Tag Archives: art

The A-Z of Suggestions for Creative People

To misquote Captain Barbossa says, “They’re not so much rules, as guidelines.”

There are multiple permutations of a creative alphabet; your ideas will probably be better than mine. But that’s kinda the point. Listen to the advice, apply it to your work and do it better. Then teach someone else to do it. Pass the knowledge on.

Appreciate new ideas.

Build a body of work.

Collaborate. Cooperate. Coordinate. Critique. Vanilla Ice has wise words when he says, “Stop, collaborate and listen.”

Define your goals as a creative person. Revisit them weekly, monthly, yearly.

Explore what you’re passionate about. And maybe what scares you. You know, for balance.

Foster creative relationships for collaboration, networking and developing the next generation of new artists.

Grow as an artist. Stagnation is for ponds and mosquitoes.

Hunger for the development of your craft and the improvement of your skills.

Inspire others to create because the world needs useless beauty; it is there because it is, and it exists and it is uniquely you.

Jump into new opportunities. But check the depth first.

Kill what distracts you: procrastination, doubt, fear, comparison, jealousy.

Listen at every opportunity. Gather wise counsel and feed your soul.

Meditate on your work, why you do it and write a manifesto.

Network because it’s dangerous to go alone.

Occupy a creative space and protect it.

Publish your work. Whether it’s through your blog when you’re starting out or selling it via Etsy, Ebay or e-commerce.

Query why you are creating. Have you lost sight of your purpose?

Rush a new piece of work and enjoy the frenzy of ideas splashed down like a sudden summer storm.

Spend your time wisely.

Trust in your teachers and mentors.

Understand you are not your creative project; it is an expression of how you see and understand the world.

Vanquish your fears and validate how you feel about what you create.

Welcome feedback, critique, commentary that will help you grow as a creative person.

Xerox another artist’s work to learn how it is created. But show no one else. Learn how to apply it to your own work.

Yoke yourself to an artist further along the road than you. Learn from their guidance that one day you may be yoked to a new artist to teach them.

Zealously demand your need to create; creativity is oxygen to you. Without it you would suffocate.

What would your alphabet of suggestions for creative people be? Write a list, post it to your blog and link back here for everyone to read.

I Found More Poetry Under The Lounge

 I find poetry in all kinds of places, often under the lounge and I found some more there recently.

Right now the end of winter is approaching here in the southern hemisphere (not that we had much of a winter where I live – what happened to those good old fashioned frosts we had as kids?) and with it the promise of hay fever, runny noses, itchy eyes and a cursing of all things frolicking. The first and last poems assembled here, Magnolias and Windy Days, are inspired by the wintery season.


As I drive past
The magnolia blooms
A thousand sunrises
Of pink to white and
A thousand sunsets
Of white to pink

Standing By

I stand in the longest corridor
possible, pretending I’m Red 5
barrelling down the trench
avoiding laser blasts
to my office door

The Last Page

When you close a book
Do you think it will be
The final time?
Never to peer
Between the pages and
Read the tongues of men

My Companion

I walked in darkness
But was never afraid
For I felt your hand
In mine, or around
my waist, looped over
my shoulder as my light


She watches
grandmother’s knitting
learns the art of rhythm
the pulse of long thin bones
curses the dropped stitch
like her grandmother

Windy Days

I imagine with each 
breath of wind
the trees ask
for our silence
a gentle ‘Shhhh’
simply to listen
to our own
Which poem resonates with you?

Kintsukuroi – Micropoetry

In my brokenness
I am made beautiful
You collected
the broken pieces
Sealed fleshly wounds
With golden scars
I wear as triumph


This poem was inspired by the Japanese art form of kintsukuroi



I see creativity as an act of creation and as an act of repair. Sometimes it is in the act of creating that a person finds wholeness by putting their emotional and mental trauma and experiences into a work of art. It may be a difficult and draining but it can also be a catharsis, a release, a giving away of the issues and experiences held onto like removing a splinter from under the skin.

Sometimes we need to understand we are broken so we can be repaired and made beautiful again. Creativity is the medium through which it can happen.

What can you make beautiful again?

What Makes Your Life Extraordinary?

What Makes Your Life Extraordinary?

In Dead Poet’s Society, Mr Keating takes the boys to the hallway to see the photos of past students and whispers the immortal lines, “Carpe diem. Seize the days, boys. Makes your lives extraordinary.”

A current television commercial runs the slogan, “Escape ordinary.”

What makes a life extraordinary?

People buy into this idea of your life having to be a Broadway extravaganza or a Hollywood blockbuster ALL. THE. TIME.

We are presented with hyper-idealised notions of reality. Do life BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, LOUDER, MORE DEMONSTRATIVE, IN YOUR FACE and (dare I use it because I hate the acronym) YOLO! It’s perfectly captured in the Selfie Generation: LOOK AT ME, I’M IMPORTANT AND I DESERVE YOUR ATTENTION.

