Answering the Call: Acting on Your Call for Creativity and Self-Expression

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a quote and wrote about the importance of making time for yourself and your creativity. (You can find that post here.)

" I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write...and you know it's a funny thing about housecleaning...it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only." - Clarissa Pinkola Estes

While I wholeheartedly believe in this practice, I also believe in the stolen moments. If I'm honest, many of my self-portraits have been created in those very brief moments over the years. When inspiration hits me, I have an undeniable urge to act. I've never been known for my patience. Along with many of my ideas or visions for self-portraits comes a great sense of urgency.

I understand that acting on this urgency and rushing through creating something with limited time can lead to sloppiness. It could limit me and hold me back from producing my best work. Or maybe I thrive in that type of setting?

Working in these stolen moments has given me an abundant amount of experience over the years. It has allowed me to work in all types of lighting and weather situations during various times of the day. It has helped me find ways to make the best use of small and limited spaces. It has required me to both think and act fast. Have I set myself up for failure this way? I've definitely had my fair share of failed attempts at bringing a vision to life. But more times than not, I have learned something new and created something unexpected out of each brief experience.

My needs for the process of creation and self-expression strongly outweigh the desired outcome. It is with this open mind-frame that I find my best work. For example, by closing myself off to the ideas of creating in harsh light or in the late evening when the sunlight has faded, I would be limiting myself and my creative process. Creating gives me a sense of freedom and to put limitations on that seems detrimental to me.

I was able to shoot this self-portrait in under 15 minutes over the weekend. That even included the time for me to go back and forth in my mind, questioning if I could pull it off. By sneaking in this creative moment, I was able to appease the sense of urgency and fill my creativity cup. The most challenging thing about this was waiting until Monday to share it!

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So while I 100% believe in making time for yourself, I also hold a high value on the stolen moments. It's those 15 minutes before the school bus is due to arrive, the 10 minutes while you're waiting for that pot of water to boil, the moments right before the rain approaches. You'd be surprised at what you can accomplish in such a restricted and limited time.

How do you prefer to create? Do you time out and plan for that perfect moment? Or do you do it more on a whim?

The next time inspiration hits you, act on it. Don't wait!

** Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link. You can sign up for Sharon’s newsletter HERE to stay up to date and receive a bonus black and white editing video.

Art Now! Chores Later : Why You Shouldn't Put Off Your Creativity and 5 Ways to Nourish it

" I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write...and you know it's a funny thing about housecleaning...it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only." _ Clarissa Pinkola Estes 

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Recently, an artist friend of mine shared this quote on Instagram. It was one of those quotes that screamed out to me. The kind that your gut intuition tells you that it was written just for you. I brought the quote to The Define School’s forum and we quickly adopted the motto, Art Now! Chores later.


Not too long ago, I was that woman in the quote. And by no means am I saying I am no longer her. I am just more aware of when I am her. Being aware and recognizing unrewarding patterns is half the battle. I've trained myself to rearrange my priorities and put myself and my creativity up at the top of my list whenever possible. It's not always easy, and often it's uncomfortable. 


As women, we wear many hats, or as I like to say- masks. We are known to put others first and tend to everyone else. We tend to prioritize chores and responsibilities. We are caregivers. We clean, cook, take care of children, help family and friends, look after beloved family pets, run errands, work, and leave little to no time for what lights us up. 


Tend to your spark. 


Ignite the fire. 


Don't allow your artistic calling to lie dormant and unaroused. Practice listening to your intuitive voice when it comes to creating. Balance is key. 


One early evening last week, inspiration hit me at an inconvenient time. The dogs and kids needed to be fed, but so did I, in a different way. The woods were calling. Once everyone was taken care of, I knew the cleanup and aftermath could wait. I quickly darted out the door and began to set up. Everything changed when I was out there. My heart rate, breath, mood- it all steadied and slowed down. I was in my happy place, and all was well in that moment.

