Ideas arrive with silence oftentimes. My most recent epiphany came at the most inopportune moment. When I rolled over for the 5th time at 2 a.m.; I would have preferred to fall back asleep if given the choice. But instead, I ran down a thought detour and connected two good ideas that had been loitering all week to form a new, brilliant idea: how to fix my current painting.

Big Panel in Progress

Painting is often about problem solving, so you have to make notes when the ideas arrive – even in the middle of the night. They also like to intrude while you’re taking a shower (though they are more welcome than Norman Bates.) Why is it that when you’re trying to think of a solution, it doesn’t show its face, but try to go to sleep, and the creativity gets as rowdy as college kids on spring break?

Why? I’ll tell you my theory:

One reason is that when we are sleeping, driving, weeding or showering – we have exponentially fewer distractions. The responsibilities of daily living: preparing food, taking care of our shelter and comforts, calendar management and body maintenance require so much energy and attention. Our brains are pretty busy with daily rote tasks and distractions. My ‘monkey mind’ could convince me that all of this is more important than making art if I let it. It can create distractions right out of thin air!

Mental Distractions

Even right now, as I sit down to write this post, my mind wants to avoid bushwhacking my thoughts into some form of coherence. Miss monkey mind wants to take the paved freeway to nowhere and scroll social media. But mental distractions aren’t the only creative hazard.

Visual distractions are also at play. Just an innocent glance out the window and I see that the dogwood I love is about to bud out. And there’s a SQUIRREL! It’s no coincidence that some of my best painting ideas arrive when my eyes are closed! In fact, here’s a great way to conquer visual distractions: close your eyes!

When my eyes are closed, the images that come to my mind are often simpler, more powerful and more iconic than what I can sketch or paint. And with my eyes closed I can sometimes discover new paths or avenues of problem solving that I had totally overlooked but now seem obvious.

There are also auditory distractions to battle. For example, one thing I realized when our electricity was out: just having central heat produces noise. The sound of the forced air heat was missing when we were out of power for 10 days this winter. It is amazing how much better I slept when the heater wasn’t kicking on or off every 30 minutes.

And I loved how quiet the house felt in the day with only the occasional crackle or hiss of the fireplace. Television, drips, dishwasher, stereo, phone, traffic – noises that bring to mind other parts of our lives can distract from creative work.

Turn off the noise:

Turning off as much of the noise as possible can help conquer the audio distractions. Creating white noise: a dryer, water running, driving, or a fan can also help. In the studio I listen to music without lyrics to help me tune out other audio noise.

Painting near the ocean has the same effect. I’m looking forward to working onnew ocean paintings in my workshop at the Sitka Center! June 14-18 – we will be adding our treasures from walking the beach to small cold wax and oil paintings. Learn more on their website:

We’re just basically bathing in distraction day and night. 

Sometimes it takes silence to create. Silence of the mind, visual silence and physical silence. Join me at the coast for a respite from all your distractions.

“I am silent now. It is not an empty silence. It is a natural silence. The silence of wind, of waves, of breath, of the beating of my heart. It is a space in my soul for being aware. It is a silence that listens, gently, taking notice. I can simply Be. I am the space within. I am the round sky and the firm earth. The waves of life wash through me, and the wind of the spirit cries in my heart.”

– Christin L. Weber, Finding Stone


Leave me a comment: How do you deal with distraction? And feel free to share this on your favorite social media or to send it on to an artistic friend! Thanks for reading.

Click on images below for the full view and take a peek at some of my other posts on Silence, below.

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