on being a juxtaposition

Here's what I've been thinking about lately: slowing down, making space, and getting really cozy with saying no.

I am a person who likes to be busy (or I am a person who has thought she likes being busy). I like seeing people, and doing things, and having adventures. I like fun. And, it turns out, I also really like being home alone, spending a lot of time with my current favorite TV show (right now it's really old episodes of Bones) and whatever book(s) are lighting me up. 

I am also a person who wants to do big things, who wants to change the world, and so, I think, I must spend more time becoming that person, becoming that change. And my love of hermitting seems to directly contradict that. 

But what if it doesn't? 

I've also been thinking a lot about opposites, lately. About contradictions and false dichotomies and the ways in which we, as humans, are so often at war with ourselves. 

Which is to say, I am learning to let myself be all the things. I am learning to be yes and instead of yes but. 

 If the above resonates with you, if you are a person who feels called to be many contradictory selves, I invite you to try the following writing exercise.

What I know about myself is this: __________. But I also __________. And sometimes, I find it difficult to understand how I can be so __________ and also so __________. But I guess __________. And, what's more, if I give up the need to make any sense to anyone, __________. When I think about slowing down, I __________. And if I were to make space, I'd be afraid that __________. But also excited that __________. And then there's that word no, which, to be honest, __________. But all things considered, I'd really like to __________ and also __________. So here's my plan __________.

what are you making?

I believe that we're all always creating our own realities, at least to a certain extent. Not so much in the manifesting sense (although, maybe that too) but more in the story sense. How we choose to organize and explain the data points that make up our lives is hugely significant. Perspective and interpretation can turn a trauma into a treasure and vice versa. To me, this is about seeing the nuance and choosing what you want to focus on. Obviously it's important to be able to see what's not working, and, if we're to cultivate joy and gratitude, it's also wildly important to be able to locate the benefits of not-so-delightful situations. To get the most bang for your buck (because, let's face it, finding the bright side can be uncomfortable and annoying), I recommend going about this as follows.

1. Complain. No, I mean it. Really get into this one, and enjoy it. Write, scream, dance, whatever. Let it allllll out. For fifteen minutes.

2. Admit what can be changed. I say admit because it may take a tough change of perspective to see where change is an option. 

3. Do the work to make the above changes, if you decide that they'll serve you. Or, don't. The important thing here is knowing change is a choice and that you're always in control of the story. 

4. Write the new, oh-so-empowered story of what is. This means letting the world be what it is and also taking complete responsibility for the story you choose to tell yourself about it. Choosing an empowered story means always having options. It doesn't, however, always means you'll be overjoyed with these options. In fact, sometimes the option that will lead to your joy will downright infuriate you. Consider being willing to be infuriated. You might be surprised how fulfilling it can be. 

And if all else fails, perhaps you'll enjoy this writing prompt:

If you're always being creative either way, what would you like to create?

the thing about that is

I write a lot about struggling. Why we struggle, what we struggle with, etc. I think the reason for that is because struggle is where I get stuck. Maybe it's where you get stuck, too.

For me, if I don't get stuck there, it's not a struggle. It might be a challenge or a lot of work or something, but it's not necessarily a struggle. Because a struggle is a back-and-forth, no-easy-answers sort of thing. It's an I-want-to-believe-this, but-what-about-that sort of thing. All of which to say, it's a mucky mud pit to be in.

Annnnnd, it's also an invitation. Struggle is the place where you take what you know and you examine it bit by bit. It's the place where you unfold your opinions and beliefs until you can see all the tiny bits of debris that were traveling along with them. Basically, struggle brings us to the point where we choose to stay stuck or we choose to question our assumptions.

Dig into the heart of the matter with the prompt below. You may find that the struggle is not what you'd originally taken it to be. Hell, you may find that it's a gift in disguise. No matter what, try to have fun with it. 

Prompt: The struggle is that __________. And the thing about that is __________. And of course there's also the matter of __________. But really, I __________. Which is why I'm going to __________ and I'm going to start right now. Because I can.

tell me more about that

Opinions are gold mines for writers. If you're stuck in your writing practice, just think of something that you love (or something that deeply irritates you). Write the merits (or pitfalls) and then keep going. How long can you stay on this topic? What are the roots of your thoughts? And while we're at it, what else do you have to say? You might find that once you get going, your words take you in all kinds of unexpected directions. 

put a limit on it

Generally, limits are seen as, well, limiting, but I'm pretty sure that's an illusion. 

Limits are possibilities in disguise.

Limits allow us only a distinct set of choices, and they often force us to move faster (which, it turns out, we can do). Put a limit in place, and you create a boundary. When there's a hard stop - a limit to how much or how long or how many - you find a way to complete the tasks that matter most. You abandon that which does not serve your goals (or you risk coming up short). Nothing will sharpen your focus faster than a limit. A white page can be daunting, but a tiny scrap of napkin will house as much poetry as you can scrawl on it. Take advantage of this. 

This is the blessing of structure, and it's why we get more done when we have less time to do it in. There's no time for Facebook or general aimlessness. There's no time to be existential. There is only time to get the work done. 

Don't get me wrong - I love to sit and ponder, and I know how useful an empty hour is to me as a creative person. But: there's a difference between choosing to relax and simply stretching work out because you have the time to get distracted. Tiny moments add up. 

But don't be mad at yourself. Just set a limit and watch the magic unfold. 

 

 

 

habit habitats

Anything can be a habit. Anything. So, if you're having trouble building a certain habit you want to create, another angle is to create habits that would support it. Secondary habits, if you will. 

For example, if you want to write everyday, but you can't quite bring yourself to do it, you could begin setting aside time everyday. Time in which you will perhaps one day write, but for now it's just about making the space. 

No, this is not the same as writing everyday, but it is a way of honoring the habit you hope to build. Like keeping your desk clean so that when you're ready to work, you can get right to it. Or like keeping a notebook and a pen beside your bed, so that when the mood strikes, the tools are at the ready.

What is difficult becomes natural when you set up surroundings of ease and support.

Give it a try. It might be the perfect first step. And if it's not, just keep going until you get there. 

 

start with tiny

Today, I am considering the space between wanting and doing.

As in, the difference between wanting to write every day and doing the writing. There's something magic in that space where the desire becomes the action, but it can be hard not to become discouraged when that particular alchemy takes longer than we'd like.

In fact, we often use this as evidence that we lack followthrough. Maybe that's the case, and maybe it's not, but is that perspective helping you make the change you want to make or is it only making you feel shitty?

Sometimes, I still catch myself using this kind of motivation. Sit down and get to work or else your actions will reveal that you are not actually a writer at all. 

This kind of logic is based on the idea that I have to prove something. It's also based on the idea that there's only one kind of truth about a person. As if I can only ever be one thing. As if one choice on one particular day means everything.

Then again, the days add up. 

In order to make them add up in your favor, you only need two things. An action that's too small to fail and mindful noticing. 

Take your tiny step and then make a note of it. And if you can't do the tiny thing, it's not tiny enough. Seriously, maybe you start with a page, but you can also start with a sentence, or even just a word.

And then, pause and notice that you've done the thing. Notice how it feels in that moment right after completing a task you set out to do. This is a way to collect evidence of what you can do. It's a way to connect with the experience of having done it, a way to relish the accomplishment, however small. 

What have you always wanted to do, but haven't been able to build the habit? What's the smallest small step you could take today? 

 

 

 

 

june: habits and how to make them

Last month I launched a digital writing challenge called Word by Word, which I designed for every person who has ever said to me "Oh, you write every day?" with obvious astonishment. 

The short answer is yes. The long answer is while there have been periods when I skipped my daily writing practice, it's been in place for years, and it's a habit that I always come back to (and one that I've encouraged others to adopt as well).

I learned to write this way from Julia Cameron & The Artist's Way. Cameron insists that writing three pages by hand every day is magical. And after years of doing it, I'd have to agree with her. It's a meditative way to connect with the self and it has definitely improved my writing. 

So, if a daily writing practice is so great, why doesn't everyone do it? Good question.

