Finding Happiness: Lessons from Gary Vee

I discovered Gary Vaynerchuk when I was eighteen. Not because I wanted to learn about business, but because I loved fountain pens. Loved them so much, I obsessed over The Goulet Pens Company, listening to their podcast, participating in their weekly Instagram giveaway contest, and watching their videos on YouTube. In one of these videos Brian Goulet, the owner of Goulet Pens, showed the audience the books on his office shelf. And one of those books was Crush It by Gary Vee.

Being the inquisitive person that I am, I borrowed Crush It from my local library and read it cover to cover. I was mesmerized. Here was this guy telling the world, telling me, that anyone could start their own business and become successful online. Not in a “get rich quick if you buy my $29.99 e-course” kind of way, but sensible, realistic way. A way I had witnessed in companies like Goulet Pens. It stuck with me. I imagined it in detail. Building a website, blogging, sharing on social media. I even went so far as to buy a domain name.

It was a beautiful dream. But in the end just a dream.

In retrospect, the timing was wrong. I was a nervous teenager, too insecure to share myself with the interent. Too occupied with the stresses and worries and goals I had at the time. So, I returned the book to the library and went about my life. Finishing college. Starting a job. Thinking of Gary Vee every so often, but confident I was doing life the “right way.” My life was perfect.


I wasn’t happy. And after a certain point, I knew I had to do something about it. So I did the most logical thing I could think of and wrote a fantasy book in one month.

It was the first book I’d drafted in over three years. As I typed away each night, I was reminded of how happy writing made me feel. How fulfilling it was. And I thought, Wow. I should do something with this. So I started this blog, revamped my social media, found a community of writers online, re-read Crush It! and binged The Gary Vee Audio Experience on Spotify, and started pumping out blog content.

It took time to get comfortable sharing my writing. I gave up often, but came back every time. Eventually. Because creativity is part of me. I can’t not create. It’s what make me me. Even if I’m away from my blog- as I have been for most of this year – I know I’ll come back.

I’m a firm believer in fate. I don’t think we decide what we like, what we enjoy. We discover it. And that’s something Gary preaches: discovery. Don’t know what you like? Try everything! You’ll find what you love. And you’ll love it.

In an episode of Gary’s podcast, he talks about the three most important things in life: Self-Awareness, Happiness, and Accountability. Those three words have stuck with me and I think of them when I feel lost or discouraged. They point me back towards my goal: happiness. But to get there, I needed a few things first.


This is understanding who we are, what our talents are, and – most importantly – what we enjoy. Stepping away from society’s expectations and discovering what you love to do! Awareness leads to change in habits and perspective. Being aware harder than it seems and can lead to huge adjustments in perspective but ultimately it lead to the goal.


This is the goal of self-awareness. Once you know yourself, you’ll know what you need to be happy. Maybe that’s reading more books or picking up a new hobby. Maybe it’s starting a business. Or maybe it’s working a 9 to 5 then coming home and spending time with your dog. Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t magically appear without accountability though.


What’s the point of self-awareness if it doesn’t lead to change? One half hour self-awareness meditation can’t make you happy for the rest of your life. Sustainable happiness comes from continual change. Be accountable.. Are you working towards happiness each day? Are you investing in activities that will foster happiness in the long run? Or are you sticking to the same routines that distract you from unhappiness.

These three qualities are powerful together. The perspective shift was monumental for me. One that continues to develop everyday. Sure. Somedays I take a few steps back, but that’s life. You have ups and downs. Victories and learning experiences.

These realizations don’t happen in a day. It takes time to figure yourself out, so be patient. Have compassion. Love the journey. You’ll put together the puzzle that is you one day.

I can’t wait for us to get there.

Helpful Links

Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion

Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too

The Gary Vee Audio Experience

The Goulet Pen Company

The Top 5 Name Sites for Writers (and Expectant Parents Probably)

Choosing character names is frustrating. You watch your novel take its first steps full of joy and wonder. Then a nameless character shows up and spoils the fun. You use placeholders. Underscores. Generic names (John. Mary. Joanne, anyone?). But “M____ stabs B____ in the heart and watches his soul slowly drain from his body” doesn’t have same affect as “Maude stabs Bertram in the hearts and watches his soul slowly drain from his body.” Names bring stories to life. And with the right tools, you too can find life. (Er, your characters. That’s totally what I meant…)

Some start with a baby name book. We are starting with the internet like sane human beings. And now. Without further ado. The top 5 name sites on the planet.

1. Behind the Name

Alive and kicking since 1996, Behind the Name is as old as I am. Boasting a database of 150,000 plus names, its features include sorting by mythology, language, definition, and more. A random name generator and message board bring the package together. There’s a subsite dedicated to surnames as well. But it’s small compared to its big brother.

Rating: 4/5

Behind the Name
Behind the Name: Surnames

The United States Social Security Administration publishes lists of popular baby names each year. Relying on census records, it’s database starts at 1879. How many years were John and Mary at the top of the list?

Too many.

It doesn’t have the fancier features of other databases. But it can sort by birth year, state/territory, and decade. Names are limited to the United States, so if you aren’t from the ‘land of the free’ you might want to skip this one.

Rating: 4/5

3. eBabyNames

Manned by a team of “name experts,” eBabyNames boasts a wide range of categories –from Arabic to Maori to Harry Potter. It’s small compared to the big guys, but keeps things fresh. Albertus, anyone?

Rating: 3/5


4. Name Generator

All great civilizations fall and so do databases, (Shh. Don’t tell the robots.) Not to fear. Masterpiece Generator comes to the rescue!

This site has dozens of generators. Pirate. Rapper. Villain. And Character Name. Which spits out up to 100 name based on traits selected by you. Archetype. Creature type. Nationality. If you haven’t settled on attributes, the randomize option has your back.

Rating: 5/5

Character Name Generator

5. Google

Seriously. Google has all the names. Your character is somewhere on the internet, waiting for the right bot to crawl by and find its true name.

When in doubt, Google.

Rating: 5/5


That’s all. Insert quirky closing paragraph.

Yell at me on Twitter @lizzy_burk.

QOTW: How do you choose character names?

It’s Not Important: Ignore Plot

Plot doesn’t matter.

No, really. It doesn’t.

Write mindless stories. Character A gets out of bed and eats breakfast. The end.


Now, the same event, but Character A has an existential crisis after getting out of bed. The fluffy purple rug on the floor reminds them of their grandmother, who’s favorite color was purple. She taught them how to bake. The memory sparks a shift in Character A’s mind and they decide to quit their job and open a bakery.

Perspective changes in an instant. Everyday occurrences combined with the particularities of a moment prompt the shift.

We know what we want. We just don’t believe we are capable of getting it.

Take another possibility with Character A. A blend of chemicals in the brain fire at just the right time, which convinces Character A to have eggs for breakfast instead of heart attack cereal. And that small decision empowers Character A to be healthier. This in turn prompts them to realize they have control over their life, so they finally have the guts to quit their job and start a bakery.

We know what we want. We just don’t believe we are capable of getting it. Not until, like Character A, we have an epiphany over heart attack cereal and purple rugs.

That is the difference between plotless drivel and story. Character A’s desires and values altered ordinary events and set the rest of the story in motion. A story that is not a rote narrative of events, but an intricate look at character growth and development.

Dig deep. What are your characters dissatisfied with? What do they want? What are their insecurities? What do they regret?

These questions will lead to the heart of your story.

The plot will fall into place.


Until it does, keep writing.

The Trap of Being Who You Are Supposed to Be

There comes a time in the life of all secret writers when Others give Advice.

Run away.

Such guidance inevitably leads to the Trap of Being Who You Are Supposed to Be – the worst of all fates.

Advice is not intrinsically bad. It could even provoke inspiration. However, nine times out of ten, it fuels doubtful motivations such as Money, Fame, & Success.

Of course, we all know the only motivations that actually work are banana pudding, naps, and drinkable yogurt. All other motivations lead directly to DOOM.

DOOM has a talent for disguise. It looks so cheerful, benevolent, simple.

  • Do X, Y, & Z and you will SUCCEED
  • Do A, B, & C and you will FAIL

Here’s a secret: X, Y, & Z are boring as shit; A, B, & C are the shit.

Life is a trap. This is a pessimistic, but fun, outlook. To look upon humanity, so full of hope and wonder, and know that everything is shit, always has been shit, and always will be full of shit. A comfortable reality really. If you don’t like it, pick a new one.

Everyone has their own realities. I get tired of mine infrequently, so I throw them into a trash fire and buy new ones.

What does this have to do with writing? What the hell is a secret writer?

I have no idea.

The Unfortunate Domestication of Wild Writerdom

Prior to domestication, writers command a distinct self with particularities and talents. Somewhere along this blissful path, their souls are squashed by the Inevitable Plague of the Life Crisis. The realization of what one should be dawns. Doubt grows and all sorts of horrifying notions fill the weakened mind. Writers ought to do such and such, an invisible creature formed of Everybody’s Opinions says. Avoid this mistake! Don’t write in this format! Don’t write in such and such POV!


Art is not rules. Replicating the success of others holds you back. To be the best writer you can be, you must be wholly yourself.

Stop listening to People.

People aren’t you.

I used to think some people were “born” creative. That certain personalities were inherently more creative than others. True creatives possessed the ability to create concretely on the fly. I was slow. I should not have been creative. My ideas were not original. I was not intuitive.

That was before I knew myself. Before I understood I absorb pieces of information from millions of places and transform them into something cohesive; not a story so much as a feeling. Fuzzy at first but mutating into something new. Once epiphany struck, I learned to trust my process and appreciate the way I created. Then I loved writing because I did not have to pretend or follow someone else’s model of creation.

Turn off the advice. Listen to your inner self. In the silence, you will hear a whisper.


Burnt Out? Four Dark Spells to Restore Creativity

If writing was a video game, creativity would be the heart containers. You start with one. The first attempt at writing earns a second. A bucket load of scribbling and half a manuscript earns a few more, etc. The containers empty as you create and when the last is used up you lie helpless on the kitchen floor, waiting for lighting to strike you dead so you may rise once more. Even the most accomplished writers, run out of hearts from time to time – or most of the time.

For example, the other day I read fanfiction for ten hours straight and lost like thirteen hearts – accompanied by an intense desire to write but no stamina to do so. Thankfully, I found a few helpful hints in a handy dark grimoire. By using a few of them, I was able to write my very own fanfiction. I mean novel…it was definitely a novel. I would never write fanfiction.

Helpful Hints From My Dark Grimoire:

  1. Bang on some pots. Are you a quarter of a heart away from death and extinction? If so, an emergency nap is in order. Tell your mother to bang a pot or two in your direction in twenty minutes and go to sleep. You will wake up just as you have managed to go to doze off and will resent her for the rest of the hour until you realize your brooding restored one heart.
  2. Sacrifice a chicken. You did not forget to eat. The unpleasant hollowness in your stomach reached your awareness four hours ago, but you postponed lunch so you could browse Tumblr for five more minutes. Several hours later, you decided preparing food was too much work and ate a bag of chips instead. Now you are full and cranky. Fix it immediately by consuming half a chicken and a couple of steaks. Your powers will be fully restored, but you will still feel like shit.
  3. Travel to the beyond. You have been thinking all day. Stop it. Nothing drains hearts faster than thinking about writing. Close your eyes and think of nothing at all until you reach the Land of Absolute Boredom. Endure it for at least twenty seconds, then open your eyes. A heart or two will materialize and you will find writing either incredibly easy or feel an intense need to redecorate.
  4. Throw all your writing paraphernalia on the floor. Manuscripts, scraps of artsy scribbles, crumbled up paper from the trash. Fling yourself on top of it all and bask in the creative aura. Absorb it into your soul. All your hearts will be restored and you will write for at least ten hours straight.

If none of these brilliant solutions worked for you, I don’t know what to say. Maybe get a cat or something.



P.S. Please direct all complaints to the comment section below.

Refueling Creativity: A Guide on Music Selection for Writers

Some activities are only enjoyable in conjunction with music. Writing, storytelling, parachuting, etc. Without it, they are as awful as they sound. While at times the muses allow me to write for hours in utter silence, they generally get bored and run for the nearest heavy metal concert. However, if you put music on, they will stay and drop a few epiphanies at your feet.

This guide will aid in proper selection of music to get your creatives juices flowing at their finest. All good guides are not complete without a warning, of course.

WARNING:  Do not become distracted. Headbanging to your favorite song on repeat for an hour may feel inspiring. In reality, you have wasted an hour you could have spent writing the next New York Times best seller.

Now that the warning is out of the way, let’s get to the music.

Angsty Cello for the Soul

The advantages of sad cello music are endless. It tears at the smallest of hearts, strangles the soul, and incites a pleasant feeling in the back of the eyeballs. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It also benefits your novel. Now, when your main character’s family and cat Pluto are vanquished by an unexpected volcano, you know what it feels like and can thus express it through your genius writing talents.

Listen to Cello Dark Cello🎻 on Spotify.

Nostalgia for Days

Think about the first time you wrote. The nostalgia from that memory is worth more than any how-to writing book you will ever read. Harness it, and you will be successful. I think about juicy murder mysteries, speakeasies, gangsters, big bands, and secret tunnels, so swing music never fails to restore my creativity.

Listen to Swing Revival on Spotify.

Songs I Grew Up With

The music I inhaled in the past — Libera, Khachaturian, The Messiah is inspiring because of its familiarity. It reminds me of my youth, when I wrote for fun. You can grab that unbridled creativity and use it now. Although the muses will love the opportunity for blackmail it presents.

Scrounge up favorites from the past and make a playlist on Spotify.

It’s a tree, It’s a bird, It’s a forest!

If you are a bit mad like me, nature sounds come in handy during particularly annoying writing sessions. Did your MC wander alone into the dark dark forest against your explicit instructions? Wrangle them in with roaring rapids then plunge them into icy oblivion. That will show them who’s boss. You can always magically resurrect them later.

Listen to Water Sounds 💦 Sleep & Relaxation on Spotify.

One of these suggestions ought to set you on the path to restored creativity. If they fail, consider meditating in the wilderness for three days. That ought to do the trick.

Do you listen to music when you write, study, or sky dive? Let me know in the comments. Unless you are a hater. Then you are excused.



P. S. This post is not sponsored by Spotify.

Muses and Where to Find Them

Muses. Champions of the arts. A misunderstood species thanks to Greek historians and Walt Disney. Muses are all around us. There is probably one in the closet under your stairs, the dusty tea kettle on your shelf, or the pocket of your favorite jacket.

Long ago humans were so terrified of muses, they enlisted the help of Anunnaki to cloak them from the world. But the Anunnaki were careless and forgot to include storytellers in their spell. Consequently, writers can see the muses. Although they often disguise themselves as crows to throw off the scent.

The Anunnaki probably.

A muse exists for every genre – except the stuffiest forms of non-creative non-fiction. They lurk in shadows and gorge on the words of the innocent. Inherently mischievous, even the tamest will murder your favorite writing snacks.

In an effort to enlighten humanity, I have complied a list of muses that plague me oftenest. If you intend to catch one, arm yourself with a thick net crafted from a book of at least five-hundred pages.

The Muse of War

Sudden, fast, and unbelievably destructive. This muse turns peaceful tales violent. It convinces you the plot lacks action (it does) and fills it with all manner of fierce developments. Battles, skirmishes, and petty girl fights of all kinds ensue. In the appropriate genre, this muse is essential. But it is rarely satisfied and preys on all manner of tales.

Where to find: Anywhere a war movie is playing.

The Muse of Fluff

Although an excellent addition to any story in moderation, the Fluff will attempt to derail your novel with disgusting amounts of sweetness. Soon, your story will have no plot and wallow in the mire of Two-Dimensional Characters. These characters will get along splendidly and have a great time mindlessly accomplishing nothing.

Where to find: This muse lurks in Romance novels and Hallmark movies.

The Muse of Disruption

Contrary to the negative nature of its name, this muse is indispensable. Is your plot simmering to a bumbling crawl? Disruption will sweep in like the eagles in Lord of the Rings, delivering catastrophe, shocking revelations, and unexplained personality changes. Establish a friendly relationship with it before it leads your plot into permanent chaos. I get along marvelously with one named Steve. We drink tea together every Saturday morning.

Where to find: This muse has an internal compass which draws them to dying plots. Do not be frightened by the scales. They are quite soft.

The Muse of Angst

Dark, brooding, and incredibly hopeless, this muse thrives on misunderstanding. If you need a bit of tension when characters are getting along too well, look no further. But exercise caution. They often linger to watch your novel progress and make cryptic remarks when jubilation occurs.

Where to find: Play melancholy classical music. Beethoven’s 7th 2nd should do the trick.

The Reaper Muse

A favorite of crime novelists, the Reaper lurks in the shadows then strikes when the plot is ripe for untimely death. The more shocking, the better. Reward it by offering a satisfying conclusion to the novel’s mystery. If you write a lame conclusion, it will ask for a refund.

Where to find: There is no need to find a reaper. It will find you.

The Muse of Eccentricity

This muse does not care about writing at all. Rather, it delights in making writers eccentric. You may have begun your writing career as a rational being. By the time this muse is finished, you will waltz about your front porch to Shostakovich at 3:00 AM with a bottle of mystical concoctions. Your neighbors will call the cops and you will be arrested. But you will find it dreadfully inspiring and build a shrine to worship this muse as a secondary deity.

Where to find: This muse is incredibly rare. If you are lucky, it will find you.

