Particular Beauty

Beautiful flower

Last week, I didn’t post a blog article because my mother passed away.

This week, my mind is not focused on creativity, but on my loss. I try to hold the sense of my mother like a perfect sphere in my hands, but she is not simple or static enough.

She is deep, complex, and fluid. She slips through my fingers while I grasp at memories, trying to make them linger long enough to bring her back to me.

She is not reducible to a sentimental archetype, or an ideal of motherhood. She was a real person, who I love and miss deeply. Her gifts of intellect and sensitivity made her a rare instrument of perception. She was so much more than a simple sum of qualities.

So if I can leave the person reading this with a thought, it would be to share your real self with others. There is no ideal that moves us the way particular beauty pierces our everyday armor, and makes us see that we all matter, so much.

Are Your “Shoulds” Sabotaging You?

Creative people are gifted rebels. We see things differently and we do things in our own way. This gets us into trouble, thank goodness! What’s life, if it’s just living the status quo? It’s not enough for us!

Woman holding a guitar

Some of you may be quiet rebels, living your truth without making a lot of waves. Others are shouting who you are from the rooftops.

Rebellious little girl

So sometimes, when you make your own to-do lists and tell yourself you “should” do something, guess what? Your inner kindergartener says, “you’re not the boss of me.”

Why? Because it feels more like a chore than your deep, inspired passion.

So you procrastinate. Or distract yourself. Or mope. You feed your inner critic bonbons. And you don’t finish what you actually want to complete.

Don’t get me wrong. I know you’re not a slacker. In fact, you are probably super responsible to other people. Just, perhaps, not always to yourself.

It hurts when you let yourself down. It can undermine your confidence, sap your enthusiasm, and seduce you into giving up.

So I need to ask you something. Why do you value what you want to do?

Stop. Don’t read any more of this blog post until you answer that.

Chances are, something came to mind pretty quickly, like “because I love to paint,” or “I want to make a difference in the world.” You might be sitting up a little taller, your backbone straight and strong when you say this.

Now, take that answer and go a little deeper. Ask yourself why that is important to you.

It could be that you feel more alive when you brush paint across a canvas. It could be that you want to make a difference because you care deeply about people. Do you feel a softening in your chest? Are you feeling a little more vulnerable? If so, you’re getting closer.

Watercolor painting of colorful tree

That beautiful combination of strength and vulnerability is telling you something. The value and importance of why you want to create are your energetic roots—and your wisdom. Tap into them. Let them ground you and nourish your enthusiasm.

What can you do with all that strength and enthusiasm? You can commit to anything that moves you in the direction of your goal. And mean it.

You can commit to painting or writing an hour a day, no matter what. Or playing the piano. Or knitting. Or designing your next piece of jewelry.

Yes, you can.

Ultimately, you have to make that choice. No one else can make you commit. There’s no magic potion, spell, or list of steps that will do it. It’s up to you.

We don’t always know why we finally choose to commit, or when it’s going to happen. It can be an accumulation of imperceptible inner changes, like an underground stream that travels a long time before it emerges into the light. Or it can be a swift response to an idea or situation, like someone flipping a switch.

All that matters is that you make that choice and then do it.

You can do this! I know you can.

If you’re hedging, here’s a tip: commit to doing something that is a stretch, but not too much. You want it to be doable, but not too easy. Why?

You need to make your goal realistic, so you can experience success, obviously. But you also need to make sure your goal stretches you, at least a little. Pushing yourself just beyond your comfort zone does three things:

  • It makes it more exciting!
  • It moves you further along.
  • It teaches you that you can do more than you realized.

Once you experience success, you’re more ready to take the next step, and make it meaningful. (And your inner kindergartner loves to get those gold stars!)

Woman's hands writing at desk with flowers

Honor your commitment to yourself by taking action.

A commitment you make to yourself is just as sacred as a commitment you make to your spouse, or child, or friend.

You’ll see how much you can do, and how far you can go, one commitment at a time!


IGB Post date: 2015-09-29

How to Slow Down and Move Forward

With the light fading away earlier in the evenings, leaves beginning to change color, and the cooler nights, summer is ending and autumn is just beginning.

Before summer ends, it’s easy to feel a sense of urgency to complete the things you wanted to do, but didn’t.

In fact, that’s exactly how I felt earlier today. My inner critics were starting to stir things up and I was well on my way to letting them make me miserable.

But then I looked at this photograph. Its stillness, its peaceful beauty, had a message for me.

Reflection of trees on lake

This is the time to reflect. To slow down and appreciate all I’ve accomplished.

Looking back over a busy summer, my memories waver in and out of focus, like images reflecting off a lake:

  • Writing weekly blog posts, even when I didn’t think I had anything to say.
  • Playing with my sweet, ornery dog.
  • Coaching some gifted, creative people.
  • Creating a travel watercolor set for myself.
  • Sorting through my house, and giving away, throwing out, or selling quite a bit of stuff.
  • Starting a regular yoga practice.
  • Completing a rigorous business course.
  • Having breakfasts with my amazing husband on our back porch.
  • Facilitating an inspiring 30-day creativity challenge.
  • Meeting with wonderful friends.
  • Hosting a transformative vision board workshop.
  • Making trips out-of-state to see my dear family.
  • Organizing my office and creative space.
  • Painting a dozen watercolors.

It’s a lot, actually!

