Commandments for Creative Work


I have a lot to get done today and I was up early…for me.  Today is the day I start working with clients on creativity counseling through a class by Eric Maisel.  I’m very excited about this and will make my first contact with my clients through E-mail this afternoon.  This morning I’ve been up, eaten my Cheerios, cleaned the cat boxes and fed the animals.  In the back of my crazy mind I’ve been thinking about the way I create.  I’ve found that just like the Catholic Church I have developed some dogmatic rules over the years. 


  1. Thou shalt make sure the studio is in workable shape. Make sure the studio is dusted and cleaned at least a week before proceeding to attempt to work in it.  This means clean up my shit, pay all of my mom’s bills, put them into a neat pile and mail the rest, get any birthday presents or cards sent out so my big table is clean, dust off my boom box (I guess I’m old fashioned that way…no I Pod), then look around the studio with a confused look on my face.  Turn out the lights in the studio and leave.
  2. Thou shalt check the work calendar and see what shows or activities are on my list.  I’m obsessive. I keep a calendar of things I need to prepare for.  I check the list and see what kind of work I’ll need to do between now and December.  If this list is empty I know I’m screwed.  Usually it’s not.
  3. Thou shalt pick Passions to paint.  This happens as I stack up all of my old sketchbooks and see what shapes up.  My passions for this period of work are Dark Side Pieces for the Attic Gallery in December, some small trailer pieces I just want to do, pieces with a “religious” theme, some actual religious pieces for Dynamic Catholic’s website…maybe some prints or cards, probably cards, pieces for Maryhill Museum Art Festival and pieces for Kings Mountain Art Fair in the Redwood Forest in September. Also I am painting a hubcap for a book and show but that’s another story.
  4. Thou shalt start a new section in a sketchbook to narrow down ideas.  This is where I look at old sketchbooks and jot down good ideas gleaned from them to a new sketchbook.  I also look at my “working file” that has drawings, pictures and ideas I want to fool around with.
  5. Thou shalt search out some visual passions.  I look at pictures I’ve saved, other work and see what turns my creative self on. 
  6. Thou shalt do sketches for the first five paintings I’m interested in doing.  I draw in a sketchbook for awhile.
  7. Thou shalt always use the best paper and cut it or tear it to size.  I figure out what sized pieces I will need for each show or series of paintings.
  8. Thou shalt get off your ass and actually go in the studio and work.  Loud music usually gets me going.  Usually Fred Eaglesmith or Tom Waits.  For more mellow work James Taylor or KD Lang.


So these are my first eight commandments for myself.  I realize everyone is different.  BUT also everyone has rituals that work for them.  These work for me.

 bleeding hearts

My garden is beautiful this year and so different from last year.  The weather has been weird, but you’ll notice some of the pictures I took this morning showing my little area of flowers.  I usually have time to go outside for coffee a couple of times a day here.  It’s nice.  If I’m out there all the animals seem to gather for a break with me. 


We lost our oldest cat Woody a week ago and I still think I see him resting in the garden.  We are all really sad because Woody was an exceptional cat.  Arlo has been looking all over for him and is wants attention more than usual.  They were buddies.

 Woody warms up

If any readers have rituals for getting started please share them.  Use the comments click.


TV tip.  Watch the Stephen Colbert show this week from Iraq!  If you don’t you’re missing a great moment for a true cultural icon! ColbertAlso don’t forget to sign up for my Maryhill Museum painting class at the end of the month.  Contact The Dalles Art Center for information. 





3 thoughts on “Commandments for Creative Work

  1. Mary Hortman

    I really enjoyed this one a lot…I know ya’ll will miss Woody.

    As for creativity tips – thinking about having to go to work at SouperSalad again gets me into the creative zone real fast…


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