Answering Middle of the Night Calls to Action

Chamomille Way, Badolato

Chamomille Way, Badolato

A few weeks ago, my eyes popped wide open in the middle of the night. I was completely, coherently awake at 3 a.m., like when a nightmare shocks you out of a deep sleep, and you know there’s no chance of returning so you just grab a book or a drink and hope for the best.

Yes, I had been a bit uncomfortable because of the heat, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary for August. I had only been sleeping for about three hours, so I knew there must be something up — I just hoped it was a “good” up.

Before long, my mind drifted to my recent decision to leave as the guide to law school after three years. My thought process wasn’t about regret or uncertainty, it was: “How can I make that experience work for me?”

Half a minute later, an idea seed that had been planted in my mind years ago began to sprout.

Life is all about timing.

I slipped into my flip-flops, brewed espresso in the moka, sat down with my iced coffee and the Macbook under the moonlight (OK, nearby streetlight) on the balcony, and started researching.

A few hours, a Scrivener project, a spreadsheet, and a page of hand-scribbled notes later, I had the rough outline of what would become Personal Statement Artist — launched last week.

Unless you’re applying to law school or know someone who is, you probably don’t care about the details, so I’ll spare you, noting only that it’s a personal statement editing and review service for law school applicants (please see site for more info!). As the guide, I had offered free personal statement reviews as a way to increase interest in the site; I loved every second of the critiques as requests piled up and I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Hundreds upon hundreds of law school applicants were looking for help, and I was happy to oblige.

On my end, it was an awesome privilege to help them through a stressful time in their lives, offer guidance of the been there/done that persuasion regarding personal statements and more, and, best of all, open those excited emails months later when people I had counseled were accepted to their top choice programs and couldn’t wait for the semester to start.

Over the years, starting this type of service flitted in and out of my mind, but the timing was always off, and so it stayed in seed form, buried in my subconscious. When it peeked through the surface this time, though, I snatched it and ran — or to keep the metaphor going, I gave it some nourishment and water. I had a domain and gorgeous Themeforest WordPress theme within days; the rest was just filling in the gaps.

Pinpointing your passions is crucial, but you must also be prepared to run with your ideas.

My original plan for the last two weeks of August was very little computer, house-decluttering, reading lots of books and magazines, and spending time with P and all the girls as well as enjoying Tarantella Power, the annual music festival that takes place in my village.

Best laid plans, right? They were out the finestra faster than a Ferrari on the A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria. Law school application season starts September 1, so if this was going to happen this year, I had to jump. As it is, I may be too late entering the mix, and there are still lots of details to iron out and add (like an e-book!), but the basics are there for me to build on this year and beyond if I so desire.

Would I recommend trying to get a new venture going in two weeks while otherwise working full-time in the dog days of August? I was lucky. I already knew quite a bit about this market since I was in and around it for several years — and I even had a skeleton plan drawn out in my head from way back when as well. I was no stranger to website-building either, having done it a few times before.

Stairway to Paradiso, Badolato

Stairway to Paradiso, Badolato

Bottom line: if I can do it, so can you.

Ideas won’t always take shape quickly, but they’ll never come to anything without taking the first step.

And sometimes, as it was in this instance, that first step is as simple as answering that middle of the night call to action by physically getting out of bed.

If I had rolled over and gone back to sleep that night, would I have mustered up the excitement and drive necessary to push this forward? What if I had stuck to my vacation plans and waited until September or even for the next application season for every little detail to be in place? What if I hadn’t had that pressing deadline to finish? Would I have ever done this at all?

I don’t know the answers, but believe me, vacation time would have been more than welcome around Ferragosto. Aside from just needing a break, I don’t do well in lengthy, unbearable hot spells, which we experienced throughout much of August. My mind threatened sciopero (strike) many times over, but the importance of strategic sleeping patterns, frequent showers, and well-placed fans (nope, no A/C) cannot be overestimated.

And neither can the inspiration of a new project along with a tight deadline for completion.

Now in early September, my house could still use some love and the books and magazines have piled up even further (I still found time for P, the girls, and Tarantella Power), but my new site is up and running, and I can’t wait to see what else this fall, this glorious season of change, has in store for me. I already have some new projects lined up as well as several fresh ideas bouncing around in my head.

And I hereby promise to answer any and all future middle of the night calls to action.

Who’s with me?

