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Beautiful, Easy to Make Teacup Candles

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teacupcandleMy sisters and I inherited my mom’s gorgeous china when she passed away in late 2014.

Gorgeous, fancy, formal china–especially the teacups with their tiny, curvy handles.

We all knew, with our casual lifestyles, that we’d never really use the teacups. And after over 50 years of use, it’s also an incomplete set. Still, I thought the cups were too pretty to tuck away in my basement or donate to charity.

I finally decided to use the teacups to create candles for all my mom’s adult female descendants. That way, each of us would have a way to enjoy her beautiful china and be able light a candle for her using something that she chose as a bride-to-be way back in the 1950s.

Fun and Easy

Making these was way easier and more fun than I thought it would be. I was also thrilled with the end result, so I’m sharing how to do it, in case you’d like to make a few for Valentine’s day or Mother’s day.

These teacup candles would also make a great hostess gift, bridesmaid gift, and for the ambitious bride, a fabulous (and relatively inexpensive) wedding favor.

List of Materials

Here’s my list of supplies, including links to the bits I bought online. I’m sure there’s other great options out there, but what I bought all worked for me on the first try without a hitch. As someone who once made a living designing literally hundreds of craft projects, I find that to be a minor miracle.

  • Teacups.
    My teacups have a particular significance for me–they were my mom’s, who passed away in 2014, but you can also collect teacups at the thrift store, yard sales, or your favorite antique store for a dollar or two.
  • Soy Wax Flakes:
    (Out of ignorance, I bought the 10lb bag. It’s A LOT. Feel free to get less.)
    You can use any wax, but I really recommend the soy wax–very low smoke. The soy wax flakes are also easy to use and melt nicely during the creation process.
  • Candle Dye:
    I chose a solid version that came in a small variety pack because I didn’t know what I was doing and wanted to test a few colors. I was happy with the result.
  • Fragrance:
    I thought it would be fun to add scent to mine, but it’s not necessary. Again, I bought a variety pack. It was fun, but the smell in my studio did get a bit overwhelming. Still, I’d do it again.
  • Cheap Bamboo Chopsticks:
    If you make stuff, let’s face it, bamboo chopsticks are darn handy. But these aren’t completely necessary. That said, I tried to get away with not using them, but found it so annoying that I went online and bought some. I’ve used them for all kinds of projects since.
  • Glue gun or super glue.
    Almost all the instructions I read say to use a glue gun to glue in the wick. I generally don’t use a glue gun and I didn’t want to buy one. So I used super glue which I found awkward. It worked, but I’d have turned to a glue gun for sure if I already owned it.
  • Candle Wicks.
    I bought a small packet of 3″ wicks at my local Michael’s store that were pre-waxed and had the little metal thingy on the bottom to secure it to the base. If you search online, you’ll see that both Michael’s and Amazon only sell big quantities of wicks. However, when you go to the Michael’s store, you can get a little packet.
  • Candy Thermometer.
    I got mine at a local hardware store. You need this if you’re going to add color or scent. For some reason, I found the prospect of using the candy thermometer intimidating, but it was very easy to use and a great help.
  • Some sort of double boiler or heating device.
    I used an old deep fryer we weren’t going to cook with anymore.
  • Tin cans. Clean and dry. One for each color.
    That is, something to melt the wax in. Poke around your house. I used diced tomato cans.

How to Make Teacup Candles: Step by Step Instructions



~Because I was using an electric deep fryer, I set up a small table in my studio, covered it in newspaper, and treated it like a workstation. If you’re working on your stove, I’d still recommend that you protect your counter with newspaper or something.

~I filled a deep fryer with a few inches of water and heated it up. Do the same or fill any saucepan you might have with a few inches of water and heat it directly on your stove. Keep an eye on the heat.

tincans~Compress one side of your tin can to make a pouring spout (see photo on right). Fill it with wax flakes, and set the can into the water to slowly melt the wax. (As you can see from my cans, I used a different can for every color, and I labeled each according to how many dye squares I used to make that color.)

~Add more wax as it melts until you have approximately enough to fill your particular teacup.

~As the wax melts, affix the wick to the bottom of your teacup. If you’re using superglue, this may take a couple of tries, but it works.

closeupofchopsticksandwick~Slide a pair of bamboo chopsticks around the wick to hold it in place. (See photo.) The first time I did this, I tried leaning a pencil against the wink to keep it centered. It worked, but the chopsticks were way easier.

Adding Color

~If you want to add color, this is where you need the candy thermometer. Just set it in your wax filled tin can and keep an eye on the temperature.

~Once it reads 170 degrees, break off a square or two of your chosen color, drop it in, and stir.

~To test the color, drip a little on a piece of white paper to let it dry. Once it’s dry, you’ll have a sense of the color. NOTE: It will be much more pastel than how it looks in the can.

~In fact, the color will keep getting lighter–even after my candles looked completely hardened, the next day, the color had gotten even lighter. For instance, I thought I had made the candle in this top pic a perfect salmon combining the yellow and orange, but in the end, it became more of a pale pink.

~Feel free to combine the dye colors, it makes it more fun. I created an ad hoc chart on scrap paper as I worked, noting my dye combinations with a sample wax drop of how each looked. I also labeled the tin cans with the leftover wax inside. (I’m finally wising up in my old age.)

Adding Scent

~I based all my scenting actions on these fairly clear instructions I found online. Below is my simpler variation on their explanation.

~Check the temperature again, and make sure it’s still around 170 degrees because scent starts to burn off at 205 degrees.

~They suggest you add 1 oz of scent to 1 pound of wax. I had no idea how much wax I was using, but I knew it was way less than an pound and I only had an ounce of each scent anyway. So I just poured a decent dollop from my little 1 ounce jar into my can of wax. (At this point in the process, you might want to open a window and your cat may leave the room from the overwhelming odor but remember, your candles will smell pretty!)

~They also stress that you need to stir the scent for a couple of minutes so it thoroughly penetrates the wax.

~I followed all their recommendations–paying close attention to the temperature, using more scent and stirring much longer than I would have if I had just guessed. It worked out great, even though I was using an entirely different brand of both dye and scent.

Pour the Wax

~Using a potholder, lift your can out of your saucer and pour your wax into your teacup.  Avoid the chopsticks as you pour. This step was actually much easier than I thought it would be–especially because I had taken a moment at the beginning to make a crude pouring spout. Pouring Spout = No Spilling.

~When you’re done pouring, adjust your sticks and wick to keep the wick centered if necessary. You’ve got plenty of time to do this, so don’t stress.

teacupcandles-groupshot~Now leave it alone and let it harden. Leave it for hours. Don’t poke. Don’t decide to pull off the chopstick because you’re dying to see how it looks without it. Instead, make another candle in a different color. Then another. I made a different color for each woman in my family, and it was a blast. (See photo.)

~Several hours later, remove the chopsticks and trim the wick if necessary.

~Voila! The perfect Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, hostess, or bridesmaid gift. So much fun and pretty as can be. And now you have another great reason to poke around the thrift store or flea market.

I love everyday creativity like this: it felt great spending time considering what each woman would like best and adjusting the color til I thought it was perfect.

What do you think, will you try it? Do you have any questions?

Pin to Pinterest or leave me a comment….or both! I’d love to hear from you.




How to Sell What You Make to Stores

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Kaziuko Fair On March 8, 2014 In Vilnius, LithuaniaSelling what you make yourself can be very rewarding, but it also takes a lot of energy.

If you sell your stuff on Etsy or at outdoor art fairs, you know first hand what I’m talking about….between struggling to figure out internet marketing or paying for a booth only to stand in the rain, perhaps you’ve wondered if you could balance out your retail sales efforts by selling your designs to stores too.

But the world of wholesale can also seem very intimidating.

How do you know if you’re ready to sell your designs wholesale?

What do you need to do to get it right?

Well I’m giving a talk at the New York Public Library on just this topic called Going Wholesale: How to Sell What You Make to Stores
on Thursday night, June 26th at 6pm.

I was a gift, jewelry and personal accessories designer for both wholesale and retail markets for almost 20 years and I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned over that time to help you figure out if selling wholesale could be a good choice for your growing art business.

