What's Your Definition of a Creative Life? How Do You Plan to Live One?

When I was a kid, my dad told me I wasn’t the creative one in the family.

I let that sentence define me for decades.  It wasn’t until a few years ago when I expanded my vision of creativity that I decided I could be creative — if I wanted.   My friends showed me how to be creative. I watched them:

  • prepare beautiful plates of food that looked like a magazine photo,
  • plant flower gardens that looked like somethine from Victorian England,
  • take pictures of our beautiful planet in unique corners of the world, or
  • find a unique solution to a problem.

It was all creativity at its best.

I’ve come to believe that we are all creative.  Accountants are creative with numbers.  Mothers are creative when soothing a cranky child.  Dog walkers are creative when managing six pooches all at one time.  We all have a capacity to be creative.

Just think about the number of books in the world.  Each volume was created by someone.  That’s a boat load of creativity floating around the world.  All created by people like you and me.

Questions to Consider:

  • What does it mean to live a creative life? Are you living a creative life?
  • Is this a goal of yours?
  • If yes, what does that look like for you?
  • What are some steps you can take today to begin to live a ‘creative life’?


Book Published 2014
Image: AustinKleon.com
Book Published 2016
Image: Knopf Doubleday


“The more boring my life, the better the art.”   — Austin Kleon

Every time I look at Austin Kleon’s blog he makes me want to create something or doodle or sing.  He gives me courage.  I love the interview with Chase Jarvis he’s got posted on his About page.

His book Steal Like an Artist and the followup, Show Your Work are two charmers.  Their simplicity belies their depth.  His ‘manifesto’ that he freely gives away sounds simple but there are nuances in his thinking that are important for anyone who is interested in embarking on a creative life or project.

Here is Austin’s brief synopsis of Show Your Work:

In ten tight chapters, I lay out ways to think about your work as a never-ending process, how to build an audience by sharing that process, and how to deal with the ups and downs of putting yourself and your work out in the world:

  1. You don’t have to be a genius.
  2. Think process, not product.
  3. Share something small every day.
  4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
  5. Tell good stories.
  6. Teach what you know.
  7. Don’t turn into human spam.
  8. Learn to take a punch.
  9. Sell out.
  10. Stick around.

This list covers a good amount of ground for anyone looking to start a new chapter.  You might want to sit with it for awhile and come back to it on days you’re feeling a little stuck.   I know I do.

You’ll also find that either of his books Steal Like Artist or Show Your Work will energize your creative spirit.


Bill Burnett and Dale Evans have taken their highly popular Stanford University class and turned it into a book.  Using the principles of product design, they’ve created a process for life design.  To achieve a redesign of one’s life one needs to focus on a re-design of one’s mindset and re-design of one’s process using five major areas of focus:

  • Curiosity
  • Experimentation
  • Reframing
  • Awareness
  • Radical Collaboration

If you’re looking for a useful guidebook to help you on your journey to your next chapter, this book is a good start.

To learn more about how Bennett and Evans think, below are two TED Talks.

TEDX Talk from Bill Burnett on Designing Your Life

TEDX Talk from Dale Evans on Designing the Rest of Your Life



Book Published 1967
Image: GoodReads.com
Book Published 2014
Image: Jeff Heusser


Let me start by saying not everyone will like this novel. I am in the camp that does.  It’s a magnificent example of magical realism — that wonderful marriage of fantastic events occurring in the real world (a son’s blood traveling through the town finally coming to rest at the feet his mother).

Perhaps, we are less enamored of the magical realism genre today since we all too often seem to be living in an improbable novel with a reality star as president.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is not a happy story of the Buendias Family.  There is every type of human depravity.  There is also magic and kindness and love.  There is much to learn in the story about living creatively; not to mention much to learn about creativity from Garcia Marquez himself.  Here is a BBC tribute to Garcia Marquez at the time of his death in 2014.

A note on translation:  I do not read Spanish but I have been told that the best English translation of the novel is done by William Weaver.


“Creativity is the process by which we solve problems.”  Ed Catmull

Creativity, Inc is the story of Pixar woven into a book that teaches you about creativity.  How reassuring to see that creativity has no straight path, it’s a winding journey only explicable in hindsight.  This story should be encouragement to anyone in the midst of a creative conundrum.

Here’s a 2017 talk by Ed Catmull at the WorldWebForum.


Additional Resources

I admit it — I’m a podcast junkie. When I want to jumpstart myself, my creativity or my business I need to move.  I head to Central Park or the basement treadmill for a long walk and turn my ears over to a podcast. Though the podcast space is increasingly crowded with sameness, below are my current favorites.  You might want to check them out.  Search for these podcasts on your phone and give them a try.

Not all episodes are great but these podcasters consistently ask interesting questions often on topics completely out of my wheel house — and they get thought-provoking answers from their many varied guests that get me to think about my projects from a completely different angle.  It’s my favorite way to spend an hour on the treadmill — frequently I end up walking farther than I planned!

Star Talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Tim Ferriss Show

The Moment with Brian Koppelman

Six Pixels of Separation with Mitch Joel

Send me an email Heidi@theliterarysalon.com and tell me your current favorite podcasts.  I’m all ears.