Monday, September 6, 2010

Filling Up the Margins

Handwriting analysis has always fascinated me. I've been doing it since high school. I'm always amazed at how accurate it is. Take my husband's writing. He writes with a back slant. A back slant usually indicates a person who is a bit timid and keeps to himself. That's Jim all the way. Being able to understand basic information about letter size, slant, loops, spacing gives me a much clearer idea of the person with whom I am communicating. Plus the accuracy of handwriting analysis is just plain fun.

So recently, I analyzed some writing I had done. I came across something I had never recognized before. When journaling, I fill up the whole page. No margins. Every spec of that page is full of script. In terms of analysis, this means that I am a person who fills up every inch of my life with life. I had to do an "ah ha" here. Of course that's me. I get up, drink coffee and then meditate (yes, in that order) and then the rest of the day is just packed full of life. 14 hours later I fall into bed but wait, I can't sleep yet. I need to read first. OK, now I can go to sleep.

I watch people sit on the couch in the middle of the afternoon to read. What, unheard of! I listen to unabridge books on my iPod so I can weed, do mosaics, or cook while listening to my book. I only let myself read books in the bathtub and before bed. No time for frivolity – too much to do!

But what does this mean for my creativity and soul to be so busy?  I've been pondering this thought since I made the "fill up her margins" realization. Am I too busy? Am I missing out because I don't give myself enough quiet time?

Though my life would not work for most, it really works for me. I love being busy. I love the variety of activities covered in a day. My creativity is actually stimulated by allowing myself the rhythm that fits me. I get some of my best ideas when I am in the midst of rowing on the river, working, baking bread or weeding the garden. The only downfall of filling up the margins is that it is harder to be spontaneous because every part of my day is already planned out and packed full. I'm working on that. I'm realizing I can adjust to spontaneously do something that just "comes up." I wonder if it will show up in my handwriting?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Creative Genius

Recently a friend sent me a link to hear Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed) on If you haven’t heard this and you find yourself struggling with self esteem and the creative process, spend 18 minutes and listen to what this insightful woman has to say. I’ve listened to it three or four times and think about her message often in the past few weeks.

What struck me most is understanding that our genius often lies outside ourselves and that it is a team effort to complete a work of art or a project. We must show up at our appointed time to do our work. But we can expect that if we show up (day after day), we will find help through our creative genius. For me this ties into the essence of how I feel when I’m creating an art piece. I feel as if I have assistance. Some unseen guidance that steps in and helps me with my craft. Often, after I finish a drawing, after I have stepped away from that altered space, I look at it and exclaim, “Oh my gosh, I did that? Is that possible?”

Not until I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert was I able to comprehend that I too have unseen helpers, a creative genius that steps in to meet me when I show up to do my art. It’s not just coming from me, it’s a team effort. Listen to Elizabeth on Ted.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Getting My Priorities Straight

I’m going to teach a Vision Board Class soon so I decided it was time to build a new vision board. The one adorning my office wall right now is at least 3 years old. I look at it and see lots of pieces that have come to fruition and others that I realize I didn’t really care to pursue.  For those of you who don’t know what a vision board is, it’s a collage of pictures from magazines, photos, greeting cards and sayings that represent what you want in your life. Since our desires change, it’s good to build a new vision board every few years.

Before starting to find content for my vision board, I spend a few sessions of morning pages (journaling) writing about what it was that I want to achieve in the next few years. I wrote pages about my aspirations, my desires, and what wasn’t working as well as what seemed to be. Then from those writings I built myself a list of 10 specific areas that I want to work on: my art, my health and exercise, diet, spirituality, travel, money/career, etc. My last vision board was too expansive and I realized later, that there were some images on the board that didn’t fit my goals and desires. This time I’m going to focus on just those 10 areas and see where it takes me. From my ten items, I also developed a series of affirmations to repeat when I’m swimming (You know how boring swimming gets. Affirmations help!) and mowing the lawn. I also say these affirmations the moment I wake up and the last thing before I go to sleep.

Through this whole process, I kept resonating with the concept that my goals are created with time. Time is so precious and yet, we are a society that wastes it. We spend our lives at jobs that make us money and deplete the short time given to us in this lifetime. So as I work on my visions, desires and goals from my vision board, I will keep in mind that my time is very valuable and I will waste less of it on matters that don’t feed my heart and soul. I’m getting my priorities in line for the next few years so I can really focus on what is important to me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Creative Cucumber

Now this is my idea of creativity. I can't wait to try all of these to see which ones will work. 
This information was in The New York Times several weeks ago as part of their "Spotlight on the Home" series that highlighted creative and fanciful ways to solve common problems.

