I realize after typing the title of this post how that might sound. But I’m standing by it – not just because the middle schooler in me is going “heh. She said ‘doing it'”, but because I feel like several other writers, artists, or otherwise self-employed creatives out there will have a lot of resonance with this.

When do you know you’re “doing it”?

The “doing it” here can mean any number of things: Being a badass author, living out your dream of being an actor, making a name for yourself as an artist.

No matter your creative expression, I find that there is some imaginary line between “not doing it” and “doing it.” Between “still struggling,” and “made it.” And between “not good enough,” and “enough.”

What I’m asking, I suppose, is when do we know we’ve really done enough?

I’m putting this out there, not just because I see it in my own life over and over. But because I see it in so many artist’s lives over and over. I have a friend who is a visual artist, musician, and general Renaissance man. To those of us on the outside, it seems like he’s “doing it.” He’s booked at gigs all over the world; his art is visionary; he seems to live an exciting and creatively-fueled life.

But recently I learned that this seemingly-successful fellow does not see himself in this way at all.

Another friend is an actress – someone I admire and would actually like to get to know better. But the thing is, the woman is always busy. She seems to be booking shows left and right, teaching classes, doing standup. In my mind, she is making waves and kicking ass at what she loves.

But I wonder if she sees it that way. I wonder if she knows that to those of us on the outside, she’s nailing this whole acting career thing.

And then there’s me. For the past eight years or so, I’ve categorized myself on the side of “not doing it.” On the side of “still struggling,” “still working at it,” and “not where I want to be” in my writing career. In my mind, it’s less of a gradient and more like two sides divided by a line. I’m either “there,” or “not there.” And until I’m there, that must mean I’m not there, right?

But what if it isn’t so simple? What if there are not two sides at all, and no gradient, and nothing but:


Here is where we all are, in this moment. It’s all we’ve got. It’s the place where our stories slip from our lips, telling half-truths to anyone who will listen. In this way we create our own realities: coffins confining us, or open spaces to explore.

So what if, artists and creators, we merely choose to tell a different story – from here?

What if we forget about judging ourselves, just for a moment, for not being where we want to be just yet? For not making the impact we’ve hoped to?

For not “doing it”?

Because if you start from here, just here, you might notice that you’re doing a lot more than you thought. Give yourself some credit.

And maybe, just maybe, start to listen when people tell you what a great job you’re doing. Let it sink in.

You may be making more of an impact than you think.

This weekend the annual Texas Book Festival will be taking over the capital steps and Congress Ave. in downtown Austin.

It’s like those book fairs you had when you were a kid – only with thousands of people, hundreds of authors, speakers, and panels, and more books than you could dream to fit in your cafegymatorium.

And on Saturday, Typewriter Rodeo will be there, at 11th and Congress, typing poems on the fly with yours truly. That’s me.

So come one, come all to the Texas Book Festival. We’ll have a ball. You’d think I’m trying to rhyme, but after all this time, the words just tend to fall – and

that’s all.

See you Saturday,

… y’all.

Books can change lives. In this Ted Talk , Lisa Bu discusses just that. And it got me thinking, what books have shaped my life? The way I write today? The way I act? The way I think?

What books have made me… me?

So here they are. The 10 most influential books (so far) in my life:

1- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Not because this was my favorite of the series (it’s the fourth, if you must know), but because this was the first book that really drew me completely into a world I found much cozier and more welcoming than the one I was in at the time. Books are an escape, but to me, even today, this series feels like home.

2- Where the Red Fern Grows
I can’t exactly say why this one sticks out in particular – perhaps it is because I love dogs so much, or perhaps it is because this was the first book I ever remember making me cry (okay, cry is an understatement.) I read this in fourth grade when my best friend’s mom had just passed away. I suppose it stands out because it was during this year that I began to understand loss in a real way.

3- Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing
Not at all a Fiction, like WTRFG, but for me, one of the weepiest reads of my life. It is about a woman, Anita Moorjani’s near death experience. It will make you look at life – and death – with new eyes.

4- The BFG
The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… it’s hard to say which has been the most influential in my reading, writing, and just plain living preferences. These books, from the earliest of ages, had me diving deep, deep, deep into my crazy imagination. It’s my favorite place to be.

5- Why Is God Laughing?: The Path to Joy and Spiritual Optimism
I believe this was the first of my many Deepak Chopra books. It’s a great, light introduction to the prolific (and genius) writer – an almost childishly simple look at God, life. And that’s what I love about it. Why should things be any more complicated?

6- The Tao of Pooh
Along the same lines as No. 5 – The Tao of Pooh brings a much needed lightness to the spiritual conversation. Plus, it’s Winnie the Pooh!

7- The Secret
Go ahead. Are you done sneering? That’s fine. This book may have gotten an awful lot of flack for promoting goals based around wealth – and let’s be honest, fulfilling one’s one selfish needs. But it got a lot of people talking about something bigger – what you put out, you bring back (sometimes tenfold!). You create this thing you call life, and this book really brought that into a sharp relief for me.

8- The Hobbit
The Hobbit over the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Really? Yes, really. The Hobbit was one of the first Fantasy books I ever read, and no matter how many times I read it, at no matter what age, I still love its simplicity. The whole thing feels, to me, very much like taking a stroll through the Shire.

9- The Giving Tree
This book is perfect in its simplicity, from its words to its loosely sketched illustrations. ‘Nuff said.

10- The Fault in Our Stars
Oh, John Green, you emotional ninja! This was the first of Green’s books I ever read – when I was done, I promptly bought all of the rest and read them, back to back. This book introduced me to beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping YA fiction, ripe with complex and utterly real characters- of which there are a surprising number of books. If you want any more recommendations in this vein, just ask. 🙂

Bonus- The Fantastic Fable of Peter Able
Of course this book changed my life. Not only is it the first I’ve had published on a large scale, but writing it (along with its sequel) has gotten me through a lot of life’s difficulties. I don’t know where I’d be without it.
(Thanks, Peter!)

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars