Where creativity grows

Category: Challenges

Each month, I will announce a new creative challenge. The idea of a challenge is that you will work on something every day for 30 days with the goal of forming a creative habit.

My Identity Stack

When I found out in October that I was going to lose my job at the end of the school year, my life went into a complete tail spin. I had been a teacher for almost 20 years and this news was such a complete gut punch that I knew it was time for me to leave traditional teaching in the public school system forever. In the weeks and months that followed, I did a lot of soul searching, writing, crying and talking with friends, family and daily with my husband. One suggestion he gave me was to create an identity stack to figure out what was core to my being. The idea is to brainstorm all the words that you identify with you. Step number two is to put them in order of importance. I grabbed a stack of notecards and just started writing down anything I could think of. I have no idea if my list is longer or shorter than normal or if having 60+ items is totally normal. My original list was in absolutely no order whatsoever. When I tried to put items in a priority order, it became overwhelming and I quickly abandoned that idea. Here is my list:

  1. Host
  2. People storyteller
  3. Blogger
  4. Teacher
  5. Writer
  6. Networker
  7. Creative
  8. Artist
  9. Photographer
  10. 52 Framer
  11. Wife
  12. Friend
  13. People lover/ people hater
  14. Runner
  15. Nature lover
  16. Culture lover
  17. German speaking
  18. Traveler
  19. Language learner
  20. Self-published author
  21. Ed Techie
  22. TV Watcher
  23. Trekkie
  24. Whovian
  25. Pour Painter
  26. Crafter
  27. Card Maker
  28. The World Needs More Love Letters Letter Writer
  29. PADS volunteer
  30. LEGO builder
  31. Crocheter
  32. Doodler
  33. Wax sealer
  34. Colored hair
  35. Loyal friend
  36. American
  37. Caucasian
  38. Female
  39. Yogi
  40. Italian
  41. German
  42. Dick Pond Wednesday Night Warrior Captain
  43. Solution Seeker
  44. Do-er (get shit done)
  45. Love working with kids
  46. Volunteer
  47. Dog lover / serious dog want-er
  48. Foodie
  49. International recipe lover
  50. New recipe enthusiastic tryer
  51. Care-r
  52. Helper
  53. Entertainer
  54. Fearless in the kitchen
  55. Cook-er
  56. Baker
  57. Homemade ice cream maker
  58. Homemade sausage maker
  59. Homemade pasta maker
  60. Homemade is better person
  61. Coffee drinker
  62. Sweets lover
  63. Coffee shop lover

Instead of trying to prioritize the cards,  I started putting the cards into categories that were similar and held the items that were most important to me. There were definitely items on my list that were less essential to the soul searching for Jen 2.0. I just put those into a miscellaneous category and eventually discarded them. 

My Power Categories are:

Key characteristics. These items are part of my core being. If you were to ask anyone close to me, they would use these words to describe me.  As the items started falling into natural categories, I learned a lot about myself and the different paths I could take. – 

  • Get sh*t done
  • Helper
  • Creative
  • Love students / underdog
  • Runner / lover of nature

Wellness. While these items would not factor into my next career per se, they would be instrumental in making sure I come out of the other end of this process with as few scars as possible. 

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Running
  • Nature

Culture. This was the core of my career as a language teacher, but it is also part of my being. I love learning new languages and learning about new cultures. We have had so much fun with our International Foodie Map. These items made me look hard at the idea of starting an experiential travel company that does not just check bucket list monuments off a list, but rather organizes experiences travelers will remember for a lifetime.

  • Travel
  • Foodie
  • Baking
  • Cooking

Creativity. Expressing myself through various mediums has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It will serve as an outlet for the remainder of my days. While I know that there are a myriad of artists and writers who make a living with their craft, I don’t want my love for these activities to be ruined by putting my feeling of worth in whether or not people buy what I produce.

  • Writer
  • Blogger
  • Artist
  • Storyteller

Entertainer. I can lose myself for hours in the kitchen baking or preparing a special meal. I love traveling and exploring new cultures. I love meeting people. These ideas have culminated in the idea of opening a bed and breakfast at some point down the road or hosting guests from around the world in an AirBnB. It is not the right time to explore that idea, but down the road, I hope so. 

  • Foodie
  • Hosting
  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Travel

So where has all of this soul searching led me? As of today, I have decided to focus my efforts on the not-for-profit sector. I am volunteering for a local homeless shelter and I am loving the work we are doing there. I have signed up for a grant writing course through our local community college, so that I can learn this important skill. Most importantly, I have my eyes on the end goal, which is to run my own NPO. More on that later. 

