One thing people often guess about me is that I grew up as an innocent goody-two-shoes. I am uncomfortable breaking the rules, even though I believe some rules are really, really dumb. I am convinced that if I step out of line, someone will catch me. Not to mention the guilt or embarrassment I feel when I think I’ve done something wrong – soooooo not worth it. Because of this, there were only two times that I was grounded as a kid. They were both for lying about practicing my violin/singing.

Had I been more compelled to practice when I was growing up, I do wonder where I would be today. It isn’t one of those wistful “if only” thoughts, it was what it was. I was a happy kid, exploring my passions with the steady support of my parents. If ever there was the opportunity, I had it. I just merely did not have the desire at the time to put work into those areas, so my life went a different route. Interestingly, now that I am settled into the adult life, that desire has emerged.

But that means practicing. Bleh.

The dreaded bar chords – your finger becomes the capo.

Why Practicing Sucks

OK, this is where you may start rolling your eyes. This is not a gloat-session, I swear. But I have a theory about myself that is important when talking about practicing. That theory is that I’m spoiled.

I am generally good at a lot of things just naturally. (Unless it’s sports. I have poor depth perception – like as in tested by eye doctors/physicians. So…yeah, not my thing.) I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty great being able to pick things up quickly. However, the drawback is a tendency toward relying too much on natural ability. It results in impatience and trouble tolerating the process that is important for growth and development of additional skills over time.

I often wonder if those who have more natural talent may be at a disadvantage, namely of not having a good ability to grow in a skill. The equation in my mind is this: artistic prowess = talent + the ability to grow it. And I think that the equation comes out the strongest when the two parts are well-balanced. We often believe raw talent is what counts, but if you can’t harness it, then what?

Here’s my problem. I just want to be good at something. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind putting in the time and energy, and I love learning new things. But for me, practicing feels like a shift from learning to sheer repetition. It goes from the excited energy of something new and innovative to the humdrum of a broken record, doing something over and over and over and over and over again until it improves.

Because of this, I have a bad habit of seeing practice as a means to an end. When the bad news (for me) is that it’s ALL meant to be a process. No beginning, no end, just continual learning and evolution. Even when you are crafting/creating a specific item like a scarf or a candle, technically you can always find something to refine – it is a conscious choice to find an end point where you are willing to step away and call it “complete”. UGH.

Trial batches of cookies to test.

Why Practicing is Awesome

In the words of Mike Myers, now let’s put the emPHAsis on the other sylLAble.

Practicing is where the magic happens. Putting in the rote time, trying and trialing over and over, zeroing in on the techniques behind the art. These seemingly mundane tasks allow your brain to process and to click in ways it wouldn’t if you had just focused on creating your end product. There is this cool point where the motor memory and the creative flow finally click and you finally go from repetition to elevation. It’s awesome.

Also think about this. When you are practicing, it’s all process. In other words, there is no such thing as ‘messing up’. EVERYTHING is fair game. How cool is that?? It is one of the only areas of life where there is no pressure to get it right. When you trial something out, you can toy around and not worry if the chords clash or the colors murk. They say that brainstorming in its purest form is when there is no such thing as a bad idea – you are just riffing and coming up with any possibility. Practice is where that happens.

Not convinced? Sigh, me neither – not 100% anyway. But whether it’s psychology or art, performance or creation, the theme holds steady. We have to allow the time and the space to practice, to try, to flub, to refine, to start again.

I can’t count how many times I’ve sat down to relax after doing a project, started absentmindedly rubbing my thumb across my fingertips, and felt little particles of dirt stuck around and beneath my nails. I love it.

I’m using the term “dirt” loosely here. Mainly as a way of describing any stray particle that clings on. Dough, flour, paint, charcoal, guitar callouses, plant stains, soil – doesn’t matter, it brings a smile to my face every time. (Unless it’s serrano or jalapeno pepper remnants. Then it brings tears and…just a few expletives.)

I have never been the person with the beautifully manicured hands. As a kid I kept my nails short to play violin. But honestly, I didn’t feel like I was missing out. If my nails reach past the pads of my fingertips, I find them more of a hinderance than anything, getting chipped away or snagged on something. On the rare occasion I’ll paint my nails, but they don’t stay pristine for long. I’m all for dangling some earrings or sprucing up my outfit, but I tend to go for comfort and convenience when it comes to my hands and my feet.

