The Connection Between Change & Creativity

1012637_10151465165496423_1466518835_nI almost bailed on the World Domination Summit. True story.

Not because I didn’t want to go, but because in my pre-house-selling-pre-moving-abroad frenzy, I didn’t think I could give up a weekend for a road trip to Portland just for the purposes of being inspired.

But one of my besties was flying in from the east coast for the event, and so pulling out wasn’t an option. So around 2pm on a Friday afternoon, we climbed into my Prius, jumped onto I-5, and headed south. For me, WDS was on.

When I first signed up in January to go to the summit which was created in 2011 by unconventional author and blogger Chris Gillibeau, I did so for 3 reasons: 1) I wanted to take away learning that would help me creatively grow my business, 2) a handful of friends I love and respect were going and I wanted to soak in some of their goodness, and 3) great speakers + a room full of world changers = good stuff.

But with the move madness going on at home, by the time I arrived at WDS, I frankly didn’t even know why I was there. My mind was elsewhere and I was feeling out of sorts. But I decided to just stay open to whatever the experience had offer me, and in doing so, I quickly realized that the biggest reason on my original list, the one about being inspired to creatively grow my business, wasn’t really on track. In fact, as I listened to talks by the likes of Nancy Duarte, Tess Vigeland, Jia Jiang, Gretchen Rubin, and Darren Rowse, I understood there was a very clear purpose for why I was there  – WDS was about helping me set an intention for our upcoming move to Amsterdam and the major shift my family and I are in the midst of.

Deciding to take this huge leap of faith to leave our lives in Seattle and move overseas has and continues to be scary, hard, exciting, stressful. Our nearly 9-year-old son is, to put it bluntly, seriously pissed off about the whole thing, and more than once my husband and I have asked ourselves why we were doing this…why we felt the need to disrupt what is arguably a very good life in the Northwest. We’ve got a nice home, a great neighborhood, good jobs, views of snow-capped mountains year-round, fresh air.

But this is the change we asked for. And this is the change we know in our hearts is best for our family. Being at World Domination Summit and being surrounded by people who crave adventure, community, living an unconventional life, the pursuing of big dreams, and share a belief that what we are here to do matters reminded me just how critical taking this leap is.

Change is hard. But it’s such an amazing thing. It’s where the good stuff happens. As a writer and creative person, I know it’s where the inspiration for new work comes from.

For me, I ultimately took away more from the World Domination Summit than I ever could have imagined. I was reminded of some powerful truisms that hit the spot:

  • True vulnerability is the key to powerful connection
  • We’re never too busy to be inspired
  • We are not alone
  • Transparency and  humility is where it’s at
  • There are a lot of people doing some really cool shit out there
  • There is value in setting out on a journey with no map or plan (watch the documentary Janapar)
  • Alone time wandering in a new city can’t be beat
  • Generosity and community are interconnected
  • My work life and my personal life can’t be separated

I arrived home from the weekend inspired and focused and ready to embark on this new adventure and experience what our life in Europe has in store for my whole family. I still have days where I feel overwhelmed or sad but bigger than that is the sense of deep knowing and trust that our move itself and the adventures that will come as a result of it are actually part of what we’re here to create.

So there’s no other choice but to embrace the change, leap off that cliff, and simply be in each and every moment of our new life in The Netherlands.

Oh, and figure out  a way to get to Portland next July for the next WDS…there’s that too…

The Deadline Tango

421930_10151456316921423_919461057_nWhen I signed a contract for my next book, Doable: How to Accomplish Just About Anything, several months ago with a manuscript delivery deadline of October 1, I thought, no problem. Sure, I had some other major work things going on at the time, but my plan was to dedicate the entire summer to cranking out the book. I’d have a rough draft by the end of August and then have the month of September to tighten, clean up, and finesse. Perfect.

What I didn’t anticipate was that in early June we would get word that our family was relocating to The Netherlands in August. And as excited as I was about the news, I also started experiencing a low-level panic as I realized my long, leisurely writing days of summer were about to go up in smoke.

Once my husband and I got down to some serious planning, the massive To Do list was born. There are contractors to hire, getting the house on the market, finding long-term storage, packing, move logistics, and more.

