If you’ve been following my library-based creativity course recap, you’ll be glad to hear that Week #3 was a breakthrough! We’re halfway through, and things really came together for people, although I also think we realized a lot of frustrations about our lives and work.



Week Three is all about “Recovering a Sense of Power”, and nothing could have been more appropriate for the group than this idea. I think at this point, everyone has settled into the routine, doing morning pages, taking Artist Dates, and working through Julia Cameron’s exercises in THE ARTIST’S WAY to discover what is blocking our creativity. We’re all making progress there, and that’s a great thing since many were reluctant in the first place. However, out of all of this discovery, people are frustrated with a capital “F”!



Our morning pages seem to be revealing a lot of anger. A LOT of anger—anger with ourselves, with spouses, and children, and the general angry thoughts aimed at the Universe for “burdening” us with lives that are either too routine, too regimented, or too based on the lives of others. For some, it is all three. And that’s not helping us be creative people. It’s hard to be creative when we’re thinking about what to make for dinner—again.



We discussed this quite a bit as a group, and many of the members opened up, which was really brave of them. I don’t know that we made any progress as far as dealing with how to change these things, but I felt like people needed to voice these things, and make them real to themselves. Maybe we’ll hear of some breakthroughs this week as a result of knowing there are many other people feeling exactly the same way.



And we got so caught up in the revelations that we didn’t get through most of the ideas in the handouts this week. That’s okay–I’d much rather let people vent than do an exercise where we draw things in triangles. (Because, yes, that’s what I had planned for the Creativity Activity this time.)




In the end, I felt we laughed a lot more, talked a great deal more, and got to know each other better. Will it make a difference next time? I hope so.



So, what was up with those red envelopes?






This week, I had to postpone the session because I was off to Toronto for a couple of days.  (It was an exciting trip—more to come on that.) But I didn’t want to leave my group on hold for a week, so I made up these envelopes for them to open on the regular session day. Each one had their names and an intricate colouring page on the outside, because who doesn’t love adult colouring, right?  Inside, the homework for this week was based on a post by Elizabeth Gilbert called,  “Stop Going to the Hardware Store for Milk”, which I thought was a BRILLIANT way to get people thinking. We do this so often, in many parts of our lives….go to the wrong places for the things we need, and then keep banging our heads against the wall wondering why things aren’t working. I hope it hit home with a lot of the group.  We’ll find out this week.



So, stay tuned for week four. I feel like we’ve turned a corner and are about to discover something amazing!



heidi sinnett

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CN Tower




(From a work trip last year to Toronto.)


I haven’t always been afraid to travel. Maybe “afraid” is a harsh word for it. But I get all kinds of anxiety now when I have to go somewhere outside my daily life, even if it’s for something fun. We have a bit of a mini-adventure coming up soon, and I’m already in major offense mode. What might happen? (All good things.) Will the weather be okay? (Probably.) What if it’s not?(We’ll deal.) What if we miss our train? (We won’t.) All of these things are keeping me up at night, and this is supposed to be fun.



When I was younger, I hopped on planes and took vacations for weeks at a time alone. I drove hundreds of miles to places I’d never been, and made long waits at the airports seem like a visit to the mall. It was fantastic and fun, and I’d come back from each vacation feeling like I had a big secret that the rest of the world didn’t know about….other places!



Now? Now, I just want to stay home. Now, I get antsy at the thought of even booking a plane ticket. Two years ago, when my husband and I had to take a last minute trip to Winnipeg (for something good), I nearly had a brain aneurysm from all the worry. Trust me, when you’re sitting beside me at 20,000 feet in an airplane, and you want to show me something out the window, that is NOT the best way to keep me calm. Poor guy. I wouldn’t even let him talk to me for most of the flight.



And today, when we were watching a travel show on TV and the host claimed you could save yourself from carrying everything by buying it at your destination (like medicines and toothpaste), I almost lost it. What was he thinking? What if you got sick in the airport? Or on the plane? Or what if you ate something with garlic and had to sit next to a stranger on a train for four hours??? I would lose my mind if I didn’t have all of the supplies for a “what if” situation.



So, what happened between my carefree early travel days and now? Life, I guess. And reality. And everyday anxieties turning into other anxieties. Will I ever feel that joyous draw of travel again?  Maybe. I usually have a good time while I’m there, but it’s the unknowns of the travel that get to me most.



