Emergency Tool Kit for Blocked Creatives

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” ~ Steve Jobs

Whenever something’s not working, what we need is a new approach.  After all, according to Albert Einstein the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

It doesn’t matter what you are wanting to achieve creatively – you could be writing a book, finishing an assignment, collaging a family history, inventing a killer new recipe for Master Chef, adding the lyrics to a love song, refining your dance moves or renovating a bathroom. When you’re stuck, you’re stuck.  That’s where having an Emergency Creative Tool Kit comes in handy!

Put down that thing giving you the trouble.  Stop worrying about the work you’re NOT creating. Pull out your Emergency Creative Tool Kit.  What we need right now is fun, creative engagement and play.


Image from Shutterstock

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”~ Carl Jung

The following items are essentials for your Tool Kit:

  • Mood Music.  Many of my writer friends swear by using music to evoke mood, ideas and word flow.  Why not compile some play lists that help you to tap into characters, locations or events? This isn’t just for writers. Music works wonders with all stuck brains!
  • An Ideas Book – If you haven’t started one yet, this can be your first creative project. Find a book big enough to glue pictures and inspiring articles. Write down your small and your grand creative ideas.  It doesn’t matter what sort of ideas they are.  If you want to create a medieval banquet for your next birthday, design a new kitchen, embark on writing opera, knit a bunny rug, write a history of your great grandfather, or you just have a fantastic character name in your head and no idea how to use it, then put it in the book! When you get stuck for inspiration simply open the book and have a look through it…
  • Paper, coloured pens and crayons, stickers, glue, old magazines, glitter and other fun stuff.  Or go on and use that i-pad App you’ve always wanted to try…  The point of this exercise is that it needs to be VISUAL even if you don’t consider yourself in any way artistic. Now choose one idea, one character, one issue – nothing central to your stuckness, but something that’s just in view from the corner of your eye. Or something new and completely unrelated to your current project. Explore that thing.  Doodle, collage, cut and paste, mind map and brain storm.  Let it be as much about having fun with the process as it is about coming at things sideways.
Mind Map by Donna Kim - fairy tale story

Mind Map by Donna Kim – fairy tale story

  • Moving Meditation – A meditation is actually any activity that you devote your full awareness to, so that you are in the moment with that thing. For me, a spot of washing up by hand at my kitchen sink often does the trick. You might try knitting, tapestry, beading, bread making – anything that gets you doing something with your hands.  Write a list, get any equipment or supplies you need and go create something.
  • Walk in Their Shoes – What is it you’re trying to do? Be a painter? A singer? An advertising guru? Performers call it Method Acting. Research and act like your favourite artist for an hour or a day. Immerse yourself in the world of your project. Pretend to be your character and look at the world through their eyes as you go about your daily task.
  • Just Go! – I get some of my best results from this technique.  If you are bogged down, embittered and disconnected, or even just bored with it all, then this will help to get you out of that head space. See it as a game of wits. Evoke your Inner Stubbornness to not quit. Pick one thing, one scene, one area and begin. It doesn’t matter how awful your creating is. Make yourself keep going for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes seems to be a magical time interval for getting back into creative flow, although from day to day it might be ten minutes or an hour.  You might have to scrap the first part of your effort, but somewhere in there will be something you can salvage and that can help you keep going. You could even get an incredible breakthrough!
  • A ‘Source Of Inspiration’ Outing – Sometimes you really do need to move away from the desk, get out of the house/studio/office and stretch your legs. Go somewhere that puts you in a better mood. Go somewhere that makes you happy, a place where you can spend an hour or two and come back refreshed.  For me that can be plant nurseries, Farmers Markets, the Library or a Bookstore, or a wander through town, looking in shop windows. The key here is that you move into a different environment. New environments fire up new brain connections and pathways, and help you to move out of old thinking patterns and into new ones.  Note – staying at the computer surfing the web does not count!
  • A Glory Box or Glory Book – Sometimes the biggest block to creativity is low self-esteem.  We convince ourselves that we truly suck at this thing that’s so dear to us. We run ourselves down and beat ourselves up.  How can anyone sustain creativity feeling like that?  Your Glory Box or Glory Book is for snippets and reminders of positive feedback and good results you’ve had in the past, even completely unrelated to your current project or desire. Maybe it’s the story you wrote when you were five. Or a trophy from winning Junior Division Soccer. It could be an old love letter, or a birthday card from someone special. If you have a knock-out Report Card from grade school, re-read those kind words. You’re still that person.  All of that goodness lives inside you.  We all need to be reminded occasionally.
Positive Report Cards from your Childhood can be a powerful reminder of who you are!

Positive Report Cards from your Childhood can be a powerful reminder of your gifts and talents!

  • Blow Out The Cobwebs List of Activities – Movement connects us to positive energy and disconnects us from negative energy.  Make a list of physical activities that leave you on a high. Ideas include windsurfing, bike riding, snow skiing, bush walking, salsa dancing, roller coaster rides, walking the dogs at the beach.  If you are very ill or incapacitated sit in the sunshine or at a window so you can breath some fresh air. Do some simple stretches and work on your breathing. Yoga breaths are great for this. If you can’t get out of bed, then go there in your mind.  Imaginations are wonderful freedom machines!
  • The Skeleton Effect – When you’re overwhelmed by a project, break it into pieces. Think of a human skeleton – there are the great long thigh bones and the tiny little finger bones. Sometimes we’re up to working on a big piece of a creative project, and sometimes all we can manage is a simple chunk where you can easily see the beginning and end. It all counts. Make a plan of the big, medium, little and ridiculously easy parts of your project.  On the days where you just can’t do the big parts, work on a smaller one. Start by making that plan.
  • Dress Up Box – Yes, really!!! Sometimes dressing the part can get you in the right headspace to connect with your project. And anyway, it’s fun. 🙂

Over time you may come up with other ideas and inspiration for your Creative Tool Kit.  Add them all in there. And share what you know with your creative friends.  Everyone needs a little help and encouragement sometimes.

PS: This post is part of my 2013 Creative Challenge Project.  If you’d like to read more, visit these posts:

The Challenge to Live Creatively this year – come join us!

Join my 2013 Creative Project Challenge

Creative Project Challenge – February Check In

Advice and Ideas for reconnecting with your Creativity:

Lost your Creative Mojo?

When the Muse vanishes – thoughts on the loss of Creativity

How a Garden Can Teach You To Be More Creative

Enhance Your Creativity

How a Garden Can Teach You To Be More Creative


“Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.”  ~ Author Unknown

Gardening is a seasonal thing.  There are tasks to do in every season, but Summer tasks can’t be easily undertaken in Winter and Winter tasks aren’t so suited to the Spring.

What does this have to do with creativity you may ask?

Why, my dear friend, everything!  Creativity has its seasons too, and once you begin to understand that you don’t need to fight against nature, you can begin to work with flow and rhythm. All creative projects follow a similar path to the seasons.  Recognising what season you’re in is the first step!


Winter is the time for rest.  It’s a dark, quiet place with the occasional storm or blizzard. But it’s from the darkness that our ideas come.  Winter is not a doing time. It’s a thinking time, a planning time, a snuggling up under the doona with a book time. You can’t force anything to grow in Winter, but it doesn’t stop you dreaming about Spring, or the harvest you’ll make come Summer.

If you are in a cold hard place creatively then treat yourself kindly.  Don’t panic.  The seasons always change. And as they do, you’ll change with them.  In the meantime, go clean out your kitchen cupboards or have a cup of tea and flick through a garden catalogue to inspire you. If inspiration does strike, well it’s fine to buy a few packets of seed, attend a class on composting, or sketch out some designs. But don’t even try to plant anything.  The garden’s not ready yet and anything you plant won’t survive and thrive in such inhospitable conditions.

Ice on a barren winter garden.

Ice on a barren winter garden. Time for dreaming, planning and getting ready for Spring.


Spring is work time!  It’s the season for setting out solid foundations. You set out your beds, dig some good compost through them, and plant out all your tender seedlings. If you only have a loose plan so far, Spring is the time where we firm up the details.  It’s also where we get the supplies we need if we didn’t take care of that in Winter. Good ideas are like those tender seedlings – they need special care.  There are some good ideas about that here: Protecting a Good Idea.

Every day or so you’ll need to come back to your garden and do some work; fertilising, weeding, watering, trailing tendrils of climbers up the trellis you have created for them.  You’ll be able to enjoy some early harvest, but mostly Spring is about setting a solid foundation for what’s to come. Get into good gardening habits. and keep learning and practicing!

Getting your garden beds ready to plant out for Spring!

There’s work to be done! Getting your garden beds ready to plant out for Spring…


A Summer garden provides a bountiful harvest.  Everything grows quickly and easily, although vigorous plants may need extra staking, and you’ll still be doing the usual jobs – feeding, weeding, tending, watering.

Some of your produce may need to be rejected or written off – a bug might get into your tomato, or a bird might eat all of your figs.  That’s the nature of gardens – they are never 100% perfection.  Gardens are always a work in progress.

The crop you had high hopes for might fail to thrive, but the butter beans you poked into the soil as an afterthought might take off in spectacular fashion providing you with never-ending buckets of delight.  Share your harvest and enjoy!

So much to harvest! Image from www.getintogardening.co.uk

So much to harvest! Image from www.getintogardening.co.uk


In Autumn we collect seed and put it away for next spring.  There are different jobs to do now.  We’re still tending our vegetable patch, and there is still harvest, but we are spending more time mending, tidying and getting the most out of our crops. We bottle and put away produce to keep us going through winter. It’s also where we review what worked and what didn’t and what we’ll do differently next time.

Autumn is a season where we may call in some help. You might let the chooks into the garden to eat up all the slugs and grasshoppers.  You’ll start pulling out the failing plants, and a neighbour may come with a rotary hoe to churn the old plants back into the soul, nourishing your beds for next spring. You might thumb through some books to find out why your beets rotted in the ground, and how you can prevent that next time, or whether you should even be planting beets at all. You’ll feed and mulch and look after that soil so it’s ready for another productive year.

Letting the chooks (chickens for you non-Australians) into the end of season Autumn Garden.

Letting the chooks (chickens for you non-Australians) into the end of season Autumn Garden.

Creativity, like gardening, has its seasons.  Of course, you could be like some modern manufacturers and grow all your tomatoes in a hot house at maximum yield year round. That’s very productive, I’ll give you that.  But I bet you won’t be able to taste the Summer sun in those fruit, or the tang of a late frost. Seasons give their own magic to gardens and to art.  Bless ♥ xx


PS: This post is part of my 2013 Creative Challenge Project.  If you’d like to read more, visit these posts:

Join my 2013 Creative Project Challenge

Creative Project Challenge – February Check In

Lost your Creative Mojo?

When the Muse vanishes – thoughts on the loss of Creativity

Join my 2013 ‘Creative Project’ Challenge!

Image from www.my-inner-voice.blogspot.com.au

Image from www.my-inner-voice.blogspot.com.au

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things” ~ Ray Bradbury

It’s the start of a fresh year, and all these days are stretching out in front of us, begging to be filled. And just like last year, they will get filled. With shopping, sleeping, working, couch surfing, housework, coffee, yard work, cooking, worrying and maybe a bit of fun stuff. Whether we plan it or simply let it happen, this time next year, all 2013 will be is a bunch of lived days, and we’ll be looking at the possibilities of 2014.

But what about your art?  What about the creative project that’s always on the back burner? The thing you’d love to do, that you DREAM of doing, but never actually get around to?

Image from www.anonymousartofrevolution.com

Image from www.anonymousartofrevolution.com

My ‘Creative Project’ Challenge for 2013 is this:

Be bold and brave and take a moment to publicly name the project you’d like to give energy to this year in a comment at the bottom of this page.

Then throughout the year I’ll blog check-ins and little things to help keep you on track.  Your commitment to the project is about making time through out the year to work on your project. And you can all reach out and support each other, no matter what your project might be.

Maybe you want to take art lessons.  Maybe you want to work out how to use that expensive camera you bought. Maybe you want to write a novel, or edit a novel, or illustrate a children’s book.  Maybe you want to build a vegetable garden or knit a matching set of jumpers for the whole family by Christmas.

I have found that by being part of a creative-purposed group, my wonderful writing sisterhood – Sisters of the Pen – my productivity, accountability and sense of connectedness to my writing has improved.  I’ve gone from thinking about being a writer to actually writing!

So how about you? What creative project will it be for you this year?

Image from www.creativeeducation.co.uk

Image from www.creativeeducation.co.uk

Let yourself get excited.  Give yourself the gift of a whole year of little windows of creative time.  Imagine what might happen…

Are you in?  Will you join me?

Go ahead, and sign your name below.  Let’s make 2013 a year of Creative Action. That’s the kind of energy I want to see in the world!