Celebrate Your Creativity

Host J. Alexander Greenwood of the Mysterious Goings On Podcast interviewed me a couple of weeks ago and one of his questions and my response, inspired this post. If you haven’t listened to the podcast, go ahead. I’ll wait… Thanks for listening. Can you guess what inspired this post? It was my last comments about my belief that nearly everyone is creative. And that we, society in the USA, don’t value creativity very much. Even a lot of creative people don’t value their creativity as much as they might, myself included. If that’s true, then what are ways you can value creativity more? Celebrate your creativity.

Image shows a colorful fireworks exploding above a cityscape, we celebrate many things but rarely do we celebrate creativity.

We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs, graduations (particularly this time of year), and the purchase of a new house or car. But we rarely celebrate smaller accomplishments. When was the last time you celebrated writing a page of words? Did you celebrate trying a new twist on an old recipe? Or how about the color you painted on the wall? You wrote a piece of coding that did more than the customer asked is a creative solution. Celebrate.

Why Celebrate the Small Creative Wins?

It’s easy to berate ourselves for mistakes or errors and not just call them failures, but label ourselves as failures. Our caveman DNA means we are on the lookout for problems 24/7. But in modern times, when the problem isn’t a saber-toothed tiger wanting to eat you, we sometimes see ourselves as the problem. And when we don’t celebrate the small wins “we end up diminishing our motivation, and motivation is what keeps us on the right path and gives us the strength to soldier on to the top of the mountain.” (lifehack.org)

You can’t acknowledge what you’ve done if you don’t track your progress. Track it in a journal or on the calendar or by scratching off items on a to-do list. Acknowledging what you’ve done helps you see progress, especially in long projects. Celebrating your accomplishments gives you a dopamine hit, which increases your desire to work on the next step to get another hit. Not only that, when you increase your dopamine, you increase your pleasure and your happiness throughout the day. Celebrating the small successes gets us “addicted to progress” because we want to repeat that dopamine hit. We want to feel that pleasure and happiness.

The progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.”

Havard Business Review

We are wired to respond to rewards… it’s another way how our brain works. So those small-step celebrations boost our self-esteem and our self-confidence. When we feel better about ourselves and our projects, our productivity increases.  

The positive psychology research has shown that celebrating the small wins, the small accomplishments, and more frequently has a bigger impact than waiting for that one big thing to celebrate. It keeps you engaged. It helps you to remember that you’re on a path that’s working and you feel good when you get a chance to celebrate the small thing.”

Denise Stromme, University of Minnesota Extension.

How to Reward Yourself

Collage image including an image of one daisy, two star flowers, and a bouquet of pink and purple tulips demonstrating graduated rewards for your creativity.

The trick in rewarding yourself is to make it meaningful, but also to keep it tied to the progress you’re making. 

How do you do that? You create small-step goals. For example, use things you consider rewards, but it would work something like this: a coffee at the end of the week of successes, an hour of television at the end of the month, and a fancy dinner out at the end of the quarter. 

If you have a goal aversion, tie your rewards to your efforts. Three hours of focused work on the project earns a reward. Six hours win a bigger reward, etc. Up the “ante” of your rewards proportional to the amount of effort or work you’ve accomplished. 

Got it? So what do you use for rewards?

Reward Your Creativity

Photograph of a woman silhouetted jumping for joy against a sunrise demonstrating another way to celebrate your creativity.

Your rewards don’t have to cost money. They do have to be specific to you, feel like a reward to you. Still need examples? There are literally thousands of ways you can reward yourself.

  • Raise your arms in triumph and literally jump for joy.
  • Give yourself a gold star. X number of stars and you get a “bigger” reward.
  • Write yourself a note of praise.
  • A cup of your favorite beverage (like coffee or chai latte).
  • A window shopping trip.
  • TA trip to a museum or zoo or a movie.
  • An accessory—jewelry or scarf or fancy belt buckle or shoes.
  • An extra half hour of sleep.
  • A long bubble bath.
  • An extra hour of reading.
  • An hour of watching stupid pet tricks on YouTube. 
  • Watching an episode of your favorite reality show.
  • An extra play date with your kids or pets.
  • An occasional dinner out can be a reward
  • Tickets to the next game played by your favorite local sports team
  • Play a video game or a game of hopscotch.

