How it Happens

Motivation & Inspiration

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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.

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Writing from the Top of the Mountain

Mental Health, Motivation & Inspiration

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For the past year I have been trying to figure out where it all went wrong. How did I go from being on the verge of having everything I wanted to feeling farther from my dreams than ever? When did I become a magnet for fear and doubt instead of a human rocket that uses them as fuel? Where exactly did I lose myself and how do I get her back?

If I retrace my steps, perfectly, honestly, I can actually pinpoint the moment when everything took a turn for the worse, when the wheels fell off, when I gave up on myself and my dreams, giving the universe permission to do the same.

I’ve written and reflected so much on the miracle of May 2015 when, seemingly overnight, my book sales skyrocketed. I’ve looked back on that time with awe and gratitude, with confusion and disbelief. I have looked back on that moment as luck finally meeting with all of my hard work. As the beginning of something great. But in the midst of that moment of greatness I did not choose to do something great, bold, or brave. Because I did not choose to leap.

Instead, I took the money that I’d made from writing fiction and I used it to apply to grad school. I used it to build a cocoon, to mitigate risk, to stomp out my fears of change and lack and failure. I used it to give up.

I didn’t realize at the time that I was giving up. But what else do you call turning your back on a gift that big and beautiful?

In my quest to understand where it all went wrong (and therefore, how to fix it) I’ve been reading a lot about mindset, the power of positive thinking, and the rules of universal intelligence. Basically, universal intelligence is…well, you. And me. And everything. Everything is connected. Our reality is a shifting, changing thing that bends to our desires, good or bad, brave or fearful.

On some level, I have always believed this–that I am always in control of much more than I appear to be. But I also have an anxious overactive brain that can funnel just as much negative energy into something as positive energy. In fact, it’s much easier for me to funnel negative energy into something because most of my day is spent swatting away negative thoughts. I’m an expert at creating them. I can do it in my sleep, and often do, which is why I have nightmares almost every night.

But this hyperactive, extremely powerful brain of mine, when it focuses on positive things, can make miracles happen. On some level, I have always believed this too. The problem is, the line between positive thoughts and negative thoughts is coated in vaseline. I vacillate between them like an olympic ping-pong player.

Everything is awesome. I’m so happy. Look at all the abundance that surrounds me. So much excess. Things I don’t need. Things I’ve greedily hoarded when there are people in the world who are homeless and starving!

See what I mean? It’s a problem.

But a problem that I had (somehow) temporarily solved in the summer of 2015, at least long enough for something completely miraculous to happen. I keep thinking about that time in my life, trying to figure out all the ways it was different; all the ways I was different.

Here’s what I know for sure: I was frustrated with my current job. I knew I didn’t want to work there forever. I knew I hated my boss. But I also knew, with extreme certainty and clarity, that it was temporary. I felt a pull to do something bigger, greater, better. Something that would give my life purpose and make the world a better place. I believed that I was meant for that kind of responsibility and that I had unique skills and abilities that qualified me for such a role. I wanted to make more money so that I could buy a new car with a working A/C unit that didn’t stall every time I ran the heater while idling at a stop light. So that I could shelter myself from the kind of financial struggles my parents went through. So I could do good things for others.

Three years later and every single one of those basic desires is the same. What isn’t the same, is me.

In 2015, when I was daydreaming about my future, I was writing like my life depended on it, planning like my life depended on it, dreaming like my life depended on it. The things I wanted and the work I was willing to do to get them was nonnegotiable. My day job was temporary and this was also nonnegotiable. All of these nonnegotiable things were promises I was making to myself and to the universe. These promises became prayers. Declarations and then manifestations.

I told the Universe that I wanted to make a living as a writer. I showed it that I was serious by writing every spare second I had–early in the morning and late into the night. I paid for cover designs and copy editing and threw money at this dream even though it wasn’t earning me a cent.

And then the Universe answered my prayers. It gave me exactly what I wanted. Money. An audience. Control. Freedom.

But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to quiet those dark and doubting voices in my head. It wasn’t enough to make me believe that I deserved these gifts I was being given. It wasn’t enough to make me leap into that great unknown that really isn’t unknown once you realize you’re the one constructing it. Brick by brick. Every thought with the power to summon something you desire or something you fear.

I chose fear. In the face of my dreams, of my destiny, I chose fear.

Instead of trusting that the universe would continue to provide, I stopped swatting those negative thoughts away and let myself dwell on them. What will I do when the money runs out? What if I can’t write another book? What if I lose it all? What if I sabotage everything?

And I did. It took three years but every fear that I let stop me from taking that leap, every fear that has been following me around, tying me in knots, stealing my sleep and good sense, has come to fruition. And I have no one to blame but myself.

But this is also good news. Because if I’m the only one to blame for creating this problem then I’m the only one who can possibly come up with the solution. Believing this is also the first step in repairing my relationship with the Universe because it operates on the assumption that if I can change what I believe, I can change, well, everything.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get back in the driver’s seat of this human experience that could very well be the only one I ever get. I’m going to make it count by planning and dreaming and creating and trusting like my life depends on it. I’m going to claw my way out of that black hole and stand on the top of the mountain. I’m going to give myself all the gifts and I’m going to believe with everything in me that I deserve them.