2017 Resolution Blueprint // The Power of ONE Positive Change

Happy New Year! I've decided to go a different route with resolutions for 2017. I find that when I set an intention that is a dramatic change based on restriction, e.g. I will cut out all diet sodas, I tend to obsess about said limits and inevitably fail. If I set a more positive intention with a more lenient boundaries, e.g. I will drink more water, than I tend to not only stay motivated, but feel much better during the process.

So this year's blueprint is all about making positive additions to your life this year. And to keep things even simpler, it's about choosing one specific thing to add in different areas of life. You can do any or of all of this list. The point is simply to focus on simple, gradual improvements.

Download PDF Version

I'm choosing the word FOCUS as my word of intention for 2017. It's about trying to focus my mind, simplify my goals, and not procrastinate. A few years back, I have to be honest, I thought the whole word of the year thing was a bit pointless. I thought I'd set it and forget it. But I actually found it very helpful this past year to have am overarching intention that I could keep in my mind as a regular reminder of my goals. My word last year, "NOW," helped to propel action, and I'm hoping "FOCUS" this year will help me to reign that action in and move towards more specific goals.

As for the rest of the list, I'll leave that a mystery. But if you'd like to implement this into your day-to-day, you can use the link above to print your own 8.5x11" version.

Will you add any of these ONE things to your goals this year? Leave me a comment with your resolutions so I can cheer you on!

OUR HAPPINESS PROJECT // Month 4 Recap: Family Traditions


Hi friends! Are you feeling happy? I'm back again with the monthly update of Our Happiness Project, where Zach and I have been following along chapter-by-chapter with Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. Last month we worked on chapter four, which is all about family. I would certainly recommend this chapter to parents. It's loaded with simple and effective advice for communicating with your children. I especially loved the part about acknowledging the reality of others' feelings. But even if you don't have children, like us, I think a lot of the chapter's talking points can be applied to all relationships.

Zach and I were particularly interested in creating traditions and capturing memories, because it's an area in which we undoubtedly fail. To say we are "non-traditional" is an understatement. In fact, I don't even know our anniversary (I know! I'm the worst.) and thus we don't really have one. We have no holiday decorations. We take very few pictures. I've just never been horribly sentimental and it's like the core of my being wants to reject most aspects of tradition. At the same time, however, as we are becoming more and more of a family unit, I know if we put in the effort for some sense of tradition, even though it's not always my style, it would make us happier in the long-run. Here are a few ways we're trying in the hopes of adding some more sentiment into our lives.

Man with Camera

1. Take More Pictures

This one is hard, because it's always been my belief that if you're putting everything you're doing all over social media you're not really enjoying it in the moment. I do think that's true, I mean, who likes eating dinner with someone who's on Snapchat the whole time? I definitely do not. So I've been trying to find the happy medium. The Fourth of July, for instance, is my family's big get-together holiday, so Zach and I both made it a point to take more photos that weekend. I thought it was really fun getting behind-the-scenes shots, but I realized when I was back home that we had taken zero pictures of ourselves together. I also didn't get any pictures of my mom. Moral of the story, there is some progress to be made, but it's a step in the right direction.

*Sidenote: I think I avoided this for a long time because I don't particularly like photos of myself, but I'm really trying to focus more on the importance of preserving memories and less on the vanity aspect of it. If you are a fellow photo-avoider, I'll tell you it gets easier and better. My sister even told me after this weekend I've gotten more photogenic. She was obviously lying, of course, but it was still nice to hear. Maybe, if anything, with practice I have become a little less awkward, which I'll count as a win.


2. Smashbooking

Have you heard of smashbooking? It's basically like scrapbooking but much simpler and a bit artsier/messier (right up my alley). Zach and I have been collecting concert tickets for years. It is, in fact, the only actual collection of anything we have. I'm very fond of the fact that we've kept all these stubs, especially since it's out of the ordinary for me (I tend to be a little trigger happy with getting rid of things). I've realized that I do love this little collection and it's not like it's taking up any real space in my life, so I started thinking about how to branch this idea out. I've started picking up mementos, like the program and my backstage pass from the Alternative Fashion Week show, and am really excited to continue collecting and start smashbooking. And by "smashbooking" I really mean taping things in a notebook and scribbling little extra notes. The goal is to keep it simple so that it's something I'll want to continue.

*Is smashbooking something you're interested in learning more about? Let me know if it is, and I'll share some ideas/progress in a future post.

Vanity Tray with Makeup

3. Mini-Anniversaries

I mentioned above that we don't have an anniversary, which is totally true. I've never been a calendar date person, even for events by which I was hugely affected. I remember the feelings, I remember the details, I simply don't care as much about the actual day it occurred. Because of this, I actually don't even know when we started dating. In fact, don't even agree on the year, so clearly this is not an area of strength for us. Somewhere down our relationship road, I began sort of wishing we had one, so we made up the idea of having monthly anniversaries. They were on the 7th of every month, just like both of our birthdays. It was really fun- I'd wake up and sing some made up song about it and we'd just be really nice to each other and have a little date. Simple yet, as far as the happiness meter is concerned, horribly effective. Somewhere along the way, our schedules got the best of us and that tradition fell off completely. So this past month we decided to reinstate it and I'm really happy about it.

*If you're thinking about something similar, I just want to throw it out there that we almost never spend very much money on these anniversary dates. It's basically like any other day as far as extravagances go. It's much more about the thought put into it and just the general feel of it being "your" day. So try not to let things like time or money get in the way. They're very real hindrances, but an occasion can be made special even when there isn't much of either.

Cooking Citrus Salad

4. Holiday Traditions

If you're still with me at this point, you know what's coming: we don't have any real holiday traditions. And our entire holiday decor storage consists of two stockings. Literally. I have a friend that thinks this is a very sad thing but it's never really bothered me because we are always spending holidays out of town visiting our families and taking part in the larger, extended family traditions. But still, I got to thinking this past month that it might be nice to actually start making some traditions of our own. One tradition we started, really on accident, came from an only half-serious idea of Zach's. He wanted to eat giant drumsticks while we watched the Game of Thrones season finale and be like a barbarian (this is a common goal of his, with or without tv finales). I was a little less on board with the Renaissance Fair food, but we settled for rotisserie chicken. We had some ice cream for dessert, because "Winter is Coming," and the idea of themed season finale dinners was born. It's silly, but we love to watch series together, so it kind of just adds another element of fun. I'm already thinking of an all-A dinner for when I make him watch the Pretty Little Liars finale.

Do you have any weird/awesome family traditions?


This month we're working on chapter five is all about being serious about play, finding time to have more fun, and appreciating silliness. If you want to read along with us, I'll be sharing our recap Monday, August 1st!



Busy with Cupcake

It is officially summer! As many of you know, I'm not exactly a summer girl. I strongly prefer the air-conditioned indoors to any outdoors adventure. But even as a self-proclaimed "inside girl," there's still something hopeful and magical about the season. It seems like there's more time, more freedom, and overall more excitement, don't you think? So as I sit at my desk in a cool 68 degrees, I hereby proclaim this season one I'm going to love. Cheers to summer 2016!

Before I get into the summer goals, let's first say a quick good-bye to spring.


+  3 ways to face your fears

+  this artsy DIY brushstroke mani

+  8 sites to shop for unexpected wedding dresses

+  tips for gaining more self-knowledge

+  trying to just keep swimming

+  a "get creative" wishlist and playlist

+  the power of acknowledging the feelings of others

+  my favorite: this #bts look at our HOWL runway collection



I feel like I started back in March with a lot of personal goals, and then those quickly got pushed aside as my life got consumed with working on HOWL for the Alternative Fashion Week show. But, at the same time, I DESIGNED A COLLECTION FOR ALTERNATIVE FASHION WEEK! That's been a dream of mine for years. In fact I even wrote an AFW recap post for the Alternative Fashion Mob Blog two years back. Who knew at the time I was foreshadowing things to come?

I also jump-started another longtime goal by launching my personal brand, HOWL. I still have major work to do- shooting the spring line, launching a site, etc.- but as of this current second, I'm trying to just appreciate the fact that I've not only taken the first step but, frankly, I've taken a massive leap. As for all the other life things I've been neglecting lately in favor of brand obsession, well, hey, that's what the summer is for, right? Relaxing, refueling, and catching up.



+  rock THE COLUMBUS BOOK PROJECT photo shoot (more on this soon)

+  make some major home decorating progress

+  continue promoting and developing HOWL

+  bite the bullet on some sort of wedding plans

+  update the Free Wills Studio website

+  celebrate Columbus by finally taking a waterfall hike, seeing a classic movie at the Ohio Theatre, having a family day at COSI, and taking advantage of how much vintage shopping can be done around town




What things are you looking forward to doing this summer?


Our Happiness Project // Tip #4: Acknowledging the Reality of People's Feelings


Zach and I have been working through chapter four of Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, which is essentially about parenting. Since we don't have kids I wasn't sure going into it how it would translate to our lives. Happily, I've noticed that the advice in the chapter, while especially useful for parents, is really more about families and loved ones and is applicable for all relationships.

One thing that really struck me, and it's something I've been personally working on for a while, is the importance of acknowledging the reality of other people's feelings. It seems like a simple enough concept, but it's much harder to actually apply to real-life situations. Think about it for a minute, how do you respond when someone shares feelings like anger, fear or shame? Do you dismiss them with suggestions like, "Oh, don't be silly, of course they like you," or, "You always try to get out of plans. Just go and you'll end up having fun"?

