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8

Holiday time! Sparkly decorations and parties and food and friends and family time! Frazzled time? Sometimes.  This time of year can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed rather than warm and fuzzy.  So what to do about it?

Holiday Mix 2

One of my favorite de-frazzlers is list making.  I know!  I saw you rolling your eyes.  I'm not talking about the productivity lists, the every-single-minute-accounted-for lists, the lists with so many items there's no way you can do everything in one day, nothing like that.  I'm talking useful, calming lists.  Want to give it a try?

First, decide what the actual purpose is for making this list. Is it to make sure we don't forget to do certain things that we want to get done? Or is it that we have so many things that we think we need to do that we can't possibly keep track of all of them without a list? The former is a good reason. The latter might indicate that your lists need some work. Figure out what you really want from a to-do list, what you want it to do for you, and go from there.

For me, I want my lists to be filled with things I really want to do in a day, things that will make my life better or easier, things that will move me forward in my creative dreams, things that I can put on a done list at the end of the day if I want to make one and feel really good about having done. I want my list to be like a friendly guide showing me the way to where I want to be.

How do you turn your lists into friendly guides to the life you want?

Tip #1: Cut down your daily list drastically. Only add on things that move you forward in the important areas of your life or things that you really do want to do today that you are worried might slip through the cracks of a busy day (that's why my list tells me to make a grocery list—so I don't end up at the store trying to remember what I need to buy). Don't put down every little thing you think you want to do or should do today. Just put down the truly important stuff.

Tip #2: Prioritize. Some days you will have things that really do need to be done that day. Put those at the top of your list. After that, prioritize by what pulls you the most, the things that feel like they will really move you in the direction you want to go. Some days you might need to rest and be calm because life has been too hectic lately, so you might put "knitting" or "painting" on your list, and you might want to put it fairly high up because you really want to fit that in. Let what is important to you today, right now, guide you in deciding how to order your list.

Tip #3: Categorize. Decide on the areas of life you want to give time and attention to regularly. Maybe even make a master list of sorts (for me, my master list is writing, coaching, organizing my house into a haven, and improving my health). This shouldn't be a very long list—probably no more than five things. Make sure that your daily list has something from at least one or two of these areas so you know you're working on the things that are most important to you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself after you write your list:

  • Does this list make me feel like I'm going to fill my day with important things I want to do?
  • Will completing the tasks on this list make me feel like I've done a good day's work?
  • Does this really need to be on my list?
  • Is there some way to make doing this easier, more pleasant, more fun?
  • What part of my life does this item make better?
  • Will something bad happen if I don't do this today?
  • Will something bad happen if I throw out this idea and just don't do it at all?
  • If this really needs to be done but I don't want to do it, can I pass it on to someone else?

Let your intuition guide you as you add and remove things from your list. Ask yourself how you feel about adding or removing a task. Experiment with leaving off things you thought for sure you needed to have on your daily list. Let your list become a helper instead of your keeper, and give yourself more time to actually go out and do the things you like.

A little end note—NPR offers a list of reasons to make lists: 10 Reasons Why We Love Making Lists. Lots of great reasons and ways to use lists for your best interests.

And another note: this article was originally published in my newsletter, although I've edited it for the blog and added a new picture.  Doing a blog post was on my list of things to do for the week, but I've been feeling too busy, so I used the "how can I make this easier?" question and came up with something I hope will be useful to all of us.

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2

"Your writing, your dream, your work needs space.  You do not have to have the perfect space, just space. You can do one small thing and make just a little space for yourself and your dream and get started right there."

On My Table November 12

I haven't had much to share in the On My Table category lately with all the life happenings and the recent reconfiguring of what I do. I've been feeling the lack of making things, and it reminded me that for a long while I've been struggling with a lack of consistent journaling and writing in my life, too.

I started circling around the problem as I have umpteen times in the past couple of years. Years! (At some point I may write about how a teacher and coach falls into a trap she helps others escape, but not right now.)  I threw myself back into the maelstrom of "I need space to set out my notebooks and have them close at hand but my house is too messy and I have no room and I just can't fix it!"  And then I reminded myself that I am a Kaizen-Muse™ Creativity Coach, for crying out loud!  I know how to deal with this sort of overwhelm--it's what we do.  We're overwhelm busters (among other things).  I probably should have talked to one of my fellow coaches about my difficulties--we could have gotten to this conclusion ages ago!  But, at least I'm there now.  I found an inroad into getting where I want to go.

Last night, after reminding myself that all I need to do is take one Small Step, I had an epiphany. I would like to do some of my writing and journaling at the office, but I didn't have a good place there to set out my journal and pens and things to act as a visual reminder for me.  My journal, pens, notebook, etc. do not take up that much space.  Where could I put them?

I thought about what I needed from such a space.  Accessibility from my chair, including visually because seeing my tools makes me reach for them more often.  Enough space to open a notebook and write in it without having to move anything.  That's pretty much it.  Did I have anything like that in my office?  Yes.  How about that catch-all corner of my desk?  It was home to random papers (hey, that's where that recipe got to!), bottles of vitamins, expired coupons, and my fingerless gloves.  That space was plenty big enough for my writing and journaling tools.  And it's behind me but off to the side so I see that corner in my peripheral vision every time I turn my head slightly.  It's a perfect spot, and it was right there all along just waiting for me to look for something (some place) small.

You know how long it took me to clear the space?  Three minutes.  No, really.  Three minutes.  The recipes went into a folder of recipes I had already set up, the vitamins went into a drawer, the coupons went into the garbage, and the gloves went to the opposite corner of the desk.  Then I set my tools in the cleared space, and I was done.

Is this the perfect, end-all-be-all solution to my problem?  No.  But it's a good start.  It's going to make picking up my journal or notebook and writing a bit much easier.  And you know what happens when you make your work easier and do a little bit of it?  It gets even easier to do more.

The take-aways from all of this?  Your writing, your dream, your work needs space.  You do not have to have the perfect space, just space. You can do one small thing and make just a little space for yourself and your dream and get started right there.

So go!  Make some space for yourself.  Do a little something for your dream.  I'm going to go write in my journal.

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10

Turtle

I am finally back from my long trip, trying to find my way back into everyday life like a turtle returning to the sea.  Or maybe like a small child dipping her toes into the cold water, not really sure she wants to jump in.  But unlike the child, or even the turtle, there's not much choice when the ocean you are dipping into is life itself.  Picking up and carrying on is the only way to go.

When I left on August 17, I mentioned here that I was called away on a family emergency.  My mother, who has had cancer for the past three-and-a-half years, was in critical condition.  I flew home and spent the next 11 days with her at the hospital.  On August 28 she went on to whatever comes next for us all.  Then came a whirlwind of funeral plans and the funeral itself, packing her belongings and emptying her apartment (my poor family--aunt and uncle and cousins--got stuck with so much of it as I had to return home too soon!), and then a cross-country drive in her car.

Now I'm home, and trying to get an idea of what life is now.  I don't have any creative plans or goals or challenges to share about right now.  I have only been back for a few days after three weeks and a major life change away, so I am still getting my bearings.  But blogging is a thing I do, and I want to get back to the things I do, to a life not centered around crisis and sorrow.

For now I'm going to continue reading a lot.  I'm going to snuggle my kitties at home and the dogs here at work.  I'm starting a new knitting project, a knit-along that started September 1 (SweaterBabe's Mystery Scarf Knit-Along).  Knitting is calm and soothing, and also perfect as we move into the cooler Autumn weather.

I'm not sure exactly when I'll be getting back to anything like normal.  Maybe never--maybe I will find myself making lots of changes and stirring things up now.  Life will definitely be very different.  I used to talk to my mother at least twice a day and often more, small and frequently silly conversations sometimes only two or three minutes long.  Now I will be looking at what will fill those spaces.  For now I'm just being, but I did want to let everyone know what's going on with me.

Enjoy the slow ride into Autumn!  Take care of yourselves!  And thanks for your patience as I slowly get back to the world.

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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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10

Crazy Face Jack
An original worth copying

We all get stuck sometimes.  That painting won't come together, the next part of that story won't flow.  We can't get anything new started.  What should we do?!

Copy.

No, really.  Copy something you like.  Draw the Mona Lisa in crayon, rewrite "The Raven" using other words.  Copy, but add a twist.

Why? Because it gets you moving, it stirs up your creativity.  You connect with something creative that you like and you engage with it, and this helps your own creativity get up and moving.  And it often happens that once you get the brush/ pen/guitar pick/camera moving, your own thoughts and ideas start coming through loud and clear again.

How do you do this so you don't end up just copying and never getting to your own work?  First, I don't think that will happen.  We're creatives, so eventually our own voices are going to make themselves heard.  But to help avoid delaying the message, try this:

  • Use elements of the original in something brand new of your own (like a fan fiction story, for example).
  • Examine the original for things it would be easy to change--colors, genders, number of people in a story or objects in a painting, time period, location, etc.
  • Pick one thing from your list and start making that change.  If you started your copy before thinking about changes, just start adding the changes from where you are.  No need to start over.
  • Pick another thing from the list and start making that change.
  • Think about other works you like and see if you can incorporate elements of one or more of those into your copycat work.  It doesn't have to be something in the same genre or even the same medium.  A sketch of a favorite book character in the background of your Mona Lisa?  Of course!  "The Raven" flying off to a music store and playing a violin?  Why not?  Mix and match--it's a fun game and very freeing.  Be as silly as you can!
  • Take your favorite elements from your play time and try them out in whatever you were feeling stuck on.  (It's okay if you can't find anything that will work--just take a look to see if there's something there.)

Will this exercise always directly help your current work?  No, not directly.   It will always help shake things up, change things around, get things moving.  Sometimes you'll find something that helps move your current piece along.  Sometimes you'll find that you just had a good time, and that's worth plenty all on its own.

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2

I love a grand gesture, a giant cake, a huge display of lights at Christmas.  I do!  I love big, shiny things.  But you know what I love even more?  Tiny, sparkly little treasures.  They gleam and glisten and entice you to draw closer, focus in, get still and attentive.  They're mesmerizing and full of wonder.

Small Things 1

So what does this have to do with creativity coaching or a creative life?  So much!  Small things are beautiful and powerful and full of everything we love.  And Small Steps will get us to those dreams we love.

In Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™ we're all about small things--Small Steps, Small Questions.  We love them!  Why?  Because they do so much while being so easy to wrap your brain around.  This also has to do with a creative life because being a creative doesn't happen in a vacuum.  We live in a busy world.  We have a lot going on.  Things that fuel our creative dreams and fit into the rest of our lives are priceless!  Small Steps are the way to get there without letting everything else fall away.

Convinced?  It's okay if you're not sure.  We've been taught to believe that we need to do big things, make huge changes, do something dramatic to change our lives.  (Have you seen some of the things people do when they want to ask someone to marry them?!)  So Small Steps may seem weird at first.  That's okay.  Try them out anyhow and see what you can do.  Here's how:

First things first.  Pick your dream.  What's something you'd like to get started or make progress on?  What creative dream would you like to come true?  Write that down.  Put the note someplace you'll see it often.  There.  That's a Small Step and  it's a reminder of what you want to do.

Next, ask yourself a few questions.  Write down the answers if you like (it's okay if you don't have answers right away or only have a few), but most importantly ask the questions.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What could I do in just five minutes? Two minutes?
  • What would feel good to do right now?
  • What is the smallest thing I can do that is connected to my creative dream?

Now, pick one of those small steps and do it.  Do it again tomorrow, or the next time you have five minutes (or two).  Try this out for a week, maybe two.  Then look back and see what you've done, one Small Step at a time.  Give yourself a pat on the back!  Then make a new list of things you can do and do one.  And now you're on your way to your creative dream!


There's still time to sign up for the MuseCraft™ Explorers' Club (starts July 9).  We'll talk small steps, we'll walk them together.  We'll have fun and make our way toward those creative dreams together.  Join me?

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18

Okay, it's not really on my table, but it's what I was working on this past week (and some paintings, of course), so I thought I'd stick with the normal Monday routine a little and use my usual title.

Detail Collage
Details from a few of my favorite painted pages--in squares, of course, because I'm loving squares right now.

So, about that blog tour...I was invited to join in on the tour by Theresa of Indigene Art Forms.  This blog tour has been going on for a while, and everyone who participates gets to invite others, so there are lots of links to follow back through the tour.  Give yourself a little gift and follow the link path--there's lots of great stuff to discover!

For the tour, I'm answering four questions about myself:

What am I working on?

Right now possibly the biggest thing is my 100 Paintings Project.  I have always considered myself a writer who dabbles in art, but I am wanting to claim that title of "artist" for myself, and I'm starting with a big pile of paintings!

I'm also working on a really fun coaching circle (MuseCraft™ Explorers' Circle) that will be starting in July--I'm really excited about this--it's going to be a creative adventure!  What could be better than that?  Info and sign-ups are almost ready to fly out into the world--I'll keep you posted.

What else am I working on? (Because I'm always doing bunches of things, it's just in my nature.)  Working on a new blog posting schedule and a couple of cool ideas for blog challenges for late summer and fall.  Working on some downloadables that I think are going to be great fun.  And working on, or at least thinking about, restarting my newsletter.

Things are going to be really exciting around here starting in the next couple of weeks, and I am thrilled that some of my ideas are going to get out into the world to share with everyone!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I'm still in the fairly early stages of my visual art work, but I think that some of my creativity coaching experience and my writing experience are making their way into my art and helping to put my own personal stamp on it.  In coaching I work with making small changes a lot, and I find that I approach my paintings that way, adding a few dots here or lines there and then letting it be until the next idea comes.  And from my writing I seem to have brought the idea of leaving some things to the viewer's imagination--I'm finding that I really like a small amount of detail and a lot of hints of things.  I may branch out and do things like more shaded and detailed faces, etc., but right now I'm really enjoying what I'm doing.

Why do I write/create what I do?

My writing and painting tends to be about mysterious things--fairies and magic and secret things that are hard to see.  I like to explore the ideas of hidden realms and magic in our own world in my writing, and this is starting to emerge in my painting as well.  I don't have an explanation for why I love these things, though.  I always have (my mother will tell you that by the age of two I had to watch every monster movie that came on, and I never missed a showing of Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz.)

I think we are born with a pull toward certain things.  We often learn to cover it up, ignore it, pretend it isn't there, but our hearts have things they gravitate toward, and mine loves all things strange and weird and inexplicable.  And I think it's very important to listen to what pulls your heart, and if you can't hear it or feel it any more, I think it's incredibly important to excavate for it.  As Rumi said, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

How does your writing/creating process work?

It works best in small bursts.  I am rarely the sort who sits down to work and stays there for six hours.  I lay down a layer of paint then wander off to do other things while it dries, then I come back and do the next bit--sometimes that means painting for ten minutes, other times I might be there an hour depending on what I'm doing.  But bits and pieces and spurts work best for me.  For writing, too--I write best when I set a time for ten or fifteen minutes and then sit back for a minute or two (or five if I need more coffee or tea), and then do it again.  I guess I'm a sprinter rather than a marathoner.

So there's a little bit about me.  Now the super-exciting part of the tour!  I get to introduce you to some great fellow creatives who agreed to join in on this journey.  Go visit their blogs and see what they're up to, and make sure to check in next Monday (June 9) for their blog tour posts.

Adriane Giberson

Adriane is a creative human living in BC, who has on occasion been called a Renaissance Woman. Ever delving into the mysteries of the life of art and the art of living & sharing the journey via the interwebz.

You can find Adriane online at http://adriane745.wix.com/theartsyfartsychick

Paula Kumert

Paula is a memory keeper, making time and space for her creativity in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

You can find Paula online at http://keepitsimplemakeitgreat.blogspot.com/

Barbara Martin

Barbara is a writer, artist, and all-around creative making lots art and hosting meetings and workshops for fellow creatives in Oregon.

You can find Barbara online at http://www.barbaramartinart.com/

 

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4

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.
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4

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.

 

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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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