Archive for the ‘My Journey’ Category

Recovering from being a straigh-A studentI have a confession to make: from elementary through high school, I was a straight A student.

If you asked anyone to describe me during those years they probably would have said 'quiet' and 'smart'. For a long time, that was how I saw myself as well, with my identity being completely shaped by my ability to get the right answers.

I had high standards and more than a touch of perfectionism. My poor parents would stay up with me the night before an assignment was due as I cried that it wasn't good enough (though it was miles ahead of what most other kids were doing.)

I got really good at figuring out what teachers wanted and doing exactly that. I excelled at multiple choice tests to the point where I found them fun. On the other hand, tests that involved creating something on the spot—for example, using a prompt to write a story—would reduce me to tears.

I relaxed a tiny bit in university once I realized that it didn't really matter what was on my transcript since I wasn't interested in grad school (and once I learned that my acting teachers wouldn't give me anything better than a B+ not matter how hard I tried) but I still stuck to the program. Pay attention in class, do your homework, follow instructions. (more…)

from the heartThis year, for the first time, I wrote out a sort of 'strategic plan' for my business. I decided what I wanted to accomplish for the year, what my top priorities were, and how I was going to achieve them. I decided that the one thing I wanted to accomplish this year, even if I got nothing else done, was to build a steady teaching schedule. I felt very good about my plan and my ability to make it happen, and for a couple of months, it seemed like everything was on track to work exactly how I had planned it.

Then it all fell apart. I spent two weeks tearing myself apart for a commission, rushed to try to prepare for my upcoming workshops, only to cancel them when no one registered. That's four workshops that I've canceled this year due to low enrollment. It seemed to me that my "plan" wasn't really working after all. (more…)


simple truths

Years ago I read the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In it, she made two lists of statements, of truths, that she lived by. She called them the "Twelve Commandments" and the "Secrets of Adulthood." They contained things like, "Be Gretchen", "Enjoy the process", and "Bring a sweater." These lists felt really important to me, so ever since then, I've been compiling my own lists of learnings to remind myself of what works in life, and what doesn't. I posted a list of things learned in 2014 here. Today I went through my list from 2015 and pulled out the best ones. These are simple things that, when I remember to use them, can make either a small or a monumental difference. Hopefully you find something useful here as well. (more…)

creative goalsLast week I looked back on and celebrated my creative accomplishments for 2015 and this week I'm thinking about what I want the coming year to look like. I've been feeling conflicted lately about how best to spend my creative time: should I be playing and experimenting, or making products to sell? Should I diligently work through my list of ideas, or let inspiration guide me? I was hoping to come up with a concrete plan to share with you, something that would resolve these questions and tell me exactly what I should do every day. As is often the way with creativity, however, I'm finding it hard to analyse and organize it. My creativity doesn't seem to want to submit to lists and deadlines. This is really hard for my analytical side, which is surprisingly strong for an artist, to handle. But I'm trying to make peace with it.

So, instead of sharing my plan for what I hope to accomplish this year, I'm sharing my creative values with you. The things that are important to me and that will hopefully shape my decisions when I'm trying to divide up my time. These are things that I want more of and though it seems impossible that I could ever have all of them, I'm willing to try. Because when it comes to creativity, we can't always tell it what to do. We can make space for it, and guide it and hope that it comes along for the ride. (more…)

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One of my favourite parts of December is taking time to look back over the year and celebrate everything that happened. It's something I only started doing in the last couple of years and I find that it is so worth it. I usually make a list of all my favourite memories and moments, and the accomplishments that I'm especially proud of. Then I think about what I want more of for the coming year, and start working on a plan.

This year part of the recap involves looking at the creative projects that I undertook and appreciating everything that I made this year. Next week watch for a post about my creative goals for the New Year.

This year I made an effort to get outside of my creative comfort zone a little and try some new things. And I think I was successful. I got involved with some group projects, tried my first creative job, and learned new techniques. Here's my list of creative accomplishments for 2015: (more…)

comfortable with discomfort

"Master your fear of discomfort, and you can master the universe." Leo Babauta

I spend a lot of my time working on feeling good. I work on my anxiety, make room for what I love, make sure I eat right and get enough sleep and exercise. And, as a result, my life is pretty good right now. I have time to do what I enjoy, I have an amazing relationship, close friendships, and I consider myself pretty darn lucky.

But I know I can do better than good. I have dreams and plans and ideas and someday I would like to make enough money to be able to replace a pair of shoes before they come apart at the seams. I know that I can make these things happen and that I can take my life from feeling pretty good to feeling pretty great. The only thing getting in my way is my fear of being uncomfortable. I don't see myself as ambitious in the traditional sense—wanting more money and power and possessions than the next person—but I do constantly yearn for more growth, more connection, and more experience. I'm learning that the only way for me to make those things happen is to do things that don't feel so good, to do things that I'm afraid of, and to keep stepping beyond what feels safe and comfortable.

