A Pep Talk for Creative Types

Hey you artsy soul, trying to make an impression on the world…

a pep talk for creative types

You’ve picked a hell of a path, haven’t you? People think it’s crazy to spend so many waking hours living with your imagination once you’ve hit age eleven or so, but you just can’t help yourself, can you? I’ll bet there are days you think it’s crazy too.

Sure, you have a job that pays the bills. Sometimes you probably even like it. You and I both know there isn’t a single second when you aren’t thinking about your other work. That creative work that doesn’t pay you a dime most of the time, but fills your soul until it’s near to bursting. Except when it doesn’t.

You know those moments where you take a good long look at yourself and say “Seriously, why are you still doing this?” When you stop and count the hours you’ve devoted to your creativity and measure that against the financial dividends of that time investment, do you feel a little sick sometimes? Is there a niggling voice inside your head telling you that it’s time to ‘grow up’? Is that voice telling you that your art isn’t going anywhere?

Well, guess what? I feel the exact same way. Especially right now as I’m typing this. My nay-saying inner monologue is practically screaming, but I know with certainty that as sure as I will not make a cent from my writing this month, I will also come back to it again and again. I will write until my dying day, and it’s not because I have some delusion that I’m poised to become the next bestselling novelist, it’s because I have to write. Even if my stories are absurd, even if I never quite master this craft, I know that when I am not writing I am slowly dying inside.

I’ve had a lot of creative pursuits that I’ve left by the wayside. You’ve probably done the same. There are other avenues I’d like to explore (like pottery!) before I leave this life, but writing is in my blood. You know the feeling. Even in your most frustrated moments you can’t walk away from something that is so much a part of you.

And you shouldn’t.

If your art does nothing more than feed your soul and give you a reason to keep moving through your days, that is a gift worth more than any pay check. If your art helps you contextualize the insanity of the world and seek out the beauty in any situation, you are armed with a power few possess. Build your life carefully around your gifts so you can support your creative space and keep enjoying those personal rewards. I have total faith that if you invest so deeply and create from a place of personal pleasure and power you will make exactly the kind of mark you hope to leave on the world. You probably already have.


cat skinner



Tasting My Own Medicine

You know how I’m always saying how important our passions are, and how we all deserve to make more time for them in our lives? Well, I’ve kind of been a jerk about this in my own world. It’s a kind of ‘do as I say’ situation around here right now, but I think I may have had a break through this weekend in tasting my own medicine.
Tasting My Own Medicine PIN

On Friday I packed up my computer, my huge printed copy of my manuscript, and very little else and drove about four hours north of where I live for my first ever writing retreat experience. It was a a small gathering of totally inspiring, encouraging super women and I felt so very lucky that this opportunity kind of fell in my lap.

You’ll notice I haven’t written much lately. I did that thing again, where I decide that money-earning work is more important than soul-satisfying work, and while sometimes they are the same, the two don’t always co-exist. My writing found its way onto the chopping block again. No blog posts. No novel revisions.

At this retreat, I had a LOT of silent time to work on my revisions, and I ate it all up. I skipped out on swimming in the lake despite the gorgeous weather. I only indulged in one short walk. If you tried to find me, I would nearly always be on the screened porch, overlooking the water and the trees, typing FURIOUSLY. It just didn’t feel like enough time.

We broke the day up with delicious meals we prepared for each other and with thoughtful and beautifully facilitated writing workshops. These were amazing, but I found there was an angry beast inside me that just wanted to keep pounding away at the novel, so painfully aware that there was a real risk it would start collecting dust again as soon as I made it back to the city. I felt guilty, because I wasn’t totally present for the other stuff, even though it was important, and fun. I was a bit singular in my focus and I fear that I came off disinterested and detached. Maybe the other stuff helped feed the monster inside me who just couldn’t stop writing? The beautiful little sign beside my bed let me know every night that ‘there is no wrong way to do this’.

Never mind that guilt business. I don’t want that feeling to be my takeaway, not when there were so many other feels: inspiration, admiration, love, peace, purpose, excitement, wonder, fear. My goal was accomplished. I got to revise about nine chapters, which feels good. I also created two new scenes. And, most importantly, I woke up an hour early this morning to keep the momentum going. I need to write. Every day. Or else all of the other ducks in my life start to quack out of their rows. Or else I’m not living the life I want myself to live.

Beyond the still silence of the lake, the chilling morning call of the loons and the musky/damp riches of the trees, one of the stand out impressions from my weekend were the forget-me-nots. Their cheery little periwinkle heads popped up everywhere, lining every path, arranged with little fern fronds for dinner table decor. It was a constant reminder to myself of how important this kind of space is.

Here’s a little sample of my workshop writing. It’s not from my novel, just a little poetry exercise. It’s rough, but I wanted to share a little bit from the weekend.


I wanted love.

I got more than I could ever imagine.

I wanted a family.

