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Welcome to Issue #5: Routines & Rituals

Copyright: <a href=''>chinnna / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

“My ritual is cooking. I find it therapeutic. It comes naturally to me. I can read a recipe and won’t have to look at it again.”

We rise each morning, pour a mug of coffee or tea, and spend half an hour checking personal email, catching up on social media, or reading a favorite blog post before we get ready to leap into the work day.

Is it routine or ritual?

We train our dogs to sit at doorways, or before we give them their meals. We make them give us their paw in a ‘high five,’ or wait for them to greet us before they’ll go out in the morning.

Is it routine or ritual?

We put the wedge of lemon in the glass first, add ice to the 1/3 full mark, and then add water on top.

It’s routine, right? Or maybe it’s ritual.

Every Saturday evening, we fill the tub with hot water and lavender-scented bubbles, light a row of candles, and listen to actors reading short stories on the radio while we soak.

That’s more than just routine, isn’t it? It must be ritual.

“The time I spend in the morning – praying, sipping coffee, and coming up with my list – is a ritual I relish. I have done it for so long now that I subconsciously measure whether or not the things I’m doing match with what I should be doing, what I want to be doing, and the life I want to live.”
–Kristin Armstrong

Where do we draw the proverbial line that separates the mundane routines that govern our days from the deeper rituals that truly enhance our lives? Can a daily practice be both routine and ritual?

What about when a writer must use a favorite pen, a specific kind of paper, or listen to only music without lyrics in order to truly focus? Does the act of preparing one’s writing space for the day transcend routine and become ritual?

How about cooking? The act of nourishing ourselves and others may seem like a routine, especially when it’s associated with that perennial question, “What’s for dinner?” But isn’t there also a sort of ritual to be found in peeling, chopping, roasting, broiling, serving, and, most importantly, sharing the product of our labor?

“When you’re writing, you’re conjuring. It’s a ritual, and you need to be brave and respectful and sometimes get out of the way of whatever it is that you’re inviting into the room.”
–Tom Waits
Welcome to the fifth issue of Modern Creative Life, Routines and Rituals.

Join us over the next few weeks, during which we will explore these questions, and also talk about the routines, rituals, preferences, and practices that make us tick and keep us going as artists and writers, as musicians and makers, and as creative people in general.

You’ll get to glimpse the daily lives of other creatives in our  Studio Tours and Typical Tuesday series, and meet other people walking fascinating creative pathways in Conversations Over Coffee. With photos and fictionpoetryessays and enlightenment, you’ll find enough ideas on how to structure time, make moments into memories, and turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

 As always, our mission at Modern Creative Life is to honor the pursuit and practice of joyful creativity. We believe that the creative arts enrich our everyday living, enhance our environment, create lasting connections, and sustain our souls. Please join us as we bring to you the stories and suggestions of other people walking the creative path.

Whether you use routines simply to keep yourself on track, or embrace ritual as a way to transform yourself, we want to hear from you.

We are open to single contributions as well as new regular contributors. Email us at

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.




Welcome to Issue #3: Wisdom

Wisdom Profile MCL

You find a book that changes your life, giving you a perspective you didn’t have before the words on the page seeped into your soul.

You attend a friend’s gallery opening, and witness the world seeing what you’ve always known about your lovely and wise confidante.

You re-read an old journal entry or blog post you, yourself, wrote, and discover just the right words of guidance or encouragement as you embark upon a new chapter of your life.

You flip open a magazine, and catch your breath at the combination of insight, beauty, and style in a single photograph.

You need advice, so you pick up the phone and call that friend. The one who will shoot straight, but do it in a kind and loving way.

Welcome to Wisdom, our 3rd issue.

When we were choosing themes for Modern Creative Life, the fall theme of Wisdom felt like a natural progression from the never-ending question we began with: “What’s Next?” and then followed up with “Nourishment” as we considered the many ways that nourishing ourselves both creatively and in our daily lives leads us to deepen our own Wisdom.

The timing of this issue speaks to me – and hopefully to you – in other ways, as we arrive at Wisdom on September 1st, the date of both a new moon and a Solar Eclipse:

We go back to school in the fall, seeking education and learning. School makes me think of children, both mine and others, and the way the wisest words sometimes arrive out of the mouths of chubby-cheeked youngsters.

If you relate the stages of womanhood to the seasons, we arrive in the fall of our lives as we evolve beyond the Maiden and inch our way towards becoming the Crone, the wise woman who exists in each of our tribes and families.

And who hasn’t sought the knowledge of others by picking up the phone, searching for the right book, or turning to the modern trusty answer guru, Google?

But what does Wisdom mean when it comes to Creative Living? What does our own creative process teach us? How do other makers enhance the ways in which we create? How can we sit at the feet of masters who’ve come before us?

What must we say no to, so that we can say yes to what matters to us at our depths, the ways in which we bring art, poetry, and beauty alive?

You’ll get a peek into the daily lives of other creative folk in our Studio Tours and Typical Tuesday series, and meet people walking fascinating creative pathways in Conversations Over Coffee. With photos and fiction, poetry and prompts, essays and enlightenment, you’ll find a deeper understanding into all the ways in which you create.

 As always our mission at Modern Creative Life is to honor the pursuit and practice of joyful creativity. We believe that the creative arts enrich our everyday living, enhance our environment, create lasting connections, and sustain our souls. Please join us as we bring to you a meeting of wise minds, both young and old. Sit beside other makers as they demonstrate how they’ve found insight into nourishing and prioritizing their creative pursuits.

As we share the stories of other makers, use their experiences to illuminate your path into your own Modern Creative Life.

What lessons might you have to share with the world? Share your stories with us, serving as the teacher for others – a karmic payback for the wise teachers you’ve learned from. We are open to single contributions as well as new regular contributors. Email us at

About the Author:  Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is an author, life coach, and Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life.

She resides in Dayton, Ohio.

The Stories of our Mothers: A Call for Submissions

When I was a little girl, the highlight of summer vacation and Christmas break was being packed up and taken to my grandmother’s house for a week or two. I always had great fun: I’d climb trees and walk around “the block,” which was just through the alley and back. I’d root through the pantry and ponder the mystery cans of mincemeat. I learned to sew and crochet. We made jelly and canned peaches. Once, I even repainted an old table I found in the mygrandmothergarage.

Being the youngest of all the grandchildren, I was in the precious space of being coddled and spoiled. When most of my cousins were in their younger years, my grandmother was still working as a seamstress at the Haggar Pant Factory, so I, alone, got to just hang out at her house.

She let me do things my mother never would, like baking from scratch. It’s been forty years, but I can still recall standing in her kitchen, running powdered sugar through a sifter to make frosting for a cake as if it were yesterday.

She was one of twelve (or was it fifteen?) children and on the wall in her living room was a family portrait. I was fascinated by the contrast of my eighty year old beloved wrinkled and grey haired grandmother in that photo: a child. She would point herself out and tell me “I was crying in that photo because my sister Lilly hadn’t outgrown her shoes yet and my mother tied big satin ribbons at my ankles since I couldn’t go barefoot in the picture.”

Almost sixty years later, with only two surviving siblings, and she still felt the pain and shame of not having shoes.

I couldn’t imagine not being able to afford shoes as I’d always been well-fed and well-clothed, but it opened my eyes to life in other times. It also came as a bit of a shock to realize that the woman in front of me – before she was my grandmother and before she was my mother’s mother – was once a young girl with dreams and hopes and stories of her own.

The relationship with my grandmother was one of unconditional love.

The relationship with my mother was not.

And you know what? I’m pretty sure that my mother felt the same way: her “Little Grandma” provided unconditional love whereas her mother, worn down by the stress of the Great Depression,  did not.

No matter who you are, you can’t help but be influenced by your relationship with your mother. There are those lucky girls who look upon their mother as a trusted confidante and best friend. There are those heartbroken women who can’t speak to their mothers without the conversation going south. We revere our mothers. We love our mothers. We hate our mothers.

Often we forget that before they became our mother, like my grandmother, they had a life before us with stories of their own. What were the lives of our mothers and grandmothers like before we existed? What were their dreams? What secrets did they keep?

How did the legacy of our relationship with all of the mothers in our lives – our own mother, our grandmothers, our aunts, our mothers-in-law, and substitute mothers – influence our own approach to mothering?

Some of us could write a love letter and heap gratitude upon the mother figures in our lives. Some of us spend our entire adulthood seeking to heal the wounds our mothers left behind.

Yet, no matter who you are, behind you stands a legacy of generation upon generation of mothers and mother figures.


When we envisioned what Modern Creative Life would bring to the table, part of that vision was to occasionally leave the digital world and go old school: paper. We’ll be publishing a paperback “Best Of” collection each December. We will also be creating at least two stand-alone collections in book form per year.

Our first Original Collection will be published in the Spring of 2017 and the topic will be “Mothers.”

(Yes, it will have a snazzier name than that come publication time.) This will be published in paperback and Kindle. We want to explore every aspect of this complex role in our society and our own lives.

What are the stories of our Mothers and Mother Figures? What are the ways WE mother – our children, our pets, our partners, our friends, and even strangers? What are the secrets and legacies?

We have an opportunity to explore more than a single side of this complex role – the good, the funny, the bad, the loving. We have the opportunity to go across time and dig into our heritage, too. To share those forgotten stories of the women who lived before us. Those mothers of our great-grandmothers and beyond.

And in contrast to those stories that bring a smile to our face and have us looking back with nostalgia, we must not rule out the dysfunctional ways our mothers have affected us (sometimes called “The Mother Wound“).

Here’s what we are looking for:

  • Creative Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction Stories, and Essays
  • Minimum Length: 800 words. Maximum Length: 5,000 words
  • Submissions should be submitted via attachment in WORD  or in the body of email in a 12-point black font (no PDFs)
  • Writers may submit up to five pieces for consideration
  • The collection will include up to three pieces per author with full bio in the back of the book
  • Submit via our submission form or via email to: ModernCreativeLife(at)
  • Deadline for submission: March 15, 2017

Whether or not we have brought human children into this world, whether or not our mothers are part of our daily lives, the reality is that each of us has a mother, and that means each of us has a story to share.

We invite you to share yours.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams.

She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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