Friday Links

Weekending.

October 24, 2015

Garden wall.

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Happy weekend! We are currently waiting out a hurricane and enjoying the much-needed rain. What are you up to this weekend?

If the weather has you home-bound, like us, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some cozy Internet reading (or an actual book!).

Good advice from a fantastic blog about blogging. (via Autumn Leaves Co.)

 

For couples that are or have been pregnant – hilarious. (via NYMag)

What’s your style? This quiz nailed it for me. (via Cup of Jo)

On mama-hood and work, this. (via Coffee + Crumbs)

America’s makers. (via Martha Stewart)

Ideas for journaling. (via Life Captured)

100 Project Life resources. (via Rukristin)

 

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Interviews

CONVERSATIONS: Running an Online Shop with The Bloom Print Project

August 24, 2015

Conversations_Shop_Bloom-PrintBloom Print Project | The Orange Slate(photo credit: The Bloom Prints Project)

On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. In August and September, the theme is RUNNING AN ONLINE SHOP. Today I’m excited to introduce you to Amy, a fellow mommy, my August almost twin, and a fabulous artist, teacher, maker, and blogger.

Tell me about your shop!

I owns and teach all ages at my eclectic art school, Bloom-Prints Art Studio, blog over at The Bloom-Print Project and serve as an art juror for an international art competition. The studio is based on the premise of inspiring and encouraging those of all ages – no matter where they are at in their creative journey, everyone can “BLOOM” right where they are {within their “bloom-print” of life}!

Amy also creates sweet “bloom loom” embroidery hoop art for childrens’ rooms and nurseries. All looms are hand-crafted from vintage fabrics of the highest quality and each silk bloom is hand-selected from local small businesses with whom Bloom-Prints collaborates. Bloom-Prints believes in collaborating continually with small business and uses fabrics and supplies strictly from vendors with whom she has created relationships. She is also currently writing, illustrating and publishing a sweet children’s book that is very dear to her heart.

Amy began her creative process making these sweet keepsakes when decorating for her daughter Mila’s nursery in the spring of 2014. She wanted something classic, charming, and full of whimsy, a touch of vintage, combined with a modern-day touch. After her nursery was featured on a Pinterest post by Disney Baby, requests for Bloom-Prints custom Hoop Art began to blossom and it makes Amy’s heart swell to think she can be the tiniest part of these sweet baby’s lives by creating a custom keepsake for their rooms.

Describe a typical day in your business.

Oh my word. This is a tough one as I run two small businesses, but the key for me is that I try to stay on a schedule as much as possible. Mornings until naps at 10 I try to dedicate to Mila and development. On days I work from home, it’s books, prayer time, a cup of tea for me and veggie melts for her as we play on the floor. Then, naptime comes and I hit the ground running with planning for studio classes and creating art for customers.

We plan on walks every afternoon for fresh air and for a critical break time, (weather permitting) and of course making intentional time for home chores etc. Kavs (my husband) and I also plan intentional time to “unplug” every day, which is so needed in order to stay connected in this insanely distracting social media/smart phone world.

Do you feel like where you are was a clear goalpost or did it evolve?

I can honestly say my goal was to be used in the ways God wanted to. I knew when the timing was right, as long as I kept creating and being inspired, eventually I would get to where I hoped to be in business.  I want to be in His sweet spot for me, if that makes sense. So If He didn’t open doors, then I didn’t want it. When I started my studio, after days and weeks on my knees in prayer, doors started flying open that I never expected. So I suppose you could say it just happened , but I truly believe the doors were opened. The looms, those became a small business that I NEVER planned however. They were a fun thing for Mila that suddenly started to blossom.

What is your greatest daily challenge right now?

The ever so true mama and work balance. When I leave for the studio, I wish I were snuggling Mila. When I’m at the studio I love it, but can’t wait to be home with Kavs and Mi.

What part of your daily juggle are you most proud of right now?

I am always a work in progress, but am just so thankful to be working and to have wonderful clients that want to work with me as I do what I LOVE!

Who are some of your mentors, role models, or inspirations?

Working moms and stay-at-home moms they both inspire me for so many reasons! The Instagram community floors me. It’s the everyday woman that I adore and learn soooo much from.

 

What is one piece of life advice or time management tip you’d give to someone worried about juggling a family, life, and a business or creative endeavor?

I actually have three!

