Habitually You

So in my previous post, I asked you to think of the answers to some pretty typical questions.
  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • If you have a million dollars, what would you do with it?
  • What makes you a good person?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you dislike the most?

I have a feeling that if there is any part of your life where you aren't truly happy, then you are lying to yourself  on one or more of these questions.

On some level, you are so entrenched in your beliefs about who you are, habitually retelling the story of you, that any real inkling of who you are is just buried.

How do I know this? Think of a time you told a white lie in order to not hurt someone's feelings. Or think of an instance where you agreed with someone just to make him or her happy. 

Here's an easy one... Remeber a time, because I'm sure it's happened to everyone, where a loved one made you a special meal. And to your surprise, it was completely dreadful. However, you had to fake a smile and eat the entire thing.

Now imagine that behavior multipled many times over the course of your life. Michael Neill, a coach and author I admire, said that faking it until you make it is a horrible idea because who wants to trust a liar. Who is that liar? You. You've been lying to yourself. No wonder you don't know who you are or what you want in your life.

So, start small. Start uncovering areas in your life where you run on autopilot. Pay attention to the times you are being habitually you.

  • When are you saing yes when you mean no? 
  • When do you just go along becuase it's easier than expressing your thoughts?
  • When do you avoid conflict? 
  • When do you pull back?
  • Where do you give in and go along because it's easy?
  • When are you habitually "you"?

Or another angle

  • Do you like the car you drive?
  • Do you like your body? Your health?
  • Do you like the clothes you usually wear?
  • Do you like the food you usually eat?
  • Do you like your friends?
  • Do you like your life?
  • Do you like yourself?

Get the Tools You Need

Okay, when was the last time you bought that $50 brush? Are you still using a keyboard instead of a digital piano? Are you using the cheap water color paper? Do you longingly look at the Corel Painter program and wish you had the money for it? Are your dance shoes kind of shabby?

Well, what are you waiting for? Depriving yourself of these delicious tools speaks volumes about how much you value your creativity, yourself, and your creative work. Just last week I purchased some music software that I've been wanting for over a year. A year. How much did this software cost? About $350. Being a student, I actually was able to get the software for $199.

Why did I not get the software? Was it too much money? My friend who just bought a house would say I was crazy for getting something so expensive. But I have the money. I've had the money. My "private" savings account is set up just for these types of purchases. There's the house savings, the gifts savings, and the private savings. The money has been there. So why did I not get the software?

Did I not have time to learn the software? Was there no training available? There's a website I found that gives you access to online training. It has a monthly fee, but it isn't that much. Plus there are books and tutorial DVDs available. Berklee has an online extension school that teaches classes on music production. I've taken one of them before. Nothing stopping me there.

Was the software hard to get? No, you can get it online from numerous sellers or at Guitar Center. You can have it in your hands ask quickly as you can swipe a plastic card.

So why did I hold off so long on getting this software?

Perhaps it's because as artists, it's easier to daydream about what it would be like to actually do art. Producing art is scary. It forces you to dig deeper into your psyche. You must uproot things you wish would stay dead and buried. You question your beliefs, attitudes, and opinions. The world takes on meaning and it is your job to express it.

When you create, the world has new meaning. It's your job to express it through your eyes. But with creating you stir up many things. Some of them include unjustified expectation, fear, worry, and self-criticism - to name a few. They may sound like this:

Well, if I purchase the software, then I need a better sound card.
Maybe I won't be able to write music like I used to.
Am I doing the right thing? And who am I kidding? I'm wasting my money on this.
It's not going to anywhere.

Stop those thoughts!

Yes, deciding to matter and purchasing the tools you need on your creative journey awaken a lot of fears. Sometimes it's much easier to sit and dream. But you will never know what you might have said, who you might affect, what music is inside your soul.

Today, make a list of the items you wish you had in your creative tool box. Better yet, look over what needs updating or replacing. Take your art seriously (and you know by art I mean all creative outlets) and get the tools you need. Once you do, you have one less excuse in the way of creating that next masterpiece.

Happy creating!


Are You Blocked? Try Taking Care of Yourself

Do you feel stuck? Do you have writer's block? Do you dread the blank canvas? Does the dance floor scare you? Are you just in a funk? Well, perhaps in pushing yourself to create and in focusing on only creating you forgot to take care of yourself.

