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How to Prioritize Your Life

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It’s been a hot minute since I posted anything here on the blog, and I’ve been really sad about this. But now I’m back on a new day with some thoughts on how to remedy this!

My big problem during the last month and half was that I felt like all my life priorities had gotten WAY out of whack. Do you ever have times like this? Where you’re running on fumes but keep telling yourself, “If I can just get to X, then everything will calm down and fall back into place!”

Well, sometimes this might happen. In a magical-not-very-realistic world, maybe. But in my experience, it’s never actually worked out that way.  Instead, I’ve usually come to a crashing halt because I end up getting really sick. Being sick usually affords me the time to take a critical look at all my responsibilities and commitments because my body’s stopped obeying my intense go-go-go drive temporarily. Not that it’s a pleasant way to essentially be forced to reevaluate your priorities, but I guess I just tend to take life as it comes to me.

Pre-getting-the-cold-from-hell I’d release this video on my summer plans to slow down my video output. (We’re going to do just Thursday videos from June through August!) I had already seen my mental wellbeing and productivity careening off the rails so I thought I’d take early action to try to mediate the coming chaos. I still got sick, but at least I only had one video to worry about instead of two!

You see, I want to do ALL THE THINGS. And I also have incredibly high expectations for myself on anything I set my mind to do. Unfortunately, these two attributes don’t usually play nice together. It’s physically impossible for me to always be DOING MORE while keeping up my 110% standards.  This usually results in me crashing into pits of self-doubt and hate because I feel inadequate. Or overextending myself to the point where I freeze up and don’t accomplish much of anything for fear of failure.

None of these are very good outcomes, but what do I do to better prioritize my life and goals and interests?

For me, it’s about reevaluating where I’m at and making new and updated task lists continually. I legitimately have a list for everything. It helps me feel in control of the chaos that’s constantly writhing under the surface of my life. And it keeps tasks, ideas, and interests that I don’t have time to accomplish at the moment, still in my mind.  As life morphs and grows with time, I can see when something that’s been on the backburner might be a welcome change to the routine. Or hopefully know (when things just get a little too overwhelming) how to reorganize my commitments to take off some of the stress while still allowing me to feel creative and productive.

It’s certainly no easy task! But it’s been on my mind a lot lately as I think about where I am now and where I want to be in the future and what that means for how I prioritize my life. In the short term, I’m going back to producing one video a week for the summer and I’m changing my blog release day to be Friday. There was something about releasing all this midweek content that was exhausting me so we’ll see what happens with a Thursday/Friday double hit! Furthermore, I really want to spend the summer organizing and creating a website for iIMAGINEblank so that my videos and blogs (and just generally ALL my content) are in one place and better cross-promoted. I’m also thinking about some big, more awesomely creative projects I’d like to do with iIMAGINEblank, and I’ll hopefully be able to do lots of pre-production on them so I can put my plans into action in the coming months!  I have lots of cool ideas to stretch my skills and grow my brand beyond just life advice videos and I feel like now is the time to seize the day and do it!

So here’s to a productive (but enjoyable!) summer!

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My Life: One Year Later

This time last year I opened Gmail to find a truly mind blowing arrival. An email from the YouTube staff letting me know that I had been chosen for YouTube NextUp NY’s inaugural class. The email was sent on March 31st, and it basically had to say “This isn’t an early April Fool’s joke! You really are NextUp!” which I think is hilarious but also kind of sums up exactly how getting that email felt.

I’d applied for two YouTube-related things in early March and I’d been rather confident in hearing back from one (VidCon’s “Less Than Famous” Panel because I’d been a runner-up in 2015 so I mistakenly thought I’d be a shoo-in for 2016).  So I had my hopes dashed a bit when I saw the panel participants announced a few days prior.  As for YouTube NextUp, I thought I had such a low chance of being chosen I essentially applied and forgot about it.

But what happened was such a crazy rush of impossible coincidences that a year later, with my life so vastly different from what it was then, I can’t help but reflect on the catalyst that receiving that email was.

Things you don’t know:

The day I received the email I had taken a half day from work and spent the afternoon touring apartments in Downtown Lynchburg. I’d reached somewhat of a breaking point with living with my parents/being far away from Parker/desperately searching for new employment, and I thought that perhaps moving out of my parent’s house despite the risks of signing a year lease in a city that I didn’t want to be permanently and staying at my (honestly) dead-end career-wise job for another year would maybe bring me some kind of relief.

