One of the main things that gets in the way of us pursuing the Big Dream are excuses. We all make them, and after a while we actually start to believe them.
We convince ourselves that it couldn’t possibly be the right time in our lives to pursue something new and exciting because we simply don’t have the time, space, financing to put toward it. I don’t know anyone who has unlimited time and financial backing to pursue their dreams. Let’s face it, most of us are not wealthy and even fewer of us have those famous connections that make a dream happen over an afternoon latte.
Dreams are going to take work. They are not going to happen overnight. They are going to take us prioritizing our precious spare time and deciding that we would rather take those fifteen minutes while dinner bakes to take a baby step toward making our dream a reality than spend it surfing Facebook or Twitter.
We have to budget out the money to make it happen too. If classes or special tools are needed to pursue your dream, you have to set money aside each week to build up that little nest egg to allow you to take that class or buy that piece of equipment. You can’t assume that you will win the lottery, or find a rich old-money patron of the arts who will discover you while you are walking down the street.
Space is another great excuse. And it is a legitimate one if you are talking about needing a whole workshop filled with power tools. Not many homes have that kind of space lying around unused. But if you want to start training for a marathon, you do not need a private gym. You can start with a good pair of running shoes and a school track nearby. If you want to paint, you can designate a corner of the bedroom to your easel and keep your paints in a portable tool box so you can keep them close but tidy. I always thought I needed an office with a beautiful roll-top desk where I could sit and write. Not having that perfect space was a great reason why I didn’t write for years. Now that I have started to write, I find I get a lot more written while sitting in the middle of my busy life with a laptop.
One of the biggest and most prevalent excuses is distractions. We don’t even call them excuses; we are just hypnotized by them. You have a day off and you nap or watch a movie instead of working on a step toward achieving your dream. You find yourself watching reruns of a show you don’t even like instead of researching how to start your own business, or write a business plan. We get caught up in a great book, or decide to organize a lunch date with ten of our closest friends, instead of sitting butt in chair and putting words on paper. We need to carve out some precious time for your dreams and not squander it when it arrives.
I find the easiest excuse to fall prey to is the overachiever syndrome. I start thinking of all the things I would like to accomplish in the next year and bam next thing you know I am starting a publishing company, getting my first book “out there,” writing another, taking a class for work and passing another board exam, finishing a couple quilts, learning to play an instrument and oh, yeah, why not lose those extra pounds and get in shape as well!? My to-do list escalates exponentially and I wind up not accomplishing anything at all.
This happens on many weekends on a smaller scale. I realize I can carve out four to six hours of time to work on my dreams and start making plans. I end up so overwhelmed with what I want to accomplish in that time frame that I freeze and wind up taking a nap instead. I have too many things that I want to do and not nearly enough time to do them, so I don’t do anything. Unfortunately, great swaths of free time are not the answer. Ask anyone who has taken a few weeks off for the sole purpose of writing or painting. Often times I am sure they found themselves way too busy with the daily to-do list to actually pursue their goals. They were suddenly overcome by an uncontrollable urge to mop the floors, or clean out the attic. We tend to make whatever excuse we need to keep us from the scary stuff, and pursuing a dream we have been harboring for years and years and trying to bring it into light is scary stuff, indeed.
We need to cut ourselves a bit of slack while simultaneously holding ourselves to the task at hand. Take my writing, for instance, though any dream will do. I know that I want to create a publishing company and self-publish. I would love to get my first book out into the world within the year. I have read so many books and articles on doing these things and realize there are so many steps to the process. Whenever I think about it, my brain kind of shuts down from the daunting task ahead.
I need to break these huge tasks into bite sized pieces that can actually be accomplished in a week or a weekend. For example, I can research how to establish a DBA and set up a PO Box one week. The next week I can reach out to some of my online contacts and find out costs for editing and cover design. I can take a class on book formatting one month, and focus on final edits the next. By breaking down the huge task ahead into small achievable goals, I stand a much better chance of making forward progress instead of spending another week merely spinning my wheels.
One of my online writing friends is in a similar situation with her writing dreams and has asked that we be partners in reaching our goals. We have decided to touch base each week with what our weekly bite-sized goal is, and then later report on whether or not we finished it, what might have gotten in our way, and how we will approach it again to make it reachable. Sounds like such a simple idea, but I am very motivated to work with her and help us both make forward progress.
One thing I have learned is that sometimes all you need is a few steps in the right direction to get a thing rolling. A little forward progress, and you suddenly find you have momentum, which is an entirely bigger thing.
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Have you noticed the Apple iPad commercials that quote Walt Whitman’s wonderful poem “O Me! O Life!” while showing a montage of active creativity? I was able to immediately recognize Robin Williams in his role from Dead Poet’s Society telling his students to live fully and not waste a moment.
For those of you who are not familiar with it, the poem ends with “…the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” I get chills when I hear it. It reminds me that we are put on this earth not just to go through the motions, but to leave our mark.
While many people found that movie to be pretty corny, I loved it. I admit it. I found the whole rage-against-the-dying-light theme pretty inspiring back when I was in college, and still do. I fear that many people have lost this burning desire to feel and live fully. They have lost connections and dreams. They have lost the longing to reach for something that may not be easily attainable.
Somewhere around the time when we are asked to turn in our crayons in grade school and start worrying about what others think of us, our dream-big trait starts to weaken. Then life happens and suddenly we have day jobs and mortgages and things we have to do, bills we have to pay.
It is far to easy to sink down into the daily minutiae and just let the days go by. Why not? Everyone else is doing it?! And isn’t it so much easier to just relax into the couch after a long day at work, making ends meet and bringing home the bacon? Who wants to ask the big questions and dream the big dreams?
I get it. Really, I do. I get stuck in ruts where the idea of putting words on paper or playing in my fabric stash seem like way too much work. I can’t even be bothered to pick up a book. All I want to do is sink into the couch, turn on the tube and escape from the responsibilities and stress and busyness of life.
But when I do pull myself back from the edge long enough to remember what it is I love about creating and writing, I remember the passion and fire that gets lit deep within me when I allow myself to dream those big dreams again.
This is where movies like Mr. Holland’s Opus , Dangerous Minds, and Rudy come in – they show us people who continue against all reason to follow their dreams. Even The Little Mermaid shows us this. They encourage us to reach beyond what people expect of us, to become more. I think many popular movies and books follow this theme because of this. They remind us how to dream big.
I have come to know some people who inspire me to keep reaching. They go home after putting in a full day at work and they work on something bigger, something not easily attainable. And little by little they are making progress toward these dreams, this bigger goal, this brighter life. Maybe it’s a new career, or a cool invention they want to build. Maybe it’s something more personal like training to run a marathon or learn how to make their grandmother’s sauce. Or maybe it’s writing or painting or creating an inspirational website.
People wonder why I “waste” time writing. Let’s face it, millions of people say they want to write a book. Millions of people try to write books, and the number of those who manage to do so consistently and make enough money to support their families is tiny.
I realize I may never make money at this. I realize that writing full-time for a living is probably never going to happen. I will most likely never be famous and quite honestly am not sure how I would handle that anyway. The majority of middle grade readers may never know my name, and may never read my books. And yet, I continue to write.
Why? Because I love the way it makes me feel. I crave the feeling of inspiration striking me in my gut and making me feel alive. It is my way to contribute a verse in this vast and wonderful play called life. Maybe one person will read my words, my books, and be inspired to follow their own dream. That is a wonderful mark to leave.
What is your great unreachable dream? What tiny steps can you take today toward it? What verse will you leave?
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You know who they are. They are everywhere. They are the people who you live with or work with or come into contact with who are miserable.
You didn’t do a thing except say hello or answer the phone and there they are spewing all their miserableness onto you and ruining your day.
Let’s face it. Life can be tough and stressful. We all have things we need to do, and they may or may not be the things we actually want to do. Regardless, here we are getting it done and someone else comes along and fills our personal space with their negativity.
They complain. They whine about things that are really not their problem or business. They are very concerned that no one else get any more than they do, or work any less than they do. They are the ones that cry when they don’t get a cupcake, but complain about their thighs when they do nab that last cupcake.
