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Posts tagged ‘internet’

Universal Canvas: Your Creative Community

Creativity is about using your self—your hands, your body, your mind, your heart—to make something that wouldn’t otherwise exist. The thing you create is in some small way an expression of your deepest experience. At its best, this expression speaks to others on the universal plane of human understanding. And when your work resonates with someone else, that spark gives birth to community. Since you’re reading this post, I need hardly point out that building community is one of the internet’s most powerful capabilities: connecting us as we stumble toward enlightenment, becoming more intentional in our work and more compassionate with each other.

The Creative Flock
Relationships are part of how we define ourselves and understand what we’re doing. We know that infants and children who are deprived of social and physical contact fail to thrive and can even die. People really do need people. As artists, writers, and other creative practitioners, community is vital to inspiration and validation. Sharing ideas, talking shop, and simply rubbing elbows with other creative souls goes a very long way in keeping your artful self at the forefront. Increasing your creative social connectivity is one of the easiest ways to develop and maintain your creative identity—especially when you’re struggling with self-doubt and the logistics of making art happen. (And who among us doesn’t struggle with those things at least on occasion?)

The people you’re involved with, in person or online, inspire you. They’re doing things. You want to do things too. They’re enjoying successes, large and small. You want those things as well. Your creative social network reminds you of who you are when you’re so adrift in domestic/work life that your artist self is only a shadowy glimmer. When you can barely recall the feeling of clay under your fingernails, surround yourself with other creative people wherever possible. Immerse yourself in the world of your art. It’s not unlike the suggestion that when you want to lose weight, you should imagine yourself as a thin person and act like a thin person might act. Playing the part helps turn it into reality. Fake it till you make it.

Building Your Creative Community
Assess your resources. What and whom do you currently rely on for creative energy? Which online resources, in addition to this one, do you regularly enjoy? What else could you do to participate in your creative network more regularly—or what could you do to create one? Make a list. A few ideas for starters:

  • Reach out. Send e-mails or make phone calls to creative friends and associates from the past and find out what they’re up to. Facebook stalk them if necessary. (In the nice way, not the creeper way.) If anything resonates, develop the relationship.
  • Even if your home base isn’t an urban area, don’t prematurely decide that your networking options are limited. Many smaller towns have a local gallery or an artisans’ gift shop. Stop in and find out if there’s a consortium of artists you can join.
  • The Sun Magazine’s website offers connections to local readers’ and writers’ groups across the country: http://www.thesunmagazine.org/get_involved/discussion_and_writing_groups.
  • Pick up a few of those freebie arts publications that are often stacked by the door at stores and restaurants. Peruse to see if there’s anything going on nearby that you’d like to attend.
  • Yahoo Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com) and Google Groups (http://groups.google.com) exist on nearly any topic imaginable. Some are highly populated and post dozens of messages every day; others are quieter. Visit and search for your area of creative interest.
  • One of my favorite Yahoo Groups is an homage to Danny Gregory’s book Everyday Matters: http:// groups.yahoo.com/group/everydaymatters. With a focus on art (drawing in particular) this Yahoo Group is extremely active—and inspiring to visual artists as well as those who are not.
  • Craig’s List offers discussion groups on writing and the arts. Visit www.craigslist.org to find the Craig’s List website closest to you. Many locals use their local discussion list to form groups that meet in person.
  • If you have a favorite artist, writer, movement—or even a phrase!—that you’d like to keep tabs on, create a Google alert for that name or sequence of words. Whenever a new web page or blog is created with that string, you’ll receive an e-mail alert. This is a great way to explore the blogosphere. Visit www.google.com/alerts for details.
  • Join the Monday Post right here at Studio Mothers for accountability and support!

What else works for you in connecting with creative community?

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A version of the piece above originally appeared as a guest post at the fabulous Bliss Habits.

Alissa: One Question that Can Keep Technology from Destroying Your Creativity

I’m sure you’ve sat down at the computer before, one simple, five-minute task in mind, only to come out of a groggy internet fog an hour later with your kids clamoring for attention. Your task may not even be finished and, even worse, the precious few moments of down time you had are now gone. You want more time for creativity, and you need to use the internet simply to get life done, but it’s such a distraction! As technology permeates ever more corners of our lives are we allowing it to be a creative drain?

Recently I was starting to feel lousy and unable to focus. I knew needed some limits around technology, but “don’t use the computer or phone” wouldn’t work. Eventually, I realized, it’s pretty simple. I just need one question to keep technology from destroying my creativity:

What is my intention?

Every time I go to look at a screen I stop myself to ask this.

And I cringe to admit, I have found myself answering things like: “I’m bored.” Or “…Uhhh, I don’t know…”  Oh my gosh! I crave time to myself and I am fiddling it away when I have it!

By asking myself what my intention is, I better utilize my time online. I know I have a tendency to get distracted, so sometimes I’ll write down my intention to help keep me focused. When my intention is something like “socializing” or,“finding kids’ activities,” I try to remember to look at the clock before I begin and give myself the amount of time I can afford to give.

Technology can foster incredible creative work, inspiring connections, and support networks that you simply cannot find locally. It can also be a time suck and creative drain, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep asking, “What is my intention?” and you’ll find more time to allow your creativity to shine.

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Alissa Marquess is a homeschooling mom to three kids. She blogs about creating with, for, and in the midst of children at Creative With Kids. Her intention before getting on the computer this evening was to finish writing this article…done!

Image credit 

Kelly: Life Without Cable

Before the storm REALLY arrived, we were able to provide a little outside entertainment.

Before the storm REALLY arrived, we were able to provide a little outside entertainment.

The family and I were supposed to be on our way to north Georgia today (Friday as I write this) to visit my oldest and dearest friend Becky in Atlanta and my great aunt Olivia just south of Chattanooga, but the gods have turned against us. See, my magic bus (read minivan, but I’m way too cool to drive a minivan) is acting up. Engine’s running like a top, tires are fine, brakes are fine, A/C is cranking out ice-cold air. So what’s not working, you ask? The radio, the CD player, and most important when  taking two five-year-olds on a seven-hour drive, THE DVD PLAYER! Add to that the fact that we haven’t been able to find anyone to watch Isabelle, all the kennels are booked, lovely Gustav and Hanna are churning in the Caribbean and the Atlantic, we decided we just better stay home. Which brings me back to entertaining two five-year-olds…

Creative Mess Making

Creative Mess Making

As Tropical Storm Fay took up residence over North Florida for three days last week, we lost all electronic means of entertaining the girls. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not a big proponent of TV. I don’t really watch much myself at all (except for Antiques Roadshow and TLC’s What Not to Wear, but that’s another story), but when your children are up by 6am, your DH leaves for work at 6:15am, and you are responsible for getting yourself ready for work, your kids fed and ready for school, lunches packed, taking the kids to school and getting yourself to work on time (which remarkably rarely happens), a little Between the Lions and Max and Maya on PBS can be your best friends. But last week, for FIVE DAYS, we had no Between the Lions or Max and Maya. Now grant you, we did get power back after a day but did not get cable or internet back for five days, and there’s just so much Barbie Mariposa on DVD you can take. “Take them outside!” you say. (Did you miss the part about the tropical storm hanging over us for three days?) Oh sure, we’ll take them outside and let them play in the river, which was literally in the backyard.

