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Castles In The Air

This month I decided it was high time to develop a more consistent creativity habit. I started out with the ambitious idea to create an art journal and work in it every day. Then I realised making it TOO big is always a recipe for failure for me. So I scaled down my vision for now.

I wanted it to be do-able as well as something I looked forward to. Now I’m spending time every day partaking in acts of random creativity. Often that involves me, my sketchbook and a pencil curled up on the sofa while I enable my husband’s TV addiction.

Doodling feels less serious and I can always manage ten minutes for a doodle. However, I’ve found that once I get started, I just keep going. And I’ve been faithful in my new practice for over two weeks. A good learning on my part. The key for me apparently is keeping it simple so that resistance can’t kick in.

Recently, I spent an evening sketching random bits of castles – or at least the way my imagination pictured a castle. (I blame a Harry Potter movie binge for this.)

Starting with simple squares, I added bits and played with perspective here and Castle in the Cloudsthere, just to see what would happen. Then, when I had some ‘raw material’  I liked I pieced my personal castle together.

What I ended up with tickled my imagination. So much so that I did a 6×8 watercolour the next day. Now  I’m thinking about making it bigger and going ‘looser’ with the watercolours.

Fun, simple and creative explorations that might be the start of something more. Plus it made me think: “How often do I stop short of doing something because my plan feels too big and overwhelming?”

I didn’t need a fancy plan or a buildng permit to build my cloud castle. And I’m pretty sure  some fairies moved in…

What’s in your sketchbook?

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Where the Light Gets In

Recently I went for a walk beside Lake Ontario along a beach made up entirely of water-smoothed stones. I picked up a few, thinking I’d like to try painting on them. When I got home later that day I put them on the counter. To my surprise, a pattern emerged. The random bits fit together, like pieces in a puzzle.

It was one of those AHA moments. I realised my life had been feeling like that earlier this year. A lot like those stones jumbled up in my pocket, Nothing seemed to fit any longer. Roadblocks. Unexpected endings. No clear path.

Then, over the course of a few days, it started piecing itself back together. A pattern is emerging and it’s surprising me because it doesn’t look like anything I expected.

Rock Puzzle

Here’s what those rocks told me. Keep going. Don’t force order onto things when you’re still in the gathering phase. And let go of the outcome because it probably won’t look anything like I thought it would. That’s part of the process. Trust and relax.

And the gaps? To paraphrase Leonard Cohen:

” Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

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The Road Not Travelled…Yet

Just when you think you've figured it out...
Just when you think you’ve figured it out…

Some days feel so far from where I meant to be at this time in my life. I dream of creative exploration but spend too much time navigating the ‘real world’. I took a wrong turn somewhere. A Personal GPS would be handy right now.


As a child growing up in a home where mental illness existed I learned early on that anything that took attention from my parent made me “bad”. To answer a creative calling was the most suspect thing of all. “Useless. Selfish indulgence.” Something to fit in after the ‘real’ work was done. Which, of course seldom happened.

Claiming my creative voice was first and foremost a declaration of independance.

Regardless of who we are and any early conditioning we experienced, we have to be  very brave to make art. By its nature, art is a different way to see things and different always challenges someone, somewhere 

Personal and unique are essential qualities of any creative process and its product.  But art exposes the heart of the artist. 

And that’s scary.  To see the venom some people can spew I only have to explore social media. It takes an extremely courageous heart to step into the line of fire totally exposed.

I do lots of creative things. Painting, knitting, quilting, collage; but it’s in writing that I find the edges of my fear.  Art needs to skate that edge.

I have two novels partially completed exploring topics that frightened me away from the work. I put the work away fearful of what “they” would say. My heart felt too tender for blunt blows. 

Am I brave enough to go looking for that missed turn?

Suddenly, possible regret for the road not traveled is more frightening than anything “they” might say.

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On the Lake

Everything is white these days. Except the shadows. They are a deep blue. Even in sunshine Backyard Birch in Snowit looks cold.

The lake is frozen so deep the ice fishing huts huddle near the center of the lake, looking for open water. They tell me the fishing is good this year but the idea of sitting out there leaves me cold. (Pun intended.)

The dog makes quick work of his ‘walk’. It seems like the door barely closes, when it reopens and my husband and the pup hurry back inside.

We’ve given up making weekend plans because the weather conspires against us. Just when it looks like there’s a window of opportunity to visit the kids, the forecast changes and snow descends again. So we stay put and relax by the fire without guilt. There has been a lot of movie watching this season.

This is also the year for knitting. And if the weather keeps up like this much longer I may finally do something I swore I’d never do – an afghan. The idea of something to snuggle under even as it flows off my needles is appealing at the moment.

I prefer short term commitments, like socks and hats.  Even a sweater challenges my attention span. I have two completed. Rather, almost completed. They are languishing in a basket, waiting for me to sew them up. Truth is, I’ve lost interest in them and have moved on to other loves.

It’s the process I love more than the finished piece. Colour moving through my fingers. The challenge of lace or intricate cables.  Even the possibility in a pattern is part of this. Where others have stashes of yarn (and I have one as well) I have a stash of patterns. More than I could knit up in a lifetime.

Although, with the way this winter is playing with us, there might be enough time.

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Answering the Creative Call

Time is MoneyI know I’m not the only one who struggles to fit creative time into my life but I wonder if those of us who have our own business find it doubly hard? There’s always something more to do and never enough time to get it all done. And somewhere inside there’s a meter running. Our hours get measured out by the dollar rather than the joy.

That’s certainly been the case for me this winter. I am busier than ever in my business which leaves me less time for the simple pleasure of making something with my hands. I miss the quiet time spent piecing together a quilt. I need the mindfulness that comes when I paint.

Thank goodness I manage to get some knitting in. It quiets my ‘busy brain’ and provides a much-needed break. Even a few rows is progress and serves to remind me that everything is a process that happens one step, one stitch, one stroke  at a time.

But I’m hungry for more.

Love Art

Which is why I took a few minutes to blog about it this morning. Kind of a reminder to myself that there is more to my life than dollar signs.

Don’t get me wrong. As a small business coach, I find it extremely rewarding to help people take control of their own success.  It’s creative work as well.  ( The ultimate for me is working with other creatives who want their passion AND a profit.)

So, if I were coaching me, here are 3 tips I’d give myself:

1) Step away from the computer.

Shut down email and internet. Turn off the smart phone. Close the tablet. The business side of your business will always be there. Unless you’re in emergency services, nothing you do involves blood and mayhem. It can wait.

2) Be prepared.

Have a project set up and ready to work on so when you have 10 minutes, you don’t spend it getting out the supplies you need.

3) Just 15 minutes.

Shift your thinking about time. You don’t need hours and hours of free time. You’d be surprised at the progress you can make in just 15 minute intervals. If you can write 500 words in 15 minutes, you could get the rough draft of a novel done in a year.

What works for you? How do you find time to balance your creative call and other responsibilities?

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Like a cat…

Sleepy kittenI’m like a cat. I can amuse myself for hours with a piece of string…as long as there are knitting needles attached to it.

I spent these last two months creating and preparing a full day business presentation. It required full focus commitment.  Most days I put in 10+ hours of solid work, usually 7 days a week –  juggling to-do lists and activities, contacting people and creating the presentation itself.

What got me through was another commitment I made to myself. To turn it all off by 7 pm and knit. 

Socks, yarn and needlesI love the simplicity and complexity of knitting. It blows my mind how simple sticks, strings and two basic stitches can possess such infinite possibilities. Lace, cables, intarsia, fair isle and more. Not to mention that a piece of string can manipulated into 3 dimensional objects to cover anything from a newborn’s tiny foot to a bus.

So when I knit it feels like I’m doing something that borders on the miraculous. Not a bad way to unwind. (No pun intended.)

In my mind I do two kinds of knitting. One is meditative, where my hands instinctively know what to do. This frees my mind to wander and play. During these last few weeks I worked on socks.  It’s a pattern I know so well I could do it in my sleep. Like slipping into a comfy pair of jammies, it was familiar and comforting.

Not to put too fine a point on it, knitting kept me sane these last few weeks. I also like to think it allowed me to bring my very best to the presentation because I managed my energy in the lead up. Even when it was a crazy, busy day I knew I would sit down in the evening with needles and yarn. Like meditating, it created a quiet oasis in my day and my thoughts.

Now this event is behind me. (Yes, it was a great success. Thank you for asking.) I’m looking forward to more challenging knitting. Perhaps a lace scarf. Or a cabled pillow.AND  I’ve got time to throw in some other creative adventures now.

To start, I’m meeting my painting buddy this week. Can’t wait. My watercolours have been whining about neglect…

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Writing (and Creating) With the Door Closed

Key in LockIn his fascinating book “On Writing” Stephen King recommends that we write twice. First, write with the door closed. This is for-your-eyes-only writing.  You are the only arbiter of what stays and what goes. Then only after you are satisfied with what you’ve created should you open the door and invite the world in.

His advice holds a world of truth for all artists and writers.

For a number of years I went on retreat with writing friends. Our goal was to carve out space in busy lives and create new material. We would write in the mornings and then share our work in the afternoon, inviting comment and feedback.

On the surface it sounds like a good idea. After all, we were all writers and friends. We were all taking the same risk by sharing fresh new work. Our babies.  We understood the rawness of that work and commented accordingly.

A lot of respect and care went into the feedback. For the most part, we avoided re-writing each other’s work. But along the way I discovered that, during creative incubation, we need to trust our truth.

This was really driven home when my writer friends suggested one of my pieces needed  serious changes, almost a complete re-write. It just didn’t work for them.

However, for me, it felt complete. With some trepidation (spiced with a smidge of defiance) I made the radical decision to ignore my friends. I simply polished it and sent it out to a literary magazine. Not only was it published but the editor wrote and told me it needed no changes whatsoever. She was thrilled with it. So was I!

Feedback comes from personal opinion and we each have our vision. Bringing your work out too early introduces an element of doubt in what you’ve created when it’s still barely formed. Instead finding your way, it short-circuits the creative process.

Once I had feedback I stopped exploring the possibilities and assumed “they” had the answer. It was “creation by committee”.

I keep my writing to myself now until it’s polished, primped and primed, ready to go out in public. At that point, I’m clear on my story and what I want it to say. I’ve answered my own questions about the work.

Feedback from a trusted source at this point feels qualitatively different. Its about logic flaws or where I appear to be in love with fancy metaphor. What the feedback doesn’t do is change my voice or the basic story.

I’ve also come to realize that much of that new work I created on retreat never came to anything. Some of it never should, of course. But there are other pieces that deserve more.

However the “juice” was gone. By bringing them out too early I no longer felt the need to write them. I often tell my writing clients not to talk about a story because it takes away that pressure to write it. I know from experience how true that is.

So now I write with the door firmly closed. I highly recommend it to you as well.

Thanks, Stephen.

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Walking Barefoot

Walking Barefoot if about Getting RealNot too long ago, I got very clear about how important it is to express my creativity.

I use various forms of visual art and writing to explore ideas and dreams that would otherwise get buried by the busy-ness of daily life.

Creative output is an expression of my spirituality because it allows me to listen to my soul’s language. It’s as vital to me as oxygen.

Without it,  a piece of who I am is missing.

Since one of my focus words for 2014 is ‘Authenticity” I am choosing to live more art-fully each day. I’m even shifting the focus  my coaching to attract clients who want to make a living while they follow their bliss.

Still, it’s a constant battle. Life gets busy and crowded with too many “shoulds’. I stop making my creative explorations a priority, always thinking I’ll get right back to them. I fool myself into thinking I am actually doing something because I plan to but when I look at the results….

Then I wake up one day and realize I am lonely for my creative self. Again. 

When I was a kid, I longed for black patent leather shoes with tiny straps with every fiber of my being.

My mother, however bought me a pair of awful brown oxfords. You know the kind. Sturdy, practical and butt ugly. (Why do mothers do these things to their kids?)

I wore them for about a week, feeling self-conscious and drab. They were stiff and uncomfortable and I hated them with all of my ten year old heart. So I did the only thing any sane kid would do.

I took them to the creek down the road and set them afloat. The last I saw of them they were headed for Waterman’s Lake. For all I know they’re still there today, terrorizing fishermen who have the misfortune of hooking one.

Now, you need to know that my mother was not a woman to trifle with and I don’t remember what transpired when I arrived home barefoot. (Obviously I survived since I’m here to tell the tale.) The fact I don’t remember tells me the important part of this story for me was taking action on something I was passionate about.

My creative heart  has been wearing those tight brown oxfords again.

It’s time to fling them off and wiggle my toes on bare earth again. I want to walk barefoot through my dreams.

Want to join me?