Map Your Dreams

Originally posted on Artist Soapbox on 29 November 2018

Greetings, Soapboxers!

We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeves before we close out this year, but I’d like to take a minute to look toward 2019 and what lies ahead.

What are your dreams for 2019?

One of the tools we use in our Creative Accountability Groups is a mind map. Mind maps are so useful for breaking down goals or projects that may otherwise seem intimidating into more manageable steps. Here’s a bonus: mind maps have other applications, as well.

Have you ever used a mind map to facilitate creative dreaming? Give it a try.

Grab a piece of paper. Write a few future dates (3 months / one year /5 years from now). Then let your imagination run wild. Ask yourself: What would you like to do by that time? Where would you like to be? How do you want your life to feel one year, five years, ten years from today?

Can you actually let yourself write down your dreams?

Will you give yourself permission to write down anything?

Does resistance show up? What does it say?

Keep in mind that you do not need to justify your list nor does your list need to be “realistic.” I put that in quotes to offer that even your most “who am I kidding / that is totally preposterous / when pigs fly” dream might, in fact, be more attainable than you think.

Want a real-life example?  Singer/songwriter Juliana Finch wrote down a list of aspirations for her music, one of which was to have a song featured on the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. That podcast showcases a different song, often by an independent artist, in each episode as its “weather report.” Juliana listed that goal on her mind map as one that might happen three years from now. I’m thrilled to share that her song “Impasse” will be the weather report on the December 1st episode. Her dream took less than a year to become reality.

Giving yourself permission to dream is the first step, and by doing that you plant a seed of creative potential. What if you watered it from time to time? What might grow?

If you would like to take your dreams and work  toward your creative goals in a supportive group atmosphere, please consider joining us for the first Creative Accountability Group of 2019! Follow this link for more information and to register.

Sweet dreams, Soapboxers!

‘Til next time,

MT

Writing the Perfect MONKEY

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 30 July 2018

Greetings, Soapboxers!

Earlier this month, several friends and collaborators gathered to read and hear the latest draft of my upcoming play, YEAR OF THE MONKEY. If you’ve ever put your work-in-progress up for critique, you know it is a singularly excruciating, insecurity-stoking and necessary experience. I clawed my way to that draft and now, armed with lots of helpful notes and personal revelations, it’s time to revise.

Great. I can’t stand this part.

I knew this was coming, but I’m annoyed anyway. Why am I making such a big deal out of this? I’ve got a lot of great feedback to plow into this thing but I feel angry and scared and, honestly, I have been so frustrated over this project that I have contemplated quitting several times.

Ah, perfectionism. My old friend.

At several points along the way, this project has felt like I’m using a tweezers to build a sandcastle. Thomases, by birthright, are unapologetically verbose yet I have no access to this endless supply of words. When I sit down at the keyboard, out come the tweezers. Why? Because I want it to be “right.” Because I want it to be “good.” Because I want to turn it in and never have to do it again because it took so much out of me the first time. Because perfectionism is my beast. Perfectionism would rather stop me before I start. Perfectionism would rather I edited my work and myself into non-existence rather than pick up that bucket and fill it with sloppy, wet sand.

Cue the irony.

After the script read-thru, two different people remarked that a few of the scenes felt unnecessarily short and they could tell I was editing myself. I had been so focused on cutting away anything I deemed extraneous (exposition, talkiness – bad!) that I didn’t leave enough substance to establish some of the objectives and relationships. Their advice? Haul ass and go for it. Fill up those buckets. Save the tweezers for later.

Sloppiness and precision both have their place in the process. Doesn’t sloppy sound more fun? I’m into it! At least in theory. This might be a “both/and” right now.

I know I will get to a space where I’m having more fun, feeling loose and making a joyous mess. But I also know there’s old pain at the root of the perfectionism and I want to make space for that. Pathologizing my stuckness isn’t helping me. Berating myself for not having more fun seems a tad counter-intuitive.