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For me, the process is more important than the outcome. Whether or not I get the shot is irrelevant. I needed that time and space to create. I can't emphasize enough how absolutely necessary it is to make time for yourself. Your badge of honor should not be for all of the things you fit into a day and checked off of your to-do list. Your button of merit shouldn't be earned from being so busy in your day that you didn't have time to eat; to nourish your own body. 



Here are some ways to be kind to yourself and allow for creative space in your daily life. Keep an open mind and open heart to them, and you will be greatly rewarded. 




  1. Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier each morning and begin your day in silence. Sip on some lemon water. Meditate. Journal. Get it all out on the pages so you can then start your day with a clear mind. Waking up earlier than required sounds terrible to most people. With some simple adjusting to your bedtime, it becomes much easier over time. For me, I need that time alone in the morning to thrive and be the best I can for others throughout the day. You may even be surprised to find yourself looking forward to that early morning time!

  2. Move your body. Stretch. Breathe. I have a daily yoga practice. Some mornings it only means 10 minutes. Other mornings it's 40 minutes. I won't allow myself to get hung up on time. My body needs this type of movement and breathing. It is key to helping me carry through my day. Some prefer an evening ritual, so if that's you, go for it!

  3. Schedule time for creativity. If you are finding yourself getting caught up in the "I'm too busy and don't have enough time" loop, then this is for you. Block off some time on your calendar for your creativity each day. Make it non-negotiable even if it's something as little as 10 minutes a day. Allow yourself this well-deserved, uninterrupted time. Time is what we make of it. I've been guilty of saying I don't have enough of it, but it comes down to priorities.

  4. Ask for help. Too much on your to-do list leaves little to no time for you. There is no rule that states we have to do it all; a common fallacy that many people take on as a firm belief. You may feel asking for help makes you less of a person or that it sets you up for rejection. I find the opposite to be true. Making a few simple changes and delegating some tasks i.e., surrendering and giving up some control, can supply you with enough freedom to cultivate your creativity.

  5. Set up a small space that's just for you. This space can be a corner of a room, a little altar, desk, windowsill, a bookshelf, anything. Get creative with it. Decorate it with candles, crystals, flowers, books, artwork, pictures, oracle cards, anything that brings you inner peace, makes you smile, and inspires you. Spend some time in that area each day. Can you set up a chair nearby and read or journal for 15 minutes in this space? Make it your own and bring what you will to it. I've completely taken over the sunroom in our house and made it my own. Aside from that, I have smaller spaces throughout the house that I've created for myself also.



Do the things that light you up. 

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You don't have to check off a to-do list in order to earn quality time for yourself. The house cleaning can wait! Commit to these practices, and you will see and feel such a difference in yourself. 


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Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and ideas. Let's help each other out and support one another!

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** Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link. You can sign up for Sharon’s newsletter HERE to stay up to date and receive a bonus black and white editing video. 

Art is Subjective: Moving Past the Opinions and Judgments of Others

Something that comes up often when I'm teaching my Expressive Self Portraiture class is the fear of being judged by your audience, family, and friends for creating new work.


This is the part where I want to insert EFF that!


I'm passionate about encouraging women to share their art, themselves, their voices. To think that we would even hesitate on sharing pieces of ourselves in this way is absurd to me.


Are we not allowed to learn to love ourselves?


Are we selfish to think that we matter?


Are we not worthy of support in our self-exploration?


These women have such a strong desire and fire lit inside of them to make this type of healing and profound work, yet hold back in fear.


Fear of the opinions, sometimes ridicules, of their parents, brothers, sisters, children, best friends, husbands, wives, colleagues, employers, local acquaintances, and so on.


I've been there.


Instead, we hold back. We create private accounts. We share with an online audience that we will most likely never meet in real life. We seek support and acceptance from strangers. Online communities are formed for human connection. We create work that never gets shared.

