Cynthia Gregory, MFA

author notes

leadership mastermind

It’s lonely at the top. What could you do if you belonged to a tribe of fierce leaders who would support, challenge, and celebrate you in a confidential setting? We will gather monthly to serve as accountability and celebration partners, standing steady together as inspirational activists in the world’s best profession.

Space is limited, membership applications available at

sheltering notes

Shelter in Place Day 10: notes from the field, preview of Journal Camp 2020.
Prompt: temptation
If you had asked a month ago I wouldn’t have recognized that person. What dances outside my reach is coffee with my pals squeezed between meetings, lunch at Toast, riding elevators, a trip to the Rack, visiting with a neighbor so close we can exchange oven-warm oatmeal cookies, church, the dog park (Dog is my co-pilot), casual conversation about nothingness and madness, leisurely stalking the aisles of Sonoma Market, stopping at a winery to taste just because, farmers market, office gossip at the water cooler, doggie day care drops offs, playing Scrabble, Tuesdays at Mantra, Sunday morning yoga, reading the newspaper at Peets, airplanes, airplanes, airplanes.

If Journaling is your jam, click here to join us at: Journal Camp 2020. It’s the most fun you can have writing from the sofa! You’re welcome.

journal me

Journal Camp 2020 has landed, and it is nothing short of ah-mazing! Herewith, a sample of the kind of genius free-writing can provoke:

Going Home

I bid farewell to the state of old New York, My home away from Home – In the state of NY I came of age, where first I started roaming….;

I’m a rambler and a gambler a long way from home – Old Irish folk song

My mom is a wanderer, and my dad was a climber.  He dragged me through ashy volcanic landscapes festooned with blocks of air-popped basalt purple to the eye and rough to the touch.  I, for my part, walked behind him resenting every minute of it.  Why couldn’t we go to Mendocino for a change, I asked?!  The view from the picnic bench perched high above the grey-brown cliffs, the mist of the sea, the tang of sun-dried tomato fresh from the larder in one of the few contemporary buildings that was in that old-timey town.  

Talk to me of Mendocino, writes Kate McGarrigle.  

Mendocino and its rough and tumble but not really cousin, Fort Bragg, with the mirror-ball garden trinkets reflecting rainbowy purple-blue into the mists and the welcome sun.  Mendocino where everything around me came alive one chill morning after dreaming of a boy-child I realized I had a crush on despite my annoyance with him.  Mendocino – just a 5-hour jaunt across rugged mountains and treacherous canyons that even the best of drivers could careen into.  

Mendocino is my heart’s home and I miss it.  Your mists are my mists and those of my sisters.  We weave our beads into Mendocino’s tiny-kernled beaches only find them once again, shimmering in the sea, when we return again.

by Sam Allen

journal camp 2020

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and I’m super excited to announce a special Journal Camp 2020 starting April 4. Channel random anxiety and free-floating restlessness into your writing practice in this hands-on writing workshop which magically also helps you practice safe social distancing without going stir crazy. Register at Event Brite: Journal Camp 2020.

journal me this

This just in: Journal Camp Workbook! Based on my virtual Journal Camp Series, this workbook captures prompts to inspire, challenge, and uplevel your writing practice.

Get a free pdf of Journal Camp Workbook by writing me at with Journal Camp in the subject line. In return, you’ll get this powerful writing tool delivered straight to your inbox.

Happy Journaling!

just: no

There’s a lot of noise out there. Phone calls. Emails. Texts. Social Media, friends, strangers, clients, would-be-clients, former clients, frenemies, all needing just a little piece of you. Maybe a medium piece, maybe the whole enchilada. How do you prioritize the time you spend filtering the noise from what really matters? My totally favorite filtration method of choice relies on using one very small word as often as possible.

If we were raised by good, God-fearing people, we were raised to be nice. Be kind. Be responsive, congenial, generous, reciprocal. But all of that accommodation can leave us exhausted. Nice is alright, but what if its inconvenient or blows the budget or doesn’t actually get you what you want?

Last year I joined an organization specializing in network marketing for small business owners. I didn’t actually draw a lot of business from the group, but I did learn a LOT about how to be an entrepreneur. What I found especially fascinating was the insistence on specializing. The theory is that by excluding 99.999% of potential clients, you are better able to attract and serve your ideal client, your 1%. The entire learning experience was a case study for saying NO to get to YES.  It seems counterintuitive, but in fact, it works.

2020 is the beginning of a new year and it marks the end of a decade. Gratitude has become a platitude, but the concept is still golden. What are you grateful for from 2019? From the entire last decade? As a writing coach I might suggest a great journaling exercise would be to schedule an hour to journal about all the wins, losses, gains, journeys the past decade has given you, and how it shaped the person you are today. As you say goodbye to 2019, tally up the experiences and people for which you are grateful. Love them or hate them, they made you who you are today. What can you say goodbye and thank you to? Where did you say NO…and where could you have said it more?

As we take a day off and take a collective breath before beginning the last year of a significant decade on this amazing little planet spinning at roughly 1,000 miles per hour through the darkness of space, do you know what is most important to you in 2020? Do you know how to create it, nurture it, protect it? As you journal about what to say YES to this coming year, what will saying YES require you to say NO to? Think about it. Write about it. Review that plan each 90 days and measure your progress.

Personally, I plan to say YES to publishing my next book. Of necessity this means saying NO to procrastination and a whole lotta distraction. By saying YES to this outrageous goal, I’m expecting that opportunities to say NO are going to break all land speed records.  So feel free to check in with me around April Fools Day and ask how that book project is coming along. It may take a few days to get back to you because I’ll be busy with my YES work.

