10 Things That Help Me Unblock Creativity

I’ve been sort of in a funk lately. Not like, depressed. But just feeling like the story I want to tell wasn’t going well.

For me, I’m doing well with everything or nothing. While the writing wasn’t going well, I wasn’t having much success with other things either. I was feeling disorganized, as if any item I put on my “To Do” list went off and died there. I was struggling with eating healthy, and wasn’t taking my dog for regular walks.

It wasn’t that I felt unmotivated; far from it. I wanted to accomplish all those things, but when it came down to it, I found myself reading a book or playing a game on my phone (I love 1010!) or aimlessly surfing the internet. And then the day was gone, and I’d managed to check off one thing.

Two weeks ago, I couldn’t do what I’d planned to, and was sort of forced to steam vac my carpets. (Let’s just say I have lots of pets and leave it at that, okay?) And it felt kind of good to move around and play music really loud and sweat and have something tangible I accomplished.

None of that week went as planned, but I got lots of things done. And then the following week rolled around, and all that motivation I’d stored up but hadn’t used just kind of burst to the surface.

I decided that I needed to clean off my desk and make my workspace a bit more appealing. In the midst of doing that, I saw my kaleidoscope collection and realized that I haven’t looked through them in a while.

In the past, when I’ve been searching for inspiration, I’ve sat down and looked through a kaleidoscope. More recently, I take out my phone and play 1010! It’s not the same.

I found my fountain pen, disassembled and cleaned on my desk, and realized that I haven’t been using that either. I love my fountain pens.

With all the other life clutter going on, I decided it was a good idea to make myself a list of things I love, so that next time I’m in a funk, I can remember to reconnect.

  1. Kaleidoscopes– Looking at the swirling colors is a form of meditation for me. I can slow down for a moment and just concentrate on one thing. If you want to get metaphysical, I can also remember that like life, they’re beautiful and constantly changing.
  2. Fountain pens– I started using a cheap plastic fountain pen when I was in my teens, and I just love them. Actually, I love all pens: gel pens and sharpies and nice ballpoints. But I have a special love of the smooth writing of a good fountain pen. I love to see ink on my fingers.
  3. Journaling– I seem to get away from this just when I need it the most. I’m trying (again) to make it a daily practice. I always use the excuse that it’s hard when life gets busy. But when isn’t life busy?
  4. Doodling– I’m trying to get more into art journaling. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw, but am TERRIBLE at it. (No, seriously, visual art is something I’m bad at.) But I’m okay with loving something and being terrible at it. Lucky for me, Pinterest has about a million boards for inspiration on the topic. Right now, I’m mostly working with banners and arrows. Gotta start somewhere, right?
  5. Stickers– I can’t draw, but I can put stickers on everything.
  6. Healthy eating– I really do feel better when I eat better.
  7. Logic puzzles– While just playing random games isn’t all that helpful (and is actually a time waster, I know!), logic puzzles use the logical part of my brain. I guess that makes my whole brain work better? I don’t know; I just know that mindful game playing works for me.
  8. Coloring– For me, coloring is like meditation. I can’t draw, but I can stay inside the lines. The biggest decision I have to make is whether to use the blue or the purple crayon. It helps me turn off my conscious mind for a little while. Sometimes, that’s the space where answers find me, instead of me looking for them. Adult coloring books are a thing now. You can find them anywhere, even Wal-Mart and Amazon.
  9. Taking a Walk– We have a lovely greenbelt near our house. Getting out and listening to the birds sing and the breeze moving through the trees is relaxing, and sometimes helps my brain get moving again.
  10. Candles– There are more and more articles out there about the benefits of aromatherapy. It can help improve mood, help with wakefulness, even help with physical issues like headaches! I love burning candles and filling my office with scent. Because it’s what I do when I write, my brain knows that when it smells vanilla candles burning, it’s time to get to work.

What kinds of things help you unblock creativity?


Rekindling that Flame

Yay, fire!

Yay, fire!

