Step up to YOUR creative dream

Barb Toland Creative Sparks

A few years back I created a series of five small paintings that visually leaped into my imagination quite out of the blue. Normally I have to work a little harder at deciding what to paint, so I was quite thrilled to get this idea with no creative struggle required!

I call the series, Steps to a Dream, and the title of each of the 5 paintings are:

Waiting, Reaching, Watching, Hoping & Receiving

At the time I created these 5 paintings, I was feeling quite desperate to live the life I wanted -- which was on my own terms, as a full-time practicing artist & business owner. It took quite a long time before I was brave enough to share this series and the meaning behind it. I guess I thought that someone might judge me or make fun of me for wanting more than I already had ... which was quite a lot!

Or maybe I just wasn't ready.

But at some point I decided I was actually quite proud of my efforts & growth thus far, and then I  became more open to discuss the meaning behind this series, and how these steps to a dream manifested in my own life.

I hope by sharing my story it will add some needed rocket fuel to YOUR dreams & desires.

The first step is WAITING, which is treading water in the place you are at any particular moment. And it looks like this tigress ...

Waiting ©

BUT waiting doesn't mean doing nothing. Not at all.

Even though I was working full-time for someone else, I painted furiously ... every single spare minute I could possibly find.

And even though I had a number of traumatic events happen in my life during this transition, I painted furiously ... with every ounce of energy I could muster.

And when I was feeling disheartened, scared & stuck, I still painted furiously ... with every positive spark that I could find to ignite my creative heart.

I also took some breaks and did other things I loved as well. Like hiking. Wandering. Traveling. Absorbing. Reading. Spending time with friends & family. Saturating my life with as much color as I could absorb, and then spilling that color right back into my paintings.

I know this sounds exhausting, and at times it was.

Sometimes I just collapsed onto the sofa with the weight/wait of it all. But I'm very thankful that I now have many paintings to show for it that I wouldn't have had otherwise. And I was also spending time fine tuning my skills that have been invaluable, now that I'm working for myself.

So waiting is not just sitting around eating bon bons lol. Instead, it's actively doing the best you can with what's at hand and making the most of the circumstances you find yourself in.

Trust me, if you're doing your best while "waiting", and following your dream as best you can, it WILL pay off later. Plus, you're becoming more of who you are meant to be.

Waiting, for me, is all about who I choose to become in the process. I became more resolute. More focused. More exasperating to those around me, lol.

But, I filled the nooks & crannies of my life with bits & pieces of my dream as best I could. And now when I look back at the things I DID manage to do, waiting wasn't so bad after all.

Wait for it yes ... but in the meantime, prepare yourself to pounce.

Be the tigress.

The next of the 5 steps is REACHING ... extending those arms out wide, and going for every bit of your dream that you can.

Reaching ©

And just like the tree in this painting, it feels as though your reaching for the sky.

But just as this tree is reaching for the sky, and I'm going to be frank about this ... YOU WILL NEVER GET THERE.

I know, right? What a horrible thing for me to say. Reaching for the sky is unobtainable. I say this because if you're doing it right, every time you grow just a little, you will want to reach higher.

But in the meantime the tree becomes stronger, more faithful, more open, more free, more resilient to the weather, and more beautiful.

So EVEN THOUGH you will never get all the way to where you want to be, the beauty of who you become while extending those arms up & out is what matters most.

The more you reach, the more you'll grow, and the more you'll become firmly planted in your hopes & desires. AND, the more you will inspire others who are also seeking their dreams.

Does all of this sound rather lofty? Well of course! That's how trees tend to grow if given the right soil & enough sun.

So be sure to reach as high as you can, and then keep stretching those limbs further & further. You'll never get there, but you will have grown into a real beauty in the process.

Be the tree.

And then there's WATCHING ... observing the conditions & circumstances around you. Then pondering what unfolds, and see how it can serve our dreams & desires.

Watching ©

(And as a side note ... none of this is in any way being selfish. First of all, YOU are in this world to become more of who you're meant to be. In the pursuit of your passions, by example you are also leading others to THEIR desires by giving those around you permission to also dream big. Instead, embrace the fact that you're following your dreams!)

But I digress. Let's get back to "watching". Just like waiting, watching is sooo not a passive thing.

Yes, this gargoyle perched on the rooftops of Notre Dame is made of stone. But my gosh how many of us who love Paris have been inspired by him - just by being who he is & guarding the city below?

Just THINK of the many fabulous, and yes heartbreaking, things that he's seen over the years. He didn't have to move an inch. He just watched, and now he is everything that is & isn't lovely about Paris. He may appear to be grey stone, but he has more color than can be seen at first glance.

And he got this way by watching. Absorbing. Pondering. Being.

So relax. Look around. Absorb. Let all of it in. Since you're looking through the eyes & heart of your dream, what you observe will become part of it.

Be the gargoyle.

And then there's HOPING ... like the rose with its petals outstretched, hoping one day to share its loveliness with the world.

Hoping ©

This to me is the most important, and also the most dangerous of steps.

Hoping is in all of us, it's the carrot that we dangle out there to move forward. But it can be debilitating if we stay stuck in it. It's easy to "hope" that something happens.

Yes, hope should be the overarching theme of our journey, but unless you're the Buddha who sits & dreams of enlightenment, you will not get any further along your dream's path by sitting on your butt.

Hoping without work is simply hopeless. It's the total opposite of striving. So hope, yes - but don't let it fool you into thinking that it's the end game.

A parent hopes their child will become a loving, kind & successful adult. But that doesn't mean they don't have to actively tend to their child's needs, to their own needs, and set a good example by putting their heart & soul into their child's growth & happiness.

A college student hopes to be smarter, to graduate, to find their life's work. But that doesn't mean they get to do so unless they study, work hard, and sometimes give up a party here & there.

You get the picture.

Hope, yes! Of course! But don't stay stuck on this one.

Even the rose worked hard & furiously to bloom.

Be the rose.

And last but by far not the least, is RECEIVING ... allowing yourself to bask in the glow of what life gives back to you for your efforts.

Receiving ©

This is probably the hardest step for many of us. Allowing the time & pleasure of the fruits of our labor to soak in is not always easy. Recognizing & honoring the gifts that we've been blessed with is quite challenging.

Why is that? Why is it so hard to be delighted with where we are? To find joy in how far we've come? To receive what the ocean wants to give us?

Perhaps because some of us (especially women I think) are taught while growing up that to acknowledge & be proud of our talents is somehow self centered & egotistical. That it's not becoming to be lit up by the milestones we've reached. That it should be all work, and no happy. You know the adage, "Pride goeth before the fall".

To that I say ... bull feathers!!!!!!

Sit along that metaphorical water's edge and take it all in. Say thank you, and recognize that YOU did it. YOU continue to expand because YOU have taken steps to learn & grow along your own path. Yes, we've all had much help & guidance along the way. BUT we had to make the choices, and have the courage & tenacity to get this far.

Take inventory of what you've done. Let the tide of gratitude & satisfaction in how far you've journeyed come in & wash over you.

The shell worn to a beautiful rose, and the sand dollar are open to it.

Be the shell & the sand dollar.


Then take some time & pleasure to RECEIVE the gifts of your labour.

Then rinse & repeat.

Live & breathe your dream ... one baby step at a time.

If you've got a friend who needs to hear this, who you think may be on the verge of giving up on their hopes & dreams, then be sure to share this post with the facebook or twitter link below. Help them with their dream - it may just be the exact boost they need!

Now it's your turn...

What are your dreams & desires? What courageous steps have you taken to move forward with them? If you haven't done much about them recently, what's holding you back & why do you think that is? By reading this, what steps do you feel more encouraged to take soon towards your goals?

I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below. Your artistic voice & heART matter to me ... always!

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