Nurturing creative energy and productivity.

More than time I find creative energy is central to my "getting things done". I've spent over fifteen years thinking about this, and lately more so than ever: Fitting in my once full time painting around a baby is proving to be a challenge, but he is so very worth it!

This quick list (would you call this a mission statement of sorts?) is no doubt different for every creative person, but here are a few of the precepts I live by:

1. Seek (and be open to) Inspiration. There will always be fallow times, and it's the perfect opportunity to grow, learn and file away resources for those moments when things flow more easily and it is time to focus on your own vision. Nothing is wasted. Whose work do you love? why?

2. Avoid negative people, and seek out mentors and supportive people. Creativity takes enough energy. Don't let others drain you.

3. Be kind to yourself. Guilt is a waste of time. I think Anne Lamott called this "putting the puppy back on the paper". It's true.

4. Believe in yourself. It has been said that if you don't no one else will, but quiet confidence is also a valuable source of energy.

5. Turn negatives into positives. If you have to waste energy on angst and general anxiety, make it work for and not against you. It can also save thousands of dollars on therapists.

6. Try a new medium, or use your materials in a new way. Despite having less time than ever before (and little sleep) I am very energized by switching from oil to egg tempera. It was initially for the health of my baby, but there is nothing like a new medium for shaking things up. Take yourself back to school and keep the sense of wonder and joy alive.

7. Mindful prayer or meditation. No one person's shoulders should be that wide. Creativity takes courage, and a leap of faith. It takes trust, and being sensitive to a spiritual connection with the universe. At least for me, this is central.

8. Nuture your body.

"To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom and keep our minds strong and clear. Water surrounds the lotus flower, but does not wet its petal."- Buddha.

I know of amazing artists that are seemingly fueled by alcohol, but for how long? I love my baby, and some of my work may take years to realize, so I am in it for the longevity. I want to be still finding joy in my work at 85. I have found there are are few better ways to age gracefully and ease all aches and pains than with yoga. Even if I can only do a few minutes a day, I am far more able to focus and sit down to work for longer periods of time. A little is better than none. It took me a while to realize this. I would work non-stop for an exhibition, and then have to spend months recharging before I could drum up any creative energy. These days I find that if all I have time is for a half an hour brisk walk a day, it still means the world. It does not have to be an all-or-nothing affair, which it once was for me (I actually took it upon myself to do a fitness intructors' course between my lapses of physical inactivity). Like learning a musical instument, a little a day is far better than practising endlessly once in a blue moon. Letting your brain get oxygen is a good thing. Do some deep breathing every day. Eat as best you can, and for me this means avoiding artificial sugar (well, most of the time...).

9. Be patient with yourself. Art can and does take time.

10. I can't afford to think short term, but there are other solutions to paying the bills than selling out. For some people this could mean a day job, grant applications or patrons, but I have recently started to look at doing one shorter concept piece (that is more about process than finished product) a week. The quicker I do this piece (believing in the aesthetic of the unfinished here), the more time I have to work the longer works (if it takes months and months, it won't make financial sense till I'm dead).

11. Be patient with the world around you. Waiting time is brainstorming time. It's also rest time.

12. Think about the people you love. They should be a great source of inspiration, strength and motivation. My gallery representative said that having a baby would be good for me, and she was right. The notion of starving for your art stops being romantic when children are involved. Time to use that planner!

13. It took me a while to catch on to this one: Value your sleep. So says the sleep-deprived mom who has spent years pulling all-nighters to paint. What you can get away with at 20, starts to catch up with you at 30. But what I took too long to discover was that sleeping in the dark is far more beneficial and refreshing, and you need less of it. It is no secret that trying to keep a consistent schedule will leave you more energized, but if you have to sleep in daylight, wear a dark mask. Whether it is an exhibition or a baby teething that keeps you up all night, a dark eye mask (the black silk ones for migranes are perfect, because they are cool to the skin and opaque) is a smart investment. Speaking of which, I'm going to catch a few winks before the baby wakes again...

