145: Amber Rae – How to Focus on Wonder and Worry Less
“How do we embrace all our messy and uncomfortable emotions and treat them as allies on our path rather than enemies that are trying to hurt us?”
– Amber Rae
How much time do you spend a day worrying about something?
5%? 20%? Maybe even 50%?
Let’s be honest — even when we’re feeling comfortable and secure, it’s hard to completely stop worrying about our lives. We deal with messy and uncomfortable emotions on a daily basis, and it’s just part of being human.
But what if we could transform our worry into wonder? What if we could understand that these feelings are just trying to keep us safe instead of trainwreck us? When we spend time processing our emotions, especially the negative ones, we can use them for good and even unlock our creativity as a result!
Today on the show, we have the wonderful Amber Rae, one of our most popular guests. It’s easy to see why: Amber is all about diving inward to find, express, and develop your inner creativity.
Amber has been on a journey since we last spoke with her back on Episode #40 and Episode #97. Her new book, Choose Wonder Over Worry, is a guide to diving within yourself and asking the right questions to propel yourself forward in the world of creativity.
Today, I have her back on ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio) to share her inspiration behind the book, how we can channel our negative emotions into curiosity, and how “struggling artists” can succeed. Amber is full of joy, wisdom, and creativity — I know you’re going to enjoy hearing from her.
Who Is Amber Rae?
Amber Rae is an author, artist, and global voice for emotional wellness and self-discovery. She turns highly relatable insights on the human experience into viral art, performs at sold-out venues, and writes best-selling books.
She’s the author of Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential, and her work has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, NY Mag, TODAY, SELF, Fortune, Forbes, and Entrepreneur.
Amber has collaborated with brands such as Kate Spade, Apple, ABC, and One Medical, and she reaches over 9 million people per month online with her words and art. She lives in Brooklyn — and travels around the world — with her husband, Farhad.
On her website, Amber offers courses to help you unlock your creativity and make progress on a dream that you’ve been waiting to start. You can also grab one of her Wonder Journals or Notepads, which will help you process your emotions on a whole new level.
In Episode #97, we heard all about Amber’s dream and how she wanted to inspire the world, and now she’s done it through her new book. I was excited to hear the story of how this book started and how we can experience the same transformation in our Creative Alchemy. Let’s get started.
The Process of Writing Her New Book: Wonder over Worry
In our interview, Amber shared that coming on ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio) was a pivoting point in her creative journey — she had this ethereal idea about confidence and creativity, and now she’s alchemized it into a concept she can share with others.
On her 31st birthday, Amber woke up and immediately felt sad. But instead of pushing past this emotion and opening the champagne, she decided to journal:
“I’d been doing a lot more inner work, and so I opened my journal, and I wrote at the top of the page, ‘Hey, sadness, what is it that you want me to know?’ [I knew] that in this emotion, there was an insight for me if I just turn[ed] toward it rather than push it away.”
– Amber Rae
When you feel anxious and sad, do you try to suppress those emotions instead of feeling them? Amber had done that for a long time, but when she finally embraced the sadness, it said something amazing to her:
“And what the sadness said to me [was,] ‘You’re playing small, and I’m sick of it. You’re hiding — stop hiding.'”
– Amber Rae
This was a wake-up call for Amber — she realized that she wasn’t happy with her life and that she needed to pursue her creative passions, even if it was scary. She realized that she wasn’t really committing on that one thing that mattered most to the — the book she wanted to write.
So she went all in — she booked a trip to Bali and wrote the entire manuscript there. She almost didn’t come back — the authorities actually had to kick her out of the country, but nevertheless, it was an incredible experience that ended with the completion of her book.
During this time, Amber had to pause on a few of her projects, but this pause was necessary so that she could focus solely on the completion of her book. Is there something that you need to pause on so that you can do what really matters most to you? That pause could mean quitting a job, saying “no” to projects, or taking time off to go on a creative retreat. Sometimes, you just need to commit to something full-force in order to make it happen.
Still, there were a lot of hurdles that Amber had to jump to make this book happen. She sent the proposal to about eight or nine different agents until she found the right one for her. Then, they took the manuscript to multiple publishers, which was also a long process. Amber likened the process to peeling an onion:
“I think this relates to anyone who’s in any phase of the creative process. … It’s like an onion, and … we’re peeling back the layers and going deeper and deeper and deeper. … We’re going deeper and deeper inside of ourselves.”
– Amber Rae
During the writing process, Amber’s perfectionism came up and tried to tell her that she couldn’t handle the task. She worried that people were going to judge her work. Through this process, Amber learned how to process her own feelings of worry and insecurity, and this process actually became the subject of the book itself!
What Does “Wonder Over Worry” Mean?
Now, let’s break down what “wonder over worry” really means for those who didn’t get the chance to listen to the previous podcast. It’s a nice phrase — “choose wonder over worry” — but how do we do it in our daily lives?
“At the surface layer, it could mean ‘choose curiosity of what’s possible over fear of the unknown.’ And then, as we go deeper and deeper, … I like to think of worry and wonder as these two characters inside our head. Worry is that anxious inner critic — ‘You’re not good enough. You can’t do that.’… That voice just holds us back and keeps us playing small. And then there’s the other voice, which is wonder, which is our curious inner guide.”
– Amber Rae
I loved how Amber explained this — it reminded us both of the Pixar movie Inside Out, where emotions such as sadness, anger, and joy are animated characters. It’s important to note that Amber isn’t saying we should ignore feelings of worry — instead, we should wonder about the worry and ask questions like, “What is this anxiety telling me? What changes do I need to make?
“So the approach of the book is like, ‘How do we embrace all of our messy and uncomfortable emotions and treat them as allies on our path rather than enemies that are trying to hurt us.”
– Amber Rae
What’s amazing is that Amber originally didn’t plan for this inner journey to be the subject of the book, but as she was dealing with insecurity writing it, she realized that this was the topic that everyone needed to hear about.
Take a moment to think about what you’re feeling right this second. Is it worry? Is it happiness? Is it disappointment? Is it anger? If you’re feeling something negative, resist the urge to suppress that emotion and move on. Sit with it. It may be uncomfortable at first, but when you can sit with your emotions candidly, they will tell you things.
“[Have] compassion for worry … because worry ultimately wants to protect us and keep us safe. … I need you to let me get messy. … If [a] kid is acting out, you’re not gonna be like, ‘Leave immediately. You suck.’ You would say, ‘Hey, little kid, come here. What’s going on? … Why are you throwing a tantrum? Talk to me.'”
– Amber Rae
Amber explained that we live in an “overly positive” society, where negative emotions are stuffed under the rug as if they don’t exist. Let’s be honest — they do exist, and they’re important. They deserve to be felt because they have things to teach us, and we can use these lessons on our own inner journeys for joy and happiness.
Amber’s Advice for “Struggling Artists”
As Creative Alchemists and entrepreneurs, we often struggle with feelings of worry related to self-doubt when it comes to making money with our art. What if people don’t like it? What if we can’t get the word out? I was curious to hear Amber’s perspective as both an artist and an entrepreneur:
“Sometimes, we actually need to create that financial security and stability … whether that’s taking a part-time job or … [learning] a skill that [we] have that [we] knows earns money, and it becomes a part-time thing just to fund the next phase … because from there, that sort of bridge job can give you the experience to be able to catapult and to eventually do your own thing.”
– Amber Rae
When you’re just starting out, it’s hard to gain financial momentum. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have a side hustle or part-time job that can fund your living expenses and food while you’re working on your creative passion. There’s also something about not having a lot of money that brings you more opportunities:
“There was a point in my career when I had negative $3 and 47 cents in my account. … And I have this moment where … It woke me up, and I had a lot of demand from people emailing me, asking about how I had made changes in my life and career. And so not having the money forced me to take action on this low hanging fruit that I otherwise kept would have kept pushing off.”
– Amber Rae
Sometimes, need can be the catalyst in making changes in your life and career. It’s certainly not fun living in debt or without a lot of money in the bank, but you may start seeing opportunities that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Be a Creative Alchemist with Amber Rae
Amber is the definition of a Creative Alchemist — in fact, it’s a term that she uses herself!
Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained. With that being said, I define Creative Alchemy as using the process of creativity to create a lens through which to perform alchemy. These principles not only apply to artists and creatives in their own creative processes, but to anyone who wants to create an extraordinary life in color for themselves.
I’ve found that 80% of creating is alchemizing the thoughts, emotions, and other inner blocks that keep you from putting the pen to the paper. Navigating to the act of creation takes alchemical processes, and in her new book, Choose Wonder Over Worry, Amber is doing just that.
Definitely pick up a copy of Amber’s new book, and head over to her website for journaling and coaching resources. If you enjoyed this interview, let us know on Instagram by tagging Amber, @heyamberrae, and me, @nickonken, with a screenshot of the episode and your greatest takeaways. And if you love this podcast and want to support me, please subscribe and leave a good review on Apple Podcasts. Every review helps us find new listeners!
Remember — your fears are trying to tell you something, so don’t ignore them.
“Wisdom knows how to understand worry’s anxiety, see wonder’s curiosities, and say ‘what is the right next move?’”
– Amber Rae
Some things we learn in this podcast:
- How her book came into being [4:25]
- How Elizabeth Gilbert has guided Amber’s path [5:50]
- The journey to finding the right book agent [9:50]
- Writing is like an onion [10:50]
- What it means to choose wonder over worry [13:50]
- Amber’s timeline got kind of mixed up and what it brought up for her [17:45]
- How a goddess emerged to Amber and helped her rethink her process [20:00]
- The importance of recognize and have dialogue with your worries [23:25]
- When to bring wisdom into your process [28:05]
- What happens when you’re struggling financially on your journey [31:35]
- How to listen to your intuition [34:50]
- What is next for Amber [37:25]
- Why you have to discover, design, and deliver [41:50]
- Check out Amber’s book Choose Wonder Over Worry and get a copy
- Read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- Learn more about Marie Forleo