Tag Archives: creativity

My Interview with Stephanie Medford at Everyday Artistry



I was so honored to be interviewed by Stephanie Medford on her blog Everyday Artistry the other day! Stephanie is an artist and encourages others to build a life full of creativity through her art and blog.

She’d asked me to share my creative process and how I embrace creativity in my daily life with her readers, and of course, I said yes!

Every time I’m asked to talk about my passion and process, I discover something I hadn’t thought about before. I wanted to share the interview with you and hope it inspires you to have creativity in your everyday living, too 🙂

You can read the full interview here. Enjoy!

xo Yuko



Introduction to Block Printing Class Registration is Open!

Happy Monday!

I’m very excited to let you know that the registration for my (very first!) Introduction to Block Printing on Fabric class is OPEN! You can go to this link to sign up!


In this hands-on one-day workshop, you’ll learn the basics of making your own design, carving your block, and printing them on a fabric.

Early bird rate ($105) is available until February 15, and then it’s going to be $125. Materials and tools will be provided. I’m keeping the class size small, so sign up early! No drawing or printing experience necessary 🙂 It’s gonna be a blast, guys!!!

blocks & tools

If you’re in the Seattle area and want to find a new creative activity to get into (and just a warning, block printing is highly addictive!),  join me on April 3 or May 1 at IGIMO Art Station (4739 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118)!

Can’t wait to have you 🙂

xoxo Yuko


Taking the long way


Hey guys!

Today I wanted to reflect on taking detours in life. As you may know, I started dabbling in creative stuff a little over 5 years ago in my early 30s. I opened my first Etsy shop selling crocheted wares in 2010, but I treated it as a hobby for the first few years.

Meanwhile, I was working full-time at a non-profit social service organization as a program manager. Work was rewarding and also challenging. I had been there for almost 10 years, and although I was able to keep things fresh by moving to different positions and taking on different responsibilities, I started wondering about my future and what other career options I might have. I had worked for the same organization for all of my career and just wanted to try something different. Something less stressful and with more money would’ve been nice, I thought.

I knew what I needed was to gain practical skills that built on what I was already good at. I did some brainstorming and thought becoming a Japanese/English Interpreter/Translator might be a good fit. I have the language skill and had done informal interpretation and translation for our clients before, so why not? There was a certificate course offered at a local college near I used to work, and I had a friend who was going through the program at the time, so I talked to her about it and decided to enroll.

If you took this certificate course full-time, you would finish the required courses in a year. But Since I had a full-time job, I took one or two classes at a time. So it took me a little longer to finish. I enjoyed being back in school. There is something about having a schedule and place to be and be in the “learning” mode on a regular basis. I enjoy reading articles or taking webinars, but I find in-person hands-on learning to be the most effective format for acquiring new skills.

Anyway, the program was great, and I was learning a ton about professional practice of language interpretation and translation. I made new friends, and that was a lot of fun, too.

About midway through the program, or maybe it was more towards the end, I started having a feeling that it might not be what I wanted to do for a living. It just didn’t seem like a “fit” for me. I was doing well in class but wasn’t excited about it. I would dread and put off doing the homework until the last minute. It was painful to have to go back and edit my translation work over and over again. And the thought of becoming an interpreter and the responsibility and spontaneity of the interpretation work made me anxious. Like anything else, I’m sure things would become easier with more experience, but I’m a think-before-doing kind of person, so being in a position to think and act on your feet all the time seemed super stressful. I completed all the required courses but opted out from the second year program after that.

While I was having doubts about my future as a language interpreter/translator, I started looking into other career opportunities. Around that time, I was becoming more serious about pursuing my creative interests. I was getting a little tired of crocheting products then and was rediscovering my childhood love of drawing. Drawing and illustration seemed to have more potential for business growth, or at least it seemed more straight forward to me than having a handmade product-based business.

But how could I become a full-time artist? I didn’t have a degree or formal training in art. I thought being a successful artist was reserved for only the most talented and the privileged.

After having another brainstorm session (yes, I like to brainstorm :)), I thought, I could be a Graphic Designer! Graphic design seemed like a good, employable skill to have, and you also use your creativity in design process. What a perfect combination! Excited, I enrolled myself in the Graphic Design Certificate course at the same college I was working on the Interpretation/Translation Certificate. I overlapped being in two programs until I finished the first year courses for the language program.