The Jeffrey Muse

This muse has no purpose at all. It merely delights in hovering near aspiring writers and convincing them they are about to be inspired by the eternal flame of epiphany. Millions of novels have gone unfinished because of this muse. If you see one, shoot on sight.

Where to find: Unless you enjoy hunting, do not attempt to find a Jeffrey muse.

In conclusion, books and television have got it all wrong about muses. Anyone who does not believe in their existence has a Jeffrey living in their house. It is a familiar object. Your favorite toaster, the left shoe with the hole, your grandmother, etc. I can only pity you and hope too much life has not been sucked from your soul.

Do you believe in muses? Comment below with the whys, why nots, and wherefores. And complaints. I’m not getting nearly enough complaints!



Images by Mariusz Matuszewski and Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Dusty Epiphanies From My Living Room Floor

Lying on the floor wedged between the bend in the couch and the corner of the coffee table, the dry scent of 10,000 dust mites engulfed my senses. Eyes closed, writing close at hand, I was prepared to leap up and pretend to be a normal human the moment a stray roommate passed by. And I waited.

Waited for a glimmer of my unconsciousness to hover over the face of my novel outline and say it was good.

It was not good. It was very bad, horrible, no good, and generally trash.

So much trash, in fact, that I gave myself an F-. The last quarter of the unfortunate thing was chock full of ludicrous attempts at crafting an intelligent conclusion to a meandering story. The mad result of writing a full-length novel in one month. I expected something good to come out of this crazed frenzy and waited for a spark of genius to ignite.

It was not to be. For good ideas form slowly in the unconscious part of the brain that cannot be wielded by ugly sentience. This unseen intuition feeds concepts into its unsuspecting victims at random. Turning left, the other left, and occasionally right, but always away. Like a cat, it adores you, then bites your wrist for no freaking reason seconds later.

On the floor, encased in dust, dirt, and chip crumbs, I felt the pull of the unconscious. It whispered the answer to my writing woes. Suddenly I knew my outline really was trash and with that understanding came the drive to sort through and find the lucid sparks lurking under the refuse.

Accompanied by a desperate need to vacuum the dust mites out of the carpet, of course.

What strange places have you experienced epiphanies? Tell me in the comments below.



Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Muses and How to Banish Them to the Nether

In your writing adventures, you will be assailed by uncommon perils. Rain, hailstorms, fire, and—worst of all—muses. These terrifying creatures will strike you dead in the heart on a whim. Such an attack can result in paralysis, head trauma, and a fondness for salamanders. All deadly injuries. You must be prepared. And there is no better defense than a handy writing arsenal.

With proper weapons, any writer can defend against muses. However, level four and up writers ought to carry a big stick for extra protection. Aggressive muses swarm towards higher levels like flies to the jelly. Optionally, if you happen to have a couple of well-behaved muses at your disposal, they are a great addition to your arsenal. But if they are only moderately well-behaved, dispose of them in the nearest trash can.

Without further ado, here are my top four instruments of war:

  1. A sturdy notebook and pen: Furiously scribbling absolute drivel will subdue the cleverest muses. Should this fail, however, you may need to write something of actual substance. A pocket notebook and roller ball pen will do the trick nicely.
  2. A hearty imagination: A hefty dose of overactive imagination will bash away the foulest aggressor. Simply envision an immersive action scene. Go for something angsty and dramatic. It will up your chances of victory and give you an emotive thrill. If you are not skilled at such an endeavor, abandon ship and run for your life.
  3. A hefty stack of nostalgia: The single most underrated bit of writing equipment. Frighteningly easy to access, nostalgia is indispensable in a bind. Simply close your eyes and transport yourself to your favorite childhood book. Snatch a bit of the general flavor and store in an airtight container. When confronted, shake gently. The scent will quickly overpower any foes.
  4. A thickly built writing apparatus: Level six and up writers may find none of the above tactics successful—big stick included. In such cases, a bulky laptop of at least 15 inches with an especially cantankerous hard drive will work wonders. Free write as loudly as possible. The unbridled creativity will alarm attackers and teleport them straight to the nether.

With these weapons at your disposal, you have nothing to fear. If you lose a battle, it is your own fault. But do not despair. Patch up your equipment. Heal your wounds. Dry your eyes. Next time you will do better.

Have you faced uncommon perils in your writing adventures? Hard drive failures, spontaneous combustion? Tell me in the comments! All war stories deserve to be told.

Next week we will be diving deeper into the horrifying world of muses.

Be careful out there,


Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay