logo design

Kirsten Shaw Logologo design

Your 2016 Vision Guide & Action Plan to Start the Year Right


Which dreams have you been putting on hold?

Every January it’s the same thing: big time goals, exciting plans and gung-ho resolutions. Sometime around mid-February, these dreams blow up in a flurry of overwhelm and disillusion. Or they slowly fade into the background, lying dormant until the cycle begins all over on December 31st. Either way, your message remains untold and your art remains unmade. Your business remains nothing more than a collection of sticky notes. Until now.

Does this sound like you?

  • You want to take your career, creativity and community to the next level in 2016
  • You’ve secretly been wanting to SAY or MAKE something big
  • Meanwhile 1,000 other things compete for your time and attention
  • You have trouble starting, staying focused or following through
  • You tell yourself you WILL honor your creative or entrepreneurial dreams - one day

Make the one resolution that counts this year.

If there’s an unlived life gnawing at your toes and tapping at your chest, it’s time to let that bugger speak. The TRUE NORTH 2016 New Years Special gives you:

  • STRATEGY SESSION: 60 minute one-on-one consultation with yours truly
  • 2016 VISION: Your beautifully clear career, creative and personal goals distilled into one page
  • STEP-BY-STEP ROADMAP: Simple action plan to achieve these goals in the next 12 months

This package gets you 5 focused hours of my magical clarifying process and practical tools for taking action. First, we will spend 90 minutes intimately focused on clarifying, expanding and manifesting your dream. Then I’ll help you create a step-by-step strategy to overcome blocks and move toward your vision come hell or high water. You will be left with clear direction, focus and structure for making the most of 2016.

Get the early bird special before January 15th.

Imagine yourself a year from now looking back on 2016. What will have mattered most? My dream is for you to feel pride and accomplishment that you finally took a stand for your calling and moved in the direction of true north.

Let’s do it together. This is a $495 package and I’m offering it for just $325 through January 15th. Contact me today to secure your spot.


A Weekend with Thoreau

 weekend with thoreau 640px

All month I’ve been craving sun - sun to soothe me, sun to bathe me, sun to heal me. But it turns out sun isn’t the only thing that heals. Silence does, too.

The silence is what struck me most about our three nights in Point Arena, hidden in a redwood grove on a private property a few miles inland of the Mendocino coastline. The airbnb rental was aptly dubbed the “Thoreau Cabin” with the headline “Write Your Book.” Sold.

1 cabin entrance

Floor to ceiling was covered in volumes and volumes of journals, giant clipped manuscripts, old classics and short story collections. The husband and wife who owned this cabin were readers. And writers. Which came first? It was hard to tell because for as many books as they had stored away, dog-eared and well-worn, the woman had an equal number of her own published works next to tattered leather-bound journals. Journals containing scrawled notes, pasted quotes, clipped photos.

The journals were movie-like in their nostalgic quality. Like a room of treasure maps that some kids had come upon in an adventure tale, wiping dust from decorative covers to seek some secret of the past. Some clue. Her documents were romantic, they were raw, they were inspiring. They reminded me of the journals I kept when I was younger: a mix of sketches and collages and letters and memories. Back before smartphones and Evernote and Siri - back when everything was preserved in books, or lost forever.


Today my compulsion to document with pen and paper has been watered down by Instagram and Facebook and texting. Why take the time to keep a leather journal, textured with all the words and images of your life, when I can instantly upload it online and wait for the ‘likes’ to roll in? The art of hand journaling has been lost. The art of handwritten letters and scrap booking is a thing of the past.

There was something powerful about the presence of all those books and all those journals. So much wisdom and knowledge, so many stories and recollections. Sitting in that quiet cabin, with only trees and books as my witness, I felt a deep love of words arising in me. Looking around those shelves I felt in the company of friends. Even completely alone, miles from another living soul (besides my husband sleeping in the lofted bed, and perhaps our blue jay friend outside). The room was silent and it was full at once of the voices of so many talented, interesting, opinionated, fascinating, and genius minds.

2 cabin in woods

I thought of my grandmother and something she had said last time I saw her.

“I can’t tell this to most people, but I just want to sit inside and read all day long.” She was on her knees digging through the bottom of her bookshelf for a title to loan me. “I know I’m supposed to be more active but I’m perfectly content curling up with a book.”

“Me too,” I said. “I’ve been giving myself more time to read lately. For awhile I felt guilty spending hours with a book, but now I’m calling it research. I’m remembering that reading can add a lot to my work.”

“Not just to your work!” she looked up. “Reading adds to your whole life.”

3 cabin interior pano copy

In the quiet of our cabin after dark, my husband started complaining of boredom but I felt myself coming alive. I luxuriated in the absence of TV and wifi. I was inspired by the void. Lack of noise, lack of distraction, lack of stimulation. The absence of external distractions gave room for my own thoughts to come to the forefront. My own creativity, imagination and curiosity became the stimulation. It felt sacred, it felt true.

I had no idea how much I missed the silence until I had it. At home, I’m tired at the end of the day and easily resigned to watching TV or a movie. It’s easy to check email and get sucked into Instagram. It’s easier to give in to media - the colors and the images and the sounds. They are designed to draw you in and make you forget. Make you forget that within you, there are stories to be told. Curiosities to be fed. Media of your own to create. Imaginations to be explored.

4 lighthouse pano copy

What’s not easy is to separate yourself from the TV room, to separate yourself from the noise. To remove yourself from the current of technology and sit with the spinning head on your shoulders. Wait for it to settle down, like a dreidel, and then report what you find. It takes incredible dedication to find alone and quiet in the grind of daily life, especially when it’s a city life.

So what did I take away from my weekend in the Thoreau Cabin? Silence. Inspiration. Books. Pen and paper. I want to reawaken my love of journals that are part sketchbook, part scrapbook and part memoir. I want to revive my love affair with books. Books for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I want to remember the beauty of silence. The peaceful void that calms everything else in my life; that smooths out the kinks, that holds the uncertainties. The silence that heals.

6 watching ocean from fence

Photos courtesty of Dana Shaw.

My Favorite Interviews on Creativity

favorite interviews on creativity

As an independent creative, I’ve really come to rely on my internet heroes for mentorship, inspiration and advice. And the beauty of twitter, podcasting and good old fashioned print media is that I have direct access to the insights of so many brilliant people.

I admire and trust these writers, speakers, actors, musicians and comics with reverence - they’ve been at it for years, they’ve built a loyal audience and they are consistently putting out good work. They are living the artist’s dream. They are intelligent, funny and wise.

And when they speak - I listen up.

Here are a few of my favorite interviews with creative people - about process, business, self-doubt and all the other inevitables of making art in the spotlight. I've pulled some of the top quotes to give you a flavor of what's to come. 

Ira Glass (This American Life) on Lifehacker

Writer / Radio Producer Shares "How I Work"

“I am a noisy introvert. My sister Randi made up that phrase and it describes lots of people I know. Lots of writers seem to be introverts who love to now and then be on stage. Lots of radio people too. I covet large amounts of time alone, and I'm most comfortable and very happy when I'm alone, but obviously there's another side to me because true introverts don't end up with their own national radio shows.”

“I'd just say to aspiring journalists or writers—who I meet a lot of—do it now. Don't wait for permission to make something that's interesting or amusing to you. Just do it now. Don't wait. Find a story idea, start making it, give yourself a deadline, show it to people who'll give you notes to make it better. Don't wait till you're older, or in some better job than you have now. Don't wait for anything. Don't wait till some magical story idea drops into your lap. That's not where ideas come from. Go looking for an idea and it'll show up. Begin now. Be a fucking soldier about it and be tough.” MORE

Jerry Seinfeld on Alec Baldwin's Podcast, Here’s the Thing 

Comedian Explains How to "Make It" In the Arts

“Who's in show business? I'll tell you who's in show business: who wants to be more than anyone else. The people that are like, I want to be in it, I'm going to be in it. Do I have the skill set? Do I have the talent? Do I have something to offer? We'll find out. Most of the people we see in the arts are there not because they have the most to offer, but because they want to be there the most.” MORE

Steven Pressfield on Pam Slim's Podcast

Author Talks About Resistance, Ego and Creative Work

“When resistance rears its ugly head in all its various forms, it can defeat an amateur because an amateur isn’t really in it with both feet. An amateur isn’t really committed. But once we make the switch in our heads and tell ourselves, I’m a professional, everything changes. For instance, a professional shows up every day. A professional stays on the job every day. A professional plays hurt. A professional doesn’t accept any excuses for not doing the work.” MORE

And another good interview with Mr. Pressfield: Ask Me Anything 

Macklemore on Nerdist Podcast

Musician on Branding, Creative Process and Honing the craft

“There's so much fear within the process of being creative. What are people going to think? . . . The best songs are written when you’re not thinking about anyone else, they just kind of flow through you. They come from something greater than the pen that’s in my hand. But the criticism and fear is there, the brain is active, it comes down to training the brain to be overridden by the heart when you’re writing a song. . . This is something that takes practice and maintenance.” MORE

Danielle LaPorte on Jonathan Fields' Video Series, Good life Project

Author Explores Magnetism vs. Charisma, Desire vs. Doing

“As soon as I think someone else could be doing this better than me, I’m out. Time to move on to something else.”