Again, I totally enjoyed being in classes and learning new skills. All of the instructors were working professionals, and I loved hearing their real life stories.

And then, the little voice in my head started talking to me again. “This might help you get out of your current situation, but is this going to make you happy?”

I was creating a bunch of new illustration work for my design assignments, and that was the fun part. When we present our work to the class, I knew mine looked different than most other students’. When it came to doing the actual design work (i.e. “making something look good and functional” in a nut shell.), my heart wasn’t really in it. I just wanted to be drawing more.

I still finished the program after a few years, and on my very last portfolio review class, my instructor recognized my passion for illustration and suggested I pursue what I truly loved rather than graphic design. I felt so free. Finally, I knew, like I really knew, that I didn’t want to compromise any more and decided to give my 100% to pursuing art.

When I share this story with people, some people are surprised and tell me “It took you that long to figure it out??” I understand where they’re coming from, I guess. Yes I invested a lot of time and money into getting the education and training in the fields I chose not to pursue. It might seem wasteful to others. What if I’d started pursuing art more seriously 5 years ago? Maybe I would be further ahead in the game by now. I get it. But I don’t think it was a waste at all! In fact, I gained SO MUCH from it!

First of all, it fulfilled my needs to learn new things and grow. Much of what I learned is totally relevant to what I do today.

For instance, the interpretation/translation program challenged me to think differently about communication. A lot of people think, if you speak multiple languages, you have the natural ability to interpret or translate effortlessly, but it’s SO false! Taking in sometimes very complex information in one language and putting it out accurately and in a culturally relevant way in another language is no easy feat. It goes way beyond just knowing the languages literally and takes deep understanding and appreciation for cultures and history. Do you ever use online translation tools, like Google translate? Maybe it kinda works sometimes for some languages, but it usually returns very confusing and often hilarious results. As a relationship-driven person, I appreciate knowing how artful and thoughtful language communication really is.

Many things I learned through the Graphic Design program are obviously super relevant to my art career today. Knowing the design principles is very helpful in putting together effective and aesthetically pleasing visual materials. And of course, knowing how to use a software, like Photoshop and Illustrator, is critical in my day-to-day work.

I also want to mention that I made a conscious decision to choose options that wouldn’t require me to get a loan and go in to debt. So when it was all said and done, I was not in the red. And my busy schedule forced me to be more efficient, and I learned to juggle school work and full-time job for a few years. In my “detours,” I made new friends and developed relationships with mentors. You really can’t put a price on relationships that add so much to life!

I have absolutely no regrets about taking the long way to figure out what I wanted to do. I’m actually happy that I took some detours. Making the choice to pursue my passion after having some life experience and trying out different options helped to confirm that I’m on the right path. Choosing your passion and switching a career later in life takes a lot of courage.  Maybe 10 years from now, I might have a totally different path again! You never know 🙂

If you took many detours in life, or if you don’t know what your path is yet, don’t worry – nothing in life is wasted. What you do today still counts 🙂

xoxo Yuko




A pair of purple gloves that changed everything

dream_loresHello, hello! Happy New Year to you! Did you have good holidays??

I always feel so renewed on New Year’s Day. It’s probably because I grew up in Japan, where New Year’s Day is the biggest holiday of the year (kinda like how Christmas is here), and everything slows way down for a few days to celebrate and set intentions for the new year.

I remember the cold crisp air walking down on a frosted road to the local shrine with my family to pray for health and prosperity on New Year’s Day. I took it for granted back then, but what a wonderful ritual to start off the new year sending well wishes for others! Anyway, I don’t go to the shrine on New Year’s any more, but I always feel sacred around the New Year’s.

2016 is the Year of the Monkey!
2016 is the Year of the Monkey!

To start off the new year, I wanted to share a story about how my creative endeavor all started about 5 years ago. It all started with my purple fingerless gloves, and it was completely unexpected.

the purple gloves
yup, these are the ones…

I crocheted these about 5 years ago. I wear them all the time. They are so soft (I think it’s lambswool?) and warm. They’re fingerless, so I can type, text, and play Jenga with them on if I ever wanted to.

You’ve probably noticed the right thumb has a different yarn. That’s because I mended it last year when it finally started to come apart. I actually made a new pair then but somehow couldn’t bear to part with this one. I didn’t want to let them go because I made them, and they’re perfectly functional with a little repair.

