WaZeil & UaZit are long-time friends of mine and the most creative couple I know! From multimedia art prints to music, apparel, accessories, and body care, everything they make is skillfully crafted with love. Everything on their site is genderless, natural and handmade.
This year, they are offering free shipping on orders $50 and up. Everything on their site is 30% off with code: SHOPsmall until 11:59pm on Monday, November 30, 2020.
Artist Rachel Day began investing more time in her love for painting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her watercolor and acrylic paintings are creative interpretations of modern-day happenings, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. What I love most about her business is that she shares the stories behind her artwork’s inception, progression, and completion.
This year, she is offering 20% off all products, including art prints, framed prints, and original canvas paintings with code: BlackFriday20. She is also open for commissions.
A photographer and videographer based in New York City, Dominique Maddox loves collaborating with artists on experimental photoshoots as well as professional studio shoots. Her open-mindedness makes her a great photographer for unique artists who value a photographer who will help their vision come to life.
Does the artist in your life need to brush up their website photos, headshots, or book cover photos? Dominique is offering a photo retouching special this year: 5 photo edits for $15.
Most artists are avid tea or coffee lovers. Help them brighten up their sipping sessions with custom coasters from The Creative Squares! All coasters are handmade and highly customizable. Last year, I ordered multiple sets of coasters for my parents and in-laws. Customer service was on point, and the founder, Aurielle, kept me informed on the design process every step of the way, just to make sure she was accurately bringing my ideas to life!
Give your artist the gift of cozy vibes with hand poured candles by Madison & Grayce. The owner, DeSheria, named the company after her two nieces to inspire them – and other young women – to take risks and go after their dreams. How fitting for the artist in your life! All candles and wax melts are made with 100% soy wax and premium fragrance oils that are phthalate free, cruelty free and vegan.
All orders over $60 will qualify for free shipping, and a free tea light candle is included with each purchase. This offer ends November 30th, so order today!
Who can say no no cookies? I know I can’t. Gift your favorite artist with a small treat for finishing a project or hitting their word count goals by ordering homemade cookies from Four Taste, LLC. Cookies can be customizable, so just think of all the creative options you could come up with!
Enjoy an extra 25% off all Christmas-decorated cookies through Monday, November 30, 2020.
Spending money feels 10x better when it’s spent on a good cause. Ear.Idescent, a handmade jewelry business that is proudly Black-, Queer-, and nonbinary-owned and operated, sells quirky gender neutral earrings. 50% of their profits are donated to Dangles 4 Wellness, a non-profit organization committed to financially supporting community members in need.
Contact the business by clicking here to purchase or commission a pair.
The best gifts are made with quality and love in mind – not just profits. Support one of the small businesses listed above, and receive a special offer on writing and editing services from Vee Helene! Just send me an email with a screenshot of your receipt! This offer ends at 11:59pm on December 31, 2020.
Have a small business you’d like to promote? Link their website in the comments below!
5 steps that kept me moving long enough to finish.
Have you ever stumbled across a post on social media that eerily resonates with you? One evening, during a deep-dive into the Instagram rabbithole, my thumb landed on a post that read, “Stop letting the idea of perfection get in the way of finishing.” The words seemed to yell at me through the screen.
For the past several weeks, I had been dragging my feet while finishing up the relaunch of my website. For hours I would turn the idea over and over in my mind, trying to visualize every potential outcome. I wanted the site to be perfect, so all the brainstorming and preparation felt productive at the time. However, as the weeks passed on, time was ticking and no actual progress was taking place.
Seeing that post made me realize I was suffering from perfection paralysis – the inability to start or complete a project or task due to the fear of not getting it perfectly right. Once I understood what was causing me to procrastinate for so long, I decided to get out of my head and get to work.
If you have a project lingering on your task list that you’re too anxious to complete, try following these 5 steps to overcome perfection paralysis.
1. Just start.
As I sat at my desk to get started, one of my nearby post-it notes caught my eye. On it is a quote from Arthur Ashe which reads, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Initially, I kept telling myself to wait for better conditions before working on my website. Maybe I should have a bigger portfolio, I thought. Maybe I should wait until I can have professional photos taken.
While focusing on all those “maybes,” I had turned a blind eye to the experience, tools and skills I already possessed, which were more than enough to get me started. I wasn’t embracing the idea that the present moment was the perfect moment for me. That quote reminded me of my capabilities and discredited my excuses.
Surround yourself with whatever motivates you. Take stock of your current resources. Use what you have to do what you can. Then, just start.
2. Don’t force it.
The first draft of my website was a fail. I planned a three-hour photoshoot, where I took self-portraits in stiff poses while trying to silence the nagging voice in my head that was telling me the truth: “That’s not who you are! This is so cliché and you know it! Those aren’t the types of projects you want to attract!” Still, I kept telling myself that finishing was more important than liking the result of my labor. Boy, was I wrong. When I finally put the site together, the outcome was too undesirable for me to ignore. I decided to scrap everything instead of launching something that wasn’t true to me.
Always know when to stop. There’s a thin line between forcing it and faking it. Don’t push yourself to finish something you know you won’t be proud of. Be wary, though. Stopping now can be critical to your project. You can easily lose momentum here, and perfection paralysis can creep its way back in. That’s why the next step is so crucial.
3. Do the backstage work.
In theater, the work that is done backstage is just as important to the show’s success as what happens in the spotlight. Instead of letting myself become stagnant, I found ways to be productive while still allowing myself to step away from the project itself. I spent time getting to know myself as a writer, discovering my niche and doing writing exercises to explore what my voice sounds like on paper. I found other writers to connect with online, and spent time reading their work or watching their helpful videos. I outlined blog topics and other content that I could post once the website was finished. Doing all of this backstage work reminded me why I wanted to relaunch my website in the first place. I felt excited to pick up where I left off.
Allow yourself to be re-inspired. What backstage work can you do to help your project succeed in the long run?
4. Dust yourself off and try again.
Aaliyah said it best, “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.” Starting over after my first failed attempt, I felt more confident, prepared, and seasoned. This time around, I practiced patience and diligence. I was no longer in a rush to finish. I allowed myself to ease into my ideas, letting them come to fruition naturally. I had redefined the idea of perfection, understanding this time that only I held the power to determine what it meant.
I planned another photoshoot, this time learning from my mistakes and following my intuition instead of trying to portray an image untrue to me. Instead of working alone, I opened up to my network and connected with people who held me accountable, taught me things I didn’t know, talked me through my ideas, and offered honest feedback. I felt proud of every new development, every step of the way.
Don’t ever be afraid or ashamed to start again. Every new chance is an opportunity for improvement, so trust in your wisdom and use it.
5. Finish the last lap.
Once I’d completed the bulk of my work, I was ready to kick my feet up and chill, but a few little finishing touches lingered behind. I was so close to the finish line, but my motivation was diminishing, yet again! I sat down and listed everything I would lose out on by not finishing. Not having a website meant I was unable to pitch clients, write guest posts on other blogs, join freelance writing networks, and more. Along with setting (and sticking to) a final deadline, seeing these risks on paper lit a fire under me to finish up quickly.
Make a detailed list of every remaining task that stands in your way of finishing. Then, make a list of everything you’ll continue to lose by procrastinating. Are you willing to take those losses? If not, set a deadline and get everything checked off that task list immediately.
Before you let perfection paralysis hinder you from finishing a project, remind yourself that perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and nothing perfect comes from standing still. Focus on the process, not the prize. It’s okay if you start before you think you should. It’s okay if you fail. It’s okay if you have to start over. What matters most is that you start – and once you do – keep going.
Last month, I took my camera on an adventure to Industry City in Brooklyn, NY, where an alternative electronic artist, Chrome Sparks, was performing. The late-summer weather was perfect and the venue looked amazing as the sun set. I’d never been to a concert for this genre of music before, and I now see that I’ve been missing out. The energy there was unforgettable! The indie hipster inside of me left completely charged up. Here are a few shots from the night where I was experimenting with low-light settings on my camera.
I’m a sucker for the cheap quirky items in Target’s “dollar section” near the entrance. One day, as I aimlessly perused the section, my eyes landed on a purple notebook. On it was an iridescent picture of a dinosaur. Inside, the pages were blank. Its price was $3.00. It was so cute I couldn’t resist buying it, yet I had no idea what I’d use it for! Like every other random notebook I have stacked at home, this one would likely be used for scribbling random lists, outlines, and ideas. One night, my mind was racing with creative desires, but I felt too scatterbrained to focus on any of my projects. Instead, I pulled out the Dino Sketchbook.
Without putting too much thought into it, I opened the sketchbook and started drawing swirls on its first sheet. I carefully connected each swirl and made sure every line was the same thickness. By focusing on these swirls and lines, I truly felt relaxed. It was calming to learn the power of my hands, willing them to draw neat lines by focusing on hand-eye coordination. Before long, my feet were starting to fall asleep and I realized I had fully invested myself into creating a cartoon-like, abstract masterpiece. Most importantly, I felt level-headed and at ease, like I just finished a morning run.
It was then that I realized I didn’t need to be super talented to draw. I didn’t need to take art classes to start sketching. I didn’t need expensive materials and techniques in order to express myself. I was nervous to share these sketches because they’re amateur, but then I realized a true artist isn’t always commended solely on their skills, but is often more infamous for their ability to adequately express their thoughts or emotions; transcribing them from intangible visions to colors and lines on paper for others to see. Although I don’t know much about sketching techniques or art, I know that it felt good to get my thoughts out on paper.
In order to grow from life’s experiences, sometimes you will need to set boundaries to protect your comfort zone, and other times you will need to take risks and step out of your comfort zone. Before you can do either of these, you must first create a comfort zone.
We usually think of comfort zones as an intangible sanctuary in our minds where we go to shamelessly be at peace with our decisions, opinions, and preferences. However, a comfort zone can also be a literal amount of physical space that puts us at ease when we enter it. As much as we prioritize having a nicely decorated home and a cozy bedroom, it’s just as important to set aside a small space dedicated to providing us with feelings of safety, relaxation and motivation.
Last weekend, I created my own comfort zone.
The basis of my comfort zone is comprised of four essential components: life, reflection, creative inspiration and motivation. In order to incorporate these things, I placed an easy-to-maintain plant below a framed mirror, artwork (including a sketch of my own), and my vision board.
At the start of a peaceful morning or the end of a long day, I like to sit in a quiet spot for about 15-20 minutes to regulate my thoughts and breathing. I keep a floor pillow and a yoga mat in my comfort zone to help create the perfect cozy area for my body to rest.
Using my oil diffuser, I can awaken my senses and induce certain moods. My favorite oils for relaxation are lavender and eucalyptus. To energize myself or focus, I use peppermint and orange oils. In addition, my Himalayan salt lamp emits a soothing glow and is said to improve air quality and increase serotonin levels.
Lastly, I stocked my comfort zone with books to read when I need to escape from the stress of the real world. I also take time to journal when I need to release and reflect. When I am inspired to write, I keep helpful writing resources and stacks of empty notebooks handy.
Whether it be in your mind or in your bedroom, use your answers to the following questions to help define and create your comfort zone.
What emotions are you hoping to spark once you step foot in your comfort zone?
In what types of atmospheres do you feel most at peace?
What’s essential to make you feel safe and at ease?
What items can you use to help create the perfect area of comfort for yourself?
If you pay close attention, you’ll notice when the universe is guiding you. Sometimes we receive spiritual messages through “Angel Numbers,” which stem from the numerology-based belief that certain sequences of numbers have specific prophetic meanings. For example, when you see the number “555,” it means a change is in your horizon.
The idea of change is often one of the most unnerving concepts to me. An insanely structured and anxious individual, I am most comfortable with organization and monotony. Needless to say, change is inevitable, and as much as I swear I don’t enjoy it, I rarely resent the changes I’ve experienced.
5 years ago, I earned my undergraduate degree. Since then, I’ve changed my state of residence 5 different times. Here are 5 lessons I learned along the way…
If you are not aware of who you are, you are not living up to your full potential nor are your actions feeding your true purpose.
Discouraged from the lack of ideal job opportunities after graduation, I packed a few bags and hopped on a bus to Chicago, IL to continue my job hunt. Certain I’d have better luck in the Windy City, one of my older brothers invited me to move in with him. I remember gawking at the enormous glowing skyline, my headphones blasting “Homecoming” by Kanye West as I arrived. I stepped off the bus with naïve excitement. The last time I visited Chicago, I was too young to see it for what it would mean to me on this day: the beautiful and bountiful city where my new life awaited. What really waited for me just outside of my bliss was the obstacle of meeting new people.
I was eager to get out and build a new network, but every time the occasion arose where I’d need to introduce myself, I ended up tongue-tied. A couple of awkward conversations made me realize the need to focus on discovering and defining my identity. Because I’d never lived far from home, I seldom had to introduce myself to someone who didn’t already have insight on my background. In Chicago, people wondered who I really was as a person besides a recent graduate or somebody’s daughter/sister. I started wondering the same thing.
What were my goals? What were my hobbies? What was important to me?I tried committing to new habits and experimenting with new hobbies. I played around with my style and switched up my iTunes playlists. In short, I worked to open my mind in an effort to explore myself. I wanted to be able to accurately present myself to others with confidence. Today, I try to look at every experience as a helping hand molding me into who I am meant to be.
At the root of every healthy relationship lies an even healthier friendship.
A few months later, I received my first salaried job offer which brought me to Indianapolis, IN. With the exception of my boyfriend and his family (whom I’d only recently met) and a few extended family members, I barely knew anyone there. My new lifestyle hit me with major culture shock. While this was my first true taste of adulthood, I felt isolated and needed my friends more than ever before. I was thankful for Facetime dates and Snapchat videos, but nothing could compare to the euphoria I once felt after spending good, in-person quality time with them.
With time, I began to realize which friends actually gave me that recharging feeling and who usually always left me feeling low. I examined what truly mattered to me in a friend at this stage in my life, which helped me to determine my definition of friendship: two people with similar morals, a mutual respect for one another and an effortless habit of understanding before criticizing.
I started trimming my circle of friends down to those who not only brought light to my life but also thrived off the love that I could provide them in exchange. Friendship is essential in every type of relationship in my life. As my network grows, I revisit my standards to help me maintain a healthy, supportive tribe.
Be gentle with yourself and others by seeking to understand before passing judgement.
After two years away, I reluctantly returned home to Michigan. When I initially moved out, I was solely focused on finding myself and starting my career, but I should have stayed my butt at home and saved more money focused on development in other important aspects of adulthood as well. Fortunately, my mother and stepfather always encouraged me to come home if I ever needed to; and once I did, they never pressured me to move out. It was more important to them that when I stepped out of my comfort zone again, I would place my foot on a sturdy foundation.
Despite their reassurance, I couldn’t help the fact that I felt like a failure. It took a few months to admit that the only reason I felt defeated was because I had subconsciously placed judgement on others who had never moved out. Little did I know, they were two steps ahead of me in the journey toward a bright future. Living at home while I got my ducks in a row turned out to be the smartest decision I could have made at that time.
Returning to Michigan humbled me. The move taught me how to understand others’ journeys as well as my own. Everyone’s situation is different, but in many ways, we all face the same struggles. We are all trying to figure out how to navigate through our lives – constantly forced to swallow our pride and practice patience along the way.
The responsibility of independence is worth the power of being self-sufficient.
Once I felt ready, I stuffed my father’s Jeep to capacity for a move to New York City. A few months before, I mentioned to him that I was strongly considering moving there. Soon after that, we took a weekend road trip so that I could visit the Big Apple for the first time. A proud product of Brooklyn, I knew my father was secretly using the trip to convince me to fall in love. One plate of chicken and waffles at Sylvia’s in Harlem was all it took! I was intimidated by the idea of such a drastic move, but all signs in my life were pointing me there.
Upon moving in, my older cousin welcomed me with open arms. “I like having my family close,” he’d often say, which always reassured me that my presence was not a burden. Although he remained supportive and available if I ever needed him, my cousin did not hold my hand through my transition. He respected my maturity, trusting me to look after myself and never meddling in my business. This level of independence was accompanied by the bittersweet reality that nobody was checking for me anymore. It was ultimately up to me – and only me – to take care of myself. From keeping myself hydrated to getting home safely, everything was my responsibility now. I sometimes felt overwhelmed by all the decisions I had to make just to get through each day in one piece.
On the other hand, I fell madly in love with my own company. For the first time ever, my decisions wouldn’t directly affect anyone else. Today, some of my best times are spent alone attending concerts, dining out or sightseeing. The fact that I lived in New York City was the cherry on top of it all because fun new experiences were never hard to come by. I feel much more in control of my future as I continue to practice smart decision making and problem solving for my own well-being.
5. Inner Strength
Whenever you seek peace, search within first.
A year later I found an apartment in New Jersey, where I currently reside. For the first time since college, I feel stable and secure. Now that I’m finally settled, I have time to reflect on everything it has taken me get here. Of everything I’ve learned along the way, the most significant realization is how adaptable I am to change. With every relocation, I went through stages of feeling frightened, discouraged and insecure. I overcame challenges I had never even imagined facing. Each time, I emerged wiser and more confident than before.
