Fill Up Your Creative Karma Bucket

Strawberry shaped heart with wings

It's Christmas morning and instead of joyful carols my Dad is singing “It's a hard knock life” (think Annie but as a 60-year old pyjama wearing dude) as he balances on a rickety kitchen chair and tries to reach for the iphone that is taped to the ceiling. I've instructed him to push the self timer button and then quickly remove himself from the frame so that I'll get the photo I've planned to post on Instagram in the evening. Oh and did I mention it's Christmas, and this is what making your dreams come true looks like: putting your family at hard labor at the most inappropriate time of the year.

The reason I'm choosing not to “slow down” for Christmas is because I've got this theory that I call the Creative Karma Bucket. Basically I believe there's a bucket that fills up with all the work and effort I put into achieving something, and that when it overflows, something great will happen.

So, the quicker I fill up my bucket the quicker I'll get my next breakthrough.

I write this because I recently got featured by Instagram (for the third time in four months!!) and just a few weeks before that I was in a major creative slump (like Britney, I was in one of those “Not a girl, not yet a woman” phases, only concerning my creative identity rather than my female one ).

I felt things were going nowhere and that the stuff I was making was all rubbish. But, I still kept on working even though I was feeling utterly uninspired because I knew that that's the only way to achieve what I want, and hopefully will get me there a bit quicker.

The things is, we've all got goals and dreams that we're aiming for, and when it feels like things aren't moving forwards it's easy to get discouraged and lose the drive and motivation. I've realized I need to look at the whole thing from a perspective of what I can't, and more importantly what I can affect and control.

I can't decide when the stars will align and give me that break I've been looking for, or when a photo will go viral on Instagram or somebody I admire will share or compliment my work. But, what I CAN affect is the amount of effort and work I put i to getting closer to making those things happen.

Instead of spending time on feelings of self doubt, fear or whatever excuses I make up for myself that hold me back, I only have to take care of filling up my Creative Karma bucket and hope that the excess spill will happen soon.

Origami dresses and birds on a string

Now, in the name of transparency i should probably also mention that I really like working and I enjoy having a lot of creative projects going on at the same time. People keep talking about finding "work-life balance", and while that sounds like a very sensible thing I also believe that you sometimes just need to push yourself if you want to make stuff happen.

Let me give you another example of my obsession to fill up my bucket:

So, it's Saturday morning and I'm sitting at the breakfast table watching a youtube tutorial on how to fold origami dresses. I'm trying to hurry as I only have a few hours of daylight left (because Winter) to take the photo I've been planning.

An hour & lots of crafting later I stand out in the park freezing as my boyfriends snaps away at location 1, 2 and finally 3. The evening is spent at my laptop photoshopping, only to find the the ideas isn't working after a full day of work. Meh.

The next day I get up early because I've come up with another version of the same idea. As soon as my boyfriend comes out in his pyjamas I ask him to help me take some photos, again... Poor guy hasn't even had his coffee yet.

I pose for the picture I have in mind and he takes the photos and does all kinds of fancy plié moves to get the camera in the perfect angle for the ideal shot. After this I put my boots on, say bye to him and hike to the park which is one hour away from our home to take more photos while there's still daylight outside.

By Sunday evening I've got a few photos that I feel happy about and I sit in the couch feeling satisfied with all the work I've done. My boyfriend sits quietly on the other side of the couch, looking sort of grumpy and murmurs something about me working all weekend, oops.. I did it again (wow, second Britney Spears reference in one blog post :D).

Bird against light blue sky and forest

I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes you just have allow the passion for making your goals and dreams come true spill out onto your loved ones and trust that they will understand and support you.

I believe the only one who is ultimately responsible for my happiness is myself, and with risk of sounding like an over privileged millennial, I think that means I have to stand up for my passions and make sure I follow them in this one lifetime I have.

