Discovering Maleonn

iStock_000002304708Small-lensMaleonn is a Shanghai based artist whose work I encountered for the first time last week. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I was introduced to it by this online article in the Guardian.

In 2012 he carried out a “Studio Mobile” project. He spent months preparing sets and costumes for use by those who would have their portraits taken, and then visited hundreds of provinces taking over 200,000 photographs of people who had asked to be part of the project.

The painstaking preparatory work, creating the costumes and the setting for these moments of fantasy and humour inspired me, and the importance of fantasy and art in everyday life seems validated by the huge response from people all over China.

I am fascinated by the photographs and by the process.

Join the conversation: How do you respond to Maleonn’s work?

Reading When Writing Ebbs


In the last few days I’ve been glad to see posts from other writers on the process of finding it hard to write and working it through. This happens for me too. It often happens after things are going well, when I’ve begun to feel like I am getting an idea of how writing might work for me.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote about Feeling What We’re Avoiding  and Jen Loudon asked Do You Have To Burn Out? Both posts comforted me as I negotiated the latest ebb in my writing flow.

One of the things I realized after reading them was that I was getting a bit pushy with myself about what I would post here. Today it feels like maybe it’s time for a stroll through the everyday rather than a forced march along the edge.

March 6th was Reading Aloud Day. I love reading aloud. My mother read Black Beauty and Heidi to me, and my grandmother read dozens of fairy tale books aloud before I was five, so my love started early. I once convinced classmates to take a day and read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men , the classic by James Agee and Walker Evans, aloud. We read to each other for about ten hours, handing off the book when our voices tired. It was an intense experience. Now I wonder if I would have been able to read the whole thing by myself. Later I read Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient aloud to myself for the beauty of the language. Now I often read passages from books aloud.

When I experience a writing ebb I read even more than usual. Mysteries have taken me out of the everyday and into a new set of puzzles since I first discovered Agatha Christie as a twelve year old. Today, I am a fan of Jacqueline Winspear’s mysteries about Maisie Dobbs.  Maisie is a fascinating character who begins as an English house maid, becomes a World War I nurse, and transitions to detective. The era is rich with themes that resonate with our own age of profound changes.

I am fascinated by the period from just before World War I thru World War II so I was delighted to find Charles Todd, a mother-son writing team, who have written a slew of good mysteries set in that era. I started with the Bess Crawford mysteries because Bess is a World War I nurse too. The first of the series is  A Duty to the Dead.

Another group of mysteries set in this period, this time in India during the last days of the British Raj, are by Barbara Cleverly. The Last Kashmiri Rose introduces Joe Sandilands, late of the Western Front, now in India. Cleverly also has a series that has an echo of Agatha Christie’s real life. In The Tomb of Zeus  she introduces Laetitia Talbot, a young English woman who wants to become an archaeologist. Set on Crete in 1928, the book gives us a view of the world between the wars from another part of the world .

It’s still raining in Vancouver; great weather for a mystery and a cup of tea.

Join the conversation: Do you ever read aloud? What are your read-aloud favourites? What are your mystery picks?


Wishes Like Horses

horses run

There’s an old English proverb:

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

That wishes (dreams) are like horses that can carry us forward is something I discovered when I made my first “Wish List” in 1976. I listed things I wanted and noticed that if I put something on the list I ended up with it in my life. Maybe not right away, and maybe not in the form I’d originally asked for, but as long as I continued to wish for it, it came.

The wish list helped me focus my attention on what I wanted so I was on the lookout for opportunity in a way I hadn’t been before. Making the wish helped me clarify what I wanted. Wishing helped move me to action.

I’ve come to see goals as wishes I’ve clarified and developed through review and assessment, and I recalled the proverb as I worked on my review of last year and began to think about what I wanted this year.

I work with Your Best Year Yet by Jinny Ditzler to review my year and set goals for the coming year. Because I’ve used this process for over a decade, I can review past goals to see what’s constant and what arises and flows through. I reread parts of the book each year because it deepens my understanding of the questions and puts the whole review process in a positive framework.

Questions I use from Your Best Year Yet:

  • What did I accomplish?
  • What were my biggest disappointments?
  • What have I learned?
  • How do I limit myself?
  • In what areas am I not achieving what I want?
  • What do I say about myself to explain these failures?
  • What new paradigm statement will support movement toward the life I want?
  • What are my core values?
  • What are 6 to 8 key roles?
  • What role do I choose for my major focus for the coming year?

In an earlier post I wrote about a simple year-end review process that uses just three questions:

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t?
  • What would I change?

Once the review process is complete Best Year Yet asks you to consider:

  • What are my top goals for each role?
  • Choosing from the goals you outlined for roles, what are my top 10 goals for the year?

Rather than focusing on roles, Danielle LaPorte looks at life areas:

  • Life-Livelihood
  • Health
  • Creativity
  • Relationships
  • Spirit

This year I drafted goals for both roles and areas before I began to choose my top goals for this year. For example, even though accomplishments/disappointments and what worked/what didn’t work are similar, I find the answers different so I answered both sets of questions.

Other Influences on my process this year:

Morning Pages

Since I began doing daily morning pages in 2010, my old journal practice changed and became more sporadic; most of what I was journalling about ended up in Morning Pages.


I’d done some journal entries early last year and switched to a weekly format, but stopped in February. When I began to review the year I found I wanted to complete monthly entries for March through December before I did my review of the year and set goals. I used my agenda, referring to Morning Pages where needed, and did a “highlights” of the week entry that included photos, ticket stubs, program notes and books that were influencing me.

This took longer than I expected, but was a satisfying exercise.

Danielle LaPorte

Danielle’s rethink of the whole goal setting process in her new Desire Map program took me in a new direction. I haven’t purchased the program yet, but the information she has shared on her blog and in interviews has been helpful already. Danielle realized that connecting with how she wanted to feel moved her more than goals. She found that her Core Desired Feelings were a truer compass than the goals; that accomplishing the goals were not true endpoints. The Core Desired Feelings (CDFs) were what she truly wanted.

I reflected on this as I made my way through my weekly journal summaries and decided I wanted to include Core Desired Feelings as part of my process.

My Core Desired Feelings:

  • Loving
  • Loved
  • Creative
  • Able
  • Present

This made me ask, what activities and conditions give rise to my core desired feelings?

 How many goals are workable?

When I think about how many goals I can commit to each year I take into account how things went the previous year (what took more time and/or more effort than anticipated), and see if there are there still “live” items from last year.

In September I wrote about finding power for a strong finish in relation to achieving your goals for the year. There were four out of nine goals that I hadn’t yet achieved. They were:

  • Completing Story is a State of Mind Sarah Selecky’s writing course
  • Completing the first draft of my novel
  • Publishing an article or story
  • Restarting my exercise routine

I wasn’t able to complete them in 2012. Two of them I can simply transfer to my 2013 list: complete the first draft of the novel and complete Story is a State of Mind.The other two I will revise: discover how to share my fiction, poetry and essays and maintain my exercise routine.

I like Danielle’s five areas because, for me, they are bigger than the role-based approach. Often my role-related goals spring from “should-dos” rather than being more deeply connected to what my soul is calling me to do. It’s also easier for me to keep the list manageable.

When I began doing regular yearly goal setting I did a Top Ten list, but now I tend to work with five to eight goals. It’s finding the balance between challenging and overwhelming, between stretch and stasis. Which goals, if accomplished, will make a real difference to you? Try those even if there are only three or four.

As I wrote this I realized that this post reflects my creative process. I like lots of things to sort through. I am intrigued by the complex but love essence. I start with more and distill to essence. As I choose what to keep and what to discard I learn more about myself. This messy approach may not work for you;, but in case you love more information, I’ve included links to some of the blogs that I’ve found interesting that discussed this whole end-of-year review and intention setting cycle.

Meadow DeVor 13Things for 2013 (an anti-New Year’s resolutions list)

Jennifer Loudon Urges us to take all of January to reflect and develop our intentions for the year.

Lissa Rankin uses two posts to take us through the past year, looking at what worked in part one, and what didn’t in part two

Chris Gullibeau uses several posts each year to do a review of the year. The first is an overview (more what worked, what didn’t) and the second looks forward

May you be inspired to find the wishes that are horses you can ride to your most successful year. Blessings for the journey.

Join the discussion: How do you set goals, if you do? How do you work without goals, if you don’t set them?


Three Steps Toward Success in 2013

As we count the days to year-end there are three things you can do to prepare yourself for success in 2013 and they might even help you clear the way for more holiday enjoyment.

1. Finish everything you can on your unfinished list

I tend to put more on my “do list” than is realistic, so I often end up with a number of things that aren’t complete, or that haven’t been started when I get to the end of the year.

The first step is making a list of all the things that you started but didn’t finish, or things you meant to get to, but didn’t even start.

Sometimes what’s unfinished or not started is undone for a very good reason:

  • Once you started you realized you didn’t really want to do it
  • Given all that you have done and need to do you just haven’t got the resources you need
  • You have changed and your priorities and desires have changed too, leading to other tasks or goals becoming priorities
  • You realized this wasn’t a goal or project that would contribute to your happiness or to deepening your engagement, experience, or learning
  • You no longer want to do it

Cross the “good reason” items off your list and then take a look at what’s left. These should all be items that you still want to finish or start.

If there are any you haven’t started yet transfer them to your draft 2013 list for consideration later, when you do your 2013 list.

Are there any items on the unfinished list that you could finish by investing less than two hours of your time? If so, consider making an appointment with yourself to make sure you do. Every item that you finish will release more energy for your use as you go forward and add to your sense of accomplishment and confidence.

 2. Clear out and clean up to make way for the new.

Aargh! How does all this paper and all this stuff accumulate when you aren’t looking? Now’s a good time to take just thirty minutes a day to clear out and clean up.

Areas that will repay your work:

  • Work space: desk drawers, files, business cards.
  • Closets: hall, clothes, bathroom
  • Kitchen: spices, condiments, fridge & freezer, food cupboards (clear all items that are past their due/use date)

If you can clear and clean and make way for the new your whole space will feel energized and loved.

3. Let go of what you no longer need.

It’s been a full year. Lots of learning; lots of change and many things that may have been needed or relevant at the beginning of the year are now simply taking up space. Some of these items may be physical, but the items that will really bring you more spaciousness are the habitual responses, habits of mind and ideas that are no longer serving you. A short checklist to review for items to let go of:

  • Old ideas of you and what you can do
  • Habitual responses to change or the new
  • Your standard response to a call for a contribution from you
  • Your standard response to a compliment
  • Your list of what you can’t do
  • Your answer to the question “what I need to let go of to achieve my dreams”

 Some ways to make the letting go feel real:

  • Write the item on a piece of paper and put it through the shredder
  • Draw the item and then burn the drawing
  • Hold a fizzy tablet (Alka Seltzer, bath bomb, etc.) and while meditating on the items and imagining them going into the tablet. When you are ready, drop the tablet into water and watch it till it fully dissolves; then pour the water down the drain.
  • Take a shower and imagine you are washing it away.
  • Walk in the ocean and give it to the waves

Finishing, cleaning and clearing, and letting go: preparation for success and for setting goals for 2013.

Join the conversation? What do you do to make space for new life?

Discover Your Themes

April 1968, that’s when I mailed out over one hundred photocopied pamphlets of my poetry, Ensemble: The Gratuitous Act . I mailed it to a list of people that included pop stars, poets, philosophers, actors, writers and friends. In October 2012, more than forty-four years later, I can’t recall why I included some of the names on the list. And there’s a bit of a cringe factor; I am profoundly grateful the internet wasn’t available for decades. Still, it was a first poetic effort, and as much as I shake my head at some of them, I feel enormous affection for that romantic, blithe spirit on the verge of womanhood.

Here’s a poem for now made from some lines from then.

Reading early poems

After more than forty years,

Still writing for those concerned with life, with love;

Still offering poems freely, as a gift;

Still wanting to taste, savour and enjoy each moment to the full;

Still subject to the restless, gusty winds of mind’s night;

Still listening for my own song rising from deep within;

Still know love, dying, can find resurrection in another’s face;

Still know feeling has power beyond the passing day’s ability to define;

Still marvel at that love holds the key to unlock treasure in each moment;

Still see love doesn’t shield us from life’s woes, only makes them more bearable;

Still spellbound by the glory of each soul’s light.

Reviewing early work; finding life themes

I’ve kept journals and written scraps of poetry, story and memoir for a long time. A friend recently asked me to share some early poetry as we worked through more current work.

It was a great request. Something interesting happens when you reread writing put away for longer periods. You are sometimes able to rediscover the one who wrote then and gain the brilliance of hindsight.

Send some loving kindness

Before you begin to read, remember what was going on in your life. Look at old photos. Remember family, friends, your view of the past and hopes for the future. Surround that early writer with wishes for happiness and well being. From here and now, appreciate the contribution of the past. Forgive, if forgiveness is needed. Now reading with a kind eye, look for:

  • What was alive in you then that still sustains you?
  • What has disappeared that you want to mourn?
  • What do you want to celebrate and name as a theme? Why?
  • What was a challenge then that still challenges you now?
  • How has your understanding of the challenge changed?
  • What were you learning then?
  • What advice or encouragement do you have for yourself then?
  • What are you learning now?
  • Does your earlier self have any advice for you now?

Join the conversation: How do you discover the themes or questions that you carry through your life? What do you discover when you review earlier work?

When You Don’t Know What You Want

• Beginning with the end in mind,

• End point visualization,

• Vision.

These essentials of planning, goal setting, and project design depend on being able to say what you want, and there’s the rub. What if you don’t know what you really, really want?

Choice is an issue

When there are only a few choices it’s easier to commit. When you can see dozens of possibilities with more showing up all the time, it can create a stall and retreat scenario.

Tools for tracking what you want (vision hunting tips)

1. Be aware of when you are happy. Happiness provides a marker. Make a note, write it down when you feel it, or write about the moments of happiness at the end of each day.

2. Metta, or loving kindness, is a Theravadan meditation practice, and often begins with the phrases, “May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free of suffering.” Acknowledging and affirming these basic human desires, for happiness, peace, and freedom from suffering, grounds us, let’s us sigh and settle into ourselves and helps to concentrate the mind.

When I ask, “what do I want” from this place, one that feels deeper in my heart, and quieter, the answers I receive are more concrete and immediate, and the actions I need to take are close to me.

3. Have patience with the process. Various answers may float to the surface as you hold the question in your heart. “What do I really want?” As answers come to you, ask, “Is this it?” When you feel it’s a yes, write it down.

If you have a friend or a partner you may want to work on this together. First decide who will ask and who will respond. Then one person asks the question, “What do you want?” and records the responder’s answers in the responder’s notebook. Do this for at least five minutes.

As a further step you can ask your partner to slowly read your responses back to you. Listen to each one and let it sink in. When you are done, take a moment and circle or highlight the answers that most struck you when you heard them. Then perform the same questioning and reading service for you partner.

After you have both had a turn, share what struck you most, or how you felt when being asked “What do you want?”, or what came up as you heard your answers.

The answers you received are like those dried sponge animals that you drop into water to see fully. Right now they are dry. To “water” an answer, reflect on it over several days and write about it in your journal. Once you have done this with the answers that had the most meaning for you, it’s likely you will know what you want, what you really, really want.

Join the conversation: Is it easy or hard for you to know what you want? How do you find out what you really want?


Value-Based Leadership: Making the Invisible, Visible

You teach company values during orientation and when providing performance reviews, and the marketing department has given you a set of value posters for your office wall, but do you know how to make them come alive in your own life? If you don’t, it’s going to be an uphill run to help others in the organization bring values to their operations.

Values are part of the invisible world that creates worth for stakeholders. The clearer they are and the more you work with them, the easier it gets to measure their impact and see them embodied in day-to-day activity.

10 ways to move a value off the office wall and into your life.

  • Reflect on what the value means to you in writing.
  • Identify someone who you feel embodies the value in their day-to-day work and talk with them about this.
  • Identify someone in your industry or field that embodies the value. Interview them about this and develop an article.
  • Describe what happens when the value isn’t present.
  • Identify actions which embody the value, and discover how you could add them to your work day.
  • Keep a values journal and note when you experience the value. Describe the situation, what happened, any action you took, and how you felt.
  • Once you’ve made progress with bringing the value to life, talk to five people who you work with, explain you’ve been working on the value, and ask them for feedback about your connection with/embodiment of the value.
  • Ask someone who you feel really understands the value to mentor you on embodying it.
  • Identify a situation that needs more of the value, check to see if those in the situation agree, and then work with them to develop it.
  • Write an article on the value or ask to speak about it at a meeting.

If you begin by increasing your own awareness of the value, and then work to put it into action, you provide leadership, and become a model that makes the invisible, visible.

Join the conversation: How have you gone about embodying a value? What practices have helped you bring from the invisible to the visible world?

Finding Treasure

Probably the last place you’d think to look for treasure is in the pages of your calendar, but there could be insights waiting for you there.

Recruiters know that past performance is usually the best indication of what will happen in the future (that’s why they’re always asking you to “tell me about a time when . . . “), so it’s a good idea to become more familiar with what you’ve done; to be able to talk about your work and your life with some objectivity and perspective.

It can help you find your own jewels of insight.

Goal setting and planning processes often start by asking you to review the previous period. In business the period could be the previous day, week, month, quarter or fiscal year. If you are in a more personal mode, think about what started this “period”.

Think like a biographer: Picasso had a Blue Period, Winston Churchill had The War Years, your mother had before kids/after kids, Dylan had acoustic/electric.

Being able to look back on your day, plan your week, and get a sense of how you are doing based on your own measures can be helpful for creative types as well as those in more traditional businesses.

You will need:

A notebook or paper and pen

Your calendar, datebook, or journal

Several hours

Before you start

Decide on the period for the first review

A quarter (three months), six months or a year or some other period that is most appropriate for this planning session.

For example, if your situation has been the same for some time choosing the previous, 3 to 12 months might work well.

If you’ve just been through a transition, for instance just graduated or retired, had your first child, or come back from a long trip you might want to look at the whole period that preceded the transition, or the most appropriate period for you could be related to health, to emotions, or to a major creative project.

Goals, dreams or wishes for the period you will review

If you had some goals for the period, whether formal or informal, it’s good to have a list. If you didn’t have goals, can you remember what you wanted?

Ideas to consider as you begin

Considering the questions below can help you uncover the connections between what you have now and what you hoped to have.

  • Happiness/Disappointment

When were you happy during the previous period?

What things disappointed you?

Is there anything you do every day that connects with what made you happy?

Is your source of happiness connected to the goals you set? (If not, why not?)

What contributed to your unhappiness?

  • Resources

Look at the resources that you found most useful. What helped and supported you? What spurred growth and challenged you? Where did you learn? What resources do you maintain or use that aren’t contributing much? How’s your network of friends, colleagues and champions?

  • Contribution

Where do you feel you made the most important contribution?

  • Luck/Plans

When did you feel lucky? What happened with plans? What happened without plans?

  • Vision

Did you have a vision?

Did you have an idea of the endpoint?

How did that go?

  • Heart’s Desire

What’s tucked away in your heart for later?

  • Process/Cycles/Tracking/Measures

How did you know you were on or off track for success?

  • Obstacles/Strategy

What obstacles did you know you faced? Did you have a plan? How did it work?

What came up that you didn’t expect?

  • Acknowledgement

How did you respond to achieving a goal?

How did you respond when it wasn’t working?

What do you want to acknowledge about yourself or your effort?

What do you want to acknowledge about others?

  • Resources

What kinds of resources did you use?

What resources were available to you?

Where you able to maintain your resources?

Did you develop any new resources?

What resources aren’t worth maintaining?

How do you show appreciation for resources?

Using your treasures; marking the holes

Once you’ve worked through the questions go through your notes and mark your treasures, things you want to celebrate or integrate into the plans you’re making now.

Then go through and mark the holes, the information about obstacles, mistakes, omissions, the things that got in the way during the previous period. These are sometimes even more valuable for future plans.

As you begin to set or refine goals for the next period use your buried treasure and the holes you discovered to bring depth and context to your strategy.

Using a log

I’ve been using a creative log and find tracking my creative work each day a motivator. This way I can’t drift through a day or two without realizing I haven’t done any creative work. Because my week is focused more on producing work than meeting with others I can use a simple format: Just the date and the creative work I did that day.

Join the conversation: How do you track your ideas/projects/goals? Do you set aside time to work on goals? Do you have goals? If you don’t like goals, I’d love to know what keeps you from using them.

What Matters Most

What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life by James Hollis, Ph.D. what_matters_most

On Friday, October 16th James Hollis was in Vancouver lecturing for the Jung Society. He has great questions; the kind that lead you deeper and expand your thinking. He began by telling us that reclaiming personal authority was the task of the second half of life and went on to ask, “What’s your philosophy of discrepancy?”

By that I took him to mean, how do you explain the differences? The differences between where you are and where you thought you’d be? The differences between what happens and what you expected? The differences between what you wanted and what you have? He went on to talk about the importance of self-acceptance and the challenge of finding a way to continue to open to your life so that you can keep your appointment with destiny.

The large audience at Christ Church Cathedral was rapt and involved. A group of us showed up at the Museum of Vancouver the following day to hear more and came away with a better understanding of the importance myth and the need to get to the heart of the archetypal stories that come into play in our daily lives. A considered life brings layers of richness and resonance so that, in the end, our home is our journey and the journey becomes our home.

If you weren’t able to be there, his book covers the material he spoke to in the lectures. It will give you lots to ponder.

Mentoring – Connect to Success

Portrait of smiling businesswomenLast January I became a mentor for Connect to Success, the Vancouver YWCA program that serves women who are entering or re-entering the workforce in a professional or skilled field, or who are underemployed and looking for more meaningful employment.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process and look forward to being a mentor again.

If you know someone who would benefit from the program, mentee information sessions for this season are Tuesday September 15th from 10:00 to 11:00 am, Monday, September 28th from 2:00 to 3:00 pm, and Wednesday, October 14th from 10:00 to 11:00 am. The sessions will be held at the YWCA Vancouver, 535 Hornby St., Vancouver (4th Floor). Pre-registration is required, so interested mentees are asked to connect to the program at or call 604-895-5858 for more information.

Mentors are professional women from a variety of fields (business, education, health, science, arts, social science and more) who meet with their mentee each month to share insights and experience, helping them transition into and succeed in the workforce. Matches last from 3 to 6 months with an average time commitment of 3 to 6 hours per month (includes in-person meetings, phone calls, and emails).

If you are interested in being a mentor you can find out more at or call Darcie Gabruck, Program Manager at 604-895-5857.