Getting in Creative Flow – Stephan Pastis

Cartoonist Stephan Pastis tells us (in under 3 minutes) how he gets in the creative flow for his work:

He noticed that when he writes emails, he can’t do it when there’s music playing – so worked out that his reasoning mind is shut off by the music.  So, to use the other side of the brain, the imaginative, he can close off the logical by playing that same music.

He reckons he writes his cartoon strip in an odd way – but lists the elements:

Creative Process

  1.  I put on headphones, I listen to music very loud and I dance around for an hour
  2. I draw on the walls
  3. I make a lot of coffee
  4. and incense
  5. there’s a mirror on a door and I look at myself a lot

Creative Flow

Stephan compares it to balancing or floating – it’s a state you get into – not something you tense up and push your way into.  He doesn’t try to think his way into what is funny – in fact, he does the opposite by switching off the logical part of his brain through the loud music.



In a separate video, he says that he has no Plan B if being a cartoonist doesn’t work out.  Previously, he was a lawyer, but hated his work.  Perhaps that thought helps him concentrate.

He genuinely enjoys the writing process – it’s like fishing, he says, you’re looking for that bite, that great idea.


Creative Takeaway for us:

Look at Stephan’s creative process, try and find what is healthy and yet works to free up your/my creative minds.





Painting and Politics – Churchill

This is very good – Andrew Marr – who has mixed with high-level politicians frequently in his career as BBC political commentator – tackles the subject of what painting meant to Winston Churchill throughout that world leader’s life.

Screen shot 2016-06-26 at 00.07.37Still from the BBC programme

Here’s a clip from the programme – where Andrew engages with the same idea of “flow” which Martha Kearney was hearing about from the psychologist on craft making – in a recent craft programme on BBC – coincidentally viewed by myself around same time as the Andrew Marr programme.  Here’s Andrew:

“The capacity of art and its making to restore one’s mental health is something that I am coming to understand – and I’m sure Churchill did too. I’m really interested in the idea of ‘flow’ as the essence of ‘happiness’ if you like. And flow is, we’re told, being engaged with full intensity in something, doing it as much as you possibly can, as hard as you can – but something you find difficult and not easy, but you can do. So for me, it’s drawing. When I’m doing it, everything else just dissolves into mere colour and line and there is nothing except for colour and line in the world, ultimately. So that’s what it does for me, I’m sure it was the same for Churchill too.”



The one-hour programme is beautifully researched, going to places where Churchill stayed (includes former villa of Coco Chanel) and the South of France, and his very private painting studio at home in England. Andrew Marr is good, thoughtful company, and quietly comments that he has found art useful himself in his recovery from a stroke, which adds an authentic air of depth to his musings. And like the best of commentators, he leaves you intrigued and desperately keen to find out more about the subject he’s been talking about.


Whole programme to view here:



This documentary is available to view on BBC i-player, my favourite TV ‘station’ until end of June 2016.


The programme was shown first in August 2015, but I managed to miss it – so I’m very glad it’s available to see this year.