It’s easy to get out of balance. All too often we get stuck in a cycle of giving too much to work, family, and necessary tasks with no true way to relax, rejuvenate, and enjoy ourselves. Dr. Carla and creativity expert Dr. Vanessa S. O’Neal dive into the joy and balance that await us when we embrace our innate creative energy. The joy of creativity isn’t just for a select few; we all have the power to use our “imperfectly perfect” creative side to find inner and outer balance.
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Improving Well-Being and Work-Life Balance by Embracing Creativity with Expert Dr. Vanessa S. O’Neal
How to Find and Use Your Creative Spirit to Create Greater Fulfillment, Inner Joy, and Work-Life Balance
It is easy for our lives to get hectic and out of balance. All too often, we wake up, go to work, tend to life’s necessities, go to sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. This all too common theme is a source of distress for many of my clients, audience, and so many people out there. I wonder if creativity is part of the cure.
The real-life question from an audience is this, “I’m not the creative type, but I want to find something to do to create balance in my life. Otherwise, I work harder, binge on Netflix shows, and eat comfort food. Dr. Carla, do you have any suggestions?” To answer this important question that resonates with so many of us, I am joined by a very special guest, Dr. Vanessa S. O’Neal. She will be sharing her expertise on embracing your creative spirit fully, if imperfectly, and creating balance in your life.
Welcome to the show, Dr. Vanessa. I am so thrilled to be sharing time with you.
Thank you for inviting me. I’m ecstatic about being here. I’m so happy for you and your show.
It’s such a joy to connect with you again. You are The Handmade Mentor. Tell us a little bit about you and The Handmade Mentor.
The handmade mentor came about because being a creative, I found myself not only creating but also mentoring others that are creatives. I do both. I’m a creator, but I also mentor and help people and myself. The Handmade Mentor fits because what I do is handmade and mentoring. It started out as a, “You are a handmade mentor.” I was like, “I am.” Everything fell into place with that.Discover you to create work-life balance with the power of your innate creativity. Join Dr. Carla and Dr. Vanessa S. O'Neal for a wonderful journey into the blissful, balancing force of creativity. Release stress and discover joy as you let your… Click To Tweet
I know that’s not your full-time job. You are very invested in your regular 7:00 to 9:00 job, 7:00 to 5:00, or however many hours a day you’re putting in doing your regular work. For this reader’s question about using creativity to create maybe some balance, maybe some richness and meaning in life, it also sounds like this person is saying she’s not a creative. That’s almost a two-part thing. What do we do as someone who feels as though he or she is not a creative? Is everyone a creative?
Everyone is. Sometimes, that’s the misunderstanding about being a creative. We look at being a creative as the arts, music, or something like that. Being a creative is taking something that you like to do and doing it continuously. I’m familiar with someone that likes to make stick figures. That’s what they used to do, doodle stick figures. That’s a creative act. It is calming. It’s interesting. That’s all they did. They ended up turning that into something that they would create stick figure pictures and sell them. That’s the misconception that it has to be something that’s parlayed as art, music, or something like that.Being a creative is taking something that you like to do and doing it continuously. Click To Tweet
Creativity comes in whatever form that services you. People are creative if they can do makeup. A lot of people who like to get creative do makeup. I’ve met a little one. She’s very much into makeup, but she likes makeup that looks like scars. She gets makeup and plays in it. She can get something that looks like a bruise. She’s into this. That is a creative form. What they have found is that’s her outlet. It doesn’t have to be something so traditional. It can be whatever it is that makes you happy. If you like to cook and you find comfort in cooking, and maybe chili is your thing, which I like all kinds of chili, and you decide that you want to start making different types of chili, that’s creative.
Thank you for opening up that door to our minds to see creativity in so many different areas. I love the story about the little one who likes to create scars. She may someday be a makeup artist in Hollywood or she may be someone who likes creating scars for the rest of her life and that’s her thing. I know how this goes. You get so invested in life. Your life, whether it is work or work, family, and kids, and then you feel like, “I don’t have any creative spirit. There’s nothing that feels creative about me and my life. It’s so out of whack,” how would you recommend that somebody find that creative spark?
