create with me

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My husband’s CEO was reading the Sunday paper when he found a generous article written about my happiness projects. The CEO sent the article around the office as a kind gesture to my husband.

A couple days later, the Director of Marketing asked me to speak to her team about community involvement. The leap between my silly projects and marketing seemed vast, but I agreed to chat when she promised coffee and donuts.

Y’all, I was nervous. The nerves started pop-pop-popping up when I realized I didn’t own business attire or understand how I could help push a corporate agenda forward. Would I waste their time entirely? Should I cancel? I silenced my worries, grabbed a flowery top, and followed my husband to work.
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The meeting felt like a conversation between friends: I talked about my background in art and social work, and then they asked for tips on connecting with the community. The hour flew by and closing remarks soon replaced the daunting questions. Success – I was feeling pretty good about my first stint in corporate America.

And then.

The marketing director asked me to conclude by discussing ways to increase creativity. I’m usually garrulous and quick, but this question brought great pause and then silence and finally a look of confusion. She noticed my discomfort and elaborated further, “Just tell us where you get ideas from.”

Where do I get ideas from? Goodness gracious, her attempt to save me from a potentially awkward situation only heighted my confusion, and I said the first thing that came to mind: “I seek inspiration everywhere.”

The group clapped and I drove home wondering why why why did I answer the question like that? It’s true that I’m always seeking inspiration, but the question to ‘how am I creative’ is so much more complicated than that. Creativity oftentimes seems like a messenger that stops by with an idea or two or three. Other times, however, I’m wondering if that inspiring messenger will ever choose to visit me again.  Does my creative messenger have a phone number? An email? How do I get in touch with him?

And so, I got to the serious business of thinking about creativity and its causes. I hope my thoughts will inspire a dialogue that generates lots of ideas for finding inspiration. Will you help me?
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Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. Never wait till your ready. If you want to do something, go for it, and figure out the details as you go. Some of my best ideas come from making mistakes, thinking about how to do better, and then setting forth for a 2nd or 3rd or, to be honest, 7th try.
  2. Open your heart and your mind to new experiences, people and ideas. It’s when we are exposed to difference and novelty that we can compare and contrast and grow and consider. Make a new friend, try a new coffee shop, take a trip.
  3. As life changes this means evaluating new situations, accepting new things into your life and letting others go. This way we can develop our best ideas and devote time to the projects that inspire us the most.
  4. Challenge yourself, but try not to get in ‘over your head’ – somewhere between hard and easy we find our sweet spot. With any luck, working in that ‘sweet spot’ will inspire creativity and, best of all, flow.
  5. Journal is out, write it down, and type it quick. I’ve always got a pen&pad in my pocket because I never know when inspiration will strike. Some of my best ideas come while sitting in church or driving in the car or taking a hike.
  6. Give all ideas equal weight. You know the feeling of thinking an idea is great until you a) think about it further b) start to write about it or c) try to explain it to someone else? It’s not that the idea isn’t any good, but perhaps you need to think about it differently. What do you not like about it? Could you change the project/idea/plan so that it works a little better?
  7. Live an inspired life. I tell myself to write the book I want to read and paint the picture I want to see and bake the cake I want to eat. I’m not always accomplishing these lofty goals, but it gives me a high bar and encourages me to keep trying.
  8. Be the solution. Ah, okay, it’s really not as lofty as all that, but when I hear complaints, I start jotting down possible solutions. My ‘ideas’ might not be any good, but it usually inspires some suggestions for creatively solving problems.
  9. Get emotional. I try to let my feelings guide me on creative projects. If I feel passionately about an idea or project or person, I think about the reasons I’m ignited, and then I try to express myself with words or art or other creative outlets.
  10. Take your mind off the task at hand. For me, consciously trying to generate ideas oftentimes leads to voids and blanks and daydreams. It’s when I’m doing something else – running or cleaning or showering – that the ideas seem to fizzle and pop and appear from some mysterious place.
  11. Have a heart to heart. A good conversation is one of my favorite ways to connect with others, and it’s also a pretty solid way to inspire creativity. When I discuss plans and dreams and hopes, my friends usually inquire and prod and relate, and I’m usually inspired by the twists and turns the conversation takes.
  12. Eavesdrop. If your own thoughts and conversations aren’t inspiring enough, you can always keep listen to the person next to you :)That top photo is from my spring photo challenge, and the 12 creativity ideas clip art is from The Ink Nest.

don’t sweater it

We tend to focus more on our shortcomings than our strengths.  It seems that almost everyone is seeking to improve X, Y, or Z so that they can accomplish 1, 2, and 3.  This game of improvement is a handmaiden of goal-setting and progress, and it’s important that we play along in order to grow as individuals.  The trick of the game, however, is to consistently consider your strengths and remember to value the abilities that you already possess.

With that said, I present to you my horribly unartistic community chalkboard.  The handwriting is almost embarrassing, but I’m focusing on the idea more than the design.  You with me?

Most my mornings start when Kinzie licks my face left right and center to wake me up.  Sticky and slobbery, I walk her around the neighborhood so she can do her thing.  I put a sticky chalkboard along our route, and I plan to leave daily messages on the board.

I’m hoping to get a little more inventive with my messages each day.  I’m also hoping that someone writes back one day (hint hint).
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breaking with balance

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I’d rather have a great life than a balanced life.  A stint in the corporate world landed me in half a dozen conversations about the importance of finding the appropriate work/life balance.  These conversations made me want to walk out the office, find a park, and enter Garurasana.

I started working incredibly long hours after I quit my job last May. The freedom and creativity that came with pursuing projects I was passionate about, rather than simply paid to do, was endlessly inspiring.  Now, I truly want to be working, creating, and designing.

If you’re anything like me, your best ideas coming while you’re washing your hair or running around the lakes – so the things that matter, the things that you’re pursuing, need to be constantly on your mind.  If you truly want it, you can’t just be 75% focused.

If you’re begrudgingly working a 9-5 to pay the bills, then use your evenings to build a career you’re passionate about.  Need to take classes after a long day of work? Go for it.  It’ll be worth it in a few months. The goal might seem time consuming now, but remember that the time will pass anyway, and you might as well use the current moment to build a promising future.

Time spent pursuing your goals won’t seem like work.  There will be struggles and challenges, yes, but that is part of the story.  Try, fail, learn, and then try again better.

If you truly want something, break with balance and strive for it with all your heart.
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My yoga outfit was designed by Emma and Sarah, two girls so passionate about yoga and fashion that they created their own clothing line, MAI I AM.   MAI I AM sounds fun, and the philosophy behind the brand is even better: it’s built from their mantra, ‘I am enough,” and suggests that loving yourself, as you are, will bring you the most peace.

Writing is my personal passion, and so I will continue to write with passion and without concern for balance:
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