Boundaries, Vulnerability and Magic

I’ve been thinking about boundaries.

I am someone who resists boundaries – who likes to keep options open and puts off making decisions – but I’ve learned in my creative life that when I set boundaries, everything is easier. Paradoxically, the  more limits I set, the more free I am to take risks, to go deeper and wilder and weirder.

The same advice applies to parenting – setting boundaries around what Janet Lansbury calls a “yes space” helps kids move and explore more fully than if you set them loose in, say, an open field with snakes and holes and rusty nails.

Structure gives freedom for movement and experimentation and joy. It gives you a place to start. It gives shape to the chaos of limitless potential.

One of the hardest things about doing creative work is facing the blank canvas, the blank page, the empty room, the silence.

I’ve been talking to people this spring about what thrills them, what scares them, what they want to do and what stops them from doing it.

Some fantastic ideas for exercises have emerged from these conversations – or as someone referred to them, creative exorcisms. Yes! This is exactly what they are – spells we are dreaming up, to cast out what blocks us, to call in what we need.

One of the most powerful spells you can cast is to give a name to what you want to do – to give a title to a project and to say it out loud.

If you tell that name to just one person, it gains power. It travels from your mind to the outside world, setting down roots and growing outside your control. The more people you tell, the more it grows.

When you put your ideas into words, draw what you see, move your body, open your mouth and sing: these are acts of magic, acts of power, acts of trust, acts of vulnerability.

And you know what? THAT IS HARD TO DO. It’s scary.

Brené Brown says you can’t have courage without vulnerability – “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.” (Did anyone else watch her Netflix special this week??)

When we show up, when we open up, when we drop our defenses and try something, we are casting a spell. We are asking the magic in. We open up to failure, to not knowing, to rejection, to our humanity.

When trusting and waiting and opening up feels impossible, I try to remember that all I need to do is start.

Draw some boundaries. Make up some rules. Draw a circle and step inside and say, this is for magic. Give what you’re doing a name and say, I am doing this. Then wait to see what it is.

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Your trolls scoff, your body resists, your mind wanders, and you stay in that circle, trusting that the magic will come. Trusting that what you are doing will become clear.

This is what happens when you give birth to a baby, and why so many people experience it as an initiation: your body is pushed to impossible limits and you are handed a tiny vulnerable human to care for at all hours of the day. It feels impossible and yet you must do it. And then one day you look around and your baby is five years old, tying their own shoes and telling you about arachnids.

The magic happens in every moment of every day. The growth happens without you realizing it.

It’s so easy to see the magic in others, and so hard to see it in yourself.

So if I may, I’d like to offer you some encouragement today.

You are living in the middle of magic you can’t see. The magic is there, and later when you look back you’ll be able to see it. Take a deep breath and trust that it’s there.

Even Beyoncé shows up to day one of rehearsal not sure of herself, not sure what she’s doing. She keeps showing up, trusting that the magic will come.

I take so much inspiration from her courage, the incredible courage it took to say, I am going to train and show up every day for eight months and trust that what feels impossible will become possible.

It would be easy to watch her and think, I could never do that. She is a magical being and I’m just me.

But she is human, and she did it.

You can do it too — not what she did, but something that only you can do. What is that thing? What are you capable of? What story are you waiting to tell?

Whatever it is – you can do it, you can tell it.

That’s my pep talk to you (and to myself) today…

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… and if you would like some deep coaching to open up to your vulnerability and creative power this summer, read about the program I’ve put together for six courageous people here: Summer of Creative Magic. What can happen when we say our truth out loud, to ourselves and to others? Let’s find out…

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It’s safe to dance

A while ago I was in the shower, and a song came on that I remember vividly from the last round of the Creative Magic Workout, because it felt like the most divine answer to the question we were grappling with: it’s safe to dance, it’s a safety dance.

Hearing it again, I was struck by its message — how often do we hear, in our culture, that it’s safe to dance?

