Get Out of Your Way

Two months later and hello! In case you were wondering, I took a little break over here. It wasn’t really on purpose. One week, I missed writing a blog post, and then the next week I didn’t write one, either, and then again and again the next and next weeks.

I kept thinking to myself, I should really write something, but then I’d get bogged down with what outfits I’d shoot (because that’s what lifestyle bloggers do, gosh dang it), whether or not I wanted to (or could afford to) pay for photography that week, not wanting to just write “filler” content (see: my last post where I was really reaching to get just about anything that came to mind written and published), not feeling inspired, and blah blah blah. I feel like I’ve been here and written about this inner-tug to slow down and step back before. Oh, why yes, I have.

So, I’m not complaining over here — just being honest: I let life get in the way of writing and then wallowed in the realization that I let life get in the way of writing. And then (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve heard this story) something awful happened to the unrelenting people pleaser that I am.Read More

What I’m Reading Right Now

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I’ve always been an ardent reader, an enthusiastic lover of stories. I remember when I was little, before I learned how to read, I wanted to know how to read so badly. I couldn’t wait until the day that I could sound out more than just my first name. I would pick up my older siblings’ books and novels and just sit there staring at the pages while they watched TV or played. Between skimming the pages, I’d peek up to see if they noticed that–HELLO–I was “reading”! (Or, you know, I was looking intently at odd shapes that I assumed made up some magical story within the book I held.) They never appeared to notice or care, but I continued on flipping through pages, imagining what kind of story was encapsulated inside this or that book.

Now, it’s hard to find the time to wrap myself up inside a great book (and it’s not because I’m still learning to read). Between a busy work and life schedule, I find myself starting several books and slowly–we’re talking molasses-slow–chipping away at each of them simultaneously. The OCD side of me hates that I do this because finishing one of these books takes about, oh, a year (if I’m being generous). But, at the same time, I get to choose which book of the several I’m reading at once that I pick up, depending on what mood I’m in and what topic I feel like investing time in. Here are the four I’m working at (and loving) currently.

1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

If you know me personally or have read any of my blog posts, you know I struggle with finding balance between creativity and the rest of my life. This book is teaching me–in a beautifully written, yet firm, way–to SHUT UP and just get to work. Simple as that. Plus, Gilbert’s one-liners that serve as inspirational quotes to Pin forever and ever are amazing and aplenty.

2. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

John (boyfriend) and I are slowly working our way through this one–like, slower than all the other books on this list. It’s been a couple months since we picked it up–but we both agree that the main lesson is an important one. While John and I have entirely different work styles and goals, Keller’s lesson of choosing one thing, the most important thing, to focus your attention on at a time is a takeaway that’s proven useful in both John’s and my life.

3. Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams by David Bach

Speaking of John, he gave me this book last year as a gift. I think it’s a sign he doesn’t exactly trust my financial skills? (KIDDING. Because, what financial skills?) I’m learning, you guys, and this book is certainly helping, even though it’s usually last on my list to pick up when I have spare time for reading. I am pretty self-aware about my financial situation, but that doesn’t mean I always know what I should be doing financially, as a young professional making a modest living. And this book is helping with that in a totally understandable way.

4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The one novel I’m reading right now, this book is a tear-jerker and a page-turner. It’s about a deaf girl who, during World War II, gets separated from her father and must find her way to safety amid the approaching Germans. I am a sucker for Holocaust history and sad stories, but the weight of this one makes it difficult for me to pound through quickly. So, I’m savoring it–something made lovelier by the incredible writing courtesy of Doerr. (Shout out to John’s parents for a fantastic Christmas present!)

Inspiration, Where You At?

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My ideal weekday would be this: wake up at 6 or 7 a.m., make coffee and a healthy breakfast, write for two to three hours, head to the gym for a solid workout, go home, shower, work some more (writing, answering emails, planning), go to happy hour or dinner with friends, read for an hour or so, and go to bed. Maybe throw in some Real Housewives to that lineup, too.

That probably sounds like the most boring schedule imaginable to a lot of people, but for me—holy smokes—that is a dream. (Also, I’d make sure my weekends would have a LITTLE more excitement. Promise.) Life would be so much easier. I could easily manifest my inspirations and dreams, and each day would be frustration-less and peaceful, right?

NO! Even if I had what, in my mind, seems like the most idyllic schedule, road bumps would come out of nowhere and struggle would ensue, because that’s just how life works. Things change and rarely go according to plan, and that’s alright. I’ve finally come to accept that fact (on most days, at least—though sometimes I’m still in denial and whine about the unfairness of life).

For the most part, I realize that even if I plan away my life to my heart’s content, certain aspects can still go awry. For the control freak in me (which is, oh, probably the majority of me), that’s painful to admit. But for the wannabe go-with-the-flow, spontaneous hippie (which makes up MAYBE 2 percent of me, contrary to these photos), that’s a-okay.

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So, with all that in mind (you know, the fact that life sucks sometimes), how’s one supposed to get anything done—especially in the realm of creativity? Not that other realms are any easier to navigate, but it’s just that, well, they kind of are. Sorry to say it, but more logical, analytical, or tangible work than creativity is work that people can wrap their minds around day in and day out.

