Monday, January 31, 2011

Choose to Do the Right Thing

I'll be honest, this is a hot button topic for me. Professional ethics (aka business ethics) could be thought of as the rules of conduct regarding a particular profession, with respect for right and wrong for your choices and motives. Seems simple, right? It should be. In fact, most of us were introduced to a rudimentary form of ethics at a very young age. And no, young age isn't 21 years old. I'm talking 3 or 4. Say please and thank you. Don't steal the toy from your brother then beat him on the head with it--that sort of thing.

In the past month, I've experienced two blatant forms of unethical practices. Most of you know I'm a writer and a yoga teacher--I've been both for 8 and 6 years, respectively. In that time, I've encountered many other writers and fitness teachers. I've seen the best and worst each industry has to offer, and will experience significantly more before I'm done, I'm sure. And I'm left with the same question each time--why in the world would an adult ever choose to act that way?

I have a few theories:

1) Jealousy. The green-eyed monster. Have you ever encountered someone smarter, more talented, more wealthy (you fill in the blank here) compared to you? Some people are unable to handle this feeling of inadequacy (their perception at least) and compensate by undermining the source of their jealousy. I have a hard time understanding this one because, if you're not talented enough at it, why don't you discover what you are talented at? We can't all be perfect at everything. And really, why would we want to be? Part of the joy in life is discovering your path, and that includes your hidden talent(s). Jealousy shouldn't be one of them.

2) Ignorance. Some people blunder and bumble their way through life with no regard for their associates. It's not always an intentional thing (although some might argue they intentionally choose to remain ignorant). But when you step on some one's toes, and you're lucky enough to have someone point it out to you, please make amends. It shows a distinct lack of regard if you plow forward, uncaring of the chaos in your wake. And then the ignorance excuse is no longer valid. Choose to do the right thing, always. (That's a great mantra to adopt at any point in your life)

3) The desire to get ahead. I'm sure we all know someone who would sell their own mother to get ahead. Hopefully these people are few and far between in your life. I'd like to say that, with maturity, the need to mow down the competition wanes. Sometimes that's true, but not always. I don't understand these particular people. But for their sakes, I hope they are able to move past it without burning too many bridges.

There are, of course, many more reasons for not choosing to do the right thing. Dishonesty, greed, stupidity, and the list goes on. But I believe educating yourself on the ethical do's and don'ts of your industry is the first step toward choosing to do the right thing, always. Believe me, I'm not saying it's always easy or crystal clear. There's rarely a massive neon sign pointing you in the right direction. Ask a trusted colleague. Ask your smartest friend (I'm lucky to have a few!). Meditate or pray on it. There are a number of ways to go about it and come off looking smart, professional and worthy of respect.

I wish you the best of luck at not only finding your talents, but choosing to do the right thing, always.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Creative Block

I'd be remiss if I didn't address the dreaded Creative Block. For writers it's known as writer's block. I've even heard it called creative constipation. However colorful the term, the idea is the same. The creative juices have stopped flowing. The well is dry. Life is over (yes, that's dramatic, but we creative types are dramatic). Or is it?

I don't think, for one second, we are ever truly blocked from our creativity. I think we experience burn out. I think some days are more productive than others. I think we stop listening to the subtle signs our body and mind offer us. But creativity is always there. Let's explore the process...

I'll use writing as an example. When we first embark on a new creative project, we're inspired, excited and everything flows perfectly. For a week, a month, or if you're lucky, a few months. Then things start to slow down. We have to work a little harder for the words to flow and ideas to form. Our excitement wanes and our motivation disappears (much like our New Year's resolutions). But hopefully we push on. The pages fill, one word at a time, and our story takes shape. Then life gets in the way. Maybe it's the daily stressors we all experience. Maybe it's a huge life change. Regardless, we're stressed. When we sit down to work on our project, nothing happens. Which piles on more stress. We try to force the ideas to flow, which usually backfires. And when nothing happens, we experience Creative Block. Oh the horror! (I said we're dramatic).

That's when you need to take a step back. Really, it's that simple. Sometimes a week or two away from our project can make all the difference. Other times, we might need to re-evaluate our project, or even our creative process for aspects that aren't working. Shaking up the routine can also bring you out of the creative funk. There are dozens of books/websites/blogs addressing this particular problem. I'm here to tell you one thing: The worst thing you can do is sit and whine.

I do know a few writers (I use the term loosely here) who've stopped actually writing, and have made an art out of whining about their writer's block. But folks, that doesn't pay the bills, it's unprofessional and no one wants to listen to it. The more you fixate on your lack of creativity, the more you perpetuate the problem. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just take a break--an hour, a day, a week (or three), and then get back to work. A break from your project can yield a clear mind and a fresh set of eyes.

I don't believe in writer's block. But I do know I need a break every now and then. If I don't take that much-needed time for myself, my work suffers and it trickles down to other areas of my life. The bottom line is, life happens. We get stressed, we get stuck and eventually, hopefully, we get over it. Whatever you do, don't quit. Don't whine and create an actual block where only a little breathing space was needed. Your creative well is always full.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Words to Live By?

Oy. What a week. I would like everyone to repeat after me, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." I'm not talking about chasing your dreams, or following your heart--please continue to do that! I'm talking about self-control, or a lack thereof regarding the written/spoken word. For example, just because you can rant and rave, doesn't mean you should. I know the "freedom of speech" crowd will cry foul here, but a little restraint goes a long way. Yes we have the freedom to run our mouths at any given time (blog anyone?--I get the irony, trust me). This does not, I repeat NOT, mean you should each and every time. We all have opinions and the beauty is that we can voice them to our heart's content. The problem is that sometimes it's to the dismay of all around us. If your opinion is negative, confrontational or a big verbal slap in the face, please remind yourself, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." Yes, you could let those words fly. But to what purpose? To hurt someone or shove your opinion down their throat? That's not a great way to get your point across.

Don't get me wrong, I love that we all have an opinion. It's one of many things that shapes our individuality. But if you jump on your pedestal and spew your opinion for all to hear, what are you accomplishing? I don't know about you, but I tune a person out when their opinion stops being mature and authentic, and falls under the "I'm an angry, raving lunatic" category. And I speak from experience. I have been known to let my opinion fly, foolishly believing I could verbally brow beat someone to my way of thinking. It's an understatement to say it didn't work. I respect that you and I may disagree. In fact, I welcome it. I won't think less of you if you have a different opinion. It's what makes you, you! But if your words lack responsibility and respect for others, people might lose respect for you. Regardless of whether or not they agree. Your opinion then falls of deaf ears.

The old saying "actions speak louder than words" is so true. However, in the age of Facebook, blogs, Twitter and the like, our words have the ability to reach a huge audience. As a writer, I believe words are incredibly powerful. But the delivery makes all the difference!  What message do you want to get across? Hopefully not one full of venom. You're responsible for the words that come out of your mouth, AND the words you post online. Once it's out there, you can't take it back. So please think twice about your words before you speak/write/post them. Make sure you're willing to stand by them. And more importantly, make sure they're a reflection of who you are.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Necessary Detox

I'm going to deviate from the topic of creativity for just a moment to discuss the necessity of a good detox. Nope, I'm not talking about downing wheat grass juice for three days, or a colon cleanse (yuck). I'm talking about taking a break (permanent or temporary) from the toxic people in your life.

Let's be honest, these people are everywhere. They might masquerade as a friend, relative or co-worker. These are the people who offer a negative, unnecessary running commentary on your life choices. And oh boy, do they come out in full force when you're undertaking a new venture. Whether you're pursuing a new hobby, trying to lose weight, opening a new business, or starting a new relationship, they have an opinion on all of it. If those comments leave you feeling drained, miserable or sick to your stomach, you know you have a problem. While I haven't seen a form of Pepto for toxic people, I know a regular detox works wonders.

Most of us know that having a support system is an essential component to success. We all need someone to act as our cheerleader, shoulder to cry on, and sounding board. Maybe that person is your best friend, your significant other, your parent, sibling, or neighbor. Take a moment to think of who fits that description and at the next possible opportunity, thank them.

In the meantime, create a detox that works for you. My method involves what I call a "clean sweep." I've begun systematically weeding out the toxic people from my life. Is it easy? Not at all, but these people drain you dry. It's not worth it, no matter who they are. Now, I recognize this won't work for everyone. If it helps, cut all contact. If that's too drastic, limit the time you spend with them as much as possible. They won't treat you like that if you don't allow them to. At the end of the day, you deserve someone who is willing and able to shine the light of inspiration in your life. Someone who will support your dreams and help you move forward.

The best thing about this detox? It doesn't involve drinking nasty green juice blends or a colon cleanse. It involves a lot of reflection, and taking a step toward a happier life. Clear out the people who may be holding you back. At the very least, they harm your self-confidence and undermine your self-worth. Don't you deserve better? I think so.

For the record, I'd like to thank three people who've inspired me, encouraged me and made me smile this week: Sara, Sarah and Travis. Your support means the world to me.


Monday, January 10, 2011

The Beauty of Rejection

When you read the word rejection, what emotions does it bring up? Probably nothing pleasant. When you're a writer, it comes with the territory, though that doesn't make it any easier to stomach. Rejection can come in many forms. A polite form letter from an editor or agent. A negative review or harsh critic. An unsupportive family member or friend. Living a creative life leaves you wide open for rejection. Which is exactly why I love it.

Because many writers are neurotic (yes, we all have our quirks and that's putting it mildly), we don't always handle the rejection well. I know writers who are petrified--absolutely petrified--at the thought of anyone reading their work. The fear of rejection holds them immobile, and they are unable to move down their creative path. Now, I don't believe you have to share your work. If your creative projects are purely for you, rejection might not be an issue. But there's something to be said for putting yourself out there. In fact, I think life encourages us to do exactly that.

Every writer I know has experienced rejection, in some form. The successful writers turned authors have used rejection as an opportunity for growth. A rejection is not a reflection of your worth. For the record, I don't believe everyone is meant to be an author. Or an actor, rock star, chef, etc. But I hope you don't let rejection deter you from following your creative path. There are many benefits to rejection. The trick is making it work for you.

Benefit #1--Survival of the fittest. Rejection quickly weeds out the folks with no motivation, talent or passion for it (harsh, but true). With that said, a thick skin is a must. Rejection also weeds out the sensitive. Learn to accept it gracefully. If you want to be a writer, this is a crucial skill to have.
Benefit #2--It's a Pass or Fail test. Why is this a benefit? Because if you pass you've just proven to yourself and the world you've made it a priority. That it's important and you won't be deterred.
Benefit #3--You have successfully stepped out of your comfort zone. It's an accomplishment to celebrate! Rejection or not, you should be proud.
Benefit #4--It's an opportunity for growth. For example, if you receive a rejection letter, read it carefully. It might say, "not right for us at this time" or "please send this to another agency." What a gift! Your work is worth a second look, but elsewhere or at a later date. Most people never read past "no thanks." Their loss.
Benefit #5--If you get upset, you now have fuel for your creative fire. They rejected you?!? Crank out another book and make it better then before. Show them you're worth a second look by improving your craft. Then resubmit. Graciously.

The moral of the story? Don't give up. Ever. Take any and all rejections in stride and keep going. You'll be stronger for it.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Creative Discipline

Creative Discipline. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? For the free-spirited, creative types, the word "discipline" might make you cringe. I'll be honest, it occasionally has that affect on me. But there's something to be said for a little structure. I'm not talking about a heavily regimented process. For me, discipline means making something a priority and following through with it. This means different things to different people.

Take writing, for example. If I had a dollar for every person who's told me "I've always wanted to write a book, but I'm so busy" or "I have a great idea for a book, but I don't have time", I'd be close to retirement. No kidding. And I have zero sympathy. We each have 24 hours in a day. Every single one of us. How we spend those twenty-four hours is up to us. Please don't whine and tell me you have obligations that prevent you from doing something you enjoy. We ALL have obligations. Work, family, illness, finances, I've heard it all. Guess what? Those are excuses, plain and simple. If it's important to you, make it happen.

The real trick is learning to get out of your own way. Develop a little creative discipline. If you've always wanted to write a book, sit down and write. I don't care if it's for ten minutes a day, or five hours. Just sit and write. I write about 350 days of the year. I take a day off here and there, especially if I've recently completed a writing blitz. My daily goal ranges from 1500 to 5500 words per day. The most I've ever written is 7326--trust me, it's not worth it. But I digress... The trick is making it a priority. If it's your passion, why wouldn't you?

Here are a few ideas to make it happen:
1) Schedule time for it. If you have ten minutes a day, great. 2 hours on the weekend? Perfect. The idea is to make time, however it fits into your schedule. The key is to schedule it in as often as you can.
2) Find incentive. Use a reward system. Are you trying to make a career out of it? Post visual reminders to keep you motivated.
3) Keep it fun! This one's important. If it's not fun, you've taken the discipline idea too far. When you get to this point, take a break. Avoid burnout, and come back to it when you're ready.
4) Enlist a friend. Nothing beats the buddy system. A support system is critical for motivation. Without my writing partner and best friend, I'd accomplish a mere fraction of what I do now.
5) Go back to the source. If you're a writer, read. If you're a painter, visit an art gallery. Re-visit the very things/people/places that inspired you in the beginning.

Keep in mind, there are many ways to find the creative discipline that will work best for you. I've listed a few with the hopes that it will inspire you to get moving and be creative. Get out of your own way and see what happens. Best of luck!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kickin' It Off

Welcome to my author blog! Here, I'll discuss creativity, writing, reading and whatever else sparks my curiosity. My ultimate goal is to have fun with the pursuit of creativity. I want to dig deep into the process. I want to constantly challenge that process. I want to learn new ways to be creative. And most of all, I want to have a blast doing it. That's my resolution.

May your 2011 be a year full of creativity, fun and opportunity!