Wanting to Willing: A Powerful Secret to Manifest Your Dreams

Wanting to Willing: A Powerful Secret to Manifest Your Dreams

Today I am going to share with you a simple, yet magical tool for shifting your energy to align with your heart’s desires.

This tool works with the law of attraction in a specific and gentle way that you may never have heard. Plus, you’ll learn some fun things about words!

If you feel unable to manifest what you long for in your life, this little secret may be the key.

Just like anyone, I often get frustrated on the path to my heart’s dreams, wondering why some areas of my life don’t seem to budge. This little tool helps to shift my energy with positive results.

The Power of Words

Our words affect us and others often at a deep level. Each word carries an energetic imprint. Therefore, it is wise to be aware of the power of the words we use, and to choose carefully, especially when it comes to our heart’s dreams.

Just look at the word “spell”. It means both to spell the letters of a word but also to cast a magic spell. This is no coincidence. The word “spell” recognizes the magic power in language.

So let’s look at a few words that relate to our heart’s desires and learn how to use the magic power of words to bring in more of what we truly love and stop unconsciously creating lack.

Wanting Leaves Us in Lack

The word “want” comes from root words meaning lack, to be lacking or deficient.

Wanting equals lacking, a feeling of scarcity, of not having. There can be a feeling of “poor me” in it, even hopelessness, a sense of “I want it, but I don’t believe I can have it” or at least, “I don’t have it”.

This state of lack is neither uplifting nor co-creative.

Energetically and emotionally, wanting leaves us wanting. If I want more love or money or fame, I am dwelling on the lack of it in my life.

As we know from the law of attraction: What we dwell on, and give our emotional energy to, increases. So, when we dwell on the lack, the want, we get more wanting, more lack.

Desire Opens Us to Gifts From the Heavens

The word “desire,” on the other hand, comes from root words meaning “to await what the stars will bring”. I love that! There is a quality of joyful expectation and peaceful surrender in it.

Of course we can have healthy and unhealthy desires, as well as healthy and unhealthy ways to relate to our desires. To be driven by desires that come from a feeling of being lacking in ourselves only leads to suffering, as the Buddha wisely taught.

But to follow a true heart’s desire, a longing that was given to us “by the stars”—implanted in our hearts to call us to our greatness, our gifts, to deeper participation with all of Life, and to our fullest, richest, most alive Being—that is a blessed and profoundly courageous act. That is a willingness to be fully present, vulnerable, to share ourselves with the world.

So, it is far more energetically inspiring and beneficial to say “I desire to be a great painter” than “I want to be a great painter”. When I catch myself using “want” in my journal, I often switch it to “desire” or better yet. . .

Willingness Is Magically Co-Creative

The word “willing” comes from “will,” which means “to be going to, be determined to” and also “the power to choose.” It comes from roots for wish, desire, choose and also command.

Willingness has freedom, power and choice in it. It carries intention as well as desire. Willingness is a powerful co-creative stance from which to realize our heart’s desires.

Because words have power, what we say, write and think matters. What we hear ourselves say reflects and influences how we relate to our desires. It also influences how those desires relate to us or manifest in our lives.

If I say, “I want to be a great artist,” I am reinforcing a sense of lack toward my dream. If I say “I am willing to be a great artist,” the whole energetic changes.

Willingness puts me in a state of allowing, openness, grace. There is a feeling of joyful expectancy and participation. I am declaring my intention. I am making a conscious choice and opening to the support of the Universe and the fulfillment of my dream.

The Shift From Wanting to Willing

The shift from wanting to willing is huge. From powerlessness to choice. From lack to opening to receive. From scarcity to courageousness.

Willingness is soft, open, cooperative with Life, attractive. Instead of trying to force something to happen on my own, I am in partnership with Life to realize the dreams of my heart or be shown a better path.

Wanting is lack, poor me, separated from my desires, grasping, clinging.

Willingness is openness, heart, hope, intention. Willingness says yes.

Willingness is the path of the spiritual warrior, combining curiosity and surrender with vision and intention. Willingness is charmed.

Make the Shift and Start Seeing Your Desires Come True

I invite you to speak of your heart’s desires in sentences that begin with “I am willing…”.

  • I am willing to be healthy.
  • I am willing to co-create a world of peace.
  • I am willing to have wonderful, fulfilling work.
  • I am willing for my novel to be published by a great press.

To be willing to co-create your heart’s dreams, to participate in their fulfillment but not force them, to open to receive the help of the Universe, this is magnetic.

There is beauty and love, space and invitation in willingness. This is attractive to your desires, instead of repelling them with wanting or grasping.

I learned this tool from Gay and Katie Hendricks, who teach conscious loving. One affirmative statement they use is “I am willing to enjoy lasting love and I am willing for it to be easy.” See how that feels in your body.

A Simple 3-Step Process to Engage the Art of Allowing

1. Create your own affirmations around your heart’s deepest desires and soul’s dreams. Start with the words: “I am willing…”. Notice how these statements feel. Unlike traditional affirmations that proclaim you are or have something already that you don’t, these statements of willingness don’t create conflict within. Or if they do, you discover where you have some work to do.

2. Repeat the statements in the morning when you wake and at night before you fall asleep. Say them right before or after meditation or prayer, and anytime you think of them throughout the day. Write them in your journal daily. Write them on index cards and put them where you will see them. For extra power, put an image on one side of the index card that represents the fulfillment of your heart’s desire. Our subconscious responds more powerfully to images than words.

3. If you find yourself feeling or speaking of want, shift to willingness. Or, if it’s more appropriate in the moment, try “desire” instead of “want”. See how it opens you, softens you and changes your life through gradual but potent influence.

Willingness will carry you a long way.