One caution: don’t reward yourself when you haven’t done the work. That doesn’t mean you can never have a dinner out or play a video game except as a reward. It means be aware of what your “fix” is. If you get addicted to the reward (a glass of wine, or a favorite food—chocolate anyone?), then your focus isn’t on the goal (finishing the painting or the sweater you’re knitting.) 

What happens when you celebrate your creativity? 

You may feel awkward or dismissive of the celebration the first time you celebrate your creative small step. Remind yourself that your creativity is of value to you and to others. You earned the reward because you did something creative. 

Besides feeling better about your creativity, you are giving your creativity positive feedback. And that positive feedback perks your creativity up and leads to another idea and another. So celebrate your creativity. Heck, spread the joy and help another creative celebrate their creativity. Let’s change our corner of the world and teach ourselves and others how to value creativity.

What’s one way you’ll celebrate your creativity today?

Reignite Your Creativity

Sometimes ideas seem to hit you like a tidal wave. They come so fast and so hard you can barely keep track of them all. Other times it’s as if you’ve awakened in the middle of of the 5.5 million square miles of the Antarctic desert. Cold. Dry. Miles from anything resembling a creative idea. What do you do? You start in the dark to reignite your creativity.

Image is of smoke rising from a match whose flame has been extinguished--don't worry you can reignite your creativity.

Start in the Dark

You’re looking at me like I’m crazy, right? Give me a minute. You’re already in the dark as far as your creative ideas go, so why not give it a little therapy? Step away from your creativity. 

Drink in other people’s creativity. What do I mean? If you’re a writer, read a really good book. Or a terrible one. If you’re a knitter or quilter or painter, visit a museum or art display of your favorite artist. Feed your muse with inspirational examples from others in your field. 

Good or bad, doesn’t matter. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds and textures and world of your area of creativity. Two words of caution: no comparisons. You’re looking for different angles, not to judge how worthy or unworthy you feel. Give yourself permission to ask what if? What if I could do this? How would I do it differently? 

Play

Let it go. Er, let go of your inhibitions and play like a child. No, your play doesn’t have to be within your area of creativity. No rules. No limits. Just have fun. Splash in a puddle. Finger paint with your non-dominate hand. Sing nursery rhymes. Read poetry aloud in a Bugs Bunny or Betty Boop voice. Chose an activity you remember enjoying in your childhood and do that for an hour or two. Remind yourself of the imagination and energy you had when you were a child. It’s still there, just buried by the demands of society and responsibilities of adulthood. Let it out as often as you need it to reignite your creative sense of play.

I created the video below a few years back, but I think it speaks to why you should play.

Imagine

Your creative light can flicker or dim whether you’ve just started or have been at your creative craft for a very long time. When that happens, fear often floods us. We’re afraid we aren’t good enough, or that we’ve used up all our talent, or that we’ve lied to ourselves about our abilities. Remember, 

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. “

Dune by Frank Herbert

Use your mental imagery to see your goal. Make positive connections with your craft. See yourself being practicing your craft successfully. Where are you? Who is there with you? What are you wearing? Be specific. 

Some research has shown that mental practice is almost as effective as true practice. It’s not woo-woo, it’s training your brain. It may not make you successful, but it will give train your brain to feel and think about creativity in a positive rather than fearful way. 

Engage Your Five Senses

In another kind of play, play with your senses. All five of them. Take one at a time. Focus on just that one sense for as long as you can. You’ll be amazed how much more you discover when you’re focused on one at a time.

It doesn’t matter what type of creativity you’re involved in. Find something to look at that you can look at for a long time. What colors and shapes do you notice first? What do you notice when you’ve been looking for more than a few minutes?

Engage your hearing. Listen to music, poetry, nature, or even total silence. Take a deep breath and listen. What do you hear? What else can you hear? 

Focus on taste. Try something new or an old favorite, but really focus on what that tastes like and how that taste changes what you feel and think.

Take a sniff of a flower, a seasoning, or the air. Close your eyes and draw that aroma in. What memory or emotion does it stir? 

Touch. Let the world of textures and shapes talk to you through your fingers. Let your fingers take a stroll across new shapes and textures. Then try feeling some familiar shapes and textures. How does the new make you feel verse the familiar?  

