Writing and Creativity As A Practice of Freedom

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Are you practicing your freedom today?

flags, photo by kristin nador

Happy Independence Day America!

July 4th is almost here. It’s a great day to relax, enjoy time with loved ones, do something American like go on family picnics (invented by the Victorian English), eat hot dogs (invented by the Germans), corn on the cob (first cooked by the Maya Indians), slurp snow cones (invented by Italians, specifically Roman emperor Nero), go to the local amusement park (invented by the Danish), blow up fireworks (invented by the Chinese), and attend a baseball game (uniquely American). A true celebration of America’s melting pot philosophy. I hope you and yours enjoy the holiday.

Americans are adept at waxing nostalgic and patriotic about our country, its amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty. We love to talk about how hard work can accomplish the American Dream, neighbors always help their neighbors when bad things happen, and anyone can grow up to be President. Those are good but occasionally naive sentiments. It’s not all as simple as apple pie, and never really has been.

But despite our shortcomings, we have freedoms here in America that we take for granted and are so ingrained in our society that we have a hard time realizing how millions live without them.

I want to tell you about a friend of my dear Keeper Hubby. Hubby participates in some online gaming. He loves those team strategy games and has made a coterie of friends from around the globe. One of his friends lives in a certain Middle Eastern country that shall remain unnamed. We’ll call him Fred, because I can’t reveal his name either.

Hubby and Fred were having one of their online chats the other day and Fred let it slip that he doesn’t like his country’s current leader. Hubby asked about his grievances, wanting to understand more about his friend’s culture. Fred said that there was no way Hubby could understand, but he had already said too much. If Fred said anything else about his country and its leader, he could be killed. It would be no trouble for authorities to track him down, and he would disappear and die. It was a common occurrence where he lived. Fred apologized and said several times that there was no way Hubby could really understand the situation, since he was an American. And Fred was right.

Americans have the right to an opinion, even if it disagrees with those in power. We don’t have to cower in fear that we will disappear in the night for our opinions and beliefs.

Americans have the right to speak our opinion, even if other people don’t like it, or it happens to be a generally unpopular stand.

Nowadays it seems like giving an opinion has shifted into hyperdrive with the ease of sharing them via social media. Social media enables instant feedback without filters, so viewpoints appear as status posts like swarms of locust. This can seem overwhelming, but that doesn’t dilute our right to speak our minds. And the flip side of the same coin, people’s right to accept or reject our opinions.

Respectful disagreement and debate are a sign of a healthy public square of ideas. Today’s digital citizens instead see it as a license to wield the barbed weapons of intolerance, hate, and shame. Dignity has been forced outside the gates of discourse in today’s society. Worthy of its own blog post, but we’ll leave it at that for now.

Writers and other creatives can express their opinions or reflect how they see our culture through the lens of their craft. This is not only an ability, a talent, but a right.

Did you know that every day you create, you participate in this grand experiment called America?

Every free thought you write, whether in a novel to be published, blogging about your favorite celebrity or nail polish, or a personal journal that will never be seen by another pair of eyes, you are practicing your freedom. Every song lyric, every sketch, every painting, every photograph, every blog post, even every Tweet, takes a stand for freedom.

A lot of people don’t understand this privilege. People and groups go so far as to keep others from using this privilege when they don’t agree with someone’s thoughts and words. Banning books from public venues like libraries, purposely editing news stories and books to avoid offense, social media shaming campaigns, even self-censorship by the authors themselves.

Works considered classics now were in the past subject to calls to keep them out of the public’s grasp: everything from Steinbeck to Hemingway, from To Kill A Mockingbird to The Great Gatsby. Contemporary writing is not immune to censorship challenges: the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games, novels by Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Isabel Allende, Anne Rice, and Stephen King, to name a few.

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Display at Yad Vashem of books burned by Nazis , photo courtesy of David Shankbone, 2007, Creative Commons

Despite those possibilities, every person has the right to write about whatever they want. The writing may promote lofty ideas or abhorrent ideas. It may be beautiful prose or terrible grammar. Publishers have the right to accept it or reject it, for whatever reasons they choose. And writers have the right to bypass those publishers and publish themselves.

And as writers have the right to write their words, readers have the right to read them or pass them by. We have the right to read what we like. Romance, science fiction, classic literature, or contemporary literary fiction. Bad storytelling and good storytelling. From 50 Shades to A Thousand Splendid Suns. It’s messy at times, but freedom has never been neat and tidy.

 

You have the right to write crap.

You have the right to publish said crap.

You have the right to sculpt beautiful words.

You have the right to make people happy with stories.

You have the right to call people to action with stories.

You have the right to voice your opinion.

You have the right to create worlds.

You have the right to share your heart through your words.

You have the right to change your world with your words.

 

How did the thirteen colonies convince one another that freedom was worth fighting for?

Words.

Words like…

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated” 

– Thomas Paine, The Crisis

 

How did abolitionists convince others that slavery was evil?

