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Happy New Year!

Do you make New Year resolutions?  Or maybe set intentions for the year or just list a few goals without calling them resolutions?  Most of us have some hopes and dreams and plans for the coming year on January 1.

Many of us have creative goals we want to accomplish.  If you have a goal to bring more creativity into your life this year, I thought I'd offer ideas for two ways you can make that happen:

Try Something Completely New

One of the best ways to rev up your creativity is to try something new.  Do you paint?  Try writing poetry.  Are you a photographer?  Try knitting.  You could even try something new and tie it in with your usual creative activities, for example by incorporating one of those poems you write into a mixed media painting.

If you go this route, let yourself get really involved in the new pursuit.  Join a group or two, read blogs, take a class.  Really dive in and immerse yourself in your new activity and give it a chance to really take hold.  Give yourself enough time--weeks or even months--to really get to know the ins and outs and ups and downs of your new creative pastime.

Delve Deeply Into Something You Already Do

Do you sketch?  Plan a year long project to do one small sketch every day.  Do you like to cook?  Sign up for a class in one particular cuisine, or plan to try recipes from a different region once a week.  Take something that you enjoy doing, go one step further (or more!) than you have so far, and become an expert.

I'm planning to go the first route this year and learn to quilt.  I've read up a bit on quilting, and I love the look of beautiful quilts. I've even bought a few supplies, but I've always hesitated to actually try it out, so this year I'm diving in.

How about you?  What creative fun are you getting into this year?  Drop me a note.  I'd love to hear what you're up to.

And again--Happy New Year!

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I love Christmas.  Not the shopping and craziness and relentless stupid commercials on TV.  I love Christmas--the glowing, twinkly lights, the sparkly decorations, the smells of baking and bright paper and bows and the generally better dressed, more decorative world we seem to walk through during late December.  The days sort of glow somehow as we try to adorn and festoon our way out of the dark season.  I think I love it so much because somehow in my mind it is still the Victorian fantasy I came to believe in from watching Little Women and A Christmas Carol, White Christmas and Holiday Inn and reading The Bird's Christmas Carol (my favorite Christmas book when I was young).  I love how Christmas brings beauty and sparkle to my everyday world.

Still, even during these glowing, Victorian tinged days, I'm already feeling the pull of the new year--looking ahead, thinking of what I want to do, what I'm going to do differently, what exciting things might just be waiting up ahead.

I do think it's going to be a fabulous year.  I already know what my focus word will be--Believe. Do you have a focus word for the year?  I like having a focus and intention for the year rather than setting resolutions.  Focus is more flexible and seems better suited to something meant to last a full year.   This year I had three focus words--create, thrive, explore.  This led me a good way down my path, but I think my focus was a bit split, which is why I chose one word for 2011.  That and I feel for the coming year everything I want will come if I just learn to believe in myself and my abilities.

I already have a few things coming into my life that I can tell are going to help me keep growing and thriving next year.

  • This week, I got two early Christmas gifts in the mail (one just arrived).  The first, Inner Excavation by Liz Lamoreux, is already bringing shifts in my world view just from the first read through.  The second, the one that came today, is Expressive Photography from the Shutter Sisters, edited by Tracey Clark, and it feels like I'm holding in my hands everything I want to learn to bring out in my own art and life.  I'm feeling madly in love with these books, so I've been writing about them all week, and I'm not done yet.  Look for lots of posts both here and at my WordColors blog about these books over the coming weeks and months.
  • Preparations for the Wild Minds Writing Retreat I'll be hosting in June.  There will be more about this very soon, but it is already sending me in new thought directions as I plan it.  It's going to be so much fun!  I can't wait to have enough together to start sharing about it.
  • The decision I've made that 2011 will be the year I create the physical self and surroundings that I so deeply desire and deserve.  I've formed an art journaling group, BodyPages, to help in this exploration, and I'm starting to have actual ideas of how to make it happen and some hope that it actually can.

This is what's on my mind now.  I'm enjoying the season and looking forward to the turn of the calendar page with great excitement and hope. Wishing you lots of both during this beautiful season!

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Hi everyone!  I'm back from vacation and finally feel like I'm back in the right time zone.  I'm always amazed at how much a two hour time difference can mess with my body clock.  But here I am, mostly rested and back to normal and filled with some thoughts to share.

I've been trying to avoid something recently, but I went to the grocery store last night and had to face up to it.  The holidays are coming.

I'm still annoyed by seeing Christmas things alongside of the Halloween candy, but my irritation over the mixed holidays doesn't mean they aren't coming.  And if they're coming, it must be time to get ready.

This post is going to be a little bit of a mishmash of things that can help you get ready for the long, long winter holiday season.  But before you start shopping and cooking and wrapping and hiding (you hide presents, don't you?), you should put one other really important thing on your schedule--you.

The holidays can be a lot of fun if we turn things down a few notches and let ourselves kick back and enjoy our family, good food, and long, cozy nights.  If you get caught up in spending too much money, cooking too much, eating too much, scheduling too much and generally letting yourself get frazzled by the whole experience, you risk sidelining your creativity well beyond the end of the holidays.

I've had years where I've started January exhausted, angsty and grumpy.  I've had some version of "make more time for creative work" on my resolution list a couple of times, too (thank goodness I've stopped doing resolutions!).  I know I'm not the only creative who lets my personal projects slip away during this time of year, but I also know that it's important to not let your creative work take a back seat during the holidays.

Your creativity is a major part of who you are.  It's important and deserves attention even during busy times.  It's also really easy to push it aside when "more important" things crop up.  But if you let your creative self languish for months while you do holiday stuff, it's going to be really hard getting back into the flow come January.  Plus, you're probably not going to feel as happy and calm and festive as you would if you keep taking care of yourself during the holidays.  In the long run, you are going to be happier and feel better if you make some time for your creative work even when life is hectic.

Okay, we get it.  We acknowledge that we need to keep feeding our Muses even during the busy holiday season.  How can we make sure that happens? I have a couple of ideas.

I'm going to start with my favorite.  I love to take classes to help me stay in the creative flow.  Here are a few that are either ongoing or getting ready to start up soon.  They could possibly help you carve out some regular time for yourself during the next few months.

Those are just a few on my list of things I have taken and liked or want to take.  There are literally hundreds of online and in person workshops and classes you could take to help you and your Muse stay connected.  Check your local parks and recreation listings and your local community colleges for some in-person options.

If you would love to dive into something new but don't want to take an ongoing class, consider a one-time workshop either online or in person.  Or take a look at some instructional videos.  Interweave Press has videos available--some as downloads as well as DVDs-- in most of their creative categories. (I really want to try several of the mixed media videos and maybe a couple of the knitting ones, too.)  If you want something short and quick, check YouTube by searching for your favorite art category (for example, art journaling).

You can also go the practical route and choose to make some or all of your gifts.  If you're going to do this as a means to keep connected to your creativity, though, I strongly recommend making things that you would want to make as art or craft projects even if you didn't need a gift to give away.  If you need some inspiration for gift projects, check out these publications:

You can also get creative with your wrapping and decorating, but again, don't take on creative projects just to kill two birds with one stone.  Make sure the things you're choosing really do feed your creativity.

If none of these appeal, but you want to make sure to get in some good creative time during the holidays, call up some crafty friends and schedule some creative parties to work on art journals or other projects together.  Just make sure you feed your Muse and come January she'll be sure to return the love.

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Oh look!  Another three day holiday weekend, and another time for me to forget that yesterday was Sunday, not today.  I just can't seem to help it.  In my mind, the last day of the weekend is Sunday!  So, if you were looking for a post yesterday, I'm really sorry!  I thought it was Saturday.  I hope you were off doing something more fun than waiting around at the keyboard, though. 😉

I had a lot of fun this week looking at what creative things I do.  How about you guys?  Did you run into any old artsy friends you haven't done in a while?

Here's my list of creative pursuits:

  • Writing
  • Art journaling
  • Photography
  • Embroidery
  • Beaded embroidery
  • Mixed media painting
  • Mixed media arts (collage, ATCs, altered books)
  • Cooking
  • Knitting
  • Oil painting
  • Bookbinding
  • Art quilting
  • Jewelry and prayer bead making

I think that's the list--there might be a few things I've tried out but haven't pursued beyond learning the basic techniques.

When I looked at the list with an eye to how these activities relate to each other, I found that there's actually a lot of cross pollination.

For example, when I learned to knit, I taught myself.  I just knit a few inches, pulled it out and did it again until I got the hang of it and stopped dropping and adding stitches.  And now I've noticed that whenever I want to learn something new, I find a way to do a small version, often multiple small versions, to practice on before I make a full project.  I'm actually, finally learning to sew this way!  I know this doesn't seem like a big thing, but it's not how I tended to work before I taught myself to knit, and now since it worked so well for that I do this all the time.

Another major shift in how I do things came when I learned the beaded embroidery style that I'm very in love with now.  I used to do cross stitch, then I expanded to other embroidery styles, and then I found this magnificent beaded embroidery style which is pretty much all I ever want to do now.  It's a free style, because you can't actually plan ahead where all the beads are going to go; you just go along one bead at a time, looking at the piece after every few beads to see what else is needed where.

And you know what happened to my rather precise, tidy, attractive but sedate mixed media pieces like my ATCs and altered book pages?  They started getting wild, which is something I had always wanted.  I learned from my embroidery to have a look at the piece and just add a little bit at a time, not worrying about the finished piece, just looking for what bit it needs next.

I haven't really figured out how I might make these connections happen purposefully.  I think what we'll all need to do for that is look at our processes in our creative activities.  Once we can see how we do things, it will be easier to see how the processes we use can be used for other types of projects.

I'll keep an eye on this, and if I get any insights on how to purposefully use these cross connections, I'll keep you posted.

I'm going to be on a bit of a break this week, so I'll return next week Tuesday (September 14) with our next installment.  Meanwhile, have some fun and make some things!

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How many of you do more than one art or craft form?  I do--sometimes I have to rein myself in, because I could easily get seduced by every need-to-buy-new-supplies craft that comes along.

This week, I'd like to examine the ways our various creative activities inform each other.  I'm interested in finding out if perhaps we can purposefully choose activities that give a boost to each other--not just the expected creative pairs like painting and drawing or writing fiction and writing memoir.  I'm interested in more obscure, less expected pairings.

Make a list of your creative pursuits. Make sure you include things like dancing, cooking, gardening--anything you do that may fall outside the typical things we think of when we think about creativity.  Then examine ways these activities might influence each other.  Look for the subtle, maybe even subconscious ways this happens, and also consider ways you might purposefully help these connections to occur.

Have fun with this.  Consider it a chance to play with all your creative loves.  Let me know what you discover about how your creative activities play together.

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This back-to-school time of year with its hints of new beginnings and nearly infinite possibilities just gets me so excited to do things and accomplish things and start things!  It also makes me want to buy notebooks and pens, but we won't talk about that little addiction just now.

I decided to take that new beginning vibe in the air and use it to look at the intentions I set for this year--Create, Explore, Thrive--see how I'm doing with them and make some changes or additions as needed.

Our homework this week: take stock of our intentions for the year, figure out where we are, what we've already done, what we'd like to do for the rest of the year.  And maybe buy a new notebook and pen to make notes about it all!

Leave a comment and let me know if you're up for a reevaluation of things and a late-year motivation boost, and we can do this together.

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14

Finally it's time!  The Mad Tea Party 2010 has arrived!  I'm so excited to tell you all about it.

Of course, I've been preparing for ages. Ages!  I packed the basket to carry the tea party into the woods--I've heard that's where all the best tea parties take place.

Hmm...what's that?  It seems someone has added a bottle of something to my basket.

No matter.  I'm sure it will look quite nice on the table.  I do wonder who it's talking to, though.

Maybe to the Hatter.  I see he's arrived while I wasn't looking.

Might need to give him a table of his own...

The Cheshire Cat must be here, too!  Who else could have snuck in and rearranged the tea pots so?

And indeed it was the Cheshire Cat.  Here he is now.

And I've just heard that the Caterpillar will be here as well.  This should do quite nicely for him--I hear he's very fond of mushrooms.

I believe that's everyone now except Alice and the White Rabbit--they're never on time, you know.  I think we'll put on some music and dance while we wait.

Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing in the whimsy and nonsense!  I hope you'll stay for the dancing and join us again next time.  Until then...

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I found a few more thoughts after posting about my Alice project.  I mentioned in that post that I felt I wasn't getting enough whimsy lately.  And I need my whimsy--I love the fanciful, the fairy touched, the dreamy.  I need them in my life.

Whimsy and joy are two big reasons why I do what I do.  I do this for the joy of playing with colors and papers and inks and paints.  I do what I do for the joy of stringing words together to say something that is mine.  I do it for the joy of sharing this with other people who are seeking their own creative paths.

If you are reading this blog, you know the joy of your own creativity, or you at least believe that there can be joy in it.  I am doing this Alice project for my own joy.  And I'm here to remind you that we must seek our joy.  It is what will keep us alive and vibrant. And joyful.  So just remember (and I say this to myself as well as to you): as you seek out projects, activities, things to spend your time and heart on,  remember to always do it for joy.

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Some of us more so than others...

Edit: For Tea Party visitors, the actual tea party post is here.  Enjoy!

I have a confession to make.  I love Alice in Wonderland.  Really love it.  Unabashedly, unreservedly adore anything and everything Alice.  I was nearly beside myself when the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie was announced.  I'm currently working on an Alice themed art project for a swap. Which is why, when I saw this project, I sensibly decided not to get involved.

The problem is, I didn't really have anything planned for this week's experiment.  And I kept running across references to that Alice project that I was not going to do, no way, no how, I don't have time, I'm not doing it.

But it's Alice!  And there's magic there.  And whimsy.  And I think maybe I've been a bit short on whimsy lately.  And it's Alice!  So I'm doing it.

If I had just given in to this a few weeks ago, I could do something really fantastic and fun. Now, with only a few days to go (oh, and a newsletter to wrap up), I'll have to keep a tight rein on myself and disregard most of the wonderful, whimsical ideas floating through my head.  But there will be a tea party, oh yes there will!

See you for tea on Saturday!

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4

Note: this is an older post I wrote, but it's still relevant so I'm putting it back on the site. And writers? Don't skip it because it looks like it's meant for other types of artists. It applies to you, too! I'll add a little note at the end of the post specifically for writers, but all of this is for all of us.

Original post: 

This week, I'm feeling sluggish and stressed and not very creative at all.  I am definitely in the doldrums.

I know we're not always at the top of our game, energetic and inspired and ready to be geniuses, but this is still a hard place to be.  I think somewhere in my mind is a voice telling me that this isn't supposed to happen to me.  I'm the teacher, the coach, the one who helps others out of these tight spots. I'm not supposed to get into them myself, right? Ha!

Of course, we can optimize things so that we have more regular bouts of uber creativity (I'm working on how to make that happen) with fewer slumps, but sometimes you're tired.   You're a little under the weather, you're frazzled and harried and don't quite have what you need to take on a full blown creative project.  But you still want to keep your hand in the game and do *something* creative, make something, do something.  If you're like me, that process of just taking a bit of time to make something small or simple really helps me feel better.  Sometimes I really need to make something to get back in the flow, but at the same time I just don't have the energy and oomph I need to figure out what project to start on.

So what can we do when we don't have the energy for a major project but we still want to do something creative?  Prep work.  Wait!  Don't turn off the screen just yet.  Prep work isn't a bad thing at all.  We need to do it.  The Prep Work Fairy is *not* coming over to do it for us (she called and told me she isn't).  And prep work doesn't require us to be at the top of our game, so it's perfect for the doldrum days.  Plus, if the prep work is done when you *are* fired up and ready to go, you don't have to use your precious, high octane creative energy on the tasks that don't need it.

What are some of the things you can do for prep work?  Of course that depends on your art form or forms, but here are some ideas:

  • Paint and/or stamp backgrounds for art journal pages or collages
  • Wind and sort threads for a needlework project
  • Cut out fabric squares for a quilting project
  • Sketch design ideas
  • Cut or tear pictures and words from magazines for collages

This week, I am going to do a bunch of art journal page backgrounds.  (I won't say I'll do one a day--I know I have a busy weekend coming up, so I know I won't do it.)  I've been wanting to get to my journal more regularly, so maybe having some prepared backgrounds will help with that.

What can you do this week to pave the way for your creative work?

Note for writers: you might do things like setting up files (pages for characters, settings, etc.), finding images that look like your characters and places, things like that. Or you might read some writing articles or blogs. Or you might try some of the above-mentioned non-writing ideas, because sometimes doing something outside your usual creative field is just the thing you need.

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