When you are embarking on a new venture or in transition and exploring possibilities, does the distance between where you are and where you want to be feel like a great yawning abyss.?Back in March, in my blog “What Do You Ache For?” I referred to that abyss or gap as your creative play zone.
One area in the creative play zone that can trip you up is your selection of those with whom you choose to share those ideas and dreams. In the blog post I suggest that you be selective in your playmates. I said
“This is your playground and you get to make the rules. Consider holding at arm’s length those who will tell you what to do and how to do it. Hang a “keep out” sign for the ones who pass immediate judgment on a fresh, new idea. Be especially wary of the naysayers (as well as the well-meaning) who tell you it’s already been done or you’re too old or it’s too hard. NOT!”
The reality is that not everyone is interested or supportive. Your excitement about a creative goal can trigger reactions that have nothing to do with you and everything to do with someone else’s fears and negative belief systems. A new venture is vulnerable and even well-meaning friends and family can nip it in the bud.
In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron calls them crazymakers. Jill Badonsky author of Nine Modern Day Muses and a Bodyguard, calls them creativity offenders for whom she recommends a bodyguard.
You know who they are, don’t you? The well-meaning friend who “doesn’t want you to take this the wrong way but…” The spouse or partner who wants 99.9% of your time. The voice inside you that says, “You want to do what? Who do you think you are?” or “Really? You should have done this years ago. It’s too late now.” Or, my personal favorite, “What will people think?”
The best playmates for your creative play zone are those who encourage you to heighten your awareness, trust your intuition, explore without judgement. Especially as you begin a new project, work, stage of life. In the beginning stages of the creative process let yourself be wide open to what excites you. Look up and connect with your divine, creative essence. Look inside for your own wisdom. Hang out in your fortress of imagination.
This is where a bodyguard can come to the rescue. Imagine your own protector – could be a superhero type, big and bold with an impenetrable shield. Give her a name, maybe even a story (have fun with it). Or, maybe there’s a real someone who encourages you, or a quote or a piece of music that energizes and inspires you and, when you call it to mind, makes you feel stronger and a little invincible. (Earth, Wind and Fire’s song Fantasy could get me leaping tall buildings!) How about an affirming phrase that picks up your chin and gives you resolve.
It’s not magic. In fact it is rather simple for all of us if, when we embark on a creative pursuit, we remember to:
There will be plenty of time to share and get feedback and any needed critiquing. But not in the beginning.
Tending your creative fortress and cultivating your creative play zone helps get you started. Getting started fortifies you. With fortification you can get momentum. Momentum breeds more strength. It’s a lovely upward spiral.
Contact me for help. Schedule a 45 minute discovery session and learn how coaching can tease out the creative spirit that enhances every part of your life – in the business world, in the studio, in your everyday life.
Life is a creative venture every day. Start creating the life that fits you best!
Years ago I had to take a big test. A six hour test. It was a newly required test, the first of several, for my job. It had been a while since I’d studied or taken tests and I knew that if I failed I would have another chance. But I didn’t want to plan for second chances. I wanted it to be one and done!
Oh, and this is long before online material and tutorials and study guides. It was paper. Lots and lots of paper. Paper that spilled over the tables and chairs in our small apartment. Paper that multiplied as I slept!
The test was the General Securities Representative Exam, also known as the Series 7. It would qualify me as a Registered Representative in the world of stock brokerage. That wasn’t my plan, but I needed this certification as a foundation for the manager tests that would follow. So I learned about bonds and stocks and margin and options and government debt. I could tell you all about IPO’s and syndicates and more than you’d probably care to know about things I can’t even remember now.
So why bring it up?
It was then that I realized how beneficial the act of thinking out loud was. I suppose I could have just talked to myself but it really helped to have a listening ear. Dear hubby was elected. I found that as I explained short calls and long puts and the difference between margin requirements and maintenance it became so much clearer to me. I found myself with questions to look up that hadn’t occurred to me before I’d regaled him with this exceedingly tedious material. I was able to make analogies to things I understood better. The material actually started to make sense and become part of my knowledge base rather than rote facts to remember until I hit the submit button at the testing center.
