A Pep Talk from Kurt Vonnegut

For this week’s creative pep talk, I’m going to let the master of creative pep talks take over:

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“Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funky or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it. Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood, OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and . you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut”

 

A powerful message in a world where sharing is everything!

Have you created for just yourself lately? I would ask you to share in the comments, but I guess that’s going against Vonnegut.

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So… go out and do! And enjoy the doing today, not so much the sharing. 

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Goal Setting: Lauren Graham’s Kitchen Timer Strategy

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my most recent book recommendation: Lauren Graham’s Talking as Fast as I Can. If you’re a fan of Graham, Gilmore Girls, or Parenthood, you have got to read this book. And I suggest on audiobook, because Lauren Graham is such a delightful voice to listen to.

When it comes to celebrity books, I usually expect some sort of ghostwriter to be involved. And maybe there was one, or an amazing editor of some sort, who worked behind the scenes in Graham’s book. But she really seemed like she wrote this one herself.

Why? Because, in addition to mentioning how smart she was, she had this amazing chapter about making time for writing.

It has completely changed the way I look at making time for my passions and hobbies.

Graham called it “Kitchen Timer Writing.” One block of time completely devoted to your craft. And as long as you keep yourself away from distractions (THE INTERNET!) and keep your appointment with yourself, you’ve succeeded. You’ve passed. You can go on to Day 2, and 3, and so on until your passion becomes a habit, and your habit becomes a way of life.

The book’s been out for two years, so naturally, there are plenty of blogs and articles about this life-changing chapter from her book. If you’re curious and can’t buy the book or find it at your library, I suggest you check out this blog (which copy/pasted the strategy, but not the whole chapter) or this article (which boils down the big ideas).

For me, these were the big takeaways:

  1. Make an appointment with yourself to devote to your craft.

  2. Keep your appointment. When you sit down for that block of time, you are to put away all distractions and only work on your craft. What really got me was that it is OK to just sit and think, or to sit and be stuck. As long as you give yourself that time to just sit and be with your craft. And if you’re stuck, you may as well work on your writing journal — write and practice until you get your groove back and you can get back to your project. For those of you who are joining me for the 10 Minute Challenge, but you’re working on other skills besides writing: if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, use this time to learn. Watch/read the masters. Do drills. Do something that is devoted to your craft, even if it is not actively working on your project.

  3. Celebrate the keeping of the appointment.

  4. If you missed your appointment or couldn’t stick to the entire period of time, don’t punish yourself by making yourself do more the next day. Start fresh. Either try again the next day, or adjust the commitment. Maybe you can’t do an hour–but you can do 30 minutes. Or maybe just ten. Do what you can, as long as you’re doing and moving forward.

  5. Repeat: Honor the appointment. Celebrate your accomplishments. Adjust if necessary.

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This has completely changed the way that I look at goal setting. Instead of punishing myself or “owing” myself hours, I am allowed to forgive myself, adjust, and move on. Instead of forcing myself to meet a daily word count or post artwork everyday, I am allowed to practice my craft by learning, meditating, and experimenting.

It has been so very freeing.

By focusing on celebrating my accomplishment and adjusting when I fail to meet my goal, I am encouraged to keep going despite failure. I develop grit and confidence when it comes to pursuing my goals.  

When it came to lettering, I realized that I sort of naturally fell into Graham’s strategy… because it was purely a hobby for me when I started. My appointment with myself always fell around 8pm, when my daughter fell asleep and when I needed a mental break from a long day of being an adult. After a year and a half of practice, 8pm is now drilled into my brain as time to practice lettering.

Now, I’m trying out writing. Fiction writing. Again. But I’ve got a better gameplan this time. I’m going to forgive myself and I’m going to keep my appointment. I’m not going to punish myself with word counts. I’m just going to keep my appointment.

Now, my new time to watch is 11:30. It’s when my husband has gone to bed, and about an hour before my daughter wakes up and wants me to cuddle her back to sleep. That’s my new magic hour.

What goals are you working on? Have you tried making an appointment with yourself? Leave a comment with your goals!

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Regeneration Speeches for Humans

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I finally watched Capaldi’s final episode. Although I liked his quirky personality, I never quite warmed up to his series because of the storylines. Regardless, I still got a little teary-eyed in his final moments.

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Doctor Who does such a good job of giving each actor a dignified farewell with a speech that fits his personality and appearances from each of his companions. It’s always a painful farewell.

In the past, I thought this is a bit odd, considering the character of the Doctor is technically just changing in appearance. But as this was a year of many farewells and changes for me, I finally understood why the Doctor experiences such anguish as he changes form.

We often think of change as something that happens outside of ourselves: new job, new school, new friends, new house. But with every major life change, we also say goodbye to who we were during that stage of our life. The phase with Converse shoes ends to welcome the bow tie, which eventually gives way to sunglasses and a guitar.*

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Although it’s exciting to think of the new things we will experience in every new stage of our lives, I don’t know if we quite give the time and reflection it takes to say goodbye to who we were. Because that person, with their experiences and relationships, was a pretty amazing person, too. The exciting new things to come shouldn’t make us forget or devalue who we were during each of our early stages.

In Capaldi’s final episode, the Doctor held on. He didn’t want to regenerate. He didn’t want to let go. And when he finally did, he gave himself a most glorious speech: a reminder of everything he learned, everything he wanted his next self to hold dear.

And with that speech, he was finally able to let go and make the change.

When I made all my big changes this summer, I took a lot of time to say goodbye to my colleagues, my students, my school, my house–everything and everyone except myself. I was really proud of the person I had become in that stage of my life. I deserved a goodbye.

In August, I had a rocky start to my new stage. Now I think it was because I hadn’t fully let go. I hadn’t given myself a worthy goodbye. I didn’t give the person I was give her final farewell speech, give her advice to me, and say goodbye on her own terms.

I’m going to take a page from the Doctor’s book and give time to value who I was in my last stage of life. I’m going to let that person give her farewell and her advice for me as I embrace my new role. And with that, I hope to be able to move forward confidently into the new person that I will become. 

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Do you think you give yourself enough time to reflect on yourself before you move on to new stages in life? Comment below with lessons you’ve learned in your early stages that you still hold on to!

 

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*Ten, Eleven, and Twelve’s iconic accessories, respectively.

Both handlettering pieces in this entry are original pieces by me! They were done digitally using the Procreate app. See more of my work on Instagram @nerdladydraws.