Episode Transcript

Being a Life Enthusiast with Britt Skrabanek

EPISODE 30

[INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:08] BS: Happy New Year my beautiful, enthusiastic humans. Welcome to Love Your Enthusiasm, a podcast that is all about motivating you to do what you love and live life the way you want to live it. Because it’s a New Year, I thought I would totally mix things up with a host takeover where I am parking my ass in the guest hot seat. Today I am welcoming back Victoria Dougherty who is on the show way back in the early days in episode five. Victoria is an author and a very dear friend I know from the blogging community. Her episode about embracing a creative life is worth a listen. And I will link to her episode in the show notes. For anyone who caught that episode, you may remember Victoria trying to turn the tables and play host a few times by asking me questions during her interview, and I joke that she should interview me sometime. Well, today is the day. Thought this would be a good chance for you all to get to know me better now that Love Your Enthusiasm has been on the air for – Going on eight months. In this episode I talk about my perhaps random passion of being a life enthusiast, the good, the bad and the beautiful.

Before you dive in, quick announcement that I have changed the newsletter to a monthly email instead of a weekly email. For my email subscribers hopefully that switcheroo didn’t throw you off too much last month. I know we all get a shit ton of email. So I wanted to scale back the emails and send out a monthly roundup with the latest episodes instead. Subscribe to the newsletter on the website loveyourenthusiasm.com and of course subscribe on your listening app of choice and follow on social to always know when the latest episode drops.

Without further ado, have fun hanging out with me and Victoria.

[INTERVIEW]

[00:02:18] BS: Hey, Victoria.

[00:02:20] VD: Hey, Britt.

[00:02:21] BS: Welcome back to the show. The last time we talked to each other was back in June when you were a guest. And today – Oh my! The tables have turned. You will be interviewing me today.

[00:02:36] VD: This is going to be really fun.

[00:02:40] BS: We shall see. I’m already sweating a little bit because it is a whole different thing when you’re in the hot seat. But the reason why I asked you to interview me, well, there are many reasons, but I’ve known you for a long time through blogging. I’ve known you for many years. So I trust you. We’ve just had so many wonderful conversations over the years. And when you were on the show in episode 5 of your podcast, which was amazing, you kept trying to interview me during your interview. So this is your chance. I figured we would just let you go ahead and interview me because you were just naturally doing it during that episode.

[00:03:26] VD: Well, I mean, really, one of the frustrations of the interview model, and it’s actually a great model, I’m not frustrated with it per se, is that you kind of also want to hear a real conversation, which is what’s great about podcasts too because a lot of podcasts are like that where it’s two people who are interested in a topic who are having a real conversation. And when I’m being interviewed, I think it’s a lot easier for me to interview, because I love hearing what other people have to say. But like when I’m interviewed, I always want to hear what the other person has to say.

[00:03:59] BS: I totally understand. And I wonder if that’s a writer’s trait, because we are just such observers and we want to know the answers to other questions because we already know the answers to our questions.

[00:04:12] VD: I think it is. I see that, I think, more often than not in writers. But yeah, it’s what we do. It’s our nature.

[00:04:20] BS: Yeah, it’s a gift and a curse I believe.

[00:04:24] VD: I totally agree. All right. Well, you were talking about being in the hot seat. So I am definitely going to put you in the hot seat in this reverse interview because I’m going to use your very first question that you always ask people. I’m going to pose it to you. And I’m really looking forward to hearing your response. What does a life enthusiast, being a life enthusiast mean to you?

[00:04:47] BS: Being a life enthusiast.

[00:04:49] VD: What is a life enthusiast and what does being a life enthusiast mean to you, both of those? How do you how do you actually define being a life enthusiast and then how do you relate it to your own life and your own creativity?

[00:05:01] BS: It’s really tough to define, because it’s one of those terms that can sound a little bit woo-woo to some, and there is a little bit of woo-woo that comes with Britt as most of the listeners know and as you know. But I will do my best to define it. Being a life enthusiast means approaching life and everything you do with gusto. It means you are interested in learning and discovering, and once you really latch on to something, that piques your interest. You just throw yourself into it.

And I started using the term life enthusiast to describe myself on my blog about five or so years ago, I believe was when I started using that term, because you have to have a tagline. If people are coming to your blog, what’s this all about? And it was really difficult to label myself as just one thing as an author, a dancer, a yogi, a blogger, a content marketer and now an entrepreneur. It’s like how do you just pick one, but also how do you describe what something like my blog is about for people who are coming there so it doesn’t seem just like a hot mess of incoherent thoughts?

Trying to figure out what my enthusiasm actually was for this episode even took me several weeks because I knew that we were going to do this and I was like, “Oh, shit. What is my enthusiasm? What am I going to talk about?” And once again, I couldn’t land on just one thing. I was like, “Is it storytelling? No. It’s more than that.” And it’s because I’m enthusiastic about so many beautiful things, I can’t choose and I also don’t think I should have to choose, because life is too beautiful and complex and full of adventures to settle on just one thing. So I do think that being a life enthusiast is very often confused with being an optimist or being this ball of energy that just like never stops rolling.

But I can tell you that I get negative sometimes and I burn myself out a lot. And these are also the characteristics of being a life enthusiast. Maybe a curse even, because you have these really high expectations for life and everyone in it. And you especially have high expectations for yourself. And I will say that throughout my life. People would often say to me, “I love your enthusiasm.” And sometimes they said it admirably and sometimes they said it sarcastically. And then like there were other times where I felt like I was getting honorable mention for something, “You almost got it right.” Or, “You almost won,” but you didn’t. I love your enthusiasm though.

[00:08:11] VD: It’s sort of like the energy equivalent of she’s got a great personality.

