Tag Archives: journaling

Eat an Elephant Beetle

dreamDreams are funny.

Typically, I feel as though I have two kinds of dreams.  One is some sort of processing activity – random images and feelings that are actually a decompression of my life experiences. The second are the dreams that seem to be something a little more. You know what I’m talking about: The dreams that seem like intricate stories or movies in your mind. The ones that come complete with sounds and colors and smells. The ones that actually seem to mean something.

Recently, I’ve been having some income work/creative work balance issues. That is, I am challenged by the time I spending on my writing obligations to others and my writing obligations to myself. I have blogged before on this topic, settling on the 10% theory, as a way of guaranteeing my creative funtime. But the 10% wasn’t working. I ended up spending way more time on my creative writing than I did on my income writing, or vice versa, and I was feeling deeply anxious about keeping up with everything. I needed some sort of plan beyond the 10% to help me right myself on the page. This was on my mind as I fell asleep a few days ago.

That night, I dreamt about a creepy insect. It would not leave me alone. It was everywhere: this giant beetle-like creature that I did not recognize and could not name. It infused my dream, like some sort of gruesome action sequence out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Upon waking (and resisting the urge to vomit into my pillow), I pretty much assumed that this was some sort of stress dream. Still, I was so perplexed by the pervasiveness of this insect in my dream that I had to sketch it out (which is an odd impulse for me since I draw like a worm). As I drew, I found that I kept wanting to add some sort of long appendage to the insect’s nose. I kept picturing it in my head, this black beetle with a…trunk.

Elephant Beetle

How strange, I thought as I sketched. I wonder. Is there such thing as…an elephant beetle?

Google taught me a lot about the insect world that morning (and freaked me the frak out). I did actually discover the existence of said Elephant Beetle, an insect I had never seen before and probably would not be a fan of actually encountering. (I can’t even look at this image for very long without cringing in my desk chair).

elephant beetle actual

The Elephant Beetle was a perplexing discovery, as the picture is remarkably close to my own kindergarten rendition of my dream beetle. My logical mind had been under the impression that dreams could only consist of images I had actually experienced in my waking life. This must be some magical message from the universe, I decided. Maybe it was a warning of danger to come. Maybe it was a sign to pay attention to where I am walking. I decided to delve further.

I paged through the Google listings, discovering oodles of information on Elephant Beetle native habitat (not California, thankfully), flight activity (WTF, these things fly?), and their potential to be weaponized (“future sci-fi thriller material,” I note in my journal).

Then, Google eventually led me to a hit on YouTube which caught my eye. It was entitled “The 6 ‘P’s to Overcoming Procrastination.” I was intrigued. Why in the world did this come up on a search for information on Elephant Beetles?

I started watching the video. It was good, full of interesting techniques to deal with procrastination. Okay, cool. Just when I was about to switch it off, at about the five minute mark, there it was.

All of a sudden, I knew why I dreamt of this creepy critter.

Beetle Procrastination


According to Kirsty O’Callaghan (who has the most amazing Australian accent, by the way), if you are having trouble balancing your necessities with your funtime, the first order of business in the morning is the thing you don’t want to do. There’s always that one thing that you have to do but you would much rather put off. Do it. Because after you do it, you will be free from the burden of it for the rest of the day, leaving your mind open to enjoy and explore.

She calls this “eating an Elephant Beetle.”

When I read this, something clicked in my head. Was this the answer to my balance frustrations? I thought about her advice. Yes, I could still spend my first 10% creatively – journaling, meditating, whatever I needed to do to wake up and feel grateful for the day. But the next step was not necessarily to delve into my creative funtime projects. The next step is to eat an Elephant Beetle.

It makes a lot of sense. Part of the reason we creative types resist the urge to indulge our projects is that we always feel the weight of something more pressing in our list of obligations. We try to compartmentalize, but sometimes it bleeds into our work without us being able to stop it, and all of a sudden we are making a “To Do List” in the margins of our morning pages. Perhaps if we spend the first task of the day eating our Elephant Beetles, they wouldn’t come creeping and crawling into our creative writing (or in my case, my dreams).

Maybe I will keep this Elephant Beetle picture by my computer each day until I actually finish whatever it is that would qualify as “eating” one. Then, I will give myself permission to turn the picture over and get to the things that fill my soul. Because, honestly, this picture terrifies me.

But it doesn’t scare me as much as not actually getting to write today.


Dream work, creative work and the illustrious Elizabeth Kemp (one of my grad school acting profs)

More from Kirsty O’Callaghan

Do you have any suggestions for links to dream interpretation? Please comment below.


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The 10%

My morning desk

No, that doesn’t say 100% or even 110%.  It just says ten.  10%.

I was talking to my mother recently, and she shared with me a tidbit she had picked up from one of her many spiritually-minded friends.  It was about financial energy and it went something like this:  When you receive your paycheck every month, instead of sitting down immediately to pay bills, pay yourself 10% first.  The thought is that it says to the universe that your abundance is not all about what you are obligated to pay out to others, but rather, that that it includes enough that you can give to yourself first in whatever form you would like.

I thought about this for a minute in terms of time, specifically time spent on creative projects and time spent on “day job” projects.  More often than not, my time is first given what I have to do to earn a living.  Since no one has given me an advance for my novel (yet), I do other things like teach online.  The obligations I have to my students are extensive, and my strategy each morning is usually to complete the daily work for my classes and then, afterwards, to focus on my passions.

However, when I think about this energetically, it seems backwards.  I am basically announcing to the universe that my work obligations are the most important thing in my life by the way I prioritize them.  Plus, inevitably, I spend waaaay more time on work stuff than on my own creations, which is sometimes disheartening at the end of the day.  Creative energy can turn dark if it is untapped, and feelings of resentment and frustration stem from passion unexpressed.  Enter the 10%.

I still have to earn an income.  Those work obligations still have to happen.  But, what if my first priority of the day was to give myself 10% time-wise?  What would that look like?  For me, it would mean that before I start to grade papers, I would spend an hour or two journaling or blogging or writing 1,000 words or finishing that poem.  For me, it would mean that I could have coffee and create for a minute, rather than feeling the immediate need to put out all of the fires that might be happening with my stressed out students.  For me, it would mean I could prioritize my creative energy and designate it as something valid and worthwhile.

To others, it may mean something completely different.  It may mean taking the time for a long walk alone or an early morning surf session.  It may mean writing a letter or researching a trip.  Whatever it means to you to say, “This is my passion.  This makes me happy.  I can take 10% of my morning and devote it to exploring this idea inside of me.”  It is not selfish.  It is not irresponsible.  It is survival.

Of course, it also needs to become habit.  I am literally staring at 30 papers right now that need to be graded before I leave for the (insert reverb here) Bloooog Wooorld Expooo and I feel really antsy about getting them done.  But, I know it will happen.  And, I also know that I’ll feel better at the end of the day because I took 10% of my time this morning to blog about the 10%.  And, now that the universe is going to implode with redundancy, I will sign off.

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