I'd love to say I avoid these pitfalls, but the truth is I'm often dismissive and corrective when I'm faced with an emotional scenario. It's with good intentions. I usually start out being understanding, but then the temptation to fix creeps in and takes over. I'm a researcher, a studier, a self-improvement junkie, and it can be almost painful not to offer my own suggestions regarding other people's feelings.

This chapter shed light on something I've been learning more and more as I get older, that this form of "help," while coming from a good place, can actually feel disrespectful to the person on the other end of the conversation. It's important for me to realize that it's not my place to judge, fix, or dismiss someone's feelings. As Rubin notes, experts agree that denying bad feelings intensifies them, while acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return. The simple act of listening to someone's feelings and acknowledging them shows that you appreciate their point of view. This is often enough in itself to bring peace to bad feelings.


My oldest friend (since Kindergarten) is a true living example of this, and thus, she is my favorite person to go to when I did to get the feelings out. Zach and I, many years back, had a period of about six months where we broken up. And to me, this meant done forever and I was devastated. I felt like I had no control over the situation or myself. I called my friend sobbing and she just said, "I know it hurts so much. It feels like you can't breathe. This is going to be really painful for a long time until you're through it." Now, that might not necessarily sound uplifting, but as I was floundering in a sea of, "You just have to get back out there," or, "I never thought he was right for you anyway," or any of the other one million well-intentioned-though-very-unhelpful anecdotes I heard during this time, this simple acknowledgement of, "Yeah, that sucks." felt like I was being thrown a life preserver. I felt understood and supported and, most of all, I felt like I was free from the pressure to feel happy anytime soon and she would be just fine with that. That was the real gift.

I'm definitely not as good as she is when it comes to this, but I'm working on it. For me, it's easy to be understanding in the midst of some overwhelming, traumatic feelings. It's harder when it's the everyday small things. It can be a challenge not to offer up a bright side to a colleague's gripe or suggest ways to cheer up to a friend in a funk. It can be a struggle not to want to fix the feelings of others.


If you can recognize any of these dismissive behaviors in yourself, here are a few approaches from the chapter that I think are helpful in trying to be more understanding when someone is reaching out for emotional support.

  1. Don't disagree with someone's feelings. I would like to make the argument that telling someone about our bad feelings is something that no one really wants to do. It's hard to be that vulnerable. So if someone is sharing their vulnerability with you, try to respond without being dismissive ("It's not that big of a deal"), judgmental ("I think you're over-reacting"), or trying to fix the feelings ("You'll feel better in no time"). These reactions can cause the person who is having the emotion to feel defensive, like no one is hearing them. Even if you don't necessarily agree with them, you could say something to the effect of, "Yeah, I can see that that frustrated you." As Rubin notes in the book, when talking with children it can be as simple as not using the terms "no" or "stop," changing a response from, "No, not until after lunch," to, "Yes, as soon as we're done with lunch." The simple switch from negative to positive can help them feel heard.
  2. Admit that something is difficult. Like my story of my friend above, when I was hurting, I really needed someone to acknowledge that it was, I guess, normal or acceptable to be that upset. We need our feelings validated. A simple statement like, "Wow, that does sound stressful," can be music to the ears of someone feeling overwhelmed at work. While on the other hand, saying something that seems helpful like, "Don't stress. It'll be easy for you," can do the opposite by adding pressure to perform quickly and calmly amidst what feels like chaos.
  3. Don't feel like you have to say anything at all. Silence, especially in the face of emotional hardship, can be a real blessing.  Zach's pretty minimal when it comes to his daily word usage, so for this he is a perfect example. Whenever I'm really struggling, I'll often unload all of whatever I'm stressing about onto him to which he almost always says something super simple to the effect of, "Sorry you're dealing with that," and then hugs me or just kind of stays around me. I've realized over the years that a lot of times, that was all I needed- to be heard and supported- and then I'm fine. I didn't need advice or I would have asked for it. I didn't need him to weigh in on anything. I just simply needed heard. So sometimes if you don't know what to say, just go with that. Offer a hug, offer your company, whatever. Simply being there is a highly underestimated quality.


Do you agree that having your bad feelings acknowledged helps you to feel better?


Our Happiness Project // Month 3 Recap: Reach for the Stars


Another month, another attempt at changing habits and improving our overall happiness! If you've been keeping track, you know that Zach and I have been making our way through Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, reading and working on one chapter each month. Last month we worked through chapter three, which was all about aiming higher at work.

Happiness at work is incredibly important because the majority of us spend most of our days working. Not to mention the fact that happiness is proven to improve work performance. As noted in the chapter, happy people outperform the less happy. Also, even though they tend to work more hours, both at work and in their free time, happy people tend to be more cooperative, less self-centered, and more willing to help other people. The work/life happiness cycle is basically on a never-ending loop, each continuously contributing and strengthening the other.

We're both very work-focused in this stage of our lives, so this was our favorite chapter yet. Today we're sharing a few things that stuck out to us and the tools we've learned to continue bettering our work/life balance and overall happiness.


Work Dare #1: Try Something New

Z: Reading this chapter made me feel energized and motivated. In the book, this idea of trying new things at work was manifested through Rubin launching her own blog. When I read about this, I realized I had really missed writing for fun. I've been trying to set aside time in the morning for creative writing and, although it doesn't happen every day, it has helped me to feel more calm and focused throughout my work day.

A: To this same idea, I've also been trying to illustrate in the morning while Zach writes. This has been a long-standing goal of mine that I never seem to prioritize, but I've found that sharing the time with him has helped me to make it more of a priority. I think expressing myself in another medium has also helped me to feel freer in all areas of my design work. Again, there are a lot of days that our schedules have gotten in the way and we haven't been able to have our creative morning time, but I hope it's something we continue to improve upon in upcoming months, because I do really love it and I agree that it sets a calm and focused tone for the day.



Work Dare #2: Learn to Enjoy Failure

A: Oh boy, did I embrace failure this month! I was excited to be asked to interview for Fashion Week Columbus and, even though we weren't even close to ready, my design partner, Shiree, and I worked around the clock to get sample pieces ready to show the judges. After the interview, we found out we had placed in the top ten out of all the designers who interviewed, so that felt really great. The bad news, however, was that they would only be choosing seven to actually show at the finale runway show. So we took to Instagram and participated in a "likes" race against other designers, some of whom were way more established than us and had thousands more followers than us, in hopes to get that coveted 7th spot. We campaigned our faces off and some days were in the lead, but ultimately we ended up losing to a Fashion Week veteran. This seemed fair to me. He's been building a brand for years, whereas I am still a week away from the official launch of mine. And as much as I believe that, losing was still a bit of a bummer. I honestly don't think I've ever put myself out there quite like that, especially when I had a good feeling that it was going to end in a loss. It was a totally valuable experience for me because, for one, I made some great networking connections and gained new followers and supporters of the brand. But more importantly, I realized how much support I already had in my life. I had so many people sharing posts and tagging friends and really working hard for my dreams. This, cheesy as it may sound, was actually way more valuable than winning that last designer spot. Plus, I've still got Alternative Fashion Week coming up (so soon!) and as far as Fashion Week Columbus, there's always next year, right?!

Z: I didn't really put myself out there in quite that way this month, but I definitely feel like I rode that ride with Ashley. She has to put herself out there all of the time with work and it always makes me really proud of her. I think this was the first time she's done that and had it not work out in one or another and, really, in some ways that is even more impressive, because she had a good attitude about it and has put even more into her other projects since then.

A: My main takeaway from all of this was that I want to try and remember the good feelings that came with trying and failing. It makes it easier to think about pitching to a brand or publication or other things I want to do but make me nervous. When it comes to professional networking, even the rejections can lead to positive connections or opportunities for the future.



Work Dare #3: Work Smart

Z: One of the challenges this month was to try and work more efficiently, which for me involved putting my phone down. Between reading news, checking social media, and playing Madden, I realized that screen time was killing my productivity. Ashley's been on me about this for a while, but I didn't really notice that it was such a problem until I forgot my charger one day and was phone-less for the entire workday. I was so productive that day that it made it hard to deny the impact it was having. Now I'm more conscious of it and try to limit phone use only to breaks and put it out of sight when I'm working on other things.

A: For me, I put some extra attention into managing my time throughout the day. I have been working on a collection for Alternative Fashion Week in Columbus and the finale show is THIS SUNDAY (Agh!), so a lot of my days lately have been eaten up by things I absolutely have to get done at that moment for promo events. But on days when I have had more time-management options I've been trying to utilize block scheduling. I can have a really hard time focusing on one thing for very long, but I know that if I can actually push through and just work on one thing for the set amount of time, my block, my productivity is like night and day compared to when I bounce back and forth between projects. After the show this weekend, I hope to really commit to this for a while and plan to share a bit about the process here soon.

Have you read The Happiness Project? What did you like about this chapter? What tips help you stay happy and productive in life and work? Let's chat it out in the comments! :)




For June, we're focusing on Chapter 4, which is all about lightening up, specifically when it comes to parenting. So parents, if you want to join in, you can pick up your own copy and work through the challenges with us, or simply make sure you're subscribed to blog posts to stay up on tips, tricks, and what we're learning. We obviously do not have children but it's hopefully down the road at some point, so I'm still looking forward to this chapter. And fortunately, as I've been reading, I'm realizing that this is a good chapter for all relationships in general. So whether you're a soccer mom or a bachelorette, we'll be wrapping up next month's chapter with kind of a different twist to hopefully relate to everyone.

Happy reading!


