In this Creativity Exercises That Work series, which will run right through to the end of the year, creativity coaches share creativity exercises that they have used with clients to help clients effectively handle their creative process issues, creative personality issues, and creative career issues. This week’s exercise is provided by Elise V. Allan. Enjoy!

Creativity Exercise: A Birthday Present for the Muse

Elise V. Allan


During those times when your creative work feels dull, routine or even stuck, it can be difficult to know what to do about it. This exercise, A Birthday Present for the Muse, will enable you to consider fresh input or new resources that could open up new and exciting possibilities. It starts with a guided visualization, which can help you to access your subconscious inspiration. The questions that follow will help you to bring your ideas down to earth.


Maybe you’d like your creative time or space to flow better. Or you might feel that your art practice already has rhythm and a bit of a groove, but a groove can become a rut. It’s easy to lose the enthusiasm you had at the beginning of your career, whenever you encountered new materials or techniques. Something within you, ‘the Muse,’ knows what’s wanted, and is keen for their ideas to be manifested!

The Visualization:

As our resources come from our planet Earth, and you’re also aiming to bring your ideas down to Earth, the visualization begins with you connecting your feet to the ground beneath.

It helps to sit with a straight back, both feet flat on the floor, hands separated. Shut your eyes, or if that feels uncomfortable, look down, keeping your gaze relaxed and unfocused. Bring your attention to where your feet feel the ground, sensing the aliveness of the earth beneath, and holding the awareness that it has already provided all that has enabled you to survive.

If you can, develop a sense of your feet having a warm relationship with the ground. Gently notice how you are breathing in Earth’s atmosphere, then take time to exhale slowly out of your mouth; repeat a few times until you feel relaxed.

When you’re ready, visualize going to a place where you can create – perhaps your existing studio, perhaps an imagined space. There will be some sort of surprise there, a birthday present for your Muse! It might be in an envelope or a parcel, or it might be the space itself, changed somehow. This present is what your Muse wants, and what you really want in your heart of hearts, for your creative development. Explore the gift or gifts – and the feelings around it. Take time to enjoy whatever you find.

Allow yourself time to return slowly to the here and now, holding a sense of relaxation and the memories of the visualization. Open your eyes and write down what you experienced before beginning to reflect on the aspects of the visualization that you want to manifest.


When I led this visualization with a coaching group, Laura, a well-known illustrator who makes meticulously detailed watercolors, saw herself as an undergraduate art student making large gestural paintings.

You too might find that the visualization brings up a desire to learn:

• Do you have the skills or knowledge to create the work you want need development? How much?

• Do you need completely new skills or can you adapt and hone your current expertise?

• How much time and money do you want to invest in learning?

Marie, a mid career artist, visualized her studio being better organized and less cluttered, allowing her to work without having to stop regularly to move things.

Like Marie, you might be considering more practical issues:

• Do you have enough time to do what you visualized?

• Do you have the space, materials, other practical resources or money to do what you want?

• Are your resources, materials and workspace well enough organized to be convenient and practical?

• Are there activities you can drop to make more time, or clutter that can be cleared to make more space?

• If you want more than one of the above, what do you want most? What’s possible?

One painter was surprised: in his visualization, Luke saw an empty dance studio.

If, like Luke, you visualize a completely different practice, you might reflect on its value and your values:

• Does this new activity resonate with the qualities you would like in your own work?

• Could exploring this area directly or indirectly feed your primary practice?

• What would be the cost, financially and otherwise, to allow some time for investigating this direction?

• Are there elements from the visualization that might, on a smaller scale, be integrated into your practice?


• Start by putting a date in your diary. One date might be sufficient for a smaller project, like rearranging your workspace, or buying materials. For a bigger project, the date is for planning and researching.

• Check costs and availability, and work out a budget for acquiring any resources you lack.

• Too much? Consider scaled down alternatives, or plan a longer time scale.

• When you hit obstacles, consider – what’s ideal? What’s realistic? What’s a happy compromise?


If you buddy a friend, set a date to feed back to each other. My coaching group fed back a month later at the next meeting.

Laura’s considering a degree course in a few years; meanwhile she’s started a class, one morning a week, where she’s learning to paint loosely and freely and is loving it! She plans to cut back on some labor-intensive commissions.

Marie has started de-cluttering, and since freeing up a central glass table, had been using it to make mono prints.

It may take time for Luke’s visualization to bear fruit; I had a similar vision twelve years ago when my painting practice was at an impasse. Then a chance conversation about a Japanese underground dance movement led to finding a class in my city – the first ever – just one week later. Synchronicity! It completely transformed and regenerated my painting practice within a year.

Elise V Allan is a painter and lecturer, as well as an accredited creativity coach working one to one and with groups, in person and on Zoom. You can contact her at
or on Facebook @EliseVAllancreativitycoaching
Her paintings are at

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