Identifying THE Most Important Thing To Do

In the previous post, I asked the question: What is your most important creative work? And I suggested an activity—answering two questions—to help identify the most important thing you can do in your life. The questions were:

  1. If there is only one thing you can work on now, what would it be?
  2. If there is only one direction you can take your work in for the next three years, what would it be?

If you’re like most people, you feel challenged to identify one project to focus on for three years. Lots of things feel important. Lots of things will also go unrealized—never amounting to more than a day dream, because it’s hard to imagine the logistics of accomplishing the goal/project, or imagine how one more THING(s) could be squeezed into a life that’s already full to the brim and can’t hold one even more thing.

After some thought about what I would have to give up to work on just one project, I realized more than decided that the answer to question 1 is:  ME. I’ll work on me. I don’t have to give up anything that’s important to me at this time, not unless I want to.

That brings me to my answer to question 2. I want to feel HAPPINESS more consistently. Happiness is an elusive emotion, coming and going like the tides, and when it’s out, little feels good. So it makes sense to me to focus steadily toward feeling happy. Whole books have been written about happiness and how to find it.

Happiness isn’t Hiding Under a Rock

I know that happiness is a state of mind and the reason it seems elusive is because we have a tendency to look to things and people to bring it. That’s what makes happiness elusive. Nothing and no one can really make me (or you) happy. I have to decide, and that’s where the work and the rewards come in.

If I stay out of my own way, this one decision—to be happy—will help me make decisions about any projects I have going on now or that may come up in the future.

Decide What is Most Important to You

If you’re having trouble deciding on what’s most important to you, I submit for your consideration that your most important work is essential to YOU and how you feel about yourself.

What isn’t Your Important Work

It’s not checking your email or text messages. It’s not worrying about things, writing to-do lists, cleaning and sorting things to keep or throw away. There are lots of things we do that are not essential. When you decide:

  • Write in one sentence what you think is most important for you to do for you.

Spend at least 20 minutes every day doing something that will help you realize your intention. That’s your most important work of the day—every day.

 

 

 

What Is Your Most Important Creative Work?

 

Spring Fling

Finding time to be creative may seem like a stretch when earning a living, maintaining a home and personal relationships, and sleep take up most of your day. Time to express your creative self may seem like a wishful thought: a pipe dream. And being the creator that you are will continue to feel like a pipe dream until you decide you want more.

Often, it’s a belief about what it means to have a creative life and do creative work that holds people apart from those things. No one wants to be a starving writer or artist, or an underpaid actor. So the desire to do creative work is sidelined and may never be given a chance to play out in real life.

Changing Beliefs

EVERYONE is creative and creating all the time, but most people don’t realize that. The word “creative” doesn’t apply only to those who work in the arts. You create your life with the minute-by-minute, day-to-day, year-to-year decisions that you make. It’s only when you feel that someone else has control of you and your time, and many people do feel that way, that finding time to be and do what turns you on seems like only a dream that can’t be realized.

The first thing you need to do if you feel out of control of your own life, is recognize that you are the captain of your life. You are. And as the captain, you get to decide how and where to spend your time and energy. More importantly, you get to decide how you’ll feel while you do the things you do.

A Personal Story

I attended an art exhibit last evening. The art on display was painted during a three-day plein air event and I knew several of the artists who had participated in the event. I congratulated everyone who won some recognition and complimented others on their paintings. During one conversation, I asked the artist (an acquaintance) about the process of being accepted to participate in the event because I’m interested in doing it myself next year. She told me that most of the artists who have participated in the past will get the limited number of available spots next year. I asked her if she was suggesting I shouldn’t apply, to which she replied, “I just don’t want you to feel heartbroken when you don’t get in.” I said, “You don’t need to worry about my heart. I’ll be fine.”

Then, I found the woman  in charge of the event and asked her what I needed to do and when I needed to do it if I wanted to be considered for next year’s event. She gave me her card and told me to contact her in January 2020.

Power Play

I’m in control of what I do and how I feel. And you’re in control of what you do and how you feel. If you want more time to feel and be creative, start by answering the following questions for yourself:

  1. If there is only one thing you can work on now, what would it be?
  2. If there is only one direction you can take your work in for the next three years, what would it be?

Do you notice a pattern emerging that might be your important work? If so, write a sentence that clearly explains what that work is.

The value in this exercise is focus. If you can focus on one thing that is really important to you know, you can let go of (for a while) other things that pull at you and want your attention. This isn’t a goal setting exercise. It’s a process to help you focus and understand what’s important enough for you to make time for it. That’s your important creative work.

My next post will be about how to carve out a small block of time, a little as 20 minutes a day, to do your creative work.

 

Reawakening to Creativity

May 3 plein air

Plein air 6×8″ oil painting, May 3, 2019.

A crayon drawing on the bedroom wall of a gradeschool friend was my first attempt at creating public art. I was in second or third grade. My friend’s dad was the school superintendent and I was never invited back to her house. In high school, I fantasized about being a fashion designer and living in Paris.

Artmaking has always had a special place in my life. Sometimes, it’s been a significant part of my life. Like when I went back to school in my thirties and drawing, design, painting, print making, and photography classes filled my days. Then, as many people do, I needed a job. I went to work, raised my children, decorated my homes, and planted flower gardens. I was creating every day, but I had stopped making art. Thirty-four years passed.

Then, four years ago, a series of events that began as a challenge to “do something fun” brought me back to artmaking. I paint almost every day now and my life is filled with new experiences, new friends, new goals and dreams. Reawakening to my creativity has fed my curiousity about what might be possible. Artist Nicholas Wilton said, “The soul of a creative is never, ever quieted by practical objectives.” That is SO true.

Something I believe with my whole being is that EVERY ONE is creative. Every one.

What place does creating have in your life?

Note about the image: I started doing plein air painting in 2015. I love being outside in nature and while this kind of painting is challenging, it’s also rewarding and FUN. 

 

 

 

Konmari Changed My Relationship to Books

books for mercury rtx course

I binge watched episodes of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up on Netflix last weekend. Kondo is a small woman with a big mission. She teaches people to sort and tidy their belongings in ways that she says will bring joy into their lives. In every episode, I saw people change as they worked through Kondo’s tidying process. But I had to go through Kondo’s process myself to feel the change, to understand the burden related to carrying the books with me, and to experience the joy and freedom when the tidying was done.

I love books. I prefer to buy rather than borrow books because I enjoy having them around me. Like many book buyers, I intend to read every book, but half of them go unread. They’ve sat on shelves throughout my house, some for YEARS, waiting for me. I’ve never felt any guilt about buying and not reading them. They don’t spoil.

The Japanese have a pretty word that describes stockpiling books that are never read: tsundoku. The word doesn’t carry any negative stigma in Japan according to Prof Andrew Gerstile, who teaches pre-modern Japanese texts at the University of London.

tsundokuillustrated

Over the years I’ve bought, shelved, boxed, and moved, from one house to another and from book case to bookcase upstairs and downstairs, hundreds and hundreds of books. These are books from one bookshelf. Some are already in bags to be donated or sold. The piles grew over the weekend as I added books that I collected from other rooms and from the basement. Kondo recommends sorting by category (books, clothes, etc.) rather than by room and placing all the alike items on the floor in one room. The purpose for gathering things in one place is so we can see how much we actually have.

books piled

As I cleared the shelves and sorted my books into piles to keep or not, I followed Kondo’s guidance, and asked myself two questions:

  • Is this book and it’s contents something I want to bring into my future?
  • Does holding this book bring my joy?

If the answer to either question was no, I put the book into a donate/sell pile. After all was done, I’d moved eleven bags of books out of the house.

books to go

I had more books than I could read in ten years, and not so long ago, I believed this:

bookclutter

The Way to Joy

In three days of sorting and tidying books, I’ve reduced my book stash to only those books that I believe will bring me joy today. Tidying up also freed up space in my mind and that gives back to me time that I’d committed to reading. I can create more.

Moving and sorting books revealed something I wasn’t expecting, though.

space cleared

Sending the books away uncovered a big question

Almost since I began reading, I’ve believed I could write. Writing became a driving force in my life. Suddenly, as I considered and appreciated all the empty space in my bookshelves and felt relief from the burden of reading books that no longer interested me, I had the thought: Do I still want to write?

That question needs more thought. In the meantime, I’ll still buy books. And I’m OK with that.

Power Play

It’s easy to get caught up in obsessions, like reading is for me, and forget to check in with yourself about what is exerting influence in your life. Stacks of books were exerting influence and pressure on me. But we can control what has influence in our lives.

You most likely know what is influencing you. Do you need to interrupt the pressure? Do you need to tidy up something in your life so you have more time to feel creative? I’d enjoy hearing from you.

 

Freedom to Create Joyfully

 

42_Autumn Oak_200dpi sm
“Autumn Oak” is #43 in my 100 paintings project. All rights reserved.

I’ve had lots of interests over the years and I like to write. I’ve had the freedom to create blogs to my heart’s content on this platform and write on a lot of topics that have interested me. As my interest in some of those topics has waned, I’ve archived or deleted the related blogs. I’m down to three. I blog about creativity, astrology, and my artwork at these sites (click on the links below or in the left Menu):

There are good reasons to keep them separate, but I also experience these different areas of interest as related. I create art and write about it. I write about creativity. And I use astrology to explain the creative process and provide insight into the freedom to choose and create a life within the context of the life fate handed each of us. The common thread is creativity. So, I’ve decided to provide connections to my other blogs and in a sense bring them all together. I don’t have a “schedule” for posting. Sometimes, I’m more active on one blog and less so on others. Check them out.

