Secret #12: Planning to Achieve Your Goals


The final chapter of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women focuses on goal setting and action steps.  After three months of exploring the creative process with Jamie Ridler’s Next Chapter book blogging group, it’s important to also have a plan for making it all real.  Right now, my big goal is to have my book proposal completed by the end of May (which is now next month – yikes!).  I’ve been working with my book coach for quite some time and I feel like I’m starting to make some significant progress.  YAY!

I like to see my goals on one-sheet of paper and the anal part of me likes to check things off once I complete them!  So, I created a Quarterly Goals Sheet template that I fill out and post on my bulletin board above my desk.  It’s a great way for me to track how I’m doing against my vision.  For some tasks, I will also fill out a more detailed Action Plan template so that I can get really clear on the specific steps, resources needed and (since I’m a pressure-prompted worker) timing.

When I’m overwhelmed with a really big project, I often times will just put up tasks on post-it notes and organize the plan from there.  I love how visual and free-form this method is.  Other times, I’ll just write a letter to myself from the future to inspire me to take the steps needed to make my goal manifest. For other creative planning ideas, check out my Wishstudio Blogzine Musepreneur column on some right-brain approaches to business planning.

I’ve enjoyed re-reading the 12 Secrets in community with other women.  This process of exploring and sharing has helped to deepen my understanding and practices of the 12 secrets in new, exciting ways.   I’ve absolutely loved meeting so many inspiring, creative women through the Next Chapter book blogging group!  And I look forward to the next book selection which Jamie announced on today’s celebration call.  If you missed it, you can listen to the call here.

Also, on the celebration call, Jamie announced the launch of “Your Creative Spark: Inspiring Interviews with 12 Highly Creative Bloggers” (I’m one of the interviewees!).  I just downloaded my copy and am loving all the juicy creative goodness!  Click here for more details on Your Creative Spark.


Secret #11: Subtracting Serenity Stealers

Breath, Spaciousness, Groundedness
Values card for: Breath, Spaciousness, Groundedness

It’s tax time and my husband spent an hour rummaging through our storage crawl space to help me track down a statement from almost nine years ago for our accountant.  Clutter and disorganization definitely bring me down and today’s antics were such a reminder of that!

What I realized in reading this week’s chapter of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women is some of the same things that are strengths in my creative process can also be serenity stealers.  For example, when I’m in the frenzy of my creative flow, I have piles of papers all around me, books and magazines stacked left and right, pens and post-its galore.  I have to be surrounded by my inspiration and all my iterations.  However, the physical chaos can be quite an energy drain, especially when I’m winding down on a project.

Related to that, during these creative spurts, I tend to have light-bulb moments in the evening and then stay up until the wee hours of the morning to get it all out of my head.  I seem to work better at night when I have to come up with new material or sort through ideas.  The serenity stealer though is lack of sleep.  And I’m definitely one who needs lots of shut-eye.

Part of my lesson is accepting that this is how I create and to build in recovery time for myself.  I’m pretty good about protecting my schedule because I know I can get overwhelmed very easily.  Also, as a Highly Sensitve Person, I know I need to make sure I have lots of quiet, peaceful time by myself.  That’s why I’m so avid about my self-care Fridays!

Some other steps I’m going to take in the coming months include organizing the storage in our garage to make better use of the space and de-cluttering our home office and my art supplies.

Ahh, I feel better just thinking about the spaciousness and serenity that will bring!  Now, off to bed to get some rest!

Secret #10 Abundance and Positive Priorities


We’re on week 10 of Jamie Ridler’s Next Chapter book blogging group and this week’s secret is Living in Abundance with Positive Priorities.  This is probably one of my favorite chapters of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women because Gail McMeekin encourages us to relish in doing what we love and who wouldn’t love that?!  And my theme for this year is “abundance, ease and organic growth” so it fits right in!

Gail defines Positive Priorities as “life choices that express who we are and what we want for ourselves.”  One of the most important decisions I made to honor my positive priorities was quitting my corporate job.  At the time I thought I was quite prosperous with my six-figure salary and my never-ending wardrobe thanks to my 50% clothing discount.  I was actually fooling myself with material things.  I feel more even more prosperous and abundant now because I’m spending my time in ways that are meaningful and enriching to me.

