Tag Archives: france

Keys to Creativity Series: Part One Don’t Worry About the Outcome

Create Like Nobody’s Watching

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A year ago if you’d told me I would have been sitting out in public scribbling away in a notebook DRAWING (!!) I would have laughed… long and hard. And if you’d told me I would have posted my crude efforts, I would have told you to stop drinking so much.

After a somewhat chaotic year full of interruptions, distractions, and challenges, I am reapplying myself to my yoga studies with gusto. And while it may seem that yoga has nothing to do with creativity, I’m finding the opposite to be true. Part of the course I’m taking includes quite a lot of yoga philosophy (in case you are wondering, it’s the Kaivalya Yoga Method, 500 Hour Teacher Training through Yogadownload). To be honest, I thought that part (the philosophy bit) would make me a bit squirmy, something to endure, you know? But the reading and thinking about the philosophical aspects of yoga has actually been both inspiring and useful and I’m enjoying it more than I would have thought possible.

Yoga, Writing, Drawing, Acting, Art Journals, Collage, Creating: It’s all Related

 

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Collage in my art journal… yes, I’ve got one of those now. This was sort of an art meditation done while listening to a recording of a rolling om…

 

At the same time that I’ve been doing my down-dogs and studying anatomy and thinking about how ancient wisdom can still be very relevant in terms of dealing with the complexities of the modern age, I have also been madly productive on the writing front. I’m putting the finishing touches on the non-fiction book for teens about medical assistance in dying and working on fiddly details relating to the picture book that’s coming along beautifully with Holiday House (LOVE the preliminary sketches by the talented Katie Kath). Research has started for two more non-fiction titles for youth (one about civil disobedience, the other about global deforestation) and, of course, I continue to slowly work on the book about the three-generations Camino trip we did last fall.

Walk the Camino, Think About Creativity

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Though it has been slowest to progress, that project is the one that has a strong hold on my heart, in part because it had me examining my relationship with the creative process. Walking with Dad and Dani, the conversations Dad and I had about art and the creation of art before, during, and ever since our oh-so-slow stroll across Spain really got me thinking about what it means to be creative. What the word means as an adjective. And, as a noun. I’ve been referred to as ‘a creative,’ and that implies that creativity is some sort of integral component of my makeup.

We Are All Creative Children, Trapped in Over-critical Adult Bodies

 

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First attempt at a freehand mandala – on the cover of one of several yoga notebooks I’ve got happening at the moment (of course! where else would I attempt a freehand mandala?)

 

Aren’t we all creative? I think we all have some kernel of creativity within us. Just look at a kindergarten classroom and what happens when you set children loose with paint and blank sheets of paper. You can’t get the paint smocks on fast enough before the brushes are flying!

What happens to us to make us so afraid of exploring our natural desire to create? To explore? To play?

Let Go of the Outcome

My theory is that at some point we attach output with being good enough. If our drawing or painting or story or poem doesn’t measure up, then we have no right to be drawing or painting or writing. We become embarrassed to show our work to anyone else. We second guess our efforts and, before long, most of us give up. When asked, we say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body. I couldn’t draw to save my life.”

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You may be wondering what on earth all that messy art stuff has to do with yoga, but the connection is this. One of the things yoga philosophy has to say is that we spend way too much time attached to the outcome of an action, rather than just allowing ourselves to be fully engaged in whatever it is we are doing. All those poses and paying attention to our breath are about finding a way to tune out all the busy, negative, distracting, endless thoughts that plague us and having us fully enter and engage in the present moment. Does it matter if my triangle pose is a bit wonky and my drawings will never hang on a gallery wall? No. 

What my yoga studies (and recent explorations in visual art) have shown me is that creative output happens a lot more easily when you let go of worrying about how it will all turn out. It’s the process of creation that matters, exactly as it matters only that I embrace my yoga practice both on and off the mat. 

 

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Come – explore your creative side! Bust loose and send those doubts scurrying!

 

Come to Our Creativity Retreat in France!

