Everyone Needs Creative Play

Play Yields Apparently, play is not just for children. I keep seeing it everywhere. My "paper mentors" seem like people who just play all day and out pop good ideas. Creativity just bubbles to the surface (read: burps) as they skip along all the merry fun activities they have planned. Yes, I know they work hard. I know they get stuff done. But gosh they make it look like fun. And I keep hearing them point towards play as a part of the restful, rich, creative life.

Leonie Dawson calls creative play Brain Holidays, insisting that "Your creative + spiritual + emotional selves all need energy + time too." Julia Cameron calls creative play artist dates; she can't say it better than this: "Artist dates are assigned play." Keri Smith has a box for readers to draw on her very own website. And I would bet money that Sark's favorite word is probably "fun."

These people are SERIOUS about play, y'all.

And when we understand the mechanics of creativity, we will take creative play more seriously.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, why should we "waste time?" Well, according to Scientific American "cerebral congestion," that tired sluggish mental state, has a cure and the cure sparks creativity! And WHO can argue with those experts?! Seriously. Haven't you experienced it? You're working on a project, hit a wall, then push and push and push. Finally you decide to give up—go do something else. And within 24hrs the wall just disappears. The solution to your problem shows up without your beckoning.

Seriously, the brain-science types say "a-ha moments" are a legit benefit of mental downtime. More from Scientific American: "Related research suggests that the default mode network is more active than is typical in especially creative people, and some studies have demonstrated that the mind obliquely solves tough problems while daydreaming—an experience many people have had while taking a shower. Epiphanies may seem to come out of nowhere, but they are often the product of unconscious mental activity during downtime."

Read the article. It is incredible. You might hear angels sing. And it will lead you to this conclusion: Every person SHOULD take time out for creative play because it is a tried and true means of idea generation.

How can we say no to this? Well, our schedule usually gets in the way, right? Those pesky little responsibilities that take up our time... Okayyyy... So, what we need are some quick and effortless ways to engage in downtime:

  • Go on a picnic in your back yard.
  • Take your creativity for a walk.
  • Make mud pies.
  • Go shopping for a fun new creative toy.
  • Grab the frisbee and get some space to roam.
  • Hike. Bike. Climb.
  • Take a joy-ride, windows down, music up.
  • Roam Pinterest and call it "research."
  • Eat slowly at your favorite restaurant or cafe.
  • People watch. <--- This is a good one.
  • Spend some time journaling.
  • Try fingerprinting again!

What do I do? I get outside however I can. Or I take a nap, which is very restful play! Or I ride bikes with my girls. Or I do "research" on Pinterest!

So, JUST PLAY. Find ways to play play play. Plan a time for creative play at some point in the next two weeks. Or think about a daily moment of creative play. Let your creativity loose. Let it run wild for no objective reason. Goal-less play! Play yields Exploration which yields Discovery which yields Solutions.

How do you play? Where? When? Or do you need someone to remind you how to play?

Want more FREE Creative Resources?

Sign up for Greetings from Mandyland! [nm-mc-form fid="1"]

How to hunt and gather inspiration.

hunt The earliest artists were hunter-gatherers, and seriously? So are we.

They moved from meadow to meadow, terrain to terrain. Their pace followed the seasons, a different practice in the summer than in the winter. They stored up for times of hunger, adjusted as fields became fallow and as fruit became scarce. They understood drought, moving as water and weather took them.

Like them, we can't grow our own creative sustenance—those things that inspire and drive us. We have to go after it, gather it, and store it. We have always been and will always be hunter-gatherers. Thomas Merton said, "The imagination needs time to browse." So give yourself permission to browse, to wander around for the creative fodder you need.

