Monday, July 24, 2017

What to Do When Your Creativity is on Life Support

Brutal honesty here for a minute.  I have felt like any creativity inside me has been pretty much dead for almost the past year.  And it put me in a funk, big time.  I didn't feel like sewing much, with the exception of the winter craft fair I did with a friend.  I didn't really bake much because I'm trying to watch my weight.  And I definitely wasn't getting any writing done.  There were many factors, and I still haven't pinpointed what knocked the wind out of my creativity sails, but there are a few suspects, and it may very well be just a conglomeration of the three.
  • Changing jobs (twice).  I feel like anytime you make a big change to your routine, it has the potential to knock your creativity off its feet.  I went from working second shift, to working first.  My most productive time was always between about 8 am and 1 pm, but now I work at that time.
  • Winter.  Winter puts me in a funk faster than anything.  Oh it sounds quaint- Christmas carols, and white powdery snow, warm sweaters, and hot cocoa and toasty fires.  But, if you live far enough north, you know what it's really like- shoveling heavy, wet snow, starting your car fifteen minutes before you plan on leaving so it warms up, ice, and darkness- so much darkness.  It's dark when you get up, and the sun is already setting when you get done with work.  You're cold all the time.  Misery sucks the creativity right out of you.
  • Depression.  Because once Christmas passes, you know what you're left with?  Another two to three months of snow, more darkness, and nothing to look forward to.  Sounds depressing?  It is.  Usually my goal is just to hold on to dear life and wait for the thaw.  Usually spring whisks away my sad feelings just like the breeze that speeds up the melting of all the dirty snow banks.  But this year, that didn't happen.  I was in the middle of my second job change in just over six months and I went from depressed to stressed.  I wasn't motivated to do anything besides consume carbs and drink coffee while eating European chocolates.  There were little bursts of creativity but nothing that was able to catch fire in the artistic part of my brain.
But now, finally, seven months into the new year, I feel alive and ready to go again.  I feel creative again, and energized and ready to tackle projects and make new things. So what's changed?
  • My diet.  My brother sells Advocare and I decided to give the 24 Day Challenge a try.  And while I'm not saying you have to do the program to feel better, I do think cutting all added sugar and most carbs out of my life has helped me feel better.  I'm only fifteen days in but feel better than I have in a long time.  And that's after enduring a nearly 48 hour headache when my body realized there was no chocolate coming.
  • Morning pages.  I've gotten back to writing three pages of whatever is in my head in the morning.  This brain dump, that Julia Cameron swears by really does help.  You can get all the things bottled up, out on to paper.  And sometime I even find some truth in what I write.  But, I look at it as getting some of the cobwebs cleared so I can get to the real gems underneath.  And by the way, this doesn't happen everyday, but just doing it a few times a week really helps.
  • My attitude.  Now this one is a tricky one because people say "change your attitude" like it's putting on socks, but it's not.  I really recommend taking a day off and just unplugging from Facebook and Instagram and even the constant stream of text messages and getting out the pen and paper and writing what you want from life.  Do you want more money, do you want more time, do you want more fun?  How are you going to get it?  Come up with a game plan.  Once I really thought about what I want my life to look like, I feel like I got a lot of clarity about the here and now.
  • My plan.  Or to be more clear, I made a plan.  Life always feels better when you feel like you have some control.  Make a list.  Make several lists.  Make a list of action steps you can take and then make some lists of how to conquer each action step.  Make some action steps for conquering your goals.  Bonus points if you have someone you can bounce your plan off. 
So, while we think of creativity as this spontaneous thing that just pops up like one of those mushrooms that just show up in your yard, full grown, overnight, without any real rhyme or reason, but it's not.  At least not for me.  For me, creativity needs structure.  It needs to be watered and fed.  It's much more like a finicky house plant that you can't leave unattended for too long, or the leaves start to fall off and it shrivels.

make a list you'll feel better


Thursday, July 6, 2017

July Reading List

July already?  How can this be?  It seems like it was just a few months ago, I was battling cold and snow and now we've already celebrated Independence Day.   Well, here's what is on my reading list for July.

Books to read

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was found at BAM a few months back on the clearance shelf.  It's a dystopian story, and it's gotten good rating on Goodreads.  That's about all I know for sure.
  • Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann was only bought a few weeks ago, but I just think it sounds really cute and sometimes you just really want to read something out of the usual.  Sheep detectives fit that mold.
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is my second dystopian pick of the month.  This was not on purpose and I just realized it as I was writing this post.  It may turn out to be a depressing month of reading.
  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie should come in handy after I read all this fall of modern society stuff. :)  Actually, I'm not much of a worrier in the traditional sense.  But, I do feel like I have decision anxiety quite frequently, often wondering if I'm making the right choice about life stuff.  If something happens that is out of my control, like our air conditioner dies, or my car needs some work done, no worries, but if I have to make a decision, I waffle like no ones business.  So, I think this book still might have some appliciation for me.
What about you?  What are you currently reading?  Or have you read any of my pick for the month?  If so, what'd you think?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

June (and May) Book Recap

We've got six months left in 2017, and I'm a little behind on my reading goals, but not impossibly so.  Here's what I read in June:
mystery books
  • I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman was a really quick read and interesting but I just wasn't super satisfied with how it all wrapped up.  I wanted to know more about the other victims, I wanted to know more about Elizabeth's childhood and the time she spent with Walter that summer.  I felt like the surface was barely scratched.
  • The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty had been on my shelf for several months and while it was a fast read, I didn't like it nearly as much as What Alice Forgot.  I just felt like the whole big secret was something that would have had much less disastrous effects if it had all come to light at the time it was done.  I guess that's doesn't make this unrealistic, but it made me find most of the characters involved annoying.  Although it may just be that they were human.  Also, the big omnipresent epilogue also annoyed me.  I felt like it was unfair that I knew things that the characters never found out, which could have changed the whole course of their lives.
  • The Bat by Jo Nesbo was my first foray into the Harry Hole series and while there was nothing magical about this one, I will keep reading them because I've hear it does get much, much better.


I did find some good books this month too:
books to read
  • Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann is a murder mystery where the detective is a flock of anthropomorphized sheep.  For some reason, I'm a sucker for stories with animals that act human.
  • Cockroaches is the second book in Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series.  The first book took place in Australia, this one takes place in Bangkok.  I'm hoping they move the setting to Norway soon.  I just miss my Billy's Pan Pizza and snow.  Basically it doesn't seem like Scandinavian Noir if it doesn't take place in Scandinavia.
  • Cooked by Michael Pollan is one of the few books I have left to read by him.  He always makes me want to eat healthier and consider what I thought I knew about healthy eating.
  • The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher is a collection of five of Fisher's books in one.  She wrote on all things food related and the book is chock full of recipes, tips, and thoughts.  I wouldn't consider it a cookbook, but more a mediation on food related things.
  •  
And here's a quick peak of my book activity for May

new books


My 2017 totals:  READ 19   ACQUIRED 21

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Mid-Year Check In


Sometimes (okay, rarely) I feel like I'm right where I'm supposed to be.  I feel like I have a handle on most things in my life, and I feel like I'm keeping on top of the day to day, like buying groceries, doing laundry, and keeping tabs on all the adult things like paying bills, getting the oil changed in my car, and making sure I'm remembering the people in my life.  Then other times, I feel like I just have a hand on the adult things.  Then, every once in a while, like right now, I feel like I don't have a handle on any of it.  (See above image.)

There hasn't been any big life changes.  No one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, no accidents, no financial disasters, but I still can't seem to get my life together.  Laundry pills up until I fold five loads at once, kale dies in my crisper drawer, while I run out of milk.  I procrastinate scheduling appointments.  I've gone months without a haircut.  I've gotten fatter.  And creative pursuits like blogging seem to wither away.

Job change seems to be the only explanation to what threw my day to day off orbit.  But, just as changing course a fraction of a degree doesn't make that big of a change initially, within a short time, you'll find yourself somewhere else totally. 

Last September, I quit my job at the hospital to go work at the credit union here in town.  There was a lot of things I was getting tired of at the hospital, and while the credit union was amazing to work with and I really liked my coworkers, the work just wasn't my cup of tea.  So, in April, when I got a Facebook message from someone I used to work with at the hospital, telling me about an opening at the nursing home to work as a health unit coordinator (which is the same job I did at the hospital), I quickly decided to apply.  I was hired, and while I like the work, I am still adjusting.

I have to be to work even earlier now, but there are no weekends or holidays required.  I have some new responsibilities, and while it's the same job I did before, there is some obvious variance between nursing home and hospital.  It's also crazy hot in there.  Like literally.  Old people are chronically cold.

So, I've been coming home tired, sweaty, and unmotivated.  Consequently, I'm fatter, less productive, and more of a procrastinator then normal.  Which makes me crankier, more of an emotional eater, and even more tired.  Well, the time has come to turn the train around.  The year is half over, and I'm resolved to have it end on a better note than where it is currently.

Here's what I'm planning for the next six months:
  • Lose 30 pounds.
  • Read 29 books.
  • Get back to a morning routine
  • Refocus my creative pursuits- including my blog.
What are you planning for the next six months?  Where do you want to be at the end of the year?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

May Reading List


Okay, here's my list of what I'm hoping to tackle in May.  I know the month is about 2/3 over, but I figured better late than never.

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott.  I think my love of Anne Lamott is well known by now.  This is another collection of essays by her.

The Bat by Jo Nesbo.  This is the first book in his Harry Hole series and I'm ready to dive into a new Scandinavian mystery.

An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina.  This is an autobiography by the man who inspired Hotel Rwanda by hiding Tutsi's during the genocide in 1994.  It was originally on my list September of last year, but never even got cracked open.

Letters to Zell by Camille Griep.  This was in my Fall Sweet Progress Swap package and  is a reimagining of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty.  I'm always down with a good fairy tale retold.

So what are you reading, or have you read this month?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

April Book Recap


So April was a good month of reading, but I didn't get much else done, including blogging.  I started a new job, and now my schedule is 7:00 to 3:30, Monday to Friday.  I enjoy getting done at 3:30, and had really good intentions to spend time once I got home blogging and keeping up with some of the other blogs I follow, but unfortunately, I haven't been able to establish much of a routine yet.  Instead, I get done with work, run some errands, then come home and read, eat supper, maybe go for a walk with my friend down the street and her dog, and next thing I know it's 8 o'clock and I'm falling asleep on the couch.  Still ironing out a routine that fosters blogging time.  But anyways, here's what I read and bought.

Read

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent was interesting.  It takes place in Iceland and is based on a true story.  The author did a great job of painting vivid scenes and really showing how a place looked, felt, and even smelled like, but I didn't love it as much as everyone else seemed to.  I thought it was a good story, but I wanted to know more about the family that Agnes stayed with, more about Agnes even, but she wasn't much of a talker and a lot of the story took place in her head with her remembering it and retelling it to herself.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey started out with such promise.  I was enjoying it right up until about the time they ended up on the RV.  Then it all started to go downhill.  I enjoyed the characters and cared about most of them, and this book is bleak, no doubt, so I wasn't expecting them to fire up the RV, ride off into the sunset, and find the answer to all humanities woes. I was expecting something like Cormac McCarthy's The Road- not a happy ending but not delusional.  This book ended in such a strange way.  All it made me think is that Melanie may be super smart and observant, but she's still a child or she would have realized that her plan was not only unfeasible to save the one she loved but also cruel.  I don't want to spoil anything, but ugh, that ending just annoyed me.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller was nonfiction and a good look at how Christians have a tendency to get all wrapped up in this or hat and forget that our main purpose is to love each other.  I liked most of the stories and it did make me think.  We all have first impressions of the people we meet, but are we willing to dig deeper and see really get to know people.  I know a lot of times, I don't engage with people because I think we'll never be deep friends so why bother, but there's plenty of reasons to get to know someone even if you think they're not going to be your new bff.  This may seem like a duh thing extroverts but I think introverts are going to know what I mean.

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay was so disappointing.  I loved how the book started, taking place in Noirmoutier and even the little flashbacks were cute at first.  Plus there was some big family secret to unravel!  Oh my, I can't wait!  Well turns out I could have.  The secret is not that devastating.  The way they were carrying on you'd have thought their mother was some sort of puppy murderer or something.  Plus, the main character, Antoine, is this sad sack divorcee who's unsatisfied in his job and can't connect with his kids, and still wants to get back with his ex-wife who left him for another guy.  But all that changes when he meets the most remarkable undertaker.  Look up manic pixie dream girl, and you'll see this chick.  She has an unconventional job, she drives a Harley, she takes the reins sexually, his kids all love her, she never has a bad day apparently, and in turn she turns dumb Antoine's life around, and I couldn't have cared less.  I kept hoping this book would get better but it didn't. 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson lived up to what I remembered.  He goes from giving history of the trail to telling actual tales from his trip.  It's a nice balance and makes you realize what an amazing thing the Appalachian Trail is.  I don't think I'd ever want to hike the whole thing, but it does make you respect those who do.  And Bryson is funny.  I laughed out loud with this book several times.

Acquired

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty was picked up at my library's book sale.  I almost put it back because I'm really trying to limit the amount of books I'm hauling home, but after reading more about it on Goodreads, I am glad I picked it up.

Totals for 2017
Read- 14
Acquired- 12

Monday, April 10, 2017

April Reading List


April is here!  And here's what I'm aiming to read this month.
  • The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey was a gift from my Broke and Bookish Secret Santa last year.  I've been looking forward to this read and have been trying to keep away from spoilers, so I'm not sure what all I'm in for, but looking forward to the ride.
  • One True Ocean by Sarah Beth Martin was on my to be read list way back in October of 2015.  But, I never even cracked it open.  So, this is the month for redemption.  It's 
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is being turned into movie.  When I was at my aunt and uncle's cabin a few years ago, I found a copy there and started reading through it.  So, when I found a copy at a book sale, I snapped it up.
  • Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller us described as a sort of Anne Lamott style book.  So, of course I had to give it a go.  It's been sitting on my shelf for months but decided it was time to dust it off.
What's on your reading list for April?