What I Learned About Creativity When I Wasn’t Writing

Writing has always been my preferred art, even before I knew it was art.

When I was in high school, the walls of my bedroom were papered with poems and mini memoirs. On those walls I hid messages to my parents that I was too afraid to speak aloud but desperately needed to get out of me – and then I tore them all down in a fit of rage and tears the first time my words were used against me.

I started putting my words in journals. Then, on a whim, I put them on the Internet for invisible strangers to read. That’s when I discovered that I made things – stories, and  pictures, and feelings – out of letters and punctuation. The whim turned into a hobby, then an obsession, and eventually a career.

Still, it wasn’t until two years ago when my daughter suggested she got her artistic talent from me that I considered the possibility that I was creative.

Since that realization, I’ve been experimenting with lots of different methods of creativity. It’s all been for fun – words are still the medium that I am best at – but it felt very, very necessary and essential to my happiness. It was as if I’d discovered a secret treasure map to Something Super Important and I had to just keep making stuff if I wanted to get to the big X.

And then the words left me.

I haven’t written anything I’m extremely proud of in months. Every post here has been a struggle, a pulling out of me instead of the release of an unstoppable flow. I haven’t written word one of my next book even though I finally know exactly what it will be about. I haven’t submitted a single article or guest post for anyone else, despite requests and lists of possible topics.

It’s terrifying for a writer to lose her words. But it has also been a blessing in a way, because it’s been during this scary wordless drought that I’ve come to fully appreciate my creativity.

The words and I have been at odds, but the need to create was always strong.

So, I learned to paint with watercolors. I rehabbed old furniture. I went on long photo walks, discovered blackout poetry, bought coloring books, made collages, and started an art journal.

different types of art

Along the way, I’ve rediscovered something primal and, I believe, universal: inherent creativity.

This kind of creativity doesn’t exist to generate an income or to garner validation from an audience. It exists because in being creators we are connected to what creates us.

When I’m making something with my hands, I can feel this strand of soul inside me hum. My stupid thinking brain shuts up and my intuition takes over. It’s like going to the source and refueling with the very best of my original ingredients.

Creativity isn’t the only way to access this super refueling station. I get the same recharge from being surrounded by nature or having a deep connection with someone I love. My creativity isn’t the only part of me that matters or the single key to my happiness.

But it’s an important one, I’ve learned. And it’s fun.

Painting and drawing and gluing things together is fun for me because, I think, I have no standards for myself. I don’t expect to make masterpieces or even something pretty. It helps me practice doing just for the sake of doing.

And really, I can’t say this enough: it’s fun.

My words are slowly starting to come back to me. I hope that I’ll actually be able to write that book this year and regain my confidence in storytelling. But in the meantime, I’m so grateful that I’ve discovered new ways to sustain my creative spirit.

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Do you have a creative spirit and live in the Pittsburgh area? I’d love it if you’d join me for a special weeknight retreat in March. Go here for details & ticket info.

(And if you’re not in Pittsburgh, stay tuned… I’m planning something big for you later this year!)

Happiness Interview with Playing Big author Tara Mohr

Let’s cut to the chase: I am thrilled to have Tara Sophia Mohr on the blog today.

One, because I’m a big fan of her work personally – so the fan girl in me is all “OH MY GOD TARA AND I EXCHANGED EMAILS!” We’re also Facebook friends. I’m just saying.

But I’m also thrilled for you, because Tara is the kind of woman I want other women to know about.

I consider her book, Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, a must-read for all women. It is practical, encouraging, and was filled with many game changing revelations for me about the many little ways I accidentally undermine myself. It was hands down one of my favorite books of 2014.

Today, Tara shares a little bit about her views on happiness.

Tara Mohr Happiness Interview

How do you define happiness?

The feeling state that results from doing the things that connect you to love.

What do you do on a daily(ish) basis to make yourself happy?

  • Do work I love.
  • Cross things off the to do list that don’t inspire me and in the end, aren’t that important.
  • Hug my baby.
  • Talk to my dear friends.
  • Write and create.
  • Converse.
  • Surround myself with beauty…and remember to look at it.

What “shoulds” have you let go of in the name of happiness?

Going to a gym. Doing sit ups. Cocktail party networking.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard about happiness?

That we aren’t supposed to be happy all the time – that’s okay. It’s important to pay attention to what makes us happy and cultivate more of those things in our lives. It’s important to notice what those activities tell us about our true nature – about what feeds us and what kind of life we are meant to live.

