Make Your Creative Dreams Come True with Andrea Schroeder
Creativity takes courage. Andrea Schroeder, creator of the Creative Dream Incubator, talks about the creative process and how to follow through with our creative dreams and embrace our inner magic.
Creativity sometimes takes courage. It asks us to go beyond what it is and pursue something bigger. Andrea Schroeder, creator of the Creative Dream Incubator, talks about the creative process and exploring the change that opens up with it. Andrea says we can free ourselves and allow our creativity to truly come out when we accept that change is part of it. She shows how to create a business structure for our creative ideas and gives some common threads that are holding people back from pursuing those creative dreams and embracing their inner magic. Andrea highlights the importance of being real about what you want and what you’re afraid of, and then moving through it.
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Our guest is Andrea Schroeder who is the Creator of the Creative Dream Incubator where she helps creative people make their dreams real by showing them how to access the incredible magic and power that live inside them. Andrea, welcome to the show.
Clare, thank you so much for having me.
I’m excited to hear about the work that you do in the world now. I would love to know a little bit about how the place that you live in influences that.
I live in Winnipeg, Canada, which is right in the middle of Canada. It’s a place that tends to be known for its long winters. What most people don’t know is that we also have a hot summer. We have different seasons. The long cold winters are good for creativity. There’s a lot of art and music here because we need something to do inside for so much out of the year. I have found that that influences my work a lot in terms of working much longer hours in the winter time. It allows me to feel like I’m going deeper into my work and ignore the outside world. When summer comes, I want to go outside and enjoy it. I tend to work a lot less and that also renews and recharges my own creativity so that then the next winter I can go back deeper into it. I enjoy that as a longer creative cycle.
I’m pleased to hear you talk about the rhythms of creative work and understanding them. In your case, that’s linked very much to the local environment. Have you noticed any patterns in the creative insights that you’ve had? You’ve mentioned that you can go deeper into yourself. Tell us a little bit about that.
Sometimes you’re creative and you’re used to doing whatever creative thing that you do. It’s almost like you take for granted the magic of the creative process and you go, “I want to write a book or make a song.” You just go and do it. When you take the time to go deeper into it and to spend more time with it, you start to explore all the little questions that come up in the process. There are so many amazing discoveries that can be made. I find that when I go deeper into my ideas, instead of just taking that first idea and going with it all the way to completion, explore it more deeply, follow all the questions that come up. I end up with something much richer in the end, which may not look at all what I originally thought it was going to be. It’s being open to that change that can come in the creative process. Sometimes we can’t be as open to that change when we’re focused on hitting deadlines.
Tell us a little bit more about what the creative process is in your world.
I’ve learned that I’m continually trying to make my creative process make sense. I’m trying to make it something that I understand and that’s what it is. It’s the unknown. It’s a mystery. It’s going into the questions, giving them more space. It’s that sense of discovery. The more I try to figure out how to make it make more sense or how to understand it better, the more I come to a place of realising I can’t understand it. It’s a matter of giving it space and then trusting the process itself or trusting myself. There’s that sense of trust that comes in staying in the process even when it doesn’t look like how you thought it would look like.
That’s an interesting point, the disconnect between the expectation and the reality. Disconnect has such a negative connotation that the creative process can allow the right synergy to emerge if we allow it, if we surrender to it.
We can learn so much from the places where we’re making mistakes. It’s like this human desire to want things to be smooth, logical and easy. The real creative juice doesn’t come from any of those things.
One of the things that are crucial to my creative process is making space, making time or reclaiming time from my schedule to just walk, meander, mooch and dawdle in my neighbourhood, in my city. That’s when creative insights emerge for me and connections happen, those fabulous, exciting brainwaves and those solutions to problems that I’ve been struggling with, whether that’s work-related or personal. That’s a crucial thing for me. For you to understand and be open to these whispers, hints and questions, what do you do across the whole year? Across the nice time of being in hibernation as well as the time of being out in the summertime, enjoying the better weather and longer daylight hours? What does it look like for you?
One part of it is journaling and taking time every morning to just journal and give space to whatever’s going on for me. Just give space for however I’m feeling or whatever I’m thinking about. The act of writing it all down helps me process things a little better. In the winter, I love walking in the winter time. A couple of years into my self-employment, I ended up selling my car, which up until the time when I did it, I would have thought that would have been my worst nightmare. I thought I needed a car to get around, which in hindsight, it’s so weird. I’m happier when I walk somewhere.
