Updated: Aug 8
March 1st, 2017 is a personally epic date for me. It’s the day I stepped away from three years of misguided entrepreneurial hustle and into my life—if not yet a fulfilling life, at least a space in which I had to make one. I had to decide how I really wanted to spend the precious currencies of my existence, my time, and energies. How I could best channel the gift I’d long ignored and repeatedly passed over. I decided to ditch the reality of my circumstances for 31 days, and seriously consider living my dream.
I knew in third grade that I wanted to be a writer. My teacher would give us activity sheets with out-of-the-box questions, and my answers quickly filled the lines and burst up the margins, tailed with arrows signaling “Flip over—there’s more!” It was the first time I felt happy and free within an assignment, like there were endless possibilities and I got to make it all up—no rules, just write. But I always treated writing as more ethereal than realistic, lofty and only meant for some specific kind of genius I’d drawn up in my mind, that had the perfect life scenario to spend their days in an all-windows NYC loft at a real-deal typewriter wearing circular glasses with thick black rims and a chunky woven sweater the color of cream, a cup of black coffee on bottomless refill, encircled by cats. Although I could start checking the cat box when I turned 25, I lacked all the other must-have’s I believed true writers possessed and the How of the thing seemed so big and elusive I wasn't even close to letting the dream breach. I let it stew to the point of curdling, getting my bachelor’s degree in English Literature, writing for a few small businesses, then stepping into my own with freelance copywriting and a draw toward the shiny things online business offered, like time and financial freedom beyond measure. Then things got messy and confusing as I splayed myself out in all directions of entrepreneurial pursuit, just trying to make it with anything I thought might stick.
I filmed and edited 100+ videos for my YouTube channel, wrote copy and provided creative editing for websites and ebooks and promotional materials, revamped resumes, produced a crap ton of blogs, offered holistic consultations, formulated and sold my own herbal teas, went “live” on over 500 Periscope broadcasts, launched an Etsy shop . . . somewhere in there I gave a TEDx Talk (at the time I really thought that meant I “made it”—Boof—not even!). I was hitting walls and weathering flops left and right. Nothing was delivering a sustainable, enjoyable quality of life, and I frizzed out my drive with perpetual overworking and self-study. In all this, my passion for writing always found its way into the mix, but it was never the main event. I had never given it worthiness of pursuit as a career.
So on that fated day, two years ago in March, I set down my scattered chase of viral appeal, put it all on the shelf for a solid month of no social media or work of any kind, and started from scratch. In two years, I’ve done some things and certainly made progress, although I do find giving myself credit a bit of a challenge most often.
To name a few:
I rebranded myself in social platforms as @elysehugheswriter, still committing to cleanses (set periods where I 86 social media) and cutting down time spent in these mediums. I pretty much just post on Instagram now, and that’s spotty at times. I’m still figuring out how I want to show up in this space, and how often.
I leveled my WordPress site and set up this new hub here on Wix! The template for this site was originally an ice cream shop! I loved the funky, eye-candy design and made it mine. It’s the yin & yang of personality & imperfection. The first of many websites I’ve ever felt beautifully vibes a creative, loving energy that’s so “me.” [Since writing this post in 2019 (it’s now 2022), elysehughes.com has undergone another makeover, this time utilizing a template for a spa website! Very zen, I know. It’s just the clean, calm & clear - with-pops-of-radiance - ambience that reflects how me, and the writing, have evolved.]
I created an outlet for my short, inspired, off-the-cuff writings (I call Micro Blogs), which lives here on my site and is free for anyone to access. I’ve jotted down 152 of these bitties and gathered the first 99 into a collection called Come Out And Play | Musings From The Micro Blog 1.0. This self-publishing effort is in-the-works. Let me know what you think of the cover design!
This past August, I spent three weeks in a desert artist’s colony called Tubac. I had a whole art gallery to myself with the company of a pack of hummingbirds, fruit bats, lotsa lizards, a chinchilla cat + mosquitos (eeek). I burnt out from pressuring the shit outta myself about my first book, so I took the time to free write every day. The result was a rebirth of joy in writing and a book called Letters From Tubac. Another project banked in my self-publishing arsenal, this one still lives within the pages of the Tuscan leather journal in which it was written. It’s a real gem.
