Where creativity grows

Category: Exercises

Every week, I will post exercises for you to practice getting into a creative mindset.

A self-care buffet

When the pandemic started, I entered survival mode. I did what I could to just allow myself to put one foot in front of the next. Sometimes that meant cooking elaborate dinners for us. Sometimes that meant baking delicious brownies and eating half the pan in one sitting. Sometimes it meant killing a 10-mile training run in ridiculous temperatures. Sometimes it meant breaking down into a blubbering mess. As the months have worn on the latter has been more frequent and it has been exhausting. Tom and I have talked and talked and talked about what I could do to help me find my center and until the last week or so nothing was helping. Being here in The Oodlearium is truly the only time I feel complete joy and peace, but even lately that has been hard.

Why does any of this even matter and why am I talking about this on a blog about creativity? Stress and depression/anxiety are some of the greatest blockers to creativity. I know that I am not the only one who has felt overwhelmed and this past year has amplified all of those feelings. I often describe my life as juggling 100 plates of fire and then every once in a while someone pours gasoline on it and everything comes crashing down around me. That is not the way I want to go through life. 

During our last post-breakdown chat, Tom was emphatic that I needed to practice daily self-care. That buzzword has always bothered me, because I associate it with yuppy soccer moms who want to justify getting their nails done in the middle of a pandemic. But, I understood his sentiment. I needed to take time for ME to make sure I am good every single day. 

We brainstormed a long list (have I mentioned how obsessed I am with lists?) of ways that I could take care of myself. I wanted to create a buffet of options so that I could pick and choose depending on my mood. I wrote each idea on a notecode and clipped them together with a binder clip. They sit next to my journal in the middle of The Oodle Surface where I see them every single day. Each day when I have practiced my self-care, I jot the date and anything noteworthy on the back of the appropriate card. It has been tremendously helpful and has kept me focused on taking care of myself.

Here are some of the activities on my cards:

  1. Yoga
    1. I LOVE Yoga with Adrienne. She has a video for every situation, but she is also incredibly loving and supportive. I just did her Yoga for Healing video (only 10 minutes) and I felt like a new person.
    2. This Yin Yoga Foundations video is excellent. It is 45 minutes, but it definitely calms my mind and my body.
  2. Meditation
    1. I try counting my breaths and staying focused on my breath. 
    2. I have also started using my hour glass to work on staying focused.
  3. Take an online art class.
    1. I recently purchased a five month subscription to CreativeBug for $5.
    2. There are TONS of classes on YouTube. Consider creating a library that you can go to when you want to watch something later.
  4. Write thank you cards.
    1. This book changed my life. 
    2. Have a stack of thank you cards ready (you can get them super cheap from the Dollar Store) and then you can just write it out quickly.
  5. Do a pour painting.
    1. If you are a regular reader of my This Week in The Oodlearium, you know that I am obsessed with pour painting.
    2. If you need a lesson in letting go, pour painting is a great way to do it.
  6. Take a nap.
    1. Most people go through their lives extremely sleep deprived.
    2. Don’t fight it. Your body is telling you that you need rest.
  7. Get out in nature.
    1. Fresh air ALWAYS helps.
    2. My husband set up a patio shelter last summer to block the harsh afternoon sun. It made such a difference and we spent so much more time outside than normal. 
  8. Index card art.
    1. This idea goes hand in hand with mindful doodling. 
    2. Grab a stack of notecards and a pen and fill the card with a pattern. Go back and color it, if you fancy. Base the doodle around an inspirational quote or even a power word such as strength.
  9. Read.
    1. My husband and I are reading Seth Godin’s newest book The Practice.
    2. We have both been profoundly moved and inspired by his message.
  10. Self-massage.
    1. This book has kept both of us out of the ER multiple times. Daily self-massage can help release the tension that builds up during our chaotic and stressful lives.
    2. Consider investing in a Theragun. We are not a gadget gadget family, but the $199 investment we made in our Theragun last summer has been life changing. As a runner, it has helped with recovery after long training runs, but it helps just loosen up sore muscles from life.

Download a printable copy of my cards here. (This link will force you to make a copy of the document and save to your Google Drive. From there, you can open it in Google Slides and print it out with six or nine slides / page onto card stock.)

Until next time, Oodle on and make sure you are taking care of YOU.

This week in The Oodlearium

What a week this has been! We are deeply entrenched in the coldest and snowiest winter we have had in quite some time. I won’t lie- it has been hard to stay focussed on the good. That means that The Oodlearium has been even more of a sanctuary than in a normal week.

