Wednesday 31 July 2013

Monday 29 July 2013

Stuck Notes by Helen Yee

For weeks I have been working on getting my new music-making system set up. I have logged countless hours of frustration, trial and error. With each little victory followed by more questions and possibilities, there are ever more moving parts to puzzle over. If I can get this thingmajiggy to talk to that program, then why won't it work anymore when I start up this other application? Technical problems feel frustrating when they stand in the way of creating. I know that figuring out the technology should not "technically" be an obstacle to creating. Well, at least my inner wise self knows that. Nonetheless, days went by without new musical snippets being produced, without picking up my violin (my most basic creative tool), without setting pencil to paper – all in the name of trying to build this new system that would be my "key to creative freedom." Hours were spent searching obscure corners of the internet, trying to make sense of unfamiliar jargon and abbreviations. I was in a dusty tower, poring through tall heaps of manuscripts when I only knew twenty words in this weird language. In short I felt stuck. I didn't want to create without getting this sorted out, but I was getting unhappy with myself for not creating. A vortex of unhappy.

I am happy to report that I've escaped the lonely tower, and can return to the creative playground. Sunshine, rainbows, angels singing, I have emerged from the "stuck storm." What did I learn in the process?
  1. Persistence pays, but you need a strong "why" to keep you going
    when it gets rough. I was motivated by my desire to make music in a new
    way, and I have a date to give a house concert. The latter is the one which really mattered most to me.
  2. You are not alone and the internet proves that. Thank goodness, over and over again, I found a trail of people with the same questions. Sometimes, I found some golden nuggets to help fill in another piece of the puzzle. I can't imagine trying to do this without computers, search engines and user forums.
  3. Take notes. Writing down what I've tried and what happened helped me feel more objective and organized about what could have been hours of failure. Plus, I could more objectively understand what worked and what didn't, and I could jot down what I wanted to try out later. It helped me feel more empowered and productive to have lab notes when my experiments were failing right and left.
  4. Breaks are important. I didn't take enough breaks during this challenge, and I suspect I would have been happier had I danced or knitted more. My back and shoulders are aching, so it's time to listen to my body-mind and walk away from the computer. 
Have you had an experience like this? What do you find most helpful when you're stuck? I'll check back later, after I've had a dance break.

Helen Yee is an improvising violinist, multi-instrumentalist and composer. Currently violinist for the eclectic string trio, Trio Tritticali she also performs on yangqin with Music From China. She considers the practice of improvisation in all its forms a profound teacher in art and in life.

Friday 26 July 2013

A word beginning with S ... T ... U ... C ... K by Julie Gibbons

Stuck, trapped, blocked, frozen, stumped.
There are unlimited ways for those unwanted adjectives to play out in our lives - and the degrees to which they affect us are just as abundant.
Today, I'm keeping in mind the scenario of a creative who gets stuck as they're creating a piece of work.
This happens to me most often when I'm trying to write an article for someone else or to produce content for one of my classes - and it hits particularly hard when there's a deadline attached.
Sound familiar? Here are some of my tactics for getting myself unstuck.
the letter S

S is for ..... Step away from the ______

When we find ourselves feeling the familiar signs of the discomfort of being stuck, it's time to disengage from whatever it is we're trying to do and go do something else.

Through my experience of Body Harmony with Lindsay, I've learned to tune into the subtle signals my body uses to tell me what I need at that particular time. And I've learned that it's never wrong!

If I'm struggling for too long fighting my inert creativity, my body responds pretty clearly. I'll start dancing in my seat to invisible ants in my pants. My back begins to talk to my shoulder and soon enough my wrist joins in until there's a cacophony of protest.

My brain has kept me on task, trying in vain to squeeze something out, but my body knows best. It's time to leave and come at it another time.
the letter T

T is for ..... Turn it around

Quite easy to make this literal when we're working on a painting. What about when we're writing?

Sometimes I begin to write a piece without knowing what I'm trying to say and despite typing away for what seems like (and often is) hours, the punchline fails to reveal itself.

