How to master your muse

The work of Edward Hopper has always fascinated me. During my time at art school, I often used to find inspiration in the strange, intimate scenes that he depicts. Looking to find my muse in the master, this time around I have found a way to master my muse (or at least to give her a good kick from time to time).

I am sure many of you are aware of the pressure that comes with having to generate good ideas at any given time.  Let me reassure you: you are not alone.

As I am making Christmas cards and lavender sachets for a craft fair next weekend, I am driven by that pressure and at the same time I am intimidated by it. A bunch of ‘what if’ questions are buzzing around my head like flies and whilst I usually feel inspired on my way to the studio, I often just procrastinate once I get there.

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Ever wondered why that is? Me, too. I recently came across a Stanford study which claims that walking can make you more creative – 60% more creative in fact. Once I read that a light came on. I don’t drive and living in a small town I walk absolutely everywhere.

Now, if the act of walking has the power to light the creative spark, no wonder I get my best ideas at the most impossible times when I am either dragging myself around in the pouring rain or queuing at the supermarket checkout with no pen and my hands too busy to type anything into my phone.

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Aphorism 34, 1889

Great! Thanks Stanford. So, how can I manage my inspiration (or muse) using this information? I decided to read the research paper in some detail and realised that the study found that it absolutely does not matter where you walk or under what circumstances. Apparently walking on a treadmill whilst staring at a wall will work just as well as strolling along the sea front in the sunshine.

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Bingo! Whilst I would prefer a stroll in the sunshine over the indoors option any time, I am willing to pace around my studio to the get the creative juices flowing if it means that I will have the inspiration I need to get my work done and feel happy and fulfilled in the process.

Why don’t you give this a go and let me know how you get on? Or maybe you do this intuitively?

Until next time,
C xx

Eco-friendly collage art

Recipe for a productive weekend

I was trying out a new dinner recipe the other day when the following thought popped into my head: wouldn’t it be great if you could just follow a recipe to enhance your productivity when doing creative work? It then occurred to me that it’s possible.

After all a recipe is nothing more than a manual – a set of (simple) instructions to follow so that something can be achieved.

Since I work full-time and often need to make time for my craft and blogging activities on the weekends, I thought that those of you who are facing the same challenge might like to read about this idea of me creating a recipe for a productive weekend:

Serves 1

1 sheet of paper (A3-A0)

1 thick felt-tip pen in an outrageous colour (I like purple)

1 small piece of Blutack

1 inspirational quote or motivational statement

2-4 hours of uninterrupted time

Materials required for your creative work (i.e. craft, sewing, art materials or if you are a writer, your laptop or writing pad)


~INSTRUCTIONS~

1. Take your sheet of paper and felt-tip pen and write your inspirational quote or motivational statement down in large letters.

2.Use Blutack (or a similar product) to hang your sheet of paper on a wall or door. Make sure that you can see it from your work space.

3. Read the statement or quote aloud to make it a point of reference. This will be your mantra. If your mind wanders and you suddenly find yourself distracted, read the statement/quote again to focus your mind on the present task.

4. Focus on your work for 2-4 hours and do not accept interruptions.

Following this recipe once or twice per weekend is bound to increase the amount of stuff you can get done before you get back to your day job each week. Using this recipe I have managed to make 35 greeting cards and 26 hand-sewn lavender sachets in 16 hours (that’s 2×4 hours spread over two weekends) and I didn’t have to give up any of my other weekend activities; nor neglect my house work.

Of course the proof is in the pudding (or in this case in the image below). Enjoy! And let me know how you get on if you decide to give this a go.

Until next time,
C xx

What the Heck is Bloglovin’, and Do I Need It?

Christine S:

If you have ever wondered what Bloglovin’ is all about and how it could be helpful in drawing traffic to your site The Daily Post may have the answer…

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

Have you noticed images like this in the sidebars of blogs you read? Now you know what they're about.

Have you noticed images like this in the sidebars of blogs you read and felt like you were missing something? Now you know what they’re about.

While catching up with your favorite bloggers, you’ve probably seen an invitation to “follow me on bloglovin’!” in more than one sidebar.

What is bloglovin’? Don’t you already follow the blog in your Reader? Do you really have to sign up for another online account? Let’s take a look at why lots of bloggers are signing on.

What is it?

Bloglovin‘ is a tool for keeping up with blogs — a way to manage feeds. Lots of bloggers turned to it after the demise of Google Reader. When you create an account there, you can follow any blogger on any platform, whether or not they’re also signed up. Then, you can log in and see the latest posts from all the blogs you follow in…

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How to be original?

This is a question which plagues many artists, writers and designer-makers every day. Most people have great ideas, find out that somebody else has already had the same idea, and instantly give up all hope of being an ‘original’. This also applies to bloggers who have to live with the knowledge that every blog post they can possibly think of has already been written.

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A great art teacher once told me (and the rest of the A-Level fine art class):

Stop moaning and get on with it! Everything you think has already been thought and every idea you can have has already been had by somebody else. So what?! Just make something! Get started!
~ G. K.

It turns out that this was the single most important piece of advice I have received in my creative education. I refer back to it whenever I find myself at risk of copy-cat syndrome. It helps to keep the demons in check. In fact, I wish I had reminded myself of this more when I was at art school. It could have saved me hours of grief.

I recently stumbled upon a TEDTalk which confirmed the advice above by boldly stating that ‘Everything Is a Remix’:


So now we acknowledge that there is no such thing as original thought and originality, what are we supposed to do? Use the advice above and get started on something. It can be a full-blown creative project or just a small idea. Whatever you do, do not discard it! You will regret it later if you do.

If you don’t have the confidence to get started right away, write the idea down or make a quick sketch and come back to it later. Trust me, all is not lost

Luckily, there is one factor that works in your favour when it comes to creating your own work: every person is unique and no two personalities are alike. No two people’s brains work the same and therefore no two people’s creative output is the same (unless you are making a conscious effort to copy somebody else’s work, of course).

So take heart. However many others have had the same ideas you have, none of them can put your creative spin on it. That’s your prerogative and it can’t be taken away from you. Once you get started, your idea will evolve anyway.

Very often the end product of my creative activities is far removed from the first idea which is usually a good thing. You cannot be Picasso, Stephen King or Martha Stuart but you can be yourself. Good news, right?

See you again soon,
Cxx

Great Craft Find: Bibliophile greeting cards

I found a tiny English shop (Candle Lane Books) which deals in second hand vintage books. Apparently the owner repairs these where possible before selling them on to eccentrics such as myself.

In this shop, a treasure trove of knowledge and beauty has been created. It’s a quirky and intriguing little place. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a picture of the shop. Sorry about that.

If a book is beyond repair, the owner’s son will tear it up and use parts to make lovely greeting cards of which I just had to buy one. They are beautiful! Snapshot below. Hope you like it.

Manifesto for the creative traveller

Most people avoid solitary travels. Yet for the creative traveller being alone (not lonely) can be a great opportunity to regain artistic focus and discover new inspiration.

Especially those of us who work a day job alongside our creative endeavours know that life can become stale when our creativity is pushed into the background by the daily chores. Therefore a change of scenery can work wonders in keeping you excited and productive.

Writing in response to the weekly writing challenge set by The Daily Post, I have decided to make my case for travelling alone in search of inspiration.

Now and then in travel, something unexpected happens that transforms the whole nature of the trip and stays with the traveller.
~ Paul Theroux, The Tao of Travel

 

The Destination:
The good news with this type of travelling is that it absolutely doesn’t matter where you decide to go. If you don’t have much money to spare you can opt for a day trip and pick somewhere not too far away to keep costs down. That’s how I do it.

Just make sure you don’t let anyone talk you into taking them with you. This is your trip! Look at your local train lines and bus services and see if they go to a place you have never been, this way you get to bask in anonymity which can be very rewarding.

I tend to pick medium sized towns where it is possible to walk around all day. I also don’t tend to bother with maps once I am there. Just wondering out of a train station into the unknown can be a great way to explore a new place. You can always ask somebody if you get lost.

 

The Motivation:
Make sure to set your objectives before you travel. Ask yourself why you are going to your chosen destination. What are you hoping to find? Is it peace and quiet or are you trying to stimulate your senses by mingling with lots of people in a busy crowd?

Bear in mind that it is possible to find peace amongst a crowd, too. I often seek out busy places to think. Last weekend I chose a busy café to sort out my plans for self-hosting my blog. There were children crying, parents shouting, friends laughing together, business-type people having serious conversations and (of course) some background music.

All the voices came together and formed an unintelligible hubbub – a strangely soothing sound –which allowed me to get into that zone where I can focus best. Of course this doesn’t work for everybody. Some people need silence to concentrate and that’s fine, too. You need to figure out what works best for you.

 

On Location:
Ok, so you know your objectives and have an idea of what you want to achieve. Great! Then you get to your chosen location and…

I will admit that just hopping off a train or bus in a place you don’t now can be daunting. That’s exactly the feeling I had on my recent day-trip to Shrewsbury. Don’t let that discourage you. Just pay attention to what you are attracted to.

For example, if you see a nice building find out what it is and whether you can explore it. If you see an interesting bookshop, have a look around in there. Maybe you’ll find your inspiration between a pair of (dusty?) book covers…

In The End:
Whatever you decide to do. Whether you are going away for a day, a weekend or a whole week, if you stay true to yourself and stick with what you are attracted to, you are almost certainly going to find your muse.

This only works when travelling alone as you cannot expect to focus on what you want to do (and see) if you have friends or family nagging at you all day. Realise that you are worth taking a time-out to fuel your creativity – no compromises allowed.

Every once in a while you are allowed to be selfish and it will make you a much better person to be around when you do spend time with other people. Don’t you think?

Until next time,
C xx