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What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do (and Your Mojo is Taking a Vacation)

As I have mentioned a few times recently, I am in a bit of a creative slump.  Every time I try to make something – whether it be a card or a collage, something out of clay, or just a doodle – it turns out rubbish.  It is very depressing and frustrating and makes me want to hide under the covers, eating cookies and crying into my phone (which, of course, is opened to Instagram so I can look at lots of other artists’ AMAZING work and depress myself even more).  That’s just how I roll.

So, in lieu of actually creating anything, I am working on creating a space in which I can work, be inspired and, hopefully, get my mojo back.

My craft room is a disaster zone.  There is no other way to describe it.  There is stuff everywhere and my actual working space has been reduced to an area of desk approximately the size of a drink coaster.  It’s terrible.

I need to de-clutter, big time.  I need to get rid of stuff that I am never going to use and organise the stuff I will use.  I need to make life easier for myself and prepare some things ready for starting new projects.  Most importantly, I just need to tidy the heck up!

With that in mind, here are a few things we can all do to make a space that is conducive to creativity and inspiration (or, at least, one that won’t make us depressed), and some suggestions for making the most of your creative slump time.

  1. If you’re a card-maker, organise all your card blanks and envelopes.  Match up sets and put “odds” aside.  If you’re really being good, get rid of them (give away or recycle bin).  If you’re a hoarder, bundle them together in sizes.
  2. If you have off-cuts of card, try making card blanks to fit your odd envelopes, so they’re ready to go when you need them.
  3. Go through the old books you’ve been collecting/hoarding to cut up, and cut out text from them. Maybe a phrase or word will inspire you to create. I keep a jar filled with sentences and words I like, so they’re always on hand. This is a good task to do sitting by the telly, with a cup of tea.
  4. Get stuck into your stash of scrapbooking/cardmaking papers.  CULL THEM.  Do you really need the lime green and bright pink, polka-dotted paper?  Maybe you do.  Most likely you don’t, and that’s why it’s still sitting there.
  5. Organise your adhesives.  Do you have ancient, dried up bottles of glue/Modge-Podge/Gel Medium?  Or is that just me? Get rid of them.  Also, go through your adhesive tapes – put them in one spot so they’re easily accessed and not sticking to things they shouldn’t.
  6. If you’re like me and tear out ideas and images from magazines and then leave them lying about the place, collect them all up and take some time to organise them into files or scrapbooks.  I have a file each for recipes, home decor, and fashion, as well as one for card ideas, one for quotes and articles, and another for general craft inspiration.  Make them look pretty and inviting – they really do help when you are in a slump and needs some ideas.
  7. Now get rid of all your piles of magazines – take out what you need (see # 6.) and chuck the rest in the recycle bin.  Some magazines are totally awesome and you want to keep the whole thing – that’s ok, but it needs to have a home.  Put it on a shelf or somewhere that you keep other inspirational books.  Don’t leave it lying about.
  8. Rubber stamps.  I swear they multiply.  I don’t remember buying them all and yet I seem to have hundreds.  I recently got rid of a whole box of them – gave them away to friends and donated them to op shops.  I haven’t missed them and don’t know why I kept them for so long.  If you haven’t used them in a while, it’s time for them to go. There’s only so many times you can use that teddy bear stamp or the one with the funny phrase that was hilarious in 1994 but not so much now.  Organise your text / word stamps into one container or drawer.  Try and group “like” items together so you know where everything is.  Christmas stamps in one spot, animal stamps in another, etc.  Makes like easier.
  9. If you have some projects you’ve made that you’re really happy with, make sure they are on display.  I have favourite cards hanging on my wall near my work space.  It helps to remind you that you don’t suck all the time, and gives you inspiration to try again.
  10. Make sure your most-utilised supplies are within easy reach of your work space.  It seems like an obvious thing but it really does help.  Storing them upright, when you can, in jars, cups and vases, gives you more room, and can look very appealing. Remember, though, to store marker pens flat – it helps them to last longer.
  11. While we are on the subject of pens – spend a few minutes going through them and chucking out any that no longer work or are on their last legs.  Make a note of any colours you need so that you can stock up.  Nothing worse than needing that skin-tone marker and you find it’s all dried up and useless.  Sharpen pencils and re-fill leads in mechanical pencils.  The more you prepare now, the less you will have to do when the arty mood strikes you – everything will be ready to go.
  12. Make a playlist.  This really helps – honest!  Compile a couple of playlists on your ipod or computer that help you to relax and create.  Alternatively, find some podcasts to download that are motivational, thought-provoking or inspirational.  Listening to other people talk about their creativity can really boost your own.
  13. Move stuff around.  Maybe you just need a change of scenery.  Would your craft table look better over in that corner, have better light by the window or work best right in the centre of the room?  Sometimes changing things around can really help to get you out of a rut.  It also encourages you to tidy up and sort through stuff, which is never a bad thing.
  14. Have a look through all those art books you’ve got and try copying someone else’s work.  This is just for practicing and learning some new techniques or styles – don’t try and pass someone else’s art as your own.  That’s rude (and also slightly illegal).  This is just to get your brain working and to stir your art heart.  Sometimes your creative centre needs a bit of a kick up the bum, especially if you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time.  It’s like doing the same exercise at the gym – every now and then you need to change things up a little and challenge your body.  Your brain is the same.
  15. Have a nap.  If all else fails, tuck yourself up in bed or on the couch, shut the world out, and have a little nap.  Maybe you’ll wake up feeling energised and motivated. Maybe you’ll just get some much needed rest and feel better about everything in general.  Sometimes you just need to sleep – that’s all there is to it.  I’m giving you permission to nap!

So, just a few ideas for helping you to get your art heart pumping.  Sometimes you just need to give in and say “Ok, no crafting for me today!”  and do something else.  It’s supremely frustrating though, when all you want to do is create a masterpiece and you can barely draw a stick figure or stitch in a straight line.  Sometimes your mojo is just off and needs a break.  I’m hoping that is the case with me, anyway.

Hope you’re having a creative, happy day (or at least a really awesome nap!) 🙂

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Quote for the Day : I am the Hurricane

“…I am not a Sunday morning inside four walls
with clean blood
and organized drawers.
I am the hurricane setting fire to the forests
at night when no one else is alive
or awake
however you choose to see it
and I live in my own flames
sometimes burning too bright and too wild
to make things last
or handle
myself or anyone else
and so I run.
run run run
far and wide
until my bones ache and lungs split
and it feels good.
Hear that people? It feels good
because I am the slave and ruler of my own body
and I wish to do with it exactly as I please…”

— Charlotte Eriksson

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Beach Vibes

I am not very bright.  Sometimes I am downright dumb.  Case in point : only just discovering this beach, only 10 minutes from my work, when I have been at this job for four years.  Four years!  I could have been going to the ocean every week for the past four years!  What a dufus!  Geography, to be fair, has never been my strong suit, and I never drive in the direction of the coast – I am always in a hurry to just get the heck away from work ha ha.  I just want to go home at the end of the day.

So, now my walking schedule has taken on a much more pleasant vibe.  I LOVE the beach – it is my favourite place to be.  I love the sand and the seashells, the water and the sea air.  I don’t care that my hair gets messed up or that I get sand everywhere.  I actually feel content and happy near the ocean.  It is calming and soothing and makes me feel small and safe all at the same time.  Plus, it is so beautiful and much nicer to look at than a sidewalk or a road, when exercising.

A brisk, half-hour walk along the beach is restorative and cleansing and great exercise.  You feel it in your calves and legs and spirit.  And, for some reason, I don’t feel self-conscious at the beach.  This may be because there are more scantily-clad ladies around than I, so I don’t feel that anyone is bothering to look at me, wheezing along the shore in my daggy shorts and t-shirt.

I’d like to say I am exercising every day, but I’d be lying.  Life isn’t simple or straight forward this year and so free time is not always something I have.  But, I am trying to fit in as many walking days as I can.  With a location like this, I have no excuse, and I actually look forward to going.  I collect shells and take photos, watch the people surfing, and just breathe the fresh air.  It’s good for the soul.