 

Thoughts are Energy that Create Worlds

yin yang

Magnetism is the force of attraction or repulsion. Magnetism is caused by spinning electrically-charged particles moving around, and the magnetic field of an object can create a magnetic force that attracts other objects. When two magnetic objects are close together, there is a force that attracts the poles to each other.

Our human bodies generate internal magnetic activity (every cell contains energy) that keeps us alive. This internal magnetic energy interacts with all the other magnetic fields on the planet we live on. Our brains are a dense mass of energy producing cells that create measurable brain waves. And it’s in the brain that thoughts are produced, transmitted, and received. The laws of nature apply to humans in the same way they apply to a magnet or any other magnetic force on earth.

The difference between us and a magnet is that we have conscious choice. We can choose whether or not to be drawn into a force field. We can choose to join an activity, stop at a sale, go to a movie, say yes or no to an invitation. We can decide how to respond to the randomness that surrounds us. We can decide, if we’re conscious, about what kind of thoughts we let in. This is important to understand and to remember, because EVERYTHING is energy, including thoughts.

Reflect for 60 seconds on anything and pay attention to how one thought leads to another and to another. Those thoughts collect and can create enough momentum to, in turn, cause you to take an action or feel a feeling that’s often a reaction.

The Law of Attraction says that we invite our experiences through our own thought processes. Nothing can occur in your life experience without your invitation of it through your thoughts. For a lot of reasons, few people want to accept that we shape our experience of life through our thoughts. Not wanting to accept the physics of our experience here on earth doesn’t change the physics, though. We are made up of energy. Our thoughts are created from energy. They’re transmitted and received because they’re energy. The key to having better thoughts and better life experiences is to remember that we have conscious choice.

Power Play

Understand the Law of Attraction and remember that you can choose which force fields you are drawn in to. The news is a force field. If watching or listening to the news upsets you and causes you to feel negative emotions, you can choose to either not pay attention to news or you can be selective about what you pay attention to. People around you are force fields. You can choose to stop receiving thoughts that upset you or you can interrupt the thoughts that you’re attracting by changing your focus. You get to decide what affects you, what you accept or reject, and what your actions or reactions will be.

Everyone is Creative

Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh IV 1957 by Francis Bacon 1909-1992

Study for portrait of Vincent Van Gogh by Francis Bacon, 1957.

For several years, John has curated the work of landscape artists for a cyber art show that he shares with his audience of landscape painters on Facebook. Every week, he asks his followers a question. A recent question was: “If you had to pick just one thing that being an artist has taught you, what would it be?” The question elicited over a hundred responses, such as:

  • Don’t self promote. It’s embarrassing and self-defeating.
  • Perseverance, persistence, and patience.
  • Not to be an artist. I quit six years ago.
  • Never stop learning and pushing your boundaries.
  • There will always be someone who is better than you. Don’t compete.
  • How hard it is to be an accomplished artist. I sometimes think I’ll never get there.
  • Marry well.
  • Admire, appreciate, and understand other’s work.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy.

Midweek, John posted a comment in which he said that he had observed only about 2 percent of the population are truly artists and another 10 percent consider themselves creative. Everyone else just likes to paint.

I was quite surprised that John thinks so few of his artist followers think of themselves as creative and even fewer see themselves as artists, but I don’t disagree with him even though I have come to other conclusions. That’s what he’s observed and what he believes. John explained his reasoning this way: “TRUE artists suffer. They struggle to fit in. To get enough money to eat and live. To find time enough to create what is burning them up inside and to get recognition in an indifferent society and world.”

That was Van Gogh’s life story. It’s a story and a mindset that many painters, writers, poets, sculptors—artists—have adopted, though. It’s a belief that is worn by many, perhaps the majority, like sackcloth and perpetuated by its repetition. It’s a belief that is passed from generation to generation. But here’s the thing—beliefs are nothing more than thoughts that people continue to think, and as long as people continue to tell each other their stories of lack, they will continue to manifest and share those experiences.

Power Play

Tell a different story. Chronic attention to unwanted things holds you in a place (through the thoughts that you think) of disallowing what you really want.

My conclusions

Everyone is creative. If you doubt that is true, take 15 minutes and recall/make a list of things you’ve created (brought into your life) because you imagined/thought of something that you wanted for yourself.  The Law of Attraction says that “that which is like onto itself, is drawn.”

From Inside the Stillness that Is a Rose

rose-wallpaper-1920x1200-00795_high

I’ve been painting roses like the one pictured here for the past three weeks as homework for a class, “Finding Inner Peace through Painting Roses” that Dennis Perrin offers online. I’ve felt many things while standing in front of my easel and working really hard to paint roses, but feeling peaceful has not been my state of mind. Dennis has offered many demonstrations throughout this time and I’m still not getting it. I’ve felt frustrated, impatient, inept, disappointed, and not close to understanding how to find peace or paint roses.

