Memory (cue the harp music):
Music camp, a dozen years ago. I’m watching in awe (and not a little envy) as another camper performs in the student concert.
She seems so relaxed and confident onstage. She owns the stage, has the audience in the palm of her hand. How does she do it, I wonder?
I’m careful not to let anyone know, but I harbor a secret fantasy of being able to perform like that. Maybe even being paid to sing!
Of course, I know this is impossible, but that doesn’t stop me dreaming. In my dreams I sing for appreciative audiences around the country.
Cut to present time.
In a few months I’m hopping a plane to Washington, D.C., for the first stop of my Living A Creative Life Living Room Tour. I’ll perform at three house concerts and teach a creativity workshop over the course of the weekend.
I’ve performed hundreds of times in the intervening years since that music camp memory. Sometimes I’ve been paid for it, too (once I sang back-up for Gene Chandler, the Duke of Earl, in front of 6,500 people — that was a trip!).
It makes me sweat to think about it, but now I’m planning my first real concert tour, turning a long-held far-off dream reality.
In other words, I’ve gone from “I could never do that,” to just doing it.
(Even though I’m scared.)
It’s not just in my music life, either.
Over the last weekend in May, I’m hosting my third annual Create & Incubate Retreat. For the third time this July I’m on faculty at an international calligraphy conference, The Passionate Pen, in Sonoma, California, where I’ll be teaching two art/calligraphy workshops (New World Neuland, and Dancing with Chaos: the Art of Improvisation). A few years ago I even co-taught a creativity workshop in Istanbul!!
All of these real-life experiences were once long-held “impossible dreams.” Scary, scary, scary!
I well remember that achey, desperate feeling of wanting to teach… but not feeling ready. Now I’m diving in with both feet.
Same thing with selling my art:
I remember my very first sale (to my best friend, who paid me $25 for a piece I ended up spending 40 hours creating!) At the time, the idea of running my own full-fledged art business felt wildly ambitious and crazy-impossible. But somehow I managed to make it happen.
And sharing my writing with the world:
Before I started this blog in 2010, the only writing I did was in my private journal. The idea that I might write something worthy of being read — that I might actually have an audience of readers — felt way out of the realm of reality.
Now, not only have I written hundreds of posts here, and sent them out into the world, but I write for such online outlets as the Huffington Post, Lifehack.org, Tiny Buddha and more. Print, too: I recently had a pitch accepted by Mabel Magazine!
Now all of these “impossible” dreams — and more, besides — are not just reality, they’re part of normal life.
From Small and Timid to BBCL
This is what I call living a big, bold, creative life — a BBCL. I’ve learned to bring my dreams out into the light and go after them. Even when I’m scared.
And trust me, I’m scared a lot. My gremlins have not stopped their rousing chorus of “You suck! You’ll never be good enough! Who do you think you are to do that??” — I’ve just learned to stop heeding their advice.
Here’s another recent example: improv!
That hankering to someday take an improv class for fun harks back to 1999 at least. It took me until 2013 to finally sign up for one, but now I’m in three improv performance groups!
Even though every time I drive to class or to a show I get butterflies in my stomach…
And my point…
Where am I going with all this? Well, your own dreams may be very different from mine, but the process of making dreams real is the same.
Sure, you’ve got to hone your skills, improve your craft. But the most important thing that has to change is your identity.
You have to learn to get out of your own way, so you can be the kind of person who does it, rather than just dreaming about it.
It’s all very well and good to say, “Just do it,” but sometimes there are very real — invisible — obstacles in the way that need to be wrangled first. Self-installed glass ceilings, I call them.
Yes, in order to get to the point where I can go on a concert tour, I’ve had to learn to sing and play the ukulele and engage an audience (all of which takes time), but more importantly I’ve had to learn to shatter my self-installed glass ceilings in order to get past the internal stuff holding me back.
What kind of internal stuff? Stuff like learning:
- How to stop letting my gremlins of self-doubt hold me back.
- How to manage fear and uncertainty, and transform them into fuel!
- How to make time for my big dreams.
- How to trust my inner wisdom.
- How to keep criticism and other people’s feedback from paralyzing me.
- How to keep perfectionism from paralyzing me!
- How to stay on track, when 50,000 distractions are conspiring to tug me off.
I won’t claim that I’m now perfect at all of these things — far from it! I stumble all. The. Time. But I’ve also learned to respond to my stumblings with love and self-compassion (which may be the greatest learning of all — there’s a reason why I call this my Golden Formula: self-awareness + self-compassion = the key to everything good.)
I’m also continually discovering where I’m still holding back, and where I can keep growing bigger and bolder. It’s a life-long process.
The ultimate point is, if I can do it, so can you.
Plus you’ve got a short-cut!
All this stuff that has helped me live a BBCL? I’ve learned it slowly over the years, through trial and error and a multitude of teachers all over the map. I sure wish I’d had a mentor who would have taken me under her wing and shared all this wisdom with me!
I can’t go back in time to mentor myself, but I can be a mentor to others! I can make a difference for other women looking to live bigger and bolder, without the years of flailing that I had to go through!
That’s what I endeavor to do with this blog, of course, and with my mentoring and consulting services, and indeed all the programs I offer. Especially my signature program for women, Your Big, Bold, Creative Life Academy, which starts up again on January 20th.
The Academy is a container for ALL of the wisdom and experience I’ve accumulated about living a big, bold, creative life in my nearly fifty years on the planet.
As much as it’s possible to share in three months, at least! 🙂
If you’d like a short-cut to the big, bold, creative life of your dreams, I invite you to join me inside.
Want a taste first? Come to my free workshop, Shatter Your Self-Installed Glass Ceilings, on Tuesday, January 13th. It’s a real, live lesson from the Academy curriculum, which I’m opening up to the public. Click here to register for the workshop (and the recording afterwards).
It wasn’t really so long ago that I was paralyzed by fear, self-doubt, perfectionism, you name it. I was living so timid and small, I kept my dreams locked up in a closet.
Now I’m living proof that it does not have to be this way, for me, or you. And I’m cheering you on!
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
I completely missed this webinar info. I don’t know how. I’m currently feeling some critic-gremlins with regards to my two big goals for the next six months. Had a little pity party with my husband about it last night, telling him they feel too big and too presumptuous/unnecessary to even try. I think a little overwhelm is creeping into the mix as well. Anyway, now moving to a morning pout-session over not signing up for this webinar! ha! Any chance I can get in on the recorded version please? If not, I totally understand. I’m a day late.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Not to worry, Mandy! I just sent out a link to the recording — check your inbox. 🙂
BTW, I have little pity parties, too. I try to keep them short — in fact, I try to keep them away altogether — but the fact is, living a Big, Bold, Creative Life means stretching and reaching, and not always nailing our target as fast or as accurately as we want, so naturally we feel glum about that, and the gremlins start to go wild. My solution? Let myself feel the feelings, remember those “you’re a loser!” voices are GREMLINS, and as soon as possible, do something creative that hooks me back up with my joy. 🙂
Oh, and remember to have a lot of compassion for myself! Remind myself that pity parties are human, and instead of beating myself up for them, love myself up. 🙂
Yeeee!! Thank you for sharing with all of us!!! This snatched me right out of my pity party. 🙂 Yeah I need to dig into this recording. The self-compassion is an opportunity for growth for me. [grin] Just this morning I reminded myself that I have a year-long plan and a five-year plan and I needed to slow down… That’s as compassionate as I know to be right now amidst all the excitement of this new year!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Aw, you’re so welcome, Mandy! I’m so glad it snatched you out of your pity party – yay!
Self-compassion is a growth opportunity for most people — certainly it is for me! It’s a practice. 🙂 As is learning to slow down… Sigh… 😉