4 Books About Creativity and 1 From Our Supply of Very Old, Silly Books

I’m trying something new this week, since so many juicy books about creativity have come across my path that my pile of must-reads is in danger of toppling over. Be aware: I’m recommending a bunch of books I haven’t read yet, as well as one I have. But I think you’ll agree they look intriguing. After we’ve both read them, I’d love to compare notes.

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It all started with The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Creative Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala. I can’t reconstruct the search thread that lead me to it, but when I found it I was thunderstruck. A, that someone could specialize that precisely made the geek in me instantly sit up and take notice. B, that I am an INFJ writer and that is a thing. I went to Ms. Sapala’s web site, and, indeed, she is a writing coach for INFJs. Reading just a little of her info opened my eyes to the idea that the process of creating that is normal to me that I thought was universal, is not.

You ESTPs out there: Is there a creativity book for you, too? Or are a preponderance of writers and creatives INFJs and ENFJs?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I found another, an also-read on Amazon, Blessed Are the Weird: A Manifesto for Creatives, by Jacob Nordby.

The Amazon write-up begins, “The world wants its soul back…” and continues, “This book is for highly sensitive people who have felt out of place in the modern world. It provides a narrative that describes how they fit into a lineage of creatives throughout history, and how their gifts are needed during this precise era of “new renaissance” on Earth.”

With 27,909 followers of Facebook, I think Mr. Nordby might be onto something. Seems I’m a latecomer to the party, but, dang, what a good party! (They talk about embracing your weirdness.) As I often couple the word “soul” with anything about creativity I find myself thinking about, I’ve probably found a kindred spirit here. It’s queued up on my Kindle.

Slight sidetrack: On the theme of personality type, a friend, astrologer Jennie Sheldon White posted this excellent article, which lead me to take an online personality test, which lead to my finding Personality Hacker, and I’m a happy camper with their Car Model. Check it out if you’re interested in personality typing that has a personal growth edge. I’m truly tempted by their INFJ Starter Kit. Why??

Earlier in the summer I attended a talk by poet and novelist Eileen Myles. I fell in love with her diaristic, impressionistic, blunt and bold style. (It helps me to know she’s a Sagittarius to understand her unique and pointed expression. Also her abrupt about-faces in life and in love.) When I was given a copy of Cool For You as a gift from my nearly psychic niece, Mariel Capanna, herself a remarkable artist, I dove in and haven’t quite surfaced. Having heard Myles read her work in that inimitable Cambridge/Boston accent that disarmed me from the moment I arrived as a college freshman, I can hear her voice as I read. I love her sensibility. She is a living creative whose process becomes her art, and it’s fascinating to watch.

Myles’ new book, Afterglow, a Dog Memoir, which chronicles the long decline and death of her beloved dog, will be out in September.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne, is on my list because of some great quotes I got from the book via Goodreads, when I was putting together my Happily Creative webinar. Most of the reviews reference his emphasis on dealing with resistance as a sort of daemon, but the quote I ended up using was about daily practice: “This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings.”

Lastly, I want to mention that in our house there’s an overgrowth of very old books, some of which get read out of curiosity to find out whether they’re worth putting on a bookshelf in one of our antique cottages that we rent out to summer vacationers. By far the star of greatest dubiousness this summer has been The Radio Boys on the Mexican Border by Gerald Breckenridge. Notwithstanding the bizarre echoes of current day memes, such as derogatory cultural stereotypes about Latin Americans, this was a groaner of a read for many other reasons. A group of privileged white boys, passive voice throughout, recapping the plot just about every chapter, and not a surprise to be had.

Written in 1922 when radio telephony was a new and exciting technology, The Radio Boys on the Mesican Border is one of a series of poorly written books about privileged white boys. Yippee! The good news is, when something’s so bad that it gets the two of us giggling at our own unison groans and singing out the word “chum!” each time it appears in the text, it’s worth the time spent on it. There is no link to this one; if you want our copy, it’s yours.

