Why I Am an Artist

September 7th, 2016

A few years back, I bought a book called Why Are You Creative? (2002). The premise is that filmmaker Hermann Vaske interviewed a bunch of different artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, actors, and the like. It was about the time I started hearing the word “creative” used as an abbreviation for “creative professional.”

It’s been a while since I read it, but I recall that there were three main types of responses to the titular question, “why are you creative?”:

  1. I don’t really have a choice in the matter because this is how I’m wired and it’s just the way I am, and I don’t know any other way to operate than to create things.
  2. It’s human nature. It’s a natural response to our environment.
  3. I didn’t know I was creative. I have no idea why I am creative.
It’s really interesting to see who said what. Every now and then I ask myself why I’m creative. More specifically, why do I make art?

Start at the beginning

Without my hearing aids I have severe-to-profound hearing loss. I start hearing sounds in the 80-90 decibel range. I can hear a garbage disposal if I’m next to it. I don’t hear anything quieter. With hearing aids I hear well enough but I have some trouble.

I speculate that my artistic ability grew as a response to being unable to communicate verbally so I figured out how to compensate for it by communicating visually. So I think it was partially a matter of circumstance since I did not get hearing aids until I was 2 years old.

It was a response to my environment.

My family background

Looking around at other people in my family there is a strong creative drive. My dad is a preacher. That makes him a speaker and writer. Speaking is not unrelated to acting because it’s about delivering your words in a matter which connects with people.

My grandmother on my mom’s side was terrific at sewing and flower-arranging. That’s creative work since you’re taking all these different elements and putting them together in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, in manner that surprises and delights people. Sewing is functional but very creative since it integrates creative expression with color, form, texture, line, volume, and all the elements of design. Even if you’re using a pattern that someone else made you are putting your own mark on it.

My mom’s dad was also a preacher. When he wasn’t doing ministry he loved to paint watercolors in his down time. He painted a lot of rural scenes. I bet it’s because he grew up in a boarding house in East Nashville and wished he lived in the country. I remember when we would take our annual trip to Cumberland Mountain State Park, we’d rent a cabin and he’d set up a corner where he painted barns and chickens and flowers and such. He worked hard at it and took classes and read books.

So I come from an artistic, creative family.

But being an artist is something I knew all along

My grandparents always liked to share the story of how I tagged along with my granddaddy to an art class at The Centennial Arts Center when I was 6 or 7. I was painting, too. I have no idea what it was. But the instructor (I’m pretty sure it was Hazel King) saw what I was doing and said “Brad, you’re going to be an artist someday!”

I just looked up and said, “I am an artist.”

Wait a second.

knew this way back then. I already was an artist. It wasn’t a matter of someday. I already was.

I love how children don’t make a distinction between someday and now. For children there is only the present.

That’s such a powerful lesson for us as adults.

As artists.

I think we lose a certain kind of intelligence as we grow up. We become so “informed,” but I think kids have a powerful, intuitive recognition of The Truth. They know what’s real. There’s no fooling them.

So whenever I doubt myself, I just look at 7-year-old me. Or I look at my own 7-year-old. She knows she’s an artist, a writer, a dreamer. (Right now she is writing a hilarious story about a girl whose tongue turns green and gives her special powers. And it started the other night when I gave her a new blank sketchbook, and we were eating spinach with our dinner.)

Is it just how I am wired?

Sometimes, I really think so.

I mean, I can point at all these influencing factors: I’m deaf, and I come from a creative family that always encouraged whatever I was into at the time.

But I think in a very real sense I think it’s hard-wired into me. I think it’s part of human nature, how God made us. When you open the Bible to the first page, in the book of Genesis, you see the first thing God does is He creates everything.

We call God the Creator.

I think it’s significant that in virtually every religion, you have some concept of a Creator. I believe that is where we get our creative impulse, because we are made in the image of God and one of the things God does is he creates.

So why am I an artist?

Maybe this is cheating, but I feel like it is all of the above.

I can’t imagine not making art.

I can’t imagine not creating.

If I’m not painting, I’m drawing something. Or I’m writing something. Or I’m playing with my kids and building Legos with them. Or helping them make a blanket fort. Creativity is using your imagination, transforming this blanket into something else.

I think creativity is fundamental to what makes us human.

Over to you

So why are you creative? If you don’t call yourself an artist, what do you do that’s creative? Where does it come from?

When Pop Culture and Flemish Portraiture Collide

December 9th, 2014

You might have already seen this on the interwebz, but I recently came across this cool mashup of Elizabethan dress, Flemish portraiture, and superheroes.

I think this is pretty cool, given my past interest in remix.

11 Great Conferences for Creatives

October 28th, 2014

There are a lot of great conferences out there for creatives. If money were no object, I would love to go to all of these:


Founded by Ben Arment, STORY is a conference that takes place in Chicago in October. The goal is to inspire great work with captivating talks, meaningful connections and unforgettable performances in the heart of downtown Chicago. The 2014 theme was “Creators, Dreamers and Storytellers.”

2. 99U

Put on by the people behind Behance, “The goal of the 99U Conference is to shift the focus from idea generation to idea execution. Providing road-tested insights on how to make your ideas happen. We bring together some of the world’s most productive creative visionaries & leading researchers to share pragmatic insights on how ideas are brought to life.”

3. Q

Q Ideas is inspired by this quote from Chuck Colson:

“Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals.”
With that in mind, Gabe Lyons set out to get Christians back into the broader cultural conversation in America, aiming for both cultural and personal renewal at once.

4. How Design Live

If you’re a graphic designer you’re familiar with HOW magazine. This is the family of conferences they put on. They cover a variety of issues relevant to graphic designers, from design in general, packaging, leadership, in-house design management, and freelancing.

5. Future of Storytelling Summit

The Future of StoryTelling is an invitation-only, two-day gathering of technology, media, and communications visionaries from around the world. The summit is designed to put participants in direct contact with the most vital ideas, people, and technologies that are shaping the way we tell stories.

6. Salt Nashville: The Visual Worship Conference

Salt Nashville wants to bring together the visual worship community in order to equip and inspire one another to use art and visuals as we create contagious environments in  local churches.

7. Weapons of Mass Creation Fest (WMC Fest)

Something of a cross between TED and SXSW, Weapons of Mass Creation is a three-day art, design, and music event in Cleveland, Ohio. It is geared toward creative professionals, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, students, and fans who want to learn, get inspired, collaborate, network, and celebrate their passion for art, design, music, and entrepreneurship.

8. Platform Conference

Michael Hyatt and Ken Davis put on this conference every year to give people in-depth training on building their platforms. “The Platform Conference is designed to give you an unfair advantage in launching or building yours.” It has a pretty impressive roster of speakers.

9. re:create

Randy Elrod first put this conference together 15 years ago to create a safe place for creatives to gather and learn from those who have done those big things we are afraid to do on our own.

10. SUNDANCE film festival

The legendary film festival that Robert Redford started in 1981. Sort of the American version of Cannes.

11. Seeds

A conference dedicated to helping pastors, creatives, kid ministry volunteers, technical directors, anybody, really, recharge the way they do ministry.

What are some great conferences you’ve been to? What do you recommend?

Creativity as an act of defiance

July 29th, 2014

Twyla Tharp talks about how anger is an important fuel for creativity. Many young artists battle against their teachers and prevailing conventions.

Creativity is an act of defiance.

What makes you angry?

What things get you riled up and make you want to take action? It doesn’t necessarily have to be some social injustice, although that can be extremely important.

Is there something about the art world you don’t like? What are you going to do about it?

It doesn’t have to be something you’re upset about, per se, but it can be something you’d like to see changed. Or something you’d like to see if it can be done a different way, for the sheer sake of challenge.

What do you want to change?

Artists have a reputation for criticizing everybody else for doing things the same way for ages, because that’s how it’s always been. Yet artists can be just as traditional, either out of habit or for good reason. (Ever fired a pot that had air bubbles trapped in the clay? It goes kablooey and makes a mess and ruins everything else in the kiln.)

Maybe you want to challenge the way paintings are made, from the paints to the supports to the tools used to apply them.

There was a time when Cubism was considered too avant-garde to be taught in art schools.

In fact, Salvador Dali would paint cubist pieces in his dorm room, and got in big trouble when he was found out.

Or just paint with your hair.

Maybe you’re unhappy with the business model galleries have accepted these days. Find a way to turn that on its head — and succeed at it.

Or if you’re an artist who wants to create a “passive” income, find a new way of doing something once and getting paid for it again and again. Who says artists have to have only one income stream?

What do you want to change?

It can be big. It can be small.

I believe you have to change something while you’re here on earth.

What will it be? I’d love to know.

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Photo Credit: Massimo Valiani via Compfight cc


June 24th, 2014

When I was reading The Creative Habit I came across an idea called spine. In short, it is an overarching theme. It might not be readily apparent, but it should be there. It’s what holds everything together. Twyla Tharp mentions her use of the Bacchus story in her dance “Surfer at the River Styx.” It’s not immediately obvious but the themes of hubris, fall, and rebirth make up the spine of the dance.

We tell the same stories

Deep in our mythos — the set of stories embedded in our cultural subconscious — there are epic stories that keep getting re-told and remade. The film “O Brother Where Art Thou” is a modernization of The Odyssey. Countless stories make references to the legend of the Holy Grail. You may already be familiar with Joseph Campbell’s concept of monomyth that “sees all mythic narratives as variations of a single great story.” Star Wars is probably the best modern example of “The Hero’s Journey,” an important part of Campbell’s monomyth.

My story then

But all this talk about spine and mythos and recurring themes has me wondering what my own themes are in my art. Last summer I uncovered a lot of leftover adolescent anger and resentment in my own personal history. While that exploration was necessary in understanding myself. Putting a finger on, naming, and revealing the themes of my past and how that has impacted my present to some degree doesn’t necessarily indicate where I’m going. Well, I suppose I would continue in the same direction without realizing it, but now I have a choice of changing direction, of charting a new course. Anger, resentment, and grudges aren’t things I’m interested in now, unless it is as a lesson and a warning to others.

So I suppose my question becomes:

“what themes do I want to explore in my art now, at this point in time and space?”

We’ve traded nihilism for PBR’s

In a lot of art from the past 100 years or so there is an overarching theme of despair. Of course, the 20th century brought war on an unprecedented scale, with increasing brutality on a global level.

In this postmodern society we live in now, there seems to be this attitude of hedonism, minus the New-Age mysticism of the 60s. Postmodernism has manifested itself in the popular culture as hipsterism:

Life sucks, and then you die. But before that happens, let’s just get drunk on Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and make fun of other people’s faux pas with our own ironic faux pas.
Pop culture gives us an escape from despair, distracting us from it, so it becomes a sort of savior. This is why the arts have replaced religious gravitas with tongue-in-cheek paintings of cartoon characters. I suppose it is still nihilism, but it is a cheery nihilism, if you will.

But that’s not my story

But that’s not my story. Those aren’t my themes. I mean, I get it. I watch comedies like FuturamaArrested DevelopmentHow I Met Your Mother and all that. I get the hipster scene to some degree. But I’ve put that teenage anger and resentment behind me (for the most part, anyway), and despair is not a part of my life. I have faith in something bigger than me.

My themes: quiet, fog, timelessness

I think for a while now I have been gravitating toward new themes, motifs, rather, that I’ve mentioned here a few times: quietfog, and timelessness. I’m moving beyond my own personal themes to something more universal. They’re metaphors for the quiet we all seek, especially with how noisy, busy, and cluttered our world has become.

Quiet is something that has been forced on me due to the fact that I’m deaf. (Though when my hearing aids are off, I hear the eternal ringing of tinnitus.) But as I’ve gotten older it is something I seek out. (Especially as a parent!)

Fog seems to be an appropriate metaphor for quiet. It doesn’t actually dampen sounds, but it does make you feel quiet. Maybe it’s the fact that you have to slow down and pay better attention when you’re driving in fog? Everything is different, mysterious, and new.

It’s a start

It’s not much of a narrative, but it is a theme. It’s a start. It’s the beginning of a spine.

What’s your spine?

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Header Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

Required Reading for Artists

June 17th, 2014

Over at Dave Ramsey’s company, the Lampo Group, there are books that are required reading for every new Lampo employee. It’s important because these books crystalize some of the ideas that are a big part of their culture. On the EntreLeadership podcast, they spent an entire month reviewing the books on this required reading list, and it got me thinking about what books would be on such a list for anyone in the arts.

So I made my own list of four books that artists should read.

The Artist’s Way

Author: Julia Cameron

This one is pretty well-known even among non-artists. I think it is geared a little more toward women than men, and there are some parts that might seem a little “froo-froo” or “touchy-feely,” but the two most important tools it provides are

  1. Morning Pages
  2. Artist Dates
Morning Pages is a practice where you essentially do an emotional brain dump, jettisoning all the things that are bothering you. You just write by hand for half an hour or whatever, and don’t read it for six weeks.

And if the Morning Pages is where you ask “the universe” questions, Artist Dates is where you start to get answers by “refilling the well.” You go on a date with your inner artist-child, doing fun stuff that part of you enjoys. It might be silly or serious.

A lot of the book is about taking stock of where you are as a creative and realizing that it’s okay to fail, and finding the gumption to get moving. I wrote about it a lot on my old Mysterious Flame blog, especially in this post about why artists should journal and this one about Refilling the Well and Reigniting Creativity, until I discovered the next book on this list, The War of Art.

The War of Art

Author: Stephen Pressfield

In many ways this is the opposite of The Artist’s Way since it takes a much more aggressive approach to creativity. In a sense art is a war to be fought, so buck up and dig in.

It’s a real kick in the pants. I need to re-read this every few years. Probably the most important concept in this book is that of “The Resistance”, the thing that keeps you from making art because it threatens the status quo. Seth Godin expands on the Resistance concept in his book Linchpin.

The second most important concept is that of “showing up.” Put in your hours and do the work, even if it seems crappy. Sometimes that crappy work teaches you something you need to get better at. The chapters are very short, usually one or two pages. You could read it almost like a devotional, reading a chapter each morning before you get into your work.

(My original review is here: Worth Reading: The War of Art)

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Author: Twyla Tharp

Making art is a discipline, and nobody knows that better than world-class dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp. Creativity is something you do every day. There are patterns that emerge, and if you recognize them, you can use them to your advantage. It’s like staying in shape. In many ways this book expands on the “showing up” concept, providing a practical framework for the artist’s lifestyle.

For me, the concept that stood out the most was the idea of “spine,” or overarching theme, even if it isn’t visible in the finished work. (I originally reviewed this here: Book Review: Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit)

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World

Author: Michael Hyatt

While it doesn’t apply to artists per se, it is a great handbook for making yourself known in a world that has gotten increasingly noisy, especially on the internet. Michael Hyatt is good at taking seemingly complex ideas and making them understandable and practical.

Sure, you can glean a lot of the ideas in this book from his blog, but it is collected all in one place. There’s an audiobook version available, read by Michael himself, which makes it a lot like his podcast. The first part is pretty common-sense, but you know how uncommon common sense is. The latter part of the book is practical advice with actionable ideas regarding Twitter and blogging. There isn’t much advice on Facebook. He has since stated that Facebook evolves so much that as soon as anything is published it is out of date. So if you want to make a name for yourself especially in the social media space, this is the book for you.

What books have you read lately that you think artists should be reading? Email me or leave a comment. Thanks!

Photo Credit: jspad via Compfight cc

Video: Twyla Tharp

June 5th, 2014

Following my recent review of Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit, here is an interview with her from chic.tv.

The thing that stood out for me was how much she learned from working at the family drive-in theater, especially that people head for the snack bar when the movie gets boring. Lesson: don’t let people get bored with your work. Get rid of whatever bores them.

Header image source: Seattle Dances

Book Review: Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit

June 3rd, 2014

I’ve read a few books on creativity over the years, from the self-help variety to the more analytic titles that explore how creativity works. Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life is one of the best books I’ve read on the subject of creativity. It’s very different, but I enjoyed it and was challenged to stretch myself in ways I hadn’t thought about before.

I think a lot of it stems from the fact that Twyla Tharp is a choreographer, but not like any dancer I’ve ever met. She has a true appreciation of all the arts, not just dance. Yet she sees everything through the lens of dance and theatre, and by extension, film.

Creativity is a habit.

This is the main premise of the book. Creativity is something you do day in and day out, like exercising. It’s a lifestyle, really. And there are ways to nourish that creativity and keep it going, so that it keeps you going as well.

I picked up The Creative Habit about 3 years ago, read a couple of chapters, and put it back in the ever-growing pile next to my nightstand. I wish I had finished it sooner. But I think I read it at the right time. You know how these things go.

The book is visual from the outset. First off, I noticed the entire book is set in Bodoni/Didot(I know it isn’t Didoni) and certain words are highlighted in red. The first page gives you a sense of the space Twyla Tharp works in, describing an empty white room. This is her canvas. This is where she will compose dances. She explores the creative process, introducing some concepts I haven’t thought of before, such as the idea of spine.


I’m not sure how that parlays to painting, but it makes total sense for literature and theatre. Spine in this sense refers to an overarching theme or structure. For example, she mentions a fiction book about a baseball team that has as its spine the theme of the Holy Grail, specifically the legend of the Fisher King. And in one of Tharp’s dances, she built the spine around the story of Dionysus/Bacchus, though it ultimately didn’t resemble that at all. Rather, with six dancers, she built a theme around pride, arrogance, defeat, and rebirth.

