– How To Be Creative –

Check out the articles on the creative process at gapingvoid.com.

[Thanks to Douglas E. Welch for turning me on to this link.]



Martha Graham wrote in a letter to Agnes De Mille

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all Time, this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine: how good it is; nor how valuable it is; 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 open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open … no artist is pleased…there is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

[Thanks to our good friend, Walter Rapaport, for bringing my attention to this.]

And here’s a book review I found at highbeam.com —

“It’s not every book that takes more than 20 years to write and to publish. But then, not every book allies two lifelong friends as author and subject–and, in the case of Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham, two leaders of 20th-century dance. Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham (Nonfiction Forecasts, Aug. 9), published by Random House, is just such a book. Written by de Mille, the choreographer of Rodeo, Oklahoma!, and many other acclaimed ballets and works of musical theater, this intimately informative biography of her peer is also, as it happens, a subtle self-portrait…”



I heard a wonderful interview on National Public Radio with author, Forrest Church. (Don’t you just love his name?)

He was talking about his book on St. Martin’s Press, Freedom from Fear,Finding the Courage to Act, Love and Be.

He summarized his writing in such a digestible way that I decided to take notes. I mean, after all, fear does impede on the creative process, [an understatement!] not to mention in so many other parts of our lives.

Excuse the shorthand, but here are my notes … on The 5 Types of Fear.

(1) Fright. Not long-lasting. More like when someone in front of us slams on the breaks. But often, it can dissipate into worry…

(2) Worry. Attached to a specific topic. Visits us from the future and we become preoccupied. Definitely takes us away from ‘living in the present.’ Worries live because of the attention we give them. Mark Twain said, “I’ve lived a long life and seen a lot of hard times…most of which never happened.”

(3) Guilt. Fear of being caught. Troubled conscience. Most guilt is totally unnecessary.

(4) Insecurity. Feelings of inadequacy. This is when we live not in Today, but in what we can do, can have, can love … etc. Best to look for ways to break out of our self-absorption.

(5) Dread. This is life’s fundamental insecurity. Existential vulnerability. Comes with feeling that life is not ours to control.

His quick summation of a cure, [somewhat simplified, obviously] recognizing that each of us is afraid to some degree, is to …

(1) Want what you have.

(2) Do what you can (not more, not less).

(3) Be who you are (not somebody else).

Sounds easy … maybe we should get the book!

Shop at Amazon.com


Helpful Reminder from BELL HOOKS…

“The heart of love is recognition — being recognized for who you are. If you can’t or didn’t get it from your parent, then you can get it from yourself. You can look in a mirror and say to yourself all the things that were never said to you. That’s the beginning of self-love — which is a requirement for loving others.”

— Bell Hooks, on Self-Love



Found this quote on a coffee mug at a friend’s office and thought it was worth repeating here …

“Remember as a child how important art was to you and how it satisfied you, and how you’ve learned over the years that it satisfies you still. What other activity — or thing — or place — can make this claim?

ART and MUSIC are the drugs of choice for millions of kids. If we expect them to ‘just say no’ to a chemical high, we must reorganize the healing alternative … their own creativity. Demand and support the real anti-drug program … arts in education.” © Fred Babb

Fred Babb is an artist of wonderfully whimsical works found in museums, galleries, art shops, on t-shirts, mugs and posters.


Here’s a very helpful article on the creative process, with 9 points to live by.

It’s written byNita Leland, a fine artist, who’s been teaching for 30 years.


You’ve heard of the magnificent dancer/choreographer, Twyla Tharp.

My good friend, Douglas Welch, recommended her book to me a few months ago, “The Creative Habit, Learn It and Use It for Life” … and another dear friend, Ruth Rivin, gave it to me this week. How fortunate!

Now reading it, I find myself making adjustments in my daily routine (not to mention my mental perspective) based on this beautifully presented and highly recommended book. It’s an inspiration.





Right now — notice your body position. Without making any changes, just allow your body to sink, to soften into the same position you’re in. Take a nice, deep breath.

As you slowly inhale and exhale, notice if there’s any place in your body that’s still ‘holding on.’ See if you can let that tension go. Relax your jaw and tongue. Relax the muscles behind your eyes. Relax your shoulders.

Maybe you need only to stretch your arms up to the sky or turn your head slowly from side to side … remembering to breathe.

Sometimes we get so focused on our work that we forget that our body is a gift. It’s good to just let it go for a minute or two … to let it rest.

I find thoughts, ideas and solutions can flow better after a simple relaxation exercise like this.



Are you a SINGER? Are you a MUSICIAN?

Here are a few very practical rehearsal tips from renowned Los Angeles voice coach,

Steven Memel.

