“This is the true joy in life:
being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself
to making you happy.” 
-George Bernard Shaw

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When you’re in the trenches of seeing a dream through from a teeny sparkle in your heart to your great big reality, it’s easy to slip into...do I dare say it?...a state of selfishness.

I don’t think it’s done deliberately. In fact, most creatives are the exact opposite of “selfish.” We’re givers (sometimes to a fault). We’re fixers. We live by a deep-seeded belief that we have something inside of us that must be shared with the world.

Still, we can become so driven to see our dream through and so focused on the to-do lists attached to that dream that other priorities can unnoticeably slip into the backseat of our lives. Our mantra becomes “I must do this,” “I can do this,” “I will do this.” And then, when things don’t work out quite right, when we become frustrated, angry even, we mistakenly conclude that we aren’t working hard enough, when really those feelings are a gentle nudge telling us some other aspect of our life has swung out of balance.

This was the case for me just yesterday. I was feeling energized. Hopeful even. I’d submitted my resume for another potential freelance opportunity and a book idea struck like lightning earlier in the afternoon. Yes, the gears had kicked it up a notch; I felt as though I was clipping along toward my new reality a little faster than before.

Once home, I plopped myself down on the living room floor and started working out some of the details for the book idea. My husband was in the adjacent kitchen at the computer.

“Honey, what did we budget for household items this month?” he asked.

I answered.

“And what about restaurants and entertainment?” he asked.

I answered again, this time just a wee bit irritated at the break in my concentration.

“Do you know what our cell phone bill will be next month?” he asked.

“No, because we don’t have the bill.” I replied…this time fully irritated.

He started to say something else, but I rudely cut him off.
 
“I really don’t want to talk finances right now,” I snapped. “Can’t you see I’m trying to make use of what little time I have this evening so I can actually make some progress on my goals.”

Ouch. I heard the selfishness in my voice before the sentence was completely out of my mouth. I, I, I. My, my, my. It was all about me. My husband works full-time, too, and yet he was choosing to use this time he had at home to go through our monthly budget—something I’d been asking him to do with me for the past couple of weeks. Ok, so his timing wasn’t the best, but he was still choosing to put “us” before himself.

My dream to fulfill my purpose as a writer and artist started out as something for “us.” After all, a happier partner (me) leads to a happier marriage, doesn’t it? And with a non-conventional job there would be more flexibility and freedom in our life to do all the other things we’ve talked about doing: thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, move to and experience new places, raise bees and try our hand at making and selling natural, hand-crafted soaps, write books, make art…live life simply and happily.

It appeared that the stress, fatigue and frustration that go hand-in-hand with the joy, excitement and fulfillment of working on a dream had the upper hand in this moment.

This isn’t all about me, I reminded myself. This is what living life as my authentic, creative self and using my gifts can bring to others, be it my marriage, my husband, my family, my friends, the world.

Today, the Wishcasting Wednesday prompt over at Jamie Ridler Studios touches on this idea of micro versus macro. The self versus others.

“What do you wish for the world?”

The question takes the focus off the ego, and instead asks us to look for a deeper, further-reaching component to our dream and creative aspirations.

What do I wish for the world? My reflex response would be peace, followed by love and all with a healthy dose of understanding. And while I do wish for all those things, I think they come under a bigger wish: a wish for us all to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

If we all took a moment to shift our perspective and see a situation from another person’s vantage point, we might begin to cultivate greater awareness of others’ needs. We might be able to recognize our common ground before our differences. We might be able to see the beauty and depth in differing opinions, and stop saying someone else is wrong just because we think we’re right.

To cheaply borrow from John Lennon, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.


Your One Step:

Today, take a break from your dream. That’s right, you heard me. Put down the pen, close the laptop, cap that tube of paint.

Today, I want you to use some of the time you’d normally give to your dream, and use it to bring some light and love to someone else. Don’t worry. You can still bring creativity into it.

Write a letter—a real, honest-to-goodness, tangible, written-on-paper letter—to a loved one you don’t see very often and decorate the paper with doodles, color and embellishments. Bake a special dessert for your sweetie. Invite a friend for a cappuccino or a latte, and draw designs in the milky foam using a toothpick.

Shift your viewpoint and look for the ways your creative sparkle can light up someone else’s world.

 
Do Something. 02/19/2011
 
Day 3:

Today's "one step" was one I'd been putting off for a long time. I mean a LONG time! So today I sat myself down and finally wrote the manuscript to a sweet little picture board book I penned during a lunch break a while back. The rough draft, complete with critique comments from a writers' group I belonged to last year, was still folded and neatly tucked between the pages of my idea notebook.

Seeing it still untouched brought a pang of guilt, like I'd been sucker-punched in the gut. That story had become the proverbial elephant in the room...or in this case, in my notebook. I'd put it off and put it off again, each time with a new excuse. "I ran out of time." "I'm not sure it's ready." "I don't know how to format a manuscript." "I'm not sure what to do with the manuscript after I write it." I had one excuse for every fleeting moment of motivation.

