Creative teeth: When your work bites

Yesterday, while I was spooning down a trifecta of Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt — honey, cherry almond, and vanilla custard — I was secretly fantasizing about killing someone. I’d been dishing to my pal J about the latest novel I’m reading and loving. It’s a Y.A. fantasy that my adult daughter wrote.

J was like, “Oh wow, your daughter wrote a novel?  What’s it about?”

I’d barely gotten three sentences out when he started laughing. “Another vampire novel?”

Maybe I’d been inspired by one of the characters in the novel, but I almost leapt across the table and tore his throat out with my teeth.

I suppose taking pity on the guy was the right move, considering a) children at nearby tables would have been forever scarred by a fro-yo blood-bath and b) the near-victim knows nothing about the creative process– neither the challenges nor the sacrifices (nor that he was almost one of them).

Other than kicking my powers of creative visualization into high gear and giving me an opportunity to exercise my impulse control, my friend also offered me an opportunity to reflect on some important truths about the creative life:

  1. People are going to mock and criticize because they are cowards themselves. It makes them feel superior and gives them a sense of safety. But it’s actually keeping them from taking risks and keeping them stuck, which is their problem. Not yours or mine. We know our creative baby (or grandbaby) may be fugly but we’re gonna love it anyway. Because it’s ours, and it’s a gift we appreciate because it teaches us about ourselves and the world. Like, how about all that badass discipline it takes to finish something as huge as a novel? How about the vision? The courage to move forward when you don’t know where something is going? These are things to celebrate. Creative risks are moments to celebrate precisely because of the cowardly critics. So maybe on a day when I’m feeling particularly charitable I will remember to thank the person or people laughing at our art for making us all the more heroic in our creative actions.
  2. It has all been done before. Yup. Lots of vampire novels have been written. And that’s because people like to read them. Duh. Fantasy fiction fans are hungry like a blood-starved vampire for another good book to sink their fangs into. So let’s not worry too much if our poem sounds a lot like a Rumi poem or if our novel isn’t novel enough. If we are one among many, that sounds a lot like an audience to me. Carry on.
  3. An entirely valid approach to creativity is imitation. It’s not only the highest form of flattery, it’s also highly instructive. We learn a lot by imitating those we admire. In fact, I’ve watched a painter friend reproduce Van Gogh’s technique, learning from the master though separated by centuries. I’ve got musician friends who swear by learning cover songs for similar reasons: they learn technique and structure as they play songs others have written. I’ll also add that lots of times accomplished musicians pay homage to those they admire by adding a cover to their set list. I saw Panic at the Disco cover Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” this summer and I was blown away. It was done with passion and precision, and no one was laughing that it had been done before.

Want more insights into the creative process and inspiration to keep you going? Come see me over at Wholly Creative.

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Good news: you’re an artist, not a sociopath

Validation is a tricky thing. We all need it…. Ok, most of us need it. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’re a sociopath. And if you need too much of it, you’re needy and exhausting and we all wish you’d work on your self-esteem.

It’s hard to strike a balance. Or to even know where the line is, exactly. This is especially true for artists. What’s “good”? What’s not? How do we know? If we are on the cutting edge, we don’t even have anything to measure our own work against. Sometimes it’s nice to just hear that all our hard work is appreciated and maybe even…gasp!…valued!

You wouldn’t think an offer to have work purchased (Hello, money!) would be an insecurity trigger. But my artist buddy called me the other day, questioning himself and his work because he’d received offers to buy the rag he’d used to wipe his paintbrushes. The problem was, people hadn’t shown much interest in the paintings that he’d labored over, sometimes for days at a time. The attention “The Paint Diaper” had gotten seemed to say “Why bother trying to create anything meaningful? — Just sling some color around.”

My friend was demoralized.  I told him I understood.

Some nights on the poetry slam circuit, I would get so disgusted by what I deemed the unsophisticated tastes of stupid audiences.

The average poetry slam audience liked pieces that rhymed. They liked poems with word play – regardless of whether they actually made any sense. They liked poems that were full of bravado and rebellion – they didn’t notice the logical or factual problems. Worst of all, they loved poems that sounded like hundreds of other poems. The predictable and familiar almost always won out over the inventive and challenging.

