How often is it that we hear from voices in the creative and entrepreneurial space talking about passion, mission, showing up and consistency? We’re told that these are the fundamentals of any successful venture. And whilst there is a degree of truth to that, there is another main character that is crucial to the narrative of achievement, and that’s sustainability.

It’s a word that is usually uttered alongside conversations about the environment, but it’s equally important to many other aspects of life, including health, mental wellbeing… and business. Setting out to succeed is one thing, but how do you keep your efforts going over the long haul? What are the warning signals of burnout? And when should you check-in on yourself?

These are all topics that we cover with today’s guest, Neva Talladen. A writer, editor and community organiser, Neva is no stranger to the push and pull of sustaining her own passion – from building a business, to the numerous projects, workshops and initiatives she’s involved in. Over the course of our chat, we discuss how to make space for yourself, getting dialled into your values, and her personal systems of sustainability.

We also get into the wonders of a well-kept calendar, email scheduling, and why it’s okay to not rely on to-do lists. Whether you’re a creative, an entrepreneur or just looking to rekindle your own inner spark, this episode is full of valuable ideas, tips and tricks to help you sustain your passion.

And with that, let’s dive in.

Today I’m joined by Neva Talladen, founder of Otherwordy. She is an accomplished writer and editor, having worked on an impressive list of titles, including a host of non-fiction books in recent years. Neva has also built a vibrant and impactful business, one that brings together a full suite of services for aspiring authors. And on top of all of that, Neva leads powerful workshops, which focus on connecting communities and telling diverse stories, and preparing for a book launch of her very own.

The transcript of this episode has been lightly edited for clarity.

Neva, welcome to New Ways.

Neva: Thank you, Russ. I didn’t know I did all that.

I may have done a little bit of research…

Thank you for giving such a thorough litany of the things that I’ve been doing, but, yes, I am a book editor, mostly nonfiction, but I do have fiction clients depending on the project. And I have worked with publishers such as Wiley, Row House Publishing, currently Spirit Bound Press (Note: also Sunday Dinner Publishing), but also a lot of self-published authors that I really want to give a shout out to. Because traditional publishing gets all the marketing, all the… it sounds so glamorous. But self-publishing is its own animal. And the authors behind that are no less wonderful and no less talented than the writers who are published traditionally.

Yeah, so that’s me. And I just have a very unusual background as well. I’ve been a journalist and I’ve owned my own, started up my own startups and businesses and circled round back again to my first love, which is writing books and all things wordy. So, yeah.

And speaking of self-publishing, doing things yourselves, being on that journey, how did you arrive at this point in your life… and what is Otherwordy?

Well, Otherwordy, honestly, it just sounded so cool! But also, it kind of tied into a culmination of my journey from somebody who was a published poet, published writer and became a journalist and fully intended to live a very creative life. But reality had other plans because I needed to support myself financially. And so, I thought that I could do it on the side.

I realised that I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to thrive as well.

Before you know it, it’s been like years, and you’ve left it on the wayside in favour of surviving. So, after going through some years of that, I realised that I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to thrive as well. And a lot of people come to this realisation post their twenties. I hope if somebody’s listening to this, I want to tell them, don’t wait until after you’re 20 to do this. Do it, do it now, you can risk it and it’s going to be worth it. So, I found that I want to go back to my original calling, which is writing, editing, and so I did that during the throes of the pandemic, actually. Simply because, it’s a period where everyone has had a reckoning in their lives, you can’t do anything else, so you’re just faced with yourself and your questions.

I started the business then, not knowing where it was going to go. And Otherwordy was the name that I went with because I wanted to help writers who are not usually being given the space in traditional publishing. I wanted to highlight other words, other stories that need to be out there in the world. So, yeah, that’s how it came about.

We’ve talked a lot there about the past and your journey and what led you to this point. And as you said, the pandemic was a reckoning and sort of you’d mentioned like, hey, what do I want to do? Like, really like clean slate, what do I love doing? And then devoting yourself to doing that and getting yourself to this point. I’d like to jump forward and focus, on the immediate future. Dropping a name that I’m sure many people listening may be familiar with, and that is Dan Koe. I have it on good authority that you’re working on a little special secret project with Dan…?

