Taking time for goal reflection

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If you think towards your goal, your energies – and other people’s energies too – will be directed towards it. Every decision you make will contribute towards it. Even if you don’t achieve your ultimate goal, you’ll be further ahead than if you didn’t have the goal in the first place.

Elise Valmorbida

In our work lives, most of us spend at least one time per year to assess goals, evaluate progress, and even determine new ones. This evaluation process is for the most part widely accepted and could be considered simply par for the course. There are a multitude of reasons why we want to continue to grow and develop our knowledge and skills in the work arena.

But other areas of our lives often come up short in the goal setting and evaluation process. It’s like if we don’t have a “boss” to guide the process, it might not happen.

If we don’t focus on our passions, our creative interests in the same manner, they seem to languish and stall. Self-defeating expectations about what our inner artist should be doing are often unrealistic. This often provokes self-criticism leading us to abandon things long before we should.

When we begin something new, such as creative writing, making art, taking photographs etc., we have tons of energy and that beginner’s state of being is almost blissful.

But to continue on with any creative activity, we need to take stock of what we don’t know and find ways to fill those learning gaps. Just like we would do at work. So instead of letting things go prematurely or entering a state of stagnation, it becomes critical that we need to spend some time in goal reflection.

Figuring out what and where we need to go next and accepting that there may be a lot of gaps in our knowledge and skills sets can be uncomfortable. And that is totally fine. In fact, most new learning occurs sequentially where we must develop a skill which we can then build on in order to keep moving forward.

While on one level intuitively, we may know this, it may be difficult to accept that in order to grow our art practice, there is a continual learning curve that requires serious effort. And goal setting may be an important vehicle to take us where we want to go. So just like that yearly evaluation process you do at work, try working through a similar review with yourself to gain a better understanding how you can best grow as a writer, as an artist.

Reflecting on this is also part of the work. And just like in the world of work, this may be easier said than done.

Happy creating!!


Writing into spring

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There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never know quite where they’ll take you.

Beatrix Potter

There is something magical that happens deep within me at the time of spring equinox. My energy levels lift, the piles of snow that remain in my yard no longer matter, and I feel compelled to plant something. Usually only seeds from one type of plant because in this part of the world, it is far too early to anticipate digging in dirt outdoors.

But still, stepping into springtime simply by looking at the calendar and starting a single seedling plants a much needed sense of hope. And so does being able to resurrect a writing routine.

The promise of warmer weather, budding trees, and blooming flowers seems to serve as a springboard for creativity. Ideas flow faster than I can capture them and write them on a page. When I seem to stall, a quick visit to the outdoors where the sun shines brighter and feels warmer, is often enough to shift gears and prompt me to keep on writing.

Earlier worries during the long winter months about not having enough time or inclination to write no longer permeate my days.

Perhaps over time I will learn not to fret about what seem to be the natural ebbs and flows that are part of my writing practice. Circumstances beyond my control put a halt to my progress learning the craft of writing. So faced with ongoing worry about whether I would get back to the page, many days were spent with loops of thought that in hindsight were actually instructive.

It seems that the lesson I needed to pay attention to through this time was learning how to honour the times when words flow easily as well as those times when they don’t.

Creating a first draft always leads to something more. Especially when you have the time and energy to devote to it. In most ways, this seems parallel to the life cycle of growing plants. There are different periods of time where the act of writing unfolds by planting those first words, nourishing, watering and weeding them, and helping them grow until they are ready for harvest.

So I will take the time to honour the new words that are emerging as I move into spring this year and cultivate them just like seeds ready for growth.

Happy writing!!

A creative kind of disappointment

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Disappointment is simply a dream that doesn’t want to become a reality

Richard Wilkin

Have you ever created something only to discover what you had envisioned doesn’t really exist? I spent an hour yesterday morning walking around parks near my home toting my camera. Inspired by some of the intriguing yard art in our neighbourhood, I was beginning to think about creativity as a process. Where it comes from, where it resides, and where it goes when it disappears. Poised with my camera, I shot dandelions in the moment as a sudden burst of wind caused white whispers of seed to scatter into the air. Magnificent, certainly, perhaps even a photograph worthy of posting somewhere.

As I continued to walk, I shot two red winged blackbirds who were either fighting over a nesting spot or defending one that already existed. Clear, sharp in focus, images of birds whose red stripes were vivid showcased in the camera lens. More than satisfied, I continued walking along a creek bank. Pelicans feeding on fish, and performing some morning bathing abulations that I have never witnessed before. They are typically difficult birds to photograph because as soon as they sense your presence they turn their backs towards you. So thinking I had captured at least one shot of these antics got my adrenaline moving.

On the way back, I discovered a piece of yard art that was fun, whimsical and full of hidden surprises. An antique screen door used as the backdrop for an antique hand pump fashioned into a water fountain. Lily of the valley graced the base of the display and in amongst the tiny white flowers were three miniature gnomes in various poses. I didn’t even notice them at first but felt a shimmer of delight in this discovery quickly anticipating how wondrous these hidden glimpses would be in a photo.

Later in the afternoon, I spied a tiny wasp nest attached on the underside of a ladder propped against our backyard fence. It was petite and it took some time to process and register what it was. But before I would remove the nest, I ran to get my camera so I could photograph this tiny little wonder. Popping on a different lens for macro shots, I quickly began snapping pictures from different angles. Paper thin, fragile in shades of grey, white, with swirls of black lines, the subtle texture of the nest quite stunning. A wasp emerged as I was taking a picture which was really neat but I decided there was no point pushing my luck and was grateful I had captured many images.

So last evening I took out my camera card to upload the photos from my creative adventures throughout the day. When I opened the compartment to retrieve my camera card, it was obvious that the card had not been firmly placed in its slot. Feeling a sickening, sinking sensation just below my heart center, I was fairly certain there would be nothing on it.

Ignoring the truth of what was happening, I placed the card in the slot on my computer. Clicking to import new photos, I was confronted with the fact that there really were no images on that card. Absolutely none at all. All of those amazing creative fragments which had danced in my head throughout the day, gone. That swing of energy that carried me through the day had only culminated in a sense of disappointment which lingered for longer than it should have.

Reflecting on this now has made me realize that disappointment should not negate the power of creative bursts of effort. There is much in life that disappoints us and it seems best to release those feelings rather than to cling to emotions that disturb and distort. Creative practice is just that. Practice. In hindsight, the magic of all those moments behind the camera lens continue to inspire. Not to mention learning a rather tough lesson about camera cards!

When we adjust and adapt our expectations, when we summon flexibility as needed, our disappointment disappears!

Stay healthy and safe!

Shifting adversity to opportunity

Photo credit L Meyer

Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging

Joseph Campbell

Typically at this time of the year children return to school and many people are back in the full swing of work following summer vacation and are getting set to resume a myriad of activities. This year there is nothing really “typical” about any of this. Many people around the globe have been challenged by uncertainty caused by the pandemic and our anxiety seems to be hovering at peak levels these days.

Reframing some of the current challenges in our lives as circumstances in which we can develop and strengthen resilience may be helpful. Drawing on the concept of transformational coping, we can learn to perceive stressful events less as threats and more as opportunities for personal growth and development.

Many of our daily routines and plans, both short term and long term, have been disrupted. But there is really choice in how we go about choosing to respond to these chaotic times. If we dig deep to understand how we are adapting and becoming creative, there is a mother lode of lessons that may be helpful for our future selves.

Taking time to focus on what could be rather than what we had hoped would be happening in our lives can help us to remain positive. It is all too easy to dwell on the negative events in our lives and keep ourselves in a place of feeling stuck and overwhelmed. Nothing in our lives has ever been “certain” and clinging to that illusory notion can take us to dark places.

What learning must occur in our lives in order to become more comfortable with constant changes – to foster skills to help us become more resilient? And how does this learning create empathy for those around us who are struggling with the same circumstances? These times are ripe for personal growth that might be missed if we choose not to look for it. Knowing that we still have choice about how we wish to grow during this moment in time seems like it might be key to helping us pivot to where we need to go.

Stay healthy and safe!