Share your reflections in the comments below. For extra potency, share a new statement of willingness toward your dream here. Declare our dreams in this way is powerful.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Enthusiasm vs. Willpower: Surprising New Discoveries   and The 5 Helpful Spirits to Co-Create Our Dreams.

How I Got Past Fear and Started to Write a Book

How I Got Past Fear and Started to Write a Book

Do you have any projects in the closet waiting to be born?

I have set out to write a book that I have been wanting to write for a few years. And, I am running into a lot of fear and diversionary tactics. Sound familiar?

Here’s what I’m doing to get myself started (and keep going!). I hope you may find it helpful in jump-starting your own scary, wonderful, creative projects.

First, a little background.

My New Book Project

My new book is based on my years of teaching. It is to be a book about how to ignite and sustain the fires of a creative life, what you need to know, be and do in order to thrive as an artist.

I don’t mean thrive financially, because I don’t know diddly about that. I mean thrive internally, have a joyful, inspired, sustainable, healthy creative life, which I know a great deal about.

This book will debunk the lies, myths and mistaken approaches we are taught about artists and creativity, and replaces them with powerful truths that work. It comes from my own hard-won experiences as a creative person, from my struggles, painful crashes, lost chances and also my healing, successes and growth.

I aim to share my story and my discoveries, my knowledge and wisdom, and also inspiration and encouragement. I aim to share practical, vital tools and perspectives, as well as a kind of magical potion for those who are called to the creative life.

But where and how do I begin? Ack!

The First Hurdle: Which Project Do I Choose?

When I finally finished the umpteenth edit of my manuscript of poems last Autumn, I kept waffling about which book to write next.

I wanted to dive into a new collection of poems. And I want to write an inspiring primer on writing poetry. I also have a neglected novel I cannot face.

But this Creative Sparks book has been knocking at my door, and I have had a few encouraging signs that it is the one to start now.

I pay attention to signs in my creative life. I recommend that you do too.

We are not alone in the creative projects that are ours to birth. They come through us. And they bring with them all manner of support and guidance, if we pay attention.

I’ve been terrified to start this book. I feel overwhelmed by the project, totally unsure how to do it, inadequate to the undertaking.

Fear is one sign you are on the right track. That kind of fear often signals that we are onto something big and meaningful for us.

Choose the project you are most scared to begin.

Step Two: Research and Planning

Next, I began by researching.

I am re-reading and analyzing the structure of several classics in the creativity world. If you want to know some of what I think are classic creativity guides, read my post: Five Fantastic Books to Foster Your Creativity.

Each of the books I admire in this arena are completely different, completely one-of-a-kind, in structure, form, style, approach. That is encouraging and scary too.

I have been binge-reading posts on The Story Grid, particularly on “Big Idea” non-fiction, which may be the genre of this book. I’ve been making notes about the “obligatory scenes and conventions” of both Big Idea non-fiction and How To. And then making notes about how I might fulfill those.

I have been writing the answers to a host of questions about my book to help me understand it better.

I have made multiple possible outlines.

In other words, I have been stalling.

The Hardest Part: Time To Dive In

All of this research and thinking and structuring and note-taking has been helpful and important, especially for a non-fiction book. I continue to do it.

But at the same time, I saw that I was terrified to begin. I had no idea how to begin or what voice to write this book in, or what it really should be, even after all this note-taking and thinking.

The only antidote to this kind of fear and stalling is to dive in. No more excuses. No more wading in the shallow end.

Once I saw these diversionary tactics for what they were, I made myself start writing.

Set Clear, Do-Able Goals

I set myself a firm goal, a task: 500 words a day or more on my four writing days. For me, this is a very do-able goal.

Do-able goals are a good way to get started. We can wrap our brains around them a whole lot better than trying to write a whole book.

Because I am a fluid writer, it doesn’t usually take me long to write 500 words. I sit down and just begin anywhere. That might be where I left off the day before or somewhere unrelated. Usually I go for a lot longer than 500 words.

Create a (Very) Rough Draft

My job right now is to get the pen moving, get past the paralyzing fear and indecision, get into the water. My job is to generate a “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott calls it in her brilliant book on writing, Bird by Bird.

The voice is all over the place. The subject matter is all over the place. Some of the writing is good. Some is not. It doesn’t matter.

This is a rough draft. I need to have words on the page in order to have something to work with, to have any idea what this book actually wants to be.

The book will show me the way, but only once I am well in it.

So, I write.

And I keep gathering inspiration, ideas, reading other books, making notes.

So far, I am still uncertain and nervous.

But I am also immensely relieved to be actually writing. I always feel better when I am writing than not writing, creating than not creating. This is the unswerving law of my being, my inner directive, as the I Ching calls it. So I write.

What project have you been putting off, that you are truly scared to begin?

What mentorship, support, guidance or clear goals do you need to begin?

When will you start?


I am sharing my artistic process and journey on Patreon. If you want more posts like this, please join me on Patreon.

Reaching the Point of No Return

Reaching the Point of No Return

“In each life there comes at least one moment which, if recognized and seized, transforms the course of that life forever.”
— Ralph Blum, The Book of Runes

I have reached the point of no return.

I have come to the edge of a cliff and I have to jump.

Have you ever come to such a place in your life?

To jump means to follow my heart, my deepest longings, my calling. To not jump means to follow the safer, known road.

But it’s not really a choice. My life has aligned itself so that I would come to this impasse, and I am being nudged over that cliff.

The Leap I Must Make

I must say yes to being an artist first and foremost and showing up in the world in this way.

But I have been hiding for a long time. I have been hiding behind my role as a teacher.

I love teaching, and it has been a huge blessing—a path of joy, fulfillment and profound growth.

Teaching provides a much-needed counterbalance to the solitariness of art-making. It allows me to use special gifts I have and to share what I’ve learned on the creative path. Teaching brings me into deep connnection with amazing people.