Hush 2016

Hush 2016


This fear of judgment has been a great struggle of mine, especially in my earlier years of self-portraiture. I've had jokes made to my face about my work with masks. I've had comments publically made asking me if I'm okay.


"Are you okay? Do you need to talk to someone?"


I deleted that one out of sheer embarrassment.


Should I worry about sharing this image because I'm a mother and the other mothers out there may see it? What will they think of me? Is too much of my skin showing even though that's not my intention? Should I feel ashamed for being me and expressing myself in a way that feels best for me?

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Lament


What I have come to learn is this.


Art is subjective.


You are going to have people who can read your art like an open book, and you will have others who will see it as a foreign language.


And that's okay.


I've treated it as a learning lesson over the years, and I've made it my mission to support other women who are on similar journies. Because I know they are more than just a daughter, or a wife, or a mother, or a lawyer, or a doctor, or a college drop-out. They have stories, feelings, and desires to explore and express. They want to feel something. They want to find themselves. Be themselves. They are light and love. They are powerful. They are artists.


Not everyone is going to understand your art. But regardless, it belongs to you, and it's your story to share.


You own it.


Art is meant to stir up emotions, and sometimes, those are feelings of uncomfortableness in the viewer. It may bring up the viewers own insecurities, jealousy, or embarrassment and shame.


We all see things differently. That's the beauty of it all. Don't let that be the thing that prevents you from what you're being called to explore and create. What once seemed like a foreign concept to me, is now the very tool I use for self-expression. Self-expression has been the one thing that helps set me free from the inner critic.


Don't censor yourself.

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2015


You are worth it. Your voice is worth being heard. Your story is remarkable, and just because not everyone will connect with it, doesn't mean you should bury it.


To all of you brave Artists out there, I see you. I support you. I honor your work and the journey that got you here.

I admire your courage.


Keep creating and sharing with the world.


We need your story.

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* Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link.

Your Relationship With Self and Art

What’s your relationship with yourself like? What about with your art?
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I work on my relationship with myself every morning when I step onto my yoga mat, every time I put pencil to paper (yes, I prefer to hand write everything and with pencil ✏️ 🙂), every time I make the conscious choice to put the time in to nourish my body and not choose the opposite, every time I pick up or listen to a book, every online class I take to further educate myself (we can never stop learning), and in so many other ways.
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The other night I shared a little BTS video in my Instagram Stories of me setting up for a self-portrait in my backyard. It was completely impromptu. I had gone outside with Linhsey (my daughter) while she played hockey in the driveway, but the fading light and woods whispered for me to come.
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I obliged.
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While I didn’t create anything magical, I embodied and relished myself in the process. I spent so much thought and time in the winter pondering why I wasn’t out there creating as much. The cold and snow had never stopped me in the past. Now I see I just needed to lean in and trust in the process. It may call at the oddest of times, or lie dormant for quite some time. I just need to trust that whatever I’m meant to create, I will.
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I needed to go through this process the other night of feeling that spark of inspiration, setting up, making the images, and taking it all down again. It’s within that process that my relationship to self grows the most.
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What about you?

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Self Doubt

I quit 100 times a day. I quit and then I talk myself down and start once again. Every. Single. Day.

What do I have to offer? I’m not qualified to do this. Maybe this is just an expensive hobby. Maybe I’m not meant to make a living from this. Maybe I’m missing the whole point. What is my purpose? Maybe I’m too busy trying to make this work that I’m actually missing out on enjoying my so-called “gift” to the fullest potential. Maybe I’ve lost sight of my passion and my true WHY as to why I actually do this.

And just like that, for every negative I miraculously find a positive. This is my calling. This is my voice. Everything I’ve gone through has led me straight to this. There is nothing more fulfilling than creating, teaching, sharing what I know, supporting like-minded women, forging these intimate bonds in such a short period of time, inviting women to this safe space and earning their trust, supporting them, lifting them up, gathering in such a sacred space to let it all go and create with wild and reckless abandon. All of the masks fall away, the false beliefs and stories we convinced ourselves of no longer hold any truths, and we’re left with beautiful raw honesty in its purest form. In our vulnerability we find our strength.