Happy 2020!

self + confidence

One of my amazing clients asked me for a “confidence cheat sheet” the other day. How brilliant is that?

We’ve all heard the old chestnut: “fake it till you make it.” But faking it only goes so far. Besides: who wants to build confidence from a bogus foundation?

A far more powerful way to build confidence is to speak the truth about what makes you so remarkable in the first place. Truth will not only reinforce your self-image, it will also emphasize how you’re already kind of killing it…and only getting better.

I’ve been studying Nonviolent Communication recently, and in a blinding light bulb moment not long ago, I realized that nonviolent communication start with the person in the mirror. Oh, snap!

Here are 8 things you can do this hot minute to build a habit of calling out your total awesomeness:

1.   Celebrate small wins daily. At night before falling asleep, make a ritual of honoring how you showed up in the world. Count your wins. It takes curiosity and hutzpah and about a thousand kinds of courage to simply show up in the world. Sometimes just lifting your head off the pillow is a win. If you wake up in the middle of the night and your minds starts to spin, repeat the process of counting your victories until you drift off again.

2.   Write all the achievements you’ve racked up in your career on small slips of paper. Keep those slips in a handsome container on your desk and pull one out when you’re feeling less than 1000% and you need some self-recognition. Brave and lion-hearted? You bet.

3.   Help others celebrate *their achievements. All acts of kindness are, in a way, self-serving because they always provide bonus points to the giver. Don’t’ believe me? Try doing something nice for someone else and see if it doesn’t give you a glow.

4.   Keep an inventory of steps taken toward a goal. If you’re like some of the high achievers I work with, you often skip over giving credit to your own rock star work ethic, then go on to beat yourself up for not doing more, faster. The truth of the matter is: you don’t get to the top of Mount Everest without strapping on your boots. So go ahead, track your progress and celebrate it. 

5.   Write down what your inner critic tells you about yourself and then read back those words in a funny cartoon voice to really emphasize how ridiculous the critic sounds. We almost never question the nonstop voice in our head, but maybe we should. I personally make it a policy to never accept disapproval from a cartoon character.

6.   Do something that scares you. You win extra brownie points for doing something that makes your knees quiver a little. It doesn’t matter the outcome. If you petition your boss for a raise and she shuts you down, honor the fact that you reached beyond discomfort and asked for what you wanted. (And then talk to your coach about why you work for someone who can’t appreciate your value.)

7.   Practice gratitude. Appreciation starts with self and when you can see and grasp your own worth, confidence takes hold.

8.   When your sense of self-worth feels wobbly, finish this sentence: “I am awesome because….”

Sound silly and self-serving? Not a bit. This is authentic work, and there’s nothing fake about it.

Want to explore confidence and self-care with a free Discovery Session? Email me at

early + bird

We added an early bird discount for Journal Camp: Memory to Memoir! Sign up now and save, because who can’t use a little extra cash to purchase a spanking new journal?

We’re launching a new virtual writing workshop this October: Journal Camp, Memory to Memoir. Get fresh writing prompts delivered to your inbox for a whole month. Say hello to writing your book and good bye to excuses, once and for all.

burn + out

Having spent the better part of two decades as a nonprofit leader, I’ve seen my fair share of nonprofit executive burnout. But wait! What’s that you say, burnout in the compassion profession? You bet.

Many nonprofit leaders, myself included, went into the “passion and people over profit” profession because we are compassionate, heart-driven do-gooders. We fight the good fight, we elevate our communities with a commitment to creating a world-changing partnership between the private and public sectors. And sometimes this devotion comes at a high price.

No leader works harder for fewer (material) rewards than nonprofit leaders. Over time however, passion can lead to physical or emotional exhaustion, a sense of ineffectiveness against the relentless tide of need, and perhaps even cynicism because there’s never enough time, money, or real and lasting change.

It’s not all bad news, though. Yes, nonprofit leadership can be rewarding in ways that defy logic. And at the end of the day, you can sleep well knowing that you did your best to improve the human, eco, or existential condition. 

If you feel burnout creeping in, or observe it in staff or colleagues, here are five ways to elevate habits of self-care:

  1. Move your body. This is so important. Not only does exercise –even a lunchtime walk—give you a good cardio workout and blow out the cobwebs, best yet: it gets you out of your head and into your body.
  2. Talk about it. Having a coach or a trusted friend you can share your thoughts with helps beat pessimism and isolation. A coach can offer impartial feedback and challenge habits that may otherwise reinforce a pattern of gloom.
  3. Eat well. It’s easy to binge on sugary, fat-laden, or low-nutrition foods when we feel blue. But that’s like pouring can of soda into the tank of a Ferrari. Your brain works better on healthy food, so fuel yourself with the best ingredients possible.
  4. Get rest. Lack of adequate sleep can rob you of resilience, emotional agility, and the intellectual capacity to solve problems effectively. Eight hours is the minimum mattress time we should clock each night to assure top performance.
  5. Practice saying NO. This is my personal favorite. Do-gooders have a tough time saying NO. But nothing gets you what you really want faster than creating and protecting healthy boundaries. A 10-hour day? No, thank you. Work this weekend? Sorry, I wish I could, but I made plans. Give a top donor your home number so they can reach you night or day? Ooh, we have a policy in our house to make family time a priority. I hope you understand how important family time is. Fact: your donor won’t abandon you, she will respect you.

Maintaining a healthy mind and body is essential to doing our best work. And when our work means taking care of the public and social needs of our community, there is no higher calling. And BTW: the noble cause you loyally serve totally deserves your A-game.

Cynthia Gregory is a certified life coach and author. To book a free discovery session with her to see if coaching can ignite your nonprofit passion again, write to or visit