You can dance if you want to.

When things feel out of control, dancing is something you can do to feel better, feel stronger, feel in control.

Dancing can change the world because it changes your world. Immediately.

You have the power to express yourself, to say what you want, to will it into existence using your body and your imagination.

How often do we dismiss our imagination, dismiss dancing as something frivolous and fun, the opposite of serious?

And yet, when we see powerful dancing, when we see it fused with image and strength, we know it can knock the walls down.

There is a paradox here: Dancing is frivolous, and it can only be done by professionals who have trained for years and years.

No. I want that power in everyone’s hands. You don’t have to be a professional dancer to access it. You can dance if you want to.

I’m not a professional dancer, but in my years of work in the theater, I have seen over and over how terrified people are of dancing. (Don’t even get me started on singing).

Coaxing them through that fear has nothing to do with teaching skills or routines or sweet moves. I mean it has a little to do with that because learning skills can build confidence and confidence is fun.

But I have seen people who HAVE the skills the routines the moves and DON’T have the confidence. Which tells me that the fear has nothing to do with the actual things you are doing and everything to do with the FEAR. With that little voice of judgment, saying you look ridiculous, you look stupid, you can’t dance, you can’t learn, you can’t move right, you’re slow, you’re clumsy, you have two left feet, you don’t have rhythm, you can’t get it…

I could go on and on. The voice of judgment has endless variations, all on the same theme of SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOUR BODY / HOW IT LOOKS OR MOVES / SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOU. 

I love figuring out how to break through that voice of judgment. Helping other people do it helps me do it myself. Helps me remember to dance and sing my way through the fear, which is good, because few things bring joy more immediately than dancing and singing.

For years I deprived myself of dancing. When I was a kid I loved dancing like most kids do, but around age 9 or 10 I decided I was awkward, and that decision kept me rooted in my spot, hiding in corners, hugging the wall, resisting the urge to move my body, to get up and dance.

I told myself a story that grew stronger and stronger as I grew older – that I wasn’t a natural dancer, I wasn’t the kind of person who liked to dance, it wasn’t my thing, I didn’t get it.

I was lucky to experience a kind of divine intervention in college, when some gentle, encouraging friends coaxed me out of my fear — my story — the spell I’d been casting — and got me to dance.

Breaking that spell was a gradual dissolution, and also a quick change. After slowly working through my self-consciousness, one day I was no longer scared to dance. The looming terror of dancing with other people was a dream and once I woke up to it, it was gone.

I even decided at some point to start thinking of myself as a good dancer.

And why not? Hadn’t I been telling myself a lie for years, that I was a bad dancer? Why not tell myself a lie that I’m the best dancer in the room? Even when it feels like cognitive dissonance, even when I’m surrounded by ‘better’ dancers, even when my inner trolls are sure that I look ridiculous – thinking I’m a good dancer makes me a good dancer.

You can do this too! Let’s say it right here, right now:

It’s safe to dance, and I am a great dancer.

It’s safe to _____ and I am a great _____.

What happens, what changes when you believe that? When you tell yourself: I am a great dancer – or singer or speaker or artist or entrepreneur or parent or leader or baker or ANYTHING — and it’s safe to do that thing. When you pretend that WHATEVER YOU DO, is evidence of you being great at it?

Dancing is a good place to practice: start moving and pretend that whatever you are doing is fucking great, and why not? Why not believe in the greatness of your own body and feel it’s unique power? Why not dance yourself into greatness, and dance to create a world that appreciates your greatness? It’s a spell you are casting with your body and imagination.

It’s safe to dance, and we are going to dance safety into existence. Once we feel safe, what else could we dance into existence?

Could we do a confidence dance, a professional dance, a calm mom dance, a generosity dance, a powerful dance, a world changing dance, a me too dance, a humility dance, a laugh out loud dance?

Let me know what you dance into existence! And thank you for sharing this space with me. It feels good to be up on my feet again as we dream up a vision of what we want 2019 to be.

Bragging Mad Libs

As I said in my last post, it takes a lot of ENERGY to own your power – to express your life’s journey with confidence – to brag.

Know what else takes a lot of energy? Creative expression. It takes time and effort to sit down and draw, to get up and dance.

But creative expression also GIVES a lot of energy. You sit down to draw and suddenly, hours have gone by and you’ve been wholly absorbed in the colors and lines and shapes of what you are creating, and your brain is sparking. You spend an hour dancing like crazy and you end up working out harder than if you’d gone to the gym, but you feel like you could keep going for hours.

Bragging works that way too: it takes energy to stand up and say, this is my story, this is my strength, here I am. But when you do it, you feel the energy flooding in. This is who I am. BOOM. YES. This is who I am.

This is why I encourage you to practice bragging – because you can feel the effects right away.

Here is a super quick and easy way to practice right now – bragging mad libs! Fill in the blank and see what comes up for you.

I like to write down the first thing that comes to mind, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Because if I stop to think, I’ll get stuck and my trolls will want to get in on the action, and then I’ll start wanting to get it right, and then there’s no hope. You can’t brag if you’re trying to be perfect.

Though (as with most things) the opposite is also true: you could also sit with this, testing it out, seeing what comes to you over time.

If you want, make up your own mad libs! I take inspiration from the king, Muhammad Ali, and also from musical divas, country queens and classic rock gods. Here are some lines you could play with:

I’m so mean I make medicine sick

I’m so fast I can turn out the light and be in bed before it’s dark

Here I am, rock me like a hurricane

I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me

I was born a coal miner’s daughter, in a cabin on a hill in butcher’s holler

I’m the sister of a hellraiser, the daughter of an old tomcat, I was playin’ the piano in a honky-tonk before you bragged about that (I just heard an interview with rock and roller Linda Gail Lewis which is where I heard that line!)

So easy to turn them into fill-in-the-blank brags:

I’m so ___________ I make ________ __________

I’m so _______ I can _______ and ________ before it’s _________

Here I am, rock me like a ___________

I’m a ________ baby so why don’t you _____________

I was born a _______, in a ________ on a ________ in _________

I’m the sister of a _________, the daughter of a _________, I was _________ before you bragged about that

Try it! Jot some things down, and why not: speak them out loud.

WOO HOO! Do you feel a rush? Do you feel a thrill? That’s your power, baby.


If you want to do this with others in a safe environment for practicing space-claiming and power-proclaiming, you can sign up for my free webinar, DYNAMIC BRAG

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Here I Am

Hello out there. How was your summer?

I had a very creative summer in many ways – lots of family time and swimming lessons and camping trips and first steps and whoopie cushions and a superhero scavenger hunt.

So many things to inspire and instigate and invigorate my creative spirit. Nothing makes my heart swell with love and pride more than seeing my kids give free rein to their creative instincts. Beautiful!

And at the same time, exhausting. Because facilitating the growth and healthy development of small children involves a lot of thinking ahead, a lot of making mistakes, a lot of head-bonking, a lot of tantrum-decoding, a lot of blanket-fort-decomissioning, a lot of tears, a lot of night frights, a lot of messes.

I believe in messes. I believe in the creative anarchic spirit. And I believe parenting – all caregiving, really – is creative. It requires deep pools of creativity in order to do it at all. And because it is so all encompassing, so demanding, so FREAKING HARD — it also makes it difficult to focus on other creative projects.

Like, it’s hard to foster my son’s beautiful anarchic creative spirit while also embracing my own. It’s hard to embrace making messes when I’m the one cleaning them up. It’s hard to hold space for chaos when you’re also in charge of setting the boundaries.

So I am excited that we are in the fall and my kids are in someone else’s care for part of the day so I can make some time for my creative spirit to bounce off the walls. So I can write to you and turn my mind towards what the hell I do when I’m not wiping applesauce off the floor and chasing a one year old into the bathroom shouting NO HANDS IN THE TOILET!

My coaching tentacles are slowly coming back to life and here I am, curious about what’s going on in your world.

I find my mind returning to a topic that always carries such a charge – something that is a key part of the Creative Magic Workout, the one people are most resistant to, the one that seems like it’s got nothing to do with creativity – like it’s a separate universe – and which turns out to be intricately, inseparably intertwined with creative expression.

That topic is BRAGGING.

Bragging is a loaded word so allow me to use some other words to describe what it means to me:

  • Telling your hero story
  • Standing fully in your experience of the world
  • Owning your experience — what you feel and believe and think
  • Feeling pride in what you have done and what you will do, good or bad
  • Speaking with confidence about your experience, about what you have done and will do
  • Holding yourself with power, acknowledging your power instead of deflecting it, hiding it, pretending you don’t have it
  • Claiming your space
  • Claiming your time
  • Claiming the attention of others

So scary, right?

There is a reason we spend a lot of time on this – because it’s HARD and because it’s KEY to your creative expression.

So my approach, as with anything creative – come to think of it, this is my approach to parenting too – is to make it as easy as possible.

How to make bragging easy?

One way is to find someone to emulate, to remind you of what kind of person you want to be, to spur you on, to cheer you on, to encourage you.

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One of my champions is Dolly Parton and I’m so thrilled to see my very favorite song of hers, “Here I Am,” out in the world as a new duet with Sia. And it strikes me as a FANTASTIC bragging song. (One of my favorite ways to creatively work things out is to find a song that speaks to whatever is on my mind, and then sing / dance / jump around to it in my garage).

If you’d like to do that with me today, please join me in singing and dancing and hopping around and saying out loud, HERE I AM.

(And if you want to register for my free webinar next week, DYNAMIC BRAG, you can do it here: REGISTRATION)

Reverse engineer some self-admiration

Last week I talked a lot about trolls and the how to turn around the inner voices that shut us down.

This week I’ve been thinking about building up the voices that encourage us, that believe in us, that urge us forward. I call these voices our champions.

It’s hard to ask for what we’re worth. It’s hard to know what we’re worth, much less ask for it. We’re conditioned to devalue, minimize, deflect and downplay our thoughts, our ideas, our bodies, our selves. The worst thing we could be is FULL OF OURSELVES.

Noticing our own value and saying it out loud feels alien to us: no idea what it is or how to do it and vaguely terrified by the prospect of coming face to face with it. So we take that idea and stuff it in the closet.

I’ve been playing around with ways to coax out that idea and make it feel more comfortable. Maybe pull out some feather boas and fuzzy bathrobes to wrap around that tiny spark of self admiration and breathe it into a nice healthy campfire of love and approval.

Is this metaphor working for you? Is your idea of self approval looking like this right now?

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I’ve got a simple exercise for reverse engineering self-admiration:

  1. Think of someone you admire. Maybe someone you’re jealous of, someone you imagine surrounded by golden shimmering light who is a different better kind of human than you are. Maybe it’s someone on the national stage like Emma Gonzalez, maybe it’s a friend who moves through the world with a grace you wish you had. See them in your mind.

2. Draw a picture of them. I drew a picture of my friend Kate!

Shameless optimist

3. Write a list of their traits you admire:

Kate is good at business

Kate is fearless about finding mentors

Kate is an incurable optimist

4. Look at your list and replace their name with “I”. Write out each trait with I:

I am good at business

I am fearless about finding mentors

I am an incurable optimist

See what comes up for you when you write each of these down. Maybe you have deep resistance – that isn’t true at all! – or maybe you feel a thrill of deep resonance.

5. Circle five words that stand out to you, and turn them into a poem. Write them down. Try them on. For me it was:

Fearless hustler flair, I’m a shameless optimist

6. Stand up and speak your list out loud. I am in incurable optimist. Speak your poem, repeat it like a mantra. Move around like the person you admire. How do they stand? How do they dance? Find a song they would dance to and practice moving like them. Try it on!

If any of this seems ludicrous, that’s okay. You can laugh with yourself. That doesn’t mean some part of you doesn’t believe it’s true.

I would love to hear what you learn! And because this is what a shameless optimist hustler would do, I gotta tell you that if you dig this kind of fun inner self work/play, this is exactly what we do in the Creative Magic Workout which is open for registration now! It’s a lot easier to champion yourself when other people are championing you too.

Take care of yourself out there, dreamer!

 

Dancing with your trolls

I’ve been getting a big response from my last video, Dancing my Question, so I thought I’d try dancing with my trolls.

Trolls are what I call those negative thoughts that go on a loop, those critical inner voices that start in on you and won’t let up. I call them trolls because they are stubborn, they have that dogged ability to not let up or leave you alone. I’ve got lots of different creative ways I work with trolls (which I’m going to be talking about in my free webinar, FREE YOUR TROLLS, and which we spend a lot of energy on in my creative magic workout) — but this was a new idea for engaging them, so I thought I’d make this quick video about it and share it right away: karaoke with your trolls!

Something I’m struggling with lately — there’s this little troll that’s like ewww ughhh nobody likes me, nobody’s helping me – it curls inward and projects all my insecurities about what I’m doing or not doing onto everyone around me – so when I drop off my kids at school this troll is saying, they all think you’re a bad mother because you’re dropping your kids off late, ooooooh! It’s this little Gollum-like troll.

If I’m going to work out with this troll using the life changing magic of karaoke, what song makes sense? The song that floated in my brain was “Tears of a Clown”… and honestly, when I worked this out for the first time earlier today, this song showed me SO MUCH about my fears and what’s going on with me and that troll. So thanks, subconscious!

I invite you to try this yourself: Identify your inner troll (I like to draw it and name it but it also works to just notice it) and ask them, what song would help me work out what’s going on? And see what floats into your brain.

Are you ready for me to work out “Tears of a Clown” with you? Let’s see what happens.

[Dancing / singing like a fool]

I’m kind of performing this but I’m also having some genuine insights here. I’m so surprised to realize that the flip side of this hidey nobody’s taking care of me feeling is, this pressure to only share a shiny happy face – I’m not comfortable with anyone seeing my sad face! I don’t feel like I can share my tears, even though I’m someone who talks all the time about crying and sharing your vulnerability. I’ve still got a sad little clown inside me who has to wait until there’s no one around to be real! I sound like I’m joking but this is genuinely helpful for me… and I have some trolls right now who are telling me, this is pretty self indulgent… which is another frequent troll for me. But I’m sharing because I wonder if some of you have those trolls, maybe the horror of self indulgence, or little sad Gollum who feels like he’s supposed to be Flashy McFlasherson?

If so: work it out, see what comes up for you!

 

Dancing your question

Today I am demonstrating an exercise that is so simple, I can’t believe I’ve forgotten about it for the last nine months. Ready? It’s SINGING KARAOKE BY YOURSELF.

Or you could sing with others! It works even better that way. But if you’re like me and you can’t leave the house at night without civilizations crumbling to dust, you can also go out to the garage, or the shower or your car or the attic or the basement or a closet — anywhere where you can be alone and undisturbed — and find a karaoke track on youtube and sing to it.

Here’s the twist: pick a question that is haunting you or an area where you’re blocked, and sing and dance with THAT. Dance with your question. Let the answer come in your dancing and singing.

For me, today I’m having a big block / messy internal tangle around childcare and work and how to find balance, so I’m going to think of a song that can help me with that. Hmm… for some reason, Edith Piaf comes to mind. My favorite song of hers is Je Ne Regrette Rien. So I’m going to karaoke it and see what I find out. (Skip to 6:01 if you want to get right to me singing and dancing).

If you try this, let me know what you learn! Regret nothing!


