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.

Shaping Mind Rooms to Reframe the Meaning of Tasks

“[G]ood feelings such as affection, pride at a promotion, and enthusiasm for a new project are the carrots on the stick that keep you moving smartly along life’s up-and-down road.” – Winifred Gallagher, RAPT: Attention and the Focused Life (Penguin Press, 2009)

NY artist Joey Havlock's Mind Room

Organization can dog the best of creatives. Many of my clients are writers, artists, and entrepreneurs who juggle multiple projects and obligations. I keep at least five projects in the air at any given time, each of which requires at least a few dozen tasks to complete.

So how do we stay on top of those projects without driving ourselves daft and our intimate partners away? How can a small amount of time invested in flexible creative organization end up saving time?

Creative organization can be a flexible, enjoyable way to shape attention, physical space, and actions. When we shape these three things – attention, space, and actions – we increase the likelihood that we can get in that flow that psychologist Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi describes. Read more

Three Highlights, 17 November 2010

1. Read graphic artist Marian Bantjes’ exquisite book I WONDER while sitting in a waiting room to have my spine x-rayed. (Stay tuned for more about Bantjes and what we can learn from her creative, authentic living & success.)
2. Danced with my daughter to Vince Guaraldi’s jazz piano piece “Linus and Lucy.”
3. Completed reading a client’s new novel manuscript.

And yours?

Three Highlights, 15 November 2010

Good evening. What were you day’s three highlights? Mine: 1. Watching my daughter hug our Kwan-Yin statue in the woods. 2. Taking a walk with a client around the pond. 3. Chatting with the lovely Melissa Studdard on the radio about writing & wonder & all the stuff I love.

See you in the woods,
Jeffrey

Gratitude, Creativity, & The 30 Days/300 Things Gratitude Challenge

Does receiving gratitude inspire you to more creative action? Is it easy for you to express it? Is it easy for you to receive it? Dare I ask, are there ‘advantages’ for creative practitioners and entrepreneurs to practicing gratitude? Those questions I’ve been living in for a few weeks.

Entrepreneur and perspiration guru Scott Belsky learned the power of appreciation from a storyteller. The author of Making Ideas Happen describes his experience at storyteller Jay O’Callahan’s storytelling workshop in Cape Cod. As part of a workshop exercise, Belsky told a story. O’Callahan respond with genuine enthusiasm, and other participants did likewise. Belsky was riveted and warmed, but he was ready and eager for the critique. The critique never came.

Read more

Three Highlights, 12 November 2010

1. A ten-point buck dashing across the road a few yards in front of my car and gamboling through a corn field. 2. The way my daughter looked up at me in glee as we walked around the pond. 3. Finishing a draft of a short piece on poetry & praise.

What were your three highlights? Post here.

Check out my FB page for some other responses.

Three Highlights, 11 November 2010

Since my hard-working, mind-numbing twenties, I’ve played a game with myself on many evenings. It’s called “Three Highlights.” It’s a way to test that I’m paying attention, that my eyes and ears remain open, that my days have ample space.

The gist is this: At day’s end, name three highlights from your day.
The rules: Keep it sensory. Keep it specific. Peg a moment. Keep it real.

I’ll periodically post mine and encourage you to do likewise.

Here’s today’s:
1. Dahlia’s crack of a smile when she heard the first beats of Bach’s first cello suite early this morning.
2. A new client saying – despite our phone conversation getting cut off twice – this journey is just what she needs and that it’s all about movement (the physical and the mental).
3. The Old Spice face-slapping briskness of this deep autumn morning air that makes more and more official winter’s soon arrival.

What were your highlights?