The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘summer

How do you renew and refresh yourself? What are the kinds of activities that supercharge you?

Most of the writers I know write a lot. Most write daily.

The creative professionals I know are doing it all, all the time—writing, creating, supporting other creatives, marketing, honing their craft, etc., in addition to living a full life. Demands continue to expand. Many creative professionals I know are skirting the edges of burnout.

A few years ago, I decided to stop waiting for week-long vacations to take a break. Those kind of vacations are great, but for me they usually only came once a year. And, by the time I went on them, I was so mentally and physically fatigued that I usually spent a chunk of it in bed or sick. A bummer! Also, I found myself putting so much emotional energy into ‘having a great time’ that it put unrealistic expectations on the trip.

New research suggests that shorter breaks throughout the year may leave people feeling happier and more productive.

When friends recently invited me to hang out with them, for a few days, at the beach, I jumped at the chance.

I also did something rare for me. I didn’t bring my computer. This was huge! My computer and I are usually inseparable. I’ll often bring it along on a vacation to do creative work.  My amazing partner, Tim, was the one who suggested that I take a break from writing on the computer

Take a break from writing on the computer? The suggestion almost caused heart palpitations. He is a wise man, however, and I decided to follow his suggestion. I old schooled it—bringing a journal and some books.

I love being outdoors in just about any kind of setting, but the beach is the place I unwind the best.

Three nights and four days was a great gift. Hanging with friends, playing games, taking long walks and doing nothing was a balm for my body, mind and spirit.

Filling up the creative well is an important component of living a creative life.


This daybreak beckoned to me. I spent some time drinking in the morning light and then grabbed my journal and started writing.


An amazing flan to end a great day at the beach.


Key Lime Krush, Purple Rain, the Slim Shady and Butterfinger Bash were some of the offerings at the suggestively titled ‘Wake N Bake’ Coffee and Donut Shop. If you’re ever driving through Carolina Beach, check them out.


More offerings from Wake N Bake.

As it turned out, by taking a few days off, I was able to break through on some writing projects that were stuck. I even plotted out what I hope will be a coquel (yes, I made that word up) to my current sci-fi novella, Reenu-You. Our imagination gets all fired up when we experience new things and get out of our typical schedule!

I have never hunted for ‘ghost crabs’ before but a friend suggested we do it one evening. It was so much fun! We flashed our lights on this guy.

Do you have a short break coming up this summer? Where are you going to stock your creative well?


Dedicate v. 1. To set apart for a special use. 2 To commit (oneself) to a course of action. 3. To address or inscribe (e.g., a literary work) to someone. (Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, 2nd ed.)

Spring possibilities are about to cede to summer pleasures. I’ve been ruminating on the importance of spring cleaning for your creating life and have covered the first two steps—reassessment and reorganization. The third step is the most powerful one—rededication. To rededicate ourselves to something we deem as special in our lives strengthens and amplifies our commitment.

Rededicating ourselves to our creative life sends a joyful message to our ‘Creative Self’. Our Creative Self loves to be wooed. Its language includes ritual, ceremony and demonstrative acts of appreciation.


What aspects of the creative life would you like to rededicate yourself to as you move into summer’s rhythms?

Here are some to consider:

I rededicate myself to knowing that my creative work will matter to someone, so I must finish it.

I rededicate myself to owning my creative impulses, even in the face of naysayers and saboteurs.

I rededicate myself to claiming my creativity despite bouts of envy, doubt and fatigue.

I rededicate myself to curtailing the diet of my inner critics, who feed on fear, and instead nourish my Creative Self with periods of rest and play.

I rededicate myself to appreciating my Creative Self’s firework moments and subtle whispers.

I rededicate myself to taking incremental steps to finish my creative projects.

I rededicate myself to looking for support, for my creative work, in new ways. [i.e. critique groups, mastermind groups, creative buddies, mentors, etc.]


Here are some aspects of the writing life that I’m rededicating myself to between now and fall:

I rededicate myself to sending more of my work to professionally paying venues. [I am aiming for paying semi-pro and professional speculative fiction magazines.]

I rededicate myself to naps, a restful schedule, and daydreaming, all of which nourishes my Creative Self.

I rededicate myself to cultivating time for reading.

I rededicate myself to remembering that I am here to seduce and delight the reader.

I rededicate myself to finding ways to make writing fun and feel like a game.

[I discovered word sprints during last year’s NaNoWriMo. I find them to be so fun. How many words can you type in 10 or 20 minutes? Last November, I wrote 7,000 words in about 5 hours using timed sprints (100 words=10 minutes, 200 words=10 minutes (2x), 300 words=20 minutes, 100 words=10 minutes…at the end of an hour, you may have written anywhere from 700-1,000 words). This works very well for messy first drafts.]

I rededicate myself to looking at revision as a way to honor my writing by keeping the right words and setting the rest free for another day.

I rededicate myself to spending time honing my social media presence.

Desire for an idea is like bait. You’re fishing, you have to have patience. You bait your hook, and then you wait. The desire is the bait that pulls those fish in—-those ideas. David Lynch


We just have a few more weeks to go before summer will officially arrive. In March, I began a series on spring cleaning for your creative life. There are three steps in the process:

1) You reassess your space, your schedule, and patterns of mind to see what is supporting or not supporting your creative life.

2) You reorganize your space, schedule, and patterns of minds to allow you to create with more ease.

3) After reassessing and reorganizing, you rededicate yourself to having a productive and joyful creative life!

If you’ve spent some time reassessing your space, schedule and patterns of mind, in connection to your creative life, then you should be in great shape for the next step which is reorganizing.

Reorganizing is an essential component of this process. And, this is where we can get stuck very quickly. In dealing with physical reorganization, if we don’t plan carefully, we’ll leave lots of stuff just laying around.

Besides thinking of what’s working or not working in your physical space, you might also want to evaluate how and when you schedule your creative work. Really, it’s about having a creative rhythm. The word schedule conjures up the endless to-do-list.

Spring and then summer usually bring new rhythms into our life that can support our creativity. We are often making time for fun travel, to being outside more, and to taking much needed breaks and naps. All of this can be used in service of establishing a different creative rhythm.

How can we reorganize our schedule to take advantage of this energy? How do we cultivate the patience and spaciousness of mind so that we catch those wonderful ideas that David Lynch refers to?

Here are some easy tips:

-Move your practice outside for some of this season. If your tendency is always to be tucked away in a home office, take opportunities to write at the beach, at the lake, or at a state park.

-Take more advantage of the longer periods of light this season. Can you rise an hour earlier to shoot your photographs or try writing later in the day during the season’s glorious sunsets?

-Keep an idea journal. This is a place for all your ideas as they bubble up. Give yourself lots of permission to allow this idea journal to be filled with musings that delight you. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to turn these ideas into ones that have to ‘become something’. The idea journal should be a place to have fun and play.

Being able to slow down is one of the gifts of summer. Authors Alan Jones and John O’Neil of Seasons of Grace: The Life-Giving Practice of Gratitude remind us that summer can be a time of ‘sweet rest’: “Sweet rest is not a matter of zonking out. It is not a mere passivity but a kind of passionate waiting in the moment.”

Cultivating ‘sweet rest’ can lead us to a feeling of interconnectedness, a sense of the sacred. How do we get there? Artist and writer Lucy Curran offers us three practices.


Stop, Repeat, and Thank You

When life gets busy, it sometimes feels as if there’s no time for the sacred in the midst of everything else. However, if we rush through life without pausing now and again to ground ourselves and reconnect with our spirit in whatever way we know how, life can begin to lose its luster.

In case this sounds familiar, here are three practices that have helped me reconnect with the sacred in my life. I hope you will find them useful, too!



Peaceful-WomanPausing for a moment to simply breathe can be a revolutionary act of healing and empowerment. I sometimes do a quick body scan: how am I feeling in my body? Are there any places where I am holding tension or where there is discomfort or pain? Without trying to “fix” anything, I bring my awareness to each point of tension in turn, and focus on breathing into each with the intention of creating space and ease there.


It is tremendously powerful to have a positive phrase, vision statement, or mantra that feels sacred and inspiring, and that you can repeat to yourself at least once a day, every day. I have a “personal contract” that I repeat out loud to myself every morning, (while I wash my face!) It goes like this:

“I am loving, kind, and grateful, trusting in my heart and in life!”

I developed this contract as part of a workshop at Wings Seminars in Eugene, Oregon, and I have found it to be tremendously useful. I treat it as a sacred practice, and it serves as a reminder of the person I believe myself to be, and also the qualities that I aspire to live out in my life.



Developing a gratitude practice has been completely transformational for me. I simply write down a list of ten or more things that I am grateful for in my life.  Some days it takes a little longer than others (let’s face it: we all have challenging days from time to time). Eventually, though, writing out the list allows me to shift my focus onto the myriad ways in which things are going well in my life. In other words, the practice helps me remember my true priorities and allows me to focus on the positive.

Making space for the sacred in the midst of daily life is not only important: it’s imperative. Whatever your beliefs or practices, finding a way to reconnect with a sense of the sacred provides energy, healing, and fuel for a better and more impactful life lived from one’s deepest values.

Lucy Claire Curran is a freelance writer and artist living in San Francisco, California.