Happily Creative: 5 Steps to Freeing the Artist Within

Of course, it’s not really 5 steps, hop over a gap beneath which rage gnashing monsters intent on keeping you from creating, and then home free forever, never to have to take that leap again.
It’s more like, I’ve figured out how to put into words the nebulous and personal process we call creativity, put numbers in front of the biggest points, and if you find them useful you have to actually do them again and again, until it becomes a rhythm that your life pulses to. So, a dance. A spiral dance.
But it is a blueprint, and it is a start. And starting is where lots and lots of people get hung up. Either they’re standing at the precipice looking down at the the raging, gnashing monsters and decide to simply set up camp there, or they make the leap and set up camp there, just on the other side, thinking they’ve begun, but actually they are perpectually beginning.
You see, there’s a whole road beyond. You know this, of course. And that’s what scares you. It scares me too. That’s why I focus on beginning, on foundational skills that, once mastered, take you down the road while holding your creativity, sensitive creature that it is, where it should be: away from all that.
Now, you as a person, you need to go down that road. You need to create, share, experience, communicate, ponder, digest, create some more and share some more.
The system I’ve developed does both. It keeps your creativity new and fresh and safe, while deepening it, so that your daily practice becomes an intelligent field of energy through which you connect with a deeper wisdom, via the well-worn pathway of your own creative channels, guided from a deeper more delighted place.
My system also carries you, the person, deeper into becoming the person you were meant to be, deepening you and broadening your experience, now guided by a heart and soul that you have access to. 
Wait, what happened to self-doubt, criticism, being good enough? What happened to sales and marketing, making a living, getting training and all that other stuff that absolutely cements us to the place where we are currently setting up camp and calling it living?
The short answer is, not yet. We don’t have to know any of that in order to begin. But there are some things that help put all that into proper perspective, so that we can begin. And that’s what I would like to share with you in this webinar. Whether you want to write a book, get back to painting, or take your creative dreams out into the world, this webinar is an excellent place to start.
I’ve made it truly affordable, and I would love to see you there. If you click the little widget below, you’ll get to the Eventbrite page, and there you can register. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me with any questions: phyllis@phylliscapanna.com. Text/phone me: (207) 558-5830.

What’s stopping you from your creative dream and what to do instead

It’s a hobby of mine to ask people about the secret dreams they’ve given up on. As a childhood witness to adult disappointments, I learned there is no better guarantee of failure than to succumb to one of these 5 all-star reasons for letting your dreams go unfulfilled. It’s almost as if people with chronically unfulfilled dreams have substituted the reason for not doing it for the thing itself, so attached do they become to that reality, instead of putting their energy into creating the one they desire.

Bottom line: Success is never guaranteed. But you can guarantee failure by continuing to not take action on your dreams. How wrong would you like to be? Do you recognize any of these?

I don’t know how to do it.

Of course you don’t! The good news is, you don’t have to know everything in advance. (When was the last time that happened?) The myth is that the people who succeed have some kind of special knowledge or insider info. But the truth is, everybody starts somewhere, many people have false starts, and the ones who make it just keep going until they get it right. And THEN we learn about them, and it appears to be something that just popped into place, when actually they’ve traveled a long road to get to where they are. What to do: Brainstorm a list of steps you’ll need to take in order to begin. Study your list until it becomes clear which one is the actual starting point. Hint: It’s the one that doesn’t require any of the other steps to happen first. Then, do that step. If you have to,  break it down into a series of micro steps to create momentum. Micro steps count. Celebrate each one as if you’ve just crossed the finish line of a marathon.

I don’t have the resources to do it.

Broken record time: Of COURSE you don’t have the resources to do it! I’m reading a ridiculous story written in 1922 about three privileged boys who get into some kind of excitement. What could possibly hold my attention throughout this book I don’t know, because the first 3 chapters have been real yawners. You know why? The 3 boys in the book all have unlimited resources. Where is the challenge in that? I mean, who cares what happens to these guys? They’ll always be able to buy their way out of it or lean on connections. They have resources. You, not so much. But don’t worry, you will develop them. Honestly, you don’t know what you’ll need until you start the process. What a concept. What to do: See step one. Just get started. As you negotiate the steps, part of what you’ll master will be getting the resources you need. Another great myth is that people who accomplish things do so on their own. You will have to create partnerships, ask for help and excite people about your project. Start now. Your commitment needs to be solid when you reach your next hurdle.

Somebody else has done it before me and better than I could.

Well, okay, so you want to do what someone else has already done. Do you want to do it to be the inventor of it, or for the experience of doing it? Do you need it to be the best, or simply something you accomplished? Does someone else’s achievement negate yours? Is there room for only one? After you get clear on why you want to do this, and you’re sure it’s for the experience, not to be the best in the world, here’s what to do: Find the person who’s done it first and better and find out how they did it. They are a gold mine of information and resources. Instead of seeing a competitor, see an ally. After all, this is someone who shared your dream and made it happen. They might be eager to help you avoid some of the mistakes they made. And p.s., somebody else is going to come along after you and do it even better.