Could someone just invent a simple thing like a transporter to get me places? Start working on that. I’d pay a lot to use it, and I’m sure other people would, too.



Wish me luck on my mini-trip. Or rather, be thinking of my husband who will constantly have to talk me down from the ledges……



heidi sinnett

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So, this week went better. It took me a while to find my groove, but I went back over everything I’d planned and done in the first week, and vowed to put more of myself into it. I felt better about it in the end, anyway.



And I made the confession. I promised we’d talk more from here on in, and I wanted to learn more about everyone in the group. I was surprised to learn we had a woman who’d spent several weeks at a monastery this past summer working on artistic endeavors. I learned we had a woman who had recently suffered a stroke, but wanted to get back into the creative things she loved now that her rehabilitation was working well. And we had a once very enthusiastic knitter who just couldn’t find a reason to make anything new. It certainly is an interesting group.





I made tons of little paper flowers with my Cricut cutter at work, and stuck little jeweled stickers in their centres. Then, I laid them out across the length of all the tables and added swirls of dark green paper to look like vines etc. It was actually quite pretty, even though I didn’t take a photo of it. (Why not??  I have no idea!)





The theme this week was “Recovering a Sense of Identity”. After getting to hear a little bit more about each person, and why they were there, I think we all had a stronger understanding of their identity, even if it wasn’t clear to them yet.



We talked about many things, including finding a way to bring out that joy we first felt in our creative processes. I don’t think anyone felt they didn’t belong doing what they were doing, but that they couldn’t find the joy in it anymore. One of the great things that Elizabeth Gilbert talks about is thinking of your creative life as though you were having an affair. The idea behind it is simple: when you have an affair, you find time for it, you get excited by it, and you don’t let anyone stand in the way of it, not matter what. How about doing the same for writing, or painting, or knitting? She suggested dressing up–really getting all spiffy and ready for the creativity to join you—and then sitting down to do the work. I’m hoping that at least a few of our group tried to do this in Week 2. I can’t wait to hear what happened!



Cheese creations during our creativity activity






Okay, so morning pages are NOT supposed to be optional, according to THE ARTIST’S WAY and Julia Cameron. They are to be done every day, first thing, no exceptions. I must admit, I didn’t do them every day last week, and I haven’t done them daily this week either. It’s not that I don’t see the benefit from them. I do. In fact, I was reluctant to even try them first off, but they were SUPER helpful in letting me work out the issues I was having with my course from week one. Maybe I’m not learning a whole lot about my history and why I do the things I do, but I know that writing them is helping me work through day to day issues, and that’s great.



Some of the other members of the group also had issues with doing them. So, I made them a personal thing. I don’t want to say “optional”, but maybe not mandatory. However, even one of the more reluctant members said he felt guilty about not doing them one day when he wanted to be working on his project, so decided to do them and “get it over with”. I think in the end, we’ll all agree that these are interesting and helpful in many ways. I just don’t know how yet….






Some people found this one tricky. It wasn’t bad trying to find the time, but more that it was tricky to find something they wanted to do. When you’re not used to taking time for your creative life, it might seem indulgent at first, and so you can be really confused at the purpose, and also, the inspiration.  I did some adult colouring–something I normally wouldn’t take time for, but it was a lot of fun, and very relaxing. I felt good about doing it, and hope to do something a bit different this week, before our next meeting. Maybe a walk through some shops I love and never get a chance to visit?






Last but not least, our creativity activity was a little wacky this week. Each person was given some string cheese and a few tooth picks. They had to create something out of that. Whatever they wanted. It was a funny task, but one which some went at with determination. Some people just ate the cheese. :-)  I think that says a lot about us.



This week, we’ll talk about our successes and failures, and hopefully get a bit more insight into finding our creative selves. I’m going on a special getaway next week, and will have to postpone our meeting for a week, so I planned a little secret something for the group to take home and work on. What’s in the envelopes? Only time will tell….








heidi sinnett

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As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve started my creativity workshops at the library, using Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC as inspiration and guidance. I’ll do a short post each week after the sessions to talk about what we learned, how it went, and what I can take from this if I decide to do another series like this at the library.



I should start out by saying that I know about half of the participants from my library writer’s group, and a few of the others simply as patrons from the library, although I haven’t had a lot of interaction with them other than signing out books. The last few people  are strangers to me, but everyone seems lovely. I asked everyone to sign a sheet with their name, and what their creative obsession was, in order that I had a better sense of who I was looking at during the session. We have mostly writers, but a few painters, a floral artist and a knitter! WOW!




I decided that each week, I will decorate the room in a creative or inspiring way, to give everyone a feeling that not only can they accomplish something creative that week, but that creativity isn’t about being perfect or experienced. It is simply about doing. And so I attempted my first large-scale chalk drawing on paper for week 1. Here is how it worked out:


Finiding your creative self, a series of workshops I'm giving this winter at my library. I know, right? WHAT???



I thought the red paper would be interesting and bright (okay, we only had red paper at the library), and I chose a drawing of magnolias based on a photo I found online. I’m pretty good at drawing what I see, and often do posters or artwork at the library based on something I’ve found that will work for a particular event. So, I felt pretty confident going in. However, I soon learned that drawing with chalk is VERY unforgiving, and not at all easy. The end result was far from perfect, but I promised myself I’d put it up no matter what.




I want to have a “Creativity Activity” for each week, to allow all of the participants a chance to do something creative that maybe they’ve never tried before. Believe me, I have some crazy things coming down the pipe in the next few weeks. I can only imagine what we’ll be creating!  For the first week, I chose a “simple” activity, with a “drawer”, and a “talker”. I’ve done this with my teen book club, and it was quite fun, so I knew it wouldn’t be difficult. But it was. Were we too creative?



Each group was given a simple picture (a car, a house, a cat etc.), and the talker told the drawer what to do on the page, without letting them see the picture. This was a lot tougher than it should have been, and due to all of the work that lay ahead, we didn’t have time to do more than one round with the participants. I think that was sort of disappointing to the people who really didn’t get a chance to try it out, even though everyone else acted as the “guessers”. Next week, and from here on in, everyone gets to do our activity at the same time.




Each week is based on Cameron’s chapters, with a handout I’ve made up from the readings and ideas of that week. We’ll have time to talk about ideas in the chapter, and then move on to some exercises based on that theme.



Week #1 was tough, though. Using THE ARTIST’S WAY,  I followed Cameron’s well laid out series of creative goals, beginning with “Recovering a Sense of Safety”. The ideas are simple and straight-forward, with a lot of it being about trusting yourself, not being too hard on yourself, and working toward finding that confidence to admit you can do creative things without listening to the negative comments from others.



After reading through our handouts, and talking somewhat about the ideas and how to figure out where we all get our negative beliefs from, there wasn’t a lot of discussion. I think this is where people were either not comfortable enough to speak in the group yet, or they weren’t all on board. More about that later.




A big part of Cameron’s teachings come from doing Morning Pages. These are to be three hand-written pages done first thing every morning. Every. Single. Morning. They aren’t meant to be like a journal, where you ponder the day’s happenings and reflect on how things went. These are stream-of-consciousness ramblings, without a need for purpose or meaning. Cameron even suggests that if you can’t think of anything to write, simply to write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over at first. Eventually, she claims we’ll all start working through issues in our morning pages, either creative blocks, or personal blocks, which should amount to us being able to find out creative spark again.



These pages are supposed to be mandatory to the program, and I wrote on the homework pages that they are non-negotiable.  Let me say, there were a few people there who immediately wanted to make them negotiable (possibly me included?). The struggle with finding extra time to do them, having them interfere with their only creative time to begin with, and also with having to write when someone is a painter, for example….were all real dissensions on this. I was a little surprised, and yet, not, even after several of the group members claimed they’ve been doing them religiously for years, and that they act as a kind of therapy session.




The last part of Cameron’s program is The Artist Date. Simply put, everyone must find at least an hour to themselves each week to do something inspirational to them. It might be a coffee date alone, just to sit and people watch, or it might be a concert they’ve wanted to attend. Whatever it is, it must be done at least once each week, and always alone.



This was also a bone of contention, although more because of the area we live in. It’s not exactly the hotspot of artistic happenings, and several members of the group were worried they wouldn’t be able to find anything to do. (Not one person mentioned that they didn’t think they could find time for themselves this week, which I thought was oddly fascinating. Good for them!)






