The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘goal setting

We’re two weeks into 2017. Have you already broken one of your New Year’s resolutions regarding your creative life?

If so, you’re in good company as studies show that at least one third of people break their resolutions within the first week of making them. And, almost half of all people who make resolutions break them within a month.

Most of us don’t reach our creative goals without structure and accountability.

Doors are almost closed on my signature ‘Tone Your Creative Core™’ Program.

I have added a NEW BONUS just for you:

On Sunday, January 15th, I will host a LIVE group coaching call. I’ll be talking about what needs to be in your creativity start-up kit to set you up for success in 2017. I’ll do a powerful visioning exercise and share a few ways to “hack your brain” for increased creativity. The majority of the call will be me answering YOUR questions. Have questions about publishing, finding motivation, getting past the inner critic? ASK THEM and get helpful answers. I want to support you in dreaming about what you want to accomplish in 2017 and to planning how you will do it.

Check out the details here. A small investment with a big payoff.

During my Feb writing group meeting last Sunday, we discussed what went well in 2015 and what goals we had for 2016. We would have gotten to this in Jan, but due to bad weather and personal life disruptions, we pushed back this discussion.

March is a perfect time to both reflect and plan as it marks our approach to the end of the first quarter of the year. Unbelievable, I know!

In preparation for the meeting, I spent some time reviewing my goals and submission record of 2015 and thinking about 2016. Since I didn’t post at the end of last year about this topic, I thought I’d share with you some highlights and lessons learned.

Submissions:

In 2014, I submitted to 19 places. I vowed that in 2015, I would push myself to do better.

And, I did—I submitted to 34 individual journals, contests, anthologies or magazines. For many of these submissions, I submitted both poetry and prose.

What did that yield?

-1 publication (a poem, coming out this spring)

-4 very nice personalized rejection emails, encouraging me to submit something else soon. I’m keeping track of those outlets.

-3 places I’m waiting to hear back from

Although I almost doubled my submission record from 2014, it still only breaks down to about 1.5 submissions per month. This isn’t quite accurate, either, as I tend to send batches and batches of submissions at a time, so some months I sent more out and other months less.

As you know, researching places to submit, making sure you’ve read those publications before submitting, making time to submit, and tracking your submissions is a lot of work. In 2016, I’ve been devoting at least two days a month for submitting work. I also am trying to keep an organized list of upcoming deadlines. I love using Evernote for this task. I also have a full time career that requires its own care and attention.

One resource that helped me phenomenally last year was finding out about the group, Women Who Submit. Their website and Twitter feed is chock-full of great information about where to submit. Plus, they hold in person and online submission blitzes. I love the group energy that happens when a lot of people are submitting their work, talking about it on social media and encouraging each other.

Given that I have a full time career besides writing that requires its own care and attention, I need to be realistic in how much more I can up my submissions. I’m shooting for about 50-60 submissions this year. And, I want to be more selective in the places that I submit.

What Got Written in 2015:

-Finished several poems, my best work so far

-Finished some flash fiction pieces

-Started several stories

-Continued to revise my NaNoWriMo project

-Wrote weekly blog posts

-Asked several beta readers to provide feedback on my speculative fiction short story collection

I had one publication appear last year (it was accepted in 2014), my essay in A Letter to My Mom.  Although I didn’t have a lot of publications, my year felt like an extremely fulfilling and productive one across other areas:

Building Writing Community:

-In 2015, on the advice of a published writer, I went to several local sci-fi conventions. That led to meeting local authors, getting connected to the local and state wide scene, finding people to interview for my blog and getting invited to present at sci-fi cons this year. I’ve been really enjoying deepening my writing community.

-My writing teacher also invited me to participate with her at a wonderful event called ‘Love and the Lonely Writer’. I wrote about it here. It was an honor to share the stage with my mentor and teacher and read to a packed room.

There's nothing like seeing a poster, in a bookstore, with your name on it!

There’s nothing like seeing a poster, in a bookstore, with your name on it!

-I participated in several open mic nights.

-I attended the A Room of Her Own (AROHO) Foundation’s week long women’s retreat in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. It was truly a transformative experience. I left with a whole new community of women writers and friends. I hope to continue featuring some of their wisdom here. If you missed Li Yun Alvarado’s amazing post about the importance of a low stakes daily writing practice and how it can transform your year, check it out here.

