Today we’re talking about….CREATIVE HABITS!
You know, those things that you do to cultivate your creativity and keep your ideas flowing, no matter what your interests and skills are.
In this episode, I cover:
The paradox inherent in a regular creative practice, the idea of discipline vs. playfulness and spontaneity, how to deal with the frustrating bits, living in alignment with our values, and the BEST part of a creative practice, to me.
And I also share 3 tips that I’ve used throughout my creative life to keep going, no matter what, a song I recorded about feeling free, and a challenge for you about your daily creative routine!
Links mentioned today:
Click here to download Easy To Be Free
Click here to learn more about Atomic Habits
Support the show
welcome to the what dreamers do podcast. i’m your host carla govan and appalachian musician flatfoot dancer, mama creative and dreamer from kentucky. i’m on a mission to inspire others to realize their dreams and live their most creative lives. grab your mason jar full of sweet tea or something a little stronger, and pull up a chair, because it’s time to get your dream off.
that’s what dreamers do.
well, howdy, everybody. this is carla showing up for another episode of what dreamers do. and i’m really excited to be here with you today, i have had a little bit of a cold sinus type situation. so my voice is not the instrument that i wish it were. but if you’ll just bear with me,
i’m still going to show up, i’m still going to do the show for you. i’ve been looking forward to it and thinking about all the things i want to say to you and planning future episodes. it’s really exciting. so thank you for being here with me. thank you for listening. and let’s just dive right into what we’re going to talk about today, which is creative habits. so last time, i shared with you a little bit about my creative journey and how i got to where i am today. and i thought it would be cool or fun to dive a little bit more into my creative habits and the things that i’ve done to have a creative practice throughout my life. i know that’s certainly something that i’m always interested in, when i’m talking to other artists or other creative people or other activists or just other inspired souls. so i’m going to take that apart for you guys a little bit today and tell you some stories. it’s something that i’ve always been interested in. and in fact, i’m even putting together a little guide for you guys right now, that will be available for download soon. so keep your eyes out for that.
so i’m going to start with a couple quotes.
one is from a book i have not actually read, called atomic habits by james clear. and the quote is, the practice of building habits is the process of becoming yourself.
and the second quote is by winston churchill, hopefully we all know who he is. and the quote is, success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. so i love both of those quotes, i love the idea that we can actually choose the habits that we want to have, and maybe replace some of the ones that we have had in the past that maybe we got from our family, or that we just picked up along the way that don’t really serve us or that don’t align with who we want to be. i love this idea that we can kind of take a deliberate look at that and sort of shift into something that’s more aligned, that feels better. and that helps us be the people that we really want to be. and as far as this idea of success being going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. i relate to that. i mean, it’s not that i don’t ever suffer loss of enthusiasm or feel a setback. but the way i try to
approach mike creative projects, and the way i often feel is just, i’m excited, i’m enthusiastic, and i try to stay connected to that enthusiasm, because that’s what helps me get the job done. and if i screw up, which i have done, so many times, i just try to get back up on the horse and ride again. so anyway, a little food for thought there with those quotes. one of the things that i was thinking about this week, when i was contemplating creativity, as so often do, is that there’s kind of a paradox when it comes to living a creative life. and let me just clarify a little bit about what i mean when i say creative. so it could be art, it could be music, but it could be other things too. it could be what we typically think of as creative. but there are many people i know that are creatives and passionate about what they do that might not actually put paint on a canvas or they might not, you know write poetry, but creativity can be expressed in our lives, through whatever career we have whatever job we do, through having fully engaged and alive relationships with the people we love through gardening. whatever current within yourself that you connect with that makes you feel like you all lit up. to me, that’s what living a creative life means. so that’s kind of what i’m talking about. so if you’re not a painter, or a dancer, don’t tune out because
you also aren’t creative. so the paradox for me comes in, in that there’s this element of wildness, you know, when we connect with the creative part of ourself, it’s, it’s this deep subconscious part.
it can be this untamed part. it’s this, this part that sometimes feels or thinks or expresses itself in socially unacceptable ways or inappropriate ways. or we realize that we feel things that we’re not, quote unquote supposed to feel. so there’s that aspect of creativity. but also in living a creative life. there’s this element of, i’m going to, tentatively use the word discipline. so whether or not you consider yourself to be a disciplined person, you do if you want to make any progress, or just get some creative things done or get anything done, you’ve got to show up to the job at hand, you’ve got to show up to the task. and in most cases, you got to show up more than just once you have to do it either multiple days in a row or every so often. so.