Anyways, keep filling up your Creative Karma buckets, and I'll just leave you with these words of wisdom by Britney:

"You better work bitch" ;)

10 tips for taking self portraits when the camera doesn't love you

Girl in red dress and wellies

There seems to be those people in social media realm that just look brilliantly natural in every single picture they post no matter the angle, pose or face expression. Then there are people like me who mostly end up looking awkward with weird smirks and beady eyes, features that make me look like a combination of a confused alien and stuffed rodent, which is not exactly the look I'm going for ;)

When I look at my photos I start feeling self conscious about the way I look, which in turn makes me look even more uncomfortable in the photos I take. It's as if my face has too many expressions to choose from, and only once in a while when I'm lucky I manage to capture one of the ones that I like.

When taking self portraits the inner critic in us is probably at its loudest pointing out all the things we're unhappy about with ourselves. But that's exactly why I believe it's worth while to put in the effort in taking self portraits that can make us see our own beauty and uniqueness. I don't want to sound too wishy-washy or naive here, but I really believe self portraits have incredible potential to empower and make us feel good about ourselves, something the world and especially women could use a bit more of, don't you agree?

The other thing is that self portraits have amazing story telling capabilities and power to engage people. I've always found looking at other people fascinating  (not in a creepy way *nervous laugh*), and the same applies to when  I'm looking at pictures, having that human presence in there just gives it that instant relatable feeling and sense of communication.

So, I made a list of the tips I've used in my own photography that will hopefully give you more inspiration when it comes to taking self portraits. It's really not that serious when it all comes down to it, see this is an invitation to have some fun and be playful with it!

Winterlandscape and girl in a red dress

1. Stand really far away from the camera

Place yourself in a bigger context and no one will see the details of your face, awkward-face-expression-problem solved, haha :) No but really, showing your whole body in the picture from a distance gives you the possibility to play with the whole range of body language instead of just focusing on the facial expressions. We are all masters at reading body language, and there is so much you can communicate just by the way you stand, how hold your arms, how you carry your head etc.

(Ps. This pic was taken with an iPhone, so you don't even need fancy photo gear to take self portarits ;))

Fairylights and polaroids on a white wall

2. Put your back into it

Face away from the camera and let your back do the talking. I've always thought there's a a sort of intimacy and vulnerability in seeing someone from behind, it's a part of our body we can never see for ourselves unless through a mirror or a photo. This angle also allows you to invite people to share your point of view and what it is your looking at, which is a way to make your storytelling more personal and bring the viewer in closer to your world.

Let me just end this by a quote from a song by Ice Cube  "You can do it, put your back into it" (the next line goes "I can do it put your ass into it", but I'm not going to make that one of my self portrait tips ;)

Ferriswheel and fairylights on a table

3. Change the angle

Try experimenting with placing the camera in different relations and angles to yourself. What is it that you want the viewer to feel when they're looking at the picture? For example having a birds eyes view gives the whole photo a sense of playfulness and unexpectedness that you don't come across in normal day to day life. Ask what specifically photography can do that other mediums can't.

Stars in my hands

4. Focus on your favorite features

I've always really liked my hands, so I take a lot of pictures with them in my photos. I feel I can tell a story about vulnerability, intimacy and get across the feeling of touch by holding something in my hands. Focus on a favorite part of yourself and make that the angle of your self portrait.

Place the camera on the ground and take a photo of your feet walking out on an adventure, or capture a slow morning in bed by just focusing on the messy texture of your hair. You don't have to show everything to tell an interesting story.

Scandinavian kitchen and rustic table

5. Do something

Use props to show yourself doing something or in relation to something. Just because it's a portrait doesn't mean you have to pose statically. Showing some kind of a physical activity in the pic can actually make the overall composition more interesting and draw upon the imagination of the viewer. My go-to thing is to hold stuff in my hands, it's simple but it works.

Blue dress and flowers in front of wooden door

6. Crop the head away Marie Antoinette style

Sometimes the photo will actually speak stronger if you cut away the face from the composition and make it more about the things and composition. We're always drawn to look at the eyes and face of a person, so by cropping away the head we can guide the focus of our eye elsewhere.

Pile of knits

7. Be in the photo as little as possible

Try and see how little you can be in the photo and still call it a self portrait. Challenge the definition of what a self portrait is and how you can express you personality by using composition, things, textures and colors instead.

Three dresses and a girl

8. Make it a cover up story

Sometimes it's just impossible to get a single shot where you're happy about the way your face looks, but no need to give up on the photo idea, you just need to take out that face by covering it up. You can use your hands, flowers, a book, a glass of milk, or if you want to do it the Hollywood style stick a pair of sunglasses on your face and problem solved (just kidding, never do this, you will end up looking really douchey haha).

 

White dresses hanging in a tree

9. Play the supporting role

Put the main focus on something else in the frame and become the supporting role. Make yourself part of a pattern or blend in with your environment, that way you become just a piece of the composition instead of being the thing that draws the attention of the eye. I have this thing with white dresses so I made this photo inspired by them.

Also, can you see how I've used the same composition in this and the previous photo? Re-using a concept is a perfect way to improve your ideas, and they can end up looking really different.

Slow mornings in bed with a teacup and messy hair

10. Look down

The eyes can express so much, unfortunately it's just quite challenging to capture that on camera and make it look pretty (unless you're Bambi). I've got quite an animated face so i'm just never happy with the pics that i take where I look straight into the camera, my face does all these weird things I'm not aware of.

So, to calm down the circus that's going on in my face I often end up looking down. That tends to bring a more comfortable and peaceful feeling to the overall mood and a sort of gentle aura around the face. It's also a less confronting composition and can be more inviting as a photo.

 

As you can see most my tips for self portraits involve thinking outside of the "pose stiffly in front of the camera" concept and instead focuses on re-thinking the whole idea of what a self portrait is. Most of all, follow the things that come naturally to you and trust the simplicity of it, no need to make it more complicated than it has to be. Just start somewhere and explore further from there.

 

How do you feel about taking self portraits, is it something you enjoy or rather stay away from?

 

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Life Is Full of Unexpected Moves

Coffe cups and polaroid pictures in bed

Right now the only thing I know for certain is that In 3 months time I will be living in a new home in a different country. But, the thing I don't know is where in the world that will be. So, the year 2018 definitely seems like it could turn into an interesting one.

I moved to Sweden 2 years ago because I fell in love, yup the oldest tale in the book :), and the reason we've stayed in Stockholm has been because of my boyfriends work (I'm originally from Helsinki). Well, now all that is about to change since that job won't be keeping us here anymore, and where we'll end up next is still uncertain.

I moved here immediately after finishing my studies at the Theateracademy (where I studied contemporary dance) and have basically been trying to figure out life out in the real world ever since.

Apart from my little sister who is my best friend and lives in Stockholm I haven't really made new friends or found any solid social circles around here. I don't know, I feel a bit like a loser admitting this openly but honestly I haven't maybe even tried that hard or had the energy to pursue it?

Maybe I've known somewhere all along that this wouldn't be the place where we'll end up living in for a longer time so I didn't want to put in too much effort into building deeper relationships with people in this city. Kinda sounds a bit lame I know, but I actually secretly feel slightly relieved that I don't have to say goodbye to a lot of dear people here now since we're leaving soon.

Books and teapot

I've studied abroad before and uprooted myself twice in short periods of time and know how exhausting it is mentally to say goodbye to people you've started to calling your friends. So, maybe the fact that I've spent most of my days here pretty much alone was ok and what I needed at this stage in my life. After all, it has given me a lot of time to focus on doing stuff I feel super passionate about, which is growing my social media presence and really making that into something. Plus, in the last year I've found so much friendship and community with people online, so actually I have made new friends, just in a different context.

I've had my Instagram account since 2013 but started posting daily about 7 months ago and have since grown from 1k to 15k followers. My goal was to hit 10k by the end of the year so it feels really good to have surpassed that, it's given me even more motivation to keep improving and challenge my creative projects online.

In the beginning of this year I was feeling quite lost and sad most of the time just because i was so utterly confused about what to do next in life in terms of finding meaningful work that could also pay the bills. I'm still working different odd jobs and have done some freelance choreography projects this year to get it all together, but now I feel somehow more calm and hopeful about building up a tiny little creative universe of my own that might turn into something sustainable in the long run.

At the moment I just want to try out so many new ideas and projects that i've got planned for the new year. I hope I can use all this creative energy and drive to actually pull through my ideas and not allow myself to get disheartened by obstacles or small disappointments, because those will always exist. So, welcome year 2018, may you be full of wonderful adventures! :)

What plans or goals do you have for the year 2018? Any exciting adventures or dreams you'd want to share with me, i would love to hear them :)

Is a Creative Slump the Result of Setting the Bar Higher?

A pile of knitted sweaters in neutral tones

If you've been following me along on Instagram you've probably seen that I've posted new stuff very consistently for the last 6 months or so. The reason that I've posted almost daily has been to improve my photography and visual storytelling skills, and also because I've just really enjoyed the process of making and sharing my work everyday. And so, when I hit a creative slump and felt completely stuck creatively last week, I kinda panicked. I spent the week desperately trying to get out of the slump, and also tried to understand why it was all happening.

It all started on a quiet afternoon after I had listened to an episode of the Blogtacular podcast by Kat Molesworth where she interviews the brilliant Dominique Davies from @allthatisshe. In the interview they talk about all things Instagram and the journey behind Dom's genious visual storytelling.

The chat got me super motivated to start push myself further and experiment with new elements and compositions in my pics. I feel like I've found certain motifs and things that tend to work pretty well in my photos which I re-use quite often (pics of flowers and coffee cups, yup guilty) but now I got the feeling that I wanted to expand my repertoire.

All excited I sat down to brainstorm and was eager to start making amazing new stuff, but obviously life doesn't work that way, and I soon found myself in a complete creative block.

Every idea that popped into my head I quickly rejected because I immediately thought it wouldn't work. Suddenly the bar for what quality looked like had been set higher in my head and nothing felt good enough anymore. And so I slowly started to spiral down the endless hole of self-criticism and frustration.

The really interesting part of all this is that as it happened I was constantly very aware of my own psychological pattern and behavior. My brain was now set on creating better stuff than before and had put these new huge expectations on me. It put me in a very tight and uncomfortable spot, all in order to conjure up a sort of a crisis that would shock me out of my status quo and give me a kick in my creative butt.

After a few restless days spent twisting and turning in this sticky state of mind I finally did the only thing one can in such a situation, I started making something, anything.

Because time and time after again it's been the actual process of creating something that has proven to be the only way for me to get out of a creative slump. No matter how banal or boring I feel all my ideas are I just need to start somewhere and see where my intuition takes me.

Sometimes it's not possible immediately and you need to marinate in the juices of un-inspiration and creative confusion for quite a while. But when you've reached that point where it becomes unbearable it's time to just start making stuff again, even if that might feel like the heaviest and hardest thing to do in just that moment.

I have these big playing cards that I thought would look interesting in a picture so that's what i started with. Well, that didn't work. But at least now I was dealing with the concrete world again instead of being stuck in my head. After some other sluggish attempts I finally ended up making something very simple yet quite fun.

Tea cup balloons

That night I posted the pic and ta-daa! the spell was broken, finally! After a painstakingly long week of questioning all my ideas and style I felt like I found a grain of something that felt new and exciting again. Although it maybe doesn't look that different to my other stuff from an outside perspective, I definitively took a creative leap that I cannot un-leap anymore.

Although I'm sure this wasn't my last creative slump, I'll at least have this blog post to remind me that there is always a reason for those, namely to get better. I think anyone who has high expectations on themselves will probably find themselves in a creative slump from time to time, but those should actually be seen as a positive thing. They're an opportunity to grow and learn, the two most satisfying things I can think of as a human being (after mud cake and brownies, obviously).

What about you, do you find yourself having creative slumps from time to time? How do you feel about it and what do you do to get out of them?

Life Is Here and Now so Wear Your Fancy Dress on a Monday

Winter flowers

It's the first Sunday of Advent and I can't help but going into old lady mode and getting all nostalgic and reflective about the year that has passed. Time is such a weird thing right? It's so easy to get caught up in all these mundane little things that suddenly another year has passed and you're left wondering what you've done all year.