If you are interested in exploring your creative side, why not join us next May at a really cool retreat we are organizing in Provence. We’ll be holing up in a pretty swanky villa with a small group of people who want to try their hand at painting, journaling, writing, collage, sketching… But more than that, we’ll be exploring what it means to embrace life creatively, no matter what form of expression you choose to pursue. And, yes, – there will be yoga to help fuel that process- every morning out by the pool. I can’t wait!

There’s more to this train of thought, but that’s why this is just Part 1. Stay tuned!

Full disclosure: If you happen to get all inspired and decide you’d like to sign up for the YTT course I mentioned above and you use the link in this post, I’ll get a small referral fee. If you have any questions about the program, shoot me a message and I’ll happily answer. I love the program and have learned a lot.

 

 

Come! Let’s Get Creative in France!

Give Yourself the Gift of Time to Create

Writing, Painting, Creating Retreat in Provence, France

Think you might be interested? Have a look at the listing here.

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Amazing location (check out that pool!!) – nifty field trips (can you say wine? truffles? ancient markets?) – a chance to try your hand at watercolor painting, journal-writing, pen & ink, or drawing… Work on your novel… or, finally try your hand at writing a magazine article… outline a book of family stories for your grandchildren… Wherever your creative heart leads you, that’s where you’ll go… What about a scavenger hunt with your iPhone, honing your photographer’s eye? What would you do with a week (or two, space permitting, you can score a great deal if you book two weeks back to back) in Provence where we’ll feed you delicious local meals, provide you with space, time, and as much peace and quiet or inspiring workshops as you choose?

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We’ve structured this retreat so people can come and experiment, play, and create with as much or as little involvement from the facilitators as you like. We’re organizing some pretty nifty local field trips, which you can choose to participate in, or not. Everything is included – we’ve made it easy for you to change your mind on the fly, opting in or out of activities as the mood strikes you.tim-arterbury-126157-unsplash

Don’t let that blank page intimidate you! Join us in France and let your creative side come out and play!

Book Your Spot – Don’t Miss Out!

For more information or to book (spaces are limited and there is a discount if you register early), follow this link:

Book Now

And, watch the blog for more details…

Ah, Paris…

In the interest of sparing you the details, just let me say my ability to sleep on airplanes is greatly diminished these days. Are the planes really getting that much smaller? Or am I getting that much older and less bendy? Maybe a bit of both… What is not getting old, though, is arriving in Paris in the evening and heading out for a stroll around the block in order to see the tower sparkle!

At the top of each hour after dark, the tower twinkles as tour buses pull over and selfie stick-wielding tourists grin and snap photo after photo. I would have done the same except my selfie stick had not yet been unpacked, such was our haste to get out into the streets and take in the sights.

 

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Booksellers along the Seine… Just strolling by makes me happy!

 

Today has been a day of fighting jetlag, running errands (in the rain), and sticking close to home while trying to stay strong and not nap. I’ve also been making lists – both for work and for pleasure. On the work front, I was busy this morning (wide awake at 4am I eventually gave up on the going back to sleep project, and instead had a shower, breakfast and worked on the book about assisted dying). After reworking a rather cumbersome section that deals with definitions of suicide (surprisingly more complicated than one might think – while jumping from a tall building is pretty obviously suicide, if a very sick patient decides to stop eating and drinking, should that be called suicide? After all, the end result is the same…) I started working my way down the list of people I am planning to contact with questions relating to some aspect of the subject.

 

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As darkness falls at the BNB, I write… (and sketch in my notebook… one day maybe I’ll be brave enough to share those primitive efforts…)

 

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

With work out of the way, it was time to start making a list of what I’d like to try and see and do while I’m in town. I’m very much looking forward to a lunch with writing friends on the weekend and tomorrow am also hoping to meet up with a bookbinder/writer friend for coffee… I’d really like to get to the Rodin Museum this trip as well as pay a visit to the Musée d’Orsay. I’m not sure where the best place is to go to see portraits… I don’t think Paris has the equivalent of the National Portrait Gallery, though all the major museums will, of course, have some portraits in their collections. I’m particularly interested in self-portraits at the moment, in part because I’m intrigued by self-portraits, but also because of what’s been going on with Dad’s artwork ever since we did our Camino in the fall. Because I’ll be doing the AtoZ Blogging Challenge, I’ll save the details for one of the April posts…

