As found here. Happy Friday.
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The new year has begun. At the two-week mark I’m ready to get specific about how I want to approach the months ahead. At about this time last year, I posted my personal review of 2011, and then my intentions for 2012. Instead of goals, l preferred the word intentions, because so many of my priorities comprised an ongoing practice, rather than end points. If you follow our Monday Post you know that my weekly intentions rarely vary. My frame for the coming year is similar. But first, a brief review of 2012, because I like to appreciate where I’ve been before moving forward. Don’t you?
When I think through the highlights, I see that this year was very much about connecting with other people and becoming increasingly comfortable in front of a crowd, large or small. It’s no accident that our tagline for Open Studio was Connect, Create, Grow. (I used the past tense when referring to the studio. More here.)
When I look at the list of intentions I created for last year, I calculate about at 50% “success” rate. I’m okay with that.
For this year, instead of another folio of intentions, I’m doing something different. I still have the same priorities, but one concrete goal tops the list: finish my fiction manuscript. I don’t know if this is within my reach, but I’m going to try. On top of that, I’ve identified three words that are my mantra for the year:
Focus is for working on one thing until it’s done. Working with the wifi shut off and/or with my e-mail turned off. Not jumping from thing to thing in a ridiculous circle. Focus is for planning my day and following the plan. Focus is for my writing practice.
Kindness is for kindness to self. Being kind to others is not a struggle, but I tend to push myself too hard. I’m working on ways to be gentler, which means adjusting my personal expectations. Treating others and myself with empathy.
Delight is for doing less and enjoying it more. Delight is for slowing down and reconnecting with the natural childhood awe that used to be natural. Delight is for not running around like a maniac. Delight is for being here now, and not wanting to be anywhere else.
How about you? What are your intentions for 2013? If you have a word — or three — will you share?
During November, the interwebs were abuzz with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the literary marathon during which participants bang out a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. A debate always emerges during NaNoWriMo, centered on a process question that is relevant to writers and artists alike. Which is better: pantser, or plotter?
A pantser, as the name implies, is one who flies by the seat of his or her pants. No outline, no roadmap, no limits. Pantsers feel constrained by outlines; many say that planning strips away their creative mojo. On the flip side, plotters prefer to know precisely which direction they’re headed in. A plotter novelist might produce a full set of index cards with each scene in bullet points before relaxing into the writing process. Writers in either camp vehemently defend their preferences (just google “pantser versus planner” and see for yourself).
Of course, neither approach is inherently better than the other. You need to do what works best for you. But sometimes we get stuck in what we think we “should” do, or what we learned from a mentor’s example, or what seems more legitimate. When that happens, it can be difficult to adopt the other method, even if it might be to our benefit.
The only way you’ll really know what works best for you is to try both. If the idea of planning your fiction feels frightening, give it a go. You might find inspiration in the clarity that an outline brings. And if you tend to plan the composition of your painting down to the last square centimeter, you might try purely intuitive work and see if that unlocks anything new.
The value of knowing if you’re a pantser or a plotter by nature—or if you fall somewhere in between—is that understanding your authentic process is part of your identity as an artist or writer. The more you understand (and anticipate) how you work, the more confident you become, and the more you are able to invest in your process rather than the outcome.
What works for you? (And if you participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo, hearty congratulations!)
This piece was originally published in Creativity Calling, the newsletter of the Creativity Coaching Association.
Back in April, I wrote about my morning centering practice. This practice has evolved in several key ways in the past six months. Now, for the first time ever, I feel that I am truly and consistently walking the talk when it comes to my personal creativity.
It’s no secret that successful people make the very most of early morning hours. Whether you have a day job, a family, and/or wear 14 other hats, the first hours of the day are often your only shot at having time to yourself without interruption and distraction. As soon as your kids are sleeping through the night, you can start leveraging this opportunity.
