What I Do When I Don't Want to Work

This is what I do when I don’t want to work.

Sometimes I get stuck. Weekly. Daily. I sputter and stall out. I find myself staring at the screen and refreshing the feed. Waiting for who-knows-what. In limbo. 

It was Karin Berquist, powerhouse songstress half of Over The Rhine, who taught me these stalls can be redeemed. I simply need to reframe them as incubators. Under-the-hood-creative-sessions. Subconscious romps. 

In a songwriting workshop, Karin told us about a friend who assured here that perceived creative dry spells are actually intake periods

I’ve latched onto that phrase. If I were more crafty I’d make a pennant and mount it to my laptop every few hours to let the world know – “INTAKE PERIOD UNDERWAY!” 

Creativity is the constant remix of component parts. We pay attention to our word, then we capture the good and rearrange it in our own image. We are beauty filters. All creation is collage, and collage needs a constant stream of raw materials. So we must inhale. 

This is more than consumption. This is harvest.

We all have our favourite fields to glean. I thought I’d share a few sources I have found inspiring in the past, and hope you can point me toward some new sources in the comments below. 

Austin Kleon

Kleon’s little square books have given me many a kickstart. I love his fun and nonchalant approach to the all-too-important art world. I love his sense of play. He blogs every day, and sends a killer newsletter that adds value to my life each Friday. You should subscribe.

Wrote about gardening on the blog today. Link in profile: @austinkleon


This Instagram account from ‘visual storyteller’ Christoph Niemann is stunning. I just discovered it today, via the aforementioned email from Austin Kleon. I could share so many brilliant illustrations here, but you should probably just go ahead and subscribe to get them all. 

Sunday sketch #baseball.

Jason Polan

After setting out to draw “Every Building in New York”, Polan is now drawing “Every Person in New York”. The audacity! 

Song Exploder

I haven’t loved every episode of Song Exploder, but the good ones are great ones. This podcast encourages high-level musicians to take their songs apart, piece by piece, before our very ears. I love hearing the component parts of an audio mix – the way an artist just decided to bang on some metal in the alley to get that perfect sound in one-half of one chorus. I love the experimentation that comes through regularly. I love the recent Arcade Fire episode. You should listen. 

99% Percent Invisible

I have loved every episode of 99% Invisible, the podcast that explores the design of just about everything and anything. The episode about Dazzle camouflage – a WW1 era tactic that saw naval ships painted with zebra stripes to confuse the enemy – is a favourite. 

Podcasts, In General

I’ve been painting our house this week and podcasts are something I can put on in the background while my imagination runs wild. I visited another planet this week while painting my walls. In fact, Podcasts are my favourite way to turn passive time (driving a car, washing the dishes, folding the laundry) into active intake periods. 

Walking, In General

Something about the slowness of walking helps me appreciate the world. I notice things that are invisible from a car window. The city comes alive in new ways. If you want some practice in mindful neighbourhood walking, join Stephanie Medford over at Bleeding Heart Art Space for a workshop later this month. 

We have a fantastic river valley here in Edmonton, and that makes nature walks as easy as city walks. I’m not sure I prefer one over the other but both offer plenty of inspiration if you keep your eyes open and your earbuds off. 

Howsa bout you?