Someone recently asked me why I created The Artist’s Way Creative Cohort.
In a word: community.
It’s the one thing every creative must have and it’s not that easy to come by.
Working from home, I often hanker for authentic connection with fellow creatives instead of the constant promotion and posturing on social media. But I’m strongly introverted and can’t handle much in-person networking.
Traditional networking doesn’t work that well for women anyway. As Daniëlle van de Kemenade writes, women connect best with each other when they focus on personal growth, not self-promotion.
Having slogged through the ashes of creative burnout—sadness, regret, anger, frustration, blocks, and limiting beliefs—and made it to the other side, I also know how important it is to have someone along for the ride.
And for someone who’s always wanted to engage her creativity, but never seems to make the time or is afraid to take that next step, having a support network is the key missing piece. I know that, too, because there’s a frustrated artist (or two) in my life.
Maybe you can relate.
I’m talking about a woman who loves art and relishes spending time with creative folks, but doesn’t create anything herself.
She says she’s too busy or isn’t that creative while secretly wishing she could pick up a new hobby or artistic outlet, maybe something simple like coloring.
Whenever she gets too close to that dream, someone in her life puts a wrinkle in her plan and a furrow on her brow by suggesting that she’s wasting her time or money. And so she gives up before she’s even begun.
That other person probably even means well. He may have her best intentions at heart. But he’s not her and so he can’t really say whether it’s in her best interest to color or sew or stand up for open-mic night.
Only she can determine that. Taking a stand for her creativity may make her feel a bit uncomfortable. Or incredibly vulnerable. She, too, needs a support system.
That’s why I created The Artist’s Way Creative Cohort. I wanted to share my creative process with fellow creatives and reap the rewards of having a creative community: camaraderie, connection, and collaboration with like-minded women who offer each other support and accountability.
If you’re looking for creative community, too, I hope you’ll join us. To learn more, click over here.
Whether you think you’re creative or not—spoiler: you are!—you need one or more creative outlets. Increasingly, research shows that engaging in creative activities improves your health and happiness.
Creativity sits at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, nestled among the self-actualization needs that help you realize your full potential. By listing creativity as a self-actualization need, Maslow was suggesting it is something you can address only once you’ve met certain baseline needs, from food, shelter, health, and safety, to love and acceptance.
New research suggests that Maslow might be wrong, however. Having a creative outlet may, in fact, be an essential ingredient to a happy and healthy life.
According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, “Engagement with creative activities has the potential to contribute toward reducing stress and depression and can serve as a vehicle for alleviating the burden of chronic disease.”
Clinical neuropsychologist Catherine Carey Levisay adds, “There’s promising evidence coming out to support what a lot of crafters have known anecdotally for quite some time, and that’s that creating—whether it be through art, music, cooking, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, cake decorating—is beneficial to us in a number of important ways.”
- Creating gives you a sense of purpose. “Imagining and creating give us a sense of purpose,” says educator, author, and founder of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group Tony Wagner. “If you lack those things, a pervasive sense of emptiness becomes [your] default. The great seduction later in life is that many of us fill the vacuum with false friends, material things, and medication, legal and otherwise.”
- Making time for creativity gives you a sense of power. Scheduling time for yourself to engage in creative outlets also gives you a sense of power over your life, increasing positive feelings.
- Scheduling your creativity ensures follow through. By committing to something on a regular schedule such as a dance class or artist date, you ensure that you’re making time for yourself and experiences you enjoy—a critical element of life satisfaction.
- Creative engagement increases mindfulness. Engaging in creative outlets forces you to remain present and focused on the task at hand, relieving you of any anxiety and stress you may have brought to the experience. It’s a simple form of mindfulness training anyone can experience.
- Creative outlets lower stress. Similar to other forms of mindfulness, including meditation and yoga, creative pursuits have been found to lower blood pressure, the stress hormone cortisol, and your body mass index.
- Creativity boosts your mood. Biologically, when you engage in an enjoyable pastime, the reward center in your brain releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant. As a bonus, seeing your finished work reminds you of the creation process, invoking added positive feelings after the fact.
- Creative accomplishment boosts self-esteem. Completing a creative project, particularly one that tested your abilities, offers a sense of accomplishment that leads you to believe you can accomplish other new things, thus boosting your self-esteem.
- Joining a creative community offers kinship and support. Engaging in a regular creative activity, particularly a class, also offers an opportunity to expand your circle of creative friends, finding kinship and support.
- Creative pursuits may ward off aging. Learning new things, particularly creative outlets that involve many areas of your brain, “can improve reasoning skills and the brain’s processing speed for up to 10 years after said training has been completed,” a recent clinical trial revealed.
- Engaging in creative activities makes us happy! Last but not least, we have to remember that “creating helps make people happier, less anxious, more resilient and better equipped to problem-solve in the face of hardship,” Amanda Enayati shares.
Being happy leads to even more positive benefits. As psychologist and author Richard Wiseman writes in 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, “Happiness makes people more sociable and altruistic, it increases how much they like themselves and others, it improves their ability to resolve conflict, and it strengthens their immune systems.
“The cumulative effect means that people have more satisfying and successful relationships, find more fulfilling careers, and live longer, healthier lives.”
Creativity: Making lives healthier and happier since the dawn of time. Another interesting finding from Wiseman’s book is that intentional change is a key to maximizing your happiness. While circumstantial change, such as getting a raise or buying a new car, makes us temporarily happy, intentional change results in longer-lasting happiness.
Since the new year is almost upon us, start thinking about cultivating a new hobby, beginning a new project, or joining a creative community. Let me know what’s in your cards in the comments.
Do you feel burned out or out of touch with your creative spirit? Are you ready to conquer the blocks standing in the way of your new creative life? Join me for The Artist’s Way Creative Cohort, a 6-month creativity workshop and community for creative women. Registration is now open!
A couple of weeks ago I shared the story of my creative burnout and recovery. If you read that post, you’ll recall how instrumental Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, was to my process.
I’ve heard the same thing from many, many others and so, today, I’m announcing a new program for 2016, The Artist’s Way Creative Cohort.
What is The Artist’s Way Creative Cohort?
A 6-month program, The Artist’s Way Creative Cohort helps you rediscover and recover your creativity within a small community of like-minded women.
How does it work?
The program is run online, using live video conferencing over the Internet.
With Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way as a guide, we meet every two weeks to discuss creative blocks and tools for overcoming them, sharing our personal experiences and journeys in small break-out groups and in the main session.
Between calls, we keep in touch through a private 24/7 Facebook group.
Who’s it for?
Anyone who wants to practice the art of creative living will benefit from this program, including professional artists, hobbyists, and non-artists who want to become more attuned to their creative spirit. No artistic experience is required.
Limited spots are available (just 12 total) so, if this sounds right up your alley, please mark your calendar and hop onto this list to receive a reminder when registration opens next week.
When does it start?
The Creative Cohort begins January 28th and runs through June 30th, 2016. Participants who register by the end of 2015 also receive a free bonus call in July.
The New Year is such a beautiful time to begin this kind of personal development work. Following the busy holiday season, a new year provides time to get in touch with what you really want and to start making the changes necessary to bring your ideal life into being in 2016.
Are you as excited as I am for to join a creative community that will provide support and accountability—in a safe, non-judgmental environment—as you reconnect with your creative spirit? I hope so!
If you have any questions about this exclusive opportunity, please let me know in the comments or drop me a line.
The other day, Mr. Watson expressed some doubts about his career. I knee-jerkingly replied, “Are you kidding? You’re a rockstar.” And he is, by my definition: He holds four patents, is one of a small number of non-PhDs ever to work at HP Labs, and is now a principal software engineer at a funded startup.
“I’m allowed to have moments of doubt,” he said.
“Of course you are,” I responded. “You’re allowed to feel any way you want, but is that how you really want to feel?” It’s so much easier to see someone else’s stuff, isn’t it?
The point is, we all have voices in our heads that tell us we aren’t good enough. I call these voices gremlins and they can do a real mind trip, can’t they? They know exactly what to say to undermine our progress.
Gremlin is just one name for these voices. When I Grow Up Coach Michelle Ward calls them vampires. Author and founder of the Playing Big leadership program Tara Mohr calls them inner critics. Whatever you call them, they’re all manifestations of self-doubt that lead to self-sabotage by convincing us that we’re not worthy to have what we want.
Researcher and author Brené Brown says our gremlins’ messages take two forms, either “you’re not good enough” or “who do you think you are?” Both keep us playing small, the first by reminding us that we’re not going to make it anyway and the second by belittling the wisdom and value we do have.
In her book Playing Big, Tara Mohr devotes an entire chapter to the inner critic. Through it, she shares the differences between the irrational voice of your inner critic and the realistic thoughts you might have instead. Among them:
- Your inner critic is mean, biting, and repetitive. It might, for example, say “You’re just not smart enough… You’re not smart enough… You really aren’t smart enough” despite any objections you voice. When you’re thinking more rationally, you’re better able to consider alternatives and seek solutions such as, “Maybe I don’t know enough yet, but I can learn.”
- Your inner critic makes definite pronouncements while a rational response would entail asking yourself such questions as, “How could I accomplish this?”
- Your inner critic employs black-and-white thinking whereas your realistic self is comfortable with complexity and gray areas.
- Your inner critic may be based on something said to you in the past, perhaps by a parent or teacher or conveyed through societal expectations, whereas your rational voice is generally a calmer, wiser version of you.
Your inner critic or gremlins aren’t really trying to hurt you; they’re there to protect you. Of course, because they keep you from pushing yourself or exposing your vulnerabilities, listening to them may keep you from ever reaching your goals.
8 Tricks for Tackling Your Gremlins
When your gremlins are biting, here are some ways to respond:
- Breathe. First, take a deep breath, focusing on your full inhalation and exhalation. Doing so helps to bring you back to the present and re-centers yourself.
- Acknowledge. Observe that your gremlins are biting. Rick Carson writes in the book, Taming Your Gremlin, “Don’t grapple with your gremlin. Simply notice him or her fully, and then choose to redirect your awareness—or not.”
- Redirect. As Rick Carson suggests, you might need to move on to something else—to redirect your focus—but beware that this can get in the way of accomplishing something important, if you let it.
- Thank them. Tara Mohr writes, “One of my favorite things to say back to my own inner critic…is: ‘Thanks, but I’ve got this one covered.’” She emphasizes her “thank you” is offered in sincere appreciation for her gremlin’s attempt to keep her from embarrassment or failure.
- Change the narrative. As I wrote in last week’s post, sometimes you need to give yourself a pep talk. Consciously engage in positive self-talk, not responding to the gremlins per se but change the narrative and open yourself to seeing new possibilities. For example, if your gremlin says, “You’re a fat slob,” instead say, “Ok, I want to lose some weight; how can I do that?”
- Revisit the love. Read notes of encouragement or gratitude you’ve received in the past. If you keep a win book, as Michelle Ward recommends, you’ll have all of these lovely notes as well as reminders of your prior accomplishments in one place, which makes it easy.
- Analyze it. Brené Brown recommends that you write down the message and then later ask yourself if it’s true. As I shared last week, writing down your thoughts gets them out of your head and onto paper, where you can review them rationally and thoughtfully.
- Rebut. Michelle Ward suggests that you can go one step further by writing down rebuttals, as if you were an attorney arguing in a court of law. While no one suggests that you attempt to rebut the gremlins in the midst of an attack, it can help change your long-term perspective and narrative when you take note of the messages you’re telling yourself and determine whether they’re fair, true, and helpful.
Remember, your gremlins aren’t here to harm you—even if some of their messages arose from unpleasant experiences. Your gremlins are simply voices that keep you in your comfort zone. Once you realize they come from a place of self-protection, you’ll have the power to accept or move past them.
Brené Brown has a sign in her office that reads, “Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love.” I’d go a step further and say, “Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a beloved child.”
Don’t we all have a part of ourselves that’s still a scared, overwhelmed child? Be kind to her.
For additional resources on gremlins/inner critics/vampires, check out:
This post is part of the Weeks of Self blog series, hosted by Theresa Destrebecq of Thrive Within.
We all have voices in our heads. No, I’m not talking about multiple personality disorder. I’m talking about self-talk.
What is Self-talk?
Self-talk provides the narration for our human experience, it’s the stream-of-conscious thoughts that flit through our minds and help us understand our reality. Notice that I didn’t say it narrates reality. As Michael A. Singer writes in The Untethered Soul, “Your consciousness is actually experiencing your mental model of reality, not reality itself.”
Sometimes the voices in our heads relay facts or observations such as: “Oh, I was supposed to call Bob today. I could call him now, but I don’t have my hands-free set. I suppose I’ll have to call him when I get home. I don’t really want to talk to him now…but I need to do this. It’s the responsible thing to do.”
Sometimes the voices praise us, “Yeah, I rocked that presentation! That was awesome.”
And sometimes the voices turn downright nasty, “Well that was colossally stupid. I just made a huge fool of myself…”
Recently my self-talk has been dominated by Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s” lyrics and flashes of business insight at 3am, when I’d prefer to be asleep. I know you know what I’m talking about.
Because self-talk illustrates our mental model of reality, it can be a powerful self-discovery tool. Our self-talk points to our immediate, subconscious responses to experiences; reflects deeply held beliefs about ourselves and the world; and has a significant impact on how we feel and behave.
How to Become More Aware of Your Self-Talk
To learn more about yourself through your self-talk, first you must notice what the voices are saying. We each have thousands of thoughts per day, so many that we may be unaware of most of them. Paying attention to our self-talk is thus an exercise in mindfulness. I’ve found three methods that help in observing my mental chatter:
Meditation. Designed to help you achieve mental peace, meditation is an excellent way to observe your self-talk—because your mind will fight to distract you.
When you first start meditating, you might try to silence your thoughts by focusing on your breath, but those sneaky voices often pop in anyway. As they do, you can acknowledge them and move back to your breathing then, once meditation has finished, make a note of what thoughts sprang to mind.
Regular meditation also provides a key to managing your self-talk by helping you learn to not react to every thought in your head and instead to watch detachedly, as if from a distance.
Exercise. Have you ever gotten into the flow of exercise and become more conscious to your thoughts? My husband swears by running for this purpose. There’s something about the rhythmic, repetitive motion that distracts enough of his brain so that he can be more aware of his underlying thoughts.
I’ve found this to be true for myself through yoga and walking. Focusing on the movement of my body calms my mind to the point where I become more attuned and better able to observe my thoughts. The secret to reaching this state is to exercise alone and without distractions. Sorry, iPod.
Journaling. My favorite way to observe my self-talk is through journaling. Since 2010, I’ve written morning pages, three pages of handwritten, stream-of-conscious notes each day. I also kept a journal for many years before that.
Writing down your thoughts, especially first thing in the morning or when your mind is going a million miles per minute, helps you see your mental models, the stories you tell yourself to make sense of the world. Having these thoughts written down also gives you a leg up on the second part of this work, managing your self-talk.
How to Manage Your Self-Talk
Once you’ve developed a habit of observing your self-talk, you can determine if it is positive or negative, empowering or disempowering. When I first started, mine was profoundly negative. It was only because I became aware of that, though, I was able to change it.
Question it. When you’re observing your thoughts, you can ask yourself: Is this fair, true, and helpful? Do I want to believe this message?
If it helps you, great! You can work to strengthen positive self-talk by acknowledging it. If your thoughts aren’t so helpful, knowing this will provide the impetus to make needed changes.
Pep it up. You can change inherent self-talk by giving yourself a pep talk. Admittedly, this doesn’t work too well when you’re in a negative spiral and is best attempted when you’re nervous and need to psych yourself up for a strong performance.
When I photographed my first few weddings, for example, I had the following conversation with myself as I drove to the event: “You’ve got this, Kate! You’re a good photographer. You’re going to stay in the moment, focus on what’s happening around you, see the shot, and capture it.” Sometimes I’d even say this out loud for emphasis.
According to psychologist Bridgett Ross, what I did was a combination of motivational and instructional self-talk, not only encouraging myself but providing specific action steps to accomplish my goal. The combination of the two is stronger than motivational words alone.
Rewrite your story. One more way to improve your mental state and related self-talk is by working with positive affirmations. I’ve written about affirmations before so I won’t go into too many details here. To create affirmations that work, remember to phrase them in the positive, focus on the present tense, and keep them believable. If no part of you believes what you’re peddling, your mind will ignore it or worse, scoff at it.
Next week I’m going to delve a bit deeper into self-talk and tackling your gremlins, those nasty voices that kill your spirit and undermine your progress. Until then, enjoy the next Weeks of Self post, going live on Wednesday from Sara Yao.