It's my favorite time of year. The Earth takes a collective refresh, affirming our desire to do better, to be better. Call it resolve, call it a goal, call it a dream - whatever it is to you, it's important and it matters.
I'll be honest and tell you that 2016 is rather the mystery to me. This past year was the one I'd waited for all my life: I was getting married, I was hitting a milestone age, I had a job I loved, and family surrounded us all the way through it. You know when people say, "This will be your year!" Well, that's 2015 personified for me.
And while it was a good year, I've come to discover that it wasn't the year. A wedding isn't the end of all good things. Turning 30 isn't the end of all good things. And on, and on. There is still much left to do, adventures to unfold, people to meet who will matter for years to come.
I am looking at 2016, the unknown year, with great expectancy and hope. Matty and I have some rather large dreams, and we're taking the baby-steps, running starts, leaps, and bounds to see them take shape. I know that failure is on the path to success. I know that pain appears when you least expect it. I know that life isn't easy. It's all true. But I also know that joy is real, it's powerful, and it lives within us. I have a good life and that part isn't going to change.
So here's to risk, to voyaging into the unknown, and to letting what's inside of us truly bloom.
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin
Photos by Matthew Chatburn Studio
I thought I’d end the year with one of those letters that people send out at Christmas with family updates. I used to make fun of those letters. Now, I’m becoming that which I made fun of, which is basically the gist of life, I’m pretty sure.
This isn’t ATD related, not exactly. Just a simple recap of the year with the Chatburns before we close up 2016 and look forward to aaaall the delights (had to) that 2017 will bring!
Several months ago I wrote an article. It was meant to be my first print article commissioned for a small faith-based magazine for young women. Shortly after I finished the article, proud and eager, I was told that the publication folded.
I've thought several times about sharing it here but wasn't quite sure if it was the right place. I shopped it around a bit but found that there are few outlets that really fit this space and so it's just been sitting. Or, ironically, waiting.
And then, recently, I gave it a re-read. It was as if I had somehow written it for my future self. It was just the encouragement I needed and somehow all memory of writing these words was completely lost. I decided that if it can encourage me then perhaps it will encourage you as well.
So for all of you playing the waiting game, here's a little something. Just for you.
Today, that is who you are. Not unknown faces. Not a target demographic. Not long-lost acquaintances. A real, true-blue friend.
Sometimes it feels like just when I have a grasp on an idea, it starts to slip away. Similar to waking from a dream and willing the memory of it to stay with you. This blog has been that for me. I’ve had, at times, visions of becoming a staple for encouragement in your daily life, hiring a staff, designing delightful little items that you’d keep in your kitchen or at your desk. I would drift out of the spotlight and let others share their own thoughts and epiphanies.
And then there are times when I need this space for my own. To write my own stories, share moments of frustrations and enlightenment alike.
I’ve set goals with both sides in mind. I’ve reached some of those goals and others I’ve let drift off, stealing a bit of my own self-confidence as they sneak away. But recently, I’ve found ways to give myself more grace and admit that yesterday’s standard can change if today’s passion wills it so.
That grace has been fueled by a simple thought, making me look at all of my creative ventures up to this point with a new outlook: what if, this whole time, I’ve been on the runway?
There is a lot of chatter on the internet about the Good Old Days of blogging and remembering what life was like before anyone saw the need for superior photography skills or tried to gain followers for (eventual) profit or actually wrote posts on a whim, just for fun.
I'll admit, I've kept a blogging calendar at times. I've studied my analytics and taken great care of what I write and when. No harm in that. I'm proud of ATD's small platform and thankful for a way to express my creativity without any outside influences. And while I do think that the focus of ATD has shifted here and there, it has always happened organically and never too sudden. No harm in that, either. Growth often comes with change.