For me, getting up early means 4:00 am.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Getting up early requires going to bed on time (9:00 – 9:15 pm over here). It also requires a fairly consistent schedule, as it’s difficult to get up at 4:00 on Monday morning after getting up at 7:00 on Saturday and Sunday. So I get up for writing practice at 5:00 on weekends. That means I’m not up late or out on the town on weekends. Is that a sacrifice? Maybe. But it doesn’t feel like one at the moment.
For me, getting up early is built on the foundation of exercise and eating right. I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, and as you may have read here before, I’ve long felt that wheat products are not my friend. I don’t have celiac disease, but I find that eating wheat (even whole grain) stimulates strong cravings and makes me feel hungry — and tired. (This book was quite affirming.) Today I am nearly vegan and totally wheat free. I eat a very low-carb diet and eat lightly at dinner. I don’t eat after 7:00 pm, ever. By eating lightly and going to bed a little bit hungry, I wake up full of energy and ready to launch into my writing practice. Bonus: I just took off a stubborn 10 pounds.
As you might imagine, the fact that I need to be in bed by 9:00 in order to get 7 hours of sleep has an impact on my marriage. My husband likes screen time in the evening, and I prefer to read, so this isn’t a huge issue. I try to make sure that we connect over dinner and on the weekends. Sometimes he comes to bed at the same time I do. We also share our daily morning meditation practice, which to my mind is more valuable than sitting next to each other in front of the TV half comatose for a couple of hours in the evening.
It won’t always be this way. Writing is important to me, and right now, this is what it takes to be a serious player. Play-ah! No more excuses. (As I’m sure you know, there are always 18,489 “good” excuses.)
My morning practice starts at 4:00 am and ends at 8:15 am when I leave the house with my two youngest children. I started the 4:00 wake-up over the summer and have now incorporated the school routine. Here’s what my morning practice looks like, woven into the regular flow of home life:
Note that the writing practice comes FIRST. That way, if a wee one wakes up exceptionally early, it’s still already done. If I have to scrap the centering part of my practice (mediation, journaling, etc.) then so be it. But the writing practice isn’t threatened. Usually, it all falls into place, with a little juggling between the aforementioned time slots. Everyone gets off to school and work in good stead, and the house is (gasp!) clean and tidy.
I understand that a routine like this might seem baffling — or totally unappealing. But for me, it’s a completely sustainable loop. Those four hours and fifteen minutes are routine now. It’s a routine that is grounded in my macro level intentions and priorities. I can’t overstate what it means to me to have a daily writing practice that absolutely happens every day. Seven days a week. I’m in touch with my creative work every day, all day, because it’s always fresh, always percolating. Without this morning anchor, the demands of my editorial business, my coaching practice, my studio storefront, and my family/domestic life eat up every available moment.
Interested in what an early morning creative practice could do for you? My last post on this topic included some ideas for developing your own morning centering practice. Add the creative session, mix well, and enjoy.
And hey: If you’re up at 4:00 am eastern time, know that you and I are creative buds.
Amazingly, we’re just past the halfway mark of 2012. This is a great time to review the plans or resolutions you made at the beginning of the year. Are you on course? Do you need to make a few adjustments? If you didn’t start 2012 with a plan, why not decide on what you’d like to get done before the next six months have passed? Let’s make sure that you feel satisfied and pleased when you raise a glass to ring in 2013.
At the beginning of this year, I published two posts encompassing my New Year’s review and planning process. The first is 2011-2012: Review, Celebrate, Plan; the second is 2012 Year Plan: Practice and Intentions.
I described my plan for 2012 as a “folio of intentions.” When I look at my list today, I see that I’m not as far along by this point as I would have predicted back in January. I crossed one item off of my list entirely after deciding not to do it. I also did a handful of things that weren’t on my list that I consider to be relevant milestones, but mostly I find it humbling — and inspiring — to review these priorities. I have some course corrections to make. Here is my original list, with the six-month update in green. New items are also in green.
Deepen presence in family time
Continually solidify creative practice
Focus on self and spiritual practice
Build coaching business
Build Open Studio
Up the ante on commitment to good health
Improve financial stability
Where are you on your intentions for 2012?
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