The benefit of limits: Break through a creative block

We’re about a quarter of the way through the year – are you still feeling that new-beginning high that you felt in January? Are you still powering through your to do list and ideas? Or are you in a slump?

Those frustrating creative blocks pop up all the time. Out of nowhere. You’ve got 14 million ideas going and are plowing full speed ahead and then all of a sudden you hit a wall.

If you’ve got a creative block right now, I have a little bit of a counter-intuitive tip for you:

creative blockGive yourself limitations

That might be a time limit – force yourself to write a blog post in only 30 minutes. That might be a medium limit – make a scrapbook page using ONLY cardstock (no patterned paper or embellishments). What you decide the limit is depends on what the project is.

The best way to think outside the box is to know what the box is.

For example, I ALWAYS have plenty of blog post ideas because I stick to an editorial calendar. I’m able to get all my blogging done for the week in about 4 hours because that’s the time that I schedule for myself. I’m able to put together minibooks and creative projects that I love with only a few supplies, because I don’t let myself spend money on more.

Giving yourself that kind of challenge makes your brain work in the opposite direction. Giving yourself limitations forces you to find an alternative solution – and can help you break through any creative block.

Here are some more resources to break through that creative block:

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On focusing and pursuing less

I am LOVING the L&R Book Club! Last month we finished up reading focus : a simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction. I think this was the perfect book to start off the year. While basically everything in it I already KNOW, I still need the reminder to simplify, let go of distractions and pursue less.

In fact, that is my #1 goal this year – to NURTURE what I already have and pursue less.

Between focus and my OLW and the recent business resources I’ve been consuming, the idea of clarity and single-tasking and pursuing less is everywhere.

This means some in-depth “spring cleaning” to purge books and craft supplies and other things that I don’t need. This means not launching a bunch of new products under Lemon and Raspberry. This means eliminating some of my commitments to give a better effort to the ones that remain. I started last fall with discontinuing blogging on my family blog, and right now I’m considering blogging fewer times here at L&R.

It’s all a process on focusing, pruning, pursuing less and nurturing what is left.

I love the discussion of this in this article The Disciplined Pursuit of Less: “The price of his dream job was saying no to the many good, parallel paths he encountered.” I tend to overestimate what I can realistically accomplish, which is why I’m trying to use this year to pull back and basically rebuild my workload along more reasonable lines.

The whole point of quitting my day job was to be able to work less and be more present during the (few) hours that Andrew and I have together.

Which means I’ve got to really focus.

How are you focusing this year?

Reminder: For March and April 2014, we will be reading Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? by Seth Godin

SHIFT_free creativity guide

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How to be awesomer: My #1 tip for motivation

be awesomer: Best tip for motivationI am all full up on motivation right now. I’ve done more writing in the last couple weeks than I did the full 3 months before that. I’m just about done with the first draft of my second novel, and I’ve started mentally outlining my third novel (and very very roughly fourth and fifth).

I genuinely want to be published. I want to finish these books, get them published, work on more books. I’ve started thinking about a pen name (whole different post) and reserved a URL and found a WordPress theme. I’ve started giving myself more and more time to write (doing even less housework than usual). And, honestly, my end game is to sell film rights and maneuver a way to work as a film producer on those films. And novelist when I’m not producing (yup, a tad ambitious. Not really embarrassed about that).

Anyway, the point is I am TOTALLY motivated. I am on a roll and I am making things AWESOMER.

You can totally replicate this motivation….. My top tip for motivation is:

Hang out with people who irritate you with their awesomeness.

Find someone who is doing what you want to do but in such an amazing, unbelievable, completely obnoxiously awesome way that it just irritates you to the point of making you say to yourself, “I could do that, darn it!” Gather people like this around you and roll around in their awesomeness and let that stubborn streak of yours (mine) spark your motivation.

How to “hang out” with people you admire:

  1. Read every single thing they’ve ever wrote – books, blog posts, twitter updates. Every day.
  2. Listen or watch every single place they’ve appeared – podcast interviews, TED talks, scour YouTube’s archives. Every day.
  3. Re-read or re-watch every single thing – Every day.
  4. Actually hang out with them – Skype dates, coffee dates if you possibly can. Not necessarily every day.

You just want to immerse yourself in their thought process. They are doing amazing work and the more you expose yourself to that work, the more their awesomeness will both impress and drive you crazy. And the more annoyed you are, the more motivated you will be.

At least, that’s the way my stubborn brain works.

So I’ve been listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast. There are a few years of archives, so I can listen to at least one a day. I don’t know what I’ll do when I catch up and only get 1 episode each week. I’ve also read their book Write.Publish.Repeat. (with plans to re-read) and Yesterday’s Gone and have downloaded the first episodes of a bunch of their other series.

Those jokers are OUT OF CONTROL. There’s 3 guys who, teaming up in various combinations, make a full-time income self-publishing fiction. Which is CRAZY to me! I want to be them when I grow up, and I get so worked up when they talk about how much they are writing. I think I can absolutely do that I totally get all full of motivation to write so I can finish all of these works I have partway done.

It is a HUGE motivation for me to listen to them talk for an hour about how THEY made this model work and I immediately get off and write for an hour or so. And now I want to go work on my novel. Because I’m so annoyed by how much they do the same.

Who inspires you to an annoying level?

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That fine line between nurturing and lazy

As you know, this year I’m trying to be more NURTURING to myself.

I tend to go a *little* overboard with ambition and over-committing myself and then I run myself ragged and feel bad about myself for needing to take an afternoon off to read. And then I feel bad about giving myself time off, so I throw myself back in to work and ambition and over-committing.

It’s a vicious cycle.

So that’s what I’ve kind of been working on over the last few weeks.

I got *crazy* sick. First time in my adult life I’ve gotten a fever, as a matter of fact. Very exciting. Andrew came home from work to take care of me and I didn’t open my laptop for 48 hours. So I took 3 full sick days, and then took it easy for the 2 days after that. But then? Then I was feeling guilty about being behind on my emails and projects and commitments to other people. So what that I had been sick? I’ve got to power through, right?

These are the conversations I have with myself. I’m trying to feel less guilty about being idle.

But there’s such a fine line between being lazy and giving yourself much-needed downtime and I don’t know where that line is.

I’m terrible at relaxing so even when we’re watching a movie I feel like I should be working on something. I actually do give myself afternoons to read for fun and then I feel like a “bad entrepreneur.” Because we’re supposed to be working 18-hour days, right?

Any tips for how to identify when you’re being lazy and when you’re recharging?

This is what I’m trying to work on in 2014. 10.5 more months to nail it!

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Resources for setting your goals

I love the beginning of new years … Today will be FULL of goal-setting posts and ideas.

To get you started, here are a bunch of links with more perspectives and ideas for setting your 2014 intentions:

Are you ready for the new year???

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What is your purpose?

“Life planning begins with an unfortunate fact: many people have no idea what they really want to do or accomplish over the course of their time on earth. Instead of moving toward a destination, they become mired in ‘life avoidance’ by ambling around without a clear sense of objective or purpose.” (Chris Guillebeau in The Art of Non-Conformity)

You have a purpose. A GREAT WORK. You are meant to leave some kind of legacy.

what is your purpose?Maybe you know what it is. Maybe you’re still searching for it. Maybe it’s your little baby business that you are nurturing. Maybe it is your local non-profit passion project. Maybe it is raising your kids to be amazing adults that can live their own purpose.

It is the unfortunate fact that most people don’t think about what their legacy will be until they are close to the end. Wouldn’t it be far better for us to decide earlier what we want to get out of life and move in that direction all through life? Most people regret things that they haven’t done – there aren’t many who regret what they HAVE done.

Now, remember, your GREAT WORK does not necessarily have to be a full-time job. Nor do I believe that your purpose has to be something unconventional and independent. Nor do I believe that your legacy has to be some selfless, headline-producing act.

But even though I DO believe this – I absolutely believe that I can make my life whatever I want it to be – every week it’s a challenge to keep believing this big idea. I have to remind myself every month (every single week) to keep thinking big. I have to constantly (constantly) keep in the forefront of my mind the fact that I CAN change my life, and that these little tiny steps that I take every day and the choices I make every hour to blog on Lemon and Raspberry instead of rewatching another episode of Friends are helping me work toward that change.

What is your GREAT WORK? What is your purpose?

Your great work is likely to be something that changes the status quo and changes the world. Will you feel fulfilled if your work doesn’t make a difference to anyone? Will you feel like you are really doing your best work if you don’t make things just the smallest bit better in someone’s world? Granted, it may be a small world – like the world of professional librarians in the Midwest, or the world of small business owners who can’t manage their own taxes – but it is still SOMEONE’s world.

The world needs your gifts. You have those gifts for a reason – whether you believe in God, fate, genetics, or some combination of those. You have been given skills (or the time to develop skills) that not everyone has.

And you have those gifts so that you can do remarkable things. Remarkable things that will change someone’s whole world.

Here’s you challenge for this first week of 2014:

Write your manifesto.

Write your purpose. Identify your life’s intentions. Bonus points if you have the tech knowledge to make a /purpose page.

The fine folks of Fictive Kin created slashpurpose.org. They believe that the world would be a better place if the people trying to shape it spoke openly and plainly about their vision for the future.

Go visit LemonandRaspberry.com/purpose to read mine.

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2014 One Little Word: NURTURE

Choosing BRAVE as my One Little Word in 2013 changed my life.

Actually, to be honest, it was probably more the paying money for Ali’s class that really held me accountable to focusing on the word that really changed my life.

But I am at least 15x* happier than I was at this time last year …. all because I was BRAVE. I had chosen OLWs before, but I didn’t really know what to do with them or what they meant to me, so they didn’t do much. But now I know. Now I can keep the word as a mantra and go through Ali’s exercises and keep a book that reflects how I am letting the word speak to me throughout the year. There was never a question that I wouldn’t participate in this challenge in 2014.

If you have watched my consulting call with Kristin, you know that over the next year my intention is to basically just work with what I have. I don’t have plans to take any big brave steps (like launching a giant blogging ecourse), but instead I just want to make what I am doing now work better.

I started thinking about this back in …. July? Right about the time I launched BUILD, as a matter of fact.

I was thinking about how much work I put into BUILD, about how statistically most sales come ON launch day, and about what I needed to do to change that. I had been thinking about my email list for awhile, wanting to refocus on that …. and frankly I was just feeling mentally exhausted from the cycle of creating new products every few months. I knew there was a better way to do this.

nurture

I wanted to grow where I was already planted, instead of trying to advance advance advance. But more than just grow …. I needed to NURTURE what I already have. What I know is working for me. What I don’t want to lose, but I want to take care of and encourage.

NURTURE: to care for and encourage the growth or development of

This year I will NURTURE:

My relationships. I work a lot and I’m bad at email and I want to be better at keeping and nurturing the love in my life.

My business. I have a lot going on under the L&R brand and I could be leveraging it all to reach more readers, help more people build their platform, help more women tell their stories, or find their great work. I want to grow what I have and nurture those who read me.

My home. I love our house and we’ve finally gotten to the point where all the work that *needs* to be done is done. It’s just fixing and polishing and nurturing now. Related: I want to start a garden in 2014. Nurturing in my own backyard.

My brain. I read a lot, yes, but I want to read more. Read deeper. Read things that influence my life directly. Part of this will be doing research for the novel I’m working on. Part of this will be nurturing my understanding of certain topics that fascinate me and I want to learn more about.

My health. I have been … not hating my #mileadays in December. I didn’t love them – I don’t know if I will every love working out – but I did manage to find half an hour to do it nearly every day. I’d like to continue being active, continuing to cut back on sugar and in other ways nurture my health.

… and more ….

What is your ONE LITTLE WORD this year?

*rough estimate

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5 Ways to Make Sure You FINISH

The following is a guest post from Megan of The Nerd Nest:

5 Ways to Make Sure You FINISH by Megan Anderson for Lemon and Raspberry

Today your 2014 goals are most likely at the forefront of your mind. I believe in you, but I want to make sure your intentions aren’t forgotten already by the time you turn the calendar over to February. However set your plans or resolutions may seem now, they can be difficult to hold onto.

Don’t fret! I’m here to tell you: you can do this. Last year was my year to FINISH, and I’ve learned quite a bit about following through. In 2013, I finished reading the complete works of Poe, Frost, and Shakespeare, finished building my dream bookshelves, finished creating a rad garden, finished making tons of projects, finished filling albums with my best memory keeping yet, finished contributing to friends’ work, finished teaching classes, and finished writing ebooks. I had ideas big and small throughout the year, and pushed myself to carry those ideas through to fruition. I turned myself from a dreamer to a doer, and you can too!

Here are my top five tips to help you commit to getting to the finish line:

Set goals you CAN finish.

You can’t finish if you set an unattainable goal, period. You also will have trouble working towards a goal that you don’t really want. This doesn’t mean you can’t reach for the stars, but it does mean that you need to be honest with yourself so that you don’t burn out. I know this can be a hard balance to reach: you want to challenge yourself, but you want your goals to be attainable too.

For instance, it doesn’t make sense to have the goal of paying off $3,000 in credit card debt this year if you only realistically have $150 left over after your normal monthly expenses. Instead, you can set a more realistic goal of putting a certain dollar amount towards the debt each month, taking precautions to not increase the debt, and working to make side income that can be put entirely towards the debt. Set a SMART goal to ensure that you are working towards something you can finish.

Find a support system.

Sometimes, you’ll need a cheerleader to help you keep going. Tell friends of your plans so they can help you when you feel discouraged, join a community of goal oriented people like One Little Word, or connect with others who have similar goals. Sharing can not only motivate you to finish, but others can also help raise you up when you start to feel like you can’t do it.

More of a loner? Your support system can be all in your head; honest. Develop a mantra you can repeat to yourself to help put you into the right frame of mind.

Come up with a back up plan.

There’s more than one way to finish a goal, and having another pathway will help you to not throw in the towel if things don’t go quite as planned. When I made it a goal to go to the farmer’s market weekly, I found quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the market every weekend. So I found a closer-to-me weekend farmers’ stand and a Wednesday market in my neighborhood, so I could still pick up local produce on the weeks I was too busy to make it to my regular market.

If your goal is to go to the gym three times a week but you find you aren’t doing it, switch to exercise you can do at home. If your goal is to write an hour a day, but you can’t focus during that hour, forget balance every once and awhile and clear a whole day once a month for writing. Make sure you’re not confusing the plans that you made to reach a goal for the goal itself, and be willing to change things up if they aren’t working for you.

Pick the ball back up.

Failure is a natural part of goal setting, but it won’t beat you if you know how to deal with it. I was successful in documenting a Day in the Life monthly in 2013, but completely forgot about the project in November. Instead of giving up on the project, I used what photos I had and filled in the gaps with words. I could have just as easily skipped November, and it still would have been fine. I made what I had work, and didn’t let the different outcome bother me.

If you get sick and don’t feel like doing anything for weeks, start again when you feel better. If you are too close to a project and need to shove it in a drawer for awhile, come back to it when you get enough distance to figure out what you need to change. Don’t expect perfection from yourself, and keep going if you miss the mark.

Know when to re-evaluate.

Sometimes working towards goals you don’t really want anymore can keep you from finishing what is really meaningful to you. I’ll be honest: I made 2013 my year for FINISHing because I wanted motivation to finish my novel manuscript, which I’ve been working on for years. However, I quickly found that working on the manuscript was bringing me lots of stress and no joy or fulfillment, and found my passion, ideas, and creativity to be focused more on other areas, like blogging and Project Life. So I gave myself permission to finish the things that were my passion and leave the book behind–for now or forever.

If you choose multiple goals, you may find that some of them change your life and some of them are better left behind, and that’s okay. You get to decide what you finish, and not finishing some things makes room for you to finish the things you really care about.

I’d love to hear all about your goals for 2014 and your plans for finishing them!

Megan can be found at The Nerd Nest, where she blogs about (and sometimes with) her family of crafty nerds. When she’s not working hard to finish her grand intentions, she’s going on nerdy adventures with her family, spending time filling up Project Life albums, reading big stacks of books, and making stuff.

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How to be brave

This last year has been amazing …. and I attribute it all to my focus on being BRAVE.

I knew I had a lot of BIG things I wanted to do this year, so when I went about choosing my One Little Word, I went with an action word. A mantra. Something that would get me going and not provide any excuses.

I’m pretty good at talking myself out of things. But publicly committing to BRAVE helped stem that tendency this year.

I’m not saying it was easy – how could it be? I’m saying that for the times that I DID get over my fears and take BRAVE steps, the reward was more than worth the uncomfortable, paralyzing, anxiety-inducing choices I made.

And now, a year later? BRAVE is my One Little Word for LIFE. Yes, I have chosen a new OLW for 2014, but BRAVE will still be my mantra. It will be my measuring stick against which I judge my choices.

In 2014 I’m going to be BRAVE and I’d like to invite you to be as well.

Here’s how to start:

be braveMake a list of the things that remind you to be brave.

This is what I call ‘tricking my brain’ into being logical. This list can be people you want to be proud of you, or end results you’re working toward or what you have been able to accomplish already. Or anything else that tells your brain that being brave is the right decision, even the fear of doing it makes your heart race.

 If you’re afraid of taking the step that will grow your business, remember that you have customers that want to pay you for what you can offer them. If you’re afraid your readers will think you’re a ‘fraud,’ remind yourself of all the people who know you well and love you for who you are.

If you’re afraid you might fail, remind yourself that you probably will at least once and that nothing will ever chance unless you try. If you’re afraid of missing out on something if you commit to something else, remind yourself that nothing is forever and you can always change course if you *really* want to.

And then ACT in spite of the fear. Just do it. Just go. Just jump. You’ve got all your reasons why you should act written right in front of you. It’s always going to be scary and uncomfortable so there’s no use putting your life on hold to hope for something else.

The New Year is coming up soon! How will you meet it? Be ready and willing to be BRAVE and change your life!

I’m working on a mini, self-paced ecourse tentatively titled be BRAVE, to be released January 1! Look for that next week if you want to kickstart your next year in a big way!

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What is the secret to extreme productivity?

Not gonna lie, I can be super productive. I built a side income while working fulltime+ and taking care of our new house…. and ‘how to be more productive’ is one of the most common questions I get from my coaching clients.

Want to know the secret of extreme productivity?

——-> Make your habits support your priorities <———

Don’t tell me you want to build an income from your blog but don’t have time – when I know you are just choosing to marathon TV shows instead.

Don’t tell me you want to learn to photograph in manual mode – when I know you haven’t picked it up in months.

Don’t tell me you’re going to be an author – when you don’t write anything besides emails.

priorities

It just comes down to PRIORITIES. Do you habits support your goals, or are you letting other priorities get in the way?

It is totally fine to be partying instead of working on a Saturday. Just know that means you are making your friendships a priority over whatever goal your work would help you reach.

How you spend your time and money is totally up to you. It is YOUR decision and is 100% valid – unless, of course, you are going around telling people about this big project you’re going to start soon. If said project is a priority, you would be doing it already.

Example: I want to write. It took me 30 years to figure it out, but it turns out I want to write books. Fiction and non- … I have several ideas, as well as the requisite romanticized version of what it will mean when I am a ‘Writer.’ BUT – truth time -  I haven’t worked on my novel in a week. For a variety of reasons, including the fact that I know it’s a mess and will require a major rewrite.

 Example #2: We don’t have a ton of nice things. We’re still using TV trays as bedside tables. Why? Because our priorities are elsewhere. My husband and I chose to spend our money on buying the house and keeping expenses low so I could quit my day job. Which means we saved all the money that we could easily spend on bedside tables, nice dining room set, living room rug, guest room bed, etc etc etc. Our priorities do not match buying all that stuff.

So! This week, as you start thinking about New Years resolutions and goals ….

*Take a look at what you tell people you want. …  and think long and hard about if you REALLY want that

*Take a look at your weekly schedule and if your actions, habits and tasks throughout the week actually support that goal.

*Adjust your schedule as needed.

For me …. I have WRITE (in all caps) scheduled for 2 hours, first thing in the morning every day forever and ever. Which is easy to do with Google Calendar.

This next week I’m going to use those hours to adjust my outline, story structure and figure out what it is that is missing (there’s something missing), so the week after I can get back to writing. So I can finish this draft. So I can revise the draft. So I can re-revise the draft. So I can submit it to agents. So I can hopefully get it published. So I can be an AUTHOR.

Maybe you need to block off one night a week after you get home from work to blog for the following week. Maybe you need to cancel your Saturday plans so you can spend some time going in-depth with your live-workshop planning. Maybe just serve your family leftovers all week so you have that little bit of extra time to just figure out what your REAL goals are.

Creating daily habits that support your goals doesn’t mean you can never change your mind. It does mean that you need to be honest about what those goals are. You can make amazing progress and be off-the-charts productive if you are clear on the end goal and adjust your habits accordingly.

There are always little pockets of time you can find. And if you have your priorities straight, your habits can support those and you can take over the world!

FM-750-100

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