The Alive List

I recently came across this alive list and it made me stop and think about my own. We get so caught up in the day-to-day and I’ve found it really important to think about what you truly enjoy and what makes you come alive. We’re all gifted in such unique ways, let’s highlight those gifts and passions and move toward what we’re called to do.

I hope this list will inspire you to create your own. In no particular order, here’s what I came up with:

giving someone a thoughtful card or gift
exploring a new area
taking photos
making a list and checking it off
reading in bed
making time to write
a long walk
catching a beautiful sunset
hearing God’s direction for my life
decorating my home and making it hospitable
bargain shopping
sitting on the beach
a crisp sunny day with white puffy clouds
praying for or with someone
feeling rested
quaint downtown cafes and bakeries
perusing a bookstore
gaining new understanding while reading my bible
a great cup of coffee
riding a bike
seeing prayers answered
arranging a bouquet of flowers
cooking something delicious
riding a boat or kayak in the harbor
enjoying the silence of the mountains

Image taken at Crystal Cove in Newport Beach, CA.

How to Start Writing – Part 2

In the first post of this series, I chatted about being open as a writer and getting prepared to take in ideas as they come. Once those ideas are brewing, it’s time to get them out, and hone your craft as a writer. Start with the most pressing idea first and enjoy the satisfaction of bringing those thoughts to life.

Schedule & Go for It

If you don’t know your best writing time, try out a few different options. Try the early morning, try the evening, a lunch break, or the weekend. I’ve found that early mornings and evenings aren’t best for me because I’m trying to get to work in the morning, and in the evening my brain isn’t as sharp. I prefer Saturday mornings, or a quick mid-day session when I have a break at work.

Once you’re in the moment of writing, don’t hold yourself back by trying to craft absolutely perfect sentences. Let your thoughts flow and get all your ideas out. You’ll go back later and trim the edges. You can also approach your writing like it’s addressed to a friend. I was recently reminded of this tip, and it helps so much. You don’t feel held back and you don’t feel hindered to say everything perfectly.

So, start somewhere—even if the thoughts are ugly, unpolished or seemingly dumb. If you have the desire to write, the right words will eventually make their way to the page. Once the idea is out, you can cut, paste, edit and scrap until those words are crafted in a unique and satisfying way. Once you get a taste, you won’t be able to get enough. And that’s the goal, to keep returning to the page, and sharing your unique perspective with the world.

Takeaway: This week, look at your schedule, and choose an open time slot where you can write for about 30 minutes to an hour. See how you like it, and schedule accordingly for the next week. You can also set up a “writing date” with a friend (see #2 on this list) and work in tandem. Either way, jump in, and take an action step toward your goal. I’ll be back with Part 3 to chat about editing, and making the finishing touches. 

How to Start Writing – Part 1

Do you find yourself wanting to write, but don’t know where to start? To many, writing seems like an intimidating process and something uncomfortable to jump into. Although I write materials for businesses and organizations, I’ve had a similar journey for many years when it comes to personal creative writing.

One of the most helpful things I’ve been told that has changed my perspective, is that if you write, you’re a writer. You don’t have to wait to call yourself one once you’re a published author.  I love to help other aspiring writers get in that mindset.

If you desire to write but you aren’t sure how to dive in, keep reading as I’ll share some helpful tips to get you started in this three-post series.

Be Open & Get Prepared

Writing is so easy when you have something to say. Perhaps a situation has irked you, or a thought has sparked passion in your soul that you must share with the world. The hard part on the other hand, is when you want to write but you can’t pinpoint exactly what to talk about.

I have found when this is the case, it’s best to release any pressure on yourself. When you just live life, the ideas will come to you. The key is to be open and looking, knowing that the right idea will come at the right time. So be proactive and on the lookout. For me ideas arrive while I’m working, sleeping, walking, reading, talking to a friend, listening to a podcast, or singing to music. Creative thoughts generally appear in the middle of life, when you aren’t pressuring yourself.

I know it’s an idea I want to run with when it stays on my mind and I have a yearning explore it through words. I know I won’t be satisfied until I’ve at least tried to write about it. Sometimes it’s for a blog post, sometimes for a book chapter, or something I’ll use later. So give it a try: release yourself from the pressure, be open, and be prepared to write those ideas down when they arrive. Once you do sit down to write, having a list creates an exciting starting point, and something to look forward to.

Takeaway: How can you be ready to write your ideas down? Find a dedicated notebook, or use the notepad on your phone to jot down the thoughts you want to return to. Need some further suggestions to spark your creativity? Check out my list of ideas here.

Summer Highlights

Every time a new season begins, it seems like everyone says “where did the time go?” I would certainly say the same about this summer. I really didn’t have much planned aside from a few weekend trips and outings with friends. As I wrote about in June, these months were spent finding a good balance as I introduced a large freelance project into my schedule.

Just about every other weekend was dedicated to working on the project, so although I didn’t get out and adventure as much, it’s felt great to work toward the goal of completing the work. Aside from this new routine, here are some favorite standout memories.

