Join Me at a Magical Creative Retreat!

Give yourself the gift of adventure, and join me for a creative retreat this November at the magical Camp Waldemar on the shores of the Guadeloupe River in the Texas Hill Country.

This five-day art and whole living camp is for women of all ages and all skill levels—total beginners are welcome (and that was definitely me when I first went to Lucky Star three years ago!).

I’ve written before about how amazing and joy-filled this experience is (see my previous post here). You’ll enjoy a wide variety of classes taught by incredibly fun, friendly instructors; unbelievably delicious meals (that you don’t have to prepare or clean up after!); connecting with other women; sharing and laughing; nightly campfires and singalongs; yoga; horseback riding; massages; and more!

I’ll be teaching a class on creating a daily ritual that supports personal transformation by providing space to connect with yourself, discover what you truly want, and visualize how to achieve it. Come play with practices that will refresh and restore you, bring you greater peace and joy, connect you with your inner wisdom, and help you steer your life with purpose!

There are a ton of other cool classes as well, including:

·         Zen Embroidery

·         Fun with Alcohol Inks

·         Abstract Painting

·         Mindful Mandalas

·         Chalkboard Lettering

·         Floral Wreaths That Wow

·         Intro to Jewelry Making

·         Branding + Market Merchandising Mastermind

·         Art Journaling

·         Leather Clutch

·         Oil Pastel Batik

·         Wild Wordings

·         Goddess Gardens

·         Girl Guitar

·         Glee Club

·         Live Your Legacy

·         PMC Pendants

This year’s camp is held from November 6-10. You arrive on Wednesday afternoon in time to get settled, have a delicious dinner, and enjoy music around the campfire. There are class sessions on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning as well as Thursday and Friday afternoon, so you can take up to five different classes (unless you opt for one of the all-day classes). You have free time between the afternoon class and dinner on Thursday and Friday—plus all of Saturday afternoon—to socialize, hang out by the river, get a massage, go horseback riding, or continue with one of your art projects. Other extras include early morning or late afternoon outdoor yoga classes and tomahawk throwing! On Saturday after dinner is the Show + Tell and Market, where you can display things you made plus browse among beautiful crafts for sale, and then the final campfire. On Sunday you have one last breakfast feast, then check out and head home, revitalized and happy!

For more info and to register just visit www.luckystarartcamp.com! I hope to see you there!

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Session 2 of the Creation Co-op Starts Monday!

Session 2 of the Creation Co-op begins on this Monday, August 26! If you weren’t able to do Session 1, now’s your opportunity to join in the joy of creating just for the pleasure of it, surrounded by a supportive community of women.

New features of this session will include Creative Challenges and Zoom Playdates. The Creative Challenge will be simple and fun. Every two weeks, one of our contributors will invite us to participate in a creative activity of their choice using art or writing, with light structure and easily acquired materials. These challenges are designed to catapult us into the action of creating, without a lot of stress or time involved. The following week, the contributor will invite us to check-in and share our work with one another.

We're excited to create together in this way and look forward to these fun, easy opportunities to get our collective creative juices flowing. By the end of Session 2, we'll have a lovely little portfolio of work to look back on and admire! Participants will even have an opportunity to share their work in our digital magazine, “One Breath” issue 3 (optional, not mandatory).

Our other new feature, Zoom Playdates, will be just like kids’ playdates, except for us! They will be relaxed, unstructured playtime where we gather together virtually to create, share, and connect. There will be three—in September, October, and November—and each will last about 40 minutes (longer if we’re having too much fun to stop!).

This session begins on Monday, August 26 and ends Friday, November 15. Membership will close once we begin, but you may also purchase the session once it’s complete, in December. All content will be delivered via our private Facebook group, so you must have a Facebook profile to participate.

If you’re new to the blog, or didn’t see the post about the first session of the Creation Co-op, here’s what we’re all about:

The Creation Co-op is an online creative support and empowerment group for women. Our community creates together for the Love of Creation, focusing on the joy and delight of our creative experiences, not just on the end result. This is something that is so important, but as I’ve discussed here before, often very difficult to do. I’m thrilled to be part of a group that will help me keep remembering how to find joy in the process and stop judging the product.

