Preparation is Part of the Process

Sometimes it feels like the efforts we put into our personal work is useless and isn’t worth the time. If we were to calculate the hours we put into each project and see how much it’s costing us, it might cause us to give up. The only thing we know is that we love it and no one has to pay us to do it.

The pace of life can move so fast that we don’t have the time to prepare ourself. We hit record, or show up and rely on our past experience that we will know what to do next. But when is there time to study, read, and build? Be prepared for the opportunity to come is advice I’ve always taken to heart, but never really put it to action because I just didn’t have the time to. When do we have time to ask questions like, “What do you really want to do?” “What do you really want to make?””What impact on others do you want to have?”- let alone get them answered.

Now that I am at home with my daughter I am gifted with these open hours to do whatever I wish with my time while she sleeps. Because these moments can be 30 minutes to an hour, I have to use it wisely. For the first time in my creative life, I am able to work on work for myself. As I am taking the time to relearn a few things, research, read books that interest me, I am discovering new ideas and desires I never knew I had. When my daughter and I hang out at my local book store, I am noticing a pattern of what type of books I am picking up. Or when I work on youtube videos its allowing me for the first time to create for me. When I step back and see what all these things have in common. I can see clearly what it is I am passionate about. There is no job description for what it is I want to do, because it doesn’t exist.

I want to shout to the world all the things I am dreaming, but I know I have to invest time into my work before I can share anything. Every week I am showing up, putting in whatever hours I am able to. We hear these stories of how others are being successful, and I can’t help but wonder what the secret is. As I am pouring hours into my work, I am realizing it’s work. Preparing is part of the process, its what will make the difference between failure and success.

Yes I haven’t made any deposit into my back account, but I am pouring into my daughter, raising her, and when I get the chance pouring my creativity into myself. Building my dreams, hour by hour.

So I encourage you, whatever phase you are in, take sometime to prepare for what it is you really want to do. I’ve learned it doesn’t take hours like we use to do in school, but small breaks. Take the time to build something for yourself, your future self will thank you, and might even pay you.

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IKEA

One of my favorite stores to go to is IKEA. I think it’s the showroom display that I enjoy most. It reminds me of the future that could be. One day I will have a house of my own and get to decorate it. Or maybe its because it reminds me of a television set, and photos can look like a movie scene. Whatever it is, there is something magical about that place.

Season of Grace

Last night I was thinking about my time living in Australia. I remembered the feeling of missing my family and how far they felt from me. There were a few weeks I was living with a friend on her farm. I remember laying in her room looking at her walls wondering, “How did I get here?”

When I think back on those days, I can’t imagine living far from my life again. How did I do it then? I was younger, had less money, had no job or car.. then I heard, “It was grace.”

That was sure a season of Grace. Now looking back I see what a miracle every moment was. I look at life now, the responsibilities I have at work, the task of managing others, having people refer to me as, “boss”. If I could live in Australia all alone, I can do this task I’ve been given. God will once again give me that grace.

I often like to remember my time in Sydney. It reminds me of what GOD can do and will do! Let me break it down to you, I’m from a culture where everyone is just making their bills, no one really travels. I was just graduating college and had this CRAZY dream! “I want to go to bible college in Australia.” My mom didn’t realize where Australia was until I was already gone. Her co-worker had to show her on the map.

Oh it seemed so impossible but the more I read my bible the MORE possible it was. When I graduated, I was GIVEN $10,000. Can you believe that? Well I bought my ticket, paid for my housing, my tuition paid in full.. and I lived, breathed, and thank God everyday for the blue Sydney sky that was above me. I will never forget it. It was a miracle.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of the battles that we won though God in the past. And remember that we didn’t do it alone. Every season there is grace available, we just have to grab on to it.
Whatever it is, what ever it may be, it will always be possible to those who believe.

Q&A: My Interview with You

The past few years I’ve blogged to an audience of two. I would mainly create posts for my high school best friend. She would text me asking me when I was going to write something new. I began to write about everything I was in to; Photography, editing, film making, books, traveling, God. Soon other friends and co-workers were reading, they would stop me in the halls and want to talk about what I wrote last night.
This alarmed me, “Who else is reading?” My first reaction was to close up but I knew it was honesty that was drawing more readers.
I started to receive emails from young girls who wanted to become film makers, guys who wanted me to check out their videos to critique, people who were searching for hope, others who just wanted to be inspired.. Two blog readers became one thousand. 

I often wonder about you. I wonder who you are, how did you find me but most of all I wonder about your creative journey.



