49 | Creative Prompts: Omens

64 Arts

This post is part of an ongoing series exploring the everyday applications of The 64 Arts.

As we wrap up this relatively brief foray into omens and related topics–let’s face it, you know whether you buy into superstitions, omens, etc. or not and it’s not my goal to convince you–we’ve come to my favorite part of each Art, the creative prompts.

See, what I said above is true: I’m not here to convince you one way or another. But my goal with this series is to encourage us all to live more creative lives. And that means approaching topics in creative ways. So here we go!

1. Have your chart done.

Chart? You mean astrology? Yeppers!

Now, you might be wondering why I believe (as friends have opined) that clouds of gas hundreds of thousands of light years away have any bearing whatsoever on my day to day life. Let me quote Guggenheim Grotto:

It’s not that I do or don’t believe
It’s that I just don’t not believe
In god and aliens and love at first sight…

And astrology. Some folks have said that since the Moon can affect the tides, and we’re made up largely of water, it’s not impossible that celestial events affect our pedestrian existence. And then there’s the point I read about how we’re not who we are because of where the stars were when we were born, but that we were born when and where we were in relation to the stars because of who we are. I tend to really like that last bit, because it puts astrology in the same light as reading Tarot and other forms of “divination:” a tool for reflection, meditation, and insight.

For instance, Mercury is about to go retrograde on September 18, which signifies an increase in technical issues, computer problems, and communication upsets. Now, most people see this as a prediction of doom, gloom, and general miserableness for 3 weeks. I prefer to see it as a reminder to be more careful with what I say, not to jump to conclusions, give people the benefit of the doubt, take my time, and backup my computer data. See, it’s all about perspective.

But I digress.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to have your chart done. Not just your sun sign, but the whole shebang. While you can pay people to do these for you, I’ve found a really fabulous resource in astro.com and if you know the time and place of your birth you can generate your entire chart and look up all the bits and pieces to explain it. And if you’d like some very down-to-earth astrological advice, I suggest heading over to MysticMedusa.com. I’ve especially enjoyed her “Style Your Ascendant” series (your ascendant being your “rising sign” and the sign other people initially perceive you as; for instance, I’m sun/moon Taurus with Virgo rising, so most people’s first impressions of me fit the Virgo mold more so than Taurus).

2. Grab your crayons and destress with this coloring page I made you.

See, one of the many “side effects” of paying attention to superstitions, omens, astrology and more could be a propensity towards worrying. Worrying leads to stress and stress leads to all kinds of other bad things. Not to mention, stress can bring about a lot of those things we’re already worrying about, or seem to, self-fulfilling prophecy style. Apparently the simple act of coloring can be very therapeutic (who knew? Oh, right, I did–it’s been a sure-fire way to bust through a creative block for ages).


Just click the pdf link here jvanderbeek_omens_coloringbookpage to download a full-size version.

And if you have watercolor pencils (or my Portable Plein Air kit, now available on etsy) you can absolutely print this out on watercolor paper and have even more fun with it!

3. Writing prompt: Hindsight is 20/20.

Sure, omens are all about portents of the future, but what about the past? Once a chapter of our lives has come to a close, it’s far easier to see the signposts along the way that we may have missed or brushed off as nothing in the moment. What can we learn about trusting our gut and our intuition by examining the past?

Along the lines of ‘those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it,’ take an experience from your past (or a friend’s or family member’s past, if that’s what comes to mind more easily–we can learn from other’s mistakes just as much as our own!) and write about lessons learned and ways it can be applied in the future. Or draw something, collage something, create something from it. Anything goes, medium is up to you.

In my comic book, Rings on Her Fingers, I talked about the different signs and omens I ignored leading up to my first marriage (which, by virtue of calling it the first one, I’m sure you can guess that it didn’t last–not really a spoiler there). Case in point:



If you choose to do one, two, or all of these prompts, I’d love to see what comes out of it. Leave a comment here with a link or tag me (@scrapsoflife) on twitter or instagram!

