Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I glanced at the small garden area of my yard the other day, fantasizing about what I will soon be planting. Even if spring has not found its way to your corner of the world, perhaps you have noticed an opening bud or new green leaves popping up somewhere.

I’ve always thought gardening and creativity had a lot in common. Both require planning, preparation, getting your hands dirty, planting seeds, watering, feeding, sunshine, and waiting.  Consider these ideas:

Planning
Before you begin growing your garden, it would be wise to figure out what it is you want to plant. Do you want a vegetable garden? Do you want flowers in your garden? How much sun and water will your plants require? Before you begin a creative project like sewing a new dress you will need to decide what type of dress you want to make. What type of fabric will you need? Will the dress be formal or casual?

Preparation

Once you have decided what you want to plant, you will need to prepare. You might need to visit your local nursery to get packets of seeds or small plants to put into the ground. Before you begin to paint, you will need to have your supplies in order. You will need to visit your local art store. What kind of canvas will you need? Will you be painting with oil, pastels, or water color?

Get Your Hands Dirty

At some point you will need to dig in the ground and get your hands dirty. You will need to remove rocks and weeds that are in your way. At some point you will need to sit down and start writing that novel. You will need to deal with your writing blocks and critical voice.

Plant the Seeds
You will soon need to carefully plant seeds or seedlings in the ground, while not knowing for sure how long it will take before they begin to sprout. You will need to trust that your plants will grow. When you write, you have to begin putting down words, not knowing if they actually make sense. You will need to trust your creative process.

Nurturing
You will need to nurture your plants. You will need time to weed, water, and feed your plants. If you neglect them or do not protect them, they will die.     You will need to nurture your creative process, take care of yourself and protect your work or it too, will die.

Waiting
Perhaps the most difficult part of both planting a garden and doing creative work is waiting for the plants to grow and for creative work to evolve. Love and patience are required.

This spring, if you have an opportunity to plant even a small garden, love the process of both the sowing and reaping. As you create, love the process of creation as well.

Take good care,

 


If you find yourself wanting some support or help in clearing your garden, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Year's Resolutions - Revisited

It’s March.  Already, just like that? It may have taken you a few months to settle into the New Year, but now that it’s here, you may be wondering where the time has gone!  You may also be wondering, “Whatever happened to those New Year’s resolutions?” Or you may be denying them, as in “What New Year’s resolutions?”  Or you simply may have avoided New Year’s resolutions all together.

Whatever happened to that list of  “I promise I’ll really get to it this year” stuff that’s looking a bit daunting about now, here are some suggestions to get re-energized.
  • BREAK BIG PROJECTS INTO TINY STEPS.  A friend of mine recently reminded me of the old joke, “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer, of course, is “One bite at a time.” Go back to your list of goals or resolutions for the year and focus on one project at a time.  Break down the project into as many small bite-sized pieces as possible.  Here’s an example.  Many of my clients have mentioned getting stuck on creative projects like putting photos in albums.  This can feel like an overwhelming amount of work, taking all the pleasure out of it.  Break down the project into cropping pictures or arranging photos one page at a time.  Or take a small stack of pictures and sort or purge.  That’s all you have to do.  Breaking any project into small pieces makes it infinitely more do able and a lot more fun.

     
  • WE ALL BITE OFF MORE THAN WE CAN CHEW.  What looked perfectly reasonable to accomplish two months ago may no longer be realistic.  You know, life enters in---your computer crashes, your car develops a mysterious leak, your child gets the flu.  When you made your goal list at the end of last year or the first few days at the beginning of this year, there was no way you could have anticipated exactly what would be happening every single day.  You can be clear, organized, focused and things still happen to you without your consent.  No need to abandon the list.  Take some time, get quiet and gently look at your list of goals or resolutions. You may just want to re-vamp and update it a bit.

  • KEEP THE GOAL; CHANGE THE DEADLINE.  One of the most important things I ever learned about goal setting was to keep the goal if I really wanted it and believed in it.  I have learned, however, to change the deadline.  If I possibly can, I allow myself to change the due date, moving it slightly ahead instead of dropping the project all together.  Things make take two or three times as long as we had anticipated. Your original deadline may simply have not been realistic.  There are certain deadlines we do need to keep to like registration deadlines or other cut-off dates.  On-going, creative projects may need a little more flexibility.  This is not permission to procrastinate; but you might just be a little kinder. Keep the goal, move the deadline out a bit and keep going.

  • LET GO OF HAVING IT BE PERFECT.  I frequently say to my writing clients, (as well as to myself!)  “Done is better than perfect.”  Finishing a writing project, a draft of a short story or the draft of your novel is more important than having it be perfect.  Being able to attain perfection is a myth if it blocks the creative process. That’s what editors are for, to help with rewriting, untangling and clarity.  For now, just aim to finish what you’re working on and leave the fixing up for later.  Consider this thought from Joseph Chilton Pearce:  “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

  • START!   The hardest part of any creative project is getting started.  Ever notice the draft feature on your e-mail program?  Use it!   Start your reply the moment you read an e-mail and have any thought at all how you would like to reply.  Use your initial energy and first response thoughts to get started.  Apply this same principle to other projects.  Maybe you’re not ready to write a long journal entry.  But at least sit down, note the date and time and open your journal.  Write for ten minutes.  You can always add more later.

  • GET HELP VIA COACHING, MENTORING OR TRAINING.  Eric Maisel author of Coaching the Artist Within and several other books, says that those of us involved in creative work might have no accountability.  It is too easy to work in isolation and then shove a short story or manuscript into a drawer.  Checking in with a coach, mentor or trainer provides accountability as well as support.  If your creative dream or project is stalled and you can’t seem to get it started, get help!
Ready to do a few revisions on those New Year resolutions?  Review these ideas and get yourself re-energized and re-focused for spring!

Take good care,

 


PS: If you find yourself wanting some support in figuring out how to plan a mid-winter mini retreat, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Take a Mid-Winter Mini Retreat

To go on a retreat usually conjures up images of remote, sometimes exotic, locations for anywhere from a weekend to a month. When we can’t afford the time away, or the cost, we can still derive some of the benefit by finding ways in our everyday lives to retreat and renew. Here are just a few ideas:

1. Abstain from speaking. Silence leads to inwardness, even in the midst of family life. 

2. Fast for a day. Fasting reminds us of the bounty of food available to us. It also lets the body rest from the busy-ness of digesting.

3. Spend a day in the garden. Or the container pots. Or a community garden. Plant bulbs for the spring. Anything to get your hands in the earth. 

4. Go for a hike. Even an hour of one-on-one time with Mother Nature can reap huge relaxation dividends. 

5. Lie in bed reading—all day! Can you say, “Ultra-nourishing?”

6. Do a media fast for a week. Turn off all input—TV, radio, stereo, newspaper, Internet, videos, books—and see what insights “tune in.”

7. Get a massage in your home. Follow that with down-time and the R&R is complete.

8. Take a long, hot bath. Candlelight, bath salts and wine optional.  

9. Spend a day doing what you love, not what you must. Paint, poke around the architectural salvage yard, take a book to the park—anything but what’s on your to-do list.

10. Take a nap. These are especially delicious when strategically placed in the middle of a hectic day.

You may want to use these ideas, but more importantly, begin to create a list of your own ways to create a mid-winter mini retreat.

Take good care,

 


PS:  If you find yourself wanting some support in figuring out how to plan a mid-winter mini retreat, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Small Steps to Big Changes

Ahh…a freshly minted new year! Doesn’t it feel great to begin a new year? For weeks you have more than likely been telling yourself, “Next year I will lose weight, exercise more, be on time, start writing in my journal” or any one of a dozen other promises. But stop for a moment and consider what it would like to actually make these changes. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t panic! Before you make any drastic changes and then crash and burn in a month or so, consider taking smaller steps to making change. Let me explain:

Before You Change Anything, Figure Out What’s Already Working


Remember the old adage, “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke?” Beware of the bright and shiny new idea or the system that will change everything and make life perfect. If your method of paying bills, creating shopping lists, or exercising is working for you, do you actually need to make a change? 

Make One Change at a Time

If this year you intend to lose weight, step up your fitness regime, get places on time, get a new job, and buy a house, consider taking on these challenges one at a time. For example, start with your weight loss goal and when you feel confident you
have a good system in place, then consider the fitness regime.

