Tomatoes and Timers

Tomatoes and Timers

This week, one of my fellow Kaizen-Muse™ coaches and I were talking about the Pomodoro Technique® (a time management/productivity system).  That got me thinking about how I used to work with a similar technique and how I might just want to get back to it.


Oddly, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with tomatoes.

The basics of Pomodoro are that you break your work into smaller tasks (very Kaizen-Muse™!) and work on them for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break.  You do this four times and then take a longer break.  It’s a really interesting system and can be a good way to work (see this article on Lifehacker for some analysis).

I love the theory of this.  I work much better in smaller, focused bursts rather than in long, unbroken stretches.  The problem I have with Pomodoro is that sometimes, when I’m really resisting or procrastinating, I can’t stay still and work for even 25 minutes.  If I can’t actually get through 25 minutes of working, the technique is useless to me.  Isn’t it?

It’s not.  Before I heard of Pomodoro, I was doing something similar with my writing.  I would set a timer for 15 minutes, write without stopping during that time, and then take a small break before diving back in.  I’ve even used this technique in 10-minute increments.  It still works.  Choose your amount of time based on how your focus is on any given day.

A few things to keep in mind if you want to try this out:

  • You can use this technique with different amounts of time based on how you feel and what you need.
  • If you finish something before your 25 minutes is up, it’s okay to stop and take a longer break.
  • It’s okay to turn off the timer when it rings and keep going if you’re really in the flow, or set it for a new time interval and keep going.
  • You don’t have to move on to a new task during each interval; if you have something that needs more time go back to it after your break and keep going.
  • Try out different timers–your phone, apps, web timers–because something with a really disruptive sound can throw me out of my rhythm and might have the same effect on you.
  • If you’re trying to limit your social media time, give yourself one 25 minute time interval every few hours to check Facebook, Twitter, etc. and then take a break and go back to work.

As with anything, tweak the technique, try out different things and make it your own.  But if you, like me, have a hard time getting down to work and staying focused sometimes this can really help get you back in the groove.

On My Table–Colors of Spring

On My Table–Colors of Spring

Last week, I did a very small, stand-alone painting!  I’m not entirely sure she isn’t going to get more shading, but I’m feeling pretty happy with her.  There are some glare spots from the graphite I used, so I arted her up a little with some photo editing, but here’s my Easter spirit:


And then there’s my new pen order (okay, and a roll of washi tape that I just couldn’t resist).  Greens and pinks and reds.  I am ready to jump all the way into spring now!

New Pens

I am noticing that I’m getting more frustrated with my photos of my work.  I have a nice art table set up to paint at, but the lighting is just terrible for taking pictures, so none of my photos from at home come near to looking like the pieces look in real life.  I’ve decided this is something I want to work on–I’ll need to try out different locations, different backgrounds, different lighting.  Which means I’ll have to stop rushing to take photos at the last minute on Sunday night before getting ready to start a new work week the next morning.  I think it will be worth it to get more organized with my photography, though, because having nice pictures of my work will be wonderful!

What about you?  Is there anything you’d like to start making time for or giving some attention to this spring?  Now is a great time for that sort of thing.  Tell me what you’re wanting to focus on, and we can cheer each other on.

That’s Affirmative

That’s Affirmative
I am

I am liking affirmations more and more every day.

I confess–I used to kind of hate affirmations.  I wanted to do them and be all enlightened and zen, but they didn’t click for me.  They felt silly and fake and I felt silly and fake saying them.  I’d try them out, but instead of feeling buoyed up or motivated, I would feel annoyed.  “That’s not true!” I’d think.  Then I’d go off and do something else, often the very thing I was trying to affirm myself out of. Then I started my Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching ™ training, and I learned how to actually use affirmations (thank you to my wonderful mentor coach Lisa Dieken for helping me with this!).  Admittedly I don’t use them that much still (by now, not using them is a habit), but I like them now and feel like I understand them much better.  I have learned how to help my clients find good, useful affirmations, and I’m enjoying honing my skills in creating them. If you’d like to try working with affirmations, here are some tips to help make them more effective:

  • Create your own affirmations rather than using ones written by someone else; use words you would actually say in conversation
  • If you do want to use an affirmation written by someone else, change the wording so it sounds like something you would actually say
  • Put reminders around to help you remember to use your affirmations so you give them a real chance to work for you
  • If an affirmation isn’t feeling right for you, change it or use another rather than try to use one that doesn’t feel like you
  • Once you have the wording down, work with an affirmation for at least two weeks before you decide whether or not it’s working for you

You might also want to browse through a few of the millions of online pages and articles for more in-depth info on affirmations and how to use them.  And keep an open mind.  You never know what might happen with the right words and attitude!

