The Key to Creativity…

March 31, 2009

Photo by Allison at

Photo by Allison at

I read an article recently that had a tremendous impact on me.  It was written by Mary Lou Johns and was published in the Country Register (  I learned a lot from it, so I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy! 

The Key to creativity: Making it a Habit

All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit.

We have to establish habits for our creative pursuits or the work will not get done and the creativity will have no place to manifest.  This is the theme of the book by American dance master Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit, Learn It and Use It for Life.

Tharp was recently honored at the Kennedy Center for her lifetime contribution and achievement in dance.  Her body of work is astonishing: She has created 135 dances so far, choreographed five movies, written two best-selling books, won a Tony Award and a couple of Emmy’s, received 19 honorary doctorates, the Vietnam Veterans of America President’s Award, a MacArthur fellowhip, the 2004 National Medal of the Arts and the 2008 Jerome Robbins Award.  She founded her own company, Twyla Tharp Dance, fresh from college in 1965, and she has choreographed for her own dancers and for many other companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, New York City Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance and the Martha Graham Dance company.

How does she do it?  And keep doing it? Approaching 70, Tharp still dances with her dancers and choreographs by physically moving.  This amazingly creative and prolific icon is a living icon to the power of establishing habits.

What does it mean to establish habits for our creative pursuits?  Aren’t we just supposed to let the creativity flow when the ideas come to us? No! Routines are what support our creativity.  Routines get us to the drawing board, to the rehearsal hall, the laboratory.  Routines give our brains the message, “This is the time and place; get busy.  Now!”

Tharp tells us, “Being creative is not a once-in-a-while sort of thing.  Being creative is an everyday thing, a job with its own routines.  That’s why writers, for example, like to establish routines for themselves.  The most productive ones get started early in the morning when the phones aren’t ringing and their minds are rested and not yet polluted by other people’s words.  They might set a goal – 1500 words or stay at their desk until noon – but the real secret is that they do this every day.  They do not waiver.  After a while it becomes a habit.

And the habit of  showing up at the workplace kicks the ideas into action.  You start producing because this is what you do.  Write 1500 words, sketch three thumbnails of possible paintings, begin dancing.  At first, the quality of the work doesn’t matter.  Just get started.  Later you can edit, revise, and delete.

There is no mystery in the prolific creativity of writer Stephen King, of choreographer Twyla Tharp, or inventor Thomas Edison.  The secret is none other than the habit of work.  King writes every day, all morning.  Tharp goes to the gym every day.  Edison worked in his lab almost constantly.

Tharp tells us that “the routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightening bolt of inspiration (perhaps more).  And it is available to everyone.  If creativity is a habit, then the best creativity is a result of good work habits.”

It’s a new year, a perfect time to decide to maximize your creative expression. (By creative expression, I mean problem solving, being innovative at work, good parenting, and etc., as well as artistic expression.) So, what habits will you establish?

I formed a group of fellow watercolor artists who meet every Monday morning to paing.

I also enrolled in an art course at the local  community college.  Both of these get me thinking about art and making art on a regular basis.  I know that these habits will lead to improvement and productivity.

All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit.

Mary Lou Johns is a certified Life Coach.  She works with creative people to build their business, unblock their genius, and experience work/leisure balance.  She expresses creatively through watercolor, knitting and writing.  Her website is


Pictured Rocks, Munising, Michigan

Pictured Rocks, Munising, Michigan

Here’s a post from Leo Babauta  at Zen Habits that I wanted to share.  In difficult times, it’s easy for my focus to narrow and for discontent to set in.  Leo lays out some great ideas to widen our vision and improve the quality of our lives.


Do Something That Gives You Meaning

Often we feel dissatisfied with life because while we might have a good life — at least, all the comfort and leisure we need — we might not be doing anything that feels worthwhile. It might feel meaningless.

The cure: find meaning, do something meaningful. Just a few ways:

1. Spend time with loved ones. I love spending time with my wife and kids, with my sisters and parents, and other loved ones. It gives me joy. It feels more meaningful than most other things I do (besides writing). I recommend you take the time to do something with a loved one — just go for a walk, play a game together, have a conversation, it doesn’t matter what. Really be there — don’t be thinking of other things you need to do. Really listen. Really try to help the person if possible. It will make a difference in both your lives.

2. Volunteer. This is a common suggestion, but that’s because it’s so awesome. There is nothing like giving yourself — your time, you love — to something you feel is worthwhile. Make a call today to find out how to volunteer for an organization you like, and make an appointment on your calendar.

3. Create something meaningful. As I said above, writing is something that is very meaningful to me. Any kind of creating — whether it be writing, drawing, playing music, designing, building something — can bring meaning to your life. You’re creating something new, expressing yourself, sharing it with others so that it may enrich their lives and the world in general.

4. Make the lives of others better. Volunteering is just one way to accomplish this. But you could also think about your loved ones, your neighbors, others in the world around you, and think about how you can help them, make their lives better, even in a small way. That might mean baking them cookies, listening to them, cleaning for them, writing a kind letter, buying a nice gift, anything.