That’s part of my story. I learned how to sew early on. That’s what I was doing. What I found when I got older is that there was so much out there to do. I didn’t realize how much there was out there to act like hobbies to do, so I promised myself that every year, I would try something new. Every year, I pick something and try something new. Since we have social media, it’s easy to look at something and say, “That looks interesting. Let me try that.” The best thing for that person is to first get in the mindset that creativity doesn’t have to be traditional.
Also, think of a way to get out of their selves or comfort zone and say, “Let me look at something and try something. If I don’t like it, it’s okay. I can try something else.” At least take the first step and try something. It can be something as simple as making a bookmark, which is very easy. Get some construction paper and some glue, cut out some shapes, and make a bookmark. You can get more advanced and make bookmarks from resin. Find something that you want to explore and make sure that you understand that it is an exploration, so if it doesn’t work, it’s okay to walk away from it and say, “I tried it and then I don’t like this. Let me try something else.” Once you start trying, you’ll continue to try.
I’m jumping out of my chair because you were talking about allowing yourself to do it imperfectly. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, I’m thinking about people and thought about Monet, one of my favorite artists. Many people didn’t think he was talented at all because it wasn’t perfect in their eyes. Yet, you go to a museum, look at a Monet, and get chills because it is so imperfectly perfect. It is incredibly beautiful.
The acceptance of it being imperfect. I don’t know if I shared this with you, but I tried to tackle everything head-on. I remember being a sewer and deciding I wanted to make these stuffed animals. I had all these African cloths and wanted to make stuffed animals. I thought they were going to be beautiful. I was like, “I’m going to make all these stuffed animals. It’s going to be wonderful.” I got everything. I went all in. I got all of the stuffing and everything.
The first animal I tried to make was the rabbit. Halfway through trying to make this rabbit, I was like, “I don’t like this. This isn’t fun.” It was harder than I thought it was going to be. I was like, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t like it.” I put it and said, “No.” I took everything that I could back, left it, and never tried it again, but I tried it. That was the key to it. I tried it and found out, “This is not for me.” I tried it and it led me to try other things. That’s where a lot of times we get stuck. We get stuck in looking at how wonderful something is in the end but not the process of it.A lot of times, we get stuck looking at how wonderful something is in the end but not the process towards it. Click To Tweet
Thank you for bringing that up because it is the process. If we’re not striving for perfection, the process creates enjoyment. Sometimes, the repetitive activity itself is soothing. It is carving out that time. Even if you don’t feel like you have time, we can usually find 5, 10, or 15 minutes once a week at least. Do you think that’s sufficient enough for someone who’s getting into the groove of it?
Absolutely. That’s the beauty of being creative. It could be five minutes or a day. It is whatever makes you happy. There are some times when you would say, “I want to spend more time with this,” and that’s okay. There are times you’ll say, “I don’t want to spend any time with this at all.” That is okay. I do believe everyone is creative in some form.Everyone is creative in some form. Click To Tweet
My brother, who you would think did not have a creative bone in his body at anything, is a YouTube personality. That was his creativity. He likes wrestling. Once he started his YouTube channel, you started finding how he likes to deal with movies, do clips, put music, and all these things to make this video. They’re awesome. If he had said, “I’m not creative. There’s nothing I can do creatively,” because he didn’t play music, didn’t draw, didn’t paint, or anything like that, you would think, “I’m not creative but he’s extremely creative.” That was his niche, but he had to find it.
He had to experiment to find it. I love that story. I have a thought. I remember back when I was in high school and I was doing an art class. I worked so hard and created this deer and this horse. I remember the instructor coming up and saying, “You are not very good at art.” Here, I was so proud yet so crushed.
