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Filtering by Category: deliberate People

Lost Creativity & How to Get It Back

Annmarie Rodriguez

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By Matthew Perry [Originally published in deliberateLIFE's Magazine, Issue No. 4]

My creativity crisis struck me one night when I was reading a book to my son, a story I remembered almost by heart. Roald Dahl’s Danny, Champion of the World is the tale of a barely educated single father, a pheasant poacher in his spare time, who nonetheless rates as “the most marvelous and exciting father any boy ever had.”

Why? For one, he’s a handy dad on steroids, fashioning toys, building tree houses, and conjuring bedtime stories on a whim. I’ve known similar men and women, who create all day and yet never claim to be artists. Almost all are people you’d be grateful to have in your life. I can only hope my son grows up to be like them.

As I read about this effortlessly innovative dad, I began to feel about as creative as a wet blanket, my life a patchwork of routines meant to maintain the status quo: make money, feed everyone, get to bed on time. I wasn’t working on the novel I set aside when my son was born. I wasn’t learning a language or picking up a new instrument. I was simply getting things done: admirable, perhaps, but the antithesis of creative. That isn’t how I want to be, at least not all of the time, for my own sake and the sake of my kid.

Yet I believed this was how I had to be. Parenting and providing is serious business. My own dad once said he never really learned how to play, and maybe on some level, I felt I had to be the dad I remembered, all business, bringing home the bacon. It didn’t matter that, in reality, my dad is a funny and good-hearted guy. My life, like many of my memories, had become monochromatic.

A neuroscientist might conclude that my brain, locked in the tired patterns of day-to-day life, had become indolent, focused only on the familiar and predictable. To break out of my rut, I had to surprise myself. But first, I got some help from Eric Maisel, PhD, author of The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression  and many other titles that explore the tricky business of creation. Most blocks, he says, can be traced to performance anxiety, brought on either by fear of what others will think or a sense of meaningless (“What’s the point?”). Both, he says, are often a veil for “What if the thing I create is lousy?”

“Human beings look for reasons not to create because it’s hard,” Maisel says. “It’s hard because it invites anxiety in, and we’re conditioned to avoid anxiety.”

In other words, getting my creative mojo back wasn’t about experiencing a sudden burst of genius—fortunately. Living a creative life is more about overcoming the cold feet that come before a commitment.

“I’m not much on inspiration,” Maisel says. “I’m more about showing up.”


I was ready to start showing up myself, using a few of his key strategies:

Welcome the anxiety.

It won’t kill you after all. You will still be alive at the end of the day, even if your creation is lousy. In fact, whatever the outcome, you’ll feel more alive for having attempted it.

Create by morning light.

I realized that my free time usually didn’t come until after 9 p.m., when I was tired and hopelessly unproductive. So now I try to write for an hour in the morning, before my son gets up.

What I’ve discovered: That’s when my mind is as uncluttered and as stress-free as it’s ever going to be. “The problem with trying to do creative work at the end of the day,” says Maisel, “is that it’s hard to make the transition. We spend most of our waking hours trying to get things right. But creativity requires a willingness to experiment and get things wrong. That’s hard to do when you’re exhausted.”

Another benefit of starting early: “You make the day feel meaningful right off,” says Maisel. Suddenly, being creative isn’t simply an addendum to your real life; it’s an enhancement. 

Take advantage of discarded time.

Every day, I have a few unclaimed gaps of 15 to 20 minutes, most of which end up dissolving in the glare of my computer screen as I check my email or Facebook again and again.

Now, I close the computer and pick up a notebook. Yes, a notebook. Twenty minutes is more than enough time to scribble out dialogue or a dense page of notes. Even a snippet of work feels like a little victory, and the little ones count, too.

Revise your internal dialogue.

“Often it’s really unfriendly,” Maisel politely understates. “When you convince yourself that you’re useless or a failure, you don’t create anything, and you certainly won’t feel satisfied.”

Forget about accolades.

This is a tall order in a society as competitive as ours. But focusing on getting a book deal or what your spouse or friends might think can create barriers to getting on with it, even for established artists.

Instead, find an inner motivation that isn’t pegged to an audience. I’ve found inspiration by hoping that one day my son will think the stories I write are cool. Damn right, I also want to publish them. But giving him a little window into his family is enough, too. 