Twitter: @curran_lucy

Dedicate v. 1. To set apart for a special use. 2. To commit (oneself) to a course of action. 3. To address or inscribe (e.g., a literary work) to someone.  (Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, 2nd ed)

Spring possibilities are about to cede to summer pleasures. I’ve been ruminating on the importance of spring cleaning for your writing life and have covered the first two steps—reassessment and reorganization. The third step is the most powerful one—rededication. To rededicate ourselves to something we deem as special in our lives strengthens and amplifies our commitment.

Weeks ago, I posed a question to writer friends:  What is one thing that you’re doing, giving away, rearranging, reassessing, reorganizing, etc., to support your writing life? Michelle Wotruba, is a ‘day dreaming mommy’, blogger and my online writing buddy. She offered this nugget:

I’m going thru my ‘Magical Maybe’ folder and seeing what is really in there.

The ideas that I’m no longer interested in I’m tossing.

The ideas that I like I’m setting “mini coffee dates” to start on them; if by the end of that date I haven’t done anything but drink my coffee, I’m going to toss those.

I’ve realized some ideas I like but now I’m looking at them in a fresh way. Those are the ideas I’m going to start with; we’re skipping the coffee and going on a “dinner and a movie date.”

I’m always looking for new ideas in my “Magical Maybe” folder; I usually save those for a dessert date but not always.

I just love Michelle’s ‘Magical Maybe’ folder (and wish I had one!). Michelle’s comment suggests that we periodically sort through ideas, concepts, and themes, rededicating ourselves to the ones with the most juice.

Rededicating ourselves to our writing life sends a joyful message to our creative self. Remember, our creative self loves to be wooed. Its language includes ritual, ceremony and demonstrative acts of appreciation.

Here are some areas of my writing life that I’m rededicating myself to this summer:

I rededicate myself to using the most routine occurrences as story generators.

I rededicate myself to cultivating delight in the writing process.

I rededicate myself to finding new ways to dialogue with inner resisters, critics, evaluators, judges and committee members and either work with them as allies or assign them to a different job.

I rededicate to asking ‘what if?’ and then daring myself to come up with an answer!

I rededicate myself to looking at revision as a way to honor my writing by keeping the right words and setting the rest free for another day.

I rededicate myself to asking daily, ‘What wants to come forth in my writing’?

I rededicate myself to becoming educated about the changing nature of publishing.


As you move into summer’s rhythms what areas of your writing life would you like to rededicate yourself to?


At the close of the summer, I’ve been rummaging through several journals containing writing from the past year. At the end of a writing workshop last December, my instructor gave us a stimulating prompt. The prompt was: ‘The writer I was meant to be’ and we had ten minutes to free write about it. I wrote the following:

“The writer I was meant to be writes with the courage and sophistication of James Baldwin
-the irresistible beauty of Gish Jen
-the depth of Ursula Le Guin
-the creativity of Ntozake Shange
-the honesty of Alice Walker
-the fearlessness of Walter Mosley
-the precision of Sheri S.Tepper
-the humor of Jonathan Lethem

The writer I was meant to be encompasses the qualities of writers I admire above. It [a writing career] takes craft, training, persistence and subtlety. I’m still working on it! I’ve written probably under a 100 beautiful pitch perfect sentences in my fiction (even though I have written a lot!). Hmm, maybe a new goal for 2011?”

In the ensuing discussion, everyone shared remarkable insights about the distance between the ‘writer that they were meant to be’ and ‘the writer they were’ at that moment. We bemoaned and laughed about this distance and congratulated ourselves for what we had already accomplished. After I left the workshop, I thought about that ‘100 beautiful sentences’ line. I made an intention for 2011. I wanted to generate a lot of writing, but also aim to craft more beautiful sentences. I felt this was a worthy goal. I haven’t gone through all of my writing this year and evaluated how many beautiful sentences I’ve crafted. But, I know that holding this intention during the last ten months has helped me pay more attention to the quality as well as quantity of my writing. And, I’ve found myself writing more poems, a pleasant surprise, and enjoying using language in fresh ways. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Stanley Fish’s provocative and helpful How to Write a Sentence (and How to Read One). It is a spirited meditation on sentence craft. I highly recommend it.

So, as fall approaches and we turn naturally inward, I pose to you these free writes: ‘The writer I was meant to be…’.Try that for ten minutes and then try ‘The writer I am right now at this moment’ for ten minutes. Compare the two lists and reflect on patterns, similarities, differences, challenges and opportunities.

And, finally have you written 100 beautiful sentences this year? Is that an interesting or worthy goal for you? To answer this question might mean making some time to pour over your journal entries, blog posts and other writings. I see you curled up in comfortable warm clothing, as the leaves are turning outside, with a cup of soup near by and lavishing attention on your prose.

These exercises might seed something in you that ripens later this year or in 2012.

I’d love to hear your reflections.
Photo Credit: Ismoyo’s Vintage Playground

Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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