  • If you have a spouse, get them on board and plan ahead. If my hubs had not supported me since day one, I would have never opened my doors. It’s been so enjoyable because we are a team and he believes in the studio mission.
  • Do what you are passionate about and the rest will follow. It’s a lot of work, but if you love it and it comes naturally, on the not-so-confident days, it’s a lot easier to wing it and learn as you go!
  • A LOT of grace – and rest on occasion! Even God rested on the seventh day. We decided to close on Sundays for that reason. I went to a schedule of rest from working 7am-10pm 7 days a week. It’s just dumb to do that to yourself.

What’s one goal for your business in the next year?

To get the message  of this children’s book that is so tremendously dear to my heart out into the hands of sweet babes and families.

What is the hardest part of your business for you?

Self promotion would be the hardest part for me! As much as I adore what I do, I hate promoting essentially “me,” because I teach 95% of classes. I want to celebrate others ahead of myself.

What are you most grateful for?

The sense of community! Tears shared on our wooden studio floor – priceless.

If you could start over and, knowing where you are now, change one thing, what would it be?

Nothing. God is good. All the time. I learned what I needed to through trial and error – only looking forward, not looking back!

Thank you so much for chatting with me, Amy! I absolutely adore your studio and your creations.

For the other conversations in this series, check out my conversation with Nicole and Meg.

As an aside, one book on my booklist is Jessica Turner’s The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. It’s been recommended to me as wonderful encouragement for moms trying to make more time to create.

NOTES:

Connect with Amy and Bloom Prints Studio: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | web site.

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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Friday Links

Friday Links.

August 7, 2015

Morning | The Orange Light

Baby | The Orange Slate

It’s Friday! What are your weekend plans? We have entered the deepest, most sweltering days of summer over here. My weekend plans involved air-conditioning, cool drinks, and maybe a frigid museum. Did I mention air-conditioning?

Here are some links to brighten up your weekend:

A list of culinary vocabulary for the aspiring chef. (via Darling Magazine)

An interview on teaching empathy to children, Danish parenting, and how stories can help. (via MOTHER)

These free Powerpoint templates are amazing. I downloaded them this week and they have already saved me so much time. (via HubSpot)

Why you need to write everything somewhere. (via Creative Something)

25 famous women talk about being in charge. (via New York Mag)

There is too much adorableness in this wallpaper.  (via Design*Sponge)

Some photography tips. (via Oh My Dear)

Why having a side gig could be the best thing for your career. (via Levo)

7 great podcasts. (via Balance and Blueberries)

The video on ethical fashion that may have changed my life. (via True Cost Movie)

 

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Interviews

Conversations about Creativity.

July 30, 2015

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Mission Bay, San Diego | The Orange Slate

While I’ve been investing a bit of extra time behind the scenes around here to line up some exciting topics for the late summer and fall, I’ve been sharing interviews from past series. (If you are excited about the upcoming interviews, subscribe by providing your email in that box in the right-hand column.)

I’ve so enjoyed talking to the friends who have been willing to share their hearts, but one of my favorite topics (and one of the focus points of this blog) is creativity, so this series was especially exciting for me.

In this (over)busy, (over)connected age, it takes intentional effort to make time to create something truly significant. If you haven’t seen these before, I hope you enjoy the encouragement, inspiration, and rich examples provided by the lovely friends who were willing to be interviewed for this series:

Here are some quick takeaways from this interview series. Pin them as encouraging reminders to yourself!

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Craving more inspiration? Check out these links:

And for more practical encouragement on incorporating creativity into your schedule (especially a schedule involving small children), check out the wonderful book by Amanda Blake Soule (of SouleMama) The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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Interviews

Conversations about Creativity with Katie

May 4, 2015

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Creativity with Katie Albania | The Orange Slate

On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. In April and May, the theme has been CREATIVITY. Today I’m excited to introduce you to Katie, a fellow blogger and new mommy (she also has two of the cutest dogs!). Katie and I have never met in person, but we have so many things in common that I feel like I know her (among the things we have in common – our babies were born days apart!). I love it when the world of social media feels small and cozy, don’t you?

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative?

Honestly, I haven’t. And I’m not sure even do now, at least not in the sense that it’s my strongest trait, a specific hobby, or part of my career. So I had to think hard about the ways I am creative. I think any creativity I have was developed from two very specific sources when I was a kid- observing my mom and being in 4H. We never had tons of money growing up, so a huge garden and homemade cooking were staples for us.

