Guest Post, Chris Maday Schmidt: 10 Tips for Pursuing Your Passion Regret Free

Tips The other day I ran across a video posted on social media: A man wearing a backpack stood in the middle of a valley flanked by snow-capped mountains. Animated clips flashed on the screen, emphasizing his impassioned plea to live your dream—your purpose—now. He talked about how people on their death beds are less likely to regret the things they did in life as opposed to those they didn’t.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 22 or 92; it’s only too late when you entertain regrets of the ‘could’ve, would’ve, should’ve’ variety. Here are 10 tips to help you pursue your passion regret free:

  1. Start where you are. Every day is a new beginning—a clean slate to embrace in all its quirky imperfections. As the narrator of the video stated: “You cannot start over, but you can start now and make a brand new ending.”
  2. No right way. There is no magic formula for getting from point A to point B. Your mantra might be ‘trial and error’ or ‘go with the flow.’ Modify as needed.
  3. Quit comparing. Joseph Campbell writes: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” You’ve heard the saying: Life would be boring if everyone was the same. Now live like you believe it.
  4. Life doesn’t stop. Stuff happens. Appliances break down, illness and injuries occur and sometimes bad news arrives in threes. Do what needs to be done and then see #1.
  5. Change of scenery. At times it may be necessary to step out of your comfort zone in order to follow your dreams. This might include changing a routine or your surroundings. Be open to the possibilities.
  6. Have fun. Oscar Wilde writes: “Life is too short to be taken seriously.” Laughter provides a balm to the soul and lightens the load. Lift the corners of your lips often.
  7. Refuse to fear. Jack Canfield says: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” If fears are stories you tell yourself, then change your story.
  8. Remove distractions. Shut down when necessary; i.e., disengage from social media, email, etc. The world will not stop when you go off the grid to pursue your passion.
  9. Prioritize. Each day tackle the easiest, fastest tasks first. Then dive into your pursuit and camp out there as long as it takes. The piles of dirty laundry aren’t going anywhere.
  10. Delegate, ask for help. It’s okay to say ‘no,’ or to pass the buck, in order to create space to chase your passion, which is the one thing no one else can do for you.

The narrator in the video closes by illustrating how a plane is less safe when on the ground because it’s prone to rust and deterioration. When you don’t live your dream—your purpose—you clip your wings and ultimately remain grounded, much like that plane. Mired in regret. But when you put wings on your passion, you begin to take flight.

John Greenleaf Whittier states it best: “For of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, it might have been.”

What’s your advice to avoid the ‘could’ve, would’ve, should’ve’ mentality?


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Intern Post, Chris Schmidt: A Passionate Pursuit – Putting Education, Experience to Work

iamawriterImagine you’ve worked at the same type of job for over two decades, but then one day it hits you: your teenage daughter will graduate from high school in less than two years and you don’t want to do what you’ve been doing for the rest of your life.

And… you’re middle aged.

That happened to me in 2008.

Although I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to read on my own, prior to my mid-life “awakening,” so to speak, for more than two dozen years my life revolved around administrative and office management roles—in part due to my mad typing skills of more than 120 words per minute (true story). But I never stopped wanting to be a writer.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~ C.S. Lewis

Fast forward to life in 2011. Armed with a shiny new Bachelor of Arts in literature, writing and film earned at Arizona State University, two semesters logged in as an intern with Superstition Review, as well as the title of cofounder and manager of Scribes @ ASU, a writing club intended “to further the social, cultural, and academic interests of the students enrolled in a literature-based degree program,” it was time to put my education to work.

Fortunately, during my final two semesters at ASU and while working as an intern with [s]r under the mentorship of Trish Murphy, founding editor, I discovered my love of everything publishing related. However, I knew if I planned on getting anywhere, I needed experience in the field. And the sooner the better… I wasn’t getting any younger.

Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! ~ Dr. Seuss

In less than a month following graduation, another seasoned editor took a chance on this (tongue-in-cheek) “old dog” and brought me on staff as an editorial intern at a print and online publication catering to all things beauty. With infinite patience, the editor-in-chief taught me new tricks that consisted of fact-finding, writing blogs and articles, posting online social media and managing the magazine’s website. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic.

Following three months of showing up at my cubicle and regular staff meetings, acquiring invaluable knowledge and a greater passion for the business, I sought my first “real” job in publishing.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped to land a position in the industry. After more than six months of applying for both freelance and full-time opportunities—and either being rejected or unable to find the right fit—it was tempting to fall back on my administrative and office management experience. The logic-thinking side of my brain knew there was nothing wrong with that, but the creative side countered louder: I went back to school to write!

