Why It’s OK To Fail with Amanda Marie Cottrell
Katerina: Hi, Amanda. How are you today? […] Could you tell me how did you become a writer?
Amanda: Well, I am a teacher, and I teach grade three. And I… um, I was going through a really rough divorce, and I went to a retreat…and I had always wanted to write children’s books. And after one of the meditations at the retreat, I had this idea to write this book called “It’s okay to feel.” And I wrote basically the whole book in like the 20 minutes after the meditation. And I just had it in a journal, and I kept like drawing.
I’m an artist too, so I kept drawing the pictures slowly. And the first book took me like four years to finally complete. And my original plan was to just make the book with my Mac and have it in my classroom, and there would only be one copy…and I would just use it in my classroom, and then the universe had different plans for me because, as I was reading the book, people that I know tagged me in posts on Facebook. One of them tagged me in a post on somebody looking for an illustrator, so I ended up illustrating a book that… that actually was my very first book… it was a book that I illustrated for a lady called Blue’s Mountain Christmas.
And then, shortly after, I met another lady who… she was a kindergarten teacher, and she had started writing books, and she lived really close to me. And she was doing a presentation at the teachers’ convention, so I went to her presentation and I started following her on Instagram. And she’s like best friends with my mom’s and is like a best friend’s with my daughter, so it’s like crazy.
And so she… I went to some courses with her, and she taught me how to publish on Amazon and self publish on Amazon. So this book that I had originally planned just to have one copy and use in my classroom to help kids with their emotions. And we’re talking about emotions or kids because that’s something that teaching for 14 years now.
That’s something that’s not really taught in school is how to regulate emotions how to deal with emotions and even to talk about like, it’s okay to be mad, we just need to find a way to deal with your anger. So what can we do like? “Oh, I’m really mad right now,” so instead of punching your friend, what could you do instead? And… and just talk about that.
And it’s so interesting when you talk with kids. Sometimes you have no clue what’s going on in their minds or what emotions they really strongly feel. And last year, when I read the book to my students, the jealousy one that really came up. This huge conversation about jealousy and when they feel jealous. And it was at birthday parties… because they’re jealous of their friends. It’s like it’s such a confusing feeling because I’m happy for my friends, but I’m also really jealous for them because I want those toys. And they’re getting all the toys and, and then I feel bad because I feel jealous.
And it was this really like authentic, engaging conversation with the kids that came out of the book where that’s…, that’s an emotion that I didn’t necessarily think would spark such a huge conversation.
Katerina: So yeah, parents… they’re trying to compete, and they try to over-beat each other… and all that, then yeah, they just don’t understand what impact this has on kids.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. And to recognise that sometimes you can feel two emotions at the same time. Like, I’m happy for my friend, and I’m excited for them, but I’m also feeling jealous at the same time because I think that toy was pretty cool or I think whatever it is that they’re jealous about, so that was one that I found. Like, was one of the most thought-provoking conversations I’ve had with the students since I published the book.
Katerina: Do you read your books to your daughter? Does she like them?
Amanda: Yeah, she does actually.
Katerina: Is she proud that her mommy is a writer?
Amanda: Yeah… My Reiki therapist… I gave him one of my books, he actually… he has most of them but, um, he is a Reiki therapist as well. And his daughter is five and one of my books I co-authored with another teacher, and it’s called “I am a Rainbow: A Children’s Guide to the Chakras.” And, he sent me like all of these pictures the other day of her do… like reading the book, and doing the yoga cogent poses that are aligned with each chakra and the mudras that are aligned with each chakra. And it was the sweetest thing ever because she’s not even in school yet… she is four. He’s like “It’s her favourite book,” and he sent me all the pictures of her doing all of this, just… like it melted my heart. So..
Katerina: Yeah, my son is four, and I’ve just said to him “Look, you have to be quite because I’m talking to a lady who is writing books.” And he is like “My books?” So, I showed him your books, and he was really impressed that mommy was talking to a writer.
Amanda: Right, that’s awesome.
Katerina: Yeah, he is going to be four in May, so yeah, I’m trying to discuss the subject of resilience. I’m trying to kind of build resilience because it is important. We are… In the UK… you know, there is a silent epidemic of mental health problems.
Amanda: Absolutely. Mental health is one of the things that… As a teacher, I’ve been finding since the start of my career it’s becoming more and more prominent and more and more essential that we’re teaching it in schools. And that we’re being able to talk about it and give children support because anxiety in classrooms is on the rise, exponentially. And, and we don’t really know what’s causing it and whether it’s like the Internet, or if it’s access to… just like constantly being on all the time.
