Are You Feeling Stuck Creatively?

I thought you might enjoy this interesting interview with Dr. Eric Maisel, the well know Creativity Coach and the founder of the coaching specialty of Creativity Coaching.  He has been a Creativity Coach for many years, writes about it and also teaches courses in Creativity Coaching.  I have had the joy of taking three courses from Eric; two Creativity Coaching courses through the Creativity Coaching Association and also his Life Purpose Bootcamp.  In fact I was in the trial group for his very first Life Purpose Bootcamp on which he based his recent book by the same name.  The book is available through

I hope you enjoy this interview and if you want to know more about my Creativity Coaching Practise please contact me by email at or call me at 780-463-2603.  I am currently accepting new clients.

If you can’t get the video to work, click on the link below to take you to youtube.

Get Started Today!

This little Downy Woodpecker stopped by our suet feeder at our lake property.

This little Downy Woodpecker stopped by our suet feeder at our lake property.

As a Creativity Coach I help artists get back to doing the things they love to do.  If you are not doing your creative practice regularly you might try experimenting with what it feels like to do so. Here are some ideas to help you get started.

  • Even though you are busy, making a small commitment, even just 30 minutes three times a week, can have a huge impact on what you create and how your feel.
  • First thing in the morning is a great time but anytime that works for you is fine. Just make sure you schedule it into your day timer or smart phone. It would be even better if you set an alarm to remind yourself that it is time to stop and do your creative practice. And then, no excuses!
  • If you haven’t done your creative practice for a while, don’t be surprised if you have to do some preparation, cleaning up your work space and getting out supplies. Maybe you can do that the evening before so you are ready to do your creative practice at the time you have scheduled. You are less likely to be frustrated if you can jump right into your work.
  • Jump right into the hard part. If you have been putting off your creative practice because you are stumped or have come to a difficult part, now is the time to take the bull by the horns. All you have in front of you is a problem to be solved. If you do something so that you can’t salvage the work, is that any worse than never finishing the work? I don’t think so.
  • If you really mess things up, try to figure out what you learned from your errors. As Tall-Ben-Shahar says in his Positive Psychology course at Harvard, ”Learn to Fail or Fail to Learn”.
  • Most of all have FUN. Don’t take the work too seriously or yourself too seriously.
  • And get started TODAY!


Nurture Your Creativity!

Nurture Yourself!


Should You Take Advice from a Cartoonist?

pencil_character_teaching.epsScott Adams is the creator of the cartoon “Dilbert” and, although he cautions his readers not to put too much faith in the advice of a cartoonist, he has some interesting things to say in his book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”. In his book he tries to convince his readers that he failed at quite a few things before he was finally successful but I wasn’t completely convinced by his examples. Most of his failures were jobs that he wasn’t particularly good at, but in all these “failure” jobs he learned what he could, and then took those new found skills on to other jobs. Ok, his Dillberito, a vegetarian microwavable burrito never took off and he wasn’t successful in the restaurant business but both of these ideas were launched after he was making a lot of money as a cartoonist.

Despite these observations, Adam’s book is a fun read and has some advice that artists of all types could find useful. These are some of the ideas I found most helpful.

  • Every skill you learn increases your chances of success. So even failures such as what may feel like dead-end jobs (or failed creative projects) can be useful if you learn new skills. Adams used his failures at his corporate jobs to inspire his “Dilbert” characters and dialogue.
  • It is okay to take creative risks but make sure your basic financial needs are taken care of. This may mean holding on to your job while you develop your ideas on the weekends and evenings. Adams worked for many years while he was writing, developing and selling his “Dilbert” cartoons. He notes how his cartooning skills needed time to mature before they really took off.
  • He encourages people to work with systems rather than goals. A system would look something like getting into the habit of doing your creative work first thing in the morning, every morning, before you start your day. Or perhaps it is writing 1000 words a day on your novel. Or maybe showing up in your studio every day from 5pm to 6pm right after work. A systems is a pattern that does not depend on being in the right mood.
  • Adams claims that goals are for losers. Goals keep you looking to the future instead of getting down to work now. When you don’t reach your goals it can be depressing and discouraging. Systems help you to do the work no matter what the outcome. It may not be as exciting as setting and reaching goals but it is more sustainable.
  • Eating well and doing regular exercise is important to keeping up your energy.

What skills have you gained in your life that might contribute to your creative practise now?

Take time to think about your creative practise and whether or not your approach is one of using systems or goals. “I have a goal of painting 6 paintings this month” may not be as valuable as saying “I am going to commit to painting every day, at this specific time for the next month.” The results may end up the same, but by putting a system in place, you are developing the habits that can keep you going and producing for many months and years to come. You may not get six paintings done but you may do one that turns out to be your best so far, one that takes you to a new level, one that may not have happened if you had been too focused on your goal.

Make sure you attend to your financial needs so that you can relax and enjoy your creative practise and be less pressured to focus on how much you produce and how “successful” the work is.

Remember to look after your physical need for nourishing food and exercise so that you have the energy to keep at your creative practise and live a healthy life.


Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep ~ Scott Adams

Make Something!

Go Ahead photoSeveral years ago I read a blog by a woman who called herself “The ‘Fly Lady” ( Since her mission in life was to help people clean up their homes I wasn’t sure if the “fly” part of her name was related to flying around cleaning up the house or having a sense of flying once you cleaned up the house or what gathers in corners if you don’t clean up the house. I must have been in one of my seasons of despair about the state of my housekeeping when I stumbled upon her site.

The Fly Lady had lots of good suggestions but I thought the best one was intended for the really desperate. The ones who couldn’t see the floor for the junk or couldn’t find room on the kitchen counter to make a sandwich. Her suggestion was that you have one goal. That goal was to clean the kitchen sink. This goal may require some prep work, such as washing the dishes that were in the sink, but if that was too much you were even allowed to stash the dirty dishes under the sink. However, at the end of the day the sink had to be sparkling clean and the faucets gleaming. Every night you could go to bed knowing that at least the kitchen sink was taken care of.

The assumption was that if you can accomplish this small goal you are more likely to be able to accomplish another small goal. And then another small goal. The consistency of accomplishing cleaning the sink every day builds hope and momentum. We get into trouble when we look at what we want to do and get so overwhelmed that we don’t do anything.

Stephen Guise addresses the same subject in his book Mini Habits. He tells the story of when he wanted to start an exercise program but was just not motivated to stick to it. So he decided to do one thing that he couldn’t fail at. He decided to do one push-up every day. He reasoned that if he could get himself to get on the floor and do just one push-up, he might feel like doing two or maybe since he was down there, 10 or 15. However, he always told himself he didn’t HAVE to do any more than one push-up but that he had to do AT LEAST one.

Sure enough, once he got over the hurdle of starting, he was much more likely to keep going. And he always reasoned that even one push-up was better than no push-ups at all. Some days he did one but most days he did a lot more.

When you are blocked as an artist it can be difficult to get started again. Or it may be just as hard for you to finish a project you have been working on but have set aside for so long you don’t know how to get back to work on it.

In her book Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert talks about “lightening up” about how we think about our creative work. She suggests that we create difficulty for ourself if we are “writing a best seller” or “painting our best work yet”. These thoughts make the creating very serious indeed.

Gilbert says that she would rather think that as humans we all delight in making things. We have made things since we came out of Africa and continue to get delight out of making things. We have made practical things, decorative things, entertaining things and things that make us think. We make things. It is good for us to make things. It is fun for us to make things. It is interesting for us to make things.

When you are having trouble getting stated again you can try combining these two ideas. Make something, anything. It doesn’t have to be big or important or useful or even successful. It can be related to your creative work or it might not be. Like doing just one push-up or just cleaning the sink, think of just making something, but do it every day. Make a card, scrapbook your last holiday, make an apple pie, knit a scarf, grind down a Dollar Store screw driver to make an awl.

Whatever you make, it may delight you enough to send you creeping back to your studio and saying hello to a new creative project and another opportunity to fulfill your destiny as a human, and make something.

