Goals vs. Purpose: Measuring the Creative Life, Where Everything Counts



My daughter B, home from college, is sleeping in my writing space.

I feel displaced, frustrated. Failing.

What about all the things I hoped to accomplish this summer?

Publishing: submit
Short story: start
Art: finish picture book
Novel: get halfway through this monster
Nonfiction: draft book

I’m not getting anywhere. Stuck.

“So, Christi,” I ask myself. “Why are these things so important, anyway?”

I take the list apart and look closely.

I want to get my words “out there.” I want to mean something.

Short Story.
I love the fun of a short piece, the surprise of discovering where it will go.

I want my art to delight.

I want to fuel my creative life, to stay with the craft and enjoy it.

I want to teach, mentor and forge relationships.

All of the above.

Ultimately, this is why I do everything: to love and be loved.


And then I realize I’m doing it. ALL OF IT!

Total mindset-flip. How?

I stopped looking at the goals (the “what”) and got in touch with my purpose (the “why”).

Things are much simpler than we make them. Your purpose is far more important than your goals.

I invite you to downshift into a greater understanding of why you create.

My list is below. Now it’s your turn.


How I Stayed in My Purpose Today


Made a couple of greetings to send friends. These two hand-crafted cards will mean something to my dear readers. If this isn’t publishing, what is?

Short story:

Chose carefully my words for the cards. 


Decorated the cards.

Novel/fueling creativity:

While cleaning kitchen, listened to John O’Donohue’s thoughts on being an artist (To Bless This Space Between Us). Worked on novel for 15 minutes. Wrote two pages in journal. Walked with a fellow creative coach.

Nonfiction/teaching and mentoring:

All week, taught and coached gifted, appreciative, unique, amazing writers.

“Loved and was loved.”

In the weeks that my daughter has been home, we’ve shared laughter, stress, stories, adventure, art, and hugs.

Which means I’m right on target with what matters to me.

It’s all in knowing what to count.


Creative Change in Relationships

Living well means loving and honoring the people in our lives. Sometimes, though, we use them as an excuse to avoid the work we know deep down that we need to do.

This is a personal look at how I’m emerging into brave places in my relationships.

It’s not an easy thing – and in fact, involves loss and disappointment.

But these are the scary choices we face on the way to being our most authentic, creative selves.



Willamette Writers Conference – Video Sneak Peek on Procrastination

In nearly two decades of working with emerging writers, I’ve noticed that many don’t acknowledge the grip procrastination has on them. At some level, they feel bad about putting off what they know they should be doing. But in their procrastination, they often hide the truth from themselves and pretend they are just too busy to write.

If that’s not enough, they’ll actually manufacture problems at some level in their lives . . . so that they don’t have to face their creative struggles.

How about you? Are you honest about your problem with procrastination?

How do you recognize it? How do you overcome it?

I’ll be helping writers slash their procrastination at my August 3 Willamette Writers presentation. Here’s a sneak peak at insights I’ll be offering at the conference.

The Creative Process: Station Four

revision village
Welcome to Station Four in the Creative Process!

Revision Village is where you revise, edit, and polish your work. You’ve got to be ready to bustle about in town, make connections, and to make decisions.

Just today, in Wildfire Writing Master Class, ten writers looked at drafts and considered options for revision and editing. Questions arose such as:

  • Do I need more about this character? Here, where I’ve just touched on her past, should I delve more deeply?
  • What happened in this paragraph, where my readers/listeners got confused? How can I create a transition that helps them understand where I’ve taken them?
  • How can I make the most of this beautiful sound at the end of the line in my poem? I see that I’ve added extra syllables and interrupted the lyricism. What can I rearrange so that I land on my favorite word?

Week after week, these writers are visiting their work and making decisions. They’ve created in full-on creativity mode, without gumming up the process with all these kinds of questions. They’ve followed their thinking to put together whole drafted chapters. They’ve taken a bit of space and created distance through pausing. And now, they’re objective and listening and weighing and encouraged and moving forward, and fine with whatever the work needs.

It’s a busy time . . . it’s an engaging process . . . and feedback and support are invaluable.

