Creative Tuesday, week #5: Beach shack wall hanging

Beach shack wall hanging
Beach shack wall hanging

I’m a little bit pleased with this effort.

This is my ‘beach shack Christmas’ wall hanging. It’s easy to do and gives a great result, I think. I just painted a canvas (picked up for a few dollars in a cheap shop) and dusted the whole thing with sparkly glitter for a ‘starry night’ effect, glued on driftwood pieces to resemble a Christmas tree, and topped with a starfish I picked up ages ago in a shop at the Noosa Marina. Voila!

Creative Tuesdays: Week #3, Snowy Owls from Toilet Rolls

Snowy owl ornaments
Snowy owl ornaments

Christmas decorations were back on today’s agenda for Creative Tuesday.

They’re made from toilet rolls, white paint, white card cut into circles and glued with glitter, paper for the beak, glue on eye pieces and thumbtacks into drift wood for feet. I still want to wire them up to hang in the tree.

I think it’s important to stress that my philosophy for Creative Tuesday is not to produce something GREAT but simply to CREATE. Thus, I present my homemade snowy owls!

Creative Tuesdays and Feeding My Unicorn

Wait, did I just say “feeding my unicorn”? Yep. It’s a thing.

And now, too, is my self-appointed weekly exercise I’ve called Creative Tuesdays. In short, I have challenged myself to crete something new, something I’ve never done before, once a week on a Tuesday. Why Tuesday? Simply because it fits in with my childcare and writing schedule.

One of the fundamental premises of The Artist’s Way is taking yourself on a weekly artist’s date. But if you’ve got tiny people in your life (babies and toddlers, that is, not fairies, though I say yay for you if you have fairies), it’s really difficult to get out of the house on schedule. But as I am a creative being in a creative job, I need to feed my unicorn. And the in-home Creative Tuesday is the only way I feel I can do that right now.

But do it I must! Because I don’t want to drain the well or there’ll be nothing left to creative yummy books to read. And I love that and want to keep doing that.

So, here are my first two efforts for Creative Tuesdays.

Week 2: Relish! The kitchen was a freaking disaster but I declare the relish a triumph. Yummo!
Week 2: Relish! The kitchen was a freaking disaster but I declare the relish a triumph. Yummo!
Week 1: Christmas ornaments made from recycled wood and wire from our farm
Week 1: Christmas ornaments made from recycled wood and wire from our farm

Want to join me? I’d love to hear from you 🙂

What if following your dreams causes pain?

This was an excellent question posed by a reader of my Dream time article in Sunday Life magazine last weekend.

images-3Opal from Twitter asked said, “I know someone who is so angry they can’t get ÂŁ for their passion. Bankrupt over it & dragged his kids all over the country chasing the dream for 20 years. When dreams hurt, I say stop!”

This comment had me thinking for a long time and I decided there was so much in it that I would need to write a whole post on it to reply.

So firstly, I have to say that of course I don’t know anything about the specifics of the person Opal is talking about so I am not making any comment there. And I also have to say, straight up, that if you have small children then your first priority, always, is their welfare, no arguments about it. So if your actions are hurting your children then yes, stop right now.

However, I feel there is always a way to nurture your dreams. Okay, you might not be able to pack up and head to New York or to live in an ashram. But you still have choices. And sometimes, especially when we have human responsibilities (like parenting, taking care of elderly parents and, in my case, a lifelong commitment to more than a dozen animals) that might slow the pace of our actions, but you can still chip away at your dreams one tiny drop in the vast ocean at a time.

I’d also like to suggest that this is closely related to another comment from a reader, this time from Owla on Twitter who asked, “Can we all earn from our passion thou? What about the crazy X factor ppl who want to be popstars?”

Great question. Obviously not every contestant on a talent show is going to win. This doesn’t mean they’re not meant to have a career in music or as a singer. Those careers take many forms and those dreams evolve over the years as we get to know ourselves. Putting yourself out there in a forum like that can be a really powerful life changing experience for many people, despite the fact that they may not make it past the first round. And that could even be the fact that they realise that particular career path is not for them. They may go home with an epiphany of another road to take, such as music for children, composing, leading a church choir, whatever.

