Creating Plus

watercolor pencilsFor many years, I created in isolation. Yes, every once in awhile I would attend a collage or jewelry class, but those were the exceptions. The problem I found, was a common one: motivation.

And I wasn’t alone. The more I talked to friends, the more I realized that they too had a desire to create but because of their job and family responsibilities didn’t have the time or even the energy to devote to creating on a regular basis.

At about the same time, two things were happening in my own life:

  1. The first was that a friend and I decided to do a hot chocolate tasting tour of our city. It made me see community in a different way. Gathering, often in a coffee shop, we sipped hot chocolate and talked about our lives. That sense of connection was something I had lost, most recently working at home.
  2. The second was my own personal exploration of creativity and spirituality: how the act of creativity is a sacred and communal act. This all collided with me seeing an online sale of the Creative Circles Guidebook authored by Connie Solera (someone I had gone on a mini creative retreat with here in my hometown). When I purchased it, I promised her I’d keep her creativity alive here, since she now lives in Arizona.

And that is how Creating Plus was born.

Creating Plus is a gathering intended to bring people together to create an artsy project while sipping delicious beverages and tasting yummy treats. And that’s just what happened when I invited a few friends, who were also craving creativity and community to join me earlier this year on a Sunday afternoon.

The host prepared a hot beverage – this time it was hot chocolate but in the summer months, I envision offering cocktails and mocktails. Each person then was asked to bring something to sweet to share, and did they ever. We had a delicious chocolate trifle and someone even made hot chocolate cupcakes.


I provided the project inspiration. For this gathering, we experimented with paint – creating color blocked canvases using tape, embossed designs painted over with watercolor pencils and flat backgrounds covered over with a single image.

I also asked everyone to bring a base they wanted to work on, whether it be a wood block, canvas or something else. Myself and the host provided the remaining supplies.

After I showed the demo pieces I had created beforehand, we all set out about creating and conversing and snacking for the rest of the afternoon. I created a Facebook group in advance, so I asked people to post images of their created works taking the communal creating experience virtual. Brooke, one of my friends who attended, wrote a blog post on the experience that nicely sums it up.

Communal Creativity 

But that wasn’t the last of my experiments with communal creativity and keeping the Creativity Circles inspiration alive, I have facilitated two other groups since then – one online and another local in-person gathering. I’ll be sharing those stories in the future to inspire you to form your own sacred creating tribe.

How have you created with a group? What worked? What didn’t? And how did you keep the inspiration alive? 

How I Found My Creative Self

collageAlmost 10 years ago, I was working at (what I thought was) my dream job. I was an educator in a museum. What this meant was that I not only developed educational programs to teach visitors about art and architecture, but often I taught those same classes on a daily basis. From the outside, it sounded like a great job. Still to this day people don’t understand why I left.

It appeared I had a glamorous life living in the nation’s capital and doing what I thought I loved, until one day someone said to me, “be creative” about a work problem I was trying figure out. Those two simple words struck me and changed everything by taking me on a path to discover my own creativity and myself.

Although, like most people, I’d probably heard those words hundreds of time, this time it stayed with me. I started to ask myself what that meant. What was it like to ‘be creative?’

My initial answers were startling. I didn’t know what it meant. For as long as I could remember I’d been teaching and empowering everyone around me to be creative with the programs I led and the artists I worked with. But I didn’t know what that meant myself.


Because, I later realized, I’d been nurturing everyone else’s creativity but my own. At that point, I decided to step away from the life and career that I had built to figure out what being ‘being creative’ meant for me. It took me on a journey discovering not only that but who my real self was – and she was creative!

So how did I do this?

I started by leaving everything I knew: the city I lived in, the only career I had, my educational training. I stripped everything in my life away and moved back to the place I was born and had grown up in but had not lived in 12 years.

I also started by devouring everything and anything I could on creativity and started a blog on what else… creativity. As I delved into studying creativity, I learned techniques and the process that shaped my own path.

The first was brainstorming. There are so many different techniques out there (and I’ve probably tried most of them) but my favorite is mindmapping. As a visual person, I found this to be the best way for me to organize my ideas and plan for the future. I created dozens of mind maps plotting out everything from my current skills to my desired skills in order to find a new suitable career.

Another creative brainstorming tool I used was visual collage. Similar to a vision board, it allowed me to visually see my interests and strengths and goals. I simply found and arranged images that spoke to me and my future self. Once completed, these visual collages helped me establish my brand and discover more of who I really was.

creatingOnce I had a clearer vision of myself, I started experimenting – mostly through art. For me, creativity was the outlet that allowed me to become who I was meant to be. I signed up for classes on mail art, sea glass jewelry, collage, anything I could to exercise my creative instincts. I found I liked some more than others. But in the end, this allowed me to play and dabble and let my mind wander in a way I’d never let it before. It was here that I had some of my best ideas.

My other creative outlet was writing my blog. I had long dreaded writing as a creative exercise because I felt self-conscious about my style. I had even been criticized for it in graduate school. It was through blogging about my creative journey that I found my voice. The more I blogged for myself and others the louder it grew. Eventually it led to a career change and one that involved communications and social media.

But before any of that, I had to fail a couple of times.

Like the creative process, failure is a part of life. It’s at that stage where we learn the most about ourselves and our resiliency. The path to finding my true creative self led me down some dead ends. There were consulting projects that ended abruptly or ones that turned into nothing. With each failure, I learned more of what I didn’t want in my life and continued to strip it away. I felt the more I failed the more I grew.

Creativity is funny like that.

It’s always changing and evolving. There is no right or wrong answer and what I found was that there is also not a singular way of ‘being creative.’ It’s an individual journey we all need to take. It’s a journey that allowed me to find my true self through imagining the possibilities, trying them out and even failing. I know my path is an evolving one, but after this recent journey I also know it couldn’t have been done without tapping into my inner creative.

Creativity is…Love

I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of creativity is…love for awhile, so it seemed appropriate to make it the topic of this month’s post. In the past, I’ve covered Creativity is…Taking a Leap and Creativity is…Learning.

How is creativity love? For starters, how many projects or ideas have you willingly begun that you didn’t love? Did not feel truly passionate about? What happended to those projects? They are probably sitting on a shelf somewhere hidden in a closet or simply thrown out. Creativity depends on our love and passion to bring an idea into fruition.

creativity is love

But all too often we do not honor that. Instead, I see article after article or blog post on how to move past creative blocks or simply how to even spark your creativity. But should we really need to move past resistance or conjure up our creativity if we are in love with it all the time?

Our creativity should be something we honor and cherish every minute of the day. After all, it’s what makes us human and what has kept our species in existence. So why don’t we do that? Are we too busy, are our minds too crowded or do we not see the value in it?

I think about my own experience of rediscovering my creativity. First of all, it took awareness and consciousnesses to acknowledge that I was even a creative being. Following that, it took intention and dedication to be creative every day and to find new solutions for all problems no matter how big or how small. Finally, it took love. Love to become passionate about my ideas and projects. Love to keep pursuing my creative growth. Love to sustain it.

When was the last time you honored your creativity in a positive way?  I challenge you to write a love letter to your creativity to show your appreciation and devotion to it:

  1. Choose whatever medium you feel comfortable expressing yourself in. Maybe it’s a basic handwritten letter. Or maybe it’s a collage, painting or other visual expression. It could also be a song.
  2. Get real with yourself. Dig deep. Find all the things you love about your creativity and capture that.
  3. Display it where  you can see it everyday. Put it in a prominent place on your desk or place it in your planner.
  4. Read it on a consistent basis. Choose a certain time of the day, week, month or quarter to review it and keep yourself in love with your creativity. Like any relationship, loving your creativity takes time and dedication.

How will you choose to love your creativity?

Creativity Anew

Creativity Anew - 2My word for this year was SHIFT, and wow, did I ever! Actually, there were two, almost harmonious parts of my year that defined this. The first part was marked by a lot of stress and uncertainty in my life. In this part, I began to see the need to shift my perspective and how I viewed my life and the role that creativity played in it. It was also a time of much growth, although I couldn’t see it at the time. I relaunched this blog as part of this process, with a fresh new design and ideas for the future.

And then the real shift took place, as I dealt with a sudden loss. A loss that left me with plenty of time to regrow myself and strengthen my creative muscles. This time has been marked by immense growth both spiritually and creatively. It has allowed me to refocus my energy on this website and let me dream and plot and plan for its future.

Creativity Anew - 1

Creativity anew is the phrase I’ve been using to describe this. For me, it was sparked by a sudden shift, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Creativity anew can happen at any time. It just takes an intentional mindset to achieve and the upcoming new year is a good time to start cultivating that mindset toward your own creativity.

