Jan 122011

“2011 probably won’t be the year I lose weight,” writes fellow blogger and BBEST member Myfanwy Hart in her blog, Chittle Chattle. “2011 will be the best that I can make it, and the best that I can make it for people around me.  I’ve joined up to the ‘post a day’, so I’m hoping it will also be the best blogging year too.  (All I need now are some readers),” Myfanwy concludes.

I must admit that I feel very much the same. Though weight loss is always a goal of mine (after all, I am a WeightWatchers® Online member), I have decided it’s not the end of the world if every day is not a perfect day. And this applies to other areas of my life, too. If I have any resolution at all in 2011, it is to balance family, volunteering and creativity—to create a saner year than the previous one by investing more time in creative pursuits, which definitely took third place last year.

“Be creative, in your own way, every single day,” writes Danielle, Etsy’s Seller Education Coordinator in Fearless Creativity. “Schedule it. Make yourself. Sounds boring and counterintuitive, but you’ll never live up to your full creative potential without practice.”

Creativity, like any other pursuit, must be practiced on a regular basis in order for it to be productive. Noah Scalin, the author of 365: A Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!, writes, “A daily project is like a marathon. It’s a ridiculously daunting task, but making an original creation every day gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment. It also forces you to push beyond your mental and physical barriers (especially the ones you’ve erected for yourself). You’ll be amazed at what you produce and what you learn about yourself in the process.”

If you have ever read Julia Cameron‘s books about creativity, then you are probably also familiar with her daily writing exercise known as “morning pages.” Every day, a writer takes 20 to 30 minutes out of the day to write three pages non-stop, without editorializing, about anything that comes to mind. This practice exercise has a way of opening the creative floodgates for any artist, not just writers. In fact, it is the act of regularity itself (which in some ways sounds like it is the opposite of innovation) that cements the creativity habit. And there are many ways in which you can practice the habit of creativity, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly. To do so as successfully as you can, keep the following five tips in mind:

  • Make it bite-size. Instead of vowing to take on an enormous, mind-boggling project, break the project down into manageable chunks of time. If all you have of uninterrupted time is 10 or 15 minutes, make those minutes work for you. Ahead of time, organize your tools and materials so that you can be as efficient as possible during the time you have. “Usually there are just a few minutes here or there—10, 20, or 30 minutes, maybe—if I’m really lucky,” writes television host  Nancy Zieman of Sewing With Nancy in her book, 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew. “These precious minutes are a dose of sanity in a far too hectic world,” she adds.  A little bit of planning, in other words, can go a long way.

Estate SALE destash sewing notions in RED and GOLD, by Pruit Supply

Lotus Flower Pincushion, by Asian Expressions

  • Keep it fresh. Learn something new all the time. Challenge yourself to tackle the unexpected. If sculpture is your strength, try writing a poem. Take a sketching class down at the local art center, learn how to make a bracelet at a bead shop, or pick up a book at the library to teach yourself macrame. The point is to expose yourself to new outlooks and approaches. You never know what new ideas will emerge and spill over into other areas in which you are already creative. Liv of The Filigree Garden on Etsy, for example, has been taking weaving lessons, even though on Etsy she is known as a talented jewelry designer. You can read about her weaving adventures on her blog, The Filigree Garden. When Pat O’Neill originally opened a shop on Etsy as Precious Quilts, her interest was in needlework and sewing, but as she explored different forms of art, color and texture, she encountered encaustic painting. This became her new passion, leading to a new shop on Etsy called Art in the Wax. Keep in mind that yesterday’s so-called errors may become tomorrow’s innovative inventions.

Is it a scarf or…, by Olivia Herbert

Lunar Castles – ACEO – encaustic Artist Trading Card, by Art in the Wax


  • Make yourself accountable. Join a group and report back to members, blog about your progress, or keep a creativity journal. Kym of Fabric Fascination, for example, started the 52 Weeks Challenge, which involves group members posting links to photos of completed projects. “Challenges are always more fun when you have company,” writes Kym. If you conduct a Google search using the phrases “create every day” or “creative challenge,”  in fact, you will find many similar group efforts. My own week’s contribution to this challenge is shown below.

Black Crochet Scarf, by Judy Nolan

  • Build on a theme, and play with it. Do you feel like you’re at a creative standstill? Then experiment with themes related to shape, color, or even the materials with which you work. Ask yourself what if, how can I, and why not questions. For example, a potter might ask herself how she can use the same shape in different ways. Ceci of Artsielady does this successfully with leaf shapes, producing such items as leaf tea bag holders, nested leaf plates, and a leaf candy dish.

Leaf Tea Bag Holder, by Artsielady

Leaf Nesting Plate Set, by Artsielady

Maple Leaf Candy Dish, by Artsielady

  • Don’t try to be perfect. Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb after many so-called failed attempts, said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  This is the attitude with which you should approach creative endeavors. Treat every artistic experiment as a learning experience. Keep a log book of ideas and creative journeys, learn from everything, good and bad, and move forward. Myfanwy of Sassa Lynne, for example, keeps meticulous records of all her dyeing experiments, which you can read about in her blog, Nuvo Felt. Through experimentation, in fact, Myfanwy develops one-of-a-kind dyed threads that she calls her “Serenpidity” collection and which form the basis of her shop.

Dyeing Records of Myfanwy Hart

Perle Fine Yarn, 5 pack (Apple, Lime, Peach), Serendipity, by Sassa Lynne

Other creative challenge sites that may interest you include:

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.

Sep 132010

Welcome to this edition of the EtsyBloggers Blog Carnival. EtsyBloggers participating in September 10th’s Blog Carnival were invited to select one of the topics below, and to write a post about it:

Topic 1: Are you in the first quarter of your life (up to age 25), second quarter of your life (up to age 50), or 3rd quarter (beyond age 50)? Describe your goals and dreams for your current “quarter.” How have they changed over time?

Topic 2: Describe someone who influenced the person you are today, or who motivated you to do something. Explain how this is so. Is this a positive or negative?

Below is a roundup of links for EtsyBloggers who participated in this Blog Carnival. Please feel free to visit each blog and leave a comment. You will also wish to check out the wonderful products in each blogger’s Etsy shop.

Thank you for visiting this edition of the EtsyBloggers Blog Carnival. Submit your blog article to the next edition of EtsyBloggers using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

© 2010 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Sep 102010

According to Richard N. Bolles, author of the What Color Is Your Parachute? series, the traditional view is that life falls into three boxes that we might think of as the world of education, the world of work, and the world of retirement, with people spending most of their time working, and less time being educated and retired. The problem with these boxes, of course, is that they make us feel as if we are boxed in, that we can’t behave during one part of our life the way that people expect us to behave during another part of our life. Thankfully, this traditional view of life has been changing over time.

People over the age of 50 frequently return to school, sometimes formally, sometimes not. At the Senior College of Des Moines, for example, test-paper-and-grade-free courses for students age 50 and up are taught by college-level professors. One of the classes taught at Senior College led to the development of the Final Act Ensemble, a senior group that performs classic and original radio plays, including commercials, at the Des Moines Playhouse, the Iowa State Fair, and other venues around the state of Iowa.

On a more global level, adults of any age can pursue life-long learning through TED, a small non-profit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading,” bringing together the worlds of technology, entertainment and design by inviting speakers from around the world to present their ideas at twice-annual conferences. These speaker events, dubbed TedTalks, are available online as podcasts and videos. In the video below, for example, which is distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 license, Sir Ted Robinson asks his audience to consider whether schools kill creativity.

Pope John Paul II eliminated one of the traditional “three boxes of life” by never entering retirement. When he was still a parish priest and auxiliary bishop of Kraków, when he might have been expected to spend his time working, not pursuing leisurely interests, he wrote poems under the pseudonym of Andrzej Jawien. The economy, of course, contributes to delayed entrance into the work force, often prolonging formal education for students who cannot find employment. The same economic conditions encourage shorter careers through involuntary retirement, but there are also those who choose early retirement in order to pursue creative efforts and/or philanthropic causes.

The factor that seems to play the biggest role in determining how much control anybody has over any role he or she desires, however, is not age, but health. In Aging in the Lord, the late Sister Mary Hester Valentine, S.S.N.D., writes, “All of us know people younger than we who are much frailer, and an equal number of older people who seem endowed with limitless energy that we no longer have.” Health issues notwithstanding, it seems that there are not really three boxes of life, but perhaps four, which historian Peter Laslett describes as the Four Ages of Life:

  • First Age, characterized by dependence, immaturity and socialization
  • Second Age, characterized by independence, maturity and responsibility
  • Third Age, characterized by flexibility, freedom and fulfillment
  • Fourth Age, characterized by dependence, decrepitude and death

As I ponder these discussions that attempt to frame who we are at various stages of our life, it seems to me that many of us go back and forth between stages. A 20-something adult who finishes college and finds work often relocates to an apartment, but then returns home to live with parents if the job is lost. A parent may work full-time  in the traditional workforce (i.e., work for an employer) for a while, and then pull back to stay home, either to parent children, or to pursue alternatives.

In my own case, I feel as if I am dwelling in a No Man’s Land between Laslett’s Second and Third Ages. We recently shed some responsibilities (Second Age) when our only son and child got married (see slide show HERE), but at the same time we are still seated deeply in the Second Age through our involvement with my elderly father’s care.  But . . . both my husband and I also dwell in the Third Age of our lives, chronologically and in spirit.

During the first quarter of my life I did as most of my peers did: secured an education, formed friendships that came and went, and gradually cut the apron strings that bound me to my parents. The second quarter of my life was spent with my husband far away from our parents and most of our relatives as we learned how to survive on our own, started a family, and pursued careers—my husband as an employee, and myself as both a traditional employee and a business owner.

But now, in the third quarter of our lives, we have a certain degree of freedom that we did not have even a couple of years ago. We both feel strongly about giving back to society, so we volunteer as state Board members of Students for a Creative Iowa, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote creativity, teamwork, and problem solving abilities in Iowa students. To achieve that end, this organization has selected and administrates the Destination ImagiNation program. We are also involved in Iowa’s National History Day program as volunteer judges.

On a personal level, however, John and I agree about the importance of identifying one’s interests and talents, and combining them in a productive way. For me that means writing and beginning to publish my work in different venues; I published my first poem at age 45, developed and taught an after-school enrichment program for gifted students for about five years, and am now blogging regularly. For most of my life, I have enjoyed producing a wide variety of handmade items, which I began entering in Iowa State Fair competitions some years ago and finally began selling in the handmade goods marketplace called Etsy, beginning in January of 2008. Finally—and for me this is perhaps most important—I have vowed to be open to change and new learning always. Those of you who have followed me from my first Blogger efforts to this Web site, for example, have seen me grow in my Web publishing skills.

I imagine that John E. Nelson and Richard N. Bolles, who wrote What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement, would identify my core values as self-direction, achievement, and benevolence, but I would call it developing my talents, applying my creativity and volunteering. In the end, I cannot agree more with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, who writes in The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50 about the joy of experiencing what she calls confessional moments. “These are moments when our faces light up,” she says, “when there is a palpable surge of energy and we begin to reveal stories about learning something new.” When you learn something new, when you can create something new, when you can share with others your passion, it’s a good day.

© 2010 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.