And there was a sense of excitement to it because I toured a beautiful 2 bedroom loft apartment with exposed brick and original hardwood floors and a cool “millennial-girl-living-her-best-life” vibe that was being offered for the price of the 1 bedroom apartments if filled quickly. And it was so beautiful and all the things I thought I should be doing with my life (according to Instagram, that is) even if it wasn’t really the best financial or career-related decision. So I’d just filled out an application and was excitedly telling two of my best friends about it via text (who had a less-than-enthused response because “But what about Richmond?” and “I thought you hated your job?”) when I opened my email and low and behold…

And things kind of came to a screaming halt. Because this was an Opportunity with a capital “O.” And moving out. Living my Instagram life. None of seemed as important until I’d allowed this Opportunity to change me.

So I put the fancy apartment on hold, and I went to New York for a week.

And I talked to my fellow creators. I learned about what they did for their “day job.” And how they balanced YouTube and their careers. Or rather, how they were trying to integrate YouTube into their careers for the most part.

And I came away, maybe not with a foolproof plan to YouTube stardom, but a better idea of how I wanted to live my life–real life, career life, Youtube life, all of it.  Unfortunately, that meant not moving into the trendy loft apartment. It meant putting a pretty solid end date on my time at my current employment. And it meant not taking a backseat on life anymore. I’d spent so much time saying “Well I can’t make better videos because I don’t have lights” or “I can’t make 2 videos a week because I just don’t have the ideas/energy” or “I can’t make non-dating advice content because that’s not what my subscribers are here for.”

I can’t. I can’t. I CAN’T.

But I could. Even when it seemed so darn impossible! (Like me being selected for NextUp).

So I said, I’m going to move to Richmond by September whether I found a job or not.

And I found a job. And I moved in August.

I said, I’m going to make 2 videos a week.

And I’ve made 2 videos a week (except for 2 weeks around Christmas when I just needed a break) since August, and I feel like I have more ideas than ever!

I said, I’m going to try making different content.

And I’ve made travel videos and review videos and a lookbook and collaborations with friends and a music cover of “City of Stars.”

I’m not telling you these to brag. When I write it all out like this, I actually surprise myself because to me it just feels like I’m doing life. It doesn’t feel extraordinary. It’s just what I have to do to get by. (But with obvious self-imposed challenges, of course).

What’s really awesome and amazing is that even though YouTube NextUp didn’t really do much to boost my channel in terms of subscriber growth, it did allow me to find what I think is important in life, in creativity, in my career, and in online video making.

I’m very a different person and a different channel in many ways than what I was at the beginning of April 2016. And I’m quite happy with not having to go back.

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Sailor Moon and the Power of Female Friendship

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One of the things I include in “My Favorite Things” video is Sailor Moon, and as I was editing down my passion-filled ravings to fit in the allotted video time, I realized that my love for Sailor Moon deserves a bit more than a shout-out in a video. It’s still one of my favorite things to this day. (And I eagerly await the next season of Sailor Moon Crystal). But it was also an extremely influential part of my childhood.

I had a hard time making female friends growing up. Scratch that. I still have a hard time making female friends, but at least now I have a greater understanding for what’s causing it than I did when I was a kid. As an awkward 11-year-old, I felt like a fish out of water with large groups of girls. Sometimes I would make a connection with one girl for a while, but eventually my “best friend” would (from my perspective) be stolen away by another “cooler” girl or group. I was inconsolably lonely for a long time. I knew female friendship was important from an objective point-of-view, but I just couldn’t seem to find other girls who I authentically connected with.

I had female “friends.” I was invited to various sleepovers and pool parties and birthday celebrations over the years. But I always remember being a bit of an outsider no matter how hard I tried to connect or the other girls attempted to be accepting. I remember one sleepover with a group of girls I considered to be the “popular” crowd when I was 8 or 9. They watched the Spice Girls and performed their own choreography to the music and snuck into some of their mom’s makeup and gave each other makeovers and had a fashion show. I remember feeling so very out of place. I’d never heard of the Spice Girls (i.e. I was pretty sheltered). I knew I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or short-shorts. And even though this was all just fun and games into the late-night, it felt like a violation of my core values. Even though I wanted to fit in and have friends, this wasn’t the way I felt comfortable doing it.

Instead, I spent a large portion of my childhood and teen years imagining what my “real” best friends would be like. While I couldn’t seem to find a best friend in my everyday life, I was still convinced that she was out there. There were just dark forces keeping us apart like in my favorite TV shows and movies.

Consequently, I devoured the magical girl genre–in anime, books, and movies. And Sailor Moon was always at the forefront. It was a much less distressing idea to my fantasy-obsessed child self that dark forces were separating me from my true friends rather than accepting that I didn’t have any female friends.

Instead, I drew cartoon sketches of how my imagined friends would look and wrote detailed notes about their likes and dislikes, taste in fashion and TV, and of course, their magical powers. I imagined stories for us: how we would find one another, how we would save the world, what our nemesis would be like. Essentially, I reconciled my loneliness and lack of female companionship with the tools that shows like Sailor Moon gave me. That I was a special “magical girl” and I would find my friends and place in the world once I came into my magical powers.

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Maybe it seems sad to you. Maybe you had a really amazing childhood with close friends or you didn’t feel as outcast as I did by struggling to make friends so this seems a little foreign to you.  But for me, even though my “best friends” as a child were imagined magical girls inspired by anime, Sailor Moon gave me peace. I struggled a lot with the need to be loved and accepted but also my inherent desire to be myself and invariably stand-out. And I was in the unfortunate situation of not finding the connection I desperately wanted with other girls despite how much I craved it.

So I never became a magical girl (at least not yet!), but I did find female friends as I grew older (especially once I went to college). And I found what Sailor Moon had taught me about female friendship still held true.

That it’s not about finding people that are exactly like you, but rather finding those girls who compliment you. (And no I don’t mean “Oh I love you outfit” kind of compliments). What was cool about Sailor Moon was that the Sailor Scouts each had their own unique powers and personality and they were always more powerful when combined. Two Usagi’s would probably destroy the world rather than save it (she’s just a bit too clumsy, ya know?) But throw in Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Minako, and you have a pretty powerful team.

When I started to understand female friendship this way, I felt like I really began to grow as a friend to other women. Because of the experiences I had as a kid and tween, I was fearful of trusting my friendship with other women for a long time. I always assumed I would be quickly and easily judged unworthy or weird and cast aside for someone else. But I started to learn that my weirdness (rather my uniqueness, one might even say, my “magical power”) was valuable to a friendship. Because these other girls had their own weirdness/uniqueness too. We had our similarities (in Sailor Moon it’s a love for Sailor V and the need to save the universe) like wanting to make movies or loving to sing or having the same favorite color or being introverts which initially brought us together. But it was our “magical powers” that grew our friendship as we learned more about each other and from each other.

Women and especially female friendship is many times characterized by cattiness and backstabbing. And it generally just sounds unpleasant. Like women can’t actually be friends because it’s all a competition for who’s the prettiest and can get the most guys to chase after her. I know there are women that do this. But this is not true female friendship. It’s far more powerful and meaningful than that. It’s really just as magical as the Sailor Scouts if you learn to be open and loving and celebrate other women’s “magic” rather than tear it down, cast it out, or label it as undesirable.

So this is a story about a girl who couldn’t find a connection with other girls like she so desired. But who, over time, learned about the “magic” in each of us and started to trust and respond to others who also recognized it. And in doing so, found other women who inspired and awed her. And made up her own magical girl gang. 🙂

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“We Come From Good Stock”

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Elephant Image from Freepik Hand vector designed by Freepik

If you watched yesterday’s video, you know that I’ve experienced a lot of loss in the last few weeks. Two family members. A boyfriend’s grandmother who was basically a family member. All that grief can really get a girl down.

A little bit of sunshine I found in all the clouds of this loss though came from my “Aunt” Gloria as we fellowshipped together as a family Saturday afternoon after burying my “Aunt” Barbara. (I use quotes here because they are really cousins but have always functioned as and been referred to as “aunts.” Big country families are like that.) Gloria started reminiscing about our family history and how we all came to be together now and who we are today because of events set in motion 100 years ago! My great grandmother, Wrennie, married Clarence Davis in 1917. He was 12 years her senior, and as we were discussing this weekend, possibly never learned to read. But he and my MaMa Davis had 5 children–Raymond, Walter, Johnny, Mattie, and Virginia–who then in turned married and had their own children whose children had children and even some of those children now have children making them the youngest generation of cousins!