A few days ago I had a sudden urge to try to hack into my old email address. My very first one, under the screen name princess_leigha_1814, back when concealing your identity was crucial. I've yet to sort out the aggravating puzzle that is my password, but I did find a few traces of my early internet presence: A transcript of a Yahoo chat from 1999 with Hanson, in which they chose to answer my question ("what is your favorite Star Wars character???"), a "Meet the Reader" feature from 2009 on USA Today, and finally, the first blog I ever created (besides Xanga), called brittany, brooklyn.
The first post is dated September 10, 2006.
It happens slowly, and then all at once.
I'm not talking about love, although I have found that statement to be true, I'm talking about something much less appealing: the creative burn-out. When the ideas dry up. When the sheer joy of doing your craft morphs into a burden. When a blank page looks more like a void and less like an opportunity.
I've been battling a creative drought recently and I gotta be honest, I'm tired of beating myself up about it. I'm tired of wondering HOW ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH could I lose inspiration at a time in my life when everything is new and yet to be uncovered. I'm tired of thinking that it's my own fault, if only I had the willpower to DO the work then the inspiration would return to me like an energetic little puppy. And maybe there is some truth in the thought but if there is, why does it make me feel so...bad? Guilt is not a good foundation for inspiration, this I know.
For the last few weeks, I decided to loosen my grip a little bit and just ride the wave. I opened my mind, and my time, to simply wandering. Some days I "wandered" over to Netflix and Gilmore Girls, but other days I'd feel a tingle of excitement over a new project. And so instead of saying, "No, I need to write, not do that other thing," I allowed myself to just say yes and see what happened. I hope you've been okay with that.
In the process, I've found quite a few things that are slowly waking up my creative spirit again. These are simple ideas, really, and perhaps not anything new to you. I've seen several blog posts and articles discussing this idea of a creative slump and how to fix it, but it wasn't so much the content as it was the timing, for me. If you're not in a creative rut, run and look the other way! Keep doing what you're doing! Live in that glorious space and all its magical delights!
But if you are in a slump, I hope this meets you at a time when you most need it. I'm not writing this just to create some more content and stay relevant so that, God-forbid, you forget me and never like another Instagram post. I'm writing it because it's very real to me right now. And if I've learned anything from ATD, it's that the real moments in my life are the ones that speak the loudest in yours.
Here are a few things I've done in the last two weeks to free up my imagination to create again:
If I could just be vulnerable for a moment. There have been a few occasions when Matty has asked me a question so deviously simple: Are you happy?
I’d ache when I heard those words because I knew they hadn’t appeared for no good reason. Somewhere along the line, I must have done something to make him think perhaps I wasn’t happy. And so my quick answer, the one I give without thinking, is safe and firm: Yes, of course I’m happy. *smile!*
This happened recently and while my answer remained the same, I felt a tugging inside as the words escaped. It was the feeling you get when you aren’t quite telling the truth and you fear someone might find out—classic principle’s office guilt. I decided to pay attention this time and show myself a little respect. I wondered if, perhaps, there was a bit of sadness in my heart.
Without getting too personal (more for your benefit, I’m an open book and will tell you all the gory details over coffee if you like), I discovered the root of my sadness after taking the time to acknowledge it. Turns out, transition is a slower process for me than it is Matty. He is highly adaptable and can easily jump into a new situation. Me, I carry the stress, I think about the details, I tinker with a problem or thought and try to find a solution without having all the tools. I know that all my Instagram photos of palm trees have led you to believe that life is rolling along at 100, but the truth is, having no home of my own was really getting to me. Starting over from scratch, be it location, job, budget, friends, even our dreams...it’s a heavy weight to carry and I was trying to do it on my own.
After I came to terms with these things via a genuine freakout, unloading all my thoughts to Matty, and a really good cry, I felt much lighter. Much...happier.
I’ve been thinking about sadness, and my recent experience attempting to hold it at bay. I realized there were a few myths that kept me from admitting that I felt sad and I’ve jotted them down in notes in my phone to remind me that it’s okay, necessary even, that I’m authentic with myself in those moments.
Maybe you can relate: