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In a sense, this is a follow-up to the creative doldrums post and also a little bit of a follow-up the the "not the usual thing" post from a few weeks ago.  It's something I advise people to do all the time.  I haven't actually been following my own advice, though. And oddly enough, if you don't actually do the things, nothing changes!

This week, I'm going to shake things up a bit and see if I notice any difference in my thought patterns or creativity.  At least three times this week, I'm going to veer off my normal path and see what happens.

Some things I might try:

  • Watch a TV show or movie outside my normal interest fields
  • Read a book outside my normal genres
  • Read a magazine or even magazine article outside my normal areas

I decided to pursue this because of something I read last week (and darned if I can find it again!) that suggested things like reading or watching different things.  I "cheated" a bit and started doing this over the weekend.  I watched the movie "Jarhead" on Saturday, and on Sunday I watched a biography of John Travolta.

What new things might you try to change things up a bit?

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We all long for something—a new job, travel, love, adventure—things that are “other,” things that are not our everyday lives. Creatives long maybe a little more than most people. It's in our nature. We are dreamy and live with heads and hearts filled with possibilities and “what ifs.” Longing is part of our makeup.

Sometimes, though, the longing can pull our attention away from the here-and-now. It takes us away from that day-to-day life that could be filled with the things we are longing for if we would let it. Sometimes you have to let go of the longing so you can see where you really are right now.

So how do you find your dreams right where you are now? Start here:

  1. Write about the things you want to see and do. Put in lots of detail. Take “I want to go to Paris” and make it “I want to go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower and the colorful flower stalls and visit the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and stroll the countryside picking flowers.”
  2. Write about the feelings you want from the experiences you are longing for. Instead of “I want to have lunch in a Parisian street cafe” write “I want to feel the breeze brushing my hair as I eat creamy brie and a soft, chewy baguette while taking in the colorful street scenes.” Put in the sensations you are longing for and also the emotions you want to feel from the experiences you're dreaming of.
  3. When you have a good, clear idea of the feelings you want to bring in to your life, make a list of things that already give you some of those feelings and also things you think might give you those feelings. If you want the peace and calm and quiet of strolling country lanes, drive yourself to a nearby small town and wander through it's streets and sights.
  4. Find ways to add these things into your life whenever you can. Look around and see where you can fit them in—a little bistro table in your own yard and bread from a local bakery can give you a taste of that Parisian cafe you daydream about.

Living the life of your dreams isn't all about changing things and adding things into your life, though. It's also about finding things around you that already match your dream life. Look at your life and find what matches up to your dreams. Is your dream to be an artist? That little box of paints and stack of canvases in the corner is part of the artist life. Start there. Build on what you already have and do, add to the parts of your life that connect you to your dream. Start right where you are.

Finally, remember that your dream is a joy. It is meant to add pleasure and magic to your life. So add pleasure and joy and magic and beauty wherever you can. (Add some things like my little dancing flower and let yourself smile and laugh whenever you can.) Let yourself have some joy because joy builds on itself, and your creative dream will grow from joy.

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Do you remember the first time you had a great story idea?  Remember how exciting it was imagining character names, daydreaming what would happen next, writing it all down?  Wasn’t it fun?  Are you still having fun with your writing?

Magical Bubbles

 

I love setting goals and keeping track of things, counting my words and pages, having something that shows me I’m making progress.  I think goals and accountability are important in our creative lives.  It’s often hard to let ourselves fit in our creative work when there’s so much else we feel we should be doing, and goals and progress reports can help us give our writing the time it deserves.

Sometimes, though, we can get really caught up in setting goals, meeting goals, reporting our progress.  Our writing becomes another “have to do,” and we can lose the joy.

If you’re finding yourself trudging forward, thinking you have to get to your writing, if you aren’t feeling the thrill of creating your new words, here are some ideas on how to get the fun and joy back:

  • Ask yourself, “How can I make this more fun?”  and “How can I make this easier for myself?”  Write those questions down in your journal or put them on sticky notes where you’ll see them often.  You don’t need answers.  Just let your mind percolate the questions, and you’ll find yourself finding ways to fit in more fun and ease.
  • Write yourself a letter or a list about why you started writing—include what drew you in, what you love most about it, why you want to write.  Keep this someplace where you can see it and read it often to remind yourself that you love this work.
  • Write a scene where your characters go out and have a great time. Take them bowling, surfing, to an amusement park, out dancing.  It doesn’t matter if this will get cut later.  Let your characters have fun and enjoy yourself alongside them.  Let yourself write things that are fun to write.
  • Make a list of the writing activities you love the most (for example, I love writing dialogue), and include at least one of them in your daily writing as often as you can.
  • Get yourself a writing buddy, a little toy or trinket that you keep with you when you write.  It can be an action figure, a stuffed animal—pick something that makes you smile.
  • Try some writing games and toys to liven things up and make it fun.  Try out Story Cubes, tarot cards (Tarot for Writers for example), or I Ching (like I Ching for Writers)
  • Collect writing prompts and links to writing prompt websites (my favorite is Toasted Cheese).  When things are a little to serious and stuffy, make a game of picking a random prompt and working it into your story

Most of all, let yourself relax.  Let your goals and plans guide you, not rule you.  Happy writing!

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Note:  This post appeared previously on Where the Spirited Women Gather which is sadly now defunct.

 

Halloween, also known as Samhain, is a time when the veil between our world and the spirit world thins. It is a time when the spirits can visit us or we can speak to them more easily than at any other time during the year. In modern times we associate the holiday with all things creepy and spooky, but in the past it was more about the spirit world, remembering our ancestors, and the quieting of the seasons as winter approached.

This Halloween, why not hearken back to the olden days and use the energy of the season to get in touch with your inner, creative spirit? Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

  • Tarot meditation: Tarot cards have long been considered a way to contact the other side, getting messages about your life and maybe even your future. For this exercise, pull out a deck of tarot cards or another oracle deck and pick a card. Spend some time gazing at the image . Note any people or creatures, any items that stand out for you, the colors and tones used in the image. Let yourself imagine sinking or stepping into the card, noting any feelings and sensations you may have. You can also look up card meanings—there are several online places you can find to get meanings for tarot cards. Use what you gather from your gazing and any research to inspire a piece of creative work. (An alternate version of this would be to pull out one of the cards associated with Halloween—the Death card, King of Cups, or 5 of Cups, and follow the same guidelines.)

  • Pumpkin gazing: Carving pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns goes back hundreds of years to the ancient Celts. They believed that the spirits wandered the earth on Halloween night because the veil was so thin. They carved pumpkins and placed them outside with candles lit inside them toe help guide lost spirits home, making the carved faces scary in the belief that the frightening faces would help scare away any evil spirits. Carve a pumpkin and place a lighted candle inside. Put the pumpkin on a table, turn off the lights, and sit down in front of the jack-o-lantern. Breathe deeply a few times, letting yourself relax. Spend as long as you like gazing at the flames, letting your mind find images in the dancing fire and shadows. When you are finished, write down your impressions, any thoughts and images and ideas that came to you. Use these ideas to create something. (An alternate to this would be to gaze into a candle—pumpkin or jack-o-lantern shaped adds to the holiday spirit but isn't strictly necessary.)

  • Celebrate Dia de los Muertos: The Day of the Dead (typically celebrated on November 1-2) is a Mexican holiday remembering and celebrating our loved ones who have gone before us during this time of the thinning veil. Sit quietly and remember those important to you, people and pets, who have left us now. Make a list of names, and next to each one write a few words or phrases about that person. Use that list to make a piece of art—a painting, collage, art journal page, poem, song, whatever comes to you—celebrating your loved ones.

  • Leaf printing: One of the strongest symbols of Autumn is vibrant, colorful foliage changing from green to a parti-colored display of pre-winter glory. Take advantage of the crisp Autumn days and bright leaves and go outside to gather the most beautiful leaves you can find. Take them home and use them in place of rubber stamps—dip them in ink or paint and print onto paper or fabric with them. You could also include the leaves themselves in collages or art journal pages or make an Autumn leaf bouquet to put in a little bud vase.

  • Connect with the classics: Autumn and Halloween are associated with ghost stories and other scary tales, too, and it's a perfect time to get cozy and read yourself to sleep. Pull out a classic Halloween story (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and “The Raven” are my two favorites) and re-read it—maybe in a mostly darkened room with a few candles lit and a cup of hot cider at your side. Let yourself absorb the imagery and feelings of the piece. When you reach the end, make some notes on the images and emotions that stood out for you and use those to create something.

Samhain also marks the ending of the year in the Celtic calendar, so after your Halloween celebrations, take a few more minutes to ring in the new year. Light a candle and make a new year wish before you head to bed. Happy Halloween!

About me:

I'm a writer, professional muse, certified Kaizen-Muse ™ Creativity Coach, and all-around practitioner and lover of whimsy. I dabble in every sort of creative pursuit that looks interesting, spend too many nights staying up too late reading, and have dreams of building up an incredible stash of yarn for all the knitting patterns I keep saving.  In November, almost all of these things go on the back burner while I participate in the particular madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

You can find me on my website, MuseCraft ™, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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I'm in the last throes of preparing for a trip to Santa Monica. I'm very excited--I haven't been on an actual vacation since 1998!  I've been on short, weekend trips, but most of my traveling since I moved to Portland in 1999 has been back home to the Chicago suburbs to visit my family.

To me, part of the enjoyment of a trip is figuring out just the right things to take with me.  I've been gathering my clothes, buying a few new things, making lists (oh, I love lists!).  But the most fun for this trip has been making an art journal for it.

I decided to use a map to create my journal pages.  I got a very large Rand McNally map of California--so large that it wouldn't fit on my work board when I laid it out to gesso it.  So, I cut it into pages first then gessoed it.  If you decide to make a map journal and need to cut before gessoing, I recommend cutting it into a few larger sheets.  It took forever to get all the pages gessoed the way I did it!  Still, I love the way it came out.  I love the raggedy edges, the way the pages are slightly different sizes (which happened because when I took them apart to gesso them, I didn't get them back in the original order I had them in when I first stacked and folded them).  And I really love how the maps show through the thin coat of gesso I used.

I was going to make a cover out of painted watercolor paper or a paper bag.  But I kept seeing this shopping bag I brought home from a trip to get some summer clothes for the trip.  It's one of those bags made from that weird paper-cloth hybrid, the kind you can buy at the grocery store to carry your food home in.  But this one had a vinyl coating on the outside in bright, summery colors and a leafy, flowery pattern.  It seemed perfect for a beach vacation journal, so I cut it up and used part of it for my cover.  I'm planning to put a post card on the front so it won't be quite so garish, but I'm loving how it looks as is.

Finally, with the book all sewn together, it was time to prep the pages.  The plain white was a bit dull, even with the maps showing through, so I decided to add some color.  But I wanted the pages to be easy to write on, and paint is not always easy to write over.  So, instead of using acrylics, I used a variety of inks and some watercolor crayons to color my pages.

You can see bits of the decorated pages along with the awesome, raggedy edges

I went through and added some decorative details, including a couple of folded in sheets of decorative paper and one really cool advertisement that just screams to me of beaches and vacations.  I have a list of things I want to write about and a whole pouch full of pens.  I think I'm ready!  Bon voyage!

 

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