I think the real key to all of this is to look for signs that you’re on the right path. If I look back over the twelve years I was writing seriously, and NOT making any money from my work, there were STILL signs that I was on the right path. Little moments here and there, little cracks in the chaos that shone through and said, there! Keep going! For me, if I am constantly banging my head on a wall until it bleeds and there are NO signs that the universe is supporting those attempts, then I need to bail on that pathway. (Again, it doesn’t mean the whole idea is wrong for me, just that chosen expression.)

A very simple example: When I start a new book, I ‘listen’ for the story that wants to be told. And I follow it for a while with research. And while I’m following that trail, I wait for signs that is the way to go. With my third foodie fiction novel (following the first book centred around tea and the second around chocolate), I was very interested in coffee for quite a while and did a lot of research. I was intellectually fascinated about the world trade and export and growing of coffee, the history of it in Australia, and all the cultural associations. But I had no fire for it. I didn’t have the passion in my belly that I would need to sustain it for years.

So I dropped it. Just like that. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be writing another novel. It means that story wasn’t the right one at that time.

Then I found my next subject and I began to see signs everywhere. I saw movies, pictures, events. I met a local primary producer who invited me (quite spontaneously, since we’d only been talking for a few minutes) to go to his place to see what he did. I looked on ebay for something totally unrelated and the first image that popped up with to do with my book. And I felt the fire–the heat in my belly that would sustain this book for its lifetime.

Opal and Owla, I hope some of this rambling is coming together for you as to my response to your excellent comments. We need to be wise to our journeys, to know the difference between struggle and pain, to watch for guidance to the next step forward that supports us and our loved ones.

Reclaiming Your Inner Artist

Me, in the middle in blue, participating in a public drumming performance, roughly ten years ago.
Me, in the middle in blue, participating in a public drumming performance, roughly ten years ago.

Ever had that moment when you suddenly think, ‘Far out! What happened to me?’

You’re wondering where your ‘life’ went. You’re wondering where the real YOU went?

I’ve had those moments, many times, such as when I realised I couldn’t lead the life in the corporate world any more. And most recently, when I declared to my husband across the kitchen sink, ‘I’m an artist without any art!’ like it was a national crisis.

A tad melodramatic, sure. But this is what our inner artists do. We ALL have an inner artist and if we don’t pay attention to them, they will start shouting at us louder and louder until we listen to them and do what they want… which is to feed, nurture and love them. (Think of your inner artist as a toddler or a dog and you’re pretty much on the money.) To the inner artist, having no art in my life WAS a crisis, akin to a lack of oxygen. My husband (quite used to me by now) merely said, ‘Well you need to go out and find some.’

So I did. I reclaimed a part of myself that’s been sad for more than 9 years, which was when I stopped going to African drumming classes. The reasons I stopped going were all very logical–we moved inland to ‘the bush’ and I simply had no access to a drumming circle. Then we moved to the Sunshine Coast last year (for the very reason of accessing artistic and lifestyle goodness) but now having a toddler and big, conflicting work schedules for both my husband and me, it just didn’t happen.

But finally, it has. And it felt GOOOOOD. Oh man, my soul (my inner artist) was so, so happy and has been all day today and especially so while I was working on my latest manuscript.

I'm in there!
I’m in there!

It is the central tenant of being an artist that we must

FILL THE WELL BEFORE WE DRAW FROM IT.

In other words, we cannot make art (in my case, novels) if we aren’t first nourishing ourselves with the sights, sounds and experiences we need to then be able to draw from.

Our inner artists are constantly telling us what they want; it’s just that we don’t always listen. That moment when you think, where did my life go, is just a call to action to change something, to make a minor adjustment in the course this ship is sailing.

What’s yours saying?

 

Snoopy Dancing: Why I Write

The Tea Chest is just days away from hitting the bookshelves. So today, I’d like to stop and look at what’s brought me to this moment. I’d like to talk about joy.

joy-235x300You see, joy is the reason I write. At a fundamental level, I am happiest when I write and I am a cranky banshee bear when I don’t. (Just ask my husband–I’m tremendous fun to be around when I’ve got writers block.) Writing makes me happy. But here’s the thing. My writing can make the person who reads it happy too. Isn’t that neat? What a great job!

I feel incredibly blessed to have had my book published after spending twelve years writing ten books (five fiction and five non-fiction), with The Tea Chest being the lucky latest. There were some pretty rough patches in that time, with so many heartbreaking near misses. There was at least one time that I came a bunny’s whisker to giving up writing. Like, for good. But as soon as I read a new great story, I felt joy, I felt inspired, I felt renewed, and back to the keyboard I went.

The world’s a tough place out there. Have you noticed? I feel like every day, with more and more technology brining the outside world into our inner world at a rapid-fire rate (often, and unfortunately, without our deliberate intention), we have to work harder and harder to say, hang on a minute, there’s joy out there too. On a bigger level, I want to shout out to the world that I choose something different. I choose kindness, I choose joy, I choose nurturing.

Stories bring us hope, new beginnings and new endings, alternative ways of working through problems, creative answers and a chance to imagine a new life. They let us take risks in our heart and mind, to test them out, before we have to take them in real life. This is why I write. And what an honour it is to be given at the vehicle of a publishing contract, to be able to do that.

So as I work my way through the publication and publicity of my first book, each new step a huge learning adventure, I will ground that intention into everything I do and every book I write from here on. And, yeah, when I see The Tea Chest on the shelves for the first time, I’ll definitely be breaking out a little Snoopy dance.

Delighting in Sensual Joys to Nourish the Brain

I had a full body creative light bulb moment yesterday.

small thingsI found the most heavenly store on the weekend, Simple Things Small Joys in Cabarlah in Qld. This was most definitely MY kind of store, which I proved by walking out with French linen cushions with feather inserts, hand-made olive soap balls, French country quilts and a few other cute knick knacks. Simple Things Small Joys is in the loft space above Black Forest Hill, boasting Australia’s largest display of German cuckoo clocks and grandfather clocks. Black Forest Hill is easily spotted from the New England Highway, around 20 minutes outside Toowoomba, and is a great little spot to visit anyway.

Simple Things Small Joys is filled with all the things I love but so rarely ever invest in because I am ‘too sensible’. Why would I buy a French country styled quilt when I don’t actually need one? The answer, as I am slowly coming to accept, is because I love it and it brings me joy.

We are currently working through a massive renovation of a 100-year-old Queensland workers cottage on the Sunshine Coast and, truly, it would almost have been easier to build a new one from scratch. But what it means is that we get to start again, find a new style we love, a consistent, nurturing, beautiful style. French country. It’s what makes our hearts sing.

I recently started meditating again (and realised the last time I did so was the night before my baby was born and therefore more than 10 months ago!). And I started with a small (sixteen minutes) daily themed meditation program put together by Oprah and Deepak Chopra. Well, one of the themes for the day focused on your external environment. Yes, I think we all know by now that clutter has a negative impact on our psyche, but what I really got out of that meditation was Deepak’s explanation that surrounding ourselves with the sights, sounds, smells and textures of things that bring us joy actually nourishes our brains. And your brain can’t work very well if you don’t nurture it.

small things2Big. Lightbulb. Moment. I could instantly see the metaphor of beauty as food for our brain. We all know we need to eat well in order to function at our best and what our brain is crying out for is its own version of food. You couldn’t expect your car to run without petrol. You couldn’t expect to live without eating. Yet so often we expect our brains to work doing the millions of things it does every hour of the day without giving it what it needs. Joy. Love. Stimulation. Sensory input. And of course, if you’re familiar with Julia Cameron (I know, I know, I bang on about her all the time, but seriously, she’s brilliant) you’ll know that your inner artist needs these things too.

I’m also coming to accept that I’m a bona fide artist now. You know, with a paid writing gig. So it’s actually imperative that I stock the well with creative goodness if I expect my brain to expel some of that onto the page.

So when I found the gorgeous Simple Things Small Joys on the weekend, I faffed around thinking, oh I’ll just buy a soap, for about half an hour before coming to the realisation. Why am I buying soap when what my heart and brain really want is the linen? It’s a bit like craving a chocolate, and you think, oh but I don’t need the chocolate. I’ll just go and eat a banana, and a biscuit, and a pizza, and a glass of wine… and a million calories later you still want the chocolate so you eat it too. Just eat the chocolate! Or in my case, buy the linen. So I did. And I love it 🙂small things charms

If you get a chance (and you’re into this kind of thing), I can’t recommend highly enough a visit to Angela Oament at Simple Things Small Joys. You won’t be disappointed!

(And no, I didn’t get paid to say that. I just like to share the joy!)