In promotion for her new course, author Elizabeth Gilbert has a quote I love about what living a creative life means. For her, it is “when faced with a fork in the road, you consistently choose the path towards curiosity instead of fear.” I wonder, is this one part of courage? That choice to seek creativity and be curious…
To not stay in a place of fear isn’t always easy. Sometimes we don’t even see that our response is fear-based, or fear-driven. Sometimes we do. As 2016 was drawing to a close, I had a day when my fears were bigger than my curiosity. And I mean significantly bigger.
After a truly magical week with friends in Florence, my heart filled with the emotions of emptiness and fear. I loved heading home to my quiet apartment in the Tuscan countryside. Where did these emotions come from?
Emptiness at leaving the ease of time with good people.
…Of stepping off the train at the other end and no one to meet me.
…And of an unheated apartment as I walked through the door. …But… BUT!
Each of these elements of emptiness were of my choosing. I had chosen to move out of Florence for at least six months. I knew that getting on that train, and getting off, and walking slowly home were the right things to do. It was what I wanted to do.
The joy of strolling along my street to get to my apartment is something I feel each time I turn the corner. The air is sweeter than in the city, the quiet more beautiful, and the sounds of life outside the city more resonant, more calming. The place was all and more than I had imagined when I’d started that chapter as summer ended.
And the fears… they, too, are real, in and of themselves.
The fear that I’m never going to feel the stability of a home for more than a few months… the fear that there will never be anyone to meet me off a train/plane/bus… And the fear that this wonderful, intoxicating and exciting expat life will always have these shadows that I know all too well …
Each of these fears I have seen before, but I know that they are not the sum of who I am. So I see them – I put words to them – and I move on. I get on that train, or plane, or bus, and I go.
From time to time I am asked, “How do you know what to plan when organizing a trip?”
The simple answer is I don’t always know what to include… but I am curious to find out.
After a life of travel, I think one of the greatest gifts travel has given me is a double confidence… That is, part confidence in myself and part confidence that “Plan A” isn’t always the best option! It is the firm knowledge that things that happen along the way – things I couldn’t possibly have planned for, because I simply didn’t know they might even be possible – often become the pure joy of that trip.
I have found that it is in letting go of the need to plan every detail of a trip, and stepping onto that plane / into the car… to see where the journey will take me – the people you’ll meet – the things you’ll see… THAT is simply invigorating… THAT is the thing that opens doors… and THAT is fabulous! That the joy of new experiences is multiplied many times once I choose to let go of knowing what will happen at every point through the day.
Maybe part of that is being over 50… Maybe part of that is being in Italy! It seems that no matter how well one plans things here, this place has other ideas of how your day / project / trip will go. And it has been ‘leaning into’ my cultural curiosity to find out things – to watch and listen, to experience, to enjoy – that helps me stop needing all the answers at once.
Time to stop
So, I have learned to schedule ’empty’ time – time to stop and see things, time to not be so busy I can’t see things… This gives me time to be happy with where I am at – with all I have done and am doing. It gives me time to experience joy. I take the time to be quiet and let my curiosity and creativity rise! And importantly, it gives me time to spend with friends – in person and around the world through technology! Thank you technology!!!
One of the other delights is that through technology I am now working with people around the world to help them overcome their fears, concerns, and possibly long-held beliefs of themselves as being creative. In 2017 my new online school – Composing Memories – will start teaching the skills you need to take better-looking photos. Building on my background as a designer, I’ve created a four-week program that will take you through the skills you need to build your confidence to take photos you love.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been told that you aren’t creative – even if you were told that in elementary school. Now is the time for you to break through those fears, choose courage, be curious, and find your creativity. You can find the details at