Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

mix it up

Where do you get your creative inspiration?

art tipsKerrie Woodhouse

Apparently if you ask Neil Gaiman where ideas come from he might just say something like, "a little shop near Bognor Regis". For inspired creatives who produce consistently it seems to be something of a tiresome question. Hmm, must be hard for them. But what do us lesser mortals do?

Well, as far as I can see, the difference between consistent creative producers and those of us asking these sorts of questions is that the producers have figured out how to 'show up'. 

 
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You see it’s a bit like that witty comeback. You think of the best one liner - somewhere between a few hours and a few days later, don't you? You had to have the snarky encounter and then give your brain a bit of time to work on a suitable response. Same with writing, same with painting, or any creative work for that matter.  It’s only when you engage yourself in the physical act of doing the creating that the wheels start turning.

Don't have great expectations of that first effort or two, however. Remember your comeback line? The first thing your brain came up with on the spot was probably something close to, "I know you are, but what am I?" Then, instantly recognising that some improvement was possible, your brain kept grinding away churning out pithy alternatives until, at last - perfection! (Too late of course, but a perfect reply, nonetheless.) 

So the trick is to create. Want inspiration and ideas? Show up.

That's when you get inspired. And also improve your skills, problem solve, not to mention just plain old enjoying the process of creating. Writing, drawing, basket weaving - doesn’t matter. It applies across them all. Begin the process. Enjoy the process. Let the product begin its evolution into something better and better.

 
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You see, it’s science. There's this thing called the Reticular Activating System in your brain. It sets out collecting bits of data from your world that match whatever it thinks you are looking for. If it is a witty comeback line then all of a sudden snippets of eavesdropped conversation, Seinfeld reruns and newspaper letters to the editor all seem to appear with some relevant insights, feeding into your creative problem solving machinery.

So it is with any other creation. The difference between composing a witty retort and writing a novel or painting a picture is simply a matter of scale.

But back to that question regarding the source of inspiration for a moment. The answer is you. Your world and everything you experience. Anything that touches your heart in any way.

You swim in a sea of inspiration. In fact, there is so much of it that you can't see the wood for the trees. Only when you begin - something - anything, do you give the Reticular Activating System its command to seek. Then like a bloodhound on a scent trail it is off, filtering and collecting salient pieces of your world to inspire your creation.

Now, I'm not saying showing up is easy. But it is better to have a more practical step to take as opposed to waiting for some sort of mystical holy grail of ideas to be revealed. 

There are pitfalls, like of course, that inner critic poised to speak out as soon as creation begins, if not before. But whatever form your creative work takes, your job is to get started.

Put pen to blank page, apply fingertips to keyboard, clay to the wheel. Dip your brush in the paint and get it moving.

 
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Over the years I have come up with a process to prime myself for any studio time. (I have inventively named this My Prime Process.) It is the best way I know of helping me to Show Up. It addresses nearly all my objections and gets me working. I do it first, before I start painting anything else or even writing. But I have also found that it serves so many other purposes.

Find your way to get started.

Then do it.

You never know where it might get you.

Looking for more tips about showing up in your art practice? I have an online class that’s got you covered - click here to find out more about it.

 
 

Is your inner critic preventing you from doing your creative work?

art tipsKerrie Woodhouse

I know. You have this little creative itch to scratch. Plans of starting a sketchbook practice, journalling regularly, getting back into painting or dusting off that guitar.

But somehow actually Doing The Thing just doesn't happen.  Life seems to get in the way. All other things seem to declare themselves more important than your creative urges. And if you do manage to tip toe towards starting there's that little voice that pipes up as soon as your first tentative steps are taken. She's mean, that voice, isn't she?

She is your inner critic, and fear not, everyone has one. Some are just noisier than others. Perhaps some are just better managed. I spent so much time listening to mine especially when I first started learning to draw and paint. Such constant companions were we that I even drew her once. Want to see?

 
 

Since we spent so much time together it seemed only logical that we should be on a first name basis. I call her Aunt Enid, and she's a bit of a shrew. And yes, in my head she wears a stiff, scary matron's uniform and scowls a lot.

Even though I really wanted to make some art, I seemed to do an awful lot of procrastinating. The creative urge would tug, but somehow I always managed to find an excuse to put it off. Aunt Enid would pipe up as soon as I thought of  getting out my art supplies. 

Shouldn't you be doing something more useful... laundry, perhaps?

Isn't it a bit late to start learning to be an artist?

I thought this would stop once I was a bit more accomplished (who knows what I thought that might mean - let’s not forget that art is subjective). Thing is, you can only get more accomplished by actually doing some art. But when you have this nagging doubt that you are not good enough at it you tend to find anything but art to do. 

 
 

It's self protection really. What we call the inner critic that pipes up with all that judgement is really a well meaning part of us that is trying to save us embarrassment or hurt. So well intentioned, but misguided because it's just paper and paint after all and you don't need to show anybody. 

And allowing yourself some time for creative expression is good for your soul. It can be a restorative, replenishing sort of activity that actually leaves you better equiped to return to your regular responsibilities and activities.

One of the things I have learned about the inner critic is that she doesn't go away. But actually, since she does have my best interests at heart, perhaps that is as it should be.

For a while, I laboured under the delusion that the inner critic was a beginner's problem and that I would overcome it eventually. Now I think that that is partially true. The inner critic is a lifelong companion, she is family. So like a crotchety old aunt who might be a bit mean, the best thing to do is to figure out how to manage her. Want to know how I did it?

I made you a free workbook that steps you through my approach. 

Creativity is such a great practice ground for so many things. Managing the inner critic is just one. For I’m not sure if you have noticed but that critical voice that pipes up about your drawing is the same one that has opinions on how you are managing your life in general, your level of fitness and waistline, your forgetfulness … you know what I mean.

So learning to work with her, or perhaps in spite of her, in the sketchbook is great practice for managing any of the other negative self talk that creeps in to other parts of your life.

 
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When I first started drawing, or rather wanting to draw, I spent so long shuffling paper, wondering what to draw, researching different types of paint and so on because I didn’t want to hear want Aunt Enid had to say about my efforts. But giving in like that is like failing before you begin. 

 
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If you know what I mean, and need some help taming your inner critic grab the free workbook now, so that you can get back to creating today.