Words.

Words like…

“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” 

– William Lloyd Garrison

 

How did women get the right to vote?

Words.

Words like…

“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.” 

– Susan B. Anthony

We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy. Twenty million women are denied the right to vote.”

– Alice Paul

 

How did civil rights activists convince the country that separate but equal was never equal?

Words.

Words like…

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“You cannot be afraid to speak up and speak out for what you believe. You have to have courage, raw courage.”

– John Lewis

“There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.

– Mahatma Gandhi

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Civil rights march on Washington, DC August 28, 1963, photo by Warren K. Leffler, courtesy Library of Congress

 

With speeches, and songs, and poems from the heart.

 

I , too sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen. 

When company comes, 

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare 

Say to me, 

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.

Besides, 

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed–

– Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967)

 

Words.

Words are containers of power. More powerful than we take time to comprehend.

“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”

– Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 – 1864)

 

“Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.”

– Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

 

“Words kill, words give life;

they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.”

-The Message, Proverbs 18:21

 

The next time you feel worn down, frustrated, or disappointed about your current creative project, think about the privilege that you have to affect your life, your world, and THE world. Think not that you HAVE to write, but that you GET to write. You get to write, to create, in any form, in any place, any thing you want.

And the world needs your writing, your art, your words.

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An Illustration from Stories From The Ballads Told to the Children by Mary MacGregor, illustrations by Katherine Cameron, public domain

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

– Neil Gaiman

A friendly Independence Day reminder.

Are you practicing your freedom today?


How To Stage Your Home For Creativity

typewriter on shelf

Is your home staged for creativity?

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Have you set the stage in your home for maximum creativity potential?

It’s been a year since we sold our four bedroom home in Oklahoma and downsized to a 850 sq. foot apartment in Kentucky. We were excited for the job opportunity for Keeper Hubby, but not too keen on what it would take to get there. Our real estate agents advised removing most of our personal items and use key components to ’stage’ our home so buyers saw it in its best light. As we still had to live in the house until it sold, every time we got a call from a realtor asking for a showing, it became a race to make sure everything was ’stage perfect’. I’m sure many of you have experienced this. Talk about nerve racking!

I also became well-acquainted with the ins and outs of craigslist as I sold everything from jewelry to computer parts to book shelves to our living room furniture to downsize. (FYI, there is a buyer for almost anything you need to sell, no matter how inconsequential it may seem.)

When we got settled into out new nest, we purchased some living room furniture better sized for the small area. But one thing was missing: my office. After Artist Daughter moved out of the family home, I turned her bedroom into my own creative office space. It had only taken 25 years to get it! LOL

home office photo by kristin nador

My former happy home office

But now there is no room for an office. There is barely enough room for the student-style desk I kept. As in, there is room for the desk, no room to sit down. What to do?

Whether you are a writer, blogger, photographer, artist, musician, and everything in between, every creative needs time and space for creativity. You deserve it and the world needs your works.

While dealing with this issue, I discovered three main concepts that, just like staging your home for a sale, can help you stage your home for creativity.

Three steps to reinvent your space for creative output:

1. Remove clutter from your space

Clutter drains your energy that could be used for creative work. It also can in turn cause negative feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed, and guilt. There are many systems for decluttering, from a 4-box method (keep, throw away, give away, storage) to only keeping a certain number of items (33 clothing items, etc.), to giant weekend purges. Pick what method works best for you, but the most important thing to ask is ‘How does this item enhance my life?’

Even after all my downsizing, I spent this April, which was the one year anniversary of our move, going through things and asking myself whether I had even touched an item during the year. If not, why am I keeping it when my space is at such a premium?

Make your photos, books, and collectibles eye-catching and meaningful to you. A photo from a great vacation can be transformed into an inspiring art print of a beautiful landscape. Instead of a bunch of random nick-nacks, choose one that pops with color, and belonged to your grandmother.

pitcher set, photo by kristin nador

my beloved pitcher set, belonged to my great-grandmother

 

You won’t resent their presence, or the energy you have to expend to care for them. Remember, you expend energy every day to care for your items – you or someone in your household works for a paycheck to pay the mortgage/rent to house those items. Sometimes we even buy our items their own home – hello storage units!

Forget about trends, make room for what you truly love and brings joy to you.

 

2. Adapt your creative space

Just because you don’t have one area big enough doesn’t mean you don’t have the space for creative activities. You don’t have to have an entire room. Pick a corner, pick a box, pick a basket! When I realized I wasn’t going to get my office back, I reached back to an idea from my homeschooling days. For our homeschool studies we set up learning centers all around the house for the kids, like a math center with blocks, beads, magnetic numbers, dominoes, etc. and a music center with kid instruments, a tape player with microphone, and later a piano. Instead of learning centers, I have made creativity centers in my apartment: the ‘library’ where the few precious books I kept are attractively shelved, a mobile art area where I keep my coloring pencils and color books, and my writing station, with books, journals and files stacked on my desk.

home library, photo by kristin nador

all my favorite books

coloring books and pencils, photo by kristin nador

Getting inspired with color

 

Organize your supplies to make them aesthetically inviting to use. If possible, make your creative space mobile. That way you can adapt to what you need and what your space needs. With some nice boxes, baskets, or a mobile cart you can easily move from the kitchen table to the bedroom and back, if you need to straighten when company shows up.

