About the creative process and the “monsters” that hold us back

Liz Gilbert

In Australia, when the ocean is a mess of waves and foam they say it’s like a “washing machine.” From the shore it certainly looks that way: waves breaking in all directions and tons of foam everywhere. Sometimes, life takes you to a similar place within yourself. It shakes you up and turns you around until everything you thought to be certain is completely questionable. You try to calm yourself down and find a logical explanation to your situation. When that doesn’t work you cry, kick and scream.. still, no relief. Finally, there’s nothing left to do but surrender. This is how my last few week have been.

Yoga puts you face to face with yourself and sometimes what you discover  is hard to swallow. During the last weeks a few monsters turned up to reap havoc in my internal landscape. They are ugly and scary. They love to criticize everything and they’re never satisfied. “If only this were different it would be much better,” they say. They are actively looking for the flaw in every thing, in every circumstance and in me. We have long arguments that feel like and endless ping-pong match going on in my head. It’s exhausting. 

I found some solace two weeks ago at an event with Liz Gilbert, the author of the Eat, Pray, Love book. She was touring this side of the world with her friend (and hairstylist) who just published her own book. On the stage, they had a casual and intimate discussion about the creative process and the obstacles we encounter along the way. They talked a lot about how to confront the ugly thoughts I call “monsters.”

Liz described her “monsters” as abandoned children with grubby faces who clamor for her attention. She said that at a certain point in her life she had to come to terms with them and figure out how to deal with them. She imagines herself as their mother and makes it her responsibility to care for them. It is a metaphor for taking care of herself, for being her own mother.

She also told us that at the start of each new project she writes a sort of proclamation, a formal letter that she reads out loud in her studio. In it she invites Creativity and also Fear to join her on a new adventure. She know she cannot exclude Fear, but there’s one condition. She tells Fear: “You can have a voice and you can have a seat, but you don’t get to vote!” I thought that was brilliant.

Liz encouraged us to continue forth with our creative work and to “get it done!” She reminded us that our art “doesn’t have to be good, helpful, marketable or pleasing. It just has to be Done. Get it done!” 

 She ended with these words of wisdom:

“What differentiates a life of suffering from a life of learning is a sense of belief that life is your friend. Do the work. Repeatedly. Build a life of meaning.”

Here’s to to a life of learning. Onward!

Why it’s important to know your audience

writing

Presenting out loud in front of a class makes me pretty uncomfortable and it’s something I long to get better at. These days in class I’m learning how to give an introduction on yoguic philosophy and ethics to my students back home. It’s an exercise that I love almost as much as it makes me uncomfortable. And it’s right in line with my new year’s resolution to improve my communication skills.

Today’s article is for those who, like me, need to express themselves in a precise, concise and effective way. Usually, those of us involved in complementary therapies find it challenging to explain what it is we do to people outside of our professional circles. If you find yourself in this predicament, here’s a few things I’ve learned.

The first thing to consider before writing is: who is my audience? Who am I writing for? (Note: this also applies to anything you post on your Facebook business page and, hopefully, your timeline).

Knowing your audience will help you to..

..choose the appropriate tone and language for your text. 

In our daily lives we adapt our tone of voice and our choice of words to the people with whom we are talking to. The same should happen when we present our work.

An example: when speaking with a child I’ll try to be as simple and clear as possible. It is the same when I teach. On the other hand, when speaking to a colleague, we will often utilize specific terminology that a layperson would not understand. I’ve often made the mistake of using professional lingo with laypeople. This has had the adverse outcome of pushing people away rather than bringing them closer. 

Before you write, think about who you are writing to. What will be the most appropriate tone and language to use with you audience? Are you educating newbies? Brainstorming amongst colleagues? Writing a letter to a friend?

..build a relationship with them.

When your address a specific person (or group of people) you are initiating a conversation, which implies the beginning of a relationship. Sometimes we forget that our mission is to serve and we expect our audience to serve us. We ask them to listen patiently while we expose pedantic information that is of little value to the listener. Remember, it’s not about showing off how much you know about X, Y and Z. You can gain credibility just by being helpful to another person. If you want to advertise your services, the best thing you can do is to be of service. Offer up something useful from the start! 

Ask yourself: How can I better serve my audience?

What hurdles can I help them through?

What problem can I help them solve?

..decide what information to share.

Good communication implies listening. When you listen to your audiences you are not only showing your interest but also your level of involvement with them. Sometimes, professionals tend to maintain a distance that isn’t so much professional as it is condescending. I’ve had this unfortunate experience a number of times within my field. It is no fun, especially when you are in the (already vulnerable) position of seeking help.

This is why, as a professional,  listening to your audience’s feedback is of vital importance for your career. It will show you the hopes and needs of the people you work for. You will also gain a lot of insights into how to better serve them.

We are living in an era in which information abounds, but connection and compassion are scarce. Each time you to share content that is both useful and empathic you are doing the world a huge favor and delivering an amazing gift. Own it!

(Tip: if you still aren’t sure who your audience is, choose one person that represents you “ideal audience” and imagine you are writing to them)