Setting Goals for the Life You Want

Annmarie Rodriguez


By Annmarie Rodriguez |

deliberateLIFE shares an office with two other start-up companies (Clef Inc. and ShopPad). The office is filled with bright blue walls, sit-stand desks, and hardworking people. Inspired by the work ethic and kindness of those nearby, we decided to interview Darrell Jones, Clef's Head of Business Development, about what deliberate living means to him.

Over lunch, I asked Darrell about his weekend, which quickly revealed one of the ways he is able to live so deliberately. He explained how he utilized the weekend to write out something similar to a life audit (explained below).

In order to become the type of person you want to be, Darrell believes that, “You need to have in your mind a very clear vision of who you want to be and then find role models who you can emulate along  those lines of your vision.”

Affiliating yourself with people who you admire and can learn from is encouraging – it gives you courage. Seeking out mentors, hearing their stories, and having the permission to pick their brains for how they've become who they are is a helpful way of stepping into the life you desire.  

“Often when people talk about wanting to live deliberately, they set very vague goals. They don’t have any actionable items or a process through which they can gauge their own progression,” expressed Darrell.

As discovered through a study done on the 1979 Harvard MBA program, there is a clear correlation between specific goal writing and success. The study surveyed a group of Harvard students and found that 3% specifically recorded their goals, 13% wrote down broad goals, and 84% did neither. Ten years later, they found that the 3% who wrote down their specific goals were making about 10 times as much as the other two groups.

Whether or not your goal is to earn more money, specific goal writing is helpful in keeping yourself accountable to the deliberate choices you are hoping to make.

Each morning at deliberateLIFE, we write down each task we need to accomplish and approximately how long each will take. Our founder, Fay Johnson, also has a nice framed list of her specific goals for 2015 by her desk. Each item has a box that can be checked off.

With this knowledge in mind, here’s what Darrell wrote down on a big sheet of poster paper during his weekend. It's a smaller version of a life audit: 

  • In the Middle: He wrote down who he wants to be.
  • At the Top: An overarching statement that reflects an important part of who he wants to be.
  • To the Left: 4 characteristics that he wants to embody and emulate.
  • To the Right: 3 of his most important values (his priorities).
  • At the Bottom: A call to actiona general statement of something he’d like to do on a daily basis.

Darrell said that this activity was helpful and attempts a similar process of recalibration once or twice each month.

Taking the time to articulate the type of person you want to be is empowering. It influences your daily decisions and creates coherency in your lifestyle. This intentionality can come in the form of a full-blown life audit, a similar and smaller version (as exemplified by Darrell), or by simply writing a thoughtful list of specific goals – personal or professional.

Whichever route you choose, we've found hearing stories like Darrell’s helpful in expanding our views of what deliberate living can look like. We hope it helps you too!


Interview: Annmarie's Take on Deliberate Living

Annmarie Rodriguez

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This semester, deliberateLIFE  has the pleasure of hosting Annmarie, a Junior at Westmont College as our editorial intern. We interviewed her to get a deeper insight into what living deliberately means to her.

deliberateLIFE: Where did you grow up?

Annmarie Rodriguez: I grew up in Southern California, in the city of Irvine. 

dL: What interests you about editorial work?

AR: In working on editorials, you get to both learn (through research and investigation) and also to teach (through writing). You have the ability to share valuable information, relate-able or completely odd-ball stories, and the like. You get to share acquired wisdom and various snippets of life, often with people you've never met before. I love that.

dL: What does deliberate living mean to you?

AR: Living deliberately stems from the inherent, beautiful, and unavoidable knowledge that people matter; both people and the earth. When I view life in these simple terms, living deliberately feels less daunting and more natural. Because the world is such an intricate and interconnected place, choices often affect more people than we are aware of. For example, choosing where to buy groceries can appear separate from social justice issues. In reality, where we shop and how we spend our money are often the most frequent ways in which we vote for or against social injustices (slavery, unfair wages, chemical usage, etc.). For me, living deliberately begins with waking up each morning knowing that my decisions matter and working to inform my choices with reliable, life-giving information. 

dL: What current deliberate choices are you making? 

AR: Recently, I've been using a reusable lunch bag instead of paper bags each day. I’ve been eating organic, locally grown, fair trade foods as often as possible and trying to run at least 3 times a week. When I run, I try to explore a new place each time--whether it's Golden Gate Park, the bridge, or Ocean beach--it makes staying healthy fun. I’m also working on attaining my ‘ideal water intake’ each day in order to stay hydrated. It's been a real challenge, but I've begun to feel a positive difference. I also intentionally choose to buy a majority of my clothes from second hand stores, such as: buffalo exchange and crossroads. 

dLIn what ways are you hoping to improve your deliberate living in the next four months? 

AR: I’m hoping to keep making the same daily choices as stated before. Other than that, I really want to learn more about where and how the clothes I wear is produced. I’d love to learn about the different chemicals that are used in cleaning and beauty products in order to be more aware of potentially harmful ingredients. For me, knowing the place and people around me well is also an important aspect of deliberate living. Since I just moved to San Francisco about a month ago, there's still so much too see and do. I'm hoping to be more deliberate in exploring the beautiful, obscure, local, and touristy parts of the city as well as making an intentional effort to be a valuable part of the community. 

dL What are the main obstacles that have kept you from living a deliberate life? & How have you worked to overcome them? 

AR: I’ve often felt too busy, which is silly. A big part of deliberate living (for me) is remembering its incredible value—because if it’s worth doing than it’s worth taking the time up front to figure out how it can be properly implemented into everyday life. The biggest way I’ve overcome this obstacle is by taking the time to recognize my priorities. I contemplate what’s really important and worth spending my time on. Time and time, I am reminded that the only kind of life I want to live is a deliberate one. 

Interview: Rachel's Take on Deliberate Living

Annmarie Rodriguez

This past January, deliberateLIFE hired two interns to work on Event Planning and Content Building. We interviewed them both to gain a deeper insight on how they live deliberately. First, meet Rachel Harril, the Events & Marketing Intern. 

deliberateLIFE: Where did you grow up?

Rachel Harril: I grew up in Los Angeles County in a city called Carson.

dL: What interests you about event planning and marketing?

RH: The level of personal interaction, the prep work, the fast-paced environment and getting to see the joy on peoples' faces when they interact with the brand.

dL: What does deliberate living mean to you? 

RHI think it means to recognize that making small daily choices for yourself and/or your community, will have a lasting impact. Whether that’s changing certain eating habits, buying certain products, or refraining from buying products, living deliberately means paying attention to the story that is behind each choice and to your own influence in that story.

dL: What current deliberate choices are you making?

RHI try to be deliberate in my clothing, coffee, food, and waste management. Most of my clothes come from second-hand stores, or from friends or family members. I’ve eased myself off of large-chain coffee companies and worked toward frequenting the smaller local shops. I’m eating healthily (probably the healthiest I’ve ever eaten) – organic fruits and vegetables, more lean meats, and no fast food. And I’m a lot more conscious of what article of waste goes into which bin (compost vs. recycling vs. trash), rather than throwing everything in the trash. 

dL: In what ways are you hoping to improve your deliberate living in the next four months? 

RH: I want to make some smaller goals – buying a reusable lunch box, for example. I want to create consistency in my food consumption, and continue with the healthier lifestyle that I've initiated. On a larger scale, I want to continually grow in living deliberately in my relationships. In the last few months, I've definitely taken some relationships for granted and not kept lines of communication open the way I should have, so I’m working to rectify that. I also want to build a greater sense of community in my time up here in the Bay area.

dL: What are the main obstacles that have kept you from living a deliberate life? & How have you worked to overcome them? 

RHHonestly, my own laziness has been my biggest challenge. It takes a conscious effort to think about each choice you make, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Sometimes I get in a mood or a state of mind where I don’t feel up to the task. My personal solution to this is to take a step back and to re-focus my perspective. I have to re-ask myself, what is the choice you need to make? Why is this important? What is the impact? It’s when I can stop and ponder these questions that I can shift my perspective back to where it needs to be.

Interview with GoldieBlox Founder

Fay Johnson

When Debbie Sterling was a child, her parents encouraged her to be an actor. Yet, when it came time to apply to college, her high school math teacher suggested Debbie consider engineering. “I thought an engineer was train driver,” she explained, but when she arrived at college she gave Engineering 101 a try. She loved it. Eleven years later, after graduating as one of the few female engineering majors in her class at Stanford, Debbie launched a toy company with the mission to get and keep young girls interested in engineering.

Debbie designed GoldieBlox, a toy/game/book combination that focuses on the character of Goldie, a sprightly, overalls-wearing girl with a tool belt and mismatched socks, who wants to be an engineer. Geared for 5-9-year-olds, the toy teaches spatial recognition skills via the toys and a companion storybook and game board.

Our Editor-in-Chief, Fay Johnson, had a chance to speak with Debbie at her office in Oakland about following her passion, why the world needs more female engineers, and how you can help.