I read articles and stuff about that all the time, and my latest book was called I’m empathetic, and it’s about teaching kids how to be empathetic and how to empathise with others but also at the same time not give all of your energy away and be like “Oh, I’m just going to help and save everybody” that I can show empathy for others, they also still have to take care of myself first.
Katerina: Right, yeah. I’ve been researching quite a bit about the impact of artificial intelligence and disruptive technologies on jobs. And they say, you know, that in the future there will be a massive need… the demand for people who are empathetic. And not like machines and unfortunately a lot of kids… they kind of grow up today, not having this,. you know, not being able to empathise with other people… and they are like.. kind of robots… some kids, right?
Amanda: Yeah. Recognising and having empathy for someone is huge, and it’s something that we need to teach kids in schools. And that helps you with your mental health when you can empathise with somebody else… And you can see how your actions are affecting somebody else or how somebody else’s actions are affecting you. Then it really opened your eyes to like “Okay, why am I feeling this way?”. And I can sit and figure it out and figure it out too what I can do to help myself as well, or to help my friend.
Katerina: So now you’ve published… how many books you’ve published? Seven books on Amazon?
Amanda: Seven books, yeah.
Katerina: Are there any more books in the pipeline?
Amanda: Yeah. I’m currently writing one or I’ve written one… One day at school these boys were just at each other, and they’d been at each other for a couple of days and arguing. And I was like “I don’t know what to do with you two? Because like… you’re just being mean to each other and you don’t know why? You’re both great kids.”
So I came home that night, and I scribbled down a book in my journal, and it’s just like written as rough notes, and it’s called “What do you learn at school”. And I went back to school the next day and I read it to the kids. And I said “You know I was really thinking about how you guys are treating each other. And I scribbled down this book in my journal. You can see this is my very first rough copy of the book”.
And I read the story to the kids and basically the, the essence of it is, how you treat people… as how you’re going to be remembered as the teacher. They’re not going to remember what I teach them. I teach about grade three. So, we teach in Alberta… we teach about Peru and Tunisia and India. And we teach about rocks and minerals, and all these things like. You’re not going to remember any of those things. What you’re going to remember is how they made you feel, and you’re going to remember how the kids in our class made you feel.
And so the last line of the book is how do you want to be remembered because people are only going to remember how you made them feel. Because feelings are such an essential thing, and so, at the end of reading just the rough draft of my story, my kids were silent through the whole thing. There’s no pictures, nothing it’s just my… like you can barely even read my printings for kids.
Katerina: Yeah. But you are reading your books to kids at school…
Amanda: Yeah. I was reading… reading the book to the kid as scribbles in my journal. And they applauded, they clapped at the end, and I was like “Do you guys think I should make this into an actual book like the other ones?” and they were all like, “Yes, you have to.” So, that’s my next book, and I’m also working on one called…
Katerina: Instant feedback, isn’t it? It’s great.
Amanda: Yeah, it is. Another one I’m doing is for teachers, and it’s “Mindful Minutes, 108 Empowering Activities for Kids”, so 108 mindful activities for kids to do. So I’m where… I’m co-authoring that with some lady, as well. She’s a yoga teacher and jewellery designer, and she does a whole bunch of mindfulness workshops in Calgary, and her jewellery is on worldwide. And, so we wrote a book called “I’m fearless,” a yoga book for kids and superheroes together. And so that’s, that’s our second book together.
Katerina: Right, right.
Katerina: As a writer, what was the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome in the last two-and-a-half years… when you just started publishing?
Amanda: Yeah, so the first. I think the biggest challenge was… at first was figuring out what to do, and I had this idea… And for four years I just sat on the first book and kind of fiddled with the pictures and, like, figuring it out. And then once I publish the first one in two and a half years I’ve published seven other children’s books.
I’m lucky though because I’m an… I’m artistic as well so I can… I can draw the pictures myself. But learning how to do everything together… to end it up on Amazon, finding the right people that teach me. And then also, my biggest challenge right now is just getting my message out there and getting out there because I self publish on Amazon. And I’m learning how to use ads and learning how to engage in social media and different things that don’t necessarily come as natural for somebody who’s pretty introverted. Pretty introverted… I’m like, I’ve been talking to the kids all day but talking on social media? That’s a… that’s a bit of a challenge for me and something that I have to overcome for sure.
