ZZiiizzz, ZZiizzZZ, ZZiiiiiZZZZ

Wishing all of you a wonderfully creative 2014!

This article appeared in the December 2013 issue of the Creativity Coaching Association newsletter.

As I write this, cold winter temperatures have arrived, and some areas have had snow.   If you drive in the white stuff, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of being stuck.    Car wheels spin with that maddening  ZZiiizzz,  ZZiizzZ ZZiiiiiZZZZ.  The wheels go round and round, but we are going nowhere.   

We all know the tricks to use when we’re stuck in the snow – kitty litter, sand, traction mats, and gentle rocking back and forth.

But what do we do when we’re stuck creatively, when the wheels of our brains go ZZiiizzz, ZZiizzZ ZZiiiiiZZZZ, but our work is going nowhere?  

Suggestions for setting our creative selves free are everywhere.  You probably have some favorites, but if yours aren’t working, you need new ones, or a reminder, here are four tips that I find particularly helpful.

Move your body –  There’s something about moving our bodies that kick starts the brain cells to start moving, too.    Take a walk, dance, do some yoga.   Loosen up the body, and the brain will limber up as well.   

Unburden your brain –  Your brain may feel like the vast wasteland, or it may be running around in circles like squirrels chasing each other.   Grab a journal or a scrap of paper and dump everything on the page.  I do this first thing in the morning or right before bedtime.  Put anything and everything that pops into your head on the paper.   After about three pages, the tiny seed of an idea usually starts to emerge from hiding.  And if it doesn’t, at least I’ve cleared out the clutter.

Shake it up – If you write, paint.  If you paint, cook.  Whatever you do, do something completely different for a little while.   Look at something new, or something familiar with fresh eyes.  You’ll gain another perspective and boost energy, while your brain makes some new connections.

Eat a peanut butter sandwich and take a nap – Bet you’ve never seen that tip before!  Comfort food that’s good for you and some rest.  Ahhhh!   

A funny thing happened while I was writing this.  An acronym revealed itself in my tip list – MUSE!  Finally, she showed up.  No more  ZZiiizzz, ZZiizzZZ, ZZiiiiiZZZZ!  My creative wheels are moving and taking me places.  Hope you’re moving again, too.  

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Ocean of Ideas

This article first appeared in the July 2013 issue of the Creativity Coaching Association newsletter.

A perfect day is walking along the beach.  The familiar and constant, yet ever changing, ocean is comforting.  And gathering rocks and shells is so relaxing.

These are the ocean’s gifts to us, carried in wave after wave as it rushes onto shore.   Here are the irresistible pink, lavender, gray, and ivory colors; the odd shapes; the jagged edges; the ridged and rippled surfaces.

Sometimes, these treasures are found easily, glistening in the sun.  Other times, they are buried in the sand.  

Isn’t the creative process like this? 

Inspiration comes and goes, ebbs and flows just like the ocean, but it never goes completely away.   It contains the gift of creative ideas.   All we have to do grab our pail of curiosity and set off to explore, to observe carefully, and to listen attentively.  

At times, our search for ideas seems easy, finding just what we’re looking for.  If we’re lucky, we may even find an idea that’s fully formed, like a whole perfect shell on the beach.   But many times, our exploration starts with sweeping away the gritty sand of doubt and fear.

Then, just like gathering shells, we collect bits and pieces of colors, shapes, words, emotions, lines of dialogue, photos, ticket stubs – anything and everything – that we tuck away in a box, a journal, a notebook, or a drawer.  

We don’t know how these disparate things will go together or even if any of it can be formed into a cohesive whole.  What we do know is that we must have all of them.  They stir a memory, a deep feeling in us.  They speak to our heart and prick our imagination.

We store everything away until one day we pour the contents of the box, notebook or desk drawer out onto a table, just like we do with those buckets of shells.  We sort through the fascinating, the odd, the beautiful searching for tiny sparks that can be ignited into creative flames.  Arranging and rearranging over and over until our creative vision springs to life and we bring a story, picture, song, or dance into being as the ocean of inspiration continues to flow within us.

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Taking a Break

Two and a half years. That’s how long I’ve been posting on this blog. One hundred twenty-one posts. Once a week on Thursdays. Usually. Sometimes the posts were late. A few times, I didn’t post at all, like last week.

This blog was an experiment. Could I write a post every week? Could I express my thoughts in a way that made sense to someone other than me? Would those thoughts be something that someone would want to read? Would a reader enjoy what I wrote? And what did I want to write about?

The early posts were about the creative process in general. Some posts were about painting and included pictures of my work and my husband’s.

