In this episode:
- A conversation with New York Times bestselling author and founder of the Open Heart Project about her work and life and creating out loud.
- How to remove ourselves from the expectations of our audience
- Using our creativity to teach others
- Why sometimes it’s the right thing to hide from others
- How to give ourselves permission to evolve our creative tastes and passions
- How Susan creates while dealing with chronic pain
Susan Piver is a New York Times bestselling author of her first book The Hard Questions, and has written nine additional books and been a meditation teacher in the Buddhist tradition for more than 25 years.
She founded and runs the Open Heart Project—an online community offered with respect for the mystery and brilliance of each individual—that has 20,000 member meditators from all over the world.
All of us get caught up in the shoulds and I can’ts of our creative life, but Susan has learned, through decades of meditation practice, to disregard these inner voices. She regards all of her creative endeavors as art projects, a chance to get her hands in the clay of creativity and create something beautiful. She’s learned to open her heart to the creative yearnings and is passionate about helping other creatives approach their own work with the same level of curiosity and generosity.
Susan and I have been good friends for fifteen years and I started our conversation by asking her how she stays motivated.
“What keeps me motivated is I seem to look at my work as like an art project. I never really thought about that until a year or two ago. I want to make it; I want to create what I’m creating. And I don’t know what that means, necessarily from day to day or month to month. But I’m really intrigued by the process. And that’s what engages me most.”
Like me, she loves that her work is helping people, but like me she also understands that’s not what keeps her motivated. It’s her own desire to create that truly drives what she offers the world.
When we don’t have something that’s feeding us in our projects, when we are not taking care of ourselves because we’re focused on taking care of our clients or our readers or whomever else — when we’re always putting them first, it can be a recipe for burnout.
Too much focus on our audience and clients can steer us in the wrong direction. When you create what you desire, it keeps you going over time and it can draw the just right people to you. Sometimes easier said than done, but I’ve seen this play out again and again.
Digging a little deeper, we talked about the role of success and failure when it comes to staying motivated in her work and life. She’s had a great deal of success, but has also known disappointment.
“When things really succeed, it motivates me and it also scares me and makes me want to stop. And when things tank, it scares me too; but it also sort of motivates me to be like, ‘well, what happened here? And what else?’ (After periods of grieving and crying…)”
It’s when we open our hearts to observe that we can process the experience for what it is.
We also talked about why sometimes the best thing to do is to hide from others. Conventional wisdom tells us that hiding is something you should never do. But sometimes hiding is exactly what allows us to learn and grow, in plain sight.
We can hide in what we are learning and reflect the wisdom of others, as we sort things, flesh out our ideas and prepare to put our own work out there for the world. And a point will come when we can more confidently step out and claim it as our own. I encourage you to listen to what she has to say about this; it can open up freedom to express yourself and your work along your journey, before you’re ready.
Another topic we delved into was the chronic pain she deals with — migraines, neck pain, and PTSD from an accident many years ago. She never knows how she will feel from day to day and moment to moment. The pain itself and the trauma of the accident is something she grapples with while also continuing her work.
What I found refreshing here is that she doesn’t make light of it, she doesn’t try to sell a solution. Instead, she offers a raw, real knowing that anyone can benefit from hearing.
When things get difficult, for whatever reason it may be, she recommends letting go. If you don’t want to meditate, make it your practice not to meditate for a certain period of time. Observe what happens and let it go. I give similar advice — if you can’t seem to write, make it your practice to not write and observe your experience.
Your creativity or productivity does not respond to shaming or aggression, so what else? How do you make space for it?
I also think you’ll love hearing what she shares about the challenge she faced when writing her next book. Even as an award-winning NYT bestselling author who has written nine books, it doesn’t always come easily. Even if you have a time-tested, proven creative process, it does not always work on-demand. So what does she do?
“I show up, always in the morning. And I’m like, ‘What am I thinking about? Okay, let me write that down. And let me see if it goes somewhere.”
It’s both simple and profound. She creates a relationship for her own thoughts, makes space for them, and honors them…until those thoughts shape themselves into what she is calling forth to create, even if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you’d like. Noodling.
How might you bring this practice into your own creative process? Rather than thinking you need to get something done today, rather than answering someone else’s question or request, rather than showing up to your desk reactive and directed outward…
Try asking yourself what you’re thinking. What you’re thinking is what matters. It’s what brings curiosity and wonder and ‘why bother’ to your creative work.
Her career has taken many different turns, and it’s all part of her story. She listened.
“We all try to author our lives. But your life is authoring you…your life is telling a story. What is it? You’re not the author of it. You’re not not the author of it, either.”
Your life is telling a story too. Are you listening?
This and so much more.
Join me as we learn how Susan Piver creates out loud.
Get a copy of Susan’s books here:
The Hard Questions
The Four Noble Truths
The Wisdom of a Broken Heart
Visit jenniferlouden.com/podcastkit to get instant access to a collection of audios that will
- help you with some of the most common struggles we creatives have to manage including fear of choosing,
- falling into compare and despair, managing the inner critic (s),
- and feeling too exposed and vulnerable when you put yourself or your work into the world.
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