Where does creating an identity stack fit into creativity? I can see using it for so many different activities other than just figuring out a new career (although that was really helpful!). You could create stacks for characters in a story or novel you are writing. You could use it to better understand people in your life. You could create it just to figure out what your priorities are and to potentially help you work through a block. 

52 Frames 5X Warrior

In December of 2017 I randomly heard about this group called 52 Frames. The concept sounded pretty simple– each week they post a photo challenge and you have from 12:00 AM Sunday to 11:59 PM the following Sunday to submit your image. The only rules are that it must be taken during that said time period and you must take the image. I was coming out of a HUGE book project that had sucked the creative juices out of me. 52 Frames was exactly what I needed at that moment in time. I signed the manifesto and started my journey. Looking back, that first year and perhaps even the second year were a blur. I got my camera out every single week and I put a piece of myself out into the universe. I connected with other photogs around the world and started to find a home within this beautiful group. No matter what was going on in the world or in my life, I knew that 52F would be there– a constant companion.

(Read my previous posts about 52F 2.5x Warrior and 4X Warrior)

And just like that, I just submitted my 261st photo and became a 5X Weekly Warrior (I submitted an image every single week for FIVE years!).  When I look back at my 52 images for 2022, I have many mixed emotions. I submitted a photo every single week. I showed up for each challenge and gave of myself what I could each week. Many weeks I didn’t have much left of myself to give. I squeezed in a submission on the weekend and I tried my hardest to get some commenting done during the week. Some weeks were better than others. I am proud of my two 52 Picks I received, but most of all, I am proud that I showed up and put myself out there— even the week I found out I was losing my job and that my mom was in the hospital with a gigantic cancerous tumor. Nothing from this year’s challenges is something I would hang in our house, but I got SO much out of each challenge.  I really liked my self-portrait and the message it conveyed. I am sure there are things I could have done to make it a better technical image, but it worked for me. The wine guys were featured a few times (ok they were featured FOUR times)  and now I keep them permanently in my camera bag (thanks Karen Smith for that idea!). I met a guy who paid $400,000 for a car. I let my husband convince me to go to a DeadMau5 concert and I actually loved it. I got out into nature quite a bit. We had an epic trip to Spain for our friend’s wedding. I continued to build with Lego. I spent a lot of time in my kitchen. I explored new techniques with my camera. I ventured into new areas and I met new people. I even faced my fear of giant reptiles. I had one of my images made into fabric that is now part of a line of clothing. 52F is about so much more than just the image.

I hope to have more intention in my submissions for 2023. It’s a new year and I am entering a new phase in my life. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I am grateful that 52F will be a part of it. 

Vampires and such…

Yesterday I had coffee with a terrific friend at a new-to-me cafe called Kava Diem. Jen and I met during a Dick Pond Saturday morning run almost five years ago. We are affectionately called the Wonder Twins. We have the same name. We run at the same pace. We are goal driven doers. We love helping people. We have big hearts. We are both writers. We are just about the same age and you can’t deny that we have the same stinking name. The universe threw us together at a time when I didn’t even know how badly I was craving a friend like Jen. From that day on we would have deep meaningful conversations about everything under the sun. The miles we shared together are some of my most cherished memories. As has been the case with many people, COVID interrupted our lives and our ability to run together. It has not stopped us from getting together for coffee and more of those deep conversations. 

We were catching up on life and the universe when she said something that stopped me in my tracks. She said people are either givers or takers and the extreme takers are energy vampires. She went on to say that she gravitates towards givers, but every once in a while she gets tangled with an energy vampire that sucks her soul dry. I almost fell out of my chair. In the split second after she had shared this idea, my brain had done a quick assessment of everyone in my life. It was perfectly clear who the givers were. I craved spending time with them and felt refreshed and renewed, invigorated and inspired by them. It was equally clear who the takers were— the people with whom it was SO hard to be in a relationship. They expected the world from you and gave nothing in return. Time spent with them frequently ended in an argument, judgment or a migraine. Alarms and bells and whistles and sirens went off in my head after her description of the energy vampire. 

At first my brain went straight for all the “Karens” in my life— the people who are so toxic that you can’t understand why you ever want to spend time with them, but at the same time you are drawn to them like a moth to a flame. But once my brain was able to reconcile that yes I do have some toxic relationships, it really hit me that the true energy vampire in my life is social media. Ugh! I hate wasting my time scrolling long after I have caught up on the lives of my friends and family scattered all over the world. I hate how divisive and full of hate my timeline is. I hate that we live in a world of highlight reels and not reality. Yet, day after day I am drawn to it. 

Looks like it is time for a detox…also a pillar of the creative mindset. Time for me to decide NOT to spend time with the toxic people in my world and time to step back from the social media cesspool. 

Are there energy vampires in your life? 

A musical journey

One of the pillars of the creative mindset is music. The guests at Matt and Cassandra’s wedding represented nine different countries. In an effort to have everyone represented during the reception, they asked guests to share 3-4 songs from their homeland. We heard music from India, Sweden, Ukraine, Mexico and of course Spain. Hearing all of these new and unique-to- me tunes made me realize that my favorite Pandora stations were so perfectly dialed in that I not only knew every single song that came up, but I also loved them. While there is nothing wrong with the Arctic Monkeys or that many artists that match the algorithm of their music, I was in the market for something new. I put an all-call out to my Facebook page to see what people could toss my way. I also said that I would give extra points for international music. 

The feedback I got was awesome. First and foremost, I heard back from people I did not expect to hear from. That meant that we had a connection I did not know about— music. Second- while I got a lot of suggestions, I did not like a lot of it. It just was not the kinda music that would make my creative juices flow and make me want to get up and dance— or more importantly to go and create! 

A colleague recommended a few songs by a Chinese artist. Another said she loved cleaning to a Phish playlist on Spotify. Another suggested a station called Rockfluence. I was amused when a local Elginite suggested a German artist named Antifuchs. I wasn’t sure if he knew that I was a German teacher, but as it turns out he did. Glad he was able to confirm that this was not school nor institution friendly music. Didn’t matter, I enjoyed the sound of her music tremendously. Then my neighbor down the block surprised me with some epic suggestions of New Orleans style calypso music that was crazy fun. Too many Zooz Radio and Trombone Shorty were two of my favorites. I didn’t realize that what I was actually looking for was something that would make our house have a café feel to it. When a long time friend suggested the Pink Martini station on Pandora, I knew that I had struck gold. The station definitely has a Sunday Brunch Café station feel to it, but it has a solid international twist to it that has me smiling, dancing and daydreaming all at the same time. I turned it on this morning when I got up and it has been playing for eight straight hours without a single thumbs down on a song. LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!

Do you have a song or a playlist that gets your creative juices flowing? Please share! I am always on the hunt for new music.

A staycation

As I mentioned in the first post in this series, not everyone can just pick up and spend eleven days in Spain. However, one of our most memorable days in Spain was when Matt and Cassandra shared their favorite places and experiences with us. It gave me the chance to look at our hometown with different glasses. What would I put on such a list if I had to share our hometown with guests? 

Coffee and a pastry at Arabica Cafe. Although Diane and Chef Brian are currently trying to sell the cafe so that they can start chapter two of their retirement plan, it is still one of my all time favorite spots. I did almost all of my interviews for my book The Many Faces of Elgin there. The coffee is good and the pastries are amazing (or go later in the day for lunch- wowza). 

Check out the dam at Kimball Street. It is one of my all-time favorite spots in Elgin. If it’s freezing cold out, you might spot an eagle. If it’s summer, you’ll probably see a line of people fishing. Either way, it’s a very peaceful and beautiful spot to see the Fox River. Stroll down a bit and check out Walton Island.

At Kimball Street Dam
Eagles over Kimball Street Dam

Enjoy a bike ride, run or walk on the Fox River Trail. You can park at the Gail Borden Library in downtown and head north toward Algonquin or head south toward Aurora. 

Enjoy a martini at The Martini Room. Each month the lounge hosts the art of a local artist. Although they do not sell food, their cocktails are outstanding.

Martini Room

Get a bag of popcorn at Mama Lee’s to snack on while checking out the shops around downtown. Meraki Market features the work of local artisans. Elgin Knit Works is a beautiful yarn shop. Steep ‘n Clay is a tea and pottery shop. There are a variety of antique shops scattered around downtown as well.

Check out the public art throughout town. Elgin has amazing murals and sculptures. Most of it is accessible on foot from downtown. 

Get a German pretzel roll at Herb’s Bakery. These are the real deal and they sell out very fast. Call ahead and order a half-dozen…or go crazy and order a dozen. You won’t regret it. 

