A decoupaged globe at ARTISANworks Rochester, NY

How to Write Your Creative Manifesto

One of my favorite phrases is that “words are wands” — meaning that what we write down and speak aloud regarding ourselves has the potential to become truth. The more empowering stories we tell, the more we can create our ideal reality.

We can strike this balance when we ask ourselves how we feel and then put those thoughts into action. The best way to do that? Write it down and give yourself a blueprint to work from.

Art movements have long been using manifestos to declare their aesthetic goals and highlight their departures from their predecessors. The manifesto announces itself to the world as a bold step in a new direction. It inspires you to take action rather than sit idly by, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Last year, I wrote out a bunch of things that I truly believe and what I do to uphold those beliefs. I arranged these statements into a “manifesto,” which I wrote in my day planner. This way, I could refer back to my beliefs at any time to ensure that I am acting in alignment with my purpose. Some statements I chose were:

Continue reading “How to Write Your Creative Manifesto”
Slip of paper reading Rebirth is merely the dawning on your mind of what is already in it

Celebrating Success (and Failure): 2 Alternative CVs You Need to Write

Some people say that experience is the best teacher. So why not look to our own to guide us? 

There are two ways of looking at experience. One is that “tough love” kind of situation — the things that didn’t go our way. The other is to see our successes and pat ourselves on the back for a job (or jobs) well done.

I don’t think that just one approach is sufficient. We need both to balance things out. The aim is to avoid becoming egotistical and to not be too hard on ourselves either.

Chances are you already know how to write a résumé or curriculum vitae (CV). The two activities below center on learning from our failures and successes alike. Grab a notebook and a pen for this one!

Continue reading “Celebrating Success (and Failure): 2 Alternative CVs You Need to Write”
Rows of trees outside the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY

A Ritual to Release Limiting Beliefs

When I was in first grade, I did a finger painting project to create a picture of an apple tree. My classmates and I would dip our thumbs in red paint to place an “apple” on a pre-drawn tree on a sheet of paper. At the end, the pictures would all hang up in the classroom, like some kind of cartoon orchard.

For whatever reason, I wanted my apples to be in perfectly neat rows. (My early attempt at modern art, perhaps.) As I was finishing my painting, my teacher came over, looked at what I was doing, and shook her head. “Apples don’t grow in straight lines,” she said. Then she took my paper and gave me a new one so that I could make my apples more random — you know, just like what everyone else was doing.

I remember being rightfully annoyed with my teacher. After all, it was a finger painting, not a still life! Unfortunately, this isn’t a unique situation in early childhood education, and this kind of “correction” can be devastating for a young artist.

In their book Creative Confidence, David and Tom Kelley explain the story of a childhood friend of theirs who was making a clay sculpture of a horse one day in grade school. Then a classmate of his looked at the sculpture and said it looked nothing like a horse. Dejected, the boy put away the clay and avoided making anything after that.

Continue reading “A Ritual to Release Limiting Beliefs”
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.

Continue reading “The Real Secret to Moving Past Creative Blocks”
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.

Continue reading “How to Discover Your True Strengths… and Use Them!”
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:

Continue reading “3 Simple Ways to Brainstorm Amazing Ideas”
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:

Continue reading “Why ‘Where Do Ideas Come From?’ Is the Wrong Question to Ask”

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.

Continue reading “How to Have Your Most Creative Year Ever”