Coming Out of the Closet: Making Space for Your Dream

FullSizeRender-1
my writing desk. reminding me to show up.

This post is for anyone who has ever had a dream. The passionate ones. Creative ones. Visionaries. Artists. Storytellers. Meaning makers. Lost ones looking for the way back to something they feel but can’t see.

You.

I was cleaning out my closet this past weekend and it got me thinking about dreams.  Those big, hairy, audacious ideas for something you love to do but don’t. It’s scary to put your dream out there, let alone go for it. A dream is a tiny flicker of a flame and there are dream crushers everywhere. One wrong look or word and poof!

It’s gone.

But the dream keeps tugging at your sleeve: Listen! Pay attention to this! This is good stuff! Let’s see what we can make happen here!

It’s soooo easy to defer your dream.
If you follow me, you know my story. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was five years old. Two degrees, a professional writing career and 43 years later, I’m just now getting back to making space for my dream of being an author. There. I said it.

< insert terrified look here >

It’s one thing to say you want to do or be something. It’s quite another to make the commitment despite the doubts, insecurity and gigantic hairball of fear that tells you oh no, you can’t do THAT. That’s not going to put food on the table, pay for goalie gloves and new brakes for the truck. You’re not good enough. Who do you think you are, thinking you can do THAT??? And then there’s life. That thing that happens when you’re busy making other plans.

But then there is that little tug on your sleeve.

Continue reading “Coming Out of the Closet: Making Space for Your Dream”

What Does Creativity Feel Like?

1898-copy
View from the writing nook in a castle. Dublin, Ireland. © Christy Miles

It always amuses me when researchers try to pin down the “science” of creativity. Like this Fast Company review of a new book, 7 Surprising Facts About Creativity, According to Science. There’s nothing earth shattering here – 72% of people have creative insights in the shower? Okay. What else you got?

Call me naive or childish, but…why can’t we just let creativity be magical? Can’t we just let it happen and be? Do we have to analyze it to death? I am reminded of my days at Purdue, the starry-eyed writer surrounded by logical, scientific, linear-thinking engineers. One day, sitting outside at twilight on a hot summer day between classes with an engineer friend, a huge plane flew overhead. We sat in silence, watching it pass by. I couldn’t contain myself and said, “Wow, isn’t it amazing that a huge, heavy plane can just…fly??” My engineer friend immediately began to explain aerodynamics to me in pain-staking, exacting, excruciating detail. It’s how he was wired. I get it. 🙂

But I’m not wired that way. I’m wired for wonderment. Amazement. Appreciation. Observing. Synthesizing seemingly random data, words and visuals into new and different ideas. Detecting patterns and playing with new ways of constructing and organizing them. I don’t want to understand the science of creativity. I just want to feel it. Every damn day that I’m lucky enough to be here.

So what does creativity feel like?
Here is my feeble attempt to use words to describe it. I wish I was an artist so I could show you, but even my stick figures suck. So here goes: Continue reading “What Does Creativity Feel Like?”

Why I Write: Find or Reignite Your Creative Fire

creativityThis is for anyone who creates, used to create, wants to be more creative, or wants to start creating something new or different. We all create things. Some of us make art, new recipes, or clothing. Some of us build businesses. Raise children. Creativity takes many forms. But life and time takes its toll. Our creative pursuits often fall to the wayside or we get burnt out, especially if we have to be creative for a living.

I once worked with a group of senior citizens in an assisted living center as a volunteer to help them write their stories. In the first session, there was a lot of silence until one woman finally said, the only thing I’ve ever written is a grocery list! The others laughed. I said – that counts! Because it does. (And yes, we got to their stories.) The ways we share our words and stories may have changed with social media. But any effort to capture our ideas, thoughts, plans and vision matter. That’s why we should do everything we can to make time to create and stay fired up about our creative passions.

One way to do this is Continue reading “Why I Write: Find or Reignite Your Creative Fire”

Burnt Out? Get Your Vision Back!

georgewashingtoncarver158551We all have those moments – I hate my job, I’m burnt out, I can’t take anymore, I’m stuck, I give up, why bother, it’s hopeless! Whatever “it” is that is driving us to feel this way (jobs, crowds, living arrangements, parenting, you name it), the worst part is that we feel hopeless to change anything. So – nothing changes.

We can’t always change jobs. Although sometimes we do and we find that the negative feelings pack up their suitcases and come right along with us. 🙂 We can’t always change our friends, families, etc. But these are all external factors. We don’t have control over those things and that’s frustrating. But there is one thing you can change: how you think.

I believe this starts with thinking about you, instead of everyone and everything else around you that is driving your crazy. Hit pause on all of that for a moment and think about you instead. Build a vision for you and your life that will become your purpose and direction. I know about this because I help companies craft their mission, vision and values – and this becomes the purpose and direction that guides everything from employee motivation to acquisition decisions. But you know who my first customer was? Me!

When I was 9 years old, I created my vision for my life and it was this: I want to write things that make people think. In a speaking engagement on this topic last year in Dublin, Ireland, I only changed one word of that vision: I want to write things that make people think differently. Whenever I am feeling stuck, burnt out or worn down, I return to my vision. And it helps bring me out of that funk and move forward with renewed inspiration. I almost always find one little thing I can do to execute against my vision – and before I know it, I’m back on track.

Want to build your vision? Start with these six questions:

  1. What did you want to be or do when you were a kid? No crossing things off because it’s impossible. Just write it all down. If you don’t remember, dream a little. See what you come up with. Write it down.
  2. What are you really good at? Maybe it’s cooking. Debating. Care giving. Mowing the lawn. Researching data. Whatever it is, put it on the list. Make it a really long list!
  3. What do you believe in? It could be a value – loyalty, kindness, integrity. It could be connection with others; giving back; spirituality. Sky’s the limit here. Once you have a few, rank order them. Pick  your top three.
  4. What do you need? Do you need lots of introspective time alone or do you get your energy from being around people?
  5. What do you miss? Think about your current situation. What’s lacking? Are you getting enough connection with people? Has your job changed so you don’t get as much collaboration as you like?
  6. What brings meaning to your life? Think about the times in your life where you felt like you were really doing your thing, what you were meant to do. What did that look like? Feel like? Where were you? When was it? Who were you with? Try to capture as much as you can about the context.

See what emerges from this. What insights do you see? What connections can you make between the answers on your list? What can you change? How can you be more ‘you’ and do more of your ‘thing’ in your current situation? What would you need to change – and are you willing to do it? Is it practical and financially feasible? Is there a way to make small changes in your current situation – and how you think about it – that would make a difference?

Ultimately, you want to come up with a short vision statement for your life. It looks like this: I want to “fill in the blank.” What you fill in should be high level – short and crisp, memorable, easy to remember. It should be a big, hairy, audacious goal that feels a little nebulous, a little scary, a little like – how the hell do I do THAT? Be idealistic. Esoteric. Go for it! This is your vision. Make it BIG.

Your vision should feel like a stretch to get there. Something you can work toward and build upon for a long time. You won’t know at first how to get there. But you’ll have that vision and it become the guiding principle for your next steps into the future you deserve. It works for me – every time I feel like I’ve lost my way, my vision reminds me that I have a purpose and it drives me to find ways to execute against that purpose in my everyday life. More importantly, it brings me back to the real, authentic me, and the story I want to tell myself and to others. And that’s the only thing that any of can really control.

Go for it! 🙂

free to see the possibilities

This is my daughter in Florida the very first time she saw the ocean. I feel like this photo captures her true spirit and joy in life. Wouldn't it be great if we could all be this open to joy at every age, not just at age 8?
This is my daughter in Florida the very first time she saw the ocean. I feel like this photo captures her true spirit and joy in life. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be this open to joy and the possibilities of life at every age?

So I saw this quote early today at the gym and I had to share it with you: “Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther” by John Pierpont Morgan.  (Note to self: love that the source says, “This quote is about possibilities.” – Thanks for clarifying!!) You know how people and quotes and things come into your life at seemingly just the right time? This quote did that for me. And I hope it does the same for you.

I think we are all looking for possibilities. I’ve been talking to a lot of folks lately who are dealing with some tough situations – my creative cohert in crime and one of my all-time favorite people Susan is convinced that there is something in the air polluting things for everyone. (Thinking about all the toxins in the air, water and food, I violently believe she is correct – I will specifically mention my personal aversion to Sweet ‘n Low for those I have been trying to talk out of using – you know who you are. 🙂 ) But there are always tough situations that need to be managed. People lose their jobs and their homes, die, divorce, move on, get pissed, you name it. The questions should be not – why me? Or, why did this happen? The questions must be: where do I go from here? And most importantly, what do I want? (Another wise friend gave me that last one – lucky for me I know all these wise people.)

Continue reading “free to see the possibilities”

Be more creative. Yes, you!

Do you see that guy? He's diving off of a platform about 120' up in the air into the ocean at Rick's Cafe in Jamaica. Creative? Stupid? Brave? You be the judge.
Do you see that guy? He’s diving off of a platform about 120′ up in the air into the ocean at Rick’s Cafe in Jamaica. Creative? Stupid? Brave? You be the judge. (I jumped off the 30′ cliff and was scared to death!!)

Being in a creative profession, I live, eat, sleep, breathe and dream creativity. It’s my job to be a master of my craft. I’ve spent 20+ years working on this – and every day I learn something new. That’s what I love about this journey that I’ve chosen to pursue. Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to meet interesting, creative, smart, cool people – and every one of them has a story. One refrain that I hear a lot is, “I’m not creative at all! How do you do what you do, especially in a short timeframe?”

I want to dispel any misconceptions right here, right now: creativity is a gift that we all have. It just looks different in everyone. I happen to make a living with my creativity, so I’ve dedicated a lot of my energy and time to understanding it. Creativity is a muscle that needs to be developed, trained and used. But the important thing to know is that we all have this muscle. Whenever someone tells me they are not creative, it makes me want to grab them by the shoulders, shake them and say, OH YES YOU ARE! 🙂

So if you’ve ever thought that you are not creative at all or wish to add more creativity in your life, here are 7 tips that have worked for me – and I hope they work for you, too.

Continue reading “Be more creative. Yes, you!”

feeling lost? think back to when you were 9

When I was nine years old, I thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up. After exploring options like veterinarian, teacher and librarian, I finally settled on one thought: I want to write things that make people think.

Flash forward…a lot of years. I am now helping really smart people build compelling stories about very complex products. A big part of my job involves being a good listener. I listen to engineers talk about the fantastic, creative products they have dreamt up, designed and built, then created with the help of a team of other really smart people. I extract what I know will make a great story and help them build it with the tools and techniques I have honed through…a lot of years of studying the works of great writers and building stories for many companies.

There is nothing more satisfying to me than helping someone tell their story – whether it is a biography, a product messaging platform focused on the customer’s needs, or a white paper on the benefits of 40G or Class 4 antennas. Recently, I helped a team hone the strategic message for a new product launch. The product is cool, innovative and complex. At the end of a two-day messaging session with a team of eight, the leader of the team delivered a pitch based on the foundation we had just built that was clear, concise, and truly compelling. It truly confirmed that I am doing exactly what I set out to do: write things that make people think.

Continue reading “feeling lost? think back to when you were 9”