Begin at the Bell

The following is an excerpt from 80 Creativity Tips.

A friend of mine said this before writing exercise we did at the kick-off party flash meeting with a lot for the local National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) group.

“Begin at the bell” is actually pretty good advice. When it comes to working on our creative projects, we almost always say we don’t have time.

Make time! Otherwise, it will never get done.

Get a timer. Set it for no less than 15 minutes, preferably 30. If you can, have a bell ring to signal the beginning. If not, start the very second your hand comes off the timer.

Whatever it is you do, then do it. Right. Draw. Paint. Cook. Dance.

Create!

When the timer goes off, you can stop, but not before. Give yourself at least that 15 minutes. If you are going good when the time is up, turn the timer off–or reset it–and keep going.

At the end of your time, step back. Look at what you have done and pat yourself on the back.

This is important: Do not evaluate or critique what you have done. Now is the time for creating, not for editing or judging. There will be time for that later.

Here are some tips for you on your work with a timer:

  • Don’t look at the timer. Turn it away from you. If it’s on your phone, turn the display off or turn your phone over.
  • Don’t stop and wonder how much time you have left, no matter how much you want to know.
  • Time isn’t important except as a way to get started. Unless there is a hurricane or a fire, the amount of time that’s passed isn’t important.
  • If you’re writing or drawing, keep your hand moving. Pause as seldom as possible to work out a hand cramp if you need to. (As a side note, if you’re getting cramps like that, it means you’re holding your pen/pencil/paintbrush/knitting needles/crochet hook too tight and need to loosen your grip.)
  • Focus on what you’re doing. This music or TV on in the background? Tune it out. There are people who said they have to work in complete silence. Those people really get any work done. Distractions are a fact of life, even if it’s just your cat jumping up on the desk. Learn to deal with it.

Remember you’re creative in your life, not separate from it.

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Who Are You?

(c) 2017 Richard R. Barron
Used with permission

Whether we realize it or not, who we are is essential to our creativity. This is brought home to me quite often since I do have some limitations on what I can/can’t do because of my eyesight.

In my jewelry-making, I don’t use bead-weaving techniques or even very many seed beads (those tiny beads often sold in tubes) because it’s too difficult for me to see the holes in the beads. When I crochet, so far I haven’t used the tiny steel hooks for similar reasons.

In order to define myself as a creative, I have to consider, and often work around, these issues. Sometimes I indulge in a little what-if.

What if I didn’t have to think about those things? What if I could just do what I wanted to do without thinking about accommodations or the size and type of the materials I want to use?

Usually, I write that off as an exercise in futility. (Pun intended. Sometimes even what and how I choose to write is determined by these issues.) But…

What if there was a way that those issues could be rendered irrelevant?

What if there was something that would let me see better than I have ever seen in my life? (I was born legally blind.)

There is.

It’s called eSight Eyewear electronic glasses. (The link will open in a new tab/window.) Remember the guy in Star Trek that had funky glasses that allowed him to see? What was once only in the realm of science fiction is a reality, folks.

But, as of right now, it’s rather out of reach for me, unless I have help. And I’m working on that. There will be some new things coming soon that will help me raise money for it. And any sale of my books, jewelry, photos, or crocheted/knit items will go toward that.

eSight’s tagline/hashtag is #everyonedeservestosee. I believe it. Do you?

Boredom vs. Quiet

Let’s revisit the poll I posted a few days ago. I asked if boredom was necessary for creatives. I didn’t get a lot of response, but that’s OK. I got a couple comments — here and on other social media platforms — that helped me formulate what I want to say.

On my Facebook page, Terri M. said:

I’m not a writer or whatever, BUT I have come up with some of my greatest garden or craft ideas while sitting here doing nothing 

On the poll post, Janet said:

I think a quiet mind is needful to be creative with words. A frantic life seldom produces much. I don’t call it boredom though. Just quiet.

That is, in a nutshell, where I stand. Or sit.

As for the poll, it is still open, but results so far are evenly split between yes and no about boredom being necessary for creatives.

I have never liked being bored. It’s just not me, if that makes sense. I have always, as long as I can remember, had something with me to ensure I am never bored. That may be a pen and paper (even scrap paper in the bottom of my purse or other bag), a book to read, a sketchbook, or something to knit or crochet. I have a cousin who has commented that she has never seen me when I don’t have something to do.

That is intentional.

That is not to say I don’t have quiet time or downtime. I do. I just structure it differently. My quiet time comes in the short meditations I have started doing. It comes in the times when I am knitting or crocheting and the pattern doesn’t require a lot of attention. It comes in doodling in a sketchbook or writing practice/Morning Pages (refer to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron if this is a new concept to you – I highly recommend that book/study).

Everyone is different. Don’t let anyone tell you that the way you do something or what you call something is wrong. It might be different, but it’s not wrong. Especially if it works for you.

What I call downtime or quiet time may indeed be boredom to someone else. Whatever you call it, it boils down to this: We need to give ourselves time for ideas to form and incubate so we can continue our creative work.  Whatever name you give to that incubation time doesn’t really matter. It’s what you do with the results of it that count.

And who decides if it counts?

You.

Let’s Get This Party Started!

Photo of Jen NippsHello! And welcome to the July Ultimate Blog Challenge.

During this month, I will be posting a lot more than I would normally. (OK, given my lack of posts lately, anything would be more than normal, but let’s not go there.)

In the vein of introducing myself, let me give you a few, somewhat random, facts about me.

  1. I am a writer.
  2. I am very interested in the area of creativity.
  3. I believe everyone is creative.
  4. I write fiction under a pen name (Kat O’Reilly).
  5. I am working on edits for book one of a romantic suspense novel series.
  6. I live in Oklahoma.
  7. I am legally blind.
  8. I knit and crochet.
  9. I play too many games on Facebook and on my Kindle.
  10. I love fountain pens,
  11. I enjoy reading.
  12. I love notebooks (and many kinds of stationery).
  13. I am going to Weight Watchers.
  14. I have recently started stamping and making greeting cards.
  15. I love helping people recognize and utilize their creativity.

I think that’s enough. You now have 15 random facts about me. Ask me any questions you might have in the comments and tell me one fact about you. Let’s get to know each other a little bit since we’re going to be spending a lot of time together this month.

 

Getting Personal for a Minute

There are some things I don’t talk about on my blog or social media. It’s not that I’m embarrassed or ashamed, but they don’t fit in with my brand. Some of that will be changing, but there’s some that still won’t be talked about much.

One of the things I don’t talk about is my health. On one hand, it doesn’t fit with what I want to be known for and what I do. On the other hand, it definitely does because our health directly impacts everything.

I am diabetic. I have been for 14 1/2 years. I am a mosquito magnet. I always have been. About four years ago, I got a mosquito bite in the middle of my left shin. Instead of welting up like most mosquito bites do, this one turned into a blister.

I had what is known as skeeter syndrome.

As blisters do, it popped. Then it turned into a sore. I put Neosporin on it and took care of it myself. But it kept getting worse. I kept hiding it. I wouldn’t even think about wearing shorts, capris, or skirts. Keep in mind this is probably in the middle of summer and I’m only wearing jeans or long pants.

This went on for about six months. Maybe longer. My mom caught a peek of the bottom edge (which was, at that point, near my ankle) and made me go the emergency room. I was angry. I shouldn’t have been, but I was.

From there, they referred me to Wound Care. I went to Wound Care twice a week for almost three years. It would get smaller, ultimately to the point where it closed, but it would open back up. I was on strong antibiotics on multiple occasions. They talked about out-patient IV antibiotic treatment and even admitting me to the hospital for IV antibiotics.

Finally, with all of the medications, compression wraps, staying off my foot, getting my blood sugar under (much) better control, and keeping my foot elevated as much as possible, it closed. At this point, it has been closed since the first of February.

To summarize what all happened and what I learned while I was going through Wound Care:

  • The doctor who first saw me called me after lab results came in and asked if I was still on the hospital grounds. (I wasn’t. I was at another doctor’s appointment.) If I had been, he would have had me admitted because my blood sugar was so high.
  • You can develop an allergy to Neosporin. It causes skin breakdown, which can make sores and wounds grow and get worse instead of heal. This is what was happening to me during the time I thought I was taking care of it myself.
  • You can also develop an allergy to Bacitracin. Yes, I can no longer use Neosporin or Bacitracin. I have no idea what I will use if/when I need it.
  • I had MRSA three times in my left leg. That’s why I had so many strong antibiotics.

Some takeaways:

  • Some absolutely wonderful people work in Wound Care. I have made some very good friends.
  • I am so very glad my mom made me go to the ER. (For the record, I’m also legally blind so I don’t drive. She literally took me herself.)
  • I feel fortunate to be alive.
  • I feel fortunate to still have both legs.
  • Never assume ANYthing as a diabetic.

While I was going through this, I had some very low times. I had times where the only creative thing I did was crochet because I could do that with my foot propped up. That’s also why I learned to knit. (There’s a knitting/crochet/weaving/all-around fiber-y group that I go to once a month that was definitely a sanity saver.) I didn’t do much writing. I did some, but it was difficult to sit at the computer with my foot up.

Why am I telling all of this now?

I’ve been going to Wound Care for the past three months as a kind of maintenance strategy. Everything has been good in those three months.

Yesterday, I had my last appointment. This has been an emotional journey. I am grateful for the people who helped me on it.

(Phileen, Misti, Stephanie, Sparky, Vicki, Barb, Dr. Boren, Falisha — yes, I mean you.)

I hope nothing like this ever happens again, but I know if it does, I will not let it get bad before I get help.

Don’t take your health for granted. It literally impacts everything. Even your creativity.

Groups of Like-Minded Creatives

I have a question for you.

Do you belong to a group? Groups online, like on Facebook, are OK, but I mean in person. Are you a member of a group that meets regularly? Once a month? Every two weeks?

It doesn’t matter if the group is small or large, I think it’s important for creatives to belong to a group of like-minded people who engage in a similar or related pursuit.

For example, I belong to a knit/crochet group, a writers’ group, and a stamping group. Two meet once a month and the other meets twice a month. They’re all important for me.

A lot of creative work is done in solitude. Sometimes you need someone to talk to about similar issues. Other times you need someone you can brainstorm with to get out of the rut you’ve found yourself in. And even other times, you just need — or want — a friend who understands what you’re going through as a creative at the end of the day.

Groups can provide education, resources, and camaraderie, among other things. What groups do you belong to?

Happy creating.

New Book: Journal Your Way to Creativity

Front cover of the book, Journal Your Way to Creativity, by Jen Nipps

Blurb:
Journal Your Way to Creativity is a 90-day self-guided journal designed to help readers tap into their creativity. Some of the prompts may sound silly, but some of the silliest prompts tend to be the ones that make you dig the deepest.”

Format:
Print $6.99, click to buy
Kindle $3.99, click to buy

Sample Prompts:
5. Think about your reasons for believing you are creative. List five reasons why it is true.

37. What is your favorite color? Why? (Yes, you can have more than one but keep it to three or fewer.)

58. Give yourself about five minutes and ask yourself “What If I Were Creative?” Try to list 10 things.

82. What rules have you broken recently?

 

Why This Book?
As I mentioned, I am also a creativity coach. Sometimes the best way to reach people in order to help them is where they are. That’s not always physically possible, so I thought a journal of some type might be helpful. Once I got that idea in mind, it wouldn’t let go.

I debated how many prompts to include. I finally decided on 90 because that’s three months of daily journaling. That’s long enough to accomplish a couple things. It’s enough to make journaling a habit. It’s also long enough to start breaking down old thought patterns/beliefs and creating new ones. I am not saying it’s enough time to completely create new ones.

Sometimes it’s easy to fall back into old habits and ways of thinking, no matter how much we think we’re “over it.”

Here’s a not-so-secret secret: We’re never really over it.

Thought patterns take a lifetime to build. It makes sense to think they would take another lifetime to break down to make way for new ones. There are things we have to work on repeatedly, whether it’s maintaining a new, healthier lifestyle or thinking of ourselves as creative beings.

With this journal, which is part of Living Your Creative Life, it is my hope that we can build and reinforce our creative habits and beliefs.

About the Author:
I’m a freelance writer specializing in creativity, social media, and general human interest. I just released book #10! Journal Your Way to Creativity is available in print and on Kindle now!

I am also a creativity coach. But… what IS a creativity coach? Simply put, creativity coaching is a subset of life coaching where someone helps you with various aspects of your lives. I — and any other creativity coach — can help you with issues you may be having in your creative life, whether it’s finishing projects, finding inspiration, or how to get out of a rut. If you’re interested, I’d love to talk to you about it.

I am a fiber artist. I knit and crochet. I want to learn to spin, but that will have to wait a while.

I am available to speak to writers’ groups, civic organizations, schools, and conferences. I can do in-person presentations or present via Skype. If you need a speaker for your event, let’s talk! My speaking repertoire also includes living with disabilities and diabetes as well as creativity and social media as mentioned above.