Sunday, November 11, 2007

What's your secret life?

How do you react to this question: What’s your dream for yourself?

Do you feel:

A. Embarrassed, because this is way too personal a question.
B. Angry, because it’s none of my business.
C. Sad, because no one has ever asked before.
D. Happy, because you’ve been dying for someone to ask and now you get to talk about it.
E. Confused and a little embarrassed, because what’s the point?
F. Calm, because you know the answer and know what to do about it.

It’s important that you know the answer to this question. Let me repeat that: It’s important that you know the answer to this question. And take heart—very few people know the answer and know what to do about it.

If you have an inkling, great. If the answer is staring you in the face, great. If you have no idea, no problem. No matter where you are in the process, try this exercise from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron:

Write down five secret lives you’d love to live. It can be anything—possible or completely impossible.

Here’s mine. In my secret lives, I am:

A ballerina.
A world-class orchestra conductor.
A bestselling author (you can help with this one, you know :).
The drum major for a professional drum and bugle corps.
A dog trainer, a la Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan.

Now, the only thing I am pursuing on this list is the bestselling author life, because that is actually my dream for myself. But the others represent other parts of myself—the part that grew up taking dance and just loved ballet so much; the part that played the clarinet in band for years; the part that was the drum major for the high school marching band; and the part that loves dogs and would love to be with them all day long.

I’m not going to attempt all of these things. But I can connect with those parts of myself that crave these things by maybe going to the ballet or the symphony this year, or spending more time with my dogs, or listening to a CD of John Philip Sousa. All of those activities reconnect me to the deepest parts of myself in tangible, meaningful ways. And that, in turn, makes my life fuller and my writing better.

If you know your dream, this exercise will help feed your creativity and motivation on the path toward making that dream come true. If you don’t know your dream or you're unsure of it, this exercise will help you discover it.

Here’s your Creative Kick in the Butt: After you write down your five secret lives, write a page about at least one of them. Explore why it’s on your list. And don’t worry if you can write or not—this is just for you. Babble on and see what bubbles up. You might be surprised by what you learn.

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