Set Your Sights on What You Want

I’ve noticed a common thread running through a favorite book revisted and a couple of blog posts lately: you must chart your own path to a creative life.

I know what you’re thinking.

Oh, great, a post full of “The Little Engine that Could” rhetoric. Delete. Skip. Unsubscribe.

I get it. Rejections and Writer’s block will do that to a person, turn you into a realist and a pessimist (they do that to me, anyway). But, don’t roll your eyes just yet.

Anne Lamott wrote an essay (you can read it here, on Sunset.com) about finding time so you can “create the rich life you deserve.” She says:

…[C]reative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

It makes sense, right? Don’t you feel great when you bind off the last stitch of a scarf you knitted from that crazy pattern that made you cross-eyed? And, the scarf looks as lovely as the photo!ย  How about when you serve up that meal you made from scratch that, soon after, becomes everyone’s favorite? And, once in a while – admit it – you take a picture with your digital camera that’s so good, it cries out for professional framing and a place on your living room wall.

Whenever we create something, on purpose or by accident, the result is a shot of adrenaline, a skip in our step, a whole new outlook on the day. So, why not set our sights on experiencing those moments more often than not?

Julia Cameron has successfully published a whole series of books that link creativity to spirituality, books that offer advice and written exercises to help guide you towards creative success. I worked through The Artist’s Way, and while I did roll my eyes at some of what Cameron wrote, I followed her advice anyway. I started writing morning pages; I listed my aspirations (and, in doing so, sent them out into the celestial world so that they might come true); I took my writing seriously, for once.

Things started happening – mostly because I put thought into action – and some of those early aspirations have come true.

Sage Cohen wrote a book (The Productive Writer) and writes on her blog (The Path of Possibility) with a similar philosophy in mind: teaching writers “strategies, systems, and psychologies” to increase productivity. Cohen’s guest post on Lisa Romeo Writes offers a glimpse into Cohen’s belief that answering a few simple questions can re-kindle or re-focus anyone’sย  creative juices.

First, she asks, “What do you intend for your experience to be each time you sit down to write [or knit or cook or whatever]? Inspired, meditative, energized?” I write in concentrated chunks of time, time that generally falls within the late evening hours. When I sit down to write, it’s so much less about meditation than it is about energy — a “get ‘er done” kind of energy. I save my morning pages for meditative writing. Sure, I want to be inspired when I sit down to write, but I’ll take inspiration at any point during the day: on a five minute bus ride, while listening to a song, when I’m standing in line at the gas station. That’s why I keep a notebook handy.

Cohen also asks, “How do you define success in any of the following: publication, money, awards, leadership, freedom/flexibility/continued time to write?” At this point in my writing career, I don’t focus on monetary success. But, I can outline what success might look like in terms of publication, awards, and the amount of time I find to write. I’ve yet to have one of my short stories published, but a few of my other shorter pieces and a poem are in print. And, I managed to get my name on a list of Glimmer Train’s Honorable Mentions last summer. The Honorable Mention wasn’t on my original list of goals, but once I firmed up even a small vision of what I wanted, I kick-started an inner drive to turn that vision – and then some – into a reality.That’s worth remembering on a day when that rejection letter hits my inbox.

What about you?Have you read The Artist’s Way or The Productive Writer? Do you buy into the idea that if we dream it, we can live it?

~

On a side note, I haven’t ignored the results from that poll I ran a few weeks ago. It seems you still want a good flash fiction read here and there. I’m already thinking of ways to incorporate more flash fiction, mine or pieces of fellow writers. Thanks for voting!

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21 responses to “Set Your Sights on What You Want

  1. Definitely have read the Artist’s Way, loved it. Earlier today I sent someone on my FB friends list a link to explain what morning pages are..

    Our minds are in sink today, Christi! Great post BTW!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Laura. I love those moments when we’re all on the same wavelength ๐Ÿ™‚ So, are you religious about doing your morning pages? I write them, but I’m not as good about the “get out of bed and put the pen to paper right away” deal.

  2. I go back and forth with the morning pages because often they end up deteriorating into complaints about my day job (although as I write this I just realized for the first time that perhaps that’s a good thing because it gets that out of my system instead of letting it fester. hmmm. Does commenting on a thought-provoking post count as a “morning paragraph”? It certainly gave me something new to consider.)

    My writing tends to be goal-oriented but I focus on the meditative when I’m re-writing — to linger in a scene, get beneath the surface, etc. A great book for working with those ideas is Writing Begins with the Breath.

    Thanks for an inspiring post.

    • Cathryn,

      I’ve had the same experiences, where my morning pages turn into rants. But, that is the point. And, sometimes, I go back to those pages and write an afternoon stint – just because I’m obsessing about some writerly thing I can’t control.

      I haven’t read the book you mentioned. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

  3. Wow, this is a great post. I really love the idea of creative expression being in writing, cooking, photography, crafting etc. I do feel so energized when I complete a vision I have. I think the measurement of success aspect retards so many peoples efforts. Enjoy the journey.

    • Kuby,

      You crossed my mind when I was writing this post, since you post sometimes about sewing. I have a good friend who does amazing work with fiber arts and can sew a beautiful project from scratch. I’ve always been envious of anyone with that kind of vision.

  4. Thank you for mentioning all those ways of creative expression, cooking, knitting, and others, including writing. I think my writing spirit is stirred after I’ve successfully served a fantastic, delicious meal or cleaned my house. The uplifting feeling of accomplishment seems to spark in me a creative urge to write. Blessings, Christi…

    • Carol,

      Yes, I’m often inspired after a clean house too ๐Ÿ™‚ Funny, how clearing away the dust uncovers more than just a lovely sheen on the mantel. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Thank you very much for sharing these books and articles.

  6. I love the work of Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron, but haven’t read The Productive Writer, so thanks very much for the recommendation.

    In terms of believing that we can make our dreams a reality…. it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. To an extent, yes, but I also think it’s smart to look closely at our strengths and limits (not just internal limits, but external ones). Does that sound pessimistic? I hope not. I need to think it all through more.

    Great post and great resources, Christi. Thank you!
    ~ Lisa

    • Lisa,

      I don’t think you sound pessimistic. One of the things Sage Cohen says at the end of her post on Lisa Romeo’s blog is that our vision has to be “continuously evolving,” and I believe that can include changes and new goals as we grow beyond our limits and reach new heights. Thanks for bringing that up, Lisa.

  7. Thank you for such a wonderful post, Christi. Loved it!

    I’ve read those books, yes. And I enjoyed them.

    Though I believe we can (and often do) bring our dreams to reality, it’s the fire to create, and the emotional blood and and pain required that some folks seem to not fully grasp.

  8. Pingback: Bookmark Friday | Log Off. Write On.

  9. Both Anne LaMotte and Julia Cameron have been gurus for me. I started my first novel after an Artist’s Way workshop at a local bookstore many years ago. I’m glad you’re bringing these inspiring people to the attention of a new generation of writers.

    • Anne,

      Thanks for stopping by. And, to spend a whole workshop with the Artist’s Way – en masse with others working towards similar goals – sounds dreamy. I enjoyed working through the book alone, but I would love to go through it again with someone else.

  10. Pingback: On Showing Up | Lisa Rivero

  11. Jean Hoffmann

    I do believe if we dream it, we can live it. In fact, we merely have to think it to put it in motion. It’s quite powerful once you begin to realize it.

  12. Pingback: On Showing Up | Lisa Rivero

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