Evergreen Growth

Infuse Your Day with Creativity: Do a Very Tiny Thing   
(inspired by "Creativity Coach" Eric Maisel, Ph.D. for www.wholeliving.com)

When does creativity strike?  If  you are like me, it happens at the most inopportune times.  In the shower, driving my car, playing with my nephew in the park, tutoring at a local coffee shop, playing games on Facebook, brushing my teeth, chopping fresh veggies for dinner, etc.
In my quest to "infuse my day with creativity", I have learned to tweak my daily routine to accommodate those moments of creative bursts.
  1. Carry a blank Moleskine Journal and a set of sketch pencils with sharpener and eraser in my "Grab Bag."  I do not know how many times I have stopped to pen a verse of poetry, write down a quote, or simply sketch a beautiful flower in just the right light.  Recently, I have discovered the Moleskine website which allows users to download a variety of formats to meet the needs of those who express our creativity in different ways.  I cannot wait to use the recipe format and lined paper which can be glued onto the blank pages.  You can also transfer your blog entries onto a journal pdf and paste them in your book as well!
  2. ALWAYS! keep a good camera on hand.  I stop to take pictures of sunsets, flowers, changing of leaves, dishes that I cook, or a smile that cannot be expressed in words.  Sometimes the pictures themselves can lead to a creative flood.
  3. Discover your favorite author and read all of his/her books.  I am two away from completing the Paulo Coelho books and plan to finish them by the end of the year.  I am constantly inspired by his wisdom.
  4. Find your niche in a magazine and subscribe.  Keep it with you for those times you are waiting in the doctor's office, in the carpool lane, or right before you drift off to sleep.
  5. Create your own magazine of articles, recipes, or items that you wish to try.  I know I at least have 3 of these as my interests change.  I refer to them often for inspiration.
  6. Find your creative niche... then find a new one.  I always have materials for projects that can be started at a moments notice.  This really helps if you need a craft in the afternoon on a weekend with the kiddies.  It also helps in times when giving a homemade gift is so much nicer than a store bought one.  Share your craft with others.
  7. Keep a set of blank index cards with you to write down things that you need to remember (or want to) and save them for adding to your creative setting when you have the extra time.
  8. Make a creative work-space.  Right now we are putting together a "craft room" which is so helpful to those of us who are the creative types.  I haven't had one in 5 years and am looking forward to a craft table, room to paint and sew, plus a shelf to house all of my crafting goodies.
  9. Never put a limit on your creativity!
  10. Join a group that shares your interest and designate time to allow for creativity to bloom.  Meetup.com is a great place for this as well as the YMCA and community centers.  Even if you just join an online community like I have, then you can get feedback and support from those who share your interests.  This ignites more creativity!

Make a Space for Your Dreams: How to Create an Altar
(inspired by Kate Hanely for www.wholeliving.com)

In an effort to boost my creativity, I have begun to collect items which move me to make a creativity altar.  For me, my altar will take the form of a French memo board with articles, quotes, pictures, and items which spark my interests from fabric to a fleur-de-lis.  Refer to various websites which will tell you how to create one out of a table or an empty drawer.  If your art and creativity is important to you, give it the justice that it is due.  Perhaps you need an altar to remind you of what you need, what type of job you want, or simply the setting of your holiday table.  Seek inspiration in the ordinary to evoke the extraordinary!

12 Tips to Light Your Creative Spark 
(by Tracy Clark for www.blogher.com)

1.  Cultivate Gratitude: Writing in a gratitude journal each day will work wonders for raising your appreciation level. The writing part is creative therapy, while the theme is uplifting and life-altering. No matter how bad it seems, focusing on what you are grateful for can bring just the shift in perspective you need to make it better.

2.  Capture the Everyday: Although many people only take out the camera for special occasions, capturing everyday moments can make even the most mundane things feel momentous. Photography is an easy and accessible tool that can be used anytime to help you celebrate your life and nurture your creative spirit.