[00:08:16] BS: Totally. Totally. So I have heard that throughout my entire life. So it was so funny to land on that for this podcast when naming this podcast Love Your Enthusiasm. It was actually based off of the Life Enthusiast Chronicles, which you were a guest on on my blog. That was a very popular series that I ran on the blog for years where I asked people like you and other great people what makes you enthusiastic about life. I always wanted to do more with it, and then this podcast came about and I thought the Love Your Enthusiasm thing is pretty funny because it’s not all about being an optimist or being energetic and being this great person all the time. There’re a lot of negative consequences of it as well. And being a life enthusiast just doesn’t always sit well with people because they kind of don’t know what to do with you, but I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being called a firecracker, which I’ve been called many times as well, a firecracker.

[00:09:19] VD: I’ve been called a fire hose.

[00:09:22] BS: Because a firecracker is someone that doesn’t keep all of their energy. Inside instead they explode with energy no matter what they’re doing. So I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being a firecracker. I’m okay with people not knowing what to do with me all the time because I’m a life enthusiast.

[00:09:41] VD: I love that answer. I think it’s spot on and it definitely sums you up. I mean I know when I read your answers – Well, not your answers. Your comments on my blog, which is sort of how we first met, they stood out because there was an energy to the way you constructed your sentences, which I think is something that a writer is really attuned to. And then of course I found out that you’re a blogger as well. And this sort of leads me to my next question. Last time we talked we were talking about how you and I are really two of only a handful of bloggers we know who are still at this, who haven’t given up on our blogs or just sort of walked away from them the way a lot of people who started off with great enthusiasm for their blogs just sort of maybe got bored or maybe their blogs didn’t become as successful as they hoped or they just moved on to something else. And here we are despite the fact that we’re both writing books and running businesses. And in your case, you’re launching a podcast. We’re still tenacious about blogging and haven’t let it fall from our portfolios. So how do you maintain your level of productivity and your enthusiasm for blogging and in general?

[00:10:54] BS: Yeah, it’s really difficult. And we have talked about the love and energy that goes into a blog especially if you stick with it long term, which we have making us what I always like to call blogging unicorns, because most bloggers don’t make it past the first year.

[00:11:17] VD: No.

[00:11:17] BS: And here we are you know eight, going on nine years later, and we’re still at it. Now, what I will say is that I have had many dips on my blog especially as I was starting my business, Super Neat Marketing, where I’m a marketing consultant and I run that business with my husband and business partner. And I had to really focus on that for a couple years, and I could not blog to save my life during those two years, because I was throwing everything into that other business. But I still managed to blog, I believe, 10 times that year. But if you think about just 10 blog posts in a year, that is like barely keeping the lights on.

[00:12:02] VD: Yeah, it’s true.

[00:12:05] BS: Especially with how my blog had been years before that where I was blogging all the time. But there was a lot less pressure for me during the early years of blogging because, one, I had no idea what I was doing. And there’s a certain type of freedom that comes with that when you really don’t know what you’re doing and you’re kind of finding your way. You don’t care as much about what other people think. And then as you become more mature and more experienced as a blogger, and in my case I took that a step further by becoming a content marketer where I am blogging on a very professional level for businesses and helping other businesses with their blogs. Then you really start caring and you really start picking everything apart.

There’s a danger in that because essentially I turned a hobby and something I loved into a job by turning my love for writing and blogging into eventually a content marketing profession. It really took a lot of the joy out of blogging for me as you can imagine, because it was just like non-stop blogging all the time. I mean like living in WordPress and then writing about a lot of things that were interesting to learn about but they weren’t my own self-expression.

You mentioned something about maintaining productivity being about discipline and inspiration, and I thought that was totally it, because I have a famous Britt line which is this thing won’t write itself. This thing ain’t going to write itself. You’ve got to get your ass in the chair. And it’s good because being productive keeps me out of trouble, wink-wink. Inspiration is really important as well. So the discipline and inspiration I think are are both it where you have to do the work, but you also have to continually find inspiration.

[00:14:05] VD: I think you’re so right. And one of the things I tell people who have asked me, friends, kids who are like, “Oh, I’m thinking about becoming a writer,” or whatever it is, and so they want to talk to someone who actually does that, is saying, “You can’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration actually comes from discipline. It actually comes from sitting down and doing what you’re doing.” I mean sometimes it comes outside of that, of course. You might be having a beautiful walk or you might be on a vacation somewhere and you see something or you learn about something that inspires you. But most of the time, on a day-to-day basis, it’s about getting your ass in the chair just like you said. I can’t agree more.

[00:14:44] BS: Yeah. I think that’s why most bloggers don’t make it, is because they don’t realize how difficult it is. It’s a commitment. It’s like a marriage. I’ve said that before too, and I think you have too where it’s like a marriage. I mean, you have to tend to it and there’s going to be some challenges that you have to work through. And I had this really, really sweet guy that reached out to me. He’s actually one of my former dance students brothers. I won’t say his name, but he had reached out to me by email because he had just self-published his first book. And my former dance student who’s his sister pointed him in my direction and asked if I would help him a little bit with a little bit of mentorship basically by email. And I’m starting to step into that role now more and more having people reach out to me for my advice, and it’s a really cool place to be and I’m very happy to share what I know. But when it comes to this whole author platform that we’re always encouraged to create, which is always a blog, I always like to caution people when they are starting a blog because it is a lot of work. And if you want to make any progress with it, you have to consistently give your readers a reason to follow you and to stay with you, which means you have to consistently create and publish content, and it can be very difficult to keep up with.

[00:16:15] VD: Oh, it can. And, also, it enriches your creative writing, but it also takes time away from it without question. I mean, in some ways you are less productive or not less productive. You’re less prolific. I mean, assuming that you actually sit down and use the time that you would normally use on your blog on your fiction, which I think that you and I probably would. It does take some time away from that. But at the same time, like you said, this is part of what building an author platform is about and you do sometimes have to spread yourself really, really thin in order to get it going.

