What’s your creative process?


What’s your creative process?

This beautiful scene made me wonder...what would happen if a car flew off this cliff? Wait for Black Jasmine to find out!

The creative process is a little different for everyone, sure.

For me, it’s connected to daydreaming, and then making and doing stuff.

Yeah, I know. Real scientific.

I’m in week three of my New Life with mornings free to write, and afternoons doing my therapy private practice. When I’m not freaking out from anxiety about NOT WORKING ENOUGH, I’m creating.

Mulling, wandering, chewing a bit of grass as I kick a pebble on my walk with my (small/fuzzy/ridiculous) dogs, and I think of a new scene.

Tilting my head to spot a flamenco dancer in the shape of a cloud. I take an Istagram pic of it (find me at tobyneal0)!

Chasing the aforementioned dogs away from a mysterious dirt patch in the middle of the ball field just the size of a body, I see a future crime scene for a novel.

Dreaming of other lives connected to all the woulda-coulda-shouldas of my own life, a never-ending branch of dimensional worlds connected to choices that may or may not be realities—I jot a poem.

It’s pretty bad, but there’s a germ of something there.

Creativity is connected to that glimmer, that flash, the ink of an idea spreading through the water of consciousness and tinting it something new. Writing is escape for me, and distraction, and renewal on so many levels, but in addition creativity’s been expressed in my life by spinning beads out of the hot honey of molten glass. Stitching beadwork so tiny and intricate it makes my eyes ache to look at it. Then, twisting and stringing jewelry out of all the elements I created separately.

Crochet is renewing, a mindless dance of a hook among threads. My brain really floats with crochet. (If only anyone wanted all those damn scarves and hats I’ve made here in Hawaii!)

Painting: another passion that rears its head periodically with a longing for the brush, the  smell of the paint, the seductive blobs of color like molten jewels.

Gardening: creating a feast for the senses with God’s help.

Dance: expressing stories within me through movement.

Working with children—playing, laughing, creating, crying, telling the stories of wounds and fear and ferris wheels too.

Creativity is not a finite supply of ideas. It’s a natural state of being in which one medium sparks another, one practice ignites another, an actual flow that is unending if you keep moving with it and allowing it to move through you. Today, think of one little fun, creative thing to do. No agenda. No potential sale. Just fun.

Fun ignites passion, and passion creates great work.

Give yourself permission to just have a little fun and see what happens.

25 Responses to “What’s your creative process?”

  1. Damyanti

    This is exactly how our stories first find us. Our first meeting is that spark..and whether we let the story catch fire within us determines the creative path of a book or story.

  2. Shalora

    “spinning beads out of the hot honey of molten glass”

    Sometimes the imagery you use takes my breath away. So beautifully phrased!

  3. Holly Robinson

    I love this post, Toby! Your new life sounds amazing. And I would take one of those hats here in Massachusetts! I would take MANY of those hats in New England!!

  4. Karen Awong

    Toby I thought you might be interested in something I learned when I was a massage therapist. I took this class on strengthening your body and brain through different body mechanics. One way to strengthen you brain and creativity was to walk swinging your arms so that you are putting your right arm forward as you left leg moves forward (normally a way that you would walk anyway.) This is called the cross crawl motion)If you are walking your dog and keeping one arm still (holding the dog with that hand) you are not making the cross crawl motion.

    I also learned that it really helps babies to straighten their brains if they are allowed to crawl as long as possible in order for them to get that cross crawl movement. Anyway I just thought I would mention that for what it’s worth.

  5. Sara Tekula

    “…the ink of an idea spreading through the water of consciousness and tinting it something new.” Love that! I see the creative process as something that I can only BARELY attribute to my own efforts. Often, I see it as my job to clear the cobwebs, distractions, and turn off the “monkey brain” – which is hard enough work as it is. Then, creativity, sparks, inspiration are allowed to flow in. Have you seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk about creativity? Her way of looking at “creative genius” has had a profound affect on me: http://blog.ted.com/2009/02/09/elizabeth_gilbe/

  6. Marilyn

    Toby, I totally agree. We need the luxury of time to daydream … To allow ourselves that freedom of letting go so sparks of brilliance can hit us in a moment of blissful breezy day… While Swimming I let go and my mind can wander to childhood, summers past, nostalgic thoughts of quilting in the country. I long for all things creative. I go home to office, housework, garden, fruits overflowing on the counter… Dreaming of mango breads, lilikoi jelly put aside for another day…

  7. Dale S. Rogers

    I often feel inspired when I’m out in nature. Everything slows down, and I can hear my thoughts along
    with the sounds around me.

  8. Joyce


    I love following your blog because you weave humor and beautiful imagery into each post.

    As far as “the process,” I often feel guilty for sitting still in silence. To others, it may seem like procrastination, but it really isn’t because there are a million thoughts flying through my brain in different directions as I stare (blankly) out my window.

  9. Sam Molitas

    My “goto” process is stillness, and then waiting for the inevitable lightning to strike. Sometimes it doesn’t… most of the time it does. The hardest part I think is not to force anything to come, and just allow… And when it does, my body feels on fire from the “rightness” of the moment, and where once there was uncertainty or fog, it’s like a solid road extends out beneath my feet to horizon.

    Mahalo for your post!

  10. Courtney

    Nice imagery. Brenda Ueland I think talked about that too – about “moodling” and daydreaming as part of the creative process.

  11. Roxanne Darling

    This creative process is a good example of things that words have a hard time with – hence the great made up words, like moodling! For me it all about the energy. In this lifetime, I am consciously unplugging from a lot of old formulas, rules, beliefs, etc. So I approach many methodologies as a skeptic and yet make note of what works for me, so I can have more of that. I too am re-tooling the career/work/avocation occupation, and find just knowing other are doing it is supportive energy! = A long way of saying, thanks for sharing!

    • toby

      Thanks for popping by, Roxanne–and it’s a treat to get to know you and your wonderful energy!