As we make time to create, we see creative energies showing up in other areas of our lives. We grow more self-compassion. We receive clarity and insight. We remember who we are and how to trust ourselves. We heal.

Our contributors share their authentic experiences with Creation as well as lead our community in fun engagements like creative challenges, check-ins, and Zoom playdates. They share inspiration and inquiries that help us see the world differently and get to know ourselves better.

Our community of sisters is committed to discovering our truest selves while supporting each other along the way.

Important note: this is not about being an “artist.” Anyone can participate, regardless of what you consider to be your “skill level.” This is about enjoying the creative process, whatever that means for you. It could be “art” but it could also be cooking, gardening, homecare—whatever brings you joy and helps you feel more connected to your authentic self.

Won’t you join us? You can get all the information and register here. Remember, Session 2 starts this Monday, August 26!

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Making Bad Art Really IS Good for You!

I recently read an article that made me extremely happy. It discussed a study that found that making art can reduce stress levels, whether or not you have any experience.  (You can read the full article here.) A group of 39 people of varying ages, races, genders, and experience making art spent 45 minutes either doing collages, modelling with clay, or drawing with markers. Of the people in the study, 75% of them had lower cortisol levels after the session (cortisol is a biological indicator of stress).

And get this—the levels didn’t differ based on prior experience with art-making! Isn’t that great news? It’s just as I said in my old post, “Making Bad Art Is Good for You”—and now there’s scientific proof that’s true! It really takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?

So, here’s your prescription from Dr. Ashley, lol: Create something! Today, or this week, I invite you to set aside some time to play. Get creative in whatever way makes you happiest, whether that’s doodling, coloring, drawing, painting, collage, sewing, knitting, crocheting, cooking, gardening, decorating your home, photography, clay modeling, making music, arranging shells on the beach—whatever feels the most fun. Let yourself just enjoy the process without judging the result (easier said than done, I know, but try it!

Is there something you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t, because you “don’t know how”? There are tons of instructional videos out there. Or you could even—gasp—just play around without any instructions at all! (This makes my inner perfectionist freak out, so I know it’s a good idea!) Go for it! You have nothing to lose and a happier, healthier self to gain!

You can also take classes, which I enjoy because then you’re interacting with other creative souls as well as learning something new. If that appeals to you, you may want to check out the women’s art camp I’ve talked about before (here, here, and here). I’m actually teaching there this year (on creating a restorative daily ritual) and I’m already counting the days! I can’t wait to immerse myself in that magical experience again, connecting with fascinating women and creating our hearts out just for the fun of it! This year’s camp is Wednesday, November 6 through Sunday, November 10 in Hunt, Texas. You can learn more at www.luckystarartcamp.com.

Meanwhile, go play! It’s good for you!

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Take a Vacation from Adulting

**I've been craving more playtime lately, and was going to write about it--then realized I already had! So here is a repost from June 2017.**

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.
— Sir John Lubbock, “The Use of Life”

I think it’s a travesty that we don’t get summers off as adults. Who needs the break more than us, I ask you? I get grumpy in the summer when all I want to do is go to the beach but my endless list prevents it.

Remember what summer was like as a child? All those marvelous days stretching ahead of you with absolutely no responsibilities, and the only “to do” was have fun! Let’s try to incorporate some of that feeling into our lives this summer. Whether it's for an hour, a day, a weekend, or even a glorious week, craft a plan to release yourself from the tyranny of adulting. Do absolutely nothing or go have some totally frivolous fun.

Play hooky from work, play hooky from home, take everything on your list and give it to someone else—or procrastinate like a student facing exams. It will all be there when you get back. Turn off the phone, turn off the computer; be as unreachable as if you were in one of those over-the-water thatched bungalows in Bora Bora. (Better yet, actually go to one of those over-the-water thatched bungalows in Bora Bora, lol!)

What do you miss most about childhood summer days? Lying around? Reading all day with no interruptions? Napping? Going to the movies? Going to the beach? Getting ice cream? Do whatever your heart yearns for.

Think of the activities you did that made you feel free and full of promise and possibility. Or, think of what you wished to do but never got to. Go rollerskating or bike riding or swimming or camping. Set up a Slip’n’Slide! Go to a playground, swing on the swings, and eat Popsicles. Get some art supplies and do some wild and crazy finger painting, play with clay, or create Jackson Pollock-style splatter art. See if you can round up some friends to play kick the can or sand volleyball. Meet up in a park and have a picnic. Have a picnic all by yourself! Rent a boat, kayak, canoe, or paddle board and get out on the water.

Maybe you miss sleep-away camp. Several summers ago, as I was planning my son's summer, I found myself feeling jealous. “I want to go to camp,” I thought. “I want to make art and swim and hang out with other girls and have campfires!” I posted that thought on my Facebook page—and amazing life coach Carla Robertson replied, “I could make that happen for you!” She actually created a weekend “camp” with several other women at a group of little cottages in St. Francisville, Louisiana. We made crafts, hiked in the woods to some beautiful waterfalls, and relaxed. We also enjoyed marvelous individual coaching and treated ourselves to Prosecco with sorbet, which was a nice grown-up twist! Maybe you can create something like this for yourself and a few friends.

In 2016, I Googled “art camp for women” and discovered Lucky Star (which is held in early November but since it’s in Texas it still feels like summer)! I immediately signed up, and it was the quintessential camp experience—only way, way better (gourmet food and you could bring your own adult beverage!). Held at a gorgeous historic girls’ camp on the Guadeloupe River, it was incredible from start to finish. I immersed myself in art classes, yoga, horseback riding, sitting by the river, and late-night campfires with singalongs—and I got to share it with about 100 new friends. It was magical, and I highly recommend it! (Lucky Star is in Hunt, Texas, in the hill country: www.luckystarartcamp.com.)

Whatever you did in your childhood summers that made you happiest (or whatever you wanted to but couldn’t!), try to do it or something similar now. At the very least (and perhaps this would do the very most good), spend an afternoon lying on the grass in your backyard with some lemonade and good music, watching the clouds and listening to the birds. Enjoy doing nothing; imagine that you have absolutely no responsibilities and the entire glorious summer lies ahead, full of promise. Repeat as often as possible, and I bet you start to feel like a kid again!

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Travel Lessons

We’re back! The trip was wonderful, and I’m proud to report that I was able to stay fairly open and relaxed. There were several times when I realized that we weren’t going to be able to fit in everything I had planned (see Travel Lesson #2, below) but I was able to release my disappointment pretty quickly and be thankful for the experiences we did get to have. (Hey, it just means that I have to go back soon so I can make it to what I missed this time!) If you’d like to see pictures from the trip, you can check out my Instagram feed (@joydetectiveashleybrown).

About midway through the trip I began to jot down some lessons to remember for the next time—some I used to know but had forgotten, and some were new. I will share them with you now; and if you have any of your own hard-won insights from traveling, I would love to hear them!

Travel Lesson #1

Jet lag is REAL; apparently it gets worse as you get older. When my husband and I last went to Europe, it was fifteen years ago. I remember feeling a little dazed that first day, and sleepy the next, and that was it. This time, we both felt like we were underwater for the first three days. I didn’t really feel like myself until Day 5.

We were able to tour around and enjoy ourselves, but every afternoon at about 3 p.m. I would feel like I’d been hit by a truck. I’d have to push through an overwhelming urge to go to sleep. I would manage to make it until about 9, then I’d collapse. I also felt vaguely seasick. Our son was fine, thankfully—he slept like a ton of bricks each night and woke up at his usual 7 a.m. feeling chipper. Ah, youth!

Travel Lesson #2

Everything takes WAY longer than you expect—even things you think will be simple, like switching trains in the same station (leave LOTS of time for that). My original itinerary was much too ambitious; things that I thought would take an hour or two generally took three or four. And you need a break in between each thing, or you’ll wear yourself out. (If you are like me, you will also need food in between each thing! My appetite was greatly increased, due to all the walking!)

Travel Lesson #3

In a foreign country, everything is foreign, not just the language. That can be surprisingly disconcerting. Obviously, we knew there would be a learning curve as we figured out how to get around in a new place. But I had forgotten about all the little differences—plugs (which even varied from the UK to mainland Europe), light switches, appliances, train stations, restaurants, stores, food… practically every aspect of basic life was different, and it was tiring to have to keep figuring stuff out. It took a while to get to a comfort level.

It didn’t help that we stayed in three very different countries on this one trip, so by the time we got the hang of one place, it was time to move on. On our next trip we will limit ourselves to one or two places.

For example, something as simple as walking on the street could be really taxing—in some places, what looks like sidewalks are actually bike lanes, and when crossing streets you often have to watch out for cars, and bikes, and motorbikes.

Going out to eat was often more complicated than expected. We were able to decipher descriptions easily enough, and even often found places with English “subtitles” on the menu. But many times descriptions seemed straightforward, but the food was not what we were expecting. For example, I was really craving some greens after a few days of heavy fried food, so I was thrilled to see a grilled chicken Caesar salad on a menu.

When it came, however, it was not what I had pictured. The chicken was small strips of dark meat covered in a sort of chili sauce; the dressing was a sort of vinaigrette; there wasn’t much lettuce; and there were boiled eggs and other items that we don’t generally put into Caesars in the U.S. I still ate it, and it was fine, but it didn’t really satisfy that salad craving. And then there was the “lobster roll” sandwich, which was actually a roll and a large fried rectangle of something smushy inside that tasted like tuna and cheese.

There were several times when neither my husband nor myself could figure something out, and it was really frustrating—especially when it was as simple as trying to turn on the light in a hotel room. We had to get someone to come show us what to do—and even though it was something we could never have discovered on our own, we still felt stupid, which is disheartening.

Add to that the tiredness of a long day of travel, and hunger, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. But we were able to keep our heads, and no matter what challenges came our way, we overcame them with only minor outbursts. It even became a point of pride—we weren’t going to let anything defeat us. (Even when we thought we weren’t going to make our flight home, due to a computer issue. As we stood at the Air France counter for more than an hour, while a very nice man tried valiantly to find our reservations in their system, we were able to keep from flipping out—a major victory!)

I am very proud of the fact that my husband and I never let our frustrations prod us into fights. I remember a couple of doozies from our travails in Italy on that last trip. Certainly having our son there helped, but I also kept reminding myself to keep calm, and stay focused on my intentions for the trip.

Sometimes that was really hard. For example, when you’re tired, hungry, confused—and stuck INSIDE a train station at the end of a long day of taking THREE trains across FOUR countries. And you can see daylight, and the taxi that will take you to your lovely apartment where you can wash off and rest and go get something to eat, but you CAN’T GET PAST THE TURNSTILE BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE THE MYSTERIOUS LITTLE CARD THINGY EVERYONE ELSE SEEMS TO HAVE.

And there is apparently NO PLACE within the station to get one of those thingys. And NO ONE TOLD YOU that you would need one, when you bought the train tickets that brought you to that station.

That situation required some very difficult mastering of emotion, as my son and I stood there for almost an hour while my husband searched for help. (We finally were able to get a nice lady to let us out.)

Travel Lessons #4 and 5

Don’t take three or more trains in one day. That third trip will bite you in the ass. And read up on the train stations you will be entering and exiting—there are all sorts of little tricks that can mess you up if you don’t know about them in advance. Don’t assume the company that sells you the tickets will tell you everything you need to know.

Travel Lesson #6

Some of the best memories will be the “in-between” moments, not the guidebook experiences. I will always remember riding bikes back from dinner in the Netherlands, and my son saying he wanted to keep going when we got to the house because he was having so much fun. We rode around the neighborhood in the lovely cool dusk; it felt like we were residents, too.