[00:16:55] BS: Yeah, time being the key word. And I think too, we’re just talking about blogging taking us away from other creative projects, but it also takes you away from other things you want to do in life and other people in your life because you’re trying to like write a blog post real quick on a Sunday morning instead of going out to brunch or hanging out on the couch with your husband with some coffee. I mean, there’re a lot of sacrifices that you can end up making. So you have to be really careful about that.

[00:17:27] VD: It’s true. This is sort of on a related note. But how do you keep your sense – Well, we were just talking about productivity, and that’s – Well, it’s sort of one issue. I mean it certainly is connected to others. But how do you keep your sense of wonder about what you do when so many other creative people get burned out and are tempted to throw in the towel? And I mean that like not just about blogging, but across the board, because I mean how many people publish a book either traditionally or they try to get an agent for instance or they try to self-publish a book and they realize what a long road it can be and how much work it takes? And even though they start with so much enthusiasm, they end up kind of fizzling out even if they are really talented.

[00:18:14] BS: Absolutely. Yeah. I’m not immune to any of that, and I don’t I don’t think creative people can be immune to this, because creative people by their nature are more sensitive beings. That’s what makes us creative and makes us able to create the things that we do is our sensitivity to our surroundings and to situations and other people as well. So I’ve gotten burnt out more times than I can count and I’ve also thrown in the towel multiple times. So what really, really helps –

[00:18:50] VD: But you picked up the towel, don’t you? You pick that towel back up.

[00:18:54] BS: Exactly. You have to pick up the towel. I will say one of the things that’s really, really key for me that I’ve learned to avoid burnout and to avoid throwing in the towel is stepping away. Taking a fucking break, because I – Okay, back to the life enthusiast thing. I’m just like 90 to nothing and I will finish anything that I start. I don’t give up. I will finish anything no matter what, which is also that can be a bad thing. So I have to take breaks. I have to step away.

And let’s go back to blogging, because I think that’s a really good example. When I come back after taking a break, I am overjoyed that I have this very special part of my life to come back to. I’m relieved that I didn’t shut down my blog that I’ve been running for almost nine years. My little website, my little home, it’s still there. My blogging community, which are friends and some people, practically family that I have created are still there for me and they’ll always be there for me.

And so stepping away and then coming back is what really renews that sense of wonder, but also that sense of purpose. And I’ve talked about the importance of community so many times for creative. I cannot stress this enough, because as a creative person you give and give and give when you create, and it can be very loveless and isolating. It’s really important to have a community of like-minded people to turn to when you need support. And I have several blogging friends like you. There’re probably about 10 people that I could email today if I needed something and they would help me.

[00:20:54] VD: Yeah, I think in this case, the whole sort of online world has been incredibly helpful, because as sort of, I don’t know, as surfacy as social media can be, it’s also – For me, it has introduced me to a lot of creative people who don’t live anywhere near me who I otherwise would have never met and wouldn’t know and wouldn’t be there as part of my community. I would exclusively have to find people who live near me otherwise. And it also enables me to talk directly to my readers, which is such a blessing. I mean, how incredible is it to be able to talk to your readers?

[00:21:38] BS: It is incredible technology is incredible. It is a tool that we can either use or abuse. And whenever people have trouble with social media and they have all of these viewpoints about it, I’m like, “Maybe you’re not using it right or maybe that tool just isn’t for you,” and that’s okay. And like you said, I mean, the connections that you’ve made through your blog. I mean, such an unexpected bonus, right?

[00:22:06] VD: Right. I feel like there are several places that if I went to – If I went to Milwaukee, for instance, I would call you up immediately and be like, “Do you want to go have a drink?”
[00:22:18] BS: Yeah.

[00:22:19] VD: Or whatever. Let’s go out. Let’s meet. I mean, that’s been incredibly fulfilling for me.

[00:22:27] BS: What’s really funny about the technology being so incredible comment that I made is I’ve always been a hippie and I used to write all of these papers in college. I swear, this was the topic I always chose to write about, about how technology is going to destroy all of us. I was like that was always my topic. I’m like, “I’m going to talk about how computers are evil.” And the internet was like just becoming a thing back then and this is going to destroy us all. And my parents make fun of me because I always said, “I don’t want to have a computer job,” and they still tease me about that. They’re like, “You and your computer job. Look at you now.” And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

[00:23:08] BS: I didn’t know that about you. That is so, so funny.

[00:23:11] BS: I’ve never told anyone about it before. I’m a little embarrassed about it, but it’s kind of funny because I was so just so firm about that decision when I was 20-years-old and thought I knew everything about the world, but obviously I didn’t, and I’ve calmed down a lot. And I’ve also learned, and I think so many of us have learned that you have to adapt and be flexible or you will be left behind. And if you, again, use the tool and don’t abuse it, you can make a lot of incredible connections that you wouldn’t have otherwise without that technology.

[00:23:46] VD: I think you’re absolutely right. That sort of leads into a question that I want to ask you. I mean, it does – Well, all right, I’m just going to come right out and ask it.

[00:23:56] BS: Fine.

[00:23:56] VD: But first I want to say, I think haters are fans. You know what I mean? And I think that maybe your suspicion about computers and your hostility to it also probably facilitated your interest in it.

[00:24:12] BS: Oh, definitely. I mean, I was going to college and I think I graduated from high school in 1999. So it was such an interesting time for technology and it was really starting to take off. And I think my intentions were good and I think those are still intentions to remember as we spend too much time on our screens and less time looking at the real world and the real people in it. So I think as a writer, just really seeing what was coming both good and bad. And a lot of that was interesting, but also kind of scary.

[00:24:54] VD: How has what inspires your creativity changed or evolved over time? Or would you say that the core elements are basically the same?

[00:25:03] BS: I’m going to talk about yoga for a minute, because I’ve talked a lot about writing.

[00:25:10] VD: You know, I do yoga too. I love yoga.