I learned that thinking out loud changes things. Hearing yourself ask a question allows for the possibility of more answers to emerge. Talking it through helps to integrate the ideas deeper and allows new ideas to form. Commitment and accountability go deeper
Every single person who has been a member of Your Creative Edge: A KMI Master Mind has cited this as one of the things that helped the most. They say that having someone mirror their thoughts back to them shifts their perspective. They tell us they had wrestled on their own with a particular goal or project and a KMI Master Mind made them feel connected and ready to take their next step. They found that the receptive, creative and compassionate ears of their fellow master minders let them feel more creative and be more compassionate with themselves.
How would being able to think out loud among a creative, compassionate group of people feel for you? That’s just one part of a KMI Master Mind that works hard for you.
There’s a 12 week Your Creative Edge: a KMI Master Mind starting September 13th. Find out more here. See what the others are talking about!
For years, when my family gathered music accompanied them. There were guitars and maybe a tambourine or maracas. A piano, a banjo? Sure, they were included when available. And there was always singing.
Certain songs were always on the playlist because 1) the musicians knew the whole song and 2) the rest of us knew all the words.
And whenever the music came out we naturally gravitated into a circle. (One of the regular songs was Harry Chapin’s Circle. “All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown.” It was one of those we could sing all the verses and add a little harmony.)
The right circles are inclusive and supportive. (Notice I say the “right” circles. Yes, there can be wrong circles but that’s not where I choose to focus.) Those right circles expand and contract as needed. The shape sustains the intention and perhaps the intention informs the shape. With my family we gathered close to listen and sing; we opened out to let others join.
Much is written about the power of the circle. As I contemplated writing this post I asked myself about the significance of a circle. I already had opinions. I went online to do some research. I was curious if there was any geometric strength in a circle. (Geometric shapes don’t have strength. Strength is a property of physical objects. OK…) I was curious about quotes on circles (found lots!). I found an article by a design firm discussing the meaning of shapes, the “grammar” of a circle. Of course, that piqued my interest. “What do you feel when you see a circle, square, triangle?” For instance, we are influenced by the universal color and shape of traffic signs. If you see an octagon what comes to mind? (Very good. You may proceed.)
Even in my yoga class, when there’s room, we arrange our mats in a circle. The energy changes.
And, as so often happens, synchronicity presented me with Madison Taylor’s article Uniting in Thought and Action: The Power of the Circle. One sentence that stood out for me in her article:
“People who take part in a circle find that their power increases exponentially while with the group.”
Yes. Exponentially. That says so well what I wanted to convey about circles; why I'm drawn to them and why I believe in their power.
Particularly, in an intentional circle.
At The Purple Ink Café we serve up guided circles where you can imbibe the energy of the gathered patrons in a virtual, yet extremely effective, setting. Very cool! There is a Writers’ Circle as well as a 4Rs Circle: Relax, Read, Review and Research. Click on the circle name to learn more and register for a current circle. Two low-cost, low-risk ways to find time to write and research. And learn to do it in a relaxed fun way. Aah…
What have you experienced in a circle?
It’s interesting to observe how a concept comes at me from all different directions.
The word “flow” has been in my consciousness this past week. A chance comment from someone; a mention by a coaching client during a call; a random email. It prompted me to pull the book, Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, off my bookshelf and start thumbing through it. The next thing I know my favorite comic strip, "Rhymes with Orange", mentions flow as well as Csikszentmihalyi! Check out the strip here. I hope it makes you snort with laughter. Or maybe a chuckle You’ll definitely smile.
So, okay, okay. I wanted to write another post about flow anyway. I don’t need more whacks on the head!
I’m thinking and writing about flow because I want more of it. I want to find that entry point into flow. Flow in writing, flow in business, flow in playing, flow in movement. A place to lose myself on one level while expanding and moving forward on another.
Doesn’t that sound delightful?
We look for flow as we plan the space in our home. We lose ourselves in the flow of conversation. Coffee, tea, wine can flow (which certainly affects the conversation!) Music flows, washing over you. The moon and the tides ebb and flow. Life ebbs and flows.
If we really pay attention we can know where we are in the cycle and relax into it.
But is it something we can call up at will? Can I place an order for flow as I sit here typing?
I believe so.
First, notice when you’re not in flow. How does that look for you? For me it’s a subtle loss of concentration that leads to activities that have nothing to do with what I’ve set out to do. You know, email…internet…Facebook…the dreaded siren song of a game of solitaire. Definitely not in flow; more like snagged on a branch by the side of the river.
What do I do? I take a break. Just like a child’s pose in yoga, we often need to pause before continuing. To continue the river metaphor have you ever noticed a river slowing down over some rocks before coming to a drop and rushing forward?
Take a break.
If you are in flow – and you notice – go with it. Let IT take you. Sometimes that can feel uncomfortable because at that point you realize you're not driving. Your creativity has taken over. See if you can let it take you where it will. Let each move or step or word determine the next. Yes, it’s a little like working blind but it’s also quite magic. Engage your curiosity and see where you go.
But can I really call it up at will?
I do believe you can. I believe it’s a process of allowing. Surrendering. Making it fun. Being an improv artist at whatever you’re doing.
Jazz musician Kenny Barrett describes improvisation in jazz as “A daunting art of spontaneous creation...It’s like instant composition. Creating problems for yourself and then having to solve them, grabbing a handful of notes out of thin air and making something of it.”
That’s flow! Forward movement, trusting the process. All those terms and phrases that just mean being in the moment and curious and open.
I’m sure you’ve experienced flow at some point of your life. Hopefully, often. What did it feel like? Do you remember how you got there, what led you to that sweet spot? How might you get there again?
Please leave a comment and share what works for you!
I want to write but I just don’t know where to start.
Yeah, I’ve heard that one a lot. In fact, I heard it from me first.
Writing a blog, or an essay, a web page, an article – these things begin with a purpose. This is not to minimize the effort that goes into this work. But having a topic, a destination, a slot waiting for the finished product makes it just the tiniest bit easier to get started.
When you want to start writing just for the sake of writing, to explore your voice, to explore the wonder and craft of the written word, well, that feels quite different. You may think you need to know what you’ll write about before you start. There may be a very utilitarian part of you that demands to know what you’ll do with the piece of writing. You may have strong feeling about whether it will be prose or poetry or memoir. Your inner critic jumps into high gear and lets loose volumes of reasons why you can’t possibly do this. Oh, my dear one, you’re not really a writer, he whispers. (He’s often very chummy. Don’t get fooled!)
After all, what will you do? Just pull words out of the air?
Well, yes. In a way that’s what you’ll do if you want to write but don’t know where to start.
Here are a few things to remember when you are starting to write:
If you want to be a writer, write.
If you’re a writer you know that sometimes it’s a drag to get your butt into the chair and sit down and write. Especially by yourself.
It’s so easy to get sidetracked. Because the blank page is daunting. It would be fun to think of some ways to make it less so. I could do that now but that would be another track to the side.
There is a solution. And it’s a powerful one.
A writers’ circle.
There’s power in + one. A circle of committed writers who benefit from an appointment to get to their practice. A circle of writers who understand what each is going through, who will gladly hold the space and contribute their energy so everyone gets to do what they love, what they are called to do. A circle that offers support and encouragement along the way.
As a member of a writers’ circle you get to experience this power as you:
The point is that I schedule it because sometimes it’s just too easy to get sidetracked. And writing in the company of other writers? Well, that’s just the best!
Power up your writing time with a Writers’ Circle at The Purple Ink Cafe. It’s the solution to getting sidetracked, to avoiding, procrastinating or feeling overwhelmed.
All you have to do is show up!
For more information and to register for a current circle click here.
What do you consider your number one core motivator? Each time I’ve been asked freedom is first on my list.
While I certainly appreciate the freedoms we enjoy from all the wonderful work of our forefathers, the freedom that comes up for me, that drives me, is a deeper freedom. It’s the unleashing of my creativity. The freedom to explore and discover my unique voice wherever that shows up – in my home, on a scrap of watercolor paper, my career and relationships. And with that freedom comes an obligation to be true to that voice.
