A Conversation About Creativity and How to Ignite It

Join artist Melodi Meadows and I as we discuss what sparks our creativity. 

I wouldn’t consider myself an artist, to be totally honest. I appreciate art, I respect art, I admire art and sometimes I think I even ‘get’ art. But to be able to call myself an artist, a person who conceptualizes, produces and presents a tangible moment meant to emotionally ponder, is (very unfortunately) not me. However, I believe that I possess some sort of creative gene. I love to write and take photographs. I love to listen to records and imagine it being played live right before my eyes, each pluck of the guitar string bouncing off of my walls before finding a home in my ears. I love to read, to envision the words swirling around in front of me as they raise up to create a scene in my mind. I even love to paint and draw, from time to time.

My dear friend, and massively talented multi-media artist, Melodi, is a true artist. As a photographer, painter, stylist and model, she envisions her creations and works hard to see them through. She speaks of art brilliantly. She spends time explaining the smallest of details to over-arching themes. She has vision. She lives to create.

So here we are, two friends on different ends of the creative spectrum. However different, we chat frequently about artistic projects, current inspirations and, of course, the inevitable slumps. That’s the funny thing about creative people…no matter where you land on the scale, you are bound to hit a point in the process when you feel totally uninspired to create. Melodi and I chatted this morning, under the warm blanket of the sun, about just that — how to pull ourselves out of those slumps and back to the land of creativity. Join the conversation below.

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JR: Hey Mel, you know what I’m thinking?…I’m thinking that, instead of just writing out a bullet-pointed list of the top five ways to overcome creative slumps, we just talk about it, y’know? I feel like our conversations are so candid ,and build so naturally, that I’ll just record it!

MM: Ok, cool! Where should we start?

JR: Wherever you want man! What’s one of the ways you put yourself in the best position to be creative?

MM: I think it’s really important to gather your tools for creativity. I always show up to photo shoots with, like, six cameras because I don’t know which one is going to turn out the best. It’s always good to be overly prepared.

JR: You are so right. On a smaller scale, I always remember to pack my mini-notebook and pen in my bag, just in case the need to write arises. I never know when something will strike me. I also like something Cory (our West Coast stylist) said the other day: “having a file or folder of collected images that inspire you is important in case you need a little pick-me-up.”



MM: Yeah, I agree. Oh, and music, of course! Music plays such an important role in creativity.

JR: Oh yeah, completely. I could be stuck in miserable traffic, put Joni Mitchell on and then be transported to a completely different place in my head. Her lyrics open up so much to me. And that voice — just hearing her inspires me. Who do you like listening to when creating or try to get into a creative space?

MM: The Kills, Bob Dylan, Kurt Vile in moody weather, Neil Young. I absolutely love Another Self Portrait by Dylan because you can hear his authentic banter.

JR: For me it’s anything that hits lyrically. So Joni, Dylan, The Velvet Underground, Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen, Rodriguez. But sometimes just dancing around to the Doors or Blondie gets my creative juices flowing, too!




JR: Just like my soul needs music, it also craves being outside in nature in order to feel inspired. I can quickly become distracted or unimaginative when I’m indoors too much. Even just going outside for a few minutes to take some deep breaths gives me a sense of clarity. But I try to travel as much as I can. I love the feeling of overlooking a valley or the ocean and feeling the weight of it all…to stand before such a vast, open space makes me feel so small.

MM: Nature, for me, is huge. It allows me to clear my mind and then be able to channel my creativity that’s already there. So it’s like a reset button so I can see my ideas more clearly.

JR: Where is your favorite place to travel to clear your mind?

MM: The desert…I love the desert. And New Mexico. It’s so special there. I also love Big Sur. There’s a force there, to be among the gigantic trees.

JR: Agreed, so much beauty. It’s a mecca for creative souls. So we’ve talked about tools, music, nature…what else?

MM: Reading is another important one for me. The choice of book depends on what your goal is, but I love to flip through tangible pages of a book to be inspired. I love my Tim Walker books if I’m trying to channel a fashion dreamworld. Or Annie Leibovitz for discipline. In her book she was talking about how she started with photography and what she was able to capture; she said so beautifully what the images meant to her. She couldn’t crop her photos so she worked hard to work the frame. When I shot in Morocco with Polaroid film, I worked hard to frame it as best I could. She inspired me to creatively push myself.