That first winter when I sold the car, I got good winter clothing. I walked for at least an hour every day and it gave me such a better winter. I enjoyed everything about winter so much more when I was spending more time outside. Then in the spring, summer, and fall, I ride my bike. It’s the same thing. It’s just being outside, getting some fresh air, especially on my bike, I can take all of these beautiful paths along the rivers and lots of trees are out. It does help shift the way my brain is working and new ideas come in.
I love that on your website, you’ve got this statement, “You build the path by walking.” That’s so fantastic and that there’s no such thing as waiting for the right time. That’s just a bullshit procrastination technique.
Many people are doing that, and not understanding. Just because there’s no path in front of you that leads to where you want to go, it doesn’t mean you can’t get there. You have to do it. You have to build that path.
Some of the obstacles then that you faced earlier on in your business journey, what key lessons did you learn from those “obstacles and mistakes?”
The first few times I tried to do creativity workshops, I had no clue about sales or marketing or anything. I had to fall on my face a few times to understand how little I knew. I had this assumption that if I bought things all my life surely, I can sell things. It’s not true. I had an assumption that if my work is good, that will be enough, people will find it, they’ll like it and they’ll tell other people. For most creative people, that’s not true. There are some things we need to learn about how to create that business structure for our creative ideas.
Those failures helped me see how much I needed to learn. I didn’t realise that up until then. Up until then, I was also waiting for something to change, for someone to come along and tell me that it was okay or show me how to do it. It was all up to me trying things and failing. In hindsight, I don’t see a better way I could have learned other than falling on my face repeatedly. Then eventually, getting so fed up that I even was willing to read business books and take a class in business. Often, our dreams push us into the places that we’re the least willing to go. A lot of creative people have that resistance around the business. It’s true that we see a lot of gross things out in the business world that we don’t want to do. It’s also true that businesses are a way of creating a stable foundation for our work to go out into the world. It’s the thing that we do that nourishes our creativity.
Ironically, stability, routine and structure are definitely what make for a more positive and fruitful output, even when I resist that dull, seemingly monotonous approach. I work well in that way. With your audience and with your clients, what are the regular common threads that you’re seeing in terms of what’s holding people back from pursuing those creative dreams and embracing their inner magic?
On the surface, it can be a lot of different things. We all have different obstacles to face in the outer world. Maybe you have a family to take care of. Maybe money is so tight, you don’t have any extra space for investing in the ways that your dream would need you to do. For some people, it’s the time. Money and time are the big ones. For the people who are brave enough to dig in any way, those aren’t the real issues.
The real issues are somewhere along the way we started telling ourselves a story about why we can’t and a story about what’s possible for us. Those stories are wrong. There comes a point where we have to question our own self-concept and our own beliefs about the world around us. It gets into some deep and painful places about worthiness, which the big fear is, “What if I go after my dream and I fail and I find out I’m not good enough? I’d rather have it as a thing I could dream about than know for sure that I couldn’t have it and all of the pain around that.” Even though I believe for everyone who genuinely goes after their dream as I also say on my website, “Your dream is higher, so it calls you towards your true self.” The more you work on it, the less it is about that external thing you want, and the more it is about living your life in a more authentic way. Your dream leads you to all these little gifts. There’s always some part of that that is accessible to you no matter what the obstacles are. As you reach for that part that strengthens you and helps you become larger than the obstacles so that you are able to work around them. If people stay in that process, they tend to be able to make changes happen that seem impossible when they begin. It comes back to that mindset and those ideas you have about who you are and what’s possible for you.
With those stories and those unhelpful narratives that many of us carry around, if there’s one tip that you can give our audience around how they can begin to change an unhelpful story, what might that be?
Can you be willing to be wrong about your story? I know for myself, I was so sure that I was right about my story. There’s about a period of ten years where I was completely convinced, “I can’t do this for a living. It won’t support me in the way that I want to live.” Underneath that, there was a little bit of anger about the world like, “Why don’t I live in a world where creative dreams are supported?” The truth is we are all creative geniuses, but we’re the ones who have to support ourselves with that. It’s a process of maturing and taking responsibility for our dreams as well as taking responsibility for our lives. I had to first be willing to be wrong about my story and then we need to be as gentle as possible because the part of you that is clinging to that story is very afraid and it wants you to be safe. Usually, we don’t go after our dreams because we want to be safe. How gentle can you be with a part of you that’s afraid of going after your dreams and how can you offer that part of you some love right now?