I made these to replace my purple ones but ended up giving them away as a gift :)
I made these to replace my purple ones but ended up giving them away as a gift 🙂

But that’s not the only reason, and I never really thought about it until recently.

A little over a month ago, I was walking around my neighborhood and ran into a friend. We chatted a little bit, and she complimented me on my purple gloves. I said thank you and told her I made them a long time ago.

And then it occurred to me that these gloves are what got me started on my creative endeavor 5 years ago.

I had been crocheting for a few years at that time and posted a picture of these on Facebook. A friend commented and said I should sell them on Etsy. At that time, I didn’t know much about Etsy and was skeptical if anyone would want to buy what I made. I spoke to a couple of friends who had Etsy shop, and they told me it was no big deal, and I should just try. I was still unsure about the whole thing but got curious and decided to open my first Etsy store anyway. After all, I didn’t have much to lose!

So, I crocheted a few other pairs, took pictures and listed them on my brand new Etsy store on December 18, 2010! I went to bed that night feeling a little scared. What’s going to happen? Would people like them or think it’s stupid?? Would anyone buy them?

Next morning, I got up and anxiously opened my browser to check and found I had just made my first sales! A very nice woman from Memphis bought my gloves and later ordered another pair for her daughter. In our correspondence, she was so kind and sweet and even invited me to visit her in Memphis if I was ever in the area (which I haven’t done to this date yet). That very first experience got me totally hooked (pun not intended!) on the joy of making stuff for other people and being appreciated for it. It was kind of gratification I’d never felt before.


My creative focus has gradually shifted since then to art and printmaking (crochet is strictly a hobby now). And my little purple gloves remind me of how my casual attempt to try something new 5 years ago has set me on a course for my creative journey now.

I had never dreamed of becoming a full-time artist back then. It was not something I even thought of as an option. So much has changed in the last 5 years, and who knows what’ll happen in the next 5 years?? You might be planting seeds for your big dream right now and might not even know it.

Life can be so unpredictable. I use to feel uncomfortable with the change and uncertainty and am still not 100% comfortable with not knowing what’s going to happen next.

But I’ve learned to keep doing what makes me happy anyway.

When you push yourself to go outside of your comfort zone, and if you do it often enough, it becomes less scary. And then you realize that big scary thing you were afraid of isn’t actually that scary. What’s more important: when you do something that scares you, life brings you more opportunities. Go on and take chances! You would’ve never gotten this advice from me 5 years ago 🙂

May the new year bring us lots of opportunities and the courage to go after them!!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m starting a free 4-week challenge starting tomorrow January 4! If you’re creative but can’t seem to find the time to practice or have too many ideas and don’t know where to start, sign up here. I’d love to help you!



What’s the value of your creativity?

creativity_loresWhen I used to work for a non-profit social service organization, about half of the funding came from government and municipal entities. The contract renewal and budget approval time of the year was always stressful. I wasn’t the financial decision maker so I only knew the financial state of the organization on the surface level. But after the recession, we were under a constant threat of losing governmental funding. It was really sucky. It was terrible to work your butt off to help people in a bad situation and to be told (indirectly, in their action) that your work was not important enough to continue funding for.

Luckily, domestic violence victim advocacy community had a really strong presence in the region, so with the strong public pressure to the government, we were able to continue receiving their funding every year. But other social service agencies were not that lucky. Many of them had to reduce program offerings or forced to do more with less. And at the end of the day, the point is that we had to fight for it. We had to prove our worth to the funders to continue providing services. Which is pretty crappy.

On a similar note, I’d hear from time to time that public schools were cutting music and arts programs for financial reasons. I would have the same yucky feeling whenever I hear the arts are the first ones to be cut. What kind of a message does that send?

It says that arts are not as important as other subjects like math and science. It says that arts do not bring as much value as other things people are willing to fund.

As artists and makers, we need to pay attention so we don’t internalize these negative messages ourselves. I’m not saying that arts should be prioritized over other things. I’m saying that the unique value arts and creativity bring need to be recognized, and people, young and old, need to be encouraged more to nurture their creative side.

I saw a statistics once that people “lose” their creativity at a significantly high rate after age 8. And it spikes again after retirement. Interesting, isn’t it?? The presenter explained that it’s not that our creativity naturally declines, but rather we’re just not encouraged enough to be creative as we get older. And many of us when we retire and get out of the expectations of the workplace find the space to be creative again.

