Creative Pain & Other Discomforts

Confession: I’ve been sitting on an article for a while because I’m afraid to write it. What’s especially embarrassing is that it was my idea- and something I’m excited to talk about. What’s stopping me? MYSELF! My own dang mind.

The worst creative pain is seeing someone do what you’re afraid to do.
— Hallie Rose Taylor

I’m seeing all of these incredible women do these amazing things, and I’m awed into inaction.

Oof.

Carson Tate’s article for 99u about intellectual discomfort called out to me almost as loud as Hallie’s knock-out line. As soon as I combined the tools from Tate’s article with the emotion Hallie’s, I was ready to go. Google docs are popping up like bluebonnets and I’m pushing myself to work through the nerves and discomfort. As I worked, a pattern started to emerge though, and it wasn’t pretty.

I would write a few lines and then check my phone, or discover I was simply too thirsty to finish that sentence. I would make a dozen little adjustments to my desk, fidget a little more and then, then I could write. Fidget. Adjust. Repeat.

No wonder I wasn’t getting anywhere! I leaned into distractions and gave them way more weight than they deserved. So now I’m working on writing when I want to fidget, or check my phone one more time. Engaging in my work as it deserves to be engaged.

I’m also employing my “five more minutes” rule. When I get the urge to get up from my desk or distract myself, I give myself permission… if I just work for 5 more minutes. What I’m finding is that I don’t actually need to get up, it was just the resistance trying to throw me off my game. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.)


I encourage you to read Tate’s article and visit Hallie’s site. Both women have a unique perspective to work— and how they work— with everyday life applications. More importantly though, I encourage you to sit down with your project— whatever it is— for just 5 (more) minutes. Trust me, you don’t want to know that you were the one standing in your own way.

Oh. And if you're wondering, I submitted the article. I'll let y'all know if it's accepted!

There's leaning in, and then there's leaning away from...

One of the projects that I've been working on is partially responsible for my writing here again, and I'm pretty excited about that. This particular project has been like mental cross training, in that I've been writing about something I'm not familiar with throughout the week. I don't have the option to say, uhh I don't feel like writing, so I'm just not going to. I've had to push through and get it done. And finally a switch flipped and I'm here. Again.

About the same time I started this project, I also started reading The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship by David Whyte. I thought this book was going to solve a lot of the stresses in my life and help me to have everything figured out in every aspect of my life. Raise your had if you've ever approached a book with those expectations. Okay. So I'm not alone.

One evening a few weeks ago, I collapsed onto the couch and made a mental request to the book. I thought, please share a secret with me. One that will blow my mind and get me unstuck and out of this weird mental no man's land. Give me something. Just a simple request, right? Then I started to read the story of Whyte's time as a rock climbing teacher. (I almost skipped it because I had zero interest in rock climbing. I said almost!)

Whyte talks about how novice rock climbers will cling onto the rock as the climb gets tougher, pretty much guaranteeing that their feet will slip off of the holds due to the physics body positioning. As the slip further, they will cling harder, ensuring that they don't progress up the mountain. If the novice climbers would lean away from the rock, they would actually be in a better position to climb. 

In many ways their clinging creates a false kind of intimacy with the cliff that leads to immobility.
— The Three Marriages, p. 130

Busted. I had been clinging (so tightly) to my craft that I had essentially immobilized myself. It wasn't until I started working on something else- on positioning my mind differently- that I was able to move. For the Disney inclined, it's equal parts "let it go" and "just keep swimming." But don't let go entirely, you don't want to fall off the Matterhorn. And that's about as far as I can take that...

I hope this helps, if you're feeling stuck or trapped in any capacity. While I often look to favorite authors for guidance, I've learned that books don't solve anything. They help, but it's actually YOU that does the work. And I'm here to cheer you on. Just FYI

Since (I've) Been Gone...

I took some time, as you may have noticed from the cricket sounds coming from this space. But I'm here again. During that quiet time, I realized a few things. I'm the first to admit that nothing in here is ground breaking, but it was nice to have the realizations float around my mind. 