I went away from Week 1 not knowing if this was a good session, or a bad one. We didn’t talk much, and the times we did were mostly to discuss the difficulties of the program, not to talk about creativity.  It was only after doing my second set of Morning Pages (ironically), that I realized what was wrong.



  • I need to have a discussion with people about why they are there. Are they doing this to boost their creativity? Are they creatively blocked? Or do they not have a creative outlet at all, and are searching for some ideas.  I think this needs to become a BIG part of our work next week. I want people to be able to talk about why they’re there, and how the group can support them. I don’t want to just sit and lecture everyone each week on “how to do this”.
  • I also realized that I was not the least bit inspired by THE ARTIST’S WAY, and yet, here I am basing the whole course around that idea. It is very rigid, very spirituality-based, and also very uninspiring. Sure, we might learn a lot by figuring out that a teacher from 2nd grade made us give up our love of drawing, but will that finally inspire us to draw again?  I’m not so sure.
  • However, out of that, the one thing I did realize, was that I was super inspired by BIG MAGIC. Maybe it was the more contemporary tone, but Gilbert’s idea of creativity revolves around the promotion of positive thinking, and I feel that Cameron’s is the opposite: identifying all that negativity only seems to be draining, not inspiring.
  • I want things to be negotiable. I want participants to feel like they can come to the group and get help with issues like not having enough time in the day, or finding a new creative outlet by trying out different things. I also want the homework and morning pages to be negotiable. If someone doesn’t want to do them, why should they be forced to do so?


Will all of these changes make a difference for next week? I hope so. I plan on trying to instill more creative challenges and thoughts into the homework, that seek to inspire and let everyone have fun. I also want this to be whatever works best for each person, and so we might have to all learn to be a bit flexible. I’m definitely going to go into this thinking more from a BIG MAGIC angle, than an ARTIST’S WAY angle. That’s me, it’s what inspired me to do my work, and what I hope can give even seasoned AW followers some new ideas to work with.



Wish me luck! And check back next week for the Week #2 roundup.



heidi sinnett








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Okay, I’m leading a creativity course at my library over the next six weeks, and this thing has thrown me for a loop! I’m not a creative expert. What made me think I could lead a workshop on creativity?  For SIX WEEKS??? I swear, I get myself into these things by just saying “yes”. I should learn to say no.  I should be embracing the “no”. But I’m not.




It all started last fall, with the writer’s group I lead throughout the year. I’d noticed that everyone was starting to put aside their writing goals because of time constraints, and possibly a bit of boredom. I don’t think anyone was ready to give up their writing selves, but they haven’t had that spark to participate since one of our earliest NaNoWriMo’s the year before. I suggested doing a community writing project–which still might happen–but there were conversations floating around about creativity and how we might look into that, so I said “yes”.



I had no idea where I was even going to start with this, but took up the book THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron as a jumping point. Several of our group had followed the teachings of this book, and thought it might be a great thing for our group to try.



Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST'S WAY, a book on restarting your creative self



Having never read it, I dove in, expecting to come away inspired, with lots of ideas for the course that I agreed to present in the new year. It seemed easy enough to follow, with each week laid out as a topic, with goals, exercises and homework plans. I worked through each chapter, pulling out the most interesting and relevant ideas, and prepping a workshop that I could do based on her teachings to re-inspire creative people. It was a lot of work, and for that reason, my boss asked me to advertise it to the public, not just the library writing group. What harm could that be? We might get a few nibbles.



As it turns out, EVERYONE wants to learn about creativity, and how to inspire themselves to lead a more creative life. We had people sign up immediately, and within days, our workshop was full—with a long waiting list to boot.  Uh….okay. I was starting to panic.



Thankfully, in the meantime, I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC, her latest self-help/creativity piece that was making a real buzz around the web. I’ve loved her writing since EAT, PRAY, LOVE, and loved her wonderful, candid online interviews even more, so I was excited to pick this up and start reading. I thought I might get a few good quotes, some interesting anecdotes and more to add to my workshop, but I was BLOWN AWAY! I read her book in a day, basically, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. In fact, her ideas became a huge part of my workshop preparation, and I couldn’t wait to teach the first session! I just knew everyone would walk away feeling as excited and inspired as I felt heading into this new year.



The reality was a bit different.  Come back tomorrow to find out about week one of my “Find Your Creative Self” workshop. You won’t want to miss it.



heidi sinnett

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