Friday, September 30, 2011

look ma, new layout!

You may have noticed some changes around here. Please bear with me as I update and experiment.

Your feedback is welcome and encouraged!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

what others have to say about creativity

1. Be Aware

"Creativity - like human life itself - begins in darkness." -- Julia Cameron -- author

"Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way." -- Edward de Bono -- psychologist

"Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm." -- Earl Nightingale - entertainer

"Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better." -- John Updike -- author

"I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind." -- Albert Einstein -- physicist

2. Be Courageous

"An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail." -- Edwin Land -- inventor

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." -- Sylvia Plath -- author

"Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling." -- Madeleine L'Engle -- author

"Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties." -- Gail Sheehy -- author

"But out of limitations comes creativity." -- Debbie Allen -- actress

“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.” – Cynthia Heimel -- writer

3. Be Expressive

"A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something." -- Frank Capra -- director

"Anxiety is part of creativity, the need to get something out, the need to be rid of something or to get in touch with something within." -- David Duchovny -- actor

“Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request, and everything your heart desires must come to you.” -- Mahatma Gandhi -- philosopher

“What is Art? It is the response of man's creative soul to the call of the Real.” – Rabindranath Tagore – poet

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

what I learned about creativity

It's easy to think that creativity is limited to just artists. That it is some elusive force that you can't control, but can only tap into. That some people have it and other people don't. That there is an epic struggle that you must undergo to have creativity bestowed upon you. But after my creativity call this month, I came to the understanding that creativity is more about HOW you go about the things you do than WHAT exactly it is you go about.

1. Be aware
We defined creativity as doing something new, or doing something you've done before in a way you've never done it before. This creates new neuronal connections in your brain, and fills a very technical definition of creativity. (See more about this at my friend Gwen's blog here.) To create these connections, you could do something simple like brush your teeth with the non-dominant hand, or head to work via a route you don't normally take. This awkwardness or intentionality drives you to a greater sense of awareness of the present moment, and that awareness is an important part of creativity.

We talk about "flow" and being really absorbed in a creative process, be it writing a play or designing a business plan. And in this state the hours can fly by and you're not at all aware of your surroundings. (Some people (who are not me) can even ignore their bodies in this kind of flow and go without eating all day long.) So how is this flow (that ignores a rumbly tummy) an awareness of the present moment? It's by focusing intently on the work at hand -- the work in the present moment -- that our attention and awareness are drawn to the present.

2. Be expressive
There are two kinds of creativity -- the kind that stays in your head and goes unexpressed or unidentified (passive) and the kind that gets shared in some kind of medium like paint or song or words or business or your outfit (active). And you can be passively creative, solely experiencing your unique perspective on the world, or you can share that perspective with others. And it's this second kind of creativity that I think most people associate with the term "creativity."

It's kind of a tree-falls-in-the-forest situation; if you're creative without awareness or expression, are you really creative? Or are you on auto-pilot?

3. Be courageous
There are plenty of obstacles to being creative. Fear of rejection keeps plenty of people from sharing the passive creativity they enjoy in their own heads -- "oh, I can't paint that, they'll hate it." The worry that the creative project is not good enough, not creative enough, unacceptable, etc. keeps plenty of people from bringing their visions to light. And what about that nagging need to finish a project instead of allowing yourself to simply play creatively? Or the trials of being labeled as "the creative one" and having to live up to that? All of these things can be a tall order. That's why it's important to be both creative and curious with your creativity. Remove the rules that say there needs to be a finished product. Be brave enough to challenge your own notions of creativity -- that, in and of itself, is an act of creativity!

These are three simple things you can do to have more creativity in your life. Be aware, be expressive, be courageous. The steps you take in any of these directions don't have to be grand, either. I was hiking down a very slippery trail recently and found that the placement of my feet was incredibly creative -- my body was orienting itself to the trail without my conscious mind's involvement. And if I hadn't had the awareness in the present moment of what was happening, I might have missed it all together.

(And if I hadn't been expressive or courageous, you might have missed it, too!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Marathon Project

So, it's fall in NYC, and there are boatloads of runners out there training for the marathon. They're fit, athletic, don't bounce in a lot of the same places I bounce, and in general, they look like they enjoy sweating. Part of me envies them. The other part is exhausted just thinking about it.

But they've inspired me, and in an effort to be even remotely like them, I've decided to prep for a marathon, too. Except mine doesn't involve running (or really, sweating in any way). Instead, it's a coaching marathon. So like those runners, I have a goal -- I am offering 26.2 hours of pro bono life coaching before November 6th. But unlike those runners, I don't have to get up off the couch. (Phew!)

That said, I'm looking for someone running the marathon for charity who wants to partner with me. Because instead of paying me for these 26.2 hours of coaching, my “marathon clients” will donate to the charity of a runner partner. (That's right, I have a conscience!)

All I ask for in exchange is that my runner help me publicize my coaching marathon.

Benefits to the runner include:

1. Free money! Whoever I find to coach on my own will be a donation to the runner's charity that the runner doesn't have to work for.