I’ll never make it.

Again, examine your motives. Is “making it” your motivator? As I wrote in a previous article, at least 50% of making it is out of our control. Once you’ve cleared that up, stop predicting failure and get into action. You absolutely will not make it if you fail to act. And now’s an excellent time to make sure you really want what you think you want. A good exercise to do in case you’re not sure is the “and then what?” exercise. Pretend you’ve achieved your dream. What would you do then? I want to be a famous author. After that, I’d travel around collecting stories from interesting people and writing them. Guess what? I don’t have to wait to become famous to do what I want to do! I can do that first, and maybe, just maybe, the fame will come. But I will have fulfilled the part that I definitely can do. And maybe that dream of fame was only a stand-in for what I really wanted: to take myself seriously and commit to doing what my heart is telling me I would love and enjoy.

Maybe your dream of fame is a stand-in for what you really want: to take yourself seriously &… Click To Tweet

It’s too late.

File this under “Summer’s half over!” and “I can’t believe in 6 weeks it’ll be Christmas!” It’s only too late if you say it is. But, you protest, “I’m old, slow, over the hill, out of the loop.” So…get into the loop. Whether you have a couple of decades of a couple of months left to your life, you can either decide to drop out or keep living until it’s over. “It’s too late” is one of those subtle confidence busters that keep us from taking action on our dreams. The way you can tell it’s a distraction is there’s nothing constructive you can do to make it go away. It merely springs back in another form, an inarguable, slippery, exhausting point of view that begs to be given into. Or ignored. What to do: Keep moving toward your dreams. If it really is too late to achieve the whole thing, is it time to give it up peacefully? If you don’t feel peaceful about letting it go, then it’s not time. Keep focused on what you can do today. Tomorrow is an unknown for all of us. I’d like to be able to say I’m struggling with different challenges than today’s when and if tomorrow rolls around.

Want to jump start your dream? Download my free ebook, Happily Creative: How to Become a Happy Creative in Just 30 Days! The first 10 pages give you tools for handling confidence busters, and the remainder is a 30-day guided experience in doing something everyday toward your creative dreams.

Inspiration Mindset Part 2. Tuning the Receiver: New, Vivid Experiences

new vivid experiences

I often write a few lines of poetry at bedtime.  My mind is less able to maintain its strict linear-ness and all of life seems just a bit dreamier, as if part of me is already making that long descent into sleep.

But eventually my well of impressions starts to dry out if all I’ve been doing during my days is the same old routines, day after day. Even days on end of creating can begin to feel dull in their sameness.

So, yes, write poetry; also, give yourself new vivid experiences. Here’s an excerpt from Love Yourself Forward, which is coming out in my lifetime, as soon as it stops morphing, thank you, on the subject of “I have nothing to write about.”

Write Poetry

It’s not as hard you might think. Write snippets, descriptions, incomplete sentences, incomplete thoughts, tones, and observations. Write feelings, drop hints. Describe, luxuriate in, and adore your subject. Eavesdrop. Chop up the lines any way that pleases you.

Write a poem about your day today. Write it just for you. Make yourself happy with your poem.

Your first objection: But nothing happened today! It’s boring. What did I do? 

I’ll give you that. And I have two answers: One, write it anyway.

And two, give yourself some new, vivid experiences.

Here’s a story of how I did that, from about 2 winters ago.

Last night at 10:30 my partner happened to see a Facebook message from a friend, saying she was out of kerosene for her heater. My partner began pacing. This means she is thinking of doing something. She knew there was a gas station open all night that sells kerosene.

“But it means going all the way out to her place, picking up her containers, driving all the way over to get the kerosene, then back out to her place.”

“I’ll go with you!” I said.

“Really?”

Yes. I needed to. I’d been on my butt all day writing and doing web stuff. My head felt like little electrodes and cotton balls stuffed into a tired pumpkin needing sleep. But I wasn’t sleepy.

We bundled up and drove out into the night together in her pick-up. Our friend’s three little dogs came barking and twirling out her front door to greet us. The full moon shone in her yard like a hazy, white spotlight. She asked us to buy her some water, too. We picked up her containers and drove back to town, thinking and talking about no heat, no running water.

