Is it worth it? (and other helpful questions)


This morning I took one of my beautiful fall walks and noticed that my mind kept going to several things I’ve had on my to-do list for a long time that are just not getting done.

I stepped back a little and let my mind go — the practice of walking helps me immensely with getting into “observe my thoughts” mode — and pretty soon I saw that the thought that kept coming to the top of the rotation was this one: “What’s wrong with you that you’re not getting these things done? Anyone else would have gotten these things done months, years, ago.”

“What’s wrong with me?” is kind of a default, underlying, unhelpful thought for many of us. I’ve been a coach for about four years now, and I notice this particular thought come up at some point for most people.

There’s no satisfactory answer to this question. There’s no encouraging, supportive answer to this question. It’s a good example of a question that closes off possibility and keeps us spinning our wheels.

As I walked, and got out of my thoughts and into the present moment, noticing the row of trees that has erupted into lava-reds, the squirrels fighting for supremacy at the neighbor’s bird feeder, my mind began to get more peaceful.

And when I got home, I went to my journal (as I so often do), and experimented with better questions to ask myself about these things I am not getting done.

Why aren’t I getting them done? (“Why?” can be a good question, for sure, but in this case, it felt impossibly heavy.)

How do I want to feel about these things on my to-do list? (This created an instant feeling of lightness.)

What kind of relationship do I want to have with these things? (More lightness. Relief.)

Is it worth it to me to do these things? (Ahhh. Here I hit the jackpot.)

I could tell that last question was the one that opened up possibility and movement, because exploring it felt really juicy to me.

So I went through the list of these things that have been nagging at me, these things I’m not doing, and for each of them, I asked myself, “Is it worth it to me to do this thing?”

The answers were revealing. For the first thing on the list, the answer was a clear no. It simply wasn’t worth doing. But I was telling myself I needed to do it. Is it true I need to do it? No. I crossed it off the list.

For the second thing on the list, the answer was a clear yes. Yes, the thing is definitely worth doing. And here is where “why” comes in. It’s worth doing — good to know! — but I’ve gotten out of touch with WHY I want to do it. Time to reconnect with that.

With the third thing on my list, I realized I’m not sure if the thing is worth doing or not. Sometimes not being sure is code for “no”, but other times, there’s fear there that is masking the “yes.” So this one will require some inquiry, some investigation.

I feel so much lighter right now, like I’ve cleared a path before me.

What do you notice about the questions you’re asking yourself? Does your mind jump to “default questions” that may not be helpful, but you keep trying to act on them anyway? Try experimenting with finding some more helpful questions. And let me know how it goes.

Hope you are enjoying the changes that fall brings (both outer and inner) as much as I am.

And: My Mini Unsticky Sessions are half-price through Halloween, when I’ll be retiring them. My intention with these sessions is to help you make a quick shift that allows you to move forward on a project you’re feeling stuck on. I approach these sessions with a sense of curiosity and play, and they’re often a lot of fun. Check them out, here.

Image is “Red Leaves” © Bart Van Oijen | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Invisible progress


My friend Julia Roberts, an awesome creativity coach, posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that she “made lots of invisible progress today.”

I loved her term “invisible progress,” and told her so. Julia elaborated: “I think of pregnancy. It buoys us to know that even on the most uneventful day, we baked the baby a bit that day. We’ve already had a hand in altering the universe. Most days have more progress than we know.”

To that I say, YES! And I wanted to muse a little on the concept of invisible progress today.

Years ago, when I was a chronic overachiever, perfectionist, and dieter, I read these words by Geneen Roth: “Sometimes doing it looks like not doing it.”

What? I thought. How can that be? We’re either doing something, making tangible progress on it that we can see, or we’re not doing it, not making progress, and, therefore, falling behind.

And yet, even as my logical, rational mind rejected this idea, when I read the words, something resonated for me, deep in my abdomen. It felt true.

I realized (I was about twenty-two at the time) that I could live the rest of my life only believing in what I saw, or I could live my life trusting that sometimes things were happening beneath the surface, even if I couldn’t see them in the physical world (yet).