But I have allowed it to take center-stage for two reasons:

  1. Teaching provides my income
  2. It feels safer, less vulnerable, than being an artist.

Following My Dharma

I think of my dharma, my calling, as:

  • To serve the Divine with all my life
  • To be an artist with all my life
  • To foster and care for the honoring of the Sacred in all things

Teaching is part of my dharma.

But in my teaching I have not come forward fully as myself, my artist self.

Except through my posts/essays that I share with you here, I rarely share my art with you. Nor do I share much of my own artistic journey.

This has to change.

It is time for me to step forward as an artist, to share my creativity with the world much more fully. To step out on a bigger stage.

I cannot be truly fulfilled, or healthy, unless I follow that dream and give it my all.

My Big Scary Leap

To say YES to my heart’s big dream, I am turning to a beautiful model created by an online site called Patreon.

The vision of Patreon is to bring art-makers and art-lovers together in mutually sustaining relationships.

In this way, those of us who value a world of art, imagination and creativity can cultivate that world together and ensure its continuance in these tumultuous, demanding times.

I invite you to join me on Patreon to see what it’s all about. Truly, it is a step towards the more beautiful, loving world many of us wish to co-create.

You Get Access to Things I Have Never Shared Publicly Before

Through Patreon, I will share my poems and other creative projects with you directly each month. You’ll get to see something I have never shared before, early drafts and works-in-progress taking shape.

I will share an insider, in-depth look at my creative process from inspiration and cultivation, through revision and completion.

I’ll share what I know and what I learn about getting my work out in the world, publication and promotion. I’ll share my challenges, successes and musings.

I’m so excited to get to share this all with you in our own little tribe of art lovers.

Through Patreon, you’ll have access to communicate directly with me, to ask your own questions about art-making, creativity, writing, poetry, as well as to give me input on my projects. You will be a part of those projects coming into the world.

Through Patreon, I have a chance to be the artist I need to be, to live my dreams and truly share my deepest gifts.

In the last nine months or more I have been devoting myself intensely to my path of art. I have been wrestling deeply with many questions, coming up against inner challenges, and making important discoveries. I will share about that with you on Patreon.

I Invite You

  • If you would love to be nourished by first-look access to my creations,
  • If you would love to be fascinated by an insider view of my artistic journey, the making of a life in the arts,
  • If you would love to shout yes to my stepping out in the world as a poet and all-around creative being…

Please join me on Patreon.

To a world of beauty and art,

Maxima

I Am Pursuing a Great Dream

I Am Pursuing a Great Dream

I am pursuing the great driving dream of my life:

To be a great artist and touch the lives of thousands of people with my creations.

How painful this dream has been!

How much drive and longing and push and disappointment. How much invisibility and slow growth.

Yet this dream is threaded through my soul. It anchors my life, gives my life radiance, meaning, joy, blessings.

This dream pushes me insistently to grow, like an acorn tugged at to become an oak. Hard, slow growth. Thwarted often.

At other moments, exuberant, exhilarating, ecstatic.

My life spins around the making of art as a planet around the sun. This is my orbit, my unerring route.

And it is deeply fulfilling and engaging. What better way to spend my time? It is what I love and believe in.

A Daring Choice

So I make a daring choice to stand forth in the world as an artist—vulnerable, deeply feeling, unsure. Shadowed by my own fears that my art won’t be wanted, welcomed or understood, by my old belief that I have to hide parts of me to be loved.

ButterflyIn this gradual emergence from the chrysalis, my butterfly wings wet and heavy, I am slowly shedding old habits. No longer crawling as a caterpillar among leaves on the ground. Yet pieces of the old self still stick to me, old painful patterns hindering my flight.

I have to reinvent my environments—inner and outer—to suit the inner transformation.

Next week I’m going to share with you a big step I’m taking. A new way I’m going to be sharing myself in the world as an artist. A big risk.

Reinventing Myself

That reinvention also includes how I write this blog on creativity and artful, soulful living. I have to experiment with voices, styles, subjects, with how I show up in the world. To let my artist self shine through more clearly, in service to All. To be true to my heart and soul.

I don’t know how to do that, what that means, looks like, sounds like, how it may or may not be different from how I’ve been writing and living.

I’ve been wondering again and again whether I need two different blogs, one to do what I’ve always done here (my teachings) and one to share my own artistic journey, my poetry and musings, to be more fully myself as an artist. Maybe so.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered a place to share that artist self with you in a magical, beautiful way. That’s what I’m going to unveil next week.

Serving You Heaps of Good Things

At the same time, these Creative Sparks posts are one form of my art. They are not just tools to convey information.

They are meant to be inspiration, creation, a form of induction into all I love and cherish: beauty, heart, transformation—wonder, grace, art—creativity, play, connection—imagination, freedom, joy—soul, essence, poetry—wholeness, aliveness.

So, I seek a way to serve you, my readers, with my artful, soulful essays, to touch you deeply, inspire, delight, nourish and help you. Without having to be so didactic, removed in a way. To feel more like a fellow artist, co-conspirator, playmate, as well as guide.

I keep stumbling, as I draw on different voices, resort to old habits, try on new styles.

I will know I have succeeded when you start reading and sharing my posts so much that the my writing and work takes flight in the world. I haven’t reached that yet.

As always, I love to hear from you about what you want, need, what you struggle with, what you are seeking, what your questions and challenges are, what you would love me to write about, what you would love me to offer.

Meanwhile, thank you for walking this path with me. For reading my posts when you can. For being here and living your own creative life.

Stay tuned for when I unveil my big new creative outlet next week!

Love, maxima

How to Deal With Creative Advice & Become a Better Artist

How to Deal With Creative Advice & Become a Better Artist

Creative advice for writers and artists abounds. Much of it is useful, helping us create stronger art. But it can also block our best work. In today’s post I discuss how to navigate that slippery terrain.

Write as if your words were a fire bringing warmth to a freezing cold room. Waste no words, just provide heat.

– Sir Tim Smit, writer and founder of the Eden Project

I don’t remember how it started.

Several editors told me that my poems had too much abstraction. I needed to focus more on concrete imagery.

This is a popular concept in writing circles: Avoid abstraction. Rely on physical images to communicate.

“Go in fear of abstractions,” The famous poet Ezra Pound wrote.

I teach my own students to bring their writing alive with concrete images, images we can see, hear, feel in our bodies, taste, smell. We experience life through the body first and foremost.

In order for writing to be vivid, evoke emotions and draw readers in, writers need strong, specific, sense images.

Not “I felt sad,” but “Tears streamed down my face.” OK, that’s a cliché, so you need to find a better way to describe sadness, but you get the idea.

I started to get very self-conscious about my lack of concrete imagery. (Don’t use “very”—that’s another common piece of writing advice. Ack! I just did.)

Here’s the thing about creative advice, like any advice:

It’s good up to a point. And then it can really mess you up.

The Benefits of Creative Advice

There is wisdom and helpfulness in the oft-repeated maxims for good writing. “Show, don’t tell” or “Avoid adverbs.”

It behooves an artist who is learning her craft to study the guidelines, learn the trade, the tools, before subverting them. To ignore centuries of practice in your art is arrogant foolishness. To snub new advances could be costly to your best art.

So, begin by applying the commonly-accepted rules. See where and how they strengthen your art.

In receiving that feedback about my writing, I started practicing describing things in concrete detail. I went for walks and looked around my room and practiced the art of description on the things I saw, heard, perceived with one of my five senses.

It is wise as an artist, who wishes to grow, to practice what might not come naturally, to strengthen where we are weak, to keep developing our craft.

I often give myself assignments to write outside of what’s easy or familiar, to stretch my capacities as a writer and expand my palette. If I always write poems in short lines, I’ll try writing in extended lines, discovering what it takes to create a strong, long-lined poem. Or I’ll write without using the word “I”.

But be attentive to how creative advice may be holding you back from creating your best work.

The Pitfalls of Creative Advice

There are exceptions to every rule.

Ezra Pound wrote: “To begin with, consider the three rules [of Imagist poetics], not as dogma—never consider anything as dogma—but as the result of long contemplation, which, even if it is some one else’s contemplation, may be worth consideration.”

Notice that Pound says never to consider anything as dogma, even his own rules. The rules won’t always apply.

There are places in a good story where you need to tell instead of show to move the pace along. There are places for abstraction. You’ll find it used powerfully in the poems of Emily Dickinson, for instance.

What I Discovered

What happened as I practiced describing things in concrete detail?

I got very (there’s that “very” again!) bored by the writing. It wasn’t me, wasn’t my style, wasn’t what fascinates and inspires me. It was tedious to do and tedious to read.

I also realized three things:

1) There are many beautiful sense images throughout my poems. I do know how to use concrete imagery.

Consider this poem of mine recently published in a wonderful literary journal called Sweet: https://sweetlit.wordpress.com/issue-10-3/poet-maxima-kahn/

If you receive critical feedback, check to see where it is true and accurate, but also where it is not.

2) My gifts and voice as a poet lie in a realm of complexity. The swirl of emotions, the abodes of Spirit and soul, the interplay between our physical world and the unseen, whether that be our feeling life or spiritual life or intellectual life—these things are in my “wheelhouse.”

My poems include ideas and so-called “abstractions,” intensely-lived questions and deeply-held values. This is who I am.

Consider what your unique strengths as an artist are, what makes you you. And don’t sacrifice these.

3) I will continue to be alert to the balance of the concrete and abstract in my writing. But without stymieing my flow.

Because the other thing that happened, when I listened to that feedback and got self-conscious about it, was I got writer’s block for two weeks, until I sorted out what had happened.

Keep what you have learned from the advice that strengthens your art. Be alert for your weaknesses. Jettison the rest.

And if you find yourself blocked, check to see if you received some piece of criticism that you took too much to heart or that is gumming up the works. And let it go. Get back to what you do well.

What Does This Mean for You?

You have to get to know which pieces of advice are for you and which are not. You need to develop discernment about when to use that advice and when to ignore it.

The best way to develop that discernment is to:

  • Try out the advice in your art.
  • See if the art is now stronger or less strong.

You may want to test out different versions (with and without the advice) on a handful of trusted readers/viewers/listeners.

Ultimately, you are seeking to develop your internal compass to the point that you know when your work is more powerful and more radiantly yours, and when it is weaker and/or no longer true to you. But we always have blind spots.

Guard your unique brilliance, but be open to seeing your blind spots and growing as an artist. Learn to hone your skills and strengthen where you are weak.

Most importantly, protect your ability to create, to stay inspired and share your singular vision with the world.


To read the 3 tenets if Imagism plus Pound’s list of “Don’ts” for writers, go here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/58900/a-few-donts-by-an-imagiste

To read some other sets of rules (read: advice) for writers, check out these:

From Stephen King: https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/03/13/stephen-king-on-adverbs/

From Amitava Kumar: https://lithub.com/ten-rules-of-writing/

And from a host of authors: https://www.buzzfeed.com/chelseypippin/33-essential-tips-for-aspiring-writers?utm_term=.bwXeAZ4Yz#.tnxAglRok


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How to Get Started Creating Again

How to Get Started Creating Again

How do you get back to creating after you have been away, whether due to illness, vacation, busyness or distraction?

Whether it has been a few days, weeks or years, the process is essentially the same. Knowing this process is a key skill for artists who want to live fulfilling creative lives.

At the end of May I went to Mexico on a spiritual retreat. It was soul-nourishing, wonderful and rich.