At the gas station a car pulled in blaring rap music. The guys who got out weren’t wearing coats. It was 17 degrees out. They had New York plates. After them came two local guys on a cigarette run. We got out a screwdriver and pliers and pulled the safety rings off the kerosene jugs, so our friend could open them with her crazy, zigzagged arthritic fingers. We filled them and strapped them into the back of the truck with a bungee.

We stopped back home and filled four gallon jugs with water. The cats had already settled in for the night. We drove back out to our friend’s place, checking out the new business in town, wondering about the five-car “traffic” on Route 11 going the other way, marveling at the moon. Our truck was warmer than our friend’s little house.

We got home an hour and a half later, ready for bed.

The dark streets and night life on our foray live inside me, feeding me images, feelings and moods I can add to my palette.

I’ll say it again. Feed yourself new, vivid experiences. This may seem like a trick. How will you know if it’s going to be vivid? You won’t, until you do it. And it won’t be, unless you are paying attention. Any experience can be new and vivid, but it we tend to pay attention more when it is a novel one.

This is one of the reasons we take vacations. Our minds and bodies love a change of pace. This strategy is about changing things up regularly, way before you’re flattened with monotony and definitely more than once a year. Similarly, if you normally flit and have tons of new experiences on a regular basis, give yourself some time to sift through those experiences.

Just writing a list of impressions and random memories can be a great way to see everything you’ve taken in, in a new way.

Inspiration Mindset is really a set of behaviors and attitudes that sharpen you as a receiver, appreciater and lover of this one, amazing life. You may not think of your art as your love letter to life, but at least make your living that.

You may not think of your art as your love letter to life, but at least make your living that. Click To Tweet

Who Do You Want to Bring to This Moment?

A quick post to talk for a sec about inspiration.

There are a lot of things said about inspiration. Here are my thoughts: The better we tune ourselves to aliveness, the more Inspiration we can “catch.” Second, the word is about breathing. And spirit. Third, having an Inspiration Mindset is about living this question. “Who do you want to bring to this amazing moment?

It’s a moment by moment choice. I chose just a little while ago when my partner was talking to me while I was catching up on my Facebook feed. I missed the first few words she said and wanted to be all pissy and annoyed because her talking was like a buzzing in my brain that I just wanted to swat so I could keep spacing out on social media. I looked up at her face. She was trying to live her life. That’s all she was doing. I softened my face. I asked a pertinent question. (Not, “What?!”) I listened. I responded. She was no longer distracting me from my distractions. She was a real person. Whom I love. That’s who I want to bring to this moment. That’s what I want to be: Love.

How about you?

12 Things You Can Do To Get Started on Your First (or Next) Book (Painlessly)

Sometimes, for reasons unknown to us, we can’t. get. started. even if the project is something we REALLY, REALLY want to do. Often it’s overwhelm that gets us. We don’t know quite where to begin. Writing that first word, especially if it’s our first go with making a book, can be intimidating. The good news is there are tons of things you can do before you actually start writing your book.

And these are not frilly, fool-yourself-into-doing-something things. These are actually important to do. These first 11 are the least threatening of the many things it pays to do before getting started with the writing, or at least early in the process.

Stay tuned for part two, in which we start getting a little more technical, but no less preparatory and necessary to your badass love project’s success.

Here you go:

  1. Start by writing down everything you know about your book idea: what the topic, title, nonfiction, fiction? Just like you would if you were telling someone about it. “It’s a book about…” You might be pleasantly surprised at how much you write down. Also, you’ll be practicing a happy creative habit that’s hard to beat: Find a way to capture your great ideas so you don’t have to remember them! Free up some hard drive space and write down your book idea.

2. Start a list of possible titles, chapters, and other content. Again, just give  your imagination free rein. “There will be a poem between each chapter, and quotations that are mysterious, and references to music. There will be an entire universe….”

3. And on that note: Will it be illustrated? Have quotations? Questions for the reader to answer? Flesh it out in your mind and on paper.

4. Write or draw some character sketches. This is self-explanatory, but if you do need more guidance, imagine your characters not only in the roles they play in your work, but also in the rest of their “off-camera” lives. What’s in their sock drawer? Where do they keep their money? Bills facing the same way, or a crumbled mess in the front pocket of their greasy jeans? What do they smell like? Etc. Even if it’s a first person narrator in nonfiction, how do you want that person to come across?