Meanwhile, my lovely little book? The one that’s all about how any goal or To Do can be doable? Well, let’s just say it’s providing me with a perfect opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.

Here’s my new and improved plan: Complete first draft of manuscript by July 31st so while I’m in the middle of the move I can be editing and tweaking instead of writing. I can lug that draft with me everywhere I go and edit as I can.

My strategy for the next 28 days? Write in short, productive bursts — 15-30 minutes each — multiple times throughout each day and chip away at the book, chapter by chapter. I find that this kind of writing, especially when under deadline, keeps the creative well open. If I reach a point during one of these bursts where I feel stuck or the words aren’t coming, I consider that burst over and close the laptop. Usually by the time I come back to it hours later, I’ll be ready to dive back in from a fresh place.

The process isn’t pretty, but it gets the job done. (At least that’s my plan!)

* * * * *

If you want to know more about my personal creative and writing process, I just recorded an interview with the fabulous Gia Duke where I share what my days look like when I’m on deadline and juggling a very busy life. Listen to the interview here, and be sure to check out Gia’s Super Love Summer Mashup for more interviews and awesome content from a pretty kick-ass crew of people.

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

800px-Amsterdam_052006For the past few months, big changes have been brewing in my world. The kind of changes that my husband and I dreamed about and hoped for, that we knew deep down in our core were going to happen, but were simultaneously completely and utterly freaked out that we just might get what we asked for and then we’d have no choice but to take a big scary leap. (Or maybe that last part was just me…)

I’ve been sitting on this news for a few weeks now — I didn’t want to say anything until things were 100 percent definite and I’ve also needed time to tell my family and friends what’s happening.

So here’s the big reveal…

At the end of August, my family and I will be relocating to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. (Insert squeal here!) For the past few years, we’ve been craving a traveling adventure and luckily we’ve been able to finagle it through my husband’s job.

Our plan is to go abroad for 2-3 years to see and experience as much as we can. While I’m admittedly terrified of diving headfirst into many unknowns with an almost 9-year-old in tow, we know in our gut that this is the right thing for our family, and the excitement outweighs the fear (on most days).

My greatest intention for this adventure is that it enables us as a family and as individuals the opportunity for lots of growth, connection, and fun. I know there will be days where I question what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into (these days are already occurring as we begin packing up and selling a house, I frantically try to wrap up my manuscript which is due to my publisher by Oct 1, and manage the expectations of my son who isn’t really bought into the whole idea … yet).

I honestly don’t know how it’s all going to play out, but I think that’s kind of the point, right?

So for now, I’ll close by simply saying, “To be continued…”

6 Tips for Diving Back Into a Creative Project

Diving_BoardGot deadlines?

Me too. More than a few.

I’m usually good with deadlines when everything’s humming along and going smoothly, but as the mantra coined by Martha Beck goes, Everything’s changing all the time.

While sometimes these changes can be good — having a close friend move back to town or getting a promotion at work or finding a new coffee place that makes the best latte in town — other, less positive changes can completely derail us and bring our work to a halt, our finely laid plan rendered useless.

And of course those deadlines are still there, nagging at us. And at some point we need to collect ourselves, regroup, and dive back in to our work. Of course, this is one of those easier-said-than-done kind of things. Like re-entering the real world after a vacation, diving back in to a project that we’ve stepped away from can feel daunting and overwhelming. And that feeling can be enough to keep us stuck, helpless bystanders as we watch the days tick by and our deadline marching towards us.

I’m in such a place right now, but I am climbing to the top of the high dive and getting ready to plunge into the pool. Here’s how I’m going to do it:

Change it Up: Life has been full of change, so why not use change as a tool for re-entry? My plan is to formally shift gears and immerse myself in my project by finding a new venue to work on it. By creating a new routine and associating a specific place with this project, I’m using Chip & Dan Heath’s strategy of shaping my path to help me formulate a new habit…one that leads to my successfully tackling my work.

Revisit & Review: If you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship, you know it takes a little getting-to-know-you-again time to get back into the comfortable swing of things. The same applies to creative projects. I’m going to spend time rereading my development content for my project, articles, drafts, and more to get back into the headspace. It may look like procrastination, but it’s really a critical part of the work transition.

