1. The Thing Itself. As an artist and writer I strive to capture or communicate meaningful aspects of my life experience. Sometimes I do this well, and sometimes I fall short of my mark. But I try—and try again—knowing it’s a worthy endeavor. It helps when I remember that life is the thing itself. Since my writing attempts to pay homage to life, it makes sense to pay close attention to life. I do this by trying, as much as possible, to savor the moment, and to remind myself that life is more precious than writing. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to get sucked into tormented writer drama. I do this when I worry I’m not doing enough or that what I’m doing isn’t good enough. Or that I’m not good enough. What a sorry, stale—and false!—tale this is.
2. If It’s Not Good, Why Keep It? This question applies to the physical things around me, such as unwanted gifts and clutter in my closet, but its deeper meaning has to do with my attitude, which stems from my thinking. Habits are hard to break, especially habits of the mind, many of which we’re unaware of. Habits of mind are slippery because we often unconsciously identify with our thoughts. We think they’re real. We think they represent an objective truth when they’re just ideas. Stories. This is okay when the tales are constructive and positive, but when they take a sharp turn toward darkness, when we make up horror stories and fill our minds with worry, we sabotage ourselves and our writing. This is a pattern I’m ready to release this year.
3. Take Refuge in the Sangha. Sangha is a Sanskrit word that means “association,” “assembly,” “company,” or “community.” Buddhists use this word to refer to their monastic community of ordained monks and nuns. It helps when I know I’m not alone, when I reach out to family, friends, and writers in my various communities. When I allow myself to receive and give support. It’s harder for me to receive assistance than to give it, so I have to nudge myself to reach out and receive what is offered. Doing so, however, is what keeps us nourished and inspired.
4. What You Do Is Not Who You Are. For years, I trained as a dancer and believed that’s who and what I was: a dancer. Then I had a back injury and had to stop dancing. My life felt as if it had been derailed. If I’m not a dancer, who am I? I wondered. A part of me felt like I no longer existed—except that I did! In time I discovered that I was a writer, and I clung to that identity as fervently as I had to being a dancer. When my writing career didn’t take off the way I’d imagined it would, I realized something important: what I do is not who I am. I am much larger than that. And so are you!
5. Artistic Maturity. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that these past years have brought challenges. The good news is that my difficulties have summoned me into spiritual adulthood. I’ve been forced to grow up! I’m coming into my own as a mature woman. And I believe I’m also coming into my own as a mature writer, because I no longer need other people to validate my work, or tell me how great I am. I write because of what writing gives me, because of the ways in which it feeds me. I share my work with an open heart, knowing it will speak to some people and not others. I believe in myself and in my work. I’m prepared to do what it takes to usher my work into the world, and help it along on its path the way a parent sends a child off to college. I trust my work to find its tribe. I trust this process. I am learning to do my best and—this is the hard, but essential part—let go!
6. Stay Curious and Honor Your Values. Consider asking yourself questions, such as “Who do I want to be?” “How Do I want to show up?” “What fills my tank?” and “How can I be of service?” A service-oriented focus keeps me on track whether I’m writing, teaching, coaching, or going about the everyday business of my life. This perspective helps me remember that I’m not the center of the universe; I’m a speck—a divine one, but one of countless infinitesimal dots making up a complex, sacred, and exquisite mosaic!
What tips do you have for a happy new year? I’d love to hear them. Please share.