Katerina: It’s not your comfort zone, but you’re learning new things all the time, isn’t it?
Amanda: Yeah, and I think that’s a part of the mental health piece, right? Is that you have to challenge yourself and do something that you’re scared of sometimes in order to reach your goals. And so, I could have just originally published the book on my netbook and stuck it in my classroom, and it would never ever get to anybody. But because I went out of my comfort zone… and I was like “Okay, I’m going to publish this on Amazon and who knows what’s gonna happen.”
And like I had somebody in the UK, write a review on my book, and I was like, “Oh my goodness, somebody in like Europe I’m never met in my entire life wrote a book review on my book”. And that is like the coolest thing ever. And then even like I have some of my art on Etsy, and I have people I’ve sent art to the UK, which is just unbelievable to me that our world is so connected. In this… like a little elementary school teacher who like hides in her house and does art is sending art to people in the UK. Because they like found it on Etsy, and I don’t even advertise on Etsy or anything. I just put, like, some things up there, and it’s like slowly doing things every day to achieve your goals.
I, at first, had this… I had all these ideas in my head, of all these things I wanted to do and… I asked my friend who is a successful business owner, like “How did you start and how did you know where to start?” And she’s like, I had all these ideas too, and I just started. You just have to do a little bit each day, and some of them will work, some of them won’t work. And it’s okay if some of them don’t work you’ll find your way. And that was one of the hugest messages for me was like I had all these ideas… I just needed to start.
Katerina: Right. But have you ever had any negative thoughts like you know, maybe I should just quit because, you know, how do you manage such a busy life of being a mom and a writer, author, at the same time, a full time, teacher?
Amanda: I’m a very busy lady. I guess I’m a single mom. I teach full-time. I write books. I self-publish and doing all the advertising by myself. And yeah, absolutely. There’s some days, and I’m like, maybe I should just quit doing the Amazon ads and just leave the books out there and just not worry about it. And I had one… I wrote a book about… for kids about divorce because I’m divorced as well. And so, my book is called “Divorce is a “D” word. Sometimes two separate homes are better than one.”
And on Amazon somebody gave it a one-star, but there was no like writing to it or anything else. And it was right when the new thing came out on Amazon where you could just put stars. And, I thought maybe somebody had read the book and not actually liked it… and so because I don’t have a lot of followers or anything yet it keeps showing on Amazon that my book only has one star. Like, oh god, it’s so it’s such a good book for people whose kids are going through a divorce to know that it’s not their fault. Their parents love them no matter what, and everybody’s just doing the best they can right now with what they have is really the message of the book.
And so, I don’t know how that one star got on there because there’s no writing as to why they thought it was not a good book. Like, the only other one star I got was… it said the book came damaged, and I was like well that’s not the author’s fault that’s Amazon because it ships it automatically. It’s all like print on demand, I have no control over the shipping or the quality of… Yeah, so I get a one star for that. Yeah. Okay, I understand why you’re giving it a one star because the book came damaged.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. But that’s an Amazon issue, not an author issue, and so, I can understand why you would post that, not knowing that the author is not the one sending it. It’s like the Amazon piece, but so those sorts of things like hurt my heart a little when I’m like “I don’t understand why you gave me a one-star if you told me why you gave me a one star. Yeah, and they could go back and fix it and make it better…
Katerina: So, it’s not a constructive feedback, it’s just…
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. Constructive feedback is so important as to like “Okay, if you didn’t like it… well… what do you like? And how can I fix it? And how can I make it better so that it will really help people and kids?”… Especially kids whose parents are getting divorced, and they are so lost and scared and don’t know what to do.
Katerina: Yeah. Yeah. On another podcast interview, we actually… were just discussing this issue of cyber-bullying and people just being negative out of spite. Have you ever had anything like this? You know, people just putting nasty comments or sending you some negativity about what to do?
Amanda: No, I haven’t heard any of that at all. Um, maybe as my books get out there more and get bigger and hopefully more as more people access them, I might get some. But I really haven’t had that other than one. I think it was a book club or something. Somebody… I didn’t even know, or it was Goodreads, there was a review on Goodreads, and I didn’t even know what Goodreads was. And I was like “Oh, how did I get on Goodreads” and somebody… the first book “It’s okay to feel”… they wrote “This book should be in a psychologist’s office; it’s not for kids.”