Trusting in invisible progress means recognizing that we need to balance our doing with being. While “perfect balance” between doing and being is not possible, we can acknowledge that we do need both in our lives. Most of us are better at one than the other. And some of us have trouble transitioning between the two (me!).

For me, invisible progress often happens when I am in a “being” state. For example, when I’m out walking, I sometimes get ideas for my next blog post or the next scene in my novel, or a completely unexpected solution to some problem I’ve been struggling with pops into my head. I’m not consciously “trying” to come up with ideas; in fact, they come because I’m letting my subconscious chew on things while I’m focused on my walk.

Invisible progress can also happen when we’re being distracted from what we intend to do. This week, I had to take my cat to the vet, something that seriously freaks me out. Both the stress and the actual act of going to the vet took a big chunk out of the day and I had to let some things go.

While I was at the vet, though, the vulnerable feeling that came over me actually ended up being precisely the feeling I’d been trying to get in touch with as I wrote the short story I’m working on. Even though I wasn’t able to put in much actual work in on the short story that day, the vet visit — the act of living life! — gave me exactly what I needed. I was able to return to my story and give that vulnerability to my character, which was exactly what the story needed in order to move forward.

And sometimes, as Julia pointed out so eloquently above, invisible progress is like gestation. Something is growing in us, but it’s not yet ready to burst forth into the world.

We may not even have words to describe it yet (fifteen years ago, I couldn’t have told you I was going to become a life coach one day — I didn’t even know then what a life coach was). We can try to push it and hurry it up, but ultimately, whether we’re growing a baby or a book, it will be born when it’s ready to be born and not one second before.

There are also days where we don’t notice our progress because it has become second-nature to us. Maybe we did something and did it well but since we’re so used to doing it, we don’t “count” it as progress or even think of it that way. It’s worth taking time to notice our accomplishments, maybe particularly the ones we tend to discount.

And, Melody Beattie has written that on some days, we need to congratulate ourselves for what we didn’t do. This, too, is “invisible progress.” I remember when I was having a particularly crappy day a few years ago and at the end of it I realized that, well, despite everything, I didn’t call my ex-boyfriend back even though he was trying to get in touch with me again, and I didn’t eat a box of Twinkies even though hearing from him really made me want to. And that a few years earlier I totally would have called him back and I totally would have eaten the Twinkies afterwards. Invisible progress for the win!

What does the idea of “invisible progress” mean to you? I’d love it if you’d share.

Also: I’ll be raising my coaching rates slightly in one week. If you’ve been thinking of working with me but haven’t gotten around to it, now’s a good time to get in on my current rates!

Image is “Spiral Diagonal” © David Coleman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Saturday Gratitude #2

After I wrote my first Saturday Gratitude post last week, I noticed how my attention shifted ever so slightly over the following days from what I was lacking to what is here already. And it’s funny how much more clear my choices and focus become when I am not in that panicky, lack-filled place.

It’s also so interesting to notice that, often, I don’t need nearly as much as I think I do. My needs only seem enormous when I am in that place of lack, and assuming that it is reality.

Then yesterday I happened to run across a Martha Beck piece on Oprah’s website where Martha mentioned that research shows that it is impossible to experience appreciation and fear at the same time. Yes! I noticed that so often this week.

So here is my Saturday Gratitude list for today — three things I am grateful for as this week draws to a close. We’ll see how today’s focus on gratitude shapes the coming week! And I’d love it if you’d join me in my experiment, if that feels good to you!

1) Writing in warmth. After last week’s computer crash, I finally have a new computer up and running, and because it’s a laptop, I can write anywhere in the house instead of sitting in my rather-cold office, which, truth be told, I had been feeling less and less inclined to do. This is kind of perfect, I realize, because I have been needing to approach my writing with warmer energy — more safety, more permission, more “it’s okay to be exactly where you are with this writing. It’s okay to let it be what it is, nothing more, nothing less.”

