, without the yummy drip-drop you’ve grown so accustomed to.

It might be uncomfortable.

It might feel amazing.

You won’t know until you try.

And the very fact that you want to “get un-hooked” is a good sign… that you should.

 

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” –Toni Morrison

 

xo.

PS. Are you concerned about your relationship with Facebook, or another social media platform? How do you manage the impulse to check-check-checkity-check?

 
 
 

Read More good question