41 Beans of Wisdom to “Answering Middle of the Night Calls to Action”
  1. Daniel

    This is good stuff Michelle. I’ve had several such calls recently, and a few that were false alarms (stress about moving to a new city in a few weeks wakes me at times), but answering them is always worth it: if nothing else, you work off some energy and can get back to sleep. At best, they are great new ideas like this one.
    Thanks for this! It was very helpful to me.

    michelle Reply:

    Yes, waking up because of stress without the accompanying idea isn’t as inspiring, but you’re right — you’re still waking up for a reason, and we need to listen to our bodies and minds when that happens. Thanks so much for commenting, and best of luck in your new city!

  2. Congrats on your new venture, Michelle! I’ve had some good friends apply to law school, and I’ve seen how challenging that personal statement can be. What a brilliant idea to start this project, and I wish you much success!!

    I’m with you!! 🙂 I agree with you on the timing in life. It’s important to make plans, but even more important to know when to throw them out the window and follow your instinct. I don’t get much inspiration in the middle of the night, but you’ve made me realize I need to pay more attention to those moments of inspiration during the day … when it’s a little easier for them to get pushed aside. There’s a seed of an idea somewhere in the back of my mind that’s been nagging me for awhile that I really think it’s about to water and let grow! Thanks for the inspiring read to start this Monday morning!!

    michelle Reply:

    Yes, channel that inspiration when it hits . . . can’t wait to see more of your seed as it grows 😉

  3. Gil

    Congratulations on your new venture! Knowing you it will be great.

    michelle Reply:

    Thx Gil; in this economy, I’ll need all the good wishes I can get 😉

  4. 09.05.2011

    How well you’ve articulated those inner calls to action, which we often don’t heed or understand! Something you mentioned (ideas as seedlings) made me think you might enjoy Eugene Gendlin’s book “Focusing”.

    michelle Reply:

    Thx for the recommendation, Barbara; will look it up!

    anna l'americana Reply:

    Barbara as in Paul’s sister? Of all the gin joints….

  5. 09.05.2011

    I just love how fast your plans went out the finestra! Sounds like the perfect venture, ciao Lisa

    michelle Reply:

    Lisa, it’s funny that it wasn’t even a thought for me to still take that time off — that’s when I knew I had to follow through. Thanks so much for commenting!

  6. 09.05.2011

    Reading your essay makes me think of Martha Stewart. I wonder how many of her projects were middle of the night revalations.
    You’ve stated many times: success doesn’t come from sitting still, or from “standing on first base.” It comes from action.

    Congratulations, and thanks for telling us, but just as, if not more, important, showing us by example.

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks so much, rel; this is a theme I return to often precisely because it’s so close to my heart — so many great ideas in my head, but how many am I actually following through with? Of course you can’t do everything, but when your instinct tells you to go, you have to be ready to listen 🙂

  7. 09.05.2011


    My take is that this effort has been truly guided and nurtured by that deep within your unconscious that actually The Creator of All.

    I have know two very creative and now very venerated and powerful people who were tireless and fearless about paying attention to; “…last night I woke up in a start…”.

    The first one did not have the luxury of computers yet he wrote down in a book everything thought he woke up with and as a result was the co-founder of one of the largest most progressive New Thought movements today. He also authored over 45 books which are all still great sellers. He encouraged all “who up in a start” to take that as direction from “The Creator” and to please not waste ITS time by ignoring the communication.

    The next guy does have a computer and i can’t even count the books this guy has written in the last 40 years. Dr. Wayne Dyer tells the story that one night he; “woke up in a start…” (3:14AM) and could not sleep. From that night on, all of his books were written at 3:14AM. He does share also that it is a little easier and nicer in his house on Maui….hmmmm.

    If we consider that 95% of our “Mind/brain” is our sub/un-conscious thinking then we should all pay attention to those early morning wake ups. While awake we use maybe at most 5% of the frontal cortex/lobe to be in life. This pales in respect to the power lying deep within us at the unconscious level.

    I have decided for me that i also write down that which has spontaneous meaning to me. I am not as adept as some at putting it to work, I am a work in progress though.

    Thank you for paying attention to your thoughts. They are very important based upon the idea of “where/who” they came from. I am certain some young man or woman in the future is going to use this guide you have created and scratch their head and murmur; “how the heck could anyone ever design a product such as this?”. That will to me be the “cycle of creation”.

