The Burn of Creative Energy

by Helen C. Read | Posted 7/12/09 | Updated 7/1/21

Ever felt that you've run out of creative steam? As a visual artist, I know I've had times of sputtering artistic exhaustion. Everything seems out of balance between keeping my own creativity stoked, producing works that reflect my creative ideas, connecting with my audience while working my full-time job and keeping my home and family life healthy. It's a tall order and fine-tuning is usually needed! In the moments when creative energy seems to flag is precisely the time when I need to stir the pot, turn up the heat, and take action.

First and foremost, I have to look at my priorities. Are the most important things in my life put in first place? Each of our lives have different demands, but for me I know I must take time to feed my inner spirit, take care of those who depend upon me, and nurture important relationships. When these things have proper attention, my creativity is free to bloom.

It is then essential to get away from my own artistic pursuits and become an intentional observer. Observation can happen in unusual places and can span a weekend, a day, or just a few hours. I've often used museums, unique shops, city parks or country walks, taking a small notebook or sketchbook to record ideas, sketch what I see, and make notes of what comes forth from all I've observed. I'm noting such things as what other artists have done, or the way shadows fall on the sidewalk, or silly ideas that sprout from watching people, animals, or natural surroundings. Anything that captures my attention is fair game and nothing is too ridiculous!

Imagination is now free to play; play with ideas and with words. I try to make connections between images and ideas, letting my mind wander over other subjects and disciplines. I write down ideas that come to mind and thoughts about how to present them in surprising ways. After pencil and paper, its essential to get into the studio and let my imagination explore. Small prototypes are a great way to experiment. Often these small experiments produce new ideas, and they always produce information about what works and how to control the media. This step is an important part of stirring the creative pot.

Another vital aspect of creative energy is positive connection with my audience — all those who are interested in and enjoy the work I do. I need the accountability of putting my work out there before others, as vulnerable as that may be. The connection I create by being open with my process and outcomes generates interest, feedback, and is energizing to me. It seems people like to be included in an artist's creative journey. The sense of friendship and dialog that is established can generate new ideas and momentum.

Finally, I want to find ways to reach out, use my creativity to help others, and to bring legitimate needs into focus. Making a difference to others is always motivating. There are many interesting ways to do this from donating one's time and expertise to community art programs, helping to teach kids to express themselves artistically, or even raising funds for worthy causes through benefit auctions online. Giving back always generates interest in others and creates energy in my own work.

All of this is a delicate balance with life's other responsibilities. I walk that path every day, but I know it can be done! With proper prioritization, time given to the mental creative process, experimentation, audience connection, and an effort to give back to others, the Energy of Creativity burns brightly!

©2009 Helen C. Read. All rights reserved.

Helen Read graduated from Wheaton College with a BA in art and received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University. She lives in the Midwest where she is an artist, writer, parent, and high school teacher. ...