For those including possibly much about the person who sent in the question, sometimes, a budding artist, whether they are 2, 3, 5, 17, 25, or whatever they are, has somebody come in and bop a hammer on their creative spirit. Intentionally or unintentionally, it still happens. What would you say to that person who then thinks, “It’s true. I’m not a creative because so-and-so told me. I’m no good at art. I’m no good at being a creative?”
I would say, “Look at how whatever it is you’re doing makes you feel.” In the end, it’s not about what someone else feels or thinks about it. It’s about how it makes you feel. To be perfectly honest, sometimes, we do ourselves a disservice by listening to others. My mom used to say, “Not everyone that’s in your space is in your corner.” It took me a long time to understand that I can have a bunch of people in my space but that doesn’t mean they’re in my corner, so I tend to take things with a grain of salt.
Some things, depending on who it is, may have some merit. When it comes to how I feel about something, especially when it comes to my craft or whatever it is, if I like it, all that matters is me liking it. You might say, “I don’t know too much.” It’s like, “That’s your opinion. I’m glad you were able to give me your opinion, but Vanessa likes it. That’s all that matters to me.”
Sometimes, we have to get out of our own way when it comes to other people. They’re not always going to give you that bright, shining, and glowing answer that you feel you might need. The validation shouldn’t come from them. If you like it, that’s great. I would leave it at that. It’s hard because we do tend to want to listen to people. If you are creating and you are starting or trying to get some inner peace, you got to keep that on lock for yourself. You can’t let other people. I would say, “Thank you for your opinion,” and keep on going. That’s how I handle that.
You’ve given such words of wisdom that my heart is getting so full. You are so right. It struck me when you said it, and I never thought of it that way. It’s how you feel when you’re doing it regardless of whether you can monetize it or somebody likes it if it makes you feel good making the chili, making a bookmark, hemming your dress, taking chalk and coloring the sidewalk, or whatever it is.
I’m asking this question for you. After we’re done, I’m going to find some space because I need a little what I hope is creative time. I harvested some lavender. I’m going to lay out a sheet and pull the lavender off the stems because it’s all dried. That makes me feel good. My husband said, “What are you going to do with the lavender?” I said, “I don’t know. It feels good to sit with the lavender, do that, have the dog mucking in it, and enjoy that process.” For someone who does something like that, is that a creative act? I surely feel good and there’s no stress involved.
That is a form of creativity. What you’re doing is inner. It’s a process. You’re taking the lavender off of the stalk and laying it out. You have that aroma that’s coming from it. You’ve got the sensory methods going because your hands are inside the lavender and you’re dealing with the senses of your smell. It’s making you feel a certain way.
It is a fact that creativity is not going to be there. The creativity started with you are going to take the lavender off of the stems because that’s a process. You’re taking them off the stems, laying them out, and connecting with them. You’re connecting with the earth. That’s bringing about some type of a feeling, whether it’s a calm, a sense of purpose, or whatever it is. What is going to happen is you’re going to start thinking. What happens when you start thinking? You are thinking, “What do I do with this next? What else can I do? How can I elevate this?” That’s part of the creative process. It is very creative.
What most people are looking for is the ending result. What’s going to happen in the end? What is it going to be? They never think about the process to get towards that. Everything that you’re doing with the lavender is creative. You’ll get to a point of, “I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to take this. I’m going to put this and I’m going to make some soap.” You’ve then made some soap. All of it was a part of the creative process. That makes you a creative.What most people look for is the end result. They never think about the process of getting there. Click To Tweet
Thank you. That feels so affirming. When I go back to the question that we started with, that’s a pretty simple thing. We don’t even have to do anything with it. Maybe I can bag it up, give it to friends in a Ziploc bag, and leave it at that.
Let me ask you something. If you take that same lavender that you’ve harvested and lay it out, and then you take it, put it in a sachet bag, and tie it up, what have you made? You’ve made a sachet bag, right?
Isn’t that a creative practice?