Barbie and Friends posing for a photography session

Barbie and Friends posing for a photography session

Public schools closed down the Wednesday before the storm hit, so that meant I either had to take the day off or take the girls to work with me. Luckily, I work in Student Life so taking them to work with me was not that big of a deal…..until I had to keep them entertained. No amount of banner paper, markers, or drawer full of kids’ stuff I keep in my desk would do. Nope, the novelty of being at Mommy’s school was just too distracting. Once they got ALL THAT STUFF OUT, they decided they wanted to play hide and seek instead…in my office suite…under my desk, under my assistant’s desk, in the bathroom, in our workroom. The cuteness factor was even wearing off for my 19-year-old college students working in my office, so by 11:30 am, I gave up and we went home, and we were home the duration of the week.

While we were able to enjoy a fairly decent day on Thursday, even with rising waters, the storm started hitting us full force Thursday night, and we lost power from about 3 am Friday morning until about Noon Friday. By then the storm was really on us and the water was rising quickly. We resorted to letting the girls watch jaunts of Barbie Mariposa and Little Mermaid between tearing the house apart with toys everywhere while DH and I sweated out the rising waters. We ended up with about an inch of water in the house on the ground floor on Friday, but thankfully we just have a painted concrete floor down there and were able to get everything up off the ground.

48 hours AFTER the storm

48 hours AFTER the storm

Even after the storm passed late Friday, we still couldn’t let the girls get outside too much because we still had so much water everywhere. We live on a narrow island, essentially a road with houses on both sides of the street…the St. Johns River behind us and Brown’s Creek behind our neighbors across the street, and the two literally met. Our house was an island. So we continued with movie marathons, dress up parties, photo sessions, card games and random art projects throughout the rest of the weekend while trying to clean up the mess outside. It was a momentous moment for me: I did not even attempt to pick up inside the house for four days, and I still haven’t really cleaned up yet five days later. We were so grateful for Monday and back to school and work again! Our tides are still not back to normal; we’re still getting about a foot of water in the backyard with each high tide as Gustav and Hanna are gaining strength. Anybody want to move to Florida? 🙂 You can see all of my storm pictures with comments on what you’re seeing in my Flickr account here. Then while you’re in my Flickr account, go to the set called “Araceli Diaz photo shoot” and you can see what my house looks like on a normal day!

Miranda: Surf and turf

laptop2I imagine that most of us would admit to spending more time on the internet than we “should,” at least on occasion. Some months ago I turned off the automatic “check e-mail” schedule in Outlook, but really all that means is that I obsessively hit “send/receive” during any moment of down time or transition. And then there are all the websites and blogs I visit regularly. Some of them are related to creativity, but many aren’t. I have to keep an eye on the political news, and I’m on Facebook at least once a day. For reasons that I haven’t fully understood, I also visit celebrity/gossip websites, embarrassing as that is to admit.

Of course, surfing can be useful and inspiring. The internet helps us stay connected to the virtual creative network that is truly important to many creative women. Staying connected is a great way to remember that you ARE a creative person. Rubbing elbows, even virtual ones, with other creative types is often inspiring and motivating. (Hence our group affection for this blog.)

Sometimes I do get sick of my laptop, and set it aside for a day, but when I’m supposed to be working (as in, paying for childcare), I’m at my weakest. I know that most of the time I spend on the internet (and to some extent, e-mail) is pretty much a waste of time. I could definitely condense my daily surf round, and still keep up with everything I’m interested in. But I go back to certain sites repeatedly, throughout the day–clearly procrastinating. Especially these days, when I really do NOT feel like working. And it’s so inefficient to constantly interrupt myself to check e-mail or read another blog. Why not just get the work done, and THEN enjoy the R&R?

Lately I’ve been thinking of purchasing a wireless-free AlphaSmart Dana, because I like the idea of a machine that’s really an electronic typewriter. I simply don’t have the will power to turn off my internet connection while I’m working–be it “work work” or the creative stuff. But then I tell myself I shouldn’t be spending money when I could simply just hit the network button on the machine I already own.

How to balance the good of the internet with the bad of wasting time that could otherwise be spent on creativity? And while I’m procrastinating (ahem), what websites and blogs do you visit on a daily basis? (Feed the beast!)

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