The Artist’s way

I’m Mad about Julia

Cover of "The Artist's Way: A Course in D...

It might seem strange to talk about anger right after announcing my engagement, but I came across this beautiful passage on anger and had to share it. Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way,

Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way, not just the finger. In the recovery of a blocked artist, anger is a sign of health.

Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out… with a little thought, we can usually translate the message that our anger is sending us.

“Blast him! I could make a better film than that!” (This anger says: you want to make movies. You need to learn how.)

“I can’t believe it! I had this idea for a play 3 years ago, and she’s gone and written it,” ) This anger says: stop procrastinating. Ideas don’t get opening nights. Finished plays do. Start writing.”

Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not.

I read this passage so many times and underlined almost every word. And then I put stars next to almost every other sentence.

There are two basic expressions of emotional pain: anger and sadness. While men typically express their anger and repress their sadness, women typically do the opposite. Anger has always been a really hard emotion for me to embrace. Sadness feels safer and more appropriate.

Maybe I’m afraid anger will push people away, or maybe I don’t feel like I have the inherent “right” to stand up for myself. But Sadness cannot be the only tool for relieving emotional pain. There’s no sense of empowerment when you are sad. No sense that you are in charge, and you can change the situation.

"Oh bother"

While there are certainly people who have an unhealthy amount of anger, and need to learn how to manage it, there’s also a lot of people who need a little anger in their lives. I’m talking about all the doormats, the Igor’s and the Emo kids out there. You know who you are.

My mom started her wildly successful

business of challenging property assessments because she was angry about the local municipality not doing their job, and taking advantage of her. What good would it have done her or anyone to just cry about how unfair her property taxes were? In that case, anger put all three of her kids through college, paid the mortgage, and helped thousands of people save money.

I love the thought of using anger to show you what you want. I love the thought of anger as a pro-active emotion. Take some time today and think about what makes you really angry. Are you angry enough to start doing something about it?

Doggone It, People Like Me

The end of self-help

I’ve always had a hard time doing daily affirmations – especially when I can’t get Stuart Smalley‘s voice out of my head. However, they’re an important part of the Artist’s Way process, so I’ve been waking up early every day and doing them.

The trick is finding the right one. If you keep repeating a line that means nothing to you it’s just boring and meaningless, but when you find the right one it can cause a physical reaction (chills or even dizziness).

My favorite affirmation is: I am a creative, passionate person. Sweet and simple, but very hard to say.

For a long time I thought I wasn’t a true artist because when I watched movies about painters they would always attack the canvas like they were driven by an uncontrollable desire to paint. I’ve never had that.

And movies about writers usually show the writer as a depressed, lonely soul (usually an alcoholic) who obsesses over every word while their relationships crumble around them. I’m not like that either.

So at some point in time, I must have decided that if central casting wouldn’t pick me to play a crazy artist I must not be a creative or passionate person. It sounds stupid, but believe me you’ve probably done something similar. The sub-conscious is a strange beast.

I would like you to count how many negative things you tell yourself in one day. Count all the little things like: I’m always losing my keys (I’m absentminded), I can’t believe I ate that whole burrito (I’m out of control), I’m such an idiot (I’m such an idiot). Or it can be bigger things like: I’ll never get that promotion (I’m not good enough), he would never be interested in my (I’m not worthy of the love I want).

You’ll be surprised by how many negative affirmations you tell yourself. Why is it crazy to tell yourself positive things, but absolutely normal to knock yourself down? Why not spend just a little time telling yourself some positive things?

If you’re having trouble finding the right affirmation here’s a great motivational picture to help you:

Universal Coffee

A few years ago The Law of Attraction was a big buzz word. The Secret was selling like crazy and all of a sudden people were obsessed with positive and negative energy. I didn’t want to read the book because, well, um,  geez, I don’t know why. I was in art school and I guess I felt the need to reject all things pop culture.

One day, while I was stuck in a train station in Boston, I perused the selection at a bookstore and picked up a copy of The Secret. I flipped to a random page and read something like this, “If you don’t believe the universe delivers, ask for something simple like a cup of coffee.” I rolled my eyes and asked, “hey universe, can I have a cup of joe?” I did not end up purchasing the book.

I moved to the lounge and waited to get the track number for my train. The lounge was busy and I needed to share a table with a stranger. As soon as I sat down the overhead speaker announced that all trains would be delayed for a half hour. The man next to me sighed, looked over at me, and asked if I would like a cup of coffee. Chills went down my back. I politely said no, trying not to scare the poor stranger with my revelation.

