“All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life.” ~M. C. Richards
There is an art to living, to creating your life on your terms based on your desires, talents, values, and dreams. In a culture where we must attend thirteen years of school, we’re rarely taught to look within and name what it is we want from life.
We’re rarely taught that we have the power within to live the lives we want, not what other people expect of us.
While we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to what happens based on what we want.
Five years ago I resigned from teaching in the public schools after giving birth to my son. A year and a half later, awaiting the birth of my daughter, I struggled. I missed teaching. I missed connecting with kids in a classroom.
I missed having something in my life that was my own. While I felt blessed and lucky to be home, I also wanted to teach. But I didn’t know how to join these two desires that felt mutually exclusive.
Having written in a journal throughout my twenties and into my thirties, I understood the power of pinning down thoughts into words. So within the swell of this profound transformation into motherhood, I began to write about the things I knew I wanted:“I want to teach. I want to be home with my children.”
The more I wrote about what I wanted, the more specific I became:
“I want to teach at-risk kids about writing in a journal. I want to teach them about the power of their words. I want to have flexibility. I want to inspire kids.”
I didn’t know how to get what I wanted. I just kept writing about what I wanted. And as I continued to write, I became clearer and more specific about the life I wanted to create.
One bright summer day a few months later, I was sitting on the front step of my house when a friend walked up with her neighbor.
After learning that he worked with kids through the Minneapolis police department, I told him about my desire to teach kids the practice of journaling, but that I had no idea where I would teach or how I would find the kids to come to a class.
As I spoke, his eyes widened and a smile grew across his face.
“I’ll get you the kids if you can find a space to teach them,” he said.
That week I met a retired English teacher who owned an art studio a few blocks away. I shared my ideas with him and asked if I could use his space once a week to teach. He was enthusiastic. The next week, a large van pulled up in front of the art studio and out spilled ten or so kids. Together, week after week, we wrote about our lives.
This journey began with seeds I planted within the blank pages of my journal. Three years later, they continue to bloom.
I have since written a master’s thesis on the power of journaling and continue to teach kids in schools throughout Minneapolis, including an ongoing class for urban teenage mothers.
The practice of writing in a journal is a powerful tool for cultivating what you want from life.
We are artists, creating our lives out of the materials of our experiences, thoughts, and dreams. When we write, we empower ourselves and breathe life into what we want and how we want to live.
You can’t always know exactly how your desires will materialize into reality. This is where faith comes in.
If you show up, listen to and speak from your heart, and then let go of the need to know how, you can let the universe or God or quantum physics or whatever that thing is that helps our dreams become a reality do its magic.
If you could create your life to be exactly how you want, what would it look like? Dare to imagine the perfect life for you. What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of people do you want to spend time with? How do you want to feel? How do you want to make the people around you feel?
Where do you want to live? What do you want to do for your work? What do you want your home to look and feel like? How do you want to live—do you want freedom, stability, love, acceptance? Do you want adventure, wisdom, and laughter?
Writing Exercise: What Do You Want?
To begin, simply sit down and open your journal to a blank page. Beginning with the words, “I want,” write everything that comes into your mind. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. If you get stuck, begin again with the words “I want.”
As you write, be as specific and courageous as possible. Don’t let your fears and insecurities step in and block what you want. Don’t listen to that critical, mean voice within that says, “This is not possible for you.”
Like you are flicking at a piece of lint, flick away negative thoughts that only bring you down. These thoughts are not real; they come from our shadow side. And nothing shrinks a shadow better than a beam of light. Shine light on all that you are and all that you want.
Remember always, you are the ultimate artist creating your life.
Photo by John O'Nolan