Category: Reading Nook

12 Ways to Come Alive this Spring

Creative Sparkler: Come Alive
Though it’s snowing in Toronto , it is technically spring and this is the season when everything comes to life, including you!

Here are 12 ways to slough off winter’s remains and ignite the aliveness within!

Clear & Close

1. Finish Off and Let Go

Are winter projects and to-dos hanging over you? Are you feeling overwhelmed by how much is dragging on and on and on? Give yourself the gift of a fresh start by making that final push to completion. Write a list of outstanding projects, calls and commitments. Where can you call it quits, say ‘good enough’ and/or consider yourself done? Are there items with flagging interest, unrealistic expectations or fuzzy priorities? Let them go.  Are there items that are sticky, messy and/or uncomfortable but that are also important? Do what you can to make it easier – ask for help, delegate, write a script, bring a buddy – and then get it done. You will feel so much better on the other side. Have a project so big that it’s going to continue through to spring? Acknowledge all that you have done and draw that ‘winter chapter’ to a close. Build on those successes this spring.

2. Clear Away What’s Done

With the fast pace of life today, we often dive into the next thing without completing what has gone before. We rush into the future, piling the new onto the old or unceremoniously pushing the done to the side, leaving piles of unfinished business and stuff all around. It’s chaotic and overwhelming! Instead, enjoy the beautiful ritual of clearing or putting away the complete. Wrapping up an art day by washing your brushes and bringing order to your space is a meditative gift. Tucking away heavy duvets, winter jackets and boots helps shift the energy from one season to the next. Clearing the garden and your life of all that is dead and dying gives the chance for the new and vibrant to take hold.

3. Get Fresh & Clean

When I was a kid, I never would have believed it but there is magic in cleaning and this is especially so in spring. Wash winter’s grime off those windows so you can see the world with a fresh view. Sweep last year’s dust from your doorstep and welcome in the new. Have a long, long shower, imagining all that is unneeded swirling down the drain as you emerge naked, fresh and clean, ready for what lies ahead.  Sparkle up your mirror and see today’s you.

4. Make Mental Space

As your schedule and space get free and clear, don’t forget to make space inside too. Journal out the load that is sitting on your shoulders and weighing on your heart. Take some time to chair and stare.  Breathe.  Meditate. Leave white space on your calendar. Close your eyes. Rest. Sleep.

Engage with Now

5. Get Outside

There is something about this time of year that is contagious – and I don’t mean the spring flu! When you are out in the world you can’t help but feel the earth coming to life all around you. I’m a city girl and still I can see the trees showing the hint of leaves and the foliage of crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils and tulips bursting through the ground. The air is different.  We don’t have to be super outdoorsy types to feel the way nature is coming alive. It’s wired into us. Step outside and she will help wake you up too!

6. Eat Good Food

One of the best things you can do to wake up your vitality is to feed that inner fire great fuel! What that means precisely is different for each of us but most of us can benefit from an infusion of nutrition-rich foods. I know my energy rises and falls in tandem with how many veggies I have on my plate! Pay attention to what foods bring you to life. Why not find one new nourishing meal to add to your meal plan this spring?

7. Move Your Body

Our bodies love to move, that’s why they get so frustrated with creaks and groans and aches!  They also sometimes forget! The less we’ve moved, the more they complain when we try to get started again. If you have had this conversation with your body, be gentle but persistent. It’s important that we each learn our own body’s way, that we find what works best for our health and well-being.  It might be gentle stretches. It might be power walking. It might be dancing. It might be training for a triathalon. Explore what is right for you. Be informed, get support and make movement a part of your spring.

8. Develop a Creative Practice

Creativity is by its very nature aliveness! This spring develop a creative practice that nourishes you, something that will become a regular part of your life. Write or journal for 15 minutes a day. Give yourself an hour to paint each week. Start your day with a dance or a poem. End your day with a song. More and more as your creativity comes to life, you will find yourself coming alive also.


9. Try Something New

Experimenting is a great way to wake up! It shakes up our habits and takes us out of our comfort zone. Even that nervous adrenaline that comes with trying something new gives us a little zing! Learning, growing and change are great reminders that we are alive with possibility. We have not fossilized and do not need to stay stuck in the way things are or have been. As long as we are alive, new things are possible.

10. Inspiration Practice

Develop an active practice of looking for inspiration all around you. Open your eyes and heart to the seeds of possibilities that exist everywhere. Let this practice draw you out into the world like an explorer looking to discover new vistas and to go on wild adventures. Explore a new neighbourhood. Try new foods. Attend a concert. Go to a gallery. Read a book on a topic you know nothing about. Listen closely to the people around you. Savour words. Look for colour, composition and beauty.

11. Refresh Your Look

Sometimes it feels like way too much effort (not to mention feeling too painful) to think about our personal style. Shopping is anything but fun and fashion seems to be focused on everyone but us. But remember, fashion isn’t the same as style. Expressing who you are (or want to be) right now through your clothes can lift you up. No clothing is neutral and the tired, the ratty and the “not you” block your energy instead of release it. Let those things go and start to build a wardrobe that feels better. Start simple. What’s a colour you love to wear? Do you like clothes that have a sense of humour? That are edgy? Romantic? What about accessories? Are you a minimalist or a maximalist? Find one way each day to say, “This is me” with what you wear.

12. Commit to a Seasonal Creative Project

We’ve talked about creating a practice, something you do on a regular basis to bring the aliveness of creativity into your life. Let me also encourage you to take on a creative project this season, a tangible expression of your creative heart. Choose something that challenges you a bit but that also feels doable, something you will enjoy creating and look forward to completing. What if this spring you made a zine? Threw a party? Started a blog? Sewed an apron? Made a jewellery collection? When you pour yourself into a creative project, you undeniably affirm your creative capacity – and what could be more alive than that!

Focusing on bringing yourself to life is a beautiful way to connect to the natural energies of spring. Please don’t feel like you have to take on all of these suggestions at once in order to do that. The point is for you to come alive not for you to become overburdened! Pick one suggestion that has resonance and give it a try. Once you’re rocking that, try another and then another. Enjoy the process and let yourself experience the magic of spring.

The Power of Getting Uncomfortable

One of the things we often look for in our creative lives is a sense of ease and flow. When things click into place or synchronicity appears, we get that wonderful reinforcement that we are in the right place, doing the right thing and all is well.

But here’s a wild thought. Sometimes when things are uncomfortable and hard, we are also in the right place, doing the right thing. Not always. But sometimes.

Does that ring true to you?

Can you think of a time when everything was hard and uncomfortable and you were on the wrong road? What did it feel like? How did you know the road was ultimately not for you?

Now, can you think of a time when the path was hard and uncomfortable but still, you knew you were on the right path? What did that feel like? How did you know that despite it being difficult, it was right for you?

Answering these questions will help you hone your discernment, a powerful ally when choosing whether to brave the discomfort or walk away.

This topic is on my mind because this week I had two experiences of the latter, choosing to stay with the discomfort in order to get to something wonderful, and it was so rewarding!

First, I had the opportunity to be a part of an amazing event. The choir I sing with was invited by NBC to create two performance videos in support of their upcoming live Easter event: Jesus Christ Superstar. I signed up immediately since my sisters and I have been singing this musical for as long as I can remember (and my brother endured!) This week, not only did we get to belt out these tunes like we were making a rock video but we sang along with Swedish Idol winner Erik Gronwall while holding him up as he body surfed the crowd! We also sang with Brandon Victor Dixon, Tony nominee and star of Hamilton, who blew the roof off the Great Hall! After his rendition of Superstar, literally everyone around us was saying, “Oh, my god.” “Oh, my god.” “Oh, my god.” He took our breath away! I wish I’d been able to take pictures or video to share with you but the whole production is under wraps. I’ll share more as soon as anything is released!

I would never have had that phenomenal experience if I hadn’t waded through the deep discomfort of going to choir in the first place. In the Reading Nook, I share the story of Braving the Road to Belonging and what helped me finally go and sing. I hope it inspires you to brave your own discomfort in service of what calls.

