Tune Out to Tune Back In

I need to go into deep places while I’m writing my book, but TV and Facebook keep pulling me—energetically—back to the surface. I’ve been feeling more and more fragmented by all the electronic inputs to my life.

Woman underwater touching surface

So a few days ago, I decided to take a week-long break from both TV and Facebook.

I thought I would miss them. But instead, I feel more peaceful, more present, and more in tune with myself.

It’s lovely.

I feel more connected to the place I create from. My work is benefitting, and so am I.

Are you feeling deeply connected to your inner wisdom, or are you disconnected and frazzled?

Consider taking a break from all the electronic media distractions. Drop a line into your subconscious. See what emerges. Notice the little tugs to do what you always put last in your life. Let them catch your heart, and reel you in, closer to your soul’s purpose.

What do you have to lose?

My Dog Ate My Blog

Cute brown dog nose

The morning sun turns the snow a pale gold outside my window; shadows lay in soft gray. The sky is bright blue behind the pine tree. It’s cold—around 20 degrees—but the light brings its own kind of warmth.

My dog, Lucy, sits on her bed in front of the window, watching the world. I see a trail in the snow, to and from the pine tree, made by a neighbor’s cat. I imagine Lucy wishes a cat would walk by right now, and bring a little excitement to her morning.

Lucy comes over, lays her face against my leg, and looks into my eyes. I pet her for a while, telling her how much I love her. She soaks in the sound of my voice, as though it is sunlight.

Cute brown dog with colorful toy

But I need to write this blog, so I tell her it’s time to go play with her toy. She grabs a colorful wool octopus and plays for a few minutes. Then she’s by my side again, wanting more attention.

Like my mind, she’s looking for something to land on, to keep her focused for a while.

I take her outside. We stand on the deck, where moisture evaporates like smoke from the fence. A small moment to appreciate the beauty of this world.

Sun sculpture on steaming fence

Back inside, she’s still restless. I fill her favorite puzzle toy with treats. (No one could call me co-dependent with my dog—unless they knew me.) Now she’s alternately dropping the toy and flailing it back and forth between her paws to get the kibble out.

When I create—like writing this blog—I do something similar. I toss ideas around in my head, like a salad, hoping an olive will pop to the surface, a tasty morsel of inspiration.

So here’s this week’s nugget: create from where you are. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Don’t demand of your creativity, greatness; just let it be what it is.

Small moments, like looking into the eyes of a little brown dog, accumulate in our lives. They inform its meaning as much as any grand philosophy.

Be present. Appreciate what is. Create from here.

3 Tips to Enrich Your Creativity

Flower pattern fabric

I usually post my blog every Tuesday. But yesterday I was just uninspired.

I didn’t want to write my blog.

Whenever I find myself resisting and rebelling, it usually means I’ve neglected some part of myself that wants and needs expression.

When I’m blocked, I write—by hand—about how I’m feeling. There’s something about putting pen to paper that re-starts the flow for me. (Especially if I’m using a favorite fountain pen, with beautiful teal ink!)

This morning, I surprised myself: I wrote that I wanted more time for my creativity to gestate.

Just as a field needs to lie fallow for the soil to be restored, creativity needs that time, too. I don’t know if it’s the time of year—fall is approaching—but I’m aware of the need to stop doing so much, to let my deeper work develop.

If the change in light, the cooler nights, or simply your own inner season is telling you to slow down, here are three tips to support yourself while you’re enriching your creativity.

1. Let Go of Expectations

When you’re in a creative gestation, you need to let go of your expectations of yourself. Life and creativity aren’t about being productive 24/7. They both require rest and play.

If you ignore that need, and demand of yourself that you constantly produce—and that it’s always “perfect”—you’re abusing your creativity. You’ll burn out, just like soil leeched of nutrients.

Forcing yourself to be productive is fruitless. Let go.

2. Listen to Your Whispering Voice

You know what to do; you just have to give yourself the time and space to hear yourself clearly.

Turn off the TV, put away your phone, and unplug the computer. Get outside and take a walk by yourself. Notice things. Stop and look up at the leaves on the trees. Pay attention to the ground beneath your feet. Take in the scents around you. What do you hear?

Journal with no end in mind: just see what flows from your fingertips, and follow your inner wisdom.

3. Seek Out What Inspires You

Go to a play, a concert, a reading, an exhibition. Read literature. Go to a great, old book store and browse. Sit in a chair and sample a book or two. Read a poem.

Resist the tyranny of a clean house. Regardless of whether dust lies on the table, time is passing. Inspire your spirit first.

Let other kindred spirits, who have tapped into their own wells, help you tap into yours. Replenish your creative soil—and your soul.

And remember—be kind to yourself!

The Creative Heroine’s Journey

Woman walking down road into sunset

While writing my novel, I’ve been thinking a lot about Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” By studying many cultures, Campbell identified recurring themes in stories, and distilled them into a universal pattern of human growth.

As a creative woman in midlife, I am on a journey to find new meaning in my life. Finding my voice and sharing my vision is part of that journey. And I find myself wondering, what is the “Heroine’s Journey,” especially for creative women in their middle years?

Although there is a general order in the journey, growth isn’t linear, and you might revisit each phase along the way. This is what I’ve learned so far.

Phase One—The Default Life

Woman with dirty dishes in kitchen

Whether your current situation is good, bad, or indifferent, you know it’s time for a change.

Maybe you came to your “default life” through a plan that led to exactly where you wanted to be. Or perhaps, life derailed your plans, leading you to where you didn’t want to be.