5. While you’re dreaming and sketching, picture your ideal reader. Who are they and what do they care about? What else do they read? Brainstorm a list of who would be interested in your book.

6. Think about how your readers will find you. Where do they hang out? How do they find books? Supermarket check-out? Back pages of specialty mags? Internet? This all makes a difference later when you’ll be making publishing and marketing decisions. (Isn’t that beyond exciting? You will be making publishing and marketing decisions!)

7. A related question: how do you see people using your book?  By themselves, in groups, with their therapist or coach, on a cruise?

8. Try drawing or sketching your cover. What colors go with your book? What textures, what design features, what century and feel? Western? Army? Victorian? Friendly? Comforting?

9. How do you see yourself writing it, in what time frame, and by what method? Will you write a little every day, record and transcribe? Get it done this year? 5 years? Whenev?

10. Read up on how authors go about writing your kind of book. Whether it’s a workbook, mystery or historical fiction, each author uses specific methods and processes to create them. Will you have to map out the plot and scenes ahead of time? Will you work from an outline? Find out how some of your favorite writers do it.

11. Lastly, could there be other, related products as well? Should there be a video? Music? Mugs? Just dream and wonder. And wander.

Next time, we’ll get into some of nitty-gritty, but for today, try easing into these 11 not-too-taxing ways to get started on the darned thing.

And, last, what not to do: Sit and fret about it one more day.

Can’t quite get there on your own?

After you download my ebook, Happily Creative: How to Become a Happy Creative in Just 30 Days, focus on just the first 10 pages, and ignore the rest for now.  The first 10 pages are specific tools to help you overcome the three major mental and emotional obstacles that keep us from getting started.

I’d love to have you join my tribe of happy creatives.

Five things that stop you from creating and what to do about them

If there’s nothing else you get out of this article, I want you to remember this one oddly comforting and horribly true thing: Nobody cares. Now, onto the things that stop you from putting pen or brush to paper or canvas, or writing that song or resume–and what you can do about them.

Fear of Failure

I’m not sure what people mean by this, because there are so many ways to fail, it’s almost impossible to count them. I’m tempted to ask, but I think that would just make these people more fearful. That said, there are also countless ways to succeed.

The key is to define success for yourself. This is a necessary step in the creative process anyway, as soon as you set out to do something specific. It helps to have something in mind that you’re aiming for, and it could be something as simple as wanting to create a better one than the last one.

But artists generally focus on an aspect of the work and are much more specific than that. They also set personal challenges for themselves: “I want to get the shading right.” “I want to widen my vocabulary and description powers.” “I want to try poetry.” “I want to write a gospel song.”

See how this is not copping out and going easy on yourself, but actually creating a specificity it’s damned hard to be afraid of? The worst that can happen is you don’t get the shading right. Not the end of the world and public shaming.

What to do: Set a personal success target that has nothing to do with anyone else. What would constitute achievement, a new high mark, make you proud? If the answer is nothing, examine your mindset. If literally nothing is ever good enough, you are probably driving yourself crazy and upset everywhere in your life, not just with your creative projects and art.

Setting unrealistic expectations

Related to fear of failure and defining success, this has to do with imposing expectations and requirements you feel you must be held to in order for it to “count.” Example: first time writer wants to write a runaway bestseller. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting that, and it certainly is possible, having that be your sole motivator is intrinsically disempowering. Whether something becomes a hit or not is at least 50% out of your control (maybe more like 80%) and is a bonus to actually making something of good quality that you will be proud to put your name on.

Fantasizing about being rich and famous because of your work is one thing; using that fantasy as a standard of success is all or nothing thinking, and a set-up for disappointment.

What to do: Break your expectations and benchmarks into much smaller, doable steps. Want to write a bestseller? Sketch out story ideas. Make a reading list. Schedule in a time every day to write. Browse the Amazon bestseller list. Write your chapter headings. Write character sketches. Map out the plot. If these are too big, guess what? Make them even smaller. Clear the space, get the notebook or document file up, and mess around, for a specific period of time.

Fear of criticism

Repeat after me: Nobody cares. Criticism happened when you were in school and everybody had to pass judgement on everybody else, before we were all enlightened and realized that good/bad, right/wrong is old school, and there’s something for everyone, and process and product and purpose are three different things. So shut up. (I may have digressed a little.) What happens when we’re adults and we create something someone else doesn’t like is they ignore it and move on.

