"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Twelve Elements of Creative Practice

What does a daily creative practice look like?

Eric Maisel has described it as “the way you turn your passion into fruits with names like books, symphonies and paintings.”

His outline for a creative practice includes twelve elements: simplicity, regularity, solemnity, honesty, self-direction, intensity, presence, ceremony, joy, discipline, self-trust, and primacy. Maisel suggests that examining and defining these elements supports expanded creative self-awareness.

I think examining the twelve elements encourages us to honor the artist inside – the creative Self who is unique, willing, and eager to get going. Examining these twelve elements loads the creative reservoir with intentions capable of sustaining us when the going gets tough. Here are my thoughts. I encourage you to write your own, so your reservoir will also be ready, should the well begin to run dry.

I seek simple elegance in my writing and in my making. While there may be a host of processes involved in a single piece, my end goal is to present simple work built through a series of elegant choices. Nothing can be added. Nothing could be removed. To secure simplicity I refuse to be rushed.


My creative self writes, dyes, paints and otherwise patterns cloth. My creative self is also open to cleaning, cooking and de-cluttering – creative acts that allow thought time to channel toward writing and making. Regularity means engaging these activities in some combination every day.

I take myself seriously. I don’t dismiss my works or my process. I refuse to dumb any part of it down. I honor the time I invest in my creative self.

I don’t lie to myself. If something isn’t working, it isn’t sacred just because I have time, money and/or energy invested in it. I don’t settle. I start over.

I work because I want to work. I make what I want to make. I teach so that I don’t have to compromise my artistic sensibility in any way, shape or form. I know other people make decisions based on their own sense of self-direction. I rebuke comparing myself to anyone else, and try to stay inside my own skin.

I embrace it. A word used to describe me since childhood, I have decided intensity is good. It means I care and I am fully engaged with my life, my art and my making.

I leave my other selves at the studio door when I am writing or making. The first line of my daily mantra is Stay in present time.

Is mainly interior. While I appreciate the exterior manifestations: lighting incense or candles, getting just the right music in the studio, my ceremony is the inner voice that says Center; It’s time to work.

I try not to miss the joy that wells up inside when things are going brilliantly, or when I have a creative breakthrough. I remember to be thankful for every minute in the studio, every day at the computer and for my very life. Gratitude supports joy.

I give up some things in order to have more studio or writing time. This is a conscious choice so I refuse to whine about it. Building stamina is good.

Without self-trust I lose my center, and with it goes joy, discipline and most of the other twelve elements.

Writing and making are important and a priority, so each is high on the list of how the hours of my day will unfold.

What about you?


  1. excellent post, thank you.

  2. Excellent post. Yours is the best reason for teaching I've heard. Thank you for helping me find my creative practice!

  3. A lovely list. I especially like that you included solemnity. It's a hard path in this society, where we're always supposed to "play" and "lighten up." I cringe every time I hear someone talk about "playing with fabric" -- it trivializes what I think of as exploration and work, and adds to the impression that textile art is not serious.

  4. Jane, thank you. I have worried myself around several aspects of making. I wrote for a living -- back when I earned money. It was journalism, precise at times and creative at times but always based in fact. I am the original Type A, also described as intense since birth. Now I understand that I must slow that intensity and find what I am making amid the fabric and fiber and thread. Your writing here is beautiful and strong and I will come back and read this piece many, many times.