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What do you want in the next phase of your creative life?

Naming what you want is a brave act. But sometimes, it can be hard to be clear. Sometimes, what you want can look pretty fuzzy. 

Once, in my twenties, a therapist gave me a booklet full of ‘pleasant activities’. My task, she said, was simply to underline the activities I liked. Decades later, I can still recall the shock of reading through the hundreds of items in the booklet and realising that I could name what I wanted. 

It had never fully occurred to me that I could choose what I wanted. That I could look at an item on a list – for example: playing in a team – and allow myself to think, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’

I hope that for you this is not such a revelation.

You might, though, feel a little cloudy about what you want. A little woolly about your creative intentions.

I have a wall in my study which is almost entirely whiteboard. And on that surface I note down the things I want to write and the ideas that are nudging me. I use it to try and get clear about my own time and intention.  Sometimes I look at that list of scribbled ideas and forms, and I have no idea which one I want to work on. No idea where I want my attention to be for the next two or three years. No idea what I want.

I’ve seen this play out with scores of artists over the years. Competing desires, crowding ideas, a foggy future.  I’ve found that three steps can help with getting clear on what you want.

  1. Start with what you don’t want. When I think about that list of competing ideas, it can often feel clearer to know, for instance, ‘I don’t want to spend a year researching something bleak’. Or ‘I don’t want to be sitting here in a year having the same conversation with myself.’ What do you not want in your creative life?
  1. Notice tiny delights. What do you love? What tiny things deliver pleasure and inspirational flow? What do you love to read or watch or listen to? Begin small. Delight is a clue that can guide you to your creative purpose.

The third one is hard and takes real courage, because it involves envy.

  1. Observe envy. Envy is one of those emotions which can be troubling and harmful. An emotion which can also do damage if we don’t confess it to ourselves. Yet can also help us get clear on what we want. When I consider casting an idea aside, I imagine another writer publishing that book. Do I feel joy that the book is now available? Or do I feel a stab of envy that someone else wrote it first? If it’s the latter, I stay with the project. Or perhaps you notice that you envy someone their role as a playwright, or as an editor, or a creative consultant. Get brave. Tell the truth to yourself. What, precisely is it that you envy? Chances are, that’s the thing you want.

So now, name one action you can take towards that one thing that you want. 


Today’s Prompt:

Walk through an unexpected door