1) Practice your song, singing/playing it as quickly as possible.

2) Practice it as slowly as possible.

3) For singers, sing the melody without the lyrics (la-la-la).

4) Recite only the lyrics aloud.

5) Talk the song out loud to someone you know, putting meaning into every line. Does the song make sense?

6) Practice singing the intervals (the big leaps up or down) in the melody, so you’re sure to ‘nail’ them.

And so important …

7) Warm up your voice before you step on stage! (You’d be surprised how many singers don’t take the time to do this.)

Take a DEEP breath … and enjoy!



Here’s a wonderful DRAWING EXERCISE (10-15 minutes) used as a diagnostic tool by ancient MAORI MEDICINE MEN in New Zealand. In the old days, it was drawn in the sand with a stick, and was done once a year on one’s birthday or in the season of Summer.

It’s a fun way to by-pass your ego to get another perspective on yourself at this particular time in your life.

[I first heard this information in a talk given by anthropologist/educator/author, Angeles Arrien.]

MAKE YOUR DRAWING BEFORE you read the explanations about each symbol … let the results surprise you.

You’ll need …
(1) Pen or pencil
(2) One plain sheet of paper 8 1/2″ x 11″ or larger

Optional …
(3) Colored pens, markers or crayons

You may take as long as you wish to make your drawing.

Step 1. Draw a circle on a piece of paper, creating a ‘sacred space’ on the page.

STEP 2. On the BACK of the paper, write the following eight words. These are 8 universal symbols, sacred to the Maori, for transformation and healing:


STEP 3. Draw these 8 sacred symbols into your sacred space, placing them in a kind of setting. (Take about 5-10 minutes or as long as you like. Read the next section after you’ve completed your drawing.)

This is a sacred portraiture of your work for this next year and it symbolizes from where you’ve come, where you are now and where you’re going.

Adding extra items …

The first thing the medicine person would observe is if you’ve added anything extra that is not on the list.

It is said that children always add more. For example, they tend to add the sun and the moon, little stick figures, animals, water — they add everything. If you didn’t add anything extra, not to worry.

In the Maori language there is no word for “comparison.” You have exactly what you need to sustain your health and well-being for now. If you didn’t add anything extra, you didn’t need that to sustain your health and well-being.

The Maori medicine person would go through and put an “X” on all those extra things and say “I have marked all those things that will heal you because you know they will heal you. You know they will heal you because you added them in.”

(So you if added the sun and moon, it might mean that you need to be outdoors more … it’s taken very literally. If you added people, you need more people contact. That will sustain your health and well-being. If you didn’t add anything, that’s not your work. Not to worry.)

Duplicating any symbols …

Secondly, see if you DUPLICATED any of the symbols. Instead of one mountain, for example, you might have drawn a whole mountain range. Instead of one flower you might have drawn a field of flowers or a flock of birds or more snakes. Any symbol that you have duplicated represents a process in you that wants to be amplified and deepened in multiple arenas of your life. When you learn the meaning of the symbols, you’ll know which ones want to be amplified or deepened.

Adding details …

Thirdly, the Maori would see which of the symbols you fussed over, you went over again, or re-worked, like it wasn’t quite right. Here again, any symbol you fussed over or re-worked, you should pay careful attention to because it signifies a process that, for you, is a source of unlimited creativity and healing.

Next, the Maori would make a dotted line vertically down the middle and another line horizontally across the drawing.

STEP 4. Fold your whole page into quarters so that there is a folded cross that goes through the paper … making four quadrants. You may put a dotted line on these folds, if you like.


The upper left is called the Valley of the Birds. It’s a metaphor for your MENTAL nature. You have drawn in everything that will support your MENTAL health and well-being for next year. If you have a lot of activity and symbols there, your mind is very active and wants to be worked with. If it looks like there are very few symbols there and it’s real quiet then, quite literally, your mind wants more quiet this year.

If your Bird happens to be in that quadrant, the Maori medicine person knows only one thing. That if you’re complaining of a problem or ill health or something awful in your life, and your Bird is there, the Maori knows it’s NOT your mind that’s creating the problem. The source of the disease or illness or complaint is NOT coming from the mind. If your Bird is not there, then not to worry. You’ve drawn in what you need to support your mental health and well-being this year. (You didn’t need the Bird.)

The lower left-hand quadrant is called The Valley of the Flowers. This is the EMOTION quadrant or the heart quadrant. The symbols that you’ve drawn there are all you need to support your EMOTIONAL health and well-being for this year, if you will work with those symbols. If your FLOWER is there, your source of disease, or discomfort, your problem is NOT an emotional or heart issue. If the flower is not there, then the Maori medicine person knows that you have everything there that you need to support your emotional health and well-being for this year.

