Creativity

Three reasons to create before you consume

Lately, I’ve kind of gotten into some bad habits. Instead of waking up a little earlier and writing in my journal first thing or taking some time to create, I’m sleeping late and sometimes I skip the journaling altogether.

Why?

Usually I’m a little groggy, and feel like having breakfast, so I tell myself that I’ll just read a chapter of my book (finally got around to reading Wild, which was awesome) or watch an episode of my favourite TV show (currently watching Parks and Rec or Community) or browse Pinterest (I’m new to this and totally addicted) before I pick up my journal.

But then a funny thing happens. One chapter turns into four, then I have to get ready for work. One episode becomes three and I find myself running late. I fall down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest or Instagram and realise half an hour has passed. By the time I pause in whatever I’m doing to consider getting out my journal, I don’t ‘feel’ like journaling and I don’t want to create anymore – if I even have the time.

I used to wake up every morning, grab a cup of coffee and my journal, and spend a blissful hour just writing, thinking, dreaming, creating, and being with myself. Now, I can sometimes go days between journal entries.

The problem, I’ve come to realise, is that I am choosing to consume instead of create, and that’s making it harder and harder to write each morning. Where I once had a daily connection with my own inner wisdom and an endless source of creative ideas and inspiration of my own, I have now created a habit of consuming the ideas of others first. I’ve lost the sound of my own creative voice among the voices of other people.

1. Your ideas are your own

While it’s certainly ok to be influenced and inspired by the work of others, and even ok to steal ideas from others, what’s more important is realising what your own ideas are and expressing them.

If you consume something before you create, there’s no way of knowing if what you are creating is really your own work, or just a reproduction of someone else’s work.

Stealing ideas from others is part of the process of being a creative, but there’s a difference between replicating the work of others, and being inspired by them as you find your own style and voice. Without taking time to just purely create, finding your own voice can be almost impossible.

When I spend half of my morning on Pinterest and Instagram, I soak up all the images and ideas presented to me by others. Sometimes this can spark an idea of my own, but often I find it difficult to come up with my own ideas after absorbing everyone else’s.

Try tapping into your own inner resources and creativity, before consuming the images and ideas of someone else. You can always take inspiration from others later.

2. Make sure you actually do it

It’s too easy to consume. When my morning alarm goes off on my cell phone and I reach to switch it off, Pinterest and Instagram are right there. Sometimes I convince myself that a quick look will help to wake me up. Before I’ve even gotten out of bed, I can spend 30 minutes online. Usually by this point I either run out of time, or find I just don’t want to journal.

The same thing happens when I open my book (or turn on my Kindle), or watch an episode of Parks and Rec. Both of these things leave me wanting more, and it’s all too easy to start the next chapter or watch the next episode. I often find myself running out of time in the morning because I’ve spent my first hour consuming these. I’m not saying reading is bad (I’m not insane) but as someone who used to have a million things to say in the morning, I’m finding that reading first thing is interfering with that. I’m much better reading before bed.

3. Avoid comparisons

I love Pinterest. I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to get on board the Pinterest train. I was quick to jump on Instagram when I started blogging last year, but resisted Pinterest for the better part of a year. As a very visual person, Instagram and Pinterest suit me very well (I’m not a Twitter fan).

But this comes with a problem, especially when I find myself indulging in a little pre-journaling pinning.

I don’t mean for it to happen but it invariably does: I start to compare my work to the work of others.

I see delicately painted journal pages, I see stacks of handmade journals with gorgeous vintage papers and hand-sewn bindings, and look over at my own boring Moleskine journal in dismay. I start to get a serious case of journal envy and before long have absolutely no interest in picking up my pen.

Creative comparison is really a whole other issue for another post, but I can say this: the more you consume the work of others before doing your own, the more you will open yourself up to making comparisons and feeling like your own work isn’t good enough. Create first, consume later.

* * *

I know we all need time to relax or fill the creative well by consuming the ideas and products of other people. There is nothing quite like sinking into a great book, or catching up on an episode of your favourite TV show. I know that I wouldn’t be half as inspired, or have made the most amazing connections with others, if I hadn’t been reading the blogs of others, and participating in Instagram and Pinterest.

Ultimately, it’s important to find a balance between creating and consuming, and consuming in sure a way that it doesn’t interfere with your own creative genius. For me, that means journaling first thing in the morning.

How do you make creating a priority in your life?

Creativity

Feeling uninspired? Try the creativity switch

I’m in a wee bit of a creativity rut. Despite journaling every day, blogging every day and planning a creative business, I’m still feeling a bit uninspired.

I’m not sure why this is. But my partner told me about something interesting today: the ‘creativity switch’*.

Apparently, the idea is that when we get stuck in routines in our daily lives, we can also get stuck in a creativity rut. When we get up each day and go through the same motions in our lives, we start to coast without needing to think too much. We aren’t stimulated.

This is bad news for creativity.

But the solution is supposed to be simple: mix it up! Change things in your life – in a simple way. Switch things around.

For example, if you usually get up and take a shower and then have breakfast, do this the other way around. Or shower in the evening instead. Drive a slightly different way to work. Go to a different cafe to get your coffee.

By changing the order or the way in which we do things, we force ourselves to pay a bit more attention and notice things. This creates the chance for novelty and creativity.

You could also switch up your journaling. You could journal at a different time of day, or in a different spot. You could try a different pen, drink a different tea while journaling, or listen to different music. You could bring a new ritual into your journaling – perhaps light a candle or draw a tarot card, if you’re so inclined.

The change doesn’t have to be huge – just enough to make you notice.

Here’s a few things I’m thinking of changing:

  • The way I drive to work: taking a different route and seeing different scenery will be more interesting, I won’t have to sit in the same traffic, and I can spend more time singing in the car. Win!
  • New music: this always inspires me. An hour or so exploring on Spotify and I have a whole new playlist.
  • Journaling in different places: I’ve already mentioned how I’ve taken to journaling in my car, and that offers me the luxury of picking a different location and view each time.
  • Walking my pup in different neighbourhoods or different streets.
  • Trying different types of journaling in the morning: rather than just writing, I’m thinking of bringing drawing and watercolour into my morning journaling routine.

What tiny change could you make to get you paying attention again? How can you make a small switch in your routine to inspire you and reignite your creativity? Post your changes in the comments below.

*Note: full credit for this idea of the ‘creativity switch’ goes to Jay Abrahams.

Creativity

The problem with creative shoulds

Completing the 30 Life Lessons last month was full-on. It took a lot out of me, and while I didn’t plan on taking the following month off from blogging, I found myself delighted to have some time free just for me again.

I dove headfirst into multiple creative projects. So many that I started to get overwhelmed and disoriented. Before long, my free time started to feel a little crowded.

During July, I was involved in or contemplating these projects:

Not to mention I’ve been doing my own written journaling, thinking about the blog and newsletter, brainstorming ideas for creating my own online courses, thinking about making a bucket list journal, and mulling over novel ideas. Oh yes, and working and building a house too.

This is not the first time this has happened to me.

In an attempt to combat this next stepsoverwhelm, I made a list of all the things on my creative radar. I divided this list up into three categories:

  • Groups/courses
  • Blog
  • Personal

This way I could clearly make sense of all the directions I was feeling pulled.

Then I prioritised each item on the list in terms of what was urgent (for example, a live course that was running now only, or a membership that was about to expire) and what could wait.

Great, I thought. Now I know what to focus on and what to put aside for later.

I had created a sense of creative direction for myself. It was foolproof. If only I could have ignored the fact that the priorities I had selected were of no interest to me at that time, then it would have been perfect.

It was my own fault, really. I took a totally left-brain, logical, rational approach to an entirely creative and intuitive problem.

You see, the issue wasn’t that I had too much going on. The issue was that I felt like I should be doing something else, rather than listening to my creative intuition.

I felt like I should be making the most of a course I had signed up for.

I felt like I should be finishing off a set of prompts I had already begun.

I felt like I should complete one journal before beginning another.

I felt like I should try to get the most out of a course before it was over.

I felt like I should finish one course before doing another.

If I had just stopped to ask myself, inner compasswhat do I really really want to do? then I would have had my answer: paint. I want to paint, in journals. I want to fill journals with paint.

I see creativity like this: it is all over the place. Some days I want to write in my journal for hours, others I want to carve stamps. Some days I want to watch YouTube videos of my favourite painters at work, others I want to read about journal writing. Some days I want to play with paper and glue, others I want to write. Some days I want to do a bunch of prompts from a course, others I want to play with watercolours.

Each and every creative activity nourishes us as we need it to, when we need it to. The act of listening to our creative intuition in each moment allows us to do what is most important to us in that moment.

I have learnt that sometimes I am incredibly focused on one thing to the point of obsession. But it is these short bursts of creative focus that allow me to get things done.

Other times, I am a creative butterfly, hopping from one project to the next, not really finishing much but loving the variety.

Accepting this and allowing myself to follow my creative intuition has been incredibly freeing. Trusting that I will find the focus I need when I need it, I can enjoy the pull to new things for now.

The problem only really comes about when we insist that things be done a certain way – when we let our shoulds interfere.

I invite you to consider the following prompts in your journal:

What are your creative shoulds?

How do they limit you?

How can you give yourself more creative freedom?

What would happen if you followed your creative intuition and released the shoulds?

How can you put more trust in your creative process?

Creativity

Journal prompts: Travel

As much as I love being at home, I can’t get enough of the world.

Travel ignites a fire inside me that burns for years after a trip. There’s something about being somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere I’ve only visited in my dreams that just feels magical. It feels like I’m in a dream, only it’s real.

When I first stepped out onto the travel lessonstreets of Manhattan, or had my first bite of real French pastry, or walked through the falling snow in Chicago, or got lost in the winding alleyways of Venice, or stood underneath Michelangelo’s David in Florence… those are moments I will never forget. Those are moments I changed, because those are moments I felt my dreams come to life.

There’s something about being out in the world – and let me remind you, I’m from New Zealand which is pretty tucked away from everyone else – that makes me feel like I’m participating in life. I feel like I’m part of it all, on the world’s stage.

And not only that; seeing things I have long seen on television, in books, in films, online, well that just makes it all the more magical. To stand in Times Square, in Westminster Abbey, under the Burj Khalifa or in the middle of Yosemite reminds me of my place in the world. I’m reminded of all the people who came before and who will come after. I’m reminded that we are part of one whole, one global family – that I am never really alone.

You meet the most fascinating people when you travel – people who live in the area, other tourists, or people who literally live down the road from you back home who you just happen to run into in a hostel in Florence… We are all, in some way, connected. There’s nothing quite like running into another Kiwi in the middle of a foreign country.

imageI love the history – I’m in love with art history, and just history in general, and I soak up all the stories of people who came before, how they lived, what they valued. For me, the world is like a giant classroom. I can’t get enough.

And as a creative, someone who always has stories burning inside them, I find that travel is the ultimate fuel for the creative fire. I come home bursting with ideas, full of new material. It’s like every time I travel I connect with another part of myself, fill the well a little more. It inspires me in ways that nothing else can.

To be able to step out of a humid New Zealand summer and land, a day later, in the blistering cold of New York winter, well that is the stuff of fairy tales if you ask me. Travel is magic.

And then, when I’m full up with the sights and sounds of another country, when I’ve attempted the language and my memory cards are full of photos, when I’ve filled my suitcase to the brim with gorgeous leather goods from Italy and every other possible souvenir, when I’m happy and exhausted – going home is the most wonderful feeling. I find a new appreciation for my bed, my shower, and every little detail of my home. I fall back in love with where I live.

I don’t travel as often as I’d like. In imagemy ideal future life – the one where I’m running creative workshops and retreats all over the world – I’ll be going on major international trips every year. At the moment, my last trip (to Europe and North America) was two and a half years ago, which feels like a lifetime. My goal is to go on another big trip next year. In the mean time, I’m using journaling as a way to travel within. It’s not quite the same, but it’s the next best thing.

The other thing I like to do is to do local travelling – visiting new places nearby. It can be as simple as exploring the next town over, or even driving for a few hours to somewhere new. Travel doesn’t have to be a major overseas adventure. I think just getting some new scenery can be enough to get inspired, even if it’s not far from home. Don’t discount the benefits of travelling somewhere locally if you can’t afford a big trip.

>>> Prompt:

How do you feel about travel? I know some people who could do it forever, and others who haven’t left the country and couldn’t care less. What does it mean to you?

Describe a memorable trip you have taken, in as much detail as possible.

Describe your ideal trip, in as much detail as possible.

Now consider, why haven’t you taken it yet? No time? No money? No one to watch the kids? These are all obstacles that can be overcome. You might find that you consider travel to be an indulgence or a luxury that isn’t a priority. Explore your beliefs around travel, and make a plan to make your dream trip a reality, even if it isn’t for five years.

Make a list of every place you want to visit.

Bonus fun prompt: create a travel vision board to inspire you for your next trip – even if you’re not sure how you will make it happen. Gather up travel brochures and images and place it somewhere you will see it often. Trust that it will come about, in the right time.

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Vulnerability

Since embarking on my creative journey, I’ve been very interested in fear and courage. I had never really given vulnerability much thought, until I stumbled across the work of Brené Brown and her talk The Power of Vulnerability.

Our culture places a high value on having it all together, being strong and not being seen as weak. But I’ve found that allowing myself to be vulnerable, and sharing that vulnerability with others, has changed the way I approach my life.

Instead of feeling fearful and letting vulnerabilitythat stop me from doing things, I can acknowledge the fear and accept that it’s ok to feel that way. Instead of trying to make things perfect and get everything right, I accept making mistakes and feeling a bit uncomfortable about that.

Why?

Because with vulnerability comes growth. Vulnerability comes when we take a risk, dare to do something, and push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

And, vulnerability leads to real connections with people. It is the act of opening ourselves up to be seen, as we really are, that allows others to connect with and love us as we really are.

It is not a sign of weakness in any sense – how can taking a risk and daring to make a mistake be a sign of weakness?

As Brené Brown says:

Vulnerability is about having the courage to show up and be seen.

One thing about our imperfections is that we often try to hide them from others – we feel vulnerable when they are exposed. I have found it incredibly empowering to share my imperfections with others – especially on my blog and through my art. It allows me to take control of who I am, and embrace all parts of me. And, it helps others to see their imperfections are perfectly ok, and when they reach out to tell me that seeing me be vulnerable has helped them, well that makes it all worthwhile.

Obviously, there is a time and a place to be vulnerable. Pouring your heart out to your boss or the guy who makes your coffee simply because you want to be vulnerable is probably not the best idea. You need to consider who you can be vulnerable with, especially to begin with. Think carefully about who you trust to support you as you share a little more of yourself.

How can you practice vulnerability?

  • Try saying no to something when that’s what you really want
  • Tell someone how you really feel
  • Let another person see a talent or skill you have
  • Share an embarrassing story of yours
  • Tell someone what you are afraid of
  • Share your biggest dreams and hopes with someone

>>> Prompts:

What does the word ‘vulnerability’ mean to you? What does vulnerability feel like or look like to you? Does it have any negative associations? Write about this.

Write about a time that you have felt vulnerable.

How could you see vulnerability being a strength? Why might you want to include more of it in your life? Explore this idea. (If you’re stuck on this one, I really recommend Brené Brown’s work.)

In what ways would you like to (safely) allow yourself to be more vulnerable? Who could support you in this?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Sensitivity is a gift

I don’t really know how to say this without sounding dramatic, but it is the truth: all my life I have felt different from others. Even though I’ve always had friends and been part of a group of some sort, I’ve never fully felt the same as everyone else.

I noticed in high school that other people just seemed to ‘get on with life’ while I struggled with some of the most basic things – I would feel easily depressed after watching a movie, on a high and inspired for days from the words of a song, or I would take a comment or a joke to heart.

While other friends seemed to easily bounce back from breakups and bad grades, I would retreat to my room to let feelings of misery sweep over me. Not to mention I was easily overwhelmed and exhausted by life in general and spent a lot of time sleeping to recover. When I wasn’t sleeping I was writing, drawing or playing guitar.

I was told I took things too seriously and needed to lighten up. I was told I was too sensitive.

While I certainly knew that sensitivityadolescence is supposed to be a tumultuous time, I was also aware that I seemed to be having some issues that others around me weren’t. For years, I just assumed I was somehow defective. I learned to try and hide my sensitivity around certain people.

It wasn’t until recently, in the past couple of years, that I came across the term ‘highly sensitive person’ (HSP). This opened up an entirely new world for me. I wasn’t defective, I was just one of the 20% of the population who was easily overwhelmed and more aware of the subtleties of my environment than others.

For HSPs, the brain works a little differently: they are more likely to observe before acting. It is an innate trait that is often found in other species too – such as birds, fish, dogs, cats, horses and other animals.

Learning more about this trait also gave me answers in other areas of my life – why I am more likely to feel the cold, struggle to pay attention with a lot of loud noise around me, get easily overwhelmed when I have a lot to do in a short period of time, why I am easily moved by films, books, music etc. This trait also explains why I can’t watch really violent or upsetting films, and this also includes watching the news. Yes, I deliberately avoid the news because it upsets me too much.

But aside from these difficulties, I’ve learnt how wonderful it is, for me at least, to be a highly sensitive person.

  • I easily feel love, empathy and compassion other human beings, not to mention animals. While this can be draining at times, I think it is one of the best ways for us to function on this planet. Of course I get mad and impatient, I get bitchy at times. But for the most part, I feel a strong sense of compassion towards others.
  • I have a rich inner life. I experience emotions strongly, which again has its downside, but it means that I get to experience the most intense and fulfilling positive emotions. I get to be overcome with gratitude and joy, struck by awe or filled with inspiration. I get to look at my loved ones and feel myself full-to-bursting with love. And when I do have to deal with the intensity of negative emotions, they always lead to personal growth, and often give birth to new creative ideas.
  • I am a very creative person. Not only do I experience strong emotions, but I have a vivid imagination and big hopes and dreams. I allow myself to spend time in my own inner dream worlds and I often turn them into art or writing. Having a rich inner life allows me to be the creative person that I am, creating and expressing myself in ways that I can hopefully use to inspire others.
  • I can’t hide who I am. I am an open book and don’t do well at covering up how I am really feeling (I could never play a serious game of poker!). While this may seem like a bad thing, I’ve found it helps me to remain authentic. It helps me to stay ‘me’; to be honest. I don’t find myself playing lots of different roles or putting on different masks. It also means that I can’t stay in situations that make me unhappy for very long, which can only be a good thing.
  • I’m very observant. I often notice details and specifics about my environment, other people or situations. I remember things clearly and this has been very helpful in many situations. As well as getting easily overwhelmed by the environment, I am also easily inspired.

These are just a few of the things that make me feel blessed to be HSP. It certainly comes with challenges, but I wouldn’t be anyone else but me.

>>> Prompts:

What does the word ‘sensitivity’ mean to you? Does it have negative associations? Why?

In what ways do you see being sensitive as problematic? How can you reframe this view?

List as many ways you can think of that being more sensitive than others is a gift.

In what ways can you honour your sensitivity more?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Making yourself happy

This has taken me years to learn, and even now I need to keep reminding myself of this truth:

It is my job, and mine alone, to make myself happy.

lesson 16It is not my partner’s job to make me happy. It is not up to my friends to make me happy. It is not my family’s job to make me happy.

Of course, that’s not to say that these things can’t make me happy – they certainly do!

But ultimately, it is up to me to make myself happy – it is my job to fill myself up.

That means, when I’m feeling crappy, the first thing I need to do is check in with myself. I need to know what my core needs are, and I need to check that they are being filled – and here’s the hard part – by me.

Some of my core needs are:

  • Love
  • Security
  • Solitude
  • Freedom
  • Creativity
  • Self-expression
  • Inspiration
  • Contribution

How do I know my core needs? Because I’ve taken the time out to think about these things, to work out what really fills me up. If I’m not aware of the things I need in my life to be happy, then I can’t make sure I’m happy.

If I’m feeling crappy in my life, most of the time it’s because I’m not meeting my own core needs. It’s not fair for me to pass the expectation onto my partner or friends to make me feel better, when I’m not doing that for myself.

There’s something really empowering about being able to fill yourself up. It doesn’t mean you can’t accept help or anything from others, but it means you don’t need it. It totally changes the nature of a relationship when you come to it already satisfied with your life. You have a lot more to offer others.

>>> Prompts:

What are your core needs? Start by making a list of all the things you like to do, the things that fill you up, big or small. Then, try to identify the core needs underneath. Usually it will be stated as an abstract noun.

In what ways do you rely on others to make you happy?

How can you do more to fill yourself up and meet your core needs?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.