I also learned how much strength it takes to be honest with myself and speak up when it’s time to ask for help. Without the encouragement and support of my friends and family, I would not have had the opportunity to change my situation the way that I did. Additionally, I was strong enough to remain ambitious when it felt easier to depend on others. In the moments when I wanted to give up, I didn’t allow myself to fall stagnant.
I may never be fully comfortable with the unknown, but at least I now have a better understanding of how to embrace it. I am more comfortable taking risks. Because I forced myself out of my comfort zone again and again, I am aware of the power that I possess to change my own life. Now, whenever a change is in my horizon, I can say, “Wow, I can’t believe I [x]… If I could do THAT, I can definitely handle [y].”
The desire to make a change may lie deep inside of you, and if it does, consider taking action. Personally, my journey required me to make huge life and environmental changes, but yours may not need that much effort. Every single day, we are required to choose between familiarity and the unknown. I challenge you to choose the unknown a little more often. You never know what lessons you may learn.
Think about the one thing you’re afraid to leave your comfort zone to do. In your journal, list all the reasons why you haven’t done it. Next, list all the good things that could happen if you do it. Which list is longer? If a change is on your horizon, are you willing to take the first step towards it?
In an attempt to be more productive with my personal endeavors, I chose to dedicate every Sunday solely to myself. I did everything in my power to respectfully make myself unavailable to others. I’d rid myself of all obligations in an attempt to harbor some guilt-free “me time” before retreating to my Treehouse (my small bedroom in my cousin’s house in NY, where the foliage outside my window was beautifully overwhelming) for the entire day.
On Sundays, I’d conquer the world – my world, that is. I’d organize my digital photo albums and clean out my iTunes library. I learned how therapeutic it felt to sketch to the vibrations of a perfected curated playlist. I started teaching myself how to edit pictures on Photoshop. I’d practice yoga poses or catch up on my reading. Some Sundays, I’d spend hours constructing a house on The Sims 4; customizing every pixel of it until my legs went numb. My simple joys ended up becoming habits of self-care and self-investment. No matter what, though, I found myself constantly pestered by my phone, and at some point, I decided enough was enough.
“I did everything in my power to respectfully make myself unavailable to others.”
The first step toward obtaining peace was getting out of the habit of using social media when idle. It took me a while to break my attachment to the instant gratification of checking my Instagram notifications or refreshing my Twitter timeline for the next funny gif. Soon after that, I began silencing my phone altogether, turning it to “Do Not Disturb” so that no calls or texts came through unless I programed them to do so. Most people, thankfully, respected my Sunday behavior and let me be. Even my Mom knew not to call unless it was an emergency.
This newfound silence left me with plenty of time on my hands to truly dive into whatever my heart desired. I was able to scribble out ideas and goals while immersing myself into new hobbies. Through this ritual, I began to fall in love with myself more and more. When you practice self-awareness in solitude, you notice the things about yourself that you’re usually too distracted to notice: the songs that make you cry, how often you slouch when sitting, where your mind tends to wander, etc. Nowadays, we aren’t often granted these opportunities for silence; thus, we aren’t fully present in life – especially with ourselves.
“My simple joys ended up becoming habits of self-care and self-investment.”
The technological advancement of the cell phone is a gift and a curse. Using our cell phones, we can visibly check in on our long-distance relatives, stock our fridge, and kickstart our professional photography careers – all with the tap of a screen! Everywhere we go, we can effortlessly carry a device for instant worldwide communication that fits in the palm of our hands. Cell phones provide access to an eternity of knowledge. However, despite all their glory, cell phones are a curse because of their paralyzing role as a distraction.
If you feel the urge to align yourself with peace, purpose, and productivity, try setting your phone – and all other nuisances in your life – to “Do Not Disturb!”
Try to implement your own ritual of alone time that you will look forward to, and that others in your life will respect and encourage:
Silence your phone for a consistent designated time range. Start by choosing just a few hours a week and adjust to what feels right to you.
Curate new “Respond with Text” messages to send when you don’t want to pick up a call. Your friends and family should respect these. My favorite is: “Currently in creative mode… Is this an urgent call?”
Designate a comfortable space for yourself where you can be left alone and productive. If this is not a possibility, figure out what ambiance makes you feel most at peace and/or motivated. Now, recreate that vibe as best as you can!