Monthly Archives: June 2012
Mike Dooley, founder of Totally Unique Thoughts (tut.com) wrote the following “Top 10 Ways People Give Away Their Power” in the latest Notes from the Universe e-mail I received. If you’re not familiar with Dooley’s work, I encourage you to check it out. I want to comment on these Top 10 because they really do have the power to leave you disengaged and feeling helpless to actively create your life. (By the way, you’re creating your life all of the time – it’s just a matter of “what” you are creating. And “what” you are creating comes down to what you are predominantly choosing to think, believe, envision and expect.)
So, let’s dive into these a bit more:
Top 10 ways people give away their power:
1. Asking others what they should do.
You know in your heart, if you stop and really listen, what you are to do. You know the right path for you, for your work, for your characters. Asking for feedback or advice is beneficial only to the degree that it opens you up to see things from another’s perspective – but no one else can ever see from your inner knowledge. So do ask, but own your role as the creator and know that you are the only one who can decide.
Keep in mind, too, that everyone has their own opinion about you and your work. Don’t let others’ opinions become your reality. Take what can benefit you, discard what will not. It’s too easy and we all do this – to value other people’s opinions more than we value our own. Yet, in the end, our opinion is what ultimately matters. Own your opinion and your power.
2. Thinking God decides who gets what.
We create how we experience life by what we think is possible and impossible for us. Focus on what you do want, not on what you don’t want. Start asking “what ifs” about all the good things and big dreams you have. What if it were easy? What if is happened fast? What if I really could achieve this? That creates space for your mind to start considering the possibility of it happening and the more you dwell on it, the more energy you give it and the more it will manifest in your life.
3. Worrying about how their dream will come true.
How is not what we need to focus on. Remember the troops in my general analogy? They represent the Universe and they know how to work the miracles needed to achieve your dreams. Don’t worry about the hows. Focus on the destination and the actual steps you can do now to step closer to that destination. Take Toyota’s mantra “Choose any direction, as long as it’s forward” – if you haven’t heard that from them, it shows up in Closed Captioning at the end of their commercials.
4. Thinking they have dues to pay.
The only dues you have to pay is the time it takes you to let go of limiting beliefs. Start believing that you can create your dreams. Start challenging all those thoughts that tell you you can’t or that make fear seem more powerful than you are.
5. Attaching to unimportant details and outcomes.
Focus on the destination. Keep your end goal in sight, imagine what it’s like to be in that space. Live from that space. Don’t get hung up on the little details. As Dooley says: “It’s not the steps that matter, but the path. And the path will take care of itself, when you keep focused on your destination.”
Open your mind up to allow your dream to become reality in the way that it needs to. Don’t try to control all the details or how it happens. Let it come to you in the magical way that it can and will.
6. Believing in soul mates.
This is a tricky limiting belief if you interpret it to mean that there is only one person or solution out there right for you. If that’s what you believe, it closes you off to the possibility of letting the Universe choose someone who will love you in a healthy, enjoyable way. Believing that there’s only one person out there for you – or one producer, director, buyer, agent – is based in fear.
However, when you allow the Universe to make the connections and you trust that you are being guided, then you often will find that the person who comes into your life will be a soul mate – someone just right for you.
7. Thinking karma or spiritual contracts are absolute.
The only absolutes in this life are the moment of birth and the moment of death. Everything else can change, because we perceive experiences through our thoughts. If we change our perspective on something, we change how we feel and when we change how we feel, we change our behavior and that leads to new and different ways of experiencing life. It’s our interpretation of experiences that creates our perception of events.
8. Fear of anything, especially falling in love.
You can say no to fear. Fear doesn’t like to hear that, but it’s true. You can look it in the face and choose to say no. You’re not going to stop feeling afraid first and then say no. You have to choose to say no to fear first and then feelings of fear will dissipate. And remember, fear is often the child in you trying to protect itself from change.
9. Waiting for their ducks to line up before acting.
Your ducks will line up after you take action. It’s easier to direct the course of a moving object than a still one. Let me tell you this, too: the “ducks” in your life are waiting for you to act before they line up. You’re the creator, remember?
10. Choosing to be unhappy.
“Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be,” said Abraham Lincoln. Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy and the feelings will follow. Don’t wait for something else or someone else to make you feel happy. It’s not anyone’s job to make you feel happy. You’re responsible for it.
So choose happiness. Choose faith. Choose trust. Choose to say no to fear. Choose to take action. Choose to listen to your own guidance. Choose to create the life you want.
People are going to tell you that you can’t do it.
The odds are against you. It’s nearly impossible to “break in.” Only such-and-such a percentage of people achieve it.
Don’t listen to them.
The only people who tell you this are those who haven’t achieved it.
This is your journey. You are the driver. And while these “voices” out there may or may not be concerned with your well-being, they actually have nothing to do with YOU.
Why do people caution others against hope? Why do they always tell you to be so careful? Why do they think you have to be told (like they have some legal obligation) why you shouldn’t expect too much from yourself, your dreams, your desires? Why does everyone think we all have to be so insulated from disappointment? As if not achieving a dream would be fatal or something?
This is a Game and You’re Ultimately Going to Be Fine
Dreams – achieved or not achieved, held on to, let go, changed, altered, dreamed bigger, dreamed differently – they’re not life and death matters, folks. They’re supposed to be pursuits of joy. You’re supposed to be lighthearted enough in life to enjoy the process and know that no matter what happens, this is a game and you’re ultimately going to be just fine.
Okay, okay. You could look at “facts.” You could look at numbers. Those numbers all apply to other people’s experiences. You don’t know the stories behind how those numbers came to be.
When it comes to your dream, you are the only one who can decide what you want. And I can tell you, very few people actually decide what they want. They linger in wishful, hoping, wouldn’t-it-be-wonderful-if-it-came-true land. That land is Indecision. And with indecision is lack of commitment.
Lack of Commitment Will Always Result in Not Achieving Your Dream
You’re the general of a strong, powerful army of well-trained, skilled troops. Each soldier has very specific expertise. They know how to work together to get the job done.
They’re all standing in a field in front of you. Ready.Waiting. Fully capable of going into action to achieve your goal.
You’re sitting in your tent (yes, this is ancient army imagery). You’re thinking how wonderful it would be if maybe, perhaps, gosh, you better not even dare imagine it – but wouldn’t it just be so great if you could really make it. If you could achieve this big, huge goal that everyone says you shouldn’t even reach for because, well, so few generals have ever achieved it. But what if you could? No, you shouldn’t even think it. Wouldn’t it be awesome though? Yeah. You can feel how awesome it would be….
Meanwhile, the troops are getting impatient.
Back to you: okay, maybe you could take at least a few steps in that direction. You emerge from your tent. All eyes rivet on you. Every body poised to jump into action.
Here’s what you say:
“I don’t know if I can achieve this. I mean, who am I to achieve this? I probably shouldn’t even bother. I’m not ready. I don’t have the experience. I can’t really be a ‘general’ can I? I mean, I need someone to tell me if I’m a general. A real one.” You turn and go back inside, the crowd sighs, look at each other, wonder about you. They wait.
You come out again.
“Okay, I’m going to give this a shot. If it gets too hard, I can always quit. No one will know. I probably won’t make it. Few people ever have. I won’t get my hopes up. Let’s take a few steps, see what happens.”
The soldiers groan with disappointment. But they’re good troops and they do exactly as you say. Half-heartedly.
They take a few steps, but no one feels any real commitment, because you haven’t committed. And what do they achieve? Exactly and only the few steps that you told them to do. That’s what you wanted, after all. That’s all you asked of them.
NOW, let’s change things up. You are sitting in your tent. Looking at your maps. Visioning exactly what you want to achieve in the end. You have a big goal – yes, you know it’s bigger than what most generals attempt, but you don’t care. That was their decision. Not yours. You believe in your troops. You believe in your ability to lead them to this goal.
They’re outside waiting for you. Excited, expectant.
You emerge from the tent. All eyes rivet on you. Every body poised to jump into action. Here’s what you say:
“This is what we’re going to do. This is what we are going to achieve. It’s big, it’s going to take everything we’ve got. People say it can’t be done. We’re going to do it. This is where we are going. I want every one of you in action. I expect you to do your best work. Make it happen. You have the skills to get this done. I trust you to know what to do, when to do it. If you have questions about where we’re going, come and ask me. I’ll remind you. We’re moving forward. There’s no turning back.”
Shouts of joy and excitement fill the air. The troops rally, move out into action. They know exactly what to do, who to contact, what connections to make, what paths to go down and who to say “no” to because, in their expertise, they know a better, easier, and more impactful way to reach this goal. They do things in ways that surprise you, but you trust these troops and you keep your eye on the goal, not the individual steps they take. You hold the destination in sight. They report back to you with opportunities, connections, yes’s from supporters, no’s from detractors, detours around obstacles, paths they’ve taken that you would never have thought of.
True, sometimes they come back without progress to report. You wonder a bit if you’re going to achieve it after all. You remind them of your commitment and they continue using their skills to get you closer to your goal. They have perfect faith in you and you have perfect faith in them. This is who you are, this is where you’re going. You aren’t striving or pushing or pulling by yourself – you’re leading your troops, keeping your end destination in sight and adjusting course as you get feedback from them. You feel an ease, a faith, a confidence because you know that these troops come through.
You spend time visualizing what it feels like to already have achieved your goal – you can feel it, you live it out in your imagination now, you adapt your mindset to the person you’ll be when you achieve it. You start to think from that new perspective. You make decisions based on that future you.You have full confidence that as you keep moving forward, you’re getting closer to your destination.
And you have the ease and peace of mind to enjoy the whole process of getting there. You even start to plan your next big campaign, because once you achieve this one, you know you’re going to want to head out on another journey, this time even bigger, more amazing and far-fetched.
Which General Are You? Decide & Commit
Feel the difference? Decision and commitment. It puts everything into full-fledged action. It gives your dreams the driving energy they need.
You decide which general you are. The troops are the Universe. They’re waiting outside your tent.
What are you going to ask them to do?
As a writer, I am blessed that I can do my work from anywhere, and most importantly to me, have my children and family with me. I know there are many creative professionals who do not have this luxury. My heart goes out to them for the decisions they are faced with when their love for their art and their love for their family splits them in two. I can imagine how alienating and heartrending it must be to feel torn between the two things you love most in the world. Both of which feel as if they are a part of yourself and neither of which you can live without.
There is no easy answer to this – when your art requires you to be away from loved ones for long hours, or days, weeks, months at a time.
Sooner or later, you’re going to ask yourself: is it worth it?
Is the price of doing the art you love – art you’re good at – worth what it costs you? Worth what is costs your family? Worth the relationships you might be missing out on?
The more successful you are, the less freedom you feel to ask these questions. Why? Because if you’re marketable, someone will always have an interest in your work. And the more successful you are, the higher the financial stakes get, the higher the pressure to keep doing what you’re doing. But once you’ve achieved certain levels of success, motivations change. Money isn’t as big a driving factor. Neither is reaching career milestones. Chances are, what drives you is the work itself and the emotional, physical and mental challenge and rewards it provides. You become your biggest driving factor.
As artists, we find harmony and flow when we’re in the midst of creating. Time ceases to exist. We’re focused, lost in “the zone.” We are most ourselves when we’re creating, aren’t we?
But time doesn’t stop for our kids and loved ones.
They don’t feel the same sense of ease and flow.
And kids don’t really care what it is that Mom or Dad does for a living. They just want you to be Mom or Dad.
So what do you do? Where and how do you find balance?
There are no easy answers, but here are some thoughts to ponder:
Children are only children once.
I can’t imagine not being with my children day in and day out. That’s me. Not everyone feels this way. But if you’re away for extended periods, you are missing out on time that matters to them and to you. Is there a way for you to have them with you? Could they be privately tutored or home-schooled so that they could be with you where you are?
We often think that “stability” is most important to children. But stability doesn’t have to mean being in one place, with one set of friends, one school. Stability can mean being with you wherever you are – finding comfort in your routines and having a solid relationship with you. Like I said, my husband and I are fortunate to be stay-and-work-at-home parents. Since we spend part of the year in Europe and part of the year in the States, we home educate. We also keep the same daily routines no matter where we are so transitioning to either locale doesn’t impact our daily lives as much as it could. Our “family” is our children’s stability.
Children are resilient. They adjust to cultures and changes in location. They have a far harder time accepting being separated from a parent they love or understanding why a parent would choose to be separated from them. And when they are grown, what will matter more to them? Having remained in one locale, with one group of school friends – and having missed out on being with you, OR having been with you, and missed out on one group of school friends and one locale? Don’t be afraid to make choices that go against “stability” and “conventionality.” You live a different life because of your work, they can, too.
I realize, of course, that it gets complicated if you have a spouse who has his or her career and doesn’t want to give that up. It may come down to figuring out what matters most to you as a family and what each of you is willing to give up to keep family front and center. It may mean compromising or living in multiple homes so that you can be within reach no matter where you’re working. Don’t be afraid to make “being together” more important and valuable than traditional school, activities or social connections. During childhood, you matter more than anyone else in your child’s world. They have a lifetime to have other friends.
You are the parent your child is meant to have.
As parents, we take so much responsibility for our children’s day-to-day happiness that we forget that sometimes it’s the bigger picture that matters most. Our children are our children because of the unique experience and guidance that only we can give them. I firmly believe that. It’s not accidental that you happen to be their parent. There’s a reason for it. And the fact that you are an artist and work under the conditions you do, is part of that bigger picture of what you are meant to pass on to them. You need to realize that you are the parent they need you to be. And the experience they have of you as a working artist is part of the plan.
You may be tempted to think of the harm you may be doing by not being with them, but you need to consider the bigger picture, too. The experiences they have with you is laying the foundation to support them in what they will do with their lives later on. You can’t always see that, but you can trust that is it so.
The greatest gift you can give your children is to be happy.
Physical presence matters, or course. But what matters even more is how your children experience you when you are with them. Are you happy? Do they see you happy and fulfilled by what you do? Living joy-filled lives is the greatest gift we can give them. Why? It validates to them that happiness matters. That finding and creating happiness by doing what you love and loving what you do, matters. That they have the power to create their happiness, too. You will have a far greater positive impact on your kids if you are happy and apart from them, then if you are unhappy and with them. Don’t lose sight of that.
Separation hurts – there’s no way around it.
As much as you may wish to be with your kids and loved ones, oftentimes, doing the work you love won’t allow it. How do you deal with the pain and loneliness? How do you feel thrilled to be doing what you love and at the same time sick inside missing the ones you love most? How do you handle feeling guilty when your kids cry for you and ask why you have to be away?
- Remember, people respond to you by how you make them feel. If they feel loved, cherished, happy and enjoy being with you when you are present, they’re going to value their relationship with you even when you’re apart. If they feel stressed out, worried, fearful or tense when you’re around, they will not value their relationship with you. You control the quality of relationship you deliver to them, the way that they experience you. And it’s that essence of you that will linger.
- Communicate. Talk to your kids, your spouse, your loved ones. Kids often have no idea of what it is us grown-ups do in our work – let them in on it.
- When you’re with them, be with them.
- Make up a routine that is unique to your family. Something that only you share together. A touchstone for everyone.
- Acknowledge how you feel. Missing loved ones is going to distract you emotionally. Depending on your art, this may effect your work. Take time to acknowledge how you are feeling. It’s normal to feel as if part of yourself is missing when you are away from your children and loved ones. It’s normal to feel sad, depressed, and uncertain if you’re making the right decision to be away.
- Know that ultimately, your children are going to be okay. They have the power to be okay, to choose to be happy, to change their perspective of their family circumstances, as well.
Don’t be afraid to change things.
The more successful you are, the faster the merry-go-round spins, the harder it is to stop it and get off. But you CAN stop it if you want to. You need to give yourself permission to know that you can. This is your life. You only get one shot at this lifetime. If everyone else is happy, but you’re not, what does it matter if they’re happy? You have to live your life according to what makes you fulfilled and happy. It may mean saying no to work that doesn’t allow you to be with your kids as much as you want, it may mean finding a way to have them with you. You alone can decide what you are willing to trade.
Ask questions. Think outside the box. Keep the big picture in mind. Are your children generally happy? Are they well? Do they seem to be thriving? Do they feel loved?
Is your spouse happy? Well? Thriving? Loved?
If yes, take a deep breath and know: you’re doing enough. They’re going to be okay.
If not, then own your power to change things and create the life you want.
Revision is a task all writers must master. But it’s often seen, particularly among inexperienced writers, as something to dread.
Don’t dread revision. Embrace it. It is one of the biggest gifts writers are given – the opportunity to re-work our work to allow it to more fully grow into its deepest self. This is where Story meets up with Craft in its most intense relationship.
Here’s some tips to make it easier:
1. Start by realizing that revision requires you to let go of the Story as you currently perceive it.
It’s the Story that matters most. By Story I mean the journey toward a particular spiritual/emotional/physical realization for the main characters. How they go about this is malleable. Your Characters know their Story, but you have say in how to best reveal that journey to the audience.
2. Realize that there is more to bring out.
In the first draft, the Story pours out (and if it’s not pouring out, you may be tugging at it before it’s ready) – the first draft is the core material of the Story. It’s in its purest form – where theme, characters, dialogue – reveal themselves, undisturbed yet by the writer’s hand. It is raw, malleable material that is never meant for anyone elses’ eyes and always meant to be shaped and nurtured and tended to by the writer.
3. Take on the role of director when revision begins.
Particularly for scripts, but also for novels, your job as a writer includes the role of director when you start revision. Why? Because while you are writing, you are also directing the Story – and you have decisions to make. Director’s decisions – not just writing decisions. That means you start to take the Story apart and look at it structurally. You look at character development, you decide what best serves the Story and you get rid of or change what doesn’t. You keep the big picture in mind and you get tough with what’s working and what’s not. You also start to really get to know your characters and deal with their issues in a supportive, caring manner. You take command of the page and accept responsibility for what’s on it and what’s not.
4. Partner with your characters and let them inform your decisions.
Characters trust you with their story and that’s not an easy thing to do. They deserve respect. They also know far more than we do when it comes to who they are, what they’re after and what they’re not telling you. You have to be a very good listener. They are invested in the success of your work and they will give you what you need. Ask them. They’ll surprise you. They’ll also reveal more when you let them have a say in how their Story is told.
5. Bring in a second set of professional eyes when it’s ready.
No one will ever know your Story as well as you do, but we lose our ability to accurately perceive whether or not we have expressed the Story as well as we intended. That’s where having a second set of professional eyes provide feedback is invaluable.
6. Revise again.
After you get feedback, take what makes sense for the Story (not for your ego) and revise again. Chances are some of the suggestions made to you will take your work to a higher level. Some won’t fit and you’ll leave those behind.
7. Take responsibility for the final completion of the Story.
It’s easy to wallow in a never-ending state of revision. But that won’t move your Story to its next stage of development. You have to accept responsibility for deciding when you’ve brought the Story to the highest level you can, at this stage, with the information, feedback and understanding that you have right now. Part of this is something you’ll just know. Part of it is an actual decision to stop revising and declare it ready to stand on its own in the world. You have to determine if you’ve given it everything it needs to sustain its life. If you have, then make the decision. Declare it done at this stage.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing a songwriter who has been behind some of the top pop hits in the last decade. Something he said in regards to the writing process hit close to home:
“If it (the content) is just okay, but it doesn’t feel like magic, then find something else, don’t waste your time, on writing.”
Feel like magic. That’s what it’s supposed to feel like, isn’t it?
What encouraged me was the fact that even after so many years writing songs for A-list artists, he still judges his writing by the magic. As creative professionals it can be hard to keep that magic front and center in the work we do for others. But the magic – and finding it – is the key to what makes our work stand head and shoulders above the rest.
So how do you know if something has the magic?
I know one thing: you can’t create magic. You can receive it and you can refine your work until the magic comes through – but it is not something you can order and have served up in your work. You can’t layer it on top. It has to emerge organically. And it comes by listening.
Getting quiet. Paying attention. Asking questions. Asking for guidance. And listening to what you hear, to what you feel, to what your intuition is telling you. From the Story, from the Characters, from the work, from your Spirit.
Magic evades us most when we are striving. When we disconnect from Spirit and push, pull, tug and coerce creative results.
This is one of the key risks in revision and one we need to be very careful about. Revision has the potential to delete the magic. And while you need to revise (revise, revise, revise) you also need to know your Story and Characters well enough to know which parts are magical and which parts aren’t. It’s the magical scenes and dialogue that give Story its soul.
How do you know which scenes those are?
By how they make you feel.
Chances are that if a scene you’ve written moves you emotionally, it’s carrying magic. Not everything in a script or novel is going to evoke emotion. When we’re writing a script, we see every page, every scene, every word in it’s long form.
We do not see it condensed down into film, with actors, sound and editing to carry the emotional tone through 90 minutes.
So we need to be aware of which scenes and dialogue carry the magic and protect those.
Magic flows most freely in the first draft, so mine it for gold. Magic also flows during revision when characters share scenes with you that you weren’t aware of before. In a script, the magic is in the characters. So you have to listen to them and let them express it.
And if you’re not feeling the magic?
Don’t waste your time. Don’t write something that just doesn’t speak to your own soul. If you’re on assignment, and you have to write the story given to you, then pay very close attention and listen to the character’s hearts. Let them give you the magic. Ask them for it. Give them room to find it amongst themselves.