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I contend that we need four supports in our life in order to feel balanced and keep ourselves in good shape. Balance is so important in life. It is how we maintain and persevere.

Time
We need time to tend to our own care: to eat well, take exercise and nurture our spirit (Whatever that may mean for you – attending church, visiting art galleries, reading good books . . .) What is a good life without time with loved ones? Hearth and Home provide the heart of a balanced life. Time to ourselves for quiet thought, is equally essential.

Money
It is a fact of the life we live, that most of us need money. We must have it for our very survival in this hurry up-keep up world. No hearth, no home without it. Money fuels us. It makes things happen. It creates a comfortable life around us. Money can be very handy for generosity, too. We give more when we have more to give.

Connection
We are all passionate beings at our core. And we crave connection to fully express our love. We truly need each other. Susan Jeffers, PhD. said, “I believe our craving in life is not to be loved, but to love…ourselves and others.” I’m calling this the gravity that holds it all together. Without it life is flimsy and can more easily topple (or turn upside down).

Purpose
There is no more stable ground than purpose. To be of service is what we are all meant to do. Purpose drives us and without it we feel lost. Purpose runs on faith. With faith, belief in something, our lives make sense.

 

This is, I believe, what got me to fall in love with writing in the first place.  I tend to think it’s easier to generate with fiction, but maybe it’s just long form writing that fuels it so well.  But anything, really, can pump the steam.

It happens when you spend enough time on a project.  I’m not sure of the exact number of hours.  It probably varies by the assignment, hormonal levels, time of year,  temperament, etc.  It no doubt differs from person to person.  From time to time, too.  Others may use different words to describe it. I only know what it’s like when it overtakes me.

Whatever I’m working on dominates my thoughts. It fills my head.  I can’t wait to get back to it!  I wake up bursting with ideas.  I hear passages or dialog in my head when I’m in the shower.  When talking to others, I’m usually working out how this could fit somewhere.  I’m even more in need of pen and paper than usual.  I’ll use cocktail napkins, paper towels, scraps of paper, paper place mats, matchbooks, whatever I can get to capture the ideas, revelations, understandings, new twists that come spilling out of me.

This steam not only takes over thoughts.  It is also the fuel that propels me forward.  I can get so much done with it pumping!  Whip through first and second drafts, full chapters, complete essays.  It may well push me through to the end.  Or until something comes along that lets the steam out. . .

I believe this is why National Novel Writing Month – November – is so important.  It’s a wonderful steam generator.  I intend to take up the challenge again this year.  The way I do it may not be as disciplined as some.  My process entails doing something on the project, no matter how small, every day.  By jove, by the time the 15th or 16th rolls around, my head is full of steam!

Shall we call it another illustration of my first rule of writing: Nothing Breeds Writing Like Writing.

It’s just the bottom line.  If you’re going to write (or make music, or dance, or paint or whatever your art) you have to make the time to do it.  (This post would’ve been up sooner if I had done that.)

So many well-meaning people say, “I don’t have time to write.”  Oh, they want to all right, very much.  But they never seem to find the time.  If you hope time will fall into your lap, you’re not likely to get much writing done.

There are those who say they need a good chunk of time in order to do their art.  I understand that.  Sometimes it’s hard to sink in if you only have 15 minutes.  But that’s all the more reason to find the time you need and schedule it.  If you continue to wait for a chunk of time to appear, you’re likely to find yourself with very few words on the page.

It just won’t happen unless you schedule the time.  Block out whatever time you need. And stick to it.  Okay, other things may crop up keeping you from doing it then. Just reschedule the time, like you would any important meeting or date.

There is a tactic many use to wait until they’re “in the mood.”  But that’s just another excuse.  You come to the assigned time and you put pen to paper, fingers to keys.  That’s how you write.  It can’t always be with inspiration flowing through your body, full of excitement and verve, eagerness in your fingers. You have to allow yourself to write “shitty” first drafts, as Anne Lamott suggests.  Someone once said, (probably Anne, herself) that you can’t create something good without getting something out in the first place.  If you truly are a writer (painter/musician/dancer/etc) you know  you have to just do it, no matter what. Nothing breeds writing like writing. Nothing gets you “in the mood” quite like doing it.

Time might be a good excuse, as there can be pressing matters which must be attended to, first.  But moodiness cannot be your excuse. Be careful, too, with those voices which say that doing the laundry, washing the dishes, or even being a good Samaritan, is more important than your art.  Sometimes, it is.  But very often it is a really convenient excuse.

If you truly do wish to create art, write something, get some writing done. In order to do that you must follow this formula:  Make the time.  Show up.  And do it. Simple.

It’s hard to hear what you’re thinking.  Most of us run around with a million thoughts (or so it seems).  Things I need at the grocery, what time to be somewhere, the gas in the car, how my shoes feel, what he really thinks, that’s a good song . . .  Not to mention dealing with whatever is in front of you and what comes next.

There are a lot of thoughts going on under all the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life.  It’s difficult to know what they all are.  But these thoughts are important. They color everything we do, whether or not we’re aware of them. I sometimes see it as a running commentary: “Oh, that worked out well.  That didn’t play out the way I thought. I wonder if I can do this.” The really scary thoughts, though, are buried down deeper, under all this chatter. Things like I’m no good or people don’t really like me.

Of course, they are not true. Certainly there’s something good in me and there are people who do like me. But these thoughts have been around a long time.  And their roots run deep. The thing is that once they’re revealed, once you face them and really hear them, they lose a lot of the sting.  You can see them for what they are.

One really good way to get at these thoughts is to write.  I call it journalling, but you may call it Morning Pages, like Julia Cameron (or Writing Practice as Natalie Goldberg deems it.) Writing longhand, 3 pages of whatever is going on in your head.  Julia suggests the morning because it’s a good idea to get all that out before you start your day. But also because it tends to be quiet and there is less activity in your brain.

It does take time.  Sometimes you need more than 3 pages. And you need, most of all, to feel safe doing this.  Know that this is for your eyes only.  No one else need read it.  You must have a certain amount of trust to pursue the mining.

It’s about allowing yourself to be completely honest. To be able to say things like, “I’m not sure I really like him.”  Or “Doing that really makes me feel good!”  Perhaps, “I didn’t handle that well.  She pisses me off and I reacted too fast.  Maybe next time I’ll try to think first before I speak.”  You might also try to explore why you felt the way you dind when someone reacted to you.  The more you can partake in this monologue, the deeper you can go, the more you will learn about yourself.

Talking to someone else, especially a credentialed person, definitely helps.  But most of us don’t feel compelled to seek that kind of help.  This is free and doesn’t entail a lot of effort on your part. I believe that thinking doesn’t work because you can think yourself into circles. Writing is the key.  Nothing beats seeing it for yourself, on paper.

Some of those floating thoughts in my mind tell me that I have so many things I need to take care of.  When I take the time to write them down, I often find it’s really more like 2 or 3 things.  The others being easy, part of one of the two or something I can do tomorrow.  Saying it out loud can be powerful, but nothing gives more clarity than the written word.

You have little chance of changing a situation and zero chance of changing others, but you can change yourself.  And deep knowledge of yourself is how you do it.  Writing is the key to unlock your secrets.  It there anything more valuable than understanding yourself?

I’m doing The Artist’s Way, again.  It’s been a long time in between and my circumstances and creativity are at very different places.  So, too, for my dear friend who did it with me last time. I have to say, it’s a wonderful and fun program.  If you work it well, it produces amazing results!

It does take time to do, that’s for sure. With weekly readings and activities, you need to give it a fair amount of attention. As I learned in NaNoWriMo, it’s about the commitment to give it even a little time as many days as you can.  But the real key to this time management thing may be in the daily choices we make for where to put our focus.

Most of us lead busy lives . . . everyone from the 40-50 hour a week salaried workers to those rested and retired in Paradise.  There’s so much to do, to see, to take care of, to make happen, to find out, to listen to, to watch, to follow, to follow through, to follow up.

Can we drill it down to simple “Energy Math”?  I have so many hours to fill that aren’t about sleeping, eating, using the bathroom, etc.  So what am I going to do with them?  What are the things I really want to include?  Where do I choose to put my focus?

This takes observation.  Something we can all do, no matter how busy the schedule.
Needing only a few moments of your time now and again, (maybe when you’re waiting) and perhaps a small notebook or phone – to keep track of those findings.

So, you see what is and you do what works.  What is working for you and what isn’t?  Note those things which drain your energy or time. What activities are getting you where you want to go and what keeps you stuck?  Usually you can tell that what you’re doing just doesn’t feel right.  Or something else is calling you.

What are the things you want in your life?  Whether that’s spending more time with your children, nurturing your creativity or improving your game.  You need to decide what you choose to have in your life.

If those things aren’t fitting, something has to go. You need to make choices: what can you adjust, get rid of or replace?  It might take some time to patch up the leaks, but that’s okay.  Every little bit helps, frees up a little more space for something you’d rather have in your life.  And, knowing you’re taking the steps helps even if it’s just easing your state mind.

