“Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea,
never regains its original dimensions.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

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How is the start to your week going? I hope this Monday finds you feeling rejuvenated, inspired and ready to embrace the week like a fresh, blank page in a new journal.

Anyone who knows me personally knows Mondays can be a challenge for me. I love the weekends and the extra time it gives me to work on my dream. But on this particular Monday, I’m feeling pretty hopeful. And I give full credit to Project 180 and the steps it’s motivating me to take.

On Friday, I sent a query letter for a travel story idea. Now I’m playing the waiting game, anticipating the publication’s response. And while that’s exciting (and a bit scary), what really has me feeling charged about this particular pitch is the fact that I was able to take an old idea, a travel story I wrote last year, and turn it into a brand new idea for this different publication.

The concept of taking something old and making it new again isn’t a novel concept for me. I love the challenge and creativity in finding new uses for old things. I do it all the time with Re•Told Journals, my line of vintage book journals and other shabby-chic, upcycled creations. But this marked the first time I took that concept and applied it to my writing projects. I’ve read dozens of articles about writers who take a previously published piece of work, dust it off, tweak it here, redirect the angle a bit there and—viola! A brand-spankin’ new story emerges that can now be published elsewhere.

Ah…the beauty of recycling.

Even without knowing whether this particular publication will be interested in the story idea I pitched, sticking my toe in the water of repurposing past projects has inspired me to go through my files and see what else I can resurrect. My miner's hat is on and my pick axe is in my hand—I'm all set to see what new ideas I can uncover.


Your One Step:

My college journalism professor would tell students new story ideas lie in the common thread that links two completely unrelated ideas. So how about you? Can you find the shared link between two unrelated ideas or forms of creativity to make something new?

If you’re a writer, is there a fresh angle to a story you’ve written? If writing fiction, this might mean playing with the point of view. If writing non-fiction, feature writing for example, can you give it a new slant? Can you find a way to link a story about yoga to a parenting magazine, or a story about social media to a publication about genealogy?

Not a writer? If you’re an artist, is there a way to breathe new life into an old painting? Can you create subsequent paintings to make it part of a series. Or, can you find a new use for a certain medium or tool?

If you knit or crochet, can you turn a scarf into a shawl or a stuffed toy?

This week I challenge you to look at one piece of writing, art or material and ask yourself, what else can I do?

I’d love to see what you come up with, so please feel free to share in the comments to this post or post a link to your blog.

 
 
"Happiness is not a matter of intensity
but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony."
-Thomas Merton


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When I got the assignment to write a story about life balance, I couldn't help but think someone definitely had a sense of humor. Me? The girl who flies by the seat of her pants, the girl who's had a reputation for burning the candle at both ends since the fifth grade, the girl who wishes her body didn’t require sleep so she could use those few hours for something a little more productive...this is who you want to write a story on life balance? **Pause.** **Think.**  **Nod.** Well, OK then. Let's get writing!

My favorite aspect about freelance feature writing is that I'm always learning something new. I was fairly certain I'd  be doing my fair share of learning with this assignment.

With each life coach, psychologist, holistic health professional and yoga instructor I interviewed, I realized all of them could be talking about me when they described they're typical client.

I've been so busy "doing" these first 20-some days of Project 180 that I've started to lose my sense of "being." I'm tending to my many projects like a series of spinning plates that are on the verge of toppling over and shattering everywhere. Instead of feeling inspired and motivated, frustration and panic has settled over me. I want to get back into my workout routine, but that takes away from time that could be spent writing or creating journals. I want to ease into the day with prayer and meditation, but I didn't get around to packing lunches the night before. I want to get into work on time (without "bending" the speed limit the entire way), but—oh!—just 15 more minutes of sleep, puh-lease!

I knew bringing my dream into reality was going to require work. But this—head pounding, chest tight, stomach queasy, nerves on edge—WOW! I'm beginning to question if I'm really cut out for this whole crazily creative, entrepreneurial path I embarked on. I mean, I'm only 22 days in. I could still turn around.

Then I remembered something one of my story sources, a wellness coach, had said.

"If you want to get yourself to where you want to be, you have to look at the mind, body and spirit together."

Where was my mind? Disorganized chaos. A nonstop flow of thoughts. Negative.

Where was my body? Tired. Not exercising. On overdrive.

Where was my spirit? On hold. Weary. Starving.

Yep, a classic picture of imbalance if there ever was one.

So I whipped out my handy index cards—seven of them to be exact—and at the top of them wrote the days of the week, Monday through Friday, leaving Saturday and Sunday flexible and open for relaxation and creative serendipity. I scheduled out the weekdays. I immediately blocked off 7-8 hours of sleep (body), 9-1/2 hours for my day job and commute time, and two hours for the basics (getting ready in the morning, making dinner and daily basic housekeeping.) That left me with 4-1/2 hours to foster a greater sense of balance while dreaming up some creative magic.

It didn't seem like much time at first, but oh what a little creativity can do. Take a look,..

Learn the Meaning of Enough:
Dedicate the day to two projects, and two projects only. Dedicate an hour to each and realize this is enough (the rest will still be there tomorrow). For me, it works best to use the first hour in the morning before work. Going into work knowing you've already invested in your dream makes any day job more bearable. The other hour is placed in the evening. And just like that, I've put in two whole beautiful hours devoted completely to my dream.

Call It By Name:
Assigning those two hours a specific focus keeps my mind from wandering to the other items waiting in the wings on my "to do" list. I've even heard of creative magic makers who take this step as far as giving each day a catchy name, like Marketing Mondays or Writing Wednesdays to really drive home that idea of focus. Others will write down that hour’s focus on a Post-It note or index card and keep it in sight while working…just in case thoughts begin to drift. Do whatever works for you...just stick to the task at hand.

Just Be:
If we're always "doing" we burn out. After all, there is a reason we're called human beings. We need to take time to just be, to feel our bodies, to move, to explore the world around us. That's why one hour of my day is now dedicated to something enjoyable, calming and soothing. Reading is something I love to do, but as a writer definitely do not read enough. Now that I've barred myself from purchasing any more books until I read the ones already lining my bookshelves or serving as make-shift living room furniture, I figured it's time to start reading. So half an hour a day is dedicated to reading. (I'm starting with The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.) The other half hour is spent catching up with my favorite blogs, checking in with friends on Facebook or watching a television show or playing a game of Scrabble with my husband.

Make Every Moment Count:
I spend over an hour every day commuting to work, which made me think, "What can I do with that hour to make it work for me?" So I loaded my ipod with spiritual and inspirational podcasts for the drive to work (feeding the spirit), and creativity podcasts and other "educational" programs for the drive home (feeding the mind). And during that half-hour lunch I get each day at noon, I head out to my car, journal in hand and spend 30 blissful minutes moving the pen across the page (feeding the spirit and mind)

Get Up and Move:
When you add up the time, I'm still left with two full hours—ample time to take a spin class, crank out a long run followed by some strength training, develop my fairly new yoga practice and still have time to drive home from the gym, shower up and get on with the rest of my day. Exercise makes me feel alive, strong and confident, which is why I know I need to make it a priority in my life.


Mind, body and spirit. Work, rest, play. When these areas are moving together in synchronicity that’s when we begin to feel alive. That’s when we can settle into our creative groove and let the magic happen.

But it takes practice. It takes some trial and error. It takes a little self-love and self-acceptance when you do fall of track. But did a few bumps and bruises keep you from learning to ride your bike as a child? Nah! In fact, I wear my skinned up and scarred knees as a sign of courage—proof that I am willing to fall down and get back up however many times it takes.

Live Creatively!
Sara


Your One Step:

My creative cohort, friend and life coach Jeanette Stevenson uses the most beautiful illustration in her workshops for living life in balance. She asks someone from the group to demonstrate the yoga tree pose. As the person stands on one foot with the sole of the other foot placed against the inner thigh of the supporting leg, she asks the group to look closely.

What we notice are the teeny, tiny, mini micromovements the person is making to maintain their balance and grace.

Maintaining balance in life or a creative endeavor, she says, is much the same way. To create a life of balance we must be able—and willing—to make small adjustments as needed. To move this and shift that in order to make sure the mind, body and spirit are all getting adequate nourishment.

What micromovements can you make today?

Can you get up just five minutes earlier to meditate on a favorite quote, positive affirmation or verse of Scripture?

Can you take a night off from checking Facebook and call a friend instead?

Can you let the dishes sit in the sink while you play a game with your child or spouse?

Can you turn off the television to read, write a few pages in your journal or work on a piece of art?

Sometimes it’s the tiniest shift in our movement that creates the greatest ripple effect.


 
 
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"Baby step by baby step, you have what you need right now to start moving
in the direction of your happiest dreams."
Marta Davidovich Ockuly

When I ran cross-country in high school, my coach called me his "ever not satisfied runner." No matter how many seconds I shaved off from my previous race, I always felt I should have run faster. No matter how many places I moved up on the team, I felt I could have placed higher had I tried a little bit harder.

I'm experiencing some of those same feelings tonight, more than decade later.

I wanted my first post, my first step, on this 180-day journey to be something grand. Impressive. Not a step, but a leap. So tonight I had it all mapped out in my mind that would finally type up the manuscript for a picture book I'd written a few years back, and that's sat in my notebook every since. It's still sitting in the notebook.

Just as I sat down with my laptop, I remembered some flyers I needed to design for the upcoming workshops I want to teach. And then there was my artist's statement I needed to freshen up and send off to the shops selling my Re•Told Journals. And—shoot! Did I post my February dream board to the Ning site for the teleworkshop I'm participating in? I'd better get to that, too.

Before I knew it, it was nearly 10 pm—already a half hour past the bed time I'd promised myself this morning having woken up much too groggy. And I still hadn't updated this blog.

SIGH...first day in and no steps taken. Or so I thought.

"Did you post to your blog," my sweetie asked.

"No," I said, defeated. "I didn't do anything. I have nothing to post."

"Sure you do. You made your flyers," he responded, as if how could I forget?

Does that count? It's just a flyer. It's such a minuscule step.

But it's a step, I heard myself argue with my inner gremlins. And, as the quote on last month's dream board read, "with a few baby steps in the right direction, you will soon reach your goal of a million miles."

After all...

How did I learn my first lead role in a musical? One line at a time.

How did I graduate from college with honors? One class and one paper at a time.

How did I complete each marathon I've run? One mile at a time.

How will I reach a life lived on purpose? One step at a time.

Tonight that step was creating a flyer. And I'm ok with that.


 
 
"It's always best to start at the beginning...
and all you do is follow the Yellow Brick Road."
—Glinda the Good Witch to Dorothy | The Wizard of Oz

I'm feeling sort of excited today. Almost giddy, really. Sure it helps that it's sunny and the temps are expected to climb to nearly 50 degrees...that's a heat wave for those of us stuck smack dab in the middle of a frigid Wisconsin winter.

But what really excites me is the goal I've set for myself. In exactly 180 days from today I’ll be celebrating a milestone birthday. To celebrate, I've decided to give myself the best birthday present one could ever receive...a dream fulfilled. And so, today is the official kickoff of what I’m calling “Project 180: Life Lived on Purpose."

Quite frankly, I’m done staring at a list of things I wish I could do...or would like to do...someday. What’s wrong with today? What’s wrong with taking one step everyday (for the next 180 days) to bring those dreams over to reality? At least that’s the plan. When August 15, 2011 finally arrives, I can’t wait to see what dream is waiting inside that beautifully wrapped box with the big shiny bow.

That’s right...I don’t know what the dream looks like. At least now exactly. Instead, I’m unwrapping a small piece of it each day. That's what's makes this so exciting...such an adventure! Now, I do know the dream involves writing, lots of writing...and art (maybe something with my handcrafted recycled book journals?)...and adventure...and exploration...and curiosity...and creativity...oh, yes, lots and lots of vibrant, colorful, delicious creativity.

Throughout the journey I'll jot down the lessons learned here, and hopefully inspire others who may be embarking on a similar path. (Don’t we all have that crazily creative inner child who’s screaming to scribble outside the lines again?)

I’m simply bursting with joy at the thought of launching this project...and it wouldn’t be happening if it hadn’t been for the support of many special people—those I know personally and those who I know through blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Over the past several months I have received an incredible amount of inspiration from creative bloggers and entrepreneurs...Jamie Ridler of Jamie Ridler Studios, Patti Digh of 37days, Andrea Schroeder of ABCcreativity, Megan Monique of If I Were a Rainbow, Nate of It Starts With.Us, Melanie of Dose of Creativity, Connie of Dirty Footprints Studio, my friend and creative cohort, life coach Jeanette Stevenson of Point of You...and so many other magically creative, beautiful, inspirational souls.

Speaking of these inspirational mentors, Jamie Ridler’s “Wishcasting Wedensday” prompt for today couldn’t be more appropriate. “What aspect of your personality do you wish to express more of?” she asks...

The dreamer. I wish to express my inner dreamer.

The brave dreamer. The bold dreamer. The creative dreamer.

The dreamer with child-like faith. The dreamer with insatiable curiosity. The dreamer with a wide open heart.

That’s what I wish to express today...and for the 179 days to follow.