Nature Nurtures

Footpath autumn forest

I’m officially 1/3 of the way through my purification process. To celebrate this milestone and the gorgeous weather, my fiancé Bob and my sister Kellie and I decided to take a hike.  We trekked along the bluffs to an amazing overlook and then down to the Maquoketa River.

As we were hiking back through a stunning uphill stretch of trail I remarked, “This is exactly what it feels like in the purification process.  I still have 14 days of an uphill climb.

Bob and Kellie were ahead of me when I said this so they had to turn around to hear me.  From this perspective they could only see behind me and both exclaimed, “But look how far you’ve already come!

As soon as I turned around, I saw exactly what they meant. We had indeed made significant progress.  Because they were with me and I was enjoying their company,  I hadn’t even noticed.

Detoxing is difficult because unlike writing, I often use food to numb out, soothe, or go unconscious.  I use writing to do the opposite.  I write to awaken and become present to my life, to feel my way around my head, and articulate that experience so it makes some kind of sense.

I get twitchy when I don’t write.  I get hangry (hungry + angry) when I can’t eat the comfort foods I’m accustomed to.  The good news is my definition of comfort food changes each time I detox to healthier options. (My current comfort food is toasted coconut chips.)

The best news is eventually this discomfort prompts me to write, cleanse, have  fierce conversations, or do any number of things to move my life, my health, my relationships, and my career forward.

I first published the following post in February of 2014 when I was working on a writing project. I decided to dig it up and re-post to get me through the next 14 days and keep you on course doing whatever you may have agree to do during the No Matter What game.

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Every now and then it’s important to remind myself why I do what I do.  It’s especially helpful to create a manifesto when I set out to improve some part of my life or break a destructive habit or resolve to do something I’ve not succeeded in doing up to this point.

The Paradoxical Commandments written by Dr Kent Keith in 1968 as part of a booklet for student leaders has been on my mind lately.  This seemed like the perfect piece to adapt to serve as my writing manifesto and see me through the times when I wonder whether all this reinvention is really necessary.

Here’s what I came up with today.  I share it with you to serve as an example of something you might create for yourself, substituting the obstacles and resistance you face on a regular basis along with the thing you resolve to do anyway.

To read the original commandments, click on the link above.  To read the version that has been attributed to Mother Teresa, click here.

Create one for yourself, then as always, share if you dare below in the comments.

Write Anyway by Penny Plautz

Forces may conspire to squelch my creativity,
be still and write anyway.

My muse may refuse to inspire,
log on and write anyway.

Exhaustion may convince me I’m too tired to take this on,
rest and write anyway.

Drama may attempt to declare dominance over my day,
keep calm and write anyway.

Rejection may unleash a lifetime of doubt,
ignore and write anyway.

Others may not read, agree, appreciate, or approve of what I write,
accept it and write anyway.

The pain may appear to be too terrifying to articulate,
trust the art of the heart and write anyway.

I may have said it all before and have no original thoughts,
repeat and write anyway.

I may be exposed as inconsistent, slightly irrational, or overly emotional,
risk and write anyway.

There may be 10,000 tangible things on my to-do list,
honor the intangible and write anyway.

I may need more training, guidance, editing, or research to succeed,
seek support and write anyway.

There may be millions of writers reaching for the same dream,
join them and write anyway.

In the final analysis, we all are trust fund babies of the Great Creator.
To claim my inheritance, all that is required is to write anyway.

No Matter What – Day 21

It’s the end of week four of the No Matter What Game and since I posted a bonus piece on Saturday this also brings us to Day 21, which is where I leave you.  Not because you’ve been anything but supportive, but because next week I start my dietary detox. If you’ve ever done one, you know I’ll need all my wits about me to manage the civil war between what my mind wants and what my body craves.

Never fear, I’ll be blogging again in no time.

Old vintage typewriter, close-up.

G: Which prompt was your favourite and which one did you learn the most from?

P:  In my way of answering without really answering, I will say they were all my favorite because I learned something from every single one of them.  Whether it was what I felt like writing about at the end of a very long day at the office was debatable.

