Burgundy sunflower

Burgundy sunflower
Crescent Moon Designs Henna Art

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thoughts on Creativity

"Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity that you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things . . . Whatsoever you do, if you do it joyfully, if you do it lovingly, if your act of doing is not purely economical, then it is creative." –  Osho

This is a quote that I found on a page of creativity inspiration on The Abundance Blog at Marelisa.com.  It's quote  46, and I found that it resonated with me.  I have long believed that everything I do springs from a creative center and I am happiest when I work from that center -- whether I am pruning the trees in the yard, mopping the floor, or doing henna.

Lately, I have not felt very connected with my creative center. I find the anxiety over not having an abundance of well-paying work (or any well-paying work) is interfering with my inspiration and my usual joie de vivre.  It did not help matters that I almost got scammed last week by a headhunter who promised me a nice wage for fairly simple work.  I almost fell for the scam because I am feeling so desparate for work. Fortunately, a friend had just seen an interview on TV about the very job I was about to accept -- and I was able to decline the offer before I got into trouble. I am so lucky!

But I feel burned.  I feel dispirited and am not sure where to go next.  Well-meaning friends suggest waitressing and other minimum-wage jobs. But I have tried getting entry-level jobs only to be told that I'm overqualified, and besides, I want to use my skills and talents and gifts rather than just spend time at a job doing busywork.  However, finding that job is easier said than done.

In the meantime, I need to reclaim my creative center and rekindle that spark of joy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spinning my wheels

It seems as if I am working at breakneck pace and yet not getting much done.  And I am not sure if the perception of not achieving is due to sloppy time management or just having too much on my plate. Since the beginning of 2011 I have been pushing to create an online career of writing, editing, ghostwriting.  This has been to the detriment of my henna business and fabric painting.

And then I read a blog post on Daily Blog Tips that contains an idea that I think will help me solve my problem. It was about laziness and productivity. In it the author, Bamboo Forest, describe his own complacency and lack of motivation to write his blog posts and pointed to a number of excuses that he couldn't really excuse. And then he found his answer.  He used a timer to make sure he stayed on track and didn't wander off into YouTube-land or other distractions.  And it worked!  He finished more projects, and became a happier and more fulfilled person...and probably had some time left over to watch a few videos...

I have recently thought about a using a timer.  I used a timer once, but it was annoying.  My kitchen timer clicks and rattles while it is ticking, and then the buzzer is the kind of noise that would make a deeply sleeping slug jump.  I could not see myself going back to that.  However, Bamboo Forest has solved this little difficulty by creating a site called Online Timer -- Tick Tock Timer.  You open a window in your browser and input the amount of time you want to spend on say, writing a blog article or watching YouTube videos.  The clock silently ticks away (you can open it in a separate window and watch it if you like).  And when your time is up, your computer will gong.  It's a pleasant sound, much nicer than my kitchen timer.

This is going to be one of my new favorite tools to keep me from meandering all over the web when I'm doing research, and to keep me from spending all day reading blogs.  I will check back with the results of my new found time-management system and let you know if it's working for me.

Do you have any favorite tools that help you be productive?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I found a poem I'd written more than a decade ago, and it still feels relevant today.

Ice shatters.
She blinks in the sunshine.
Warming, blinding,
Feels as if she had been frozen
To be thawed for later use,
like chicken parts,
Feels the cracking ice
in her heart,
to wiggle her fingers,
wriggle her toes.
Feeling floods her senses.
She is weeping.
Feels soft, spongey, wet.
Misses the strength of her frozen state.
There is an unfamiliar sound.
It is her voice,
and she is singing.

For many years I have let my essential creativity lie dormant, hidden under the hustle/bustle of working, moving, fitting in, moving again, working, moving.  I have been frozen and thawed half a dozen times, but this thaw is the one where I will set down root, blossom in the spring, and stay creative during the harder times.

As I grow older, I become less and less willing to compromise for money.  I still need money  -- paying off a debt, need to contribute to the mortgage and bills, would like to buy more art supplies.  But I am no longer willing to commit to the kowtow of minimum wage jobs and the bottom rung of the office ladder.  I am not interested in ladders (unless they are for reaching the top of the tangerine tree).  I may need to temporarily work in less than ideal situations, but I will never strive to make them accept me again...because I just don't fit into the corporate or academic administrative world.  And I am happier for it.

