When I teach my creativity classes, and when I make art at home, I like to create an environment that maximizes creative flow. The environment consists of different rituals within three basic phases. 


I have been focusing on cleaning and organizing lately because I have come to believe it’s an important aspect of the creative process. I’ve learned the hard way, because keeping things orderly has not been natural for me most of my life. But I have discovered that when my space is clean, I feel happier, calmer and more conscious to make a choice to either relax, or do something productive. Either way,  having a clear, open space helps me to remember to check in with myself. It’s not that I must have my space clean space in order to be creative, but having a clear desk calls me back into creativity. I am more productive in an organized space. When the space around us is messy, we unconsciously block out the mess, and the rest of the space around us, using avoidance as a refuge. When there’s less clutter we see our environment--it calls us into it, it awakens our eye, our touch. A clean space makes me want to make a mess. I want to fill it up with something new. I observe this with Emilio. When his toys are cleaned up every night, he is more drawn to them in the morning. He literally throws himself into the imaginative and curious world that his shelved toys quietly promise. 


Another aspect of the creative process is the state of receptivity. In order to be in this state, we need to be relaxed, present, and attuned with our senses. I find that the act of clearing our space makes us more relaxed, and ready to receive. The receptive state can be the experience of non doing. Or it can also be an activity where we are receiving stimuli but in a relaxed, and conscious way. Some of my favorite receptive activities are: meditating, deep listening to music with headphones, taking a walk, spending time looking at nature, even reading. I think watching videos or television is not an effective receptive activity, because, although we are receptive, we are in a passive, unconscious state. Receptivity creates space--space in our imagination for images, space in our body for sensual experience, and space in our mind for ideas. This is often where inspiration happens. This is when revelation happens. This is how we hone our attention to our experience of the world around us.


After I have cleared my space, and put myself in a receptive state, I am ready to create. Creating is the active phase of the process--this is when we actually do the work. This can be a timed or ritualized practice, or it can be a spontaneous act of expression. Because I often work multi-modally, I like to set up for this phase by creating little making stations for myself all over my room. I set up markers and paper in one corner. I put out several art books or postcards for inspiration. I set up my guitar in the corner. I have my computer ready on a desk for writing or research. I find that the creative flow comes more easily, if I have done some clearing and receiving first. 

The next phase is sharing, which is an important phase of the creative process as well. When I’m teaching, sharing happens at the end of the workshop. But at home, sharing may never happen, or it may happen months or years later. In the case of ZOELAB, though, it happens at the end of every day. I love ending the day this way. It feels complete. When I was in elementary school I had a special ritual with my best friend, Molly. Every day after school, we would meet up in the school yard and ask each other: “was today 100 percent complete?” If we both said “yes,” then we would say goodbye and go our separate ways. But if one of us said “no” then we would agree that we would have to go to one or the other’s house and create something. Usually we would create a dance routine to a popular song of the day, and perform it for our parents. After that, we felt satisfied, and we could finally put the day to rest. I’ve written a rock song about this ritual called 100 percent complete. I’ll share it with you once I have a good recording of it.

ZOELAB acts as Molly for me now. For years I have tried to come up with a daily checking-in-with myself ritual. At one point I had made a sign that said: “Little Zoë, was today 100 percent complete?” I posted it on the wall of my studio. But after a few days, I barely noticed the sign was there. Another time I made myself a daily reminder on my computer that would pop up with the same question, as well as a document with a series of questions that followed up. But after a few days, I didn’t even notice those pop up windows. This is the first time I have been able to stick with a daily ritual. And so, after I hit the publish button on iweb, everyday ends feeling 100 percent complete.