Becky Blades is a writer, artist, and strategist. She has built an award-winning communications firm, launched creative marketing departments, and served as an advisor to growing companies. Her new book, Start More Than You Can Finish: A Creative Permission Slip to Unleash Your Best Ideas (Amazon, Bookshop) just hit shelves.
I couldn’t wait to talk to Becky about happiness, habits, and creativity.
Gretchen: What’s a never-miss habit that you’ve discovered makes you happier, healthier, or more creative?
Becky: Every morning, before I journal, while my coffee is brewing, I walk through my yard to visit and tend to my plants. During winter or bad weather, I walk instead through my messy art studio to visit my works in progress. This, I’ve learned, starts my day happy. I connect with things that give me awe, curiosity and wonder. It removes me from whatever anxiety I might have about the looming responsibilities of the day. Over time, this routine has become an anchor that gives me a deep sense of confidence that everything is okay…that I can always find truth and beauty, or I can make my own.
Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?
I’m a Questioner. No doubt. What a time-saver it is to know this! I’ve been intrigued by the fact that questioning is central to the creative process. With each layer and iteration, we need new information. But too much asking and planning stalls us. I work to replace questioning with experimenting. What I find out along the way satisfies my curiosity and builds new curiosities. It’s a tried and true source of imagination.
You’ve made some fascinating discoveries about starting. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?
It fascinates people to learn that even the most creative people put off beginning their best ideas. Not all creators are initiators! It doesn’t surprise any of us, however, to learn the reasons – that we ALL may keep our longings on the back burner because we’re not sure how our efforts will finish. We often feel certain that we don’t have enough to get our ideas where we want them to go. When we instead ask the question “Do I have everything I need to just start?” minds shift and answers change. Nearly everyone has enough to BEGIN acting on their ideas. Then, momentum and the creative process show up to help. My research is all personal interviews with people who know they are creative, which makes this finding all the more powerful.
Is there a quotation or a question that you’ve found helpful?
I like to ask people: “What would you start if you knew you could finish?” You’d be amazed how it helps separates longings and things we “want to do” from things we feel obligated or driven by ambition to “have done.”
What’s something you know now about happiness and creativity that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
When I was 18, I just wanted to be 21…and to never reach 30. I thought the 20’s were the happy season and I thought I knew what 20-something me would wrangle from life. Of course, I was dead wrong. I now know that I’m clueless about what my future self is capable of…I’m happiest when I trust that she is smarter, more relaxed and has better judgment than I can fathom. Trusting future Becky makes me imagine bigger and lean into the mindful joy of creating. Respecting her makes relationships better, because I show up for the long game.
Most important, now in my 60’s, I know that I’m not that important. Everything I begin is a partnership; I collaborate with a moment in time and whatever resources are available to me. I get neither full credit nor full blame for the finish. What a relief.
Has a book ever changed your life – if so, which one and why?
Every book I read changes me! I’m a believer in the saying that “The difference between the person we are today and the person we will be five years from now depends on the people we share time with and the books we read.” Of course, WRITING my own books has changed me tremendously. That’s why I encourage people who have a book idea to get started.
Studies over two decades show that 70 to 80 percent of people say they want to write a book, yet less than 15 percent ever begin. More than half of people surveyed think their own lives are worthy of a book. The world wants to read them! Telling our own stories or writing about something we know is a transformative process, regardless of the audience size it reaches. It’s wonderful to consume books, but creating one of our own is certain to impact us personally and deeply.
Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits, your creativity, or your happiness?
Early morning responsibilities scramble my mojo, so I try to keep mornings sacred. My centering habits happen in the morning, so a 7 a.m. coffee meeting across town that requires me to get up while it’s still dark is a heinous joy thief. It keeps me from talking to my journal and my plants. (Do they miss it as much as I do? I worry, you know?) Also, fretting that I will not get enough sleep keeps me from getting enough sleep. So answering an alarm at ‘zero dark-thirty’ is a double whammy – late to sleep, early awake. When I was younger, I could power through, but at age 60, messing with my sleep schedule is risky business. (If you’re reading this and have an early meeting scheduled with me, it’s not too late to make it happy hour.)