Category: Reading Nook

Over 50 Ways to Lift Your Spirits

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that things have felt heavy for quite a long time. This week I realized just how many of my strategies for tough times are about easing down and settling in, especially during winter, but right now my spirit craves some lightness!

I’m not talking about stepping over the hard stuff or our big feelings. I’m talking about rising out of the muck long enough to shake off what doesn’t need to be there. I’m talking about giving our spirits a chance to remember exuberance and joie de vivre.

I started gathering a list of the kinds of things that lift me up and then I invited people on social media* to do the same. So this week I have for you…

A List for Lifting Your Spirits!

  • Fresh air, dancing, having a shower, changing the sheets, eating fruit, tidying my desk, beautiful scents, sunshine, kids books (Jamie)
  • Fresh flowers, singing, swinging on a swing, being on the edge of any body of water (Brittany)
  • Walking to my studio and being mindful (Joy)
  • I enjoy watching birds at the feeder. If you don’t have a feeder there is actually YouTube videos showing bird feeders. My cat likes to watch those. (Cheryl)
  • Flowers and deep, beautiful fragrances. Coffee and in-person convo with friends who share belly laughs (Ozarkmamaw)
  • Lavender, escapism through books, old films, and deconstructing music, folks like Jamie Ridler. (Heather) (Thanks, Heather!)
  • Music, just fixing coffee for me and my hubby, and retro shows, and this week just playing in my planner-journal-sketchbook with stickers and watercolor and making collages with old and new photos. (Mayte)
  • My favorite candle, flowers, music, painting, taking a walk and observing nature. (Kristen)
  • Bird song always, fresh flowers, a lovely scented candle and just sitting still for a few moments (Linda)
  • Good books (Carol)
  • Tea, puppy snuggles, doodling and bopping around the house to bad 80’s dance tunes. (Lynne)
  • Lighting a candle as the sun slips away, flowers in the winter and walks in the snow (when it is not TOO cold) Watching my dog romp and play in snow drifts and cozy evenings by the fire. (Susan)
  • Seeing new puppies on my walk around the city. (Ellen)
  • Cooking (new and favourite things), singing and writing songs , knitting and crocheting, splitting firewood, shoveling snow, talking with friends on the phone, dancing (Alex)
  • Squirrel gazing (jlightmuse)
  • Journaling, feel good movies, good comedy movies or videos, coloring, decluttering, a hot cup of tea and a small but decedent dessert. (Angela)
  • Lighting candles, moisturizing, taking pictures, sitting in the sun, clearing the kitchen sink, opening the windows. (Tracey)
  • I like to wash dishes and tidy the kitchen (My wife likes that I do this, so I also earn major brownie points). I find it very calming. We have a regular schedule taking the dog outside, which in cold weather is something I love, and Sam seems to love too. Sometimes I’m in the here & now with Sam & the air, sometimes lost in memories. But walking a dog has always been a source of a natural high for me. (Leslie)
  • Quiet morning with my Bible and journal, bath and a novel, catnap, chopping veggies for a soup or salad, FaceTime with my granddaughter, a short walk if it’s not below zero, jigsaw puzzle, and a piece of dark chocolate (Artsyfaithchic)
  • Doing something for someone else. (Pamela)
  • My greatest joy is that a family of magpies have moved into my neighborhood. They bring me great joy and use my bird bath during the day. (Susan)
  • Dancing around my apartment to Kate Bush. (Kate)
  • A few of mine are walking by the ocean, dancing around the house to my favorite music, and watching silly cat videos on IG.(Cathy)
  • Birdsong, vibrant colors, fun designs, fashion, playing music on my piano, walking and listening to Art Juice podcast, prayer/meditation, drawing/cartooning. (Dawn)
  • Singing, walking in the woods, the smell of pine trees in the sun, laughing, good movies, soundtracks, lavender, getting lost in my art, anything by James Horner, Star Trek (new ones), Downton Abbey, Love Actually, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Big, 300. Hugs from my kids. (Sarah)
  • Walking outdoors. Painting. Reading. Puttering. (Hiro)
  • Reading a good book in my comfy bed, playing with my granddaughter, painting and art making, getting outside, hanging with my chickens, cuddling with my dog, and watching birds.(Susan M)
  • Snow! Cuddles from my pug! Good Chocolate! Hugs! (Amy-Lynn)
  • I agree with those who said birdsong is uplifting. Also walks in the woods and songs from my teen years like Lucky Star by Madonna. (Amy)
  • Doing anything creative. Being with young children or Dogs. Swimming. Music. Podcasts . Feel good movies. (Angella)
  • As for simple things that lift my spirits, I’ll add that watching the hummingbirds at our feeder is wonderful, even when some of them are running off the other birds to keep the nectar all to themselves! A walk through my local nursery is also a wonderful way to be in nature, if a botanical garden isn’t close by. (Monicathecreativebeast)
  • Snowshoeing on a bed of fresh snow. (Jeanne)
  • Skate skiing in the winter, riding my bike in the non winter months. I need to do more of these. They make me feel child like again. I will skate ski this weekend! (Suzanne)
  • Journaling, walking with my dog in nature, gratitude practice (including with our teen boys around the dinner table each night), date nights with my honey. (Lynda)
  • Music

I hope this adds to your repertoire of goodness. I found that just reading these musings soothed my soul! I hope they do the same for you. Let’s keep embracing what uplifts us and, as we do, keep lifting one another up too.

Returning to the Studio

I’m back in the Studio! Last week I tiptoed in gently. Did a little tidy up. Caught up on correspondence. Lit the fire, so to speak. And I remembered how much I love my work.

When I left my PhD in drama incomplete, I had no idea what was next. I couldn’t have envisioned the creative coaching work I do or the online courses I teach because those things literally did not exist!

When I went to my perfectly fine day job, I didn’t imagine that one day I would be running my own business, helping people reunite with their creative spirit. I just went to work knowing my soul was struggling and there had to be ‘more’.

I want you to know that just because you can’t name what you want or see where you’re going doesn’t mean that something amazing isn’t ahead.

My journey started by my recognizing three things that had always been with me: the arts, a love of people and a tendency to do my own thing.

Then I found coaching and said yes.
Then I found blogging and dove in.
Then I began working with clients.
Then I braved teaching a class.

Now I run a successful online creative studio with coaching, classes and content that has made a difference in the lives of thousands of people around the world!

I am in the right place doing the right thing even though I had no idea where I was going for most of the journey.

Even if you don’t know where you are going, you can get there from here.

What do you love? What has always been with you? What brave action will you take next?

There are all kinds of creatives. Which are you?

After almost 20 years of coaching creatives, I can tell you that there is no singular artistic ‘type’. We are not all flakey or flamboyant. We’re not all boho or beautiful or snobby or dramatic.

Artists can…

be left-brained or right-brained
be introverts or extroverts
be messy or meticulous
be dreamy or pragmatic
be shy or outgoing
be slapdash or perfectionists
be any age
be intense or laidback
be moody or even-tempered
be decadent or moderate
be pretentious or down-to-earth
be broke or wealthy
be sensitive or thick-skinned
be eccentric or conventional
be show-offs or recluses
be minimalist or maximalists
love nature or the city
love beauty or the ugly
love harmony or disruption
love to shock or to soothe
wear bright colours or black
thrive on stage or behind the scenes
make a living with art or never sell a thing.

Artists are any and all of these things and everything in between.

What matters is that you embrace the way the creative spirit shows up in you. If you are an outgoing urban 72-year-old who couldn’t give a damn what other’s think – bring that to your art. If you’re a sensitive nature lover with a pragmatic bent, bring that to your art. If your left-brain loves order, pattern and predictability – bring that to your art.

One of the greatest gifts of art is that whoever we are, whatever we love, art can hold it all.

Don’t listen to any limitations the world offers about being an artist. Be who you are. Love what you love. Create what’s in your heart.

Everything I do here in the studio is to support you in doing just that. In Devotion, you’ll embrace your artistic identity and immerse yourself in your artwork. With the Studio Yearbook, you’ll develop creative practices that will help you discover and awaken the creative you truly are. And in our year-end Planning Day, you’ll dance between structure and flexibility to design a 2022 that fits just right for you and your priorities.

I’ve spent a lifetime finding and embracing my own creative ways and have built a career helping others do the same. There is nothing more beautiful to me in this world than each of us showing up and sharing exactly who we are.

I celebrate the artist in you!

Believe in Your Own Creative Magic

I can still feel in my bones the moment I committed to creativity.

After becoming a coach, I attended a leadership program. In partners, we worked on identifying our personal core mission, that certain something that we were ready to be a stand for in this world. As a part of the exercise, I drew a simple figure and at the centre I put their creative fire.

My partner asked me why creativity was so important to me. Words tumbled out of my mouth as I tried to find the answer. In those ramblings, I discovered that it wasn’t just about the arts, though I love them dearly. For the first time I found my deep belief that when we create one thing, we foster in ourselves the belief that we can create other things – many things, maybe anything.

We begin to believe in our own creative magic.

I don’t use the term ‘magic’ lightly here. I use it to mean the process of transforming ideas, dreams and imaginings into something tangible and real in this world. When you wield this magic with your poems and your paints, your sewing machine and your songs, you nurture a growing belief in yourself and what you are capable of.

Before you know it, the magic spills over into your life. You start asking yourself, “What if?’ and making choices you never would have before. You start saving for grad school. You quit your obligatory committee and use that time to learn Italian. You take a road trip and move across country. You cut your hair and start dressing more like yourself. You say no to overtime. You say yes to dancing. You send that manuscript in.

And it doesn’t end there.

As you recognize the impact of creative magic in your life, you move differently in the world. Your “what if” questions expand beyond yourself. You believe in the possibility of positive change. You’ve not only experienced it, you’ve created it. You wonder, what else could get better? How might creative magic be of service to your community, to your loved ones, to the world? What is possible if we all bring our creative capacity to bear?

It’s no little thing when you show up for your art. It’s the spark that starts the magic, a magic fully capable of turning visions into reality – in creative work, in life and in the world.

Keep creating and encourage others to do the same.

Let’s defy the naysayers, the critics and the gatekeepers.

Let’s create and take our magic back.

Discover the Keys to Your Creativity

If you look back over your creative life, when were you the most creative? When did you feel artistically alive, inspired and committed?

If your first thought is “never”, I invite you to look again. Was it planning a party or a trip? Singing in choir? Decorating your first apartment? Sewing a Halloween costume? Pouring heartbreak into poetry? Making gifts? Refinishing furniture? Spending time in the garden?

Take It to Your Journal (1): Pull out your journal and write about a time when you felt creatively alive, when you were so ‘in it’ that time flew by. It doesn’t matter if you were 9 or 90, if it was last week or decades ago. Whatever creative memory feels rich and right is perfect.

We can look at these experiences to find clues about what brings us creatively alive. What was present? Who was present? What were we doing? What was happening in our mind, body and heart, as well as in the art?

Here’s an example from my creative life. This summer I decided to take a roll of paper and some paint out back for an afternoon of working big and messy. I put on my overalls and my headphones. I listened to music and danced in the sun. I fought with the wind, who constantly freed the paper from the weights I’d put down, and I (mostly) laughed when I lost that battle. I sprayed, spritzed, dabbled and glopped. I painted with a brush, my fingers, sticks and leaves. I created all sorts of fresh and ugly work, found moments of beauty and certainly a lot that held energy and interest. The afternoon passed in a heartbeat and when I was done, I couldn’t wait to do it again! I have been using bits and pieces of that wild and messy artwork ever since!

Reflecting on my experience, what can I discover about the keys to my creativity?

  • Overall: The whole experience was steeped in a sense of freedom.
  • The Space: There was room for me to move and it was okay for me to make a mess.
  • Clothing: I could move easily in my clothes and had no worries about getting messy in them.
  • Solitude: Being alone meant I only had to worry about my own judgments and expectations. If I could let those go, I was totally free.
  • Music: Music bypassed my brain and spoke to my heart and body, inspiring me to dance and to open up to fuller expression
  • Nature: The wind kept me from taking myself too seriously!

Take it to Your Journal (2): Now reflect on your own experience. Going back to your memory of creative aliveness, what keys can you discover? What was present? What was absent? What contributed to your creative energy and flow?

Finding these keys releases us from the belief that what we need is an exact replication. (Yes, that retreat in Bali was amazing but it’s not the only road to creative freedom.) Getting locked into the specifics limits our options and keeps us stuck in the past. If I believed the only way for me to be creatively alive was to work big and messy outside, I’d spend the entire winter in despair! Not helpful. Instead, I can use my keys. How can I create freedom of movement? Where else might it be okay to get messy? What playlists can I cultivate to nourish my expression? How can I create periods of solitude for the good of my creative heart? What else can help me take myself less seriously?

Take It to Your Journal (3): Now that you have found some of the keys to your creativity, how can you use them more and more? What’s one key that you can make use of this week?

This is a powerful exercise in getting to know yourself as an artist. Discover and use these keys to unlock your artistic freedom and bring your creativity to life.

Art Is a Journey without End

Many years ago, I worked as a computerized notetaker for deaf and hard of hearing students in colleges across the city. It was like doing live captioning in classes on everything from graphic design to financial management to culinary techniques. It was a brilliant job for a learner like me!

One semester I was supporting a student who was studying to be a dental hygienist. I vividly remember the introduction to one of her classes. The instructor shared that she had studied orofacial anatomy because there was a finite amount to learn. She loved that this made mastery possible.

This is entirely different in art.

Whatever your creative medium, there are skills you learn and then hone. With every piece or project you create, you develop and deepen your expertise. And there will always be more to learn. Always.

I share this not to be discouraging but as an invitation to embrace the mystery, to choose the path of artistic adventure, to get comfortable with being a perpetual beginner. I share this to combat the inner critic that says, “You should have this mastered by now.”

Art will never be mastered.

And that’s a beautiful and essential truth, a truth to make peace with and then to befriend.

The creative force that dwells in our art has a life all its own. It is not meant to be bent to our will. It is meant to relate to us in a sacred dance of wonder, a dance that unfurls our wings every step of the way, a dance that brings both it and us to life.

Art is a never-ending journey and, as such, it gives us ongoing challenges and infinite blessings. This makes it a pursuit worthy of a lifetime.

Three Ways to Know Your Creative Project Is Finished

I’ve been working on a series of collage animals and one of the longest stages of development is when I’m deciding whether a piece is done. The bull you see above has been hanging out with me for months now and even he is getting impatient. My sense is that he’s almost there but there are still a few things I want to resolve. As I try to draw this piece to a close, I’ve been thinking about the question:

When is a creative project done?

In some ways the answer is never.

There may always be things we would tweak, shift or improve, especially as time moves on, our outlook changes and our skills develop. But instead of getting stuck in that perfectionist muck, it serves us well to find our way to completion. Instead of damming up our energy, finishing frees our creativity to keep flowing and growing. Creating a body of work will take a lifetime but each individual project must, at some point, come to a close. This allows us to continue on our creative journey and also gives each piece the chance to live and breathe on its own instead of withering under the endless scrutiny of “How could you be better?”

One: Declare it Done

Another way to recognize a creative project’s completion is to work to deadline. Many artforms, particularly the performing arts, have this baked in. The play, the dance, the event will be deemed ready on opening night and will be complete upon closing. These deadlines can be stress-inducing but that’s, in part, an indication of their power. Deadlines create time containers for our artistic energy, making it even more potent. In the Devotion program, for example, we have a showcase at the end of the season. Each artist shares the work she’s created during our time together and what it has meant to her. This end point provides a kind of creative alchemy, applying just enough pressure to coalesce the work, the wisdom, the growth and the confidence into something truly magical.

Two: Work to Deadline

And lastly, we know our work is done when we have the ineffable feeling that there is nothing left for us to do. In that moment, the work clearly stands on its own and reflects back to us, “I am myself now. I am complete.” Developing this creative discernment is a valuable artistic skill. It helps us avoid overworking a project or abandoning it too soon. This discernment comes with practice, patience and sensitivity. Give yourself the grace of time and distance as you sense the end drawing near. Leave the project for a while. Come back as a viewer, a reader, a listener, an audience member. Let the piece speak too. It has a say in the matter. Give yourself time to discover whether this artwork is complete.

Three: Develop Discernment

As creatives we have an an energy source that is infinite and renewable. One lesson available to us is how to make the most of that tremendous gift. An essential part of that is knowing when to complete a project so that the energy can move on to the next wonderful work that is waiting to come through.

I hope these three strategies of declaring, deadlines and discernment become powerful tools in your creative toolkit. May they help you realize the unique body of work that can only come to life through you.