To maximize your creativity, you must rely on a variety of sources:

  • Go on creative inner-pilgrimages to foreign artists' styles, or use foreign writing prompts.
  • Chase down the wildest color schemes or hunt down the secret to the golden mean in photography.
  • Look for inspiring input in "remote" places you've never visited: different books, galleries, forms of poetry.
  • Brave the unfamiliar terrain of new tools and techniques: software, plot style, composition techniques, etc.
  • Try new foods: take a course, read a new textbook, enroll in a class.
  • Explore your curiosities and questions! "[The artist] opens himself up to all influences—everything nourishes him. Everything is gravy to him, including what he does not understand—particularly what he does not understand." Henry Miller

I'd also recommend considering a seasonal or monthly (or moon-cycle) approach to gathering inspiration:

  • Which seasons yield the most inspiration? (Winter is beautifully introspective for me, summer is too busy.)
  • Focus on a certain creative input for a month then cycle to a fresh field of fodder the next month.
  • Choose themes or color schemes based on the weather and the season, letting nature guide you.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo or participate in a similar challenge for visual artists.
  • Set a creative goal for the season or the year, and see how far you can get with it. (My goal = 200 paintings. Due to an unforeseen serotonin drought this winter, I don't think I'm going to make it...)

Go after inspiration like our hunter-gather predecessors. Feed that starving inner-artist, and she will have the energy and vitality you need in order to live out your creative dreams.

A gentle word of caution: Those courses on marketing and social media are not necessarily creative fodder... While they do help you understand the business side of creativity, they don't invest in the creative side of your soul. When you consider courses and classesartist, look for experiences that will enrich your *creative process* not your *business process.* I know we have to live in both worlds, but the one that stirs your soul and raises your voice the world is your *creative process.* Focus on feeding your starving inner-—she probably doesn't wake up in the morning craving marketing strategies, she craves the sweetness of inspiration! Give it to her. Regularly.

Want more FREE Creative Resources?

Sign up for Greetings from Mandyland! [nm-mc-form fid="1"]

Do you have a Creativity Manifesto?

Why are manifestos so important? They keep the end in focus. They keep us on track. They supercharge our resolve to go after the things that are important to us. Even Frank Lloyd Wright had one. "In other words, the manifesto is a personal or even handwritten statement intending to shock, inspire, or offend." (here) In this case, we are aiming to inspire ourselves, yes? So, let's steel ourselves. Let's look ourselves in the mirror and tell ourselves to get out there and create because creating makes our world a more beautiful place. You can take a look at instructions for writing your own manifesto:

And if you're curious, here's my creativity manifesto:

"Creating is like breathing – more like exhaling. If I don’t create, my soul suffocates. As I create, I listen to myself. I discover emotions and fears and passions and convictions. I pray soft and subtle prayers—both mine and others'. 

While I create for the sake of my soul and for the sake of the message, I also create for the sake of creating. I enjoy the process, the challenge, the adventure. I hold moments of creating as a discovery, not a job or goal, but as a discovery of what is within me to create.

To maintain a level of creativity, I rely on new inspirations and old routines. I always find novel ways to create, whether it be through new tools of creating, or new mediums. Predictability and routine provide the best environments for my soul to have the energy to create. If life demands adaptation and change (both being very creative endeavors) then I will be depleted of my inner creativity.

To foster my creative edge, I must constantly educate and challenge myself: New books, new lessons, new tools, new goals, new creative endeavors. If I don’t grow, I will lose speed and possibly halt. This development is a monster of a task, and I often feel I am hindered by my own limitations. But I will continue to grow. I will continue to climb upwards to new heights of achievement. I may never ascend to the top of this Everest, but I will strive to get above the snow-line.

Each year I will make a creative goal for myself.  This goal will exist as an end in sight and a way to monitor progress, and will also fuel me to keep a steady pace with new ideas and tools and challenges."

Want more FREE Creative Resources?

Sign up for Greetings from Mandyland! [nm-mc-form fid="1"]

Falling into routine, and rising within it.

