Reading-deprived word girl

Well wouldn’t you know it, the week after I organized my bookshelf I wasn’t allowed to read anything. I am going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with a local group of lovely women, and Week 4 is when we aren’t supposed to read anything.

This is really, really hard for me. In the spirit of not letting our own thoughts be cluttered up by other people’s influences, we are also taking a Facebook fast and avoiding TV. So my shelves are petting zoo right now.

I am finding that podcasts clutter up my brain. It is really hard for me to just listen to something for a long time without any visuals, even when I am puttering away and organizing things while listening. Casting TEDTalks to my TV is easier. But my preference is to absorb information through words, so I counted down the hours to Sunday morning while posting bangles in my shop.

Not reading at all is not feasible for solopreneurs (even if Ms. Cameron might beg to differ), so we did allow for business-related emails and business page posts. Instagram became my friend because it is primarily visual. I applied to some art shows and started uploading earrings for shop release this week.

On one day I had an email exchange about a commission that required me to poke around my business Facebook page, and it was hard to stop skimming the personal Facebook wall where the computer opened up to initially. I am realizing how much time is spent just poking around on social media and clicking link after link, so having set times for social media activity is a practice I hope to continue after this exercise.

I am not missing the personal Facebook as much as I thought. With the current political climate it isn’t that cheery anyway. Thankfully my family keeps in touch via messenger and Telegram, so I am not totally disconnected. I am also writing some cards to snail mail after the weekend.

On Monday I had a commute and it was so strange to realize that I do default to the phone. Staring out into the world instead of scanning news and social media was different. It is a bit weird not knowing what is happening out in the world, since being informed of headlines has become part of my daily routine. Since I don’t have daily interactions with people who might inform me of world events, this does feel a bit like living in a bubble.

I visited the Chicago Cultural Center for my Artist Date, and initially wasn’t going to read the art descriptions but the work was too intriguing to avoid understanding it, so I gave myself a pass for absorbing the amazing exhibits there. (More on that Thursday).

I started work on a large encaustic commission, but since I had to watch for over-fusing and let my thoughts on composition simmer, this project is only a 2-hour session at a time, so not a whole day-filler.

For me, the hardest part was the evening. Normally I unwind with a book or a movie. During the TED talks I want to look up the speakers, which is also ‘reading’ in my book. So I felt very constrained after sunset.

The Artist Way exercises are showing me that I am already living the life I want, in the environment I wished for myself. Living by myself has eliminated the cluttered mind that Ms. Cameron strives to help us clear, so I am finding myself with lots of time on my hands. I’ve organized studio shelves, journaled a lot, taken many many notes on what to look up when I can research again, and I sat in a cafe for a while to keep from touching books (until some very strong cologne caused me to pack up).

The oodles of free time make this sort of a vacation, since I am between freelance projects as well. Unfortunately it has been too chilly to take extended walks, which would help pass the time.

I’d love to take on a crochet project, but that would require picking up a book for instructions! What this is showing me is that I am not very playful. My life is very purposeful in that I read to research, or to relax. My art-making is business-related, and while it does feel like play, it is no longer a hobby. Kitchen time isn’t a playful thing for me either (“what if I burn it all?!”), so cooking up recipes for one doesn’t bring out my inner child.

I played a lot of solitaire.

I also colored a lot, since that was the one book I allowed myself to open.

Still, words are my thing. Saturday was a very dreary rainy day, perfect for curling up with a book. Instead, I passed the hours doing a puzzle.

I guess what this week showed me is that books are my friends, and yes, maybe I am slightly addicted, but they are not as big of a ‘crutch’ as I thought they might be. Reading helps me get out of my ego-brain, my scarcity-brain, my worry-brain.

I am inspired by stories, which prompt a plethora of look-ups, listing of follow-up books to read, and have me mulling over my own story ideas. The week did force me to sit down and do some book-related writing for myself, and to push through “I should look that up right now” which would get me back into research-land.

It is fun to catch up on The Voice and pick out a Netflix movie in the evenings, but since I don’t have cable my TV watching is pretty purposeful instead of it being background noise. I don’t feel like I escape into TV.

Doing the morning pages is grounding me and helps focus on me instead of having my day be influenced by external influences right away. I do a lot of artist dates by default, but haven’t consciously scheduled one a week. It is fun to add to the list based on what other people are doing, and knowing that many artist dates are free. So we will see what Weeks 5-12 bring. I am hoping for lots of synchronicity as my inner artist evolves.

Have you done The Artist’s Way? What insights did the 12-week journey bring you?

Love Delivered Inspiration

At Christmas Santa gifted me with a subscription to Curly Girl Design’s Love Delivered.


Each quarter, the wonderful people at Curly Girl Design pack up their latest releases, boxed sets of cards and other odds and ends to cheer the recipient up.


Then the job becomes figuring out whom to send these pearls of wisdom to.


The list of recipients is almost completed, but the writing of the cards is still to be done.


My aim is to take some of my electronic hiatus weekend days to sit down with pen and paper and write (scribble) someone a personal note. Handwritten notes are so unusual these days, and I’ve relied too much on electronic (group) correspondence the past few years.


The third installment had festive polkadot tissue paper with a fabulous sticker on it.


It was begging to be converted into a pendant.


I pasted some of the tissue paper on the back of the pendant to even out the stickiness, and then twisted wire into a circle to go around the sticker shape.


I used a piece of Brenda Schweder’s Now That’s a Jig to form a polkadot pendant and made spirals emulating the happy dots.


After some shaping and bending I waxed the paper and added it on to the wire with black encaustic paint.


These pendants will make their way to Etsy this week, so someone who does dream in perfect French can snap it up. I used to dream in Dutch, then German, but now it is mostly English.


Check out Leigh Standley’s amazing wisdom and quirky collage designs.


I’ve had her calendar two years in a row, and was fortunate to listen to her share her journey at the Creative Connection Event when I first responded to the tinglings of embarking on a creative life.


It is fun to be encouraged to “live imperfectly with great delight.”

Radvent: Writing

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. 
~William Wordsworth

Last weekend I visited Piccolo Theatre’s Holiday Panto (ends tomorrow, December 17). Jessica Puller did a fabulous job writing Space Wars. I thought it would be a Star Wars vs. Star Trek type show, but the geekery was far better than that. This review gives a good synopsis.

Piccolo Theatre Space Wars Poster

I proofread a script for a roommate once and have such admiration for scriptwriters. All the nitty-gritty of how people open a door, which way they face etc. takes a lot of patience I think. My training has been all about cutting text where possible and avoiding redundancy (thanks Ms. Fusco and Dr. Schiff!), but in a script all that detail is necessary.

Princess Lasertron’s Radvent on Writing is quite insightful.

Radvent Writing by Princess Lasertron

Image re-blogged with permission from Princess Lasertron

This March I read my old diaries, all 30 of them (in three languages), and found that I had some very insightful perspectives. I keep a quote book where I jot down good passages from library books, and ended up quoting my 16-year-old self in there quite a bit!

reading diaries by Maike's Marvels

Writing has always been a part of me, no matter how many times I had to relearn how to write as we moved from country to country. I made up stories in my head all the time. My cousin and I were collaborators on a few ‘romance novels’ in our teenage years. We even drew blueprints of the farm on which we would live happily ever after with our handsome husbands (the boys we swooned over at the time).

early stories by Maike's Marvels

Our Barbie dolls had a lively correspondence too!

Barbie correspondence

Writing is very therapeutic for me. I find that when I haven’t journaled or blogged for a few days my thoughts are muddled and darker. As Princess Lasertron states, writing gives your ideas form. It also helps process events and experiences.

gathering quotes over the years

To-do lists give my days structure and help me cluster errands together so I don’t waste gas or muscle-energy running out several times a day or in different directions. I’m not as scatterbrained when I jot down mundane tasks and my days feel more productive as I check things off.

There have been times, both when writing in a journal or when writing to a friend, that I felt the message didn’t come from me but from the universe/a higher power. I have been told that my correspondence has arrived at times where people needed the message they read in my pages (now e-mail). I firmly believe that we can find messages like that on a daily basis. I even played with recognizing those messages on a recent outing.

MarvyMaike writing holiday cards

Here are two tips for holiday-card writing. Instead of the usual holiday and new year’s wishes, focus on the recipient a little more:

  1. Thank the recipient for something they did for you this year.
  2. Mention a trait or experience that you admire them for.

The gift of appreciation carries much further than any gift card ever will.

Holiday cards by Maike's Marvels

You can see my holiday cards here.

Radvent: Influence

I’ll have to let Radvent go through January because there are a few good topics this week. Today I’ll work on Influencing.

Influence Radvent by Princess Lasertron

 Image re-blogged with permission from Princess Lasertron

Five of my greatest influences is difficult to narrow down. I could easily do this exercise for every year of my life, as well as make the list longer. But narrowing down what influencers you should listen to most is very important, especially when you want to be a positive influencer on the world.

1. Nature: Every time I am out by trees or water I am reminded of how time is fleeting, that life has cycles and that everything will (instinctively) work out as it should.

nature photography by Maike's Marvels

2. Captivating authors who inspire me to write: Thea Beckman (her Hasse Simonsdochter is my most influential book), Astrid Lindgren, Annie M.G. Schmidt, Anne Frank, Else Ury (Germany’s Lucy Maud Montgomery), Donna Tartt, Paulo Coehlo.

influential authors to Maike's Marvels

3. Living in 3 countries before age 20. Adapting to each culture was difficult and a huge learning curve, and then exploring 3 states in the U.S. has been an adventure as well. I cannot identify with one single nationality and have learned that every culture has its pros and cons. “Where are you from” is a complicated question!

globetrotting days by Maike's Marvels

4. My year at Thunderbird. That is when I began growing up. I made wonderful connections with people of a variety of cultures, began to empower myself as a person, learned a lot academically and interpersonally, and have fond memories of the international nights.

Thunderbird memories by Maike's Marvels

5. Successful women in the arts and crafts industry: Marjolein Bastin, Mary Engelbreit, Susan Branch, Dee Gruenig, Suze Weinberg, Kelly Rae Roberts, Princess Lasertron, Curly Girl Design. These wonderful ladies are proof that one can pursue one’s artistic passion and thrive. (For those who wonder: “Where’s Martha Stewart?” Martha Inc. influenced my opinion of her too much.) Where Women Create Magazine continues to inspire me and keep me believing that I, too, can have a thriving artsy venture in the near future.

crafty divas who influence Maike's Marvels

Honorable mention:

Family and loyal friends: (whom I couldn’t sum up in 5 bullets as my Christmas address list made clear) #3 would’ve been hell without them.

The ghosts of relationships past (including friendships, teachers, colleagues):  like Christina Aguilera’s Fighter, each one made me stronger and taught me to love and honor myself more.

Music: It calms, empowers, energizes, moves you physically, puts feelings into lyrics when you can’t express yourself. I’ve had a few theme songs throughout the years. “The Good Life” by One Republic sums up this year.

Thoughts: Ultimately, it all comes down to what is in your head and how you respond to situations. I’ve let my mind pull me down a lot, and am working hard on keeping my thoughts positive and uplifting as much as possible. Princess Lasertron’s prompters are key to sticking to happy thoughts.

  • What kind of influence do you want to be on the world?
  • How do you feel about the power you have to influence people?
  • Does anything have too much influence on you?

Let’s be positive influencers today!