3.  Color Your World: Everyone has certain colors that make them happy. Consider bringing more of those colors into your life. From clothing, shoes, or accessories to a bouquet of flowers, your coffee mug or the color of your bedroom wall, mindfully select colors that feel good to you.

4.  Get Your Hands Dirty: Whether it’s digging in your garden or kneading dough, working with your hands is not only very creative, it’s therapeutic. Getting your hand dirty (and allowing yourself to enjoy it) engages not only your physical body but your soul.

5.  Let Yourself Regress: Think about what you kinds of arts and crafts you loved to do when you were a young. Color in a coloring book? Use your watercolor set? Make collages from magazine pages? Doodle on your Pee Chie folder? Whatever it was, let yourself do it again. The end result is not the point. The process is! There is nothing better than revisiting the creative joys of our youth.

6.  Walk the Aisles: Visit a local arts and crafts store or even a home goods/cooking store and just browse. Pick up items that spark your interest. Explore. Investigate. Muse. Anything that sparks your creativity or gets you giddy is worth noticing. If you are inspired, then go ahead and purchase something for yourself. Consider it an investment in your creative process, whatever it may be. You deserve it.

7.  Make Little Things Matter: Taking a few extra seconds to complete even a simple chore with a little more finesse can make a difference in how we feel about the task at hand. Wrapping a holiday gift? Do it with extra TLC. Addressing a letter? Use your best handwriting and dot your “I” with a heart if you’re so inclined. It certainly can’t hurt to take extra pride in the details.

8.  Share Your Creative Talents: Whether you love taking pictures or baking, your creations are worthy of sharing! You can hand make a photo greeting card or wrap up a few extra cookies as a surprise gift for a friend. Sharing is caring -- it’s true -- and when it’s something made with love, it’s that much sweeter to give and also to receive.

9.  Go on a Field Trip: There is no greater inspiration than nature. Find a local arboretum or nature center to visit. Or even a local flower or garden shop! Anywhere to find a variety of flowers and plants and other natural elements to awaken your senses. Take note of what specifically inspires you.

10.  Hone Your Vision: Challenge yourself to see the world around you through new eyes. Really notice the nuances of what you’re looking at whether it’s around the house or out and about. Notice the light, the color, the texture and appreciate all the beauty around you. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at seeing your world in a more creative light.

11.  Tap into Your Resources: There are a million ways to glean creative ideas from inspirational resources. Take a ceramics class through the parks and rec or sign up for an online class. Classes and creative communities can be highly motivating, encouraging and a lot of fun.

12.  Gather a Sisterhood: Finding like-minded, like-hearted women is a must! In real life or online, the women we surround ourselves with make all the difference and being creative with a collective energy behind you is like magic. Make it happen!

Creative People Don't Live In a Vacuum: Fair and Empowering Ways to Use Others' Inspiration
(by Eric Maisel for www.wholeliving.com)

Creative people do not exist in a vacuum. There are endless opportunities to come into contact with the work of other artists. What are some of the results, both positive and negative, of all of that contact?  The poet Janet Riehl offers the following five categories as a way to think about how creative people can and do respond to the work of other creators.

1. By Copying

2. By Appropriating

3. By Deriving

4. By Being Influenced

5. By Creating Homages

Consider a visual artist attracted to Monet’s Water Lilies.

• He might, as part of his art apprenticeship, try to copy Monet’s painting as accurately as possible.

• He might “steal” a portion of Monet’s image and drop it directly into his own painting of a pond without attribution.

• He might develop his own style of painting water lilies in such a way that we “see” Monet in his paintings but we recognize that the artist has honorably made the imagery “his own.”

• He might develop his style and become a contemporary impressionist, such that we recognize Monet’s influences in his work but none of Monet’s imagery.

• He might, as a mature artist, tackle a stylish rendering of Monet’s Water Lilies in homage to his predecessor.

It is no ethical problem to follow a recipe from a cookbook. That sort of “copying” is appropriate. It is a very different matter to put that recipe in your own cookbook and act as if it is your own. Between those two extremes are where we live our lives as creative people, being influenced here, doing a little appropriating there, and sometimes crossing some edge and finding that our work is derivative and, as a result, lifeless.

Here are three tips for dealing with all of the existing material—all the paintings, books, movies, songs, and so on—that, for better or worse, can’t help but seep into our consciousness and into our own art. They are straightforward and obvious tips:

1) stay alert;

2) be honest; and

3) forgive your honest mistakes. The same tips work for the rest of life, too!

How to Handle Creative Disasters
(by Eric Maisel for www.wholeliving.com)

Say that you had high hopes for the painting, novel, tapestry, craft project, or home business that you threw yourself into—and it didn’t turn out as well as you’d hoped. Far from it! The only word that comes to mind is “disaster.” What can you do to deal with the angst welling up in you?

1. Mind your language
Is it really necessary to call it a “disaster”? How does it serve you to use such a harsh word to describe something you created with genuine love and real sweat? How do words like disaster, failure, mess or mistake help you? You are in charge of the language you use and employing the most self-disparaging language available to you can’t be a good idea!
2. Instantly forgive yourself
All right, something unfortunate happened (you got sidetracked, busy, or you lost your momentum altogether). You can pile a ton of guilt and an extra thousand pounds of regret on your back because of this unfortunate occurrence or you can forgive yourself right now, without a moment’s hesitation, before the weight of your guilt and regret drop you to your knees. Self-forgiveness is not the same as not owning your part in what you’ve wrought—rather, it is simple kindness and the only way to guarantee second chances.
3. Engage in self-support
Do you deserve the good chocolate or the deep massage only as a reward for some success? Isn’t it just as sensible to treat yourself in soothing, self-supportive ways when something is making you feel miserable—and has the potential to linger on as a permanent source of unhappiness? If you haven’t learned how to genuinely support yourself, this is an excellent opportunity to figure out how!
4. Take a break and reappraise
Maybe it wasn’t a disaster at all!—or maybe it was only a limited disaster. Take the weekend off and then look at your painting again. Reread your novel. Be with your tapestry in a refreshed frame of mind. See if your business really has collapsed—or only fainted. Bravely return to the scene of the disaster and see if it really was a disaster. Very often it wasn’t!
5. Reframe it as a learning experience
It is genuinely the case that we learn best from our “mistakes and messes” if—and only if—we can find the courage to look our creative project in the eye and see what worked and what didn’t work. If you make this brave effort, then this creative project, no matter how poorly it turned out, becomes a real learning experience and maybe one of your most profound ones. It is not a mere mental tactic or a play-on-words to reframe disasters as learning experiences—they are exactly that, if you treat them that way.
6. Salvage the good parts
A given creative project may “fail” in its totality but still contain many “good bits” that can be salvaged. One part of your business plan may still be worth pursuing; half your novel may work; the imagery you chose for your painting may still appeal to you if only you executed it differently or better. Look at your creative project with fresh eyes, maybe after a weekend away from it, and focus on what can be saved rather than on what must be discarded.
7. Get back to work
A “disaster” is a perfect excuse to stop creating altogether. You get it in your mind to lick your wounds, you take a break from the hard work of creating, and you find that days, weeks, months and even years are slipping away through avoidance.  Even after the worst “disaster,” get back to work! Maybe you need a weekend away; maybe you need a week. But don’t let it be too long. We can lose vast stretches of time if we allow our “failed” creative projects to become excuses for not getting back on the horse and trying again.
8. Honor the process
Once you deeply understand the realities of the creative process you will know in your bones that “disasters” are to be expected. Only a naïve romantic thinks that everything he tries will turn out beautifully. In fact, the more ambitious your efforts the greater the likelihood that you will stretch yourself to your limits and sometimes exceed your grasp. Honor the creative process by embracing the idea that “disasters” come with the territory—we do not love them, but they shouldn’t surprise us!