Where do you begin when you discover that everything you thought was going to happen will not be happening? Plans are so last year... Most of us are paralyzed by uncertainty. If a global pandemic or political unrest is not enough to shake your plans, maybe a serious health issue or personal loss is? Whatever has torn your reality apart in 2020, it most likely feels like there is a hard end to the road as you have formerly known it and with no clear path beyond. That large gap between realizing things have changed irrevocably and your next thing, is a grand canyon. You can not walk across this one. You must learn to fly. This is not the road less traveled but the gap that stops those who can not or will not brave the unknown.
How do we plan for a future that we can not imagine?
I would like to begin with an assessment of what has changed and what has remained the same for me. This is the first exercise in growing wings.
When I listen to the music that I liked when I was 18, it feels like nothing has changed. It is a comfort to feel that some things remain, like my love of the ocean, fairy tales, flowers, stones and music. I’ll call this my Inner Truth 2020. When I think of all that has transpired for me as a human woman though, everything has changed- my age, my lived experiences, the way the world works. This is my Outer Truth 2020. I couldn’t have envisioned this world when I was twenty. But still I followed a 'thread of desire' to create in words, music, and images-all separate and distinct areas of practice back then. There was no straight line or degree to all these things as a unit. Although I studied music, art and creative writing in college, it was my mother’s insistence that I take typing that was the surprise break-through skill. You have to admit that typing IS essential. Thanks, Mom. Oddly (to me) tech answered my creative and career needs – quick extraction of creative ideas from my head, empowering my voice, and ease of producing those ideas. With this strange twist I seamlessly rode a technology wave of early creativity and production tools to write and produce games, music, and other interactive and immersive offerings. This career unfolded before me like a magic carpet.
That is my lived experience of following a simple thread of personal truth into an unknown future. A lifetime of dreamwork has shown me the nature of non-linear time and the deep connection to people, places, and things through the lens of feeling and memory. I am not a 3-dimensional girl. I required more than time and space to tell a story.
Now, your turn to do the "what has changed and what has not" exercise, plus 3 more practices to help you embrace the uncertainty and soar into your version of the unknown future.
WHAT TO LEAVE BEHIND AND WHAT TO TAKE
Make your own list of things that have stayed the same for you and say a good-bye to those things that have changed forever. It might surprise you. Be warmed by what remains no matter what.
YOUR MUSE IS CALLING – LISTEN UP
The great writer and poet, Mary Oliver, wrote, “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” You may not see yourself as a creative but your inner self does. Don't worry about the messiness of creating something good or beautiful. Do what's in your heart. Let yourself feel the calling and give it space and time in your life.
CREATE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING – BE RESOURCEFUL
Creating something from nothing has always been seen as an artist's work. I argue that it is everyone's work, but it is not about skill, tools or delivery systems. It is soul work. Covid-19 has helped us think about our spaces differently. Where we work, live, play, and how it all affects us. There is a larger platform to express ideas and what is pleasurable to the heart. Ideas were never born in boxes. Refresh and reuse ordinary into extraordinary.
KNOW YOURSELF – WRITE IT ALL DOWN
I highly recommend keeping day and night journals. The day journal is to hold your conscious ideas, thoughts and feelings. The night journal is for capturing those illusive dreams and images that are re-ordered and fed back to your conscious mind through your very own symbolic language. For the most part these two types of journals will give you different insights into your inner workings. This is where you will discover what will never change. Self knowledge is the stuff that wings are made of.
Across the chasm of uncertainty there’s a new life, a next chapter, a begin-again. Step to the edge and fly.
Jan was featured on the "All About That Brand" Podcast with Grace Lanni to discuss her creative life as it applies to building a brand in the entertainment industry. Listen Here!
I'm looking for you, beauty.
