Monday, December 14, 2015

The Oh No! Holiday Gift Guide

There's always that one person you forget on your gift list, right? I'm here to help with 4 ideas.

1. If you have time, but you don't have any $$$:
Write a letter, a short story or a poem.  Compose a song.  Draw a picture.  Create a 3-minute movie.  

We creators forget how remarkable our talents are, even to other creators.  Get a piece of paper and a pencil, turn the timer to 20 minutes and see what happens.

2. If you will have time in the future:
Time together.  We have friends who have everything.  We have close to everything.  We certainly don't need more stuff.  But we don't get to see each other as much as we would like.  We don't give each other presents anymore.  We do give each other a weekend together once a year.  Together we have explored the Hudson River Valley, Savannah, Georgia, the Chesapeake and this year, for more than a weekend, Scotland.  We know that we are extravagant, but you can go with an annual walk in the local park and you'll achieve the same result.  The gift is putting aside the time for each other, so it doesn't really matter where you do it.

3. If you have under $25
These are my top 2 favorite books these days.  Both are perfect for creators and non-creators.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.  Every creative person on the planet should own this book.  Actually every person.  Tharp, one of the greatest choreographers of our time, explains in great detail how she has thrived as a creator.  My favorite chapter is the one about failing.  Exercises included to get brains going.  This book changes lives.

Manage Your Day-To-Day:  Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei.  Here's another must-have for anyone who wants more creativity in their lives.  A series of essays on many topics, including how to manage your technology (including social media and email) and how to find time for creative projects.  Because of this book, I create first thing in the morning and read emails in the afternoon.  Buy it and find out why.

4. If you're rolling in the dough and willing to spend more than $50
Tickets.  Yup.  Tickets to concerts, plays, operas, art exhibits, museums.  Most arts organizations now offer gift cards, like this one to the Walnut St. Theatre here in Philadelphia.  In fact, if you buy THAT one, the lucky recipients could see me in Walnut's upcoming performance of Sister Act, or they could see the kid's show, Miss Nelson Has A Field Day, which I'll be directing.  How's that for self-promotion AND a great gift?

By the way, artists, those discount tickets you often get offered by the producers of your show?  They make great gifts.

Alright, these 4 ideas should get you started.  I'd love to hear your Oh No ideas.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holiday Traditions The New Way

Once again, I've been distracted from Creatavita by an abundance of delightful projects, some of which revolve around the holidays.  To keep you in the creative living spirit, I'm pulling out this post from 2013.  Be well my friends!

So, this won't be a news flash to any of you, but while you weren't looking, the holiday season officially arrived. Oh boy. That annual mix of joy, dread and exhaustion. The expectations are high for all of us – peace on earth, good will to men and the presents better be perfect. Every last one of them. Well, guess what darlings. I am here to throw out this radical idea - you do not have to do everything this holiday season. You do not have to buy every gift, attend every party, and keep every tradition ever known to every generation of your family or your neighborhood. Yes, I am here to say - choose the traditions that matter the most to you.

Here's my personal example. Christmas cards. Who doesn't love Christmas cards? Me too. But at some point the act of writing the annual letter or choosing the best card for each of the 179 people on our list, adding one sincere sentence to every letter or card, addressing the envelopes, and even putting on the stamps tipped from being a pleasure-filled activity to drudgery. Friends, when the act of wishing someone Merry Christmas feels like drudgery, you know you've got a problem.

So I stopped. I didn't send any Christmas cards one year. The world didn't come crashing down and there were still presents for me under the tree. So I didn't send any the next year either. That might have been the year when I sat in my office one hot August afternoon and wrote a lovely letter in place of Christmas cards. Another brilliant idea born. And although I've been known to skip a year here and there, that's what I do now - I choose another time of the year and send out a greeting. Some years a letter, some years one of those snappy photo cards I create online. Some years a Valentine, some years a Spring greeting. You know what? People seem to love receiving a truly joy-filled greeting at another time of the year. I love sending the greeting at another time of the year, when I'm not stressed to the max with holiday musts, and when I know there's a good chance my letter is the only personally-addressed envelope showing up in mailboxes around the world. And in all of the years that I've bucked tradition, I've had three people say to me “hey, where's my Christmas card?” Or “Haven't heard from you in a while. Are you still alive?” Three.

I have an assignment for you.  The good news is there is no test.  I want you to contemplate the holiday traditions that have true meaning for you. Keep those. Then I want you to consider the ones that feel like drudgery. See if you can get rid of one or two of those. Then I want you to seek out some serenity. Because.

Note:  The photos in this post come from a holiday trip I took in 2008 to Bulgaria.  The final one is of Bulgarian Mummers.  Yes, there are Mummers in Bulgaria.

Friday, November 13, 2015

6 Necessary Steps to Becoming A Professional Creator - Part 2

Welcome!  Here's the final installment of this 2-part series.  These are the steps that I believe are vital for anyone contemplating a career as a creator.  Read on:

4. Check In With Your Skill Set. This is a real balancing act. You've got to keep your strongest skills in shape, while working on your weaker skills. Don't ignore your weaker skills. I've seen so many people not realize their goals because they didn't truly master their voice, they ignored their weak dancing skills, or they prayed that they wouldn't be asked for a monologue.  Sad....

