How To Find The Art Within That Cannot Be Ignored

And Yet Nowhere Else Is Home
image: dancoachcreative

Or, The Beauty Of A Blank Slate.

Imagine if you started all over again with your art, and your creative career.

Imagine you destroyed everything you’d ever created, your entire body of work, every last shred of your creative legacy so there was absolutely nothing left.

Would that be utterly terrifying or incredibly liberating?

There’s much to gain from beginning again with a blank slate, and it doesn’t hold all the fears you think it might.

If I could use a personal example to explain.

The last year or so I’ve been simplifying my life, shedding the things I no longer need. I decided part of the physical side of this shedding would include the 500+ collection of CDs I’d collected over the years, and to instead convert the music to a more portable digital form.

So I did, and the 5000+ tracks from over 250 artists amounted to something like 40GB of music. I could listen for 14 days solid without hearing the same track twice!

Then I got a new iPod, with a capacity of four times this: 160GB.

So, with all that free space, did I immediately pour my entire music collection of the last couple of decades straight on to the new player, so I had every possibly track I could ever want at my fingertips, merely a scroll and a click away?


Instead I’m enjoying the white space of my iPod’s memory, and it currently has only about 100 tracks, from a grand total of, um, six artists.

It’s very liberating having so little to choose from.

And it means each artist, each album, and each track is getting plenty of intimate and attentive listening.

Will these be the only six artists I’ll want to listen to for the rest of my life? No, of course not. They’re not even my favourite six artists ever. Well, not all of them.

But here’s how I’m going to approach this:

When I have a song appear in my head more than a couple of times, playing over and over, insisting: “Please please remember me, remember how gorgeous I am, how much you adore me, how I make you dance around the room like two year old after too many packs of Haribo Starmix!”, only THEN will I seek out that song on my laptop and add it to the iPod to listen to.

If it’s from a REALLY great album, I’ll probably add the rest of it too.

And this is how my new music collection will evolve. The music that is most important to me, the music that is deeply embedded in my memory, the music I heard, and simply can’t ever ignore or forget, that’s the music that will eventually make its way back to me to be enjoyed all over again.

So, how does this relate to beginning with a blank slate and helping you find the art within you that cannot be ignored?

It’s exactly the same principle.

You could clear your creative workspace, your studio and your mind from everything you ever created – including all those abandoned works in progress, and including all those projects you only began because you thought they were what you should be creating, and what others would approve of you creating.

That’d be a wonderful start.

But then if you chucked the whole lot straight back into your workspace, your studio, your mind, you’d be no better off than before. In fact you might feel worse, and a little like I felt when I started converting my CDs, wondering how and why I had all this music sitting there that I never listened to anymore.

Instead, trust in the knowledge that the most important ideas within you, and the most important art within you, will ALWAYS come back.


You can’t escape them.

They might have been cast out in the wilderness, but they were smart enough, and vital enough to you, to leave a breadcrumb trail back to you, a pathway home.

And why would you want to escape them anyway?

These are the ideas and the artworks that can, and will, bring you some of the most wonderful, life changing, uplifting, liberating and exciting times of your entire life. If you let them.

Give it some careful thought.

A blank slate might be just the approach you need to cut through the chaos and clutter of all those works in progress and create the space you need to bring to life the most important, most powerful, most incredible ideas you’ll ever have.


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5 thoughts on “How To Find The Art Within That Cannot Be Ignored”

  1. I’ll be reading this post again because I have found it to be somewhat confusing as to what you are suggesting. Are you saying that no matter what clutter exists in our life, our environment that our creative ideas will always come to us? Right up to the end I thought you were suggesting that we need to simplify, clean up our environment to that our creative ideas would come through.


    1. Hi Lynn,

      I’m suggesting that we might fear throwing everything out and starting again, because we’re scared our best ideas (or any ideas at all) won’t return. I’m suggesting the most important ideas and themes in what you create will always find their way through, and yes we can help them do that by starting over, clearing away all the clutter that’s been holding us back.

      If you lost everything you ever created in a fire or disaster, would it mean you could never create again? Of course not. I could hand you a notebook and pencil and you’d start planning projects again, beginning with the most pressing and insistent idea you had within you.

      Thanks for your comment and question. 🙂


  2. I think I am missing something. Do you have some examples of people who have intentionally wiped out their body of Creative work this way and been happy for it? The works that sprung from their deepest feelings, their souls, that commemorated important moments in their lives?
    I am thinking it might feel really different from the example you described of your ipod/CDs. The CD situation sounds more like people who toss a wardrobe and buy all new. There is a TV show in the states where people do that, I know.
    I wonder whether there is an intermediate step. I have known people to discard something only to realize too late what it meant to them.


    1. Fritzie,

      If someone is happy to be surrounded by their artwork, including anything half finished, then of course that’s fine. But if it’s holding them back, limiting them from seeing how to evolve next as an artist, then maybe it would help to remove that art somehow, even temporarily.

      Throwing it all out in one go might be radical, so yes an intermediate step could be to put everything in a loft or spare room or garage, and then just sit with that new sense of space and that clean slate feeling, just see what rose up out of the ashes. Then you can go back to the stuff that’s important if you need to, you haven’t lost it for good.

      Yes there’s a similar technique people use to declutter rooms – take everything out, look at the space you have left, let it breathe a little, then start to decide what you really need to put back in there. It might be everything, it might be nothing, it’ll more likely be something in between.

      With ideas, even if we lost everything we ever created (deliberately or accidentally) it wouldn’t mean we’d suddenly lose our artistic identity. And it certainly wouldn’t mean that we couldn’t begin creating again with the most important idea to us at that time.

      The music analogy I used because for me, songs do inhabit my head and play over and over, and the ones that make themselves heard most often are the ones I want to play again, so I get them out, put them on the iPod and so on. Some songs mean more and draw you more than others, so they’re the ones you want to hear over and over until you know every note and every word.

      It works like that with ideas too for me, for example I have an image of a blonde girl in a red duffel coat that’s kept returning to me for years. I could lose every word I’d ever written, but I’ve no doubt the red duffel coat girl would keep returning, pleading for attention, needing for her story to be written. I can’t ignore her.

      If we get too attached to what we created in the distant past, how can we create the best work we’re capable of right now?


  3. Interesting idea Dan…I think this could work really well to beat a long term creative block because I suspect that sometimes we get too attatched to our self image as, say, a landscape artist, so that if there’s an abstract artist dying to get out of or subconscious but we don’t admit it to ourselves, then the most likely outcome is that we will fall out of love with making any art at all. So even mentally stepping back from what we do and questioning what we really WANT to make and what we actually need to do that could be very valuable. Food for thought!


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