Shiny and new, an original. Something below the skin. Let me in. Gotta ticket to paradise. On a boat in a tunnel ride where statues of Venus stare into my eyes. What do they see? Have they gone deep? To reach the well. Reach the well. Campaign to hypnotize. Stealing the light behind my eyes. Bring out the candles. Light them. And begin. Gotta ticket to paradise. On a boat in a tunnel ride where statues of Venus stare into my eyes. What do they see? Have they gone deep? To reach the well. Reach the well. Reach the well. Reach the well. Reach the well.
by Jan Bozarth (Copyright 2015)
I'm going to go out on a limb here
and say that we do not need another list of ten things to do to lose weight, succeed in business, or find happiness in 2017. My plan is to have no plan this year. I'm putting my money on my inner resources. Here are some ideas for accessing what's already there- inside you. Nothing to buy or change. Just use what you've got. Turns out there is power in the blank spaces, the silence, your patterns, your feedback loops, your cells, and your feelings.
Curiosity saved the cat. Literally. Let's say you are not feeling up to the rigors of starting something new. If you ask yourself 'why' you are feeling this way, you have made it past the first gate toward solving a problem, making a move, or eliminating an issue. In his book, The Upward Spiral, Alex Korb says that feelings like pride, guilt, and shame activate neural circuits that provide brain stimulation to "act" in order to receive the "reward". Recognizing your motivation for not being able to get off the couch, could lead you to getting off the couch. Another habit, worrying, can be a brain activator too. Worrying makes our brains feel better which in turn makes us relax because we feel as if we are doing something which finally makes us actually do something.
No Equipment Needed
Now that you are off the couch, you might think about some Yoga. Yoga stimulates the frontal lobe insula which integrates thoughts and emotions. I don't know about you but I need this. We all know what happens when the head and the heart are at odds. Then there's that other little ditty, buried beneath the dirty laundry, Intuition. Trust it. You have it. Intuition is where a solution materializes all of a sudden. Research shows that the part of the brain for fast, automatic, unconscious cognitive operations lies beneath the basal ganglia, is linked to, but is not a part of the cortex. Early findings show the brain brings the output of unconscious processing into awareness, but we are not exactly sure why. Anecdotal evidence shows that if you use it more, it will sharpen and increase in frequency. Ask a woman who has been practicing this for years.
Who's in Charge Here
If you think you are going to think your way to greatness, try using the heart instead with empathy and gratitude. The current research tells us that the heart produces by far the body's most powerful rhythmic electromagnetic field. That field changes as we experience different emotions. It registers in people's brains around us, affects cells, water, and DNA in vitro. Gratitude works by just thinking about what you are grateful for which boosts serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Your brain converts your quiet mental review into happy chemicals. If you are still rejecting the "follow your heart" or "do what you love" ideas, science says, " get on board!"
Day Dreamers Wanted
I have written a lot about night dreams but I want to give a shout-out to Day Dreamers. I am the stare-into-space-kind. I have a favorite button that says," It might look like I'm doing nothing but on a cellular level I'm really quite busy." I have often been accused of spending an inordinate amount of time appearing to do nothing. My body of work defies this. Part of my process is actively imagining or dreaming my story, song, or business idea. I am a big fan of quiet time, nothingness, and space. I feel this is my work time and expect not to be disturbed as if I am not busy. If you meditate in a traditional way, I applaud you. But meditation can also be as simple as taking a few minutes of time-out where the brain rests, sorts, and clears space in the closet for new ideas. If Creativity is the skill of the future, we must all learn to leave space for new ideas.
Dare to Be Wrong
A final note for my No Plan Plan- when you are trying out new things (risk), you're going to be wrong a good percent of the time. Admit it. It will save time. You only learn from mistakes if you are humble enough to admit them. You don't need another list of things that worked and those that didn't. You know. To be self aware is to be rocket fueled. You will move along your path at great speed and it will appear effortless to others. You will know it's not, but they don't need to know. It will be our little secret in 2017.
Every bit of this is free and available to you right this minute and tomorrow too.
