During the decade+ that I spent building up my wedding art business, there were many years when I made my living from the art I made for clients, but I didn’t make any art to feed my soul.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. Once a year I did make art for me: at the Friends of Calligraphy annual spring retreat.
The Magic of the Retreat
Every year (with one, painfully memorable exception), I removed myself from daily life for 5 days to convene with 29 other calligraphers and artists and just create.
The retreat is totally non-directed: We work together for the week in one big room we call the Scriptorium, but each person brings whatever project or projects they want to work on. People paint, practice lettering, draw, read, write, sew, embroider, take photos, work on scrapbooks…
It’s heavenly, and I’m always incredibly productive during those 5 days.
Part of the reason is, of course, that I’m totally removed from daily life and distractions – I have no obligations to anyone but myself, and (gourmet!) meals are provided, so I can focus 100% on whatever project I want.
But another part of why the Retreat is so magical is the fact that it’s done in community.
The Power of Community
I could rent a cabin somewhere and take a solo retreat.
In fact, there was a week years ago when I had a beach house all to myself between weekend teaching gigs in southern California. I had nothing to do but rest, walk and make art. And yes, I was productive.
But there’s something about creating in community with others that has a magical, energizing effect.
There’s almost an electric charge in the air at a creative retreat, just from being surrounded by other people engaged in doing their creative thing.
And it doesn’t even have to be in-person
The power of community is, well, powerful, even if you’re not physically in the same room with other people.
Case in point: I gave a telephone Playshop a few weeks ago – essentially a 90-minute bubble of time for participants to play and make art. And even though the participants couldn’t see or talk to each other, several commented to me afterwards that they were inspired and energized just knowing there were other people on the line who were also playing and creating at the same time.
In a similar vein, Jonathan Fields mentioned in his talk at the World Domination Summit in June that he uses a meditation timer iPhone app that shows how many other people are using the app right now. Just knowing that somewhere on the planet, 5 or 23 or 317 other people are also meditating is inspiration and motivation all in one to sit down and meditate yourself!
Online Creative Challenges
That’s also where the power of online challenges comes from. The combined energy of the group is like a wave – you can just grab your metaphorical boogie board and ride along. It’s much easier – and more fun – than to trudge forward on your own through what often feels like a desert.
12 days from now is the 2011 start of one of the most famous of online challenges: National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (or even NaNo) for short.
Every November, thousands of authors and would-be authors from around the globe (200,500 last year) commit to cranking out a 50,000-word novel, from scatch, in just 30 days.
Sounds a little crazy, huh?
In fact, it’s a stroke of genius.
In addition to providing a way to keep track of your progress, the NaNoWriMo website offers an online forum for participants to exchange advice and writing tips, as well as ways for participants to meet up for in “real life.”
Community. Community. Community.
But even if they never post to the forums or join a group write-in, everyone who signs up for NaNoWriMo gets a certain amount of propulsion just from knowing that other people – hundreds of thousands of other people – are right there with them, putting in their daily 1,666-word writing commitment. (That’s how many words you’d have to write every day for 30 days to get to 50,000.)
NaNoWriMo may be one of the best known, but it’s far from the only community challenge out there. Not into writing fiction? Me either (though who knows, I may add that to my list of passions someday, Passion Pluralist that I am!).
Never fear – there are challenges galore for every creative pursuit you can imagine. Just do a Google search, and you’ll find hundreds. Thousands.
Many people have written to tell me they’ve taken on my own little 15 Minutes a Day creative challenge.
So far, though, there hasn’t been a very conscious sense of community around it.
That’s about to change.
Time for Some Creative Ignition
At the end of October, just in time to ride the draft coming off of NaNoWriMo starting November 1, I’m going to offer a special new goody to help you stick to your creative commitments to yourself.
It’s called the Creative Ignition Kit, and I designed it as a 30-day creative recharge, to get you – and keep you – doing your creative thing for a full month.
Because you know you want to.
You know how much better you feel when you actually do the creative thing you’re most passionate about… but which is all too easy to put off.
And keep putting off.
Posting my 15 Minutes a Day creative challenge out there as an open invitation was great, but I realized I wanted to give you more tools, more of a sense of community and connection, to help you stoke that creative fire and keep it burning.
So I created the Creative Ignition Kit.
It’s a challenge with a much smaller goal than a 50,000-word novel.
The goal is just this: that you make time every day for 30 days to play in the Creative Sandbox. With your Bliss of choice, whatever it is.
Whether you paint, or draw, or write, or play guitar, or take photographs, or sculpt, or make jewelry, or write songs, or do macrame, I want to see you doing it regularly. Ideally every day.
Because I know how much happier that makes YOU, and I know that when YOU’RE happy and energized, everyone around you feels it. And let’s face it, that makes the whole world go better.
If you’re ready to stop pussyfooting around, I
invite you I challenge you to commit to just one month of doing your creative thing every day – even for just 15 minutes.
But I’m not just going to challenge you, I’m also going to help you!
The Creative Ignition Kit combines a special (hand-drawn) journal for you to keep track of your commitment (and importantly, how it feels to keep that commitment), with daily check-in emails to keep you inspired and on track (very brief, to keep your energy on your creative work!).
Plus there are inspirational videos every week.
And an mp3 meditation to help you get grounded and centered and ready to
And “Purely Optional Prompts” in the journal pages to give you something to springboard off of, if you’re drawing a blank.
And because I understand the power of community, this initial, “Riding the Wave of NaNoWriMo” offer of the Creative Ignition Kit also comes with a private online forum to connect with other creatives who are taking the challenge. Get advice and moral support, and even share what you create with other challengers.
I also appreciate all too well that the best-laid plans are sometimes disrupted, so I’m including a special “Emergency Pack” to be opened only if you fall off the wagon and miss a day of your commitment.
Taking on a creative challenge, after all, should not be a tool to beat yourself up! It should help you feel successful and empowered! So if you “blow it,” I’ve got you covered – just crack open the “Emergency Pack” and I’ll help get you back on track.
I’ve even created a commitment certificate for you to print, sign and date, to get your commitment to yourself in writing.
Last, but not least, for this first time that I offer the Creative Ignition Kit I’m including 2 hour-long telephone chats for participants to ask questions, get coaching and advice, and just connect with other challengers. (And yes, they’ll both be recorded, so if you can’t make it you’ll still get to listen in after the fact.)
The shopping cart will be open to the public for 2 days only, Monday, October 31 and Tuesday, November 1.
That’s it for this dispatch! I’ll keep you posted.
Now go get creating!
Creative Ignition Circle FAQs
Q: What if I’m up to the challenge, but November’s not good timing for me?
A: You can still buy the kit, and either change the rules for yourself to accommodate your schedule (for example: “I commit to 3 days a week for 20 minutes”), or if you prefer I can set the 30 days of emails to start for you at a later date. Note, however, that the forum will only be up and running during November and for a short time after.
More questions? Just ask!
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!