How to be creative on the run

Above: Crescendo, artwork from the Swell series.

Greetings from Hawaii!

This email comes to you from Kona where I’m speaking at a conference for a group of awesome businesswomen. Hawaii is one of my favourite places on earth. I’ve been travelling a lot lately. This can be really exhausting. I’ve needed to balance travel, work, networking, art, social life, speaking engagements, training… not to mention trying to stay creative.

I don’t want to lose my momentum or sacrifice my passion. I want to stay honest to my creativity, but I also have to honour my work commitments. It can be easy to cut corners or make sacrifices. But now that I’ve taken this creative path, I’ve realised I can’t take the easy option. I can’t let it fall by the wayside even when I’m far from my studio.

How do I stay creative on the road?

It’s not easy! After a long day of transiting through airports and hopping in taxis, checking into hotels, finding venues and giving talks, it can be tempting to just indulge in Netflix.

I’ve spoken before about doing what comes naturally to you. Instead of constantly focusing on self-improvement, tap into what you’re already good at – and work to improve it.

For me right now, drawing comes easily. I mean, it’s not easy peasy easy, but I find it enjoyable. I look forward to the part of the day when I put aside my work and can take up a pencil or brush.

That desire doesn’t change when I’m travelling. But my approach does.

So at the end of the day, I do chill. I chill with a pen and paper. I decompress from the day by letting my mind engage with art.

It’s not about trying to cram in a bit of creativity every day. I remind myself that this moment, this time right now, this is my time to do what I love and what I enjoy.

Stay present and stay inspired

One great thing about travelling is that you see new things and meet new people. It can be a real source of inspiration. Okay, travelling for work is not the same as wandering the streets of Prague! And your head is full of all the things you need to get done that day (and the next day, and the next…)

But when you stay present, you can find inspiration everywhere. The colour of the Uber driver’s shirt, the shape of a light in a bathroom, the way the sound moves through a hall, the smell of the metro.

Sometimes I get fixated on one idea. Sometimes, I’m obsessed with painting apostrophes. Over and over, I paint them. Simply because the speak to me.

When you’re on the road, even in the middle of the cacophony of a city, immersed in work, if you listen, you’ll hear what’s speaking to you.

Paring back your expectations

Obviously, I’m not taking my canvases with me on the plane! As an artist, I can change the tools I use. I swap the paints for a drawing pad and pencils. Sometimes I doodle on my iPad, just to sketch out ideas and shapes. (Try the Procreate app!)

One thing that can be a real barrier to creativity is the idea that you have to do it in a specific way. Oh, I’ll become an artist when I finally get a studio. Or, I have to save up for the best pencils and paints.

Don’t wait. I’m all about finding those five minutes of creativity whenever you can! It doesn’t matter what your artform is, you can adapt it for your circumstances. Okay, what if I’m a sculptor or ceramic artist or mural artist? You already know what I’m going to say. Sketch out ideas in a notepad. Play with paper clips. Buy a pot of Play Dough. Your opportunities to stay creative are all around you.

This isn’t just when you’re travelling – this also applies when your house is small or messy or you’re moving or whatever. If you’re really passionate about your creative life, you will find a way.

I hope that whatever you’re up to this week, you find ways into your creativity.


By Valerie Khoo

October 30th, 2018
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