Workflow goes beyond productivity or just getting through your to-do list. How do you shape your hours and days like clay for more meaning, creativity, and wonder?

To All Creatives: Radical Ways to Renovate Your House of Fear

Fear and doubt can take over our bodies like obnoxious house guests whom, after a few years, we’ve unintentionally allowed to move in for the long haul.

You can take a quick survey, sort of like a house carbon test, to see if you’re living in a house of fear: Erratic or shallow breathing? Physical agitation and trembling? A little irritable and excitable? Making sluggish progress on your projects?

These are the questions I’m sitting in: What do fear and doubt do to our creative lives? What are some radical ways to shift those emotions, ways that surpass psychoanalysis?

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Do You Need a Muse to be Creatively Productive?

The questions still come up among the writers, designers, and entrepreneurs I work with: Is the muse out there somewhere or within? Doesn’t the very idea of the “muse” imply I’m at the whim of something else?

Two clients last week in two separate meetings raised, in essence, these very questions, so we need to raise the discussion again.

These questions have gnawed at me since I coined the phrase “Yoga As Muse” years ago. And over the years the phrase has rubbed more than one person with whom I’ve worked the wrong way. Once, a writer in Taos, New Mexico said to me in private something to the effect of, “I like what you’re doing, but there’s something about the word ‘muse’ that doesn’t sit right with me. Something about some entity outside of me,” and her flittering fingers made a gesture that implied fairy dust.

I nodded and said something like, “Right, right.” I cleared my throat and said, “But the idea of Yoga As Muse is that the muse is within and that any source of ‘inspiration’ is at our disposal as readily as is the harnessed breath.” She wasn’t satisfied. “Muse” still said to her Tinkerbell.

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WWWW – The Web as the Digital Wonder Cabinet

from Cabinets de Curiosites

Note: Once a week – maybe each Tuesday – I’ll offer a resource for tracking wonder. These resources are highlighted in Tracking Wonder Handbook Two called THE SERENDIPITY SLIDE: 20-Plus Resources to TRACK WONDER for Your Creative Profession & Life (download-able by entering your email in the box to the right).

I’d be the first to tell you to get out into the woods or at least take a walk around a city block to experience – full-bodied – the wonders of your small world and to shake your creative mind out of its four-walled ruts. But the World-Wide Web offers its own wonders.

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Intentions Pave the Year with Creative Purpose

I’m a cheerleader for creative action. Getting things done. Making ideas happen. But I want meaningful things done. And I want to make ideas happen with right intention. Some people might argue that intentions don’t matter and are a waste of time. Just act. Ship ideas out. Granted, intentions without actions are of no use. But right intention with right action can make for a doubly powerful creative life in 2011.

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Creating 2011, Part 2: The Forgotten Tool for Creative Professionals’ Planning

Note: In Part 1 of this series, “Goals for No-Goals Creatives,” I noted how I rarely consciously set goals despite my three businesses’ growth. In that article, I offered, though, authentic ways to approach goal-setting. This follow-up article lays out a more intuitive skillful means that has guided my adult life – imagination. I risk going into personal material, but I hope it’s of interest and use. Let me know.

Creativity is a revived currency in business. The New York Times Magazine (December 16, 2010) ran a full feature on the burgeoning field of us creativity consultants and idea leaders. Advances in technology have automated numerous jobs and made follow-instructions-and-gather-information managers almost obsolete. Yet what do we entrepreneurs, micro-business owners, and hybrid artistic practitioners-freelancers do when we make professional plans and goals? Some of us complain that we’re not analytical or MBA-savvy enough and forfeit our innate creative tools. Yes, rigorous analysis of data and competition and the market are necessary, but analysis alone will not get you to the heart of your professional life and future. And for most of us motivated by meaning more than money, we must get to the core to keep our business’s heart beat thumping through good times and bad.

One oft-forgotten tool, inherent to your creativity, can help you get to your professional heart and envision your professional year accordingly.

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Three Highlights for 12.28.10?

Good evening. What were your day’s three highlights? Mine: 1. Pulling Dahlia across the frozen pond in her sled. (See personal FB page for photos.) 2. Talking with an interviewer for a Kripalu Center podcast about Tracking Wonder. 3. Mapping out a new chapter on tracking the mind’s wonders.

Three Highlights is a simple game I play each evening. It keeps wonder at the forefront. Post yours below, and let’s compare notes from around the globe.

