Thursday 9 May 2013

Finding Your Spark: It’s Out There Waiting for You by Julie Rorrer

The Conversation went something like this:

Me: What is a creative spark? Why do people need them? I'm just not getting what I'm supposed to be writing about. Ugh!

Husband: It's the idea that’s the beginning of a project, or a piece of art, or whatever you are going to be creating. You know this!

Me: That's my problem. I have sparks every single day. How could I possibly explain that to people?

Husband: I think you sitting here talking about this over and over is making you lose the spark.

Me: Hmmm …

That's when my spark came to me. I immediately ran down the hallway and am now writing in our walk-in closet. This is where I get things done. There are no distractions, no zombie game noises, not a peep; nothing but me and the clicking of my computer keyboard.

Here’s the thing about creative sparks: A spark just comes, and your job it to allow it in and then act on it. It's not about figuring out how to create it. The more you push, the further away it goes. There comes a point where you just have to open up and let it in.

The following example may draw create a better picture of what I mean. I went to art school and had a blast at every subject except one. I was a frustrated drawer. As a photography major I didn't need to draw much, but a few drawing classes were required to graduate.

I held out as long as possible, but eventually it was there on my course load: the dreaded Drawing 101. I had to go to class and within hours I was going to have to draw … and it was completely terrifying. It seems so silly now, but the terror I felt back then to draw was intense. It started building up for weeks before the class even started. The more I thought about having to draw the more I freaked out in my mind. The first day came and I hated what came out of me. The teacher could clearly see I was having some internal conflict to say the least. She pulled me aside after class and tried her best to help me open up and start drawing. “Just look at it, and draw what you see,” she said. “You are a photographer, this won't be hard.”

She was wrong. It was hard. The harder I made it in my head, the harder it was to draw. Instead of actually drawing (which was the only way to get better and get over my resistance) I just kept not doing. I had a drawing coming up that would be graded. I'm not one to get a bad grade, so this put me into overdrive. I literally drew for a whole week straight. Every day, every night, all I did was draw. It was exhausting, and maddening, but I was determined to make the grade. After each piece was complete, it would be grabbed and tossed into the trash by what appeared to be a mad artist. One after the other they were tossed away.

Eventually, though, something weird started to happen. After a week of constant drawing I realized that some of them weren't looking so bad after all. I mean, I could still loathe them in my head, but if I looked at them objectively they were pretty alright drawings. Something had clicked, and in the act of doing I actually created this really amazing piece. I wish I still had it to show you, but I think all of my drawings were tossed pretty quickly after the class. Are you surprised?

What I came to realize is that a lot of the time the thing we resist the most isn't as scary as we thought. Instead of pushing and pulling and fighting against something that seems insurmountable, sometimes the way to the spark is right in front of our faces: the simple act of letting go so it can happen. I can't tell you what will work for you, but over the years I've come up with many techniques for letting go and breaking through my resistance to my spark moments. Maybe at least one of these will work for you. Maybe in trying one of these you will break through to the other side and you will find fireworks!

Spark producing activities:

  • Meditate.
  • Be consciously quiet. Shhh, don't speak. Seriously, don't speak. It clutters the mind.
  • Clean up all those dishes in the kitchen sink. Sweep your floors. For some reason knowing those things need to be done will keep the sparks from flying.
  • Turn off your phone. Put everything with a screen on it in your closet and close the door. Trust me. Do it!
  • Get in your car and drive.
  • Take a shower, because it creates massive sparks. It's a well-known fact.
  • Move your body. Yes, shake your booty until it can't shake no more.
  • Pour a glass of wine. Or even two.
  • Call a friend who is hilarious and laugh with them. Some say laughter is the best medicine, and I believe them.
  • Sit down and make something with your hands. Anything!
  • Let go of 10 things you don't use. Clearing away physical things can be incredibly exhilarating.
  • Get out of your house. Sometimes we need new scenery to stimulate our noggins.
  • Play with a kid or two – blow bubbles, swing, play tag, anything. It's amazing how getting your mind on something so opposite of what you want it on will trigger a spark.
This is just a start, but get out there … let it in! Your spark is waiting for you to claim it. Just as you are looking for it, so is it looking for you to give it life. If you find fun ways to create sparks that aren't on my list let me know below in the comments. I'm always looking for new ones.

Known in certain circles as Danger Girl, Julie is never afraid to throw caution to the wind and take a chance. She’s been creating things since she was a little girl and shows no signs of stopping. As a grown-up (more or less) she’s created a bath/body products brand, launched the largest indie fashion website (at the time), learned to ride a motorcycle, and done various other things large and small. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and son and a yard full of lizards and is currently writing the book she’s been dreaming about for years.


  1. I'm feeling all sparked up! I even feel inspired to sweep & do dishes (that *never* happens). Thank you, Julie!

  2. This is a blast, Julie! I love your story about your drawing class and your tips for generating sparks. Driving and showers work for me too--though the driving has to be on a road with little traffic. Thanks for the post!