Month of Creative Practice

I’m a serial crafter. Several times in my journey to be more creative in my everyday life, I’ve turned to prompts for inspiration and motivation. These are a wonderful way to battle that blank canvas/first page block or to build the habit of creative living. However, I want to stretch ALL of my creative muscles! I’d like to follow a drawing exercise one day and participate in a creativity-themed meditation the next. In essence, variety is important to me. So, I shall be putting together my own Month of Creative Practice! My intention is to post a prompt every weekday towards engaging in or fostering creativity and record my efforts to follow it. Here we go!

  1. Write down 10 things that you’re grateful for. Use them to inspire an art journal page/art piece.
  2. Cook or prepare something to eat. Pay attention to your own innovations: how you choose what to cook & how your process differs from a recipe’s.
  3. Read the prompt, think one minute, then write for five minutes.
    Write about a moment in your grandparent’s life.
  4. Choose an unfinished project and create a plan to finish it. Include incremental goals that you can celebrate and visualize how awesome it will be completed. Finish the first step in your plan.
  5. Daydream. Read through this prompt, then sit somewhere comfortable and think it through.  The list of chores is long. There are mountains of bills to pay, dishes to wash and clothes to launder. The garden is a mess and the kids need to be at three different places this afternoon. Imagine the place where you felt the happiest and most peaceful. Hear the sounds in your mind. Smell the smells. Feel the sensations. Is it sunny? Notice the colors of the place and the textures. Touch the surfaces in your most pleasant refuge. Nobody can interrupt you. The phone cannot ring. You have your favorite book and time to read it. You go back to your list and the tasks are done in less time than you thought.
  6. Try something new today. Eat at a new restaurant, learn a new technique, or check out those new shops that have popped up on main street, for example.
  7. Give your brain a break and relax a bit today. Take a shower before jumping into any difficult crafts or problems.
  8. Decide whether you are a morning or evening person. At a time when you are not at peak performance, complete this prompt:
    Create a piece of art in any medium that plays with the phrase “I wish I had a pet….”.
  9. Take a moment to look at the everyday objects around you. Pick one to personalize or recreate with your own creative flourish.

Sneak Peek and a BREAK

Learning

In a 2012 study, results showed that an active involvement in a weird event (no, you can’t just watch funny videos) increased cognitive flexibility.

Prompt

Involve yourself in a weird event, then create an art journal page about the experience. 

Some Thoughts

Not only is the solar eclipse happening on Monday morning, I got tickets to the Symbiosis Festival happening directly in the path of totality! Woohoo! Me and the boys will be attending our first festival, it will have around 40,000 attendees, AND the sun will go out! I think this qualifies as involvement in a weird event. My lovely partner has already purchased a new book for me to capture my experiences in, so I plan to have at least one kick-ass piece of art journaling to fulfill this prompt. Or, perhaps I will be so involved there wont be time. In that case, I’ll be creating it after. Anyhows, the long and the short of this is that I’ll be gone until at least Wednesday. See ya’ll then!

 

Day 9

Learning

If you really want to be more creative, do creative things regularly. Computational Neuroscientist Paul King explains, “…The brain adapts according to use. So if the brain is used extensively in a certain way…then it will get better at that. The way it gets better is that more and more neurons are ‘recruited’ into that function, and the function becomes increasingly organized and exerts an increasing influence on the rest of the brain.”

Prompt

Take a moment to look at the everyday objects around you. Pick one to personalize or recreate with your own creative flourish.

Outcome

So I’ve been sitting on this prompt for a while. This is actually my favorite go-to task to kick-start my creative juices. It hits me three-fold:
1) It causes me to change the way I look at everyday things.
2) It encourages me to surround myself with creative objects (which can be inspiring later).
3) People notice! And the positive feedback is a good motivator to keep creating.

I decided to embroider bandannas to give out as gifts (we’ll see how that goes). I chose some fun fabrics to act as guides since embroidery isn’t something I normally do, and it’s been a blast. It’s also interesting how it has switched something in my brain and embroidery inspirations have begun to creep into my other crafts as well. (Mail art!) I’m not sure if it is because I’m essentially exploring a new craft or if it is just too exciting to keep to one sphere. Probably both. 🙂

Day 8

Learning

“When the non-optimal is optimal.”

I believe we’ve all labeled ourselves or been labeled a “night person” or a “morning person”. This label describes when we feel the most motivated and at our peak performance. Science has been telling us that we do our best work during our peak time of day. And that is when we do our best at attention-demanding tasks. However, this study suggests that tasks requiring extra innovation and creativity may best be done outside of peak hours, when the brain tends to wander. Wandering through a more diverse sample of information stimulates innovation through the connection of more random facets of a challenge.

Prompt

Decide whether you are a morning or evening person. At a time when you are not at peak performance, complete this prompt:
Create a piece of art in any medium that plays with the phrase “I wish I had a pet….”.

Outcome

I took the self-assessment test and came up with “intermediate”. I am slightly more an owl than a lark, but not by much. Since I’m typically flagging at work in the afternoon, I figured that would be a good time to do this prompt. I decided that I’d really like a pet goat and went about doodling ridiculously-proportioned goats. That led to a-I should look up a goat picture and draw it! Which led to a-I should zentangle the inside of a goat! Out came my secret stash of work colored pencils (a bit color-limited) and this is what happened. When I was feeling like I was dragging through the doldrums, who knew I could pull this party goat out of thin air? It also took me out of the doldrums and helped out my mood, so I’m all about this create when you can’t think science. 🙂 (Not that work would be happy with how I spent my time…..)

Distractions

Yesterday, I made a creative and motivational mistake: I put the to-do list above the self-care list. I came home from work and had my eye on the prize: get those boys motivated and moving. We really need to get a plan ironed out and supplies acquired and purchased for the festival we’re attending next week. Me doing it all has caused a lot of stress and anxiety on my part. However, my attempts to include my partner in this process have been ineffectual. So after I got home from work, I immediately was on the “let’s go let’s go let’s go!” warpath. They, of course, had other plans. So we drag through those and skip plan A and halfheartedly attend to plan B. By the time we got home I was hangry and in no mood to do anything, much less attend to my creative practice. After I had food, I felt better, but was still encased in a bubble of grumpiness and felt drained. I decided that the best thing I could do for myself was go to bed. And I did.

Self-care is an important motivational component. Without it, there is no oomph to living.

Day 7

Learning

In one survey, 72% of people from around the globe reported having new ideas in the shower. Why would something so mundane increase our creativity? Well, science says because it’s mundane. When in a group and out in the world, our brains are working hard filtering out all of the unnecessary stuff. When we are alone and engaged in a mundane or monotonous task, our brains can spend less resources on filtering and more on making connections, processing information, and storing memories. Neuroscientists call this “constructive internal reflection.” It includes things like taking a walk, daydreaming, and showering.

Prompt

Give your brain a break and relax a bit today. Take a shower before jumping into any difficult crafts or problems.

Outcome

When I woke up this morning, I wasn’t in the best headspace. So much to figure out how to get done and a limited time to figure all of it out! A major camping trip next week, finishing up my farm dishcloths and figuring out the fine points of selling them, a big project at work with a sensitive timeline, my debt to figure out how to pay down. Uggh. However, the outside sensory deprivation that happens in a shower has a way of melting everything away. I came out of that shower calmer, with a few ideas to try, and (most importantly) motivated to take on the List. I should remember to put “shower” on the list of coping mechanisms for feeling overwhelmed.

Day 6

Learning

More creative people have a “tendency to initiate numerous activities that lead to, or provoke, rich external stimulation.” There is something about a richness of experience that fertilizes the brain to grow more creative thoughts.

Prompt

Try something new today. Eat at a new restaurant, learn a new technique, or check out those new shops that have popped up on main street, for example.

Outcome

Last night, I went and visited my best friend while she cut out things to sew. She’s just moved back, but we’re falling into old habits again quickly. 🙂 (Which is why I am posting this in the morning instead of last night. La~ate night for me!) What’s the new, rich, external stimulation? Well, a lot has changed: the setting, a new baby, what she’s working on. However, the extra specially different stimulation was the vegan drinking chocolate I bought weekend before last that we were trying out. We had some interesting times trying to make two servings of it and then how to make it iced at 10pm at night with sleeping kids (NO BLENDER!). It was delicious, but a little heavy on the tummy. Next time, we’ve decided to each split the one serving. I also brought my crocheting. I don’t know if I was feeling more inspired because of the crafty company or because of the new experience. It was a strange battle upon my arrival home: craft all the things, or fall asleep. Falling asleep won, but I am feeling no less inspired this morning!

Day 5

Learning

According to Science, daydreaming can enhance creative thinking, long-term planning, and self awareness. It engages other parts of the brain than those that are active when we need to pay attention to our tasks, phones, or conversations. This idle mode helps the brain to synthesize experiences and emotions, which creates more connections for the brain to use later.

