stART Creating as We Go: Battles & Breakthroughs (eps 98)

Every couple of weeks I film stART: Creating as We Go with my two sisters, Suzie and Shannon. We share our creative projects, from challenges to celebrations, and support each other’s creative lives. With spring in full swing (and ambling a little to fast to summer), we share our art, discoveries, challenges and as always our creative projects and processes.

In this episode we mention…

Question of the week…

Do YOU have any suggestions for books on non-fiction writing? Feel free to leave a comment or email us you answer. We hope you enjoy the show!

Keep up-to-date with stART: Creating As We Go

The 5 Minute Difference

Last week was a lively one in the studio as we prepared the print copies of the summer Studio Yearbook for mailing. It was a joy to pack them up with love and send them on their way before the long weekend here in Canada began! I must admit though that when things get busy, I have a terrible tendency; I take root. I stop moving my body. I simply tuck myself in front of the job at hand and stay put for the duration. (My Fitbit and creaky body tell the tale!) This is when I need to remind myself of something I teach all the time…

There is power in 5 minutes.

When we’re super busy or have a big project on the go, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have 5 minutes. And even if we did, we tell ourselves, what difference would 5 minutes make? It’s too short a time to be worth it! Isn’t it better to just get 5 more minutes of work done? We can eat, rest, stretch, etc., when we’re done.

That’s what I used to think until I built my entire meditation practice on the gift of 5 minutes. I had been thinking about learning to meditate for some time but wasn’t finding my way to actually doing it. One day, I realized a simple truth; if I didn’t have 5 minutes to meditate, I was overextended. None of us should regularly be so busy that we can’t take 5 minutes for ourselves. I started to meditate that day and have been doing so ever since.

I’ve also seen the power of 5 minutes in Journal Club and Mindful Mondays. In both classes, we regularly do a 5-minute free write and the impact is clear:

  • In 5 minutes, we release internal pressure.
  • In 5 minutes, we connect to where we are.
  • In 5 minutes, we see what we are thinking.
  • In 5 minutes, our to-dos are revealed.
  • In 5 minutes, we have more clarity than we had 5 minutes before.

Want to try it with me now? Set a timer for 5 minutes, just 5 minutes, and let the words flow onto the page. Don’t edit. Just write. Pour out whatever is on your mind and in your heart. Stop when the timer goes. Notice the impact. What’s different because you took 5 minutes to write?

It’s easy to underestimate the gifts available in such a short period of time. Here are some more 5-minute breaks and activities, all of which I have used to unglue myself from my seat and to remind myself that I am a living, breathing, organic being not a tireless workhorse of a machine.

More 5 minute breaks…

  • Doodle
  • Stretch
  • Make a cuppa
  • Get a glass of water
  • Cuddle with your fur babies
  • Open your window and breathe the fresh air
  • Step outside
  • Read a poem
  • Listen to the birds
  • Draw an oracle card
  • Listen to one song
  • Dance to one song
  • Grab your camera and find a photo opp (or 7)
  • Tidy one spot
  • Make your bed
  • Fold your socks
  • Give your counter a quick wipe
  • Take out the garbage
  • Wash your face
  • Massage your feet
  • Put lotion on your elbows
  • Lie down and close your eyes (Set a timer if you’re worried you’ll fall asleep)

5 minute breaks I don’t recommend, especially if you need a break from the computer!*

  • Watching YouTube
  • Checking Facebook, Instagram or other social media.
  • Checking email.
  • Anything that leaves you sitting in the same place.

Having a strong focus and deep commitment is a good thing, as is working hard, but it’s also important to remember that we are human. We need time to breathe, to move, to eat, to sleep, to rest, to play and to be free. Let’s see if we can get into the habit of booking in a bit of extra time for each activity we schedule. Let’s give ourselves some white space and some wiggle room. I truly believe that we will do better and more sustainable work if we allow ourselves to regularly take a 5-minute break.

Now, I just need to remember that!

7 Tips for Saying Yes when Opportunity Knocks

Recently, I had an amazing opportunity arrive in my inbox. Because I participated in last year’s Luminato, a Toronto arts festival, I was invited to be a member of a small rehearsal audience for a highly interactive piece of theatre. It would involve one day in the studio with a brilliant established artist doing innovative work with active audience participation. I looked at that email for a while, weighing all of the priorities of my busy week, juggling all the pieces on my schedule, wondering if I could make it work.

Justin’s reaction? “Just say yes. You LIVE for this stuff.”

And he’s right. Creativity. Vision. Experiences. Engagement. Experimentatipn. I just couldn’t say no. Luckily I had the tools for saying yes!

7 Tips for Saying Yes when Opportunity Knocks

Some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had have come from saying a brave and unwavering yes to unexpected opportunities like this one. In fact, I’ve cultivated some habits that help me seize the moment instead of letting these chances slip into the realm of ‘maybe someday’. Despite being Sagittarius, I’m actually not that good at being spontaneous and that’s why I prepare for it! Let me share my top tips with you.

1. Know What Matters to You

Knowing what’s important to you allows you to recognize a good opportunity when you see it. If this had been free tickets to a sporting event or a chance to learn how to make sushi, it might have been interesting but it wouldn’t have rung out with that loud “THIS IS FOR ME” that means an immediate yes. Knowing yourself and what matters to you allows you to make quick and good decisions about opportunities as they arise.

2. Let Others Know Too

Let your loved ones know the truth of who you are so that they can recognize what matters to you too. This isn’t always easy. Our relationships aren’t always supportive of our dreams. That’s why it’s crucial to develop relationships with at least one or two people who will cheer on the yeses of your soul. Let your people know who you are and what you love. Tell a friend or two or all of them what you’re yearning for. Not only can they be your cheerleaders but they can also keep their eye out for opportunities that will fit you just right!

3. Be Devoted to Your Practice

One of the purposes of practices is to prepare you for ‘show time’. When you regularly show up for your art, for your life, for your self, you maintain a sense of readiness. An actor doesn’t wait for the audition to prepare a monologue. She has one, two, three in her back pocket, ready to go when opportunity knocks. Her voice is strong. Her body limber. She is ready to show up for the work when the work shows up for her. Be devoted to your work. Develop your skills. Be ready to say yes when the moment arrives.

4. Put Yourself in Opportunity’s Way

Have you heard that saying, “What you seek seeks you”? It’s true but so often when we want something deeply, we hole up at home, hiding our desires (sometimes even from ourselves), making wish upon wish that something would happen to move us towards our hopes and dreams. But how is your art, your love, your puppy, your job, your show, your friend supposed to find you? Go to a class or a meetup. Be seen! Sign up for a newsletter – and read it. (That’s how I got the dance audition.) Send a letter. Make a call. Start somewhere.

5. Failure Isn’t Failure

There are no guarantees when you say yes. Sometimes we think that the results should match the bravery or effort we put in but it doesn’t always work that way (at least not directly). You may audition and not get the part. You may go to class and get discouraged. But direct results aren’t the only results worth having! You’ve gained experience, wisdom and maybe even a great story. You’ve tuned your inner compass. I know it isn’t easy but use the experience to move you forward. Turn every experience into a win.

6. Learn from Experience

You can do that by letting all of your experiences grow you as an artist. Take the time to lock in your learning by journaling out all of your insights and observations (or talking them out if you have a friend, colleague or coach). If it was hard, release your feelings onto the page. Process it all. I always take time after a class or artistic adventure to go to a coffee shop and write, write, write. I don’t want to lose a drop of that learning. I want to think it through. Try it on. Turn it over. Take it deeper. Be clear on my own thoughts and reactions. Then I can put it down and rest, trusting that all that I’ve learned is steeping into my creative soul.

7. Develop Self-Trust

When you can trust yourself to show up, when you know that you can tend to your needs whatever happens, it’s easier to say yes to opportunities, even challenging ones. You learn to trust that if an opportunity turns sour, you can manage it and if it is extraordinary, you can manage that too. You lay the foundations of self-trust in your practice and you deepen it by taking it ‘off the mat’. When you risk saying yes to something you truly want and you play it out, you build a confidence that in time will become unshakable.

When it comes to these habits and your creative life, no effort is wasted. Whether opportunities show up or not, being clear on what matters, having supportive relationships, devoting yourself to practice, putting your energy out in the world, developing resilience, actively learning and building self-trust will serve you well. Start today.

You never know what is going to happen but what you will know is that you are ready to say yes.

Bonus Tip: Leave Room for Magic

We often fill our schedules to the brim, piling on more to-dos than can reasonably be achieved by a regular human person. When opportunities show up, instead of feeling excited, we feel overwhelmed. We only see two options available – say no or let something drop – and neither of those feels right or good. Instead, make it a habit to leave a little room for magic. Create some space on your calendar so you have flexibility. Pare down your to-do list so there is room for the unexpected. (This is good for both opportunities and emergencies.) Get out of the habit of overextending yourself so that you have energy and presence to share.