No, that’s the whole point… it should be in a psychologist office. That’s exactly where this book should be. You need to be able to talk to kids about their feelings. You need to know. They need to know what… they said like “the words like vulnerable and feeling and despair were too big for children.” And I was like “Okay, like I understand how you’re feeling in that but like the whole purpose of this book would be that it would help kids who are in crisis.” So, the comment is like “This book is… it should only be in psychologists office”… I was like “Yeah, you didn’t like it, but you’re right it should in psychologists office”… that’s exactly the place that I’m hoping it gets to.
Katerina: Yeah. Right.
Amanda: Yeah. Yeah.
Katerina: Are you an anxious person?
Amanda: Um, yes, I do have anxiety for sure. It is something that keeps me up at night. And so, I can definitely empathise with children when I see that they’re having anxiety or having an anxiety attack because I’m one of those people that… I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life, and I didn’t know what it was. Even when I was in school I remember as a little kid having tummy aches all the time. And, I would have Tums in my backpack all the time. And If I didn’t have Tums in my backpack, the stomachache would get worse.
If I had those Tums and that medicine in my backpack at all times, I didn’t necessarily need to take it. But if I… it wasn’t in my backpack, then I would be like curling up in pain in my stomach like at school. And I tell my mom and she is like “You can’t take medicine to school” and I’m like “I won’t tell anybody, just like let me have those Tums”. And that is something that now looking back, I’m like, that was anxiety. Yeah, that was like that is anxiety to the tears having tummy aches all the time and not knowing why and there not being a reason for it. And then, or your mind is racing constantly. I’m one of those people whose mind races all the time and I, I ran a yoga.
Katerina: Welcome to the club [laughs].
Amanda: I ran a yoga and an art retreat with a girlfriend who’s a yoga teacher. It was the first yoga and art retreat… we called it The Art of Yoga. And my mind raced the entire time even up till the point that the day before the yoga retreat. We weren’t even sure if we were going to run it because we were like, “Oh, we’re going to run it at a loss.” And then the universe just happened to be in our favour and we ended up getting more people. And… and it was the perfect amount of people. But the whole time I was like “Are we doing this right? Are they going back and think where we turned them off?” But the feedback was amazing. But the whole time my brain was like “We’re not doing enough, the people aren’t happy…”
And really, in reality they weren’t. They loved us and they loved what you did. And, thought we had a really great balance between art and yoga and mindfulness, and the mental health piece, um, whereas my mind the whole time was just racing. And I know my girlfriend who I ran it with… she’s an anxious person too, and so she’s the same way like “How are we doing. Are we balancing yoga properly for the people who are here? Um, are they enjoying the art that we’re doing?”
So, yeah, it’s even… you think… you see these people who are core, like on Instagram or something and you think like “Wow, that person’s got their stuff together and they are… they’ve got all these amazing pictures, and they seem like they’re so successful.” And then in reality, they’re just as anxious as you are. Yes, because that is my friend. She is beautiful. She has this huge Instagram following. She runs an amazing business but then at the same time, she is just like me… she was like so nervous.
The same way that I was so nervous. She’s like… so she did a course at my house on Malas, and she was so nervous to come to my house and teach teachers how to make Malas. Where… I was so nervous when we first met each other… for her to come to my house, because she is like this super cool lady who has like 20,000 followers on Instagram and I’m like “ You are just coming to the elementary school teachers to run a workshop.”
And I was like, so nervous for her to come to my house. And she was so nervous to come and teach teachers. Because she’s like “I’m just some lady who runs a business, and not teaching all these teachers.” And so, I think we really got to empathise with people as we don’t know what their background is, and we don’t know that they’re just as nervous as you are most of the time.
Katerina: So, how do you manage anxiety? By doing yoga? Practicing mindfulness?
Amanda: Mm… hmm, yeah. I do a lot of things to work on my anxiety, um, one of them is yoga. Absolutely. Another one is just going for runs or going to the gym. Having baths and reading. Art is a huge outlet for me. Journaling is another outlet for me. Even just cuddling with my cat. My cat helps me with my anxiety for sure. Pets are helping people with anxiety.
Katerina: What’s your worst nightmare? What’s your worst fear?
Amanda: Okay, you’re afraid of, um, the thing I’m most afraid of is if something was to happen to my daughter, that would be, yeah. Yeah, that’s definitely. I think every parent’s biggest fear. I think I could handle anything. I’ve been through a very rough divorce. I like a single mom. I can handle anything. But I couldn’t handle if something happened to my daughter.
Katerina: So, you’ve published seven books on Amazon. How do you deal with uncertainty because you just don’t know whether your new book is going to be as successful as your previous one? How do you deal with this uncertainty?