There are a few pieces of advice that I've been given over the years that I often think about when I'm feeling philosophical and pondering about the important stuff in life. I'll share them with you so that you too can enjoy some profound moments of self reflection in these times of hot chocolate and cosy blankets.

Listen to your inner whispers

A year and a half ago I graduated from the Theateracademy in Helsinki and was asked to hold the students speech, an exciting but also terrifying task. Of course as I was writing the speech I hit writers block almost immediately. The pressure of saying something wise and profound stifled all my creativity, and so I ended up watching quite a few more graduation speeches on youtube than I'd care to admit... (It's a highly addictive youtube video genre, I warmly recommend it if you're ever feeling betrayed by life or just needing an inspirational pep talk.)

Among all the advice of experienced brilliant minds I stumbled upon a speech by Steven Spielberg, the man behind the movie that made me fear that sharks would bite my feet off whenever I entered any pool of water well into my teens.

Anyways, he said something that has stuck with me (and something that I ended up using in my own speech too). He urged the students to listen to the quiet soft spoken whispers in their minds. We all have those loud voices in our heads screaming at us what we should be doing. Those loud voices are all the expectations that are put upon us by ourselves and by others, and the guilty feelings and preconceived ideas and norms of how we should live our lives. But behind all that noise lies the hidden desires and true inner callings that are just waiting to be heard. Of course those are the ones you should be listening to!

Don't let them drown in the orchestra of arrogant shoulds and bossy expectations. Listen to what your inner whispers are telling you, they have the secret ingredients to your perfect sauce.

Always be a bit nicer than necessary

This is a thing my Dad taught me from as early as I can remember. He always told me and my sister that no matter who you meet you will always get further in life by treating them with a bit more kindness than necessary.Like anyone else my Dad has a lot of quirks, but he's absolutely the kindest person to strangers that I've ever met.

Often when we leave a restaurant he says goodbye to the staff in a way that makes you think that they've just saved his entire house and family and belongings from drowning under a horrible flood. Yup, that is how many times he says thank you and nods in a polite and warm manner when we leave the place. It gets to a place where my down-to-earth Mom almost feels embarassed by his overly thankful gestures. Parents are just the funniest creatures.

You never know what one thing might lead to

This is a saying my Mom always whips out when I feel like nothing is happening in my life or that something I wished for didn't happen. She is always quick to remind me that you never know what lies behind the next corner. I try to remind myself of that every time I feel like I'm stuck, you never know what tomorrow will bring.

Don't overthink it, just do it

This is something my old ballet teacher used to say. You can try to analyze and think your way through that pirouette or jump, but in the end you just have to go for it. Same goes for life in general I think. It's all just one big process and taking the next step, or leap, is really the only way to get further.

Wear your fancy dress on a weekday

I read an article a few years ago where very old people were asked what things they most regretted in life. One lady said she regretted not having worn her fancy dresses more often. She said life is too short to keep all those pretty dresses in the closet waiting for the right moment to bring them out. Life is here and now so enjoy it today instead of always saving your favorite clothes for a special day. Make this day special.

I sometimes put on a really nice dress on a weekday and I can feel how it affects my energy level and outlook on life. It's kinda silly but wearing something that makes me feel pretty instantly makes me happier. And come to think of, that isn't so silly at all.

A pretty white dress and pink flowers

Do you have some pieces of advice that you've been given that you find yourself returning to over and over again?

I would genuinely like to hear them, I'm always interested in filling up my head with more pearls of wisdom.

 

Why I'm Allowing Myself to Get Bummed Out by Failure in Order to Succeed

Flowers in ice

We're here again. I've got my head buried in a pile of pillows on the couch and I'm taking short intense breaths. On the inside I feel like smashing something to pieces and jump and run and scream really loud all at the same time. Yet, I remain completely still on the couch, like a bag of potatoes (style note: not one of those boring brown colored bags of potatoes, but one with a floral pink pyjamas and fluffy grey sweater). Yes, this my friend, is what my creative frustrations and failures look like.

