Renegade Spotlight: Angie LaPaglia McNeill

“If you pursue projects that put a light in your eyes, or make your heart leap, the economic model has a way of working itself out.” ~Angie LaPaglia McNeill

The Renegade Spotlight on DaveUrsillo.com showcases the real-life stories of everyday “Renegades” — men and women who are pursuing big dreams while defying criticism, cynicism and being misunderstood by others around them.

Today, I’d like you to meet my friend Angie, an incredible writer whose words strike me with emotion and thought… more than most writers I know! Angie and I worked together on The Happiness Catalyst, an e-book on utilizing the Internet and social media to inspire community building through true stories of neighborhoods bonding together during times of tragedy, and more.

Together on DaveUrsillo.com, we are building an inspired community of genuine dreamers and dream-pursuers — the “Ranks of the Renegades” — who are striving to change the world. We are the Renegades. Are you among our ranks? :)

1.) In your own words, introduce yourself!

This is the hardest question of all!

  • I am a writer — by profession, by training, and by compulsion. I recently left the comforts of a 15-year career working for “The Man” — and the 401(k) and salary that came with it — to pursue my own writing projects full-time.
  • I am a poet, posting dozens of “micropoems” on Twitter every week — mostly tanka, haiku, and other short forms that lend themselves to 140 characters or less. I also publish longer-form poems on my blog.
  • I am a yoga teacher. The path of yoga has had a tremendous impact on my vision of myself and of others. I teach yoga to help others do something good for themselves, and I find great reward in that.
  • I am a mother — the best one I know how to be.
  • I am a woman — living and breathing deeply on 500 acres in the middle of central Oklahoma, in tune with the rhythms of the day and of the seasons, close to the earth but never far from the sky.

I’ve also been known to grow a pretty mean vegetable garden, to sing with my whole body and at the top of my lungs — with or without anyone watching, and to embark on a quiet run or a hike whenever I can.

2.) What are some of the short- and long-term dreams you are pursuing?

When I graduated from college (a hundred years ago), my goal was painted in primary colors: I wanted to write, and get paid for it. All these years later, I’ve finally reached that goal… only now details have been painted around it in colors I didn’t even know existed back then.

I’m currently working on a ghostwriting project, and I have a goal of finishing that this year. It’s very rewarding: taking the heart of another person, and his passion, and giving it a voice so he can share it with others.

Longer-term goals include finishing projects of my own: A memoir, perhaps to help others see something they haven’t seen before, or to feel less alone. A body of poetry — I have evidence that what I write turns lights on for people, feeds them somehow. If I could cast words in a format other than Twitter, that could reach a broader audience—touch more souls—that would be tremendously gratifying to me.

And although I do need to feed my family… I’m frankly not concerned about making money with my words.

One thing I’ve found in my short time on my own is that if you pursue projects that put a light in your eyes, or make your heart leap, the economic model has a way of working itself out.

A wise man once taught me about a theory he called “give it away” that speaks to just that. I want to give it away. To help others dig deeper into life. Maybe I put it best in this excerpt from my blog:

“Now I write to show you things you haven’t seen before–or to ask you to see in a different way. Casting light from a different side so the shadows re-arrange and the colors change and you whisper something like, “man, I didn’t even know that was there.”

I don’t create truth. I just uncover pieces of it that hide. I hold the flashlight so you can dig deep and come up with dirt under your fingernails and light in your eyes. I work in ink and pixels. I make words. I write for you.

3.) What effects have these pursuits had on your life?

In a word: balance.

Before I left the comforts of “The Man”, I would cram myself into an ill-fitting box every morning and emerge spent at the end of the day, to throw the crumbs of myself at my family like park-fed pigeons. Now, my skin is my own. Perhaps a poem I wrote describes it best:

fitting back into
myself
like favorite jeans

The crumbs are gone, because I’m not being eaten alive, and nothing is eating away at me. I am more, and so I can give more.

4.) What has pursuing your dreams taught you about yourself? About others? About life?

Well, it has taught me courage. I’ve always been a very strong person — that is, able to bear much. But I’ve always felt I lacked courage: that doing something with the knowledge — while you’re doing it — that you might fail.

It has also taught me where I belong. I remember having lunch with a friend more than two years ago who looked across the table and said with his eyes and with his heart, “You know, Ang, no matter what you’ve done or what you’re doing, you always return to your writing. It must be where you belong.” He was right.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s taught me no regrets: timing is everything. It would be easy to say, “oh I wish I’d done this five years ago.” But five years ago, I didn’t have the experience I’ve had that brought me to this place. I didn’t have the contacts I’ve made, I wasn’t at the same place in my marriage, in my self and my self-actualization. My children wouldn’t have been the right age to make it feasible… the list goes on.

That’s why you can’t have regrets.

Everything that brought me to this place happened in the right sequence and at the right time so that I could get here: where I’m supposed to be, right now. I couldn’t have predicted it or planned it, but I am so very thankful for it.

5.) Do you have any special methods or practices that help you along the way? What are your sources of inspiration?

For me, solitude is paramount. There’s a quote from Albert Einstein that I love:

“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”

It is delicious. The quiet, the alone-time that is the gift of working from home, allows the reflection I need to compose and create.

As for inspiration, I’m inspired by the world around me, and by my experiences. Poems are everywhere. Lessons are everywhere. They exist in the colors of a horizon, the shadow of a crow, the freckles of my daughter, the expression on a stranger’s face, the memory I finally took the time to write down, even the glow of a cell phone or a post-it note in my thesaurus. Before I had solitude, I couldn’t reflect on these things. Now I can. My world has changed because my vision has changed.

It’s a powerful thing, to change the world that way.

6.) Do cynics, doubters and pessimists affect you and your pursuits? If so, how? If not, do you avoid them, tune them out, use them to your advantage, etc.?

No. They rarely have. In my case, I have so seldom — if ever — “fit in,” and long ago I ceased trying to. Although I may not always believe in myself, I believe in the gifts I’ve been given, and I believe in giving them away. If people misunderstand that, it’s my responsibility to show them my heart, so they can see differently.

~ Angie, aka myearthgirl

Are you or is someone you know a genuine Renegade? Your story can be here on DaveUrsillo.com in the new Renegade Spotlight feature! Send me an email! Tell the world your story, inspire hundreds of men and women, and get your name and face known by thousands of fellow Renegades across the world!


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