Interviews with Cynthia Morris

Artist, Writer, Original Impulse Creativity Coach

Posted 6/4/08 | Updated 8/9/23


Cynthia MorrisCynthia is the powerhouse behind Original Impulse, Inc. She is an artist, writer, tour-guide, and creativity coach who travels around the globe with groups of creative adventure seekers. She also founded the Creative Leap Club, which helps people to realize their creative dreams.

I'm thrilled to be interviewing Cynthia Morris, Creative Adventuress Sublime. Her home base is in Boulder, Colorado, but as of May, she's traveling in Europe for six months on her own creativity tour — it's good to be talking to another mountain girl!

Q: Your Creative Leap Club sounds like an amazing idea. What inspired you to create this club?

A: Thanks! I'm glad you like the idea. I've tried to develop offerings for people who have different needs, with regard to time, finances, creative needs. Not everyone wants individual coaching, so I have designed group coaching situations and the Creative Leap Club is one of them.

Q: How does the Creative Leap Club function? Are you still open to new members?

A: It's essentially a group of people who want to work on their creative projects with the support of a creative tribe. We meet once per month on the phone, and discuss where we are and where we want to go. I coach the members and everyone leaves with homework to focus on for the month. At the beginning, we clarify goals for the program and work steadily toward them.

I love this structure because it's not a traditional class where people are learning something; instead it's a structure that allows people of all levels to come together and work on their stuff… a virtual studio with a coach to guide the process.

This cycle of the Club isn't open to new members. Once we get rolling, I've created a safe space and to bring someone new in could be disruptive.

Q: What benefits can participants expect to gain from joining the club?

A: Some of the benefits include the support of a certified coach and artist, and support from a group of creative peers. Coaching that helps to develop a deeper understanding of her unique process, and of course, serious progress toward her creative goals. Ultimately people gain a deep understanding of their own process, as well as a healthy and productive relationship with the project they are working on. It's amazing what a bit of support and community can do to make the creative process easier.

Q: How do you help club members to support and realize their creative dreams?

A: I listen, I ask questions that they wouldn't think of themselves. These questions are avenues to new ways of thinking and creating that can open up new vistas and make creating more personal and enriching. I always balance my coaching with the inner work — what's happening inside the mind and heart of a writer — with the outer work — making concrete action steps toward an end goal. It's a combination that works very well to move creative people forward.

Q: I LOVE the idea of your e-book, Creative Toolkit for Travelers. What inspired you to create this tool for traveling writers and artists?

A: That's very kind of you to say! I led my first creativity tour, Journey of the Senses, in 2005 with my friend Gigia Kolouch. We were interested in developing a way for people to engage the world through their senses. We used drawing, painting, and writing tools to help people have a deeper and more individualized experience. While on that tour, I created several other 'tools'. Then, when I came home, someone asked me if she could have access to the things we did on the tour. Within days, I'd put it all together in the e-book. It's my best-selling product. I want to help people have a more meaningful and creative experience while traveling.

Q: I am intrigued by your creative travel tours. Talk about your upcoming creative adventures in France. Map Paris with Your Imagination: A Creative Adventure in the City of Lights sounds like an amazing experience. And I love the idea of exploring Paris and Arles in Seduce Your Muse: A Creative Fling in France. What led you to create these amazing tours?

A: Map Paris with Your Imagination will allow participants to use my creative travel tools in Paris. My ultimate goal is to allow an environment where each person creates an illustrated travel journal. When they go home, they have a colorful and creative memento that means so much more than a photo or a memory could. So, rather than using a map or a guidebook, we will use our own creativity to map the city. My tours are really about developing a relationship to a place through your own creative lens.

What led me to create these tours? I fell in love with Sara Midda's South of France and wanted to create an illustrated journal. I have a degree in French and love to travel, and the tours seem to bring together many of my skills and passions. They're tons of fun to plan and I love watching people experience themselves and the world in a new way.

Seduce Your Muse participants, Arles, 2007

Q: What should participants know about your tours before they go?

A: We're not going to be regular tourists, sucking down sites and looking for things to buy. If that's what you want, go on a group tour. Be prepared to walk. Get in great physical shape before you go, because if you aren't healthy, it can really dampen your experience.

Q: What is the most inspiring and wonderful thing about leading these tours? What is the most challenging aspect of leading a tour?

A: I love planning and organizing. I love finding unusual or delightful things to share with others. I love the creative process of trying to match art making with seeing the world.

Challenging — things in life never turn out the way you envision them, do they! While I plan things really well, the way people absorb the outings is out of my control. Also, I find that I need an assistant — someone to actually walk us around the city while I focus on guiding the art making part. I am sad to say I can't do both at the same time as well as I would like. I've lead four tours and I'm still learning.

Q: You've also written an e-guide to help others learn to lead tours. Go For It! Leading Tours for Fun and Profit is an excellent resource. Why did you create this guide?

A: So many people were contacting me and asking me how to do what I did. I decided to save some spit and write it all down! I had taken a course on creating information products and since there seemed to be a demand for this information, I decided to put it all in one place. When I spoke with several of the people who bought it, I got very excited about the variety of trips that one can take. I hope my guide helps make a lot of creative travel dreams a reality.

Q: Would you be willing to share some of the lessons you've learned as an experienced tour leader — or at least a short list of do's and don'ts?

Want to plan your own travel tour?

  • Do have a well-thought out plan.
  • Do be willing to go with the flow.
  • Do let people have their own experience.
  • Do run all the numbers first and be very clear on how much you need to make to run the tour and then to make a profit.
  • Do get help if you need it.
  • Don't attach your ego to other people's responses. Everyone will have their own experience.
  • Don't ignore the finances of this kind of venture — it's important to make sure your bases are covered.

Q: You have also written several e-books as resources for creative people. Cross the Finish Line, 28 Days to Your Writing Life, and Unleash Your Writing all seem somewhat inter-related. Do you recommend reading or working with these resources in a certain order?

A: It all depends on where you are in your creative process. I work with people who are at all stages of the journey. Many people want to write but don't know where to start, so I created Unleash Your Writing. Then there are people who really want to create a practice that works for their unique goals and needs, so I wrote Create Your Writer's Life. 28 Days to Your Writing Life has much of the same material that's in CYWL; it's just delivered in another medium. I had requests for a daily nudge, and that's what 28 Days offers — a daily email reminder and invitation to write. Cross the Finish Line is my effort to help people get those unfinished projects off the shelf. Finishing things seems to be the number two creative challenge (number one being getting started!), and since I have experience helping people finish, I wrote that e-book. So anyone who has incompletes lurking around making them feel awful about their creativity should get that one.

Q: What are some of the tools you use to inspire others, create a commitment to writing, and help them to finish projects and follow through on their creative ideas?

A: The first tool is to connect them with what's important about creating and finishing. I help my clients connect their creative goals to their values. With that deeper sense of motivation, it's easier to take the steps to make things happen. Then, we work to break each project down into manageable steps. Of course, we also have to address other areas of life, like relationships, health and sleep. Yes, sleep! I have coached every one of my clients on getting better sleep. It's strange, but not sleeping well or enough has a huge impact on a person's ability to create or enjoy life.

So, once the action steps are in place, I work with my clients to keep going. I acknowledge their successes, help them past emotional blocks and act as a committed ally to their success. I've been coaching for nine years now and I love it. Coaching allows me to see the best in people and bring that out even more.

Cynthia's Paris postcard

Q: How do you keep your creative juices flowing?

A: It's best for me if I have a balance of input and introversion. I spend a lot of time alone and that helps me develop my ideas. I also need stimulus from other artists, and I draw inspiration from all the arts.

Q: What inspires you?

A: People who are doing amazing and interesting things. I love hearing about the genesis of an idea — what inspired something, how the person got it going, etc. I am inspired by nature and color. I am always amazed by the varieties of the color green, and also how nature produces the most stunning color combinations. I'm in love with color and would die without it.

Q: Your Journey Blessings and Creative Fortunes are such an ingenious idea — portable inspiration! How did you come to create these beautiful little messages? What is my Creative Fortune for today?

A: Thanks — I think they're fun, I had the idea for creative fortunes early last year and immediately made up a bunch of packets. But when I showed them to people, I got limp feedback, which was discouraging. So I just included them as a bonus when people bought my book.

The Journey Blessings were part of the whole Journey Juju inspiration. I thought it would be cool for travelers to spread good juju by leaving these places. A packet is included when you buy a shrine. I'm giving them to people I meet as my business card.

Both of these are fun ways to play with inspiration and creativity, and I have to say that they have also worked to boost my spirits when I need a boost.

