Let's Get Creative

I’ve talked before about how vital creativity is, no matter what form it takes for you. Today I wanted to share two poems that speak to that, by my friend Mary Walker. She is an amazing writer and inspiring person; I met her during the Write into Light class I took, and now she is leading her own online course, “Meet Your Creative Self,” which I am eagerly looking forward to! (It starts in February.) I thought I’d also share that info here, in case it interests you. You’ll find her description of it below the poems. Here’s to a beautifully creative 2019!


by Mary Walker

Pasture covered slopes
will slip;
shallow rooted grass
cannot hold the hill
on its own.

A life stripped of riches,
a self swept aside
for sameness,
for blending in,
barely holds itself together.

You are a forest.
Recolonise your life.
Let new ideas take seed,
colours bloom,
let the strange and exotic
spring up.
Trust your wild diversity.



by Mary Walker

I see you at the fence
watching everybody play,
waiting to be invited, or discovered,
or allowed.
There is no benevolent guide to open the gate;
no old hand will usher you in.
No encouragement is hearty enough
to fill that hollow doubt. If there was,
you’d be in there already.
No one will announce your arrival,
but no one will bar your way.
Take a ball or a hoop,
find a slide or a swing,
laugh, kick, cry, dig,
burrow, build, or sing.
Life is a playground,
and you,
one of its children.


“Meet Your Creative Self” online course led by Mary Walker:

This is for any creative, not just writers. It's even for people who think they aren't creative (but secretly suspect they might be), for the start-stop creators; for those who create but are too scared to share; for those who create but think there's really no point in doing anything with it.

This is for you if you wonder what you might be capable of if you finally let it flow out...

It's all about learning that our creative self is always speaking to us, offering us creative urges and ideas. It's about learning to trust the creative process and being willing to create without seeing what might lay ahead - knowing that the next step will ALWAYS present itself to us.

Working with your creative self is a joy. Our creativity is alive, vibrant and life-giving when we know how to work with it.

Working WITH your creative self feels like the opposite of effort. Instead, it is about allowing.

Less thinking, more quiet.
Less trying, more doing what you love.
Less strategizing, more trusting.
Less about the things ‘out there’, more about what’s ‘in here’.
Less ‘building ourselves up’, more ‘knowing we already are’.
Less ‘getting there’, more ‘already here’.

In February, I'm leading a 10 week immersion called 'Meet Your Creative Self'.

We are focusing on our relationship with our creative self, trusting our creative urges (including the urge to share our creative work in the world), and tuning in to our unique creative needs and practices.

What are you being asked to create? What are you being asked to share in the world? And where and how do you do that?

If you can sense YOU already have the answers, and are ready to tap into your innate creative wisdom, this might be for you.
• Private Facebook group
• 10 live sessions (February 3 – April 10)
• Group Messenger chat
• Three 1:1 private calls (20 mins each)
• Cost: 3 x monthly payments of $140
• No payments until 1 February

REGISTER: https://gum.co/meetyourcreativeself

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I'm a Guest Blogger!

I was honored to be asked to write a guest blog post for my friend, fellow Lucky Star camper and writer Keri Wilt (who is featured in chapter 2 of my book A Beautiful Morning and is pictured below).

I have been enjoying Keri’s blog for over two years. She named it FHB and Me because her great-great-grandmother is Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and many other beloved children's classics. I don’t know about you, but I adored those books when I was younger. I re-read The Secret Garden after meeting Keri, and found even more meaning in it as an adult.

As Keri says, she "blows the book dust off [FHB's] inspiring words and legendary life, then mixes them with her personal stories for a multigenerational twist on the everyday." The post I wrote for FHB and Me is titled “Discover the Magic in Your Mornings” and you can read it here. Then take a moment to check out some of Keri’s posts—they are always thought-provoking and inspirational, and I find that they generate a lot of what she calls “head bob moments”! Enjoy!

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Bonus Hours of Bliss

I was writing my morning pages earlier this week (part of my morning ritual and a practice I learned about in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) about how I had “slept in” that day. I had woken up at 8 a.m. For the vast majority of my life, I would have called that getting up early, and now I considered it sleeping in! Such an enormous shift in my thinking has occurred over the past year or so.

As I’ve talked about here before ("How a Morning Ritual Changed My Life," 8/17), when I started improving my sleeping habits in an effort to feel more rested and less irritable, I began to wake up around 7 a.m. without needing an alarm. As long as I had fallen asleep by 11 p.m. the night before, I would feel rested and have plenty of energy all day. Rising a little earlier enabled me to spend that time in peaceful activities that centered me.

I was reflecting on this, and feeling deeply grateful, when something occurred to me. Believe it or not, this was something I hadn’t yet realized. If I used to get up at 9 a.m. most days, and now regularly rose at 7 or 8 a.m., I was gaining at least an hour every day. I was adding time to my life—a minimum of 365 hours each year! THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FIVE HOURS! What?! And I was devoting that time to myself—to stretching, writing, meditating, sitting outside, walking—activities that energized and refreshed me daily. I had reclaimed those hours of unconsciousness and was using them to become more “awake” in my life.

This feels like magic to me, although I know it’s simple math (something that was never my strong suit!). If I live fifty more years, as I hope to, that will be 18,250 additional hours—at least. If I get up at 6… ah, but no. That’s a bridge too far! But 7 a.m. is doable for me on most days, and that would mean up to 730 hours a year, or 36,500 hours over fifty years. Holy cow.

What might you do with an extra hour each day, devoted solely to something that makes you happy? If you aren’t able to wake up any earlier, can you find some “bonus time” during your day—perhaps by cutting down a little on social media or TV?

Even half an hour or fifteen minutes can make an enormous difference in how you feel. Maybe instead of checking your phone, you could check in on yourself: scan your body for any areas of tension, then stretch it out. That can take as little as five minutes—you could fit several of those mini-breaks in throughout the day, and you might be surprised how relaxed you feel afterwards.

Imagine how those extra minutes spent focused on yourself—and the positive changes that will bring—can multiply over the years. Give it a try for a week or two and see what happens!

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Do You Ever Have Trouble Taking a Break?

I have been working very hard on writing a book for about the past five months. The manuscript is now with the editor, and I have turned my focus to the elements of production and promotion. It’s all quite overwhelming, and I feel like my brain is totally fried at this point. What I really need is a break, but I can't seem to give myself one. I feel compelled to keep going, as much as possible every day, so that I can meet my deadline. Since I am self-publishing, it is a completely arbitrary and self-imposed deadline—but I will still feel like a failure if I don't meet it.

On the one hand, I'm proud of myself for persevering in the face of difficulty and mental fatigue. But on the other hand, I seem to have lost the ability to take a break. Each weekend I tell myself I’m going not going to do any work, and then I feel fidgety until I finally give in and so something.

However, we are going to the beach this weekend, and I am not taking my laptop, and I am not taking my notes. I am going to do my very best to put all of this out of my head for three whole days. I know it's going to be a struggle, but I feel like it's necessary for me at this point.

Many people I admire say that doing less is often more productive than pushing through and doing more. I'm going to experiment with that this weekend and hope that they are right! I think a lot of times we put too much pressure on ourselves. A life coach I've worked with named Carla Robertson calls it “SIMU”—“stuff I made up.” I keep thinking all of these things are vital and have to happen right away, when the truth is, they can actually wait.

I hope that you are also able to take a break this weekend from whatever you may be struggling with, or working too hard on. Give yourself some rest and relaxation. I will certainly be trying to achieve that. Ha—I’ll be trying to rest. Sigh. Wish me luck!



How a Morning Ritual Changed My Life

Last Saturday morning I looked at the clock and it was 8:15. I had already written my morning pages, stretched, walked the dog, made breakfast for my son, and fixed my coffee—and I felt good; I wasn’t sleepy or grumpy! This is nothing short of a miracle, let me tell you. At the age of 49, I am sort of becoming a morning person! At least, it’s not torture for me to be up and about before 9 a.m. anymore. I can’t explain what a big deal this is for me, and I’m proud of myself for creating this shift.

My whole life I’ve loved to sleep. When I was a baby my mother used to wake me up to play because she was bored. I regularly slept until noon when I could, up until my thirties! Once I had my son—who did NOT like to sleep—that all came to a screeching halt. I was so sleep-deprived those first few years, I felt like a completely different person. My sweet husband, who has never had trouble rising early, began to get up with our son when he would wake at 4 or 5 a.m. so I could sleep in—and I basically spent the next ten years trying to fill that sleep deficit. I jealously guarded my sleep like a thief hoards his jewels.

But about a year ago, I began to notice that I felt irritable in the morning way too often—as if I’d woken up late and was running to catch up. I also felt tired every day, even when I got nine or ten hours of sleep. I researched possible causes for this in my usual way—reading lots of books and doing endless internet searches. I discovered that my nightly glass of wine was probably keeping me from deep sleep, so I started skipping it—and what do you know? I woke up feeling significantly more rested and less irritable.

But many days I still felt sluggish. I emailed a coach I follow, Sonia Sommer, to ask her advice, and she recommended that I phase out all the vitamins I was taking. I had quite an array—ironically, most of them chosen to give me more energy—and she told me that as we get older, it becomes harder for our bodies to process supplements; we can actually overtax our liver. So I took a break from them and also started drinking dandelion tea, which supports liver function. She also recommended going outside and getting sun first thing in the morning to re-set my biological clock each day, so I began doing that. I added more exercise and committed to being in bed by 10 each night.

Finally, I took a hard look at my mornings. I realized I was hitting snooze until I absolutely had to get up, then jumping out of bed with that adrenalized feeling of being late. I would stumble out to the kitchen, feeling groggy, and race around doing morning chores while I gulped my coffee. It was an awful way to start the day—no wonder I didn’t want to get up! No wonder I was grumpy! I decided to stop hitting the snooze. Rather, I would open my eyes and lie in bed for a moment, stretching and breathing deeply—and consciously NOT thinking about my to-do list. Doing that really made a difference in how I felt.

I started taking my coffee outside, drinking it slowly while I sat with my feet in the pool. I would watch the clouds or the water rippling and listen to the birds and the breeze through the leaves. Again, I wasn’t thinking about what I had to accomplish, just letting my mind rest. 

As I did this for a few weeks, I began to feel much more in control and relaxed in the mornings, and that feeling would last through the day. I started noticing that I would wake up around 7 or 7:30, then make myself go back to sleep if it wasn’t officially time to get up yet. I decided to try getting up whenever I first woke up, just to see how I felt. I was amazed to find that I wasn’t tired at all; as long as I was asleep by 11, I would wake up naturally around 7 or so, and have plenty of energy all day.

I kept doing this, and got into a rhythm of getting up on my own, before my alarm clock. It gave me more time in the mornings, which I decided to spend on myself. I would stay in my bedroom and journal, or try to sit in silence, or do some stretches on the floor—and it made me so happy! I realized I was creating a sort of morning ritual that was helping put me in a positive frame of mind. I was more patient, calmer, and more centered.

In April I began a writing class led by Martha Beck and Elizabeth Gilbert; shortly after it started I was sitting outside with my coffee and I began wondering how they spent their mornings. I figured they must have some sort of amazing ritual, since they are living aligned with their dreams. I thought about other women I knew who were living like that, and wondered about their mornings. I realized it would make a fascinating book—and then I realized I could write it! I was both exhilarated and terrified, all in the same moment. I decided to go for it, because I wanted to share with other women how powerful a morning ritual can be. If I could help even one woman change her mornings for the better, as I had done, it would be worth it.

I committed to writing the book, and am about halfway through it now. I’ve interviewed over a dozen women—including Martha Beck!—and what I’ve learned has been fascinating. I can’t wait to share it with everyone. As it progresses, I’ll keep you updated!

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What beliefs are keeping you from joy?

I’m just going to start. So much mental back and forth! Do I write by hand first to access the “me” within, or start on the computer? Where and when can I find a bit of solitude to concentrate? I want everything to be perfect before I begin; that has held me up before. I want that desk at the window overlooking the rolling hills, with sunshine and birdsong and a perfect cup of coffee steaming by the side of my notebook and freshly sharpened pencil…and a servant to bring me fresh coffee, water, snacks, lunch—oh, and to take care of my responsibilities so I can sit there and be self-indulgent.

Aha! Writing is self-indulgent? Hmmm…is that belief why I never seem to be able to do this? I’m writing for myself and not a client, so I’m not making money, so it has no value. It’s worthless. Because Lord knows, anything that isn’t productive is a waste of time. For Pete’s sake. This is the belief I battle all day, every day, instilled in me by well-meaning but damaged and fearful parents.

Over the last few years as I have accelerated my quest for peace and everyday happiness—or at least most-day contentment—I’ve come up against this bugger a lot. I try to sit in the sun each day to relax after a busy morning. I’ve just been quite productive so I take a short break; yet I feel guilty about it, and often have to make myself. This concept of “filling up our well”—that we can’t give to others if we are not full—I believe this. I’ve definitely experienced it. But I still criticize myself for needing to take those breaks. It is frustrating to be trapped in that loop.

This compulsion to be constantly productive also keeps me from being still and accessing my inner voice. Everything I read tells me that stillness is the key to finding peace and joy. Sitting quietly, calming the mind, and allowing that wise woman at your core to speak up—that will show you the way. In our culture, busy-ness is prized above all else. I’ve read recommendations to schedule alone time into your calendar just like a meeting or an errand, and when someone wants you to do something you say, nope, that’s my time to be quiet. OMG, can you imagine? I have a long way to go before I can say that with a straight face. I do have my son trained not to bother me when I have my headphones on, because I am doing a guided meditation (I do the Abraham-Hicks ones, and I highly recommend them), so that’s a start. And I just started waking up earlier each day to sit in silence for five or ten minutes. I find it’s much easier to do this first thing in the morning, before my mind is fully awake. And by getting up earlier, I’m using “bonus” time, so my inner boss doesn’t berate me for being unproductive. In fact, he’s pretty gleeful that I’m up early. Early bird gets the worm and all that.

Beyond preventing me from reaping the benefits of being quiet, this belief also keeps me busy with life maintenance chores, rather than activities that feed my soul. I would love to spend most of my time reading, painting, or relaxing on the beach, but my Puritan work ethic tells me those are a waste of time, and I can only indulge in them after all the work is done. After all the work is done?! Seriously, tell me, have you ever had even one minute in your life where you thought, “Ah, now ALL the work is done!”?  Ha. So I keep running like a hamster on a wheel, making calls, washing dishes, preparing meals, doing laundry, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (as the King in “The King and I” would say). And unless I consciously CHOOSE to relax, or paint, or write for myself, it simply will not happen. And that, my dears, is how we wake up one day at 48 and think, “WTF? What happened to all of those things I was going to do?”

I have several other belittling beliefs that I’m aware of—and probably a few more that I don’t even realize.  One I’m battling right now is that my writing should flow effortlessly onto the page in glorious complete sentences that need no editing. (If I’m a real writer, that is.) When I write, and it’s not immediately perfect, I get discouraged. I have to give myself permission to write that “shitty first draft” (as Anne Lamott calls it in "Bird by Bird") and know that I will have to do the hard work of editing and polishing. And I’m not lazy if I dread that! It’s hard! I don’t know of any writers who say they relish that process. (Or, come to think of it, any writers who say their sentences flow effortlessly onto the page in glorious completeness!) I think this applies to many areas. My husband, a musician, says he feels the same way when trying to write a song.

Here’s another, major one: that I’m not worthy. This shows up in many ways. I question my writing and think that no one wants to hear what I have to say; it’s not important, it’s not helpful, and it doesn’t matter.  I think a lot of people have that critic inside, whispering (or shouting): “Who are you to write a blog/paint/try for that dream job/speak your truth if it inconveniences others?” This type of self-doubt can be extremely corrosive; feeling this way in one area can spread to others like rust taking over a car until you’re questioning everything you do and denying your dreams.

Have you ever had this feeling? Do you have any beliefs like this that are limiting your ability to chase your dreams—or just enjoy living your life?

We can spend most of our days on autopilot, especially as busy moms, wives, and career women—taking care of others while ignoring our own needs, and allowing unconscious beliefs to run our lives. When you sit down with paper and pen and ask yourself questions like, “What is keeping me from my dreams?” or even “What thoughts do I have that make me unhappy?” you might be amazed at what flows forth. There is a voice inside of us that knows what we need. We just have to make space for her, and politely but firmly tell our mind to take a hike for a little while.