Coming home, I feel deeply reconnected to my Essence, in a place of deeper quiet, trust and ease. I feel mysterious transformations and gifts moving in me on a subterranean level. I feel truly blessed.

Almost immediately I came down with a bad cold, which turned into a fever, then a nasty cough. I’ve been astonishingly tired and had to move at a snail’s pace for the past week.

What with the busy time leading up to retreat, the week away and then being sick, it has been a while since I have been in my studio writing.

Now, when I attempt to begin again, nothing comes.

Do I panic over this? Not at all.

I know this is a totally normal phase, and I know how to move through it.

What You Should Know 

You will have resistance. Know that you need to move through the resistance, rather than buy into it. In this way, you’ll be able to get back to doing what you love.

You may be terrible at first. I call it “Grinding the Gears,” because that’s what it feels like when I’m trying to begin creating again. If you stick with it and are gentle with yourself, this will pass pretty soon, and those gears will be greased and moving smoothly again.

Rekindle a Creative Habit

creative friends making a pact

photo by rawpixel on unsplash

The first thing is to rekindle your regular creative time. Get back in your habits again, if you had them, or start some new ones.

Set aside some days and times that you will make your art. You may need to put those times in your calendar, or perhaps you decide that every weekday evening you’ll take ½ hour to play your guitar, or on Sunday you are going to play with paints. Smaller, regular bursts of time will help you get your groove back, even if it’s been years.

Make a commitment to yourself and keep it, even if in the moment you don’t feel like it. Remember, you have to move through resistance.

It can help enormously to have some companionship, either by taking a class, making a date to make art with a friend, or forming a group to share works-in-progress.

Start Small and Easy

When we return to our art after being away, we face resistance to creating. This is normal. Starting small and easy lowers your resistance, making the way more inviting and fun.

Begin in some easy way to get reconnected to your art, your creativity, your love of making things. Remember why you want to do it in the first place, what it can give you, others, our world.

person reading

photo by Lilly Rum on Unsplash

For me, that happens by reading. I read some poems by other poets. I read about the art and craft of poetry or writing. I may read a bit about the lives of artists or about the creative process.

This is reading for inspiration, not pleasure. I’m not sinking into the couch with a novel for hours. I’m trolling for inspiration, while I’m in my studio at my appointed time.

Then I read some of my own work. I may do some revising.

I’ll give myself a prompt and do a little freewriting.

I may keep the studio time shorter than usual at first.

I want the process to be as inviting, easeful and inspiring as possible.

When I’ve been away from my violin for a long time, I usually begin with a 10-minute session, perhaps 20 minutes. I will play some scales or scale patterns and then improvise for a few minutes. And then I put the violin away before I get discouraged or burnt out. I want to stop while I still feel hungry for more and still feel good about playing.

What are some small, easy, inviting ways for you to begin again? What is the least threatening, most enjoyable way back?

Permission is the Key that Unlocks the Door

As always, the most important aspect of getting started again is my attitude.

And the most important attitude is permission. Giving myself permission to play, experiment, make messes, and most of all, make “bad” art.

I know that often when I start again after being away there is a period I call “grinding the gears.” My words come slowly and awkwardly. The writing is often terrible.

I accept this time and don’t fret over it. I know it’s a necessary stage in the cycle of returning to my creativity. And it passes.

If I let myself be awful for a while, pretty soon the words and imagination start flowing again. I find what I am excited about now, what I want to say, how I want to say it. I find the joy of creating.

Breaks Can Produce Growth

I may discover the time away was a great blessing, allowing me to refresh my connection to my creativity, to learn things while away from it, and to come back with new gifts.

Back when I was playing my violin for hours a day, I was surprised to discover that a break of a few weeks or even a few months could lead to a strange quantum leap in my abilities. As if I had figured something out while away from it.

Longer breaks don’t usually produce this kind of growth. Instead, there will be a loss of ability that I have to make peace with and gently make my way back, rebuilding skills and facility over time.

performer with painted face holding herself tenderly

photo by svetlana pochatun on unsplash

However, at the same time I may have new life experiences and other kinds of growth that do feed my art in new ways. I want to be open to these, curious about who I am now and how I want to make art now, and not just fall into old ruts.

Be Kind and Encouraging to Yourself

Gentleness is very important. You want to think of yourself as a child that you are encouraging to be creative. How you treat yourself will have a big impact on your creativity and your art.

So, be the best parent you can be to your inner artist—incredibly loving and encouraging but firm too.

Now it’s time to get to it! Make a time, make some art! Let it be easy and fun.

Share with me in the comments below what you got from reading this and any questions you have. Let’s keep filling our world with beauty, truth, imagination, wonder, play.

Create an Ode

Create an Ode

Get your imagination sizzling with this creativity prompt to create an ode.

In this post I walk you through Ellen Bass’ lovely poem Ode to the First Peach. I show you what makes the poem sing and how to create your own ode in any art form you choose.

This prompt is not just for writers. Although I will talk about principles of good writing here, I will also share ideas of how to translate these principles to other art forms.

Whether in writing, painting, dance, sculpture, photography or some other medium, I invite you to craft an ode.

First, let’s look at what an ode is and how we might make one that really shines.

Read Ellen Bass’ Ode to the First Peach here.

The Marriage of Content and Form

Notice how the poem is juicy with language in the way a peach is overabundant in its sweetness and deliciousness. This poem positively spurts with rich, vibrant language. The language matches the subject.

If Ellen Bass were describing a prison cell, the language would need to be colder and harder. Reading this poem provides a rich pleasure like eating a ripe peach.

What Is an Ode?

An ode is an homage, a poem of praise to a specific person, place or thing. Like a letter of appreciation to that thing.

