Book Review – Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel, PhD.


I want to create, but creating is scary. It’s risky business – you risk failure, embarassment, ridicule and more. I bought Fearless Creating – A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Completing your Work of Art by Eric Maisel, PhD. in the hope that it will help me, not necessarily create more, but better, more meaningful art.

Unfortunately I was not brought up with an open mindset (see Carol Dweck’s book Mindset). I have been cursed with perfectionism and what that means is the results matter more than the process. I’ve gotten better but I’m not quite where I would like to be. I love the creative process but perfectionism focuses on results so if I don’t think I can achieve the results I want, then I drag my feet – for a long time (we’re talking decades). With needlecrafts, where my skill level is highly proficient. I have the technical expertise and I’m ready to go deeper to create something unique, personal, meaninful, artistic.

Will this book help me do that? Let’s find out.

The preface was what made me buy the book. It asks “where do unmet dreams reside?” and goes on to say:

That beautiful question is central to this book. Each of you has dreamed of creating and creating well. But in too many of us that dream remains unfulfilled.

– Eric Maisel, Fearless Creating

Book Summary

Eric gives creativity a different spin. Most books identify the creative process generally as: preparation, incubation, illumination, evaluation and verification. He classifies the stages as: wishing, choosing, starting, working, completing and showing. Each chapter goes into more detail of the stages. It identifies the anxiety a person is likely to feel during that stage and how to overcome it. The first three stages – wishing, choosing and starting – are my achilles heel. Specifically starting. The working, completing and showing stages don’t seem to create any conflict in my mind, but then again, I’m not a professional. This isn’t my full-time job. I have the luxury of not worrying if there is a market for my work. One day, maybe. But for now, I’m content to just explore my interests for the sheer joy of it.

I’m going to focus on the first three chapters because these address my own personal sticky points.

Chapter 1 – Hushing and Holding: Nurturing the Wish to Create

In his introduction, Maisel says he wants to offer us two things – the rhetorical and the technical. I appreciate this as most authors will give the why but leave out the how.

Creating produces anxiety. You can’t escape it so it’s a matter of choosing which anxiety – the anxiety of creating or the anxiety of not creating? This concepts interests me the most. How do you make the shift? By nurturing the wish to create. This is done through:

  • Hushing
  • Holding
  • Balancing Wildness and Tameness
  • Affirming your Appetite.

Hushing is about quieting your mind, the constant inner chatter. Meditation is a form of hushing. The point is you can’t go deep until you silence the nonsense.

Once the mind is quieted, room is given for holding it: giving it space, giving it a container, offering it life. It’s akin to letting an idea percolate, giving your mind the opportunitiy to make connections. Your feelers are up and your focused and you start to collect words, sensations, images, chords, etc. depending on your medium.

But all these ideas and progress can cause fear. The key is to take baby steps. If you want to draw, start by carrying around your sketchbook and just be with it. You don’t have to draw anything yet. Tomorrow you could just draw a line. Don’t overwhelm yourself at this point. Ease into. Our brains prioritize consistency so it’s better to devote a minute every day to your drawing than an hour once a week.

The concept of “wildness” is described as “working naked” (literally and figuratively though I’ve never tried the former). This resonated with me because while I have technical skill, I know I’m not tapping into that creative vein. I’m creating from my head and not my heart, where the wildness resides. Where original and interesting ideas live. As Maisel puts it, I’m trying to reproduce an image instead of encountering a blank canvas. Working wild means taking risks and making “mistakes”. He has a whole list of ways to nurture our wildness which he says we should internalize.

Wildness left uncheck can be a bad thing though. It can lead to obsessiveness, compulsion, rage and undue drama. This is where it needs to be balanced with tameness. Tameness in its healthy aspect is “moderation for the sake of rebellion”. Either end of the spectrum – pure wildness or pure tameness is problematic. Maisel describes it this way – “Wildness is the heat, tameness is the thermostat. Wildness is the energy, tameness is the valves that regulate“. It’s about finding the right balance – moderation, discipline, governance over the wildness.

This is the state of hungry-mind anxiety as Maisel calls it. For me, it’s that need to create but I don’t know what to create. I’m itching to make something but nothing comes to mind.

“This is what must be tolerated if you are to be alive: data taken in, deep connections made out of conscious awareness, projects begun in a split second and abandoned in the next split second. This is pain. This is tragedy. This is hungry-mind anxiety. The productive artist lives with this.”

And a hungry mind needs feeding. There are productive ways to feed it and inappropriate ways. Asking an intriguing question is productive, going down a rabbit hole of fact-finding, not so much.

Ask yourself what would make a mind enriching meal?

Chapter 2 – Making Meaning: Choosing your Next Subject

Choosing and clarity were the two overarching themes for me in this chapter. There are three things you need to choose to create. You need to choose a project, choose to work on it and continually make choices as you work on it.

I usually choose an idea before I start but I’m wondering if I choose prematurely in some instances. The book gives several strategies for coming up with ideas. The question I ask myself though is “Am I choosing deeply or superficially?” Easy ideas aren’t bad, per se and I’ve certainly had my fair share of them. But lately I want more. Maisel summarizes my feeling beautifully – “ When you hold the desire to create deeply, you bypass the top of your mind, you bypass the safety net of formula, you bypass marketing considerations, and you travel to the region where truth resides. And what is the truth if not dangerous?”

I don’t like not having a project to work on and I have to be careful that I’m not choosing an easy idea to avoid the discomfort. This is where clarity comes in and another area I have to show more trust and faith. I like knowing the outcome before I start. And often I won’t start if I don’t have that clarity. But this type of clarity can stifle creativity. I like how Maisel frames this – “you can’t expect an unclear situation to be clear, but you can expect you to be clear.” You can be clear about which ideas excite you. You can be clear that you are competent. You can be clear that you can choose. If it’s not working, you can make a different choice.

I never really thought about choosing to work but it’s an important choice to make especially when your idea is still forming. Productive creatives choose to work, whether they have an idea, whether they’re in the “mood”, whether the stars are aligned. I’ve read about the habits of famous people and all of them are in the habit of choosing to work. They sit down and write, draw, dance, or sing. It’s called practice (Seth Godin’s book The Practice is good read read on this topic).

Chapter 3 – Belligerent Commitment: Starting Your Work

Oh boy, here’s where I hit a brick wall in my own creative journey. I get to this point and all of a sudden, I get sidetracked by another idea. I’ve made procrastination an art. And it’s frustrating as hell, because I’ve got ideas that require me to step up and dig deep. Dangerous ideas. They’re dangerous because they’re outside of my comfort zone and mistakes will be made. I want to be “...the committed artist, afraid like everyone else, afraid of not knowing enough, aftraid of not doing well enough, still determines to listen to the songbirds and to record their songs.

The most important sentence in this chapter is “Commitment is defined by action,” Action is the step I most afraid to take and I thought about this for awhile. I think the answer is because I take it too seriously, which might contradict what this chapter is all about and this may be where we part ways. Don’t get me wrong, there is some useful information here, but for me, I think the way forward is to play with my ideas, in the true sense of the word. Play around with color, play around with my ideas, give myself permission to enjoy the process and not worry about the outcome. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

The Takeaway

I liked this book and got a lot out of it. The three main ideas I will apply first are:

  • Take more care to feed my creativity (hungry-mind anxiety). My ideas have been stagnant because I haven’t been filling the well (as Julia Cameron calls it in The Artist’s Way). I can do this by asking myself intriguing questions to get juicy ideas and expose myself to more experiences (something that’s been harder since the COVID. I’m naturally a hermit so being forced to stay home didn’t help).
  • Choosing to work, which basically boils down to having a practice. An interesting idea is all the motivation I need to begin but what about when I don’t have any ideas? Or I don’t “feel” like it? The strategy I’m going to use is to have some tasks I can fall back on such as do a tutorial, try a new stitch pattern or technique, see how different colors interact, making a doodle, etc. Doing something, anything, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, will get me into the habit of taking action. Besides, within these actions could be the seed of a great idea.
  • Devote a sketchbook to play. I would love a sketchbook filled with beautiful drawings that is a work of art on its own. But this kind of mentality doesn’t get me to actually draw because I’m afraid of making a mistake and ruining it. Instead, I’ve decided my sketchbooks are “play” books. Their purpose will be to make a mess, play around and experiment. The point isn’t to keep it pristine or create a beautiful work of art, the point is to put marks on the page, get it dirty, mess it up and let loose. I have gotten in the habit of being a collector instead of a creator – a collector of yarn, fabric, sketchbooks, colored pencils, etc. It’s time to use them up.

Next in Fashion – Season 2


Netflix’s Next in Fashion finally came out with Season 2. I have opinions.

First, I liked this season better. They switched out hosts with Gigi Hadid taking over Alexa Chung’s role. I wasn’t expecting to like her so much but I do. I know the bare minimum about her. I don’t watch reality TV but I do know they had a show and the only clip I saw was her being excited about getting some cake and her mother immediately squashing all her fun because that slice of cake could be the downfall of her whole modeling career and everything her mother worked for. I know she’s rich and priviledged but I can’t help feeling sorry for her because that shit messes you up, doesn’t matter how rich or famous you are. Even so, I think she has a down-to-earth vibe. As glamorous as her job may (perceived) to be, I get the feeling she’d rather be out in the barn with her horses than parading around on a runway.

I also felt they put a little more thought into the challenges. Some we’ve seen before on Project Runway like working with flowers or repurposing second-hand clothes but they’re still fun. I loved the childhood challenge, but wonder if they came up with the idea before or after they found out James was transgender. It doesn’t matter as long as James was okay with the reveal. I thought it was a good challenge and inspired me to look through my own photos.

The one glaring thing I noticed though was the age of the contestants. Everyone looked like they were under 40. I’m on the fence about this. On the one hand, the fashion business, in the traditional sense, requires a lot of capital (though with the internet, I’ve seen designers make a living just off of their online sales). The $200,000 cash prize would go a long way in helping them. I’m disappointed a business mentor isn’t part of the deal. You shouldn’t be giving that kind of cash without some sort of support.

On the other hand, why is fashion always relegated to the young? Frankly, the only piece I saw that I wanted to wear was judge Ashley Parks dress. I understand that the looks aren’t necessarily meant to be worn daily, that they are more for dress up and show but still. The designers closest to my aesthetic are Nigel, Megan and Desyree. I love Nigels mix of textiles, Megan’s playfulness and Desyree’s tailoring.

Before I talk more about the designers, I have to get something off my chest. Please, for the love of Fashion, can we give women clothes that actually cover their bodies? I don’t think wrapping a woman up in an ace bandage is “female empowerment”. I get it – you’re young, thin and sexy but there is nothing empowering about your clothes when a sneeze is going to leave you exposed. I want to see them dress middle age women in a way that makes us look fresh and modern. Fashion should celebrate all ages and sizes – not just thin, pubescent girls. The show did have some diversity but the industry default is still young and thin, which is a shame.

As for the designers, as I’ve said, they are all young. I don’t think a lot of them have had time to develop their voice or understand how to edit. For instance, I love Megan’s retro hippy vibe. I think focusing on one or two ideas as a focal point instead of throwing in the whole kitchen sink, would help them stand out. Don’t get me wrong, I love mixing up color, pattern and texture but you have to understand your materials in order to pull it off. Anna Sui and Iris Apfel are good examples of a doing it well.

From the beginning, Nigel impressed me as an accomplished designer. He understands pattern and despite his age, he’s more mature, or maybe it’s confidence, in his designs and voice. He his clothes have a sense of refinement to them even though they are patched together. Also, in the collaboration challenge, was it just me or did I sense some sparks between him and Amari?

Unfortunately Amari and Eliana are two that need more time to mature. I’m not sure if it’s just her way of working or lack of experience, but Amari takes a lot of time to come up with an idea. Maybe her perfectionism is getting in the way. Also, there’s nothing wrong with being a thoughtful designer. I don’t think I’d do well in this competition because I need time for my ideas to marinate so to speak so I can understand if that’s how she operates. However, I find her designs basic, something I imagine Forever 21 sells (if it’s still in business). She has a cute figure and obviously designs for herself. But micro skirts and barely there crop tops don’t make for interesting design and if that’s all she produces she’s not really adding anything new or interesting to the table. I don’t care what the judges say.

Eliana is the youngest designer. I think she has more potential than Amari. She lacks experience but I can see a voice and sense she has some depth that just needs a bit more time to refine. She got bumped off during the childhood challenge but I thought her dress was more imaginative than Amari’s tulle and barrett “corset”. I put it in quotation marks because that wasn’t a corset. She barely covered the model up in a bunch of tulle and the “bra” fit poorly and looked amateurish. Eliana’s dress at least displayed some design while Amari’s had nothing.

Poor James and Godoy were sent packing sooner than I thought. It was painful to watch. I liked them both (actually, I liked all the designers, they seemed like a nice bunch) and thought they would get farther. I think Godoy would have been better paired with Bao, they would have been able to better mesh their styles. Godoy carried the team but the woman’s look was a mess (slutty saloon girl comes to mind) and I know he was capable of more. James could have put in more of an effort to take some of the burden off of Godoy but he was too obsessed over that stupid pizza purse. It was a missed opportunity for both of them and a hard lessoned learned.

What did you think of the season?

Knitting Mojo Returns


It’s taken me three weeks to release the energy/unwind from my certification test (I passed!). During that time I started and ripped out several projects. Nothing looked or felt right.

Finally, last Saturday I took my yarn, knitting needles and some stitch dictionaries to the coffee shop. Shout out to the girl across from me who was crocheting. Most people are eyeballs deep in their laptops so it was nice to see someone else doing needlework. Anyway, I chose these yarns for specific projects but wanted an interesting stitch pattern. Here are my results

Yarn #1 – Repurposed Gray Lambswool

Can we just appreciate this yarn for a moment? It is so soft, warm and a dream to knit with. I used it for one of the projects I ended up ripping out (I didn’t have enough). I found this lace and almost cable pattern and worked up a swatch with a knit in garter stitch band. I am loving the look.

I was all ready to get going on this but I continued to experiment

Yarn #2 Sport Weight Acrylic

I actually unravelled a previous sweater (you can see it here) . I love the original sweater and it was a lot of fun to knit up. The problem was the neck was too wide (I don’t like my bra straps showing) and acrylic is very warm. Too warm for Austin. I barely ever wore it. But, the color is perfect for another piece in my wardrobe and as a short sleeve cardigan, figured it would be perfect.

My first idea was a lacy pattern, to make it more suitable for warm weather. I think this was the third lace pattern I tried but I didn’t like the way any of them were knitting up. This was a good reminder to match the material to the stitch. Some fibers are better suited for certain stitches. I have some cottons and silk in my stash that would highlight lace a lot better than this yarn.. I found a pattern in one of my older knitting books called “Cable and Leaf” and modified it to get this:

This pattern presented a bit of a challenge and required some modifications. That got me thinking about making my own stitch patterns. I also learned a neat little trick for doing those tiny little cables which I will go into more detail on when I post the finished garment.

It felt good to set out a goal for myself (the certification) and accomplish it. Sometime we need to remind ourselves that we are always capable of learning something new. The growth these challenges give us aren’t confined to certain areas of our life such as “work”. Going through process made me see the rut I was in and reminded me to also challenge myself creatively. When it comes to knitting, I know a lot but there is still new territory to explore. I can get so caught up in the outcome that I forgot just how much fun playing around with different yarns and stitches is.

And at the heart of all creativity is a sense of play. What is something you are good at and how can you challenge yourself to explore it in a new way or look at it with fresh eyes?

Conversations with Creativity


My blessing and curse is that I’m introspective and as a result I do a lot of navel gazing. I want to understand how I operate, which it turns out, is a life-long pursuit. Naturally my creativity often gets its turn under the microscope.

