This is day seven of my 30 day challenge of finding, photographing and posting beautiful things. I wanted to stay connected to creative energy...to find beauty and be inspired...to be more aware throughout the typical work week. I think there are a lot of beautiful things in the world but most of the time I don't see them. My intention was for this challenge to be kind of a brain training...find some moment during the day to stop and recognize beauty.
I've been a little bit surprised by how quickly the exercise turned meaningful. Once I started looking around my world to find something beautiful, so much of what I saw became beautiful. Instead of driving from the grocery store or the climbing gym to home to get from point a to point b, or taking a walk in my neighborhood to get that extra mile in, those minutes and miles have become excursions to find beautiful things. The things that I now found beautiful, I had seen a thousand times before, but since I'm now looking for beauty, I'm seeing just that. The historic church with red doors and stained glass. The almost full moon. The not-yet-leafed-out tree against a dusky sky. Two train cars moving quickly down the trestle at Shelby Park. A just opened iris against a turquoise wall. A bonsai tree. These were my picks for the first six days.
I look forward, even in these few days of practice, to taking time to find something beautiful and take a picture of it. Maybe by the end of 30 days I'll be so good at it that it won't have to be so deliberate, but for now I'm happy to be deliberate about it...it's a beautiful thing.
The creative challenge:
Take a picture of something pretty or inspiring every day for 30 days and post it to instagram. That simple.
To fuel creative energy of course!
A creative challenge isn't my original idea. I've read variations on this theme before. Once I read an idea about texting a picture of something representative of your day, to keep in touch with a friend who's moved to another city or state. The idea was to communicate every day in a way that was meaningful instead of letting weeks pass by because you didn't have time to write a long email. One of my closest friends moved far away a few years ago and we tried this for a while. It's not a perfect system...sometimes all we could think to send was a picture of morning coffee or evening beer or a messy desk at work. And yet, it was communication and we were giving each other at least a glimpse of what we were doing. It's the same effect of having meaningful conversation for a few minutes everyday, or most days, with your child's teacher or an employee or neighbor, and seeing that the communication over time becomes far more meaningful than if you have a lengthy conversation every month or two.
My thinking behind this challenge is to continue to look for ways to keep the creative brain active, even when a hectic work schedule or routine chores are in charge of my day. Often I get to the end of Friday and feel estranged from things of beauty and creative energy...argh! Taking a quick picture of something in the world that is beautiful or inspires me I hope will be kind of like setting an intention at the beginning of yoga...something I can go back to when my experience-in-that-particular-moment is anything but beautiful or inspirational. And, maybe, some of those pictures will be the basis for a cool jewelry design or upcycling project...
Here is the link to my instagram feed if you want to see how I do. Join me? Post your pictures of beauty and inspiration in the comment section or in your own instagram feed, but don't forget to post a link to it in the comment section of this post!
I've added a new component to journaling every morning. One thing for which I'm grateful. One good idea. Writing those things down requires that I capture something specific. I often carry a general sense of gratitude...my mom, my kids and I are all healthy, have stable lives, have friends who love us. I live in an amazing neighborhood, in a city that I'm proud of, in a country that offers much (despite the current political circus). I have a job that is meaningful and allows me to spend hours every day with colleagues who are wise and admirable. But sometimes I think I take too much of it for granted. It's good for me to identify one specific person/thing that I'm grateful for and write it down. It helps keep my priorities in check.
Identifying one good idea is important to me for a totally different reason. Sometimes by the end of the work week, I look around inside my brain for creative energy and can't find any...so sad! The morning routine that I wrote about in the last post is so good for reclaiming some productive time. But I realized that productive time is not the same as creative thinking time. I know you know what I mean. Sometimes good ideas are spontaneous. I see something and it triggers an idea that triggers a sketch that triggers a modified sketch that triggers a couple of questions to help shape the idea when it's time for execution. And sometimes good ideas take space and energy and quiet. But it doesn't have to take a copious amount of space and energy and quiet. A few minutes every day is much better than trying to find an extended creative space once a week...it keeps my right brain active.
So, the ideas. Not every idea is spectacular. And to be honest, not every idea is creative, but that is the goal. Here are my good ideas from the past week, as written or drawn in my journal:
This post should not be misconstrued as your guide to time management. I tend to avoid self help advice in steps...Ten steps to the perfect life...Six steps to an incredible relationship...Eight keys to finding the job you've always wanted, etc. I understand that steps or keys or lists are attractive (and I would reluctantly admit that they probably have value) because information is easier to apply in increments. My cynicism about this approach to self help is that it seems to be designed to make it sound easy, more for marketing than reality. I would be more attracted to a list that was titled something like "Fifteen things for you to think about regarding communicating with your significant other that may or may not be helpful in your situation but they were in mine" or "Five things that could help you figure out what your next career step should be"...or, "Five considerations for being happier about how you use your time."
Alas, I digress.
This post is about time and my experience with it, primarily in my ongoing quest for more creative/making time. Time is my best friend and my nemesis--such an inconsistent life partner. It offers me early morning solitude, speeds up its flow as I'm trying to get out of the house on time, slows down again when I'm pretty sure already that the most boring of work meetings will never end, and jumps ahead with no warning when I'm in the middle of the best project ever and all I want is a few more uninterrupted hours...omg, those hours have already passed??! I try to steal some from the night, but soon that dulls my brain so much that whether time is passing quickly or slowly, I'm only able to sit and watch it pass.
I have discovered a few strategies to improve my relationship with time. For me, it has a lot to do with realistic thinking and organization. These are the five things that I've done, with some success, that may or may not be helpful to you:
1. Evaluate habits. As I talked about in an earlier post, I place a high value on morning coffee and journaling time in my big club chair. While I've never been a socially interactive person in the morning, it is my most productive time of day. My house is quiet. My brain is clear and has energy after coffee and some quiet sitting time. So for me the conclusion was: take advantage of morning. I gradually changed from getting up around 7:00 to getting up at 5:30. That involved more than re-setting my alarm though. It also meant I had to re-evaluate my evening after-8:00 habit of watching tv and then reading until 11:00 or later. I'd love to be able to get an hour or two of great work on a pair of earrings done in the evening, but the truth is that I'm simply too tired by 8 or 8:30 most evenings to do anything but decompress. The research that says adults need between 7 1/2 and 9 hours of sleep seems right to me...when I consistently get less than 7 1/2 hrs, my creative thinking goes flat. So, doing the math means that getting up at 5:30 equals going to sleep by 10:00. OK, so watch less tv and read a little. Set an alarm even to cue me when to stop reading. Not too difficult.
2. Schedule. Although I don't want to prescribe every waking moment, I do want to actually take advantage of morning, now that I've appropriated the time. There are mornings that I ride my bike with a friend and mornings when I have to get out of the house earlier for work, but many mornings, I don't leave for the office until 9:00. What I pretty quickly learned is that the 3 1/2 hours between 5:30 and 9:00 would look little different than the 2 hours between 7:00 and 9:00 if I didn't take charge of the time. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with that extra hour and a half--have standing time for a regular meditation practice and spend time either at my bench or writing for this blog. That didn't just magically happen--sigh--I had to schedule it. How much time for coffee and writing? How much time for showering and getting ready for work? How much time gets taken up with the miscellaneous responding to work email, quick clean up of the kitchen, repacking workout bag, making lunch? Having the schedule in my head not only organized the time, but made it easy for me to see where it all went wrong when I was heading out the door at 9:10 and had barely gotten my lunch made much less worked at the bench and meditated!
3. Identify the things that suck up time and decide how important they are to you.
4. Maybe pay for help? I am not an obsessive housekeeper but I'm not very clutter tolerant and general cleanliness seems like a good idea. My happy place is a clean kitchen, clean bathrooms, clean floors and very little clutter. I don't hate cleaning, but it doesn't ever feel like a particularly rewarding use of time either. Last year, one of my best friends from forever and her husband were coming to Nashville from Colorado and would stay at my house for the night. My house was not even up to my normal cleanliness standard and my schedule was not looking good for me to do anything much about it. I plead on our neighborhood Facebook page for someone who could clean on short notice. What I realized was that paying for a really good overall cleaning once a month made it so much easier to maintain in between...well worth the money. This summer I may also hire someone for 3 or 4 hours a week to help do general yard maintenance...give myself back that chunk of the weekend.
5. Be realistic and relax. Be grateful. Not to sound too simplistic or self help-y, but the truth is, there are only 24 hours in any given day. And those are the only hours that I have to spend time with friends and family, sleep, go to work, meditate, drive places, do chores, write, eat, feed my cats, read, work out, and be a creative. Time on any given day may unfold like I want it to or it may not. Sometimes it reminds me that my schedule, in the broader scheme of things, is insignificant; that the world has more important things to attend to than if I got to start on an amazing pair of earrings or pour concrete. Sometimes a day unfolds all easy and beautiful and sometimes all wonky or even hellish. It's still 24 hours for which I wish to be grateful. Life's too short to be anything else.
Hi, I'm Donna. Long time artisan/creative. Full time work in nonprofit world. Mother of two adult sons. Currently, also mother of two cats.
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