Yeah, and I had permission that I can plug this. Dan Koe is coming out with his book The Art of Focus this year, so watch for that. And I was fortunate enough to work with him as his editor, his developmental editor. Meaning I helped him structure the manuscript, the book that he had already mostly written. Helped him think through what the elements would be that should be included, what should be taken out based on what he wants the book to do or how he wants his reader to take value out of the book. So, yeah, it was a really great process. How Dan is when he has his webinars or his YouTube videos, that’s exactly how he is in person and even behind the scenes. A very consistent, talented writer and he doesn’t take anything for granted. And it was an absolute pleasure working with him and I hope to work with more creators like him to get their own message out. Because, I realise they’re also not being given space in traditional publishing. Like, it’s usually literary, right, or somebody from academia. But creators like Dan, they’re usually just digital. And so, I feel like having a book like this out in the world is a really great example of how creators can think about manifesting their talent and their mission through book writing and not just digital.

And I think that’s a really good example of sort of you manifesting your vision as a creator, right, because you said that that’s something that was important to you and self-discovery and what it is that you want to do. And here you are, working with someone who needs no introduction, is pouring out oodles of value all over the internet and has reached out to you and said, hey, I’d like you to help me unlock even more value in what I do. So I think that speaks immensely to the fact that you’ve manifested what you set out to do as a creator as well.

And I felt like the way I could give back to this community was to give value and help them see this other perspective on publishing.

Yeah, I appreciate you saying that. And it only came to me in retrospect, of course, because at the time, it was just like, oh, my God, I’m working with Dan Koe! But how that happened, actually, is as an editor and as a writer, I didn’t want to stay in the same spaces that the default publishing industry is in. Like, it’s a bubble. And for me, I’m like, well, this bubble has been very… not been a really safe space for a lot of other talented writers who would ever had the space otherwise, right? I wanted to see what was out there. I wanted to see what self-published authors were doing, and I wanted to know what this creator economy was like. Because, I felt like, it’s interesting, but it’s also very accessible to so many people of all walks of life. And that’s how I dreamed publishing could be, accessible and not so gate kept. So, I joined the cohort of Dan and basically insinuated myself, because I’m definitely not other creators who join the cohort who are very much similar to Dan. I have a very literary background. I don’t know what to do with myself on Twitter, for example, but I was willing to learn.

And I found that it was a really interesting community. Not just Dan’s community, but the creator community in general. And I felt like the way I could give back to this community was to give value and help them see this other perspective on publishing. And as it happens, Dan was thinking about writing a book, and so that’s how it happened, basically.

Living the values. And if you had to put a finger on it, is that something that you or is that one of the things that you love most about what you do, helping to share those diverse stories and help foster those communities?

What’s lacking in the world right now is connection and understanding. And the only way that we can get genuine connection is if we know each other’s stories.

Definitely. I think that there are so many. It’s not complete if it’s not the whole story, right? You can pick and choose. You can cherry pick a story and then tell it in a way that benefits you, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the true whole story. So, we can only understand each other. There’s so many of us in the world right now, and what’s lacking in the world right now is connection and understanding. And the only way that we can get genuine connection is if we know each other’s stories.

So, as far as I’m concerned, if I bring it back to publishing, the more narratives and stories are out there that we discover, the richer the world would be and also the more connected we become to each other. I believe that the world will be a better place if we know each other’s stories.

You get to live a richer experience, having experienced those different stories, unlocking those different voices, and being a part of all those different communities.

Yeah, like we’re talking right now, and let’s say the first time we connected on a Zoom call, right? I listened to your story and then you listen to mine. We’ve never lived in the same place, but we had similar experiences in some ways. Just discovering that, hey, we have this common ground. And we forget that sometimes when we categorise, we tend to categorise, we tend to label, and we forget that we do have shared experiences as human beings.