I get so frustrated when this happens. No doubt there's a whole screed of stuff waiting to get ticked off my to-do's and if I don't get this finished, I'll miss the submission deadline.

This is the time for me to take a deep breath and believe that the words which just flowed from my fingers were in fact perfect. What is wrong is the order in which they came.

So I begin to move the paragraphs around in a different order, like pieces of a puzzle. It can take a wee while, but with patience, the narrative begins to come together and I can see my way through to a punchline.

The discarded paragraphs? I copy them into a 'bucket' document - they may just be waiting for the right narrative to come along.
the letter U

U is for ..... Unravel the clues

There is something to be said for digging a little deeper into our ... stuckness. It may be that there's more going on than we think, or that there's something else that we can't quite put your finger on, which is preventing us from moving forwards.

Asking questions may help us unravel the tangle of thread that will lead to the answers we need before we can proceed with this particular project.

Here are some questions I ask myself which often lead to to a quick resolution;
  • Have you dunk enough water today? How about food?
  • When was the last time you took a walk?
  • Did you make your to-do list for the day? Was this project on it?
  • Is there something else you've been meaning to do but haven't got around to, yet? Might it be time to go do that instead?
  • Is this project something you really want to deliver? If it isn't, what are the implications if you don't complete? Can you live with that?
  • Whose deadline are you working to? Can you ask for an extension? If it is your own deadline, might you be able to swap some things around to make it easier for you?
  • Do you need to nap?
  • What about starting over? How do you feel about taking a fresh stab at it - might that help?
  • How are your emotions? Are you writing about anything that seems to be a trigger for you? What message do you think that holds for you right in this moment?
  • When was the last time you made an art journal spread or got your art on? How about taking some time to do that before you return to your writing?
The questions, of course, could be never-ending. The trick is to tune into what your gut might already be whispering to you.
the letter C

C is for ..... Call for help

This is probably one of the tactics I use most often.

You see, I'm extremely blessed that my wee family works from home and each morning we meet over coffee to discuss 'business'. This is our opportunity to mark important dates in the diary and tell each other about our current projects.

It's also usually the time for us to talk about where we feel stuck or blocked. Most often, just by talking about it, we find that the problem is solved and our next step is clear. Isn't it true that talking out loud about being stuck unravels things more quickly than thinking about it inside your head?

Other times, it's what the others have to say that helps us figure out where to go next.

If I didn't have this ready source of wisdom to pull from, then I'd need to go and find one - it's part of the peril of working from home, that we don't get the chance to chat casually about the stuff we're working on.

Thankfully, for those of without a ready made team to hand, we have Skype and Google Hangouts to help keep us connected to other live souls out there in the same boat as ourselves!
the letter k

K is for ..... Keep on going

Sometimes there is nothing else for it than to just keep on keeping on.

I'm generally not one for torturing myself, but I also know that I'm easily distracted. Sometimes, it seems like I'm stuck only because I'm not properly focussed on the task in hand! Time to switch off the social media streams, the podcasts, music or (like right now, Wimbledon!) and just do it!

I also tend to give myself a lot of leeway when it comes to assigning a schedule for work. Because I take great delight in my flexible hours, it can often be mid morning and sometimes lunchtime before I actually sit down at my computer. This means that I can still be there in the evenings and often weekends.

It's easy to let that habit creep in even when I begin early in the morning. Being strict with my schedule can provide the discipline I need to just get on with it - otherwise I can stretch out the day and achieve no more than I would have done had I spent half the time on it.

What about you? Does any of that sound familiar? What are your top tips for becoming unstuck? We'd love for you to add them in the comments section below :)

Julie Gibbons enjoys art journaling, journal therapy and mixed media. Her passion is self discovery through intuitive, creative practice, to reveal personal patterns, symbolism & archetypes of the true self.
Blog & Website + Etsy

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Anything is Possible by Meghan Genge

“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

July's topic is getting unstuck?!


Because that is just what I have been:


And it has only been in the last few weeks that I have begun to see the reason and the light.

