Boost Your Creativity with This Simple Tool

Last week, I kicked off a month-long series on creativity. If you missed Part 1: Developing Your Curiosity, you can find it here: The Rainbow’s End: 3 Ideas to Help You Find Your Creativity.)

Today, I’m sharing my favorite tool for boosting your creativity. It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and you probably already have one. I’m talking about a notebook!

Now, before you run away—if writing things down isn’t your thing, I promise to give you a bunch of alternatives. You don’t have to use a literal notebook! What you need is a safe place to gather ideas and experiment.

…Everyone who is human has something to express. Try not expressing yourself for twenty-four hours and see what happens. You will nearly burst. You will want to write a long letter, or draw a picture, or sing, or make a dress or a garden.” —Brenda Ueland

Here are 3 reasons to keep a notebook:

1. Give yourself the opportunity to practice, not perform.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you…” —Stephen King in On Writing

We have more opportunities than ever before to share our work with others. However, sharing your work too soon (or too often) can drain your creative energy.

We need places to practice without feeling pressured to get everything right the first time. This gives us a chance to develop our instincts for what we consider good work rather than relying solely on other people’s reactions.

2. Give yourself a safe space to be honest. 

One of the reasons creativity is so hard, is that we’re not safe even from ourselves. We’re afraid to make a mistake or be found out. However, learning to communicate authentically is a first step in creating better work.

In The Life-Giving Path online workshop, I encourage people to try spiritual journaling as a tool to uncover their honest thoughts. A notebook can be a place to listen without judgment and practice telling the truth.

This can be difficult at first. We’re terrified someone will come along and read what we wrote. However, over time, my journal has become a freer place. It’s filled with typos. Grammatical errors. Sometimes, when I can’t choose between two words—I’ll just write them both down smack dab next to each other in a completely nonsensical way.

Occasionally, I’ll admit to being really annoyed with people I care about! For me, this is a creative and spiritual practice. In my notebook, I lay it all out there so I no longer have to use so much energy covering it all up. Then, I’m free to listen and gather inspiration. When I’m stuck, I ask for help.

3. Give your ideas a place to gather.

Once you begin gathering ideas, more will start to find you. They’re like cats. Word starts to get around that you take good care of strays. Pretty soon, you’ll wake up in the morning and find a whole herd of them waiting for you just outside the door.

“Ideas are like rainbows, we need to record them with a pencil or they soon fade right out sight.” —Kathy Liden

If there’s something you daydream about—opening an art studio, writing a book, starting a podcast—give yourself a place to start making it real, if only on the page.

Some of you may be saying, “Notebooks aren’t really my thing. Now what?”

Here’s a list of notebook alternatives:

  • A sketchbook.
  • A camera (or the camera roll on your phone).
  • A closet where you stuff your latest paintings.
  • The notes app on your phone.
  • A scrapbook.
  • An Excel spreadsheet. (Beautifully-arranged data can be a work of art!)
  • A secret Pinterest board.
  • A portable moodboard (or an envelope) where you stick fabric samples, pieces of trim, or design inspiration.

What creativity tools would you add to this list? I’d love to hear them!

Next up: creative collaboration! What to do (and not do!) when it’s time to share your creative ideas + a few things I’ve learned the hard way…

Hope for Christmas

I wrote this for last year’s Christmas newsletter. Despite all that has happened in 2020, I think it still applies, so I decided to share it again. If you’re not quite ready for Christmas, you’re not alone! I hope this helps.

Thoughts on Faith:

When I sat down to write this month’s newsletter, I’d planned to talk about the New Year. December is my favorite time for dreaming and reflecting. Outside, nature slows down, reminding us that it’s okay to pause, too.
However, over the past few weeks, I’ve listened to friends and bumped into strangers who are struggling with Christmas. While I hope this letter finds you full of joy and good health, I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look too far to find someone in need of kindness.
There are broken hearts. Family rifts. Disappointments of every shape and size.
At church, we talk about Advent being a season of preparation. We prepare our hearts to receive the gift of Jesus.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Mary on that first Christmas. Mary had many wonderful qualities, but when we picture her placing baby Jesus in a manger, the word “prepared” doesn’t exactly spring to mind. Nesting probably looked different back then, but even so, no one wants their baby’s nursery to be a stable. I’m sure she would’ve preferred to be near her family instead of 70 miles away from home.

I think it says a lot about God that He didn’t wait for Mary to get herself organized or “more together” before Jesus arrived. God could’ve chosen a different time and place. Instead, He picked the moment before she was ready when she probably felt like a failure.
That’s the thing about Jesus. He doesn’t wait for us to sort things out before He arrives. He shows up here. Now.
Preparing our hearts is a noble idea and a worthwhile way to spend our time. Still, perhaps it’s comforting to know that there’s nothing we can do to be fully prepared.
Jesus is not waiting for you to finish decorating so you can put your feet up and start thinking holy, spiritual thoughts. He’s not waiting for your family to reconcile, so He can finally show up and bless your celebration. He’s not holding out until good news arrives in the mail.
He is Emmanuel. God with us. He shows up in the middle of the mess.
Things might feel chaotic or stressful or disappointing right now, but Jesus says, I’m here. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
As Christmas approaches, I don’t know what you’re facing—great joy or mind-numbing sorrow or, most likely, something in-between—but if you can still fumble your way to the front door, there’s one guest you might want to invite in early.
He won’t mind that things aren’t finished or perfect. He’s not bothered by stuff that’s tarnished or broken. And He’d never ask you to put on a brave face and pretend that everything’s okay when it’s not.
In fact, He’d love to show up early and help you with all that. I’ve needed His help this entire season. This has been my prayer (and perhaps it’s yours too):
Lord, I’m so grateful that You don’t wait for us to get our acts together. Instead, You offer us the gift of Yourself. Help us to be willing to acknowledge the things that are broken or imperfect and release them into your care. Above all, I pray that You would give us the courage to leave the doors of our hearts unlocked.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! I’m taking a few weeks off so I can rest, play, dream, and plan. I look forward to seeing you in January.

Thank you for being here!

P.S. – Want to join the mailing list? You can sign up here.

The Start of Something New

There are few things I love more than opening up a brand new notebook.

To be honest with you, I went through a phase where I found all those blank pages to be intimidating. For a while, I only bought journals with disappointing artwork on the covers. That way, I couldn’t ruin them.

I think I’ve recovered from that stage. Now, I’m grateful to have room to spread out with my thoughts. I certainly feel that way about this space.

I’ve felt a little cramped trying to fit my words into a quick post on social media, so I’m giving myself some extra room to work. Just like my real-life notebook, I expect to make mistakes, ask questions, and use too many dashes. However, I think it will be worth it to see these pages fill up with words, images, and ideas.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure.