Mad Letters

How to Build a Practice Around Your Creative Work


2016, Here we go! Dustin and I have had some amazing time for reflection on what we want to do with our business in 2016. One thing we want to do this year is hone our personal style and eventually update our brand to match. I’m working on building a practice around how I create. The only way to hone a personal style is to create relentlessly.

Let me tell you about a designer’s dilemma. Starting a project, brainstorming, building mood boards on Pinterest - super fun. The edits, revisions, tweaking, and translating feedback - not always super fun. When you get down to it, the work that pays your bills and feeds your family, is not always what your creative mind wants to do. How to sidestep this dilemma? I take my mind to the playground. Every morning before work I spend 2 hours drawing, reading, dreaming, and writing. This is the hour that I build my creative practice and release any creative energy or tension. Then I shower and get ready for work. I find I am much more focused and disciplined with myself after my practice hour.


We all know a good relationship takes work. You have to look at your work and understand that it takes relationship.

How do you build a good relationship? You show up, a lot. How do you build a good relationship with your work? You practice. You show up even when we don’t feel like it and create things just for the sake of creating things. Over time, you will build strength, clarity and focus. Practice makes a professional.

(There are so many yoga parallels in this post, I just can’t even.)


Tips on Building your Creative Practice



You can’t treat your creative practice as a performance. Ever sat down to create and thought, “I can't wait to post this to Instagram?!” Just having that thought cross your mind takes you to an entirely different place. I don’t know about you, but I can't make anything wonderful in that place. It's the place where I start stressing out about shit that doesn’t really matter. I repeat, it’s a practice, not a performance.



Have intentions, but not goals for this time. So my intention is to write a blog post per week and illustrate a little every day. But one morning last week, I wasn’t feeling it. I read Rumi poems instead. Listen to yourself and give your mind what it needs.



Practice with frequency and keep showing up. Try to practice when you have the most energy. I’m a morning person, so I do first thing from 6-8 am. Do this everyday. 



Use mental cues to teach your brain what this time is all about. I always start with coffee, chill music and my journal. It’s my little warm up. Experiment and find what works for you.



Stick to your end time. Unfortunately I can’t let myself dream all day. At the end of my practice, I review my calendar for the day and get ready to do billable work. Sticking to your start and end time will help you build boundaries around your work. It will also help you build strength at setting boundaries in other areas of your life. Cheers to that.


Let's make 2016 the year that we constantly showed up for ourselves. Yeah? 


Side note: Should I make coloring pages / screen graphics from these illustrations? Leave a comment below if you'd want one!

Update 1/19: Coloring pages available here!

What I Learned at Plywood Presents 2015

What I learned at Plywood Presents 2015

I’m headed to the Plywood Retreat next week! Ah! I’m so full of nervous energy! I’m always so inspired by the Plywood community. This year’s conference, Plywood Presents, woke up something inside. It turned on the lights in a room where a lot of unhappiness was stored. Coming to the realization that I would need to confront that beast was really tough. I drove home from the conference in complete silence, filled with dread. I knew I would have to change my life. I was getting ready for it, and then God made it happen. Turns out, actually confronting the beast was simple. I was let go from my previous job the following Monday morning and re-hired by Paint Love the next day. It was the weirdest and most perfect chain of events I've ever experienced. Cheers! Here's a few things I learned from Plywood Presents:

“As long as I am proud and grateful, I’m on the right path.” Kat Cole

If you are proud of what you’ve built and grateful for where you are, you’re on the right track. I think Kat Cole’s talk might have made the conference for me. It can be so hard to measure your success. And as a super achiever, that’s tough! I need to see progress. I need grades and report cards. I tend to get lost in the gap between how I think I'm doing and how I think others think I'm doing. I love using the “proud and grateful” marker for success. Go listen to her whole talk. It's so full of wisdom!

"Create relentlessly." Blake Howard Quote

This speaker, Blake Howard, was on fire. Like 80’s music, flame transitions on fire. It was pretty great. I am so bad at having hard conversations. I will avoid, avoid, avoid. But I’m realizing, that those hard conversations have to happen. It’s better for everyone for those conversations to happen first thing. Be courageous and create relentlessly. It's the only way to close the gap between your high standard for art and design and your ability. 

"Don’t be so drained from your job that you have nothing to give to your spouse  ." Caitlin Crosby Quote

Ahh, Caitlin Crosby from The Giving Keys! She had so many great things to say, but one thing stood out to me. Don’t be so drained from your job that you don’t have enough left for your spouse. This simple phrase hit me smack in the forehead. I was in a situation where there was nothing left when I got home. I was bringing in a great paycheck, but I wasn't bringing in much else. Looking back on my life, I don't want to be just a great provider. I want to be a great wife, a great sister, a great friend, a great human. Now my work and life are a little bit more integrated. I'm working more, but there's more "me" left at the end of the day. So much better!

There was so much to learn, hear, gather and save up. I couldn't capture it all. I'm so incredibly grateful for the conversations I had and the people I've met. If you want to hear any of the amazing talks from this year's event, head over to Plywood People on youtube!