For years after 8th grade ended, I could always cheer myself up with the thought that no matter how bad things were, at least I was no longer in middle school.
My tiny middle school contained some classes with less than 10 people in them. And we had been together forever. Since kindergarten.
The problem was, I never fit in. Not really. I was shy and insecure. And I had huge hair, zits, braces, and glasses. When I walked the halls, the boys would act like their heads were exploding, mimicking the sheer volume of my crazy curls (which I now love).
And gym class. Oh, gym class. The 45 minutes of the day I dreaded the most.
In 7th grade, we played basketball in the parking lot. Our school occupied the top floor of a synagogue, and we had no gym. Thus, the basketball hoop in the parking lot. Every time I couldn’t catch the ball, it seemed to roll under one of the cars, and I had to go scrambling after it, making everyone wait for me.
Then one day, I asked my classical guitar teacher if he knew of any schools where they didn’t have gym class. He was a smart guy, an artsy guy, so I thought he might know of one. And, miracle of miracles, he did. Denver School of the Arts.
I went from a school where everyone dressed the same or got made fun of to a school where one guy wore a tux every day and no one batted an eye. Suddenly, showing your artistic flair and being different was celebrated instead of scorned. And, best of all, I was surrounded by other weird artsy people. People who cared about sharing and developing their voice. It felt like a true gift.
I’m not saying DSA was perfect. Often, our AP Chemistry teacher would play Cat Stevens on his acoustic guitar instead of teaching chemistry. It was no wonder that most kids got a 2 or less on the AP exam. And many students slacked on their classes in favor of working on their arts. But maybe that was a good thing. Because it taught me that expressing myself artistically really mattered.
Since then, I’ve had the good fortune to find other little communities to help me grow.
They always appeared just when I needed them. Like LEAPYear, the program where I built a cabin in Northern California, learned to meditate, and traveled to Central America and India.
It took me out of the traditional path of going straight from high school to college, straight from college to a job, and then staying there. Many of the people I met are doing incredible things with their lives – like Curry, who created a retreat center in Tanzania.
In Miami and the wonderful world of the internet, I’ve connected with so many creative entrepreneurs – people who care about making something new and different in the world. Creators who give time and love to things that matter to them, like blogging their truth, creating documentaries about inspiring people, and career coaching from a foundation of intuition.
These communities give me the courage to put my creativity and my voice first. And the people in my communities – from DSA to LEAPYear to The Creative Women’s Cove – the Facebook group I run with my friend Brenda – provide me with endless inspiration and conviction that what I am doing in the world truly matters.
One Sunday afternoon, I went to an Envisioning Potluck at my friend Rachel’s house.
We ate hummus and chips. We munched pumpkin muffins (made by me) and crunched cannoli and cookies. And then we sat in a circle and shared our dreams for 2017.
When it was my turn, I shared some new things that I’ve created that are really cool but that honestly seem kind of weird. Like a picture I drew of my boundaries, for example. I told them that I want to create workshops around these creative projects, to help women all over the world connect to themselves through art and writing.
After I shared, I looked around the circle, took a deep breath, and said, I hope you guys don’t think I’m crazy.
Then one of them spoke up. Can you start your workshops now? she asked.
Yeah, someone else said. We want to go to them.
Suddenly, my crazy projects, my vulnerable dreams, my big visions seemed not only possible, but inevitable.
As I drove home from the gathering, I listened to my favorite dance playlist on Spotify. I could see my life spread out in front of me, filled with creativity, connection, and growth.
Buoyed by the strength and power of community.
https://i2.wp.com/danielauslan.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/How-community-makes-your-creative-dreams-inevitable-1.jpg?fit=736%2C11021102736Danielahttp://duslan82.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Daniela-Uslan-typewriter-logo-white1.pngDaniela2016-12-22 08:00:592016-12-21 17:50:05How Community Makes Your Creative Dreams Inevitable
In high school, I went to an arts school and majored in Creative Writing. Which meant that every weekday, I wasn’t just allowed, but required to spend an hour and a half writing.
Some days, we had class meetings, but most of the time, we were able to come in, immediately sit down at our Mac desktops, and dive into our work. Because of this, I wrote an 80 page novella in less than 4 months. At age 16.
Most people don’t get the opportunity to focus on their art in high school. And even less of us are able to put the time and attention into creating as adults.
Even those of us (ahem) who have designed our lives so that we can work for ourselves often put other things first. Like Facebook. Playing Yahtzee on our phones. Working on the less creative sides of our businesses. Or (gasp) spending time with our families.
So how do we carve out time in our lives to create?
Whether you are driven to blog or to paint or to make a quilt, how do you give yourself the gift of doing the work?
1. Stop treating your creative work like an optional activity.
Creativity often feels like an indulgence to me. A guilty pleasure. Even as I’m writing this post, I have a bunch of emails to send out, and a tiny part of me feels like writing this post is a gift to myself.
But why? Who is to say that my writing this blog post is any less important than my inbox?
In the public school system, art classes are the first to be cut. Many of us creative people shake our heads in dismay when this happens. But when we are low on time, we frequently choose to cut our creative activities first, too.
The first step to finding that creative time is really just a mindset shift. When we think of our creative work as paramount, we will find the time to focus on it.
For me, creativity is extremely important because it lets me bring my truth into the world. It gives me a chance to heal and inspire others. It brings out ideas I can then use in my business. And when I’m creative, I am happier, which improves my relationships.
Why is creativity important to you? Find your answers to that question and use them to propel you to make time to create.
2. Allow yourself to make crappy stuff
Often it’s not a lack of time to create, but a lack of courage that keeps me from doing my work.
When I sit down to write with the expectation that I am going to write the best blog post or poem ever, it’s much harder to get myself to start. But when I give myself permission to mess around and just enjoy the process, I am much more likely to dive in and go for it.
It’s way easier to go in with the intention of creating for its own sake than it is to go with the intention of making something good.
I can control whether I make something. I can’t control whether it’s the best thing ever.
For years of my life, I started my day by painting watercolors. After writing from age 12 to 23, I took a long break from writing. There was just too much internal pressure to write something amazing.
But when it came to watercolor painting, I let myself play. Because I didn’t think of myself as a good watercolorist, I was able to let my curious child’s mind take over.
When you give yourself permission to make crappy stuff, you peel away one of the greatest blockages to creating. And you suddenly find space to make it happen.
3. Make it a daily habit.
Full disclosure – I struggle with this. A lot. But I have found that when I commit myself to writing or creating everyday, I am much more likely to do it. It’s like a gym habit. Or brushing your teeth.
Even though it seems like it’s harder to create every day, or on regular days each week, it’s actually easier, because it becomes something that you don’t need to think about. You don’t need to choose to do it – it’s already been chosen.
And, like a workout habit, I find that when I start writing everyday, I begin to crave that creative time. Also, making it a daily habit means that you don’t have to make something amazing because you’ll just be sitting down to create again tomorrow. It activates the child’s mind that I mentioned above.
4. Make the physical space to create.
Before sitting down to write this post, I cleaned for about 2 hours. I wanted to write earlier, but I literally couldn’t do it while my house was looking like a frat house the night after a keg party. (Okay, maybe it was more like a frat house before a keg party, but you get the picture.)
I also have a desk in the corner of my dining room. There is a physical location I can go to when I want to be creative. There is something solid, and powerful, and important about having an actual physical place where my creative work is born.
Wherever you choose to do your work, clear it of other stuff. Let your creativity be the only thing happening there for those precious minutes or hours.
5. Make the mental space to create.
For a long time, I would try to write while having my browser open with Facebook notifications buzzing at me every few minutes.
There was something so magnetic about that little number in parenthesis that I just had to go look at it. (You know what I’m talking about.) And each time, it would take me a good 5 to 10 minutes to get back to my work.
When I close off all other stimuli – that means closing all of my programs on my laptop, putting my phone on silent, and telling my husband that I’m in creative work mode – I am able to enjoy my creative time more. And I create better, more thoughtful stuff.
Another piece of this is clearing your head before you do your creative work. Sometimes I meditate or work out before I create so that I don’t bring a whole bunch of junk into the creative process with me.
6. Find creative ways to get past your excuses
Even as I’m writing this, I can hear the excuses from myself and from potential readers.
“But I’m super busy.”
“But I have a full time job.”
“But I have 6 kids.”
“But I need to focus on my business.”
“But I don’t have the money to buy supplies.”
Look, I get it. I feel you. (Well, not literally. You know what I mean.)
We all have valid reasons why it’s hard to devote time to expressing ourselves creatively.
And at the same time, when you really want to do something, you do it.
I want to invite you to lovingly listen to your own excuses and then do the work anyway.
I know a mom of 5 boys who still finds the time to blog and be active in her Periscope community. I know a blogger who works full time and still sits down and works on her scrapbooking passion every week. Any reason you can come up with for not creating, you can find someone else who has a similar circumstance but doesn’t let that stop her.
If you truly want to make creativity a priority in your life, you will find a solution. I promise. And if not, no worries. Just know that you are choosing not to be creative. It’s not your circumstances, it’s your choice.
Looking at it this way may sound harsh, but it can actually be empowering. Because once you realize that your reasons are really just excuses, you are empowered to figure out a way to move past them.
When you make space to create, it doesn’t have to be a gigantic space.
You don’t have to find an hour each day or go on a weekend retreat. Even 10 minutes will do.
The important thing is to sit down and to let your creative self wake up.
She is there, just waiting for you to unleash her voice into the world.
https://i0.wp.com/danielauslan.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/How-to-make-space-for-creativity-in-your-life.jpg?fit=736%2C11021102736Danielahttp://duslan82.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Daniela-Uslan-typewriter-logo-white1.pngDaniela2016-12-15 15:30:292016-12-15 15:30:29How to Make Space for Creativity in Your Life
One of the dangers of creating our own businesses and blogs is that we often get too close to them to be able to think creatively.
When you feel stuck, get some distance from your blog. Get an outside perspective, see if you can look at the issue from a different angle, or think about how you would feel in 10 months if you make a certain decision.
By distancing yourself from your blog, you will see all sorts of opportunities you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Blog post ideas will come bubbling to the surface.
Have you ever noticed that kids are bursting with creativity? Especially young kids.
That’s because they live in a constant state of play.
When you are playful, you let your mind open to all different possibilities. Just as a stick can become a magic wand in a kid’s hand, your mind can more easily make surprising connections when you’re playful.
I tend to be waaaay too serious about my work. That’s when it stops being fun. That’s when innovation dies. But when I open myself to asking, What if? I’m able to create things that truly delight both myself and my readers.
He says that we need to train ourselves to focus for intensive period of times, to give ourselves space for creative breakthroughs. And, big surprise, social media is one of the main enemies of doing the deep work he talks about.
So carve out times for intensive, deep work. Dive into your writing and creating without any distractions. Silence your phone. Ban social media. Get into the zone.
We creative souls just love to wait until inspiration hits. We like to see our work as a fickle, magical thing.
But waiting for a lightening bolt of creative energy isn’t going to help us produce truly original blogs.
What does work to make us more creative and innovative?
A rock hard commitment to doing the work day after day, week after week.
That doesn’t mean we need to blog everyday. Quite the opposite. Instead, find out what works for you, decide what you can commit to, and then stick to it like a dog to a pizza crust.
When we commit, and we set up structures for doing the work, it becomes habitual to cut through all of the fears and other bullshit that get in the way of creating.
In The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (Affiliate link), she writes that the first step to creativity is consistent hard work, and the way to that consistency is creating a ritual that lets you know it’s time to get down to business.
Hers is jumping in a cab and going to the gym. Other artists might light a candle or say a prayer.
The bottom line? Choose a schedule and a ritual that works for you and then do it religiously.
5. Tap into your “first thoughts”
My favorite type of writing is called Writing Practice, and it was invented (if one can truly invent a way of writing) by Natalie Goldberg.
When you do writing practice, you sit down and you write for a certain amount of time. You don’t stop writing until the timer sounds. And you give yourself permission to write whatever comes up.
Goldberg writes, ““If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you. Besides, those voices are merely guardians and demons protecting the real treasure, the first thoughts of the mind.”
Often, your first thoughts are what’s really true for you. They come from the core. But it’s all too easy to doubt and question and change – to shy away from those truths.
Sometimes, your first impulse is the best one. When it is, you can feel it. Don’t be afraid to follow it.
The author Brent Crane writes, “New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain.”
So…if you can travel far away, do it. If not, give yourself a new sensory experience in your own backyard.
One of my favorite TED Talks argues that procrastination is one of the key habits of original thinkers.
I am an implementer. I get an idea and go for it.
But I’ve found that by doing that, I frequently create things I don’t love – or build business structures I don’t really want. (Oops!)
So idea marination doesn’t just boost your creativity – it can also prevent you from spending time and energy on ideas that don’t go anywhere.
If you’re struggling with an idea or a project for your business, give yourself the time and space to let your idea marinate. What comes out may just be a lot yummier than what you had originally planned.
9. Work within a structure
I have long had a love-hate relationship with marketing and blogging formulas.
On one hand, formulas are irresistible. “You mean all I have to do is follow these 5 steps, and I’ll have a wildly successful blog? Sign me up!”
On the other, they don’t work on their own.
In fact, when I was thinking about creativity versus formulas, I initially decided that creativity and formulas were mortal enemies. Much like Harry Potter and Voldemort, “Neither can live while the other survives.”
But then I remembered my college days as a poet. I loved poetry forms, because they gave me a structure to push my creative thinking. They forced me to write more melodically. Many of the poems that came out of structures were better and more interesting than my free verse creations.
So I had to look at formulas a bit differently. I had to admit that often, they do work. Following what another blogger has done to build her business is a good way to build your own.
But. The only way to make a formula work for YOU is to infuse it with your creative ideas. Use the structure. Understand the underlying purpose for it. And then take a step back and think about how you can make it your own. And be ready to toss it if it’s not working.
It starts with an idea. An idea that may or may not work. It may even be an idea for a blog post. Or a webinar.
And in order to learn and grow as a blogger and a creative human, you must put it out there. You must let your curiosity and desire to share outweigh your fear that it won’t work.
Whenever I create something new, something that makes me a little uncomfortable, I first Google the hell out of it. I watch webinars on how to do it. I listen to podcasts about it. I read blog posts about it.
Part of it is a thirst for knowledge. But part of it – I admit – is out of fear.
And what comes out isn’t as original as what it could be.
My webinars come out sounding a lot like other webinars. My videos sound like other videos.
But in my blog posts, where I don’t have that fear, I let my creativity loose. And what emerges are original ideas that resonate with people.
So my final suggestion to you?
Take the leap. Do your thing. Dare to be different.
The next time you feel stuck with your blog, do this:
Do deep work.
Commit and ritualize.
Tap into first thoughts.
Work within a structure.
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