Returning to the Studio

I’m back in the Studio! Last week I tiptoed in gently. Did a little tidy up. Caught up on correspondence. Lit the fire, so to speak. And I remembered how much I love my work.

When I left my PhD in drama incomplete, I had no idea what was next. I couldn’t have envisioned the creative coaching work I do or the online courses I teach because those things literally did not exist!

When I went to my perfectly fine day job, I didn’t imagine that one day I would be running my own business, helping people reunite with their creative spirit. I just went to work knowing my soul was struggling and there had to be ‘more’.

I want you to know that just because you can’t name what you want or see where you’re going doesn’t mean that something amazing isn’t ahead.

My journey started by my recognizing three things that had always been with me: the arts, a love of people and a tendency to do my own thing.

Then I found coaching and said yes.
Then I found blogging and dove in.
Then I began working with clients.
Then I braved teaching a class.

Now I run a successful online creative studio with coaching, classes and content that has made a difference in the lives of thousands of people around the world!

I am in the right place doing the right thing even though I had no idea where I was going for most of the journey.

Even if you don’t know where you are going, you can get there from here.

What do you love? What has always been with you? What brave action will you take next?

There are all kinds of creatives. Which are you?

After almost 20 years of coaching creatives, I can tell you that there is no singular artistic ‘type’. We are not all flakey or flamboyant. We’re not all boho or beautiful or snobby or dramatic.

Artists can…

be left-brained or right-brained
be introverts or extroverts
be messy or meticulous
be dreamy or pragmatic
be shy or outgoing
be slapdash or perfectionists
be any age
be intense or laidback
be moody or even-tempered
be decadent or moderate
be pretentious or down-to-earth
be broke or wealthy
be sensitive or thick-skinned
be eccentric or conventional
be show-offs or recluses
be minimalist or maximalists
love nature or the city
love beauty or the ugly
love harmony or disruption
love to shock or to soothe
wear bright colours or black
thrive on stage or behind the scenes
make a living with art or never sell a thing.

Artists are any and all of these things and everything in between.

What matters is that you embrace the way the creative spirit shows up in you. If you are an outgoing urban 72-year-old who couldn’t give a damn what other’s think – bring that to your art. If you’re a sensitive nature lover with a pragmatic bent, bring that to your art. If your left-brain loves order, pattern and predictability – bring that to your art.

One of the greatest gifts of art is that whoever we are, whatever we love, art can hold it all.

Don’t listen to any limitations the world offers about being an artist. Be who you are. Love what you love. Create what’s in your heart.

Everything I do here in the studio is to support you in doing just that. In Devotion, you’ll embrace your artistic identity and immerse yourself in your artwork. With the Studio Yearbook, you’ll develop creative practices that will help you discover and awaken the creative you truly are. And in our year-end Planning Day, you’ll dance between structure and flexibility to design a 2022 that fits just right for you and your priorities.

I’ve spent a lifetime finding and embracing my own creative ways and have built a career helping others do the same. There is nothing more beautiful to me in this world than each of us showing up and sharing exactly who we are.

I celebrate the artist in you!

Believe in Your Own Creative Magic

I can still feel in my bones the moment I committed to creativity.

After becoming a coach, I attended a leadership program. In partners, we worked on identifying our personal core mission, that certain something that we were ready to be a stand for in this world. As a part of the exercise, I drew a simple figure and at the centre I put their creative fire.

My partner asked me why creativity was so important to me. Words tumbled out of my mouth as I tried to find the answer. In those ramblings, I discovered that it wasn’t just about the arts, though I love them dearly. For the first time I found my deep belief that when we create one thing, we foster in ourselves the belief that we can create other things – many things, maybe anything.

We begin to believe in our own creative magic.

I don’t use the term ‘magic’ lightly here. I use it to mean the process of transforming ideas, dreams and imaginings into something tangible and real in this world. When you wield this magic with your poems and your paints, your sewing machine and your songs, you nurture a growing belief in yourself and what you are capable of.

Before you know it, the magic spills over into your life. You start asking yourself, “What if?’ and making choices you never would have before. You start saving for grad school. You quit your obligatory committee and use that time to learn Italian. You take a road trip and move across country. You cut your hair and start dressing more like yourself. You say no to overtime. You say yes to dancing. You send that manuscript in.

And it doesn’t end there.

As you recognize the impact of creative magic in your life, you move differently in the world. Your “what if” questions expand beyond yourself. You believe in the possibility of positive change. You’ve not only experienced it, you’ve created it. You wonder, what else could get better? How might creative magic be of service to your community, to your loved ones, to the world? What is possible if we all bring our creative capacity to bear?

It’s no little thing when you show up for your art. It’s the spark that starts the magic, a magic fully capable of turning visions into reality – in creative work, in life and in the world.

Keep creating and encourage others to do the same.

Let’s defy the naysayers, the critics and the gatekeepers.

Let’s create and take our magic back.

Discover the Keys to Your Creativity

If you look back over your creative life, when were you the most creative? When did you feel artistically alive, inspired and committed?

If your first thought is “never”, I invite you to look again. Was it planning a party or a trip? Singing in choir? Decorating your first apartment? Sewing a Halloween costume? Pouring heartbreak into poetry? Making gifts? Refinishing furniture? Spending time in the garden?

Take It to Your Journal (1): Pull out your journal and write about a time when you felt creatively alive, when you were so ‘in it’ that time flew by. It doesn’t matter if you were 9 or 90, if it was last week or decades ago. Whatever creative memory feels rich and right is perfect.

We can look at these experiences to find clues about what brings us creatively alive. What was present? Who was present? What were we doing? What was happening in our mind, body and heart, as well as in the art?

Here’s an example from my creative life. This summer I decided to take a roll of paper and some paint out back for an afternoon of working big and messy. I put on my overalls and my headphones. I listened to music and danced in the sun. I fought with the wind, who constantly freed the paper from the weights I’d put down, and I (mostly) laughed when I lost that battle. I sprayed, spritzed, dabbled and glopped. I painted with a brush, my fingers, sticks and leaves. I created all sorts of fresh and ugly work, found moments of beauty and certainly a lot that held energy and interest. The afternoon passed in a heartbeat and when I was done, I couldn’t wait to do it again! I have been using bits and pieces of that wild and messy artwork ever since!

Reflecting on my experience, what can I discover about the keys to my creativity?

  • Overall: The whole experience was steeped in a sense of freedom.
  • The Space: There was room for me to move and it was okay for me to make a mess.
  • Clothing: I could move easily in my clothes and had no worries about getting messy in them.
  • Solitude: Being alone meant I only had to worry about my own judgments and expectations. If I could let those go, I was totally free.
  • Music: Music bypassed my brain and spoke to my heart and body, inspiring me to dance and to open up to fuller expression
  • Nature: The wind kept me from taking myself too seriously!

Take it to Your Journal (2): Now reflect on your own experience. Going back to your memory of creative aliveness, what keys can you discover? What was present? What was absent? What contributed to your creative energy and flow?

Finding these keys releases us from the belief that what we need is an exact replication. (Yes, that retreat in Bali was amazing but it’s not the only road to creative freedom.) Getting locked into the specifics limits our options and keeps us stuck in the past. If I believed the only way for me to be creatively alive was to work big and messy outside, I’d spend the entire winter in despair! Not helpful. Instead, I can use my keys. How can I create freedom of movement? Where else might it be okay to get messy? What playlists can I cultivate to nourish my expression? How can I create periods of solitude for the good of my creative heart? What else can help me take myself less seriously?

Take It to Your Journal (3): Now that you have found some of the keys to your creativity, how can you use them more and more? What’s one key that you can make use of this week?

This is a powerful exercise in getting to know yourself as an artist. Discover and use these keys to unlock your artistic freedom and bring your creativity to life.

Art Is a Journey without End

Many years ago, I worked as a computerized notetaker for deaf and hard of hearing students in colleges across the city. It was like doing live captioning in classes on everything from graphic design to financial management to culinary techniques. It was a brilliant job for a learner like me!

One semester I was supporting a student who was studying to be a dental hygienist. I vividly remember the introduction to one of her classes. The instructor shared that she had studied orofacial anatomy because there was a finite amount to learn. She loved that this made mastery possible.

This is entirely different in art.

Whatever your creative medium, there are skills you learn and then hone. With every piece or project you create, you develop and deepen your expertise. And there will always be more to learn. Always.

I share this not to be discouraging but as an invitation to embrace the mystery, to choose the path of artistic adventure, to get comfortable with being a perpetual beginner. I share this to combat the inner critic that says, “You should have this mastered by now.”

Art will never be mastered.

And that’s a beautiful and essential truth, a truth to make peace with and then to befriend.

The creative force that dwells in our art has a life all its own. It is not meant to be bent to our will. It is meant to relate to us in a sacred dance of wonder, a dance that unfurls our wings every step of the way, a dance that brings both it and us to life.

Art is a never-ending journey and, as such, it gives us ongoing challenges and infinite blessings. This makes it a pursuit worthy of a lifetime.

Three Ways to Know Your Creative Project Is Finished

I’ve been working on a series of collage animals and one of the longest stages of development is when I’m deciding whether a piece is done. The bull you see above has been hanging out with me for months now and even he is getting impatient. My sense is that he’s almost there but there are still a few things I want to resolve. As I try to draw this piece to a close, I’ve been thinking about the question:

When is a creative project done?

In some ways the answer is never.

There may always be things we would tweak, shift or improve, especially as time moves on, our outlook changes and our skills develop. But instead of getting stuck in that perfectionist muck, it serves us well to find our way to completion. Instead of damming up our energy, finishing frees our creativity to keep flowing and growing. Creating a body of work will take a lifetime but each individual project must, at some point, come to a close. This allows us to continue on our creative journey and also gives each piece the chance to live and breathe on its own instead of withering under the endless scrutiny of “How could you be better?”

One: Declare it Done

Another way to recognize a creative project’s completion is to work to deadline. Many artforms, particularly the performing arts, have this baked in. The play, the dance, the event will be deemed ready on opening night and will be complete upon closing. These deadlines can be stress-inducing but that’s, in part, an indication of their power. Deadlines create time containers for our artistic energy, making it even more potent. In the Devotion program, for example, we have a showcase at the end of the season. Each artist shares the work she’s created during our time together and what it has meant to her. This end point provides a kind of creative alchemy, applying just enough pressure to coalesce the work, the wisdom, the growth and the confidence into something truly magical.

Two: Work to Deadline

And lastly, we know our work is done when we have the ineffable feeling that there is nothing left for us to do. In that moment, the work clearly stands on its own and reflects back to us, “I am myself now. I am complete.” Developing this creative discernment is a valuable artistic skill. It helps us avoid overworking a project or abandoning it too soon. This discernment comes with practice, patience and sensitivity. Give yourself the grace of time and distance as you sense the end drawing near. Leave the project for a while. Come back as a viewer, a reader, a listener, an audience member. Let the piece speak too. It has a say in the matter. Give yourself time to discover whether this artwork is complete.

Three: Develop Discernment

As creatives we have an an energy source that is infinite and renewable. One lesson available to us is how to make the most of that tremendous gift. An essential part of that is knowing when to complete a project so that the energy can move on to the next wonderful work that is waiting to come through.

I hope these three strategies of declaring, deadlines and discernment become powerful tools in your creative toolkit. May they help you realize the unique body of work that can only come to life through you.

The Fall Reset: Check Your Inner Compass

Every equinox and solstice provides an opportunity for a fresh start, a chance to tune in and reset. With fall arriving, now is a great time to check your inner compass, to remember who you are and to move forward with clarity and creativity.

The Fall Equinox
Ways to Make the Most of this Magical Transitional Time

Reflect: Before moving into fall, take stock of what this summer has meant to you. What have you experienced? What have you learned and accomplished? What do you want to remember? What is there to celebrate? Who have you become? Try summing up your summer by completing this sentence, “The summer of 2021 was the summer of _______.”

Clear: Prepare the way for fall with some inner and outer clearing. Practice free-writing and let all the excess on your mind and in your heart pour onto the page. What is it time to leave behind? What is it time to make room for? Choose a spot in your home that relates to your priorities for next season and declutter and clean. Finish off by adding a spritz of beauty.

Ground: It continues to be a heck of a time in the world and many of us are feeling frazzled and uncentred. What would help you feel grounded, vital and strong as you move into the new season? Maybe it’s time to get some extra sleep, to do some dancing or to complete that lingering to-do (you know the one). Now is also a great time to choose a nourishing practice to establish in the season ahead.

Imagine: Imagine your way into an autumn that feels good and right for you. Let go of ‘the way it is’ and instead imagine a fall of your own design. Where does your inner compass lead? What matters to you now? What parts of your self are aching to take the stage? At the end of autumn, where would you like to be?

Claim: Looking at what you’ve imagined, what will you claim for yourself this season? What will you name as your priority? What will you place at the centre of your life?

Plan: Take a breath. This is the alchemical part. What steps would bring your life into alignment with these new priorities, with your imagined fall? There’s no need to plot out every detail. This isn’t about having creative control. It’s about using our creative agency to build what we imagine as best we can. What aligned choices and plans can you make for the season ahead? (By the way, at this stage, you may find yourself doing more clearing – from your calendar and from your life.)

Act: Magic takes hold through action. Don’t get hung up on choosing the perfect move. You’ve imagined your season and set your priorities. You’ve made some plans. Take what feels like the next right step. Notice what happens. Even if it was hard or the feedback was, well, let’s say ‘mixed’, do you feel like you’re on path? Does something need to be adjusted or refined? Do that and then take what feels like the next right step. Once again, pay attention to what happens. Adjust. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Learn: Every step of the way, gather your insight. Journal it out. Chat with a friend. Talk with a coach. Process through art-making. Share what you’ve learned. Turn your lived experience into earned wisdom.

Do it all again next season!

I hope these steps help you create magic during this seasonal transition and beyond. May this fall be rich with blessings for you. May you discover that your creative magic is more potent than you dared to dream.