I look a lot to the past to figure things out so I put together a list of questions to dig deeper into my creative process. Questions I asked included:

  • When have I been most creative?
  • When have I been really engaged or felt in my element? Was there a specific trigger or ritual?
  • What does being engaged feel like? Is there a way I can easily replicate that state to be more creative?
  • What do I consider fun?
  • When have I felt like I was swimming upstream or felt like I was forcing things?
  • When have I felt like the process was effortless?
  • Have I noticed any patterns or cycles in my process?
  • Is there a way I’m not seeing to align myself with my natural process so things seem effortless?
  • Why do I think some ideas lose their appeal?
  • What burning questions am I trying to answer?
  • What stimulates ideas for me?

Then I took those question to a coffee house, and sat down with my vanilla chai latte to have a conversation with my creativity.

I find this journaling technique very effective. The questions depend on what I’m trying to discover at that time. This time I wanted to figure out how to come up with more interesting and inventive ideas. I feel my current ones are stale and basic. I don’t want to fit in, I want to stand out. Once I have an idea, things usually go smoothly but I often strain myself trying to find those ideas and I believe there’s a better way. A way that taps into my natural process.

Three things came to mind from my time in the coffee shop.

Generating Ideas Needs to be an Ongoing Practice

If I were to break down my creative process into a pie chart, I think at least half, if not three-fourths of the time in my pie needs to be delegated to exploring ideas. Right now I’d say I only spend about a fourth of my time on it. This is an exciting discovery for me because I love research, hunting for treasure, and solving puzzles. Looking for ideas is fun but I didn’t realize its importance before but seeing it now, I’m more than happy prioritize it.

In addition to establishing a practice, it needs to be an intentional practice. I have notebooks filled with ideas but I haven’t explored many of them. I haven’t tried to make connections or dig deeper, past the platitudes and obvious. Making it a practice is what Julia Cameron calls “filling the well”. It’s about stimulating yourself so you can come up with more interesting ideas.

More Tools in the Toolbox

One of the reasons I love bookstores so much is they are filled with inspiration. I can easily spend an hour going through art and craft books looking for something that will spark an idea. This is helpful but I realize it shouldn’t be the only tactic I use, it is just one tool in what needs to be a toolbox of inspiration. What those tools are will vary and as will how I use them. It will be fun to experiment to see what works. Tools can be actual things, such as making models or they can be actions such as playing games.

Generating Ideas is Important in its Own Right

For the most part, my focus on getting ideas has been for a specific project. I was in it for the results. I never just sat down and explored ideas for the sake of the ideas themselves. Even if nothing ever came of these ideas except for some scribbles on a piece of paper, just going through the exercise would sharpen my skills and thought process.

So what do I do with this information? Play.

I’ve gotten so wrapped up in outcomes and output, the final stages of the creative process, that I have forgotten how to play and it’s evident in my designs.

I’m off to get my 64 box of crayons, colored paper, scissors, paste, stickers and whatever else I can find and go on a play date. I wonder what they’ll make of me in the coffee shop.

Rest and Renewal


I’ve spent the last two months studying for a four hour (!) certification test. I took that test on Saturday and am grateful it isn’t hanging over my head anymore.

While studying, I fantasized about what I would do when I got my free time and more importantly, my mental energy, back. Glorious freedom! The projects I’ve dreamed about! The plans I’ve made!

Sunday I was ready to go out and find inspiration to get the creative juices going and fire up my next creative project. But what I found instead was nothing.

My usual reaction is frustration and anxiety but this time I leaned into it – this state of nothingness and used it as a time to rest and recharge. There are plenty of projects I want to tackle, just not this week. I’m a person who likes action. I like to keep my hands and mind busy and I committed the last two months to constant studying because I was motivated to pass this test (still waiting for confirmation). Do we realize that expending that kind of mental energy is just as tiring as physical activity?

How am I spending my time?

I love puzzles and happened to get one for Christmas. They are the perfect distraction while my mind unwinds.

In the past I would have thought I was blocked but in reality, I just need time to recharge my batteries. My creativity hasn’t abandoned me, it’s patiently waiting while the remains of my focused study period slowly dissolves. When it does, there will be room again for those creative pursuits.

So my advice is this – don’t feel like you have to immediately jump into your next project. Take some time to release the energy from the previous project and give yourself permission to rest and recharge.

Elevating Clothes into Art


I’ve turned a corner in my creative journey. I am no longer satisfied with, for a lack of a better word, commercial sweater designs. Sure, they’re great if I just need a mindless project, something to keep my hands busy, but I am finding them increasing less palatable. My spirit yearns for something more.

I want to create art and my medium is yarn. Image by bridgesward from Pixabay.

I know the direction I want to go and I’m firmly in what Eric Maisel defines as the “wishing” stage – the “hungry-mind anxiety” which requires proper feeding. I’m purposely hanging out here because I’m also in the middle of studying for my SHRM certification which is taking up all of my mental energy (it’s a FOUR HOUR TEST, ffs). So in what little free time I have, I’m filling my well (as Julia Cameron calls it) with a lot of eye-candy.

Personally, I’m attracted to designers who think like artists. I mean, is Ralph Lauren or Michael Kors really creating anything that hasn’t already been done before? No. It’s just more of the same old, same old. Not that I’m interested in the absurd either. I want art. I’m ready to rise above the mediocrity. I want to paint with yarn.

