You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." You must do the thing you think you cannot do. -- ELEANOR ROOSEVELT
Women have long had the self-destructive habit of discounting themselves and their natural abilities. C. Diane Ealy, author of The Women's Book of Creativity and co-author of Our Money, Ourselves: A Guide to Redesigning Your Relationship with Money, discounted her ability to write because it came so naturally. This is a common gremlin, assuming that what comes easily to us is not valuable or unique.
As Diane says, "I wrote a lot of poetry when I was a kid—which I did not show to anybody. I kept it really private. But I also had this mindset—I think it's fairly typical of women—that I did not appreciate the talent that I had. I can remember friends calling me to help them when they were stuck on a writing assignment. On the phone, I'd say, 'Well, why don't you try this' and then I'd dictate a few sentences. It didn't yet register that I had an ability."
Outsmarting Our Doubting Voices
It took Diane several decades to finally claim the writer in her, and she struggled through multiple rewrites and roadblocks to produce her first book. Outsmarting those doubting voices by achieving our goals gives us more access to a stronger self and more resilience to draw on in the future.
Ginny O'Brien, author of Fast Forward M.B.A. and Success on Her Own Terms: Tales of Extraordinary, Ordinary Women, and an accomplished chef who had also made her daughter an astonishingly beautiful handpainted bedroom set, initially wondered why I was interviewing her as a creative woman. She didn't see herself as outstanding enough to be written about.
It's all part of our training to push others into the limelight and be a support person rather than a rainmaker ourselves. Ginny's creativity is multifaceted and obvious to anyone who meets her. When you visit her home, signs of Ginny's artistry beckon you from everywhere, from the meditation corner and floral design of her garden to her own framed drawings on the walls.
Cooking as a Ritual and Creative Process
As a young wife, Ginny taught herself to cook by reading cookbooks. For her, cooking expresses her love of the visual.
"I see cooking as very creative," she remarked. "I think the creativity comes from the presentation, as well as having the food taste good. We always sit down with placemats and napkins so the table looks beautiful. I love giving dinner parties where we wind up just sitting around the table having conversation. But every process of making a nice meal has a spiritual element in it; it's giving food and nourishment.
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"It's a sacred way to provide for someone. So in my life, even when my first husband left, my daughter and I always sat down to dinner and I prepared nice food, just for the two of us. It became a ritual."
Meditating on Your Creative Vision
Another ritual, this one in the morning, helped Ginny create her two books and a new direction for herself as a coach. In the early 1990s,
"I started reading about imaging," she recalls, "and how you could control your future by visualizing what you want. I'm very disciplined and I created a vision about my writing a book and all the steps. There was a chapel downstairs from my office at that time and I never went to work without first stopping in the chapel and meditating on my vision.
"I'd actually like to write a book called Prayer Works because I definitely think my two books came about because of that."
Ginny now continues her visioning in her living room armchair.
For many women who have experienced lack of encouragement or trauma in their life experiences, prayer and visualization can be powerful antidotes to those harassing voices of self-doubt. These spiritual practices overpower a lack of confidence and cement a vision of expanded possibilities. For too many women, limited thinking holds them back. Visualizing what you want on a daily basis prepares you to manifest it.
Faking It Until You Make It
Along with visualizing results, we have to connect with our inner power. For twice Emmy-award nominated actress C. C. H. Pounder, the challenge of a new role stirs the cauldron of fear for her. She told me a great story of this process, complete with all the dramatic intonations of her unforgettable trained voice:
"What makes me nervous is when I finally get an opportunity to play a new role; there's this moment of feeling absolutely petrified because I've never played it before. I got a great chance with Mike Nichols to play Meryl Streep's psychiatrist in the film Postcards from the Edge. I was incredibly excited but I went to the first reading and I became this quiet little person and Mike said, 'I know you can do this. What are you doing?' I told him, 'I panicked but I'll get over it.'
"I had to convince myself that the same attitude I have in real life at the bank or when someone sends me a bill that's wrong is what's required for this. It's not that I haven't been an authority in life. So I became myself and acted as I do when I know I'm in the right and then transferred it back to this psychiatrist and got the part. Of course then I got six doctor roles in a row and plunged into the medical profession as an actress."
From her insights about acting, C. C. H. knows the value of communication with both self and the audience, and the power of projection. Her story reminds me of the old axiom "Fake it until you make it," which as creative women we often need to remember to help us conquer the next hurdle.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
©2000, 2011 by Gail McMeekin. All rights reserved.
The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor
by Gail McMeekin.
Since its first publication in 2001, this book has helped hundreds of thousands of women break through creative blocks and realize their dreams. Combination guidebook and inspirational treasure, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women profiles 45 dynamic women who share their secrets for success. Each chapter offers the 12 secrets, keys, and challenges to help women work through the creative process. Together they offer an inspirational roadmap, providing all the tools women need to uncover their own authenticity and realize their creative dreams.
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About the Author
Gail McMeekin, M.S.W., is the founder and president of Creative Success, LLC, where she helps creative professionals and entrepreneurs turn their passions and unique ideas into prosperous businesses. She is the author of The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, and The Power of Positive Choices. She is a national executive, career, and creativity coach as well as a licensed psychotherapist and writer. (Photo credit: Russ Street) Visit her website at: www.creativesuccess.com