Consider the mess quotient and attend to your space like a garden. When the ‘weeds’ of disorganization take over your spaces, you’ll be less likely to indulge your creative whims when it looks like all you’ll be doing is cleaning and organizing instead of enjoying a project.

Don’t forget to make room for collecting creative ideas. Build your own idea center: you can use a whiteboard and dry erase markers, post-its , bulletin board, even your refrigerator and magnets, or go digital with apps like Evernote and Pinterest boards.

3. Prime other areas of your house for creativity

Even though you might not use all the spaces in your home specifically for your creative pursuits, you can still use them to keep you inspired. Consider Feng Shui techniques when decorating your rooms. Feng Shui is a Chinese art of placement of your surroundings to promote good energy flow in your home. It’s a mindset that your home can promote the best atmosphere for calm, creativity, or energy with furniture placement and colors.

McCaine painting, Flowers, photo by kristin nador

My favorite wall art. Surround yourself with art that inspires you.

If that seems extreme for your needs, giving a room a little color may help creativity, focus, or mood. Color psychology has been used by the advertising and marketing industries for decades, so why not put it to use to help you reach your creative goals? If yellow traditionally promotes energy and warmth and focus, add a bright yellow throw pillow to the armchair where you sit to write, some cheerful wall art with swathes of yellow, or paint your walls in soft sunset colors. But you don’t have to stay married to traditional color psychology. Hate yellow? Pick whatever color you like and add it to your space in whatever way you find pleasing. The important thing is that you make it as inspirational a space to YOU as possible.

Lighting and noise are also areas you can control in your home to promote creativity. Some creative practices require bright light, but a dark and dim space may also promote freedom of thought, which in turn will give you a burst of creative activity. So try working with the curtains open, or by candlelight. If you can, try to eliminate harsh fluorescent overhead lighting, and add softer indirect lamplight around your rooms. Everyone is different so be open to experimentation.

Are you someone who works better with noise in the background, or do you need silence to focus on your project? Ambient noise can help mask abrupt noise distractions and keep your focus where it needs to be. Of course, when you share your creative space with others, some noise can be out of your control. How about wearing noise-canceling headphones? Running a white noise machine or app? Or if the sounds of a coffee shop do well for your background noise, make your special creative space mobile and head out for a cuppa or two.

Comfort and temperature can influence your creative space. Keep throw blankets near your creative space, waiting for you and your muse to snuggle up with, or sit near a window to let the cool breeze ruffle your inspiration. Have you thought about your seating? Do you have one really comfy spot where you can sit, think, and let the imagination flow?

Let something green makes its home in your creative space. Studies show that houseplants in a work environment make workers up to 40% more productive and creative. Why not use plants to your advantage? If you’re like me and don’t have the greenest of thumbs, start with one easy-to-grow plant and see how it goes.

Minimize distractions to creativity in your house. Are you ready to get extreme? Put a lovely curtain over your TV screen and cut down on the cable. Turn social media, the Godzilla of distraction for creatives, off on your computer and smart phone.

Maybe you hope to have that dream office, studio, or writing shed someday. Keep it alive in your imagination with a few key design pieces, make a vision poster, or collect ideas for it on a Pinterest board.

If you’ve ever replaced your carpet, painted the rooms, and scrubbed your home sparkling clean in order to sell it, you know that ah-ha moment of “Why didn’t I do this before so I could enjoy it myself?” Staging your home for creativity might bring the same “Why didn’t I do this before?” feeling. Throw off regret, enjoy your space today, no matter how big or small, and create!

What’s your tip to keep the creativity flowing in your home? Share in the comments or continue the conversation over at our blog Facebook page.

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Write Anywhere #81: Weekend Wanderings

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Do you ever plan to NOT make a plan?

I am a planner. I have lists, and lists of lists. It’s not that I am necessarily skilled at fulfilling the plan, but giving myself structure helps me make progress. Even with all my planning, I find myself in a general pattern of creative ups and downs. Spurts of creative productivity punctuated by dry spells  filled with frustration, anxiety, and low spirits. I’m working at being more balanced, but it will be a lifetime journey.

I don’t do well at spontaneous. It can even make me nervous. That whole facade of control, you know.

Some days though, the stars align, and I agree to throw out the list for the day. Keeper Hubby is good at helping me do that. He helps me get out of my always-so-serious mode and enjoy the moment, live in the present, and laugh at myself. Another one of so many reasons that he is a Keeper. ;)

We spent a day letting nothing in particular dictate our plans, and it refreshed my creative focus. Read More