I have been participating in Danielle Laporte’s ’30 Days To Fire Up Your Creative Genius’ Challenge, which outlines thirty unique questions, one each day, to help you focus in on what matters most to you in your life. Check it out if you have a chance: I think Danielle Laporte really has some great questions to get you thinking! One of the questions a few days back was about approaching the familiar in a new way, using what Zen practitioners refer to as Shoshin, or “Beginner’s Mind.” This is a concept that I have been playing with today in my writing. I have been doing my best to approach each paragraph with openness and curiosity. This is a bit of a stretch for me, because I tend to want to know what happens next, right from the start. However, I am finding that the coolest sections and chapters I’ve written so far have come from my practice of Shoshin. It’s when I take a step back, allow for the unknown, and show up with an open and expansive sense of “I don’t know where the hell I’m going!” that the real creative magic happens.
I wrote a poem yesterday that I really loved. I shared it with a group of fellow writers, and they loved it, too. Afterwards, I became shy and awkward about it and couldn’t write anything I liked for the rest of the day.
What is this all about? My dream is to share my writing with the world. But this is the very dream that I shy away from the most. What paradoxical creatures we human beings are! The Marianne Williamson quote could not be more on point:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Today, I was brave in my writing. I have been floundering a bit with my novel, to be honest. I feel a little stuck, and I hate feeling stuck. More than feeling stuck, though, I hate sitting down to write and not even knowing where to start. But today, I sort of embraced the feeling of floundering. I managed to flail around with great gusto today, and even got some words on the page whilst doing so! A real victory, that.
That’s all for now. I’m off to savor a chapter of a book before embarking on a trip to Dreamland.
My schedule during these few months of writing is pretty unstructured, and this is both a blessing and a curse. On Monday, I found myself feeling tired and icky, and ended up taking not one but two naps during the day. Now, I should be clear: I don’t have anything against naps. But for me, some naps are delicious and refreshing and others are a means of escaping from having to face up to things I would rather avoid. My Monday naps were of the latter variety.
So I decided that I need more structure. Gentle structure, for sure. But structure. I say ‘gentle structure’ because part of my struggle with depression is that I am extremely hard on myself, and sometimes too much structure can actually be a problem for me. I set overly ambitious goals–and plan out every minute of the day–and then feel ashamed when I fail to complete the work I have set for myself. (When I write “finish novel” on my to do list for the day, it is not a very good sign.) So I want structure, but I want a new sort of structure. I want a structure that leaves room for rest, and quiet, and play.
Today is a sunny Saturday: the perfect day to go on an adventure. But where should I go? How does one go about having an adventure?
Step one: Make a packing list. Make sure to include a notebook and pencil for noting down ideas or inspirations, but no need to bring expectations or anxieties.
Step Two: Step outside the door and look around.
Step Three: Pick a direction and go forth.
Step Four: Pay attention! Savor the sunshine.
Okay: here goes…I’ll be back.
I went for a walk, and explored Buena Vista Park and Corona Heights Park. The day was brilliantly beautiful, with warm sun, blue skies, and a gentle breeze. Then I came home. And I have to admit that, post adventure, I feel a lingering sadness. It is as if I expected something more from my adventure. At first, I tried to channel my sadness into a drawing, and I sat on the floor of my room and drew an abstract design on brown paper with chalk pastels.
I have been feeling pretty vulnerable recently, so I tried an exercise recommended by SARK, whom I mentioned in my last post as well. SARK recommends writing a love note to ourselves from the wiser part of ourselves, the part she calls the Inner Wise Self. Now, I have to admit that, going into this exercise, I was like “Oh boy. Can you say ho-key?”
And then I tried it. Here is what I came up with.
Dear Sweetest Darling Self,
You are so dear to me. Even in the midst of your fears and uncertainties, you are so dear. I love you forever. Without even trying, you make the world a better, brighter place. Shine on, and let your actions spring from the endless treasure trove of joy within you. I am always here, always by your side, and always loving you.
Today has been a little bit of a struggle. My inner critic is being more vocal than usual. And the Fear Monster–who looks something like a cross between the Grinch and Smaug, the dragon from The Hobbit–is telling me to abandon my dreams because they are too ambitious. So far this morning, I have written one scene and played around with watercolors. It is almost 1 p.m. I feel like a total failure.
Here’s my story: I am taking six months off from other work to finish the manuscript of a novel I started last summer during one of my final college courses. I also wanted to make time for other creative pursuits that I have put on the back burner for some time, including drawing and painting. I pledged to myself that I would savor this time, and do my writing from a place of joy whenever possible. Overall, I have been loving this time, but the start of April was the start of Month Four, and I am starting to get worried.
So here I am. Again. This morning, I wrote for about an hour, and then I took a break to draw and collage to get my mind loosened up. (I am trying to be open to the fact that I work better in shorter bursts alongside creative activities.) And then, guess what? I had, like a Major Panic Attack. I had to go out for a brief walk. As I strode along, I was thinking to myself: “I am a failure. My writing sucks. So do my drawings. I will never amount to anything.”
And then, (thank goodness), part of me was like: ‘Whoah there, honey. Looks like you just bought a one-way ticket to Crazytown. Let’s jump this train and go somewhere else.’
Today, I held a private dance party in my kitchen. I twirled, and slid along the floor, and raised my arms to the sky. And then I laughed at myself. I have to admit, I felt a little embarrassed; but that is, in part, why it felt important to hold a private dance party in my kitchen. Because I have been wasting a lot of time recently worrying about others’ opinions of me.
Why do I get embarrassed about doing things that make me feel freer and happier? I worry a lot about being judged for acting too weird, or over-the-top, or crazy. Here’s the truth: people will judge me, no matter what I do. We all have opinions about each other. We are social animals, and it is a human impulse to look around and compare ourselves to other people. However, trying to gain the approval of an entire planet’s worth of human beings is crazy-making. And also impossible.