Priming the Pump

Creative Inspiration PumpIt can take a while to prime the pump. Inspiration flows, but not as reliably as the city water district. We can’t count on it to make our artistic endeavors more palatable. Other times creativity flows as if a dam burst. We don’t have a big enough bucket to capture it all and some of its precious droplets sadly slip through our fingers. If we’re blessed, we find ourselves in a steady flow and creative inspiration trickles in like a pristine, mountain stream…and we drink, and we drink, and we drink. Drunk with creative inspiration. It’s a giddy condition and you never get hungover (click to Tweet).

I’ve advised plenty of coaching clients, “If you’re thirsty, don’t go to the empty well.” That’s a metaphor…but duh! We often seek answers in places we already know will offer no solution. Why do human beings do that? Stupidly hopeful or arrogantly believing  we can force others to change? It doesn’t work. If you’re thirsty, go to the water.

I just spent 3 days in drought-torn Northern California (really, that is not a metaphor) with 9 extraordinary people. Some were professional artists and some didn’t realize they are artists, but we all are, you know? They gathered from many corners to find themselves, prospect a bit of inspiration and learn how to take broken mosaic pieces and create a whole piece of beautiful inspiration. It was my “Making Magic in 2014 – Beginning Mosaic Workshop.” And as always, being the teacher, I learned so much.

Creative Inspiration
Mosaic Courtesy of
Gwen Day

The first day we primed the pump. We gave ourselves plenty of time and prompts to “think” about things. We thought about ourselves, our futures, messages, design, colour and space. We took full advantage of a “creative pause,” because those who believe they work best under pressure are…I believe…often crushed with pressure and, like a diamond, they have to be dug out before they can shine. 

By the middle of the second day, students were eyeballs deep into the creative process. The only doubts were about the technical aspects of their work. They were clear on the message that inspired them.

The question is this…

How do you handle inspiration? Do you honor the creative pause before you get started? Do you wait for the cosmic 2×4 to whack you upside the head? What happens when your once fertile, creative soil begins to fracture and desiccate? Do you stop, assume the fetal position and cry? Or, do you courageously push forward knowing eventually your thirst will be slaked? Do you get depressed and binge on Oreos, watching mindless television? Are you my beloved reader who hasn’t picked up the brush in 2 years? Afraid? Don’t flog yourself! You have the power to fix it!

If you find yourself in a creative drought, you might catch a couple rain showers here. If you’re drinking inspiration from a fire hose, get a journal and record your ideas and give thanks and praise for the abundance! Create a little space each day for your muse. Treat her kindly and she will reciprocate. (click to Tweet)

Feel free to share ways you pursue the hunt for creativity here, in the comments, you predator, you. Or, if you’re starving, ask for help. That’s what communities are for. May it rain on your plain regularly!

Stay Thirsty, My Friends! (but not too thirsty)





Mosaic piece by Gwen Day – who fought through a migraine headache to complete it. Find her at

If you are an artist who would like to have your work featured on my blog, please send me a quality image with a note of your permission.  If it is selected for an appropriate topic, I’ll use your image and link it to the site of your choosing.

Michelle Andres is a coach, writer and artist who nudges, nay, shoves her clients in the direction of their dreams by Writer, Artist, Coachhelping them improve productivity and cultivate productive behaviours.

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8 Replies to “Priming the Pump”

  1. I think the first step in priming the pump is “showing up,”- be it your studio, your desk, your garden…seems like my head can be spinning at times with either ideas, or items from my To Do list, or sometimes both. But when I make schedule in the studio time or at my computer or journal and stick to it, then it starts to flow.
    Thanks for reminding us to prime the pump Michelle!

    1. Great insight, Nanci! Yes, if you wait for “inspriation” in may be a long time coming. Getting into the space to invite it is always a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I always have to take a creative pause before I start a drawing. I call this my incubation period and I picture several ways to compose my drawing in my mind. Often this “thinking” occurs as I am quietly falling asleep or walking with my dog or waking in the morning. When I take pencil to paper I find that this period serves me well as I successfully create my image without re-working.

    Throughout my creative life I have been blessed with no drought periods although one time early in my drawing classes in college I was “stuck.” It was Fall and the mountains beckoned me. Warm days, deep blue skies and the brilliant colors of the leaves kept pulling me into the woods. Finally, my art professor called me into his office and stated that he was going to flunk me as I was skipping studio time. Little did he know that I was incubating an idea that I completed over the Christmas holidays. My “Pheasant” drawing, completed in one week, won first place honors in its’ first juried show. My professor admitted that he would not ever question my process again.

    I am blessed that Nature is my muse…she fills my head with incredible, never ending images. If I ever find myself stuck on a certain composition, I just walk in Nature, meditate in an open place in my yard or walk with my dog. It always opens my mind and a solution quickly comes to me.

    1. Deborah, thank you so much for sharing your process. What a rich, creative life you have! If you understand you are incubating it is important to honor that time. If you understand you’re avoiding (like many of us do) it’s important to push through. Thanks for sharing the way you prime your pump!

  3. Thanks Michelle, this makes a lot if sense. I am writing a book on the creative process. The blog for the excerpt is Please leave your comments. It is written for those who say “My child can do better!” and artists asking “How can I find a style?” My website illustrates how I have applied this kind of thinking to my own work. The websites of former students who exhibit internationally and teach in prestigious schools in the U.S. A., Canada, Europe and South Africa are also presented.
    Please contact me via email if you wish. Thanks again.

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