That Creative Life: Getting back on the horse!

The past  couple of weeks have been unfortunately busier than anticipated. I felt quite drained a lot of the time. My morning routine went all to shit, and I definitely felt the negative effects. My online course was wrapping up and so there were assignments and final reflections to write. At the same time, my teaching job was starting up, so I had lesson plans to create. I suddenly had a bunch of things on my plate that I didn’t want to do. I wanted to keep working on my art and my blog, but the idea of doing so felt irresponsible. I kept telling myself, just get those nagging tasks done and then you can go back to creating. The problem is, my brain is really good at telling me I should do nothing at all instead of getting my homework done. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had spent the time doing work that I loved, for fun, while procrastinating… but no, instead I just wasted time with nothingness. I don’t know about you, but when I procrastinate, because I feel the weight of my to-do list looming over me, I can’t even ENJOY the internet junk food I consume when procrastinating. I’m too stressed and flit from social media site to social media site, searching for the rush I want but am incapable of feeling. It really is a negative cycle, and one that can only be broken by actually doing the work.

Eventually, my brain will snap out of it’s frantic internet squirrel mode and begrudgingly decide that it was finally time to get this stupid work out of the way. And then, while I hated every minute of it, I would complete my homework. Part of the reason why I dread homework so much is that it always seems to take way longer than I think it will. Maybe I’m just a slow worker, I don’t know.

One of Gretchen Rubens’ Happiness Project resolutions was to “Act the way you want to feel.” She didn’t want to be tired when her daughters wanted to play at the end of a long day, so she tried to act like she was full of energy and found that, by doing so, her tanks were refilled! I’ve been experimenting with this idea, and find that while it may not work all the time to trick myself into actually liking doing work I don’t like doing, it has been able to put me in an energetic creative mood when I was otherwise “too tired” to do so before. 

Once I start doing something creative, my whole mindset improves. It took a quarter century but I’ve discovered how important having creativity in my life. A creative outlook is vital.

The important part is that you start back up. Don’t beat yourself up for stopping, or falling off the horse as it were. Remember: Day one is better than one day, after all.

What always invigorates you? What is your favourite thing to do? What do you wish you did more of? What do you “not have time for?”

BABY STEPS TO A MORE CREATIVE LIFE

Last week I wrote about how to live a more creative and fulfilling life. If you’d like to read my recommendations, suggested book list, please check out my post.

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron is always at the top of my list of recommendations. There is no denying that reading this book and completing the 12 week course is a life changing and fruitful endeavour. From my experience, however, it’s a deceptively hard course to complete. I don’t want to dissuade you from trying. Struggle brings growth! I tried to complete the course last year but the timing wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t ready. Don’t beat yourself up if you start and fall off the wagon. You will have learned something just by trying, I guarantee.

If, like me a year ago, you don’t think you are ready to do the full 12 week course, I have developed a “baby-steps” path to a more creative life.

BABY STEPS TO A MORE CREATIVE LIFE

  1. Read the introduction to “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron to learn about Morning Pages
  2. Write your morning pages every day. If you’re not a morning person, they don’t need to be written first thing in the morning as Julia Cameron recommends. In my opinion, when you do them is not as important as the fact that you do them. Morning pages allow you to have deep conversations with yourself. I feel like I’ve only met myself through those three daily pages of writing. Morning pages are a place where you start out by complaining about your day, planning your to-do lists, ranting about what happened yesterday, and worrying about the future… but that sort of stuff can only take up so many words. Around 1.5 pages in, I find that I run out of mundane things to talk about. This is where the real magic starts. This is where you get to talk to the real you and discover what you really want to do, how you want to spend your time, what you’ve been missing, what you’ve always wanted to try, etc. This clarity doesn’t come right away. Oh no! There are definitely days when I’ve written “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write” over and over for a while until I found something else to write. Getting to know yourself is a slow process, but one that will happen through the morning pages.
  3. Commit to doing something you love every day. The morning pages help you discover what you really want to do. My pages revealed that I wanted to get serious about developing my multimedia art skills. I challenged myself to do a drawing every day. I didn’t say it had to be a finished, polished drawing – I just had to put pen to paper and doodle every day. If you have a musical instrument that you’ve been neglecting, challenge yourself to pick it up every day. Want to write a novel? Challenge yourself to write 500 words every day. So many artists say that the key to being a successful artist is showing up and doing the work every day. Ten to thirty minutes of practice will make a big difference, I guarantee. The habit isn’t that hard to pick up, I promise. It might suck for the first week or two as you stress about fitting it into your day, but soon a day without doing it will feel like a day wasted. Stick with it!

Other things I recommend:

Read up on Minimalism. Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of your possessions and living in a sterile black and white room; it’s about simplifying your life so that you can live your life with intention. It’s about surrounding yourself with only what you need and love so that you can live the life you want. Minimalism has many different forms and philosophies, so I recommend reading as many POVs as you can. Some of my favourite minimalists blogs are: Jenny Mustard, Zen Habits, No Sidebar, The Minimalists, and Break the Twitch

Unplug!  This one is hard, but it pays off in spades. Spend some time with no TV, no internet, no books, no music, no news, nothing! If there is one surefire way to force yourself to create something, it’s being bored and being alone with your own thoughts. Challenge yourself to do media deprivation for a day, or a weekend, or a week! Sit, observe the world around you, look out the window, sing the songs that are stuck in your head (and you may only know a few of the words), play with your cat or your dog, take a walk… all of this is good! All of it will get you out of your digital world of distractions, will help you stop comparing yourself to other people and their fabulous facebook lives, and it will plunk you, unapologetically, in the centre of your own life. That is a hard place to be, it turns out, but it is a fertile place. With no distractions, you have no choice but to ask yourself “how do I want to live my life?” If you have sympathetic roommates, or family members, ask them to join you in this challenge. I did it with LB  for a whole week and it really helped to have someone else “suffering” along side me for a week. We encouraged each other to keep going and shared our frustrations and discoveries. It was a powerful week!   

Talk to your friends and family. Ask your parents or siblings about what you loved doing as a child. There may be a favourite toy, hobby or something you always wanted to do as a kid, but may have forgotten about. Is there something you always talk about wanting to do but have never done? Something you talk passionately about? Something you would never dream of doing, though you secretly want to? A club you were a part of in high school or university that you talk about non-stop even though it was years ago? Finding out the impression you leave on the people closest to you through what you say and what you share with them can help you figure out what you should try out, or discover what you’ve been denying yourself. 

If you have your own tips and tricks, things that helped you find a life of creativity, please share them below! If you try out any of the things I recommend, please let me know how they go! You can become the artist you want to be and live a life you love. Good luck! 🙂


Note: This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend products that I have used myself, enjoyed and benefited from. If you make a purchase through these sites, you’ll be supporting my dream of being an artist and living my life to the fullest, so thank you!

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The Scary 9 Things about Starting a Blog

Everyone has a shitty blog to their name. Everyone who owns a computer with internet access has started a blog and after a post or two has left it to rot. Personally, I’ve lost count how many shitty half-baked blogs I have to my name. Every year or two I start a new one with new enthusiasm and gusto “This time, this blog is going to be the blog that works!” and so I go scouring the internet for advice: what platform should I use?; What advice to successful bloggers have for new bloggers starting out?  I find myself deep down a Pinterest rabbit hole full of words like “branding” and “social media optimization” and am subsequently filled with so much uncertainty and anxiety that my blog boner has wilted.

If it wasn’t for my morning pages repeatedly telling me that I want to start a blog and renewing my motivation to regularly post to it daily, this blog wouldn’t be here at all.

So here’s my advice from one just starting blogger to another:

#1″Pick your blog theme? How? I don’t even know what I want to write about?”

Whenever I read the advice to pick a theme and create a blog around it, I was like: “but, but, but I don’t know what I want to write about, and I know I certainly can’t limit it to only one thing?!” I decided to say “fuck that” and just write what I wanted to. My theme, then, if you must categorize it, would be “personality blog”, but that doesn’t even fit the mold. It’s an blog where I post artwork, share music and internet videos I like and then reflect or write long form about something on a Monday. That’s what I’m bringing to the table, and hopefully people will find it and like it enough to keep coming back every week.

#2 Quantity leads to Quality.

The blank page is a terrifying sight, I know, but you’ve got to overcome it and write. Just write about whatever. At the start it is all about getting over hang-ups and creating a habit of blogging.

#3 Social Media Optimizing?

This one is a good idea. If you don’t share your posts across multiple platforms then no one is going to ever find it. I have a twitter, and instagram and a facebook page which I share things to. It’s early days so I’m not sure how effective it has been, but my page views do grow with every day, so some progress must be being made. I highly recommend setting up a Hootsuite account because you can send out and schedule posts in advance all from one place, which is really helpful because, well, life happens!

#4 Make it personal!

I love reading blog posts for the human voice of the writing. If I didn’t want to get to know the author of an article I was reading, then I would read the news! Stay true to you. Don’t put on airs, because this blog is an extension of you. It’s your voice out there in the interwebs, so keep it respectful. A good rule of thumb I like to keep in mind is to ask yourself “Would I want to show this to my grandma? Would she be proud of me after reading this?” If the answer is no because she’d probably go and rinse my mouth out with soap, then maybe you shouldn’t post it. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that the internet is a wonderful networking tool. You never know who could be reading your work. They could really like it and reach out to you for an opportunity, or it could be someone in HR researching your name after you submitted a resume. Moral of the story: put your best face forward.

#5 Find Blogger friends and Comment on their pages

Ugh. Barf.

This is something that I struggle with and rarely do myself. I think the fact that I read a lot of my blogs on my phone really influences if I leave a comment or not. Part of the key to having a successful blog (or so I’ve heard) is to comment on other people’s blogs. This is done with the hopes that they will come back and read and comment on one of your posts. I feel a little cheap doing this as it feels disingenuous, only posting a comment to get something back in return, so you need to ask yourself “why am I leaving this comment?” If it is because you genuinely enjoyed the content, then please leave that comment! If you only are doing it so that it leads to a page view for your adsense revenue, then maybe you need to rethink what blogging means to you.

#6 Always end blog posts with a “call to action”

Dance, readers, dance! Muahahaahaha!

I am so shitty at this. Part of me feels cheesy asking a question at the end because I’m like “everyone will know it’s just a cheep shot to get people to reply to me so that I am validated through comments” but no, it’s all part of creating a community through your blog. I started this blog with the hopes that I would find like minded people

#7 Schedule and write posts in advance

(c) Toothpaste for Dinner

As I said in point three, life happens. If you’re serious about your blog, you’re going to need to be posting regularly to keep people interested and coming back for more. If you have themed days, like how I have Tunesday where I share a song ever Tuesday, try to plan those posts well in advance, write them and schedule them to go. Hunker down one day and hammer them out, and then boom, you have just taken care of Tunesday for the next three months! I like to use Hootsuite to schedule advanced posts, and also have a good old fashioned paper calendar that lays out what I’m going to be posting when. Find the system that works best for you.

#8 Word limits, lists and click bait titles

There are so many limits put on bloggers before they’ve even started writing! “Don’t make your posts too long! People don’t like to read!” If people don’t like to read, why are they even looking at a blog? Word limits are something I really disagree with. I don’t want to edit myself to suit other people. Even if I post into cyberspace and only get silence in return, fine. Eventually I will attract the people who are willing to read slightly longer-form blog posts. Heck, I’m sure Dan Carlin got the same pressure to edit down his podcasts, but his 4 hour long, multiple chaptered Hardcore History podcasts have a huge following. There is an audience out there for everybody so keep doing what you’re doing.

That being said, as a student of Graphic Design and user design, people do love lists and bullet points. They love things that are easy to read and have lots of blank space that breaks up blocks of text. I wish there was a way to create columns in these posts to shorten the line lengths. Eyes get tired when they have to travel too far, lazy peepers.

To me, the urge to create a catchy title feels like selling out before you’ve even started. There is some truth to it though. But lets be real, hasn’t everyone caught on to those click-bait titles and can spot them and their horrifically ad-riddled posts a mile away? Dear humble readers, I assure you, if I ever use a click-bait-esque title, it will be done with the most heartfelt hipster irony and so I hope you enjoy it. A little wink from me to you.

#9 Have fun!

The truth of it all is the likelihood that your blog brings you fame and fortune is very slim, so if this is something you’re going to be putting your heart and soul into make sure you enjoy it! That joy will come through in your posts and your readers will be able to tell.

Let’s talk, dear readers!

Does reading a blog on a mobile device without a physical keyboard deter you from leaving a comment?

Are you thinking about starting a blog yourself? What is stopping you?

Is there anything you’d like to see done differently on this blog? If you’ve been checking in for a while, thank you! I’d really value your input!

Have a lovely week, guys!