Archive for March, 2010

Mar 31 2010

Health update

Published by under health

I am home from the hospital after a modified radical left mastectomy and a partial mastectomy on the right side. Don’t forget you can keep up with more daily news by following the Fan Page over on Facebook. Did quite well for the first couple of days, got a stomach bug the last couple that is probably some of the (non-cancerous) sickest I’ve ever been. On the mend today, hopefully a continuing trend.

Everyone has been so amazingly supportive. I’ll try to keep thanking folks as best as I can but so many people are sending love and well-wishes from all over I’m sure to forget someone. My family, as always, is awesome. My stepdad canceled a business trip, and he and my dad and mom and brother were all there for my surgery; it was rejuvenating to have them all there to come back to. (My stepmom was there in spirit, but couldn’t attend for her own health reasons.) I wished they didn’t have to leave so soon, and I know they all felt the same way. I’m glad my mom and brother were able to stay as long as they did, but everyone has their own lives to get back to and that’s right, too.

I have the best friend network on the planet, seriously. Andrea, Robert, Lynn, Eric, Jerry, Brad, Kirby, Marca, Samantha, Holly: you held me here through the pre-surgery vigil, and welcomed me back into the world after. You’ve called and messaged with love, helped us out with chores around the house, sent healing energy and prayers, brainstormed medical bill fundraisers, and organized more far-flung support. Thanks to all you 4th Street and other awesome Minnesota people, Arizona writer friends, Tennessee folk sending prayers; my stepmom is getting international people to send me well-wishes (check out her list at the bottom of this post!). My new half-sister in India even had a guru praying for me! It is so good to know and have touched the lives of people all over the world, by living my life as I have. And thanks to all of you and my awesome doctors, I get more chances to be here and share it with all of you, as much as I can. And I will!

A few more people need mentioning specifically. Steve has been loving and supportive and weathered the disruptions to life and home admirably. He kept his cool during an early minor aftercare crisis and has been able and ready to do tasks for me as needed. I am blessed to have him in my life. Bret has been here multiple times a week for the past few weeks, helping out with love and food and chores and love. He is truly a magnificent friend, and I am so glad to have him as part of my family-of-choice. Casey was a friend before this, and likely will be a closer one after. She has honored me more than I can express by working with me to document this journey in a way that can be shown to others. She has also been a listening ear for my husband, which he has sorely needed. I’m deeply pleased to grow closer to her, though I certainly could have wished for different circumstances.

Ahh, my Nathan. Even before this, you were such a perfect partner for me. I mourn not announcing your wonderfulness from the rooftops sooner, though I know we had our reasons for keeping quiet at the time. Thankfully none of that matters now, and I can tell the world that I really do have the best husband ever. He’s taken on all the hell of medical paperwork and money nightmares so that I can focus on healing, provided me with emotional support as well as caring for my every need as I convalesce. AND managing to keep on top of his fatherly duties and actively job-hunt as well. He loves me as I deserve to be loved, and I hope to spend a LONG lifetime sharing that love with him.

Well typing is tiring and hurts, so I’ll have to do more of this at another time. (Did you know every muscle in your body is connected to your armpits? Ask me how I know…)

Countries with folks sending prayers/well-wishes/good vibes (so far):
Outer Mongolia
United States

7 responses so far

Mar 20 2010

public info announcement

Published by under health

While it’s been posted elsewhere, I don’t think it was clearly announced here that this week, I was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive malignancy in my left breast. There is a lot of medical unpleasantness coming up, so it may slow down my rate of posting here. However, health permitting, I still plan to be posting weekly with more fiction installments, more posts about writing and editing, links as I find them, and so on. If you’d like to help out in a really easy way, consider participating on the posts by leaving comments. Even if it’s just “I agree” or “this doesn’t work that way for me” (though more elaboration is always nice!), knowing you’re out there and reading would be a nice boost and a good help during this time. If you’d like to stay current on daily events, this link here will take you to my Fan Page on Facebook which we’ll be trying to keep updated with news as it happens.

Thanks, send good energy our way, and keep reading!