Find a teacher, coach or class in each skill that you need. The most important quality to seek is to find someone that you can trust. There's lots of shenanigans in the creative world and there's no reason for you to have to pay for it. The ideal circumstances happen when the expert you choose is a master of the skill and knows the business. Not sure how to find the best of the best? Ask people whose work you admire.

5. Enroll in a Business of the Business seminar or class. These abound in every field. Make sure they are legit. Performers should also seek out auditioning classes or seminars. The experience you get, the people you meet, the dos and don'ts you learn, the repertoire you hear all make this step a must-do.

6. Practice Positivity. I've saved what I believe is the most important step for last.  Becoming a professional creator isn't always easy, but it does have the potential to be deeply satisfying.  Cultivating a positive attitude is crucial.  Practicing positivity will help you believe, live through adversity and create.  When you enter the dark times (and you will), positivity will guide you out. It will also help you stay open to the myriad of opportunities awaiting you.  Practice positivity.

There.  6 necessary steps.  By the way, they're not in order of importance.  Not at all.  Choose two that motivate you and get to work.  I'll be waiting right here for your amazing stories.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

6 Necessary Steps to Becoming A Professional Creator - Part 1

Yesterday I received another email from a former student asking for career advice. She wants to know what she needs to do to have a professional career as a musical theatre performer.

This type of email is exactly why I started Creatavita. I could have spent an evening writing an email that only she would read.  Instead I'm writing these posts. More of you will be informed and inspired, and I'll have more time for my own creating!

Here's what I think you need to do if you want to become a professional creator.  You'll notice that I usually refer to the theatre industry, but these steps can apply to any creative business.  There's quite a bit of information in here, so I'll be sending it out in two posts.  

What do you need to do?  You need to:

1.  Craft a 5-year plan. You are starting a business, a business in a highly challenging, yet highly rewarding industry. You need a plan.

Start by picking a start date. Tomorrow works well. So does today. Write it down. Now write down the same date and change the year to five years from now. Congrats! You've started your plan. By giving yourself five years with a specific start and end, you now have a reasonable deadline.

Now, begin to write your plan. Really. Look at this post for more help. Enlist someone you trust completely to hold you accountable to sticking with your plan. This step is super difficult, but trust me, please trust me, THIS WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD. Yes, I am yelling, but I am yelling from my own experience as well as an honest desire to help you fulfill your dreams.

Review your plan weekly for the first 8 weeks. Are you on track? Have you taken any steps? After the first 8 weeks, review it monthly. Oh, and that start date? Happy Anniversary! Every year, on that date, you are going to visit your plan and make any necessary changes. It's your plan, so feel free to adapt it.

2. Find a Parallel Career. What is a parallel career? That's the job that sustains you when you aren't being sustained by your creative career. Sustain can mean money, but it also means your soul. Remember that.

These are the qualities you want in a parallel career:
    1. Good income
    2. Reasonable level of fulfillment
    3. Work you can envision yourself doing for the rest of your life.
    4. Flexibility
Thanks to the Internet, finding a lucrative, fulfilling parallel career has become easier. Stay tuned to Creatavita because there will be an upcoming post about parallel careers. In the meantime, roll back to this one to get started.

3. Get Out There. Or as one of my colleagues said, “There's work out there for me. I have to find it.” Start auditioning, showing your portfolio, submitting writing samples, your demos, etc. to appropriate organizations. Yesterday. This is still the main road to finding work. Keep track and after you've done a certain number, let's say six, give yourself a reward.

Let's return to appropriate – you've got to be smart about where to market your wares.  I'll use the theatre industry as an example. If you're an actor and your resume is full of community theatre credits, auditioning for principal roles at an Equity regional theatre is probably an inefficient use of your time and energy. You're missing experience levels that tell the producers you have what they need for their productions. Yes, it is tempting to focus on that one person (out of thousands) who left Podunkville and went straight to a lead on Broadway. This is a rare situation. Move that focus over to getting real credits with appropriate companies. The vast majority of us work our way up. Join us. We're loads of fun.

You'll find plenty of auditioning resources online. For instance, actors can check out the audition listings on While predominantly NYC-based, auditions taking place in other parts of the country are also posted. A quick Google search of your town theatre auditions is bound to get you some information. You can also go right to the websites of theatres in which you are interested. Check out their seasons, look at the casts (anyone with credits like yours?) and explore how to submit for auditions.

Make a habit of checking these resources on a regular basis. They change daily.

There.  You've got some work to do.  Get started and I'll be back next week with Part 2.

Thanks for Creataviting with me!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Classic Creatavita: Patient Persistence

I'm preparing for Pieces of My Collection, my next cabaret performance, which will happen on Friday, October 23 (that's a week away!) at the New Leaf Club.  Click here for more information and click here to buy tickets.  Come on out!  Get off the couch!  Have a couple of laughs with me!

