Category Archives: Stoke the Fire

25 Ways to Ignite Creativity

*This article is part of a series called ‘Stoke the Fire’, which explores the creative process and attempts to understand how and why we are driven to create. I would love to hear your opinions on creativity and ideas for future posts.*

25 Ways to Ignite Creativity

Extravaganza – Prediction = True by Pilottage, via Flickr Creative Commons

So the inspiration is there (and if it’s not take a gander at my ‘101 Ways to Spark Inspiration’…hopefully there will be something there to get you started), the soul is willing but the brain is stalling. We’ve all been there!

The blank page is too unforgiving, the canvas too taute. The silence is deafening. The pause yawns with expectation and pressure. Oh, the Pressure!

In response to the Pressure (and also as a way to put off my own creative endeavors today…I promise to get started after this!) I’ve come up with 25 ways I use to by-pass the over-thinking and get down to the creating, as well as a list of resources I fall back on when stuck. I would freakin’ love to hear how you do it too…

1. Trick yourself. ‘I’m not making Art. I’m just doodling/humming/messing around/having a laugh…’

2. Bribe yourself. Creating + 30 minutes = that chocolate bar that’s calling to me from the kitchen!

3. I highly recommend SARK‘s notion of MicroMOVEments. Super small steps towards doing what it is that you are putting off, that gently steer you towards action. She has very kindly created a worksheet for it that you can download for free on her site.

4. Close your eyes. Drop your shoulders. Steady your breath. See what you want to create in your minds eye – the perfect performance, the stroke of the brush, the turn of the phrase, the thrust of the form. See it in its entirety, in its complete glory. Now see that it already exists! It exists in your mind’s eye, your job is just to actualize it, follow the blue-print you’ve just conjured. The hard part is over. Now you’re just following directions.

5. Laugh as you make it. Don’t take it all so seriously…

6. Sneak up on it! Literally, even, if you have to.

7. Do it backwards. Write the lyrics before the melody or paint the foreground before the background or do whatever you want. See what happens.

8. Share it with someone. For some reason the thought of sharing original ideas in the creative world is seen as a bad thing sometimes. Pick someone you trust and allow yourself to take some advice or collaborate or even just talk it out with this person. This is not a sign of weakness. This is you understanding that creating is a community process, rarely done in true isolation.

9. Take the Sandwich approach. Identify a cheerleader. Call them up. Tell them that you are procrastinating and that you are kinda afraid to start but after you hang up your are going to work for 30 minutes flat-out, no matter the result, and then you are going to call them right back! Get a pep talk to energize your being and know that you will have someone waiting for you on the other side, eager to hear what you did and how you are.

10. Write down your creative intent. Put it under your pillow. Let the fairies do it while you’re asleep.

Butterfly by Jinterwas, via Flickr Creative Commons

11. Channel Meryl Streep in ‘The Devil Wear’s Prada’. Nothing stands in your way. Everything you do is inspired because YOU are the gatekeeper of taste! (Just don’t be mean to your employees…not cool!)

12. Know that your artwork loves you unconditionally, like a child. You brought it into this world, you gave it life. It really doesn’t care if it’s a masterpiece or not.

13. EX-pression is the opposite of DE-pression. It is for the good of your own health that you make this piece of art…as important as exercise and your 5-a-day.

14. You are not the star of ‘The Truman Show’. No one will ever see what you create if you don’t show it to them. So who cares if it turns out to be shit?! Make it anyway and see what happens. You can always recycle it…

15. Make Art like children do – with no plan, broad strokes, speed, inaccuracies but simplicity of vision, colourful abandon and crystal clear honesty. Glue & sprinkle. Smear & rip. Jump & wiggle. Yodel & whisper.

16. Do like Georgia O’Keeffe. Zoom in, but make it really BIG! If you can’t bring yourself to make the entire thing, pick one minute detail of it but do it on a massive, grandiose scale. How do you feel about your project now?

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keeffe

17. Have you tried the Morning Pages yet?! They are like an extra large, double shot latte for your Creative Being (but without the jitters and the come-down!). I first learned about them from Julia Cameron and basically you just write three, long-hand, stream-of-consciousness pages when you first wake up. You can’t do them wrong. You don’t think about them or ‘craft’ them. You don’t read back over them and you definitely don’t ever let anyone else read them. They are a place for you to whine, bitch, moan, grieve, yearn, gossip, giggle, observe, plot, extrapolate, whatever…just keep writing! I can’t tell you how amazingly focussing, cleansing and reviving they are. I can’t even say WHY they are so effective but that they get the gunk out, bypass the Ego and let you get down to business afterwards I suppose. You can read more about them here on Julia Cameron’s site…

18. Retreat to your safe place to create. Mine is my bed. I can happily write under the covers. I have been known to take my guitar to bed. I haven’t tried paints yet but I have woken up with crayons in my hair…and it was marvellous!