I recently came across this video highlighting Iris Van Herpen, a Dutch designer and I am blown away by the things she creates.It has nothing to do with where I intend to go except it shows how clothes can be elevated to art. In this particular collection, the way she marries technology and architecture and the way the design works with the body is breathtaking. Don’t get me started on the pin-wheel-esque dress at 10:40! Is it practical? Hell no. But who cares? That whole collection is so feminine, beautiful and moves gracefully. The thought and skill to dream up and execute these designs is mind-boggling.

This led me down the rabbit hole and I discovered her 2021 collection, Earthrise (here is an article about it in Colassal – watch the video at the end) left me in awe. Apparently it was made from upcycled marine debris. The beauty of these layered, sculptural pieces is that they work with the body instead of overwhelming it and are a visual feast for the eyes. If you’re going to have a red carpet moment, why in the hell would you play it safe?

Here’s the thing, there really are no new silhouettes in fashion. Which is fine, I’m not interested in trying to break out of the tried and true molds. I’m more interested in how you can take a basic silhouette and make it interesting through the use of color, texture and pattern. A painter isn’t concerned because all of her canvases are rectangular, I’m not concerned if all of my sweaters are too.

There’s also an emotional depth I want to tap into also. In his book, Fearless Creating, Maisel talks about appropriate and inappropriate ways to feed the hungry mind and I’ve been doing all of the inappropriate things for far too long, swimming in the shallow water instead of diving deep. I want my creative journey to also be an emotional one. Now a lot of people might claim I’m not an emotional person. And this is true. I’m not sure if this is nature or nuture. Am I genetically programmed this way or did I learn to hide my emotions because I was shamed for it? It really doesn’t matter. I’m not interested in dredging up the past. I am paying more attention to my emotional reactions though – how does an idea make me feel? Am I excited? Intrigued? Scared? (All signs I’m on to something). Or am I just bored or feeling anxious and looking for a way to soothe myself (in other words, playing it safe)?

It’ll be interesting to see how all of this unfolds. When my test is done, will I dive in with fervor or will I chicken out? I guess we’re all going to have to wait and see how it turns out.

New Year, New Plans – 2023 Yearbook Project


I get why people set New Year’s resolutions. A new year feels like we’ve wiped the slate clean. We can let go of all the disappointments of the previous year and have a fresh start. And while I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life, I can’t think of one that I can attribute to a New Year’s resolution. And if the statistics are right, where the majority of us can’t even make it through January before we quit, then why does the tradition continue?

I have a better idea to take advantage of all that potential a new year inspires. But before I go into that, let’s talk about goals.

I’m accomplishment-oriented which means I am goal driven. But after a conversation with my son, I realize not all goals are created equal. In fact, not all goals should be goals. For instance, I’m currently studying to get a certification. This is a situation well suited to setting goals. I have the materials and end date (test date). I broke it down so I go through all the material and become familiar with it in December, doing a module a day. That leaves me all of January to do nothing but study in preparation for my test on February 4.

In Toastmasters, there arre ten speeches you have to do in order to earn “Competent Commuicator”. I set myself the goal of doing one a month and easily met my goal.

What makes these achievements great for goal-setting is the steps to achieve it are clearly outlined (such as a syllabus), there is a deadline and a specific outcome such as “get my certification”.

But you know where goal-setting has failed me miserably? In my creative pursuits. In general, I like order and rules. But when it comes to my creative brain, turns out I don’t do well working with a rigid schedule. I jump around a lot from idea to idea. It’s like trying to herd cats and any attempts I have made to try to fit my creative process within some sort of goal, I’ve always failed. I finally realized that the flaw is not me but with goal-setting. I need a different system that leverages the way I naturally operate.

This year I’m going to create a yearbook – a record of an intentional journey. I personally love this idea because not only does it sound fun, it provides a framework to explore and document a particular subject or theme, so it also pleases my love for order. But it’s flexible so I can freely move around as inspiration strikes. At the end of the year I’ll have a visual record of all I did and where I was in this particular stage of my lifelong journey. Maybe I’ll be able to spot patterns that will help me level up, become more productive or avoid blocks.

So what exactly does my yearbook design entail?

Decide on a Theme

The point of a yearbook is to be intentional and focus on something that interests you. This year I’m choosing creativity and design. You could choose an overall theme and then break each month down into a subcategory. For example, you can have art be your theme and then each month explore a different artist, art movement or even mediums. For my creativity and design theme, I specifically want to address such questions as:

  • What inspires me and why? This includes images, words, quotes, books and film. What genres am I drawn to? What artists do I like? Most importantly, how does it make me feel? I want to tap into the emotional side of my creativity as right now it feels too heavily weighted in intellect.
  • What processes, habits, tips or tricks can I learn from other creatives?
  • What is my design language/voice/style? What colors, patterns, textures, symbols keep showing up in my work? What materials do I prefer to work with?
  • How can I consistently generate interesting ideas?
  • How can I incorporate more play into my process?
  • What resources are available?

The overarching theme is actually play and the categories within that are inspiration, creative profiles and generating ideas. They are defined enough as to give me a focus yet broad enough to be able to really go out on a tangent if I wish. I’m hoping that by the end of the year I’ve become more intimate with my creativity.

Whatever you do pick, make sure it’s something that excites you and sounds fun.

Pick a Format

Your theme will play a part in what format you use and there are so many options and they include:

  • Calendars/Daily Planners. If keeping track of things on a daily, weekly or monthly basis is important to your theme, this is a good option.
  • Binders. Remember Trapper Keepers? Anyway, the traditional school binder is great when you want to work on a sheet of paper, print off different templates, work digitially and then print it or if you want the ability to add, delete or move pages around.
  • Bound journals/Blank books/Artists Sketchbooks.
  • Spiral Binding. This is a similar option to binders except you take all your sheets to a printer and have them spiral bind everything together. It doesn’t have the flexibility of a binder because once it’s bound, you can rearrange it.
  • Handbinding. I think I’ll be using this method (I keep going back and forth on whether I’ll hand or spiral bind). While I love handcrafted leather journals, I think a bound book is too constricting for what I’m trying to create. Working with loose sheets of paper will allow me the flexibility to really play. I can see myself messing up one page in a bound journal and losing interest. With loose sheets of paper, I can use my best work as well as supplement with templates, specialty papers and any other ephemera that catches my eye. With a loose paper system I could use a binder or take everything to a printer and have it spiral bound but I like the idea of creating the whole book.
  • Boxes. Depending on your theme, maybe a box is the best container. Twyla Tharp, the famous choreographer, using boxes to store the contents of all of her dances. Anything that inspires her goes in the box.
  • Scrapbook.
  • Photo Album/Book. Most of us keep digital photos but if your theme is photography or you would like to document your year in photos, then get a photo album. There are also services that will take your photos and create a hardbound book for you. A great way to preserve memories of special events or trips.
  • Poster. There are advantages to having one large piece of paper hanging on the wall to keep track of your theme.

This list isn’t exhaustive. Be creative and use a format that not only suits the theme, but is also something you know you would realistically keep up with.

In addition to format, another consideration is size. I started out thinking I would use a regular letter size paper and work in a binder or have it spiral bound at the end of the year. But as I thought about it, even an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper is intimidating and can be hard to fill. I decided my book will be half that size (copy paper folded in half to create the signatures). Maybe you want something that fits easily in your pocket? What is the right size to get the job done?


Once you’ve decided on your theme or subject and picked a format, all that’s left to do is begin. I’m not putting any other constraints on myself. I don’t want the pressure of having to do a certain number of pages a month or what I should put on those pages. If I want to play around with colors, make swatches, play with an idea or list my favorite quotes, then that’s what I’ll do. I want the freedom to follow my interests as they ebb and flow. I want to get out of my head and connect with my emotions and work on a way to bring that emotion into my work. I’m proficient at making a sweater, now I want to explore turning that sweater into a piece of art.

I have no idea how this whole project will turn out or if I’ll even stick with it. My left brain, which likes order and clearly defined rules is trying to take over and I’m really fighting to let my right brain take the lead on this. Sometimes I wonder if I even remember how to play and I’m hoping this project will help me reconnect with my sense of wonder and excitement that I felt as a child.

Do you have any resolutions, goals or projects for the new year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Creative Ways to Wrap a Present


Call me Scrooge but I refuse to buy anything related to wrapping a present. Think about it. Wrapping paper’s sole purpose is to be ripped up and thrown out. What a waste of money and resources. You may argue that wrapping paper is to decorate the gift but I say there are better, more earth-friendly and economical ways to do it.

I’m going do avoid the usual platitudes like using the comics (can you even get Sunday comics anymore?), magazines and maps. They may do the job but it still all ends up in the landfill.

Of course, if like me, you sew, knit and crochet, finding ways to wrap a gift are easy. But you don’t need to be handy with a needle and thread to find clever ways to wrap up a gift. With some thought, the wrapping could actually be part of the present or at least reusable (if the recipient doesn’t want it, don’t be afaid to ask for it back). For instance, if you have a quilter in your life, wrapping their gift in fat quarters would probably be very much appreciated.

Creative Ways to Wrap a Present

  1. Decorative boxes – I wrote thank you cards in my last job and they came in a very sturdy box. It was pretty enough not to need any additional wrapping. You can also include more permanent (wood) boxes in this category.
  2. Decorative tins – we’ve all gotten food gifts that come in a decorative tin – whether that be popcorn, cookies or nuts. Those tins can be reused each year or used for storage
  3. Baskets
  4. Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese cloth used for wrapping. There are dozens of ways to wrap up a gift with fabric. You don’t need a special cloth though. You could use a scarf, a napkin or just a square of fabric.
  5. Pull-tab cans – a lot of food that comes in cans doesn’t require a can opener anymore. Instead of pulling that tab, open it from the bottom and save it. Clean it thoroughly and when you need it, pop in the gift and glue the bottom back on. Not necessarily reusable but at least you are extending the life of the can.
  6. Pillowcases
  7. Drawstring bags – quilters and sewers, this is a great way to use up scraps. Make them up in a variety of sizes and if the gift is for an immediate family member, save it for the next year. For Christmas you can use a different fabric for each family member.
  8. Tote bags – If you’re going to use a gift bag, why not use a real bag? Now that stores have quit handing out plastic bags, having an all purpose tote in the car or a purse comes in handy. Any kind of bag will work though. If you have a sports nut, get a duffel bag, a college age kid, use a backpack. Need something smaller? How about a pencil or cosmetic case?
  9. Outerwear – If you knit, a hat, mittens or socks can be used to hold other presents.
  10. Reusable mugs – more and more people are getting away from disposable (and incredibly unsustainable) plastic water bottles so why not use one to hide another gift?