My most recent block of Expressive Self Portraiture is wrapping up this week. To all of the women who trusted in me past and present, I thank you, wholeheartedly. Thank for you showing up with open minds, open hearts, willing to do the work, in all of your brave fierceness and honesty. ♥️

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I See You

I see you.
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To the woman who just turned her camera around onto herself for the first time today.
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I see you.
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To the woman who uses self-portraiture as a way to feel good about herself.
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I see you.
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To the one who is too scared to begin but can feel a small fire brewing inside of her ready to spread like wildfire when given the chance.
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I see you.
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To the one who feels lost. To the one who feels newly found. To the one who needs to heal. To the one who needs to come to terms with her body and accept herself for who she is. To the one who needs to forgive herself. To the one who needs to let go of the past in order to move forward. To the one who longs to feel empowered. To the one who abused herself. To the one who was abused by someone else. To the one who feels like a lost child inside. To the one who feels proud. To the one who thinks it’s her fault. To the one who worked so hard.
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I see you. I see you all and I witness your courage and honor your perseverance.

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Rejection

Have you ever been rejected?
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It doesn’t feel good, I know.
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But what if you used that rejection to fuel your fire🔥 and become even more amazing?
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Instead of allowing it to bring you down, let it motivate you.
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I’ve been checking my email for weeks in hopes of an acceptance email. You usually can tell by the header. “Congratulations!”
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Today the email came, except it was a rejection email.
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For a brief moment I let the sting set in and bring me down. The questions began circling through my mind. How? Why? What could I have done different?
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I quickly put a stop to it and decided I would continue submitting to them. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
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So many people share their successes and leave out their failures. I’ve been guilty of doing that myself ✋🏼. I think many of us have feelings of shame in rejection and failure. It’s embarrassing.
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Have you been rejected recently? Or have you had a recent success? Either way, I’d love to hear about it! Comment below and let’s lift each other up and inspire one another.

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What Lights You Up?

Teaching has been a part of my life since I was 17 years old.

I started teaching piano lessons to children when I was straight out of high school. It was such a fun and rewarding time.

When I had my son at 22 I remember some of the parents would ask me to bring him to the lessons so they could hold him and play with him.

Shortly after my daughter arrived I set piano lessons aside and picked up a camera. I quickly developed a passion to learn more and be a photographer.

It took me YEARS to say aloud that I was a photographer. Piano teacher was all I knew. Who was I to call myself a photographer yet alone an artist?!
Now, my teaching continues. I made my dream come true and I teach at The Define School.

But here’s the thing....those children that I taught piano lessons to? They taught me just as much.

The women who have taken my Expressive Self Portraiture class? They have taught me just as much.

Not only that, but they have touched my heart and left an impact on me that’s almost indescribable.

Teaching lights me up. What lights you up?

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Hi! I'm Sharon Covert

Hi, I’m Sharon Covert! For years I lived under this false belief that you could get to know me through my art alone.

I allowed fear to control what I shared.

I allowed fear to censor my words, my truth.

Fear of judgment. Fear of not being understood. Fear of not being liked.

I hesitated on sharing the good things that have come my way. The things I have worked hard for, all in fear that you would think I’m bragging or being show-offy. I made that word up, but it fits.

I held back my WHY, my reason why I began experimenting with self-portraiture.

All in fear.

This year the one sentence that has come up the most for me in my journal is this-

Lead by example.

It’s small yet profound, and I plan to do just that, for me, my children, my family and friends, and you. I can’t possibly be the only one who has experienced these feelings.
And while I may be writing more for YOU to get to know ME better, I also want to get to know you better. Has anyone else experienced similar thoughts and feelings when it comes to your art and social media?

If you made it this far, thank you, and it’s nice to meet you!

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