Starting Small

YouShouldWrite

Confession: I am terrible at sitting down and writing. I have this sign above my desk at work. It reads: YOU SHOULD BE WRITING, with The Avengers pointing their fingers at me (Yes, there is a little graphic of Hulk right next to it. I’m not as infatuated as it seems. Really.). The language feels a little accusatory, but it’s a good reminder, when I remember to look at it.  I love to write (although, I must admit, it’s usually the satisfaction of finishing rather than the process of writing that I enjoy). I want to write; Ever since I was little I have had things to say and stories to tell. But when it comes to sitting down and doing the hard work of putting pen to paper, I will dance around it and come up with a million excuses rather than write. This avoidance makes it very hard to practice discipline, feed the creative juices, become a better writer, much less use the gifts I know I’ve been given.

One of my best friends, whose pen name is K.B. Hoyle, is a full time school teacher, a mom of three boys, and she still makes time to write . She has published four books so far and is on the way to publishing her fifth. I am in awe of her. In a recent interview she gave this advice to aspiring authors: There is no such thing as Writer’s Block. If you want to write, then write. No excuses. Write when it’s easy, and more importantly, write when it’s not. This truth burned a little bit because Writer’s Block has been my excuse for years. (You can read the rest of Karin’s interview here, and if you want to learn more about her or read her books – and I think you should because they are wonderful – visit her website, On Alitheia.)

So, I have decided enough is enough. This past weekend two old friends and I met at a coffee shop to catch up. But, rather than chit chat, we ended up inspiring one another. We committed to writing 15 minutes a day for one week. I figured I should start small with a goal I knew I could accomplish. In a week we’ll see each other again and ask how the challenge went.

Discipline is Good For Me (And Probably You)

journalThe week’s not over, but I have already gleaned a few things.

Writing every day means I can’t make excuses. Even if I’m not particularly inspired, or I’m busy with other things, it forces me to write anyway. Yesterday, I sneezed and sniffled my way through the whole day. I really wanted to curl up on the couch with some ginger tea and partake in a mini-Battlestar-Gallactica-marathon (I know, nerd alert. But seriously, jump on the bandwagon, people. The show is so good). But, I couldn’t indulge my nerdy obsession until I’d finished writing.

Writing everyday teaches me to be okay with imperfection. Perfectionism normally cripples me, it keeps me from trying things. Or, if I do try something, my perfectionism keeps me from finishing it. It’s a matter of control, and I need to let it go. When I write my daily 15 minutes, I force myself to drop my perfectionism like the bad habit it is. I can’t edit as I go along, and I must leave the grammatical flourishes behind; All my thoughts spill out continuously onto the page in front of me – clumsy phrases included.

When I write everyday, I feel more productive. It gives me something to accomplish, something to look forward to. And when I finish, I feel satisfied. So satisfied that I continue to be productive in other ways; Writing spurs me on to use my time more wisely. Perhaps I’ll also become a little wiser in general (one can hope, right?).

And best of all, the more I write, the more I have to write about! My ideas come more easily and naturally. I feel more creative and more inspired everyday. Discipline has always been hard for me to keep up, but there are some grand rewards for following through.

I think I can safely say that writing makes me a more creative person. I know there are writing roadblocks ahead, but for now, it feels pretty good. I might just keep going, even after this week is up.

What creative activity are you disciplined about? What has it taught you?

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All Good Things

A few months ago I got married to the best man I’ve ever known. At a barn in Wisconsin. It was a beautiful day in October. The only beautiful day in October, actually. It was a blessed occasion – not the least of which was because of all the help and encouragement I had received in preparation.
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Leading up to the wedding, I spent many late nights making things by hand – cutting, folding, and pasting library card pockets to be included in the invitation, measuring and cutting burlap for the table runners, rolling and dipping wool into scalding hot water and then numbing cold water to make “billy balls” for flowers, sewing clutches for all my bridesmaids (even though I’d never used a sewing machine without the supervision of my grandmother, and even that was nearly twenty years ago). The list goes on. Sometimes I needed help – and my friends were more than willing, even though they often made this disclaimer: “I’m not very creative.”

clutches for my bridesmaids

clutches for my bridesmaids

Most of those projects deserve a post of their own, so I will leave the details until a later time. Needless to say, though, that the whole process prompted me to think a lot about what it means to be creative. And the question:

What is Creativity?

In my mind creativity is not limited to the artistic pursuits that we often associate it with – the visual: painting, drawing, photography, graphic design. Those things are certainly creative, but they are not the whole measure of artistry. Could not a perfectly baked bundt cake, an original poem, or even a thoughtful gift be creative?  I would argue then, that most of us are creative in one way or another. Perhaps we can’t cook to save our life, but we can stand up in front of a crowd and deliver a witty line that gets people laughing. Perhaps our paintings are abysmal, but we can look at a messy room and see just how it should be organized (can’t that be a creative process?!).

We all have been given gifts. And we all have things we do that bring us joy – even better if they bring those around us joy. I love to make good food.  Although I often try my hand at other things (with varying success and commitment), I always get drawn back to the kitchen. And I experience even more pleasure when I make something to share with others. We need to get in touch with those gifts we’ve been given; and more importantly use them. It’s then that we become fuller versions of ourselves and a blessing to others.

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a pot roast I made for an evening with friends – taken with my friend’s camera phone

So that’s it. Creativity is bigger than we give it credit for. It’s whatever gift we bring to the world. And it’s at the heart of all good things. Of course, all I really know is my own experience. So much of the time my life feels mundane – I can get stuck. But here’s to my new adventure: that of finding All Good Things in my life.