Getting Crafty: Working and Playing with Creativity

Do you have a craft, a skill you exercise regularly to make something?
Do you consider yourself crafty, making things for fun or profit?

Yes, I know, “crafty” also means deceptive, but that’s not this post.

My craft is writing. I work at it diligently most days of the week. I employ different techniques depending on the time of day, the day of the week, or the purpose of the writing.

I journal, more like a brain dump of everything on my mind and heart.
I blog, intentionally putting together words to encourage others.
I write letters, sending a little sunshine via the USPS.
I write prayers and Bible studies to connect with God.
I write to work through my thoughts and feelings on various issues.
I write notes and reviews about books I’ve read.
I write for organizations and individuals who pay me to write for them.

I practice writing. I read good writing, fiction and non, to learn from others. I take writing classes (a new class begins tonight – eek, I’m both excited and anxious).

And sometimes I need to do something differently crafty to differently spark my creativity.

Occasionally over the last year, I’ve spent a Sunday afternoon creating a collage. Just for fun, just for me, just because.

I set a timer for 20 minutes and quick-cut scraps from a colorful magazine I’ve read. I look for colors, words, images that grab me for whatever reason. When the timer beeps, I shuffle the cut pieces, looking for connections. Sometimes colors work together. Other times, words bump up against words to create new meaning. I trim edges and shuffle some more. And then I grab a glue stick and a piece of paper to use as a foundation and arrange the snippets into something new.

It’s not rocket science. I’m not attempting to win an art prize. I’m just having fun. And sometimes, fun matters most. It breathes fresh life into my lungs and returns me to my writing craft with new things to say.

In the comments, tell me a little something about your craft. Or tag someone whose pursuit of their craft you admire.

This is Day 2 of a 7 Day Writing Challenge with Hope*Writers. Follow me on Instagram for more.

Creative Courage

When I invited my friend Paul to contribute a post on creativity to the blog, he responded, “Just one? I can write more…” That’s one of the things I have long appreciated about Paul: he is generous. Generous in creativity, in friendship, in spirit. Paul kicked off the 2016 Create Challenge with a heartfelt post about The (Wounded) Artist, and today he continues to show us how to move forward with courage.

Create Challenge #27: Paul Quinlivan

A little over a year ago my wife and I bought our first home. It is a wonderful starter home for us with a huge yard, fireplace, functional kitchen, in a developing neighborhood and, most importantly, in our price range. In this place we will lay down some needed roots and welcome nourishment it will bring.

One of the many quirks of the house, however, is a main bathroom with a window that faces out toward the street. Normally it wouldn’t bother me too much except for the fact that said window is in our shower with the glass starting a little over waist high. The window is not entirely see-through, though it is not entirely opaque either. It’s a busy enough street. Not that big a deal for me, but my wife…well…she asked me to do something about it.

For months now I have been working my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I was only diligent in my morning pages for the first few weeks and my artist dates never really took off as she intended, but the work and conversation was stimulating. Something within me came alive with the desire to create and to learn a particular craft. Often I feel so inadequate to do something artistic because I don’t know the technique, or have the specific tools, or know anyone who does. The anxiety behind the risk of being vulnerable feels so great that it’s crippling. It often leaves me stunned and powerless to move.

But this time was different. I felt like I had the courage to move, so I put the desire to create and the need in my home together and signed up for a stain glass making class. It was a birthday present really. A gift to my right brained, creative child hiding within.

I have yet to begin work on the final piece that will protect us from curious onlookers on the street, but here are the simple pieces I have crafted so far. The class as a whole is a funny experience. In my early thirties I am the youngest person in the studio by at least twenty years and the only one with ‘Y’ chromosome, but it has been fun. I now know and understand the basics to create any sort of stain glass pieces and will in all likelihood continue the craft in the future.PQ mtn 1 PQ mtn PQ sun

pq2Father, Husband, Friend, Therapist, Hiker, Surfer, Mystic, Writer, Farmer, Teacher, and Pastor are but a few of Paul Quinlivan’s many monikers. He lives with his lovely wife, almost 3-month-old son, and their South American dog in a slowly gentrifying suburb of Seattle. When he is not attempting to recapture his artistic self through writing he works to help others find themselves as a therapist in private practice and instructor at a graduate school helping to train future prophetic therapists, pastors, and artists.

Sharing Creativity and Time

Some days I consider that I need a creative pastime that doesn’t involve words or, specifically, my computer. And on those days I think of my friend Jen, who quietly, humbly, and persistently creates works of whimsical beauty with her hands. Jen is always good for a smile, a laugh, a story, a listening ear, and to inspire me to create more. And I love today’s post that reminds us that our creativity is for us, sure, but also for others, a gift to be shared in more ways than one.

