Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

A favorite new book is Sam Bennett’s “Get It Done!” (Samantha, but she’s called Sam). I really like the book, and it has inspired me to write my own next draft. Her premise that that if a dream or goal has NO energy, we do not procrastinate. We just don’t need to do it. But if an idea just will not go away, it has a storehouse of energy worth unpacking.

Her basic tool is to work just 15 minutes on your project. And, as she writes, “And you need to do this before you open your email, BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR EMAIL, BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR EMAIL.” Think she’s been spying on you? Nope, she’s spent too much of her time looking at my schedule.

However you perceive this idea, I encourage you to spend 15 minutes just making a list of those ideas and projects and dreams that haven’t left you alone for days, months, years, decades. Why not?

If we refuse to beat ourselves up for NOT doing something, there is pure pleasure in contemplating what those ‘somethings’ are, and to ask the next questions:

  1. What could be holding me back from beginning one of them?
  2. Which one would I choose, and I wonder why… that one?
  3. If I were to spent just 15 minutes on this one, what might I do? Where would I do it? Whom would I need to help me, if anyone?

Small beginnings mark every single major accomplishment. I wish you well.

Now, back to my outline.


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Some people who might otherwise be artists, or merely more productive, turn their creative talents elsewhere because they cannot tolerate being alone for extended periods. Anna Held Audette

Is it ever honorable to avoid creating, practicing, playing at your chosen craft or tackle a hard task? Of course. There are a thousand times when you can righteously say “no” to the work. But there are as many times when you must righteously say “yes.” Between the two there is no time left ever to say “maybe.”
When you do say “yes,” where will you be? Completely alone. In order to start, an artist must invite in and be able to tolerate active aloneness. We can all tolerate passive aloneness reasonably well: in that dull state we can nap, watch TV, read, play computer games, think of people to call. But active aloneness is a cat of another stripe.
To be actively alone means to be belligerent, alive, ecstatic, afraid, on your feet, wired, doubtful, upset, fired up, and all the rest. It means that mistakes are about to happen. It means that contradictory ideas will engulf you, and confrontation will occur. As the painter Agnes Martin explains it:
               The solitary life is full of terrors. If … you go walking down a country lane in the dark, it is an entirely different thing than walking with someone else. If you were not completely distracted you would surely feel “the fear” part of the time, the pervasive fear that is always with us. In solitude this fear is lived and finally understood.

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A good friend is facing her first real surgery. She works hard to achieve excellent health and vitality, so when all opinions converged that surgery was absolutely, no doubt about it, a must, she was disappointed. It’s been marvelous to watch her float above that perspective and find the possible positives. “I’m not ‘jumping with joy’ about having surgery, but will be quite glad to have the cyst removed as it pushes against my stomach and causes discomfort. AND I’ve decided that I will program in my mind and body that with its removal, all anxiety will also be taken away. I won’t need all the herbs I take which will save me time and money. I will have more money to spend on pleasurable things and my body weight will be good for my size along with having muscle strength. The list goes on and on. Such a large amount of stuff I’m laying on this surgery.”

I loved this idea, of clumping wishes into little “mind pockets” and one change in behavior or environment will bring them all to fruition. I imagined one pocket holding the hope for less drudgery, more time to ask what is really important. Another pocket would be full of creative inspiration: at my beading bench, loveliness noticed, and my website redone with lightness and beauty. A little “change” pocket would be open to new experiences, encouraging me to abandon over-responsibility and crave surprise.

And it all came true last Friday. I found myself with four unplanned hours in San Francisco while waiting for my husband to have a medical procedure. No expectations, no companion to please. In truth, I was flummoxed for the first hour, balancing the standard questions: Go to a restaurant or a museum? Maybe a café in the museum? Then something rather wonderful happened. While wondering “what to do” I walked along Union Street, stores just opening. My breath was taken away by the modern Afghani rug colors, and the merchant said I was free to take photos with my phone, an idea that would never occur to me. And so I clicked away down Union Street, my pockets of beauty and inspiration and important goals and surprise emptied out along the way. Wandering into a rug store, a Tibetan jewelry shop, flower stalls, I found myself attracted to colors and patterns. Turquoise and white, subtle brocade patterns with bold images, popped out. Later, I sat in the sunshine, eating a salad from the hospital’s cafeteria, reading a magazine, and feeling inspired and refreshed and my pockets with new hopes and dreams, awaiting the next surprising change.

