Ouch! Was That My Forehead Hitting My Keyboard?

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My confidence always collapsed under the weight of my withering self-criticism. I couldn’t bear the awfulness and keep going. Even as I’m writing this essay, I have to stop myself from scrolling back to previous parts and banging my forehead against the keyboard as I see how short I’ve fallen of my expectations.

– Hugo Lindgren, “Be Wrong As Fast As You Can,” New York Times Magazine. January 4, 2013.

Julie’s New Year’s Resolution Manifesto 2013

  1. Go to yoga.
  2. Eat more vegetables.
  3. Finish that novel.

As painful as down dog and kale may be, neither compare to facing the yawning black hole of my unfinished novel.  Somehow I’ve found the time, discipline and grit to run three marathons but have not been brave enough to face the vulnerability within my own writing process.   I fear snakes, death and the possibility that my novel will be judged a steaming, hot mess of wasted time.

Only three days after making my 2013 resolutions, I found this article from the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  If you share a creative goal for 2013 that feels daunting, perhaps you, too, will find solace in this piece.

“Be Wrong As Fast As You Can,” Hugo Lindgren.  New York Times Magazine. January 4, 2013.

Redefine “Creative” and Defy Stereotype

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the_rise_of_the_creative_class

Even though books like The Rise of the Creative Class espouse an evolving perception and valuation of “right brain thinkers,” recent research highlights continued misconceptions and stereotypes.

Here is a little food for thought:

http://99u.com/tips/7261/The-Bias-Against-Creatives-as-Leaders?utm_source=Triggermail&utm_medium=email&utm_term=ALL&utm_campaign=MIH%20-%20January%2013&utm_content=B

Creative Wisdom

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Photograph by Catherine Jones, blogger for the The Whimsical Gardener.

Do you spend a lot of time spinning wheels instead of spinning magic?

Over a soft Pinot and a pink/green Austin sunset, a fellow creative and I were celebrating her recent realization that a frustrating bout of creative stagnation was finally over.  After months, maybe even years, of trying to pinpoint what was “off,” she finally stopped playing a metaphorical, internal game of “whack-a-mole” and went back to ground zero.  She asked the questions: What do I love to do?  And why am I not doing that?

A huge piece of the creative journey is figuring out who you really are and then dare to be bold enough to embrace it and run with it.  My friend is wise; she knew that she needed to stop and listen to her creative heart.  She knew that she needed to evaluate whether she was being lured by what others wanted her to be, or by what she thought she should be.  She realized that she needed to go back to what she loved to do.  That is where her magic happens.

It all circles back to the wisdom of one of my favorite parables, taken from a lecture given by Russell Conwell, a Victorian minister and journalist:

There once was a discontented farmer who was frustrated with his plot of land.  It wasn’t big enough. It didn’t bear the kind or quality of yield he desired. It certainly did not bring him the wealth or respect he craved. Frustrated with his lot in life, he sold it, left his family and went to travel the world in search of wealth, fulfillment and happiness.  He looked everywhere and mimicked the habits of others to find the wealth he desired. Finally, exhausted, angry, alone and destitute, he ended his own life.  In the meantime, a man bought the farmer’s land and spent the next years working hard to plant and harvest the crops he loved.  He was grateful for every plant he nurtured and relished his days tending them.  Over the years, the land began to bear fruit and the man was proud and contented with what he accomplished. Finally one day when he was digging a new well, the man made an astounding discovery.  Under his simple farm was a diamond mine — literally an acre of diamonds.  The simple farmer became wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.

“Your diamonds are not in far distant mountains or in yonder seas; they are in your own backyard, if you but dig for them.” — Russell H. Conwell

Now…where is my shovel?

 

How Do You Leap?

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“Leap and the net will appear.”  — John Burroughs

What if the net is too slack?

What if the net has a hidden hole?

What is the net wasn’t constructed by Trusty Ted’s Nets-N-More; rather, it was constructed by some fellow who looks and smells like Jeff Spiccoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High?