Create Challenge #20: Jen Patera

I was created to create by the ultimate Creator who blessed me with a love of creating (say that 10x). I love to make things. I can’t remember a time when I was not making something. Creativity has been a part of my daily life since I discovered tape and cardboard. I am at my happiest when I am making something. Creating allows me to stop, in the midst of an over-scheduled life. My craft table is always a place of peace, prayer, problem-solving, quiet contemplation. I love sharing my creations, and I am almost always making things with others or to share with others.JP cake JP spoon JP spreader

Is creativity passed down genetically, generation to generation? Scientists say it is so, and I am inclined to believe them! But, genetics aside, I also think it is about sharing your creativity with others to inspire their creativity, especially with children. Bonding over playdough, glue and paint. My mom is a super crafty lady with many creative passions (writing, jewelry making, stained glass…the list goes on). When I was young, she shared her love of making things as we bonded over homemade ornaments and sewing projects. I was encouraged to be creative and express myself. I was indulged with sketchbooks, paints, art classes, and time.

As a young mom, I longed to sit at the kitchen table making things with my children as my mom had done with me. Sharing creativity and time. My youngest son, at a very early age, loved to create. At two, he not only painted the paper on his easel, he painted his body too. Why not? Fabulous! Bravo! During his preschool years, he produced enough art to more than cover the refrigerator. For his third birthday he wanted a farm truck cake with and we set out together designing, baking, and decorating that cake. Store bought invites…oh no! We carefully made all the invites too! After that, we constructed a barn out of a large appliance box. That is how it went until he stopped having birthday parties. Halloween…another great sharing of creativity and time, bonding over ideas and execution. Sometimes his ideas were bigger than my ability…but we worked through it.

When youngest was in Kindergarten, I picked him up at school. His sweet little hands cradled a folded paper plate that held a treasured creation. I opened the plate, which contained a 6” long, lumpy brown piece of clay (imagine what that might look like).

“Look mom, a snake! And it has eyes!” After a short pause, “…brown was the only color they had.”JP snake

I loved that little brown snake then, and I love it now. One of my most treasured possessions. But it represents more than just a brown lump of clay, it represents our shared love of making things, of creating, of using our hands, of time spent together.

Now at 18 years old, as I watch him explore his own passions and creative expression, his own process, I am reminded why I love to create; and why my mom, and her mom, loved to create—to share not only a creative process, but also shared interests, to sit side-by-side talking, and most importantly, treasuring time together. JP create mug

JPatera

Born in France, lifelong Army brat, moved 27 times around the U.S. by the time I was 18! Came to California to attend the Academy of Art/University of San Francisco and graduated with a BFA. Married my guy Brent in 1990. Two boys in college, one at University of Montana one at Diablo Valley College.  Breast cancer survivor 5 years out.  Love to travel (my favorite place is Savannah, where my mom lives), hike, and do crafty things. View my creations at my Etsy shop.

The Most Amazing Gift

This Create Challenge began as a challenge to myself – and to all of us – to think outside the box on what it means to create, to be creators, to engage in creative activity. Because Life = creative activity. Because miracles abound in the mundane, the sacred infuses the secular, play does a happy dance at work. So I absolutely adore that my friend Jessie challenged her own traditional thinking to recognize the Creativity inherent in the everyday moments of full days with energetic littles. Jessie has long been one of my favorite people to laugh and talk with, and I’m so excited to share her story with you.

Create Challenge #8 – Jessie Colburn

I used to think of myself as a creative person. Now I think of myself as a stay-at-home mom for these two young girls:JCbabies

Most days, I’m just aiming to make it through. Forget creativity. To quote Sweet May Brown: Ain’t nobody got time for that. Forget plans. Forget recipes. Forget anything that makes me feel like I’m in control of my own life. I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m literally making stuff up as I go.

This is the honest-to-God formula for my time with my little people:

Three-ish square meals + snacks + not too much TV + not dying = success  

My life feels a lot like this picture: blurry, messy but smiling, and at the same time— fighting with my 4-year-old over who gets to push the button.JCblur

Not exactly the stuff creativity awards are made of.

But here’s the thing: I feel as though God has given me the most amazing gift. Motherhood, He whispered, is the most creative thing you’ve ever done. You are made for this…this selfless, extraordinary, boundless love.

My response? Motherhood (Parenthood) as a creative process? That’s insane.

I mean, being creative means you create artistic things! And I absolutely LOVE people who create artistic things. I am, in fact, a lover of those artistic things they create! But I’m not one of them.

My friend is a crafty genius. She takes simple things like fabric, or yarn, or unmilled flour, and makes something entirely new out of them. (Julie, you are fantastic). Not only is the end result beautiful, but she legitimately enjoys the process. If you consider yourself creative, then you know that one of the most important ingredients you invest is your precious time. These things my friend makes from scratch do not happen overnight. That’s part of what makes them so valuable: they take time, and effort, and attention, and care.

I realized that I had been working with a very literal interpretation of the word “CREATE.” Per Webster’s Dictionary, I understood it to mean: “to produce through imaginative skill.” Like a painting, or a book, or some other tangible form of art.

I told myself that being a mom doesn’t flex those same muscles. I told myself that 24-year-old Jessie should have written this blog post. She was a budding actress! She took creative writing classes; she attended improvisational workshops; she went to see lots of live theatre…

She also:
* slept in
* had morning sex with her husband
* ate dinner after 6pm
* did not dress like a homeless person
* watched adult TV during the day (not adult as in “porn”; adult as in “created for people over age five.” Just wanted to clear that up.)

The life she had…well, some days I really miss it. Now, I “create” things like PBJ sandwiches. I “make” rules like “Sometimes Mom gets to poop with the door closed.” Why? “Because sometimes Mommy needs a minute.” I no longer produce through imaginative skill.

But then… I do.

Motherhood is, absolutely, an ongoing creative act. It is an ever-present process. It takes time, and effort, and attention, and care. Whether intentionally or subliminally, mothers constantly create—schedules, traditions, memories. These little acts during long days will eventually lead to one full life. We do create.

The end result of my subtle creative acts might not hang in a museum. But I’m absolutely a creative person:
* I create meals to feed my family.
* I make space for my little girls to play.
* I carve out time for adventures.
* I force them (lovingly) to eat their vegetables.
* I draw baths.
* I paint tiny fingers and toes.
* I teach them when something is not OK.
* I sing songs.
* I say prayers.
* I tell stories and read books.

Added together, these are not small things. Mothers CREATE a childhood.JCtrail

The parenting stakes are high. The weight of so much responsibility tempts me to totally lose my mind. What if I screw it all up, creating a sociopath, serial killer, or mean girl? The self-doubt is so palpable and, at times, all-consuming. Because, shoot. This mothering thing is HARD. So many days I think: I’m doing this wrong. Or I’m just not good at this. Or worse: My kids might be better off with a different mother.

For all the good I create, my very real fear is that I also create not-so-good things:
* I make mistakes.
* I create excuses for the kids’ bad behavior and mine.
* I lose my temper and yell at my babies.
* I let them eat terrible things.
* I give into unreasonable requests (who has energy to fight every battle?).
* I tune them out.
* I choose my phone over giving them my presence.
* I park them in front of the TV so I can shower, or cook, or just close my eyes for 20 minutes.
* I go back on promises.
* I do what is easy instead of what is right.

Sigh. That list makes me die a little bit inside. But moms are human. We will never be perfect. Our job as parents is not to create magical childhoods that result in well-adjusted adults. We don’t actually have much control over that. Our job as parents is to love our kids extravagantly.

We contort and concoct and misinterpret this role so profoundly. And truth be told, I think it breaks our Creator’s heart. He did not create us to be perfect. He created us with the knowledge that we would fail so epically that we’d need to be rescued.

So why do we look at mothering through this lens of unattainable perfection? I’ve been a mom for almost five years (a relative newbie, I grant you), but I’ve been deeply saddened by how negatively most mothers view themselves.

Thankfully, there is an upside. Because with God, there always is.

This creative, beautiful God who made us—who made our kids—made us for community. We were not meant to do this job (or live this life) by ourselves. Community sustains us and empowers us. It nourishes our soul and gives us the strength to keep going. It gives us a healthier voice to counteract the negative self-talk that swirls around in our minds.

One of the intensely powerful blessings I’ve discovered is the community of other moms. They are the voices of women who cut through the noise and, instead, deliver grace and love. And for me, they come from all over: from church, from work, from my kids’ preschool, from my own family (Grandparents, here’s looking at you). Sometimes they’re from blogs or books of people I don’t know in “real life” but capture my sentiments exactly—Bunmi Laditan, for example, is my spirit animal. Jen Hatmaker, the hilarious genius behind For the Love, I assume wrote that book for me personally (Thanks, Jen. That was really nice of you).

The point: there are people on this planet who help me in this intensely creative quest.

These women validate my experience. They confirm that my kids will turn out OK; they affirm that I’m doing my best; they remind me that God is in charge; they let me cry when I feel guilty; they laugh with me when my offspring does something entirely preposterous; they love my kids when I find them to be a bit too much; they are a source of encouragement, wisdom, and advice; they remind me to breathe between the waves in this sea of baby vomit and dirty diapers and toddler meltdowns.

Most importantly, they remind me I’m not alone.

I do, actually, LOVE being a mom. My daughters light up my heart. They are so funny. And they are good kids. We have fun together and I genuinely love being with them. No question, they are my absolute favorite people.JCpink

But they exhaust and overwhelm me, too. And it’s OK.

Speaking from my limited experience, what I do know is this: This mothering thing is an insanely creative process that takes a lifetime to learn. You know how the song goes: He wrote the notes on your heart before it took its first beat. The melody won’t be perfect, and at times you won’t recognize the sound—but let yourself sing it. You are producing through imaginative skill. You are creating something beautiful.

Well done, mama.

JCbio

Jessie Colburn is wife to Chris, mom to Kate & Charlotte, and a general lover of books, friends, family, and wine (not necessarily in that order). You can usually find her on a hike with her kids, in her kitchen preparing a meal, or near the teen fiction section at her local independent book store. While most of her time is spent raising her babies, she’s also a freelance children’s book editor. Her favorite activities include laughing, eating, reading, and talking.