TGIF: What a Toddler Taught Me About “Going Pro”

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On the Little Mermaid, deadline angels and fuzzy pink socks. 

Remember that scene in The Little Mermaid, when Ursula the buxom half-octopus Sea Witch, offers Princess Ariel human feet for the “small price” of her voice?

[insert the blood-curdling screams of a kabillion little and not-so-little girls from Bombay to Boston]

“Noooooo! Don’t do it, Ariel!” we begged the stunning but naive princess.

Even as a child, I knew that Ariel was doomed without her voice. Prince Eric couldn’t even recognize her. Voiceless, she was just a pretty airhead with shampoo commercial hair and a bangin’ body. She was skim milk—a faint shadow of her true self.

However, what blows my mind is how a lesson so blatantly obvious to me as a child is completely lost on me as an adult.

Mere seconds, after my last post was published, I felt the clammy tentacles of a certain red-lipped octopus tighten around my throat. Every time a new comment or tweet came in. I felt a frisson of fear and dare I say it … excitement.

Then Rachel Held Evans picked my post as one of her Sunday Superlatives. AMBER ALERT. AMBER. FREAKING. ALERT.

It took everything in me to keep my bowels in check. I started doubting everything I’d written. I mean, who died and made me Beyonce’s baby?

Why did I think I could get to the bottom of my struggle with procrastination? Why was I stupid naive enough to think that this time would be different? Was I destined to roam the earth like depressed, desperate, lovesick Ariel on mute?

How often: I’ve traded my voice for the metaphorical feet of “security”; I’ve busied myself with mundane rituals to “fit in” with my peers; I’ve downsized my dreams for perceived happiness.

When my excited beau gave me a congratulatory hand squeeze I whimpered, “But I don’t know what I’m talking about, Kup! I knew that graphic looked too professional. I should’ve used Comic Sans. Now, everyone thinks I know what I’m talking about.”

“Everyone?” he asked, without cracking a smile. (Someone give the man an Emmy.)

“I’ve been stuck for years. How-the-hummus am I going to figure out the next post in two weeks?”

“You don’t have to have answers,” he said. “Think about what “Going Pro” feels like. Start there.”

What Going Pro feels like?

I racked my brain trying to answer his question. I doodled on purple post-its and the cloudy margins of my heart. I thumbed through the worn out pages of my feelings dictionary alphabetically, from antsy to zen. I studied my pruney hands in the shower looking for a clue into the unrelenting desires of my heart.

Eventually, my writing Deadline Angels (totally a real thing!) felt sorry for me (and my poor editor) and led me to this magical 58-second video oozing Solomonic wisdom.

Watch-watch-watch!

Eden Birch discusses the Creative Process from WeMakeStuffVancouver on Vimeo.

[insert slow clap that turns into a rowdy stadium applause]

Baby Eden has the secret that creatives everywhere are desperately seeking. If only there was a legal way to bottle up her Eden-y essence, I’d sell vials of it like holy water on the TV Shopping Channel for three easy installments of $500 a pop.

Watching this video made me think of those mornings when pen meets paper, fingers meet keyboard, bum meets chair obediently. The kind of morning where you don’t need a snooze button, dark roast coffee, warm shower or fresh underwear. Your (often) unreliable, (always) brilliant muse is nibbling your earlobe, cajoling you out of bed.

Sometimes good ol’ prodigal Musey-Muse staggers into the house in the middle of the night like a tipsy teenager, bumping into furniture and wants your attention, right this minute! You know better than to try and sleep through the ruckus, so you grope your night stand in search for your thick-rimmed makes-me-feel-like-a-writer glasses, stub your toe on the bed frame, recklessly grab the first writing instrument you find and scribble like a Looney-Toon in the dark.

You act all annoyed about the terrible timing but really you’re grinning on the inside. Angsty scribbling in the dark makes you feel so hardcore. So legit. You secretly want to be disturbed every. single. night.

Then there are the days you magically find your “sweet spot.” Sometimes it looks like doing the downward dog, face smushed into a carpet and arms contorted in angles that Cirque Du Soleil dancers would envy. You’re so laser focused on the task at hand  you can work non-stop (sans pee break, snack break, Facebook break)—on the carpet, in a chair, leaning against the kitchen island or laying in a fetal position. Nothing short of an armed robbery could break your flow.

And just as the magical molecules of your masterpiece come together, you get the crazy urge to stick your fuzzy pink socks into the mix. Now people think your really crazy, but you don’t care. Maybe you’re a trail blazer? Maybe you’re just misunderstood like Van Gogh, Picasso and Dali? Or better yet, maybe, you’re just having fun? The audacity…! 🙂

Suddenly an invisible force field envelopes you, protecting your raw, organic, combustible, mad scientist energy.  You can’t hear the cynics, haters, bank statements, gym teachers, ex-boyfriends or your inner critic here.