2. A bonus to prospective donors! The runner can offer my services as a benefit of donating, or as an enticement to donate.

3. Free publicity! Working together spreads the word, both about the coaching and the charity.

4. Free life coaching! The runner could be one of the 26.2 hours of coaching and can get help with something in his/her life (that isn’t necessarily the marathon -- though as November 6th gets closer, what else is there, really?).

5. Free PR! I know someone at the NYRR, so there’s a chance the story could get picked up.

While my runner is pounding the pavement, I will be helping people get unstuck and find new ways to make the most out of their lives. Not too shabby, eh?

My ideal partner in this project is someone who would make the most of working together – helping me to spread the word and introducing me to people who are interested in or curious about coaching.

Is that runner you? Is it your brother/sister/mother/cousin/milkman/coworker/dogwalker/cable guy? Because without a runner, the project can't go forward -- and if you're interested in getting some coaching for a tax-deductible donation to a good cause, you need a runner just as badly as I do.

So, if you're interested, or know someone else who might be, please contact me right away!

Friday, September 16, 2011

What I learned about mind

August was the month of “smarts, ideas for the sake of ideas, connection, words, and learning.” Qualities I condensed for the sake of brevity into the category of Mind. And by putting my mind on Mind, a very interesting thing happened in the universe around me.

I’ve always said that my ideal mate will be Smart, Funny, and Self-Aware. These are my dealbreakers. If you’re not smart, funny, and able to display a modicum of self-awareness, we’re not a match. And smart has meant a variety of different things over the years. Book smart, street smart, dorky, nerdy, incredible at whatever it is you do, brilliant, genius… any of these would be lovely. I don’t have a baseline requirement for smarts (no minimum IQ or SAT score) but I know smart when I talk to it.

During August, I met a couple of incredibly smart men. One was book smart and in the top of his field, one was a super-brainiac and a top percentile IQ/MENSA type, one was quick-witted and sharp. And yet not one of them was right.

My interaction with these men made me realize a couple of things:

First, any time someone makes a conversation out of how smart he is, that makes me wonder how smart he actually is. This was a good reminder, as I have periodically found myself making mention of dorky things I’ve done or smartypants facts about myself. (“I threw the curve on the freshman year vocabulary test!” “I did second year calculus in high school!”) Turns out? Totally unattractive! We know smart when we see it, not when we’re told all about it. It’s one thing to drop an accomplishment or two into the conversation, but if we’re talking about your application to MENSA and just how many tests you had to ace to get in, I might have to fall asleep a little.

Second, balance is key. Being on a date with someone who is smart without being funny is like going to a really long, boring lecture where the professor may or may not try to kiss you at the end. Similarly, going out with someone who is smart without being self-aware is like listening to a recording of Stephen Hawking – fascinating, but after a while you want to turn the documentary off and talk about something stupid like Spongebob Squarepants or farts.

People – especially people we date and don’t choose – are excellent mirrors for us. I learned from these dates how important it is to also be modest, to listen well, to revel in what makes you happy (even if that’s nerdiness) but to always make sure you’re reaching out to the other person. Making a connection. Because you can only date alone in your mind.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

shhhhh! this contract is silent!

I was challenged recently to look at my silent contracts -- you know, the agreements we're abiding by that we've never really acknowledged as agreements. Roles we may not have signed up for but that we're playing nonetheless. Things like being a "good daughter" or "the fat sister" or "the problem solver." Some of them may be roles we want (like "the smart one" or "the pretty one") and some of them may be Sisyphean burdens that we roll up the hill of our lives day in and day out (like "the smart one" or "the pretty one").

The thing about silent contracts is that sometimes they're so silent, we don't even know we have them. I spent 30 years playing the role of "peacemaker" and "perfect daughter" not realizing that my family didn't need peace, and actually preferred me with a couple of flaws. The contracts or the roles we play can be positive, but usually they're sneakier than that. We can have silent contracts with ourselves (in fact, one could argue that's the only person they're with) but usually they're experienced in relationship to someone else.

My specific challenge? To look for places where the silent contract of being "the single one" may, in fact, be keeping me single.

Much to my surprise, I found a few.

First: Two of my best friends are married to each other. They have two sons, and five seats in their car. When they go on an adventure, there's always a seat for me. But not for my boyfriend. Is this keeping me single?

Second: My sister and brother-in-law say that I'm the only non-parental visitor that they can really tolerate. They think I'm cool and easy to get along with. But what about my boyfriend? Could he live up to that, too?

Third: The bedroom in my apartment is only big enough for a double bed. (Any bigger and you wouldn't be able to get around the foot of the bed into the rest of the house.) It gets crowded with someone else sleeping in there. Is that keeping me single?

These revelations in and of themselves are somewhat meaningless. The real question is what I want to do with this information. I'm certainly not going to stop being friends with my friends, or become an unacceptable houseguest for my sister. But I'm acknowledging that there are things to gain and things to lose whenever we give up a silent contract. I think, in this case, the gains would enough outweigh the losses. Which makes it worthwhile for me to still look for a partner.

Watch out, sis.