creativity

Living A More Creative Life

In August I began a Lifelong Learner’s Creativity group at the library where I work. In November I signed a contract for a book on creativity. It has been an honor to watch the women in my group blossom and grow as we delve into each other’s interests and actively pursue a more creative life. 

My book includes optional *Ignite* activities at the end of each chapter, suggestions for exploring or jumpstarting your creative side. I’ve been testing out some of the activities on my group. Last night it was the Vision Board activity.

*Ignite*
 “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver 

My mother left behind scrapbooks made from brown paper bag pages sewn together, with magazine pictures of things she’d like to make glued inside. A notebook labeled “Dream On” included ideas for home decorating. A collage of what I want to include in my life would have a blue butterfly smack dab in the middle, signifying the husband who encouraged me to fly. There would also be pictures of overflowing bookshelves, stacks of stationery. Beach scenes and mountains. What do you envision for your life or future? What do you want to surround yourself with? What are your hopes and dreams?
Make a vision board, alone, or with a group. Tear pictures out of magazines. Arrange them on poster board. Add inspirational quotes from our previous chapter, or words like “possibilities” or “fly” that are torn from magazines. What does your creative future look like?

vision board

Thanks to the brilliant idea from another member, I decided to utilize a black-framed bulletin board I picked up at Goodwill for mine. I’m thrilled with the results, though I know I will be adding to it. The Bible verse is one that is particularly meaningful to me since my husband’s death. Seeing a mountain is on my bucket list, and I want to add more nature into my life. The picture in the middle is one I’ve had in a file folder since shortly after my mother died, when I discovered her brown bag scrapbooks, and imagined doing something similar, collecting pictures of things that were pleasing to my eye. 

This book will be dedicated to my mother, one of the most creative women I’ve ever known.

mom woodcarver.jpg

The book will include profiles of some creative people between chapters. At least two of them are women in my Lifelong Learner’s group. From my work in progress:

The “Sparks” between each of this book’s chapters are short profile pieces of ordinary people like you and me, who have managed to practice creativity in their everyday life. It’s no coincidence that the first profile is the obituary of a woman my mother often spoke of in a reverential tone. My great-aunt Christine, or “Aunt Chrissie,” as my mother called her, is a perfect example of a life well-lived, steeped in creativity and faith.

obituary.jpg
We should all leave such a legacy, one that embodies what an Irma who wasn’t my mother said, the famous Erma Bombeck: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say ‘I used everything you gave me.’”

 

 

book review

Book Review: Of Mess and Moxie

I’m reading a lot of books on creativity as I immerse myself in the topic of my current work in progress, a book about working creativity into our everyday life. I picked up this book for a break from the topic, only to discover Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life included a chapter on creativity, Chapter 10: Makers and Dreamers. It turns out, it was my favorite chapter. While I occasionally laughed out loud at the humor in the “How To” lists, and loved author Jen Hatmaker’s unique voice and style of writing, it turns out Chapter 10 was exactly what I needed to read today. From page 94:

“Don’t we want our lives to be lovely and creative and productive and meaningful? Don’t we want to offer exquisite, sacred things to the world?” 

Yes, and yes.

“This draw toward creation is important, worthy of our time and attention and nurture. We have these magnificent minds and hands and ideas and visions, and they beg us to pay attention, give them permission, give them life.”

“I sincerely believe we are created by a Creator to be creative. This is part of His image we bear, this bringing forth of beauty, life, newness. This bears out in one thousand different ways: we write, sculpt, paint, speak, dance, craft, film, design, photograph, draw, bring order, beautify, garden, innovate, produce, cook, invent, fashion, sing, compose, imagine. It looks like art, it looks like music, it looks like community, it looks like splendor. The thing in you that wants to make something beautiful? It is holy.”

Oh, yes.

Hatmaker goes on to say that creating takes time and hard work, and the time isn’t just going to magically appear.

“I am here to tell you with certainty: if you wait until you have a natural margin to create, you will go to the grave empty-handed…

…If you are waiting for someone to beg you to do the work or promise to give you a huge paycheck or rearrange your schedule to clear the time or somehow make this whole part easier, you might as well take your little dream for a long drive into the country and say goodbye. Creators create.”

This uncomfortable truth is why I bring this photo with me to the writing workshops I teach.

baby on back

Because, inevitably, there will be someone in the room who bemoans their lack of time for writing, using that truth (because we all lack time) as an excuse for not writing.

“Art requires time, which of course, you have none of. This is the creator’s dilemma. You will not miraculously produce by carrying on exactly like you are. It’s a whole thing, and you have to make room for it.” (page 96)

You can read more about Jen Hatmaker and her books (yes, she has more, and I’m going to read them all) at jenhatmaker.com. 

 

beautiful things, books, faith, stuff, things

A few of my favorite things…

I begin every day in my office, even those mornings I need to rush to get to my workplace. I sit in my recliner, my book lamp on, a cup of coffee sitting on the end table where I keep my Bible, a devotional and writing materials.

bookshelves.jpg

I can look in one direction and see my beautiful oak bookshelves filled with a few of my favorite things. Next to it, the St. Michael the Archangel wood carving I inherited from the man who bought it from my mother more than forty years ago. It sits on my grandmother’s trunk that is covered by a quilt my mother handmade for me. Each day, I gather strength from the visual reminder of God’s promise in Psalm 91:9-16
“For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.”

st michael.jpg

In the other direction, on the wall near my desk, are decorative and inspirational wall plaques, reminding me to dream and explore.

wall.jpg

I’m never sure if it’s the surroundings, the gift of silence, or the coffee that jump-starts my day. It might be the combination of all three. But it is in this space, this haven, that I do my deepest thinking and my best writing.

For the majority of my adult life, my purchases were mostly utilitarian, and nearly always second-hand. Raising a large family meant operating on a tight budget. It wasn’t until I began conducting workshops that I needed to invest in some nicer clothing for myself. It was around that same time I developed a penchant for jewelry. Not high-priced diamonds or expensive gold, mind you, but dangly earrings and long chains with meaningful pendants and charms or steam-punk style; keys, gears, feathers, butterflies. I still enjoy that style of jewelry and since Christmas, thanks to my daughter Katie, I now have a way to display it.

jewelry

After my husband died, the purchases of “stuff” got out of control. Still not of the fur, diamond and gold variety, but everywhere I went I was picking up books, stationery, jewelry, inspirational wall plaques, and clothing; anything to fill the gaping hole in my heart. Of course, it didn’t work. Nothing would fill that gaping wound.

The binge-buying was financially unhealthy, but my urge to surround myself with beauty and inspirational messages was not. Many of those items from that period of buying still bring me joy; the jewelry, the stationery, a butterfly pillow, and those inspirational plaques and pictures on my walls.

Author Alexandra Stoddard is convinced our surroundings can nourish us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“The home is the center of your soul; it’s a total reflection of your inner life. If you have a dreary home, it means you are dark inside,” she wrote.

Possessions aren’t all bad. Our desire to surround ourselves with beautiful things is natural. God decorated our skies with stars and rainbows, peppered our hills with budding flowers, and filled our pastures with bright green blades of grass. An artsy plaque with an inspirational message on our wall or the soft glow of a lamp in the corner of the room can be soothing to the soul. My home office is full of such things, and my favorites are hand-made; my mother’s wood carvings, my daughters’ paintings and drawings, the painted brick books one daughter made, or wooden letters that spell out the word “WRITE” that another daughter crafted with the cover designs of my books. My book lamp, a handmade quilt on a trunk, and solid oak bookcases filled with books; these things make me feel as though I am surrounded by warmth and beauty.

What about you? What are a few of your favorite things?