Have an iconic meal at Al’s Cafe (lunch or dinner- you won’t be disappointed). 

Elgin has a large hispanic population and as a result some excellent options for authentic food. One of our favorites is Taqueria Chapala on the far east side. 

Elgin Symphony Orchestra at the Hemmens Center. We are crazy lucky to have three amazing orchestras in Illinois. If you want to skip the major hassle of traveling downtown to see the CSO, you won’t be disappointed with free parking, ample dining options within walking distance and world class talent at the ESO. 

Discover the amazing architecture throughout Elgin. Whether it is a walking tour of the famous painted ladies and other historical homes or the various churches and temples, Elgin has it all. 

Painted Lady

Bluff City Cemetery is a stunningly beautiful historic cemetery on the far east side of town. Wander the grounds and then go for a hike in Bluff Spring Fen, which is accessed at the far end of the cemetery. 

What would be on your Staycation Itinerary if I were to visit your area? 

The 12 Days of Hot Chocolate

This year, Tom and I decided that we were going to focus on making our own Christmas memories and infusing our home with the joy of the season. That is how the 12 Days of Hot Chocolate came to be. While we have always been somewhat snobbish about our hot chocolate consumption (ie no Swiss Miss and hot water allowed in this household), we have never searched for a recipe that takes our hot chocolate to the next level. 

 

Our basic hot cocoa recipe (2 servings)

  • 2 cups milk of choice

  • 2 TBSP dark chocolate cocoa powder

  • 2 TBSP sugar

  • Splash of vanilla

 Heat milk in the microwave and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Serve with your favorite toppings. 

 I turned to Pinterest to find twelve recipes for us to try. The teacher in me and the engineer in Tom of course had to make a rubric to score the recipes. We went back and forth on a lot of different ideas, but in the end opted to keep it nice and simple with a 3 candy cane rating system: 

 

  • 1 candy cane – we did not even finish the mug and won’t ever make it again.

  • 2 candy canes- we finished it, but probably won’t make it again

  • 3 candy canes- absolutely loved it and will add it to our personal cookbook

 I printed off the 12 recipes and made my shopping list. We were ready to get started!

 

The results:

I don’t want to disappoint you this early in the post, but full disclosure- we ended up not trying all twelve recipes. Very early on we discovered what we like, love and hate about hot chocolate. We used the recipes to explore different flavors, but in the end we didn’t need all twelve recipes to figure that out. I will include links to all twelve at the very end in case you want to do your own experiment.

 

All things being equal:

There are a few elements that we kept standard throughout the recipes, despite what the recipe actually called for. 

  1. 70% cocoa Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips

  2. Dark cocoa powder from Costco

  3. Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk or Organic Skim Cow’s milk

  4. Anywhere that called for heavy cream or half-half, we used Silk non-dairy half-half.

 And so it began….

 

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate 

I am obsessed with all things chocolate and peanut butter, so I started our adventure with the only peanut butter and chocolate recipe. I was sure this would be my favorite before we even started. I mixed everything up and poured the concoction into the His and Hers penguin mugs we would be using for the challenge. I took a huge sip and let out a howl of excitement. Man was that yummy. Tom was less impressed. My initial impression was that I would drink it every day for the rest of my life. Tom thought he might finish it, but he is not a lover of chocolate and peanut butter like I am. Within a few minutes though we both felt like someone had stuck a straw into a jar of Skippy. To my shock and chagrin— neither of us finished our mugs! I don’t know if it would be better with higher quality peanut butter. I only had creamy Skippy on hand from my holiday baking as Tom prefers the chunky Crazy Richard’s peanut butter for everyday use. Perhaps more milk to thin it out or even less PB, but overall this one was a big bust!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate- 3 candy canes

Not much I love more this time of year than peppermint. Next up was a peppermint hot chocolate recipe that was sure to win our hearts— except for the fact that I cannot read. I made the recipe and we both agreed it was tasty, but it seemed really sweet. When I looked at the recipe, I discovered that instead of putting ¼ tsp of sugar, I poured in a heap ¼ cup. Oops! I made it again later that week with a more appropriate amount of sugar and we both really liked it. We started thinning out the recipes a bit with this one, because we prefer to drink our hot chocolate rather than chew it. This one was a WINNER! 