Maybe you've convinced yourself that it's okay to be half asleep, hooked on coffee, living off candy bars, and physically unfit while you create. We've all heard of authors who wrote their best books while they were high. We've seen plenty of "behind the scenes" music specials about druggie rockers, and we've heard about various actors who had alcohol problems or eating problems.

Whether you realize it or not, you are an instrument of creation. So, a sleepy, nutrient deprived, addicted instrument cannot create very well can it? Instead of throwing the "B" word at you, balance, let's focus on the "H" word, health. Being healthy means difference things to different people. Perhaps you can't balance your schedule, but at least while you juggle the kids, the housework, the bills, and the deadline on your book, focus on being healthy while you are doing it.

What fuel are you putting in to your body? If you are totally numb from eating the standard American diet (SAD) of high fat foods, sugary treats, and salty snacks, then it's no wonder you can't create freely. Your poor brain is dying (probably literally) for some good fuel or food for thought (pun intended). Your entire system is lagging and you are probably so used to it being that way you hardly notice. Instead you lament your lack of inspiration or even motivation.

So, what to do? Get educated about health. Try adding more veggies into your diet. You know you should. We all know we should. I find when I'm eating junk food, the healthy food looks so boring. But for the past 5 days I've had nothing but veggies and fruit. What I've noticed? Life seems much cleaner and clearer. Another important fact is that I'm not suffering from an upset stomach that used to come from eating greasy fried foods. Now nothing stands in the way of me creating. Eat properly.

How about movement? Do you spend 8 hours on your butt at work only to drive home and sit some more? If your body is like a river, then it's definitely not flowing. Without movement, it's more like a puddle with all the sediment collecting on the bottom. Have you checked the size of your bottom lately? Get your energy flowing and go for a walk. Let your feet carry you along, let your mind soak up the sunshine,  and let yourself take in the sights. Just moving will help you on so many levels. If anything, that stored up frustration from being blocked will be walked off. Get moving!

Are you thinking too much? Do you analyze every paint stroke, every dance move, ever wrong note in a song? Give your brain a rest! Trying to create when your brain is whirling like a record on high is impossible. There's no room for anything new to come in because your thoughts are going in circles. And since our primitive brains can't distinguish imagined emergencies from real emergencies, your adrenaline is pumping and you are stressing yourself out.

Now is the time to stop.  Get out your journal and write write write. Julia Cameron is famous for her morning pages that she recommends in The Artist's Way. Start writing every day. Get the junk out of your head. Clearing out all these old thoughts is like emptying a cluttered room. Suddenly there's room to move, new ideas and flow in, you can breathe freely and actually appreciate the moment. Clear your mind.

Are you trying to do everything? Are you working on your business, your website, your clients, and your art? Every muscle in your body is probably scrunched to its limit. When was the last time you asked for help with something? Or do you prefer to do it all yourself? Whether you are a spiritual person or not, there is a lot to be said for surrendering. Taking care of yourself means letting people take care of you as well. Or if you are spiritual, let God, the Goddesses, the Divine, your higher self, your guides, your angels, or the universe give a helping hand. Creativity is a process and part of that process is letting go. Just try it. Ask for help and then surrender to it.

In conclusion, when you wish to create you must tend to all the aspects of your life. Eat properly. Get moving, Clear your mind. Ask for help. Then surrender!


Making a Difference, Making a Connection

How important is it that we make a difference when we create? And what does it mean exactly to "make a difference"? Does making a difference mean getting customers and/or clients? Does making a difference mean helping someone? turning someone on to opera, abstract art, poetry? Does it mean we must touch hundreds of people or just one?

When you decide to matter, it can be scary at first. Then you may feel slightly indulgent. Look at you - you matter! And if someone sees and compliments your work, your creativity, it can feel pretty good.

However, if we don't find a community of people to join - fellow artists, musicians, book groups - the decision to pursue our creativity can be a lonely path. Those same doubts and fears we banished at least briefly when we decided to take our art seriously can come rushing in to fill the void.

That's where making a difference comes in. To me, making a difference is as simple as connecting to other people. I think most of us fear being alone, unloved, and misunderstood. We wonder if anyone will like our singing voice or if someone may laugh at us for trying to dance again at 50. We question our decision to pursue the PhD in literature. We wonder if our story is good enough. But just finding that one connection with someone else, be it someone who appreciates what you do or someone who admires your courage to continue, I believe these connections are key to our success.

One way I make a connection is by playing piano in the lobby of the office building where I work. It isn't so much during the playing that I'm making the connections, but after. People I don't know who work on other floors will see me in the elevator and say "Aren't you the woman who plays the piano?"

What's even better is when the conversation leads to this kindred spirit saying, "I just started learning the guitar" or "my son takes piano" or "you can play the piano in the lobby? I play too but didn't know if I could play it."

At work, I've been wanting to start a community board of sorts for the building where people could post things about their interests; where people could meet to discuss art, music, entertainment, etc. Hearing each others stories and connecting on even the smallest level confirms how important our creative spirit is. By supporting each other and by letting our creative spirits mingle with their brethren, we make a difference.

We are all like little children, making art, singing songs, dancing lively. And like little children, we hope to make a difference, hope to making someone else smile, and hope to see our creative voices displayed proudly on the refrigerator of life.

What could you do to further your connection with someone else?
Is there somewhere you could display your work?
Is there some group you could join?
Could you volunteer to help with art, music, writing, dance?
What does making a difference mean to you?


Making a Commitment

I think sometimes we forget about the ups and downs of life. When we see famous people or read book series by popular authors, we don't see what goes on behind the scenes. Well, perhaps if you are into Hollywood gossip, you enjoy looking at what goes on behind the scenes. But many of us read about success and want it for ourselves right now. However, most true achievements are cultivated over time and with commitment.

Take the guys from LifeisGood.com for example.

In 1989, Bert and John Jacobs designed their first tee shirt. They knew nothing about the business.

For five years, the brothers hawked tee shirts in the streets of Boston and traveled the East Coast, selling door-to-door in college dormitories.

They collected some good stories, but were not very prosperous. They lived on peanut butter and jelly, slept in their van, and showered when they could.

Chicks were not impressed.

By the Fall of 1994, heading home from a long, less-than-fruitful roadtrip, Bert and John were desperately searching for answers to keep the dream alive. Little did they know, the only answer they needed was back in Boston, hanging up on their apartment wall.Jake’s contagious grin, simple as it was, seemed to express everything the Jacobs brothers believed in.

Basically they made some shirts with the little smiling guy almost on it as a last resort. Little did they know it would become a huge success. Now you can find their t-shirts in retail stores all over the country. My friend was reading about their story in the newspaper and how they guys are now millionaires.

I think we read this story and think "Wow, I want to be that millionaire." But did you notice the time span between 1989 and 1994 when they were living in their van trying to make things meet. That's commitment. That is a success that didn't happen overnight. However, we didn't hear about these guys and their company until they "made it big". We missed out on all those long days of little money and little recognition.

When you start something new, do you give yourself the real chance of succeeding? Do you fully commit or do you set unrealistic expectations for yourself?

Let's take another example. Say you wanted to be an artist. Would you expect all of your paintings to sell immediately? Would you say "Okay, I'm going to try this a few times and it better get me somewhere." No, you would study your craft, you would make a commitment, and you would learn about the market.

But how easily do we just look at the success we see around ourselves and want to be where it's at? Making the commitment to succeed, if not financially, but in becoming your personal best in a particular medium or perhaps in going deeper into your art is a worthwhile goal.

Today make the commitment for the long haul. Here's some starter ideas how.

  1. Identify what is it you want to do
  2. Find other people and see what they did
  3. Imagine what success would look like for you in this endeavor
  4. See yourself in 5 or 10 years, is this something you would still like to be doing?
  5. Mentally prepare yourself for the reality that it may be a long time before you see your results
  6. Make a commitment to yourself to follow through with this dream
  7. Better yet, get a coach to help see your through it (wink wink) or join a support group

Your dreams are worth it. Make a commitment to them and to yourself. Before you know, you'll look back and thank yourself.

"Life is a journey, it will take you where you need to go." - Christina Aguiliera


Less is More

Okay, so we've heard that less is more. Yet why are we constantly filling out up lives with more things, more bills, more experiences, more stress, and more worry?