Remove the Negative

Sadly, sometimes the most negative people in our lives are family. Sometimes they are quite vocal in their negativity. Sometimes it’s their energy that is negative.

It can be difficult to keep your passion alive when those around you think your art or your talents are worthless. Focus on finding positive people who can help keep your energy and passion up. Online communities can help. Search your favorite social media site for like-minded individuals. Ask your librarians if they know of creatives like you. Find your people. Supportive people. Tune out as much of the negative energy as you can.

Give to Get

Give back to your creativity community. Share your passion. Share your knowledge. Volunteer to teach a youth group. Support others by going to their shows, their book releases, or whatever. The more you share, the more give, the more you keep your passion alive. 

Ask Yourself Questions

Ask yourself the right questions. Not can I do this, but if I knew I could not fail, what would I do? You can be or do anything. Put it in writing and place that writing where you will see it every day. 

Ask yourself how will today’s creative decision affect my life ten or twenty years from now? 

Finally ask yourself, does this bring me pleasure? If it’s not bringing you pleasure, why are you doing it? If it’s for delayed pleasure from your craft—say you’re learning a difficult skill—then remember the big picture. 

Reignite Your Creativity

Image is of a pair of hands cupped together, holding a candle. The candle's flame rises into a heart shape when you reignite your creativity.

You are not alone. Creative energy ebbs and flows for all of us. 

I’m here to help fan those creative flames. But you can’t rely on me or anyone else to keep you passionate about your projects. Only you can keep the flame that is your dream alive. 

Remember your passion. Re-ignite your creativity.

What do you do to reignite your creativity?

Image Credits

First photo by 2 Bro’s Media on Unsplash

First video by Lynette M. Burrows and Lumen5, originally posted as Energize Your Imagination July 10, 2018

Second Video by NatureRelaxation.com on Youtube

Final image by Vic_B from Pixabay 

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part II

I love being an independent author-publisher. Being in control of my business gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It also gives me a lot of responsibilities and a heck of a lot of things to know. In part one of this series, I discussed some of the big picture things I wish I knew before I published. This multiple part series of posts originated last month on the Writers In the Storm Blog with Part I. Part II continues with big picture things.

Photo taken from above a manual typewriter looking down on a man's hands on the keys symbolic of things I wish I knew before I published

Motivation

You are a writer. You already know how much self-discipline it takes to write a book from first idea to polished product. Applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair may not be a problem for you when you’re writing. That kind of motivation is a big picture motivation. But what about the other stuff that a successful author must do?

Motivation for the Traditionally Published

A traditional publishing company will create deadlines relayed to you by your editor. Revisions are due on this date, approval of copywriting is due on a different date. Motivation to complete those tasks cannot be the money or the hope of publishing fame. It takes a distinct set of self-discipline skills to finish creative tasks in a certain time frame. Your publisher may dictate other things as well. Your contract may dictate where and when you make appearances. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it. It’s part of your contract. 

These situations and time-frames do not have to be negative. Many authors have very pleasant and lucrative relationships with traditional publishing. Educate yourself on what to expect. Ask authors published by that company what their experience has been like. Know what your contract obligations are. Understand yourself, your self-discipline, and your expectations. Be prepared and you won’t lack motivation.

Motivation for the Independent Author-Publisher

When you’re self-employed, no one will yell at you if you’re late to work or even skip a day. You have no boss to remind you of your deadlines. You must be self-motivated enough to glue your butt to the chair to get the work done. 

Winging it isn’t the path to success. Have a plan. Have tools ready to help you stay on track. You also will need tools to get back on track when you’re depressed or after a hurtful review or an illness. When you are self-employed, you have to be worker bee, cheerleader, and taskmaster, sometimes all at once.

What I Wish I Knew About Motivation

I do not lack motivation to write. I love the entire process, from idea creation to rough draft to editing and polishing. What I wish I knew from the beginning…

Find out what I wish I knew about motivation, about copyright, protecting your rights, and on knowing your reader over on the Writers in the Storm Blog.

Motivation for Being A Creative

The journey of being a creative can be like a smooth road. You glide from point A to point B. Most often; it is a bumpy, curvy road with fantastic ideas and poor execution or a mediocre idea and stunning execution. Self-doubt can cause breakdowns (to continue the metaphor). If you choose to be a full-time creative, you need ways to manage the ups and downs, curves, and occasional breakdowns. The best way to do this is to know your what, who, how and why of creativity. Your answers will help motivate and inspire you. Here are some quotes to help you get started or clarify your answers.