As time went on, though, my focus changed. I’m a city girl who never spent a lot of time deep in nature or thinking about it. Oh, I appreciated the grandness of spectacular mountain views, amazing rainbows, and the mesmerizing coming and going of the ocean’s waves. But, it’s only been in recent years that I took the time to look and listen carefully to the smaller, awesome sights and sounds in the natural world around me.

Nature became my inspiration for writing. It’s what I enjoy doing the most, and it has grown into a desire to write a book.

As with any artistic work, focus is required to take ideas and weave them together to create a cohesive whole. So, I’m going to take a break from blogging and spend the summer concentrating on my book.

Thanks to all of you who read, comment and follow this blog. It is always a thrill to come here and find your notes and new followers.

I hope your summer is filled with people you love, fun things to do and whatever else brings you joy and contentment.

I’ll be back in the fall to let you know how the book is coming along.

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Night Sounds

I was up in the very early morning hours the other day. Normally, I’m not up at that time, but when I am, my only company is a ticking grandfather’s clock and the hum of the refrigerator. Not this time.

As I sat writing, I heard a lone bird – chirping, cheeping, whistling, tweeting, singing – loudly and insistently.

I don’t remember hearing birds at that hour before. I wondered why it was up.

I knew why I was awake – ideas jumping around in my brain about an essay I’ve been working on for weeks, which has been driving me crazy for months because I just wasn’t sure what to do with it.

Was the bird working on a new song, like I was working on a new essay? Or was it there to keep me company, tweeting its encouragement and support?

The bird’s vocals lasted for quite a while, much longer than I expected, and then it was gone.

Maybe it figured out its new song. Maybe it thought it had helped me as much as it could, and it was time to fly off to another house where someone else sat wide awake for reasons known only to them. Or maybe it was just tired and finally sleepy, and now it could rest.

Me? After sitting up most of the night, staring at pages and pages of notes, trying to find the meaning of the words scribbled there, I had a glimmer of an idea.

As the clock ticked and the refrigerator hummed, I tapped on the keyboard, the words settling down into a pattern that finally made sense, something I understood, something that would tell the story.

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Birds’ Spring

While the robins have been strutting around acting like all the green grass is their kingdom, belonging solely to them, quietly, other birds have arrived to stake their claim.

I didn’t notice until I saw the bubble-gum-pink azalea quivering, even though there was no breeze, and out popped a catbird – its sleek dark gray body ended in an elegant black tail; on its head a tiny black cap.

I love catbirds, especially their insistent harsh call when they are excited. They seem to think that the compost pile is their private dining hall, and if it isn’t turned quickly enough, they sit on the fence and holler at you as incentive to pick up your pace.

The sparrows are rooting through the garden beds, taking beaks full of mulch, shaking them, as they forage for food.

The grackles splash in the fountains that are once again flowing, after a very cold winter.

It’s spring, and the birds are thrilled.

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Take a Spring Walk

White and yellow pansies crowd around yellow tulips
Birds under leafy canopy chirp and sing a springtime song
Clusters of lavender flowers tucked among wisteria leaves drape over a gazebo
Tulips stretch long graceful stems to face the sun
White azaleas rest in the cool shade
Bird’s flight casts a shadow on grassy carpet
Ivy vines climb one on top of another to reach the light
White moth plays among yellow dandelions
Curious robins hop here and there exploring
Ripples of water chase each other in a circle while the rest of the pond watches
Dogwood trees bloom with creamy white flowers
Breeze tickles leaves
Orange and black butterfly flits by
Ferns poke their heads up
Bumble bees dance with each other
Mockingbird flashes a band of white on wings spread wide
Warm sun and cool shade take turns on the path
Breathe deeply
Find the quiet here and the peace within

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Spring’s Party

Robins perch atop fresh mulch
Spread out like a tablecloth
On which flowers are placed to set a pretty table.

Sparrows hop among gold and violet pansies
Happy to be invited to spring’s annual party.

Cream and magenta tulip tree petals didn’t stay long
Blown away by hard spring rain.

Gone, too, crocuses,
First to arrive, they grew tired and went home.

Daffodils pop up like periscopes
Heads turned this way and that
Looking for their friends.

Tulips stand tall holding their cups
Of yellow, pink, red and purple.

Fuchsia, gold and deep blue primroses
Huddle close to the ground among thick green leaves
Having too much fun to leave just yet.

Azaleas finally show up
Lavenders first, then pinks, reds and whites
Slipping quietly through spring’s door.

Spring only has the party room for a while

Then summer will throw open its doors
Inviting marigolds, zinnias, geraniums and roses
To come in and have some fun.

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