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The Magic We Find in Books

My mom got me my first library card on my second birthday.

That was the earliest the library would let you have your own card. Right away, I used it extensively. In every childhood bedroom I remember, there was a spot on my dresser for library books – a pile for those to be read and a pile for those to return.

Books were one of the first places I encountered magic. There were the stories themselves, like The Witch’s Buttons by Ruth Chew, The Cuckoo Clock by Mrs. Molesworth* and the tales of Narnia too. Less explicitly magical but magical nonetheless were books like The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre.

I learned that reading itself is magical. When I opened a book, I stepped into a different life and found new places where characters became companions. I had many amazing adventures while never leaving the living room floor. (For some reason curling up on that white shag carpet was my favourite place to get lost in a book.)

As I grew, I discovered that books offer a transformational magic. We can be changed by what we read. Sometimes, this can be difficult. In high school, it took me a year to recover from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In the best scenarios, books change us by giving us a new understanding of ourselves, the world and one another, particularly people, places and times that were hitherto unknown to us.

Now I find the books that bring me the most meaningful pleasure are the ones that remind me of the beauty and magic in everyday life, like the memoirs of May Sarton or The Comfort of Crows by Margaret Renkl, which I read at this week’s Reading Hour.

All of this magic is why I included a monthly Reading Hour in The Studio: Your Year of Creative Magic. In this fast-paced world of doom-scrolling and dopamine hits, we can settle in for a time and remember the magic of reading. Perhaps, we will be lucky and that magic will spill into the world and our lives in all sorts of wonderful and unexpected ways.

with love,


This is an excerpt from Letters from My Studio. You can subscribe here.

Introducing The School of Creative Magic!

I have been dreaming up something wonderful and it’s finally here, The School of Creative Magic!

This project has been transformational not only for the work but also for me personally. And that’s because…

What we create creates us.

We simply cannot enter a time of deep creating without emerging forever changed. Most often that change is a deepening of or a fundamental return to who we truly are.

Every bit of building The School of Creative Magic pushed me to articulate and align with what I believe. Every day it asked me to show up and step up. Its spirit called me to claim the magical parts in myself more fully and to remember the world I believed in as a girl.

The School of Creative Magic fueled the fire of my commitment to help people unfurl into the magical creatures they long to be, free of the fear that their gifts will forever lay dormant, their creative spirit not fully expressed and their art never realized.

Even when it was a slog, even when it was a hair-pulling fit of frustration, even when my brain shut down from decision fatigue, even when I couldn’t find the way through, every step affirmed this path.

Let me tell you about one of ways creating The School of Creative Magic showed me the way.

I love the photo that I shared with you today. It’s a moment captured be my sister Suzie, who took virtually all of the photos of me on the site.

What you can’t tell from the photo is that this is me getting changed in public!

I brought three changes of ‘costume’ for the shoot in the ravine just north of us. As I pulled my full-length skirt over my pants before peeling them off, a couple came down the walkway right beside me. There were many moments like this. A woman walking her dogs stopped to say my zebra print jumpsuit was chic. A boy with his mom saw me raise a cardboard crown to my head and laughed at the absurdity.

Do you know what I felt in those moments?


There is an energy that comes with being an artist pursuing a vision, no matter how odd, unusual or out of place.

I didn’t feel weird. I didn’t feel awkward.

I felt like myself.

I was in the world, being true to me, my vision and my work.

That feels like freedom to me.

It’s a freedom I want for you too. Whatever it is you dream of creating – no matter how absurd or practical, mundane or magical – I want you to make it with courage and delight.

That’s why I created The School of Creative Magic. It offers paths and programs that support that artistic aliveness in you, your life and your work. You’ll find the Studio Yearbook there and Devotion. (Both are available now for the coming fall.) You’ll also find a new offer, a program called The Studio. It will be a magical year of practice and community and I hope you’ll join me.

Click to Open the Door to The School of Creative Magic


Start Inside

On Tuesdays I invite you Behind the Scenes at my studio.

Today:   To find your authentic confidence and true artistry, the first step is to look inside.

Mentioned in Today’s Video:

  • Journal Club – registration opening soon!

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.

Summer Self-Study Sale
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Learn how to create an altar.

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Discover meaningful personal symbols to use in your art.

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Save 25% this week only with coupon code ‘ilovelearning’ and let the adventure begin!

The 5 Minute Difference

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

There is power in 5 minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

More 5 minute breaks…

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

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

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

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

Now, I just need to remember that!

What Remains?

The packing has begun in earnest as we get ready for our renovation. Today I stood in front of my bookshelves, frozen. Do I keep everything? Do I let some things go… a lot of things go? What metric do I use to decide?

I remember so well taking the books down off of my mom’s shelves. I thought, “Here is her life: math, music, Kabbalah, painting, sacred geometry. Here is her life in books.”

I feel the same as I look at mine: creativity, art, writing, coaching, memoir, photography.

If I give these away, am I dismantling my life the way I dismantled hers?

How do I choose what remains?