What I Learned Writing About Creativity for Almost 10 Years


Nine years ago today, I began writing this blog. It wasn’t my intent to still be writing it nearly ten years later. I started it as a way for me to understand and explore this (at the time) seemingly mysterious quality that I felt I did not possess. To recap, I had just turned 30, left my job in Washington, DC as a museum educator and returned home to Cleveland – a place I had not lived permanently in 12 years.

Before any of that occurred, I had been fascinated by creativity.

After all, I had a degree in Art History and had always been more expressive than others but never really felt creative. In my late 20s, I started reading everything I could on the topic. At that time, the selection was limited the Artist’s Way and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I completed an online Creativity Coaching class and I started attending a monthly applied creativity group gathering in my neighborhood. Here, I learned that I was not alone in my quest for understanding this thing we call creativity. There were other seekers just like me out there and they were practicing their creativity every day and integrating it into their lives and careers.

And then I moved back to the Midwest.

I had dreams of being a creativity consultant and trainer, but when I told people this while out networking they just looked at me like I had 3 heads. I needed to find that creative community I had experienced in DC, so I turned online. At that time, blogging was unheard of and hardly anyone even knew what Twitter was, but I was determined to once again connect with those other creatives and seekers I knew were out there.

I started this blog as a way to document my own explorations and a way to educate others. Through my posts and social sharing I was able to connect with other like-minded souls. For awhile, I was one of a handful of individuals actively pursuing this quest as well. I can count Tanner from Creative Something and Mike from Brainzooming as my earliest cohorts in this space online.

But then life got in the way.

As much as I loved writing about creativity, I also had a job and sometimes school to attend. I eventually did have a career in training – but in a marketing role, where I found a use for my newly found creative confidence. I let this blog (and sometimes) my creativity fall by the side, as what I determined were more important concerns took over.

Do I regret this? Sometimes.

What I don’t regret are all the people I have met along the way and all the lessons I have learned about creativity. Writing this blog and experiencing my own creative growth have given me a new career and a confidence about my own writing. It has also taught me much more about what it means to be creative:

1. Creativity is unpredictable, yet predicable – This may seem like a contradictory statement, but it’s true. Creativity is a not a duality but an all of the above. So while creativity sometimes seems to be unpredictable, it is very predictable. There are certain tools and routines that help you become more creative. It is usually through the incubation phase of the creative process where a seemingly unpredictable idea comes from. But the idea is not random, it’s a product of everything you know, and thus very predictable. The key is to keep absorbing as much as you can, so your brain can connect the dots.

2. Creativity requires intention and attention – To be creative, we need to choose to be creative first that is where intention comes in. By starting from a place of creativity we can truly embrace all that we can create. This is where attention comes in. Putting an intention to be creative is a wonderful first step, but it needs to be followed by action and steady action that often comes with creating something new every day and not just when we feel like it. This steady momentum is why some of the greatest creators are successful.


3. You must fail first to succeed at creativity – Find me one creator who has never failed. No, seriously, I’d love to meet them. Most people aren’t successful as soon as they pick up a paint brush or type words onto a blank page. More than likely, they’ve failed along the way. I know I have. Creativity is a process and we all must work through our own process to determine what success looks and feels like. With that said, creativity usually includes wrong turns and mishaps, and sometimes those same things we thought we failed at lead us to our greatest creative success.

4. Creative inspiration surrounds us – The problem is that we never go looking for inspiration, so when it happens we think it is magic, but it’s not. In order to be creative we must accept that all of our ideas are really built from someone else’s. They come from filling a need that someone else has or are a new life on existing ideas. That’s why we need to open our eyes and absorb everything around us and then process it. Some people process it through meditation or exercise or taking a shower or working on their craft. It’s this synthesis of ideas that makes creativity special.

5. Everyone is creative in their own way – So far this has been the biggest lesson I’ve learned about creativity. I always thought creativity meant that I needed to know how to draw well. But then I met creatives that excelled at cooking, decorating and even improv. It made me see creativity as a more uniquely innate attribute. For myself, I’ve learned to embrace being creative in all sorts of ways, and it’s allowed me to see my creative potential in a new light. I admit I am a dabbler and that is what I excel at. I am also a big vision strategic thinker, but I can’t draw a straight line – maybe some day I’ll learn. But for now, I am happy being able to improvise a recipe, make a collage or write a blog post. And that is my expression of my creativity. I am sure in the future it will evolve to encompass more creative acts and I look forward to it.