From the 2012 archives, a classic Creatavita post - Patient Persistence.

Today's post has been chosen by Lauren Cupples.  Like many of the featured artists in this series, I met Lauren when she took my Advanced Musical Theatre class at Walnut St. Theatre. She also studies privately with me, when she's in town. See, for the past two years, Lauren has been performing throughout the country. Florida last fall, Arkansas this summer and many shows here in the Philadelphia area. This holiday season, she'll be performing Emma in Doctor Doolittle at the Media Theatre in Media, PA

Lauren's another one I admire. She's smart, thoughtful and a hard worker. I'm always impressed with her ability to find auditions and then to actually GO to the auditions. We talk frequently about the why of life. Why we pursue these crazy creative careers, why we tolerate the less-than-ideal working conditions, why we are on this planet. I like this ongoing conversation because I see that Lauren has a vision for life that extends beyond the next gig.

Here's her website:  Lauren chose:

Persistent Patience
Persist – to continue steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose, course of action, or the like, especially in spite of opposition, remonstrance, etc. 

 Patience – an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

You need both.

That was helpful, wasn't it?

I used to be the least persistent person on the planet, perhaps in the universe. I wanted it and I wanted it NOW. Giving up was easy for me. As soon as something became difficult, I'd give up. First rejection from an audition, I'd become an emotional mess, assume I had no talent and announce I was giving up. Boyfriend after boyfriend into husband would be forced to tell me I was talented, there must have been another reason, yadda yadda yadda. 

 I had a similar relationship to patience. If I couldn't lose that last five pounds, if I didn't get hired for that gig, I would become impatient and frustrated. And then I'd give up. Well. These attitudes will not work if you're living a Creatavita. Because creativity is always challenging and always takes time. Always.

In addition, neither persistence or patience are valued in our modern society. Oh sure, you'll hear the touching news story about the woman who endured for 25 years to get her college degree, but let's be honest, we don't expect that attitude of ourselves. We all know that we want it and we want it NOW. If we can't get it, we grab our marbles and go home. Patience, as in waiting your turn when in traffic, is considered to be a sign of weakness. Powerful people don't need patience. They can have what they want when they want it. Don't we all want that?

This is false power. This does not lead to a Creatavita. This leads to a heart attack.

I touched on this subject in the previous post Carry On. If you want to have a flourishing life and in particular, any type of artistic career, you are going to have to cultivate persistence and patience. You are going to have to develop the ability to get back up, to let the catty comments slide right off your back, to ignore all the seemingly positive things that happen to everyone else and not you, to somehow find a way to keep going.

In fact, the abilities to persist and to be patient have actually been found to be better indicators of success than talent or genius.

Now I have your attention, don't I?

Angela Duckworth, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, calls this quality “grit”. According to Dr. Duckworth, here are the two key components to grit:

  1. Sustained passion
  2. Perseverance

Interesting, huh? Darn close to my initial idea for this post.

Here's the TED Talk where Dr. Duckworth talks about her research.

It is almost 20 minutes long, but the time has come for you to get off of Facebook today anyway. Close it up and watch this instead.

I love two moments in particular. The first one happens around 2:40, when Dr. Duckworth briefly discusses the 10-Year Rule, which is the same idea as the 10,000-Hour Rule, made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. If you didn't know either of these rules, you do now. These rules tell us that to become a world-class performer in any field, you MUST put in 10 years (or 10,000 hours) of “consistent, deliberate” practice.   By the way, we're not going to discuss which number is the better number.  We're creative types, we're smart, we only need the general idea which is lots of excellent practice leads to mastery and expertise.

 That information alone should inspire you to get to work. Think about it. You now know that if you practice for a specific amount of time with mindfulness and awareness, you will become an expert. Will you have a great career? I can't promise that, no one can, but at least you'll have mastered an creative form that is the source of the greatest passion in your life.

I'll discuss my second favorite moment from Dr. Duckworth's TED Talk in a bit.

Before we move on, here's a super quick grit test  Go ahead, take a minute and try it out.  Interesting, huh?

As you know, Creatavita is all about finding solutions that everyone, even the bozo who drives you nuts on the morning train, can incorporate into their lives. So, get ready.  Here are some ways to cultivate persistence and patience in your life:

ACTION has always helped me. Aim to do one thing every day that leads toward your big goal. Send one email, compose one measure, practice one song, write one paragraph. When you go to bed, you'll be able to put your little head on your pillow, knowing you are one step closer than you were when you woke up.

Dr. Duckworth takes this one step further, saying we should work on our weaknesses every day. That's right, at 16:10 in the TED Talk, she actually suggests spending part of your day doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Man, I have to meet this woman. She is singing my song!

PRACTICE patienceTry meditation or yoga. Both are excellent ways to focus the mind and body on the present moment. Being in the present often leads to a greater mastery of patience.

HAVE A PLAN. Oh no, not the plan again. Yes, that ridiculous plan that I went on and on about in my last post will help you cultivate both patience and persistence. You will recognize that you are in this for the long haul and the only way to the end is via short steps.

