February 16th, 2021

4 Tips to Help You Creatively Create Structure (and get stuff done)

Come, come, whoever you are, 

Wanderer, idolater, worshiper of fire, 

Come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times, 

Come and come yet again. 

Ours is not a caravan of despair. 

~Rumi

The cure for procrastination, fear, sabotage, and self-judgment?

Start again.

And again.

Stop waiting for the right timing or the inspiration or even the courage. Take the next baby step even if your legs are trembling. Keep going even if you feel flat-as-a-pancake uninspired, and slide past your inner critic as if you were stealing a base.

Day after day, even if you don’t start, don’t give up. Try again. Keep seeking good guidance, exploring how to best support your next action. Open yourself to that needed friendly kick in the pants from wherever you can find it, whether that is a mentor, a movie, or motivating music.

You see, the trick is not to let the weight of where and how you have broken your vows to yourself block you from trying again. We all fail, we all stumble, we all struggle. We can become disillusioned, brittle, and feel broken. And while it is important to understand the agreements and brain talk that might be keeping you in a hurtful loop of not doing what you love, it is just as important to TRY AGAIN. And again and again until you discover how to squeeze yourself through the eye of the needle that opens up into infinity.

For months now I’ve been talking about writing my next book. I thought I would be finished by December 2020; instead here it was February and I had written exactly…. two pages. I’d set aside time, planned writing dates, talked to my agent (hi Anne Marie!), talked with my editor (hi Brooke!), talked with my team (many times) and did a lot of profound Thinking. About. Writing.

And while thinking about writing is actually great and can help the creative process, it is Not. Actually. Writing.

And so this weekend I tried again.

We all have dreams, projects, and even secret wishes. The poem, the crochet project, the painting, the perpetually messy closet all curl around our feet as we walk, meowing for our attention, tripping us with their insistent tenacity.

And yet we still try to ignore or distract ourselves from their presence. We have all sorts of great excuses and a list of sane, reasonable reasons why we  can’t, or shouldn’t pick up that cat of creative possibility. But once you stop and actually put your energy and attention towards the thing you have been avoiding, in a little bit the purring begins. Your body relaxes. You are in the flow. You choose to be self-intimate and self-responsible to your innermost creative desires. What a relief.

But here is the path… pleasure is not just flow, it’s also learning how to play, push, and pirouette through the pain.

Why does there have to be any pain at all? Why can’t it be all purring and cuddles in relationship to our creative flow?

Because at a certain point you’re going to be asked to grow and stretch beyond what you know. That cat of creativity is going to look you in the eyes and with a Cheshire grin say, “Give me more. Stop holding back.”

And you are going to have today deep within you; take a deep breath, hold yourself with love, and finish the damn poem. Or learn the next stitch so you can do the next row of your crochet project. Or dust off your easel and replace the cobalt blue acrylic paint tube your kid borrowed for the school project when they were in kindergarten. Or eat a bit of chocolate and play some hip hop so you can power through the closet cleaning project you keep stalling out on.

Take little baby steps, get into a rhythm, then keep going when it gets hard.

If you fail, start again. Little. Baby. Steps.

If you are being true to yourself, my loves, it is bound to get hard at some point. Just remember: Life is creativity in flow. And Life doesn’t stop when it hits rock (go Grand Canyon!) or when a forest fire rages through (hello baby pines sprung by heat!). Life evolves creatively. And we can learn to evolve creatively, every day, as well.

After many failed attempts at working on my next book over the past few months I am back to working with an old friend: structure. Ah, so simple. My four friends for writing are:

1- Bite-sized goals

Instead of saying to myself each day: I need to write the book! I now say: I will write 10,000 words this week. I commit to this bite-sized goal to help me stay focused. For me that is a manageable goal, as I write around 1000 words an hour. So I calculated if I write for just 2 hours a day, five days a week, I should hit my goal. Yeeee!

What bite-sized goal can you set right now? Claim a tangible focus and then cut it in half. There, now that is probably closer to bite-sized.

2- A timer

I LOVE TIMERS! I use a program called Focus at Will on my phone or desktop, which counts down and plays music to help me stay engaged. I just discovered a new soothing sound this weekend: Propeller Drone at 30,000 feet. Seriously. Worked wonders. Today that plane sound was annoying and I’m listening to a more be-bopping Alpha Chill. My daily agreement: Three 45-minute chunks, with 10-minute breaks in-between. That gives me some wiggle room for completing my weekly word count.

Working in spurts, with a timer set and music or sound to help you keep going, is wicked helpful whatever your creative (or mundane) project is.

3- Breaks

Breaks between activity is important. Drink water. Stretch. Run around. Check in with your body. And TIME YOUR BREAKS or you’ll find yourself being distracted and sucked into alternative universes. Like Facebook or cleaning the outside of your toilet with q-tips or cleaning out your fridge. Ask me how I know.

4- A spreadsheet

My final cherry-on-top that works wonders is a spreadsheet to help me stay honest. And ‘cuz it’s fun. I am tracking the length of each writing session, how many words per session, and the total minutes each day and each week. It makes my inner nerd ridiculously happy to do this. (I wrote 10,450 words last week, and in the wee hours of this morning a 934 word article, all neatly displayed in excel. #geek #ilovespreadsheets) At some point I won’t need to track myself anymore because I’ll be cruising.

How could you track your progress (you don’t have to be a nerd and use a spreadsheet; a pen, crayon, or pencil and paper will do.)

Create fun, supportive structures for yourself. Learn. Evolve. Try again.

Remember, creativity loves company. Surround yourself with books, teachings, videos, poems, and people who cheerlead you forward. Find a place where you will be welcomed again and again. As Rumi instructs: Ours is not a caravan of despair.

In this week’s Warrior Goddess Revolution podcast – Episode #7 – I talk with my magnificent friend Jacob Nordby about creativity, trauma, baby steps, blocks, humility, and persistence. Jacob’s new book, The Creative Cure: How Finding and Freeing Your Inner Artist Can Heal Your Life, launches today! Download two free chapters, and check out the free gift Jacob is offering in this week’s podcast: 

http://www.warriorgoddess.com/podcast

http://www.jacobnordby.com