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Intentions and a Ritual for the New Year

The older I get, the faster the years seem to go by. And I’m only in my mid twenties. How fast will time go by when I’m 80?!

winter-handprint soul 2

Once again, I find myself doing what I do each New Years Eve. Every December 31st, I write my future self a letter to read on the next New Years Eve. I’ve done this for a few years, and I love to see how much I’ve grown in the past year. It also clears my focus for the year to come. I start by reading the letter from the previous year, then I write the new one. I write about the year I’ve just lived and how things went, mistakes I made and what I learned from them, and then I write about my hopes for the coming year.

Sometimes when I read the last letter, I realize that none of those hopes every came to fruition, or that I might have changed directions since then. That’s ok. This isn’t the time to feel guilty. Instead, it helps me learn to accept and be gentle with myself, to let things flow in and out of my life as they’re meant to. Also, it helps me recognize the wisdom of my past self. We spend so much time looking to the future and desiring to improve, but sometimes we forget important things too.

I also set my intentions for the new year in this letter. I prefer to set intentions rather than resolutions because intentions are more fluid. They’re less measurable than resolutions and goals, but there’s less guilt involved if I don’t accomplish them. Intentions remind me that situations change and I change. I may not want the same things over time, and intentions leave some wiggle room.

And the word itself, intention rather than resolution feels much kinder and less like a boot camp sergeant.

Here are my intentions for this year

  • I intend to have more fun!
  • I intend to guilt trip myself less for things I don’t accomplish.
  • I intend to eat more colors and try new fruits and veggies.
  • I intend to put self-care and relationships at the top of my priority list.
  • I intend to be completely honest with myself and others about how I feel.

As you can see, those aren’t measurable, but they’re things to keep in mind and align myself with. These things don’t look like they fit in with building an art and writing career, but they actually fit into my vision perfectly. How can a thriving career come from someone who isn’t thriving?

Some people also set words for the new year, and I think that would be my word. THRIVE. That embodies my intentions perfectly.

How about you? Do you set intentions, resolutions, words, or anything else for the new year? Tell me!

Changes

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So, dear readers, if you’re still around, you may have noticed some technical difficulties going on around here. During my creative funk and unplanned vacation from blogging, my domain name expired and is now being used by another site. This sucks quite a bit, because my readers seem to be having a hard time finding me. For now, we’ll be back to handprintsoul.wordpress.com.

However, this is one of many events that have prompted me to make some changes. I’ve been writing Handprint Soul for almost two years now, but I’m finding that this blog and Etsy might not be what I need to support my artwork, so I’m working on getting a new site. I’ll let you know when that happens, and I hope you’ll join me there!

This isn’t a goodbye! I still plan to write here at Handprintsoul (.wordpress.com) although I may transfer to a blog on the new site when it goes up. I really love writing here and connects with my readers all around the world!

Sometimes, life pushes us to change. I’ve been struggling with several big decisions involving my career lately, and it seems like my own mistakes and insecurities are answer them for me. I consider this blog a first step and a starting point for many things I plan to do with my art and writing, so I hope you’ll continue to enjoy my work as it develops, moves, and progresses.

Thank you for being such wonderful readers!

What to do when you don’t know what to do

We’ve all been there, and a lot of us never seem to leave. Life seems overwhelming, scary, or confusing, or maybe all of the above.

This isn’t a gloomy post. Feeling like this sometimes is just part of life and it usually means we’re on the verge of something important. The longer we stay stuck here though, the longer it takes to get that shiny prize at the end of the tunnel.

So when my head is spinning and I have no idea what to do or which path to take, here’s what I do:

  1. Cling to truth: When you’re confused, nothing feels better than to anchor yourself with things that you know to be true. List them. They can be as simple as “My husband loves me” or “I am a good person”. Confusion is to not know, but having truth is to know. Once you have a grip on that, you can figure the rest out.
  2. Realize that everything is ok: I tend to get caught up in my own little maelstrom of emotion, but sometimes I need to step back and notice that the sun is shining, the cat is sleeping, the world is still turning, and nothing is really wrong. Not in the grand scheme of things. The drama is all inside me. I don’t have to listen to it.
  3. Do a tiny thing that scares you: If you’ve been cleaning the house with a Q-tip to avoid working on your novel, sit down and write a page. Set a timer. If you’ve been putting something off, do a tiny bit of it. Bribe yourself. Set a timer. Whatever gets you going, do it.

I actually did all three of these things today, and I feel a million times better. If you feel confused or overwhelmed at all, I highly recommend it.

Have a great week!

3 Secrets to Creativity

People often tell me that they’re not “the creative type”.  A lot of those same people tell me how creative I am, as if it were some rare trait that only a few gifted people possess.

Compliments are nice, but I’m here to tell you that creativity is not something you’re born with. There’s no “creative type”. There are people who tend to gravitate towards things like art, dance, theater, writing, and basketweaving. Some people are naturally unafraid to express themselves, while others are more timid. Some people are more visual and emotional and tend to think more creatively without really trying. This really isn’t any different from people who are naturally good at math, or who think analytically, or highly useful people like my husband who can look at any broken do-dad and know how to fix it (I, however, am much better breaking things. Match made in heaven, right?).

We all have a creative streak whether we use it or not. We may not all be inclined to paint or write novels, but everyone is moved by some form of creative expression, and I firmly believe that everyone can become adept at some sort of creative pursuit whether it’s writing operas or creating flower arrangements.

After years of listening to people lament about their perceived lack of creativity and my observations of “creative types”, here are some of the differences I’ve noticed:

  1. Don’t be afraid to screw up. People who are truly in tune with their creativity aren’t afraid of making lousy stuff. If you’re too afraid of messing up, you’ll never start, and nothing will get made.
  2. Let your ideas change and evolve as you create. I was talking to my friend the other day, and he told me that he doesn’t like to make art because it never ends up looking the way he pictured it in his head. This is a common complaint. I’ll tell you a secret: I make a lot of art, and it NEVER comes out the way I’d originally imagined it, but sometimes it’s even better. Creativity is not the ability to reach into your brain and pull out your intended creation intact; it’s more about discovering as you create and allowing your work to take on a life of its own. It’s spontaneity.
  3. Spend some time in La-La land. Though I was a good student, I used to get in trouble for daydreaming a lot in school. I even wrote a poem about it. If you don’t let your imagination wander, you won’t get idea; and if you don’t get ideas, how will you create anything? On the same note, it’s important to let those ideas marinate for awhile before you try to make them real. Yes, some ideas just burst for fully-formed, but that usually only happens in the movies. I recently re-learned this when I got the sudden urge to start working on my novel again. I’d been stalled for month even though I still thought about the story a lot. As the words flowed out during my writing session today, I realized that I hadn’t gotten to know my characters well enough, so no wonder the story wasn’t working! After letting them run wild in my head for a little while, I found out who they were and they were able to take on lives of their own.

I’ve had plenty of creative blocks before, and I’ve found that in each case I wasn’t doing at least one of these things. When I do all three, I find that my creativity flows like a fire hose. Try applying them to your own life. See what happens.

So, do you consider yourself a “creative type”? Do you run into creative snags?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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I’m feeling kind of lazy today, so I thought I’d let you guys help me write my post today.

My favorite question to ask people when I’m getting to know them is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is usually after I’ve know them long enough that they know that I’m kind of a weirdo, so this doesn’t seem odd to them. I say it this way to grown-ups instead of asking “What do you want to do?” or the dreaded “What do you want to do with your life?” which sounds too guidance counselory. I like to ask this way because this is what we’re asked when we’re children, and this is what we ask children.

Children are completely honest and don’t worry about “can’t”s or the job market or limitations of any kind. They just say what they feel. This is a good way to find our real desires.

I want to get to know you guys better, and most of you have probably been reading this here blog long enough to understand my quirks, so now I’m asking you: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’ll start: I want/wanted to be an artist and a writer, among other things.

Ok, now it’s your turn. Lurkers, this is your chance to say hello!

Shifting Creative Gears

Ok, I’m going to keep this quick because I’m in a mood that I haven’t experienced in quite awhile.

The writing mood.

This happens to me sometimes. I’ll be working on one creative project and then wake up one morning feeling like doing something completely different. This happens with my art and writing. Thought I’m both an artist and a writer, I can’t seem to do both at the same time; I’m always both feet in either one or the other. I’ve made more art in the past couple months than I have in years, but I haven’t touched the novel I’ve been working on off and on for three years. Most of my readers probably have no idea that I’ve even had that project on the back burner. Two weeks ago though, I went to bed with all kinds of art ideas and a plan for the next day’s painting session and woke up with a hankering to work on my book.

That’s what I’ve been doing ever since, nearly every minute that I’m not at work. I’ve been living off watermelon and pb&j because I don’t have the patience to make anything else.

Some creative people have a single, burning patient to which to devote their time. Others, like me, have more than one. Sometimes it’s possible to split their daily activities to include both, but I don’t work that way. I’ve had to learn to go where my creative urge takes me. If I feel like painting, I paint. If I feel like writing, I write.

It’s kind of an unpredictable cycle and it makes it hard to set any long-term goals, like a goal date for finishing the first edit of my manuscript or introducing a new item to my shop or a new series of paintings this summer. I have to ride the waves though, because if I do anything else, the work won’t be as good.

I’m a writer at the moment, but I’m still an artist too. Who knows when the winds will change again. Don’t worry, I’ve still got plenty of art in me!

Trust the urge to create, no matter what that may be.

Let Your Passions Feed You

I’ve wanted to be a lot of things in my life. I’m interested in a lot of things. Even though I’ve always planned on being an artist and a writer, I’ve also seriously considered going into theatrical set design, archaeology, teaching, horse breeding, nutritional counseling, and  art therapy.

The other day, Sam and I were sitting at an outdoor table sharing wings and mozzarella sticks, and we started talking about talents and abilities that we each had. It actually started by comparing his super-sensitive taste buds to my ears. Sam can taste things that I can’t, and I have some crazy-sensitive ears. For me, any sort of squeaky, scraping sound practically causes seizures, but I can also hear things in music that Sam can’t. He likes to play songs I’ve never heard to see if I can guess the band (if I’ve heard of the band, I can usually tell). I can’t remember the words of most songs, but I can remember obscure little beats and entire guitar solos. I hear music in a very visual way, if that makes sense. I could probably sculpt or draw the sounds. One of my favorite things to do in junior high was to listen to a song over and over and draw it.

I’ve taken voice and piano lessons and I’ve played with composing, but I’ve never really done much with music. As we ate our lunch that day, Sam asked “Why aren’t you in the music industry?”

I just shrugged. I love music, but I don’t know what I’d do with it. I also love animals and could happily be with them every day, but I don’t know what I’d do with that either.

Sam’s kind of the same way. He’s a man of many talents and he likes to experiment, but like me, he’s has a hard time settling on one career. He’s also dabbled in set design and engineering, but he’s also a web designer and he’s going to school for 3-D animation. He’s draws and he loves film, and he  loves creating props for haunted houses. Someday he might open a creature shop and make puppetry-assisted animatronics for haunted houses and movies.

It’s hard to juggle so many interests. One things that I love about art and writing though, is that I can use them to cover all my other interests. I can write about anything, paint anything, learn about anything and let it show up in my creative. Everything I do, see, love, and dream about feeds my art and writing. Even though I’ve checked out plenty of different paths, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Though someday I’d love to go back to music lessons, I’d love to spend more time with animals, and I still think there’s plenty to be explored in my other interests. Those interests are there for a reason. I used to get frustrated that there’s only one of me and that I couldn’t do everything I want to do, but it doesn’t bother me much anymore.

I watch Sam juggle his different interests and ambitions, and I noticed that he doesn’t stress out about it. He doesn’t seem to worry that there isn’t enough time or that he’s doing the wrong thing. He just has a good time with it.

I guess that’s the best thing to do when you feel like your choices and passions are overwhelming. Just have fun with it. Let it feed you.

The Difference Between Goals and Purpose

Most of us are busy. “Busy” means different things to different people, but by this I mean that a lot of us are operating at full capacity most of the time.

Do you ever feel like you’re just spinning your wheels, or is your busyness moving you in a clear direction? Is that direction somewhere you want to go? Did you choose it? Do you know why you want to go there?

The other day, I noticed that I felt off. It wasn’t quite sadness, so I wrote in my journal to try and sort it out. I realized that I was feeling a bit lost and disoriented, and it was really uncomfortable.

How could I feel lost? I’m very ambitious, I have lots of goals mapped out, and I know the basic steps to accomplishing those goals. I sat with the feeling a little longer and realized something that I’ve never thought of before.

Goals are nothing without purpose. I have goals, but that’s not the same as having direction. Goals are what we want to accomplish, but purpose is why we want to accomplish it.

I believe we all have a purpose in this life, and that mine is to have joy and share it with others so that they might have joy too. That’s what I try to do with my art and writing. I’m not talking about the joy you feel when you watch a funny movie, but the joy you have to work for and that comes when you know yourself and learn hard lessons and develop a deeper understanding of your own purpose.

When we have purpose, we can align ourselves with that and work toward our goals much more efficiently and mindfully. When we forget our purpose, our actions feel empty.

Finding your purpose is a deep life question, but I’ve found that with some observation of your actions and desires, your talents and interests, it’s actually fairly simple. I’ll leave that question for you.

I’m curious. What are your goals? Are they part of a deeper purpose, or are you still figuring that one out?

What do you want to do today?

Sometimes when I feel like I’m moving too fast or running on autopilot, I like to stop and get back on track. One of my favorite ways to reawaken myself to my own life and purpose is to get out my journal and write about what I would do that day if I didn’t have to do anything. I might also write about my ideal day, or maybe just list 20 or so things that I love to do and remind myself to build my life around those.

A lot of people think they’d lay around and watch TV all day if they didn’t have to do anything, and that may be true, but everyone is passionate about something. People need to actually do things to be happy. If you don’t know what you like to do, you might want to start there.

My day usually involves reading, writing, making art, taking walks, and spending time with my husband. Pretty simple. Some days I feel like going on an adventure and some days I’d rather curl up with a blanket and a Tracy Chevalier novel. Still, playing this little game helps me reassess what I’m doing and whether it’s getting me where I need to go. We should enjoy our lives. It’s not all fun and games; we all have things that need to get done that we’d rather not do, but the bulk of our lives should be enjoyable.

Find out what you love most and build your life around that. Use your “ideal day” writing as a compass.

Today, if I didn’t have to go to work, I’d go for a walk, work on some new paintings, prepare two of my paintings for an upcoming juried show, read a little, write in my journal, and go for a walk in the evening. Maybe a picnic with my husband. That’s actually what I’m planning to do today, more or less, just with my regular workday in the middle.

What would you do today, or on your ideal day? What do you love to do more than anything?

Being Here and the Kreativ Blogger Award

This week, I’ve noticed that I’ve been doing things very quickly and that I’ve been holding a lot of tension in my body, especially my shoulders and face. Sometimes at work I’ll notice that my shoulders are burning or that my cheeks hurt. I know myself well enough to know that this means that I’ve been doing too much white-knuckling. I’ve been charging through things without paying attention to now.

Sometimes I need to remind myself to unclench my jaw, take some deep breathes, and come back into the moment. I think we all need that reminder sometimes, so today as you go about your business, remember to be in your body. Notice something around you. Release the tension that we all tend to hoard in our bodies. No matter what’s going on for us, remember that there’s still the sky. Birds are still flying around. The world is still turning. Even if we’re drowning in a giant puddle of stress, Spring is still coming. Flowers still bloom. It’s just a little blip on the radar.

Just a reminder for the both of us 🙂

In other new, Megan from Make Something Mondays has given me the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thanks Megan!

In order to claim the Kreativ Blogger Award here’s what I and the next lucky recipients need to do:

1. Thank the blogger who gave you the award and provide a link.

2. List 7 things about yourself that your readers might find interesting

3. Nominate 7 other bloggers, provide links, and let them know!

So, in case you find random stuff about me interesting…

  1. Most of my favorite movies and TV shows are technically for kids, but I love them anyway. I love Coraline, Milo and Otis, anything to do with Pixar, Disney movies, and Jim Henson everything.
  2. I got my first bee sting when I was 3 or 4. I told my mom that I was squeezing the bee because “I was trying to get the honey out!”
  3. I love food and I have very adventurous tastes. When I went to China, I was always the first to try the chicken feet/sea cucumber/green eggs/fish dishes. Sushi and calamari are some of my favorite foods.
  4. I’m not afraid of snakes, spiders, or heights, but I’m terrified of walking on a frozen lake. No ice fishing for me. I’m also scared of centipedes and I hate “rocket” rides at theme parks. The ones that shoot you up and then drop you? Nope.
  5. I was 10lbs, 2oz when I was born. I love you Mom.
  6. I met my husband in high school when I fell down the stairs and dislocated my left shoulder. His friends rescued me, and after that, I was kind of a part of the group. I made really good friends with both him and his then girlfriend, so I was usually the third wheel. We got married five years later.
  7. I have a very dry, irreverent sense of humor that I get from my dad. I like to joke about things like death and pain, because why not? Even if it’s not funny, joking about it makes it easier to accept as parts of life.

Now I get to pick 7 other bloggers to stick in the hot seat! Go say hi to them!

  1. Rachael from Talk2theTrees.
  2. Michelle from The Creative Healing Studio.
  3. Syd from Woolgather.
  4. Diane from Soul Places.
  5. Mandee from Life is Wonderful and Full of Delicious Possibilities. Also, check her out on Three Thousand Words.
  6. Sara from Modern Sentiment.
  7. Sherry from Fabulous 50’s.

Now go have an awesome day. 🙂