Once Upon a Time, a lot of years ago, I was feeling lost and felt inspired to start a blog. It went along really well for a few years. Along the way it helped me to make some wonderful friends and I even think it helped me begin to find my voice.

Fast forward a few years and I felt like my little blog wasn't big enough for me, so I created a new blog. I called it Creating Wings, because that was what I wanted to do the most, and for a few years it was big enough for me. I made some more friends, wrote one or two posts I was really proud of, and puttered along. Then, once again, inspiration struck and my medium-sized blog wasn't big enough for me anymore.

So about a year ago, I started another blog.

Are you seeing the pattern?

Every time I started a new blog (or a new book, a new job, a new anything) I have gone in with a vision of what I wanted from it. I have always thought I knew best. The initial spark of inspiration was always enough to make me commit myself 100% to that vision.

Inevitably: stuck.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were doing a post-mortem on a big dream that we had that didn't work. It was during that discussion that I had a lightbulb - hallelujah - slap my head with clarity -moment.

I can't dream big enough for myself.

Or maybe that should read:

Nobody can dream big enough for themselves.

I got stuck when I bumped up against the walls I myself had constructed. Stuck happened when I tried to force myself to keep fitting into The Plan or The Vision.

Stuck happened when I forced myself to keep thinking small.

You can't possibly know how much you are capable of. You can't possibly see what is next for you, let alone what is next, next, next, NEXT for you. What you CAN do, however, is remember that every time you grow even a little bit, your potential grows with you.

Me? I am taking off the shackles of a concrete vision and changing my site - AGAIN! This time with lots of room to write, breathe, think or share whatever comes up.

You? Stuck? Where are you bumping up against walls that you yourself have made? How can you widen your vision?

How can you get out of your own way?

Meghan is a writer, a storyteller, and a finder of magic.

Monday 22 July 2013

Stuck Wisdom by Jodi Crane

I enjoy children’s picture books.  The story.  The illustrations.  The lessons.  The wisdom in their simplicity.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers shares the story of Floyd who got his kite stuck in a tree. Naturally, he took off his shoe and threw it in order to release the kite, but it got stuck too. As you can probably guess, each item he subsequently threw got stuck as well.

Isn’t that what we do? Like Floyd, more of the same hoping we’ll become unstuck. And sometimes even those who try to help us also get stuck as is the case of Stuck where firemen become wedged in the tree. Floyd then takes a saw and… you’d think he’d do something different than his previous attempts at hurling objects. He surprisingly throws the saw, knocking down the kite, because there isn’t room for any more items in the tree.
Floyd is happy. That night he has the sinking feeling he has forgotten something. Yeah, all that stuff still in the tree.

The silliness. The exaggeration and absurdity of this book. What does it tell you about becoming unstuck? And like a good story. I’m not gonna spell it out for you.

Jodi Crane – play therapist, blogger, creative, mom

Friday 19 July 2013

Creative Experiments for Stuck Places by Kate Wolfe-Jenson

Here you are, stuck again.

Maybe it’s a can’t-get-started stuckness. You have a squirmy hunger in your spine that’s pushing you forward into…you’re not sure what. Unable to define it, you try this and that. You read old journals. You dye your hair. You draw the cat. Whatever you are doing, you know that This is Not It. There is Something Else that you want – almost desperately – to be doing, but you can’t get started.

Maybe it’s an I-was-on-my-way-but-something-happened stuckness. You were in the midst of a project, in the groove, in the flow. Then something went >CLANG< and here you are, watching the days go by and not getting back to it. Dozens of small tasks seem to be eating up your time and The Big Want slides under the radar over and over.

What to do?

Take comfort.  This stuckness is a time-honored part of the creative path. In writing, we call it writer’s block, but many people experience it. That doesn’t make it feel any better, but at least you know you’re not alone.  The good news is thousands – probably millions – of people have made it through this stuckness. You can too.

Take action.  Your job right now is to TAKE ONE INCREDIBLY SMALL, RIDICULOUSLY TINY STEP toward The Big Want. We are talking about a step so small that it almost hurts not to do it.  One minute. One word. Dial the phone.

