Thursday, 30 September 2010

How to ignite waning inspiration

You may have noticed a quiet little tab at the top of this blog titled FAQ. Currently it contains only one question, granted, one I do answer quite frequently. It also contains a call for more questions and, I'm happy to report, I finally received one. So happy, that I decided to devote a whole blog post to the answer. Thanks Mary for the Q!

Here it is:

How do you ignite waning inspiration for your writing and musings?

I love this question because one thing I'm passionate about, in case you haven't noticed, is creativity. For me, creativity and spirituality and vibrant living are all so interconnected and, inspiration is something that makes us feel alive. But, while inspiration can be found in everything, it also can be cheekily elusive when you really need it.

So much has been written about this topic, but a lot is personal too. Here are my two cents gleaned from 30 years' on the creative prowl.

1. Know your season
- I say this about almost everything, but it holds true in the creative realm too. Wanting inspiration for life in general or for a specific project is important - it's amazing to be bursting at the seams - but we also need the dry/ fallow times to let our minds clear and allow little buds to take root. Sometimes, when I've been creatively stimulated for a prolonged period I get addicted, and the first boring day I have is unnerving. Where'd the stimulus go?! Then I remember, being uninspired is important too. It's the time for ideas to marinate in your sub-conscious so they can actually develop from a flirtatious sparkle into a more tangible manifestation.

So, my first piece of advice for igniting inspiration is to allow yourself to be uninspired and, if necessary, wait it out. It's a boomerang - it'll be back.

2. Nurture creativity
- That all said, it is possible, when the time is right (ie I've got a project due (!) or the dry season has stretched into a desert), to kick-start inspiration. When I was getting over one epic creativity drought, a book that worked a treat was The Artist's Way. It's a 12 week course about recovering your creativity and I can't recommend it highly enough. For a shorter and punchier read to similar effect, you can't go wrong with The War of Art.

Some good things to take away from The Artist's Way are the author's techniques of nurturing creativity through morning pages and artists dates.

Morning pages
are simply the discipline of writing every day (whatever time really) to skim the surface of your mind and capture on paper whatever is going on in your mind. The most important thing isn't that you produce amazing stuff, but that you just get it out. Editing comes later.

Artist Dates are set aside times once a week to do something that makes you feel alive. It doesn't have to be expensive, just something that makes you happy and stimulates you creatively. These things sound simple but are really helpful when you're feeling uninspired. I've taken my inner artist to obscure markets in London and hotel lobbies to write in Auckland. Find your simple pleasure and do it.

3. Read! - Again, very simple, but reading inspiring books always does it for me. Often, before I sit down to write I'll read an author I like and that usually gets me excited to write, often in response to what I've just read. Even if I read a book that's pretty crap, it inspires me nonetheless because the whole time I'm thinking, "I could do this".

Other bits and bobs...
  • On a very practical level, when I start a writing assignment I first do a brainstorm and let that fester for a few days. Then, I take all that info (and whatever else is required on the project) and draw out a big mind map. I'm a very visual person, so getting it all out there with circles and arrows and exclamations marks and numbers is key. Then, once I've made the connections in my head I'll write an outline and go from there. The mind map is the stepping from the abstract to a structured outcome.
  • I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, and she has some good thoughts on writing here. Also, her TED talk lecture on creativity is amazing.
  • Writing Down the Bones is also a great resource for writers. And I'm going to see the author Natalie Goldberg speak on Saturday! Can't wait.

Well, that's my best stab at this question for now. Do you have any tips for igniting inspiration on the wane?

{Photo from Octavi's etsy shop}

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

And the winner is...


Thanks so much to everyone who visited Wild Poppy Shoppe and entered the giveaway! As a special offer to Seattleite Imagery readers, Jessi is offering free shipping if you buy any jewelry or silk flowers from her shop through the end of October. Just tell her Alisha sent you. ;)

Kendall, I don't have you email address, so please contact me at alisha [.] sanvicens [at] and I'll put you in touch with Jessi so you can claim your prize!

