Posts Tagged 'life’s work'

Let Your Life Speak: Parker J. Palmer on Vocation


I recently read a joy of a little book called Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer. I am surprised that I had not read it or heard of it before because I have been scouring library shelves in the work/vocation section for years now, but perhaps the book came to me at the right time when I would be most receptive to it.

This is not your normal book on finding your work. There are no exercises or tests to find out what you’re best suited to. This is a very spiritual book that sinks deep into the truth of life, and (exactly as the title says) Palmer believes that finding and fulfilling your vocation is about deep listening to your truest nature.

One of the things I most loved about this book is Palmer’s emphasis on wholeness—he asks readers to consider their whole selves, explaining that our truest self includes both our gifts and our limitations, and both of these are equally important in discovering how to live in a true way.

I could go on and tell you more of what I got out of the book, but I won’t because I would just end up oversimplifying the beautiful complexity that Palmer writes about. Instead, I have gone back through the book and pulled out some of my favorite quotes to give you some more glimpses of what he talks about. If you’re at all interested, get thee to the library and check out this book! If I was in the U.S. and near a good (English language) public library, I would find every book written by this man because he writes about real life with all of its light and dark.

Without further delay, here are some bits I underlined with my little pencil while reading:

“Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about—quite apart from what I would like it to be about—or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.

That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live—but the standards by which I cannot help but live if am living my own life.

Behind this understanding of vocation is a truth that the ego does not want to hear because it threatens the ego’s turf: everyone has a life that is different from the “I” of daily consciousness, a life that is trying to live through the “I” who is its vessel.”


“An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for “wholeness” is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of.”


“Vocation at its deepest level is, ‘This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.'”


“One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess—the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have: it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place. . . When the gift I give to the other is integral to my own nature, when it comes from a place of organic reality within me, it will renew itself—and me—even as I give it away.”


“As often happens on the spiritual journey, we have arrived at the heart of a paradox: each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around—which puts the door behind us—and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to your souls.”


“. . . anything one can do on behalf of true self is done ultimately in the service of others.”


“We are here not only to transform the world but also to be transformed.”


” . . . if we allow the paradox of darkness and light to be, the two will conspire to bring wholeness and health to every living thing . . . when I yield to the endless interplay of living and dying, dying and living, the life I am given will be real and colorful, fruitful and whole.”


” . . . if we want to save our lives, we cannot cling to them but must spend them with abandon.”


“Whether the scarce resource is money or love or power or words, the true law of life is that we generate more of whatever seems scarce by trusting its supply and passing it around.”


I just wanted to give a Thank You to Maria Popova, the reader and writer behind the excellent website Brainpickings, which is where I heard about this book. Here’s a link to Popova’s write-up about Let Your Life Speak.


Finding a Job that Jives with your Creative Practice


One of the biggest concerns I see in my own life and in the creative community in general, is that little nagging question: how do you support yourself financially and be creative at the same time? As I was writing about last week, I’ve been working on figuring this out in my own life. Whether or not you dream of becoming a full-time artist/maker/musician/dancer/actor/writer/etc, there may come a time when you will need or want a side job to make some cash, or to take the pressure off making money with your art and just do what inspires you creatively. I’ve had my fair share of random jobs {more than I can count on two hands}, both full and part-time. After my post last week {where I mentioned that I have hit upon a winning combination with my current job as a courier for the city}, I started thinking that maybe there were some basic characteristics of my job that would apply to what a creative person might be looking for in general in a side-job or day-job. The following guide is what I came up with. I hope this will give you some ideas on where to start looking for a job that can coexist with your creative life.



1. The fewer hours, the better.
This may sound completely obvious, but the fewer hours you work at this outside job, the better. The purpose of this job is to help support your art habit, not cramp it. Take a serious look at exactly how much money you need to support yourself—I mean, really—whip out the calculator on this one and plug in some actual numbers. Of course, different jobs pay differently, but go into the job search knowing exactly how much money you need  to survive. Also, take a minute to figure out if there’s anything you can trim from your expenditures. It may be difficult to think about this, but what is art-making-time worth to you?