In 2011, I wrote a post on New Year, New Creative Goals. It seemed appropriate this year to revisit it and create some intentions for the upcoming year. The purpose of the intentions are to keep them simple. You limit yourself to three. They can be big goal creative dreams or simply a new technique to learn or a new medium to explore. After much thought, here are mine:

  • Take an improv workshop
  • Collect essays for an actual book
  • Learn to crochet

What are your creative intentions for the new year so that you can begin with creativity anew?

Why I am Not Doing 30 Days of Creativity This Year

For the last 3 years, I’ve participated in a monthly challenge called 30 Days of Creativity. I first heard about this challenge on Twitter and since I am someone who can’t stick to anything, I thought I’d give it a try. The first year I had no idea what I was doing, so I just decided to create stuff from my daily life. Because of this, there was a paperclip braceletPost-it Art and even a coaster made from from a CD.

The second year, I thought I was being more strategic about the process, because if I learned anything from year 1, it was that I acquired 30 days of stuff! That year, I switched the emphasis to public art. Art that I could leave behind and someone else would receive as a pleasant surprise. I centered this all around the theme of Create. A simple word I’d hoped would inspire people to do more of the same.

Last year was an all around stressful year, so the day before I simply chose to work on sketchbook collages. This challenge was by far the most important for me, as I explained to the delightful Mike Brown of Brainzooming in the video clip below.

Why did I decide to not participate this year?

Well, I am not sure there really is an easy answer. For me the decision had been brewing for some time. The 30 day challenge turned into a chore for me. I found myself stressing more about it than actually enjoying it. I also realized that I didn’t need just 30 days to do something creative, I needed to be creative 365 days a year. In the last year alone, I’ve finished an altered book round robin, co-led a women’s creativity retreat, completed my right brain business plan, guest wrote several blog posts, and created a glass heart.

Creativity Summer Reading

So this year, I am devoting the month of June and the rest of the summer to enriching my knowledge of creativity by reading all the latest books that have come out in the last few years that I missed. I’m also looking for suggestions to increase my awareness of creativity and spirituality, so please leave your recommendations in the comments section.

What are you doing this summer to heighten your creativity? 

Principles of Creative Engagement

Last weekend, I had the amazing experience of attending the 2nd Creativity in Business conference held in my former hometown, Washington, DC and organized by the brilliant Michelle James.

The day was filled with so many insights that I am still slowly processing them all. As I was leaving, I noticed the above instructions tacked up to a wall. I snapped a quick image on my phone. Apparently, they were the guidelines for the entire conference that I somehow initially missed.

A few days later when I looked at the image again, I realized that it did sum up, in a few short phrases, my entire experience at the conference. And here’s how:

Yes – and
A foundational principle of improv, yes- and implies that you will accept whatever happens and flow with what comes next. When I got to the conference, I was torn about which sessions to attend but the creative energy of the event guided me to choose the perfect ones for me.

Make everyone else look good
For me, this meant enthusiastically participating in each session demonstrating my engagement for the presenter to notice. I believe the more involved the audience is, the more creative energy the presenter receives.

Creativity is messy
In one session, Gregg Fraley led our group through an actual Creative Problem Solving process. One of the things he mentioned in doing so was how we should gravitate to and explore what makes us uncomfortable. It is here that your greatest creative discoveries will occur. Creativity is not a neat process.

Have fun
Above all, the conference was a day for me to play and explore new processes while meeting other like-minds folks. I tried improv, doodling, and storytelling.

What I ultimately learned is that when you combine the creative passion and enthusiasm of a group diverse individuals, you will see and feel magic happen. And that’s what I’ll reflect on most from the conference, as I continue to ponder the creative transformation that occurred within me.

  • How do you create and keep your creative engagement alive?

Disciplined Dreaming

Do you or does your organization need more ideas? Well then Josh Linkner and his book Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity may have just the solution for you or at least just the right idea generating tool!

Filled with proven techniques and the success stories to back them up, Linkner has written a resource that you and your team will come back to over and over. He believes that creativity is a skill that you can learn and even quotes from renown Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen to prove it:

“Studies have shown that creativity is close to 80 percent learned and acquired.”

From there, Linkner provides a simple framework to increase your creative thinking capacity and also teaches you how to encourage it your organization or team.  His five step process is similar to the actual creative process.

1. Ask: Define your creativity challenge by asking what needs to be solved. Then use your curiosity to seek those clues.

2. Prepare: Like exercise, creative thinking requires warm-ups. Also if you are in an organization, cultural alignment is necessary.

3. Discover: Seek creativity in the unlikely corners of your life. You may be surprised by what you find.

4. Ignite: Where the rubber meets the road. Use as many different tools and techniques to spark ideas individually or in a group.

5. Launch: Bring your analytical mind back into the picture to sort through all of the ideas you generated in the last step in order to choose the best ones to  pursue.

Now, I can’t guarantee that you will become a creative genius after reading this book and following the Disciplined Dreaming process, but I am pretty certain that Linkner’s infectious enthusiasm about all things creative will at least make you look at problem solving and creativity a lot differently.

  • Now go and create some new ideas!

Creative Slump

After a really productive and inspired late spring and early summer, I hit a creative slump – you know the one where it feels like all of your ideas have evaporated and you panic because you don’t know when a new set will show up?

Yep, that’s me!

At first when it hit, I just tried to ride it out and enjoy the downtime. I figured, like most blocks, if I ignored it it would go away. Well after several weeks, I started getting frustrated, because it was still there.

So then, I started to take my own advice. I got up on the opposite side of the bed, tried new foods, met old friend in new locations, but nothing.

Last week, I thought the slump had been broken. Things in my life began to shift, and I felt change was approaching. I rode this wave for a couple of days, but it didn’t last, and I ended up back in my dry spell.

As I enter the second month of this creative slump, I am desperately looking for a breakthrough. That is why I am turning to you, my loyal readers.

  • Tell me how you’ve overcome a creative slump.

Build Your Creative Dream in 5 Minutes a Day

Yesterday, while looking through my google reader, I noticed a post by my fellow creative blogger Tanner Christensen on creating the work you dreamed of.. It was a deeply personal post that touched a nerve with me and I am sure many other “creatives” out there.

In it, he tells his story of being a creative who, listening to everyone around him, forgoes a career as an artist to become a designer – considered to be a much safer choice. But like a lot of us out there in similar situations, he still longs to be an artist and challenges his readers (and I assume himself too) to take just 5 minutes a day to do something creative, whether it’s writing a quick poem, taking a photograph, or doing a simple drawing to get back to your creative dreams.

I believe the reason his post and suggestion resonated so strongly with me was because, I too, have gotten into a place where I am safe and doing work, that while still part of my dream, is comfortable. No matter who we are, we get in that rut of doing the same thing almost everyday and forget about our lost creative dreams.

Like Tanner, I believe in the power of short – planned or unplanned stints of creativity. Small steps are what helps to build a larger practice of creativity. Recently too, I’ve tried to weave this into my own life, whether it’s creating redesigned website wire frames on post-it notes during my lunch break, or snapping images of my daily life and altering them on instagram, or even pledging to create one thing a day for the next thirty days.

Let’s start a Build Your Creative Dream in 5 Minutes a Day Challenge, where we take that short amount of time each day to express ourselves and rediscover our lost creative dreams.

  • What can you create in 5 minutes?

Even More of My Favorite Creativity Blogs

It’s that time of year again. Yes, the time time where I recommend my favorite creativity blogs to read. I hope you’ll check them out and grow to enjoy them as much as I do. Also, have a look at my lists from 2009 and 2010 for further inspiration.

The Artist’s Road
I am so glad I discovered this blog and even more so, it’s wonderfully creative author. Patrick delves deep into the creative experience and topics that other blogs just gloss over.

Cup of Creativi-Tea
Another kindred spirit I found this year is Thien-Kim or you can just call her Kim – I do! Her creativity blog covers everything from inspiration to food to crafts. Truly one of the most well-rounded blogs on creativity.

Creative Instigation
I am not sure why it took me this long to add Jan’s blog to this list, because it’s probably one of the first creative blogs I started reading. Jan’s brevity is something I really admire, as well as her creativity tips, which are inspired by everything and anything and are (in my opinion) pure genius.

Creative Liberty
The best part of Liz’s blog is her interviews with artists and creators, and I am not saying that just because I was once featured. Her interviews really give you an inside glimpse into the various creative processes out there.

The Creative Practice
Kira’s blog is relatively new to me, but her content is outstanding and worth checking out. She dives into expression and creativity with a sense of thoroughness like no one else.

  • What creativity blog(s) are you reading?