Regardless, you know you need to grow and stretch beyond your current life.

How do you know? You get a wake-up call.

Phase Two—The Wake-Up Call

Telephone receiver on clock

Your wake-up call might come as a subtle whisper, or a jarring scream.

It can be a rejection of something you don’t want: NOT THIS!

It can be a calling for something you do want: YES, THIS!

For me, it was a combination of both.

I did not want to work in a business that put numbers first and people last. But more importantly, I needed to express myself creatively. To not create was not an option, because creating is my calling.

The wake-up call can be especially poignant at midlife, because along the way, you’ve experienced real losses and narrowed choices, and the clock is ticking. You have a sense of urgency.

How do you discover and follow your calling? You simply start doing what matters to you. You take the first steps.

Phase Three—First Steps

Footprints in sand on beach

This is where you get to explore and discover. You get to play and make mistakes. I love this phase because it’s full of curiosity and wonder!

You follow clues and have insights. You try on many hats until you find the one that not only fits, but looks like you.

It’s exciting! You’re full of energy and enthusiasm. You’re having fun.

The world is full of possibilities… until it isn’t.

Here come the dragons. Here come the doubts and regrets, the confusion, the loss and grief. “Welcome” to phase four.

Phase Four—Lost and Found

Dark forest with fog

You know you’ve entered this phase when you feel alternately lost and found, hopeless and hopeful.

You might experience a roller coaster of ups and downs, marinate in a stagnant soup, or twirl in a whirlpool.

Round and round you go, until you find your own still center, at the heart of the moving wheel that is your life.

Here’s the key to this phase: Letting go of what is passed allows your life to expand again. It’s not easy. This phase is difficult, but essential. (See When Hope Evaporates for an example.)

This phase cooks away everything extraneous. It leaves you with the core of yourself, stronger and wiser.

Phase Five—Committing


There comes a point on your journey where there is no going back. This is where you make it real in a way that you haven’t before.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Begin it now.

— William Hutchison Murray

Commitment has been especially challenging for me. All sorts of fears come up, but foremost is the fear of not having enough. It jumps right into my path and demands that I deal with its taunts, that I won’t have enough money, enough food, enough help. Enough (already)!

To borrow from Campbell, this is where I have to face my inner dragon and make friends with it, because each time I try to “slay” it, it returns. It is teaching me something, painfully at times, that I need to understand.

There is truth in what the dragon says; it’s just a matter of degree. Facing the dragon diffuses the drama. It turns the raging beast into a little lizard. It’s still there, but it’s not going to destroy my dreams.

There are no guarantees, except that one day, this life will end. It matters immensely how I choose to live the life that I have left on this beautiful earth. I choose to create.

Phase Six—Finding Your Voice

Woman singing into microphone

As you take your first steps, find and lose your way over and over, but commit to your journey anyway, your unique creative genius emerges.

No one sees the world exactly like you do. No one else looks through your eyes, no one else shares your mind, your soul, your experiences that make you who you are.

Sometimes, I start to talk myself out of doing something, because “someone else has already done it.” Of course someone else has already done it! That’s not the point.

The point is, no one else can do what you do, the way that you do it. Sing loud and strong!

Phase Seven—Sharing Your Vision

Woman looking through fingers

When you develop and share your gifts, you are giving in a powerful way. You touch people beyond your circle of family and friends. This is profound.

Creative women who are also caretakers, often think they’re being “selfish” when they take care of their own needs—let alone follow their calling. They must face the “Selfish Dragon.”

If you’re struggling with this, let me offer you a new perspective: When you follow your calling—when you write your novel, paint your masterpiece, sing your soul—and share it with the world, we all benefit.

That is what I mean when I say, “The world wants your gifts!”

My life, your life, everyone’s life is a journey of discovery. We’re all exploring some facet of the universe, using the gifts we bring to this world. When we share these gifts, we enable others to look through the lens that we see through. It expands our lives. And that is thrilling!

Don’t hoard your treasure. Don’t waste your gifts. Share them with us!

Is this Guy Your Muse?

Chubby guy in cherub costume

He might be. Especially if you’re writing comedy!

He’s not mine—except perhaps for the little bit of whimsy he’s bringing to this blog post.

So if he’s not your muse, who is? What is  a muse, anyway?

A muse is the personification of inspiration and energy that comes from—somewhere.

Whether you think it comes from the divine, the universe, your intuition, your subconscious, or the All Night Diner for Dancing Giraffes—it doesn’t matter. It’s real, and you know it when you’re plugged in to your muse.

Maybe you wake up at 3 AM and invent a painting technique that better enables you to represent the texture of a tree trunk—and you just have to get up and try it!

Or you stay up past 3 AM, writing a story that flows from you in a river of purple ink. It’s exciting and a little dizzying, because you feel so alive. You may be directing the story a little, but the characters are mostly leading you to places that you never thought they’d go. Each scene is a discovery!

Of all the types of creative expression I practice, writing is my deep calling. I used to think inspiration would strike like a bolt of lightning. I would hear angels singing, as they floated to earth with pithy phrases and perfectly-formed literary sentences.

Over time, I began to think of writing as work. Not in the good sense—when I’m deeply engaged and working hard on something meaningful—but in the not-so-good: slogging through flat ideas and flat sentences.

Then I realized that I need to have a relationship with my muse. I have to nourish her with walks in nature and trips to the art museum, with summer concerts in the park and playing with watercolors.

And guess what? The more I feed my creativity, the more inspiration and enthusiasm I have to express.

And that makes all the difference.