You know those days when you have nothing to say, and so you surf around online for some inspiration and the writer’s block only gets worse and then you realize you aren’t very funny or popular and you suspect you may need to lose ten twenty pounds? Then you get caught in a spiraling snare of watching funny cat videos with the sound off and are tempted to emotionally eat the entire jar of almond butter?

Yeah, me neither.

I’ve been working on a project for the past two weeks. It’s a project I heard a fellow blogger mention, and it’s designed to help recover your creativity. I don’t know about you, but the hours I spend in Microsoft Excel and calculating figures leaves my brain resembling a zombie-playing extra from The Walking Dead at the end of every work day. Except instead of brains, I want to devour an entire season of Girls in one sitting as my butt becomes one with my dirty green couch. So yes, my creativity is a spiritual force that needs recovery from the flogging it receives everyday I go in to earn my living.


Somehow, this was the least horrifying picture of a zombie I could find.

I’m sure everyone and their mother has already heard of it, because I’m always the last one to arrive at the party, but it’s called The Artist’s Way and it’s something I’m actually, physically doing, not just reading about and heaping on the pile of “stuff to do later when I actually have time” (currently on that pile: re-organize my closet, put wedding photos in an album, become a ballerina, go to the allergist, buy flea medication [not for me. I don’t have fleas]). I’m always naturally skeptical of self-help anything, but for some reason I knew this would work after I read the forward. Plus, any advice from an artist herself on how to cultivate creativity? Sign me up.

So far, all I’ve done is journal at least three pages every morning and take myself on a few artist dates (outings to fan your creative flames). That’s it. The journaling trick has had the most impact on my output, because ZOMG, if you get rid of all the crap that floats around in your head then your head is free to create poetry or stories or paint something that doesn’t look like it was inspired by an infomercial! So the key to successful writing for me has been…eject all the useless crap from your brain. Especially if you’re like me and you have a lot of detritus floating around up there.


My brain on any given day. That’s detritus, naturally.

You know those short stories I’ve been featuring weekly on the blog? Those brilliant little mental children, as I affectionately think of them? All of those were the result from doing the project, and even better, all of them felt like they wrote themselves – I was just the humble messenger of divine inspiration. Or something. Anyway, the point is, it didn’t feel like work; it felt like mental playtime, which is why most artists create to begin with.

Additionally, I have been painting again. Painting is that lovely hobby that is always the first to go on the back burner when my laundry starts taking over the bedroom and threatens to suffocate the cat. Not only am I rekindling my romance with oil and canvas, I am trying out new styles that focus more on flow than rigid naturalism, as is my usual wont. The result? I will not be replacing Van Gogh any time soon as the most reproduced artist of the decade, but at least I feel exhilarated by my affair with the brush.

van gogh

On second thought, yes, my work looks EXACTLY like this. Who would like to purchase a painting?

The artist dates have been useful, too. I mentioned going on an eight mile hike last week, and it was pretty good for my imagination, which was allowed to roam free for a few hours.  I missed this week’s date (too much grown-up responsibility got in the way), but vow not to miss next week’s.

So even though I’m not being paid to endorse anything, I endorse this. My mind feels incredibly empty (insert snarky joke here) – free from self-doubt, mini-obsessions, and distraction, and I’m only on week two.

Now if only I can find the trick to boosting my readership…


Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3


My New Artistic Secret, or, Why I Am No Longer a Zombie — 23 Comments

  1. Sign me up!! Or, I guess I could sign myself up… But I’m doing this. Fantastic. Wonderful, thank you for this inspiration! And seriously, you’re one of the most consistently creative, witty, and imaginative people I know. Love reading along 🙂

    • OMG, Hailey, you’d totally love it! I forgot to include this tip – don’t read it all in one sitting (though you’ll be tempted). I’m reading it week by week, so the weekly tasks are fresh and I don’t have to go back and re-read. It’s AH-mazing.

  2. Yay for art!! I’m so glad you found something that’s clearing your brain of spreadsheets so that your creativity can shine through. I don’t so much consider myself an artist, but you’ve got me interested in The Artist’s Way; I’m going to have to check it out.

  3. Wow! I wondered where your fantastic posts were coming from. Very cool. Seems a lot of us are feeling like we’re in a creative funk. I just wrote a post about it, too. :-/

  4. I started the Artist’s Way a few years ago, but didn’t get past the first few weeks. Writing three pages every morning went on for a while, but it feels like an awful lot sometimes! So yeah. Creative zombie.

    Congratulations on your progress! It’s nice to hear success stories. 🙂

    • I’m sure it’s not for everyone – I may carry around more mental junk just from the depression/alcoholism/general neuroses, so my head is a messy place for which journaling can alleviate much of the strain. I just got so tired of being in a funk all the time…
      And for a creative zombie, you do a pretty good job of making me laugh on your blog. 🙂

  5. I personally have enjoyed your creative awakening. I wondered how your fantastic prose would translate to the fiction world, and well, it stayed fantastic while also adding conflict and character development and all the stuff that makes for good stories.

    Someday, when I’m teaching one of your works in my classroom, I can say, “I knew Natalie when she was just nutty blogger…”

    As for audience. I get some views via triberr, where you join a tribe of likeminded bloggers and we all agree to retweet each other’s new blogs. Yes…this means sometimes you bombard your followers with a huge amount of links to articles you wouldn’t necessarily read yourself, but scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours…”

    The last thing about viewers is encouraging them to hit the social media scores. Every once in a while I write a guilt-trip/informative essay about how the internet works, to make my readers more responsive. Most people don’t know how SEO works, and don’t realize that hitting “like” or G+ or tweet, as well as just reading, tells GOOGLE it is an important work to the internet. While random google traffic rarely interacts, I sometimes do make a relationship with someone who just stumbled onto my site, I don’t get those views without Google ranking my material as Socially viable. YOUR work is socially viable, it should be read by a large audience (at least you get a ton of comments, though).

    • Thank you. 🙂 A girl can dream…My husband keeps quoting Hemingway to me, so that means he must see that kind of future for me, lol. Let’s just hope without the PTSD and destructive alcoholism…

      Ooo, thanks for the tips! That has been the great thing about blogging, getting to learn so much from people. It’s been a process (a slow one. At least in Internet time). You know how blogging is…ebbs and flows in readership, people come and go. It’s hard not to take it personally, even thought that’s blogging 101. There’s always someone more popular than you…

      Hmm. life lesson for the day, perhaps?

  6. Yes, I’ve wondered what sort of magic you’d happened upon to produce so much work in such a short span…and great work, at that. I must check out this Artist’s Way now. I’m so glad you’ve found this guide, it sounds like it’s just what you needed.

    I like Chris’ idea about the likeminded tribe of bloggers….can I be in yours??

    Thanks for the inspiration. Maybe I’ll write today!

  7. Pingback: Post the Forty-Eigth: I know where a Horse lies Buried | Whimsical Adventures of the Reverend Doctor

  8. Pingback: Post the Forty-Eighth: I Know Where A Horse Lies Buried | Whimsical Adventures of the Reverend Doctor

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