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Creativity Series: Just Do It! {3}

Are you ready for our Creativity Series this week? We’re going to have homework so I hope that you’re excited to get to work! Hey, it’s all about YOU and your personal benefit so no complaining! :) For those just catching up, the first week of our series discussed the benefits of tapping into your childhood to figure out what you enjoyed before external influences and expectations took over. We talked about mind mapping as a good way to do that. I was beyond excited when many of you took the suggestion and pulled together your own map (thanks for showing me via your blogs and emails!).

During the second week of our Creativity Series, we talked about the importance of physical activity, whether it’s a walk around the block, time spent with your camera outdoors, or sweating it up at the gym – that part is up to you. Successful and productive people, happy people, are all known to have a regular exercise routine. Why do you think Oprah is so down on herself lately? She got out of her routine and the rich and powerful know just how vital routines are. Scientifically speaking, it makes you look and feel better but also helps your creativity to flow more freely — the whole point of encouraging regular exercise. For those of you who hate exercise, replace words like “exercise” and “working out” with “brain boosting sessions” or “creative recharge time”. I’m not kidding! If you are going to the gym and dread it, think of it as a creative exercise and not so much as a physical one. Am I making sense?

With mind mapping and exercise on the table, let’s now add to that our topic this week: Maintaining a regular journal. Intuition is our guide and I find that the more I journal the more I tap into mine. Many find that writing first thing in the morning is best and especially helpful in case you want to record a vivid dream. Others prefer to write late at night when there is less distraction. Some take journaling a step further to include magazine clippings, paint, and colored pencils, also known as Art Journaling. You can google “Art Journaling” and see hundreds of websites, books, and blogs on this topic. While there are no rules to time, place, or entry length, remaining consistent is key.

I have an iPod Touch and downloaded an app called Gratitude! by Happy Tapper (Oprah loves hers) and developed by Carla Kay White. It’s basically a spot where you can jot down what you are grateful for today and it stores all of your entries by date so you can go back in time to read any of them in case you are feeling like rubbish and need a reminder of the good things in life. It also gives you a daily quote that is always very uplifting and you can password protect this app so you can freely write whatever you’d like without feeling someone may read it.

How can regular journaling help you become more creative? Journaling stimulates creativity by reducing the clutter in your head. Brain fog clears! Journaling eases decision making, reveals patterns, tracks progress, and allows freedom of expression in a private space where you will not be judged. While blogging can allow this freedom, there is a part of us that feels uncomfortable revealing all on the web. I keep most of my personal business to myself and though some other bloggers tend to tell all and that works for them, I am not that free with my personal thoughts and family matters because I believe that even when you think you are ‘free’ the moment you are standing before others you tend to edit – even if just a wee bit. I’m sure your blog and your personal journal (if you write one) look very different.

I’ve been keeping a journal since I was 7 years old. In fact I still have at least half of them (lost a few boxes once during our relocation from South Carolina). I wrote inside of my very first diary that my friend Mindy and I had just visited my favorite stationery shop and I wrote how I used my allowance money on the Hello Kitty diary that I was writing in. I expressed how excited I was to have a diary and how I planned to write in it every single day. I also talked about how Mindy and I had to stay on the sofa where I was writing because the “carpet cleaning guys” had just left and my mother did not want us to walk around while the carpets were drying. Of course, over the years my journal entries matured along with me, I recorded everything from how awkward I felt in school gym class (I’m a klutz) to the time my mother took me to buy my first training bra and how she told me that she didn’t know why they call it a training bra (I asked her why apparently), but I wrote in my journal that I told her that it’s because a training bra will train them to do tricks someday. I remember she thought that was pretty funny, but at the time I was just making an innocent comment. It’s a riot to read entries like that. I find lots of doodling in my journals, painful boyfriend episodes, problems with particular classes in school, and I talk a lot about decorating, flowers, crafts, and hobbies throughout them. I also wrote about how much I loved to write stories and make my own books. I definitely see patterns in my thinking, progress and failures, everything is all crystal clear. I don’t feel like I lost time because I’ve been writing in journals since I was a child so there’s no period in which I feel like my life got lost.

Not everyone has journals from their childhood, which is understandable, so I’d like to encourage anyone reading who does not have a personal writing space to consider it! Keeping one as an adult is so vital to me because it’s important for dealing with fears, coping with loss, handling failure, revealing patterns in thinking, all of which help to shape my future but to also live in the moment. Looking at entries just from last week is a good review for me, I can see bits of thinking that I consider flawed, errors I’d made in judgment, paths I need to straighten. I highly suggest writing in a journal!

If you are not a journal person, I’d like to suggest an alternative — listing. Sounds weird but there is a book called Listography: Your Life in Lists made specifically for this. I purchased my copy last April and it’s fun to maintain and very revealing. I love the page: List Professions You’d Like To Try. It’s a great way to help you to open up if you’re not sure where to begin. Each page of Listography asks you a question and space is provided to answer, draw, whatever you fancy.

Would you like to try listing for a moment along with me here? I say go for it. List a few things that you would like to do as a profession if you knew you would not fail. Ready?

Do you keep a journal? Do you want to? How has it helped you tap into your creative self?

(images from holly becker for decor8)

Posted in real talk on January 29, 2009

Creativity Series: Just Do It! {2}

It’s time for our weekly Creativity column on decor8! Last week we discussed mind mapping and some of us went back to childhood for ideas and inspiration. I remember hearing once that sometime you have to go backwards in order to continue moving ahead. Interesting thought, which is why I think mind mapping is pretty important. Did you get a chance to pull together your own mind map? Do you feel it helped you? Did some of your childhood interests surprise you?

In trying to decide what to talk about today, I imagined myself feeling totally uninspired and drained… What do I usually do on days when I feel anything but creative? You know, when ideas are not flowing, one feels bored to death with work or life in general.  It happens to us all. How do I begin to pull myself out of a creative rut? How do I stop negative thoughts from taking root and ruining my day?

Exercise. Whether it’s stretching for 20 minutes or hitting the gym, the positive impact of regular exercise on physiological functions has been extensively studied and confirmed — Exercise boosts creativity!

A simple walk around the block is refreshing and a good way to clear your mind. If I’m outdoors I like to focus on observing instead of participating by paying attention to the sights, sounds, colors, and patterns around me. Sometimes I bring along a camera or a recording device to capture a part of my walk that I find inspiring, whether it’s a building or a conversation that I heard in passing. It doesn’t have to be a sweaty gym routine. A simple walk is nice. Just getting outside to be alone and absorb my surroundings is often all it takes. And I always make sure that I turn off my cell – it’s ME time.

Many successful creative people exercise regularly to recharge and shift their thinking from the negative to the positive. They are first to admit that they have control over their emotions and can choose whether or not to feel bad, uninspired, etc. They take responsibility for their feelings and decide to feel good and if they don’t, they do whatever they can to make that feeling happen in a safe and healthy way.

Whether it’s Yoga, a walk around the block, or a sweat-a-thon at the gym I know first hand that creativity flourishes when exercise is part of my daily routine. When I was in Germany for 5 months, I walked 3-4 miles daily and during that time creative ideas flowed like crazy, I was super productive, and I exceeded a lot of the goals that I had set for myself each week. It was amazing, what a high when you feel 100% in control of your life and creative ideas come naturally! Now that I’m back in the snowy, freezing New Hampshire countryside with no sidewalks and strapped inside of a car all of the time, I walk 4 miles a week (2 weekly gym visits) and I’m not feeling nearly as creative. I see a connection between creativity and exercise in my own life. Maybe you can think about your daily routine. I’m certainly going to make changes, I started this morning when I went to the gym and as a result I feel very creative and alert today.

But enough about me. I thought it would encourage us all to speak to an Interior Designer based in Manhattan Beach, CA who is also a blogger and who keeps her creativity high through regular exercise. Megan Arquette authors the blog Beach Bungalow 8 and exercises 5-6 days a week (an hour daily) despite her busy schedule. Ideally she’ll do 30-40 minutes of cardio (running or swimming) and 30 minutes of weights during a single session. Megan wants to eventually fit in road biking or stand-up paddle  boarding (standing on a long wide surfboard while paddling) into her future routines. Go, Megan!

decor8: You’re an Interior Designer and blogger who apparently loves to exercise but I’m dying to know… did you ever hate it and if so, how did you motivate yourself to change?
Megan: I only hate it when I haven’t been disciplined, taken a week off and then know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I’ve always fed myself the line that “even a slow, 20 minutes of running is better than nothing”. Once I’m out there, moving, zen-ing out, I’m always so thankful.

Holly: Let’s say you are blogging, or really into your design work and you notice that you’ve skipped exercise how do you handle that?
Megan: That’s really about making excuses. I can, realistically, always carve out 30 minutes to do some kind of workout. If I need to brainstorm, or I’m stuck on an idea, exercise provides the perfect time to allow the mind to ‘still’ itself and the creativity to get flowing.

Holly: What are some foods that help boost your creativity and make you feel great?
Megan: I need lots of protein, so I always have string cheese, turkey or hard boiled eggs in my fridge. I love cooking, I’m not that skilled, but I love creating something for someone and sitting down to share it. We were recently given a tagine. Not knowing what to do with this beautiful, conical, cooking vessel, I researched some Middle Eastern recipes that called for all sorts of combinations of exotic spices and proteins. Cooking is such a fun, fruitful and creative process.

Holly: If you belong to a gym how do you motivate yourself to go?

Megan: Well, I actually like going to the gym, I’ve never really needed motivation. I get more done when I’m there. But I will try and mix it up a bit by taking classes. I’ve input the classes that I like on my phone’s calendar with an alarm that sounds 2 hours before. This way, I can wrap up what I’m doing and get my mind readied for a good hour of hard work.

Megan Arquette, Interior Designer.

Holly: What are some exercise tips that you’d like to share with those currently not involved in a routine?
Megan: Don’t over do it in the beginning, you’ll become discouraged. No excuses. If you miss one day, go a bit longer the next few days. Keep at it and you will see change. Most of all, be kind to yourself. Don’t look in the mirror and beat yourself up. Love your body, no matter what it ‘appears’ to be ( believe me when I say these things, I’ve been there. I gained over 50 pounds with each of my pregnancies so the I know what it feels like to want to just give up before you begin) Also, go buy something you look good in and feel good wearing at the gym. Even if it’s a great pair of running shoes. The ego boost is priceless.

I’m happy that we discussed exercise this week because I believe that once you have a regular routine you are in a better place to start thinking about goals and dreams. How does regular exercise help you to feel more creative? Do you have a regular routine? What do you do? Have you been making excuses to not exercise and feel badly about it? Have you ever connected exercise to creativity? Did this topic encourage you today?

(images from megan arquette)

Posted in real talk on January 22, 2009

Creativity Series – Just Do It! {1}

On Thursdays I’ve been known to host a mini column called Real Talk where I address some ‘issue’ I’ve noticed relating to creativity, blogging and small business. This year I’d like to turn Real Talk into a regular Thursday column so you can depend on it. I think we all need certain things in life that we can depend on and I’m hoping that you’ll help me keep the column alive by contributing your thoughts through a comment because what I write is mostly a springboard meant to spark ideas and that’s where you come in.

I’ve been thinking of a way to sort of kick off this column again since it hasn’t been that regular so I decided to launch a 10 week series (starting today) on the topic of Creativity and getting those creative wheels turning. Each week on Thursday I’ll post a tip and then you can chime in with your thoughts and ideas. I’ll also invite some guests to join in on the topic with their thoughts to inspire you. You can comment with complaints, worries, encouragement, fears, additional tips, whatever you want because the goal is for us to open up and get real. I’ll try to include a creative exercise each week for those interested in jumping in…

A mind map that I did for myself in March ’08. I tend to do one once a year around March. I map things a little differently than others as I don’t start in the middle of the page and work outwards. When it comes to self exploration I am not a big believer in following rules and staying within the lines all of the time (wink).

So let us begin!

I believe that anyone can be creative, it’s an inherent human trait and not reserved for a gifted few. Think back to your childhood when creativity was unstoppable. You spent hours playing, building, laughing, and daydreaming. Somewhere along the road to adulthood, creativity was substituted with practical, rational thinking in order to adapt and be productive at school or work. As years rolled by, many consider the direction of their lives and notice that something vital is missing. Some report that life has become nothing more than a monotonous hamster wheel of work, bills, and rushing to meet the needs of everyone else before (or instead of) of their own. Can you relate?

I was once a hamster in a wheel but I found my way out by discovering that the missing link was there all along. I needed to be more creative, even it if meant a complete overhaul in lifestyle. While I’m not a Psychologist or Counselor, I do have experience to share and I’m living proof that taking control of one’s life to live better and with more passion is entirely possible. Aside from personal struggles in my life, I resigned from a lucrative, but hardly creative, career only three short years ago and today I’m very happy, successful in my eyes, and proud of myself for pursuing my passions because I sat on my dreams for many years. How did I do it? How do so many other creative types do it? Starting today I’ll reveal a tip a week (10 weeks total) to reveal the various ways that I tapped into my creative voice. I’ll also invite some of my friends who I feel can give you some awesome ideas.

The goal here is to share, build a conversation, motivate, and show you that if you’re currently feeling zero creativity in your life then there is hope. I hope those of you who are listening to your creative voice will also chime in with tips on how you became more joyful, successful, and emotionally more tuned in too.

Here’s Tip #1:

Look backward in order to move forward. Let’s explore the topic of childhood creativity as mentioned briefly above. What did you love to do? One way to recall memories is a centuries old technique that I enjoy called mind mapping. Wikipedia describes it accurately, “Mind mapping is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea.” For this particular exercise write, “What I loved to do as a kid” in the middle of a blank sheet of paper and jot down memories, ideas, and associations from there to form branches resembling a tree. This creative exercise is an effective way to organize information. Try to avoid pausing or editing because that encourages linear thinking and mind mapping is a freeform exercise to stimulate out-of-the-box thinking. In fact, once you complete this exercise, you may find mind mapping an effective, and creative way, to solve problems and form new ideas in the future, boosting creative thinking. Connecting with your childhood hobbies and dreams will help you connect to things you once enjoyed before convention set in.

Your thoughts? Any questions that you have for me or others? Any issues or ideas you have encountered lately in your own life around this topic? What did you love to do as a child? What would you love to do now? If fear and money were no issue, what would you change? Are you feeling inspired and creative or are you feeling a bit tapped?

Creative Exercise: Try to carve out some time and research mind mapping. Sit down in a quiet space and create your own mind map.

P.S. This weekly series will only be a few paragraphs long. Most of the ‘meat’ will be in the comments section. :)

Look for the next creativity post on Thursday, January 22nd! We’ll be talking about something lots of us need help with…

(image from holly becker for decor8)

Posted in real talk on January 14, 2009

Are Assumptions Cluttering Your Life?

One of my blogger-colleagues over at Real Simple, Erin Doland, wrote a FINE post today called, Keep Assumptions from Cluttering Up Your Life.

We all want to feel included…

Erin’s post has to do with “reading between the lines” and I personally enjoyed it very much because I’m guilty of doing this, maybe you are too? I’d like to quote her for a moment, “As a writer, I come into contact with eisegesis (the process of reading something into a text that isn’t in the text) all the time. People will read my articles and then write me e-mails referencing things that don’t appear in the text. I’ll mention a product that can help handicapped people, and then I’ll receive an e-mail asking me why I hate handicapped people. Or, I’ll write about a baby crib, and then I’ll receive an e-mail asking me why I hate people who co-sleep with their infants. The interpretations people make aren’t always negative, but they are always baffling because they are so far off base. So much time and energy is wasted over misconceptions and misinterpretations.” Erin said this so well I think.

Would you not agree that we all spend wayyyy to much time, especially as women, getting offended easily by things we either read online or see in person… I don’t see nearly as many men running around feeling excluded so I think it tends to be more of a girl thing. I talked to my husband about this and he assured me that most men don’t sit around for days thinking about how another man treated them at work, for instance.

It comes down to feeling excluded. I often think that being online amongst so many others freely sharing thoughts on blogs, forums, etc. that it can sometimes feel a bit like high school. Like some kind of popularity contest. I have seen this and I’m willing to bet that you’re nodding your head as you read this – you’ve felt it too.

I feel it all of the time, excluded, left out, dissed, however you term it. In the end, there is no real way to change this – no way to change feeling left out because we all feel left out at one time or another, we cannot avoid being the last girl picked to dance at times… Okay there is a way but it has to do with how we think: changing how we look and react to things. For instance, I recently helped someone who assists a producer of a popular television show to find people who would be appearing in a specific show they planned to tape and I did a lot of work to help them locate those people and in the end, they gave me absolutely no credit at all. In fact, they credited everyone except me. At first, I was upset. I wrote to them immediately and explained how I felt and an apology was sent back in return so I’m okay with it now. But still. Talk about being shut out.

Some of us are more sensitive than others, but even in the tough girls I see this genuine interest in fitting in and being accepted. I hope that you’ll read Erin’s blog post for some great tips on just how to avoid allowing assumptions to clutter your life because sometimes we aren’t being dissed at all, it’s just how we are perceiving things to be.

Since we are amongst friends here on this blog, I’d love to open this up for discussion. I’m interested in getting your thoughts on how you filter out negative thinking, how you avoid allowing assumptions to rule your thinking, and if you are currently feeling excluded or upset about something, air that laundry here because I’d love to hear what’s going on in your life and how you as a small business woman, blogger, man, woman, student, whatever – how do you handle feelings of being excluded: whether real or imagined. All I ask is that if you have issues against someone in particular, please do not state their real name because that is not needed.

I’ll share below my personal thoughts in the comments section as well, so it’s not just me asking you but I am willing to share on this topic too.

So who wants to go first? How do you avoid allowing assumptions to take over your life?

(photograph taken by holly becker)

Posted in real talk on November 12, 2008

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