I’ve shifted from my inner two-year-old’s tantrum (last week), to my inner teenager’s boredom.
I am bored. I know these words and this feeling. I used to be here a lot when I was a teenager and figuring out my life.
I’ve not felt bored for a very long time. I’ve been busy creating word and image and mostly happy about it. I’ve had perfect successes and perfect failures. I’ve learned and grown as a creator.
And then, Bang! I’m in a week-long tantrum. And then, Pop! My two-year-old morphs into a teenager who keeps saying ‘I am bored.’
Boredom is interesting. That sounds like an oxymoron (love that word), but it isn’t. I am curious about this feeling of boredom.
What I am thinking:
Boredom and my previous tantrum are really the same thing.
What am I bored with? And why?
This boredom is an aspect of my creative process and a piece of my creativity.
My morning pages show me I am tired of pushing myself.
I have four puzzle pieces to play with, and here is the picture they are making. I’ve realized the pushing is towards intentions that are not completely aligned with what I love and how I create. It’s taking me out of alignment with my heart (where my best work comes from) and my process (how my best work grows and completes itself).
This is Big. If I had not gone into tantrum and boredom, I wouldn’t have slowed down enough to see this.
I’ve been reading about vulnerability in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Her words have me feeling and remembering.
Growing up, no one told me that strength included vulnerability. If they did, I didn’t hear them. Maybe the people around me did not know this either.
Growing up, I was taught that being strong meant holding back my feelings from public view. Show a calm, controlled front. Always pretend everything is okay. I became so good at this, even I didn’t know what I was feeling sometimes.
I kept pushing my feelings away. I thought I was getting rid of them. Truth is I was storing them behind a fence of ‘okay’.
This is not the way to live. I knew it, but did not know how to be different.
Things changed when I was twenty-one. I began the relationship with my future husband. He saw my heart behind the fence, and he loved it, and he wouldn’t let go.
Something in me knew it was time to build a gate. A skinny gate at first, but enough to let me say out loud for the first time in my life, to someone, I love you.
I was terrified saying it. This was laying myself open, a direct path to hurt me and reject what I offered. Despite all of the loving actions and words Lyle had given me, I did not trust I was truly worthy of love. I didn’t much love myself, so how could someone else love me?
I could not say ‘I love you’ to Lyle as a statement. I said it like a question needing the right answer.
He said it. He said I love you. He answered. To me.
Love made the gate in my fence. Love and the courage to love. I don’t know where the courage came from, and the ability to hear the voice that whispered inside me, ‘do this’.
I knew this was a choice, to stay with fear or to step forward to love. I knew Lyle saw me differently than I saw myself. He saw a world that did not require fear, and he saw me in this world braver than I saw myself. Maybe this is how my courage appeared. His vision sparked my belief, and my belief sparked courage to arise, be seen, and claim out loud my ability to love.
Lyle showed up for me when I needed someone to help open a way through the fence I had built around myself.
Lyle told me how he felt and what he saw in me. But louder than the words were his actions. He treated me as a person of great value, who had gifts to be seen and shared.
He believed in me.
This is what we do for each other. We see the best in the person standing before us, even and especially when they can’t see it themselves. We believe in them. We say ‘let’s do this together’.
We all have the gift and possibility of being a Believing Mirror for the person standing before us. We just have to choose to see that in ourselves, and be vulnerable enough to offer it to someone else.
‘I believe in you.’ Words as precious and important and life-changing as ‘I love you’.
Lyle and I have been together thirty-seven years. We have a son to be proud of. My fence? It shows up sometimes as a ghost of itself. Old habits, old patterns of thinking and reacting, reminding me where I was, and showing me where I am now. I pat it kindly, and thank it for keeping me safe at a time when I thought I needed protection. Then I walk around it.
Lyle, I love you. Happy Father’s Day.
In this post:
Brene Brown, book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Avery, 2012. http://brenebrown.com/
Thursday I had my last session with my coach. Yes, I am a creativity coach-artist-writer-blogger who has a coach. I should say, had a coach.
For this past year we have been talking, every two weeks. Sometimes emailing in between the talking.
I’ll tell you how I feel right now. Sad. I am going to miss our biweekly conversations. I am also elated, excited, pleased with myself. I keep hearing ‘I did it!’ popping into my thoughts. I am grounded and balanced within myself and my life. I feel like I just graduated from a Master’s Degree program. I feel like I just ran a whole marathon.
So what did I do that has me celebrating?
Last April I got very honest with myself. I looked at my nineteen years as a professional artist. Looked at my writing and my blogging. At my book with the half-completed second draft. At the creativity workshops and coaching I was doing.
I loved all I was doing and creating, loved the connections and community I was building. But I had no focus. It all felt very random, with no clear path ahead. My usual way of working was feeling chaotic rather than organic.
