Yes to a Winter Morning

One early morning a month, I meet with my Mastermind group. Today our get-together happened to be after a big snow storm, the kind of day and the kind of dark when it’s easy to say, “I’d rather stay in bed.” Instead, I put on my laid-out clothing, laced up my winter boots and I headed out into the quiet and cold.

It was dazzling.

There’s something about the snow, the way it slows us down, the way it brightens things up. Today it promised some magic.

You Don’t Have to Justify Your Creativity


As creatives, we tend to be a little bit different than your average bear.

Sometimes it’s obvious. We’re the ones unloading 3 books, 5 journals and a packed pencil case at a coffee shop. We’re the ones with big jewellery, a blue streak in our hair and a unique sense of personal style.

Sometimes it’s more subtle. It shows up in our resourcefulness, our problem-solving, our insatiable curiosity. Maybe we notice a slight dissonance when we’re chatting with others at work or at a party, a way that we seem to be slightly off-centre.
Perhaps we just don’t feel the same sense of attachment or urgency about the machinations of a workaday life. We long for something else, something every bit as real but not nearly as accepted.

We long for a creative life.

And a creative life looks different for each of us. It might mean working a comfortable job and investing your earnings in art classes and writing retreats. It might mean getting up early to write poetry by candlelight. It might mean becoming a part of an improv troupe or learning how to temper chocolate or knitting blankets for preemies. It might mean working as a temp between acting gigs, fundraising so you can make your documentary or start your own business.

What your creative life looks like is up to you.

No one else. You.

That’s not to say that everyone won’t have an opinion. Everyone will. Everyone.

Some people just won’t get it. They’ll think you’re a bit of an odd duck. Others will think you are special and rare. Still others will think, “Oh, it’s lovely that you have a hobby, dear.” And many (many) will warn you against trying to make it more than that. Some will even deign to assess your “talent” and the viability of this path for you. Some will think it’s only worthwhile if it makes money – if you can do that, then pursue it, otherwise…let it go, sweetheart.

Don’t listen to any of them.

Not a one.

Live a creative life, follow a creative path, because it’s who you are. You’ve always known it. Even when you weren’t expressing it, when it was locked down deep inside, you’ve always had a creative heart.

You don’t have to make money at it for it to be worthwhile.

You don’t have to be labelled as ‘talented’ in order to be worthy.

You don’t have to prove, justify, explain or defend.

You just have to do it.

I’m not saying it will be easy. I’m saying it will be worth it. I’m saying it’s your birthright. I’m saying it’s for you.
Be yourself. Love your life. Create your work.

I, for one, believe in you.

The Bigger the Dream, the Deeper the Roots


At this time of year, so many of us are deep in reflection*. Over the past week, I’ve had a lot of discussions with people near and dear to me about what they learned from 2019 and what they are envisioning for 2020. The more people I spoke with, the more I noticed a surprising theme emerging: slow growth.

I know. It’s not sexy, is it? Where are the big hairy audacious goals? The brave and bold choices? The dramatic transformations?

We all just seem a little tired for that.

Or maybe, it’s something more unexpected – we’re actually dreaming bigger.

When Justin and I sat down on New Year’s Eve and talked about our past year, it was clearly about our home renovation. As we explored the experience, we realized that we had actually been working on this dream for over three years! There was the year we committed and then started to dream and save. Then came the year we started working with the architect and getting the city’s approval. That was also the year that we went through all of our belongings, clearing the way for a new vision and a fresh start. Then last year we packed and moved and the construction work began. Our house was taken down to the studs and then was built back up again. Now, at the beginning of our fourth year, we’re preparing to move back in and make this fresh new space into our home. It’s time for us to nest.

If I’d been aware of how long it would take, I’m not sure how I would have approached it or whether I would have at all. How many times do we walk away from a dream because it seems like it will take too long – especially as we get older!

I don’t have time to get a degree!

It’s too late to start my own business!

I’m too old to learn the violin now!

Hogwash.

There. I said it. Hogwash.

When I first read The Artist’s Way, I was shaken by something Julia Cameron said and it forever changed my perspective in this regard. I’m paraphrasing but I think you’ll get the point.

Yes, it takes a long time. Yes, it may be late. But in 5 years, you can either have 5 years of experience playing the piano or none. You choose.

And the beautiful thing, the thing that makes all the difference, is that it’s not just about the destination or even about the journey. It’s about who you become when you step into a desire or a dream. Do I want to be a woman who studies Art History or a woman who decided it was too late? Do I want to be a woman who can fumble her way through a conversation in French or a woman who wishes she learned? Do I want to be a woman who is writing a book or one who hopes to one day?

I have felt in a rush for a lot of my life. I’ve been a late bloomer and struggled with a constant state of worrying that I’ll miss out. It’s taken me a long time to realize how much I miss out on when I rush, including the chance to build big dreams, the kind of dreams that take patience and time, and the chance to live the kind of life that takes time to build.

I’m learning to not be intimidated by things that take a long time. No matter what happens, saying yes to what I dream of makes me the woman that I want to be.

Sometimes moving slow is dreaming big after all.

Awaken Your Creative Capacity

There’s something liminal about December.

Here in the studio, we’re wrapping up one season and preparing for the next. In a few weeks, we’ll all be moving from fall into winter (or spring into summer, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere). For me, personally, I’m completing one solar return and moving into the next with my birthday next weekend. And, of course, with our home renovation, we’re hoping to finish up the biggest project of our lives and move back home.

One of the things I love about these in-between times is how they give us a chance to shake things up, to break things up and to find new ways. When the path trudges on, day after day, with no break or disruption, it is harder to make a change. I’ve seen this with so many clients who have tucked into their regular life with devotion for years and then, when they feel the need to make a change, it seems impossible to do so because of ‘the way things are.’

You have a hand in creating the way things are!

You have been given this extraordinary gift of a creative spirit and that can show up on the page, in the studio and in your life. Yes, we all have what I call ‘given circumstances.’ These are the elemental truths of this moment in time, both limitations and blessings. What will you make of them? What will you imagine and create?

In Mindful Mondays, we start each week by imagining what we would like it to be and then we go about doing our level best to create it.

I want a week filled with creative play! How will I make it so?
I want a week with more ease! How will I invite that in?
I want to be brave this week! I will follow where that leads me!

Little by little, week by week, with our imaginings, our choices and our actions, we steer our lives in the direction or our soul. Little by little, week by week, our life aligns with our heart.

It’s easy for us to forget that we have this magic within us. We fall easily under the sway of ‘The Way It Is’ spell, believing that we are just a small being in a strong current and cannot make a difference, not even in our own lives. This is not true.

Our creativity shows us our magic every time.

Every time you knit a sock or make a meal, every time you make a painting or a collage, every time you rearrange your furniture or change your hairstyle, you have impact. With each creative act, you demonstrate your ability to change your life and your world. You experience your capacity to make something where there was nothing or to transform one thing into something new.

If you can do it on the page, on the canvas or in the kitchen, you can do it in your life.

You can bring ideas that make a difference.
You can make choices that make a difference.
You can take action that make a difference.

You have the creative capacity to make a difference in your life and in the world.

I’m here to remind you. The studio is full of classes to support you. Awaken your creative capacity and discover what’s possible. Bring your magic to the art, to the life and the world that calls you. Do it now.

Unexpected Blessings of Running

I’m power walking/running again – and it’s such a gift. Yes, it’s hard to get back to it. Yes, it’s easy to get down about backsliding but instead, I put on my running shoes and started.

As my body made clear what I’d been missing, I felt the whole world cheering me on. I found myself beaming at simply being outside. I watched the glory of the big ball of sunlight slipping down into the empty trees. In the first minute a friendly rottweiler gave me an enthusiastic hello! A little while later, I saw a Grandma and her grandkids intently watch the power and process of the garbage truck mashing – and the way their enthusiasm lit the garbage collector up. And when I finished, I looked for #todayscheerleader, as I always do. Today I found a penguin. Who knew?

Going out for a run reminded me that I am a part of this world, something that’s easy to forget when I’ve got my head down, working. Maybe I even made someone else feel the same way. Maybe someone I smiled at is beaming too, thinking, “That was so nice, that slow-running lady in the pink hat smiling at me. It reminded me there are friendly people in this world!” I sure hope so.

Nothing Can Replace the Power of Practice: Interview with Artist & Entrepreneur Jeanne Oliver

Jeanne Oliver is one of those creatives who does it all. She’s an artist, an author and an entrepreneur. She runs a site that hosts a plethora of creative classes, some taught by other artists and some taught by Jeanne herself. She leads exquisite retreats, is a dedicated mom and keeps a stunning home. She is also one of the kindest and most generous people I have met in the online creative world.

A while back I interviewed her for the Creative Living with Jamie podcast and now, inspired by her new Creatively Made Business program, I’ve interviewed her for the blog. There are a lot of people teaching online entrepreneurship but Jeanne is the only person I know who is doing that from the place of running a successful art-based and instructional business. If you have dreams of developing that kind of work yourself, I suggest you check her new program out. I haven’t taken it (and I’m not an affiliate) but I have done one-on-one business consulting with Jeanne and have always found her to be insightful, direct and incredibly helpful. No matter where we are in our creative journey, it’s so powerful to keep growing and learning from one another!  I know you’ll learn a lot from Jeanne!

Hi there, Jeanne. I am so excited to have this conversation with you and to hear about all the creative energy that percolating around you! Let’s start off with you sharing a bit about yourself and the work you do in the world.

Thank you so much Jamie for the opportunity to talk with you and share more about our business and what we are about.

I am Jeanne Oliver, the owner and creator of Jeanne Oliver Designs. Our business officially became more than a hobby 12 years ago and what was once creations of wood and scrapbook paper are now online art classes, live business and art workshops, artisan products, original and reproduction art, beautiful collaborations and travel. I feel like our business is the perfect example of the power of starting before you are ready and that we have second and third chances to walk out our gifts.

You teach many art classes and also run a beautiful hub rich with inspirational creative classes. In your experience, what’s the greatest hump people have to get over to fully embrace their creative gifts?

I love that you are asking this because the whole purpose of our creative network is to make it easier for people to connect with their creativity. I feel like we could talk for hours about this topic because we hear more about this subject than any other.

I would like to suggest that we stop treating our gifts as the reward for the day to day of life. That we stop saying when we finish the laundry, dishes, bills, mopping the floors etc. THEN I will connect with what makes life rich, beautiful, meaningful like painting, baking that pie, tending your garden, playing the piano, cuddling up and stitching, learning a new instrument, having coffee with a friend, reading a book with your child. Can you imagine how beautiful our days would look and how connected we would be with our gifts if we didn’t treat them like rewards?

As an artist, what was essential for you to discover your unique creative voice?

Nothing can replace the power of practice and figuring yourself out. Nothing has been more rewarding than knowing I have practiced myself into my own style. Nothing has made me as proud when it comes to my art as someone saying, “I knew that was yours before I knew it was yours”. Practice and through that making lots of bad art to also make good art.

I know that you also have a major new offering coming up, one that is based on running a creative business. What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

I wish someone had told me that they were so proud of me for following my gifts and that they didn’t think for a second it made me less of a mom or wife but more of everything. I wish I had had cheerleaders that told me all I was showing my daughter and all I was showing my boys. I may have lost early years in my own life to pursue those natural gifts but I am so thankful that our children will have the most beautiful early understanding about who they are, where they are strong, where they want to grow and the out of the box life they can live if they choose to. I am so excited for them and all of us that get to be their cheerleaders.

Tell us more about your new Creatively Made Business course. Who is it for?

 

Creatively Made Business is a 6-month online course that takes you step-by-step through the tools your business needs to succeed and your creativity to thrive. This online business workshop is for any business owner no matter if you are in the dreaming stage, building stage or needing fresh ideas stage, this online course will help you create a plan for what is next.

Through monthly modules, video training, podcasts, downloadable worksheets, printables, live Q+A and monthly book discussions we will share tools your business needs to succeed and your creativity to thrive. This is not just for artists! This is for anyone that wants to create a plan to create a more intentional life and business.

We have been sharing online business content for over 7 years now, doing one-on-one consulting and also leading live business workshops and we knew it was time to update everything and bring it to business owners no matter where they are in life and business. We wanted to make it doable for busy creatives to take their businesses to the next level.

Creatively Made Business will begin February 3, 2020. You can find out more here.

While I have you here, there’s one more thing I have to ask you. It’s clear to anyone who follows you that one of your gifts is creating beautiful spaces. I’m in the midst of a major home renovation. I’d love to hear any advice you might have for creating home.

Everything starts and ends at home for me so I love talking about this. Creating home for me is about creating a warm and inviting space first and foremost for our family and then taking that gift and sharing it with others. People are longing to be invited and so many are missing connecting and gathering. Home is one of the sweetest ways I know to walk that out. I just don’t want anyone to not open the doors to their home because it is not done enough, clean enough, or put together enough. We just don’t have enough time in this world for that.

Thank you so much, Jeanne. It’s always a delight to chat with you. You’re an inspiration and a light.

5 Minutes of Creativity


How much time do you need for your creativity? An afternoon? A weekend? A lifetime?

How many of us leave our creativity languishing in the wings while we wait for a glorious expanse of time? What are we missing by not simply doing what we can when we can with what we have where we are?

As I go through this massive home renovation, I’ve managed to keep writing but art making? Not at all. I notice it each week as I check in with my Focus Pages in my Studio Yearbook. Not only has the “Art” section been consistently empty but a couple of weeks ago I completely cut it from the mix. I thought, I’m just not getting to it. Maybe it’s too much with all that’s going on. I’ll get to it later.

There’s only one problem with that.

Art is a part of me. It’s not something for later. It’s something for always.

Years ago I went through a wonderful Expressive Arts training program. Each week we painted, sculpted, wrote, danced, sang and played theatre games. A couple of weeks after the training was over, I was talking to my sister Shannon about the horrible mood I was in. She gently and sagely said, “Do you think it has anything to do with not having regular creative time anymore?”

*blink* *blink*

Why yes. Yes, I think it does.

It still does.

So instead of my original plan of shunting art aside, I’ve started a little practice. I’m calling it #5minutesofcreativity. I have an 8 x 10 storage box from the dollar store. In it are all sorts of paper cut-outs and scraps. (I’ve learned to gather not only images I love but also textures, colours and shapes.) It’s all dumped into the box, willy-nilly. I also toss in a sketchbook, scissors and a glue stick. With that, I have everything I need for a 5-minute burst of creative fun.

At least once a day I open up that box and give myself five minutes to make a collage. I have no plan. I sift through the papers looking for something to catch my eye. When it does, I cut it into a shape or put it on the page as-is. Then I let it inspire me to look for the next piece and the next. Before I know it, something’s appeared on the page.

I don’t stress about getting it right because what is ‘right’ after all? I just want 5 minutes of inspiration, 5 minutes of creative expression, 5 minutes of me time, 5 minutes of possibility. In that 5 minutes, my body relaxes, I stop thinking about the worries of the day and I breathe. When I’m done, I take a picture and share it on Instagram stories and then I put everything back in the box ready for tomorrow.

I love this little practice. I feel so much better for it. And yes, I still long for Art Days and expansive creating but here’s the news: I get to have both – and so do you! Saying yes to small moments of creative bliss doesn’t mean giving up on longer creative play dates. If anything, it paves the way, building momentum, keeping you in creative shape and reminding you of just how important your art and creativity really are.

This week I invite you to join me and take 5 minutes for your creativity. Collage, doodle, dance, sing – you choose. If you decide to share, tag me and use the hashtag #5minutesofcreativity. I’ll be cheering you on.