Category Archives: 21 steps to creativity



“I still say, ‘Shoot for the moon, you might get there.'” Buzz Aldrin

After working for 30+ years, my job ended on January 1, 2016 –  my last day in the office was 12/22. 

I worked at the same job for 27 years (and ten days, no I wasn’t counting). As I worked in advertising, there are always lay-offs when a large account is lost. So, when we lost our largest account in 2015 our office was closed in Atlanta, which was shocking (after being open more than 30 years) A handful of people stayed on to work virtually. I. WAS. NOT. CHOSEN!! At first, my feelings were hurt because after 27 years of good reviews, awards, etc. I WAS NOT CHOSEN TO STAY! 

STOP!!!!!! REWIND REWIND. At the beginning of 2016 I did something I’ve never done before. I had a ceremony saying goodbye to 2015. I reflected on the year, looked at  what dreams came true, what I learned during the year, and how I felt about the year. In doing so, I found I felt mostly stressed and tired from the year. I was READY to move on. I AM READY TO MOVE ON!

Here is a list of some of the things I have done and haven’t done over the past month.

  • I have read three books. This isn’t remarkable, what is remarkable is I didn’t buy a single one of them! I’ve rediscovered my library!

  • I have reconnected with people. In fact, I have met more people for lunch in the past month than I did for the past six months.
  • I have been to two plays.
  • I fell in love with a dress at the High Museum of Art .

    Iris Van Herpen

    Iris Van Herpen

  • I started taking yoga
  • I am taking an experimental drawing class
  • I began posting my images on Facebook with quotes.
  • carl sagan
  • I cleaned all the wooden blinds in the house, as well as the baseboards
  • I cleaned out the kitchen
  • I plotted out a 4′ x 10′ garden area to plant a vegetable garden. I also signed up for a workshop on growing vegetables.
  • I am taking a nutrition class at the local library
  • I signed up for a book club called Pub Fiction, which meets every other month at a local restaurant (I was unable to attend before as I couldn’t get there from work in time).
  • I am cooking more, trying new recipes and eating out less.
  • I have gone to a couple of art openings (again, I can now get to them on time)
  • I took three bags of clothes to a thrift shop
  • I did a three month editorial schedule for upcoming blogs to write (I used sticky notes so I can change them around).
  • I have meditated, but I’m still not on a regular schedule
  • I have started my morning pages again.
  • I hosted a book club with members of the Women’s Caucus for Art of Georgia
  • I’ve spent more time with my mother
  • DSCN0359
  • I have played the piano, starting over with the boring Hanon exercises. The ukulele, not so much yet. (BTW, the sculpture on the left was done by Annette Conison, my mother in law)
  • DSCN0380
  • I have NOT yet established a regular exercise schedule.
  • I have not driven in rush hour traffic (I was spending the equivalent to a full work day in the car on a weekly basis).
  • I’m not listening to NPR as much lately, I’m not in the car as much. I will have to work out a schedule for this.
  • I have painted
  • I have set my alarm only once, to see if it was working! I’m not a late sleeper anyway.
  • I picked out a word of the year – MINDFULNESS

So, as you can see, I’ve been busy, but I’m still working on a schedule. I really don’t know how I had the time to work! Actually, I’m not as productive now that I’m not working – I no longer have to schedule everything I want to do into the weekend.But I am more MINDFUL of how I spend my time and am enjoying what I’m doing without rushing through life as I had been doing for most of my adult life.

It is trading the stress of work for the stress of paying your bills. I’ll take the 2nd stress any day! I’m not “retiring” you see, I’m changing paths. Down the road I will probably seek out freelance jobs, pursue coaching (I have two life coach certificates) and maybe take up walking dogs!  After my decompression is complete, I feel I’m going to start living the life I was meant to live.






Drawing by Vickie Martin with musical references


Does listening to music help increase your creativity?  I believe the answer is a resounding yes! 

When you listen to music, it triggers the release of dopamine often referred to as the pleasure chemical.   You could say music makes our brains sing.  We humans have always loved that intangible thing called music.  You know, I think music just makes us feel good!

“Without music, life would be a mistake” Nietzsche

So, how does music affect us?

It helps us enter into that “mind wandering mode” – that daydreaming mode where you have thoughts that seem to float around and often seem unconnected.

Music helps us exercise. As far back at 1911, an American researcher Leonard Ayers found cyclists pedaled faster while listening to music.

Music tricks the brain into thinking you aren’t tired. Sound familiar?

Music makes people more productive. In fact, The American Medial Association has found surgeons work more accurately when music they like is playing.

Familiar music helps one focus. However, new music (new to you that is) demands too much attention – you will stop and listen because you aren’t sure what is coming next.

In noisy places, music is an escape.  In fact, managers should take note. Headphone are not that distracting, studies have found those listening to music complete their tasks faster.

Music makes repetitive tasks easier.

So, what kind of music should you listen to while creating?

First of all, lyrics are distracting. it activates the language part of your brain. So, instrumental music seems to be the winner here.

Classical music has been shown to improve concentration

Everyone is different, Stephen King likes to listen to hard rock while writing.

There is a lot of research out there about the effects of music on our brain. In short, it does have an effect on our moods.  It makes us move. It inspires us.

So, turn up the music, find what inspires you to create and go for it!

What works for you?

Blue note

BLUE NOTE ©Vickiemartin





This is the 8th installment in my series 21 Steps To Your Most Creative Self.

Today most of us are focused on work and commitments. In our culture, playing is often thought as wasting time – it is often looked down on as there are no real goals (except to have fun!) Play is a time to forget about work and all those pesky commitments. It can be a time to be social without structure and be creative at the same time. When we play, there is no goal in mind, except to have fun.

What is play?  It has been defined as taking part in an in activity for enjoyment and recreation instead of for a practical purpose.

There are many benefits to play. It:

Relieves stress – play often triggers endorphins which gives one the sense of well-being.

Stimulates your mind – people tend to learn better than they are having fun and when they are relaxed.

Improves learning skills – playing chess or putting together puzzles are things that challenge the brain and will improve memory.

Keeps you young

Teaches children social skills and cooperation with others – something adults can learn too.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

I believe a little bit of play will go a long way – but what can we do for play?

Most of us don’t have access to a trampoline bridge.

Most of us don’t work in offices that have slides.

But, most of us have access to a playground. When was the last time you played on a swing?

Other things to do:

Learn a card trick

Have a game night with friends

Go bowling

Play miniature golf

Play with a dog – if you don’t have one, many rescue groups need dog walkers. While you are at it – have a conversation with the dog.  

Find a child to play with – play a “pretend” game – remember those? Or play Follow the Leader or Hide and Seek (I play Hide and Seek with my dogs!)

Put on music and dance

Put together a puzzle

I may never finish this - but I haven't given up!

I may never finish this – but I haven’t given up!

       Make a collage

p5 copy

       Get a coloring book

Coloring was easier as a child I discovered. I need to loosen up!

Coloring was easier as a child I discovered. I need to loosen up!

Research shows play helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Playing a musical instrument or playing checkers is helpful.

Who doesn’t play? Mass murderers – studies have shown. 

Playing helps us relax, it takes us away from the “real” world. Through playing, we can be anything, an explorer, a rule, a time traveler – the list goes on. It helps remove the limits to what we believe is possible.

What do you do for play?  I’d like to know!

Closing thoughts:

“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous amount of adventure and a love of play.” Henri Matisse

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The true object of all human life is play.” G.K. Chesterton

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by intellect but by the play instinct.” Carl Jung

“Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.” Abraham Maslow

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis (which I recently did rereading Alice in Wonderland and Aesop’s Fables)






You read that right!  Give yourself permissions to fail!  This is the 7th installment in my series 21 WEEKS TO YOUR MOST CREATIVE SELF. 

“Fail, Fail again, fail better” Samuel Beckett

“You gotta be willing to fail…if you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.” Steve Jobs

People are not born with a fear of failure. Think back to the time when you were a kid. Wouldn’t you try anything?  Didn’t you wonder about how things worked? 

It has been said that failure is a requirement for creativity. Being creative means trying things by trial and error, and if it doesn’t work, you just keep trying and you keep going.

Being wrong can bring about unexpected discoveries. In the art studio – these are often referred to as “happy accidents”.  Relish the uncertainty of not knowing how things are going to turn out. Embrace wondering what will happen.

“Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time.” John Cage.

In fact, I paint in layers. One evening while cooking out, I thought I’d lay a canvas on the grill for a few seconds.  This moment propelled my art in a new direction as I began exploring the effect fire can have on paint.  See below –


So, experiment with things you have never considered using before!  Embrace the things that don’t work, use what you learned and move on to more experimentation.

vickie copy

using both fire and gunpowder


using salt and saran wrap in paint

Below are successful people that failed at first:

EINSTEIN: did not speak until he was four and could not read until he was seven. He was the only person in his graduating class that was unable to get a teaching position.

FRED ASTAIRE:  After his screen test, the casting director wrote “Can’t act, Can’t Sing. Slightly Bald, Not handsome. Can dance a little.”  He kept that note with him his entire life to remind him to never quit trying.

R.H. MACY: started seven businesses that failed before he founded Macy’s.

WALT DISNEY: Was fired by a newspaper editor who said “he lacked imagination and no good ideas.” He also started businesses that ended in bankruptcy before he found success.

THOMAS EDISON: Was fired from his first two job because he wasn’t considered productive. He also made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: went to war a captain and returned a private. He was also defeated over 20 times before he won a public office.

JERRY SEINFELD: froze the first time he was on stage and was booed off the stage.

VINCENT VAN GOGH: sold only one painting in his lifetime, and that was to a friend.

DR. SEUSS: first book was rejected by publishers 27 times.

The list goes on and on! So, don’t let that fear of failure paralyze you!

What are some of your successes that started out as mistakes?








This is my monthly blog devoted to the previous month's reading

According to GoodReads, I have read almost 14,000 pages this year – that is almost 10 days (and that is the 24 hour day, not the work day!). Is that too much? Possibly. I admit reading is a habit and I’m guilty of downloading free books on my Kindle just to pass the time with reading. So, I publicly declare – I will concentrate on reading NO MORE THAN ONE BOOK A WEEK, unless I am on vacation. I am going to be more thoughtful in my choices of books. I have to admit, in looking back at what I read in October on GoodReads, some of the books have already faded from my memory.  So – here goes.

THE GRASS HARP- by Truman Capote. This is a delightful novella. I am currently on a quest to read at least one book by an author from every state in the union. This book is my first selection for the state of Alabama – okay – I know Truman Capote was born in New Orleans, but he lived in Alabama for years and his best friend was Harper Lee. I will write more about this book when I blog about my quest. (You can read where I declared my quest HERE).

SYCAMORE ROW by John Grisham. This book takes place three years after his first novel A Time To Kill, with Jake Brigance back. This follows the trial after Seth Hubbard, dying of lung cancer, kills himself and leaves a handwritten will giving his fortune to his black maid of three years. Of course, his family contests the will. I think Grisham is in better form in a courtroom drama, so I’m very glad to see him back! He makes it fairly clear that he will return to this character in the future. The only drawback to the book, it is a little wordy.

A COLD DAY FOR MURDER by Dana Stabenow. This is the first in a series by Kate Shugak, who left the Anchorage D.A.’s office and returned to her home in North Alaska. I found this book while researchingAlaskan writers for my previously mentioned quest – so I will write more later. It was a fun and quick read, but it gets a little bogged down explaining Alaskan culture. (PS, it is free on Kindle right now)

A CRUISE TO DIE FOR by Aaron and Charlotte Elkins. This is the 2nd book in the Alix London series. Alix is trying to make her way in the artworld as an art restorer and consultant. Trouble is her father is a convicted forger himself. In this book, she gets a job as an art expert on a cruise in the Greek Islands by one of the richest men in the world. Her job is to give lectures and answer questions from prospective buyers of world class art. However, she is working for the FBI’s Art Bureau, trying to expose an art forgery scheme. This was a fun little read, not too heavy, but it does have a little art history thrown in!

WHAT THE DOG ATE by Jackie Bouchard. The first sentence is very promising:

“The vet handed Maggie Baxter a plastic specimen bag containing a pair of size tiny, lavender thong panties extracted from her dog, but they were not hers. Or rather, they were hers now since she’d just paid $734 to have Dr. Carter surgically remove them from Kona’s guts.”

This is a cute book about Maggie trying to get her life back on track after her husband leave her. Starting out as a workaholic, she is trying to balance her life and find her dream job. Along the way her brother moves in, he leaves, she hangs out with his best friend, she meets a new best friend in a yoga class, all the time trying to figure out what direction she should take her life in. As I said, it is cute, but it is also pretty predictable!

REUNION WITH DEATH by Sheila Connally. Laura joins a group of her college classmates from 40 years ago on a trip to Italy. When a professor from the school is killed by a fall down a hill everyone thinks it’s an accident. But, of course, Laura things there is more to it than an accident. I liked the fact that the women were older,  and while it is billed as a “mystery”, a large part of it is a travelogue of Northern Italy. While I enjoyed it, it was an extremely light read and I knew who the murderer was early on.

 PLAY DEAD by Leslie O’Kane. This is the first in a new series about Ally Babcock, an animal therapist in Boulder that, of course, solves crimes.  Cute but very predictable.

So – no more downloading books just to have something to read! I’m going to plan what I’m going to read and take it slowly.

Any recommendations for good winter reading?





Take a walk, a jaunt, a stroll. Get out and strut, saunter, or promenade. I don’t care what you call it, just get up and MOVE!


A recent study at Stanford found creative thinking improves during and after a walk.  While participants in the research were leisurely walking on a treadmill, they were instructed to come up with different uses for an object (like a button – which could be a doorknob in a dollhouse, you get the picture). Most of them were able to come up with 60% more uses for the object than participants sitting down. And, the results were similar whether walking indoors or outside (yes, this surprised me too).

So, that explains why Steve Jobs often had walking meetings. So do  Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.  Other walkers?

Beethoven – carried a notepad and composed while walking

Gustav Mahler, who insisted his wife Alma walk with him daily, sometimes as long as five hours


Tchaikovsky walked every morning for 45 minutes and took another walk for 2 hours in the afternoon

Charles Darwin took three walks a day

Woody Allen stopped walking around New York because people recognized him, now he often paces on his terrace 

Composer Erik Satie walked from his suburban Parisian home to Montmarte daily,  a 6 mile walk.  He often missed the train home and walked back at night

“I have walked myself into my best thoughts.” Kierkegaard

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” Henry David Thoreau

“Walking is the best exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” Thomas Jefferson

“Now, shall I walk or shall I ride? ‘Ride’ said Pleasure. ‘Walk’ said Joy.” W.H. Davies

“If you seek creative ideas go walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” Raymond I. Myers

“If I could not walk far and fast, I think I would just explode and perish.” Charles Dickens

“I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out. It was easier to think if I was walking.” Ernest Hemingway


So, get up – take a walk!!!!


Do you have a favorite walk or hike? Do you have any walking rituals?  Can you tell a difference in the way your mind works after or during a walk?



This is week #2 of the series 21 WEEKS TO YOUR MOST CREATIVE SELF


If you really want to live as a creative, you have to declare it! What matters most is that you think of yourself as an artist! (are you singing the title?)images

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”  Steve Pressfield, The War of Art

Does this sound familiar? We all feel like frauds or fakes at some time or another. The fear of being exposed is real.  Listen – STOP IT RIGHT NOW!

If you need to create, you are an artist. You don’t have to paint, you don’t have to write, but you have to create something that is uniquely your own. BE PROUD OF IT!  SHOUT IT OUT! OWN IT!  What you are creating is yours and yours alone!

Stop comparing yourself to others standards. What matters is HOW YOU THINK! Don’t just think of yourself as an artist, say it out loud! It is powerful. Of course the little demons come in and burrow in our thoughts. But if you say I AM AN ARTIST with confidence and power, the demons will recede.

So, claim yourself as a creative. Believe in your creativity – it is a universal trait of humans after all.

So, repeat after me


If you have to – stand in front of a mirror and say it.  Better yet – go back to week #1, FIND YOUR TRIBE and tell them, they will understand.

What will you do this week to shout out to the world you are creative? How will you make the commitment?