Saturday, July 30, 2011

Quotation: Fill the glass with champagne

‎"You devise ways to add some magic to the places you’re going. You have to. Otherwise you’d drown in the negative very quickly. It’s so easy to say the glass is half empty. You have to force yourself to say: no, wait a minute, there’s a few more sips in there! And all the time you have to think up ways to fill the glass again. Preferably champagne!"
- Tori Amos -

"Just like a sunbeam can't separate itself from the sun, and a wave can't separate itself from the ocean, we can't separate ourselves from one another. We are all part of a vast sea of love, one indivisible divine mind."
- Marianne Williamson -

"Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments - often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we're too busy chasing down the extraordinary moments. Other times we're so afraid of the dark we don't dare let ourselves enjoy the light. A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude and inspiration"
- Brene Brown -

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Weaving a creative life balance

No matter which side you look at it from, our society seems set up to make living a creative life and doing meaningful work mutually exclusive. The fact that so many people struggle to incorporate both into their lives in a balanced way would seem to support the idea that only the lucky few can have it both ways. But I don’t believe that’s true. I don’t think the problem is that the two are exclusive from one another; the problem – or a part of it - is that our definitions of both are exclusive.

“We all have talents and gifts. When we cultivate those gifts and share them with the world, we create a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives" ** 

Creativity goes beyond just paint on canvas and words on paper. It’s not just ‘artists’ who are creative, and this idea of their being creative and non-creative people really doesn’t work, because ALL people are creative – creativity begins with thought, the only difference is if and how you choose to use that creativity. And yet we still talk about artists and ‘creative types’ as though they’re a rare species. 

“The artist is not a different kind of person, but every person is a different kind of artist”
- Eric Gill

Meaningful work is similarly narrowed down to something done by an elite group of people – Doctors, Lawyers, and professionals. We seem to confuse meaningful with ‘important’ – and what society considers important – forgetting that only we can define what is meaningful to us. It comes from the heart - not a rule book that says so.

“No-one can define what is meaningful for us. Culture doesn’t get to dictate if it’s working outside the home, raising children, lawyering, teaching or painting. Like our gifts and talents, meaning is unique to each one of us.” ** 

It doesn’t matter which side of the divide you fall, this is a problem, because despite what the straight suits may say - we need BOTH creativity and meaningful work in our lives to thrive both personally AND professionally.

For those whose creativity IS a part of what they define as meaningful work, it can seem like an impossible equation to balance. But I also think they’re more aware of how important those things are in their lives and I think it’s a part of why phrases like ‘the struggling artist’ exist. Because people who are fully engaged in their creativity become acutely aware of just what it brings to their lives, and for many the things it does bring are of far greater value than the dollars it doesn’t. So it’s not so much that they are choosing financial insecurity, it is more the case that they are choosing to ensure the personal paradigms that their creativity nurtures. They’re unwilling to endure the pain of suffocating their creative spirit.

“Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out it’s not merely benign or “too bad” if we don’t use the gifts we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical wellbeing. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear and even grief.” ** 

One of the problems is that this can also come at a cost – and not just a dollar figure. A lot of creative work is unstable and under-appreciated; it may be personally meaningful, but it often falls outside the box of what our friends, family and/or society defines as ‘meaningful’.

“Using our gifts and talents to create meaningful work takes a tremendous amount of commitment, because in many cases meaningful work is not what pays the bills. Some folks have managed to align everything – they use their gifts and talents to do work that feeds their souls and their families; however, most people piece it together.” ** 

And it’s that piecing it together part that a lot of people find to be the biggest struggle. But I think that one of the main reasons is that we don’t bring our creativity to the process of cultivating meaningful work and a creative life. Instead, of looking for outside the box to create a workable balance, we try to fit our creativity into the boxes that society labels ‘meaningful’ – in some cases we settle for merely ‘acceptable’. And I think that sometimes in the process, we amputate the most meaningful parts to fit inside these narrow definitions. The fact of the matter is that not every artist will find Graphic Design rewarding, stimulating &/or meaningful; not every writer wants to be a journalist. So it’s little wonder that when we do squish our lives into these rigid boxes we often find ourselves uncomfortable. What we need to do is to use our creativity to expand the dimensions of the spaces we live our lives in. Not only does it provide greater comfort for our current selves, it also allows for growth and broadening of our perceptions.

Personally, I don't believe you can last long in a soul-destroying job without feeling the effects in other aspects of your life; but I DO believe that you can balance doing work that may not be your life passion, by weaving creativity through everything you do. Living a creative life is not about the number of hours a day you spend painting or writing or singing; on the most basic level, a 'creative life' is a way of thinking. And one that is valuable to art as it is business, and most importantly - to you individually. Creativity is the heart of innovation and growth; it's also how we solve all problems. Solutions come from creativity and knowledge, and almost all knowledge is the documented result(s) of previous creativity. So by operating from this mind set and bringing creativity to every task, we make the mundane more enjoyable; the challenging more easily resolved; and when we DO have that dedicated creative time to write or paint or play we're able to make the most of it, because we don't have to warm up or switch on the creative brain - it's already fully engaged.

So how do you keep the brain in that space all of the time? I think that the answer to that question is probably different for all of us. Practice is the very simple answer. In more specific terms, these are some of the things that I personally find helpful.

- Get clear on what inspires your creative thought and what drains it. Write down lists for both with your ideal life in mind, and identify the barriers that get in the way of living it. The things that inspire me I try to weave into my daily life - even in small doses. And the things that get in the way I try to eliminate shift or minimize.

- Be mindful of your environment and the effect it has on you. Personally, I cannot work amongst clutter and disorganisation - but I also find if things are too clinical it kills inspiration. It comes down to comfort & belonging - the mood, music, temperature and personal touches all play a part in cultivating that.

- Create an inspiration wall, pin board or blog. Whether its photos, artwork, quotes, fabric or trinkets - creating a visual reminder of all the things that inspire you can have an incredibly powerful effect. And I personally find that it has me expanding my list of what inspires me and adding or changing the visuals constantly, which also keeps it all fresh in my mind.

- Notice the little things. Nature truly is the world greatest artist. For me, there are few things that bring a smile to my face faster than colour and light - I have been known to almost walk into telegraph poles mesmerized by the beauty of pink camellias on bright green leaves, against a clear blue sky! A lot of people find photography really helps with this – you begin to look at the world through an imaginary viewfinder. I can certainly say that when I discovered the Hipstamatic iPhone app I did find myself wearing 'will this make a good lomo imitation photo?' goggles. The beauty of things like camera phone apps is that it makes it so easy to find a dash of creative inspiration in any moment.

- Don't always schedule creative time last on the list after the days work - make it a priority. One of the things I've discovered is a huge barrier to using my free time to be creative is exhaustion. By the time that point of the day(or night rather) arrives I'm exhausted, and when my brain is over-tired the creative flow stops. It was a realisation that actually took me by surprise, because I can't count the amount of times I've been so wrapped in a drawing or piece of jewelry I was making that 3AM would arrive without me even blinking. The key difference is that in those instances I started whatever I was doing before exhaustion took over. And this highlights one of the other reasons dedicated creative time is so valuable and essential: Engaging my mind creatively energizes me; the effect is not unlike meditation, leaving my mind clear and at peace.

- Step outside your comfort zone. When confronted with the unknown or unfamiliar we can’t rely on what we ‘know’; we don’t have a rehearsed or automatic response as we do for so many situations. What this does is forces us to think outside the square of what we do know, and explore new thoughts, ideas, feelings and solutions. Once the stream of new thought is flowing you never know where it may take you. Often when I come up with new creative ideas I’ll wonder why on earth I didn’t think of it before, and so often it’s because ideas pop up from the most unexpected places.

And stepping into the unknown is exactly what I’m about to do. I’m returning to work in a job that isn’t the sort of meaningful work that is most important to me, and it isn’t what I want to do forever - but it does create a solution to my present situation. It is meaningful to me in some sense, and it does offer me the chance to use my creativity in different ways that will help me get to where I’m going - and that makes me smile.

How do you weave creativity and meaningful work into your life? Have you been able to find a balance, or is it still a struggle? I’d love to hear how YOU stay inspired and on track.

** Quotes come from the book The Gifts Of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Quotation: Gratitude & Gold Dust

"Authenticity is a daily practice. Living authentically means cultivating the courage to be emotionally honest, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of light and darkness, strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we let go of who we are supposed to be and embrace who we are. Authenticity demands wholehearted living and loving—even when it’s hard, even when it hurts, and especially when we are wrestling with the shame and fear of ‘not being enough.’ Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.”
- Brené Brown -
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

- Melodie Beattie -

“The music always comes in my darkest hour, and the music is always so giving. I have this picture of an endless well somewhere, I don't know where it is -- in the star systems out there. And the more that you're open to it the more that it keeps coming.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quotation: Creativity - The Mother Of All Energies

“The artist is not a different kind of person, but every person is a different kind of artist”
- Eric Gill -

 "Creativity is the mother of all energies, nurturer of your most alive self. It charges up every part of you. When you’re plugged in, a spontaneous combustion occurs that ‘artists’ don’t have a monopoly on."
- Judith Orloff -

"Their [Artist] psyche is animated with the energy to express it into physical forms. The nature or relative grandeur of any form of expression is irrelevant; a chef can be as much of an Artist as a painter or landscaper.

The signature of artists is not in what they do but in how intense their motivation is to manifest the extraordinary.

Doing what you do in such a way that you create an emotional field that inspires others also indicates the Artist energy at work, as does the emotional and psychological need to express yourself so much that your well-being is wrapped up in this energy.”
- Caroline Myss -

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quotation: Heading in the right direction

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
- Marianne Williamson -

“In life, sometimes everything falls into place, and sometimes everything just falls to pieces. The key is to begin creating with these fallen pieces. By improvising, you’ll create something magical that might be the best thing you’ve ever accomplished.”
- Tori Amos -

"I now see that owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do. I now see that cultivating a wholehearted life is not like trying to reach a destination. It's like walking towards a star in the sky. We never really arrive, but we certainly know we're heading in the right direction."
- Brene Brown -

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Imaginspiration: Blog Blessings

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why On Earth Are You Writing A Blog?

This is a question I am sure my self of a couple of years ago would be asking right now. And perhaps a few other people too. There are also some of you who have have a fair idea of why I’m writing a blog as you’ve encouraged, suggested, supported, and patiently waited for me to do this, and you may perhaps wonder why it’s even a question? Let me explain…

Firstly, I’m not a writer. That might come as a shock to anyone who has exchanged emails with me, but by nature, as a creative outlet or means of expression - writing has never been my thing. Writing has always been my sister’s love, something other people do, and something I did only if I had to. It was also something my therapist suggested I try on a number of occasions, which I responded to with less than luke-warm enthusiasm, emphasizing my previous points. Until I found myself in the unfamiliar situation of having a swirl of thoughts in my head, yet being unable to verbalize a single one of them. Before I knew it the cyclone in my head was a flurry of words on paper, and somehow they seemed to align themselves in a way that made sense, where previously I could find none. Gradually I have come to understand the value of writing as a tool of communication and expression; a way of clarifying thoughts and ideas. In a purely creative sense, I will always favour pens, pencils and paintbrushes - but I now also appreciate the power of words in the written form.

The second thing you need to know is that I’m not by nature an online person. Something that you might find that hard to believe knowing me now, but stepping back just a few years I didn’t even have a permanent email address! The internet was simply a tool that I had little time or use for. As different things in my life changed, so did the purpose I found in the online world. Today it’s plays a part in everything from my work, to my creativity and inspiration to staying in touch with friends all over the world.

The internet cops a fair bit of flak where friendship’s concerned. And not without reason. When we count friends as a number, and refer to ‘real life friends’ and ‘online friends’, as though there isn’t actually a person behind a screen typing away, we instantly devalue these connections and invest less in these friendships we don’t call ‘real’. There can be a frightening disconnect from words and actions online, but just because someone isn’t standing in front of you, it doesn’t mean that what you say and do and the way you treat people doesn’t matter. The truth is that the internet at it’s most basic level is just a communication medium –  NOT a measuring stick indicator of friendships. The value is in the content of communication – NOT the medium over which it’s communicated. And when there is value in the content, the internet also becomes the facilitator of connections that distance would otherwise make almost impossible.

The things through which we form connections online are not so different from the things that connect us offline: The music we love; the art we create; the words that inspire us and so much more. The difference is that the internet is boundless; yet at the same time, it can bridge the distance that may separate like-minded souls who in the physical world may never meet. In sharing the things that move us most, we share parts of our story – who we are – and this truly is the heart of connection.

And that is largely what this blog is about. Through the things I love, the experiences I’ve had, and the beliefs I’ve come to hold, I’ve stumbled across universal connections with people I’ve never met, yet almost feel I might have known my entire life. All of these things that make up my unique story, are also what connects me to countless other people on this planet; this is a space to share and grow that connection and inspire life, because as the amazing Brene Brown says, “Connection is why we’re here; it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”