Amanda: Um, I just think… While because I’m a full-time teacher and my entrepreneurial stuff is like my side stuff. I really… my goal especially being an elementary school teacher is… If I can help one kid, then my job is done. I provide… my… my lifestyle with my career, which is teaching. And then the entrepreneurial pieces that extra… I am like goal is that eventually… is that I can just teach part-time, and my books will take over the other half.
And, I can go to schools, and I can help people, and I can, and spread the word more to more people. But right now, my goal is just if I can help one person. Great, if I can help two people — even better. And whether it helps, whether I become a famous author, or not… my goal, especially as an elementary school teacher, is just to empower kids and to empower people as much as I can to believe in themselves. And so, whether or not my books become super successful, that’s not really my main goal… my main goal is just to help people and to reach them in some way.
Katerina: I think what you’re doing is just amazing because it’s like I said, kids today… they have so many problems, you know, mental problems as well. And, what you’re doing is absolutely great and, yeah, I wish you carry on and just spreading the word, globally.
Amanda: And some of my books like two of my books are really specific to what I teach because I wrote two books. One of them is called “A Yoga Journey Through Peru”, and the other one is called “A Yoga Journey Through India.” And they are really for a specific target, which is teaching social studies in Alberta. They don’t sell a lot of copies. But I wrote them, and I published them because they helped me in my classroom to teach about Peru and get the kids up and moving. Or teach about India and get the kids up and moving, and I use them as a starting point to start our research about those countries.
And so, those books probably will never be bestsellers ever. And that is Okay, but the whole purpose of those books was just to help me in my classroom. That was the only purpose of it, and if it does help other teachers? Fantastic. But I think sometimes people have these goals that are like “Well, I’m only successful if I’m a best selling author.” That’s not true. You really have to just think like one person at a time, one day at a time. What can I do in this moment to help me achieve my goals, and maybe in this moment, you’re feeling exhausted, and you just need to curl up with your cat and be like “I need to refresh and tomorrow, I will achieve my goals.” And, that’s Ok.
And that is one of the other things I learned how to do too because I’m one of those people that is like… I have all these ideas in my head all the time. And I started making journals too. So, that my art is on the cover of the journals and they’re on Amazon too, and then the books are just lined paper underneath. Because I learned about these people who are doing that called tangent templates… And they mass-publish a whole bunch of different journals for niche topics, and people are doing amazing, making low content books and selling on Amazon.
So you never know what it’s going to take off. And I made some of the art, journals, basically just for myself and for friends and to give as gifts to people. And they are on Amazon to sell too, just so that if somebody likes them — great. If they don’t sell as lot — whatever. I learned how to do it and that’s really cool.
Katerina: Yes, learning…
Amanda: Yeah, it’s learning.
Katerina: Great… Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started writing that could help you to be more out there… be more successful… maybe publish quicker? Is there’s anything you wish you’d known before you started this journey?
Amanda: Um, yeah. I wish that I had more time, or not more time, because I do have time… that I wish that I could hire somebody to do the ads, because I don’t love doing that part. I love doing the creating piece… That… so many authors love doing the creating piece and marketing person part is really hard for me. And that’s something that I really have to push myself to go and do.
And I wish that in school they taught people how to be more entrepreneurial. I feel like in schooling… in Canada anyways, that there’s not that entrepreneurial push. And people don’t necessarily know where to start, or how to start a business or how to do their taxes. Or, like, you’re getting out of high school, and you have no clue how to do your taxes. Like these are things that I wish were taught like “Hey, you can publish things on Amazon, why don’t you check this out, you can do these”.
Like really, one of my goals eventually in my teaching profession is to potentially work (I teach in elementary school right now), but to potentially work in high schools and teach kids how to self publish on Amazon. I might even start that as a business and to teach kids how to self-publish on Amazon.
Katerina: Yeah, it’s all out there. It just you need to push yourself, tools are all out there. It’s amazing what we can do today.
Amanda: Yeah, well, even now because I have to teach online because of COVID-19. I’m learning so many things that will help me eventually… potentially make online courses for kids and parents and other adults even to self-publish because I’m learning how to make videos and how to upload them to YouTube and how to… I have already… I did my Master’s in Education Technology while I was getting a divorce and had a toddler, so that’s why I say I can handle anything other than something happening to my daughter. When I think back to that time I’m like… I was crazy. I lived in my uncle’s basement with my toddler doing my Masters. And now, like six years later, I look back and think “How did I survive… How did I survive?” I had zero dollars in my bank account. I was living in my uncle’s basement with my toddler and finishing my Master’s. So people who are like “I don’t know where to start, or have no money or whatever” — you just have to start!
Katerina: Right. That’s fascinating. So, what’s your unique skill set that helps you be a better writer.
Amanda: Um, I think that I’m always learning, always learning. I’m always reading… I’m always…I’m not much of a TV watcher, other than right now because I’ve been bingeing on Netflix a bit because of COVID-19… being stuck at home.
But normally when it’s not lock-down I don’t… My TV doesn’t get turned on. I’m on the computer. I’m learning things. This summer, while I was on summer vacation I bought a new iPad Pro, and I went to the Apple store. And I took advantage of every free class that they had to teach me how to use my new iPad Pro so that I could use it to help with my drawings. And because I wanted to start doing digital drawings for my books because they just look so much more amazing. Um, I actually … This book that I have here… I just redid all of the pictures for it because this one… because I just drew and coloured with pencil crayon and took pictures of it and learned how to put it in Canva and put it up on the book.
And doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, you can go back and change it later when you learn more. So, after I published those, I was like “Okay, now I’m going to invest in an iPad Pro and I’m going to learn how to make my illustrations better.” And so you don’t have to be perfect the first time.
Katerina: I think a lot of women are trying to be perfect all the time… to do everything perfectly. And this is where I guess all anxieties come from… Trying to be perfect. I actually banned this word from vocabulary at home. I actually said to my husband to never ever say to my son “it’s perfect.” You can be good at a task but you shouldn’t rate yourself as a success or a failure. You can fail at a task or behaviour, but never you are rating yourself as a person.
Amanda: Yeah, well, even young kids get like completely frozen when they are perfectionists. And they think that it has to be perfectly in as young as grade three kids won’t write because they’re scared that their spelling is going to be wrong. They won’t. I can’t draw as good as everybody else, or I can’t draw as good as that person, and they always are comparing. And I don’t know…
Katerina: Who is teaching them that?
Amanda: I don’t know where that comes from. And so one of my goals as a teacher is always to just be like just try… try… it doesn’t matter. Lots of times I’ll be like, not checking the spelling at all. “Don’t worry about your spelling, just get your ideas down.” That’s all I care about right now. Or, all I really want you to do is try this. That’s all. Just try. Don’t get frozen don’t just stop and sit there frozen for an hour and not getting anything down. When really, it’s just we have to be willing to learn and have to be willing to try; otherwise, we’re not going to get anywhere.
Katerina: So, if you had a magic power, what would it be? I mean, if you had one superpower, what would it be?
Amanda: [Laughs] Yoga, no… just kidding. I guess that what my book is called “Yoga is My Superpower! What’s Yours?”. That’s what it says on the back. Oh no, it says in my book “I practice yoga. What’s your superpower?” Yoga is not my superpower. I’m not that flexible. I look at the people in classes, I’m like “Oh man, that is never going to happen” but, um, I think my superpower is really creativity.
And actually when I… when I started my Masters, my Master’s is in Education Technology … and I thought that the way the world was going… I needed to know how to use technology to be able to teach kids. And to be like on the cutting edge of technology and what changed… as I did my research and the coursework on my Masters was… it wasn’t about the technology because technology is constantly changing and if I had mastered the technology that was… we were using when I finished my Masters five years ago, I would be completely out of date. None of that technology probably even works anymore.
But what I learned was that I have to be creative. I have to learn how to use my creativity to be a producer, rather than a consumer, because so many of us are consumers of technology. I love watching YouTube, watching TV, or playing games, but really, in order to empower yourself, you have to use your creativity to be a producer and technology, unlike any time in history has allowed us to be producers and very few people are actually choosing to be producers.
We at our fingertips have access to more information than any other time in history, and we can learn and be creative and one thing that really bothers me and I had a parent one time come in and be like “Oh my kid is not creative,” and I said “That’s not true at all. Your kid is very creative.” He’s like “Well, he can’t draw anything.” And I was like “Creativity isn’t drawing, creativity can be coding on a computer.” Yes, it can be painting, creativity can be… there… somebody… comics, unbelievable art out of masking tape.
Amanda: Masking tape…, they have like a gigantic art gallery for this person I learned about them last year, and they make amazing art out of masking tape. You have no idea what it is that you could be unbelievably creative with, whatever it is that you enjoy doing.