Let me ask you this. If you go to Michaels, HomeGoods, or some store like that and say, “I want some potpourri,” is that not the same process that you went through when you’re buying? Isn’t that a creative process? You made a handmade item. You used your creativity to make a handmade item to give away as gifts, which is the same process for an item that isn’t made in the store. It’s all creative.
With that line of thinking, an audience who wants some work-life balance could make cookies. They could make cupcakes.
Anything. They could make a pencil drawing. You don’t have to purchase it. I try to tell people a lot of times, “You don’t have to purchase anything to be creative either. It’s right in your home. It could be right in your home.” This was years ago. I was playing. I wanted to see if I could do it. I took some fruit and dried it out. I made potpourri from the dried fruit. I had cinnamon sticks and all of these things. I didn’t go out and buy a bunch of stuff for it. I had fruit that I didn’t want to go bad, so I used it and took some cinnamon sticks. It doesn’t have to be expensive. What you need is an idea. That’s what you need. It’s not necessarily being creative. It’s having an idea to do something.
A friend of mine during COVID got bored. She saw some videos. She’s a model. That’s her craft. She’s a model, but she wanted to do something artsy. She decided, “I’m going to take some crayons.” She had these boxes of crayons and she had some canvas. She said, “I’m going to take these crayons and make something on this canvas.”
She strapped the crayons to the canvas, took a blow dryer, and melted the crayons. It melted, so it’s almost like paint. It made this cute little painting. You could see it was all the crayon colors draining down on the canvas. It was the cutest little painting. She was so tickled by it, and then her being tickled, she was proud because she started snapping pictures and texting them to everyone like, “Look at what I did. Look at what I made.” She didn’t say, “I’m not creative. I can’t do that.” It was something she thought would be cute and tried it, and it worked out.
It made her proud. That’s such a joy. Going back to what you said earlier that I loved, it depends on how it makes you feel. That made her feel good, proud, empowered, and accomplished. This is excellent. I feel like we’ve given attention to the entire process of using our creativity and moving into it. One more thing, how does this then create balance in our lives? You’ve given us steps for understanding creativity and knowing we’re all creatives. How can this create balance for someone who overworks or has too much going on and then, at the end of the day, doesn’t feel good about it?
If you’re working, you are taxing your mind and your emotional state. Everything is so rigid. That’s work. You come home. Even though the home is supposed to be that comforting place, the home comes with its own set of challenges. You get on the couch and you binge-watch whatever, which is relaxing, but relaxing doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s fun and embracing positivity. It’s what it is.
To me, having balance in this sense means that you need to do something that’s the opposite of the rigidity that you have all day. What you’re doing is you’re bringing in that breath of fresh air. You’re bringing in what makes you happy and what makes you laugh. Television makes you laugh, but television is not inward.Having balance means that you need to do something that's the opposite of the rigidity that you have all day. Click To Tweet
It’s not restorative.
It’s emotional but it’s not necessarily inward. It’s not something that’s coming from you and making you feel good. It’s not something that’s making you feel accomplished. It’s not something that’s empowering you. It’s something that you’re doing. Being creative and finding that sweet spot of something that makes you truly happy is the balance. That’s going to tip the scale. It takes you from the mundane to you. It takes you from the mundane to the positive and empowered nature that you should have within you that you should release and let out. That’s how I see it.
That is brilliant and a perfect place for us to wrap up. You’ve done such an incredible job of honoring and working with the important question about using creativity to create balance and inner harmony. You are amazing. Before we go, please tell our audience where they can find you in your other work hours.
You can find me on my podcast, The Handmade Mentor Podcast, which is www.TheHandmadeMentor.com. You can also find me at By Vanessa S, which is my other website. It is www.ByVanessaS.com. Those are my two websites. You can also find me on Instagram @TheHandmadeMentor and @By_Vanessa_S.
It is easy to find you. I understand that this is a very special day that something has come into creative birth. Please do share if you don’t mind.
I was excited to hear from you because I wanted to share. My new book, The ABC’s of God: A Reflective Journal, has been released. I’m proud of this. It’s a journal. I’ve taken scriptures from the Bible and I’ve used the ABCs because the scriptures start with A, B, and C and go throughout the alphabet. What I love about this journal is that it is a prompted-type journal, but the emotions that it prompts are random. You might have a scripture that is going to make you reflect, or you might have a scripture that makes you feel gratitude. You might have scripture that puts you in the mindset of thinking of something worldly or something that’s to come, or you might have to go introspective.
It’s not a feel-good like, “I’m going to feel good.” It takes you places. It’s transformative, and that’s what I love about it. It is a lot of space to write, but there’s a lot of thinking involved. You have to do the work. As you get to each one, each scripture as they’re laid out is going to trigger something different. It’s not the same every day. That’s what I really love about it. It’s called The ABC’s of God: A Reflective Journal. It was released not too long ago. You can find it on Amazon in print copy only.
Before I ask you if you don’t mind sharing one prompt, it came to me as you were talking that journaling is a creative process. It’s no surprise that you have created this. We forget that journaling is an important and reflective creative process because no one journals in the same way with the same words and the same energy. Do you mind popping it open and randomly sharing one prompt?
Sure. This one is, “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven.” This came from St. Luke 6:23. This is reflective. It is asking for a time when you felt rejoiced. It’s saying, “This is a rejoicing time. Can you name a time or can you remember a time in which you were rejoicing about something?”
My time with you. This is so much fun. I could journal about that immediately.
After you write, on the next page, it has gratitude. You might have some deep introspective thoughts, but then, on the next page, you have gratitude. That’s what I love about it. It is 145 pages and I’m really proud of it.
As you should be. I’m snagging a copy. I believe that whether we’re single or in a relationship, and research shows this in relationships as well, one of the best things we can do in life for ourselves and our relationships is to be in a place of gratitude. Having a journal that reminds you to be grateful? I’m on board. I am ordering a copy. My most wonderful, thank you so much for sharing your time with us. It has been such a joy and a privilege. Is there any other tidbit you’d like to share before we sign off?
First, I want to say to you again thank you. Thank you so much for inviting me. As always, it was a pleasure getting with you. I always have a good time with you. Thank you for what you do. You are a massive force. As a creative, it is having someone like yourself understand us in the way that you do, and I’m talking about creatives. It means so much to me.
I do want to say this as my last words. Don’t allow the traditional thought of creativity to not allow you to pursue creativity. Being creative is being creative. You gave me a thought about journaling. If you are someone that likes to write and you like to maybe write words of wisdom, you can write words of wisdom and make them an everyday card for someone. You’re not doing anything except writing these positive thoughts and positive affirmations and having other people take them and use them. That’s creative. We have so many creative spaces. I thank you for the platform. Think about what you like to do and let that lead you. You’ll know when it’s right because your intuition will tell you.
It will feel good. On that note, I’m going to offer a paraphrase of a quote from Dr. Vanessa. This is a wrap-up quote. “People often struggle with being imperfect because of the perceptions they have of other people’s reality and other people’s perceptions of them.” Let’s let go of the idea of what other people think of us and what we think they think of us. Let’s let ourselves be imperfect and be our imperfect best selves one day at a time. Thanks so much.
- Dr. Vanessa S. O’Neal
- The Handmade Mentor
- @TheHandmadeMentor – Instagram
- @By_Vanessa_S – Instagram
- The ABC’s of God: A Reflective Journal
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About Dr. Vanessa S. O’Neal
Dr. Vanessa S. O’Neal, affectionately known as The Handmade Mentor, is a multifaceted entrepreneur, seasoned author, and dedicated mentor. With over 24 years of experience in entrepreneurship, non-profit development, and publishing, she brings a wealth of knowledge to her endeavors.
She is the host of the Handmade Mentor Podcast, and the owner of By Vanessa S. LLC. Her dedication to empowering creatives shines through in her work. With her unwavering commitment to helping others succeed in life, spirituality, and creativity, she continues to make a significant impact in the entrepreneurial and artistic communities.