19. Do it outside! Pack a picnic, pick a spot and feel expansive. Also great because, so long as you’re not littering, it’s perfectly fine to make a mess.

20. Do something different. Are you a painter? Then try to sing it. Writers should attempt to sew it. Musicians might draw it. Dancers should feel free to sit still. Take your idea and express it in a way you are not familiar with just to see what happens. Does it turn your idea on it’s head or reaffirm what you already knew? Does the challenge of expressing yourself in an unfamiliar medium make you eager to get back to your native ‘language’?

21. Pimp your workspace. Taken to the extreme this can become a diversionary tactic so please be careful but sometimes a wee Spring clean of the ol’ workspace is very energizing. You find some materials you didn’t realise you had or that scrap of paper with the incredible idea on it that you had forgotten about. Nothing like physically clearing out to give you a good mental clear out as well! And if it’s all boring and work-like may I suggest some fairy lights, fresh flowers, candles, photos. Prettify the place you want to make beautiful art in. Make it a work of art itself.

22. Do you have a Creative Routine? Create a habit of lighting a candle to signify the start of your creative time. Or unplug the phone. Or make it a habit that as soon as you get in from work/shopping/walking that you will go straight to work. Make this the trigger that lets your mind know that you are now in Creative Mode, Do Not Disturb! This also doubles as a handy signal to people you live with and love to stay the freakin’ hell away from you while the candle is lit/CD is playing/sock is on the door knob! Routine can create boundaries and boundaries help protect what you hold precious.

The Golden Dream by AlicePopkorn, via Flickr Creative Commons

23. KNOW THIS! You are just a hollow reed through which inspiration has moved. You are not the original creator, merely the interpretor for the inspiration that is released into the ether by the Muse/Ultimate Inspiration/Great Creator/Universe/God/whatever you can believe in that removes the ego from creating…that unknowable, unending energy that fuels our hearts and minds and souls. I don’t care if you believe in religion or not, God or not. I don’t care if this all sounds a touch too hippy-ish for you. Believe this! This one idea will lift the burden of achieving and striving from your creative life. Your job suddenly becomes simple – to give solidity to an idea presented to you.

24. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! Feel it in the pit of your stomach. Feel it try to f*&k you up! Now just move. Use it as a huge energy springboard. This isn’t here to fuel my not doing work, it’s going to FUEL MY WORK. Have a little out of body moment even and just look at yourself working in the face of fear…Fabulous!

25. If you really can’t do it, walk away. Maybe it’s not worth tearing it out of you. Maybe it’s not ready to be born yet. Let it bake a while longer. Go and have a nap. As Danielle LaPorte says…

Move the energy before you make a move for the results.
Want to write a killer chapter? Take a bath.
Want the check to arrive? Give some money away.
Want the love to come? Dance it out in your living room.

Want to slam down your to do list? Take the day off.

It’s not always a doing.
It’s a new seeing.

(read the whole article here…)

~ Why do you think getting start can be so hard sometimes?

~ What do you do to get the ball rolling when faced with the ‘blank page’?

**For even more ways to get the ole Creative ball rolling check out this list of resources, books, links, films, interviews and blogs that me & my band of Creative Cohorts find useful…’More on Igniting Creativity’.  Hope you find it helpful!**

p.s. this is my 100th post on Lighting Little Fires…Yeay! Thank YOU for all the support, encouragement, for reading and inspiring what I write. I owe you a jammy doughnut…


Fasting for Creatives: Part 2

Fasting for Creatives

After the wonderful response to my article a few weeks ago I decided to solicit some opinions on the concept from friends, bloggers and artists I respect. The questions on deck were…

~ Are there ways in which you Fast to help your Creativity?

~ Do you even think fasting is appropriate for Creatives and the Arts or are these areas where depriving yourself for any reason is not productive?!

I was overwhelmed by the generous, thoughtful response I received and I hope these alternative perspectives help you in your Creative Endeavors. To re-cap on why I’m fasting at the moment you can check out my article ‘Creatively Fasting‘ and re-read my response to the above questions at ‘Fasting for Creatives‘. If you have any opinions, insights or questions please feel free to comment and discuss…that’s what it’s all about… :)

Erin Fickert-Rowland of ‘Elysian Studios‘ is an Artist and writer of wonderful tutorials, inspiration pieces and creative process articles. This was her response…

At this point in my creative journey, when I think of “fasting”, it applies to “idea generation.”  I am an idea junkie… I love thinking of new ways to create things: learning new techniques, communicating new ideas.  Granted, there is “nothing new under the sun”, but there is plenty that’s new to me every day, and I love fusing old ideas together and giving my own spin to it!

At some point, however, a highly creative person must put the brakes on all the potential, possibilities and new ideas, and actually produce work! You must sift, sort and select the best ideas you’ve had and dedicate yourself to a period of production.  As new ideas surface, they must be jotted down, but relegated to the back-burner until the production period is over and the new idea generation period begins.

I am about to enter a very serious stage of production! I have been learning so many new things about technology and modern business, networking like crazy, and preparing my studio/blog for production and now it’s time to begin!

So, my fasting will be restraining myself from getting side-tracked by new ideas.  No learning new crafts, no purchasing new supplies just because they look fun, no dreaming up new technological components for my business, no new networking outlets (social media/local organizations), and I am not even worried about “selling” my work for the time being.  I will produce!

Leah is a globe-trotting media wiz and art appreciator. She writes about her travels, loves and musings at Leah’s Home and is also taking part in the Bahá’í Fast at the moment….

I think any change to ones regular routine results in more creativity.  The fast is definitely a change from regular routine.  Your brain has to work a bit harder and approach things differently instead of just running on autopilot.  And exercise for your brain improves your creativity.  But I also think you don’t see a change in your creative achievements until after, when your energy levels are back up thanks to wonderful food!  I also think the fast makes you more conscious of how you organise your time.  It always makes me very aware how much time I spend thinking about food, buying food, eating food, cleaning up after eating the food!  You realise how much time is spent on the mundane stuff instead of the amazing and creative stuff.

Alexandra Franzen writes everything you are thinking but were afraid to say out loud about marketing and hustling on the inter-web while referencing rainbows and unicorns…I kid you not!

I overcame an eating disorder as a young teenager, so I steer away from fasting, as a rule — in much the same way that a person with alcoholic tendencies avoids alcohol, or a person who is allergic to kittens avoids a pet store.

That being said, I’m a big fan of media fasts — abstaining from electronic distractions and stimulations, for a designated period of time. I find that “jumping offline” for a day or two has extraordinary effects on my productivity and creative ambition. I can only imagine what might happen if I unplugged for a week, or more! I might take over the universe!

Jessica Powers is a yoga instructor-craft fiend. To read Jessica’s opinions on the nature of  fasting and her experiences of it check out ‘Creatively Fasting‘ (I’ve just updated it)…super interesting stuff!

…I’ve bounced back and forth, in and out of New Zealand for a year before being allowed to settle back in, and I still find that regular quiet time is needed.  A media fast from news, television, and radio whenever I can means I don’t indulge in the group fear and can be more emotional available for those I come into immediate contact with, rather than exhausted by continuous undirected and manipulated emotional involvement (I’m aware at how harsh that sounds, but it stems from my experiences and observations)…several long, mindful exhalations between activities…not forcing myself to knit on works in progress if I really don’t feel like knitting right then…allowing myself a day or two a week during which I don’t force myself to practice yoga if I don’t feel like it (this is distinct from not having the time for it – time I make, feeling comes unbidden, it’s a balance to explore)…not writing back to emails immediately if I can tell they will be better served if I allow the topic to sit with me for a bit…

So – yes – fasting helps keep us Creative.  In main, I feel, by giving us the opportunity to clarify our intentions and ability to channel the Divine Creative Source and have it, in the process of flowing through us clearly, become uniquely ours in its manifestation into the world.

As my Catholic family once beautifully pointed out: we let go of something for Lent so that we can have the space to develop our spiritual relationship.  It’s not about denying something for 40 days and 40 nights, it’s about bringing in something we want more.

I’ve been taught this in yoga and pagan education: if we release something we must likewise invite something else in. Otherwise, in the vaccum created by letting go, the same energy released will return again, familiar to us and an easy fit.

The four steps that I consider relate to fasting are:

Intention – a stock take, if you will – what would we like to release, what would we like to invite; setting up the circumstances for our fast – what, when, where, why, who (you might fast alone but have a support system in place to back you up and cheer you on), time taken to do this carefully will be well spent because an intention you don’t feel entirely committed to will not benefit from your full attention and care.

Action – how we go about releasing – fasting from an activity, a food; using activities, food, affirmations, meditation, prayer, etc.

Invitation – how we go about inviting new energy in – meditation, specific actitivities, affirmations, prayer, etc.

Exploration & Embodiment – creating new paradigms and patterns that support the invitation and support and strengthen our letting go of the energy/pattern/idea we wish to release; this is probably the most time consuming, because of how energy creates pathways, in our neural patterning in the brain and in the subtle body.

(If I told you the flowers in this shot were meant to be blurry would you believe me?! I love how sharp the grass in the background is though…)

Interested in reading more?! Check out these articles inspired by and building on the conversation we’ve started here…creative minds expanding on creative ideas!

» Erin Fickert-Rowland rolls with her musings for this article and extrapolates all the way to a whole new outlook on her creative life! With insightful questions and honest answers, she unravels how she motivates her creativity. To infinity and beyond!

» Adena Atkins, creativity mentor (am I allowed to call you that?! I feel you are to me…) and fellow ‘sustainable creativity’ blogger has pledged to broach this subject on her blog in the next week or so. Her current post is on the stages of productivity and, I feel, ties in completely with our discussion here…well worth a read…

Fasting for Creatives

Fasting for Creatives

Rainbow Full-circle by mikebaird, via Flickr Creative Commons

So yesterday I told you how I was using my creative pursuits to help me through fasting. It got me thinking though are there any of the techniques of fasting that could be used to help Creatives.

I think there are four stages to a Fast –

1. Purge – like cleansing your body of toxins in a physical fast, try to expel your old habits or preconceptions about Creativity.

2. Renew – look for new ways to approach your Creative impulse. Be open to new possibiltites.

3. Recommit – commit to bringing these new approaches into your life for a set period of time.

4. Flourish – watch as new ideas come to you, unexpected paths are taken and everything feels exciting and new again.

I think a well executed Fast should leave you feeling refreshed, revitalized and humming with inspiration.

A ‘Creative Fast’ makes me think of not actually doing anything creative for a set period of time. Could this be helpful? Would it even be possible?! Hmm, maybe.

…& the end. by notsogoodphotography, via Flickr Creative Commons

I often have fallow period where my creative spark seems to go underground for a bit, regroup and then reemerge in time, raring to go. A bit like Winter before the Spring. Maybe I’ve been working it all too hard and not taking time to refill the aul’ inspiration bank with juicy images, sounds, colours, experiences. Maybe I’ve just been neglecting to do creative things that get me really excited and instead been making things to order or because they’re popular.

By allowing myself time to just relax and not force the making of things, I give myself space to breathe and reboot. This isn’t always possible in life, especially if your Art is also your job, but even then blocking out some time for yourself to just Be is always important. Everybody needs a holiday sometimes.

A really useful way I Fast sometimes is by have a Media Blackout. I found this technique while reading Julia Cameron’s ‘An Artist’s Way’ and it blew my mind when I read it. You basically just absorb no media for an entire day/week/whatever. No TV, films, books, radio, CDs, advertisings (this is a really hard one), magazines, internet and anything else you can think of. Then sit back and see the time and space created in your life. See what activities you are inspired to do instead.

Stuff gets fixed.

Things get knitted.

Furniture is rearranged.

Walks are taken.

Friends are called.

Food is savoured.

It’s amazing and refreshing, like a holiday for your senses. You start to notice how bombarded we are in life by advertising, music in the background, text everywhere, constant stimulation. This kind of Fast is a soothing way to unwind your senses from the hectic pace of everyday living.

::to photograph is to FRAME, and to FRAME is to exclude:: by Zitona, via Flickr Creative Commons

You could set aside your most comfortable, go-to craft for a month…mine would be knitting…and see what other ways your creativity decides to manifest itself.

Maybe I would start book-making or creating beautifully iced cupcakes or finally learn how to quilt. Maybe I would get my paints and canvas out for the first time in years and take my sketchpad for a walk. Writing about this is making me feel excited…I might have to actually try this one and report back to you!

~ Is there any ways in which you Fast to help your Creativity?

~ Do you even think Fasting is appropriate for Creatives and the Arts or is an area where depriving yourself for any reason is not productive?