In this video, Brené Brown (my hero!) talks about creativity and vulnerability so eloquently and describes how kids get discouraged and shy away from engaging in creative activities after getting bad marks in art classes or teased because their creation doesn’t look a certain way. Early experience of shame around creativity really sticks with you. It’s so powerful that some people avoid any creative activity like a plague!

Have you been to a non-arty conference or workshop where the facilitator asks you to draw how you feel or what your ideal self looks like or whatever? I never really understood why people were so embarrassed to share their drawings with the group. It struck me after watching that video that I was naturally a pretty good artist as a child and never really experienced negative interaction around creativity growing up. So even though I’m not a master artist and get insecure around my art sometimes, I never feel ashamed of my creation. On the other hand, I was not very athletic and was often ridiculed in P.E. class, so I dreaded and avoided (and still do!) any sports activities. It totally makes sense! The shame I felt growing up left such a bad taste in my mouth about any physical activity. I’m slowly recovering from that now as an adult… Yikes.

Let’s go back to the conversation of values that your art and creativity bring, shall we? When I hear value, naturally, I think of money. Social media is flooded with the v-word. I’m sure you’ve read a blog article or two talking about how to bring the most value to your clients etc. While the money-making aspect of business is very important, I sometimes feel lost when I think of what “value” my art is bringing to my audience.

People can buy my art prints, but it doesn’t make them more money. Well, at least not until I get super famous and people start fighting over my work 😉 But you know what I mean. So what is the value of my work?

I bring this up because I provide “nice-to-haves” for a living. You know, I’m not fixing someone’s car or rescuing people out of a burning building or anything. And it makes me doubt my work’s value sometimes. People don’t “need” my art to survive, right?

It’s true if you want to think of it as an absolute necessity for survival, like if you’re stranded in the middle of the desert, you’d probably choose a drink of water over a cute drawing of a cat. But we don’t get stranded in the middle of the desert very often. At least many of us don’t… So why do we measure value of our work against something super tangible or basic human needs?

Think about what values you’re getting out of the things that are not directly helping you make money or do specific things. I know you have them! Like your favorite shows on Netflix. Art on the wall. How about your cat that’s snoozing on the couch for 12+ hours every day?? You have them because they’re clearly filling some needs you have that are not tangible.

We have a Netflix subscription so we can watch shows that entertain us. I have many art on the wall made by artists you’ve probably never heard of because they make our home beautiful and inspire me to create more. I have a cat because he gives me the unconditional love and the comic relief. Oh, and apparently petting your kitty lowers your blood pressure! I guess that’s a tangible benefit they have 🙂

Do you see? Just because they don’t directly help me make money, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a value. And you might have noticed that they’re all helping me to stay well and happy – which is super important if I’m going to keep working hard and thrive as an artist.

If you’re able to read this blog that means you have access to internet. That means you can afford “nice-to-haves” in one shape or another. Think of why you chose to have those things in your life. It doesn’t have to be a physical “thing”, either. Maybe you’re subscribed to an online artists’ community. Maybe you work out with a personal trainer. Are they less important than having a cold, hard cash in your hands right now? Not necessarily, I bet.

How are those things making your life better? Imagine if you don’t have them, how would your everyday life be different? And how do you think your creativity is making other people’s life better? I know many of you have taken the time to tell me how my blog and art work have inspired you. You have no idea how much your words of encouragement mean to me! Yes, money can certainly motivate you to do things, but that’s certainly not the only thing or even the top 5 motivating factors for many of us.

And on the flip side, if you didn’t have these “nice-to-haves” for whatever reasons, you’d definitely need to use your creativity to make your life more interesting or convenient, wouldn’t you? After all, that’s what we did as kids. We made up stories and characters to entertain ourselves. We could get lost in the world we created for hours and didn’t think it was waste of our time. There were no boundaries or limitations of what we could do with our creativity and imagination. And it can still do that if we let our creativity run free. It’s just that we picked up some baggage along the way and learned to hold on to certain things as our security blanket. Being creative has become riskier as we got older.

Creativity is a gift that keeps on giving. Everyone has it. But many of us were told it’s not that important or you were not that good so we stopped nurturing them. When your creativity is not nurtured, it becomes more work to access it so you don’t even bother trying.

Being creative is empowering. It lets you see things in different ways. You realize you can do things you never thought were possible. You learn to adapt to difficult situations with grace.