In the end, it came down to showing up and practicing my craft.  Nothing would get done if I waited until I felt like it, had the energy, or was inspired to do it. Having a coach and the accountability that blogging daily provided made a huge difference.

I love to write, it’s true.  I write every day no matter what regardless of whether I’m blogging or journaling.  Journaling helps me metabolize life. But blogging helps me bravely find my voice.

Before we started the No Matter What Game, I was convinced I needed to figure out a way to quit my day job in order to write full time.  Now I know the key is not the amount of time I have to write but simply that I write. No. Matter. What.

It’s also not about writing something that goes viral or gets lots of likes and attracts thousands of raving fans.  (Although I’m open to that experience.)  It’s more that I write the right words for the right person at the right time.

I recently had an experience writing a few greeting cards for Cardthartic.  I was thrilled to see my words alongside of beautiful drawing of a sunflower.  I sent the card to a dear friend who said it meant the world to her, not just because I wrote it, but because of the words held special meaning for her and her son.

At that moment I let go of the desire to write a book that gets made into a movie that wins awards and surrendered to the sweet success that writing a few good words can bring.

I have “met” many of you because you read one of these posts, liked it, and invited me to check out your site. You are amazing and incredibly inspiring!  This makes the whole thing worthwhile. It motivates me to write no matter what because it really does matter to all of us.

As artists we no longer need to feel isolated unless we want to. Creative communities abound and our tribe often looks much different than we imagine.  Mine is now wonderfully diverse and global.  And we never would have found each other if we were unwilling to be vulnerable, visible, and vocal.

Thanks to all of you who have followed diligently or just read what interested you, left a comment, or liked a post. And thanks to the world’s greatest coach Gillian for sending prompts no matter what. Even though I’m done writing daily for a short time, you can still ask Gillian to send you prompts at www.gillianpearce.com.

My world is infinitely better because all of you are in it. Thanks for playing along.

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I’d love to hear from you.  Please your feedback or share your favorite prompt in the comments below.

No Matter What – Day 20

One more day and we wrap up the No Matter What Game for this go round.  Day 20 is just as important as Day 1 so feel free to jump right in and play along with us before the game is over.  It’s kind of like the 9th inning, the 4th quarter, the 2 minute warning…. okay, I may have attended or watched too many sporting events in the past week.  🙂

puzzle head

G: If your life was a jigsaw how would you describe it? Do you have all the straight bits in? Are there any pieces missing/in the wrong place?

P:  Excellent question!  Life really is one big puzzle, isn’t it?  Since mine  didn’t come with instructions or a picture on the outside to model my creatively quirky life after, it’s been a colorful combination of straight bits, absolutely ridiculous bits, groovy bits, heartbreaking bits, lost bits, found bits, and everything in between bits.

Finally I’m getting the bigger picture and can organize my strategies and efforts around a central theme.  And I’m incredibly grateful I didn’t throw out any of the bits I had no idea what to do with at the time.

Now I see that it all served a purpose, it all had a place, and without even one of those strange and unusual, humiliating and frustrating, or grand and glorious pieces, I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am right now.

My puzzle looks a lot like the image I selected for today’s post.  In some respects I’ve got it together and can put on a good front. Yet so much remains a mystery to me.

The difference is now I’m in no hurry to figure it all out or prove to the world that I am worthy of attention only if and when I have placed all the pieces in their perfect positions.

I’m more like the child who, once she has finished the puzzle, immediately dumps it over to see if she can repeatedly recreate a magical result through crazy new combinations or superior memory.

One of my dad’s favorite hobbies is to work on puzzles. Before my parents leave for Arizona for the winter, everyone loads my dad up with puzzles, knowing they will be completed by the time he returns in the spring.

When Bob and I visit we spend many a late evening playing cards and “helping” Dad with his puzzles.  We can never stick with it as long as he can.  He’ll be up til the wee hours of the morning puzzling over his next move.

Some of our favorite gifts are the puzzles Dad has labored over and Mom has mod podged together.  (I’ve never written mod podge before.  Only said it. And that was in the 70s.  Just thought I’d point that out.)

So before taking a long, strange trip back into the past, I’ll wrap it up by reiterating the importance of all the puzzle pieces. Perhaps if your puzzle pieces are missing or seem to be in the wrong place, you might be working on the wrong puzzle?