I’ve learned that sharing where you come from can help others. So here is my interview with you –
What is your hometown like?

What are you most passionate about?

What inspires you?

What subject can you talk hours about?

What is your dream job?

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?

What was your first positive creative experience?

What do you blog about?

What is your message to the world?

music

I look forward to hearing from you 🙂

Blog: You are the Investment

When starting out in your creative career you will find that you need equipment, lots of it. At first its hard to put your hard working money into something that you aren’t even sure about. You may look to professionals and feel so far away from their level.

When I first started out in photography, I didn’t believe in myself. It took me forever to finally buy a $800 dollar Rebel Canon. The price tag seemed like a million dollars. I remember going in to the store and realizing, if I didn’t buy this camera, I would never get better at my craft.

That winter I traveled to Australia. I was so excited to finally use my camera. The last night I was in Sydney, I left my belongings in a friends car, including my camera. The next morning, everything was gone. Stolen. My heart sank knowing all my photos of the trip were gone.

I returned home and didn’t take another photo for months. I figured my dream to be a photographer was dead.

I was allowing money to control my creative passion.

My dad found an old film SLR film camera at the local Goodwill. This time the camera was $100. The amount seemed a lot but I missed taking photos.

Even though film is limited, buying that camera was the best thing I ever did for my art. It helped me learn what I needed to be a photographer. I began sharing my photos with my friends on Facebook. To my surprise, friends and family wanted to hire me.

Every weekend I was booked with a shoot. It seemed too good to be true, doing what I love and getting paid for it. My film camera soon stopped working. It was time to buy a new camera. I wasn’t going to let money stand in the way of what I love. I wanted to get the new 7D, the question wasn’t, “Is it worth it?” but, “Was I worth it?” I placed a bid on eBay, leaving my destiny in to their hands.

I won. When I received the packed, I didn’t feel worthy. It was overwhelming. But I overcame those feelings, I knew I was worth the investment.

This battle never finishes as a creative professional. There is always new equipment to purchases. The key is being wise on what you spend money on, and if you really need it.

Every side job I get from photography I put that money in to a “creative fund”. I then use my creative money to buy the next item I need. Beware, if you are looking to buy something expensive, make sure you will use it. If looking for a lens, buy what you would use most. Test out lens and see what you like. I bought a few cheap ones that now I wish I would have saved up for what I needed.

If editing is your passion, save up for the software. Painting, save up for paint brushes. Don’t let the money stop you from growing and learning.
While you wait to save your money up, you can do the next best thing: read books about your craft. This is probably the best type of investment. Reading books about storytelling, photography, poems and so forth will enhance your creativity. I’ve read some amazing books over the past few years and posted blogs about them. Do a search on my blog for “books”.

How do you invest in your talent?

Blog: The City I Call Home (Not by Choice)

I’ve been avoiding writing this post for a few days now and probably if I were honest, a few years. It’s a post that feels like I’m revealing a secret, a lie I told so many, mainly by avoiding the question:

“Where are you from?”

My city is like a rest stop you’d see off the freeway; small and practical. There’s not much to see but lots to say. First, you have the local grocery store; Have a dollar ready for the homeless man or woman, if you are caught off guard they will bug you until they get something, think of it as, ‘you are paying them to leave you alone. ‘ If you walk pass the bus stop, you’ll see a tree covered in flowers. Next to it is an article of the bus driver that got shot here. He is now a local hero, the article says he was a faithful worker, husband and father, its a shame he had to go that way.

Then there is Jackson Street. The most dangerous street in the city. They even tried to change the name in hope it would improve the reputation. My aunt use to live on that street, she didn’t know it was so dangerous. She was a single mom with two small kids, it was all she could afford. When we found out she was living there, we invited her to stay with my family. I grew up with my aunt and cousins living with me. I remember asking stories about Jackson St., Weren’t you scared? Was it really that bad?

I pass by my elementary school everyday. I remember how they put me in a special class called R.S.P, the kids would say it meant, “Really Stupid People.” They kept taking me out of class for special learning lessons, but it was causing me to fall behind. My doctor later found out it was my hearing that was the issue, that is why I wasn’t responding to my teacher call my name. I blame my elementary school for making me think I was stupid. I wonder what they use to think when I would win awards for my stories. Why is this girl winning writing awards? Isn’t she one of those stupid kids in the special class? Finally in sixth grade I was put in the front row so I could hear better. All through out middle school I got straight A’s, graduated high school with honors, a 3.5 g.p.a.

And now, the only place you might find me in this town is in the local Starbucks. I thank Starbucks for helping my city be a better place. The city of Seattle’s finger print can be found all over the world. If only my hometown could change the world, if only my hometown could believe that it had the power to be an influence. When I drive down the street I can’t help but think I don’t belong here.  My city culture tells me this is all their is and to be happy with it, but it doesn’t realize I’ve seen the world. It doesn’t realize I rejected its identity for me long ago when I was a teenager, I will not become this place, I will not become my culture.

No matter where one’s from, they can still strive and be something more than what society says their going to be. Rise above what culture says you should be. My culture tells me I should have never seen the world. Everyday I have to tell my culture I am different… I am not from here, I’m just passing through.

Book: Pursuing Christ. Creating Art.

I couldn’t help but compare the book Pursuing Christ Creating Art with the Imagine How Creativity Works. By the first few pages,  I figured out it wasn’t about being more creative but instead about the heart of the artist.

Even though you may be a different religion, I truly believe an editor/artist has to have the right heart for the project, any project. You gotta care about what you are creating. An assistant editor once tweeted me, “Art from the heart.”

I read most of the book on my flight to Vancouver. This book  found me at the right time. The author’s occupation is an independent film maker, creating sermon illustrations and other type of videos for churches. Therefore he was speaking in my language.

“An artist is a heart condition, not a job.”

“…art finds it’s truest purpose when it’s creator attempts to make visible the invisible.”

“I honestly believe beautiful art can change the world.”

I must admit at times working for church, I felt like I was doing God a service. I would often refer to myself as a Martha. Martha was a women in the bible who was busy preparing dinner for Jesus while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him talk. Martha is known for getting upset with Mary for not helping. I’ve always understood Martha’s heart but I’m finally coming to understand Mary.

“We don’t create art for God. He  doesn’t need it. But He dreams of creating art with you, for the world.”

Since I don’t have an official title to my name anymore, I related to the identity chapter. When people ask me what I do, it takes me a while. I say something different each time.

“identity is the person you are. Regardless of your actions. Take your actions away – both good and bad – and whatever is left is your identity. And there’s only one identity that has any value. A child of God.”

I know I learned this as a little girl in Sunday school but reading it on my flight to Canada it felt even more true. I thought my identity was what I did. I also misunderstood freedom.

we tend to believe freedom is- the ability to do whatever we want, whenever we want.”

“Real freedom is the ability to tell Gods story with your unique voice.”

Reading this artist definition of freedom spoke to me. It was the kind of freedom I’ve been searching for.

“we can use our freedom as an opportunity to serve – to live large into the lives of others.”

I was being challenged by each line, challenged to be honest with myself, to admit my wrong turns in my thinking and to admit change within myself.

“it’s hard to pursue Christ in the mist of pursuing my own fame.”

“we must be careful that we don’t love our dreams more than other people.”

“the art we create cannot be our salvation. And when we ask our art to save us in any manner, we’ve created something more than art. We’ve creates an idol.”

“humans have no control over their dream outcomes.”

“I am going to plead with you not to give up on your gift. On your art you have been uniquely designed to create.”

“Never stop sharing the beautiful Story through your art.”

“platform only displays skill level, not heart condition.”

I wanna create stuff that matters. Its a desires that ever artist has. Reading another’s artist experience can help us navigate through our own travels.
That’s what I hope to do when sharing my journey with you. 🙂

Blog: Vancouver – The Journey to the Conclusion

To understand my trip to Vancouver, I must give you some background info. My trip to Vancouver wasn’t just a place that I wanted to visit but it was a place I have been considering moving to. I heard about it a few years after I came back from Australia. It was a city that was growing and thriving in the film industry.

The morning that I was going to the airport I could feel that something was different. I was slowly walking in to the third act. And a conclusion was upon me. I was finally going to get some answers to some of my inner questions about where to go? What to do? What do I want? What does God want? I was excited but I was also scared of the answers.

When you travel, you face things you try to ignore. They come out of your heart. Your perspective becomes so evident, it shows you how you see the world. You begin to see who you really are. You are in a new atmosphere and you become the outsider. And like a child, you begin to experience things for the first time.

The first day I went to an art museum and they had this amazing exhibit called Beat Nation. Basically its was Native Americans mixing traditions and urban youth culture. It was interesting to see them use pop culture to share their story. They were searching for their identity in the mist of culture change. These young people were finding their voice in modern culture. They were finding their identity in their ancestors. I began to ask questions about where do I get my identity from.

Now that I have no title attached to my name, I am left with only the core. The Creator’s daughter.
As I walked around the “promise land”, I couldn’t help but feel this wasn’t real. I was actually here after all those years of talking about it.