Your Creative Fortune for the day: Your imagination is like money in the bank.

Q: The Travel Shrines you have created are a beautiful way to combine spiritual and creative work. Could you explain how to make one, for our readers who may want to try this project?

A: I want to encourage others to make shrines for travel and life. Some great shrines could be devoted to: writers, artists, test taking (filled with A's and gold stars!), gardening…basically you can make a shrine for any endeavor that can use some good juju.

You can use any kind of box — a matchbox, a small tin, anything that is portable and small. Then think about what is important to you when you travel and fill the box with your special talismans. I glued a map on the matchboxes first, then affixed other images that evoke distant lands. You can put a magic number on the shrine, sign it, stamp it…the possibilities are endless.

There's a post on my Journey Juju blog that explains how to make your Shrine more personal. It offers a fun way to play with your travel shrine.

Q: What inspired you to create Travel Shrines?

A: One day last year I was over at my good friend Carl's and I saw a shrine that I had made for his birthday. It had a match in it, a candle, and a couple of other fun things. I loved it! (It's such a rare and awesome thing when you love something that you create!)

Having seen that, when I got the idea to move abroad, I thought of the shrines and the whole thing mushroomed from there. I plan to make shrines from the road, bigger shrines that embody the essence of a place and my relationship with it at that moment in time.

Twenty percent of the proceeds from the Shrines were lent to Dorothy Siaw, a woman in Ghana who is participating in the microlending program. It was great to see some good juju go to someone in need.

Q: Can you discuss the spiritual or sacred aspect of creative work in your life?

A: This is difficult for me. I find discussing the sacred is difficult — how do you put the ineffable into words? I guess the only thing I can say is that when I am creating, I am in touch with something outside myself. It's a relief to relinquish control, planning, and thinking in service of creating. It's soothing. It's a gift. Ideas come. I implement them. It's this essence of creating that I want for everyone. I think it's available to us all, this timeless creative space, and it frustrates me when we prefer to struggle and fight it.

I'm constantly asking myself why I want to create. I don't think I need to do this. I think creating is a primal urge, a birthright for all of us. I get lost when I try to think about it too much! So I'll leave it at that. Except to say that Frederick Franck's book, Art As a Way really resonated with me as a great way to think about art as a spiritual practice.

Q: Your book, Create Your Writer's Life: A Guide to Writing with Joy and Ease, seems different than other resources and books about writing that I have seen. I love the fact that you offer insight into what it takes to commit to the life of a writer, as well as to create a writing practice that is sustainable, workable, and uniquely designed to suit the individual's needs. Can you discuss some of the reasons you decided to write this book?

A: Thank you for noticing that it is different than other books on how to write. I agree, which is why I wanted to write it. I am a trained and certified coach; I use a specific set of skills and tools when working with my clients. I found that using these tools was a very effective way to get writers on track.

Common wisdom says one must write a book to become known, and I wanted to have a way to share what I kept telling clients. Now I can just direct clients to certain chapters for homework. I feel that this book helps people to personalize their writing practice and go beyond the notion that there is one right way to do it.

Q: What should fledgling writers know about creating a sustainable, individualized writing practice? What tools are used in your book to help them achieve their writing goals, get past creative blocks, and write joyfully and easily?

Two Tools to Get Past the Inner Critic!

  1. Plan for short spurts of time, say, 10-15 minutes 3 times per week.
  2. Use free writing to get going. Learn about and befriend the free writing technique. Start with that for all and any kind of writing you want to do.

A: What I like about the work I do with writers is that I help people create a writing practice that is suitable for them, for their writing goals and for their lifestyle. Dictates like "You have to write every day" don't work for everyone. Sure, it's a good idea to practice daily, but many people I work with are juggling work, home, family and more. They have to get the writing in where they can.

To make your practice yours, you need to know why you're writing. The first chapters of Create Your Writer's Life are devoted to helping writers gain clarity on their unique motivation for writing. This is essential to help a writer stay on track.

Q: Talk a little about your audio program, Your Best Writing Year Yet. I know our readers are curious about this, and so am I. How can this program help writers to clearly focus on their goals and achieve success? What are some of the tools you utilize here to help writers structure their time, focus, and improve their writing?

A: As with all my work, I start with the big picture. What do you want to see at the end of the year? What is your writing focus for the year? Taking the time to reflect on what you want for your writing is a powerful start. And of course, putting it into writing is one step closer. Many people don't do this, which astonishes me. If you don't know what you want, how will you ever get it?

Then, in the program I help the writer break the dream into doable segments, on a quarterly, monthly and weekly basis. I'm using tools that successful businesses use to stay on track with their goals. Once you have a plan, you can take steps on a daily basis toward your goals. It's also useful to keep all this in one place so that when the end of the year rolls around, you can look back and see the actions you've taken and the progress you've made.

Q: When you're feeling blocked, how do you become aware of it first? How do you move through it and joyfully dance with the Muse again?

A: I get irritable. I feel the writing building up inside me and I have to get the pen and notebook out. One thing that I feel is important to note is that making art isn't always a joy-fest. Like any relationship, the relationship with the Muse has its ups and downs, its dramas, and its crashes.

I think people make the mistake of thinking that because they enjoy writing or making art, that they want to spend all their time doing it. There's an idea that it's all about play. And while it is joyful and playful, I have found that writing can be difficult.

If you are committed to making art, you're going to learn a lot about yourself. You'll come up against your limitations and your beliefs. I really appreciated Franck's Art as a Way, where he talks about making art as a spiritual practice, as a way to work on yourself as a person. I agree, so I take 'blocks' or other phases of the cycle as normal, healthy and as opportunities to work through my own stuff. When you encounter difficulties, it's not a sign to give up. It's an invitation to dig deeper and to go more to the heart of what wants to be expressed.

Q: Many artistic types have a tough time creating a workable practice that allows time for creative work AND a personal life. Do you have any insight or advice for those of us who may be struggling with this issue?

A: My first thought is to advise people to let go of the struggle. Make it easy. Get clear on your priorities. What's important to you? The 'lack of time' excuse is often a mask for fears. I write about this in Create Your Writer's Life. When someone is committed to her art, she makes time for it. It is easier to spend time doing art than frittering time away on social activities. There's a rigor that's required when one wants to do something.

If people were more honest with themselves there would be much less struggle around creating. Get real about your priorities and how you want to live your life. Then, with great kindness and compassion, nudge yourself toward living that truth. This is a real trademark of my work — the no-nonsense calling forward of your truth combined with kindness and compassion. It's fierce love, and it works to help my clients get charged up to meet their goals.

Q: What is the Creative Leap you're leaping towards now?

A: I have four leaps currently…I'm traveling in Europe making illustrated journals of my trip, using the Creative Travel Tools that I have developed on my tours. It's fun and challenging, too. I'm also blogging about my journey, which is quite a job. It takes time to craft a decent blog entry with links and images. My third leap? I signed with an agent in May and I'm also revising my novel, hopefully for the last time. I've said that at least three times, though, so. I'm really developing patience and tenacity with this book! The other leap I am making is working from a mobile office. I'm still coaching clients and so far it's been great, completely easy to connect. I worked from my office in Boulder for eight years and now I'm in the mobile office in Europe.

Cynthia at Giverny, Monet's home and gardens in France, 2007

Q: What does the future hold? Any upcoming projects, books or products you'd like to share?

A: The last e-book I created, Cross the Finish Line! Five Steps to Leap Over the Hurdles to Completion was an important one for me to finish. So many people have a hard time finishing things, so I wanted to offer support for that last leg of the creative journey.

I'm designing a training course for corporate teams using these creative tools and travel methods.

Right now I'm more in the research and less in the development phase. When I return to the States I have several other e-books to write, but for now my work is about traveling, making art and making friends — and writing about it.

Q: Famous last words? Do you have any last-minute advice or inspiration for us?

A: I believe this fully: if you have the urge to create, you must follow it. You don't know if the work you create will be any good or will be well received by the world. You just have to start and see where your art leads you.

Develop a loving toughness with yourself. Don't let your precious creative time slip away on lame excuses or distractions like laundry. There's always time for the mechanics of life, but somehow we can think that we don't have time to create. You do. You just have to choose it, again and again. Be sure to find out what works for you and then do it!

Thanks for those words of advice and inspiration, Cynthia. You will be pleased to know that, true to form, I left the laundry on the floor this morning instead of taking it to the Laundromat! I couldn't wait to edit this hot-off-the-presses interview with one of today's premiere Creative Goddesses and Inspirational Huntresses in the Sisterly Order of the Muse: YOU!


Visit Cynthia Morris' Original Impulse for more information about her latest books, adventure tours, projects, and creative tools.

©2008 Molly Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.

20 More Questions with Cynthia Morris

Posted 6/4/08 | Updated 7/3/20

1. What's your name?

Cynthia Morris

2. Where are you from?

I grew up in Ohio and have lived in Colorado for nearly half my life.

3. Who are you today?

Today I'm a person enjoying the simple pleasures: a sunny day, a walk with two dogs, a fountain in a square in Paris that dispenses mineral water.

4. What do you do? (Elevator speech)

I help people access their authority so they can write their stories and enjoy life on their own terms. I'm a coach, writer, speaker and enthusiasm generator.

5. What's your story (how did you get here)?

I've always been a dreamer, and the fastest way to get somewhere other than where you are is through a book. I love to read and that led me to a love of writing. The Artist's Way opened up my life in amazing ways in 1995 and in 1999 I discovered coaching. I underwent training and began coaching writers and artists and healers. I found I have the ability to help right brain dominant people find ways to enjoy and be empowered by their creativity.

6. Why is creativity important to you?

I'm fascinated by how things come into being. From the initial idea to the decisions along the way to make that idea real, I love the creative process. Creating is the most powerful act we can perform. We find so much of ourselves through the creative act. I am dedicated to being of service to help make creating enjoyable and empowering.

7. When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?

As a child, I read a lot. That seeded the desire to be a writer.

8. How did you embrace it?

I didn't start actively writing until I was 24. Before that, I had no idea how to get started writing. Once I got on the writing trail, I haven't gotten off. I began with free writing, a la Natalie Goldberg. I gave myself 5 years to write without worrying about it being any good or going anywhere.

9. How did that feel?

It felt great to write without fear. To journal, to draft stories, poems, plays. I gave myself the freedom to try a lot of different things, and that felt great. I encourage my clients and students to experiment with this — to try things, to allow our natural curiosity to drive us to what we love.

10. Where has your journey taken you?

I have been a Francophile since I was 14 and began studying French as a way to honor my grandmother, who was from Louisiana and was prohibited from speaking French as a schoolgirl.

This passion for French language and culture has led me to visit France many times and to also lead creativity and writing workshops here. Learning and speaking another language is endlessly fascinating. I find it keeps my creativity fresh and my love for language ever-expanding.

I spend part of every year in France now. I've been in business helping others create their projects and their juicy lives for 12 years now. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the freedom I have.

11. What challenges have you faced?

Being a single woman entrepreneur isn't always easy. There are times I wish I had someone to share the tough days with. But I am lucky to have a lot of supportive people around me who have helped me stay on track and keep growing.

12. What worked for you?

Being surrounded by other successful entrepreneurs, artists and healers reminds me that anything is possible. Reading stories of successful creatives always inspires me.

13. What didn't work for you?

Suggestions from my family about other careers I obviously didn't want to take, like university professor (oh, the bureaucracy!) or French professor (oy, the tedium of the repetition!). Now I just smile and know they always want the best for me, even if what I am doing isn't what they'd do in my shoes.

14. What three tips can you share with those starting on a similar path?

  1. Trust yourself. Even if you don't know how you will make it work, you know the kernel of what you love and want to do.
  2. Seek other creative adventurers, whether in person, online, or from history. Take inspiration from what they did and apply that to your own journey.
  3. Let yourself love what you love. Whenever you're stuck, ask yourself, "What would be enlivening to me now?"

15. What are you working on now?

Planning the launch of my novel. It's November, so I'm also participating in Art Every Day Month. I'm filling my Moleskine accordion notebook with sketches from this beautiful Paris autumn.

16. What's coming up for you in the next year?

I will be publishing my novel, Chasing Sylvia Beach. It's taken 13 years to complete and has made me a new person. I can't wait to see how the publication process grows me and prepares me for whatever is coming next.

17. What else do you desire/dream to do?

I'd like to be an artist or an illustrator.

18. How will you make that happen?

I am drawing daily, practicing drawing people, which isn't my strong suit. I have some ideas for how to develop this as a career, but that will have to wait until my novel launch is over.

19. What question do you want to answer that's not on this list?

What do you love the most?

I love good, rich, deep, life-enhancing and entertaining conversations. I love exploring life through dialogue with others.

20. What's your Web site address?