It can seem overwhelming and many people are just breezing throughout their days in a state of numbness. They don’t necessarily know what they want. They don’t understand what those unhelpful stories are that’s holding them back. For many people, burnout is one of the ways in which all of those layers, those unhelpful layers of striving and story gets stripped away and at the end of it, it’s a vulnerable making time. We realise we can’t sustain the old way of living and working, but we’re afraid of going in pursuit of our creative dreams in the future. We’re stuck, we can’t go back, but we’re afraid of going forward. Part of my burnout story, the genesis of Urban Curiosity, and the work that I do, has been a long process of tuning out certain voices and old, unhealthy narratives and focusing in on the new narrative that I want to create.
I love that you said that it’s a long process because so many people don’t know what their dream is and it feels like, “If I’m going to try to first figure out what it is and then have to figure out how to make it happen, it feels like so much.” You’re going to live those years regardless and so ten years from now you could be closer to it or you can be further from it. To also talk about how you can find value in being on the path, having a dream and paying attention to it, how can that make your life richer now, not having all the rewards will be someday when I’ve made this all happen? Connecting with my dreams helps me feel more connected to myself a little happier, a little more inspired and optimistic about life, regardless if these new dreams are ever going to happen for me.
What are you dreaming about?
I got married. I became a stepmother to four stepchildren. They do live with their mother full-time, but they spend a lot of time with us. It’s a huge change. What I’m dreaming of is integrating all of this and then also looking at changes in my business where how can I be making a bit more money and taking a bit more time off so that we can do more with the kids in terms of travelling or doing interesting things. Up until then, I was happy living alone and fully intended to live alone the rest of my life. I love my work and I still love my work. I didn’t want to take tons of time off. I did like to travel once in a while, but I would still tend to work while I was away. It’s a new way of, “We’ll have to create different systems in my business and have a different relationship to my work to make these changes.” That’s what’s calling me. In terms of frivolous other stuff, I’m looking at a new home, a vacation cottage, those kinds of things.
It’s been a ton of big change for you.
I’m also restructuring my classes, not just from my personal wishes that I’m looking for, but also of doing this work full-time. I’m at a point of wanting to look back and recreate everything knowing what I know. I’ve created a new framework for working with dreams, and I’m creating a whole bunch of new programs around that. I’m feeling inspired partly by all of these changes and also having to contain my workday. I tend to work less when my husband is home. Part of being so happy alone is that I have bought a loft in which there are no interior walls except around the bathroom. It doesn’t work as well for me to be working here when someone else is here.
Tell us about alchemy, what does alchemy mean to you?
Alchemy is a word for transformation but it’s also about that process. It’s taking whatever’s happening in your life and all of it, the inspiration, the dreams, the vulnerability, the fears and the obstacles, putting all of that together and summoning your own power and magic. Imagine the alchemy stuff where you have all of this equipment and you put all of the ingredients in, but these ingredients are everything that’s happening in your life. How you can find so much magic just in being a little more present with your actual feelings, your actual fears and your actual dreams. There’s so much power and magic right there. I’ll come to use the process of bringing all of that together and then using that to figure out what your next steps are. It’s like building the path.
In terms of looking after yourself and staying healthy and staying happy, you’ve got married, you have a bigger blended family, and your circumstances are changing as a result. This series of changes in your personal life, how do you balance, if balance is the right word at all, the tension between work and not work, health, inspiration and happiness?
The less I try to balance it all, the better I am. In terms for me, when I’m trying to balance things, I tend to be coming from my head and my head doesn’t have the right answers ever anyway. It comes back to how am I feeling in the moment and what do I need now, and then trusting that following that serves all parts of me in all parts of my life. That’s a deeper sense of trust that I have developed from practicing this. Trusting that if I feel that I need to rest right now and taking time to rest is going to nourish my productivity later on, instead of pushing myself to work. I’m getting better at cooking from scratch and trusting that I can take the time to make something nice for myself, which takes a lot more time than just grabbing something easy in an instant. This will fuel and nourish me in ways that will help me fuel and nourish my own work, and I can be more present for my family when I’m more present for myself.
