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process

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Death to the Stuck Whiner - Life to the Creator!

Dear "It's Good Friday, I'm Dying and Can't Seem to Get it Together to Even Create a Good Death" Self,

You always think that you have to do something dramatic to signal a new track in your life: move houses, acquire a new mode of transportation (boat, scooter), do a big physical cleanse, set yourself a series of goals in a fresh, new journal. Death to the old and life to the new. But by now you are starting to get the idea, at the ripe old age of 38, that the big changes are always little ones.

I moved houses 3 times this winter, into two different house sits and back to my little cabin in between. Each time it was like a fresh start, a “wow, look at this beautiful space I can be in and think of all the work I can get done!” kind of feeling. But I’m still me. I’m messy, leave unfinished projects everywhere, don’t pick up after myself til company’s coming, indulge in TV and wine and distractions as soon as work is somewhat accomplished (or whenever I can justify it). And then I tire of the place, or feel trapped by it, and I need a change again. Death before life.

So, big moves don’t usually signal a deep change, they just make me feel better for a time.

However, some significant changes have taken place over the last few months, and I did get into an actual routine of working. But it wasn’t the moves or the new space or access to internet that suddenly changed me from being a whining, stuck creative, to an actually working creative.

You know what's changed in the last few months? I began to be grateful, I began to see opportunities instead only obstacles, and I started laying track for The Work. When I was complaining, whining, crying and using distractions to cover my fears that I couldn’t bring my ideas to reality, I just didn't see any way forward. It seemed impossible. As I focused on my own inability, I was choking out the creative process. And without creativity and imagination, nothing will ever get done.

Creativity requires room to breathe: it needs hope like humans require air. When I became grateful and saw opportunities, I began to have hope. When I have hope, I stop panicking and can see the next step ahead of me. I started to see what I could do, right here and right now.

Creativity requires a track to run on. I finally gave it an outlet into The Work, instead of being imaginative and creative with all the ways I was avoiding work. When my creativity is stifled, I find it expressing itself in all kinds of random ways in my life. It goes berserk and runs in other directions, sometimes harmful ones. 

Like, hmmm... I become a little obsessed with posting details of my precious life on Facebook. Or I put my imagination to work imagining what my ex is doing with his new girlfriend, and what their relationship looks like. Or I start having great and wonderful ideas about all my friends' businesses, and start blabbing about how I could help them achieve what they want to. I spend time reorganizing things and making grand plans. All because I'm not directing that creative energy to my own work. 

So when I look back at it, the three biggest changes in my life have been small ones. I write down something beautiful that happened that day in a gratitude journal every night. I stopped saying 'yes' to everyone else, and said no to some significant jobs that I knew would cost me time in my own work. And I look for chances get some traction on my ideas, rather than opportunities to avoid The Work.

Another little trick I've recently discovered is that tackling things I’ve procrastinated on for months, or even years, can also unblock the creative side. For some reason, my little task-oriented brain is compulsively running over a list of things I have to do, and when I finally do one of them, it frees up some harddrive space for creative work. Isn’t that weird?

Tobi with chickies.jpg

And then of course, the more track you lay, the more you get done. As I wrote yesterday, the more I get done the more I want to get done. 

It’s refreshing to realize that I don’t need to overhaul my life to get on track. I just need to start with something small, right now.

Death to procrastinating and whining, life to hope and creative track-making.

Right now.

 

Love from, Your Newly-Hatched Baby Chickie Creative Self

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From Fear to Here

To my Precious Fearful Little Artist-Self, as you think about embarking on The Work,

My boat, Golden Eye, in preparation for getting to the water (2014)

My boat, Golden Eye, in preparation for getting to the water (2014)

I had written you a lovely letter this morning, congratulating you on your recent success in getting out of the Fear of The Work, and into actually doing it. And it was really a nice post, but then I accidentally deleted it. Hmmm, this publishing directly to a blog thing may not be a good idea. Perhaps to save myself from having a mini-coronary every time the internet kicks off and I lose an hour of work, I'll write in another format before publishing here. Lesson learned. 

Anyway, to stick with my "write every day" rule, I'll summarize my process from Fear to Here: 

  1. I was afraid to attempt The Work for a very very long time.
  2. I thought I was No Good, and a Terrible Editor, and besides, I had an outdated editing system. 
  3. I had no one to help me and felt very alone. 
  4. I practiced my mantras: "I have no money!" "I need help!" "I can't do this!" "I suck at editing!"
  5. To keep myself busy so I didn't have time for The Work, I saved some horses and did what I felt I was good at, for a very very long time.
  6. I made a few plans to attempt accountability to engage with The Work. I wrote them down in a journal. They were such a spectacular failure that the journal up and walked away in protest, along with my other 8 journals, to-do lists and diaries. I think they are hiding out in a bar in the Bermuda triangle. 
  7. I was inspired briefly by a legendary local artist's death, and made it my mission to "go out and make art like you're going to paint the shed" every day. 
  8. That lasted for 3 days, before I realized again how actually impossible and monumental my task was - SO MUCH BIGGER THAN ANYTHING ANYONE ELSE HAS EVER ATTEMPTED - and gave up.
  9. I got drunk a lot and watched Netflix a lot and was very lazy. 
  10. I decided I didn't want to be a documentary filmmaker, after all. I would be a community organizer!
  11. I didn't do pills or smoke weed, but I did my other coping things, which is to build up a series of urgent tasks (Tiny House workshop series, horse rescue, house-sitting, moving, downsizing stuff) and a list of people depending on me for things, to avoid the fact that I was avoiding The Work.
  12. One day, probably because I was delirious and over-tired because I kept dreaming about The Work I wasn't doing instead of sleeping, I got sick of the fear.
  13. I made a new plan: do bits of The Work every day, do it in the morning, don't do anything else, however urgent, until I did it. 
  14. I tried this for a week and got so high on exhilaration that I was actually laying some track, that I even began tackling other work that I had also procrastinated on. 
  15. The more worked, the more I wanted to work. The more progress I made, the more I wanted to see progress.
  16. I became obsessed with finishing rough cuts and fine cuts and getting them to clients, even if they were half done. I loved seeing progress, any progress, being made. 
  17. I got good feedback from my clients and discovered, "hey! I don't suck at this as much as I thought I did!"
  18. I bought some new software, sat down with my new laptop, and figured shit out that I had been afraid would be too daunting for me. I watched Youtube videos, the university of every other Millennial, Baby Boomer and Human on the planet. It was method I had eschewed as lazy and a sign of incompetance a few months ago, preferring blind ignorance and fear to actual knowledge.
  19. My new plan, surprisingly, worked! 2 months later, I had my very first rough sequence of footage for my documentary "Between Wood and Water".
  20. I wrote a letter to you about it and then deleted it. Wait, now we're getting a bit meta.
  21. Despite knowing that it's not good enough, I will publish this rough cut, because it features a man who is currently in his last few months of life, and he might never get to see the finished film (although I definitely hope he does!) I want him to know that his voice and his story will contribute toward this film about a boat that he loved and worked hard to save.  
  22. I am proud of myself, not because I produced something, but because I got over my fear and found I actually enjoy The Work. Especially when the alternative is dying of cancer-induced stress and getting ulcers and becoming an alcoholic trying to avoid The Work. 
  23. I also discovered I like my story, and it's going to be a pretty damn good documentary if I continue to just show up at the desk and work a little bit every day. 

So that is a summary of what my process, and likely a much funnier version than this morning's drivel. You're welcome, my now-Shining Star of Productivity. Congratulations on getting to The Work.

Love, Tobi

IMG_1439.jpg

Sekiu under sail at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat festival (2015). 

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