I picked up Cheryl Richardson's audio program entitled Finding Your Passion. One particular statement she said (which I'm paraphrasing) stood out. She said that you don't hear how people have improved their lives by adding things to it. Most people improve their lives by taking things away and by simplifying.

So, if that's the case, what can you get rid or? What activities drain you? What are you cramming you life with? It's so easy to just sign up for something else.

I found myself with some more free time and immediately felt the urge to look into some college classes that might interest me. Or I was thinking of taking martial arts, or perhaps squeeze yoga into my schedule. Why? Did I need something on top of my monthly gym membership? It wouldn't hurt. Did I need to take another college class when I'm learned a lot on my own from reading? It wouldn't hurt. But before I could blink, all of my time would be scheduled and I would feel myself pulled in way too many directions.

Right now I'm taking piano lessons, going to the gym, blogging, and will soon start college again. That's plenty. Would I like to do more? Sure. But there's only so much time in the day.

What should you do less of? What thing can you eliminate from you life that will provide you with more time, more balance, and more peace of mind?


Faith

Where does faith come into play with your creativity? Do you believe in a divine plan, a higher purpose, or a higher self? Regardless, of what you believe in, I feel it's important that you have faith in yourself and in the world around you.

Faith is important to those who create because to create in and of itself is to acknowledge some type of creator within ourselves or in the outside world. When we create, we honor what is true within us. We give credence to our voice, our vision, and our spirit.

With faith, we believe that our creativity matters. We have faith that through the act of creating, we will bring something beautiful into the world.

Just know that every time you create, you are building faith in your abilities. You are stepping out into the unknown by facing the blank canvas, the open stage, or the blank notebook page. With faith, you can embrace the silence and start to fill the void with who you are.

There is something beautiful and divine in the act of creation. We give birth to an expression of our spirit - of our soul. If this sounds too "woo woo" for you, then imagine that you are giving birth to a heightened vision of the world around you. Your unique DNA is being expressed in a completely original way that will never be repeated. There is no moment like right now nor will there ever be.

Have faith in your creations and in your ability to produce something authentic, original, and unique. Have faith.


Creating With Love

Do you remember bringing home your first creation to give to your mother on Valentine's day? Or the weird clay thing (it was an ashtray DUH) to give to your Dad (though he didn't smoke)?

Long ago were the days when every creation of ours guaranteed high praise and the prime spot on the fridge. Many of us are badgered by inner critics that think we are wasting our time creating. But the love of creating can still be yours.

When was the last time you let that childlike self of yours create something absolutely silly? When have you made something ugly on purpose? When did you draw with your eyes closed? with your non-dominate hand?

When did you write the worst story ever? When did you try to write horribly on purpose? When did you just write for the fun of it?

When did you last sing a song you knew was out of your range? When did you try making up music on your instrument? When did you play with all the feeling you had in your body?

Today close your eyes and think of that lovely childhood time when all your creations were praised. Now capture that feeling and bring it to your creative space right now.

Ready, set, create!

No judgements, no critic. Have fun and remember what it was like to create as a child.

(P.S. Thanks Jory for the mention on www.BlogHer.org)


Get Clear About Why You Create

Do you have an artistic identity? What moves you to create? What is your voice or vision?

Get clear about why you create. The reason this is so important is because when you have those crummy days where your work seems boring, uneventful, or already done, you can turn back to your creative identity or creative mission statement.

  • Do you create because you just have to?
  • Do you create to honor the/your god/goddess/divine/etc.?
  • Do you create to make a living?
  • Do you create because you have something to say?
  • Do you create things to help understand your world?

There are so many different reasons why you create. What's yours?


Checking In With Yourself

Right now I'm training with Eric Maisel to coach visual artists. He suggested to all of us that we check in each day with a statement about how our work matters. This seems so simple, but I have a feeling it will produce a growing sense of self-worth in myself.

If you are working with a coach, ask them if you can check in daily. Just write a sentence.

    I matter. My work matters.

If you are working on your creative dreams alone, buy yourself a journal and write in even one sentence a day that you matter. Slowly those words will sink into your mind and become part of who you are. We all have a voice and a vision. And all of us count. Writing it down only confirms the fact.

I'll let you know how I feel after my daily check-ins. Let me know how you feel after yours!