This strong emotional reaction is what happens in me when an idea or project I had envisioned doesn't quite turn out like I had planned or hoped for. It's the disappointment of facing the gap between my ambitious fantasies and my earthly reality. In that moment it's not even about things like self doubt or low self confidence, I'm just filled with burning irritation and passionately hating the thing I've just created.

Most recently I've come to encounter these feelings in the process of taking, or I should say, making pictures. I'm using the word “making” pictures since my style has become more thoughtful and styled recently, instead of mundanely captured everyday moments.

But anyways, back to the feeling of creative failure. When I find myself in these situations there's often an internal dialogue that starts playing inside my head, one that can be quite contradictory. On the one hand I think “come on, it's not that serious, just let it go and move on”. I will start to look for rational explanations to why my idea didn't work and try to analyze my way through it. On the other hand, I just feel really bummed out and disappointed and want to cry a little. I had secretly hoped I would impress myself and now just I feel disappointed that I didn't.

So, the question then becomes, what would be a constructive way of dealing with these feelings? Because it's pretty safe to assume that there will plenty of more of these situations in the future, so maybe it would be good idea to have a method to dealing with them instead of taking it all out on our poor couch pillows?

Well, actually it turns out that my “bury the head in pillows” tactic is a pretty good method. According to a study done at Stanford University people who allow themselves to get affected by failure emotionally, rather than cognitively,  will actually be more likely to succeed when faced with the same task in the future.

People who approach it from a more cognitive aspect and try to think themselves through it by reasoning end up often justifying to themselves why they failed. The study suggests that that can be a self protective thing which can make you less likely to learn and develop from the experience, as opposed to someone who really takes it personally. The theory is that by allowing yourself to get emotionally engaged in the feeling of failure you will be more motivated to try harder next time and put in more effort, all in order to avoid those nasty feelings.

I've always been quite a dramatic and emotional person so this is game changing information for me. No more of trying to convince myself I shouldn't get so affected when things don't go my way, instead I can now allow myself to feel bummed out because I know that I can use that energy as a motivator next time.

Wohoo for being a sensitive person who doesn't deal well with losing or failing!

So there you have it, now you have science saying it's ok to become emotional after you've worked really hard for something you didn't get. Use that knowledge to get really productive instead and make sure to learn from the experience.

Sleeping with books and butterflies

How do you react to failure? Can you recognize if you're more prone to react emotionally or rationally? I would love to hear about your experiences.

I first stumbled upon the study through the podcast The Good Life Project, link here.

For the full study in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, link here.

The Winter Stories Chunky Knitted Scarf Pattern

Chunky knitted scarf with cables

I pretty much live in knitwear from September to April. Not because Winter is necessarily always that long, even though to be honest it can get pretty hardcore up here in Scandinavia.  My main reason for hoarding knitwear is that I worry that I might start to freeze at any given minute during the cold season. This often leads me to wearing layers upon layers and always being equipped with an extra sweater or scarf in my bag when I go out. I'd like to think of myself as the MacGyver of knitwear, always having the right piece of knitted accessory or garment close by when I find myself in a tricky cold spot.

So if you are looking for a cozy knitting project that will result in a chunky scarf that will keep you both safe and warm this Winter, this one is for you. All anyone can be expected to do is stay curled up on the couch with a hot cup of chocolate and a blanket this time of year anyways, so why not make something nice for yourself while you're at it.

The Winter Stories scarf is knitted with 7 mm needles (US 10,5 or 11). I've used 6 balls of Garnstudio Drops Andes yarn for this one, but any bulky yarn will do.

Start by casting on 41 stitches on your knitting needles. Knit according to the chart until the length of the scarf is about 180 cm long, or the length you prefer. Bind off any loose ends and you're ready to go and play outside in the snow!

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For more of my knitting patterns you can check out my Ravelry account here. There you can find patterns for some cozy Scandinavian style cardigans and sweaters.

Happy Knitting!