No, really: TAKE ACTION. It may seem like now is the perfect time to check Facebook, pay bills, groom the hamster or learn Farsi.


is not

the truth.

You just need to pick up your brush or your phone or your pen or whatever the next step in The Big Want is and take action. If you don’t know what the next step would be, make it up and take a step.

Here are some games (I call them “creative experiments”) you can play to help you unstick and take action.

  • Writing starters:  I hate being stuck because… I love being stuck because…
  • Making your Mark:   Use five colors to make the biggest mess you can in two minutes. Repeat five times.   
  • Objects in Space: Choose three very floppy objects and two very stiff ones. How would you arrange them to represent your stuckness? How would you get them unstuck?
  • Sound it Out: Sound stuck. Lubricate the sound until it comes loose.
  • So the Drama: Write or perform a dialogue between a block of ice and a birthday candle.
  • Move through it:  Put on fast rhythmic music and shake your whole body for five minutes.
Remember that the ultimate goal here is to take an eensy-weensy step toward The Big Want. Once you are moving (even tiny, slow moves), the universe will give you feedback. Maybe you will discover that you are moving in the wrong direction. No problem. Turning is good. Maybe the universe will grab you by the hand and whirl you into a dance. Yay! Either way: CONGRATULATIONS, you are unstuck!

Let me know how it goes…


Kate Wolfe-Jenson is the author of Dancing with Monsters: Chronic Illness as Creative Transformation. She blogs about creativity, spirituality and illness at Her monthly newsletters include ideas for creative experiments, practices and tools that invite you to play along.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Breaking Free From Life’s Quicksand by Julie Rorrer

It starts out nice and gentle … you see your toes submerge beneath the grainy surface. It might even feel nice and comforting to be enveloped in wet sand, but not for long. You soon realize that this is no walk on a sandy beach. Within seconds you are shin-deep and can’t get your feet out.  You are shouting, screaming and thrashing around, and everything you do just sucks you deeper. Nothing seems to help. The more you struggle, the more the sand and water separate to force you to deeper and deeper. Soon enough, there you are stuck in it waist deep and you can’t move an inch. Now what do you do?

They say the only way out of quicksand is to stop struggling, which is probably the hardest thing to do when you are panic-stricken and facing a force of nature that seems out of your control. While we may never encounter any actual quicksand in our lives, there are plenty of situations that can leave us feeling stuck and unable to break free, struggling uselessly while we just sink deeper.  Here’s how to break free:
  1. Stay Calm. Shouting and screaming may seem like a natural response, but they’re not going to help you here.
  2. Stop fighting. Struggling and flailing only gets you deeper into the abyss.
  3. Reboot. Sit down, lie down, or take a time out … do whatever you need to reenergize and regain your focus.
  4. Make a plan. Calmly figure out what needs to be done to stay afloat and rise back to the top.
  5. Put your plan into action. You know what to do … now get busy doing it and get the heck out of there!
  6. Congratulate yourself. Be proud of doing what’s necessary to get yourself unstuck–that was quicksand for crying out loud! Not everyone is so lucky.
  7. Now that you know what it feels like, don’t forget. If you see yourself falling back into the sand, repeat steps 1-6.
Unlike the natural version, it can take years to get mired in life’s quicksand. Sometimes you might not even know you’re sinking. But what’s important isn’t how you get there–it’s how you get out and what you’re going to do differently to keep from falling back in again.

Known in certain circles as Danger Girl, Julie is never afraid to throw caution to the wind and take a chance. She’s been creating things since she was a little girl and shows no signs of stopping. As a grown-up (more or less) she’s created a bath/body products brand, launched the largest indie fashion website (at the time), learned to ride a motorcycle, and done various other things large and small. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and son and a yard full of lizards and is currently writing the book she’s been dreaming about for years.

Monday 15 July 2013

Getting Unstuck by Glenda Myles

Yoga Healing Arts

Well it seems rather fitting that I use this month as my come back month given the topic. Over the past few months, I have started to write a post, but for some reason get stuck and don’t finish. I commit to finishing this one!