Some of the ways I’ve been practicing my positive priorities include:

  • Participating in a weekly intuitive painting class with the delightful Chris Zydel.  Yes, it takes a big chunk of my morning AND I know it’s exactly where I need to be giving my creative spirit breathing room.
  • Doing some food craving sessions with the wonderful Kara Sorensen to combat my life-long obsession with sugar (Girl Scout cookie season was definitely an impetus for this!)
  • Going to yoga classes at least three times a week (five times when I’m feeling really good!)
  • Scheduling my housecleaner to come once a month (I’ve learned that it’s so worth the investment so that I can focus on doing what I love and not scrubbing the toilet).
  • Treating myself to a massage every once in awhile.  I had one on Friday and it was heaven.

Gail also encourages us to tap into the power of gratiude.  An attitude of gratitude is so key to prosperity!  Here are a couple of gratitude resources:

All of these goodies defintely get my creative juices flowing.  What are your positive priorities and how do you practice abundance?

Secret #9: Transcending Rejections and Roadblocks


I seemed to have been blocked around Gail McMeekin‘s Secret #9 Transcending Rejections and Roadblocks since I waited two weeks to get to it!  Haha!  I am my own roadblock when I get caught up in my own doubts and fears.  I can forget that I need to take steps to move out of the dark forest of doubt and into the flow of the creative process.  Not only is it a vulnerable act to creatively express ourselves, to expose our emotions and personal thoughts, but on top of that, I can be quite sensitive to criticism or not being understood.

AND, I have so much valuable evidence that inevitably good things happen when I put myself out there.  I learn something, or I meet new people or I somehow make a positive difference, etc.  So, I continue to pick myself up and put one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes when something doesn’t go the way I had hoped, I’ll get thrown off track for awhile.  For example, about four years ago, I participated in a retreat that threw me for a loop.  I hadn’t shown up the way I had wanted to and I was really down on myself.  It actually took about a year for me to fully recover my confidence.  Despite the delay, the lightbulb moment was powerful when I realized that I had moved past that experience.  I had learned what I needed to by continuing to work my edge and I had become stronger in the process.


As I work on my first book proposal, I will keep in mind the journeys of the creative women highlighted in this chapter who persevered through all sorts of challenges.  I love the suggestion of tapping into your warrior energy to move through adversity.  Above is a detail shot of a money collage I did last year.  I will call on this warrior woman’s fierceness for sure!  (And I’ll take her killer abs, too!).

How do you overcome rejections and roadblocks?

Secret #8: Empowering Partnerships and Alliances


This week’s chapter of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women is definitely my growing edge. Secret #8 is about selecting empowering partnerships and alliances.  This, to me, is quite different from tapping into the support and wisdom of my guides.  I love connecting and collaborating with others.  That inspires me and feeds my soul.  What I find scary is diving into an actual business partnership where we are truly co-creating something together, sharing profits, etc. Even if it’s with someone I align with, lots of stuff gets triggered in me like the need to “protect” myself and my “intellectual property.” Feelings of scarcity and comparison can start to surface.  I get that it’s all fear-based because it’s outside of my comfort zone and when there’s money involved that probably just eggs on my saboteurs even more!

I’m also independent, individualistic, introverted and, given that I’m a 4 on the Enneagram, I have a strong need to be unique and different and often feel like no one else understands me.  All of which can be challenges in a partnership!

One of the most empowering partnerships I’ve experienced, though, was with my friend Brighid during the two years that we co-led a leadership retreat together.  That’s us in the photo above on a high-ropes course.  This particular physical activity tends to reveal dynamics at play in a partnership.  The key to getting all the way to the other side is for each partner to lean in 100%.   I’m in the black and white and you might be able to tell that I’m witholding just a bit, which is a typical pattern for me.  What really helped us enrich our partnership overall was lots of open communication, checking out our assumptions early on before they snowballed into drama and knowing we could trust each other to each bring our natural gifts.  The other key was having a shared passion and focus for what we were creating.

While partnerships can take a lot of work, I also know that there is tremendous learning and growth for me and my business when I stretch outside my comfort zone and partner with the right people. And while it can be more vulnerable, it can also be quite fun and fulfilling!

If you’re considering entering into a partnership or alliance with others, it’s really helpful to have a good sense of who you are – your strengths, your idiosyncrasies, your expectations and what you bring to the table.  Gail McMeekin has a pretty in-depth self-assessment in this chapter to help you define your collaboration profile.

