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This Creative Life: A Lifelong Adventure into The Artist’s Way

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Creativity drives a lot of my life. I’m awakened in the morning by ideas of songs, poems, or articles for this blog. I find creativity in everything I do. I creatively try to do better as a father, as a boyfriend, and as a co-worker. I’m always on the warm side of the spectrum and I’m always surprised when I run into, or across, negative-focused people. Let’s make an effort here to find the joy in life, the creative in living, and the prayer of creation. That’s my goal. Will you join me on this aspirational adventure?

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The DNA of a Creative Life

  1. Listen

  2. Light Up

  3. Create

  4. Mute Your Internal Editors

  5. Flow

  6. Expand

  7. Reflect

  8. Revisit

  9. Sanctify Yourself

Where Will You Find Your Voice?

What creative activities give you joy? Crafting? Writing? Scrapping? Singing? Playing an instrument? Whatever it is, that you find enjoyable, your goal is to include more of that activity, that creative activity, into your life. Place the guitar by your bed and pick it up each morning and see what comes. Dreams can make great starter prompts for art, writing, or music. The trick is to listen, observe, record, notice, become still in your own flitting thoughts and allow life to amaze you. It’s not a zen thing, it’s an awareness of living. Yes, mindfulness practices can help you find your inner stillness which allows you to listen with a deeper intensity.

I have had creative impulses since I was a kid. (I think school gives us all a passing glance at art as fun.) I think the most important part of my childhood was my relationship with my oldest sister. She was also a creative force. She showed me the Beatles with every single they released, that would blare from her bedroom 24/7. She appreciated my creative output from the earliest memories. She was 10-years older and treated me a bit like a living doll. I think she parented me more than either my mom or my dad. She was my gateway to this creative life I’m living. By having someone who believed in me, and celebrated my drawings, my elementary school performances, and who cuddled with me at the end of the day as we made plans for what fun “art” things we were going to do together tomorrow.

Learning to Listen

Paying attention is a lost art in this day of instant messaging and media consumption. In order for our brains to find the quiet space, we’ve got to go on a digital holiday. Even if it’s just for a few hours. Turn off the phone, the tv, the computer. Turn off everything but your own beating heart. Listen. What do you hear? Birds? The laundry flopping around in the dryer? A leaf blower going to town outside? What ideas do these sounds produce in your mind? Is there a way to capture the rhythm of the dryer’s thumping? Is there any energy in the irritation you feel about the leaf blower? Is there enegy in anything you are observing or hearing?

From the stillness of the mind, in meditation or mindful practices, we begin to hear different sounds and different ideas. Entire architectures for a series of poems might just appear one afternoon. If you’re too busy, if you are not listening, or if you dismiss this idea as silly, then you might be missing the creative signals in your own life. Listen. When you have an idea for a movie, for example, don’t just simile at your creative idea, do something with the inspiration. Design a movie poster. Write the treatment. Start a screenplay. Learn to use Final Draft, the screenwriting software.

Don’t let a single idea pass unnoticed. If you can capture the essence of the idea in some form, some shorthand version of your vision, then capture it. If you can stop everything else you are doing and allow the creative gift to come through you, do it. Stop. Listen. Create. Tom Petty talked about the songs that just dropped in his lap. Well, the fact is, Tom Petty was always playing his guitar, always listening for inspiration, and always giving time and attention to his creative ideas. And from time to time, a song WILL come dropping down on your head, like a gift, or an answered prayer. But, the bulk of this creative life, is listening, making active notes, and then giving time and attention to your craft.

What Light’s You Up?

There are several writers that simply ignite my mind when I read them. Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Anais Nin, JD Salinger, D.H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, Hunter S. Thompson, Gregory David Roberts. Who are the muses in your life? How would it work if you read them more often? Could you take a dose of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and then use that energy to blast out a few gonzo pages of your own? What about music? Are there artists that blow your mind? Have you ever been in a restaurant and had to stop everything to Shazam the song? How about visual artists and performing artists? What gets your energies flowing? When you understand that ENERGY is the key to creative connections, you will seek them out. If you want to jack your prose read someone you admire. Shantaram electrified me when I read it over 4 years ago. I can open that book to any page and get a jolt of his streaming-word-jam writing.


