Creative Careers in the Arts

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Spirited Woman Q & A

Interview with Creative Sage's Cathryn Hrudicka

By Nancy Mills | Posted June 1, 2005 | Updated May 12, 2019

As I've gone from city to city leading the Spirited Woman Workshop, I've had the privilege of meeting some truly exceptional women. Cathryn Hrudicka is most definitely one of them. I met Cathyrn, who lives in Berkeley, CA when she attended my first San Francisco workshop last April. Truth be told, Cathryn genuinely impressed me as a really creative woman. It was the way she dressed and expressed and pondered — and just was — as though every nerve ending was bursting with creativity. My instincts were right on.

Cathryn, I later found out, refers to herself as the Chief Imagination Officer (CIO) of her company, Creative Sage, where she enables businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, healthcare facilities and individuals to enhance their creativity and think in new, innovative ways. Also, for 15+ years, in addition to owning Creative Sage, she has led Cathryn Hrudicka & Associates, a multi-media development services company. To name a brief list of Cathryn's numerous creative talents — she's a writer, composer, sound designer, editor, multi-media producer and artist, trend-setting entrepreneur, and more.

I mean the woman's got talent pouring out of every vein, and since so many of you attend the Spirited Woman Workshop as an outlet to let your creative expression roar and soar, I thought you'd be fascinated by Cathryn's life, both personal and business, and also by what she has to say about the creative process as a whole. Now, read on about Cathryn:

Q: You say in your resume that if someone was stranded on an island with only one consultant/mentor to guide them to creative freedom — it should be with you. Why?

A: My entire life has been about learning about creativity and figuring out the best processes that work with different types of people and different types of situations. I've been an artist, I've run my own business, and I've worked with people in all the different settings — corporate, non-profit,mental-health, and other health-care settings — with all different ages, youth through seniors, and I think one of the more unique things that I have done is that I use multiple modalities to reach people's creativity and bring it out. I've studied the world's experts in creativity and also developed some of my own processes using all of the arts and various creative thinking techniques. I've done very thorough research and I've actually practiced these, and I've gotten advisors and teams of people to lead these processes.

Q: Your company, Creative Sage is from the Planet of Sonic Delight— what does that mean?

A: Well, I have a background as a sound designer and a composer, which is probably kind of unusual for a person running their own business, so I actually just put that in there because so much of my life is focused on listening, not just seeing, but listening — whether listening to a client talk or listening to sounds in my environment — including the sounds of my work environment, which I focus on as much as the way my work environment looks. I am always either creating sound or I'm trying to listen very carefully to the environment around me, whether it's human or otherwise.

Q: Cathryn, did you come from a creative family?

A: I think in retrospect, yes I did come from a creative family. I don't know if they would have identified themselves as such. I think we all sort of took our creativity for granted. My father is a visual artist. He was an art director for an advertising agency, now he owns his own advertising agency. He had his own drawing studio in the basement and I use to hang out with him. He also had a moonlight job designing houses and he won an award one year for the best house in the Chicago area. He was the only person who entered who wasn't a licensed architect. It was called "The House of Light." And then my mother was also extremely creative, she was always doing various crafts — she made costumes for us, was the leader of the Girl Scouts or the director of the PTA — she was always leading children in very creative activities. My grandparents were all really creative too.

Q: At what age did you realize that you were creative?

A: I don't know if I really realized it — I think I just always was from the earliest I can remember. My grandfather had a bunch of building materials on his farm, and I would actually design and build real miniature houses when I was four. My mother taught me how to read when I was three and right away, I started writing poems. And by the time I was in first grade I was reading novels. So I was completely bored with school because I was way ahead of the other kids. I always sang. I studied ballet and modern dance. Then my father was teaching me how to draw — not only draw but draw houses — and then he would come home from work, and ask my brother and I, we were like child copywriters for his ad agency, about a campaign for "green giant vegetables" or something, and he'd say, "By the end of dinner, I want a slogan," and we'd come up with it.

Q: Why do you believe opening up our creative process is so vitally important — especially for women?

A: I think women tend to get squashed, really, our self-expression, as we grow up, or certainly it becomes over-shadowed often by men in positions of superiority. I think women, in that we're natural creators, really have a bounty of wonderful ideas to bring forth and everyone needs to be encouraged in a workplace and just in any area of life. Without creativity, life wouldn't move forward — we wouldn't have new services, we wouldn't have new products, we wouldn't have new ways of looking at ourselves, we wouldn't have new thoughts about how the world could work. To me creativity is what we live for — it's the positive part of life on earth.

Q: Are there any tips you can give us so that we can enhance our creativity?

A: One thing I do when I'm stuck is look at things from a different perspective. One technique of doing that is called "mind-mapping," where you write down all the different ideas or thoughts that are floating around in your head and you try to re-arrange them in a different order than you might normally do and map them out. You can draw them on a piece of paper or if you have a computer tool, like Inspiration, you can literally map out the ideas and you'll undoubtedly see things in a different way. Even if you put them in a different order, or you take a list of words that represent the problem you're tackling, or you put different groups of them together, even if they don't seem logical, invariably you'll come up with a new idea. It can be wild, it can be outrageous, but you'll definitely come up with a different way of looking at the problem.

Q: Any other pearls of wisdom about creativity?

A: Well, first of all, set aside time for it. You may think you don't have time, but it's crucial. You have to think of it as an investment in yourself, in your business, and your future. Even set aside little islands. Like if you have a full time job, take a half-hour of your lunchtime and just carry a journal with you everywhere. Write down any creative ideas that come. If you are better at drawing say than writing, just draw a picture or a stick figure of any creative idea that comes to you. If you sing or music comes to you, then carry a little tape recorder.

Q: Why do you feel you are a spirited woman?

A: I try to live as much as possible from my spirit and from my heart and whenever my brain gets in the way too much I try to stop for a few minutes at least, and say is that what I'm really feeling deep inside. Is that what my spirit wants? And when I'm sad or I'm depressed, I try to feel is this coming from my spirit or is this some mental garbage going on. If it is from my spirit, like I'm grieving or something, I try to allow myself certain times to do that because that's important. This is the thing, you have to constantly nurture your spirit everyday and find your own individual way of doing that.

Cathryn Hrudicka looks forward to hearing from you at

©2005 Nancy Mills. All rights reserved.

Next: Interview with Comic Book Colorist and World Traveler Marie Javins