At the suggestion of my writer-friend Alicia, I’ve signed up for Tracking Wonder’s #Quest2015, a project/collaboration/online community designed to nurture all kinds of good stuff. You can read more about it at the link above. It’s impressive and magical.
As part of #Quest2015, we’re encouraged to engage with visionaries’ prompts designed to help prepare us for the year ahead, with the goal of making 2015 the best it can be. I arrived late to this party, as usual, so I’m getting caught up here by posting my responses to the prompts.
Prompt #1~Gritty Compassion, from Jen Louden: Grit without compassion is just grind. What would be most fun to create this year? How can self-compassionate grit support you in that creating?
Most fun? It’s hard to choose just one thing, but if I have to choose a most, perhaps I’ll go with myself–the authentic self that I long to be. The voice that’s muffled, the light that flickers sometimes to the surface. I want to create a life that’s more in rhythm with the murmurings of my soul, to break past the constraints of shoulds and embrace the possibilities of coulds. To be more authentically myself, I will need all kinds of compassionate grit, not only to tough it out through the difficult patches, but to smooth and refine me, to sand away what’s superfluous, like a layer of varnish applied from the outside.
Prompt #2~Serendipity & Awe, from Jason Silva: In what ways might you artfully curate your life in 2015 to occasion serendipity, creativity and awe?
Ontological designing says: We design our world and the world designs us back.
What are the linguistic and creative choices you can make in 2015 that will in turn act back upon you and transform you?
Oh, such big, big questions! To artfully curate my life, I need to make more room for wonder–to stop in my busyness and look around, to step into my children’s shoes, to open myself to possibility and hope. I need to incarcerate my inner Martha Stewart, who wants to put the art of homemaking above the art of writing. (I’m not dissing homemaking, and I love that Stewart has elevated it to an art–what’s traditionally been “women’s work” deserves such elevation, I think, but I need to keep my sights on books and not bedlinens if I’m going to achieve my goals). I need to get out more. I need to have more fun.
As for the linguistic choices, I need to generally stop self-bashing and uplift rather than decry myself with my own language. I need to speak myself into being in ways that allow for growth and not in ways that stunt and harm. I’ve finally started owning the fact that I’m a writer, but I need to become more confident in saying it, out loud and to other human beings. Creative choices feel easier but more wide-ranging. I can choose to make time for creative pursuits beyond writing. I miss painting. My watercolors and Japanese brushes are languishing in a cabinet. I think I need to allow myself other creative outlets in order to unleash new possibilities for my fiction.
Prompt #3~Disappoint & Offend, from Michael Bungay-Stanier: Who are you willing to disappoint or offend or upset or abandon… for the sake of the Great Work that’s calling you for your best 2015?
I’ve thought about this one a lot, and I’ve decided I’m going for broke. I’m willing to disappoint and offend everyone. I’ve spent most of my life working madly to avoid giving offense–to family, friends, even strangers–and frankly, it’s exhausting. Despite my best intentions, I still end up offending and disappointing people. I’m positive I’ve offended and disappointed every single person I love. So, if I can offend and disappoint my loved ones unintentionally, I may as well stop trying so hard and allow myself a little grace. Everyone I love has also offended and disappointed me, but I don’t carry those offenses with me. I’m going to have to accept the same grace I’m willing to bestow on others and believe that when, not if, I offend them, they’ll forgive me, too. I’m not going to seek to offend or to disappoint, but I’m going to accept that offense and disappointment happen in this imperfect world of messy relationships, and I’m going to try hard not to let the anticipation of them become the acid that corrodes my own spirit and eats away at my creativity.
Prompt #4~Heart Leaps, from Pam Houston: Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?
I love how these questions dovetail for me. I can use gritty compassion to help myself not worry about offending and disappointing. I can foster heart-leaps to help find serendipity and awe. Most recently, an hour or so ago, the flight of a small grey bird, just a flicker against snow-dusted pines, made my heart leap. It’s those fleeting moments of beauty that perhaps astonish me most, that make my heart leap. Little things, moments mostly in the natural world–quiet observations. Music does this, too. And stories. I think the answer to many of these questions for me is ultimately to seriously check my priorities, to make more time for wonder in my daily life. It’s all around me, but I let myself get caught up in a net of trivialities until I’m drowning within sight of the open sea.
I know what I need to do in order to be my best, most creative self in the new year. I need to purge, to burn away the dross in the refining fires of prioritizing. I’ve done a good job over the past couple of years of getting rid of excess possessions. Now I need to focus on what I’m actually doing with my time. I need to act like an artist if I’m going to deserve to call myself one. And that means not just making time for my art, but giving it the best of my time. It means opening myself up to wonder, letting it tumble me like the surf until I am breathless and scrubbed clean.