Looking ahead to the next 10 years, I want creativity to be the norm. I’ve watched it move from the fringes to the mainstream in a short amount of time, but really:

I want to live in a world where everyone believes they are creative.

Are You a Big C Creative?

balboa parkIf not, don’t worry. Neither am I. And that’s ok.

Several years ago, I used to introduce myself as an artist with a small a. One time someone expressed to me that she didn’t like to hear me say that. She felt I was diminishing myself by doing so. She believed I should embrace being an artist is with a capital A. But that’s not who I was, and I was perfectly happy with that.

Much like how we have become caught up with being a creative with a big C. Being that type of creative means to me that you have achieved something great and given it to the world. I think of Steve jobs and the iPhone or the writings of Maya Angelou. I realize I have not done that…yet!

And I am fine with that.

To me, being a small c creative means that you are heading in that direction. That you are taking all the necessary actions to get to that big discovery or life changing invention. It’s not that I think less of myself but instead realize that my creativity is still a work in progress.

glass palette

You don’t have to wait to create your masterpiece. Here are some ways to embrace your little c creative while working toward being a big C creative:

  • Create more little aha’s. Daily inspirations can lead to big breakthroughs. Focus on moving forward with your discovery. Every little breakthrough gets you there.
  • Build your creative dream in 5 minutes a day. You don’t have to devote large chunks of time to your creativity. Set aside just 5 minutes a day and write, paint, dance, whatever it takes to move your creativity along.
  • Have an inspired conversation. Find a friend and discuss a new creative topic or find a new person to chat with and get inspired by all they have to teach you.
  • Play like a kid. When was the last time you simply played? If you can’t remember, then get out there and do it. Play opens us up to new ideas as our imagination is stretched.
  • Be everyday creative. Find ways to infuse creativity in your daily tasks. Add a splash of color to your wardrobe, create a new recipe or find a different route to work.

How will you nurture your little c creative? 

Creativity is…Love

I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of creativity is…love for awhile, so it seemed appropriate to make it the topic of this month’s post. In the past, I’ve covered Creativity is…Taking a Leap and Creativity is…Learning.

How is creativity love? For starters, how many projects or ideas have you willingly begun that you didn’t love? Did not feel truly passionate about? What happended to those projects? They are probably sitting on a shelf somewhere hidden in a closet or simply thrown out. Creativity depends on our love and passion to bring an idea into fruition.

creativity is love

But all too often we do not honor that. Instead, I see article after article or blog post on how to move past creative blocks or simply how to even spark your creativity. But should we really need to move past resistance or conjure up our creativity if we are in love with it all the time?

Our creativity should be something we honor and cherish every minute of the day. After all, it’s what makes us human and what has kept our species in existence. So why don’t we do that? Are we too busy, are our minds too crowded or do we not see the value in it?

I think about my own experience of rediscovering my creativity. First of all, it took awareness and consciousnesses to acknowledge that I was even a creative being. Following that, it took intention and dedication to be creative every day and to find new solutions for all problems no matter how big or how small. Finally, it took love. Love to become passionate about my ideas and projects. Love to keep pursuing my creative growth. Love to sustain it.

When was the last time you honored your creativity in a positive way?  I challenge you to write a love letter to your creativity to show your appreciation and devotion to it:

  1. Choose whatever medium you feel comfortable expressing yourself in. Maybe it’s a basic handwritten letter. Or maybe it’s a collage, painting or other visual expression. It could also be a song.
  2. Get real with yourself. Dig deep. Find all the things you love about your creativity and capture that.
  3. Display it where  you can see it everyday. Put it in a prominent place on your desk or place it in your planner.
  4. Read it on a consistent basis. Choose a certain time of the day, week, month or quarter to review it and keep yourself in love with your creativity. Like any relationship, loving your creativity takes time and dedication.

How will you choose to love your creativity?

Inspirit is My Word of the Year

In my last post, I wrote about my word last year and how it guided my focus. This year my word came to me quite effortlessly and when I look back I can see how I intuitively arrived at it.


The definition of inspirit is to instill courage or life into or to encourage and enliven (someone). For as long as I can remember, that’s what I do. I love to empower people to be their most creative self. I realize now that is the purpose of this blog. At first it was a way to document my way back to my creativity, but in the end, I found that it touched more than my own life. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how true this is.

After having an inspiring lunch conversation with a close friend and collaborator, he commented, “you are an inspiration.” Sure, like I mentioned, that’s what I do but rarely had I heard a compliment like that verbalized. It was a jolt that shook me to my core. Maybe I was doing something that was bigger than myself and my own creative exploration.