If you create something you don’t like, you move on. And if there’s anyone left in your life who’s criticizing you on a regular basis, besides the gremlin that’s criticizing you (and me) right now, distance yourself quickly.

And p.s., it’s really good to know if your biggest critic is you, because that’s so normal. But still ignore it and move on. See of Fear of Failure and Setting Unrealistic Expectations, above.

What to do: Create anyway.

Thinking you should know how to do everything from the outset

Now didn’t I just say you could have an idea of something you wanted to accomplish? And didn’t I say that you could use that as a measure of success instead of whether you went viral because of it? What I didn’t tell you is, you won’t automatically know how to do what you’re setting out to do. This is why it’s a benchmark and a goal. It’s going to force you to grow. Yay! This is not a reason not to start. Stopping yourself here is a form a perfectionism.

What to do: Stay present and as each problem is encountered, do your best to solve it. Research how others do it. Experiment. Realize that it may take you hundreds of tries before you master something. The journey of a thousand miles consists of with one tentative, innocent, misguided and wrong step after another. Wrong isn’t the end of the world. And once you’ve mastered whatever, you will feel as if you’ve actually been to the end of the world, and you’ll want to go back again, as soon as possible.

Thinking it should turn out as you pictured it

Making goals and configuring your idea of success are great ways to get yourself off the starting mark, but by the same token, being too rigid about the outcome can make you judge yourself a failure, a disincentive to continue or try again.

Creativity is a process of making something where there are no instructions–and nobody cares. (Did I mention that?) Give yourself permission to follow the process, be alive in the moment and surrender to the dictates of something wiser than–gasp!–your logical mind. Get to enjoy not knowing, flying by the seat of your pants and all those other things that got you into trouble in school. In the creative process, there are no bad grades, only people who don’t show up.

In the creative process, there are no bad grades, only people who don’t show up. Click To Tweet

What to do: If you want to get over yourself and start being happy already, download my book, Happily Creative: How To Become a Happy Creative in Just 30 Days! It’s a 30 Day Plan that includes dealing with perfectionism, fear of failure, lack of ideas, the time-space continuum and guides you through the revolutionary process of putting a stake in the ground of your life and saying “YES!” to creating everyday for the next 30 days. Now THAT’S badass.

Yes, I want to be a a happily creative badass!

Do You Know These Secrets of Creative Alchemy?

magic formula or magic trick?

We Earthbound Creatives often feel the enormous gulf between the magical alignment with our creative flow that we long for and where we are now on our creative path. Getting to alignment doesn’t take sleight of hand so much as it takes knowing some of the manifesting secrets that creatives have used through time. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does touch on the major points: claim your truth, have a daily practice, create a magical space, and, beware the Devil’s bargain. Instead, strike a good bargain with the loving Universe, which is totally on your side.

 1. Ritual = Regular Intervals(time+place+purpose).

Each moment is an intersection of time + place + purpose. What makes it a ritual is you repeat it, keeping time (when and for how long), place and purpose the same. I’ve often written here about the power of daily writing, but only seldom have I spoken of the magic of my writing space. Now, before you imagine that I have your idea of the perfect writing space, let me tell you that half the room is filled with cartons and piles, and the corners are stacked with stuff. It was designed to be a bedroom and has an entire wall of closets. The closets are filled with winter coats and boxes of photographs and my supplies for mailing and packaging, art supplies, musical instruments and my five 25-quart plastic bins full of notebooks. So it’s not a pristine, distraction-free oasis.

But my little writing space within the room seems to magnetize me to the chair the moment I enter. To be specific, it’s the objects on my writing table that pull me in so powerfully.

2. Visual cues+placement = magnetic.

Creativity Ritual Visual Magnetic

My writing table. It’s not a table I sit at to write. It’s next to the chair where I write. To my left is a large desk that holds current projects, notebooks and pens. My writing table is a short, round, carved side table to my right that holds treasures plus an electric gadget that keeps my coffee warm. On my table is a collection of meaningless, seemingly useless objects that are nonetheless mysterious and beautiful. They’re not refuse or afterthoughts. They’re placed there on purpose.

The stones, shells and shards have more intrinsic mystery than any meaning I might assign to them. Even the items that have meaning to me–my father’s dog tags from the Army, the candle of St. Bridget from a drum circle, the strips of fabric from a fire ceremony–have new things to reveal. I have to be present each time I sit. I can’t come to the same conclusions about them, nor should I assign a static meaning to my objects, for that is anti-creative, anti-this moment, and closes off other possibilities. If they can grow and transform, then so can I.