What if I am expecting a trapeze net but some skinny dude with knobby knees and a unibrow is simply holding out a minnow net? 

Last week I had an experience that highlighted how differently we all approach situations that require us to take a leap into the unknown.  I have been thinking a lot about when I need to be more cautious and when I need to just go for it.  What is your preferred style?

  • Do you simply think “hell yeah!,” take a running start, hold your nose and yell, “Geronimo!” as you go?  Do you trust “fate” so completely?
  • Are you the type to conduct a thorough research of the opportunity, create a risk/benefit analysis, interview past “leapers,” compile a comprehensive checklist and perform a hands-on safety check of every knot and tie?
  • Do you react with a “yes,” from your gut but take a moment to at least grab a working parachute “just in case?”

I’m quite curious:  when does impulsivity open the door to stupidity and when does white-knuckled, “oh gosh what if” grasping cause one to live a little too thinly?

Afraid? So what?

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“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from what I wanted to do.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

Hard to believe, isn’t it?  A master, an icon, like Georgia O’Keeffe feeling terrified?  As much as the first half of that quote amazed me, it is the truth of the latter half that thrums the soul: “….and I’ve never let it keep me from what I wanted to do.”

My inner critic, Eunice, loves to flick fear my way like ashes from her ever present cigarette.  Some mornings when I sit down to write, I swear that her eye-rolling will strain an eye muscle.  She’ll perch on the edge of my desk, cross her legs and light another Winston just as she snubs the butt of her previous one between the “r” and “g” keys on my Mac.  What a bitch.

Obviously, Georgia O’Keeffe had a noisy, persistent inner critic too (though I doubt she named her Eunice.)  But she never let the inner critic win.  Do you?

It is Monday.  What do you want to do, but maybe feel terrified to do?  Write a book?  Start a blog?  Take a photography class?  Run a marathon?  Join a dance class?  Take a cooking course?  Learn to ride a horse?  Plan a trip…alone?

Starting might terrify you. But will you let it keep you from doing what you want to do?

What Do You Want To Do Before You Die?

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“I’m halfway through my life, and as far as I can tell, the real lesson of the past isn’t that I made some mistakes, it’s that I didn’t make nearly enough of them…I’ll probably be lying in that hospital bed with my body full of tubes…wishing I hadn’t been such a coward. Wishing I had taken more risks, made more mistakes and accumulated more regrets. Just wishing I’d lived when I had the chance.” – from the novel The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta.

Living creatively is not about whether or not you can draw, write or “be creative” in a traditional artistic sense.  Creativity is about so much more than “the arts.”

This morning, the Today Show featured the following story.  I think that I will purchase the book, What Do You Want To Do Before You Die, for a family “book club” reading.  In this interview, the (really young!) authors discuss how the idea to embark on a “bucket list” journey stemmed from their own anxieties and worries.  The most compelling component, to me, is that they paired their personal bucket list quest with an idea to help others with their own bucket list dreams.

As a parent, I want my kids to live happy, fulfilled, empowered lives.  I don’t care if they are doctors, lawyers, award-winning athletes or have a 10.0 GPA.  But I do care that they live with courage, passion and compassion.  I can’t wait to read this with my boys; I foresee some fascinating dinner conversations.  I hope that we will all be inspired to live more fully and with more courage.  Below is the link to the interview:

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/46854660#46854660

Time.

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“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
Lao Tzu

The following video is intended to illustrate how deadlines hurt creativity.  I agree that corporate and public education cultures expect innovative ideas to spew forth at will.  Hey, I spent years jacked on Diet Mountain Dew to meet hair-on-fire deadlines.

Unrealistic deadlines create an anxious “get’er done” mentality.  But, make no mistake, the lack of a deadline can also be toxic.  You’ll be amazed at how many diversions you can find in a time vacuum.

Consider the value in encasing creative thinking/playing/producing within reasonable time blocks.  Ron Seybold, author of the just released novel, Viral Times, credits the structure of carefully considered, self-imposed deadlines, to his success.   In his case, the ultimate inspiration was the deadline.

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