The sunken garden at Warner Castle in Rochester, NY

The Real Secret to Moving Past Creative Blocks

Writers often speak of “writer’s block,” as if it’s a real, physical barrier in our way. But one of the best lessons I was ever taught was that writer’s block, artist’s block, and any other type of creative block isn’t always what it appears to be on the surface. That reluctance to create comes from another place. Mostly, it’s our self-doubt, along with a nasty inner critic we’ve let build up over time, lurking to tell us that we just can’t do it, so why bother starting?

It may go without saying, but your inner critic is a filthy liar.

If you’re dealing with a creative block right now, you probably think you have only two options: power through it to make something, or take a break. Both of these are valid options. But I encourage you to really examine the reasons behind the block. Doing so can help you fight these feelings if (or when) they crop up again.

In my experience, when I feel “blocked,” one of four things is really at play:

  1. I’m comparing myself to others and/or dealing with imposter syndrome
  2. I’m listening to my own fears disguised as a nasty inner critic
  3. I’m remembering what others might have told me in the past (or what I feared they’d say)
  4. I’m convinced it’s easier to do nothing than make something imperfect (a.k.a. analysis paralysis)

Here are the four ways to find out what’s really blocking your creative path — and how to move it out of the way for good.

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A tall tree, seen from below

How to Discover Your True Strengths… and Use Them!

What are your true strengths?

I don’t mean your physical strength, like how much you can bench press. Nor do I mean this in the way that job interviewers ask the question. This isn’t about what you do for others, or what you do to qualify for a particular job. Your true strengths are where you excel and feel most authentically like yourself.

Think of a time when you achieved something and were satisfied with the results. You might have even thought that you grew from the experience. Chances are this was a time where you put your true strengths to work.

When we know our strengths, we know ourselves better. We have a better idea of what makes us feel our proudest and our best. From there, we can choose activities that speak to our interests and talents, and we build our confidence along the way. 

There are plenty of ways to discover your strengths. One is to simply write down what it is that you’re good at. What talents do you have? Which of your skills have others complimented you on? What makes you feel the most “alive” and in the moment?

If you want a more structured way to find your strengths, the concepts below will help you drill down on where your talents lie.

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Inside Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities in Stockholm, Sweden

3 Simple Ways to Brainstorm Amazing Ideas

Last week I delved into the topic of where ideas come from — and also why that’s not the question we should be asking. Instead, it’s more about the three things we need to help our ideas flourish: time, space, and attention.

First, let’s assume you have all three: the time to create, the physical and mental space with which to work, and enough of your undivided attention. Where do you go from there? How can you be sure you have the right idea?

This week, give yourself the time, space, and focus for a brainstorming session. For this one, grab a notebook and a pen, or open the notes app on your phone or a blank document on your computer.

Here are three different brain games you can play to uncover your next big idea:

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Sign reading the creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why ‘Where Do Ideas Come From?’ Is the Wrong Question to Ask

A couple of years ago, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. It was one of those books that I saw recommended to creatives all the time but for whatever reason ignored. I finally caved and bought it when I was in Austin on a business trip, awaiting my flight home at the airport. I quickly understood why it’s so widely praised. It gave me a fresh understanding of my own creative process and helped me examine my motivations for making things.

One passage in particular stood out to me, on the nature of ideas. Gilbert writes:

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How to Have Your Most Creative Year Ever

As the year winds down, I’m reflecting on how 2019 shaped up. The verdict? I can safely say that this was my most creative year yet.

To name a few things: I painted nearly a dozen pictures, completed an art journal, drew silly comic strips, published an article on LinkedIn, sent colorful postcards to friends and family, added new decorations to my home, rebranded my business, and wrote the majority of a novel. With that kind of momentum to end the decade, I’m excited to see what the next ten years will bring.

So what did I do differently in 2019? For one, I made my creativity a priority. My overarching goal for 2019 was to create as much as possible whenever possible. I also took several different approaches to help me create consistently. (It’s true — consistency really is key!)

Are you resolving to get creative in 2020? Here are five methods that helped me create more in 2019. I promise they’ll help you make something amazing this year and beyond.

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Laguz with The Star and The Moon

Norse Runes for Tarot Readers: Connecting the Cards to the Elder Futhark

I’ve long been interested in learning Norse runes, but I didn’t begin exploring them until a few months ago.  Simply put: they seemed intimidating.

As I began to research their interpretations, the meanings reminded me of tarot cards, with which I’m more familiar. These, too, had once seemed impossible to learn. But ever since I had found ways to make personal connections with the cards, I have been able to understand them more clearly.

The tarot correspondences are my own and have helped me in my study of runes. In fact, I’ve found that they are a lot more approachable than I’d initially thought. If this system helps you, feel free to switch the cards around as you see fit.

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the view from the summit of Overlook Mountain in Woodstock, NY

5 Ways to Set Yearly Goals (and See Results)

For about a decade now, I’ve set goals for myself at the beginning of each year. Ambition has no expiration date, of course, but I’ve found that yearly goals are a good timeframe if I really want to get things done.

Getting my master’s degree, following my chosen career path, learning how to read tarot, traveling to retreats on my own, vacationing in Sweden, and starting a business were all things that happened for me because I set out to accomplish them. And sure, these aren’t earth-shattering things, but we can’t learn and grow from our experiences without planting those initial seeds.

Yet in order to make things happen for myself, I’ve found that I first need to be in the right mindset. In the past, I’ve struggled with depression, had a one-time dream career fizzle, and dealt with unemployment.

Story time: I used to work as an adjunct lecturer at a couple of local colleges. Honestly, I loved working with students, but the pay was very low and the workload was heavy. As a part-time employee with no benefits or job security, I didn’t feel respected, and some semesters the work just wasn’t available.

I didn’t think there was much I could do with my degree, an M.A. in English and Creative Writing. I thought teaching was my only option–and the one I wanted most of all–even if it did mean a very unsteady paycheck.

Today, I work as a content marketer. I’ve also began my business as a freelance writer, editor, and consultant (and for a time as a tarot reader, too). And I’m working toward publishing my own fiction writing.

What changed? I stopped trying to pursue something that no longer brought me happiness.

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