Your Creative Expression is Unique

IMGP0871There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you.” Martha Graham (1894-1991)

Martha Graham spoke these words in 1943 to an artist friend who was bewildered and worried about her acting career. Martha spent her life as a modern dancer, acquiring many awards and honors for her work and transforming the way dance is taught in America. She has been call “The Picasso of Dance”.

After her retirement in 1970 Martha became severely depressed, staying close to home and drinking too much. She was eventually hospitalized and spent time in a coma. Fortunately she survived and in 1972 she quit drinking and went back to dancing. She reorganized her dance company and went on to choreograph ten new ballets and other works. She seemed to take her own advice before it was too late and continued to work for another 21 years. She died in 1991 at the age of 96.

Her message to her friend is one we all do well to listen to. How often are we discouraged by our creative work, thinking it isn’t good enough or unique enough? I often tell my clients that once they are finished a work of art they should picture themselves in the act of letting it go into the world. The work has a life of its own and none of us can predict what that life will be. Perhaps it will go on to achieve noteriety. Perhaps it is a stepping stone to better and more mature work.

Recently I visited a friend who showed me a painting she had bought at a garage sale. The seller said it had belonged to her mother who owned several works by this artist. This one she didn’t like as much as the others. My friend couldn’t make out the signature but I recognized it as an original Tony Onley painting, one that had a note saying that it was done as a demonstration in 1985. Tony Onley is a well-known Canadian artist who painted watercolours of the Canadian north and coastlines. This particular painting has had a life, first in a home on the west coast of Canada and now in a home in Edmonton. It was bought because my friend liked it but now has added value because she knows who painted it. The painting will be treasured as a valuable addition to her growing collection of original art.

Each of us has a unique voice. Each of us produces our own unique work. As Martha Graham says so eloquently, “If you block it, it will not exist through any other medium and it will be lost.”

Try to disengage your feelings about your work from the work itself. Keep leaning from your experiences. Keep showing up, moving forward and producing the work that you know is in you.

When Words Collide 2015

ID-10020413I just returned home from When Words Collides (@WWCyyc15) in Calgary, Alberta, an award-winning festival for writers, bloggers, editors and readers mainly of fiction. It was three days of non-stop workshops, panels and lectures. Each hour participants could choose from eight or nine of these classes, depending on their interests and needs. Wow, what a weekend.

I really enjoyed volunteering because it instantly acquainted me with new people and made me feel like one of the group, even though this was my first time there. I came away having made some new friends, some of whom I hope to connect up with now that I am back in Edmonton.

People were amazingly friendly at the festival which is really interesting being that many of the people there tend towards being introverts like me. I can hold my own in a social setting but it can drain me and I enjoy being alone. I am sure this holds true for many of the attendants there.

The program really works because it is an intensive learning experience interspersed with short periods of time to connect with others and find out a bit about their creative lives. It also was a time of expanded thinking as I sat in on classes on how to use Twitter and how to self-publish as well as those of author’s like Canadian Sc-Fi writer Robert J. Sawyer who talked about his journey as an author and what has and hasn’t worked for him.

Now I find myself at home, with expectations for what I want to accomplish and instead there is work that must be done for the business, unpacking, tending a neglected garden, arranging a small birthday celebration for my husband, in short, life.

Last evening I spent a bit of my time trying out my new Twitter skills, thanks to help from Catherine Saykaly-Stevens ( Now I am writing this.

For those of you busy with life, a few minutes here or there to do even the smallest creative activity can help to make you feel like you are moving forward. In the end, that is all this creative life is, one moment, one hour, one week at a time.

Image courtesy of Paul at

Warm Weather Creative Plans

I have been out at our lake property for nine days now. The purpose of the holiday has been to work on our cottage. Since we are at the stage of getting the foundation finished, which requires a lot of leveling and a considerable amount of backfilling done with a wheel barrel, I have found my main contribution has been making and cleaning up after meals. We have had the delight of friends and family visiting and providing physical help to my husband, Larry as he works.

The good part about this is that it has left me with a nice amount of free time to do what I want. I have had some great birding days, with dozens of birds dive-bombing our feeder and giving me another lesson in the aviary pecking order. It was also nice to see two young fledged Bald Eagles along with an adult at the far end of Lake Isle when we found time to go canoeing.

The time has also allowed me the opportunity to do some painting and some writing. I spent the first days here reading and writing out quotes for future use. Some of the books I have been reading have been pretty heavy in subject matter and others, like the short story Runaway by Alice Munro have been riveting.

Just being out here with a limited agenda has allowed me time for the kind of creative thinking that is often squelched when I am too busy. Austen Kleon in his book Steal Like an Artist says “Take time to be bored. One time I heard a coworker say, “When I get busy, I get stupid.”.” He goes on to say, “Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.”

Interestingly, summer is often the time when those of us who live in northern climates are happily engaged in activities we can’t do at other times of the year. Summer is relatively short here, made up somewhat by the longer daylight hours. Still, many of us want to be outside, enjoying nature, having barbecues, going on family holidays, tending the garden, biking, spending time with friends, anything but sitting down and getting to our creative work. We postpone that for those cold winter days when we can’t do any of this fun stuff. Yet at the same time, getting outside and being in nature can facilitate our creativity.

How do summers work for you? Is summer the time you put your paints away until the days grow shorter and the yard takes up less of your time? Or is summer when you sit in your backyard and write or paint? Is it a time when you schedule plain air painting times with friends or do you retreat to your summer property for solitude? What kind of an impact do the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer have on your creative practise? Why not post a comment and get the discussion going.

Note: Check out this article on tips for plein air painting at Swinton’s Art in Calgary

How Things Will Turn Out

I have just signed up for a literary festival called When Words Collide which will take run for three days in August. Because I have volunteered to help with registration, I will receive free admission to the event. I am happy to volunteer and since the conference was full, it is the only way I am able to attend this years event. This will be my first foray into the world of fiction writing and I am excited to find out what I will learn. There are many speakers and workshops to choose from so I will need to sit down soon and make some plans.

I have enjoyed painting over the last 20 years and in the last year I have become interested in writing and would like to find out more about this creative outlet before I dismiss it outright as an option for me. Julia Cameron has long promoted morning pages as a pathway to creativity. She calls them “brain drains” and suggests that they serve to get rid of our “junk” emotions and thoughts in order to free our minds for more productive work. I did morning pages for quite awhile until I discovered that I was spending the small amount of time I had for creativity doing morning pages rather than painting. So I stopped doing them and did a lot more painting.

This isn’t to say that morning pages don’t work. Cameron is a writer so perhaps they work differently for writers than for painters. Indeed Gerald Weinberg in his book, “Weinberg on Writing” says “One way for smart people to be happy is to express themselves, to put out in the world the vast melange of thoughts and feelings whirling in their heads.”

I find myself with that vast melange of thoughts and feelings whirling in my head and don’t always know what to do about it. Yes, painting helps to quiet my mind and center it on the challenges at hand, that is, to get into the flow which is itself a path to happiness. But I sense that writing would provide a deeper vessel through which to process all those thoughts and feelings.

At the same time I am contemplating a change in creative direction, life has become more and more complicated as our IT company goes through growing pains and we start work on a long awaited cottage. There is not enough time to do it all and so I question the wisdom of adding on to my already full life a creative endeavor that will require another steep learning curve.

It helps a great deal that I have moved towards letting go of the outcome, at least when it comes to my creative expressions. I recognize that all artists have seasons of wonderful productivity and other times that can feel like a deep black hole. Again from Weinberg, “Success is a feeling not an event. With any feeling, it comes and goes and so at times I feel like I am succeeding and at times I feel like I am failing. All are part of the whole-story which is not finished yet.”

I love the quote from the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel when the young hotel owner assures his guests, “It will all work out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it isn’t the end yet.”

Perhaps right now it is difficult to see the pathway let alone know where it is going. The important thing is to keep moving forward, whether with giant leaps or baby steps, toward how things will turn out.

Creativity and Chocolate

If you are anything like me, sometimes my creative practise is like chocolate. That is, I mentally turn my creative practice into a treat that I reward myself with after I have done what I consider my real work, or my responsibilities. Just like chocolate, I know my creative practise is good for me but the problem comes when it becomes a reward. While I like the term creative practice because it implies a process rather than a product, when the word work is associated with creativity, it sets up a different mental image. When I do my creative work it isn’t a reward it is work, just like all the other work I do in a given day. And I for one like work.

