Creativity: Is it overrated?

IMG_3218I was flipping through the pages of my 5-year journal . . . and of the 1,825 answers that it could contain, I have filled in 53 answers.  As I was reading and reflecting on what I had written, I came across this question:

What’s the most creative thing you’ve done recently?

My answer struck me as honest, amusing-to-me, and a little comforting:

This is scary.  I can’t think of something!  Help!  Hmmm . . . I glued pictures of some birds in my journal.  I made a beautiful, foamy latte.  I made veggie-lentil marinara.

Reading this, I am struck by a note of  (1) desperation — fearing that the Creativity Police was going to swing by and give me an F+ in Creativity if I didn’t think of something Artsy and (2) a deeply-forgiving spirit — realizing that I didn’t feel like I had to report anything stellar like painting a gallery-worthy canvas or mastering the tricky 16th-note measures of my old friend “Allegro” on the violin.  I now know that on May 19, 2013, veggie-lentil marinara felt like a creative endeavor.  This is why I love journaling so much.  It reminds us of who we are.

Gluing pictures of birds in my journal is not how I externally define creativity.  I expect from myself a more legacy-laden result when I say the word creativity.   Still, there is much to be said for celebrating the day to day.  We can’t all be fabulously creative every single moment . . . or can we?

So . . . What would be my answer to this question today?  Hmm . . . let’s see . . .

IMG_3317Two weeks ago, when my two best girl friends came to visit, we got out a stack of small canvases and we painted.  We didn’t watch a movie.  We didn’t go out for dinner.  Rather we snacked on a jumbo bag of chips and salsa, sipped wine, and painted for hours.  It was fun, rewarding, stimulating, and enlightening.  I made an enormous mess and, being the kind of friends that they are, they helped me to clean up my spatters that had followed an unanticipated trajectory across the room.

There was also an element of repeat 2013 Creativity in this day, proving to me that some things are still a priority and indicative of my preferences: I made us beautiful, foamy lattes, we went bird watching (Have you ever seen a Stellar’s jay “ant”?) and, for dinner, we ate some crazy concoction made from leftovers from the fridge that involved lentils.  Lentils, oh lentils . . . how you are a constant in my life! lol!

IMG_3318Creativity.  It isn’t what you make that makes you a Creative.  It’s the feeling you create while you are creating.  Be it something as simple as cutting and pasting images of birds or something as rewarding as nailing those last few measures of “Allegro” — it is all a symbol of how I choose to feel while I experience and savor time.  So simple really when I remove all self-imposed external expectations.

It is so easy to look at others and remark on their gifts and talents.  We think because we aren’t mastering Sample A, our own Sample B somehow doesn’t quite measure up.  But measure up to what?  If we aren’t running marathons, our 2-mile walk doesn’t seem very significant.  If we aren’t hanging our work on a public wall, it doesn’t seem like it is very good.  If we aren’t performing at Benaroya Hall, then our music doesn’t measure up (pun intended).  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s all about perception, self-perception and otherwise. Forgiveness, self-forgiveness and otherwise.  And dissatisfaction, self-dissatisfaction and otherwise — knowing deep inside that we aren’t listening to our Higher Self’s prompting to become who we really are.

Click on the aqua-blue hyperlink below for today’s journal prompt.  It is a fun question that may inspire some surprising and reassuring answers for you in how you view your creative self.

Click on the aqua-blue link below:

Creativity. Is It Overrated. journaling prompt

Life is a lively event.  Live it like you mean it.  What’s stopping you?

[Print this prompt out, 3-hole punch it, and start your journaling binder.   Take the writing journey and listen . . . you can’t get lost when you are following your own heart.  After all, you are the only one who can hear what it has to say.  The only one.  Relax, read, think, feel, listen, write.  Repeat.  And enjoy the journey.  It is a fine one, and one that is perfectly-made just for you, I promise.]

Best When Fresh

best when fresh

Love and eggs are best when they are fresh. – Russian Proverb

If you could hatch one idea or concept or event or mindful change or good habit or new relationship or . . . . what would it be?  Be creative and pick what bubbles to the surface first.  I can think of a few right now that are nest-ready and deserving of some attentive sitting right now.  The secret for me and my sometimes-scattered ways is for me to take a deep breath, focus, and put in some serious incubation time.  Who knows what might hatch as a result of some focused care, attention, and positive intention?

Your prompt for today:

Open your journal and draw a line down the vertical center of your page.  On the left side, write a minimum of three things that you would like to hatch right now.  On the right side, write a brief description of what your hatchling might look like.  Have some fun with this and take a few minutes to relax and to do some nurturing.  For example:

Vision Board 075Playing my mandolin every single day —> Sitting in with that fun Monday band at the book store

Eating more health-conscious lunches —> Create one of those fun salad-in-a-jar concoctions for work tomorrow

Get outdoors more in this beautiful weather —> Take more mini-breaks while working and take some short walks to stretch and to get some fresh air

As you can see, some of your ideas might require some time while others do not require a lengthy incubation period at all.  Some are as simple as going to the produce market, buying some fresh veggies, and washing out a Mason jar.  So simple . . . but a hatchling, nonetheless.

Click here for a fun video on how to make a Mason jar salad the night before . . . we can all benefit from a health-conscious lunch.

Life is a lively event.  Be good to yourself today.  Go forth and nurture those eggs.

 

 

 

Your Personality . . . & the Glory of the Choice

Vision Board 058Your personality . . . what is it exactly?  Aside from the usual adjectives of fun or moody or sunny or temperamental or intense or Type A or laid back or . . . what exactly? What does it really mean to be assigned a personality type?

We’ve all pondered the big debate of Nature vs. Nurture . . . how the spark of life is blessed/cursed/or combination-therein by congenital behavior . . . or wait!  Is it actually shaped by environmental and emotional factors?  And then these is all of the vice-versa stuff that leads one to accept and embrace both and then not think much about it.

Fascinating research points to many interesting findings that help us to understand Who We Really Are, our emotional and social intelligence, and our perception of positive and negative influences.  Nature or Nurture?  It is an enormous question that no one can really answer with total authority.  Take the story of the two children — identical twins, actually — standing on the ocean shore.  They are enjoying themselves while the salt water is gently lapping at their toes.  Suddenly, a rogue wave washes over the top of them.  The same wave, the same temperature of water, the same element of surprise.  One of the twins starts to cry and scream and run from the water. The other twin splashes back at the wave while laughing.   While this story would neither withstand nor support the rigors of a research study focused on Nature vs. Nurture, I like it nonetheless.  It gives me pause: Why not laugh?  It’s a heck of a lot more fun than crying and screaming.

And in the midst of all of this wondering and debating and agreeing, I do believe that there is much to be said for the concept of timshelthe Hebrew word for thou mayest.

When I think on topics of this sort, my mind wanders back to a Time of Great Impressionability in my life, and I was reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  What a book!  Well, “the story bit deeply into me,” and Lee’s treatise on timshel has stayed with me all of these curious years later — a testimony to the notion that life is one great impressionable moment after another.

It is my hope that sharing this gem of Steinbeck’s brilliance and wisdom will not act as any sort of spoiler.  The book is brilliant and one worth reading.  Like life, Steinbeck’s writing is intense and provocative and profound.  He writes the sort of story that stays with you throughout the years.  I thank Mr. Steinbeck for opening my eyes, my mind, my heart, my soul, and my sense of wonder to the notion of thou mayest“the glory of the choice.”

Last week, I came across this quite lovely Personality Test online.  I normally don’t click on these tests, expecting some sort of hook to be set before you receive your “results,” but something prompted me to go ahead and try this one.  Before reading any further, go ahead and click on the link and visualize your responses to the prompts.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/this-cube-personality-test-will-absolutely-blow-your-mind?utm_term=.onK9zJNbz&sub=4259074_8744597

All done?

What do you think?  How much of the explanation of your visuals did you feel was accurate?  At the very least, I felt that I was given a sideways glimpse into me — parts of me that are actually true that I generally don’t consciously associate with my “personality.”  I think about Steinbeck’s artistic weaving of timshel into East of Eden . . . and I am reminded that thou mayest carries with it a personal(-ity) responsibility of creative and paradigm-shifting mindfulness that requires daily cultivation, acknowledgement, and celebration on my part.

Personality assessment aside . . . overall, we need not be so hard on ourselves.  I think we sometimes embrace the opinions of  people — people who truly don’t know us — with far too much zeal, and we assign too much authority to the editorializing that is done by others.  We have a proclivity toward jumping into the sinkhole: a morass of self-blame, regret, and guilt that we assign to nature- and nurture-defining personality quirks . . . epic actions that play with our hearts and attempt to define how we choose to forge present moments into future goals and dreams.  Or . . . is this just my personality?

