Don’t have old notebooks? Start now.
“I quit waiting for the light at the
end of the tunnel and
I lit that bitch myself.”
– Allie from Shameless.ly
This year, I am lighting things on fire. Not literally. Ok, maybe sometimes literally. But lighting things on fire to me means – No more waiting. No more hoping. No more “maybe someday.” No more expecting someone else to do it for me. I have the match. I am running it down the back of the box and dropping it into the lighter fluid, newspapers and kindling I’ve been building for years. It’s my life and, heck yeah, I’m lighting it up.
I have a book (or three) inside my head. It’s been sitting there in an ever growing stack of papers and thoughts for years but I’ve been waiting to feel ready. I’ve been waiting for the right time. I’ve been filling notebooks and reading books. I’ve listened to podcasts and attended conferences. I’ve been building my expertise strategically. I’ve rewritten speeches countlessly. I’ve updated slides and worksheets over and over. I’ve listened to clients and gone on road trips to find even more. I’ve done the leg work… and now it’s time.
For years, I’ve been writing. Almost daily. Analog & digital content piling up. Notebooks filled with content from every thought, every quote, every question. I know the content by heart. I just have to put it all together. And this year, I want to start a focused habit of writing – daily. Sitting down every morning before the world gets started – writing what’s in my brain space. My lovely assistant has even gone to the lengths of blocking off one week every month of no phone & no internet time for me to write. Not vacation. Intensive time to focus. Time away from the little every day distractions. She’ll even take care of my email – the thing I’ve checked every 5 minutes for 5 years. (Thanks, Chenes!)
*whiney Melanie* But I like distractions. I like the little fires I have to put out. I like getting new clients. I like listening to others and giving advice. I like checking Facebook and wondering who emailed. I like knowing people want to hear what I have to say. *focused Melanie* And if I don’t write this book, I’m doing myself and others a disservice.
Because when I speak, people ask “so when will your book be out?” When I mentioned my potential book to a new client this morning, her response was: "When will it be ready? I need to read it." She didn’t say “Oh, that’s nice. Good luck.” It is time.
I’m writing a book this year. And what’s crazy?! I have this overwhelming urge to find someone to tell me what to write. Why? Because I feel like I need more. Like I need to be more. Like I don’t know enough. Like I’m not enough. Wait… isn’t that what part of my message is!? “You are enough.” Do I need to give myself a little Rock Your Life speech?
I have an overwhelming amount of content and somehow I feel like I’m missing something. And that’s a lie my scared little internal Melanie is telling me. The truth is – I know all of it. I speak about it. I give workshops on it. I eat it for breakfast. I breathe it. I live it. Daily.
The book is already in my notebooks. I’ve been writing it for years. Learning. Taking in content. Listening. Waiting for the right moment. My notebooks hold all of the answers.
One of my favorite things, especially at the beginning of a new year, is cracking open a brand new notebook and beginning.
Oh, the joys of a new notebook. *breathes deeply through her nose* Clean white sheets of paper. Waiting patiently to be filled with thoughts. For the binding to be cracked and split. Needing your scrawling. Ready for the smudges of ink in a rainbow of colors. Pages created to take on anything you can throw at them. The sweet scent of bleached paper mixed with tanned leather. A favorite pen sits beside it fantasizing about its next set of words. Life to be documented here.
A new year. A new mojo. New intentions. Updated goals. Effervescence bubbling over. What will this new space hold?
Broken notebooks sit on a shelf in front of me. Worn out and used. Scribbled in and joy-filled, anger-splashed, tear-stained – old thoughts. Years gone by. Previous versions of me sitting in those notebooks. Notes from meetings, conferences, church services, dreams, plans, and the thoughts that ran through my head. Who was I then? Who am I now?
The inner dialogue goes something like this:
This year will be different.
Why? What will make it different?
I will. I will make it different.
But how? What will you do differently?
I will be more diligent. More intentional.
What makes you think you can be more?
I am stronger. I am already more.
Oh, so you’re already more. Now more of more?
Well, I’ve learned a lot. A lot more.
Because you hadn’t before?
I’m older now.
But weren’t you older before?
True. Maybe this year won’t be different.
Is it ok if it’s just another step? Another page?
Ooh, I can do that. Take another step. I’ll fill another page.
A new year. Bigger hopes. Bigger dreams. Growing. Still me.
These filled notebooks contain a journey: my journey. A journey from where I was to where I’m going. The words spilling over from page to page, words manifesting reality. Words that are slanted and angry. Flowing and happy. Printed and thoughtful. Sloppy and excited. My innermost thoughts materialize on clean sheets of lined paper – personally, professionally, poetry, songs, words, letters. Sometimes full paragraphs. Broken yet smooth, thought-provoking and questioning. When I capture my thoughts, I am learning from myself.
Every time I start a new notebook, I dedicate it to a specific task personally or professionally. I try to keep them separated until they start bleeding over. Notes about my personal vision next to meeting notes with a client. How I feel about my family on the same page as my to-do list for work. It’s all blended and I don’t know why I always try to keep it separated. (I’m sure there’s another blog post about balance in there somewhere – sigh…) There are 5 unfinished notebooks in various places currently being filled.
With these notebooks and in this time, I’ve learned more than I ever expected – about friendship, leadership, client relationships, humility, dedication, perspective, hard work, and love. Walking this entrepreneurship path, I see through my notes that I’ve learned my fair share about business. The good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity. The loving hug of a coworkers. The violent voice of a client who must be right. The harsh reality that this is really just business, despite what you want to believe. Yet every step has shown me growth. And it’s all blended with my personal life.
As I read through them, I am seeing how every single step I took HAD to be one-foot-in-front-of-the-other. I HAD to take that step to get to this step. I HAD to hire that person to let go of that one. I HAD to lose that client to get this one. I HAD to stop doing that service to offer this one. I HAD to start doing that planning before I got to this stage. I HAD to endure that breakup to find “the one.” I HAD to wait in order to step in at the right time. I HAD to close that company to open this one. I HAD to let go of that to get this. I HAD to learn that hard lesson to see the bright spot in this one. I HAD to experience all of these things before I could write the book about it. It was all required to take the next step.
While I was capturing my thoughts, it felt like none of it flowed together but now I see my life more clearly had structure. The connections. The disconnected pieces. The path. The places I had to go to get where I really wanted to be – even if felt like a harrowing detour. And I see it all now because I wrote it all down. I wrote my thoughts and found my words while throwing my voice in for added effect. Painfully, insanely, excitedly – whatever I felt, it didn’t matter what anyone would think about me. I wrote it all down.
What happens when you write things down? You manifest them. They become reality. Writing things down makes them real. Writing a blog post about it makes it a reality (eek!). Writing it in a notebook tells you where you're going to do and shows you where you've been – but sharing it with the world makes it very real. Hardcore real. A kick-in-the-ass painfully real. If you tell the world about it, you have to do it. Right? Nah. Let’s rephrase: if you have something that will help the world and you tell the world you’ll do it, THEN you have to do it.
These notebooks are my sacred space. They contain my life. They are my legacy. And yes, before I die, I will leave it in my will & testament to burn them in case anyone decides to publish them – Emily Dickinson, I am not. But before then, I will use them to write what I’ve learned – the things that make me who I am. That make me Melanie Spring a brand strategist, but more importantly, a lighthouse. The things that make me an approachable badass. The things others crave to know about how to find their purpose. The things I’ve been soaking up for years. The things I’ve made my expertise. The things I’ve learned about myself that will allow others to learn about themselves.
These notebooks make up the story of my life. And they help others create their own story. And I can spend years filling notebooks but if I never learn from them, grow from them, or share them to help others, why am I even bothering? If I keep these notebooks to myself, everyone loses out. I would be doing a disservice to myself and others. It’s time to proverbially light them on fire and show the world before I literally light them on fire. It’s time to write a book (or three).
Hey you – yeah, you. This is really about you.
Do you need clarity? Read your old notebooks.
Don’t have any notebooks? Start one.
Have ideas? Write them down.
Want better ideas? Listen to what’s in your head. You’re smart.
This new year and these goals we’re all writing about right now – these resolutions about how 2017 will be the best year ever and how 2016 can suck it – about how it hasn’t worked yet, but this year will be epic. What if we stopped worrying so much about the year and concentrated on one page at a time?