The Super-Incredible Reinforcing Loop of Creativity and Confidence!

red loops

photo credit: Patrick Hoesly via photopin cc

I don’t know if this happens to you, but I’ve noticed this neat cycle in my life involving creativity.  I have even given it a name.  I am calling it the Super-Incredible Reinforcing Loop of Creativity and Confidence!

What do you think?

Sometimes I’m a total cornball, but it’s kind of great, right?? Eh???

Okay, in all seriousness, let me explain what I’m talking about.  It goes something like this:

I tentatively try something new.  This something new is successful on some level (maybe it’s great, but at the bare minimum, I survive it intact).  Feelings of wonder, amazement, euphoria, surprise, relief, and etcetera ensue from the successful venture.  Emboldened by these feelings, I try something else new, this time maybe a bit less tentatively.  And the loop starts again and again and again.

Sure, I’ve tried new things before, but what’s different right now is the way in which my creative mind is responding to it.  I’m keenly aware that with each endeavor my confidence builds just a bit more, which in turn, triggers more creative sparkage and subsequently builds even more confidence.

It’s quite the little snowball of activity, I must say.

And, my creative side is showing up in interesting ways.  I haven’t blogged about the more obvious manifestations of creative exploits lately (like my knitting) because I haven’t been doing so much of them, if I’m going to be honest.  (I miss this activity and will get back to it in time, but for various life-related reasons, I’ve had to take a knitting hiatus.)

But other creative endeavors are flourishing.

There is my cooking mojo, for instance.  I’ve been feeling much more inventive in the kitchen lately, heady with bravado, tossing strict recipes to the wayside and operating more organically, spontaneously, and fluidly as a result.

In bowl with parsley 4 - edited

There is also my blogging/writing.  Ideas have been popping up in my head left and right.  The challenge for me right now is to organize them for filtering and action.

Then there’s my work.  Moving into a new job where I’m being given space and encouragement to think, try, and just go out and do has been refreshing and welcomed.

There are other things, too.  I’ve started a balcony garden, unleashing my creativity on the tasks of selecting seeds and planters, gathering ideas for growing methods and combinations of herbs and veggies to nurture.  I’m thinking about running and workout training methods with a fresh perspective.  I’m itching to refresh my wardrobe with some new infusions of color and style and having visions of ways to clean up and brighten up my living space.

pot with scoop - edited

It’s strikingly clear to me right now how much just simply surviving something that can be scary or intimidating can build new levels of confidence that filter in to so many parts of my life.  I am by no means totally triumphant in all the things I’m attempting, but just getting through them without complete disaster striking is sometimes all I need to spur the next attempt, the next idea, and the next big (to me) thing.  It’s one loop I don’t mind being stuck in.

A Burgeoning Obsession: Fingerless Mitts

I used to think that fingerless mitts and gloves were, well to be honest, weird.  I just didn’t get them.  I mean, why make, buy or wear something that only did half a job??

Oh, naïve Me.

I knitted my first pair of fingerless mitts despite these ill-formed beliefs primarily because I didn’t feel quite ready/skilled enough to knit a full pair of gloves and wanted to practice a bit first.  Needless to say, once I knitted them, I realized how deluded I had been.  Fingerless mitts are fantastic!  I just finished making my third pair (my favorite so far) and I can’t get enough.

mitts 4

Not only are they just plain fun as a fashion accessory, but they actually do a complete and wonderful job – it’s just a DIFFERENT job than the one full gloves or mittens do.  I’ve mentioned before that I have Raynaud’s Phenomenon.  It’s an awful thing and even when I’m indoors at work, my fingers, while not in full-on Raynaud’s dysfunctional immobility mode, are still quite cold.  I tried wearing gloves in my office, but typing became a bit problematic.  After fumbling with my keyboard and typing words with so many errors that they didn’t even resemble English, I knew gloves and work were not going to co-exist harmoniously.

Enter fingerless mitts.

