Do you enjoy these creative practices?

Question #3 from my survey; this one is super interesting. When I put up the multiple choice answers, I focused on the things I was most interested in at the moment. I was curious to see the other ways people practice a creative spirit. (Maybe I should have phrased it that way!) In any case, the comments reflect many other activities and even, “ways of being” which are self defined as creative. I love it. Just the spirit I was hoping for.

As of 8am West Coast time, the survey has 37 responses – excellent! Thank-you so much for taking part. If you have not joined in yet, please add your voice to the conversation.

If you are curious, here is the full list of additional practices so far:

  • music
  • writing
  • fashion
  • food
  • entertaining
  • gardening
  • jewelry making
  • woodworking
  • crafting
  • building
  • beading
  • pottery
  • blogging
  • business
  • costumes
  • signs
  • painting
  • parenting
  • relationships
  • health & well being
  • up-cycling
  • problem solving
  • poetry
  • scrap booking
  • flower arrangements
  • crochet

Amazing honesty in the responses, thank-you so much. I am honoured to be connected to so many creative people. Rightly so, many times it has been noted that “creativity is a way of life”. For many of us, it can’t be separated from our daily life. It is present in everything we do. I think that is pretty evident by this list.

Speaking of creative projects, enjoy these photos from a recently completed silk scarf I knitted. The pattern and yarn came from LoopsClub in Tulsa. I’m a member who receives a kit each month. Because there is always another project on it’s way, I stay focused on getting projects finished. For me this is a good incentive. Otherwise projects sit on needles for years, waiting for me to complete them.

Silk_scarf_1 Silk_scarf_2 Silk_scarf_3 Silk_scarf_4

How important is creativity in your life?

Wow! 14 people have completed my survey – What does creativity mean to you? That is awesome, thank-you. If you have not taken the opportunity yet, please add your voice to the conversation! I am learning so much about what the creative experience feels like on a personal level.

When I was thinking of the questions for the survey, it was tricky to generate ideas which would prompt meaningful answers. Everyone is so different and lived experiences would likely run a full spectrum of possible responses. Yet, there seems to be some patterns developing which I had not thought of in my original assumptions. Interesting stuff. When my survey is complete, I’ll post the aggregate graphs so everyone can see the clusters.

The second question of the survey relates to how important creativity is. I think that even if there are differing opinions about what creativity means or what kinds of activities should be deemed creative, everyone seems to have a sense of it’s importance. In my answer choice for “important” I included the bit about “balance”. For me, the really creative things I want to do, must be balanced against a whole bunch of stuff I have to do. For example, cooking a new recipe at dinner is somewhat creative, but all the old favourites and the dishes are not so creative. Not to mention all the grocery shopping and recipe research which had to be done ahead of making dinner.

Maybe creativity will have greater importance in everyday situations if we place more value on it? Shelley Berc wrote a good piece entitled, “Creativity in everyday life“, on her blog called, “The Creativity Workshop”. I’d never given much thought to adding creativity into my everyday tasks, simply through perspective. It is worth a try.

I’ve always thought it was important to have a space in order to “be” creative. This was a priority for me, long before computers came on the scene. So I still keep a space, is only a desk for now. Maybe one day it will be a whole room again. But for now, even my desk is hard to claim as my own. I often end up on the couch or in my bedroom. Good thing I need very few supplies for writing!

Do you think of yourself as a creative person?

I’m curious. When someone says they self-identify as being creative, what do they mean? I think of myself as a creative person, I would use that label, or agree with it if someone asked me. I create all kinds of things and have creative thoughts. But, I was speaking with someone who I think is really creative and she hesitated to characterize herself in that way. She clarified that she considered herself “crafty”, but not creative. She thought the term “creative” applies mainly to artists.

That got me wondering, is the word creative only applicable to someone who has a certain set of skills? Do you have to be paid or commissioned for your efforts? Are some pursuits not serious or special enough to be considered creative? Is knitting less creative than painting?

