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10

August Challenges

I love August!  I have loved August since the first year I went to school (in the Chicago suburbs where I grew up, school starts in August rather than September).  There's always been so much promise in the start of a new year for me, kind of like in January, but for me I feel that new year vibe even stronger in the Fall.  I love new classes and subjects and schedules, all bursting with good new things to learn and try and practice.

I think my love of that back-to-school wave must have been seeping in even though I didn't realize it, because this week I signed up for three creative challenges for August--one for writing, one for journaling, one for photography.  I should find plenty of new things to try with these!

Writing: I'm signed up for DIY MFA's Conquer the Craft challenge, which is actually a 29-day challenge.  I'm going to use it in conjunction with a group I signed up for called My 500 Words that focuses on--I bet you know this one--writing 500 words a day.  After August I plan to do it only one weekdays/work days, but for August I'll use if for the 29 days of Conquer the Craft.  This might even fit in with my #Just10Minutes practice, at least on some days.  If I'm on a roll, I can write 500 words in 10 minutes, so I might try to push for it a few times just as an extra challenge.

Journaling: I'm also jumping back in on Lisa Sonora Beam's ROOT 30 Day Journal Project.  I sort of participated in January, but I was still heavily in a Lull phase and didn't get all the way through.

Photography: And finally I'm doing the Life in Black and White challenge. Thirty-one days of black-and-white photography.  Since getting a digital camera, and then an iPod Touch, I never shoot b & w anymore, and I used to love doing that with a film camera.  I'm looking forward to focusing on some photography plus getting back to black-and-white.  I even got two new apps for my Pod (Noir Pro and Hueless) to try out for the challenge.

So what about you?   Do you get the same kind of vibe I do when it's back-to-school time?  Any plans to start something new this August? Tell me all about your plans--I'd love to hear them!

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4

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?

 

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6

I have a million things on my mind, and I want to write about all of them.  I want to do a Row80 check-in, I want to talk about JuNoWriMo.  I most especially want to talk about Lisa Sonora Beam's Creative+Practice class and Jill Badonsky's Creative Realignment Workshop, both of which I've stepped into this week.

I've been hesitant to talk too much about my flaws and failures.  What kind of coach falls prey to the same things she helps other people deal with?  Oh yeah.  A human one.  A human one who needs to remember what she tells people all the time--we all need to connect with mentors and teachers and people who support and cheer us on our paths.  We all need help.  So, here's a little bit about me getting caught up in a downward spiral and my journey back out.

Journal 2
My Creative+Practice journal, created (and not quite completed) last year but not used because I kept meaning to get to the work but wasn't doing it. I see a pattern...

This whole year, plagued by illness, injury, car troubles, and the accompanying money woes that go with all of that, I have been trying to make plans, jump into things, busy my anxiety and depression away.  Coupled with a leaning toward self-sabotage and procrastination, I've just been setting myself up for failure and a reinforcement of my "I never do what I should, never do anything right" feelings.

This week, though, a few things happened to push me into acknowledging that I've just been plunging into plans to try to shake myself out of my doldrums.

First, Lisa's class started up again, and I realized that it's an invitation.  It's an invitation to slowly build up to something lasting, something that can keep me afloat during dark and stressful times.

Then Thursday Jill did a call about self-sabotage and not showing up for yourself.  It was like someone shined a spotlight on my behavior.  It became so clear that I was making sure that I don't move ahead with my dreams.

At first I found myself starting to make all sorts of new plans to "get myself going" and things like that.  Then I stopped myself.  I asked one question: "What do I need?"  Not what do I want to be doing (writing, coaching, teaching), or what do I think I should be doing (cleaning and organizing, making better plans for my life). What do I need?

  • I need breathing space, calm, peace-of-mind
  • I need a support structure, regular practices that help me sort my thoughts and get that calm space I need
  • I need to care for myself

A huge problem of mine is impatience.  I want all of this right now.  My plan (oh, I just can't help myself--I love to make plans!) is to take things day-by-day.  I'm going to finish out this round and begin the next one with the goal of making one daily step, connecting with people here, on Twitter, on Facebook to have some accountability.

So what does this mean for ROW80 and JuNoWriMo?  Writing is in my soul, I can't stop thinking about writing and stories, so I'm not going to stop doing either of these.  I'm just going to really dial back my goals.  For the rest of this round, and for the rest of June, I am going to set the goal of writing at least two sentences every weekday.  Small steps, one of my favorite tools from my Kaizen-Muse™ training.  And they work when I remember to do them (have you ever noticed how hard it can be to follow your own advice?)

I've been rambling.  I hope you're still with me.  I hope you'll remember that even when you're not practicing your creativity, even when things are dark, this is normal, and you are not alone.  And if you want to talk about it, I would love to connect so we can help each other along.

 

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