Annie over at No Hat No Gloves wrote a lovely piece the other day about finding contentment. You can read it here. Her post perfectly dovetails with an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for days. An idea precipitated by an e-mail I had from an organization called Creative Mornings. All about investing in ourselves and our creativity. How creativity is something we can choose to nourish… or as they put it… something in which we can choose to “invest.” The email goes on to say that “to live a sustainable creative life [we should] say ‘yes’ to the choices that bring richness into our lives.”

Okay. I’m all about bringing “richness” to my life. If not riches. Ha. We all know from reading the tabloid headlines in the grocery store line that riches don’t necessarily bring richness. But I’m digressing already.

So, I’m interested in cultivating richness in my life. And in cultivating creativity. I think too many of us dismiss creativity as something which has no connection to our day-to-day lives. We think of creativity as the exclusive province of those who have talent in the creative arts, like painting or drawing. When all kinds of things we do in our lives require creativity. Even sometimes just living our lives. I’ve always loved Harrison Ford’s line from Raiders of the Lost Arc when Sallah asks him what he’s going to do, and he tosses back, “I don’t know. I’m just making it up as I go.”

I love that movie, and I’ve seen it a fair few times. My friend Susan and I used to show it to our grade nine classes when we taught mythology and the classical hero. In fact, choosing to show that movie to our kids was an example of creative thinking, I think. When we taught in the same school, Susan and I used to plan our courses collaboratively. We had so much fun doing that. Casting about for ideas, then bouncing these ideas off each other, coming up with big picture objectives, talking excitedly about possibilities, planning our outline, setting timelines and tasks, who would do what and when.

Sometimes we’d even split up topics which suited one or the other of us better, and then swap our classes for a day or so. We did this with our senior university prep class one year. Susan was a history major; she could teach background and historical context like nobody’s business. She has much more historical knowledge and understanding than I do. I would have had to do a ton of research, and then still be hard pressed to field unexpected questions from the class. But I could go gangbusters on the open-ended, airy-fairy kind of stuff. Lobbing a question at the class about interpretation, and then seeing where they took it, eventually shepherding them in the direction I wanted them to go. I loved doing that. I’m smiling even as I write this.

But to get back to my topic, working collaboratively was, for Susan and me, a kind of investment in ourselves, as well as in the kids. I think Susan would agree that those were heady days in the classroom for both of us. And out of the classroom, come to think of it. Planning together stimulated our creative thinking. We benefited by having better content to share with our classes, the kids had way more fun, and we gained greater professional satisfaction in knowing that we were doing good work. Working together, investing in ourselves so to speak, added richness to our lives, and made us better, more creative teachers. And it kind of cemented our friendship.

The idea of creativity and where creative ideas come from has long interested me. We used to discuss the creative process a lot in my writing classes: the importance of observation, ‘feeding the muse’ as one source called it, the incubation of ideas, and then inspiration followed by plain hard work.

There is nothing I love better than “feeding the muse,” casting about randomly for inspiration. Being open to the world around me, hopefully building new ideas of my own. Only nowadays these ideas aren’t used in the classroom. They usually end up as blog posts, or as outfits. Which then end up as blog posts. Ha. There is so much scope for things to write about.

And being retired I can cast about to my heart’s content. Happily sitting on my exercise bike, listening to new podcasts, reading a book, or listening to my favourite shows on CBC radio. One idea leads to another, and to another, and sparks a memory, or makes me think of a line from a book I read last week, or something Hubby said on the ski trail, and pretty soon I’m off down a blogging rabbit hole.

While I pedal, I may watch five videos, one after another, on fashion. Or listen to the latest That’s Not My Age podcast, or a new Slightly Foxed one. Activities which make me inordinately happy and which I love for their own sakes. Hubby calls this “doing my research.” Only now I guess I can call this “investing in myself,” if that doesn’t sound too pretentious. Because these activities add what the Creative Mornings people call “richness” to my life.

You see, I think that the “richness” that Creative Mornings e-mail was talking about doesn’t have to be something earth shattering, or particularly deep, or startling. It doesn’t have to be climbing Mount Everest, or hiking up Machu Picchu. Although Machu Picchu was pretty enriching, even though we didn’t hike up. It could be something as small as a cool little video about planning an outfit. Or a conversation with an earnest young waiter in a restaurant in Herzegovina. Or the sight of a bunch of miners from all around the world laughing and drinking beer in a small lodge in Quebec. Richness can come from anywhere; there are interesting and quirky and notable things happening all around us.

