It’s the end of the Easter holidays and, while it’s been so lovely not to have to rush out the door every morning, I think we’re all getting ready for the summer term and the familiar routine. My fabulous Father in law, known to my children as Bapoo, is my go-to for childcare and for an 80 year old widower he’s amazingly hands on. He loves the children and they adore him and I can think of no one better to leave them with when I need to get some work done while they’re on a break from school.
That said, I underestimated the amount I could achieve in the last two weeks and instead of listening to the still, small voice inside warning that I was being too ambitious with my to-do list, I plowed on, got over tired, over grumpy and ended up dropping the ball.
Why don’t I trust my instinct?
It should be my super power as an artist, that ability to look at things from the outside and see how things really are, being able to look beyond the facade and intuit the truth. It’s what I use to dig deep into a character or to follow a story, it’s how I know what choices to make creatively when I’m working on a story or a play.
But far too often, I listen to everyone else’s advice, follow the crowd, jump on the bandwagon and ignore what my gut is telling me in case I’m wrong. Because let’s face it, who am I to be right? Right?
Right now, my social media feed is choc full of ads for Some Famous Person’s Ten Steps to Instagram Influence, or This Unknown Millionaire’s Secrets to Success. This is because, against my better judgement, and in an attempt to learn what I needed to do to make this platform a success, I signed up for a few ‘free’ webinars and email listings. Something whispered, as I punched in my email address, that these people were selling something too good to be true, or too shiny to be real, or too self centred to be wholesome, but, hey, what do I know?
The thing is, I do know. We always know, deep down, in the quiet of our souls, what the next step is and what the next step is not. Often times though, it’s not in step with the tide of conventional knowledge, it’s not aligned with the values of our greater surroundings. Often times it involves risk, either financial, emotional or spiritual risk.
Rob Bell has a terrific talk on this subject on his podcast called You listening to You and I’d highly recommend that you listen to it as he is far more eloquent than I and he knows a thing or two about taking risks.
But here are a couple of things I’ve learned to do when I find myself mired in other people’s stuff and which I wish I’d used in the last few weeks to avoid the inevitable exhaustion that comes with it.
- Quiet your mind – whether it’s mindfulness meditation, centring prayer, a walk in the woods (with your phone on silent!) or yoga, do something that reduces the noise of other people’s opinions, advice or your own anxious thoughts. I’m the first to admit that I use noise to narcotise but it’s usually because I know the quiet will being me truth and the truth can sometimes be hard to hear.
- Listen to your own heart’s wisdom above all others’ – this is not arrogance, but running hither and yon asking everyone else what they think about this thing that you want to do can be a sure fire way of avoiding actually doing it. When you have quietened your mind and heard your own heart’s wisdom, no one else’s opinion actually matters.
- Know that you are loved regardless of the outcome – you’ve quietened your mind, listened to your heart, taken your own wisdom and done the next right thing – your job is done. Whether your venture succeeds or fails, whether you make a million dollars or go into the red, it doesn’t affect your value as a person. Of course, we want to succeed at everything we do. Believe me, if there’s one thing that I fear above all else, it’s failure and I’ve had my share of it but the thing I hold on to is that I am loved and nothing can take that away. Failure is just another chance to grow as a person and an artist. It’s not something to fear and in a creative life that involves risk on a daily basis, it cannot be avoided forever.
I wish I’d listened to my own heart’s wisdom two weeks ago when the holidays began. My instinct said to shut up shop for the holidays, to cook, clear out, clean up, refresh ready for the next term, ready for the summer, ready for the next creative surge of energy. Instead, I worried about visibility and consistency, I dabbled and dipped, I signed up for stuff I was never going to have the time to read. I numbed out on social media, angsting about all the influence other people had, worrying about failure. And was all of this use of my time and energy useful? Nope.
I’m committing again to keeping creative. I’m going to trust my instinct, breathe, show up and be myself. I’m going to be brave, sit with the vulnerability, leave the dishes and do the work. Will you join me?
This series is inspired by my conversation with the actress and writer Noni Stapleton on my podcast which you can subscribe to on iTunes or SoundCloud. Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter and later this month, you will receive this whole series as a free ebook.