2. Pay attention to scheduling.
There is a difference between working from 9 am to 2 pm vs. working from 1 pm to 6 pm. Both of these shifts are five hours long, but the first shift starts in the morning and ends in the afternoon, which can make it feel like you’ve been working all day. The second shift leaves you the entire morning for doing your creative work. This may sound like a tiny difference, but trust me—that first schedule is stealing more than 5 hours—-unless you’re a seriously early bird, you won’t get any work done before 9 am. Get really honest with yourself and seek out a schedule that leaves you maximum creative time and the optimal situation for you—your best time to work could be morning, noon, or night—you decide.

3. Put your art first.
As I started to mentioned in that last point, but I can’t stress enough—reserve your prime waking hours for your art. I prefer to put my art first, literally, so that I wake up and go immediately to my creative work. Then, by the time I get to my odd job at 1:30 p.m. I have already worked 4+ hours on art, and I can sit pretty knowing that I’ve let my creative spirit run wild. If you get most creative after dark, find a job that will give you nights free (don’t forget to leave time for other things like errands, etc). You could also look for a job that has you working every other day, leaving you full creative work days in between.

4. Find a job that lets your mind wander.
Creativity loves space and time to run free in your mind. Artists need actual time to do their work, but they also need ample time to let their minds work on their next creation. If you can find a job that keeps your body busy but lets your mind wander, you’ll be able to do double-duty and feel like you’re playing even when you’re working at your day job. Working as a courier I can easily let my mind wander while I’m driving around dropping off mail. Many days I come home with a pocket-full of small pieces of paper jotted with creative ideas. This makes me feel like my day-job work is not only financially productive, but creatively productive, and it gets me ahead of the game on my next creative project.

5. Find a job that lets you be yourself, at least most of the time.
The single most soul-killing thing about many day-jobs is that we creatives often feel like we have to pretend to be someone we’re not while we’re working. We have to pretend to care about selling random objects or providing excellent customer service, or about the policies of this or that company. We have to fake it. This makes the time we spend at said jobs feel completely contrary to who we really are, and therefore that much more painful. Look for a job that allows you to be yourself most of the time—you can look for an environment you would feel comfortable in, a creative company that interests you, or in my case, a job that lets you work independently most of the time—when I’m just driving from office to office delivering mail, I can listen to the radio, think creative thoughts, and just be myself. This makes the whole thing a lot less painful.

6. Remember what you hated most about previous jobs and find one without those qualities.
Again, this sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes it just seems easier to keep getting the same kinds of jobs—you have experience in customer service, so shouldn’t you continue on that path? Well, if you enjoy chit-chatting with customers, then go right ahead. But if constant interruptions and having to smile all day drive you up the wall (like me), then you’re just leading yourself into your own personal hell each time you get another job like that. For me, the top two most stressful and annoying things are: one: being constantly interrupted and having to put on my “fake face” all day long and, two: sitting for hours in front of a computer screen inputting boring data with absolutely no room for a creative thought. And yet, before my current job, I had a whole string of jobs that relied on these things—in fact, the last job I had before courier incorporated both of these things. I felt physically ill every time I approached the office. I would sit in my corner, staring at the ceiling, dreaming about the building burning down. Yes, it was that bad. Finding a job that will jive with what you really love (read: will not steal every ounce of positive creative energy in your body) is more about what the job is not, than what it is. Figure out the top two or three things that kill you and use that criteria every time you look at a prospective job. And then, JUST SAY NO.

7. Use your creative powers on your resume.
You’re creative right? You like telling a good story—whether it be through words, images, music, or dance? Well, how about using those powers on your resume? You can be a veritable chameleon in the workplace {hopping from one field to the next} if you can put your creative powers to work on representing yourself. Let me be clear here: I am not telling you to lie—but what you can do is reframe your skills in the light of the job you’re applying for. Study the job announcement you want to apply for, underline the skills they’re looking for, and try to find as many applicable skills from your work history. Look at all tasks you have done both large and small. Say you have been a customer service assistant, but you would like to become a baker. You may not have followed detailed instructions for making brioche in your previous job, but what about all the detailed instructions you followed to input customer orders? See it as a creative exercise: use your imaginative brain to translate your past work into the basic skills your future employer is looking for.

8. Recast your job as what it really is: an opportunity to support your creative work financially.
So many of us define ourselves by our jobs. People ask us at a party, “what do you do?” and we automatically blurt out whatever way we earn our income. The one big key that will turn having a day-job from drudgery to opportunity is the way you think about it. Think of it as slave drudgery and you will continue to let it run your life. But if you can recast it as an opportunity to work for yourself—to put one set of skills to work for the general benefit of your whole, then you can let the job just be a job and not your identity. All of the ideas above will help you with this point—the less painful the job is to your person, the easier it will be to see your job as not a death sentence, but a workable side-experience that can not only enrich you financially, but: enrich your creative life, give you a break from yourself, get you out of the house, and help you pay your bills.

