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These are not normal times. You don’t have to act like they are. You do not have to try to do everything the way you always do it right now. And you definitely don’t have to strive to do even more--start a business, learn a language, start lifting weights (you don’t have to do those things in more normal times, either, if you aren’t really into them). Right now, you do not have to push yourself. Now is not the time for extreme productivity. It’s a time for caring for yourself and your family and friends and the world around us. It is a time for listening to your body, seeing how you feel, going with the flow of what you need.

This is also not a great time to do nothing. Great swathes of unfilled time can really amp up anxiety and depression, and no one needs that any time, especially now. I know my first two weeks of being unemployed during all of this I was awash in all the hard feelings. So I made some changes to help myself. I’ve talked about them with a few friends, and everyone seemed to find it helpful, so I thought I’d write about it.

What did I do? I gave myself some structure. I’m not talking about rigid schedules and pages of to-do lists. For me, that’s just more stress, and if I miss one of my tasks I end up feeling worse. What’s working for me is a looser sort of schedule.

I figured out things I wanted to do with my time, and then I broke my day into blocks that work for me. You might need to experiment to figure out what works for you. For example, in the below schedule I started out with having a scheduled activity at the end of my 2 - 4 p.m. block, and that was not working at all, so I changed things up.

Here’s what my weekday schedule looks like right now (my blocks are very loose--sometimes I don’t start on Block 2 until 10:30, etc., and I recommend doing something different on the weekends):

  • Get up around 8 a.m.
  • Block 1 8-10: Clean up, get dressed, feed cats, make coffee. During this time I have breakfast, check email, goof off online, read articles.
  • Block 2 10-12: I do something hands-on*. So far I’ve reorganized my linens and moved them to a new location, cleared some old clothes out of the closet, emptied a bookcase that’s getting moved. Sometimes I vacuum or clean out the fridge. And lately I’m working on learning to sew. I find something that has me away from computers and phones and actually, actively doing something or making something is really good for my brain. I recommend trying it out. 
  • Block 3 12 - 1: I take a break before doing a quick Spanish lesson at 12:30. 
  • Block 4 2-4 (ish): Right now I use this time to work on my license renewal classes for my teaching license. When I finish those around the end of May I plan to work on the MasterClass classes I signed up for.
  • Block 5 4-6: I take a break, then do something hands-on again (this is when I exercise and sometimes do some painting in my art journal). 
  • Evening: I make dinner around 6, visit with friends online, then spend my evenings working on art projects, playing online, and watching TV.

I worked out these blocks based on what I noticed about how I perceive time. I tend to think about it as morning, late morning, noon, afternoon, late afternoon, evening. I don’t know why, but it did make it easy for me to block my time out. Some things to think about if you want to try this:

  • Figure out the things you both want and need to do in a day
  • Don’t fill every minute with “productive” things; schedule in plenty of downtime and relaxation
  • Let yourself skip the schedule if you’re having a really hard day
  • Check in with yourself and see how you feel and change the schedule if you feel like it’s not working
  • Do something every day that makes you laugh or at least smile

*Why something hands-on? Because our bodies need to do things. Our brains feel better when we give them different sorts of tasks to work on throughout the day. The sense of accomplishment from clearing a shelf, cleaning out the fridge, painting a page is a mood booster. 

I hope this gives you some ideas of how to make your days a little smoother. If you’re struggling (really, even if you’re not feeling that) give yourself a break. Give yourself some love. Take care of yourself out there!

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For the past two weeks (I started two weeks ago today!), my kitchen sink is clean (I got this idea years ago from my therapist, and then later from the Fly Lady website). This sounds pretty small, maybe unimportant. But it's making a noticeable difference for me, for my state of mind and I think for my creativity.

See, I'm a slob. And I have too much stuff, but I really like having all of it, but I am not good at organizing or tidying, so...my house is a cluttered mess. And dirty, because the clutter makes it nearly impossible to clean floors or really anything else. And this natural state of mine leaves me anxious and depressed and creatively blocked. So I decided I need to find a way to change things.

I've been on this bandwagon before. A few times. So I'm trying not to get too excited. But this time I do feel like it's different. I'm not trying to immediately add in a new thing as soon as the sink is clean. I'm just sinking in to that habit (pun not intended, but now that I noticed it, I'm keeping it!). I'm going all Kaizen-Muse with this.

