At the beginning of every month I sit down and decide how I’d like to spend my time. I set some goals and create a daily “habit tracker”. I usually set up some sort of health and wellness schedule, and outline the days I want to go adventuring outside for a hike, a bike ride, or overnight camping trip. Lastly, I set some intentions and action steps relating to my writing. This is the area I struggle with the most. If I’m being honest, the first half of this year I spent a quarter of the time I set out for on my writing goals.
I noticed I was blaming my job, my family, my todo list, and my day to day life on why I didn’t have enough time for my creative endeavors. These are the activities that contribute to my big dreams and goals. I realized I was choosing everyone else’s needs- immediate or not- over my own inner desire. I was choosing to distract myself with other tasks. I was frustrated with not having enough time. The truth is, I wasn’t prioritizing enough time for what was important. I was taking the easy way out by choosing to break the promise I made to myself. I was doing the thing I know really well: how to assist and support others. Trying something I’ve never done before? That’s messy. Committing to spending time on my creative work? All bets are off. After all, who knows what the outcome of my creation will be? Will I be proud of what I make? Will others take time to experience my art? Will my project fall apart altogether to the point where I will regret even embarking on the journey?
Here’s the thing, being creative is a practice in vulnerability. There aren’t any guarantees that it will be understood, nor that it will be of benefit to anyone else. What I was forgetting is this: a creation needs to only be understood by the person who created it. It doesn’t need to benefit anyone except for the artist themself. Creating is healing work. It’s a practice in letting go of time. It’s mindfulness: embodied.
When I recall the reason I started this project in the first place, it feels so much more natural to sit down to my pen and paper. I still don’t have it figured out, friends. It continues to be quite a feat to carve out an hour per day. Even in this moment I’m feeling the nagging impulse to check my email, or return the phone calls I missed. But for now, I’m keeping the promises I made. Whenever I feel like I’m about to stand up and walk away, I repeat these words to myself:
“You are worth this time."
“What if I wrote a book of poetry?” This idea came in unexpectedly, like when a lone street lamp lights up at dusk. I experienced this thought quite some time ago- while out on a walk in nature. There were many months of denying this idea, of arguing for my limitations, of explaining why I could never do such a thing. I am lucky that this idea was persistent enough to stay along for that roller coaster of emotion.
After first deciding to embark upon this journey, the poetry would come at random moments. Once a poem came to me after laughing so hard my cheeks hurt. It was during a yoga class I was taking with some friends. It was the type of forbidden laughter. The kind where the atmosphere is supposed to be quiet but that makes the whole situation that much more hilarious. Another one came to me after I had one of my low days of complete sadness and emotional fatigue. I was feeling awful, and all day I filled with numbing activities: watching Netflix, eating, sleeping. That evening I went outside and sat on the grass. The poem came to me right at that moment. Writing it down was a healing balm for the melancholy. This was my process for the first several months. 1) Live life the way I know how. 2) Allow poetry to randomly partner with me. 3) Write it down in the moment. I would usually write 1 poem per month or so with this method.
Eventually I decided that I wanted to be a bit more productive. I committed to sit down and write every day. Sometimes, this works beautifully. I will write a couple of words that I was particularly in love with that day. Sometimes the words would organically form a stanza, which would eventually become a whole poem. Other times, I felt as if I didn’t have a single creative bone in my body, so I distracted myself with a million different things I “needed” to do. I realized this distraction came from being afraid I wasn’t qualified or creative enough to actually fulfill this dream. It’s much easier to help other people with their goals/needs/agendas than it is to keep a promise I made quietly to myself.
One of the practices that has really helped me keep going in this process is this: I give myself permission to write poorly. Write down things that don’t make sense. Put all the chaos and clutter that’s in my mind down on the page. I have been amazed at how this works in creating beautiful pieces! It begs me to ponder: where else am I holding off on action, just because I can’t create an automatic masterpiece? Works of art don’t happen in a flash. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take failure. It’s going to take strength, realness, and honesty.
Now, I allow myself to utilize all of these creative methods. I notice when poems visit me randomly. Since I know they love to come when I’m in a forest or garden or field- I go to these places as frequently as I can! I do my best to keep the promise I made to myself, and sit down and write most days. I write anything and everything, the good, the confusion, the realness-- all of it. I write the words that speak my truth, the words that open my eyes, the words that heal my wounds.
Trust: an attribute that allows the feeler to move through life with fluidity and curiosity.
Trust the process. Trust the unknown. Trust YOURSELF.
Navigating our world without a sense of trust in ourselves is possible; I’ve spent years of my life doing this without notice. However, I can speak from experience when I say that it makes everything so much more difficult than it needs to be. I am still on a journey of cultivating trust in myself, and so to be completely honest, I don’t even know if I am qualified to speak on the subject! Alas, I’m doing so anyway.
These are questions that often come up for me:
How can I trust myself when I’ve failed so frequently? How do I know if my impulses are coming from deep intuition or shallow paranoia?
But, what if my abundance of failures up to this point, are a reason to trust myself?
Let’s unpack this, shall we?
Recall a time in recent past where you’ve “failed”. Ask yourself these questions:
Why did this happen? What was my personal contribution? What was I thinking and feeling at the time I made the decisions that lead to that failure?
When I notice I’m making the same mistakes over and over, it’s because I haven’t been thoughtful about why I’m making the decisions that lead there in the first place.
I’ve found when I become a witness to the experience and give myself time to inspect it objectively- this is when I learn and grow from my perceived failures. I have also realized there is no way to live fully and creatively without the occasional hiccup.
Utilizing this train of thought, I can be more certain of my own trustworthiness by these learning experiences.
There’s another component to cultivating trust: listening. Our world is a loud one, friends. Everyone is going to ask for your attention. Some might even demand it.
LOOK OVER HERE. GO THERE. DO THIS. SPEND YOUR TIME HERE. PICK ME.
Noise, noise, noise. Are you willing to turn the volume down on the outer world? Are you willing to listen to your body? Are you willing to risk offending someone else at times, by choosing to do what needs to be done for YOUR growth? Are you doing the best you can, given the resources you have today?
Become an active participant in your inner world. Know that you hold within so many answers. Know that you are deserving of your own divine trust.