July 2nd, 2011

I was editing an article for a client, Dr. Susanne Babbel, in which she described a simple journaling exercise about hope. This exercise is intended to give trauma victims a purpose in their life, but it’s basically straight out of the pages of The Artist’s Way, one of my favorite creative projects.

Hope is kind of a hangup for me right now.

Last year while at a retreat I was given a piece of red string to tie around my wrist with a wish. The idea? When the bracelet wears off, the wish comes true. I wished for “hope” — in other words, the possibility of some of my personal dreams coming true. The red string was tenacious and stayed on for months until it was ratty and gross. It finally fell off on one arbitrary but markedly hopeless day.

Recently, I’ve been re-reading Viktor Frankl’s masterpiece Man’s Search For Meaning, which recounts his experience in Nazi concentration camps in the 40s, and his theory that only those with hope and a purpose for their survival made it through the war, despite their physical conditions and the things that happened to them in captivity.

Hope. It’s all about hope. Freud thought it was all about desire, but it’s all about hope.

I need to work on this. So, I decided to try Susanne’s Hope Exercise.

First, you make a list of things you genuinely enjoy doing. Things that give you peace and put you in your right brain (that’s your creative mind — the one where you lose track of time). Not things you think you should like doing. So not, in my case, things like “practicing yoga” or “going to Burning Man” or “eating mushrooms.”

Original drawing by Matthew Teague Miller.
Now available as a mug or tshirt!


You can buy
this mug on Cafe Press

Then Matthew can quit his day job.
And you and I will have matching mugs.

  1. Writing
  2. Reading novels
  3. Hiking Mt Tam
  4. Cooking
  5. Going to the movies
  6. Taking pictures (heart you iPhone)
  7. Making pottery
  8. Picking flowers (especially late at night off the neighbor’s lawns)
  9. Making things for my imaginary spice company, Simple Basic
  10. Lying around listlessly in the sun


Second, make a list of things you would like to achieve in your life. This is big picture, blue sky stuff.

  1. Write a book
  2. Make actual money off a personal creative project
  3. Have a family (not picky about what kind, very picky about the participants)
  4. Go to France
  5. Learn to speak another language (ideally, French)


Third, make a list of baby steps you can take to get going in that direction. This takes an “off the paper, into the world” mentality that I rarely possess.

  1. Take a writing workshop (I’m trying to manifest one at Esalen later this year. And by “manifest” I mean “get around to putting a deposit down for it.”)
  2. Spread the gospel about Recovering Yogi relentlessly while working on my side project with Matthew Teague Miller, a children’s book we’re writing called The Clam Before the Storm.
  3. Steal a baby. (Just kidding.) Alternate plan: Elope with gay BFF in Thailand later this year. (Again, kidding. Sort of.)
  4. Pray to money gods while making a plan with my cohorts Leslie and Vanessa to really do this France thing. Next year.
  5. Pull out those Rosetta Stone CDs I bought off Craig’s List and develop an iota of self-discipline about my French lessons!


Now, the good part: you share it (like I’m doing here). This turns it into an incantation. Saying things out loud makes them real!


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