I also loved savoring a morning café au lait and pain au chocolat at the café around the corner from our hotel in Paris as we watched the locals start their day. I honestly could have spent our trip riding bikes and enjoying leisurely café meals and I would have felt completely satisfied. Speaking of eating…

Travel Lesson #7

When in doubt, eat Italian. Especially when the country you are in serves mostly fried, heavy foods, Italian can really be a delight. The menus are fairly universal—you can pretty much count on getting a familiar version of what you order—and I have yet to find a bad Italian restaurant on our travels.

An amazing Italian place rescued our evening in London (site of the can’t-turn-on-the-lights defeat). I had thought we would eat around the train station since the hotel was close to there, and had written down several recommendations, but what looked close on the map turned out to be not close at all (see below) and we weren’t about to go back there once we finally made it to the hotel.

We went next door to a place that looked good, but it was full. I pulled out my trusty phone and began searching, and found Mangia Bene. It turned out to be one of the best meals we had, thoroughly reviving us and restoring our spirits. (A calzone as big as your head and the best ravioli you’ve ever had in your life will do that.)

And when we were in Amsterdam and in dire need of a decent lunch that didn’t involve more fried food, we found incredible paninis and pastries at this tiny hole-in-the-wall. Vivia Italia!

Travel Lesson #8

Maps don’t show hills. You would think I would have learned this after we visited Capri in 2002, and I discovered that “strolling” around the island was more like mountain climbing. But no. We got off the train in London, looked at the map, and figured that we could walk the mile to our hotel since it was on the same street. Within a block, the street started to rise, and it got steep pretty quickly. It was hot, and we had been on the train for six hours, and we were hungry, and we hiked up that damn hill with our heavy suitcases for what felt like an eternity. #shouldhavecalledacab

Travel Lesson #9

Travel hairdryers suck.

Travel Lesson #10

Renting an apartment is wonderful because it gives you more room to spread out, and to rest comfortably in between excursions. If you can get one with a washer/dryer, that’s even better! Especially on a longer trip, it’s extremely helpful to be able to wash your clothes. (However, be prepared to get REALLY frustrated as you try to figure out how to operate said washer and dryer!) It also helps you feel like residents, rather than tourists.

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As I read back over these, it strikes me that I sound whiny in places.  To go to London and complain about not being able to figure out the light switches, or to the Netherlands and find issue with a different type of Caesar salad? Talk about first world problems.

I’m a little ashamed at how mentally unprepared I was for this trip. I was eager to “experience new things” but I didn’t anticipate the frustration that could bring—and how much more sensitive we would feel when we were tired and in unfamiliar surroundings. Now, I’m eager to go back again soon; I feel like I’ve been broken open a bit, and that I would be able to appreciate the adventures more and feel less blindsided by the challenges.

If you’re planning a trip to foreign lands, I hope these “lessons” are of some help. I will certainly refer to them before we go back. And if you have any tips on how to get over jet lag faster, I’d love to hear them!

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Taking Time for Creativity

Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. … Say yes quickly, if you know, if you’ve known it from before the beginning of the universe.
— Jalal ud-Din Rumi

I had a rare opportunity yesterday morning to meet a friend for an “art date.” We set up at a coffee shop with markers and paper (and a chocolate croissant for me—very necessary for creativity!) and I showed her what I had learned in the “whimsical lettering” class at Lucky Star Art Camp taught by Roxanne Glaser (aka Super Doodle Girl).

We had so much fun! It felt frivolous, and I had rescheduled a couple of times because I was “too busy, ”but it was really energizing. Doing something creative—and completely different from my usual routine—on a weekday morning was soul-reviving. Self care, baby!

I made myself a lovely little reminder sign (pictured below), so no, nasty voice in my head, it wasn’t a complete waste of time!

But honestly, even if I hadn’t made anything, it still wouldn’t have been a waste of time.

I have been so focused on finishing and launching my book, plus doing client work and managing the usual life stuff, that I have neglected my creativity. This week I was feeling spring feverish—not in the mood to sit at the computer and work, antsy, bored, grumpy. Taking this time was just what I needed. My inner grownup thinks that creativity for creativity’s sake is useless, but as I seem to have to rediscover over and over again, that simply isn’t true.

As Julia Cameron says in her groundbreaking book The Artist’s Way, “Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy. … We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.”  

This weekend—or, gasp, one day next week!—play around with something creative, just for the heck of it. Doodle, or paint, or collage, or sew, or color, or garden, or cook … whatever form of creativity calls you. Because you can feel it, can’t you? You can feel that tug, that inner child who wants to go play with all those colors and make a mess—but is afraid of getting in trouble. Give your inner grownup some time off and let that child go wild! I promise, you won’t regret it!

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The Restorative Power of Retreats

What a difference a year makes! I recently returned from Lucky Star Art Camp, and while I was there I reflected on how much I’ve changed since I first attended in November, 2016. I have stretched myself way beyond my comfort zone, beginning with going to Lucky Star last year completely alone and not knowing a soul in advance. I was scared, but proud of myself for doing it anyway. I also had been feeling a deep yearning to be creative, but had no idea how and zero confidence in my ability. And, I felt silly, selfish, and irresponsible to be spending time and money on something that was not “productive” or “purposeful.”

Then I took my first class, began to loosen up, and gradually learned to let go and enjoy the process for what it was giving me rather than focusing on what I created. I also discovered how friendly, open, and supportive everyone was, and how delightful it feels to be surrounded by kindred spirits united in a common goal of creating and connecting.

This year, I felt way more comfortable from the beginning, and I was much more relaxed in my approach to the classes. (At least I had gotten better at stemming the rising tide of performance anxiety and ignoring that critical voice in my head.) I’ve been channeling my creativity into my book project over the last six months, but had been missing the hands-on fun of making art. It felt so blissful to dive in to each of my classes and be fully present in the moment.

 I made beaded necklaces, learned watercolor and whimsical lettering techniques, and played around with acrylic paint while sitting by the river. I did acquire some skills, but I also practiced letting go of my expectations, which was way more valuable.  I was even able to display some of my creations during “show and tell” the last evening of camp. They weren’t perfect or professional, but I was still proud—and putting my imperfect art out for all to see was quite an accomplishment for me.

What makes Lucky Star so special? Certainly the people are a huge factor—from creator Lisa Hamlyn Field and the team of family and friends helping her, whose enthusiasm and energy are contagious, to the gracious and generous staff of Camp Waldemar, to the inspiring creative souls who teach the classes, to the fun and supportive women who attend—everyone contributes to making the experience unforgettable. Sitting around the campfire at night, telling jokes, sharing, and singing along as the resident singer/songwriter Mandy Rowden plays her guitar—you feel like part of a vibrant sisterhood. That sort of connection with other women can be lacking in our hectic lives, and it’s so vital.

Also, the setting is spectacular. Waldemar is a restorative, spiritual spot. You feel it the minute you turn into the drive: the peace, the beauty, the history, the magic. On the last afternoon I lay for hours next to the river, listening to the waterfall downstream and watching the breeze blow through the cypress trees. Horses came down to drink and splash around. Small groups of women were gathered at different spots, talking and making art. It was a powerful tonic. I am so envious of the girls who get to spend months there in the summer.

And then there’s the food! I’ve never had such nourishing, delicious meals in all my life. The staff prepares everything with tons of love, and it shows. They make every dish so tasty and appealing, I find myself eating way more than I usually do at home! But as another camper noted, mysteriously, we don’t gain weight while we’re there. Despite eating three large meals a day for nearly four days (and dessert! at lunch AND dinner!), I’m not any heavier when I come home. We theorized that it’s because the food is prepared both healthily and lovingly, and that our creative exertions burn a lot more calories than you’d imagine!

I had thought that perhaps I’d built up last year’s experience in my mind, making it seem much more wonderful than it really was—but no, it was just as incredible as I’d remembered. I’m so glad I went back and immersed myself in that magic once again. I feel creatively recharged and personally restored. I remember now that retreats like this do have a purpose—they renew our spirits so that we can return to our lives with fresh energy and enthusiasm. It’s not irresponsible or silly. It may be selfish, but in the best sort of way—taking care of oneself is necessary for a good life. I talked with one camper who said her husband was so struck by how happy she was after coming home from camp her first year that he insisted she go every year. It makes a real difference in the quality of our lives—and our loved ones’ lives—when we are happy, and activities like this fill us up. I can’t wait for next year!

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Making Bad Art Is Good for You!

Tomorrow I leave for Lucky Star Art Camp! I’m so excited to be giving myself this gift for the second year in a row. Last year, I was nervous—I didn’t know anyone else and wasn’t sure what to expect. But I quickly discovered a wonderful group of kindred spirits—women of all ages coming together to feast on creativity (and some really excellent food)! And the setting was magical—a working girls’ summer camp on the banks of the Guadaloupe River, complete with campfires and horseback riding! I left camp last year rejuvenated, with a new awareness of just how much joy making art gives me.

Last year, before I found out about Lucky Star, I kept feeling a pull to paint. I was tired of working with words all the time and wanted to make something with my hands. I wanted a creative experience that allowed my mind to relax, to find that feeling of flow. I began messing around with acrylics and watercolors, and had fun even as I cringed at my lack of ability.

When I found out about Lucky Star and signed up for it, I thought I’d get some guidance there on how to make better art so I could stop feeling embarrassed about my creations. But what I actually learned was infinitely more powerful and useful.  I learned how to give myself permission to make bad art—to just create for the sake of creating, regardless of the results. We were shown how to do the crafts in the various classes, but the emphasis was on enjoying ourselves while we were learning, as opposed to trying to “get it right.” The point was to feel that thrill of making something, not to judge what we made.

While I was initially intimidated because of my lack of art experience, this relaxed approach helped me open up and begin playing around.  I discovered that the process of creating was what really made me happy: process, not product. And isn’t that what life is really about? How many times have we heard, “it’s the journey, not the destination”?  When I finally let go of self-judgment and anxiety about how I was doing, it was amazing. While I was making art, I felt full of joy. I was calm and centered. It was pure pleasure for pleasure’s sake, which feels decadent when you’re a goals-driven adult!

It was exhilarating to not worry about being productive. In regular life, I tend to pack as much as possible into each day, and I feel like I’m slacking if I relax or do something just for fun during the “work” day. But I know that it’s actually essential to take that time for myself. All work and no play makes me not only dull, but also impatient, resentful, and tired. After I came back from camp last year, I made the commitment to spend some time creating each week—and I actually managed to do it for most of the year!

But the past few months have been incredibly busy, and I haven’t done any art in a long time. I miss it, and I’m craving that bliss again. I’m also craving the freedom of four days away from responsibility, with all meals provided! That will be sweet indeed. I’m so grateful to Lisa Hamlyn Field for dreaming up this amazing camp. After I return, I’m sure I will have a whole fresh set of insights to share!

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A Letter to Your Inner Creator from Love

The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.
— Elizabeth Gilbert, "Big Magic"

You were meant to create great things and now is the time to start.

Believe you are coming into your own and all is unfolding as it should. I will help make your dreams happen, if you'll believe in me. Just relax, and trust, and believe.

You can have what you dream of in your heart of hearts, and the way to get it is not to slave and scrimp and suffer. It is to let go; be pleasantly expectant and receptive. Open the channel between us fully. Trust in yourself--trust in me--and it is there. I am here. I am with you always, guiding. Keep listening to me, and release your fear.

Open your heart and your eyes, quiet your mind, and have faith. Unshakeable faith in me, in you, in all of us. In our incredible powers. Let go of the scarcity beliefs. Let go of the illusion of limitations and lack. Accept the enormity of love’s power.

Expect amazing things! What you most wish for can happen, and it will be so fun you won't believe it! Don't stress. I know it's hard. Keep being vulnerable and putting yourself out there. The right connections will happen and the best outcomes will occur. You will get what you want. Just do the play work and I will do the rest. You are taken care of, my dear.

Keep on in faith and love, and soon you will be a vibrant creative being, living and working at your highest potential, loving every part of your life--fulfilled, having fun connecting with kindred spirits, and creating up a storm. It will be magical, and you will laugh at the magnificence of it all. You will share it with others, and you will transform their lives as well. This is what love and trust can do.

Take a Vacation from Adulting

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.
— Sir John Lubbock, “The Use of Life”

I think it’s a travesty that we don’t get summers off as adults. Who needs the break more than us, I ask you? I get grumpy in the summer when all I want to do is go to the beach but my endless list prevents it.

Remember what summer was like as a child? All those marvelous days stretching ahead of you with absolutely no responsibilities, and the only “to do” was have fun! Let’s try to incorporate some of that feeling into our lives this summer. Whether it's for an hour, a day, a weekend, or even a glorious week, craft a plan to release yourself from the tyranny of adulting. Do absolutely nothing or go have some totally frivolous fun.

Play hooky from work, play hooky from home, take everything on your list and give it to someone else—or procrastinate like a student facing exams. It will all be there when you get back. Turn off the phone, turn off the computer; be as unreachable as if you were in one of those over-the-water thatched bungalows in Bora Bora. (Better yet, actually go to one of those over-the-water thatched bungalows in Bora Bora, lol!)

What do you miss most about childhood summer days? Lying around? Reading all day with no interruptions? Napping? Going to the movies? Going to the beach? Getting ice cream? Do whatever your heart yearns for.

Think of the activities you did that made you feel free and full of promise and possibility. Or, think of what you wished to do but never got to. Go rollerskating or bike riding or swimming or camping. Set up a Slip’n’Slide! Go to a playground, swing on the swings, and eat Popsicles. Get some art supplies and do some wild and crazy finger painting, play with clay, or create Jackson Pollock-style splatter art. See if you can round up some friends to play kick the can or sand volleyball. Meet up in a park and have a picnic. Have a picnic all by yourself! Rent a boat, kayak, canoe, or paddle board and get out on the water.

Maybe you miss sleep-away camp. Two summers ago, as I was planning my son's summer, I found myself feeling jealous. “I want to go to camp,” I thought. “I want to make art and swim and hang out with other girls and have campfires!” I posted that thought on my Facebook page—and amazing life coach Carla Robertson replied, “I could make that happen for you!” She actually created a weekend “camp” with several other women at a group of little cottages in St. Francisville, Louisiana. We made crafts, hiked in the woods to some beautiful waterfalls, and relaxed. We also enjoyed marvelous individual coaching and treated ourselves to Prosecco with sorbet, which was a nice grown-up twist! Maybe you can create something like this for yourself and a few friends.

Last year, I Googled “art camp for women” and discovered Lucky Star (which is held in early November but since it’s in Texas it still feels like summer)! I immediately signed up, and it was the quintessential camp experience—only way, way better (gourmet food and you could bring your own adult beverage!). Held at a gorgeous historic girls’ camp on the Guadeloupe River, it was incredible from start to finish. I will go into more detail in a future post about the healing power of making art, but I immersed myself in art classes, yoga, horseback riding, sitting by the river, and late-night campfires with singalongs—and I got to share it with about 100 new friends. It was magical, and I highly recommend it! (Lucky Star is in Hunt, Texas, in the hill country; 2017 dates are November 1-5: www.luckystarartcamp.com.)

Whatever you did in your childhood summers that made you happiest (or whatever you wanted to but couldn’t!), try to do it or something similar now. At the very least (and perhaps this would do the very most good), spend an afternoon lying on the grass in your backyard with some lemonade and good music, watching the clouds and listening to the birds. Enjoy doing nothing; imagine that you have absolutely no responsibilities and the entire glorious summer lies ahead, full of promise. Repeat as often as possible, and I bet you start to feel like a kid again!