2) Recognizing when it was time for me to get offline, particularly off Facebook, and following up on that awareness by — getting offline! And how incredibly grounding and replenishing that turned out to be. As wonderful as the online world can be, as I stayed unplugged for a good while yesterday, I felt the remembrance that there is so much here, in the physical world, and in my own inner world. And it is good, and rich, and nourishing. With nothing else added.

3) Noticing old patterns coming up for me, and then noticing the thought that I shouldn’t be still doing this! Not after all these years. And then (here’s the part I’m truly grateful for), recognizing that, yes, the patterns are still here, but the way I interact with them, the way I deal with them, is much, much different than it was ten years ago. Or even five. And that, to me, is some kind of miracle.

Want to share yours? What are you grateful for this week?

What gift can you give yourself?


Sometimes I start my day with this question: “What gift can I give myself today?”

On some days, a particular word immediately comes to me. Yesterday it was “stretch.” And I knew I wanted to move my body, so I went for a morning walk, even though we had a sweltering day here.

On another level, I knew stretch meant something else. And I made a phone call I’ve been putting off for a while — the conversation was going to be a stretch for me, but since “stretch” was the gift, I knew it would be okay. And it was.

Sometimes a word doesn’t immediately come to me. So then I let an image bubble up in my mind’s eye.

Once, I saw a heart, with wings. I wasn’t sure what it meant at first, but then some words came to me: courage, Cowardly Lion courage. And flight. On that particular day, flight meant literal flight — I gave myself permission to take a trip I’d been on the fence about, and booked my plane ticket.

And permission is another one. It’s one of the most powerful gifts I can give myself, but I have to be reminded of this often. And, I need to get specific about it. Permission to what? Once, I asked this question and an image of me sleeping bubbled up. I needed permission to rest that day.

Another day I asked, permission to what? And an image of me reading from my novel-in-progress to a large group of people bubbled up. Ahhh. Permission to be seen.

What other gifts have I given myself? The gift of endings, of allowing things to end — even things that have been a success and are still successful. The gift of beginnings, of stepping into what is new, even when I’m unsure of the first step and the second is hazier still.

Some of my favorite gifts are curiosity, wonder, and play. Sometimes the gift is tenacity. Sometimes it’s sovereignty. Sometimes the gift sounds something like “no ground to give.” And I know I want to focus on holding boundaries that day.

The gift can be something concrete and material as well. One time the image that came to me was of an exceptionally gorgeous journal I’d seen in a shop down the street. It had a filigreed gold cover with a turtle on it. The journal was expensive and I knew I didn’t want to spend the money on it right then, but the image of the turtle reminded me of my belief in taking slow, steady steps; that so many of our worthwhile journeys are marathons, not sprints.

One day last week the gift was “soft.” I was feeling extra-hard on myself that morning and my energy felt tight, rigid. I knew I needed to shift into soft energy. And I moved through my day with so much more kindness toward myself, and therefore, toward the world.

That is why I make my focus what I can give to myself. I like to think I’m pretty good at giving to others, but in truth I can’t give what I don’t have.

Want to try it? What gift can you give yourself as you move forward in your day?

Work With Me: I have openings for new coaching clients beginning in September. Need some support in connecting with your gifts? Check out my offerings, here.

Image is “Swirl Gift with Echo Blur” [cropped] © Patricia Ulan | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Embracing the everyday + the Sunshine Award!


Something that often comes up when I work with one of my lovely clients is the creative visionary’s resistance to accepting “the everyday”. Sometimes I call it “the mundane.” One of my clients calls it “real world crap.”

In my twenties, I ignored “real world crap” to the point that I became ill and had to be hospitalized. I was defining “real world crap” at the time as: paying bills, eating decent meals, getting good sleep, doing the dishes, doing the laundry.

The creative visionary part of me said: that stuff is boring and it won’t get me where I want to go. Focusing on that stuff is a drag.

Fast-forward fifteen years and I realize that the “everyday stuff” that I loathed so much back then is actually my friend.

Doing the dishes is an excellent way of being in the present moment and dealing with analysis paralysis.

Doing laundry is a great way of getting grounded, of coming back to earth, to the things of this rich material world, when my creativity has taken me far, far away from it.

Getting good sleep allows my physical body the rejuvenation it needs to move through another day with hope and resilience.

Paying bills is a way of acknowledging that money is part of the energy that supports me in living the life I love. (I didn’t want to accept this back then — money was boring, and “unspiritual.”)

And: because I, and many of my clients, are highly sensitive people, we tend to become easily overstimulated by the very creative work we love. There’s a point where, if we don’t stop when we’ve done enough, we are at risk of becoming ungrounded and burning out.

The “mundane” things of everyday life — walking to the mailbox to get the mail, mowing the lawn, saying hello to the neighbor — are actually vital ways of rooting us in the fabric of this earth, this world, the here and now.

So, if you feel like you’re spinning off away from yourself or swept up in a creative wave that feels a little scary, remember that “the mundane” can be your friend, dear highly sensitive creative visionary.

And, because you are who you are, I have no doubt that you will quickly discover the magic in the mundane, too.

And: The Sunshine Award!

The lovely Harula of wordsthatserve, who writes such amazingly true poetry, kindly nominated me for the Sunshine Award. Yay! I’m thrilled — thanks, Harula!

So, here’s me accepting, gratefully. 🙂



* Post a picture of the award on your blog
* Link back to the person who nominated you
* List ten random facts about yourself
* Nominate ten fellow bloggers who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” (I’m actually nominating six.)
* Comment on their blogs to notify them of their nomination

So here are ten random facts about me:

1) One of my earliest memories is getting sick on giant marshmallow chicks on Easter day. And of my mother warning me not to eat so many.

2) Last month, I achieved one of my lifelong dreams: seeing “Jaws” on the big screen — twice. Chills.

3) My favorite actress is Crystal the Monkey. Few human actors have this monkey’s range of expression — seriously.

4) My current favorite thing to watch on MeTV: “Rhoda.” The opening theme music is so whimsically weird.

5) I am happiest in weather between 30 and 70 degrees F. I love fall when it is brisk and slightly overcast.

6) My favorite book I’ve read recently is “It Chooses You” by Miranda July. So achingly real — and talk about embracing the everyday! This book proves that the extraordinary hides out in the ordinary.

7) Most of my favorite foods involve the potato in some form.

8) My shoe size is 7.5 M.

9) I’m kind of a chatty hermit. One of my gifts is connecting with others, but it needs to be balanced by lots of alone time.

10) I miss my grandparents more than I ever thought I would.

And my Sunshine Award nominees: every time I read one of their posts, I feel nourished and enlivened.

Happy Saturday!

Top image is “Child’s Shoes” © Laukas | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Allowing your idea of success to change (as you do)


This post is part of The Declaration of You’s BlogLovin’ Tour, which I’m thrilled to participate in alongside over 200 other creative bloggers. This week’s theme is “Success.”


When I was eighteen, I visited New York City for the first time. (Technically it was the second time, but the first time I was three and literally all I remember from that visit is staring at an array of pastel-colored plush kittens in a little shop that also sold candy and newspapers, and crying because I couldn’t decide which color of kitten I wanted. Ultimately I chose yellow).

My best friend had an audition for music school there, and my father and I journeyed to NYC from our home in the Chicago suburbs to hang out with her during her audition process, and SEE THE BIG CITY.

Although I lived in the Chicago area, my life was suburban. Only very rarely at this point had I ventured into the actual city of Chicago, to see a Cubs game or go to a museum. But New York! As a diehard fan of Woody Allen movies, New York City was a place I was, surely, born to experience.

I loved it. I saw “Cats” and “A Chorus Line” on Broadway (yes, this was a long, long time ago), and hung out at coffeehouses and saw iconic landmarks I’d only seen in movies. I even had a celebrity sighting – film critic Gene Siskel (ironically, a Chicagoan and to me right up there with Bruce Springsteen in terms of awesomeness) walked right in front of our hotel.

That was it, I decided then and there – I was destined to live in New York City! There, I would experience success. There, I would experience BRILLIANCE!

My friend got accepted into music school in NYC, and although I was starting college as a theater major at Indiana University in the fall, I was now convinced New York was the place for me to be. Over the next several years, I visited my friend in New York from time to time and we kept scheming on the phone about how, after college, I’d join her there.

Except that didn’t happen. Every time I went to New York, I had tons of fun and I loved being with my friend and pretending I was in “Manhattan” or “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

But I never truly considered living in New York City. I never seemed to take any concrete steps to get myself there.

The reality, at this point, was that I had set up a life for myself in Chicago. And I liked it. A lot. But, Chicago was no New York, my brain nagged, and some part of me believed that I was “playing small” and somehow not living the life I was meant to live by remaining in Chicago.

At twenty-six, I visited my friend in New York for what turned out to be the last time. And, for the first time, I didn’t like it. It felt overwhelming, loud, and expensive. I listened to my friend complain about her exorbitant rent fee and endured shoulder-to-shoulder subway rides I’d once found exhilarating.

On a cab ride, I rolled down the window and peered out and the city rose up around me, beautiful and decadent and amazing. And I still loved New York. I just didn’t want to live there. After eight years of believing I wanted to live in New York, I had to tell myself the truth — I was perfectly happy where I already was.

We do this to ourselves – we fixate on an idea of what it means to be successful, to “live in the big city,” to have the stellar career (whatever it may be) that has us leaping into the stratosphere.

And this is good – it’s part of discovering ourselves. It’s part of listening to our longings and yearnings and understanding what they mean.

But sometimes our longings and yearnings point us toward something not so we can do it or possess it, but so we can own the qualities it represents to us in order to be who we are.

Our definitions of success are usually strongly merged with our perceptions of ourselves. This is why when we talk about success, we’re often really talking about identity, about what we know about who we are.

So at age eighteen, my definition of success was something like “being a sought-after actress who lives in New York City.”

Twenty-plus years down the road, my version of success is radically different — today, it’s “knowing and understanding myself better and better, and helping others do the same.” (Read more about defining your version of success, here.)

When it comes down to it, for me, success is a feeling within me that reinforces to me who I truly am.

Something about New York City – its aliveness, its diversity, its bigness, its vibrance – felt like what I wanted. And I thought I needed to live there to have it.

But as I began to recognize that that same aliveness, diversity, bigness and vibrance that I associated with NYC was actually within me already – as I started to own those aspects of myself – I no longer needed to be in New York to feel that way.

As a coach, so often I see clients cling to a dream, to a version of success, that they have started to outgrow, or that they’ve always been sure they need in order to be happy. But they’ve never really asked themselves if this is actually true.

How do you find out if you really want that thing?

By asking yourself how you think you would feel if you had it.

It’s the feeling of having that thing that you want, not necessarily the thing itself. (Get really specific here about what feelings you think having that thing would bring you.)

Once you’re in touch with the feeling you want – once you realize you can generate that feeling inside yourself without any particular circumstances attached to it – ask yourself if you still truly want that thing, if that “thing” is still a valuable part of your path. The answer may be “yes.” And if so, go for it!

But you may find out it’s like me and New York City: it may be something you thought you needed when you didn’t know yourself as well as you do today — when you simply weren’t owning the brilliance that, today, you know you possess. Whether you live in New York City or Timbuktu.

What about you? Are there any old definitions of success you’re ready to let go of? Does your current definition of success support who you are today? I’d love to hear, in the comments.

(Below, living vicariously through Woody: I still love New York.)


The Declaration of You, published by North Light Craft Books and available now, gives readers all the permission they’ve craved to step passionately into their lives, discover how they and their gifts are unique and uncover what they are meant to do.  This post is part of The Declaration of You’s BlogLovin’ Tour. Learn more – and join us! – by clicking here.

Image is “Rainbow Over Manhattan” © Andrew Kazmierski | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Practicing Reverent Curiosity


“Novel-writing is not so much a profession as a yoga, or ‘way’, an alternative to ordinary life-in-the-world.” — John Gardner

On Thanksgiving Day, I was hit with a bad cold. I spent two days pretending the cold wasn’t actually there and that I could go on functioning as if I were well. By the third day, I had to admit that I really was sick — and this meant I had to let go of my need for that thing I fondly call “momentum.”

I like the feeling of momentum. I like the idea that I am moving forward. The trouble comes in when I start to believe I can truly control exactly how things move.

When I returned to working on my novel after being sick, I felt disconnected from what I really wanted to say, at a loss with the story. My characters seemed like they were doing silly things, just marking time, moving around the rooms of my pages for no purpose.

Yesterday, during a group writing sprint with other members of Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle, I went to the page with the same feeling of stuckness and confusion about my story that I’ve had lately. “This is terrible!” a familiar voice inside me piped up. “You have to get over this! You need to make this story work!” (No pressure, or anything.)

When, as a coach, I work with a client who’s stuck, I often use metaphor to help them see their situation clearly. I asked for a helpful image to come to me, and the image that bubbled up in my mind was my cat, when we have a vet visit scheduled and he’s caught on to the fact that the cat carrier has entered the room. Once he gets under the bed, my mission is impossible: he knows he can hide there from me as long as he wants, because I can’t physically pick up the bed and get him out. And we’ve certainly had incidents where I’ve chased him around the house, and sometimes I end up standing the cat carrier on its end and stuffing him into it while he braces his back legs on its sides and writhes furiously. I hate this. And, of course, so does he.

There was this one time, though, when my cat snuck under the bed and I just didn’t have it in me to figure out a way to get him out and stuff him into the cat carrier. I set the carrier on the floor in the living room and sat down in a chair. I called the vet and told them we probably weren’t going to make it to our appointment.

The vet’s assistant was completely laidback about this. “Come on in if you catch him,” she said, laughing.

I sat quietly in my chair. Really, chasing my cat just didn’t seem worth it. He wasn’t ill; it was just a routine check-up since he’s getting into his senior years.

Within fifteen minutes, my cat emerged from beneath the bed and tentatively walked into the living room. He saw me sitting in the chair, looking quite harmless; he approached the cat carrier and sniffed at it. Then he began to investigate the carrier very thoroughly, with a kind of reverent curiosity. It was like he wanted to fully understand this instrument of his impending doom.

I realized that I was treating my story the way I treat my cat when I just want to get him to the damn vet. I stuff him into a box and endure his plaintive meows, feeling like a world-class jerk. Because I want to fix things. Because I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing. Because I’m driven by a kind of urgency.

Obviously, sometimes my cat needs to go to the vet and we do engage in this routine (though I’ve gotten quieter and better at doing sneak attacks, so neither of us struggle as much these days — usually).

But does this pattern work with my novel, with my characters?

I was stuck and overwhelmed because I was invested in the idea that my story needed to be “fixed,” that it contained a problem that needed to be solved. There are certainly plenty of books and advice out there that can tell me how to “fix my novel problem.” And some of them can be very helpful, at certain points in the process. But I realized yesterday that approaching my story in this top-down way, as if it was something I could fix from the outside by forcing it into a box of my choosing, was disconnecting me from anything the story had to show me, from letting it reveal itself.

When I sat back, relaxed, and made the choice to approach my story with that reverent curiosity my cat is so good at, I discovered a fascinating thing: I got really interested in my story again. I wasn’t trying to make it be, or do, anything; I was just interested in it. That all-important question, “What is it about?” welled up in me, and I realized I knew exactly what it was about. I also realized that this novel does not want to be as long as I’ve been thinking it should be. It just might want to be a novella. It knows what it is; and I’ve been so set on “fixing it” that I’ve lost touch with the thread that connects one scene to the next.

