Episode 50: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice with Chip Bristol

Establishing and nurturing creativity as a spiritual practice can be a balm to a burned out soul. On this episode you will get to eavesdrop on a conversation between friends about cultivating creativity, where creativity intersects spirituality, and how to do that while still paying the bills. Chip has been a chaplain and school headmaster. He is an author, a creative, and refers to himself as Susan’s “unofficial chaplain,” which is exactly right. We can’t wait for you to meet Chip Bristol. 

Here is what you can expect to hear on the episode:

  1. Susan will introduce you to her “unofficial chaplain”
  2. Creative blocks and the tapes running in our heads
  3. The argument for why everyone is creative and everyone is spiritual

Listen at the link below or search for “Sustainable Productivity with Susan Sanders” everywhere podcasts are available.

Links to Learn More

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

We would love to hear from you. Send your feedback on the episode, suggestions for future show topics or guests, and anything else to Susan@SustainableSue.com or in a DM on Instagram.

By |2024-01-15T12:25:16-05:00January 15th, 2024|Show Notes|0 Comments

Episode 32: The Science of Creativity with Tresha Faye Heafner

If you have ever uttered the words,” I’m just not creative!” this episode about the science of creativity is for you. If you know you are a creative being but struggle for consistent time and inspiration to maximize that creativity, this episode is for you.

Tresha Faye Haefner is an award-winning author, creativity coach and speaker. One of the few people to hold a master’s degree in humanistic psychology, with a specialization in creativity studies, Tresha uses research-based methods to help others develop their most authentic creative abilities, both for the sake of artistic expression, and personal well-being. She often tells her classes that she began writing only so she could have the credentials to teach workshops to other innovative writers and poets. Tresha joins the Sustainable Productivity podcast to teach about the science of creativity.

Here is what you can expect in this episode:

  1. Why science and creativity DO mix.
  2. What bumpers and guidelines an award winning, published poet uses to regularly produce work.
  3. Hear Tresha explain how her online writing group is “a gym membership for her muse.”

Listen at the link below or search for “Sustainable Productivity with Susan Sanders” everywhere podcasts are available.

Links to Learn More

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

  • Here is a link to a printable version of the “Walk, Don’t Run” poem by Rob Bell
  • Books Tresha mentioned in the episode, plus links to purchase while supporting the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

We would love to hear from you. Send your feedback on the episode, suggestions for future show topics or guests, and anything else to Susan@SustainableSue.com or in a DM on Instagram.

PS: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

By |2023-09-11T13:53:14-04:00September 11th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Creativity and Relationships

Soooooo to say I have been in a bit of a creative slump in the last several weeks would be an understatement. I have tried applying my 2021 theme: Wear life like a loose garment.

I have maintained this weekly blog post and related social media content and let that be enough. It was fine, but I still have not broken out of the slump.

Now I want to try the other side of the coin and Laura Tremaine (an author and podcaster who I pretend is my friend in real life) has the perfect opportunity for me – a daily social media writing challenge.

Why It Works

Creativity and relationships are part of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity. Research has shown that loneliness has a negative impact on mental AND physical health. Additionally, creativity (and hobbies in general) reduce stress hormones, blood pressure, and other markers of stress.

To say 2020 impeded our creativity and relationships would be an understatement. When those 2 components suffer, our Mental Well-being suffers which leads to an overall loss in productivity. This is not a sustainable model. This is burnout.

I am not saying you should put blinders on to the grief caused by 2020. I am saying it is important to grieve those things and give yourself a break. It is equally unhealthy to stuff negative feels so that you can power through your to do list.

But all crises end. Darkness turns to dawn. Maybe you are like me and are starting to see a sliver of light on the horizon.

It is time to reach toward that smidge of sunshine, grab on and crack open a new chapter.

Let me show you what I have in mind.

How It Works

For every day in May there is a prompt that I will write about and want to invite you to come along with me. You don’t have to be a writer or aspiring writer – just someone who wants to share a bit each day. Don’t let the fact that it’s a couple days into the month deter you from starting. Check out the themes below and jump in on themes that move you. The point of this exercise is not to be on social media more. It is about leveraging social media to use creativity and relationships to build a life we don’t need to escape.

If you choose to join the challenge, use the hashtags #OneDayMay and #SustainableSue so we can find each other in a search.

By |2021-05-02T08:58:17-04:00May 4th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

The Posture of Creating

I am a failed Artist’s Way student. I had been faithfully doing my Morning Pages and Artist’s Dates for the 90 days as part of a book study earlier in 2019. I continued my stream-of-consciousness writing for a few months more while the Artist’s Dates fell by the wayside. Then the Universe threw a giant wrench into my Day Job wheel. Work days got long and complicated. I quit Morning Pages because I “did not have time.” And I did feel like a failure. I felt like I was letting down the creative me that had been on a huge winning streak this spring.

But alas, the theme this summer was Survival Mode. Intense schedule in my Day Job and family travel shoved my creativity aside like the dead grandmother in the Vacation movie. I still puttered around with quilting but even that was about finishing projects I started rather than immersing myself in creativity. Nothing was getting traction.

Around Labor Day my Day Job shifted into a different season. I moved out of Survival Mode and noodled with the idea of recommitting to Creative Me. The Creative Me that the universe intends me to be.

Recommitting to Creative Me

While I did recommit, I took careful consideration to learn from my earlier mistakes. I did not jump headfirst back in for a couple reasons.

1 – Learn from Young Susan

I spent my teens (and 20’s if I am honest) hoping my love interest would notice me and want to spend time with me. Pining away and waiting. Making myself available “just in case.” My heart hurts for Young Susan, and I am working my ass off with a therapist to heal her.