Count Every Tiny Step


Many people I work with are hyper critical of their accomplishments. It seems easier to focus on what didn’t work or what didn’t get done than what did get accomplished. Don’t wait until you’ve lost the first five pounds on your new diet to congratulate yourself or give yourself a (non-food) reward. Changes take time and patience. Stop and acknowledge yourself every single day.

Extend the Deadline, Don’t Nix the Goal

It can be extremely difficult to measure progress. Rather than dropping a goal because you didn’t finish it when you anticipated, try extending the deadline. If you are making any progress at all, even slow progress, you are moving ahead. Think about a baby learning to walk. Just because a child takes 14 months instead of the anticipated 12 months to begin walking, she doesn’t fall once and just sit there. She gets up and tries again.

Be Around Positive People


Sometimes without meaning to, we find ourselves around naysayers and people with negative energy. Once you realize this is happening to you, move on. Negativity begets more negativity as positive energy begets more positive energy. There is a time and a place for critical feedback, but the tiny beginning steps of change require love and nurturing, not criticism.

All good wishes for a happy, healthy and productive New Year!

Take good care,

 

PS: If you find yourself wanting some support in figuring out how to accomplish your goals this year by creating bite-size, doable steps, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to Keep Your Creative Fire Burning Straight Through the Holiday Season

How many times have you said, “After the holidays, I’ll……”  Fill in the blank. Okay.  Now stop counting and listen up!  Try these tips to keep your creative fire burning straight through the holiday season.

PRACTICE GOOD WRITING HYGIENE. Attach your regular writing practice to a habit you do every day no matter what the season.  Think about flossing your teeth or taking your vitamins. You don’t stop just because your schedule gets busier.

LEARN CREATIVE CROSS TRAINING. What happens when you miss your morning work out at the gym?  You can always walk later in the day, while shopping, running errands or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  If you must skip your morning writing practice, use that creative energy in other ways.  Write an especially heartfelt note in a holiday card.  Or rather than just slogging through your things to do list, CONSCIOUSLY bring your creativity to the task at hand---whether it’s arranging flowers, decorating or baking cookies.

BE SATISFIED WITH LESS PROGRESS, but do something!  If you usually write for 20 minutes a day, experiment for a few weeks with a shorter writing practice.  Challenge yourself by setting a timer for a very short focused writing session.  Even 10 minutes will work. You’ll stay more connected to your writing than if you didn’t write at all.

CAPTURE IDEAS AS THEY COME. Snag ideas as they come to you even if you’re super busy. Don’t wait to have a blank page staring you in the face for that writing project due next month. Use Post-its, note cards, a paper file or computer file to drop in ideas, catchy phrases or brilliant insights the moment they occur. It will take you just seconds to capture the thought and you’ll have it for use later. 

REMEMBER YOUR ARTIST’S DATES.  If this season feels like you’re giving gifts to everyone but yourself, it’s especially important to remember to take time for your own renewal.  As you’re purchasing that bodywork gift certificate for someone else, schedule your own massage appointment while you’re at it.  Hitting the bookstore with a shopping list for others?  Plan in extra time to relax and browse for yourself.

PLAN YOUR NEXT VACATION.  Now? Right in the middle of everything?  Yep.  It may be the best time to at least block out the dates for your next vacation, get away weekend or personal day off.  Just knowing that time is already scheduled will do wonders for your energy level and mood.

KEEP THE BIG PICTURE IN MIND. Slow down.  Remember to be a human being, as well as a human doing.  Stoke your creative fire by remembering what you value most in your life and what’s most important to you. Turn these values into positive affirmations to carry you through the season and into the New Year.

In the meantime, have a healthy, happy and safe holiday season and New Year.

Take good care,

 


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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Attitude of Gratitude

Several years ago I participated in a six-month class called “Authentic Happiness.”  It focused on the integration of positive psychology and specific actions to take to increase long-term happiness.  It may come as no surprise to you that one of the predominant methods to enhance happiness is to increase the feeling of gratitude.  I think of November, the month of Thanksgiving, as a perfect time to look at the power of gratitude. 

This article will focus on several ways to integrate gratitude into your daily writing.  Make these exercises a part of your regular journaling practice and watch your happiness quotient soar!

Gratitude List

This simple, straightforward practice takes just a few minutes a day.  Each evening (or morning, if you prefer), write down three things for which you are grateful.  Some days this will be easy; some days it will be difficult.

