Embracing creativity in business

[This is a guest post from the newly-published and all-round awesome, Jennifer Lee]

One of my favorite childhood snapshots is of me in kindergarten art class donning pigtails and a red apron, with paintbrush in hand. It reminds me that creativity has always been an important part of my life. As a kid, I entertained myself by drawing, painting, and playing make believe.

When I got older, though, I went through a phase of letting the inner critic shut down my inner muse. I compared myself to others so much so that I stopped doing my art. I focused on being a good student, landing a great job, and climbing the corporate ladder. It wasn’t until working with my first life coach back in 2000 that I began to reclaim my creative spirit more fully.

Now as an entrepreneur, I live and breathe creativity everyday. It infuses my work, how I go about my day, and how I express myself personally and professionally. Sure, I’m living my creative passions and dream, but it’s not to say that it’s all bright colors and pretty pictures. The inner critic still gives me a wicked earful, especially when things aren’t going right, I’m overwhelmed, or feeling vulnerable (all of which can be quite often!). Rather than get shut down by that doubt and judgment like I did before, I can continue to put one foot in front of the other because I’ve cultivated a deeper relationship with my inner muse.

For example, when I was pitching my book and writing my manuscript, intuitive painting kept me sane and moving forward. I’d let my frustrations, fear, blocks, and emotional gunk out through painting wild, gigantic, and “ugly” images. It was a safe space for me to explore and work through my own stuff and in turn that helped me to keep on writing.

When it comes to my business, I love inviting in my inner muse to play. I literally surround myself with my Right-Brain Business Plan: my big-vision collage hangs from my bulletin board, my perfect customer profiles are on display in a cool carousel, and the wall behind me is covered with my sticky note project plan to map out my year. (Oh and of course, my kindergarten art class pic is up in my office, too). These visuals keep me inspired and feed my creative spirit. I’m so grateful that I’ve embraced creativity in my business because it gives me permission to be ME, it helps me innovative and, it helps me savor the fruits of my labor.

How does creativity show up for you in your work and life? What are some simple ways you can cultivate a deeper relationship with your inner muse? I’d love to hear!

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Jennifer Lee, the founder of Artizen Coaching and author of The Right-Brain Business Plan, spent a decade climbing the corporate ladder before pursuing her creative dreams. Through her popular workshops, coaching practice, and writing, she empowers others to follow their passions. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be found on Twitter and Instagram (@jennlee).


The power of creative expression

[This is a guest post from the lovely Lisa Field-Elliot]

I went for a walk today. After a morning of squeezing and gripping, going for a walk was the only Big Creative Act that I felt certain I could accomplish.

One foot in front of the other up the trail, the sun warmed my shoulders, a hummingbird zoomed by my face, and still I felt agitated. I turned on my iPod. A song and a voice that I needed to hear played into my ears and I was suddenly quieted. Overcome and crying, actually. Something in me let go.

This is what creative expression does: it takes over the moment of indecision, of headspace and contraction, and it gives movement, voice, productivity, to our emotional inertia. Creativity is the walk in the sun, the words, the images, the food, the sweat, the howl, the sculpted proof that we all need to explain our aliveness. And it connects us; especially those of us born with what can feel like too much. Too much sight, too many pores, too much weight.

Our creative expression is the svaha of our prayers; it is the tossing of masala into the fire. It is the way we balance and find stasis. Sometimes it is just a plea for sanity. Sometimes it feels like a small nod or a wave, sometimes a strike or a glowing accusation to beauty. A dare. An inquisition. A test. A manifesto and a proclamation. An act of desperation, or an offering on a copper plate circled in marigolds. Sometimes it is just stopping to notice our own reflection in the glass-paned door. Whatever it is, creative expression unleashes, gives voice to what we wonder, feel, know, and experience; and it becomes, in the moment of manifestation, the only thing that matters.

Today, as I sat on the edge of the trail and manically one-thumb typed this on my iPhone, I had a moment of relief from my own internal chaos. I was pulled out of the smallness of my story by the creative genius of another, and moved to unburden myself with my own writing. And that, right there, is what I am talking about. I had a few minutes of being overcome and letting go, leading me to epiphany and no-thing-ness. Somehow, I felt connected and part of the will of creation just to flow and not to know. In that moment of creation, I felt joy. And if that isn’t the point of being alive then, quite frankly, I don’t know what is.

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Lisa Field-Elliot is a humanitarian photographer and writer seeking travel, beauty, and connection. She shares her experiences, in words and images, at doorwaystravler.com with the hope of, perhaps, inspiring you to look for doorways to freedom in your own life.

The podcast is finally here!

Well, it took us a wee while to get everything together, but now we have I’m thrilled to announce that our podcast ~ Teaching Online with Integrity & Passion ~ is now available for sale!

Marisa and I have both been teaching online for over two years and along the way we’ve learned how to navigate the hills & valleys this new way of sharing brings. When I first launched Unravelling in January 2009 I knew of only one other e-course in my corner of the blogosphere, so it was trial & error all the way, figuring out the technical side of the course as well as how to manage the burgeoning community (not to mention my shyness on video, now decidedly quashed, as you’ll see in the clip with Marisa.)

Marisa is the super-talented artist behind Creative Thursday and the Life in the Fishbowl e-course, and is undoubtedly one of the most genuine people i have ever met. After a few Skype dates we finally met in person at Squam in 2009 and as time has gone on we’ve discovered we were born 24 hours apart in February 1973 – which is why we’re offering our first podcast under the Aquarian Twins moniker :)

As our courses have grown we’ve received so many emails asking our advice, so we knew it was time to pool our knowledge and get it out there where it can be most useful. The result is our first podcast collaboration: Teaching Online with Integrity & Passion — nearly TWO HOURS of us in conversation, discussing every part of our e-courses, from how we created and launched them to how we promote them and built our reputations.

The package includes the podcast as an MP3 audio file, a full PDF transcript of the podcast to print out and keep and a list of recommended resources.

So if you’ve been thinking about creating your own e-course, and wanted to pick our brains, this podcast is for you! For more details, FAQ and a silly-but-sincere video from me and Marisa, click over to the website here x

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And speaking of online classes, just a quick reminder that registration for the spring session of Unravelling: Ways of Seeing My Self will be opening THIS SATURDAY!

[photo of me & Marisa by the lovely Lisa Field-Elliot]

The everyday and the ordinary

[This is a guest post from the wickedly talented, Mr Michael Nobbs]

I was 32 when I learned to draw. Thirty-two and VERY tired.

At the end of the 1990s I was feeling very ill. I’d been struggling to keep my life together for what felt like years. I was in a cycle of coming down with flu-like symptoms, taking time off work (I was a self-employed writer and publisher so not working meant not earning) for long enough to feel well enough to work again, and then falling ill again. The cycle went round and round in ever decreasing circles until I was ill more than I was well, and eventually just ill. After six months of visiting doctors and consultants I was diagnosed with ME/CFS and told to stop work.

Suddenly I wasn’t a writer and a publisher anymore, I was simply an ill person. For the first few months I mostly rested and spent a lot of time in bed; I watched the world flow by and didn’t feel part of it. The relief I felt at finding out what was wrong with me, and having the stress of trying to fight on lifted, soon changed to frustration and boredom. I began to feel lower than I’d felt when I had been struggling to keep things together.

Then, from nowhere, I decided to pick up a pen and a sketchbook. Not from nowhere exactly. In the long quiet hours of the morning (I tended to wake up very early, I still do) I began to think back over my life, about the twists and turns we all make along the way, and began to wonder how things could have been if I’d made different choices. I remembered how I had looked on longingly at my friends who had decided to study art at school, while I concentrated on more academic subjects. How lovely the sketchbooks they carried around with them looked. How at times I’d even bought sketchbooks of my own — not to draw in, but rather to write, or just stick favourite pictures in.

One day, when I was feeling a little more energetic than usual and had managed to get dressed and clean my teeth, I went to the local art shop and bought myself a sketchbook and a pen. I bought a pen rather than a pencil because I had a vague memory of being told that if you wanted to learn to draw it was better to do so with a pen because you couldn’t rub out the lines, you just had to make them and accept them.

Because I was too tired to go anywhere I began to draw the things right in front of me: teacups, groceries, cooking utensils, my medication. I found I loved drawing the everyday and the ordinary; making a small drawing gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. Drawing helped give me a manageable structure to organise my day around.

I was 32, I had begun to draw and I was a little less tired.

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Michael Nobbs is a full-time artist, blogger and tea drinker (not necessarily in that order). He is the author of the popular blog Sustainably Creative and regularly publishes, The Beany, an illustrated journal of his life. In the late 1990s he was diagnosed with ME/CFS and over the last decade has learned a lot about sustaining a creative career with limited energy. He recently published an ebook on the subject, Sustainable Creativity. He tweets most days about drawing and keeping things simple.