64. BOUNDARIES AND CREATIVITY, ART AND BUSINESS
Mary: Let’s talk boundaries. I’m here with Minette Riordan and we are discussing boundaries with creativity and art and business. Welcome, Minette. So great to have you.
Minette: Oh, thanks for having me, Mary. It’s so lovely to, to get to talk about something I’m passionate about and something you’re passionate about and see how they come together.
Mary: Absolutely. So tell us a little bit about how did you get to be passionate about creativity and art?
Minette: You know, I think it all started about a decade ago when I discovered a process called Zentangle, which is a meditative form of drawing that brought me back to my own creativity. I would say I’ve been creative my whole life. But only maybe for the last five or seven years would I say I’m an artist and those things are very different for me, for me personally. But when I look back from childhood on, I was always doing creative things. Whether it was a coloring book, my mom tried to teach me how to knit and how to sew. I was hopeless at both. But give me some Play Doh or some crayons or some markers. Or a piece of paper and a pen. And I was a happy, happy kid. I considered myself a writer for a long time. I’ve written three books, but I would say one of my best expressions of creativity has been in my business. I’ve owned multiple different businesses. I’m a serial entrepreneur. The first one was a parenting magazine, which was a beautiful creative outlet that brought a lot of my gifts and talents together. Then I was a business coach for other artists and creatives in business. And what I saw during that time was how when I put my own art and creative practice at the center of my life, when I treated it as a radical form of self care, for me personally it changed everything. And then my purpose and passion really shifted to helping others realign their lives around what’s most important to them and why having some form of creative outlet or creative expression in our lives is as essential as eating healthy and exercising regularly.
Mary: I love it. I love it. So I heard you say there’s a difference between art and creativity. Can you explain that a little bit more?
Minette: Sure. So definitions of creativity really flow from seeing the interconnections between disparate things. It’s often related to problem solving or creative thinking. If we think about a famous artist like Picasso, who most people recognize, he pushed the envelope of art to new extremes, both in the materials that he used, the subject matter that he created and how he approached visual imagery on the canvas. And he was also a brilliant marketer and a publicity guy. Like he you know, as you take someone like Van Gogh, who really wasn’t famous as an artist until after he died and compare him with someone like Picasso, they were living and working in pretty close to the same time period. But Picasso was very charismatic, very outgoing. He knew how to work the crowds. He knew how to tell a story. So his creativity for me flowed from his ability to see things differently and to communicate things in a different way.
In the corporate marketplace today, they say that creativity is the number one skill that people are hiring for. It’s the most important trait that leaders need to have. And by that, what they mean is our ability to innovate, to see connections between things that weren’t there before, to work within constraints to create things that are bigger and better. As opposed to art making, which is a skill, the definition of artistry is a skill. And anytime we have a skill, that skill can be developed. Yes, it’s frustrating when somebody seems to be able to draw right out the gate with very little training, but for those of us that are called to making art, those are all my paintings, if you’re watching this on video as opposed to listening, I started painting only about a decade ago, I’m completely self taught. And it has been a skill that I’ve invested literally thousands of hours in improving at. I still don’t draw very well, but I consider myself an artist in the way that I approach my creative expression, if that makes sense.
So creativity is more about how we think and see things and art is about the visual manifestation. Or the musical or movement based because under art we have photography, dance, writing, poetry, music, painting, mixed media fall under the bucket of the arts, right? But creativity covers every industry in the world. Scientists are incredibly creative. When you think about the power of someone like Einstein or Edison who invented electricity or the Wright brothers who had the vision to create airplanes. There’s so much creativity involved in that that had very little to do with artistry.
Mary: I love that. So I remember hearing Brene Brown when she was talking about being wholehearted, that wholehearted people also have an expression of creativity as part of their regular everyday life and feeling like, oh, man, I just don’t feel like I’m very crafty and I’m wondering, based on what you just taught us, if maybe it is just possible that we can be creative without having to be good at art, because I wonder if that might be what I am.
Minette: To me, they’re two completely separate things. And I love how Brene Brown also I think it, I don’t remember if it was in daring greatly or in Dare to Lead, where she talks about how we all have creativity scars from childhood, where we were told don’t waste your time, you can’t draw. Even up here, another kid in class might have said, that doesn’t look like a horse. Or your parents said, you know, you need to do this differently or better. And so there was always a lot of judgment around art and the fine arts especially. There was a lot of conversation around well, you can’t make a living at it, so it’s a waste of time. So culturally, we haven’t been taught to cultivate our skills as artists. So I’m 58. I’m about to be 59, which is kind of scary. And so I’m thinking about the campaign in the nineties where musicians got together to talk about there was like this big advertising campaign by musicians because they were starting to take art out of the schools. And there are so many science studies that have been done and psychology studies that have been done about the connection between creativity, so learning how to play music makes us better at math. So the interconnectedness of them is very, very important. At the same time art is a skill. Creativity is a way of approaching the world. Anybody that owns a business, Mary, like you do, is creative because you had to design the vision. You had to design the mission and purpose. You design workshops. You created a workbook for your clients. You give different kinds of trainings and professional development experience. You have to create the curriculum for that. All of that flows from an ability to think creatively about how to communicate information and how to put things together in a way that makes it easy for other people to grasp difficult concepts.
So I think it’s understanding where your personal creative genius lies and doing more of that. Not everyone’s drawn to being craftsy or like, I’m not a crafty person. I’m an artistic person. Even those things are very different, right? Gingerbread houses at Christmas are a creative expression. I was sharing with Mary before we started the recording, one of my daughter’s big loves is food and cooking and entertaining. And so we planned the menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. She made all the shopping lists. She did an organized plan for who was cooking what and what needed to get cooked when. And then she went into Canva, which is an online design tool, and created these beautiful flyers of our menus. to hang on the fridge and to send to my mom because my mom kept trying to change the menus on us and we’re like, nope, it’s all planned and here it is in big font so everyone can read it. But that was a, an, a creative expression of how she thinks connects and communicates.
Mary: I love that. I love that. And as you’re talking I am feeling a little bit softer towards the idea and opening my mind towards softening that limiting belief that I have had for a long time about, you know, I’m not crafty. I remember when scrapbooking was kind of a big craze and feeling like I just couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t relate. I felt like it wasn’t my strong suit. But as you’re talking, you know, I, I did make gingerbread houses this year. I love music and I can dance, I can sing, I can play the piano, like those kinds of things. And I am really good at Braiding hair. Does that count?
Minette: 100%. Anybody that’s ever had a bad hairdresser knows how important it is to have a creative hairdresser who has a good vision.
Mary: Yes I wouldn’t feel comfortable cutting hair, but I can do some really fancy braids.
Minette: That’s amazing. I love that. My daughter has never had long hair, doesn’t love, she is super tender headed, right? And I’ve never had long hair. Never had to learn how to braid hair either, but I watched her braid her partner’s hair, because he has these gorgeous, long, curly locks. And for Christmas Day, she made his hair so beautiful, right? All the, the braids, and the pull this part back, and they’ll, I, again, I think it’s vision. People that are makeup artists, right? That have that vision for makeup artists, or people that make amazing Halloween costumes for their kids, right? I think there’s so many different expressions and a new book came out this past year in 2023 called Your Brain on Art. And what I loved about this book was that it’s all the science behind what I already know to be true intuitively about how important creative expression is. Like Brene Brown said, it’s what wholehearted people do, but it’s also what healthy people do is to make space for creative expression. And in the book, they include listening to music. Looking at art. It’s not always that we have to be the ones that are creating the art, but that we want to be participating and actively engaged in creative pursuits, going to concerts.
We took the kids to the Denver Art Museum and saw a couple of the new exhibits that they have right now. And one was by an artist from Ghana who was doing these giant portraits of people using finger painting that were so textured and layered and such cultural iconic statements about African culture and these individual portraits of people. It was so moving to just be in the presence of art. It activates and stimulates that creative part of our brain. So I think engaging with art. People with Parkinson’s, my mom has Parkinson’s, dance is so good for them. It’s so good for all of us. And culturally, we have been dancing since the dawn of time. We have been painting and writing on anything from cave walls to stone tablets to papyrus. Since the dawn of time, humans have had the need to visually express themselves through image, color, words, and movement. So, I think it’s always been there. But our culture, this culture here in the United States doesn’t honor creativity. It’s often seen as a selfish waste of time and it’s unproductive. And I would argue that it’s essential for the development of our brains. And this is a boundaries issue. And why for me, creativity is a self care issue because we’re leaving out the core development as such of a neat human aspect of ourselves. And I think the more that we can make time to play, for me, creative expression is all about play, the more alive that we feel, the more connected we feel. Creativity, whether it’s writing, dance, or making art, is a beautiful way to engage, express, and acknowledge our emotions and feelings. Right? Art therapy has been around forever, but you don’t have to be an art therapist to engage in working and expressing your emotions visually, or through movement, or through writing. You can tell I get a little, on my soapbox, a little passionate about this topic, Mary.
Mary: Well, I love it. Let’s talk a little more about the self care. How is creativity part of self care? Let’s talk a little deeper about that.
Minette: Yeah. So what I loved about this book, Your Brain on Art, like I said, is it showed the science behind, right? And the neuroscience behind why this is important for the health of our brains. So it’s, I think personally important because it helps us feel more authentic in Brene Brown’s terms of wholehearted, because we’re in very clear alignment with ourselves when we feel free to express ourselves and whatever like the for you through music, playing piano through dance movement, right? That is an aligned, creative expression of your core being. So the more things that we do to bring us into alignment with that unique expression of ourselves, I think the more intentional, meaningful and fulfilling our lives feel on a daily basis.
Creativity can help us connect with others, can help us build community, can help us spend time with our kids differently. I had someone on my, I have a YouTube live series called painting in your PJs with Manette. And I had a woman on there who’s raising her two grandchildren and her adult daughter with mental health issues. And at first she felt this sense of unhappiness or upset at not being able to have her normal usual creative time, had to give up her craft room with one of the kids, you know, all the things. And then she learned that she could just make art with her grandchildren. And what a beautiful bonding experience that has been. Like you were talking about braiding your daughter’s hair, it’s a bonding experience. And they feel cared for and seen, and you get to love on them in a way that’s meaningful to them, and there’s then this just beautiful creative expression through hair. It sounds so simple, and yet it’s so unique to who you are and how you’re connecting and relating to your children, right? And so I think for me personally, the more I use art as a form of self care, the better I feel about myself, the more aligned I feel, the more clear I feel, which I think this will link us into talking about how does creativity as self care support us in our business as well, about honoring our unique expressions in the world. I find so many of the women I work with feel like they’ve lost their sense of purpose, and oftentimes the clues to that are in childhood, but they got dismissed, buried, told it was unimportant, and we have to go back and find those threads, but often our creative joy goes back to how we played as children, and that’s a form of self care to bring back that childlike wonder and play to the present moment is always healing, and oftentimes we do that through color, through image, through dance, and through movement.
Mary: Awesome. Yeah. And when I’m coaching clients around self care, I usually tell them to have something creative. Right? So it doesn’t necessarily matter to me what it is, but the intention is to stay connected to yourself. Right? So that would be connecting to your thoughts, your feelings, your body, your creativity. Right? And sometimes it is crafty. And sometimes it’s not crafty for me. I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t necessarily call it crafty. Like we had talked about before. But also connecting to people that you love and trust and connecting to something bigger than yourself, whatever that is for you. It could be nature. It could be a higher power, a higher purpose. It could be something that gives you that sense of belonging.
Minette: Yeah, and I have so often used creative expression, collage, writing, painting, as a way to create safe space, to remind me where a sanctuary is, to honor boundaries, to write letters to people that I’m upset with. That’s a form of creative expression. I loved you shared about writing letters to people that you love, right? It’s a way of honoring and celebrating people through the written word. But I find the more that I just take a little bit of time out, I’m a huge fan of coloring, right? And coloring books. We actually have an online coloring membership. Coloring is about mindfulness and the more that we can use creativity as a way to bring ourselves into present moment awareness, the more conscious we are of what’s happening now. We tend to spend all of our time in our past and our future. And that busy monkey mind meditation doesn’t work for everyone. Another, you know touted form of self care. I’d rather be sitting at a table in the park in nature by a river, coloring in my journal would be my form of mindfulness. But a few minutes in the evening, simply put, putting color on a coloring page. Coloring books for the last 10 years have been in the top 10 bestsellers on Amazon. For 10 years they stayed at the very top of the list because we’re longing for that kind of creative outlet and we often don’t know why, but I do think it’s essential to that just being with ourselves in a different way than we’re normally taught how to be with ourselves.
Mary: Yeah, I love coloring, and I wonder if it’s because the lines are boundaries for me.
Minette: Yeah, yes, and there’s less decisions to make, and there’s no judgment to make. This is Georgia, who loves when I’m on Zoom. If you’re listening, I just had a cat jump in my lap. I’m not sure where she came from, but this is Miss Georgia O’Keeffe, my little artist kitty, my studio buddy. Oh. Yeah, and I think the fact that the we don’t have to think about it, like we don’t get caught up in judgment of drawing a shape. The studies by the American Art Therapy Association have shown that coloring mandala specifically is one of the most calming and relaxing activities that we can do because the sacred nature of the circle, the geometric patterns, and our minds become free to roam while our hands are busy. We start to see connections between things that we didn’t see before. So yeah, I still, and what did I say, I’m about to be 59 and I love coloring books.
Mary: I remember sitting in training and they had coloring pages on the tables because it was like a week long training and I just remember coloring and being able to pay attention better when I was coloring pages during a pretty intense and dry training.
