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Let me ask you a question. What put you on the path of creating?

I’d bet that once upon a time you created something of significance. It might have been a drawing, painting, a photograph or some handmade jewelry. Whatever it was, it was good! So you made another and another. You liked what you created and so did your loved ones. And you went on creating.

Then one day you created something awesome. It was really a step above all the rest. You thought, “This is great, after all my hard work, I’ve arrived!”


But then, the very next thing you did was a dud. And then you tried something totally different, it bombed too. Augggh! What’s happening?!

Here’s one answer. . . Have you ever listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED speech?

She’s the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and she talks about the origin of the word genius. It stems from Roman myth which once meant “a guiding spirit who attends a person from birth to death.”

According to the ancient Romans, this spirit, or genius, would either show up while you created or it wouldn’t. So if you did create something a step above all else, it was because your genius decided to show up and help you out.

Now, my husband watched this with me and said, “She’s a loon, that one.” OK, fine, but this is what I got out of her speech:

Copy your genius

Take that special creation (the one that stands out. . . the one that your genius decided to show up for) and keep it as direct reference, while you create another.

In other words, use it again, with a twist.

I always have one finished painting sitting next me while I paint another. I pick a painting that might be useful for whatever I’m working on at the time. (It’s never the same one).

For a recent charcoal study that I did, I kept a framed charcoal study sitting next to me that I finished sometime ago. I imitated my linework and shading. I tried to copy everything except the subject. It inspired me to bring my current drawing up to the level it needed to be.

Here’s another example. I painted these beach girls while I had this old man sitting nearby. I loved the stripes in his shirt so much that I used them again in their towel.


It’s a little cleaner, but it’s the same colors.

Perhaps there will be a day when my creative genius shows up again, unannounced, but until that time happens, I’m going to keep one eye on the paintings he’s already smiled on while I create the next.

So look for your own genius, and get inspired. Guaranteed he’s amongst your past work just waiting to be noticed.

To read more from Diana Mulder, please visit her art blog.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

I'm not the type of person who makes resolutions for the new year. Instead, I try to set some goals. Why? Well, one reason is that resolutions, by nature, are extremely difficult. There’s usually no endpoint to a resolution—it’s simply an ongoing test of willpower. Goals on the other hand have a final destination. They’re also measurable, and can be divided into shorter-term. . . read more

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