So the last thing I want is treat my Creative Me like careless crushees treated Young Susan by only visiting when it was convenient. I want to carve out time for my creativity, not make it live in the cracks. I want to feed my creativity, not fuel it with cast off crumbs. Which leads us to the second hesitation I had about recommitting without being mindful.

2 – Learn from Overcommitting

Time management is my jam, Bending time to fit the will of my to do list is my super power. Until a round house wallop of reality kryptonite knocks me on my arse. Around here we call it, “Ten Pounds of Shit in a Five Pound Bag.” I don’t want to rise at 4:30 am to write / meditate / journal / create only to be a uselessly exhausted zombie by lunch and tearing my people’s heads off by dinner. I want a morning routine like it seems everyone does these days, but none of my days look the same.

  • Some days the kids are at our house, some days they are at their mom’s.
  • I have meetings and deliverables jam packing some days; I have days filled with giant, wide open swaths of time.
  • Some days I work from my home office, some days I work onsite at various office locations. Some days I do both in one day.

3 – Learn from Past Success

Turns out there is a part of my own brain that is manufacturing the kryptonite that is kicking my ass. Its like the call is coming from inside the house. My kryptonite is rigidity. I strongly believe that anything can be broken down into small, repeatable tasks. It is the consistent repetition of these tasks that makes for success. For example, years ago I had a Day Job where I managed vendor relationships. These vendors were (naturally) super upset about outstanding invoices over a year old. I spent a week or so getting my arms around the problem. Then I set up systems where on a regular basis I would check on each stage of the process:

  • 1 hour Mondays to see if projects completed last week and invoices were released in the system.
  • 1 hour Tuesdays to add new issues to research or close out resolved issues. This also gave the vendor a cue to send me the list by end of day Monday.
  • 1 hour Thursdays to confirm checks went out as expected.
  • 1 hour Friday to submit report to my manager about the progress.

I generally scheduled these sorts of tasks for unpopular meeting times – like 8:00 am or 4:00 pm. Unpopular time means it is unlikely to be scheduled over. The key is to actually DO the task when it pops up on the calendar. PS – yes, I know I skipped Wednesdays. Once the list of 200+ issues was wrangled into repeatable tasks, it was easy to maintain in 4 hours/week. Often it did not even require the whole hour on that dedicated day. And I want a morning routine that is similarly time boxed to the Nth degree.

4 – Learn from Failure

My rigidity was killing that plan. Let’s use an example where I had to be in the office at 7:00 am and the location for the day was an hour away. There was no margin for the time box of “Morning Page – 6:00 to 6:30 am.” Or another day where I set my writing window between 7:00 am – 8:30 am but it was a day the kids were at our house. It’s a non-starter to try to write while there is chaos of them getting out the door to school. Yes, they’re old enough to take care of themselves, but there is the bickering, loud music, and last minute panic when homework won’t print that can interrupt the writing flow.

My rigidity was telling me a morning routine was impossible for me. Creativity just wasn’t in the cards for me right now. So I threw the baby out with the bathwater. {really, where did that phrase come from?!}

5 – Learn to Adapt and Adjust

I was contemplating my rigidity over about 6 weeks this fall. During that time, I was carrying on with the rest of life, which includes a weekly hot yoga class. The instructor mentions the “intention of the posture.” I always appreciate this because seriously, I cannot imagine a world where my body actually lifts off the ground or bends like that in some of these postures. But in my mind’s eye it does. And to my mind it matters! Then in my writers group, someone mentioned the posture of a “real writer” because we are a group filled with writers who have imposter syndrome. It is not really “fake it til you make it”, but more like: If you want to be something, act like it.

And the number one thing you have to act on if you want to be a writer… WRITING. The number one thing you have to act on if you want to be creative… CREATE. At the risk of filling this post with pithy sayings to stitch on a pillow:

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Or if you prefer its casual country cousin: Don’t trip over a dollar trying to get to a nickel.

What Commitment Looks Like

So I began again. I got up when the alarm went off instead of falling back to sleep for 30 minutes. I left my phone alone instead of scrolling social media for 30 minutes. I got up and went to my office and did Morning Pages, meditated, and my PT stretches. And Bixby and I still made it out the door for the dog walk at our usual time. I was feeling proud of myself for sure. Then I did my daily reading. I felt the Universe was proud of me too when I read this at the end of the passage:

The direction of the mind is more important than its progress.

Joseph Joubert

It was like the Universe shed light on the path to confirm that I was going in the right direction. And I find the more often I tap into creativity, the more often these rays of light show through the dark.

Are you wrestling with a question or decision? Could you be resisting the faint light that you see on the path just because it’s not a flood light illuminating the dark, scary corners? Use the comments below to acknowledge it and shed some light on it.

By |2019-10-30T07:04:05-04:00November 7th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments


A couple years ago I decided to make a T shirt quilt with all of the leftovers from my youth. My sister in law helped me with that project and it was quite an experience for us both. She is so patient and kind. It took a couple years to get over that, but last year I started sewing again.

In January of this year I started Quilters Academy – Freshman Year at Calla Lilly Quilts in Greensboro. The curriculum is based on Harriet Hargrave techniques and it is PRECISE. Normally I love precision, but it was a learning curve for sure! Classes met once a month and were very homework intensive. After the first class I went to the shop EVERY DAY for 3 weeks trying to sort out various issues and learn what I needed. Now those were some patient ladies. I ripped out more seams in those 3 weeks than I had done in my entire life up to that point.

Fabric Quilting

It is nice to have hobbies away from the computer – even if I do seem like an 80-year old woman or like I should live on the banks of Plum Creek. There is something about the feel of the fabric and the visual of all of the colors and patterns that is soothing to the soul – especially after a long day of looking at spreadsheets and such.

What are your soul saving hobbies?

By |2019-06-12T20:40:06-04:00June 15th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments
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