To create your list, consider your lifestyle, relationships, work, spiritual life, family, pets and possessions.  For example, “I am grateful for being able to do work that I love.”  Or, “I am grateful for how my sisters and I support one another in times of crisis.”  

I find that if I’ve skipped a couple of days writing my gratitude list, I try to double the list the next time I sit down and write.  It helps to “rev up” the feeling of gratitude.

Three Blessings

Martin Seligman, a pioneering psychologist in the field of happiness and positive psychology, suggests an exercise called Three Blessings.  Dr. Seligman suggests you write down three blessings of the day (for young children, this may be called Three Good Things). 

In the second part of this list, write down what part you played in making this blessing happen.  For example, let’s say you met a new friend recently and had a nice chat over lunch.  The blessing might be, “I had a great talk with my new friend Linda over lunch.”  The impact you had on this blessing becomes “I reached out and initiated getting together with my new friend Linda.”

Or, suppose you wrote an especially warm note to a colleague or co-worker.  Your blessing was a new level or deepening of the connection with your co-worker.  For the impact you had on helping the blessing occur, you might write down “I took the time to write a note.” 

The additional benefit of the Three Blessings exercise is not only is it bound to make you feel happier, but also after several weeks, it increases your self-esteem.

Turn Resentments Upside Down


If you are challenged in writing down blessings or listing what you are grateful for, here is another exercise that may be of help. 

This time, start with resentments.  Write a short list of the things you resent.  For example, you might write down, “I had a difficult childhood because my family moved frequently.”  While this may be absolutely true, think for a moment about a benefit or appreciation this situation provided.  You might write down “Moving frequently caused me to learn to be flexible.”  You will find there will be times when it will be a bit of a stretch to come up with a positive perspective.  Keep at it though, and notice what happens when you work your gratitude muscles!

I’ll end this article on gratitude by taking this opportunity to thank you for your subscription to our monthly e-zine.  I am grateful for your support and trust; it is a pleasure to meet with you each month. I hope that you find these articles helpful in your writing and personal growth.

With all good wishes for a wonderful season of Thanksgiving,

If you find yourself wanting some support in connecting to what you are grateful for, contact me and request a GRATIS SESSION via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

Take good care,

 


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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Journaling Toward Happiness

Three Good Things

Before bed each night, sit for a few minutes and think about the positive things that happened during the day. Write down three things in a notebook or your journal. For example, you might write that you had a nice lunch with a friend, you received a compliment from your boss about a project you completed, or your dog graduated from her dog training class. Try doing this exercise every day for a month. At the end of the month, do some journaling about how this exercise made you feel.

Three Good Things Plus


There is an additional step you can add to the Three Good Things exercise above. In addition to listing the positive things that happened during the day, write down your part in making this good thing happen. For example, using the scenarios above, you might write that you initiated the lunch date with your friend, you worked hard and did a great job on your project, and you arranged for and accompanied your dog to her training class each week.Try doing this exercise every day for a month. At the end of the month, do some journaling about how this exercise made you feel.

Change your Perspective


Find a current incident in your life or something from the recent past that has made you unhappy or uncomfortable. For example it might be a fight you had with a family member, a minor car accident as you were rushing to work, or a new recipe that didn’t turn out right before you were expecting company. Sit quietly for several minutes and think about the situation you are addressing. Now, pretend you are a person from another planet and you come across the scene you have been thinking about. Write about the scene from the perspective of a stranger. What do you notice?

Taking a Closer Look


This is a two-part exercise. Begin by looking at the back of your hand, a coffee cup, or something you feel fairly neutral about. After a few moments, begin a list of things you want to do. After a few moments, stop and imagine a moment from your past when you felt incredibly happy and could not stop smiling. Now, begin a list of things you want to do. What do you notice?

Talk to Yourself


If you’re feeling a little blue, try talking with yourself on paper. Set up a dialogue between the part of you that feels down in the dumps and the part of you that knows exactly what to do to make you feel better. Allow both sides to have their say. Continue writing this dialogue until you notice a shift in how you are feeling.

Increasing the opportunity for positive emotions in your life can make everything you do more pleasurable. Try some of the journaling exercises I’ve described here and find out how journaling can move you toward a greater sense of well-being and happiness.
      
If you find yourself needing some help in working with more focus and greater efficiency, contact me and request a GRATIS SESSION via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

 


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