Typically, the ode addresses the thing being praised directly, speaking not just about it but to it. Such as starting with, “O beautiful ____”. Ellen Bass’ poem does not address the peach directly, but it’s still very much an ode.

Let’s look closer at her ode and see what we can discover to inspire and inform our own creations.

By doing this, we will learn how to approach a work of art to glean both information and inspiration. We will gather information about what is strong and effective. We’ll also harvest inspiration to create our own beautiful and true work.

Choose Verbs That Tremble With Aliveness

I start by looking at the verbs, because exciting verbs are so vital to vivid, effective language.

One of the first things you can do to improve a piece of writing is to go back and look at your verbs. See where you might change the verbs to more specific, accurate, alive ones—not speak but whisper, not run but gallop, not laugh but chortle.

Of course, like all things, this can be overdone, and you need to consider the style and tone of the piece when choosing your verbs. However, a well chosen verb can do a great deal of good work for a piece of writing.

Here are all of the verbs in Ellen Bass’ ode:

feasted, plugs, severed, shines, silvered, darken, turn, imagine, be, reflected, becomes, shoots, ravished, were, fallen, dreamed, curried, remaking.

Notice how she only uses the word “to be” twice. Most of the verbs she chooses shiver with life.

If you aren’t a writer: What is the equivalent of a verb in your medium? What propels the action, brings movement and energy? Is it a fast run of notes in music? Is it bright colors in painting? Or perhaps a specific verb like “shiver” instead of “was cold” is equivalent to a subtle blending of colors instead of using a primary hue. You decide and then examine your use of that element.

Use Adjectives (and Adverbs) With Care

Next let’s look at the adjectives.

Adjectives need to be used with care. Too many adjectives begin to cancel each other out. And they can make the writing feel overburdened, cumbersome.

Yet a well-chosen adjective can bring something radiantly to life for the reader.

Notice how sparingly Ellen Bass uses adjectives in this poem, which nonetheless achieves a lushness. Most of the nouns in the poem stand alone without an adjective to define them. They don’t need an adjective because the nouns themselves are so well-chosen and vibrant. We’ll look at them in a moment.

Here are the adjectives in this poem:

one, clear, next, golden, heavier, sudden, dense, first, lustrous, silent, swollen, clefted, flaming.

Look how wonderful and apt the adjectives are for their subject, the peach. And at the same time how vivid they are as words, not just “round” or “orange,” but “clefted” and “lustrous.” The adjectives not only have specificity but also feel good in the mouth to say. And we feel them in our bodies.

If you aren’t a writer: An adjective is something that modifies or describes a noun. If the noun is the subject matter of your piece, what might be the equivalent of an adjective? In a dance piece, it might be a gesture of the hand or a bend of the head that modifies the larger movement and gives it a particular flavor. In music, it might be an ornament, a trill, a bend of a note or distortion.

Be Specific With Your Nouns

Now let’s consider the nouns.

Here they are:

insect, stub, resin, scar, hollow, stem, juice, fur, caul, minute, hairs, palm, flesh, weight, newborn, marriage, citron, blush, planet, hall, mirrors, swan, fairy, sky, dawn, beginning, world, pith, stars, coins, pockets, night, chaos, scent, morning, sugar, bruise, hunger, life, remnant, ripeness.

What an extraordinary collection of nouns!

Some of them are concrete descriptions of aspects of a peach, such as stem, scar, juice, scent.

But many of them are imaginative metaphors to help us appreciate the peach in a new light. Metaphors can work magic in a poem.

If you aren’t a writer: The nouns are the nuts and bolts of your piece, its subject matter or foundational elements—a key phrase in a dance piece, perhaps, or a musical theme.

You might think of the nouns as the building blocks of the piece, the verbs as what connects and gives momentum to those building blocks, and the adjectives as flourishes or ornaments that add nuance.

In whatever medium you are working in, make sure your “nouns” are strong and apt, as vivid and right as they can be for the piece.

And what about using metaphor, likening one thing to another to help us experience your subject in a richer or new way?

Create Your Own Ode

Now that we have gathered this information about what makes this poem come alive, let’s use it for inspiration to create our own ode.

1. Choose a subject for your ode, something you wish to praise. It could be something you love, but it could also be something difficult, which you will use your ode to learn to appreciate. For instance, I recently wrote an ode to frustration.

2. Start by free-associating a list of lively verbs, nouns and adjectives, or phrases combining them, to describe the subject of your ode. Include startling, original metaphors.

You might also make notes of memories of your subject, details of the specific pleasures it has brought to you.

3. Now choose the best of these to begin making a first draft of an ode. Or start by just allowing yourself to play freely with the subject and see what arises.

Let yourself experiment. Be wild, inventive, playful. Odes often are. Or be melodramatic, over-the-top in your exaltation of this thing. Discover the voice that is suited to your subject.

Don’t try to be perfect in the first draft. That kills creativity. Just get some ideas on paper or in your medium-of-choice.

If you aren’t a writer: Even if you are working in a non-verbal medium, such as dance or painting, you can still begin by writing out images, associations and metaphors to more fully delve into your subject. You can also begin by deciding key elements of your piece—musical or dance phrases, color palette and so on.

Refine and Revise

Then, go back, refine, revise, hone.

If you are writing, look at every verb. Can any be strengthened?

Look at every adjective. Can any be removed and the line will be as strong or stronger? Can any adjectives be replaced by using a more vital, specific noun instead?

Look at your nouns. Are they the most dynamic and apt ones to meet your subject? Have you used metaphor to bring your subject more vividly to life and to bring delight and surprise to the reader?

If you are making an ode with dance, how could you use non-representational movement to create an ode to a peach, for instance? Instead of showing someone eating a peach, how could you suggest the ecstasy, sweetness, surprise of biting into a ripe peach? How could you metaphorically depict the juice running down your face or the slow ripening to colors of sunset?