    Love and light
    aka ezduzit777 on twitter

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks so much for all this information, Richard — you know I’m not on the same page regarding the Creator, but I do think our subconscious is *way* smarter, i.e., in touch with the Universe and the larger picture than our conscious minds are. Your words are truly appreciated, so thank you again. I will look up the guys you mentioned.

  8. Imani


    You are an amazing woman! Best of wishes on you newest adventure. Love the new site’s look and feel.

    In boca al lupo!


    michelle Reply:

    You are so kind, Imani; thank you, thank you 🙂 xx

  9. As always your writing evokes a lot of responses in me, but I’ll start with this, when I read your question, “Best laid plans, right?”, I laughed aloud, because as it happens, on September the 3rd, I also made reference to “best laid plans” although not in those words. In my instance, I drew a parallel between the adage, ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” and, “if you want to amuse your muse tell him/her your plans”. If you’d like to read what I said, here’s the link:

    BUT MEANWHILE, I also came up with an idea that I need to execute immediately because a New York City law firm is preparing a disclaimer for me and I need to get the materials to them. In my case it involves reconstructing one of my web-sites and uploading videos that I produced to it. Today is Labor Day in NYC and I spent the entire day, well . . . laboring at the Apple Store because my links to the movies I produced kept giving me error messages. GRRRRRR GRRRRRR GRRRRRR.

    I had to let it go for the day and am very disappointed; but at least God and my Muse are laughing. In any event, I came home, opened a bottle of Gavi, and read your lovely post. I could just visualize you outside with your Mac in the street-light/moon-light as I attempted to work on my Mac outside on my terrace this past weekend but the sun prevented me from seeing the screen, and since I am legally blind and struggle with my vision, I had to come inside. Not big in the scale of life issues but when my mind is giving me ideas faster than I can develop them, it’s hard to pause.

    But pause I have done, to sip my Gavi, read your blog, check out the link to your new endeavor; and am now wondering if you have to limit your clientele to law students. You write so well and are very insightful, I am sure others who need personal statements would pay $$$$$ for your expertise.

    But then I understand your calling to law students since you were once in that boat. Still, I think it can be rewarding to help folks with their writing, although when I taught writing at Hunter College, the class did not want to be there. I taught Essay Writing 201 — which for them was required — and I recall waiting for the crosstown bus after class one evening, when one of my students, who was from Peru, asked me if I believed in past lives. “It does not matter if I believe in past lives or not,” I told her, “your paper is due in this life-time.”

    All kidding aside, I can understand why you find helping others with their writing to be rewarding. I raise my glass of Gavi to you, Ms. Fabio, and wish you well. Again your new site looks great. Salute (?) or as we say in NYC, “Cheers!”

    michelle Reply:

    Sorry you’re experiencing those frustrations; as I said to a friend recently, when a site redesign/design is in the air, I think the malicious Internet elves work overtime just to mess with us 😉

    Thx as well for you comments about expanding my editing services; in fact, I do offer general editing (I’m doing a manuscript right now), but I really haven’t promoted that aspect of my services on my main professional site — you remind me that I also want to mention that on the law school site just in case someone applying to a different type of school or just needs general editing happens by 😉 I really wanted this service to cater to law students because the admissions committees are looking for very particular things and not every editing service can provide that knowledge — my unique selling point (USP) if you want to talk in marketing speak 😉

    Anyway, I return your toast and salute your new endeavors as well. Onward and upward this fall and beyond!

    The Last Leaf Gardener Reply:

    I certainly understand your wanting to serve your “community” (potential law students), Michelle, and it’s great that you have a “USP”. However, as one who appreciates your gift of writing, and as one who taught writing at Hunter College in New York City, I see the value of your services, and I thought you should not limit your “audience”.

    For what it’s worth, I think it is a good idea — if you have the time — to do as you mentioned, and include your ability to perform such a service for non-law students within the content of your new web-site, just in case, as you say, “someone happens to be stopping by”. The devil is always finding work for not so idle hands!

    But if a potential law student is reading about your services, then he/she, upon coming across what you offer, may make a referral to one of their non-law student comrades that they know who may have he need for your services. I realize I am not telling you anything that you don’t know, my question is how do you fit everything into one day? What with meeting the needs of your girls and making sausages and olive oil with P, I don’t see how you do it, and from what I can see, do it so beautifully.

