What are you reading?

I am making a conscious effort to read more. I don’t think I’ve disliked reading, but I haven’t made it any kind of priority.

As I read more about writing practices, reading practices make frequent appearances.

Over the last handful of years, business books have been on my list, and my bookshelf. Many of them still need to be completed! But the idea of fiction has been laying dormant until recently. I’ve been processing input from authors, noting influence and imagination can be valuable threads to pull from fiction. I’ve completed one book recently, but am looking for some additional titles!

What are some of your favorites?

What are some that you found interesting?

What authors have inspired you?

How long is your wishlist of titles?

Conversation Starter

Can we talk?

Did you want to grab a coffee, or tea, or water? Could we sit and chat for just a few moments?

In this age of social media, there are many voices and viewpoints out there. Some more one-sided than others, some louder than others. Are there any conversations? I mean, real, civil, productive conversations?

Everyone has a viewpoint and opinion, as that’s the nature of being human in this world. We all have experiences that we have come through, and more that we will face, and those shape our reactions, our perspectives, our opinions. But often there is something missing from the picture.

So what’s the conversation starter?

Empathy

Start with empathy instead of the soapbox. Begin with consideration of the other person’s perspective, even if we don’t agree. Empathy doesn’t require changing our viewpoint or opinion. It simply requires we pause for a moment, to look at the person, or hear the voice across from us in the light of humanness.

Empathy doesn’t require changing our viewpoint or opinion

We are all broken in some way or another. We have scars, memories, and baggage that we bring to every conversation or interaction. Often these are much bigger for some than for others. Sometimes they are hidden deep beneath layers and years of bandages: sarcasm, exercise, even smiles. Sometimes they are more visible, recent and still raw.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
    sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Proverbs 16:24 ESV

Perhaps at this point you’re asking what this has to do with creativity, since that’s what I try to draw out in this space. I think that creativity takes conscious effort, regardless of talent or ability. I think that empathy requires conscious effort as well, regardless of how kind we believe we already are.

The other interesting connection here, is the word “perspective.” I’ll leave you to look at the various definitions, but even the description that relates to art could be connected to human interactions.

An object or person that is in perspective has the correct size and position in comparison with other things in the picture.

dictionary.cambridge.org

Let’s keep the conversation going! I’m going to quick grab a refill of coffee, but would like to hear what’s on your mind! Do you need anything?

How do you approach conversations these days?

Afternoon Walks

Looking for details as I walk through the neighborhood, there are so many things to note, observe, and appreciate .

Sunshine and shadow.

So many shades of green.

Clouds in a myriad of shapes and sizes.

Sounds of children playing

And dogs barking

And hawks overhead.

Flowers in pinks, purples, oranges, and whites

Footfalls on pavement.

Progress.

As you move throughout your day, what are the details you see and hear?

Grandma’s Doughnuts

Food and memories go very well together. Mix in some slightly faded childhood images, and well, it’s hard to make it much more meaningful.

There is a recipe that my grandma made. This was not an everyday recipe, that I can recall, but a recipe that she put into use once a year. As the air turned cooler, and pumpkins were ready to pick and carve, plans were put in place for trick-or-treating. 

Now this isn’t a post about being for or against Halloween, it’s simply a memory set in a time and place. I grew up out in the country, with no real “neighborhood” to speak of. There were neighbors, without a doubt! They just lived a little farther down the dirt road, past the edge of the field.

I don’t really know who planned everything, but know that the kids that lived within a couple of square miles would gather at Grandpa and Grandma’s, and either load into a car caravan, or some years a hay wagon, and off we would go to trick-or-treat! We would run up to doors of people who were expecting us. Older folks, and parents of some of the kids along for the ride. All greeting us with smiles and bowls of candy.

Once we made the rounds, we would be taken back to the farm, and when we were smaller, go into Grandma’s house, where all the goodies would be on her dining room table. Popcorn balls, and doughnuts. I’m sure there were other things as well, but the doughnuts were the highlight!

I vaguely recall being in her kitchen a time or two, when the production was happening, and it was a production! I don’t know how many batches she would make, but she would make half of them with cocoa powder, half plain. 

Anyway, back to the recipe… I lived with Grandma for just over a year when I was out of college, and was able to collect a couple of her recipes. This was one of them. She had clipped it from a magazine, but I copied it down as if it was a treasure map. (Which I guess in some ways, it is!) It leads me back to those childhood memories, the sights, sounds, smells of autumn evenings, rustling leaves, children’s laughter and time spent with friends and family.

Where was I going with this?

The recipe… Here are the doughnuts, which for the longest time, I was afraid to even attempt, for fear it would ruin any memory I had. How could I possibly compete with childhood memories at Grandma’s house???

But, you will likely hear me say something similar when standing in front of a task or project that seems scary or daunting: think of it as an adventure! I knew I wanted to try it, and I would still have the memories regardless of how mine turned out.

I was actually fairly pleased! They couldn’t compare with Grandma’s, but they were still tasty! I need to make them again sometime, but will also need to find some folks who are willing to take some. It makes quite a few, and they are best eaten warm, or at least the same day they are made.

Any takers?

Take Time

To pause.

To give thanks.

To consider.

To appreciate even if you don’t agree.

To listen to a thunderstorm.

To just watch clouds go by.

To notice how many shades of green appear in the canopy of a tree.

To notice how those greens change when the sun shines through.

To smell the coffee, before you add water.

And then after you add water.

To actually taste your coffee.

Chocolate? Berries? Nuts? What does it taste like?

To sit and not feel like you should be doing something else.

To rember that being,

is not

a waste of time

Pause.

Take time.

Family Recipe

There is something I gave to my girls, nieces and nephews a number of Christmases ago.

Their nana had passed that September, and I had the opportunity to gather some of the prayers she had written in her journal for each of her grandchildren. I compiled the various handwritten copies of her words, in separate notebooks for each, with the hope that they would know they were loved, and prayed over consistently.

This notebook also contained some of Nana’s recipes. Gingersnap and chocolate chip cookies that she made, often with helpers, as well as some treats that were made for holidays and family gatherings. Some of these were also in her own handwriting. (I think there is a bigger connection when you see someone’s handwriting.)

Here is some additional text that I wrote, and placed in the front of each notebook:

photo.joshuapaulking.com

———–

Before time began, you were written into history.

You are part of a story.

As you became part of this family, you were brought into traditions, conversations, and hearts. You have been part of many family dinners, and holiday happenings. You have been woven into the memory of others, and have made memories of your own.

You also became an answered prayer. Within this notebook are the words spoken in prayer for you between Nana and God. They are surely only a small fraction of the many conversations she had with Him about you. These conversations are here for you to read, remember, and to carry on.

Know you are loved. Know you were chosen to be part of this family. Know that you were prayed for.

Your heritage and your story have begun, but you continue to write it, breath by breath, word by word. 

Remember that words are powerful. Choose wisely.

You continue to write paragraphs, pages, and chapters as you live out each day.

What are the words you choose to write? Your story could help, teach, encourage, and strengthen others.

Seek wisdom.

Do justly.

Love mercy

Be kind.

Love.

Your Story

Have you ever noticed, when there is a story attached to something, it seems to pull the listener or observer in closer to hear the details.

It holds true for me because when I write, or paint, or think, I don’t just think of an object or place, I look deeper for meaning, a connection, a story. I realize that many of the things I have created came with a story, or a story came as I worked on them.

Each of us has our own story. We all have a beginning and are living out our middle. With what has been given, add new lines, paragraphs, chapters.

This is not The End,

it is To be continued. . .

Do you connect more with something that has a story?

Make Space to Create

One thing I find with creating, is that it takes space, physical, mental, and time-al? Here are some things to consider as you prepare:

  1. Clear a physical space.
  2. Clear a mental space
  3. Clear space in your schedule

Physical Space

It may seem obvious, but having a clear physical space is really important! I don’t have an extra room to set up a studio of any kind, so our dining room table is my space. While we don’t eat many meals at this table, it is in the middle of our living space, so I don’t want to leave it piled with paints, papers, etc. Though I confess this often happens, I am trying to be more organized, and am actively working on this step.

To bake or cook, you will need table or counter space to gather ingredients, assemble the dough or batter, and cool the final product. Again, this for me, is a constant work in progress. Especially if you live with others, this is something that others can help with!

Mental Space

Next, clearing some space in your mind allows you to focus on your project, even if you are experimenting with a new tool, recipe, or medium, setting aside the rest of your to-do list for this time will be important. You can set a timer if you have other pressing tasks to get to, to avoid getting lost in the creative process, but I would offer that an occasional open ended afternoon of playing with paint, paper, or dough can be very relaxing!

This is something that sometimes requires a choice to make space for. Often it feels like an “extra” that maybe doesn’t or shouldn’t take priority, but I’m learning that if you want it to become a habit, or are looking to increase your skill, it needs to be a priority!

Give yourself permission to create that mental space.

Schedule Space

This takes us nicely into a space in your schedule. Having some scheduled time to create can be a great help in building your skill. Just like exercise, putting in on the calendar like an appointment can be a simple way to keep yourself accountable. Sometimes it can feel like play, and shouldn’t take a spot that might be needed for laundry, yard work, or dishes, but if we neglect the creative muscles, you will eventually begin to notice.

As you begin to think about creating, be sure to make space. The first few times may be a little difficult, but the more you allow yourself the opportunity, the more your skills will develop.

How do you create space in your life for creativity?

Morning Coffee

Almost every morning, I make myself a cup of coffee. A mug, really. With a daughter who was a maestro for a local coffee shop, I learned some things about really tasting different types of coffee, and have put into practice, different methods for enjoying it fully.

I buy whole bean coffee, and while I am not a snob about using pre-ground coffee, there is a definite difference in the flavor that makes it into the cup (or mug).

My morning coffee goes like this:

I select the mug I will use. This is an important step! I have a few favorites, so I have some options. 

I get the white ceramic pour over coffee funnel that my other daughter got me for Christmas a few years ago, a coffee filter, and the coffee beans. The coffee beans are stored in the buffet, and each time I open the door where they are kept, the best scent greets my nose. 

I place the filter into the funnel, and with a gentle clink, I place the funnel on top of my coffee mug. I pour some coffee beans into my small manual grinder, listening to the plinking of roasted goodness, hitting the sides and nestling into place. 

I pour filtered water into my electric kettle, and push down the lever to begin the heating process. As the light on the kettle glows, I get to work grinding the beans. 

The grinder is a small metal cylinder, with ceramic burrs, that fits on top of another metal cylinder which captures the aromatic grounds as the handle on top is turned. It is a process that I have been following for some time now, but it is routine, and familiar. 

As the water begins to stir in the kettle, I continue to grind the beans until they gather at the imaginary mark on the small clear window of the bottom cylinder. I pour them into the waiting filter, and the water boils.

I pour a bit of water over the grounds, the steam carrying the aroma upward. As the water sinks in, I watch some flavorful flecks cling to the sides of the filter, and others move toward the bottom, taking the shape of the funnel. 

I continue to pour water, watching it soak through the grounds, making its way into my mug. I add some agave and half and half when the level is right, and stir to combine. 

I take my mug over to the kitchen table, which has been my work space for the last few months, to begin my day.

This is my morning coffee.

Keeping a Creative Perspective

I love the idea of creativity, and believe that everyone has some…creativity, that is. Sometimes it gets buried deep, due to fear, and I get that! It happens to me too! But I want this to be a safe space to come, find ideas, share some ideas, and grow your creativity. 

I will share projects, processes, and ponderings along the way, and would love to answer any questions you might have related to creativity. If you have an idea for a project, but are unsure where to start, I’d be happy to help!

Creativity needs to be nurtured. This includes exercising it, stretching and trying new things, as well as practicing some fundamentals. For those familiar with sports, some of these terms may sound familiar. There are some similarities. While there are people with raw talent, they still have to work to fine tune skills. For some this comes easily, and the skills develop quickly. For others, it takes more time, more energy, and more commitment. Neither of these ways are wrong, just different.

So if you find yourself saying you’re not creative, I invite you to visit, ask questions, and be willing to stretch and learn through the process. We may not be running any marathons here, but the exercises and outcomes can be very rewarding!