[00:25:13] BS: I do too. And also for the listeners, just because we’re both writers, so we kind of get real nerdy about writing. I want to give another example because this is obviously another passion of mine, and it actually applies to all of my creativity, all of my writing as well. Over time, how my approach has changed is I’ve learned that I can’t burn the candle at both ends. And I realized that even though I may have the energy or think that I can just do it all, that I can’t, and that I will burn out. The candle will burn out. And not only do I suffer, but my creativity suffers and even the people around me can suffer if I’m too involved in my work and just taking things too seriously and just go, go, go all the time.

My yoga practice is actually a really great representation of this evolution of slowing my shit down, which is why yoga has become so popular in this culture of busyness, is how do we step away? Take a really, really deep much needed breath and just slow our shit down? And even my yoga practice, the things I’m talking about burning the candle at both ends. I also was falling into that trap with my yoga practice for many years. And I was doing these really vigorous Vinyasa practices, 90 minutes, five days a week, and I got really skinny too. Like, I mean, it was kind of – It was too much. I had dropped too much weight because I just got very serious about it and then I started doing some weird things with my diet, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.

So I was actually bringing some of those unhealthy goals and habits into my yoga practice and now my practice is so different. I have completely slowed it down. I rarely do a 90-minute practice. I’m happy with like 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and I’ve really just slowed things down. I don’t care about doing all of the tricks and doing all of the advanced postures. I might try one every now and then, but it’s not the goal. And now my practice is my sanctuary, which is what it should be.

[00:27:34] VD: Absolutely. I went through a very similar phase with yoga. I think that what you said is spot on in terms of what my friend Barry called PLUs, people like us.

[00:27:49] BS: I like that.

[00:27:52] VD: People who put – In our case, it’s people who tend to bring a certain level of enthusiasm to something, but not always in the best possible way, things like you said. Then they actually bring that to things like diet and exercise on top of it and really have it infect every single part of our lives and not just our work. So I want to ask you a little bit about technique too. And we’ve touched on it a little bit and what we’ve been talking about, but I want to get a little bit more specific about it, because I think that’s something that covers broad endeavors, not just writing. It covers writing. It’s yoga. It’s running a business. And I think it can be a little bit of a complicated topic because creative people come upon their techniques in a variety of ways. Some are hyper-disciplined and learn technique through more conventional routes like school, getting an MFA or going to art school or going to technical school, whatever it is, and others are entirely self-taught while others kind of employ a combination of these approaches. And I’m just curious about your approach to technique.

[00:28:51] BS: I suppose I’m self-taught. When I was going to college, everyone thought I was going to go to college and major in dance. And I knew that that was going to be a very limiting career move and also to pay tens of thousands of dollars for college just to go to dance just didn’t make any sense to me even then, because even still to this day dance artists are some of the lowest paid artist. Actually I think it’s like dancers and writers, which is really funny because I like both of those things.

[00:29:26] VD: It’s so sad, isn’t it?

[00:29:29] BS: Oh goodness! So I would say self-taught. Anyways, when I went to college though, I started off as an English major, and I ended up quickly switching about halfway through the year to an international studies major. Because what I didn’t like was in English classes, the same thing I didn’t like growing up, which was we were always reading other people’s works and talking about them. And I thought that was such a snooze. And I was hoping by the time I went to college that that would be different, but it wasn’t. What I really loved, it wasn’t about reading and dissecting other people’s work. It was about creating. It was about writing. And I’ve always loved words and movement. I mean, always.

When I was a kid – This is so nerdy. I used to make my dad give me a word to look up in the dictionary as a game after dinner.

[00:30:32] VD: Oh, that’s terrific.

[00:30:32] BS: I would just bust out the dictionary. This was my idea. It’s not like my dad was encouraging me to improve my language skills or anything. I’d be like, “All right, here’s the dictionary, dad. Like give me a word.” And I would try to like look it up as fast as possible. And my dad actually secretly wrote poems and then my mom was a major bookworm. The words and the love of words kind of just maybe was a genetic thing, and I was one of the weird kids who loved spelling tests and writing assignments.

And then on the movement side of things, that was equally important to me. I love to move. The writing thing, even though I wrote in my journal from a very young age, and I also always told myself stories before I went to bed at night, the movement. –

[00:31:19] VD: Oh, me too.

[00:31:20] BS: You did? Yeah. Yeah. It was just how I always went to bed, and I always liked that because then sometimes the stories would actually go into my dreams as well. But the movement, that was also important and that I just loved to dance. And I used to copy Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson, their music videos. That’s who actually taught me how to dance. It’s like MTV. Just like watching them and then mimicking their moves and I would perform for my dad and make him get out the video camera and videotape me. And I would choreograph things all the time. And finally he just asked if I wanted to learn how to really dance and go take class. And I was eight-years-old at the time, which is actually pretty late for getting started with dance. A lot of kids start a lot younger.

But moral of the story is, is that I always had this passion for words and movement, and it was just very natural to me. It was so strong though. My parents were always kind of just like, “Jesus! Love your enthusiasm.” But I think words and movement have always been interlinked for me. And as an introvert, they were the only ways I was able to express myself and feel confident about expressing myself. And people are always surprised, they’re like, “Wait, you can’t be an introvert if you dance, because you’ve performed in front of thousands of people.”

[00:32:54] VD: Yes you can.

[00:32:55] BS: Oh, yeah. It’s very similar to acting, and a lot of actors are actually introverts even celebrities and movie stars where they can’t stand watching themselves and they really don’t like to be around people. With movement and words, they were both also my special way of telling stories, which is one of my favorite passions if I have to choose just one.

[00:33:22] VD: I feel movement. I sense movement when I’m reading your work. I mean, that’s kind of what I was saying when I said how I sense a certain energy in the way you constructed your sentences from the first. Even just on your comments on my blog drew me into a conversation with you, because a lot of people comment on blogs and you’re not drawn into a conversation with them even if they make extensive comments, as I’m sure you you’ve had that experience too.