Watching how my mom tackled everything on the budget {that requires tons of creativity!} was always fascinating to me. And 4H? I know it seems random. But I was in it for 10 years {with projects from foods and gift wrapping to health and consumer clothing}, exhibiting nearly 100 separate projects over that time. I was so stretched to be creative and think outside the box and push myself! Both of those have poured over into my life now.

What are your creative outlets?

I would say I am most creative in how I encourage others. Maybe the sounds silly, but as a social worker and therapist, I have learned so much about relating to others and identifying emotional needs. Every single person needs to be heard and feel understood, but that can look a million different ways.

The way I approach people {whether in actual therapy sessions or in my everyday relationships} is unique and creative. I like to show up for people in ways they maybe aren’t used to and don’t expect, but in ways that encourage them. This could be sending a letter in the mail, dropping off fresh baked brownies on a doorstep, or planning a really fun girl’s night out!

Everyone is so busy! How do you make time to be creative?

Because my creative outlet {relationships with others} is a part of my regular life, I think this just happens naturally for me. Sometimes I’m crazy busy and don’t have time to connect with people in creative ways, but I always feel that gap. I am in a routine of mailing one package a month {a different friend each time!} and two letters a week. Having those constants reminds me to stay creative in loving other people in my life as well.

Who inspires you?

My mom! She is SO creative and is always doing fun things to let us know she cares. Also, Instagram. I’ve intentionally filled my Instagram feed with people who do life in a way that I’d want to- not because I compare myself to them, but because I’m encouraged by them. So I follow women who decorate their homes intentionally, who follow hard after Jesus and share their wisdom along the way, mom’s who raise their kid’s in ways I’d like to, etc. I think surrounding yourself {online and in real life} with people you’d love to be like is so important!

What do you do when you’re in a creative rut?

Read a book or go to coffee with a friend. I’m an introvert, so both of those things fill me up and bring me back to basics!

 Why do you think it’s important to make time for creativity?

Every single person has a creative side- they may just not realize it because they don’t explicitly make/sell artwork on Etsy. Because of that, I think we all need to give ourselves room to create and grow; whether that’s through leadership roles at work, parenting, loving on others, or actually running a handmade Etsy shop.

What are ways you’ve challenged yourself or grown as a creative?

In my professional life, I’ve worked really hard to make play therapy fun and effective for the kids with whom I work. From making up games, art projects, etc, I’ve tried to find fun ways to help kids feel safe and begin to address the issues on their plates. In my real life, I’ve stretched myself to just do something, anything. I think sometimes we second-guess ourselves or think it could turn out silly or we might fail, but there is so much value in the process! I’ve learned the most and felt the most creative when I just simply act on a small idea!

What are some creative goals you have for yourself?

I’d love to start something for women in my community. Maybe a monthly Bible study or mentorship program. Stay tuned!

Check out the other interviews in this series with LindsayMonicaGwen, and myself.

And for more practical encouragement on incorporating creativity into your schedule (especially a schedule involving small children), check out the wonderful book by Amanda Blake Soule (of SouleMamaThe Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.

NOTES:

Connect with Katie: Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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Interviews

Conversations about Creativity with Emily

April 27, 2015

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Creativity | The Orange Slate

On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. In April and May, the theme is CREATIVITY and there are just a few more really wonderful interviews to come. But for today, I’m going to tackle the questions myself.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative?

Yes and no. I’ve always loved to create with words. And as a pianist, I’ve always felt like music was tightly connected to creativity. But it wasn’t until the last few years that I saw creating as a broader brush (pun totally intended) that could apply to every facet of my life. Also, despite all of the art lessons my mom tirelessly signed me up for, I’m not the most talented with visual media.

So it’s taken me a while to get brave enough to experiment and stretch in this area, because I know that what I produce doesn’t hold to candle to what other can do. But when I started to think about creativity as something that is good for me, something that is good to practice no matter what the result, I started to be more intentional about trying things and creating, even with imperfect results.

What are your creative outlets?

Writing. This blog. Photography. Different memory-keeping projects. Also, motherhood. I think we talk a lot about how one needs outlets from motherhood (and this is true!), but few people told me how much motherhood itself would become an outlet of sorts for me to be creative. With a growing baby, I am constantly on the lookout for new projects, new games, new ways to play, new ways to help Miles experience the world. My sensory board project was a moment of realization for me – that Miles and I can actually enjoy being creative together. As he gets older I think these kind of experiences will only get better and richer.

