Welcome to Week 2 of my mini-project, based on Carol Lloyd’s book, Creating a Life Worth Living, and focusing on mindset, creativity and forging a pathway for the kind of creative life I – and other creatives – want.
Last time I said how the tasks in Chapter 1 (or Week 1, the way I’m working through this), inspired me to realise that, while outside validation of my work – and by extension, of me – is welcome, self-validation should be enough. As I’ve said before, self-validation is something I struggle with at a writerly and personal level, but it was an important piece of armour to have, moving into week 2.
Week 2 has been all about generating ideas for a creative pathway, stemming from the ‘essence’ you seek to bring out in both your life and your work. For me, that was simpler than I expected: it’s the passion I have for giving quality work to others and in making them happy (or, in erotica terms, keeping them satisfied!). The passion behind everything I do, whether it’s writing, or editing for someone else, or drawing, or making graphics, or publishing, has to be there for me, or the work has no point and no soul. The passion is the key for everything I do to be an honest and authentic as it possibly can be, and I truly believe this is the only way I can work. I have tried working to remit, particularly when I wrote a lot for women’s magazines, and I hated the feel that I was churning out soulless work so much that I gave up writing creatively and returned to academia for a few years. I’m a kind of ‘all or nothing’ girl in pretty much everything in my life! 🙂
From this definition of ‘essence’, the book moves on to get you to list the areas of work you could be interested in which reflect this essence, and from there, to come up with a very small and specific project, together with various specifics, which overlaps the areas of interest and the essence, and then to define three steps to get the invented project started. This was just an exercise but I spent quite a bit of time on this. My list of areas was interesting (to me, at least!), as there were areas on there that I hadn’t expected would pop into my head – things that I thought I’d forgotten about, or ignored. So, along with writing, editing, publishing and transcription re-appeared teaching, which gave me food for thought, as there are numerous ways this can be achieved. Magazine creation reappeared, and this has been something I have hankered after doing for a very long time, as one of two people who read this may remember from previous conversations I have had with them. And artwork reared itself, as it tends to when I least expect it, deciding it wants to be both pretty and useful. Now there’s something I didn’t know I wanted!
My ‘project’ I may have cheated with a little bit. I’ve already begun a booklet for the Clarian Press authors, to help writers develop their platform. But as the questions kept being asked of me, and the specifics of how this might be realised were probed, I found that it had taken on a life of its own, not only in my head, but on paper. Carol Lloyd says that, even though this ‘project’ is just an exercise in the chapter, don’t be surprised if you fall in love with the idea you create. I have! And I can also see how it could become a bigger project.
Next up was a drawing of how you see your creative year mapping out. I just have to include this so that:
a) you can wet yourself laughing at my picture,
b) you can see what kind of fruitbat I am when I start drawing daft little images with coloured biros,
c) someone can step in and tell you that my drawing is NOT usually this crap!
Well, then came the fun part (when everyone in the house had stopped saying, “What… IS… that?”). I had to analyse it, stating my likes and dislikes, what I didn’t understand about it, and then try to imagine what I should be doing, based on the picture.
So… I loved the natural – the ‘nurture – aspect I brought to the table. My flower-books grow, my bird-training takes flight, and my wonderful author-stars shine, and, like a total muppet, I ended up with tears in my eyes while I was cooking (because, multi-tasking, obviously), realising how grateful I am for every author that allows me the privilege of getting my hands on their work. I wasn’t so keen on my tree. Yes, it had lots of branches, but they all seemed to have lots of tiny and unnamed twigs. The branches are also not rooted to the trunk! What did that mean? I don’t see my work as part of a whole? It’s all unfinished business, as far as my creative life is concerned? It’s all floating and I haven’t pinned it down yet? I wasn’t sure about the landscape. Why had I drawn it around the birds like that? It looks like it should block them, but they can fly over the mountains of technological nightmares (I have a LOT of those!). Surely that wasn’t hope for my tech skills that I’d drawn, was it?!
What else did I get from this particular exercise? Well, I used pretty colours. I took that as something positive. I pressed on pretty hard when was drawing. Are they firm thoughts and intentions I was drawing? There’s still a lot of white space. Maybe that’s thinking space or it’s telling me I need to free up some time and not keep piling work upon myself, which I do a lot, as I keep being reminded, frequently. I do get told off sometimes! 🙂 Although that tree is the most detailed, my flowers have more about them. I guess I’m comfortable in the progression of my writing (although those who know me really well would never think it!). That’s actually a big piece of information for me to take away from this. Maybe the stars are so big because I’d rather help a few people a lot, than a lot of people but only scratch the surface with them and their work. The funny little birds confirm to me how much I enjoy learning. That I haven’t really blocked their flight path suggests that, maybe, I should embrace the challenges of getting over the obstacles I face on a continual basis. I don’t know; am I talking rubbish, or have you got any other ideas?
The last task was to use three intersecting circles to identify where your ideal tasks, environment and content meet. I decided I might be a bit weird, actually, because I found myself listing ‘attending workshops’ as an ideal task. Why? I am so introverted I could crawl up my own backside and my absence might not be noted for a month! And emailing! Why did I add that to my list? Anyone who knows me want to roll their eyes at ‘planning things in lists’? I did have some expected stuff on my list, too: reading, writing, editing, finding suitable images and covers (LOVE that!), continued professional development (I actually wrote that!), researching. I haven’t a clue where that one came from because, every time I have to research most things, with the exception of mythology, I hate it all the time I’m doing it.
My ideal environment? Sandy beach? Alpine house with a roaring fire? Nope. My instincts made me write this:
A room with wall-to-wall books; generally peaceful; soft music playing; pretty things(?) around me and a nice comfy chair to read in; a cute blanket(!), a hot water bottle, and a squidgy pouffe for my feet; an old desk, with Pre-Raphaelite and Jack Vettriano paintings on the wall; notebooks and pens – mainly pink. Or a café where they serve really good chocolate cake or put huge marshmallows in your hot chocolate.
Make what you will of that!
And then, finally, the areas of content that are ideal: Once again, teaching reappeared, and I am struggling to know why. Helping people was top of my list, which I presume harkens back to my ‘essence’, and the usual suspects made their presence known – editing, writing, publishing, making beautifully visual images.
The task ended with listing jobs that feasibly fit into the intersection of the three. So, my takeaway from week 2 is that my ideal life is suited to writing, editing, proofreading, publishing, creating visual work, transcribing, mentoring and teaching in an online environment (the penny finally dropped with the teaching!).
It seems like I’ve confirmed I’m playing in the right sandpit. Now, do I let the sand run through my fingers, or do I mould it into something I could get a good picture of? (one without oddball birds, weirdly shaped stars and peculiar flowers, maybe?). I’ll see what week 3 brings…