What Matters Here?

I’ve heard Rob Bell say this on his podcast a few times and it’s become one of my favourite prompts.

What matters here?

I apply it across my personal and professional life, particularly when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stuck. It simultaneously anchors me in the big picture while revealing what the next right action is.

More than anything, this question is a call to presence. Much like meditation, it slows us down so that we can listen to what is. It reveals where the work is, both internally and externally, and shows us where we can put our care and attention.

Two very, very precious resources.

Creative Constraints

More options don’t always lead to better outcomes.

A blank slate at the beginning of a creative project sounds enticing, but often that excitement gives way to overwhelm and indecision. With so many possibilities, how do we move forward?

To get (or keep!) moving, it’s helpful to have constraints. Take options off the table. Give yourself limits, such as the amount of time or money you’ll spend on a project, or rules around how often, when, and where you’ll show up.

Giving your project limits frees you to get creative with what you do have.

Sometimes narrowing one lens is the best way to open another.

Notes From The Valley

When we’re in the valley (see above—super fun), our downward spiraling thoughts tend to stem from two beliefs:

  1. I shouldn’t feel this way
  2. I’m alone in this

We’re scared and insecure and doubting ourselves…. and we believe we shouldn’t feel that way. Because if we were really an artist, if we were really an entrepreneur, if we were truly good enough or smart enough or talented enough… we believe there’s no way we would feel like this.

Which brings us to that feeling of being alone. Our brains have this lovely way (looking at you, shame) of convincing us we’re alone in this. That no one in the history of creative beings has ever felt this. No one could possibly understand. No one can help us hold this. Or, perhaps most insidious, that we’re not worthy of help.

Wherever you are in the valley and whatever meets you there, know that you’re not alone. It’s all part of the journey—everyone’s journey.

And remember:

Life is at work in these valleys, too.

What Are You Willing to Say No To?

To loosely quote Elizabeth Gilbert…

“It’s not just saying no to things you don’t want so that you can have the stuff you do. It’s saying no to the things you do want, but just don’t want as much.”

This is the hard bit. Sure, perhaps you can do all those projects. But would they all be the quality you want? Would doing it all give you the life you want?

Be clear about what you want from your work. Be honest if what you’re doing right now helps you get there.

Saying no—or no for now—is more than OK.

Get in Motion

Making a decision is hard. Probably because we’re hellbent on making the right decision. Thanks to some delightful evolutionary wiring in our brains, we’re convinced that the more we think about it or the more information we gather, the more likely we’ll be to get it right.

There’s some value in this, of course, but there’s a limit to what you can see from where you’re currently standing. At some point, you have to do more to know more. It’s the new experiences that lead to new data.

Often, it’s helpful to remember the following:

Change isn’t an intellectual exercise, it’s an experiential one.

When in doubt, get in motion.

Copywriting in the Wild #1

You can learn a lot about copywriting (and marketing!) by paying attention to what’s around you.

Have a look at this sign I saw outside of my local library. “Welcome back to your library.” Not the library, your library. By implying ownership, they’re creating a personal connection. Why is this important? Because we’re more likely to appreciate and care for things we think belong to us.

And this AirPods case…

It could say something as simple as “Made in China”—which would also be true—but it doesn’t. They want you to know it’s Designed by Apple in California. Because all of those words mean something—they represent the luxury and status we associate with the brand. They’re also aware that “Made in China” might have a negative connotation to their customers, so they’ve used the word Assembled.

Each word is deliberate. A cue that reinforces their brand—what you think and feel when you see an Apple product, buy your own, or see their logo.

A Question for Sunk Costs

It doesn’t matter how much time, money, or energy went into building the thing—is it still helping you get to where you want to go?

If yes, keep going.

If no, quit.

I’m facing this with one of my own creative projects right now. It’s been a significant part of my identity for most of the last decade, but it’s feeling like time to let go. Not because I don’t love it, or can’t do it, but because it doesn’t fit into what I want for myself now. We’ve gone as far as we can together. And that’s OK.

Expectations vs Intentions

Expectations are outcome-based. Here’s what I expect to get/have/be at the end of this journey.

Intentions are processed-based. Here’s how I promise to show up along the way.

Too often, expectations focus on things that are out of our control. They have an inherent fragility about them, making it easy to get knocked off course when something doesn’t go to plan.

Intentions, however, keep us anchored yet open. They allow us to stay rooted in what matters yet open to what we meet along the way.

Productivity Is Not Peace

“Productivity is not peace. You’re never going to do enough for the doing to bring you peace.”

Ashley C. Ford said this in an interview with The Creative Independent a few years ago. She goes on to say that despite society telling us this is how we work, it really isn’t. Furthermore, it’s a mode that’s damn hard to break out of.

I’m reminded of this on a Sunday evening as I start to wind down… by first asking myself if I did enough to deserve it. And, I mean, here I am typing away at my computer so apparently the answer to that question was no.

One thing that helps me break out of not-enough-ness is asking different questions. Instead of asking, “Did I do enough?”, which is centered on doing, ask, “What can I enjoy?”, which is centered on being.

And with that, I’m off to my knitting.

My second pair of Hazelfern socks that I started in the park today! I’m using an Island Fibers merino and nylon blend that a friend sent me for my birthday.