Our Happiness Project // Tip #3: The Importance of Self-Knowledge and How to Gain More of it

Zach and I are in month three of Our Happiness Project (we're following along with Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project) and this chapter is all about aiming higher at work. In addition to our monthly recaps, each month I also like to share one tip or piece of information that really sticks out to me and has helped to either change a habit or perspective in regards to improving happiness. For me this month that was reading about the importance of self-knowledge over self-esteem. I have been working on my own personal theory about this for a while and was just talking about it with my sister last month, so reading it from Rubin with expert wisdom to back it up was like a giant "Hallelujah!"


Throughout The Happiness Project, there are regular references to Rubin's Twelve Commandments of Happiness and right at the top of the list is "Be Gretchen." Not to be the best, or smartest, or fastest at anything, but just to be herself. To be perfectly honest, in the past I have sometimes fought with the concept to just "Be Ashley." I grew up the middle child, and as all you middle's know, you're basically born into a role of mediator, appeaser, and overall compromiser. Being agreeable becomes sort of a survival skill for yourself as well as a necessity in a larger family to avoid constant chaos. Anyway, because of this I was often considered "the shy one" or "the nice one," and neither of those categorizations made me feel particularly great. It's not because those qualities are inherently good or bad- in fact I love Zach for being both shy and nice- I just didn't really feel like they described me very well. Though I do tend to be pretty reserved and don't require much attention, I'm actually quite outgoing. And while I like to consider myself thoughtful and caring, "nice" isn't really horribly accurate either. To me it implies someone who is sweetly modest, but I'm a bit of a rule-breaker. I'm also sarcastic, opinionated, and very direct, so there's a bit of disconnect with that term as well. These are small problems in the grand scheme of the world, but still, I felt like I wasn't completely being seen for who I am. It was kind of a 2-D representation of myself.

As a teen I totally rebelled against those inherited personas. I worked really hard to prove people's ideas about me wrong. I became the life of the party, I tried to act fearlessly, and decided I was unaffected by the cares or concerns of people around me. I dressed loudly, lived loudly, and basically wanted to be anything other than "nice" and "shy." From an outside perspective I may have seemed confident, and in some ways I was, but I wasn't very authentic or self-knowing or even whole.


Here's the point where you might be thinking, "Who cares? Every teen feels like they don't know who they are." And I get that. But the problem is, a lot of us carry that into adulthood. As referenced in the book, Erasmus observed, "The summit of happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is." Simple as that. However, our society is so invested in social extroversion or status masked as self-esteem that some of us go through our entire lives under a veil of false self-esteem without really understanding the depths of who we are, without ever really reaching authenticity or happiness.

Self-esteem is a result of self-judgment. It is literally a self-estimation, an appraisal, of our personality traits against a perceived standard of value. Because of this, self-esteem is conditional and unstable. If we meet a certain condition of worth, we have self-esteem. If we don't, we have a lack of self-esteem. According to Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. for Psych Central, "This dichotomous, dualistic, conditional view of self cuts us apart and fragments our wholeness." Self-esteem is conditional and always changing. If I get a promotion, my self-esteem will soar; however, if I get laid off, my self-esteem will plummet, even though I remain the same person.

Self-knowledge is different because it is unconditional. Where self-esteem is measured through comparison of others, constant evaluation of oneself, and other always changing variables, self-knowledge is the acceptance of who you are at any given time. It is an acknowledgment of the reality that you are a full person, with strengths and weaknesses, living a life that is in progress. Your evaluation of worth, therefore, is circumstance-free.


Why does any of this matter? Well if you want to be happy in work and in life, you have to understand who you are and what you're meant to be, perceived flaws and all. Not who you wish you were or who you think you should be, but who you actually are. For me this means accepting everything I am as much as the things I am not. I am empathetic, though I am not very sentimental. I am driven and adventurous, but I am also a worrier and I don't care for the outdoors. I am funny and friendly, but I'm definitely not one of those people who is just naturally charming or always "on." I love books, art museums, thrift shopping, and "bad" tv. I have realized that I really don't like politics or sports all that much and I'm much too picky to ever be a foodie.

I spent a lot of time and effort throughout my 20s to get to a place of understanding who I am. I sought counseling in college when I couldn't pick a career path. I loved going to my counselor, where I was given tasks like creating a mood board about who I am and what makes me happy. I was also given the task of asking five people close to me to assess my biggest strengths and weaknesses. That exercise was a little unnerving but also eye-opening and informative. If you, like I was, are in a place where you would like to seek more self-knowledge, here are a few places I would recommend starting.


1. Seek Out Feedback (and Listen)

Much like the strengths and weaknesses task above, understanding how you are perceived is a powerful step towards understanding who you are. Asking people you trust questions like, "Could I have handled that situation differently?" or "How do you think I could improve in this area?" can shed some light on how people view you. When doing this, be prepared to be surprised and potentially hurt, but try not to be defensive. If you can take this criticism productively, you can help remove limits that may hold you back in the future. That being said, we are talking about judgments made based on the value system of others, so some thoughts should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, if someone thinks I'm insecure because I don't like taking photos, that doesn't necessarily make it true. I'm just simply not great at it, so it's not my favorite activity. However, I can choose to look at that as something that I need to work on so that I don't appear insecure to others who might have an influence on my career and potentially miss an opportunity in the future.

2. Seek Out Personality Assessments

While I don't think taking Buzzfeed's "Which Dead 'Game of Thrones' Character Are You?" quiz is going to give you any information actually useful to life, there are several online tests that are worth looking into for gaining self-knowledge. The acclaimed Myers-Briggs test is my favorite because it gives very detailed, and in my opinion very accurate, information into how to most effectively use your personality type in the world. The official test can be pricey ($50-$100), but there are lots of free abridged options online. Other free tests that I like are the Princeton Review Career Quiz, the RHETI tool based on the Enneagram concept, and the Keirsey Temperment Sorter (which, by the way, told me I am driven by a quest for self-knowledge- ha!).

3. Test Your Limits

Once relationships are established, human beings are very adept at morphing their behaviors to fit the situation. This is an important social skill, but like my middle child story above, adaptation can cause us to lose sight of who we are at the core. It can be as elaborate as solo overseas travel or as simple as training for a 5K. Anything that pushes your limits, mentally or physically, will help you to realize that your boundaries aren't fixed but temporary, and that your situation does not encompass the sum of your being.

Finally, I just want to state that increasing self-knowledge is not about changing who you are. If you're becoming increasingly aware that a personal blind spot may be causing you to make bad decisions, feel depressed, etc., that's a good signal that it is in fact time for a change. But for the most part, it's more about making realizations or shifts in perspective that allow you to be more understanding and accepting of yourself so that you can have true confidence. As always, I hope this offered some insight into the things I study and work on in my own life, but please know I am coming to you as a continuing work in progress. I don't presume to have it all figured out, these are simply some of the methods that have helped me to make progress. If you have any other input in ways that you've increased your self-knowledge I'd love to hear them in the comments!

Make sure you're subscribed to keep up with the series! Zach and I will be back with our monthly recap on Monday, June 6th!


Our Happiness Project // Month 2 Recap: All About the Love


For those of you who have been keeping up around here, you know that Zach and I have been working our way through Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, doing one chapter each month. Last month we worked through chapter two, which was all about love and relationships, both romantic and with family and friends.

I'll admit, this month was really difficult for us. We have just both been so busy with work that thinking about things like a date night or leaving a little note to each other just really wasn't taking priority. But then that's part of the reason we're doing this in the first place, because we need more of a work/life balance. So while I can't say we hit every challenge out of the park, it was nice to have these topics in mind throughout the month. What we're sharing today are a few of the points that kind of changed our perspective, provided a little a-ha moment, and will hopefully stick with us for months to come.



Hugs Powered by Science

Z:  One thing I thought was cool in this chapter was the concept of the seven-second hug. Rubin references research that says six seconds is the minimum necessary hug time "to promote the flow of oxytocin and serotonin, mood-boosting chemicals that promote bonding." Focusing the hug and actually counting the seconds adds another layer of tension release and helps me ease my mind. It's calming to take that time to connect, especially in moments of stress.

A:  I really liked that he grabbed onto this concept, because I actually didn't even remember reading this particular part. Then one day when I was stressed out, he just hugged me and was counting. When he was done he just said, "It's science." (He can be a man of few words.) I thought this was really funny so every time it's happened since I have a little happy memory to go along with it. That plus the legitimate power of the longer hug has actually really been a really helpful way to combat stress this month.



No Dumping, No Snapping

A:  So I actually don't think we have any super serious problems when it comes to fighting. Not that we don't fight, but in my opinion, it's pretty normal relationship conflict. We also don't have kids yet, and I know that can really be a game-changer, so I'm prepared to eat my words when that day comes. One thing I didn't realize I already do with Zach is try to employ what Rubin refers to as "no dumping." Basically, I just can't expect Zach to be my partner, my best girlfriend, and my therapist. According to the book (and basic human observation), women have more empathy than men do and both men and women feel more intimate in relationships with women. So when I'm looking for an understanding ear, I try to go to Zach with only one very specific thing. If I do this (especially if I can do it calmly), he is always a big help. However, anything else and he gets overwhelmed, I end up hurt, and nothing is accomplished. And really, I can't blame him for that. After all, "It's science." ;)

Z:  It can feel overwhelming to get dumped on, so I definitely like it when we're focusing on just one problem at a time. For me, I chose to focus on not snapping at Ashley. I carry a lot of work-related stress, so I really tried to be mindful of how things like my tone of voice when I'm feeling overwhelmed can have an effect on both of our feelings.



