learningI am slightly obsessed with learning. I was the only kid in my grade one class who was excited about homework. I couldn't wait to get to university to take classes on theoretical physics and African history pre-colonization. As my boyfriend can attest (he had to implement a 'no books in the bed' rule when I moved in), I usually am nearing the maximum number of books my library will allow because I want to read every book written about all the subjects I'm interested in - of which there are many.

Constant learning has been essential to the growth of my creativity. As I mention in my booklet, 51 Ways to be more Creative Every Day (don't have it yet? Sign up for email updates on the right side of this page!) learning helps us grow, and growing is energizing. It gives us new ideas to play with, new methods of exploring those ideas, and new ways of seeing ourselves and the world we live in.

I've satisfied my thirst for knowledge and understanding in many different ways, from formal education, to library books, to courses and workshops (in person and online), from extensive Google searches in my living room to immersive hands-on explorations on other continents. I love teaching myself - I learned to speak Spanish and to swim with more ease and efficiency without an instructor - and I tend to try to figure things out on my own before asking anyone for help. I often get to the point, however, when I know that I can't get farther on my own steam and need to take advantage of the work that someone else has done to become an expert. (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

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creative ways to relax

#9: draw with dots

Last year I worked with a friend of mine to make a giant paper maché brain for a school project. We met on Friday mornings to share breakfast and work on the project and chat. It was a lot of work and took us many weeks. Though we both often thought about cancelling due to heavy work load, we never regretted the time we spent together getting messy and making something. When we were finished my friend told me that this time had helped her to feel relaxed amidst her busy student life. Playing with paper mache was a treat and a good chance for her to rest and regroup. For me, too, it was a nice break from the pressure I put on myself to constantly be producing new work.

It's hard to make creativity a priority in our lives. There's always something more important to do. And it can be hard to feel relaxed doing it when our inner critic can be so mean. Sometimes it feels more stressful to work on a creative project than to just zone out with a book or a TV show.

But creativity doesn't have to mean doing something hard, or coming up with something brand new. It can be easy and relaxing, and still give us the satisfaction of saying yes to our creative selves. (more…)

creative living

Photo by Alex Tran

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 (and sometimes more often!) I'll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me. 

Meags Fitzgerald is one of the hardest working creative people I've met. She's incredibly prolific, in all kinds of media, and is the only person I know who has published a book - with another one on the way. I've known her literally her whole life, as our parents were good friends when we were kids, and I've always been inspired by her dedication to living a creative life.

What sort of creative work do you do?

I work (and play) in a lot of disciplines. At the core, most of my interests are about combining images and stories. By trade I’m an illustrator, a lot of my jobs are t-shirt and poster designs. However, I’m best known for my work as a graphic novelist; I write and draw non-fiction stories. I’ve also made sculptures and photographs that I’ve exhibited, as well as stop-motion animations that have screened at film festivals. I really enjoy crafting, specifically sewing, crochet and embroidery. On the performance side of things, I do live storytelling and work as an improv theatre teacher. More recently I’ve been getting involved with circus arts, primarily exploring aerial silks and contortion. (more…)

artist links

My newest print of a Yellow Lady Slipper orchid

I spent the weekend at the Whyte Avenue Art Walk. One of Edmonton's busiest streets was filled with artists selling their work and making art right on the street. When I wasn't baking in the sun and talking to ALL the people, I was checking out some amazing local art. It has become clear to me that a lot of my favourite work is inspired by, or incorporates, nature and the natural world (just like my art!).

This Sunday I'm going to be taking part in an exhibit of artists all expressing their relationship with nature (at the Devonian Botanical Gardens, 10-6 on Sunday) so I thought I would gather some of the interesting work I have come across lately that fits with that theme. I hope you feel as awed and inspired as I do!  (more…)

inner criticLately I've been thinking of creativity as a journey that we are called to embark on. I'm on an adventure, trying to fight the demons and make my way home to my truest, best life, and so are you. Along the way, I think we encounter two characters, two sides of ourselves that have their own take on how to live this adventure. And they usually don't get along.

You have a creative self, a version of you that has amazing ideas, endless energy and motivation, and that gets so lost in creativity she forgets to eat.

And you have an inner critic, a version of you that tells you that it's pointless to try be creative because nothing you do will ever turn out right and no one cares and you should just shut up and go back to bed.

If you have trouble accessing your creative self, it might be because you've spent too much time listening to your inner critic. Even if that part of you is buried beneath years of criticism (from yourself or from others), I promise you it's there. (more…)

creative living

Photo by Cory Johnn

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. 

This week I sent my questions to local designer and metalsmith, Kristine MacDonald. Her Alberta-inspired jewellery is unique and recognizable, and is making a big splash here in Edmonton. We met on a dragon boating team 3 years ago and I've loved watching her business and artistry grow.

What sort of creative work do you do? 

I work with copper to design and create custom jewelery and accessories. I am also a freelance web and graphic designer. (more…)

what's I've been reading

Another stack of books I can't wait to get started on

The fact that it's been 4 months since my last books post tells me that I don't finish very many books, or at least I don't finish very many books that I feel like recommending. Only the best for you! Here's what I've enjoyed reading since I published my last list back in March:

Non-Fiction

The Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield is kind of an amazing guy. At six years old he decided he was going to be an astronaut and every decision he made from that point on was in service of his dream. In case accomplishing that goal wasn't cool enough, he also created videos in space teaching kids about science and playing his guitar, and he became pretty famous. (more…)

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…)