[creative matters] chapter two: bring on the blank canvas

blank canvas, art, creativity

Written by Jeff Goins

My name is Jeff Goins, and I’m a writer, idea guy, and difference-maker. I love compelling stories, worthy causes, and Pez candy.

August 5, 2011

blank canvas, art, creativity

[serialposts]This chapter features some of my favorite creatives and thinkers — people like Lisa Gungor and Blaine Hogan. I couldn’t do this chapter justice by writing a typical, rote review of the topics broached in it.

It wouldn’t do it justice.

Instead, I’ve opted for sharing what I’ve taken away from the chapter — what’s inspired challenged me. What is causing me think and dream differently.

It begins with a paradoxical quote by Peter Max that ends with: “The canvas paints itself; I’m just the middleman.”

What’s interesting about this quote is that it’s a contradiction with the rest of the chapter — and I’m okay with that, frankly. Most of art is a contradiction. The good art, anyway.

But it’s worth noting, nonetheless — while there is a mysticism to the creative process, the reality is that the canvas doesn’t paint itself. You paint the canvas. And you begin by pulling out your palette and getting to work.

It’s Blaine’s article that really stirred me — he encourages you to begin the creative process by searching inside of yourself and seeing what moves you.

Here’s what I learned (in a nutshell) from “Bring on the Blank Canvas”:

-Begin with what moves you
It’s hard to know where creativity starts, and Blaine Hogan posits that it begins with you — with your passions and dreams and desires. I would agree.

-Dance because you have to
We all have a dance in us — a passion worth exploring, an art worth perfecting. And we simply must move to the rhythm of the music. We can’t help it.

-Remember that art is not safe
This whole creating thing is scary. It’s not easy and it won’t save you from criticism. It may upset your family and even earn you some enemies. But it’s worth it.

-Creative space is important
Where you create is directly link to what you create. There’s such a thing as spatial memory — your body knows where you are and so does your soul. It associates certain activities with certain areas. Don’t be afraid to move around.

-Be spontaneous and proactive
“Scratch when you don’t itch,” Blaine says. In other words, always be creating — not just when you have to.

-Real creativity is about execution
It’s not about ideas, as Scott Belsky says (who unfortunately didn’t make a cameo in this book); it’s about making ideas happen.

Creativity is nothing without action. I love how this tension between freedom and work is embraced throughout this chapter. It’s beautiful and hard at the same time — like any activity worth doing.

That’s what I got out of it. Of course, you would get something different. And I hope you do. But that would mean you’d have to read it.


  1. Leslie J. Rowe

    Really enjoyed reading your take on this. You have inspired me to go read Chapter 2. 

  2. @bibledude

    these are some great observations about the creative process. i really appreciate how this ebook is stretching me, and making me be more intentional about my creativity. i take away that it’s not something that just comes over me, but something that i can work on (and towards).

    • Claire

      Dan this point is especially strong in Chapter 3 where the client and intentionally working towards them is the core of the chapter. This is why I took such a different spin of the post ; )

    • Jeff Goins

      you should read making ideas happen, dan.

  3. Claire

    Jeff you have summarised this so well. I like that you placed ‘start with what moves you’ first. I think this is what helps the canvas to paint itself: the art flows from the well of passion. I know this is definitely true in my own life.

    • Jeff Goins

      indeed. thanks for the comment, claire!


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[creative matters] chapter two: bring on the blank canvas

by Jeff Goins time to read: 2 min