A dear friend and fellow creative recently told me about a website called CreativeBug. I am pretty anti-subscription services primarily because they can quickly get out of control (Prime, Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, are just a few examples). However, when she forwarded me an email that said I could get 5 months of the membership for $5, I hopped on without giving it a second thought. Over the course of the week, I have been playing around with a few different classes. I did a bit of work with brush lettering, which is something I have wanted to learn for a long time. I started the creativity boot camp, but need to get some more supplies before I can continue work on that one. When I stopped I had created a relatively creepy self portrait that quickly got crumbled into a ball and recycled.  I ended with a bit of work on doodling that inspired me to start work on a different project. I’m looking forward to playing around a bit with learning something new each week without the pressure of feeling like I made a huge investment. Check it out!

I am absolutely not a materialistic person. In fact materialism is something that turns me away from people, but this week I received two packages in the mail that have been awesome additions to The Oodlearium. A few weeks ago I ordered an hourglass from Etsy. I am disappointed to learn that Etsy no longer is a site for artisans to sell their handmade work. Anyhow, the hourglass I purchased arrived and looks beautiful on the oodle surface. I use it when I am writing to make sure I stay focussed on what I am doing and not on going back and forth to check my social media. It has been awesome. And my second Pilot Metropolitan arrived and I am so excited to be able to have an everyday pen and a special pen for cards that will have my colored inks in it. 

Last week I think I mentioned that I was going to host my second creativity chat today. There were three of us and it was fabulous. I was in a pretty meh mood when we started, but by the end I was overjoyed. My friend Karen lives in Israel and she taught us about the Jewish holiday called Purim. She was dressed in costume today as part of a long standing tradition she and a good friend have for this holiday. Someday when my husband and I visit her in Israel we want to go during this time of the year to experience this holiday— the focus of which is doing kind things for friends and strangers to make them joyful. What a beautiful gesture! Another friend taught me all about the Cricut vinyl cutter and inspired me so much that we went out and bought one today. I am thrilled at the prospect of what we can do with this amazing tool. 

I have amassed quite a collection of pour painting canvases, so I am trying to avoid making new ones without some goal of moving a few of the ones I have out. I had a few canvases from when I first started painting that were not successful. This was the first time I ever tried painting over a canvas and trying a second pour. The colors I chose were not the best, but the pour definitely worked. I have a few more that I can rescue, so that was great news!

My husband spotted a few fun items at the craft store this morning— a plastic mask— perfect for Karneval. I’m going to pour that later this week. Then also some super cute wood cut out bunnies perfect for Easter ornaments. So many ideas…so little time.

Finally, this week’s 52Frames theme was one of the most challenging ever—golden hour! Remember what I said about the weather. I am proud of myself for coming up with a way to meet the challenge, but it was tough for sure. Check out my image on Tuesday when the album goes live.

One last thought before I go…I need to write a separate piece about creativity in the kitchen. I had a unique experience in the kitchen yesterday and I am excited to share it with you. I just can’t do it right now 🙂

Until next time, oodle on! 

The Personal Offsite

My husband and I are avid fans of the Tim Ferriss podcast where in each episode, Tim interviews world-class performers from eclectic areas to tease out the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. His wide ranging conversations include favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more. In early 2019 Tim interviewed Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. 

While their conversation covered a myriad of topics, my husband and I honed in on the idea of a “quarterly personal offsite.” You are probably familiar with the concept of the annual review—  an opportunity to reflect on your performance over the last year and set goals for the upcoming year.  Despite their ubiquity, few people find the annual review helpful.  What if you dedicated some time on a regular basis away from home and work to check in with where you have been and where you are going in your life? McKeown calls it a quarterly personal offsite based on the idea that “every three months you take three hours to identify the three things you want to accomplish over the next three months.”

We were all in. Our goal was to evaluate where we were at in our lives and look forward without the distractions of our every day lives. I found us a quaint AirBnb in Durango, Iowa. The description promised the perfect place to get away from the world and unwind. Now just to set the ground rules for the weekend. 

  • No technology. Even if we did not come away with any clear direction forward we knew that a digital detox would be beneficial. The cabin was remote enough that there was no cell service or wifi.
  • Although the cabin did have sattelite TV, we did not want to fall into our old routine of wasting hours watching shows.
  • This was not a vacation. We were not going somewhere to sightsee or dine out. Our cabin had a small kitchen and we brought the fixings for simple meals. We would spend our time reading, writing, talking, meditating, doing yoga, hiking, or relaxing. 
  • We brought stacks and stacks of notebooks, post-it notes and pens. 

As soon as we arrived we knew we had selected the perfect location. The cabin was remote enough to feel like we were away from the world, but well appointed so that we were comfortable. We both did a lot of reading, writing and talking about our lives— where we were and where we wanted to go. After hours and hours of writing, I started to transfer my main ideas to post-it notes so that I could more easily sort and organize what I had uncovered. Tom followed a similar system. After two days we felt reenergized and extremely hopeful about the future. It was absolutely one of the best decisions we have ever made. We had clear action items to address when we returned home and a promise to reconvence in three months to check in again. 

About six months later, we decided to schedule another off-site to a different location. In the months since our initial “event” we had made a lot of changes in our lives. We were much more positive and upbeat about how life was going. That made the workshopping aspect of the weekend a bit more challenging, because we felt we were on the right path already. This weekend was less successful. We returned home a day early and resumed our lives.

Fast forward to last summer (2019) when we went on a driving trip around the Great Lakes. It was fourth of July weekend and our home for the next two days was a beautiful cabin in Chassell, Michigan. As soon as we walked into the cabin, we decided to put our vacation on pause for a few days and have another personal offsite. This one was much more similar to the first one— lots of writing, reading, talking and self-discovery. I honestly think the second one was a fluke and perhaps much too forced. 

What we have learned from the personal offsites:

  1. Taking the time to make your life is a priority is incredibly powerful. 
  2. If you get nothing out of the offsite other than a digital detox it is worthwhile. 
  3. Selecting your location with the intention of making the most of the experience is vital. These trips are not about sightseeing, dining out or even adventures.
  4. It helped to sort through all that was overwhelming us and focus on the 3-4 items that were most important to us over the next 2-3 months.  We left with clear action items.
  5. We left incredibly reenergized and most importantly more hopeful about the future.

My goals for the weekend were not creativity minded in general, but the positive effects of the weekend would have still held true. Checking out of the universe for a few days and getting away from the grind absolutely will free your mind and allow it to resume making unique connections between ideas. Stepping away from the constant barrage of negativity will give your heart and your mind some much needed rest and an opportunity to revitalize itself. You have an opportunity to hone your focus for your future giving you a much greater feeling of control.

I cannot recommend this experience highly enough!

Ladies Drawing Night

Life is funny how it brings people together just when they need them. My best friend from middle school recently moved back to Illinois and I was so excited to have her back in my area. She is an amazing artist and a dear friend! Then COVID19 hit and even though she has less than 30 miles away rather than the 2000 she had been while living in Cali, you never would have known. I’m a terrible person on the phone, I just have never been one to yammer on the phone. I do one video a chat a month with my regular group of girls, but that’s it. I kept trying to figure out how we could figure out a way to have art time together virtually. 

Enter stage right Ladies Drawing Night Out. The idea is that a group of ladies get together pick a theme and then everyone draws and chat together. Brilliant! We set up a zoom call and were going to give it a shot. I am obsessed with sunflowers, so I threw out the idea that we both draw that. Julia was game for the idea. 

We met up on a Monday afternoon and after a bit of chatting to catch up on life, we got ready to start our drawings. Julia decided to throw an extra curve ball into the mix when she suggested we draw with our non-dominant hand. A few choice words came out because I thought she was crazy to suggest it. Afterall I can hardly draw with my dominant hand! But, the conversation I had with my friend at school about working on letting things go was still fresh in my mind. I agreed and started to work. 

First of all Julia is so crazy talented that her “less than perfect” sunflower looked like something you would see on a cool hipster t-shirt in a corner shop. Mine did not. However, I was really amazed by how meditative the process was and how I was actually able to draw something that indeed looked like a sunflower. Once I let go my fear of not being perfect (as if it would have been perfect with my right hand!) I was able to relax and really enjoy the process.

Check out the book. It gave me all sorts of inspiration for creating a ladies art club. Think book club, but instead of chatting about books, we make art together. As we speak, my husband is building the last section of my table for the Oodlearium. If we could just rid the world of Covid, the Oodlearium would be the perfect spot for said club. Soon!

30 Circles Thursday

Today we focus on quantity rather than quality. Download and print the 30 circles template. Set a timer on your phone for three minutes. Your goal is to fill in as many circles as you can. When you are done, share them on our socials so we can see what you came up with. 

Exercise- 1 Subject 10 Photos

The goal of this exercise is to work on your observation skills. Pick one subject and your goal is to make 10 different photos of it. Look at it from different angles. Pick it up. Turn it upside down. Look at it from the top of a 10 foot pole. You do not need a fancy camera for this exercise. Use the camera on your phone and you’ll be all set. Create a quickie collage of your images with your favorite app and share it on our socials.

5 minutes spent on our patio with my camera on my phone. Collage created using Adobe Spark.

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