22 responses so far

Mar 15 2010

Polling readers: breast issues

After I know more about what’s going on internally, I’ll be writing up a couple of informative-style articles about breast trauma and possible consequences. In my research, I’ve found that while the wisdom is common that “It’s a bad idea to whack a boob”, it’s nearly impossible to find a clear and easy answer as to WHY it’s a bad idea, complete with examples. In addition, I’ve found an obvious lack of well-designed breast protection gear for larger-breasted women. So for you, my readers, if you’d like to assist with this, I’d appreciate the following:

1: Links to already existing stories, or your own personal anecdotes, about you or someone you know who has had experiences in non-cancerous breast problems, especially those with blunt-force trauma as the injury origin.

2: Links to protection gear for large breasts, especially any you have personal experiences with or know someone who has. Alternately, contact information for someone capable of designing lightweight protective chest gear that both covers all of the breast area and can be made in larger sizes. I’d be glad to publicly promote the services of any designer I end up working with, as I strongly doubt I’m the only large-breasted non-athlete woman who wants to engage in more active sporting or sparring events.

Thanks for helping! This is my sort of activism — where I can fix an information gap by writing, whee! It’ll still be a bit before these go up, I’m still gathering information as well as going through the medical issue, but I’d love for people to spread the word to any of your well-endowed friends when I do post them. If you can help on either of the above points, either leave a comment here or send me a private message (reesa at reesabrown dot com).

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Mar 13 2010

Editing accountability

Published by under Editing,Writing

I’m working on creating a better balance of energy spent on writing and editing. I’m doing well with more regular writing even while sick (finally! after weeks of persistent practice), but since I also want to be an editor I want to practice that regularly as well. Unfortunately I’ve been piling up a bit of a backlog of things to edit while I’ve been ill, and since I’ll be sick a while longer I might as well start adjusting to that energy level and figure out how to do more with what I have now (if possible).

The DreamCafé guys will hopefully help me today with outlining a game plan for the writing end of things. On the editing end, I’ve come up with the following ordered list to get caught up on my current obligations. If I agreed to edit something of yours and you’re NOT on this list, please contact me as it’s likely slipped my to-do list in an infected mental haze, and I’m not deliberately slighting you.

1. Derek’s short story (first because one shouldn’t have to wait long on one’s first short story critiques) Done 3/16 early morning; meeting with D on Wed. 3/17 to discuss critique
2. Eric’s poems (due before we get together and visit on Thursday) enough edits to discuss semi-coherently, anyway, done 3/16
3. Steve’s short story (submissions open mid-April, need time for edits)two editing passes, ready to discuss, done 3/16
4. Chelsea’s first chapter (so she can see how Real Editing is done and maybe boot the book doc)
5. Steve’s Tiassa intro (he’s ok with this being moved down the list even though it was one of the first I received, since he won’t need this one as quickly as the other)
6. Kendra’s short stories (check email)

Again, if you aren’t on this list and should be, tell me so I can fix it! And if you have editing work you want done, assuming I learn to balance my editing time better, let me know. I’ll keep needing the practice until I get good enough to start doing it for money! Also, Derek, will be calling you today about workshopping the story in person.

I hope I can figure out a good balance here quickly, I enjoy the editing work in part because it’s a different way to interface with words than writing and revising is. My brain likes to stretch!

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Mar 12 2010

Links links links

Over 100 years of Popular Science issues have been digitized and made available for free on the internet!

A good article for anyone interested in the cutting edge of neuroscience and how it connects to story.

And I’m thinking about attending the World Fantasy Convention this year in Columbus, Ohio. I have extended family living in a suburb of Columbus, and it seems like it would be fun to have the DreamCafé and my mom and brother along for the trip. With this many months to plan it, we might even make it happen! Any feedback from the readers on this convention, if you’ve previously attended?

2 responses so far

Mar 09 2010

What to do when your block isn’t a block

We’ve talked several times on this blog about creative “blocks”, and some ways to cope with and get around such things. One of the things I’ve slowly come to realize over the past several months, however, is that often something that looks like a “writer’s block”, might not be quite that. A friend pointed out a similar struggle in her own creativity recently, thus the topic (and title) of this post.

What do you do when what feels like writer’s block is something else? To clarify definitions for purposes of this discussion (though you can argue my parameters in the comments if you’d like), “standard writer’s block” often arises through struggles with regular writing routines, or insecurities or doubts about the worth or quality of one’s own work. What’s the point of all of this? or why am I trying something I’ll never succeed in? or I’m not that good a writer anyway are common refrains from the internal judges and censors in many of the blocks you might encounter. And we’ve talked before, and likely will again, about different ways to hack around those sorts of bumps.

There are several other life reasons you might need a break — or at least a slowing down — of your regular creative process. Because we’re used to the blocks we know, often these other reasons will feel like standard creative blocks, to our internal emotional perceptions, because those are the well-traveled neural pathways. For example, Elizabeth Bear refers to a state after she finishes a major project she calls “post-novel ennui”. She describes it feeling as if her brain’s insides are scraped clean, or the creative pool has been emptied and needs refilling. It’s taken her several novels to better understand her own patterns, but she’s found that if she gives herself the few days or weeks she needs to recharge — read books, do physical activity things, learn something new, watch TV shows, and just the minimum maintenance needed on her writing obligations — she can get to functional creativity on the next project much more quickly than if she just tries to push ahead immediately after finishing the previous project.

What if your need for hiatus is different than arriving at a project’s end? Major life changes can be stressful whether positive or negative, and if there is enough upheaval present, it can quite legitimately disrupt the energy available for other things (at least for a while), including your creative projects. Sure, you’ve spent time and sweat making sure you will keep writing anyway, even when life gets tricky, but what about when it gets extreme enough that taking a break would actually be more advantageous to your later creativity? A promotion, household relocation, or new addition to the family are all situations where it’s possible to keep creative flow going…but depending on the specific circumstances, it’s also possible a break would be better for long-term creative health.

Or what if your need for a pause is darker than that? Major life trauma will, if not bring your creative progress to a halt, at the very least cause extreme disruptions in your routine. It could affect which projects you continue working on, or even want to work on. Loss of a job, loss of family members or children, major physically debilitating or activity-changing illness, all these and more can make you question the very reasons you create at all, not to mention whether your current work is worth the work you’ve put into it. Depending on your emotional state, you may not be able to access the same creative energies that you could before. A project that was conceived and begun when you were in love and on top of the world is rather difficult to connect to, if you’re currently in a bleak and despairing place emotionally.

So what do you do when this sort of thing is on your plate?

First, you have to find the space to give yourself to take the needed break. In order to do that successfully, you’ll have to avoid the common habit of punishing yourself for the break-taking. For those of you inclined toward this behavior, a guilt-free break is harder than it looks.

(quoted from, quoting someone quoting someone else clever)
“flamingnerd writes:
I asked her, “do you have any negative self talk?” She burst into laughter and said, “Do I ever fart?!” And I got it. EVERYONE has negative self talk. And some people are more flatulent in that
regard than others. And it’s ok. It’s normal, not some great tragedy.

She went on to tell me of a talk given by a young Buddhist priest. “When you beat yourself with a stick just beat yourself with a stick and don’t beat yourself for beating yourself.”

Thanks to nationelectric for sharing the good reminder.”

For me, in my own recent-past traumatic experiences, I found that giving myself the space for a creative pause and recharge to happen wasn’t an adjustment I made overnight. It was a few months of struggle between what I felt I “should” be doing at a particular point in time, and what I knew internally needed to be happening if I was ever going to create regularly again. It was slow progress, a bunch of baby steps and “two steps forward, one step back” frustrations. It also required a lot of practice in trusting myself, in my ability to assess internally what I “knew” I needed to heal, and to ignore the conflicting inputs externally from people or sources less informed about my situation. Plus enough stubbornness to keep going on all of that when I didn’t “do it right” the first time or three.

When you’re in brownout mode, the pause is likely to be longer than you want it to be. Yes, that means your patience gets practice along with everything else. Fun times, eh? You are worth it, even the waiting. One day, finally, you might find yourself with a little more energy than you’ve had. The next day, more. One of the trickiest parts, at this stage, is not overloading yourself the first time you have energy to do more than just get by. That’s asking for a relapse, and that won’t help you get more functional. Add some small creative act into your daily routine, and stay with that for a bit, give your artistic muscles time to stretch after some disuse.

Soon enough you’ll notice that you’re a bit bored or frustrated with doing just one thing. This is probably a good sign that you’re ready to do more, but keep the lessons you’ve learned throughout this time in your mind, as you progress back towards more fullness of functioning. Push your limits, but in the spirit of a good workout, not burning yourself on as much as you can do. Let your momentum creep back in a healthy bit at a time, and use those healthy bits to springboard even more positive change.

Trusting ourselves is part of how we better learn to love ourselves. Your baby-steps will make progress. Heck, even 2 steps forward, 1 back will get you there eventually. When you start making visible progress and changes to your routine toward your goals? Don’t forget to notice it, and congratulate yourself. Ideally you have a couple of close friends to whom you can brag about your progress, however incremental, and have them support and cheer you on as well. But at the very least, make sure you give those kudos to yourself. Noticing all the work you’re doing for yourself is one of the best ways to get more such work out of you!

Throughout all of this process, spend time figuring out what really matters to you in this incarnation, regardless of which past goals or projects were important before. Allow your goals to change as you change, throughout your life. It is not a failure to survive and keep creating, even if your process is different than before — even if your work is different than before.

One response so far

Mar 08 2010


Published by under callie,characterization,Writing

Z’Aria’s fingers shook a little as she held the paper. She read it through a few times before dropping her hands, the paper clutched in her sweaty palm. She seemed like she didn’t know where to look, her eyes scanning around rapidly.

“Explanations in this place aren’t easy, you know.” Z’Aria glanced over her shoulder briefly, then back. “I was in an accident a while ago.”

Callie looked where Z’Aria had and saw nothing more interesting than typical overpass intersection debris scattered across the concrete. “Did it happen as the paper described?”

Z’Aria looked uncomfortable. “Pretty much. My memory from then is all choppy and stuck together.”

“What happened after you landed? How did you survive the crash?”

I woke up here. Well, over there.” Z’Aria indicated the area behind her. Callie rose and went to look more closely at the spot, Z’Aria trailing her slowly.

The glitter of broken bits of glass reflected in the sodium lights of the overpass. Callie could see a twisted hubcap lying against the nearby pillar, and a few other shards of metal and plastic that were originally attached to a car.

“What happened to the car?”

“It stayed here for a while. I didn’t like looking at it, though. I went off exploring, and when I came back I guess it had finally been towed away.”

“Why did you come back?”

“I found a lot, out there. But not my answers, maybe not even my questions. Here is where it all started, you know? So I thought maybe if I came back here, I’d find the next step.”

“What happened then?”

“I made myself more comfy, got enough from the kindness of those passing by to survive. I spent time watching the sky; back home I used to know all the constellations, but not here. It didn’t happen all at once, you know. Seems like it did thinking back, but not all at once. Just really fast, you know? Days, weeks, everything changes.”

“What changes do you mean?”

“Oh come on, you have to have noticed. Everyone went to sleep, or went away. No one passes by here anymore, you’re the first person I’ve seen in forever.”

“I don’t get out and about very often.”

“Oh.” Z’Aria looked lost in thought for a minute. “Where did you say you were from?”

“I didn’t. Does it matter?”

“I guess not. I remember talking to some kids who warned me about the lady that lived in The Box, who didn’t come out very often.”

“I think I remember overhearing neighborhood children calling my house by that name.”

Z’Aria studied Callie for a long minute. Callie sat patiently through the examination.

“Did I help you with your questions?”

“I might have a few more. You said you went exploring, do you remember the places you went?”

“I sure do, I made bunches of friends. Well, they probably aren’t there now, but it was mostly nice.”

“Well, Z’Aria, perhaps it is time we explore again.”

“You want me to show you the places I found? I can do that, I like being Helpful!”

Callie pointed to the crumpled paper that Z’Aria still gripped tightly in her hand. “Do you mind if I keep that for the moment? There might be further clues we find that it connects to.”

Z’Aria readily returned it. “It’s not really a memory I want to keep too clear, I don’t mind if you hang on to it. You seem nice enough to me.”

Callie raised an eyebrow. “Now, if you’re ready, let’s learn more of what there is to know around here.”


They returned to more populated areas after a short walk along one of the streets branching off from Z’Aria’s overpass. Z’Aria was full of casual chatter but no useful information yet, and Callie suppressed a bored sigh.

Z’Aria pointed over to a single-story business building, vaguely medical in appearance. “That’s a pretty creepy building, I used to see parents taking children there all the time. The parents always looked angry going in, and happy coming out. The children looked pretty miserable the whole time, though.”