I’m interested to see if you see any limitations in your approach and what they are and also what you like best about your approach to technique and to getting better at whatever it is that you want to get better at, whether it’s yoga or dance or content marketing, or writing fiction stories.

[00:34:08] BS: Yeah, I mean it really is all interlinked. And like you said, it was interesting that you talked about the comment, is that there’s a rhythm to writing just like there’s a rhythm to movement. I mean, it’s like music. If you think about reading it or somebody reading something that was written, I mean, it’s like a song. And I don’t really see any limitations with being self-taught. In fact, I prefer being self-taught, because I think you’re a bit more of a rule breaker. I do think you’re more limited when you follow the rules of creativity. But I’m a big believer in technique as well. I think it’s a really important foundation, like grammar and writing and positions in ballet. But technique isn’t everything. And it’s so important, but it isn’t everything. And dare I say it, your enthusiasm is way more important. That’s what’s going to draw people to whatever it is that you do. The technique is there. The technique is important, but your enthusiasm is what really makes you shine.

[00:35:20] VD: I think you’re so right. And I think, certainly, in writing, to me, what makes me want to read a story is the voice, which another I think another way of saying voice is the energy, the very sort of distinctive energy that a writer brings to their writing. And there are so many times when I’ve read stories mostly from the indie world just because a lot of it – In the beginning, because a lot of it really wasn’t edited. And so it was very raw, which was actually a great thing in a lot of ways. But one of the things that you notice right away is if somebody had voice, because most people knew how to construct a sentence, otherwise they wouldn’t be writing a book. They wouldn’t be endeavoring to do that. They had some innate talent. They knew that this was something that they were proficient at. But when someone had voice or did not, it just stood out.

I wonder, like getting away from – Well, I’m the one who brought us back to writing because that’s my little obsession, but getting away from that. I’m curious to see – I can’t stop. It’s so sad. Is there a creative or artistic endeavor that you’ve always wanted to try but for practical or personal reasons you were unable to? I mean, like for me it would be like painting murals on the walls of my house or singing. Neither of which I think I have enough innate talent to really make a go, but it would be really fun. And there are things that I enjoy but that I can’t do. I just don’t have the time for. So do you have any of those? And if you do, how do you decide which of your talents and endeavors? Because you obviously have a lot of talent and a lot of very different talents, and how do you decide which ones that you’re going to put the most work and time into?

[00:36:55] BS: Before I answer this, thank you for the compliment. I think you are a very talented person as well. And then the next thing is what kind of murals are you wanting to paint on your walls? Just out of curiosity.

[00:37:07] VD: Well, I mean, admittedly, I’m a copier. I’m not somebody who is a good – I don’t know how to transfer a sort of original visual in my head onto either a piece of paper or a wall. So the sort of murals that I would do would tend to be either based on or directly copies of, I don’t know, like anything from like a Czech fairy tale to a Thurber cartoon. In our first apartment, my husband and I, we didn’t really afford any art. And so what I did in our dining room was I drew – Or I didn’t draw. I painted a Thurber cartoon on the wall. And it was really fun and people would be like, “Oh, what an interesting idea.” And I was like, “Well, I just can’t afford art.”

[00:37:52] BS: See? See? I’m turning the tables. Now let’s interview you again.

[00:37:56] VD: No. No. No. No.

[00:37:57] BS: I did. Okay. I’m just kidding.

[00:37:59] VD: I know. No. I know you are.

[00:38:01] BS: I’ll answer my question. Okay. So we were talking about is there a creative artistic endeavor that you’ve always wanted to try but we’re unable to? Of course, there are, Victoria. There’s like a million.

[00:38:14] VD: I knew it.

[00:38:16] BS: Okay. I’ve got two though that jumped out at me when I was thinking about this question, which is a great question, but also difficult to answer because I’m a life enthusiast and I’m enthusiastic about too many things. But this is completely unrealistic. But I’ve always wanted to be a lounge singer in the 1940s.

[00:38:36] VD: Oh, you had been? Of course, Beneath the Satin Gloves.

[00:38:39] BS: Exactly. For the listeners who sometimes don’t know that I have written and self-published a few novels, Beneath the Satin Gloves was my first book, and it was a time travel historical fiction novel. So set in World War II and the main character was a spying lounge singer in Berlin in the 1940s. So what’s really cool, I’m a horrible singer, I’m a great dancer, horrible singer. So I was able to channel that urge through my fiction, which, Victoria, I’m sure that’s something that you do as well, and a lot of authors and creatives can do is you can actually try on these different personalities and these different roles that you either can’t or may never be able to do in your life through your fiction. And that’s one of the coolest things I think about writing fiction.

[00:39:33] VD: Me too. I mean, it really does provide endless avenues for us, right? Especially for PLUs.

[00:39:43] BS: And then the other one though is I’ve always wanted to be a film director, and that –

[00:39:49] VD: I think you’d be good at that.

[00:39:50] BS: Thank you. But, again, it’s just not a path that I went down, and I also know that there’s so much to it. I was in a short film once and it was here in Milwaukee that it was – So this was filmed like, I don’t know, eight years ago or something, and it was a short film and it was a musical. And I was like a Busby girl, a Busby bee dancer. And we actually filmed in this old dilapidated supper club called The Gobbler, which is right outside of Milwaukee. And this supper club – There’s quite a few supper clubs in the Midwest. One of the many things I love about the Midwest is just a lot of the historical architecture that’s still around. But The Gobbler was falling apart and they were about to like tear it down because they couldn’t sell it to anybody. And you create the supper club again, it just wasn’t happening. And so we ended up filming this like strange musical number thing there. It’s a short film and it was called Missed Connections, which is based off of like a craigslist thing.

So anyways, we were wearing these little leotards and everything in there and doing this Busby girls, like kind of chorus girl type of dance. And everything in there was falling apart. And they had no electricity, no running water. There were just dead rodents everywhere. There was mold. We shouldn’t have been in there filming this thing, but there we were. And I have to tell you, I mean, after all the years of dancing, being in a film, even a short film like that, was such hard work. We were there all day and especially because we had to perform. We had to do take after take after take, “Okay, do it again, this angle, this camera, this lighting.” I was exhausted. I mean, we were wearing heels and then we were like dancing on the bar and it was just so disgusting and scary in there. Everything was purple and pink too. I mean, it was just like the weirdest experience. But after that moment, I really had such a new respect for these filmmakers, and these were independent filmmakers here in Milwaukee. A pair of directors who work together that are super awesome. But whole new respect for them with all of the work that goes into that. And writing fiction is a way to do that, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than directing a film, let me tell you.

[00:42:29] VD: Well, it’s true because you’re on your feet. Yeah, it is. I mean, to some extent, writing fiction is a physical endeavor, but not to that extent. I mean, all the ways that you have to sort of get down on it and go from this angle and that angle, like you said, I think that’s really hard. And I think with photography it’s the same way, because I think if I were to pick up something, it would have been photography when I was younger, which I really loved to do, but fell by the wayside. So I can’t even imagine the 10,000 hours that they tell you to put into fiction, for instance, or anything that you do. To think about putting those 10,000 hours into something like film, it is so much work.

[00:43:07] BS: Yeah, because of all the people that are involved as well. I think that’s really where the challenge comes in. And it’s trying to – You create that vision and then you have to see it come alive and you have to depend on so many other variables, unlike fiction where it is just all you as an author to create that world and create those characters .

[00:43:32] VD: Exactly. And you can just sort of stop, put it down, make a sandwich and come back and your words are there. And if you’ve hired a bunch of people and you’ve got to get that shot or those shots in that day because they’re not coming back tomorrow, you’ve got to be there until it’s over.

[00:43:48] BS: Totally. And I think too, for the listeners, if you’re kind of similar to me and Victoria where you want to do all of these different things and maybe you never got to, I think it’s good to look at what you are doing today and how you’re actually channeling that urge into other ways you may not have expected. So just like the example I said, lounge singer in the 1940s. I wrote a book where I was able to be that person, because when you write a book and you create these characters, you become those characters for usually a couple of years. And as far as a film director, same thing, writing books, but also this podcast. A lot of the work that I do for my business, Super Neat, where we are producing blogs and videos and websites, I mean, that’s all creative content. So I think sometimes we can maybe go through life thinking we have unfinished business, because there are these other things that we always dreamed of doing and even if they’re really random. But a lot of times if you look at the way you’re living your life and the things you’re doing, you’re already doing those other things just maybe not in the way that you expected.

[00:44:57] VD: Yes. If you were talking to your younger self –

[00:45:01] BS: The one who was totally against technology, who’s like had a little sign marching around the college classroom. I’m just kidding. I put it all into my essays.

[00:45:14] VD: If you’re talking to your younger self, what improvements would you ask yourself to make regarding your approach to like your inspiration and all the work that you put into things? So like inspiration and perspiration, right? Like I for instance would tell myself to focus on working smarter rather than working harder to get the same result. Although that’s kind of difficult because how do you tell yourself to do that? That’s something that you sort of come up on through practice, right? So what would you want to tell your younger self? What advice would you give yourself?

[00:45:46] BS: The 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration is so funny and true in a lot of ways. I would say it’s sweat. Sweat a lot, but drink copious amounts of water, because you will eventually feel depleted if you just keep working hard and sweating all the time and you need to replenish yourself. And the water is really, really important for cooling yourself and replenishing yourself. And I’m actually a fire sign. So I’m a Sagittarian. I’ve got a birthday coming up.

[00:46:33] VD: So is my husband.

[00:46:34] BS: Oh yeah? My condolences. What is your sign, Victoria?

[00:46:40] VD: I’m a Cancer.

[00:46:40] BS: Oh, okay. Yeah, my husband’s a Pisces. So he’s a water sign. I’m a fire sign. So back to that whole idea of fire and water and the way that those two elements balance each other, I think the same goes for how you work. And for me, I know being this life enthusiast and being – Like I said, I’ve been called a firecracker more than once. So there’s this heat and there’s this fire and there’s this energy, but all of those things can cause burnout and they can fizzle out. I mean the firecracker has a very short amount of time where it explodes beautifully in the air and then there’s nothing left after that. I think it’s really important to remember to cool those fires and to balance that heat with something like water and just thinking about that imagery has helped me a lot. And I mean I’ve always loved to swim and I’ve always loved the ocean and it’s really important for me to be near water. And growing up in Southern California, I very often would swim or go to the ocean. And I never really made that connection until later in life with how important that element was for me to keep in mind and also to have in my life, like getting dehydrated because you get overheated. I mean, there’s just this very obvious connection to me now between the body and the mind. And yes, a lot of that has to do with yoga, but it also has to do with being a lifelong dancer and always having that connection, but now really seeing that more than ever. So I would tell my younger self to sweat but drink copious amounts of water.

[00:48:36] VD: It’s actually perfect. Is there anything in specific that discourages you? And not just like getting burned out. In the same way that you know a sunny day, for instance, can light a fire beneath a person and make them feel very encouraged and productive. Is there anything specific? Whether it is atmospheric? Whether it is energy-wise with another human being? Whatever it is. Is there something specific that you really have to avoid because you find it particularly discouraging?

