Everyday Creative: Work

While I spent the month before in rapture with love, I spent this month – the last of my journey- buried in work. It only seems appropriate that that was the theme of this final month of the Creativity Book.

The first section encourages you to wake up working. With final tests and projects to be completed, it wasn’t a far stretch for me to wake up working. But really, Maisel wants you to go bed thinking of a question surrounding your work and wake up with the answer. I must admit I’ve tried this many times with little or no success so will have to continue working on this…

The next suggestion was to go directly to work. Another, not so difficult task for me. It seemed like that’s all I did for the month was work. Maisel encourages you to go to your work, even if you don’t feel like it. I know for me that there were days that I struggled to get up but knew the work wouldn’t wait. This, and deadlines, kept me going!

By the end of the month, one of my favorite suggestions was to create a plan and/or schedule for your work. This is an area where I need a lot of work. I tend to be good coming up with ideas but fail to deliver on most of them, because I get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work involved. If I could create and stick to a stricter schedule, I am sure I would end up more successful.

And if I stick to my schedule, there is a helpful list of pick-me-ups that Maisel suggests. Here are a few that I might use:

1. Surrender to the feeling
2. Remember a success
3. Be of service
4. Consciously choose hope

Finally, after an exhilarating year of exploring my inner creative, it is time to create. And as a creator, Maisel explains that you will look at “everything through the lens of creativity.” I think I already do!

Everyday Creative: Love

Last month found me delving into all that is love. Ok, well not all of the ideas covered in the “Be Love” chapter of The Creativity Book, but most of them anyway.

Love is such a strong emotion and one that I feel should be part of the creative process. I mean if you are creating something that you don’t love then, really why bother. With that said, these last couple of months in design school, I have embraced how much I love creating.

Because I already realized this, I bypassed the first section on renewing your vows with your art and the act of creating, since I think I’ve pretty well lived this for the last several months. Everyday it seems when I start a new project or complete one, I am renewing the vow to create.

The next exercise to love logic AND intuition was one of my favorites. So often, we (me included) get caught up in being too logical or too intuitive when creating. This exercise asked you to love and embrace both of them, because creativity is about whole-brained thinking and equally relying on both of those skills. To create a balance, Maisel suggests the following :

Spend about a half an hour completing the sentence, “I love logic because….” and then the sentence “I love intuition because…”

The section that I reacted the most strongly discussed helping others. I took up this challenge and reached out to someone and offered my assistance but was rebuffed. I realized from this that I should have asked if they needed help before offering it. Just because I love helping others doesn’t mean everyone will willingly accept it.

For the next few weeks, Maisel talked about loving another person and becoming intimate with your work. It seemed a little too weird for a book on creativity, so I skipped those exercises.

I concluded the month with an exercise on rewards. It was enlightening to come up with both big and small ideas to reward myself and to celebrate my achievements. It’s been a busy month of creating for me. I finished a 10 page typographic story book, surrealistic Photoshop composite and multiple small design exercises. So an earl grey tea latte and walk by the lake seemed like good rewards.

  • Next month, I’ll “be working”

Everyday Creative: Ambition

Wrapping up the month of September has not been easy. Yes, I realize it is already the middle of October!

But September turned into one of the longest months in recent memory for me. As many of you know, I started (almost) full-time back to school, while continuing to work my day job.

This transition actually suited the theme of this month, which was “Be Ambitious.” Undertaking such a task, as going back to school on  regular basis, definitely exemplifies ambition. The first exercise of the month is to write a letter about what you want and how you will achieve it. I actually wish I would have read this before I started school, because it might have served as a better map for my future.

A later topic and exercise in the book is contemplating a radical change. Another thing, I wish I would have thought out before setting out on this new journey. Maisel tells you to write out your creative autobiography then look at it closely to determine how to make a radical change. I think if I would have done this exercise earlier I might have made the same decision to go back to school. It’s strange how this entire chapter seems to have been already done in my mind!

Finally, I did like the section on exhausting yourself, although that was pretty well taken care of by my current hectic schedule. What I thought helpful though was the exercise about creating your own imaginary world. Spend some time really getting to know this place, the landscape, the the people. How big can your imagination stretch? When you come back to your own world, use your insights to improve your current creative project.

Once you’ve been ambitious enough to imagine your own world, then it seems even the smallest creative projects will be simple in comparison.

  • Next month, I’ll “be truthful”


Everyday Creative: Connecting

I am not sure that this theme could have come at a better time for me. This month was all about connecting. I’d been thinking for some time about most of the issues covered in this chapter, so it was nice to actually have a space to explore them.

Connecting is something that I tend to do in spurts. I think it has something to do with being an introvert. Usually, I’ll go on a spree where I am out and networking all the time and then I will retreat for a couple of months and then I’m back again. I am in the retreat mode now, so the first exercise was a little daunting. It required  me to try and create in public. Yes, I have taken art classes, but no, I haven’t sat in the middle of an open area and created. Maybe, I’ll try this one at a later date.

The second week seemed much easier for me to fathom to accomplish. This exercise asks you to find an art buddy. But first, you need to figure our your strengths and weaknesses and also the pros and cons of having and being an art buddy. It got me to thinking how isolated I am in my creating, so if anyone wants to art buddy up (or even create a group) and support one another then drop me a message!

By the third week, I was really catching on to this idea of connecting with other creatives. The exercise this time though required you to connect with a tradition, which I found fascinating. Yes, because I am an introvert and could retreat once again! But really, the concept was useful.

Try it yourself by looking through an art history text book or listening to a historical collection of music. Choose the images and or melodies that resonate with you. Once the list is compiled, see how they can inform your current work or inspire new work.

As the month wrapped up, I had explored creating in public (took a pass on that one!), considered finding an art buddy or starting a group of local creatives, and even looked to the past for inspiration. The final exercise was to look more closely at the audience I was creating for. I mean really look. Maisel asks you to go through magazines, and much like in marketing, create audience profiles. A great reminder for anyone putting their work into the public sphere.

  • Next month, I’ll be ambitious!

Everyday Creative: Using Yourself

Of all the months so far doing this challenge, this one was the most difficult. The task was to “use yourself” and dig deep emotionally. I am the type that relies on research and expert opinions to motivate me, so using myself instead as a resource proved a daunting task!

The first week asked me to hire myself as a consultant. I tried and tried to think of all the the skills I possessed to help myself. Because I tend to wear many hats, it took awhile. It turned out to be a fun, almost existential experiment. By the end of the week, I was really getting into this concept and appreciated Maisel’s suggestion of opening up a savings account. Of course, I already have a savings account at the bank, but this one was intended for use to pay yourself. It was such an obvious and brilliant suggestion. You pay experts to work for you so why shouldn’t you pay yourself?

By the second week, I was asked to get passionate and ravenous, but because I was suffering from a mid-summer slump, I just couldn’t find anything that exciting to get ravenous about. I’ll have to come back to this exercise. The second part of the week was filled with a depression treatment plan, since Maisel seems to be convinced that all creatives also suffer emotional issues. The plan would be helpful to even people that haven’t suffered depression because it contained practical solutions like challenge your negative thinking and focus on your positive achievements.

One of the most powerful exercises of the month was “Kill Maybe” in the third week. How often have you said, “maybe I’ll start my masterpiece tomorrow.?” And how often have you actually started tomorrow or even the day after or the day after that? I know this is were my weak spot lies. I often put off until tomorrow what should have been done today. So with that, I told ‘maybe’ to die, and of course still planned to start that masterpiece tomorrow. Someday, I’ll learn…

Wrapping up the month, I got to acknowledge the mistakes I’ve made in the past and was also permitted to be myself entirely. I suspect the latter is what has been plaguing me all summer: being the authentic me. I think we all eventually lose parts of ourselves over time and only realize they are gone when it’s too late. I know that life usually gets in my way and those parts of me that aren’t necessary to daily life fall by the side. Excavating those parts of me will take time, but I know they are there somewhere waiting for me to discover them when I most need them.

  • Join me next month when I “connect.”


Everyday Creative: Going Deep

This month required me to “go deep” or what Eric Maisel describes in The Creativity Book as going below the surface to find profoundness in your work. Unlike last month, I had so much to ponder that I could have easily spent half a year working on these exercises. Yes, they were that helpful!

The first week laid out the theme for the month by asking you to dive deeper into the meaning of your work and subject. Buying bewilderment is the activity. It was quite a helpful one too, because you can’t really go deeper into your work until you realize there may be things you just don’t know about it. By reciting “I am prepared to work blind” and “It’s all right not to know,” you are truly opening yourself up to the unknown depth your work can extend.

By the second week, I was ready to continue to go deeper by throwing myself into my fears and unlearning everything school has taught me. Actually, one of the exercises was to physically shred an old textbook. But since I am still in school, I thought I’d skip that one considering how much text books cost nowadays.

Week three was one of my favorites and the most useful. Maisel asks you to put up a big idea to describe your current work whether it be color, peace, urban or whatever is the theme of your project. While I never could quite get a theme for my work, it was a great intellectual exercise. Try it yourself!

By the end of the month, I had to incubate, which seems like an easy enough task, right? But I think a lot of people get stuck incubating and this often leads to a creative block.

But the way Maisel explains incubating, it is more of an active process. Slowly, you are building up to your project by asking questions and checking in with your project and even scheduling time to think and incubate your ideas. Oftentimes, we view incubation as completely letting go of your project, but this exercise really allows you to go deeper into it. I know I found this to be a great way to keep my ideas in the forefront of mind and not get lost.

  • Stay tuned next month when I “use myself.”

Everyday Creative: Exploring

Sometimes, I wonder where the months go. This month was one of those times. I had been doing so well with this challenge then all of the sudden it was June. Oh where did the entire month of May go, while I was supposed to be exploring?

Maybe it’s because I already explore everything on a daily basis that I let this month slip away. Nonetheless, here’s how my progress went.

I pretty much skipped all the tasks but did all the reading and pondering, so does that count for something?

In reality, I really did spend my days exploring new places and ideas. For instance, I had a new culinary experience at a French restaurant surrounded by international discussions. Then, I spent a day exploring 3 different beaches near my home and collecting beach specimens along the way, and finally I continued my collage challenge by delving into the forms of various flowers as a theme.

Although, I must mention my favorite task of this chapter that you might also like to try:

Choose a very difficult creative project. Maisel gives the idea that if you want to write a song, write a musical instead, or if you want to write a novel then start with a multi- volume series. Work on this project for a couple of days then ask yourself if it really was as hard as you imagined? At least, you’ve found out whether it really is hard or not. So the next time, you come across a difficult project, embrace it!

So while I didn’t exactly do the tasks in the book, I did do a lot of exploring. All of which helped my creativity.

  • Join me next month as I’ll be Going Deep.

Everyday Creative: Being Mindful

This month, unlike last month, was really challenging for me to complete. The task this time was to be mindful. I must admit that while spring is usually a time for renewal and reflection, I’ve spent mine feeling completely out of sorts, which is why I was excited to focus on being mindful with the slight hope that it would bring some peace to the chaos I was feeling.

The first thing I needed to do was to rouse myself out of the dream sleep that so many of us are in. How many of us often feel like life is passing us by, without even a chance to stop and enjoy it? I know that’s how I’ve been feeling, so I relished the thought of delving into this further and finding ways out of it.

I began by being ever vigilant, as Maisel suggests, about being mindful. I am one of those people who stop every so often, while working to listen to my breath or glance out at the blue sky just to regain focus, but again this spring was different. I appreciated the exercise, which required me to do “brain surgery.” By that I mean, really listening to myself and when a worry arose I imagined taking it from my mind, tossing it in some container and sealing it up. I am visual person, so using that imagery really helped.

The next few weeks focused more on critical thinking and analytical skills. After completing graduate school, in a very theoretical discipline, I am pretty convinced that I’ve got those skills down. Although, I do tend to over-use them so thought this was a good time to analyze that!

Toward the end of the month, I was asked to study a blade a grass – yes, just one single blade. Why? You may ask. Well, as Maisel explains the answer is two-fold. First, it gets us away from thinking about our project and gets us back into nature – a truly great inspiration. Also, it reminds us how just a single blade of grass, as simple as it may look, is actually part of a larger structure – an entire patch of grass. Putting that into perspective allowed me to also put my chaotic spring into perspective.

Finally, I finished the month by losing myself and not getting caught up in the petty day-to-day trivialities that can often clog our minds and hamper our creativity. The last exercise asked me to picture a dumpster and each day taking something like fear, anger, guilt, etc and depositing it in the dumpster and ridding my mind of it, because when you think about it there’s really no tangible use for it.

  • Next month I’ll “Be Exploring.”


Everyday Creative: Being Human

While last month I was just embarking on my everyday creative challenge, this month I am proud to report that I am finishing up my second month. It always amazes me how quickly time flies. But really, I am getting ready to start my third month of this journey? Anyway, I digress into my own humanness, which is ok I learned, because this month was about being human.

To begin the month I was asked to forgive myself and forgive myself for all my previous failures. I think in the last 10 years or so, I have been able to do this and so pretty much breezed past this section. Although, I did complete the exercise at the end of the first week, because I thought it seemed pretty cathartic:

Take a pencil and mark on a piece of paper a line for each of your failures throughout your life (perceived or real). One by one erase the lines while forgiving yourself for each one. As you do this, admit that maybe this one was a failure and let yourself move on from it. Learn and grow from your failures.

The next several weeks were filled with more forgiveness. Forgiving myself completely then forgiving others. By the third week I was ready to wrestle all my demons for one final time. It was here that the mission of the book and my creative journey all made sense. The way to being an everyday creative isn’t bound by learning artistic techniques and skills but rather by manifesting your potential as a creator. Just this slight difference made all the sense to me.

With that epiphany I was ready to move forward with my challenge. The exercise that accompanied this week is meant to have a cleansing effect. The cleansing effect, however, is to improve not your studio space or even an actual physical space but rather your self-talk. I find the concept of cognitive behavior therapy techniques so fascinating and so powerful, which is why this exercise really resonated with me. It asked me to consciously pay attention to my self-talk, and if I heard that it was saying something negative about creating that I was to respond to it with a casual, “How dare you say that.” Just that brief shift in thinking was enough for me to see how my thoughts were affecting my creating. And at the end of each evening, when I thought about the day and my negative slips, I just forgave myself.

By the end of the month, I had stepped into my humanness and forgiven myself and others, who may have interfered with my creative journey in the past. Plus, I learned some skills that would get me through the rest of my journey. So much so that I coasted through the last couple weeks on deflating your ego (I hardly have one!) and boredom (I am too busy for that!) instead anticipating to “Be Mindful” for next month’s challenge.

Everyday Creative: The First Month

Last month I wrote about why I was starting this challenge and this month I want to give you a status update on how I am doing. Going into this, I realized I wouldn’t be perfect, because humans like creativity can be messy and inspiration can often follow a non-linear route. Nonetheless, I am proud to say that I stuck with it (ok, most of it anyway) this first month.

The first week began by making creativity my religion. It doesn’t matter if you already have a religion because this is an addition to your current religion. Like religion, creativity is a way of life that also has rituals and ceremonies. Actually, one of the first exercises is to craft your own rituals for creating. I settled on starting my creative work with a positive invocation and affirmation statement and also working on small sketchbook collages to rev up my creative energy before tackling a big project.

The next few weeks were a little bit more challenging for me. They focused on not only finding a time and place to create but also embracing the mystery of creating. Time is such a complicated issue for me. I’ve yet to a find a balance between work, family and creating. This one is going to require some extra work on my part. So is the space issue. Right now I am working from my home office aka the dining room table and my art supplies are in various bins in a spare bedroom. Not an ideal situation and again something that I need to work on for the rest of the year.

The concept of creativity being a mystery I get. I’ve always felt that creating is a spiritual exercise and have been surprised by the mysterious nature that ideas pop into my brain. I’d like to control that better and understand more fully where those ideas are coming from and how I can increase them. The exercise for the mystery section really didn’t sit well with me because you had to create poetry for 3 days straight. Ok, confession time here, I hate poetry. I have no idea why, but I just do. So I skipped that exercise.

Finally, toward the end of the month, you are asked to “do the tiniest thing.” Now this is an idea I can wrap my brain around. I am a notorious “chunker” and love the process involved in creating. This section was easy, because it required me to look at some of my long term creative goals and start small by doing one little thing a day to move them toward completion.

By the end of the month, I was able to confidently recite the positive affirmation, “I am a creative person” and actually believe it! This will also serve as a good daily reminder for me as I move onto next month’s activities to “Be Human.”