Faith or Fool—What’s Fueling Your Work?

Creatives. We speak of dreams, hope, expectationsBut how does all that relate to faith?

In this year of pursuing a career of creativity, one thing I’ve learned is how to keep working when there are only scraps to feed the hope that all these efforts will actually turn any profit.

This, I suppose, could be called faith.

It’s not blindly hoping that things will turn out well. It’s days, months, even years of exertion. Investing time and effort with the relatively baseless belief that it will pay off.

What is that if not faith?

How about this: 

Maybe it’s just gambling. Maybe I’m a faithless gambler.

It’s nice and pretty to call it faith, but I also love giving myself obstacles. If I overcome them, great, that feels good. I analyzed a risk, acted, and won a reward.

And if I don’t? Well, I’m an optimistic masochist. Here’s just another painful opportunity to pull myself up by my bootstraps and figure out a solution, a new path.

Oh, maybe it’s that. Neither faith nor masochism, but zest for the road less traveled? If I continuously piecemeal my life, then I’ve guaranteed higher odds of staying entertained in puzzle-solving mode (or just staying distracted).

a saint statue on a bridge near a quaint town in italy, like faith or hope

Either way, I’m going for this writing thing. Say it’s not fruitful, say I fail . . . if nothing else, I’ll have learned to work without gratification, to work even though I can’t see what’s ahead of me.

I’ll have learned to prepare myself for futures unknown and hope that the presence of that preparedness creates somehow the thing itself.

And I’ll know that I’ll be ready when said future falls. It may fall with the splat, or it may fall gently at my feet, waiting for a ready step forward.

I suppose we’ll see.


I began here with the intent to figure out my relationship with faith, but it doesn’t seem like that has happened. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

The Drug of Daydreams

My last post explained why we should avoid expectations.

They provide the disservice of filling up present time with things that often don’t come to pass. That hole in a bucket thing.

But what if we’re not “expecting”? What if we’re just weighing options, considering possibilities . . . daydreaming?

Let’s get meta. Let’s think about this philosophically: Why live in a Future when there is a NowOne exists, one doesn’t.

I believe in power of intention and visualization, but hear me out.

looking down a boardwalk (into the future)

A man I know spends hours daydreaming about the various things he could do with his life and money. Sometimes he writes out these fabricated paths, thousands of words branching out like stories in a family tree.

If I learn to sail, I can buy a boat, navigate the ocean, I’ll meet so many people . . . I’ll write, after, and while I’m doing it . . . I’ll have to learn to cook—perhaps I’ll hire a cook, we’ll become close, maybe too close . . . maybe a captain, instead . . . we’ll butt heads, become close after surviving a storm . . . I’ll return to land, changed—I’ll decide I need to restart my life…

And sometimes it’s an entire plan for the immediate future, painstakingly outlined, then described to me in detail over the course of an hour (why I sit and listen is another issue altogether).

He thinks it harmless, whimsical. Entire plans hatched, articulated, vibrating with manic possibility. But how much time has passed assessing alternate lives that will never be lived? He’s not living now. He’s out there living in places that don’t exist.

Other times, he complains about his to-do list, how unproductive he feels. He senses, I suspect, the shortness of life, the brief impermanence of existence, yet misses the disconnect between that and his daydreams.

 

The Drug of Daydreams

Daydreaming is nice in short spurts, especially for goals. But excess time in the realm of daydreams is like too many acid trips—eventually you lose touch with what’s real.

What’s “real” in the tangible world is honesty in its most basic form. I want to live as close to honesty—to the bare-bones of life’s outcomes and possibilities—as possible. Getting caught up in daydreams seems dishonest, somehow. Like I’m lying to existence.

Let it be said:

I am not faultless in this game; the consequences of daydreaming do punish me, particularly in the realm of [past] romances. It’s so seemingly ingrained in my habits that I often haven’t realized it’s happening.

I meet a man, he checks many boxes, and I begin imagining our future. That future, fueled by flapping butterflies, gains so much power that it shadows the present, blinding me to the reality of our actual [in]compatibility. 

Mutual attraction and shared passions do not ensure mutual enjoyment of each other.

But, in the beginning, excitement over the fantasy gives us fuel. We attempt with wilful ignorance to achieve a false future that is doomed. With eyes trained on that distant valley, so lush and pristine, we don’t notice the gaping abyss before us until we fall right into it. 

 

Dreaming Creativity Away

Creatively, these daydreams can incapacitate us.

I know, I know. You’re saying, “If I don’t daydream I don’t create!”

But look, you will daydream no matter what. Have faith in that. It will happen in the shower, on a run, washing the dishes. And that is okay; those are good times for it.

What I’m saying here is to be careful. Don’t get lost out there. Daydreaming can be a form of stagnation.

Actors in Hollywood so caught up in the fantasy of fame and recognition they eschew the present-day work it takes to get there. They go to auditions, but they don’t actively train.

Writers so enamoured with the “bestseller” two chapters they wrote four years ago they don’t realize it’s time to move on, to create output now.

Entrepreneurs who know they have the right stuff, who see the success of their countless business ideas, but aren’t willing to do today’s dirty work to get there.

Daydreams:

Innocuous, fancy free.

And dangerous.

 

“When one thought ends, right before the next thought begins, there is a tiny gap called ‘now.’ Over time we learn to expand that gap.” – Spring Washam 

 


 

Your thoughts? Leave a comment below…Oh, and sign up for my 1-2 weekly articles in your inbox 🙂

photocred:photopin.com

Are You Who You Say You Are?

There are risks in believing things about yourself.

These things you believe?

They might come true.

Recently I played trampoline dodgeball. Whatever you think that’s like, you’re probably right.

Do you remember trampolines as a kid? How carefree? The giggle fits? Still like that.

The setup is about half the size of a basketball court filled with connected trampoline “ponds” the size of an SUV. You jump from one trampoline to the next while madly attempting to avoid dodgeballs flying everywhere.

I couldn’t stop smiling. Between fast-paced matches I would continue to jump and jump, laughing like a kid.

And sometimes I would stop. I’d zone in on the blaring high-school era pop music (Britney Spears, Nelly, etc…), the glaring lights, the dings of adjacent arcade games, all the new friends I was playing with…

And suddenly I’d think: “Man, I really hate being with all these people.

Then I’d start jumping and feel really good about things again.

a trampoline in a park

 

How Do You Exist?

I jokingly told my sister about the trampoline dodgeball, one of my many lukewarm attempts at socializing. I mentioned how in new social situations, I often get side-swiped by the overwhelming desire to be alone.

She quickly cautioned against getting caught in thought patterns like these, saying that sometimes the stories we tell ourselves simply aren’t true, but that we come to believe them after enough repetition.

Maybe I don’t hate being with people (sometimes). Maybe it’s just a baseless thought-habit.

In many ways, I agree. We say things like “Oh, I’ve always been a control freak” or “I haven’t tried fish in 15 years, but I’ve always hated it!” as [insufficient] means of excusing current behavior by committing to a past version of ourselves.

But that version may no longer exist.

Or if it does, it’s no more embedded in who you are than a simple decision to take showers before bed every night.

Personalities change, they evolve. According to the longest personality study ever made, we’re essentially different people every few years. Physically and psychologically.

You’ve seen it: humans can be remarkably inconsistent.

It’s commitment to consistency that’s often the true force behind stability. Committing to what we believe about ourselves helps us to make sense of our place in a world that is generally quite senseless.

My antisocial behaviors have always frustrated my sister because she feels the need to pick up my slack, to cover for my awkwardness.

It’s always been this way, and the truth is that I’d probably be much, much worse if it wasn’t for her. I recall a pivotal social-learning moment in sixth grade. She greeted a teacher and I eavesdropped: “Hey there….How are you doing?…I’m good, thanks. Excited for the weekend.”

I thought, “Ahhhh, so that’s how it’s done!”

Still, my desire to socialize depends wholly on my mood and how much I have or haven’t been alone in the preceding hours.

 

Who Are You Now?

But here’s the thing:

While she’s right that we can get caught in false thought patterns, there’s power in simply accepting who we are in the moment. Even if you’ll change tomorrow. Even if you were different before.

Even if you change.

meggan and sister at a mountain lookout

We only have so much energy to devote to daily living, let alone to the deeper (and arguably more important) issues of personal growth. By no means am I knocking self-help, but one has to pick and choose on the journey.

It is only now, in my 30s, that I’m beginning to accept and understand what it means to be an introvert. I’m not especially antisocial, but in my case—and introversion is different for everybody—I get especially worn-down by noise stimuli.

It may have little to do with an “introvert personality”; in fact, it may just be weak nerves. I’ve been reactive to sounds since infancy. My mom once said it was entertaining to watch little me “unravel” when my brother would tap, tap, tap away at things to bother me.

I love connecting with people, but would rather stay home reading than meet a friend in a loud restaurant.

Maybe I’m a superb extrovert, just with sensitive ears.

Luckily, there’s science behind the introvert neurological connection. My suspicion is that we blow the psychology of introvert/extrovert out of proportion.

Yes, you’re constantly changing, but within that change, you remain. The task of being you, of somehow being truthful to that concept, is never-ending.

“You can’t step in the same river twice,” they say incorrectly…

The water changes, the the river remains.


Your thoughts? Leave a comment below…and sign up to receive 1-2 weekly articles in your inbox, wouldja?

In related news, this great Invisibilia Podcast on personality is worth a listen.

  photocred:photopin.com

Reaching a Stalemate with Creativity

When you set out on a creative quest—writing a book, biking cross-country, starting a business—you’re told it will take longer than expected.

Somehow, you think the experience of others won’t quite hold true for you…

But of course, this is what happened with my bookI figured when I finished the first draft last October that I’d be done with the rest come Spring. I was wrong. 

I’ve never really had to work like this, creating something that comes wholly from me.

Past jobs came easily. I cared (sometimes), but not like this. I wasn’t throwing myself on the line. They were easy, calculated risks. I would succeed, all was well.

messy chalkboard with formulas

Pursuing writing has always been weighted against the extreme doubt, the undeniable knowledge, that success ultimately relies on my subjective mind and experience.

No hacking or charming my way into this one, no specific skills or formulas to apply. I’m just working with general overall ability.

I’m slowed by the nebulous weight of that requirement.

Similar, I guess, to how it would be for any pursuer of creative exposure—a painter, entrepreneur, musician, dancer. Threats of a creative stalemate loom. They taunt.

My current book is nonfiction; it’s relatively safe in terms of personal vulnerability. Still, calculated measures may not equate to guaranteed success, and that’s not an okay feeling for this star student.

We’re bound to encounter resistance when trying to put our inside stuff out. And the only real solution is grit. Pushing through until you reach the other side. If nothing else, fall upon curiosity—what is the other side, anyway?


Your thoughts? Leave a comment below…Oh, and sign up to receive 1-2 weekly articles in your inbox 🙂

 photocred:photopin.com

Being in a Relationship with Yourself

Does everything that feels creative eventually fall to a place that feels dead?

My love for writing has grown disproportionately to my ability to understand what I’m doing along this timeline of being a writer.

This time last year, I was embarrassed to tell people about my blog. I was embarrassed to tell others I was a writer.

But also this time last year, I wrote with fervor. I pushed and pushed to be who I said I was.

Now, I believe I am that person, but I have little more to show for it than I did back then. Now the shame is gone, but the fervor is, too.

What has changed, if nothing has changed? If I’ve grown in security but shrunk in creation? Do those results cancel each other out?

I’ve settled into the person I desired to be. I’ve accepted her. Does that mean I grow bored with her? The same way I treat most partners when the relationship becomes “normal”?

I don’t want to be that kind of partner.

hourglass sandglass timer

All these things must tie together. A series of romances that ended similarly—crash-burning when fantasy didn’t hold up to reality—must relate somehow to the relationship I began with creativity around when the first of the love charades began.

In them, I went along saying,

“Hey, the way we’re treating this isn’t realistic; you don’t know me well enough for these proclamations of love.”

And eventually—predictably—the strain of false hope weighed too heavily on ties that require the strength of years .

Yet typing that also reminds me of this: I was also the one saying,

“Hey, this is not realistic of us, but I will push forward anyway. I will give this a fair shot.”

Which means I’m usually not the one to leave—for better or worse.

And in a relationship with myself, maybe that’s exactly what I need. To be here, writing in the most boring of ways (edits, edits, edits) and know that on both sides, both Meggans are saying:

Hey, this is not realistic of us, but I will push forward anyway. I will give this a fair shot.


Your thoughts? I’d love to hear form you below…

photocred:photopin.com

When Do You Harvest Yourself?

This August finds me in a whirlpool.

It’s not always a bad thing. But it is a thing. You know the feeling? 

Consolation comes from knowing that I was in this exact whirlpool last August, too.  

Something about sensing life was about to change, that life needed to change, but reaching that oblique “changed” point could only be done with blind steps into the mire.

Being here again makes me think about years, and seasons.

It’s been said that the human condition follows a relative harvest year (not necessarily congruent with regional climates). So…

Spring/Planting → Ideas-Action-Creativity

Summer/Upkeep → Results-Outcomes-Maintenance (weeding)

Autumn/Harvest → Results of Effort-“What’s Next?”-Preparation for winter

Winter/Death → Doubt-Scarcity-Incapacity

On and on, the season cycle continues.

It certainly seems applicable to my past year. If so, winter has begun. All my habits have been falling off. Even morning journaling—a stalwart for 10 months—has diminished.

Much that’s been planted, loved, grown, and harvested now seems lethargic or inert. It’s scary. My first impulse is to figure out what’s wrong, but maybe it’s just frozen ground for a while.

Natural—not wrong.

If the seasons theory holds, productivity should come again, sooner or later.

This reminds me of something else: love. Ever noticed a similar cycle play out in relationships?

person in the middle of a whirlpool

Anyway, that’s all I have. I’m in New Zealand with the prospects of spreading roots here for the foreseeable (short-ish-term) future. Fittingly enough, it’s winter here. I wonder what’s next.

I’d love to hear your thoughts? Leave ’em below.

photo:photopin.com