Colonial Hot Chocolate

 

Our third recipe was one that we were holding on to share with some friends when they popped by for a holiday visit. The Colonial Hot Chocolate recipe had a unique flavor palette and we knew our foodie friends would enjoy doing this taste test with us. This recipe involved me hunting down a few ingredients I had never used before (star anise & ground cardamom), but overall it was an incredibly easy recipe to make. Given the incredibly unique combination of flavors and how easy it was to make, we all agreed this was one of the best hot chocolates we had ever had. This is a solid dessert hot chocolate, but could also serve as a lovely regular recipe if thinned out a bit. 

Nutella Hot Chocolate

After the peanut butter hot chocolate recipe, I was a bit gun shy to try the Nutella Hot Chocolate. I could not have been more wrong! It was awesome— just nutty enough to be unique and the perfect balance of yummo chocolate flavor. 

Hot Chocolate

After a few recipes that were next level with flavors and add-ons, we decided to step back and try a basic recipe that could potentially be our go-to hot cocoa recipe. This one was a sure fire winner— with one change. Tom and I agreed that we much prefer to drink our hot chocolate rather than almost chew it— so I added in an extra cup of milk to the recipe. Yummo!

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

Next up was going to be a Mexican Hot Chocolate, but neither of us were excited about the idea of something spicy. Instead, I opted for a recipe for a cinnamon hot cocoa that I was hoping would be similar to the cinnamon crunch latte I had at Panera last week. We were both busy with projects and it was the perfect time to throw in a cup of holiday cheer. Tom proclaimed this was his absolute favorite recipe and I was very close to agreeing. Steeping a whole stick of cinnamon in milk for ten minutes produced a beautifully delicious hot chocolate. With some fresh whipped cream on top, this one was AMAZING! I actually made this again the very next day,

 

Parisian Hot Chocolate

We gave one last recipe a try before declaring the challenge complete. The Parisian Hot Chocolate recipe was elegant and grand, but it was WAY TOO MUCH of everything for us to enjoy. Even with me thinning out the recipe, neither of us finished the mug. We agreed that we know the basics of what makes a great cup of hot chocolate in conjunction with how we like ours prepared so that we can now mix and match a bit from the recipes we tried out. 

Here is a list of all the recipes in case you want to do your own comparison:

  1. Nutella Hot Chocolate

  2. Mexican Hot Chocolate (House of Yumm) / Mexican Hot Chocolate (Green Healthy Eating)

  3. Peppermint French Hot Chocolate

  4. Colonial Hot Chocolate

  5. Parisian Hot Chocolate

  6. Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe

  7. Italian Hot Chocolate

  8. Maple Sea Salt Vegan Hot Chocolate

  9. Homemade Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Recipe ~ Barley & Sage

  10. London Fog Whipped Cream Hot Chocolate

  11. Thierry Rautureau’s Hot Chocolate (from Theo Cookbook)

  12. Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

How does one celebrate a birthday during a pandemic?

Most years, my husband and I take Columbus Day weekend to head out of town for a few days to celebrate my birthday. We find a bed and breakfast or even better and AirBnB somewhere a few hours from here. With a collection of podcasts on a flash drive, we hop in the car and start our adventure. That was not an option this year. The COVID19 numbers in Wisconsin and Indiana are rising daily and it was just not worth the risk. So how does one celebrate their birthday in the middle of a pandemic? I wasn’t thinking socially distanced car parade or anything like that. I had to get creative!

Back in July our close friend, who is also my running coach, was in town due to his own pandemic-induced madness. He was turning 47 on July 5th and decided that he was going to run 47 miles along the lakefront in Chicago. Before you get all stressed out about his decision, it would help you to know that he is a semi-professional ultra-marathoner for whom 47 miles is a pretty short run. Anyhow, I loved that his birthday celebration was centered around fitness, but there was no way I was going to run 45 miles in one day. I had walked close to 30 miles in one day, but running and another even more miles was just not going to be in my cards. So my husband suggested that I come up with my own challenge.

On October 6th I turned 45 and I decided that my challenge would be to run fifteen 5Ks in fifteen days between October 1st and October 15th. I was overwhelmed by all the people who signed up to run with me. Yes, of course, most of the segments were snatched up by friends from The Dick Pond Athletics Running Club where I do most of my running. However, I had friends from work who asked to do a segment. I even had a friend who is a fast walker, but who has never run, sign up. I was humbled by everyone’s generosity with their time!

I had 5 under my belt when I took a spill during run #6. I was embarrassed , but popped back up and finished the run. The next day I was with my friend Tammy when I took an even nastier spill. I could not finish this run and I was worried that I had really hurt myself. Thankfully our athletic trainer at school checked me out and was confident I had not broken anything. Relief is the understatement of the year!

