When Hope Evaporates

Man sitting on end of pier at dusk

I’m working on a novel. I’m also building my business. (And learning how to teach yoga.) I’m pretty busy. Each week, I post my progress on the novel in my Facebook group. Making that commitment to post what I’ve done is a key part of what keeps me going.

A couple days this past week, something else demanded my attention. It grabbed me by the ankles and pulled me under.

Sad woman

It told me everything was hopeless.

There are different names for that voice—inner critic, saboteur, depression.

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke called it “cloud shadows.”

Sometimes, I can easily refute that voice, and it goes away. Other times, I distract myself and the voice recedes.

But this time, neither strategy worked. It was like having the flu—I felt helpless to do anything but suffer, and wait for it to pass.

When hope evaporates, I know I have to listen more closely to what’s beneath that voice. The purpose of this particular pain is to wake me up to deeper meaning. Something important needs my attention, something that I need to feel, act on, or express.

But first, I have to face it. Facing what I don’t want to acknowledge gives me something to push against. It helps me build up the necessary psychic muscle to be with what is waking me up.

Happy woman

I see it as a necessary part of the journey to living deliberately, consciously, and authentically.

Thankfully, compassion for myself always (eventually!) brings me back to a more balanced place.

From there, I can stand on my tiptoes, peek around the corner, and face what has been calling to me. To know it more deeply. To understand what it wants me to do.

If you struggle with self-doubt, if you worry that it’s too late to make a difference with your life or your art, I offer this quote from Rilke. You are not alone, and there is a purpose to all you do and experience—even in suffering:

How should we be able to forget those ancient myths
that are at the beginning of all peoples,
the myths about dragons that
at the last moment turn into princesses;
perhaps all the dragons of our lives
are princesses who are only waiting to
see us once, beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in
its deepest being something
that needs our love.

So you must not be frightened
if a sadness rises up before you
larger than any you have ever seen;
if a restiveness, like light and cloud shadows,
passes over your hands and over all you do.
You must think that something is happening with you,
that life has not forgotten you,
that it holds you in its hand;
it will not let you fall.
Why do you want to shut out of your life
any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions?
For after all, you do not know
what work these conditions are doing inside you.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

What do you see when you turn the corner from despair to understanding?

What, deep inside yourself, wants your love and attention?

What wants to live and be expressed?

How does it show up in your art or in your writing?

Seeing Beyond Your Daily Life

I have a deep and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life. - Virginia Woolf

I snapped this photo in a side street of Venice about 14 years ago. I almost couldn’t believe I’d witnessed this little moment! But Venice was like that. Travel is like that. We leave our ordinary worlds and see what we might walk right past in our daily lives.

I believe this is what Virginia Woolf meant about desiring something beyond the daily life. Whether it’s making art from your experiences in your “everyday” life, or traveling to a distant land, it’s about seeing in a different way. It’s about looking closer.

When I look at the picture, I wonder who left the bike there? Was it a woman, as the style of bike suggests? Or was it a boy who borrowed his sister’s bike to get home from school?

If it was a woman, what did she carry in its wire basket, if anything? Her handbag? Fresh fish, or flowers from the Rialto Market? An old book with a broken spine that her grandmother loaned her? And what would the contents—or the emptiness—of the basket reveal about her story?

Your curiosity about little moments like this are doorways into your art. Whether you use a camera lens, a paintbrush, a fountain pen, or your voice to express what you saw in that moment, you create a window into your world. Other people get to peek through that window, into a moment that is both personal and universal.

What did you notice today? What piqued your curiosity? What images, sounds, or words do you want to share with us? We want to know.

Play Is the Necessary Nectar of Inspiration

Little girl playing in leaves

Don’t do anything “constructive” today.

Leave the dishes, the homework, the work work, the whatever you’re “supposed” to do stuff, until tomorrow.

It’s okay. Unless someone else’s life literally  depends on it, be irresponsible. Just for today.

Don’t even create. (Unless you really want to.)

Whatever you do, don’t be productive!  Eschew efficiency. Ostracize organization. Mock multitasking.

Just play! Let inspiration alight in the midst of your joy.