Minette: Yeah, it’s amazing. When I was leading a business retreats or business intensives intensives, we were talking about finances and marketing and budgeting and blah, blah, you know, all the detailed information. We always had mandalas that my son Connor designs for me and my business in our workbooks. And I would tell them, and I remember one woman. specifically saying, but I might miss something or I need to take notes. And I’m like, if you would just trust me in this for the next three days, I promise you’re going to retain what you need to know. And at the end, she came back to me and said, I’ve never been so relaxed in a training or felt like I retained so much information. If they would let kids color and doodle in class and give them exercise balls to sit on so they can wiggle in their chairs. I think that we would really change the way that especially certain kids learn. Not all of us are great note takers. There are many of us, me included, that are not very good at sitting still. When I’m in family scenarios for long periods of time, I’m not good at visiting. Right? Like older members of the family, they just want to sit and visit. It’s not my talent. I really struggle with that. So I always have something to color or something to draw on. And as long as I can sit there and draw and color, I’m in the mix with everyone. I’m listening to the stories. I’m participating in the conversation. But it calms my nervous system down. So it’s another way that I use self care, coloring as self care, is by allowing me to sit still for a longer period of time and to not feel like I’m having to move myself out of the conversation. If that makes sense.
Mary: Yeah, for sure. So let’s talk a little bit more about creativity and business. I heard you say you’ve led some business retreats and done some business coaching. And now it seems like you’re combining the business coaching with the art and creativity. So tell me a little more about the relationship there.
Minette: So for me, the more connected we are to our creativity, the better we do in our business. So if we think about all the aspects of building a business that require us to think differently about how we do things, marketing, social media, content creation, but also just overall vision, mission, purpose. So we had talked before we started the recording about it’s so useful to just create a vision board for your business and what you want to create in your business. We’re kind of at the beginning of the year. There’s still time to do this. And I have a caveat about how to do vision boards that usually really surprises people and that’s no words allowed. When I see people usually create vision boards, all they’ve done is create this chaos of words that they’ve cut out of magazines. Words are limiters, right? Words are labels. Images are expansive and open us up to opportunity because when we try to put a label on something, it doesn’t leave us open to maybe there’s something better out there for us. So I really encourage people when you create a vision board to capture, how do you want to feel? What do you want to experience? Who are the people you want in your community this year? How big do you want to grow or not? How do you want to spend your time and your energy? I’m a big fan of managing your energy versus managing your time and getting rid of your to do list, which usually are dysfunctional at best. And so for me, I want to capture the essence of that through images, cut out of magazines is great, but not to put limiters on them. And then at the very end on the back of the vision board to write this or something better. Because we want to stay open to possibility. So from all of the training that I’ve done with intuitive collage and multiple programs, no words are your best friend so that you’re really tapping into your own infinite, intuitive and unconscious wisdom around how you want to be in your business in the coming year. So that’s one very practical way.
The other way is just to remind yourself how creative you are. Like those of you that are listening and own your own businesses, people tell you, you have to know what your unique selling proposition is, or how do you stand out from the crowd or what makes you different or who’s your ideal client, right? Like, you know, I’ve been in business for 20 years and teaching business for over a decade. And what I can tell you is that the more that you show up as your authentic self with no filters, the more people will gravitate towards you. And the more that you do that in a way that feels most aligned, maybe that’s through writing, maybe that’s through video or podcasting, maybe it’s through audios that you create for people, but finding your unique expression and not falling prey to Oh, if you just do this over here, you’ll make a million dollars. Or if you just do that, when it feels like such a stretch out of our comfort zone. Now, don’t get me wrong, comfort zones are like nothing happens in the comfort zone, but I believe we can stretch the boundaries of our comfort zone without having to leap outside of them quite so dramatically. And the more we expand the edges of our comfort zone using creative thinking, the faster and more aligned our business growth will be.
Mary: I love it. Such good advice. So let’s wrap up here. Because I think listeners have gotten some really good nuggets around trying to create a vision board without any words, around stretching your idea of creativity and giving yourself credit for all the places you are creative, even if you’re not necessarily crafty like me. And also to be yourself in your business and that being uniquely you is part of your business plan that can really be profitable for you. So I appreciate all of those tips and tricks. If people want to reach you, how could they find you Manette?
Minette: Yeah, I’m super easy to find. In fact, my aunt one time was trying to find my phone number and she says, wow, are you easy to find on every social media platform. I’m at Dr. Manette Riordan is my handle everywhere. And one of my favorite places to hang out, where I’d love to come have people join me, is on my YouTube channel, which is Painting in Your PJs with Manette. And I have a live series that I do at 7 a. m. mountain time, a few mornings a week, where I’m literally painting Live stream of consciousness all about creative process and how to use art as a tool for personal growth and self discovery. It’s not art lessons. It’s more random conversations and it’s been one of the most fun things and felt the most aligned and authentic to support my own growing my own creative business over this this past year. So that’s a great place to come and get to know me a little bit better.
Mary: I love it. Thank you so much for being here. We appreciate
Minette: you. Thanks for having me, Mary.