Archive for the ‘Creative Process’ Category


Creative Rhythm Reset

August 8, 2015


Creativity concentration. When faced with a creative challenge or artistic task, I go into tunnel-vision concentration mode. All else fades away and falls off the to do list.

But everything I notice on the periphery gets stored somewhere in my head!

As soon as the Big Deal is over, my mind takes a short respite, then the Great Reset begins. Off I go, working on all the items that appeared to have lain dormant. Like…

  • Changing the light bulb that burned out last week
  • Sweeping the wood splinters from playful doggies’ chewing session off the patio
  • Gathering framing supplies from every flat surface in the house and returning them to their homes
  • Doing the laundry… and taking the time to hang it outside in the sunshine
  • Standing (still!) in the sunshine and looking at the curly clouds
  • Cleaning out the rotting cilantro from the refrigerator, and remembering to eat
  • Writing a blog post
  • And more

The Big Deal provided energy and creative passion and thorough enjoyment.

The Reset calms my heart, restores perspective, and prepares my soul (and space) for the next Big Deal!


Can you relate? How does the rhythm of your creative flow work? Please share— I have much to learn from you, my creative friends!


IMAGO FLOW: Creative Limitations – Part I

February 11, 2013

Limitations can enrich or hinder creativity. The difference is in knowing how to make them work for, not against you. The following is the first of two posts on how limitations affect creativity.

I have a love-hate relationship with limitations.  Especially when creating.

When limitations work in my favor I allow them to participate in my creative process; but when they get in my way I spurn them like a Ferrari in Detroit.

Creative flow

Creating in-the-zone allows no stopping to eat… or sleep… or run to the bathroom. Until recently I thought this singular focus was artistic eccentricity.  Turns out there is a scientific reason for neglecting food and drink during a creative frenzy that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (how do you pronounce that?!?) calls spontaneous flow or flow experience.1

Mr. C says the human nervous system can process, or attend to, a total of 110 bits of info per second.  That’s not very much—listening to one person talk takes 60 bits. That’s why we can’t understand two people talking at once. It’s physiologically impossible. 2

Creating in-the-zone uses all 110 bits of human brain bandwidth. So hunger, sleepiness, and even being self-aware don’t register when creativity is humming like a V-8 engine firing on all cylinders fed with high-octane petrol.

When you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new… you don’t have enough attention left over to monitor how your body feels or [think about] your problems at home.  You can’t even feel that you are hungry or tired.  Your body disappears. Your identity disappears from your consciousness because you don’t have enough attention, none of us does, to do something really well that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time, to feel that you exist. So existence is temporarily suspended. 3

No time to eat

This was true for George F. Handel, composer of MESSIAH, which includes the Hallelujah Chorus, one of the most-loved choral works of all time.  Handel began composing the oratorio August 22, 1741. Part One was finished in six days. Nine days later, Part Two was completed. Another six days and Part Three was done. Two days later – 23 days, start to finish – he finalized the orchestration. The story goes that during the composing, he rarely left his room or touched his meals, writing like a mad man—most assuredly firing at 110 bits of information per second—and therefore, unable to notice his most basic needs.

I can’t compare myself to Handel, but I do know something of the intense concentration that makes hours fly with half-eaten meals long since forgotten and cold.


Like the time I worked on this mosaic for a sermon series at Trinity. I began working in the late afternoon, painted through the night, and finished the assembly in a stupor more than 36 hours later. The creative process during that weekend is still a blur to me. I moved from one task to another, as if the process was all decided, and I simply progressed to the next section or task. I don’t remember eating or doing much else except working.

I get like this when writing, too. It’s not uncommon for me to begin writing in the morning, only to realize “minutes” later that the sun has set and everyone wants dinner. On days like these I completely understand the disconnect of time between our world and Narnia!

Since watching Mr. C’s video, I now know there is a scientific explanation for ignoring everything except my current creative project. And I know I’m not loony! Where Mr. C and science fall short, however, is describing the reason for the intense focus.

Imago flow

I believe this drive is part of what it means to be created Imago Deiin the image of God. He created the world, and then made people in his creative image. He created for seven days straight—and then he rested.

Csikszentmihaly calls it “spontaneous flow” or “flow experience”.

I call it the image of God creating through me.


1. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness at 11:05.

2. Ibid; 8:30.

3. Ibid at 8:50. The tenses and broken English have been cleaned up a little for better readability.


Workshop: The Four Stages of Creativity

September 29, 2012

Getting to the “AHA!” moment quicker and more frequently

Oct 13 – Saturday  – 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
$10 by Oct 11;  $20 at the door
The Art Bank Gallery, 811 Mass Ave, Indianapolis 46204

Every person is creative!  The belief that only the eccentric, artistic, and brilliant are creative is a myth.  Through short presentations and practical activities for each stage of the creative process, you will learn simple techniques and practices that increase your creativity immediately, and strategies that build your creative muscle.

Writers, contractors, artists, mail carriers, accountants, stay-at-home moms, CEO’s— anyone wanting to release their innate creativity and strengthen their creative muscle will benefit from this workshop.

Reservations by Oct 11 will guarantee you a table.
Walk-ins are welcome, too!

Bring: writing supplies, and lunch money if you want to eat with the group on Mass Ave after the workshop.  Optional: art supplies, if you can learn and create at the same time, and a drop cloth if your art is messy.

The Art Bank has lots of free parking.  Hand-outs, snacks, and all materials will be provided.

For reservations by Oct 11, call or email: 317-918-4720


Black Socks

June 20, 2012

A creative project can seem like an amorphous glob of Jell-o in a vat of vegetable oil— difficult to get a handle on with no obvious place to start.

When I have a creativity Jell-o mess, I apply one of my creativity maxims:



Today I was doing a dark load of laundry, folding the jeans and t-shirts, when I came to the Dreaded Knot of Socks—a mass of mismatched confusion bonded by a systemic hair-raising charge of static.

After reprimanding myself for forgetting to add a drier sheet to the load, I began applying today’s maxim, thereby reducing inaction and confusion.  I picked out the most obvious socks— four navy blue ones— from the black ball.  Separating the blue socks from the black was an easy and obvious first step.  With those out of the way, I was able to see the subtle distinctions between the nine remaining black socks.

By DOING WHAT YOU KNOW you clear away the creative decision-making fog one layer at a time.  You can see the details of the next phase more clearly if you take care of the obvious ones first.

Let’s move from the sock pile to creating.  How does this work in a project?


These two steps clear away a LOT of fog.  While they won’t eliminate every creative block, they are extremely useful when you aren’t able to proceed because you are overwhelmed with the enormity of the project.

DEFINE known parameters.  Write down, or make a mental list of everything you DO know about the project: size, medium, materials, function, time constraints, color, etc; and any ideas you already have no matter how seemingly unrelated or trivial.

ACT on what you know.  The size of the finished painting will be 45×62—cut the canvas and begin stretching.  The palate will be pastel—go buy a big tube of white paint.  The article will include an interview—call the subject up to make and appointment.  The grant is due in two weeks—fill out everything you can on the application.

The magic of Doing What You Know is that while you are acting on what you know, the next steps become clearer.

The reason for this is two fold.  First, Mary Poppins’ wisdom, “Well-begun is half done,” is creative wisdom.   By starting the creative process (sometimes that is simply the mundane prep) ideas and next steps begin to emerge.  Doing the tasks and making the decisions you recognize builds a kind of ladder with each idea building on the previous one.

The second reason is found within the Four Stages of Creativity (look for a future post).  By DOING WHAT YOU KNOW and letting the tougher decisions incubate while your hands are occupied, your unconscious thinking continues, often resulting in an “AHA!” moment, seemingly from out of nowhere.

The secret to finishing an overwhelming project is to continue repeating these two steps.  The creative process is a series of decisions with moments (flashes) of inspiration.  Continue DEFINING and ACTING— DOING WHAT YOU KNOW— until the next decision comes into focus, giving space and life for inspiration, and eventually your project will be finished!

Now if I could just figure out a maxim to find the tenth black sock.

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