There is Room for You

Many years ago, I was a regular at a popular morning Nia* class. One day it was particularly busy and as we worked on some steps that moved us quickly from one side of the space to the other, people were playing small. There just wasn’t enough space for us all to exuberantly travel the length of the room.

Then our instructor said, “Take up space, people. There’s room for you!”

I just about stopped in my tracks. My eyes prickled with tears. There’s room for me? Even in this busy class? Even amidst all of these people? There’s room for me?

And there was. Yes, I had to pay attention to the flow of people around me. Yes, I had to make adjustments but what I discovered was there was more room than I had imagined possible prior to my teacher’s invitation.

How often is there more room than we imagine?

All resources have limits but how often are we missing out on the richness that lives between assumed versus actual limitations? How often are we playing small, holding back or contracting because we are afraid there isn’t room for us when, in fact, there is?

Maybe your friend loves that you listen but also wants to hear more about you; she’s just waiting for you to share. Maybe your loved ones would welcome the clarity of knowing what you need. Maybe it would actually be no big deal for you to take Sunday afternoon to paint. Maybe it’s more than reasonable that you have a turn, choose your favourite, go first.

What if there is room for you?

This week, look for the places where you might be living by limitations that don’t actually exist. Root out assumptions about what you are ‘allowed’ to have, be and do. If it so happens that along the way you find some places where there isn’t room for you, take note of that too. You deserve to be where you can breathe, live and grow.

For over a decade I have carried “There is room for you” as a touchstone in my heart. Today, I share it with you. May you discover all the spaces that are waiting for you.

Thank you to Martha Randall for this lesson I will never forget.
*Nia is a barefoot movement practice that combines dance, the martial arts and healing arts.

As the World Opens

“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.”
Margaret Drabble

This change of season comes in the midst of growing change in our collective life. The world is starting to open up again. This is a welcome relief but also offers fresh challenges.

Who are we as we step out of our homes and into community again?

Who do we want to be?

I have been a part of so many conversations lately about the stress of this return. The situation is made even more difficult because we are faced with feelings we didn’t expect to have! We thought we’d be enthusiastically running towards hugs, coffee dates and freedom. It turns out we’re also feeling unsure, overwhelmed and sometimes unsafe. Many of us are also recognizing that we are being pulled back into a life that we’re not sure we want to return to.

We are tender beings emerging from a long time away.

As we re-enter the world, we won’t just be finding a new normal, we’ll be creating it. Now is the time to move forward with intention, to make fresh and meaningful decisions before things settle into place.

Imagine for a moment that you had moved completely out of your house for a time and then, along with all of your stuff, you moved back in. Your impulse might be to quickly get everything back in place and get on with life. After a disruption, our default is often to return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible. But what is normal? Often it simply describes circumstances we have gotten used to.

What if instead of resetting back to the way it was, you took a breath and asked, “What do I want now?

Don’t simply slide back into familiar dreams and desires. In this moment, what are you longing for? Who are you now? It’s like intentionally bringing that furniture back in, one piece at a time, and deciding what to do with it. Will you put it back where it was, find it a new home or let it go? You don’t have to know all the answers. Simply start with what you do know. Take what’s important to you and place it at the centre.

In the current context, this may feel hard to do. We are all experiencing a collective undertow pulling us back to the way it was. There will always be things outside of our control but don’t let that convince you that everything is outside of your control.

You have a say in establishing the new normal.

The more we give ourselves permission to set our own pace, to say our own yeses and no’s, to trust our inner compass and to brave moving towards what is meaningful to us, the more we create a world where that is the norm. I witness this all the time in studio classes, how one person’s brave choice inspires someone else to be braver, how telling our truth inspires someone else to share theirs.

Let’s take that even further. Let’s be compassionate, encouraging and respectful as everyone establishes their own new normal. Let us honour one another’s path and pace. Let’s be a part of the world opening instead of adding to the undertow.

As you brave the return, what kind of life do you want to create? What kind of world?

We continue to live through a disruptive time. Let’s make choices that will nourish the ground we want to walk on in the future.

The Books on My Creative Living Bookshelf

Despite the fact that I love books, it has taken me years to get back into the habit of reading. I found myself so busy that I just never picked up a book and I missed it deeply.

The first step of the return was discovering the joy of audiobooks. Suddenly, I could read while I was folding laundry or out on an errand. That was a gamechanger. The evidence is in my Studio Yearbook. I could see all the titles I had read in a season. In three months of listening, I read more books than I had in three years! It felt so good.

Once I was back in the world of books, there was still something missing. I longed for a deep dive. I love listening but I also wanted to get out my journal and take notes. I wanted to grab my highlighter or pencil and (gasp!) underline and make notes in the margins. I wanted to follow the author’s thoughts to my own conclusions. I wanted to engage!

Here’s where I found a new level of weariness.

Though I longed for that deeper connection with the material, it was also exhausting. Sometimes I would make a start and get flooded with so many ideas, feelings and reactions that I would be overwhelmed. It was like plugging into something with a higher voltage than I was currently able to handle. My off switch would immediately flip.

What life am I living that I can’t read a book?

What life am I living that I can’t engage in reflection and thought?

I remembered some wisdom from my sister Shannon who is an avid reader. Citing her own experience of moving from YA novels to Shakespeare and Tolstoy, she reminded me that reading is a muscle and it strengthens with practice.

So now I am welcoming back not only reading but also engaged reading. If I read a single paragraph and am sent into a whole new world of thoughts, feelings and ideas, I close the book and follow that path. I give myself time to take in all the richness and let it become a part of me. It’s like learning to take the right-sized bites and then letting my system digest fully. I feel richer for giving myself and the author’s work this time and attention.

Of course this deep dive isn’t required at all times. It’s not a ‘better’ way of reading. It’s a way of reading that my creative spirit needed and now I include it in my days. Figuring all of this out has led me to being able to bring you a new episode of Creative Living Bookshelf. I hope you enjoy the return of the show as much as I have enjoyed my return to books!

Eliminating Creative Friction & Enhancing Creative Flow

As creatives, we feel the constant pull to create, the desire to pursue ideas and bring them to life. It’s what we’re made for! Unfortunately, this doesn’t always result in a free and easy flow of artistic energy. We constantly contend with friction that inhibits our creative expression.

Friction is anything, large or small, that disrupts or slows the flow of your artistic energy and it can happen at any point in the creative process.*

As an example, let’s think about what it takes for you to get creating. Do you know where you can work? Is that space available or do you have to negotiate with others or deal with clutter? How about supplies? Do you know what you need? Do you have everything? Can you find everything? Is it such a hassle to get everything ready you don’t even want to start?

These are just a few practical points of friction that occur before you even begin. (I get a bit stressed just thinking about them!) This is why we so often dream about, read about and pin photos of artist studios that are perfect in every way. We imagine an environment that doesn’t impede us, that supports us. That’s a wonderful aspiration to work towards and we want to be able to create right now, right where we are.

Looking at these examples, how might we reduce friction so it’s easier to get creating?

Can you claim a space as your art space? Even if it’s not used for art all the time, choosing a go-to creative space eliminates decision-making (and potentially negotiation) and thus, friction.

Clutter in the way? We creatives tend to have a lot of stuff. Instead of berating yourself about it, find a strategy for working with what is. Honestly, I’ve often just piled things on the floor while I worked and put everything back when I’m done. It’s not a long-term solution (unless it is) but it did allow me to get to work! Another helpful strategy is separating the act of clearing from the act of creating. This ensures you’re not tired out before you even begin. As an added benefit, you don’t start to associate creating with the hassle of tidying.

This last strategy can be also be applied to your supplies. I take inspiration from my grandmother who would set the table for breakfast before she went to bed. It was magical to wake up and see juice glasses and cereal bowls at the ready. How would it feel to get your space and supplies prepared in advance as a lovely gift to your future self? With everything good to go, you will be able to glide in and start creating. Any friction in the preparation has already been handled.

This week, take some time to actively assess where friction lives in your creative process. Then experiment with ways to lessen or eliminate that friction. Remember, this isn’t about needing the perfect environment or coming up with a perfect solution. It’s about finding ways to get to your work. Every little bit of friction you clear makes the path that much easier. With the persistence of water wearing away at rock, over time you will wear a smooth path for your artistic energy.

Your creativity matters. Help it flow.

Deepening Creative Roots: Behind the Scenes in the Studio

It’s been a while since I’ve been here with a Behind the Scenes video. Amazingly, it was the BTS episodes where I shared my thoughts on artistic devotion that sent me into the studio for a season. I’ve been hard at work deepening the roots of my work in service of helping more people step onto this path. Changes are afoot, my creative friends!

Mentioned on Today’s Show:

Awakening Your Creativity Changes Everything

When I was a new coach, many moons ago, I took a leadership course. My biggest takeaway came from the following question: “If you could help people with only one thing, what would it be?”

My world and my work changed forever when I realized my answer was: creative capacity.

What I knew then and what I know now is that when you recognize and develop your creative capacity you come alive, you discover your agency and you are able to break through limitations and open up possibilities like never before. This applies to your art, to your life and even to the world.

Pretty big claims, I know.

But I’ve seen it again and again.

Someone starts drawing and little by little they come back to themselves. With every drawing, sketch and doodle, they experience the creativity they are capable of. They begin to recognize their unique hand and express their own voice. It is undeniable that where once there was nothing, because of their creative capacity, now there is something. They develop the confidence that they can bring an idea into being because they have. Then, often without any conscious thought or intention, all of this begins to come off the page.

If I can create in my sketchbook, where else can I create?

If I can be myself in my art, where else can I be myself?

If I could bring that idea to life, what else can I bring into being?

Your creative capacity is a force of nature. Once awakened, it wants to find expression everywhere. You pick up flowers to draw and delight in the way they perk up your kitchen. Their colour inspires you to paint your bathroom a vibrant shade of coral. You’re inspired to pick up a book on colour theory and start changing how you dress. You start watching art documentaries and taking copious notes. You start listening to music again. You and your world come alive.

This activation of your creative capacity can also be unnerving. All sorts of things that seemed immutable suddenly become open to change. Now you want friendships where you do more than just listen. Though you’ve been okay in your job for years, now you can’t stop thinking about running your own business. You watch the news and when something distresses you, instead of turning it off, you think, what if I could make a difference? Do I have the courage to try?

Creativity is disruptive. This is one of the reasons we resist it and one of the reasons we’re often discouraged from it. It shifts the status quo. Creativity is wildly alive and expansive by nature. It wakes us up and shows us the magic we are capable of.

Once you know that you can create, the possibilities of what you create are endless

That’s why I believe that awakening your creative capacity is the beginning of everything.

A Simple Tool for Making Things Better

Last week I shared some thoughts on navigating big feelings and I heard back from so many that it was just what you needed. All of these emails inspired me to share a simple tool I use all the time, one that can be profoundly helpful when navigating rough terrain and new territory.

When I’m in a tough place, struggling to find my footing and re-align my life, I take some time in my journal to list three things that helped me that day. By “helped’ I just mean that it shifted something for the better, maybe my mood, my situation or my outlook. Any positive shift counts. Here are some examples of things I’ve listed in the past.

Things that Helped

  • Journaling
  • Talking to Justin
  • Getting outside
  • Getting more sleep
  • Getting “dressed and ready”
  • Finally making “that” phone call
  • Finally making a decision (and trusting it)
  • Facing my fear and going to the dentist
  • Cancelling a meeting
  • Getting to my art table
  • Tea and chocolate
  • Playing in my yearbook
  • “Chair and stare” time
  • Tidying
  • Telling a hard truth

In my journal, I’m more specific. I’d specify the decision I made and the hard truth I told. These reflections show me not only which strategies actually helped but they also remind me that things did, even incrementally, shift for the better. As I continue this practice, I am able to notice trends and can start to build a set of strategies to call on in the future. (That is not to say that something that worked once will work every time but at least it’s a starting point.) With each daily list, I learn more about myself and what supports me.

Along with the three things that helped, I also write down three things that didn’t. These could be things that simply weren’t effective or things that brought my energy down instead of up.

Things that Did Not Help and/or Hindered

  • Avoiding making “that” call (It just made me feel worse and kept it on my mind all day.)
  • Sleeping in (I hate feeling like I didn’t have a morning.)
  • Powering through
  • Keeping to myself
  • Chocolate
  • “Bad TV” (Sometimes it’s a welcome distraction but not today.)
  • Going to “x” (I wish I’d trusted myself and cancelled.)
  • Talking to “y” (Wow, that actually always makes me feel worse. I think I need to re-evaluate this relationship.)

With my “did not help” list, you can see I often write a little explanation. This helps me dig for discoveries. For example, if “more sleep” helps but “sleeping in” hinders, it might be smart to try going to bed earlier.

This practice shows me where to stop investing time and energy and where I can make practical and positive change. Without taking this time to reflect, I may stay unaware. I might have felt horrible all day without realizing it was because I was carrying the weight of that phone call with me. Now, I know I have to get that done. (By the way, you may have noticed “chocolate” is on both lists. When things show up in both places, I pay special attention to when and how I invite that particular thing into my day.)

The lists I’ve shared have several items each but generally I keep my daily list down to three things that helped and three things that didn’t. If I can’t come up with three, that’s fine but having that as my goal encourages me to stay with the exercise and look deeper.

This simple daily tool enhances self-awareness and helps with making supportive choices, especially when life is chaotic and you’re feeling unsettled. Each day, lean more and more into the things that help and away from the things that don’t. It’s like navigating a boat away from the rocks and towards the open sea.

Sending blessings for the journey,