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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!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

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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This is a newsletter I wrote a few years ago, with a couple of updates because technology changes all the time.  Some friends and I were talking about technology and how much we use it, and a couple of people I know are talking about taking time away from the internet or at least away from social media.  Now seemed like a good time to repost this.

Technically Speaking
by Kim Switzer

How do you feel about technology? Does it make your day? Drive you nuts? Is it a helper or a distraction or some of each? Do you run out to get the latest gadgets, or are you still using a cell phone from 2003?

Don't worry if you and technology aren't best buds. You don't have to ditch it and go live in a cave—you can make it work for you and maybe even learn to enjoy it!

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A lot of people have something of a love/hate relationship with technology, especially the internet and social media. I see posts and notes from people fairly regularly saying they are taking a break from technology, going on a technology vacation, etc. The main culprits that seem to send them skittering away from the internet are Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, the things that can suck you in and hold you captive way longer than you intended to stay. So these people disconnect themselves for a while, then they show up again later seemingly rested, rejuvenated, and glad to be back.

I think time away from the internet, the computer, your cell phone, etc. is a great idea. I'm just not sure doing it in big, sometimes dramatic breaks from the internet is the most useful way to do it. I think incorporating times throughout the week where you aren't on the computer (or the iPhone or Android or tablet or any of that) is extremely important for creatives, and doing it regularly is better for your creative balance than doing technology binge-and-purge cycles.

Don't worry that taking regular time away from technology will put you behind or make you miss something. I do very little on the internet or even the computer in the evenings and on weekends. (Unless I'm sick, in which case I spend way too much time on Facebook reading and commenting on any random thing that comes by to distract myself, but that's a special case.) Most of the time on a work night I might check my e-mail and maybe Facebook once in the early evening. This usually takes about half an hour, and then I put down the computer and pick up some knitting or a journal or a book to read. And a kitty. I almost always pick up a kitty. On the weekends, I usually spend an hour or maybe a little more on Sunday evening doing a quick catch-up, but mostly I fill my weekends with AFK (away from keyboard) activities. I get plenty of non-technology time, and it feels really good to pop back in to my e-mail and Facebook and see what people have been up to. Lots more interesting things get a chance to pile up if I don't check
every 15 minutes.

Of course, when I first signed up for Facebook, I was on there all the time. And I still fall into that now and then—hours frittered away mindlessly scrolling and refreshing, looking for who-knows-what. And that's okay. Sometimes we need mindless distraction to let our brains rest. If you find yourself doing it a lot, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to ditch the technology, though. This sort of behavior is actually an excellent road sign. For me, this behavior lets me know that I'm avoiding something that is feeling too hard or overwhelming. And that lets me know I need to examine whatever it is I'm avoiding and find a way to break it down into smaller steps. Technology becomes a mini-coach, helping me realize that something isn't working and I need to give it some attention.

Quick Exercise: If you find yourself procrastinating or numbing your brain with the internet, social media, other technology, or anything else, try a little journaling. Grab your journal and write down this question: “What in my life needs some time and attention from me right now?” Write about it if you like—just let the words come, don't edit or censor yourself. But you don't need to push for an answer. You can just let this question simmer in the back of your mind and be open to what answers may come up later.

How else can you make technology work for you?

Timers: One of my favorite tools to use. I like to set a timer and write as fast as I can for 10 or 15 minutes. I also set a timer when I want to have a little break and poke around on Facebook or elsewhere on the internet but don't want to get sucked in for half a day. Some of my favorite timers:

  • My iPod Touch timer with its variety of cute sounds (currently, it's set to “trill”).
  • Countdown Timer, a free online timer with a variety of options.
  • Cool Timer, a nifty, free timer to download that lets you play MP3s and all sorts of sounds.
  • Insight Timer, a meditation time available for iPhone, iPad, and Android that uses Tibetan singing bowl sounds; I use it for writing and other things, though, rather than meditation.

 Calendars and To-do Lists: Don't just use these for the normal stuff—deadlines and appointments and anniversaries and such. Get creative! Do you practice The Artist's Way? Put your artist dates on your calendar (one of my friends puts the question “what are you going to do this week?” on her calendar to remind herself to plan an artist date—such a great idea!). Put little questions (like the one from the exercise above) on there so they pop up occasionally and remind you that you want to think about them. Mark off time for working on creative projects, use calendars and lists to remind you that you want to spend time researching a new skill. Put some fun, exciting, creative stuff on there and let your calendars and lists help keep creativity at the forefront of your mind. My faves in this category:

  • Google Calendar--it integrates really well across multiple devices, it's really easy to update, and you can get pop-up or e-mail reminders or both.
  • Remember the Milk--a great to-do list with options; it integrates with Google Calendar, lets you make lists for multiple categories in your life (I have categories for MuseCraft, writing, household stuff, body and exercise stuff, and a few others), and lots of other good stuff.
  • Awesome Note--I love this calendar/to-do list combo! My only complaint about it is that there isn't an Android version.

Various and Sundry Other Bits of Goodness:  you can use technology to inspire you.  Sign up for newsletters, poem-a-day e-mails, quote-a-day e-mails, travel photos, cute animal photos--whatever makes you feel happier and more ready to get back to your creativity.  Use your tech to capture things you want to read later, recipes or tutorials you want to try, classes you want to take, things you want to remember.  Use music playlists (on your MP3 player or on a service like Pandora) to set your mood, podcasts to keep up with topics you like, funny websites to cheer you out of a slump.  Use your technology, then set it aside and go outside and play!  Some of my favorite technology bits:

  • Evernote--a great place to capture notes, pictures, whole websites, whatever you want; you can make notebooks, notebook stacks, use tags to make it easy to find your stuff, web clippers that load right in your browser.  And it integrates across all the devices.
  • Pocket--you can put all sorts of things in your pocket to read later, and most of the stuff is available offline!  And you can set it up on multiple devices and browsers, plus it's really easy to use.
  • Bloglovin--If you aren't already using a blog reader, try this one (it's my favorite since the old Google Reader went away).  Or try one in general.  You can filter the blogs you follow into categories, so if you feel like reading things about embroidery right now you can open up your reader, click your "embroidery" category, and not have to sift through things you don't want to look at right now.  I strongly suggest that you make yourself a "daily" category (or weekly if that's better for you) for the blogs you especially want to keep up with.
  • Diigo--An excellent bookmare device, complete with a "diigolet" you can load in your browser to make bookmarking sites ultra-easy.  And, as with many of my favorite things, it lets you use tags, and it integrates across multiple devices, plus it has room for notes on each bookmark you create.

I could go on, but I won't.  My point is that technology doesn't need to be a burden or some form of enslavement that we need to get away from.  Experiment.  Don't be afraid to ditch things someone said you "need" (three Facebook accounts, one for personal, one for your business, one for your creative stuff?  No way!  Not for me.)  Don't follow any rules about using technology or social media that don't feel good for you or don't leave you time and space to just be you.  Do the techy thing your way, have fun with it, and don't forget to go outside and play in the sun sometimes.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Listen

Do you love writing? Do you love stories and storytelling and find pleasure in doing the work, writing your stories, creating your characters?  Sometimes I let it become nothing but work, just another thing on my to-do list. I forget sometimes to reconnect with the pure pleasure and fun of making things up.

This fabulous episode of the even more wonderful Magic Lessons podcast from Elizabeth Gilbert is about the fun of making things just to be doing it.  It's a great reminder and listening to these wonderful women talking about creating for no one but yourself is a beautiful thing.

Listen, then go make something. And have fun!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail