Archive for Creative Breakthroughs


Today’s Message from Your Muse

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How can your environment better serve your creativity?

For instance, what’s put away that needs to be out?

What’s out that needs to be put away?

What do you need to carry with you?

What do you need to leave at home?

What outdated supplies do you keep that maybe another artist/teacher/kid can use instead?

Creating an environment that serves your creativity is truly empowering.

And YOU, my artistic friend, are worth it!

Yes, Create Your Power Space!

Love, Your Devoted Muse

Sign up to receive a loving, supportive “Message from Your Muse” every week in your email inbox!

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SXSW Creativity and Collaboration

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I’ve submitted a proposal to teach a workshop on the intersection of creativity and collaboration called The Creative Breakthroughs Technique at a giant, uber-cool annual conference and festival called SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin TX in 2014.

Some of you have taken a similar class with me over the phone. (Yup, art over the phone–it works!) I’m in love with this technique for building a creative momentum and providing a structure to unleash your creativity.

Building Creative Muscle

The workshop I’m proposing for SXSW includes a new and interesting addition to the original workshop–collaboration. It fascinates me that collaboration itself is such a complex creative challenge for artists and non-artists alike.

I’m targeting two different parts of the festival and adapting the workshop for each audience. The approach for the workshop for SXSW educators is geared toward helping those professionals who might not feel creative or artistic to better understand the creative process and how a more fully developed creative muscle enhances one’s thinking in every context.

For the professional SXSW digital creatives, I want to get them back to a physical, hands-on creative experience as well as move them out of their comfort zone with unexpected collaborative challenges.

Will You Please Vote for Me?

Competition is fierce and it would be a HUGE credibility boost for me to speak and teach at this conference. Almost like saying I did a TED talk. (Which, of course, is another goal…but I digress.)

Voting is a big part of their selection process. I’ve submitted one proposal to two areas of the festival.

Could you take a moment to vote for my proposal in both places?

  • Click here to vote for my proposal for forward thinking educators.


  • Click here to vote for my proposal for digital creatives:

The Nitty-Gritty

For those of you who’d like more details about what the heck I’m talking about, here’s a recap:

I’ve submitted the same proposal to two separate arenas of the festival:

  • SXSW interactive:
    This show caters to super hip, bleeding edge digital creative types–they received over 3,000 proposals because of their uber-coolness factor. It’s probably a stretch for me to get in, but their theme this year is creativity and inspiration which is why I thought my workshop could be a great fit even though I’m not famous or uber-cool.
  • SXSW edu:
    This show is smaller and a fairly new category for SXSW. It’s dedicated to forward thinking education leaders, thinkers, and entrepreneurs. It’s also closer to my heart because I think like a teacher myself and I believe educators (esp. art educators) are some of the most maligned, under supported professionals today.
    I’m starting to realize that I want to be a part of the education conversation in this country as well as a more vocal advocate for the relevance and necessity of the arts and creativity in every aspect of learning and living life.

The Upshot (Basically, Please Vote)

To vote, SXSW will ask you to register/create a login (don’t worry: they do NOT put you on a promotional list).

  • Click here to vote for my proposal for forward thinking educators.
  • Click here to vote for my proposal for digital creatives:

Afterward, I’d love for you to post comments in the proposal area and share our proposals on Facebook and Twitter with your friends and contacts.

Thanks so much, I really really appreciate this!
Warmly, Sarah




An Un-Natural Talent?

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Hurricane Sandy hit the NJ/NY area hard–physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The range of loss was huge–I lost power for a few days but that was all. Most of my friends in Brooklyn were completely untouched, but couldn’t get anywhere while the subways weren’t working. A colleague in Long Island lost her entire house and felt lucky to escape with her life.

One thing everyone shares, though, is the discombobulation.

Every time I see someone I haven’t seen since the storm, the conversation usually starts there–are you safe–who was affected and how. Eventually one of us mentions having difficulty getting back to business or being productive. When I describe it as feeling “discombobulated” whomever I’m talking to quickly agrees–yes, that’s how I feel. Discombobulated.

It’s made me remember that we humans are like dogs–we’re pack animals. Social. Some of us in this region are struggling mightily, some of us not so much, but all of us feel it.  We are recovering together and even though the physical environment for many of us is back to normal, we, as a group, are not yet.

This reminder has made me think about ALL the ways our individual feelings are created by our larger associations–we are also our families, our cultures, and our environments. And those collective connections affect the way we think, how we feel and what we believe.

The Collective Unconscious

For instance, I was listening to an NPR story about differing Western and Eastern beliefs about school and learning–how in this country we tend to believe that someone succeeds in school because they are naturally intelligent, and how many Asian cultures believe that someone succeeds in school through hard work. Intelligence is much less discussed and focused on.

The story described a study that was done with American and Japanese first-graders–they were all given a math problem beyond their grade level to see how long they’d struggle with it.

The American children stopped after 30 seconds (literally) and explained that it was too hard, that they hadn’t gotten to that yet. A classroom of Japanese 6 year olds worked on the problem for the entire hour and only stopped when the researchers intervened because finding something hard, or a struggle, wasn’t a reason to stop.

Interesting difference.

So of course the commentator went on to discuss how there were strengths and weaknesses in both,but I walked away from that story completely enamored with this concept of treating struggle as a normal part of the learning process rather than functioning as a sign one should quit.

Not only because it IS a natural part of the learning process, but because it buys you so much…everything–time, patience, mercy–you don’t have to decide you’re a failure, for instance, if you haven’t mastered something in whatever unreasonable amount of time in which you usually reach that conclusion–it makes you treat all the obstacles in any project as normal.

In terms of creativity and art making, most people I meet think that you’re either a natural talent or you’re not. Which actually doesn’t leave much room for struggle and perseverance.

For instance, a friend of mine confided that she’d like to start drawing again, but she can’t bring herself to do it because her husband is so much better than she is. He also draws all the time.

I reminded her that it would actually be kind of weird (and unfair even) if she could draw as well as he when she never does it and he does it all the time. She smiled ruefully. How can you let yourself start creating if you think that struggle means you should read the writing on the wall and give up?

And if you think about it, it’s actually a kind of weird back-handed compliment to her husband–like, sure, he does it, but he’s naturally good at it, so it’s not an effort somehow–which actually completely disregards his commitment and makes the time he’s put in invisible.

Untying the Knot

Respecting the struggle is respecting yourself. Accepting the struggle is honoring the process.

And yet, when things get hard, it’s so tantalizing to believe, “I guess I don’t have that special knack, that natural talent.” It’s hard to sink into the struggle with loving patience–and one of the reasons it’s hard is because you’re not alone in this belief– it turns out we have a collective cultural belief about ease and talent that makes us judge ourselves harshly and give up too quickly.

It’s hard because you’re not just working to untie the knot of your own confusion and unhelpful beliefs, you’re un-tying yourself from the entire culture’s knot of confusion and unhelpful beliefs.

But just because it’s a struggle to buck the tide of the larger society, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And as our culture ALSO likes to say “If it isn’t hard, it isn’t worth doing.” (Yay for contradiction!)

Do you allow yourself to struggle? Do you expect yourself to be good at something instantly? Do you not like to struggle with art skills in particular because you think you’re should be better at it than you are because you’re arty?

Please share your thoughts in the comments, your experiences might help someone else!

I think most people underestimate how vulnerable a person can feel creating their art and having people see them doing it.

When you’re creating something, it’s usually hard to finish it in one sitting. So unless you live alone, it’s highly likely that other people are witnessing your process, your “muck” half way through.

If you make work all the time, this probably isn’t a problem because you’ve got some key factors working in your favor:

  • momentum (huge)
  • confidence (huge)
  • habit (everyone around you is used to you doing it-huge)

But if you are trying to get back into the swing, or you create sporadically, or even if you make things all the time but are nervously TRYING SOMETHING NEW,  it can be hard to feel so……………exposed.

Which can stop you even before you get started.

Because really, this fear of exposure is most likely a fear of failure.

It’s hard to make something bad. Or risk making something bad. Because usually, you leap to the (incorrect) conclusion that it means that you’re bad/not talented/a big loser–you know the drill.

(Of course, it does NOT mean that, but a lifetime of conditioning can take a while to undo.)

So how do you move forward while still struggling with your demons?

Two words: Protective Sentences.

I have long relied on protective sentences as a way for me to do what I want and dodge “helpful advice” (not), potential or imagined potential criticism, or even just the potential need to explain myself or what I’m doing to anyone–friend or stranger.

So what’s a protective sentence? I’ll tell you.

Someone says, “What are you making?” or even better…”What is THAT?”

You say your protective sentence:

“I don’t know, I’m experimenting.”

or just “I’m experimenting.” (without pausing to look up because you’re too busy experimenting to stop.)

Then they say, “Oh.”

Because really, what can they say back? It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity.

In fact, if someone else walks up and says “What is that?”

I’ll bet you 10-1 that that first questioner will answer for you, “Oh, she’s experimenting.”

It’s perfect. It’s a huge cocoon that requires no further explanation. It’s my all-time favorite.

And hey, it may not be the bravest thing to do in terms of self-actualization or whatever, but I don’t care about that kind of brave, I care about a bigger braveyou making your stuff or you pushing to your particular edge, or digging deeper, or reaching higher. And if you’re stopping yourself because it feels hard or you may fail or look ridiculous, then it’s imperative to create the conditions you need to take that risk anyway–however teeny or pointless it may seem to someone else.

A good, simple protective sentence can do the trick.

And best of all, they’ll never know!

And while you’re at it, come experiment with me this Sunday!

Sign up for the Creative Breakthrough’s Collage Tele-Class–it’s over the phone (not online) and it’s super simple and fun to participate. It’s happening this Sunday,  October 21st, at 3pm EST.

(And if someone asks what you’re doing, tell them “I’m experimenting.”)

Do you have any protective sentences that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!



Life, Death and a Silver Lining

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For long-time readers of this blog and newsletter, you might have wondered what happened to me in the past year.

(And for new readers, it’s probably like you signed up for a newsletter that didn’t arrive!)

Well, I’m back in action and more excited than ever, but I thought I owed you an explanation about my absence:

The last two years have been two of the most challenging years of my life.

Both my elderly parents and my elderly in-laws were struggling with their health in different ways ranging from physical frailty and blindness to serious confusion and memory loss.

There was lots of upset, denial, hospital visits, and transitioning to round the clock care. It was so overwhelming and heartbreaking for me, I just didn’t know how to talk about it publicly. (In fact, I’m bawling just writing this post.)

I experienced a lot of new and difficult situations I didn’t know how to handle and grieved in many unexpected ways. We lost my (step) mother-in-law, my father-in-law, and my beloved dad in the course of about 9 months.

I emptied and sold my parents’ house of 45 years, learned the ins and outs of the hospitals, rehabs, hospice care, trust and estates, and the cruelty of Alzheimer’s.

Frankly, it was so difficult, I just stopped writing. I continued to make art, because that brings me solace, but I didn’t have the emotional energy to share it or market it during that time.

It’s so strange and poignant to say this, but at this time last year, my life revolved around the needs of four elderly people. Now we just have my mom to care for.

She has Alzheimers, but as a family, we’ve learned a lot about this cruel disease and have also been able to find wonderful help that we like and trust.

It’s not easy, but one person is not four.

We’ve also stopped trying to fix the unfixable and just love her and try to be with her as much as we can.

A Silver Lining

As a result, sometime this summer I began to realize that my mental and emotional bandwidth had increased and I wasn’t exhausted all the time.

I found myself thinking about Make Great Stuff again and conjuring up new and exciting ideas for helping my readers. I was also having great ideas for marketing my collages and applied for a state fellowship grant for a series of large charcoal drawings.

In fact, somehow this extremely difficult time has left me feeling super focused, clear and excited about how I want to use my time on earth and what I want offer the world.

You and Make Great Stuff are a huge part of that. I’m creating fab new classes and coaching sessions that I think you’re going to love.

A lot of this is still getting into place and is taking a little longer than I thought, but it’s coming, and it’s…great stuff!

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch..

So I’ve been in my studio creating art and teaching content like mad when I suddenly realized that I had scheduled a CREATIVE BREAKTHROUGHS COLLAGE TELE-CLASS for September 23rd.

Which is, gasp, this Sunday.

A couple folks have signed up, but I haven’t advertised it at all as I’ve been so immersed in my planning and class creation.


An Invitation

So I know it’s super short notice,  but  I am writing to invite ALL of you to come and create with me  this Sunday, September 23rd at 3pm (NYC Eastern time)…. for free.

If you want to come but don’t know what happened to your free coupon, just write me an email and I’ll get you in.

(In fact, if you’ve already used your coupon but would like to come again, just email me and let me know. Let’s have fun.)

If you don’t know anything about this class, click HERE to read all about it–but in a nutshell, it’s a fun and FANTASTIC way to make art and jumpstart your creativity.

So read details about the class and fabulous testimonials HERE.

Sign up today with your coupon or just email me at if you can’t find it.

I’m running the class one Sunday a month this fall and then I hope to get it back to offering it WEEKLY, because carving out time for your creativity every week is HOW you make work you love and HOW you build a creative momentum. I’ve personally made so much artwork just teaching this class!

So sign up today! Email and tell me that you’re in!

Questions? Thoughts? Email me!!

And thanks so much for being a part of my Make Great Stuff family and for reading this post to the end, it was hard for me to write it.

Hugs, Sarah

P.S. If you have a friend you think would like to join us on Sunday as well, just send them to and have them sign up for the newsletter to get their free coupon. They’ll get an email that explains the rest.


Make Art This September 11th

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This Sunday is the 10th anniversary of September 11th.

