Advice on how to get out of a rut

1. “Get out of the studio… far away from the computer and look for the fabulous in the mundane. Mini road trips to antique malls and thrift shops provide some of the most amazing juxtapositions of function, color, shape and materials, as well as time to ponder them. Not to mention, the drive itself forces an unplugged brain cleanse that makes space for the new ideas to get in.” — Bob Faust, Principal/Designer,Faust Ltd.
2. “I like to have several things going at once. That way, if one’s not coming I can work on something else. If none of them have any life to ’em, the best thing to do is to just take a break. There’s nothing worse than trying to force it and the world doesn’t need any more bad art; there’s already plenty of that.” — Dmitry Samarov, Painter and Writer
3. “I make a cup of coffee instead of miming one. I stop ripping out my hair in large tufts and watch it grow in. I take a walk and get a life. The rut will pass. Not creating with a gun to your head works, too.” — Susan Messing, Improvisor, Messing With A Friend
4. “I always reach out to my mom to get inspiration if I’m in a rut. Childhood memories are big part of our restaurants. At Urbanbelly, menu item number #15 “Rice Cake” is from a street vendor when I was growing up in Seoul, Korea. So my mom reminds me about certain dishes or even tells me a recipe that she has used.” — Bill Kim bellyQ Urbanbelly, and bellyshack.
5. “After attending a great play, or great musical concert, I tend to become creatively inspired. After listening to someone like Stevie Wonder in concert for 2 hours, it’s kind of hard not to.” — Billy Branch, Three-time Grammy Award Nominee
6. “The most difficult thing for me is to get started on a big creative project. I have many ideas, but putting them into clear form is a true challenge! In those cases, I need to clear my mind of all other life concerns, and I give myself the time to take a nice walk or do some meditation so that my mind is clear of all the little stresses that get in the way. Then, I reserve a good chunk of uninterrupted time to work, as the big creative projects require intense focus to be formulated.”  — George Lepauw, President and Artistic Director of the International Beethoven Project
7. “To dig my way out of a creative rut, I close the door to my hayloft studio…and hit the closets to play “Keep & Toss.” Once everything is bagged & tagged for donation, I pour a red beverage and turn off my brain in front of an old movie;Mommy Dearest paved the way for Spring ’13!” — Peach CarrProject RunwaySeason 8 & All Star
8. “In order to come up with new dishes, I fast and go for long runs. Being very hungry brings clarity to exactly what I crave and want to eat. Refinements of these ideas often end up on my menus.” — Gray McNally, Tortoise Club
9. “I lock myself in a dance studio, put on good music and improvise.  Without setting any rules, I simply dance, allowing myself the space to move free of judgment.  Removing the pressure of creating on a deadline or for a specific reason, frees me up, resulting in more spontaneous and rich movement.” — Stephanie Paul, Be the Groove, Co-Founder/Artistic Director
10. “Sometimes when I find myself in a creative rut, I look to my cookbook collection. I more often than not go to the books that I bought when I started cooking, like Alfred Portale’s 12 Seasons, Alain Ducasse’s Grand Livre de Cuisineor even recent publications like anything from Stephane Raynaud. Sometimes just a glimpse at a picture can start the creative juices flowing, and get me back on track.” — Sean Pharr, Chef de Cuisine NoMI Kitchen
11. “When I’m in a creative rut, it is frustrating and tortuous because it can lead to self-doubt and the thought, ‘has my artistic well run dry?’ When it happens, I step away from my work, clear my mind through meditation and have a good laugh watching Modern Family.” — Stacy Bowie, Painter
12. “I believe creative ruts are often related to overtiredness and being overloaded. Rest, breath, laughter and nature for rejuvenation are my go-to solutions, and I often spend time with kids playing because it cleanses my mind and starts me at a free, playful, creative place. Taking quiet time with my animals also puts me in a place to start any creative process, and then I trust.” — Melissa Veal, Wig and Make-up Designer, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
13. “It’s easy to get into a rut when you are conceiving and designing shows a lot, back to back. The nature of commercial theatre dictates that you think really far ahead and sometimes that is very limiting. For me, the final creative answers can’t come until you are in the room, so it’s a matter of balancing the practical with the creative.” — Rachel Rockwell, Director/Choreographer
14. “I spend some time outdoors hiking, foraging, camping or fishing. Nature puts me back on track!” — Paul Virant, Chef/owner Vie Restaurant, Chef/partnerPerennial Virant
15. “Navigating out of a creative ‘rut’ means taking an afternoon away from my studio to sit in a hotel lobby and sketch people. I can immerse myself in seeing a variety of fascinating subjects, interesting fashion looks, all while madly capturing them with pencil on paper. Afterwards, I feel creatively refreshed-ready to tackle new fashionable opportunities.” — Rosemary Fanti, Fashion Illustrator
16. “I take a shower. There is something about the rote activity of washing your hair that frees up your mind.” — Jared Van Camp, Executive Chef Nellcote
17. “When I feel stuck creatively, it’s generally because I’ve been at it for too long. When that happens, I delve into another art form for awhile (i.e., if I’m stuck on a painting or drawing, I might go and write a poem or short story, immerse myself in cooking a wonderful meal, or meditate for a bit.) Switching it up really helps. A fresh look is invaluable when you return, and you come back with renewed perspective.” — Lyn Pusztai Co-owner / Co-designer of Roulette 18 jewelry and Freelance Painter/Illustrator
18. “Distraction works best. When I’m out on the road I crave the quiet of the painting studio and vice versa. Making art is my job and mostly I don’t have time to get to all the nonsense bubbling in my skull.” — Jon Langford, Artist and Musician
19. “When I am in a creative rut, I go to art museums and art shows, and look at other people’s art. I also look at books with pictures in them to get the visual part of my mind working and activated. Going out in nature always stimulates my senses and my mind, so I do that to find inspiration, as well, and I usually come back with some new ideas. Also, going to lectures, movies, taking a walk in the city, and listening to some music seems to help free my mind a bit, so that some inspiration can float in when I am diverted and not trying so hard. I am the most creative when I am relaxed and not trying.” — Victoria FullerArtist/Musician
20. “One way that I get out of a creative rut is to sit down with super forward-thinking books, as well as ones from cooking school (the fundamentals). It helps me find my center. Usually hyper-focusing on an upcoming season like Spring and Google-searching images helps create a positive flow of thoughts.” — Pat Sheerin, Executive Chef/Partner, Trenchermen
21. “After dinner, I head to the studio for ‘concepting time.’ When I feel the creative rut creeping in, I put on Chicago Tonight and break out a sketch book. That show always provides a variety of intellectual stimulation to get my mind and imagination warmed up. If after an hour my sketches are lame, at least I saw/heard an excellent show!” — Jeff ZimmermannArtist
22. “I read poetry… Rumi, Neruda, Rilke, and my own poetry, to remind myself of my own art. The words help me to see shapes, colors, form, which then inspire me to write, paint and create.” — Arica Hilton, Poet/Artist
23. “Usually, when I need inspiration, I get more collaborative, working with all members of the team can help spark some initial burst of creativity. Or, I’ll cook something with my wife and children to help drown out all of the noise (budgets, P&L statements, deadlines, etc) that fills my head and I can focus on what I enjoy the most. My kids have amazing palates, too – they let me know if anything is off balance in a dish, so I really focus on clean, simple, well prepared items.” — James O’Donnell, Michael Jordan’s Steak House
24. “If I get into a creative rut, I take a long bath, light a candle, and listen to soft music followed by a nice long slumber. After a restful night’s sleep, I often wake to a morning of refreshing ideas!” — Dee Alexander, vocalist
25. “I choose to spend my time with brilliant people, who excel in many different areas, and this helps me get out of my creative rut. From restauranteurs to investment bankers and from musicians to engineers, the people with whom I surround myself inspire me to create new pieces and come up with ideas that meld different types of art.” — Josephine Lee, President and Artistic Director of Chicago Children’s Choir
26. “To get inspired I love going to some of my favorite Italian restaurants like Balena or Piccolo Sogno and when I can, I also love going to New York to visit my Italian favorites like Lupa, Keste or Il Buco. Going back to my favorite cookbooks, like Babbo and A16, also helps me get new thoughts and inspiration.” — Chris Macchia, The Florentine
27. “I destress. I take the pressure off of creating just for creation purposes. At times, we can focus on the business aspect or the productivity of our craft so much that it sucks the passion out of us. I go have fun and stop thinking so hard. I let life take it’s course and fill me with experiences that shape my art. Also, our competitive nature can block creativity. I remind myself that I’m not competing to win a contest. I remind myself that this is what I love and how and why I fell in love with it.” — Marco The Poet, Poet, co-founder of Speak Life Movement
28. “On the rare occasion that I’m uninspired about a piece I’m practicing, I play something else, and return to the original piece feeling more refreshed. I love talking about music, but can find it challenging to write essays or articles on the subject. My solution is to just write something, anything, and once I get going, I find it usually isn’t so bad after all!” — Rachel Barton Pine, international violin soloist
29. “I go to the movies, go see live theater or music.  I find that experiencing the creativity of others is most inspiring.” — Lynne Jordan, vocalist
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We all know the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. Our hearts race, our fingers sweat, and our breathing gets shallow and labored. We experience racing thoughts about a perceived threat we fear will be too much to handle. That’s because our “fight or flight” response has kicked in, resulting in sympathetic arousal and a narrowing of attention and focus on avoiding the threat. We seem to be locked in that state, unable to focus on our daily chores or longer-term goals.  Below are six strategies that you can use to help relieve your everyday anxiety:

  • Reevaluate the probability of the threatening event actually happening.

Anxiety makes us feel that a threat is imminent, yet most of the time what we worry most about never happens. By recording our worries—and how few actually came true—we can notice how much we overestimate the prospect of negative events.

  • De-catastrophize.

Even if a bad event happened, we may still be able to handle it by using  coping skills and problem-solving abilities or by enlisting others to help. Although not pleasant, we could still survive encountering a spider, having a panic attack, or losing money. It’s important to realize that very few things are the end of the world.feelings-54

  • Use deep breathing and relaxation.

By deliberately relaxing our muscles we begin to calm down so we can think clearly. If you practice this at first without a threat present, it can start to become automatic and will be easier to use in the moment when you face a threat. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system to put the brakes on sympathetic arousal.

  • Become mindful of your own physical and mental reactions.

The skill of mindfulness involves calmly observing our own reactions, including fear, without panic or feeling compelled to act. It can be taught in therapy and improves with practice.

  • Accept fear and commit to living a life based on core values.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach that encourages people to accept the inevitability of negative thoughts and feelings and not try to repress or control them. By directing attention away from the fear and back onto life tasks and valued goals, we can live a full life despite the fear.

  • Exposure.

Exposure is the most powerful technique for anxiety and it involves facing what we fear and staying in the situation long enough for the fear to habituate or go down, as it naturally does. Fear makes us avoid or run away, so our minds and bodies never learn that much of what we fear is not truly dangerous.


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Coloring Page Mandala


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Art is the overflow of emotion into action.  ― Brian Raif


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Rough Road/Path photos

I have been involved in facilitating groups for decades. One of the tools I use for groups of adults, teens, or children are photos. I use photos as a way for folks to become familiar and used to talking and sharing in a group. As a way to indirectly share something of themselves by talking about an image/photo. As a way to begin a conversation about larger issues or deeper issues.

One set of photos I use are Rough Road/Path photos with alcohol addicts and heroin addicts in the beginning of recovery. I spread the photos out on a table and ask the group (usually 10 to 15 men) to pick out one photo that represents their journey in the week or weeks before they came into rehab. Once everyone has chosen a photo I ask them to (one at a time) hold up the photo, describe the photo and why they chose it. The descriptions and stories they tell come from them, their experiences and begin the process of revealing a bit about their lives.

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Cédric Villani on the 7 Ingredients of Creativity

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Anger Management

Over the years I have facilitated anger management groups. I use a variety of handouts and activities to have a process oriented group interaction. One of the hand outs I use is below. I use it in 1 of 2 ways. I have folks fill it out first and then we discuss or we go through it together and discuss. We explore as a group, learning from each other. anger-management.jpg


anger disgust grumpiness rage  aggravation dislike hate resentment  agitation envy hostility revulsion  annoyance exasperation irritation scorn  bitterness ferocity jealousy spite  contempt frustration loathing torment  cruelty fury mean-spiritedness vengefulness  destructiveness grouchiness outrage wrath


Prompting Events for Feeling Anger

Losing power.

Losing status.

Losing respect.

Being insulted.

Not having things turn out the way you expected.

Experiencing physical pain.

Experiencing emotional pain.

Being threatened with physical or emotional pain by someone or something.

Having an important or pleasurable activity interrupted, postponed, or stopped.

Not obtaining something you want (which another person has).


Interpretations That Prompt Feelings of Anger

Expecting pain.

Feeling that you have been treated unfairly.

Believing that things should be different.

Rigidly thinking “I’m right.”

Judging that the situation is illegitimate, wrong, or unfair.

Ruminating about the event that set off the anger in the first place, or in the past.


Experiencing the Emotion of Anger

Feeling incoherent.

Feeling out of control.

Feeling extremely emotional.

Feeling tightness or rigidity in your body.

Feeling your face flush or get hot.

Feeling nervous tension, anxiety or discomfort.

Feeling like you are going to explode.

Muscles tightening. .

Teeth clamping together, mouth tightening.

Crying; being unable to stop tears.

Wanting to hit, bang the wall, throw something, blow up.


Expressing and Acting on Anger

Frowning or not smiling; mean or unpleasant facial expression.

Gritting or showing your teeth in an unfriendly manner.


A red or flushed face.

Verbally attacking the cause of your anger; criticizing.

Physically attacking the cause of your anger.

Using obscenities or cursing.

U sing a loud voice, yelling, screaming, or shouting.

Complaining or bitching; talking about how lousy things are.

Clenching your hands or fists.

Making aggressive or threatening gestures.

Pounding on something, throwing things, breaking things.

Walking heavily or stomping; slamming doors, walking out.

Brooding or withdrawing from contract with others.


Aftereffects of Anger

Narrowing of attention.

Attending only to the situation making you angry.

Ruminating about the situation making you angry and not being able to think of anything else.

Remembering and ruminating about other situations that have made you angry in the past.

Imagining future situations that will make you angry.

Depersonalization, dissociative experience, numbness.

Intense shame, fear, or other negative emotions.


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