I haven’t blogged or written much over the past three months. I’ve started, but haven’t finished. I was stuck. There was something blocking my creative flow. Instead of worrying about it, I allowed it to be. I gave myself space and honored my own natural rhythm.

Many times, I can get unstuck by working through the blockage by moving my body, which helps get the internal energy flowing again - going for a walk or run, dancing, or doing some yoga. Sometimes I can do something else creative that sparks other ideas -sketching, photography, going to a gallery or museum – like having an artist’s date with myself.

But this felt different. I was tired – physically and mentally. I’ve been through so much change over the past 6 months, I needed time to heal and rest. Sometimes you need to honor your body’s natural rhythms.

As I gave myself space to just be, to rest, I found that slowly things started to flow. This past week, I had a burst of creative ideas, a major break-thru. All of a sudden, words poured out, ideas flowed, and I was unstuck. Not only unstuck, but new ideas and a renewed sense of energy resulted.

Glenda is a professional marketing strategist working to bring more creativity into business and make more ideas come to life by day. And she is a healer, teacher and activist working with Awe-Inspiring Women to make the world a better place by night.

Friday 12 July 2013

Too smart for your own good? When all else fails, it might be time for a miracle by Aimee Cavenecia

There are so many people, that are so smart, so knowledgeable about what is going on in the world (or other important topics); but at the same time, they have allowed their brilliant mind to paint them in a corner. They fully acknowledge the power of knowledge, but they have completely forgotten the power of a miracle.
"Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one's bath like a lump of sugar."
- Pablo Picasso
We could say that religion diluted & twisted the use of the word miracle, to use it to their benefit. Most religions paint a picture that miracles happens through God (a god they labeled & created), or through their religion, or through some dogmatic concept. As a result, many people lump miracles in with religion and think that both religion & miracles have little to no merit. Some scientists have also influenced people's view of the word miracle, they have trivialized it or view it as hogwash. For them, because they can't fully comprehend it and because it can't be repeated over & over & over (and predicted), it simply doesn't exist. How many things have happened for you that you couldn't fully understand, or that you couldn't repeat or predict? I find that life is full of unexplainable & unpredictable situations & things. Life itself is a great example. "Why are we here?" seems to be an unanswerable question, even for the brightest mind.

I think that the best way to form an opinion about something is to get to know it personally. To meet it in life, to experience it firsthand. Not by writings or findings by others, not by data or theories or tradition, but to see it with your own eyes, or feel it through your own body. For it to happen to you, while you are fully aware.

When I look at my life, I can see so many miracles. Things that happened that seemed impossible initially. Things I couldn't predict or create. Things that I or others said "no way" -- that later happened with ease. No crazy work or insane pushing & pulling to cause massive change or to make something happen, just a steady flow in the right direction. Sometimes that flow starts with small consistent steps, sometimes that flow happens by simply getting out of the way (which usually means, getting your mind out of the way). In either case, without us dominating or manipulating a situation -- things happen. Incredible things.
“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control."
- Albert Einstein
I personally think that in years to come (maybe many, but eventually) people will fully embrace miracles. They will be able to tune into them and work with life's flow & power. This is a quote from Why Science Can't Accept Miracles (Even if They Really Exist): "Since earliest times, people had regarded lightning as supernatural. Benjamin Franklin showed that lightning was electricity and furthermore devised a way to control it. For the first time, a phenomenon went from supernatural, not just to natural, but to something controllable by humans."

When I say miracles, I'm not speaking to any specific ones. I'm definitely not speaking to any biblical ones or any based in tradition or mythology or storytelling. I'm just addressing: the things that happen just in time; the things that happen when all hope is lost; the things that happen so perfectly, that they seem intentional; the things that seem to only make sense in hindsight; the things that make us scratch our heads; the things that make us humble; the things that make us give thanks with full gratitude. If you are familiar with any of those things, that is what I am referring to.