These are just a few ways, of course — there are lots of ways to do something meaningful. These have worked for me, but I’m sure you’ve found your own ways.



Last night I couldn’t sleep.  This is kind of a regular thing for me, but lately that time of night has been full of creativity.  I write entire blog posts – brilliant ones, too! – and then can’t remember them in the morning.  Last night I actually got up to write this topic down because I started to think about the changes my life has gone through in the past two years.  I have compared this time of my life to the transformation of a butterfly all along.  But last night I started thinking about all the pain I’ve gone through during this time and it started me thinking…does the butterfly suffer, too? 

As nature makes over the simple caterpillar into a thing of beauty, does it hurt?  Does it feel the growing pains of its metamorphasis?  I wonder what the time in the chrysalis is like for the caterpillar.  Is it a restful time while nature takes care of the changes, or is it an intense time of work and struggle?

Regardless of the process, the butterfly and I will eventually emerge – each as a new creation.  The pain we have gone through will be rewarded by discovering we have wings.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…

25 Things About Me…

March 23, 2009

I was over at Quirky-Is-A-Compliment ‘s blog and saw where she had a listing called “100 Things About Me” that a lot of bloggers are doing now.  I’m an interesting person (she says modestly) so I decided to give it a whirl.  However, I think I’ll break it into groups of 25 at a time.  So here goes the first 25:

1.  My little brother was born on my 3rd birthday.

2.  Canada is the only country I’ve visited outside the U.S.

3.  I met Prince Albert of Monaco when I was 17.  He attended the same college as my brother and I met him when I visited.  We watched Mork and Mindy together. (honestly!)

4.  My best friend Emo died nearly 17 years ago of Cystic Fibrosis. My daughter Emily is named after her.

5.  I have some of the same friends for nearly my whole life.  Karin since birth, Jules since 3rd grade, Abbie since 4th grade and Karen since 5th grade.  I am still close to them all – aren’t I lucky!

6.  I always wanted to write a book someday.

7.  I am going to graduate from college with my Bachelor’s Degree in May at the age of 46-years-old…yea me!

8.  My first vehicle was a 1965 Dodge van with no interior anything.  Just a big metal box!  No power steering or brakes, either.

9.  I went to a ball at West Point Military Academy when I was 19.  My best friend Emo and I flew out and attended the ball with a cadet from our hometown and his best friend.  Cadets know how to PARTY!

10.  My pillow travels with me wherever I go.  No exceptions.

11.  I am addicted to Mello Yello. 

12.  I have a drink named after me.  A local coffee shop named DewHills concocted a drink using chai and smoothie mix and they call it Di’s Chai.  It’s stronger than similar drinks at Starbucks and such.  SO yummy.  My kids love it too. 

13.  I am a passionate gardener, and it nearly killed me to leave my gardens behind at the old house when I got divorced.  Someday I want to have a new garden because I really miss it.

14.  I played the clarinet for 20 years, but can’t anymore after 2 jaw surgeries.  As much as I loved it, I have always wanted to play the piano.  I still am planning on taking lessons someday.

15.  I cannot paint in watercolors well.  I love acrylics, but I just cannot seem to make watercolors behave and it’s very frustrating for me..everything looks like mud.

16.  My kids are the best thing I’ve ever done.  Nothing I will ever do will mean anything if I fail them.

17.  I am not Martha Stewart, nor do I try anymore.

18.  I’m a little obsessed with how the laundry gets done.  I have my quirky little ways and it’s hard for me to let go and let the kids help.

19.  I didn’t eat pizza until I was 14.  I was convinced I didn’t like it.  I have spent the time since then trying to make up for the deficit.

20.  I played with Barbies until I was a freshman in high school.

21. I love to read romance novels.  These days I scoff at them, but I still read them.  I hope my belief in romance comes back someday.

22.  I have size 11 feet.

23.  I am a licensed beautician.  I have been fascinated with hair from a young age, so on a hiatus from college I went to school for it.  I still love it and until we moved to this duplex I always had a salon in my basement.

24.  My kids and I are huge fans of American Idol.

25.  I am in love with David Cook, winner of last year’s American Idol.  I have an 8 x 10 of him on the bulletin board above my desk.  Yes, I know, he could be my son…a gal can dream!

There you have my first installment.  Check back for the rest!

I’m excited to be a part of  The Ultimate Blog Party this year!  I don’t know a lot about it since it’s my first year, but I am happy I get to learn while meeting lots of other bloggers.

Join the Virtual party!

It has become a tradition in the “momosphere.” It is the perfect event to build your network and have some serious blogging fun, all without stepping away from your machine…

The blogging life is about relationships — meaningful friendships that grow out of sharing who we are and getting to know one another.

And like real life friendships, online friends need a place to meet and mingle. So if you want to grow your network, meet new friends or promote your site, get ready for the Ultimate Blog Party 2009!!!

Click on the button on the top right to join the party now!



Meet the 4th member of our family – our cat, Laney.  We got Laney when she was a tiny kitten.  She was adopted from the Menominee Animal Shelter right before Christmas in 2006.  We had just moved from the family home during my divorce, and I knew what we needed was a kitty to make this house into a home.

From the start Laney has been the cuddliest cat I’ve ever had.  On the weekends when the kids are gone with their father, she is especially attentive to me.  On our first Christmas alone together, she stayed in bed with me all day and let me pet and pamper her…wasn’t that nice of her??

As I’m writing this, Laney is lying across one of my arms…kind of hard to ignore her when she’s doing that!  But I usually don’t want to, because Laney is excellent company.  She doesn’t care if I cry – she just lets me pet her until I feel better.  She doesn’t care if I’m stressed, she just lets me pet her until I feel more relaxed.  What a wonderful kitty to let me feel what I feel!

One thing I don’t feel around her is lonely…not as long as I have Laney.

I have no idea if this dessert has another name, or if my mom made this up.  She always said this dessert was named this because it was so easy any idiot could make it.  Regardless of the name, it was a favorite all my growing up years, and it is my kids favorite, also.  My son turned twelve today and we made it for him to take to school as we have been doing since my daughter was in kindergarten – eleven years ago – and for each of their birthdays since.  The teachers and administrators look forward to it and it is the most requested dessert recipe I’ve ever had.

This time, however, my son insisted on doing the whole thing himself.  Keep in mind there is no official recipe, but I’m just telling you what amounts we used.  It changes every time we make it, depending on the crowd we’re feeding. 

Call it whatever you want and enjoy!

100_11051We used 4 bags of Chips Ahoy cookies, 4 tubs of Cool-Whip, and 2 cans of evaporated (not condensed) milk.  I use disposable aluminum pans to send to school, but any baking dish will do.  Remember this was for an extra-large crowd, so this recipe can be halved and quartered easily!

100_11062Pour the evaporated milk into a shallow bowl.  Dip the cookies, one at a time, into the evaporated milk.  Flip so the cookie is wet all over, but don’t soak.  Remove the cookie and place it in the baking pan.  Continue until there is a layer of cookies on the bottom of the pan.

100_11101When the layer is completed, use a rubber spatula to spread a generous layer of Cool-Whip over the top of the cookies.  Repeat another layer of dipped cookies, and repeat the Cool-Whip layer.  I do this up to three layers, but two is good if that’s the pan size that you’re using.

When your layers are complete and you have spread the Cool-Whip on the top, sprinkle a little crumbled cookie on the top for decoration and chill overnight.  The cookies soften and it makes a super-yummy dessert!   Wasn’t that easy?



 This is Karen’s painting in progress from our GNA…She has been saving a hornets nest for the longest time and finally used it in her acrylic painting for texture and fun.  She was delighted when the paint started coming through the nest in places and showed up a really cool pattern in the layers of the nest.  We thought it looked like seaweed when she was done…what do you think?

I was thinking more about how I just enjoy the the process of creating that I blogged about last night.  I think it’s a pretty good rule of life to live by, too – I want to really enjoy the process of living the days and not worry so much about the end result.  I want to enjoy the days of my life without wondering how it’s all going to turn out.  I never know with my paintings or my jewelry, why should I know with my life?  It always seems to turn out exactly the way it’s supposed to, even if I don’t know where I’m going ahead of time.

GNA – Girls Night Art!

March 20, 2009


Finally!  Karen and I finally got to squeeze in an Art Night!  We were both at rock bottom creatively, but our lives have been chaotic and haven’t allowed us time to get together.  Tonight that ended, and we had a good paint smearing session…hurray!

I love to smear paint.  I do mainly acrylics, and I do mostly abstracts.  I love the process more than anything…I love the feeling of using pallette knives to spread all the vibrant colors on canvas – it is inspiration at it’s best for me.

The lighting in my kitchen makes my painting look a little more washed out than it really is, but the end result isn’t nearly as satisfying to me as the process is.  What also is inspiring is to spend time creating with my friend and fellow artist, who always seems to bring out the artist in me.  We have been doing art together since high school, and we seem to do our best stuff together.  We play music, we goof off and even sometimes feel like those high schoolers again.  My son told us tonight that we were both “total dorks,” which I take as a high compliment!  I’m happy to be a dork because it means I was having fun!


I got this forward and I really needed it the day it arrived.  My hut was on fire.  Maybe this will be the day it’s happening to your hut.  I thought it was very worth sharing.

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island.  He prayed feverishly for God to rescur him.  Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.  Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions.  One day, after scavengine for food, he arrived home to find his lettle hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky.  He felt the worst had happened, and everything was lost.  He was stunned with disbelief, grief and anger.  He cried out, “God!  How could you do this to me?”

Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island.  It had come to rescue him!  “How did you know I was here?” asked the wary man of his rescuers.  “We saw the smoke signal,” they replied.

The Moral of the Story:

It’s easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, but we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of our pain and sufferering.  Remember that the next time your little hut seems to be burning to the ground.  It just may be a smoke signal that summons the Grace of God.


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