Just a couple weeks ago, I turned the big #35! How did that happen?! Wasn’t I just 25? At least that’s how it feels. I had a fun weekend of celebrating with various friends and family, and hit up some of my favorite restaurants. One stop was at True Food Kitchen in San Diego during a shopping trip with my mom. Pictured on the top left is the most refreshing drink– made of coconut water, OJ, pineapple juice and honey.

This summer I benefited from my dad’s recent move to a small mountain town, about an hour away from me. He lives right next to a pretty lake and I ventured up there a few times for a small get-away (seen from top and bottom photos on the right). We’ve walked around the lake, rented a row boat, and grilled burgers on his deck. His home is surrounded by trees and silence; basically a little slice of heaven.

Another dreamy locale was the site of a friend’s wedding in Dana Point. She and her husband reserved a public park that perfectly overlooked the water as the ceremony backdrop. The park is located in a neighborhood (shown in second photo on the left, with my friend Jess) and parking was surprisingly a breeze. The reception afterward was held in her parent’s beautiful backyard where they served delicious tacos and cake.

For most of the summer we were blessed with very mild weather, so several evenings a week I would walk my surrounding neighborhood. I love being able to regroup on a walk and enjoy the longer days. Catching a sunset is always the crowning event, and I try to capture them as much as possible (third photo on the left). They always help me take pause, and enjoy the moment I’m in.

And last, I can’t recap this season without highlighting a recipe! Back in July I made this no-bake cheesecake with berries, and it’s very much a crowd pleaser. If you’re looking for one last sweet summery patriotic treat, give this a try. So easy and fun for Labor Day, and you don’t have to fire up the oven. It’s a snap to pull together, and the perfect way to sign off summer until next Memorial Day.

10 Ways to Stay Creative

10 ways creative

I wanted to list all the ways I try to stay creative, as well as other ideas I’ve been meaning to try! If you’re in creative rut, I know something here will speak to you. One of the best ways for me to stay creative is to divert from too much routine, and keep my eyes open.

Case in point, when thinking about this post I was having a rough day. I was in a fast food parking lot, and quickly pulled over to reply to a text. I happened to look up and saw this gorgeous bougainvillea hovering over my windshield, bobbing around in the warm summer breeze. The contrast against that day’s clear blue sky was a moment I couldn’t pass. I ignored the text, switched my phone to camera mode, and snapped away. A pretty good lesson in noticing the beauty in front of you, right?

1. Get outside. Take a walk at a park, get near a body of water, watch the sunset or run your feet through the grass. Go on a bike ride. Either way, being outside is a perfect, cost-free way to unwind, clear your head and regroup on ideas.

2. Partner up. A couple years back, my friend Kelly and I would meet up at least once a month for a “writing date.” This involved about an hour of catching up and eating breakfast at Panera, followed by another hour or more of writing on our laptops. This gave a tremendous sense of community and encouragement in our shared love of the craft, and a way to spur each other on and keep going.

3. Keep a list.  I love a cute journal to coral all my ideas, but the truth is, I’ll get many of them in the middle of other tasks. I’ve found the best way to keep a running list is in the notepad on my phone. It’s an easily accessible area to keep everything contained. Try a method that works best for you. The important thing is that your ideas get written down!

4. Create an adventure. Get outside your town, even if it’s just an hour away. Go see a play, check out a new coffee shop, or hit up a museum. Looking at art or just taking time to have fun with someone you love can do wonders for you soul and creativity. Don’t forget to snap some photos to document the day.

5. Revert to childhood. What are some creative things you enjoyed doing as a kid? Maybe it’s painting, drawing or playing an instrument. For me it was some kind of craft project. Even though crafting doesn’t really align with my current goals, using another part of my brain can be relaxing and spark other ideas.

6. Make a collage. Riffle through some magazines and cut out images that inspire you. Look for colors you’re drawn to, or that make you feel a certain way. Take your clippings and arrange them on a bulletin or poster board. Use it as a reminder of what sparks your imagination.

7. Mark the calendar. Just as you schedule anything else, start scheduling creative time. This can be an early morning or a certain evening each week. Maybe even a weekend day each month? It’s such a rewarding and refueling feeling to set aside specific time and work toward your creative goal. Much better than just waiting for it to come around (which is not very often).

8. Get out of your routine. Take another route to work. Go out for ice cream on a week night. Wake up early and read. Do something you would enjoy to mix up your weekly repetition by thinking out of the box. This is mostly an exercise to show that you don’t have to always abide by the rules, especially if you’ve been in a rut.

9. Use what you have. For the longest time I didn’t think I could run a blog because my laptop was old and I didn’t have a fancy camera. So I made adjustments. I use my phone for the camera and write many posts on there too. No need to wait around for the best equipment and stall your efforts. Do your best with what you have and go for it.

10. Don’t wait for perfection. Keep practicing your craft. You’ll improve as you keep going. If you wait for the perfect end product, you won’t be able to enjoy the learning that comes with the journey. Dive in and see where it takes you!