Everyone is so busy! How do you make time to be creative?

It would be disingenuous to say that this isn’t really tough. I’m sure it’s tougher for others, but it gets a little crazy around here sometimes – Mark is in school full-time, we both work part-time, and of course we both want to spend as much time as we can with Miles. I try to be disciplined about things that I really want to do. I blog regularly, in part, because of this. If I don’t make a steady habit of it, it won’t happen. I try to commit to projects like CREATE2015 to help inspire myself to try things. I make time to organize my week and if there isn’t enough time for everything, I prioritize and toss to-dos or get up earlier. Some weeks, I feel more tired than creative. But simply being intentional and goalsetting and continuing to work towards carving out time for creativity is a huge part of the battle, I think.

Who inspires you?

Miles and Mark, for sure. Mark is always such a supportive cheerleader, however random and far-fetched my projects. Watching the pure joy of Miles as he experiences life and discovers his world is inspiring – I feel as if I’m rediscovering the world. Bloggers, chefs, entrepreneurs, and artists who have been intentional about their dreams and successful at reaching their goals inspire me. Authors, from now and decades and centuries past are always a source of inspiration.

What do you do when you’re in a creative rut?

I feel like I experience more creative walls than ruts. By that, I mean that I tend towards perfectionism and organization, so sometimes an abundance of possibilities and options overwhelms me to the point of paralysis. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled out a huge pile of pictures only to stare at them in helplessness and just pile them back in the box. Sometimes searching for inspiration from others (Pinterest!) on a similar project helps. But really, it’s normally more beneficial for me just to take a break, go outside, play a game with Miles, read, cook dinner, and revisit the project when I’m in a better frame of mind or have a clearer vision.

 Why do you think it’s important to make time for creativity?

So much of our sense of purpose and meaning is tangled up in creativity. I think God has put these enormous wells of creativity into each of us and – if we’d only be brave enough to let it out of the box a little, in whatever way that looks for our careers or hobbies or families – we’d be amazed at the results. One of my favorite quotes is by Dorothy Sayers: “It is our task to rebuild the world along creative lines.” I think continually creating is part of what redeems us and our world.

What are ways you’ve challenged yourself or grown as a creative?

I’m trying to allow myself to try projects (especially things that fall under that “traditional crafting” umbrella) that I used to just assume were for people who were far more talented than me. Projects like painting lyrics on canvas (ridiculous example, I know) are just so intimidating to me and I realize I’m probably missing out on a lot of fun. So I’m trying to challenge myself to try projects that I know I won’t be succeed at on the first try or that might take practice. I’m also trying to practice just executing. I act as though there’s some kind of bar out there that my memory-keeping or projects have to hit and I intimidate myself with grand illusions and then never start. I’d be better off just starting and (even finishing) something that’s not perfect but that is done. So I’m challenging myself to just execute more this year.

What are some creative goals you have for yourself?

I would love to complete our wedding album and Miles’ 1-year album in the next year. I think one of my Goals with a capital G is to learn how to build a family life and home that encourages and embraces creativity for Mark and me and Miles in an authentic way, even if current schedules and routines don’t allow for crafting or memory-keeping or whatever we brand traditionally as “creative pursuits”. Even if that just looks like time for reflection, imagination, creative thinking, reading or growing a tiny potted garden, then I want to embrace and cultivate that space.

Check out the other interviews in this series with KatieLindsay, Monica, and Gwen.

And for more practical encouragement on incorporating creativity into your schedule (especially a schedule involving small children), check out the wonderful book by Amanda Blake Soule (of SouleMamaThe Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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On Everyday Rituals.

April 14, 2015

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The Orange Slate | On Everyday Rituals3

It’s early morning. The sky is beginning to groggily make its way to light and I’m waiting on my French press. Coffee is such an important morning ritual for me. I just need a couple of minutes of silence and my cup of coffee and I can take on the day. Most mornings find me up just a few minutes before Mark and Miles so I can embrace this simple thing.

Rituals are funny, aren’t they? They’re the tiniest pieces but when they’re missing, the whole day feels like it’s been thrown off, like our world is rocking. Rituals are more than routines – routines, to me, are just what we are used to doing, the rote of everyday. Rituals are those gems that we relish in the midst of the ordinary chaotic mundane, those comforting signposts that whisper “Everything will be ok.”

I can think of a few more for myself. When I was working long hours on the Hill, I would start my day with a few minutes of reading every morning – nothing terribly remarkable, just whatever book I was working my way through at the moment.

The Orange Slate | On Everyday Rituals2

In college, I would read something for a few minutes before going to sleep – something purely for fun (no assigned reading allowed).When my family congregates in San Diego for reunions, we always get donuts from the same shop on the corner. I have no idea whether their donuts actually taste better or worse than any others nearby. The donuts from the Vietnamese take-out shop are in a class of their own, rendered sacred by decades of repetition.

Motherhood brings it’s own set of (ironically ever-changing) rituals with it. There was the nursing ritual when Miles was brand-new – the frequent fill-water-glass-latch-baby-rock-gently while listening to the gentle clicking of infant nursing. Now we have bedtime rituals – a bath, books, songs, a prayer, more nursing.

Marriage, like motherhood,  –  has its own set of rituals, those quiet stakes you hold on to as you’re carving one life out of two. Mark and I don’t put a ton of effort into formal fancy dates, but on the weekends or when we travel, we love to sit outside and drink coffee in the morning. Walking has been one of our rituals. – so many walks. Beach walks and walks in the woods and walks in whatever city we’ve found ourselves in.

Certain shows have become rituals  – Friday Night Lights, Downton Abbey. We try to go to bed at the same time as each other  – it doesn’t work every night between homework and work and baby’s schedule, but it’s more the rule than the exception.

Having a baby makes me think a lot more about rituals, since babies basically measure their whole day in routine. But rituals keep serving the same purpose for adults. Without my rituals in place, I’m as cranky and out of sorts Miles without his bath and story. When my rituals are in place, I’m calmer, I’m happier, I have more breathing space to be creative and give my best. (For more on this, I highly recommend Margin, a book that substantially altered the way I handle time and commitments when I read it in college.)

Part of this could be a planner-personality-problem. I’m sure those who tend toward planning hold on to more routine. But I would venture to guess that all of us, even the most spontaneous and unplanned among us, have a ritual or two.

So what are your rituals, those pieces of your everyday that you cling to, that you build around, that you miss? It’s good sometimes to shake out our days and identify those markers of sanity and calm. Find them. Write them down. Treasure them. (And if you’re willing, share in the comments. I’d love to hear about yours.)

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Friday Links

Friday Links

April 10, 2015

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It’s early Friday morning and I’m waiting on my French press. The weekend schedule is a little busy around here, but I’m looking forward to some down time. I have some of little project to-dos, like organizing and backing up our pictures, ahead of me and I’d like to check out our local farmer’s market tomorrow.

I also have an announcement regarding this blog’s email list coming next week. Make sure that you sign up (in that box in the right-hand corner) to receive updates so that you don’t miss it!

What are you up to this weekend?

There were so many fun pieces floating around this week!

This is a darling idea. (via Rue Mag)

5 basic cocktail recipes that everyone should master. (via Real Simple)

Post-baby beauty  tricks for a new mom. (via Mother Mag)

On the importance of being boring. (via Peggy Noonan)

A wake-up routine from a professional wake-up consultant.  (via The Chalkboard)

Become more creative with these steps. (via Fast Company)

This breakfast looks so yummy. (via Julia’s Album)

Some fun prompts (and a free printable) for memory-keeping for your children. (via Jenny Collier)

This. (via The EveryGirl)

How are your surroundings affecting you? (via Gretchen Rubin)

What are you reading this weekend?

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Career

My #Unfollow Experiment.

April 9, 2015

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I love social media. Everyone who has been reading this blog for fourteen seconds knows that. I am in love with all things Instagram-Pinterest-Twitter-take-another-picture-with-your-iPhone. Social media and the Internet have given us so many wonderful, enjoyable ways to share and be inspired by beautiful photos and words.

But one day recently, I realized that it was time to have a DTR with my social media. I felt like I was drowning. Feeds that I once enjoyed and where I once found inspiration felt like a black hole. I found myself scanning my blog feed frantically, waiting for something useful to leap off the page in the midst of tons of word clutter.

Instagram, my best bud, had become this sticky mixing pot of inspiration and family and friends and acquaintances and friends of friends that I met briefly years ago and spouses of people who used to be friends but whom I hadn’t talked to in forever and friends of friends that I met at parties that I can’t now place who I really clicked with but then we never actually ended up meeting up for coffee and so I don’t understand why I now see every meal that they eat.

My social media feed had turned into that bad party where you pretend to like someone you are standing next to while you frantically scan the room for your actual friend who never turns up.

And then I read about one woman’s adventure in unfollowing. And one creative’s radical approach to Instagram. And this plea for an Internet Holy Year of Mercy. I knew I wasn’t alone. There was a way for me to take back my social media consumption and my sanity. The answer was within my reach. I just needed to act.

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Here were the biggest, most glaring problems with my social media streams.

1. I was following people in the wrong channels for the wrong reasons. I would follow people because I felt obliged to follow them back if they followed me, even if their feed provided me with no inspiration or encouragement or anything good whatsoever. I would follow people for the same reason people stay in bad relationships. Some vague sense that maybe we were friends or could be friends or should be friends kept them in my streams, even though actual relationship ground was, like, nada.

(I’m not saying you have to be actual friends with people to follow them. But one shouldn’t follow Instagram accounts under false pretenses. Like in any good relationship, you should know where you stand and why you stand there.)

2. I was following the same people in multiple places, so a great deal of my content was duplicative. (Thanks, Jeffrey Kalmikoff, for pointing this out.) I would see the same pictures on Facebook and Instagram and like them both places (often, the second time, again simply out of some cloudy feeling of obligation.)

3. I was following friends, inspiration, and acquaintances on channels where they had accounts but weren’t active. So if I had a friend who was on Instagram and Twitter, even if she only used Instagram, I would still follow her both places. This is a totally futile endeavor. Multiple this by 200 and the futility factor is sky-high.

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Why do we do this to ourselves? Part of it, for me, was FOMO. I was terrified to miss out (what exactly I might be missing out on is unclear). I was afraid to miss a great article, an important update, a cool shot.

But isn’t that part of the whole grand scheme that keeps us hooked to our screens? We are utterly terrified that somewhere, something really great is going to happen and WE ARE GOING TO MISS IT. OR BE LEFT OUT. OR SOMETHING.

This is irrational fear. This is ridiculous. And this is making us all a little crazy. First of all, I cannot follow every single thing that every other person in the world does. Even if it’s all awesome. There aren’t enough seconds. So even attempting such a thing is totally ridiculous. And let’s admit it: most of what is on Instagram and Twitter is not awesome at all. A good chunk of it is entirely meaningless to the majority of the population.

The other part of the equation of for me was a fuzzy sense of polite obligation to follow and “like”. The Internet’s moral codes of politeness are still being honed, but following is not an obligation. It is a choice to consume or not consume.

I found myself following bloggers that I love and then routinely becoming irritated during the day as they Instagrammed their perfect (through the lens of Instagram) life: “Beautiful breakfast!” “Followed by cute baby napping!” “Followed by new haircut!” and then “Date night in new gorgeous outfit with perfect makeup!”

I was suddenly less content with my breakfast eaten with one hand while playing with Miles who was not napping because he believes that a nap strike every other day is perfectly normal, in a ponytail and yoga pants because I didn’t have time to shower or answer my work emails, much less get a haircut. This times 15 blogs times every day was a lot of irritation.

This is not a criticism of aforementioned bloggers or their Instagram accounts. I still follow the same bloggers and I still love their content. But if I am routinely becoming discouraged instead of encouraged and annoyed instead of inspired, I need to disconnect from the pieces that are dragging me down and focus on things that fill me with joy. In this case, it was blogger overload. They may take pictures for a living, but I don’t have to consume every single image they produce.

This is part of intentional living, of choosing what comes in and what gets my time and what holds my attention and where I spend my energy. I realized that I just needed to practice what I know about being intentional in a (heretofore) very unintentional space.

Here’s what really scared me into action: I began to realize that every needless word, every pointless article, every headline I scanned and skipped, every picture that held nothing for me was actually taking (in tiny microscopic bits) my time, my day, my year, and my life. Literally. From myself, from my family, from the creating that I am actually supposed to be doing.

Are those milliseconds? Yes, of course. But those milliseconds add up. I needed to do so serious purging for the same reason that I leave the television set turned off during the day and the same reason that I choose my reading material with care. Those little margins that we reclaim are what make the difference. Were any of those useless pieces of social media, added together, worth one less conversation with Mark, one less game with Miles, one less real book that I actually want to read? Absolutely not.

And so my unfollow campaign began. I determined to squeeze every drop of futility, pretense, and time-wasting out of my feeds. I was going to take back control of my social media accounts.

First, I turned to Instagram. I scanned through my list and unfollowed almost half of my list. To decide if an account stayed or went, I asked myself:

  • Am I personally attached to this person? (I.e., do I talk to this person regularly, do we share life offline, am I interested in hearing about their coffee-cups and family reunions and children?)
  • (If yes to the above, then) Does this person post regularly in this channel? (Or should I be following them somewhere else to more effectively stay in touch?)
  • Am I inspired, encouraged, or motivated by this feed?
  • Do I frequently interact with this person, either in person or through comments, blogs, etc.? (And, if yes, does this person post in this channel regularly?)

If I couldn’t answer yes to one of the above, I unfollowed. (Tip: If you do this, move FAST. Don’t think too long or hard about this. Go with your gut.)

Side-note: Was it weird to unfollow actual friends? Yes. But if we are friends on Facebook (for instance) and we actually interact there, then it doesn’t make sense to also follow them on Instagram. Or vice versa. I used this not as a time to *unfriend* people but to decide whether Instagram was the best possible way to keep up with this friend. If the purpose was already being served via Facebook or Twitter or some other channel, then Instagram was simply duplicative.

The second hard truth about this is that a lot of people that I follow because of “friendship” are not actually my friends. The world of Facebook has made friendship such a funny thing. We think we are connected to people who we will probably never see or talk to again. We think we have long-lasting relationships with people that, were more effort required of the relationship, we wouldn’t consider a part of our circle.

This is harsh, but it’s true. Brothers’ old girlfriends? Not actually my friends. Bridesmaids in weddings that I attended years ago? Not actually my friends. Girlfriends that I text and talk to on a regular or semi-regular basis? There are about 8. There are not 50. If we tell ourselves that we actually have 500 close friends, most of us are lying to ourselves.

Next came Twitter. I used the same questions and unfollowed almost 2/3 of my feed. I follow a lot of news accounts, journalists, etc.  on Twitter for work purposes, but I was still able to do a lot of purging.

Sometimes I would run across an account that was connected to a blog that I loved. But if I followed the blog in Feedly and/or on Pinterest, then it was likely that I was already seeing updates and inspiration from the blog. Again, the principle of duplicative content: DELETE.

At the end of the process, I was annoyed at myself for having followed so many accounts that were so easy to delete for so long. And a little exhilarated, because purging, all purging, is good for the soul.

This morning, when I checked Instagram, there was far less content. And it was refreshing. I actually looked at my Twitter feed this morning because I knew that the channels on there were resources I had intentionally chosen to allow onto my screen.

And then, this afternoon, I spent more time writing, because I had more energy that was not being drained away through the Internet Black Hole of Passive Consumption. Day 1 of my #UnfollowProject was a success.

We need to be creating more and consuming less. Purging your closets, cupboards, and feeds is an easy beginning.

And what about me? What about this blog? My Instagram account? My Twitter feed? If I don’t inspire you, encourage you, motivate you toward better living, please unfollow. Make it the first step in your own #unfollowproject.

The first step of living intentionally is to stop wasting our time on that which is not for us.

(If you’re interested in reading more about this kind of intentional living, check out Richard Swenson’s Margin, one of the most life-changing books I have ever read.)

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting The Orange Slate!

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Interviews

Conversations about Creativity with Monica

April 6, 2015

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On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. In April and May, the theme is CREATIVITY and I’ll be chatting with some wonderful (and very creative!) friends about how they incorporate creative talents and impulses into their lives and schedules.

Today’s interview is with Monica. Monica and I have never met in person, but we’ve been online buds for over a decade now (how weird is that??). Monica is a self-taught crafter – she makes fantastically beautiful creations (including gorgeous jewelry) out of wood, bone, and leather. Be sure to check out her portfolio and shop here.

It baffles me that Monica is able to find the time in between chasing three active boys to create and practice her craft (something she addresses in the interview), but I’m so inspired by the work that she does and by what she had to say about creativity during our interview.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative?

Unlike some, I didn’t considered myself creative as a child. I had no taste for decorating or sewing, much preferring to duck out and ride a horse or take a walk. I don’t even have much fashion sense. I gained a reputation in our family for a general lack of creativity, and really believed it of myself. Eventually, I developed a crippling fear of failure that kept me from trying anything at all.

Then I met my husband, and everything changed. He’s a very creative sort (“artsy”, my mom calls him), and implicitly believed I could do whatever I liked. I could draw if I wanted. I could paint if I wanted. I just had to work hard at it. That really brought me to a new understanding of creativity. You can’t force it. Your creativity is bound up in what excites and energizes you. The challenge becomes finding out what it is.

What are your creative outlets?

I love leather. I love the smell of it and the feel of it. I love making useful things out of it. For me, sewing leather is a relaxing, exhilarating, and sometimes infuriating experience. The potential is amazing, and while sometimes the result is disappointing, making an object that will be in daily use really inspires me. I also get excited about trying new recipes in the kitchen, writing occasionally for my blog, and playing music.

Everyone is so busy! How do you make time to be creative?

I hate to admit it, but I make time by not doing housework. Also, by not reading much, not playing mandolin, or doing anything else relaxing. I manage an hour or so in the afternoon, and then another two after the kitchen is cleaned and the boys put to bed. If my husband didn’t feel so strongly about the importance of creativity, I’d be sunk. Don’t get me wrong – I do clean my house. But it is never, ever in a state of perfect cleanliness. And I do read, but 75% of the time I listen to an audiobook.

Who inspires you?

My husband and his friends had a conversation at work over the course of several years, discussing the difference between being a consumer and someone who contributes something real to society – ideas, art, or something more tangible. I find that idea hugely compelling. I am also inspired by people who work hard, and people who are humble and passionate about what they do.

What do you do when you’re in a creative rut?

I used to experience a lot more creative frustration. I felt that to claim originality, I had to create new ideas out of a vacuum. It was extremely frustrating, but I felt anything else was cheating or plagiarism. After spending a year working on my own, I realized I would never get anywhere until I immersed myself in the subject,, which also meant getting involved with people and making myself vulnerable by showing my work. Now I spend a good hour a day seeing what other people make, trying out their ideas, and trying ideas that often don’t work. I found that learning is imitating, and once you gain enough experience, you can start adding small innovations of your own. And the process has rewarded me with several unexpected friendships along the way.

One friend likes to say that when it comes to solving a problem, everything is relevant. You can find the answer to your creative dilemma in the strangest of places, be it in your kitchen, or related to the book you just finished. I’ve learned to be open to cross-pollination between my hobbies. Often times, I tried something new, and while I didn’t end up liking it permanently, it sometimes improves my abilities in another, unexpected area.

Now when I get the between-projects doldrums, I spend two or three days surfing the web and reading a book. It feels like wasted time sometimes, but it’s really just part of the process.

Why do you think it’s important to make time for creativity. 

I think creation is bound up in the nature of God, and if we’re made in the image of God, then creativity is in our nature as well. I think we find contentment and happiness in the act of creation. I was content before I discovered my passion, but I didn’t regularly experience the excitement and intense satisfaction I do now. I want my kids to see that life can be exhilarating and fulfilling, not just a 9-5 grind of normality punctuated by searches for amusement.

What are ways you’ve challenged yourself or grown as a creative?

At first, my husband had to talk me into new creative endeavors. He’d help me assemble all the tools and he’d try it first. I’ve come a long way since then, thank goodness. I’m ready to try some things I would never have dreamed of even a year ago. I’m learning to take my failures without feeling too embarrassed, and trying things that are out of my comfort zone. I love it when someone asks me to make something special for them. Usually it’s not something I would have considered, and it forces me to learn how to do something I’ve never done before.

What are some creative goals you have for yourself?

I have a lot of far-fetched goals, one of them being boot making. Maybe one day. Practically speaking, it’s less a matter of goals, and more a matter of hours and hours of practice and experience. However, one of my pet goals is to start making time to teach my boys how to make some cool accessories for themselves.

Thank you for sharing, Monica!
Check out the other interviews in this series with KatieLindsaymyself, and Gwen.

And for more practical encouragement on incorporating creativity into your schedule (especially a schedule involving small children), check out the wonderful book by Amanda Blake Soule (of SouleMamaThe Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.

NOTES:

Connect with Monica and Jacobson Leather: Instagram | Pinterest | web site.

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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