Creativity is a Drug

CBD creativity quote

I planned to start this essay by saying that creativity is like oxygen.  But it’s not really like oxygen.  Creativity is not actually necessary to live from a physical standpoint, but it’s hard to imagine a rich and fulfilled life without it.

So I think Cecil has it right. Creativity is like a drug one cannot live without. Once you begin to experience the pleasures of it, you can’t imagine not having it in your life daily.

(In my mind, I’m pronouncing his name Seh-suhl like the character Cecil Terwilliger from The Simpsons, not See-suhl, the way it’s usually pronounced. I feel like that works better here. But I digress.)

Creativity is also like a muscle that must be used daily or it will atrophy. 

I created a “commandments” list a couple of years ago, ala Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project and on it I wrote “do something every day to make myself happy,” which for me more often than not means a creative project of some kind – writing, brainstorming ideas for articles and essays, cooking a fabulous meal, rearranging a corner of my apartment, capturing images with my iPhone, freeform daydreaming, and so on. 

For many months I didn’t practice creativity daily in any real way. This was when I was working a couple of part-time jobs while getting my freelance writing business off the ground.  All my writing at that time was for clients; I didn’t write for myself daily like I do now. Instead I worried daily. Fretted. Felt myself pulled daily further and further into the mesmerizing undertow of living below what my true inspiration called me to do.

I was not happy and fulfilled in my work then. But happiness is a choice, so looking back, I can see that I participated in my unhappiness by buying into the false notion that creative fulfillment is something “over there,” something that has to be put off until all one’s other ducks are gotten in a row. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

As long as I believed that creative fulfillment was something that was unavailable to me while I was slogging away writing what I didn’t want to write and doing work I didn’t necessarily love to do, then that’s where it would stay – “over there.”

But the truth is, there are ways to assure you get your daily creativity fix, even if it’s in small doses. If you’re a writer, you write. If you’re a photographer, you make beautiful images. If you’re a painter, you paint. And so on.

So I started writing for myself for 30 minutes daily, longer on weekends. Writing that had nothing to do with client work, and nothing to do with blogging for my writing business website or weekly newsletter either. I simply opened up a Word doc in June of 2013 and started “journaling” there daily.  Then later, I began writing in a physical journal again, writing my way through one journal, then another, then another after that.

And that practice is what pulled me out of my creative cul-de-sac. It’s an ongoing project, this trying to make more space in my life daily for unfettered creative practice, and sometimes it takes a back seat to client work, or marketing my business, or those boring but necessary admin tasks one must do each day to keep the wheels on the bus going round and round.

But what I notice is that if I’m not committed to accessing that well daily, the sometimes elusive substance known as creativity will shrivel, or evaporate altogether, and I’ll be staring into the abyss of the “mehs” once again.

What about you? How do you make space in your life for the creative work that fires you up? I’d love to hear how you make your creative practice a priority. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!



{The Daily Creative} On Being a Creative Sponge

CAM Interior

{The Daily Creative is a regular-ish series of blog posts that explore finding creative inspiration in the everyday.}

The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out. – Dee Hock 

I have to agree this is true.

I mean, think about it – how often have you been inspired by something another creative you admire is doing/has done?  So much so that you had to race right into your moleskin or notes app after you saw/read/watched the thing to scribble down a few thoughts for something of your own you would create?  

Pretty often, right?

As creatives, our problem seldom seems to be a lack of ideas, but rather the gap between having the idea and executing it.

And if you’re like me, I’m guessing a lot of that has to do with some old thoughts that are stuck in your noggin.

Thoughts like:

  • I could never do this as well as _________ does, so you know what, never mind. 
  • They’ll think I’m weird.
  • It’s already been done.
  • Come to think of it, I really don’t have time for another creative project.

When I have thoughts like these I know they’re coming from fear of rejection, resistance, or my inner critic. 


When I immerse myself in the creative work of others, especially in a museum or art gallery setting for example, I believe anything is possible.  And I’ll likely make some notes right then and there on my iPhone for something I want to explore in my own work.  It’s only when I review those notes later at home and try to begin the new project that resistance, fear or criticism creep in.

Old thoughts, indeed.

What do you think?  Do you have recurring “old thoughts” that get in the way of creating as much as you’d like to?  Thoughts that stop you from doing something you were excited to do until it was time to actually get to work? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments! 

{The Daily Creative} Creator’s High

Creatives at work

{The Daily Creative is a regular-ish series of blog posts that explore finding creative inspiration in the everyday.}

Recently I was in Tybee Island and Savannah, GA for a mini-vacation.  As I was wandering around the many lovely squares in Savannah, I saw these two guys painting together.  You can’t tell from the photo above, but they were laughing and painting, painting and laughing.  Not suffering for their art, these two.  Nope, these guys were downright joyous, I tell you.

What occurred to me while watching them was how happy the simple act of creation seemed to make them. 

Do you ever feel that way?  You begin working on a project and get in that good flow state, endorphins coursing through your blood stream, leaving you feeling deeply happy and fulfilled.  You lose all track of time, and when you’re done, you feel magically lighter and more blissful than when you began.