It does take a certain amount of awareness to experience or acknowledge miracles. Being on autopilot, being distracted or constantly busy, feeling your life only happens according to the 'facts' you learned in school, thinking that you always have bad luck, and great things or easy solutions only happen to other people, living from a place of preoccupation with fear or cynicism -- all of those will bring down your level of awareness, and will cloud or dull your abilities to see/feel/hear in subtle, yet very powerful ways. Also, instead of experiencing the depth of a multidimensional existence or multidimensional reality, you might dwell in a boxed-in one-dimensional mindset, which creates your sense of reality and limits you. Like the Henry Ford quote: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't -- you're right."

I've met many people that say they have no idea how to follow their intuition or to listen to their gut. I've also encountered people that question why adverse things happen to them over & over again. I think both challenges have to do with a level of awareness. Being still & going deeper, practicing more expansive hearing/seeing/feeling, learning to make space for subtle sounds & clues to be acknowledged -- all are very important. When subtle feelings or clues go unnoticed or unheard for too long, they can turn into something very dangerous & alarming. Often, health scares were present as subtle clues before they turn into life threatening situations that can take over one's life, or take one's life altogether! The same goes for relationships. Minor problems unacknowledged (unheard/unseen) early on, turn into major unavoidable problems that can take a lifetime to fix, or can end relationships forever.
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. "
- Albert Einstein
The state of our planet is another example. Our level of awareness was (and still is) minimal. We didn't see/hear/feel what we were doing to ourselves or to the planet early on. The result is, eventually it will be alarming (it is already in many ways.) It will change our lives drastically and take a lifetime to fix, or ...we'll just be wiped out eventually. Humanity will be a thing of the past, as the planet goes on and heals itself without us. But if we were more subtle, more sensitive, more aware, more observant early on, in the early stages, we might have changed the way we were being to avoid the mess that we are in now. But then again, it takes a certain level of awareness. And again, miracles could happen at the very-very last minute to our benefit. But one never knows.
"We are the miracle of force & matter making itself over into imagination & will. Incredible. The Life Force experimenting with forms. You for one. Me for another. The Universe has shouted itself alive. We are one of the shouts."
- Ray Bradbury
I don't recommend waiting for miracles, and I don't recommend dismissing them either. A healthy sense of balance between the subtle & unsubtle is all I think it takes for one to live powerfully. (It's like being a perfect balance of spirit & form.) I think taking action (small steps consistently) and living with a sense gratitude for everything, is very helpful & very transformational. As well as, practicing being still. Slowing down (the body & mind, this includes all fears). Making & taking time to just be. Practicing hearing/seeing/feeling, learning to make space for subtle sounds & clues. All that I mentioned are excellent ways we can raise our level of awareness. Our culture is so dominated with loud sounds, constant movie watching, video game playing, TV viewing, as well as, shopping, eating, socializing & working in excess -- that one rarely has a chance to get still or just be. To be quiet and to listen not only to the subtle sensations that are there, but to the clues, answers, or gifts that are being given everyday.

We can sometimes be so preoccupied, so programed, so afraid, so hasty, that we can simply gloss-over everything -- even our own life. Including all of the once-in-a-life-time opportunities that come with it. We are living in a very interesting time. Things seems to be happening faster than ever. And as a result, I believe that people are learning & adapting faster. I'm very excited about all of it. If there was any time to think that miracles exist, now would be a good one. If there was any time to get humble and 'tune in' to the existing power of that which can't be predicted or explained, now is a good time. But regardless, one can always benefit from a bit of unlearning. Abandoning old pattens that no longer serve one's life, as well as moving from a heavy way of thinking & being, to a lighter more refreshing one. Being open & flexible not only feels good, but it can make space for amazing things to happen -- inside & out. Enjoy how expansive your mind & your life can be. Try it, and see what happens.