Now, obviously, they don’t cover all parts of my fingers, so I still have some cold and discomfort, but the additional warmth on the majority of my hand really does make some difference.

Plus, they’re fun to knit.  Many knitters have favorite things to knit.  Some knitters always have a pair of socks on the needles, others live for hats.  At least for right now, these are my becoming my go-to project.

These newest ones are made from the Pine Court Mitts pattern by Shannon Squire.  It’s a fantastic pattern and, even better, written by the owner of my very own local yarn store, Twisted, which is an amazing LYS.  They’re not too chunky, which I like, and the cabled detailing is enough to make them interesting and fun, without being too busy on the eyes (hence not detracting from or clashing with whatever I might be wearing on any given day).  I used a beautiful random yarn that I picked up in a clearance bin.  The bit of cashmere in it makes it unbelievably soft and cozy on my hands and the variegated grey colorway is endlessly versatile.  Frankly, I couldn’t be happier with these.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m not eager to cast on the next pair!

Holiday Gift-Giving is What Drives Knitters Completely Mad, Right??

I was one of those knitters this year that decided to gift handmade goods to everyone on my holiday giving list.  While I can honestly say that I am glad that I did so and I enjoyed all the making of items for others, I can also honestly say that it was a wee bit stressful.

Some of my creatively handmade gifted items this year!

Some of my creatively handmade gifted items this year!

Sure, it starts out all giddy excitement – picking patterns and yarn and imagining spotless, perfectly knitted pieces of lovingly created craft wrapped up beautifully, waiting to be opened by their recipients with delight and care.

But it comes to an end with needles frantically clicking together, items stretched out, blocking all over the apartment (leaving little room to walk), you taking clandestine trips to coffee shops where you knit speedily in secret away from those in your home who are receivers of said gifts, and wrapping up items quickly, pushing cats off the wrapping paper and frowning with stress over all the errors you notice (a purl instead of a knit here, a slight snag in the yarn there, that one stupid row where you forgot to slip the first stitch and knitted it instead!), until you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve put together sad excuses for gifts that would be fine if they were coming from a third-grader who goes to a Waldorf school and learned to knit that term, rather than a 32-year old woman who has been at the craft for a couple of years now and spent weeks working on them.

Phew.

But, really, I AM glad I did it.

Irregardless of the imperfections and unsure of which items will be put to good use and which may be tossed into the dark recesses of a closet, I AM glad I did it for a Knitting vintage girlcouple of reasons.  Each handmade item was crafted with thought for the intended recipient.  Instead of heading to the mall and buying whatever gifty things were marketed to the masses, I did take the time to consider each recipient and personalize something specifically for each of them.  I also supported local, small businesses with my crafted gifts.  Supplies used either came from my stash of yarn (which had been previously purchased locally) or was bought fresh from local yarn and craft stores.  And I am proud to share something that I love to do with others in my life.  Like me, the items may not be perfectly crafted, but they are full of good intentions and the spirit of generosity.

Also, of course, now that it’s all over, selfish knitting can take over!  Now begins a few months, at least, of sorting through my Ravelry library and queue and cozying up to items that I can toss around my own neck, slip onto my own hands, and sprinkle throughout my apartment.  Exciting stuff is in the works, indeed!

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #4: It’s Handy When You’re Cheap and Broke. Oh wait – Frugal! I meant Frugal!

A Note about This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

Last week I talked about how creativity supports self-sufficiency.  Today I’d like to take that a step further.  I don’t know about all of you readers out there, but I will admit that I am a bit . . . thrifty these days.  I wasn’t always.  I used to spend money like mad.  I didn’t have that money, exactly, but I had little pieces of plastic and it’s remarkable how many retailers you can trick into thinking that plastic = money.

