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4

I made this over the weekend from a Wanderlust lesson. I was really resistant to this lesson and kept letting myself get busy and not get to it, but finally I told myself to just do it so I could move on. I wanted to change the instructions, do some other things, do something easier than cutting out the fussy silhouettes... But I made myself follow the rules so I could learn the techniques.

I love this spread! A lot. I will probably do this again. I will probably add some of the things I was going to do in place of the stencil and mask to see what happens. But I wouldn't have that base to start from for experiments if I hadn't first followed the rules and learned the techniques.

So what are my takeaways here?

  • If you're really resistant to something, you should do it to find out why. For me, I don't do silhouettes and I was uncertain of how to do the paint around the edge of the mask, and I wanted writing in the cat silhouette but don't like my handwriting, so I was avoiding all of it.
  • Follow the steps. Learn the techniques the way they're laid out (like when you're learning to cook a new food), then you can change things up, experiment, make it your own.
  • Try out things even if the final product looks like something you don't like. You still might find techniques that you can use to make things you do like.

That's all I have today. It's been a busy week, and I'm tired but want to spend some time reading some blogs before bed (it's such a great way to unwind!). What things might you stretch yourself by doing? I'd love to hear what you're trying out.

Until next time,
Kim

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15

Sometimes when I'm trying something new with something I do a lot of (writing!), it becomes a real struggle. My brain doesn't want to take in the new information because it says, "But I already know all sorts of stuff about this topic!" Even though I know the information I'm trying to take in is new or might give me a new perspective, I run up against all the things I already know, and I think I know enough and don't need the new stuff.

The thing is, new stuff is pretty much always good. A new perspective, a new way of approaching something, all of that can lead to creative growth. But you (I!) have to bring yourself to a place where you can let in the new stuff. You have to get back to beginner mind.

When I'm in that place I return to Natalie Goldberg's writings about beginner mind to help me open up to new things and look at new things the way I would have as an absolute beginner. This article shares some of her thoughts on that. I'd like to also add a few ideas of my own.

  • You can't unlearn what you already know to get to beginner mind. I find that it's not a forgetting of what has come before. It's more a quieting of the voices telling you what you already know. Self-talk helps a lot with this for me. "Yes, but I don't know this thing from this person's perspective." Or, in the case of things like writing exercises and things to do, "Just do it and see what happens even if I already know how to do this a different way. See if the two ways go together." Things like that, acknowledging that I do know things but am trying new things anyhow really helps me get past the resistance and into more of a beginner mindset.
  • Talking back to the judgemental voice helps me, too. My brain sometimes has a fit about the new thing being different from what I already know and likes to throw out "this is dumb!" or "this is wrong!" messages. I tell myself, "It's just new. Just try it and see what happens." (That "try it and see what happens" is my favorite!)
  • As I work through new techniques and ideas, I do a comparison to see how they are like what I already know. Then I find where the differences are. My brain likes to analyze things, so doing this opens me up to moving forward with the new stuff.
  • Finally, sometimes I fall back on a favorite KaizenMuse saying. "So what? I'll do it anyway!" I just add a bunch of attitude and plow forward.

I'll admit, I am mostly writing this to remind myself that trying new things is good and useful. I'm butting up against my "but I already know stuff!" voice a lot as I work on The 90-Day Novel, I need the reminders to keep going anyhow. I hope some of this is useful for you if you're trying something new in an area you're already knowledgeable in, too.

As an aside, I always feel weird ending blog posts. I feel like there should be something that says, "the end," but not just a wrap-up paragraph as if it's an essay. So I'm going to try a sign-off.

Until next time,
Kim

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12

At least not exactly when you think you should exactly the way you think you should. Sometimes it takes more time. Sometimes it looks different than you thought it would.

I seem to be full of songs today. Also full of rants. This is one.

There's this idea that gets thrown around in various forms a lot. Too much. I saw a version of it go by online again today. It goes something like, "If you really want to do something you'll find a way. If you don't find a way, you must not really want it or it's not really important to you."

This is garbage. It's all lies. I suspect that the idea was first put out there by someone trying to sell their very special system for helping you get what you really want.

The thing is, there's so much more to following your dreams and doing the things you really want to do than just putting your mind to it. Willpower and organization won't get around depression, anxiety, other mental health issues. They won't get around health issues--your own or those of loved ones and people you take care of. There's a lot of stuff that can get in the way of your dreams. None of that means you don't really want it, it isn't really your passion (or one of them), or that it wasn't meant to be or you're not cut out for it.

If you have a dream, if you want to create, hold onto it. Don't listen to the people telling you any of this junk about you not doing enough, being enough, wanting it enough. You are enough. Your dream is enough. Go do it your way!

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24

Today I ran across the idea of justifying why we do what we do in a several different places. In a Facebook group I'm in. In a newsletter I get. On Twitter.

One of these places (I already forgot--how does that happen so fast?!) shared this quote from Stephen King: "I have spent a good many years since―too many, I think―being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all."

The newsletter was from a writer who's been writing for decades, and she asked us why we write. And her question, plus the quote above, reminded me of when I was younger and people would ask me why I was writing in my notebook. A lot of people also asked me why I was reading. One manager at the bank I worked in during my college summers would regularly remark, "Still reading those books!" with a laugh and a shake of her head like she thought I would grow out of reading for fun. She also sometimes asked about why I was always writing in my notebook during breaks.

Honestly, I never understood these questions. My family and the people around me always thought I was weird, but secretly I thought there was something wrong with them. Because how could they not understand how important it is to have stories and art?! How could they not see that we can see other worlds and other lives and so many more things than we could possibly experience in one lifetime otherwise just by reading and writing stories? (I will admit, though, that I did often fall prey to uncertainty about my role in making any of this art.)

There's a quote I can't find right now about why the world needs artists. We do. We need those glimpses of the beauty and the possible that they bring us. And we, as artists, need to keep bringing that to the world.

This is another rambling post. I don't have my thoughts about this organized and sorted, but I wanted to put it out there because it's on my mind today. I hope it makes some sense, and I hope it reminds you that we need to keep creating. The world needs our art.

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12

I wanted to write something "important" today, something meaningful and useful. I wanted to talk about how possibly my favorite way of getting things done is to get involved in a group of people doing what I'm doing. Groups and challenges and classes with regular lessons and groups where people share--all of these help me keep going on goals I might quit if I was working completely on my own. I'm really motivated by externals. I love stickers on my exercise calendar, coloring in dots on a habit tracker, reporting my progress and sharing my work in a group. All of these keep me moving.

I feel like I just said everything, but this seems really short for a blog post, so here are I few more thoughts about this. I'm going to focus on finding an ongoing group for something you want to give regular time to. I also jump in on groups for 30 day challenges and things like that all the time; they're lots of fun and I learn a lot of new things that way, but right now I'm thinking about more sustainable group work.

Finding a Group:

  • A critique group is not the same as a support group to help you get things done. Critiquing is for when you're ready to polish things up. Critique too early can stop you in your tracks, so watch out for what kind of group you're getting into
  • Productivity groups can be helpful, but if everyone's only about checking things off and reporting what they've done and nothing more you might not get the encouragement you're looking for to do your work. Experiment and find out if it works for you.
  • It can be especially helpful if you're participating with people who are doing the same thing you are. For example, I participate in The 100 Day Project, and I love it (I get to color in circles on my tracker, and I report via Instagram every day so there's accountability), but I find that I'm most revved up and get things done easier for things like NaNoWriMo where I'm in there with people doing the same thing I'm doing.
  • Be willing to leave a group. This can be hard, especially if it's a small group. You might feel obligated to stay and help others. If it's not helping you move forward on your path, if it's making you feel stressed out, if you feel like "oh no, time to check in again," leave. Give yourself permission to leave if you need to, if it's not working for you.

I guess this comes down to something we know but maybe don't always pay enough attention to. Look for your people, the ones who are doing what you do, are interested in what you do, support you in what you do. Your people will cheer you on, pull you forward, help you reach your goals. They will help you drown out the voices saying to give up, you can't do this, it's pointless. Your people will tell you those voices are wrong, and they'll help you prove it. Find them, stand with them, succeed with them.

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It's that time of year. It feels like every business I see messages from is touting some "make your plans and have your best, most productive year ever starting in January" workshop or article or book. Everyone is pressuring for making resolutions and making plans and following through and...

This always feels like too much pressure to me. This year, it feels even worse. I do not want this. I do not want to feel like I have to have every minute of my day planned and scheduled. I do not want to feel like everything I do needs to be in service to meeting some goals.

I also don't want to have an aimless year where I get not much of anything done, and when I do accomplish something it seems mostly accidental.

I want something in between (okay, maybe leaning more toward the rambling and incidental to be honest).

I made something in between. It's called New Year's Ease*. It's a five-day workshop running from December 26 - 30. It's going to help with making plans and goals so you have something to aim for, but it's also going to help with dreaming and with finding the ways to work toward goals while having ease and relaxation and time for things you didn't even think about doing but really want to that come up during the year.

I believe that the worth of our lives is not measured in productivity and exhaustion. It's not measured in how much we've accomplished or how much money we've earned. You do not have to schedule every minute of your day, put your nose to the grindstone, be constantly on task to reach goals and be satisfied with your life and what you're doing.

I believe it is the aim of our lives to find the things that make us feel good and proud of ourselves but also like we have time and space to breathe and enjoy the world around us and the life we have. I want to work on building that kind of life. I hope you'll join me in December.

*Registration opens November 30. Price: $35

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Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

We're in Week Two of NaNoWriMo, and I'm way behind. I'll probably catch up, but I might not. I might fail. And that's okay.

I'm seeing a lot of my fellow WriMos in the same boat and lamenting their possible fate and being really down on themselves, though, so I wanted to talk about failing. Don't get hung up on it. Failing is not the worst thing that can happen.

Sometimes failing can be a good thing. How?

  • Failing can show you things that don't work so you can start over and avoid them
  • Failing can show you things you never thought of so new ideas and new projects might spring up
  • Failing can show you that you are doing something, you are out there moving ahead, you are trying (and yes, there is such a thing as trying; Yoda was wrong, and you can see my thoughts on that here)
  • Failing can remind you that there are still things to learn and discover out there and rekindle your enthusiasm

Failing isn't usually fun (unless it's cake experiments--that can be a lot of fun). But it's not a terrible thing to avoid. If you never fail, you might be playing it safe, and that's probably going to keep you from getting where you want to go. So try things out, reach a little, let yourself fail, and remember it's all part of the process, not the end of things. Failing is just another step. You took that step, you fell down. Now, get up and try again.

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2

My mini book from Seth Apter's class

I was just getting back to blogging in the spring. And then on top of the pandemic, George Floyd was murdered right in public by a police officer, and the crumbling world caved in. I couldn’t bring myself to write about anything that wasn’t Black Lives Matter or mask wearing. Nothing else seemed important. I spent a lot of time (still do, just not exclusively) on social media sharing things to try to help, to try to spread the word about what was happening and maybe ways to make changes.

Talking, sharing, protesting, writing letters--it's important work we have to keep doing. But I was sinking in on myself more and more every day, and I didn't know what to do. And then a class popped up-- Seth Apter’s Mini Book Madness. It was so inexpensive, and the books were delightful, and it was easily accessible. I signed up. I started my book in class and spent days finishing it. I was so in love I bought supplies to make more books (which hasn’t happened yet, but I have my stuff, and it will). I felt a little more like me. I felt a little calmer, a little more focused, a little less constantly enraged.

Right now doing our art, making things, creating may seem pointless. Worse, it may feel selfish.

Right now, our art is necessary.

Stopping and later recovering from this pandemic is a long-haul thing. Continuing the fight against police violence and racial injustice and inequity is a long-haul thing. That means that we have to figure out how to do all the work on these things at the same time as we are having lives. And that means taking care of ourselves and doing the things that buoy us up and help us keep going, that help us keep hope and help us bring light to ourselves and others.

There have been articles and posts about this already. I’m not saying anything new. But I feel like my blog is something that people read in quieter times, so maybe the words will sink in a little easier. Or the ideas might sink in from repetition. In any case, I just wanted to say it out loud.

Living our lives, making our art, doing our creative work--it’s important. We have to have a full and thriving world to move back into once we fix these crises. We can’t build that world or keep it going if we burn ourselves out. 

Next time I’ll talk about some small ways to get back to your art if it’s a struggle. For now, just remember that you can do it for just 5 minutes, you can do it badly, you can just spend time sorting supplies. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Now, go make something!

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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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