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What’s puzzling you?  Share if you dare in the comments below.  Or simply answer on your own and see where Gillian’s prompts take you.  To have Gillian send you your very own prompts, email her at www.gillianpearce.com.

No Matter What – Day 19

It’s Day 19 of the No Matter What Game.  You can play along by answering the prompt by Gillian and sharing your response in the comments below.  Or email Gillian at www.gillianpearce.com to have your own prompt sent to you.

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G:  If you had unlimited funds that had to be used to investigate a scientific or medical problem, which one would you investigate?

P:  The timing of this question is perfect.  I just paid a visit to my acupuncturist today which usually turns into an all consuming discussion about health and disease.

It also means I load up on supplements in addition to being stuck with over 70 needles from head to toe. Consequently, I coined a slightly nuanced phrase for this experience… being needled and dimed to death.

Naturally he’s an excellent doctor, cares deeply for his patients, is constantly furthering his education, and restores my chi to its righteous position, so I consent to all of this.

To answer Gillian’s question, because Bob says often I don’t really answer her questions and he could be right, I don’t have a specific medical problem or scientific conundrum that’s near and dear to my heart.  There are so many medical and scientific issues deserving more attention, research, and funding it’s difficult to pick one.

My passion has always been fitness, health, and wellness. I’ve been a certified ACE fitness instructor for almost 30 years and last year became a certified Eating Psychology Coach. My focus has been on prevention instead of disease management and what we can do to sustain and restore health rather than eradicate disease.

I’ve been blessed to come from a sturdy stock of Midwesterners who are relatively free of any major diseases.  But we live in toxic times and I know unless I detox on a regular basis, I’m as susceptible as the next person to experiencing a debilitating disease.

That’s why at the end of this week I’ll switch my focus for the next 21 days to Detoxing No Matter What.  I won’t be blogging about it every day like I have with this round of the No Matter What Game.  I’ve found that most people are not that interested in hearing about it unless they are doing it as well and I’m not interested in pushing it on anyone. People get interested in detoxing when they are ready, not when I want them to be.

I will, however, chime in with the highlights.  Or when I’m having a meltdown.  It’s all part of the process. No matter how many times I do it.

Anyway, I know there are fascinating scientific problems and medical breakthroughs on the verge of being solved and changing life as we know it. I also know I’m more of an artist than a scientist, so I can’t write intelligently about these issues without doing a little research.  But I do believe the best results come from tapping into the brilliance of both art and science.

So my best answer for today’s question is to pass it on to you. I’m guessing some of you may have some very definite answers, experiences, and stories on this topic.  And some of you may be scientists and medical professionals. So please, leave your response in the comments below. I’d love to hear your take on this.

Thanks for reading and playing at home. 🙂

No Matter What – Day 18

Welcome to the No Matter What Game where Gillian, the world’s greatest coach, asks a question and I answer.  No matter what. You can play, too.  Leave your response in the comments below or write your response in your journal.

The image of a man who wastes time. We often do not give enough importance to time, we take it for granted and do not know to use it well. Wasting time concept.

G:  My greatest time wasters are . .

P:  How do I waste my time?  Let me count the ways….

Today I seemed to be like one of those plastic bags floating about whichever way the wind blew.  And for the record, it was and still is incredibly windy in my neck of the woods.  Consequently, I’ve been everywhere, man.

Yes, I managed to cross a few things off my list but it felt like no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t take the deep dive into doing the kind of really productive work I usually reserve for Fridays from 4:30-6pm or right before leaving on vacation.

The greater challenge is focus. That’s why I’ve attempted more 21 and 30-day challenges in the past year than I ever have. These periods of sustained focus help me practice discipline and give me confidence that I can achieve what I set out to do.

Make no mistake. They are brutal.  But they are absolutely essential to catapulting me out of my comfort zone and into the productivity zone. Read more about this in this post.

To quote Michael Hyatt,We lose our way when we lose our why.” Today my why went missing. 

The best thing I can do in the morning is to state my intentions and map out a game plan for the day.  I’ve recently discovered a method called Future Mapping that is surprisingly useful and gets my creative juices flowing.