Fast forward a few years and things are a bit . . . different.  Without lamenting about all of my financial drama, let’s just say that I have learned some lessons.  I am now a much more frugal individual.  I buy what I need and sometimes what I want, but I spend thoughtfully and save wherever I can.

photo credit: Gerard Van der Leun via photopin cc

Connecting to my creative mind is such an ally to the new more prudent me.  Let’s face it, life is costly.  Eating well, enjoying various forms of entertainment, gift giving to those you care about, clothing one’s self appropriately, and paying for transportation to get through your days are just some of the ways in which just living can empty our pocketbooks.  Throw in a recessed economy, the need to think about future financial security and inflation and you can get a pretty grim, dull picture if you’re not careful.

Now my picture has, too, been grim and dull at times, but creativity has been able to liven things up a bit.  I’ve talked plenty on this blog about my love for running, knitting, and cooking – all endeavors that provide inexpensive entertainment – but it goes way beyond that.  My creative brain is saving money on holiday gifting this year by churning out some handmade items.  It frequently saves me money on transportation, by strategically planning shipping trips and errands in the most cost-effective way (Yes – successful strategic planning DOES take massive amounts of creative thinking); and it cuts my grocery bills by thinking about cost-effective ingredients in new, interesting ways.  You get the idea.

Thinking imaginatively can open up a whole world of ways to make your life a bit more affordable.  Mr. Move Eat Create and I were finally able to take a bit of a mini-break a few weeks to go visit his family in Michigan – something that seemed very out of reach financially.  However, by creatively planning and playing with travel dates, accommodation options, and entertainment ideas, et cetera, we were able to make it happen.

As I’ve mentioned before, I work in social services.  I can say, without hesitation, that some of the most creative people I have ever met are many of my clients – those living with little or no income.  There is something about survival that necessitates creativity, but many of them have taken it even beyond just surviving.  I have been amazingly impressed by the tactics, talents, and skills that many of my clients have drawn upon to put together gifts for their kids, for their friends, even for me.  (Don’t worry – I’m not accepting gifts from my clients unethically!  But, I’m also not rejecting a beautifully crafted handmade thank you card given to me with earnest appreciation and respect, either).

A wish that I have is that more of us would find and tap into our creative streaks in times beyond necessity.  Do it when you’re struggling and need to be inventive to survive, but do it again later, too.  Do it when you are beyond just surviving and when you’re your ready to manifest your ideas, try something different, plan out a helpful strategy, and save a few bucks!

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Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #3:  Self-Sufficiency

Why Creativity Counts #2:  It Makes You Smarter

Why Creativity Counts #1:  Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #3: Self-Sufficiency

A Note about This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

I have no illusions about being a completely independent, self-sufficient person.  I know that I will always rely on the skills and talents of others to get through my life.  When my toilet breaks, I’m calling a plumber.  When I want to travel, I’m putting myself in the hands of a trained pilot.  When my computer breaks, I’m shouting for help from Mr. Move Eat Create.  You get the idea.

But as sure as I am in the necessity of calling upon others for their abilities, I’m just as sure that stretching my own talents is useful, practical, and enjoyable.  I want to be as self-sufficient as possible.  I want to know how to do things and to not be afraid to try, for better or worse.  Drawing upon my creative-self to become more self-sufficient just makes sense for a number of reasons.

Photo credit: Daniel*1977 via photopin cc

I’m a pretty independent woman, don’t you know?  When I don’t know how to do something that (in my mind) seems simple, it upsets me.

No.  Wait.

It pisses me off.  Yes.  That’s more accurate.

So the more creative I get with my abilities; the more handy I become; the more adventurous and clever in my talents; the more independent I am and the less pissed off I am.  It’s simple, really.

When I was getting ready to turn 30 I freaked out.  I had some very serious early-mid-life crisis action going on.  And then it happened.  The big day came and I was still a mess for a bit.  Now I am 32.  In those two years, a lot has happened to change my view about being a woman in my thirties and one of the biggest factors has been reflecting upon how much I know and how many things I can do that I couldn’t do just a few years ago.

And, I undoubtedly owe most of it to finding my creative side and letting it prosper.

