The time had come to follow my art. So as January 2017 arrived, over five months ago, I set out to live my life differently. Getting up early to shower, dress, and head out the door long before daylight to commute to work was over. That life had come to a close. It was strangely wonderful and oddly disconcerting. I was at home in my bathrobe and slippers, sipping coffee while the many outside my window rushed to make it to the office on time. I had no agenda, no schedule, no meetings, no phone calls and no interruptions. There was silence. The day was in front of me and what happened was up to me alone.
The first question that I asked myself was “What do I do now?”
I am a Virgo and a believer in getting organized, so the first thing I did was make a list of my 2017 intentions. Not resolutions. Intentions. Primary amongst them were: finish writing my book (top billing, important, life work); start a blog (intriguing, albeit somewhat intimidating public writing); journal everyday (fun, essential morning writing); complete a book of poetry (happy, creative writing); establish a consulting business(focus to be determined): exercise on a regular basis (no more lack of time excuses): find speaking engagements (TED and otherwise); and start a LeanIn Circle (network with women who want more out of life).
Where am I now?
At mid year, I feel compelled to check in with my progress and see where I am. Here is a summary of my progress to date:
My book is approaching 90% completion, first full draft. I have written 21 blog posts (today will make 22). I have kept a daily journal and can no longer imagine starting a day without it. I completed my first book of poetry (a gift to my husband) and have started on a second poetry project. I also found an antique manual typewriter to play on and find more inventive ways to write poetry. I have chosen mentoring as the focus of my consulting business and have begun working with clients. I exercise on average 4 times per week and have been consistent in this since the first week of January. I have signed up for a TED Talk workshop this month, after attending a number of TEDx events and watching countless TED Talks online. I am also reading Chris Anderson’s book, TED Talks. In May, I brought together 9 women for the inaugural meeting of the Reinvent Your Life LeanIn Circle that I created. I am so proud and privileged to link with these amazing, brilliant women.
Yay me! Right? You might be thinking, sure she can get a lot done when she doesn’t have to go to work every day. How nice for her!
Well in fact, I have been diligent and committed to the “work” I chose for 2017 and busier than ever, in good ways. I am consistently doing things that serve the goals behind my intentions. If I want to call myself a writer than I must do what writers do, and write. Every day. Yes, I have always been a writer but not with this level of commitment, focus or time and rarely in public forums which is my most vulnerable act but the best in a long time. Yes, at times it feels like a luxury to sit in the quiet of the morning with a steaming cup of coffee at my elbow as I think and put words on the page. There are also days when finishing my blog or a book chapter takes me well into the evening. My days are often long, and sometimes not long enough, when I would rather write than sleep.
I don’t have a pay cheque twice a month anymore. Instead, I have acquired a long-term view of rewards for my efforts. Remuneration will come, not just in dollars, but in ways that are less tangible and more enduring. Thousands of words from now I will get to where I am going. I am also though, thoroughly enjoying the process. Because this is me doing what I love. There will be no retirement party, ever, from writing. I will take it to my life’s finish line.
This past week I have been reading (another intention of mine was to read more – and I am doing that too) Mark Manson’s, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I pulled this book from the shelf at Indigo a number of times, thinking the title a little “in your face” and wondered if this was something worth reading. Even though it was stamped New York Times and Globe & Mail Bestseller I still hesitated. Then a woman friend from my LeanIn Circle recommended it so I bought a copy. Great book! Glad I bought it. Worth the purchase and read.
In Chapter 7, Failure is the Way Forward, Manson talks about the importance of action. He argues that if you wait for inspiration you may not get the motivation to do anything. He says,
Most of us commit to action only if we feel a certain level of motivation. And we feel motivation only when we feel enough emotional inspiration…If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something – anything, really – and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.
Bing! And there it was, right in front of me. For years I had been hesitating to do the things that I am doing now (writer. speaker. consultant) but they remained in the out there, one day, when the time comes, wishing well, dreamland of my hopes. I have always known what I am good at. I have always done a certain amount of the things on my list but not at my current level. What changed for me was getting up on a dark, snowy, cold January morning and beginning to “do” what I had been wanting to do. It was at once brilliantly scary and wildly exhilarating.
Mary’s IT Department
I vividly recall the morning that I sat in my bathrobe from 7:30 am until well past noon to figure out how to create a blog site. If I was going to write a blog I needed the site. I was suddenly my own IT Department of one. With the help of google and youtube and persistence, and maybe a few swear words, I created my domain and married it to wordpress. To celebrate my success I did a victory dance around the apartment. A small win but a big leap forward in my “do” mentality.
Manson says, “…we can actually reorient our mindset in the following way: Action – Inspiration – Motivation”
This has been my exact experience. I have discovered that my daily routine, my consistent actions over time, have led to inspirational discoveries that motivate me to do more. And the more I “do” the more inspiration and motivation come. My writing improves because I write every day. There are a lot of words banged out on my laptop or crafted in ink that get me to what I consider the good stuff. Thomas Edison said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” That, my friends, is bang on!
How often do we say things like, “I would love to paint,” or “I would like to start my own business” or “I have a book I started writing that I need to finish (that was me!)” We fantasize and imagine what it would be like to live out those desires. We wait for inspiration or something like it to show up. Ironically, if we did the thing we want to do inspiration would be all over us!
My husband and I have a friend, Jeff Wilson who left his career as a structural geologist a few years ago to become an artist. He had no prior experience, except painting as a hobby and evening classes at Emily Carr University, but had it in him that he wanted to be a painter. His approach was simply to start painting. Since departing his career, he has shown up every day in his studio as though he is going to work, and paints.
His efforts have resulted is an impressive collection of remarkable, unique, vibrant works of art. He has become an artist of note and his talent is well recognized. I admire the guts it took to leave a career (I know exactly how that feels). But above all I admire that he had the courage and belief in himself to do what he was drawn, maybe born, to do. His story instilled in me the power of “just shut up and do it.” What we know we can do will only be realized if we do what it takes to make it exist.
See Jeff’s work at http://www.jeffwilsonart.org.
Everyone of us has “the possible” inside of us. It is there waiting. Maybe like a whisper. Maybe like a ringing bell. Maybe like a sore ache that we never address. Maybe like a story partially completed that needs finishing (yes, me). If we wait for the perfect moment of inspiration to light up our motivation we may wait too long. Taking action will light the fire. Or better yet, action is the fire.
It is the DO that does. Because once you start doing, over time, day after day, small, deliberate, consistent efforts will add up to great accomplishments. Then,what was once your dream, appears.
* My husband and I commissioned the painting of the Sylvia Hotel sign to celebrate our first date, our love and our wedding in November 2016.