How to Develop Your Creative Practice

If you’re having trouble developing a creative practice that works for you, consider your creative space, how you use your time, what support you have, and your commitment to your creative expression.


You need space to create. Whether that’s your own studio space, a shared studio, a writing room, or a coffee shop, depends on your needs and resources.

What is your creative space like? Are you able to spread out if you need to? Do you have the right stimulation to support your creative process? How is the lighting? Sometimes we adapt to circumstances that we can easily change. Are there any changes you need to make?

Of course, dedicated space is more than just the area needed to create your art: it includes your inner space. Your mind needs to be uncluttered, without distractions.

To help focus, some artists develop rituals. A thoughtful ritual can turn your attention from the every-day world to the sacred space where you connect to your creative muse. It grounds and centers you in the creative work you are about to do.

Candle on desk

For example, I like to light a candle before I write. A lit candle is a beautiful metaphor for the creative spark and a visual reminder that I am doing my creative practice.

If you don’t have a ritual, what can you do to focus on the present, and not on your to-do list?

Consider playing with this. Just do whatever works for you!


Time; it seems like there’s never enough, yet it’s all we have.

Clock face with wavy distortion

We experience time differently depending on how we focus on it. When you’re busy, time seems to move quickly because you’re focused on what you’re doing. But when you don’t have much to do, time can seem to stretch out like taffy.

You don’t really have more time or less time, depending on how busy you are. It’s really about prioritizing what you do in the time you have.

So if you’re not painting, or singing, or making pottery as much as you want, why aren’t you? What priority do you give your creative expression? What are you doing instead that you can put lower on your list, at least some of the time?


We all need some kind of support, such as:

  • Inspiration—The invisible breath of life that pours into you, filling you with energy and ideas.
  • Encouragement—Allies who champion your efforts.
    People catching woman in air
  • Accountability—Allies who hold you accountable for deadlines you promise to meet.
  • Routines—Daily habits that form the architecture of your days that include creative time.
  • Self-care—What you need to do for yourself, to refill your own well.

What support are you lacking? Do you ask for help when you need it? How can you get the support you need?


You can have the ideal space, time, and support to do creative work, but if you don’t pick up the brush, or the pen, or the guitar, nothing happens. You have to show up and do the work.

(And if you “can’t find” the space, you “don’t have” the time, or you “need more” support, take a deeper look at your commitment to express your creative gifts. Commitment drives you to make the changes necessary to create the space, reprioritize, and ask for help.)

To create—in some way—is a central part of being alive. So if you’re not creating, that’s a huge loss for you, and for those you would touch with your art. We need to read what you have to say, and see what you want to reveal, and experience what only your music can make us feel.


If you’re not feeling committed enough, re-focus on why you have your creative dream. Why does it matter to you? What is important about what you have to express? How will you feel if you never realize your creative dream?

Remember to simply appreciate your gifts. Be grateful for what you can bring to the world!

You Can Get There from Here

The choices you’re making now are actively creating your future. And the life that’s unfolding for you, at this moment, is the result of what you did six months ago, a year ago, twenty years ago.

Of course, events happen that you have no control over. But to a large extent, you can move toward a life that you consciously choose, or a future that you unconsciously endure.

Woman standing on edge of cliff

Realistically, many of us live in a combination of both.

If you’ve created the life that you want for yourself, that’s wonderful!

If, however, you want to change something in your life, then take heart. You can get there from here.

Taking responsibility for these aspects of your life will help you get where you want to be:

  • your beliefs
  • your clarity
  • your habits
  • your support system
  • your commitment
  • your actions

What you believe, you create.

If you don’t think something is possible, you undermine it from the start. Doubt is an active, destructive force. Hedging on believing in your future won’t protect you from disappointment, it just sets you up to fail. When you believe in bigger possibilities, you actively co-create those possibilities, with whatever resources you have. It takes a bigger view to see a new path.

Examine your beliefs. Be curious. Go deeper. Choose a bigger perspective.

Clarity gives you direction.

When you’re clear, you make decisions that truly support your dreams. You can also strategize better and take more effective steps. Talk to someone. Meditate. Journal. Make a vision board. Your imagination is a powerful force for getting clarity.