The upper right-hand quadrant is called the Valley of the Mountains. This is the SPIRITUAL quadrant and trusting in one’s own intuition and spirtual beliefs. It’s also associated with energy and vitality and life force. You’ve drawn in everything that will support your spiritual health and well-being for this year. If a Mountain is there, it means your complaint or problem is not a spiritual problem. If the Mountain is not there, then it’s okay, because you have drawn in everything you need …

The lower right-hand quadrant is called the Valley of the Trees. This is the PHYSICAL quadrant. This is the quadrant of health, finances, work and creativity. It represents anything in the Outer World. It symbolizes your ability to manifest in the world. It’s your ability to have a quality life-style. It’s your ability to take care of your right livelihood, your body, your work and your physical health. So, you have everything there, drawn in, to support your financial health and well-being, your physical health and well-being and your creative work and right livelihood. If any part of your Tree is there, even if it’s a little leaf or a root, then the medicine person knows that your problem is not with your body, not your finances, it’s not your work. It’s not your external world that’s causing the problem. If a tree is not there, then that’s fine. You have everything there that will support those parts of your life.

If you have a quadrant that doesn’t have anything in it, it’s time for stillness. Lots of symbols drawn in a particular quadrant mean activity. Very few symbols means quiet, rest and stillness. It could be that you need to rest (in that area).

If you have a Bird in the Bird quadrant and a Flower in the Flower quadrant, a Mountain in the Mountain quadrant and a Tree in the Tree quadrant, and you still have a problem, the Maori medicine person would say you’re making it up! You’re creating your own problem! (It can happen!)

(Read the below AFTER you’ve completed your drawing.)


Wherever you have drawn the snake is where the process of healing, regeneration and renewal is occuring, in whatever quadrant or quadrants.

The snake is a very powerful symbol of transformation, cross- culturally.

On your snake, have you drawn an eye, or two eyes and eyelashes? If you drew an eye on your snake, it will be very healing to you to ‘express your vision’ or to use your vision more creatively. If you didn’t, this is not your healing work this year.

Did you draw a little tongue on your snake? That’s where communication is very important. It will be very healing to communicate your ideas (if it’s in the mental quadrant) or your feelings if it’s in the emotional quadrant, or communicate your spirituality if it’s in the spiritual quadrant, or communicate in the outer world if it’s in the physical quadrant. If you didn’t draw a tongue for your snake, communication is not an issue for you. It’s not your healing work for this year.

Did you decorate your snake? Stripes, dots, rings, etc., signify that bringing more beauty into your life would be more healing and re-newing to you. If you didn’t decorate your snake, that’s not your requirement this year.


The flower … is where you are willing to be open, to be vulnerable. It signifies where you are growing and unfolding. The flower is a universal symbol of being able to grow, to open, to blossom without defenses. Wherever your flower is, that’s where you are most open to new ideas, new feelings, new spiritual growth or new ways in the outer world, etc.


The bird … whatever quadrant or quadrants, this is where communication is absolutely essential, because the bird is a universal symbol of the messenger. Wherever it is, you carry a gift of communication and it needs to be used in that area … to maximize your personal health and well-being.


The path … wherever it is located on your drawing, the path is the universal symbol of direction and goals. You have goals that are either mental, emotional, spiritual, or physical. You have a direction. It’s also interesting to see where the path goes and what it connects with on your drawing. If the path goes up to your house, then you have goals and intentions that will support you in that quadrant. If your path is in all four quadrants it means you have goals in all four areas.


The mountain … wherever it is, is where you have a deep connection to the sacred. You have a deep sense of faith and trust in the Mystery.

A mountain is a universal symbol of searching, seeking, questing, exploring our connection to faith and spirituality. Every culture of the world has its ‘sacred mountain’ which seems to reach up to what is higher and greater.

If you have drawn a mountain in the mind quadrant, your connection to the spirit is through the inspired mind. Or if you have drawn a mountain in the emotional quadrant, your spiritual connection is through your love nature, through the heart. If you have placed it in the spiritual quadrant, you very easily and fully connect to the Source. If you have it in the physical quadrant, your spirituality is spirit in action, using it in practical ways, perhaps volunteering, counseling or donating.


The butterfly is a major symbol of Transformation from the chrysallis to the caterpillar to the butterfly. When it reaches the butterfly stage, it’s in its last stage. The butterfly is a universal symbol of completion, having completed something fully.

