How to Bribe Your Muse:The 30 Second Skeleton Key to Unlocking Your Creativity

The problem with a Muse is that sometimes she shows you her back and refuses to come.  You may try logic with her “We really have to solve this problem together, the deadline is in 4 hours…” or threats “If you don’t come now, I’m getting a new Muse!” or cajoling “Please, you know how well we work together” only to discover that your Muse has shown you her inner child – her inner sulky, stubborn, petulant two year old inner child.  Now what do you do?

Have you ever offered to read a story to a child who claimed he absolutely wasn’t interested?

Do you remember what happened when you started to read the story aloud anyway- especially to another willing child?  You and the story became a magnet to your wayward little friend.

 This is the stage where you need to pull out something shiny for a bribe. Muses are known magpies – all you need is a good idea of what kind of shiny things your muse likes. But maybe it’s a little more difficult than that. Perhaps you have an inner critic – a voice that sits in the balcony of your mind and critiques the quality of your art.

Now you are managing a two year old Muse and an 80 year old crotchety critic- how do you coax one and censor the other?

30 Second Drawings.

These quick drawings attract your Muse because you can offer her crayons, markers, glitter… anything within arms reach, but there’s no pressure. In fact you are not allowing her to focus on any one idea or drawing for any longer than the average two year-old’s attention span. It’s perfect.

30 second drawings also shut down your critic. How can that inner voice possibly critique scribbles with crayons? You’ve invited your Muse in just to make a mess, knowing that you may throw out every scrap of paper she colours.  I don’t know about your critic, but mine is very type A – a perfectionist to the core. She is short circuited by deliberate mess making with no expectation of genious or quality.

So how do you make a 30 second drawing?

Here’s your supply list (this may be the only part of this article your logical critic may like):




ball point pens



coloured pencils


oil pastels

oil sticks

nu pastel

conte crayon


powdered graphite  

and of course, crayons

a stop watch or egg timer (if you like)

and as much cheap computer paper as you can get your hands on.

Obviously, you don’t have to use all those things, but if you have them in your house I suggest giving them a try.

If you’re using a timer, set it for 30 seconds, get your first sheet out and scribble. Move your hand quickly and don’t focus on drawing anything in particular. When the timer goes off, start a new drawing on a new sheet of paper. Draw the ideas that are inspired from your other drawings. If you saw a person in your last drawing and you want to refine that idea, go ahead – as long as you stick to your time limit.

I find that my first few drawings are complete crap (that’s why I didn’t post any! I have to have some secrets)- but they give my hand a chance to get moving and some baby ideas start to grow. By the time I stop, I usually have at least one interesting drawing – or an idea that’s worth exploring further.

Besides bribery, what are 30 second drawings good for?

  • Getting you past any need to be perfect in order to make an attempt at creativity
  • Preventing you from “jumping” right to the end of a project – and being so overwhelmed by the big picture that you just never start
  • Helping you get ideas out on paper- even before you can really explain them in words
  • Showing you the connections between ideas – when you look at your drawings in sequence you will see how you have documented an idea(s) from spark to flame.

I’m sure that you can think of some other benefits – how ’bout just plain having fun?

I know it sounds wierd – but try it!

I’d love to hear your experiences and see your drawings.


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