But our lives would also be much less rich without the insights that come from sadness, frustration, grief, confusion. We don’t have to rush past those times. We learn from them. Those times are also most likely to cause us to surrender trying to do it all and trying to control it all. When we come up against our own human limits, we surrender. When we surrender, we have room to change, see new possibilities, and let more light in.

Tara Mohr Sophia Quote

What’s the last life lesson you learned?

I’ve just had a big book launch – complete with a New York Times article, Today Show appearance, speaking on the stage at Lincoln Center – all kinds of things that look “big” from the outside. It was a reminder that none of that is what makes us happy or brings meaning to our work.

The most meaningful moments of the process for me were connecting with long-time readers of my work, bringing these ideas to women who don’t have a lot of access to personal growth resources, and most of all – doing things – like writing that New York Times piece – that challenged the rantings of my own inner critic.

It was a powerful reminder of what I teach: that playing big is an inner game, and that each woman must determine what playing big means for her. No one else can draw the map of her playing big. Only she can do that. Only she knows what her real dreams are.

You can find out more about Tara at taramohr.com.

How to Be Happy When There Is Suffering in The World

VIDEO how to be happy when there is suffering

When I write about being happy, I’m almost always talking about a way of living rather than a temporary emotion. No one, after all, is happy all the time.

Bad things happen. It’s normal and natural to feel sad or angry when they do. You can feel sad or angry and still live a happy life.

But what about when bad things seem to be happening constantly? Everywhere?

With our shrinking global society, most of us are more aware than ever that there are always bad things happening somewhere. Aside from tragedies, there is also the slow burn of injustices that cannot be cured in a day or even a single generation.

How can we see all the world’s suffering and still be happy?

Do we have to become oblivious to other people’s pain in order to maintain our own happiness?

These are the questions one reader asked me recently via Facebook – and it’s one I get asked a lot when I do in-person events. In today’s video, I give my most honest answer.

The goal is to be compassionate while maintaining healthy boundaries. This prevents you from hijacking other people’s stories and ensures you have the emotional reserves needed to actually make a difference.

Remember:

Do you have a question about what it takes to be happy? Email me at britt@inpursuitofhappiness.net and you could see your question featured in a future video.

And if you enjoyed the video, please share this post!

The Story of My Perfect Morning

My perfect morning started with an unexpected phone call at 6:30 am.

“This is a message from the Pittsburgh Public School District. All Pittsburgh public schools will be operating on a two-hour delay today.”

I shut off my alarm – the one I’d already hit snooze on three times – and sent a text to my teenager upstairs, “2 hr delay”. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

An hour later I woke to my daughter crawling into bed beside me. “Two hour delay,” I mumbled and wrapped my limbs around her.

“I hope it’s cancelled,” she said.

“Not gonna happen,” I told her.

“Why not? How do you know?”

“It’s just delayed because of the cold. It will be warm enough after two hours.”

She threw back my covers in disgust and left the room. Having been forced into enough lines of conversation to be awakened, I decided I might as well get out of bed. Besides, I had plans for a perfect morning.

The night before, when I was planning out the work I wanted to do during the week, I’d made a list of what I wanted to accomplish in the morning. I had hoped to do some yoga, meditate, journal, and put a soup in the slow cooker before heading into the co-working space I rent. I’d estimated the routine would take me about two hours, which is why I’d set my alarm for 6 am. Even though I’d missed my original wake-up call, I figured I could still hit some of the items on my wish list.

I walked out into the living room and found Devin wandering around with his headphones in, waiting for his time to leave. Emma had plopped herself in front of the computer, an error in judgment I corrected for her immediately.

“Yoga and meditation will have to wait,” I decided. I hate trying to do yoga in the midst of a busy household.

I headed to the kitchen and pulled out the slow cooker. Then, I had a flash of inspiration.

I opened the YouTube app on my phone and loaded up my “music to move to” playlist. I could certainly dance with kids milling around.

Thirty minutes later my heart was pumping and I had a smile on my face. I kissed my son goodbye and turned my attention back to meal prep. By the time I’d plugged in the slow cooker and turned it to Low, Emma was dressed and I had about 20 minutes before it would be time to drive her and her friend to school.

“I don’t really want to try and squeeze yoga and meditation in,” I thought.

I debated getting dressed so that I could start work as soon as Emma was dropped off; it was nearly 10 o’clock after all. Instead, I sat down with the last of my coffee and my journal. I wrote for 20 minutes before a knock on our door announced it was time to leave. I threw on snow boots and a winter coat over my pajamas and drove the kids to school.

Ten minutes later, I came home to a quiet house. I contemplated my options.

I could head to the shower. I could open up the computer and get right to work.