I used to worry that I somehow had contributed to their bad days. I wondered what I had said that prompted such a nasty tone of voice, or caused them to bite my head off. I like to think that I have grown a bit in the last few years and now instead of thinking that I must somehow shoulder the blame, I have realized the truth.
They are miserable and will never be happy. And there is nothing I can do or not do to change that fact. Their attitude was in place before they happened upon me. They had already set their own miserable train of thought in motion. I just happened to step into their line of fire.
I used to think they would be easier to deal with if I could help them in some way. Answer their question well, or be cheerful around them, or just lend an ear. But I have learned that we are sponges for other people’s attitudes and by lending an ear or spending too much time with these toxic people, I was just letting the fumes invade my own heart.
I have learned to be better at protecting myself from these people. I have learned to walk away, let their words roll right off of me. And if I have to deal with someone like this, I try not to let their drama affect my day.
Still, I am amazed at the levels that people let their toxicity reach. Doesn’t it bother them to feel that miserable or angry or mean? If I snap at someone in a moment of anger, I carry the guilt for days. I am just not wired to feel grumpy and not be concerned with the impact of my interactions with others.
I have advice for those miserable folks.
Get over yourself.
Seriously. Get over it and move on.
If you hate your job, your relationship, where you live, how you spend your days so much that it is making you cranky and impossible to be around, move on. Get a new job, break up, move, find a hobby you enjoy… whatever it takes. But don’t let this misery manifest itself in your life another moment longer. And please don’t let it continue to rain down on everyone around you.
Life is short, people!
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Anyone who has followed my blog for a while has probably realized that I like to quilt. Years ago, I took a hand-quilting class because I had always admired old quilts. That was all it took. Now, years later I still “suffer” from the quilting bug. I have a sewing room full of fabric and patterns and books and notions and multiple machines and I love it!
I find hand piecing little bits of fabric into a full-sized quilt to be a relaxing way to let the stress of the day just melt off. I enjoy the process of planning the quilt, picking out fabrics, and oddly, I really love the interplay between math and art that quilting requires. (That may sound strange to anyone who hasn’t quilted but there is a lot of math involved!)
The thing I didn’t count on though was that I would also “suffer” from SMAD – Sewing Machine Acquisition Disorder.
When I bought my first sewing machine – a Singer mechanical – I didn’t go for the cheapest one in the shop. I didn’t want to outgrow it after a few years. I bypassed all the computerized machines because I wanted a more, I don’t know, authentic sewing experience, for lack of a better word. I think it maybe took a year to want another one.
My second machine was a mid-level Babylock with lots of bells and whistles and attachments. It is a great machine and it is still purring along. But, I found that I love all the different machines with all their quirks and intricacies, and over the years I have acquired an embroidery machine, a serger which I have yet to figure out, a midarm quilting straight stitch machine, a lighter-weight portable and a couple other solid mid to high level machines. I love all of them.
But deep down, there was something missing. I still wanted a vintage machine. I have always been drawn to Singer Featherweights which were manufactured from the 1930s through the mid 1960s in the US and through the early 1970s in the United Kingdom. These are highly collectible and are the quintessential classic sewing machine.
I have been able to quell this desire to own a vintage machine for years because I have a wonderful husband who indulges my SMAD and doesn’t mind too much when I start obsessing about another new machine. I have filled my stable with modern machines and have been quite satisfied with each and every one. But last weekend I went on a quest through images of vintage machines trying to help my friend identify her mom’s old machine, and it did me in.
I came down with a burning case of SMAD. I ended up drooling on the keyboard as I scrolled through eBay and admired all of the wonderful old machines up for auction. In my travels there, I came across the Singer 301A and it was love at first sight.
Highly collectible, many people call it the big sister to the Featherweight but it is really a whole other family. It was the first slant shank machine for better visibility, the first machine to enclose the motor, and the first home machine to stitch 1500 stitches per minute. It is gear driven instead of belt driven and is bigger than the Featherweight both in size and weight – not too big though as it is still considered to be portable. It was promoted as the quilter’s dream, and yes, I admit I may have dreamed of it myself once it got under my skin. Originally available in black and light beige, Singer introduced a two-tone light beige and oyster white version in 1956 for the “modern” sewist. And it was this two-toned beauty that caught my eye.