So, that parent coming in being like my kid isn’t creative because they can’t draw. That is such a misconception, people, I think… I think… and I truly believe in, especially with my research, I believe people are so creative. We just are scared to be creative.
Katerina: Right, yeah.
Amanda: Or, we’ve been trained to think we’re not creative, because we can’t do one specific thing. Whereas they definitely are creative, it just might not be in that one area that that society view as creative like art or music or, or being entrepreneurial. But I guarantee you that there is something that people can be creative in and even if it is joint making social gatherings or starting a dance studio or whatever it is… right, we just need to embrace that creativity.
Katerina: I agree with you. I think you’re making a great, great point about creativity and self-expression as well. But you know… Why do you think women give up on their dreams? What advice would you give them?
Amanda: Um, I think it’s never too late to start… and be gentle with yourself and don’t compare yourself to other people… and just do what feels right for you. So, even if you set one goal, each day to do something little… little, like… I made one Instagram post. Or even if it’s just for one week… doesn’t even have to be a day. I made a goal journal at the beginning of the year, and I published it on Amazon. It was called “Get inspired”, and it just had like a weekly check-in of four things I want to accomplish, and then I will be able to reflect as well… is like a year’s worth of reflection journal and get inspired.
Low content book that I created. And it was just for me to keep myself on with my goals, but also some of the times I didn’t achieve any of them. Those are my goals on Sunday. And not one of them got time. And, that’s Okay. Maybe I’ll get on track next week. Maybe my goal is just to make myself a healthy dinner tonight. Next week I will get three illustrations done for my next book, and I’ll worry about it then. Tell them about yourself, but just, if you take a few steps back and remember just to start going forward again when you, when you feel ready for it. And when you have the capacity to to move with it.
Katerina: I think it’s great advice from you to be gentle. And we often criticising ourselves, and we are being harsh… and the word is harsh. Right? And we need to be gentle and give ourselves some break. Sometimes.. you know… if you don’t feel like doing something, you just need to sit down and just enjoy binging on Netflix, for a while.
Amanda: And that’s something especially with my anxiety that I really had to learn, because I was the type of person that had to be busy all the time. I would get stressed when it was summer vacation, like so stressed. Most people are like “WooHoo, it’s summer vacation.” And I am like “What I am going to do to keep myself busy?” Like, I can only read for so long. I have like two months to keep myself busy. What am I going to do?
So, I would teach summer school, start preparing my class for the next year. And I really had to learn to take a break and to just enjoy being in the moment. And to read a book. And my daughter has helped a lot with just living in the moment and not having to have every second of my life planned. And to just let it… let it flow because when you are more balanced and you are more grounded and not so anxious, you are able to achieve more.
And one thing too… I realised too. I am really into spirituality and into yoga and into healing yourself through meditation and everything else. But I also believe there’s a big piece for Western medicine as well. And I learned myself that I can’t get off of my anxiety medication. I tried, and it doesn’t work, even with doing yoga daily with meditating daily, with journaling, with doing all of the Eastern medicine things that I know that I can do. I still need a combination of both in order to be balanced and to manage my anxiety.
So that’s something that I really struggled with too. Because I go to my massage therapist and Reiki healer… and I thought he was really…. thought that he was going to judge me because I went back on my anxiety medication and felt like I couldn’t ever… I feel like I can’t ever go off… and maybe I will, maybe I won’t… but he didn’t judge me at all. He’s like “That is so good. That is so good that you recognise for yourself that even though you’re doing all of these things, you still need that other piece.. and that is Okay.”
Katerina: It is Okay to need a combination of both. It is Okay. I think that Western medicine sometimes uses “Oh, just take these pills out. That’ll make your brain not being anxious.” Just taking the pills doesn’t work. I’ve been on them since I was 18, on and off, anxiety medication since I was 18, and I’ve learned that I need them for right now. And for me as well, that it has to be a combination of things. Just taking a pill isn’t going to help. You need to be able to do the work as well, and speak to people that will help you or do things that you are going to learn to help yourself. And, then also… be gentle with yourself when you are being anxious just be like “Okay, I’m anxious right now, and this will pass.”
Katerina: Right, yeah. Yeah, That’s great advice. Any final advice for starting writers or entrepreneurs from you?