You are in the temple now. A sacred space.

 This is where the magic happens.

And to all the haters who talk smack about your process and credibility, you shrug your shoulders and respond with a goofy Robert Di Nero impression, “Fugghetaboutit.”

And finally after hours of back-breaking work, you step back to take it all in and you realize, “It is finished! And it is: good, and beautiful, and brilliant, and an honest piece of my heart.” You’re so happy you want to yodel from the tip of the Swiss Alps whilst juggling IKEA meatballs, “Come eat, see, read, devour, partake of what I have made! It is finished!”

I love that little Eden finally makes eye contact with the camera. She is ready to share her work.

This, this, THIS is how I want to feel. This is what Going Pro looks like to me.

Going pro is being undaunted by 5am wakeup calls, empty pages and hard work. Going pro is being alert and sensitive to engage my wandering masterful Muse. Going pro is being so in love with the craft that I’m completely engrossed by the task at hand. Going pro is creating a safe space where I can work and play, without the negative voices (including my own) who belittle my process, my art and my journey. Going pro is having the courage, vulnerability and whimsy to leap, take risks, declare, “It is finished” and share my life’s work with the world.

Going pro is the return to innocence. *cue song* Sing with me now, “O-yea-yah, O-yea-yea-yah…”

Remember how huge this video was in the 90s? It was the first music video I’d seen with footage played in reverse.

I feel old. Fugghetaboutit.

Read Part 1 here.
______________________________________________________

So, my sexy black cherries, I’m dying to know:

  1. What does “Going pro” feel like for you?
  2. What did you do effortlessly as a child?

Love you more than a steaming bowl of Spicy Coconut Laksa,

xoxo,
Teen

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis
  • It’s such a gift to write from that place of being loved, free, full of child-like wonder; a beautiful way to write, a sacred way to live. Loved this picture, juggling meatballs and all.

  • Sajatha Shellas

    Oh Tina, love the post.
    I donot know what going pro means yet. I have never thought about. But definitely know what i did so effortlessly as a child- Be myself!!!!!! Play!!! Imagine!!!! Dream!!!!
    Your last post has inspired me to start thinking about stepping out of my security blanket. For me, even thinking is a big deal.
    Luv you Tina

    saj

  • Lol! You’re so funny and sunny – I love your writing 🙂
    Going pro to me means declaring who I am in my own mind and being that person. It was when I declared “I am a writer” even though in the technical sense I’m not a pro because I don’t make money (yet!)
    And as a child…I sang — all day, all night, in the store, in my bed…ahhhhh.

  • Nicole Joshua

    Hey Tina,
    I have been on a blog blackout the last two weeks because I’m drowning in work, but this morning I decided to read your blog (I suppose it’s because you’re so good at making me laugh, but more importantly, it’s because I love you!). Not much resonated with me as I began reading it, until the part about the muse waking you up in the middle of the night with a powerful nudge to write and the second question you ask at the end. I have had that muse knock on the door of my sleep so many times, but failed to listen in the past, but because I took the time to read your blog this morning, I still have the muse’s knock of last night fresh in my head, so now I will write before brushing my teeth and having breakfast. As to the question about what I did effortlessly as a child, I think that this might just be the question that will help me hear God’s voice calling me to do what I was born to do. Thank you for honoring God, and yourself, by writing this piece. Love you!

  • shirlock

    Dear Sexy Black CherryTin,

    Oh my. Loved your latest tee-gee-ai-eff. Read it just as I was going postal with a 1001 urgent things to do in my life. I baked scones and muffins so that’s two crossed off my list. You have such a *glib-ility* about writing the most interesting things with the utmost nonchalance. You are the Seinfeld of scribes. You wrote about the great nothingness of our everyday parodiable lives and make it a twitter-worthy brain pinch. My brain is grateful.

    Going “pro” in my life is really about catching glimpses of God watch me live, work and play. I’m that child who looks up, hopefully to see a parent watch and smile and be affected by the gifts that He put in me.

    Ps. I’ve “deadline devils” snipping at my hiney. How do I exchange ’em for angels?

    Love you loadums and have missed you mahusively,
    oxoxoshirlz

  • I absolutely adore your writing style and always look forward to reading your posts. That Eden is onto something- we should all take a step back, smile, and admire our finished product!

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  • Tina! Tina. I’ve been anxiously awaiting your follow up post, not because I expected you to have The Answers but because I wanted to extend some solidarity your way. We all need people in our life to say, “you too? Me too!” Something about your words inspires me to take up pen and paper (er, laptop) and really dive into the project I’ve been procrastinating on. I’ve been resisting the discipline of writing. But then I see sweet Eden and remember the days when writing was that free and joyous. And I realized I’ve put entirely too much pressure on myself. I don’t know where that leaves me but hey, it’s a start.

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