Maybe I’m not exactly where I’d like to be, but I am showing up. Every day. Maybe the words aren’t flowing like wine (note to self: BUY MORE WINE), but they’re coming. As I’ve told myself a thousand times, “Show up for the work and the work will show up for you.” Ugh, that sounds so smug I want to punch myself in the face.

This is eerily familiar. Perfectionism. Resistance. Finding ways to nourish yourself. Time to walk this talk.

‘Til next time, Soapboxers.
MT

Ask WHY to Create Opportunities for Compassion

Originally posted on Artist Soapbox on 28 May 2018

Greetings, Soapboxers!

Please raise your hand if someone has ever told you, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Y’all. So many times. Over and over throughout my life. This phrase confounded me and angered me. I didn’t understand it. I passed it off as a cliché. An empty platitude from someone who jusssst didn’t getttt meeeee.

Last night marked the just-over-halfway point of the inaugural ASBX Creative Accountability Group, an endeavor that Tamara and I are facilitating for artists who want to move their creative work forward. This experience has been so inspiring, so humbling and, honestly, last night got real.

In that session, something new clicked for me around the way I approach my creativity and my ‘til-now unconscious choice to brandish the whip rather than the olive branch when I felt stuck or unproductive.

I asked the group to examine the roadblocks they experience through an exercise called “The 5 Whys.” This technique was originally formalized by Toyota, as a way to trace a problem through layers of abstraction to its real root cause. Typically, the root cause points to a process that is not working well. Hmmm, process you say? I wonder if artists can relate to that…

Here’s an example:

What is the pat answer you give for why you haven’t accomplished your creative goal? All together now: “I don’t have enough time.” Let’s inspect that a bit through 5 Whys, shall we? (Monocles optional).

“I don’t have enough time.”

Why?

“Because I am scheduled within an inch of my life.”

Why?

“Because people keep asking me to do things and I keep saying yes.”

Why?

“Because I have a really hard time saying no.”

Why?

“Because I’m afraid if I say no they’ll never ask me to do anything ever again.”

Why?

“Because I am insecure in my relationships.”

DUDE I KNOW RIGHT? It was so much easier when I thought I was simply managing a ridiculous calendar. Now I have to consider how I approach my relationships?  Well, shit. Let’s all crack open our chests and shine a flashlight in, shall we?

In terms of the Creative Accountability Group, this exercise has so much to offer us in terms of having compassion for ourselves and examining what is at the root of our creative resistance. Here’s another example from the group:

“I am not prioritizing writing.”

Why?

“Because I am not excited about it.”

Why?

“Because I’m afraid people will think it’s bad.”

Why?

“Because I got a bad review last time and it really hurt.”

Why (is this a problem)?

“Because now I feel like I can’t trust my own voice.”

In this example, I can see the pain at the center of the resistance. Putting our work into the world for public consumption is a vulnerable and brave act. It all but guarantees that some people will have criticisms and critiques. If that knocks the wind out of your sails for a bit, well, ok — you’re human. It’s understandable that you could feel stuck between the ego’s desire for a product and your heart’s need for the process of healing. Uncovering the resistance to the work via the 5 Whys allows us to name it, claim it, and deal with it….with compassion.

That’s when things shifted for me around the phrase “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Now I see the value in extending compassion inward and acknowledging the hurt or pain that has us in its grip. What we need in those moments is comfort and encouragement, not chastisement. If we take the time to care for ourselves, we’ll feel the pull of creativity before too long. It’s always there. It wants to flow through us. We can help it by making space for our feelings and clearing out debris where we can.

Is this hitting home for you? Considering joining Tamara and me for our next Creative Accountability Group, beginning July 31st. This 5-week session is open to everyone! If you’ve got a project you’d like to move forward, but could use some help and an encouraging support network, drop us a line! We’d love to see you there.

Many thanks to our gracious hosts, the NC Center for Resiliency.

‘Til next time,

MT