If you say you are not a singer, does that mean you never sing? If you say you are not a dancer, does that mean you never dance? If you say you are not normal, does that mean you are crazy? Why must there be this wall between the creatives (the crazies) and the supposed non-creatives ( normals).My granddaughter came to the dinner table one night and said, “Gigi ( that’s my grandmother name), what is this thing called normal?” Our family has never been that. She was comparing herself to the kids she met in her new school. We are made up of painters, dancers, singers, and musicians. We are also business men and women and sensitive hard-working humans. I would never call us normal. But it made me think that we really do not know what normal IS. And we do bandy about the word “crazy” a little too much. What exactly is the normal of now? It is good to be weird but bad to be crazy? By most people’s standards my entertainment business friends are the crazy ones. I am surrounded by varying degrees of pathology-bipolar, narcissistic, dreamers pushing their creative agendas. I like these people. I generally like the way their brains work. They are often shy, funny-haired, nervous, outside folk. They are risk takers who don’t mind sharing endless scripts, stories, and projects with strangers. In a word, they are interesting. They would never pronounce themselves “not a dancer or a singer” and would have no problem breaking into a tone-deaf version of “My Girl” while dancing like Elaine in Seinfeld. This is MY normal. If we are outside of something, then where is the edge?Today I was called to counsel a writer friend who is plagued with rage, depression, and brilliance. Yes a certain kind of brilliance is like a disease because it calls for immediate action which most assuredly goes against “normal and acceptable”. The medicine for this is some form of running down the street with your hair on fire, literally or figuratively. Or maybe the afflicted needs to wrap herself in a blanket like a taco, stay in bed for three days, and contain the ideas into small packages which can be later sold to clients. My friend had just stayed up all night writing a play that was in her head. She had to get out, an exorcism of sorts, and then get up and drive her child to school. Although she has a successful career and a beautiful family, she often longs to run away, alone in an RV, free of everything except for her next book or short story. I was forced to have the “mental-health-for-creatives talk” with her. This is how it goes….You can vent this stuff like steam through the cracks in your armor. You can hide it in blankets or bury it like a pig in a hole filled with hot coals. It cooks, it steams, it sends out a sweet odor. You WILL be haunted by it until a new idea comes along that takes its place. Maybe you can you write it down in long hand on a yellow pad and then rip it up. I like driving west into the sun as fast as I can. That has always worked for me. Very very loud punk or rap music also works. Once you find your hiding spot or your vents, you can expect the pressure to let up a bit. It never goes away completely though. Big ideas just cook like that roasted pig-long and deep. Now if you are trained as a therapist or a psychiatrist, you’re probably thinking this advice is not really medically sound. But it works for teenagers and my “crazy” friends. Some of them have won awards for their long-roasted pigs/ideas/books/songs. Like Jack Kerouac, “I go for the mad ones who burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles…” I told my granddaughter that being normal is over rated. She went off happily to write a song. I didn’t tell her that she might need to develop some coping skills someday for her raging mind churning out ideas faster than a sausage factory. Maybe the new normal is acceptance of this kind of mind. I hope so because I don’t plan to stop the burning.
Some people say, "I'm just not creative." I do not believe this. Everyone is creative. Many people just have it trained out of them by the time they are 12 when imagination becomes the thing of only artists and children. But the world needs creativity to imagine its future. Jobs as we know them will be gone. The tools and methods I use in my work today weren't even invented when I was in high school or even college. And it's going much faster now. You and especially your children will need to exercise your creative muscle to stay viable. You don't need to be an artist of any kind to spark, stoke, and feed a creative fire inside yourself. Or, if you are an artist, it's likely you have either lost your Mojo altogether or been stricken by a creative block. This method works for you as well. Some people might just be looking for evidence that they have one creative bone in their body. You just need permission to be free. Here are some tips on building the creativity you already have inside and the way to keep it coming from now until, well, forever.
Since this is the year of the Fire Monkey...
Make a place and a time to focus on your flame everyday. Find the perfect spot in your home for these activities. Leave the guitar out, make a writing spot, build altars, gardens, water fountains. Staring into space is allowed and encouraged. Walk, run, breathe or take a shower and let the sound of water free your mind of its usual clutter. This is an in-your-face process. You will also need space in your head to just imagine, connect random dots, and not be disturbed by reality. Think of it as your daily workout. Claim the place and time and don't let anyone ( including yourself) shame you out of this by filling it up with other more "important" demands.
I can not tell you WHAT will spark you. That is yours alone to discover. But I can tell you that it will involve opening up your senses in order to receive your very own special fire starter. The way your brain works may be different from mine but there is a sensory language that can help with the sparking. Use color, sound, light, movement, rhythm, texture, and shapes. It may be dancing or discussing architecture in a coffee shop with friends. Find what you like. This is the spark and an opening to the sensual world. You could take a walk in nature or feel a soft cashmere sweater. Your senses are ready and waiting to open new places in the imagination.
Poking the fire
You know how you have to find a stick and move the logs around a little to really get it going? This is your chance to move things around, rearrange, stare at the junk jar, look for some visual fodder like favorite images. Listen to music. There's something going on inside but you don't need to make sense of it yet. Chaos and uncertainty are your friends.
Stoking the fire
More logs please. You need to find fuel. Often this means a great chat with a mind you admire. Have a debate. Opposites open the mind to creative alternatives. Professional creative companies like to put a group of disparate thinkers, scientists and artists together to get different perspectives on the same problem. Take a position. Then take an different position. Once you get comfortable with your favorite one, choose your expression for what is burning inside you. You might write a poem, a letter or design a new program at work. It doesn't really matter cause the fire has been set. This is creativity. No paint necessary.
Observe the warmth of the feeling of your own idea or creation. Be mesmerized by the fire itself. Bask in it. Let it take you over for a time. Surrender to the unknown inside yourself. You made this. Shake and Bake, you helped create this new thing in the world. Your idea. Your plan, Your window treatments. They are direct results of you trusting the flame and the process of fire building.
Calmly accept the magic of the smolder. Thank yourself. Thank the gods and sit with it.
Just when you think it's over, something new sparks you. Be excited. Feed the beast.
The first thing I did was hit the Voodoo store across from my breakfast place where all the waitresses called me "Darlin and Sweetheart".I bought a candle that showed a man being drawn to a woman who had power rays shooting out of her eyes, Vien Ami, Come to Me. I lit the candle in my hotel room while I waited for the crew to arrive. It was good that I had opened myself up to the possibility of dating again. My host, Jean Pierre arrived at the suite. He saw the candle and laughed a warning for me not to mess with that Voodoo stuff. He had found some nice online dating sites for me. The candle burned as I dressed for my first night of pirate partying. The candle burned on for the next seven days and nights. It was New Orleans. What could it hurt? Right? (from the upcoming book The Joy Quotient)
My C-bomb happens over a single week in my favorite month of October. First comes the project closing, then the diagnosis, and then the final blow, a 4am call from my lover's secret lover.
Clearly the life I have known is over.... just gone. Every street looks unfamiliar. I'm in a slow-mo spray of the pieces of my old reality. I am Keanu Reeves in the Matrix bending backwards in half to avoid getting hit by the particles. I am reduced to a triangle inside a dodecahedron, the sacred geometry in which I take my only comfort. As witness to this deep anguish, I become intimate with rejection-speak. You know, the kind that pushes its agenda of fear of never being loved again. I am running along the edge of this war, waving my arms madly screaming, "Go ahead you bastards, take me".
Then I meet my guardian angel, Andy. Andy is an 8ft. black man with a wicked sense of humor. "What took you so long," I say. "I was waiting for you to ask for my help," he speaks like Barry White.
Slowly things come into focus, like the joy in a pie case in a midwest bakery. As bad as it is, there are these warm loving arms reaching out to me . They are strangers who are there to make sure I stay on the narrow path to the other side. Every minute of every day, I review the events leading up to this disaster, inner movies that showcase my mistakes, soundtrack featuring my angry voice, harmonized with repeating reasons. This poetry slam is written and directed by blamers and liars and me. When I'm sick of the endless loop, I simply say, "I am not going to die, am I, Andy?. You're going to make me do this again and again until I get it. It's cold and I have no hair and my skin feels funny all the time. Couldn't we just let me fade into the sunset?." He doesn't answer. He's not there to convince me or tell me what to do. He's just there to listen and reveal truth. It's infuriating.
But then the loved ones wake me up. They bring soup and flowers, stones and stories of the world I used to inhabit. I am stretched beyond the fire. I have become the ashes out of which the lioness appears. I think, "Thank God, at least SHE will not give up." One toe touches the other side of the chasm.
In July I wake up on the rocks of this moon, my home for 10 months. I am broke, naked and bald and there is chalk writing scribbled beneath my face. It says,"You must choose." Andy begins an angelic litany of 77 reasons to live. I choose two- unpredictable joy and pie.
I climb out of my bed, walk down the stairs, and open the refrigerator to begin again.