Are You Waiting to Bloom?

Pink tulips on blue table

For a long time, I thought I had to wait until something external “happened” to live a creative life. Until I won the lottery. Until I retired. Until somehow, life gave me permission.

Of course, I never stopped being creative. It’s as much a part of living as breathing. I am compelled to write, paint, and take photographs—and when I don’t express myself in these ways, all is not right with my world.

But more often than not, I would put my creative expression below everything else. I told myself that I would paint when the dishes were done, or write when the weekend came, or take photographs on my next vacation.

Who was I kidding?

Every moment brings us a fresh choice. Now, instead of thinking my creative expression will bloom someday, I see it blossom over and over again, every time I nurture it.

Enough blossoms, and you have a bouquet! A portfolio. A body of work. A completed novel.

So pick up your paint brush, camera, or whatever you use in your creative expression. Don’t wait for all the dishes in your life to be done.

Paint now. Write now. Plant your garden now.

Ultimately, you give yourself permission to create, no one else. You create your own precious life, one moment at a time.

Inspiration Pulls You Toward Your Dreams

Woman on bicycle

I remember vividly the day I learned to ride a bike. Of course, I didn’t learn just that day. It involved riding with training wheels for a while, before I was ready to ride without them.

But one summer morning, my dad removed the training wheels from my bike, and held onto me as I slowly pedaled around the cul-de-sac where we lived.

I knew my dad was going to let go at some point, and that he wouldn’t tell me beforehand. It was an effective method for me, because although my sensitivity can make me cautious, I also have a strong, independent spirit, and plenty of imagination.

Training wheel on bicycle

The independent part of me longed to ride on my own, to balance freely, to feel the wind on my face. My desire to master riding the bike gave me the courage to let go of my fear of falling off. It inspired me to try.

Just before I rode on my own for the first time, I heard a subtle change in my dad’s voice. He told me he was going to push the bike to give it a start, but I knew instead of holding on and jogging beside me, he was going to let go.

It was okay; I was ready to try, and it helped me to imagine my dad was still holding on.

When he let go, the bike felt less stable, yet the forward momentum almost gave it wings. I felt the sense of moving through space, unsupported by anything except the bike itself and my own sense of balance. It was perfect.

I rode in a big circle around the court, and back to my dad. He was thrilled and excited, telling me I’d done it on my own. I think I smiled and hid some of my deep feeling, sharing some, but keeping some of it for myself.

It was wonderful and exciting!  And reflecting on that experience reminded me of four important aspects of moving toward our dreams.

Being

Who we are being helps or hinders us. Open or closed, optimistic or pessimistic.

In my case, I was open to listening to my knowing self. It was the spiritual act of trusting that I would be okay, even if I fell off. I didn’t let my mind “psych me out.” I used my excitement to bypass my fear, and give me the courage to let go and glide.

Check in with yourself. If you’re expecting that you can’t do something, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Listen to that still, knowing voice that you can do it, because you can.

Imagination

Imagination is a wonderful gift. I let myself imagine my dad was still holding me up for the first few pedals after he let go, and it gave me the confidence to do it on my own.

Imagination is powerful. Imagine yourself doing what you love, and let it pull you toward your dream.

Doing

To balance on the bike, I had to keep the momentum going. I had to keep pedaling!

You won’t get there without taking action. Take small steps until you are ready to glide!

Support

We all need support now and then. I had someone who believed in me so much, he pushed me to take each scary step, but he didn’t let go before I was ready. (Thanks, Dad!)

Get the support you need. Ask a friend to be your accountability buddy. Join a group of people who do a similar type of creative work, such as a writer’s group, or a potter’s guild. Hire a coach to help you break through inertia, and set up good habits that keep you moving.

As a coach, I help people face their insecurities and fears with courage and faith, so they can focus on taking concrete steps.

This is what I love about being a coach; I’m kind of like the training wheels on my clients’ dreams, helping them move forward. And when they’re ready, when they don’t need my support anymore, I get to see them pedal off in the direction of their true lives.

It’s a beautiful sight.

Let your inspiration pull you toward your dreams. Because the world needs your gifts.