This was only confirmed a few short weeks later when I received a seemingly random message from a longtime blog reader. I say seemingly random because I usually know or have somehow communicated with most of my loyal readers through emails or social media. This was different, because I had no clear idea who this person was. I did some detective work and sure enough he was legit. His comment that, “your work is an inspiration” struck me. He went on in detail to describe the projects he was working on and how he was making time for his creativity.

It was at that moment that I knew this wasn’t a fluke. After a year of feeling like I wasn’t succeeding. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my career. I hadn’t started writing that book I dreamed about. My bank account wasn’t large enough. All of that no longer matter. What really mattered was that I was touching people’s lives and some people I had never met.

That’s why inspirit as my word for the new year is such a serendipitous choice. I have heard YOU and that’s what I hope to continue to do in 2015 and beyond.

Stay tuned to the space for information on a FREE Creative Cures workbook, an e-course on Finding Your Creative Meaning and a collection of essays based on my popular Creativity is…series plus lots more inspiration to live your creativity. One dose at a time.

What’s your word for the new year and how do you plan to live it?

Creative Bucket List

A few years ago, I wrote a post on my creative goals at the start of a new year. In it, I included three goals I wanted to accomplish that year. I sometimes referred to it as my creative bucket list. Well, I didn’t accomplish any of them that year. Or the year after. I did, however, do one of them earlier this year. That’s how goals work. Sometimes you can’t control the timing of them.

Melanie - Glass

Taking a class on glass has been on my creative bucket list for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been fascinated by the artistic process of creating a glass piece. There’s just something about the transformation that takes place when you start with a raw piece of material and shape it how you want. In the end, the magic of glass isn’t revealed until after it’s cooled and you can see how it turned out.

This spring I had the opportunity to experience this firsthand. Someone forwarded me a special offer from the Glass Bubble Project. The same place I had initially intended to take a class. I figured this was a sign so I jumped at the chance.

I am not a kinesthetic person – ok, I am uncomfortable doing anything physical – so this class was a real challenge for me. It was also extremely hot near the oven, which made it more uncomfortable. But what I learned long ago is to lean into the things that make you uncomfortable, because it will challenge you and especially challenge your creativity.

Glass - project

With that said, in the middle of the class, I said to the woman next to me that my next creative exploration would be trying my hand (literally) at the pottery wheel. Well, unlike my previous creative bucket list item, this one took a rather short time to accomplish.

Several months later I saw an online posting about a pottery wheel class that included wine at Art House, and I signed up right away. I invited a few friends, who I knew would enjoy it too. We had a fun time in this casual environment. And like my glass experience, I realized how uncoordinated and uncomfortable I am doing physical art work that requires my entire body.

Pottery - Project

In the end, I am proud of myself for doing both of these activities and not only crossing them off my creative bucket list but also leaning into my fears and challenging myself to grow and see my creativity in a new light.

Melanie - Pottery

What’s on your creative bucket list?


When Life Gets in the Way

creativity poemWhen I left my blog over two years ago, I never imagined it would be for such a prolonged length of time. I figured I’d just take a quick break and focus on what in my real life needed attending to.

After a few months, I kept telling myself and others, that I’d be back to blogging here by the end of the month, which turned into the end of the year and then into the spring, fall, etc.

All those months of proclaiming (and often believing) those intentions fizzled as the days flew past. Before I knew it, another season, another year had passed.

And all the while I knew I would return someday when the time was right for me. I thought it was late last year, so I hired someone to finally transfer my dated looking blog to my very own domain which I had been redirecting.  Even that didn’t spark my creativity to start writing again.

Then a few things happened a couple of months ago. The first was that I let myself off the hook for believing my blog had to be perfect before I started writing again. You might say I am a bit of an over thinker and a somewhat recovering perfectionist. Both would be true.

I was stunted and overwhelmed by the work I needed to get my new blog picture perfect. One day, I realized it was a lot like what I tell my web design clients and the reason I thrive online: the beauty of a blog is that it is fluid and changeable.

Kind of like what I write about: creativity.

Amazingly, after I came to terms with what was holding me back, opportunities to resurrect this blog came my way. Someone reached out to me about writing some guest posts on creativity and she even offered to write some posts in the future here. Someone else published a book I knew my readers would love and that I instantly knew I wanted to feature in this space. And just like that I am here writing this post all inspired and hopeful to reconnect with previous readers and attract new audiences.

It’s amusing how life works sometimes. Again, it’s kind of unpredictable like creativity.

Creativity Poem by Adam Harvey 

Creative Slump

After a really productive and inspired late spring and early summer, I hit a creative slump – you know the one where it feels like all of your ideas have evaporated and you panic because you don’t know when a new set will show up?

Yep, that’s me!

At first when it hit, I just tried to ride it out and enjoy the downtime. I figured, like most blocks, if I ignored it it would go away. Well after several weeks, I started getting frustrated, because it was still there.

So then, I started to take my own advice. I got up on the opposite side of the bed, tried new foods, met old friend in new locations, but nothing.

Last week, I thought the slump had been broken. Things in my life began to shift, and I felt change was approaching. I rode this wave for a couple of days, but it didn’t last, and I ended up back in my dry spell.

As I enter the second month of this creative slump, I am desperately looking for a breakthrough. That is why I am turning to you, my loyal readers.

  • Tell me how you’ve overcome a creative slump.

Spark: How Creativity Works

“Work comes out of work.” ~ Richard Serra

This memorable quote leapt out of the pages of Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein, the producer of Studio 360. The book, which chronicles the creative process of many of today’s creators, is filled with little nuggets like this to inspire you.

As you know, I am all about the process – the creative process that is! While the finished product is a feat, for me it is the process that is really intriguing.

That’s why this was the first non-school related book, in a long time, that I not only read but devoured. From the first story that takes us on a journey with the artist Chuck Close as he discovers his renowned painting style despite his physical and learning challenges, I was hooked. According to Close,

“Inspiration is for amateurs, and the rest of us just show up and get to work. But so much of it comes out of the process…”

The rest of the book continues to explore the creative process, in all its forms, with examples from writers, architects, musician, and actors alike.

There are stories on how artists have dealt with adversity, created modern alchemy through their work, worked with partners and collaborators and just got to work. In this last chapter, the writer, Isabel Allende discusses, in fascinating detail, her ritual of starting a new work each year.

This book provides a deeper look into the creative process of some of the most intriguing contemporary artists and is a must read for process lovers.

  • How have your life experiences influenced your work?

30 Days of Creativity

In my last post, I mentioned that I had just begun the 30 Days of Creativity challenge, where I was required to make one thing a day for the entire month of June.

Honestly, I didn’t think I could do it, when I started. I am notorious for leaving projects and ideas abandoned. So I this time I made a conscious choice to follow through with this challenge.

And, guess what? I am halfway through it, and I am glad I pushed myself to stick with it. Working on a small project (5 minutes max) a day has been so beneficial to my development as an everyday creator.

Here are some of things I have learned:

1. Use what you have. Often my projects are inspired by my day. This beach glass sun catcher was the end of result of a day at the beach. I picked up the glass while there.

2. Set a timer when creating. I have found the 5 minute increment to be just enough time to get me into my creative flow, which I then take with me to other projects.

3. Experiment with techniques and materials. So far, I have used paper clips to create a bracelet and a dollar bill to create an origami heart.

Build Your Creative Dream in 5 Minutes a Day

Yesterday, while looking through my google reader, I noticed a post by my fellow creative blogger Tanner Christensen on creating the work you dreamed of.. It was a deeply personal post that touched a nerve with me and I am sure many other “creatives” out there.

In it, he tells his story of being a creative who, listening to everyone around him, forgoes a career as an artist to become a designer – considered to be a much safer choice. But like a lot of us out there in similar situations, he still longs to be an artist and challenges his readers (and I assume himself too) to take just 5 minutes a day to do something creative, whether it’s writing a quick poem, taking a photograph, or doing a simple drawing to get back to your creative dreams.

I believe the reason his post and suggestion resonated so strongly with me was because, I too, have gotten into a place where I am safe and doing work, that while still part of my dream, is comfortable. No matter who we are, we get in that rut of doing the same thing almost everyday and forget about our lost creative dreams.

Like Tanner, I believe in the power of short – planned or unplanned stints of creativity. Small steps are what helps to build a larger practice of creativity. Recently too, I’ve tried to weave this into my own life, whether it’s creating redesigned website wire frames on post-it notes during my lunch break, or snapping images of my daily life and altering them on instagram, or even pledging to create one thing a day for the next thirty days.

Let’s start a Build Your Creative Dream in 5 Minutes a Day Challenge, where we take that short amount of time each day to express ourselves and rediscover our lost creative dreams.

  • What can you create in 5 minutes?