Being Beautiful is about to enter the world. (Tomorrow!) This book marks a major crossroads for me. As I was finishing it, I was going through an intense period of soul searching. My silver lantern (a term I use for intuition) was helping me carve out a very clear pathway in the darkness. A pathway that, funnily enough, had been the one I’d lost sight of about 15 years ago.
I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was 10 years old. And not just any kind of writer. An award-winning novelist. My focus was very clearly on artistry. As I grew into my teen years and began exploring my world, I realized I also wanted to pursue illustration, photography, and film.
As you can imagine, though the adults in my life were supportive of my “hobbies” they emphatically advised me against pursuing any of these outlets as a career. I heard all the usual arguments – that there’s no money in the arts, that only 1% of artists make enough money to life on, etc.
I became a little bit stealthy and maybe even a little manipulative, doing whatever I could to carve out time for writing my books. I’m probably one of the most gifted people you will ever meet when it comes to avoiding a 9-5 job. I was always a moving target, changing homes, degrees, universities…whatever it took to buy me more time to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
But once I hit 30 and I had finally acquiesced to earning my B.A., I found that I had to start making some decisions. I was feeling the pressure of all those messages, even hearing my own inner critic joining in. I had worked so damn hard to finish my novel, The Poison Box, but I knew I didn’t have the courage to put it out into the world.
So I decided to set it all aside and pursue an M.A.T. Time for the real world and a real job, right? In those first few months of school, I was seized with an idea for a new book – a young adult novel about three teenagers struggling to survive in a dystopian society. (Believe it or not, this was about two years before The Hunger Games and Divergent hit stores. Suzanne, Veronica, and I were all kissed by the same muse, no doubt.)
But 6 months into the program, my school work took up so much time that I set the book aside, as well as my dream of being a writer.
I was elated when, a few years later, my boyfriend and I moved in together, relieving my financial burden enough that I could open a small bath and body shop. It was a project that fed my creativity and my soul. It was a wonderful time for me – so much so that I didn’t really remember that I had all those unpublished books sitting on my hard drive. I didn’t need to be a writer, anymore. I was a business owner. A potion maker. A healer. That was enough for me.
However, circumstances beyond my control forced me to close my shop in 2013. At the time, I was encouraged to write a booklet, which quickly turned into a book that you have probably heard of: Soulful Skincare. It was a labor of love, written for all the folks who had supported Five Seed, sharing the story of healing my skin and all the secrets I’d learned along the way.
When I held that book in my hands for the very first time, I felt exactly as I’d always imagined I would. You know that scene in Gillian Armstrong's Little Women (1994) when Jo enters the house at the end of the movie, opens the package that’s been left for her, sees her manuscript, and starts screaming, “My book! Hannah, someone’s publishing my book!” as the music swells with triumph. That scene has always given me the chills, and I swear I could hear that music when I first held Soulful Skincare in my hands.
Oh yeah. I had wanted to be a writer. I forgot…
Of course, there was nothing simple about that truth. I remembered it, but it didn’t necessarily change anything in my life. I did, finally, develop the courage to share The Poison Box with the world. But other than that… Being a “hobby writer” was still the truth that I was activating in my energetic field. And as such, that’s what I lived.
And so, because I had experienced some success as a skincare and beauty expert, I used that as my “in” with writing. It seemed only natural that I’d write another book on beauty. In fact, in 2015, I came up with ideas for five other beauty books!
After finishing up Being Beautiful (which I feel was an important “end note” to what I had started with Soulful Skincare), I never really asked myself if I wanted to write about beauty. I just followed that trajectory because that’s how I became known – through my work about beauty.
But something big happened in 2016 – I turned 40. Suddenly, my life revolved around the “silly” notion of wanting to be happy. I was suddenly creeping toward midlife. Finally, I felt like it was time to live for myself.
Whatever made me happy, I pursued. And almost all of it was art. Creative writing (novels and some poetry), drawing, photography… For the first time in over a decade, ideas were literally pouring out of me. I’ve literally spent the past year working on not a couple, but dozens of different projects in the few hours that I have after work.
I found the abundance of ideas fascinating, since I had been feeling like I’d tapped the bottom of the skincare well years before. After Soulful Skincare, I started feeling that it was a struggle to come up with useful content for my readers. When I thought about sitting down to write a blog post, I would cringe.
But when it came to this time between my work hours when I tried to pursue only what I wanted to pursue, to tell only the stories I wanted to tell, suddenly, I found myself in a well that had no bottom. And I remembered this feeling from my early years when I wrote novel after novel. I am no stranger to writer’s block, but my struggle with that has always and only been a result of the paralysis that comes from perfectionism – from that expectation to write a perfect first draft. But writer’s block was never the product of a lack of ideas.
The year went by, passing through like a hurricane – shaking everything up, or, as Lin-Manuel Miranda would say, turning the world upside-down. And suddenly, I find myself standing exactly where I was standing at 21. Writing. Taking pictures. Drawing. Planning all the dozens of books that keep coming to me. And dreaming of that Pulitzer. (Oh, and a Newbery. Okay, to be honest, a Nobel, too, cuz I like to reach for the stars.)
Oh yeah. I remember now. This is who I am. I just let the world talk me out of what I wanted and who I was for the past 15 years.
Thank goodness dreams are so insistent. Even when we leave them by the side of the road, God picks them up, follows behind us, and when we’re brave enough, She taps us on the shoulder, puts the dream back into our hands and says, “Hey, I think you dropped this.”
So yes, Being Beautiful is a huge crossroads for me. It is the completion of the chapter in my life that started with Five Seed. The completion of that wonderful, exciting, creative journey that taught me so much about creativity, blogging, and so much more. Things that are so important to me today, as I build my business as a writer, artist, and teacher.
There is a wonderful finality to it – a freedom, knowing that I placed that last brick in the wall and I can now move on to the next phase of my life. The phase in which I write just to write. I create just to create. I don’t have to couch it in a book about beauty or skincare, anymore.
I’m free to tell any story I want. And it feels so good!