Here’s what I’ll be covering:

•    Why selling to stores requires a critical shift in mindset in order for you to succeed.
•    How to properly approach store and boutique owners about buying your lines.
•    What store owners want to know so you’re ready, look professional, and deliver the goods.
•    The importance of creating collections and how it’s different from making a bunch of nice stuff.
•    How to price your designs wholesale so you don’t lose money.
•    The pros and cons of trade shows—when to do them and when to wait.

I hope to see you there!

P.S. If you are part of an arts organization and you’d like me to give this talk to your group, please email me and let’s see if can set something up!

P.P.S.If this is something you’d love to learn about but you don’t live in the NY area, also let me know. I’m developing online versions of my talks and classes so feedback about what you want to learn is invaluable–email me (sarah @ and tell me all about it!


Do You Know Your Own Strengths?

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holdingaweightIt’s a new year–have you made any resolutions for your art or art business yet?

As my longtime readers know, rather than create resolutions, I prefer to make an annual theme for my year.

Themes are neat because:

  • you can’t break them
  • thinking up a theme helps turn your mind to the larger ideas about what you’re wanting for yourself. (As opposed to losing 10 pounds or going to the gym more.)

But whether you’re wanting to create more art on the side or you’re trying to sell what you make, I’d like you to consider adopting the theme I made for myself last year because it really woke me up.

(And for a fuller explanation on how themes work, along with specific ideas on how you might create one, click here.)

Go to Your Strengths

Last year I made “Go to My Strengths” my theme for my coaching business and it was a game changer for me. I was amazed. It really made me conscious of all the ways in which I distract myself and helped me streamline my actions and focus my choices.

But when I say “go to your strengths” I don’t mean “only do things you like to do or think you’re good at.”

This is especially important for those of you trying to sell what you make because it’s so tempting for artists to look for reasons to avoid the business stuff that makes you uncomfortable–like marketing and selling.

So going to my strengths didn’t mean I avoided business challenges that I found hard or scary. But it did change the way I experienced those challenges.

For instance, one of my strengths is public speaking. Last year I made it a priority to improve my public speaking and connect with my right people by giving talks.

So I joined Toastmasters and began to develop my talks on topics relevant for artists and creatives. I then started to schedule talks and workshops at regional arts organizations.

But when I gave my first talk, I was a wreck. A wreck. Who did I think I was? What was I thinking?

Driving to the venue, I thought, Oh Lord they’re all going to say, “This is so simple, we know this already, why are you wasting our time?” and then throw me out. I actually pictured jeering and a lot of bored, disgusted artists. (Ah, the inner critic!) But instead, it went great. I helped a bunch of people and I received lots of wonderful feedback. And then, of course, I remembered why I knew it was a good talk to give in the first place.

In July, I upped the ante and submitted my creativity workshop at the last minute to the big, fancy SXSW festival in Austin, which involved creating a video on the fly and asking everyone I knew–even a teeny, tiny bit–to vote for me. Which, may I add, gave me a complete heart attack.

Make no mistake: A. Complete. Heart. Attack. Getting into this festival was a long shot and I had to create my video (required for the application) in a hurry to meet the deadline. I felt super self-conscious about sharing that video with so many people. I wanted it to be better. It was one thing submitting it to a committee of strangers thousands of miles away. But the idea of making that video public by personally inviting hundreds of people I knew to view it and vote for me felt almost….stupid. I mean, why directly point out how goofy I am?

But attending the festival was a great opportunity and I genuinely felt that my workshop was a good fit. I needed votes to make it happen.

After much hand-wringing, I just decided that I’d risk looking ridiculous and I hit “send.” Lots of you voted for me, wrote nice comments, sent me encouraging emails, and……….I got in!

Maybe it was less goofy than I thought. ;-)


These descriptions of all my fear and anxiety may sound a little crazy because I started this article stating that I was good at public speaking. And I am.

So why was it still hard and scary if I’m good at it?

Well, it’s like making a work of art you love. You think it’s good, which gives you the confidence to submit it to a juried show. You’re nervous about getting in, but you do it anyway and you’re accepted! You’re thrilled, but then you’re a nervous wreck on your way to the opening. What if it doesn’t look good? What if people think it sucks? What if everyone else’s work is better?

The fear is part of the process of going from the easy vague world of the theoretical (I should apply to a be in a show) to the unromantic, matter-of-fact world of the actual (I got in! Yay. Gulp.)

It’s the rubber hitting the road. Trying to sell your work is basically selling’s much more public than having a job and that makes most of us feel very exposed. Especially for artists who would be quite happy to stay home, create quietly and mind their own business!

That’s why it’s important to wrap what you have to do to succeed (market your work) within the cocoon of what you’re good at. It makes it easier to take yourself to your personal edge because something about it feels solid, familiar, and strong.

Drawing on your strengths helps you continue forward (because the sane part of you knows you can do it) and more importantly, you’re aligning your actions with your essential nature, which in and of itself increases the likelihood of success.

Let me say that again. You’re aligning your actions with your essential nature, which in and of itself increases the likelihood of success.


Now, the challenges of marketing and selling your work can make you feel like you’re never using your strengths. You might feel like you’re constantly forcing yourself to do things you barely understand or are convinced you’re no good at–which can take a toll on your confidence and make you forget why you started this little art business venture in the first place!

So you may be thinking—“All my strengths are artistic or creative—how can I use them to tackle all these hard, confusing marketing tasks required for selling my work?”

Well, it requires that you use your imagination to interpret your strengths in this new context—and as an artist, chances are, you have a good imagination. (In fact, your imagination and creativity are strengths you’re probably not maximizing when you think about marketing and selling.)

So I ask you, what are your strengths?

These can be personal qualities like being a great team player, having a knack for remembering names, or being hilarious. Or they can be technique-type skills like graphic design ability, social media savvy, or superior draftsmanship.

After you identify them, own them. Write them down. Say them out loud to yourself. Tell other people. Feel them and believe they are true. You aren’t being arrogant by being honest about what you’re good at. What we’re good at makes us happy. It’s okay to like it.

Then ask yourself: How can I make my strengths a key part of marketing my work so that I’m aligning my essential nature with the challenge of getting my art out into the world?

(And if you’re not selling your work but focusing on making art you love and living your life as the artist you are, this still works. How can you use your strengths to make room for your art? Even telling yourself that your artistic skills ARE one of your strengths is an important first step to moving them to a higher spot on your priority list.)

What do you think? What are your strengths? Are you maximizing them? Is it embarrassing for you to say them out loud? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts and your personal experience might really help another reader!

Hugs, Sarah

P.S. If you’d like to explore how you can improve your art business or dig deeper with your creativity with the help of a coach, email me to set up a complimentary phone consultation–



Andree Kehn

This month’s Inspiring Creatives interview is with Andree Kehn, a smart, talented, and super successful wedding photographer living in rural Maine.

Andree went from resisting wedding photography as a career path altogether to being named one of the top 100 Wedding Photojournalists in the world by the Wedding Photojournalism Association (WPJA). Wow! Clearly, she has talent.

But before you get depressed and intimidated, one of the reasons I chose to interview Andree (aside from her being one of my favorite people) is that her path to success was a very long and windy one. So if you’re thinking it’s too late for your creative career, it’s not.

She shares some super inspiring insights into how she succeeded in business being her quirky artist self, her techniques for pushing herself creatively, and finding her niche within a niche.

The Interview

Here’s the interview–broken down by topic–plus a few images of Andree’s wonderful work. See more gorgeous photos in the gallery on her website,

And if you have a question for Andree (or just want to share), please ask it in the comments area and we’ll respond.

1. It’s Never Too Late:
From Carny to Award Winning Wedding Photographer

Click HERE to listen to this segment. (13 min. 13 sec.)
Find out how the years Andree thought were wasted in supposedly dead-end jobs ended up giving her incredible skills for wedding photography.

Sarah and JesseRachel and Dale maine-wedding56

2. Rebels as a Target Market

Click HERE to listen to this segment:
(5 min. 12 sec.)
Learn how Andree figured out who her right people were and how she helps them find her. (We also dig deeper into this topic in the segment called Her Smartest Move, so make sure to give that a listen too.)

3. Welcoming Criticism

Click HERE to listen to this segment.
(5 min. 55 sec.)
Andree shares fantastic insights about the power of welcoming criticism, making bad stuff, the illusion of perfection, and the truth of hard work vs. natural talent.

4. Creative Challenges

Click HERE to listen to this segment.
(3 min. 48 sec.)
Andree shares her favorite techniques for keeping it fresh and I was psyched because it’s one of my favorites too–even though it’s often frowned upon and misunderstood. Have a listen.

5. *Her Smartest Move*

Click HERE to listen to this segment.
(6 min. 6 sec.)
We talk more about how she embraced her super narrow niche-within-a-niche and the actions she takes to support that choice in her marketing. She offers some GREAT advice about how to do the same thing yourself and why it’s so important. If you can only listen to one segment, listen to this one!

AmyI’ve finally started my Inspiring Creatives Interview Series–conversations with creative souls I know and admire designed to help you succeed in your creative business or simply live your life as the artist you are. Or both. :-)

Today’s interview is with the super successful Amy Noelle from Sugar Flower Cake Shop in New York City.

Amy makes a fabulous living making gorgeous edible art–that is, special occasion and wedding cakes.

The images on this page are two of her cake designs–and note, every decoration on these cakes is handmade from sugar!

photo 3photo 1

I know those flowers might LOOK like she just plucked them from the garden. But they are all edible. All made by hand. All made of sugar. Crazy. (Crazy-Beautiful that is.)

Her work has been featured in STYLE Network, TV Land, Martha Stewart Weddings, and many more. To view more images of her handiwork, click here.

Amy is also a business woman extraordinaire, and she kindly shared her mistakes, her struggles and some wonderful wisdom about how she makes her creative business work.

The Entire Interview

You can listen to the whole interview by clicking here, or you can listen to individual topic segments–listed below.

Hear ‘em all or choose the topic you find most interesting or that touches on an area that you’re struggling with in your creative business.

Topic #1: Taking the Mental Leap: From Hobby to Business

Click here to listen to this segment: (3min:21sec)

Amy talks about how long she’s technically been in business, and how she switched from treating her business like a hobby to finally taking the plunge and going for it as a full-time gig.

A key take-away here is to remember the time-frame she mentions–no one is an overnight success. But it’s also interesting how certain mind shifts change everything.

Topic #2: The Emotional Roller Coaster Called Pricing

Click here to listen to this segment  (7min: 36sec)

Amy and I had a fantastic discussion about pricing–how to fix it when it’s wrong, how that might affect what you thought was your target market, and why it’s not as scary or confusing as it might seem after all.

It’s great to know that someone as successful as Amy made mistakes with her pricing and how she corrected it.

This was my favorite part of our discussion because it’s such a bugaboo for so many creatives.

If you’ve ever struggled with pricing, DEFINITELY listen to this section.

Topic #3 The Struggle for Balance and What it Means to Be Clear

Click here to listen to this segment (3min: 21sec)

Find out Amy’s biggest business challenge and how she handles it.

Topic #4: Solving the Delegation Struggle–Resistance, Systems, and Freedom

Click here to listen to this segment (5min: 45sec)

Amy shares her struggle with delegating, a great example of what she did to make it happen and why systems are critical to success. Hearing what she did to might surprise you–but you can do it too!

Topic #5: A Creative Challenge: Incorporating Client Feedback into Your Design

Click here to listen to this segment (2min: 45sec)

When you’re in business, your creative challenges are different than when you’re on your own. Find out how Amy handles it.

Please Leave a Comment

Please share your thoughts in the comments. What was most useful for you? What would you like to know more about? And if you have a question for Amy, put it in the comments section and she’ll answer it there too.

Comments (2)

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



Funny boy dancing with a hat and glassesLord, I’m on a deadline.

I’m a week into a 2 week deadline for a couple of very large custom pieces for a boutique hotel. I’ve got to share at least one of these images with my art consultant in the next 48 hours so I can make changes if necessary and start the second piece in order to show the client something promising at the end of next week.

Right now, I really don’t think I’ve got the right hook yet. I keep looking at the descriptions of what the client (thinks) they want, images they’ve collected to help me understand what they (think) they want and then back to what I “do” as an artist and the images I’ve created so far.

