Cleanliness and Creativity: Nourishing Your Future Creative Flame

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This is a concrete tube that I sit in during my lunch break. I love it. It’s the perfect shape to let my feet and back rest while I listen to music and eat my lunch.

At my new job, one of the things I’m learning to do is to keep the register area meticulously clean. At first it was almost impossible to be paying attention to the customers and merchandise, while also hand-writing receipts and using the confusing cash register and credit card machine and also keeping that area neat.

Now, even with a half a moment between customers, the stapler is in the right spot and the wrapping paper is tucked away. As it turns out, this has some pretty cool implications for enjoying life and creativity.

It began with my kitchen. Anyone with a kitchen knows that it is a haven for projection and sublimation. It is a place full of tools and sustenance and bliss. Or chaos, confusion, and chores. Often times, all of the above. It has bravely stepped up to be the object of arguments between lovers, and has selfishly taken up more than half of many communal house meetings.

I began to be diligent in my kitchen. I noticed that to be able to clean dishes right away, I had to have space on the dish rack. Every time I noticed dry dishes, I put them away. It seems simple enough; but if you are like me and do not yet have a solid grasp on this one slice of adulthood, you understand that I was basically achieving superhero rank.

But there’s more. I noticed that I began to naturally apply this to other areas of the house. I put clothes directly in the hamper instead of letting some collect behind the closet door first. I removed anything from the coffee table that didn’t live there, promptly and effectively. I called people right when I thought about doing it, and checked my email and bank balance without putting it off for ten minutes to check Facebook.

Life is pretty cool this way, I gotta say. And I think that it’s more than just having a clean house and effective systems.

Cleanliness and Creativity

I read a quote recently about how when you feel the fire and the urge to write, you should do it while the flame is hot. A lot of us know that to be true. The problem is, you never quite see it coming.

Maybe you have a week of uninspired days, and then you suddenly are filled to the brim with ideas. You want to write them, draw them, sing them, whatever them. But there are dishes to be done before you can make a pot of almighty coffee and the area in which you want to work is not workable, you have to clean it. That gets in the way. By the time the space is possible to work in, the flame might be out.

But by being diligent with the day to day, you are taking care of that future self, that future chance. Unless you have your environment made into a welcoming atmosphere for whatever arises, you are basically leaving today’s trash for tomorrow’s self. That’s not generally useful, and it’s also not respectful. If you have a guest coming over, you clean. But you are going to be a person tomorrow that you don’t even know yet today, perhaps a person with a huge creative burst. Don’t you want to have things wonderfully ideal for that version of you?

Living Now Instead of Playing Catch Up

I’m wondering if one way for me to enjoy life more is to stop playing as much catch up. To be fully able to be present where I am without having to take care of yesterday’s issues beforehand. Being able to just exist in a home is a blessing, being able to cook effectively and sit and enjoy the space is a great gift. In the past, some of us were given that gift by guardians who payed rent or a mortgage, or older siblings who cleaned up the kitchen. But now it’s not going to happen without our own awareness and attentiveness to our space and what makes us thrive.

Maybe your ideal art studio is a full blown mess. But it’s a certain type of mess, I would imagine. A mess of art supplies that can be worked with. A mess that lets you be your creative self, rather than a mess that gets in the way of that.

Just imagine that your favorite musician, artist, writer, or researcher called and told you they were coming over tomorrow and really hoped they could get some work done at your place. How would you set up your space for them? Don’t you deserve at least that?

Preciousness of Time

Another factor in this for me is the preciousness of time. Suddenly, free time to enjoy my space is much smaller than it used to be. It makes me extra motivated to keep it as wonderful as I can so that when I wake up on my day off, after a quick vacuum and a pot of coffee, I am ready to enjoy myself and the day without having to spend an hour cleaning up what I mindlessly left behind.

Plus, if I do feel creative or an urge to just relax, I can do so. I don’t have to let those gosh darn dishes get in the way of that.

How about you, do you set up your space so that your creativity has a space to thrive when it arises?

Do you think there are things you could do that would make your space more welcoming to your creative bursts?

Do you think keeping a clean kitchen is super easy? What are your methods for doing so?

Going on a Date with the Unplanned

Last night I was supposed to play music at a lovely lounge with a friend. I was going to play for a half hour during his set break and was quite excited. As it turned out, the bar was closed for cleaning and they hadn’t told him.

I was caught off guard, sitting on sixth street with my guitar and a pretty dress in rather sweltering heat. My friend told me there would be an open mic in a few hours at a bar around the corner, so I decided to set up shop there while I figured out what to do.

If you’re ever in Austin and see a girl sipping a beer and furiously writing in a notebook instead of talking to people, probably with a guitar propped on her bar stool, please, do come say hi.

One of the things I began pondering was how sometimes, you just can’t force an unplanned evening. It wouldn’t be the same. Many potential plans started to arise- there was an open mic near my house, an open mic across town, a birthday party. I had to pick. I realized this particular flavor of groundlessness was something to cherish because I never would have been able to fabricate it. Deciding on going to that bar would have been in my consciousness at least an hour in advance so that I could get the right bus.

I began to think about the universe as if it was a person, or at least, a thing with a personality. I was noticing that perhaps part of this personality included a tendency to put me and maybe others in situations where they were groundless. What the incentive would be is beyond me, but perhaps it has something to do with getting us to actually be able to listen. It’s easier to listen and feel for me when I’m not in the middle of a plan.

I decided to stay at the open mic I was already at. It didn’t feel right to do

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

anything else, almost like there was a current to follow. I would get to the birthday party afterwards, since that was the most sentimentally important thing on the list. It turned out that the showcase act who would have played from 7-8pm did not show up. The gentleman running the event let me play early and ended up giving me about five extra songs, partially because most people hadn’t shown up yet for the open mic and partially (at least I imagine) because the folks at the bar were actually enjoying it. Plus I was wearing a pretty dress.

Many times I have thought that the fabric of our connected reality really does have a personality, and a sense of humor. I have seen it most in the times when I had fewer plans. Last night was a fresh reminder that there are so many options to tap into that unplanned state, and we never get to pick when they happen. We just get to pick how to relate to them and how much appreciation to give them and ourselves during those times.

Sometimes those times are linked with trauma. I don’t think the same appreciation would be possible in those cases. Instead, I think it could be directed at ourselves and our space and our ability to be open to what we need when we need it in those times.

On another note, I opened my Etsy shop. It is called Jenerprise Jems. The world right now to me feels groundless still. I’m following up on job leads and hoping to find something soon, especially if it leaves me time to keep creating necklaces and improving my ability to play music.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it's too big.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it’s too big.

Have you had any dates with the universe lately where plans didn’t go your way and ended up leading to new connections or inspiration?

Have you thought that the universe has a personality of sorts, and if so, what’s your favorite aspect of it?

If you do think it works that way, how do you account for all of the many terrible things that also happen? Is everything just random, is there a higher power controlling it, is that power simply unable to prevent us from doing horrible things to each other but there to guide us when we are open to it?

Maybe it’s my joblessness catching up and turning me existential..but for now this is what I can think of to write about.

Also, please do look at the sky. Especially if the sun is setting, rising, or absent.

Productivity: An Escape from Death?

Productivity is very interesting.

 

Some of us are of the belief, intentional or otherwise, that unless someone is being productive then they don’t deserve happiness. Mostly those of us in that category aim this belief at ourselves more than others.

Others couldn’t care less about productivity, and some even think it’s bad.

My own relationship to productivity is rather interesting. Sometimes, I’m addicted to it. Other times, I’m thinking I need to take a break from it but even that break becomes focused on being productively unproductive. When I think of spending an hour without it, my stomach turns into a cat and tries to escape through my mouth.

Why is that? Is it the culture, my parents, my schooling? Is it my inherent uncomfortableness with my own vulnerability,  my impermanence in this world? Do I secretly think that as long as I’m doing something productive, the Death cloak guy won’t notice me on his rounds?

I really don’t know.

The nonsense of the situation hit me yesterday when I was talking to a dear friend. He said that when he gets up late, he pretty much hates everything. It’s a feeling I can relate to. If I wake up late, my boyfriend and dog stay well out of the way because I am going to be grouchy. And why? Well, because I didn’t get anything done.

But while talking to my friend, I realized that even if I do get up earlier rather than later, all I really get done is more coffee drinking and dog belly rubs and maybe some more sleepy Facebook time. Nothing really productive there, and yet, I’m mad when I don’t get the chance.

Productivity is like many emotions and substances. It can be useful and it can also be a weapon we use against ourselves to play the shame game or otherwise divorce ourselves from the tenderness of the present moment.

For me, productivity hardly has any meaning. I feel “productive” when I make songs, when I write, when I make jewelry, walk, do Yoga, meditate, practice guitar, read an informational book or a fiction book with the intention of learning from it, and when I cook. But to cultivate inspiration for some of these activities, I need time to just dilly dally and do whatever feels natural. And when I feel like I “should be” working on music, then taking a walk won’t feel productive. But when I feel like I “should be” getting “more exercise,” a walk feels more productive than making music. There’s just no way to win unless I label the feeling and let it exist without taking over my entire moment of experience.

So here is my intention to be more aware of when I use my productivity or lack thereof as an excuse to make myself feel “less than” in the present moment.

Do you have an interesting relationship to productivity?

What does the word mean to you?

and, more importantly, have you missed me? :) I apologize for lack of posts lately.

Curiosity, Meet Convenience: Hidden Stories

Remember that feeling in middle school where you introduce a friend to your parents, and you feel torn in half as you suddenly  realize there are different and sometimes incompatible versions of yourself to keep track of? Sometimes that feeling still happens when you introduce friends from different circles to each other. You are different versions of “you” with both parties and suddenly you have to find the middle ground, and it’s not always comfortable.

Blending Worlds to Deepen The Depth of the Moment

I am many people throughout the course of the day. Sometimes, I am mindful and curious and aware and gentle. Other times, I’m fast, furious, focused, and indulging in the convenient.

But the other day the two worlds met. I was eating a corn tortilla and found myself wondering how many people’s lives were involved with the whole process of making them.

From the plastic wrapper they came in to the fields the corn was grown in to the design of the package and the light switches at the factory that pumps them out. How many people were involved? Hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions if you really got right down to it (since each piece of the factory was made in another, and those people were technically involved with these tortillas…you get the idea). Who turns off the lights at the factory, what do they eat for dinner when they get home from work?

Singing Songs to the Cows

I spend half my time in a rural area. I sit on the porch and watch cows. One of them has big white spots and he’s going to turn into food someday. I watch him graze and let my heart ache a little with the awareness of his imminent demise that he has no idea about. He’s just eating grass in the sun.

But someday, people are going to eat him. They will taste the burger and not think of the girl that sat on the porch, folded book on her lap and spiderweb-filled mini-guitar singing songs to the cow as he nibbled on grass by the river. They won’t think of her or her story at all, just the food on their plate and other things on their mind at the time. How could they possibly know about her, never even mind what she had for dreams last night or for breakfast or how she gazed curiously at her corn tortillas.

I wonder about these stories that can infuse our convenient moments with curiosity. It’s easy to buy a package of corn tortillas, but it’s also possible to have curiosity for them.

Loosening the Grip of Our Own Story

In the past few days since the corn tortilla incident, I have applied this type of curiosity to other things and moments that otherwise can feel rather habitual. Brushing my teeth, making coffee, walking around the grocery store. And I’ve discovered something wonderful.

Stories are everywhere, curiosity can always be kindled. Every item on the counter, every car in the lot, every person walking by- stories on top of stories on top of stories.

It’s fun to jump into another story to see the context of our own. It can get us out of our own head, and it can bring some magic to an ordinary moment. It can also be great fuel for the imagination for writing stories and songs or working with a business problem in a new and creative way.

I feel moved to share this little tidbit because it has really stuck with me, and getting to stuck in our own story can sometimes limit us in terms of what we imagine. Imagination is great, use it whenever you can, especially when it can bring you a greater amount of gratitude and appreciation and awe for the little things in life like corn tortillas. glowy jen and zeek on couch

Are there convenient things that you take for granted a lot that may contain stories you never even imagined?

Do you think that it would be fun to look at life with this type of curiosity sometimes, or would it just make things too complicated?

Do you stare into lit up windows and wonder about the people who live inside and what they might be like?

I hope everyone is well :)

 

Harness Your Inner Opposite Day!

The other day I had this thought, and it has turned out to be a really useful one.

To set the stage, it was late at night. I fell asleep reading in a cozy bed with a dog at my feet. I believe my mind was saying something like,

“God I don’t want to get out of bed to brush my teeth. I just want to keep sleeping.”

And then it went,

“I wish I wanted to brush my teeth. How would that feel?”

And I proceeded to pretend like an actress that all I wanted to do in the whole wide world was get out of the cozy bed, put my feet on the carpet and walk myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I even pretended to look forward to the feeling of cold water.

The result was rather amazing. It made it a lot easier to do it than when I was fighting off my loathing for leaving the coziest place in the universe.

I continued to try this with other things.

“I am going to be so nervous when my friend asks me to sing with her later.”

Pause.

“I cannot WAIT to sing with my friend later. It’s going to be so fun. I am just so excited to see what happens!”

and then, even:

“I wish I never had to sing in front of anyone, ever. I don’t want friends. I don’t want to sing. I hate the whole thing!”

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Sometimes you have to play around with extremes to see where you actually want to be.

The thing is, there are always many ways to see things. But usually we just stick with the first one. “I don’t want to do the dishes.” “I wish it was sunny out.” “I am not the kind of person that would enjoy walking in the rain, playing an open mic, dancing with a stranger, eating a salad for dinner…” anything at all. We get stuck and save time by not bothering to see things in the less familiar way.

We get these fixed notions, but what about trying for fun to see the same thing in the opposite way? And then maybe, a third way? A made-up way? A way that just reminds our brain that really, the first notion we have about the way something “is”, especially when that something is as complex and lovely as our human being selves,  is not necessarily the ideal one.

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday. I’m hoping that by continuing to do this, I’ll get through some aspects of stage fright and other patterns. Even if that doesn’t happen, the process of doing this is fun and leads to some cool perceptions. This picture, if it was moving, would display me singing in front of a new friend. So clearly, something is working.

Do you ever think about things in an opposite way just for fun?

Are you going to try it?

Do you know some of your most solid beliefs or ideas that you wish could change but you are just positive that they won’t?

Do you remember being different than how you are now, and wondering if life would ever change?

I hope your week is going well!