“I’ve learned that every thing we make makes us. We gain things from making and completing works that we can’t get any other way. Confidence. Energy. Renewed hope.” These are the beautiful words of Cynthia Morris, a certified coach who works with writers, artists and entrepreneurs (from a post entitled “Surprises Await You in Your Creative Work“).
Today, I’m happy to feature Cynthia in our monthly interview series, “How I Create.” Cynthia also leads creativity workshops and has authored several books, including Create Your Writer’s Life and Visit Paris Like an Artist. And she’s an artist herself. Below, Cynthia shares everything from her creative process to prompts we can try to spark our own creativity.
Q: How do you define creativity? What does creativity mean to you?
A: For me, creativity means making things. It’s creativity in life—making a beautiful home, a beautiful meal, or an experience for friends and family. And also in the art studio—making a book or a body of art work.
Q: Why is creating important to you?
A: Creating is for me essential. I believe that creativity is the source of our vitality. I feel more me, more engaged in life and more vibrant when I am making things. In order to be a fulfilled, happy person, I have to be engaged in a creative project or two. Or three.
Q: What are your favorite ways to create?
A: I currently am focused on watercolor paintings and illustrations as my main art form. I also write books, love making videos and putting together events. Cooking is an all-time favorite creative passion for me. I love food! It’s the highest art.
Q: What inspires your work?
A: Seeing other people’s art and creative lives inspires me. When I am trying to learn how to develop a skill in my painting, I look for others who have mastered that. Then I study their technique. Other sources of inspiration include nature and taking long walks, bike rides or going to yoga classes.
Q: What does your creative process look like? For instance, maybe you have a certain ritual to kick-start your creating. Maybe you aim to write a certain number of words per day. Maybe you create best in the early morning or deep into the night.
A: Over the years, I have learned how to trust myself in my creative process. I know when to show up and when to stop. I’ve learned to leave space in the process of making, so I can step away and come back with a fresh perspective. Time away from the project, on walks or cooking, always yields more insight and information.
I use my sketchbook and my art notebook to experiment and play with ideas and new skills. That’s vital to my process as it allows me to experiment with no risk.
I also like to participate in long-term challenges—365 series, 100-day series, that kind of thing helps me to have a focus. I will often make up my own challenges. Last year I designed my own artist residency in Paris, where I spent two months there working on my art. It was great. At home, I try to get to the art studio every day, and on days when I start with art, I am most happy.
Q: There are many culprits that can crush creativity, such as self-doubt and distractions. What tends to stand in the way of your creativity?
A: Of course the usual comparison gremlin is the worst. I see others’s success and sometimes despair about ever getting there. But I’m more committed to making things than to listening to the forces that try to stop me.
Q: How do you navigate these obstacles?
A: I just keep showing up. I turn off the channels of others’ work and focus on my own. I look for my creative edge—that thing I am trying to learn, that edge that challenges me. That specific thing will lead me back to making and away from comparing.
Q: What are your go-to resources on creativity (e.g., books, websites, social media)?
A: I love Instagram and follow only artists there. The feed is a constant source of inspiration and connection.
I read a ton of books, both fiction and non-fiction and that inspires me. The library is my best friend! You can see what I am reading on my Goodreads account here.
I also visit art museums and galleries. I am most inspired by walking around, observing and interacting with the world. I love cities but I also love nature.
Q: How do you suggest readers cultivate their creativity?
A: Make space for your creativity. Don’t be constantly overbooked. Learn to listen to your instincts, and let yourself follow your interests. Get really clear about what you love and are interested in and invest time and energy in that.
Do a 15-minute free-write with the prompt: My artist (writer) wants…
This will allow you to access that creative, perhaps non-practical part of yourself that wants to come out to play. If you get specific information from this writing session, you can then make a list and take action on those creative desires.
Q: What’s one thing you really wish people knew about creativity?
A: Follow the path of love…what do you love? What are you curious about? What weird thing are you into that you obsess over? Follow that and make it a creative adventure.
In addition to being a creativity coach and artist, Cynthia Morris is the author of the Paris novel Chasing Sylvia Beach; the how-to guide Create Your Writer’s Life; and several e-books on creative travel, most recently, Visit Paris Like an Artist.
Cynthia’s journal process led her to a path as an illustrator. She’s the creator of Writual Blessings, a colorful deck of affirmations for writers. Cynthia illustrated the book, How to Sell Your Art Online (Harper Design, 2016) by Cory Huff. She creates lovely watercolor illustrations and whimsical drawings that illuminate the sweetness and depth in everyday objects.
Every year, Cynthia teaches Capture the Wow in Paris, Boulder, Colo., and at Camp GLP, a dynamic weekend for entrepreneurs, artists and change agents. Her class “Drawing As Meditation” offers a way to slow down and savor even the smallest details of life around us. For more information, please visit www.originalimpulse.com.