I found one ready-made, and made just for me.

I wanted to experience the heights and depths of life.

Then I looked at death as many times as it takes

to touch the finger tips on both of my hands.


I wanted to create life.

First I created worlds,

then I created an institution.

Now I’m creating a tiny legacy with words.


I wanted a child,

And three humbling wonders reached

for my unworthy hands with sticky digits

They showed me that I knew exactly nothing about myself.


Now all I want is to deserve it all.

To show up for it over and over again.

Open, unafraid of my newly discovered softness,

Yielding to the splendor of just simply being here

With my heart in my sometimes steady hands.

10 Steps to Your Passion

I’m not convinced that February is the most passionate month, despite what all of those promoters of Valentine’s Day try to tell us. Over here, I like to celebrate romance, passion, and especially self-love throughout the year. Maybe that’s because when I think of passion, it isn’t just tied to the concept of romance. Despite all the hearts and chocolates, February usually marks the time when I start to feel like I need a little something more. More sunshine, more excitement, more fresh air, more reasons to move my body. Though I do have a little Valentine’s Day treat in store for you, I thought there was no time better than today to start talking about real, practical ways to explore your passion. If you’ve been thinking about shifting some of your focus to a new, exciting outlet or adventure today’s  post will help get that oh-so-important ball rolling. Here are ten steps to start your own Passion Project, a checklist of sorts to help you explore deeper creativity and meaning in your life.

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How to Call Yourself An Artist

One of the hardest struggles I’ve faced in my professional life was having the courage to call myself an artist. I spent many years surrounding myself with artists, working for artists, and pursuing romantic relationships with artists, yet all the while, I felt like I was too scared to claim the title for myself. When I finally took the first tentative steps towards standing tall in my own artsy shoes, I realized that all along, I was looking to others for the very thing I needed to embrace in myself.

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Let’s Be More than Pretty

Wow crazy blood moon lunar eclipse, I don’t know if it’s cause I’ve got my moon flower (aka red tent time, aka hide me in a cave and leave me the hell alone) but I am awash in some kind of insane explosion of creativity. I can barely sleep, and for once the steady reel of tragedy and fear that plays on a loop in my brain is matched one for one by awesome ideas and inspiration. If it wasn’t so exhausting, I’d want this to be the norm. But I have three kids, one of whom is an almost-three-year-old, so I need my sleep, okay? Here’s a perfect example of what my interior looks like right now, and it all started with a picture:



This, my friends, is for the dogs. Literally. I snapped this while strolling through the tourist haven that is Niagara-on-the-Lake. At the time, I was delighted to find such a sweet little piece of pretty outside a high-end home goods shop. It seemed like a cute gesture on the part of the owners. Clever marketing, thoughtful. There’s even a fresh, live, flower. Lucky dogs!

But then, I also realized how I’d been struggling with my stroller to get in and out of nearly every tiny, over-packed store. Whenever I have a hard time with the stroller, I immediately think of people who use wheelchairs and scooters. If it’s a hassle for me, I can’t imagine how frustrating that must be for them. In a place like NOTL, there’s more wheelchairs and walkers than there are strollers, believe me.

Here’s the next layer. I live a blessed life. We are far richer in spirit than we are in our bank account, but we can make ends meet. The store that extended such a thoughtful gesture for the four-legged companions of their customers is way beyond my means, and frankly, even if I had that kind of spending cash, I can’t imagine ever throwing it around it in such a place. Which makes me think of the people who aren’t as lucky as me. Who stay up at night wondering how they’ll make their very limited resources feed their kids. They barely have enough, and every month is a struggle in making the most of very, very little.

Which sends my thoughts across the globe. Where people in plastic boats are drowning with their children because all they want is a safe life for their families. They live each day in terror, not just in Syria, but in so many other places. Here’s their reality; an over-packed dingy that cost them their life savings and may mean the death of everyone they love is a better alternative to the place they once called home. There is no sense of ‘home’ or ‘safety’ for so many of our brothers and sisters out there.

Never mind their fucking dogs.

So, what to do? Do I hate myself for my initial delight in this pretty display of hospitality. No, I can’t. I’m an artist – when I see something lovely, I like it. However, lovely and beautiful are not the same thing, and it’s what’s beneath the initial impression of loveliness that really counts for something. It’s pretty, I smiled, but what else is  in there? How can this relatively shallow gesture mean something more? How can a ploy to lure in customers turn into something greater?

It starts like this, I think. With our ability to reflect, ask questions, examine our own position, our values, the meaning behind everything that moves us either to smile or to weep in desperation and helplessness. Enjoy the silver platter, but be damned well sure you know how lucky you are that you can, and then add your voice to those who want so much more for everyone else. Our world is shrinking, and we have more power as a people than we ever have before. It’s fine to appreciate the snapshots of pretty that turn our heads and lift our spirits, but let’s be more. We can all be so much more.