It could even be the fact that my mum called my sister Carolyn yesterday on her birthday to describe to her the night she was born. Apparently there was a big thunder and lightening storm. Which my sister and I both thought explains a lot. Ha. “Real life pathetic fallacy,” Hubby just quipped from the kitchen. Wouldn’t that make a wonderful scene in a novel? Not the birth, or the storm, just the phone call. From a 92- year-old mum to her 71-year-old child. At the very least, Mum telling Carolyn that story created a story for me to tell you.

And now here’s where Annie’s blog post on contentment comes into play. You had to know I would make it back there eventually.

I am perfectly content when I’m on my exercise bike, or skiing (or walking) along the trail, listening, letting my mind roam, thinking, making connections, whatever. Free to do something with whatever idea comes to mind, even if it’s just sharing it with Hubby in the coffee shop afterward. Or maybe to do nothing with it at all.

The good thing about being content is that you are able to be happy.  Not maddened with joy or screaming loudly as you jump up and down, but quietly jovial.  A sort of internal buzz.  

Annie Green

Of course the very best thing is to pound away on the keyboard sharing my random thoughts with you guys. That makes me content. And happy. And as Annie says, gives me “a sort of internal buzz.”

“Woman Reading in Bed with Cat”
by Will Barnet 1970 source

By the way that Will Barnet painting above should be titled “Contentment” in my view. It makes me think that I really, really need a cat.

It’s your turn now, my friends. What do you have to say? What do you think helps you to live a more creative life? No matter the form that creativity takes.

P. S. I first heard about Creative Mornings on my friend Frances’ blog, Materfamilias Writes. Frances wrote about attending one of their events in Vancouver a couple of years ago. They are a very cool organization with branches all over the world. And they hold free events in many, many cities. Maybe yours is one of them.


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From the archives


Turtlenecks for Spring

I wear turtlenecks in fall and winter, but somehow never think of turtlenecks for spring.

On Sleep Deprivation

We all need our beauty sleep, people. Sleep deprivation is not healthy, and new evidence shows how unhealthy it can be.

Need a Good Closet Rummage?

Once my seasonal closet is organized I always do a good closet rummage. To see if I can translate my outfit dreams into reality. Or not.

20 thoughts on “Investing in Ourselves”

  1. I just heard the most inspirational podcast. It was the latest from one of my favorites since it started in the 1990s as a public radio show: This American Life. The episode is titled “The Show of Delights,” and is all about people finding not just contentment but recognizing their contentment and elevating it to joy. It is a wonderful way to approach life.

  2. Well, thank you for that! And I am going to pour more coffee and settle back with the vlogger now. Re creativity: my tutor at my jewellery class has asked who is interested in doing some design sessions and I decided to take the bull by the horns. It is harder than I thought to simply mark-make. But on I shall go onwards. And re: cat ownership. Very much a doubled-edged sword if you like travelling. Not that I consider this when she is stretched out between us on the duvet in the small hours, all soft and furry and happy.

    1. You’re welcome. Oh… I really miss having a cat. So much. But since Hubby retired we travel way too much. We used to have reliable neighbours with children who loved to look after our cats, but they’ve moved away. Hubby hates the idea of boarding animals. And now that we’ve upped the amount of time we are away, we’ve decided that having a pet of any kind will have to wait. Sigh.

  3. You are so right about those years of planning those sections of courses we taught. I had taught History for a long time and, although qualified to do so, felt less certain about teaching English. Your encouragement and creativity allowed me to see how ideas could be translated into action.
    One of my favourite projects we developed, the writing and performance of short plays based on the Shakespearean play in the course, was inspired by my own high school experience in which English and drama teachers had each class in the school do a scene from the Shakespeare’s play on our course. That experience led you and me to develop the unit with the initial help of a fabulous student teacher. Creativity passed down to several generations of teachers.

    1. Ah, Christine… what a wonderful girl she was. So smart and keen. We were lucky to work with her. I loved our play unit, especially the part where the kids wrote their own plays based on the theme in the Shakespeare play we’d studied. Remember Malvolio from Twelfth Night re-imagined as a nasty high school principal? And the one set in Orsino’s Casino? And the festival where all the grade nine classes put on their ten minute one-act plays? And the cheering from the kids when Barb our principal announced the winner of the festival, the pizza lunch for the winning class. We were really cooking in those day, my friend. Fun times, eh?

  4. Loved this post. I absolutely believe that you must always invest time in yourself, and for me, that means learning something new. I am currently learning pottery skills in a local studio. I enjoy forcing my brain to stretch and learn completely new skills. Clay is a fascinating medium! But even more, I appreciate the community of potters with whom I can collaborate. They encourage, teach, commiserate and celebrate the work we create. The hours I spend in the studio are so joyful. I lose track of time, set aside the worries and knots of daily life while I engage in the process. Am I any good at making pottery? Not really. But this is all about the journey.

    1. I think the same way, Ramona. We should never stop learning. I think I first realized that when, at the start of my career, I taught at an adult school. I had one student who’d quit high school, forty years earlier, to join the war effort. World War II. !! And she’d always wished that she’d finished high school.

  5. I like to think of all the good things in my life, and in the world around me, as ‘riches’.

    Just in case you’re serious about a cat…and Annie is right, you need a good sitter…there is a woman who I think is in your neck of the woods…her name is Deb; she has a blog and a cat-sitting business called Just Cats.

    I am proud to offer you this connection from here in Winnipeg…the wonders of the internet.

    1. Thanks, Georgia. If we ever do get another cat, I’ll consider that. But Hubby hates the idea of boarding animals. And we are away for weeks and weeks every year. So I don’t see us acquiring a furry friend for a while yet.

  6. Thanks for the mention. . . I’ve been to five or six Creative Mornings talks now and they’ve all been inspiring. I so agree with what you write here — there are so many ways we can be (and are) creative in our daily life, but that creativity needs some nurturing. In her book, TheArtist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends playdates with/for ourselves, days where we might go to an art gallery or walk through a botanical garden or visit thrift shops or check out the colours and textures in a yarn store. . . For me, simply reading is an investment in my creative life as is travel (and planning for travel) and learning languages or going for a walk or listening to a podcast. We might not know how we will eventually synthesize all this input, but when it happens, it’s surprising how well our investment gets repaid, right?

    1. I agree , creativity is all around us – if we look . Choosing what we wear . Furnishing our homes . Planting our garden . We are creative often without realising it .

      1. Planting a garden is for sure creative, Wendy. As is coming up with creative excuses to get out of the gardening. You excel at the former, and I’m pretty good at the latter. 🙂

    2. I remember I signed up for their e-mails when you wrote about going to one of their talks, Frances. I love the links to articles etc. they provide. Reading and travel for sure for me as well. I love Natalie Goldberg’s idea that we should be open to experience, and practice being observant, that everything gets tossed into the compost pile in our heads. To come out as some unexpected idea.. or something. Sometimes just a new outfit. Ha.

  7. When I retired ten years ago, I was advised, “Try to do something creative everyday.” As other commenters mentioned, that can happen in every corner of our lives. I recently reorganized my closet and found the creativity of reorganizing shelves, hooks, and cubbies to be very satisfying. Like the watercolor I applied in a painting class. Both required focus, intent, analysis, and some courage. Ha! Enjoyed the insights shared here…as always!
    Charlene H

    1. I’ve always remembered how my mother-in-law, who took up painting when she retired, told me that after supper she’d head up to her little studio in one of the bedrooms, and be so engrossed it would be 4 am before she realized it.
      P.S. I love getting stuck into a re-organizing job. 🙂

  8. Great story about collaboration with your friend Susan!
    I copletely agree-richness is everywhere and it can come from anywhere-one only has to have eyes wide open. look and hear and smell and read and contemplate……… be curious and entchanted-the new world full of surprises and new ideas could be open
    Peaceful joy and joyful peace in contentment
    Thank you for Use Less and Signe-she’s lovely,as well as Justine

    1. Keeping eyes wide open is so important, isn’t it? You’re welcome. I like Signe’s little videos very much. And Justine’s But you have to thank Wendy from York for Justine.

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