While sorting through a box of school day memories, I came across a picture book I'd written and illustrated for a class project. Across the title page my teacher had written, "You should consider writing and publishing children's book someday."

Someday.

There's that word again.

And it hit me that the distance between right now and "someday" is something. That's it--do SOMETHING! Make it a baby step. Make it a leap. Just do something that inches you closer to the goal. You don't have to do it all at once. Today, I didn't sit down with the mindset that I was going to write, finesse and send in my manuscript. No, I broke it down into smaller, less intimidating steps. Today I wrote the manuscript. Another day (probably tomorrow), I'll tweak it and edit it and whip it into shape. And on another day, I'll research potential publishers. And on yet another day after that, I'll finally place it in an envelope and send it on its way with a wish and prayer.

But until then, I'm content knowing I've done my something for my someday.



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Your One Step...

What's your someday? What do you envision yourself doing? Accomplishing?

Sometimes the beauty of the end goal can leave us feeling overwhelmed, paralyzed by possibility.

Here's where you take a deep breath, get out your trusty journal and ask yourself these three questions:

1) WHY do you want to achieve this goal? What benefits will you receive?

2) Now close your eyes and VISUALIZE the way the end result makes you feel. Do you feel energized? Fulfilled? Content? Peaceful? Relaxed? While the idea of the process of getting to the desired destination can result in a few holy-crap-what-am-I-doing moments, picturing yourself in the destination should cultivate nothing but positive feelings and thoughts. As my high school cross-country coach would tell the team before a big race, "The body believes what the mind perceives." Routinely picture yourself working on your art, writing a book or traveling to Italy and the body will eventually have no other choice but to follow the mind.

3) If your goal becomes the "elephant in the room," remember the proverb about how to go about eating an elephant. One. Bite. At. A. Time. Break down your goal into manageable, bite-size piecesby BRAINSTORMING and jotting down everything you can think of that will propel you forward. Then pick one of the items on your list and commit to it for that week.

"There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."
—Franklin D. Roosevelt

Live Creatively!
Sara

 
See the Dream 02/18/2011
 
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you imagined."
- Henry David Thoreau


Each month, I get together with a lovely group of creative magic makers and enthusiastic dreamers to create full moon dream boards. It’s part of Jamie Ridler Studios “A Year of Dreams” telecircle. (Side note: if you love to dream, collage or simply want to fill your life with more intention, these workshops are a fabulous place to grow!)

If you’re not familiar with dream boards (or vision boards as I’ve also heard them called), they’re an artistic approach to “writing” out your goals and aspirations. By combining visual images and words that represent what you want more of in your life, you learn to shift your focus onto those goals. Think of it as a tool that summarizes the proverb, “Where the mind goes, the human follows.”

After making my first dream board last month, I didn’t think it was possible to make another one that I would like nearly as much, that provided me with so much joy and journaling inspiration.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What I’m learning is that the goal of my dream board isn’t to get me from “here” to “there” in a month’s time, but to slowly, gradually, gently wake me up to my dream. Each month is a piece to the puzzle that reveals a new step toward my destination.

So what am I learning from this month’s dream board?

So far I’m learning that not only is it ok, but it’s necessary for me to blend my “personal” life (left side of my dream board) with my “purpose/career” life (the right side of my dream board). I fought this idea at first, ignoring the images and words I found in magazines that spoke to home and relationships. But then I remembered my purpose behind Project 180: to design a life that blends my purpose and personal life in a way that results in a existence immersed in creativity, writing and exploration.

Is there a way to make a living doing that? That’s the question I’m exploring now. I think so, but I feel it’s going to take some scaling back and a long, hard review of necessity vs. want. (hmmm…I’m seeing signs of simplicity in my dream board, too).


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Your One Step:

Over the weekend, why not try creating a dream board of your own...You may be surprised by the discoveries you make by this time next month.

• Find a piece of poster board, a blank page in your art journal…even a piece of cardboard will do (and you’ll score extra points in my book for being eco-savvy!) ;)

• Round up a stack of old magazines, a pair of scissors and a glue stick. Those are the basic supplies, but feel free to bring along some markers, crayons, stickers and even photographs, too.

• Cut out images and words that speak to a certain goal you have in mind, or let intuition be your guide.

• Once you have your images and words cut out, arrange them on the surface in the way you want them to appear, then glue them to the surface.

• Display your dream board in a location where you will see it daily (mine is in my bathroom so I’m sure to see it first thing in the morning as I get ready for the day, and the last thing at night as I get ready for bed.

I’d love to know how this exercise goes for you! Feel free to leave a comment (or question) about your experience. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from creating dream boards in a group setting like that provided by “A Year of Dreams” telecircle and other workshops I’ve taken, strength lies in numbers.


Live Creatively!
Sara

 
 
"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.