Tag Archives: creativity

Your job

heal true nature - martha beck.png

I am making a compromise with myself. I may not write every day, but following the advice of Brené Brown, Liz Gilbert and Martha Beck, I will indulge in creativity every day, have a little fun with this blog, and sometimes post quotes from favorite authors.

Spring

I recently discovered a great graphic design tool called Canva, and I am experimenting so that I can design brochures, banners or info-graphics. It is a free tool, so check it out at Canva.com if you want. For those of us who are a little shy about graphics, but occasionally would like to invent a meme or frame a cool quote, it works very well!

What ways will you have fun today and express your creativity?

fun with Canva.png

 

 

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Saturday Share

This Saturday Share will be a little different, as I feel compelled to share a poem this time rather than a blog. This poem has haunted me since I heard it read by Liz Gilbert last weekend during our workshop on creative living, when it sent chills down my spine.

It is entitled Breaking Surface, and I linked to it and copied the text below with attribution and tremendous respect for Mark Nepo. The bold type is mine.

Breaking Surface

Let no one keep you from your journey,
no rabbi or priest, no mother
who wants you to dig for treasures
she misplaced, no father
who won’t let one life be enough,
no lover who measures their worth
by what you might give up,
no voice that tells you in the night
it can’t be done.

Let nothing dissuade you
from seeing what you see
or feeling the winds that make you
want to dance alone
or go where no one
has yet to go.

You are the only explorer.
Your heart, the unreadable compass.
Your soul, the shore of a promise
too great to be ignored.

***

 

Constraint

In this big, wide world with so many channels, choices and chatter, it can be hard to find our focus and stick to one main goal. I really struggle with this intention. I like to take on a lot of new things, but then sometimes I find that they “pile up” and start to crowd my life, in a way.

I generally try to put a constraint around things like the blog, for example. I give myself a limited amount of time each morning 30-45 minutes, to write the content. Sometimes if I am looking for photos to add, it can take up to an hour. But I try to make sure there is a limit. I could literally spend hours writing if I allowed it (and maybe someday I will), but I have a “regular” job. At least today that’s what allows me to pay my bills and not strangle my creativity by trying to make it pay.

As I near my 200th post (this Saturday!) I am considering whether to impose another constraint, to help me focus on larger projects that have been scratching at my consciousness. Since October 1st I have been posting daily here. Sunday is a haiku and it is short and sweet, though I cannot always resist 2 or 3 verses. And Saturday has become a blog share day, to pass along some love to other blogs I have discovered and enjoyed. So in a way, I already imposed some constraints that helped me find writing rhythm in my week.

I truly enjoy this daily ritual, writing whatever I happen to be thinking about each morning. So I hesitate to pull it back. It has given me structure and focus, and even when I have had to travel for work, I planned ahead and made sure to plan short posts sometimes scheduled for while I would actually be on an airplane.

There is a little thrill when we hit the “publish” button (do you get that too?) and our work goes out into the world. Even though I try not to get caught up with how many “likes” or “views” any particular piece has, I sometimes do consider it. Truly it fascinates me, which topics resonate with people, not always predictable and often a surprise for me.

Now that I have had some time to develop a regular writing practice, though, I strive for a bit more focus on some longer and “meatier” pieces, perhaps to submit to publications. I told my husband: I have a book in me (or three) and I would like to consider whether that is my ultimate goal. I sense a transition in my own creativity, and may need to constrain one area of my writing, so I can generate greater focus on another part. So again I toy with a frequency that will work for me.

When I imagine cutting back to once a week, as many bloggers do, I get this “muzzled” feeling which I do not like. I then consider 3 or 4 times a week as a reasonable limit. It allows for me to get my blog “fix” and generate some short(ish) pieces as warm-up writing and to keep myself loose. But it also allows for those other mornings when I can assign the time to a few project ideas that are longer and more involved, that require some editing and polishing.

Are there areas in your life where you recognize constraint helps you focus? Do you struggle as much as I do when you first consider cutting something out to make room for other things? I would love to hear about your experiences with this in the comments.

Done is Better than Good

Right now I am preparing to work on a few cover letters for some jobs I already applied for at my current company. The application process does not actually require them, but I believe that it is probably best to explain what interests me about these positions, and why I see myself as the best fit for them.

I am re-listening to Liz Gilbert’s wonderful book, Big Magic. She has a chapter on avoiding the trap of perfectionism, and making sure we complete our work. I love this book so much, and if you ever suffer during your creative moments, it is a must-read. I love her way of describing the beautiful gift of creative practice, this wonderful ability we humans have to engage with our gifts.

In the past, I have sometimes not completed things like job applications, a sort of failure ahead of time, convinced the result would not be good enough. Really what I was responding to was my inner “chicken,” the voice of fear that nearly all of us have (but some have overcome it more effectively) that avoids risk and seeks reward. There is no shame in realizing we have this voice. Risk aversion is a developmental necessity to keep us safe from threats, but sadly, we over-generalize it at some point in our lives.

The only way to overcome it is to practice acting despite our fears, realizing that everything we produce will have some imperfection, and yet putting it out there anyway. It helps if we can constrain the time we work on it, or give ourselves deadlines “ahead of time” so that if final polishing is necessary, we allow adequate time. But sometimes that is not practical, or there are enough other things clamoring for our attention, that if we waited for the ideal, we would never get there.

So I will keep this relatively short, and allow some time to write these cover letter while it is early and I still have optimal morning focus. Two of them will be relatively easy to write: I am very interested in those positions and one excites me greatly even though it is a stretch. The other two may be a little more tricky, since they are more “exploratory’ in nature, and I want to learn more about the positions, and am not necessarily sold on them.

What is it that you are putting off because you do not think it will be “good enough?” 

I will end with a quote from Liz Gilbert in Big Magic (p 177):

“You may want your work to be perfect, in other words; I just want mine to be finished.”

Wanting from a place of abundance

There is an exercise recommended by Brooke Castillo, who produces the Life Coach School podcast, on “wanting from abundance” that I tried this morning as I was considering a dream I had last night. That one went into my handwritten journal. Not ready to interpret that one for y’all yet.

When most people are asked what they want, they immediately jump to a list of what they lack. They start listing off things like a new car, maybe a different job, perhaps other things that the would put on their Christmas list.

But the exercise she has people do is to list 25 things they want, where more than half of those things are what they already have. I am sharing my list with you as an example:

  1. Time to write in the mornings (check)
  2. A caring and wonderful husband (check)
  3. Two cats (check)
  4. A dog (someday)
  5. Cozy place to live (check)
  6. A home of our own (someday)
  7. Time to camp and be outdoors this summer (check – planning on this)
  8. Personal laptop for writing (check)
  9. Enough money so I don’t worry about day-to-day necessities like food, utilities and clothing. (check)
  10. Health care coverage (check)
  11. Travel to the U.K.; travel to Spain (someday)
  12. Time planned with my hubby to do fun stuff (check – upcoming long weekend trip to Arizona 4 weeks from now)
  13. Work outside a corporate environment (someday)
  14. Opportunities to practice my Spanish (check)
  15. Ability to travel to other countries for work (check)
  16. Ability to express my ideas and connect with similarly-spirited people (check)
  17. Ability to sleep 8 hours every night without struggling with insomnia (work in progress)
  18. Live in a safe neighborhood (check)
  19. Access to good yoga classes (double check!)
  20. Close relationships with friends and family (want to put more time into this)
  21. More time to read (define more…)
  22. Healthy body (check)
  23. Plans for our summer vacation (work in progress)
  24. Clean air to breathe every day and clean water to drink (check)
  25. Ability to work from home on occasion (check)
  26. Enough money to pursue my creative passions instead of working full time at a corporation (work in progress)

Okay, that was more than 25. Once I got going, I started thinking of even more things. 16 out of the 26 are things I already have. Some are things I am working on, and a few I have an actual plan sketched out to get them.

What I really love about this exercise is that we want from ABUNDANCE instead of a scarcity mind-set. We acknowledge that many of the amazing things we already have in our lives are also things we want, things we are grateful for. Imagine if I took some things OFF this list! Goodness, realizing the abundance and privilege that allows me to live this glorious life makes me feel rich, fortunate and happy.

When you think about what you want today, consider the things you already have that make your life splendid. Consider not just on what you want someday, but what you want (and have) today. Your entire energy and vibration will change. And perhaps you will start to attract possibilities, opportunities and ideas to add a few of those items from the list that you do not yet have.

Cheers & happy Friday!

 

 

Embodying a new self

I have written before about the idea that there is no “better” you – that self-acceptance and self compassion are the key to any big changes we want to make in our lives.

Paradoxically, I think we all grow, develop and change over time, and we do become “better” at certain things. It is not that we become better people. I hold the belief that all of us, just by virtue of being born, are worthy of love, compassion and self-regard. However, we strive to become more of who we are at the core, at a soul and spirit level, that identity is typically muted or hidden in an effort to be more acceptable to others.

Right now I am reading “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Dr. Joe Dispenza and it is blowing my mind. The title is provocative to me because it goes against the advice we are typically given: just be yourself. While I agree this usually means we should not try to be “someone else,” most of us still yearn to grow and change and evolve to a “next version” of ourselves.

breaking the habit

We yearn for enlightenment, for peace, for a sense of ease in our being. But Dispenza explains how our habitual thoughts become encoded by our neuro-chemical and physical body over time. Our mind and body work together to create our reality, and re-create what we have known and experienced usually in the past. It is only when we become aware of our thoughts, and how they create emotions, which are “coding” for what they become in the body, that we can actively change the reality we are creating.

Dispenza uses the field of quantum physics to challenge our previous assumptions about a Newtonian universe in which there are physical causes and effects, and thus explores the notion of potentials. I really enjoy his explanations of how we can create changes in our lives to move from thinking to doing to being. Though I am only half way through the book, the insight has already exploded my mind in terms of the possibilities.

I have had great skepticism for the self-help idea of manifesting, though I have encountered it plenty of times in the literature I read. I must admit – I am a questioner and anything that is too “woo woo” for my researcher brain is typically dismissed as fluff. But as I consider the neuroscience behind the principles that Dispenza explains, now I understand the theoretical basis for how this may work.

My experiences with meditation, and understanding experientially how my thoughts create my feelings, and how feelings lead to action (or non-action) these concepts are leading me to wild new ideas about how we can create the lives we want. I still have not yet moved to the stage of practice and implementing these ideas fully, but I am sure to experiment with these as I embrace changes in my life going forward.

Hasta luego, amigos!

Creating vs. consuming

Happy Friday, everyone! Also, happy Groundhog Day for those of you who pay attention to that sort of thing. When I woke up this morning, it was -10F without windchill. Brrrr! No matter what that groundhog says, we in Minnesota know it’s going to be MORE than 6 weeks of winter…

groundhogs

The most adorable groundhogs ever! Or at least I thought so. Photo credit link

So I crawled back into bed with my coffee, expressed gratitude to the universe that I can work from home this morning since I do not have in-person meetings today. I also gave thanks for the web and for remote teleconference meetings, which allow my work to be mobile and flexible.

Then I proceeded to get “lost” in some podcasts for a while before I meditated. When I finally did get myself out of bed and to my computer, I read a bunch of blogs, and really had myself a jolly old time. It reminded me of when I used to read Facebook and email from bed when I started the day, taking in a bunch of incoming stimuli before I’d had a chance to even wake up.

It was not a healthy way to live, and I would find myself in “reactive” mode by starting that way. I was subject to the whims of whatever was tossed at me by the social media “feeds” and whoever had sent emails to me. I have written before about my need to limit media consumption and to limit the noise of outside stimulation.

All of a sudden while reading and commenting on blogs, taking it easy, I realized it was 8am! That is the time I typically start work, even when I work from home. On a typical day, I am up around 5:45. I like to meditate and write before I have had a chance to get carried away by the incoming distractions of other stimuli. My goal is usually to have my post done by 7 or 7:15 so I can then switch gears and get on with the rest of my day.

Writing gives me energy and feeds me in a way I did not realize was possible until my recent commitment to daily blogging. By engaging in some creativity in the morning, my mind feels fresh and rejuvenated. Even when inspiration strikes me the afternoon or evening before, I like to spend a little time editing and re-working a piece before publishing.

Today’s altered routine got me thinking about creativity versus consumption. We live in a culture of constant consumption, and nearly constant invitations to buy things, or acquire more. Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing these things will make us happy, and that they are important. I can even be tricked into thinking acquiring more and more knowledge will make me happy.

To some extent, acquiring new knowledge does make me happy. The human brain is programmed to seek novelty and avoid pain. We get a dopamine hit when we learn new things and encounter new stimuli. But that constant rush of new information sometimes causes a plateau of that feeling. We need a break from it, and it can feel a little like that uncomfortable feeling after eating too much Thanksgiving dinner…

Ugh.

Another impulse we have as humans is to create. Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown have some great reflections on this highly inefficient and yet joyful part of our existence. Human beings are capable of creating things purely for the joy of it, for the satisfaction of making something new.

Music, art, fiction, poetry. These are not critical to our survival on a day to day basis, like food, water and air to breathe. And yet: they are critical to our survival as a species, as a united consciousness of humanity. They are ways we express meaning in our lives, and communicate to others, connect to people and the world around us.

Brene Brown says that creativity is not optional. I am paraphrasing here but she explains that “unexpressed creativity metastasizes.” (This is from her Magic Lessons podcast with Liz Gilbert). Brown has studied the habits and practices of “wholeheartedness” and people who live fulfilling lives. In order to live healthy and full lives, we must engage creatively in some way. We must go beyond working, consuming and working and consuming.

So I ask you on this Friday: how will you engage creatively today? What will you do to express this amazing and wonderful gift of being human? If your work allows and encourages creativity, fabulous! If not, consider how to create something instead of just consuming today. Whether it is a meal made for a loved one, a silly little rhyme made up for a child or a short story you have been dying to put on paper, indulge your creative spirit. Just for the joy of it. I dare you.

Re-learning to Play

Work is hard and play is easy, right?

Well… when you are young that is certainly true. Or if you are a cat or a dog. They pretty much have play and napping down pat. They have mastered it, and I probably ought to pay attention to these furry, wise teachers a bit more.

As an adult, I have not always valued PLAY enough. Brene Brown refers to her discovery of play when she was looking for the keys to living a wholehearted life. She was explaining to a friend this discovery and described it this way: “these people seem to fool around a lot” and she did not even know how to describe it.

Caught in a culture of always doing, striving, working, she could not even identify what these wholehearted people were doing, but it was PLAY.  It was engaging in something for the pure fun of it, for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. Huh? Do people get to do that?!?

It turns out that it is quite healthy to do that, and those of us who have forgotten the art of play may want to spend some time joyfully re-educating ourselves. It is not just for kids! And it can involve some snuggle time with your honey, but that’s not a requirement.

For me, the best part of play, when I really do lose myself in it, is that I come back to my “grown up life” refreshed and relaxed. Vacation can be a great place to play and try new things just for the fun of it. I have a harder time getting into play mode during the work week, I admit. But I am willing to learn. Hey, if the science tells us it’s healthy, I am ON BOARD!

Occasionally, when I am on a really fun project or I am designing a workshop with my “partner in crime” at my job, work can actually feel like play. I love that. Some part of me strives toward that in terms of longer term career aspirations. I will get there. It is all about intention.

As we head toward the weekend, I am considering how hubby and I can get some play time. He has worked long hours this week after the snowfall and I know he will need extra rest. But I am using my creativity to brainstorm a few options. I am sure he will have some ideas as well.

How will you play this weekend? How will you take joy in this act of living and celebrate it in a way that is fun? Do you feel less guilt about it knowing it is part of living and healthy and fulfilling life to play?