Meanwhile, though, the list of possible museums to visit is long… As is the list of possible live performances I could take in. Comedy… musical… drama… And then there’s the English language cinema club… and the Shut Up and Write Group… and, and, and…

Because I have promised myself that I will continue to push ahead with this draft of the assisted dying book, I do need to allocate a certain number of hours a day to work, as well… All of which to say, a week in Paris is not enough!! Not nearly long enough…

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Being back here I am having one of those moments where I really wish I could clone myself. I love my home back in the mountains (I mean, what’s not to love?), but I really love this city, too…

Love Paris? 

When we were here last year I tried to come up with a list of reasons why I like this place so much… If you missed that post, here’s a link… 

Edith Piaf Alert

In case you are curious, the soundtrack in the background here this evening (actually the evening of my second full day here… I’m already way behind on ye olde blogge…) is an Edith Piaf playlist courtesy of Spotify. I have to make do with this as all tickets seem to be sold out for the Edith Piaf show I had wanted to see… Le sigh. Not sighing at the playlist, I hasten to add… at the dirth of tickets.

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Oh, Paris – You Stole My Heart

I didn’t know it was possible to fall in love with a city. I mean, a city is crowded, smelly, full of strangers, polluted, confusing, and complicated. Who can you trust? Every time I take the Metro, disembodied voices over the PA system remind me to beware of pick-pockets. Over the past couple of weeks, those same multi-lingual announcements also reminded me to drink lots of water and not get too excited as we are having a heat wave and getting too excited could prove dangerous. The other day, the pollution was so bad here they offered discount transit tickets to try to encourage anyone who didn’t need to drive to leave their cars at home. It’s no wonder I don’t like big cities. I’m a farmer, remember? The kid whose dream it was to find herself a quarter section in the Peace River District so she never had to talk to her neighbours.

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#2 I added a little virtual graffiti of my own to this one…

What happened??? We came to Paris to spend some time with family here and our stay wound up stretching to a full three months. Now that our time is coming to an end (we head back to the Rockies in a few days), I’m feeling like someone about to experience a terrible break-up.

Which made me wonder, what the hell? Why on earth would I have become so infatuated with this place? Here’s my best attempt at explaining the impossible.

Why Nikki Fell in Love with Paris (in no particular order)

  1. The emergency vehicle sirens sound like musicians tuning up for a performance
  2. I love the graffiti – which is everywhere – which is simultaneously awful and cool. OK, I’m a bit conflicted on this one. The graffiti is like the strange habits one’s sweetheart has that simultaneously drive you crazy and yet are somehow endearing.
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  3. Tomatoes
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    Not just tomatoes. Fresh produce of all kinds in the many, many markets all over the city. For that matter, salami, fresh fish, olives (OMG – the olive vendors!), cheese, bread, dates… all manner of delectable edibles. It’s a drool-inducing pleasure just to walk among the rows of stalls, ogling, sniffing, and tasting. I could go on and on and on about those markets. (Note to self: the markets are worth a post all their own)
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  4. Flea markets
    Close cousins of the farmer’s markets, you don’t have to look too hard to find a flea market in Paris. I used to have a favourite – the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen -mostly because it is so huge – it’s said to cover seven hectares and on any given weekend you’ll find about 3,000 vendors and over 150,000 other flea market fanatics in search of a good deal) but now that I’ve been to several others scattered about the city, it’s hard to say which one I like best.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. Musicians are everywhere – and, I mean everywhere. The other day we were treated to a series of marching bands banging and tooting their way around our neighbourhood (they were taking part in some sort of band festival). Individual musicians play in the Metro, in parks, on street corners. One afternoon I stumbled across a fabulous Dixieland jazz band playing away for tips (and CD sales). Not a day goes by where I’m not serenaded by someone singing or playing an instrument (sometimes both at the same time). I’ve heard some world-class performers and some wannabes, but they are all passionate about their music and all those tunes provide a soundtrack for Paris that I will miss after I get home.
  6. For that matter, artists are everywhere. Shooting videos or taking photographs, drawing or painting, they prove I am not the only one who finds Paris to be an inspiring place to create. One group of avant garde dancers even painted each other in a performance piece executed in the shadow of Lady Liberty on the Ile des Cignes not far from our apartment.
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  7. The gardens are everywhere and they are spectacular. They are also where you will find Parisians enjoying the fine art of the pique-nique (see also #9). Gardens are also home to so many pieces of sculpture I finally gave up trying to photograph them all (that was a thought, early on). Sculptures actually warrant a blog post all their own as well. Such a great mix of ancient and avant-garde and all sculptural styles in between.
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  8. Even the door knockers and door handles are cool.
  9. Pique-niques. I have never been anywhere where people took their picnics so seriously. These are lengthy affairs with gourmet selections of cheese and exquisite charcuterie, olives to die for, fresh fruit, pastries, fresh bread, salads, and, of course, wine. Nobody seems to drink to excess, but just about everyone enjoys a sip of nice wine. These picnics go on for hours – in the summer, until well after dark. Musical instruments come out, or people provide amplified music of various kinds, all of which inspire dancing and singing.
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  10. Museums. Of course, some of the world’s great museums are to be found here – too many to pick from. I’m not sure that you’d call the Catacombs a museum, exactly, but I can tell you the cool, dark crypt that holds the bones of millions of dead Parians is worth a visit. Located waaaaaay below the city, the maze of tunnels and hollows and nooks and crannies is one of the most humbling places I’ve ever been to. Nothing like spending a bit of time with crumbling bones to make you keenly aware of your own mortality.
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  11. Ancient bones are one thing, but generally speaking, there are just a ton of old things – buildings, parks, monuments, scraps of ancient Roman walls – you know, really OLD stuff EVERYWHERE.
  12. Most of all though, there is always something going on (concerts, exhibitions, films, sporting events, tours, festivals, markets, conferences… happenings of all kinds). The city streets are alive with people until long after old folks like us collapse into bed, which can be a bit of a problem when the temperatures rise and you have to leave the windows open as there isn’t any air conditioning (though, nothing that a fan and decent earplugs can’t fix…).
  13. Where there is stuff going on, there are people. Yes, things like festivals and concerts happen on a grand scale, but what perhaps shocked and delighted me most of all about my time in Paris was how many cool people I met at writing salons, literary events, spoken word open mics, film screenings, and freelance writing get-togethers. And those people introduced me to other people and told me about other things going on (tango lessons, board game gatherings, walking groups, climbing groups, sketching groups, photography groups) – so many ways to connect and converse and share passions that I ran out of time before I was even able to scratch the surface! I had so much fun meeting people that I can’t wait until I am able to return… I have conversations to finish!
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    With Hazel Manuel at a book signing at WH Smith in Paris

    As I have been writing this list (while packing and getting ready to go back to the mountains in Canada) each point in this short list made me think of several other points that I could have made. Perhaps I should just switch gears entirely, move back to Paris and just blog about that. Yep, I am in love with a city and her name is Paris.

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    I couldn’t really finish a whole post about why I love Paris so much without including at least one Eiffel Tower portrait…

Meanwhile, Over in Paris

About a month ago I landed in Paris, where I’ve been hanging out and writing ever since.

 

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True confession: I spend way more time than I’d like to admit in more or less this position, watching the goings on down in the plaza below our apartment. Endlessly fascinating. And besides, isn’t that what you are supposed to do when in Paris? People-watch? It’s a national pastime here. 

 

On my author blog I’ve been posting a bit about being here…

P is for Pleading Paris

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Q is for Query Letters (in Paris)

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R is for Reading in Paris

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S is for Shut Up and Write (in Paris)

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T is for Taking Time to Write (in Paris)

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I’m off to do my daily ‘pop my head out of a new subway station and see what’s there’ mission. After I get back later tonight, I’ll post something on this poor, neglected blog about what I discover on my journey…

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Enjoy the blog? Consider becoming a patron to support the creation of these blog posts, photo essays, and short videos. In return, you’ll have my undying appreciation, but you’ll also get access to Patron-only content, advance peeks at works in progress, and more – all for as little as a buck a month! It’s easy – head on over to Patreon to have a look at how it all works.