So far the hardest part is fighting off the thoughts that this is too small and is never going to help me get to the bigger goal of a tidy and welcoming and organized home. I just tell myself it doesn't matter if it doesn't go further. This habit is giving me lots of good things all on its own--a feeling of accomplishment; better meals because I don't order carry-out or get fast food because there are no clean pans for cooking and I'm too tired to clean them; space to work when I want to make something, even when it's just making my lunch.

I have an inkling that there might be deeper payoffs, too. This past week I found myself doing some writing and capturing some really fun new story ideas. I've been doing a little bit of art journaling even though I don't have clear space to work in. I started designing embroideries for this year's The 100 Day Project.

Are these related to my sink project? I don't know. I do feel like there are some feeling shifts stemming from the clean sink initiative (yes, I do watch a lot of superhero movies). My plan is to continue with this until it really sinks in and becomes a habit. This is going to take longer than the 21 days that gets tossed around in regards to habit building. I think that 21 days is only true if you are trying to build a brand new habit, not when you're also trying to overcome old habits. But that's another conversation.

I'm planning on writing about this house cleaning thing (tidying? I do like the word) more. Report in on how its going, report on any changes and additions. For now I just wanted to put it out there, say that I'm doing it, see if anyone else is feeling this pull to clear their space and make room for more of what they really want.

So drop me a note and let me know about your cleaning and tidying. We can share tips and cheer each other on.

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It's been a while. And then I started this post and let it go for several days. This is telling me I need to revamp how I keep in touch--clearly I don't have the right system set up.

Since the beginning of June, life has been a lot. My beloved cat dying suddenly from cancer. My job ending. Traveling to see family for the first time since my mom died five years ago. My partner leaving his job of 15 years for a new opportunity. Adopting a new cat so very soon after my darling died because our other boy was sad without a friend and having the new kitty girl go into heat almost immediately right when my partner was leaving for two weeks for the new job. Yeah, it's been like that.

Some of my pages from The100DayProject

Through it all I did keep to some creative practice. I was doing The100DayProject, and I stuck to it through all the chaos. Friends and others have commented that this is impressive and some have wondered how I managed to stick with it. I did a little post about this on my Facebook page the other day, but I thought I'd write a little more and put this somewhere easy to find for people who need it at some point.

What I did to keep in touch with my creativity:

  • I made sure my projects could be varied so that I could work for just a few minutes or half an hour or more depending on how my day was going. And every day I told myself I would just do a few minutes (and most days it turned into a longer time and was always rewarding)
  • I put my supplies right where I could see them every day and could just sit down and use them when I was ready to work
  • I used social media as my accountability partner and reported what I did every day
  • I told my partner and my closest friend when I was having an "I don't feel like doing anything" day; saying it out loud always helps me get myself off the couch
  • I gave myself permission up front to do "ugly" work or "plain" work like just some paint and washi tape on a page where I did practice brush lettering

So, what to do if you are struggling to get to your creative work?

  • Find the smallest steps you can do. Make a list of them so when you're really busy/tired/resistant/whatever you don't have to try to think of what to do.
  • Do the smallest step. Don't try to make yourself do more. If you do something for three minutes and you really don't want to do more, that's fine. It still counts.
  • Find a way to keep yourself accountable, a way to report your successes. Hashtags are pretty good for this.
  • Try for some variety in your creative practice so you don't get bored or feel stuck.
  • Let yourself do practice work, ugly work, plain work. Don't aim for finish products or your best pieces every single day.

I hope this helps if you're feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Keeping up with our creative work when life is particularly hard is important. It helps clear the mind and fill the soul, and it gives us a win in days that might not have many. So don't let go of your creativity when things are bumpy, just find a way to make it easier. Your future self with thank you for it.

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I liked this book. It really felt good right now, when I am doing some reinventing and bringing myself back to beginner mind and fresh takes. I'm always buoyed by cute graphics with encouraging words, too, so I enjoyed running across those throughout the book.

Things I particularly liked:

  • The examination of job, career, and calling
  • The should list and the questions to ask about each of our personal shoulds
  • The 10 minute activities and small steps to help you find your must
  • The obituary activity
  • The fears list activity

Not my favorite stuff:

  • I think we need to talk more about fitting your musts into your should world, because for most of us that's how it's going to look. I think most of our paths are going to have our shoulds and our musts walking side-by-side. This was addressed more in the last half of the book, but I felt like it should have been acknowledged earlier. We need to fit our must in with paying bills and meeting our everyday obligations and needs.
  • The idea that everyone is born with a calling they just need to find. I think sometimes we realize we want a calling or passion, and we can go out and experiment and create one. But it doesn't have to be some big birthright sort of thing. It's okay to develop a calling in your 90s if that's where you find yourself, and if it's not something you were interested in during childhood, that's just fine.
  • Not the fault of the book or anything about the writing, but this didn't work for me as an ebook. This book is meant to be read in full color.

Overall, I liked this. It returned my focus to what I want to be doing. It reminded me that there are things I can do even on days when I'm exhausted, depressed, in pain, whatever. It made me want to get up and do things, and that's the thing I loved the most.

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You're not a sketcher? You don't draw? Get back here! This book is still for you. Maybe you'll even want to try out some of the drawing exercises. Even if you don't, give this book a read.

The parts about developing a habit and breaking the rules apply to every creative as does the section on fitting in your creative practice. The encouraging talk about trying new things and dodging perfectionism will speak to pretty much all of us, too, I think. And I completely love "The Week of Living Artfully." We can do this with any kind of work we do!

That's the magic of this book. It's about drawing, but you can easily see how you could adapt this to whatever art form you are working with. It really is about finding a zillion ways to be creative.

Ways to use this book if you don't draw:

  • Change each exercise to fit your chosen art form
  • Write about how the exercises make you feel about your own art (or in general)
  • Take photos representing each exercise
  • Try the drawing stuff anyhow

Finally, my favorite takeaway: "Every time you find a reason not to create, the art you mihgt have made doesn't exist."

Go make something.

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I actually finished this about two weeks ago. I've been procrastinating about writing this blog post, which is really kind of funny given the subject of the book. Don't let my lack of finishing this post right away keep you from reading the book, though. There's a lot in here that's great food for thought, and I think quite a bit of this is going to be useful.

Part of why I couldn't get started on writing this is because I felt like I have too much to say about the book, and I wanted to be concise and write something good and so on. Then I remembered to actually take some advice from the book; I changed my goal, simplified, made it easier. What I'm going to do instead of the big, complicated post I thought I needed is give you some lists. So, here you go.

Things I Especially Liked:

  • Every chapter gives you steps to take, actual actions you can do to help you
  • There are lots of examples of people using these ideas (I do wish there weren't so many about weight loss and sports, but they're still helpful)
  • There's a whole chapter on ways to measure your progress
  • There's a focus on making goals smaller, giving yourself more time--all the Kaizen Muse small step goodness
  • The whole chapter about hiding places and noble obstacles (ways we can avoid trying to reach our goals and still feel like we're doing something good)

Favorite Advice:

  • Make it fun if you want it done (joyless goals fail)
  • Don't try to get everything in place before taking action
  • Choose what to bomb (aka strategic incompetence)
  • Attainable goals are motivating
  • Finishers make things easier and simpler
  • This is our life's work--it should be something we love that feels important to us and that we get enjoyment and satisfaction from

So that's it. Short-ish and to the point. Read the book. Definitely take the steps. Most importantly, let's all get out there and finish our stuff!

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Photo by Scott Stephens on Unsplash

Sometimes road blocks aren't from fear or lack of confidence or a procrastination habit--all the usual things we point fingers at when we aren't getting things done the way we thought we would. Sometimes there's really something in the way.

This realization, and this post, came about because lately I've been struggling to get blog posts written lately. I used to write lots of blog posts, often more than one a week between my blogs. Then I took a hiatus, only writing occasional posts on my personal site. At first I was blaming my struggle on being rusty--I had been away from regular blogging for a while. Then I realized that there's something else going on.

When I used to write regularly, I had a notebook next to me. I jotted down notes and ideas by hand, and then I wrote my posts. Now I work on a chromebook on my couch most of the time which doesn't lend itself to keeping a notebook next to me (the cats always sit on them if I try!). But I didn't just change my location; I changed how I work. Only I didn't really realize that.

Now that I have recognized that there's something beyond my normal procrastination tendency, I can change the things I've been trying, and I think I'll have a better chance of working around or through my blocks. So if you're finding yourself feeling blocked, give yourself a little time to really explore why--do some free writing or talk it out with a friend or into a voice recorder. Don't dismiss any ideas about what might be going on. Let yourself consider anything that might be tripping you up. If you can bring it to light, you can start working on getting past it. Try a few of your ideas and see what works.

For myself, I'm going to try a couple of ideas. The first one is a lap desk on the couch, because it's still my favorite place to work, and a smaller notebook just for couch work.

I'm also going to try out moving to a folding table when I need to do notebook writing. That's not terribly convenient because I won't be able to keep the table up all the time, so there's going to be an extra step or two I have to take before I can work, but it's worth exploring. I'm also going to run these ideas by my partner and see if he has any other ideas I might try. Now that I know what I'm trying to get past, I think I'm on my way to making some good changes and getting more posts written, and that is very good.

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I've started this post at least a dozen times over the past six months. If you count all the times I've started it in my head, it's way more than that. I've let myself get trapped under the pressure of saying it right, doing it right. Perfectionism.

So here's what I've been thinking about. I miss the early days of this blog when I used to combine coaching and my own creative projects and general creativity topics. I thought I needed to be more structured and focused and professional (which I thought of as less personal somehow), so I switched to working with writers because that's my main creative outlet and stopped talking about my own creative life.

The trouble with that is I don't only do one creative thing, and trying to focus only on writing and working with writers kept me away from talking about things I love. And I really enjoy working with and encouraging painters and singers and other creatives as well as writers. I am a multi-creative, and I want to be that in this space.

With all of this (and so much more, so much!) in mind, I'm going to be talking about all things creative here. That will include writing, of course, but it will include any and every creative thing that fills my heart.

I'm also going to be adding a couple of coaching options back into my mix. Right now I'm not planning on any long-range packages, but I'm going to be offering a creative path tarot reading and some single sessions of coaching. I'll get pages up for those in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I'm going to work on a schedule for writing here (because the no-schedule thing I was trying really didn't work for me--you may have noticed). And I'm going to share about my creative projects, too. Look for me here more often, and let's talk about the things we love to make.

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Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

This is something I think about a lot, and a tweet just reminded me of it again. There's a lot of talk that floats around about how if you find your right path, if you choose the right thing, then life will be easy and breezy and you'll have energy and just float along your path to success and happiness.

This is garbage. And it's really starting to make me mad.

Finding your thing in life (and you might have more than one, sometimes at the same time), finding your passion, that doesn't take away health issues, depression, anxiety, the need to cook meals and clean the kitchen and do laundry. It does not mean that everything else will fall away and clear a path for you.

Your passion is not a bulldozer, it’s a guide. It doesn't make your path easy. It makes it worth it to keep going.

Finding your passion gives you a focus. It gives you something to aim for. It can give you bursts of energy. It can also give you a reason to keep going when you're too tired and sad and want to lie down and give up.

If it is difficult, if you are struggling, do not think you are doing it wrong. Do not think you have chosen poorly. Know that there will be easy times and hard times, up and down times, smooth times and stuck times. Life is like that.

Remember that the path doesn’t have to be--probably won’t be--easy. And you don’t have to be able to see the whole path. Choose one small step and focus on that. The next step will be there for you when it’s time.

Hard is fine. Hard doesn’t mean failure. Your dream is worth traveling a tangled path. You can do this!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

I think we all end up returning to something in our lives--a city, a person, a project, a career. Sometimes we find ourselves returning to something we didn’t even know we missed. That’s how I’m feeling about my MuseCraft™ work. I was so busy, I thought I didn’t miss it, but when things calmed down I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

But how do you return from a hiatus that you thought would be a few months but turned into more than a year? (Closer to two, I think, because my brief foray back into the blog last year was pretty short lived and unfocused.)  How do you return to something you thought you were finished with? How do you return to something you love when you’re a different person than you were when you left?

I think you return--to anything, after any time--by not trying to catch up. By just saying, “Hello, I’m here.” And then moving forward from there. Start where you are now, and take the next small step. Let what you learned last time inform your choices, but don’t try to recreate how things were before. You know the old saying--you can’t step in the same river twice. It’s best to not try.

Here are a few ideas for returning to something you’ve been away from for a while.

Step 1: Revisit what you’ve already done. Don’t make changes or edits. Revisit it as if you’re viewing someone else’s work as much as you can. Don’t write anything down. Don’t look for changes. Look at it with curiosity and appreciation.

Step 2: Make a list of what you want the project to be when it’s finished. How do you want to feel about it? How do you want your audience to feel about it?

Step 3: Make a list of steps you need to take to get it done. Make them small. Smaller than you think you should. So small they seem silly. Make them smaller than that. Small is good! (So is silly.)

Step 4: Pick a target date or create a timeline for doing the work.

Step 5: Find some support. An accountability buddy or group. A hashtag to use to share your progress with others doing similar work. Something to give you a place to check in and talk about how things are going.

Now get started. Pick that first, small step to take. Tell someone about it. Do it. Don’t look ahead to what’s next. Just do the step in front of you. After that you can pick the next one and do it. The others will still be there when you get to them, so don’t worry about them right now. Just focus on the step in front of you and start heading toward your goal.

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