A hundred percent and it is one of those things where you can see why we do that, for time saving reasons and survivability and all that sort of thing. But then, you miss out on the richness of life, because, as you said, we’re across the world from each other right now as we’re speaking. And if I sat there and went, okay, I’m going to attempt to imagine Neva… I’m going to attempt to imagine what she does, who she is, everything that she’s accomplished… impossible, right? Or it wouldn’t be a total picture of you.

So that fills me at least with optimism that there are other people out there doing amazing things that we haven’t even dreamed of, that we’re yet to connect with, that we’re yet to speak with. That’s just something that I sometimes ponder on as well.

It’s inspiring as well, right? Like, oh, Russ has done this, he’s running, like a podcast and he’s writing his articles, and you get inspired too, like, wow, maybe I can do something similar. It’s like we take energy from each other, but if we’re all siloed with exactly the same kind of people who do exactly the same things and who look exactly like us, I don’t think we’re going to progress so much. Like, personal development will just not be as progressive or not as deep.

Spot on. At the least, you’ll just be speaking to the same audience, helping the same sort of person. That’s a very narrow, small pool of people who perhaps need that assist, but there’s so many more people out there. And that’s what this is all about. That’s what this show, and A Modern Remedy, essentially, is about probably very shared values with what you’re doing. And that’s to be like a lighthouse model, to shine a spotlight on things that otherwise wouldn’t get that love and attention. So, thank you for saying that as well.

And shifting gears a little bit, our values here at AMR are health, tech and sustainability. But oftentimes sustainability goes hand in hand with the environment or thinking about renewables or climate change, things like that. But sustainability is a pretty broad topic, as I’m sure that you’re aware it literally can be reduced to the fact that you’re trying to continue something, going along, sustain something, keep it going in motion for as long as you can. Whatever that thing is. Be it economic sustainability, or what I’m most interested in speaking with you today about is keeping that spirit alive within yourself, avoiding things like burnout, keeping the passion going, the motivation, the inspiration. Sustainability doesn’t just have to be about the environment.

What I’m trying to get at is, in a long-winded way, as a creator, what does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability, of course, covers everything, as you said. Right. But I want to focus on sustainability for myself or for the self. Right. And of course, we have health, you know, make sure you get enough sleep, you get enough water, you nourish yourself. But it’s more than that. It’s about being clear about what is really important to you and knowing that what’s important to you can change.

We have to keep auditing and ask ourselves, is what I’m doing, does it still make sense, for me? Is this still what I want to do?

And we can’t help it, that’s just how life is now. Because there’s a lot of focus on branding. There’s a lot of focus on mission. But just as human beings change how we look, our bodies, our sizes change, even in nature, seasons change. We need to keep auditing, either monthly, maybe quarterly. We have to keep auditing and ask ourselves, is what I’m doing, does it still make sense, for me? Is this still what I want to do? Or am I doing it because I feel like I have to now? Because that’s what I said three months ago.

Of course, I highly doubt that this is going to be the case, but let’s say three months from now, you discover, no, I actually don’t want to keep writing – I want to do something else. No one’s going to judge you. It’s a season. It’s a season in your life. One other creator, Ev Chapman, mentions this, like, we need to think about projects and creating as a seasonal thing because we need different things depending on the period of our lives. And it could be every three months. It could be every three years. But you need to listen to yourself or have that audit.

For me, I have that audit. Well, I have a calendar audit every month because I don’t like to-do lists. And in lieu of to-do lists, I have a very well-kept calendar, a very curated calendar. So, I audit that every month to see, do I still want to do this? Do I still want to write at 10:00 AM, for example? Because I can change it up. There’s no rule saying that, oh, Neva, you just need to write at 10:00 AM, and if you don’t, then it’s over. Who sets that? No. There is no hard and fast rules.

Having that audit will help you lead a more sustainable life in terms of being conscious about what makes sense for you, what your priorities are. And that’s how you really prevent burnout, because burnout is not just going for hours and hours, working for hours, it’s also like working on things that is no longer useful for you or no longer brings you joy, you know? So I think an audit is one of the most underrated sustainability practises out there, 100%.

