Small Stars

People keep saying how crazy a week it has been and we are only halfway through it. It seems like 2016 is trying to outdo every other year with screaming headlines about incident after incident of horrible things. It is enough to make anyone question if there is anything good left in the world and if there is any way to make a difference, which is why I think this quote is appropriate to share today.

Even a small star shines in the darkness, Finnish proverb

Talking with a colleague about the events that have been unfolding showing us brutally how much hate and anger are bubbling under the surface of our society, we both agreed how exhausting it can be to continue to care and to try to make any difference. While we might not be able to change the world, we can change ourselves and how we interact in our small spheres of influence.

We can be small stars that might not illuminate an entire planet, but we can shine brightly in our own neighborhoods, in our communities. We can decide to not let hopelessness and hate and violence win. We can be good neighbors to each other and, if you think about it, everyone is someone’s neighbor. And, if we all took care of our neighbors, the world might just have a chance of sorting itself out. Probably too much to ask, but it’s possible.

So as you go about your work and your play, don’t let the haters and the hatred win. Don’t add to the darkness and the drama. Be a small star, in whatever way you can–through your art, your baking, your listening, your helping, your doing, your action–and remember that with enough small stars you can light up a galaxy.

Technology and Constraints

It’s midweek again, the time when energy starts flagging and the weekend seems at once both so far away and so close that we can almost feel the breeze through an open door. And, if you are reading this post, you are looking at the screen of some device (and probably have been for several hours, especially if you are reading this while taking a break from Pokémon GO.) It is appropriate then to share this quote by R. Buckminster Fuller.

"Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all he wrong reasons" R. Buckminster Fuller

As we spend more time in front of increasingly small screens, it is imperative that sometimes we step back and reflect on what technology (in this case, mainly thinking about computer and related technology instead of such technology as the pen or indoor heating) means for us and for our communities. No one can hold back the tsunami that is technological change, but that doesn’t mean we have to mindlessly use it or not consider what the right reasons for using it would be.

So let’s agree to be thoughtful about how we use technology and how we acquire technology. Let’s decide together what we should be using different technologies for instead of blindly following whatever marketing tells us. Let’s put down the smartphone and actually have a conversation or a bit of quiet so we can create whatever art we want to create. Because we can decide what constraints we want to put around technology and its use so that technology truly benefits us.

Let’s use technology to move towards utopias that science fiction has promised rather than the horrible dystopias that it warned us about. We have that power; we just need to use it.

I hope you have a wonderful day and create something beautiful (maybe even something with your hands that doesn’t rely on a computer or mobile device). 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing friends after work and plotting out another story in my journal with a fountain pen. How about you?

How to be Human

How has your first week of July gone? Can you believe that we are already a week into July? So much has happened in this first week, so much good and so much bad. It is hard to even read the news with all that is happening in the world. So, without having anything really to add that hasn’t been written before, I’ll simply give you this week’s quote:

Anyone can be an idealist. Anyone can be a cynic. The hard part lies somewhere in the middle-that is, being human. Hugh MacLeod

With all the horrible things being said and done in the world, it is easy to fall into the trap of being a cynic. It is harder to fall into the trap of being an idealist, but one can and it doesn’t really help either. The middle, where there is dialogue and hard work and understanding, is where we should strive to be–where we can be human. It can be difficult and tiring, but it really is the only way that life gets better.

It’s the same with creating anything, if you really think about it. You can be an idealist or a cynic, but either one will probably mean you won’t create much no matter what your medium. Or you can be human, flawed and all. You can keep creating art and love and dialogue. And, maybe, one day, you just might create something that surprises you by how well it captures your ideas, your art.

We can’t be more than humans, but we can decide how we are humans and what it means to be human. We can decide how to use our art and our words. We have that power and I hope we decide to use it well.

P.S. If you aren’t familiar with Hugh MacLeod’s work, you should check it out. Also, his book, Ignore Everybody, is a funny, insightful read for anyone who needs a pep talk about being creative.

Solitude and Imagination

Has summer sunk into your bones yet? (Apologies to those who are living in the Southern Hemisphere and are in winter. I hope you have having a lovely, cozy season.) I can’t believe that we’re going over the hump of the year into the downward slope. It has been a busy, crazy year. But now it is summer and it’s time to slow down a bit, which is great for creativity and so I’m sharing today’s quote:

Solitude is where we learn to trust our imaginations Sherry Turkle

Summer can be a lovely time to get together more with family and friends. There’s always so much to do, but it is also a wonderful time for solitude. There is something delicious and wonderful about taking a walk by yourself in summer when the days are long, the birds are out, and the flowers are in bloom. Summer, with its heat and long days and starry nights, invites us to linger outside or half-doze in the afternoon. It is a great time to clear our head’s and make space for our imaginations to flow.

In summer, solitude is as important as time together if we want to recharge our imaginations (especially for those getting ready for NaNoWriMo, which will be here in a few short months).

So savor your summer. Make time with friends and family, but make time for yourself, too. Let the whisper of your imagination guide you and don’t forget to write (or draw) your ideas down.

I hope you have a lovely end of the month and beginning of July.

p.s. I also highly recommend reading Sherry Turkle’s entire book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.  Well-written research with suggestions you can actually use to connect (and to unplug) today.

Uncommon Excellence

I’m not sure about you, but I feel as if the month of June has simply gotten away from me. One minute I’m flipping the calendar and it’s June 1st, the next minute we’re days away from the last weekend of the month. It is maddening! What does this have to do with the quote I’m sharing today? Nothing and much, depending on how you look at it.

"Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way" Booker T. Washington

Obviously, there is nothing about June, the start of summer, or the ending of the school year. There’s nothing about time or calendars. And, yet, it reminds me of all of those things. Because, while I love summer and always have great plans, sometimes it can feel like I can’t possibly get enough done in the summer so that it will be extraordinary (you know, like all those party photos in Better Homes & Gardens or the vacation photos everyone and their cat seems to post on social media).

But then I look at this quote and remember that I can still strive for excellence in the common things I have to do each day and that creates the possibility of uncommon excellence. And I like that. It reminds me, too, of one of my mother’s favorite sayings: if you are going to do anything, you might as well do it to the best of your ability.

So let’s strive for excellence in the common things we do this summer and we might even find some wonder in the mundane. Because that’s the point of a creative life, right? To find the inspiration where others don’t see anything.

I hope you have a wonderful end to your June. 🙂

Be Kind

So, this week has been hard. I’m not really sure what to say that hasn’t already been said, so I’m not going to try. Sometimes words simply fail us. Then, again, sometimes we find the words that are exactly what we need. While not everything that we need right now, because I don’t think that is possible, today’s quote is something that may help a tiny, fraction of a bit if only the entire world would remember it:

There's only one rule I know of: You've got to be kind. Kurt Vonnegut

Kindness is so important on so many different levels. We need to be kind to each other, to those we see every day. Did you stop and say hi to your neighbor today? Did you say the compliment you were thinking in your head about your colleague’s awesome talk? Kindness can sometimes just take a minute, but we too often let those minutes go by unremarked. Put some kindness back into your day.

We need to be kind to those who will never know us, who will never meet us, who couldn’t even imagine that we are there. Whether this means for you being a little gentler and kinder to the earth while you’re here or volunteering at whatever charity organization fills you up with more kindness reserves or giving money to organizations that do good in places you may never see–or maybe it’s all three, spread some kindness to those who will never have the chance to personally thank you. Put some kindness back into the way you live the whole of your life.

We need to be kind to ourselves, too. If we can’t be kind to ourselves, it is really hard to be kind to others in a way that is empathetic and sincere. Be kind to yourself when it seems like you can’t figure out how life could possibly be going so wrong and be kind to yourself when it is going so well that you don’t want to blink because you’re afraid it will disappear.

So, I guess all I’m saying is that I hope you’ll join me in being kind. If the whole world was kind, it’d be a better place and I’d like that, wouldn’t you?

Creating Yourself

Sometimes what you need to hear or read comes from the strangest places. Today’s quote comes from a box of chocolates that a colleague gave me. Really. This quote by George Bernard Shaw was on the back of card that described the chocolates. Don’t know what it has to do with chocolate, but it is a wonderful sentiment to remember.

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." George Bernard Shaw

I love the reminder that we can create ourselves. We can be who we want to be if we do the hard work of creating. We don’t have to worry about finding ourselves. I love this because I’ve always thought that “finding” myself seemed weird. I’m always where I am. I don’t need to find myself, but I do need to be mindful about creating the person that I want to be.

So what do you want to create for yourself?

As for me, I’m continually in the process of creating and being a person who is intelligent and kind, creative and productive, caring and strong, respectful and daring. Life is a process of creation.

So I hope in the coming days you find happiness and even joy in creating the person who is you. And I hope you share some of your creations with the world when you’re ready to share.

P.S. Yes, the chocolates were terrific (in case you were curious). 🙂

Your Ideas Won’t Get Stolen

I love ideas, don’t you? I love the flash of a new idea that makes me stop short and take out a pen and paper to write it down so I don’t forget. Ideas can be wonderful things, but too often people want to horde them it seems. Try getting some writers to talk about a work-in-progress and you know what I mean. I wonder if they are worried that ideas can’t be copyrighted, only their tangible or fixed forms. Whatever the case, I have a quote by Howard Aiken today for anyone who is afraid of people taking their ideas:

"Don't worry about peole stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." Howard Aiken

This is one of my favorite quotes that I’ve come across while reading this year. I’ve found it to be so true in work and in creating. Everyone says they want something new, unique, the next great idea. But, often, you’ll have to hit the same people over the head with a large volume of an encyclopedia to get them to pay attention once you have a great idea (and have done something with it).

This quote reminds me of two things: 1) Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas (most people don’t care, won’t do anything with them, don’t understand, or all of the above) and 2) Keep working on making your ideas real, even if no one does care or understand except you. Maybe, one day, they will. But if they don’t, you’ll still have your work and that’s a pretty good thing, too.

I hope you have a lovely rest of your week full of creating things and finding great ideas for your next project! 🙂

Finding Work through Procrastination

Do you ever procrastinate? The answer is yes, right? Even if we don’t want to admit it. So today, I want to share a quote from the amazing lettering artist, Jessica Hische.

"The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life." Jessica Hische

I love this quote and the idea behind it. (Also, if you love the quote, check out the amazing print of it that you can buy. ) Maybe we can’t support ourselves by doing the work we do when we are procrastinating right now, but it definitely gives us an idea of what we truly love to do.

So the next time that you are procrastinating about doing something (maybe instead of doing the laundry, the next quarterly report, or whatever)  and are instead doodling, painting, writing snippets of dialogue or looking up how to start up your own business, take a step back to reflect. You may have found your vocation.

I hope you are having a lovely week with time for creating what you want. If not, remember, there’s always a sliver of time somewhere you can use (even if you have to be a time thief to get it.) 🙂

Ideas not Laptops

Where do you get your best ideas? What inspires you? I get my best ideas while walking. Sometimes I get ideas while doing something else, but usually it’s walking. I was reading Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist, last week and came upon the following quote that I just had to reproduce:

We don't know where we get our ideas from. What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops." John Cleese

I love it. Have you ever gotten your best idea from your laptop? I haven’t. I spend hours on a computer for work, but my ideas don’t come from it. I learn things, but those flashes of insight and sparks that make me want to drop everything and pick up a pen don’t come from sitting in front of a screen.

So I hope you take some time to get away from your screen, be it a desktop, a laptop, or your cell phone. Take some time and get some fresh air, do something, make something with your hands. Doodle, sketch, write, create something–anything–away from your screens and wonder at the ideas that come.

I hope you have a lovely week full of new ideas, even if you don’t know where they’ve come from. 🙂