It is the wrong perspective.*adjusts cardigan and puts on slippers*

What’s wrong with ordinary? Ordinary is where I live and find my inspiration. I joke my life is coloured beige for boring, making my life extra ordinary.

For the creative person, extraordinary is a way to burn out because it demands you give out so much more of yourself than is returning to you.

“The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”

For me as a writer, the greatest stories are not the ones we see in films, the lives of movie stars, but in the embarrassing ordinariness of people doing things in their every day lives that benefits others. The ones who don’t see their work as anything important; they are filling a need, taking care of their community, advocating for the poor and disadvantaged. Living an extraordinary life is one lived in service of others and pursing your own dreams. Balancing the self with the care of others. Telling their story is an extraordinary privilege.

I like to think of the word as “extra-ordinary.” The one thing that defines the ordinary from the extraordinary is passion. Mr Keating exhorted his young charges to engage with the aspects of life that they were passionate about.

For the creative person, the passion manifests itself in the choice of medium whether it’s writing, art or music.

As it relates to creativity, to continually produce great art, to live an extra ordinary life, requires repetition, ritual and reflection.


Not once, not twice, not even thrice but continually and habitually. Continue to produce art: write regularly; sketch, doodle, scribble whenever possible; practice scale and rudiments.

Repetition can become staid and uninspiring so it requires a dedication and committed work ethic to maintain your focus on being creative.

Early efforts will be complete and utter rubbish. But that’s the point of repetition: you do it until you get better.


Setting aside an assigned time to work on your creative project is like attending church or settling onto the couch to watch your favourite television show or sport team compete. Like repetition, it is a repeated event but the goal is one of individual development.

Ritual provides structure and is an active reminder to develop a disciplined approach to our creativity.


Movement without reflection will only end up with you moving in a circular fashion, only ever returning to the starting point without having learned or progressed.

Every once in a while it is important to reflect on your goals, your progress in terms of work produced and skills developed. Are you improving? Has anything weakened? What else do you need to know?

Creativity makes your life extraordinary because you have embraced repetition, ritual and reflection. You are taking the ordinariness of life and giving it meaning through creating great art.

This makes you extraordinary.

Addendum: This morning in the shower (place of many great epiphanies along with the kitchen sink while washing up) I had another idea to add. It was the one thing that makes a life extraordinary: Relationship.

Without relationship, we are merely individuals without community and connection. In relationship with other creative people we make our lives extraordinary because we have companionship, connection and community. We are no longer alone. This is fundamental in making our lives extraordinary.

6 Things A Writer Can Learn From Watching A Dance Show

The current season of So You Think You Can Dance is airing on television in Australia. It’s the home-grown version, not the US version telecast. I’m fascinated with the performance and artistry of physical movement that can be graceful, violent, articulate, mechanical, whimsical and profoundly intellectual.

I have two daughters who are enamoured with dance as a performing art, and my wife danced when she was younger. Many years ago, she stood in front of me, feet planted flat on the ground and proceeded to kick cleanly over my head. I’m approaching six feet tall and my wife is somewhat shorter. I vowed never to get on her bad side after that.

As a writer and creative type person I look for inspiration from a variety of sources. After watching a couple of episodes I saw parallels for writers.

1. Style in dance is genre in literature

The beginning of the series divided the dancers into their preferred style: ballet, jazz, contemporary and urban. They learned choreography in their style by an expert in the field. The dancers knew the talent and reputation of their teacher and sought to excel in the choreography they were taught.

For a writer the equivalent is immersing yourself in your preferred genre: literary, science fiction, western, romance, horror, speculative fiction, gothic. Learn from the masters of your field; absorb the lessons by reading and deconstructing their work.

2. Adaptability is essential (but know your strengths)

To whittle down the contestants, the dancers were then asked to perform in a style they were unfamiliar with. Ballet dancers had to learn an urban performance; jazz dancers had to learn a contemporary routine.

Some dancers adapted quickly to the new movements and techniques; others struggled. Yet they persevered. The results varied for each dancer; some excelled while others maintained a form of equilibrium, enough to get by but not enough to stand out from the pack.

As a writer, know your form, your technique, your movements. Then learn from another style. Adapt. But know your strengths. Learning from other genres will enhance your own writing and may even separate you from the pack and put you in front of it.

3. Discipline is Key

Part of the reality tv schtick is to give the viewer some background on individuals of note. The focus is on those who are endeavouring to succeed, but ultimately are shown their skills are wanting, and on those dancers who excel in their gifting.

And it is in these gifted individuals that you see due diligence and discipline in their practice and an innate sense of understanding about their chosen art form.

For a writer, as it is for a dancer, it is practice, practice, practice. I firmly suspect that practice for a writer and a dancer is two-fold: maintenance and improvement.

Practice for maintenance keeps you writing stories and producing work.

Practice for improvement means you’re seeking feedback on your work or taking classes, attending forums and conferences, to seek to understand your art form better and to produce better work.

4. Movement and rhythm is both graceful and violent

Every dance style has its form, repertoire, vocabulary and structure. Its manifestation in movement and rhythm is both graceful and violent. I don’t mean violence in an aggressive, physical act but the ability to portray emotion through face, body, limbs and the overall form of the dancer.

Vocabulary for the writer is the raw material to capture the emotion of the scene and engage the reader with its visceral description of beauty or horror.

A colleague described the language of “Lolita” as exquisitely beautiful while the content became darker and offensive.

Learn to utilise the movement and rhythm of language to create grace and violence.

5. Stories are interpreted through different forms

Ask a ballet dancer, a jazz dancer, a contemporary dancer and an urban dancer to perform a love story and the interpretation will vary, based on the lexicon of the specific dance style. I love contemporary dancing for its narrative capabilities, but what can I learn from the narrative in ballet? Or jazz? Or urban?

Learn to tell stories in a different form. Learn to tell a narrative from another angle.

6. Show your work, and know when to hide it

The show is built around showing the progression and development of each dancer as they learn new routines, often in styles they are not conversant with. I like seeing the growth of the dancer as artist when they are open to learning, stepping into an arena they are unfamiliar with and untrained in. Yet the psychology of dance, the mental framework of adaptability and learning allows them to rise above it.

As the viewer, I get to see the falls and stacks during rehearsal, and so appreciate the performance knowing the effort they have sustained to make it look effortless.

Sometimes as writers we are too quick to show off a new piece of work, not allowing it to settle before another round of edits or sent to a trusted beta reader.

Snippets on blogs is a good way of keeping readers hooked prior to a new release, or showing them works in progress. Know when to show your working; make it shiny and new and fresh and of a high standard.

Don’t rush it.

Now if you’ll excuse me I hear a lively tune; I’m inspired to dance.

Post It Note Philosophy #14


At the heart of creativity is the belief in the power of the story, the image, the music to transform, to develop understanding and to be understood.

Creativity and Disability – Will You Listen?

Pick your label:

Downs Syndrome.

Asperger’s Syndrome.


Cerebral palsy.







All of the above.

Any I may have missed?

When used in relation to people with a disability we use distinctions and nomenclature to quantify who someone is, something other than “normal.”

To pacify our guilt and discomfort at a person’s lack of physical or intellectual ability we offer art and music as a remedial activity. It is put forward as a pastime to keep someone occupied, a way of staving off boredom.

Why do we relegate arts and creativity as a remedial activity; as something to amuse or fill in time?

To do so is to mute the voice of those who have none and to disempower the individual. 

When a person with a physical, mental or intellectual disability is given the opportunity to speak in another voice, they are empowered.

Creativity (art, music, literature) is a voice for those who do not have one.

Don’t dis my ability. Not disabled.

Differently abled.

We disempower them because we refuse to listen to their voice; we believe they have nothing of value to say. We are sanctimonious and privileged in our opinion that a person with a disability cannot be creative.

I believe in the power of creativity to tell your story, using your own voice, your own expression, your own understanding and your own perception of the world.

When we relegate creativity to a remedial activity, a pastime to occupy and amuse, we diminish the role of the creative arts and silence the voice of the individual.

Creativity is a voice with which to speak. Voices with unique timbre and quality, even if the words are not easy to understand.

Hear my voice regardless of how I speak. Don’t view me as disabled or look at me through my disability; listen to what I have to say. 

Yet sometimes, art and creativity is the only voice with which someone has to speak.

We ostracise the artistic rather than balancing it against the academic and logical, the scientific and practical. Even in these areas there is great creativity.

Can we help tell their story? Give them the skills and techniques to create their own works of art? I believe in the dignity of the humanity of each person and it should be respected. 

Allow each person to find their voice. Give each person permission to speak.

We must move beyond treating people with a physical, intellectual or mental disability as incapable of having a voice.

The ad promoting the London Paralympics Games in 2012 gives me goose bumps every time because it is a powerful statement of voice. You can watch it here.

Art, like sport, is transcendent of language. The coded symbolism is independent of the alpha-numeric symbolism of codified spoken and written language. Culture and knowledge informs the construction of the work of art; we may not speak English or French or Spanish or Mandarin or Afrikaans but we understand the message coded in the art.

When we speak with and through art, we use a commonality of language that gives voice. When I look at and appreciate a piece of art, I do not need to know the background of the artist, their ability or disability. I hear their voice in their work. Knowledge of their background enhances and brings clarity of understanding to their message, but it is not essential.

There are many great organizations giving voice to people with disabilities. One of them is Studio ARTES  (They are also on Facebook) – a facility for people with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities, for life skills training, art training and socialization. It has been something I’ve encountered for many years because my mother was one of the founding members. She was working as an occupational therapist at a school for students with specific needs and her creative partner, Wendy, was the art teacher. Their vision was to extend the opportunities for people with specific needs post school.

I have seen the power of art when people are given a voice to express themselves. Lars was a young man with an intellectual disability who gained a remarkable voice through the nurturing of his artistic talent. His art was bought by members of parliament and hung in the foyers of well-known companies. He had a droll, dry wit and was a remarkable talent. 

On the occasion of his passing, Member of Parliament, Judy Hopwood, had this to say. Hansart Transcript 

You can see retrospective collection of some of his works on Facebook

Besides painting at Studio ARTES, many are involved in the practice of Saori weaving (‘sa’ = difference; ‘ori’ = weaving), a Japanese art form that has come to represent the ability of all to be creative without preconceived notions of correctness.

The beginnings of Saori start with Misao Jo who wove a cloth but because of a missing warp thread it was perceived as flawed. Undeterred, she wove more cloths with ‘flaws’ and ‘faults’ and produced beautiful cloths, praised by a high-end cloth merchant. Read about the philosophy of Saori here.

When teaching her students, Misao taught them the basics of weaving and left them to do as they pleased; an opportunity to discover their true self. My mother has had the pleasure of meeting Misao Jo on occasions when she has visited Japan.

Hence the application for people with disabilities is inexhaustible because there are no preconceived rules and boundaries; it is the individual who creates. Carmel, a client of Studio ARTES, is deaf and blind and spends hours at the loom using the texture of wools, twigs, feathers, ribbons etc to create beautiful works of art.

It removes the pretence of ‘correct’ and gives power to speak.

When will we let go of the idea that people with disabilities have no need to be creative? To let go of the notion that they cannot be creative? That art and music is only remedial and a pastime to stave off boredom? When will we allow them to speak with their own voice instead of presuming we know how to speak for them?

We must stop treating creative arts as a sidelined respite and return it to the centre of our cultural heritage alongside mathematics, science and the humanities. Creativity inhabits the spectrum of cognitive disciplines; it is not the domain of one and nor is it limited to those considered “normal.”

If you are without a voice, borrow someone else’s until you find your own.

I want to spend some more time amongst the people of Studio ARTES, to hear their stories, to be their hands to write when they cannot and project their story when and where I can. There is a beautiful lack of inhibition in many of the people who attend the studio, and a great deal of candor; they will tell you how they feel, direct and to the point. It’s a voice I want to hear more of.

I know that we won’t truly learn to love our neighbour as ourselves if we do not hear their story. Not for the sake of pity or sympathy, but for the dignity of the individual.

I have written before that everyone needs a creative manifesto, a reason why they create. I have also spoken about creating from a place of pain (and it has relevance to people with mental illness like depression or anxiety or bipolar) and I believe it is appropriate for a person with a physical or intellectual disability to have the same belief in their creativity.

I had a couple of responses when I put the idea of creativity and disability out there on Facebook one day.

Writer Marc Nash (@21stCscribe), put forward this point, “The people who can’t speak for themselves or can’t be heard, are unlikely to be able to read the words of those who want to help amplify them. That is an inherently political act of writing, which is how I regard my own approach, but it still is one based on certain privileges: – literacy, education, technology (e-readers) and the free time to write. These I find are paradoxes as much as inspirations.”

It is a paradox and a dichotomy but I want to stand for those who are marginalised and to help speak for them.

Two others commented:

“I had never given it a thought until a heard an interview on Radio National a fortnight ago with a burlesque teacher who was given the privilege of teaching a young woman with Down syndrome. At first I thought it sounded exploitative, but it gave the young woman so much joy and made her feel like a regular woman.” 

“A friend of ours has a son with Down Syndrome who has been a regular at our local Uniting Care. They have really done wonderful things with him (and others apparently), introducing him to art (painting, sculpture etc) and music. He has since taken to painting like a duck to water (even selling some of them through his parents business) and has recently taken up music lessons. Uniting Care need to be commended for both developing a sense of worth for this boy but also for their commitment to more than just paint-by-numbers in their approach.”

Tangential Question: what other avenues do the disempowered and marginalised have for speaking? Rap? Hip hop? Graffiti? Heavy metal? Poetry? Painting? Sculpture? Photography?

Are we listening to the marginalised and disempowered?


Let me hear your voice without words.

Let me hear your voice through the images you paint.

Let me hear your voice through the music you play.

Let me hear your voice through your hands, your heart, your mind.

Speak, and I will listen.