Be Patient & Judgment-Free: Feeling bad about just how off-schedule I am doesn’t really do anything except hinder my creative process. So I accept my situation for what it is, give myself time to get back into the swing of things, and turn off the self-judgment (the word “should” doesn’t really have a place in this conversation).

Take Small Steps: While I’m going to dive back in to the project, I’ll picture the slow-mo replay version of said dive. I’ll start small and set simple targets for what I want to accomplish each day. I know that once I’m fully immersed in the project I’ll eventually get back to a state of creative flow.

Get Accountability: This is a biggie. I’m turning to my people who are my cheerleaders, my supporters, and my accountability partners and I’m publicly declaring…I will be doing X this week. I’ll ask them to check in on me and make sure I’m on track, and possibly send a few words of encouragement. If I feel really brave, I’ll publicly declare my goal and ask my social media community to hold me to it.

Reward Myself: I’m such a sucker for rewards, so this is a no-brainer for me. I’ll set targets for what I hope to accomplish each day / week, and will happily cash in on my rewards, which will include a late-night frozen yogurt run, a mid-day nap, a trip to the beach with my son (even if it is 52 degrees and raining…). Small rewards for small tasks are proven to work, so I intend to use them!

So that’s what I’ve got. I feel pretty sure it’s going to work.

How about you? What strategies do you use to dive back in to a project after life has thrown you a curve ball?

When Spring Fever Hits

mom and ashI don’t know about you, but I’m experiencing some serious spring fever. Longer days, my garden in bloom, and an unusual sunny streak (for Seattle) has something to do with it, as I’m sure does the fact that I spent last week in NYC where I lived during my twenties and still feels very much like home to me. (That’s a pic of me and my boy at the Bronx Zoo.)

Since last week, I’ve been overcome by excitement about the many things I want to do and create. Even better, I feel like I might just have the energy to get (half of) them done.

But I’ve been here before — I get all pumped up about new possibilities and new projects and then one little thing happens (or more appropriately, doesn’t happen) and I get completely derailed.

I have a bad day with my son or a rainy cold front blows in or something I’m developing gets quashed and suddenly I’m back to square one, my energy and momentum gone and my mindset ripe for thoughts of insecurity and doubt.

I know it’s part of the cycle for creative entrepreneurs, but it still takes getting through.

But during this bout of spring fever, I’m going to try doing things a little differently…see if I can make some genuine shifts in my work and energy that can weather me through all the seasons. Here’s my plan:

  • More action now, less To Do lists: I love to organize my work and desk and often that means spending time going through my pile and making detailed lists and notes outlining what has to be done for each task. Meanwhile, I could probably just do it in about 5 minutes and be done with it. So I’m going to do more of that.
  • Spend less time on Facebook: Now, I love me some Facebook and the community I interact with online is important to me, but I’m going to try and strike a better balance. I’m a research junkie and a five-minute check-in on Facebook can turn into a long trip down the rabbit hole reading articles and following links that are of interest, so setting my timer will be key.
  • Focus on gratitude: I’ve been taking a 30-day gratitude course that Florence Moyer created to help people nurture a more intentional gratitude practice. I’m a week in and enjoying the daily reminder to notice all that I’m grateful for, and I can see shifts in keeping me in the present and not so focused on the outcome of what I’m creating.This is a good thing.
  • Be curious: A curiosity mindset is so, so, so powerful. Curiosity means a desire to know or learn something. Curiosity makes everything — every project, every risk, every idea — about growth and evolving, not about money or jobs or sure things. There are no good or bad outcomes when focusing on curiosity — there’s only information.
  •  Think less: Thinking gets me into trouble. Thinking reminds me of what could go wrong, or why something isn’t going to work out, or why my idea might be a bad one. Thinking keeps me from taking creative risks and pursuing opportunities that could be amazing because I might create something that completely sucks. Which leads me to….
  • Be willing to suck: There’s nothing wrong with sucking. We’ve just dust ourselves off, look at what we learned from what happened, and move on. Without being willing to suck, we’ll never create the really good stuff.
  • Play more: I know I need to do things I love to stay energized, so I’m going to protect my personal self-care routines more than ever. That includes running, gardening, spazzing out, and napping when the urge strikes.

So, that’s the plan. I’ll let you know how it goes. And in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you: How do you maintain your creative spring fever?