I is for Inspiration

DIY Postcard Swap 2014

Have you ever participated in an international postcard swap? It’s an act of faith to do so. You make the specified number of postcards and mail them old school, snail mail style, postmarked by a designated day. At the Post Office!

And then you wait for post cards from other people around the world to arrive in your own mail box. In real life! It’s kind of fun. Best of all, each card is home-made and just as unique as the people who send them.

I find this entire process so inspiring that I am participating yet again, I think this is the third time for me. Would you ever do something like this?

To be truthful, I am not sure which part of the venture I find most inspiring.  I appreciate its power to get my creativity moving. It instills a firm deadline, a finite quantity, and a specific scope. That kind of limiting helps me focus. Being focused makes it easier to get into the process of creating the work, in this case the hand made post cards.

I also enjoy knowing it is a group effort. Even though we each work independently, I can somehow sense the shared commitment, cooperation and friendly spirit behind the project.

And if a reward is what floats your boat, who doesn’t like to receive beautiful mail?!  I actually love the foreign stamps, too. They remind me of when we lived in other countries while I was growing up so not only was mail precious, it also carried collectible, swappable stamps. Oh, the things we did to pass the time pre-internet. 🙂

If this project appeals to you, why not give it a try. There’s plenty of time — You have until May first to get your postcards made and in the outbound mail.  Check out the swap here.

This is the letter ” I “ post for the  April AtoZ Challenge.

H is for Happy

HH is today’s letter for the April A to Z blog challenge series.

I’m going with HAPPY.

HINT: This could make a fine artist date, ten minutes of HAPPY.

Go have a listen! H is for HAPPY!

If you enjoyed this, sign up for updates and never miss a letter! Many more blogs with “H” posts via the the AtoZ challenge.

Growing Creative Dreams

How do I nurture, support, and encourage my dream? How do I make the magic happen? How do I give my dream wings?

The short answer: Build up enough steam to overcome inertia. Top up the fuel. Find a solid crew. Stick with it. Let ‘er rip!

The other answer: For me, the most difficult step has been … each one of the above. The sequence is not a straightforward, direct progression. It seems to be a series of spiraling loops, sometimes moving forward, sometimes back, sometimes up, sometimes down. But if you can keep moving, then little by little — and sometimes by leaps — your dream comes closer.

I am not sure it ever becomes easy-as-pie. But I believe creativity is like a muscle. It becomes stronger through use. If you haven’t used it for a while, at first you might feel a little sore.  If you expect to all of a sudden leap tall buildings in a single step of creative muscle display, then you will smack your head on a wall, because that is just not realistic!

But if you exercise it gently and increase the intensity and duration little by little over time, it will strengthen. I am not sure how strong we can grow it, but I am sure its strength and intensity will surprise you.  Maybe there is no limit. And the truth is, as you find the groove and keep on moving, it feels so good to use it!

It took me decades to build up the confidence and belief in my dream to put down my early training and education (I earned an MBA eons ago on a misguided path) and get started as a creative being in a serious way. I studied and read up on creativity, I became a certified creativity coach. I finally realized I could be an artist in addition to being the writer people had long told me to be. Once that happened, I began making bigger strides faster and faster.

The creativity bug was always there inside me, but somehow I missed the signals, or ignored the signs, or tried to stuff them down because it didn’t fit the life plan I was “supposed” to be on. And you know what, I was pretty miserable!  When I finally admitted there was an inkling (cat on keyboard alert: yuhhhhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyhu) stirring and the closer it came to the surface, the more it felt like trying to put a genie back into its bottle. I began taking very small steps to allow myself to experience how it felt to create with my hands once again. With each class I took, with each project I tried, my creativity muscle grow stronger.

Over the past few years I have deliberately added support for my creativity because it is hard to stay creative in a vacuum. Besides taking skill-building and creativity classes and workshops, I have sought out artist friends and cohorts for moral support and as co-conspirators on projects. Recently I have been building a local network of creative people to try to spark connections and inter-disciplinary projects.

I have been actively showing and selling my art, practicing to become comfortable with the myriad ways people receive (or reject) my work. Some days my hands shake as I label the pieces to be shown. I find this exhibiting process so nerve-wracking, but it is part of the game I have chosen to play. I know I can become more comfortable with it through practice and familiarity and streamlining the steps; I am beginning where I am and moving forward little by little. It is getting easier.

I also humor myself. You might be familiar with “artist dates” as described by Julia Cameron in her now classic book, The Artist’s Way? I go on artist dates all the time.

I linger outdoors and admire the bees working in the mahonia in my yard, I accompany the neighbor kids as they plant worms in their vegetable garden, I go to the coast and stare at the ocean pretending to watch for whales. I search for agates and fossils in remote places. I buy myself toys — art supplies, too — and play with them. I entertain myself whenever possible. I might spend a long time in the grocery store, admiring the produce and floral sections, eyeballing the flashy packaging on snacks, and examining the latest in pop culture at the magazine rack. I’ll open the bulk spice jars to sniff them. I bop to the Muzak. Sometimes I buy a Nutrageous candy bar and eat it on the way home while blasting top 20 pop really loud.  And if I see a good looking horse grazing in a field along the roadside I will crow “POHNEEEE!” to celebrate the sight of it. It sounds silly written out like this, but these kinds of things make me happy and they feed my inner artist.  Artists are kids at heart. 🙂

Sometimes my inner artist craves a trip to a museum or the sophistication of a major city, or the discovery of somewhere altogether foreign, new and different. Sometimes it craves nostalgia. Sometimes it demands “nature” and sometimes it demands the comfort of a soft sofa and a good gardening book. I try to listen and take heed, because when my inner artist speaks it is speaking for my soul.

I recognize that keeping the inner artist stimulated and happy makes my art better. It helps me sleep better and concentrate better. It makes me a nicer person to be around. I laugh more. It’s like the sun shines brighter when I am up to date on artful living.

And when I feel filled up, I create more exciting work, more inspired work. The pace quickens and the work flows. It gets easier. Paradoxically, it may be quite difficult in the sense of technical or logistical problems to solve, but it is interesting and I am fully engaged in the joy of the doing. In that sweet spot, I know I am doing the right thing.

The most important thing I’ve ever done for my dream was way back when I began to believe it might just maybe be possible, that maybe I really did want it and maybe I could find a way to do that after all. I took a tiny, tentative step towards it. The earth didn’t crack open and swallow me up. By showing up that first time, I breathed hope and life into it.

I took a few more cautious steps, one foot at a time. Now it has a life of its own. Some days I feel like I just have to hold on and keep up. Other days I might feel like I need to shake things up and kick start the engine – because life is unpredictable and because I’m human, and I am still practicing. But the trajectory is set. And I get to choose it!

During the past few years, I’ve noticed that the saying “Luck = Preparation meets Opportunity” seems accurate. I’ve also noticed that you have to “Show up in order to be counted.” In other words, there is no magic bullet. You have to do some work to make your dream come true, but there’s no rule that says you can’t make it as easy on yourself as possible with encouragement, nurturing, compassion, gentle course corrections.

If you feel encouraged to experience your creativity more fully,  I’d love to hear about that. My wish is that everyone could consider themselves to be creative and enjoy using that creativity muscle every single day.

This post was written as part of the Give Your Dream Wings Blog Hop. If you enjoyed this post, please share it. Then check out the rest of this fabulous Hop!

The Give Your Dream Wings Blog Hop is a peek inside the process of how inspiring people make the magic happen. We’ve got some of the internet’s most inspiring bloggers sharing how they give their dreams wings – what they do that supports, nurtures and encourages their tender dreams to come to life.

This is happening in celebration of the new e-course of the same name by Andrea Schroeder of the Creative Dream Incubator. The Give Your Dream Wings e-course shows you how to nurture and grow YOUR dream, for free, in only 10 minutes a day. You do not have to wait until you have more time or money!

Click here to find out about the free e-course, and to read the other (crazy inspiring!) posts in this Blog Hop.

F is for Fire Truck

fire truckThis vintage Fisher Price fire truck toy holds court over my kitchen. It’s a friendly reminder to practice staying focused and organized. We can only do one thing at a time. When I split my time, attention and energy in too many directions, my goals slither away, almost unnoticed.

Contrast that with a fire truck responding to a fire in a direct and speedy way. The fire fighting team gets there fast and does the job. They’ve practiced and trained. They know what to do and how to do it. A well-oiled machine, and with heart, too.

The key: a clear goal plus skilled performance.

No time wasted deciding what to do next, how to do it,  whether or not to do it. They just do what needs to be done. They put out fires, but they are not “putting out fires” in their own procedures. They are not distracted by avoidable miss-steps!

I’m using the little truck as inspiration for devising my own systems to keep up with show schedules, studio time, classes, events, drawing practice, record keeping. I am a great systems planner in my head; too often the implementation stays in my head, too.

The problem: some days I have so many details spinning in the air that it feels like I am spinning, too.

The solution: tighter focus and immediate, small, concrete steps.

I stop, catch my breath and wonder:

If I were Driverdude what do I need to do right now to get ready for this next thing – and the two after that?

And, with a nod to the fire truck:

What do I need to remember about this for next time – to make it easier on myself?

Like a secret friend, the little driver dude with the diabolical grin is so encouraging. He never makes me feel stupid, he just shakes his head from side to side and says: “Try it again, practice makes perfect.” Which is fine because I am not a fire fighter putting my life and the lives of others in harm’s way to save lives, I am an artist. Sometimes I even get to ring the bell. 🙂

Yes! The bell still rings clearly, the hose moves, the ladder pulls out and around and up and over, his head swivels. Push the truck across the table and it says “Bingbingbing!” while his head pops side to side. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. #ArtistsAreKidsAtHeart

This is a post in the April AtoZChallenge series. Sign up for updates and never miss a letter.