April 18, 2016

Keeping Creativity Alive

Feeling like you could use a little more balance? Make time for creativity! Read more about Keeping Creativity Alive on Shutterbean!
Life is busy and it’s hard to find time and energy to put into the things you love. After 36 years of life, I’ve learned that if I don’t respect my creative side and tend to it, my life starts to feel off.  Over the past few years, I’ve honored this part of myself- the part of myself that firmly believes that I must respect my creative spirit in order to be happy. If I don’t respect this, everything in my life tends to fall apart. Just ask my husband.
Here are a few ways I’ve learned to manage/respect my creative side.  I hope this inspires you to cultivate your creative side. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Trust me.
My Everyday Life: Week 14 on Shutterbean.com

1. Coloring Books for Adults

Why are coloring books so popular for adults these days? Because we CRAVE creative time. That’s right. Put your phone down and COLOR.  I started coloring with Cooper a few afternoons each week after school because it’s the BEST way to unwind. Even better when there’s a smoothie involved.   It’s during this time that I have meaningful conversations with Cooper…we talk about school, books and we play a doodle game where we finish each other’s squiggles. I never regret that time I spend with him. NEVER.
My Everyday Life: Week 40 on Shutterbean.com

2. Take a Class In Person & Online

Cooper and I started taking a few classes online on Creativebug (which is about $5/month).  I got Cooper his own sketchbook and we watched my friend- Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook class together. He was enthralled!  Community-based classes online are a fantastic way to meet like-minded people. There’s inspiration at every corner of the internet.  I happen to love classes that involve calligraphy and drawing & illustration.
I also realized that taking a class in person works better for me. It’s kinda of like how I am better at taking a Zumba class that doing an hour on the treadmill.  I am committed and held accountable to a block of creative time.  Last month I took a block printing on fabric class with my friend Jen Hewett and over the past weekend I took a Watercolor Brush Lettering Class. I just went on my own, met a few really nice people and left wanting to keep going.
It’s important for me to be around other people and seeing how they talk about their craft so that when I start teaching classes and workshops again, I will have a better way to communicate what I want to express to my students.
Human interaction always inspires me, even though I’m a full-blown introvert.

3. Write in a Journal

I carry a Moleskine journal with me and an assortment of pens. Right now I am trying out this new notebook situation. I bought an insert (picture above) in Vancouver and love the idea that the notebook can be customized/ added to. The only problem I have is resisting buying all of the inserts and turning it into a trap for receipts. We’ll see!
While we were in Vancouver, I wrote down all of the things we ate and did a few drawings. I created a little journal like this on our honeymoon and it’s so fun to look back and see what we ate/what we experienced during our trip. I will remember more if I write things down.
 If you want to doodle,  there are a lot of great books like 500 Ways to Draw that show you different ways to draw something. I’ve found that the act of copying these drawings gives me the courage to draw on my own. I can really see my drawing improve as a result. The only thing that makes you better is PRACTICE.

4. Go outside

Sometimes the best thoughts will come to me when I’m outside in nature. When I’m out hiking, I bring a notebookpen & pencil in my fanny pack so if something comes to mind, I jot it down.  Sometimes I’ll draw what I see on my hike and other times I listen to podcasts and look for rocks I can turn into art.  Nature can be super inspiring. It also heals the mind and reduces my anxiety. I am so fortunate to live in an area that has so many trails to choose from.
My Everyday Life: Week 13 on Shutterbean.com

5. Check out an Art Show

Take yourself on a field trip and check out art in person. Even if you’re not particularly fond of some of the pieces, it’s nice to see someone else’s craft. The bookstore is also a treasure trove for good creative ideas. Pick a postcard and put it on a mood board to remind you of your visit.

On our trip to Vancouver, I reconnected with my creative spirit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Color combinations inspired me and there were a few installations that reminded me of how I wanted to be an installation artist when I was in my early 20s. I got to see a few shadow boxes by Joseph Cornell in person. I totally forgot how enamored I was with his work when I was in art school!!  That recalibration was what I needed. It helped remind me where I am now and where I was then, creatively.

I guess what I’m saying is that you can find another perspective when you go see art in person.

My Everyday Life: Week 40 on Shutterbean.com

6. Spend time in a Library

There’s nothing like being surrounded by books. If I feel like bringing new ideas/thoughts into our house- like if I need to feel inspired by a new cookbook, I check it out from the library. Cooper is really into books as well, so we try to have a library date once a week. My only problem is returning things on time… In the end, it costs less than buying a book and I don’t have to find a permanent space for them…but sometimes I overdo it and bring too many books home. It’s a balance.

If you don’t have a museum nearby, you can always go into the Art section of your library. While you’re at the library, check out some art books. I like to have a rotation of several different inspiring books on my nightstand so I have something fun to look at before bed. It’s interesting to see what creeps into my dream life.

My Everyday Life: Week 14 on Shutterbean.com

7. Give Yourself Little Creative Challenges

I’ve been shooting a lot for other people and sometimes I lose myself / own style in the process. I forget what it is that makes my photography different and unique. To counteract this, I give myself a few creative challenges before I am shooting recipes for others. I try to find something interesting in the ingredients I’m working with and put my own spin on it. Here I spilled some salt and then decided to turn it into a way of saying hello to my followers on Instagram. It lead to a whole conversation about salt puns and I loved connecting with others through that photo.

My Everyday Life: Week 14 on Shutterbean.com

8. Take a Trip to the Nursery

There are at least three nurseries on the way home from picking up/dropping off at school. Sometimes I take a little detour and spend 15-20 minutes to be around plants.  Sometimes I leave with a new friend and other times I leave with a fire under my butt to get our backyard together. Remember how I said how important it is for me to be outside? Well, being in a nursery is like taking an espresso shot.  I instantly feel better when I’m around plants.

My Everyday Life: Week 11 on Shutterbean.com

9. Get Your Hands Dirty & Try Something New

I’m going through a dying/bleaching phase right now and I can’t wait to show you.  It’s been fun dabbling in another medium and I’m getting my hands dirty in the process. Like…literally.  Things may not be 100% perfect, but I have to remember it’s all a process. Sometimes it’s important to get your hands dirty to realize what it is you’re looking for.  Perhaps you can bring new life/repurpose something? You never know unless you pull up your sleeves and do the handiwork.

I’m notorious for spray-painting things on a moment’s notice. When the inspiration strikes, you just gotta run with it! Try not to make tooooooo big of a mess, though.

My Everyday Life: Week 13 on Shutterbean.com

10. Look for Signs

I find little signs everywhere. You can too. It just takes practice. When I feel like I need to invite new energy in or I’m ready to make a mental shift, I ask for signs. It’s a subtle thing I do, but when I’m on the lookout, I get the exact message I need. And I Quote has been a series for me that FORCES me to look for signs. What compels me each week? What do I feel is important to share? Words that pop up guide me and give me something to focus on.
The signs are everywhere. You just have to tune into them.
My Everyday Life- Week 10 on Shutterbean.com

11. Document the Process

My Everyday Life has been a way for me to document my life. I’ve been working on this project since 2011!   I created this creative challenge to help keep me constantly looking for things that catch my eye. I want to find beauty in the mundane and figure out a way to elevate the everyday. I do this through photography and the words that I use to describe the image I post.

The more you train your brain to see how beautiful everyday moments are…the easier it becomes. As a result, you have a visual history of your life and so many little moments to reflect upon when you look back. This has been easier for me to do than scrapbook (which I failed miserably at). I love looking back and seeing what I did a year ago…two years ago, etc. Sometimes I’m doing the exact same thing on the same week or sometimes I remember how I was in New York…and how it feels like I was just there yesterday.

If anything, it’s helped me realize how fast time goes by and how grateful I am for my life.

My Everyday Life - Week 12 on Shutterbean.com

12. Give Yourself a Break

Some days you need to abandon your plans and focus on creating good energy/recharging your creative battery. I call these Mental Health Days.  I purposely leave my phone in other parts of the house, so I am not doing any anxious cyber loafing. You know…that dangerous trap of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat. It sucks me in and I get really antsy because it’s never-ending. Plus the leftover feelings from what I experience online trickle into my life and I can find myself getting all weird when I’m around other people because I have these weird nagging feelings of OMG I GOTTA WRITE ANOTHER EMAIL. How can I possibly do something that’s never been done before?? 

I fall hard into the comparison game trap.


I’m learning how to set boundaries and figuring out how to respect them. It’s been one of the biggest creative challenges so far. Because this life online is work…but it’s also my creative life and how do I balance that with home life, family life AND make time for a social life?

Giving myself a break and being kind to myself allows me to be more creative with my time. I am happy that I am finally realizing this. It’s about working smarter, not harder and If I can do it with a little more compassion for myself, I’ll be a happier person.


  • Lauren

    Love this post. Is it weird it almost brought me to tears? Just because these are the things that make me feel “like me” again after a hard day/week/month…pretty much everything you listed is so healing for me, like a recharge for my batteries when life feels pretty unrelenting. Thanks for the suggestions. I’m a new(ish) mom and through reading this post, I’m realizing I need to make time for myself – specifically my creative/introverted nature – more these days, even if it just means journaling or coloring at night before bed.

    • Jamie

      Do it!! Make time for yourself!! That’s my one regret in my new mom days – I was too caught up in him, and neglected myself. My little is now 3.5 and it’s fun to find ways we can create together, AND I find ways to be creative for myself. You can do it! = )

      • Tracy

        YES!! I spent the first 2-3 years of Cooper’s life trying to figure it out. If Mama is happy then everyone will be happy!

  • Jenn

    >cyber loafing

    YUUUUP. So guilty over here. Thank you for putting a name to it.

  • Marla

    Thank you for this inspiring post… great reminders to think about 🙂

  • Amanda

    love this! I am reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and she is all about this idea of creativity!

    • Tracy

      I heard good things about that book. Hopefully I can get my act together and finish the book I’m reading so I can start on that one!

      • Jacqueline

        OOOO… love this book (and all these ideas!) I highly recommend the audio version! You won’t regret it – and this way – you can listen WHILE you flex your creative muscles.

  • Mady P

    Awesome post Tracy!! I JUST had a creativity epiphany the other day and started writing my thoughts about it as well. Creativity is the #1reason why I love working for myself- not only can I have original ideas and act on them (vs. having a boss tell me what to do and how to do it), but I have time to do some of the things you listed here!

  • Katie

    Needed this. Thank you!

  • Kat

    LOVE THIS. I have been neglecting my creative side…mostly because I have a job that bleeds into my home life, except I wind up procrastinating, and when I procrastinate I do useless things like internet loafing and then I am neither productive nor relaxed. Busting out an artistic medium feels too much like I’m DELIBERATELY avoiding work, but I waste just as much time doing NOTHING of value…does anyone else have this problem?? Anyway I think my keyword from now on will be “intention” – no time spent without intention, relaxing or creative or work or otherwise. Your ideas are stellar!

    • Tracy

      Intention is a great word! I use it instead of resolution 🙂

    • Deb

      You are not alone in having this problem – I do it too! Hours lost “cyber loafing” (thanks Tracy) when I don’t feel like doing what needs to be done, but feeling guilty the whole time. The day ends and I feel unfulfilled, disappointed, annoyed…. better to take a creativity break and come back to my work recharged. I like your intention mantra!

  • Ali

    Tracy – I just spent the last hour reflecting on how creatively unfulfilled I’ve felt lately, and was struggling with figuring out how to get back in the game. I came here looking for boozy popsicle recipes and instead got this post, exactly when I needed it. Thank you, both for the artistic inspiration and for the frozen cucumber/ginger/GIN situation (genius!).

  • Katharina

    Thank you for this post, Tracy!! <3

  • Silvia @ skinny jeans food

    Wonderful post! And thank you for sharing your creative journey with us. Your home-made tea towel has sent me off into my own tea towel stamping adventure, even ordering a linoleum block, a carving set, and exploring something I have not done since high school.

    I get my creative side brought out if I listen to a free webcast from Creativelive, which has awesome people. It gets me going for a week, then…. I need to see another webcast, or it fizzles out, and I am back in the humdrums of life.

    • Tracy

      Oh that’s so exciting! I am glad that you started doing some block printing. It’s so much fun. I bought a bunch of supplies to keep going but I have to find the time to do it!

  • Kayla

    I love all of these ideas, Tracy. Thanks for this post!

  • Kate

    Amazing post! I’ve been neglecting my creative for so many reasons (excuses). I love that you go to workshops alone. I’m living in a small town where there aren’t many artists or creative types and I want to meet more people. I’m googling workshops in nearby cities for this summer! Thank you!

  • cat

    Thanks for the great post! I’m in the middle of a move and all my stuff is boxed up and I’m feeling anxious without my tools. Can’t wait to unpack and get into a creative routine again.

    • Tracy

      Oh gosh! I know that feeling well! You’ll be so happy when your stuff is in view!

  • Deb

    What a great post! I’m filing this so I can refer to it whenever I need to! 🙂

  • caitlin

    thanks so much for this post! I’m in the last few days of a job I just quit because it was hugely and unnecessarily stressful and not fulfilling the way I thought it would be when I first took it. I’m also moving to a new place right at the same time and I hope to allow myself more time to turn off my stressy brain and make time for more zen moments. thanks for all you share, Tracy! love your work and your site 🙂

    • Tracy

      Sounds like you’re living up to your potential! Proud of you for putting you/your creative self first!! Good luck! xoxoxox

  • colleen wilshire

    I absolutely loved this. For the past few months I’ve been devoting atleast an hour or two every.single.day. to reading or painting. I truly feel off when I don’t. I’ve realized how necessary it is to indulge that part of me so I can be fully present elsewhere in my life.

    This reminded me of how important it is. I absolutely love seeing what you come up with. You inspire me, Tracy.


  • Kari

    I love the adult coloring book trend! So much fun!

  • Laura (A Beautiful Plate)

    I absolutely love this post Tracy! A lot of these things have been on my mind lately, and I’m promising myself that I’ll take a fun art class this year. For a while, blogging and food photography was my creative outlet…and while it is still is, I need other sources of creativity and inspiration in order to be productive and happy. Thanks for all of your tips and ideas! You’ve always had an amazing way of seeing things – and it shines through your photos and words!

  • Kate

    so inspired by this past, thank you for all your ideas, i can relate to do much of what you say. i have started watercolor painting and i love it. thanks again

  • Lynne

    Incredible post! And a great reminder of how important it is to keep the creativity alive and growing. Truly inspiring. Thank you!

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  • Kylah

    This is such a great post! I started taking pottery classes a few months ago and it has provided an outlet I didn’t even realize I needed. It’s like therapy.

  • claudia from Idiot's Kitchen

    I’m a big fan of the adult coloring books. Loved to color as a kid and I’ve never been any good at drawing on my own. Can you tell me what those cool crayon/pastel things are in the first picture? I was hoping there would be a cool, clickable link. So far I’m not too happy with my pen/pencil selection and would love some tips on good ones to try. Thanks!

  • MB @ Bourbon and Brown Sugar

    Thank you, thank you for this post Tracy… it’s just what I needed today… a reminder that I need to infuse my life with a bit more creativity to feel truly happy 🙂

  • Jessica H.

    As a creative person, these tips are a great reminder that it’s okay to take a break and refocus.

  • Jessie

    Love this so much!! Thank you for constantly inspiring me both artistically and culinary.

  • Dianne

    love online art classes… They give you time to explore, play, rewind, unwind and have fun! They say “art heals” – it is meditative and you can never be sad or stressed or angry when you are doing art or playing with your creative genes!
    Love your blog posts, Tracy! Thanks for taking the time to share your life with the rest of us!

  • Katha

    Dear Tracy,
    thank you for your lovely and so true post!

    xo katha from Germany

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    Thank you for the inspiration I needed today!

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  • Sina

    Thank you for referring me to this post in your Friday list post last week. I really needed this. I was beginning to feel like a bit of a failure because so far I didn’t do anything on the January pages of my currently 2023 workbook. 🙁 This post here from 2016 helps me to be kind to myself.
    Thank you!

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