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Creative Funks

So, I know I’ve been pretty absent around her for the past few weeks. A lot has happened. I’ve sold a couple of small paintings, had strep throat, met a rattlesnake on a hike, and turned 24. My domain even expired while I wasn’t looking! I haven’t been online much at all, and I’m actually ok with that. Sometimes we need to unplug.

Most of the reason I’ve been gone is because I’ve been in a serious creative funk lately. I’ve started a few new paintings but I’ve run into some walls with both of them. Nothing a little modeling paste and rethinking can’t fix, but walls nonetheless. I haven’t worked on my novel much, I haven’t been very active on Etsy, and my studio is such a disaster that I can barely fit in there.

It happens.

I figured I could either hide behind some fluffy posts or just take a break. I chose the latter, because I knew I’d be in the mood to post again soon.

So, about creative funks. I don’t like to call them “blocks” because it sounds like something outside of ourselves that’s causing us to avoid creating, but it’s really not. Nothing that has happened over the last few months could have inevitably blocked me, but a funk, now that feels more like the sticky, mucky, internal mess that this really is. I picture it as getting stuck in molasses or tar; the gunk that clogs up our creative channels if we don’t clear it out in time. That gunk will always come, but it can either get stuck or pass through fairly painlessly.

In the past few months, I’ve uncovered and run into rejection, shock, the possibility of major change, shame, anxiety, guilt, regret, and all kinds of stuff that loves to gunk up our creativity like a giant hairball in a drain. This all came on fairly quickly and I didn’t really allow myself the time or means to move it out before it congealed. I avoided talking or thinking about it and instead read a bunch of (amazing) books, busied myself with household chores (my apartment is still a mess somehow), organized my ever-growing Pinterest boards so I can access my inspiration easier, and taking lots of walks. I knew that funk was there, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I’d let myself think about it in passing moments, tiny bites at a time because the whole elephant just seemed like too much.

I haven’t nailed down a surefire way to get out of these creative funks, but I do know that our spirits and therefore creativity are an ecosystem as delicate and complex as any rainforest, and all the little elements need to be there and working together in order for the whole to function properly. The extinction of one insect, the absence of one seemingly trivial ritual can potentially throw the whole system out of whack. Life is far too messy to balance properly, but we can make sure that the necessary things get taken care of. Creativity is a delicate little creature that needs proper care to survive. ”

Real” artists aren’t exempt from this. All creators struggle to keep their systems balanced, though some may have themselves figured out more than others. So, my solution for my creative funk is to do what I can to restore the environment in which my creativity can thrive. This means different things for different people, but for me it means making space for “creative playtime”, reading inspirational things like Laura Hollick’s blog or The Artist’s Way, and making sure to connect with myself by journaling and daydreaming instead of filling every free second with other reading or Minesweeper.

This morning, I’m planning to take myself shopping for art supplies with the rest of my birthday money and then having some creative playtime before I go to work. The thought of artmaking actually terrifies me at the moment, but I know that bribing myself with some new toys from the art supply store will coax me out of my shell. Whatever happens in the studio today will be ok, even if I completely ruin whatever I’m working on, make something wonderful, discover that I want to go in a completely different direction, bawl my eyes out, whatever. It’s all ok.

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What Feeds You?

If you’ve been reading Handprint Soul for awhile, you know that I’ve had problems with compulsive eating in the past. I’m not one of those people who wastes away when I’m upset; quite the opposite in fact. While I’ve spent lots of time researching the various genetic, nutritional, hormonal, emotional, and cognitive reasons for this and have taken steps to balance them, this tendency still pops up from time to time.

For most of the past year, I’ve had a good handle on eating intuitively. I lost 30 pounds last summer and felt free from any kind of food obsession. I felt fabulous.

I’ve been pretty munchy for the past couple months, especially the last few weeks, and I have a little bit of a “winter coat,” though I’m pretty confident it will go away in the spring. In the meantime, the couple extra pounds don’t really bother me, but the thoughts do. I don’t like thinking about food all the time. I’d rather think about art, writing, Sam, my friends, or just have a clear head sometimes. I don’t like it when food seems like the most comforting, exciting thing in my life. In the week before a party or planned dinner out, the thoughts of food keep popping in my head and don’t go away. I know this isn’t entirely under my control and that certain parts of my brain tend to be overactive, which is why I get “stuck” on certain thoughts (I’ve put lots of research into this.)

To a certain extent though, I can observe this happening and even talk back to these thoughts. One tactic I’ve been using lately is to think “What is feeding me today?”

If the only enjoyable parts of my day revolved around food, I know one of two things. Either I’m experiencing fear and avoiding thinking about something, or I’m not caring for my spirit.

This is tricky, because it changes every day. I love walks most days, but some days I’d rather paint, or read a book. Sometimes I just need to snuggle with my cat and write in my journal. Once in awhile I want to go out with friends, or be spontaneous. Sometimes, I’m just sad and need some comfort from something other than cookies. The other day, a snap of beautiful weather filled me like nothing I’ve felt in months.

If you struggle with food or any other compulsion, ask yourself what you get out of it and what you’re really missing. Can you give yourself what you really need? Is something off with your mood? Do you need more excitement or challenges in your life? Have you taken time to pursue your own interests? Do you take time for rest?

I’m still getting the hang of this, and I’m learning to eat intuitively during the winter and deal with low moods authentically rather than numbing them. This is a useful tool that I’m learning to use. I feed my body when it needs it, but I also try to feed my spirit just as often, with spiritual “meals” of walking outside, connecting with others, creating, and a little dash of adventure now and again.

Has anyone else had experience with this?

How to Enjoy Paying Bills

Source

Happy Monday! That probably looks a lot more chipper than it feels. Mondays aren’t necessarily my favorite days, but I do tend to feel a bit refreshed from the weekend. I like to use that extra energy to tackle chores for the week. Today I’m planning on grocery shopping, preparing some food for the week, and paying bills. That last one is probably my least favorite because I tend to stress about money even if we’re doing fine financially, which thanks to me working more, we are. It’s still not fun, but I thought I’d share a trick that I use to make it more enjoyable. Yes, it’s probably really corny, but it works for me.

Two tips actually. The first one it to use Pixar stamps. Paying the gas bill is much more fun with a Wall-e stamp.

The second, more important tip is to pay bills with gratitude.

I vaguely recall something like this in The Secret, so that’s probably where I got the idea, but while I’m writing out checks or paying bills online, I think about what I’m really paying for and the value I received. Here’s a quick breakdown of how I think about my bills:

  • Rent-Thank you for giving me a place to live, for giving my studio and a kitchen to cook yummy food and a big window with a tree outside to look at while I sit on the couch and journal in the morning.
  • Gas and electric bills-Thank you for hot baths, a cozy home, for light to read and paint by, for powering my computer so I can write and connect with others.
  • Student loan payments-Thank you for helping me study in China and graduate on time. Thanks for helping me start my dream of travel.
  • Phone bill-Thank you for allowing me to call my mom, text my friends, get a hold of Sam when my computer does something stupid and send him cute little messages during the day, and for helping me feel safe because I always have a way to get help in an emergency.
  • Car insurance and fuel-Thank you for allowing me to visit my family and friends, for getting me to the library, grocery store, and art galleries. Thanks for allowing me to get to work in five minutes instead of tramping through the snow for a 25 minutes both ways.

It may seem silly, but I think gratitude is the key to a happy life. When we have gratitude, we see the good in the unpleasant things. We notice out blessings, and we just tend to be a lot more optimistic. This is a big deal for those of us that tend to be vulnerable to depression and anxiety.

I’ll let you know how this works on taxes. 😉

Have a wonderful week!

Word of 2012: Stability

Ok, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but better late that never, right? (I hate cliches, but sometimes they’re overused for a reason: they work.)

All week long I’ve read amazing posts from bloggers who have chosen a word or a theme for 2012. I’ve heard of this before and though I set intentions each year and have used mantras before, I’ve never actually chosen a word for an entire year.

So, after a few contemplative walks and some journaling, I’ve chosen my word:

Stability

This isn’t an exciting word, and I definitely considered some snazzier ones, but that’s not what I need. For the past several years of my life, many thing have felt unstable. Relationships, income, self-esteem, my body, jobs, career plans, and mental health to name a few.

That’s a rough way to live.

This word fits perfectly with my intentions for 2012, and now that I think about it, stability is what I’m seeking through those intentions: a stable income, stable moods and health, relationships, supportive habits, creative flow, and a stable career. By that I mean that this year, I want to create a stable, solid foundation for my art and writing career.

Stability. Just saying it in my mind makes me feel grounded and focused, which is exactly what I need to create this in my life.

It reminds me of this quick little collage I made several years ago when I was struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. All I wanted in the world was to feel grounded, strong, and secure.

"Take Root" 13X16 Collage

I’m actually working on a small painting version of this that I’m not planning to sell, but I promise I’ll show you when I’m done. It’s funny to look back on past artwork and see “seeds” of what I’m doing now!

Best of luck in 2012.

Wise Words: How to Be At Peace

If you are depressed, you are living in the past.

If you are anxious, you are living in the future.

If you are at peace, you are living in the  present.

Lao Tzu

I really don’t need to add anything to that, but haven’t we all spent some time in all three places?

I’ve  struggled with both depression and anxiety, and the only way to let go of them was to learn to live in the present, which requires a great deal of trust. When we trust, we can let go of the future and focus on  now, because we know that things will work out.

When we don’t trust, we live in fear and scramble around trying to put the future together rather than let it come together the way it needs to.

I’ve thought about this quote many times lately as I constantly rein myself back into a mindset of love and trust instead of freaking out about what the future holds. Yes, the unknown is scary and overwhelming. Yes, we need to lay a foundation for a good future, and we absolutely should do a little planning ahead to help things run smoothly.

But anyone with any experience  know that things don’t always go as planned. In fact, they rarely go as planned.

So why try to force them?

Let go. Go for a walk. Watch the sun go down. Notice the abundance  and joy that exists in this moment, and know that things will always work out the way they need to, and that your job is to trust and love everyone.

It’s that simple.

The Handprint List: Two Huge Accomplishments

Today I finally checked two MAJOR items off my Handprint List:

Reach my natural ideal weight through intuitive eating and enjoyable movement.

Conquer my depression and anxiety

I’ve been working at these for years, struggling and learning all I could about myself and the causes of these issues so I could somehow solve the mystery of my mind and body.

I knew that these two were connected, that my eating habits and body were a reflection of what was going on in the inside. I put a ton of work into overcoming these obstacles, but eventually I realized that these issues had something to teach me, and they weren’t there to destroy me. They had to teach me about self-love and care, trust, gratitude, and courage.  I just had to let go and not try so hard to control everything around me.

Once I learned this, the demon fled.

I stopped eating  compulsively. I didn’t feel the dark shadow inside me anymore and I started writing and making art again. I felt grateful for what I had and for the lessons my struggles taught me. I didn’t think about food all the time. I felt like being social. The past few months have been amazing because I feel alive again and I can honestly say that I’m not depressed or anxious anymore even though my life is far from perfect.

The root of my disordered eating dissolved and I reached my natural weight in just a few months. I won’t post a picture of how I look now because A) I don’t have one at the moment, and B) I don’t think it’s necessary. I feel good and I think I look good too. I’ve defined my happy weight before, and my eating and activity level feels perfect to me right now.

Eating and emotional states aren’t static though. This doesn’t mean that I’ll never have the urge to overeat again or that I won’t have days or weeks when I struggle with my emotions. This means that I feel like I have the tools to handle things right now, that I’m comfortable enough to examine my emotions so they don’t harm me. I know that I tend to turn to food when I feel off on a deep level, and I can use that tendency as my personal alarm bell.

I could be jumping up and down excited. I’ve had those moments. I used to get super excited whenever I lost weight, and I know I was the last time I had reached this weight, but I actually feel calm. Peaceful. Grateful. I imagined fireworks and choirs of angels when I reached this point, but it’s more like waking up from a really nice nap and just relishing the delicious feeling of knowing that you have the rest of the day to lay there in the sunny room if you want, or you can meet friends for dinner, or go for a walk if you want. Anything is possible now.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Being Creative Enough

First of all, I want to tell you all thank you for making my blogging experience such an amazing one. I love all my readers and blogging wouldn’t be the same without you! During my blog absence, I have been working on a big project that I hope to unveil soon, followed by an even bigger project to reveal itself a little later. It’s a secret for now though, so stay tuned.

Today’s Tuesday, right? It’s always so hard to remember what day it is when you’re not in school. I just returned from my morning walk, and the neighborhood is usually  really quite before 8 AM, but today the corners were dotted with fidgety elementary schoolers in new clothes waiting for the bus. I jogged past the school and heard the bells beeping and saw teachers hauling boxes inside. It  makes me miss school.

It also makes me think about myself as a child. Little McKella was a goofy, wildly creative ball of imagination. The wheels in my brain constantly whirred with ideas and I spent most of my time either outside pretending I was a mermaid or Pocahontas or something, or in my room writing stories or drawing pictures. Once, I made myself a dreamcatcher with sticks from the backyard and hot pink yarn. I never questioned my ability as an artist or writer, and it never crossed my mind to compare my creativity to others’.

As an adult, I constantly catch myself reading or looking at someone else’s creations and thinking “Wow. They’re awesome. I could never create something that cool.”

Yesterday, I read through some of  the entries in the Creative Harvest series on Roots of She, and though I thought all of these women were amazing and inspiring, I heard my old nemesis-insecurity- whispering in my ear.

“They have more credentials and experience than you.”

“You have  a friggin’ Bachelor’s in creative writing, and you still can’t write like this!”

“You’re a fake. You’re not the creative powerhouse you think you are, you just want to be.”

“You’re just a silly girl with an idea and you’re just trying to play with the big kids again. You’re not special.”

I felt like an awkward junior high girl all over again, just wanting to fit somewhere. I could have given up, but I’ve spent enough time listening to that voice to know when it’s lying.

It’s always lying.

True, I don’t feel like my creativity or skills are as strong as they could be. I spent too much time listening to that voice instead of telling it to stick a sock in it. I’ve lost a lot of time to depression an anxiety, but I don’t feel that time was wasted. I needed to learn and grow from that struggle so I could share my healing with others, and that is the mission I’m on now. Creativity and healing are best friends, twin sisters even, and I want to help others find them.

I am a wild creative spirit, and I always have been. I always will be, and I never want to be any other way.

I still have walls to break down, but I’ll learn a lesson with each one.

My potential, and your potential is infinite.

So tell that voice to shove it and have some fun.

Learning and Letting Go {Self-Discovery, Word-by-Word}

Life is a series of changes, but I’ve always had a hard time accepting that and it tends to get me into trouble. I don’t like taking risks and whenever I have something good, I’m terrified of losing it, but I think most people are like that. The seasons of life come and go, bringing new lessons and opportunities with them, but they pass just as quickly to make way for the new lessons. This is how we learn and grow.

I think an inability to gracefully deal with change is the root of the depression and anxiety I’ve experienced. It all started when my life did a 180 in a single year and left my head spinning for years after. In one year, I left a toxic relationship of two years, changed my major, changed jobs, got engaged to my friend of four years, went on birth control, moved out of my parent’s house, got married, changed jobs again, moved, and changed jobs again, and started my upper-division coursework. Whew! That’s a lot for anyone to experience it, but should I still be reeling from it years later? Shouldn’t I have gotten used to it by now?

Another change I’ve had a hard time letting go of is my experience with theater in high school. I had a tight-knit group of friends whom I worked with in a creative environment, and I thrived in that situation. I was so happy in high school even though I had my fair share of boy problems and homework related stress. I haven’t been in a show since and I barely see my old friends. I graduated five years ago, I should definitely be over that, right?

How about graduating college, changing homes and jobs twice in the last year, and experiencing health problems for the first time in my life? Ok, that one I’m still dealing with, the loss of my student-status and of being around like-minded people all day, having that cushion of school to protect me from having to be a grownup. This one takes everyone awhile, but no reason to be upset, right?

The thing is, all of these changes brought with them lessons that I needed to learn, so if I’m still struggling with them, I obviously haven’t learned the lessons, have I? Instead of staying stuck in the past, why not examine each situation for what it had to teach me and move on? Learn to be a grownup. Seek out that tight-knit, creative environment I had in high school because it was obviously good for me. Learn what I really want to do with life so I’m not stuck in the throws of graduate depression forever.

Change never stops; the lessons never stop. Live each season as it passes; grow from each one. That’s the beauty of life; it’s never stagnant, even when it feels like you’re not progressing. Something will change either on it’s own or because of a choice you make. Life, like people, is always dynamic and evolving. Learn, let go, and enjoy the ride.

This post was written as part of the Self-Discovery, Word by Word series. This month’s series is hosted by Mara Glatzel at Medicinal Marzipan, who has chosen the word CHANGE. Please go check out the details and take part!

Have you experienced any difficult change lately?