Her studio is organized. Everything tidy and in its place. She states what she wants — to paint again. Unlike lots of creative people who are wildly disorganized, she is compulsively fastidious. Her house is vacuumed… about 350 times. All the dishes, laundry and shopping are done. So why isn’t she painting? I repeat back to her that she wants to get back into painting. To help bring order to the creative process and tame her fears, I encourage her to make a Plot Planner. You mean that line writers use to plan their stories? she asks. Yes, I answer. The Universal Story works for artists and poets and dreamers, too.
I actually do have a roll of paper and there’s plenty of space on the wall in my studio, she says. Okay, I begin. Start like writers do for their characters. Begin with a specific, measurable goal for yourself. Note how your body feels as you write your goal above the highest peak at the end of the Plot Planner all the way on the right side. Now that you’ve commit to a goal, decide on an ending date. Whoa. Okay, I get it. Giving yourself a deadline is apt to create immediate structural pressure. If you balk, feel intimidated and boxed in, consider what mystics propose.
Time is Non-Linear
Decide to accept that time is non-linear. Rather than give any of your power and enthusiasm over to the authority of time, simply believe you’re already there. Time becomes irrelevant when you see yourself already doing what you dream of doing, already painting.
Note how the Plot Planner mirrors the Universal Story. The line throughout isn’t flat. Rather it climbs steadily upward, representing the energy needed to successfully reach the end.
Jot today’s date above the line all the way to the beginning of the line on the left. Compare the date and accomplishment climax above the highest peak on the right to today’s date on the left. See the time and goal on the right serving as a lighthouse, a beacon for your creative spirit as you move forward.
Now add steps you believe will advance you to your goals. What actions are you taking now? What actions do you see yourself taking daily.
As our session ends, she enthusiastically declares that she’s off to set-up a Plot Planner in her studio. A thrill sweeps across my skin. She’s started. Yes, she’ll face obstacles, setbacks and disappointments. She’ll also learn new skills, establish new habits, face her weaknesses, and wrestle with uncertainty. With a plan right before her eyes, suddenly, she’s already there.
I get goose shivers marveling at the transformational power of the Universal Story. A woman begins with a simple goal of wanting to paint again. With the help of a simple line, she transforms into an artist who achieves her goals… and then some…
Turns out she doesn’t put up a Plot Planner that day. Instead, she pulls out a canvas and begins mixing colors. She paints everyday for three weeks running now. When she does slow down, the line will go up and give her a chance to ponder her long-term goals…
Hold your goals up against the Universal story. Determine where you are now and where you see yourself in six months, five years, in old age. All writers set goals for their characters and imagine steps they’ll take to get there. More and more writers are beginning to do the same process for themselves on their path to publishing. Artists and poets and dreamers and anyone else imagining a creative life find value in embracing the same ritual.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Universal Story, go HERE