[00:49:11] BS: Oh yeah. There’re a lot of things. I’m going to be succinct here. But I think a lot of it just really has to do with expectations. That’s what ends up discouraging me is whenever – And it can be my own expectations or expectations I think other people have of me. And so it’s really about managing expectations all around, because I do get very sensitive about things. If I feel like I’ve failed another person and/or even like if I look at my work, failing a client because we created something and it didn’t quite turn out the way that they expected. I have to get over that idea of failure that I didn’t meet their expectations and I have to focus instead on those solutions and still moving forward. So I think that’s a big one for me, is just managing expectations. A lot of that is tied into perfectionism. Of course, that is something I have battled my whole life. I know that that is a strength and a weakness. I always used to use that answer on job interviews. What’s your biggest strength? What’s your biggest weakness? Same answer for both, perfectionism, and I really mean that.

[00:50:37] VD: Well, no, you’re so right, because perfection is the enemy of progress. But at the same time, if you don’t strive for perfection, you don’t do your best work.

[00:50:45] BS: Yeah there’s a really great Margaret Atwood quote that I used to have on my Instagram bio, “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a single word.”

[00:50:55] VD: Yes. But then I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever have a problem writing the single word, but then I’ll edit it to death. I’ll just keep going over it and then I’ll keep adding to it and just prolonging the process. And sometimes a very unproductive way, right?

[00:51:15] BS: That’s why I’ve kind of challenged myself this year, and even last year I was planning to start a different podcast when I had my other business that folded because of COVID, which was Clove Travel and Wellness. It was supposed to be this content publication and a podcast about staying healthy while traveling, which of course just went down the shitter.

[00:51:40] VD: Yeah, down the COVID rabbit hole.

[00:51:43] BS: Yeah, exactly. I challenge myself, as a way of getting away from my perfectionism tendencies, to focus on something that I am not as good at, which is communicating with my voice and speaking and doing this podcast and not having quite so many options to perfect things. Yes, you can edit to a certain extent, but not in the same way that you can with writing.

[00:52:14] VD: That’s true, because I mean the conversation is what it is, and you can clean it up and perhaps make it sound a little more succinct with editing like you said. But, ultimately, you’re on your feet in these podcasts, and it’s both exciting and thrilling and dangerous.

[00:52:32] BS: Yeah, I mean it’s putting myself out there in a whole new way, definitely, because I also know that writing is my comfort zone. Writing is my bigger strength. But I can’t just keep doing that forever. And I think it’s a really good lesson for all of us too is just like, “Okay, do what you love, and if that’s something you’ve been doing your whole life, great. Keep becoming a master of that. Go beyond the 10,000 hours. Go way beyond that.” And then see if you can channel that into something new. And for me that was podcasting, because there’s still a lot of things I love about blogging and writing that I can channel into this venture as well. But the other interesting thing about it, which I’ve really struggled with, is I’m having to pay my dues again. And that’s been very, very difficult for me. And I finally figured out what it was. I was like, “Oh! I’m paying my dues now as a podcaster because I switched directions creatively into uncharted territory.” Something people weren’t used to me doing. Did some of my blogging audience come over to listen to this podcast? Sure. Not all of them. A lot of them just prefer my writing over my podcast or they just prefer reading instead of listening. It’s been really interesting. I’m having to pay my dues again, but it’s been really good for me too.

[00:53:54] VD: I think you’ve answered my next question, but I’m not sure. Because I was going to ask what part of your creative portfolio you wish your readers, listeners/audience paid more attention to.

[00:54:06] BS: My fiction.

[00:54:08] VD: Okay. So it’s not. It is a different one. All right.

[00:54:10] BS: I would actually say my fiction, and it’s so funny that you asked that because I had a guy on Instagram asked me. Just started following me like a month ago and he has been really responsive as I’ve been sharing blogs and like podcasts and then he said, “I didn’t realize that you were an author. I just bought one of your books.” And I think that’s a big thing for a lot of people where they don’t realize that I have a blog, I have another business. I now have this podcast. I have also written four works of fiction. The fourth one I’m self-publishing. That’ll be coming out in the winter at some point. But yeah, there’re three books. They’re on Amazon. And they’ve been there. Yeah, they don’t get a lot of love, and a lot of that is being an indie author. We don’t have this big publishing house and marketing team and you can only market yourself in so many ways. But I don’t market my fiction too much. It’s hard for me, and I definitely prefer just connecting with people and sharing blogs and sharing these podcasts and –

[00:55:13] VD: And hoping it’ll trickle down.

[00:55:15] BS: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, you kind of hope that’ll trickle down, but it either does or it doesn’t. So anyways, it’s something I could probably do a better job of bringing more awareness to. But, also, I wrote all three of those books so many years ago. I’m such a different person now. And I’m also okay with like maybe that was more of a phase in a part of my life. Like I don’t know if I’m going to keep writing fiction. That may have just been something that I did that I don’t continue to do. I’m not sure.

[00:55:45] VD: What’s your favorite novel or story that you’ve written and why is it your favorite?

[00:55:50] BS: I think for a lot of authors the first is always going to be your favorite. So that was Beneath the Satin Gloves, and that is actually my most popular novel because it is a World War II time travel kind of thriller and spy novel. So what’s not to love there? There’s a lot of excitement. But I personally love my third novel, which is Nola Fran Evie, and it is also historical fiction and it is about three women whose lives intersect after the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League folds. And they had met and played during the league together and it’s about what happens afterwards, after the league was over and the war was over and these women had to go back to the kitchen and were expected to go back into these traditional roles.

And so a lot of it actually takes place in the 50s. It bounces back and forth between the 50s and the 40s. And it’s not all about baseball. I know that’s scared off some people where they’re like, “Uh-oh, is this going to be about baseball the whole time?” and it’s not. But the story behind that is that I actually had bought a vintage handbag here in Milwaukee some years ago and hidden inside the folds of the bag where these artifacts from 1954, and that just happened to be the same year that the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League actually folded was in 1954. And there was a pair of baseball tickets that were in there and then there was a voting receipt, and on the back of that voting receipt in a woman’s handwriting there was a shopping list and it said – I’m trying to see if I can remember everything that was on there, but it was like shoes, chocolate, film, loan. I believe those were the four things that were on there.

