Creativity for Skeptics Episode 4: My Word for 2021 and Getting Ready for The Artist’s Way (without the woo)

It’s episode 4 of Creativity for Skeptics: Flaneur 2021 (or I need to get outside!!!).  Transcript is below the podcast links.

Or download here.

Hello, creative skeptics and skeptical creatives. This is episode four of Creativity for Skeptics. Tammy here. In episode two, I talked about agency, my word for 2020, and how that worked out and didn’t, ultimately, it sort of did. Anyway, it’s the last weekend of 2020 as I’m recording this, so it’s time for me to choose my word for 2021.

Given how rough 2020 was and how much I didn’t do, I’d thought about choosing a very serious word to guide 2021. Something outwardly focused, since I’ve essentially been at home since mid-March. Plus, it needs to have concrete actions and goals associated with it, something I can actually do.

So at first, I thought about focus or concentration, something that gave me a firm direction. Yeah, these are abstract, but my brain loves shiny new projects, and my concrete steps could be something like “if you’re distracted by a new project, write it down, save it for later, and go back to what you need to finish.”

Which is good, but there’s something missing too.

After spending so much of this year inside my house and, let’s face it, inside my own head, I need something to draw me out. I need to, well, just play in 2021. Which so many of us need right now. A long extended session of “refilling the creative well.” Focus as a concept is good, but I don’t think it’s going to be what I need.

Which brings me to what I did land on: flaneur. Okay, first off, I apologize for my bad pronunciation of French. What does flaneur mean? It’s the idea of being a detached observer of society, someone who walks through a city watching the workings of the world around them. I’ll admit, this is not a great choice, because it’s a loaded word, it’s fraught. There has been much written about that, including whether or not a woman can be a flaneur (or flaneus, again, apologies for the pronunciation) in the first place.

But that aside, here’s what appealed to me:

First, it’s external. A flaneur is supposed to observe. A flaneur is supposed to get out of the house and look at the world around them. Which is what I need to do after being inside so long.

Second, there’s a sense of play, of adventure about it. I don’t have an end goal in mind, just getting outside. Which, again, is useful after a year of extreme vigilance and hard-core goal setting. (Not creativity-related, but I’ll talk about that in another episode.)

And finally, there are concrete actions to associate with it. It’s simple, but go take a walk. That’s good advice for anyone, really, but it’s especially useful for creatives. And it features in a lot of advice guides for writers, for other creatives. And it ties in to The Artist’s Way and some of Julia Cameron’s other books, which I’ll be talking a bit more about shortly.

So, this is late December 2020, and while there are vaccines available, they’re not widely available, and they’re going to the exact people who need them most, the front-line medical professionals. Wider access won’t be available for a while, so this means we’ll all need to wait until we’re able to get out into the world safely. I’m not going to risk mingling with the general public—no one should just yet—so how am I going to get out into society and just observe?

That’s a question I’ll go into more detail about later, but for now, I think it might involve a bit of virtual strolling through places. We’ll see.

Do you have your word for 2021 yet? If so, I’d love to hear about it. You can drop it into the comments for the episode over at [or below].

In just a moment, I’ll plug a new podcast about creativity that I’m really enjoying, but first, here’s what’s coming up on Creativity for Skeptics.

Later this week, sometime around the new year, I’ll post an episode in which I talk about my plans for doing The Artist’s Way from a skeptical perspective and without the woo. I’ll go through the introduction and tools in that episode, and we’ll plan to start week 1 on Monday, January 4th. I know, I’m in the US, but weeks start on Monday in my brain, so there it is. I’ll have the episodes corresponding to the weeks up on Sunday, so you can take a listen to the first one on January 3rd, and we’ll check in about week 1 tasks and look ahead to week 2 on January 10th. And if you’re hearing this sometime in the future, then, you can listen to the weeks as you come to them.

There have been over 4 million copies of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way sold, so I’m imagining that they’re probably easy to find at used book stores, if you want to go that route.

And now, I’m going to point you to another podcast about creativity that I’m really enjoying. I’ve been a fan of Rachael Herron’s for a while now. Her podcasts How do You Write which is ongoing and the writer’s well (which is on hiatus) are ones I recommend too. Her book about writing, Fast Draft Your Memoir, gave me a lot to think about even though I don’t write memoir. So I had to take a listen when she announced her new podcast, You’re Already Ready. The short episodes are a mix of personal narrative, thoughts on creativity, and gentle reminders that you’re already ready to do the thing you most want to do. And it’s aimed at a wider audience than her writing podcasts, so it’s broadly applicable to creatives in general. Take a listen, there’s a link in the shownotes.

So that’s it from me today. let me know your word for 2021, if you choose one. If you have any questions about creativity you’d like me to address, feel free to [post in the comments or send me an email].

