October 11th, 2015 in
Each year the arrival of a birthday coming meant time to measure up.
I used to measure myself up against a chalkboard wall of goals: Do I have money? A career I love? Is my book going to be published yet? I imagine others would ask too: Married with kids? House I own? Check, check, or writing hard criticisms down against the pinned-up self.
But now I’ve realized standing against that wall of goals is not how I want to measure growth. My growth happens in tiny, smaller ways, in the day to day of life that is harder to see and pick out on the pointed end of a stick.
Really for the past two years instead of hounding these questions, I've been working on developing a daily creative process. Each morning writing in a journal. Morning Pages. Each morning publishing on the blog. Michipreneur. Each morning spending an hour or a half hour, or whatever I can, on my creative writing. It is a breather, a way to mediate before starting the day.
No I have not done it every day this past year. We all don’t exercise, sleep right, and care for ourselves perfectly every day. But I've worked on it and most days I have followed it. And most days I am happier. I am writing all the time. I have moments in a flash where an entire story or essay will flow out, and other days of quiet reflection, peace and understanding of my world and what I can create with it.
And the results? What would be checked off on that big black board of life’s goals?
Well there are some. I am more focused and ready to tackle a day. I come to work without stress. I have had more work published this year. I've even had an idea for a book and wrote the first draft. It’s a byproduct of each and every day creating, growing, and taking care of myself. I may have even experienced a bit of creative momentum. Almost every month for the first half of the year a story or creative piece was accepted for publication.
Sure every year may or may not be like that. But it doesn't matter. And it doesn't matter if you miss a day or two. Just get back to it the next day. Your creative process will keep you focused, keep the mind open and the black board slate clean and ready for creating instead of measuring.
I just finished reading Liz Gilbert’s latest book Big Magic. A big THANK YOU for writing it.
At twenty six I’ve written (published some) short stories and am currently trudging through my first novel. In Big Magic, Liz shares an important concept for writers to realize: the space we creators must make for paradoxes. I think this is going to help me get through my first try at first novel, so I thought I'd share below some of the paradoxes she covers.
Needing space to love each sentence / to remove or “kill your darlings”. Liz elegantly points out how she treats each sentence as if it is the most important one, the most elegant version of that sentence she can create. But then you might have to kill it. That’s okay. Accept this paradox. Take away what you must to make the story great.
To carry your inspiration with your fear. Much of the book explains how creators can deal with their inspiration and also deal with their fear. Liz believes you have to make room for both, but you can never let fear take the wheel. Fear can be good, but it can’t drive your creative choices or you’ll never get far into your creating. It can be hard to accept and carry both, but we must.
Write for yourself, but edit for others. When we are creating it is for ourselves. We read it to ourselves in our head. We tell the story to ourselves. The topics or themes are often obessions we love and care about. But the story must be interrupted by others. This is a paradox in itself and one that must be addressed often in the editing phase. Did that make sense to you? Great. Does it work outside of your head? Will the reader get it? If not it's got to be fixed.
Knowing the truth as creator / interpretation of truth as audience. A similar paradox but taking this a step further, though we might edit as best we can to send out our message to the world, we’re not in charge of it anymore when it’s released. We have no idea how the audience will interpret the story. That’s okay. We’ve done our best. It’s up to the reader now to digest and apply their own truths and meanings to the tale.
While editing my first book of work these paradoxes are helping me to realize that though we can do our best we can never know the outcome. We can only strive to do our best.
Each morning I wake up and try to squeez in a half hour or hour of editing. I battle a flurry of emotions, feeling wonderful and excited one morning or angry and disappointed the next. I am busy trudging through the sloppiness to get to the show, to display full picture of what I’m producing, and each day carries a new emotion with it. It's easy to love and to hate the process.
But, much of the main message from this book, we can choose how we embrace the process. Choose to love it. Love the work, do it or find another way to create and enjoy your life.
I’m determined to finish this first larger piece of work and just naive enough to believe it will all turn out the way it should.
A letter from my boyfriend’s grandfather, John Seguin, March 1939. He was in high school when he wrote this piece. A few paragraph breaks were added for readability in the Internet age, but it is word for word in his voice. What I love most about the letter is that almost every icon and place he describes in 1939 still exists in Detroit 76 years later.
What to See in Detroit in 1939
Goodby Detroit and Hello New York. Yes you guessed it, another customer to join the happy and excited crowds at the World’s Fair. New York is an old and familiar place to me. I was born there, so it is an annual delight to return and visit old friends and places. There isn’t much left for me to see except the fair and that is plenty.
New York is not the only place that i am going to visit. Detroit is the other place. Such places like the Detroit Institute of Arts. This white building, one of the purest examples of early Renaissance architecture in America, houses a notable collection of paintings and statues representing many countries and periods. It's three main departments are those of European and American, Asiatic art. Unusually extensive exhibit of Egyptian and Japanese art are also included. The famous Diego Rivera fresco and the Scripps collection are two of the many priceless permanent exhibits here.
Feeling very, very grateful. Yesterday we took a break and went out for a glass of wine to celebrate two years of business.
Brian jokingly told the bartender: “Two years of having a baby together.” Our baby is Bamboo Detroit. It has three fathers and one mother, and blessed to have a hundred Bamboo members to grow with it, and thousands of visitors local and from around the world.
We’ve all really grown and changed these past two years and I’m really excited for what’s ahead next. It seems that each one of us has had to overcome personal challenges, individually and together as a team: work, direction, opportunities, fear, depression and pressure - and yet we’ve made it. And it seems so much in the past already. We’ve persevered and asked ourselves the hard questions. I think we are really ready for everything that could be next.
Brian has strengthened his leadership. He is calm and collected, a powerful force now more than ever. Dave has learned to create and innovate, letting go of plans to improvise and growing strong along the way. Mike has continued to challenge himself and us, keeping us focused on execution. Roles and responsibilities. Roles and responsibilities. You are born into them and yet you grow and expand with them over time.
Me? At first they used to joke the three always argued until I arrived. Perhaps I don’t need to be the one who calms the storm and brings us back to the table anymore. But I do think I must continue to tell our story, to lift the four of us up, along with our community.
Before the celebration, driving into work, I felt free and very calm. I was grateful to get to drive into our office, especially after laying sick for days. I felt a moment looking around at the grey, tall buildings in Detroit and felt very deeply that we are called to do this work right here. It is important work and we have yet to realize the full force of it, the community we are building, the strength and power we are instilling into hundreds of members over two years and into our four selves.
We have yet to fully realize what we are capable of. We are only just beginning, and that is the most beautiful part.