So that is something I want to explore in my own art: how can I incorporate spine into my paintings? I suppose it has a lot to do with being clearer about my goals as a painter, what I want the painting to say.

If you’re an artist, I highly recommend it. Or even if you’re not an artist and you want to know how the creative process works. Or if you’re a business person and you want to come up with better ideas.

The end focuses on getting out of ruts, building a “validation squad,” as it were, and putting in the time and dedication to become a master.

Now that you’ve read this, go see what Merlin has to say about it: Twyla’s Box: It’s Where Everything Goes

Header image source: Maria Doval Ballet

The Number One Ingredient for a Creative Life: Wonder

March 18th, 2014

So many people say they are not creative. And they’re right. Because they don’t even try. They have no sense of wonder. No imagination. They stick with the status quo even though they are unhappy with it. They throw their hands in the air and say, “Oh well, that’s just how it is.” They never get past that first hurdle.

Living a creative life requires a sense of wonder. Be like a child if you want to live a life with any amount of creativity.

“Every chid is an artist. The problem is to remain one when we grow up.” — Pablo Picasso
With a little work and commitment, you can train yourself to marvel at the everyday things around you. I have to remind myself sometimes. Thankfully, I have three little children who are in a near-permanent state of discovery.

This sense of discovery is why a lot of artists paint things that are relatively ordinary. Normal, everyday things presented in such a way that it feels new and beautiful. It turns something normal into a novelty you’ve never seen before.

Children go around saying, “Wow, look at that,” or, “How does that work?” or, “What if that was green instead of blue?”

Go and do likewise.

But is anything new?

Of course, we know there’s nothing really new out there. It’s all been there for millennia. Ecclesiastes reminds us there is nothing new under the sun. A major theme from Battlestar Galactica is “All this has happened before, and it will happen again.” Technology advances, but people are just as mean to each other as they ever were. Read the book of Genesis sometime and watch how people treat each other, and look at how they treat each other now.

It’s kind of depressing.

But for a child, everything is so new. So beautiful. So pure and wonderful and overwhelming.

Recapture that outlook and be a child again. See everything as new. In a new light.

Lamentations 3 tells us that God’s love mercy is new every morning. If God, who has no beginning or end, is continually new, then that gives me hope for seeing with new eyes. Every morning I wake up and am thankful for the chance to do things better than yesterday.

It is a challenge, because a lot of people aren’t used to thinking like that. They’re used to the same old same old. The familiar is comfortable, safe, predictable.

To be creative requires a certain kind of openness. You have to accept that you don’t have it all figured out. If you think you have it all figured out you are dead! If you’re not learning, you’re not growing.

“If it ever becomes clear that I’ve stopped learning, dig a hole and push me in, because I’m of no use to anybody.” — Dan Miller on the Read to Lead Podcast, Episode #001

Surround yourself with things that inspire you.

Collect unusual things. The “junk” you “hoard” may have a common theme. Or it may not. Look for anything that gives you ideas. And ideas come from anywhere.

Recently I was designing a postcard for my day job, and I got stuck. I found an annual report design that had photos cropped at a diagonal angle. That one thing triggered another idea: what if I presented these photos with a similar diagonal framing? The colors are entirely different, the subjects are entirely different. Everything about the annual report and my postcard is different. Even the angle of the diagonal frames. But that one thing gave me a seed of an idea, and it worked.

So, be childlike, and be open to triggers that may come from anywhere. Collect things. You never know what will inspire you. Scrapbook them. Catalog them.

Finally, I highly recommend Life After Art as it is about this very topic. Watch my interview with the author, Matt Appling, and then go buy the book. (I don’t get any sort of kickback. Sure, Matt sending me a free copy of his book before I interviewed him, but that is it. It’s just a good book and I think everyone should read it.)

Resources: a few places on the web that fire up those neurons:

Photo Credit: horrigans via Compfight cc

Write drunk, edit sober.

January 14th, 2014

The artist’s life requires intention, patience, commitment and a long-term vision. Not trying something out and giving up.

See, it is easy to give up since we creative types get bored easily. I know I get bored easily. I think that is part of why I am creative, because I get bored easily. And when you’re bored, you entertain yourself by creating new worlds. For a child, this looks like turning some chairs and a blanket into a fort or a castle and an ottoman into a dragon. When you grow up and channel that same impulse, it shows up as doodles on a notepad while you’re talking on the phone. For an artist, this impulse manifests itself as turning a lump of clay into something exciting.

I read an article recently about why you are creative at night. It has a lot to do with the brain, which slows down certain functions to save energy and prepare you for sleep. As a result, you stop paying attention to details, allowing the creative part of you to keep going and make something because that “responsible” part of you has gone to sleep. It’s as if it says, “I’m going to bed. Y’all do whatever, but leave me alone. Good night.”

Other than only doing creative work when you are tired, which I think can lead to mistakes, you can force this kind of state by drinking alcohol. This probably won’t surprise you.

So, the other way to trigger this mental state is with boredom. Allow yourself to get bored or sleepy, and keep a sketchbook handy to capture ideas.

This is why rituals are important. Rituals and routines prepare your mind to engage creative tasks. Because they’re so boring, your alert-mode brain gets bored and goes to sleep. That lets your creative side take over.

Salvador Dali had his own version of this trick. He’d doze off while holding a spoon, which would fall out of his hand and hit the floor, the ensuing clatter waking him up. He then painted the things he saw. That was his technique for hallucinating without the use of drugs.

You can use these sort of tricks for the ideation stage of your work. Then, when it is time to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of “editing,” drink coffee so you can be sharp and energetic and execute ideas.

Creating without inhibition

You know the saying, “write drunk, edit sober”? It’s not about getting drunk. (That’s never a good idea.) The point is to create without inhibition.

Put everything out there. Then when you’re sharp and clear, that is, “sober,” — that is when you go and clean it all up and give it structure and order.

Like a lot of other artists, I get a lot of ideas late at night. I’m very lucid and articulate (and talky, and it annoys my wife because she is ready to go to sleep) in a 30-minute window before I’m too tired to talk. That would be a good time to put ideas on the page, either words or sketches. It’s not a good time for editing. It’s better to do that when I’m more focused, such as 9:30 in the morning once I’ve had a few cups of coffee.

I think the lesson there is to find ways to make all that happen. Intentionally write or sketch at a time of day where your energy level accommodates it and when you are most creative. Find that time and generate ideas then. On the other hand, plan ahead to edit or refine your work when you’re clearly awake and focused.

What can you do to intentionally be more creative and productive?

Photo Credit: photophilde via Compfight cc


July 16th, 2013

Being stuck is something I’ve been rather familiar with for quite a while. You might call it writer’s block or creative block. Stephen Pressfield calls it The Resistance in The War of Art. Seth Godin co-opted the same term in Linchpin.

I’ve blogged about stuckness at some length before on an old blog I used to maintain. It is something I still think about often and deal with every day.

Michael Hyatt has spoken about it a few times, characterizing The Resistance as “that thing that makes you organize your closet when you need to write,” or do any number of other things that keep you from moving forward on what you really need to be doing.

Mike points out some good techniques for dealing with “The Resistance,” but I want to share some things that have worked for me.

1. Take a break.

Sometimes you really do need to take a break and get your mind on something else. Have you ever been working hard on something, gotten up to use the restroom, and as you walk a brilliant idea comes into your head? Just stretching your legs, walking around, and getting your blood flowing can help you discover new ideas.

Also, doing something else can allow your mind to work on a problem subconsciously. Einstein famously remarked about getting new ideas while he was shaving. Shaving is routine and relatively boring. It doesn’t require much thought or effort. When your logic brain gets bored and goes to sleep, your creative brain is free to solve problems.

This is part of why warmups and rituals are so powerful. When I mix my paint colors, my logic brain takes a nap. Twenty minutes later I’ve finished mixing and prepping paint, and my creative brain is wide awake. Add some exciting music into the mix to get me moving back and forth, and I’m ready to go.

2. Make a lateral move.

This hinges on doing something else to allow your logic brain to go to sleep and your creative brain to go bananas, but it goes a little deeper than that. It’s not as rote or mindless. In fact, it may not be mindless at all, but require hard work and discipline without being routine. Personally, I’ve reinvigorated my painting efforts by taking photos with my mobile phone. Or you might find volunteering for a particular cause inspires new ideas.

For me, building a fort in the living room with my little girl and two toddler boys, hearing their stories and listening to their laughter does a lot to reinvigorate me. It has nothing to do with art or design and everything to do with regaining a sense of joy and adventure.

Your turn

How about you? How do you get yourself un-stuck?

Stuck leaf photo credit: Lazy_Artist via Compfight cc  Creepy monkey photo credit: scragz via Compfight cc