Twelve Life Lessons for Creativity

The Retrospective and Introspective Insights
from an Artist’s Journey.

© 2002  Judith Reilly

Judith Reilly's By the Sea #1
Judith Reilly’s By the Sea #1

Around 1996, I was asked to make my first retrospective slide presentation. As I laid out photographs of my work from the past 25 years and placed them in chronological order, I was astounded at what I realized. First, I saw all the common ground, for I knew the flow of the journey. Next I focused on the growth, remembering the adventure of discovery. But very quickly and most importantly I began to recall what I had learned while creating each piece. To my surprise the lessons were not what you might expect – when I began to design my own work, quilt on the machine or dye my own cloth. These lessons were the lessons of life, the treasured moments of gradual or sudden understanding that provide the continuing journey with an abundance of meaning, confidence and freedom. For example, one piece recalled the powerful realization that I must not create to seek approval, and another, the fabulous lessons acquired while making all those glorious mistakes. The insights were countless.

This introspective moment of realization helped me understand that sharing the quilts without the lessons would only be sharing a small part of me, just the evidence that progress had taken place but not the growth that really mattered! So, taking the lessons from each piece and organizing them into just twelve, the Life Lessons for Creativity were born. Rather than giving you the meaning of each in my own words, I have elected to share the ideas and words of others who have explained my perspective with great clarity, humor and conviction.

1.  We are all unique and gifted

“Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable.”     Brenda Ueland

“Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity.”     Mary Baker Eddy

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”     Eleanor Roosevelt


2.  Life is perception

“We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.”     Anais Nin

“Change your thoughts and you change your life.”     Norman Vincent Peale


Judith Reilly's Little Boats II
Judith Reilly’s Little Boats II

3.  Childlikeness: never lose it!

“The most potent muse of all is our own inner child.”     Stephan Nachmanovitch

“To be truly immortal, a work of art must escape all human limits; logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken, it will enter the realms of childhood visions and dreams.”     Giorgio De Chiricio

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”     Anonymous

“Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea.”     Mary Baker Eddy


4.  Permission and limitations: claim one, and reject the other

“Take your life into your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing. No one to blame.”     Erica Jong

“Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours”.     Richard Bach


5.  Don’t seek approval

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong”.     Joseph Chilton Pearce

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart: and lean not unto thine own understanding. For the Lord shall be thy confidence.”     Proverbs 3


6.  We must have wings and feet

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”     Albert Einstein

“He who has imagination without learning has wings and no feet.”     Joseph Joubert


7.  Determine what is traditional, accepted and expected… and don’t do it!

“The voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.”     Marcel Proust

“Creation is ever appearing and must ever continue to appear from the nature of its inexhaustible source.”     Mary Baker Eddy


Judith Reilly's Inchworm, Inchworm
Judith Reilly’s Inchworm, Inchworm

8.  Be true to yourself

“Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should be.”     Brenda Ueland

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured, or far away.”     Henry David Thoreau

“We should examine ourselves and learn what is the affection and purpose of the heart, for in this way only can we learn what we honestly are.”     Mary Baker Eddy

9.  If we’re not having fun, we’re not doing it right!

“I used to wait for a sign…before I did anything. Then one night I had a dream and an angel in black tights came to me and said, ‘You can start any time now’ and then I asked ‘is this a sign?’ And the angel started laughing and I woke up. Now I think the whole world is filled with signs, but if there’s no laughter, I know they’re not for me.”     Brian Andreas

“Angels. God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of good…”     Mary Baker Eddy


10.  We have to “kiss a lot of frogs” … (a.k.a. Oops!)

“A man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”     Edward John Phelps

“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm”.     Collette


11.  We must share our gifts to experience their ultimate blessings

“For me, the art process is not complete without the viewer.”     James Christiansen

I’ll share your toys, I’ll share your money
I’ll share your toast, I’ll share your honey,
I’ll share your milk and your cookies too –
The hard part’s sharing mine with you.”
Shel Silverstein

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”     Matthew 5:16

“Man shines by borrowed light.”     Mary Baker Eddy


12.  “Solitude” and “Now”: the gifts we give ourselves

“Be still and know that I am God.”     Ps. 46:10

“To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings.”
Mary Baker Eddy

“Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed.”     Corita Kent

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.”     Elizabeth Kubler-Ross