Whether you’re a writer, a singer, a dancer, a painter, a poet, an actor, a comic etc. etc. etc., you’d be doing a disservice if you were holding yourself back because you don’t feel like you’re providing any values. Don’t believe it if someone treats your work as “less than” because it’s not perceived to have values in a conventional or super tangible way.

What you do is important. Without art, this world would be so boring and not really worth living for. So don’t wait till you retire to find your creative sparks again!! Now is always a good time to start.

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m participating in the Journey Within blog hop by Kiala Givehand this coming Tuesday, December 22! Come on by and join me in a couple of days 🙂 I’ll be sharing my holiday food tradition with my drawings!









Can I coach you? (Part 2 of 2)


Last week I shared here that I’ve been coaching other artists and helping them stay on track to achieve their big goals. My Creative Coaching service is still in a pilot stage, but I’m really loving it and am looking forward to taking on more clients in February 2016!

Today, I wanted to share some of my current clients’ experiences and give you a peek at what it’s like to work with me as a Creative Coach.  First of all, I want to thank my clients, Michelle and Sarah, for being so open and letting me share their experiences with you all!

So, a few months back when I was thinking about starting a Creative Coaching practice, I reached out to a couple of people whom I thought would be a good match. First person I reached out to was Michelle Greco (www.michellegreco.com). I reached out to Michelle because she’s been following my work on multiple platforms and had been really engaging and encouraging. She’s a poet, writer, and a photographer, and has been pursuing painting/drawing lately. I had a feeling she’d meet my “ideal client” profile and emailed her to see if she would want to work with me.

I got a very enthusiastic “YES” from her, and we’ve been having bi-weekly sessions on Skype since September.

hi Michelle!
hi Michelle!

Michelle, like many of us, has multiple passions and talents. She also has a demanding day job as a writing instructor and was having a challenge making time to dedicate to a meaningful daily creative practice.

In our first session, we narrowed down her goals to something reasonable yet challenging enough. Since she was struggling with keeping a consistent art practice at that time, we spent time problem-solving around that particular challenge. One of the roadblocks for Michelle was that she’d come home exhausted after work, and setting up her drawing/painting materials was just too much work.

So when she found the Paper app, she found a way to draw on her mobile devices without the hassle of setting up. She could spend as little as 2 minutes to create a quick doodle and post it on her Instagram. I could tell that was a big game-changer for her! Michelle also uses this productivity app to keep her motivated to accomplish different tasks daily and weekly. It has a note feature she uses to write down one or two things she’s grateful for each day as part of her “Practice Gratitude” habit. What a wonderful way to stay positive every day! 🙂

So I asked Michelle how our Creative Coaching work has been helping her achieve her goals, and here is what she had to say:

Yuko’s coaching has been helpful in several ways. The first is accountability. Up to this point, I’ve had a lot of trouble keeping a daily artful practice. Since September, though, I’ve only missed a handful of days, and even then, I catch up. I think this is largely in part because I know Yuko is looking out. Her likes and, especially, her comments have kept me motivated to keep creating because, if anything, I know at least one person will take notice if I don’t post. Her comments also help me gauge what catches the eyes of my followers and what styles really capture who I am as an artist.

Another very useful aspect of coaching has been reasonable and adaptive goal setting. At the end of our sessions, Yuko and I set goals for me to accomplish. They keep me focused while also being flexible enough so that if an original goal isn’t working, there is space in the plan for fine tuning. Yuko helps keep me in check too. For example, when I mentioned starting a podcast, her first question was a firm but open, “I want to ask are you sure you want to start a podcast when you already have quite a bit on your plate?” That’s something I normally wouldn’t ask myself, and it forced me to reevaluate why this particular project was important to me and how I could make it a sustainable practice.

Lastly, Yuko’s coaching has helped me see the fruits of keeping a steady creative practice. Over the past three or so months that she’s been guiding me in my creativity, I’ve started an e-mail prompt challenge (#MuseMoments), which has grown my newsletter list, been asked to present a lecture on the intersection of poetry and art, and had two pieces I created during my daily art practice accepted to a local gallery exhibit. I’m supercharged by these opportunities!

More importantly, however, I’m proud of myself and so grateful to Yuko because I now see that I can keep a daily practice and achieve a personal goal.