Be a Love Mirror

A:  This was my favorite part of the chapter and something I hope sticks with me in the future. The concept is simple but carries a lot of impact: in order to show love you need to understand how a person wants to be treated. To understand this, it is important to look to how they act rather than what they say. Rubin talks about planning a party for her mother-in-law, and to explain this point, I am also going to use my parents as examples. When asked what they would like for their birthdays, they always say (as most of us do) that they don't really care. However, if we're trying to do better than this, we should put a little thought into figuring out what they actually do want. My mom, for our birthdays, tends to keep celebrations simple, but also beautiful, thoughtful, and with a few extra-special treats. So this helps me to know what she would like for her own birthday. A small and relaxed gathering with beautiful touches and something a little indulgent, like a pretty cupcake and some new jewelry, would make her feel happy and loved. My dad, on the other hand, loves to surprise people with elaborate, well-planned gifts and has even thrown a few surprise parties for others. He's a "the more, the merrier" kind of guy. So I know that when it's his birthday, something with a surprise element is the way to make him feel appreciated. Something like a big cookout with friends and family he hasn't seen in years would really make his day. Everyone places value in different kinds of acts of love, and a great way to figure out where another's values lie is to look at how they show love to others. It's kind of obvious, but I'm going to make a special point to try and actively think about this when celebrating others in the future.

Z:  I'll be honest, I hadn't really ever put thought into "how" to show someone I care about them. It has been pretty eye-opening how this concept is so simple and doesn't necessarily require more work, but the result can be so much bigger and so much more thoughtful. I can see how this could be useful in all types of interpersonal relationships. I feel like it's also a good guide for men who might struggle with connecting with others because it's such a straightforward way to understand someone. You don't have to have the answers, you just have to pay close enough attention and be more observant. If you are will to be receptive, people will show you how they would like to be treated.



Have you read The Happiness Project? Did any of these tips resonate with you? Were there any we haven't covered that you particularly liked? Let's chat it out in the comments! :)




For May, we're focusing on chapter three, which is all about "Aiming Higher" at work. Like I said earlier, this is pretty much always the main focus in our household these days. We also both are in transitioning periods with work, so I'm excited that it's coming at such an opportune time. Some topics covered include launching, embracing failure, asking for help, and working smarter. If you'd like to join in, grab your copy, read up, and check back in with us on the first Monday in June! (I also do a mid-month tip from the book, too, so make sure you're subscribed to receive new posts!)


Are there any areas in your professional life in which you would really like some tips? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to gear a future post around what I learn!





Our Happiness Project // Tip #2: How to Stop Nagging

If you're a regular reader, you know now that Zach and I have been working through The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Chapter One was great for us as we worked on adding more routine into our lives and began tackling things that were weighing on us. Chapter Two is all about relationships and focuses on topics like fighting right, showing proofs of love, and, the one I felt I most needed to work on, quitting nagging.

Zach is a really wonderful partner. He's masculine but also very sensitive and romantic, a combination I know not to take for granted. He never judges me or asks me to change. He never sets expectations for me to live up to or thinks I should look or behave a certain way. This list is what matters most to me and why I know he's my perfect match. On the other hand there is another list of things he does that are a lot less perfect, such as not noticing messes around him and not doing any housework unless prompted, often many times. That list is obviously less important, but it can make managing a household with him incredibly frustrating, hence my transformation into the nag I never thought I would become. When he was sweeping me off my feet in the first few years, I never imagined having a full-on crying fight about the still unclean bathroom, but it has happened more than I'm proud to admit.

So what's one to do? Well, according to the book, on some degree, I should let it go. I should stop nagging, stop making demands, stop being let down when my expectations aren't met. After all, Zach doesn't do that to me, and that's one of my favorite things about him. To stop nagging is much easier said than done, though, isn't it? It's something I am most definitely not going to win at every single day, but I can try. If this is a topic that's been on your mind, too, I'm sharing a few tips from the book to help to ease up in the name of love.



  • Find ways to suggest tasks without talking. When you think of nagging, you picture a shrill, annoying voice, am I right? And let's be honest, no one wants to deal with that. If you can find ways to communicate that involve less talking, or even no talking at all, the prompt is often better received. Rubin gives an example that she leaves mail that needs to be dropped off on the ground by the front door. Since her husband knows the system, he just picks it up and goes. No nagging, no problem. Zach usually takes out the trash for us, but he often lets it pile up for longer than I would like. By simply saying, "Trash!" as he's on his way out the door, it gets taken out and everyone is left unscathed.
  • Realize that tasks don't need to be done on your agenda. Just because I think the kitchen needs cleaned now doesn't mean Zach feels like sharing in the work right now. If he's agreeing to split the responsibilities, sometimes I need to accept that in whatever time frame it's going to happen. The same goes for how exactly a task gets done. For instance, I think cleaning the toilet involves making the entire thing sparkle, but Zach thinks it means cleaning the bowl and calling it a day. It's like this on a lot of tasks because he (and, frankly a lot of people) are not as obsessed with details as I am. If he's going to clean the toilet bowl, I need to take that as it is and not gripe to him that there's still dust on the tank lid.
  • Take responsibility for your own expectations. This one can be more simply summed up as, if you want something done, do it yourself. I knew about Zach's aversion to cleaning before we even started dating, so is it really fair to expect him to get up on Saturday morning and immediately start scrubbing? No, not really. He needs to help because we are a partnership, but as long as he's helping, anything more than that is my own responsibility. When we moved in, I hung his shirts in order by color and sleeve length. I then explained the system to him so he could maintain it himself and he literally laughed out loud. "You can't really expect me to keep my shirts color-coded," he said. And you know what? I can't. It makes me happy for the closet to be like that but he could care less. So I take it upon myself to hang up his shirts. I don't mind it, the closet stays neat, and at the end of the day we are all fine.

And because all of this talk about cleaning makes it sound like Zach doesn't carry his weight, I feel like I should take a moment to explain that he deals with a lot of the more horrifying aspects of our life, like the time there was a dead mouse in our kitchen and I hid until it was over. He also pumps our gas because I don't like to do it and he cooks at least half of the time. My point in all of this is not to point out his flaws but to give examples on picking your battles.

After all, I've started being more aware of nagging and trying to do it less of it, and I've had some interesting realizations. First of all, absolutely nothing is worse. Our household hasn't crumbled without me being on top of his every undone chore. A lot of it is the same. He is, after all, not going to become a completely different person, and I wouldn't even want that. And, most importantly, some things have really improved. We've both been overall much happier. He's even gotten up early and cleaned on a few occasions without prompting.


What's your take on this topic? Is "stop nagging" a pipe dream or the path to romantic bliss?



3 Ways to Face Fears and Start Living Your Dreams

Last week my sister, Brooke, used her super-human wizarding skills to win free tickets to see X Ambassadors. (Seriously, you guys, she wins concert tickets all the time. It's a pretty weird and awesome skill.) Lucky for me, I got to reap the benefits of her dark magic and tag along. While I was watching the concert, I was so inspired by the performances that I just had to share.


The opening act was Seinabo Sey and she killed it. If you are unfamiliar with her, I totally recommend checking out this video. She's got pipes like Adele but paired with an edgier sound. What really struck me about her was her unapologetically simple performance. She wore a long dark coat that essentially hid her entire body and literally just stood and sang. No dance moves or glittery crop tops or fancy light shows. She was just like I wrote these songs and I'm going to sing the daylights out of them and you're welcome.


Then X Ambassadors came out and gave an equally strong, yet totally different performance. The lead singer was throwing guitars and dancing all over the place and just overall had amazing stage presence. It also added to the inspiration factor that so many of their songs are about self-acceptance and defying odds. (I mean, I know you've heard Renegade 1000 times on the Jeep commercial, but have you seen the video? So inspiring.)

So anyway, I was standing there admiring how brave both of these performances were and I thought how cool it must be to be that fearless. But these people are human. I can almost guarantee that they are not 100% fearless. The difference is that they are just owning who they are and giving it their all regardless of fears. I myself have to face fears that come along with my creative career all of the time so I wanted to share some of my methods on how I deal when I'm feeling less than courageous. Hopefully these tips might help you embrace your courage if you've been feeling stuck in fear.


1  Change Your Perspective on Fear and Failure

First off, not all fear needs to be tackled. Fear, especially in the form of an aversion to, say, alligator wrestling, is practical and keeps you safe. However, if you start to notice that you are being held back from life accomplishments because you fear things like looking foolish, being rejected, etc., then fear has become a problem. The good news is that it doesn't need to remain a problem. If you embrace fear as a challenge to conquer rather than an omen of doom, it can become a great motivator. Yes, this is easier said than done, but a simple trick is to pay attention to your language. Instead of saying, "I'm too nervous" or "I'm so scared," re-frame it in your mind as, "I'm so excited." If these phrases just made you immediately picture a caffeine-pill-induced Jessie Spano freak out, that actually works to my point. The reason "I'm so excited" can turn into "I'm so scared" is because the feelings are basically exactly the same. You have the power to control whether they take on a positive or negative tone.

While we're talking perspective, it's important to look at one's views on failure. This is a hard one for me and I've often put off starting tasks or following up on ideas because I'm not ready. Read: Everything is not perfect yet. If you are in a creative field, this simple mistake can be a career crusher because- spoiler alert- your work will likely never be perfect and it definitely won't be in the beginning. You know the saying: Strive for progress, not perfection. This video on storytelling from Ira Glass was a game-changer for me in this department.