Come create with me.

I am officially inviting you to come make collages with me Sunday, September 11th at 3pm EDT when I run this month’s Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-Class.

Whether you’d like to create a collage that commemorates our country’s victims and heroes, reflect on your own experiences from that terrible day, or if you’d just like to honor life by doing something positive, uplifting, and life-affirming, The Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-Class allows it all.

I teach the class using a simple but powerful technique that guides and supports you through creating several collages while simultaneously freeing you to express yourself and experiment however you wish.

This tele-class gives you complete privacy (we’re on the phone) and helps you focus on your own artistic voice–not mine. It lets you play, try something new, and just re-connect to your creative self–it’s as simple as that.

And if you’d like to take the class for FREE, you just need to subscribe to my email newsletter.

You can do that by going to and filling out the sign up form in the top right corner.

Once you’ve done that and you receive your coupon code (check your spam folder if you don’t get it very soon after signing up), just visit this page to sign up for the class:

If you want to get a little more info about how it all works, click on the 2 links below:

Once again, just click here to join me this Sunday, September 11th at 3pm EDT to create and connect.

Hope to see you there.

Hugs, -Sarah

P.S. And please pass this invitation to anyone else you think would like to make art together this coming Sunday, September 11, 2011 by tweeting this URL, sharing this page as a link on Facebook, or forwarding this email. Thank you!


What You REALLY Want

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You want to make artwork you feel proud of and love to look at. Work you think is really good.

You may also want other people to buy your work–your paintings, your beaded jewelry, your silk scarves, your stories, your songs–whatever art or craft work you’re passionate about creating.

You want to sell your work because it feels like a great way to do what you love doing all the time.

However, the other reason you might want to sell your work is that if your creative endeavor makes money, it will be considered legitimate in the larger culture.

Because in our culture, making money equals being successful. If you make money at it, then you’re a “real” whatever it is you are–artist/crafter/singer/writer.

And because the favorite introductory question in our society is “What do you do (for a living)?”, naturally you want to give the answer that reflects your true calling: “I’m an artist.”

Now, whether or not you can make money making your art (whatever that may be) is actually not the point.

The point is that the goal of making a living making your art often creates a serious confusion that muddies your creative goals and ruins the pleasure of the creative process.

It’s the cart that’s sitting in front of your horse.

Your horse is your artwork. It’s the doing, the creativity itself, it’s even the quest to make something great.

But instead of concentrating on creating great work, you’re concentrating instead on how to make a living being creative–and all your work gets tainted by this other, (very difficult, btw) making-a-living goal.

And ironically, this goal is secondary.

What you really want is to make things that are deeply satisfying, work you love to look at–work that you’re proud of.

You want to make your best stuff.

Concentrate on that, and address the money/making a living aspect later.

Don’t ask your art to solve the problem of hating your job or fixing your financial woes. Your art doesn’t deserve that pressure and it spoils your relationship with it.

Solve that problem a different way (at least for now).

Instead, focus on making work you love.

Making a Date with Your Creativity

In order to make work you love, you must make a lot of work. You’ll like some of it, hate some of it, and love some of it. But you have to make a lot.

And that has its own challenges–finding the time, facing your inner critic, honing your skills, etc.

So you need a structure in place to help you make a lot of work.

And one simple, structured way to do that is to make a regular date with your creativity. Which is why I created the Creative  Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class.

I created this class to provide a structure for you to lean on. To make it easier to show up every week for your art because

  • It can be hard to muster that energy on your own–even when you want it.
  • Because showing up every week is how you eventually start showing up several times a week.
  • And showing up several times a week is how you create a lot of work.
  • And creating a lot of work is the path to creating work you love.

It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

Making collages with me every week will help all your creative endeavors–regardless of your preferred medium. And making a weekly date with your creativity will genuinely help you build a creative momentum which, in turn, will enable you to make work you love.

And even though I talk about the Creative Breakthroughs Technique, it’s not something to learn and master, it’s more of an avenue in to your own aesthetic journey–a way to explore and consider both the formal aspects of creating–like light, color, balance, and scale–as well as the more expressive considerations–like mood, emotion, memory, and intuition.

So it’s a technique in the way that meditation is a technique: it’s simple enough to learn how and understand the point of it, but the reward is all in the regular practice. It’s a lifetime’s work play.

So create work you love by creating a lot of work. Create a lot of work by connecting it to your life. Connect it to your life by regularly making time to create.

Make time to create by signing up for the Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class. I teach it every Wednesday at two different times–1:30 EST and 7:30 EST.  Sign up for the one that’s best for you.

And jeepers, the first one is free so what are you waiting for?