Do it now. You know what I’m talking about. That creative thing you’ve been meaning to do that you’ve tucked away in the corner of your mind.
Don’t wait until the lighting is right and the stars have aligned and you have the perfect array of art materials laid out in an Instagram-worthy spread.
There’s always gonna be more work to do, emails to reply to, facebook posts to read.
Start now. As soon as you finish reading this.
It doesn't have to take more than five minutes. It can even be three. But it can change your whole day. And over time, change your whole life.
You get to see what happens when you step out of the constant working and consuming, and into the unknown sea of your own creative expression.
You start making space for your unique voice to come through.
You start listening to your intuition as it guides the lines you draw or the way you move your body.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to create something amazing that you’ll frame and hang on the wall (though I won’t try to stop you if you want to do that!)
The point is the process, not the product.
It’s the act of playing and creating because that is what we are meant to do as humans and that is what makes us feel more alive. As Howard Thurman said, “don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I've found, in my own life and work, that when we are more alive, more fully ourselves, and more in touch with the flow of creativity, we are then able to truly serve and share our gifts with the world.
Can’t think of what to do? Here are 3 ideas to get you started:
Go ahead. Do something creative. Let me know how it goes!
What would you do if you didn’t care what anyone thought? If it didn’t have to be good? If you followed what makes you feel alive? If you trusted that was enough?
These are the questions I asked myself when I was planning my creativity workshop last month. I had been running through ideas, thinking about what worked in the past, and I just felt...blah. I started half-planning an event that didn’t sound that fun to me, and then I stopped.
I asked myself what I actually wanted to do.
At first nothing came to mind. I thought that maybe I was in an uninspired mood. Then a few minutes before getting into bed, a brand new idea popped into my head:
“I want to sing karaoke. But not regular karaoke, intentional karaoke. Conscious karaoke. Conscious karaoke? Hmm...that might be a good name.” The description spilled out of my head into the notes app on my phone. I felt excited.
When I woke up the next morning I was a little less sure. Did Conscious Karaoke sound funny in a good way, kinda tongue-in-cheek? Or just weird? Would anyone like it? Would people think I was weird?
Fortunately, those voices never got too loud. I kept reminding myself that it was OK to just do what I wanted to do, and see what happened.
And a few weeks later I was in a dimly lit private karaoke room in downtown Oakland with some brave souls. Conscious Karaoke was a reality. It was as fun as I had imagined, and even more deep and healing than I had anticipated.
I used my 5 step intuitive creativity process as frame for the evening. I guided people to listen inside for what song was calling to them. Everyone discovered something that was just right.
One woman’s experience was was deeply emotional, and it surprised her. “I’ve never cried and sang at the same time in front of other people before,” she said. She doesn’t identify as a singer, but her “performance” was incredibly moving because it was so real and vulnerable. And it was healing for her.
Someone else chose a song where she could try out expressing anger, and she was fierce! It allowed her to step into parts of herself that she doesn’t normally show, even to herself. We could all feel her power.
As for me? I belted out a Janis Joplin classic and realized that I only knew the chorus, so I had to improvise all of the verses. Not doing something perfectly--in public, no less--is good medicine for me.
Everyone was so brave. People had moments of self-consciousness -- their inner critic trying to overshadow their expression -- but the space was safe enough for them to lean in and stay present instead of hiding.
If I hadn’t followed that voice inside that was telling me what I really wanted to do, none of these breakthroughs would have happened. And that would be a shame.
Is there anything you’re excited about, but holding back for fear of judgment? Can you make some space today to tune into what you really love, or what you really want to do, and then go and do that? Drop me a line, I’d love to know!
And join my email list if you’d like to know when the next Conscious Karaoke event will happen next. It would be truly great to witness your song emerge.
What do you feel when you read those two words? Dread? Irritation? Anxiety? A desire to immediately start reading something—anything—else?
For me, thinking about climate change brings up a list of “shoulds:” I should be more aware, I should be more involved, I should be donating more. Also, fear. Particularly for my almost three-year-old daughter, who will be living in this changing world much longer than me.
When all of the shoulds and fear start to rise up, I often find myself clicking off of the story I was reading and moving on to fold my laundry, or do anything else besides think about the situation on our planet. While I’m usually pretty good at staying with hard feelings and working through them (I am a therapist after all!), I often feel stuck around this issue.
Because it feels so freaking HUGE and OVERWHELMING!!!!!
And sometimes kinda hopeless.
Anyone else with me here???
So, I’ve been thinking.
I’ve realized that, for me, the first step toward taking on climate activism in a serious way (beyond attending a rally here and there) is to face these feelings, and see what emerges from there.
And one of the best ways I know to do that? The arts. Of course.
Why face our feelings? Why use art for such a daunting crisis?
Working through my feelings with art always helps me to sit with my fear, grief, and anger, rather than running away from them. Any art process, whether it’s drawing or collage or movement or writing, creates a container for things that can feel huge and unwieldy. It helps us get whatever is inside, out.
And because the creative process is generative, it always opens us up to something else. Sometimes there’s discovery—a way that our current feelings about climate change are connected to fears from our childhoods, or recognizing our disillusionment from being an activist earlier in our lives (this is true for me). We might also connect to our love for our planet, as we allow ourselves to feel and move our deep grief.
Through all of this, it may create some room for inspiration and action. For new ideas about how each of us can be involved in creating a world that is healthy for everyone.
Oh, and another thing we need to face these challenges? Community. Real connection. Knowing and feeling that we’re not alone.
I’m putting together some Expressive Arts circles where we can process our feelings about climate change together, and inspire action in ourselves and each other. If this is something you’d be interested in participating in, reply in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
While I don’t have the answer to the crisis we are facing, I do know that it requires many, many people using their creativity to come up with inspired solutions. So let’s start practicing.
The first kid signed up for the school musical? That was me (see above!) Singing and dancing to Madonna with friends on the weekends? Me, also. Member of zillions of choirs and voted “most musical” in my senior class? Yup, you guessed it.
I’ve loved to sing for as long as I can remember.
But even though music was my passion, confidence was a struggle. There were always so many auditions, and with that, so much judgment about who was the best. Despite all of the accolades that I got, I never felt like I was really that good.
When it came time to apply for college, I decided I didn’t want to major in music because it wasn’t “practical.” I remember saying that if I didn’t make it as a performer, then I’d have to be a music teacher—yuck. Sixteen-year-old me wasn’t into that idea (even though now it sounds like it could have been a great career path!)
The truth was, I was afraid of going after my dreams. I ended up becoming a literature major in college, which also wasn’t “practical”, and wasn’t even something I cared about that much. But it was safer, because I didn’t have to risk failing at what I really loved.
I barely sang for the next 10 years.
Then one day, feeling depressed and lost in my late twenties, I went to therapy. In the first session the therapist asked me what I loved to do when I was young. “I loved to sing,” spilled out of my mouth before I could think, and tears sprung to my eyes.
That truth opened my pathway back to the arts.
I joined the “Everyone Welcome” choir near my house in Portland, OR, where one day the teacher whispered to me, “you’re a really good singer, you might want to consider a different choir.” Within a year I made my way into a band with two other vocalists and a crew of wonderful musicians. I also started dancing, and eventually moved back to California for a degree in Expressive Arts Therapy.
I made it back. .
Art and creativity are now central to my work and life. I get to help people remember what they love to do creatively, so they can reclaim it in their lives. I tell my clients what I wish someone would have told my younger self: stay connected to what you love, no matter what.
That’s the reason I chose something different for my creativity workshop this month. When I tuned into what I would love to do, singing karaoke is what came up, much to my surprise! Not just an ordinary karaoke night, but a playful, expressive-arts spin on karaoke. A private room (no stage, no drunken bar patrons), holding a safe space for women to be brave and share their voices, and a really fun vibe:
Conscious Karaoke was born!
I truly believe that singing is for everyone, whether or not we’ve been told that we have a “good” voice. I know this kind of thing can be edgy—and if this intrigues you, I invite you to come and step toward that edge with a supportive group of women on October 24th in Oakland. Creative growth guaranteed! Details are here.
And if this isn’t your thing...what is? What did you love to do when you were young? What’s that creative longing in your heart? See if you can make some time for that this week!
Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash
I'm back in town after a summer full of traveling, which was nourishing on many levels. But when I first got back from vacation, I just felt…off. Can you relate?
I was thrown off by the fast pace of life in the Bay Area after spending long afternoons meandering around magical small towns and vast wilderness. Throughout my travels people seemed to actually have time for the most important things, like connection with humans and nature. Back at home, though, I felt far away from my purpose, un-grounded, and vaguely dissatisfied with everything.
After moping around for a few days, I finally had the wherewithal to get out my art journal.
I started with writing a free-flowing rant of everything I was feeling. It wasn’t pretty, but it felt true. Then I circled words and phrases in oil pastels, letting my feelings choose the colors and the marks on the page. Red, black, hard slashes across the paper.
Without trying to change anything, all of a sudden a new impulse emerged: A splatter of yellow light coming out from between the dark lines. So I drew that.
And for the zillionth time, I was reminded that things do move when we move—even if it’s just pastels on paper.
Next there was a flower that started growing through a crack. And a feeling of, yep, slight hopefulness along with it.
I want to emphasize that I didn’t try or force myself to put happy rays of sunshine into my picture. It’s just that the process of allowing my truth to emerge onto the page, and following that moment-to-moment, created a shift.
Which is why I am so damn passionate about the power of creative expression.
From personal experience and my work with clients, I know deep in my bones that every one of us is hard-wired toward growth and healing. It’s an innate process that we access when we express and follow our emotions and our intuition. And creative expression is one of the best vehicles I know to get that process going.
When we create, we take what’s inside and give it a form in the world outside. Whether it’s feeling strong emotions and letting them move through our bodies in a wild dance, or making a collage of our dreams, it’s all about connecting with the most authentic parts of ourselves and giving them space in the world to show us who we really are and where we need to go.
There’s an inner wisdom that comes through when we create that space, and the insights and transformation that occur can feel like magic.
We are all born with the capacity to express ourselves freely in this way, and if we’ve lost touch with it, we can reclaim it. Yes, you too.
In the case of my post-vacation art journaling, the funk I was in didn’t automatically dissolve after 20 minutes of art-making. But that little bit of light made a difference. It helped me start taking action around the projects that do bring joy and connection into my life, so I can create the world I want to live in right here where I am.
One of those projects is writing, which is why you’re seeing this blog post! I’m going to be posting more of these notes on the creative process, about twice a month. Stay tuned.
And if you’re not on my list but you’re interested in following me on this journey, subscribe here.
Photo by Tim Arterbury on Unsplash