The big kahuna is my first book, Trying To Make It. By far, the best thing I’ve ever embarked on. I’ve written 21 of 34 chapters, which now that I write it, seems impressive, but also overwhelming. I still feel like there is so far to go! That bogs me down at times, even deters me from the writing of it, because the end result seems achingly far away.
And that brings me to the hitches. The challenges. The things that trick me up and distract me from the business of writing. This is important to mention, because even though in two years it’s undeniable I’ve done some stuff, I will be the first to admit I could have very easily done so so so much more. For me, a certain cocktail of insecurity, procrastination and distraction are recurring plagues to my productivity. I’ve binged more full seasons of TV shows in the past two years than very possibly my whole life prior. I’m very good at convincing myself that tiny, minuscule, fucking invisible tasks are high priorities (i.e. drafting color-coded grocery lists—redrafting & redrafting & redrafting because I refuse to mar my masterpiece with White Out), moving things around (I do this every day, multiple times a day. The P.I.C. (partner in crime) calls it “obsession.” I call it “circulating energy.”), baking (We now have a song and dance called “And We Bake!” to embody my pastry-making-avoidance marathons). The list of distractions I unnecessarily insert into my life is endless.
A few ways I reel it in:
I communicate a time, to myself and The P.I.C., when I’ll be sitting down to write for the day. During this time, I am left alone with no interruptions, I squish earplugs in (HUGE help), light a candle, put on my Goliath glasses, water at arm’s length, and dive in.
I have a little morning routine that grounds me into my day and gets my mind in a positive upswing.
I meditate - this is an F-ing work in progress - but it does help, even the 15 minutes a day I continue to aim at establishing.
I try to drink lots of water, go gentle on the caffeine, keep things on the healthy side in my food equation and get 8+ hours of sleep (for me, it’s usually 10). I’ve discovered I am undoubtedly a Highly Sensitive Person, so how I treat my body really, fucking really, affects me. I get in a whack mental state when I’m bloated from junk food, and I feel like my heart’s going to fucking explode when I drink 2+ cups of coffee, plus I ratchet up outta bed at 3 am in a panic and cold sweats. Less lattes for me, although they taste so yum ;(
I close the comparison channels as much as possible! I deleted all my “friends” on Facebook and haven’t even gone on there in months. I schedule out my Instagram posts using a software called Later. I practice living first and checking my phone later. Checking off the real priorities is more fulfilling than getting mired in the brainless scroll. Although I will always occasionally eye-hoard cat Instas, I do my best now to #DoMe, be in my life, and intentionally invest my time.
Different strokes for different folks—each of us has to meticulously peel back the layers of distraction and clutter in our lives to free up our channel for meaningful creation. Some days, I am marred in a broken record of not-good-enough thoughts that can be so debilitating I avoid writing and self-sabotage for what turns into weeks! I’ve read over Trying To Make It more times now than I can even guesstimate, and every time I find typos or entire sections that need re-working. Sometimes I feel like it will never be finished, not to mention the million other aspects of getting published and promotion and . . .
In these years of turning toward my dream, facing all the million fears and impossibilities I’ve programmed myself to believe, and daring to give this writing thing a go, anyway—I have learned that being creative is a discipline when you want to make a life of it. There’s no one telling you when to clock in and unknowns abound. But for me, it is outrageously fulfilling to create a life by design and gently nurture good habits that feed experiences which grow into dreams realized. Circumstances can make me feel shaky and scared and judgmental of where I am or what I’ve accomplished (or haven’t yet). But I’m willing to ditch them as much as possible to continue living a dream that just feels so freaking good.
After my most recent pastry-making-avoidance marathon, I slouched next to the bed, unable to see my toes over the yeast-expanded bulb of my trucker gut post banana bread, and tossed myself into the pillows in a dramatic show of self-disgust. The P.I.C., who also falls victim to the calorie-loading of my procrastination jags, heftily exhaled in knowingness.
“We’re gonna get ourselves outta this shitbox slump,” he assured me, and we laughed. I knew, even with all the breaks and hiccups and banana bread bellies, he was right. I would find my way, and keep writing, and some day, I’d hold a book between my palms. One that I wrote and finished and published and read out loud to rooms of people somehow touched by it. The only thing between me and that, was my own resistance to accepting it.
lotsa love, always ~e