The truly creative, the challenging and artfully rendered pieces sailed over most people’s heads like a fine bone china plate, shattering into bits of polite but bored applause at the end. It was enough to make me want to scream or quit. Sometimes, like my friend, I wondered why I bothered at all. The only answer some days was that I couldn’t stop — that I was compelled to keep writing the same way he is compelled to paint.

But the day my buddy called me to tell me about “The Paint Diaper” situation, I had a new perspective. I had seen a picture of the rag when he’d posted it on Facebook. I’d enlarged the photo to get a better look.

The little swabs of color caught in the waffle weave of the cotton rag were random, yet they made sense. The effect – the unity of chaos and simplicity – was reassuring and lovely. But most of all, it was easy to like. It didn’t ask much from the viewer other than to be perceived as color and pattern.

marya-poetry-slam-dada
T o pander or not to pander? That is the question.

And I suddenly understood that my high expectations of my audience lacked compassion for the fact that life is often complicated and difficult, and people often just want art that distracts or pleases them, not another demand or challenge.

I understood my friend when he said his “real work” felt diminished; I reassured him that his art has value whether people appreciate it or not.

If our art is about an expression of ourselves, then had he not done it? And hadn’t I? We had both honored that urge that compelled us to create. And if it wasn’t appreciated the way we had intended, did that matter? I mean, so what if it was the unintentional result of the process that delighted people?

And so what if my own “real work” was less appreciated than my commercial work or the poems I’d composed intentionally pandering to audiences so I’d get high scores? Hadn’t my efforts both to express myself and to be appreciated allowed me to understand my friend better and to connect over a shared experience?

And isn’t that what art is about after all: expression and connection?

The entire creative process is fraught with questions and dilemmas that philosophy and spiritual traditions (religions) have grappled with, found answers and solutions for…and then codified. But creativity, to me, is real faith. It’s a living breathing thing in which we explore and celebrate and struggle with what it means to be human.

Summer safety: don’t let your creative project drown

Now that we just celebrated the solstice, summer is officially in session. Woohoo! Who doesn’t love the fun, high-energy playfulness of summer? You’d think that energy might be great for your creative projects, and you’d be right — that is, if you weren’t so busy doing so many other things.

The challenge of summer is that while energy is high and life feels vibrant, the energy can make us scattered and the disruption of our schedules that come in the form of school breaks, holiday weekends, and recreational travel can actually undermine our projects. We get so swamped with all the fun, that frequently our writing is left unattended and our projects drown.

Glug, glug, glug…

But the thing is, you need that fun! You need to be restored and rejuvenated, to play and let go. So the answer isn’t to just buckle down and ignore the beckoning of the beach, or the lure of the lake, or the seduction of … well, whatever siren is singing to you. Go ahead, get wet and enjoy the float and splash!

But before you do, put a life jacket on your creativity.

This PFD (personal flotation device) comes in the form a schedule. Wait….Don’t run away. I swear you’re going to love this idea. Because you’re going to schedule all the FUN STUFF first to give you a clear picture of how much fun you’re going to be having!

I like to have my summer at a glance, and so instead of monthly calendar, I grabbed a giant piece of butcher block paper and drew out June, July and August. Then I wrote in my concert plans, camping trips, sailing excursions, creativity conferences, and community festivals. I added in poetry slams, literary readings, concerts, and picnics. Oh, good gracious, I started to really look forward to this amazing summer!

Then I also had a clear view of how much time I had left to get to my writing and to accomplish my creative goals. It was suddenly clear how I had to buckle down during the time that had not been allotted to play and really focus on what I wanted to get completed.

The great thing about summer is that its energy — fire element — is actually conducive to this sort of focus; that is, if we aren’t too distracted by the need to balance that fierce fiery energy with the cooling, playful qualities of water element.

The BIG PICTURE SCHEDULE makes it easier for me to see how much fun I’ve already got planned and to say “no” when I get invitations that are going to keep me from my goals.