Something so physically static can be an invitation to open up and approach the precipice. This transmission of possibility and potential, of mystery and transformation, this invitation to lean over and fall, happens in a second. As I’m situating myself on my writing chair, pushing up on its arms to raise my body so I can fold my legs under me, I put a pillow on my lap and pick up my pen and notebook. I glance at the objects and begin covering paper with squiggles.

The objects then become witness to my process. The safest witness. The kind that sees all and judges nothing and doesn’t move, but remains present. The kind that reveals and reveals and reveals the more I reveal. My process becomes as trustworthy as their presence. I write my way to the truth that my objects embody. We are all pieces of a whole.

3. Illusion+Truth = Truth

I made a deal with the Universe today. I don’t usually make deals with the Universe. I don’t usually have a thing that I’m willing to give or get, a clear trade, a win-win intention, but today it was clear as clear: “Universe, if I write, will you keep sending me paying gigs?” By that I meant, if I write first thing, in ernest, as if that’s who I am and what I do, if I am that, if I give everything to it, will you respond with love as you always do? And in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to get to the writing, right then and stay there, where I belong. I knew it. I said it. It is so.

This is the complete opposite of a devil’s bargain. Opposite in every way. First, it’s not the devil, it’s God. Let’s say, in case you’re a holist like me, it’s the good side of God. This is important, because the Force is the Force. You can summon up Its power to destroy or create. What do you long to create? What are you willing to destroy in order to create that? In my case, in that moment, my wisdom spoke to me of destroying the illusion that there is something else I have to do first, that there is some more urgent way to spend my time, some way to make money, some way to take care of every last thing before I can sit down to it.

But the illusion was easy to destroy. It fell right over and became a nothing, because illusions cannot stand up to truth. And truth is something you can speak at any time. You have to keep speaking it until you drill down into its core, getting closer and closer to its essence each time. The only way to fail at this is to stop speaking the truth. Because when you get there, it won’t matter how much time it took and how many false truths you slept with. Because time is collapsible, and because the Universe is kind. And because truth is power.

4. Truth+Action = Efficiency

This is not a devil’s bargain because rather than selling my soul I’m claiming it. Because I didn’t ask for ideas of ways to make money, or promise to do anything as long as there’s enough money, or any of the other ways I could tell the Universe, “I’ll be what you want me to be as long as you give me money.” I also didn’t tell the Universe, “I’m willing to wait to be alive and to fulfill my god-given dreams, as long as you give me money.” I also didn’t say, “You know, I love all this stuff you’ve given me, so I’m okay doing without the one thing I love and desire the most.”

Why would the Universe agree to such a thing?

Instead I finally heard and felt the urgency and spoke urgently, acknowledging what the Universe has been trying to tell me all along: You can avoid this, you can skirt it, you can set up elaborate systems and trade this for that, you can keep making sand castles with different colored buckets, but I will always be there, ready to help you, as soon as you decide to trust yourself. As soon as you are able to say the words, “I must write”–and for you, dear reader, what is it that you must do?–I will help you make the best deal possible. Because the Universe is efficient.

5. Desire+Inaction = Exhaustion

Keeping a Devil’s bargain usually entails a lot of wasted effort. The effort of avoiding, resisting, ignoring and pretending is enormous. We are never fully at rest, and never fully invested in what we are doing. We are forever searching outside ourselves for the magic formula and the answer to our neverending need. We are constantly mourning for a self yet-to-be while fertively checking that the flame of our desire hasn’t gone out. We are more identified with wanting than with our dream. We know more about being scared than getting through a difficult pass.

We have no idea that opening the door takes only an instant. We’d rather sacrifice our very soul than anger anyone or otherwise upset the apple cart of our daily lives, the very things we need to do in order to render the bargain we’ve already made null and void.

6. Discipline = Freedom

So, yes, the writing table, and yes, the daily writing. Yes, the walking to the precipice and the falling. Yes, yes, yes, to all of that. But also, this: It’s taken me all of a gorgeous, sunny July day in Maine to write this article. We don’t get that many gorgeous, sunny days. Not this year. I should be out on the lake or gardening. Visiting with summer friends, taking a walk and hunting for wild raspberries.

But I’m writing by an open window, and I’m dreaming of ice cream. I’m writing because I gave my word this morning and because it matters to me. There are people out there turning 70 and 80 who are too scared of failing to let themselves express and create what’s in their hearts. And that’s the funny thing about these bargains we make. There is no guarantee that our dream will “come true” should we strike that bargain with the Universe and say, “I’m in! Send angels.”

But, my dearest readers, there is a guarantee if you strike the other bargain. And if you have, you are living it now, and what kind of certaintly would you be willing to trade for a day of creative alchemy?

Notice I said, alchemy, not fulfillment, or goals met, or accollades or anything like that. There are no guarantees. This is important to know. So that you begin with the right intentions and don’t fool yourself about an end goal that will make it all worthwhile. The stones on my table are not hoping to become boulders. The sun is setting. I have nothing to show for myself. The efforts of today will be published online and maybe 100 people will read my words.

When you decide that creating is essential to you, you will get rewards and blessings you cannot imagine from your present vantage point. Instead of navigating yet another cul-de-sac or wrong turn on the path of hoping to not get too hurt, this is where your feet are on the path, pounding their way inexorably home. You might even be whistling. Unless you’re having ice cream.

7. Heart’s Desire+Universe Sending Angels = ?

This is one only you can complete, dear reader. Here’s your chance to forge the bargain of your dreams:

Universe, If I (your heart’s desire)_________________, will you (your equivalent of sending angels)_________________________ ?

After you’ve made your bargain, download my free ebook, 30 Day Creativity Breakthrough. It’s a practical guide to getting started.

finding your way home to create

Is Your Creativity Suffering for Lack of Fun?

Fun Can be Tiny and Dear

Today in my Facebook Live, I addressed the issue of inspiration stagnation and suggested as a first remedy ditching the creative assignments and going out and having some fun.

I’m realizing this may have come off somewhat glib. But fun is a serious–in fact, essential–ingredient in any creative’s toolkit. When we’re blocked, we’re scared. We double down on finding great ideas and original approaches. If we checked, we’d find our jaw clenched, our breathing shallow, and our thinking pinpoint. Think: fight or flight.

This is the exact opposite of where we want to be and how we need to be in order to have the great ideas and find the original approaches. We need to be fluid, expansive, welcoming, curious, light. We need to feel the world is our safe playground as we experiment with pouring sand through our fingers and watching it collect into a miniature mountain range. We need to feel we have all the time in the world.

Remember those golden times when you first discovered your creative gift? Time stood still, didn’t it?

This is why it’s so essential to learn to cultivate that feeling intentionally. I’ll share something with you that most people don’t know about me. I’m very intentional. I could be lying back with a straw hat over my face in a hammock, but unless I’m actually on vacation, there’s a purpose in what I’m doing. I may be hanging out schmoozing with the guests at our summer place, chatting with a co-worker, arranging my colored pencils or staring off into space while idly drumming my fingers on the arm of the Adirondack chair. But I’m not doing nothing.

And that’s not what fun is, either. It’s not doing nothing. It’s very intentionally engaging in an activity that takes you out of your regular mind, takes your body out of its regular habits, and shifts your entire being into expansive, welcoming, benevolent joy.

Now, don’t get hung up on the word joy. It doesn’t have to be neon-colored and long-lasting. It can be simple contentment, amusement, peace, and heart-centered melting. There may be a tear in your eye. You may feel like hugging someone. Even yourself. Most of all you’ll feel possibility again. You’ll see that what was locked was your mind, not the world.

So, here’s your challenge. Reacquaint yourself with fun. You can start with what used to be fun, but that may not cut it anymore. You may have to…get creative! Listen to your heart, your inner child and your inner imp. Check in with what you’re longing for, what’s calling to you that you haven’t allowed yourself to have because it’s too frivolous. Think guilty pleasures and stolen delights. People Magazine, black and white soft serve, country music, gospel choirs, blues sax, action adventure flicks, getting your nails painted pink and black, the art museum, a walk by the ocean, a psychic reading–I could go on, but you get the idea.

The harder this feels, the blanker your mind, the scarier and more impossible this is, the more you need it! If you’re really stuck, ask a friend who knows how to have fun to tutor you, or, as a last resort Google it. But then get off the computer and off your butt. This is an action step.

With a nod to a now defunct band comprised of friends of mine from the Boston days, Serious Fun is your assignment. Creative freedom is within reach.