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…)

finishing what you startLast week I finally finished the creative experiment that I started way back in November. I got the book Draw Paint Print Like the Great Artists, by Marion Deuchars, for my birthday last year and I decided that I would do every single exercise in the book, and document my progress on Instagram. I thought it would take me 4 months, but it ended up taking 6 1/2. I'm so happy to report that last week I finished the final exercise. Doesn't this book look amazing? I used the heck out of it.

The point of the project, as I wrote about here and here, was to build up a weekly creative habit, develop some discipline, and see if I could learn to let go of my inner critic and just play with the exercises.

The first few months were great. I couldn't wait to start working on each assignment and was reluctant to move on to other things once my time was up. However, almost right after writing my mid-project recap, I hit a bit of a wall. (more…)

window displayAs you may have seen on Instagram, last week I set up a window display at a popular hotel here in Edmonton. It's part of an amazing project called Green Window City, which invited artists to pair up with businesses in a busy shopping and restaurant district. The goal of the project is to reclaim otherwise wasted materials to make art, and to celebrate Pride Week here in Edmonton. Nineteen installations went up last week, and I feel so lucky to have made one of them. (more…)

creative living

Photo by Orange Girls Photographs

One of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month I'll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me. 

For the very first of my interviews I am so excited to welcome local Edmonton designer Justine Ma to the blog. Our creative lives have criss-crossed each other since we were in the same high school art class and later when we were both vendors at the Royal Bison Craft and Art Fair. Her work is beautiful and charming - I bought one of her onesies for my friend's baby and it is absolutely adorable. Enjoy!

What sort of creative work do you do?

I’m a graphic designer. I specialize in hand lettering and contemporary calligraphy. I make stationery, large prints, and home goods. (more…)

creating doesn't feel good

Why do we create? Because it makes us feel good. It relaxes us, or helps us focus, or lets us escape. It gives us a sense of purpose and helps us to create meaning. And if we choose to share what we create, it can help others get to similar positive states.

Unfortunately, the creative process doesn't always feel good. Sometimes it can feel downright awful.

You know those times when you feel like you're banging your head against a wall. You pick up a project and feel instantly bored, or you hate the sight of it. Sometimes it brings up negative memories or emphasizes what you don't like about yourself. And sometimes it just feels so hard that you want to cry.

At times like these, I wonder why I bother with creativity at all. It's supposed to be something I love, something that makes me feel happy, and here it is making me miserable.

Is it still worth it? What can we do when creating is painful rather than enjoyable? From my experience, the trick is to get out of the zone of pain as fast as possible and get back to feeling good. That way I can see more clearly and make better decisions. Whether that means doing something creative or not, I try to find something that lets me relax and take a breath.

Here are 6 ways you might find your way out of the dark spots:

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does creativity matter

Sometimes I wonder if I have my priorities straight.

I went to a panel discussion recently where the topic was connecting community. The discussion around who and what get left out of community building had a big impact on me. It got me thinking about how I spend my time and where I focus my energy, and wondering whether I'm really being the person I want to be.

A homeless man asks me for change while I'm trying to sell my artwork at a street fair, and I feel uncomfortable. 

An earthquake obliterates parts of Nepal and I'm worrying about whether an art project will turn out right. 

Someone I care about is going through a breakup, or an illness, and I forget to call them because I'm so immersed in a project.

I stop volunteering with immigrants and other newcomers because I want to spend my time building my business and taking dance classes.

I use what seems like mountains of paper when I'm printmaking - some ends up in a frame on a wall, but a lot of it goes to the recycling bin.

At times like these, I can't help wondering: Is creativity really as important as I think it is? Is my focus on living a creative life getting in the way of me helping the world the way I should? Does creativity really matter that much?

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creative role modelsThis is a new series where I write about the people that inspire me to be more creative every day: the people who live and breathe creativity and are using their passion to make the world a better place. I've also written about Nick Bantock, Jim Hensen, Lisa Congdon, and Amanda Palmer.

Who is Elizabeth Gilbert?

When I mention her name in conversation, sometimes people don't know who I'm talking about - until I mention that she wrote Eat Pray Love. Though that's her most well known book, she's also written two novels (her newest, The Signature of All Things is brilliant), a biography, another memoir, a collection of short stories, and countless articles and essays.  Her books have been best-sellers, she has won numerous awards, and Eat Pray Love was turned into a movie starring Julia Roberts. Her first Ted Talk on creativity has 9 million views, and she has a new book coming out in September (I can't wait!) called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
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inspiration in childhood

I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard-wired into our imaginations. These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye color, except they govern our creative impulses. They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them. Twyla Tharp

When I was 11 years old, I started a "Things to do when bored" list. It had suggestions like: write letters, work on alien photo album, put on a show, make puppets, puzzles, skulptures, beads, baking, watercolours, design clothes... etc.

Many of the things on that list (which I still have) are things that I would like to spend my time doing now (even 'phone Eryn' is something I wish I did more often), and though I rarely slow down enough to feel bored, I do occasionally get stuck doing the same things over and over again and feel a need for inspiration.

I've read in many places that remembering what you loved as a child can help you find your calling as an adult. While this is certainly true for some of us (the scene above is not that different from how I like to spend my time now), it doesn't necessarily have to point you towards a career. Going back to childhood passions can simply help you be more passionate in your life today. (more…)

travel photography

Since I've been practising DSLR photography (you can see other posts about my learning process here, here, here, and here), I really wanted to bring my camera on our trip to Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE. We were both a bit nervous about having it with us because we'd be very sad if it were lost or stolen, but I figured it was worth the risk. It's not every day that I get to practice taking photos in cities other than my own, never mind on the other side of the world.

I wasn't totally sure that my skills would be good enough to make a difference in the quality of the photos but it turned out that, skills or no skills, the camera made a huge difference. And since I wasn't sketching or doing any other creative activities, composing pictures gave me the opportunity to keep my creative muscles engaged.

The biggest thing I learned about travel photography was, (more…)

travel

One of my favourite parts about travelling is opening up my suitcase when I get home and pulling out all the treasures that I brought home. Gifts for friends, decorations for my home, edible treats and more spill out and remind me of all that I've seen and experienced. Of course, it’s not just physical objects that I bring home but memories, experiences, and plenty of inspiration. In Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE we saw so much and my heart is overflowing with the magic of it all. Here are some of the things I brought home from my trip, both the tangible and the ephemeral:  (more…)