One evening, after yet another rejection (“We’re sorry, we chose someone with more experience”—the proverbial Catch 22 where experience is required, yet can’t be gained until someone hires you first), I scanned the online Craigslist postings under the administrative category… just in case.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. ~ W.C. Fields

If a headline could scream, this one did—complete with bells and whistles. Adorned in big bold letters, the word PUBLISHING radiated a thousand promises. The advertised opening, about four days old, publicized the position of administrative coordinator for a small commercial publishing firm within a few miles of my home. And the best part? I was qualified.

Yes, I’d be managing an office, including phones and spreadsheets and mailings, but I would also be working with ad insertions, copy-editing and social media. Convinced I could do the office part with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back (almost), and with new-found enthusiasm and an emotion I equated to hope, that night I submitted my application. I interviewed two days later, received a job offer the next morning and began my new role the following Monday.

Deadlines, grammar and A.P—oh my! ~ Me

Working for a small company means I juggle a variety of responsibilities daily—from admin to materials trafficker, to customer service, assistant editor, social media guru and website content coordinator, to eNewsletter administrator, researcher and writer. I work with sales, advertisers, circulation, PR, IT and design. And, on a bi-monthly basis, I interview field personnel for featured Q&As in one of the company’s publications.

The expertise I’m gaining in the publishing industry is instrumental. But, I’m convinced my accomplishments over the past three years would not have been possible without my education at ASU and the fundamental experience I obtained while working on the [s]r staff, through my internship with In With Skin magazine and training under the leadership of select educators and editors. My freelance portfolio also continues to expand and includes several blogs and articles for In With Skin; articles for Paradise Valley Lifestyle magazine; nonfiction pieces for Kalliope, a former online literary magazine at ASU and guest blog posts for [s]r.

Grow old with me! The best is yet to be. ~ Robert Browning

While serving my internship with [s]r, in an Oct. 2, 2010 interview I was asked: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

My response: “…I see myself enjoying the fruit of my education and passion for the art of the written word… as well as working in some type of publishing/editing capacity.”

With another six years to go until 2020, I’m awash with anticipation, on track as I approach the mid-century mark—an old dog balancing on the edge of a hat brimming with shiny new tricks.

If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it. ~ Wanda Skyes

Guest Post, Chris Schmidt: What Yoga Has Taught Me About Writing

YogaFor almost a year now, I’ve been an avid student of Bikram Yoga—a system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury developed from traditional hatha yoga techniques, including 26 postures and two breathing exercises in a room preset to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity.  Four walls, a mat, a towel and my flawed reflection for 90 minutes of moving meditation.

Although Bikram’s studios are often referred to as torture chambers, the hot room has become my own restorative chamber of sorts.  Physically and mentally, it’s done more for me than any doctor I’ve seen or medication I’ve been prescribed to date. Both spiritually and emotionally, I’ve found a deeper level of peace.  And, practically, it’s taught me a few things about writing.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Show up.  This is the hardest part about writing.  If I do that, the rest is easy.
  • Stay present in the room.  This is the second hardest part, in my opinion.  Every time I remain in the room when I’m uncomfortable—my humanness exposed—I’m training my mind to adapt to situations beyond my control.
  • Focus on the breath.  When, not if, the fight-or-flight response kicks in, I try to remember to breathe in and breathe out.  Additionally, meditation—repeating a mantra or imagining my Someday beach home—helps me to avoid potentially missing out on that epiphany I’ve been waiting for.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Although it’s nothing new, the grass is greener where I water it.  It’s called research.  As the famous doctor (Seuss) once said: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” —even if it’s simply on paper.
  • No one can steal your peace.  Make your writing space conducive—to writing.
  • Mind over the matter.  There’s no such thing as a true writer’s block.  Just saying.
  • Remove expectations.  Each time I show up at my pad and paper or laptop, I’m a different person.  I may be surviving on little sleep, worried about a situation outside of my power or I’m in total rock-star, can’t-do-anything-wrong mode.  No matter who I am in the moment, I receive 100 percent benefit as long as I expend 100 percent effort.
  • Eliminate excuses.  I’m responsible for my own writing.  I can’t blame other people or external circumstances for something completely within my control.
  • Every day is a practice, not a perfect.  Realizing this simple truth eliminates the pressure to perform and allows me to push the edge, risk failing and try again.  And again.
  • Eventually—Someday—I’ll achieve final expression.  For me, this means seeing my first novel in print.  And living the [writer’s] life I dream of.

The practice of Bikram Yoga is the only [physical] activity that can be improved upon as we age.  According to Bikram, “You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again.”  In my book, this goes for writing, too.

Bikram also says that in life you only have to travel six inches—the distance [or journey] from your mind to your heart.  My definition of writing is a marriage between the heart and mind.  And despite where I am in my writing journey, it is a lifelong commitment that continues to grow stronger every time I show up, stay in the room and give it my all.

The Power of the (Famous) Muses

Until I was asked to write a blog on famous muses, I really never gave the idea much thought. I’ve always used my surroundings or circumstances to rev up my creative juices. But it didn’t take me long to recall those who held my hand as I began my love affair with the written word, as well as the ones who paved the way for me on this journey of self-exploration. Or, my life as a writer.

Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird, is the first author whose words challenged me to break free of the excuses and “take it bird by bird.” In her book, she speaks about her older brother who procrastinated on a book report about birds which was now due the following day. The task ahead of him appeared insurmountable when Lamott’s father “sat down beside him, put his arm around [her] brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

Currently, I’m in a season where my writing revolves around blogs and articles. I haven’t sat down and written my novel just yet. So for me, I’m taking it blog by blog. And I’m also avidly following guidance from another one of my muses: Stephen King. In his book On Writing, he reminds writers to read a lot and write a lot. I tend to go in spurts — right now I’ve been reading a lot. My muse was recently rediscovered in between the pages of Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain and Blake Crouch’s Snowbound. Consequently, I’m feeling one step closer to sitting down and tackling the writing a lot part of King’s advice.

Another writer, Lee Gutkind, ASU professor and managing editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine, also incites me to explore life’s next adventure. In his essay, “The Five Rs of Creative Nonfiction,” he encourages writers to seize our sense of wonder by immersion, or the “real life” aspect of the writing experience. The four remaining Rs include reflection, research, read (this cannot be stressed enough!) and “writing.” Simple but sage counsel.

With his sardonic, humble wit, David Sedaris inspires me with his edgier pieces, touching on off-the-wall topics that both entertain and challenge. My daughter and I once waited six hours in line to meet the man in person and receive an autographed copy of his book Squirrel Meets Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. He did not disappoint; neither did the book.

But I’ve also discovered that even the underdogs may rise up among the famous. One such muse of mine is a close friend incarcerated for the next few years. He tutors other inmates in math, takes college courses while serving his sentence and studies the craft of memoir writing late into the evening hours. And then he pounds out his daily observations on a typewriter, the kind with ribbons, platen and correction tape. He motivates me as he devours book after book, doing what each of the successful writers who have gone before us have done and continue to do.

I read because I love it. I write because I cannot help it. So I grab onto the shirt tails of those who make it look easy and hope a little of their spunk (and a whole lot of talent) rubs off on me. They are the ones who have paved the way and carved a niche in the literary world. The guiding spirit(s) for my truth.

Do you have a famous — or not so famous — muse that inspires?

Guest Post: The Secret to Getting Started

I love being a writer.  What I can’t stand is the paperwork. ~ Peter De Vries

If we all felt the way De Vries purports, the world would sorely lack reading material. I believe the great Mark Twain offers a solution to the daunting task we often ascribe to writing and the reason we procrastinate, telling ourselves we’ll do it as soon as we’ve finished X, Y or Z. According to Twain, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

While Twain’s quote easily applies to myriad goals or projects, I firmly believe his advice also works well when it comes to the writing process as a whole.

I’ve found that for me, it helps to take a good look at the big picture and then put into practice what Twain suggests: break down the seemingly insurmountable goal into doable steps. But even more importantly, each stage must be easily attainable, or I will hesitate to begin the first one.

The following is a model for accomplishing Twain’s solution.

Step #1: Planning

  • Make time to come up with the gist of your story. This may occur through daydreaming, brainstorming or writing organically for a pre-determined length of time, and can take place anywhere you do your best thinking: working out, meditating, hiking or lounging on your chaise.

Step #2: Writing

  • Commit to write a minimum number of words a week. This requires you to put pen (or pencil) to paper, fingers to keyboard, voice to recorder — anything to get a word count somewhere other than the gray matter inside your right brain.
  • Set aside the required number of hours per day, preferably uninterrupted. Accomplish this by removing distractions; i.e., log out of Facebook, instant messaging, Google, Dr. Phil — whatever keeps you from the first part of this step. If you’re the type who’s inspired by a little Beethoven or Pit Bull, by all means turn up the volume on your iPod. Along these lines, don’t underestimate the power of your muse; keep it forefront in your mind (stay tuned for a future post on this concept). The short of it: if an ocean view is what you need to write, then plaster your surroundings with the sights, sounds and smells of a tropical paradise. And if you can bring the real thing to life, all the better.

Step #3: Editing/rewriting

  • Read drafts one at a time, making notes/edits as you go. Try to read your words with new, fresh eyes. Pretend you’re picking the piece up for the first time and gauge your reaction as if you’ve never seen it before. Be critical.
  • Schedule a day or a week to rewrite. This is where a lot of us lose steam. But it’s important to consider this just another part of your “job” as a writer. Take what you’ve edited in the first part of this step and get it done. If you don’t, someone else will.

These manageable steps can be adapted to any writing assignment, such as articles, short stories and blogs. It simply takes an idea and a commitment to see it through.

What is your secret to getting started?