A Roundtable on Gratitude with Four Creative Entrepreneurs

Last month, I posted several pieces related to gratitude and praise. At the bottom of the post I’ve included a Best of list that includes some others’ ideas on gratitude, too.

As we head toward the end of the year, I thought it would be insightful to have a round table on gratitude. Today I want to imagine we’ve gathered four varied and insightful sources on the subject of gratitude, authenticity, and entrepreneurship – a Woodstock-based writer and speaker on innovation & technology, a world-traveling entrepreneur, a London-based consultant on creative entrepreneurship, and a Brooklyn-based designer. Read more

The Wild Pack & The Tracking Wonder Handbooks

Wonder is pervasive yet evasive. This point became remarkably clear again when some 3,000 bloggers responded to the prompt I offered for Gwen Bell and her team’s sensational Reverb10 Project: Wonder. How have you cultivated a sense of wonder in your life this year? According to the posts, wonder filled many bloggers’ year. Others bemoaned its scarcity. But numerous bloggers weren’t really sure what this emotion we all talk about is.

Hence, Tracking Wonder Handbooks to help you recognize its signs and feed it. Not one guide, but two. We’ve created two Tracking Wonder Handbooks designed for creatives, creative entrepreneurs, educators – anyone who’s hungry.

TRACKING WONDER HANDBOOK ONE offers you five surprising ways to bring more delight, curiosity, and deep connection into your professional and personal life. TRACKING WONDER HANDBOOK TWO presents 20-plus resources and links to innovators in numerous fields to tease your sense of serendipity and keep your creative mind and action fresh through the year.

Designer Monica Gurevich has drawn upon old Boy Scout and First Aid handbooks as inspiration. That seems apropos since we think tracking wonder is the ultimate survival skill for the 21st century.

In my lifetime, there’s never been a more obvious need to cultivate an ongoing relationship with wonder. We can welcome wonder into our work places & studios, living rooms & kitchens, playgrounds & classrooms. Wonder is at the heart of all creativity. It’s at the heart of wisdom. It’s at the heart of emotional decision-making (which is all human decision-making).

So whether you think wonder pops in for tea each morning or has avoided your route for a solid 15 years since you left adolescence, these handbooks might be right for you adult wonder-trackers.

How to get your two free Tracking Wonder Handbooks:
Simple. Send an e-message to jeffrey [at] trackingwonder [dot] com with WILD PACK in the subject box. We’ll send them both to you.

Oh, and all I ask in return is that you send 10 creatively hungry people back to this page or to trackingwonder.com.

Drop in the Hut
Let us know what other kinds of resources, information, and ideas you’d like that would help you open, innovative, and productive.

See you in the woods,
Jeffrey

Creating 2011, Part 1: New Year’s Goal Questions for No-Goals Creatives

I never make New Year’s resolutions. (I don’t feel so bad knowing that Luck Factor author and psychologist Richard Wiseman’s study points out this practice’s futility.) I don’t make goals. I’ve tried, but I forget about them within a day or two. Even as my businesses and my life as a writer have grown, goals just don’t factor into what gets me up in the morning.

Some 15 years ago, I led a department of 19 eclectic, rather brilliant English teachers for two crazy years as a stint as Department Chair. I was on fire, as usual, with trying to inspire the group to  revolutionize the way we taught writing. For a fleeting moment, the dean probably liked me. One day, an ambitious colleague cornered me in my office and asked what my career goals were. “My what?” I said. “My goals? My career? I didn’t know I had a career.” I resigned from that position and from full-time teaching forever later that year.

Thoreau, not Peter Drucker, was and is my hero and role model. Since I was 18 and first read Walden until now, I remain committed to this simple task: to affect the quality of this day. This one. Not the one six months from now. I gather moments more than goal sheets.

Part of me used to think myself odd, a sort of goofy entrepreneur-writer who would never amount to much because he just lacked the business mind to define “measurable goals” and make a six-month or twelve-month business plan to meet them. When would I grow up and get with the goal-getters? Then I read Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The gist of the book is simple (as are the gists of most good books): Creative people – in the arts and in business and in life – are motivated from within not from without. Autonomy, mastery of something, and purpose drive us more than authority or rewards. Read more

Three Highlights, 12.1.10

What were your day’s three highlights? Mine: 1. The gratified look on a client’s face when at a session’s end. 2. After a rainy day all day, the pre-sunset sunlight eeking through misty clouds and painting space gold. 3. A monstrous blue heron flying yards from my window.