I'll be back with another blog post tomorrow...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

It's a girl blog giveaway

Thanks for all the positive feedback about my new theme of pursuing life to the full. I've been excited about it all week! One idea I'm growing is to have revolving themes for my entries, and today's post straddles two themes quite nicely. It's all about doing our bit to make the world a happier, more just place and also about creating beauty. I love when those two guys merge.

This post also features my second blog giveaway. It's been awhile, and I think this giveaway is awesome on many levels. Here's the backstory...

A few weeks ago I attended my friend Rebekah's baby shower for her soon-to-arrive daughter Josie. Rebekah married into a family with an apparently recessive female gene (four boys with five sons collectively) and, when she got pregnant for the third time, held her breath at the hope of maybe, possibly having a little girl. You can read the story about Josie here, but all this to say that so much love and effort was poured into this shower for an eagerly anticipated baby girl.

When I went to Josie's shower I was reading an emotional roller coaster of a book called Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother. This book is written by a Chinese woman now living in London and addresses the phenomenon of international adoption of baby girls from China to the Western world. This book delicately addresses the question many people have at least wondered, "How could any mother give up her child?" The answer: very painfully.

It's easy to condemn a culture that seems to belittle women and devalue baby girls, but what I love about this book is how it gets under the skin of women forced to give up their babies for adoption (or forced abortion or infanticide), out of cultural, familial, political and financial pressure,  and carry that scar of motherhood denied the rest of their lives. After reading this book I got the sense that it's not just baby girls who are born at a disadvantage in China, but women of all ages have had to put up with unbearable burdens for generations. This book, understandably, broke my heart.

International adoption is a very complex issue, and I won't pretend to know all or even much about it. I don't think anybody should go into adoption with a savior complex or without the willingness to acknowledge the difficulties that arise when a child is plucked from her culture.

But, I also feel strongly that being willing to adopt, domestically and internationally, can be a beautiful, life-giving journey.

My friends Jessi and Andrew are taking the first steps of that long, expensive journey at the moment. They are two of the most good-hearted, loving people I know. Currently they are in the process of looking to adopt a special needs child from China. They don't want their adoption process to stop there though, bringing a child over and then forgetting about the surrounding issues. Jessi says in a recent blog post:

We also long to do more to help change the reason so many kids need adopting in the first place. Acknowledging with solemn and grateful hearts that our child coming home from China creates a deeper response in us to our child's birth country, to our child's first family if not literally then by helping others like them who could not, for various reasons, keep their own child. The heartbreaking truth is that adoption begins with loss. But all is not lost. Hope springs from rocky places, love can grow from unexpected sources.

Financially, this is going to take a small miracle, but Jess is doing her bit to raise money by selling her vintage-inspired jewelry on-line.

Jessi's jewelry is gorgeous, and in order to raise awareness for international adoption, she's giving away a product from her Wild Poppy Shoppe to one of my blog readers. Here's a sneak peek...

For a chance to win, please visit Wild Poppy Shoppe and leave a comment below telling me your favorite item from the shop. For an extra chance at winning, you can tweet, facebook or blog about the giveaway, and come back and comment with the link. If you twitter, please tag it with @alishasanvicens

The lucky winner will be chosen at random next Wednesday, Sept 29 at 10am PST so check back then! Good luck.

Again, this post merely scratches the surface on the topic of adoption, but I think it's something worth thinking about, and definitely worth supporting. Please think of Wild Poppy Shoppe next time you're in the market for jewelry for yourself or a friend.

{baby shower photos from jenny, thanks!}

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Life to the Full

For the past nine months, I've been grappling with finding my blog's freaking niche. And by niche, I mean my theme or overarching vision. All the bloggery experts say this is important, but as a Jaqueline of all trades, it's was easier said that done. I had the general idea, but found it difficult to articulate.

On Monday night inspiration came, so I grabbed it and forced it to the page. I'm interested in hearing what you think, how I can express it more clearly and any ideas you have about what I could do in the future to build the blog around this vision. This is the closet thing I've got to a manifesto, and the direction I want to take Seattle Imagery in, and all feedback is appreciated.

Here goes...

What I'm all about (& thus, this blog) is:


For me, a full life isn't about a full schedule. To the contrary, it's about prioritizing what really matters, pruning the dross and giving space for life to grow.