I have had a tough time with both of these thoughts in my creative career when it comes to having a public presence. If you're a regular reader, you probably know that I'm extremely uncomfortable both with having my picture taken and public speaking. I have tried all the methods for getting better at both of these things (I even studied Communications for years), but I finally just had to face some facts: I am never going to be a perfect spokesperson. I have many talents and these two things are just not included in that list, and that needed to be okay. By accepting my shortcomings in these areas, I am freed from stress of perfection. It means those fears don't have to win. When an opportunity comes along to be on a news program or have photos taken for an editorial, I could easily say no because these things make me nervous. Instead, I have to choose to do my best, awkward and flawed as that may be, for the benefit of gaining exposure and furthering my career.


2  Find Your Guides

I can not say enough about the importance and value of mentors, especially when you are embarking in a more creative field, where the path may not be so clear. If you struggle with asking for help or advice, something that works for me is to realize how flattering it is to be on the receiving end of such favors. Imagine someone coming to you for guidance because they admire you as an expert in your field. It feels great, right? Keep in mind that your reaching out to a mentor might be a major boost in their day.

Secondly, find different mentors for different needs. For instance, my dad is an entrepreneur and has a life-long networking list so he's always a big help whenever I have a broad idea and need to know who to talk to or what the next step should be. I also have a few business-savvy Type A friends who are great to turn to when I need very specific guidance, such as send out X amount of networking emails this week to reach your X% desired growth rate. And then of course I have a few blogger and designer mentors that I admire to help guide and inspire me in areas that most people wouldn't be able to relate. As you can imagine, if I went to my dad for design help and my artist friend for business help, there's a chance I'm not going to get the optimal advice. It's important to know where to look for specific mentorship in order to maximize your results.

If you're like, "Okay, that all sounds good but how the heck do I even find a mentor?," this article has some great resources on getting started.


3  Get the Ball Rolling

There is an Elizabeth Gilbert quote that says, "All procrastination is fear." I realize that you are not shivering with fear in your bed at night because of that email you keep "forgetting" to send, but somewhere inside you, there is an apprehension. Are you afraid of getting back a rejection email? Are you worried that the recipient will think your request is ridiculous? Are you maybe just lacking the self-confidence to believe it could be well-received? Whatever the reason, it's important to do a little soul searching and get to the root of the problem if you are looking for permanent change.

That part is tricky, but the good news is that once you've addressed your fears, the act of conquering them is much simpler: you just have to do it. Simple, yes. Easy? Maybe not as much. You can make the job of tackling goals easier on yourself by breaking them into smaller, more doable chunks. For instance, if your dreams list includes, "start a blog," break it down into smaller goals like, "meet with a blogger friend for advice," or, "choose a blogging platform." The cool part about this is that once you start checking off manageable tasks, your confidence in your abilities will snowball, making it easier to face the bigger, scarier tasks on the list. From there, it's simply lather, rinse, repeat until you are clicking publish on your first post!


(PS- If you like this little doodle, make sure you're following me on Instagram, where I share more of my creative work. Send me a message and I'll make sure to follow back. :) )


Do you have any fears that are holding you back? Do you think these methods work?


Our Happiness Project // Month 1: Boost Energy


I'm going to go ahead and lead with a disclaimer on this post: it's a loooong one. If you've been reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project and would like an in-depth look into what the first month has been like for me and Zach, please continue reading. Even better, tell us about your own first month in the comments! (As brief or as novel-esque as you would like.)

If you usually come here for art, fashion, fun collages, this post may not be the one for you. But don't fret, I'll have a whole lot of that for you this week, too.

So if you're still with me, here's how it goes: We basically follow along almost exactly with the book, focusing a little more or less in certain areas depending on what we want to work on most. If you'd like to join in with us, we read a chapter per month (April will be chapter two) and recap on the first Monday of every month. I also talk tips mid-month, so make sure you're subscribed to receive blog posts in your email if you'd like to keep up with those.

And now, let's talk happiness, changing habits, and for the love of god, going to bed on time. :)



On Choosing to Take on a Year-Long Project of Happiness

Zach: My goal with this project was to find more work/life balance. I wanted to try this project to see if a good mood/happiness was achievable for me even in the midst of a seriously over-packed work schedule and dealing with life stressors. I think focusing on happiness is absolutely important , though I realize I wasn't making a conscious effort before. So many things are affected by mood and perspective and I've realized that when I'm actively trying, happiness is achievable even when things like work demands and financial pressures seem overwhelming.

Ashley: I agree. We both definitely needed more work/life balance. I also was interested in the project because I thought it would help Zach and I find more of a common ground in certain aspects of our relationship. I am very much one who thinks "more" is the key to happiness- more effort, more planning, more work, etc. will lead to greater achievements, better self-esteem, and more overall happiness. Zach is definitely on the "less" team- less structure, less obligations, less worries. He has a very laissez-faire approach to his free time. And while I think there is value in both of our belief systems, it's almost like we were magnifying those beliefs because of the imbalance. We were often arguing about how to spend our time and what and how certain things should be approached when I think what we really need is to build a bridge between both ideas.

On Going to Sleep Earlier

A: When I saw that Gretchen Rubin's first task in The Happiness Project was to "go to sleep earlier" I knew that this was going to be my white whale. I put most of my focus this month into this one task because regular sleep is something I've struggled with my whole life. A combination of insomniac tendencies and a creative lifestyle means I'm often staying up way too late (like birds chirping the next day late) and then sleeping right through my alarm. These sleep habits, or I guess lack of sleep habits, have definitely had a negative effect on my mood lately because not having control over such a basic life function leaves me feeling immature, irresponsible, and just overall bad about myself. Whenever I sleep late I would wake up in a panic, however, when I wake up early, I am in such a better mood and have so much more energy.

It seems like with such strong results it would be an easy habit to change, but the physical struggle on this is so real. I don't feel tired at night, like even a little bit. As a creative, too, there is so much appeal in staying up after everyone is asleep and just working away into the calm, silent abyss. There's a romantic notion that this is how artists work, but the only people I've ever heard of who actually make their living off of their creativity live with so much structure and maintain very regular work hours. So I know that there's a lot of myth to the work-at-night appeal. I know I'm more productive and focused in the morning. At night when I'm feeling the urge to pull an all-nighter, I have to remind myself that I will have the hours to work in the morning and literally force myself to go to bed. The appeal of an iced coffee and a podcast waiting on me in the morning helps, too.

Z: Being on a more regular sleep schedule has been nice for both of us. I've always been pretty gifted at falling asleep wherever and whenever I want, but that can be a blessing and a curse. I had developed a bad habit of resting in the living room after work and almost immediately falling asleep in my work clothes. I would eventually wake up and go to bed, but I would feel sore and unrested from an interrupted sleep cycle. I started this month by focusing on a set bed time of midnight and forcing myself to go to bed at this time.  When I put more effort into having a nighttime ritual and actually changing, brushing my teeth, and getting into bed, I wake up feeling so much more rested and refreshed. Over the course of the month, my energy levels have changed tremendously, which has had a huge effect on my daily mood, especially in the mornings.

On Exercising Better

Z: I've never really been in a regular exercise routine and I would say the major hurdle, especially in the past few years, is time. As a business owner, I work long hours six to seven days a week. I would always intend to exercise and help with housework when I got home at night, but most nights I found it impossible to have the energy. I realized that the key for me is to complete these tasks in the morning before work. This one simple switch has made it so much easier and, even though I'm getting up earlier and adding more tasks into my schedule, I have found that when I stick to this, I have much more energy and my days are more enjoyable.

A: I'll be honest, I didn't want to change anything about my workout routine. I follow the Blogilates workout calendars and I love them. One thing I did change though, and this is really the opposite of Zach, is that I gave up on the idea of becoming a morning workout person. I always try to structure my day around working out first thing. Then I wake up and don't want to do it, fail, and inevitably feel crummy. The truth is, at this point in my life, I only like to workout in the afternoons or early evenings. So I've just embraced that and let go of the idea that I am going to be some morning workout goddess. That girl just doesn't exist right now and as long as I'm getting through a pm workout, that's okay. The freedom from my own expectations, I believe, is a move towards happiness.

On Getting Organized and Tackling Nagging Tasks

A: I focused a lot less on these goals this month because, like I said, changing sleep habits was my main priority. I did manage to get a few extra things accomplished, like reorganizing my jewelry and accessories. I also went through a waist-high pile of jeans that, despite wearing the same pair almost every day, I hadn't brought myself to get rid of yet. Now that I actually have so many pairs to toss, I'm planning on making one of these DIY denim rugs this spring and I'm pretty excited about it.

Z: My nagging tasks actually were the organizing tasks, starting with cleaning out my work bag that was full of documents, paperwork, and a lot of other things that were unnecessary to be carrying to and from work. When I finally organized my bag it felt liberating- I had literally lightened my load. The energy I got from this task snowballed into other areas that needed organized and cleaned at work. I've realized that the key is just to tackle tasks like this as they come to mind instead of letting messes grow and weighing on you.

On Acting More Energetic

Z: My first reaction to "acting more energetic" as a prompt is that is was such a simple thing to do that it would be dumb not to try. It actually ended up having a really big impact on my mornings. By acting like I was happy about being awake and having to work out and clean, I actually started appreciating the time I had to do these things. My overall mood and energy level every morning has improved.

A: It really has! He's been so awesome in the mornings. I have to do this every day, too, because I never want to work out. I know, however, that every time I muster up the energy to exercise, I always feel so many uplifting and energizing benefits afterwards, so I try to remind myself of this when I'm faking my pre-workout enthusiasm.

Biggest Takeaways this Month

A: Going to bed on time and waking up early can be a luxury rather than a punishment. I am so much happier when I have that extra time in my day.

Z: Happiness is a conscious effort. It doesn't just happen, you have to work on it. I recognized things I was putting off were much easier than they seemed.



After all of this talk about schedules, tasks, and organization, I have to say I'm really looking forward to next month's topic: Love! (Cue studio audience swooning "Wooooo.")

April relationship goals include:

Quit nagging.

Don't expect praise or appreciation.

Fight right.

No dumping.

And give proofs of love.

I'm definitely excited to work through this next month with Zach. He's excited, too, because he's pretty sure he's got me beat on this one. We'll see. ;)


Now tell me, how did your first month of The Happiness Project go? Do you work on these topics in your life? Have you found any methods that bring great results? Do you wish I would quit asking questions? Great!

Tell me about your happy in comments section!


Our Happiness Project // Tip #1: Tackling Clutter with the One-Minute Rule


If you saw this post two weeks ago, you know that Zach and I have started a personal quest for more balance and general happiness based on Gretchen Rubin's best-selling book, The Happiness Project. Basically, we are just following along with the book- one chapter per month- and taking some of Rubin's methods and applying them to our own lives.

We just started the first chapter this month, so there is still plenty of time to join in if you haven't yet! This month's topics are all about energy and vitality. Physical aspects of energy, such as sleep, exercise, and even "faking" energy, are emphasized. But what I really wanted to talk about today is the effects that de-cluttering and organization can have on energy levels.

One of my favorite discoveries in this chapter was the use of the "One-Minute Rule."

The One-Minute Rule: If a task can be completed in one minute, do it now.

Examples of tasks that fall within this rule: hanging up your jacket when you get home, opening and sorting mail as it comes in, putting your dinner plate in the dishwasher instead of the sink, etc. It seems like kind of a "no-duh" concept, but internalizing it and really being aware of opportunities to utilize it can make a big impact. Small tasks really do add up when it comes to staying organized. And furthermore, taking care of simple tasks in the moment helps to lighten the mental load that comes from having a constant list of things to do piling up, put off for a "better time."

I'm using the One-Minute Rule to work on a few things that always pile up for me. For example, making sure to clear trash or accumulated objects from my car and purse at the end of the day or making sure to answer emails that only require a quick reply in the moment instead of planning to go back to them and inevitably forgetting. I've also been trying to use passive time for more multi-tasking. For instance, I've realized that I can unload and reload the dishwasher in just the time it takes to boil water or wait for something to cook in the microwave. I can basically clean the whole kitchen while cooking if I'm really on the ball.


All of these quotes/images are from Gretchen Rubin's blog. If you're not already subscribed, I highly recommend it. It's a daily must-read for me.

If you're also going through the book or just want to keep up on the topic, make sure you're subscribed to get future posts! On the first Monday of every month we'll have an update on how the challenge is going, talk about what prompts are really helping, what was hard, etc. And if you're already taking part, I'd love to hear what's working for you so far!

Do you already use the One-Minute Rule in your life? And if not, do you think it could be helpful?


Our Happiness Project // Come Join Us!


The idea for this post series, or really personal experiment, came the other day when my sister, Angie, was talking to me about Gretchen Rubin, as she's currently reading her book, Better than Before. I told her I've been wanting to read that but I still haven't gotten around to reading Rubin's other book, The Happiness Project, even though I've owned it for years. In case you haven't heard of The Happiness Project, it chronicles the author's year-long test-drive of everything from ancient philosophical wisdom to scientific studies to lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.

'Why exactly haven't I read that until now?' I began to wonder. It is very, very unlike me to have an unread book at all, especially one of this nature. I love a good self-exploration read and when it comes in the form of a checklist, a challenge, a plan- well, that's pretty much the dream.

So I dusted off and cracked open my copy, quickly remembering why I've put it off for so long: Chapter 1- January. JANUARY! Rubin's own happiness quest starts at New Year's and focuses on a different aspect every month, wrapping itself up with a perfectly neat bow by the end of December. I never remember this fact until it's too late and thus have put it off for years. The appeal of doing a perfect month-by-month year of happiness is just too strong to settle for starting imperfectly in spring, right?

Wrong. I know this all seems silly, but the struggle on this one is very real for me. In fact, my first instinct was to set a reminder on my phone so as not to forget about it come January 2017, when my perfect year of happiness could finally begin. But that is ridiculous and I know it. My word of 2016 is "now" specifically because I have to fight this instinct in myself. It's supremely silly, not to mention a complete waste, to procrastinate in the name of perfectionism, especially when the outcome could be eye-opening and life-enriching.

So anyway, I decided I'm just going to dive in. Even if it is during the perfectly imperfect, very non-January-like month of March. In fact, Zach and I are both diving in, as he's agreed to go through the book with me. You see, with him being a small business owner and myself being an obsessive creative, we've got a major work-life balance problem going on here. He regularly works 60-hour work weeks and I often work through dinner and then stay up until the sun rises working on more projects. While I would say we are certainly "happy," our sense of normalcy, routine, and overall enjoyment of life could use some major work. I'm hoping this will help us to implement more structure, thus creating a little more freedom, a little more wiggle room in the schedule, or at the very least, a reminder to relax and appreciate the joy of the moment.


So here is how it's going to go down.

We are working on Chapter 1 all throughout March.

Yes, it's killing me to do January's chapter in March, but the focus is on energy and vitality and this is something I can definitely get behind. Tasks include going to sleep earlier, exercising better, organizing the home, tackling nagging tasks, and acting more energetic.

These are things that are kind of always lingering in the back of my mind, but can be difficult to implement into day-to-day life. We're excited to use some of Rubin's ideas and techniques and see how they work for our lives.

We will be recapping the chapters on the first Monday of each month.

We will talk about what was hard, what worked well, etc, as well as talking about the next month ahead. If you're interested in working through the book yourself, you can download a sample chapter here or purchase here. And if you are interested in taking part with us each month, we would love to have some happiness partners in crime! If this is something that sounds fun to you, please let me know in the comments so I can cheer you along! :)

Here's to HAPPINESS!


Help! Implementing Structure to Promote Creativity


Today's post is not one where I'm going to offer tips and advice, but more of an open debate on an issue I really struggle with- that is, how much structure should exist in the creative process?

There's a rather romantic notion that artists live a life free of rules, deadlines, and to-do lists. Or that a truly creative mind will only be hindered by such structure. To a certain degree, I believe this. I always have my best ideas when I can be my most open.

The things is, I don't actually know anyone that has financial success without the rigidity of scheduling, budgets, etc. In fact, many, if not all, creative professionals stick to an extremely regular routine, claiming it's the only way they would ever make tangible strides in their work. The routine seems to be the distinguishing factor between a creative person and a creative professional.

And yet, even though this is really my one and only goal in life- to create a sustainable creative career- I still find it absolutely dreadful to work within the confines of a routine. My day job, my writing, my housework- I am fine with having structure in all of these areas. Tasks to complete, time in which to complete them, etc. For the most part, I've got that down. But when it comes to creating art, it's a different story. If I tell myself I will draw/paint/sew whatever for one hour, or even 15 minutes, every day, I suddenly feel suffocated by the whole process. Does anyone relate to this?

I am told maintaining the continued repetition, and even the misery that may come from it, is where the magic starts to happen. That finding that certain song or tea or whatever it is that gets your brain into the zone is key to controlling the tap on your creative faucet, so to speak. My question is how do I get to that place when every time I add parameters in the form of regular timed intervals, I find myself staring at a pad of paper and wanting to bang my head against a wall?

This is going to be a continued focus of mine over the next several weeks on this blog. I set my word of intention for 2016 as "NOW." As in quit thinking about the plans, the process, the details, and just start moving your hands. Just make. Just do. Now. And I think now is precisely the time I need to conquer this mundane beast once and for all.

So, dear reader, I am kindly requesting your suggestions as to how to successfully implement routine into your creative work. Do you have a daily work routine? Have you ever struggled in this way? Did you have a moment where it all clicked? Is there anything specific that has worked for you? Any comments/suggestions/shared pain are welcome and appreciated. I promise to share any enlightenment I may find on this not-yet-successful-but-determined journey in future posts.



An Introvert's Guide to Networking: Three Ways to Expand Your Personal Team

As a blogger and designer, I'm very comfortable working alone, but that's not generally how my best work, or even my best ideas, come about. That's why it can be especially important to push myself outside of the happy hermit walls that surround my comfort zone to reach out to other creatives for networking and collaborations.

If these things don't exactly come naturally to you, I hear you. Networking can feel forced, awkward, and uncomfortable. And it's something on which I'm constantly working and trying to improve. That's why I'm sharing these tips that, as an introvert, I've found especially helpful for whenever you are trying to make connections and expand your creative team.



Think Outside of Yourself

When networking, the thought process often revolves around filling a personal need and bringing more people into your squad. However, if want to expand your reach, you may want to consider the opposite perspective and look to join someone else's team instead. If you can check your creative ego at the door, you will likely gain new ideas, new methods, and new connections that you never would have otherwise. The ego isolates, but humility connects.

Similarly, thinking outside of yourself can help to ease nerves. When my nephew was nervous about starting kindergarten and having to make friends at a new school, my mom gave him some great advice that stuck with me. She told him to look for someone else that seemed nervous and focus on being nice to them and helping them feel better. That same advice can be applied to adulthood nerves as well. If you've been wanting to pitch an idea to an editor or reach out to someone you admire about collaborating, don't focus on your own nerves or perceived inadequacies. Think about the potential value you can offer to them. Instead of asking for a favor, outline what you can bring to the table and how you can make their life easier. Consider the notion that you might be exactly what they're looking for to fill a need.