45 | Prompts for Non-Verbal Communication

64 Arts



This post is part of our ongoing exploration of the 64 Arts, specifically the art of Sign Language.

On the way home from work, yesterday, I was first cut off by one driver as I tried to merge into another lane and then blocked by two more. This prompted the usual rise in ire and more than one bit of non-standard–but quite universal–sign language.

I’m not exactly proud of that, but it does fit in well with our exploration of sign language, yes?

Rather than focus further on ASL, here are some prompts to get you thinking about the other sorts of signs we’re giving and receiving.

1. Picture this: Your new college roommate/partner at the office is from another country, doesn’t speak English, and you don’t speak their language either. How do you communicate? How do you accomplish goals?

2. Observation time! Wherever you spend your day–be it at the office, in a classroom, or on public transit–look at the people around you and examine their body language. What stories do they tell with how they carry themselves, where they put their arms, the expression on their face?

3. Spend a day not talking or writing, instead get what you need with hand, body, and facial gestures. How successful are you in getting your point across? (Perhaps best on a weekend–don’t want you giving your boss the silent treatment!) Alternately, film a “silent movie” and send it to a friend–see if they can translate it without hints.

I’d love to hear if you try any of these prompts and how they turn out!

44 Hair Care | Hairdresser Confessions

64 Arts


Back in the dim mists of time (or last year, before the wedding took over what was left of my life) we had gotten as far as body and hair care (Art #44 on our journey through the 64 Arts). I thought about skipping the creative prompts–after all, they were pretty new and it had been a while, why not just move on to the next art?

Because I love the creative prompts and I wish I’d been doing them from the start, that’s why! So, now I’m picking up where I left off with 3 prompts for you to do with what you will. Journal them, doodle them, pick one and take some sort of action or even just ponder them. How you use the prompts is up to you, but if you’d care to share what you did I’m always eager to hear/see!

1. Hairdresser Confession: It’s kind of cliche, but hairdressers have a reputation (a lot like bartenders) for being good listeners or even lay-therapists. I mean, what else can you do when they’ve got you by the hair for an hour (or three, if you’re getting color treatments)? Think about the deepest conversation you ever had with your hairdresser, or maybe the thing you always wished you could talk about but were too shy–did (would) talking about it help? Did it bring you any closure? And have you ever not gone back to a particular hairdresser after spilling some juicy secret about yourself?

2. Color Coefficient: One of the most fun, if short-lived, things I ever did was have vibrant red streaks put in my hair. I’d always wanted to do something wild for a change and it occurred to me that there was no good reason not to. (I may have a fairly conservative day-job, but a wild hairdo/color wouldn’t really stop me from doing it.) Now, after 3 hours for the first go and it not lasting through the weekend and a second try that lasted not quite 2 weeks, I learned that red is really hard to keep vivid and that some wild ideas are more work than I want to invest in. It was fun while it lasted, though–have you ever done anything wild with your hair? What’s stopping you?!

3. Constant Change: A quote I go back to quite often is ‘the only thing constant is change.’ In terms of hair, the one thing you can count on, even with the worst haircut ever, is that hair grows back (laser treatments and baldness notwithstanding). Todd often says that the difference between a bad haircut and a good one is 2 weeks. (Think about it…) So, while things can seem dire when the results of our actions turn out unexpectedly, the one thing we can always count on is that the situation will not stay the same. What situation in your life seemed like a bad haircut at first, but really did get better?

Here’s to a creative week, then. May you be open to the inspiration around you and, if all else fails, go play with your hair!

42 & 43 Animals | Are you Flying with Eagles or In the Doghouse?

64 Arts

Days I get to be creative always rank higher in my memory than those where I was too busy, too tired, or pulled in too many directions to get much of anything done. Just too much too! But even on those days where I don’t get to engage in any High Creative pursuits (the obvious things like writing, drawing, crafting, creative moment, etc.–those I consider “high creativity” just to be able to differentiate), sometimes I forget that creativity can be found in little things, in fleeting moments of time. Even writing down an idea I’ll work more on another day or making dinner are creative actions. Hey, some days, just creating CO2 from breathing is enough if it’s all you can claim!

While I’d never go so far as to call any creativity “low” (I’d say Low Creative would be the equivalent of bump on a log-ness, or being too sick to even focus on bad television shows), I do believe in the Everyday Creativity that we sometimes take for granted when we’re being a bit self-critical. Did you put together a cute outfit or make some sort of effort with your appearance? Creativity. Did you make some substitutions in the recipe you were using for supper? Creativity. Did you scribble on a pad in a meeting or start making patterns in the margins of your notes in a meeting? Creativity. Did you play a round of Candy Crush on your phone? Yes, that counts as creativity, too, the Everyday sort.

So while recognizing and appreciating the Everyday Creative things we do is important, I think scheduling in some High Creative time each week (if not each day) can keep up soaring on a creative high versus feeling like we’re in the doghouse of our own life.

Inspired by thoughts of avian and animal friends, here are some creative prompts to get you into some High Creative time over the next couple of weeks.

Assign Yourself an Old-Fashioned Book Report

I don’t know what this has to do animals per se, though you could certainly pick a book with animals as the main character. (Goodreads has a great list over here if you feel suddenly stumped on the subject.) You can challenge yourself to read it and write up the usual grade-school summary, find a book club study guide or set of questions to get you thinking about the themes of the book, or do what I did in high school called a tracking project where you take one character or theme and follow or track them/it throughout the book and kind of figure out what all their different bits mean when put together. It’s just another way to actively read a book, but I’m all for just picking up an old favorite, too, and curling up with someone else’s world.

In fact, that’s probably why this occurred to me, now, because it’s all grey and rainy outside and I’d love nothing more than to curl up with a cup of tea and the book I downloaded on my Kindle last night and spend the evening reading.

Create a Scrapbook Page (or Mini-Album) About Your Current (or Childhood) Pet

Maybe you had a special pet that’s since passed away, maybe you have a current pet that you want to immortalize in photos or paint or paper or words. Just do something creative around that companions  and think about something that makes them special to you or something that they do that always makes you laugh. It doesn’t have to be a stellar work of Art or anything, just heartfelt.

Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter

This might not sound uber-creative at first, but sometimes just getting out of our normal routine and doing something helpful can be a good spirit-lifter and I’ve found that a lifted spirit is one that is more open to ideas and new pursuits. If you would like to do something on more of a High Creative level with animal well-being in mind, how about making some blankets or toys for the animals in the shelter? Or maybe the shelter needs someone to take photos of the new arrivals so they can be put up on the website, or someone to write up creative posts for PetFinder to help get them adopted. Just ask how you can help.

Head to the nearest Park, Zoo, or Nature Preserve and Observe

Rather than go exhibit to exhibit, pick just a couple of your favorites and sit and watch a while. Make up a story about the animals or imagine what they might be saying to one another. If you don’t have any place like this around or that you can reasonably get to for whatever reason a) I’m so sorry. b) Check out any number of places that have Critter Cams and live vicariously through your computer.

Consider Your Spirit or Totem Animal

This might be a little out-there for some of you, but go with me for a minute. Lots of cultures place a high importance on the kinship of animals and people on a spiritual level. You can look at spirit or totem animals as embodiments of you or your personality or as spiritual protectors. There are lots of lists out there like this one at What’s Your Sign that seems pretty comprehensive. I’ve read before that most kids have the bear as their spirit animal as kids–the way the teddy bear becomes that common point of comfort for so many–but as we grow and our personality and lives develop new animals come in to play a part.

For the record, I identify with both monkey (of course!) and spider (surprisingly, but it also rings true), once  my extended bear phase waned. But there’s still room in the  menagerie as new facets are needed.