How do you know which life path to choose? To find out, I’m taking a year to experiment with my future. And sharing the results.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you may recognize a common theme (especially of late) of wrestling with the possibility of creativity and the lived reality of everyday practice. I write this blog with the hopes that my ruminations on the creative process of living will give you guidance, but, to be honest, knowing I have a place to direct my angst about the turbulence of life has been a life-sustaining practice. Creativity is bound up in exploring the unknown, experimenting, testing, a vulnerable risk of trying on an idea, and this can be ungrounding. As I’ve been experiencing, stepping into your potential is a scary process, and I’ve certainly needed grounded practices to help me stay the course, or more importantly, keep me receptive to the unfolding of possibility instead of choosing a direction out of fear. It is truly hard to balance security with creativity especially in a world with little safety net (while some are afforded more of a margin of error than others). I recognize that manifesting is a privilege, but also that we are conditioned to believe in scarcity over abundance. And so, I want to share how I’ve been in practice with finding direction and perhaps it will both affirm my journey and yours.
Choosing to stay open to possibility
Pre-pandemic, I’d shared a decision to enter a national job hunt for a city I could afford to support myself with part-time work while investing in my dream. This came from a lack of long term financial security in the Bay colliding with a desire to take my dreams more seriously. Since then, the plan has changed so many times, in suspended animation as the pandemic played out. But as things open back up, I’m still in the same predicament, torn between a longing to root and pursue my ambition. Every day I swing between these desires, an unsettling push and pull that I keep trying to find a perfect solution to. Except all options require a choice and a sacrifice — to leave the Bay is to leave community, my main source of feeling rooted; to stay is to confine myself to the financial reality of the Bay, making having my own place while building my business near impossible. And so you could say that I’m stuck, frozen by fear of making the wrong choice. But that is only partially true. In fact, I have made the choice not to make a choice while I feel into my future.
Experimentation takes endurance
I have decided to focus the next year on data collection. Instead of making a definitive decision about my future, I am running small experiments to test out different directions. Essentially practicing “you can’t know till you try it” on a smaller or fractal scale. But you have to really try it, put your full self into the experience to know how it feels. And so my biggest challenge right now is holding open my time for hands-on experimentation. I have purposely let go of a time-consuming teaching position and found a part-time job that supports me for now, while I parse out my remaining time between building an audience for my writing, developing my business, researching PhD programs, visiting places I could afford to live on my own, and restarting the national job hunt (not to mention rest and good old fun).
My hope is to give myself time to assess which path I want to invest more of myself into, but it’s a continual challenge to remind myself of this intention. It’s hard for my body not to confuse this practice with being lost, anxiety reaching for something solid to depend on. Because a practice of experimentation requires living in a state of “don’t know”, not rushing to conclusions or action every time I feel a pull in one direction, for tomorrow I may feel differently. And yet, I also need to have direction or a timeline for this experiment or I may actually get lost in endless loops of possibility. Which all boils down to a common question about creativity: How do you reign in chaos?
Directing the chaos of creativity
I was once at a Science Pub, where, as the name suggests, people give lectures on science at a pub. And I remember the speaker saying that entropy or disorder was a natural part of life, and the trick is to find places to direct entropy. She joked that the passenger seat of her car was where she sent entropy, throwing whatever she didn’t know what to do with into its void. The concept of a place to contain chaos stuck with me, a literal or metaphorical junk drawer. You don’t need to have everything figured out but you do need a container to hold the mess. And thus, the reason I am so thankful for this blog.
No matter where my journey leads me or how lost I feel, I know that my wanderings and wonderings have some purpose. Writing about the creative process of life gives me a clear container for making meaning of the chaos of life. From a creative point of view, I am not stuck or confused, but collecting data for a grand experiment. And I get to share the results with you! Which I hope sparks your own experiments. Cause guess what? The container of creativity is big enough for all of us.
Living is a creative act,
Everyday Creativity Tip
Any experiment needs a method of assessment or data collection. I will be exploring methodologies over the year, but I wanted to provide one practical tool I’ve been using to track my feelings day to day. And that is, of course, a mood journal.
I got the simple structure for this mood journal from a friend’s blog that correlated habits (things you can control) with contexts (the things you can’t control) and how you feel each day. For instance, I tracked when I went to sleep (a habit), the quality of my sleep (context) and my stress level that day (a feeling). Though lately I’ve changed the mood journal to track core factors that determine my happiness, such as how much dread, anxiety or craving (aka future thinking) I feel during an activity and after. Then I have a separate journal for interpreting the data, where I can notice trends or correlations of emotional states in different contexts. I do recommend reflecting on the data on a daily or biweekly basis because I found that it was hard to make sense of it all over too long a period. And when you collect enough data, you can look over your daily notes and see what bigger themes emerge, which can inform how you want to spend your life!
Originally published July 11, 2021 on the Creativity in Context Blog by Evelyn Thorne.
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