If you enjoy adding an extra flourish to your gifts. The added bonus is for a lot of these, one minute they’re decorating the gift, the next they are decorating the tree. Here are some ideas:

  1. Use old cards, photos or cardstock to make gift cards. Get a paper puncher in a fun shape. Greeting cards can also be used to make small boxes for jewelry.
  2. Make ribbon from scrap fabric. Cut it into strips using pinking sheers.
  3. Crochet or knit a flower from yarn scraps.
  4. Pom poms – another great way to use up yarn scraps and add a bit of fun.
  5. Crochet snowflakes
  6. Pine cones, acorns or other natural ephemera.

And finally,

Who says you have to wrap it at all?

Why does a gift even have to be wrapped? Play by your own rules, I say. And if you have kids, I literally mean play. Instead of wrapping gifts up and setting them under the tree (if you celebrate Christmas) or putting them in a big pile on their birthday, why not hide them and make it a treasure hunt? Come to think of it, why should only kids have all the fun? Not only are you reducing waste and saving money, but you are creating memories and traditions. The older the participants get, the more clever you can get with the game as everyone competes to come up with the best clues (maybe put the message in code or riddles?) and least likely hiding places. It is possible that the game could become more meaningful than the presents.

Let’s rid the holidays of their over-commercialized artificial sentiment and put the focus back on where it should be – connecting and making memories with those we love.

Wrapping Up My No Buy Year Early – Successes, Failure and Lessons


At the beginning of the year, I posted that 2022 would be a no-buy year. I realize there are still two more months to go but I don’t feel obligated to continue something if it no longer serves me. Kind of like forcing yourself to finish a book you don’t like. This isn’t to say it was a total loss – there were successes, failures and lessons learned. But before I do that, I recognize the amount of privilege I had in just being able to do this. I mean, some people go without because they have no choice. I’m fortunate enough not to be one of those people. I also understand how fragile life is and I could at any moment I could become one of those people. Nothing is guaranteed.

Let’s start with the successes.


  1. Cutting my food budget in half. In 2021. my average monthly food bill was $329. This year, it’s $161, meaning I cut my spending in half. It would have been more but unless I wanted to live on oatmeal, rice and beans, it wasn’t realistic because food prices jumped a lot this year. I was able to keep it around $160 by planning my meals before I went shopping and eating mostly vegetarian dishes. I know I’m unique in this respect as I don’t eat your standard American diet. I cook from scratch and avoid processed foods (i.e. premade box/freezer meals) and limit my meat and dairy. This still leaves me with a lot of variety and allowed me to keep costs down while still having tasty meals.
  2. Became debt free. The only debt I had was my credit card and I finally paid it off this year.
  3. Made significant contributions to savings and retirement. Being debt-free allows me to make monthly deposits to my savings account. Basically the money I was using to pay down my credit card now goes into savings. I have money automatically transferred to my retirement account so I don’t even miss it. My future self will thank me.

Failure – Book Ban

One of my goals was not to buy any books. I failed – giving in around May. I mean, what the hell was I thinking – giving up books? But I got VERY picky about what I bought. I focused on books I could use in my design work (reference, how-to and technical books that I would use more than once) and even with these I asked the question “Can I easily find this information on the internet?”

Designing is one of my passions and I need inspiration. Yes, I can use Pinterest and the internet, but books are one of my loves. Denying myself the pleasure of having books that I could just thumb through to get ideas was more harmful to my creativity and not worth the money it saved.


The point of this experiment wasn’t to deprive myself and live in monk-like austerity, but that’s exactly what started to happen. Sometimes I’m too disciplined. I listened to this podcast and when talking about her eating disorder, Mayim said something that hit a nerve – she said she had an anorexic brain – that the restrictive behavior wasn’t just with food, but with money, relationships, etc. Turns out I never really alleviated the behavior, I just transferred the focus from food to money. This was my biggest revelation.

For the sake of my mental health, I decided to loosen up. I treated myself, like going to a coffee shop and ordering an overpriced chai tea latte and savoring it without an ounce of guilt while I worked on a project. I didn’t need to spend a lot or do it all the time for it to have a positive affect on my well-being. A side effect is a coffee shop has limited distractions. I pack a bag with what I want to work on and have no trouble focusing on it for a couple of hours. At home, I’d be distracted by my laptop, food and whatever else randomly popped in my head. For me a coffee house equals focused productivity and well worth the $7 price of admission (my chai tea latte).

All of this got me thinking about a way to manage my money that didn’t trigger me. First I wanted to see what other lessons this year taught me before I formulated a plan.

