jon acuff

Why I Need More Birthday Parties


More Birthday Parties

Yep, that's me (the one with the American Girl in her lap). Roller skating joint birthday party. Ballin'.

I need more birthday parties in my life.

I know we're only supposed to get one per year, but allow me to explain myself.


It's not that I have an affinity for cakes with my name on them or doing the limbo on roller skates (I'm quite terrible at it). It's not even that I want more presents (though who would complain?).

It's that I'm tired of being safe.

That sounds like it makes no sense, but hear me out (what all good points start out with, right?).

This past weekend I went to the Quitter Conference, presented by Jon Acuff.

It probably only takes a 5-minute perusal of my blog to figure out I pretty much just want to steal all his ideas. He's someone I admire, not only as a writer, but as someone who continually presents concepts and approaches I've never thought of before (hence my desire to steal them all). Plus he's quite hilarious.

The conference was based on his book, Quitter, which is about "closing the gap between your day job and your dream job." (To learn more, you can read my post about it here.)

The conference was so encouraging, and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to attend (and without even leaving my city, no less).

Back to birthday parties.

Something Jon said this weekend really stuck with me (paraphrased):

Chasing your dream can sometimes feel a lot like throwing a birthday party in the 7th grade. You invite everyone, then stand by the window and wait, just hoping and praying people are going to show up.

But the only way to fix that feeling of uncertainty and fear is to not throw birthday parties at all. And what kind of life is that to live?

If you don't know me, or you couldn't already tell from my blog, I am not a risk-taker. Let's just be honest. I'm a creature of habit, and I like it that way. It's cozy there.

And I struggle to put myself out on a limb without worrying about how I will be received. I struggle to not care what other people think.

I know Jon was talking about chasing dreams, but I think this can apply not only to my writing, but to the rest of my life.

I don't want a life without birthday parties.

I don't want my life to be a straight line--not too happy, not too sad. Reserved. Controlled.

I want dynamics, even if that means some rough stuff here and there. If you spend your whole life being cautious and protecting yourself from sorrow, you don't give yourself much room to experience joy and passion.

I want more hills. I'm tired of plains.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want bad things to happen.

But I want real.

I want relationship, passion and joy.

And you can't have those things with out letting go of a little control. Without a little risk.

Jon's thought challenged me not to play it so safe. I'm not sure exactly how this will practically play out in my day-to-day yet, but I don't think I'll forget it easily.

Are you ever afraid to "throw birthday parties?" When was a time when taking a risk paid off for you?

If I Seem Out of Breath, Here's Why.

I've been running for the last month. Well, metaphorically, that is.

Why? Because 2012 is Finish Year, and the beginning of February marks...[commence fanfare]

the end of Lap 1* of Finish Year!

I'll pause a moment for the warm applause and shouts of "you go girl" you're surely giving me as I cross the checkpoint, smiling and waving to you, still going strong. (Note: if this were an actual race, I would definitely not still be going strong and would surely have collapsed by now. Who said metaphors had to be plausible?)

Anyway, if you're just tuning in, Finish Year is a campaign Jon Acuff has initiated this year as a challenge for his readers to finish a handful of things this year. Not start them; finish them (the hard part).

So at the beginning of the year I posted my Finish List.

Since Lap 1 of 12 has now come and gone, and many of my goals are writing and/or blog-related, I thought I would do a quick progress report for you. But not the kind that's the report card's less-important cousin you received in middle school, which in actuality had no effect on your grade (and therefore you could not in good conscience be punished for.).

*this moniker refers to the first month of Finish Year and is 100% made up by yours truly.

Finish List Progress Report

Finish List Item 1: Finish "The Empress" by the end of February. I'm on my way to completing this. I posted a new installment here a few weeks ago, and plan on wrapping that up this month. My plan is to finish the rest without posting it online, go back and edit the whole thing for continuity's sake (there are already a few things I want to change), then post it in a PDF format after it's finished for anyone who would like to read it.

Finish List Item 2: Write an ebook. This goal is actually going pretty well. I've already got a first draft of something exciting I'm working on in conjunction with my blog, so stay tuned. I don't want to give away what the topic or setup will be just yet, but I'm looking forward to sharing it! Since this ebook is not initially what I had in mind when making it a goal, I'm sure I'll attempt another one after this is complete.

Finish List Item 3: Finish the Harry Potter Series. Since the last time I wrote about this, I've finished the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban, and I am about three-fourths of the way through the fourth book, Goblet of Fire (which is significantly longer, if anyone is doubting my already-pretty-slow-paced reading skills). Yes, I am a grown up and still openly carry this to work every day (so as to minimize shoulder injury from stashing it my purse).

Finish List Item 4: Read two other books besides Harry Potter. I'm trying to finish Harry Potter first before I start on any other books, so this one is in the queue. Though I have an increasingly long list of books calling my name.

New Finish List Item: Write guest posts for other blogs (or online publications). I'm not sure what a reasonable goal for the entire year would be on this one, since I have never written one before, but I'd love to do at least three by the time the year is over. Right now I am researching other blogs and learning about what it takes to write a killer guest post. (If you have a blog you'd like me to do a guest post for, or know someone whose blog you think I could contribute well to, feel free to let me know in the comments!)

Overall I feel like I'm doing pretty well, but I definitely have to start moving on the first one.

How's your finish list (or resolution list, or goals list) going so far?


Creating Joy

Joy can be hard to come across these days. Once we enter the "real world," sometimes it feels like there's not much room for it. It seems we often just set our course and stick to it, doing the same thing day in and day out.

Sometimes it feels like we have to find joy. That it's hiding from us, and we have to search for it.

But what if we chose to create it instead?

I watched a video on Jon Acuff's site the other day that lifted my spirits and gave me a picture of what joy can look like when you choose to create it.

A little background: Bob Goff and his neighbors have this parade each year on New Year's Day with only one rule: anyone can participate, but no one can watch. 

A few things I love about this video and the people in it:

  1. Bob Goff and his neighborhood chose to ask "why not?" rather than "why?" There's no logical reason to have a parade in your neighborhood--let alone one that nobody is allowed to watch, but anyone can participate in. It doesn't make a profit or change the world (per se). It's probably a lot of work to organize. But some things--especially joyful things--don't have to have a "why." How much would having the attitude of "why not?" change how I live? What could I do if I didn't worry about if it made sense or what people would say?
  2. They believe that every person has something valuable to contribute. I love seeing other people's creativity at work and that the parade encouraged that. I love the idea of just being YOU, and that being special on its own. That you have something to contribute that no one else can. I think sometimes we can get lost in our jobs or our family or school (all good things, by the way) that we forget we are an individual with talents and opinions and a "you." This parade brings out each person's "you," and I love it.
  3. They weren't performing for anyone. It takes the temptation of chasing applause--which, if we're honest, I think we all battle--out of the picture. They did it simply for the joy it brought their souls.
  4. I love anything that brings people together and connects them as fellow human beings. I think there's something beautiful about finding common ground with others and living in community. I doubt all the people in this parade shared the same beliefs or political standings, but instead of focusing on what divides us, it highlighted what connected us. They all came together to create something beautiful and joyful.
  5. Balloons. Seriously, is there anything more joyful than hundreds of colorful balloons?
  6. Roderick's smile. Wow.

So there's your mini-dose of joy for today! I hope it made your heart lighter and maybe even brought you some encouragement.

Do you struggle to find joy in the everyday grind? What's your favorite thing about this video?

You can read Jon's post on this video here.


Finish Year

I don't know about you, but for me, 2011 was a bit of a doozy. It definitely had its fair share of highs and lows.

But one of the best things that came out of 2011 for me was really starting to examine who I am and what I'm passionate about. I always kind of knew I liked writing and have chipped away at that over the years, but over the past 6 months or so I decided to go all in. Something I've learned by reading blogs like Jeff Goins' is that you don't have to wait for someone else to call you a writer to be one. I'm a writer because I can't not write. It's really given me something to pour into and given me a stronger sense of identity.

What really lit a fire under me was reading a book called Quitter by Jon Acuff back in August.

It helped me see how important priorities are and that if I want to write, or read, or even redo a bookshelf, I have to make time. And that it's possible to make time. For me that means saying no to 2 hours of House Hunters and brainstorming blog ideas or reading Harry Potter instead. Trade out things you like to do for things you love to do--even if they take more effort.

I've already learned so much about writing (and goals) from Jon and the community of people (particularly other writers) I've found through following his blog.

Which leads me to the point of this post.

Over the last few days, Jon has begun a campaign of sorts called Finish Year, challenging his readers to make a (short) list of things you want to finish this year. Not start; finish. Because starting is the easy part. Finishing is the unglamorous grind that we all sort of dread. But it's always worth it.

The goals can be anything, but they have to be tangible, even if it's something that seems unmeasurable, like Jon's---to have a more grateful heart. He's making it tangible by committing to hand-write 100 thank-you notes this year.

Everyone who is participating will also be tweeting (hashtag #finishyear) once a day about something they are working on to finish their goals. I may not tweet exactly once a day, but I love the idea of tracking your progress and keeping yourself accountable by publicly sharing your goals and the journey to accomplishing them.

So I wanted to share my Finish List with you this year.


1. Finish The Empress. This one will be hard for me because I already don't really want to figure out how to wrap that one up. But it will be good practice and discipline for me and I've already written three sections of it. I'd like to finish this by the end of February.

2. Write an ebook. Also a difficult goal, as I've never written a book before, but I think it's doable. Plus, ebooks can be short. First step: figuring out what the heck I want to write about.

3. Finish the Harry Potter series. I'm almost done the 3rd book. I'm determined to finish them all, even if some of them more resemble cinderblocks than novels. I'm hoping by the time I get to the last few they will be available on ebook so that I don't sustain shoulder injuries from carrying them around in my purse all the time.

4. Read two other books besides Harry Potter. You may recall my goal last year was to complete 2 books. Yep, 2.  I was terrible about starting books and not finishing them, so I made a bite-size goal. But because I started making time to read, I finished not 2, not 3, but almost 6 books this year! So I think it was a success. Anyway, because I nearly finished 6 in 2011 (I am so close to finishing HP3), my goal is to read at least 7 in 2012. For you avid readers out there, this may still seem like a travesty, but hey, I may even read eight.

That's all I have so far, but most of them are goals that will take close to the whole year to accomplish. I may add to it over the next couple days, but probably won't go over 6.

What's on your Finish List this year? Challenge yourself and make it happen.

Each day in January, Jon will be posting about Finish Year and practical ways to make your goals a reality. You can follow his blog here.