This is where I am, I said to myself. Where do I want to go? How do these pieces of my creativity fit together?
I am the kid who always says ‘I can do it myself’, and does. Not this time. I need help, I said to myself, and Source heard my request.
Linda is a Master Coach. Yes, the capital letters are deliberate and appropriate. She coaches CEO’s and entrepreneurs.
Linda listened to me with her heart and her head.
I have a bad attitude around business, I said. Business and art don’t belong in the same sentence.
We can do this, she said.
Over twelve months we shifted me, my life, and my creativity into focus. We talked about the nuts and bolts of what I was doing, the energy and feel of what I was creating. About where I was and where I wanted to be. We used our heads and our hearts. Feeling and knowing what was right for me, and what was not.
Two (of the thousand) things I learned from Linda:
Feel and think. My heart carries my dreams and inspiration and path. My head carries the organizing and details, the process, the nuts and bolts of building. When I connect all of this, the whole of me, I see clearly the next step in front of me. I feel the energy of the people I am connecting with, and what they are asking for. I see how this matches my inspiration, the workshops and coaching, the words and drawings I will create in response.
Use everything. Instead of pushing away what I don’t like, I get curious about it. What does this feel like? What is it telling me? Why is it showing up? How can I use it? I am fascinated at how there is always a way to turn something around and let it inspire me.
Linda has been my Believing Mirror. She met me exactly where I was, and saw the future me as I wanted to be. Step by step she walked with me into that place. Transformation.
What is best? I am now my own Believing Mirror. I see where I am, and I see where I am going to be. That vision of where I will be pulls me forward. It creates the space for me to walk into, and the steps to get there.
I have a secret agent who helps me create. ‘’Call me Pages, Morning Pages,’’ she says, and smiles. She holds sharpened pencils in one hand, sheets of paper in the other.
Yes, I am talking about Julia Cameron’s invention, morning pages. Three handwritten pages, whatever comes to mind, each day before I move to the writing or drawing, coaching or blogging. Letting my mind wander. Letting thoughts surface and have their say. Letting emotions move through me, easily or not. Letting beliefs and memories show up to say ‘notice me’. Planning to do this, then this, and this.
I’ve been writing morning pages for years, since October 1994 to be precise. Not constantly, but mostly, daily. They show me who I am in this moment, where I have been, where I am going, where I’d like to go and what I’d like to do.
These daily pages are my place to gripe loudly and to discover inspiration. Yes, both, sometimes the first leading to the second. Funny that, and true. Reassuring that I can be off balance, feel it, then move on and into my creative self, the clouds having cleared.
This, for me, is why morning pages are my secret agent. They clear my way to walk into my creative self, whatever I am doing this day. Pages open me to a clear mind and a clear heart, pair my mind and heart so they partner each other in whatever I am creating.
This is when my writing, drawing, coaching, and blogging are their best. This is when my mind and heart speak as one voice. Try this, they say, and I do.
What comes of this mind-heart partnership are choices, actions, and creations that connect me to other people, heart and mind to heart and mind. Connection, communication, understanding. Realizations that are clear, heart-felt, accepting, inspired, wise.
I have my days of resisting my morning pages, even now after twenty-two years. I don’t feel like it. I’m too tired. I’m too lazy. I want to go direct to my creating and not waste any time. I need to get other things done.
I have lots of excuses.
None are valid.
I know better, yet I will use the excuse of the day and not write my pages. I move straight to my creating, bringing with me a mind hazy with complaints and cluttered with random thoughts, a heart holding unexpressed emotions that should have been felt and acknowledged.
For me, this is not the way in which to create. What I do this day will likely need to be undone tomorrow. I know this from long experience. Yet still, once in a while, I have to test it again and choose to ignore writing my morning pages.
What is this resistance, this obstinate choice I occasionally make?
I think I do this to remind myself of why I write my pages. I re-experience how I feel and think and the not-quality creating that results from a hazy, cluttered, random mind and heart that are not working together.
Today, before I wrote this post, I wrote my morning pages. True, they were more like noon pages. That is alright. The pages got written. The blog post got created. And all is right in my world because my secret agent was on the job today.
Guess what? My internal critic is back. Yes, she’s back, rather like the Terminator but not half so interesting.
I should say, she is trying to come back. I am not letting her. There is choice involved here, and I am using it. The word to my internal critic is NO.
The thing about my internal critic is she tries to make me feel I have no power and no choice. She tells me how badly I am doing, how I don’t possess the skills or experience I need. How what I am creating is all wrong. It is ugly, or stupid, or been done before or better by others. It’s not worth anyone’s time and I’m not worth anyone’s time. I’ll embarrass myself, family, friends.
Putting it plainly, my internal critic is a bitch. No sugar-coating it. A bitch who is attempting to keep me safe by stopping me from creating and from creating publicly. She is all fear. There is no love in anything she says. Safety is not the same as love.
What I have recently discovered is that my internal critic actually serves a purpose for me. When she shows up, I know I am not standing in my authentic self as artist, writer, creativity coach, blogger. She tells me when I am not claiming and using my power as the creator I am.
She tells me when I am working and creating from my head and not my heart. My best, strongest, most expansive creations come from my heart and love. Passion. My head is brilliant at organizing, planning, structure, logic, and detail. I need and treasure what it does, but what it does must be partnered by my heart and love.
I know why my internal critic has been especially active the last two weeks. I am moving into a big creation right now, taking a major dream and making it real and public. Something this important and integral to me feels both amazing and scary. My internal critic has noticed and turned up her volume in order to protect me from getting hurt.
She is trying to stop me.
Stopping? Not going to happen.
Not creating this dream would hurt me most.
So, my internal critic, I thank you for voicing your noisy, negative concern. Believe it or not, I love you for helping me see.
Here is how it will go. The creator in me feels and knows where I am going and what dream I am making real. The creator in me feels and knows the possibilities that are here shining before me. The creator in me knows my power and how to use it.
This is what I choose. My power is love. I make my dream real.
You will know from my posts that Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, and Lynda Barry are my creativity heroes. In their books, they talk about the internal critic, how it affects them, struggling with it and what they do about it, how they move past her or him (or it) to get to their creating. Their stories have taught me how to work with my internal critic, and how to get past to where the creating is. If you are curious, my ‘Resources I Use’ page, https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/resources-i-use/ , has more information about these awesome creators and their books.
My studio window is open. It is a gorgeous day. Sun. Blue sky. Sweet warm air. My bamboo chimes are moving with the wind, sounding between the calls of robins and chickadees and songbirds I can’t identify but whose voices I love.
Perfect weather. Or maybe not. My internal writing weather, up until this moment, was all ice, frozen way below zero.
In other words, for the last two hours I have not been practising the art of creativity. I have been practising the art of procrastination, and doing it well.
As a direct result, I have renewed a studio rule for myself. First write the blog post. Then, and only then, turn on the laptop and play in the email and the internet.
I already knew this. If I turn on my laptop before I write, I am lost. My email inbox and the internet in general are a wonderful and devious distraction. Even as I play in them, I know what I am doing—putting off the writing.
Why? I love writing. Totally true. I am not a writer who prefers having written. I am a writer who prefers being in the action of writing, being in the energy and process of creating. Having written is fun and satisfying, but being in writing is where the whole of me sings. I am in love when I am writing. Joyful. Playing. It is work, yes, my work, and it fills me when I am in the midst of it. Work that is play.
So why the two hours of mucking around on my laptop and putting off the writing?
Most of what I have been doing the last four weeks has been needed and necessary, but most of it has not been writing. I am out of practice is the simplest way of saying it. When I get out of practice, my internal critic attempts a coup to stop me ever writing (or creating) again.
She is sneaky, my internal critic. This morning she got me to turn on my laptop to do some essential research. Ha ha. There should be quotation marks around the word essential.
She is a know-it-all, opinionated and bossy. She used to be able to stop me in my tracks, keep me away from the page and from the easel. Now she only manages to occasionally slow me down for a couple of hours. My love of creating is stronger than any fears she can throw in my way.
Over the years of creating, I have found ways to distract and weaken my internal critic. Here are two that work well for me.
I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Just past halfway through. I love this book. A conversation about creativity and creating and living a creative life. There are parts of this book I wish I had written. I didn’t because they did not come to me. I am glad they came to Elizabeth, and glad she has shared them.
Elizabeth says let yourself live a creative life. She gives you permission, if you need it, on page 90. What she is really saying—you do not need anyone’s permission. Just create a life for yourself out of what you love.
How do you make a creative life?
You let inspiration and ideas in.
And where do ideas and inspiration come from?
Elizabeth’s ideas visit and stay if she is ready and available. Inspiration, looking for a partner who is ready to play. If she isn’t ready or available, inspiration moves on to someone else. So, not really her ideas. Rather, ideas and inspiration moving in the air around her, around all of us, all the time.
Natalie Goldberg says the same thing in a different way. Inspiration and capability as the water table below the surface of the earth. It’s always there and we tap into it through our effort and action.
Julia Cameron talks of dropping down the well when she is engaged in listening through writing. Moving below normal consciousness into the stream of ideas that live below the surface and flow through all of us. Alternatively, Julia describes inspiration and ideas as radio waves, always being broadcast on all frequencies.
This is where my ideas come from. Inspiration Radio. I can tune in any time. It is always broadcasting. 24/7, as my son describes it.
I love this. Ideas and inspiration are always available to all of us. Always flowing, always moving around and beneath us.
How do we connect with this flow?
Elizabeth’s words: ready and available.
Natalie’s words: effort and action.
Julia’s words: engaged in listening through writing.
Action. We connect through our action. I am writing and drawing, and my action is an invitation to inspiration to connect with me. I am open, ready, available, tapped in, listening. I am saying, come and play with me.
I am not waiting for inspiration to show up first, and then acting on it. I am acting first, and this opens a space for the ideas to come in.
There is something else going on as well.
When I am writing and drawing, I am fully present. I’m not in my mind, thinking over yesterday or planning tomorrow. I am right here, right now, with the words and lines and colours. With the feel of the pen and the pastel in my hand, and the sound they make as I move them across the paper. I am in my senses and my body, and in my heart too, because I am doing what I love.
I am sure that love is an equal part of this. I’d much rather spend time with someone who loves me, and I will bet that Ideas and Inspiration feel the same way.
There is another piece, before the action and the listening and the loving.
Give yourself big permission. Elizabeth says we don’t need anyone else’s permission to create. Absolutely totally true. We don’t. But most of us need to give ourselves permission.
Give ourselves big permission to play. To waste time and materials. To make ugly art and bad writing and sing out of tune. Give ourselves big permission to hear the crazy idea and the huge inspiration, and big permission to say this is mine and I know we can create this. And then do it.
Ideas and inspiration are always here for us. Learning how to connect with them, partner them, play together and create something from what looks like nothing–this is the magic. And we are all magicians. A creative life is ours for the making.
Say it out loud and with love.
I am a creator. I am a magician.
Inspiration is listening, and she knows an invitation when she hears one.
In this post, books full of inspiration and ideas (and don’t just read about creativity, do creativity—it’s actually a verb, not a noun.):
I’m in resistance mode today. Unwilling. Grouchy. I am a two-year-old in tantrum. Don’t wanna.
What don’t I want to do? Anything that my mind decides feels like work, like writing this blog post, paying the bills due today, doing up the grocery list for tomorrow’s shopping. Don’t wanna, my mind keeps saying.
What do I want to do? Lay on the couch and read all afternoon. I am on page 221 of The Peripheral by William Gibson. Bought it during Christmas holidays and started reading it this week. Yes, it’s GOOD, and that’s why I want to read all afternoon. Find out what happens next—the hallmark of a well-written book. Thank you for sharing this, William.
So what am I going to do about all this ‘don’t wanna’?
I am bribing myself. I have a big mug of cocoa at my side, one of my last candy canes melted into it. I have music on, a combination of melody and the sound of ocean waves running against a rocky beach. I have my Minions standing guard atop the unruly pile of papers on my work table. Kevin with his banana and black English bowler hat. Stuart in his blue vampire cape, showing off his spikey teeth. They make me laugh. And they are cheering me on.
Bribery and a cheering section. This works.
So I sit myself at my studio work table. Pick up my purple BIC pen. Lay in front of me a stack of loose leaf paper. I have a blog post to create. What do I write?
I start here, where I am. Unwilling. Crabby. Bad mood. Resisting everything. And I write exactly this. How I feel. Struggling to not struggle.
I learned this from both Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron. Begin where I am. Become present to my life just as it is in this moment, bad mood and all, says Natalie.
Accept it, and write anyways. Place my tantrum on the page, put the drama where it belongs, says Julia.
The page accepts everything. Holds it for me so I don’t have to. Tells me it is alright and I am alright. The mood I am in will shift and change and fade to something else. Let it. I know it fades quicker when I let myself create.
Am I feeling better? Yes. Is the ‘don’t wanna’ still hanging around? Yes, but not as loud. I’ll get through and past this tantrum.
Sitting here writing, I suddenly know why I am grouchy. Yesterday I wrote for four-plus hours, material for a creativity course I am teaching in the Fall. Felt awesome while I was deep in creation. Excited, inspired, energized. Ideas and words flowing. Unstoppable.
And now today, the water level in my creative well is low. Almost drained. I need to refill it. Julia taught me to understand this, too.
I know what to do. Play. Lay on the couch and read William’s book. Do a crossword puzzle or two with my pink BIC pen. Colour in my new colouring book with my set of fifty Crayola felt pens scattered across the table top. Watch one of the animated movies I have collected, and laugh. Marvel at the collective imagination of those who created the movie characters and the story. Laugh more.
And then love myself. Love and celebrate what I created yesterday. Love and celebrate what I create today. Just love myself, resistance and bad mood and writer and artist and all.
I am who I am in each moment. Love this, and allow, and accept. Create from exactly where I am, especially if it requires some bribery to get to the studio and pick up my pen.
Love my unwillingness. It gives me a place to begin today. It gives me a blog post to write and share. It reminds me to love myself, whatever is happening.