Prompt

Read through this prompt, then sit somewhere comfortable and think it through.  The list of chores is long. There are mountains of bills to pay, dishes to wash and clothes to launder. The garden is a mess and the kids need to be at three different places this afternoon. Imagine the place where you felt the happiest and most peaceful. Hear the sounds in your mind. Smell the smells. Feel the sensations. Is it sunny? Notice the colors of the place and the textures. Touch the surfaces in your most pleasant refuge. Nobody can interrupt you. The phone cannot ring. You have your favorite book and time to read it. You go back to your list and the tasks are done in less time than you thought.

Outcome

First, I went into my bedroom to do this since the main part of the house is rather full of noises and distractions. But that just made me sleepy, so then I went out back. I set a timer for 15 minutes and just kinda….stood there. I tried to visualize this prompt but I couldn’t very solidly. I started daydreaming during my attempt at daydreaming! XD I visualized my current creative project and its purpose and how I hope it will be received. I watched a bug crawl across the grass and imagined setting up my tent. But it was all pretty forced. There’s an interesting line between a guided meditation and a directed daydream. I felt like noticing the night around me was wrong and this struck an awkward chord for me. I daydream a lot better while doing a low-focus task. Knitting. Walking. Repetitive things. Something where I can work through the noticing stage and then “zone out” into the daydream world.

Day 4

Learning

Neuroscience says dopamine has a lot to do with our motivation; it kicks in when we anticipate something important is about to happen or by rewarding experiences. We can stay motivated and trigger more dopamine be working on larger projects incrementally, recording small accomplishments, sharing progress, and focusing how it feels when the project is complete.

Prompt

Choose an unfinished project and create a plan to finish it. Include incremental goals that you can celebrate and visualize how awesome it will be completed. Finish the first step in your plan.

Outcome

I meant to do more with this prompt but sometimes life has different ideas, yeah? That’s why staying on top of things and being motivated are so important!

So I did pick a project, just a much more workable one than I originally had in mind. (I’ve got plenty to choose from!) Someone gave me these unwashed bits of fleece a good while ago and I haven’t done much with them. However, my felted soaps are selling at a steady pace and I need to replenish them. So, I have created a plan to start getting these beauties through a few baths, then start soap production!

It is definitely a lot easier to visualize the outcome when the steps to get there are clearly planned out with a rough timeline. And I feel more motivated to get to my goal because it seems more accessible. Yay using up the smelly wool in the corner!

Day 3

Learning

Writing is not only a creative outlet, but it can also encourage more creativity. Among other benefits, the practice of writing can enhance the brain’s intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information (like all those interesting details you want to include in your particular brand of creating).

Prompt

Read the prompt, think one minute, then write for five minutes.
Write about a moment in your grandparent’s life. 

Outcome

I have plans tonight, so I did this prompt while on break at work. I found out what day of the year today is (214 for the curious) and chose the corresponding prompt from this website. I was not enthused by it and it was difficult for me to start. However, once I did begin, the thoughts flowed. Random details kept popping up and I could have continued writing passed the timer. One interesting thing about this exercise was that I chose life experience over fiction even when there wasn’t any instructions one way or another. Perhaps because I was struggling to think creatively about it, I fell back on what I knew.

Day 2

Learning

Here’s an interesting article that talks about creativity in cooking. It’s all about the improvisations we make during cooking and the decisions around food preferences and availability that stretch our creative muscles.

Prompt

Cook or prepare something to eat. Pay attention to your own innovations: how you choose what to cook & how your process differs from a recipe’s.

Outcome

I participate in a CSA box. Last year cooking for myself from this was easy. This year, I have two picky boys to work with. I still love the fresh veggies, but I have a harder time going through them. So for today’s prompt, I looked at using up some of the dying veggies in my fridge. Two kohlrabi (which insists on a bit of creativity all on its own for its unfamiliarity), a few carrots, and a google search inspired me to try out “Kohlrabi Carrot Soup”. Then the innovation came in.

  • How many “baby” carrots equals one “real” carrot? Answer: 5ish
  • Uhoh….do I have any onion? Here’s a bit of one in the back of the drawer! Better add some onion powder.
  • It says I can substitute yogurt for the cream cheese. Honey yogurt for the try!
  • I have a whole bunch of cilantro from taco night. That’ll work for parsley.

…and a sense of accomplishment when it turns out edible. I think. We’ll see for sure tomorrow when I eat it for lunch. ^_^

This was an interesting exercise for me because I never realized just how much creative thinking I use while cooking. I’m working around my vegan leanings, all the delicious things the boys don’t eat, our often limited budget, and a need to use all the bits of things in the fridge. Just my everyday cooking is a way to flex my creative muscles!