Everyone’s choices are different. But each day, sometimes in each moment, you need to think about where you’re going to put your focus. What are the cards you choose to pick to focus on and hold in your hand?

Giving presents is what everyone does – especially at this time of year.  Can we be more creative and find other ways to give?

What may come to mind first is giving money.  That’s an easy one to do, if you have it. You don’t have to have a fortune to give money, though.  In some spiritual circles, you’re encouraged to give, even when you don’t think you have it. Giving money can make you feel abundant.

Another one that comes readily to mind is giving time.  This kind of giving can manifest in many different ways.  You could, of course, give your time to help someone with a chore.  Sometimes just showing up and spending time with someone can be a gift.  It might only be your company that makes someone feel less alone.  Other times your presence might support what someone is doing.

Giving time, of course, can be about volunteering.  So often our time is taken up in self-centric activities, such as earning our wages or tending to our surroundings. Volunteering your time, giving it freely for the good of someone else can be very freeing.

Giving can mean handing over some of your possessions to those with less.  Maybe it is a gift you’ve purchased just for someone special. A phone call or letter might touch someone’s heart at just the right time and be a gift.  As I’ve found recently, giving my attention to a project can make a real difference.

An area of giving that doesn’t get talked about much is giving to yourself.  Maybe there’s something you’ve really been needing lately.  If you take the time and the money to go out and get it for yourself, that can be considered giving.  You might just decide to give yourself permission to go after what you want or to be sad because you didn’t get something you wanted.

Giving can happen spontaneously.  It can be so fast you could miss it, if you’re not watching. You could be walking along the street and come across someone who’s dropped their packages, stoop over and help them gather their things. Opening the door for someone who’s struggling. Giving someone space to express their opinions without interrupting or arguing could be a generous gift at times. Others may just need you to give them permission to be who they are or your acceptance for what they’re trying to do.

Perhaps you could give of yourself – something you know, what you’ve learned or what you think.  You could give a recommendation, a referral or a kidney.  I often like to give compliments. Giving encouragement can also be very helpful.  You could give a day off, a free pass, or a leg up.

Whenever you can give something to yourself or someone else, most particularly something of your own, it warms and expands your heart. And strengthens your giving muscle.

I am beginning a new journey.  I am going to give something every day between now (or rather Monday) and Christmas.

In previous years, I’ve been a real grouch about Christmas, always complaining about the over-commercialization and that most of the people I know don’t really need anything. If they need socks or underwear, it’s probably best if they go purchase those things for themselves.  I hate Christmas songs – especially when used in ads.  I can take a little Christmas music, for a few days.  But by mid-December I am so sick of the same old simpering songs, I want to spit.  Don’t get me started on the whole shopping and decorating obsession. Family is a good thing, but not all of us can be with our families just because it’s December 25th.  Which only serves to make it that much harder . . . Not very positive of me, huh?

So, I’ve decided this year to fight back. I may not be able to volunteer every day.  Some days it might just be reaching out to an old friend or offering someone a ride.  I’m sure I’ll be giving away some food, clothes, money and who knows what.  I have a number of things on my list, but I’ll be doing research, poking around, asking questions and watching for what comes up.  It should be interesting.

I give credit to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for all this momentum.  Not to mention some faith that I’ll actually pull it off. It’s effects have been very positive.

It started with a pledge at the beginning of November to spend a specific amount of time on my novel.  (See The Secret Gem Inside NaNoWriMo.)   Not wanting to be boring about it, I also set a few goals.  I’m happy to report that as I close in on November 30th, I have accomplished nearly all my goals.  (I do have a little more time left.)  What did it, I believe, was sticking to that schedule I set for myself.  Not quite as sexy as finishing a chapter, but that’s what did it.  I promised that I would spend at least some time on the book, on the days I knew I could. Whether that was scanning a few pages, reading over something I’d written or giving it 20 hours, as I did over the recent Thanksgiving Day holiday.

It was the Time I gave it, which eventually piled up into something concrete: progress. It was simply a matter of paying attention to the project.  Some days I only had a few minutes, other days I had several hours.  I just stayed with it, doing a little bit when I could and so when Thanksgiving rolled around, I had accumulated quite a lot of attention, so it was easy to fall into working on it for long stretches of time.  I was into it and excited about it.  I applied a small amount of effort over and over and this is what I got!

I’m letting that flow into December onto this Giving Project.  But there’s so much of it, I thought I’d spread it around. The novel, this time around, is about fun. Keeping my fingers in fiction and my critique group happy. But I have this other project – Love Letters From Your Soul – that I want to apply the same process to and see what happens.

So, two projects.  The Giving is every day.  The writing is on a schedule that works with everything else in my life.  Like Harry Potter in The Prisoner of Azkaban, who was able to do the Petronus Charm because, through a twist of the Time Turner, had already seen himself do it.  I know I can do this: I’ve already done it.  Whether I’ll be able to prepare the Love Letters for publication by the end of December, I don’t know.  I only know I will give it Time and that will create progress.

P.S.  You will see reflections of my Giving Project throughout December.  I will be sticking to the subjects of Giving and Gratitude all month.

I have been running lately.  More than usual.  Doing two jobs – one much harder than my usual one.  Seems like everyone wants me for something, all the time.  I’ve even had things to do after work!  Today was the first day I took a real lunch – away from my desk.

I find this a difficult way to live.  Perhaps there are some who’ve become accustomed to it.  That might be even worse: to be numb to the time and connection missing.

I encourage those who live in this constant stream to take some time this weekend to really relax and see how it feels.  Can you do it?  Think about steps you could take to find more time in your life (outside of vacation) to slow down a little and listen to your thoughts.

Some may be resistant to that, but there’s really nothing so scary in your thoughts.  When you take the time to listen, sometimes, you will find they calm down. All they really wanted was a little attention. You may still, afterwards, be moving at the same speed, but there will be a calmness at the center, reminding you.  You might be more willing to take those steps to bring more quiet into your life.  All from taking a little time.

Even if it’s just a minute or two here and there. Honor your thoughts’ need to be heard.  We can all find a little time to pay more attention.

For something so hard to hold, Time certainly is powerful!

I’ve been reading “The Power of Now” again. Eckhart Tolle has much to say on the subject of Time and I’m still early in the book.  He talks of how we get caught up in psychological time.  Though we might have to live within “clock” time, we take it way too far.

Time claws at me from behind, reminding me of all the time I’ve wasted.  And it cackles from the future, taunting me to move faster.  Time is always there to demand I go there, or do this.  What exactly am I doing with my time?  I would venture to say Time is at the heart of most stress.  It’s so hard to make it do what you want.

So, how do we step aside and let time tick by without being so attached to it?

Perhaps, like most things, it‘s about controlling the thoughts.  It’s not really time’s fault, after all.  You can’t blame the clock. The time is what we’ve decided it is:  2:47 pm, Eastern Standard Time. But it’s all the thoughts that gather around it which cause such stress and angst.  The judgments that can spew forth!

I wonder if I can practice releasing the thoughts, the stress, the anxiety about time?  At the moment it’s literally hours before I have to note the time.  Can’t I just let go and be in the now?  At least for the next few hours? 

It feels almost impossible to escape it. I have had fantasies about going to sleep when I’m tired, getting up when I’m rested, eating when I feel hungry. Instead of being such a slave to the clock.  Even at times in my life when I could do that (with no particular place to go and no particular time to be there) I still couldn’t do it.  I can’t even do the “it’s 5:00 somewhere” game.  I’m just so locked into the structure of time (except for a fondness for having breakfast for dinner).

I know well the value and peace, as well as all that can be done in the now.  That means gaining control over my addiction to psychological time.

Stay tuned ~

The Universe doesn’t use Outlook, nor a Daytimer.  It doesn’t even own a smart phone.  I suspect, when you have eternity, what’s Wednesday at 2:00?

I, on the other hand, rely heavily on calendars, when I’m setting intentions. I will have lost 5 pounds by February 3rd at 9:15.  Now, isn’t that silly?  But still I forge on:  I’ll have a book published by December 31, 2012.

There are so many factors which can change my set dates. Even the simple ones like I’ll meet  you Sunday, 1:30 at Joe’s Place.  This is subject to the winds of weather, 2 working cars, and no emergencies on either end.  I’d say the Universe is quite wise not to make plans on a strict calendar.

So why oh why do I continue to stress out and beat myself up over deadlines I have no business setting?

I understand we live in a world that spins on calendars, agendas and deadlines.  We all are chained in some aspects of our lives.  And I do believe it’s a good idea to be responsible and show up on time, honor commitments.

But there are so many places where the yoke of time just makes it harder to accomplish our goals. Sure, we can set a target date.  But we have to remember that the Universe has no calendar.  Sometimes things take more time than we’ve estimated. Finding ways to keep going (even when we reach that date) is far more productive than beating ourselves up for a missed deadline.

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