My story started to move again. I wrote beyond the 0ne-hour set time of the group sprint, I was so caught up in it.  Hallelujah! I understand my story better. And why did I get into this writing in the first place, if not to better understand?

Can I approach my life, too, from this space of reverent curiosity? Can I step back, breathe for a moment, and give my life the space and kind attention it needs in order to be what it wants to be?

Work With Me: I love helping writers and artists who are feeling stuck. Check out my one-on-one coaching, here.

Image is “Wonder Cat” © Eden Daniel |

Trust your process. Yours.

I was thinking this morning about my process, of creating, of living, and about how often we hear “Trust the process.” And I think this is important. We can trust that creating is a process, and that things might not look like we thought they’d look, or work the way we thought they’d work, and that’s okay.

But I think it’s not so much about trusting the process as it is about trusting your process. You trusting yours, and me trusting mine.

Because yours, I can guarantee, does not look like mine.

You might be able to borrow something from mine, if it feels right to you. And I might think something you do sounds terrific, and might be able to add that to my process, too. And there might be something that works great for me that doesn’t work for you, at all.

I remember a while ago when a friend quit her job of many years, and she had the next job lined up so she could start it the very next day. Without even a day in between.

“You’re not taking even a couple of days off?” I said incredulously. “No,” she said. “That would make me too nervous. I don’t want any time to sit around thinking about starting the new job. I just want to start it.”

That is her process. It isn’t mine. I want time in between my biggest endeavors, so I can let go of one a bit before jumping into the other. This works great for me. I show up for the next thing rested, with fresh eyes. This is my process, now. It may not always be. But adopting my friend’s process would make me feel crazy, and mine, for her, would feel like she was forcing herself to slow down when she wanted to move right along. For her, her process creates sanity. That’s why it is hers.

We can learn a ton from others whose process rings true for us when they talk about it. Anne Lamott, Geneen Roth, Natalie Goldberg, Tori Amos — I’ve learned so much from reading and hearing these women, and many other creators, discuss their process over the past fifteen or twenty years. Because their way of processing sparks my own.

But my process is still mine. It’s not like anyone else’s. I can learn what works for someone else, and 100% of the time I’ll find out that it doesn’t work exactly that way for me.

Sometimes I hear myself complaining, “Why isn’t this working for me the way it does for her?”

But there’s a better way to phrase this. “I wonder how this could work better for me.”

This is good. This means that when I feel like I’m in new territory, and I get a suggestion from someone else and it doesn’t work for me, nothing is wrong. I’m just discovering more about my own process. Which, really, is just about the most exciting thing I can think of.

Are you struggling in your process? You don’t have to. I have openings for new clients in April. Find out more here.

Things I’m noticing while I write, list #1

I’m fascinated by the challenges creators face, which is why I coach creators. And I’m my own client — in fact, I’m the one client I’d better love working with, because I’m kinda stuck with me, for life. So every now and then I’m going to post some brief lists of things I’m noticing while I work on my novel draft. Just little tidbits that might spark you to say, hey, that’s true for me too. Or, hmm — that’s not true for me at all. Interesting.

Here’s today’s list.

1. When the writing feels really daunting, there’s only one thing to do: Write one sentence. Really. And there’s only one thing to do after that: write one sentence. I can go the whole way that way.

2. Sometimes, I worry I’ve gone in the wrong direction with a scene. But the problem isn’t that I’ve gone in the wrong direction. The problem is the worrying about it. I don’t have to worry. When I’m clear that it’s wrong enough, I will change it. That’s all I need to know.

3. Discomfort is okay. It’s not a sign I should stop, or that what I’m writing is terrible. It does mean I need to be extra-compassionate with myself in order to keep moving forward. Yes, my dear. This is hard. The fact that it’s hard doesn’t mean something is wrong.

4. I love the process. And I thank my lucky stars that I do. When I get very results-focused, I can forget that I write to begin with because I love it. Because it’s my particular way of expressing what I value, who I am. The process can be its own reward, even when I desire a certain outcome. Valuing, even relishing, the process does not mean I am giving up on results. It just means I get to be happy now, instead of then.