Watch for Bright Eyes

Having talent is great but collaborating with other talented people is even better. Invest your time into finding and hanging out with people whose talents, interests, and goals are in line with your own. They will not only be able to help you when you need inspiration and advice, but will hopefully motivate you to push harder and go further than you would solo.

Furthermore, you know that thing that you're so passionate about? If you see someone else talk about it with the same fire in their eyes, invest your time into this person. Sharing a vision and drive regarding the same topic is a rare bond that should be held onto tightly. If you aren't sure where to connect with others of similar interests, consider online groups, blogger meetups, creative courses and other places that driven and brilliant people like yourself will likely be. And never underestimate the power of volunteering. Some of my most valuable connections have been made through volunteering for someone I admire and giving it my all. It gives them a chance to see your eyes get bright about their work and solidifies you as a strong asset to the team.


Find Your Yang

Keep an open mind when it comes to connecting with different types of people because it is oftentimes a personality that is opposite to your own that will make for a very productive pairing. If you're a visionary, team up with a practical doer. If you prefer to work behind-the-scenes, team up with someone outgoing with PR savvy.

Take advantage of what you can learn from someone who works differently than you. It may take effort to understand different communication and work styles, but it will pay off in the end. And similarly, try to bring your own unique vision and experiences to the partnership. Whatever makes you "weird" is often one of your most valuable qualities. Cookie-cutter people seldom change the world.


Do you have any tips for growing your personal network? Let's talk making connections in the comments!



New Word, New Outlook for 2016



I'm trying something a little radical (for me) in 2016. I'm going to try and plan less. I'm hoping this will catapult me into actually doing a whole lot more. That was the motivation behind my word of the year choice- NOW. I like that it's a call to action, an intention to work with a sense of urgency, so that I don't look back at this time next year and just think it all passed me by so fast.

I'm sure some fellow creatives/introverts/obsessive list-makers will relate to this, but in the three-part process that is idea-plan-implement, I'm often only achieving two out of these three things. I sometimes feel like I'm exploding with ideas and I have been my whole life.

It wasn't until the past five or so years that I started getting good at part two. The detailed planning and disciplined organizing/scheduling that I really struggled with in high school and college became a strength in my adult life. I began to love the excitement I got from planning out dreams and goals.

The problem is, I have SO many dreams and goals. They are big and they are constantly changing. I like this about myself, because it pushes me out of my comfort zone, so I'm never bored. But I also find that I'm held back by my lack of a specific direction and a need to overly plan. I know for a fact that if you look at my notebook from my first year blogging that I have some plans that now, two years later, are still stuck in my list of dreams. If I have a mental block in any part of the planning process or I don't have a perfectly clear vision of the final product, it can be really paralyzing.

So normally I would be telling you all about my goals for 2016, but this year I want to eliminate extraneous planning as much as possible. I am a long-time believer in making measurable goals and I will likely continue posting on this topic, for those that struggle with this step. I believe in measurable parameters if you are struggling with meeting goals or changing habits, as I have been in years past. But 2016 me has these planning/organizational methods down. 2016 me needs, more importantly, a good jolt out of her head and into action. (She should also stop calling herself "2016 me," but you know her...)

I hope that this year I can stop overthinking every detail of every thing. I hope I can start every project that has been swirling around in my head, even if they end up unfinished or total disasters. I hope that I quit wasting time being afraid of imperfection or worrying that I'm still not qualified enough to go for my biggest dreams. I hope to relax more, dream more, but mostly that I create more, as if it is as natural and important as breathing in air.

I hope that in 2017 I look back at this year as the one where I finally made it all happen. That the life-changing year is now.




Do you set an intentional word of the year? I'd love to hear all about your 2016 theme and goals in the comments!



Five Ways to Break Through a Creative Block



You might be able to relate. For the first two weeks of November, I was in a total uninspired funk. Perhaps it's natural. I had a very busy October and I expected to need a few days to rest and regroup. But I didn't expect to need two whole weeks! In my dream world I was going to relax for a few days and then hit the ground running with the most inspired action plan for conquering life. Instead, I only felt inspired to do the bare minimum until I could get back to literally Keeping up with Kardashians.

Somewhere in the second week, I finally hit my unproductive limit and reached into my unblocking tool box. I'm happy to say I've come out of it with way more motivation and have a much better vision of the course of action to take now and through spring in order to achieve my goals. Phew! I am feeling much better now that I have my ideas and my direction back.

What I'm talking about today is that frustrating period of time in the creative process when you need ideas except absolutely nothing (or at least nothing great) is coming to you. It can be so stressful when you rely on your brain for work and it is failing you, like it has shut down. In case you are going through a similar situation, or just want to bookmark this for the next time you do, I thought I'd share my favorite go-to methods for getting over a creative slump and getting back your inspired, innovative, problem-solving mind.


1. Ask Questions / Find the Soul of the Project

If you lack clarity on an idea, it's likely because you don't have enough information yet. Ask yourself questions like: Who is the target audience? What do they want? How do I hope they will feel? How can I make their lives better/easier/more inspired? How have other designers approached similar problems? Parameters and constraints are the perfect springboard for creative ideas. So if you've been banging your head against a wall, it may simply be that you need to do a little more research. A well-defined plan should be established before you've even looked at your paintbrush, keyboard, etc. Getting to know the soul of the project is a perfect foundation for having your best ideas yet.


2. Come Up With Many Ideas

Anyone who's watched Mad Men is probably familiar with this method (my favorite for brainstorming). When Don hears of a new client or product pitch they need to prepare for he will tell the team that they each need need to come up with 50 taglines, or something to that effect, for their next meeting. I usually give myself a limit of 10, but whatever number you decide, the process of coming up with too many ideas is great for a couple of reasons. First of all, it helps you to see that you have a lot of options. When you are feeling at a loss for ideas, this can be a crucial morale booster. Secondly, it forces you to open your mind to consider more possibilities. It doesn't matter if some are silly or impractical, the act of considering more options will automatically get you in a creative state of mind. Needing to come up with 10, 20, 50 ideas will ease the pressure that comes with trying to find the one perfect idea.


3. Shake Up Your Work Space

I don't like to start working at my desk until it is cleared off and organized. A clean work space helps my mind to also be a blank space, perfect for tackling tasks and projects. If you are feeling stressed, take a moment to create a zen haven. Clear away any trash or dishes, organize your work tools, and add a little ambiance by lighting a candle or putting on some calming music. If you are feeling uninspired? Take it a step further and consider rearranging some furniture, adding some fresh flowers or a colorful piece of art, or even simply moving your chair to a window or the other side of the desk. Not only will the act of changing the space get your creative wheels moving, but having a "new" space will aid in the production of new ideas. If all else fails, you can always head to a coffee shop or park and get inspired by your surroundings outside of your work space.


4. Get a New Perspective

As much as changing your surroundings can literally provide a new perspective, sometimes it's helpful to turn this theory inward and think about things from another angle. One method I like is to start at your end goal and work backwards, asking how and why at each level. Say you want to write a children's book but are having a hard time getting started. Think about the day the book launches: How do you want the first person that reads it to feel? Now why is this important and how can you make sure it happens? Get smaller and smaller with each step until you have decided on a starting point. Another tactic for gaining a new approach is to ask yourself how Benjamin Franklin/Joan of Arc/Beyoncé (whoever) would approach the same project. Thinking about it outside of yourself can alleviate the pressure and fear that comes with creative ownership and help to open yourself to ideas you may have not yet considered.


5. Activate Your Brain Trust

Collaboration breeds creation, so when in doubt, reach out to all the creative geniuses in your network. Whether it be as a fan, by saving quotes, reading great literature, looking at inspiring art, or checking out an innovative film or concert, there is no doubt that great works of art can help inspire creativity in your own work. As for your more personal connections, keeping a regular meeting of people in similar fields, finding a mentor, and simply reaching out to those closest to you can all help in finding the missing link you are looking for to make your idea whole.


The most important thing to remember when experiencing a creative block is that it is a natural and important part of the process. Try to look at this frustrating time as the perfect opportunity for growth. You haven't run out of ideas yet, you are just pushing yourself to find your best ones. The struggle is a valuable part of getting to your best creative work.

You've got this!



How do you break through a creative block?



Work and Life Goals for November + A Little Blog Update

That's a close up pic of the tree costume that my co-designer, Shiree Houf, and I designed for Highball Halloween (photo by T. A. Mueller Photography) . We were actually so busy working on this in October that I never set any official goals for the month other than "finish Highball collection" and "shower as much as possible." This season gets so intense for me that I actually didn't even really accomplish any of my September goals except the silliest: Learn a rap song on piano. (Enjoy friends...)      

Not the best performance of my life but a cool party trick, nonetheless. :)

September goals aside, I did make headway in a few other areas in the past two months. Notice my new pic in the sidebar, taken by the wonderful Alexa of Alexa Marie Photography. If you click through I also have a new About page and another profile pic featured there.

Alexa was great to work with because I am quite possibly the least photogenic person on Earth. And I'm not just being hard on myself, I simply have never been able to do it well. At all. I've got the half-smirk selfie thing down, but let me tell you, it takes some real camera magic to get a professional, smiling picture of this face. And one that I actually like to boot. That's a real feat. So I really just have to give a big thanks to Alexa for her camera wizardry. And if you happen to be in the market for a photo session, I strongly suggest booking with her! You can check out her website or facebook page for more info.

And now onto this month's goals! Because I've been coasting a little on the organized goal front, some of these are going to look pretty familiar. I've got a few new goals and few I STILL haven't conquered (but will never give up on!). Here are the things taking priority for me this month...



A few of these things are long-standing goals of mine so I'm really trying to light a fire inside of myself to finally get them done!

Do you have any long-standing goals that you struggle with?

What things are you working on this month?

Let's talk goal-conquering in the comments! :)


September Life and Business Goals

Oh man, I can't believe how fast September is flying by! Or the fact that I am just now getting around to my monthly goals! Mainly it's because I've still been trying to finish up what was definitely an overly-ambitious list of August goals. Normally, I would like to repost that list and go through each goal one by one and report back to you how I did. Except I'm generally 75% done with all of it so basically you can just apply "sort of" to all my goals last month and that's where I'm at.

Overall it's been a pretty productive month for me. My design partner and I made some serious progress on our collection for Highball (a fashion/costume design contest), I've done a logo design and full re-branding for a local company, and I've gotten some work done on my own logo and branding for a graphic design site I hope to launch this fall.

I've still got a lot more design work to do this month, so I want to keep my outside goals kind of easy and fun. Here's what I've got on my plate...


Why is learning a rap song on piano part of my goals list? Because why the heck not? I just keep seeing that YouTube video of the guy playing Dr. Dre on piano and I want in. Hopefully next month I'll have a slammin' video of my own to share. :)

What goals are you working on this month?


Are You an Opener or a Finisher?

Vanity Tray with Makeup

My mom gave me a really beautiful shampoo and conditioner set from eva-nyc for Christmas that I am still currently using even though it is now the end of August. This is not because I've discovered the Everlasting Gobstoppers of the hair care world, but rather because they sat in my linen closet for months while I finished using my gallon jug bottles of Pantene, even though I was significantly less excited about those.

Every once in a while my mom would ask me if I loved the shampoo and conditioner as much as she did, and I would tell her, even months later, that I hadn't opened them yet. She must have thought I was crazy to wait, especially since her bath tub is likely lined with several different shampoos and conditioners. She, like a lot of people, would have most definitely opened them as soon as possible.

My mom can also be halfway through several different books at the same time, finishing the ones she likes and simply quitting the ones she doesn't. The mere thought of that, however, completely stresses me out. There have been books in my life that I didn't enjoy even a little bit, but painfully finished before moving onto the next one. For continuity's sake or just for the sake of not giving up- I'm not sure- but I doubt you will ever catch me halfway through a stack of books.


When I came across this discussion by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project), I realized my mom and I simply have a fundamental difference in preference: she's an Opener and I'm a Finisher. Finishers get a certain sense of satisfaction from using that last drop of shampoo before starting into the new bottle while Openers subscribe to a more is more philosophy. Openers love an excuse to get something new and feel satisfaction from having as many options as possible.

Now don't get me wrong, I love a brand new pair of socks or that first scoop of peanut butter from a fresh jar as much as the next opener. But to me, the satisfaction only really comes after I've worn a hole in another pair of socks or I've used every last bit of that old jar of peanut butter. Finishers often feel overwhelmed when there is more than needed. Opening a new jar of peanut butter before the other is completely gone seems a little too chaotic. Clutter and over-abundance cause stress. Openers, on the other hand, feel comforted by those half empty jars or that overstuffed sock drawer. It's often more than just the satisfaction of a freshly-opened-something-new, but rather that this abundance provides a sense of security because it means they won't ever be without.

Flour Canisters

If you're not sure whether you're Camp Opener or Camp Finisher, consider these scenarios:

  1. The toothpaste is running low, do you (A) clamp and roll until you've made your way through or (B) grab a new tube and pop it open, leaving the nearly empty tube in your medicine cabinet for emergency backup?
  2. Your friend recommends "the perfect" lipstick but you've already got a couple shades for work and a couple for going out, do you (A) mentally bookmark the brand and color for when one of your standbys needs replacing or (B) buy it anyway, claiming there's no such thing as too many lipstick options.
  3. When you open your closet is there (A) a place for everything and everything in its place, or (B) a sweater in all six color options and 15 of the same pairs of jeans.
  4. Which of these puts your mind most at ease, envisioning (A) meditating alone in your backyard on a quiet peaceful day or (B) listening to loud music in a room with lots of visual cues, photo collages, contrasting colors, etc.

If you most identify with the (A) options, you are most likely a Finisher, while the (B) options signify an Opener. It probably won't be a perfect match either way. You may inhabit something from each camp. For me personally, I favor aesthetic abundance and don't mind a little chaos every now and then, but decided I am more on the Finisher side in spite of those aspects because of my love of crossing things off the to-do list and an overall need for minimal clutter.


But let's take this discussion a step further- how might being an Opener or a Finisher impact your work?


Well, first let's look at the pros:

Openers are essentially abundance lovers. They are attracted to overflow and addition, meaning they are less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed in more chaotic environments. If an Opener is low on money, they would be more likely to take on outside work rather than cut back.

Finishers are essentially simplicity lovers. They are attracted to emptiness and subtraction, meaning they are more likely able to make difficult edits for things like time-management and budgeting. If a Finisher is low on money, they would be more likely to cut something like an premium cable package to save money.


Now, consider if there are ways that being an Opener or Finisher may be holding you back:

For an Opener, it would help to remain aware of any tendencies to move on to the next thing before completing the task at hand. If you have a goal that you can't seem to make headway on, consider adopting some Finisher behavior. Create lists, schedules, and the overall structure needed to complete your goal, making sure to eliminate unnecessary distractions in order to complete the necessary actions before moving onto something else.

For a Finisher, make it a point to not only remain open to new opportunities, but furthermore,  to actively pursue them. It can be easy to feel comfortable in your current state and intimidated by the thought of taking on more responsibilities or using precious resources, such as time or money. Fight this urge and try to think like an Opener by going after new challenges and opportunities whenever you are feeling stagnant.


Are you an Opener or a Finisher? Do you agree with these distinctions?











Friday 5: Five Ways to Find Creative Inspiration Under Stress

I apologize for the light posting schedule around here lately. My working life has been busier than ever, which has been good, but my personal life has been full of all. the. feelings! Everything is fine, just normal life ups and downs, but anyone whose work revolves around creativity can probably relate. When your day-to-day is centered around the thoughts in your brain, it can be crazy difficult to function when stressors are in play. When something like focusing your thoughts is just taking too much effort, it's nearly impossible to be bursting with life-changing creative ideas.

So I thought instead of continuing to fight my head, I'd tell you all what I do when I've hit my mental walls. How to continue working and creating when it's the farthest thing from your mind.


Desk- Coffee, Glasses, Clips

1. Get a New Perspective.

I mean this one as literally as possible. If you have the option to leave your physical work space- do it. Studies have shown that ambient noise, such as coffeehouse chatter, can boost productivity in creative brains. In fact, any new scenery and sounds can actually trigger the brain to think abstractly, helping to generate creative ideas. On days when you're not hitting up your local coffee shop, you can turn to Coffivity, which mimics this effect by providing the perfect amount of distracting sounds to get the creative juices flowing.


Girl in Black with Hat

2. Get Moving.

Exercise is incredible in that it can leave you feeling equally calm and energized. A perfect combo for tackling any problem. If just the word exercise already has you moaning and groaning, look at it in its smallest, simplest form: walking. In my experience a short brisk walk can do amazing things for an overly stressed mind. Taking a walk in nature has added inspirational bonuses, as does an entertaining podcast or an uplifting song. Throw in all three and I guarantee you'll finish your walk with a clearer, more focused outlook.


Cooking Prep

3. Occupy Yourself.

I'm sure you've had this moment. You're driving yourself crazy trying to think of a solution to something until finally you give up and move one. Then later that day while you're doing the dishes, the heavens suddenly open up and hand deliver the exact conclusion you had been trying desperately to reach. It seems counterintuitive, but when you're feeling stuck, sometimes tuning out a little can be the best method to reaching that a-ha moment. Now I don't think this means you should blow everything off when you're frustrated. But move on to things that need done that perhaps require less mental energy. For me, anything that involves using my hands- cleaning, organizing, drawing, sewing, etc.- are usually what put my mind most at rest, leaving me open to new ideas.


Watercolor Sketch Pad

4. Look to the Arts.

This one seems a little obvious, but art is probably the most stirring source of inspiration available. I love going to art museums, concerts, and watching dance because, even though they don't have anything to do with what I do, these things really fuel my need to create. The work of someone else can bring up all these thoughts and feelings within yourself, and when it really strikes a chord it's like unlocking a creative vault in your brain. But I understand a fine art museum is not everyone's thing, and I think that's fine. There are so many options when it comes to finding artistic inspiration, from shopping at a flea market to watching some really get tv and movies (I'm looking at you, Hugo). Just find people outside of your specific medium that are doing inspiring things and get inspired from them.


Cocktail Glasses

5. Give in.

Creative burnout is very real and sometimes you just have to give in to the universe and simply take a break. Now I'm not saying you should go gentle into that good night, but if you've gone through all the possible methods you have for getting creatively unstuck, and you're still just a blank slate, the time has come to take it easy on your self. Try and have a little faith in the process, respecting the ebb and flow of creativity. Rest, rejuvenate, and just focus on feeling like a human again. Take a little time to indulge in the luxuries, long a long bath, that you don't allow yourself when you are in a creative working frenzy. The urge to create will come back. The brilliant ideas will overflow once again. And you might be pleasantly surprised at their new form.


What do you do when you're lost for ideas? Share your genius ways with us in the comments!


PS: Do you love these photos? They're part of Death to Stock, a brilliant photo resource by Columbus creative mastermind, Allie Lehman, and her collaborator, David Sherry. It's an endless supply of great photos for blogs and business websites. Check it out! :)