Connecting to the Work | Final 6

October 27, 2014

[Read part one here, and part two here.]

photo by Marie Ketring for Pollen Midwest
These Connecting to the Work posts are for those of you who
  • Feel like you're in a work rut: something needs to change-- it's not exciting you
  • Want to feel like you're building something you care about, but you're not sure what it is
  • Are artists, committed to a particular field, but trying to get more specific about what you work is-- or what's next for it, or what you big long-term goals are with it
This is the last handful of suggestions that I've found particularly helpful for finding movement in times of stuck-ness.

1) Adjust Your Sense of Time: This isn't an active suggestion, but I think it's worth pointing out: all of this takes time. I think many of us leave college with an artificial sense of timing set in-- the kind that was more common in our parents' generation: you leave college, maybe you go to graduate school; you get a job, you get promoted, you let time coast by so that you can eventually retire. This sounds pretty depressing to me, actually. Jobs and people and creative work evolve over time; life experience changes us and what we make. This is good! There is no possible way I could have know what I wanted to do with my life when I was 22-- I was barely an adult. Allow space for change, recognize that it's positive, and remember that there's no such thing as a wasted life experience. I'm no longer a dance teacher, but I learned a lot about being a leader and taking creative risks in that 10 years of teaching. Everything builds towards where you are now. Trust that change will happen: it's actually impossible for it not to.

2) Get an Accountability Buddy: We all need sounding boards. It's hard to get perspective on your own jumbled brain and heart. I find it's helpful to work with a buddy who isn't in your exact creative field-- that way there's no room for weird competition. It's crucial to find someone who you respect. And, if you're going with the buddy system (not paying for advice), it's important that you feel like there's an equal give/take with the person. It'll take time to find the right fit. It's worth the wait.

3) Move Before you Think: I really don't just like dance for pretty, virtuosic movement on a stage; I like how it helps us tap into a different kind of intelligence. I promise that if you take a 20 minute walk or jump around the living room to Queen (or, music of your choice) for a half hour before trying to make a big life decision, you'll think more from your gut than your brain. When I think too much from my brain, I'm bound to get stuck. When I think from my gut, the answer feels more obvious. Try combining this exercise with Morning Pages (move first, write second).

4) Ask Yourself Big QuestionsWrite down the date and answer some big questions...
  • What do I value and want time for? How can I make this happen?
  • Where do I feel stuck? Get as concrete as possible...
  • How do I want to feel? (I know, the woo-woo one, but I swear by it...)
  • What gives me energy? What takes it away? How can I incorporate more of these energy-giving things into my life?
Briefly look over your answers. Choose 3 tangible take-aways from your writing and put them somewhere visible where you can be reminded to act. Put your writing away to consult in 6 months. It's rewarding to see how things shift over time (see #1).

5) Superpowers: Ask that accountability buddy (or a trusted friend or two) what they think your superpowers are. Don't worry: you have them! What do your friends appreciate about you? What life experiences have made you feel like the best version of yourself? How can you take a little of this personal superpower and bring it into your creative/work life?

6) Make Space: If you want to invite change into your life, you'll have to make space for it. This might mean getting rid (even temporarily) of any neigh-sayers you spend time with, or making additional time by letting go of activities that you're no longer enthusiastic about. In 2011 I started canceling as many teaching gigs as possible, and sure enough this eventually led to work that better utilized my strengths. I took on projects, like this blog, that had no real connection to my career and that my more logical brain would have viewed as a waste of time. Be impractical for a while. Come up with a sentence or two to respond to well-intentioned people who want to know what you're up to. When you change course, they'll probably feel at least a little confused. Politely ignore them. You get one life, so choose what's in it wisely.

Is there anything you'd add to these lists? How did you find your creative work?

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