What are you noticing while you create? I’d love to hear from you.

Also: while I’m on the subject of writing, as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m both a participant and a coach for Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle. Tomorrow, March 15, is the last day to sign up for the next session. If you’re having trouble committing to a daily writing habit, I highly recommend you check out this group! Click here to find out more.

And: I offer free Creativity Consultations. If you’re feeling stuck or scared and having a hard time moving forward on your creative project, check them out here.

How’s it Helping?

A lot of times when I’m coaching someone, there’s some behavior they just hate that they’re dying to get rid of, because it’s ruining everything. Or so they say. (And when I say “they”, I mean, equally, me.)

When it comes to creativity, this behavior is almost always what the client calls “procrastinating.” Or being “stuck.” Or maybe they’re feeling hesitant about submitting a piece of work somewhere, and they’re beating themselves up for not doing it.

If it’s a person who wants to lose weight, the behavior is “snacking too much.” Or “not exercising enough.” Or tearing the doors off the kitchen cupboards and emptying them one by one.

I get it. In my teens and early twenties, I had an eating disorder. At the time, I couldn’t have told you that: I thought it was “normal.” I thought I had about ten pounds to lose, so I would starve myself until I lost it. I couldn’t stay on my crazy extremely-low-calorie diets, so the pressure would build and finally one day I’d crack and I’d binge. Then I’d feel I’d failed, and what was the use anyway, and I’d binge and binge until I gained the ten pounds back.

I tried to rid myself of this bingeing behavior by more dieting. Then I tried to rid myself of the dieting behavior by “eating normally.” But I had no idea how to do that. One day I didn’t show up for one of my classes in college because I’d eaten so much I felt like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Woman, and I didn’t want anyone to see me.

I was in enough pain by this point that while I was supposed to be in class, I walked to the bookstore down the street and found a book by Geneen Roth called Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating. I had deep skepticism about books with titles like that. But I knew I’d hit bottom. With great shame, I trudged up to the counter to purchase it.

This book changed my life (I still have my little dog-eared, yellowed, paperback copy, in which about half of each page is underlined in red ballpoint pen). Geneen suggested that behavior that appears to be hurting us on first glance actually has a purpose. It’s helping us in some way that we don’t, or won’t, acknowledge.

When we change our question from “How can I get rid of this behavior?” to “How might this behavior be helping me?”, we change the story we’re telling ourselves. I was no longer “woman hell-bent on self-destruction”; I became “woman who’s trying to take care of herself the best she can.”

When I saw how my behavior took care of me, I was able to thank it and gradually let go of it. When I saw that “feeling fat” gave me a good reason to say no, I realized I didn’t have to feel fat in order to say no. I could actually say no just because I wanted to say no. I could actually choose not to attend class just because I didn’t want to attend class. I didn’t have to binge on lasagna and make myself sick so I’d have a “good excuse.”

This was only one way my behavior helped me, of course; it was complex, and I needed to do some digging and some looking around for me to understand all the ways it served me. And it took some time before I was able to truly thank it for its service, and let it go.

When it comes to our creativity, too, our “counterproductive” behavior is serving us in some way. If I’ve stopped writing in the middle of my draft, there’s a good reason for it. I can plow through, force myself to write, but in the long run, it’s probably more helpful to look for the good reason and see how it’s helping me.

That doesn’t mean I will stay stopped. It means I trust that there’s a wisdom within me that wants to be listened to, if I’ll only give it a chance to be heard. This wisdom wants all good things for me — and when I don’t listen to it, it acts out in ways that seem destructive to get my attention. The sooner I listen, the sooner I can discover what it is I really want, and move forward in the way that serves me best.

If you think you are “stuck,” I guarantee you there’s a good reason for it. But you don’t have to stay stuck. Check out my Free Creativity Consultations — I’ll help you find your good reason and we’ll figure out how you can move forward.