9. Don’t let people make you feel bad for not having a “real” job.
Many people hassle creatives about “growing up” “getting serious” “getting a real job” {meaning: a job that’s on the career track that they can understand}. It’s hard not to let these comments get to you—you want to be a useful, law-abiding, contributing citizen. But the truth is, you already are—if you’re making time to do what you love {your art}, then you’re giving your ultimate contribution to this world—much more of a contribution than you could ever make climbing a corporate ladder that makes you want to jump out a window—even if you never make one single cent at art! Your contribution to this world is about love, it’s about passion, it’s about sharing your best, most expansive thoughts. To do that, you only need to make time—make time for your art, and then no matter what, you are a success.

A New Direction

Hello! I’m blogging for the very first time from our new little apartment! We’re just across town from our old house, but after all the tumult of being without a home for one month, I am most definitely glad to be home and back living in Davis! I got to ride my bike for the first time in a month yesterday, and as you might have guessed from the name of this blog, this no-biking thing was really getting to be a desperate situation! I was beginning to feel appalled by all of the driving I was doing, commuting to Davis from where we were staying with family about 45 minutes away. But now, here I am, back at my good old wooden table, and I’m feeling more settled every minute.

Back to the actual topic of this post—a new direction! Do you remember my recent post about my thought soup? I was talking very cryptically about a “new direction” or a “missing piece” that I was thinking about pursuing. Well, I’m back to tell you a little more about what that “new thing” is.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you will have noticed my regular exclamations about doing what you love and letting your heart sing, and really, I’ve been interested in these ideas for longer than this blog. I’ve been especially interested in “career-development,” or whatever you call the idea of doing work you are really really really passionate about. I think this interest started to develop about 6 years ago when I graduated from college and started to figure out that a “traditional” working situation was not for me—basically, that I was not OK with spending 40 hours each week slaving at something that made me miserable.

So, I’ve been asking this question for a while: where does this interest fit into my life? Is it just a casual interest, or should it be more a part of my work? I’ve gone back and forth about this, waffled and waffled some more. And finally, I’ve decided to waffle no longer. I have taken the first step into some sort of more serious work with career development in the form of a new blog called The Possibility Path.

I tossed around many ideas about what my direction would be—study career counseling, train to be a career coach, try to get a volunteer job in the field, and while all of those are definite possibilities for my future, the one idea that sounded like a great first step was to start really writing about the topic. Obviously, since I’ve been blogging here for almost three years now, I love blogging and feel really excited about writing/blogging more on this topic I’m so passionate about.

So, what exactly is this topic and what is my new blog all about? Well, my blog’s subtitle is “creating your own way in work and life,” and I will be talking about how to do exactly that, with ideas on finding your way, staying on that path, and creating new possibilities, as well as discussing the challenges that come up when you’re trying to live this way. Hop on over and check out my first post or about page for more ideas.

This is very, very hot off the press—I just put up my first post earlier this morning—but I thought you guys would like to be the first to know! I will be adding lots of new stuff over there, and refining the blog over the next couple of weeks. Of course, I will still be blogging on this blog as well, and am excited to say that since I’m back with a good solid place to work, lots of new and exciting art things are on the way!

Happy weekend to you! and of course, Happy Creative Day!

****UPDATE as of September 2010: I’ve decided to discontinue my Possibility Path blog for a variety of reasons as explained in this post. If you are interested in the topics that I discussed there, please do continue to read this blog as I often discuss those very topics here! Thanks so much for your interest!

Thought Soup

There are a lot of thoughts cooking in my head right now. My brain is kind of like a big soup—thoughts keep stirring around, and I’m trying not to watch the pot too closely—trying to give everything time to come together. Trying is the key word here—I’m not really succeeding at letting it happen on its own—I keep trying to push.

To be slightly more specific, I’ve been thinking a lot about my work-life. For a long time, I’ve struggled with finding the “right” path, or at least one that really fulfills me. I’ve really found this with art, there’s no doubt in my mind about that. But for nearly as long as I’ve been working on my art as a career, I’ve felt there was some other piece to the puzzle. I have never been quite sure what it is, I’ve had some hunches, but I’ve never really pinpointed exactly what it could be and what I could do about it.

Every once in a while, a certain particular thing buzzes around me, I look at it for a while, try to work it out, and then I usually let it go claiming it’s not exactly right. Well, that thing has come back again, and I’m wondering if this thought soup might finally take it to the next level. Could this be the missing piece (or one of them) to my work-life puzzle? Could this be the time to act on it?

I apologize for being so cryptic, but I don’t want to jinx myself here—you know when you start telling everybody that you’re starting something new, and then a few weeks later you drop it and feel weird and slightly odd about having broadcast it around? Well, I’m trying to avoid that. But right now I’m feeling that confused-excited-nervous-buzzing energy and riding the wave to see where it goes. I would like to address this little post to anyone else who is out there and feeling the same way. Let’s ride the wave together and see where it takes us.

Happy creative day to you!

The Working Life

Ever since I graduated from college about 6 years ago, I have been searching for work. I don’t mean literally looking for a job (although I have spent a fair amount of time doing that). What I mean is really searching for work that felt right. I loved college—the learning, the creative thinking, the study of things I love. I had jobs all through high school and college, and didn’t mind them as a way to make some extra cash, but the minute I stepped out of college and found work to be my “main gig,” work became a struggle for me.

There seemed to be a gigantic disconnect between what jobs were available and what excited me. It was like they were two completely separate things with no available place for intersection. Since I needed to work to make money (and working took up a whole lot of time) this meant I would have to spend a whole lot of time concerned with things that I was not passionate about.

As I worked my way through several jobs in several different environments, this idea remained constant: work was work and it wasn’t really supposed to intersect with what you liked to do. You do what you love on the weekend or when you retire. All of my coworkers were living in the “daily grind’ mentality—“the clock staring, minute counting, how many hours until the weekend” mentality. Every day was either a recounting of the glory of the former weekend or a countdown until Friday.

While working in these jobs and actually meeting people who would say, “I hate this job, but I only have 5 more years until retirement” (FIVE MORE YEARS!!??? That’s FIVE YEARS of YOUR LIFE!!!), I started to think, to scream, to chant: “There must be a better way!” Basically, my alarm bells were going off every single day in the form of severe, churning, desperate dread that sat in my chest before, during and after work. I literally felt sick with frustration.

Now, if you follow this blog, then you have probably already heard this story before, and you know that it’s not one of those stories of great and sudden triumph, at least not yet. Rather, my story is a story of small and subtle shifts: through the last 3 years I have begun to find the other path through art-making (and this blog). But the real reason I’m writing this today is not to go on about my troubles and triumphs, but rather to start a discussion.

I read quite a lot of books on career development, career finding, career everything, and other self-help and psychology books. This weekend, I was quite excited to find a book on the topic that I had never seen before: Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence G. Boldt. I’ve just started reading the book, but already I am enthralled with the topics. Boldt talks about how Western society defines the purpose of work as “getting security, status, and consumer items.” How we are taught to get a “good” job to make money, so we can buy things and feel secure and have the status that “things” will give us.

While it would be impossible to put Boldt’s idea of the alternative into a nutshell, he essentially says that people are beginning to feel that this is not enough, that “Work is more than gaining privileges and possessions; it is ongoing, ecstatic, LIVING experience.”

So, I would like to ask, what is the purpose of work to you? Have you found a way to integrate your passionate true self into your work? How? Why? Why not?

{All of the dictionary definition images above are from my trusty Oxford Concise English Dictionary}

Hello there! My name is Nicole K. Docimo, and I am an artist and writer from the U.S.A. but currently residing in Zurich, Switzerand. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Some Thoughts

"Be thirsty for the ultimate water,
and then be ready for what will
come pouring from the spring."

{from "Joy at Sudden Disappointment"
translated by C. Barks.}

~This Work ~

Unless otherwise noted, all images and writings on this blog were created by me, Nicole K. Docimo aka Blue Bicicletta. If you would like to share anything you see here for inspirational purposes online, I just ask that you kindly let folks know where you found it. If you are wanting to share/reproduce any of my work in any other way, or have any questions about how you will be sharing the work in relation to copyright, please contact me directly at nkdocimo {at} gmail {dot} com. Thanks!

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