What Inspires You?

Handmade Spark recently canvassed on Twitter for answers to their February question ‘What inspires you?’

This was my offering –

Thanks to Handmade Spark for including my input in their article! You can read all the answers that were included here…they range from zany to heart-wrenching but all show a passion that drives their creative endeavors.

I would love to hear What Inspires You! And if you agree, disagree or feel totally non-plussed by my answer I’d love to hear that too…

Also want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who commented on Creating = Energy! The discussion started in the comments section is so interesting and bolstering, I can’t thank you all enough. If *you* have anything to add to what has been said so far please don’t hesitate to join in. We’d love to hear what you have to say!

Creating = Energy

*This article is part of a series called ‘Stoke the Fire’, which explores the creative process and attempts to understand how and why we are driven to create. I would love to hear your opinions on creativity and ideas for future posts.*


Tapping into a source of Renewable, Sustainable, Caffeine-less Energy

by Brenda Starr, via Flickr Creative Commons

Ugh! It’s Monday and I have a busy day ahead, full of previously procrastinated tasks, writing, cleaning, maybe some yoga and an album launch to attend in Belfast this evening. I’m definitely one of those kinds of people that thinking about what I have to do makes me feel TIRED. Like I have no energy for it all. I’m 25. Ridiculous, I’m sure.

I was taught in school that energy can’t be created or destroyed but moves from form to form, object to object. So I can’t ‘make’ my own energy. I have to find myself a power supply that I can relay on.

Commonly used, and recommended,  energy sources  are…

  • caffeine,
  • drugs,
  • drink,
  • food,
  • sex,
  • money – getting it and spending it…

…but they are pretty unstable energy sources. They are addictive, or their potency wears off with use, or they rely entirely on another person (always an unstable source). All listed together they may seem like obvious enemies of true energy but they are so subtly present in all our lives, supported by popular culture and are easy to get your hands on, that I would be surprised if you didn’t over-indulge in at least one regularly.

As creative beings we are GIFTED with a limitless, abundant, completely environmentally friendly source of energy because when we create we are energized! Have you noticed? ‘Course you have. Everyone has had that buzz after a job well done.

by rpongsaj, via Flickr Creative Commons

As the One True Energy/The Ultimate Creativity/The Muse/Whatever moves through us and inspires us (did you know that word the ‘inspire’ literally means to breathe through or into?!…breathing inspiration and energy into you) it also energizes us. It’s a perk of the job, a little present left behind after the Art has been made. We are revitalized by an energy source that is so pure, healthy, life-affirming and generous that coffee becomes a pretty redundant pick-me-up.

It’s free, clean, highly addictive but only in the most positive way, driving you to abundant happiness, rock-solid self-esteem and joyful being. Well, that’s what I’ve found :) You may feel ‘spent’ after creating something you’re proud of but I bet you also feel satisfaction that radiates from your head to your toes! You sleep better and on waking you feel like a new person, bright-eyes and bushy-tailed.

by kelsey_lovefusionphoto, via Flickr Creative Commons

However, in order to sustain this energy source there are three things I’ve found I have to do to keep the good time rolling…

~ SLEEP! – this is NON-NEGOTIABLE, and ironically usually the first thing that goes out the window with me. You need to give yourself the opportunity to absorb and process what has happened, soak up this energy into your being and store it up for whenever you need it.

~ Fill the Well – you have to commit to deliberately and regularly keeping your well of inspiration topped up. You can’t mine your resources ruthlessly without replacing what you use. For ideas on how to do this read 101 Ways to Spark Inspiration…

~ Keep Working! – Trust the process and know that some work is never meant to be seen. You make it to just get the crap out, practice and make way for the good stuff. TRUST!

You hear about artists panicking when they lose the faith in their creative energy. They forget how sustaining and whole-hearted it is but they also crave it, live for it. So they try to find it before the creation is made, usually tapping into our list of unstable sources above. So looms the dreaded ‘Block’. Best way to get through it? Keep making stuff. Do the thing that seems the hardest.

I still like a latte. I love when I can earn money doing what I feel passionately about and then enjoy spending it. I still take great support and solace from the love of my friends and family and partner. However, I am under no illusions that these sources alone cannot get me through my day, through my life. I know where I can I can tap into something that will never desert me.

~ What has your experience of creating and its ‘perks’ been? Do you feel energised afterwards?

~ Do you have a different perspective on the creative process? I would love, love, LOVE to hear…