You need the critic, as long as he minds his manners and uses his polite, in-town voice. In the same way, you may gather a team of positive but discerning writers and readers. Through these efforts, you’ll try on different things in order to learn what is the effect of your work on the reader.

Feel free to pick up new ideas, too, if you happen to do a little shopping while you’re in town. You should make the most of your stay, after all.

Thing is, Revision Village can be a place you stay for quite a long time, and though you may feel ready to move on, every minute here is worth it.

The Creative Process: Station Three, the Way Station

In Burn Wild: A Writer’s Guide to Creative Breakthrough, I outline the five-stage creative process.

And here is Station Three, the Way Station.
This creative process works for anything you are making – a painting, a choreographed dance, a photograph. Because I most often work with writers, here we’ll take the writer’s standpoint.

Station One is the most misunderstood, especially by beginning writers. Starting a new project, they expect a difficult path, not a playground.

Station Two is the most productive, because this is where you dig in and draft without interference from the critic.

Station Three is absolutely crucial.

However, many beginners don’t know about this stage of the process.

Writers run into problems, because:

  • Having completed rough drafts, writers are in a hurry.
  • Writers rush toward the “fixing” or “publishing” phase.
  • In all the excitement, a writer gets too attached to the work.
  • Those who stay too close to their work feel overly sensitive.
  • Confusion is rampant about where to go next, and what advice to take.
  • A writer can get discouraged and quit at this point. Many do.

Skipping this part can derail your entire project.

Station Three is really a time out. It’s getting perspective. Imagine a rough outpost where you stay before continuing an expedition.

Or picture a motel with a gas station, where you refuel and take a break.

Or think of a hunter’s blind, hidden up and away from the action.

You need to do whatever you need to do that will create distance and objectivity for you regarding the work.

One writer, Vicki, takes a break after drafting her novels to read a favorite author.

Another puts his handwritten drafts in a drawer for six months.

Still another writer retreats to the beach for a weekend, and reads over the entire draft with “fresh eyes.”

What needs to happen here is a changing of the guard in your mind.

In One and Two, the creative mind takes the lead.

This is the only way to grab hold of an original, exciting idea and see it through.

However, that creative mind (Dream Kid, I call her), will be bruised, battered, and discouraged – or overwilling to follow – unless distance is created.

The critic is called forth.

Yes, that critic, whom we fought with and finally banished – he’s the guy we need now.

The Way Station embraces the critic. Discernment, here, is everything.

You will need feedback, support, community and resources to make Stage Three successful.

Most of all, you will need time.

The Creative Process, Station Two: Draft Camp

draft camp

Draft Camp is the place in the creative process where you make a decision: Here’s where I’m going to camp out. Make a commitment to this particular idea; stay with it.

Camping, you risk rain and cold and all kinds of discomfort in the hope that this could be the best adventure of your life.

Things here are accomplished roughly.  Your perceptions may change again and again. But whatever happens in Draft Camp is meant to happen. It is never a waste of time.

–Excerpted from Burn Wild: A Writer’s Guide to Creative Breakthrough

The sign says, “Pack it in, Pack it out – please!” In Draft Camp, nothing is thrown away – even when it feels like trash. Keep it with you.

Save your work, including each draft.

All you need are the basics; nothing fancy. Keep it simple. Keep it rough. Keep on pushing through, one idea at a time.

Stairs: A Collaborative Collage Poem

stairs-collage-poemThe Burn Wild class produced this collaborative collage poem. Here’s the process: each creates her own wildwrite, and then we randomly choose one line and read aloud together.

This is what emerged around the topic of stairs . . .


The thoughts are like my backyard

compost – hot

drips rich tea for the soil

Sometimes they move slowly,

softly, a tiny human clutched in

their arms, spilling over the sides

with mouth agape

In childhood dreams repeated, the same one floating down the stairs

of our home, dreamt so often I actually believed I could float down them

The stairs creak, but who hears?

It’s moments like the early dark and cool mornings that I lift her into

my arms by the scruff of her neck to carry her down the stairs

that I’m reminded of the change of Day

My young aunt swooned, my mother made eyes, and my sister was floored.

So stairs are about leaving, climbing, exiting, and taking what is yours.

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