I used to have a quote taped up in every room of my house: Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.  In the midst of one particularly Challenging Time, I was re-reading the quote, and I realized that I needed to make an edit.  I crossed out about to happen and scribbled in happening right now:

Always believe that something wonderful is happening right now.  

The current paradigm of Overwhelm in that moment screeched to a halt, and life felt like it took a gentler curve toward heart-healing and happiness.  When I realized that I had a choice to become someone new on the inside, my whole life shifted.  This epiphany didn’t segue into some neat and tidy story-book ending, but it did nudge me into a new place, such that I could get back into a timshel state of mind: “the glory of the choice.”

toaster ovenI leave you today with the prayer, the wish, the hope, and the thought that today is a good day for you.  A truly good day.  One of gratitude and filled with micro moments that tell you that Now is Now and life is evolving, constantly evolving, as something that is wonderful.  If this moment isn’t all that great, just wait for the next one.  It will be here before you know it — full of promise and full of timshel.  With some refining, life really can be borne from “the glory of the choice:  . . . keeping “the way open.”

Click on the highlighted link below to download today’s free journaling exercise.  Have fun journaling and putting a new spin on perceptions and keeping your way open!

The Glory of the Choice. A Different Spin. journaling prompt

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A reminder that gifts of beauty await when we keep our hearts open.  So lovely.

 

[P.S. Here is the real Spoiler Alert: To read a longer excerpt that discusses timshel in greater detail from East of Eden, click here.  If you are planning to read the book . . . do not click here.]

Just Breathe

This is such a lovely and wonderful song.  Every time I listen to it, I am reminded to Just Breathe.

Today, just breathe in the moment and “count on both hands”  your blessings of appreciation and gratitude.

Click on the link below for today’s journal entry.

Count on both hands. 10 things of appreciation.

toaster ovenWhile you are journaling, please, listen to this beautiful song by Eddy Vedder.  It is inspiring in that quiet, rich way that leads you to look a little deeper for all of the beauty that is hidden in each and every moment.  Happy journaling!

And I appreciate YOU for visiting The Unseen Words Project today.  You make such a difference in my day!

Fearless or Irresponsible? Living In the Overlap.

For whatever reason, I was thinking today about a time in my life when I was acting quite irresponsibly.  At least that is how it must have appeared from an outsider’s perspective.  To me, and with a goodly measure of hindsight, what felt to be intrepid was probably pretty rash.  And maybe even a little naive and dumb.

I was also thinking today about times in my life when I was acting quite fearlessly and how life was just one long ride of incredible excitement.  Every day was new and different and challenges abounded as a result of this fearlessness.  I was riding a big wave and somehow managing to stay on the board.  I look back and think, Huh.  How did that even work?  

Fearless?  Irresponsible?  Is there even a line between the two?  Maybe life is one big Venn diagram . . . a symbol of where we place our confidence in life, in love, in ourselves.  I don’t know.  In that we are never completely aware of the full consequences of our actions, it is unclear as to how willy-nilly my behavior truly was.  And continues to be.  Still, it seems to be true that all kinds of crazy and dumb can lead to positive outcomes.  It sometimes comes down to the question of What we are willing to do for the pursuit of love and happiness?  What kind of risk are we willing to take?

Click on the link below and print out this journaling exercise.  Do some free associating with the diagram.  I’m not suggesting any empirical outcome.  I am simply asking you to consider that what you might carry as a regret might not have been as dumb and irresponsible as you think it was or is.

Life happens.  Consider the alternative.  I’d rather be living in the Overlap or even the Outer Fringes . . . knowing that I am willing to take the risk to try.  Just try.

Fearless or Irresponsible. Living in the Overlap.

[Three-hole punch this exercise and put it in your special journaling binder.  It is so rewarding to look back over writing that is honest and that encourages you to grow.  My journaling friends all say that they are glad they have saved their writing in one binder or notebook.  They also say that they are happy that they dated their writing and recorded their location.  You might be in the park, at your desk, or on a ferry.  You might be on an exotic vacattoaster ovenion or you might be waiting for your laundry to finish drying at the laundromat.  No matter where you are when you are recording your thoughts and feelings, when re-reading your entries at a later date . . . your spatial memory will trigger the Feelings of Epiphany you felt when you were discovering your Voice and your Truth.  Happy writing!]

 

Follow Your Own Heart

Almanac Directions . . .

“From my own experience, I want to say that you should follow your heart, and the mind will follow you. Believe in yourself, and you will create miracles. Kailash Satyarthi

Journal prompt for today: It’s time to create some miracles.

Click on the link below:

You can’t get lost if you follow your own heart. Journal prompt

Print this prompt out, 3-hole punch it, and start your True Directions binder . . . or simply write your three things down in your journal.   Take the journey and listen . . . you can’t get lost when you are following your own heart.  After all, you are the only one who can hear what it has to say.  The only one.

IMG_2886

 

What makes you come alive?

Working hard: What does this mean?  Does a successful life require that we work hard?

I think so.  When I read any Working Hard quotes from the famous movers and shakers, I can read the sincerity in their words.  They believe that they have achieved what success that they have because they worked hard.  But the one thing I am also reading in their words is their devotion to and passion for their work.  [Truly, there are an equally amazing number of quotes linking passion to success.]  These famous and accomplished people all seem committed to high standards, long hours, and the personal sacrifices that reflect their passion for their life work.  And they are having fun while they are working hard.  A great combination in anything: a good sweat while having fun.

057When I saw la Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris for the first time, to describe the experience avec le mot incroyable is a huge and holy understatement. I returned to it several afternoons — just roaming around and absorbing the grandeur.  It took over 100 years to build and the architects, sculptors, and builders remain anonymous.  Wow.  The history of this cathédrale’s construction, destruction, plunder, rebuilding, and ongoing maintenance is amazing.  Its delicacy has survived because of a commitment and vision to preserve its story and its testimony to Passion . . . keeping the beauty and the spirit of Notre Dame de Paris alive.

We are inspired by the most monumental of things.  Edifices.  Sacrifices.  Generosity.  Selflessness.  Grace under pressure.  We notice the grandeur and the beauty and the passion in others’ work, and we are sometimes intimidated by what appears to be overwhelming effort, vision, and success. We question if we could ever create something so amazing or be someone who is considered to be a laureate.

From a young age, we are taught to set noble standards and high expectations.  But what of the infinitesimally small things?  The tiny little gestures that vaporize upon expression yet mean so much in the moment?

Some days seem to require much from us and other days seem to require less.  These less-demanding days, I am content to shake my feathers and take a look around and see what opportunities of need are around me.  Simple things like leaving a sticky note with a positive message for a stranger to discover on campus or bringing someone coffee or telling someone that they look so nice today in salmon pink.  Little tiny things.  Do they make a difference?  I don’t know.  A smile in return is a huge reward for recognizing another’s uniqueness . . . his or her potential for coming alive.

quote. what makes you come alive“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs . . .” This quote summarizes so much simple genius.  Very inspiring: Go do that which makes me come alive.  How could I not want to Work Hard?  It’s a privilege to Come Alive.

What makes you come alive?  Today, what is that one bit of inspiration that makes your day turn from cloudy gray to sunny blue?

Tell that special someone that you love him. toaster oven Listen to that friend who is going through a tough time.  Maybe write or draw or paint or play some music or shoot some hoops or bake some chocolate chip cookies.  Maybe take the time to look out over the water at the sunset and thank the heavens for the message of hope and affirmation. Maybe laugh until your sides hurt.  Focus.  Never underestimate the power of a smile.  Work it, shake it, bust a move.  Re-direct a challenge.  Discover your passion.  Re-define success.  Believe in miracles.  Work hard.  Come alive.

 

 

 

 

What is that one thing?

What is that one thing —  that if you don’t do it everyday — you don’t feel quite right?

Running, playing music, hiking, taking pictures, gardening, speed skating, reading, playing water polo, geocaching, scrapbooking, quilting, rock climbing . . . What if no one had ever invented or discovered your passion?  Would you feel the gap?

It does seem that so many of the things that we love to do are derived from prior necessity. Someone had to learn to sew skins together to stay warm and someone else had to run to chase the herd or dodge enemies.  Someone wanted to climb cliffs to harvest eggs and someone else figured out a way to record stories with symbols in order to preserve them from disappearing.

So many of the things we love to do have a connection to the Mother of Invention.  And then I think about needlepoint or rock polishing or yarn bombing or collecting Beanie Babies or toy voyaging?  Could you live without Extreme Ironing?  Is ironing cloth while kayaking that one thing that you would just feel weird not doing every day?  This is not to diminish another’s passion — I celebrate creativity! . . . I just wonder about the evolution of the soul’s striving to express itself in modern times.  Viva la difference!  And bring the iron aboard, Matey!

We do, make, collect, expand, display, and learn.  My interests feel fairly global.  Nothing too over the top.  They are simple: Writing.  Painting with acrylics and junk jewelry and gauze.  Playing music.  Sharing with and laughing with my Sweetheart.  Dancing.  Researching the limbic system.  Going out for Happy Hour with friends.  Taking pictures with my new and awesome camera.  Walking my dog on the trail.  Pretty basic things, actually.  But I would feel really unsettled if I didn’t have these experiences in my life.  How much of what we do, we do because our soul just doesn’t feel right if we don’t do it?  Surely there is enough time in the days.  At least this is what I want to believe.

These questions came to mind as a result of a trip to the vacuum-cleaner-bag store — which also sells sewing machines and fabric.  The salesperson, Donna, was so enthusiastic about helping me, I asked her, “What is it you like about your job?”  Donna responded by saying, “I get to be around what I love.  I get to help people with their sewing projects and then I feel inspired.”  She went on to say that her husband had built a room onto their house so she would have a dedicated sewing room.  She  said, “If I didn’t sew every single day, I wouldn’t feel right.”

Wow.  I went in search of Type A vacuum bags and left with a good dose of inspiring enlightenment.  Her passion for sewing was so evident and inspiring.  I wondered to myself, “What is it that wouldn’t feel right not doing every day?  What would I do without _________?”

It is a good question.  Since meeting Donna, I have been consciously investing time in those things that really make me happy.  Prioritizing that which I naturally love to experience.  I love dedicating Sunday afternoons reflecting and journaling with my two best-est friends.  I really miss dancing if I don’t go at least once a week.  Twice is better. Thrice is the trifecta for my week.  If I don’t get paint on my hands at least once a month, I get restless.  I can’t imagine not laughing with my Sweetheart when we are together.  If I don’t write every single day, I feel weird.

Surely, this is what Donna was talking about.  If we don’t answer to our own selves, than we aren’t going to feel connected to Self at the end of the day.  Like there is some unfinished business just wanting to be completed — something that spills over into the next day . . . and the next. Like some creativity that is wanting to be expressed in 3-D on canvas.  Those running shoes that want to commit some memory to pavement.  Some invention that is simply nagging to be discovered.  Some research that is demanding a question to be answered.

It is like hearing an added sixth chord on a piano.  Would someone, anyone (!), go and resolve the dissonance, please?  Suspense is greatly (!) appreciated in jazz and in life but do allow me to experience a classical resolve as well.  I love that feeling of returning home.

What is it that you so love to do, if you don’t pay it any heed, you don’t feel quite right?  What is preventing you from embracing it and having some fun with it?  I am beginning to suspect that we are born with a compass of passion — that instrument within that guides us to do that which feeds our souls.  I love playing music and when I don’t prioritize it, something is out of balance.  I seek the resetting of my inner compass that will point me back home to that place of consonance.

 

Skipping in Place

I was thinking last night about how stuck we feel when we realize we are in a negative place.  Stuck like a needle in a skip on vinyl.  

We feel that there is no hope for forward movement, and we can hear the inevitability that it is we who are going to have to make the skip stop. Sometimes we hope that the scratch is sufficiently insignificant such that we can wait out the monotony . . . when all we need do is pick up the needle and move it to the next track.  I sometimes “kick myself” after realizing that I have invested time into something that is, in all actuality, cancelling out forward movement and quality of  life.  But maybe this is part of life’s learning, and I should be easier on myself.  

Regret is an emotion wasted.  It is the groove that is holding the skip in place.  By being present and freeing ourselves from being stuck, we are renewed with the energy that fuels our happiness in the present and our dreams for the future.  By taking action and removing that needle, we allow self-forgiveness for those What was I thinking? moments.  Time to move on.  Time to put on a new album and move to a new rhythm.unstuck-2

Life is brimming with gifts and treasures and happiness.  The discovery of this abundance is the best part of life for me, like opening a box that is filled with exactly my heart’s desire.  Perhaps bumping up against those not-so-positve places is not the villain after all . . . knowing that I have the strength and the courage to get up from my spot of stagnant acceptance, pick up the needle, place it on its holder, remove the album, pick a new album, reset the needle.  And enjoy.  Sigh.  It wasn’t that hard, truly.  Time to move on to a better-feeling place and dance to some new music.

Who knew that being brave could be so liberating?  Certainly not a unique concept for those who regularly beard the lion in the den before breakfast . . . but definitely something to consider when feeling stuck in a groove that shows no promise of movement.  Move the needle or change the vinyl.  Take a chance.  You never know what wonderful thing might happen.