I love that systems approach to trying to stay ahead of that as well. I think that’s really important as well, sort of prehab, in a way, preventative or a positive approach to things, checking in on yourself. But integrity can be a double-edged sword, right? As you just said, on one hand, I’m going to stick to this, and we often hear, you got to show up and you’ve got to stick to it and all the rest of it. But then if that’s no longer working for you, or in that way, if that’s no longer working for you, realising, yeah, you’re free to pivot, yeah, you’re free to do something else or change how you’re doing the thing that you’re doing.

Working with so many creators or even this could just relate to your personal experience, your own experience. What are some clues, then that let you know burnout is beginning to creep in?

Well, you know, number one there is, if your relationship with the people around you suffers, or if you feel like, oh, I have to drop something that used to be important to you in favour of whatever it is you’re doing. But for me, the number one red flag is really if your relationship, whether it’s your significant other or your parents or best friends. And I’m not talking about the bad influence. Not talking about the friend who’s the bad influence. Right. You should have dealt with that way before. But I’m talking about keeping the connection with friends who are outside what you’re doing. That’s very important. And if you lose that community and you’re just, like, head down at your desk all day to finish everything, then that’s the number one red flag that something’s out of balance.

And that’s the thing too. We keep talking about balance and everything. That’s the hardest thing in the world. So also, at the same time, don’t be so obsessed about getting it perfect. It’s always going to be wonky in one way or another. But the important thing is that you’re conscious about it and that you keep making adjustments.

I think we’re in love with technology, especially with AI, because it seems so neat. But life is messy and human beings are messy.

I think we’re in love with technology, especially with AI, because it seems so neat. It’s neat and clean. If it’s code, it will only do exactly as it’s meant to do, right? It’s doing something that it was coded for. It won’t do anything else outside of that, it’s not going to be ever out of balance. But life is messy and human beings are messy and we are never going to be just a code that never goes out of balance. And I think that’s a constant struggle. So when we listen to ourselves and something important to us is being left on the wayside, we just need to kind of stop and check-in. Check-in. Is this what we really want or are we growing, and we need to modify our relationships? Have that talk with the significant other or the friend about what’s going on with you. I think those are the red flags for burnout, of course, aside from the physical manifestations. If you’re falling asleep on your desk, definitely get some sleep.

Get some rest! And speaking of technology, that’s it, isn’t it? If you want those very clean, clear experiences, AI and tech can help you. If you’ve ever worked in any sort of an art program, you know there’s a colour picker. And every time you go to call up a colour, you see the whole spectrum, the whole rainbow, all the hues, everything. And you can choose, I want this blue, I want this red. If you were just served up only red or blue or green or whatever it is, you miss out on a whole spectrum of interesting colours. You lose that creativity, you lose all those connections that you may have otherwise not realised. Hey, actually, blue looks really good over here. I was looking for a green. But this makes more sense, right?

Yeah, and I think that is the difference, like imagination in human beings, is the difference and the fact that we are, in the truest sense of the word, creators, whether we are in a creative industry or not, we are creative individuals. And when you create something, there’s no template because that’s the nature of creating. Yes. Certain things you have a template for. If you’re writing a post or whatever, you can have a template, whatever. But when you work with your imagination… Or, as a human being, you have an imagination and you want to build something, you want to create something significant. There is no paint by numbers that you can rely on, there’s no Jira that we can get into and repository where we can get a code and then just build from that code.

We need to have that balance of taking care of our body, our mental health and our mind. We can’t ignore one for the other.

Oftentimes we create from scratch, whether you’re a visual artist or a writer or even if you’re just imagining a new app, how do some people think of certain apps, right? It’s from imagination and that’s not something you can really code. At the same time, the physical body is very limited and so we need to have that balance of taking care of our body, our mental health and our mind. We can’t ignore one for the other.

Beautifully said. And I guess through everything that you do, and we’d spoken about that the very beginning of the episode, heaps of accomplishments, very busy, lots going on with your full, complete schedule. How do you avoid burnout and how do you stay ahead of that game, that wellness game?

