Letting Go … or Trading Up?


Every creative journey has stages. If you’ve been on yours for very long, no doubt you’ve marked a time or two of transition. I’m in one of those right now myself.

Transitions can be exciting and expansive but also downright terrifying. Mostly because when you’re walking through the dark passage between one world and the next,  it’s hard to predict what your new landscape will look like on the other side.

We humans may enjoy watching suspense on TV or reading about it in a novel, but the sweat-on-your-forehead, high-stakes game of real life uncertainty feels a heck of a lot more uncomfortable.

Mostly because you can’t fast-forward to the final chapter.

Recently I wrote about my breakthrough coaching with Victoria Prozan and some big “ah ha moments” I’ve had in my creative journey. That’s the exciting and fun part of this time of transition. The scarier part is understanding what those insights mean, and how I should alter my creative lifestyle to maximize what I’ve learned.

Insights bring with them choices. Once you know where your strengths lie, you re-prioritize your time accordingly. Most of us know this.

Doing it is so much harder.

In one of her better interviews, Marie Forleo spoke with Dr. Ned Hallowell about why smart people underperform. One of the biggest reasons he mentions? They fail to prioritize their time.

As I watched this video, I thought, “I know this. My head is telling me that I have to prioritize my creative goals based on what I’ve now learned about myself. But my heart doesn’t want to.”

And that’s the crux of it, right?

It’s hard to make your feet shift direction, no matter how much you know you must, if your emotions don’t want to. It can be done, of course. But it’s about the most painful thing I know. Mostly because it feels like quitting. Which is possibly the worst thing any of us could ever be accused of.

Especially by ourselves.

And that’s when I realized something important about this thing we call “prioritizing.” Like most things in life, it’s ultimately a matter of belief. In order to act on these new insights about my creative talents and best potential for contribution, I must believe that acting on them will amplify my performance and its impact.

When I am tempted to think that I am letting go of good projects . . . or even quitting altogether . . . I must remind myself that letting go of one dream actually means trading up into a better one.

From what I’ve learned these past few weeks, I’m going to have to let go of some of the projects I was pursuing. Or put them on the “back burner” while more immediately impactful steps are taken. If you’ve ever put aside a multi-year creative project (possibly for good), you know how empty you can feel just contemplating its absence in your life. Not to mention the arch voice of defeat that whispers both in your own head—and on practically every blog ever about sticking with your dreams.

But those voices aren’t my voice. They’re “out there,” not in here. When it comes to creativity, my whisper is the only one I should be listening to.

The voice is the one inside me. The one that is telling me I’ll have more creative space and time when I declutter my project load. The one reminding me of the inherent truth of everything I’ve learned about myself recently. The one now nudging my emotions in the direction my head already knows should go.

The one calling me to let go … and trade up.

So over the next few months, you’re going to see a transition here. I’ll be making changes to my creative focus: pulling some projects out of the woodwork to share with you. Owning my gift for improvisation. Refusing any longer to let finished fiction sit in a drawer simply because it’s “not revised enough.”

On the one hand I’m thrilled to pieces to finally stop hiding behind the “but I still have to revise it” excuse. On the other hand, I’ll have to face the very real grieving process that comes with acknowledging that who I am no longer matches up with who I once wanted to be. And, in the process, I’ll have to remind myself that this isn’t so much about quitting as passing into a new phase of my creative journey.

So the next time you’re faced with the need to prioritize your creative endeavors, and you find yourself reading that self-help blog that tells you how terrible it is to quit? And how dreams come true when you dig your heels in just a little longer?

That might be true. Or it might not. Behind that argument lies an assumption that shifting focus actually means letting go.

In reality you just might be trading up.

* * *

What about you? I’d love to hear your story of how letting go of one dream
allowed you to focus on another and bring it to life.
Share your story below!

5 thoughts on “Letting Go … or Trading Up?

  1. I’m starting to realise that mental hoarding – hanging onto ideas of who we are and what we do – can be as big an encumbrance as the physical hoarding that clutters up our homes. It can be very hard to let stuff go, but as you say it’s about trading up. We can only deal with so many things at a time, and it’s well worth letting go of some to make space for others.


  2. “I’ll have to face the very real grieving process that comes with acknowledging that who I am no longer matches up with who I once wanted to be.” About Lisa though, and the way she says things in that clear, clever voice of hers, that just punch me right in the soul … right in the soul ❤


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