Amanda: Um, yes, start, start, and share, share with people. Don’t be… Do something that you are scared of… Like I was so scared off to put a book out on Amazon like “What people are going to think, who am I, am I going to be good enough?” Who is going to judge me. Don’t worry. Just… just everybody will be there, there are strangers out there. People who will love your book, and … or love your writing. And just… you’ll be so amazed, as… as who you can connect with by just starting. Because I’ve made huge connections, just by starting and I would have never made any of these connections… I wouldn’t have started…
And start more than one thing too… like I have an Etsy account, I do artwork shops on the side. I teach, and then I write, and I illustrate, and all of these pieces together are fantastic. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have this one narrow focus and I’m only going to be happy if I’m successful in this one area. My girlfriend who has the jewellery business. She also is a writer and then she… authored … co-authored book of it was called “The Empowered Mom Boss” I think it was called, and it was a combination of a bunch of people, so even though she’s a successful jewellery designer. She also has her hands and all these other things too… like she teaches yoga… she runs yoga courses… she makes designs jewellery… she’s changing our jewellery designs all the time… she’s running courses. And so being able to constantly change as well it’s really important to try something new. Even though you start in one direction, it may take you in a completely different direction and that is Okay.
Katerina: Okay, so a lot of people… Because of the Corona virus situation, will have to pivot and find different angles for the business… because you start seeing posts on social media of people just not knowing what to do. And they have to re-imagine their business by being creative about what they can offer. Because… yeah it’s a shock for many entrepreneurs and, yeah, you have to be constantly, on the lookout for new things and pivoting if your existing business is not working, is not producing what you want to produce.
Amanda: Yeah, being flexible and being able to think outside the box is huge. For sure, and not being afraid, and being willing to try. Yeah, you have to be willing to try. There’s this one thing we’ve been learning about and discussing in my professional life as a teacher is being able to fail forward. So learning that it is Okay to fail. As long as you learn something for it and failure is actually a good thing because there’s brain research on how… When you fail at something you actually create more neuron connections in your brain than if you were able to do it for right the first time.
It was actually I think.. there is a book that I just read, and I can’t remember what it was called, but it was how they did research on children learning how to play the piano. And when they are practicing over and over and over again and mess up and then start over again and mess up and start over again and mess up, they are creating these brain connections that they never would create, if they didn’t keep failing. And so failing is actually a good thing and we always view it as a bad thing.
Amanda: And because it allows us to create those brain pathways that we are not creating if we get it right the first time. So there’s research supporting that… which I think sometimes people just think if “I fail that then it’s over.” That’s bad. Failure isn’t a bad thing.
Katerina: Because all the successful entrepreneurs…. If you actually look at their history, what they did, they failed at so many businesses before they actually became very successful. So, they had to try several times before they hit the right spot and found the right angle for the business. If you think about Dropbox and Facebook, these are outliers … these are the cases that don’t really fit into the category of everyday businesses… they just unusual cases because for a lot of people is all about trying different things and failing and not giving up.
Amanda: I think too… sometimes people view like things that are failures in their lives as a bad thing, as opposed to a learning experience so like my marriage failed. It was not a healthy marriage for me, my daughter, my ex husband at all. And for a long time I really was like “How did I fail?” I am smart. I have a good job. I thought that I did everything right. And I, I ended up in this really unhealthy relationship and this really unhealthy marriage, and I viewed myself as a failure and I was really embarrassed to go to work as an elementary school teacher, and be like “Oh, I’m divorced and I’m a single mom and I’m now teaching your kids”.
And I was worried that the parents would judge me. But they didn’t. They actually feel like they can open up and talk to me because half of my class sometimes is from separated families so they feel that connection. They know that I know what they’re going through. And when you can be … not insecure … vulnerable with people and I know Brené Brown talks a whole bunch of vulnerability. When you can be vulnerable with people that allows you to make connections and then that allows you to truly be empathetic with them and to, to grow.
And so I don’t view my… my marriage as a failure anymore I view it as I learned a lot I would not be the same person that I am today if I would have stayed in that marriage, I would not be as successful as I am. There’s no way I would have been able to write these books because I write and illustrate, all of it when my daughter is at my ex husband’s house. So when my daughter is at my ex husband’s house, I get all of my work done. I would have never been able to do that, but I’ve never been able to do the courses that I did. If I was still in my unhealthy marriage, whereas sometimes a door closing is absolutely opening to a world of like hope and and gratitude and just this space of creativity that you never knew was possible.
Katerina: That’s a great message from Amanda, thank you so much for this amazing story and thank you so much for being on a show. Thank you. And, good luck with everything.
Amanda: Thank you so much for having me I’m so grateful that we connected.
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