  1. Meal Planning. Planning meals helps me reduce food waste and save money without feeling deprived. Trying to work within a budget, I got creative. I looked for alternatives and played around with different dressings, sauces and spices. If a recipe required an expensive ingredient, I looked for a cheaper alternative. My peach coconut cream sauce came about because maple syrup would eat up too much of my budget for something I only use occasionally. And truthfully, I prefer the peach coconut cream sauce. It’s delicious and I will neither confirm nor deny that I ate spoonfuls straight out of the jar.
  2. Happiness doesn’t come from having, it comes from doing and being. I’ve done my fair share of retail therapy. It might be fun while your doing it but the effects usually wear off fast. What really makes me happy is designing and making things, whether that’s a new recipe, quilt, blog post or sweater. I’m accomplishment-oriented and shopping isn’t much of an accomplishment (at least for me), but making my own clothes is. I love the whole creative process, the challenges, the problem solving and the satisfaction of a job well-done.
  3. Curating my stash. My stash was a mish-mash of things I was given or found cheap at thrift stores. Cheap was the operative word. I may have had a lot of it, but the unsuitable colors for my skin tone, scratchy fibers and textiles that were no fun to work with left me uninspired. I finally got real with myself and sold or gave away the majority of it. I still have enough to keep me busy for awhile but when I do start adding to it again, I will be more discerning. The criteria moving forward will be natural fibers (preferably silk, cotton or linen since I live in the south) and cool jewel-tones (purples, blues, reddish blues and teals) which best compliment my skin tone.
  4. Institutions want to keep you in debt. This was a not-so-happy lesson I learned paying off my credit card and getting out of debt. While paying it off, my credit score climbed. The minute I paid it off and was debt-free, my score dropped. I still use my credit card because I get points but continue to pay it off every month. I’ll take the hit to my score (which is still good) in exchange for the peace of mind and extra cash.
  5. More creative energy and engagement. Shopping (as entertainment) took a lot of time and energy away from doing the things I actually love – making things. When you choose not to solve a problem (like boredom) with shopping, it opens up space for more creative endeavors. Specifically, restricting my trips to the book store made me confront why I was avoiding doing something I claim to love and work through the issues that block me. I’ve had some interesting breakthroughs as a result.
  6. I want a smaller, not a bigger life. Maybe I’m old fashioned, maybe it’s just my age and stage in life or maybe it’s because I’m an introvert but I want a smaller, more intimate life. When I really gave it some thought, I realized I don’t like big crowds. I’m tired of hustle culture and self help “gurus” and their toxic positivity. I’m turned off by social media poseurs claiming to “have it all” and if you take their overpriced course, join their MLM <cough – pyramid scheme – cough> or buy their magic fairy dust you can too! (Spoiler alert: they don’t own that jet or luxury car – they rented it for the Instagram pictures). What lies behind their facade? It comes off as insincere/inauthentic and reeks of desparation. Whatever it is, there was a time I bought into it. It’s all a mirage, though. Content, happy people rarely feel the need to prove it. Plus, they’re not afraid to show the ugly side of things. They admit not everything is perfect but they have a resilience about them. I’ve worked hard to dump the emotional baggage and dislodge the societal expectations to reveal who I really am and what actually matters to me. It’s taken a long time to get to this point but other people’s opinions no longer mean diddly squat. I could give a shit about the size of your closet, house or make of your vehicle. I will not live my life trying to live up to anyone’s standards or expectations except my own. I’m never going to be a millionaire, “cool”, popular or an influencer and that’s just fine. What I strive to be is kind, honest, nurturing and true to myself. At the end of the day, all I want is deep, meaningful connections, rich experiences and a sense of purpose.

The no-buy year was a worthwhile exercise and having gone through it, here is what I will do:

  • Continue to set aside money monthly in my savings and retirement.
  • Plan meals and shop accordingly.
  • Allow myself to indulge in my passion, which includes books and yarn, but be more discerning about what I do buy.
  • Be more creative when I need something. Ask myself the following questions: Do I already own something I can use instead? Can I borrow it? Can I find it for free (I belong to a local no-buy FB group)? Can I barter for it? Can I make it? Can I get it used? If I have to buy it new, can I support a small business? Buying new is a last resort (though I do have a few exceptions, such as running shoes.)
  • Focus on connection – connecting to people, my creativity, and my interests.
  • Look for more experiences – visit my family and friends, go to those retreats I dream about and experience different cultures.

To sum up, I will spend money where I see value, save where I don’t. I think this is a good rule of thumb for everyone in order be content and find fulfillment – things that are vital to our well-being and in reality, money just can’t buy.

Creepy Creations


I love ghost stories. I used to stay up on Saturday night to watch Creature Features. I have been binge-watching The Midnight Club, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Crimson Peak and just about any other spooky treats Netflix is currently offering. So in honor of Halloween, I scoured the interwebs for as many spine-chilling projects as I could find. Here’s my list of unearthly delights:

20 Spooky Patterns

Skull Cardigan

Get in the mood with this cute crochet cardigan.

Christine McConnell

Let’s all just bow our heads down to the Queen of Halloween. Everything she does is sheer perfection.

The Closet Historian

If you sew, Bianca’s series of Halloween makes will bring out the Film Noir/Goth in any gal.

Crochet Skull Granny Square

Nothing says “kitschy Halloween” like a skull granny square. Use this as a jumping off point for your own projects.

Ghost Crochet Cardigan

The ghost appliques make this cardigan.

Knit Pumpkin

This is more of a seasonal knit but this cute little pumpkin is a quick and easy knit for beginners. A great way to use up some of those scraps.

Lost Soul’s Blanket Tutorial

More skull goodness, this time in a lacy blanket.

Halloween Dolls

These “creepy cute” dolls are another fun project to use up scrap yarn. She has a vampire, zombie, Frankenstein, cat, pumpkinhead and mummy.

Spider Web Crochet Top

If I was a little younger (who am I kidding, a LOT younger) I would crochet this up in a minute.

Even if you none of these appeal to you, you can still tap into the holiday spirit by listening to some spooky tales while working on your own projects. My latest go-to has been Lighthouse Horror.