For those of you who have been following this blog and attending my webinars, you’ll recognize this scheduling as an Earth element approach, which grounds and contains both the Water and the Fire. Because we’ve just come out of spring — the season governed by Air element — we’ve carried its inspiration with us. Now it’s just our job to tend to those spring creative seedlings and make sure they get the attention they need.

Wishing you a happy and creative summer!

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A beautiful beach day on vacation in Lantana, Florida

 

 

 

 

 

Disorder is the rule of the day; Be a fool, Give your writing a roll in hay!

Be gone seriousness! We got the important business of play to do!

April 1st traditions of pranks, of reversal, of masquerades and of hilarity can stir some fun into your usually very, very serious work of writing. If you’re anything like I am, you have big goals, you set deadlines, you carve out time in your schedule for writing and defend it as if it were your queen and under attack by a foul mob (the mundane demands of “the real world.”)

But today, ah. Today is different.

Today, disorder is the rule; the queen gets let out of the castle — to play in the mud or roll in the hay. Let her even run around in circles clucking and flapping imaginary wings like the village idiot, if she wants.  The dirty peasants can sit on the throne for a while.

quote-William-Shakespeare-a-fool-thinks-himself-to-be-wise-88508What would a practical joke look like if it were a poem?

How could reversal — of roles, of words, of rhythms, or images — create a topsy-turvy view of the world that offers something unexpected and fun to your reader?

Or you might use the energy of today to introduce some levity into a very serious scene, poem or article you are writing.

It’s not all frivolousness, mind you — there’s depth to be had in play. Shakespeare’s fool was no joke. In the reversals, we find the truth of things. The neglected, often unconsidered, view that is necessary for deep wisdom. And laughter is potent medicine for societal and personal ills.

It’s opposition like this — of seriousness and levity, of dark and light, etc.  — where we find power, our mojo, as writers. And the correspondence of our holidays, of the mood of the day, helps heighten that power. Learning to work with these energies is something I do in my Wholly Creative writing workshops. (Enjoy a free MP3 download of my intro to Mojo-a-go-go Writers Workshop: Dancing with Elements. Click Here for Mojo ).

So, go have fun. Get dirty. And write on.

Be the star of your very own solar system

While the stars were out last night, I was dreaming crazy dreams. I mean C-R-A-Z-Y.

When the sun rose, and I awoke, I began writing.

Magic was afoot, and it was evident because something was out of balance. Someone had imposed his or her will on the land, and the result was a frenzy of wings. Every sort of bird took to the sea and sky and found space among the four-legged animals that crowded the land. It felt scary, an omen of some kind…

…a villainess and her entourage want your home, which has no doors only elaborate passages between rooms, but more — she seems to want YOU. There is some power you hold that you are unaware of. She tries to control you by taking away what you love — Ashley and Oliver, your daughter and your cat. You know who you are when you are with them — because you serve each other and give each other reasons to live, to go out, to go on, and to come home. These are the attachments that fortify you. When they disappear, you are as concerned for them as you are for yourself. You ask about the chaos of animals outside. She says, “A creativity spell.”dream

You know what you must do, but do not know how.

You begin to cast a spell you can barely recall that you saw once in a book. You spell R-E-G-I-N-A out, tracing each letter with a finger in the air. Then shave the first letter off, E-G-I-N-A. Then G-I-N-A. Each letter is supposed to represent something, hold some power. “S” you remember stands for “Sin” but there is no “S” in “Regina” and you think maybe you’ve remembered the spell wrong, but you go on. Because now that you are powerless, faith is all you have. Faith, and this magically enhanced land, and this doorless house, and though you are uncertain of your power, you know it’s valuable because other people have come for it. You need to learn about your own abilities, understand your own resources. You have to become your own teacher.

Writing down snippets of imagery and story from my dreams has helped me glean their messages. I do more than merely recording the events, which is often boring and time-consuming because I dream so much. But as I write into, rather than about, the dream images and feelings while I am still waking up, I awaken to the depth of the messages.

From this dream, I realized I’d been resisting financial success and material gain because it made me feel vulnerable on many levels — spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I also realized I don’t entirely trust creativity or understand my own power. Still, I rule (Regina means queen) and can create change with words and writing … even in thin air.

WOW! Huge messages that I would have missed if I simply woke up and said, “Dude, I had some crazy-ass dreams last night.”

Some mornings I wake up and write into the dream just to record characters, images or plot.

Like this recent entry:

No one was certain but they speculated she’d been eaten by alligators, having spent so much time among them. She was once queen of the forest, connoisseur of the bramble and buzz, cheerleader for the chaos of nature. She appreciated its logic. She knew the alligators and did not fear them. She watched them float at the surface, creep from the black Florida muck, and slide into the darkly steeped rivers. Every river was alligator soup, teaming with decay, which was nourishment, more that she’d ever received on either side of the desk in a classroom. She thought, “It won’t pay much, but at least I’ll make a difference.” But teaching was full of its own kinds of gators — bureaucratic administrators and entitled parents would drag a teacher under and let a child’s education rot there with her. So to save the only one she could, she retreated to the bureaucracy of the forest. And then she quit the forest to farm the land. So when the young boy went missing near the banks of the Loxahatchee where she’d also gone to hike that day, folks pretty much assumed instinct overcame the logic, and she’d tried to wrestle a gator to save the boy. Or at least that’s how people were telling it from the cracked vinyl seats of Curley’s over their coffees and pancakes. 

Every time I write a dream down, it becomes real. Solid. Like a planet, the story orbits me during the day. Often, I am aware of several of them orbiting at the same time. Each dream is its own world, and I am its sun. I may not be the center of the universe, but I am the star of my very own solar system.

Not everyone dreams as vividly and frequently as I do, obviously. Some may recall their dreams only infrequently. Still, even these occasional recollections can provide some fantastic source material for writers, artists and other creative thinkers. The trick is tapping in…

#whatsyourstory #whollycreative

Sign-up for my free online Dream Writing workshop: Discover Inner Wisdom & Creative Gold. Wake up and dream on! Attend the live webinar Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 11 am PST. Or watch in replay.

 

 

Fishing for creativity in an ocean of mind

So many times I’ve heard the “essay in my head” or the “poem in my head,” the words effortless and organically stringing themselves together, the ideas and the cadences apt. Perfectly so. The ideas and words just flow in my mind, a perfect spontaneous composition.

Then I grab a pen to capture the stream of word-tumble feeling-thought, so I can claim, publish, own this exquisite expressionBut the ideas just sort of land on the page without the same life in them, without the same depth or beauty.

I remember pulling a fish from the Atlantic ocean — the fish’s other-worldly iridescence, the powerful aliveness of muscular swish-jerk from its center. And then, later, how it just lay there — limp, cold, and grey.

fishing-islamorada-2-LThat’s how it feels so often after trying to get down the composition in my head and put it on the page. So often, it feels like that fish that does not want to be pulled from its boundless, buoyant element.

The imagination is an ocean — all potential. When we conceive a creation in our minds, it is limitless, lovely and perfect.  But when we manifest it, we bring it down from the realm of the mind (thought) into the world of the body (senses). As the abstract becomes concrete, the infinite becomes finite. Embodying, grounding, manifesting: these mean limitation.

I have to come back to this principle time and again. To remember that my willingness to create must co-exist with an acceptance of imperfection. That my desire to have and to hold what I have imagined may come at the cost. But, oh, how delicious those inspirations can be when they are lovingly prepared.

Get my FREE GUIDE to overcoming obstacles so that you get moving and get your writing project done.

 

Mind-maps, mojo, and being in flow

Lady Writing OutdoorsShe was attractive and affluent woman who lived in the Caribbean. Diamonds gleamed on her ring finger. Her blond hair was sunny, her style was carefree, but her expression was grim. (But I’ll call her “Sunny” here anyway.)

“I feel like I lost my mojo,” Sunny said on the mic at the creativity conference we were both attending. “I don’t even know what I want to do anymore.”

Sunny identified as a writer, a life coach, and public speaker. She had degrees in nursing and writing.