GET SOME PERSPECTIVE. There are 7 billion people on this planet. Most of them call the day good if they have food in their stomach and a comfortable spot to call home. The vast majority of them don't find your frustration with not getting your book published, selling your cd or finding an agent all that compelling. This is not meant to diminish your creative work in any way. This is to encourage you to ask why. Why is this so important to you? What is this work really saying, what does it really mean? Would you miss this creative form if it was no longer in your life?

Finally, if all else fails -

TAKE A BREAK. Step away from the canvas, close the piano lid, shut off the computer, put down the pen. Go for a walk, a run, a swim. Head down to the coffee shop. Go to bed early. Talk to your partner, spouse or kids. Time, even when you feel you don't have any, is often exactly what is needed.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pope Glow: 4 Easy Ways To Keep Yours Alive

In case you didn't hear, Pope Francis recently visited the US for the first time in his life.  He spent two days in my city, Philadelphia.  A travel opportunity had been presented to me months earlier, so I wasn't here.  But I couldn't help but pay attention.  The glow was apparent through social media posts and through the energy that lingered in the Philadelphia area after the Pope had departed.

I'm not Catholic, but I think this pope is special.  He speaks passionately of the power of love.  He challenges those in power to consider the less powerful.  He is deeply concerned about the effects of consumerism on individuals and on our planet.  And he walks the walk.  He rides around in a small Fiat, a car that retails for about $20,000.  He lunches with homeless people instead of leaders of the US Congress. He visits prisoners when he could be visiting mansions filled with wealthy, supposedly important people.  I pay attention to him.

The glow was still here the day after he left, but the day after that, I could feel it slipping away.  Even on my morning walk, horns were honking, cars were being hurtled down the street as if the driver was the most important person on the planet.

It is hard to keep the glow, isn't it?  Whether it comes from the visit of a spiritual person, a vacation or a good yoga class, it is a challenge.  Modern life is filled with complexities and attention-getting devices.  But we should try to keep the glow because it keeps us balanced and focused on what really matters.  So, here are 4 quotes from Pope Francis, each followed by a simple action you can incorporate into your life to keep your Pope Glow. Or to get a Pope Glow if you didn't have one in the first place.

  • Remember the little things, the gestures that often go overlooked.  Love is shown in the little things.”  
Write your favorite Francis quote (this seems to be a reliable resource) on a post-it note.  Put it somewhere you can't avoid, like your computer screen or bathroom mirror.  Stop and savor on a regular basis every day. 

  • "The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us."
There's some shiny object that will entice you on your next trip to the mall or the grocery store.  You won't need it. Oh, you might try to convince yourself that you need it, but you know that you don't.  Don't buy it.  Leave it there, along with the rest of the junk that you really don't need.

  • "An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.  We should also consider taking public transit, car-pooling, planting trees, turning off lights and recycling."
Pick up a piece of trash and throw it in the trash can.  Walk to your next appointment. Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

  • "To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope!"
Take your headphones out of your ears and smile at someone as you are walking down the street. Don't honk your horn. Don't push your way to the front of the line. Don't whine when you have to wait.  

Pope Glow.  Let's make it part of our daily existence.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Here's A Good One

Greetings from the Orkney Islands.

While checking my email at this super cool cafe, I read the following blog post.  It's important, particularly for those of you who raise funds (or want to) to support your own creations.

Read on, I'm returning to my global adventures.

The Post about Kickstarter's new business model.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Making A Creative Career: 3 Steps You Can Take Today

Creatavita is coming to you ahead of schedule this week, as I'm about to embark on an adventure.  My intention is to actually vacate.  We'll see if that happens!  I'll definitely be back in October.

This morning I listened patiently as one of my clients continued his ever-constant litany of career woes. That gig fell through, there's no work, he's under-appreciated by the business, blah blah blah.

His negative energy followed him around like a rain cloud over his head. He didn't ask for my advice.  He didn't want advice.  He needed to drop off the negativity and my studio was the safest place for him to do that. But here's the thing. He's got himself on the hamster wheel of negativity. I can't tell if he knows he's there and I definitely can't tell if he really wants to jump off. Yes, believe it or not, many of us love the wheel of negativity. Hey, at least we're feeling something, and usually, as we're rolling around, moving our feet as fast as we can, we get to throw the blame on some other source. That seems to feel better than accepting responsibility for this mess.

I know that feeling. I do. I felt it earlier this week myself. I know creativity can, at times, feel absolutely overwhelming.

So, after he left, to zap the negativity and get it out of my space, I took the time to ponder what possibilities exist for him. How could he transform the negativity into possibilities?  Possibilities that will probably lead to positive results?  Here they are, for you:

  • Find one opportunity.   Today, take 15 minutes and research one opportunity. Instead of commiserating with your Facebook friends about how difficult your business is, get out there and search. Search for another possible performing venue, submit your portfolio to another potential client, return to your previous of habit of checking your favorite audition callboard. Chellie Campbell, in her strangely helpful book, The Wealthy Spirit, calls it sending out ships. I love that image!

  • Set a reasonable.deadline. “I really want to get cast in a musical”, said one of my favorite clients. He's surprised himself with his success as a model and as a singer, so's he feeling pretty good, but....he has different dreams. So, set a deadline. Be reasonable. Creative business rarely falls out of the sky. If someone tells you that, they've forgotten the years that they worked to be standing in the right place when that big opportunity fell out of the sky. You have to plan, you have to be persistent and you have to be in it for the long haul. If you're new to the deadline world, try 6 months out. Write it down and tell someone you trust. Put a weekly reminder in your calendar. Then take one action that leads you towards that deadline.

  • DYI. Can't find a company that is producing the art that fires you up? Then do it yourself. I know at least half of you just moaned out loud. You also rolled your eyes and said, “Oh Heidi, that's so much work.” You are correct. But it is work that will make you feel alive. Work that will make you feel like what you have to say matters. Work that will make you think you are crazy. Work that will make you feel like you have never felt before. Work that will teach you so much about your relationship to art. Start small. One event. One song. One painting. One photograph. One short film. Grow from there.

Good News Update:  I forgot to thank all of you who signed up to receive Creatavita in your email inbox.  I did reach my simple goal of 20 new followers.  Thank you!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Lessons I Learned On A Bike Ride

I went for a bike ride this morning. As I was huffing and puffing up the final hill, I was reminded of the parallels between riding and life.

I love to bike ride. I always have. A bicycle was my main means of transportation throughout college and graduate school. One of my fondest memories from grad school is riding down the middle of a wide-laned Nebraska street at 2:00 am with friends, heading to a late-night cast party. The freedom, the joy.

Lately, I haven't given myself permission to ride. I have a myriad of reasons. It takes too much time to put the bike in the car (I have a wonderful Dahon folding bike), the Teen needs the car and he'll only be here for a few more weeks, the trail (I usually ride the Schuylkill River Trail) isn't really that challenging, the trail will be crowded, and the last, the best – I'm out of shape and will disappoint myself.

How much like life is that?

  • not enough time
  • someone else goes before me
  • not enough challenge
  • too many others doing the same thing
  • I will disappoint myself

Sound familiar? It's much like our creative lives, isn't it? I won't start writing that play today because I don't have time. I won't reach out to that potential client because my children need me to drive them to their friend's house. I won't go to that audition because that company is too small. I won't put my recent song on YouTube because everybody does that. I won't leave my downer job because the next one will be just as disappointing.

Thinking, and then responding a different way can be a challenge.  We get caught in patterns, and even if we don't like the pattern, we stay with it.  Creativity demands that we bust out of the patterns, particularly the ones that don't serve us well.

I know it can feel challenging to bust these patterns.  I did it this morning.  So can you.

Monday, August 17, 2015

An Opportunity

I'm joining forces with Meg Townsend this fall to offer a yoga and singing workshop.  Read on for everything you need to know about this delightful event:

The Art of the Breath: A Yoga Movement Workshop for Singers
Sunday, October 25 12:30-3:30p
$65 Early Bird (before October 10)
$75 Regular Price
New Leaf Club, 1225 Montrose Avenue, Rosemont, PA 19010

Breath is the base of life. Breath is also the base of singing and yoga. This workshop begins the journey of deeper awareness of your breath. For singing. For yoga. For life.

In this workshop, you will:

uncover deeper breath for singing and life
expand your vocal abilities through yoga
experience more joy and confidence

Meg will lead you through a yoga practice designed specifically to help you connect with your body as your instrument. Breath-work, bandhas (energy locks), core awareness, and subtle energetics will be tools used to help you access the strength and awareness you’ll need for healthy, authentic singing.

Heidi will then guide you through a series of vocal exercises which will apply the yoga practice to your singing. Heidi's ability to clearly explain how the human voice works will help you understand your own instrument on a deep and lasting level.

Together, Meg and Heidi will give you insight on how to incorporate the practice of both yoga and singing into your life so your development can continue after the workshop.

Meg Townsend​, e-ryt500*, has dedicated her life to guiding people in living brighter and more inspired lives through the practice of yoga. Her own path to wellness took shape when she was a young singer studying opera in New York City. She holds a degree in Vocal Performance from West Chester University. Life led her to teach yoga as her profession. She has found that her yoga practice has strengthened and shaped her singing in ways she’d never dreamed. Meg is currently a senior yoga teacher trainer at Amrita Yoga in Philadelphia, maintains a private yoga teaching practice, and also leads international, sustainable yoga retreats through her company Aluna Adventures.

*experienced registered yoga teacher with 500+ hrs training and over 4,000 teaching hours

Heidi Hayes​ has appeared throughout the country in opera, theatre and cabaret. She most recently appeared in a solo cabaret at the New Leaf Club and in the New Voices Festival at Bucks County Playhouse. In the fall, she returns to the New Leaf Club for another solo cabaret. Next spring she directs Miss Nelson Is Having A Field Day at the Walnut St. Theatre and. A passionate arts educator, Heidi has worked with children and adults in such diverse locations as Oklahoma, North Carolina and Singapore. She is a member of the faculty of the Walnut Street Theatre School in Philadelphia and has maintained a successful private voice studio for over two decades. She blogs regularly about flourishing as a creative entrepreneur right here at Creatavita.