I like chocolate too, but I know I should not have too much of it. In order to reach my creative goals it is not helpful for me to think of my creative work as chocolate, a treat. It is more helpful for me to think of it as work, a responsiblity I need to attend to every day.

Chocolate can be my reward for doing my creative work. I like that idea!

How about you? Is your creative time a little bit like chocolate that you use to reward yourself once you have fulfilled all your other responsibilities? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Drop me a comment!

Thanks for reading!

Creativity Coaching – The Myth of Creative Genius

As a Creativity Coach I was interested this morning to listen to Anna Maria Tremonti’s interview with author Kevin Ashton on CBC Radio’s “The Current”.  Ashton explores the idea that we tend to associate creative inspiration with a sort of magical “aha moment” in which a person gets an idea that changes the world or brings something into being that has never been seen before.  Ashton’s idea is that all of us are creative and that all of the innovations that we might atribute to one or two very smart people are actually built on the work of many, many people, even if only one or two get the credit.

Dr Ashton suggests that the idea of creative genius came about to allow certain people to hold an elitist position in society.  The myth surrounding creativity helps make the majority of people think that they are not creative and therefore allows only a few to claim that they are set apart from the rest of society.

This is an interesting idea and has both merit and influence on how we ordinary people conceptualize creativity. If we believe that creativity is the domain of the brilliant and talented and therefore not available to the ordinary person we are likely to feel limited in what we can do.  As soon as we are stymied by a problem, we may begin to doubt our own talent or brilliance.  If we believe that really successful creators got their ideas in a flash of insight, we may not connect with the reality of creativity which involves a great deal of trial and error and building on the work of others.

This is not to say that successful creative people don’t have good ideas and don’t work very hard.  It is to suggest that any one of us have the potential for success but it is more dependent on hard work than on some nebulous idea of talent or brilliance.

These ideas can also free us up from the illusion that we need to come up with something new and innovative in order to be creative. All of our creativity rides on the backs of those who have come before us.  Since all of us are creative, we are free to both create and to encourage others around us to be creative.

If you want to listen to the interview here is where you can find it:

Kevin Ashton dismantles creative genius in ‘How to Fly a Horse’

I Haven’t Been Painting for Awhile

The last five months have been filled with activity and pretty much devoid of painting. As a Creativity Coach I am loathed to admit my failures! But there it is. Now you know. Notice though that I said I have done little painting. I have however been using my creativity in other areas of my life. Although I am not entirely satisfied with what my creative practise has been in the last five months, it has been chugging along all the while.

Most of what I have been busy with has been family stuff and health issues. Nothing really serious with the health issues; nothing more serious than getting older and needing to deal with more things. Nothing more than having to pay attention to things like exercise, eating well and getting enough rest.

The family stuff included helping alter bridesmaid dresses and a wedding dress for my daughter’s wedding in Mexico in December, the busyness of Christmas and then a new grandchild born last month. There have also been quite a few deaths that have touched me in the last five months. An uncle died in September, an aunt in October, a close artist friend in November and another artist friend in January. All these deaths have reminded me that we only have so much time on this earth to accomplish what we want and need to do.

Now I face the challenge of getting back to my painting. I have lost my momentum and don’t know where to begin. It is important to realize that there is no easy way to begin again. Just knowing that can be helpful in lowering our expectation of ourselves. Here are some ideas:

  • Go into your studio or work area and ‘hang out’
  • Put on your favorite motivational music; music has a huge affect on our moods
  • Spend time cleaning up your work area or rearranging things more efficiently
  • Don’t get bogged down in cleaning up but use it as a place to start
  • Set up your materials and replenish what you are short on
  • Take a look at unfinished projects and see if they still have merit
  • Give yourself a little treat for whatever you accomplish
  • Plan to return tomorrow and keep doing what you love to do

I hope you get back on your creativity horse in the very near future. If you never got off, I hope your ride continues to bring you joy. If you have any ideas that have worked for you be sure to share them with us.

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