fear no art

Passionately Creating More: Lessons in Accountability.

 

I’ve been writing once every two months on average — that’s far below where I’d like to be. On a more positive note, I have been writing more in my journal.

I’ve realized that starting isn’t the hardest part anymore, it’s continuing. I have started and stopped many things, but rarely have I had the diligence to show up, day after day, and continue.

And we all know by now, that’s where the magic happens. Slowly, over time. Good things take time… usually.

I have identified that one major hangup for me is accountability. I am that person who works most efficiently when there is a deadline, something is at stake, or others are depending on me.

For example, I never missed a practice when I ran cross-country in high school and in college, but since leaving those teams years ago, I have been unable to establish a consistent running routine for my own benefit, with no one to motivate me but myself.

I can say the same for exercise in general. I have had very successful streaks of consistency where I see results and feel amazing, but they usually cap at about three months.

This can be applied to almost every area in my life, particularly when it comes to the creative process. I cannot stand letting others down, but letting myself down is not a problem — I do it time and time again.

The solution then must be to find a group of people who will help keep me accountable, right?

That sounds nice, but I personally don’t yet have that kind of support system where I live. I moved to a new city about six months ago, and it’s been difficult for me to get people to go to brunch with me, let alone do something that sounds a bit more like work.

Not to mention, that would only reinforce my dependency on others to motivate me to do things that I actually want to do. Side note: how many of you out there have experienced this strange phenomenon where you have to literally convince yourself to do the things you want to do? It’s utter insanity. A ridiculous mechanism no doubt reserved for only the most confounding of animals — human beings.

As soon as I have an inspiring idea for something I’d really enjoy doing in a particular moment, it’s followed by rapid-fire contradictory ideas that usually offer me an array of things to do that are far less enjoyable but must be done before I do that thing that I actually want to do.

This usually results in me doing laundry/running errands/cleaning/making phone calls, and ultimately not ever getting to do that super-inspiring thing I wanted to do in the first place. What is that about?

I went on a bit of a tangent there, I’d like to return back to the place where I was saying that I don’t want to reinforce my codependency on others. I would much rather exercise my self-motivation muscle and learn ways to keep myself accountable just for me. Humans are extremely adaptable and can learn new ways of being relatively easy, it just takes one word: consistency.

That’s actually not all it takes, in my opinion, I think you also need to really be passionate about what you’re doing, or at the very least, enjoy it. And maybe you can’t enjoy things like regular exercise at first because it’s really hard when you’re just getting back to it. Just like I really don’t enjoy sitting down and forcing myself to write when I’m lacking inspiration.

But you can enjoy the results that will come later, or you can enjoy doing something you said you would for your own sake.

You can find small things that bring you joy throughout the beginning stages of the process, and if there’s anything I know about life, it’s that focusing on the good things — even and especially in the midst of all the bad, hard, unpleasant things — can really help shift your perspective and make living all the more enjoyable.

I have been doing a work for trade exchange with a local Yoga studio here, which means I work there one day a week and in return get unlimited Yoga class access, a dream come true really. However, it wasn’t until just recently that I started really taking advantage of that and going regularly.

On New Year’s Day, we started a 30-day challenge at the studio. We put a list of participant names on a wall, and each day you took a Yoga class, you were awarded a colorful smiley face of your choice next to your name. At the end of the month, those who came to class every single day were rewarded with prizes.

This offered incentive in two really gratifying ways, one being with visual accountability/bragging rights and the other with a reward at the end. Me being who I am, I ate this up, and all of a sudden, created space to make one Yoga class a day for almost the entire month — during the last week, my schedule just didn’t work out and my chain of smileys broke apart.

That month of accountability changed my life.

Before that, I had only done Yoga intermittently — going a bit here and there, but never daily for any extent of time. At the beginning of the challenge, it was really difficult — I felt tight all over and extremely self-conscious. There were people there 40 years my senior who were far more flexible than me, and everyone else seemed to be way more zen.

For the first part of the month, I avoided the workout flow classes, glanced at the time every few minutes, and prayed for the harder poses to end. I also found myself latching onto every thought that danced across my brain, even making to-do lists as I struggled to follow along.

Around the second week, I began to surrender to the process and accept myself for where I was at with relatively less judgment. That’s when the shift happened. I began to look forward to class, particularly the more rigorous ones. I started viewing Yoga as the very special and personal time in my day where I got to connect with myself, free from all distractions.

I noticed physical improvements as well. I was feeling stronger, more flexible, and my usual highly anxious energy had dissipated. I was breathing deeper and becoming even more self-aware in my body and my mind. The benefits I gained from practicing Yoga regularly are invaluable.

I will admit here that though I have not been going every day since then, I have been going much more than ever before, and I continue to reap the benefits of tuning in and making space for myself.

I never would have discovered how beneficial Yoga is for me without that initial accountability incentive. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and it’s helped me remember how truly life-changing something can be if you only offer it the time to do the work within you.

I am a habitual start/stopper, and it’s going to take a whole lot of effort for me to keep up with anything, but this feels really important to me, so I have to try and try and try again.

Writing is really important to me and I feel I have a lot to offer. What’s more important to me is connecting with other people, and for now this is my chosen medium. In order to kick-start my own personal motivation/accountability, I’ve decided I’m going to do a 30-day writing challenge for none other than me. I will create something new every day.

It might not always be deep, meaningful, entertaining, or even good, but it will be.

My intention with this challenge is to help me create a daily writing routine, so that eventually it will become more of a necessity than a chore. I want to re-frame the way I think about writing consistently, and train myself to make it an enjoyable habit. I think this is the first step in creating what/how I want to.

I believe that with consistency I will only get better, my ideas more creative, my vision sharper, and my ability to connect all the more real.

For those who stuck around to read all of this, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your time is so valuable, and for you to spend any of it with me, I am forever grateful.

I am someone learning how to create. By no means am I a master of any craft, and as such it will be a bumpy, messy, but perhaps curiously beautiful ride.

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Jessica Stewart is a human whose deepest joys include conversation, exploration, and sharing meals with others. She lives in Santa Cruz California with her wonderful boyfriend Ojan and two sweet cats, Cleo and Ghost. As an avid student of life, she is committed to seeking love and truth in all things, and hopes to inspire others to live their most raw and authentic life in spite of inevitable times of darkness that pervade our existence. She believes that self-love and human connection are two of the most undervalued qualities in our society, and wants to create a community deeply rooted in these principles. She would love to collaborate with anyone interested in creating. More of her writing can be found at Elusive Zen.

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