Callie took a second look, but the parking lot was empty and the building looked closed. “Perhaps we’ll keep walking, it doesn’t appear that there is much there now.”

“There isn’t much anywhere anymore.”

“You keep saying such things. Do you know why?”

“The few left that I’ve met all have different opinions.” They moved on in silence quiet enough to hear the occasional thin scrape from discarded paper, dragged along the concrete by the wind.

They next found a faded and paint-chipped sign next to a path overgrown with scraggly weeds which proclaimed “Constant Conservatory”. Callie studied the path branching off from the paved road they stood upon. “What do you know about this area?”

“It was really well visited a while ago, but no one really goes now. They had this really cool whirlpool thing, but I haven’t looked lately, it might not even be there anymore.”

“Let’s look more closely, shall we?”

They followed the path until it opened into a clearing surrounded by trees, branches growing over the clearing to form interlocking patterns against the starry sky. A deep depression centered in the ground might once have been a “really cool” whirlpool, but was now barely a third full of water that appeared stagnant. Callie watched it for a bit and saw that there did seem to be a very slow circular current tickling the surface occasionally. It was out of touching reach even if she knelt down by the edge.

“Dear Goddess, this isn’t what I remember. So sad.” Z’Aria looked pale and a little ill.

“It seems like it could be repaired with a little work.”

“Sure, but by who? That’s not anything I know how to do.”

“Let’s continue on.”

Z’Aria led the way back to the main road eagerly, restarting her chatter as they traveled more comfortable territory. “Further this way is another neat place, they had tons of nice people – well, most of them were nice – living in this big house. Mostly adults but they had a cool kid there too, she liked to talk to me.”

“If there were many people there, perhaps there will still be some remaining.”

They rounded a sharp curve in the road and stopped suddenly, their path blocked by what appeared to be a solid glass wall. They could see a large building further down the road, but the details were blurred by the distance and thickness of the glass. Z’Aria reached out to first touch the barrier, then knock on it.

Callie watched with interest. “Was this here before?”

“No, I haven’t visited in too long, I guess.” She knocked again, but didn’t look hopeful.

Callie shrugged. “Where do we go from here? I don’t know much more now than when I met you.”

Z’Aria frowned. “Let me think a minute.” She looked off down the road, and so missed the movement behind the glass coming toward them. As it drew nearer it resolved into the shape of a small person.

Callie guessed it was the friend whom Z’Aria had referenced. The kid was carrying a notebook and pen. Callie cleared her throat for Z’Aria’s attention. “We have a visitor of sorts.”

Z’Aria looked behind her and saw the child. She waved her arms happily and yelled “Hi, Iris! I missed you!”

Iris pointed to her ears and shook her head, then opened her mouth and said something that neither Callie nor Z’Aria could hear. Z’Aria took a deep breath in preparation for yelling louder.

“I think Iris has a better solution than shouting, Z’Aria.” Callie looked steadily at her companion until the other finally turned her attention to the kid on the other side, who was holding up a paper with writing on it to her side of the glass where they could read it: Everyone at the House is asleep. They won’t wake up!

“Did you bring paper or something to write with? I only have the paper with which I found you.”

Z’Aria raised her hands helplessly. “I didn’t think to grab anything.”

Callie looked back at the wall. Iris’s paper now read: Help us.

Z’Aria nodded like a dashboard decoration in response, until Callie placed a hand on Z’Aria’s shoulder and effortlessly turned her away from the view through the glass. “Where does one find help for them in a place like this?”

“That’s hard to answer.”


“I remember someone who helped me once. We’ll try there.”

5 responses so far

Mar 04 2010

More weekend reading

I may be out of town, but I’m getting better at regular blogging! The secret this time was planning (and writing) ahead. Unfortunately, I had to switch the line-up order. Normally this is when the next Callie post would go up. However, this week’s episode needs a little more editing before it’s ready, so you get your weekend reading a bit early instead. This week, your link collection is:

TV Tropes — you likely have already lost plenty of time to this one, but if you haven’t, join in the memetic fun! I think they stretch things a bit thin at times, but it’s full of useful and semi-useful information, and the nested links will suck you in just as well as Wikipedia does.