Focusing on what you’ve accomplished silences your inner critics by putting things into perspective.

I still have my to-do list, but I’ve decided to try something different. Like most creative people, doing things the linear, “type A” way drains my energy and blocks my intuitive wisdom. When I operate too much out of my left brain, my stomach tightens, my back and neck stiffen, and—worst of all—it’s harder to see the magic in this world.

Sometimes I have to make things into a game to stay interested and motivated. So I took my to-do list and tore it into strips of paper, with one item written on each piece.

Goals written on strips of paper

Then, I put the papers in a pretty red crocheted bowl, and stirred them with my fingers.

Strips of paper in bowl

That felt good!

Now, instead of running around in my head, taunting me, my to-do items are written on paper.

They’re “under control” in one spot, but not in a list.

What I didn’t accomplish (yet) is fresh in my mind. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, wait, and see what rises into my awareness. That’s what I’ll do next.

By taking the “should” out of my linear list, and making it more of a game, tomorrow doesn’t feel like an endless list of tasks, it feels like a morning of discovery. What will I do? I’m excited to find out!

Being in a balanced perspective helps you think of new ways to solve a problem, or re-energize routines.

If you’re feeling stressed by all you have to do, take the time to appreciate what you’ve already accomplished, instead of rushing ahead to the next task. Then try making a game out of what you need to do, or changing your usual routine, to freshen up the experience.

Remember, you are in control of your own experience. Make it meaningful to you!

Make Resistance Your Ally

Here’s a routine that many writers are familiar with:

  1. Set aside time to write with no distractions: no spouse or kids in the house.
  2. Make a cup of chai or coffee. Take a sip.
  3. Straighten up the writing desk.
  4. Sit in front of the computer, or typewriter, or pad of paper.
    Question marks on paper in typewriter
  5. Stare at the blank screen or page.
  6. Fidget in the chair.
  7. Take another sip of hot tea or coffee.
  8. Dust the living room.
  9. Glance at the blank screen or page on the way to start a load of laundry.
  10. Rub the dog’s tummy.
  11. Sit back down at the desk.
  12. Look at the clock.
  13. Begin typing or writing.
  14. Play with the first sentence until it is perfectly written, yet flat.
  15. Put the dog out.
  16. Write the next sentence, which is uninspiring.
  17. Google “writer’s block.”
  18. Let the dog in.
  19. Put the laundry in the dryer.
  20. Shut down the computer or put away the paper, feeling defeated.

Man with lightning bolt coming from hand

Why, when writing feels like plugging in to the electricity of the universe, when creating a story makes you crackle with purpose, do you sometimes resist doing it?

When you’re stuck in the kind of resistance that keeps you from doing something you really want to do, it feels like you’re fighting an invisible force inside yourself.

So what is that force, exactly?

Think of an archer pulling back on the string of a bow, increasing the energy to propel the arrow toward the mark.

Woman archer with bow and arrow

The arrow is anything you intend do to. (Like write a new story.)

The mark is the target you’re aiming for. (Like completing a first draft.)

Resistance is the part of taking focused action where you pull back a little and pause.

Its intention is to help you gather energy and get clear on the mark. So resistance is actually helpful.

However, when you hesitate past the moment when your energy and focus are in alignment—past the moment when you need to take action—you lose energy and focus, and you may give up.

So how can you make resistance your ally? Remember that it’s simply a moment in a process. When you feel it, think of it as a messenger telling you that you are poised to act. And you are the archer. You are the one in control of how far back you pull that string, how long you take aim, and when you let that arrow fly. When resistance shows up, don’t overthink it. Make the conscious decision to let go.

How do you know if you’re overthinking it? You might have thoughts like:

  • What if the arrow falls short or over-shoots the target?
  • What if the arrow hits the target, but misses the mark?
  • What if an asteroid is hurtling toward the house this very second? (Okay, that was a bit of sarcasm to make a point.)

Staying resistant might make you feel like you’re in control. But you’re really letting your fear control you. And when you do that, you’re not getting anywhere.

Birds flying in arrow formation

It’s time to channel your inner Robin Hood! Let the outlaw in you write—or make any kind of art—despite the mistakes you will make. Don’t do the laundry. Face the blank page and stay put!

Let your inner Robin Hood take from your rich inner life and share the bounty with the rest of us. We want to read, or hear, or see, or taste, or feel, or know your art.

There’s only one you, and we’re curious about how you see the world.

The Value of Appreciation

We’re almost a dozen days into the 30-Day Creativity Challenge on the Inner Guidebook Facebook page, and it’s been a blast!

We have a community of creatives, who have a safe place to share their work publicly, and give and receive appreciation within the group.

Multi-colored markers

There are many multi-talented folks posting photos of their original artwork, essays, photography, poems, tie-dye, fabric screen prints, flower arrangements, delicious meals, and many other creative projects.

It’s been wonderful for me to wake up and know that some sort of a creative project is in store for me that day. And I’m not creating in a void; there’s a group of other creative people who want to see what I’m going to post. It’s motivating!

I have fun checking in throughout the day, to see what others are posting. It’s inspiring to see so many original ideas and talent!

I feel more open and connected when I’m appreciating other people’s creative gifts, and I feel more valued when other people appreciate mine. And I feel grateful and honored that so many people are participating and enjoying the process.

Have a wonderful week, and go forth and create!