Building a stronger, braver, and more fun brain

Building a stronger, braver, and more fun brain

I’ve just posted a number of alcohol ink items I’ve recently made, to the photo gallery on my new Musings and Mud site.  This is funnier than hell. Who posts beginner pieces of art on their art website?  Me, apparently.

Maybe this can inspire you, and keep reminding me, to be okay with being a ‘janet of all trades.’ To be okay with experimenting in new mediums that may never make you money, that may never make you famous, that may never ever ever get posted on the Alcohol Ink community on Facebook. (Have you seen the extraordinary work of those people? Oh. My.)

There was no plan. Just pour and move inks. But, wait! There’s a ship! There’s legs!

(I know some of the pieces look decent in the photos. The pendants. But, trust me, they aren’t that great. This was one of those rare occasions where the artwork photographs better than in real life.)

But, oh my, the joys of beginner’s mind!  
“Have ink. Have paper. Have brass.
Oh, look how that colour mixes.
Oh my god, stop! Stop flowing that way!
Oh look at how beautiful areas are when they dry. So unexpected.
A little more gold. Oops.
Thank goodness nobody is ever going to see this.
This is fun!

No, no, don’t use your fingers.
No, don’t wipe them on your once favourite hoodie. (now officially ruined.)  
Oh, wait, this is beautiful.
I could pour a little alcohol here… cool!  It makes distinct lines… “

Okay, you know the routine. You’ve been there, right? I got to escape into colour and flow and creative thinking. Just a break from the day. Wrong. This process does SO MUCH MORE than give you a break!
This process keeps the door open for our whole mind to function better.

First it lifts our spirits.
Often it lets in humour.
Then the naysayer part of our mind steps aside, thinking: ‘Whatever – she’s just playing.”
Next the rest of our mind starts firing with all kinds of new connections and ideas.
All of that doesn’t stop when you stop creating.

Our logical mind is, well, logical. It is busy helping us make decisions that it thinks keeps us safe. It runs on what it knows from the past and will purr along repeating the same old shi.. stuff as we go through our day.

It needs reminders that we can think differently. That we can make new connections and find new ways. If it’s hard for you to justify creating, and especially justifying making stuff in new mediums, you couldremind yourself that you are retraining your brain. Giving it a good ol’ workout. Building a stronger, braver, more fun brain. The logical brain likes that kind of talk and will be more supportive.

And for me,it keeps me open to the magic that exists in our world.
(That’s a longer story, I had to write a memoir to share it! Beyond All Imaginings )

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Empathy on a Sidewalk, and You?

I still remember walking along the sidewalk in Kerrisdale as a young child – the cracked and worn sidewalk along Maple Street. I was with a friend, and ‘someone’ (oddly, I don’t even remember who!) explained the difference between empathy and sympathy. It stuck with me my whole life. Given how often that little memory pops into my head, I can’t help now but wonder how much it played a role in who I’ve become and what matters to me.

Ah, those brief childhood moments. Fleeting, seemingly inconsequential, yet having life time impacts.

So, of course, I must share this short video by Brene Brown. Perhaps somehow, someone will share this with just the right person and change their lives forever.

And besides, this concept is a rather nice fit for us here at Novel Minds. Sometimes we complex creative creatures need a little empathy. And sometimes it feels good to the core to have empathy for another.

And now that’s all well and good… but here’s a bigger more important question:

What moment/s in your childhood keep repeating themselves in your memory? Looking back, any particular lifetime impact from that moment?

If you don’t recall right now, keep the question in mind for a few days.  Our minds will always search for an answer, and find one. Even if it has to make stuff up. ~snicker~   (I snicker, but in fact, that made up stuff can be even more awesomely revealing than the real thing.)

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John Steinbeck’s Tips for Aspiring Writers

Novel Minds certainly isn’t just about writing.  It is about that unique, novel mind of yours. Of course, ‘unique and novel minds’ is a rather good fit for writers. So, for the writers here, I’m sharing this link to John Steinbeck’s writing tips. Very worthy of the ‘click!’

John Steinbeck’s Six Tips for Aspiring Writers

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Eek! I put the damper on genius…

I feel like a big corporate entity.. the difference is that I do care, but still, I put the damper on genius because I’m bigger and I could, and the safety of my home and the cost of running my home mattered more.

Brilliant little Swallow once again decided that my clothes dryer vent would be the best place for her nest. Really.. it is brilliant:  Safe from anything that can climb or leap or otherwise harm her eggs.  And warm. Imagine.. so cozy and warm when the dryer is running that she probably can go out and play, knowing her little eggs are incubating, while other moms-to-be just squat for hours on end.

Even more brilliant.. the fuller she fills the vent with twigs and string and nesty things.. the longer my dryer runs to dry my clothes and warm her babies.

Yup. And I wired it off. Chased her right out of there and attached a wire screen. We’ve been through this before. .. If I don’t realize she’s there until the nest is built, and the eggs are laid,  I leave it.  My clothes take forever to dry.  I stop running the dryer if I’m not home, just in case I’ve created some sort of fire hazard.

But this year, I heard her as she began the nest.  And big mean me told her ‘Go build a nest like a normal bird.”  That was the moment I realized I was playing the role of the ‘systems’.. corporate, government, religious, etc… that stomps on the genius of those who think differently because  1. they aren’t doing things ‘normally’ and 2. they are interefering with what matters to the organizations.

So, little bird, I am sorry. I hope you don’t get discouraged, and shut down that innovative thinking of yours. I hope you find another way to be a mommy AND get to play more often. I hope you don’t run into more people like me in the process.

Oh jeez… now I’ve written this, am I going to go take the screen off?


There’s genius in everyone.
Find your way.
And don’t let the likes of ‘me’ (today’s me, not my everyday me!) stop you.

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Imperfectly, Playfully with a touch of Couch Potato

What was I thinking? A new website and publish a book at the same time? And can the content and wildly new way of creating a hangout ever be perfect? Hell, Facebook still isn’t perfect. (and going downhill. There’s reasons I want to create a creative safe haven for us.)

I’m modelling imperfectionism here. (After all, perfectionism seems to manage to keep us from getting anything done at all.)  I’m also modelling ’20 seconds of insane courage’*  –  it took that to make this site public!  And it’s just one of an endless collection of attitudes and activities that help you (and me!) sneak past nasty perfectionism.

I’m also modelling playfulness.  Via tools and techniques we get to share. Via encouraging you to find your playful,  to find what makes your eyes sparkle.  Via me missing in action playing with grandkids, or paddling, or immersed in clay or paint or writing while time magically alters itself,  or maybe being crew on a Tall Ship (though you can be sure you’ll hear about that when it happens again!)

By the way, I am not always that playful or ambitious. Sometimes I’m a couch potato. Or overwhelmed. Or cranky. Or dealing with some difficult challenges in my life. Or tired. And that’s okay. Life isn’t always easy. (I even have moments of wondering if it’s ever easy!)  And I get to be human. So do you.  But – here’s the BUT – we can plan more of ‘playful’ for each of us, anyway, because… 

BECAUSE playfulness opens doors in your mind that haven’t been opened for awhile. There’s all kinds of great secrets in there. With answers to managing some of those ‘less-than-easy and certainly-not-inspired’ moments, and tools for figuring out your next step, your next line in your novel, your next change in your life.

So, let’s be our imperfect, playful and kick ass selves and turn your world into a better place! Bonus: the ripple effect will make the world a better place, too.

*   “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”  ― Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

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Im·ag·i·na·tion: Maybe it doesn’t want to play with crayons anymore

Im·ag·i·na·tion: Maybe it doesn’t want to play with crayons anymore

Oh, how the imagination has been discredited. But why? Look at the official definition…


A. – the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
– creative power, fancy, vision; informalmind’s eye, “a vivid imagination”
– interest, fascination, attention, passion, curiosity, “the album captured the public’s imagination”

B. – the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.
“technology gives workers the chance to use their imagination”,
– creativity, imaginativeness, creativeness;
vision, inspiration, inventiveness, invention, resourcefulness, ingenuity;
originality, innovation, innovativeness
– “you need imagination in dealing with these problems”

C. – the part of the mind that imagines things.
– “a girl who existed only in my imagination.”

These are decent definitions. Then, why, why, why has it taken such a beating?

You’ve heard it all: “It’s only her imagination.”  “He’s imagining things.” “You have an overactive imagination.” (Ya, that one. The method of dismissing an opinion.) “It’s just your imagination.” yada yada yada.

Why are things like visualizations, day dreaming, and inspirations from ‘who knows where’ still generally considered the stuff of flakey people?  There’s no simple answer. But part of the reason is that a larger percentage of the population don’t get it. And it’s easier for the masses to act like imagination belongs with a box of crayons, than to even begin to look at it’s huge potential.

The writers of the definitions get it. The innovative business people get it.The olympic athletes and elite musicians get it. They know, and science has proved, that visualizing a practise not only inspires, but actually builds muscle and increases heart strength. The brain can make the same connections during an imagined sport training or musical performance as a physical one. Yet, they, too, have to confront being dismissed constantly – that their ideas are outrageous, that they should be living a normal life. They, too, can succumb to the pressure of those outside, and to the voices in their heads, and not get to those dreams.

A lot of creative folks get it… but often not without some of those limiting beliefs and negative comments sneaking in, nagging.  Even the most imaginative might find themselves lost in a world of day dreaming, and beat themselves up for not getting the other stuff done. You know, the dishes and things.

A lot of adventurous people get it … they can imagine stepping beyond normal boundaries, and past fears, and they curiously explore life in a big way.

Maybe… we could print the definitions listed above. And paste them all over the place – throughout our journals, sketchbooks, on mirrors, on the vacuum, on our climbing equipment. Or maybe the crayon image suits you. Or maybe you have your own idea.

We get to do a lot with our imaginations at Novel Minds.  I’m glad you’re here. Your imagination deserves all the compassion and support it can get.

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