Aimee Cavenecia (also known as AimeeLovesYou) is an author & activist who is currently igniting a Bliss & Self-Mastery revolution through her weekly blog Sunday Is For Lovers. Aimee's life-work is to share her insights on Seeing, Loving & Being (SLB), as well teaching meditation to people globally via the internet.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Getting Unstuck: An Intervention by Shelley Noyes

Twice a year I am absolutely certain that I want to quit my job. I work part time in the PR department of a small college and my main responsibility is putting together a large part of the alumni magazine--writing obits, alumni news, alumni profiles etc. The magazine goes out twice a year, and twice a year I go into an all-out frenzy trying to meet my deadlines. My life comes to a screeching halt because Hey people! Stop the world! Don't you know I have a deadline!? I know that going into a frenzy doesn't help me or my family, or my work for that matter--but it is the only way I know how to get the work done.

As long as I can remember having deadlines to meet--beginning with my 8th grade essay "What the Gettysburg Address Means to Me"--I have relied on adrenaline and sheer panic to complete my work. And caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. This worked for me 20 years ago when I pulled all-nighters in college--but these days, I can't afford to keep the frenzy going. Not if I want to be there for myself, my long-suffering husband, and my 10 year old daughter, Sadie. These days I need a more sustainable way of completing my work.

My deadline for the latest issue of the alumni magazine steadily approaching at the time of this writing, and I'm starting to feel panicky. I hear this chastising voice voice in my head saying 'What's wrong with you? Why can't you put a few paragraphs together? You only work part-time and people in your office do WAY more than you have to do--why do you have to make such a BIG DEAL out of everything you do? Just sit at your desk and GET IT DONE!'

So I sit down at my desk and WILL myself to stay there until I am finished. But the longer I sit there staring at the computer screen, the more my brain REFUSES to put words together. So I get mad, furious. I look at my work and I think I HATE YOU stupid work! YOU ARE HORRIBLE! This is SO PAINFUL! You are causing me so much suffering! Why do you have to be so difficult?! I sooo have to quit my job. I look down and realize not only have I NOT written a single word--since I have spent the last of my brain energy wrestling with myself because because I feel so much resistance to doing the work. Here's the kicker: it's not even hard work. In fact if I didn't have to meet my deadline--I would LOVE the work.

I decided right then that I needed to take some time away to figure out what this resistance was all about. Against my logic-brain that said 'stay at work so you can make yourself get your work done'--I decided to take Tuesday afternoon off and stage an intervention for myself. I packed a picnic lunch and went to the local state park for the afternoon. All I brought was my lunch, my camera and my journal. And I just sat in the sun and wandered around and gave myself TIME to do nothing. To take a break from thinking about the stuff that was due--I just 'WAS.'

After an hour or so of blissful nothingness--I started writing and I realized that I have been so very stern and intense with myself about getting this done. And I came to accept that maybe I need MORE of this 'nothing' time during a big deadline--even though it seems counterintuitive. Because I wasn't getting anywhere with the yelling at myself or the panic or the constant demanding to keep focusing on the work. I was just wrestling with myself and taking up precious energy that could be used for finishing the project peacefully. I am working on accepting this as 'my way' of getting my creative work done--I need more of a cushion around myself at the exact time I don't think I have the time do take it. After that afternoon, I really was able to make progress on my project. I still have the huge looming deadline before me, but I know if I listen to myself and take the time I need to rest my brain--I will get it done.

My name is Shelley. I write about stuff that happens to me so you won't feel so alone. Email me at

Monday 8 July 2013

Grazing for Introverts by Kelly Besecke

Have I mentioned that I have a book coming out this fall? Oh, I have? (Insert winking smiley face here.)

Many years ago, when that book was just beginning to come to life, I went through a long period in which I didn't really know what it was about. I couldn't put it into words—and yet, it had me. I knew it was a thing, a nonverbal something—I just didn't have the words for it yet.

I think a lot of ideas start out nonverbal like that—as a sense of something or a feeling or an intuition that hasn't quite made its way into the verbal realm of thought. But for a writer, that can be kind of a drag, because this thing is going to have to find words somehow, and you're not sure how to help them come along.

I began by immersing myself in others' words—I read and read and then thought and thought and tried to make this thing articulate. Friends said "Is it this?" And I'd say "It's like that, but it's not exactly that."