And so Nola Fran Evie was created based off of that discovery that I just – I mean, literally bought this handbag in a vintage store here in Milwaukee. Had it for I think a year before I kind of opened up the folds and found these things. And so it’s very special to me because it just felt like it was meant to be, that I was meant to tell the story of the woman who owned that handbag. And so there’s just this very magical connection. And it’s not a book. It’s so different from Beneath the Satin Gloves and it’s not as popular because it’s not like a spy novel and there’s not a bunch of guns and –

[00:58:23] VD: There’s no time travel.

[00:58:24] BS: And time travel. Like it’s a lot more straightforward and also very positive, but it’s very much about the roles that these women had to play and the roles that they were trying to move away from is very much a novel about feminism. And that has obviously been a very strong theme over the last few years. And I published this back in 2014. So it’s very dear to me, and I’m very excited because I had heard that there’s A League of Their Own TV series that’s coming out. So it looks like there’s kind of a resurgence in the popularity of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. And I’m so happy about that, because before the movie A League of Their Own came out, this part of history was very much swept under the rug. So I’m very happy that more of this awareness is coming out about these women who were so kick-ass and really stepped into these roles that men had to abandon to go trade their baseball bats for grenades. And yeah, it’s very special to me because of that story and also because of the way that these women really set the tone for women empowerment.

[00:59:43] VD: Yeah. Are you planning on trying to market Nola Fran Evie on the tail of that A League of Their Own television show? Maybe kind of try to connect the marketing and see if you can get some interest in the book as a standalone?

[00:59:59] BS: Yeah. Yeah. I think so. And every year there’s actually –

[01:00:02] VD: What an opportunity.

[01:00:04] BS: In May, I think at the end of May, it’s National Women in Baseball Day. And I’ve actually sent a copy of the book over to AAGPBL, which is the All-American Girls Professional League Association. They have a Facebook page, Twitter and all that. I sent them a free copy of the book and we’ve connected and they’ve shared my book a couple of times. They’re a great organization that’s still alive and well. And yeah, I think there’re some connections that can be made there. But I think, overall, I’m just so happy that there is interest in that again and that there’s more awareness being brought to these great women in history.

[01:00:38] VD: Yeah, no kidding. Me too. I loved A League of Their Own by the way too. I had no idea. I had no idea about women in baseball until then. I mean, zero.

[01:00:48] BS: Most people.

[01:00:49] VD: Yeah, it’s like hidden figures. You know too that the women who [crosstalk 01:00:53] It’s just incredible.

[01:00:55] BS: Yeah, I haven’t seen that yet. I need to check that out. I would love that.

[01:00:59] VD: Okay. So now, of course, because I’m the interviewer, I have to say to you, well, where can listeners find more info? Where can they get these fantastic books? Where can they get your stuff? I mean, no. But, really, because that’s something that you don’t get to do on your podcast, right? You don’t just say – Apart from saying listen to my podcast. It feels self-serving to be like, “Oh, buy my books.” But people should. Your books are great.

[01:01:24] BS: Thank you, Victoria. Yeah, I definitely don’t like to do self-serving stuff on my podcast besides encouraging people to subscribe to the email newsletter, etc. Yeah, I will leave all of the links in the show notes on the episode page. But if you look on Amazon Britt Skrabanek, you’ll find all three of my books, and they are all very reasonably priced because I am an indie author, so I can do that. And then I am on social media, of course. BSkrabanek on Instagram Brit Skrabanek everywhere else, and then of course there are the Love Your Enthusiasm channels, which I encourage everyone to follow, because with all of the guests, I like to give them lots of love. And we are sharing some really cool stuff on social media all the time to inspire you. So there’s also like these “graphics” that I create based on these amazing quotes from the guests, and there’re audio clips, and there’s just a very ongoing stream of inspiration on the Love Your Enthusiasm social channel. So I do encourage everyone to stay connected with me through there as well.

[01:02:34] VD: I love the video of you dancing in your kitchen. You should do like a whole dancing and cooking series.

[01:02:40] BS: Yes. Yes. If you go to my personal Instagram, somewhat recently I did just throw on – I had a really bad day that day so I just kind of like threw on the camera and did some dishes dancing and shared it. So, yeah.

[01:02:53] VD: That’s great.

[01:02:56] BS: Victoria, thank you so much for doing this. Of course, it was so much fun.

[01:03:01] VD: Thank you. It was fabulous. I loved it. So thanks for the opportunity to interview you and get a chance to know you even better and hear you kind of elaborate on all this stuff that we’ve touched upon in the past, but maybe just not – But didn’t expand upon.

[01:03:21] BS: It was terrifying, but you’ve definitely put me at ease, and I knew that if I had you be the host and take over Love Your Enthusiasm, that was going to be in good hands.

[01:03:32] VD: That’s awesome. Anytime you want me to take over and interview you again, I’m so happy to do it.

[OUTRO]

[01:03:40] BS: I wanted to give a big shout out to Ra Avis for leaving a lovely Apple Podcasts review for the show. Ra said, “A podcast that shows you how big the concept of authenticity is. How many different ways there are to live and find your fullest life?” Ra, I really appreciate the review. Thank you for being the best. Ra was an amazing guest back in episode 16 where she talked about the practice of forgiveness. This is one of Love Your Enthusiasm’s top episodes of all time. So definitely check that one out. If you love the show, please take a moment to leave a review on Apple Podcasts as reviews absolutely matter for small shows like mine.

Thanks for tuning in, and happy New Year.

[END]

A podcast where creators, teachers, and explorers inspire you to follow your greatest passion.

Get the latest episodes delivered straight to your inbox

By entering your email address and clicking “subscribe” you agree to our privacy policy.