I’ve got some work to do. Sigh.

In this situation, it’s very easy to panic. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious. But I’m trying to remember what I know deep down about my particular creative process and my success with tight deadlines in order to both keep the faith and simply keep going.

False Starts

For instance, whenever I start a new project, I always have what I call a “false start day.” This is the first day that I commit to spending a big chunk of time on a new project.

Each time I make that plan, that day is, inevitably, a mix of “almosts” and “kind ofs” combined with missing supplies, distracting phone calls and other irritating interruptions. Nothing gets done on the surface and usually about halfway through I realize, “Oh yeah, this is my false start day.”

I’ve also learned that this “false start” day seems to be required before I get down to brass tacks. So rather than beat myself up about it, I understand that for some reason, I need the “false start day” in order to have my productivity.

Even though it’s a very consistent experience, I still don’t usually account for it and I actually truly believe that I’m going to get lots and lots done that first day.  But once I’m halfway through and realize what’s happening, I accept my fate. At least I know it will be better tomorrow.

End of the Day Blues

Another part of my creative rhythm that I have to keep my eye on is the fact that I while I may like something I’m working on during the day as I create it, I usually decide by the end of the day that it’s not working–that I”ve somehow taken myself in the wrong direction or I just plain hate it.

In the past, I would have done something rash at this point. But now I’ve learned to wait–to see if I still hate it tomorrow. Because even if I decide it still needs work the next day, it’s usually not quite the overhaul I imagined was required.

And when I’m working for myself, as is the case now, I also look at the project one more time before I go to bed to give my sleeping mind a chance to figure out what I should do. No touching, just looking–this doesn’t have to take long either–in fact, it’s probably better that it doesn’t.


The other thing I know about my particular creative process is that I spend longer in the “gestation” stage than most folks. That is, I stay in the messy middle for a long time where things neither look good or like they’re going to get finished on time.

For instance, when I worked in a design office, I was usually the last in with my finished products. I used to share an assistant with 2 other designers and she’d always get quite worried for me as each deadline loomed and they appeared to be accomplishing much more and what on earth was I doing?!

But by the end, I’d always get my projects in on time and I’d usually also have the most work done. I learned this in college when I was writing a paper–Id’ be the last one to start my paper but the first one to finish. I knew that if I lingered longer in the idea-wrestling phase, I’d be able to put my thoughts down much more quickly–basically not forcing myself to start before I was ready.

This habit, though, is the most stressful under a deadline. While I know it works for me, the desire to provide concrete evidence of great progress is very strong (that’s why we start before we’re ready). It’s hard-hard-hard to look “behind” or that you’re just not “getting it”. And when you have a long “gestation” period, it really means living with a project while it looks “bad” which is VERY uncomfortable.

But it’s usually worse if I get too focused on producing “evidence” too quickly. I just keep reminding myself that I’ve been here before–so really at this point, the most important thing is to keep the doubting voices in my head in check.


We each have our own particular creative rhythm. And the more you know AND RESPECT your own rhythm, the easier it is to get out of your own way and let it work.

For me, I’ve been pretty aware of my own creative process for a long time, but it’s taken me longer to truly respect it as well. And shushing those doubting and negative voices is an important part of offering that respect.

And it’s definitely more complicated on a deadline because everything is exaggerated and you usually have to speed up your natural rhythm–which almost always feels unholy, un-natural and unjust. But again, it’s worked before, it can work again.

(Of course, I never quite fully believe that as it’s happening–and I don’t want to jinx myself mid-project–but that is, in truth, what has always happened up to now.)

What About You?

Have you thought about what your own creative rhythms are? Do you get out of your own way and let them work?

If you haven’t, consider asking yourself some questions like:

  • What is your best time of day to create?
  • How long do you like to work at a time?
  • Do you need music to work? Silence? Privacy? Company?
  • How do you help yourself through the messy parts? Do you take a walk when you’re stuck? Eat twizzlers?

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. (Remember, we’re all struggling with the same things, so when you share your own struggles, you’re helping someone else realize they aren’t alone!)

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