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.

Name It

We like to talk about the notion of better. Of doing better and being better and making better things.

We also like to talk about change. About making change and being the change.

What we forget is that both of these things are relational. Better than what. Change from what.

We are so enthralled by the notion of progress that we avoid stopping to name what we are progressing from. 

But how can we fix an unnamed problem? How can we measure progress from an unidentified beginning?

We have to know where we’re starting. We have to know what we’re working with, right now. 

If we want to forgive, we have to name what we are forgiving.

If we want to heal from something, we have to name what that something is.

If we want justice, we have to name all the ways in which the current systems are unjust. 

It sounds simple. Obvious, even. But it’s amazing the ways in which we’ll contort ourselves to avoid the truth. The ways we’ll soften our language or omit parts of the story that our discomfort has deemed unrelated. 

If we want change… we have to get clear on what we’re changing. We have to open the doors and pull everything out onto the floor before us. We have to name what we find. What we like and don’t like. What excites and what scares us. What we understand and what we don’t. And we have to be uncompromising about it. 

We need to sit with what this brings up for us and realize that this, here, is also the work.

Then, with all the parts and our relationship to them before us, we act. All the while remembering that change isn’t a beauty contest. Change isn’t content to be made or a box to be checked or a prize to be won. 

Change means having the humility to sit with what is.

Change means having the courage to name what you find.

Change means seeing things as they are, not as you hoped them to be.

And then…. then comes better.

But first, name it.

H/T to Bell Hooks’s book All About Love, Rob Bell’s podcast episode Swords and Plows and the Great Unmasking, and Barbara J. Love’s Liberatory Consciousness Framework (explained by Ericka Hines in this Reimagining Small Business Town Hall) for inspiring today’s post-walk brain dump. 

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24 Hours of Fresh Attention

“Everyone gets 24 hours of fresh attention, refilled daily.”

Seth Godin shared this in his blog post this morning and it was a welcome reminder. A reminder that each day we have the opportunity—the responsibility—to manage our bandwidth. A reminder that when we mess up (and we will) we have a chance to begin again.

That said, what will you do with this day?

What will you say yes to? And, perhaps more importantly, what are you willing to say no to?