In whatever quadrant or quadrants you’ve drawn the butterfly, you are completing something fully, either mentally or emotionally or spiritually or physically. Something is coming to completion within your nature, something you may have outgrown or find unnecessary now, because you’ve experienced it to its fullness.


The tree, in whatever quadrant or quadrant you have drawn the tree, it is yet another reminder of transformation, but particularly of natural, organic growth.

This is a symbol of no pretense. It’s a symbol of authenticity. It’s a symbol of organic, natural growth, whether you are conscious or unconscious of it’s role in your life. (We often take trees for granted.)

The roots of the tree, whether they’re exposed or not in your drawing, is where your heritage and your legacy are revealing their importance to you. A tree can not stand unless it is rooted. If you’ve drawn those roots to make them visible for all to see, then it’s very important. You want people, everyone, to see where you’ve come from. Your past is important to show. People will know that your roots are important to you.

If you didn’t draw roots so that others can see them, they’re important too, but you want to be able to share them (your personal history) with only those people you trust.

The trunk of the tree respresents your present work, so whichever quadrant the trunk is drawn in is where you’re willing to show up and be present. The branches of the tree symolize what you’re reaching for, what you want to harvest or bring to fruition. So you might have branches going up to the mind, harvesting new ideas and so forth.


The house or shelter, wherever you have drawn it, is a symbol of identity strengths, ego and personality. You carry a strong mental identity or strong emotional identity or strong financial or work identity. Sense of self, sense of identity, sense of home, sense of strength. It’s where you carry your strength, where you feel secure, where you feel strong.


You may want to color your drawing and perhaps title and date it. It would be interesting to put it on your wall as a visual affirmation for this year.

If you drew any symbols OUTSIDE the circle, they represent processes on which you want no limitations. Freedom, exploration.

If you omitted a symbol, it’s not your healing work for this year. Not to worry. And remember, anything extra you added, that was not called for, symbolizes that you know you need that process to heal yourself. You might have added water, which means you need to be in and around more water for some reason.

Best of luck!


I’m often asked, “But, what is it that you do?”

My response, “I’m a Career Consultant … for Creative People.

We sit, we talk, often on the phone, and we look into your process, your habits, your goals, your sticking points. Together, we clean out your ‘creative’ closet and put things back where you want them. Sometimes we add some treasures to the pile.”

Try this as an example. This is one of a series of exercises I developed when I worked in the Creative Development department at Walt Disney Imagineering. It was my job at that time to interview the artists there to find out who might work best on which project teams. Enjoy!

Your Body-Knows Quiz (Exercise: approx. 10 min.)

You’ll need 5 pieces of notebook-sized (or larger) paper and a pen, pencil, different colors if you like, or not. Or, you can do this on computer if you like.

Read these instructions before you start … and you can refer back to them.

First of all, relax. This is no big deal. Take a deep breath, or two.

Take as much time as you like … there’s no hurry.

If responses come to you the next day, add them then, or later.

Any words you write are helpful. Or none. Whatever.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Are you still relaxed? (Relax your jaw, relax your tongue.)


Title your 5 pages by writing one of these words at the top.

Page 1 – HEAD

Page 2 – HEART

Page 3 – STOMACH

Page 4 – HANDS

Page 5 – FEET

On the page that says “Head”, write a list (however long you want) of things you KNOW … i.e., modern art, some French, some knowledge of Civil War history, community events, how to dance, business etiquette, etc.

On the page marked “Heart”, write a list of things, people, ideas, (whatever) that you are PASSIONATE about, things you love, i.e., chocolate, R&B music, roller coasters, traveling, cartoons, flannel sheets, camping, etc. This list can be endless! (You can add more pages.)

On the page marked “Stomach”, make a list of things that you detest, that disgust you, irk you, make you ‘sick at your STOMACH’ … i.e., liars, world hunger, being in a room with no windows, eating eggplant, etc. It doesn’t matter if the items are personal or universal, but try to include both.

On the page marked “Hands”, make a list of things you know how to DO. For example… sewing, car repair, type 80 wpm, rock climbing, etc. Don’t worry about your degree of expertise…and it’s ok if some of these are on your “Head” page too.

On the page marked “Feet”, write a list of where you’re GOING. This is a list of resolutions, i.e., I’m going to clean out the garage, I’m going to travel more outside this country, I’m going to master HTML, I’m going to pay off my credit card, I’m going to master the guitar, etc.

Okay, that’s it. You’ll surprise yourself with items you rarely give yourself credit for, and you’ll see which items jump off the page, being more important than you’d thought. We rarely ‘interview’ ourselves, and this is a good start. Keep this list handy. You’ll look back at it … and add to it … all the rest of your life!

A fabulous link I discovered about the creative process, is Creativity For Life.



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