I think any city can feel like home the moment you make a friend. It gives a reason to be there. I met up with a girl who I met through Anabel. Aura was the person I was talking to about making the move. We went to Granville for dinner to talk about life, God and Canada. After, the sun was still up so we decided to go for a walk at her local park. I was blown away at the fresh air. I stood standing outside just taking it all in.

The following day, I met up with another friend but I have to stay at a local Starbucks until she gets out of work. So I’m there killing time, reading and playing on my phone. I figure this is probably a good time to spend with God. So I open my bible to a scripture that spoke directly to me, “Wait with hope for the Lord. And follow His path and He will honor you by giving you the Land…He saves them because they have taken refuge in Him.” I could see myself living here but I also came to a point of saying, “Lord, I don’t want my dreams but I want Yours. My dream is Your dream.”

Soon Ada arrived and we headed towards Main St. to look at some Antique shops.

I found that people in Canada are really friendly. The owner of the shop started to talk to us and told us that the city was going to knock down the older buildings on Main St., that his store only had a few days left opened. I was in disbelieve, doesn’t the city know that travelers love places like this! I guess they want to make the street look new.

There were blocks and blocks of amazing stores.

Ada told me I was lucky to get a sunny days in Vancouver. Being from California, every day is a sunny day. It wasn’t until we went to Kit Beach did I believe her. It seemed like the whole city was out doing something.

We walked over to Granville Island for a snack. Little did I know how much food I was about to see. There was so much variety, I couldn’t pick.

The city was no longer a stranger but a place I felt more and more comfortable in. It was so full of life and different cultures. The sun was setting at 10pm. I told my friend that I am driven by the sun, if I lived here, I’d probably be outside all day.

I told Ada about a clock I had seen a photo of when I googled Vancouver. When she took me to Gastown to see it, it felt like a dream. The clock was light up so gracefully. I was standing right where I wanted to be.

The next morning I was exhausted but I wanted to see some nature before I left. So I made my way over to Standly Park for a morning walk.

I rushed back to Ada’s place as we were off to a friend’s birthday party in White Rock. We stopped by the beach to snap some photos. It was so beautiful.

And my last and final evening in Vancouver. The sun went back behind the clouds as we walked the rainy streets.

This trip brought me to a conclusion I could have only had by playing it out. It took a journey to a far away land to come to a conclusion. I guess the point of my trip was to learn how to surrender to God’s plan and trusting in Him. I am allowing Him to direct my steps. Vancouver is beautiful, I did enjoy it and I even miss it but now I can go forth and allow God to unfold something new.

And so I am in the third act. And the third act, I’m excited about it.

Audio: Once Upon a Time


Once upon a time I didn’t take photos. I didn’t even edit videos. What did I do with my creativity? -I miss understood it, I miss understood myself.

An old friend commented on my wedding post on facebook and said, “Too bad you didn’t take photos when I got married..” It got me thinking, “Wow, there was a time when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.”

This is the first photo on my flickr account. It’s of me in LA, back on page 287. When I see this photo, I see a girl who was at the beginning of her journey.

I write this post not to talk about me but to remind you that where you are now doesn’t mean you will be there forever. Life evolves and each year you discover something new about life and yourself. Today, you might be at the beginning of your journey. In a few years, that road will lead you somewhere you never thought possible. You have to choose to keep on moving forward.  To listen to yourself when you say, “I love doing this, wish I could this for a living.”

I remember for years my family misunderstood me, therefore I misunderstood myself. So much of my identity came from them that I was allowing their opinion to shape me. “You’re weird Monica,” my older sisters used to say. They were teenagers then and I was an awkward 12 year old girl. I’m sure I was weird but looking back now I was just trying to figure out who I was and their comments were holding me back.

What helped me was when I discovered God made me creative for a reason. The more I hung out with Him, the more I began to understand myself. I found my image and identity in Him.

‘Once Upon A Time’ may be right now for you. That just means you are at the beginning of the story. Keep moving, even if you feel like you’re the only one pushing yourself.

Between Now and Then

A few years ago my dad shared a youtube video with me. It was of a motivation speaker named Les Brown. I laughed at how old fashion the graphics and studio audience looked but once I started listening he caught my attention. He spoke about inner conversation about our dreams, that our worst enemy can be ourselves.

“If you wanna keep on getting what’cha getting, keep on doing what’cha doing.”

“You are the director of your life.”

“The future is unfolding for you right now, its unlimited.”

“No one knows where you can go..you don’t even know that.”

“If you aren’t willing to risk, you can not grow, and if you can not grow, you can not become your best, and if you can not become your best, you can not be happy, and if you can not be happy, then what else is there.”

I was so impacted and encouraged I saved the video to my itunes.

This week it came up on my shuffle. I let it play and to my surprise a lot of what he was saying I had overcome. I realized the growth of my inner conversation. I no longer talked my self out of my dreams but now I was encouraging myself. Positive growth doesn’t happen over night, it took a journey. Don’t let your life pass you by, be encouraged, all things are possible, dreams take hard work. So endure till the end. 🙂

The Future of Possibilities

Today as I came in to the church office I saw a young man taking out the trash. I then pictured him as one of the young pastors of the church. I pictured him with his daughter in one arm, the bible in the next and his wife beside him. A man in his destiny. I could clear see what his life would look like as one of the pastors of the church. I then wonder if he ever saw this for his life.   Not that a pastor is the greatest spiritual goal but its a place that many wouldn’t ever see themselves being good enough for.

“Good enough.” It’s something we battle with all of our lives. At the end of the day it matters how we see our selves. God has done his part, he had the most poetic love letter written called the Bible. He tells us, “Be strong and courageous”,  “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

There were once these blind men who wanted their sight. They came before Jesus and Jesus told them, “According to your faith let it be to you.” Their eyes were then open. This made me think of the dreams I’ve told Christ about. I image Him having the same responds..

“According to your faith let it be to you.” Looks like Jesus put the ball in our court, He is now waiting for our heart to align with His plans for our life.  Proverbs says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

If we can get our heart connected to His, then we will be able to see what He sees…The Future of Possibilities.

‘Fly away little bird’

Fly away little bird
spread your wings wide
Fly away little bird
don’t be afraid of the sky
It holds many beautiful things
sights to see
moments to capture
Fly away
as if nothing can stop you
leave the ground
as much as you want to
Shake out the sand
from under your wings
take to the air
and see new things
A little bird, though you are
Your dreams are big
Your heart is bold
Your eyes see far
but as you fly
to where you want to go
don’t lose sight
of what you have now
and what you know
Fly away little bird

– A friend wrote this for me on my birthday last year. I read it often and it reminds me of my heart.

Honesty..How do you do it?

I’ve been confronted with this questions for a while…

In my younger days, I was known for my honesty. By the time I was nineteen, I was a bit out of control. It kinda gave me a bad reputation. Strange to think about that time now cause that person who I once was no longer exists. I’ve learned that being honest isn’t always the best thing to do. It hurt people’s feelings and it made me a horrible person. I liked saying what was on my mind, but growing up I was starting to see the danger in it.

And so in my early twenties I began to control what I said. By my mid-twenties I controlled everything I said a little too well that I began to no longer be honest with myself. A friend that I met a few years ago told my last year, “Monica, you edit everything that you say that you lie to yourself.” Which was so true. I put the honest side of my personality away so much that it was causing me to become a different person.

Now I am discovering that I went too far with not being truthful when it comes to expressing my heart. I rather just smile and deal with what I have to deal with or just let it pass. This method has worked for the past few years, but just recently I’ve been haunted by my dreams.

I strongly believe that dreams speak to us. I’ve discover that in my dreams I can not lie to myself. The past year, every night I dream that I am in a bathrobe trying to find some privacy to take a shower.  Everyone from my work place seems to show up and interprets me. I try to get away from them as I am awkwardly nude under my bathrobe. Now my dream book says many things about this subject, but some lines that stand out to me are ” masking feelings of our real emotions with in everyday life” and “revealing one’s true nature.” I’ve often felt guilty for having dreams, therefore I don’t share them as often as I should. Or I don’t express how I really feel when it comes to relationships.

Honesty has made my life complicated in the past. After all, the first line in my short film was, “honesty made two lovers enemies.” I remember I was talking to my friend after knowing him for three-years about when we first met. He told me that I sent him a message once that freaked him out. I asked why and he told me why. I then said, “OOOhhh, I didn’t mean that at all, in fact I thought I was making things less awkward by being honest.” The truth was, I wasn’t being TOTALLY honest which lead to his misunderstanding. Well, I wish I could say that this type of misunderstanding has happened to me once but in fact not so.

So where is that line of honesty? I have no idea. But I know I have to exercise it, other wise I might just lose myself. A goal I have set for 2011 is to be honest to myself and others. So I’ve ruined some relationships in the past because of my lack of honesty, its okay. I guess they were destined to fail the moment I couldn’t be honest.

So I ask you, “Honesty, how do you do it?”

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