2016 has been big for me, filled with change, new developments, and challenges. Some highlights include:
and there has ALSO been doubt, struggle, and slog.
(sometimes a lot)
While it's wonderful to celebrate what's going well (we can't build on success we don't acknowledge), I'm also reminded how necessary these less-than-exhilarating feelings are to any creative process worth our time and energy.
Whether you're wanting to plan the next phase of your career, start a business, finish your pilot, book next-level work, create your own show, assemble your dream team - I've compiled 5 big ideas from my learning this year in the hopes that they may create some resonance and forward momentum for you, wherever you are on your creative journey.
5 Big Ideas from the 1st half of 2016
1. Procrastination is an essential part of the creative process
What??? This coming from the woman who zealously trumpets the value of weekly meetings, 1-3 priorities a day, and time blocking???
YES. (I know, I know, I know!)
I still ardently research and iterate productivity hacks from entrepreneurship that can help creatives streamline and up-level their career-related tasks (and will be sharing some new ones in future emails) but I'm also finally coming to believe that a certain amount of procrastination helps stimulate deep creative flow.
I used to believe that letting myself rest on other activities in the midst of a creative process was a sign of inadequacy, telling myself a story that “the real artists" never let their minds lolly-gag, and the work just flows out of them like golden magic, with award nominations already attached, blah blah blah...
But that's just a shame story I (and perhaps you?) made up in my head to keep me small and waste more time and leak more energy than the time it takes to procrastinate!
So I'm going to stop that, because as long as I have a deadline, I'll get it done, and I usually notice that giving my mind some downtime helps stimulate new ideas.
Adam Grant's insightful TED talk cites recent studies that suggest that moderate procrastination is actually a habit of some of the most creative people. So if you struggle with this, watch it, and gift yourself some gentle respect and space the next time you do your creative work.
You are an artist and not a machine. Treat yourself with reverence.
2. WITHOUT FAIL, there is a point in every big project when I want to quit
Not just quit the project, but quit everything I've worked for, all of my goals, and pretty much everything in my life except for watching The West Wing and eating kale chips.
This usually involves fantasies about planning some elaborate way to “accidentally break several bones” so I can no longer go to work, and late night conversations to my loved ones trying to convince them that this time really is PROOF that I’m not good enough for the thing I'm doing, and could they please confirm that I am not meant for this thank you so much...
After years of having these conversations in and outside of my own head, as well as helping clients and students work through the same, I realize that these paralyzing doubts are actually SIGNS THAT WE ARE GOING AFTER THE RIGHT THINGS.
As Steven Pressfield writes in Do the Work:
The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
So if you're feeling discouraged, or like you are ready to throw in the towel, DON'T, and instead ask:
What if this is just part of my creative process?
Take your doubt as a sign that you are right where you need to be, and go back to the business of sharing your singular and unique gifts with the world.
3. Listen to your organs
People talk a lot about following your gut, but I like to imagine that the most exciting creative impulses come from all of our internal organs - spleen, intestines, heart, liver - and that the most effective path to doing good work and taking inspired action is following the directions that come from areas outside of the brain.
I’ve learned that actual constriction in my body around a decision or action is a sign that I'm out of alignment with who I am.
Obvious, I know, but many of us are not in the practice of following these instincts, and often deliberately going against this internal wisdom in favor of what we think the outside world/other people think.
If you're trying to force yourself to make a decision or do something you feel like you "should" do, but there is an ineffable feeling in your body of uneasiness, it usually means that you are going against your instinct (which is pretty much always right).
So if you're wondering about a decision, searching for your next inspired action, or seeking creative inspiration, try side-stepping your brain and making an appointment with your spleen.
And then just listen.
4. I will ALWAYS try to convince myself I can go it alone; under NO circumstances can I go it alone.
No matter the project, task, or goal, the-tiny-terrorist-who-lives-inside-my-head incessantly demands that all of my ideas, creativity, and forward movement must come EXCLUSIVELY from myself, and violently threatens that my future success won’t be “real” if I enroll anyone else.
(Oh yes and the tiny terrorist also says that it's awful to “bother” people for ANYTHING, and that if I seek any kind of support then I’ll reveal that I'm not perfect and people will see that I don’t have all of my ducks in a row, and on and on and on, story, story story.)
Thank you, tiny-t, I know you are trying to protect me, but I've outgrown you, and will continue to remind myself that we cannot go it alone, and we need each other.
I'm making a commitment to up-leveling my connection to community and strengthening my relationships in the second half of this year, because, in the words of Julia Cameron:
We are meant to midwife dreams for one another...success occurs in clusters.
(And, quite often, so does joy)
5. Fear = your compass. Confidence = a delicious dessert you get to eat after you go on your journey
Confidence is the number one thing clients and students ask me about. Everyone wants to know how to have the confidence "so that I can ______ "
("get an agent, ask this scary person for help, pitch my project, etc...")
What I notice about confidence is that while people are asking for it at the start of a project or goal, it rarely - if ever - shows up first. In fact, it usually shows up last, like a delicious dessert at the end of a very healthy meal, preceded by extensive main courses of fear, courage, and commitment.
The thing is, fear, courage, and commitment can be uncomfortable and even unpleasant. (insert your least favorite vegetables here if you'd like to continue with my meal metaphor).
Confidence, on the other hand, feels pretty great, which is why we usually want it first.
But waiting around for confidence to show up before you start something can be like waiting for Godot.
#8 in The Artist Mastermind manifesto states:
The thing you are most afraid to do is the thing that is most valuable to do
Following what feels scary points us in the right direction for our growth and development.
So what are you afraid of doing right now?
Do that. Then eat confidence for dessert.
Do send me an email and let me know.
I care about you, I care about how your work is going, and I believe that getting truthful and open around the stickier parts of creative work is vital, far too infrequent, and imperative for us all to do more of the work we're born to do.
May your journey take you to the sweet spot between passion and progress, and may you talk sweetly to yourself as you go,
I believe in you,