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent from blogging for almost a month now, and before that, I’d been pretty inconsistent.  I’d still been working on my novel, sorta.  Actually, I wanted to work on it more than I actually did.

I’d sit down at my computer, then stare at the screen for awhile.  I’d type something.  No, I don’t like that.  Delete.  Type something else.  No, I don’t like that either.  Maybe I should go back and edit the beginning.  Maybe that will get the creativity flowing.  It got to the point where I’d more or less paralyzed myself.

I’m one of those people who either does it all, or does nothing.  So I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t editing.  I wasn’t blogging.  I wasn’t getting much productive done in my personal life either.  My motivation was completely blah.

For me, I have to get to a crisis point in order for anything to change, and I got there last week.  I decided I was a crappy writer and maybe it was time to just give up.  Stop writing my novel.  Stop writing short stories.  Stop blogging.  Just enjoy reading other people’s work and realize that not everyone can be a writer.

Lucky for me, I woke up the next morning and though, “Well that’s bullshit.”

Excuse my language.

Maybe my novel isn’t ready to publish today, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be next week or next month or next year.  Maybe it will be ready when I’m 90 years old.  Who cares?  I enjoy writing.

I’ve had a few short stories published.  I enjoy writing them, and it’s good practice.  So even if I never have another one published, writing as a hobby is much better than playing hours of Candy Crush.  While I do enjoy Candy Crush, I can’t call it productive.

And blogging?  Well, it’s good practice too.  Through my blog, I’ve connected with other cool writers.  And who knows? Maybe my words will encourage someone else who’s going through a similar crisis.

Apparently I Can Only Do One Thing At a Time. Maybe Two.

In the woods near my house Photo Credit: Doree Weller

In the woods near my house
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

So, as you might be able to tell by the title, I’ve been having some trouble with multitasking.  I’m getting a lot written on my novel, and I’m almost done, which is super exciting to me.  However, I have not been blogging.  Or doing stuff in, you know, my real life.

I wrote a while ago about how I needed to go on a technology diet, to leave space for creativity in my head when I was being quiet and not occupying it with Candy Crush or checking Facebook.  I was somewhat successful with that.

I’ve found something my muse has liked recently, and that’s taking walks in the pool.  I’m always on the lookout for exercise I enjoy, and since I hate exercise, that doesn’t happen often.  I used to go on hikes with my brother, but since I moved out of Arizona, that doesn’t happen anymore.  😦  I hadn’t found anything to replace those weekly hikes, and I had put on a few pounds.  I tried walking at home, but I hate the humidity, and I hate feeling soaked in sweat.  I joined a gym that had cycling classes and yoga, and while I liked them, I got bored with them after awhile.  Then I broke my finger and couldn’t do yoga anymore, so I quit.

We have a neighborhood pool, and it’s hot here in Texas, so one morning, I decided to go out and walk the pool.  I walked for a half hour, and during that time, I had lots of ideas come to me.  My characters started speaking to me, and I came up with scenes that my book had been missing.  (The only problem is that I have to remember them when I get out of the pool.  Taking a pen and paper in with me doesn’t work that well.  Not that I tried it.)

I love that I’m super productive with my book and getting some exercise.  I just wish I was good at doing more than one thing at a time.

C is for Creativity

For the Blogging A to Z Challenge this month, I’m going to post a different letter of the alphabet every day. I’m trying to stick to the theme of “Things I Love.”

I love things that wake up the creative part of my brain.

Pinterest is strangely good for this.  I love browsing quotes, interesting places, ideas for journaling, and drawing tips.  There’s a fine balance with this though.  While it can help me get un-stuck, I can also get sucked into the black hole and end up wasting time.

Drawing and coloring also make me feel creative.  I’m not the best at drawing, but I enjoy it, and doodling does give my brain time to get into that creative space.

I used to wait around to feel creative, but it’s true that if I sit down at my computer and don’t allow myself to browse Pinterest, Facebook, email, webcomics, or the million other things that are waiting to distract me, I tend to feel more creative.  Sometimes it just takes a moment to sit, breathe, and remind myself to be where I am.

What makes you feel creative?


San Tan Mountains, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

San Tan Mountains, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

W is for Wonder

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
― Socrates


“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder…
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean…”

-by Mark Daniel Sanders and Tia M. Sillers, sung by Lee Ann Womack

Koala bear; San Diego Zoo; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Koala bear; San Diego Zoo; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

As we grow older, many of us lose that sense of wonder, because so little is new.  I meet people who wear their cynicism like badges of honor, as if because they’ve seen it and done it, somehow that gives them the right to pretend there’s nothing left to shock or amaze.

And while they have the right to their cynicism, what’s the price for it?  Being cynical means you’re trading happiness for the ability to say “been there, done that.”  That’s not worth it to me.

Some people may think I’m naive, but I’m not shy about being enthusiastic.  Every day is a new day, which means that everything in it has the potential to be new.  Sure, I’ve seen a flower before, but I’ve never seen it right now before, in this light, through these eyes.  I’m not the same person today that I was yesterday or that I will be tomorrow.  I change and grow every day.  And maybe the changes aren’t noticeable, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not there and that they’re not valuable.  That means that everything I see is new everyday, because I’m a little different.

I had a conversation with a friend today about creativity.  Creativity is sometimes not valued, and creative people can be shunned for not marching to the beat of everyone else’s drum.  The problem is that sometimes I don’t hear a drum.  Sometimes it’s a kazoo or a flute.  Sometimes it’s the sound of someone playing the comb or the washboard.  My music isn’t less valuable… it’s just different.

Creativity is the ability to see things or express things in a way that’s not necessarily new, but that sparks a sense of wonder.  That sense of wonder is what keeps me going.  Look at something through fresh eyes today, and really notice what you see.  There’s wonder and beauty all around us; we just have to be willing to notice.

R is for Random

“Creativity is the ability to introduce order into the randomness of nature.”
-Eric Hoffer

Is nature random? Or is it just that we don’t understand the order?

I like the idea that creativity is the ability to introduce order into randomness, to see things in a way that others don’t.  That’s one of the reasons I like taking pictures, even if the same photo has been taken 999 times before.  It’s my picture, and seen through my eyes, which makes it different and unique.

I love random things.  I love conversations that seem random, jumping from topic to topic.  I have a game I play with a friend, where we email one another random words.  There’s no rhyme or reason, no theme, just a series of random words.  Because, why not?

I love all sorts of random things.

Some random facts about me:

1.  I consider myself “geek lite.”  I love science fiction and fantasy, as long as it doesn’t get too much into the actual science or world creation.  I’m good at suspending disbelief.  You don’t have to prove it to me.  As long as it makes sense in the context of the world, we’re good.

2.  I’m really bad at deleting my voicemail and emails.  What if I need them someday?

3.  I actually like the taste of water.

4.  Everything is better with flowers and rainbows.  Pretty colors!

5.  When I don’t wear my glasses, I often get asked “Is that your real eye color?”

6.  Penn & Teller are my favorite comedians/ magicians.

7.  I used to tell people I wanted to be a serial killer when I grew up.

8.  I love pedicures but am indifferent toward manicures.

9.  I love sour foods.

10.  My favorite authors are Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and JK Rowling.  (I could go on.  And on.  And probably on.)

“Expose yourself to as much randomness as possible.”
-Ben Casnocha

Have a random day today.

Creativity Kills

IMG_1243How many hours do you waste in a typical day, doing things that wouldn’t make your to do list, if you wrote a list of stuff you wanted to do?  I don’t watch TV, but I don’t want to talk about how many hours I lose on the internet and reading.  Not that reading is a waste of time, and not that I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t need to read during every spare minute of every day (and some that aren’t spare).  Especially when I have things I want to do.

I love this article by James Rhodes, and I think he makes several fantastic points.  I complain about not having enough time, but what if I do have enough time?  What if the problem is not using my time wisely?  Just this morning, I’ve done a bunch of things, but I’ve also spent some time mindlessly on the internet.  Why?  Shrug.  Because it’s there?

Mindfulness is a technique taught by several Eastern religions and integrated into several types of therapy.  It works… paying attention to your body and your reactions, but also to your time and how you use your time.  Maybe being purposeful in my leisure time would help me better manage my time.

I’m mostly just rambling.  If you want inspiration on creativity and dedication to your art, read the article.  James Rhodes has passion in spades.


V is for Ventured

Photo credit: Doree Weller, Usery Mountain, AZ

Photo credit: Doree Weller, Usery Mountain, AZ

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  If you sit on the couch all day, every day, you’ll never have “failed,” but you’ll never have succeeded either.

I’m still a work in progress, and I haven’t ventured in every way I want to… yet.  I have the usual things on my list yet to come, including travel.  I was talking to someone the other day who was recalling a conversation with another person about how Person 1 thought Person 2 was spending too much money on vacations and travel.  “Why aren’t you saving for retirement?” Person 1 asked.  “Because I’m investing in memories,” Person 2 replied.  Isn’t that a great quote?

One of the biggest things on my bucket list is getting one of my novels published.  I’ve had friends who’ve tried to offer their version of support by telling me that it’s a waste of my time.  I spend too much time writing, and for what?  I’ve had a few short stories published and was paid varying amounts for them, but nothing that’s going to pay my mortgage.  Isn’t that a waste?

Um… no.

I’d write for free.  I write just for me.  I love to see my words in print, but mostly because I feel like I’m sharing something with other people, not because I want to be famous and make millions.  (Though if there’s someone out there who’d like to pay me millions for my words, don’t hesitate to contact me.)

There are times when doing a cost-benefit analysis makes good sense.  Like when you’re considering leaving a job you hate, or when you’re considering if that new energy efficient refrigerator will really save you money.  But when you’re considering whether or not to do something you love, something that you’d do for free vs. not doing it because it takes up so much of your time, it makes no sense.

So, back to the quote I put at the very beginning.  That’s not the whole quote.  It’s actually: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And venture belongs to the adventurous.” -Navjot Singh Sidhu

“Life’s an adventure.  And every day, I’m just getting started.”  -Doree Weller

Painting, Chaos, and Creativity

I love doing creative projects.

Right now the husband and I are working on painting our powder room.  I love painting rooms, and I love covering them with fun colors.  I’m not much of a paint-everything-neutral kind of gal.  I mean, I appreciate the decorating advice of painting things white or beige and then using curtains, picture frames, and other easily changeable things as focal points.  I appreciate the decorating advice that lots of stuff, no matter how pretty or cool, just makes things look cluttered.

Here’s a gingerbread house I decorated with an Easter theme. Though not timely, it did seem to fit the theme of today’s post.

But… I like color and clutter and chaos.  🙂

So, here we are painting our bathroom, and it’s inspired us to keep going to other rooms.  We’ve kind of been stuck on how to paint our upstairs for awhile due to a conundrum.  Do we do carpet or hardwood?  We have 6 cats (yes, 6… see here for an explanation on why I’m not the crazy cat lady), so I really want to get rid of my carpet.  But hardwood is expensive, and takes time to install.

The inspiration smacked my husband in the face today, as he said, “Why don’t we just paint the subfloor?”  Why indeed.  After turning to my beloved Google, I found out that lots of people are doing it, and it looks kind of cool.  If you want your house to have dignity, maybe it’s not a great idea.  But I’m awfully fond of dents and character and imperfection.  So it’s perfect for me.  Here’s a link to the blog post that convinced me that it’s a great idea.

It’s probably going to be a little while before we start, but don’t worry; I’ll post pictures of our progress.

I always find that being visually creative and playing with paint and other medium triggers other types of creativity.  We’ll just have to see.