How mindfulness can sharpen creativity

mindfullnewssThis post was written by Lee Webb.  

According to The Merriam-Webster dictionary, mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis…” The way I view it, mindfulness can be as simple as paying more attention. It’s this idea that taking time to better sense the world leads to a better appreciation for it and a more positive outlook on life. The concept of mindfulness also proves extremely useful for creatives. Whether you write words, mix sounds, capture photos, or do anything that involves making something new, allowing yourself to be more mindful has the same benefits. Taking the extra moments to process affords you a deeper understanding of the object of your art.

Say a small town journalist named Pam has been assigned an article on local luxury home. Pam can interview top designers and high-class residents. She can photograph and examine the diverse angular features and stylistic preferences of many. But, Pam has a deeper technique in mind for producing this article. She takes time to stop and pay attention to what she feels when she steps into a room. She notices the way the light seeps in and how the smells seem to transport her to another time. She takes the time to search her emotions and notice how the various environments affect her thoughts. This is mindfulness at its finest.

All this uniquely personal information transforms Pam’s somewhat basic assignment into something much more connected and real. It makes her work something special that stands apart from the cold, only-technical work of her peers. She has created something that her readers will not only be informed by but feel connected to on a deeper level. Years down the road, Pam may be an award-winning writer for the New York Times with an enormous, loyal following.

Mindfulness can seem like some sort of hipster joo-joo at first, but it’s actually so simple and easy that it seems foolish to ignore the benefits. Being sharply aware of the world around you has a way of deepening the already infinite creative well inside, allowing us to transform simple things into art that is layered, unique, and unforgettable.

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The post I didn’t think I would write

I am not a New Year’s resolution kind of person. I start every day, every week and every month fresh. Sometimes I even start over in the middle of a day. I always hated writing those year-end and looking ahead stories when I was in print media.

And I can’t believe I am writing this now.

But 2017 was another year of change and to some degree loss. After losing my parents, mother-in-law and some dear friends in 2016, I was hopeful for a better year. I was sputtering along the first three months knowing I was not happy and questioning  my career goals. I was talking to my husband one day and I told him I was willing to go wherever God led me. I just wanted an answer.

The very next day I was laid off from my job.  I began planning my future on the drive home. In the weeks that followed, I looked for full-time jobs but I knew that wasn’t what I was supposed to do. I wanted to freelance, do exciting projects and work with clients from all over the world. The past nine months have been some of the happiest for me. I have had my ups and downs. But it’s been a blessing and so rewarding.

I love unlimited in my work.  To Al Gore or whoever created this Internet thing, thank you.  I have worked with clients from all over the United States and in several countries. I have written about everything from state lemon laws, self-driving cars, the telecom industry, SaaS, balsamic vinegar, apple growing and a lot of things I am sure I am forgetting. I thought I wanted to do some event planning but after about 42 of them, I hung that up. I learned what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is, what the Dodd-Frank Act is, and what a fintech is. Every day is fun and exciting and I don’t have to shower, do my hair or even change out of my pajamas. (I do shower daily but sometimes I just put on another pair of pjs if I am busy.) I have met so many great people virtually and a few of them in person. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this crazy ride this year.

I am so excited for next year as I already have some fun new projects for January as I continue some current ones. I believe it’s all because of the prayer I said in March. I don’t mean to get mushy but it helps to have support in life and I have the best in my husband, Steve, and son, Lee who are there for me daily. And thanks to anyone reading this, especially if you got this far and for supporting me.

Here’s to a great 2018 for all of us!

 

 

 

 

The Atlanta Braves, birds and other distractions

I am not a fan of summer’s hot temperatures but summer does mean baseball. But baseball also means I get distracted looking up the starting pitchers for the Atlanta Braves or the latest stats on Freddie Freeman.

Honestly, baseball is not my only distraction. And let’s be honest. We all lose focus occasionally (or once a day). Nearly everyone gets drawn into social media. Oh, and don’t forget the email panic where you check every 15 minutes just in case you have a note from a potential client.

But those are not even my biggest distractions. I do a lot of research. Let’s say I am researching bird of North America. I see that a bird is a native of a place I have thought would be a great spot for a vacation. My bird research leads to more personal research about a vacation destination. I waste 15 minutes before I snap back to reality. But hey, I am great at trivia!

So how do you overcome it? The truth is, you may never have a day when you are not distracted at least once or twice. But I have found some ways that work for me.

  • Work blocks–I have written about this before but it is a part of how I stay focused. I set aside a certain amount of time for each task I do. If I know I must complete a task in an hour, I am less likely to wonder to la-la land for 20 minutes.
  • When I need to be online, I only keep the tabs relevant to what I am working on active. I don’t want to know if an email is coming in or if I have a Facebook notification.
  • I work at home so it’s not just online distractions that can complicate my life. I often turn off my phone or hand it to my husband. I keep the door to my “office” closed for many tasks. I also have my desk facing a window and I have a group of birds and squirrels that love to put on a show for me every day. Sadly, some days I lower the blinds. I also try to limit personal conversations, even with the husband, during the work day.

Finally, if you have been around me you know I am a planner and a list maker. I always try to complete my to-do-list. And I try to reach the weekly goals outlined on my calendars.

This all sounds so easy but it is hard to do. How do you keep yourself from getting distracted?

Priceless

I purposely positioned my desk in front of the window so I can raise it most mornings and listen to the birds sing. A woodpecker joined the tunes today. The sound of the train through my little town provided some background music every hour or so.

Among the robins, sparrows and blue jays, two cardinals were playing in the trees. The cardinals are my favorite birds because they represent so many things—faith, vitality and creativity. Some say they represent loved ones who have passed away. This thought gives me comfort that my parents are free and playful as the birds.

I am not writing about very exciting subjects today. But the inspiration outside my window is priceless.

A few years and several hair colors ago

I have been writing professionally for more years than I am going to admit. I want to keep up the ruse that I am 35. But I have a big birthday this month and let’s just say I am not 35.

Like some women, I have been through many hairstyles and colors. So when I referred a possible client to some samples, I noticed my hair looks totally different than it does today.  I am a natural dirty blond. Through the years my hair has been dark brown, light blond and even red. So how did I describe the different look? “A few years and several hair colors ago I was a contributor to a legal blogging site.”

I haven’t heard back from my proposal. I hope the client was impressed by my cleverness!

Have a happy day!

Kim J

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P.S. This picture is 8 years old from my “long, brown hair” phase.

Pajamas and a laptop

I am a child of the 70s and 80s and I remember when I dreamed about working in a city, wearing cute clothes and eating at trendy restaurants.

Flash forward to 2017 and my dreams are about working at home, wearing my pajamas and eating mac and cheese for breakfast. Add in some trips to interesting small towns, the Smoky Mountains and maybe a big city or two and you have described my ideal life.

In today’s society, working from home has become a career goal not only for moms with young children but for people who hate fighting traffic or who just don’t like having to deal with office politics or boring meetings. I work at home only part-time. I have a full-time broadcasting gig that I get up very early to do so most days I am home by 2 p.m. For 18 months in the late 2000s, working at home was my only source of income. I have found that I have a routine I follow no matter how many hours I work.

  • I wear pajamas or something equally comfortable. Even on non-freelance days, I put on my pajamas as soon as I come home. The only exception is if we have plans for a short time later.
  • I always put my computer in front of a window or facing outdoors. Years ago I had a desk on my back porch. Those were the days. My current view may not be the most scenic but I like it. view
  • I tend to work in blocks of time. I have a difficult time sitting for long periods of time. The longest I will sit is about two hours. A four-hour work day usually consists of an hour and 15 to 20 minutes at a time with 10 to 30-minute breaks. While it turns four hours of work into a six-hour stretch, I am more productive this way.
  • I keep the door shut when I don’t want to be disturbed. If I am researching an article or pitching clients, the door is open. When I am writing, it’s almost always closed. My family has learned to only contact me in dire emergencies. Problems with Netflix, opening a package or taking clothes out of the dryer are not dire emergencies!

Finally, get the image of home workers basking in their filth out of your head. One thing I do every day is shower. When I was working at home full-time there may have been several days when I didn’t put on shoes but my feet were clean. For me, taking a shower officially started my day.

If you work at home, what are your routines?

Kim

 

 

Just doing it

I have been doing this freelance writing thing since 2003–almost 14 years! For a couple of years, it was all I did. And it’s hard. But I have met some wonderful people and written some pieces that give me pride.

The last 10, yes, 10 months of 2016 were some of the hardest I have experienced personally and professionally. As I approach a “big” birthday this spring, I knew I wanted to really do more freelance writing for financial and professional reasons–a dream of mine for more than 20 years. I stopped bidding on those low-paying job sites and signed up for the Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den. I snagged a great magazine gig and several other assignments.

But remember, I said those were hard. I lost my mother-in-law, then my mother and then my father. I kept up okay until my father became very sick in the fall and then passed away. Losing daddy took the wind out of my sails.

Thankfully, I had clients who were patient and understood. I still have a full-time broadcasting gig I go to very early day. My writing career suffered.

Now I am getting back on track–a track I couldn’t even see a couple of months ago. I am dreaming again and I have snagged a few more assignments.

I have also had a mortifying moment. I sent a draft, not my finished product, to a client. Not just any client but one I really wanted to impress. I didn’t realize it until she sent back some edits. Sadly, I struggled for a couple of hours before I realized what I had done. She was cool with it and said she had done that once herself.

I think my defining moment came on my other blog, kimjinspired.com. I shared more on my grief and my life since my parent’s death. I cried while writing it and I cry when I read it again. But I hear my mother’s voice telling me in her own way just to do it. So here I am, getting it done and hopefully making my parents proud.