“The themes ‘faith’ and ‘boundaries’ keep coming up for me,” she told the leader of the conference, “but I don’t know what to do with them.”

The conference leader asked her what sort of work would make her feel better.

Sunny replied, “I just want people to come in and spend time with me and leave feeling happy and good.”

“That sounds like a show,” the leader responded.

And that’s when Sunny became, well, sunny. Her face lit up.

“Would you like to do a show about faith and boundaries?” the leader asked, with a smile that indicted she and everyone else in the room already knew the answer just looking at the change in Sunny.

“I don’t even know what that would look like,” Sunny stammered, but her inner light sparkled. She was clearly excited about the possibility of this new prospect. It was clear she’d found her mojo.

That’s when I started thinking about mojo. “Lost my mojo” was how Sunny described an emotional state of powerlessness and depression that created a downward spiral. Disconnection from her potential and from the possibilities manifested as shut down. She found her power by reconnecting, not in action but in feelings. She didn’t know what she wanted exactly, but she knew what feeling state she wanted to create for others and she’d been paying attention to the words that kept presenting themselves as she’d talked. Together, the words and the feelings had power; therein lay the mojo – the magic.

streamDialogue, like the one Sunny had with conference leader, creates a sort of stream. Its movement of language and emotion carries us through our blocks and helps us identify solutions that will make us feel better and identify solutions. If you are feeling a little lost, try writing down what you are feeling and what you feel like you need. Pay attention to the themes that emerge or the words that repeat themselves. You can highlight or underline key words or start a new page and write them down as a mind map to guide you to the solution.

Learn more about being in flow and moving through creative blocks by meditating on the fluid qualities of water. Check out my video on Practical Magic for Writers: Water Element. Or visit WhollyCreative.com.

#whollycreative #whatsyourstory

Making art can solve your problems and change your life

No matter what problem you have, odds are Samantha Bennett will tell you, “Make some art about it.”

Sam is an actor, the author of Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day, and the CEO of The Organized Artist Company, which offers workshops and coaching to artists and entrepreneurs who want to get their shit together.

People like me.

Early in the year, I signed up for Sam’s 6-week Get It Done online workshop because I’d stalled out in my vision for Wholly Creative. I had an idea of what I wanted to do — teach people how to integrate mind, body, and spirit in their creative lives — but I didn’t know how to clarify my vision and implement a plan. Over the months, I’ve heard Sam tell those of us that get creatively stuck or are dealing with a problem to “Make some art about it.”

She says it so often, it finally sunk in.

Bad Art Good Results
My bad art yielded good results

Only, this time it was personal: a friend with whom I’d had a close but difficult relationship re-appeared after a long (and peaceful) absence. My ambivalence about his return manifested as intrusive thoughts. Whether working or playing, I kept thinking about him, and I was losing both focus and peace of mind.

WWSD?

I took out some paper and a pen, and rather than write, I start to draw. When I was done half-an-hour or so later, I had grade-school art to show for my efforts, but I felt like I’d gone through top-notch psychotherapy. My divided feelings had become a firm resolve to maintain my distance from this dear, but toxic, friend. My feelings of hurt turned to empathy as I analyzed my drawing. I could see his pain and fear disguised as toughness and cool detachment, and I could see the power in my transparency and vulnerability. He was walled in; I was levitating.

Something in me was healed, and I didn’t even need any artistic skill to do it.

Skill, in fact, may have gotten in the way. If I’d tried to write about the problem, chances are my ego would’ve stepped in and start editing and offering opinions before the words made it to the page. But in a medium where I’ve got zero talent? My ego didn’t even think to speak up. It was out to lunch while it thought I was goofing around with kid stuff.

I wondered what it was like for Sam’s other clients who followed her advice.

My Mind by Roxana Ramos
“My Mind” by Roxana Ramos

Roxana Ramos, a client of Sam who lives in Peru and works in the visual arts — including paper and bookbinding — made some art with India ink markers and paper after she and her boyfriend had an big argument. Unlike my metaphoric rendering, Ramos expressed her feelings abstractly.

“Once my feelings had form, I was able to analyze them,” Ramos said.

She understood from the colorful loopy doodles that she’d had an imbalance that contributed to the argument: “I was too analytical, concentrated on my practical side, so when it was time to feel, I got overwhelmed and exploded.”

For her, another up side to this therapy is that it also contributes to her oeuvre and provides a source of income. (This blog’s featured image at the top is Ramos’s “Us”).

The simple creative practice has helped Ramos overcome overwhelm, the problem that brought her to Sam in the first place. Artists, especially those who are in full-time jobs while pursuing their art “on the side,” often face overwhelm. Other times, the problem stems from too many options. Whatever the cause, overwhelm shuts artists down.

MK Piatkowski, a Canadian singer, dancer, playwright and director, also conquered overwhelm. She quit her full-time job and set out on her own thanks to Sam’s advice to “make some art about it.”

“The practice reminded me that I needed to be an artist again,” Piatkowski explained. “So I’d work and then think, ‘Ok, dance break!’ or “Ok, now let’s do some writing.’”

Piatkowski also used the art of writing to remove a “grief block” that was keeping her from moving forward after the death of a friend, and she incorporated the work into her one-woman cabaret show-in-the-making. She also makes art to clarify her vision for One Big Umbrella, her business that serves theater professionals and creative entrepreneurs.

And it’s not just artists. Even cowgirls get the blues and can benefit from art-making.

Sisam whirlpool
Sisam’s whirlpool

Jane Sisam, a veterinary scientist in New Zealand working “to improve animal health and productivity through on-farm workshops, teaching and demonstrations” was having trouble naming her business. Her indecision, she said, “was just like being in a whirlpool, just going round and round, and not getting anywhere.” Sisam wrote and drew pictures about the problem, and finally settled on the name The Pink Cow Company, which satisfied her desire for a right-brained name that would help her business stand out and a feminine name that would represent the “ladies”– both the cattlewomen and the cows – that she works with.

Sam’s explanation for her directive is that art explains our feelings to us. “The other part, I think,” she says, “is explained by the immortal words of my friend Bill Baren [a coach who teaches The Art & Science of Conscious Success]: ‘Feelings just want to be felt.’ And once they know they’ve been felt, that energy can be released and resolved.”

For some, that resolution creates a domino effect. Unblocking in one area leads to movement in other areas. Says Piatowski,“I didn’t move forward in the business until I started writing the play.”

I know that for many years I underestimated the power of my emotions, trying to bulldoze through blocks with sheer will power rather than addressing their causes, which was both exhausting and unreliable. I’ve developed a deep respect for what I once saw as frivolous. Integrating mind, body, and spirit, also means integrating work and play, business and art.

Watch my free webinar Practical Magic for Writers to learn other approaches to move through resistance and enhance creativity or click on the button to get my guide to overcoming procrastination, How to Get Started and Keep Moving.

GET STARTED AND KEEP MOVING ON YOUR WRITING!

When you’re afraid to go there

It was a perfect day for a beachside BBQ. A cool breeze was blowing in off the Pacific. The sun was shining full and warm. I’d awakened with the sun at about 6:30 a.m., an hour earlier than my alarm, and made pancakes and eggs. I had enough time that I’d even considered going to a 10 am yoga class before meeting with a new friend to go to her co-worker’s BBQ party.

Then I reconsidered. I was overcome by an urge to stay in, to gather myself. Not understanding the urge, I started to gather things. I began putting what I would need for the day in a pile on the corner of the couch: towel, sunblock, a change of clothes, phone charger, a cooler full of sodas, snacks. Then I remembered: I was taking my bike, so I started to rethink, unpack, and regroup.

IMG_2356The closer it got to “go time,” the more I felt like I should stay. Something wasn’t quite right. I tidied the bathroom. I put away some clothes in the bedroom. I organized the files on my desk. I started double checking things. Was there enough food and water in the cats’ bowls? Did I close the refrigerator door all the way? I was now officially late.

“Go,” I told myself aloud. “Stop fucking around and go!”

But my resistance was strong. I considered texting my apologies and staying home and watching movies.