If you wanted to know a bit more about the editing end of things, here’s a very nice essay on why the editor gets the award for a compiled anthology : Chris Conlon on editing

And if you’re a writer moving toward (or already in) the stage where you want to start sending your work out for rejection (and eventual publication, hopefully), one of the best sites for finding fiction and poetry markets as well as tracking deadlines and what you’ve sent out to where, visit Duotrope. It is free to sign up for an account, they fund themselves entirely on donations and give monthly reports on their income.

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Mar 01 2010

Discussion: consider the carrot

Published by under momentum,Writing

With writing, as in so much of life, your internal attitude or perspective is a large part of what defines how and how much you succeed. One of the more sad patterns I see newer writers (and sometimes those not-so-new as well) engaging in, is developing an almost (or actual) antagonistic relationship with their writing and process. It becomes a quasi-hated chore, to be avoided as often as attempted. Or perhaps they treat writing as a demanding parent, and they the rebelling teen. Whatever your analogy of choice, why does this happen?

Is it the old Puritanical saw about too much fun in the work you do being somehow sinful? Twisting the Buddhist premise that “life is suffering” to mean you should live in suffering? A self-destructive aversion to expressing your creative impulses? Old triggers from punishments for “doodling” or “scribbling” carried into your adult years? Shitty parents that you didn’t leave behind when you moved out, their ghosts undermining your confidence in your own mind long after their words cease echoing in your ears? A belief or attachment to the myth of the tortured, agonized artist achieving greatness? Guilt, in general or specific?

I think all of these happen, and likely more not listed, depending on the person involved. We’re far more likely to beat ourselves up, on average, than pat ourselves on the back. How many of you had a parent who, when you presented them with a “95” score on a test, said “What happened to the other five points?” rather than “That’s excellent, darling!” A lifetime of messages like that and you’ll quickly learn to look for the half-a-worm in every apple. Practice that enough, and looking for the worm first — or only — becomes not only reality, but the way it should be. It’s comfortable. Protective. Wanting good things only gets you hurt, in the end, right?

Consider: as an adult, you now have the power to give yourself gifts that no one else ever did. It is not always an easy choice or a smooth path, but you can learn more healthy models for caring and nurturing yourself than you previously knew. Taking better care of yourself than anyone else ever did is such a stronger slap-in-the-face for those oppressor types then following the self-destructive path they carefully laid out for you and “always knew you’d end up like”. Figuring out how to find moments of happiness, creativity, and contentment in your life is perhaps the only true revenge you can have, in the end, against the folks trying to keep you at their level of miserable.

One possible way to start working this out is ask yourself this: How do you self-motivate on activities you want to do, versus activities you don’t want to do but need finished anyway? (I presume the first question has already been pondered, that of “do you want to write? really WANT to?” Which can be its own scary process, because allowing ourselves to really want something can feel vulnerable, which goes right back to all that other baggage carried.)

The “stick” motivation can actually be reasonably useful in the second category, that of getting done the things you’d rather not spend time on but need to for functional adulthood. Sure, “carrot” can work here too, as delayed gratification, or gifts to your future self: you’ll be really glad later that you got this thing out of the way. However, some people have conceptual or even biochemical difficulties in future-based motivation; activities like going to work, washing the dishes, showering, and life’s other little maintenances have to get done whether your future self likes it or not.

Where “stick” makes much less sense is in activities that we actually want to engage in. Again, thanks to our current culture and common parenting practices, most of us don’t have much experience in positive feedback and reward-based models. Most dysfunctional households make rewards non-existent or deliberately capricious, so that you learn to inherently distrust them. One of the points of adulthood is learning how to have a less dysfunctional relationship with yourself (whether you can achieve same with your family-of-origin totally depends on the family; your responsibility first is caring for you).

So what are activities that you actually enjoy and seek out? A favorite show you keep up with, games you play, a craft or hobby you enjoy obsessing over randomly? How do you feel when you do these things? What are some aspects of deciding to engage in a pleasurable activity that you can bring to your writing (or other creative act)? Shifting from habits of avoiding your writing as a tedious chore, to seeking it out as a fun game you play with yourself, isn’t the easiest work in the world to do. There’s likely many years of low-grade frustration and resentment clouding the way. You are worth that work.

You’re allowed to feel good about being creative. You’re allowed to feel. You’re allowed to do a better job caring for you than your parents or significant others did/do. You’re allowed to have fun, and get work done. And definitely, allowed to create.


8 responses so far