Some of my priority big guns (the things you'll find on this blog) include:
    •    pursuing a simple but generous life
    •    creating beautiful things (I don't discriminate)
    •    experiencing the world - out of the suburbs, out of the country, out of the comfort zone
    •    doing my bit to make the world a happier, more just place

I'm all about breeding abundant life not only for myself, but for my neighbors in Seattle and around the world. When I lived in London I worked in international development, so poverty and injustice are always in the back of my mind.  When I attended college in Malibu, where the parking lot could be mistaken for a BMW dealership, I learned that money doesn't preclude people from issues either. The thieves of life take on many forms.

I want life to the fullest for myself, my friends and family, hungry children in Malawi, over-fed Americans swimming in debt, trafficked women in Cambodia, overwhelmed mums everywhere, refugees, frazzled ex-pats, lonely privileged middle-classers and prostitutes down the street on Aurora Avenue. The needs are different but great, but the source of life is greater. to the full.

I'm hoping to develop this theme in my own sweet time, but in the meantime I'd really appreciate your thoughts.

What does a full life look like to you? Where do you go to find inspiration? How can I develop this blog further along this theme?

Thanks so much for your comments!

{photo from Shana Rae - Florabella Collection via flickr}

Saturday, 11 September 2010

10 on 10 :: September :: Happy Anniversary!

Five years ago yesterday I said "I do" to an amazing man. What a great decision! Yesterday we celebrated our anniversary by roaming around Seattle, walking and eating. We hit up Columbia City Bakery, Discovery Park, Kushi Bar in Belltown (free popcorn = awesome) and capped off the night with dinner at Boat Street Cafe. Such a lovely day to be captured in 10 photos.

Please check out some of the other Ten on Ten participants and think about joining next month.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Something Better Somewhere Else?

Today I'm so glad to welcome Meagan Lopez as a guest blogger. Meagan lived in the UK with her British beau around the same time I did and has recently moved back to the US. I found her through the blog-o-sphere only after leaving England, but have so loved hearing about her experiences as an American in Britain and back again (many not too dissimilar to my own!). I hope you enjoy her post too and get a chance to stop by her blog.

Coincidentally, I've seen two movies in the last week regarding change.

It was my mother's idea to watch the first one – in Baltimore. All three of us – my sister, my mom and I had read the book, fell in love with it and felt it had moved us in some way. It was only fitting that two and a half years later, we would go together now that it's come out, especially since this is the first time I had been home in two years. This movie embraced change, taught us that when taking a new journey, the most important thing to remember is that everyone you meet, every event that happens has the possibility of teaching you something, has the incredible chance to open doors in your life that you never knew needed opening. “Eat Pray Love” was this movie.

The second one was in my new city – Chicago. This one I had never heard of, probably will never see in big screenings and my boyfriend and I went to because I hoped that by going, I would be introduced to people in the Chicago film industry, make a friend, possibly make connections that would lead to a job. It was in the Midwest Film Festival and a random email I had sent to a local casting director led me here. She told me to introduce myself to two people, so I did. (We shall see what comes out of it...) The movie that was viewing after the reception was called “Something Better Somewhere Else.” It mocked change – not to slander it or necessarily put it down – but just by asking the question, “Will things truly get better if you change your circumstances, or do we just always think that the grass is greener?”

I believe both movies basically had the same point – if you go into something without first changing yourself, then nothing you do to change your circumstances will necessarily affect you for the better. We must be ready and open to accept these teachers along the way, or else, eventually, we will find ourselves meeting the same type of people, getting into the same types of conflicts and being just as miserable as we were before the change took place.

So this is where I am. We have been living in England for the last two years. Without getting into too much detail, I am an American, my boyfriend is English and the Visa situation in England was tricky for me – as in, I didn't have one. Here in America, my boyfriend's industry is booming and he already has opportunities available to him – hence why we moved.

I wrote a novel while I was in England so as not to go crazy. I started a ladies' club in England in order to ensure I had a social life. I bought workout DVD's to stay in shape. I had a life where I didn't really have to worry about money, where I couldn't leave the country for fear of not being let back in and where I really felt trapped when all was said and done – despite my efforts.

And there I was, an emotional, talkative American in a foreign country that coddled “feelings” like a snake coddles a mouse (not everyone – there are exceptions to this rule whom I vehemently stand by and embrace – they are the people who kept me going, they know who they are. I love them.)

I was ready to move. I loved England in many ways (Sunday roasts, pubs, the history, the country side, the subtlety of life that America lacks, football passion, tea and even driving on the left side of the road), made many friends and loved my boyfriend's family more than words can say – but I was ready to really have a life where I could have a career, travel wherever I wanted, make friends out and where my boyfriend and I would be on equal footing.

So here we are. Getting ready to have this life, and I'm stuck in a circle – wanting to make sure each step I take isn't made rashly and without thought, but needing to make money pretty quickly while my boyfriend's Visa goes through and trying to balance all that I learned along the way with this new rushed life.

Adjustment problems back into America are few and far between. Like Alisha, I have found it to be pretty seamless – after all, this is home and no matter how much time is passed, I don't think I will forget that. Surprisingly, being away for so long has taught me to love America in a way I never could have before.

So, the question is – have I grown enough along the way, learnt from past mistakes and am I awake enough to see when lessons are thrown my way, opportunities shoved in my face, teachers gently tapping me on the wrist? Or will this change just be the same as every other place I've ever lived?

I believe it will be a bit of both. But hopefully, when I miss things and the patterns start reappearing in my life, I will recognize them, gently acknowledge that they are there and politely say “You know what? I don't want you in my life right now. Please make room for the 'something better somewhere else.'”

Thank you Alisha for allowing me to guest blog, for being patient with me while I moved here and for always giving me food for thought.

Meagan Lopez is a freelance writer now based in Chicago. She has just finished her novel, The Three Questions. After high school, she left Baltimore for Los Angeles, graduated from USC and entered into the world of casting film and television. Click here for her IMDB page. Her blog chronicling her journey from America to England and back again can be found here.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Back to school time!

Even though I haven't been a student for the last 8 years I still have a soft spot for this time of year. I carry vivid teen-aged memories of going to the mailbox at the end of August and retrieving the back-to-school issue of Teen magazine with Tory Spelling on the cover, returning home and eating it up. There's just something so studious but fresh about September!

This year, at my teacher friend Mrs.Roddy's prompting, I decided to follow the school calendar with my own work. As you may know, I'm working part-time and my goal is to spend the other part of my time writing. But I confess that sometimes that other time never materializes. I've given myself a break for the last three months since I've been easing into this whole Seattle thing, but now that school is starting, I'm sharpening the number 2's and buckling down hard core. It's business time.

The first week won't be too strenuous -- no monster assignments just yet. Just an hour a day getting back into the swing of this writing life. To help kick-start the routine I'm making plans to get out of the house as much as possible. Home work is amazing but also a trap for the easily distracted among us. In fact, you'll find me right now at the hipster haunt Oddfellow's on Capitol Hill, beavering away. I count no less than nine macs surrounding me so I'm in good company.

School supplies are of course the best part of adopting a school calendar. This year I'm going for just the basics, you know, things like 0.4 black Pilot pens (only the literally finest) and graph paper notebooks for catching ideas (grass catching I've heard this called), espresso, fresh flowers and my tomato timer.

In case you're out of the fruit loop, tomato timers are so hot! The pomodoro technique is a time management technique that has me working productively (gettin' things done) for 25 minutes and then browsing etsy or the blog-o-sphere or dreaming of painting my table a glossy black for the next 5. Repeat. I'm obsessed with time management tactics and this is doing the trick for me lately. (Here's the link to download your own personal tomato to your dashboard.)

Tomatoes aside, there's another method I'm using to get myself back into becoming the part-time writer I need to be. It involves stepping way from the blog for a bit. Not completely, just a minor retreat to one post a week rather than two. Nothing dramatic but wanted to warn you and hope you don't miss virtual me too much.

Well, happy back-to-school. How are you ringing in the autumn?

{photo from design*sponge}
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