Ignoring all the people who have no interest in cultivating a daily writing practice, there are still lots of people who can't quite bring themselves to sit down with blank paper everyday. Blank paper can be daunting, not to mention annoying or just not something you want to deal with at the moment (or, um, possibly ever, even though you also want to write a book, or a screenplay, or a graphic novel). So, how do we build the habit of daily writing when we are feeling major resistance?

Well, in my experience (and from what I've learned by reading tons of Martha Beck), the answer is to take smaller steps. When I started writing three pages a day, I hated it. I fought with the process for months. At some point, things changed and I came to love the daily writing, even though I still resist it from time to time.

While this worked for me, it was pretty rough, and it's not how I'd recommend others go about establishing a daily writing practice. Which brings me back to Word by Word. I wanted it to help people ramp up so that the process wouldn't be so difficult. There's the 28-day challenge element, but really it's all about growing a practice from something super simple into something substantial, day by day. Which is how all habits start, isn't it?

 

 

 

 

how to: getting dreamy (and making things happen) with mission statements

So, you're ready to write a mission statement.

Now what?

You start drafting. I want to emphasize here that the first step is simply putting words on a page. Lots and lots of words. This is not an exercise in building a final product. It's an exercise in letting loose and in seeing what your heart wants when you're not closely editing its opinions all the time. 

A blank page can be overwhelming, so I invite you to use questions or fill-in-the-blanks to mine for ideas. The resulting writing may remind you of what you already know is important or it might even reveal desires you weren't completely aware of. 

Some questions to consider are:

  • How would I like to be remembered?
  • What will I be pleased to have accomplished?
  • What did I dream of doing when I was little?

Some fill-in-the-blanks to potentially elaborate on are:

  • I keep coming back to my desire to __________.
  • When I am really jealous of someone, it's because they  __________.
  • If I knew no one would ever find out, I would absolutely __________.

Feel free to google alternative prompts or create your own. The whole goal here is to simply free write about what you want to do and be in the world. Fill a page.

Then, and only then, will you begin the actual work of writing your mission statement. There are many ways this can look, but I like to keep mine pretty simple.

A traditional choice is: "I am a __________ who __________ because __________." 

Or: "I will (act a certain way in the world), because (a reason why this behavior resonates with my most essential self." 

Or even something super simple, more mantra-like, such as "love the chaos." or "just breathe." One I've personally used is "stand tall," which also unfolds into "stand tall in your values, stand tall in your choices, stand tall in your beliefs." Cheesy? Yes, yes it is. It's also absolutely effective (and it improved my posture by about a million percent).

The whole point of writing a mission statement is that it will be your own. Even if you use a fill-in-the-blank, what you decide to include in your mission statement is a reflection of you: who you are & where you're going (and possibly even where you've been). 

Choose words and phrases that lend you power and call to mind you why you're doing what you're doing. This way, when things get hard, you will have a very clear reminder about why you're on this path. 

Ready? Go forth and write.

mission: make it happen

Want to make a change? Then it's time to make a mission statement.

Mission statements perform two essential functions: they force us to truly clarify our goals and then they serve as reference points for our possible choices. 

Want to get up early every morning to write but find yourself snoozing until you only have 10 minutes to get ready for work? A mission statement is a quick way to remind yourself why doing something that feels unpleasant is actually worth it - because it's on track with meeting your goal.

It's a lot easier to snooze when you don't have a clear purpose for prying your face away from the pillow. And don't get me wrong - I love me some sleeping time - but I also know that when I make choices based on a clear understanding of what I want to do with my time, I am a happier person. And getting up a little earlier is a small price to pay for that.

Also: once you get on board with aligning your actions to your mission statement, you might find yourself making other changes that allow you to meet your goals with more joy and less irritation. Instead of having to drag yourself out of bed, you might find yourself choosing to go to bed a little earlier. You might find yourself rolling your eyes at your initial resistance to getting up. You might even find yourself humming as you go about your morning routine. Anything is possible, and with a mission statement helping you make small adjustments to your behaviors, you can trust that a little discomfort is ultimately leading you closer to the life you want. 

If you're ready to make a change, be sure to check out next Friday's post, where I'll give you the basics of how to make a mission statement you'll love.