Scare Up Some Creativity

Goblins, ghouls and spilled glitter aren’t the only things we fear. The death-stare of a blank page can make any writer go numb.

So how do we unmask the fear of our own attempts at creativity?

First, it helps to put fear in its place. Here’s some perspective from one of my all-time favorite humans. >

Along that same train of thought, I’ve heard that “fear doesn’t actually stop death, it stops life.”

That’s a pretty powerful statement. And why would we want to do that to ourselves? Why would we stop ourselves from truly living and expressing the creativity that’s inside of us?

If we’re being totally honest, there’s probably a long list of reasons. And some of them might look like this:

  • I could fail.
  • My ideas could suck.
  • People could think I’m stupid and have no original ideas.
  • I could lose credibility as an artist or writer.

The key word in all of those scenarios is “could”. We don’t know for certain that any of this is true. For now, it’s all in our head.

So, isn’t it just as likely that our list could turn out like this:

  • I could succeed.
  • My idea could be awesome.
  • People could think I’m super creative and full of original ideas.
  • I could gain the confidence of those around me and have a giant fan club.

Yes. The pendulum could most definitely swing in that direction.

If we define fear for what it really is: False Evidence Appearing Real, then maybe we can muster the courage to face our creativity. Surrender ourselves to the process. Allow ourselves to take a chance and let go of the outcome. Even if a project or storyline doesn’t work out, we can choose to learn and live on.

Everything we experience becomes our experience.

So in honor of the upcoming holiday (Halloween), let’s make a pact to scare up some creativity this week.

Stare down that blank page and write like your life depends on it. Because maybe it does.

Courage and blessings to you,

Kate

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Keep It Simple, Sister

When I’m writing, designing or basically making anything, I’m a firm believer in the KISS method. I first learned about it from one of my favorite creative directors of all time, Nick Nicholson. The phrase stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. I prefer Sister, because “stupid” is a bad word in our house.

Nick would encourage us (and even challenge us) to cut the number of words in our copy or even go without any words. Could the story be told in photographs? Or what about a single photo?

Every time I went through this exercise, I was floored by how much stronger the message became. Sometimes showing less, saying less, and not trying so hard was the secret to a more powerful way to communicate. Less can truly = more.

On a grander scale, maybe it’s a more powerful way to be?

What if we were to KISS everything?

If we get overwhelmed by a busy schedule, we could peel away the layers of commitments that aren’t necessary or don’t contribute to our happiness.

If we’re drowning in clutter at home or just in our purses, we could dump all of the things that literally weigh us down.

If we unraveled the sweater of busyness that we knit around ourselves, what would we uncover? What kind of bare and beautiful life could we find?

Kisses,

-Kate

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Friday Wrap: Blogiversary Edition

blogiversaryIn honor of The Neat Nook turning one, I decided to reflect on some of the best blogging advice I received or stumbled upon over the past 12 months. This felt like the perfect way to wrap such a special week. So let’s get right to it, shall we?

Five Great Pieces of Advice on Blogging

{ONE} “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

I don’t remember exactly where I came across this statement, but it was big for me. I think the reason I hadn’t started blogging long before now was because I was intimidated by all of the gorgeous blogs and talented writers out there who seem to have perfected the art. It’s easy to find lots of “middles” out there, since blogging has been around for many years. Everyone has to start somewhere, though. And I’m learning to simply love where I am.

{TWO} “Be real. Be vulnerable. Show us who you are.”

This was something I heard from a friend when I veeery first started. Like before I had an “about” page, and my profile picture was a headshot from work. Yawns-ville. I appreciated her input so much. The thought was frightening, but she was right. I’m usually more comfortable sitting quietly in the background or cheering safely from the sidelines, but blogging challenges me. It gives me a space to express myself and have a voice – regardless of how quiet and scared it might sound.

{THREE} “Words are powerful.”

One of the greatest masters of words was Dr. Maya Angelou. With her passing last year, many of her quotes and interviews have been shared online. I caught this clip from the Master Class Series on OWN, and thought it was such a brilliant point of view about the words we choose to use.

For anyone who writes and shares their words in public – on a blog, in social media, and even in conversations that can be overheard – it’s important to realize the power you possess. We all need to hold this notion close to our hearts any time we lift our pens or open our mouths to speak.

I love this acronym that reminds us to think first.

{FOUR} “Remember to have fun.”

This advice came from my friend and blogger, Leslie Sisti. She told me too many people take their blog too seriously, and it turns into a chore. No one wakes up excited to do chores. At least I don’t. I took her advice to heart, and I try to do a “fun check” every now and then. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the most fun a girl can have), I determine how much fun I’m having with the blog. If the score is low and I’m feeling stressed, I know it’s time to change something. Pronto.

{FIVE} “It’s okay to take a break.

As a typical, giddy newbie I started the year strong with frequent posts. As the months went on and life got busy with job changes and new activities for the kids, I started getting distracted. By the summer, I was fizzling out and feeling a little guilty about neglecting the blog.

Right as I was getting ready for one of those “fun checks,” I came across a post by another blogger, who talked about the importance of taking a break when you need it. If you let your readers know what’s up and when you’ll return, all will be well. It turns out, there are a lot of bloggers who take summers off. While I didn’t take a full sabbatical, I did take some non-judgmental time to get centered, inspired and excited to start writing again.

And this is where I am today. Excited. Also feeling grateful for all of the input and support from other bloggers and friends. I still have an incredible amount to learn, but that makes waking up each day more interesting. It’s about the journey, and I thank you for walking a few steps with me today!

Before you go, be sure to enter in the blogiversary giveaway! You have until 10pm Central tonight to enter to win a beautiful 2016 Day Planner or a Jar of Joy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’m also linking up with some fantastic fellow bloggers on Five on Friday and Oh, Hey Friday!

Fiveonfriday

-Kate

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Let Go & Grow

Today’s post is a bit of a confession. I was recently working on a creative project and was so focused on having it look and sound amazing, that it became harder than it needed to be. I stressed about it, procrastinated as long as I could, and eventually felt guilty – for all of it. Have you ever done that? Put unnecessary pressure on yourself?

I finally (and thankfully) realized I was making myself crazy. No one else had such high expectations of me than, well, me. I took a deep breath and put on my favorite jams (as in music, not my jammies. Although, those would have been good, too.) Then I sat at the computer and started putting one word in front of the other. The next thing I knew, I was enjoying myself and the project was coming together.

The moment I let go of the outcome, I was able to experience more joy and creative freedom than I had felt in quite some time.

As I reflected on this experience, I came to the conclusion that I should apply this lesson to more things in life – not just in my creative projects, but in the way I raise my kids, love my husband, serve as a friend, look at my body, or organize the house. The moment I white-knuckle the steering wheel and drive in the direction I think we all need to go is when stress kicks in. When I allow room for things to unfold, get messy, or feel uncertain, I can be certain I will learn from the experience. It will be a gift – even if I don’t recognize it at first.

This past week I watched Chef’s Table, which is an amazing documentary-style show on Netflix. Massimo, who is the Italian chef featured in the first episode, was presented with a challenge. A member of his staff dropped the last lemon tart, and it shattered all over the plate. Instead of feeling frustrated or defeated, Massimo embraced the mess. He splattered more lemon sauce around the plate and called it “Oops! I dropped the lemon tart.” It became one of the most famous dishes on his menu. This was such a beautiful example of how a “mistake” can turn into a blessing if we have gentle and accepting eyes to see them for what they really are.

If we surrender to the universe with abundant faith, all will be well.

No matter what each of us is going through, and I know everyone has something crappy going on, let’s have the courage to lean back and let go. Know that all will be well.

Kate

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When You Want Fresh Ideas, Think Laterally

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a creative tip, so today’s post is all about lateral thinking.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper?” There are several variations of this line that all mean essentially the same thing: to get new ideas, you have to look in new (and sometimes illogical) directions.

It might feel comfortable to use the same solutions to a problem (which is considered vertical thinking, btw) but that doesn’t always lead you to good answers or ideas.

When we talk to new people, read interesting magazines, listen to different music, and take new routes, we allow for inspiring ideas and new perspectives to soak in.

All of that is good material for solving problems – especially if you want to try your hand at lateral thinking.

What is lateral thinking?

The father of lateral thinking is Dr. Edward de Bono. Some people claim he is one of the very few people in history to have had a major impact on the way we think. He defines lateral thinking as “disrupting an apparent sequence and arriving at the solution from another angle.”

Yah, yah. What are some examples?

Have you seen the New Uses for Old Things section in each issue of Real Simple? This is lateral thinking!

life saver candle holder

A candy Life Saver can also be the perfect candle holder! {via}

books as shelves

Books can make great shelves. {via}

rubber band

If you have a stripped screw, a rubber band can get you out of a jam. {via}

Another example can be found in a lateral thinking puzzle, like this one…

puzzle1

A: Pour juice from second glass into the fifth. {via}

How to put lateral thinking to use?

For one, I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to New Uses for Old Things. There are countless ways to think laterally about organizing and decorating your home, wrapping unexpected gifts, cooking, etc. So lateral thinking has some practical uses.

You can also apply this to your job. I read a great article that gave some solid examples.

  • Lawyers and detectives use lateral thinking when attempting to solve crimes, because the sequence of events is often not as straightforward it first appears. (Um, and having some detective skillz can come in handy as a parent, too.)
  • If you’re in the creative arts, lateral thinking is an especially useful technique for developing ideas.
    • As a writer, this approach could help you come up with unexpected twists and turns in a plot.
    • For comedians, it can help you set up the perfect joke.
    • If you work in communications, like I do, it could help you develop an unexpected headline or approach to selling a product.

Keep up the good work!

You’ve probably been using lateral thinking all along, but didn’t realize what it was called. Now that you do know, be sure to keep up your skills. It’s like anything in life. The more you practice, the easier it will become. Here are a few links to some fun lateral thinking puzzles and resources:

Have fun thinking laterally. How do you think you’ll use this in your daily life? I’d love to know!

-Kate

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Trend Alert: SXSW 2015 Is in Full Swing

sxsw-interactive-logoIf you’re in the communications field, you’re probably well aware of the annual SXSW festival in Austin, TX. What started as a music festival in the 80s has grown to include wildly popular film and interactive sessions. In fact, SXSW Interactive has become a massive conference where the world watches to see what’s next in tech.

Companies like Twitter, Foursquare and Waze launched at SXSW Interactive.

Needless to say, there’s immense anticipation and a constant trend watch around this time of year. According to the official event site, “The 2015 event features five days of compelling presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer.”

SXSW

Here’s a snapshot of the entrance to the tradeshow floor. Always tons of excitement and people from all over the world.

It’s all pretty fascinating. I love it because I work for a communications firm (and have a little blog). So I try to stay tuned in to what’s on the horizon for all of us in terms of the way we communicate. That’s really what’s at the core of all of this…communications.

Everyone is looking for the magic pill (or device) that fosters the most real and honest connections with a generation that’s mentally overloaded.

Ironically, the more tech that’s introduced to society, the more essential the need to simplify. We need gadgets to organize our gadgets. There’s no going back at this point, though. So onward we march, learn, play and create!

The 2015 SXSW Interactive festival began yesterday, and it goes through Monday. I had the pleasure of attending in person last year, which is where I met Mindy Kaling and Seth Meyers. #starstruck

Mindy Kaling

This was a super fun moment meeting Mindy – aka Kelly Kapoor or more recently Dr. Mindy Lahiri

This year I’ll be attending via my social channels – and notes from my colleagues who headed down yesterday. Twitter is already exploding with news about this year’s conference.

Follow #SXSW2015 on Twitter for more news as it happens this weekend into Monday.

Who knows, maybe you’ll catch and act on a trend that will land you a session in next year’s event?  Here’s to having a tech-savvy day no matter what field you’re in!

-Kate

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A 28-Day Writing Plan

pencilHere’s a post for my writer friends out there. Yes, that’s you. I recently stumbled upon this 28-day writing plan by Paul Furiga and decided to give it a whirl. I was lured by the encouraging intro which stated:

“Writing doesn’t have to be hard – not for you, and not for the people who will read what you write.”

Amen. I’m in the choir this guy is preaching to. Writing doesn’t have to be hard, but sometimes it is. Especially when the inner critic rears its ugly head or the right words go hiding in the dark alleys of your mind. There have been times I’d rather clean my bathroom than sit and write an assignment. Yet, I still love writing. I’m a walking contradiction. So I decided to partake in this writing exercise to see what will happen. It’s free. In fact, the investment is only a few minutes a day for 28 days – a mere blip on the radar of my existence. It might even be half a blip if all goes well.

I’m not very far into the plan (week one), but it’s been enlightening. I’ve tossed the critics to the side and delved into the reasons I need to write. Other than the obvious motives of needing to write for work and the income, I’m discovering that writing is a powerful release for me. It’s something that has to happen – like a sneeze.

It’s not always good writing, but it always feels good to write.

I wonder if it’s how bees feel about flying? They’re not exactly the most graceful beings in the air, and I imagine it’s pretty hard work carrying their weight with such small wings. But they have wings, and so they fly. I have ideas, and so I write.

I imagine you have ideas, too? Let’s get them out of our hearts and heads and onto paper. Let’s take someone on an adventure, share a helpful tip, or leave a quiet legacy.

Week two of the writing plan is about “get in shape” exercises. The author says, “Success in any physical endeavor requires consistent discipline in executing the training plan. The same is true for writing.” Perhaps you’ll slip into your writing gear (whatever that looks like?) and join me!

Be sure to share some of your experiences. Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram by tagging me @Katejandersen or using #CreativeTipTues.

Have a creative day and write on!

-Kate

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Tips for Aspiring Writers

I’ve recently had a couple of people ask about advice for aspiring writers. I was honored they asked for my thoughts, and I decided to dedicate a post to the response. This is such a broad topic, so I’ll focus on the writing process for now.

Kurt Vonnegut

via

This might sound crazy, but I love everything about the writing process: the creativity, the solitude, the right word, the research, the procrastination, the blocks, the breakthroughs, the editing…all of it. It’s a constant journey, and one I am proud to travel. I’ve been writing since the day I could hold a pencil and form letters, but I’m not the most well-known or perfect writer. I’ve come to realize that isn’t always the point.

Sometimes you do things because they make you feel alive. Writing isn’t always glamorous or joyful. Notice “procrastination” and “writing blocks” included in my description of writing? If we didn’t have these frustrating moments, the breakthroughs wouldn’t feel as important. Each part of the process has a role, and it should make you feel something deep inside. It should remind you you’re human and blessed to even be breathing.

Whatever you choose to do as a hobby or profession, it should make you feel alive. That’s when you know you’re on to something.

If you’ve chosen the path of writing, here are a few thoughts to help inspire the writer within:

Sit and write.

Writing quote

via

One of my favorite quotes from Steven Pressfield is “put your ass where your heart wants to be.” If you’re a painter, then paint. If you’re a chef, then cook. If you have a passion for words and connecting with people, writing is the perfect conduit for you. So stop organizing your sock drawer or scrolling through Pinterest for more recipes you’ll never bake and get to writing. Put yourself in front of the computer, because the page is waiting for you to show up.

Believe in your voice.

Writing Quote

via

I’ve heard countless people say they’re not enough. They don’t feel creative enough, original enough or good enough with grammar. My response to that is you are always enough. If you feel inexperienced at writing, remember you are experienced in life. Write about things important to you. Tell stories that only you have lived. There are people who can help you edit when it’s time. Until then, be gentle and true to yourself. Speak up and be heard. You are important, and we need to hear what you have to say.

Edit when it’s time.

Once you’ve developed a habit of showing up and writing daily, there comes a time when you need to edit your work and share it with others – perhaps even a publisher. If this is an area where you feel insecure, reach out to that friend or co-worker who is meticulous about grammar and ask for help. If you have kids, get to know his/her English teacher and trade baked goodies for a proofreading session. Get creative about the areas where you don’t feel confident. If you want to brush up on your skills, take an English class at the local community college or subscribe to the Associated Press Stylebook. What you don’t want to happen is let the process of editing keep you from introducing your beautiful work to the world.

Listen to feedback with an open mind.

Editing quote

via

If you’ve shared your work and the feedback includes pages of red ink, don’t get discouraged. If you’ve been turned down by countless publishers, don’t stop writing. Try to find common themes from the feedback and make adjustments. While the writing feels incredibly personal, remember that it’s the story being reviewed – not you. Separate your emotions from the work. When you can do this, and be objective about the mechanics of your writing, you give your work a chance to become stronger.

Read.

Reading

via

One of the best ways to become a good writer is to read good writing. Pick up a novel and immerse yourself in the storyline. Once you’ve read the book, conduct a mini review. What worked and what didn’t? How would you have changed the ending? Did you like the dialogue or was it forced? What emotions did you have, and how did the author engage you? Dissecting a book is a sure fire way to inspire a story of your own. If all else fails, read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg or Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. They’re two of my favorite resources for writing.

Let me know if this was helpful! I’d be happy to share writing tips specifically for bloggers if there’s interest. Just let me know in the comments, on Twitter, through email – however you like to communicate. All of my info is listed on the Contact page.

Have a creative day, my friends, and go write something awesome! #CreativeTipTues

-Kate

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Inspiring Lessons from The War of Art

The War of ArtIf you haven’t had a chance to read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, I can assure you it will be worth every special minute of your time. It’s incredibly motivating – like the kind that kicks you in the couch potato pants and gets you moving in the direction you were meant to travel.

In fact, this is one of my favorite passages that inspired me to write today’s post:


Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer, write a symphony, or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you, and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”


Talk about motivation. I don’t know about you, but that last line is a bone-chilling challenge. Let’s accept. What do you say?

If you’re a painter, paint. If you’re a teacher, teach. If you’re a leader, lead. If you’re a mom, mother. The people in your world need you.

For those who aspire to be writers or artists, and who fall near and dear to my heart, here’s an added challenge.

  1. Accept you’re a writer or artist. Another brilliant quote from Pressfield suggests, “If you find yourself asking, ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” The more scared you are about a calling, the more you can be sure you need to do it.
  1. Get started. Grab your computer or paper and pen. I’ll wait… Okay, now start writing and don’t stop until you’ve hit at least 1,000 words. What should you write about? Anything. It could be about a crappy day you had, your best friend in grade school who always made you laugh, or your obsession with Snicker’s bars. Need more inspiration? In the movie “Finding Forrester” the character played by Sean Connery, who is a reclusive writer, asks his student to take an existing piece of work as a starting point. The student transforms it into something unique. You could try that, too. Take lines from your favorite song and create characters and a storyline around their relationship. You may surprise yourself with where you end up. The goal isn’t necessarily in the masterpiece. What matters most is that you’re writing – and doing what you were put on this earth to do. If you’re an artist, do the same exercise, but draw or paint for at least 30 minutes. Do this every day, and the great masterpiece will be your life.

Here’s to you and your amazing talents. Now go get ’em!

-Kate

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Five Must-Read Creative Books

creative booksIf you have a shred of desire to be more creative and leave a beautiful or thought-provoking mark on this earth, I believe it’s essential to always be on a path of trial and knowledge. And some of the most necessary fuel for exploration and learning is found in books.

As a busy mom, I don’t always have time to sit and read. The growing stack of books on my nightstand is enough to prove that point, but there are certain books that come along and change things. They help shift priorities and feel worthy of an all-night reading binge.

Here’s a list of five books that fit this description, and what I consider must-reads for creative types.

These are in no particular order and include a few of my favorite excerpts from each.

{ONE} Creativity, Inc.Creativity Inc“Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.”

“Ultimately, what we’re after is authenticity…You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar. In my experience, when people go out on research trips, they always come back changed.”

{TWO} Imagine: How Creativity WorksImagine“In fact, the only way to remain creative over time, to not be undone by our expertise, is to experiment with ignorance, to stare at things we don’t fully understand.”

{THREE} The War of Artwar of art“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

“Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”

{FOUR} Steal Like An Artiststeal like an artist“You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.”

“Be curious about the world in which you live. Look things up. Chase down every reference. Go deeper than anybody else–that’s how you’ll get ahead.”

{FIVE} The Creative Habitthe creative habit“Creativity is the product of preparation and effort, and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it. All it takes is the willingness to make creativity a habit, an integral part of your life.”

It’s your turn! What’s your favorite book on creativity? How did this book help you? Tag and tell me on Twitter or Instagram @katejandersen.

Have a creative day!

-Kate

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