Discover more from Arts and Climate Change with Nicole Kelner
Creativity is like a game of whack-a-mole
Tips for getting a high score at the Creativity Arcade
When are you the most creative? This is a question I get asked a lot.
The thing about being an artist full-time now is that I am professionally creative. My livelihood depends on a constant flow of ideas popping into my brain and my ability to shepherd them into reality.
But creativity is like a game of whack-a-mole. It’s there one second and gone the next. You need fast reflexes to capture an idea (or a mole in this weird metaphor I have concocted). The more you practice the better you get.
I wanted to share some tips that help me get a high score at the Creativity Arcade.
I write morning pages (almost) everyday. Morning pages are from the Artists Way. This is a book I’ve picked up many times (I haven’t finished…shhh), but biggest action item Julia Cameron requires is called Morning Pages. Basically, you write 3 pages first thing in the morning by hand. It’s a brain dump. I usually treat it as a journal for the first 2 pages, chatting to myself. The last page I set goals for the day of what I need to accomplish. Sometimes that will help spark a new creative idea in itself as well. It works for me.
I swim. Water is my happy place. Time stands still when I swim. It is my favorite form of exercise and a meditation for me. As I count my laps, my thoughts quiet. I set an intention before I swim. Maybe I need a new idea for a painting or I am stressed. I leave the pool nourished and filled with ideas or calm, whatever I was calling in that day. I think this can apply to all forms of exercise too.
I allow myself to work when I want to. I definitely don’t work 9-5. I try to stop working around 5. But I usually start around 10 and take a break to swim mid day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sometimes I work Saturday mornings when the world is quiet and I have no calls. I allow myself to work at night if an idea strikes but I don’t do this often. When I first started painting I was working full time. My brain got conditioned into creatively working after 5pm into the wee hours. Now I have trained my brain to work in the daylight.
I respect when I’m not feeling creative and don’t push myself. I know that even when I’m not drawing, everything I’m experience can be potential inspiration. I just don’t know it yet. Grocery shopping might inspire me to do a painting on systemic food waste. So I try to get out and do ~literally~ anything when I’m stuck.
I set weekly creativity goals. Instead of requiring myself to make art everyday, I set art goals by the week. My 3 weekly metrics are 1 watercolor painting, 1 coloring book page, and 1 newsletter. With this structure, I know I am practicing consistently and that I will make 50+ paintings by the end of the year.
Re-read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is my favorite book about creativity. The way she thinks about creativity has resonated with me so much. One of my favorite quotes is this
One of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of this phenomenon — that is, of ideas entering and exiting the human consciousness at whim — came from the wonderful American poet Ruth Stone. I met Stone when she was nearly ninety years old, and she regaled me with stories about her extraordinary creative process. She told me that when she was a child growing up on a farm in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields when she would sometimes hear a poem coming toward her — hear it rushing across the landscape at her, like a galloping horse. Whenever this happened, she knew exactly what she had to do next: She would “run like hell” toward the house, trying to stay ahead of the poem, hoping to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough to catch it. That way, when the poem reached her and passed through her, she would be able to grab it and take dictation, letting the words pour forth onto the page. Sometimes, however, she was too slow, and she couldn’t get to the paper and pencil in time. At those instances, she could feel the poem rushing right through her body and out the other side. It would be in her for a moment, seeking a response, and then it would be gone before she could grasp it — galloping away across the earth, as she said, “searching for another poet.” But sometimes (and this is the wildest part) she would nearly miss the poem, but not quite. She would just barely catch it, she explained, “by the tail.” Like grabbing a tiger. Then she would almost physically pull the poem back into her with one hand, even as she was taking dictation with the other. In these instances, the poem would appear on the page from the last word to the first — backward, but otherwise intact. That, my friends, is some freaky, old-timey, voodoo-style Big Magic, right there. I believe in it, though.
She also reminds us that we are all creative beings which I strongly agree with.
If you’re alive, you’re a creative person. You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers. Decorators, tinkerers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem-solvers, and embellishers — these are our common ancestors.
So my question to you is when are you the most creative? What does being creative look like in your world?
Just reply to this email, I’d love to hear!
This newsletter is made with lots of love and creativity. If you’d like to support more climate art, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber 💖
Art of the week:
Creativity Circles for climate folks is gonna be a thing! Clearly this is something I think a lot about and I’m working on the curriculum + logistics now. If you are interested in those, fill out this form.
Pre-order my coloring book about climate change! Fill out this form.
I’m coming to DC tomorrow! I might be doing a meetup on Tuesday morning, shoot me a email if you want to join.
Ways to support me:
📗 Buy my book! It’s a great coffee table book for yourself, your office, or your nerdy climate
I’m open for contract work or commissions. Feel free to keep me in mind if you know of any climate startups, nonprofits, or organizations looking for illustrations/paintings like mine!
Ok that’s a wrap, have a great week friends!