“This is my theory: every single thing you’re doing - this interview, the clothes you wear, the people you hang out with, the food you eat - is all about you wanting to feel good. So why don’t we get a little more specific about what wanting to feel good means, and you do whatever it takes to feel that way. And I think that’s when you become god.” MORE

Anne Lamott in Common Ground Magazine 

Author on Self-doubt, Spirituality and Hard Work

“My creative process is to sit down at a desk five days a week, at the same time every day. I don’t wait for inspiration or believe in being inspired. I just write when it’s time to write. I’m never in the mood to write. I’d rather watch MSNBC or go for a hike, but I’m very strict with myself at the same time I’m very loving, like your best friend would be.”

“The ‘dark night of the soul’ is where almost everything profound in literary and spiritual wisdom comes from. The most important stuff doesn’t come from people in good moods; it comes from struggle. From being pressed really hard and from being way outside your comfort zone and forced to turn deeply within to something you may never have had the courage to try before - i.e. not trying one of your good ideas but instead surrendering the reins.”

“At the core of my creative soul is this belief that there is truth and that it will set us free. And that we have a debt of honor to give back what was so freely given to us, which is this truth and the exhilaration of art and the miracle that we have found in other people’s love and artistic expression.” MORE

Dan Harmon & Emil Amos on Duncan Trussel Family Hour Podcast

TV Writer & Musician Discuss Suffering, Creativity and Ego

"The part of you that’s capable of feeling anything, and taking credit for anything, and enjoying anything - that’s the part of you that has to be gone - dead and gone - whenever you do anything of merit.” -Dan Harmon

“It’s my job to sit down and report everything that I’ve learned. Just pure hard work. . . it’s not fun necessarily but it does make me happy in a very deep way that other things can’t make me happy.” - Emil Amos MORE


So that's it! A month's worth of inspiration for ya. Which interviews have influenced you the most over the years? 

Four Years, 10,000 Hours and My New Definition of Success

ten thousand hours

“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” - Malcolm Gladwell

This month marks my four year anniversary - or as I like to call it, my freeversary - as an independent creative. Four years feels monumental because it’s a self-enclosed time period for achieving something big. Four years is also the approximate amount of time that it takes to reach 10,000 hours - the “magic number” for getting enough practice to become a world-class expert at any one thing.

Milestones are a time for reflection and they can quickly turn to a time of self-evaluation. What do you have to show for yourself? In hindsight, were did you slack off, where did you falter, where did you get distracted? I remember applying for college and feeling like a wet turd when I had no school clubs to put on my application. I had a 4.3 GPA and a beautiful art portfolio, but goddamnit what was I thinking not joining ASB or Yearbook? It was so much easier to focus on what I hadn’t done than what I had done. And I had achieved a lot. But when you measure yourself against other people’s standards, it will never be enough.

One of my biggest lessons this year is learning to redefine my own standard for success.

People focus so much on the moment that you go freelance as “the big scary jump.” But once you jump off the cliff and arrive in your new encampment of freelancehood, old models of success can still haunt you. They did for me. In fact, they still do. I'm coming to terms with the fact that even though I diverged from the path, forging a narrow side trail to get to that batch of foxtails, I have carried with me the old guidebook. I have consulted the glossary to identify wildlife along the way, to read the stars, to find water. The path was different but the manual was the same. And I became imprisoned in my own abusive relationship of employer-employee. Only this time I played both parts.

Now I'm learning that it's not just about making your own path. It's about writing your own guidebook, too. The old rules don't work out here. They take you back to the same old miserable place of "keep your head down and get it done," and "put your time in," and "work your way up the food chain." Self-limiting beliefs that keep me in a box, that keep my creativity bridled, that keep my heart just far enough from my work to make it feel like work.

It's scary starting out. We cling to our handbooks for a sense of security and structure. But what I've found out here in the wilderness, is that the signs are all around me. The universe sends me signals to confirm or deny that I've made the right decision, and decisions are being made every day. Lead flow dries up. Lead flow goes through the roof. Clients give raving feedback and highlight where I added value. The work feels easy or it feels incredibly hard. These are the signs that I'm using to write my own manual. The guide to the uncharted territory that is my completely unique creative landscape.

I've gone off the traditional employment grid, but I've been too scared to veer completely from my old protestant ethic. The one that says, this is how you work. These are the hours. This is the business model. This is the marketing. These are the big ticket clients. This is the safest bet for long-term financial stability.

