Creative Flow, Self Care, and Listening to my Inner Creative Voice

You ever feel like your creativity has gone on strike? I have. For a while things were a mess. My creativity was coming in waves, and some times I was peaking, and other times I was crashing. Speaking of crashing, after burning the candle at both ends, for way too long, especially last year, I finally took some time for me, for self care, and had a bit of a stay-cation, and then a bit of a vacation. I needed it.

The stay-cation and vacation were in January. Now it’s February, the month of love. For me, February is also the month of Self-Love/Self-Care. Since last year, which was the year from hell for many of us, I’ve been slowly but surely finding my creative flow. It has been a lot of trial and error, but I’ve tried to keep an open mind and let things grow organically, while at the same time trying to manage my creative life (the work parts). It’s not easy, and it’s definitely a work in progress, but I’m getting there. And here’s how that process has been unfolding…

Towards the end of last year, my mom and son finally decided to move in with us. To make a long story short, my mom’s house is falling apart, literally. It had become dangerous for her to live there. Once they moved in, we became overrun with their boxes, crates, bags. We have a small house. It’s around 1100sqft, which meant we had to move things from the guest room, I had to get my studio packed up–but where to put it. We decided to convert a barn shed into a barn studio. (Videos are here.) We then became inundated with tools, barn supplies, and barn and house DIY projects. The barn studio and house weren’t the only things were/are working on, but they were top priorities. The barn studio was such a big project, and a creative one, it took up a tremendous amount of my headspace, and creativity and energy, but it helped me get back some of my creative flow. (I’ll do a post on the barn studio soon.) It also has taken a lot longer than anticipated.

Once I was officially in the barn study, I started trying to cultivate a routine. It was hard. I was burning the candle at both ends trying to unpack, organize, and setup things in the barn studio, as well as create videos, while at the same time moving my stuff out of the closet in the guest bedroom into our master bedroom’s closet, which happens to be half the size of the other two bedroom closets (David and I are sharing said small closet.) It was rough for all of us for a while, but we got through it. We’re still working on both the barn studio and the house, but we’ve come a long way.

Cultivating my creative practice really has been a great deal of trial and error. Lots of happy little accidents that really helped me practice mindfulness and positivity, not to mention it really improved my DIY skills. Between my creative projects, like the barn studio conversion, and my planning system, and journaling, I have learned a lot about how my creativity ebbs and flows, as well as what inspires me. Really inspires me. Pinterest and YouTube were huge helps for the barn conversion.

I’ve also learned what has and hasn’t worked for me. Self-doubt, fear, comparison, and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) have been triggers that have influenced me in negative ways, and yet I learned so very much from going through those things that I feel grateful. And it’s not like I’ve exorcised them, I still go through bouts of self-doubt at times, still hear that little nagging negative voice of comparison, still feel FOMO here and there–but I’ve learned to write those things down in my journal so I can figure out the root cause. Sometimes I’m able to turn the negative self talk into a positive.

After I’ve written down the negative speak or the self-doubts, like “this spread is horrible,” or “this video makes no sense,” or “what are you even doing on YouTube, much less Patreon?,” or the “oh, but if I had that Folio, or that notebook, or that fountain pen, or that palette…I bet my journal pages would be prettier, or my video would be better, or my art would be….” No! I take the time to journal about my feelings and thoughts on whatever it is that’s got me in the trenches, whether it’s self-doubt, comparison, or FOMO or whatever else. Half the time, whatever it is that I see that I think I might want because someone else is using it, it’s more about how they’re using it that I am attracted to, not the item itself. Other times, it’s the item itself and then I look around my stash to see if I already have something similar. And half the time I’m in a bit of imposter syndrome, or the negative self talk it’s really more of a case of anxiety, overwhelm, or just plain ole’ self doubt rearing its ugly head.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret trying some things, some of the things work, and those things that didn’t work–I learned more about what doesn’t work, as well as what does work, and why it works for me. However, the more I’ve let things grow organically, especially with my journaling and planning, the more I find myself feeling creative, inspired, free–and the more my creative flow actually flows. That has to do with being flexible. The more flexible I am, the more I leave the door open to creativity, the more things flow authentically. The more my planning system works for me. The more my journal pages flow.