Now that I knew I was not going to be able to complete the challenge in 15 days I had to decide how I was going to pivot and still honor my goal. Would I play it safe and just say that the runs had to be completed during the month of October? I did not want to do that, because running 45 miles in one month is not totally unreasonable for me to do. Would I just give up and try it again next year with 46? Out of the question! I decided I would just pivot and be ok with getting it done in up to 20 days. That would give me a few days to heal from my falls and still push me to get back out there.

Last Friday, I woke up and my monkey brain was out of control. I was questioning why on earth I had ever decided to do this challenge. Really…what was I thinking? I knew that I was tired and I was super stressed out about work. I reminded myself that I had deliberately built in 15 days in a row of 3 things: 1) time with special friends 2) celebrating my birthday and 3) exercise. How on earth could that be viewed as anything other than awesome. As of today, I am 10 runs into my 15. I’m taking today off to catch up on life stuff, but I’ll be back out on the trails tomorrow and for the next five days. 

While the pandemic forced me to come up with a different way of celebrating my birthday, I have to be honest, I’m already kicking around ideas for what I will do next year!

2.5 x Warrior

52 Frames and why you should take on a challenge project

In December of 2017, I was preparing to deliver the last few copies of my book The Many Faces of Elgin. The previous 24 months had been consumed by writing, making portraits, editing, layout, sign-offs, marketing and so much more. It was everything I did during those two years. I squeezed in a for-fun photography outing every once in a great while, but it was not often. Landscapes, flowers, butterflies, etc were placed on a long-term back burner. When I was done, I wondered if I would ever pick up my camera again.   

When I randomly happened onto a post about a photography challenge called 52 Frames. The rules were simple– submit one original photo taken the week of the challenge based on that week’s theme. The goal is to be a weekly warrior (submit a photo every week for 52 weeks straight). It did not take much to convince me to sign up for the challenge. 

You can start the program whenever you want, but I was starting with the first challenge of 2018. Every year the first challenge of the year is a self-portrait. What on earth had I gotten myself into? Remember what I said about portraits and flowers and landscapes and such? Not only am I not good at portraits, but I despise being in pictures. The nightmare was real. I won’t lie— quite a few tears were shed that week, but I submitted my first image and my journey had begun.

When I look back at the two photobooks I have made so far (2018 / 2019), I am struck by how much this group has helped me to grow not only as a photographer, but also as a person. When I first started sharing my photography on social media, I definitely fell victim to the dopamine hits I got from getting likes. Because my family and friends liked everything I ever posted. I had an inflated sense of reality. 52 Frames challenged me to learn new techniques, shoot subjects that never interested me and most importantly to pursue my photography for me and not for anyone else. Each week I specifically seek out comments that help me improve and grow. I used to tell my husband that I was a fair-weather photographer. Now 52 Frames has me shooting 52 weeks a year. I have submitted a whole mess of self-portraits— even when it was not directly the challenge theme. I have taken pictures of M&Ms, soldering irons, flags, eggs, candy corn, Darth Vader, flowers, strangers, fire, graffiti and so much more. Most weeks are REALLY hard for me and I consider myself a creative person! I am pushed to my limits regularly and somehow every week I show up. I am more than half-way through my third year with this project and I cannot see myself stopping any time soon.

I highly recommend challenge projects because they force you to show up and practice. Here are some ideas:

  • 52 Frames– This is a photography based project, but you can see the weekly challenges on their website if you wanted to apply the theme to a different medium (writing, painting, doodling).
  • Project 365– Take a single photo every day of the year. The original Project 365 was to take a selfie every day. Some people choose to document food or just an event from their everyday lives. Again, you could apply the concept to anything you want to do every day for a year.
  • Project 52- same idea as project 365, but only once a week. 
  • 365 Thank you notes (based on this book). Write and send/deliver a thank you card every day for an entire year. You’ll be amazed by what this gratitude exercise does for your overall well-being.
  • 100 strangers. Take a photo of 100 different strangers. If you are not a photographer, perhaps you write a short scenario about 100 strangers. Snap a quick image with your cell phone and then write up your scenario.
  • Learn a new word everyday.

Here are few more ideas:

Everyone has creativity within them, but it is a muscle that needs to be used and flexed from time to time. These challenges encourage you to make having a creativity mindset a priority in your life. 

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