It’s been amazing to witness Michelle’s journey – with the right tool and additional accountability and support, her art practice has been very consistent, and I can tell she’s become more comfortable exploring art in her own way, too. She’s also started a podcast recently and has been creating new episode every week. I’m very happy she’s found multiple ways to express her creative talents so successfully! You can hear her talk about what her daily art practice has been like on this episode and her steps on accepting her art for what it is here. I really admire Michelle’s courage and generosity for sharing herself so openly with her listeners!

OK, so let me now introduce you to another person I’ve been working with! Sarah Golden from Maker Maker (http://www.sarahgolden.org) and I met in an online block printing class called Design, Carve, Print in January 2015. (By the way, I highly recommend this class if you’re interested in learning how to block print on fabric!!! Jen is an amazing artist and a great teacher.)

Sarah profile
here is Sarah!

Sarah and I have been internet friends since then, and I’ve been really inspired by her beautiful work and just how consistent she shows up for her creative practice. She prints her simple and beautiful motifs on fabric and turn it into accessories/eye candies you will fall in love with. She’s also a mom to adorable 2-year old twin girls, and I still don’t know fully how she manages all of that…!

© Sarah Golden, Maker Maker
© Sarah Golden, Maker Maker

I reached out to Sarah wondering if my Creative Coaching service could be helpful to push her creative business forward. By the way, I just wanna say that I wasn’t reaching out to people whom I thought were “less successful” or somehow struggling – I hand picked people who were already working hard for their goals and seemed open to learning and growth. That’s absolutely the number 1 prerequisite to success!

Anyway, I was delighted to get Sarah on board! When we met for the first time, we went over her goals and challenges. Sarah is a very talented artist and designer – and she’s also a strategic-thinker, who keeps her eyes and minds on her long-term business success. It’s an ideal balance for someone who runs a creative business. Her challenge was all of her short-term tasks and ideas were getting in a way of her focusing on her long-term projects. She had an overwhelming list of things to do, especially leading up to the holiday season, and didn’t have an effective way to prioritize her tasks.

We discussed urgency vs. importance of the tasks at hand, and I introduced her to the decision matrix I’ve used in the past.


You may have seen this tool before. If not, I totally recommend you incorporate it into your priority-setting activity! This article and this one give you more details on how to use the tool if you’re interested!

Sarah reported back to me later that this tool was extremely helpful in organizing her thoughts. Although she doesn’t pull this out every time she makes a decision, it gives her mind a little more space to sort things out so she doesn’t get overwhelmed.

For Sarah, what’s most helpful about working with me as her Creative Coach is to have a consistent person to talk things out with and to ask her questions. She’s been accessing other support and resources to grow her business both online and in a group setting. And when we meet, our time is intentionally focused on her and her business. I ask her questions because I’m truly curious to know more about what she’s been working on and how things are going. And by having her explain to me and digging even deeper, it gives her the clarity she’s been looking for. Sarah is always full of wonderful ideas, and after each session she feels lighter and is ready to move forward with more clarity.

Sarah’s been offered some pretty amazing opportunities lately as well, which I’m not able to share yet, and I’m so honored to be part of her creative journey! Be sure to follow her on social media and be inspired 🙂

Can I just say – I’m so lucky to get to work with these amazingly talented, smart, and hard-working people?? I said this in part 1 of this blog post last week, but I’m so privileged to be able to pursue my passions so wholeheartedly. Making art and helping people feed my soul like nothing else can. And doing more of what I love actually help other artists be inspired to achieve their dream goals? I can’t even handle it!!

I’m so looking forward to opening up my Creative Coaching service officially to new clients on February 1, 2016!! If you want a consistent one-one-one support that’s going to help you push your creative practice (whether professionally or as a personal goal) to the next level, be sure to sign up to receive updates!

On that note, I’m off to my mini-sabbatical this week! Woo hoo!! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week! I’ll post a shorter sabbatical blog post next Sunday 🙂

Talk to you soon!

xoxo Yuko



6 Things You Can Do to Make Time for Daily Creative Practice



I shared in my last blog how I stay productive by not working for hours on end but rather working in structured chunks of focused time.

Before I quit my day job, I thought it was going to be magical having all these hours in a day to do what I love to do.  In a way, it is true.  I do have more time and flexibility to work on my art business.  But it’s also true that time is still limited, and this somewhat false idea of “having all these hours in a day” sets a tricky expectation for me as I settle into my new routine.

Let’s face it.  You’re not just doing “what you love” all the time, either.  For me, what I love the most is actually making something.  But I also manage my social media, write blog posts and newsletter (which I’ve come to love more), take and edit product photos, update my online shops, work on commission, answering emails, doing my finances, ordering supplies etc. etc. etc.  And they actually take up a lot of time!!  In fact, some days I spend most of the day doing those things and spend very little time making art.  Sigh.  That reminds me, I was telling someone when they asked me what I did at my day job that I spent majority of my time responding to emails.  Because that’s what I ended up doing all. the. timeDouble sigh.

When I had a day job, I worked for 10 hours per day, 3 days a week.  I also spent about 1.5 hours per day commuting.  All in all, it was not terrible.  I typically had two weekdays, weekends, and weeknight after work to do my art.  Time seemed much more precious then, and I treated it as such.  It also provided structure and routine in my week, which helped me to function at a higher level.  Oh by the way I read somewhere that moms are the most efficient people.  I totally believe it!!

Since I quit my day job I’ve been shifting my mindset around time a little bit.  Even though I don’t have a day job to go to, which on average took up about 34 hours per week plus all kinds of mental space, I still only have 24 hours a day.

I’m also trying to put some safeguards in place so I won’t burn out.  That means I don’t work late into the night any more, and I’m taking at least one day off a week unless I really have to work.  AND I’m planning on taking every 7th week off to step back from my day-to-day business stuff and recharge.  My first small scale sabbatical will be the week of October 5th!  I’m super excited about it and will share more later!

Anyway, going back to the issue of time management, I developed a daily creative practice when I started my 365 Day Happiness Project in April 2014.  I knew that in order to become a successful artist, I needed to put myself out there every day.  It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece every day.  Just doing the work consistently is what’s most important.  Creative muscles need to be exercised every day.  And just like physical workout, you need to be pushed just enough so you know you are capable of accomplishing something you didn’t think were possible.

The daily art practice added about 1-1.5 hours per day to my already pretty busy life with a day job, managing my art business (all the un-fun things I mentioned above), and other miscellaneous responsibilities (e.g. family time, taking care of pets, maintaining our vegetable gardens, volunteering, chores etc.)  The daily art project also involved taking a photo, editing them in Photoshop, and scheduling a post on Facebook, twitter, and blog.

On my typical work day, my schedule looked like this:

6-7:15pm: Get up, eat breakfast, pet care, grab stuff and go.

7:15-8am: Drive to the pool I used to exercise at.  It was very close to the office.

8-9am: Workout

9-9:30am: Shower, get dressed, go to work.

9:30am – 7:30pm: Work!

7:30-8pm: Commute home.  Fortunately, by this time of the day the traffic is not as bad.

8-9:30pm: Eat dinner (my husband usually cooks dinner, which is super helpful!), watch a show on Netflix, catch up, do the dishes.

9:30-11pm: Art time

11-11:30pm: Get ready for the next day and go to bed!

Here is the thing: In order to commit to having a daily creative practice, you do need to say “NO” to things.

Yes, it sucks.  But unless you have some sort of magical superpower, that is the only way you can create more time to work on your art.  Wishing there was more time won’t help you, but actually stop doing other things will.

Here is a list of things I said “NO” to in order to create time to pursue art:

  1. Paycheck and benefits from having a full-time job since I cut back on my hours at my old day job
  2. Time with my husband
  3. Earlier bedtime
  4. Binge watching shows on Netflix
  5. Following other creative pursuits (e.g. crocheting, sewing, needle-felting etc.)
  6. Seeing friends
  7. I also stopped volunteering for a group I was with for many years at the end of 2014.  It was a very difficult choice but needed to happen.  I’ve said this before, but it’s not just time we’re concerned about.  You need to have enough mind space to do the creative work, too.

Not having a day job allows me more flexibility, but I still say no to a lot of things because I don’t want to go down a slippery slope.  I remind myself that I didn’t quit my day job to relax and have fun (=I’m not retired yet :))  Because I no longer have the external pressure, I need to be even more disciplined about how I spend my time now. 

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, I still have a day job (and/or kids, or any other major responsibilities) and can’t imagine fitting in a daily creative practice!!” don’t worry, I have some suggestions!

1) Identify your big goal and write down how having a daily creative practice is going to help you achieve the goal. 

For many people, it’s difficult to make a commitment or sacrifice something if you’re not connected to the goal or a cause on a personal level.