Because the world needs our true voices. It is parched and craves the nourishment that our beautiful and unique selves provide.
One of the most powerful places to exercise that freedom is through writing. Writing clarifies and articulates that freedom. It is a vehicle of discovery and growth, an outlet for emotion and imagination. It expands it and celebrates our inner freedom. And, in a safe and nurturing space, it is magic.
When I took that leap and joined a writing group I experienced that magical freedom. My life began to shift. It was a gradual unfolding; a knowing that my truest and unique self was okay. Writing gave me the bravery to, as Thoreau said, “advance confidently in the direction” of my dreams. It taught me to trust the creative process and to lose the rigid attachment to an end result. I learned to enjoy the meandering beginnings in my writing knowing that I could invite in the left brain to finish up. (Also, to learn that that philosophy works everywhere in my life, even to planning dinner!)
All that from writing. That is freedom!
And I want that freedom for you! This is why I create space for writers to gather in a safe circle. This is why I gather writers and other creative souls to do the most meaningful work we will ever do – to exercise the freedom to joyfully be who they are.
Join me in a Writers’ Circle at The Purple Ink Cafe. Click here to read more about it and to register for the current circle.
Exercise your inalienable right to let your voice ring out. The world is waiting to hear from you!
What We Ache For by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
I love the beautiful language in this book that explores the “necessity and urgency” of creativity in our lives.
Writing Alone and With Others – Pat Schneider
This book is the basis for the Amherst Writers and Artists writing workshop model (which is what I use in my workshops). In it Pat Schneider addresses the challenges the writer faces when beginning (sometimes over and over) and suggests ways to keep going. The book is full of prompts and exercises to keep us writers engaged and motivated.
The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell
Following Sun Tzu’s example, this book covers the mental game of writing (reconnaissance), craft (tactics) and advice on the publishing world (strategy). Lots of good stuff.
Do the Work – Steven Pressfield
Resistance can (and probably will)show up at some point in any creative endeavor. Pressfield normalizes and helps you get around, over, thorough it. Easy, quick and entertaining reading
Writing on Both Sides of The Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser
Ultimately, writing involves both the left and right hemisphere of our brain and Klauser helps the writer travel easily between the two. I love her style.
Poem Crazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
To me, writing is about filling up on words and images and impressions, seeing with different eyes. Wooldridge talks about gathering words and playing with language and brings that way of thinking into everyday life. There’s a poet inside everyone!
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
This is on everyone’s list for a reason. It’s a classic and required reading for anyone who wants to live life in creative space.
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
Tons of great advice on craft for both fiction and non-fiction writers.
And a bonus favorite:
The American Heritage College English Dictionary (or any good dictionary and thesaurus)
Yes, I’m a word nerd. I love a big heavy dictionary with its thin pages and can get lost in it. Whether it’s online or in hand a good dictionary and thesaurus belongs in a writer’s toolbox.
What are your favorite books for getting your creativity going?
I always wanted to write but had limited myself to business writing or snappy newsletter blurbs for our decorative painting business. At work I was the go-to person for office memos, procedure manuals, spelling, usage and grammar.
But to write for the sake of writing? Without a definite purpose to write toward? That felt too big and open. To move into storytelling? A short story? A novel? That was a bit like stepping off a cliff.
Then serendipity and synchronicity conspired to find me a writer’s group at the exact time my inner critic was napping. I signed up. Without thinking twice. Big GULP!
The circle of writers became my safety net.
I marveled at how the other women in the writers’ group could come up with amazing, cohesive pieces of writing in only 20-25 minutes, writing that flowed and moved the listener. Their words danced off the page in a very non-linear path. Free, rhythmic, colorful, musical. I felt intimidated but I was committed. I had made the “appointment” and was there to write.
Eventually something clicked with me. I became one of those women.
This does not mean that every word that flowed from my pen was exquisite. Not by a long shot!
What it means is that I had found a safe space to explore my voice, to write poorly and to write beautifully – sometimes in the same piece. I learned to recognize what worked and to let go what didn’t. I allowed fresh writing to flow without a critic and to hear what resonated with my listener/reader.
By writing I became a writer. In a circle of writers I got to grow as a writer.
In time I certified as an Amherst Writers and Artists workshop leader and began to lead my own workshops in ways that cultivated the creativity of the writers who joined me. I got to apply my own facilitation style. I got to deeply listen to the tentative voice and find the beauty. I got to see polish applied and the craft shine through. I got to create and hold safe space for writers to explore their craft.
That is what I will be doing here at The Purple Ink Café - creating and holding virtual space for writers to sit at their own writing tables and get to their writing; to write poorly or beautifully or anywhere in between. Space where new writers can think “here’s a place I can start.” Space for an experienced writer to be accountable to her practice and draw on the energy of the other writers.
Experience it for yourself! Join me in a Writers’ Circle at The Purple Ink Café. For more information and to register for the current circle click here.
Because by writing you become a writer. In a circle of writers you get to grow as a writer.
We’ve emptied my mother’s bookshelves twice in the past year. The first time was to pack up the books that would go with her as she moved to a smaller space. Even with dimming eyesight her books were essential. The rest were being donated, given away; a very few, tossed. Some made their way to my already groaning bookcases.
The second time was to put into storage those that made the first cut as she struggles to recover from a stroke. We know there will be one more time but that can wait.
This was not just a case of sorting and boxing. At least not for me. Going through my mother’s books was like reading a journal of her life. What was scattered throughout the pages was just as, if not more, interesting than what was on the pages. It was like an archeological dig.
They were artifacts.
It was much more than prettily decorated bookmarks with a ribbon and an inspiring quote. There were envelopes with blurred postmarks and barely remembered return addresses, the original letter long gone. Postcards from relatives also long gone marked spots that had held interest. There were newspaper clippings with store ads on the other side - a lesson in economics. There were random strips of paper, mimeographed meeting notes, church bulletins, holy cards, holiday gift tags and the cards that peeped out of the arrangements that had been delivered from the local florist. I kept the small tatted cross, probably from Aunt Annie.
All of these things and more were sprinkled among books on art, psychology, philosophy and religion. There was Wayne Dyer’s first book, Your Erroneous Zones. “It changed my life”, she told me. There were more books on self-improvement, diet, health. Old books that had been read to tatters and were wrapped in contact paper that I remember from my childhood, the pages discolored, the spines seriously impaired. Our irony soaked favorites were the myriad books on de-cluttering. There was the random novel, but only a few. Reading was a serious pastime; learning and personal growth serious pursuits. Our mother’s is a life lived with interest
Her cook books were my favorites. Since I was very young I claimed the oldest one as mine. The one that was falling apart even then and is now covered in faux wood contact paper. That would be my inheritance. It wasn’t for the content, although it was fascinating to see how a household was run in the 40’s, how to deal with wartime shortages and what constituted a serving back then. It was for the view into a busy, inquiring mind during busy, challenging times as she raised six children while watching her pennies. It was seeing articles throughout the years on ways to lose weight (when she was feeling heavy). It was the changing views on how to stay healthy and fit. It was cupcakes and setting a pretty table. I didn’t know there could be that many ways to make a cheesecake as clippings moved from low-fat to diabetic friendly. Her wish list of things to try exceeded the hours in a lifetime. Tucked into the bulging book were Woman’s Day articles, decade’s old, and yellowed clippings from the home section of now defunct newspapers. There are receipts and menus and shopping lists and memories of many meals over many years.
On the last blank page of the cookbook there is a crumb cake recipe. It’s in her handwriting, as familiar to me as the feel of my fingers on this keyboard. Such a personal artifact, the script distinct in its sweep and swirl, her penmanship beautiful and unchanging over the years. Until now. When her right hand no longer accepts commands from her brain.
All these artifacts, like flies in amber, illuminate a story from another place and time. They give us a glimpse so we might know our mother a little better. What will we leave as artifacts? What story will it tell?
Kathy Kane blogs about the creative process in the everyday, in writing and in the magical transition to the second half of life.
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