It feels a bit of a roundabout answer but trying to not have too many rules about it, but just being honest about what I need at the moment. That can be a real struggle for me because I have a lot of projects I want to be working on. I have a lot of ideas for these new programmes that I’m inspired. A part of me would like to work all the time and so when I say, “I’m going to take like a couple of hours and make a soup from scratch,” when I’m allowing myself to do that, it does get me to better work because I’m taking better care of myself.
You’re nourishing your body, but you’re also nourishing your mind. Often, the act of chopping, preparing and planning a meal is also like a meditation in a sense. The other ideas that may be where they are on the fringes of your mind, they’re simmering, mixing and coalescing. You have some beautiful recipe at the end of it all. It’s an investment worth making for lots of reasons.
I didn’t see that until the last few years. I hated cooking but there’s a lot of possibility in it.
It’s one of those domestic things, I hesitate to use the word chore because eating and cooking can be so pleasurable. It’s one of those things that we have to do, and it can be shifting the headspace and that in itself can open up space for reflection, connections and insights in the same way as walking can and taking a shower where you’re not at your desk or you’re not with a device in your hand or a pen and paper handy.
I found the same thing even about cleaning up. It can clear your mental space as well.
One of the questions I’d love to hear you share your thoughts on is what you’re curious about right now.
The big thing about my work is I’m feeling really inspired about doing more visual artwork. I’m noticing how the past ten years or so I feel like I only do visual art. I’m doing it in my journal every day, this is my own process. In terms of making art to share with people, I only do it in support of my other work. I’m feeling this inspiration to make more space for exploring my creative process of what kind of art would I like to make totally unrelated to anything else that I do. For some reasons, it feels scary to me. For the same reason, it’s scary, I’m worried it’s going to suck, or no one’s going to care. It’s all going to be a waste of time or I’ll find out that I’m not very good at visual art, then telling myself the story that I’m doing these classes because I’m not good enough to be an artist.
It’s that vulnerable and scary place to be in and yet, on the other hand, I feel so much inspiration and joy when I think about doing it. I was starting to take Friday afternoons to play. I feel so excited about it. I have all these hopes or feelings that this is somehow going to nourish everything else that I do. I don’t see how just yet, but that’s what I’m excited about exploring.
It’s taking the leap into the unknown, embracing the possibility. I had a client in one of my Urban Curiosity Workshops who gave me feedback and said that as a result of our time together, she had realised that she needed to be creative for the sake of creative expression, rather than the work that she did as a graphic designer, which was to be creative every day but on demand, according to someone else’s agenda, someone else’s timetable doing it relentlessly and not always with joy. She was reminded how valuable it was for her happiness and wellbeing to feel like she was being creatively expressive, but with no attachment to the outcome. No purpose other than the feeling in the moment, and that has stayed with me.
I was thinking you can feel how that’s going to nourish the graphic work and make that better and easier.
I love you to share with us a little bit more about where people can find out more about your work, the tools, and resources that you have available to help people uncover their creative dreams.
The work is so vulnerable and it’s scary to admit you have a dream, so I have a free class. It’s the introductory class that gives a lot of help in terms of getting started with your dream. It’s called Your Dream is Waiting For You to Come True and that is at CreativeDreamIncubator.com. It’s a 90-minute video class, plus you get a workbook. Then you get a bunch of emails afterward where I help you figure out how to apply that to what’s happening in your life.
It’s about that process I was talking about being real about what you want and what you’re afraid of, allowing the alchemy of that to figure out how to move through it. People think that if I admit I have a dream and if I follow my dream, I’m going to have to take a big scariest leap and I’m not ready for that. Your next step is always something so much smaller and so much simpler than you think. It can be, “I’m going to take twenty minutes on Saturday morning to write my journal.” It’s something that’s going to feel nourishing and doable. I have this free class related to helping you figure out what is that easy thing that you can start doing to start making space. Once you’re there you use that same process, “What’s the next thing and what’s the next thing?” Let it evolve and grow.
Andrea, thank you so much for being our guest on the show.
Thank you, Clare. This has been a fun talk with you.