The Importance of Empty Time

Screenshot 2016-08-10 12.12.44I have been getting so much out of this talk a reader from the Netherlands shared with me. I must have watched it a least 5 times in the past few weeks!

It’s all about the stuff we mindful artists love – using awareness to live a more happy, productive and fulfilled life.

Juliet Funt teaches us about the power of “Whitespace.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? If you have studied art at all you know about the importance of what we call in art “negative space” – that space which surrounds an object or image that is essential to balance the composition. This is the same principle applied to our time.

She defines Whitespace as “the moments in our life which we allow to remain unfilled and ready for what might come.

We all understand what it’s like to live in this over-stimulating society. We are bombarded by information, overloaded with work and responsibilities, appointments and obligations. We’ve become more and more accustomed to our time constantly being filled. How many of you check your voice email or text messages while waiting in line at the post office, supermarket or bank?

We’ve become more and more accustomed to our time constantly being filled.

How many of you can remember the last time you were bored?

When I first got a smartphone I loved how “efficient” it made me. I coud regain all that previously “lost” time and get more work done, so later I could have more time to make art, clean my kitchen, call my mom, pay bills, etc. Does anyone else use the time waiting in line at the post office, supermarket or bank to check your voice email or text messages?

But it gets to be too much, doesn’t it? After a while, the constant activity and stimulation become draining. 

We just want some quiet.

Sometimes now when I have to wait, I instead choose to look at my surroundings, the people, the architecture, the sky, the weather or just reflect on things I have to be happy about or things to appreciate.

But it takes concerted effort to stave off low-value activity

According to Ms. Funt, “This loss of time with no assignment comes at hefty, hefty costs to our life and work.”

She invites us to welcome the pause in our lives and gives us the science to support the importance of this “Whitespace.” During this seeming “inactivity” is when the frontal lobe of our brain is able to connect with the memory center. This brain activity is associated with increased creativity, increased engagement and productivity.

Juliet is an engaging, skilful, and entertaining speaker. Although I couldn’t embed her video here, I encourage you to click to watch the full 22-minute talk.

Some of the gems I gleaned are the Four Thieves of Productivity. Each of these qualities are desirable innately but can become destructive when they “overgrow their pots.”

Four Thieves of Productivity
  • Drive
  • Excellence
  • Information
  • Activity

And I’ve found these questions an enormously supportive tool to counteract these “thieves.”

Whitespace simplification questions:

  • Is there anything I can let go of?
  • Where is “good enough” good enough?
  • What do I truly need to know?
  • What deserves my attention?

So how about you? Which of the thieves of productivity do you most identify with?

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How to Start a Painting?

I had a fabulous, meaty question from a subscriber recently who wrote to say she had recently switched from a 30-year graphic design practice to painting and was finding it tough.

She asked “How do I start a new painting? My paintings have no consistency.
Do I just let it flow? Or does in need to have a set direction?”

This is the question that comes up when we begin to take a more focused approach to painting. When it becomes for us more than a pastime or hobby and becomes a passionate pursuit or profession.

Usually, it’s not the painting that’s tough, it’s the thoughts that come up – the judgments, the inner critic.

Here are some things I suggested she try:

1. Create a studio journal. Writing before starting a painting. Blurt everything out.
2. Step back from the thoughts that are coming up. Become aware of what the quality of the thoughts you have while painting.
3. Set a timer during your painting process and step back, pause every 20 minutes or so and notice what is going on. Check in with your body, emotions, thoughts.
4. If the thoughts are not supportive, replace with more supportive thoughts.
5. Take out all your paintings completed thus far and look at them as a group. Journal about them from a curious, non-judgmental perspective. Don’t worry whether you love it or hate it. Just get curious. Write down from a neutral voice what you are noticing.
6. Think from a broader perspective about what the paintings are about. What are they teaching you? What are they showing you?



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Artists & Money: Interview with Financial Therapist Bari Tessler

I had the pleasure of sitting down for a video chat with dancer, mama, financial therapist and mentor Bari Tessler last week.

Artists and Money – it’s a hot topic.

When I was young, I somehow picked up from the culture that being an artist meant struggling financially.

I was willing to make that sacrifice (at least when I was 23 years old!).

But, I hear time and time again that many creatives were discouraged from pursuing their dream because they were told they would never make any money.

Another cultural myth is the stereotype that artists are flakey in general and specifically with money. We can’t handle it. We spend it too quickly. We don’t keep track. Our heads are in the clouds. We never have enough money. When we do have it we spend it too quickly. We are unrealistic. We aren’t good with numbers.

While these stereotypes are damaging and unfair, they have may have some basis in all those qualities that make us so wonderful. Creativity is centered in the right hemisphere. It accounts for our immense capacity to vision and dream, but it’s the left hemisphere that plans, projects, analyzes, calculates, handles figures and so forth.

The bottom line is many of us – artists or not – have a lot to discover about our relationship to money.

What is our story around it?

What is our family history with money?

What are we neglecting in our financial lives?

What are we very good at?

What do we still need to learn?

What about budgets?

Can we fulfill our dreams on our income?

Where do we have shame around money?

Bari Tessler is a wonderful guide on this journey. I took her Art of Money course in 2013 and was so enthusiastic about it that my sister signed up the very next year and one of my dearest friends has signed up to  take it in 2015!

If you are interested in learning more about Bari’s comprehensive holistic approach, please click here.

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New Year Studio Declutter!

This fall I got on a big decluttering kick. Many people have told me how much the videos and tips on organizing and decluttering helped motivate them, so I decided to share my latest strategies and discoveries in a new video.

Let me know what you think and please share your ideas for keeping your space orderly if that is the space you work best in OR if you work best in a more cluttered space, tells us about that, too!

For some, watching a quick video is enough but if you’re like me having someone break thigns down into smaller tasks and assignng them one by one makes all the difference.

I’d like to help those of you who

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My best advisor is myself























When I get caught up on a painting, like I did the other day, not sure where to go –


that’s when I stop, pause and go inward.


I turn off the music if it’s on, sit down, close my eyes, and center myself.


And wait.


Just in that centering, I gain clarity.


The other day, for instance, from that centered place I knew that I needed to focus on one painting at time.


So I let all the others in the series go for a moment and just picked one.


I looked at it, appreciated it, picked off the remnants of blue tape on the edges and declared it done.


I was delighted to find that the piece had different meanings depending on which way I turned it.


We can look outside ourselves for support and advice on our work, but I find the very best advisor is myself.


And not just myself but my Self. That part I connect with in meditation. The guidance I hear in the inner stillness.


What about you? When you are working on something and are not sure which way to proceed, what do you do to figure it out?

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