Looking back, I feel bad for not accepting that cup of coffee. I am currently reading The Artist’s Way, and she believes in the power of synchronicity – as soon as you know what to look for you’ll find it. She argues that most people don’t know what they want, and if they do  they aren’t afraid of not getting what they want, they’re actually afraid of getting it.

That day in Boston I was testing the universe. If I was never offered coffee I would have been fine with it. In fact it would have affirmed my skepticism in all things metaphysical. The simple offer of coffee forced me to question my beliefs. Could the universe actually care about what little old me wants? It also makes me wonder how many real opportunities I’ve turned down because it was scary. Have you ever turned down something you want because it scared you?

An interview with the founder of Wild Heart Coaching (part 2)

Here’s the second half of my interview with Lisa Bourque, founder of Wild Heart Coaching. Lisa inspired many people when she quit her job as an Attorney to become a life coach. By focusing on living a more authentic, happy life she has helped others to find their own true passions as well. For more background read part 1!
What would you say to someone who is unhappy with their career right now, but can’t think of any personal passions to drive them to a new career path?
First, get really honest with yourself.  How does it feel to be so unhappy?  Really feel it.  Don’t try to run away from the feeling or shut it out.  You’re feeling this way for a reason.  Get honest with yourself about what isn’t working — is it your environment?  The attitudes of the people you work with?  The type of work you do?  What’s missing?  Then, get honest with yourself about what you really want.  It doesn’t have to be a job title.  But think about how you would like to spend your day — what does that look like?  Who do you work with?  What types of things do you do?  What is the impact you have on others?  Starting to explore these types of questions in an honest way is an important first step.  Because if you aren’t honest with yourself and try to fit into a box that doesn’t fit, it’s going to be hard to make changes.
Second, notice when you do feel engaged in what you’re doing — whether in your life or in your work.  If you don’t ever feel engaged, then it’s time to start trying new things!  Is there something you want to do that you haven’t given yourself permission to do?  Maybe it’s going to a photography exhibit, maybe it’s trying out kayaking, or taking a cooking class.  Whatever is calling to you, try it!  When you start following your interests and allow yourself to experiment, you will get more in touch with personal passions — those things that make you feel happy, alive, and engaged.
A life coach is an expert who partners with you during that process of exploration, self-connection, deeper understanding and awareness, and conscious action toward what you want.  Working with a coach helps you to move forward and deeper more quickly and with greater focus — kind of like hiring a personal trainer to get more fit versus just doing it on your own.  Working with someone who’s main purpose is to help you in this way tends to yield the results you’re looking for much more efficiently!
What is a typical life coaching session like? If someone can’t afford life coaching what would you recommend?
Every coaching session is different!  People have many different issues and goals that they bring to coaching, and the really great thing is that coaching can be applied to many areas of your life.  The only typical thing is that you come to the call (most coaches coach over the phone) with a topic that is important to you — something you’ve been stuck in, a big question that’s been on you mind, a desire to take action that for some reason you haven’t taken yet.  Then I coach you around that topic using whatever tools support your goals or agenda.
Sometimes the session focuses on gaining clarity about what you really wants and what it may look like.  Other times it is exploring your feeling of being stuck and brainstorming new perspectives so that you can take a different approach and move forward where you hadn’t been able to before.  Other times it may be gaining a deeper awareness of what’s going on beneath the surface of everyday life so that you can see the big picture.

If you don’t know if  you are ready for coaching, just start exploring.  Go to a bookstore and browse the personal growth/personal development section and see what draws you in.  One of my favorite books is The Artist’s Way"" by Julia Cameron.  The exercises in that book changed how I saw myself in my life. If you hear about a workshop or a class that seems interesting, take it! Journal.  Even if you aren’t used to writing what’s on your mind, just go for it.  Start by writing 1 page a day about anything you’ve been thinking or feeling.  Write about what you’re feeling.  Build up to a couple pages a day.  Explore blogs that interest you and stretch you to think about your life in new ways.  I write my blog at and offer useful information, tips, and perspectives for free two times a week.  Many other blogs do too — including the HeSo Project!
If you think coaching could be a valuable tool to help you move toward what you want, I invite you to talk to a coach!  Many coaches offer free sample sessions so that you can get a first-hand idea whether coaching is right for you – because ultimately it’s up to you to create the life you want.  I found coaching to be invaluable in my journey and I continue to work with a coach to this day.  I also see how coaching is of great value to my clients – knowing that makes me happy and proud to do what I do every day.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights and motivating story with us!
 Lisa Bourque is a personal coach and the founder of Wild Heart Coaching.  She specializes in helping people who feel lifeless at work to find their authentic path and align their personal and professional passions with confidence and choice.  Visit her website at