Also, here are some resources that I’ve found useful in creating more effective partnerships:

Secret #7: Consulting With Guides


Week 7’s Secret from the 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin is consulting with guides.  In our creative process, we are not alone.  We have creative cohorts who inspire and support us.  These may be people that influenced us when we were younger, like family members or teachers.  They could be current people in your life, like friends, partners, coaches and mentors.  Or they could be people you don’t even know but admire from afar.

I’ve been fortunate to have so many supportive people in my life.  From my high school speech coach who encouraged me to “be big,” to my creative blogging circle of friends who I’ve been connecting with every other week.

I created a visual map to pay homage to my guides – past, present and future.  There are so many people who inspire me that I didn’t finish including all the names, groups, books and experiences that have been important in my life to date.  I look forward to continuing to add on to this piece and summoning the wisdom of this circle of support.

How do you acknowledge and tap into the insights and inspiration of your guides?

Secret #6: Conquering Saboteurs


We’re half-way through the Next Chapter book club! Secret #6 from Gail McMeekin’s “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women” is all about our saboteurs, a.k.a. our inner critic, gremlins, and one of my favorites… the itty-bitty shitty committee (Pardon my French! Oh, yeah and sometimes that committee is not so itty-bitty!).

Gremlins are those voices in our head (or sometimes in real life!) that tell us “You can’t,” “You’re not good enough,” and all those other messages that hold us back. Gremlins like to keep things status quo, so it’s no wonder that they get louder when we’re going after our big dreams!

One of the ways that I find myself getting stuck is actually even more complex than just a singular gremlin. Many times it’s a whole cast of characters creating a cacophony of chaos in my head. These characters are neither good nor bad. They just each have their own particular agenda. Last year, I took a course called the Inside Team from one of my coaching mentors. This model opened up a whole new way of looking at what gets in my way. Most importantly, it gave me tools for helping myself and my clients tease apart the sometimes very subtle internal dynamics of the various voices or inside teamplayers.

For my specific situation, I wrote out all the different things I was hearing in my head. This is best to do when you catch yourself saying, “A part of me wants this but another part of me wants that.” For example, I had a player who was very impatient. When I gave him voice, he would pound his fist and say, “Why aren’t your projects done yet?” But another, more playful part of me just wanted to do work when she was inspired. There was also another part that really got on my case about doing my homework, getting the right research done and figuring out the numbers. Needless to say, none of them were getting along!

Before I got it all down on paper, I just replayed this dialogue in my head over and over again (without even realizing it). And I was left feeling pretty stuck and frustrated. However, once I became aware of how these different players were at odds with each other, I was able to redesign how they interacted with each other in a way that supported me and my goals. I tapped into the wiser part of me to lead my team and to call upon the skills and strengths of each member. For example, even though the impatient player was very loud, he had a talent for keeping this moving things forward, especially if he teamed up with my “project manager” who created more manageable milestones that the more playful part of me could get excited by.

What different voices (gremlin-like, allies or other) do you hear? Which ones are louder and which ones haven’t had much air-time? When you map out the dynamics of your inside team, what becomes clearer? And how can you have your team players work in better partnership with each other toward your goals?

P.S. – Make sure to listen to Andrea Scher’s interview with Jamie. She’s got some great tips on getting past gremlins.

Secret #5: Committing to Self-Focus

We’re on week 5 of the Next Chapter book club and Gail McMeekin’s fifth secret in The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women is committing to self-focus.

Fridays are my self-care days.  I don’t have any meetings.  I don’t do any phone calls.  I have time just for me.

There was a Friday a few weeks ago, when I broke my promise to myself – big time!  My calendar kept getting shuffled around, the rest of the week was pretty packed, so I ended up scheduling back-to-back meetings from 9:30am-5pm.  I rationalized to myself that this was okay.  In fact, the first thing I had put on my calendar a couple months before was a meeting with a professional organizer, Claire Tompkins.  Having focused time to clear the clutter in my office was definitely my idea of a self-care act.

What didn’t help was that I started to fill in every nook and cranny before and after that meeting.  A call to plan an event for a community that I really love.  A visit from a dear friend.  And then a marathon trip to the bookkeeper.  Granted, all the things (besides the bookkeeper, of course), were things that I enjoy and are important to me.  However, I became so oblivious to my self-care day that I even neglected to build in time for me to eat!  Oops.