She recounted how that first generation of children had varying levels of education (e.g. my Uncle Walter with possibly a 7th grade education or my Uncle Johnny who no one could remember much formal education for), but they were some of the smartest people to talk to. They may have been farmers or factory workers, but they had profound critical thinking skills and a curiosity for understanding the world around them.

So then that 2nd generation had even more education and life and world experience. They married spouses and traveled out farther into the world than the mountain on which their parents had been born and raised. And the 3rd generation has been educated even further and explored even more–living, working, and studying in California, Florida, North Carolina, and other parts of Virginia. And the 4th generation–my sweet young cousins–have an even greater potential for exploration, education, and life experiences.

Each generation has built itself upon the previous–on the hard work, faith, and love that flows through my family’s veins. And without even one generation, none of us would have the blessings that we have now.

As my mother put it, “We come from good stock.”

This is an incredibly reassuring thought to be reminded of during times of loss, but it made me realize it’s also something I could benefit from outside of moments of sadness. I am incredibly lucky to have come from this family. And I’m so thankful for all the generations of hard work that afforded me the opportunities that I have today. (NOTE: This is also just one quarter of my family tree. I have “good stock” on my many sides and they have all contributed to my opportunities).

It’s easy at times to get caught up in the moment and wallow in the struggles of the day. (I am 100% guilty of this!) But when you put your life into perspective of what has come before and all who might come after, you realize how insignificant many of those struggles can seem in the grand scheme. This gives me hope. If generations of women in my family have lived and worked and loved and are now remembered with such fondness, I find reassurance that I can do the same.

So what “stock” do you come from? Do you think about your family history often or how it affects who and where you are today? Let me know down in the comments!

 

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2017 Goals and Anti-New Year’s Resolutions

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Did you know that this blog was started from a New Year’s Resolution? It’s one of the few resolutions that I’ve stuck with heart and soul over the years.  But as another new year begins and I find myself wondering what my goals and resolutions for 2017 should, I realize that I want to approach this year a little differently. In 2017, I want my “Goals List” to be less about making stressful resolutions and more about making smart plans and taking educated steps toward what will make me happier and more satisfied in life. This year and beyond!

1.) Do Physical Activity that Brings Me Joy, Peace, and Restoration. I’ve been a big fan of Yoga With Adrienne’s 30 Days of Yoga Series for the past 2 years, and as I start 2017’s edition, I’ve really taken one of her main messages to heart. That yoga (or really any exercise) should be about what makes you feel good. It should be something you enjoy and brings you a sense of restoration and connection with your body (especially in our digitally-obsessed world these days!)  So rather than setting a “exercise X many times a week” or “lose X many pounds” goal like I have in the past, in 2017, I’m planning for my health and happiness. I want to explore new kinds of physical activity to see what inspires me as well as build on my staples of yoga, hiking, and swimming.  I’d also really like to work on my hiking endurance and potentially participate in a long hike like Parker did this past fall (36 miles! Whoa!)  But more than anything, I want to focus on what feels good for me, what inspires me to get and stay active, and how can it contribute to stress-relief for me.

2.) Save Now, Spend Later.  Moving out of my parents house this past fall has really gotten me thinking about money.  All the new expenses. All the things that I didn’t know I needed. All the things I want but wonder if they’re really worth the money.  But in conversations with Parker recently, we’ve both been feeling out the idea of Richmond not being our forever home.  He’s been here for over 4 years now, and while I’ve only lived here since August, I’ve been visiting and exploring the area for as long as he’s been here. It’s a beautiful and quirky and interesting place, but the more we talk, I don’t think it’s our forever home. There’s a part of me (and I know for him too) that really wants to travel. He’s talked about really wanted to learn French or German and traveling through Europe.  I have this strange desire to visit Iceland and many other unique places. And we’ve both been talking about what it would take for us to live in Hawaii. Living in Hawaii started as a silly throw away line early on in our relationship when we were long-distance and very miserable about it. “I’ll come steal you and we’ll run away to Hawaii.” I don’t know why Hawaii exactly. I suppose it seems like the farthest place away while still being in the U.S. (since emigration takes even more money and planning). But the point is, that this year I’m really starting to understand how I want a more mobile life in the future. Whether that’s traveling internationally or moving to Hawaii or Austin, TX, I’m seeing that the only way I can do that is if I focus on the future and save. So here’s to a frugal 2017!