I can say that because that’s the sort of work I do in my 9-to-5 job. It’s straightforward, black and white, and maneuverable. Sure, there are obstacles, just like anything else. But in the pursuit of creativity, the obstacle is always, “How can I make something interesting (or beautiful or original or inspiring, and so on) out of nothing?” It’s the struggle of creation. (Which is why it’s called creativity.) Say what you want, but in jobs that don’t surround a creative pursuit, that obstacle simply doesn’t exist.

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I struggle with balancing inspiration and creativity with the rest of my life all the time. I think everyone does, to some extent. I’ve written about this struggle many times, complained about this struggle to my nearest even more often, and, more than anything else, wracked my brain thinking and worrying about this struggle until my head almost spins. And here I am, again, writing about it, because I’m a little looney I’ve been contemplating this balance more than ever lately.

I don’t always follow my own advice—in fact, I rarely do—but I’ve written down a few notes on how I try to maintain or reignite my own inspiration, even when it feels like the most difficult thing to grasp on to, thanks to life and all its distractions and impurities.

Embrace the reasoning behind an excuse. Look, we’re all humans. It’s practically in our DNA to excuse ourselves when we underperform. (People who command others to never make excuses make me angry. Everyone does it!) Instead of turning it into a grandiose explanation, though, simply accept it. Too tired to write? Too busy to paint? Too overwhelmed to cook? Then don’t, and try again tomorrow. And don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen then, either.

Start. Start something today. Start a list of ideas. Start writing a sentence. Start thinking about a new plot line. Start planning when you can truly start. It doesn’t mean you’ll finish today, and it doesn’t mean you’ll even actually create anything today. But you’ll be setting creativity in motion by not ignoring it or actively placing it at the end of your priority list any longer.

Go easy on yourself. Flexibility is something I work on continuously. Isn’t it true that we’re hardest on ourselves? Punishing myself for being less productive than another day or another person isn’t going to make me feel anymore positive toward working on a goal. Let’s go ahead and allow ourselves the grace we give others, yes?

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(P.S. I have been selfishly SITTING on these stunning, dreamy photos by Aleah Clark, but I finally figured: What better time to post these beauties than in a blog post about inspiration? Enjoy! Also, Aleah is based in California but travels often. She is such a bright and positive spirit, and, speaking of creativity and inspo, she’s beyond talented. Work with her!)

Maxi Dress: Altar’d State

What’s In A Name?

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Why “Freckles and Figs”?

I’ve been getting this question a lot lately. It’s valid, too, but it always makes me kind of giggle, because I wasn’t 100-percent certain about it either when I first came up with it. All the blogs, social media pages, and creative outlets I’ve started in the past have been word-plays off of my name: Aud Swan, Impossibly Aud, It’s An Aud Life. The odd/Aud puns were my favorite, clearly, but if a random person came across one of those pages, the name wouldn’t exactly hook them. They’re too personalized to me, someone internet strangers don’t know or care about.

So I knew I wanted to have something more vague this time around to attract a variety of readers, not just people who already know my name, and keep them intrigued. It still needed to be in relation to me, though, because I’m the one who founded and curates content for this little web space. I started thinking of words that describe me and the things I love. Plus, alliteration is my weakness. It had to be incorporated; that I was certain about.

I wrote a list, which I dug out of one of my many notebooks the other day. I remembered that I’d scribbled down a few initial words a couple months ago:

Margaritas and Mayhem (Oh, my God. Just, no.)

Aesthetic Amore (I’m not even sure what this means.)

Coffee and Cashmere (A little too “Cupcakes and Cashmere“.)

Coffee

Tacos

Ice Cream

Gelato

Freckles and Figs: All things healthy and beautiful.

That is all literally written verbatim on a lined piece of paper in a notebook sitting on my desk, sans the parenthetical notes. As you can probably tell, it looked as though I was getting hungry, and also, this was not my strongest brainstorming session. But my current blog name came about that afternoon, so why did I keep it?

For starters, I really love my freckles. I used to not, when I was a kid and most of my friends didn’t have splotches covering their noses and cheeks, but now I feel like they, though faded some since when I was little, make me unique. It’s something that defines me. I’m not just a blonde-haired, blue-eyed fashion blogger (it’s fine if you are, but I’m just not); I’m a woman with interesting qualities writing about real life, and I think my freckles represent that in a way and in a word.

And figs? Other than it being a food item — which I love innately, if you can’t tell — and starting with an F, figs, to me, are exquisite fruit. And delicious. And versatile. You can put them in anything from an appetizer to dessert. They’re the part that represents health, vitality, and loveliness.

It might all sound even more silly now that you know; I think it sounds silly to me, too, which is why I can’t help to laugh when people ask me about it. It does mean something to me, though. Symbolism has always been a major heart-tugger for me in literature. Freckles and Figs come together and in a strange way tell something about my life; my mind’s always been a little weird like that. Also, it’s better than Tacos and Ice Cream.

Actually, that’s debatable.

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Had to snap this with my iPhone at my desk and upload it to this post because I think it’s weird and hilarious.

These fun photos are by Sarah Cook, AKA my favorite photographer and a dear friend.

Shirt: Old Navy (Sold out: similar here) // Denim: Old Navy // Flannel: Old Navy (And apparently I’m obsessed with Old Navy.) // Boots: Target (Couldn’t find online: similar here) // Necklace: gift: similar here and here // Lipstick: L’Oreal “British Red