Friday, February 22, 2019

Ten Pieces of Creative Advice

Hey all!

Just finished a list of what I think are Ten essentials for creative growth and for working towards making your living in a creative way! I though I would share them all here with you first. :)

I've been around a lot of younger people lately who are hungry for learning creative skills and finding their own mode of self-expression and more than a few adults who are thinking of turning some craft or creative idea into a product for on line sales. The world is becoming more open to anyone being able to make a creative living but often I find the hardest thing to teach is not the techniques but the mindset that enables one to follow through with their plan over time.

This is my default list, as of now, of the thingsI would like to impart to every young creator or one who is new to creating at any age.

Hoping you are all well!


1. Create EVERY Day.

I am likely, for the rest of my days, to begin any advice list with this one!  I think it's the best advice. The best plan of action. AND I think most people could do it. The usual argument against is that the person has a job/homework/a family/hobbies/a life, and it’s hard to find time for creativity in the middle of all that.

Well, maybe I'm the oddball,  but it’s mind-boggling how many “busy” people I know these days- including people with full-time jobs, families or studies- who still manage to find time to go out, play computer games, go on road trips, play sports and watch hours and hours of movies and tv shows.

 We find time in their days for all of these things. If we dream of creating, shouldn’t we be able to find time for it as well?

2. Don't Put Too Much Into the Idea of Inspiration.

The old idea that there must be an air of “inspiration” or a visit by the "muse"to make anything worthwhile is just silly.  Some ethereal or, more to the heart of procrastination, elusive entity that everyone is waiting to come along and drop the great idea into their heads.

t's not true.

People can be “uninspired” and still create and make beautiful work when they're doing it for an art class or for a deadline like a birthday or a wedding gift. And in the case of that art class, no art instructor would ever accept “But I didn’t feel inspired!” as an excuse for a late project.

So create with or without the visits from the muse or the guiding hand of inspiration. If you really want to create on a given day and you know you’ll only have an hour to do so because of other commitments, then get ready to make something in that one hour.

3. Realize it takes time to build skills or flesh out an idea.

I’ve known a whole mess of people who sculpted, painted, wrote, cooked, drew, danced or took up an instrument for a few weeks or months and then gave up. They wanted to be good right away.

I don’t know why so many people resent the notion of needing to invest “time” to become good with creative endeavors. They look at the artists they admire the most and then imagine they will be right up there in skill and ability in a fraction of the time those folks put in.

Time invested most certainly = ability.

I like to think I’m a good maker-of-things and that some of the skills that go into my work I have been doing them since childhood. But if we look at sculpting, well, I took that up with the medium of polymer clay just ten years ago in my thirties. In between then and now it's been a lot of time and hard work.

It applies to every medium of creativity and then to the art of making a living from your art as well. Time has to be invested and not rushed into showing results.

4. Collect and Jot Down Ideas.

I have forgotten more ideas than I will ever see through to completion and, though I may not remember all of them, I have no doubt I forgot many of my best ones by not taking a moment and  recording them somewhere.

I get ideas from the art of others, songs, dreams, random things heard on the street, books, nature or just something I am imagining in a daydream. This is a kind of free play for the mind, but it’s where most of my creative ideas spring from for me. And by all means, THINK about that when you go out into the world! Don’t be a passive vessel. Actively go in search of them and when the come WRITE THEM DOWN!

5. Realize You Will NOT Like Everything That You Create

There are many things I made, even sold, but was not happy with the results when they were done. I am, of course, seeing every little flaw, every aspect of the piece that I did not pull off quite the way I wanted to.

 That doesn’t mean that when I make something like it again (and I will) that I should shelve them or toss them out. Often these are the ideas that I build on and work towards making better the next time around, which builds my skills. I often hear that people who hire illustrators or comic artists look at the hands (or lack of them)  in the drawings immediately because they are often the hardest thing to get right and, therefor, someone who does them well has obviously put the time in to do so.

Learn to love the imperfections now but strive to overcome them tomorrow. Taking either the view that everything you create has to be perfect and you should destroy everything that’s not, or that you can’t possibly create something if you’re not passionately interested in every aspect of it, is self-destructive and not worth your time.

6. Realize That a Good Portion of Creativity is Purely Mechanical.

Even if you are someone who manages to drill into an endless well of  “inspiration,” there’s going to come a point in the path to seeing it to completion, where that dries up a bit, and you’re left with what may seem like a mess. Yes, that happens. I don't know a single artist who didn't struggle with that "dry spell" at some point along the way.

Don't give up and don't stop working through it. Remember advice #1? Keep at it! Just the act and the exercise of working on your craft is as important as those days of fevered inspiration.

7. Learn to Only Be Concerned With What YOU Can Accomplish

Yeah, simple, but when you know someone who can turn out painting a day or a drawing in an hour, and it takes you on average ten times as long, don't let that bring you down. You are only accountable to you. How someone else goes about their creativity is not your concern.

 I sculpt across the work table from someone who can complete one of their sculpted pieces in an hour or two. I'll take that long to make the assorted pieces of a fairy landscape or to sculpt a statue and then have to put them all together, paint them, add all the tiny details etc etc etc and I cannot charge as much for them as she can for her work because of the niches our work falls into. (that's a story for another rant!)  That is FINE. It's not a competition and if I held myself to someone else's standards in that way I would have given up long ago and most certainly have failed at trying to make  my living from my work!

8. Be Honest About What Distracts You.

Do you really have to go clean up the mess you’ve left sitting in the kitchen after throwing together dinner so you could keep working? Do you really only have an hour left before you have to leave for your walk or to meet a friend? Inventing excuses to keep from creating, waiting for that perfect time, is perfectly normal, but unless you learn to recognize that these are distractions and excuses and put creating above things you value that are mostly distractions from it, then your creative skills and your goals will most likely not grow as fast as they might otherwise when you make them a priority.

9. Develop Goals.

I have an old-school work ethic that pushes me to create for a certain number of hours each day. It gets upset with me if I don’t do as much work as I can and the one thing that gets in the way of me doing just that is not having goals set each day. Yes, sometimes that's not very much fun, going down the list and getting the things done, photo taking, making listings, shipping etc. These are the things that  I know should be done before I get into my remaining time where I can make whatever my heart desires. But there’s no one standing over me with a whip and telling me to create, which means I have to internalize the whip. I never, or at least very rarely, match what that work ethic expects me to achieve, but I do far more than I would if I only dreamed about goals and didn’t set them in writing.

And finally…

10. Love Creating For Itself.

Another obvious one, but one that many people don’t seem to get.

They dream about the day they will be making a living creatively, or at least selling their work as a side hustle or for extra income. Perhaps they dream about being featured in a magazine or on a web site they love, or about how much people will love a certain painting, Zine, handmade jacket, bracelet or ceramic sculpture.

But they don’t love the actual work of it.

That strikes me as the absolute most pitiful lack that someone who wants to be a creator can have. Yes, a lot of it is mechanics and skill development and discipline, but that doesn’t mean that something doesn’t surprise you in the middle of the sculpture or the illustration and make you laugh out loud or even start crying when you finally get it right!

And all of those dreams, as lovely as they are, are nothing to that moment you see the physical item you have been working on or developing finally emerge from YOUR fingers.


  1. Great list Nicolas! Thank you! Hope everything is well! Big Crow Hugs!

    1. Hi Stacy!

      All is well indeed. Stuck in editing and writing and making land (which is a wonderful place to be! ) And still hoping to get back here sooner rather than later!

      Big Crow Hugs!