Thanks for listening to Creativity for Skeptics. For more information about the show or to listen to past episodes, go to We’ll talk creativity again soon.

Creativity for Skeptics (or, I Finally Got Around to Starting a Podcast), Solstice Edition

Creativity for Skeptics is now available in podcast form!  Here’s the latest episode, in which I talk about marking the December solstice and using constraints to foster your creativity:

After making the creativity for skeptics video for Winterfest, I wanted to put up more content that wasn’t necessarily in written form.  Couple reasons for this.  First, writing for another medium gets around my internal editor, and second, I listen to dozens of podcasts, and I appreciate what the medium can do.  After doing a couple videos, I concluded that video editing is . . . not a good use of my time?  Not a good use of my time.  But, from doing a radio show last year, I was already familiar with audio editing, and that is actually interesting.

I plan on posting each Sunday, and I will post transcripts here as well.

Episode 3: Solstice and Constraints (Transcript)

Hello, creative skeptics and skeptical creatives.  Tammy here.  It’s the weekend before the solstice as I’m recording this, the winter solstice in my case, as I’m in the northern hemisphere.  So, happy winter or summer solstice depending on where you are.  I bring this up because I want to talk about the solstices and the equinoxes a little bit.  And I will eventually tie this back to creativity.

So, the December solstice.  I didn’t celebrate the solstices or equinoxes when I was a kid, and to be honest, I didn’t really register them.  I grew up in Houston, and as an adult, I moved to Dallas which is a bit less than 250 miles, so a good distance.  I think it was moving to Dallas that made me recognize the seasonal shifts, which are far less striking in Houston.

After my partner and I had kids, I wanted to find a way to mark the changing seasons for a couple reasons. First, it’s a concrete and fun way of talking about science, so there’s that. And second, it’s a way of fostering a sense of wonder about the world–what do we notice about the world around us, and why do things change, and what stories do people tell about why things change.

Not celebrating seasonal shifts in my own childhood put me both in a good but daunting position. Good, because we as a family could create out own traditions and really think about why we’re doing what we’re doing. Daunting, because it’s the blank page problem. There are too many possibilities.

I think winter solstice is easiest, because we’re already in a festive mood this time of year anyway. Pretty early on, we started with putting out bird feeders in the morning, taking a walk, and talking about what changes we saw around us. Later, in the day we’d have a nice dinner, and after, we’d give the kids presents, which are always books, usually science books. It’s small, but it feels special.

I haven’t been as good about spring, summer, or fall. Spring and fall because we’re often busy with school, and summer, well, because summer around Dallas is awful in my opinion and who wants to celebrate that? Though, the hours of daylight waning is pretty nice to think about. We’ll bake seasonally-themed cookies, and we’ll talk about the world around us, but since we don’t have the day off as we often do in the winter, the days go more or less like any other day. And we don’t have any particular reason to do anything in particular anyway.

Winter comes with ready-made constraints. We’re feeding the birds (and let’s be honest, we’re feeding the squirrels, too) because there are fewer things for them to eat over the winter. We take a walk because the weather around here this time of year is quite pleasant. It’s overcast and in the 50s today, which is about as perfect as it gets, in my opinion. Thus, it’s easier to find ways of making new traditions because we have the constraints in place.

In 2021, I’m planning on thinking about the seasons more, thinking about how we can use the constraints of engaging with something outside, for example, as our way of celebrating. In March, I’ll report back on what we’ve figured out for the first day of spring. Maybe we can start planning our garden, for instance.

What does all this have to do with creativity, you ask?

If you’re feeling daunted by too much possibility, think about the constraints you can put on your creative project. That makes the scale more manageable, and removes one block between you and the work you want to do.

Have you used constraints to help you along with a creative project? I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a line,

And now, a little plug for one of my favorite technologies.

One other thing I’m trying to associate with the change of seasons is doing a health and safety check around the house. Changing air filters, checking smoke detector batteries, things like that. And making sure our emergency kit is ready. I live in tornado alley, and though tornadoes are more common in spring, they can happen any day of the year, so our emergency kit is all about the weather, really.

Part of that is checking the weather radio. I laugh whenever I hear the “you can listen to our station on your phone, your computer, your smart speaker whatever by downloading this app” or whatever. That’s fine for day-to-day listening, but what happens if your power gets knocked out? Thinking safety, you can spend less than $20 on a small portable AM/FM radio and some spare batteries, and there you go. A number of these have the weather band too, which is where you’ll hear the NOAA All Hazards Radio, which is even more important to have in an emergency. So, there’s my plug for something to keep in your emergency supply kit. And, if nothing else, if your power goes out, you can break out the radio and listen to music, so all the better there.

Thanks for listening to Creativity for Skeptics. If you have any questions about creativity you’d like me to address, feel free to send me an email [or post a comment below].

We’ll talk creativity again soon.