Have you ever felt that your essential self was frozen?  How did you find your thawing point?  And where will you go now?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Epiphany Day

It's 2011 now, and if you're Christian, it's the day of Epiphany. Even if you're not religious, this is a good day for thinking about epiphanies. Merriam-Webster describes the secular mean of epiphany as:
    (1) a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
    (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking
     (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
Baby sequoias

I hoped to have an epiphany of my goals for the New Year by now, but I only have a few and they keep dribbling in.  Perhaps that is a better way to start a year than with a list of clearly defined resolutions that mostly don't get done.

While we were flying home from our annual visit to the in-laws, I started reading Chris Guillebeau's "The Art of Non-Conformity" on my new Kindle (thanks, Mom!).  It's a well-written look at how to define your goals, hone in on what you want, and make a plan for achieving it.  Sadly, I didn't finish the book on the airplane and have yet to pick it back up, but I know the second half of the book will be just as inspiring as the first.

Anyway, one of the major ideas I took from "The Art of Non-Conformity" is the idea of actually thinking about what you want your legacy to be.  This isn't about having names on buildings (although it could be), or the amount of money you want to leave to your heirs.  Your legacy is how people remember you.  This is a profound question: how do I want people to remember me?  What can I do of lasting impact? 

The answers come more easily to some than others.  My mother, for example, figured out fairly early in her college education that she wanted to teach mathematics.  That vision became more and more refined so that during her post-doctural post at the University of Montana: she wanted to teach higher math in a University that would reach mostly minority students so she could help them move up into professional careers.  She chose a teaching position at Fisk University in Nashville, TN, a historically black university, and has taught thousands  of students over the past 40 years.  Her legacy lives on in her former students who now are dentists, engineers, computer professionals, and even a few mathematics professors.

I have never had a clear vision.  I have always been a whirlwind, writing, drawing, making music...I could never decide which one was my TRUE path.  Lots of bad advice about "doing something practical" didn't help the situation.  When I started college I thought I wanted to graduate as a journalist who had spent a year abroad in France.  But I ended up majoring in International Studies, being captivated by Asian cultures, and spending 7 months in China. After graduation, I moved to Buffalo, NY and worked as a professional solicitor (fancy name for telemarketer), a file clerk at TriCo windshield wiper, and a caseworker for a day center that specialized in elderly, de-institutionalized psychiatric clients.  I moved to Catonsville, MD for the purpose of going to graduate school in Ethnomusicology, which was way more fun than one is supposed to have in school (and not a bit practical).  Along the way, I worked as a receptionist for a chiropractor, worked as a receptionist for a pediatric practice and then got promoted into the billing department, and taught Chinese cooking.  I met a handsome young astronomer, who swept me off my feet, and when my graduate program was cut by the University, we got married and moved to England.  I spent the next three years doing administrative work for a Chemistry Department, teaching intro classes on world music, playing in a Celtic band, and busking on the streets our of nearest small town.  When we moved to Austin, TX, I did admin work for the Astronomy Department at the University of Texas, played in a Celtic band, sang with an early music ensemble. I discovered henna and started a small business.

That was the beginning of the unravelling of my "practical career" which had started haphazardly and ended up in a cubicle.  Being a freelance henna artist was more fun and fulfilling than anything else I had done.  I still did administrative jobs as they appeared, but my will to file was gone.  I longed for the thrill of being my own boss and having a different schedule each day.

However, my career is not my legacy.  It is only part of my legacy and how I hope to impact the world at small and large.

It did come as an epiphany, but only after much thought: I am an edutainer.  I share information about different cultures through my henna art, henna-inspired art, writing and presentations.  I aim to soften cultural barriers with enthusiasm, stories and designs.  I strongly believe that a big part of being human is to be creative.  Since many people have lost touch with their creative selves, I teach workshops on how to do henna and how simple elements build into a beautiful whole.  I would like to inspire people to look outside their boundaries, connect with others from different cultures, be inspired and creative.

This is not a resolution or a goal. But from this idea of leaving a legacy, I have defined what I find important and how I want to share it.  Once I know that, the goals roll forth.

What legacy to you want to leave?  How will you do that?