3.) Start Planning to Make Travel a Reality.  This one is a little less fully formed, but since I want to start saving, I might as well start planning for what this travel will look so I know how much to save and what kind of timeline I’m working with.

4.) Infuse Design and My Unique Passions into my Creative Endeavors.  I’ve felt a bit creatively tapped out recently.  Like I’m bursting with ideas with feel inadequate or lacking the means to bring those ideas to life. So I want to encourage myself to journal more. To start some larger art projects and see where they take me.  To try more craft projects on my YouTube channel.  These are all things that bring me joy, but I shuffle them aside for “more important” projects that tend to bring me less joy.  But what’s creativity without joy or passion?

5.) Read More!  I just got a library card for Henrico County and will probably get one for Richmond City libraries as well, and boy am I excited for all the new books I have access to! I had finally started to run out of titles that sounded interesting in my hometown library so hurray for new books!

6.) Start a Patreon Page!  I need a Patreon page. I really don’t know why at this point I don’t already have one.  Or rather, I do know, but it’s because 1.) I’ve been lazy and haven’t created it and 2.) I’ve been at a loss for what to use as rewards.  But in doing some research and looking at what some of my favorite creators are using as rewards, I finally feel like I know how to structure it.  And it’s gosh darn time isn’t it!  So be on the lookout in the next few months for it! I hate the idea of asking for money from people. But I also would really love to make even better content, and I’m running pretty thin these days.  Plus there’s something about the idea of having people invest in me and my work that seems validating, and I think that’s something I need at this stage in my life as a content creator.

7.) Be More Mindful.  While being mindful is something I’ve always considered important, I’ve never actively made it a goal for myself.  But I think as 2017 brings a very different kind of year for me with a new city, a new job, and an adult transition, it will be important for me to channel that mindfulness into journaling, more regular meditation, and a better awareness of how I’m feeling emotionally and physically. I can only be my best advocate if I’m active in understanding what’s going on inside me!

8.) Brainstorm, Research, and Make Connections for New Projects.  There are a lot of new things that have peaked my interest in the last year, and I think 2017 is the time to step up to the plate and learn what it takes to do them. What do I need to learn? What training could I acquire? What connections do I need to make? Who should I call on for a favor to help me into a new industry?

9.) Write More!  I really want to start writing more creatively this year. It’s been a year and half since I worked on my novel. *Sad Face* And while I don’t know if I’m quite ready for jumping back into writing a chapter a month for my novel, I really want to at least start writing short stories and poetry again.  Which is one reason, I’m really excited for one of my favorite content creator’s new project #WordBound which is exactly what I’m looking for: Weekly prompts to encourage writers like me to write more!  You should be seeing more on this soon as I complete each week’s prompts (hopefully!)

And finally, what I consider the one, super big, NEED TO DO goal:

10.) Build a Website for iIMAGINEblank/My Business. I’ve been saying I’m going to build an iIMAGINEblank website for quite a while now.  But 2017 is the year!  As I’m seeing YouTube viewers and subscribers stagnate, I’m really looking at how I expand my love for video creating outside of that one oversaturated platform and onto my own so that I can combine all the things that are me: video creating, blogging, art, fashion, DIY/crafts, and motivational speaking.  How is this all going to come together? I don’t know! If you have ideas please let me know!  But I do feel the most confident in myself that I have the tools to do it and make it into the business that I really want rather than a hobby that I make a little bit of money off of. Being a “YouTuber” (or rather a content creator) is a real and valued thing in 2017.  So I need to start treating it as such.
Happy New Year! I hope you’re off to a great start with your goals or anti-resolutions for 2017!

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The Time a Teacher Told Me My Art Was Too “Crafty”

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While in high school, I was so much of an overachiever that I couldn’t fit all my passions into my class schedule. So my love for art was relegated to an after school activity in a small “Gifted Arts” program. It was two hours after school once or twice a week with an art teacher where we worked on various projects and explored new styles since the handful of us in the class were talented but not taking an art class as part of our course load.  During my sophomore year I had a wonderful teacher,  Mr. Pitsenbarger, who was hands-on and taught me creative skills I still employ today when brainstorming a project. But my freshmen year teacher almost made me quit art.

I think the first problem stemmed from her way of structuring the program.  Where Mr. Pitsenbarger had specific units and weekly projects with set goals, this teacher allowed us to develop our own large-scale projects and then work on them during program time with her help and critique.  While this seems awesome in theory (Woo! No assignments! No rules!), it really made the entire experience a free-for-all where I didn’t really learn much in terms of art theory or skills or practice. She helped me do a little research when I decided to work three-dimensionally and encouraged me in certain directions, but really what ended up happening was me feeling pressured to make the piece a certain way (that is, her way) and so I lost the original inspiration I had for creating it. Which resulted in a hideous fabric covered box and a failed attempt at starching and wiring fabric into a sculpture.

I remember getting extremely frustrated with it because it had mutated out of my original idea to a point where I barely even recognized it and the teacher seemed irritated with me that I had taken on such an intensive project when it wasn’t even something I had wanted!

But the thing that struck a chord with me the most and what honestly put me off from making any art for several years was that she told me all my ideas were too “crafty.”

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In a social media-infused world where “craftiness” is EVERYWHERE from artfully presented recipes to Dollar Store Hacks to holiday decoration tutorials, it seems weird that being told you’re “crafty” would come off as insult.  Now being “crafty” is a pretty lusted after asset especially when you can show off your craftiness to your social media following daily.  But at the time (and with the implication of being “too crafty”), it decimated my artistic confidence.  Instead of embracing my artistic style (which involved collage, mixed media, and a fair amount of fabric) and helping me develop it even if it didn’t fit the “traditional” style of art she was used to teaching, she shot me down and boxed me into some preconceived notions of what art should be. Which ultimately lead me to resent her and resent traditional forms of art (besides my time with Mr. Pitsenbarger I haven’t developed any traditional art skills like sketching or painting in class format since then).

So now, years later, with little attention paid to my traditional art skills (which I deeply regret), I’ve come to realize that my craftiness is not a detriment to my art. While the art and creative projects I enjoy doing may never hang in the Louvre or the Met, they bring me joy.  And for me, art is about the emotion–whether it’s joy or sorrow, empathy or anger.

I’m not painting grand landscapes on life size canvases, but I am making DIY costumes for cosplay like Judy Hopps for this past Halloween. And participating in the Creative Sprint where many times the goal is to make something out of nontraditional elements. I also started collecting magazines because I feel like getting back into collage and seeing what my life and creative experience since then will help me create.

I’ve also been super inspired by one of my fellow NextUp winners Cinnamon–known as the Art Sherpa on YouTube–to start painting again. I’ve been watching so many of her viewers post pictures of what they created based on her tutorials and pieces they painted because of the skills and confidence Cinnamon taught them. I love the positive and supportive community she’s created! I have a feeling if she’d been my art teacher she wouldn’t have told me I was too crafty!

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It’s Cinnamon aka The Art Sherpa teaching you how to paint!

But I also don’t want you to think that I hate that art teacher or that I want to shame her for her comment. While at the time, I was angry and hurt by what she’d said about my art and my art process, I know that most likely she didn’t mean to hurt me. She was doing the best she could in an after school art program for a rural public school system where she probably wasn’t getting paid for the extra work. It’s not like it was easy for her or that she was trying to be a self-righteous judge lording over us.

No, she was trying to help me the best way she knew how. It just so happened that it resulted in an unfortunate opinion about my work that stuck with me (because I was a very sensitive child, honestly).  But I hope that you know, that art shouldn’t ever be too crafty. Even straight-up crafts are art in their own way!  It all stems from the creativity and passion you infuse it with.

So go out and get on with your creative and crafty self! Don’t let someone shut you down because your art is different. I mean, learn the theory and basic skills if they’re teaching it to you, but also develop your own style even if it’s something your teacher (or friends or parents, et al.) haven’t seen before.  Let your art be as unique as you!

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What It Means to Be “Creative” for 30 Days | October 2016 Creative Sprint

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I’ve always considered myself a pretty creative person. In grade school I considered creativity my best asset. Parents, friends, teachers were in awe of the creative ideas or projects I would come up with and praise me for my unique way of thinking.  And today, while I still work hard to produce lots of creative content weekly for my YouTube channel and blog, and people still occasionally praise me for my creativity, I feel less creative than I ever have.

Many times I long for the days of my childhood where out-of-the-box ideas were prolific.  I can remember the constant stream of story ideas and the overflowing journals with poems, short stories, and reflections on life. I was always sketching or painting or working on a larger art project.  Most of my clothes were some DIY creation, and every holiday/birthday/special event warranted a handmade card and gift.

But slowly–imperceptibly even–those creative activities that filled my thoughts and occupied my hands during every free moment slipped away, filled in by some obligation or self-doubt.  It’s not that I stopped being creative. Creative thinking is a skill that you can bring to pretty much every part of your life, so I’ve continued doing creative things.  But I lost the confidence to continue exploring the creative activities I’d always loved.  I found myself spending more time using my creative skills for needs rather than just desires.  And for me, the joy of creativity comes from being creative for creativity’s sake.

So enter the Creative Sprint!  If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen some of my posts about it, but I wanted to reflect on the project as a whole on the blog this week. It was a 30 day challenge where you were emailed a daily prompt to help you make or do something creative. Prompts ranged from being inspired by the color green to using items you found outside or in your kitchen to create something.  It also focused on cultivating a creative community with the hashtag #CreativeSprint so you could find other Sprinters and follow and encourage them and even had prompts asking you to work with or be inspired by them.

You would think that 30 days of creative projects for someone who loves being creative and desperately wants to inject some art back into her life would be a dream come true!  And it was…in some ways. It was also a nightmare in others.  Encouraging yourself to do a creative thing every day is easy. For me, coming up with an idea for a creative thing every day was pretty easy too.  (It actually got to be quite exciting where I would go to bed happily anticipating what the next day’s prompt would be and gleefully opening my email when I awoke to read it).  But actually DOING the creative thing came to be the hard part. I think that is where the self-doubt comes in.  And why I stopped being so free with my artistic endeavors.

I still have lots of ideas–maybe not as many as I did when I was young and mostly obligation free as a tween (which, honestly, if you put aside all the hormonal changes, I’d suggest is the most creative and free time of your life).  But I rarely follow through with any of those ideas anymore.  I don’t create the giant mixed media collage because the canvas is expensive and where would I put it anyway? I don’t start writing the novel idea I had because I haven’t finished a novel yet so why should I start another idea for it just to rot half developed? I don’t actually sketch in my sketchbook because that last sketch I did wasn’t any good so why would I want to document my degrading art skills?

But during the month of October, I made myself DO the creative things. Sometimes it was with satisfaction and excitement.  Other times it was past 9 pm and I was ready for bed but scrambling to scrape together something. There are days that I’m incredibly proud of.  There are other days that I would rather hide from the world.  But it can’t be argued that I now have 30 more art pieces than I started October with.  And probably 30 more pieces than I would have created at all had there not been the Creative Sprint.

What I really took away from this challenge though is not just 30 pieces of art (good and bad), it was the realization that I have some work to do with overcoming my self-doubt when it comes to making art. Because I love painting and sketching and writing and creating things. But I’m stopping myself from doing those things out of fear.  In the digital age where every creative thing a person does seems to need to be broadcast to the internet in order for it to be “real,” it’s hard to not compare yourself to others or to feel confident enough to share something that you’re proud of even if it’s not professional level art. (And who’s to say what’s “professional” level and what’s not anyway?)

Just like any other skill, you have to practice to get better.  So I think if I want to get better at writing and art (or at least to get back to the place of confidence I was at in high school and early college), I need to work on it more.  Maybe not everyday, but MUCH more often than I have been.

So what do you think? How have you struggled with your creativity and self-doubt or confidence issues? Tell me down in the comments!

Also check out this gallery of all the things I created for the Creative Sprint!  I’d highly encourage you to sign up to participate in their next sprint which should be in May. Sign up now and they’ll notify you when it’s getting close!