Education:

A writer never stops learning about craft and storytelling. Last year, I redoubled my efforts to know more about the craft and the business of writing. I constantly listened to writing podcasts and combed through Poets & Writers.

I also took my first poetry workshop, a flash fiction workshop; and a week-long young adult literature and diversity class during AROHO.

First Quarter of 2016:

Submissions: I’ve submitted to 6 places, including a contest. I’ve heard back from 2 so far (rejections).

Writing: If you’ve been reading this blog since January, you know I committed to writing an original affirmation, about the creative process, once a day, every day for the entire year. For why I am doing it, see my inspiration here. I am loving this practice. But, a daily practice is demanding! And, some days, I feel more prepared to create than others. But, the feedback, about the affirmation project, has been great. It’s stocking my creative well.

2016 Writing goals:

-Continue to revise my NaNoWriMo project

-Place my speculative fiction short story collection with a press

-Continue to write a daily original affirmation

-Work on my secret ‘genius’ project

-Strive for 50-60 submissions

 

How are your writing goals going in the first quarter? Where areas (using the ones above) are you feeling ease in and what areas do you want to tweak?

Amanda Owen’s first book, The Power of Receiving offered a paradigm shift in how we typically approach and embrace the states of ‘giving and receiving’. She notes that historically, our society “champions the use of willpower and under-recognizes the value of receptivity.” Owen encouraged us to look at how our beliefs about the continuum of ‘giving and receiving’ and ‘active and receptive’ shape our lives.

In receptive states, we generally can pay more attention to “information from and about other people, information from the environment and information about our own feelings.” A close friend of mine and I (both overdriven ‘givers’) read this book together, discussed it and did the practices suggested. We experienced a remarkable shift in our capacity to receive,and our ability to acknowledge and express our preferences and desires. Owen’s philosophy of receiving was also helpful in interrupting my tendency to live in a constant state of ‘doing’. I don’t often write reviews of  books, but I felt moved to do so for The Power of Receiving.

Author_photo_Amanda_Owen

I am thrilled that Amanda’s new book, Born to Receive: 7 Powerful Steps Women Can Take Today to Reclaim Their Half of the Universe brings her important message about receiving to women. This is a timely book that delivers real treasure. Amanda Owen is a consultant, coach, and motivational speaker. Her powerful “Receive and Manifest” seminars and workshops have transformed thousands of lives and have earned her a loyal worldwide fan base.

I’m delighted to welcome Amanda Owen to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

Why did you write Born to Receive? What’s in store for readers?

Born_to_Receive

My first book The Power of Receiving gave an introduction to receiving and provided a foundation and basic tools for living a balanced life. In early 2012, I discovered I had much more to say about this topic—specifically to women.

Women pay attention and tend to other people’s needs in a way that makes them vulnerable to overextending their giving and subjugating their own needs and desires. I wanted to provide practical solutions and demonstrate how embracing their receptive power would give them more energy, reduce stress, and help them achieve greater reciprocity in their relationships and create more balance in their lives.

In Born to Receive I offer seven practical steps that women can easily integrate into their daily life and give numerous examples of women who have changed their lives for the better by using their receptive power.

You suggest that women should be critical of the idea that we “naturally” suffer from low self-esteem and look instead at several external influences. Can you say more about how women can disengage from ‘the cult of self-esteem’?

It makes sense that women feel it is natural to have low self-esteem. We are constantly told that we struggle with self-esteem issues and are bombarded with products that will help us.  (Is there a Dove Beauty Campaign for men?) It’s become a mantra that too many of us say over and over: I have low self-worth. I suffer from low self-esteem. It’s like we have all been drinking the same Kool-Aid.

In Born to Receive, I ask women to stop talking about their self-esteem and refuse to let their feelings about themselves be dictated by those who do not have their best interests.

You outline seven powerful steps that can enable women to use receptive power in their daily lives. In Step Three (Ask For Help If You Need it and Accept It When It’s Offered) you note that, “Even though our culture is infatuated with a person who does it all, carrying 100 percent of the load is not natural and is not the behavior of an empowered woman…If you are habitually giving more than 50 percent, you are doing too much.” Can you expand upon this for us and discuss why you think we should be striving for 50% versus 100%?

Filling our days with activities that our bodies cannot comfortably support is a kind of madness. But if we follow a cultural model that champions activity and self-sufficiency and undervalues receptivity and cooperation, we can’t help but harm ourselves. I call this “multitasking mayhem.”

Allocating 100% of our energy and efforts to trying to make something happen is not only unnatural, it is mentally exhausting, physically depleting, and emotionally draining. When we give as well as receive, we allow a metaphorical gate to swing both ways. Sometimes it opens away from us and sometimes toward us.

What did you learn about yourself as a writer while writing The Power of Receiving that helped while you were crafting this book?

Above all, writing The Power of Receiving gave me confidence. Once I wrote one book, I knew I could write another one. Also, working on my previous book gave me a template to follow for Born to Receive—not only for how to structure a book, but also how to structure my day.

What does your writing practice look like?

I write every day. My day starts out with catching up with the world through online news and emails over coffee and breakfast. Then I begin writing, which usually lasts until about 3 pm. My friends know not to call me during the day since I do not answer the phone when I am writing.

What’s your best writing tip?

Write every day. Write plenty of bad sentences so that you can get to the good ones. If I don’t have a terrible piece of writing in front of me after all of my efforts, I feel like I have not made any progress. I need something I can work with, fuss over, and shape. A flimsy idea can be nurtured into something substantial. A phrase can be fanned into a flame that produces a whole sentence. A poorly written paragraph can inform me of a direction that may yield gold.

To find out more about Amanda Owen and to purchase Born to Receive, visit her website.

 

Between late December and most of January, there is often a lot of buzz about creating one’s vision and the visioning process. I think creating a vision can be a powerful and life affirming process.

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

But…developing a vision isn’t like choosing a new pair of socks.

What do I mean?

A vision is something that should sustain you, wow you and feed you all year. You should feel an inner sizzle throughout your body every time you think about your vision.

I find that people try working on their New Year’s vision (through creating affirmations, a treasure map, resolutions, a vision board, writing goals, a vision statement, etc.), in the midst of the holiday frenzy or right after. We’re often still pretty tired well into the first two weeks of January. Aren’t you?

Preparatory work needed prior to vision creating often gets tossed aside in the rush to ‘get something down on paper’. This means you can wind up with a vision that doesn’t really serve you and is abandoned by spring.

Here are some things that you might consider doing before you set aside time to work on your vision.

Declutter
Have you begun to declutter? Now is a perfect time to do so as you prepare to envision 2014. Let go, release, and get curious about what will fill the empty space.

Choose
What’s the one thing you’d like to work on shifting (or releasing, changing, etc.), in order to live your highest vision? Identifying one concrete thing to focus on for personal transformation is much more promising than trying to tackle a laundry list of concerns. Good questions to follow: What support do I need to make this shift a reality? And, am I willing to ask for that support, or pay for it?

Identify
Consider working in a group to develop, support and amplify your vision. When focused friendly people come together to support each other, they can produce incredible results.  Many different structures exist for creating groups: including The Artist’s Way, MasterMind and Your Heart’s Desire. All are free to start and are based on collaborative and mutually beneficial principles. You could, of course, start your own group and call it whatever you want– ‘Idea Party’, ‘Dream Tea Talks’, ‘Manifesting Circle’, etc. There’s strength in numbers!

There’s still plenty of time to envision what you want for 2014–don’t rush the process. Is there something you do to prepare for the visioning process? I’d love to hear!

The Chapel Hill News ‘My View’ column below kicks off my new blog series called ‘Jump-start Your June: Reigniting Your Vision Mid-Year’. June provides a great time for us to review the goals, commitments and visions we made at the beginning of the year. Do we even remember the commitments we made in January? Do our goals still take our breath away? Have we already accomplished some of them?

I’ll provide some tips about how to reconnect with meaningful goals. I’ve also asked several amazing thought leaders to write guest posts about how to ‘jump-start your June’ in a variety of areas including health, creativity, and finances.

I’d love to know: What aspect of your life could use a jump-start this June?

 

June’s a good time to check in on goals

In June most people want to talk about graduations, Father’s Day, and the start of summer. I’m, however, inclined to ask them, “How is the vision that you set in January coming along? Do the goals you affirmed still speak to you six months later? What intentions for your year have fallen by the wayside? Is that vision board or treasure map, representing your dreams, collecting dust in a corner?”

I wish we could label June as “Jump-start Your Vision” Month. Why? Because midyear we naturally turn toward an assessment of how the year has been going for us. Coaches often get a lot of work in June, most of it involving supporting people in creating forward momentum for pursuing a vision and tweaking their goals.

For many, the energy, commitment and intention to pursue a big vision can fizzle out by February. The fitness industry often labels people who sign up for a membership at the beginning of the year, “January Joiners.” Historically, by the second week of February, most of the newcomers won’t be seen again until late May (scared by the approach of summer).

Some people get discouraged if they’ve tried something for 30, 40 or even 90 days and haven’t seen results. We’ve all heard this mantra before – if you want to form a new habit or quit an old one, try something for 21, 28, or 30 days. Despite what we’ve heard from advertisers, some psychologists and self-help experts, there is little scientific evidence to support the idea that effort over any specific time period will automatically produce a positive behavioral change. Now, isn’t that liberating? Sometimes we can make rapid change in a short amount of time and sometimes we have to redouble our effort and change takes longer.

So, I say before we declare that in any given year, we’re going to do “x” for “x” number of days or weeks, let’s check in with ourselves. If the change we’d like make is in an area of life where nothing else has seemed to work, then OK, maybe we should go for an intense 30- or 40-day challenge, but then I advocate asking for support in a public way – solicit friends to help with accountability, or work with a coach. If people want to tweak a positive habit (i.e. something they are already doing, but would like to do more of), then I recommend choosing a smaller increment (10 days as opposed to 21 days), and to enjoy the sweet spot of repetition.

I review three key areas with clients in jump-starting their vision midyear:

•  Design and desire. We look at what’s not working and why. Let’s take the example of someone who created a goal to make a green smoothie every week and then stopped. I might explore how this goal sounded excellent in the abstract, but the design wasn’t very manageable (because of time, cost of materials, and/or motivation).

I’d then discern if the underlying desire for the client is to possess better health and increased energy. If so I’d strategize to see if we can fulfill this desire by designing a more effective pathway, strategy or behavior. The elements of design and desire need to be in sync for effective goal setting.

•  Buffets and three meals a day. In looking at action steps in pursuing goals, I contrast eating at buffets versus planning three healthy meals a day. We can fall into a trap of constantly taking actions (or piling up our plates at a buffet) that don’t really serve us and dissipate our energy. For example, I work with many creative writers who spend so much time developing their platform (i.e. creating a Facebook page, posting multiple Tweets, writing on a blog, etc.) that they have less energy to deepen their craft. We need to plan a series of thoughtful actions (like our daily meals) as a staple for reaching our goals.

•  Questions and answers. Writer, anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston said, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” The great thing about a midyear vision check-in is that enough time has passed to ask deeper questions of ourselves than we could in January. Employing a sense of wonder and gratitude, we can track the insights, synchronicities, and serendipity that has shown up our lives since the beginning of the year. With our environment in full bloom, we can feel supported by physical lushness while digging a bit deeper in our internal gardens.

Column reprinted with permission. Originally published on June 15: http://www.chapelhillnews.com/2013/06/15/76706/berger-junes-a-good-time-to-check.html

The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve by Amanda Owen

“Receiving is a skill that can be learned, developed and strengthened.” Amanda Owen

We’ve probably all been raised with an idea of what makes a ‘good giver’. Most of us have spent considerably less time though contemplating what makes ‘a good receiver’, or how being a good receiver might help us to achieve our goals. My skepticism ran high as I approached Amanda Owen’s The Power of Receiving. Receiving, yeah…yeah…yeah isn’t that about gratitude? Haven’t we heard it all before? I thought, great, another book in the personal transformation genre that encourages narcissism and tilts toward individual versus collective solutions. Well, on most fronts, I was pleasantly surprised about how useful Owen’s philosophy of receiving can be in helping to shift our tendency to live in a constant state of ‘doing’.  Owen encourages us to look at how our beliefs about the continuum of ‘giving and receiving’ and ‘active and receptive’ shape our lives.

Owen notes that the ‘Giver archetype’ is well-known and lauded in our culture, but the ‘Receiver archetype’ (as a positive image) is absent. She explores cultural and spiritual beliefs that make many of us suspicious about the value of receiving. Receiving and being a receiver can have negative connotations, especially in ‘a pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ society.  She, however, dispels the notion that being a more skilled receiver is about being a taker, passive, selfish, submissive, or a doormat. Instead cultivating our ability to receive allows us to embrace a more richly textured human experience. Tuning into the power of receiving can help us feel supported, energized, and enhances our ability to give.

Owen applies her philosophy about receiving to goal setting. She argues that we rely on and are encouraged to “exaggerate the importance of initiative and to allocate most, if not all, of our resources toward the active pursuit of our goals.” Most of us have been taught to set goals in a determined and often relentless way. It’s not that this is a wrong strategy, but it is one that values “willpower” and ‘doing’ so much that we can miss what the universe is offering us at any given moment. Also if we are always in an ‘active state’ (see below), we may cultivate ‘overgiving’, miss (or misinterpret) vital information about how to best achieve what we want, or fail to as for help and support in key moments.

The gold of the book was in Chapter One and her discussion of ‘Receptive and Active States’. She lists these as the following:

‘Receptive States’: Meditating, Listening, Feeling grateful, Accepting, Allowing, Opening, Relaxing, Letting Go, Noticing, Observing Welcoming, Yielding, Including, Embracing, Feeling, Hearing, Appreciating, Being, Contemplating, Watching, Letting Be, Attracting, Revealing, Acknowledging

‘Active States’: Analyzing, Talking, Promoting, Investigating, Controlling, Influencing, Multitasking, Persuading, Defining, Judging, Exploring, Shaping, Pushing, Holding, Thinking, Informing, Building, Doing, Acting, Performing, Gong After, Hiding, Forcing, Evaluating

Her ‘active and receptive’ lists have been described elsewhere as ‘inductive and deductive thinking’, ‘inner and outer knowledge’, and ‘holistic and linear thinking’.

I looked at the two lists and honestly asked myself, ‘In what state do I spend the majority of my time?’ And, ‘What’s my preferred state?’  You guessed it–I tend to spend the majority of my time in the ‘Active States’.  As a coach, I often talk a lot about the importance of receptivity (and by extension relaxation), but after reading this book, I could pinpoint my own gaps in walking my talk.  Owen points out that relying almost exclusively on outer focused active states is taxing on mental, physical, and emotional levels, often leaving “no replenishment time.”

Last year a dear friend and I (who define ourselves as ‘overgivers’ and often feel challenged with receiving), read and corresponded about The Power of Receiving. Her insight about Owen’s work on ‘active and receptive states’ strikes me as important:  “One part I especially appreciate is her argument that the ability to notice subtleties in one’s environment is part of the skill set needed for receiving.”

In receptive states, Owen notes, we generally can pay more attention to “information from and about other people, information from the environment and information about our own feelings.” Hard do all of these things when we’re active (or giving) all the time. If you buy this book and just read Chapter One, you’d get your money’s worth.

Owen provides a step by step approach for working on your goals using her receiving model. She recommends a gratitude practice, learning how to receive compliments (surprisingly difficult for many of us!) and developing the capacity to be ‘spiritually naked” as a different way to approach one’s goals. Being spiritually naked means that we not just allow the good parts to show, but allow people we care about to see what we consider the flawed parts of our self, too. She advocates going on a ‘complaint fast’. Complaining, Owen reminds us, saps energy, and “discharges energy without changing anything.”

All of her suggestions for becoming a better receiver are doable. I especially like the way she adapted Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s breathing exercise (Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out). She suggests an additional exercise where you breathe in a quality that you like about yourself (and breathe that out), and then breathe in a quality that you don’t like about yourself (ten in-breaths and ten out-breaths) . When we disown the parts of ourselves that we feel are negative and undeserving, they tend to as Owen says “run us from behind the scenes” and become part of a ‘shadow self’. I found this once a day breathing practice powerful and opens new channels of self-acceptance.

Her book is especially useful to read if you’ve felt blocked for a long time in waiting for your goals to manifest. Her formula: Believe + Receive=Achieve is accessible and shows how to achieve balance in creating the life you desire.

She outlines who should her read book and the list includes women (though she skirts over a detailed discussion of gendered socialization that encourage women to ‘overgive’), men (no discussion of gender roles or sexism), caregivers, the helping professions and new age, metaphysical and self-help readers. Books in this genre typically minimize history, racial group disparities, and systemic inequality. So, I didn’t really expect a discussion about how America’s political culture has created rigid ideas about ‘givers, takers, and receivers’ that default along race, class and gender lines. But, I would have willing received that level of insight and analysis and the book would have been richer for it.

Cover photo credit

 

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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