I remember the first time I heard the term "the edge", during a yoga class at a hotel in Jamaica. I was trying out my first (and only) beach resort vacation and found that the yoga class was the only thing that made me feel truly engaged amidst all the eating, drinking, and lazing around (though the crocodile safari was pretty exciting). The instructor explained that in any yoga pose, you want to find the line between what's too easy and what's too hard. You want to find your edge and hang out in that space of challenge and discomfort. If you spend enough time there, the edge will shift and you'll find that you can go a little bit further, sink a little bit deeper. (more…)

nuit blanche edmontonA couple weekends ago, Edmonton saw its first Nuit Blanche event take over downtown and transform it into one giant art party. There was a pedway full of balloons (well, half full), a stack of bouncy castles, 120 trees covered in wishes, decorated potholes and dozens of other creations.

I didn't get to see any of that. I was in my booth at the Grand Market from 7pm until 3am, selling my artwork and watching something amazing unfold.

I've been experimenting with pop-up workshops and interactive activities at markets and art sales. Normally people come to these events to see art and buy products, but I want to give them the chance to participate in another way. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, when people are only consumers and not participants, it's like they're "not allowed to contribute to the evolving story of a universe that's in motion."  I want to give people the chance to contribute to that story, in whatever small way they can. (more…)

paying attention

The Falcon

Last week I saw something pretty amazing. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen the grainy, zoomed-in photo that I posted.

I was taking a walk through the river valley that runs through the middle of our city and is a 10 minute walk from my house. I was walking slowly, breathing in the wooded air and admiring the differently shaped trees when I heard a shrill, wheezing bird song. At first I thought it was a songbird, but then realized that the different notes I was hearing weren't being 'sung' but were just being echoed by different screeching voices. I stopped and looked up, trying to locate the source of the noise. It took some time, but I was patient, and eventually I spotted a large wing being stretched and ruffled. I got excited - was it an owl or some kind of raptor? I moved around the tree, trying to see it from different angles, and saw that the wing was emerging from a nest. Suddenly I spotted two more birds, perching on branches near the nest. Their wings were dark, their bellies light and speckled and their tales were striped. One of them looked down at me as I stared up. They were beautiful. (more…)

stories we tellI'm going to tell you something you might not agree with. It might not make sense to you. But I wholeheartedly believe that it's true.

The way we see ourselves, our identities, the situations we find ourselves in, and the emotions we experience, are all a result of the stories that we tell about ourselves and our lives.

In life coach Anna Kunnecke's Queen Sweep program, she starts off by telling two wildly different stories. One is full of tragedy and pain, and the other is full of magic and joy. Both tell the story of her life. They're both true - the events in each story really happened - but the two different interpretations of those events lead to completely different life journeys. Whichever one feels more true is the one that will determine how she interacts with the world. From what I can tell, I'm pretty sure she chose the joyful one.

"Any story you tell, any narrative you craft of your life, is somewhat arbitrary. The most negative interpretation of things is no more accurate than the most positive spin. We live in our own stories; psychology and neuroscience agree that as humans we live in a near-constant state of interpretation and meaning-making. We don’t control the things that happen to us, but the story we tell about it—whether we choose to become the victim or the hero—is up to us. And what we choose will determine the trajectory of whatever happens next." Anna Kunnecke


self-careAs I've written about before, one of the biggest obstacles to my creativity is dealing with heavy emotions like anxiety. As a result, I've probably spent more energy on figuring out how to feel better than I have on anything else. If you're a creative person, and especially if you're struggling to tap into your creativity, you probably find that your emotions can get in the way as well. A few weeks ago I wrote about what to do when creativity makes you feel bad. Today I'm sharing what I do when negativity and anxiety take hold.

I spent years feeling like I wasn't making any progress when it came to my moods. I would try something with some success and then forget about it, or I would keep trying things that just didn't work at all. Eventually I figured out a system - a way to keep track of what helps - that makes it clear what I need to do and not do. I started by thinking about how I wanted to feel, and every week I came up with strategies to try. Every day I wrote down 3 things that I did that made me feel good that day - not things that happened to me or that someone did for me, but things that I did - and at the end of the week I wrote down whether my strategies worked or not.

After about a year and a half of working on this, I have developed a few really solid strategies. I'm sharing them, not because I think they'll magically make you feel better, but to give you an idea of somewhere to start. As with anything, you need to experiment to figure out what works for you and then do that. (more…)