Reading about how geniuses and renowned artists of the past came up with groundbreaking ideas is enlightening but also disconcerting. It's interesting to learn that "So and So Virtuoso" went for his creativity walk everyday at 5:00 a.m. before starting his workday, or that "Mr. Child Prodigy" got pickled at the Bistro, made love to his mistress all night long and still managed to awaken at dawn to seize the day or whatever else was in close proximity. The routines and idiosyncrasies of the "greats" are regularly analyzed and dissected, and their tidbits of advice border on biblical.

(Imagine a clay tablet in the arms of a bearded man dressed in a long, white sheet)
  1. Work undisturbed for at least seven hours a day.
  2. Have a daily creativity walk, preferably at 5:00 a.m. 
  3. Get up and work even if you are totally uninspired.
  4. Keep an early morning journal.
  5. Keep a night journal. 
  6. Break your habits, see or do something new or unfamiliar on a regular basis. 
  7. Work on a number of projects at the same time.
The first thought that comes to mind is "if it worked for them, it'll probably work for me". I've tried them all (except for the 5:00 a.m. walk) with varying degrees of success. 

#1 - Work undisturbed for at least seven hours a day
If I've had a good night's sleep and feel rested, I start early (maybe 7:00 or 8:00) and work for a good three hours until the damn phone rings (geniuses of yesteryear didn't have this problem). Once I've told the telemarketer to stuff it, I fall into the vortex of Humdrumville and gorge myself like a Cookie Monster, which is neither safe practice nor good for the bodIf I get a lot done during the day (maybe five hours at most), I sometimes find a smidgen of energy late in the evening for finishing touches. I rarely start anything new late at night unless it's on my tablet. Seven hours straight? A rare phenomenon. My approach to artmaking is modular.

Some souls have a bottomless pit of energy. Not me. I adopted a strange working practice when my kids were young that I can't seem to shake. After an hour or so of art making I:
  • sit and think,
  • march to the kitchen to wash dishes, 
  • think some more, 
  • return to the studio, 
  • add paint or other medium to my image, 
  • wash brushes or scrub paint off my hands, 
  • do laundry, 
  • snack, 
  • make tea, 
  • return to the studio and contemplate why I am not quickly resolving this particular piece,
  • watch paint dry.
DREAD! I've wrecked too many works in the past by rushing. Spontaneity usually happens at the beginning. I need to incubate (or perhaps stall, not sure which) after I've put something down on paper or canvas. By and large, the work goes through a crap stage before transforming. Wonders happen as chosen areas are violently sloshed over with paint or gesso in a fit of frustration. At times nothing gets resolved. After seven hours, the effort lies on the floor destroyed, destined to become collage material. It's all part of the game.

#2 - Have a daily creativity walk
I live in Canada and my philosophy is to stay in one piece. Ergo I avoid ambulatory activities in winter. One of my friends broke an arm on two separate occasions after slipping on ice. Artists need functional arms to draw, paint or sculpt. When sidewalks become treacherous, I peddle on my stationery bike. Not as exciting or inspiring as walking but my bones remain intact. (Need I add that I hate winter?)

#3 - Get up and work even if you are totally uninspired
On a recent CBC radio show, I heard a poet discuss his creative process. Because of his day job, he is only able to write idea tidbits on his phone during the day. These eventually fuel moments of inspiration. Some of us need a spark to create while others work to find it. Both are effective. I prefer creating art in the morning and writing (blogging) at night. Writing isn't messy and I can plug away at my keyboard way past midnight without the hint of a yawn. Suffering happens next morning when I wake up feeling like a slug. 

#4 - Keep an early morning journal
The morning journal is a great creative tool but one that I find difficult to maintain. I only manage it in spurts because I eventually get fed up. Heck, if I have to undertake a creativity walk at 5:00 a.m. plus write three pages before getting into the studio...well, let's say I'm pooped just thinking about it. Journaling is a great way to generate ideas but since I'm preparing for a solo show, time is of the essence. My rationalization is as follows: I'm early morning journaling on very large surfaces of paper and canvas while simultaneously bobbing to "You Sexy Thing". It'll  do for now.

#5 - Keep a night journal 
I prefer writing and drawing in colour markers at night although I have again lapsed in this regard due to a long term bedroom reno. Night journals are enchanting things. They grow and ripen while sleeping. Plant an idea at night and it flowers by early morn. The process is intriguing. 

#6 - Break your habits, see or do something new or unfamiliar on a regular basis 
Question: If one does something new or unfamiliar on a regular basis, does it then become a habit? Routines and habits exist for the sake of efficiency but sameness gets boring after a while. Cross-fertilization and hybridization happen when we experience something new. Our brains look for similarities and make unexpected connections. I keep hoping that preparing my income tax spreadsheet will somehow feed my creative spirit but I have yet to see results.

#7 - Work on a number of projects simultaneously
This is good and bad advice depending on the person. Instead of watching paint dry, it's a good idea to work on something else while you wait. There is a caveat. Heaps of unfinished artwork can pile up in a corner of the studio. I recommend completing or seriously advancing one work every couple of days otherwise you will turn into Leonardo da Vinci, and I don't mean "Genius Leo". I'm referring to "I never finish anything Leo".

Naturally there is way more creativity advice out there but mine is real simple. Try the above (and more), find what works for you and write a bestseller on how to arrive at groundbreaking ideas.