Tag Archives: creativity

Start From The Very Beginning

snowy walk

I’m doing a thing. I am going to write 100 words a day for the rest of the year.

Why?

Because writing became scary and overwhelming and I couldn’t face it. So I’m making a tiny goal I think anyone can do, even me, even now.

2017: A recap:

A move.

A surgery.

Another surgery.

I lost control over my body. It became this broken thing I was always trying to fix. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t create. Everything hurt.

I lost control of my mind. I lost all my nouns. I stopped writing.

So here it is. A new start.

 

*photo by Patrick Chin

Nobody Does It Alone

 

cowgirl on horse

Why is asking for help so difficult?

We have this interesting dichotomy in Western culture. We think we are a village, here to help one another. We get sad when we hear about people dying alone, unnoticed, in their apartments.

But we also value the independent, the iconoclast, the lonesome cowboy, the independent woman. We sing Power Ballads about being alone, and we brag about our bootstraps, and we praise the person who did it all-by-themselves.

We become three-year-olds: “I do it myself.”

I want to challenge that idea, that we’re all alone in this. No one does it alone, not really.

Bill Gates had Paul Allen. Lin-Manuel Miranda had Alex Lacamoire. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. F. Scott Fitgerald had Zelda. No one is a solitary, brilliant expert.

“No one-not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses-ever makes it alone.” – Gladwell

It’s true with our creativity. It’s true with our businesses.  It’s also true with our mental health.

When it comes to our mental health, we’re not all alone in this. In fact, we simply can’t be all alone in this. We all need help because we weren’t meant to go it alone.
Help can come in a variety of forms.

  • Medication
  • Talk therapy
  • Rest
  • Physical activity
  • Walking meditation
  • Actual meditation
  • Prayer
  • Friends
  • Eating well

Whether it’s your art, your hustle, or your mental well-being, don’t keep trying to make it on your own. Find smart people. Surround yourself with them. (The internet makes this easier.)

Ask for help. Help others along the way.

 

Knowledge Procrastination

books

Do you have a passion? Do you know everything there is to know about that thing? Here’s why that might be a big mistake.

Knowing EVERYTHING there is to know about writing, building a platform, and the publishing industry does not make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer.

Don’t let getting help stop you from doing the work. Continuing education should be extra, only done after your work is done for the day. As Ramit Sethi says, “Don’t keep paying other people as a way of delegating decisions.”

Knowledge Procrastination

Knowledge procrastination feels productive because you are learning skills that may eventually help you in your craft. The problem is that often we never get around to actually practicing the craft itself. If your goal was to make a million dollars, but you just read personal finance books and never actually sold or bought anything, you will never reach that goal. But, if after reading a book you implement just one idea, you will have learned something much more valuable about how to get closer to that million dollar goal.

The same thing is true with writing or any art form. You can get that MFA. You can take another course. You can hire another coach. But unless you sit down, face your fear, and do the work, you are just paying for someone to help you procrastinate.

Shadow Careers

That’s right. Getting an MFA might be a valuable experience. But it also might be a three-year-put-off-the-terror project. If you should be writing, but you use your MFA to get a teaching job so you can teach other people how to write instead, you are indulging in a shadow career. Shadow careers, as defined by Steven Pressfield, are careers that are close to what you want, but not IT.

Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead. The shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.

Are you pursuing a shadow career?

Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan Studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies you know you have inside you? Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music? Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk being an innovator yourself?

An actor who just does set design. An artist who does advertising. A writer who does marketing. A poet who teaches poetry, but never gets around to writing her own.

Don’t let GETTING CLOSE TO THE THING stop you from doing the thing.

Similarly, don’t let paying for knowledge about the thing make you believe that you are actually doing the thing.

Just do the thing.

Three Ways to Make Space

make-space

A busy and cluttered mind will never have a chance to become creative. Being overly busy, overly burdened, and completely frazzled had been a near-constant state for me. I found, however, that when I had too much going on, my writing and creativity suffered. I made less money because I was too busy to plan ahead. My family suffered because I was not present with them. My heart suffered because it didn’t have enough room to breathe. I had to make a change.

Here are three ways I found to create space. Continue reading Three Ways to Make Space

What Will People Say?

standing apart from the crowd

Let’s talk about what happens when you create a thing and put your art out there into the world.

When you put something out into the world, people will react.

They will ignore.

They will criticize or praise.

They will act jealously or generously.

They will be inspired to create something of their own or mindlessly click (and click away).

None of this has anything to do with you.

It is not your concern how people react. Their reaction is their own, not yours.

Your only job is to create.

Let people bring to it what they want. Your work is done.

You become your art’s lawyer, or its babysitter, or maybe its secret service agent. THAT is what’s making you tired. – Glennon Doyle Melton

Do the work. Don’t worry about the rest.

This is a Calling

 

blog-follow-dreams-realist-part-8

Welcome to the Follow Your Dreams Like a Realist Series!

You have heard people say this, or maybe said something like this yourself recently:

“I should really write that story.”

“I love the guitar. I wish I played more often.”

“I used to draw, but then life happened.”

Is there something in your life that keeps showing up? Maybe there is something you’ve always wanted to try. Perhaps you love something you long ago put away. Maybe there is something that repeatedly pops into your mind when you least expect it.

That still, small voice calling you to create something, to be a creator? That is a calling. Your art is not just a neglected hobby or a forgotten diversion. It is a calling upon your life, put there by a divine creator.

Pursuing your art is not a waste of time. It is not selfish. It is answering a divine call to use your gifts for the benefit of the world.

What happens when you ignore your calling?

At first, nothing.

Nothing happens.

Nothing feels pretty safe.  There’s no struggle. No sacrifice of time. No battling fear or rejection. Life goes on as planned. Nice, safe, nothing.

What else happens when you ignore your calling?

Like Hughes’s raisin in the sun, your gift dries up. It vanishes. Without light and air, it withers and dies. Not using the gifts and creativity you’ve been given causes your soul to shrink. Your ability dissipates. A calling, ignored, turns to a dull ache that makes everything feel dull. Off. Like your whole life is a step to the left.

I’ve been in this place. In the years I spent Not-Writing, I thought about writing. I read about writing. Instead of actually writing, however, I watched a lot of TV and ate a lot of food so I didn’t have to think about the fact that I wasn’t writing. My phone was easier to face than my life. I was killing myself through distraction. My heart hurt. My body hurt. My mind didn’t hurt, but it was too numb to notice that anything was wrong.

Your gift, unpracticed, becomes another heavy thing to carry through this life.

But there is a better way.

The way to grow in your skills is to practice them and freely share them with the world. Holding on to, saving up, or hoarding your gifts is the fastest way to kill them.

Creating is more than just using your gift. It is answering your divine calling. Using your gifts opens you to light. It provides room to breathe. It is a step to the right path, a place in which everything makes sense again.

Practice your art. Share what you know. Offer your gifts freely to the world.

 

Photo by Eddy Klaus

Peek Around the Corner

In the middle of creating your art, don’t forget to take a look around the edges to see what might be hiding.

After (and during) getting the draft done, look to the right. Look to the left. See what may be hiding, just out of reach.

beach
Photo by Bertrand Zuchuat

Fear stops us from GOING THERE. Routine stops us from TRYING SOMETHING NEW. Calendars tell us we’re too busy to go EXPLORE today.

Let’s not get so caught up in the same paths that we forget to look around new corners and edges. Life lies in the margins. Let’s go see.

Your Art Matters

Think of all the people who have inspired you along the way. Think about that brilliantly designed ad that you ripped out of a magazine in high school because it was the first time you understood typefaces. Think about the blog post you saved and read over and over any time you needed it. Think about the quote you copied, word for word in your journal, because you never wanted to forget it.

blog_april_2016_woman_writing

There are people out there who have moved you, inspired you, saved you. They may never know that you are their one true fan. They may never know they have any fans at all, unless you track them down and tell them one day.

But just think. You might be this to someone else. You will have written the poem that someone needed. You will write the song that saves that boy’s life. You will write the paragraph that a young girl copied over and over, word for word, in order to memorize it, make it her own, absorb it in her bones.

You. You will make the thing that changes the course of someone’s life.

Don’t think for one second that your art doesn’t matter. You are creating the thing that is out there doing the important work of saving and changing lives.

You are creating to improve the quality of your own soul.
You are creating to knit together the tiny holes in someone else’s soul.
Your work matters.
Your art matters.