Fear

Fear is a monster that whispers in your ear at night. He is ancient, pungent, and very busy. He stalks you as you go about your day, dropping shards of hurtful words into your world, hoping they will get caught in your hair, in your skin, in your eyes. He thrives in self-doubt, wears a cape made of coal. His goal is to blacken your world and capture your heart.

He collects your insecurities and worries as you toss them to the wind. He collects them and strings them together, making chains out of them. He polishes the chains to make them look attractive; he holds them out in front of you. He says they’ll look good on you.

Your heart knows this monster well. Your mind can be fooled, but your heart, never. Your heart’s muscles are stronger than your mind will ever know. Thoughts are slippery, sporadic, unreliable. But your heart is an evergreen garden of love, strength, courage, wisdom, truth. Your heart knows your truth—knows you. Reminds you everyday: You’re alive, and there’s much to do.

This puts the monster in a rage. He hears your heart’s whispers and tries to whisper louder. He thrashes for attention, desperate. But the monster is condemned to existing outside of you, and your heart knows this. Your heart knows your true power. Your heart knows what you must do.

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One of the biggest lessons life has taught me so far is to never allow Fear to make your decisions. Fear cripples, bullies, and crushes you. Stand up for yourself always, always, no matter what the cost. Be brave enough to face what your mind can’t bear, for that is what your heart is built for.

The Plight of the Artist: Inspiration vs. Habit

ImageInspiration is an elusive and mysterious fellow. I imagine him to live in the tree tops where he can observe the comings and goings of mundane routine from a safe distance. (He doesn’t do too well with monotony.) At times he might find a person of interest and decide to perch himself on his or her shoulder, and linger there awhile to the very delight of said person. Other times he might remain far and aloof, on a hiatus of sorts because apparently Inspiration too needs time to rejuvenate.

That said, I don’t trust Inspiration much. I adore his company and would never ever turn him away (obviously), but I have learned to not rely on him, to not wait for him to do my work. Inspiration will always be nearby somewhere, camouflaged in the tree tops, playing outside your window, or anywhere around you really if you would only quiet your mind and pay attention. But he’s fickle. He does not like to make himself readily available. He’s shy, has his insecurities like any artist, and thus seems to reveal himself only when he’s got his best suit on. Which is why, when he does finally arrive — it’s amazing! But frankly, I don’t have time for that.

And so I discovered my sturdy friend, Habit.

Now let me tell you. Habit will get you where you need to go. He will bee-line through any mess and screech to a stop right at your feet just to pick you up. Habit, in short, makes things happen, gets things done. Inspiration lounges, kicks his feet up, stays awhile only when it pleases him. Habit moves, demands attention, calls you to action.

So much for productivity, Inspiration may mumble, a cigarette hanging from the side of his lip as he watches us from a cloud. Habit on the other hand is a bull: fierce and proud and utterly dependable, once you learn how to harness him, of course. You must earn Habit’s trust before he will work with you.

I wasted spent a good many years waiting around on whimsical Inspiration. Declaring that I cannot be creative until I’m in his magical company. But I finally realized, thanks to a professor in one of my writing workshops, that I had it all wrong…

The art of living artfully is a matter of choice, a matter of prioritizing. Not a matter of waiting for the right idea and the perfect moment. We must set up the stage for the right idea and the perfect moment. We must plow through hideous drafts and forgive ourselves instead of punish ourselves when a piece we’re working on refuses to take the shape we want it to.

Inspiration may give us vision, but Habit is what helps us bring that vision to life.

We need Inspiration. His purpose is entwined with ours. And in time, he will come. He always does. Sometimes quietly, sometimes with a bang. He may visit us in our dreams or at the doctor’s office. He lives in a single moment; he’s as essential as a match. But ultimately, forging a strong partnership with Habit is how we can set ourselves up for success.

Habit will keep us moving through the streams of our imaginations even when those streams seem low and almost dry. Habit will keep us disciplined and determined and hopeful. Inspiration is a wonderful visitor. We must cultivate patience and keep an open window in our minds so that we’re always ready to welcome him into our creative process.

Inspiration without Habit often leads to unfinished projects and half-baked ideas. But Habit nurtures Inspiration. Habit keeps the artist going. Habit is the difference between a passive artist and an active one.