V – Voyage of Discovery

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust
Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Vol I

This is another of my favorite quotes. It’s helped a lot in times of feeling my circumstances were never going to change for the better. Developing new eyes, a new way of looking at things, has been so helpful.

The main reason I love this quote is because most main characters come to a moment of decision, a moment when they look on their circumstances with new eyes and perspective. It’s so pivotal and integral to story telling, isn’t it? I think it’s also pivotal in life, but that’s me.

What have you discovered when you’ve gained a new perspective? How did it change you? Do you relish this moment in every novel as I do?

L – Listen, or Not


Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. anything can be.
Shel Silverstein

This has been a favorite quote of mine for the last year. The very idea that we can choose who we listen to is liberating, isn’t it? It’s our responsibility, of course, to choose wisely and to choose balance, but the choice is still ours.

We can choose to listen to people who talk only of the difficulty of publishing traditionally, of how hard it is to be discovered or build up sales, and all the rest of the doom and gloom. And it may be that the more moderate of those voices will help us.

We can choose to listen to people who honor creativity, believe in effort and and opportunity, and general affirmations of us as a person and as a creator. And it may be that many of those voices will help us.

The important thing is that we choose who and what we listen to.

Who are you listening to? How does it affect your creative work?

J – Joy

Whatever I do is done out of sheer joy; I drop my fruits like a ripe tree. What the general reader or the critic makes of them is not my concern.
Henry Miller

Here is a corollary to Heart. This is a two-fold topic; the first part is finding  joy in  your creativity, joy in filling empty pages with words. It should be fulfilling in some way even if we’re frustrated with a project. Immerse yourself in the process and wring from it every last drop of joy and satisfaction.

It’s an inner game. We may need to suspend thinking about our plans for the piece. We may need to shut our minds to the process of publishing (or not). It takes a bit of determination and a bit of courage at the start. Letting yourself feel the joy of creating is allowed. In fact, it’s encouraged! If you don’t enjoy it, why do it?

The second part is letting go. When the project is done to the best of your ability (including beta readers and editors perhaps) it is time to move on to your next project. There’s a saying that a book isn’t finished by the writer. It’s finished by the reader. An artist doesn’t finish a canvas. The viewer does.

Our experience with a piece ends when we’re done. We get to keep the joy and satisfaction of its creation. We get to keep all we learned and all we expressed. Now it’s time to drop it like ripe fruit. Now is the time for your work to live in the world.

It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of it. Not really. The world can’t steal your joy in the creative process. And remember, people interact with books and art based on where they are and what they see. We have no control over their interpretation or experience. There’s no need to pay attention to who examines your fruit, who turns away from it, or who takes a bite. Your job is to keep making those fruits with sheer joy. No one can take that from you.

How much joy are you experiencing in your creative life?  Are you finding fulfillment? If not, what steps could you take to get more?

H – Heart

Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying attention to you.
Eleanor Roosevelt

There’s so much I could say in respect to this quote, so many directions this quote could take us. Paring down all that could (and perhaps should) be said is no easy task, and most of it is simply restating what Eleanor Roosevelt already said.

From all that I’ve read and all of the people I’ve talked to, hesitation in embracing a creative practice of any kind comes down to fear. There’s fear of the unknown, fear of disappointing ourselves, and most common, fear of judgment . . . especially while we are still learning skills.

It’s such a shame. We don’t allow ourselves to (knowingly) make public mistakes any more. Thus, we don’t develop either the resilience or the freedom to learn the skills we desire, or even to live the life we wish in many cases.

Isn’t that how we become trapped in lives of respectability but no passion?

I have plenty of soap boxes tucked into my closet. This is just one, but a big one. I believe we have a birthright to pursue creativity and other interests that enrich us and bring us joy (as long as we aren’t hurting others, of course). We should all be given the freedom of personal creativity without criticism, including the time we spend developing the necessary skills. It should be inculcated from childhood, prevalent in our school systems, and part of human rights.

If I can convince anyone to follow their hearts and blind oneself to others’ opinions (until they are wanted), I feel I would have given back to the world. Same goes for convincing creative people to choose carefully who they share their work with, because no one needs someone else’s bitterness flavoring what we love. Pouring your heart into your interests is so personally rewarding, it’s worth giving up that fear.

Please pursue your creativity. Painting, dancing, acting, writing, or whatever you love, do it for yourself. Do it for joy. Don’t pay attention to what the rest of the world thinks.

As Eleanor said, they probably aren’t watching anyway.

Would anyone like to share my soap box? There’s plenty of room. 🙂

D – Dream

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
Edgar Allan Poe

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.
Colin Powell

The act of dreaming or imagining is fruitful in itself. It opens possibilities and creates a yearning. What piques my curiosity, however, is this. Where is the dividing line between daring to dream and deciding to pursue a dream? At which point does a person go from peering into the “darkness” to getting out a flashlight and moving forward?

Why and how does this one remain a dreamer and that one become a doer? How is it that some people spend their lives wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming, and others turn it into reality?

There’s something to be said about the human spirit, to be sure. Circumstances and the size of the dream may play a part, yes? I’ve wondered how much it comes down to grit and how much it comes down to a sense of opportunity. People have pulled themselves out of poverty, put themselves through school, and developed brilliant careers. People with better circumstances have hidden in their own four walls and never ventured out.  Circumstances can’t be the only answer. Is it a question of need? Desire? Vision? Safety? Faith? Encouragement? Motivation? All of the above?

When does the dream become a goal? And why? And how?

Can we teach our students to dream big if we can’t teach them to cross that line? We can teach S.M.A.R.T. goals and steps to succeed, but that alone isn’t enough. What makes them take those steps?

It’s as much a question for myself as it is for how I help others find that moment of turning on the light, lacing up the work boots, and preparing to make a dream into reality. It’s a question for which I have no real answer, only a non-verbal sense of swelling up from the depths of a soul to permeate thinking. Perhaps it is a tipping point for some, or a feeling of destiny for others.

I have this sense of “un-tethering,” or perhaps “re-tethering” from the present life to the future. That single act can be so frightening. I imagine being suspended a thousand feet up and having to risk uncoupling a safety harness from one support in order to clip it to another. Just that act would leave me breathless. Even knowing I’ve done it in the past doesn’t make it any less a moment of profoundness. Sometimes going from dream to doing feels that way.

Others, though, are more like slipping from one state to the next, without conscious awareness that it’s happening. Like falling in love or falling asleep . . . a clear transition between states of being that is only recognized afterward, and often without a clear, delineating moment between “here” and “there.” How different from those who look at the facts and then consciously decide!

An a-ha moment, a slow dawning, a firm decision, a frightening ordeal . . . what have you experienced? How does it look when you look inward? What moves you from dream to goal?