What Do You Do With An Idea?
What to do with an idea? This a very good question. It is also a children’s book by Kobi Yamada. Have you seen it? It is beautiful story about a child who finds an idea and doesn’t know what to do with it.
The idea is illustrated as an egg, with feet and a crown. At first the child doesn’t know why the idea is there. He wonders where it came from. Then he realizes that the idea is not going anywhere until he figures out what to do with it. He must decide if he should take care of the idea or give up on it. In time, the child decides to take care of his idea and it grows and grows until one day it is big enough and powerful enough to change the world. Of course all of our ideas will not change the world. However, that doesn’t mean that they should be ignored either.
So, what do you do with an idea? Do you ignore it? Do you decide that, while its a great idea, it just doesn’t fit into your life right now? Do you make your idea wait for someday? Do you share your idea with others and let them decide what you will do with it? Do you tell yourself the reasons why your idea won’t or can’t work?
If you do not deal with the idea what happens? Does it become a burden, something that you worry about because you know that it needs your attention? Maybe your idea leaves you and finds someone else to take care of it. Have you ever let that happen? Then you are left saying “Hey, that was my idea!”
Maybe you take action, make a plan and turn your idea into reality. You nurture your idea, knowing that if it doesn’t grow exactly as you expect, it might need something else. You give it the time and attention that it needs as you begin to follow your idea instead of letting it follow you. That is when the magic happens. It happens in Yamanda’s book and it happens with our ideas too, as they begin to take on a life of their own.
This is what our creative community is all about. It is about women sitting down to write the book they have been thinking about for so long, women changing their careers to make and teach art because the calling is too great to ignore anymore, and women who have said, “I’d love to paint but can’t”, taking a chance and giving it a try. If you haven’t joined us yet, I really hope you will.
Excerpts from an interview with Boston Voyager Magazine
I have always been creative, but it was not something I explored very much or even recognized in myself until much later in life. My journey to where I am today did not follow a traditional path. I did not go to art school. In fact, it never occurred to me that you could actually have a career making art. I come from a family of intellectuals, so it was just expected that I would go on to college and have a “business” career, which I did.
I enjoyed a long, successful outside sales career for almost 30 years. In that time, I worked quite a bit with architects and designers. I loved the tremendous energy and creative ideas which resulted from those interactions. It was for a very long time very satisfying work. At some point, however, I realized I wanted to “get my hand dirty” so to speak. I was no longer happy just watching others be creative, I needed to be the creative one.
I went back to school while working full-time and completed a graphic design program. It took about 2 years to finish school and at that point, I decided to retire from my sales career. I initially explored finding clients by doing more traditional branding/marketing projects. But honestly, I found the work boring and it felt too much like “work”. Around this time I discovered surface pattern design totally by accident. I took a Skillshare class by Bonnie Christine and loved it.
I knew almost immediately that I had discovered something which made me truly happy. So, began my journey in pattern design. I have been diligently working away on my pattern portfolio and have a list of dream clients who I am slowly but surely reaching out to in the hopes of one day landing a deal. I have had some measure of success but it’s a long, slow process. Every day, I learn something new and as long as it continues to make me smile I’ll keep plugging away at it.
I took a leap of faith and have no regrets. I was very fortunate to have had a successful career that put me in a good position financially. I just felt that the timing was right. I now realize that I should have left my sales career 5 years prior, but I was too afraid. It took awhile to convince myself it was the right choice.
Now that I have been at it, I still have moments of doubt and wonder “how will I do this?” I do not question my decision to become an artist but rather question what to do next. “I do not know what I am doing” and “someone is going to find me out” are conversations I have with myself all the time.
My biggest challenges by far have been getting noticed and finding the right audience for my work. Sometimes it feels like I am swimming against the tide… there are so many talented artists. I just have to remind myself that their style is not my style and eventually I will find that special client who loves what I do. I’m patient, and since I am not working against a deadline, I will continue to prospect and reach out to art directors and buyers.
It’s super important to “find your tribe”. I know it sounds cliche, but a supportive community is huge. You cannot do it alone. I am very lucky to have a great team of loyal family and friends. They have supported my work and when I’ve needed it, have made introductions on my behalf that opened doors to new work.
Find more about Sarah and her work at sarahbertochi.com and look for her class on this website on October 1!
Morning Pages for Busy Women –
What it is and why I hope you’ll sign up
By Nancy Shohet West
Have you had the experience of being out shopping or meeting a friend for coffee or hurrying to work, and you notice that your shoulders and neck are sore, or you have a headache, or your back hurts – and then you become aware of how your purse, handbag or briefcase seems to feel heavier than usual and may be literally dragging you down? If so, maybe you’ve then taken time later in the day or the next morning to dump out your bag and sort through it. And maybe you’ve been surprised to see how much stuff has accumulated in there without your realizing it. Some of it, of course, is exactly what you want in your purse or briefcase: Phone, wallet, pens, business cards, keys, lip gloss. But sometimes there’s also a pile of stuff that you don’t really need to be lugging around every day.Once you discard or sort through all of that extra stuff, suddenly your bag or briefcase feels light and easy to carry once again. The neckache, headache and backache all disappear.
