Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Getting lost can lead us home.

When I was working on a story about the Gulf War last year, I suddenly realized that I was really writing about my marriage. When I paint, I put down a bunch of colors on paper and then see what images start to emerge for me. This is my creative process. I never know where I’m going to end up, but I do know that the process itself will always be surprising and exhilarating.

Life is much the same way. And even more so during times of transition. You may have an idea of where you want to end up, but if you let yourself open up to any possibility that comes up and stay tuned to how you feel during the process, there’s no telling what unexpected joy will come into your life.

I’ll give you just a few examples that surprised me during the first six and a half months of this year.

  • I had been waiting for a year to start my MFA program but when I went to Boston in January for my residency, I realized pretty immediately that it added little value to my development as a writer. But the program offered a trip to Cuba to visit artists. Going to Cuba and interviewing Cuban artists had been a life-long dream of mine, so of course I went.

    That trip helped bring me closer to my parents than I could have ever imagined—gave me a fuller understanding of their lives as exiles. And as a result, I was able to interview them on camera telling their stories—another life-long dream that I had given up due to my deteriorating relationship with them over the years. My parents and I went from talking on the phone for a few minutes every couple of months to having weekly calls that I now look forward to.

  • I had been working on a collection of non-fiction stories for nearly three years when the inspiration for a new book came so strongly that I decided to create a blog around it. You’re now reading pieces of my new book.

  • Dropping out of the MFA program made me rethink what I was going to do next. I decided to finally launch a writing workshop series and complete a coaching program—both had been on my mind for years. And as I pursue these dreams, I keep meeting people with similar visions and backgrounds who encourage and guide me along the way.

To let your plans go without knowing what will come next can definitely feel a little disorienting, and you may even feel a little (or even a lot) lost as I did. But stick with it. Engaging in a creative life leads to more fulfillment, growth and love than you or I can often imagine. As long as we let go, follow our truest loves and inspirations. And let the process work on us. I’ve learned more about myself and life than I ever could have imagined had I stayed the course: writing about the Gulf War or painting those pretty abstract colors. Taking notice of what came up for me on the way to getting an MFA made me stop and change directions. Honoring the process led me home.

  • Adopt flexibility as a way of life
  • Stay tuned to your body and intuition – especially during transition times
  • Be willing to change directions mid-way – any discomfort you feel will eventually go away
  • Practice patience and trust the process
  • Express gratitude for the unexpected surprises that take you places you never thought you’d be able to go


badet said...

hello. i am about to undergo a transition in my life. one plan that strengthened my resolve was my lingering interest in writing and now, to start a blog which i look forward to to help me write and understand.

thank you for this post which reminded me that i have nothing to fear about my choice. :-)

It feels like flying! said...

Thank you for visiting. I wish you a smooth and happy transition! Moving through fear is all part of it and it sounds like you're on your way. I visited your blog just now and saw that writing helps you through - just like it does for me. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to support you! Happy journeys!

wordcatcher said...

hello again. thank you for taking the time to view my blog and for the wonderful insight you've shared. life intervened for awhile. i got myself enrolled in lit and writing classes so i can enlighten myself some more. you have greatly helped me already. again, thank you. will keep on following you through your blog. regards!:-)