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Multitasking is not the secret to success. A scattered, unfocused mindset sabotages the accomplishment of the major-tasking that creates lovely memories and crosses off the jobs that need doing but one time. Myriad studies prove that multitasking not only isn’t efficient in the long run, it causes stress and high blood pressure. It is the opposite of the spiritual experience of mindfulness. But this knowledge hasn’t put an end to the compulsion to confound my hands and mind with co-existing activity. My secret selves, the inner child and protector, cling to the belief that doing more than one thing at a time just has to be effective. They insist that I have to be organized before I can work on my big goals.

The truth is the adrenaline rush of multitasking is far more thrilling than boring old “Focus on one thing at a time and do it right.” I do get a lot done when in a  full-on frantic flurry, but only the mini-tasks.  I cheat myself out of the deep pleasure of seeing an important job well done.

Having a neat desk, photos scanned, files sorted, and sock drawer organized by color are mini-tasks that require focus, but bring only temporary satisfaction and come undone in a week of typical living. My friend “Lake” explained that her kitchen was never as clean as when she had a creative deadline facing her; that the hardest act of an artist/writer was to deny the small voices that told her she first had to have a clean, well-ordered house, and spent precious time completing a hundred insignificant chores before entering her studio.

The steps that lead to my heart’s desire cannot be tackled with the same mosaic of effort of cleaning the kitchen, making a meal, checking the weather channel to see if I dare hang out the laundry, all while on hold for the next available agent. Big goals, the ones that create joy, need a purer intention, a calm focus. It takes mental focus and a calm heart to consider what is important to you.

Do you know what your most precious goals are? Not for your whole life, or the next twenty years. It’s scary for me to notice that at 62, I need to plan a shorter frame. So I’ll begin to think about what I really want to achieve, this year.  Best to work on a short list, two to five, that includes the long denied joys, as well as essential obligations of adulthood. Mine include a first trip to Europe. A return to the gym three times a week. Complete the taxes without deadline stress. More vague,but still important: How can I be a terrific partner for my family members? Read more meaningful books?

When you consider yours, don’t  judge them by size–you’re looking for something that keeps pulling you toward a single sweet focus. Write down two steps to lead you toward each of  your dreams, and post them where you can see them every day. Then turn off your phone, bungee cord yourself into your chair or the treadmill at the gym. The dishes will be there when it’s time for a break. And when you do the dishes? Do them one at a time.

I will if you will! These next ten questions might give you some other clues as to what is befuddling your efforts to get to your dreams.

Self-Discovery Quiz: Mini-Tasking versus Major-Tasking

Rate your responses 0 (not me!) to 5 (how’d you know!)

1. I have a short list of important goals for this year firmly in my mind and written down.

2. At least once a week I make a small step to move toward one of these goals.

3. I believe in the motto “Do it once and do it right,” and am working to be good at it.

4. When I catch myself engaged in simultaneous activities, I stop and choose one to complete.

5. I’ve learned to seek support from my family, friends, and experts to realize my big goals.

6. While at a creative task, like writing a blog, I turn off the sounds of email and phone.

7. I keep reminding myself to “focus” and imagine how good I’ll feel after completing the current task.

8. While waiting for the microwave to ding or the washing machine to complete its spin cycle, I don’t fret, instead I take deep breaths and release tension in my upper body.

9. I don’t feel guilty when chores or family needs are temporarily delayed, because it serves everyone when we each work on our big goals.

10. This quiz is making me nervous!

If you have low numbers on #1-9, and #10 is too true, you believe multi-tasking is more effective than major-tasking. For today, you might choose one of the ideas embedded in the first nine, try it on and see how you look wearing it.

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