This is how I sometimes envision Morning Pages: like dumping out all the clutter and extra weight in my mind and sorting through it. Only by doing so can I alleviate the burden of what I’m carrying around. And this is why I take time for Morning Pages every day. For me it’s a pathway to serenity. No matter what else is on my schedule, I find twenty or thirty minutes to sit down and write, and during that time I unpack everything in my head: plans, goals, worries, anxieties, arguments, hopes, resolutions. Writing out whatever’s on my mind helps me to sort through it, to unburden myself, to clear the way for a calm, purposeful and productive day. It helps me to set goals and intentions, and even to manage my time better. And when I’m done, even after just twenty or thirty minutes, I feel renewed and energized.
It can be hard to take the time for yourself. The idea of sitting down to write out your thoughts may feel frivolous – it’s time you could be working, exercising, tending to your household, getting an errand done. But I maintain that journaling is a good practice for everyone. For me, it’s a daily source of serenity, balance and renewal. It can actually make all those other tasks and obligations – everything from your job to caring for your family – feel easier, when you can approach the rest of your life with a clear mind.
By offering a weekly gathering called “Morning Pages for Busy Women,” I’m hoping you’ll take this opportunity to try it out for yourself. This kind of writing isn’t about quality or brilliance – it’s about self-care. The goal with Morning Pages is never excellence, but rather therapy – the free, easy, do-it-yourself kind of therapy. Join me for weekly journaling, with prompts and cues to help you get going if you need inspiration – or simply time, space and company if that’s all you need to get yourself writing. Please consider joining this group, and discover the newfound sense of serenity that Morning Pages will bring to your daily life.
It is the Process, Not the Product
By Suzan Baldoumas
It’s a lesson that we all have to learn and relearn, time and again: “Focus on the process, not the product.”
You would think that with all the time I spend thinking about creativity and art, this would be easier for me. During a recent class at the studio, when art instructor Laurie Engdahl said to me, “Suzan, you really need to stop looking at something and expect to just be able to make it. The person who made this painting has been practicing for years.”
This really gave me pause. It made me realize just how often I admire a piece of art or handiwork and think, “I like that and I am going to try to make something like it.” And then when my results aren’t exactly as I’d envisioned, I become disheartened, giving up on my own creative process before it has even begun.
Do you do that also? Do you see something at a craft fair, in a store, in a book, or at a class and say, “I can probably do that,” attempt it and then feel disappointed when it doesn’t turn out as you had hoped?
What if the end result was not the most important part? What if we could all agree once and for all that when it comes to creativity, the process and not the product is what matters most? Of course, it is a wonderful feeling to make exactly what you were envisioning on the first try. But it can be just as much fun to attempt, refine, revise, discover, rethink – and create something different from what you initially envisioned. That’s the creative process at work.
We would never expect to play an instrument without learning and practicing. A foreign language isn’t something we would expect to pick up instantly either. So why do so many of us decide we are not good at something creative the first time we try?
One of the things I love about the studio and creative community is that we discover our creativity through collaborative exploration. Whether you are painting a watercolor, drafting an essay or making an unusual piece of jewelry, my hope is that you will always learn something about yourself and about the creative process as you go. For me, in founding this studio space, it’s all about sharing the experience, inspiring each other, forming ideas and getting new insights from one another as we learn and practice together.
I hope you’ll consider signing up for one of our upcoming classes and becoming part of the creative process with me! Maybe you’ll create something you love. Maybe you’ll learn some techniques that will help you get closer to that perfect piece of art or writing you are envisioning. But no matter what, you will benefit from the process. And so will everyone who creates alongside you.
Journaling to Soothe the Stress – a Special Opportunity
for Girls (ages 16-19) By Nancy Shohet West
Recently I was talking with my sixteen-year-old about how her summer is going. As we talked, we both began to recognize the range of issues that she and her circle of friends are dealing with right now. Some are preparing to leave for college. Others are trying to cope with the many decisions involved in planning for the future. There are friendships beginning and ending, romantic relationships developing and falling apart. She knows kids facing some of life’s most serious problems as well – death, substance abuse, family crisis.
My daughter told me that she has been working through some issues in her own life recently by journaling. This came as a surprise to me. Like a lot of writers, I take journaling seriously. It’s a daily habit for me. It’s how I organize my thoughts, work out problems, express anxieties, puzzle over mysteries, anticipate things I’m looking forward to and calm myself regarding upcoming events about which I have misgivings.
Even though I always assumed my daughter was aware of my daily journaling habit, it’s not something we’ve ever discussed, and it’s not something I’ve ever urged her to do – mostly because I suspected that if I urged her, it would become the last thing she’d ever consider doing.
But like most teens, she has a busy and complicated life, and she has figured out that sometimes the best way to manage the constant swirl of activity, along with the emotions and distractions that result from it, is to sit down and write.
Are you a teen who might benefit from taking a couple of hours to write out your thoughts? Maybe you haven’t kept a diary since you were a lot younger and wrote mostly about soccer games or birthday parties. Maybe you just have trouble finding the time or motivation to sit down and let the words pour out – or trickle out. And maybe you think you don’t like writing. But this isn’t like writing for school. No one will judge your writing as good or bad, off-topic or irrelevant. You won’t even be expected to share anything you’ve written unless you want to!
This is writing for no purpose other than to soothe the clamor in your mind and the chaos in your life – writing as a tool for mindfulness. Yes, there’s a lot going on – some good and some not so good. Friends, relationships, family, school, decisions, health, sports. Sometimes it feels like too much. But journaling can help you organize your thoughts and feel better and more in control about all of it.
Curious about whether journaling might prove to be a good emotional outlet for you? Join us on July 29th to find out! You’ll be given writing cues and prompts, but those are just suggestions – you are free to write about anything you like, and sharing what you’ve written is completely optional. Hope you’ll give it a try. Go to 'Upcoming' to register.
by Nancy Shohet West
When you think of writing a memoir, you might immediately know the story you want to tell: where it begins, how it develops, where it ends. Whether it’s the story of your entire life so far, starting with your ancestry, or the story of a single significant part of your life – your college years; a backpacking trip; the treatment of and recovery from a serious illness – maybe you already see it as a distinct and discrete piece of narrative but most of us do not.
Most of us who think about memoir have a collection of memories, anecdotes, reflections and insights that jingle around in our mind like pennies in a jar, shifting this way and that, catching the light, settling and resettling but never quite taking on any semblance of linear order.
If that sounds like you, then I have a simple suggestion: Let’s do some “memoir snaps.”
Memoir snaps are, just as the name suggests, short, snappy segments of stories. They’re quick and fun to write because they don’t require you to create a continuous storyline or ponder connections. Memoir snaps are all about getting images and recollections on paper, reflecting various aspects of your life and experiences without worrying about how to connect them all. Think of them as shards of sea glass glimmering in a bowl, rather than carefully arranged beads sequenced on a string.
What constitutes a memoir snap? There are dozens of ways to access these quick, simple memories. What was your most memorable birthday party when you were young? What was your favorite piece of clothing when you were in high school? What was your best or worst first date? How does your family celebrate the Fourth of July? Do you have any powerful memories associated with weather events? Or with political events?
When I lead memoir classes, I almost always use the same exercise to start the first session: Tell the story of your name. What is your name, and who named you that? Do you like it? Have you changed it? Are you named after someone? Do you have a nickname? Are there things you feel compelled to explain about your name? Does it reflect the way you think of yourself?
As a first-day-of-class icebreaker, this exercise has an obvious benefit. Once we’ve all written a free-write response and read it aloud, it’s easy for us to remember one another’s name for the remaining class sessions. But that’s not the only reason I do it. Like most memoir snaps, people find it easy. Maybe you’re not ready to sit down and write your autobiography, or even the story of your year in China. But everyone with the slightest inclination to pick up a pen or open a blank screen on their computer can find ten minutes’ worth of things to say about their name. Or about a favorite piece of clothing, or a memorable first date or birthday party or snowstorm.
If the thought of doing some personal writing tempts you but you’re not really sure what you’d write about, consider joining us for an upcoming “Memoir Snaps” class. You might find it much easier than you think to get some words down on paper, given the right writing cue.
Sign up for our next “Memoir Snaps” in the "Upcoming" section of this website or check back next month for our fall class schedule.
Painting as Meditation
by Laurie Engdahl
I have always painted, but haven't always been conscious of why I paint. As the stresses and challenges of life began to accumulate, like many women, I saw to carve out spaces to meditate and engage in activities designed to ensure my mental health and wellness. Also, like many, however, my efforts at mindfulness haven't provided the respite I have been seeking. have you ever been meditating with a timer, only to discover when times up, that you spent the entire meditation thinking about work deadlines?
To truly turn down the noise and engage with my spirit, I need to create. When I engage in creative activities, I am able to focus and eliminate distraction; finding peace becomes effortless when I connect with my creative side, shutting down whatever worries and concerns had been taking up too much emotional space.
I love to teach painting because I want others to experience these quieting and healing aspects of art. Too many of us turn away from art because we think we have no artistic talent, but whether or not we are born with an innate artistic talent misses the point-- when making art is not about whether it is good or bad, but about the process of expression and letting yourself get lost in the moment, gaining perspective, and putting those deadlines and worries in their proper place. I particularly love watercolor, because of the way in which pigment in water flows and blooms, creating unexpected results and luminous works of art. Watercolor painting does not require a lot of time or investment in supplies and is the perfect meditative space for busy minds. I can't wait to share my painting experience with others!
The Story You Want to Tell
Nancy Shohet West
I have written in cafes and coffee shops and libraries; on beaches and in parks; on airplanes and in cars; in airports and hospital waiting rooms; at artists’ retreats, vacation cottages, and at home. I once spent two hours writing in a notebook on the steps of the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen for no other reason than the site looked inviting at the time. But for all of those many places that I have tried writing over the course of several decades, there is only one place that I ever actually get anything worthwhile written. In a chair. Yes, it’s true. I’ve never written anything worthwhile while standing up. My point is that while I may be as vulnerable to the allure of The Magical Writing Spot as anyone else, as easily seduced by the brochure for the writers’ retreat in the mountains or the artists’ enclave in the Southwest, I also know better. It’s not really about the seaside cottage or the antique desk, the burnished library moldings or the background noise of coffee being poured. It’s about sitting down and getting something done. And for so many of the would-be writers I know, this is the hardest part for them: just sitting down to do it.
It’s so easy to procrastinate. “If we could only rent a cabin in the mountains this winter, I’d get my novel written!” a friend once said to me. She didn’t rent the cabin and she didn’t write the novel. But I know the truth: she didn’t need the cabin. She just needed a chair. In her home office or her kitchen; in her local library or pizza parlor. She needed to sit down and write the novel, if that’s what she wanted to write. So when I was brainstorming workshop ideas earlier this year, I thought a lot about what I could offer to help people with their writing process. Writing cues? Critique and feedback? Insights about the publishing marketplace? Well, yes. I could do that. But what I most wanted to do, I acknowledged to myself, was simply provide the time and space for people to sit down and write.
What is the story you want to tell? Do you want to start your memoir, or record on paper the stories your grandmother told you about her childhood? Is there a novel you’ve sketched out a hundred times in your mind – but never with an actual pencil? Or perhaps it’s a specific experience that you want to commit to written word: a travelogue, an account of what it was like to train for a marathon or undergo treatment for an illness. Let’s take three hours this month to sit down together and figure out what it is that we want to write.
The Journey from an Idea to an Arts Community
From the time my children were very young, we created together. We made drawings, paintings, jewelry, pottery. All three kids loved our project time, and as a stay-at-home mom, I found it to be one of the most rewarding and most interesting ways for us to spend time together. As they grew older and started school, it wasn’t my job anymore to fill their time with interesting options. Still, their early love of art persisted. They acquired more sophisticated drawing and painting skills – my eldest even went off to college to study art – and I directed my own creative passions to our household, making birthdays, holidays and each new season unique with special handmade decorations and ornaments. In time, I too became ever more focused in my efforts and started selling my work.
I still love creating art, just as I always have, but recently I’ve begun to realize that it’s more about process than product for me. Having something to show for my work – or even something to sell – feels less important to me than the joy of the creative process itself. And what has always made that process even more special for me is sharing it with others – first with my children, and later with my friends. About a year ago a vision began to take shape of a shared art space that would bring together likeminded creative spirits, women who enjoyed making and creating and designing and crafting just as much as I do. Women who understood that the spark of magic happens when people are drawing off of one another as inspiration. Friends old and new who find that sharing ideas expands minds and leads to still more ideas.
It wasn’t enough to have a vision: I needed to make something out of my idea. Only this time, making something meant not a painting or a piece of jewelry or a vase, but a studio space that would provide a physical venue for the shared artistic and creative community I’d been dreaming of. After months of designing and decorating my space, I opened its doors to friends for the first time this past spring. Since then, small groups have been gathering regularly to paint, to write, and to craft. No matter what we leave with at the end of a gathering, we’ve all affirmed for ourselves the joy of making and creating for its own sake, with no greater purpose than to connect with ourselves and with each other.
Have you ever had that same sense of fusion, of sitting down around a table with a group of friends to share ideas and visions over sketchpads and journals? Do you value your own creativity? Or are you someone who says “I’m not the creative type” – while secretly wondering what might be possible for you with the right inspiration? My goal is to generate just that inspiration: a beautiful, convivial space where artists of all abilities and levels of confidence – and even those who do not think of themselves as artists – will gather to share in creative fellowship. Will you join me? Summer classes are filling up and our fall schedule is currently in development. I really hope to see you here soon!