we’re connecting with wildness. but we’re also connecting with discipline, we’re trying to get out of our own way.
we’re trying to have a regular practice of doing the things that connect us to our creativity. but we’re trying to avoid those feelings of obligation, at least i am, because to me, when i feel too obligated, when i’m beating myself up and feeling this onerous sense of duty. that’s the enemy of creativity for me, because my inner rebel will kick in and say, well, if i’m supposed to do it, then i don’t want to do it. so it’s like this dance i do with myself. and i’m sure some of you can relate, i hope some of you can relate, because then i’ll feel a little bit less crazy about it all. so to phrase it in another way, we’re trying to create a structure in living a creative life that allows something to come through us. that is inherently formless, you know, creativity, art, self expression, passion, aliveness, these are things that don’t have, you know, any distinct or definite form. so we’re trying to connect with playfulness, or joy, or spontaneity or passion, or even other emotions, those are ones that i reach for a lot. but some artists create from different moods and different
different modalities, or they’re writing songs in different keys. but we’re trying to connect with all those things. and find ways to encourage the those connections to happen more often. but without placing an onus upon it without making ourselves feel obligated. so for me, this is a real paradox that i dance with, always in my creative process. and it’s gotten a little bit easier over the years. and a few minutes, i’m going to share some of the little mind tricks, the little jedi mind tricks that i have to play on myself to stay in the flow of my creativity.
sometimes people have said things to me, like, oh, you’re so disciplined, you’re so driven. but i am here to tell you that it doesn’t really feel that way from the inside. in fact, i feel much of the time kind of flaky and loose and freeform like i’m just sort of just pulling it all together at the last minute. and that’s okay. you know, i’ve learned that i do things how i do things, and i no longer have such a rigid ideas about
how i should be creating or how i’m supposed to be creating.
but i’m just saying it doesn’t feel like discipline, per se. i can just feel like, i get so excited about the things that i’m doing that i find a way to slog through all the really boring parts or the tedious parts or the difficult parts are the parts where i’ve got to learn how to do a bunch of
exhausting stuff on the computer that i would really rather not be doing. which in this day, and age seems to be a great deal of my practice, more than i would ever have anticipated. but i just find a way to slog through and i’ve noticed that success begets success. i get one thing done and i have a little bit more confidence. and i think, okay, i’m a person who does things. i’m a person who finishes things. and that feels really good. and sometimes just finding something small that i can finish and get it all the way done. and post it or email it or share it or a song that i perform for people. just those small successes build on each other until what i have overall is a feeling of alright, i can do this i can carry through from my idea to the finished product. and when they you look up and you’ve made a lot of things and you kind of don’t even know how it happened. you just do the things that you want to do over and over again. i love to play i kind of obsess and i have fun. so i do encounter frustrating parts. and when i get to the frustrating parts, i cannot tell you how many times i have thought about my mother teaching me how to sew
so, you might have a story like this, like maybe your dad taught you how to do something, or your grandparents taught you how to do something that was difficult or that had, you know, a skill that you had to learn. but with sewing, it was really fun. we sewed some things by hand and we sewed some things on the sewing machine. and mom started sewing with me when i was really little, my grandmother sewed with me, too. and we started off easy. and you know, i would just piece quilt squares together, or, you know, so a purse with straight seams. but what really got me what really
what really challenged me and what i draw on today was learning how to sew in sleeves in dresses. so some of you, if you have ever sewn a dress or a shirt, you’re gonna be nodding your head right now. and you’re like, i know exactly what you’re saying. so when you’re sewing in sleeves, for those of you that haven’t sewn, you saw that one sleeve, and then you saw the other sleeve. and if, for instance, it’s the 80s, and you’re putting little poofy things in your sleeves, because every every outfit in the 80s had to have little poofy things in the sleeves, you do that with this, you have, it’s called gathering, and you put the little poofy bits in, then you sell the body of the shirt. then you turn the body of the shirt inside out, and you turn the sleeves inside out. and you stuffed the sleeves inside the body of the shirt. and you try to line up the shoulder seams together and the seams along the side together. it’s it’s okay, if you’re not visualizing it correctly. i mean, i’ve done it 100 times and it’s still hard to visualize correctly. anyway, you’ve done all this turning inside out and you’re gathering and you’re matching stuff up and you pin it on there. and then you either sew it by hand, or even more tricky in some ways as you put it in the sewing machine. and you’re trying to fit the sewing foot into the inside of the sleeve. and you’re trying to hold the gathers down because the pins never quite do the job. and you sew it in. and it’s really a pain and you have to like loosen up the foot, the presser foot on the sewing machine. it’s this whole big ordeal, and you get your first sleeve sewn in. and i can’t tell you how many times it happens. there’s this moment of truth where you turn the whole garment right side out, including the sleeve. and so many times i would get to that step and i’d realize i’d screwed something up, i sewed the sleeve, right side out but the shirt inside out and or vice versa, or
i left the seam on the outside, you know there, there were so many things that could go wrong, then i’d have to get out the same river rip rip rip rip do the whole thing again, it made me want to just bang my head against the sewing machine like, like the character on peanuts schroeder did when he would get frustrated with the piano and he just beat his head against the piano keyboard. so anyway, that’s a long story. just to share how the creative process is sometimes very frustrating. and i think that sometimes in our modern world where we have so much instant gratification, we don’t learn how to deal with that frustration. now if you’re around my age, or if you’re over the age of i don’t know, 25 or 30, you’re probably okay with it. but i am a little concerned for like my son who’s 10. i’m concerned for that age group, because i’m not sure that they’re learning how to do enough things to manage frustration well, but anyway, all that to say it’s a part of the creative process. and so maybe you have a moment like that. i spend a few minutes when i’m feeling frustrated just remembering sewing sleeves in and then i just give thanks that i’m not trying to sew a sleeve in. i continue on my merry way. so i’m gonna tell you one of the best parts to me of having a creative habit. it might surprise you. to me, it’s not about making a lot of cool products or releasing a lot of albums. it’s not about having shows, it’s not even about making a living or making money. it’s not as much about creating art that i feel might help people even though i’d love to do that. but my favorite thing about having creative habits that i pursue on the regular is knowing that i can keep my word with myself that i can say i’m going to do something and do it. that just feels really good. i guess you know, there are times in my life when i didn’t always feel like i was doing that. and i feel like having a creative practice has made me better at that which in turn gives me more confidence and it touches all areas of my life because it feels really great. when i feel like i’m making life choices that are in alignment with what i say my values are because you know how many times do we believe ideologically one thing but our daily habits my tell a different story. if it if an impartial observer had to look at our life and say what does this person value
you might not always line up our stated beliefs with our actions. and so, to me, that’s part of the art of life is trying to make the ways that i behave and conduct myself and spend my time in my everyday life align with the things that i really believe in my heart to be true. because time, i believe is our most precious resource. and i want to make sure that i’m spending my most precious resource in a way that i won’t regret tomorrow, or 30 years down the road. before we go on, i just have a question for you
to reflect upon, which is if you’re not living your most fulfilling life, whether it be your relationships, your work, your health, or your creativity, what is it that stopping you? what do you need, in order to be do and have what you most desire? so i just want you to think about that for a little bit. in fact, i would love to hear your answer. if you want to
be in touch with me, then i can always address it on future podcasts. so you can message me on instagram. and my handle is at kentucky, carla, and that’s carla with a c. or you can send me an email to carla, carla grover.com. and tell me, what is it that gets in your way. so moving on, i thought i would spend a little bit of time sharing some of the ways that i wrangle myself, you know how rockstars you hear those stories about how they have to have wranglers, like they have a professional full time wrangler, just to make sure that they show up at the gig.
to me, sometimes being human is kind of like that, except, instead of having a wrangler, for myself, i have to be the wrangler for my brain, like it’s a rock star or like it’s a toddler sometimes. so we all have those little internal voices. some of them are helpful and strong and tell us good things. but some of those inner voices. and these are the ones that are the problems seem determined to cut us down to make us feel small. to challenge our right to do the things we do.
i have this one phrase, this one little snarky voice that tends to say, and maybe some of you guys have the same one. but it’s like, who do you think you are? all right, miss thing? who do you think you are to do xyz, and i’ve got a, i’ve got to shut them down real quick.
anyway, my point is that we all have those internal voices. and for me, learning how to wrangle my brain, manage those voices, manage those limiting self beliefs, has been a big part of developing a creative practice for me. so the first one that i’m going to share with you, and i’m going to share three
has to do with how our daily lives interact with our creative practice, i have three kids, and i started having kids in my 20s.
and i have often felt a struggle, you know, between the part of me that wants to be making art and the part of me that’s scraping grape jelly up off the floor in the kitchen, or washing a million dishes or making dinner again. and
one thing that i have routinely had to remind myself of is
the daily stuff of daily life is soul making. and the more soul making things that we do, the deeper our art can be. i know there are some schools of thought that say if you truly want to be serious artists, then you should not have kids where you should, you know, have a life of solitary isolation and devote yourself to your art. and that is one way to do it. i have respect for that. but i also know that the time i’ve spent caring for my loved ones taking care of my body, my home, it’s not drudgery. it can be humbling, it can be exhausting and challenging. but it can also be fodder
if i let it be. thoreau is a great thinker who has influenced many people and written some beautiful work. but i read something about him that kind of supports what i’m saying, which is that he lived near his mother. and his mother while he was writing and working in solitude, would sometimes bring him food and bring him sandwiches. so
my takeaway from that is, you may or may not have much time to spend in solitude, writing or painting or doing your creative practice. but somebody’s got to make the sandwiches. and in my case, i’ve had to make the art and the sandwiches both if you know what i mean. so that’s okay. i think it’s important to remember that where there’s a will there’s a way and sometimes even if it’s just taking 15 minutes in the morning to do something for ourselves.
before the families awake, or 15 minutes late at night, before we collapse and exhaustion, that’s important that’s necessary. and i know many people who have made great art around. and in spite of, and in some cases, partially because of the demands of the relationships in their lives, the obligations that they’ve had to the people they love, there is no one right way to be an artist, there’s no one right way to be a creative person. it’s okay, make art and sandwiches. so number two, for my three creative practice tips of the day is don’t give everything in your life equal priority, the way i tend to do things, is i’ll get out a piece of paper, and i will write a ginormous to do list because if i don’t write it all down, i’ll forget something. so i write it all down, and i just keep adding to it all day. and then i have this massive list. and then i look at it, and i totally panic. and i think how am i ever going to get all this stuff done? in some days, you know, i look at it, and i can tick off a whole bunch of things. and i’m feel like a boss. but other days, i just kind of stare at the list over and over. and i make like four cups of tea. and then i scroll through facebook a bunch. and then i realized i need to wash all my socks, and i don’t get anything.
but i have this amazing spiritual teacher that i’ve had since i was 21 years old. and i was talking to him about this one day. and talking to him about that feeling of just being completely overwhelmed and not knowing how to sort through it. and he just said, if you’re overwhelmed, when you look at your to do list, it’s because you are assigning equal importance to every single item on that to do list. and that’s just not true. he said, you can look at that list. and you can pick out a few things that are super important. and then a lot of things that are less important. so my new system is i look through my list, i still make the list, but i look through it and i pick the one thing if i’m having a rough day especially i’ll pick just one thing that i really have to do, like, i’ve got to send out that contract, or we’re gonna lose the gig, or i’ve got to answer that email, that person has been waiting for a week. and then i pick out one thing from my list that i really want to do. and i reward myself for doing the thing that i have to do, by doing the thing that i want to do. it’s just another little way of wrangling my brain. so maybe i go visit a friend or use my new paint set, or go for a long walk and listen to my audio book. lastly, my third tip is find mentors and either imitate them, or reach out to them. i really love this one. i’ve been doing it my whole life. and most of the time, people are pretty gracious about talking to you or giving you a word of encouragement. i’ll tell you a couple stories about times that i’ve done it.
when i was 2021. my first album came out. and i was really proud of it. and i didn’t know what to do. i didn’t know how to promote it. but i love jean ritchie. and she was from really close to where i was from and i thought i’m gonna send jean ritchie a letter. and i sent her a letter and just told her how much i admired her work and how i was a kentucky girl too, and how much i loved her songwriting. and i just said, here’s here’s my cd that i just made. i just wanted to give you this as a present and thank you for the music. i didn’t really ask anything of her. i just, i just reached out to her. and within a couple of weeks, she wrote me back. and i still have the letter that she sent me. and that was the start of a friendship. she invited me to her family reunion. i went back home down to
the viper kentucky and winter family reunion and met all her family and played with her over the years and jammed with her and just visited with her. and she was a wonderful mentor and friend. and it came about because i just took a chance and reached out to her. another time that i did that was this was back in the day. some of you are gonna remember it.
there is this thing called myspace. so on myspace, you could kind of reach people that prior to that you’d never been able to reach on the internet because people had myspace profiles, and they actually answered their messages. so i was making a recording. and there was a song that i had heard recorded by this band.
oh my god old mixtapes somebody had given me in the van was from scotland and they were called string driven thing. and there was a song that they sing called easy to be free. and it was just so beautiful. and i was trying to get permission to record it via there’s certain channels that you pursue as an artist when you’re trying to get permission to record a song, but it wasn’t coming up on any of the databases
then i was searching it. so i didn’t know what to do, i really wanted to record it, i had this awesome version that i worked up with my friend.
so i went on myspace, and i searched the songwriter from that band. and his name is chris adams. and i found them and i messaged him, i was like, hey, man, i’m a musician, i’d really love to record your song, i’m wanting to get permission, i’ll pay you the royalties. and i sent him
a couple of songs that i had already recorded to listen to. and we had this great conversation. and it was really funny because the song is about sailing on the sea, and riding in a sailboat and being free and going on all these adventures. and in the course of chatting with him about the song, he confessed to me that he’d never been on a boat, even though he’s scottish. and you’d think, you know, maybe at some point, he would have made his way over to the sea coast, to be in a boat. but anyway, it’s a great song. and
i got to have this cool interaction with the songwriter, because i reached out to him. so now i’m not, i’m not saying call somebody that does what you want to know how to do and say, hey, can i pick your brain, because, you know, we don’t want to exploit people, or we don’t want to ask people to provide us with free labor. but there’s so many ways to do it. and it’s easier than ever, the way people post content online. sometimes you don’t even have to reach out to somebody, you can just watch somebody’s ad campaign or watch somebody’s artistic process on instagram, or watch somebody doing what they do that you want to imitate and imitate it. so i’ve done this from everything.
for everything from learning how to make albums, to learning how to tourism musician, how to create theater, how to be my own booking agent, how to get a booking agent, how to run an online workshop, how to run a kickstarter campaign, even how to create a digital course.
and a lot of what it is it’s about creating relationships with people. so i really love having mentors, it’s helped me so much. and it can help you cut through a lot of the learning curve of trial and error. if you really can just connect with or imitate somebody who’s doing what you want to do. and he’s already paved the way a little bit.
those are my three tips just to go over him. number one, remember that the daily stuff of life is soul making. number two, don’t assign equal priority to everything. pick your major priorities. and number three, find mentors to reach out to or just to imitate. well, i could talk about creativity all day. but we will talk about it more soon. i have more episodes coming up solo. and also i have some very special guests over the next few months including a writer to poets, a shaman, a dancer, a painter, a memoirist, an appalachian storyteller, a yoga teacher, a jazz drummer, and a pr expert just to name a few. and i have a challenge for you this week. i want you to pick one thing that you can do that you’ve been wanting to do, just for you, that will make you feel more free, more creative, or both. one thing that will make you feel like you’re really showing up for yourself. and if you feel like sharing it with me again, i direct you to tag me on instagram at kentucky carla or facebook at carla go over music with the hashtag what dreamers do or if you’re not a social media person. again, you can email me carla carla grover.com i want to know
and because we talked about creative freedom and chris adams on this episode, i’ll leave you with a little bit of the song i recorded by him called easy to be free. all my music is available for purchase on my website and you can also visit to find out about upcoming dance classes concerts and special offers. it’s www dot karlik over.com
was like to be traveling salesman ship. feeling waves as this well see quivers in the sheets. well, it’s easy to see so don’t forget to pick your one thing you’re going to add into your daily routine that will move you ever closer toward living the life that you want to live because that’s what dreamers do.
thank you so much for joining me this week. if you want to make sure you never miss an episode. please hit subscribe wherever you’re listening now or visit my website to
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