If you are writing music, how could the notes reflect the burnished quality of a peach, the lushness?

If you are painting, what in the painting, in the background perhaps or the colors or textures, leads us to experience the subject in a new and deeper way? What is it you most wish to communicate about this subject to the viewer? Perhaps the painting is non-representational but takes us to a place of feeling the subject.

Let yourself have fun with making an ode.

Perhaps you would like to give yourself the project of making a series of odes on different subjects. Odes engage our senses, our gratitude, our imagination.

To get more ideas about wild and wonderful odes, check out Pablo Neruda’s odes. Here’s my favorite of those: Ode to My Socks

What are you inspired to make an ode about now? Begin making some notes.

Why It’s Important to Follow Your Dreams

Why It’s Important to Follow Your Dreams

What Are dreams? Why Do They Matter?

Each of us, like a flower or tree, is encoded with who we are meant to be, what we are here to give, our unique beauty and gifts.

Each of us is encoded with dreams, desires, longings and visions that are here to lead us to the life that is meant for us, the life that will bring the most fulfillment, joy, meaning and connection, aliveness.

That path is not arbitrary and neither are the dreams you carry.

Dreams, as I speak of them here, are the visions and yearnings of our heart and soul that call us to our largest life, the lessons and growth we need on our path, the giving of our gifts, the realization of our greatness.

When you follow your dreams, it not only transforms your life, it transforms our world.

However, that is not what we have been told much of the time. We have been told to be practical and reasonable, to follow the status quo, to want what society tells us to want, to settle for good enough, to listen to our minds not our hearts.

Or perhaps we have been told, “You can be or have anything you set your mind to,” rather than being guided to discover the life that is already in our souls.

This leaves us feeling confused and unhappy, even if on the outside it looks like we have a good life.

The Cost of Not Following Your Dreams

So, it is vitally important to listen to your heart’s and soul’s dreams. They are your guidestar, your roadmap to a brilliant, beautiful life. When you ignore them, you feel dispirited, depressed, out of sorts and unfulfilled.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” —from The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels

Your unique gifts, the callings of your soul, when not brought forth will gnaw at you and harm you.

“How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to?” —Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

It doesn’t just cost your happiness, health and well-being to ignore your dreams, it is extremely costly for our world.

We need you to be the person you came here to be, to shine in the fullness of your brilliance, to believe in the beauty of your dreams. Our world is in a dire condition because of lack of connection to the heart and because people are not finding and using their gifts.

Young man dancing in the street

photo by Andre Hunter

The Power of Following Your Dreams

When Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have a dream,” he spelled out that dream in beautiful, compelling terms. It was a bold dream, a vision way beyond the world he found himself in at the time. Yet he committed his life to help bring that dream about. Because of his daring to dream, the civil rights movement made significant, vital strides toward a more just society. And many people have been inspired to continue his vision.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” —Howard Thurman, author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader

It is not for yourself alone that you dare to dream and follow your dreams, it is for the huge impact that has on others, on the world around you, even on those you never see or meet. One person following their dreams is tremendously inspiring and enlivening to others, and activates the dreams in them.

“The presence of a vital person vitalizes.” —Joseph Campbell

You Need Help to Follow Your Dreams

Dreaming takes courage. When you choose to follow your dreams, you comeup against what holds you back in many areas of your life. You will encounter your false beliefs, bad habits and illusory limitations.

And so our dreams lead us on our path of growth. They lead us to transform what has been keeping us small and dissatisfied.

That is why we need support when we start to dream big. By big I simply mean outside of what we currently believe is possible for us—whether that is finding true love or sailing around the world, healing your body or starting a charitable foundation, writing a book or becoming a rock star. We are designed to need the support of others to manifest our dreams. We are interdependent beings that thrive in connection.

two friends walking together on railroad tracks

photo by Jonathan Pendelton on Unsplash

The larger the dream, the more support we need. A big dream needs a dream team of mentors, friends, helpers and allies to support us on our heart path. You cannot do this alone.

So, dreams in the sense I talk about them are not our night-time dreams but the dreams of our hearts and souls.

The dreams I am talking about are essential to who we are, essential to our happiness and well-being, essential to our world.

If you wish to live a fulfilled and joyful life, you need to listen to your heart. You need to follow your dreams, even if they seem impossible or absurd from where you are standing now.

If you wish to give your gifts and help create a beautiful world for all, it is time to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. Take action toward those dreams.

Start now.

Next Steps

To read more about how to follow your dreams and your path of heart, check out:

How to Access the Power of Love to Realize Your Dreams

The Shining Bridge to Reach Your Dreams

To get support on your path of dreams, check out: Creative Life Coaching

Entering the Word Temple of Poetry

Entering the Word Temple of Poetry

The Chinese character for poetry is made up of two parts, “word” and “temple.”*

Let us enter the sacred word temple of poetry. Let us be housed by holy words.

What makes a poem holy?

The care it took to select each word like a stone, carve it to a perfect fit with other word-stones.

The mastery to shape phrases, images, metaphors that strike, move, tantalize, challenge, even confound.

The precision to stack these carved words into a poem, so that it stands as a singular temple.

The attention to calculate the architecture of the poem—its line breaks, line lengths, stanza breaks, form, its flow through the rooms—“stanza” means room in Italian. To hollow out with words a hallowed space.

In all this care and careful craft, we are invited into sanctuary, the breathing presence, awe.

Each poem that is made with true care is a word temple, a temple made of words and a temple to language, expression, communication, art.

Poetry invites our wonder, deep feeling, delight, recognition, pain.

Poetry gifts us with beauty, the grace of a carefully-made thing, unique expression, honesty, reflection. It gifts us with art, and that is, or at least can be, sacred.

Let us enter the word temple of poetry.