Just the act of being intentional about the direction I’d like my day to go can make a huge difference.  Especially when I add the way I want to feel to the mix.

Could I have grabbed that free flowing plastic bag of thought bubbles out of the air and grounded them at will today?  If I hadn’t been so enamored with the buoyancy of drifting through the day, yes. I’ve been on a regimented schedule for the past couple of weeks and I needed to decompress today.

But tomorrow I must reign it in and put professional Penny back in the driver’s seat so I can promote an event, answer questions, advise students, and write. Because this is what we do. We create. We produce. We deliver. No matter what.

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What about you?  What are your greatest time wasters? Have you ever thought something was going to be a waste of time only to have it change your life or vice versa?  Share if you dare in the comments below.  To have Gillian send you a post, contact her at www.gillianpearce.com.

No Matter What – Day 17

We’re back with the No Matter What Game.  This is the place where the world’s greatest coach Gillian provides a writing prompt and I answer no matter what. She can also provide a prompt for you.  Email her at http://www.gillianpearce.com to get started.

Microphone on stage background

G: If you had your own talk show, whom would you love to interview?

P:  Let’s start with everyone on the TED talks lists.  These are some fascinating individuals with compelling stories to tell.  Not only are they brainiacs but also beautiful and bold as they tell their stories as only they know how.

Plus they know how to get their point across in 18 minutes or less, so I’d never have to worry about them hijacking the show.

Specifically I’d love to interview some of the bloggers and teachers I follow:  Marie Forleo, Marianne Williamson, Brene Brown, Gretchen Rubin, Danielle LaPorte, Chase Jarvis, Heidi Rose Robbins, David WhyteMichael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, Tosha Silver, Alexandra Jamieson, Jennifer Grace, Austin Kleon, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Martha Beck, just to name of few.

Fortunately, most of these people have written books and offered online workshops – many of which I’ve participated in – so it’s like having the chance to interview them even if I never have the chance to meet them in person.

We live in amazing times with instant access to incredible teachers. The list of people who inspire me is endless. And most of them are just ordinary folks without websites, books, or workshops.

Which leads me to my next answer.  If I had a talk show, I would love to interview you. That’s right, if you’re reading this, I’d love to have you on the guest list because I know you are up to something worthwhile and I’d love to hear about it. (If you don’t want to wait for my “show”, give us a sneak peak into your current adventure by leaving a comments below.)

PS  – This is a timely question because on Tuesday I will actually be giving an interview on our local radio station to promote an upcoming event as the college.

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What do you think?  Who would you interview and why?  Dare to share your thoughts in the comments below.  Or follow along in your own journal.

No Matter What – Day 16

Magic book with magic lights

Today is a Bonus Day!

By now you know I’m an avid reader.  At any given time there are easily a dozen books vying for my attention.

Right now I’ve got two on loan from our school’s library, three queued up on my Kindle, and two more that just arrived from Amazon yesterday.

This morning I chose to read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m only on the second or third chapter but I’ve already gleaned so many gems about the creative process that have helped calm me down and write no matter what, I wanted to pass them along.

Because you’re reading this, I know you, too, are subject to bouts of creative inspiration and genius and wrestle with how to harness these fleeting states so you can command them at will.  Or at least when you are attempting to write a blog post.

Here are the words from Ms. Gilbert that spoke to me this morning. I suspect you can relate.

“I don’t demand a translation of the unknown.  I don’t need to understand what it all means, or where ideas are originally conceived, or why creativity plays out as unpredictably as it does.  I don’t need to know why we are sometimes able to converse freely with inspiration, when at other times we labor hard in solitude and come up with nothing.  I don’t need to know why an idea visited you today and not me.  Or why it visited us both.  Or why it abandoned us both.

None of us can know such things, for these are among the great enigmas.

All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.

It’s a strange line of work, admittedly.

I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.

My sentiments exactly.  If you get a chance, check out Big Magic. And then create something this weekend  – no matter what.

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Gillian’s prompts will be back on Monday.  In the meantime, share your favorite book on creative inspiration or the creative process in the comments below.