My second opportunity to get uncomfortable came on the heels of this singing event. Last week I came down with a wicked cold, which is why there were no new Behind the Scenes episodes – my voice was gone! Despite being under the weather, I followed through on a commitment I had made: a dance audition. Yep. I said it. I went to a dance audition. Dance is my first love but I thought my days of performance and auditions were long (long) behind me. Still, when the opportunity called, I answered. Was it uncomfortable? I tried not to think about it! What happened? I wrote a post about it here.

Sometimes everything comes together and the Universe clears the way. When that happens, let’s embrace the gift and celebrate! Let’s enjoy the grace and be rich with gratitude! But let’s not make the mistake of believing it must always be that way. Let’s not wait until the road is easy, free and clear because we may be waiting a long, long time.

Sometimes the Universe issues a challenging invitation because she is beckoning us to grow. She wants us to unfurl into an even deeper expression of who we are and to learn what we are capable of. As creatives we do that beautifully through creating.

I invite you to explore the question of when discomfort and difficulty is a sign to stop and when it is an opportunity to grow. Ask yourself, “How do I know the difference?” Draw on your life experience. Discover your own wisdom. This is not a simple question but it’s a powerful one and worthy of contemplation.

If in your exploration you start to notice something you’ve been aching for or dreaming of, something that is just on the other side of a bit of bravery and effort, something that feels like a yes, even though it’s hard, make a move. You might just be on to something wonderful.

Tending to Ourselves when Suffering Is All Around

Fire and Ice
When my mother was dying, it was exhausting in every way imaginable, despite the great support we received from palliative care. I remember one conversation with the support coordinator where I passionately outlined my concerns for not only my mom but also for my sisters. She offered solutions and then looked at me and said, “You know, we’re here for you too.” I blinked. For a moment I didn’t understand what she was saying and then my eyes filled with tears. There was support for me too?

Sometimes when all around us there is strife and need we forget that we are a part of the healing equation. Tending to ourselves is important though it seems like the least reasonable thing to do.

How can I sleep when my loved one is suffering?

How can I take time to write, when there is a crisis?

How can I have my own feelings when clearly this is not about me?

We human beings are social animals and we live and love and work in constellations. What happens to others in our world happens to us also. We are not separated, isolated or alone, which means we are not free from shared suffering or support.

Our lives are intertwined with the lives of others and how we care for ourselves makes a difference for everyone.

I often say that a garden is a gift to all of us. When I walk through the neighbourhood and pass by a well-loved patch of land, it nourishes me. I say thank you not only to the Universe for creating tulips, peonies and tall grasses but also to the hands and hearts that turned the soil and tended the plants.

Each of us is a garden. When we are fully resourced, strong and blooming we are better able to bring light, love and care to any situation.

Here are the things I found most important for tending myself while supporting others:

Eat Well. For me, this is always the greatest challenge. In tough situations, I find myself just wanting to eat something fast and comforting but I’ve learned that taking the time and making the effort to focus on fresh foods, particularly vegetables, and mindful eating makes a difference.

Rest Well. Take naps. Go to bed early. If you can’t sleep, close your eyes and power down, even for 10 minutes. Your body, mind and soul are in overdrive. They need recuperation time. Give it.

Move. Just as we need rest, we need movement. Stress, intensity, crisis, challenge, all of it puts immense demands on your body. Moving our bodies helps the built-up energy burn up and pass through. Movement helps us let go and release things we might not even know we are holding. Moving our bodies helps us stay healthy, free and agile, ready for the tasks at hand.

Journal. Conflict, stress and strife bring up all sorts of feelings. When someone else is in crisis or need, we often push down our own feelings, dismissing them as trivial, selfish or inappropriate. It may be true that your loved one doesn’t currently have the capacity to respond to your feelings but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valid or don’t need expression. Turn to your journal and express yourself fully, completely and without judgment. Let it be a safe place for you to let out what is in your heart and on your mind.

Take “Me Time.”  Even if your caretaking responsibilities are heavy, (especially if your caretaking responsibilities are heavy) you need time that is just for you. Give yourself quiet moments away from the crisis so you can refill your well, remember who you and breathe.  You may also find that you need some time with other people, time to express your heart or to have fun and remember the light and love that exists in the world.

Create. As creatives, our souls settle when we use our hands, hearts, minds and bodies in the act of creation. Write poetry. Knit a scarf. Dance your feelings before going to bed. Play with plasticene. Cut paper and collage. Not only will these practices give your energy somewhere to flow but they will also remind you of the power and possibility of creation even in the midst of the hardest of times. This does the heart good.

As Best You Can, Tend Your Life. It’s hard. It’s hard to show up to work, to pay your bills, to plan your meals, to clean the kitchen. Sometimes it is the last thing you want to do but when everything else is out of control, it can be grounding to keep regular life going, to keep daily activities flowing. Plus you won’t add the layer of worry that inevitably comes from letting things slip or have to throw yourself in with the furious energy of catching up when things finally settle down (if they ever do). You may even find a new sense of meaning, joy and gratitude for everyday, normal things. That certainly happened for me.

No matter where this message finds you today, may these practices serve you well. May they support you when all is well and when all is trying. May you and all your loved ones be free of suffering and strife. May you trust the knowing that tending your soil is a gift to the world.

The Vulnerability of Learning – and How to Get Through It

If you prefer to listen, hear this on the Creative Living with Jamie podcast.

I am currently most of the way through Meditation Instructor Training with Susan Piver, who is my meditation teacher and has been for several years. Today I am scheduled to give her meditation instruction. When we had booked this one-on-one session, I originally thought it was to discuss my development in the program and I was excited. Then I find out I would have to demonstrate my development in the program and I was anything but!

Of course, this makes sense. My instructor should witness my ability to offer instruction before she certifies that I am able to do so. But wow, it makes me feel wobbly inside.

Do you get like that too? You just love learning. You’ll read all the books, take all the classes but when someone askes you to show what you’ve learned – ACK!

Last week in class I had to lead a fellow student in meditation for the first time and it was the same thing. I couldn’t believe how anxious I was. I mean, it’s weird because I have led hundreds, even thousands, of people in all sorts of practices, including guided meditations. In fact, the guided meditations in my full moon dreamboard workshops are often people’s favourite part.

So why am I nervous?

It’s pretty simple really. It’s a new skill.

I am learning a particular practice from a particular tradition,. There are specific steps in this practice and though the way is not new to me, I have been practicing for years, the teaching of it is.

It is always awkward when you are learning a new skill. There will always be a period of discomfort, of uncertainty, of finding your feet. That doesn’t change the fact that if you want to learn to do the thing, eventually you have to do the thing.

If you read everything you can get your hands on about how to make a pie and you talk to everyone you know about how to make a pie and you watch YouTube videos on how to make a pie and you register for a class on how to make a pie but you never make a pie, do you actually know how to make a pie? My tummy would say no!
And even worse, with several types of skills and practices, that really awful awkward stage will be – in fact, it must be – witnessed by others. Blech!

You can’t perfect the tango or the waltz without a partner. You can’t get hone your coaching skills without a client to coach. You can’t improve as a teacher without getting in there and teaching students.

You can’t improve leading, partner or performance skills without other people. And it’s going to be vulnerable.

What helps get through the awkwardness and the vulnerability of learning?

1. Know that it’s worth it.

What makes an actor get on stage even when they are wracked with nerves? What makes an entrepreneur launch her first product even though she is terrified she has built it and no one will come? What makes a photographer put on her first show even though no one may like her work at all?

We brave these things when our desire is greater than our discomfort.

For me, with meditation, with coaching, with entrepreneurship, my desire is the same – I want to help. My desire to be of benefit is stronger than my fear of being awkward or getting it wrong and so I persist.

2. Trust there will be gifts in the mess.

As you try on your fresh new skills, as express your newfound knowledge and apply your learning, you find all the places where things fall into place and discover all the places where you are deeply uncertain, and you will learn. The good bits will sink deeper into your soul and the missing bits will reveal themselves, giving you a chance to do something about it.

As I practice offering meditation instruction, I find myself feeling more and more familiar with the steps. I am like a guide becoming more and more familiar with the path. Yes, I must pay attention to what is here and present now but I am also growing in confidence that I know the general lay of the land. When I make a misstep, I have more knowledge for next time. I have deepened my learning and become a better teacher.
And in the midst of this, my imperfect teaching, the student received the gift of meditation. If we show up with earnestness and devotion, if we honour the work, ourselves and one another, there will be benefit to all three. You can count on it.

3. Remember, we’re all just people.

Something Susan said in our last class made all the difference to me. She said, “Remember, I am just a person.” Oh. Right. She is not the all-seeing, all-knowing guru, the voice of judgment. She is not simply “the one who will deem me worthy -or not.” How easy that is to forget. This is so often how we experience not only teachers but any authority figures (e.g. our parents, our boss, a publisher).

When we are starting with something we truly want and facing someone who has the power to grant it or deny it, we have a tendency to hand over to them all of our power. In our minds we create a relationship where they are elevated and we are diminished, where they are not only saying yes or no in this moment to this thing but they are opening the gate to a whole new world or they casting us down into the depths never to rise again.

Why all the drama?

We are all just people.

One moment, one performance, one no or many, none of these things diminish who you are. You are a person. You are of value whether you pass this trial or not. This is not a measure of you. It is simply a measure of this moment. Relieve yourself and the other of the burden of judgment and stand rooted in the knowing of your own value.
We are all just people and when we remember that, the path becomes less fraught and easier to navigate. Today, if I can remember that Susan is a person, I will be able to show up with the truth of what I’ve learned and the desire to be of benefit. I am sure that will result in a more meaningful and positive experience for both of us.

By the way, it’s vulnerable for me to share this with you. I know you might think, man, Jamie still gets nervous about this stuff? She’s intimidated by her teacher? She’s insecure about her abilities? Hmm… she must not be as awesome as I thought. How can I trust her to show me the way?

But this is the point exactly. I share this to say I’m a person too. A person who is always learning and stretching, a person committed to being of benefit, a person striving to learn these lessons well so that that she can pass them along to you.

Be here with me in personhood. Let’s be on this journey together.

For all of us there will be discomfort when we learn and grow. Every time it will be awkward and uncomfortable. But with more awareness and more experience, eventually we and discomfort can become old friends or at least familiar cohorts. Every time we step into something that is stretching our wings, we will find one another again.

Discomfort: Hey, I see you’re learning something new again. I’ve been sleeping but that woke me right up so I thought I’d stop by and see what’s up. Do you think you could wrap this up quickly? I really want to get back to my nap.

Me: Oh, hi, I thought I’d run into you here. Sorry I interrupted your sleep but I knew you wouldn’t want to miss out on this! I mean, it seems that whenever things get exciting you show up. In fact, I’m going to take your presence as a good omen that I am in the right place. Thanks for saying hi. I’m going to run over and hang out with Desire for a bit. Why don’t you grab a coffee? On second thought, how about an herbal tea?

So, if you find yourself learning, stretching, growing this week, say hi to discomfort but don’t hang out with her too long. Instead hang out with desire. Trust that if you show up and honour the work, your self and one another, there will be gifts even with (or maybe because of) the tender vulnerability of awkwardness. And remember, we’re all just people – and each of us is worthy and of value no matter what – and that means you too.

I’ll try to remember all of this too as I offer Susan meditation instruction today and as I face the last weeks of my Instructor Training. Send me some good vibes. I’ll send you some too.

I Believe in You

Throw Kindness like Confetti

I believe in you.

It’s something we don’t hear often enough, something that so many of us long to hear.

When was the last time you heard those words?

When was the last time you said them?
There is power in these four simple words: I believe in you. We all want to hear them, to receive them, to let them sink into our hearts.
But it’s rare and it’s vulnerable.

It’s vulnerable for me to say them to you. Maybe you’ll think I’m being disingenuous. But the truth is I mean it.

Here’s the thing: I have never met a person who was unworthy of believing in.

When you get down underneath the normal, everyday self, the self that is full of hurts and habits, the social self, the presentational self, and you get into the soft and tender bits, the unsullied heart of a human being, inevitably and unquestionably there is someone to believe in.
That belief isn’t that you are going to fulfill my expectations. Who am I to have expectations of you?
That belief isn’t even that you will necessarily fulfill all of your own. (Though you might!)
That belief is that you are a boon to this world. That you are a magnificent constellation of gifts and talents that will light up the world as they are revealed. I believe that you are like a seed ready to burst forth into the most exquisite expression of who you are meant to be.That inside of you is a grand potential to unfurl into an exquisite individual like the world has never seen before. And I believe that “belief in you” is one of the ingredients that will make that happen.

I’m not saying that you need me or anyone else to believe in you in order to fulfill your destiny. You have the capability of growing no matter what.

What I am saying is that each of us grows a little stronger, a little braver, a little shinier when the light of belief shines on us, when we know that somewhere out in the world there is someone who sees the good in us, who is cheering us on.

So, dear reader, I believe in you.

And I encourage you to tell someone out there that you believe in them too. It will make a difference. I promise.

I’m Taking My Blog Back

Jamie at Coffee Shop

I began blogging over 10 years ago and it changed my life. What started as a fun structure to inspire my creativity turned into a community of connection, a calling and eventually a creative business. When I wrote that first one-paragraph post, I had no idea that it would turn out like this!

That was back in the days before blogging became a lifestyle business, before it became an entrepreneurial necessity. It wasn’t about branding; it was abut bonding. It was about expressing ourselves and in so doing discovering that around the world there were people like us, people who loved to paint or bake or write poetry. It was about suddenly discovering there were members of your tribe in Boston and Edinburgh and Adelaide. It was about sharing our stories, both vulnerable and triumphant. It was about sharing our creations both wobbly and wonderful.  It was about square pegs who found themselves struggling in round holes, people in regular jobs living regular lives who wanted to spend the weekend tossing sequins in the air at the beach.

Blogging helped us remember who we were on the inside. Blogging helped us come alive.

In those days, it was exciting to think that maybe, just maybe, you could make some money through your blog. Maybe you could get some sponsors, maybe enough to pay for your hosting or maybe even some art supplies. Maybe you could create a little e-course that your community would embrace and enjoy. It was a time when you could get a little “what if” twinkle in your eye, imagining that maybe you could earn a living sharing and creating from your heart. Imagine!

I followed that dream.  I invested in professional training so that I could coach the creatives that I so wanted to help. I started teaching classes about listening to our souls, finding and following our dreams and discovering our creative hearts. I remember the deep joy and satisfaction of completing my first offering, Soul Reflections, a self-study workshop that helped you use collage and journaling to discover the truth that was deep in your heart. And I remember that ‘dream come true’ feeling of people buying it – not to mention the deep fulfillment of people letting me know it made a difference.

I created something that made a difference.

That’s what it was and is all about.

Then suddenly the world got hip to blogging and this grassroots art form got professionalized.  Suddenly it wasn’t just regular people writing about their creative lives. It was rock stars, bestselling authors and self-help gurus. Bloggers were talking SEO and making sure their post titles were rich with key words. Blogging meant identifying your target audience and developing your brand. It meant having a consistent voice and making sure you delivered value.  It meant compelling copy and professional photographs. It meant HD video and art that was worthy. It meant sharing 10 Top Tips for Your Creative Success not 10 Things You Might Not Know about Me. (That was relegated to Facebook.)

And just like that blogging went from grassroots to glossy.

What that meant for me, as a burgeoning creative entrepreneur, was that I started to leave myself out of my blog. (I know that may sound weird coming from a woman whose site literally has her name in it.)

As I started to do more coaching, teach more classes, as I started to become a business, this is what I started to believe:

Nobody wants to know about the meal I had for dinner, unless I am a food blogger and have Pinterest-worthy photos.

Nobody wants to see pictures of my walk to the Beaches with my husband unless I am sharing travel-blogger type info about the neighbourhood or including a useful lesson about quality time with your partner.

Nobody wants to see what I am creating unless it’s Etsy worthy or I’m teaching the techniques used to create it.

Only “useful” things.

Only “beautiful” things.

Only “well-written” things.

Only “relevant” things.

Only “strategic” things.

Only “on-brand” things.

What started out as a loving and careful desire to focus on what was useful, relevant and inspiring became so restrictive that my blog didn’t feel like my blog anymore. This thing that had been such a powerful and important part of my life belonged to “the business”  Suddenly it felt like there was no room for me.

Maybe that’s appropriate. I have been wrestling with this question for quite some time. A part of me has thought this is a natural evolutionary process. My business has come into its own and of course the blog has developed with it. Of course, I want to offer what is useful. Of course, I want my blog to be beautiful, well-written and relevant. Of course, I want my business to be strategic and a recognizable brand. Of course, I do.

But I also want to be a person. A person with a blog. This blog.

I want to share too many cat pictures and posts about everything from my neighbourhood escapades to my art supplies, from becoming a more confident traveller to learning to make pasta. I want this space to reflect the depth and breadth of my creative life, the messy, the silly, the epic, the beautiful, the painful, just as it is. And I want to do that alongside resources, help, inspiration, classes, etc.

So, I’m taking my blog back.

I’m kickin’ it old school.

And I’m going to see what happens.

Maybe I’ll lose you. Maybe my life, my casual writing, my imperfect photography, my wild experiments, my current obsessions, my modest home, my artistic attempts, even my aging self, maybe that won’t be aspirational for you. Maybe it won’t be a Pinterest board, a shiny magazine or a 7-figure business (6-figures is so 2015).

But it will be me.

And maybe, just maybe, if I take some place for me amidst the work, you’ll realize that on your own blog, in your own life and in your own business there is also place for you.

Maybe together we’ll remember that we can dream and be real all at the same time.

That’s what life is all about.

A Capsule Wardrobe for Your Art Supplies? Meet Your Supply Set

Perhaps you’ve heard of a capsule wardrobe – a small collection of interchangeable pieces that simplifies your choices and makes your life easier. What if we applied the same principles to our art supplies?

So often we creatives get overwhelmed by all the options available to us. We’ve stockpiled mounds of supplies but don’t know what to choose or use. We’ve bought 17 thin-tipped black permanent pens looking for “the one.” We’ve been gifted with yarn that’s pretty but not practical. We experimented with embossing and realized it wasn’t for us. We’ve compensated for not having creative time by buying creative supplies. We love plenty but at some point joyful abundance becomes a mess of “stuff” that makes our hearts sink not soar.

Cut through creative chaos by creating a supply set.

Let’s start this as a mental exercise designed to help us get clear on which supplies we do love, want and use. Let’s imagine bringing our supplies down to a collection of go-to favourites: a supply set. This set consists of two levels: the core and the complement.

The core is made up of those things that you can’t live without, those things that are so deeply a part of your creative life that you use them all the time. Identifying these will make it quick and easy for you to know which supplies must always be on-hand and restocked. You’ll also know exactly what to put together when you travel. These are the non-negotiables, the must-haves, the “I’m committed to” items in your creative toolkit.

The complement are those things that round out your supplies so you feel free to do the types of creative projects that call to you. No, you won’t have every colour or variation but you will have more than enough to create something wonderful. Having a well thought-out complement instead of just “more” keeps your energy focused and your space uncluttered. You could change up your complement each season. In the fall it might be full of crochet and card-making supplies. In the winter, colouring books and coloured pencils. Knowing your complement makes it easier to have everything organized and available. By eliminating the need to make multiple choices, set up and strike each time, you can spend your creative time actually creating.

So, here’s the key question. How many items in a Supply Set?

A Supply Set is 7 Core Items and 33 Complement Items.

Now, it’s going to be up to you what constitutes an item. Go with what seems reasonable and in the spirit of the project. For example, I might consider a box of crayons an item even though there are 64 crayons in that box. I would do this because it is small and contained. Whereas “yarn” or “paint” is more of a category than a component. There’s no way to draw any boundaries around that.

How specific do you get when choosing your items? Do what is useful to you. You might say  “a watercolour paint set” but if you really mean “my Pelikan opaque watercolour set with 24 colours,” then say that. If the specifics are important, be specific.

Maybe you’re already wondering whether you can tweak the numbers to suit your needs. As always in the studio, this is meant to be a support and a starting point not a set of immutable rules.  I encourage you to experiment to figure out what works for you but before you do, see what happens when you play with the 7/33 configuration. Give that a chance to teach you something about your self and your priorities when it comes to art supplies.

Here’s My 7/33 Art Supply Set

I had fun and learned a lot about my creative priorities when I put together my Supply Set. You’ll see that with some things I’m very specific and with others more general. I noticed that reflects how experienced I am with a particular medium. I know, for example, which scissors I want to use but feel less sure about which paintbrushes are essential. That’s useful. It draws my attention to where I still learning and I will refine the list over time.

With the complement, you’ll also notice that I didn’t group my supplies by category. Instead I focused on priority order not only so I could get a sense what was most important but also to notice if/where the energy of the list starts to peter out. If I found myself adding things for the sake of hitting 33 items, I would choose to go with a smaller list.

I’ve included some links if I am referring to a very specific item or to give you a general idea of what I’m talking about.

My Core 7:

  1. journal
  2. black ink finepoint Uniball pen
  3. my camera
  4. Cutterbee scissors
  5. UHU glue stick
  6. Prismacolour coloured pencils
  7. a magazine (Vogue/Artful Blogging/Arabella)

My Complement 33:

1. My Pelikan opaque watercolour set with 24 colours
2. A round #10 watercolour brush
3. A water brush pen
4. Strathmore art journal
5. A pad of watercolour paper (cold press)(example)
6. a Uniball Signo white gel pen
7. A set of gel pens (including glitter)(example)
8. Watercolour pencils (example)
9. A set of chalk pastels
10. 3 permanent black pens of varying tip sizes
11. A set of crayons
12. A set of markers
13. A set of oil pastels
14. A few copic markers or other brand that goes on translucent (example)
15. A larger flat watercolour brush
16. A smaller detail-sized watercolour brush
17. Matte medium
18. Gesso
19. A dedicated brush for medium
20.-27. Acrylic paints
27.-29. Acrylic paint brushes
30. Set of graphite pencils
31. Kneadable eraser
32. Gelli plates
33. Xuan paper

When I look at this list I feel anything but deprived. In fact, I find it a well-stocked studio! I even included some playful and new extras. Could I use more brushes? Sure. More paints? Always! Are there wonderful things that didn’t make the cut? You bet. Stamps, dyes, ephemera, paper cutters, punches, fabric, wire, yarn – none of that made the list. That’s useful information. Also, though they are in my complement, I actually consider my watercolour set and round brush a part of my core. That’s useful information too.

Make your 7/33 Supply Set and see what it reveals to you. If you find yourself feeling freer, clearer and more inspired, take the next step and put together your set. No need to get rid of anything. Just box up what’s not on your list and create an inviting layout with what is. As you live with your Supply Set, see how it impacts your creative experience.  Is it easier to get started? Is there anything you miss? Is there something you thought essential that you never pick up at all? Let this be a process of discovery and refinement about you as a creative artist.

The key to our creative lives is that we actually get creating. If you find yourself overwhelmed by stuff and supplies, if you find it difficult to focus and prioritize, make a supply set and see where it leads. As you become more and more attuned to the needs and desires of your creative heart, you’ll know how to choose a 7/33 list that fits you just right.

What would you put in your 7/33 Supply Set?