Every time I try to paint them I’ve wondered What is their secret? To be fair to myself, I’ve learned many other things as I’ve painted. I’m more confident today about mixing paint, seeing values, and I have a new “palette discipline,” which simply means keeping color values together rather than being indiscriminate and haphazard about where I mix a pile of paint. The color value piles on the palette match the color and values in the painting.

I’m acutely aware that I’m still missing the simplicity of the act of painting roses, which are by their nature full of complex details. I’m making it too hard. So this morning, I decided I need to take a break, to step back and look elsewhere for guidance.

While going through a drawer in my bedroom this morning, I found a small notebook. The first entry was made in September 1994. The last entry was made in October 1998. On one of the pages, I’d written the following quote:

Deep within each of you, you will find real beauty, virtue, and goodness. It may be hidden very deep inside of you, but have faith that it is there. You can find it when you are willing to search within with real determination. For you draw to yourself what you hold in your thoughts. Think the very best and you will draw the very best to yourself…Realize how much you have to be grateful for. Surround yourself with beautiful things and beautiful people. See the light in everything and everyone. Let your light shine brightly from deep within you and know that nothing from without can extinguish your flame. So keep your lights burning brightly so you can blaze forth, pushing back the darkness. Be light and let it shine forth from you.
~Author Unknown

I think I’ve found a thread that if I follow it, I will be able to paint the rose. I’ll post it when it’s done!

 

Are you creative?

Good Measure-process img

Yes! If you feel desire (and we all do), you are a creative person. We tend to confuse “creative” and “talented,” and they do overlap, but they’re not inter-changeable. You can be talented and creative. You can also be creative and have little or limited talent, which I define as “an aptitude or skill.” The desire to create something, anything, is all you need to be creative.

Playbook strategy

For a week, keep a list of the times you cause something to happen.

There’s an easier way to be

To be, or not to be, that is the question.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is contemplating death and the unfairness of life when he says that. He goes on to say:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
that Flesh is heir to?

Hamlet is thinking about his father’s murder and the expectation that he will seek revenge, but he hesitates. For far less dramatic reasons than Hamlet’s, we have to make decisions every day about “being” in this world. We experience heartache and shocks to our being—who we are—because we live, and like Hamlet, we often wonder if it’s worth it to “take up arms against a sea of troubles.”

I told my parents I wanted to be an artist when I was in my early teens. My mom was silent on the subject, but my dad let me know what he thought. He was against the notion because, he said, “You can’t earn a living as an artist.”

It was easier then, as it is now, to earn a living wage by working for someone else. Some part of me abandoned the artist who lived inside and got on the merry-go-round that’s life. I went to college and then went on to earn a master’s degree in education. The question that fueled my desire to learn was: When most people hate what they do and often dislike who they work for, why do they tolerate a system that requires them to do what they’re told to do, what is expected, every day of their working lives? I paid $35,000 for the answer. But why do you think we learn to be other than we are? Because _________ (fill in the blank).

It often seems easier to do what is expected of us, to ride the merry-go-round, but is it? What did, or do, you want to create? Is there time in your life for you to do whatever it is that you need to do? Who do you think you are? Does the last question irritate you? Why?

What does fear of failing prevent you from doing?

7-100 Nod to Kahn

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.  ∼Edwin Land

I painted in my twenties and thirties. Then I put my paint box on a shelf in the basement and went on with life. The “idea” of painting sometime in the future never left me, but as time passed, fear set in and I began to believe painting—an activity that I loved—would remain shelved, like the supplies I’d left in the basement.

Three decades passed. I felt the urge to paint a couple of years before I actually picked up a brush and mixed paint on a palette or applied it to a canvas. But by the time I acknowledged to myself that I wanted to be the artist my younger self had believed in, I was too afraid to paint. So instead of painting, I got interested in polymer clay.

I didn’t want to use the clay to make jewelry or cute animals. I wanted to paint with clay. I searched the internet for examples and artists who used clay the way I wanted to use it and found few who had tried. In the meantime, I learned about the tools clay artists use and I started making small landscape clay paintings. The one above is 4×4 inches. I developed some skills with the medium, and then I hit a wall. I couldn’t make the clay comply with my vision. Clay, like every medium, has its limitations.

Working with the clay had shown me that I wanted to paint landscapes. I also knew I couldn’t realize my vision using polymer clay. I needed to use paint. So I put aside the fear of failing and began again to paint. My “clay period” showed me some things about myself. It was an important and necessary step to take. But I’m so glad I decided to move past the fear, because that decision opened doors to new communities of people, new experiences, new confidence in myself, and it reconnected me to my joy, which is painting.

What brings you joy? What do you want to try doing? Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from trying.