JR: Discipline in itself is a huge part of staying creative. There are days when I just want to zone out but, once I start creating something, I feel present and fresh.

MM: Patti Smith spoke of discipline and how she went to a coffee shop everyday and made herself write. I love that.



JR: What would you say to someone who was in a creative slump?

MM: I would say go do something you’ve never done. I know for me, when doing studio artwork, I would “work” all day long…from photography to painting, and I eventually found myself in a monotonous pattern. But when I explored ceramics, I was able to create a new form of art that didn’t carry the pressure associated with my normal work. It was therapeutic. It was fun!

JR: Getting out of your comfort zone is extremely important. I mean, for me, that could mean ditching your car for the day and riding a city bus across town. Or a bike! To be able to be present in unfamiliar situations is a huge catalyst for creativity…to be aware of how you’re feeling, the people around you, the sounds…so, personally, what’s something you want to do that you’ve never done?

MM: I want to write a book!

JR: Do it! I want to move to Europe by myself for awhile, probably somewhere in France.

MM: Do it!

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Real quick side note: Melodi and I, in the pursuit of creativity, are being fashionably inspired by Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger this week. Our outfits, for the next seven days, are centered around these two people who have personally inspired us. Join us — who would you style yourself after?

+We’d love for you to get in on the conversation! What are some ways that help you ignite creativity in your life? Leave your ideas in the comments.

Follow Melodi and Joanna on Instagram.

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8 years ago

This is so true, my creativity is always sparked by good music, taking a walk in nature and trying something completely new. But also observing other people and talking to them is a huge inspiration boost for me!

8 years ago

Sometimes, I am inspired to create by reviewing my old work. As I look over old journals, paintings, or projects, I find myself thinking about how I could improve it. That need to find a solution typically restarts my creative process.

8 years ago

Ironically, getting out of my head and doing something more physical seems to work for me, perhaps because I was a dancer for many years. Putting on some music and dancing in my kitchen, cooking, or walking on the beach all do it for me.

If that’s not an option, reading, Pinterest, or watching a film will work too. I don’t have easy access to museums, theatre, and the like where I’m living now, but when I do, those are also great inspirations for me.

I’m struggling right now to finish a book I’m writing because I also write for a living. I find I burn out my creativity, or simply the urge to write, on other people’s work sometimes, but it pays the bills. I’m trying to find a balance so I have the time and energy to do the paying work without snuffing my own creativity. It’s less about idea generation and more about harnessing that burning desire to write, without which my writing is flat and unimaginative. Bookmarking this post for future reference–thanks!

BTW, Twyla Tharp’s book, “The Creative Habit,” is a great idea generator too and highly recommended for people for whom discipline is hard to find.

8 years ago

The selling of inventions at a fast rate to so many people who buy into them blindly works. It works because the sellers play on the constricted emotions of the buyers. They indulge the people to feel the feelings of dread, worry, greed and jealousy in order to get them to clam up inside and focus instead on fixing that insecurity. The buyers are not relaxed. They are not thinking about the big picture. They have worries and a great fear fills them. In order to fight back to these outside influences, the people would need to divert their attention to their own actions and get an inside out perspective. Creative juices flow when we are relaxed, ourselves and when we say fuck you to the rest of the world. Wake up and instead of smelling the roses say “I don’t care about anything. At all. I am here. I am glad. I will not listen to you. I will do as I please and too bad if something goes wrong today, I have no fear. I will fight till the end and I will rest only when I am dead. But I will not fight for anyone else or someone else’s interests. I will fight for me and my very own interests. Because in the end, if I wasn’t here, no one wouldn’t be here. If I don’t take care of myself , no one will take care of me. I am my own guardian and each person should just worry about themselves.”

8 years ago

I love these suggestions! As a visual artist I often find myself in need of a creative boost, when I need to ignite creativity I try a couple things: cutting up or altering old artwork, letting my daughter paint or colour on it, or collaging on top of the work. Constantly challenging myself and pushing my work is so important!



8 years ago

This was so lovely to read. I didn’t know how much I needed some creative renewal until I read this. Also, I love that the structure itself was so organic and flowed so naturally, (instead of being a type A list with bullet points.) Thanks for sharing this! xx