Things I couldn’t do in my twenties:

  •             Cook. (Okay, I could make grilled cheese sandwiches and mashed potatoes.  Not exactly an extensive repertoire.)
  •             Knit.
  •             Sew on a button.
  •             Organize a useful pantry.
  •             Develop a fitness routine that kept me engaged.
  •             Make a tasty cocktail.
  •             See so much beauty in nature.
  •             Make a homemade greeting card.
  •             Make my own scented body scrub/bath salts.
  •             Put together an attractive outfit from thrift store finds.

Things I can do in my thirties:

  •             All of the above.
  •             More.
  •             Be damn proud of myself for it.

Photo credit: [ henning ] via photopin cc

I used to be envious of my obviously creative friends.  My friends who decorated their homes with their own artwork, wore clothes sewn in their dining rooms, threw beautiful gatherings on their cleverly lighted patios and painted their own furniture.  Now I just recognize that I needed more time to find my creative streak.  I was busy doing other things and that’s okay.  You know why?

I was just saving these particular adventures for this decade.  My thirties don’t look so bad anymore.

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Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #2:  It Makes You Smarter

Why Creativity Counts #1:  Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #2: It Makes You Smarter

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

Exercising the creative part of your brain is a great IQ booster.  I mean, I don’t actually have any research or statistics to present to you today to support my claim, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.  I’m CERTAIN that I could find some if you really wanted me to.

But for now, I will make this claim based on my own personal experience.  Because that’s valid in its own right . . . right?

As I see it, being creative provides me with a huge mental boost.  Making connections, thinking of things in new ways, learning new skills – all of these activities get my little neurological synapses firing away.  As someone who loves to learn and get education in various formats, I’ll also attest to the fact that exercising creativity is one of the best free (or at least low-cost) forms of education we can get. Learning in traditional environments is great, but as we get older, it’s often difficult to continue to get that sort of education.  It’s costly, we have other obligations on our time and, quite frankly, at some point, you may just learn the same things over and over again.

But, being creative – picking up a cook book, following along with an online tutorial, taking a community class, getting a book from the library on DIY – these avenues for learning are generally accessible and provide endless possibilities.  And I have no doubt that accessing these resources has increased my own mental capacity.

You want examples, eh?  No problem.  Here are a few:

Craft

You all know that I’m a knitter.  I bet non-knitters don’t realize how much math can be involved in the craft – I know I sure didn’t!  What happens when I see a pattern that makes a 22-inch circumference hat using size 8 needles and worsted weight yarn, with a cast-on of 96 stitches and I want to use DK weight yarn that I already own and make the hat for someone with a 19-inch head????  Math happens – that’s what!

Being able to make conversions such as these (and this is pretty basic one) is a great exercise in brainpower.  I have oodles of respect for knitwear designers who create complex patterns using an amazing amount of numerical-based talent.  It’s serious business.  I’m quite certain this extends to other crafts beyond knitting, as well.  Sewing, painting, drawing, sculpting, et cetera all can be improved by learning about other disciplines, such as mathematics and natural sciences.

Cooking/Baking

Cooking has taught me so much about the world.  When I’m looking at recipes and whipping up new meals, I often come across ingredients and dishes that are unfamiliar to me.  My curiosity naturally kicks in and off I go to learn about these items.  The tidbits and pieces of information that I have picked up about cultures, history (the history of certain foods – spices, salt, olive oil, etc is fascinating) and societies has enriched my general knowledge base time and time again.  And, you’d be surprised how many trivia questions you’ll be able to answer with what you learn!

Practicing Any New Creative Skill

I’ve accessed various methods for taking courses that have taught me new skills.  I’ve taken community ‘Learn to Sew’  and ‘Learn to Knit’ classes, used the Internet for online craft-related courses, and taken a local pasta making class all in the name of pursuing creative endeavors.  I haven’t become an expert at all of these things and likely never will, but I HAVE put my brain to work during each event.  Practicing a new creative skill, something that is generally unfamiliar to me, makes my brain work in different ways and builds new mental connections.  I may not be someone who enjoys making pasta dough from scratch on a regular basis, but learning about how the ingredients in dough react to one another, to temperature, to manipulation, this increases my knowledge of science.  Chemistry, my friends, was one of my least favorite subjects as a student – but teach me chemistry through food and cooking and I’ll learn more then I ever did in a high school laboratory.

These are a few examples in a whole world of creative activities that have enriched my mental capacity.  A personal goal of mine is to remember that there is always more to know.  There is always more that I can understand about the world and all of us in it.  My creative pursuits constantly help me to both feel smarter and more knowledgeable, but also remind me that I always have more to learn.

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Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #1:  Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #1: Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

I’m not sure if others can relate to this, but for the longest time I was really confused about creativity.  I didn’t actually know that I was confused at the time.  In fact, I thought I had it all figured out.  I’ll take you through it.

When I was young, I learned that there were essentially two types of people.  Left-brained versus right-brained.  A-type versus B-type.  Creative versus not-so-creative.  I easily classified myself as a left-brained, type A, not-so-creative person.  I was analytical, for sure.  I was no doubt a rationale person.  A planner.  I still am.  That piece of my identity, I was not confused about.  The problem was that I had essentially learned that being such a person was mutually exclusive from being a creative person.

And learning this ‘truth’, I short-changed myself.

In elementary school, creativity occurred in art class.  Those that excelled could sketch with talent and paint with beauty.  Those that didn’t (i.e. me) slapped stuff on a paper and waited out the tortuous period, anticipating the bell to ring.

In high school, creativity occurred in electives.  There was art again.  But there was also photography, drama, and music.  My vision of what it meant to be creative expanded – but just ever so slightly.  I tried these things.  I really did.  And, I generally failed miserably.  I still couldn’t create anything beautiful from chalk or pencils or paint.  I was way too insecure and shy to get on a stage, and musical instruments were like foreign objects to me.  If it wasn’t a triangle with a little wand to hit it with, I wasn’t going near it.

By the time I reached early adulthood, I was entrenched in the mindset that I was simply not born with creative ability and would never obtain it.

It wasn’t my thing.  When I thought about it, this disappointed me, but it was something I accepted.

But oddly enough, as I moved through the world, met other people, read new things, and took different jobs, I realized just how confused I had been about what it means to be creative.  Creativity is not limited to art or theater.  Creativity is a mental process.  It’s a method of thinking and living that involves exploring new concepts, generating ideas, trying new things, and being adventurous in experimenting with thoughts and actions.

Once I understood this, it became clear to me that I am a indeed a creative person AND a type-a, left-brained, planner, too.

I’m creative when I problem-solve with clients at work about how to make their lives more safe and comfortable.  I’m creative when I wade through my apprehension to see what it feels like to work a sewing machine.  I’m creative when I see a recipe and start thinking about what spices to swap for one another and what vegetables I might want to use that aren’t included in the instructions.  I’m creative when I read a book and let my mind wander into a world of fantasy or when I generate ideas for blog post while out on a run.

I am creative all the damn time.

Seriously.

I bet you are, too. And, you may not even notice it.

My creative pursuits are most evident these days in my knitting, cooking/baking, and writing.  (By the way, I’ve always been a writer, but never thought of it as creative.  Since I generally wrote non-fiction-type things I didn’t think it counted.  Funny.)  But, as I’ve shared, it shows up all over the place.  Some of my most creative moments don’t necessarily have any tangible end-product.  Brainstorming with co-workers and solving problems with clients is a whole world of creative energy in its own right.

Moral of this story?

It took me to practice creativity in my thinking to understand what creativity really is.  Doing so has opened up a whole new sense of self and a fascinating abundance of possibilities.

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To read the previous series in this column, select the ‘Why Wednesdays’ tag in the right side column.  The prior series in this column explored the topic of running.