I was fortunate enough to go to a Create & Cultivate popup in Austin, TX in March—a place I knew I was supposed to be. And a place I was supposed to be on time. So on time, in fact, that I was in line before 6 a.m. so I’d be sure to get in; and I’m so glad I was, because in that time, I met Daphne, whose friend (that I had befriended over pre-daybreak coffee and muffins) had been first in the line, right before me. I had immediate hair envy with her long, wavy, dark blonde locks; as soon as she said hello, I knew she was someone I wanted to be friends with.
When asked what her morning routine looks like, Daphne says with a laugh, “I don’t have one.” She has a varied schedule, between running events at a local brewery and her work for Strong Word Studio. “I tend to wake up pretty early on my own; I like to have a schedule for my day. I’ll write it out on a notepad, hour by hour, what’s top of mind for me to do, which has been a gamechanger. I can’t make decisions in the moment… so I’ll write everything down I’m worrying about getting done and see where everything fits in my day, hour by hour.” Also, spending time growing in faith each morning is super important to Daphne. “Lately, on busier mornings, I’ve been listening to an audio Bible app while doing my hair,” she says, “And then I’ll listen to the Bible Recap podcast by Tara-Leigh Cobble… and I’ve done Morning Pages for years, like from Bird by Bird… that way, I can just get whatever is in my head out. It’s surprising to see what comes out… and looking back, I can see like, wow, my Impostor Syndrome isn’t new, it’s been around a while,” Daphne laughs.
She said sometimes she will go out to a coffeeshop in the morning to do her lists and writing, just to get out of the norm. “I like to make the habitual things feel special,” she says. “And then, I’ll start really tackling things on the list. I’m definitely most productive in the morning; my head is most clear then.” She loves coffee, which she discovered after early morning caregiving for kids during church on Sundays. “After that I started drinking coffee,” she says, “and I can appreciate good coffee, but really, my favorite is McDonald’s or just the grocery store K-cups. Black coffee, all the way, in the same mug each day from World Market, if I’m not getting McDonald’s. No shame in that.”
Though she is originally from Houston, Daphne has lived in Austin since attending college there for Advertising. “The neighborhood I live in now has trees everywhere, and Austin is so funky… there is a rooster living next door, and then down the road a home with hundreds of lawn ornaments in the front yard… it’s very motivating to walk around the neighborhood and get fresh air, before the summer heat hits.”
She started Strong Word Studio when she was working in her dream job, one that she “should” have loved, but just didn’t anymore. “It’s happened a number of times, where things seem to be fine, and there’s no real reason to not be loving what I’m doing… but there I was, and I had this angsty feeling I wrestled with for probably over a year, and I realized, I think I’m done here. It’s time to move on.” Unsure what she should move on to, she started hand-lettering commissioned pieces and doing design work. A business strategist friend asked her what she really did and was passionate about, and she was said she struggled to find the words to put to it. “I would be like, I draw things? I am a letterer? But then I realized, what I really do, is create reminders.” Strong Word Studio started out of Daphne’s own “forgetfulness,” out of a love for strong words (red letter, four-letter, and everything in-between), and out of a passion for reminding her friends (and herself) who they are and what they are capable of when focused on what’s true. “Because knowing and believing are two completely different things… it’s easy to know things, but really doing it, really living it, makes the difference. And we all just need reminders of who we are and what we really want and what matters. Words are so powerful.”
She decided to take a bartending job, wanting something that wouldn’t need taking home after-hours to give her more time to focus on Strong Word; the brewery she approached asked her to run their events as well, based on her extensive background in the industry. “I feel like we have this sense that life should be linear and that there’s a timeline… I’m reminding myself constantly, there is no timeline. I think of this any time I watch an epic movie, and there’s an intermission… it’s wrapped up so nicely in the first half, and there are always surprising turns you didn’t see coming in the second half… but that’s what life is.”
When her mom was diagnosed with colon cancer, Daphne says she put Strong Word Studio on the backburner and focused on helping her mom. “I still needed a creative outlet, though,” Daphne says. “I just didn’t know it for a while. I was pretty obsessed with thrifting and finding vintage clothing; I do it for fun, but it felt silly and frivolous to share for a while… but I’d have friends texting and asking me to help them find items and how I did it and they’d know my shopping schedule… so I started Daphne’s Closet. I honestly don’t know what will come out of it, but it’s been really fun. Sometimes, I think, am I avoiding what I need to be doing by focusing on this? As an Enneagram 8, I feel like I can do whatever I want all the time,” she laughs. “But I struggle with the ‘should’s’ as well.”
Journaling doesn’t always fall into Daphne’s morning, but she is a “notebook person,” like me. “I love Leuchhtturm notebooks,” she says. “I heard a talk from my lettering hero Jessica Hische about the beauty of a larger notebook to make more room for letter forms so I abandoned my Leuchhtturm for XL Moleskine cahier journals instead. And I just like the feeling of having a pen in hand. It’s all chicken scratch if I’m not lettering, though.” She also loves Lara Casey’s Power Sheets goal planners. “They’re amazing, even though they’re much more colorful than I’d usually go for.”
After talking for nearly an hour, Daphne says, “I guess I do have a routine… I have all these ideas of what a routine should be, and I don’t have that… but I do frequent a lot of the same things each day (creating an outline in the morning, reflecting and making gratitude lists in the evening, McDonald’s drive-thru coffee) It’s definitely the little things you do over time that add up… a quick fix doesn’t exist for anything. It all adds up, and I’m making strides, even if it doesn’t always look like how I thought it would.”