Let us approach the poem with reverence, inner quiet, our senses alert for the Presence of the Beyond.

In some poems we may be disappointed, as in some churches, we are left without a feeling of the Sacred. But let us come with that hope and yearning with which we approach God or a sacred grove.

Let us let ourselves be permeated by the poem, each cell absorbing the words, images, sounds, feelings, ideas.

Let us let ourselves be wounded by poetry and also healed, approaching with such open hearts, minds and bodies that we can be pierced by the poem’s clear seeing and deep feeling.

We can be upset by its provocations. We can be lifted by its hot-air-balloon joy or rent open by its pure grief. We can be dissolved by its truth.

Let us enter the word temple of poetry and worship there together.

To your poetic heart,

Maxima

*I learned this inspiring fact from Copper Canyon Press, a leading publisher of exceptional poetry in the United States, whose logo is the Chinese character for poetry.

P.S. If you liked this post, please share it.

P.P.S. If you would like to engage in one-on-one mentorship with me to craft extraordinary poems or other writing/creations of your own, my creativity mentoring may be for you. In April, for National Poetry Month, I’m offering 20% off on my mentoring packages.

 

To read more about poetry and writing, check out these posts: Scenes from the Past: A Creativity Prompt and Give Voice to Your Own Astonishment

The One Thing You Need for a Prolific Creative Life

The One Thing You Need for a Prolific Creative Life

Is there one thing that makes the difference between a happy, prolific creative life and a frustrating one filled with fits and starts? In this post, I answer this and how it can change your whole life, not just your creativity.

About a week ago, I went to a wonderful literary event in my town.

One of my goals for myself as a writer is to attend at least one literary event every month.

Writing is an introverted art form, so this goal helps to get me out of the house and involved in the literary community. It also provides inspiration.

Hint: Make a simple goal to support yourself in having creative community and regular doses of inspiration.

Every two months YubaLit hosts a reading that features a mix of local and non-local authors, reading from works that range from fiction to poetry to memoir. In addition, anyone who attends the reading may put their name in a hat for a chance to read a single page or poem. Five writers get this opportunity at each event.

The quality is exceptionally high, the format engaging, the evenings always lively. I have been to most of the readings since the series got its start a couple of years ago.

The event I recently attended was a book launch for Sands Hall’s remarkable memoir, Flunk. Start.: Reclaiming My Decade Lost to Scientology. Her book is absolutely riveting, warm, compassionate, both painful and uplifting. I am devouring it. You can get it at your local bookstore or at Powells.com (which is an independent bookstore and therefore way better than Amazon.)

Something happened at the reading that I had to share with you.

Is There Just One Thing?

At the event I met Don Rogers, the publisher of The Union, our local newspaper. As I told him about my work as a teacher and creativity coach, he asked me if there was one thing that it all boils down to in terms of fostering the creative process and reaching our creative aspirations.

I replied, “There isn’t just one thing, but if there were, it would be routines.”

There is nothing more central to a vibrant, fulfilling creative life than having a regular creative practice.

If you read about the lives of prolific artists in all disciplines, you will be amazed at how they almost all talk about their creative routines. Sometimes these involve elaborate and arcane rituals, sometimes simple and prosaic. But, all of these artists adhere to their routines with a combination of religious devotion and the ferocity of a mother bear protecting her cub.

I do the same.

Four days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I am in my studio, writing, reading, revising, researching, sending out work. When I have more time, I spend more time, but those hours are sacrosanct. I don’t schedule meetings, doctor’s appointments or phone calls during that time.

writer at work

photo by Matthew Lejune on Unsplash

If You Show Up, Your Muse Will Too

Artists who are consistently creative almost all adhere to a regular schedule of times during which they create. They don’t wait for inspiration to show up. They show up and inspiration comes. Not every time, but they learn to work when they are not feeling inspired also.

They don’t wait for their lives to settle down, or to have the perfect space, or for the to do list to be completed (it never will be), or even for the most urgent items on that list to be crossed off.

Prolific artists—artists who are actually making art—make their art their priority and show up unfailingly.

Most of all, they don’t wait until they feel like making art, because we will always put things in the way of making art. We will always want to stall and make excuses.

Our Art Brings Up Resistance

Art demands that we show up fully, that we are vulnerable and real, that we risk and challenge ourselves in ways that much of our daily lives don’t require. Making art is one of the hardest—as well as the most fun and rewarding—things we can do. Because it’s hard and it’s risky, we resist it.

If there is one thing that makes the difference in feeling fulfilled in your creativity, and therefore in your life, it is having a regular creative practice.

The students I work with who resist routines are also the ones that struggle with bursts of inspiration followed by dry spells and doubts. They are the ones who feel they can’t get control of their time or their lives. They can’t stay focused or bring things to completion.

The ones who have a regular creative practice generally come to our sessions excited, glowing, feeling on purpose in their lives. And they get to see things come to fruition.

When We Make Time for Art, Life Feels Better

The reason they are glowing is they are making time for what they love, what lights them up. Doing that radically changes how we feel about our whole lives. It changes how we move through our day.

You need to find a routine that works for you, your way of creating, your schedule, your energy.

If you are struggling with that, please know: There is nothing wrong with you! This is incredibly common among artists.

You may need some wise suggestions around how to find and stick to a creative habit that works for you. You probably need to learn tools to move through resistance, fears and blocks to creating. Both of these can require some skilled facilitation.

But most of all you need to commit with your whole heart to a plan of when you will create each week, not allowing anything to come in the way.

Then, the magic begins!

To your prolific creativity,

Maxima

P.S. If you would love to develop a creative habit that feels wonderfully exciting, if you would love to see your creative aspirations come to life, contact me for a free Discovery Session to explore how my Creativity Mentoring can change your life.

You may also want to read my posts on The Power of Creative Routines and The Power of Ritual.

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