Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge promoter of daily creative practice, and there’s a reason for that: due to childhood abuse and conditioning, I grew up to be a very anxious, fearful person, and if left to my own devices, I’d do *nothing* for fear of failing at *everything*.
What does the one have to do with the other?
Having a daily creative practice means I eliminate all the stuff that shows up pretending to be one thing, when at the root of it, it is another thing: namely, abject terror.
Here’s what I mean:
BEFORE DAILY PRACTICE: I don’t feel like it. (I’m afraid.) I don’t have the space. (I’m afraid.) My studio is a mess. (I’m afraid.) Nothing I do turns out the way I want it. (I’m afraid.) No one will like it. (I’m afraid.) It’s a waste of time. (I’m afraid.) I’ll attract unwanted attention. (I’m afraid.)
AFTER DAILY PRACTICE: I don’t feel like it. (I’m afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway.) I don’t have the space. (I’m afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway.) My studio is a mess. (I’m afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway.) Nothing I do turns out the way I want it. (I’m afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway.) No one will like it. (I’m afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway.) It’s a waste of time. (I’m afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway.) I’ll attract unwanted attention. (I’m afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway.)
When flying by the seat of my pants was my mode of operation, I ended up with a million unfinished projects, a sense of self-loathing, more anxiety, and more fear. When daily practice became my mode of operation, I ended up with full art journals, a sense of accomplishment, less anxiety, and more courage.
See what I mean?
It didn’t just stop at the creative expression slice of my life pie, though. It expanded, extended itself into the work slice, the relationship slice, the personal empowerment slice.
When I first started to make the shift from flying by the seat of my pants (Pantsing!) into plodding through it no matter what (Plodding!), I was a wreck. I was easily knocked off balance. An unkind word could send me reeling into despair. Trolls on the Internet had enormous power (that I gave them) to render me into a puddle of snot bubble blowing, tear-stained goo on the floor (my husband LOVED that! NOT!). I was anxious all the time, constantly wondering am I doing this right? Will people like it? Will people like me? And their liking me or not liking me was a BIG DEAL. I was chasing my tail, trying to be everyone’s cuppa without stopping to ask if I was my *own* cuppa. I was a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ so wrapped up in everybody liking me, so afraid they wouldn’t, that I was a constant knee-jerk reaction. Which is understandable and forgivable, considering my history, but which is also so not likable. While most people in my life (both virtual and actual) are forgiving and understand that we’re all human, some others, due to wounds of their own, smelled blood in the water. Guess which ones mattered most to me? Guess who had the greater impact?
Fast forward to today. When I don’t feel like creating, I do it anyway and let it come. I trust my muse. I like most of what I create and other people liking it (or liking me) has become gravy instead of main course. I know that I can’t please everybody and I don’t exhaust myself trying. I believe in what I deliver and I am moving (slowly but surely) into charging accordingly. My shoulders are squared back. My head is up. I plan. I execute those plans. I say I’m going to do something and I do it. My journals are filled to bursting. My hands are stained with ink and paint. And when I stumble on a nasty bit of Internet fuckwittery, I roll my eyes and move on. It registers (because I still have work to do) but it doesn’t *devastate*. I can even move in the same circles with people who have been less than kind, and, again ~ it registers, but I don’t shrink in response. In fact, I stand taller. Throw more glitter. Smile and praise and attend to what is praiseworthy and ignore (and even occasionally feel empathy) over what doesn’t serve me. I have forgiven and extended my hand in friendship to people who were hurtful to me in my past and I feel *good about that*. I am absolutely certain that my boundaries are intact, that I can survive anything thrown my way, and that I’m moving forward toward the kind of life *I want for myself*.
It seems I graduated from adolescence in my forties, and though that is way late, when I consider what I’ve been through in my life I know I’m lucky I ever graduated at all. I want to sit in gratitude over that for a moment because ~ wow ~ that deserves a moment!
Some of the lessons I finally took in over the last few years are lessons I tried to integrate for *decades*, so some of this feels like an evolutionary leap. I can hardly connect the dots from where I started to where I ended up sometimes, because some of the changes are *that big a deal*. But I have to remember: it is the *plodding* that did it. It is the slow, certain, determined *work* of putting what I think might be true into practice so I can arrive at *knowing* what is true. It was the exercising of the dreaded discipline habit that brought me here. It feels like a miracle sometimes, but the truth is, it is the culmination of years of very hard work. Once I added a pinch (okay, a fistful) of daily creative practice, poof! It all came together. It is as though I’d worked the dough forEVER, trying to knead and punch it into shape, but I was missing something ~ the leavening ~ and once I added it, voila! The most delicious loaf of bread.
Daily Creative practice rocks.
(And so do you, and so do I.)