I was reading a comment online from a woman in Scandinavia who said that you had to earn the right to call yourself creative. Since she had completed her schooling, (in photography), she was now “allowed” to use the term creative to describe herself, but she only did that in her professional work. Do people commonly have such limiting beliefs about the concept of creativity?

There have been many articles written which detail lists of common characteristics among creative people. While these are interesting reads, these traits are not unique to creative people alone. In fact, many smart people have these abilities. So maybe we are all creative, if we have attained a certain level of success? But there were so many highly creative artists who didn’t achieve any notoriety until after they died.

If we think back to childhood, everyone was creative. Children are creative beings. As a parent, I had the wonderful opportunity to relive that as I watched, played and created with my kids. And now I can see what happens to all that innate creativity. It gets schooled out. My children want to get rid of the lego, put away all those art supplies, cast off all those projects which once filled them with hours of joy.

Coloring

I am not worried, they will come back to it, as I did. Hopefully it doesn’t take them as long as it took me.

This is the first, in a series of 10 questions about creativity. If you are interested in my survey, please follow this link. I would love to hear your thoughts, here or there.

The creative girl I used to be

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit with an elder and have a long chat. We were trapped together on a plane for the long haul from London to Vancouver. He was much older than me and works for the Canadian Government, doing important things. I spend most of my time working in the apparel manufacturing sector for a global brand. I indirectly make stuff for people who enjoy leisure activities in the outdoors.

But, I am interested in so much more than my current job. And my husband does important work. So we talked a lot about that. Then, all of the sudden I was filled with one of my core memories from long ago. Why I took one path over another, and created the future which I am living today.

I think we were talking about the US election and how people are divided into camps, political and otherwise. Then I remembered why I only went to University for one year. I was enrolled in general studies and taking a variety of courses, one of them introducing me to the b-comm faculty where I desired to attend in 3rd year. As I neared the end of that first year, I had a glimpse of myself 20 years down the line. I would be married to one of these guys in the faculty. One of these “Gordon Gecko wannabes”. (It was the late 1980’s). I would be a secondary thought, the wife, maybe a mother. Even if I had a career, it would not be as important as his. My girl friends would be in the same boat and we would spend all our time commiserating over our plight in life. I finished that year and transferred to fashion design school, where I had always wanted to study.

Then my school closed in Calgary, Alberta. Wide sweeping Government cuts to liberal arts programs, at that time meant that the little private school would have to stay in the small scope it was. The founders of the school wanted a something different, an education experience which could reach a wider audience. So they packed it in. Just as I had found my ultimate education experience, it was snatched away.

Of course, there were other schools in Canada operating at that time, with roughly the same curriculum. It was either turn right for Toronto or left for Vancouver. I hedged a bet that Toronto would contain far more of the type of people I had left behind in University, (plus it was very far away), and I headed West. A girlfriend and I found a program which would transfer our Alberta program and we finished our design education. She went back home, but in the first weeks of our adventure on the West coast, I had met the young man who would become my husband.

I don’t want to give the impression that my life has been a fairy tale. I’ve had some lucky times, worked extremely hard and been granted some wonderful experiences which I will always be grateful for. But the young woman who so much enjoyed design school, who thrived on the creative experiences and work, she has kind of been lost along the way.

I’ve rationalized that over the years. After all, I had to make a living, had to pay the mortgage. Bit by bit, I made decisions which continually distanced myself from the creative fire at my core, which once burned so brightly. It happened so slowly, I didn’t really notice it. Now, as I look around me, I am surrounded by the next generation, these promising 20 something year olds. They are passionate and talented. But they too are having to make compromises. They have to accept “the way things are” and do things they didn’t expect.

What is the solution? I suppose if I have learned anything in all this time on the planet is that finding a way forward will be complicated. I am intertwined with the decisions and responsibilities I have accepted over many years. Decoupling and untangling will require me to understand my emotions again. All of them, not just the good ones. That is daunting and scary work, which I have started.

But yesterday, I had a vision. That young woman who wore these wild and outlandish clothing combinations, who spoke her mind with conviction, who didn’t feel the need to be smaller to please others, who wasn’t always having to compromise her core values, she is still in there. She is hiding behind clothing combinations which help her blend into the background, where no-one takes notice. She speaks up, but gets shot down and then stays down. She is exhausted from trying to keep the peace. She has become smaller.