Man, I love that feeling.

It’s like runner’s high, but for creators.  (“Creator’s high” then?)

If I feel cranky for no reason, I know I need to tap into that endorphin-producing state by doing something creative – even if it’s as simple as cooking a meal or writing an email to a friend or whipping out the iPhone and taking a few shots.  The very act of creation, no matter how small, makes me feel better instantly.  

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”  –Osho

Is this true for you too?  Have you noticed that being in a creative flow state positively impacts other areas of your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights in the comments.  Please share ‘em below!

{The Daily Creative} Where Creative Inspiration Lurks: Escape

{The Daily Creative is a regular-ish series of blog posts that explore finding creative inspiration in the everyday.}

One of the methods I find most effective for getting the creative juices flowing again is to get the hell out of Dodge. Or in my case, Wilmington, NC.

So I did that recently.  I met up with a good buddy in Tybee Island, GA for a few days of sun, fun, fried seafood, boatloads of stimulating conversation, and Happy Hour on the patio every day at 5:00 p.m. (I think that last bit was my favorite.)

And boy, did I ever need this trip.

You know those inflatable figures you see on the side of the road that dance around in the wind, trying to call attention to some small business with their goofy herky-jerky movements?  And how if they’re not inflated properly or the wind isn’t cooperating that day, they kind of bob around listlessly?

That’s a little bit like what I was feeling like.

But my Tybee trip changed that.

beach at Tybee Island, Georgia

beach at Tybee Island, Georgia

Because how liberating is it to be able to plan your days based simply on what you most feel like doing that day – or what you most decidedly do not feel like doing?  Like, say, dressing up in your monkey suit and showing up at a building to sit in front of a computer all day and have someone else – I’ve heard they’re called “bosses” – dictate what you do for the next 8 – 10 hours.  {Shivers.}

That’s the beauty of getting away.  Your days are your own to do with whatever you please.  And that kind of freedom breeds creative inspiration, which ideally carries over into your everyday life once you return home.  It’s as if something has been shaken and stirred – you can’t quite put your finger on it, but something is different.

The creative doors are blown off, and the ideas start knocking around in your head so fast and furious you write them down hourly in the Moleskin you carry with you everywhere you go, or in that tattered notebook in the bottom of your purse, or in Notes app on your iPhone.

I’m reminded of a passage about a character named Lily from Virginia Woolf’s novel To The Lighthouse:

Certainly she was losing consciousness of outer things. And as she lost consciousness of outer things … her mind kept throwing up from its depths, scenes, and names, and sayings, and memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting.

That’s been my reality since I got back from Tybee.  Fingers crossed the ideas and inspiration keep on a comin.’

What about you?  How does getting out of town for a few days, or at least away from your normal surroundings, affect your creative output?  And how do you keep that good creative vibe going once you return to your daily life?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about your experience with this in the comments below, so go on and share.  You know you want to.  : )

{The Daily Creative} Notes on Liberating Yourself from Creative Deadlock

The Daily Creative_#1

{The Daily Creative is a regular-ish series of blog posts that explore finding creative inspiration in the everyday.}

Lately I’ve been walking around in a creative funk.  Cranking out the work for clients, but letting my own creative projects and interests fall by the too busy, too stressed, too responsible, too insert-your-affliction-of-choice-here wayside.

It’s creative malaise; I’m feeling uninspired.

Is it just me who suffers from this malady, or does the same thing happen to you?

If you’re a creative who makes a living providing creative services to others, do you become so uber-focused on client projects that your creative capital is spent by the time you’re ready to let your freak flag fly on your own projects?

For me those projects are photography and non-client-related writing.  But lately, not so much.

So I’ve been thinking about what it would take to liberate myself from this impasse and get my creative mojo back.  And I think I’ve found the answer:

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

The answer is finding creative inspiration in the everyday.  In the circadian rhythm of “normal” days. In the mundane, even. Because creativity is everywhere, sometimes you just have to remove the veil from your eyes to see it.

So my promise to myself is to actively seek out creative inspiration in my immediate surroundings, daily. In what I read, what I see, and what I experience.  And to find it in the far off yonder too.  I’ll look for it with a vengeance.  I’ll peek around corners for it. I’ll disappear down long hallways trying to find it. I’ll meditate on it.  I’ll ask the gods to visit it upon me.

And I’ll chronicle it here, in this new category on the blog called “The Daily Creative.”

I have no idea what this will end up looking like, could be boring as hell or wildly exciting, who knows?  But I won’t judge it, I’ll just be the conduit for whatever shows up and let it look like it wants to.

And you?

To all you creatives out there spinning your web of mad genius for clients during the day and finding the inspiration and the time for your own projects at night and on weekends (or wherever and whenever you find it), please weigh in here. Share your daily rituals, tips for staying in the creative flow, where and how you find inspiration, and especially, how you make the commitment to practicing your creative craft daily, even when there’s no one to invoice for it.

Please share in the comments below!