The start of school is behind us. Fall is here and I am settling back into the rhythm and flow of full-time artistry. IMG_9784-2.JPGMy creative days are dependent on their start, so I am diligent to give myself the time and input they need. If I don't secure this time for myself, I feel the effects all day: behind and sluggish and uninspired.  The mornings are early, blindingly early. The house is dark, save for my corner of the kitchen, and this is the time when I can see most clearly.

My morning routine includes coffee, silence, journaling, reading, breakfasting, and meditating. These pieces run together like a plate of spaghetti: one whole, but many indiscernible parts. All bring delicious sustenance for a creative day.

By the end of my morning quiet, my pages are full, my soul is full, and my hands are itching to wrap themselves around brush and palette knife.

I've been learning about the creative routines of others (here and here are good examples). Their rhythms are so interesting to me, and shed light on what might be useful for me as well.

I know others of you are voraciously creative and are honing your own routines. I'm curious: What helps you? What do you need to jumpstart your creative days?


Creativity Tips: a little big poster from me to you

Need a little inspiration? A little something for your office or studio space to help you remember how to ride those waves of creativity? I've been collecting a list of tips and tricks I've learned along the way, and wanted to share them with you in the hopes that you will go forth and make great things!

So I made you a big and bright poster that you can print or share or use however you'd like!

To download the pdf, clickity-click the poster, or HERE:

Creativity Tips Thumbnail


My Four Step Creative Process


It's simple, really. And it needs to be. The act of creating is daunting enough. Who needs a complicated process to get it done?

My four step creative process:

  1. Input: I am constantly gathering visual material. Harvesting. Studying. They come through many venues. My eyes stay open to things that grab me.
  2. Ideas: If something grabs me, it often inspires a new painting idea. I collect these ideas in a spark file that I can access at any moment.
  3. Go: If steps one and two have been regularly attended to, I will not have a shortage of inspirational energy when it comes time to step foot in the studio. I chose a "next thing" and I go with it.
  4. Flow: Given the proper conditions, my concentration will slip into the flow state. This is ideal, as this facilitates peak creativity and concentration. And when this happens, the creative process is magical. Powerful. Tantalizing.

To confess, I have most definitely simplified these stages for you so you could fill in the blanks with your own preferences. For instance: What are the venues of my visual input? See? That part doesn't matter. What matters is that my eyes are on the look out. The point of #1 is for you to keep your eyes on the look out as well.

And, to be honest, I need these to be in a simple, memorable format, so that when I feel blocked, I can search through these steps to discover where I need to place more energy and time. Sort of a mental cliff-note reference card that I can flip through when I'm stuck. There's always a step waiting for me. Always some stage of this process that I can easily insert myself into and regain momentum.

It's not such a mystery, really. It's about keeping myself somewhere in these steps. This is how I get it done.

May Receivings and Revelations

May: the month of flow and uniforms and sunshine and vitality and hope... "Emotional venting without accompanying insight does not produce change." Robert Emmons

Hemingway: masterful ability to stay in flow. Always quit when you know what is next. Maintain momentum.


-- Renaissance: a revival of intellectual or artistic achievement and vigor

"For the creative mother, creativity is her life force that makes her bloom. Take that from her and you take her soul." Lucy H. Pearce

...if you allow it, you have to live with it. Do you want to live with it?



Perfect is often the opposite of play.

Someone else's "no" might be the space I need.

Is your creative work draining you? Which aspects?


Findings: - Chelsea Bentley James - Schwinn comfort hybrid - Owls - HSP, HSP, HSP!!


Learnings: - I cannot grow lavender in the house. - Legos and little girl journals bring me life. - Input => Ideas => Go => Flow - People want to touch my hair. - Myself as an HSP... - "We are deep but we are not bottomless wells." Lucy H. Pearce - Focal Point = place where lightest lights and darkest darks converge...

Gold? Gold...?

What are our strengths as HSPs?

These are just some of my May musings. The month rained inspiration and discovery, and I managed to catch as many drops as possible. I anticipate that I will continue to drink from the well of May for the entirety of the summer. I expect June and July to be just as magical.