Chatting with local entrepreneur and author, Blair Kaplan, about writing books, vulnerability hangovers and sobriety

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In June, Blair Kaplan Venables, local PR maven, writer, founder of the I Am Resilient Project, and Chamber of Commerce director,  released her first book, Pulsing Through My Veins: Raw and Real Stories From An Entrepreneur.

It spent its first week as No 1 in Hot New Releases in Entrepreneurship AND in Women in Business, and scooted up tot No 1 in Entrepreneurship, and was featured in the Pique. 

Blair then took her book on the road, COVID-style.

I didn’t have the chance to catch her live, or to book a bike-ride-reading… but I did ask her a few questions, by email, after reading her book, about life, risk, and grabbing life by the horns.

 

LR: In this book, you identify primarily as an entrepreneur, but also as a daughter, a Jewish gal, a business owner, a woman, a wife, a writer, a volunteer, a networker, an extrovert/ENFJ. You speak of values off the top as being critical and of integrity as being a baseline for you. How do your identities shape the values and DNA of your business? 

Blair Kaplan Venables: My values are like my compass. If I’m guided by my values then my business is built around them, since I am my business and my brand. I know what is important to me and I want to make sure that I’m working with clients who are aligned with values. I want to make sure that I am standing tall in my values and when I need guidance, they help me decide which direction to go. There have been a few times that I didn’t listen to my gut and went against my values and every single time, I learned a lesson the hard way.

You are clearly an incredibly driven human and have always been, despite various setbacks. Why do you think some people rise and some collapse, when faced with stress/challenge/disappointment? 

The biggest challenge of having a business is that it is fucking hard. There are always a lot of balls in the air and it feels like you are juggling them while blindfolded. There is a lot to know and sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know until you find out the hard way. I think the people who succeed are comfortable with failure and use those less than favourable experiences as a lessons and pivot points. If you want to have a business you need drive, grit and a thick skin. It’s also important to celebrate the little wins because it’s those wins that keep pep in your step.

I love the idea of writing a book, but it makes me feel really vulnerable – not so much the writing part, but offering it to the world and asking people to buy it. Your marketing of it was so spectacular, and yet, the book itself is really personal… Did you experience any feelings of vulnerability in the process, at any particular point? and how did you navigate that?

I came into this world blaring and have always been an open book. I’m also the kind of lady that doesn’t like to watch herself on film or read my own published work. I guess my present self is shy in front of my past self? I felt the most vulnerable when people started to purchase my book. I think imposter syndrome plays peek a boo with my confidence and knows when to give me a wet willie. Upon releasing my published words to the world, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be a published author and that my experience and lessons may not actually help others. I snapped out of it and with the support of loved ones (shout out to Heather), I was able to overcome that bout of self-doubt and celebrate my accomplishments surrounding the book.

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My meditation teacher said the other day that we should do things when they’re easy… so they’re more useful to us when life gets hard. You talk about learning to practice self-care. What is your self-care practice these days? What are the most important aspects of your self care practice, as an entrepreneur, and secondly, as an entrepreneur during COVID19? Are there any particular things that you’ve found particularly sustaining?

Self-care is a priority for me. I do what I can to manage my stress, depression and anxiety. I always make sure I get enough sleep, I no longer drink alcohol, I spend a lot of time in nature and make sure to move my body every single day.

As the world went into lockdown, I went to the ER. My glass coffee press exploded and painfully burnt my arm, chest and face. I had both 1st and 2nd degree burns and it was very uncomfortable. I normally start each day off with a shower but was unable to shower. So, I started having awkward baths in the morning. My left arm was always raised above my head and I did my best to keep my burnt chest out of the water.

I fell in love with morning baths. I started lighting candles, listening to books or music and sometimes I even write. Once my burns healed, I kept on bathing. My husband always starts his day off with a bath and I use to make fun of him for it but really, he’s a genius and I’ve now devoured the Kool-aid.

I wake up. Move my body (usually outside). I bathe. It’s fantastic.

I was really intrigued by your mention of choosing sobriety and would love to delve into that a little bit more. Are you willing to share what motivated that choice, how you’ve stayed on course, what you’ve learned about it? Also, how did it effect your productivity? I have become more aware of my reliance on a glass of wine at the end of the day to detune, turn off, numb out, especially through the pandemic, and would definitely identify as sober-curious right now. I have a sense that it could increase my productivity to be clearer, but I also wonder about how to manage the feeling of overwhelm that has tended to accompany being a self-employed creative. Any advice?

My choice to eliminate alcohol was based on a few factors but mostly driven by the fact that I needed to be fully present when helping my father navigate his end of life. He lives with addiction and has various health issues and I wanted to optimize my health, maximize my days off and not do anything to fuel my anxiety or Big Mac obsession.

I find that I’m the most creative and destressed when I’m playing outside or physically active. I’ve had some of my best ideas on hikes or while camping off the grid. I think society has normalized going for drinks, having a drink to unwind or using alcohol to unleash the creative beast. Yah, those things are great for some people but there are many other ways to manage stress, relax, unwind and fuel inspiration.

I listened recently to an interview with Kim Krans, an artist who created a couple of wildly popular oracle card and tarot cards decks… She said a lot of beautiful things about the creative path. One was that you learn as you go, when you’re writing a book. You don’t write what you already know. It kind of unfolds as you put pen to paper. It’s not until the process is over and the book is done, that you realize your learning. And then, you have to follow up with the next project, which puts you right back at the beginning of knowing nothing again. Does this resonate for you at all? What did you learn, or what surprised you, as you were writing this  book? It sounds as if you were very organized and structured and motivated about it (RESPECT), and I’m imagining you on the recumbent biking, two-finger typing it on your phone. Did it all unfold according to your plan? Or do you read it now and think, oh, I didn’t actually know that… even though I did…

Upon reflection, the lessons in the book show the transition of who I was to who I am. I think I’m always growing into who I will become. I guess we are always becoming someone new with each moment and experience? I found that I had a general idea of what I wanted to talk about and that the words just came out of my fingers. Lucas, one of the main characters in Empire Records, said “who knows where thoughts come from, they just appear.” I love this quote because it’s how I feel about all of the ideas I have. The same goes for when I’m writing. It’s almost like I’m having an outer body experience where the words are stored in a secret section of my brain and released when my keys hit the keyboard.

I only had a loose plan for my book and was super late on my publishing goal. I’m human and I forgave myself.

The universe taught me many lessons over the last year and these pivotal experiences caused intermittent writing breaks. I think it was because the lessons I was learning were to be in this book. I not only learned, but am always reminded, that everything happens for a reason. Although there is a lot of chaos in my world and then world, I was able to publish a book. I set a goal and worked really hard towards it. I really do believe that if you have a goal to write a book, you can do it. Starting is the hardest part but once you begin, it’s fun. Be aware that it is a lot of work.

Any shout-outs you’d like to give?

To Pemberton for voting me the second favourite writer. My words would have less meaning if it weren’t for their eyeballs. To everyone who has purchased my book, thank you! Your support is like a warm hug on a cold winter day.

 Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone who is sitting here, in Pemberton, right now, in the middle of a pandemic, with everything around us so uncertain, and the future so fuzzy, thinking, “I’ve always wanted to go out on my own”… what would it be?

You only have one life. If there is something that you want to do, do it. Figure out how to make it happen.

 Connect with Blair via https://www.blairkaplan.ca where you can sign up for her mailing list, or follow her on instagram https://www.instagram.com/blairfromblairland/

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