“If you believe that you have something special inside of you, and you feel it’s about time you gave it a shot, honor that calling in some small way — today.” – Elle Luna

Yes, it's totally natural to do anything you can to survive. Especially when you're out on your own. But I'm starting to question, is “following the money” really the best way to survive? Playing it safe can earn you a safe income and a safe pat on the back. But is anything really safe? What if I really did let myself experiment, stray from the old standards, invite the side of me to come play that has been standing at the trailhead waiting for the "go-ahead," the side that is the beautiful intuitive creative counterpart to my logical thinking surviving lizard brain?

My new mantra: define success on your own terms.

Working for yourself is a great place to start. But still, it's not the employment model that sets you free. It's the limitations we put on ourselves. Limitations like, "I don't have time to write outside of work." Well guess what? Since January 1, 2014 I've written at least 300 words every morning. I've been trying to give in to my heart just a little more, to experiment going one step down that new path each day.

The rewards have been astounding. And as I get nearer to my 10,000 hours as a self-employed creative, I realized it’s not just the writing and marketing practice that counts. It’s 10,000 hours of learning to trust myself. Of building enough confidence in my new guidebook to let go of the old one, burying it beneath the poppies.


Fuel for the New Year: 2013 in Review

Fuel for the new year

The past week I’ve noticed a new thought pattern emerging while I’m in the shower, at the bus stop or at the dinner table. Goals. Milestones. Resolutions. January 1, 2014, just a few weeks away. Like a traveler at the trailhead of a new journey, I find myself making quiet preparations. Rations, goods, emotional check-ins. Do you find yourself doing the same?

Today I realize I’m getting way ahead of myself. Before jumping into plans for the New Year, I need to pay my respects to 2013. So it’s time to pull out the binoculars and see the big picture of how far I’ve come – the triumphs, the challenges, the surprises and the shifts. This global view will be my fuel for the journey ahead – it will be my super magic nutrient-packed trail mix. And I’m going to fill it with just the right mix of chocolate.

Here’s my recipe for supercharging the triumphs of 2013 into a jetpack for the new year. Try it out and tell me what you think.

The Nuts

Nuts are the foundation of your rocket fuel. Fatty and delicious. So, how do you define success? This is the standard by which you will measure the past year. For you, does success mean:

  • Making rent for 12 months in a row
  • Sticking to an exercise routine
  • Spending quality time with people you love
  • Raising your rate
  • Signing new clients
  • Increasing profits
  • Traveling to new places
  • Getting published
  • Hiring new staff
  • Writing a chapter, editing a piece, finishing a song, or just making time to try

Make a mental note or jot it down. Now it’s time to add some jazz to that mix of almonds and brazil nuts.

The Fruit

Dried cranberries, mango, raisins and pineapple make trail mix what it is. It’s the tang. The sweet n sour. The kick. Fill up your trail mix with a little moment of appreciation for yourself and all the things you kicked ass at this year. Ask yourself:

  • Where was I dedicated?
  • Where was I patient?
  • Where was I challenged?
  • Where was I afraid?
  • Where was I brave?
  • What did I let go of?
  • Where was I uncertain?
  • Where was I wise?
  • Where was I generous?

Choose your most delicious fruits and throw em in the pack.

The Wild Card

We all love something obscure in our trail mix - wasabe beans, coconut flakes, honey-drenched sunflower seeds or whatever pleases you. Think back over your last year and find the wild cards.

  • What were you pleasantly surprised by?
  • What unexpected connection did you make?
  • What relationship turned out to be highly rewarding?
  • What did you learn about yourself?

Scour the bin for your wild cards and throw 'em in.

The Chocolate

Trail mix without chocolate is just boring. It’s the reward, it’s what we’re really digging for among all those peanuts and raisins. It’s the reason we eat trail mix at all. Right? So ask yourself:

  • Who did I help this year?
  • How was I of service to my community?
  • How did I invest in myself this year?
  • How did I take care of myself?
  • What evidence did I leave behind?
  • How am I different than I was on January 1, 2013?
  • What new skills, experience, connections, resources and portfolio do I have now that I didn’t have one year ago?

That’s the good stuff - that’s the nourishment that will get you through the next 12 months. Cuz chocolate makes everything better.

The Journey Ahead

Once you’ve taken a minute to marinate in the goodness of everything you put out this year, you’ll have a good hearty (and delicious) fuel pack for moving into 2014. Your New Years Resolutions might even be a little bit brighter.



Get my free 3-part workbook to find out if your creative calling or business dream is worth investing in: