Gettin’ Gritty

My path to creative mastery WEEK 5

Captain’s log.

This is #5 out of the 52 weeks I will document my efforts of tap-dancing my way to mastering the creative process. (And all of the micro-skills that go with it!)

photo by Kristine Cofsky

The week was as creative as usual, but I also had more than a few moments of feeling overwhelmed. That darned 5 count riffle. Sooo close, but I just couldn’t nail it 10 for 10.

No crushing the 5 count riffle this week.

Instead of the usual feeling of inspiration by Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger videos, I felt discouraged. How will I ever get THAT good?

How am I going to keep consistent with this blog while I’m touring my theatre show and living out of my van this summer?

This was taken just outside of Spences Bridge in BC. En route home from the Edmonton Fringe Festival 2017.

How in the heck am I going to remain consistent with training? Tap on the side of the road? Tap on a rock by the river? My friend Steph said; “Well there will be tap-dancing in your show, right?” Right.

Come back to the task at hand Candy.

I spent hours over the course of this week in that uncomfortable state of deliberate practice. That sensation of always being just a little bit behind. I know, I know… It’s about getting comfortable in being uncomfortable. Isn’t that what I’m always preaching in the clown work? Learning to find comfort with vulnerability, with the unknown, with failure.

I’m working hard. My head is down my feet are shuffling. Shuffling shuffling.. A one and a two and a riffle, brush, step-toe-heel. Faster. Clearer, Don’t make that concentration face. Why are your arms flopping about?

You know what though? I got grit.

(not that kind of grit)

Grit-guru Angela Duckworth calls it “A firmness of character; an indomitable spirit”.

Yes ma’am.

Grit is described as a non-cognitive character trait that drives one to endure. It holds within it the motivation to overcome the obstacles or challenges that lie in the path to accomplishment. It’s perseverance, tenacity, stick-to-itiveness, determination, resolution and resilience in relation to long term goals.

Resilience is said to be a dynamic combination of optimism, creativity and accomplishment. In their book; Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back –by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy, they say that grit or “hardiness” is composed of 3 tenants:

  • the belief one can find meaningful purpose in life (I do!)
  • the belief that one can influence one’s surroundings and the outcome of events (I do!)
  • the belief that positive and negative experiences will lead to learning and growth (I do)

It’s official, girl’s got grit!

“everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.” – another one of those quotable quotes made famous by a famous person but probably came from some ancient proverb from some old country.

The supremely Gritty embrace failure as part of a process along with the vulnerability that comes with it. The Gritty don’t seek perfection, but instead strive for excellence. Excellence is an attitude. It is an approach, a means and not the end itself. It is seeking, striving, finding, and never yielding.

“Better to be prolific than perfect” (doesn’t that feel relaxing?)

.. although this seems pretty perfect.. Wow!

Here are 4 insights I received in this 5th week of my process.

1. Rest

It’s important to have conscious and intentional rest periods. It is the integration period. I need to stretch properly and care for my body. And also dang it, my body was so sore. My right hip and quadricep were aching and worrying me. What if I have to give up because fear makes me injure and sabotage myself? I acknowledged that fearful thought. Experienced it as a sensation in my body and let it move on.

2. Don’t think about everything at once 

Just focus on the task at hand. This week I started a plan of writing down the specifics of what I would work on before each training session. I even did this at night in preparation for the next day.

3. Acknowledge the Successes

I had figured I could learn the 5 count riffle in one session. As it turns out, after a week, I still couldn’t clearly execute it. Maybe next week.

Instead of wallowing in the failure that I didn’t master that one technique, I gave myself a different challenging combination to work on. A victory. I think those victories are important.

I read somewhere this week to try acknowledging 3 successful events of each day. Here is today:

  • I started writing a new clown piece for one of my characters. (And just found out a proposal for this new show was accepted into a festival! Gah…fear acknowledged. I can do this!)
  • I went to a clown conditioning session with my professional peers even though I felt resistant. That was very SMART of me. Why wouldn’t I want to meet up with some of my favourite people and through group playing, explore the intricacies of what it is to be present and engaged with an audience (each other)? Basically it’s a laughing class. Loosen up the diaphragm people!
  • I started and will finish this article, even though for some reason I really wanted to distract myself by working on something else, anything else.

4. Having a Morning Routine pays off

Winnie has a morning routine that lasts all day.

I am dedicated to this. I vowed to do this EVERY SINGLE day of February. My morning routine is simple and doesn’t have to take a long time. It consists of 3 commitments:

  • Meditation- Basic of basic meditations. 15 minutes of no thinking. If I am experiencing negative emotions then I acknowledge, witness and release them. If I notice I’m thinking, I acknowledge, witness and release. That’s it.
  • 50 squats, and 50 core strengthening exercises. (Before coffee. No self help article in the world can make me give up coffee. Coffee is my friend and we will be together until we aren’t.)
  • Strategic journaling- I journal for about 15 minutes. This involves recalling any dreams, writing about big picture goals and dreams, recording any insights or thoughts or events that felt significant and then looking at the day ahead and what I want to accomplish.

I used to spend so much time processing in my journal and writing down all of the terrible and uncomfortable emotions I was in the throes of. I recently found that this wasn’t helpful to me anymore. I wasn’t actually “letting go” of what was being triggered in me, but only stirring up the distressing feelings and empowering the crazy-making.

I’ve found that the best way to let go of a negative emotion triggered by a thought or action is to simply:

  1. Acknowledge the negative emotion
  2. Separate the thought from the physical sensations
  3. Observe the physical sensation
  4. Imagine what the opposite of this negative emotion might be
  5. Acknowledge a willingness to let go of the resistance to feeling that positive emotion

I learned this technique from a book called “Letting Go, The Pathway of Surrender” by David R. Hawkins. This book was revolutionary to me.

There has been an aspect to my “love” relationship that was causing me a lot of grief, anger and fear. My partner’s actions, though causing me no direct harm, were triggering a lot of uncomfortable sensations in my body.

I discovered that these negative and uncomfortable emotions where ALREADY in my body, left from childhood trauma and past hurts. It is present day situations that can trigger these sensations to rise to the surface.

By following this “letting go” technique, I was able to clear this stored negative emotion from my body. Not to say that there won’t be any more pain found from future triggers, but I am ready and willing to witness and relinquish them.

This weeks 8 hours of deliberate practice brings me down to 9,464 hours to go! (In case you haven’t read any of my other blogs, I’ll say here, that I have a positive expectation that I will reach a level of excellence that does not take 10,000 hours. But for now, It’s a ridiculous and fun countdown. Perhaps next week I’ll share some of the mastery hacks I’ve been learning.)

Here is to week 5!


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