    Meanwhile, continued good wishes in your endeavors! BTW, did you change your photograph on the web-site?

    michelle Reply:

    Hi Patricia, yes I just switched out the photo yesterday…not my favorite, but got tired of looking at the old one so decided to change it up. I’d like to get a nice one of me among the olive trees in the campagna but just haven’t yet…

    Finding time is always a challenge, but it’s a fun one to be sure…makes it easier when you enjoy what you’re finding the time for 😀

    The Last Leaf Gardener Reply:

    Both of your “self-portrait” photographs are nice, Michelle, but I understand the feeling of being tired of looking at your own picture. Been there and still doing that!

    Meanwhile, in my comment, I forgot to thank you for having reminded me of the “malicious Internet elves” that prance about when a new web-redesign is in the air. Unfortunately, the little stinkers are still at it, and I am unable to move forward on my endeavor as quickly I had planned — but hope to resolve it soon.

  10. Kelly Hope

    Michelle – Your words have resonated all the way to Washington, D.C. I had my own ‘middle of the night calls to action’ last week. Twice I found myself awake in the wee hours, thoughtfully considering (and acting on) life decisions I’ve been putting off for an embarrassingly long period of time. I found that the only way for me to sleep soundly again was to put one foot in front of the other and start moving.

    “It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

    Here’s to making late night dreams come to life – Sometimes the middle of the night IS the right place, and the right time. Plans?… What plans? Brava, cara 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    Good on you, Kelly — sounds like you’re committed to moving forward on those decisions and making positive changes. Must be something in the air 😉 Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  11. 09.06.2011

    I’m with you!

    michelle Reply:

    Woohoo! 😀

  12. joy borum

    Those awakening calls have provided me answers, comfort, inspiration, opportunities, and more questions. Bless them each and all.

    michelle Reply:

    Well put, Joy! Thanks so much for coming by 🙂

  13. Michelle Bottalico

    Hey Michelle, best of luck with your new venture! I understand how it is to be caught up in the excitement of a new idea!

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks so much, Michelle!

  14. 09.08.2011

    Congratulations on your new project/business! Wishing you all the best of luck 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you, Erica!

  15. 09.08.2011

    Michelle, I’ve been a fan of your blog for a long time and I think this new venture looks very, very interesting. And likely the product of a lot of thought and creativity simmering in your unconscious until it finally jolted you awake!

    You’ve been an inspiration to me, and as a result, I’m moving to Rome later this year to see if I can survive as a freelance writer and general hired pen. So, when I wake in the night these days, it’s usually in a cold sweat of anxiety. But, that’s a small price to pay to see what might happen next!

    As a commenter on your blog said a few weeks ago, “Leap and the net will appear.” Lord, I hope that’s true.

    michelle Reply:

    I’ll be rooting for you, Sandra! Moving to Rome *or* jumping head first into freelance writing can cause many an anxious night…I hope you find what you’re looking for on your journey 🙂

  16. Auguri Michelle and best of luck with your new venture. x

    michelle Reply:

    Grazie mille carissima xx

  17. 09.10.2011

    Wonderful, inspirational words Michelle, thank you… and I wish you much success with your new venture. –Dana

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks so much, Dana!

  18. Kanika

    Best of wishes on you newest adventure. It’s mostly time which makes us choose such random adventure-probably at times when we are least prepared for it; But then that’s destiny making you strong!

  19. 09.13.2011

    i’m in I’m in I’m in. It’s so important to let all the brilliance inside shine when it is ready to!! My goodness you are so inspirational! Spiritos. I love that about you, among the countless things I really love about you.

    B asked me the other day…. ‘do you have an extra journal?’ and I said yes… there are several on my bedside table, some written in, but there are probably 3 or 4 blank ones. Get one and start writing.’ and she said, ‘I knew you’d have at least one not used yet.’

    It’s the incarnate metaphor of a net, waiting to catch all the countless things that come from us when we close out the world and open up the universe of possibility within ourselves.

    I’m so proud of you. Watching from way over here, and cheering you on with delight and excitement. Keep going.

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  20. 09.16.2011

    dear michelle,

    big congratulations! you’re one of the first blogs that i followed 5 years ago (eeep…has it really been that long?) and i am so very happy for you. i know that you’ll do great in this new venture of yours.

    cheers! xo




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