I have to say every single time, I’m like, yes, I’ve got this now. I’ll say like, yes, every time I do an audit, this will work! I do think this time it’s going to run smoothly, perfectly. And then of course, you go through work, personal time, everything. And I say yes to more things than I can take. Or like, I get excited about projects that I know I don’t have the energy for.

You know, you do fuck up (laughs)! You do screw up by virtue of you being a human being who gets excited, who needs different things at different times. And I can’t be a robot that I can just say yes, no, yes, no. So how I do it is exactly through that audit system wherein I can say like, all right, you definitely bit off more than you can chew. So, what did you learn from that? And how many things are you going to say no to this month?

You have other people telling you that you can’t do it all by yourself.

And the thing is, I’ve also learned to be very candid with the people I care about. The people closest to me, my husband, my family, my closest friends, I’ve learned how to be honest with them and saying, I just really screwed up and I bit off more than I can chew, and now I have to cram certain things. And that is why I can’t go out. I can’t do the thing that we regularly do and whatever. It’s a great balance because then they’ll call me out too. This is why you need community, whether online or offline, have that community because they’ll also call me out. You need to work out. It’s okay if you don’t go out with us, but you need to at least take a long walk or work out. Don’t let that go. So, you have other people telling you that you can’t do it all by yourself, but we are here to support you and we’re here to kind of tell you what else is out of balance in your life. I think having a community as well and being candid with your community is quite important.

It sounds like the community itself or those other people in your life become a wellness system too.

Yeah, exactly.

And having to say yes to everything or choosing to say yes to everything, as you mentioned, all the different projects, all the different creators, at some point the body says no to you, right?

Yes. And you know, I have to say I finally caved. But this is a good thing, it’s a positive thing. I caved in and I finally started doing a bit of subcontracting work. So, I finally asked the help of some of the editors in my community and basically saying, look, I can’t take this. I’ll subcontract it to you because I know their work. I only subcontracted people I know. I pay them the right amount, I don’t undercut anyone, I don’t try to pinch pennies when it comes to that. And so far it’s going well. I don’t know yet where it will go, but I will say… because I don’t ever want to have employees, but a good solution to multiplying your effort, to leveraging your effort is subcontracting or automating, right? That’s another thing that can help you really sustain yourself as an entrepreneur or as a creative. Whatever you can automate, do it, like do it in advance or schedule emails, for example. That’s really saved me a lot, scheduling emails, the calendar, et cetera. But yes, I’ve experimented with subcontracting now as well.

One way to frame that could be that you said yes to subcontracting in a way, right? Begrudgingly at least…

Oh no don’t give me any bright ideas Russ!

We’ve been talking a lot about systems, systems of wellness, right? Automation, does that extend to the creative process as well or is that something that no, that’s sort of a red flag. No automation in creativity?

I would say it’s not automation if you’re creating something. Like if you want to work on a book project, right, or an art project, I’d say it’s not automation, but a system of knowing how you work. So, for example, I’m a bit of a procrastinator… okay, I’m a procrastinator (laughs). But if I choose the activities that I procrastinate with, then it becomes more manageable as long as it’s adjacent to the project that I’m working on.

If you know yourself, you can plan ahead so that you can grab a system that actually works for you.

Like, okay, I have a book project, my book project on a memoir, history of my grandfather, for example. And then I’ll waffle and I’ll procrastinate on it. I want to do something else. I’ll read a book that’s like adjacent to the topic that I’m going to write about. Or I’ll watch a movie or a Netflix series that’s also kind of adjacent. You plan what you’re going to procrastinate with, basically. Or I’ll talk to my mother and then ask her about my grandfather. So, you just plan ahead. If you know yourself, you can plan ahead so that you can grab a system that actually works for you.

That’s impressive. It’s like a 4D game of chess you’re playing with yourself there. Well, I want to do this-well I’ll do this, well I need to do that-then I’ll do this. So positive procrastination, I suppose, right?

Yeah. And of course, it’s not going to be perfect every time, but you keep trying and you keep experimenting with different things. One of the authors I work with, Shereen Sun, she has workstations because she’s a multi-creative, a multidisciplinary creative. She can play music. She likes to move. She’s a visual artist as well and she’s an amazing writer. So, she has these stations in different places in her house and if she’s stuck on her project, she’ll move to those different stations and just do that. For Dan, Dan Koe, he takes a walk. That’s his go-to. So as long as you plan your… I wouldn’t say it’s routine, but if you have a go-to plan for when you’re stuck, then it becomes more sustainable because you’re not spiralling in your head.

Kind of like a circuit breaker?


And earlier we’d spoken about 10:00 AM writing. And so, speaking with regard to these workstations as well, what does your day look like? What’s your everyday, could be a creative day or just a general day? Like, how do you structure that? What’s the system of your day look like?

Okay, so I never imagined that I would have a sort of structure or system, but I do. I think that’s what getting old does to you! You can’t be as carefree. But one constant is like I keep my Monday’s, like today’s Monday for me, and aside from this podcast, I’m doing absolutely nothing by way of work. It’s my thinking and creating time. So that’s Mondays. And then Fridays after around twelve or 1:00 PM, it’s my decompression time because I know myself, I need those times. And surprisingly I can do a lot in the middle simply because I’m recharged, and I know there’s going to be a start and end.

Then I have days like Tuesdays and Thursdays are my call heavy days and then the rest are like editing other work in between. I even have a time for when I can do chores because otherwise it’s just going to be, I’m not going to do laundry or I’m not going to wash the dishes. So, I even have that in my calendar. It just works for me. It doesn’t have to be for everybody, right? But then again, I’m the sort of person who doesn’t have a to-do list.

The calendar is my sort of to-do list. I think that if there was no digital calendar, I would have like a huge paper calendar where I can see everything that I need to do. So that’s my routine. And coffee. Coffee every morning first thing when I wake up, I don’t care what they say, I need my coffee. I’ve been drinking it since I was ten years old. So don’t come at me.

Hey, if it’s not broke, don’t try and fix it. Clearly it works for you and gets you through everything, so, why not? Coffee – you heard it here first.

That’s the secret. I’m just kidding.

Let’s extrapolate that or to double click on that for a second, if you had to give even just a single piece of advice to someone about, could be structuring their day or however you want to answer this. Someone out there listening right now, they feel they’re beginning to go through burnout, or they can feel it looming or maybe they’re already in it. What’s something they could do? To at least get them to that next stage, to get some distance between where they are and where they want to be.

When you’re starting to feel that extreme stress or burnout, the number one thing is to try to get out of your own head.

Yeah. I think when you’re starting to feel that extreme stress or burnout, the number one thing is to try to get out of your own head, because that’s really where it is. Right? You’re spiralling. It’s like you can’t get out of it. So, try an activity that will get you out of your head. I like walking. I like to be out in nature. If that’s not accessible, even just going out and taking a walk on your own will really kind of settle your nervous system down, so that you can kind of get perspective.

I like to get into experiences where you feel insignificant, or you feel small. Right? I am not an expert surfer by any means, but one thing I do like about surfing is that when you go out, you paddle out and you’re just there in the middle of this humongous, huge, ocean. And you’re so small, but it really gets you out of your head. And you feel like the weight of the world is actually taken off your shoulders and things just fall into perspective. So, it’s the same when you take a long walk after a certain time, you’re like, all right, okay, it’s not that bad, right?

And then I think knowing really what matters to you, number one, in terms of personal values because there are so many great values, right? But you don’t have to solve all the world’s problems. You don’t have to embody all the great values. Just be honest with yourself what is important to you. Right?

Like, for example, for me, community is really important. Like connection and community, really important. And so that’s non-negotiable. But for you, if what’s important for you is, let’s say, I don’t know, being with nature, like eco consciousness, environmental sustainability. You lean into that, you know, don’t try to embody values that other people think is a better idea. It has to make sense to you and what you want. It’s good to idolise people. We had that. We have our heroes, and we want to follow them in a certain way. But after that, try to talk to yourself. Also try to discover what’s important to you. You don’t have to be a carbon copy. Right? And I think clearing up your values and what’s important to you and what kind of life you want will really help put things in perspective and help you make decisions.

Because burning out also is a lack of agency. You feel like you can’t make a decision, right? Like, oh, it’s not up to me. I can’t, because everything seems out of your control. But that’s not true. That just seems like it in the moment. And so, I think the kind of zooming out and then having a come to Jesus moment with yourself, what’s really important to you? What life do you want? That’s going to help, I think, in solving, not really solving, but, like, helping with the burnout.

And again, I’m hearing systems and control, but in a good way, right? Like, as you said, sort of zooming out and realising, hey, I’m in the ocean. This is a massive ecosystem and I’m a very small part of it. So let that wash over you. And then control, like, as you said, someone who’s in a similar way here, we’re about the environment and sustainability as well, but we don’t try to go and solve climate change and the climate crisis every day. That’s a huge thing to tackle.

But can you make things a little bit better with what you do? The output that you put out into the world, does it enrich the world? 1%? Half a percent? Just something. And so having that control over that, as opposed to feeling out of control, locked into, oh, my God, look what I’ve decided to do, here is my mission. This is an impossible hurdle. I could see how that could relate to burnout, for sure.

Yeah. The only thing we can control is ourselves, really. I know we hear that all the time, but we really need to think about that, because each time we’re annoyed at something, it’s usually because we want to control that situation or that person. But we can’t, we just can’t. And so, we can only control how we react, how we deal with our thoughts, with what somebody said, or with what somebody did. We just need to take responsibility for our own reactions and make friends with that. Make peace with that.

You could be describing sometimes my relationship with technology. You just got to be in peace. Make peace with the fact that this thing didn’t work. Hey, there’s an update. There you go. It’s just going to happen. Let it happen.

Oh, you have a podcast recording. Here’s a Windows update for you.

Yes, absolutely. And speaking of things that we love, earlier you’d spoken about, practising what you love and maintaining self-care and self-love and things of that nature. I’m always quite interested in when we speak with people, what books that they get inspiration from, or music or movies or people, as you said, heroes. What are some of your sources of inspiration and any that you could recommend to our listeners?

I really love to read, and so there are certain books that I keep reading over and over again, and one of them is Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. And there’s a new Norton Edition, special edition, that came out. I have almost every special edition of that book that ever came out because there’s always some new thing or a new edit or whatever. And it’s ten letters that the poet wrote to basically his fanboy who was also trying to be a poet, Mr. Kappus.

So, Mr. Kappus collected those letters, and they were writing back and forth because he wants to be a great, basically the Dan Koe of their time for poetry. You know, famous the world over. And he wanted to be a poet, too, but he was like, oh, but I’m in military school and there are expectations of me and what do I do? And so, ten letters by Rilke.

I need to keep asking myself if what I’m doing is out of necessity. And as long as the answer is yes, then I keep doing that.

It really resonates, whether you are in the creative field or not, because basically it’s a lot of the things we talk about here. He talks about sustainability. Because Rilke, he wasn’t very healthy. He had a very weak constitution, and so it wasn’t common at the time. But for a guy, for a man, he was very much into, like, pace yourself, live sustainably. And what’s interesting is he uses the term “creator”. And this was written in like 1920s, around that time. And he uses the term creator almost in the same way that we would use the term creator. Like, not knowing that, you could almost think that there was Twitter during his time, the way he talks about creatorship.

And so, I keep coming back to that because he said something like art or anything creative that you create needs to come from necessity. It needs to come out of necessity. You need to need to create that, for it to be art or for it to be worthwhile. If you can create something and you don’t actually need validation from outside sources, then that means you were meant to create that, basically. That is what he was saying. Of course, he says so much more. But I think that going back to that book, reading it almost every year, is a source of inspiration for me or a reminder to me that I need to keep auditing. I need to keep asking myself if what I’m doing is out of necessity. If I need to write, if I need to read and edit. And as long as the answer is yes, then I keep doing that.

I love that. That perfectly encapsulates almost everything that we’ve spoken about today. You could lend that, I guess, to business. Is there a need for business, XYZ? And can you find a need for that? Probably you’ll be more successful if there is a need, there even procrastination. There’s a reason why it’s time to watch TV now, is because you’re either trying to avoid something or you just need a break or a rest or as you said, checking in on yourself. That could be that little internal cry for help like, hey, slow down a lot on your plate, take it easy for a minute or two.

Definitely, yes.

We’ve spoken about the past, we’ve talked about the present. What’s next for Neva and Otherwordy?

Well, Otherwordy is going to be at the New York City Poetry Festival on July 29 and 30. That’s going to be in Governor’s Island. So, whoever is in New York, July 29-30, that’s a weekend. We’ll have a tent there. And I’m going to have my poetry book there, my volume of poetry, which I haven’t published before (Note: release announcement coming soon, be sure to follow Otherwordy for details). So that’s going to be like my first foray into my own publishing, self-publishing. And the other writers that are in the community here in Rockaway, they’re also going to sell their books during that event.

It’s very much a community thing. The tent will be designed by one of the really great artists who also lives here in Rockaway. And then on September 9 I am hosting an ancestral storytelling workshop in Ellis Island. That writing workshop I think is going to be interesting whether you’re a writer or not.

There’s, some exciting events coming up on the calendar there for sure. A question that I like to ask everyone that I sit down with, our signature question is, with all the different challenges that we face today, both for people and the planet, in your own words, what would you say is a modern remedy for those issues?

The modern remedy for this has been the remedy since time immemorial. And I think it’s connection in whatever shape or form, connecting with each other, communicating well with each other, knowing each other better. Because the blight that we see in our environment is a result of people trying to segregate themselves from one another or trying to own more and taking away resources from other people. And if there’s no social justice, there can be no environmental justice.

The solution has always been connection, real, human, authentic connection.

I know those are big terms, those are big issues that… it’s like saying world peace, right? It seems insurmountable, but the solution has always been connection, real, human, authentic connection, whether using technology or face to face. Just like finding out that we have shared human experiences, that we suffer the same way. If the Earth is fucked, we’re all fucked. It doesn’t matter if you’re Elon Musk, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jeff Bezos. Good luck terraforming Mars, because you’re really not going to last very long. So just connecting and doubling down on our shared human experiences is a start. It’s going to be a start for that modern remedy. I know that’s, like, easier said than done, right?

And that’s why it’s really great to have this way of connecting with each other across the globe, of having technology, in this sense. Because whether or not you’re a big decision maker or you’re just somebody who hopped on a call with somebody you met online, being intentional with giving somebody a chance, listening to somebody and not assuming the worst of them right away, that’s really going to make a difference. That’s going to affect how you move in the world and at the same time, how you treat your surroundings, how you treat your environment at the same time. Right? The worst thing that we did as a species is to silo ourselves from each other, and we need to bring back that connection. And that’s it for my Ted Talk.

I’ll stick around for the matinee. That was beautiful. I love that. And it speaks to all people, all walks of life. Doesn’t matter where you are. Connection is everything. Right? There’s that quote that’s escaping me. But it’s something along the lines of when there’s no more trees left, like, good luck trying to eat money, because that’s not going to help you.


We’ve got the resources now. We’ve got the time. While we still have the time, let’s foster those relationships. Let’s connect. Let’s hear each other’s stories. Let’s be a global community. A big thing, a big ask, a big push, but possible, especially with the work that you’re doing with Otherwordy.

Neva, it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today. Looking forward to following your story more and keeping up to date with everything that’s coming up in the next few weeks and months ahead. Excited for the book launch. We’ll have to circle back once that’s out and have another chat because I think there’s going to be some absolute pearls of wisdom in there as well. Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you, Russ. This has been fun.

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