Extra Questions:  Do you work with affirmations?  What has been your experience with them?

EDIT: I forgot one of the most important points!  But I’m correcting that.

  • Make sure your affirmation is something believable.  For example, if you don’t have enough money for the bus right now, saying “I am rich” is probably not something your subconscious is going to believe no matter how you phrase it.  If you are aiming for something very far from where you are, build up to it in increments.  Start with something like “I can pay all my bills,” or my favorite money-related affirmation, “I have plenty of money.”  Something like “plenty” is good because it can be interpreted many ways and so can be easier to believe but is still a strong word.  If you use an affirmation that you absolutely can’t believe in, it won’t take you anywhere, so if you aren’t finding any belief in you for your affirmation rewrite it and try again.

On My Table–Making Faces

On My Table–Making Faces

I puttered a lot last week but didn’t make much of anything.  A painted background, some photos finally printed and cut out but not glued in anywhere.  I did get in more face drawing practice, though.

Face 2

I am still hesitant with my shading, even though I know if I just go for it my faces will look better.  I’m more hesitant in pencil than I am in paint, too.  I think of paint as being more forgiving, so I’m more comfortable with experimenting.

Drawing is one of the places in my life where I really get to practice being gentle with myself and taking small steps.  I feel really inept at it even though I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who can just sit down and draw all sorts of cool (and recognizable!) stuff.  But I rarely practice because my attempts aren’t very good, so I never get better. Or I didn’t.  Now I am practicing doing it anyway, even if it’s not good, and you know what?  It’s fun!  And I think my faces are getting a little bit better.  Double bonus!

What about you?  Is there something you really want to do that you avoid because you feel too “not good” at it?  What do you want to get good at?  Tell me about it, and let’s do it together!

Art, Body, Mind

Art, Body, Mind

Where does your art come from?  Where does your creativity reside? Do you imagine your self, your personality, your creativity as in your head somehow?  Many of us do this.

We are creative body and mind and heart.

We are creative body and mind and heart.

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on our heads, on our creativity, on our work, and our bodies fall by the wayside.  But for several years I’ve been convinced that our bodies and our physical surroundings have a strong and direct impact on our creativity.  I also think that focusing on our bodies and physical selves in a positive, compassionate manner can have a huge positive influence on our creative lives.

I’m mentioning this because a few years ago I came up with an art journaling workshop idea.  It’s called BodyPages, and I haven’t done much with it yet, but I am feeling like now is the time to move forward with this.  I am a little nervous because I don’t have everything planned out.  I don’t have much of it planned out, really.  I know where I want to start, and I have a few ideas for down the road.  I’m going to take a leap of faith and get started on this project.  I’ll be sharing pictures of some of the pages I create as I do this, and probably some bits of journaling now and then.  And after I get my feet under me I will open up a beta group to work through the exercises I’m creating so we can see how they work for others.

I feel that this work of bringing our bodies and minds together, making peace with our bodies, bringing our full selves to our creative work is very important.  It is something that is on my mind a lot, and I feel like it’s time to start talking about it.  I hope you’ll join me in this journey and in this conversation.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  See you Monday.

The Right Way

The Right Way

Which way should you go?  What should you do with your life, your self, your dreams?  Where’s that darned map?

How about a road sign?

How about a road sign?

There is no right way.  You probably already knew that, though.  We would really like there to be a right way, and we’d like to know how to find it, though, because if we could just find that one right way then maybe things would be a tad easier.

The good news is that while there is no one right way, there are many good ways to get where we want to go.  Some will be better for you than others, so there might be some trial and error involved, but that can be fun if you let it. (There are wrong ways, too, and you’ll feel that in your bones, in your heart, in the back of your mind.  Listen, and step away from those. Find a different route to try out.   Just don’t keep searching for the one right way–that takes up too much of your time.  You could be out having fun instead!

But if there’s no right way to get where you want to be, how do you know what you should do?  How do you decide which path to follow, which course to take, which idea to run with? A lot of that answer is subjective and depends entirely on you.  Lots of journaling and soul-searching will help.  But here are a few other things that will help.

  • Decide on what it is you want.  If you want something that’s multifaceted (you want to be a writer-painter-dancer-computer programmer, for instance), try to prioritize the different parts of the dream and decide what you most want to work on right now
  • Make a list of possible ways to get where you want to be.  Find ways that feel good to you and really appeal to you and seem like they could be right and seem like you would enjoy going that route.  Don’t pick classes, books, paths to follow because lots of other people have liked them, recommended them, said they’re a sure way to make a million dollars. Pick what calls to your heart.
  • Go over your list and read each possible plan.  Eliminate any that feel iffy or don’t quite feel right.
  • If you still have multiple items on your list and none of them are calling to you more strongly than the others, just pick one.  I know!  It sounds random and risky. What if it’s not the right one?  See above.  Then just pick one.  Draw straws or flip a coin if you need to.  The important part is to pick just one thing that you’re going to do to move you forward in your dreams.

Once you’ve decided on a path to follow, promise yourself to give it a real go.  Don’t second guess yourself and keep looking at other courses or methods or groups that might be better.  They, or something much like them, will be there later if you want them. For now, run with your choice.  Give it time and attention and love and affection and energy and everything you can.  Give it everything you’ve got and see where you can go once you pick a direction.

Good luck!  Have fun!  Drop me a note on your journey and tell me how your dream is coming along.


Top Ten

Top Ten
Top Ten 2

Starting my list

I love reading blogs.  I have a hard time keeping up with them, though.  I have a hard time remembering to go look at the ones I love, and I can’t seem to find a good way to organize them to make things easier for myself.  I get some via e-mail, but sometimes if I’m away from the computer for a few days (which often happens on the weekends) the messages get buried, and then I feel too busy to open them and click through to read when I’m in the middle of trying to catch up.

I tried setting up a blog reader after Google Reader shut down, but I really don’t like the way it works on my tablet.  I have this vision of lounging in my recliner with a cup of coffee browsing through my favorite blogs as if I’m reading a magazine created just for me.  The current blog reader I’m using just doesn’t work nicely for that.  So I’m making a plan to make blog reading easier so I stop missing really cool things.

Step #1: Pick my top ten favorite blogs (I’m contemplating putting a note in my calendar to reassess this every couple of months as my whims shift).

These are the blogs I’m thinking of including so far:

I’m going to look through my various blog lists and round this out to ten.  That way I should always have a few new things to read every day even if some of these aren’t updated daily.  But if I hold my “read all the time” list to ten, I think that will keep it manageable.  I hope.

So two questions here.  First, what are your favorite creative, inspiring, artsy, or writerly blogs?  And next, if you use a blog reader which one do you like?

Off to finish my list now.  See you tomorrow!

On My Table–Something Old

On My Table–Something Old

First, sorry I missed posting on Friday.  The day got away from me.  Life, yes?

This week’s On My Table is an old, stalled project.  In July, 2012 (yes, almost two years ago), I went on a trip to Santa Monica.  I made a gorgeous journal for the trip out of a gessoed map and a vinyl coated shopping bag (you can see more about the journal in this post).  I wrote in it and glued in a few things on the trip, but then I never finished it.  This week I am finally getting back to it.

Journal, printed out photos, an envelope of ephemera

Journal, printed out photos, an envelope of ephemera

My plan is to glue in some photos, do some collage/art journaling to remember the feel of the trip, and fill up the remaining pages so I have a pretty little reminder of the trip to go through any time I need a beach escape but can’t actually go to the coast.

It can be hard to get back into an old project.  You’ve moved along, become involved in other things.  It’s hard to get back to the mindset from back then.  Here are a few things I’m doing to help me reconnect with this project so I can finish it:

  • Reread or look at everything already in the journal
  • Do some freewriting about everything I remember about the vacation and also about what feelings I want to express in my collages and writings
  • Write down a few words about each photo or item I’m planning to use to help me remember why each one was taken, is special, etc.

Do you have any old projects you’d like to get back into?  I’d love to hear about them and about how you’re planning to dive back in.

Creative Time Wasters

Creative Time Wasters

Do you ever read articles or books on productivity?  They talk about time wasters–surfing the internet, checking Facebook and Twitter, playing computer games–and tell you to get rid of them.  There are even apps and software that will block you from the internet or certain websites, things like that, all in the name of getting more done.

Time on My Hands

Gotta keep your eye on the clock

Have you ever tried any of the productivity techniques and apps and suggestions?  I have, and I noticed something odd.  I didn’t start creating more.  I think I might have even started creating less.  And I felt stressed and pressured.  Overall I didn’t feel like it was a good experiment.

 I think trying to corral myself that way and keep to a schedule and get things done all the time was stifling me and my creativity.  I think creative people (maybe all people, because we’re all creative, after all) need more space–mentally, temporally, sometimes physically.  We need time to stare at the wall or off into space, doodle and hum to ourselves and let our daydreams run wild.  And I’m not the only one who thinks we need time for dreaming.  This article by Jonah Lehrer has excellent information on why daydreaming is important.  This one by Susanne Gargiulo is also very good.

Is this license to sit in our pajamas scrolling through Facebook all day?  No.  At least not every day.  We don’t want to box ourselves in and smother our creativity with over-productivity, but we also don’t actually want to just do nothing.  So what do we do to find a good balance between those?

That’s where my creative time wasters come in.  Creative time wasters are things that help me free my thoughts, help me get in some daydreaming down time and feed my creativity at the same time.  They help me get to that mindless state that lets my creativity get going, and they also help stir up new creative ideas.  Here are my favorites:’

  • Coloring.  I especially love Dover’s Creative Haven coloring books which are made for grown-ups
  • Dancing.  I do this a lot in the kitchen with headphones in singing at the top of my lungs.  Very freeing, and very stirring, and it really clears the mind.
  • Pinterest. I spend my time there looking at things that are related to whatever my current creative interest is.  Art journaling. Writing quotes. Photography. Surfing.  But spend some time browsing randomly, too, because you never know what will spark something in you.
  • Walking.  Getting out, moving around, letting your body move gently and your mind wander while nature works her magic on you.
  • Reading.  A good novel or two is an excellent way to relax your mind. It moves you away from your own creative projects and lets them percolate in the background while you have grand adventures.
  • Drawing.  Sketching, doodling, Zentangles, anything like that will help your mind relax and your thoughts wander, plus it’s creative all on its own.

What about you?  What creative time wasters do you love?  What helps you let your mind wander and get clear so there’s room for inspiration to get in?


Stirring the Creative Pot

Stirring the Creative Pot

We are not creative in a vacuum (okay, honestly, I am also not creative with a vacuum, but house keeping is another story).  We take in everything around us–sights and smells, things we hear, things we read–and those fuel, feed, and build our creativity.


Most of what seeps into our subconscious and out into our creativity arrives accidentally just from living our lives. But I believe if we want to stretch ourselves, become more creative, move our creativity forward, we should purposefully add things into the mix.  We should seek out things that stir our hearts and make us want to create our own wonders.  We should look for things that make us say, “I want to do that!” and spend as much time with them as we can.

This is especially important to do if we’re feeling creatively stuck or blocked.  If we are feeling that we aren’t creative, our work isn’t good enough, we don’t know what we want to be creating, having creativity stoking resources ready and waiting for us can get things flowing again.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite places and people for stirring my creativity.  It is by no means a complete list, and it changes all the time.  But it’s a great starting place for a creative boost.

I’m going to hold the list to ten even though I could go on!  These are just a drop in the bucket of what gets my creative juices flowing.

What about you?  Tell me, what stirs your creativity?  Who or what gets you inspired, moved, longing to make something of your own?  Let’s add to the list!

P.S.  Effy Wild is doing a blog along this month.  I seem to have jumped in on it.  Seems like a good way o get MuseCraft stirred, doesn’t it?  I probably won’t post on weekends as I don’t spend much time online then, but I’ll see you every weekday this month to see what we can get started.