Sensory Connection

I think subconsciously I tend to prefer the projects that are hands on and get a bit messy. There’s something about dirt that I just can’t explain. It makes me think of a therapeutic technique called grounding using the five senses. Essentially you are trying to manage stress and anxiety by focusing in on your sensory experiences. My own personal theory for why these “dirty” projects are so satisfying is that they are powerful at grounding. The more immersed my senses are in the activity, the more connected to the present moment I feel.

What’s even better, those little stragglers of dirt keep me grounded beyond the project itself. I just love when you end up carrying remnants of a creative exploit with you after you’re done. If you watch me closely enough (please don’t, because it’s creepy), you’ll see that I like to go back to the dirt – feel the rough edges, smell the last traces of enjoyment. You know the sticky smell of garlic after you’ve been cooking? Can’t get enough. Or the caked on floury goodness of dough? I’ll keep sniffing my fingertips all day. Even the metallic and resiny smells from guitar playing gives off a pleasant aroma to me. It’s like I’ve been tagged by happiness and get to carry it around with me.

Proof in the Pudding

Don’t let my blog and online presence fool you, I am not the pinnacle of activity. Just ask my husband how many indoor chores have been on the to-do list for over 3 months. And I enjoy binge-watching a show or reading a book all day like anyone. But nearly every time I do one of those hours-long benders, I end up feeling restless and a little gross. At some point, I end up tipping my internal scale too far in one direction.

For me, relaxation cannot be just resting. No matter how hard I try, I can never fully escape the importance I place on productivity. Getting things done. Marking things off. Fixing something. Doing what needs doing. Learning or creating something new. I’ve realized that, when I allow myself to relax, dirt reminds me that I’ve already had a job well done and I deserve the respite. It’s the evidence that tells me it’s OK to take a beat. I guess if I were smarter, I’d do what our dog does and fake it – run outside and roll around in some dirt for a few minutes, then lie around all day. Alas, I am just not that clever.

I’m trying to start this new trend in my life. Let’s call it an artist’s day off.

COVID-19 has forced me to appreciate staycations. I love traveling and exploring, and I can’t wait to add that back into life, but I also love putting my time and energy into being at home. I finally did something I’ve been thinking about for years. Right now, I am taking a few days off specifically to give me time for a hobby.

It’s not that I haven’t had the opportunity to fit in gardening, music, and other antics during previous time off from work, especially if we count this past year. In fact, I often get to spend a lot of time working on my various projects during vacations. But usually, it’s a side effect of having the free time, not the primary reason for it. In this instance, I’m doing it for the sole purpose of working on one of my hobbies. I gotta say, it’s pretty invigorating.

Above: my tracking sheet for the garden season

Finally Doing It!

It came about a tad indirectly. Once we were done with the holiday season, I wanted to make sure I had something to look forward to. I looked out to March and was trying to decide how to narrow down the options. And then it hit me. Mid-March is the start of spring gardening here in Central Texas. Your freezing temperatures are (theoretically) behind you and it’s time to get planting. And just like that, a plan was made.

I’ve thought about this before and wanted to put it into practice, just never quite pulling the trigger. In casual conversations with family and friends or when I’m journaling and brainstorming upcoming projects, I seem to always come back to this desire to reserve special space for my creativity. In other words, I’m glad I finally did it!

When I scheduled the time off, I got super excited. More excited than I’d felt for previous “staycations”. After all, I wasn’t just doing it because of the desperate need to take time off. Instead, I was focusing on something important aside from work. I wasn’t going to find time for gardening. I was going to make time. And that made all the difference.

It’s simplistically brilliant. So why hadn’t I done this before?

Above: 3 basils (sweet Italian large leaf) and 1 eggplant (black beauty); oak leaves for weed barrier & retaining moisture

The Roadblocks

In my mind, taking time off is meant to be one of two things: a vacation or a sick day. Time off that isn’t “needed” is vacation time, which means trips, travel, and lounging. Using leave as a way to set aside time for my other passions feels a little weird. Instead of taking a vacation, I’m actually working. True, these activities are not my employment or necessary for my survival, but I am putting in a lot of energy and effort.

I have somehow managed to undervalue these activities that are so important to me. They don’t wow you in the way those Instagram worthy travel pics do. They are, as I often put it, my hobbies. In the name it suggests something that is “lesser” than work and household responsibilities. But despite how I make it seem to myself on the surface, these activities are important and deserve my focus. In large part, they make up who I am; a conglomeration of things that represent my personality. Taking time for them means honoring their importance and allowing them to grow into something even bigger. So, cheers to me and my artist’s day off!

