The Practice of Creating a Life

Matisse's colorful palette inspires me

For as long as people have been creating, there have been others taking inspiration from them, then pushing a bit further, seeing new things in new ways. For me, inspiration comes not only from other painters, but from organic forms in nature, a toddler leaning in close to put his tiny hands on his mom's cheeks, a moss covered arch over an old door, hand stitching around an artisan crafted dress. I’m always taking in…something…anything.  Seeing. Noticing. Connecting the dots... and not always consciously.

Beginning artists ask how to develop a style. My experience is that it doesn’t just appear one day. It’s an emergence that happens so slowly, that you don’t really know it’s happening. Until one day someone says, “I love your style,” and you realize that maybe you do have one. Kids often tell me that I look like my pictures in my books, so maybe I'm just drawing parts of a face I see in the mirror every day!

Creating art for children's book,   Willow and the Wedding ,  written by  Denise Brennan Nelson

Creating art for children's book, Willow and the Wedding, written by Denise Brennan Nelson

Beaming into the world

The authentic 'voice' of an artist, writer, or musician comes from deep within their own knowing. Looking at the work of others can be inspiring, but searching through websites and Pinterest pages for inspiration can actually become a block to real inspiration. The sparks only begin when I pick up my own brush and get to work. I find that my truest expression beams into the world, at the point when I begin to trust myself. Feeling my way in…IN to what a painting wants to be…IN to find the ease and flow when speaking to an audience...IN to that still point, where there is no trying...only surrendering to something that wants to come forth.


If you meditate or do yoga, you probably know this feeling well. Or maybe you’ve noticed the stillness while fishing, or snow skiing, or gardening. My friend gets in a peaceful zone while mucking horse stalls. Even solitary road trips can be zen like. I always return home with scribbles of barely legible notes written on the backs of receipts and Subway napkins. 

saying nice things to 'me'

I’ve learned to listen when the nudges come and to feel ok when they don’t. Going into that judge-y place can be tempting when ideas aren’t flowing. But negative mind chatter creates self doubt and speaks over the true whispers of the soul. Believing in yourself is the goal. But I’ve found that having a few freak out moments when beginning anything new is just part of my process. Even after publishing over 50 books, I still think: “Do I really have another idea in me?” “Can I really do this?” “Might I be just faking my way through my career?”  Cueing up a good playlist and beginning to move a pencil across the paper, even if it's just doodling, always opens a better conversation in my head.

Painting at ArtFields 2017  Anyone know the artist?

Painting at ArtFields 2017  Anyone know the artist?

A well lived life

We all have personal magic to deliver in the world—every single one of us, whether we consider ourselves a ‘creative’ person or not. Someone can show up in their fullest expression as an accountant, a bus driver, a zoo keeper, or an airplane pilot. My wonderful ex mother-in-law was a perfect example of how to bloom where she was planted. She worked in the county tax assessor’s office, and every person walking in the door benefited from her huge smile, her warm ways, and generous attitude. And when she left this planet, her funeral had standing room only. So many people came out to celebrate the well lived life of a woman who touched them in some wonderful way. 

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

John Lennon's lyrics in Beautiful Boy are so true. Life goes on whether we consciously participate or not. We've all known someone who has given up living long before they have to. Talking about plans is not doing.

Taking the action each day is cumulative. Writers and artists who practice their craft often, keep the creative energy activated for lots of juicy free flowing inspiration. Here's a tip: create daily calendar appointments with your muse and always show up!

Deciding to work out at the gym, or walk the bridge, or ride a horse has positive effects on the body and mind. Eating healthy is something to do now...not after life settles down. Being open hearted to others means practicing being truly present with them...not focused off on some other past or future time or to-do list. Simple acts of kindness, like looking into the eyes of a cashier or allowing another driver to merge into my lane, changes the dynamic of my personal world—and possibly theirs. What if we all just decided to show up for each other with the best that we have? Imagine that.

Since we are manifesting life with every choice, my daily intention is to be aware of what I’m actually choosing in each moment. The more I choose the beneficial path, the more my brain creates neurological patterns that become the habits for the behavior that I desire. Eventually, I don't have to try to remember to pay attention to my mind will just automatically go in the best direction for me. And then serendipitous things being to show up like magic. Whew! I love when that happens.

After all, I want to BE all that I truly AM, as long as I’m here. 

I enjoy receiving recommendations for good books, so I'll pass this one along. It greatly influenced my life: Changing the Habit of Being Yourself...How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, by Joe Dispenza. Check it out!