Or, I could go ahead and do that yoga and meditation session that I knew would be so good for me.

I swallowed my guilt, made a conscious decision to embrace my privilege, and I pulled out my mat.

My not so sunny view for sun salutations.

My not so sunny view for sun salutations.

Afterward, I made a fresh cup of coffee and breakfast before getting into the shower. I checked the clock on my phone as I was drying off: 11:01 am.

My perfect morning took me right up to the beginning of what could easily be considered an early lunch hour. It was practically noon and I hadn’t even pulled my laptop out of its bag.

And that was just fine.

I realized I still had four hours of quiet left in my home, plenty of time to accomplish all of my computer and writing work for the day. If I needed more time for other work or chores, I acknowledged that there were still several hours left in the day after school let out – hours that I had the freedom to use as I pleased.

The best part was that I was now totally prepared physically, spiritually, and emotionally to take full advantage of those remaining hours.

This perfect morning that stretched into normal working hours was a pretty significant win for me. It represented a shift in my perspective that I’ve been trying to make for months.

You see, I don’t work a 9 to 5. I don’t have to go into an office. I’m not bound by a boss or a time sheet. Because my children are old enough to mostly take care of themselves in the mornings and afternoons, I’m not really even beholden to the schedule of their school days.

I’m incredibly lucky, in other words.

But preconceived ideas and a lot of guilt have stopped me from enjoying my good fortune.

Because most people have to be at their desks for more than four hours a day. And most people have to be producing by 9 or 10 in the morning, if not sooner. Who am I to laze about journaling and doing yoga until 11?

That’s what I tell myself when I skip a chance to practice yoga or don’t take the time to meditate for ten minutes, write, or even have a decent breakfast.

can spend hours doing things that are good for me each morning, but most people don’t have that luxury – and therefore I shouldn’t.

Martyr logic.

But the reality is that I am blessed. I have been given an amazing gift of time and freedom at this point in my life; and I am serving no one by squandering that gift in the name of guilt.

In my quest to do more and get less done this year, one of my goals is to start embracing the unique flexibility that I have right now. I have the opportunity to spend a lot of time not working at a desk or plowing through tedious tasks, and I don’t want to let guilt or some outdated perception of workable hours get in the way.

Today’s perfect morning was a step in that direction.

Why I’m Trying to Do More and Get Less Done

2014-10-07 13.41.09

I’m goal oriented. I’m motivated by deadlines, checkmarks, and gold stars. I get a thrill from getting things done, from the accomplishment of finishing.

This is both a strength and a weakness. Lately, I’ve been running up against the weakness part.

Specifically, I’ve noticed that I’m struggling to follow through on process goals, anything that can’t be defined by results.

For example:

  • I say I want to practice yoga, but more days then not I skip pulling out the mat.
  • My hands itch to make stuff, but there never seems to be a good time for arts & crafts projects that aren’t for something specific.
  • I want to write more often, but I get stuck when faced with a blank page and no clear purpose for writing.

I tend to justify time spent with results yielded, but a lot of what makes me happy is rooted in the process instead of the product.

So much of living is in doing, not in having done.

One of my goals for 2015 is to do more, even if that means getting less done.

experience

I practiced DOING yesterday when I decided to spend an hour painting. I wasn’t painting anything special or frame worthy (seriously, here it is on Instagram), and I didn’t get to check anything off a list when I was done. In fact, I didn’t even get to finish before I had to head off to lead a Girl Scout meeting, but I spent that hour living joyfully. Just because.

This morning I danced around in my pajamas for 20 minutes before I got into the shower. I didn’t measure calories burned or count steps taken. I just enjoyed every single beat, because dancing makes me happy.

I don’t want to stop achieving entirely. A life is, in part, measured by what has been done. I am grateful for my ability to tackle a project and Get Shit Done.

But the best stories are not told about standing on the podium; the most memorable tales are about what happened in the trenches.

Plus, doing just for the sake of doing helps pull me into the present moment. It helps me to let go of my expectations about the future when I’m not mentally attaching my current actions to a future outcome. (That is much easier to write than to do!)

In the spirit of doing rather than achieving, I’m consciously avoiding turning this into some kind of project or goal. I’m not promising myself to be more in the moment in future moments, because that would be the exact opposite of the point.

But boy am I tempted.

And that’s how I know this is an important shift for me.

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Stay inspired by weekly emails with personal stories, practical tips & links to recent blog posts. You’ll also have access to exclusive discounts on products & events and a handful of freebies I’ve made just for you.

I save my best stuff for subscribers. Sign up today for free!

     

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