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Self-Directed Creative Pursuits /// or, How I'm Creating My Own Master's Degree

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

 Feather print by Jessica Rose *

I'm not a back-to-school girl. I knew when I graduated, almost full term with our first baby, that I wasn't going to graduate school. I had plowed through high school with a part-time job, graduated with honors, and then went straight to the university with vigor. After four years of making sure I had enough credits to graduate in exactly that time-frame, getting married, and doing the whole pregnancy thing minus a few weeks, I knew I wasn't going back to school anytime soon. I was at an entirely different crossroads than my peers and I was completely burnt out of school. I loved learning, but was done with academics on others' terms.

Around this time, I started doing a lot of things on my own as a newlywed and new mom. I had to become resourceful and useful in the kitchen, because otherwise it was pasta and red sauce for the rest of our lives. I received a sewing machine as a Christmas gift and became self-taught at sewing, making things for friends and family, gifts and practical needs being met with my curiosity and drive to finish projects. I am equipped to do both of those things now, and the practice of both of those life skills are now nearly second nature.

 That's sort of how it is with creative endeavors. They seem so huge, so insurmountable, but with steady practice and trying steps above your skill level, the mastery follows. 
Fast forward to last year. I'm being inspired by words like this, and I realize I can still take part in my own self-directed learning of sorts, even though I'm a young mom and my past working, traveling, and academic life has all but withered away due to my season of life. 

Hard to fully see, but one of the most beautiful art pieces; wish I had the artist's name *

For two years I had "go through The Artist's Way" on my yearly goal list. Two years I missed it, and I was getting annoyed with myself at my lack of courage to pursue children's picture book writing, which I knew (know!) is still buried in me through all the layers. Julia's writing pages came up in odd ways, I'd read about someone doing them in a blog post, I'd hear something about her and connect the dots, someone else I knew just went on an 'artist date' and enjoyed it. I felt this intensity to listen to all these coincidences and begin writing again; just the daily practice of three free-hand pages every morning. Some might be overwhelmed at the thought of a daily discipline, but I'm an INTJ and I thrive on self-directed discipline, so the morning pages is not where I struggle (hint: getting over paralyzing perfectionism is).

After a few months of upping my writing game with actually writing (amazing, I know), I decided to start a self-directed Creative Writing course for myself, including authors who have written great books about writing and creativity, writing challenges, and a little bit more intentionality with my blogging. I could tell my writing was increasing in quality, ever so slightly. Within a year I had read some really great writing books, and practiced alongside what felt like funky, irreverent writing professors opening up their bag of tricks. I enjoyed this style of learning so much, I started researching and selecting more books for future 'class time'. The books I've read so far are Bird by Bird, The Right to Write, and The Artist's Way. 

 I haven't submitted anything to children's publications, but I have a finished picture book, about 30% of a young adult novel, and about 50% of another (more promising) one, just by the daily discipline that takes me about 30 minutes or so. I have more books in the queue, like On Writing Well, Elements of Style, and the Poetry Home Repair Manual. In a sense, I've come up with a class course that I'm happy with and that I want to continue pursuing, even a year later. Once I shifted my thoughts on this (as opposed to a higher degree certification), I noticed so many others in my circles who are pushing for more in their lives, reading, practicing, trial and error, and just getting their hands dirty with doing. It's exciting to realize I'm in good company, but also to see others' goals pursued.

You have the power to mold your time and pursue hobbies, activities, or skills to turn into your life's work. What do you want to pursue but feel you lack the time or talent? What is your secret, inner dream and why has it stagnated? What is one step you can take today to pursue what you feel is your life's work? 

*Both photos taken at a boutique in Seattle called Moorea Seal. Follow her creative styling, jewelry-making, and book-writing self on Instagram @mooreaseal

Comments

Patricia said…
And are you further along, a year later? Even a little bit? I hope so, fellow INTJ. We are dogged, if nothing else!

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