10 Ideas for Connecting to Momentum

(This post is adapted from a newsletter I wrote. I share ideas, resources, exercises and (sometimes) honest angst every other week. You can subscribe here.)

I’m coming up on the 6 year anniversary of a creative crash + burn /funk/ period of darkness. Perhaps it’s a strange thing to celebrate, but it led me to lots of good things. Namely, ways of making more satisfying creative work- the kind that gives more than it takes. I would be lying if I tied a neat bow on everything: I’ve figured it all out! But, I do consistently feel a lot of fulfillment and clarity around my business and dance making- which feels significant. 

It comes down to feeling more momentum than stuck-ness. I don’t think of momentum as a constant state of action/doing/muscling through/striving. I think of it more as a state of flow. We might actually be moving really slowly, but aren't paralyzed- there's still a sense of direction and gut purpose. Between listening to clients and paying attention to my own ups and downs, I've noticed a few consistencies in how we connect to more of this flow. As with all things: the simplest principles are hardest--

1) Action with intention:

What do we want and need (sometimes not the same) from our work? I’ve lost a lot of energy from moving for the sake of moving- taking on too many projects I wasn't fully invested in, writing too many grant applications for the sake of applying, or working on things out of guilt/obligation. I have beendoing less this year, but getting more energy from what I do, because it’s more intentional and feeds specific wants/needs.

2) Space/embodiment/analog:

I do crappy work when I'm always at my computer, over-scheduled, and avoiding my body. It's easy to think that if we want to make things happen we need to work.push.work.push. But: really good things happen when we have time to let our minds wander. If I could do one thing that would significantly improve my work, it's more moving, less thinking.

3) Collaborate:

Last summer I hosted my first resource party, which was basically 6 artists and creative business owners sharing some of their dilemmas over snacks in my living room. I think the big takeaway for everyone was that sharing these dilemmas out loud (and getting support from people with similar challenges) immediately got us moving forward. There’s no need to do it alone! Find someone you trust to lend an ear while you rant, give feedback, partner on a project, etc…

4) Eyes on your own paper (aka comparison is the thief of joy):

Let's make the work and life choices that satisfy us, and leave everyone else alone. Thinking too much about what other people are doing is a huge source of paralysis- for all of us.

5) Address your emotional crap:

The two years I consistently went to therapy have paid for themselves ten times over, because anxiety is a constant waste of time and energy. If you find yourself getting stuck in crappy thinking or over-considering your decisions or over-identifying with your-creative work….I highly recommend a good therapist.

6) Treat creative work like any other work:

I love the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (thanks, Jen!), which is applicable whether you're an artist, business owner or both. Its philosophy in a nutshell: it's ever-so-easy to over-identify with our creative work, because we care about it A LOT. This also creates a shitty cycle that leaves little space for mistakes, bad days, rejection, weird client interactions, etc... We are real. live. humans. All we can do is show up and do the work (and then go watch Grey's Anatomy or something and try again tomorrow). It's easy to get stuck when we overthink our shortcomings.

7) Don't forget: Self-care/breaks/reasonable expectations:

Total depletion leads to stagnancy; you are your greatest resource, etc., etc., etc., etc. 
Do you ever just lay on your back and breathe? It's free. It takes 30 seconds. You will feel amazing and remember you have a body.

8) Watch out for tricky things- creating & analyzing | moving from big picture to small:

Do you know about Sister Corita Kent's rules for making? One of them is that we shouldn't try to create and analyze at the same time- they're different processes. I feel the same way about simultaneously thinking about the big picture and task at hand. My brain gets stuck. I need to save zooming out for once every few months or so, and focus on the super concrete next-step I need to take instead.

9) Show the work:

If I wait to share what I'm making/writing until it's perfect (and, you know, it never is), I get stuck. There's a lot to be said for showing our work before we're actually ready. It both serves as accountability and gets us out of our heads.

10) Notice where you’re stuck:

Notice, but be gentle with yourself. You don’t have to do anything, just pay attention, and keep going.