Monday, December 26, 2011

Permission to Dream, a Day to Creatively Re-energize

By Caitlin Rother

Today is a federal holiday, a day that if I were still at the newspaper, I’d probably spend cleaning my desk, writing emails to people who weren’t at work and could read upon their return, chatting with colleagues about their holiday, and playing around with Google to brainstorm new story ideas. A day, in other words, to catch up and yet be ready if anything big should break. Holiday staffs were small even in those days, so I might have been called in to help the cops reporter cover a murder, but chances were that I would end up with a nice relaxing day and still earn a paycheck.

But now that I’m out of the breaking news biz and I’m my own boss, it is now up to me to spend this day working (or not), without any promise of pay. As such, I have decided to use my Boxing Day “holiday” to come up with some concrete goals, but also to give myself a chance to dream, trying not to limit myself by saying, “No, that will never happen.” As I’m writing this, I feel in my gut that I didn’t go far enough in my journal this morning. I feel the need to go back in and dream even bigger.

For the inspiration to carry out this endeavor, which I do at least annually but always around this time, I want to thank my good friend Samuel Autman, who some years back sent me the book, “Write it Down, Make it Happen,” by Henriette Anne Klauser. Even if you don’t read the book, I encourage you to try this exercise. It’s fun and it works for me. Two hours ago I felt like I had an insurmountable stretch of endless tasks ahead of me, and I now feel a hope, an optimism, and a renewed sense of creative energy that will last me throughout the day and into this week if not longer. Last year or the year before, I can’t remember, I put down, “I want to make the New York Times bestseller list” and this year it happened.

Here’s how I do it: I start with a cappuccino and a list of small, do-able goals for the very near future. From there, I move on to the bigger goals, and then I hatch some dreams, both foreseeable and off the charts. I start each sentence with language such as “I would like…” or “I want” or “It would be nice if” or “I’d love to have the opportunity to.”

What I didn’t do today, but have done previously, is to actually visualize one of those dreams or goals into a scene with characters and dialogue and watch it come true as it happens in present tense and in real time (thank you Ms. Klauser for that one). I not only do this in my journal, but I also have used it in my creative writing classes. My students said they really enjoyed it, even writing to me months later with news of something that happened that they wouldn’t have noticed or appreciated if they hadn’t done this exercise.

Now that I’ve done all that (and written this blog post – i.e. share what you’ve learned to help others is also something I picked up along the way) I’ve given myself the rest of this day to spend on creative “work.” To re-energize the batteries and feel like my holiday isn’t over quite yet. First up will be to add some new details to my novel in progress, which were inspired by a couple of movies I watched this weekend. If I feel like it, perhaps then I’ll make some updates to my website that need to be done, but don’t have to be done today. And maybe, if I feel the urge, I’ll do some more dusting and organizing in my office so my body and my brain have the room to breathe and be more efficient in the coming year.

Today, I gave myself the permission to dream and to feel the joy that makes this writing life so full. I still have those many tasks ahead of me, but I have given myself permission to save the harder, more challenging work for later in the week, knowing that I will feel more willing and able to tackle the world and handle the challenges life throws at me.


Caitlin Rother, a Pulitzer-nominee who worked as a investigativer reporter for nearly 20 years, is the author or co-author of seven books: Poisoned Love, Deadly Devotion/Where Hope Begins, My Life, Deleted, Body Parts, Twisted Triangle, Naked Addiction, and her latest book, Dead Reckoning. Coming next is Lost Girls, about the murder of innocents Chelsea King and Amber Dubois by sexual predator John Gardner. For more information, please check out her website,


adventures said...

This is a great exercise Caitlin. I've used the visualization technique as well, and it really works. So glad to hear to hear that you are still dreaming - there's lot more Caitlin Rother to look forward to!!

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