CW_circa1989

That young woman from the 1980’s is waking up. There are parts of her that need to shine in me again. I love much of the woman I am today, but I think it is time for a make-over. I want to re-capture some of the gumption and spirit the photo above shows. (Easter weekend around 1989 at my Aunt and Uncles cabin where we were kind of Spring camping. I’ve got some kind of sunhat on, big hoop earrings, big cotton sweatshirt, down vest, shorts over wildly printed tights and slouchy socks with desert boots.)

Daring greatly is not easy

I’ve been reading, “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown – in part because of the course work which follows this called “CourageWorks”. I’m terribly behind the pace of the reading and exercises, (I hope it stays open through the Summer!) I don’t know what I was thinking by signing up for this while my work schedule for this Spring is a bit – crushing. But I’m glad I did.

This past week I practised what I am learning. I got up in front of small, but important group of people and I put myself out there. I didn’t pick up a shield to deflect and defend my position, as I normally do. I let myself hear everything which was said, the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, to a roomful of highly competitive men, who are armed for battle, I felt pretty slaughtered by the end.

Even though this was an emotionally charged process for me, what I discovered was, it was not for them. This was business as normal. They could not see the difference in me, and certainly, none of them could hold space for what I was going through. Empathy is not something practiced in these kind of situations. In a corporate setting, anything other than “the brutal truth” has no place. At least that is how it played out last week, with this group.

Now that I’ve dared greatly for the first time, I’ll do it again. I have to live this way now. But I will do one thing critically different. I will have one or two of the people who are best at hearing my story, on stand-by. These are the people who can hold space for what you are feeling and going through and not judge. They don’t tell you that you should feel differently. They understand that you are down in a dark hole and it is pretty crappy down there. They crawl down into that hole with you and hold your hand. They don’t try to fix you up, or tell you to take any kind of action. They in fact, listen and show a great degree of empathy.

The whole process of daring greatly, of leaning into the pain of vulnerability, reminds me of the “Velveteen Rabbit”. The description below, which talks about “becoming REAL”, just seems so right for this kind of situation. For I want to become more real. It is this gritty, raw, exposed feeling (which is frightening for some people to see), which is the opposite of true joy. I’m no longer going to try to be one person, all armoured up and ready for battle, at work and a more vulnerable person at home in my personal life. It has been like Jekyll and Hyde, trying to be 2 people. I can’t do it anymore and I won’t.


 

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Reflections on a year of exercise

Today is my daughter’s 13th birthday, exactly one year from when I measured and weighed in. While this was never about the numbers, I am pleased with the results, just the same. It is also interesting to see what the new measurements do not tell me. There is no way to record where the loss in a circumference measurement occurred. You have to feel it to understand it. That only comes with hard work.

Here is how it breaks down:

  1. Neck minus 1/2″ – also an indicator of how much less puffiness I have in my face and under my chin. Might make me look a bit older, although the decision to go to my natural hair color probably accomplishes that more. There is a lot of grey in there now.
  2. Chest minus 1″ – almost all back fat, because when I recently purchased new bra’s, cup size is pretty much the same. The whole landscape in this area changes as a woman ages and after having children. I won’t say anymore than that.
  3. Upper arm same as before – but the measurement doesn’t tell the story here because fat has been converted to muscle. So I look like I have shape in my arms when I wear a tank top. But, more importantly, I feel strong.
  4. Waist minus 3 1/2″ – this is a huge deal, because I’ve gone from the overweight category to the upper limit of healthy range. Really big accomplishment. The only thing I would say is that for the last 6 to 8 months I am holding, so it is time to kick up the exercise and make a diet change, as another kickstart of reduction. I would like to reduce another inch over the next year.
  5. Hips minus 3/4″ – but this is a strange one because I’ve gained muscles in the gluts – my clothes really show that off in a good way now. I’m down to a size 27 in my jeans now, normal ones without stretch in them.
  6. Thigh same as above – same as my upper arm, not surprising. I can see muscles when I flex my leg that are lean and pronounced, very interesting.
  7. My BMI is down 1 point to 24. That is a very good thing. I would like to lose another 4 pounds or so over the next year, I’ve also been quite stable for the past 6 to 8 months.

Today, I am pretty proud of where I sit. But my journey is not over. I’ve got a little further to go until I am safely into the healthy zones I want to live in. Then I need to maintain that position, which will take sustained effort.

The real prize is, I feel great. I’ve had no major injuries. Some small issues that a great new pair of shoes fixed. Learning a few stretching techniques have done wonders. My new clothes fit wonderfully. I’m comfortably in a size medium, (sometimes a small), from my former position in a size large, (sometimes an extra-large).

I started this journey for fear of the health risks my weight and body shape presented. I’ve managed to reposition my body into healthy zones by all indicators. This guarantees nothing, but the journey has been worth it. I committed to something and I am seeing it through. I am honouring myself in a form of self-care, which ends up extending far beyond my work outs. I am nicer to myself, which means I am nicer to other people.

There has been no downside to this journey. I highly recommend the experience, truly life changing.

Different kind of 12 step program

Alan Cohen, an author and a psychotherapist, asks in his lectures: “who is dissatisfied with their work?” Seventy-five percent of the audience raise their hands.

Cohen has created a twelve step system to help people rediscover their “purpose”. Here are the steps – without interpretation. I think this is an extremely interesting place to start a practice of deeper self understanding and discovery.

1. Tell yourself the truth
Draw two columns on a sheet of paper and in the left column write down what you would love to do. Then write down on the other side everything you’re doing without any enthusiasm. Write as if nobody were ever going to read what is there, don’t censure or judge your answers.

2. Start slowly, but start
Call your travel agent, look for something that fits your budget; go and see the movie that you’ve been putting off; buy the book that you’ve been wanting to buy. Be generous to yourself and you’ll see that even these small steps will make you feel more alive.

3. Stop slowly, but stop
Some things use up all your energy. Do you really need to go that committee meeting? Do you need to help those who do not want to be helped? Does your boss have the right to demand that in addition to your work you have to go to all the same parties that he goes to? When you stop doing what you’re not interested in doing, you’ll realize that you were making more demands of yourself than others were really asking.

4. Discover your small talents
What do your friends tell you that you do well? What do you do with relish, even if it’s not perfectly well done? These small talents are hidden messages of your large occult talents.

5. Begin to choose
If something gives you pleasure, don’t hesitate. If you’re in doubt, close your eyes, imagine that you’ve made decision A and see all that it will bring you. Now do the same with decision B. The decision that makes you feel more connected to life is the right one – even if it’s not the easiest to make.

6. Don’t base your decisions on financial gain
The gain will come if you really do it with enthusiasm. The same vase, made by a potter who loves what he does and by a man who hates his job, has a soul. It will be quickly sold (in the first case) or will stay on the shelves (in the second case).

7. Follow your intuition
The most interesting work is the one where you allow yourself to be creative. Einstein said: “I did not reach my understanding of the Universe using just mathematics.” Descartes, the father of logic, developed his method based on a dream he had.

8. Don’t be afraid to change your mind
If you put a decision aside and this bothers you, think again about what you chose. Don’t struggle against what gives you pleasure.

9. Learn how to rest
One day a week without thinking about work lets the subconscious help you, and many problems (but not all) are solved without any help from reason.

10. Let things show you a happier path
If you are struggling too much for something, without any results appearing, be more flexible and follow the paths that life offers. This does not mean giving up the struggle, growing lazy or leaving things in the hands of others – it means understanding that work with love brings us strength, never despair.

11. Read the signs
This is an individual language joined to intuition that appears at the right moments. Even if the signs point in the opposite direction from what you planned, follow them. Sometimes you can go wrong, but this is the best way to learn this new language.

12. Finally, take risks!
The men who have changed the world set out on their paths through an act of faith. Believe in the force of your dreams.