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What you should know about Creative Resistance

Creative Resistance

Let’s talk about Creative Resistance, shall we?

I believe we notice it more at the start of a new year because we revisit our resolutions and good intentions and wonder WHY did last year get away from us…again?

There’s hope

What is it? Where does it come from? Why do we avoid our work (even when we say it’s important to us) and how do we beat it?

The good news is , you’re not alone in this battle. We all experience resistance in one form or another. There isn’t a creative soul out there who hasn’t felt it pushing them away from their work at some point.

Here’s what I’ve learned about this tricky little blighter on my own journey.

Creative Resistance is…

invisible but it’s effects are very real.

Move through the ResistanceIt’s aim is to keep you from doing your work. And, while it may seem to come from outside of you, it is self-generated and self-perpetuated. It is also a force of nature and a liar.

It’s fuel is fear.

So ask yourself, “What is it about my creativity that I’m afraid of? If I did something about it, what is the worst that could happen? The best?”

(Weirdly, it’s usually the good stuff that scares us more.)

Get that fear out where you can see it. Don’t let it fester in the dark. Write about it. Make an art journal page. Dance it out. Whatever it takes.  Get that fear moving and you are no long stuck.

The Resistance Compass

Creative Resistance is actually a very good compass , pointing the way to what truly matters to you.

Creative resistance is a compass pointing you to what's really important. Click To Tweet

In fact, the more you resist, the more valuable that thing is to you. That’s information you can use! Use your Resistance to navigate by and discover what it is you really need to be up to.

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.

If your Creative Resistance is BIG then it’s a good indicator that something BIG is waiting to come through you.

Procrastination is a common symptom of Creative Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. (After all, the dishes MUST be washed.)

But when you put off doing your art, you put off important work. Not to put to fine a point on it, but you could end up putting off your life’s work. After all, something is calling to you to bring it into the world. Pay attention.

Change your response

You can do something about this right now. Sit down and create something. Anything. Even a doodle counts.  You’ll be thumbing your nose at Creative Resistance, when you do.

It’s that simple… and that hard.

Want to learn more?

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Joy to you and me

Find your joy

Every time you express a complaint about how difficult and tiresome it is to be creative, inspiration takes another step away from you, offended.  Elizabeth Gilbert

In her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert takes a practical common sense attitude towards living a joy-filled, creative life I can appreciate. It’s a breath of fresh air that makes creativity feel accessible to anyone and dispels the myth of the suffering artist.

The risk we take

Joy is magnetic. Use the force.Actually, when we focus more on the negatives in any area of our lives, we risk becoming boring and a repelling force. Chasing people away with our attitude runs counter to success in any endeavour, creative or otherwise.

That’s why I’m heeding Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice to focus on the joy of my creative practice.  That doesn’t mean the work isn’t difficult times and I don’t get tired. Hardly.

What is joy?

I’m not blind to the hard work (and yes, sometimes sacrifice) it takes to create from the heart. And I’m no Pollyanna. I grew up in a dysfunctional home with a mentally ill mother, so I get it. Life can be tough and painful and even frightening at times but I don’t need to drag that along behind me.

Yes, we experience joy in the bright moments but it’s also there in the shadows. A friend of mine put her busy life on hold to care for her mother in the final stages of a terminal illness. After her mother was gone, she shared withe me that their time together had joy laced liberally into the sadness.

Joy isn't about being giddy but rather feeling deeply fulfilled by an experience. Click To Tweet

Find your own joy

We’ve been well-taught to look for the negative. The marketing messages you’ve heard most of your life start with the idea you’re not good enough and need to be fixed. (We can help! Buy our product!) So shifting your perspective may take some re-training of your inner chatter.

Here are some tips that can help.

First, pay attention

That inner chatter is powerful. Train yourself to be aware of the negative words you repeat to yourself, especially about your art. Write them down, if you need to. Whenever you hear one pop up, challenge it by responding “Says who?”

Change the conversation.

Second, stop comparing yourself

The habit of comparison always gets in the way of our satisfaction and joy. If we look at the public works of a successful artist and think “I could never do that”, we overlook the ‘learning curve’ pieces, hidden away in closets or thrown in the trash.

Third, actively look for what works

Back when I facilitated creative writing workshops, I followed the AWA method. My training in the methodology emphasized providing feedback only on the strong writing.

“What works? What moves me? What emotions do I experience?”

I witnessed the magic of that again and again. The weak writing fell away simply because we humans crave the positive feedback. “You liked that? I’ll do more of it!”

Each week the writing improved. Many of my students went on to be published, so we were definitely doing something right. I only ever had one participant who constantly complained that unless I told her what was wrong, she couldn’t fix it.

Missing the point, she also missed the joy her art could have brought to herself and others.

Choose

In the end, joy is a choice. I choose joy.

Find more joy

The Creative Fire Cafe is a group of creative thinkers and do-ers who support and encourage each other. If you’d like to be part of a virtual group of positive people, join us on Facebook. Just click the link below and ask to join. We’d love to meet you there.

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Water: The Magic Element

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  Loren Eisley

Before our move to Nova Scotia, our home backed onto a quiet lake in Ontario. Living by the water was something I’d dreamed of as a kid and we enjoyed that lake for almost 20 years. I especially loved watching the weather move across the water and the sunsets on the far shore.

Peace of the ocean

However, since moving here to the Bay of Fundy, I honestly feel I’ve traded up.

Anytime of the day I can step out my door and the ocean lies just around the corner, always different, always fascinating. Walking the dog is always an adventure. In the fall an eagle pair hunt along our shoreline. Yesterday, a pair of seals bobbed just offshore, watching us watching them. Fishing boats come and go, while the weather has its way with everything.

by the waterI’m so grateful to be living this close to powerful tides and the sound of waves and wind. The smell of salt and seaweed keeps me aware of the invisible.  Beach-combing for interesting rocks, fishing floats and driftwood has become my new form of meditation.

And honestly, how many people have a lighthouse almost in their backyard?

Water and Creativity

Studies show we are hard-wired to react positively to water. We become calmer and more creative (which is a definite plus for this artist). Being near water gives our brains a rest from all that stimulation around us. And who doesn’t need that these days?

Apparently this preference for water is even responsible for those Aha moments many of us experience in the shower.

For me, there is definitely magic in the water here. There’s just no other way to explain why my life is more peaceful and my art more heart-centered living here on the shore.

Where do you go to feed your creative heart?

 

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Wee Art

Demos

I’m very excited to be part of an exhibition of Wee Art at Round Hill Studio in Annapolis Royal during December 2017.

The criteria was to work no larger than 6″x6″ in any medium we chose. Of course, I chose watercolours and decided to use what I found on our shoreline to explore the idea of transformation.

The first is the slow transformation of rock to sand. Then I found an empty shell on the beach and felt that was also a transformation.

Finally, I chose the universal symbol of transformation – butterflies.  However, I was stuck after that and almost decided to be satisfied with just three paintings.

Then the dog and I went for a walk by the lighthouse.  On the cliffs, I discovered a pile of feathers being blown about by the wind. I gathered a few and brought them back to my studio. When I set them on my table, I realized I had my fourth painting – the final transformation we all experience one day. Last flight.

I’ve never worked this small before and found it very gratifying because I completed all four paintings in a relatively short period of time. Even more gratifying, all four were accepted for the show.

If you have an opportunity to stop in to Round Hill Studio. Tell them I sent you.

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Style and Fun: Keeping it real

hooked on sheep

A couple of months ago I had an interesting conversation with an artist friend who asked me about my style. I admitted to her I couldn’t define my style. Yet.

Up to this point I’ve been learning the mechanics and mastering my craft. However, lately I’m feeling an inner push to go to the next level and polish a personal style. My raison d’etre, if you will.

This led to discussions in our Facebook group on topics like our Why, being authentic and creative courage as I wrestled with this question. It seemed to me I needed to know me better, if I wanted my style to ring true.

Then, just recently a friend who is also a coach like myself asked if I was overthinking it. Ding, ding, ding. Lightbulb goes off. Of course I was! I was working WAY too hard on trying to come up with the ‘perfect’ answer.

So I promised myself to hold the question lightly and wait for whatever showed up. To stop thinking and just hang out with the question and make the journey. For some it might be an “AHA” moment but for most of us I suspect it’s an evolution.

So I’m creating while keeping an eye out for those clues the universe loves to place in our paths.

Style Clue #1

In the Facebook group we focused on the word WHY for a week and one of the members mentioned her reason was to have fun. That struck a chord for me. No. Wait. Let me be clear. Her words gave me good bumps.

Here I was, trying to make my Why be IMPORTANT and WISE and PITHY. I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about here because I see this in folks all the time and I fell for it, as well. I’d bought into the myth that if my Why didn’t sound like a quote from Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela that somehow it wasn’t valid.

fun style
I want to be THAT one.

 

I mean, really, why can’t it just be about the fun? After all, I’ve always maintained if something I’m choosing to do isn’t fun, why am I doing it?

FUN became a valuable clue to  personal style.

 

 

Style Clue #2

hooked rug styleI used to do a lot of rug hooking but somewhere along the way I stopped. Too busy making a living, I suppose. Recently, my interest rekindled so I bought a small kit.

I was drawn to this little roly-poly sheep and completed the pattern in a week. As I hooked the last loops, the wind was howling outside and suddenly I heard Gramma’s voice in my head saying “He was 3 sheets to the wind”.

Only my brain heard “sheeps”.

playful style sketch

Immediately I grabbed my sketchbook and came up with this drawing. It tickled me so much I kept going.

The ‘punniness’ demanded a painting that was playful and light. The next day I pulled out my acrylic paints, a canvas board and began to play with the idea. As it evolved I even found myself telling a story – something else I love.

Below is what I have so far.  It needs the details like eyes and foliage but every time I walk by my easel I smile. I believe I’m onto something. The colours and simple figures appeal to something my heart. They cheer me up.

When I complete the final version, I’ll post it for you.

playful style acrylic painting

Style Clue #3

Most mornings, along with my coffee, I check out the CBC on my Ipad. I love the Nova Scotia news and also from Newfoundland (my husband’s home province.) While there are the usual crime reports and bad news stories, it seems to me they fill in with more local and human interest stories.

Recently, I came across this one, about 75 year old artist, Frank Lapointe, who is still looking for his perfect picture after a lifetime of painting. As I read the interview, his words spoke to me:

“To copy a photograph into a painting shows your manual dexterity and your ability to manipulate paint, but it’s not creating anything new.”

I’m looking for that “something new” that can come only from who I am in my heart. Stay tuned!

 

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Limits and Creativity

creativity is how I show my soul

A ‘no limits’ philosophy — “Break away – The sky is the limit – Be all you can be” — is popular, especially among life coaches and motivational speakers.

As a society it appears we’ve accepted this philosophy without question. In fact, I couldn’t find any positive images depicting limits, constraints and boundaries to use with this post.

So let me play the devil’s advocate here and argue for the other side because I know my creative practice benefits from some well-placed boundaries.

“Time” Limits

Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

I’ve known a number of people who took a year off from work to write or paint or compose. They start out with good intentions, excited and committed but hey, there’s LOTS of time. I’ll just do this… And then that…And then one morning they wake up and realize the year is over with little to nothing to show for it.

As a freelance writer I understood Parkinson’s Law so I’d request tight deadlines. Nothing eliminated web surfing and other distractions than a commitment breathing down my neck.

Creative productivity doesn’t need huge swathes of time. Rather, it requires focus and making good use of the time I have. Tight schedules or short windows of opportunity create urgency. An empty calendar does not.

Work expands to fill the time available. Time constraints focus your creativity. Click To Tweet

limits focus your energy

“Focus” Limits

Last year when we moved to Nova Scotia, most of the second floor apartment became my studio space. Luxury! I stretched out and filled  the rooms but it wasn’t long before I spent too much time looking for stuff, rearranging things, cleaning, organizing…

In short, all that space wasn’t the advantage I thought it was. Then, this past summer, we opened our Bed and Breakfast on the first floor of our home. That created constraints on my studio space as we moved upstairs while guests occupied the lower level.

I had to downsize – which held a certain irony after our long distance move. Less than a year later and here I was, purging again. I got real about what was a true creative priority to me. I chose my painting, quilting and writing over other creative outlets like paper crafts and soap-making.

“Stuff” Limits

Clarity about my creative priorities made it easier to sort through art supplies, storage systems and furniture. I packed up and gave the extra things to someone who would actually use it (and not just store it like I was).

One artist’s junk is another’s treasure, after all.

One artist's junk is another's treasure. Click To Tweet

It was all good. Getting rid of the extraneous stuff often forced me to find alternative solutions to achieve my vision. My creative muscle (aka my brain) got a lot of exercise.

“Space” Limits

 

limits create focusOnce I completed the purge, I moved my desk and computer to a cozy alcove in our upstairs kitchen. Moving my computer off to one side held an unexpected benefit. Because the computer is off to one side and no longer sits between me and my paints, the siren call of email and social media isn’t as loud.

“Psst. Over here….that’s right…C’mon…you know you wanna…it will only take a couple of minutes…”

In fact, I put my painting table and supplies where my desk had been because that room has the best light in the house. I don’t know why I didn’t set up in there right from Day One. (Who knows why we do these things?) Now I step into my studio BEFORE I go anywhere near my desk.

I gave a lot of thought to what I needed to paint and pared down to the essentials only. I have two tables, one where I can be seated and one where I work standing up. My supplies and equipment are all within easy reach. The happy result is that I’m painting more because most of the time everything is right there, ready to go.

Limits, self-imposed and otherwise, force me to come up with better, more creative solutions. They keep me focused on my priorities by eliminating temptations and distractions. Too much time, space or stuff can lull me into feeling I’m being creative because I’m thinking about it or sorting through things or ‘researching’. By setting reasonable limits, I’m motivated to take action and stuff gets done.

How about you? Share your experience in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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Choices: Leave no room for regret

Rockin' The Story

It’s been way too log since my last post because life has been “crazy busy”. I had to make some choices because that ebb and flow thing I wrote about? It showed up in a big way.

Making Choices

After a training gig in Toronto, I enjoyed a couple of weeks at home in Nova Scotia and then headed to Ohio for our granddaughter’s high school graduation. I brought sketching supplies with me and found time to enjoy the gardens during the ten days we were there.

I wanted quality time with my family but I’m also committed to my creative practice. That meant each day I made personal choices about where I would spend a few quiet creative minutes.

Sketch Choices - Hosta

Sketch Choices - Roses

Sketch Choices - Hibiscus

Kid Adventures

On the first of June, we headed back to Nova Scotia with three grand-kids for a month of adventure. They loved it here, beach combing, shell collecting and hiking the shoreline. I loved giving my grand-kids the freedom I knew as a child.

In between entertaining, I still made choices for creative time. I finished the edits of an anthology I’m part of and sent it off to the publisher. Then, over the course of a few days,  I prepared twenty pieces of my original art for The Art Shack opening. (Hanging my pictures in a gallery for the first time is pretty exciting!)

Finally, last week I completed a new painting – Rockin’ the Story – in between sight-seeing with my son and his family. (I’ll share the process of creating this one and why I chose the title in my next post.)

Rockin' The Story

Frankly, there simply wasn’t enough time to entertain, create AND write about it as well. That forced me to make conscious choices about where I spent my time so the blog went quiet.

I’m sure your own creative journey has busy times when something has to give because, after all, you’re only human. Don’t regret those choices you make.  Choose what you feel is right for that particular set of circumstances and just let the rest go. No second-guessing. In my case, I chose family time and sprinkled creative time around it.

Choose what you value. Let the rest go without regret. Click To Tweet

Back On The Air

My family all left yesterday morning and, while that feels bittersweet, I’m happy to be blogging again. Stay tuned!

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Play and Creative Practice: 5 Ideas to Bring Back the Fun

Just this last week I posed a question about play in our Facebook Group The Creative Fire Cafe. I asked the members to share their favourite activity as a kid. Reading the answers felt like a walk down memory lane and there was a lot of “Me, too!” going on.  Continue reading Play and Creative Practice: 5 Ideas to Bring Back the Fun