The Art of Commitment

Commitment. Alcatraz_prison_jail_1009101_h

To me, the word conjures up images of confinement to a mental hospital or a jail, which gives you a good idea of the negative cast I imbue it with.  And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.  We creative types like our lives free and easy, unshackled by any kind of constraints.  We want to be free to create when and where we like, on the spur of the moment, or not for months, whenever the spirit motivates us.


Turns out that old "don't box me in" attitude really isn't the best for a regular creative practice because it can foster a tendency to soar completely away from your writing.  And it turns out that a healthy dose of commitment is exactly what is needed to keep you at it.

So let's talk a bit about commitment and what it looks like:

1.  Commitment isn't big, it's little. It's about returning to the page, over and over again, even when it's really difficult and you don't want to because you don't know where to go next.  Commitment is about making the decision to write again and again and again, and it is measured in minutes, the minute it takes for you to decide to do it, not hours.

2.  Commitment might be painful. Because it's sitting down to write at the appointed time when you've got a terrible headache and would really rather go take a nap.

3. Then, too, commitment might actually feel good.  You're making regular progress on your novel.  You write every day on your memoir and suddenly you see the arc of your life in a way you never have before.  You're making great progress on the WIP.  These are all things that will make you feel good, and fuel the desire to keep writing.  But they only happen through commitment.

4. Often the worst part of commitment is thinking about it.  Your brain can actually trick you out of committing to a writing session, if you start thinking about how you don't know what the next scene should be or how to write it.   Sometimes you sigh and wring your hands and worry about the writing and then when you get to it, everything is fine.  And you wonder what all the fuss was about.  Obsessing about it is way harder than doing it.

5.  Commitment is satisfying. Yeah, it's hard, and your brain will try to trick you out of it, convincing you that cleaning the kitty litter or mopping the kitchen floor is a necessary activity, but ultimately if you keep up with your commitment to your writing, you'll find enormous satisfaction in it.

6.  Commitment is a muscle.  The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.

7.  Commitment is the only thing that gets the writing done.  Because without commitment to the craft, there is no writing.  Period.

How do you get committed?  What tricks or techniques do you use to get to the page regularly?

**If the project you've made a commitment to write is a novel, consider signing up for my Get Your Novel Written Now class, which begins August 14th.  We'll discuss all the things you need to know to write a draft, and also talk about the writing process.  It's going to be great fun!  Go here for more info.

Photo by kathycsus.

Cycles of Creativity: Being a Petri Dish

When I arrived to meet with a client yesterday, she looked sad.  "What's going on?" I asked.

"Oh, not much, I'm not getting much done," she said. Petri-dish-agar-135593-l

And so I proceeded to question her about what she'd been doing.  Turns out she had been reading, researching and taking notes on her project like mad.  It was just that she hadn't been writing.  And her lack of actual writing made it feel like she was in the middle of a lull.

When I pointed out that she really was getting work done, she brightened, and allowed as how that might be true.  That while she had not actually been writing, she had been taking in tons of information and allowing it to settle in her brain. 

"I'm being a petri dish!" she said.


And petri dishes have important roles to play.  As a reminder for those of you who haven't had science for awhile, a petri dish is a small flat-bottomed vessel used for growing bacteria.  (For the record, according to Dictionary.com, it was named after German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri.)

While most of us do not want to grow bacteria (I've had quite enough of that this week, thanks),we do want to grow books.  Or articles.  Or blog posts.   And sometimes in all our headlong rush to get words on the page, which, by the way, I am the first to encourage, we forget that the cycles of creativity mimic the cycles of nature.  And as such, fallow time is needed.

When I take Buster the ancient pug outside I notice how everything in my garden is dying.  The daisies are going back to seed, and all the other plants are withering and dying.  Leaves on the trees are just beginning to turn color and soon will be falling.  Everything is going back to seed, to the quiet time of winter when things lie still and quiet.

Sometimes we as creatives need to be still and quiet, also.  And yet we resist that call, because it can feel like we're not actually accomplishing anything. 

Julia Cameron, in her seminal book, The Artist's Way, reminds us that we need to refill the well regularly.  That we can't expect to continually throw words on the page without somehow replenishing ourselves.  Which is why she recommends regular Artist's Dates, in which you take yourself out to do something you enjoy.  Visit a gallery, hit the bookstore, swing on the swings at the park, take time to paint.  Find a way to refill the well so that you can return to your project refreshed.