Take the time to get clear, in whatever way works for you.

Habits either support or undermine your dreams.

If you want to write a story, you must write on a regular basis. Schedule time to devote to your creative expression. Keep to that schedule. If your habit of checking email undermines your writing, disconnect.

You must build new habits that will help you get there, and let go of the habits that get in your way.

People holding hands

No one does it alone.

Life is full of challenges, distractions, obligations, and surprises. I cannot say this enough: get support!

Join a local MeetUp group that supports your creative dream. Take classes that require you to show up and produce something. Hire a coach to support you on your journey and hold you accountable. Join a writer’s group, rent some art studio space.

Find the real support you need.

When you truly commit to something, the wheels begin to turn.

Be grateful for the unseen forces that will support you when you make the commitment to live your authentic life. Other people sensing your commitment to your dream provide a helping hand. Little—and big—synchronicities and coincidences occur. Natural forces help you grow the way rain and sunshine help the trees grow. Trust in this. Believe.

Put your heart and mind into realizing your dream.

Water dripping from hand onto soil with sprouts

Nothing happens if you do nothing.

Take conscious action, one little step at a time. Do one thing, and then another, building on previous actions to move you in the direction you choose.

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.
— Vincent Van Gogh

Start your journey now.

Being Stuck is Just a Pause in Your Journey

Woman standing and pushing against wall

Being stuck can be difficult to deal with. I often think I “should” be able to keep moving through sheer will. But that is not only exhausting; it distracts me from what I could learn in a situation that is uncomfortable for me.

Last weekend, I watched the wonderful film The African Queen again. It’s a classic hero and heroine’s journey, set in Africa in World War I. Through a series of events, Charlie and Rose find themselves on Charlie’s boat, the African Queen, on a mission to sink a German gunboat on Lake Albert.

If you look at the story metaphorically, Rose represents our higher selves—our inner wisdom—that not only knows what to do, but is an inner catalyst calling us to make the journey we must make.

As in any hero’s journey, Charlie initially refuses the call. He’s like the part of ourselves that thinks of a dozen reasons why something “can’t work.” Yet each step of the way, Rose is there guiding him, helping him see possibilities, and most importantly, teaching him how to believe in himself again. He keeps pushing through his own doubts, moving toward the goal. Pushing through your own resistance builds resilience.

After struggling and failing to free the boat from a muddy marsh in the Bora River (which flows into Lake Albert), Charlie tells Rose he must be honest with her: they’re stuck. At this point, Charlie and Rose believe they have failed in their mission. But a bird’s-eye view reveals that the lake is just beyond the marsh. They are so close, but they can’t see it. Accepting where you are does not mean accepting you have to stay stuck forever. It simply helps free up your mental and emotional energy to rise up over the “mud” and view the possibilities available to you.

Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept
what troubles you’ve been given, the door will open.
— Rumi

And it’s true. When you stop struggling, you are no longer focusing on what’s not working, but opening up a door for what will work.

While Charlie and Rose sleep on the boat, rain falls into the Bora River until the water lifts the boat out of the mud, over the marsh, and into the lake. They’re free from the muddy marsh, able to continue on their mission. Don’t forget providence. Don’t forget allies. And don’t forget how strong you really are.

Sailboat on water

When you’re feeling stuck, remember it’s just a pause in your journey.

Be curious about what a “bird’s eye view” can reveal about your situation.

A Clutter-Free Life

Hands sticking up from pile of clothes

Closets stuffed with clothes, handbags, and shoes you haven’t worn in years.

Junk drawers filled with expired batteries, rubber bands, and dried-up pens. Half the time when you try to open those drawers, they get stuck!

Book shelves crammed with books behind piles of more books. Some are favorites, others you’ve read but will never read again, and more you haven’t read, but think you’ll read “someday.”

Boxes filled with your children’s drawings, letters from your grandmother, cards from your spouse, parents, and dear friends. Old toys, knick-knacks, and bank statements from 20 years ago.

There is an emotional weight to accumulated things.

There is a cost to having too much stuff. When things clutter your living and working areas, they also take up space in your mind and heart. Getting rid of stuff you don’t need or want makes room for what you do need and want. It gives you the space and perspective to see new possibilities. Room to breathe.

Multi-colored daisies in glass on table

I do keep my living spaces mostly free of clutter, and I love how they feel. But my office and spare room had become nothing more than storage areas. Even though I didn’t use those rooms much, the way I felt when I walked past, or went in to get something, weighed on me.

I look at my living space as a kind of mirror of my inner space. My creative space (my office) and my health space (room with the elliptical machine) were completely neglected. Guess which areas of my life I was not honoring?

Honoring your creative space is essential to supporting your creative work, whatever it may be.

And truthfully, the neglected rooms/parts of myself got that way during a series of very difficult times of my life, when it was all I could do to get the basics taken care of. My divorce, the loss of a family member, the death of my dog who was like a daughter to me, a toxic work situation. The lack of any substantive emotional support. All I had to do was look into those rooms and feel the overwhelm of the grief of those times.

Don’t get me wrong; some messes are wonderful. It’s not about living in a Pottery Barn ad! I love the way my table looks when I’ve been painting, with paper and brushes and watercolors and a muddy glass of water from rinsing blues and reds and yellows from my brushes. But when I’m finished and I put them away, it clears space for my next creative project.

Watercolor brushes

So the messes left over from fun, creative moments are beautiful in their own way. But the mess left over from putting everything else in my life ahead of my own body and spirit, not so much.

Go easy on yourself.

Because of the emotional weight of clutter, it can be very difficult to face and tackle on your own. If you let go of shame and embarrassment, treat yourself with compassion (really, you’re not the only person on the Earth with clutter), and nurture yourself by getting the support you need, you can de-clutter and open up the parts of your life you’ve been neglecting.

I hired a professional organizer to help me, and it’s made a world of difference. She comes once a week and helps me see through the chaos. My office and my workout room are taking shape back into usable space. It’s a process, one that I’ll be in for another month or so, but I see the light beneath the piles, so-to-speak.

Although going through my clothes, books, papers, and mementos is difficult—I’m facing lost dreams, evaluating what gives me joy and what feels like a burden, and learning to let go of what no longer serves me—I know it’s a spiritual process as much as a physical one. I know I need to do it, and the vision of how my living space—and my life—will feel when its done keeps me motivated.

How would discarding things you no longer want or need improve the space you live in?

How would that support your creativity?

Don’t Go Back to Sleep

What does this portion of a thirteenth century Rumi poem tell us about living a conscious, authentic life?

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the door sill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Red arch with blue sky

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. We can wake up to our inner wisdom the way we wake from a dream to this world. But just like remembering a dream, we have to hold it in our consciousness.

Don’t go back to sleep. Stay conscious; don’t forget what the wiser part of you knows.

Many times I’ve experienced an insight, only to have it fade and slip away. Sometimes, a lost insight returns some time later, and although it’s not new, it feels like I’m experiencing the insight on a deeper level.

Write down your insights. Write down your dreams. Go back and look at them. They’re stepping stones to your growth.

You must ask for what you really want. Fully participate in life. Have the courage to feel vulnerable, be honest, and take action to live your life authentically.

What do you want? Sometimes, how you describe what you want is really the result of something else. For example, if you want to feel fulfilled, that feeling is the direct result of living in alignment with your values, with who you are. And that takes action.

The clearer you are about what you value and how you want to live, the easier it is to find the path you need to take.

Don’t go back to sleep. It’s tempting to slip back into a status quo life. It’s familiar, and it seems safer. But the cost is sleepwalking through your life. Stay awake!

What you want is the result of how you live your life, every day. What changes do you need to make to have the life you want?

People are going back and forth across the door sill where the two worlds touch. We can go back and forth between an old view that no longer matches who we are, or an expanded perspective gained through looking deeper. It’s our choice.

An expanded view is not only possible, it’s necessary to change your life, to take next steps.

The door is round and open. You can step through the open door from your fears to a place of possibilities. It takes courage, support, and ultimately, a commitment to yourself.

Don’t go back to sleep.