Our creative ebb and flow often reflects the fluid state of our interior life. What's happening inside is often expressed through our artwork.

Just as we wear different outfits from day to day, we want to discover new methods to artistically convey inner truth. We can be surrounded by art supplies yet feel cold and uninspired.

We want our art to move forward with us, but we feel stuck. We are consciously aware of the fact that we are limiting ourselves by falling back on the same old techniques. We want more from our art, but can't seem to find ample inspiration within ourselves.

How do we propel ourselves to a whole new realm of artistic expression?

I have sat down to write or to begin working on an Artist Trading Card (ATC) and have felt absolutely nothing move me. I draw a complete blank and stare at the empty page or canvas utterly devoid of a single idea.

There are also times when I have been acutely aware of a vivid, creative flow. The writing or the art produced during these intense periods count among my favorite pieces. Being creatively 'on fire' simply doesn't happen often enough. Entering that realm of creativity often necessitates a little 'fire starting' on our part.

Seeking inspiration from unusual sources can often fan the flames of creativity. I am fascinated with texture, depth and use of color. I will often browse luxury home design magazines, professional artist or photography magazines for the single purpose of: inspiration.

Shadows, dramatic photographic subjects, surprising combinations of texture and color often influence me. Spend an hour in the magazine section of your local bookstore and pick up magazines dedicated to unfamiliar subjects. Visit an art gallery, the next time the opportunity presents itself. Professional artists have devoted years of their lives to take their own art to the next level.

Contemplate your initial impression of a painting that captures your imagination. How does it make you feel? What do you love about the artist's technique? Bring these creative prompts home with you. Allow new concepts to influence your perspective. Bridge the gap between an idea and a possible design.

Tap into the creative flow.

Challenging yourself to move outside of your comfort zone will often produce surprising results. Sign up for an art swap theme that confronts your perceived limitations about your own artwork. We all have lingering doubts about our abilities.

First things first, cast out negative thoughts and open your mind. Improvement takes time, persistence and effort. Be patient with yourself. Don't be discouraged; instead learn from your artistic mishaps and press on. Perhaps there is a psychological matter that is holding you back. Writing or creating art focused on this issue (a.k.a. art therapy) might help you break through and move on to the next level.

I believe that what helps me the most in taking my artwork to the next level is challenging myself, looking in new places for inspiration and moving beyond self-limiting perceptions of my abilities.

It's much the same for writing. As in artwork, there may be a particular style to which we aspire. Artistically, we may use paint to create a striking backdrop for an ATC. In writing, it may take the form of a particular style of writing be it journalism, narrative fiction, edgy content for popular magazines or poetry.

Most writers have a style that expresses their individual voice, but this does not restrict them to a single format or approach to the written word. For new writers, it helps to take a class or buy a book that engages you by responding to writing prompts. Flex your writing muscles and follow though on suggested writing exercises.

If you're simply looking to amp up your journal entries, team up with another journal writer, create a list of writing prompts and exchange them with each other. I have a friend who is a fellow dabbler in stamped art and who is also an avid journaler. We both sat down and came up with 12 writing/art prompts.

I sent my 12 prompts to her and she sent her 12 to me. Her ideas took me in directions I had not previously sought for myself. As we went on to exchange artwork inspired by our writing prompts, I saw that my friend was pushed by the prompts I had created for her. I used a poetry journal to assist me in creating my 12 writing/art prompts. I used a few poignant words from a poem such as "fragile truth" and "reluctant sun". Such creative prompts can work to fire the imagination.

If it's a particular style to which you aspire, begin by studying the writer's approach to the craft. You can be influenced by another writer's word play. Answer the question 'why' this style appeals to you.

Is it the humor employed by the writer or the natural style that invokes a soul to soul communication? What was so creative and unique about their style that engaged you? By employing a specific format you can achieve a desired style, but rest assured your own presentation will be fresh and original.

I would be amiss if I did not introduce the topic of music into this discussion. Music is the single entity that can instantly alter my mood. I actually think that the ability of music to immediately access and improve my inner being is rather miraculous.

For me, music is an important background component in the creative process. Once again, I challenge you to move outside of your music comfort zone and play something completely new to you.

At times, inspiration is best sought outside.

We step through the doorway and enter the natural world. It is an experience that engages all of our senses. For a moment, we can clear away the clutter of thoughts and focus on a cluster of trees within our line of vision; or listen to a bird caught up in it's morning song.

Bring some tea and stay awhile.

Allow Mother Nature to assist you in accessing your creative side. Breathe deeply and allow tension to fade away. Revel in the beauty all around you and allow it to fuel your spirit. Take this energy back with you into your studio and set it free.

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'Whispers on the Wind'

by Bridget Geegan Blanton

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