Start out by exploring why this is important to you.  Find your internal motivation.  Why do you want to do this?  It needs to be your choice.  Not because I’m telling you to do it or everyone else is doing it.

How would your life be different if you made art every day?  How could your daily practice get you closer to your dream?  Write them down and read it whenever you feel discouraged!

2) Review your daily routine and identify “time wasters.” 

How much time do you spend scrolling through your social media feeds?  Or watching endless funny cat videos on YouTube? I know they want you to spend as long as you can on there.  Or binge watching shows on Netflix every night because some of the shows are SO addictive?  (Hello, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!)  I’m not immune to it myself, nor am I saying you can’t have any of it.

I’m just saying be mindful of how much time you’re spending on things that do not get you closer to achieving your goal.  You might need to be your own parents sometimes and say things like, “No Facebook until your daily practice is done!”

The way I manage it is: I check my email and all of my social media after breakfast and respond to everything I can then.  Then throughout the day, I post things or respond to things as I take my mini breaks between my focused work time.  I take about 15-30 minutes each time to do so depending on what I need to do and how long I’ve been working.  Once my break is over, I close all the unnecessary tabs on browser, put my phone on airplane mode, and get back to work.  Before Dinner, I check everything again for the last time that day.

We watch one episode of a show we like on Netflix during dinner, and one episode is about 40 minutes.  If I have more work to do after dinner, then I’ll do that after one episode and may resume watching more after my work is done if it’s not too late (remember I try to go to bed by 10 nowadays…)  If I had a super productive day before dinner or it’s my day off, then we splurge and binge watch something or watch a movie.

3) Think before saying “YES”

Do you like to help people?  Do you have skills other people value?  Or are you just so awesome that people want to do things with you all the time?  These are not bad things!

But saying “YES” to everything you’re invited to will definitely not help you have more time for a daily creative practice.  When someone asks you to ______ (e.g. volunteer, attend a charity event, go see a movie, babysit etc.), know it’s OK to think before giving them an answer.

“NO” is always an option.  That’s why people ask, not command.  (Note: If your friend is demanding you to do something for them, well, then it’s time to evaluate your relationship… )  People are resourceful.  They will find another solution if you can’t help them.

If you feel selfish prioritizing your needs before others’, imagine one of your closest friends saying no to one of your events because they’re working hard to make their dream come true.  Yes you might feel disappointed, but you also want to understand and support them.  You can always appreciate their invitation and let them know that it’s not a “NO” forever.

4) Schedule time and stick to it. 

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know this is my mantra.  If there is a regular time that works for you, even better.

What about getting up a little bit earlier before your family wakes up?  Or later in the evening after they go to bed?  Lunch time at the office?  Or doodle during your meetings?  If you can’t take a chunk of time, even 15 minutes would work to do a quick sketch of whatever you have.  If it takes too much time to decide what to draw every day, draw the same thing every day but from a different angle or use a different medium.  Try a different color pallet.  Draw it in different styles or proportions.  Enjoy the process!

5) Focus your goal around consistency and not how perfect it is.

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again.  Your success should be measured by the act of creating something every day and not by how perfect it is.  Oftentimes people get discouraged and quit because they have a vision of what their creation should look like, and what they make isn’t perfect.  Make it your goal to show up every day even if your work isn’t a masterpiece.  Keep showing up and practice, and you will produce higher quality work more consistently!

6) Know what works for you and your situation.

Be creative in your problem solving.  You know your situation and what works for you the best.  I’m a big fan of structure, daily routine, and public accountability, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone.  Some people prefer having more flexible tools or having a one-on-one accountability, like having a coach, to stay motivated.

I mostly share tools that work for me not because they’re better than other methods – I want to demonstrate to you that when you stick to things that work for you, you can achieve higher results.

I hope these tips were helpful!  What can you do today to get closer to your dream goal?  I’ll be back with more tools for motivation next week 🙂

Talk to you soon!

xoxo Yuko




A Little Announcement: New Portfolio!

Hi friends!

Just a little announcement: I have recently updated my  online illustration & design portfolio.  This is a handy-dandy place to view examples of my illustration work, like book cover, CD, and poster design and greeting card design! (and MORE!)

I have been slowly working on turning my passion for art and illustration into a career.  The transition is not easy or quick, but I feel really grateful for knowing what makes me happy and being able to pursue it.

I look forward to  learning more and sharing my journey with you!