I promise to post some crafting things soon – I’ve just been so busy with life and haven’t been able to get stuck into anything creative at all.  But I have got a couple of projects in the works and will post them here soon.

Hope you are having a sunshiney, happy day 🙂

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Crazy people surfing with parachutes!
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Lacey Waves!

 

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Beautiful Ocean and Sunshine

 

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An obviously well-loved part of the beach.  Look at all those footprints!
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Gettin’ darker and moodier…
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Just one lone surfer left…

 

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The tide’s a-comin’!

 

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See.  I do actually walk as well as stop and take photos!
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Quote for the Day : Sometimes

“…Sometimes I just want space to be me
But then I remember I don’t know who “me” is
And any space I have is filled with the unknowing
And the questions about what I should be doing
And if I should replace the “Should” with a “Could”
And if I have always been wrong and always will be
And if everyone knows my secrets
or if my secrets are hidden away and will never be discovered
and will die with me, alone and unknown

Sometimes I want to disappear
But then I remember my footprints on this Earth are forever
The damage is already done and I can’t be forgotten, at least by the Earth
But to the others I am already a memory
And a fading one at that
Because I didn’t do what I was supposed to do and try harder to be the same
As them 
And all the others
who succeeded where I had failed

Sometimes I want to stand out
But then I remember standing out means you are different
And different is not always a happy place
Even if it is an authentic place
And a place to lay your soul
When it is tired of being hungry and having to fight with itself
About things that should be easy or not there at all

Sometimes I want to be still
But then I remember I have to keep moving
In case the truth catches up with me and it’s too much to take in
Like a hurricane in a teacup
But the moving gets harder and I end up running on the spot
While everyone passes by me
Unconcerned by the diminishing space I am taking up
As I burrow into the ground, a whirlpool at my feet…”

–Anonymous

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Hippo-Critical

A funny little card today.  I was playing around with some animal biology pictures and really liked the shape of the hippo.  Who doesn’t love a hippo!?  Sure, they’re chubby and grumpy and have kinda bad teeth but, all things considered, they’re pretty neat critters.  Top them off with a free-loading bird and you’ve got a quirky design and a card that you can pretty much guarantee no one else will have!

Made a big decision to go back on my anti-depressants this week.  Really didn’t want to, but I have to be sensible and take my own advice about looking after yourself.  I always tell everyone else to stay on their meds if they need them to function, and I was being hypocritical thinking I could manage without them.  Crying every day, sleeping all the time, feeling crummy and anxious and sad and generally getting very low is NOT managing.  Plus I have been worrying my Mum and I hate doing that – she deserves to have a worry-free life.  So I went to my GP and got a new prescription and will be a good girl and stay on them now.  Possibly for good – we’ll see how I go.  There’s so much stress in my life at the moment, now is not the time to be a martyr to my brain’s chemistry. There’s no prize for being miserable when you don’t need to be.

So, onwards and upwards.  Or, at least, less downward spiralling.

Hope you are feeling ok today – look after yourselves x

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Believe Me : You ARE Enough

I did some very crappy crafting on the weekend.  As I said in my previous post, nothing worked out and I was feeling very defeated and useless.  I spent hours on one watercolour picture and it was so horrible I wanted to throw it in the bin.  I hated it and hated myself.  Which is not very conducive to creativity.  So, I spent a couple of minutes stamping over the whole damn thing, just to snap myself out of it and get me back on track.

Now I’m not showing you this as an example of excellent craftsmanship or talent – far from it.  It’s horrible.  But it is an example of picking yourself up and getting your butt back in to gear.  Your whiny, self-defeating butt.  The one that tells you you’re not good enough and will never amount to anything and that your should never pick up a paintbrush or pen again lest you scare people with your hideous creations.

I’m feeling that awful “time is running out” feeling again at the moment, hence my panic and meltdowns when things don’t go to plan.  I want to be good NOW.  I want to be able to make a living, or at least part of a living, with my craft. I want to be proud of the things I make, instead of feeling everything is sub-par and not good enough.  That I’m not good enough, which is probably more at the core of things.

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I saw this on Facebook this weekend and it seemed fitting, given the way I am feeling about myself, right now :

“At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.
At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.
At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer.
At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.
At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.
At age 28, Wayne Coyne (from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.
At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.
At age 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.
At age 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.
Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 39, and got her own cooking show at age 51.
Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in-Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.
Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.
Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at age 42.
Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.
Morgan Freeman landed his first MAJOR movie role at age 52.
Kathryn Bigelow only reached international success when she made
The Hurt Locker at age 57.
Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until age 76.
Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.
Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 21. Hell, it’s okay if you don’t even know what your dream is yet. Even if you’re flipping burgers, waiting tables or answering phones today, you never know where you’ll end up tomorrow.
Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.
Never tell yourself you missed your chance.
Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.
You can do it. Whatever it is.”

So, maybe, it’s not too late yet.  I hope not, anyway.  I can only keep trying and not give up.  I have to believe that, right now and every other moment, I am enough.  I probably need to tattoo that on my forehead, so that I have no choice but to remember it every waking moment.  Better to stick with the rubber stamped version for now…

Thank you for stopping by – may your day bring you happiness and success x

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Bricks

I have been feeling really cruddy the past few weeks (months/decades) and have been woe-is-me-ing a lot.  Which I really hate.  Most of the time I am a get-on-with-it kind of person.  Sure I have my crappy days but then who doesn’t?  Lately it’s been worse – whether that’s due to me coming off all my medications (duh – whose idea was that?  Oh wait, it was mine…double duh) or just life being slightly more annoying than normal.  I mean, I know I have depression, and that isn’t going to go away any time soon, but it is  sometimes harder to deal with and I get bogged down in wallowing and feeling shitty (sorry, lots of swearing today – feel free to censor).

A lot of my depression and general unease is due to anxiety – it is the root of all evil for me.  I know this, and yet I am not very good at doing anything about it.  I try not to worry, I try not to stress, I try not to absorb other people’s problems as my own.  I have conversations with myself about letting stuff go and not letting things get to me, not worrying about things that I can’t change.  But I am rubbish at not only listening to myself, but taking other people’s advice about de-stressing.

I’m also my own worst critic.  I think I suck, basically.  I compare myself to everyone else and beat myself up for “failing”.  Which is quite often NOT “failing” but just doing things differently.  I KNOW this – but still I feel bad and a bit useless.  Good enough isn’t good enough even though I think it is for everybody else.  I don’t treat anyone the way I treat myself.  If I was my own best friend, I would dump me.  I’m not very nice (to myself).

I’m going to try and sort that out this year.  I am.  I’m going to try very hard to be kinder to myself and accept me for me.  Which will be difficult.  It’s hard to see mistakes as lessons and “flaws” as individuality.  More than anything, I just want to be able to walk in a room and not feel like everyone is looking at me, thinking “Who’s this weirdo?”

The below extract was sent around our office by a colleague.  It’s from the book  Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? by Ajahn Brahm, a Theravada Buddhist monk (he’s the Abott at the Monastery near my hometown…I think I may have met him once when he came in to my library a million years ago) who has written lots of books, supported the ordination of female monks, and basically been an all-round awesome guy.  He’s won the John Curtin Medal for his vision, leadership and service to the Australian community, and compiled an English-language guide to the Buddhist monastic code – the vinaya- which later became the basis for monastic discipline in many Theravadan monasteries in Western countries.  He’s a bit of an over-achiever really.  What a show off! 🙂

Anyway, the following excerpt is worth reading.  It makes you think about what “perfection” is (or isn’t) and how little negatives shouldn’t undermine the overwhelming, big positives.  I’m going to try and remember this, from now on : that I’m not perfect,
but that those little imperfections actually make me “me” and add up to the whole, not detract from it.  Wish me luck – I’m gonna need all the help I can get with this one.

Two Bad Bricks by Ajahn Brahm

“After we purchased the land for our monastery in 1983 we were broke. We were in debt. There were no buildings on the land, not even a shed. Those first few weeks we slept not on beds but on old doors we had bought cheaply from the salvage yard; we raised them on bricks at each corner to lift them off the ground. (There were no mattresses, of course — we were forest monks.)

The abbot had the best door, the flat one. My door was ribbed with a sizeable hole in the center where the doorknob would have been. I joked that now I wouldn’t need to get out of bed to go to the toilet! The cold truth was, however, that the wind would come up through that hole. I didn’t sleep much those nights.

We were poor monks who needed buildings. We couldn’t afford to employ a builder — the materials were expensive enough. So I had to learn how to build: how to prepare the foundations, lay concrete and bricks, erect the roof, put in the plumbing — the whole lot. I had been a theoretical physicist and high-school teacher in lay life, not used to working with my hands. After a few years, I became quite skilled at building, even calling my crew the BBC (“Buddhist Building Company”). But when I started it was very difficult.

It may look easy to lay a brick: a dollop of mortar underneath, a little tap here, a little tap there. But when I began laying bricks, I’d tap one corner down to make it level and another corner would go up. So I’d tap that corner down then the brick would move out of line. After I’d nudged it back into line, the first corner would be too high again. Hey, you try it!

Being a monk, I had patience and as much time as I needed. I made sure every single brick was perfect, no matter how long it took. Eventually, I completed my first brick wall and stood back to admire it. It was only then that I noticed— oh no! — I’d missed two bricks. All the other bricks were nicely in line, but these two were inclined at an angle. They looked terrible. They spoiled the whole wall. They ruined it.

By then, the cement mortar was too hard for the bricks to be taken out, so I asked the abbot if I could knock the wall down and start over again — or, even better, perhaps blow it up. I’d made a mess of it and I was very embarrassed. The abbot said no, the wall had to stay.

When I showed our first visitors around our fledgling monastery, I always tried to avoid taking them past my brick wall. I hated anyone seeing it. Then one day, some three or four months after I finished it, I was walking with a visitor and he saw the wall.

‘That’s a nice wall,’ he casually remarked. ‘Sir,’ I replied in surprise, ‘have you left your glasses in your car? Are you visually impaired? Can’t you see those two bad bricks which spoil the whole wall?’

What he said next changed my whole view of that wall, of myself, and of many other aspects of life. He said, “Yes. I can see those two bad bricks. But I can see the 998 good bricks as well.’

I was stunned. For the first time in over three months, I could see other bricks in that wall apart from the two mistakes. Above, below, to the left and to the right of the bad bricks were good bricks, perfect bricks. Moreover, the perfect bricks were many, many more than the two bad bricks. Before, my eyes would focus exclusively on my two mistakes; I was blind to everything else. That was why I couldn’t bear looking at that wall, or having others see it. That was why I wanted to destroy it. Now that I could see the good bricks, the wall didn’t look so bad after all. It was, as the visitor had said, ‘a nice brick wall.’ It’s still there now, twenty years later, but I’ve forgotten exactly where those bad bricks are. I literally cannot see those mistakes any more.

How many people end a relationship or get divorced because all they can see in their partner are ‘two bad bricks’? How many of us become depressed or even contemplate suicide, because all we can see in ourselves are ‘two bad bricks.’ In truth, there are many, many more good bricks, perfect bricks — above, below, to the left and to the right of the faults — but at times we just can’t see them. Instead, every time we look our eyes focus exclusively on the mistakes. The mistakes are all we see, they’re all we think are there and so we want to destroy them. And sometimes, sadly, we do destroy a ‘very nice wall.’

We’ve all got our two bad bricks, but the perfect bricks in each one of us are much, much more than the mistakes. Once we see this, things aren’t so bad. Not only can we live at peace with ourselves, inclusive of our faults, but we can also enjoy living with a partner. This is bad news for divorce lawyers, but good news for you.

I have told this anecdote many times. After one occasion, a builder came up to me and told me a professional secret. ‘We builders always make mistakes,’ he said, ‘But we tell our clients that it is “an original feature” with no other house in the neighbourhood like it. And then we charge them a couple of thousand dollars extra!’

So the ‘unique features’ in your house probably started out as mistakes. In the same way, what you might take to be mistakes in yourself, in your partner, or in general, can become ‘unique features,’ enriching your time here — once you stop focusing on them exclusively.”

You can read more about Ajahn Brahm HERE.

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