14. I'm sure there are many more to add, but I've found using a timer to be very freeing. I may only have little blocks of time with which to work, but it stops me from clock watching. Some works would never end if you let them, but there is something empowering in saying "this sketch" or section will be finished in one hour, and then doing it. It will show in the energy of the lines or brushwork.

I would love to hear what other people do to nurture their creative energy and productivity.


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Talk about timely! If you

Talk about timely! If you ask Doug... this sort of thing was EXACTLY what I was planning on writing for my Thursday blurb this week. Except you put it a bit more elegantly. If you don't mind, could I link this into this week's blurb?


oops... Sorry about that. I

oops... Sorry about that. I have no problem with you linking to this, and in fact it would be an honour. These are just some of the things I've had to come to terms with over the years to keep the joy alive in my work, and I wanted to share it. I would love to hear how other people stimulate their creativity.


collaboration, perhaps?

No, no, no... that's okay-- I don't mind that you beat me to it. I know that I had to rewrite and refocus my article for this week anyhoo. And I agree with you, these things are VERY important to the creative process and they were begging to be talked about before I jumped into discussing how to make things or use the templates in creative ways.

I'd be honored if you could read over my article for this week and help me make a nice compaion piece to what you've already posted. If you have time.


Productivity like success

Productivity like success can be a relative term in art. I just came across this article link on the site of one of the upcoming guest writers for DIY Thanks Neal! I wanted to share this:

    Slowing down the artistic process

    I can't admit to being a great fan of his work, but this article by Grayson Perry in yesterday's Times is interesting reading, and a lot of what he says makes sense. His basic premise is that, because of the appetite for art by the public, the artistic process has speeded up, and that artists should think about slowing down a little, at least sometimes.

    "Art-world acceleration I put down to various forces. First, we are just as prone to being sucked into the idea that fast is somehow central to modernity. To be relevant is to be broadband-quick and dressed for next season. Apparently artists also need to become museum-supply companies with a high turnover of works if they want to succeed internationally."

    It's an interesting article. Go and have a read.


I especially enjoyed the last paragraph.


One more for the list:

One more for the list:

15. Scheduling time does wonders when it comes to eliminating guilt, because it enables you to be present in the moment and not worry about doing, or being somewhere else. This is especially true if you work from home. At least it was for me. A few years ago I started scheduling an official day off once a week, and was suddenly more able to relax without guilt, and much more energized to return to work without feelings of resentment.

Of course all this is moot with a baby. I don't have time for guilt, or much else. I'm grateful for every moment: Each beautiful distraction, and every moment I can find to focus on my work.


Thanks for a great read

I just blocked off some time this afternoon to read this and the Free Your Mind post. This is really great information. Even the things I'd heard before were presented in a fresh perspective. Thanks for this. It's great to hear from other artists who are trying to live a normal life with family and obligations and still get the art DONE. Kudos!


Oblique Strategies

When I used a palm pilot there was an excellent Oblique Strategies Program I could use to stimulate creative thought process. Lets make a consolidated notecard of them.

What bizarre timing...

I just downloaded the OS X Dashboard widget for Oblique Strategies this very minute. A great set of creative prompts.

I'd love to create a note card (or series thereof), but my concern with this is the copyright, since it appears that Eno and Schmidt copyrighted them (or the deck?) in the 1970's. They therefore might not be freely shared until long after I'm in my grave, at least in the States. I've seen various OB sites and programs over the years, so I'm wondering exactly what the deal is. Anybody with more information as to the status of it? Perhaps Eno and Schmidt have allowed sharing? (It sounds like something they might do.)

all my best,


Oblique Strategies PDF

An Oblique Strategies PDF is available here and here

[link-ified by ygor 2007-09-11]

Great link... I came across

Great link! (Where does that copyright come in though?)I came across a page on managing musical creativity when I followed it that seems to fit in well with this thread.

btw. It's no secret, but pretty sure there will be something for musicians in the upcoming creativity pack. I'm one of the fray who made suggestions for the templates for visual artists. (-:


Great ideas

These are great ideas for artists and creative people...thanks