In my last post, I talked about how giving attention to our creative work and making time for art is really important right now.
It's also really hard right now. These are stressful, anxious times, and those feelings can make being creative feel really hard. And yet if we aren't getting to our creative work, that also makes us feel anxious, restless, not quite right. So what do you do when you want to do creative work but you can't seem to make it happen?
Find a way to just dip your toes into creativity. Find things that are easy, don't take too much time, are soothing if possible, fun if possible, engaging without needing laser focus. What you do isn't the important part; the important part is touching base with your creative life to keep connected.
My favorite thing to do when I want to do my art but can't settle into it is creative busy work. It's stuff that needs to get done for your creative work, but it doesn't usually require quite as much time, energy, or brain power. Things like organizing, prepping, tidying, planning, things that let you get your hands on your creative work but in a lighter and easier way than fully immersing yourself.
Some creative busy work projects:
Wind skeins of yarn into balls for your next knitting or crocheting project (or skeins of floss for embroidery)
Gather paints and sorting or organizing them for easier use on your next project
Clip words and pictures out of magazines for your next collage, junk journal, or art journal project
Put down layers of paint in your art journal for backgrounds
Pull gel prints for future use as backgrounds or in collages, etc.
Practice brush lettering or other hand lettering
Make a color swatch (so many fun ideas for color swatches at Daisy Yellow--check out the link!) with your favorite markers, paints, colored pencils, etc.
Page through magazines about your art or ones that inspire you in some way
One last suggestion--keep a list of creative busy work. Put it in the front of your journal or planner or somewhere you can look at it easily. Sometimes when you're restless and want to do something, trying to remember the ideas you had about what to do gets hard. Make it easier for yourself! Easy is good.
I hope this has helped a little if you've been feeling stuck or unfocused lately. And if you have other things you like to do to help ease yourself out of a creative slump, I'd love to hear about them! Drop a note in the comments, or find me on social media.
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.
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.
Since shifting to focusing on writers and writing, I've been taking things pretty slow around here. I'm still getting a feel for how my love of writing and love/obsession with story structure and writing methods and all the nuts-and-bolts stuff will come together to make things better for myself and other writers.
To help with that, I've jumped in on ProBlogger's 31 Days to a Better Blog. I've signed up before but didn't do much, but this time it's being done as a podcast, so I'm listening in the car. So much easier to keep up with it this way! I tell everyone else but forget for myself: Make it easy. This will make it easy for me to gather my thoughts and share them here more regularly.
But back to the topic. What is this thing, or what do I do around this place?
Your story, your way. Your writing life, your way. That's what MuseCraft is all about. I'm here to guide writers to create their perfect writing lives and write their stories their way. There is no one true way. There's only your way.
That's what I'm here for. So what can I do to help you and your writing dreams?
Things have been kind of busy around here what with the holidays coming up (Thanksgiving is already over!), the end of the year racing toward us, and lots of planning going on for noveling and coaching and classes. I haven't had nearly as much time as I'd like for creative projects outside of novel outlining, but I know keeping my hand in the creative ring is really important for my general outlook on life. So while I'm busy with a lot of in-my-head stuff right now, I've been making a point to do some photography. Lucky for me, Mother Nature has really been helping out with this fantastic, constantly changing fairy ring right next to where I park my car at work.
What about you? What do you do when you are busy but want to keep your hand in the creative game? Leave a note and let us know--we all like to add ideas to our stash.
I love August! I have loved August since the first year I went to school (in the Chicago suburbs where I grew up, school starts in August rather than September). There's always been so much promise in the start of a new year for me, kind of like in January, but for me I feel that new year vibe even stronger in the Fall. I love new classes and subjects and schedules, all bursting with good new things to learn and try and practice.
I think my love of that back-to-school wave must have been seeping in even though I didn't realize it, because this week I signed up for three creative challenges for August--one for writing, one for journaling, one for photography. I should find plenty of new things to try with these!
Writing: I'm signed up for DIY MFA's Conquer the Craft challenge, which is actually a 29-day challenge. I'm going to use it in conjunction with a group I signed up for called My 500 Words that focuses on--I bet you know this one--writing 500 words a day. After August I plan to do it only one weekdays/work days, but for August I'll use if for the 29 days of Conquer the Craft. This might even fit in with my #Just10Minutes practice, at least on some days. If I'm on a roll, I can write 500 words in 10 minutes, so I might try to push for it a few times just as an extra challenge.
Journaling: I'm also jumping back in on Lisa Sonora Beam's ROOT 30 Day Journal Project. I sort of participated in January, but I was still heavily in a Lull phase and didn't get all the way through.
Photography: And finally I'm doing the Life in Black and White challenge. Thirty-one days of black-and-white photography. Since getting a digital camera, and then an iPod Touch, I never shoot b & w anymore, and I used to love doing that with a film camera. I'm looking forward to focusing on some photography plus getting back to black-and-white. I even got two new apps for my Pod (Noir Pro and Hueless) to try out for the challenge.
So what about you? Do you get the same kind of vibe I do when it's back-to-school time? Any plans to start something new this August? Tell me all about your plans--I'd love to hear them!
Okay, it's not really on my table, but it's what I was working on this past week (and some paintings, of course), so I thought I'd stick with the normal Monday routine a little and use my usual title.
So, about that blog tour...I was invited to join in on the tour by Theresa of Indigene Art Forms. This blog tour has been going on for a while, and everyone who participates gets to invite others, so there are lots of links to follow back through the tour. Give yourself a little gift and follow the link path--there's lots of great stuff to discover!
For the tour, I'm answering four questions about myself:
What am I working on?
Right now possibly the biggest thing is my 100 Paintings Project. I have always considered myself a writer who dabbles in art, but I am wanting to claim that title of "artist" for myself, and I'm starting with a big pile of paintings!
I'm also working on a really fun coaching circle (MuseCraft™ Explorers' Circle) that will be starting in July--I'm really excited about this--it's going to be a creative adventure! What could be better than that? Info and sign-ups are almost ready to fly out into the world--I'll keep you posted.
What else am I working on? (Because I'm always doing bunches of things, it's just in my nature.) Working on a new blog posting schedule and a couple of cool ideas for blog challenges for late summer and fall. Working on some downloadables that I think are going to be great fun. And working on, or at least thinking about, restarting my newsletter.
Things are going to be really exciting around here starting in the next couple of weeks, and I am thrilled that some of my ideas are going to get out into the world to share with everyone!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'm still in the fairly early stages of my visual art work, but I think that some of my creativity coaching experience and my writing experience are making their way into my art and helping to put my own personal stamp on it. In coaching I work with making small changes a lot, and I find that I approach my paintings that way, adding a few dots here or lines there and then letting it be until the next idea comes. And from my writing I seem to have brought the idea of leaving some things to the viewer's imagination--I'm finding that I really like a small amount of detail and a lot of hints of things. I may branch out and do things like more shaded and detailed faces, etc., but right now I'm really enjoying what I'm doing.
Why do I write/create what I do?
My writing and painting tends to be about mysterious things--fairies and magic and secret things that are hard to see. I like to explore the ideas of hidden realms and magic in our own world in my writing, and this is starting to emerge in my painting as well. I don't have an explanation for why I love these things, though. I always have (my mother will tell you that by the age of two I had to watch every monster movie that came on, and I never missed a showing of Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz.)
I think we are born with a pull toward certain things. We often learn to cover it up, ignore it, pretend it isn't there, but our hearts have things they gravitate toward, and mine loves all things strange and weird and inexplicable. And I think it's very important to listen to what pulls your heart, and if you can't hear it or feel it any more, I think it's incredibly important to excavate for it. As Rumi said, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
How does your writing/creating process work?
It works best in small bursts. I am rarely the sort who sits down to work and stays there for six hours. I lay down a layer of paint then wander off to do other things while it dries, then I come back and do the next bit--sometimes that means painting for ten minutes, other times I might be there an hour depending on what I'm doing. But bits and pieces and spurts work best for me. For writing, too--I write best when I set a time for ten or fifteen minutes and then sit back for a minute or two (or five if I need more coffee or tea), and then do it again. I guess I'm a sprinter rather than a marathoner.
So there's a little bit about me. Now the super-exciting part of the tour! I get to introduce you to some great fellow creatives who agreed to join in on this journey. Go visit their blogs and see what they're up to, and make sure to check in next Monday (June 9) for their blog tour posts.
Adriane is a creative human living in BC, who has on occasion been called a Renaissance Woman. Ever delving into the mysteries of the life of art and the art of living & sharing the journey via the interwebz.
Do you ever read articles or books on productivity? They talk about time wasters--surfing the internet, checking Facebook and Twitter, playing computer games--and tell you to get rid of them. There are even apps and software that will block you from the internet or certain websites, things like that, all in the name of getting more done.
Have you ever tried any of the productivity techniques and apps and suggestions? I have, and I noticed something odd. I didn't start creating more. I think I might have even started creating less. And I felt stressed and pressured. Overall I didn't feel like it was a good experiment.
I think trying to corral myself that way and keep to a schedule and get things done all the time was stifling me and my creativity. I think creative people (maybe all people, because we're all creative, after all) need more space--mentally, temporally, sometimes physically. We need time to stare at the wall or off into space, doodle and hum to ourselves and let our daydreams run wild. And I'm not the only one who thinks we need time for dreaming. This article by Jonah Lehrer has excellent information on why daydreaming is important. This one by Susanne Gargiulo is also very good.
Is this license to sit in our pajamas scrolling through Facebook all day? No. At least not every day. We don't want to box ourselves in and smother our creativity with over-productivity, but we also don't actually want to just do nothing. So what do we do to find a good balance between those?
That's where my creative time wasters come in. Creative time wasters are things that help me free my thoughts, help me get in some daydreaming down time and feed my creativity at the same time. They help me get to that mindless state that lets my creativity get going, and they also help stir up new creative ideas. Here are my favorites:'
Dancing. I do this a lot in the kitchen with headphones in singing at the top of my lungs. Very freeing, and very stirring, and it really clears the mind.
Pinterest. I spend my time there looking at things that are related to whatever my current creative interest is. Art journaling. Writing quotes. Photography. Surfing. But spend some time browsing randomly, too, because you never know what will spark something in you.
Walking. Getting out, moving around, letting your body move gently and your mind wander while nature works her magic on you.
Reading. A good novel or two is an excellent way to relax your mind. It moves you away from your own creative projects and lets them percolate in the background while you have grand adventures.
Drawing. Sketching, doodling, Zentangles, anything like that will help your mind relax and your thoughts wander, plus it's creative all on its own.
What about you? What creative time wasters do you love? What helps you let your mind wander and get clear so there's room for inspiration to get in?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.