Part of my self-care is making art. Creating art, in some way, is a tool that helps me destress. It lessens my anxiety. Helps me think, heal, grieve, and listen to my inner voice. There’s something really soothing about getting into the zone when I’m creating art, whether it’s watercoloring, drawing, or doodling. Taking time to create art, or to just doodle, is important. It’s also a safe place. There’s no judgment. It’s like tending a garden. Some days I need to spend more time on the planning, other days I need to spend more time on the art, and other days I need to just relax and enjoy the sunshine. I’ve learned to listen to my inner creative voice, the voice that says, “you really need to slow down, maybe take an hour and read or doodle.” Sometimes when the inner creative voice is telling me I need to slow down, be mindful, even when the creativity feels a little off, I’ll take a walk or read, and I feel refreshed, and then the ideas flow again, the creativity flows again, and I run with it.

I started the Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention, by Julia Cameron the author of The Artist’s Way, on February 1st. It’s a 6 week self guided program. So far it’s been great. Here is the introduction video I did about it. I’ve decided to do videos and posts about it. I just started, it’s only day 8, the first week was the intro, which was last week, so my next post will be all about it, but I thought y’all might be interested. I would love to post on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I think I’ll make Saturday’s the updates on the Listening Path. However, the Intro and Week 1 will be this week during the week, since I’m a little behind on here.

Today’s Daily Soul Vitamin, from the book The Awe-Manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder, is “Helped are those who create anything at all, for they shall relive the thrill of their own conception and realize a partnership in the creation of the Universe that keeps them responsible and cheerful.” ~Alice Walker

Have a great day!

Burgess

My Creative Journey

It was a dark and stormy time…

Mr. Rockstar (David) was driving “over the road,” and I had to have surgery (a hysterectomy), which meant I was bed ridden for a bit. While bed ridden I really got into my “fauxbonichi.” It wasn’t just the journaling, it was creating the pages–combining art and words, documenting my life on the pages of my journal. I hadn’t created art in almost three decades, but I was having fun and being creative so I was happy. I wanted to get better. I wanted to find my groove again (I loved to draw and paint all throughout elementary, middle, and high school). So I worked on prompts, watched videos (a whole lot of journal with me videos, mostly Hobonichi and Fauxbonichi videos back then).

The more I worked on my pages, trying different things the more joy I felt. The less anxious I felt. After getting over my initial fear of “what if I don’t do it right?” or “what if it’s awful?” or “what if I suck at this?” and then there was fear of the blank page–what do I put on the page? But after more and more journaling, practicing my artistic skills and techniques I got over the bulk of those fears. I found adding art to my journal pages to be fun, relaxing, and interesting. I learned a lot and am still learning a lot.

Though it is fun, and I absolutely love documenting my life with art and words, I’m still a bit overwhelmed at times by the sheer volume of different means and mediums, and the ways that people use them. There people who simply use pen and ink, some add watercolor to their pen and ink, while others use watercolor and gouache, along with colored pencils, and there are those who use acrylics. Not to mention other things you can use on your pages like ephemera, pictures, collage, colored pencils, markers, crayons, stamps, and/or stains. I’ve tried a few different mediums, but I always find myself primarily using pen, ink, watercolor, pictures, everyday ephemera, colored pencils, and/or markers.

I’ve also tried various styles, from more realistic to more illustrated, a bit of a comic or clipart style, to a combination of styles. I love to just sketch things, but I’d say my favorite is when I can capture the essence of what I’m sketching no matter which style I use. I realize that my journal pages and sketchbook pages are not masterpieces, they are not likely to ever be displayed in a gallery, but they’re mine. Not only did I put a bit of love into the pages but I also had fun and was able to capture a bit of my life onto each page.

I’ve learned so much on this journey of combining art and words to my journal pages, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. In the beginning I compared my pages to the pages of others–big mistake, but once I started looking at how far I’d come with my own technique it made me realize it’s really more about the moment. Some days my pages are so good they make me take a second look at them to make sure they’re my own. Other days I feel like I’m having a bit of a Mercury Retrograde with my art. On those days I can’t seem to draw a straight line, much less illustrate my day. So those are days I make it more fun and childlike, more whimsical. Other days I simply splash on some watercolor and add ephemera, pictures, and journaling and call it a day.

One of my favorite things about a blank page in a journal or sketchbook is that there are all these possibilities. You never know what kind of page you’ll find in my journals or sketchbooks. Some days I document the book I’m currently reading, other days a bit of a self portrait and a quote. What I create on my pages really depends on my mood, the events of the day, and what materials (like photos or ephemera) I have on hand.

Whenever I do something creative I feel like 1. I’ve accomplished something even if the outcome isn’t brilliant, 2. I’ve had fun, even if the outcome isn’t what I’d hoped it would be, and 3. just doing it, just being creative brings me joy and relieves my anxiety, stress, and helps me reign in my focus (always a good thing when you have anxiety, depression, and ADHD).

I try really hard not to criticize my work, or anyone else’s. Some days our work might look like a flour sifter, other days it might look more like a cup of hot cocoa–but beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder so either way–flour sifter or cup of cocoa I’m happy. How about you?

Getting my Groove Back

Be Authentic

Me, artwork by Brie Hatton

For the past few months, well really for a little over a year now, I’ve been finding my way through my new normal. When things change we often feel a bit out of sorts. I felt out of sorts in a variety of ways, but I tried to hold to being authentic. Being authentic isn’t always easy, especially when you’re grieving (people want to make you feel better, and you want to feel better, but grief ebbs and flows–and let’s face it,  after a while you get tired of being asked how you’re doing? and others sometimes feel awkward when your grief is brought up). To be an authentic person means honesty, openness, integrity. It’s being genuine, “authentic.” When you’re authentic, people find it refreshing to be around you, to get to know you, to interact with you. 

So why is being authentic sometimes hard? For the past few years, I’ve been honing my skills and techniques when it comes to journaling: art, handwriting, drawing, composition. And yet it often feels like the insurgence of messages from social media just keep telling me that unless my pages from social media don’t look aesthetically pleasing, which means damn near perfect, then the pages aren’t likely to be seen by many of my peers. However, the messages about being “authentic,” “progress not perfection,” “just be yourself” or “be true to yourself,” or “do it your way” are front and center. Seems like a bit of a contradiction to me. 

Visit to my Mom’s

**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.**

Don’t get me wrong,  phrases like “be authentic” or “progress not perfection” are positive and encouraging statements, even if they can seem a bit cliche,  are usually well-intended, but it’s not always easy to just be yourself, which is being authentic; or to let go of the anxiety you feel over your less than perfect but authentic watercolor of Thanksgiving when you’re constantly being bombarded by pictures, posts, videos, etc. that are damn near perfect. So you think to yourself… Hmm, maybe they photoshopped theirs–I sure wish I knew how to use Photoshop. Or maybe they took a class–maybe I should take a class. Or maybe they’ve been practicing for years–maybe I need to practice more. All three of those might be true, or just one of them might be true, yet it doesn’t matter, what matters is how you feel when you’re looking at those pictures–if you’re comparing yourself to others then you’re doing yourself an injustice.

Thanksgiving 2018

Creativity

Creativity is such a personal thing, from what and/or how we choose to be creative, to the mediums we use, to the execution, and the process. And yet, for those of us who are creative, especially those of us who are content creators, it is difficult to not feel at least a bit of anxiety, stress over uploading our images, posts, and/or videos on social media when every time you turn around someone is telling you that in order for you to succeed, to grow, to be well liked, and/or to be well received you need to curate your pictures, posts, videos. Or you need this background, or these supplies, or this camera, this type of cover photos, or this kind of thumbnail, or this kind of title or tags… the list is endless. 

New FitBit Blaze

All of those “things” that we supposedly need to be creative, to keep a journal or a sketchbook or planner, to make a video, to have a Youtube channel or a website/blog or an Instagram account… they are just that–things. Things that may or may not work really well for some. Things that some like and others don’t. In an age where there are more and more people choosing to live a more minimalist life, or who are striving to go deeper instead of wider (check “Depth Year’), I don’t get it. Well, maybe I don’t get why it took me so long to get that “less is sometimes more.” 

Flow

My Dad used to tell us that “there’s no such thing as can’t,” and for the longest time I reminded myself of that whenever I felt stuck, when I couldn’t figure out how to do something, or when I felt scared that I wasn’t smart enough or good enough or enough in general. But when my Dad died of cancer last year (October 2017) and my Mom was put into ICU and I was fighting to save her, fighting to keep her fighting, I learned what real strength is. What courage really means. My mom was in the hospital for 10 days and 9 nights. Her organs were shutting down when I signed her into the ER, and when they wheeled her into the ICU my Dad was still in one of the rooms because I had to leave my (grown) children with their grandfather so he wouldn’t be alone when he drew his last breath (after the respirator was pulled) so I could admit my mom into the hospital. It’s a year later and I’m finally starting to get my groove back. 

Homemade Banana Nut Bread

I’m finally starting to get back into the flow. My New Normal, as I like to call it. But it wasn’t until the past few months that I finally started to feel remotely normal. That I felt the kind of depth of creativity that I felt before going through such a traumatic experience–my creative well is a bit different now.  Now that I finally feel like my “authentic” self, there are a few things that I’ve noticed –even though I knew these things were out there, that I knew were an issue, I hadn’t let myself dwell on any of it too much–I had other things on my mind that were far more important; things like getting my creative groove back, like finding my way through grief and healing, like figuring out what my new normal was/is. 

I’m not a Pro at content creation, especially on Youtube, but I do know what I like when watching Youtube videos. I’m definitely not an Instagram guru–hell, some months I’m doing good if I post a few pictures, let alone one a day or even one a week. Nor am a I much of a Twitterer, or very good about Pinterest, but I’m starting to get a wee bit better at some things. However, the thing that has often held me back is that I rarely curate my photos, or my videos for that matter. The real question is why I haven’t gone the route of curating my photos, or making my videos, my YT channel, more curated. 

One of my curated efforts…

Progress not Perfection

Do I have to curate? No. My desk is often messy when I’m in the middle of creating. And as much as I wish I kept things really clean and clutter free, often my supplies are scattered all over my craft table and desk. Even when I’ve taken a bit of time to curate a photo there is still usually at least a wee bit of mess. Instead of a jar of fresh, clean water, or a clutter free area, I’ve simply moved a few things around so that you can clearly see what I want seen, and the rest is… well it’s how I roll. I love what I do. 

I love being creative. I love art, writing, journals, pens, watercolor, tomoe river paper, traveler’s notebooks, leather, markers, fountain pens, color… the list could go on, but the thing I love the most is any chance I have to be creative. I would love to be able to be creative with photos, to learn how to use Photoshop, to be able to create my own logo, to use said logo on my videos, my cover photo for YT, FB, etc… but the one thing I’m not real sure about, even when I do endeavor to learn how to use Photoshop, is to completely curate my photos. I want others out there, like me, to know that’s it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to be messy when you create. It’s okay for your art not to be perfect. We’re human beings not robots, our creativity is priceless, perfect or not. The more we practice the better we get, but it’s the process of being creative that is important. It’s the journey not the destination (another cliche, I know). 

So I’ll continue to post pictures that aren’t perfect. Videos that aren’t perfect. I’ll continue to create art that isn’t perfect. I’ll continue to be myself and to be true to myself. And hopefully, that will help someone else who has struggled to be creative. I’ll continue to share some of what I  create even when many of my creations are no where near perfection. It’s truly not about perfection, it’s about the process, the progress–that’s what creativity and authenticity are to me.