I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately.
Creative freedom is one of those big things.
Do you censor yourself? Are you creatively free?
Do you feel like speaking up or telling your truth would be too alienating, displeasing to people around you, unpopular, unwanted or even forbidden by people you love?
Ultimately, if you aren’t yourself, if you aren’t self-expressed, you’ll always feel that block.
Opening up to creative freedom can be its own practical magic.
What will people think of me if…..?
What will people think of me when…?
What will they say…?
What will they do…?
This is one of the biggest blocks to us being ourselves, and it starts early.
Belonging is a basic need that Maslow expressed in his famous pyramid of self-actualization. People who became in life all that they could be needed also to feel a sense of belonging.
I spend a lot of myself and my life feeling that I didn’t belong. I tried really hard from as early as I could remember. I had a perm that was popular. I became a cheerleader so I would be like everyone else, even though I sucked and had to practice for hours every day to even keep up.
Did you? Do you? How far do you go to fit in?
It’s funny to see all the ways I tried, until I realized I just couldn’t deal with it.
My ideas were too weird, my references in the world were too bizarre for people around me, my stories were not the stories that people told at parties. I was silent, I felt small, I was always trying to disappear.
I learned from a young age to tell my stories and use my voice at times that mattered most: academically. On paper. Typing. Writing. In essays only my teachers would read. In private short stories. I wrote, I came alive, and I wanted to use my voice only in places I felt that the audience was controlled.
It’s no wonder that I couldn’t become the writer I was. A book I wrote about my year after college, an enormous down spiral from Stanford to oblivion, started to get passed around in New York. I was brave enough to finally not care what anyone thought of me. I couldn’t think of a better thing to do with a year of my life. I wrote for six or seven hours a day, high on liters of Dunkin Donuts iced hazelnut coffee and real cream. And, the feedback was thrilling: it looked like I was ready to finally be a novelist at 22.
My father read his copy that I had spiral-bound for him during a visit to his house on a golf course in the desert. “I think you’re bipolar,” was what he felt about it.
It cut so deep I was flooded with a terror, what people would think of me, all over again.
I fought back and told him how producers, directors… even an English professor at a major university had apparently thought it was a real book, a book worth people reading…
I was fighting the wrong battle though. I wish I didn’t try to convince someone- especially him-to support me. The more I tried, the more I realized I was beat.
I dropped the book. And my aspiration. And me.
The years after that book went cold (I never took it a step further) were some of the most disconnected, lost, empty. I was in the background every day.
Creative freedom, I know, is a great privilege even though it seems it would be a basic right for all. Some people can’t be free to be who they are and that thought can bring me to tears instantly. They can’t speak up, they can’t move freely, they can’t even dress as they wish, they can’t freely even love who they love… My greatest personal wish is that everyone has the right to be themselves, and to see how that isn’t even lawful for everyone yet, in an age where we can do things like walk around with tiny powerful computers in our hands and solve the most complex technical problems, is devastating.
The more my eyes opened to this harsh reality, the more I realized I had a freedom, a gift, that I didn’t even use.
It took me years to see that what people thought of me can’t matter.
It took me years of losing sight of who I was and where I’m from and what makes me tick— my Tao- to see that this enormous privilege of being able to be who I was— a huge gift and blessing— was being wasted on wanting to make sure everyone was happy.
A personal memoir I spent a full year working on, a blazing truth from my perspective at the time, went up in flames.
It wasn’t just the story that mattered— it was me that mattered.
When my dad died suddenly a year later, I found that book in the box of his stuff that I was given to sift through. It’s still on my bookshelf. It’s my reminder to never let dreams go up in other people’s flames. He wouldn’t have even been alive to see it published, and I stopped in my tracks because of those words.
He had every right to say whatever he wanted.
I didn’t have to let his opinion steer my life.
It’s a hard lesson. It didn’t stop with him. I did it for other people— went silent, stood in the background, shut up, edited myself— for a long time after.
I didn’t realize I did it — all this editing and settling— until my life started looking like it belonged to someone else.
If you aren’t self expressed, you’ll see it everywhere. Settling. Settling for one and then another thing. It’s not just clutter in your house, it’s a numb sense of clutter everywhere because everything falls flat.
No matter who you are or what you do, you are creative. You have a voice. And, that voice matters.
Use that voice.
Don’t censor your life choices to please everyone except for yourself, and, simultaneously expect to feel incredibly alive and free and all you can be.
I tried that. I’ve seen other people try it.
It’s really hard to not be yourself and be your best self at the same time, you know?
Remember who you are and don’t leave yourself out of the equation.
Those choices that are in the service of your soul are the ones that burn so bright, they’re undeniable. They’ll move you, they’ll move mountains, they’ll open doors.
I wanted so much to protect an “image” of myself that I would up lost, diluted, a speck of myself. I was always stressed. It took so much energy to be what everyone else expected, knew and wanted.
I didn’t have to change myself to change this.
I’m pretty sure you don’t, either.
Even the smallest choices that are more in sync with your soul can move you out into the world in brighter ways. Your environment will reflect all that energy. You’ll get back more resonance, confirmation that you’re on the right track. You’ll see more of what you want to experience.
It’s one of the reasons I think Law of Attraction didn’t really work a lot of the time for me— aiming for other people’s visions, goals and thoughts of what I “should” have isn’t ever going to be “magical.”
What would happen if you decided to aim for what you deeply want to create, spoke it in your language and voiced it without hesitation, owning that vision.
I bet you won’t need any special process to imagine . It’s already so visceral. And, it will be so powerfully connected to you, it’s inimitable.
It’s all creative freedom.
It’s a gift worth using.
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