Sometimes just vegging out can have the same results.  Lie on the couch, watch nutburger TV, stare at the sky, or putter about the house, looking busy but not really accomplishing anything.  (My Mom was a putterer extraordinaire, and I learned the art at her knee.  Its amazing how relaxing it can.)

And most importantly, don't beat yourself up while doing this.  Remind yourself that is is an important part of the creative cycle, and integral segment of the writing process.  Remind yourself that you are enough, and that you get to take a break.

How do you renew your creativity?  Do you resist the call to be a petri dish?

*For all of you who have asked, my son is now home and doing well.  Yay!  And thanks again for your good thoughts and prayers.

**Also, the above-mentioned client is doing a cool Moon Soul workshop in November.  For more info, email Glori at ggjarvi@gmail.com.

Photo of petri dish (with E coli growing in it, euw) is by Balder2111.


This Is It

I had an epiphany this weekend.  Relax_rock_stones_264940_l

I just love me an epiphany, especially when it makes me feel happy and in love with the world again.  Not that I had fallen out of love with it.  Well, maybe a little.  Given a few little ups and downs and my anger at the idiots people who are running the country. (Note: I'm not pointing fingers at either side here, I'm fed up with the whole lot of them.)

So, anyway, the epiphany.  It came, actually, thanks to my ego.  That wondrous entity that really loves to point out to me that I am not thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, perfect enough, enough enough.  My friend the ego especially likes to point these things out when I am feeling most out-of-love-with-the-worldish. 

This weekend, when I was in the middle of journal writing, my ego whispered, "what if this is it?"

But the intent behind that whisper was: "what if this is it, if this is all you get, you stupid idiot.  What if this is it and you'll never achieve the success you desire, never get your novel published, never accomplish the things on your intention list that you read every morning…."  Like that.

And that was when the miracle happened.  Because sometimes epiphanies, when they are accompanied by that wonderful sense of letting go, feel like miracles.  The miracle was this:  I realized, that indeed, this is it.

And that this is it is wonderful.  And all I need. 

Because this is it is amazing and perfect and miraculous.  My this is it features a huge loving family, a charming little house with a yard full of flowers, a career I love with clients I adore, travel, a life devoted to writing and sharing it, a crusty, stinky old pug and two fat cats, sunshine and rain and the chance to live in one of the greatest small cities in the world.

And more, so much more:

Clean water that comes out of a tap, two strong legs to carry me on a walk every morning, an active brain and interesting things to focus it on, hands to engage in writing and making things, friends and colleagues and a whole other family at my church.

My this is it is nothing short of a flippin' full-on miracle.

And anything else that I get is icing on the cake.

What does your this is it look like?


***If this is your first time here, welcome!  Please join in the conversation.  And feel free to sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter by filling out the form to the right.  

**The cost of my Get Your Writing In Gear sessions is going up August 15th.  Book now at the current price and use the session any time you want.  Or buy it for a gift! 

Photo by Gastonmag.

The Art of Being Enough, Writer’s Edition

Heart-jasper-brickred-1772-l One of my favorite current spiritual messages is: you are enough.  Or, to put it more personally, I am enough.

I've written about this before (actually twice, here and here,) but it is important enough (there's that word again) to write about it again.

Because, as a writer, it is hard not to constantly question whether we are enough–good enough, clear enough, popular enough, and so on.  We are constantly buffeted by critiques, edits, and rejections, all of which combine to make us believe we are not enough.  And truthfully, everyone's writing benefits from a look-see by another pair of eyes, be it an editor or critique partner.

But to keep going we have to believe we are enough.  We have to forget about rejections, brush off harsh critiques and find the courage to return, once again, to the page.

How, when we are engaged in putting our words out into the world, do we do this?  How do we maintain a consistent knowledge that we are enough in our writing?  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Know the difference between standing for yourself and egotism.

Standing for yourself = loving yourself and your work in a realistic way (like you'd love a child).

Egotism = false pride.  Pumping your work up, based not on reality but on emptiness.

2.  Get some distance from your work.

Your writing, unless it is in your journal, belongs in the world.   When it is ready, let it go.  Love it and let it go, as you would a child going off to college.  As a parent the hardest truth of your existence is this: you're training your child to leave you.  When you've done your job right, your kids leave.  So, too, with your writing. 

3.  Remember that rejection is way more about the person doing the rejecting than you or your work.

Unless the work is just flat-out crappy, rejection is truly reflective of the person doing the rejecting.  There are so many variables at work that you, in your limited view, can not understand.  Maybe the editor just bought an article like the one you propose.  Perhaps the agent hates novels that begin with mothers and daughters arguing (for murky reasons that are not clear even to her).

4.  Remind yourself of these truths.

Practice being worthy.  Practice being enough.  Say it:  I am worthy.  I am enough.  My writing is worthy.  My writing is enough. Feel yourself being worthy and let it spill out onto the page.  Don't all into negativity and fear, in all its sneaky guises.

5. Practice appreciation.

Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money, reminds us that what we appreciate appreciates.  As in value.  She advocates taking stock of what valuable assets we already have and using them as the basis for changing our lives for the good.  You have valuable writing assets: talent, desire, inspiration.  Use them!

How do you remind yourself that you are enough?

Photo by oedipurphinx, from Everystockphoto.

This Is It, This Is Enough, Right Now

Wood-wooden-hands-14830-lBack in March, I wrote a post titled Enough, which explored all the various permutations of accepting that we all have enough for whatever we need.

Yesterday, in my travels around the internet, I landed on Marie Forleo's site.  She's got a fabulous video up, part of her Q and A series, that answers the question: is it okay to want more when you already have plenty of blessings:  In the video, she mentions the concept of "This is it!"

In short, "This is it!" is something you can remember to tell yourself in any given moment in order to help make the best of it.  She uses the example of standing in line at the post office.  Instead of complaining about it, make the best of it.  Tell yourself, "This is it! and start chatting with the people in line around you.

You can apply this to writing, too.  Some days, you just don't feel it.  Today, for instance, my brain is a bit foggy and what I'd really like to do is close my eyes for a few minutes.  But when I remind myself, "This is it!" I pull myself back to the present moment and I remember that everything I need truly is right here.  That I can make the best of it.  That I have enough for my writing, enough for my goals, enough for my dreams.  More than enough.  And it is all here, right now.  This is it.  There is enough.

Where do you find enough in your life?

By the way, speaking of enough, did you know that writing a non-fiction book proposal rather than a whole book is enough to get you a contract?  Well, it is.  And I'm in the process of putting together a teleclass that will guide you in putting together a proposal in time to pitch it to an agent this summer.  If you're interested, email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com and I'll put you on the info list. 


I'm working with the concept of enough this week.

I was inspired to ponder enough by the weekly message at my church.  The reason I love attending church, which is a habit only acquired in December, is that what I get from it stays with me all week.  Every Sunday I get some tidbit that helps me through the challenges I face.  (And let me just say, this is the first time this has happened for me.  At other churchs I attended, I left everything in the sanctuary on Sunday.  Which is probably why I never really got why people took a perfectly good Sunday and used it to attend church.)  This past Sunday it was the concept of enough.

Right off the top of my head, here's some of the connotations of enough that occur to me:

I have enough. 

I am enough.

That's enough.

Enough!  (as in, please stop.)

And here's the dictionary definition of enough, courtesy of dictionary.com

adjective: adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire.
pronoun: an adequate quantity or number; sufficiency.
adverb:  in a quantity or degree that answers a purpose or satisfies a need or desire; sufficiently.
interjection: (used to express impatience or exasperation): Enough! I heard you the first time.
Variations on the same theme, to be sure.  And honestly? Words like adequate and sufficient don't really inspire me.  I'm more attuned to words like abundance, prosperity, and surplus.  I've often joked that my motto in life is more.

But I'm starting to learn to wrap my brain around loving the word, and the concept of, enough.  As in:  I'm a good enough writer.  I'm a good enough person.  I am enough, just the way I am right now.  Does this make sense? Instead of always reaching for the external for more (more money, more love, more success, more whatever) maybe its time to look within and realize how much we have internally.  Perhaps the concept of enough is what we need to bring some equilibrium back to ourselves.  (Sorry to include you in this if you don't feel you need that equilibrium.) Maybe in always reaching for more, for more success, for more abundance and prosperity we're forgetting that we're just fine the way we are and the biggest task is to accept that.
Smart enough.
Thin enough.
Rich enough.
Good enough.
Pretty enough.
Time enough.
You-name-it enough.
I'm not really sure how this all pans out, because I'm still thinking about it.  But I think I like this concept of enough a lot.  I think it makes it easier to breath, to be me, to exist with gratitude and joy on this crazy, troubled planet. I think that by accepting myself as enough, it opens the door for whatever else I want to be.  The trick is in the accepting first.
I dunno, but I think so.  And maybe thinking it is enough.
What do you think?