Why creating consistently is so important

artistbox

I’ve been thinking back over the past year and remembering the awesome clients I’ve worked with.

If there’s anything that’s repeatedly reared its head this year for my clients, it’s been the issue of making creativity so BIG that it feels scary, 0verwhelming, and like there just isn’t enough time to take it on. Almost everyone I worked with had a belief that went something like this: “I can’t [write, paint, dance, draw — fill in the blank] unless I have more time available to me. So I need to completely overhaul my life in order to focus on my creativity. But completely overhauling my life isn’t possible right now. So I’m hoping that by next year I’ll be able to let go of something so I can focus on my creativity.”

What I’ve found so interesting — because these beliefs can certainly come up for me as well — is that it’s the beliefs themselves that make the idea of creating feel so hard, not creating itself.

When we make it so big we feel like we need a ton of time in which to do it, we ensure that it will never be done, because we know on some level it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever have huge blocks of empty time available to us on a regular basis. And when we tell ourselves we need more time in which to do it, and we don’t make that time or don’t see that we can have it, we put off our creative work (I prefer to call it creative play). And when we put something off, we create resistance.

The very act of putting it off (when something deep inside us knows it’s vital that we do it) creates stress around the idea of doing it — our minds spin out stories like, “Well, if I’m putting it off, it must be because it’s terribly hard and scary and BIG, and wow, that feels really frightening, which makes me just want to put it off more.”

We don’t often question thoughts like these. But they start to wield a huge amount of power over us, because these thoughts create feelings, and our feelings create our actions (or lack of actions) in the world. Often, our most powerful thought around our creativity is “I’ll do it when I don’t feel so overwhelmed and uncomfortable around it.”

But the reason we are overwhelmed and uncomfortable around it is because we make it so BIG.

Since September of 2011, I’ve been a participant in Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle. (We like to call it simply The Writer’s Circle). I’ve also been co-coaching the Circle with Jenna for about a year now. In the Circle, we focus on writing a little each day, building our writing habit over time, with group support.

What I’ve learned over my time in this group is that:

1) Writing consistently (even if I’m not always crazy about what I’m writing — and believe me, I’m often not) feels a lot better than writing once every couple of months. When I create regularly, I remind myself of what matters to me, of what makes me me. When I put off creating, I can lose sight of why I create. I create because I have an instinctive drive to make meaning, to understand myself, to understand the world. I create because it’s fun (which isn’t to say it’s not challenging! But I love a good challenge.).

When I put it off until I have “more time,” I get confused about why I do it in the first place. I start to think it has something to do with money, with success, with notoriety. When I actually do it, I’m reminded that it has little to do with this things. It’s an act of adventure, a quest for discovery.

2) When we make our creativity really BIG — as opposed to integrating it into our daily lives in small, sustainable ways — it becomes something outside of ourselves, something to grasp for, something we believe will make us complete if we can only get to it. (Julia Cameron calls this turning our creativity into “Art with a capital A.”)

The truth is, creativity is always inside of us. It’s part of us. The “me” that lives my daily life and does mundane things like doing the dishes is not a completely separate entity from the part of me that sits down and writes. In fact, sitting down and writing is, in some ways, not that much different from doing the dishes. The hardest part is starting. Once I begin, I proceed one sentence — one dish — at a time.

When the parts of us that create and the parts of us that do the dishes are friendly with each other, and not strangers, they work together oh so much better, and we show up in the world as more integrated beings.

3) We all — whether we are seasoned writers, or writing our very first poem, whether we are published writers or not, whether we make our living from our writing, or not — struggle with clusters of the same (or similar) issues. It’s incredibly heartening to realize that that issue you’ve struggled with in isolation, sometimes for years, is not just shared by others, but is deeply understood.

If you’d like support in creating a more regular writing habit — whether you’ve been away from writing for years, or you’re just starting out — check out The Writer’s Circle. Our next session begins December 31, and tomorrow, Dec. 28, is the last day to register. New members can save $30 on their first session with the coupon code NEWYEARWRITE. We’d love to have you there!

Image is “Artist Box 2” © Andreea Stefan | Dreamstime.com

Support, Part 2: Reaching Out of the Vortex

In my last post, I talked about how things that look, sound and smell like support may not actually be support. And I mentioned that dark, swirling, sucking vortex I can get into when I need support but I’m not sure how to get the kind I need — or maybe I’m not even sure what kind of support I need to begin with.

So, if we find ourselves in the vortex, how do we get out?

First, remember that being in the vortex is only scary because we believe we shouldn’t be there and we need to get out, now.

As Byron Katie might say, we should be there because we are there. Being there is just another opportunity to look around and learn.

Second, there are two parts to support — self-support and support from others that feels supportive. (Hiro Boga commented, brilliantly, in a recording I listened to on her site recently, that it’s not support if it doesn’t feel supportive!)

So, when you’re swirling in the Vortex of Need, ask the wise part of yourself: What might feel truly supportive right now? And see what bubbles up. (It’s really important to ask your inner wisdom for this information, and not the part of you that is spinning in need and angry or sad or desperate that it’s not getting its needs met. This part of you does not need to be burdened with questions right now.)

Usually, I get a response that is very simple. It might be to call a particular person I trust. It might be to tell any one of my private, virtual support networks that I’m feeling like crap. It might be to do the dishes, watch a movie, take a nap, open a particular book. It’s never about the long-term– it’s always a very small, specific thing I can do in this moment.

Thinking too long-term can make getting the kind of support we need feel completely overwhelming. It’s not possible to know what kind of support we’re going to need next year, or even next week. We can only know what we need in this moment.

So, what if it feels hard to get in touch with our inner wisdom? What if it’s crowded out by the voice of need? What if our inner wisdom suggests calling Suzy, but even though we know we deeply trust Suzy, we’re so far into the vortex that, in this moment, calling Suzy feels unsafe?

This is where the self-support piece comes in. Sometimes, I need to practice self-support before I can reach out for support from others. This is one of those steps that often gets left out. “Reach out, ask for help, have courage,” we’re told. But there’s an intermediate step that gets skipped over, and that’s kindness.

Can I access that space within me that is exquisitely kind, warm, and accepting — toward myself? It’s often easy to generate this type of kindness toward others, but what about turning it inward, toward me? This means having total reverence and respect for whatever it is I’m feeling. Giving it permission to be there, and legitimacy, and validity.

We often skip completely over this step, and then wonder why, when someone else does offer support, it doesn’t “land.” Usually it doesn’t land because there’s still a part of us judging and beating ourselves up for feeling whatever it is in the first place — for needing to begin with.

The beautiful thing is that when I practice this type of kindness toward myself, I am put immediately in touch with my inner wisdom. There’s nothing like kindness to lift me out of the vortex of need. In fact, reminding myself to treat myself with exquisite kindness points out the places where I’ve been harsh, or where others (not meaning to) have triggered my own harshness toward myself. But it’s hard to see the harshness when I’m living by its rules. I need to shift into kindness in order to see it.

So, the quick version of this process:

1) Accept that you are In the Vortex of Need, and it’s totally okay. You should be there because you are there.

2) Ask your inner wisdom, what might feel truly supportive right now? See what bubbles up. Take action on whatever comes.

3) If you can’t access your inner wisdom, or if what bubbles up from your inner wisdom feels too scary, practice kindness toward yourself. Deep, radical, kindness. Notice what shifts in practicing this. If it feels hard or awkward, imagine the kindness you’d feel toward a struggling friend, or your cat or dog — someone you find it really easy to be deeply kind to — and direct that kindness toward yourself.

The quick and dirty version:

Skip to number #3 and keep doing it. From deep, radical kindness, all Vortexes of Need dissolve and transform into Foundations of Support.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you reach out for support. What makes it feel easier?

And: Wednesday, Nov. 21, is the last day to sign up for Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle. I’m both a participant and a coach for this group, and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for support in creating a daily writing habit!

Image is YELLOW VORTEX © Carsten Erler | Dreamstime.com

Support: What it is, what it’s not

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of support. There are few things more frustrating and alienating than reaching out for support and getting something that feels like the opposite, even if support is what’s intended.

I like to say, “It begins with us.”

And this is true. Self-support is the cornerstone of any true support. Sometimes it’s impossible to let support from “out there” truly land if we aren’t first practicing self-support.

But, said one of my dear clients the other day, what if I’m in a place where I simply can’t access my self-support system? What if I’m so turned around and upside down and frantic that I just can’t get to that place in myself?

Of course. This happens. That’s when support from “the outside” can be most valuable. That gentleness from a trusted friend that we can’t seem to manage to give ourselves. That perspective we just never would have considered if left to our own devices. So. Important.

But: sometimes it’s when I’m in need of support the most that I am the most reluctant to reach out for it. In fact, this is usually what happens. The more I feel like a black hole of sucking need and desperation, the less I want to reach out, and the more I get sucked down, down, down into the vortex.

And, sometimes, into that vortex is exactly where I need to go. It’s not about “forcing myself” out of the vortex to ask for help. This doesn’t necessarily feel safe, and I’m also not necessarily in a place where I can receive any external support when I’ve gotten to this point. (More on this in my next post.)

True support meets us where we are. It doesn’t force, criticize, or project. It’s curious, interested; it asks open-ended questions. (See my previous post on true support, here).

There are, however, a few things I’ve learned that can contribute to getting into the vortex of swirling, sucking need that feels like it will never end and will never be met. Here are some I’ve noticed:

1) Calling something “support” that doesn’t feel like support. For example, the internet. There’s more than enough information for any of us to digest on any topic we want to do a search on for the next bazillion years. But information is not the same thing as support. And getting overwhelmed by information definitely doesn’t feel like being supported. Posting a question on Facebook and getting fifty different “here’s what I’d do” responses is not necessarily support; it just might be overwhelm — more to process, more to weed through.

2) Going for support, again and again, to people who just aren’t able to provide the kind of support you need. Different people provide different types of support. One of my ingenious ways of alienating myself for many years was going to people who weren’t able to give me the kind of support I needed in the past, hoping that this time they’d show up for me the way I wanted them to. It didn’t happen. Embracing reality: always a good thing.

3) Expecting people to support you exactly the way you’d like them to, without telling them the kind of support you need. If you just want to vent and you don’t want to be coached, you can let someone know that — even if they’re your coach. I used to have a habit of just accepting whatever support was offered, even if it was so not what I needed in that moment. I’d feel alienated by the other person, but really I was alienating myself by not stating what I needed. (This isn’t always, easy, of course. Sometimes, we’re just not sure what we need. We need to be really, really compassionate with ourselves here. We’ll figure it out.)

4) Thinking we need a LOT of support, when what we actually need is the right KIND of support. (See #1.)

5) Thinking that what feels supportive to others should feel supportive to us — even when it doesn’t. The same week my cat died two years ago, I had a trip planned. I literally had no energy for travel and wanted to be at home with my grief, even though other people told me the trip “might be just what you need!” It wasn’t; puttering at home feeling totally safe to burst into tears at any moment was.

In my next post, I’ll write about what to do — or not do — when we’re swirling in the vortex of need and we don’t know how to support ourselves.

What are your thoughts about support? Where do you look for it? What works for you and what doesn’t? I’d love to know.

Work with me! Check out my one-on-one coaching opportunities.

Image is LADY-BIRD © Nikolajs Strigins | Dreamstime.com