Turning up to the page is a buzz phrase right now. Usually, I'm not a big fan of 'in' words. I like to be more creative. But this one resonates with me, possibly because it's the easiest thing to remember to do when you are 'stuck' or 'blocked'.
Let me share with you what it feels like to be stuck. Does this resonate with you?
I was stuck for many years. I would jump from one idea to the next, succeed at a couple, and always, always, always have this niggling sense of worry in my gut. I was scared that if I followed my heart, I would not have enough money to survive. So every plan was elaborately commercial. And most plans failed. Not extraordinarily. They just didn't have the punch I thought they would. The more imaginative ones were ceremoniously dumped or put in a drawer. "You stay there," I would murmur, patting the manuscript on its paper head. "I'll come back and fetch you when I am more worthy of you."
I would have lots of icky days; days when I would fall into despondency. "I'm not good enough." "Everything I do, fails." In fact, the chatter in my head became a little friend to me. I'd subconsciously feel, "If I stuff it up again, I can go chat to the little buddy who always makes me feel better, in a worse kind of way."
I made sure I had friends who would listen to my irrelevant woes. See, I'd never actually come right out and say, "Hey, I feel icky today. And it's because I can't turn up to that goddamned page!" Nope. I'd disguise it, by inviting in that good old pacifier, DRAMA! Woo hoo, nothing like a little bit of a diversion to not have to face the ickiness of not turning up to the page! And these wonderfully blocked friends would love the drama, somehow knowing that they were part of the great conspiracy to keep me from my creative self! (I'm sure they had no inkling, but you get the sentiment, I am sure!)
But something happened. As I began to wake up to that creative self, revisit my life purpose, drama began to fall away. Those friends disappeared too, whether by my hitting "delete" on Facebook or not answering my phone, or by them sensing something had changed. At one point, I began to think I must be a bloody awful person, and began a delightful deconstruct of my soul. The page didn't like that. And nor did I.
Slowly, as I searched for meaning, for the reason behind all these brutal feelings, I began to wake up. I re-articulated my personal purpose in life. (It hadn't changed since 2007 when I first did the exercise.) I kept going back to it, reviewing it, sitting with it. I once tried to change it, but it wasn't getting rubbed out that easily. And as my awareness of who I am grew, something else started to happen.
I started to turn up at the page. At first, once a week. Then, a few times. Then, every day.
I wrote, I drew, I sang, I played my guitar, I cooked, I walked, I meditated. All in a kind of haphazard orderless way. And, guess what? Money kept coming in, sometimes at the most incredible times. Stuff just kept arriving. The world didn't stop. I didn't vapourise in a cloud of black mess or explode. Life went on. And I began to understand that my emotions needed words. They needed my attention. They needed my love, in order to turn up to the page. Basically, they needed to be free, not shoved in the bottle of my soul and plugged with a cork.
So this morning, I thought I'd share those 'ah ha' moments; things I did before I dragging myself back to the page. You see, it really is that simple.
Each time before I turned up, there seemed to be something I needed to do to trigger those incredible creative moments. I created a ritual around it. And when I did, things changed. Miraculously. Incredibly. Joyfully. Here are a few things I did.
1. I flipped on a favourite speaker on YouTube, like Oprah or Dr Phil or Elizabeth Gilbert. I listened to their words of inspiration. For the most part, they seemed to be yelling at me, "Get yourself back to that page woman!" Just 10 minutes of having them gently cajole me back to my life purpose seemed to work.
2. I sat. Walked out to my decking. And sat. Breathed. Inhaled so my lungs were full and my eyes could drink in every living thing I could see. I forced myself to see the miracle of life. "Come on!" I would urge. "Look! It's all around you! You have a purpose. Now, get back to that page!"
3. I went for a walk. I smiled at locals. I lifted one foot after the other in splendid motion and let thoughts wash through my head without judgement. No pressure. No time limits. Just a lulling motion that gently drew me back to that page.
4. I pulled out my art board. Stuck some pencils beside it. And sat down. Took one pencil in my hand, and began to sketch. Sometimes I tore the paper from the deck and began again. But each time I did it, I let my hand create.
5. I pulled out my journal. And wrote. I let my mind go, and just let words tumble onto the page. Sometimes I published them. Sometimes I closed the book and hid it away.
6. I cleaned. I would pull everything out of a cupboard and madly sort things out, chucking out pointless purchases or out of date food. With each elimination, I was able to slowly, gently, realise that I needed to crawl back to that page.
7. I accepted silence. I began to see it as a mini charger, there for my renewal. I accepted the quietness in my soul. I let it rest. And as my strength came back, I could face that page anew.
8. I acknowledged my feelings. Anger, gotcha. Sadness, I can see ya. Pity, yep, you're right here baby. Guilt, go for it my love, we can deal with you today. The moment I acknowledged them, they began to sit a little taller. They would lean toward me and say, "Really? You can see me? I'm really here?" I think if they could, they would thank me. I mean, who likes being ignored? Once I'd looked over at them, they seemed to be content to leave. "Thanks!" they'd call as they retreated back to their own space. And, I could then stride back to the page.
Turning up to the page is essential. You can't move forward until you do it. Honestly, it is that simple. But if you don't acknowledge what's going on, you can spend days wondering what the heck you are meant to be doing. Wandering aimlessly, your page stays blank, and the less you turn up to it, the harder it is to go back to it.
When I was writing The Bootongs of Bali, I frequently had to stop and assess, smell the roses, look for something deeper. Or rather, allow something deeper. Here's the clincher.
Every time I stopped and gave myself an act of care, the page seemed to come to me. Nurturing myself was the key, every single time. I've said it before and will keep saying it - you take care of the quantity, and the quality will take care of itself.
When I wrote Waking Up in Bali Soul Journals, I was frightened of putting words out about what I had experienced. What if I got it wrong? What if I could not capture the essence or energy? So I gave myself some self-love. I meditated. I asked for the energy to write whatever needed to be written. And then, I turned up to the page. The result was one of the most powerful pieces I have ever written.
When I nurture the soul within me, acknowledge the purpose I am here for and ask for nothing more than to serve that purpose, the page becomes my ally. But the first thing I do, is offer myself some self-care.
Turning up to the page is now second nature. Self-care is something I enjoy, that I look forward to. I have removed the guilt, and now happily live in service of my creative soul. I'm more gentle with myself, no longer expecting perfection. See, when you connect with that 'other' part of yourself, you have no need to judge what pours onto that page. You've connected with something that for many, myself included, is quite spiritual. There's no longer ego, just a sense of awe.
I did a portrait at the end of 2014. I listened to the part of me that was telling me I was a fraud, that it was hopeless. I acknowledged the voice that compared it to my friend, who was trained at the Paris School of Fine Arts. But I stayed at the page, and just asked for whatever was needed to appear. And, it did.
Am I proud of that portrait? Yes! Of course I am! That this gnarly hand of mine held the pencils that created it? Hell yes! But is it vain pride, or the pride a mother has for her newborn? I've never had that blessing, and I'm not comparing the experience to that of giving life. But would you call a new mother vain, for the love and joy in her eyes as she marvels at what she created with her partner? No.
So this is the crux of it. When you turn up at the page, and create for the sheer and simple joy of creating, you will know. The love you feel, the 'wow' you experience, all of that is real. Experience it, revel in it, celebrate it. For me, I shake my head and marvel at it! And then, go give yourself some self-love. Let the energy of life wash over you, recharge the battery pack, and then, turn up at the page. Again.