How it Happens


If you decided to play along and create your own Escape Plan over the past week you might have found yourself feeling a little silly or maybe even stupid. Admitting to yourself the true depth and breadth of your dreams can be scary. It conjures with it, not only visions of how awesome it would be to have all of these things but also how totally embarrassing it would be if you shot for the moon and ended up with nothing.

Believe it or not but these fears are actually coming from a good place. From the conscious part of you that wants, more than anything, to keep you safe. This ancient, instinctual part of you used to save our ancestors from being eaten by wild animals and eating poisonous plants. But in the modern world, this part of us has a much more difficult time sussing out what’s truly a threat and what isn’t.

This is why, during your brainstorming this week, you may have suddenly felt your heart racing or gotten a queasy feeling in your stomach. That’s because your mind and body were just trying to keep you from making a terribly deadly mistake.

But guess what? Changing careers will not kill you. Taking a financial or spiritual risk will not result in your body becoming worm food. Unless you’re into some really shady stuff, and in that case, you should absolutely tread with caution. But if you’re only interested in making art full time then you have very little, if not nothing, to worry about, despite what your ego is telling you.

With that in mind, not only did I spend some time clarifying my own vision, but I am also prepared to share it from my small corner of the internet in order to demonstrate that there is nothing silly about dreaming or hoping or believing in your own talents enough to risk public humiliation (but not death–never death) by making these things known.

You must make these things known.

You wouldn’t expect the pizza delivery guy to show up at your house simply because you were thinking about ordering a pizza for dinner that night. You have to actually place the order. You have to take some kind of action. You have to say it out loud.

Here’s a preview of the order I’m currently in the process of placing with the Universe:

This year my *dream* agent offers me representation.

We sell Pen & Xander to a diversity-focused imprint of one of the Big 5 Publishers.

Meanwhile, I finish the companion novel. They love it and offer me a multi-book deal. I tell them that I want to co-write some of the other novels in the series with other writers from POC and marginalized communities, which creates opportunities for these emerging voices to find an audience and build a career. In the process, we all become best friends and meet for writing retreats in really awesome locals.

I publish a middle grade novel, the first in a series, under a pen name. (The first draft of which is already complete)

I publish a few children’s picture books (drafts of these are also done), a poetry anthology (currently drafting), a High Fantasy series (currently drafting), and a Dystopian series (currently outlining).

Gina Rodriguez’s production company purchases the rights to my Nacho’s Tacos series of companion novels. Since there aren’t enough POC screenwriters out there, she lets me take a crack at the script. I collaborate with my former cowriters. The pilot kicks ass. Netflix orders three seasons. We bring these own voices Latinx stories to a brand new audience who become more empathetic and compassionate people as a result. Netflix orders three more seasons.

I create a podcast for Creatives who want to make art full time. I publish a self-help book that provides a step-by-step guide on how to start your own creative business and transition to being your own boss. This allows me to combine some of my favorite things–writing, teaching, and talking about finances. I provide coaching services through an online portal, which also provides community members with support, meetups, and a marketplace to sell or swap skills to help each other get to the next level.

I buy a big beautiful home in the mountains of Colorado. I develop a small part of the land and use it to host writing retreats for writers from marginalized communities. As long as you can make the trip, they’re always free.

I create a scholarship program for Latinx students who want to become teachers. I pay their tuition, as well as their living expenses during their first year of teaching. During this first year, recipients live in an awesome house together where they receive mentoring from other teachers and financial coaching in order to help them start building generational wealth for them and their families.

The people I have been able to help in ways big and small begin to pay it forward. The world becomes a better place. I am grateful every day that my life is full of meaning and wonder and passion.

If you’re like me, you might reach the end of this exercise and find that your eyes are filled with tears and that there’s this gorgeous pang of hope and longing between your ribs. Let it simmer. Let it sink so deep into your bones that the things you want belong to you as inexorably as your own DNA.

After all, our dreams have to come from somewhere. I like to believe they exist in us the moment we are made. In fact, I’d like to think that’s the part of us the Universe makes first. The blood and bones and bag of skin are all just ornamental. We are not these things.

We are wishes. Walking, talking repositories of potential. When the Universe dreams, it dreams of us. What we will do and who we will be. And when we achieve those things that have been stamped on our souls, we’re not just realizing our own purpose. We’re connecting the dots, giving meaning to everything and everyone. We’re making the Universe’s dreams come true.


Sundays are for Letting Go


In the same week I’ve written about the importance of diligence and dedication when it comes to your Soul Work, as well as the importance of taking time off. In my own mind, these two things feel extremely contradictory. Work as hard as you can but don’t work too hard.

But I’ve realized that working through these feelings is essential on my quest to becoming less controlling and therefore, less anxious, fearful, and destructive.

Are there some necessary steps one must take in order to make their intentions clear? Yes, absolutely, some of which I’ve discussed in this post. But there is one crucial step, one giant leap that we must take first. And it’s letting go.

If you spend every waking hour working, never resting or taking a break, it’s because you believe that you are the only factor that matters to your success. It’s because you believe you are in this alone. It’s because you believe the Universe does not have your back.

Distrusting the Universe, the source of universal intelligence that gave you these gifts and inclinations in the first place, is the quickest way to derail your dreams and ensure that those endless hours you’ve spent working towards them will amount to nothing.

There must be a balance between working and trusting, between holding on and letting go. We can prioritize our Soul Work without trying to control every aspect of our progress. And in fact, we must. We must allow ourselves to yield to something bigger and greater than ourselves. We must allow ourselves to be surprised.

This is why I’ve decided to dedicate my Sundays to rest because if I don’t it only reinforces all of the fears I have about being totally alone in this venture. But I’m not. I have to trust that I’m not and I have to demonstrate that trust by doing the exact opposite of whatever my control-freak tendencies want me to do.

Control-freak-me wants to spend the entire weekend in front of my laptop even if it only sends me spiraling into despair. That is some low frequency behavior, right there. So instead, I’m spending my Sundays envisioning the week ahead while also relishing in the enormous gift of doing nothing. Because it is a gift. To know that I don’t have to kill myself in order to manifest what I want is a gift. But one that will only appear if I’m open and willing to accept it.

Sundays are for Dreaming


I’ve been trying to balance a day job with my writing for almost 10 years now. I’ve tried waking up early and staying up late. I’ve tried writing on the couch, at the kitchen table, in a coffee shop. I’ve sworn off seeing friends in order to reach my word count goals and used their company as a reward for a hard day’s work.

My writing routine has evolved with each new year and each new project. This time around, with just an 18-month window to accomplish more than I ever have at a higher level with even higher stakes, I’ve decided to stop allowing my WIPs to hold me hostage on the weekends.

I know what you’re thinking. If I’m not spending every second of my weekends working on my next book, how can I say that I’m kicking things into high gear? That I’m committed in a way I’ve never been before?

Here’s the thing. I’ve spent 10 years trying and failing to be productive on the weekends. Every Friday I look forward to getting to spend the next two days focused on my own work and every Saturday I wake up resenting the fact that I have to use my time off to write a book that, so far, has only ignited in me a feeling of intense disappointment and self-loathing.

Writing or making art of any kind is HARD. You have to jump through all of these psychological hoops and then bargain with your own emotions, pleading with them to let you get something, anything down on the page while they taunt you with insults and critiques and basically fill your head with the worst things imaginable, all of which you must wrestle and ultimately slay. If you have the tools and the time and the energy, that is.

Putting so much pressure on myself to use every second to write was like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. The harder I tried, the more I failed, and the more I hated myself for it.

So I’ve decided to stop trying.

Not completely and not in regards to the overall vision I’m currently in pursuit of. But as I am becoming more mindful of my own thoughts and how those thoughts become actions, which then become habits, I’m starting to realize that this cycle I’ve been stuck in of: planning to write, not writing, then getting angry and upset about not writing, is just me being a crazy control freak.

Control freaks are the antithesis of who I want to become. Because who I want to become is a person of faith. A person who knows she cannot control every aspect of her life and therefore shouldn’t bother trying because whatever the Universe has cooked up will be ten times better anyway. A person who is not constantly living in the future. A person who does not spend most of her waking hours worrying.

Control freaks spend so much time trying to control every facet of their lives that they don’t actually live it. I want to be a person who lives. Who really lives.

That means Saturdays are for dog walks and grocery runs. For DIY projects and binging shows on Netflix.

That means Sundays are for daydreaming, for planning, for resting. Sundays are for trusting. Sundays are for patience.

Getting Clear About Your Vision


When I’m trying to help my students write stronger narratives, their struggle inevitably lies in the details. Be more specific, I tell them. Use more sensory details, I plead. They don’t quite understand yet that that’s where the magic is.

But just like details and specificity can enhance the voice, content, and rhetorical effect of a piece of writing, details and specificity are the magic of manifesting as well.

Imagine that your spouse has asked you to order dinner. You ask him what he feels like eating and he just shrugs and says, “whatever.” Now, how long are you going to spend on Yelp reading restaurant reviews before you finally pick something? How many times is he going to veto said restaurant because he’s not really sure what he wants? How likely are you to strangle him if this process continues?

Now imagine that when you asked your spouse what he wanted for dinner he said, “a cheeseburger with onions, pickles, and mustard with a side of medium fries and a large coke.” Not only are you freed from reading him the menu items of dozens of restaurants while he shrugs and says, “eh” but after hearing such a mouthwatering description of that burger you might find yourself craving one too. So it’s settled. You make one trip, order, eat, done.

Manifesting works the same way. The clearer your vision, the more likely your order is going to show up correctly.

I’ve decided that over the next week I’m going to take some time to write out exactly what I envision for my life. The where, the what, the who, the when. Then I’m going to send all of that information out into the ether and trust that the how will be taken care of. But this isn’t just going to be a quick vision board that I slap together with some tape. This will be a detailed book of instructions for putting together my ideal life.

If you’d like to play along, follow the steps below:

  1. Pick an arrival date
    This may be the day you want to quit your job or make some other major life change like a move or a proposal. Mark the date on your calendar and reference it in your instructions as often as possible. Example) On May 29th, 2020 I will quit my job and move to Colorado.
  2. Reference the baby steps you took and decisions you made to reach this destination
    This might include reflecting on things you’ve already done or things you plan to do between now and your arrival date. Be as explicit as possible. Example) I will publish 4 novels, 2 poetry anthologies, and 3 picture books by this date. They will each sell 10 copies a day, bringing me to a monthly income of $11,000, which I will use to pay off debt, renovate my home, and prepare it to sell. I will use the rest to buy my dream home in the mountains of Colorado.
  3. Put a down deposit on your dreams
    Make a purchase towards or investment in your business. Even if it’s not up and running yet, put some kind of capital towards that goal. This could be commissioning a book cover even though you haven’t finished the actual book yet. Or it could be buying a new bass even though you haven’t finished writing your first album. Invest in a home office or a new laptop or hire someone to take over a household chore you hate that always eats into the time you’d rather spend working on your business.
  4. Write it all down
    Break your vision up into parts. You can choose to write about reaching specific milestones–how did you get there and what does it feel like? You can write about a day-in-the-life of your future self living the dream. What do you spend your mornings, afternoons, evenings, and nights doing? If it varies, try a week-in-the-life or a month-in-the-life. You can even write an overview of your first year of self-employment. Who do you meet? How does your business grow? How much money are you making?
  5. Be specific!
    Whether you’re writing about your new life, meditating on that vision, or sharing it with people you know, be as specific as possible. Use sensory details to ground your vision in a reality so visceral that it feels as real to you as this one. What does that future look like, taste like, smell like, sound like, and feel like? Describe the trees in the backyard of your mansion, and the camera roll from your recent trip to Italy, and the way it feels in your muscles and bones to wake up every day with a purpose and a passion. Memorize these details until you can conjure them on command, until conjuring them feels like slipping into a new skin.

    Do this with intention and with the gratitude of knowing your order will not get lost during shipping and soon you won’t just be imagining yourself wearing that new skin, you’ll be hanging poolside in it, taking it to amazing places all around the world, and covering it in goosebumps at the thought of all the miracles you were able to manifest for yourself.

Put Your Soul Work First


For most of us, our days are broken up into three parts: before the day job, at the day job, and after the day job. If your day job is your dream job then you probably spend your mornings easing into the day, maybe with a nice cup of coffee or warm tea. You look forward to the next 8 hours and begin and end your day with a sense of gratitude about how awesome your life is.

If your day job is not your dream job then you probably begin and end your day dreading going to work. You probably hit snooze on your alarm too many times and roll out of bed with a bad attitude. As soon as you get home you probably plop down on the couch and begin the process of unwinding from all of the stress and disappointment.

If you fall into the latter category, you might even be considering looking for a new job (hopefully, your dream job) or taking the big bold leap of creating it yourself and starting your own business. All of these ideas ruminating in your mind can have one of two effects on your outlook. They can make you even more resentful of where you currently are or they can motivate you beyond belief to change your circumstances.

One of those mindsets is negative and will only attract more negative and one of those mindsets is positive and will only attract more positive.

I have spent time in both camps and let me tell you, pitching a tent and building a fire is much easier in one than the other. But it can take time to get over the disappointment of your current situation and resentment of yourself or others who you blame for creating those circumstances. The shift from I hate my life and I’m going to curl into a ball until I disappear to I hate my present life but not as much as I love my future life so I’m going to do everything I can to manifest it already is not going to happen overnight.

But in the meantime, while you’re busy immersing yourself in high frequency language by listening to audiobooks or podcasts or reading blogs and articles about having a positive mindset, you also have to be working towards those dreams that you desperately want to come true.

Remember, the Universe is not a genie there to grant you wishes. You can’t just say you want something. You have to show the Universe that you are worthy of it, that you are ready, by changing your thoughts and your actions.

So how do you balance working at a soul-sucking day job that you hate while also pursuing your own passion? It’s simple math, really. There are 24 hours in a day. You spend 8 of them making someone else money. That leaves 16 hours, most of which you’ll spend sleeping, so realistically, you have about 8-10 hours to spend the way you want. *Or do you? I’ll get to that later.*

What you have to decide is, how many brain cells do you honestly have left after your normal 8-hour work day? For most of us, the answer is usually none. Zip. Nada. We get home and we crash. Even though we promised ourselves that we would stay up late tonight making progress on our own goals. If we’re even more honest, we know that we break these promises to ourselves all. the. time.

So first things first, stop breaking promises to yourself even if it means breaking promises you’ve made to others. And especially, if you’re using your obligations to other people as an excuse to delay your dreams. You’ve probably been telling yourself that’s what responsible people do but it’s actually what cowards do.

And this is me talking to myself as well. It is so easy for me to use my grading and lesson plans and paperwork and all of the other miscellaneous responsibilities that come with being a teacher as an excuse to avoid writing my next book. One of the reasons it’s so easy is because I know I am doing something worthwhile and meaningful and important. This allows me to excuse my procrastinating in all other areas of my life. I tell myself I deserve a break (which is true–all teachers are overworked and underpaid) but maintaining that mindset that overwhelm is something to be proud of; that it’s okay to collapse every night on the couch instead of thinking, planning for, and creating my ideal future is actually harmful.

You know yourself better than anyone. If you know that you’re not actually going to get any work done after you clock out, stop promising yourself you will. Instead, put your Soul Work first. Wake up early and use the time to chip away at your most creatively demanding task. This is not the time to check social media or your email. Leave those mindless tasks for when you are a mindless zombie–after work! Instead, take advantage of your brain operating at maximum capacity and take back those hours that you believed had been stolen from you.

To recap: How to put your Soul Work First

  1. Stop making promises to yourself that you know you can’t keep.
    If you call yourself a night owl but you don’t actually have any creative juices left after everyone else has gone to bed, then this is not your optimal work time. If you tell yourself that you’re not a morning person and there’s no way you can wake up early to work on your own business then you don’t really want to have your own business.
  2. Instead, make promises you can actually keep. Promises that are reasonable and nonnegotiable.
    Decide what you want and decide that you are going to prioritize it the same way you do all of that other work that is making someone else rich. Decide that your ideas are just as valuable as your boss’ ideas and that your future business is just as important and deserving of your attention as whatever business you work at now. Stop calling it a hobby or a side-gig or anything that demeans what it really means to you. It is your Soul Work and it is your spiritual obligation to make sure it gets done.
  3. Stop wishing for the extra time to work on your business and steal it.
    Think back to our math equation about how many hours there are in the day. This number may seem finite, your day already segmented as much as possible. But the numbers lie because you lie. Those lies stop now.You can set your alarm thirty minutes, an hour, two hours early. You can skip the lunch with coworkers you don’t even really like for an extra thirty minutes of planning, scheming, and dreaming in your own head. You can complete all of your obligated day job tasks in record time and secretly work on your business.

    When I worked as a temp right out of college the tasks I was given could be completed in just a few hours. As soon as I finished doing what I was actually getting paid to do, I spent the remainder of the day writing. I finished three novels. Then I found a remote job where I could work from home and did the same thing. I cranked out three more novels.

    If you have a day job you hate, that you know for certain you will not be in forever, do not feel guilty about working on your own stuff after all of your normal responsibilities are taken care of.

    I know, I know, the morality police are ready to arrest me for saying you should steal time from your employer. I’m not saying you should blow off whatever tasks they actually pay you to do. I’m saying that during those “brain breaks” when you’d usually hop on social media and end up spending two hours reading clickbait on Twitter, you should really consider not doing that and instead being productive towards your own goals.

    If you really think about it, what’s more important? Fulfilling your sacred God-given purpose on this earth? Or whatever it is that you already spend your days doing and hating? Exactly. Slighting your boss at the bank is a small price to pay for saving the world

  4. Put your Soul Work first.
    You might not feel at your most creative or focused in the morning but research shows that this is when our brains are the most optimal. Think of your brain like the gas tank in a car and imagine every task you do draining fuel from that tank. If you were to prioritize your tasks, which ones would require the most fuel?Is it answering emails? I don’t think so. Is it redesigning your blog or website a hundred times? Absolutely not. Is it looking at your dream house on Zillow? Hells nah.

    The work that requires the most gas from your mental tank is, of course, the creative work. The foundation of your entire business; what’s going to get it off the ground and what’s going to keep it afloat–writing the book or creating the online course or painting the portrait or illustrating the graphic novel or recording the song or developing the recipes. Basically, this is the work that your soul is the most on fire to do but that we usually avoid because the amount of work, or the significance of that work within our larger escape plan seems so overwhelming that we can rarely find the courage or energy to face it.

    The result is complete self-sabotage because this is the work we must do to level up, to quit our day jobs, to make our dreams come true. The emails, the business plan, the logos, and all that other crap that requires so much less fuel–these are not the keys to unlocking the future we want. The big scary Soul Work is.

    This is why we must put it first.

    You must start your day working for you. Not only will this guarantee that you are making progress towards that sweet sweet day when you can throw your resignation letter in the face of your ungrateful boss (or just put it on his desk when he’s in a meeting) and finally say sayonara to that hellscape that once held you prisoner, but it also signals to the Universe that this is the reality you want. Once you prove this through your thoughts and actions, the Universe will happily begin constructing this reality for you.

    If this sounds like good advice but you already have it ingrained in your mind that you are not a morning person and will not be able to focus enough to do any mental heavy lifting, it is still absolutely imperative that you start your day with your Soul Work. But for you, this might mean meditating on your vision, revisiting your mantras and affirmations, or making a checklist for that time in your day when you do plan to get some work done. You’re still beginning your day with all of your energy directed at this one thing, reflecting its immense importance in your life.

    Another awesome thing that might come of this practice is that you might realize there is no such thing as a morning person and that you can build up the stamina to move beyond your meditations and affirmations and actually make some legitimate progress on some of those larger aspects of your escape plan before setting foot at your day job.

    However you choose to approach this, putting your Soul Work first is one of those nonnegotiables that the Universe requires of you before it will aid even an ounce in your quest for freedom. Why? Because just like in any relationship, the Universe wants to know that you’re serious, that you’re committed, and that you’re not going to turn into some runaway bride or groom when it actually shows up with all of those awesome things your heart desires. So stop doubting and fearing and procrastinating and put a ring on it already. I promise, the Universe will not stand you up.