Arbor Lee


Mindful Field Notes is an online journal of writing and photography by Arbor Lee | Oh My Darling Days. 

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A New Story


During a creative coaching session last week, I had a breakthrough in my creative life! I was sharing a pattern that I've noticed in my creative work. When I get a passionate idea, I begin with gusto and then lose motivation or quit altogether. I shared an example of a project that I began last fall and how it is something I still feel excited about but I can't seem to settle back into it. I shared the details of my idea and told how the process began okay but then I became overwhelmed by the scope and size of it. What had begun as a clear and simple vision started to feel more complicated than I wanted and my creative joy got buried under a pile of shoulds.

After a series of thoughtful questions and digging deeper into the story behind my frustration, my coach helped me realize that I abandon simplicity for complicated. I shift away from my initial instincts and look to external ideas and input, adding layers of expectation and struggle to ideas born out of intuitive delight. As a deep thinker with a complex history and rich inner life, I've held an expectation that my creative work needs to reflect that complexity. In a nutshell, I've been working off of an old story that simplicity and ease aren't enough.

Somewhere in my creative history, I learned to equate creative work with struggle. Yet, this relationship with struggle no longer aligns with my core values. In most areas of my life, I have cultivated a healthy relationship with challenge. I embrace ease and simplicity over struggle. I honor the power of my intuitive voice more than the critic. But in the context of creativity, I often abandon that wise inner voice for a louder, more critical one that feeds off insecurity and fuels perfectionism. Perfectionism tells me nothing is good enough and when I listen, I make simple into complicated and my creative joy dissolves into struggle. When I allow insecurity to enter my creative life, I shift from an internal agenda to an external one. I begin to compare myself to others and my authenticity gets lost in layers of shoulds and don'ts. All of this leads to a sense of failure and keeps me from continuing with my most passionate projects.

Reflecting on times when I have struggled versus times when I have experienced ease, the main difference is the level of connection that I am willing to have with to my inner authority. When I give attention to fear, allowing comparison or doubt to lead, then I struggle in my process. Everything feels harder than it needs to. I become creatively stuck. But when I stay connected to how I want to feel and align my choices with those core desires and values, my intuition is accessible and clear. I get out of my head and am able to trust my inner life. I am willing to be vulnerable in order to be seen. I am willing to make mistakes and be imperfect in my process. I am able to draw from the depth of my experience and allow my authentic creative voice to emerge with simplicity and ease.

This isn't to say that I don't value challenge or that I avoid problem-solving. I have done hard things and am willing to work through necessary challenges. But I'm no longer willing to create difficulty where it isn't needed— turning creative joy into creative angst because of insecurity or misplaced struggle.

So, I am abandoning the old story and replacing it with some open questions: What if ease comes from a place of inner authority— trusting my intuition as a pathway to authentic expression? What if simple is how I manifest the depth of my experience and my emotional complexity? What if simplicity and ease ARE enough?

As I investigate these questions in the context of my creative work, perhaps a new story will unfold. A story about my creative way in the world. A story about depth and richness and wisdom emerging with ease. A story about complexity manifested in simple ways, my way. And perhaps, I will allow my way to be enough.