Art pants

The residue of your efforts will inspire as much as the work itself.

Sometimes it’s an exhausted sigh after long labor that impacts more than the creation itself.

I’ve met artists whose paint-spackled shoes fascinate me more than the art on the easel.

It’s OK.

Your work isn’t meant for everyone.

Sometimes impact comes from unintentional spillover effects. Your life and the way it is lived is the effect. Or the hushed power surrounding you when your work is done for the day . . . that could be the effect. Maybe it’s the way you laugh easily because you are doing what you are calling yourself to do . . .

You are the effect of the work you do.


Tiny houses, big demand

While driving through Socorro, New Mexico, I spied these impossibly tiny A-frame houses. Later I discovered these are in great demand as rentals, despite how compact they are compared to other homes in the area.

Even though you can only fully stand up in the middle of the room in the second floor bedrooms — yes, there are two : ) — the design and affordability make these dwellings appealing.

Wherever you can differentiate, do it.

Wherever you can imprint your project with your own special take on it, make it happen.

Rewards come to those who get playful.

Look at these homes above. They’re not your typical New Mexican home. Hell, they’re not your typical home anywhere. And that’s the allure.

People want different.

People want originality.

Find yours.



Unblocking creative block: The guidance bowl

There’s a toilet bowl off to the right.
Emphatically, this is not the kind of bowl
we’re talking about here 🙂

Creative block can be the creator’s bane. You feel thwarted. You feel you’re not living your mission. If it goes on long enough your days take on a whiff of futility.

Sometimes all you need is a direction, some small push just to get yourself moving.
If you’ve been there, feeling paralysis, this hack my wife picked up from a workshop might help you:

The guidance bowl

It’s simple. You place a bowl in your creative space, on the periphery — not in your prime working zone.

You don’t want it as a focus. Because most of the time you are skiing the line feeling the exhilaration of momentum — and you don’t need the distraction. You don’t need an Oompa Loompa squatting in your glide path.

This bowl is for those times you’re not. Those times you’re not in the flow. For when you’re feeling meh and listless.

A simple bowl that pleases you is best. You don’t want a superhero cereal bowl staring at you from the corner of your eye — unless that’s your thing. If it is, hey, no judgment.

Cut strips of paper and write tiny actions on them. The kind of actions that are easy to take.

If you’re a musician one suggestion might simply be: Hold guitar and strum a chord you hate

Your suggestion might be: Write a 5-line poem backwards

Or: Write a line of gibberish code with a secret message in it

Or: Flip through tear sheets/inspiration clippings/bookmarked creative sites

One of Ann’s says: Move paint around on a board

Another might say: Stab charcoal marks across the surface of a blah piece

Something simple, to jumpstart you into the process . . . so that your monkey mind is quieted and your creative self is activated.

Once you’ve come up with 15 to 20 suggestions, wad them up and toss them into your bowl.

How it works 

The process is simplicity itself.

When you’re flummoxed but before you sink into complete entropy, pluck a paper ball from the bowl.

(Stir the bowl up first if you want.)

Here’s the most critical part: Whatever you pick up, do it.

Trust the process.

This is not catch and release fishing. If you start lazily going through one suggestion after another, the options are likely to shut you down further. You already don’t know what to do . . . so don’t go fishing through the alternatives to add confusion to your ennui.

The suggestion bowl is your activation bowl.

Choose a suggestion, trust it’s the right one for you at that moment, and without thinking, do it.

For the fun of it — and to be mystical hypnotic through repetition — let’s restate that in bullet points:

  1. Choose one suggestion only
  2. Trust it’s the right one for you
  3. Without thinking, do it!

Do it . . . in minutes you’ll be rolling somewhere. It doesn’t matter where. You’re creative. Once you’re rolling it’s easy to track in a different direction.

It’s the difference between being on the river angling to a different part of the flow versus sitting in your kayak on the shore.

Your suggestion bowl gets you in the stream.

This also is not a bowl.
But it was something creative cool— a beach cruiser without a top, mostly — so I’m including it here

Though you could place suggestions in it . . .
they’d just be hard to find after a drive

For you 

Evan Griffith
To enjoy an occasional update from freaky beautiful Notes For Creatorsclick here.

Want to play at your creative best? Check out this little book: 
Burn Baby Burn: Spark The Creative Spirit Within


An artist in Cleveland muses on the years of no selling

A dad in North Carolina let his kids
go wild on the picnic table.
Then sealed it for posterity.


The other day I met an artist in Cleveland I hadn’t seen in person since the crash years. She looked phenomenal for the wear and tear of the previous 7 years.

It’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed. Those who grow from trauma speak with a certain fondness about what they’ve learned. Those who shrivel from trauma curse the fates.

There we were, she and I, discussing how we got through the Great Art Depression. It was the Great Recession to the culture. To the art world it was cataclysmic. Four-fifths of the galleries in our immediate vicinity went belly up. That’s an 80% die-off rate.

Our area was unusual in that it was hit by the recession and the Madoff fraud. The death spiral accelerated faster than in other areas. Still . . .

My artist friend noted she took a part time job.

“Basically, my art wasn’t selling. But I kept painting. It was weirdly freeing. Since no one was buying the art anyway I began to experiment more.”

Commercial pressures didn’t apply anymore . . . which freed her to do work that felt deeper and more rewarding. She drifted away from her previous galleries and toward more urban galleries that felt in line with the new work.

For her, the years of few sales inspired her most satisfying creative evolution since her early days — when she was grappling her way toward a unique artistic vision.

Contrast this with the artists who shut down, who stopped creating. There can be no growth without movement, even if the direction is at first too murky to discern.

If you stop in the dark you stay in the dark.

The dark path always comes out into the light, a sometimes dazzling light. But only if you travel it.

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, connection and whee! Once a month, maybe, if you’re lucky.


How one artist blows past roadblocks and paints several paintings in a day — in 3 steps

Puppy . . . (and artist David Gordon)


My wife Ann had a habit of getting stuck on one painting and not being able to shake it loose. She’d work and obsess and then stall . . .

Sitting with my prolific artist friend David Gordon one morning this past spring I told him about her dilemma  and asked how he did things.

His process applies to so many things we get stuck on in life that it bears sharing with you. It helped Ann break through to a new level of creative zest.

His answer was to work on a number of pieces at once.

Here’s the gist of it in 3 steps:

Step 1: “It’s all in the setup.” 

David emphasized you have to plan to work on a number of paintings at once. That way any one painting gone wrong won’t slow you down; you’ll move along to the next one.
In addition to having all your supplies at hand, you’ve got to make sure you’re set up to work on multiple paintings at the same time.

And — this is critical — to be able to place those off to the side somewhere so they can can dry while you work on the next round.

Step 2: “Visualize doing 4 or 5 paintings. Even if you end up with 3, you’re happy.”

David will dawdle in bed for 20 to 30 minutes in the morning, visualizing what he’s going to be working on that day. By visualizing I mean some quirky combination of pondering and planning and daydreaming.

Whether or not you finish several in a day is immaterial. Multiple works are in progress . . . making completion that much more certain when you step back in the studio.

The time frame isn’t as important as the process. A day, a week, a month . . . by working on several simultaneously you spur yourself to greater heights than had you lumbered over only one project at a time.

Step 3: “Go from painting to painting until you need a break.”The energy will build as you go along. In fact you’ll sometimes be blown away by what comes through on the third or fifth piece. It may even seem beyond you.

The writer John Updike had a typewriter in each of the rooms he liked to work in. When stymied on a piece he’d simply get up and move to the next room and start in there. He would move from project to project, working wherever it was flowing best.Each typewriter housed a different project, a novel, a short story, an essay, a review, maybe another story or novel just emerging into idea form. This allowed his back brain to work things out wherever he was blocked, so that a solution was taking wing by the time he returned.

. . . . . . . .

(PS: David is another creative who likes his naps. Notice how he gets insane creativity going by lazing in bed in the morning . . . and napping when needed? Genius, I tell you. Creative dynamos allow themselves naps.)

For you —

Evan Griffith
What creators do

Click here for the occasional thing from Notes For Creators.


Pay attention to the (fortuitous) accidents — like this one

It’s the mishaps along the way that often derail us psychologically the most. Delving into the philosophy behind Wabi Sabi has helped me see more clearly that there is indeed beauty in imperfection, good fortune even.

Take this example: 

My wife Ann is an artist. She works on multiple small pieces and then assembles them into groupings that become a larger single wall-mounted structure. One wall of her studio is a massive peg board assemblage that allows Ann to keep 30 or more of these painting segments up on the wall at any given time.

This past week as she was showing me some of the completed work she was lamenting that a number of these segments had fallen off the wall and become damaged.

When we took a closer look — what a gift. The work had been improved by the dents and grooves created by the fall.

Ann works in a combination of layering and excavation. These new marks added a new element that made her work more raw, more primitive. More soulful even.

Hmmmm . . . .

We’re going to be tossing her artwork around like boxes at a UPS fulfillment center from now on. We may even have to invest in some chain mail to flog the occasional piece into marred beauty.

Now I wonder, how often am I missing what is gloriously beneficial because I am only focused on the (seeming) hassle of something gone wrong.

Part of the What creators do series.

Click here you creator you, for an email update once or twice a month from Notes For Creators.

Creativity as a calling: Elizabeth Gilbert

Confiscated from . . . 
from an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert 
author of Eat Love Pray

I think creativity is entirely a spiritual practice. It has defined my entire life to think of it that way. When I hear the way some people speak about their work, people who are in creative fields who either attack themselves, or attack their work, or treat it as a burden rather than a blessing, or treat it as something that needs to be fought and defeated and beaten . . . .

There is a war that people go to with their creative path that is very unfamiliar to me. To me, it feels like a holy calling and one that I am grateful for.

. . . . . . .

With the exception of the experience of four months of meditating in India in an ashram, there has never been anything in my life that’s even approximated the sense of the miraculous I feel running deep in this work . . . . It’s beautiful.


Steven Pressfield on shadow careers

Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk.

If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.

Are you pursuing a shadow career?

Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies that you know you have inside you?

Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music?

Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk becoming an innovator yourself?

If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for.

That metaphor will point you toward you true calling.

Steven Pressfield, from Turning Pro.

If you seek to begin something  or to fully embrace something  that feels like your mission in life, The War of Art and Turning Pro are essential reading. Pressfield writes with short intensity, in power bursts as if through a jackhammer. Each segment is a page or two or three at the most. The above was such an example.


My ABCs: Always be creating

A few months ago I took on a new power mantra: Always be creating.

I use mantra loosely here, in the sense of a phrase that becomes a personal motto through repetition, even a mission. I don’t mean it in its tight definition: a sound or phrase focused upon in meditation.

Though if the personal motto becomes pervasive . . . mind-uttered frequently through one’s days and weeks . . . the effect is similar.

Sue-Bee-Doo, a friend of ours, once commented that if you create things you never need to worry about money. She’s an artist and she was speaking about having control over her life.

Her point: the artist who creates rather than dithers will always find a way to income. It may or may not be grand, it will fluctuate, but it will always be sufficient.

She was saying that creators control their destiny.

Creators aren’t only artists. Or entrepreneurs. If you hold, as I do, as millions do, that our thoughts create, then we are all creators — and this is the way I am addressing it here.

Always be creating is far away from Always be working or even Always be doing.

This afternoon Zane, our eight-year old, was at play in the mud beside the pool with his cousin Lily, also eight. I was there on the other side of the dinky mudhole they were fashioning, and as is my way, I enjoyed being there but not being intrusive at the same time. I would be required from time to time, but otherwise what a revelation to be privy to their interactions as they forgot about me.

At one point I considered doing something else — possibly jotting notes to write you here! — but I considered what I wanted to create at that moment, and that was an immersion experience with these two.

They had their own jazz going and you could only grok it by being utterly attentive.

Always be creating is an imperative. It requires engagement, though not necessarily action.

It implies that you should always be conscious (ABC again!), choosing the experience to create. The experience you desire will dictate all else.

I now ask myself often: What am I creating?

Am I creating a worthy experience?

To ask “What am I creating?” or “What do I want to create right now?” is clarifying!

It keeps purpose and experience pure, aligned. It doesn’t mean I have control of the universe. But it does mean that given the existing environment — the existing dynamic — I can decide this: how do I wish to participate?

Even in constricted circumstances — we’ll use my recent life as an example in mere seconds — you have the ability to craft how you experience it.

We have a business in shock and turmoil, ever since the market meltdown two and a half years ago.

By considering this concept — that I am creating my experience in every moment — I free myself from reacting only. I can’t tell you how sweet this is when you face financial destruction. Or any bad thing of a seeming magnitude greater than you are.

There have been numerous times when all soul energy went dim . . . and I would find myself enervated or scared or crushed. Yet, if you choose to experience it as adventure, one that may or may not turn out well, you are freed!

Not from the turmoil, but from despair. And that freedom brings possibilities which may lead to actions which just might oh mighty might bring something new to fruition . . .

Creating is contributing.

Contribution is service.

Service is God expressed.

Serving is the way to true wealth and all that is good.

Wayne Dyer asks: How may I serve?

To him, the Law of Attraction works thusly. When you consistently ask “How may I serve?” then the Universe reflects this back to you, asking of Itself: “How may I serve you?” And goodnesses are heaped upon you.

Creators create.

Creators nourish the new.

Creators bring forth.

Creators are too busy to be concerned with the inconsequential.

Creators create!