1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day... Just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
2. Feeling tired in the afternoon?  Put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber.  Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower?  Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror...  It will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds?  Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long.  The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.  

5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool?  Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes.  The photochemical in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite.  Works great on wrinkles too!   

6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache?  Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free.  Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge?  Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes?  Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

9. Out of WD-40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge?  Take a cucumber sliced rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

10.  Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa?  Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

11.  Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints?  Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the photochemical will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

12.  Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel?  Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.

13.  Using a pen and made a mistake?  Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Tough to Find Creative Time

Lately I’ve been having trouble getting to my art. Work, houseguests, teaching classes, exercising and the Olympics have gotten in the way. Everyday I think I’m going to get up, get caught up and then get out to the studio for some serious creative time. Every night I climb into bed thinking, another day and I didn’t make it to the studio.

Yesterday my good friend and her lovely mom came over for breakfast. We were walking around my studio looking at some of the pieces I am working on, when Rose, my buddies mom said, “I always think I’m going to get to my art, but the dishes and the laundry get first priority.”

Oh my, that’s what I’ve been doing! Letting work and mundane chores get in the way of creating. So I made a decision this morning to set aside studio time three times a week. Work and the dishes – they don’t feed my soul; my artwork does. It’s so easy to get sidetracked and it’s possible to get back at it. So I’m gonna.

I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vision Board: Whatever you focus on – that's what you get!

A vision board is a collage of images and words that represents ones dreams and desires. Using magazines, words/sayings and personal photos you create a fascinating glimpse of what you wish for in your life.

I started making vision boards about 15 years ago because my friend Kath had them in strategic places around her house. She swore by them. So when I was at the beach for a few days, I built one. Once home, I tacked it up on the wall next to my bed so it was the first thing I looked at when I opened my eyes in the morning.

Waking up to a vision board is a great way to focus on positive dreams and desires. I’d slowly wake up viewing the board and think about what my focus should be that day. Maybe it would be exercise and reaching out to a friend or art and being more charitable. It changed daily and I had a wealth of ideas from which to choose.

I was so taken by this process that I started teaching one-day workshops. A group of women (I’ve never had a man in the class, but would love to) come together. They bring their favorite magazines, photos, saying. They find “their spot” in the room or out on a deck and go to work. We don’t talk much as it dissipates the attention to the process. We do listen to music. Participants look through magazines, cut out pictures and words and then they paste the collage together. The process takes about 5-6 hours. When we are finished, we spend some time talking about what we have created and what we want to accomplish in the next year or so.

There is no artistic skill involved in building a vision board. It’s PURE FUN and the process has the capacity to tap into those deep parts of your being. Having the time and space to create a vision board – it’s amazingly beneficial for clarity in ones life. I’ve run into numerous participants six months to two years after a workshop and heard raves about the number of areas that have improved in their lives. Of course, the areas that had improved were the ones that they focused on because they looked at their boards daily.

This is such a fun workshop. I’m teaching it in April at the community college here in Corvallis. I also facilitate these workshops for groups of women. You put the group together, I will come do the workshop. Using your vision board daily inspires you to move in the direction of your dreams and desires.

More info at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thought #7: Going Deeper

I use to conduct full-day technology workshops for teachers. Teachers are a lively bunch; they seldom get adult conversation since they spend their days with kids. So putting 25 teachers in a room together and trying to get them to listen can be nerve-racking. One really needs to be “on”.

20 years ago when I first started teaching, I had this feeling that I was on the surface. I wasn’t quite getting my point across, I wasn’t quite connecting on the level I needed to be clear and successful.

Then one day, while trying to explain something to a group, I felt myself going deeper. I took this breath, waited a moment and then drop down to the next level. Thought was clearer there. Time slowed down and I watched myself choosing just the right words, pausing at the right place for effect; it was quiet there. I tapped into the place where extraordinary things happen. This must be the place that athletes call the zone.

Since then I’ve been figuring out how to voluntarily go deeper. It’s such a cool place to hang out. I go there when I draw, garden, mediate, scull, shower and journal. These are all quiet activities but I suspect that they clear the way for me to go deeper in the midst of some busy activity where I need to get smarter and clearer very quickly. I do find I can get there quicker now that I know how it feels and how much more effective I can be.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thought #6: Morning Pages

I first read about morning pages 15 or so years ago in the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a very subtle, powerful process where one gets up each morning, gets their coffee (fill in your favorite beverage here), finds a quiet spot and writes three pages of thoughts in a cheap college notebook. You are encourage to just write a stream of thoughts and not stop until you have three pages filled. It takes 10 or 15 minutes at the most.

Since I teach a class about Turning Passions into Profit Streams, I hear a lot of hesitation, complains, and basically resistance when I suggest this to my students. Some of my favorites: I don’t have anything to write about, I don’t have time, I couldn’t possibly fill up three pages a day, I’m afraid of what I would find out, and on and on. All valid responses to such a simple but radical idea.

I had those thoughts too when I first read about morning pages. It sounded awful and scary. But I did it anyway and the process has proven to be one of the most important steps I have taken to improve my creative work, my relationships, my spirituality – my life.

When you begin, figure you will spend one to two weeks getting out the garbage; all the yuck revolving around and around in your brain. After a period of time though, most of those thoughts are down on paper and you’ll find you’ve come to some sort of resolve with them and they don’t seem to dominate your thoughts as they once did.

Now the fun begins: you start to write about your dreams, your aspirations, your ideas. You work out your fears around dreams and aspirations. You record and develop ideas and you start looking at situations from different perspectives.

Did I mention that you never go back and read those pages. You wrote them to get the thoughts/anxieties out of your head. The only time I read any of my morning pages is if I have a great idea; I flag it with a sticky note so I can find it later.

The Artist’s Way actually asks you to sign a contract for 40 days. That’s the amount of time it takes to cement a new habit. For 15 years I’ve been raving about morning pages. Most of my close friends have eventually had to try them just to get me off their backs. It’s a magical and beneficial process to scoot you closer to your dreams.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thought #5: Say Yes

I love the movie Yes Man with Jim Carrey. He’s a sort of down-and-out, depressed, negative guy who, as the movie begins, is just sort of wallowing in his self-imposed yuck. He runs into an old friend who takes him to a YES seminar (on the same lines as the old EST seminars) and challenges him to say Yes to everything in his life. And then the fun begins…

I totally giggled through the movie. I’ve gotten it from Netflix four times and am considering buying it. For a week or two after watching it, I really do say YES to just about everything that is offered up to me. Wanna go for a walk with me? Wanna go to San Francisco for the weekend? Yes. Wanna go see that artshow? Yes. Wanna do the dishes? Hesitation, hesitation, Yes!  I have to sort of keep my enthusiasm to myself or my husband will play me and get a lot more laundry and dish washing out of me – ha ha!

But truly, I feel my life change every time I focus on saying Yes. It lasts about two weeks and then I sort of slide away from it until I catch myself in old patterns. Time to get that movie again!

PS. I love the scene that plays during the credits. I wanna do that – Yes!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thought #4: Picking Raspberries

We use to grow raspberries. In the early morning, before the sun hit the patch, I’d put on my walkman (pre iPod period), start up my book and go pick raspberries – oodles of them. If you’ve ever picked berries, you’ll know that you can look at a bush from one position and pick all the berries, thinking you got them all. But if you just shift your body position even a few degrees, you can find all sorts of berries that you missed from your last viewpoint – never fails.

I love applying my berry-picking perspective to creative endeavors. When I come up with a great idea, I find that if I flesh it out a bit and then let it simmer, it takes on more dimension. While it is simmering, I intentionally work at shifting my perspective so I can view the idea from lots of angles. I read books and magazines, sketch/doodle, talk to people who might have done something similar, google the idea and I keep a journal of my thoughts on the subject. Sometimes the process surpasses the initial endeavor and leads to an even better outcome.  

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Copic Marker Drawings

After being a colored pencil artist for 30 years, I decided to do a study in markers. Since this blog is about creativity, I thought it would be a great place to display and talk about the images.

Last summer I saw some great drawings done with markers. Not aware that there is a whole cosmic world of markers, I bought a dozen at the craft store to start playing with them. There is a real science to markers. My first results weren't great. I then watched a bunch of YouTube videos and realized I was using paper that soaked up too much ink, plus my markers where cheap and didn't flow well.

I upgraded to expensive crisp, shiny paper and Copic markers that retail at $7/each. Doesn't seem like a lot of money until you realized that there are 337 colors available in these markers. Wow, that got expensive. So I bought 50 markers in strategic colors and started drawing. It's really quite fun.

I've posted a few of the drawing with the cheap markers and will continued to post the Copic maker images as I draw them. I'm assuming that my understanding of the medium will develop and the drawing will continue to improve as I work at it. Warning, I love to draw shoes – so there will be a lot of them posted here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thought #3: Creating a Space

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my husband to talk to me more. Not just the day-to-day stuff, but deeper thoughts. We’ve been in this relationship 30 years and it’s important to me that we stay connected. Creating a space in which to talk seemed like a good start.

Years ago at a women’s conference, I heard columnist/writer, Jennifer James speak. She talked about her son going away to college and how she was already missing him before he was actually gone. So she made the decision to just be available to him. Every time he walked into the room, she just sat down. It was casual – not at all obvious, but it created a magnet for potential chatter. He got use to her being available, because after all, she was always just sitting around when he was there and he started spending more time talking to her. She said his last year at home was their best year.

So I’ve started doing this with my husband. It seems to work best in the morning. I get a cup of coffee, feed the dogs and then I just sort of hang out at the kitchen table. Every time he comes into the room, I just smile and act interested in whatever he has to say. He’s talking more and I’m listening.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thought #2: The Buddha Smile

Ever been around someone who was contagious; not disease-wise, but vibe-wise? A woman I worked with could alter my mood drastically just by walking into our office. If her face was at peace, I knew the day would flow well. Distraught expression? Oh man, a much harder day.

Since I live in the great northwest and it’s winter time, the sky and people’s moods can be a bit dark. Gray weather brings on depression and the doldrums. Since we can’t always get out of here for sunnier weather, I work at practicing a Buddha smile.

A Buddha smile is just a small, subtle smile I try to wear as often as I can remember. There have actually been studies showing that smiling cues the brain to be happier (releasing endorphins). Well, yeah – but really, think about smiling, not because you are amused but just because you can smile. It affects your mood as well as everyone else around you.

So I’m in the car with my husband a while back. It’s winter, it’s gray, and I’m doing my Buddha smile practice. He doesn’t know I intentionally do this. We are stopped at a traffic light, and cars are turning onto the street we’re on, each moving slow enough that the driver looks at us as he/she turns. Each person turning, smiles at us as they go past. After five or six cars, my husband exclaims, “So what’s happening, everyone is smiling at us?” I just start giggling. See it works. I made myself happier by keeping my attention on a subtle smile and it brightened the drivers who passed us. It’s sort of like passing happiness forward. Smile because you can and others will do the same.

In her book, Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert meets a medicine man. He becomes her guru for a while and one of his requests is for her to meditate nightly. “What should I meditate on?” she asks. And he tells her it’s a smile meditation. She is to sit quietly and meditate for an hour with a smile on her face. “You need to be happier Liz,” he tells her. “Just breath and smile.”

So try it. Walk around for a week with a subtle little smile on your face and pay attention to your mood as well as those around you. It’s contagious.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thought #1: What a Great Idea!

I get my best ideas in the shower. I’m washing my hair, enjoying the warm water rushing over my head, and all the time I’m working through a design project, creating a new mosaic or building a flower bed. My biggest problem is having too many ideas while I’m wet and by the time I finish up, dry off, squeegee the shower – poof, they’re fuzzy or worse, gone!

I thought everyone experienced this divine intervention in the shower. And then one day I’m talking with a client and I say something to the effect, “…you know, like when you are in the shower and you get a great idea?”

Huh? He just looked at me with a blank face and said, “what do you mean?” I thought to myself, What’d you mean, what do I mean – doesn’t this happen to everyone? When I questioned him, he explained that he’d grown up in a household of seven siblings, two parents and ONE bathroom. He never knew people stood in the shower and pondered life. He was lucky to get hot water; so he was in and out of the shower in three minutes.

This made me wonder; would I have been a different person, chosen a different career, if I hadn’t stood in the shower and developed ideas? Sometimes I take a shower just so I can figure out a solution to a current problem.

Einstein exclaimed: “Why do I get my best ideas in the shower?” Brain research now tells us that this is because showering is an artistic-brain activity.

The Artist’s Way says this: Showering, swimming, scrubbing, shaving, steering a car, washing dishes, running – all of these are regular, repetitive activities that may tip us over from logic-brain into our more creative artist-brain. Solutions to sticky creative problems may bubble up through the dishwater, emerge on the freeway or while walking in the woods.

Years ago I heard that Wyden and Kennedy, an ad agency in Portland, had a basketball court on their bottom floor. When they were stuck on a project, they’d go play basketball until they came up with the solution. It’s also been said that they had computers right there next to the court so when they came up with a great idea, they could go right over to the computer and work on it (Urban tale?).

My biggest problem to this shower thing was losing ideas I conjured up. An underwater, diving white-board attached to the shower wall was the solution. Now when an idea emerges, I write it down. When I’m meditation or walking I carry a palm-sized tape recorder so I can quickly record the idea. It helps. And I also find, especially in meditation, that the moment I get it recorded, I can let it go and continue with the pursuit of enlightenment. So many ideas, so little water!