… Want to sing and dance and draw and write (or all of the above) with me? I’m offering free 1:1 spring workout sessions! Go here to schedule one: Coaching

Give attention to the thing you’re embarrassed about

Hello from the other side of newborn mountain! Or in the middle of it? I’m not sure but I can tell you that this ridiculous bundle of sunshine is 2.5 months old.

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I’ve got a lot to tell you about my birth experience and maternity leave (or as I have been calling it, my artist residency in motherhood) but first I thought I’d share this creative exercise that came to me yesterday.

I made a video about it here (co-starring my newest collaborator, River Rowan Helma-Walters) or you can read on below if you’re more of a visual/verbal processor.


I had a quick idea for an exercise today and I wanted to share it with you while it’s fresh in my mind. Here’s the context behind it: so I was walking my son, Waylon, in to summer camp this morning, and I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the window and had one of those classic moments of, ewwww, this shirt does not fit me well, my belly looks kind of weird… etc etc…  

Anyway, I continued on my way and hugged Waylon goodbye and passed the window again on my way out, and had a reflexive cringe as I saw my reflection again. And then I thought, hold on, hold on: why am I feeling embarrassed?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last four years, it’s that when I feel embarrassed about something, whether it’s physical or emotional or otherwise – it’s a good idea to slow down and pay attention to that feeling.

So I noticed that feeling of embarrassment and took a second to ask myself, hey, why am I feeling like I should hide my belly? Why am I feeling some shame here?

And then I thought, What if  decided to I flaunt it instead?

So I did. Instead of tucking it in and folding my body inward, I took a deep breath and stuck my belly out. And you know what? My embarrassment dissolved.

And that’s basically the exercise: take something you’re hiding, and try flaunting it. If there’s something you feel as a flaw, ask yourself, what would it feel like to show this off? And give yourself two minutes, whether it’s alone in your bedroom or out in the world, to do that.

This is especially potent to try on your belly, because man, the belly is such a loaded body part. I’ve heard it from so many women I know, this shame around having a tummy, like it’s not okay, it’s repulsive. Unless you’re pregnant, and then it’s gorgeous. Both times I’ve been pregnant it’s been striking how much love and admiration and worship is lavished onto my belly from other people. People encourage you to flaunt it! They want you to show it off, they compliment it, they ask to touch it. Some people find this intrusive, but I find it kind of lovely, this loving attention given to something that doesn’t usually get attention.

And then immediately after the baby is born, BAM – the exact same part of your body is suddenly NOT cute, it does not get any attention and if it does, it’s shameful. The worst insult a woman can hear is someone asking if she’s pregnant when she’s not, right? Oh god, the horror!

Why is this belly so horrifying when there’s not a baby, why is it no longer beautiful now that it’s just my body?

So the exercise for me is to pretend my belly is just as beautiful without a baby inside it, to act proud of it, to show it off the same way I did when I was five months pregnant.

I encourage you to join me in drawing attention to whatever body part you’re embarrassed about and giving it some love. Give attention to the thing you’re embarrassed about. This is like a Daniel Tiger song! Give attention to the thing you’re embarrassed about. Just give it some attention, that’s all I’m saying. This applies to physical parts of your life and also to the emotional things, which is trickier. Or maybe it isn’t! You could pretend it’s not trickier.

Anyway, that’s me reporting to you from my artist residency in motherhood, with creative ideas inspired by my own body and my own life, that I hope speak to you, in your body, in your life. I wish you well on your artistic journey and navigating the world in all it’s complexities and violence and joys, I hope you’re finding solace amidst the chaos.

Creative Breakthrough: how I learned to dance

I was driving yesterday, stuck in traffic, and I don’t know why but I found myself remembering the process of how I learned to love dancing. And it occurred to me that it might be a good story to share, because it involves overcoming fear and awkwardness and that is so central to all our creative journeys, whether they involve dancing or not.