  • Thinking about something (dwelling if you will) is usually harder than actually doing it.
  • Inspiration is cheap (but welcome).
  • Waiting for the perfect conditions means you'll always be waiting.
  • Funks happen, sometimes you learn from them, and sometimes you don't. It's fine either way.
  • 9 times out of 10 moving your body in some way each day is a really good idea. 
  • There is a fine line between looking inward for comfort and pushing people away. ...And the special people in your life won't let themselves be pushed too far away. 
  • An evening spent dancing to Beyoncé is an evening well spent.  (I ain't sorry.)
  • Do the work. It may not be perfect right away but it'll at least be something to build on.  
  • (Perfect is in the eye of the beholder.) 

What small step will get you closer to a big goal?

Remember when I said I wouldn't talk about my children's book until I worked on it? Guess what?

If you guessed that I worked on it, you're right!! I sat down for an hour last weekend and wrote. I came up with a solid outline and some little moments I know I definitely want in the book. It's not a lot, but man it feels good to have that foundation! It's embarrassing that I almost tried to back out of the writing meet-up within minutes of being invited. It's even more embarrassing that this wasn't the first time I tried to get in my own way. 

For those of you who have read The War of Art, you know what I mean when I say that the resistance is strong with this project. For those of you who haven't, hop to it! It could be the "kick in the pants" you've been waiting for. But I digress... The difference that day was that instead of laying on the couch scrolling through my Instagram feed (thinking of writing)- I just did it.  After that hour of writing was up, I still ran my errands and made time to relax, but I was that much closer to my goal of finishing this book. It's amazing to think about what could happen if I was always that intentional with my time, right?

Earlier this week we were bitterly reminded that our time here can be cut short. Older and wiser, I'm not necessarily going to tell you to quit your day job to pursue your passion. I will remind you, as I was, that we have a limited number of days here. And! We have the ability to choose how we spend those days, hours and minutes.

I invite you to spend some time this weekend working on something- anything!- that will get you closer to a goal. No, not invite... insist. Think of your future self, and what "thing" you can do today to get you there.

However, if the only thing you do this weekend is hug your friends, your family, and your pets- well I'd say that's brilliant. Big love, y'all!

 

Send Yourself Fan Mail This Year

Two days ago I co-hosted a goal setting workshop with Pei, who runs The Paper + Craft Pantry. Both Pei and the P+C Pantry are true delights and it was a wonderful way to kick-off 2016! One of my favorite parts of the workshop, aside from the donuts and coffee, was when Pei handed out cards and instructed us to write to our future selves about the goals we've already accomplished 6 months in to 2016, and whatever else our hearts desired. Pei is going to mail them to us in a few months and we'll get to see what 2016-newbie me had to say! It was a fun exercise in visualizing what I want, and I'm using that feeling to stay motivated this week... and this month. 

I'm sure I say this every year around this time, but 2016 feels different... charged. So I'm taking that energy and running with it. The mundane tasks like go to the eye doctor and flossing have their roles to play in shaping me into the woman I wrote to on Sunday. Also on Sunday (it was a big day!), I met with another pal to talk about potentially working together. While that project is temporarily shelved, that meeting was a step in the right direction. Our meeting definitely influenced what I wrote to my future-self and what I think is possible this year.

I hear a lot of talk of "oh I wish I could tell my younger self this or that..." but what would you tell your older self? Your goal-getting self? Write to the you that you want to be in 6+ months and congratulate yourself on what you've done! Ask questions about specific parts of your goals and give yourself well earned praise. Ask a trusted friend or family member to [set an alarm and] mail it to you on an agreed upon date. Who knows- when it shows up in your mail box, it may give you extra motivation to take action on some of your goals. That letter could also keep you inspired throughout the year or serve as a much-needed piece of fan mail.

So go on and let your future self know how proud you are to be you!

xoxo