Tag Archives: writing

“How to be a gardener.” A guest lesson by Monise Brabham.

So they say gardening is therapeutic, right? You’d really have to ask my husband, since he’s the gardener/landscaper in the family. He works really hard to keep our flowerbeds looking beautiful. There was one time I felt compelled to help him get all those pesky little weeds out. Sadly, I didn’t realize what I had signed up for until after I had sat down and really looked at the ridiculous amount of weeds that had pretty much overtaken our used-to-be-beautiful flowerbeds. At that point I was thinking, “Uh………therapeutic???” Nope, labor intensive!

For the next several hours, I sat and pulled all of the weeds out. Honestly, what kept me going was the image of beauty restored in our flowerbeds. I began to think about the other benefit of pulling the weeds: weeds not only look bad, but they can choke out life in the flowers because they compete with the flowers for water and nutrients. Ultimately and most importantly, overcrowding would be inevitable if we never pulled out weeds.

Makes sense and seems simple, right? Well now I’m forced to cross reference these simple benefits with my life. Imagine going through your life never cleaning out your closet and getting rid of old clothes, never getting rid of old papers or old technology, never leaving behind old thought processes—and of course—relationships. I begin to think about the amount of space in my life being used on things I don’t use or benefit from.

Going through the daily motions of life, we become unconscious collectors of relationships, issues, emotions, decisions, and things. There is so much power in taking inventory of our lives. Once we do this, we begin to realize just how overgrown our very own “flowerbeds” are. This means we have little to no room for growth. We’re blocking opportunities, self improvement, knowledge, beneficial relationships—and most importantly—becoming a better you.

You have two options. You can choose to ignore all the extra, unnecessary luggage you’re carrying around, and slow yourself down. Or, you can choose to invest your time in de-cluttering.

1. Inspect your relationships closely. While it’s true that not every person has to bring added value to your journey, they should definitely be a positive influence in your life. If that’s not the case, begin the process of shedding the naysayers, pessimists, leeches, and joy stealers, and fill that new space with people who are for you and want you to win.

2. Evaluate your negative emotion meter. Are you holding onto regret, animosity, anger, or fear? Remember: if you think it you become it. Let go and in comes a new perspective. This is the best way to stop blocking your blessings.

3. Purge those closets, drawers, and even under the bed. If you haven’t worn it in the past two seasons, chances are you won’t ever wear it again. Donate everything in that pile and reward yourself with two new outfits to go with the new you that is bound to occur if you truly take the time to pull the weeds in your life.

When you do all of these things, you will have more mental clarity, positive energy, and space for all the good things coming your way.

-Lesson by Monise Brabham-


Lesson #346: Getting clear.


I can’t quite explain what was happening in my brain as Amy was talking yesterday, but somewhere in the midst of it, something clicked for me. And today only confirmed it further.

Like Amy, early on in my life I fell in love with the way movies made me feel; how all these elements could come together and move a group people—even change people. Before I lost all my baby teeth or knew how to write cursive, I already was putting on shows with my Barbie dolls on my bedroom floor. By the time I was 10, I had a notebook full of novel ideas and chapters, pieces of movie and television scripts, and short plays. I wrote and devoloped a television series about a group of pre-teens living on the beach before I even had boobs. I remember asking my mom and dad to use the family computer to type all of these scripts and chapters, printing out pages and pages of stories and sticking them in Lisa Frank folders (that I still have… it’s hilarious). Kids were asking for Polly Pockets and Easy Bake ovens, and I was the kid asking for a typewriter.

My friends would come over after middle school, and we would re-enact scenes from Hannah Montana in the living room for our parents. On a shitty flip-cam that I got for Christmas one year, my neighbors and I would record ourselves singing songs we wrote in spiral notebooks that were falling apart from being written in so much. We even took turns strumming my small green guitar that we had absolutely no idea how to actually play. 

When I picked up a much better (but still shitty) camera at the age of 12 and made my first semi-real video with a friend, we decided to post it on YouTube for fun. I later found a video editing software that came with my laptop, and started experimenting with more videos. That’s when it really began.

I started making and filming my own original skits—then music videos—then movie scene re-makes—then my own short films. I gained a YouTube following and started building relationships with people in the online community who loved doing the same thing. My interest in being in front of the camera began to grow as well. During my first year of middle school in sixth grade, my mom encouraged me to try out for the school play. I won best actress for my role as the school nerd that year, and tried out and acted in the plays every year after that. I continued to do theatre all throughout high school, making friends and falling in love with the costumes and characters and stories; both performing and directing. I took what I knew from the stage, and let it inspire me to do some of the same things on camera—and I loved it.

In one of my first production classes in college, it hit me: I was developing and writing treatments before I knew what they were, and shooting low angles and high angles and rack focusing before I even knew they had names. I was a writer, producer, and sometimes actor, and I didn’t even know it. I was just doing what I loved.

As I got older, I realized it wasn’t just the act of movie-making that I loved.

It was storytelling.

As you can see—I used the word “love” at least four or five times while explaining my story.

And if that doesn’t say something, I don’t know what else does.

When Amy told us yesterday to get clear on what we want by tuning in to what we love instinctively—it only solidified the answer for me.

Storytelling runs through my veins; it’s constantly on my mind and in my heart.

But I’m still pretty confused.

I mean—I’m 20.

Storytelling is a very broad term. I like a lot of things—so many things that I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet. I don’t know where to start. I want to act. I want to talk and discuss. I want to write. I want to develop. I want to produce. I want to direct.

At my internship this summer, I love being there. I like what I’m doing and how much I’m learning. I’m working hard.

But in the midst of Amy talking, I realized something right then and there.

There are two different kinds of hard work. There’s the kind of work where you try hard because you want to appear good, be good, or look good.

And then there’s the kind of work where you’re working hard and you don’t even realize it. Where you stay up all night (like right now on the living room floor writing this) to perfect something, or understand something, or finish something. Where you work hard because you want to discover, or find, or build, or be better; because you want to make something the best that it can be.

You’re working hard for yourself.

And I realized the second is the one we’re supposed to chase after.

I found that where I worked my hardest, is creatively.

Using my brain to create. To problem solve with my eyes, heart, and mind. To figure out where something should be placed, or what to capture, or how something can be told. To strategize how it can be marketed and advertised and sold. To execute visions, and write ideas. To bring something inspiring to the world. And it’s what what feels right to me.

I don’t know where I’m going yet.

But I do know that feeling is what I’m going to follow.

Day 346.

Lesson #280: What no one told me about endings.


Sometimes things come to an end naturally.

Relationships, graduations, jobs.

Nothing bad happened. It was just—well—time.

Other times, things need to end.

It’s not good for us. It’s dull, or it’s toxic—or it’s getting there.

But today I realized that the little gray area of endings often gets overlooked. It’s right in the middle of the good and the bad.

It’s the kind of ending that’s so complex, I’m not even sure what to call it.

Unlike those good endings, it doesn’t come to a close on it’s own. And unlike those bad endings, it isn’t quite bad enough to make us want to leave.


While most everything is a choice, this one’s a little bit different.

Almost more than the other two, this uncategorized ending is the one that we dread the most, because the circumstance doesn’t really make the decision for us.

We have to.

You know the kind I’m talking about it?

Whatever we’re dealing with isn’t serving us like it used to. We aren’t growing. We aren’t thriving. We’re sad, because we don’t want to leave. But at the same time, we’re anxious, because we know we need to. We aren’t being forced to end it, but we know we can’t stay any longer either.

Everything is just so unclear. Are we imagining things? Or is this what’s supposed to happen?

I’m not so sure.

But I do know this.

One of my favorite quotes also happens to be from one of my favorite books of all time, The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

“All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”

Sometimes, you just have to trust the end.

Even if you can’t see the other side.

Some chapters just need closing.

And that’s okay.

It has to be.

Day 280.

Lesson #275: What happened when I said it out loud.


I’ve written a lot about vulnerability.

But to be honest—I’m vulnerable with you all every day. I’m vulnerable because I share my emotions. I share special moments, but I also share moments that aren’t so special. I don’t just talk about when I’m right, but I talk about when I’m wrong. I talk about things that mean a lot to me, and things that have hurt me, and people that have hurt me.

Basically, it’s all out there.

And not just with a few people. But pretty much, I dunno, like—the entire internet.

Today I learned that it’s a completely different thing to be vulnerable on paper (or on a screen, or in a dance, or on a canvas) than it is to be vulnerable in the flesh.

Each has its’ own monsters.

On paper or in any other art form, you’re usually speaking to a large audience. It’s not as close and intimate. Your expression stretches across time and space; you can’t be everywhere when someone reads it or views it or consumes it. In fact, you don’t have to be there at all. You don’t have to see a response. You don’t have to face the possibility of getting shunned, or laughed at, or judged.

But in the flesh?

Oh God.

Where do I start?

How will I sound? How will I look? Will they hate it? Does it make sense? Is it stupid? Do they actually like it? Are they just saying that to make me feel better?

You’re up close and personal. Your expression is coming from you, now. You are present. You can’t escape the risky possibilities.

So today in poetry class—after letting three of the four members in my workshop group go ahead of me, and then stalling for at least another four or five minutes—I finally read my poem aloud to them.

I’ve read a lot of poems to the class.

They’ve all been about things. About fire, or the sahara, or police brutality, or a girl in a painting.

But never about me.

See, there are really only two ways I write poetry.

I either sit down to write from a prompt, or I’m up at 2am and I can’t stop thinking about it, so I write.

I had only read aloud from poems that have originated from the former, mostly because it’s safe. I’m not saying they were good poems—they really weren’t—but there’s something so easy and secure and not vulnerable about writing on something that hasn’t actually happened to you. It wasn’t your direct experience, so it’s almost easier to talk about and have critiqued and looked at and examined.

Not only was this poem about me, but it was about one of the most personal things that has happened to me. And by personal—I mean an old, completely angsty, sappy, horribly heart-felt and emotional love poem.

Really, who wants to hear those?

And oh—it was a group of me and all guys.

So after muttering for a few minutes, and them begging to hear this self-proclaimed terrible poem, I just went for it.

I might as well have spilled my guts everywhere.

So I read them my poem about this boy. I told them how we were normal together, but how nothing was really normal anymore and how nothing would ever be, but it has to be, because he said so. I told them that it’s like a fire that has just gone out, but is still too hot to touch. I told them that I am suspended, just like stars being hung by invisible nooses in the sky, sparkling like the flashy thing he gave me. I told them I am suspended, stuck in time, waiting.

And now I guess I’ve told you too.


Now that I’ve been vulnerable in almost every way possible—

my point.

Be vulnerable in the flesh, especially.

Obviously, it’s terrifying.

I’m not saying you have to do it every day, or with everyone, or at every chance you see fit.

But open up every once in a while.

Share what you’re feeling or experiencing.

It doesn’t have to be a poem. It can be another form of writing, or speaking, or showing, or drawing, or anything else for that matter.

It’s your experience, and it’s unique.

The boys told me they loved how honest it was. They liked that it was straight forward; no bullshit. I said what I had to say. It had some cool images and great metaphors.

They said that it sounded like me on paper.

And that’s what being vulnerable is about.

Being you.

Expressing what you know, what you’ve done, what you’ve experienced.

Today’s lesson is not “Be vulnerable! I promise you’ll feel great!” or “Everyone will love it!”

But it’s this.

In being vulnerable, you can never be wrong.

You can never be silly, or stupid, or weird.

Because it’s your experience.

It’s you.

And there’s nothing wrong about that.

Day 275.

Lesson #269: Re-vision.


Revision is essential for everything in this lifetime.

It is essential for anything worth having; worth keeping.

I’m stubborn.

I’m the worst at letting things go and taking things out. In my writing, in my videos, in life.

It’s a pain in the ass, but I’ve just accepted that it’s what makes good, great.

Rearrange. Delete. Change.

When you sacrifice the old for the new, you’ll be surprised at how amazing something can actually turn out to be.

Day 269.

Lesson #147: Writing pain.


I used to think that writing would relieve some of the pain,

but I’ve found out that it doesn’t.

It just turns it into beautiful words on a page.

And I guess that’s okay too.

Day 147.