I have never really paid much attention to eBay, but I soon found myself creating an account and watching a number of bidding wars. One of the machines up for auction really called to me. It has been completely refurbished and is pristine! My one concern was that there was no case.
The next morning, the universe intervened through my friend, Chrissy Rex of Living Ledge and Rex Design Concepts. I told her about the machine and the single drawback of no case. She smiled and said, “I can make a custom case for you.” Who knew!? :) That was the only nudge I needed.
It didn’t take long before I was pushing the “buy it now” button and then scrolling the auctions to find vintage feet to go with it. My new/old machine is on its way!
Hopefully, this will calm my vintage bug down for a little while…
Of course, there were a lot of beautiful Featherweights on eBay too…
Or maybe an antique typewriter… I am a writer after all. What would be more inspiring than a vintage Underwood. Perhaps a Remington or Olympia in mint condition are just hiding in the auctions of eBay waiting for me to discover them. Maybe an old Smith Corona…
What are your obsession? Do you collect anything?
Repeat after me.
I am NOT an aspiring author. I am NOT an aspiring creative person. I am NOT an aspiring artist. If you don’t write or paint or do anything creative, stick in whatever word is most appropriate.
We hear it all the time. Oh, you’re an aspiring author. Isn’t that nice? [read with a snarky tone]
But really that word “aspiring” is a little wishy-washy, don’t you think? It’s wimpy, full of dreams and wishes, but nothing tangible.
“Aspiring” belies the work involved.
Do you sit in your chair and string words together? Do you build worlds and create characters and imagine dialogue? Do you write and write and write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite? Do you edit and proof read until you practically have your manuscript memorized? Do you take classes, read hundreds of books and articles about the craft of writing, attend conferences? Do you read books in your genre and study how other authors handle dialogue, conflict, suspense? Do you connect with other writers either face to face or online? Do you do the work?
Because if you are doing the work, you are a writer already. There is no aspiration.
We need to strike that word from our vocabulary when we are describing what we do, who we are. As Kristen Lamb wrote in her blog last week, “I despise the term ‘aspiring writer.’ We don’t “aspire” to get out of the chair. Either we sit or we stand. We choose and no one can make that decision but us. I prefer the term “pre-published” writer, because this makes us accountable and shifts our thinking.”
How eye-opening is that!?
We need to own our work, whether it is out there in the great big world already or still hidden on our computers. Own what we spend so many hours doing. If you are doing the work, you are a writer.
Scary, isn’t it?
But it is our fear of rejection that makes us tack on that mamby-pamby “aspiring.” If we are only aspiring to write, we aren’t really serious about it, right? So no one else will take it very seriously. And it will never be more and we will never have to face the possibility of putting our work out there and having it rejected.
Now maybe you are like me and you get a little fluttery in the stomach when you say those words out loud. “I am an author.” I have gone from thinking it must be nausea to thinking it is more likebutterflies and excitement. I am living proof that the more you say it out loud and to others, the easier those words are to get out.
I no longer even qualify it with “pre-published.” I may never be published, but I am still an author.
I used to aspire to be a writer, but then one day I picked up a pen and a blank book and started putting the words down. I turned on the computer and opened a new document and started letting the words come out. I started writing and I went from an aspiring writer who didn’t write to a writer. Then I started to write stories, and I became an author.
Thank you, Kristen Lamb, for opening my eyes to the damage I have been doing to my dream by using the word “aspiring” to describe it. This was such a revelation to me that I want to run to the rooftops and shout it at the top of my lungs – “I am NOT an aspiring author!” I will yell it so loud that others like me will join in. We will own our writing and our words will spill all over the world.
For more on this, please read Kristen Lamb’s always inspiring blog, Warrior Writers – Journey from Aspiring Dreamer to Hardened Professional Author.
Last February, I was a happy participant in the first ever all online, completely interactive writers’ conference – WANACON, an event sponsored by WANA International. It was the brainchild of Kristen Lamb, author of the Warrior Writers blog and an inspiration if ever I have “met” one.
I will admit to a certain level of uncertainty when I registered for this. Writing is a solitary venture and I had only recently begun to come out of the writerly closet so to speak. Could I possibly be so bold as to call myself a “writer” and attend a conference?! I think the potential anonymity of and online conference is what finally pushed me to register. It would be fairly easy to hang out in the back of the virtual chat room and just observe.
What I hadn’t planned on was how empowering the entire experience would turn out to be! Here I was, surrounded in a virtual setting with real published authors, publishers, attorneys and other industry professionals. I could chat with them, or just soak up all the knowledge they were sharing in the presentations. I could even sign up to pitch my book to an honest-to-God agent!
I fired up my laptop, a nervous writer who didn’t have the first idea about how to land an agent let alone a publisher. Three days later, I turned off my laptop, knowing that not only did I have the ability and knowledge to self-publish but I could reach out to any number of professionals in the business and get advice. I was truly not alone out there in the big wide world of writing. (You can click here to read my post about it.)
WANACON happened again in the fall, but I was immersed in a certification class for my day job and knew I wouldn’t have the time and energy to attend. I thought I would have to wait until fall 2014 to experience the motivational rush again.
Then last week, one of my Facebook friends, another writer, was lamenting about how difficult it is to research publishing options. I wanted to share the WANACON link with her so she, too, could experience the conference. I clicked on over to WANA International and nearly fell out of my chair.
WANACON 2014 is February 20-22!
Woohoo!! I shared the link, registered immediately and did a happy dance.
Time away from my blog, and the publishing research, and NaNoWriMo, and the book… It was necessary for completion of my certification at work, but it left me feeling… I don’t know. Lost? Unfulfilled creatively? Like I just took a million steps backwards on my writing journey? Yes, yes, and yes.
I have been fondling my writing books, but not feeling motivated enough to dive in.
I have started reading about ten books since the end of my class, and set them aside soon after.
I have felt like my love affair with words had become something I longed for from afar. A broken romance, at best.
Time away from our creative work is sometimes necessary. It may even be a good thing in small doses. But for me the longer that time stretches, the harder it is to find that sweet spot again. My writing mojo shorts out and needs recharging.
What better way to recharge and fire it up than a conference in my pajamas!?
Who else is in? Will I see you there??
To register, go here. Go on… it’s Valentine’s Day! And what better way to show a little self-love than to treat yourself to inspiration!?
Have you ever had someone say something to you that just stuck with you? A compliment, or more likely something not-so-complimentary? Something that was dead on or way off base?
I had that happen a few years ago and I alluded to it here. The funny (or sad) thing is that the conversation that I am referring took place so long ago and was probably so inconsequential to the person that said it that they have no memory of it at all. And yet, it still niggles at me…
I cannot recall the exact parameters of the conversation, what spawned it, or why it escalated. I do remember that I actually went into the restaurant feeling good about life, and myself, and my outfit, and by the time I left, I was so mad that all I wanted to do was cry.
Someone very close to me, or maybe I should say someone who should be close to me, took it upon herself that night to tell me everything I should do to fix my life. Bear in mind that I saw nothing wrong with my life (still don’t) and didn’t ask for advice or complain about anything that would have warranted such advice. But by God, she thought I was in a rut and was going to fix me and I was going to sit there and listen.
By the time the appetizers hit the table, she had pointed out how I had been at the same job for years and should move on. Not because I was unhappy, or because I wasn’t doing well in my job, but because no one (meaning her) stays at a job that long.
When the salads arrived, she was telling me how I needed to stop hanging out with my husband, a man whom I love and who is my best friend. She said I needed to “get out there and mingle.” This from someone whose marriage was in trouble and who had taken to going out bar hopping with friends.
She proceeded to tell me over Chicken Parmigiano how everything I do in my spare time was worthless and that I should find some “age-appropriate” hobbies. To this day I am not sure which hobbies she was referring to… Was it writing? reading? quilting? I have seen people of all ages do these things with great success and enjoyment. Yes, even quilting, something that has been long delegated a grandmotherly thing to do. Many new books on the topic are being written by young fabric artists with a modern approach to this classic art form.
By the time our coffee arrived, I needed a make-over, complete wardrobe change and hairstyle. That would fix everything. Remember I actually had walked into the restaurant feeling pretty good?
I must admit I was stumped by the whole conversation. Multiple attempts to change the subject were ignored, and I ended up leaving the restaurant with tears in my eyes. As I drove home, I ranted in the car, alone, and yelled out retorts that were late in coming. I have always been that way. Confrontation tends to freeze my thoughts and I can never sift through the brain sludge to come up with an appropriate comeback until the moment is long past.
I didn’t speak to this person for many weeks, and when we finally did, instead of bringing up the whole bizarre incident, I followed her lead and just pretended like it never happened. But it still bothers me. Obviously.
What makes a person think that they are the expert of your life? What makes them render unsolicited advice and belittle every aspect of your life? Is it jealousy or sheer arrogance? How can someone misunderstand you and your life so completely, but still feel that they should control it?
You will be happy to know that I haven’t stopped quilting. I am actually quite addicted to it and find it very relaxing. I have not stopped reading. And I haven’t stopped writing. I still hang out with my best friend and husband every chance I get. And I still don’t feel like something is real until I can share it with him. While this conversation still echos in my mind and still raises my hackles, I am happy to report that I didn’t follow any of the advice I was given. I didn’t start bar hopping, quit my job or my marriage.
It has taken practice but I have lessened the influence this person has on my life. I wish our relationship was different, more like it was when we were younger, but I can accept that sometimes in order to have peace in your life, you have to know when to cut ties with some people. And if you can’t completely walk away from them, learn to weigh the baggage that they drop at your feet and at least be able to walk away from that.
Have you ever been given advice you didn’t ask for? Did you take it?
I have mentioned in the past that the universe tends to put things in our path at the exact moment we need them. In this case, I am referring to my inbox. I follow several inspirational websites through their newsletters, and admittedly, many of them end up being deleted because I just don’t have time to read them all. Occasionally though one grabs my attention and it is often because it finds me exactly when it will do me the most good. Today was no exception.
In the past, I wrote a post about voice lessons and how taking voice in college seemed to only make me lose my voice in the world. (See “Voice Lessons”) I found myself hiding whatever light I had in me under a bushel and hoping to fade into the wallpaper so as not to draw attention to myself. As I have battled depression over the years, this has continued to plague me. It is one of those chicken and egg scenarios… Did voice lessons and the daily stress of getting up on a stage to allow people to critique me lead to depression or was the depression already there and it merely came to the forefront during that time of my life? We may never know. And I have come to realize that placing the blame is not always necessary to find my way toward healing.
So I was scrolling through my inbox, deleting if the title didn’t catch my attention, when I came across a Daily Om entitled “Using Our Outside Voice.” I clicked on it and felt another piece of the puzzle click into place.
While I have worked on putting myself out there, and speaking up, I haven’t given much thought to this simple yet powerful tool. Using my outside voice does not, in this article, refer to yelling. I think people use that outside voice far too often instead of actually listening to each other. No, the article refers to letting some of your inner dialogue out into the world in an effort to bring understanding and better communication.
Everyone has an inner dialogue. If you are lucky, it is with a gentle and wiser inner guide. If you are like me, it is usually with a mean little inner critic that you spend much of your time trying to ignore. Either way, this inner dialogue reflects your experience with the world, your spin on things around you, your take on your relationships. Unfortunately, we usually keep it all to ourselves.
People who are trying to speak with us, or work with us, don’t have any idea what path you took to get to this point. If they know a bit about you, they may know your path wasn’t easy, but they don’t know all the nuances. I don’t think most people who meet me or work with me know that I have depression and anxiety. They don’t know my self-esteem suffers at the mercy of those inner critics at every turn. They can’t possibly know all the baggage or pre-conceived ideas we bring to the table at any given time. If we don’t open up a little of that inner dialogue they will never fully understand our position.
Now I am not saying you should spill every detail of your life story to someone who you run into in the produce section at the market. I am not suggesting that every conversation needs to have hours of back story leading up to it. But in the big conversations, the ones that matter, the ones we base major life decisions on – a little added insight from your inner peanut gallery may make the conversation much more productive.
By being a little freer about sharing our real inner thoughts and feelings, we open ourselves up to better communication and letting loose the creative power that letting our thoughts become reality can release. Words have energy. Words have the power to become truth. In releasing them instead of keeping them locked up we unleash that creative power into our lives.