Once you have found the inspiration, let it rip. Don’t think too much about the end product. Just allow the juice to blaze through you. Whatever you have chosen process for this creative event, just connect with the momentum. Get dirty, get wild, get intoxicated with the fire of the words or notes burning to get out, to get born, to get awakened by your gift. Only you can write you. Only you can give voice to your songs. Good or bad, that’s not the point. And the judgment is just a byproduct of our modern society’s devaluation of art. Your art is you. It’s about you. It’s to please you. Let go of everyone else. Just burn as bright and hot as you can. Burn until you’ve got no more to give. And then see if there’s a tiny bit more. “One more take,” in the music studio.

Mute Your Internal Editors

It’s hard as we begin to uncork our creative side to stop the evil internal editors. They want to tell us things like this:

  • it’s not very good
  • you should be doing something else
  • this sounds awful
  • you’ll never become an artist
  • no one is going to understand this
  • what makes you think you’re talented
  • you can’t sing, you can’t paint, you can’t write
  • you’re just faking this
  • you’ve got nothing to say
  • this is hard

But these fuckers are trying to keep you from feeling the joy inside of your creative heart. This flow, this process of creating, this typing I am doing just putting these words down, ARE THE GIFT. The process is the gift. What becomes of the product, the output, the poem, is not important. What it feels like to be on fire, to burn with creative joy, is all the gift you need. There may never be a monetary or fame reward on the end of what you’re doing, but that’s not what we’re after. What you are after is an unedited, unfettered, expression of SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Whatever lights you up, go there, and keep going there. Only you can light you up. And once you are lit, grow, blow, flow, be in the moment of your creative life.

Flow >> Expand >> Reflect >> Revisit

Burn with all the energy in your soul. Blast out towards the stars. Grow your energy with more fuel, more ideas, more music. Whatever works for you. Let the flow awaken inside and give that bitch the steering wheel. Flow and expand and keep flowing. Pause when you need a break. Reflect on your energy and joy. See where your creation could be enhanced. Build and push first. Reflect to see where you’ve come and make plans for where you are going. Then revisit and rejoin the flow. The process of reflection and revisiting should result in a feedback loop that can take your ART to a higher level. What is it you want to express? Would this word make more sense? How about a capo, let’s take this little idea up a few keys to something darker.

Sanctify Yourself

Well done. That’s it. No further action is required.

In fact, often, sharing is a downer. Before you go out to the word to declare your own genius, give a moment just to your own inner satisfaction. In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke gave some sage advice. “Don’t talk about your writing. Don’t share your work while it is in progress. Let the pressure of completion motivate you to finish the work. Don’t bleed off the creative energy by sharing too soon.”

Your creative life is about learning to listen, capture, and release. In the last step, releasing, we can learn that the joy is about the act of creating itself. My poems are gifts, yes, but first to myself. If I am happy with the result of a recent poem, I can go a long way by just enjoying my inner YES.

You did it. You created something. Now, just relax and listen for what’s next.


Now, quit talking about creating. Don’t CALL yourself a writer, just write. Don’t imagine you are a songwriter, just get your butt in the chair and the instrument in your hand, and write. Creativity is a gift. Matthew Fox’s Via Creativa says the creative act is a prayer that makes God smile. By giving your prayer you are celebrating God in your life, and giving that celebration to others. Let’s go celebrate ourselves with god and others who pray in the same way we pray. Find your tribe. Share sparingly. And only share complete works. Let the pressure of finishing the song be the desire to share it with others. Finish every song. Complete each poem. Find the end of the novel by writing it.

Make time for your art. Find the alone time. Find your voice. Listen for the sounds around you and the sounds inside your mind. Take each thread of creative energy as a gift. Dig the vein of gold as deep as you can. Bleed out on the page, on the canvas, in the song. Bleed. Cry. Leap. Laugh. Be mad. The best ones are.

I am here to celebrate you.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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*photo: this cat’s name was Shadow, he was the best

How I Can Help

I am a relationship coach and a dating coach. I coach women in 1 x 1 zoom or facetime calls. I work in monthly blocks (4 sessions). We establish a relationship. I become your wingman in navigating and sorting through the bullshit of dating and relationships. If you are here, you’ve probably already read some of my opinions. If we’re a fit, we will both know on our first call.

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