©Alain François

Say yes to cheese and grapes.

Matt Madden, Jessica Abel, and Benjamin Frisch on the bank of the Charente River. Photo by Alain François.

I sat at the green table on the terrace of my apartment, just under the window of the kitchen, and Matt, inside, handed out a wooden cutting board with a round of camembert and a small bowl of grapes on it. Here’s your cheese ‘n’ grapes, he said.

This was at the end of the last week of August, about ten days ago. It was a big big week for me.

It was also week in which I’d spent 11 hours a day in my studio, and then worked another one or two at home every night.

In short, Matt was mocking me, gently. Because this is what I say in the first episode of my new podcast:

…and that’s when I knew.

It was time to take a step back, and celebrate what I’ve accomplished.

It’s all too easy for me to just put my head down and grind. I know that’s not true for everyone; but I’ve got basically no problem getting work done. What I’ve got a problem with is stopping.

I’ve got a little issue with appreciating where I am, enjoying my life while I’m living it, eating the cheese and grapes that life offers.

This is the view of the Charente River from my studio. This is what I look at every day.


And so I made myself get out of the studio. I invited Benjamin Frisch, my producer, Matt, of course, and our photographer friend Alain François down to the Charente riverside for a midday Friday picnic.

And I live in France; this is not stock food photography. This is our actual lunch.

Photo by Alain François

And this is my studio, seen from down below.

Jessica Abel with la Maison des Auteurs in the background. Photo by Alain François

There it is, up there.



Today is a day to celebrate: my new podcast goes live!

Matt Madden, Jessica Abel, and Benjamin Frisch on the bank of the Charente River. Photo by Alain François.

Out on the Wire is the show about making stories, step by step.

I invite you to subscribe via iTunes, or whatever your podcast-listener of choice is. And if you have that itch to make a story yourself, there are challenges for you in every episode!

[update:] Out on the Wire was a limited series, but we have TONS of great stuff in the show notes, and when they hit your inbox, you can pretend that the show is coming out live! Check out the podcast page, and subscribe to show notes, at the link.

There are plenty of narrative-building challenges to come in the podcast, but today I’ve got another kind of challenge for you:

Say yes to cheese and grapes.

Take a look at what you’ve accomplished, and celebrate it.

The aftermath. We did not finish the cheese. Or the grapes. We did, however, finish the wine.

Matt Madden, Jessica Abel, and Benjamin Frisch on the bank of the Charente River. Photo by Alain François.

An aside: I thought it would be funny to do some “French” drag, so we all wore striped shirts, and Ben sported a beret. Climbing back up the hill, Alain, who is actually French, said, “Vous êtes habillés un peu bizarrement, mais bon…” (“You guys are dressed a little weird, but whatever…”).

…and because Alain never gets to be in the photos of the various parties he documents so beautifully…

Matt Madden, Jessica Abel, Benjamin Frisch, and Alain François on the bank of the Charente River. Photo by Jessica Abel

Thanks to Alain François for all the actually good photos in this post. Check him out—amazing stuff.

Meet Jessica Abel

Meet Jessica Abel

Author. Cartoonist. Teacher. Coach.

I help people whose imagination and creativity are the ultimate source of everything they do in their professional life stop grinding and start carving out the deep focus needed to finish—and launch—the game-changing work they want to be known for.  Discover my Courses, Join the FREE Creative Engine Workshop or find out more about me.


  1. Jerry Lazar on September 7, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Well deserved CONGRATS to you, Jessica, for all your worthy accomplishments… As a longtime journalist and (aspirational) podcast devotee, I thoroughly enjoyed Episode One, have requested admission to your Google-Plus community, and eagerly await future installments… As a longtime graphics novel fan, I immediately ordered “Out on the Wire” via Amazon Prime on Friday, it arrived Saturday, and I’m looking forward to carving out time later today to begin savoring the fruits of your labors… Joyfully anticipating a dense, leisurely, thought-provoking immersion in your entertaining and illuminating venture… In short, I sense your time and prodigious efforts have been well invested, and wanted to add my voice to chorus of acolytes, whose eyeballs and eardrums you’ve grabbed, and encourage you to stay out on that wire!… Many thanks for generously sharing your insights & experiences…. Adventures abound!… Having spent a few summers in southeastern France (i.e. Provence), I say, “Now go enjoy those luscious cheeses & grapes!” … Bon appétit et bonne chance!… JL

  2. Rebekah on September 11, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    Hi, Jessica,
    Can I just say I’m an unapologetic fan?
    My “cheese and grapes” is sitting outside, closing my eyes, and breathing–right in the middle of my most productive-when-it-comes-to-work time. That’s letting go a little. It’ll take a bit for me to get there. But this is the first time in my life where I to get up really early, where I take notes on everything, where I love my work. You have a beautiful view!

  3. Jessica Abel on September 23, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Hi Rebekah,

    Sounds like you may be closer to really enjoying those cheese-N-grapes than I am! I’m so bad at it. But I intend to learn. I’m such a scheduler, I think I need to put sit-outside-and-breathe on my calendar…

    thanks for the kind words!

  4. Jessica Abel on September 23, 2015 at 6:16 am

    Thanks, Jerry! I’m working on it! I’ll look forward to talking to you on the Working Group about your upcoming projects.

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