“What are you doing?” I said again out loud. “You’ve been looking forward to this!”

I stopped for a moment and took a breath. I paid attention as the inhale expanded my body — my neck, shoulders, and chest were tight. And that’s when it hit me… I was afraid! I didn’t know these people. I didn’t know if I’d fit in, or if I’d be physically comfortable there (too hot, too cold, too hungry, etc.), and that was enough to create unconscious fear. (When this happens chronically, it’s called anxiety.)

What’s weird is, I’m constantly told how brave I am. People say to me “I wish I had your courage” because I travel alone, because I play my guitar and perform in public, because I’m willing to try new things – improv comedy, spoken word, sailing, sky diving, entrepreneurship.

People assume that because I do these things that I’m not afraid to do these things. They are wrong.

I’m afraid a lot. But the fear involved in the “big stuff” like jumping out of planes and into new things is easier to deal with than the everyday fears of the “little stuff” like the beach party. The big stuff is easier because I know I’m afraid so I can face the fear, but with the little stuff it’s easy to overlook the fear. When I don’t see it, I’m not able to challenge it; then, I’m unconsciously controlled by fear.

Writer’s block is just like this. Like the beach & BBQ outing, writing is something I want to do. But deep inside, I’ve also been afraid. I dawdle and procrastinate when I am afraid “to go there.” For years, I was unaware of this fear, so I was really hard on myself for not writing more. I’d tell myself I was never going to amount to much (even when I was working as a weekly columnist) and I’d feel like a fraud around writers and artists who were prolific. In essence, I compounded my yucky feelings (fear) with more yucky feelings (shame).

And I wondered why I just couldn’t be more creative!?!

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I faced the fear of sharks, freezing, drowning, and loss of control when I learned to sail…but it’s still not as scary as writing.

Does anyone create well when they are afraid and ashamed? Self-actualization and self-expression are high on the pyramid of the hierarchy of needs and safety and acceptance are at the base. It’s difficult to deal with the needs at the top if we haven’t met those at the bottom. In fear and shame, I couldn’t build a happy, productive creative life.

My point is, “Just do it!” (or as my friend put it the other day “Just sit down and fucking write”) is not the answer for someone who is deeply and unconsciously afraid. I had to build a healthier relationship with my feelings and creativity. Awareness of the fear lets me begin to negotiate my way through it. Then writing is like sky diving: I face the fear, lean into the resistance, and take the plunge.

In case you were wondering, I also made it to the party. And I had a great time.

Watch my free webinar Practical Magic for Writers to learn other approaches to move through resistance and enhance creativity or click on the button to get my guide to overcoming procrastination, How to Get Started and Keep Moving.

GET STARTED AND KEEP MOVING ON YOUR WRITING!

The Art of Doing without Doing

“Practice the art of doing without doing”: it’s on a Post-it stuck to a binder for what I call my “Phoenix Feather” project. “Phoenix Feather” feels good in the mouth; it’s fun to say. I had a childlike wonder as I used crayons to draw a picture of a red and purple feather. Then I slid my artwork into the front the binder to impart that energy to my work there. I’ve learned that feeling good about my project helps me approach it in a way that lets work happen easily rather than as part of a struggle. I’ve been making much progress on this project because it feels fun, wonder-filled, and inviting.

Another Post-it on the binder reminds me “I can of my own self do nothing. John 5:30.” And a third, a paraphrase of the Gayatri mantra, a highly revered Hindu prayer, invokes the source of all inspiration and creativity:  “You who are the source of all power, whose rays illuminate the world, illuminate also my heart so that it, too, can do your work.” I’m eclectic when it comes to spiritual inspiration! There’s wisdom and guidance from so many sources.

I love that invocation in the Gayatri. When I’m connected to Source, letting divine energy move through me, my work is effortless. It becomes doing without doing.  In my search for more on the topic, I found this post by Lindsey Lewis on Daily Cup of Yoga: 5 Ways to Master the Art of Doing without Doing.

You might also try my tips on procrastination, How to Get Moving and Get Things Done, which is my own kinder, gentler way to entering flow.

#whollycreative #whatsyourstory