Monday, January 25, 2010

Thought #6: Morning Pages

I first read about morning pages 15 or so years ago in the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a very subtle, powerful process where one gets up each morning, gets their coffee (fill in your favorite beverage here), finds a quiet spot and writes three pages of thoughts in a cheap college notebook. You are encourage to just write a stream of thoughts and not stop until you have three pages filled. It takes 10 or 15 minutes at the most.

Since I teach a class about Turning Passions into Profit Streams, I hear a lot of hesitation, complains, and basically resistance when I suggest this to my students. Some of my favorites: I don’t have anything to write about, I don’t have time, I couldn’t possibly fill up three pages a day, I’m afraid of what I would find out, and on and on. All valid responses to such a simple but radical idea.

I had those thoughts too when I first read about morning pages. It sounded awful and scary. But I did it anyway and the process has proven to be one of the most important steps I have taken to improve my creative work, my relationships, my spirituality – my life.

When you begin, figure you will spend one to two weeks getting out the garbage; all the yuck revolving around and around in your brain. After a period of time though, most of those thoughts are down on paper and you’ll find you’ve come to some sort of resolve with them and they don’t seem to dominate your thoughts as they once did.

Now the fun begins: you start to write about your dreams, your aspirations, your ideas. You work out your fears around dreams and aspirations. You record and develop ideas and you start looking at situations from different perspectives.

Did I mention that you never go back and read those pages. You wrote them to get the thoughts/anxieties out of your head. The only time I read any of my morning pages is if I have a great idea; I flag it with a sticky note so I can find it later.

The Artist’s Way actually asks you to sign a contract for 40 days. That’s the amount of time it takes to cement a new habit. For 15 years I’ve been raving about morning pages. Most of my close friends have eventually had to try them just to get me off their backs. It’s a magical and beneficial process to scoot you closer to your dreams.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thought #5: Say Yes

I love the movie Yes Man with Jim Carrey. He’s a sort of down-and-out, depressed, negative guy who, as the movie begins, is just sort of wallowing in his self-imposed yuck. He runs into an old friend who takes him to a YES seminar (on the same lines as the old EST seminars) and challenges him to say Yes to everything in his life. And then the fun begins…

I totally giggled through the movie. I’ve gotten it from Netflix four times and am considering buying it. For a week or two after watching it, I really do say YES to just about everything that is offered up to me. Wanna go for a walk with me? Wanna go to San Francisco for the weekend? Yes. Wanna go see that artshow? Yes. Wanna do the dishes? Hesitation, hesitation, Yes!  I have to sort of keep my enthusiasm to myself or my husband will play me and get a lot more laundry and dish washing out of me – ha ha!

But truly, I feel my life change every time I focus on saying Yes. It lasts about two weeks and then I sort of slide away from it until I catch myself in old patterns. Time to get that movie again!

PS. I love the scene that plays during the credits. I wanna do that – Yes!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thought #4: Picking Raspberries

We use to grow raspberries. In the early morning, before the sun hit the patch, I’d put on my walkman (pre iPod period), start up my book and go pick raspberries – oodles of them. If you’ve ever picked berries, you’ll know that you can look at a bush from one position and pick all the berries, thinking you got them all. But if you just shift your body position even a few degrees, you can find all sorts of berries that you missed from your last viewpoint – never fails.

I love applying my berry-picking perspective to creative endeavors. When I come up with a great idea, I find that if I flesh it out a bit and then let it simmer, it takes on more dimension. While it is simmering, I intentionally work at shifting my perspective so I can view the idea from lots of angles. I read books and magazines, sketch/doodle, talk to people who might have done something similar, google the idea and I keep a journal of my thoughts on the subject. Sometimes the process surpasses the initial endeavor and leads to an even better outcome.  

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Copic Marker Drawings

After being a colored pencil artist for 30 years, I decided to do a study in markers. Since this blog is about creativity, I thought it would be a great place to display and talk about the images.

Last summer I saw some great drawings done with markers. Not aware that there is a whole cosmic world of markers, I bought a dozen at the craft store to start playing with them. There is a real science to markers. My first results weren't great. I then watched a bunch of YouTube videos and realized I was using paper that soaked up too much ink, plus my markers where cheap and didn't flow well.

I upgraded to expensive crisp, shiny paper and Copic markers that retail at $7/each. Doesn't seem like a lot of money until you realized that there are 337 colors available in these markers. Wow, that got expensive. So I bought 50 markers in strategic colors and started drawing. It's really quite fun.

I've posted a few of the drawing with the cheap markers and will continued to post the Copic maker images as I draw them. I'm assuming that my understanding of the medium will develop and the drawing will continue to improve as I work at it. Warning, I love to draw shoes – so there will be a lot of them posted here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thought #3: Creating a Space

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my husband to talk to me more. Not just the day-to-day stuff, but deeper thoughts. We’ve been in this relationship 30 years and it’s important to me that we stay connected. Creating a space in which to talk seemed like a good start.

Years ago at a women’s conference, I heard columnist/writer, Jennifer James speak. She talked about her son going away to college and how she was already missing him before he was actually gone. So she made the decision to just be available to him. Every time he walked into the room, she just sat down. It was casual – not at all obvious, but it created a magnet for potential chatter. He got use to her being available, because after all, she was always just sitting around when he was there and he started spending more time talking to her. She said his last year at home was their best year.

So I’ve started doing this with my husband. It seems to work best in the morning. I get a cup of coffee, feed the dogs and then I just sort of hang out at the kitchen table. Every time he comes into the room, I just smile and act interested in whatever he has to say. He’s talking more and I’m listening.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thought #2: The Buddha Smile

Ever been around someone who was contagious; not disease-wise, but vibe-wise? A woman I worked with could alter my mood drastically just by walking into our office. If her face was at peace, I knew the day would flow well. Distraught expression? Oh man, a much harder day.

Since I live in the great northwest and it’s winter time, the sky and people’s moods can be a bit dark. Gray weather brings on depression and the doldrums. Since we can’t always get out of here for sunnier weather, I work at practicing a Buddha smile.

A Buddha smile is just a small, subtle smile I try to wear as often as I can remember. There have actually been studies showing that smiling cues the brain to be happier (releasing endorphins). Well, yeah – but really, think about smiling, not because you are amused but just because you can smile. It affects your mood as well as everyone else around you.

So I’m in the car with my husband a while back. It’s winter, it’s gray, and I’m doing my Buddha smile practice. He doesn’t know I intentionally do this. We are stopped at a traffic light, and cars are turning onto the street we’re on, each moving slow enough that the driver looks at us as he/she turns. Each person turning, smiles at us as they go past. After five or six cars, my husband exclaims, “So what’s happening, everyone is smiling at us?” I just start giggling. See it works. I made myself happier by keeping my attention on a subtle smile and it brightened the drivers who passed us. It’s sort of like passing happiness forward. Smile because you can and others will do the same.

In her book, Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert meets a medicine man. He becomes her guru for a while and one of his requests is for her to meditate nightly. “What should I meditate on?” she asks. And he tells her it’s a smile meditation. She is to sit quietly and meditate for an hour with a smile on her face. “You need to be happier Liz,” he tells her. “Just breath and smile.”

So try it. Walk around for a week with a subtle little smile on your face and pay attention to your mood as well as those around you. It’s contagious.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thought #1: What a Great Idea!

I get my best ideas in the shower. I’m washing my hair, enjoying the warm water rushing over my head, and all the time I’m working through a design project, creating a new mosaic or building a flower bed. My biggest problem is having too many ideas while I’m wet and by the time I finish up, dry off, squeegee the shower – poof, they’re fuzzy or worse, gone!

I thought everyone experienced this divine intervention in the shower. And then one day I’m talking with a client and I say something to the effect, “…you know, like when you are in the shower and you get a great idea?”

Huh? He just looked at me with a blank face and said, “what do you mean?” I thought to myself, What’d you mean, what do I mean – doesn’t this happen to everyone? When I questioned him, he explained that he’d grown up in a household of seven siblings, two parents and ONE bathroom. He never knew people stood in the shower and pondered life. He was lucky to get hot water; so he was in and out of the shower in three minutes.

This made me wonder; would I have been a different person, chosen a different career, if I hadn’t stood in the shower and developed ideas? Sometimes I take a shower just so I can figure out a solution to a current problem.

Einstein exclaimed: “Why do I get my best ideas in the shower?” Brain research now tells us that this is because showering is an artistic-brain activity.

The Artist’s Way says this: Showering, swimming, scrubbing, shaving, steering a car, washing dishes, running – all of these are regular, repetitive activities that may tip us over from logic-brain into our more creative artist-brain. Solutions to sticky creative problems may bubble up through the dishwater, emerge on the freeway or while walking in the woods.

Years ago I heard that Wyden and Kennedy, an ad agency in Portland, had a basketball court on their bottom floor. When they were stuck on a project, they’d go play basketball until they came up with the solution. It’s also been said that they had computers right there next to the court so when they came up with a great idea, they could go right over to the computer and work on it (Urban tale?).

My biggest problem to this shower thing was losing ideas I conjured up. An underwater, diving white-board attached to the shower wall was the solution. Now when an idea emerges, I write it down. When I’m meditation or walking I carry a palm-sized tape recorder so I can quickly record the idea. It helps. And I also find, especially in meditation, that the moment I get it recorded, I can let it go and continue with the pursuit of enlightenment. So many ideas, so little water!