It’s finally happening. 

I’m wearing PANTS and SOCKS and LONG SLEEVES, and I am comfortable doing it (sometimes)! Glorious open window weather, I have missed you.  

This fall brings a unique characteristic to it: reopening. I have been lucky in the pandemic in that my job continued as usual-ish. I maintained my fulltime work and pay and even had the added bonus of being able to telework for a whileRecently went back to my pre-pandemic office schedule. This worries me. 

As my blog shows, I have a lot of interests to find time for. When life inevitably ramps back up, I have to protect my creative time. I am good at not working past the hours allotted, but there’s more to it. My commute removes about 5 hours from my free time each week. Not to mention that work breaks, when I am able to take them, are limited to what I have available. I’m not dragging my baking ingredients with me to the office. Although the image of someone strolling up and seeing me kneading dough across my desk is pretty priceless. 

My boss recently joked about expecting me to come in one day and say I am going part time to pursue my artistic interests. My response? “…………..” See, I have become a bit disillusioned with the work until you break style of the American Dream. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lucky in this country and in my job. But I have also looked up all the other countries I’d be lucky to live in that have averages of 28-35 hours of work per week. 

Have you watched The Great British Baking Show? (First of all, if you have not, stop reading this immediately and go become a happier person. Second of all, they quarantined together to make the current season possible, and I want with my whole being to live in that tent right now.) It is a competition for home bakers. The contestants are introduced by their job, their family life, and one major hobby in addition to baking. That is what I want out of life. 

Now, this is not to say that I hate my job. I’m one of the lucky ones who actually loves the work I do. But if money and sociocultural expectations were not a factor, I’d probably work half as much and half as hardTime to do the work I love and time to do the other things I love tooOpportunity to give and opportunity to be rejuvenated. 

Survival Guide 

I knew the transition back to working in the office would be hard and I like to be prepared, so I started my “how to survive COVID19 reopening” guide just a month into teleworking. Here is what I came up with: 

  • Wake up early so I have 60min for activities before work 
    • I’m a morning person. Do you know how frustrating it is to expel ALL your best energy on work? Waking up earlier was a struggle at first but very worth it. 
  • Take my breaks. And take them away from my desk (otherwise, bye bye break). Keep some realistic creative options available: 
    • Sketchbook I can take on walks to my favorite workplace spots 
    • My journal to brainstorm ideas 
    • Search online for new songs, recipes, craft ideas, etc. to learn 
    • Walk around – my primo brainstorming activity 
    • Talk to someone about fun, creative things (and NOT about work!) 
  • Use the drive home to decompress NOT to road rage 
    • I have yet to find a satisfying use of this time other than listening to the radio and shifting out of work mode. For me personally, when I try to use it for a creative purpose, it always ends up feeling like a compromise because driving limits how I would want to be creative. For now, I’ve decided not to compromise and just jam out and maybe sneak in an audiobook or two.  
  • Have multiple weekly protected times for creativity (like art / music classes) 
  • When the husband plays videogames, spend at least some of that time without the TV on so I’ll be forced to find an alternative way to entertain myself 
  • Actually USE my vacation time 

Check-In and Adjust 

I’m writing this blog, so obviously I have mastered all of these things. Ha, I’m funny.  

Pretty quickly I learned that it’s not about figuring out the perfect schedule. Once I figured out a scheduleit just needed changing. Instead, I believe it is about finding the best way to check in with yourself so you pay attention to how you are doing and can readjust when you need to. Below are my favorite wayright now for doing this: 

  • Daylio is an app that pops up on my phone twice a day and forces me to pay attention to how I’m feeling and how I’m spending my time. You can also look at your data across time to look at larger patterns. (Google Play Store + Apple Store)

  • I also like visuals; they are quick yet powerful. Below is a visual I adapted from The Artist’s Way which talks about a Life Pie – I adapted it to be a creativity pie of sorts. The further out from the center of the circle, the more satisfied you are with that area. I really like this visual because you can review a number of areas all at once to help you consider how to shift or maintain your time and energy. 


What is “enough”? 

A friend asked me a great question when I voiced my concern about having enough time for each of my many interests. They asked, “How do you know what is enough?” 

After a long pause to consider the question, my answer was the quintessential psychologist response: It depends. 

I bake less often than I write which is fine. I write less often than I garden which is not fine. I craft periodically and I do music regularly. These are personal gauges, not a map for every person. When I track how I spend my time, I am not trying to look for specific timestamps or accomplishments per say, I am paying attention to my internal sense of satisfaction about my growth and engagement. Overall, am I satisfied and content with how I have spent my time? 

That is what I have chosen to be my marker for “enough”. 

Patience sucks 

Waiting for the right time of year for a project. Waiting to plant the seedlings or buy the plants until there is a place to grow themWaiting for the sourdough starter to rise. Waiting to taste the food I made before saying it will taste like crapWaiting until I’m over 75% through a painting or drawing before telling my art teacher it’s crap. Waiting until I’ve practiced a song more than a few times before…thinking it’s crap.  

Hm. Seeing a theme. 

I cannot count how many times I have almost given up on a drawing or painting because of how terrible the work-in-progress looked. Most of the time, you know what my art teacher says? “Keep going! This is how it’s supposed to look right now.” Bleh. 

Not to sound like I’m bragging, but I tend to be good at things pretty quickly. I sometimes wonder if, despite the obvious benefits, this has set me up to really struggle with being patient enough to get the most out of the creativity process. 


Now don’t get me wrong, I have had plenty of projects not work out. In fact, I’m currently realizing I’ll have to re-cardboard and mulch a whole section of my native garden bed because I didn’t get it right the first time and annoying little grass babies are popping up everywhere. But I have also had plenty of things that I knew weren’t working out that did. You won’t know which is which unless you allow yourself to be open to the failuresIn fact, you often won’t even make it to the successes without the failures. 

Expecting perfection from the start is a recipe for creative disaster. It’s the Catch-22. We often lose focus on the fact that the only way to actually fail at creativity is to refuse to allow ourselves to fail. But man is it hard to say, “Woo! Let’s do it! Failure? I LOVE failure! Gimme some failure!”  

In the interest of encouraging others to embrace the ugly side of creating, I am going to show you the progression of my first charcoal portrait. With each step, I’ll also give you a peek inside my mind at the time. 

“OK, this isn’t so scary.” 

Ooooooo, clothes and hair are actually really fun!” 

“Wait. What the @$&(%, I’m further along. How does it look less like him than when I started?!” 

%^&@%^# piece of %#*, I’m going to throw you in the %#^ @&#*% trash – UGH! It’s the $^(*# North. Winter is coming. Jon Snow doesn’t really need lips, does he? They’ll just freeze off anyway. 

“Guess he’s looking OK. My teacher was right, the beard does make a big difference! …Lips still suck…I just won’t look at them. 

“Hm. Don’t think his hair is going to look right in the picture. But at least it looks kind of like him!” 

“Sweet, got the hang of the hair.” 


“Whoa, it looks like Jon Snow! But…maybe only I think it looks like Jon Snow…” Proceeds to show it to a few people who think it looks like Jon Snow. “HEY, EVERYBODY, LOOK WHAT I DID!” 

Let me tell you, this portrait was quite the rollercoaster ride, but it was very, very worth it in the end. If I had stopped halfway through, things would have never come back around. You know what else is cool? In going through my different art pictures to find what to use for this postI got to see how even the steps I went through to get to an end portrait changed and improved moving on from this first one.

Don’t Give Up 

Still not entirely convinced? Let’s go even uglier. Here is an art project that “failed”. 


Clearly, I felt real good about this one. I got SO mad and took it out on the painting – I loved how the background of this painting was looking and then just destroyed it when trying to paint in some flowers. Honestly, this is likely a big reason why I have so many unfinished projects lying around. The fear of messing it up. 

As much as I’d love to avoid sharing this one, it’s one of the most important. This is when I stepped back and decided that I was not allowed to get mad at myself for struggling with art when I had not taken an art class in 20 years. That was the day I finally registered for my adult art class where I had the success I showed above. 

That bread that looks too flat? Often still tastes great. (Is it too hard? No such thing – make it into croutons or bread pudding!) 

That chord you can’t get right? Smooths out with time if you practice. 

That part you wrote that you don’t like? Will get you to the best parts later. 

That plant you’ve killed 4 times? You learned something each time that will help with the next plant. (Damn you, lavender, I shall get you to grow someday!) 

Don’t be fooled by what sounds like this incredibly mature adult before you. I am terrible at this. I yell, I snap, I sulk, heck I even consider throwing things. OK, maybe I’ve thrown a few things. But it’s always wimpy stuff like wads of paper and guitar picks. Then I pause, take a few deep breaths, maybe I take a break for a bit, and then I do the next step. I’m often not happy about it in the moment. I often think it’s a waste of timeLater, I’m always glad that I did it. 

So this was all my long-winded way of saying…Keep going – you got this! (And try not to throw anything.) 


How does the saying go? I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

COVID19 has stripped away a lot of the everyday distractions and yet the worst parts of our world can’t seem to be stopped. Mother Nature still destroys homes, POC are still killed for reasons undeserving of death, people on minimum wage (which does not cover the bills) have to risk exposure to a deadly disease or lose their jobs, people are losing businesses and jobs through no fault of their own, and some people who I refuse to name are threatening (again) to send our country into a tailspin.  

For me, this results in some major guilt. Specifically, the guilt of having the opportunity to free myself from those realities through creativity. 

Often, I can work through the guilt, but the current nature of things makes it harder. There are just so many people struggling so profoundly, and I am notThe guilt freezes my hand midair as I reach for my guitar. It weighs me down when I try to bake or draw. It catches in my throat and shades everything in dark gray shades of despair.  

For the record, guilt is necessary so we will change the world for the better. But man, how do you manage guilt that highlights the need to change the world?  

I don’t have answers. Below is merely a string of observations about what helps me continue my creative path through some difficult territory. 

Creativity does not require privilege 

First and foremost, the assumption that my privilege gives me more opportunities for creativity than other people is a rather simplified view of the world. It’s like saying someone without sight sees the world less than I do. Sure, if you want to get technical, that is true for vision. But the human body is amazing – there is more than one way to see and experience the world around us; the body and mind will adapt to allow for whole new experiences we never realized was possible. It is not my place to diminish the creative processes of those without my specific abilities or privileges. 

Don’t get me wrong, money helps. Having connections helps. Not being seen as someone “less than” helps. Living in a system built for who you are helps. But it does not make creativity possible. In fact, creativity without struggle is often like hiking without a path. Yay, nature! But…where am I? 

If I could snap my fingers and make all suffering go away I would do it yesterdayBut if suffering has to exist, and for now it does, creativity is one of the best biproducts we could ask for. I suppose this is all to say that I choose to focus on enhancing everyone’s paths to being creative rather than hindering my own. 

What’s your excuse? 

With the most recent onslaught of awful news, gardening came to the rescue. Here’s how my brain works. Cooking, baking, gardening…these are easier things to initiate because I “must” do them. After all, a girl’s gotta eat.  

It helps alleviate the guilt to know that if I don’t water the garden it’ll die. (Except the blackberry vine. I didn’t water that thing for like 4 months while it was still in a small pot, and it was still alive! Indestructible.) This is the “excuse” I gave myself so I could be, you know, human. Some other examples that I’ve seen people use… Calling creative pursuits ‘self-care’ instead of ‘hobbies’Using creativity to contribute to the household so it is viewed as productive. Working creativity into a date night or hang out activity 

Now, if you want to be really ahead of the curve, you can start battling the larger hurdle: Why do I even need an excuse to be human? (Whoa.) 

You are not the cheese, so do not stand alone 

The farmer in the dell 
The farmer in the dell 
Hi-ho, the derry-o 
The farmer in the dell 


The cheese stands alone 
The cheese stands alone 
Hi-ho, the derry-o 
The cheese stands alone 

Aside from the fact that I now realize I have absolutely no idea what that song is about, you are not the blue cheese that, despite being so delicious, is too stinky to be around. The first thing I want to do when I see the news is to curl into a ball in the darkest corner of my house, stuff my face with said cheese, and never come out. You may have the same visceral reaction. If you need a moment, take it. But please, come back out of your hidey hole. Or at least let someone curl up in that ball with you. 

Trying creative pursuits outside of my norm has been my recent favorite for connecting to others while simultaneously propelling my creativity through the guilt to something constructiveA local comic bookstore offered to help customers identify graphic novels highlighting Black communities. (I bought a few that I loved and have now expanded my scope to Asian and Asian American communities.) I am in a virtual guitar class and the teacher incorporated multiple Latin-x songs in our current class because she had noticed a lack of inclusion in her natural music preferences. I am following local artists from a variety of backgrounds in order to better understand the place I live. 

It is becoming easier and easier to access the art of people whose works have previously been hidden or hindered. Go out and find it! Or, even better, find and support the artists themselves