Photograph of a needle with multiple, different colored, embroidery threads through the needle demonstrating that Being Creative can be hard.

What is Creativity?

Creativity is more than a definition found in a dictionary.

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.”

George Bernard Shaw

Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

Edward de Bono

It’s impossible to explain creativity. It’s like asking a bird, ‘How do you fly?’ You just do.”

Eric Jerome Dickey

When Can You Be Creative?

Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.” Bruce Garrabrandt

Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it who makes a difference.”

Nolan Bushnell 

Who Are Creatives?

photograph of an asian woman wearing glasses lines of computer programming language are on a screen in front of her and reflected in  her glasses. Make room to understand programmers are being a creative too.

There’s room for everybody on the planet to be creative and conscious if you are your own person. If you’re trying to be like somebody else, then there isn’t.

Tori Amos

The artist is not a special kind of person; rather each person is a special kind of artist.”

Ananda Coomaraswamy

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

The creative adult is the child who survived.

Ursula Leguin

How to be Creative

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”

Rumi

Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”

Tina Turner

Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

David Lynch

Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.”

Mary Shelley

Everything you can imagine is real.”

Pablo Picasso

Why Be Creative?

For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.”

Amor Towles

Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living.”

Madeleine L’Engle

To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

Kurt Vonnegut
Photograph of a man's hands as he hammers red-hot steel into a blade-he is being a creative, too

Your What, Who, How, and Why Be Creative

Longtime readers of this blog know that helping people find the courage to express their creative side is a passion of mine. For more encouragement read how your creativity doesn’t have to be perfect.

Whether you’ve assessed your what, who, how and why be creative or not, I hope one or two of these quotes gave you creativity a boost today.

What motivates or inspires you on your creative journey?

Good News During My Most Difficult Year

This year has been beyond difficult. But once in a while something wonderful comes along. I am supremely happy to share that a dear friend recommended me to the Writers in the Storm (WITS) team. And they invited me to join them! So there is good news during my most difficult year.

image of a dark tunnel that ends with the sun rising and a silhouette of a bare tree with the words Good News During my Most Difficult Year printed across the top.

It is my honor and pleasure to let you know that my first WITS blog post is on that site today! I’ve shared a portion of it here, but if you’re interested in learning more, please go to the Writers in the Storm blog (link at the end of the excerpt).

If you’re unfamiliar with the WITS blog, it is a blog created in 2010 by a group of seasoned writers. Its focus is on writing craft and inspiration. And has been in the Writer’s Digest list of top 101 blogs for writers many times. Want to know more? Visit their about page.

Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

Clothespin holding white paper note several clothespins wooden floor. Text on white paper reads Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths.

There are writers whose characters jump off the page to live in your head. Lyrical writers can make music on the page that goes straight to your heart. And writers of intricate plots with twists and turns that thrill and delight. Every writer, no matter their experience, has strong skills in at least one area. Every writer also has skills that are weaker. It’s up to you to discover your writing strengths and weaknesses so you can develop more powerful writing.

Why

Your strengths are those things that take less energy to do and do well. You can use your strengths to seek opportunities and work more efficiently.

It’s scary to admit you have areas where your writing is weak. Often we think weak is bad. It’s a problem when we focus so much on our weaknesses that it disempowers us. If we focus on our weakness, we lose self-confidence and enthusiasm. As a result, our performance goes down, which reinforces our negative feelings.

Weak doesn’t mean bad. It simply means that skill takes more of your energy and focus to use. That part of writing is not a thing that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Don’t try to “fix” your weaknesses, but don’t ignore them either. Improving your weakest skills will improve your work overall. Improving your strengths will make your work shine. But before you can improve, you must discover your writing strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, you may not be the best judge of your own skills.

To read more of this post go to Writers in the Storm.

Thank you

puppy dog holds Thank You note

Don’t worry, I’m not going away. But I hope from time-to-time, I will post another excerpt and a link to the Writers in the Storm.

This is an exciting development for me. One that you, my readers, are partially responsible for. You’ve helped me grow as a blogger and a writer. (Are they separate? Kind of, but not really.) And if you take a link from here to my WITS blog post, you get an extra big heaping of thank you!