What happened after I sent my last newsletter.

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A couple weeks ago, I wrote a newsletter about discipline.

Here it is in a nutshell: I think that we put too much focus on discipline and not enough on nourishment in our creative lives. When we don’t write for a while, or we still aren’t finished that story, or we read an essay that so illuminates the things we want to do that we just can’t stand it, it’s natural to self-admonish.

But if we could meet those moments with curiosity, and then direct our energy into filling our creative hungers, we’d be way further along on our paths.

Make sense? You can read the whole thing here if you’re interested. But this email is about what came next.

I got an email back almost right away from a man I’d never met.

Sorry Chris. I think your take on discipline is not realistic. The flow is elusive - if you’re not disciplined and show up, the flow goes right on by. Great artists, painters, dancers and musicians show up every day and do the tough stuff whether they feel like it or not. That’s just the way it is.

{Ethics note: I’m sharing this with his permission.}

I felt a prickle of defensiveness run up my neck, but underneath was something else. I was… confused. I mean, he’s not wrong. And I’m not against the rigor he’s describing. I actually love rigor. And I hate the idea that my approach might seem flaky and insubstantial. “Shoot,” I thought, “If I agree with him, have I been walking one big contradiction?”

Then I read it again and saw that word: “Great”.

“Great artists.” I also noticed in his email address that he’s at the university. Of course. The tension loosened and I wrote him right back:

Thank you. I hear you. Discipline IS a big piece. And for people who want to be the-best-of-the-best, you're absolutely right with your assertion that it needs to be daily.

I think the difference between our approaches is that ideal of perfection just isn't what I'm interested in, or what Firefly is here to foster.

… I went on. Here’s another nutshell.

I’m not actually interested in perfection. In fact, think it kind of sucks. Most people come to us wanting to create healthy, feel-good creative experiences that can happen alongside their busy lives. I'm interested in helping to cultivate that. I’m interested in helping people to write 10% more, and then, if they want, 10% more than that. And I know that easing the pressure we put on ourselves is a massive piece of moving towards those beautiful, generative 10%’s.

Does that make sense? It’s confusing, because of course we all want to be great. And of course, that desire isn’t bad. But we often forget to think through what “great” actually means to us, right now, in this moment, this real life.

A lot of people come to us with massive goals. I want to write a bestseller, I want to write for two hours a day, I want to finish this draft by month’s end. Of course! Drastic change is seductive. That’s why makeover shows get so many views. I’m not immune to it, I would love for five beautiful men to burst through my door, renovate my house and fill my cabinet with lipstick that obliterates my self-doubt. But in the normal world, that’s just not how change works.

When I see those goals, I don’t discourage them, but I don’t feed them either. For many of us, those holy grail goals are what finally open the door to the secret creative gardens in our hearts. But once we’re in there and we’re writing and feeling and smelling flowers and experiencing our voices and letting fears fly away with the pollen, the massive goals usually lose their grip. We really just wanted into that room.

So, as we travel into this late summer, I want to invite you to take a sec to think through what greatness means for you-and-only-you, in your daily life, in your body, you in your sweet constellation of roles and responsibilities right now.

  • It might mean getting one super sincere handwritten letter in the mail to someone you love.

  • It might mean starting a brand new project even though you have no idea if it will work.

  • It might mean signing up for that workshop that scares you.

  • It might mean sharing something you wrote with one trusted person.

  • It might mean actually going to one of those open mic nights you keep looking at and then distracting yourself from.

  • It might mean taking a step back from writing so that you can focus in the other things that are urgent in your life right now.

  • And, right now, being a great writer might mean showing up every day whether you feel like it or not, just like the email said. That’s a choice you have. But it’s not the only choice.

In the meantime, I will always be here to champion small goals. I think they build new foundations for us to stand on, and foster our sense of what’s possible (everything), and let us change our whole lives if we want to, one small, do-able step at a time.

If you want to take some steps with us, here are some beautiful options.

We have a canoe writing adventure that’s just a month away in mid-September up in Killarney park. Back at the studio we’ll have workshops galore this fall, some of which are weekly, some by-weekly and some monthly, for all experience levels. Our Writer In Residence Anna Cavouras is offering by-donation manuscript reviews aimed at publishing short pieces. And our real-mail subscription program is getting a massive re-design right now to be lighter, greener, cheaper more chocolate-filled than ever before.

Okay you. It’s such an honour to get to write these. Thank you for letting me be part of your own steps forward. May they always be just the right ones for you.

All the messy heart stuff,

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Chris Fraser