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It's funny, every year as Thanksgiving and the winter holidays approach, I start feeling the pull to be healthier, eat better, get some exercise.  Maybe because I realize somewhere deep down that it's really easy this time of year to get caught up in the busyness and let self-care slip away.  And I know, even when I don't act on it, that caring for myself is the starting point to living my dream creative life.

River Stones

What does it mean to really take care of yourself? It can mean many things and take many different forms. It won’t be the same for everyone. To find out how you might need to be taking better care of yourself, take a look at your life as it is. Where do you find yourself saying things like, “I wish I had time for X” or “I can’t seem to get things done,” or “I wanted to do such-and-such project, but I couldn’t find my materials, and by the time I gathered enough of them, I was too tired to make art.” Are there things you keep putting off, things you really want to be doing? Are you doing too many things every day that you really don’t want to be doing? These are signs that your self-care needs a boost.

Self-care might mean giving yourself time and space to follow your dreams. This often means we have to cut out some things in our lives, though, so be prepared. Even if they are things you want to toss out, there can be some stress and sadness and discomfort over the changes.

Self-care also means getting things done when they need to be done so you don’t stress yourself out with the pressure of waiting tasks hanging over your head. Stress and pressure crush creative dreams. Think about what “stress” and “pressure” mean, and you’ll know this is true—stress and pressure in the tectonic plates of the earth cause earthquakes!

Self-care means finding shortcuts to give yourself the time and space you need without compromising other things you need such as your health or the happiness of your family and friends. It can mean knowing when to just lie down and enjoy the sunshine or put your feet up and just rest. It is finding people and places and books and objects that help you achieve a sense of peace and pleasure.

So after reading this, maybe you’ve decided you want to make some changes and start taking care of yourself differently, more deeply. Good! As you get started, keep this in mind—don’t try to change everything at once. Learning to deeply care for yourself and nurture your Muse takes time. You cannot change every ingrained habit at once—the final result will be stressful rather than pleasant and will feel like a chore rather than feeling like a long, warm hug.

What are some concrete things you can do to start caring deeply for yourself and your Muse? I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have many answers yet; I’m just starting out (re-starting) on this self-care journey myself. But I do have a few ideas.

One of my guiding words lately is "thrive." It's something we all need to focus on. Thriving. Taking real care of ourselves, not just the bare minimums. To help myself thrive, I'm starting out by focusing on eating, because one of the most important ways we can take care of ourselves physically and emotionally is by feeding ourselves good, nourishing, pleasing food (yes, pleasing--food should be a pleasure, but more on that another time). Of course, we don't want to spend hours every day cooking. So how do we thrive while still leaving time and energy and space for our creative pursuits?

I believe the issue of self-care and creativity is one I need to revisit often.  I'm going to use this reworking of an old newsletter article I wrote as a jumping-off point to start giving regular attention to--ME!  I believe that taking care of our physical selves (and this includes our environments) is a necessity because our physical selves directly effect our emotional, spiritual, and creative selves.

My first step on this path: starting a journal to talk to myself about self-care, how I'm feeling, how this is affecting my world, what I think I would like my self-care to look like.

What about you?  Would you like to join me in examining our physical sides?  What would you like to start with?

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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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12

It was 1992.  I was back in school getting a post-grad teaching certification and taking my first steps from being a storyteller and occasional poet to being a writer.  I started taking some workshops.  And I bought some books.  And one of those books is still with me.  It's right here next to me as I type because I think it's time for a re-read.

Basics 1
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Re-reading this (and probably Wild Mind after) seems like the perfect accompaniment to this round of ROW80.  Taking my goals back to the basics, simplifying, just focusing on the process of writing practice is what these books are all about. These books are where I first learned this stuff!  It feels really good to be returning to this starting point.

I've been doing some very short journaling, mostly on the back of my collage cards, and it feels good to be connecting to my world with my words again.  I know I'm on the right track for me, and I think that's a pretty good check-in for right now.

Wishcasting

This week, Jamie asks, "What do you wish to believe in?"  Here's a little bit of freewriting to answer that:

Fairy 4

I wish to believe in magic.  In fairies and miracles and bright, shining amazement floating in glittery bubbles of fairy dust.  I wish to believe that there are secrets to the Universe, things I can catch glimpses of if I open myself up and look in the right directions.  I wish to believe that I have magic inside me that I can bring out and share with the world if I keep trying.  I wish to believe that there are ghosts and aliens and Bigfoot and wild, unknown things out there and that maybe I can see some of it while I'm here.  I'm like Fox Mulder on the X-Files--I want to believe.

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2

In my last post, I mentioned how my delightful friend Jo of Tanglefrost sent me a beautiful necklace, and I was making her something in return.  I was so excited to be doing this because I love my necklace so much, and Jo has been a lovely presence in my online life this past year, and I was also rather thrilled to be sending something to England as I've never sent anything off the continent before.

I started a mixed media painting.  I wanted it to be oh-so-special so she would know how much I love my necklace and how much I love this real world connection idea.  I started another painting.  I gessoed over that one.  I put my things aside and played online.  I took out my canvas.  I looked at it and walked away.  I don't think I hit a wall.  I think the wall hit me.

I spent several days worrying about taking so long with my painting, about it not coming out right, about my gift not being good enough.  And then Sunday evening it hit me.  I was being a goofball!  This wasn't at all about making something perfect or out of the ordinary or anything like that.  It was about making one of the paintings I love to play with and create and then sending that little piece of my happiness and enjoyment to a dear person to share the fun.

So now the painting is almost ready.  I think two more layers will have all the pieces on it I want, and I've been having lots of fun playing with colors and patterns and papers.  And I think that will show in the final product.  And this will be exactly what it was supposed to be all along--fun and happy and friendly!

So take note--don't try too hard.  Do what you love.  The joy will show through, and those who experience what you've made will know that they are in touch with a little bit of your heart, and it will be a good thing all the way around.

Go out and enjoy your creating!

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I've been trying to write this post for over a week.  I've started it so many times in my head, and a few times on paper, but I keep feeling as if I'm missing the emotion I want to get down on the page.  I'm just going to stop trying.  I'm going to write up the bits and pieces, disjointed as they are, and put it out there for you all to see.

The story started when I was a young girl, in my teens.  I inherited my great-grandmother's knitting bag.  It had been around the house before then, but it was put away somewhere.  My mother ran across it, and it became mine because I was the only one in the family who would be likely to have a use for it.  Plus, I love (ridiculously, madly, unreasonably) bags.

I didn't really use the bag, but I kept it because I loved the vintage look of it (I loved "old fashioned" things decades ago, before the current vintage craze was a glimmer in a hipster's eye), and I loved that it belonged to a woman that my mother and aunt and all of their cousins spoke so fondly of.

There was an oddity about the knitting bag, though, and no one could explain it to me.  Inside the bag, although there were no holes in the lining, a safety pin was pinned to the fabric.  No one knew why it was there, but they left it there because their Baba had put it there.  So I left it there, too.

Fast forward to this May.  I took a beginner sock knitting class because I've always wanted to know how to knit socks (I'm told my great-grandmother could knit socks and sweaters without a pattern!).  I didn't use her knitting bag because the fabric is starting to come loose from the wood, and I don't want to ruin the bag.  Someday I'll figure out a good way to repair it, but until then I just keep the bag as a cherished memento.

I bought my own brightly colored, pyramid shaped bag:

And I learned how to read the pattern.  And then I got to a part of the pattern that called for marking a row with a safety pin.  I bought some fun, anodized metal pins in different colors and thought, "I think I'll pin these inside my bag so they don't get lost in the bottom."  Light bulb!  After all these years, suddenly I knew why that safety pin was there.  It was her row marker just as the brightly colored pins inside my bag are mine!

I told my mother and my aunt the story, and they were touched the same way I was.  It just gave us a warm, tender feeling in our hearts, this connection I found with a woman they loved so dearly but I never met.

This brings me to part two of my connections, and it's not about knitting at all, but I'm going to include it in this post because it's sort of related.  The same week I made the safety pin discovery, I found out I'm going to be going to Faerieworlds.  And I remembered that my friend Jo of Tanglefrost, someone I met last year online who showed me so much kindness and encouragement, had a beautiful leaf necklace in her shop, just perfect for a faerie gathering.

I contacted her, and some magic happened, and a gift of an amazingly gorgeous necklace has arrived in my hands (I cannot express how exquisite the work is on this necklace--it is delicate and ethereal and simply amazing and I seriously encourage you to gift yourself with one of these or one of her other works--you will be stunned by how much more beautiful this is in person even though it is already so beautiful in the photo!).  And with it came a real world connection between us even though we have never met.  The work of her hands is now held in my hands, and a small piece of art I am making will be headed to her this week.  And suddenly the friendship that was just online has stepped out of the virtual world and into the physical world.  My heart is so full with the joy of this connections!  I didn't even know I was missing this sort of connection until now.

So through the connection with my great-grandmother and the connection with my distant friend came an idea.  I love it that we can meet people and become friends with them online.  But I realized that there's nothing that can really replace real world connections.  I realized that I keep in touch with almost everyone on the computer.  I realized I don't actually have the addresses of most of my friends.  Sure I know how to get to the homes of my local friends, but I couldn't send them a card or a gift without having to spoil the surprise by asking for their addresses first.

My idea, formless as it is so far, is to find a way to make real world connections in our lives.  I'll be writing more about this as I come up with more of a plan, but if anyone wants to participate with me, to make connections, share things off the internet with each other, and tell each other about it, let me know.

There it is, all my disjointed rambling about connections.  I hope I've conveyed a bit of the feeling I wanted to share.  I hope I've planted some ideas in your heads about connections you can make for yourself.  Let me know what you're thinking, and together we'll move this idea forward, off this computer screen and out into the world where it can see the light of day.

 

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For me, making myself a little something is so much better than going out and buying something.  Maybe not always, but when I'm feeling restless and dissatisfied, a feeling that used to send me to the mall as a teenager, making something makes me feel way better than a shopping spree does.  Usually costs a lot less, too.

I was feeling a little bit of that restlessness yesterday.  Then I found this fabulous tape from Duck brand (I really want to find the green peace symbol one!).  Then I remembered this cool journal making tutorial I saw last week.  And so I made this:

The Outside

 

Outside, Opened
The Inside

You can see from the photo of the inside that I got the bottom staple a little off-center.  I decided I didn't mind it enough to re-do it, so there you go.  I did change the final step and add one final step.  I stapled from the inside out then put another piece of tape over the staples on the outside of the spine to keep them from snagging.  It was easier for me to do it this way since I didn't have a long-armed stapler and also didn't have an eraser.  Experiment a bit and see what works for you.

Why is my journal making experiment important to you?  Just as a reminder--it took me longer to tweak my photos and write this post than it did to make the journal.  You do not have to have big stretches of time, lots of space, or many supplies to make something fun and satisfying.  So go ahead.  Go out and make yourself a little something.  You're gonna love it, I promise!

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I've been away.  A little bit physically, a lot mentally.  I'm wont go into the messy details.  They really aren't important right now.  But I did come back with a few things to share, so I'll just get down to that.

First, I am now a certified Muse Group Leader!  I will be leading in person workshops and retreats based on Jill Badonsky's book The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard).  I'm so excited about this!  I love this book, and I love Jill's work, so this is really a big thrill for me.  I'll keep you posted as I get workshops up and running.

The second thing that happened was an unplanned and unnerving trip to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  My mother was having surgery, and things were really scary and stressful for a while both leading up to the trip and for a bit after.  Things are better now, so that's a relief.  But one thing I did during the travel portion of this crisis was really helpful, so I want to share that.

Going in to a crisis situation, we often think of only the necessities.  Underwear, toothbrush, medicine, contact numbers.  And you do need those things (and don't forget your deodorant and dental floss!).  But more important than any of that is packing things that will care for your heart and soul.  Whenever possible during a stressful situation, give yourself a soul break, a refresher of sorts.

I took some art journaling supplies with me (I wrote about that in my March newsletter), although I didn't end up using them.  But putting together my travel kit and stitching up a quick little journal were very calming activities all by themselves, so it was worth carrying the stuff with me.

I took my written journal.  Didn't write in that, either, although I did flip through it a bit and look at some pictures and quotes I have in there.  Just having it near me was comforting, so again it was worth carrying.

I took my camera.  I was going by train to a place I'd never been before, so I consciously decided that I would try to be a little touristy.  I didn't get any photos from the train--it moved too much for my little point-and-shoot.  But I did look around the places I was in and try to see them through creative, visitor eyes, and I ended up getting some good pictures that I am happy to have even if most of the memories around the trip are all about stress and worry.

A glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly in the Gonda Building at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
And another...
And one more...

I am completely in love with these glass sculptures, so expect to see more photos of them in other posts.

While my mother was in the hospital, I stayed with my aunt in a hotel on the Mayo campus.  We did make some excursions into the town, but I only got one fun picture of a very odd corn cob water tower:

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to get some photos of Red Wing, Minnesota, the charming little town where the train stops, but I didn't.  And that's okay.  And it you think you should have done something while you were dealing with an emotional situation but didn't actually get to it, that's okay, too.  Do what you can, arrange things so you can give yourself a little "me time" if you get time and feel like doing it.  Don't worry if you carry things with you that you don't use.  Security blankets (and books and paintbrushes and journals) are highly underrated.

That's everything for now.  I hope you'll excuse me if I was a little scattered in this post.  I was trying to condense a lot of thoughts and feelings into something that would come out shorter than the dictionary.

Until later...

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1

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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