I wrote notes and notes and two- and three- and five-page summaries of my idea. None of them actually communicated much.

But I knew that the thing was there, that there was a book on this thing waiting to be written, and that somehow I was going to have to find a way of pulling it out of me.

After about a year of this searching for words, I was pretty frustrated. I was in grad school, and my adviser, Paul—bless him and his faith in me—did not act equally frustrated. Instead, he said, "Go out and graze." Go out and look around. Get out of your own head, get out of books. Go out into the world, and see what you find that resonates with this idea of yours.

And that's what got me unstuck. I looked around, made scrapbooks of what I found, and went and looked and listened some more to the creative things that other people were up to that seemed to speak to this thing that I had going on.

And then the words came.

Now that I think about it, this is probably good advice for an introvert. Maybe introverts and extraverts can weigh in: I wonder whether introverts like me are more likely to get stuck in our own heads, our own inner processing, and can get unstuck by remembering to get out there and engage with the outside world. And maybe extraverts can get stuck in what's already happening out there and get unstuck by remembering to "go in" and see what their own unique minds make of all that they've seen and done.

Kelly Besecke writes about spiritual meaning, progressive religion, and authentic living. Her first book, You Can't Put God in a Box: Thoughtful Spirituality in a Rational Age, will be out November 1. Kelly is a dreamer, a thinker, and an incurable idealist who loves singer-songwriter music, impressionism, and every dog she's ever met.

Monday 1 July 2013

Truth or Consequence by Shelley Noyes

Lately, my creative work is showing me how to do the hard and scary work of telling the truth.

I have always known exactly what to say and do to make sure people like me. Any kid with abandonment issues knows how this survival skill works. It is like some freakish superpower--every conversation I have, I know how  to endear myself to the person I am talking to. Within a few seconds I can read what they need to hear from me.  Agreement? An ego-stroking?  Do they need me to say that their horrible child is filled with angelic sweetness? Do they need me to agree that yes, your boss HAS to be the problem for sure--of course it isn't your fault!   Do they need me to be a Christian? (Liberal or Conservative; Evangelical or Mainline; Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant???)  Before I even realize it, I am giving them exactly what they want to hear, regardless of my actual feelings, beliefs or opinions.

It has taken me years to figure out that I do this. It never occurred to me that I was not being honest--in fact I remember telling a needy friend (after I had been avoiding her for several weeks, and she called me to find out what was going on 'with us') that no--there wasn't any issue between us--I just had some other personal stuff going on--that was why I hadn't been around.  You never have to worry, Friend, I said. I will be honest with you if that were the case. Those were the words that came out of my mouth before I even thought about it. The truth is, I WANTED that to be the case--wanted to be the kind of person that could be honest with someone when they were sucking the life energy out of me and I needed some space to re-evaluate the healthy-ness of our friendship. But instead, I just worked harder at avoiding her after that.

This way of living--telling the world what they want to hear so that they will love me and never leave me--it isn't something that at age 42, I have to do anymore. I know that I'm not seven-year-old Shelley desperate for her mom to move back into the house. I don't have to be afraid that I won't be able to take care of myself. My body has been trying to tell me for years that speaking out of fear of abandonment instead of out of my authentic truth does not serve me anymore: depression, panic attacks, headaches, obsessions.

So now, I am learning a new way of living. To be honest, it is a slow and terrifying process. Part of my healing has come in the form of writing and writing and writing in my journal until I get to the deep-down layer of how I really feel, or what I really think. I'm beginning to recognize what my Real Self sounds like, but it takes patience and a whole lot of EFFORT to find her and then to listen.

Telling the truth of my experience is easy in this setting. But I have this uncomfortable feeling--a prickly nudging--that I will eventually have let go of my fear of being misunderstood by my own real-life, in-person community where I live and work, and trust that I will be ok even if nobody 'gets me' ever. My creative work (writing and working in my art journal) gives me a little more courage every day to believe that I am enough--and it continues to kindly and gently point the way to Myself.

My name is Shelley. I write about stuff that happens to me so you won't feel so alone. Email me at