Between the Lines

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.— Steve Jobs

As I write this column, I’m coming off a much-needed creative high. I spent a weekend at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts attending a two-day mixed-media class. I’ve never done mixed media, but the class involved turning a book into a “shrine” to whatever theme might come to each artist during the creative process. Book and shrine and art in one weekend? You would think I’d be going in full steam, but honestly, working in a medium I knew nothing about (good golly, I’ll be a know-nothing novice) and with people I didn’t know (what will they think of no-talent me?) opening my heart and creating art (seriously — I’ll never be able to make something worthy of display) terrified me.

I’ve written before about differentiating between your inner and your fear voices. In a nutshell — if you experience fear or anxiety explore further to make sure it is your authentic inner voice. Chances are it’s not. So how do you find and listen to your inner voice?

Write: Make a heading at the top of the page: Things I Want to Do or My Perfect Day. List until you are out of ideas and then list some more. Push yourself. Write a novel? List it. Learn how to make apple cider donuts? List it. Come up with 100 ideas (yep, you read that right!). Set the page(s) down, wait 24 hours and then revisit. Your inner voice is somewhere on that page.

Put Down Your Phone: (Or get away from your computer.) Your inner voice won’t speak to you through e-mails, messages or on Facebook. Take the time to connect to yourself. Dare I say try meditation? A few moments in the day where you just listen is not only a terrific way to relieve stress, but an excellent conduit to listening to yourself. Never meditated? It’s easy, simply sit quietly and listen to your heartbeat. That’s it! Hey look—you’re meditating.

Take Your Inner Voice on a Walk: See the last paragraph and leave your phone and headphones at home. As you walk, allow your mind to rest. Breathe deep. Don’t worry about your inner voice coming to you. It will.

Believe: You have all the answers. Truly. Believe in yourself and your inner voice.

Inspire Yourself: I have a poster of a brilliant poem by Shel Silverstein called “The Voice” on my office wall. Get a copy and put it somewhere you can see it daily. Oh, and that worry I had about making something worthy of display? Not sure I did. My first piece is a “no eyes will ever see this,” but that’s not the point. The point is the experience and journey. My second piece isn’t finished yet, but has loads of potential.

Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion.” She writes from her home in Spring Green she shares with her husband and cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com.