Later on when Claire checked-in with me for feedback on the organizing session, she also mentioned that I didn’t seem like my normal, positive self.  What she was picking up on, but I didn’t acknowledge until later was that part of me was resentful that I didn’t protect my self-care day. Instead of basking in the rested, inspired and spacious feeling of a normal Friday, I was overwhelmed, rushed and stressed (oh yeah, and very hungry!).

Having time alone is crucial for my mental health and my creative process. I’m usually pretty good about carving out those boundaries.  When I was younger, I remember my mom telling me it was okay to say no to things if I needed to take care of me or something that was important to me.  I appreciate that she did that.

Today on my self-care day I slept in, I’m going to the bookstore later on and I might even allow myself to read some fiction ;)!

How do you commit to self-focus?  What things do you do to practice self-care?

Secret #4: Surrendering to Creative Cycles

I’m writing this post in my PJs from bed while the afternoon sun is shining outside. I guess I could call this a mini-down cycle!  Gail McMeekin’s fourth secret of Highly Creative Women is about surrendering to creative cycles and dealing with the void.  In coaching we call this the dip.  It’s that time when you may be feeling stuck, slowed down, discouraged, vulnerable, sensitive, or perhaps not feeling anything at all because you’ve numbed out.  It’s the low point, the darkness, the spaces in-between, the pause, the quiet.

For me, sometimes these dips can be really bleak and blue, especially when I let the inner critic run the show.  “Um, hello, get off you’re butt, you should be doing more!!!”  “Look at what everybody else is creating, you’re getting behind!”  “You’ll never be that creative or successful again.”

Other times, these dips are much needed respites after intensely creative and hectic periods.  That’s when I just allow myself to rest.  To spend a week not doing much of anything except reading, vegging out and indulging in self-care.  Typically, I’ll be very busy and productive for a month or two straight (with travel, lots of events and projects, etc.) and then the following month will be much more spacious and mellow.  In fact, I’m heading into a more calm month now after a whirlwind past two weeks.  Many times, my body will just tell me to stop and take a break (in fact, I hurt my back in yoga yesterday, so it’s another reason why I’m telling myself to just take it easy).

So, I am enjoying my quiet time this afternoon.  I treated myself to a massage this past Friday and I am looking forward to white space on my calendar.  I know that this break will give me the renewed energy and spark to continue on my creative path.

Secret #3: Following Your Fascinations

I’ve been so busy following my fascinations, that I’m now very behind on my Next Chapter book club and Goddess Circle posts ;)!  Some of the fun fascinations I’ve followed during the past couple of weeks include:

  • A circus yoga class (even though I’m afraid of heights I think it would be so cool to do some aerial acrobatics someday)
  • An intuitive painting class (I met Chris Zydel through twitter and was so excited to discover that she offers workshops right near my house!)
  • a 3-day writer’s retreat in Lake Tahoe
  • Had the first session with the new group that formed for my Inner Muse Group Coaching Playground.  It’s been so inspiring to see what these women are wanting to create in their lives.
  • Leading a book club discussion about vision boards.  We had a great group of women gather together to share ideas and provide support.
  • Giving a talk about goal setting with a creative twist at a Sacramento Ladies Who Launch meeting

One of the things that Gail McMeekin talks about in this chapter is how taking courageous risks helps propel us forward on our creative path.  I didn’t use to think of myself as a risk-taker.  In fact, I’m a pretty cautious person in general.  However, in working with one of my coaches several years ago, she pointed out that yes, indeed I was taking risks and putting myself out there.  And she was right!  My risks range from big things like quitting my corporate job or going on TV (my first time was with less than 24 hours prep-time!) to more day-to-day things like trying a new class by myself or following a creative impulse.  I love how much I learn and grow by taking risks and Risk Taking / Stretching / Putting myself out there / Accomplishment / Excellence is now honored on my list of values.

Gail also talks about how bolstering your staying power can give you the stamina and strength needed to get you through the trials of risk taking.  Here are a few of the things that I do to bolster my staying power:

  • Reminding myself of past accomplishments or how I’ve benefitted from taking risks before
  • Having people in my life who support and encourage me
  • Asking for help
  • Reflecting on positive notes and messages from friends, family and colleagues
  • Taking care of myself
  • Staying connected with my vision, values and intentions