So here it is! The story of my creative breakthrough as a dancer:

… IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE WATCHING THE VIDEO, HERE IS THE TEXT …

I love to dance now, but I didn’t always feel that way. For many years I was super self conscious about my dancing. I felt like I didn’t move right, I didn’t get it, I thought I danced like a white girl and that was not a good thing, so whenever I was in a situation where dancing was called for I moved as little as possible and got out of there as soon as I could.

Of course when I was a kid I loved dancing. Every kid I’ve met has loved to dance, and it seems to be a natural reaction to hearing music they like, their bodies just move. So yeah, I loved dancing when I was five but by the time I was ten I was crippled with self-consciousness. And I think this is true for a lot of us, we hit adolescence and we get self conscious, we don’t trust our bodies, we feel like we don’t look right or talk right or move right, so we spend a lot of our energy hiding, and that’s what I did. I can remember standing at the edge of the gym during school dances, arms crossed, terrified and annoyed and waiting for the whole thing to be over.

For me, two things changed this, and I’m so glad they did. they were pretty random.

One of them was this one time at band camp – yes, this is a real story about band camp – when I was about 13. There was some sort of a dance we all had to go to, which normally I hated, but because I was at band camp, there was a freedom to be someone different, to explore different sides of myself. And I felt safe with my new friends and we were all outside our normal lives, so for some reason, the song Rockin Robin came on and I had a reaction of total love for that song and my inner five year old busted out and I started dancing like I was on fire.

And it was really clear to me in that moment that when I loved the music, I loved dancing. It didn’t carry over – I didn’t go home and love dancing from that moment on – but that awareness stuck with me, the joy I felt shedding my self consciousness in that moment.

Flash forward to my freshman year of college. I was hanging out in someone’s dorm room with some new friends. Somehow this girl I didn’t know very well and I got to talking about dancing, and I said, I don’t feel comfortable dancing, I don’t get it, I can’t do it. And she decided right then and there to give me a dance lesson. She put on some music and for about 30 minutes she watched me dance and pointed out to me what I was doing that made me look like stiff and uncomfortable and showed me some moves and helped me get comfortable enough to try them myself.

And I can remember the big aha moment: I thought the problem with my dancing was my flailing, awkward, hopelessly uncoordinated limbs, and my response was to bring them in and move them as little as possible. But she was like, you are barely moving! You gotta get in your body more, really move your body. Your arms and legs don’t matter, what matters is that your hips are moving. Let your arms and legs follow the core of your body.

OH! I’d been so fixated on what not to do, I hadn’t noticed what was missing, And she showed me what that meant, she drew my attention to my hips, and I had time and space to try it out and look stupid and hesitant and practice moving boldly and feeling foolish and laughing at myself and there was nothing humiliating about it. And by the end of those 30 minutes, I felt like I got it. Enough that the next time I was in a situation where dancing in public was called for, I felt confident moving to the music and realized: this is fun! This is a fun way to spend time with people! If I liked someone else’s moves, I could copy them. If the music didn’t speak to me, I could sit it out and jump up when a song I loved came on. I lost my self-consciousness, and now after 20 years of dancing I can say, I am a very confident dancer. This doesn’t mean I’m a good dancer necessarily – I think I am, but in the end it really doesn’t matter – because I like dancing.

When I look back on it, this is such a metaphor for any kind of creativity. You need time and space to move through that awkward phase, to do it badly, to do it wrong, to look stupid, to flail your arms, to hit the wrong note, to draw a shaky line, to write a meandering sentence. And the irony is, when you give yourself that room to do it fully and badly – that is how you move to rocking it.

I’d love to know if you had a formative experience, with dancing or any form of creative expression. What led to your breakthrough?

And if you’d like to join me for a six week process of breakthroughs and creating and failing and practicing being bold in a safe and loving space, the very first online version of my creative magic workout starts April 3! Wooooooo!

Here’s some Dr. John for you to dance along to: