Creativity breeds creativity... so sometimes you just need to start small.
I used to teach a college photography class. And once the students started to understand the manual settings, I gave them an assignment to teach them how to tell a story with a photo. An assignment that I am now taking on for myself. Take a toy, any toy that will easily sit up by itself, and that means something to you, then go on a journey with this it. Photograph it interacting with the world - but do it from the toy's perspective. I'm taking this concept a step further and speaking for her as well. So I would like to formally introduce you to - Martha the T-Rex. (Below she's creeping on my muffin from Stauf's Coffeehouse in German Village - one of my favorite coffeeshops. But I don't blame her, their muffins are delicious. But my iced Milky Way latte is off limits - she doesn't need to be bouncing off of the walls - especially with teeth that sharp).
I basically take her EVERYWHERE I go... and if I see an opportunity to tell a mini story about her thoughts, then I do... even if it's just a sentence or two. She shows up on IG a lot - @confidentlycreativeadults But she wants to start showing up on the blog as well. So she'll take over my blog every Tuesday - we'll call it T-Rex Tuesday. And you'll see a couple of her adventures from that week. For now, here's what she's been up to:
I asked the Instagram fans if I should take Martha to a wedding with me, and it was unanimous yes!! It was soon very obvious why Martha wanted to come to the wedding - it wasn't because she was interested in the business, nor the couple... no, she wanted the desserts. Silly Martha - You'll get sick if you eat all of that. Later in the evening, she was very fascinated with the DJ - so she had her turn watching her spin tunes.
This lovely gentleman is Mr. Sinclair - but we call him Grandpa. He's 95 years old. Martha has heard me talk about him quite a bit, so she was anxious to go and see him. She took to him right away, but he wasn't so sure of her. We're not worried... he'll come to love her - just as much as she already loves him.
I'm going back to help him decorate his new digs, of course Martha is going to be there giving her opinions.... More pictures of all of that to come.
Unexpected benefit of carrying Martha around everywhere I go... She makes everyone smile. And people are now started to ask about her. I think it's because deep down, we all need just a little more nonsensical fun in our lives. If nothing else, I'm completely entertained by making up little stories throughout my day.
I have had this dream of creating my own series of fairytales for as long as I can remember... I wanted to photograph them. But this dream has evolved over time. In the beginning it was doing a literal translation of the classic fairytales in photographs - like Annie Leibowitz has done over the years. I too wanted to make it a fashion shoot - and make it about the hair and the makeup and the location - and my photography. But then as I have established my style and sense of self, it has transformed over to a series of Lady Boss Portraits. Turning all of the fairytales into women business owners. And then adding the element of diversity on top of that. I wanted to create all women business owners who represented the various cultures all within a whimsical world. THEN later, I also decided I wanted to write about these characters too - nothing too long, but just a sneak peak into my imagination. And the final phase (or at least the final phase for now), is that I am also straying from the classic fairytale characters to create a few of my own. The explosion of creativity, imagination and talent (between myself and my co-collaborator, Kat Epneris) is thrilling!! It’s challenging both of us to stretch way beyond our current skills/talents - but in the process we are adding to our craft in ways that we would normally not have an opportunity to do.
I have almost 20 characters mapped out. And as part of this blog, I will be sharing the photographs and the stories with you each time I have one completed. So today I’d like to introduce you to The Mad Hatter.
Harriet (nicknamed Hattie) is part of the long legacy of royal hatters - 17th generation and a direct decedent of THE Mad Hatter to be exact. This lovely Hattie didn't have the heart for hats like her family; and much to everyone's disappointment, she left the family hatting business to start her own adventure.
She opened a bar, so she could mix drinks and listen to the woes of those drowning their sorrows into the bottom of a glass - hoping to save them one by one. But she's entered a "man's world" - where business is cut-throat... and although she was trying to escape her maddening family, she is learning that owning a business still makes you a little crazy.
Her family, seeing her struggle but proud of her efforts, tries to help; but instead of sending her money or food, they send her hats. Their worst fear was that she would not have time to make a hat for every occasion, event or the random Tuesday that may happen upon her. So they take it upon themselves to send her plenty of choices. She knows of their mental limitations, and remains grateful for their well-intended gifts. After all, she is a Lady Boss... learning to thrive and survive, just as any good hatter would.
Model: Julie Brown
Location: Pub of Polaris (now closed)
Hair & Makeup: Kat Epneris (Always Elegant, LLC)
Costume Designer: Christina Selvey-Urbas
"I don't feel inspired enough to create."
"I have squirrel syndrome" (Also known as "all the shiny things")
"I want to be creative, but where would I start?"
Do any of these sound familiar? Or maybe you have a more "creative" reason why you are not currently working on your craft? This article is going to give you a list of ideas on how to crawl out of that creative funk. If you want to read a more serious article on how to establish creative rituals/habits on a daily basis, then read this.
However, not everyone has a desire to create everyday. Maybe you just want to create once a month... but because you don't have a regular habit, you find it hard to get back into it on a moment's notice. So here are some suggestions to re-boot your desire to be creative:
1) Take an Art Class.
Columbus, Ohio is very much an Art Town. Though I'm only naming a small amount of options, there are so many more to choose from if you're willing to hunt them down. These are just the ones that I am most familiar with.
+ Columbus Cultural Arts Center
+ Columbus Idea Foundry (they used my photo (above) for their front page!)
+ Glass Axis
+ Igloo Letterpress
2) Get some exercise
Yes, that's right... those creative juices are not going to flow if you stay on the couch or in front of the computer all day. Take an aerobic class, yoga, sign up with a trainer... or just go for daily walks!! Go move your body - and do it at least once a day!
3) Read. Start with these:
+ Coaching the Artist Within by Eric Maisel
+ The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
+ Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
+ The Creative Fight by Chris Orwig
+ Purple Cow by Seth Godin
And although it's super convenient to order online, get out of your bubble and go support a local bookstore. You'll make a new friend in the process.
4) Take yourself on a date!!
+ Go see a movie
+ Go explore a new park
+ Go check out local galleries and latest exhibit at the museum
+ Go on a road trip to see a visiting exhibit (I'm visiting the Fort Wayne Museum of Art just to see an exhibit)
+ Go to your favorite park, sit with a notebook and people watch - create stories
+ Go to a local Farmer's Market
Learn to be comfortable with just you - you're a great person, it's about time you realized that. Once you get over the fear of going out alone, you're mind will open up to a whole new realm of possibilities. (Just don't let those pesky A.N.T.s get in the way)
5) Watch a Ted Talk - or just start with these two:
+ Mac Barnett
+ How I became 100 artists
No seriously, watch this one above!!
6) Listen to inspiring Podcasts
+ School of Greatness
(I love going for 30-60 minute walks with a podcast! I come home so revived).
7) Study and Learn about artists - and how they are stay inspired. You'd be surprised that it's more about "showing up everyday" than it is about waiting for your muse to arrive.
Below is Michelle Stitzlein, she is an industrial fine artist. Her process is amazing... something I'll blog about separately - just because it deserves it's own space to breathe. The piece of art to the left of her (below) is one of her smaller pieces. But Michelle isn't the only artist that I've interviewed. Adam Kolp is another one; you can see his video on my Rituals blog post.
It's not hard to find this kind of information - Artists are very generous people. Always willing to share their creative process.
Do you have a longing to be creative, but don't think you have the time to cultivate it? Or maybe you envy your creative friends, but have no idea how to get started. Instead of waiting for the right moment, or waiting to be inspired - the dedicated artists create rituals (a series of habits) to trigger inspiration.
Before we delve into the various habits & rituals that creatives practice, let's remove the obstacle of time. Time is the biggest road block for creatives and non-creatives alike. The claim, "... I just don't have enough time to be creative." - is an excuse that needs to stop.
I was listening to a CreativeLive workshop by Peter Voogd, called Six Months to Six Figures. (He also has a book by the same title). During lesson 12, "Lack of Time Myth - Busted", I had more than one ah-ha moment as he spoke about time and productivity. To paraphrase, Voogd talks about how we all have the exact same amount of hours in the day. He goes on to talk about priorities, and being conscious to how we allot our time... then being disciplined enough to follow through with it. Discipline is the key word here. It takes nothing to first declare a new habit, but it takes discipline to follow through with it.
Further into that lesson, he breaks down how many hours we all have in a week = 168.
So let's look at my schedule and see how much time I really have:
Sleeping = 49 hours (7 hours a day) - honestly this varies from week to week.
Work - including time in my car = 60 hours
Eating = 14 hours - 2 hours a day
Workouts = 6 hours
With Friends/family = 12 hours
Church = 2 hours
Chores= 5 hours
= 148 hours (but your schedule may look different - you may have more/less time in your schedule)
THAT'S STILL 20 HOURS THAT ARE UNCOUNTED FOR... Plenty of time to be creative
Time will be spent, but it's up to me to as to what I do with my time.
Besides reading Peter Voogd's book, I also recommend reading, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (if you are not aware of who Twyla Tharp is, just know that she is a renowned American choreographer. She has created a wide variety of award-winning ballets, like the one that I've linked to her name. Can you imagine coming up with the moves for every single dancer on that stage?? That's Twyla Tharp - she's a modern day storyteller).
Everyday, Tharp gets up at 5:30 am, puts on her gym shoes, hails a taxi and goes to the gym for 2 hours to workout. Then showers, eats breakfast (the exact same breakfast everyday) and goes and sits in an empty ballet studio with music.... this is when her creative minds starts to play. But she says her ritual starts as soon as she gets in the cab everyday. By acting through an established ritual, it prevents you from turning back. It prevents fear from dictating your stance. The biggest component of creating rituals is to make them simple... like incredibly simple, because if you don't, you are less likely to get started.
I recently interviewed a friend, Adam Kolp, who is a full-time artist... and intermediate art teacher... and a husband, AND father of 4 - 2 sets of twins who are involved in sports and the arts. He's a very busy guy to say the least. And yet, Adam makes time for his art EVERYDAY. Yes, every single day. How does he do this?? Watch this video to see the interview:
Like Adam and Twyla, start by creating warm up exercises for whatever your discipline happens to be. For example, if you are a writer, before diving into you novel, do a brain dump - something Julia Cameron refers to as morning pages. If you are a musician, play through your scales then follow-up with a very familiar song - and perform with a lot of heart. Dancers are all about rituals - they spend hours warming up their muscles before attempt a new dance. And if you are an artist - depending on what type of art you practice - you could prime canvases like Adam. Just stop making excuses about time.
By the way... if you would like to purchase one of Adam's paintings (like I did), you can either contact him directly - he's not hard to find (and I can help)... or he shows his work at Hayley's Gallery about once a year in downtown New Albany.
Creativity, to some, seems to be an obscurity that only inhabits select individuals. However, as a Creative, I am here to debunk this myth - along with many other myths. Thus begins a series of written articles on Creativity - and how the “non-creative” (although I do not believe there is such a person) can tap into it. Follow me as I educate you, give you step-by-step how-to’s, and suggest books to read - all while shattering the misconceptions surrounding the ability to be creative. But let’s not be naive, in the beginning it will take work. Still, it is very attainable if you are willing to open your mind to it.
“You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
~ Maya Angelou
"Let's start at the very beginning... a very good place to start" (Bravo to you, if you started singing this song from the Sound of Music!) But seriously, let's start with some basics:
Imagination - Using your mind to "see" beyond what's directly in front of your eyes.
Creativity - Using your imagination to discover & develop new ideas
Talent - Practiced skills - usually involving hand-eye coordination
Curiosity - Being a seeker; asking questions to gain new knowledge - even if they are absurd questions (kids are the best at being curious).
Craft - Craft can mean many things to many people. Often, people think of craft being a non-fine art (quilting, crochet, basket weaving, even beers are now being seen as a craft). But I’d like to define craft as “practicing a process of creating”; in which case - craft can apply to anyone that has developed a habit of creating.
Imagination, Creativity and Curiosity typically all work together. So for this particular article, I am going to group them all under “Creativity”. Talent is often mistaken for being the same as Creativity; this is Myth #2 (in case you missed it earlier, Myth #1 is that Creativity and Talent is only for a select few). This is not to say that Talent cannot be Creative, it absolutely can. Which is where Myth #1 stems from - it is very rare to find individuals that dedicate the necessary time to developing their craft, and are doing it in ways that are different from their peers. So when we observe an individual that is paving a new path in their chosen art form (music, art, dance, etc), we are privileged to see talent and creativity working as a collaborative. Behind the scenes, what we do not have the patience to see is their daily habits that are coupled with hard work and perseverance. This type of artist is revered for being highly creative; and people rave about their natural talent… and they might be naturally talented, but talent that is not nurtured produces nothing. Talent is a skill. Talent matures when you practice it.
The second type of Creative, is extremely talented, and practices craft regularly - but is only copying what they see and hear… Creating an exact replica of the original. This is a prime example of being extremely talented while not being creative. Think of a fine artist who finds a photograph that they admire and decides to re-create it into a painting. Paying homage to the original work, they create a photorealistic image. If this person was being creative, they would have used the photograph as a point of inspiration and then created something new that didn’t resemble the photograph at all. But instead, they only showed talent but copying the original. Do you see the difference?
To expand on this, let’s consider the newest fascination with adult coloring books. First, it’s great that so many people are going back to coloring books as a form of relaxation. Reconnecting with childhood memories of art, is the best way to reconnect with your inner creativity. Pablo Picasso’s most famous quote is, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Being a former elementary art teacher, coloring books are a tool that I encouraged parents to use to build confidence, and to pass time. The only time I used them in the classroom was if I was going to be out for the day, and I didn’t want to leave my in-progress art project with a non-certified art teacher. However, I wouldn’t leave “easy” coloring pages… I still wanted their skills (talents) to be challenged. By taking someone else’s drawings (someone else’s creativity), the child has the opportunity to fill in the blanks without an overwhelming fear of failure. But ultimately, I want the children to imagine their own drawings, create them and color them in; and likewise with adults. Use the coloring books to hone in on your talent of blending colors; use it a tool to build your confidence - just don’t stay there. Because coloring books will not increase your creativity.
However, another new-ish trend is something called, focused doodles. (This concept was first coined by the Zentangle brand - but those of us in the art world, it's not a new concept). It is simple and yet effective to building personal creativity - and it’s just as relaxing as coloring books. If we go back to the Do, Re, Mi song from the Sound of Music, that hopefully is now sprouting wings and flying in circles around your head, I can explain focused doodles by adjusting the lyrics:
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start! When you read, you begin with A, B, C; when you draw you begin with, Dot, Line, Shape…dot, line shape. The first three tools just happen to be dot, line shape...”
That’s right, all drawings start with either a dot, a line or a shape. Dots, lines, and shapes are what focused doodles are comprised of. Which is why they are so popular - it’s entering the no fail zone. The reason I love to promote focused doodles is because it’s another confidence building tool. Once you realize how attainable these drawings are, you are more likely to take on difficult projects when they come your way. Because you'll know the inside secret - focused doodles are just dots, and lines and shapes arranged into patterns.
On the flip side of talent, there are also those that are extremely creative - always thinking beyond the here and now, but do not develop it into a personal craft. They are idea generators, but often are too afraid to try out their ideas. The most common roadblock is perfection - also known as fear. Fear of failing, fear of not living up to others’ expectations, and fear of not living up to your own expectation. Whatever the fear is - it becomes an excuse as to why we are not creating.
Fear also blocks the talented from stepping outside of their comfort zone. So it goes both ways. Fear is also why the self-proclaimed non-creative and non-talented do not venture beyond their left brains - you must understand that fear is a liar. Daniel G. Amen, M.D. has written several books on the lies our brain tells us to “protect” us from failing. The book that I read, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body” introduced me to A.N.T.’s - Automatic Negative Thoughts. Just like fear, A.N.T.’s are persistent and debilitating when not squashed. A.N.T.’s tell us that making mistakes is failing. But I want to encourage you to make mistakes - I even encourage to fail. Failing is not as scary as the A.N.T.’s want us to believe - because failing leads us to new discoveries about ourselves. Trying and failing is better than not trying at all.
Activity to Ward off the A.N.T.’s:
Mr. & Mrs. I Can’t have been found illegally squatting in the residence of your brain for the last (x) years. It is time for them to vacate the premises; and with the official court documents in hand, we can finally give them the boot. Your assignment is to write down on a piece of paper all of your fears, and all of your “I Can’t” statements that are holding you back. Take a moment to write down your Automatic Negative Thoughts as well. Once you have labeled what your roadblocks are, it’s time to “bury” them. My suggestion is to write a letter to yourself, using the website: https://www.futureme.org - it is a public but anonymous way to hold yourself accountable to your goals. Set the letter to be sent back to you in about 9 months - because my goal for you is to birth a creative life by pressing the reset button on what you think is possible.
Share with me: What were some of the things that you wrote down? What are some of the A.N.T.s that have been holding your mind in captivity? Are you ready to go on an amazing journey with me - are you ready to become a Confidently Creative Adult?
To say that I have an active imagination is an understatement. Most adults left behind the world of playing pretend for a more "serious" outlook on life... but I am one of the rare ones that chose to keep my imagination active and ready for any given moment. My imagination has it's own air space and zip code. It is bigger than most adults can fathom; I love that I can be locked in a room with 50 5 years old and calm the masses with just a simple story. (The story of "Turkey Baby" will come later).
I like to tell people that I'm a "mover and a shaker" - it means that I will get things done when things need to get done. I also learned that from mom. She and I grew to have a reputation of re-arranging the furniture in the house whenever my dad would leave for a long weekend. It was a can-do attitude combined with a need for change. To this day, I still like to rearrange my furniture about once every 6 months. It's funny how it refreshes your mind and puts everyday life into a new perspective.
My best memories from our childhood, is how many songs she would improv in order to get us to do something - or learn something. She was/is always making up songs... my sister and I laugh, because we have both inherited this trait, constantly humming a song - whether real or made-up in the moment - that comes directly from Mom. (Yeah, you'll experience these made up songs too).
In 2016, my mom asked that I take her to some of my favorite places in Columbus. Places that she had never visited - so we went to the Columbus Museum of Art and Franklin Park Conservatory. We took a picture together to commemorate the experience. (It was one of those pictures that was a bit of a wakeup call... I hadn't realized how big I had gotten. It helped spur the action of getting a trainer). The next year she wanted to go up to Mansfield's Kingwood Center. Afterwards we met up with the rest of the family and we took another picture. (Do you see the difference in both of us?? We both started exercising and eating better). And then this year, we didn't have time to do much besides lunch. But still managed to get a new picture taken. (We both have lost so much and yet gained so much confidence).
I am often mistaken for being younger than those that are younger than me. Some say it's my youthful looks, to which I will thank my mother. But I also wonder if it's not because of my goal to never grow up (also attributed to my mother). My mom's imagination is still just as active as it was when she was encouraging us to think beyond the obvious. Now that she is retired, she is often creating in her home studio - she paints, draws, sews, does woodworking and has become a re-purpose artist. All things that come naturally to her - spiked from an active imagination and curiosity that forever says, "why not?".
So as we celebrate our mothers today, I would like to take a particular time out and thank my mother for allowing me to see myself as a creative artist. Her constant encouragement allowed me to imagine the impossible. My personal motto is: "She believed she could, so she did". But really it stems from, having a mother that believed in her daughter so fiercely that the daughter was able to believe in herself.
Thanks Mama for everything!!