Everything you need to know
To register and pay using a credit card:
Processing fees will apply if paying by credit card.

To register and pay using cash, check or Google Wallet: 

Advance registration is required for this workshop. 
We also want you to know that we will not be able to refund your fee if you are unable to attend. 

I want to sing like the birds sing, 
not worrying about who hears or what they think. ~Rumi

Friday, July 31, 2015

Know When To Hold 'Em: How to Find Your Winning Ideas

I remember the lightning bolt striking me. Morning had not yet dawned as I laid, jet-lagged and wide awake in an unknown bedroom in Sofia, Bulgaria. My body said sleep, while my brain said wake up. Suddenly, the idea to end all ideas came charging through my brain. Neural pathways lit up as the idea clearly unfolded and presented itself. This idea was so striking, I jumped out of bed, fumbling through the dark room to find my tiny travel journal and start writing. I wrote as fast as I could, words spilling diagonally across the page as I attempted to keep up with the cavalcade of ideas simultaneously spilling out of my brain. Minutes later, satisfied that I had captured as much as I could, I put the pen down and fell into a deep sleep. Hours later, I laughed at the sideways scribbles. I also smiled. They were still gold.

For the next two years, I worked to bring this idea to life. This was, I believed, the perfect idea; the one that would bring me artistic and financial success as well as personal fulfillment. I set deadlines and met every one of them. I did every task necessary - I researched, composed, arranged, wrote dialogue, hired a marketing pro, edited, discussed with trusted colleagues and even trudged through a snowstorm to meet with a potential investor.

And then I stopped. No matter what I tried, I could not get going. I thought I needed a break. So I put the project aside for a month. I started up again, ready to present my great big artistic idea to the world. And then I stopped again.

This pattern continued for 6 months, which felt like an eternity. I was really frustrated with myself. Here was this great idea, ready to go and I could not move. What in the world was wrong with me?

Then, months later, sitting on my favorite beach, another lightning bolt struck me. This one showed me why I wasn't moving. I couldn't move. This project, as fantastic as it was, was not the right idea for me. I had the wrong set of skills to truly make it succeed. That's why I was stuck. This was a great idea. But it was a great idea for someone else.

Was this a waste of time? Heck no. During those two years, I improved skills and gained a tremendous amount of confidence. I also became much better at recognizing which of the many ideas that float through my brain are worth keeping. Would I do it again? Probably. Can I save you two years of your life? Let's try.

Here's what I learned:
  • Have a physical home for your ideas. A computer file, a journal or an audio file on your device. When you have an idea, stick it in there. Write or say everything; don't edit. Put it all down. This makes the idea real. It also frees up your brain so you can use the free space to continue developing the idea.
  • Leave it alone. Once you've recorded as much of the idea as you can, step back. Don't think about it and don't discuss it. Not yet.
  • Sleep on it. If it is back first thing in the morning, and I mean first thing, like right after putting your feet on the floor, it's definitely worth pursuing. If it comes in the first two hours, I still honor it. If it doesn't come back before lunch, I let it go.
  • Does this idea excite and scare you at the same time? Can you not stop thinking about it? That's probably a good one.
  • Okay, you've recorded the idea somewhere. You've left it alone. You've slept on it. You're still excited about it. Time to develop a plan of attack. Write down 10 steps that you need to take to bring this idea to life.
  • Set a deadline. Be reasonable. Put the date in your calendar.
  • Now discuss the idea, but with no more than two people – one you trust and one who has experience in the field in which the idea is centered. Listen to them.
  • You don't have to act on every good idea immediately. That's why recording ideas somewhere is so helpful. If it comes up again, you can refer to the idea as you've already developed it.
Using these guidelines, I've developed a much better filter for recognizing winning ideas that I enjoy having in my life. I'm also become much better at seeing ideas reach their full potential, and that, Creataviters, feels really good.

UPDATE: I'm so close to my goal of adding 20 new readers to my Creatavita email list.  If you've already signed, thank you!!!!  If you haven't, please sign up! You will make me very happy if you do this simple act.  Besides, you'll be receiving the benefits of Creatavita right in your inbox.

If you're on a computer, the signup form is at the top of the right hand column.  If you're on a device, you have to scroll to the bottom of this post and click on view web version.  A tiny hassle that has the potential to bring you the creative fulfillment you've been seeking.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Little Help From My Friends

Okay, so it is once again time for me to do something that still makes me feel uncomfortable.  Ask for assistance.  Some lessons require much practice.

We've been meeting here at Creatavita for 3 years, 1 month and 2 days.  I enjoy this even more than I thought I would.  Your response has inspired me to continue to collect my thoughts, ideas and experiences here so that they can inspire you.  

With each post, readership steadily grows.  But I'd like it to grow even more steadily. And that's where you come in.

Would you please sign up to have new posts delivered to your inbox?  You should see the sign up widget at the top of the right-hand column.

One of my little friends

My goal for 2015 is to have 20 more people sign up.  That might seem like a small number, but one of the things I have learned is to have attainable goals and to then build on that success. (And that's an example of what you read here, right?)  I know that some of you have already signed up and are receiving these posts via your inbox.  Thank you!!!  If that's the case, I'd be eternally grateful (okay, maybe until next year) if you would pass this invitation on to others.  Going over 20 new subscribers would really make my day!

I know that many of you read Creatavita via Facebook, Twitter or Google+, and of course it will still appear on those social media platforms.  But in private conversations, I have become increasingly aware that not every post gets seen by every social media viewer.  Having it come to your inbox assures that you'll see every post.

So help me achieve one of my goals.  Sign up today.  Besides, there might be an idea out here that will change your life.  You never know!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Children Will Listen

Parenting has been on my mind lately.  I'm sure this is because we are all blissfully enjoying life before the Teen heads to college next month.  Yesterday, I found myself getting weepy in Costco when I realized I would no longer have to buy gallons of orange juice. It is also because of the eighteen, yes EIGHTEEN, out-of-town family members we hosted during June. Then there's the recent baby explosion. No the babies didn't explode. At least four close friends have welcomed babies into this world in the past few months and at least two more are on the way.

Some qualifiers before we go further:
I never intended to be a parent. 
I had one kid.
I'm amazed at what I learned.

What Worked For Me
Stay mindful of the grand task - The grand task is to guide another soul as they find their way into and through this marvelous, mucky world of ours.  You want them to grow, you want them to develop, and you want them to leave.  Yes, you do.  Remind yourself frequently of this task.
Let them fall, let them fail.  The earlier, the better. - Don't scream and gasp at every fall or tumble, whether physical, spiritual or mental. This tells even the strongest of young humans that falls are to be feared.  They aren't.  
Falling is a part of life.  Be there to confidently pick them up.  Pretty soon, they'll figure out how to do it on their own.  Which means you will have taught them how to be resilient. They'll come to embrace falling as a part of life.  So will you.  

Concerned that they'll seriously hurt themselves?  You will know when the fall is serious. It's embedded deep in your DNA.  Trust yourself.
Be with your kid - Get down on their level.  Look at the world from their perspective.  Shut off the device and look into their eyes.
Children Will Listen is a remarkable guide - "How do you say to your child in the night, nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white?"  These are the first words in Stephen Sondheim's timeless song Children Will Listen: 

Here's the text. Worth the click.
For those of you on your mobile devices, this link should get you to the video
Start the college account.  Yesterday – This one sounds practical, doesn't it? You're correct, it is very practical. But if you hit your kid's high school graduation and you don't have enough money for college, it will feel incredibly emotional. Don't do that to yourself, your partner and your kid. Start the account. $5, $10, $20 every month will make a difference. Tell the relatives to contribute to the account instead of purchasing another cute outfit.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am that Beloved and I took this approach. As we stare at those first-year numbers, I feel both relieved and joyful.  Relieved that there are enough funds to begin this part of the parenting adventure without extra worry. Joyful that we are able to provide for the Teen without extra pressure.  Join us.  You'll be glad you did.
Tell them the truth - You're tired.  You're sad.  You don't know what to do.  Tell them.  They know anyway.  They know before you do.  As soon as you lie, you start them down the path of emotional confusion.  This does not give you permission to become an emotional mess, blubbering away about all of your woes.  But do express emotions in as healthy a way as you possibly can.  If you can't, learn how.

You know I aspire to being as positive as possible, but there is an ugly truth out there that doesn't get spoken out loud enough. Here goes....
How Kids Mess Up Your Perfect Partnership
Having a child will be a huge stress on your relationship - Here's just one article about what having children does to a couple's relationship.  Yes, I know it is from 2009, but it's a good one and I'm quite certain we haven't solved this problem in the last six years:

Perhaps your experience will be an outlier.  I sure hope so.  But I will still counsel you to be prepared to encounter aspects of your partner that you never dreamed were possible once you add children into the mix. 
Be clear about why you are having a child - Hoping to repair a broken relationship is not a good reason.  Satisfying grandparents is also not a good reason.  Hoping to distract yourself from your personal situation is a terrible reason.
Parents need to be on the same page on the big issues – The little things don't matter. So your partner didn't put the Cheerios away. Hey, at least the kids got breakfast.
But, if that Cheerios box is masking a bigger issue, then you've got to start the conversation. Or continue the conversation. The one about the things that really matter, the ideas that make a life. These conversations go on and on; while that can be frustrating when you don't agree completely with your partner, compromising, listening and patience are all practiced. Tell your kids about that.
Beloved and I talk constantly about the big issues. Issues like respect, passion, resilience, compassion, honesty, commitment. Have we seen it in our kid lately? Did we have an opportunity to discuss or show one of these traits? Have we changed our minds?
The Cheerios can stay on the counter forever as long as you both agree on those big issues. And, if the Cheerios are bugging you, check in with yourself. If that's you being fussy, let it go. If it is the tip of the iceberg, it's time for that conversation.

As you can imagine, I have more thoughts on this subject.  If you're interested in more, please comment here on the blog.  Comment even if you're not interested!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Creatavita's Third Annual Commencement

I hesitated before I created this post.  Finding the time in my schedule to watch an entire commencement speech is a challenge, so I imagine it is for you as well.

So I clicked on the link to review this year's commencement address, and then I remembered why this is worth your time.

This year's featured address is the always-engaging Joyce DiDonato, speaking to the Juilliard School's Class of 2014,  By the way, you should follow that link on DiDonato's name.  Today she is one of opera's most beloved and successful artists, but that success almost didn't happen.  You'll find her story interesting, and possibly inspiring.  I know I do.

Please don't be put off by that big scary word opera.  It's just another form of artistic expression.  Even if you don't enjoy the form, stay open to what Joyce has to say.

Update:  Thanks to Jean McDonald for reminding me that YouTube videos do not always appear in mobile versions of Blogger.  Here's the link you'll need to view the video.

Shameless Promotion:  I'll be back at the Leaf next Friday, June 26 at 8:00 pm.  Details here.  Feel free to share.  I'd love to see some new faces in the crowd.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Reminding Myself

And you as well.

Today's post is a repost from the first year of Creatavita.  Why?  Because we are in the month that should be renamed Mayhem.  For all of us - 

One and Done

When The Teen was born, like many first-time parents, I found the concept of time was, shall we say, altered. Entire days could go by in a flash. I found myself torn between wanting/needing to spend time with this brand new human and getting to the necessary tasks of living. If you're a parent, you know what I'm talking about. Heck, if you're a human (and I assume the vast majority of you are), you know what I'm talking about. There are these periods when the speed of life seems to enter some odd, cosmic zone where everything happens too fast.

Add to this experience the fact that I am highly organized. Some would say hyper-organized, some might even say obsessive. Let's save that for a future post. Whatever you want to call it, I admit to being a person who likes to organize my day. This quality does not go well with a baby. Not at all. I found my to-do list expanding and my anxiety level rising. Even more importantly, I KNEW these were days that would never be back, ever. One of the certainties of life is this: Babies are born and immediately start to grow. Usually up. I had to find a solution.

Don't ask me how it happened, but I decided I would zero in on one task every day. Early in the day I would ask myself, “Self, what is the one task that will make your day feel complete?” The task could be as simple as write a thank-you note, work on one measure in a piece of music, or find a song for a student. In fact, I encouraged myself to keep it simple.    And of course it wasn't simple every day.  Yes, some days the task was larger than I wanted or somehow became more complicated.  Yes, I got frustrated.  Still, on most days, once that task was done, the rest of the day was open, free, mine to enjoy. I encouraged myself to focus on what was accomplished and the time I now had to be with The Baby Who Is Now The Teen or with my work, and not on what wasn't accomplished.

Miracles. I tell you people, miracles. I began to enjoy The Teen's babyhood, my motherhood and my career.  I didn't worry that some student didn't get their lesson time scheduled immediately or that the dust was prominent on the furniture. I also found myself mentally clearer , much more realistic about how much time I actually had AND definitely more able to prioritize what was truly important.

The Teen is now, well, a teen, and couldn't care less if I spend a millisecond with him. Yet, I've returned to One And Done many times. I find it particularly helpful when my workload is heavy or during those lovely times we call the holidays.  In fact, I'm using it again as I write this; recently we've had delightful family members visits, the studio is full, there's fun summertime performances happening, and The Beloved is on the Disabled List due to rotator cuff surgery last week.  Enough activity to, well, let's just say, increase my workload.

I already know I'm not the only person on the planet to benefit from this simple solution. Two falls ago, I received a phone call from my niece. She had recently moved from clean, kind Wisconsin to gritty, hyper New York City. The tone of her voice made it obvious that she was about to crawl out of her skin. She was in a completely different environment and the prospect of being there for a prolonged period of time wasn't feeling so good at that particular moment. I could, as we all say, feel her pain. So what was my advice? You got it – One and Done. I was thrilled when she told me later that this simple approach got her through those first months in New York City, and that she, like me, still returns to One and Done frequently.

Like all new habits, incorporating One and Done into your lifestyle could possibly be challenging. We modern-day humans aren't very good at change. Don't be surprised if you actually feel more anxious initially. Give yourself a set number of days, say, one week, to try this idea out. You can always return to your previous anxious, frustrated state if this small solution doesn't work for you.

May 2015 Update:  The Teen will be graduating from high school in two weeks, and he talks to me again.

Beloved has been off the Disabled List for years.  He tells everyone who has rotator cuff surgery to follow the physical therapy regimen faithfully.

My niece has left New York City for the DC area.  She and her husband are now parents of a cute-as-pie son, with another son showing up this fall.  She still practices One and Done.