How to re-charge your creative juices



By Caitlin Kelly

If you live and work in the United States, as I do, you will daily — hourly! — be exhorted from every direction to be (more!) productive.

It’s a Taylorist industrial model and has nothing to do with creativity.

An early blog post of mine (2011) — chosen for Freshly Pressed — challenged this:


Shutting down the production line for a while — silence! solitude! no immediate income! I’m wasting time! — can feel terrifying.

It’s absolutely necessary.

But we don’t talk about the downtime, the quiet moments of connection and insight that can, when allowed to blossom quietly unforced by another’s schedule, birth wonders.

Whenever I’ve taught or lectured on journalism, I crush a few young dreams when I make clear that traditional news journalism more resembles an industrial assembly line than an artist’s studio.

360 people liked it.

Nine years later, with so many of us working from home (or living at work!), it’s even harder to carve out the time, privacy, silence, solitude and lack of income-producing pressure to just think.


Not worn out.

Not grieving.

Without free and unstructured time to ponder, noodle, make connections you’ve never seen or noticed before, how is it even possible to create?

Only in conversation last week with a friend we visited upstate for a few days did I realize how much we have in common and how that shared passion fits perfectly (!) into my potential book proposal — because hanging over the toilet in the cramped bathroom of his rented 235-year-old country house is a gorgeous lithograph of the topic I want to explore and which he knows very well.

These serendipitous moments can only happen when we step out of the grooves of everyday life.

I also love reading books that inspire or offer new and helpful ways to think and behave. Not a fan of woo-woo, but practicality!

An older business book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, includes my favorite chapter — Sharpening the Saw —  finding ways to stay sharp and refreshed and use your strengths.

The title is goofy, but there’s a lot of smart stuff in it, even if you work at home in leggings and not in some corporate environment.

I sometimes read business books as well and have found smart ideas in the Harvard Business Review.


Here are some of them:


The Tharp book– by the American choreographer — isn’t new but is excellent. She is not one to sit around waiting for inspiration since no working artist can afford it. Much discipline!


Time to get cracking! I’ve written many book proposals, but it never hurts to read up again.


Have heard a lot of good things about Big Magic.


Uncommon Genius is a brilliant idea — go out and interview winners of the MacArthur “genius” prize about how they think and work.


Daily Rituals is good fun — dozens and dozens of creative folk, including those from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, in all kinds of fields, and how they work (or don’t!)

Where and how do you find creative inspiration?

16 thoughts on “How to re-charge your creative juices

  1. Thanks for the rec on the Tharp book! I really like her and haven’t read it. I find myself needing to withdraw from humanity and the daily grind to get inspired. I guess my Muse doesn’t like to shout:).

  2. I get inspiration every day just from whatever I read or watch or do. Also, having a day job and having people who are actually EAGER to read my work (many of them outside my family, somehow), keeps my mind working hard on new stories and imagining the possibilities while writing in the evenings. It all keeps me inspired and keeps me going.

  3. I am not a very creative person and I have always admired those who are (I plan to pursue photography more diligently when I retire in a couple of years). But downtime is a necessity to me and I will push back when someone tries to gobble it. I had to carve it out during the early covid weeks.

    1. It’s an interesting way of life you chose…and you have all sorts of skills and aptitudes others don’t! I grew up in a family of highly creative people which made this life accessible and real — warts and all.

      Downtime is so important. Hope you are enjoying your hard-won vacation!

  4. I look forward to this book coming to fruition. it is something I think about when uninterrupted. downtime is not an option, it is mandatory for our lives. for my own downtime, I love to walk, read, write, create collages, and solve puzzles.

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