How productivity hacks help me create my art

I’m a productivity nerd. I love apps and hacks and tips and tools that help me be more efficient. This nerd-ness also helps me create my art.

If you’re always looking for ways to be more productive, keep going to read the article. If you’re rather watch and listen, jump to the video at the end.

Image credit: Hilary Clark – detail view of “Inflamed”

I was born organized…

Like I said above the photo, I’m a productivity nerd. This trait helped me be efficient and productive in school when I was a kid, at work as an adult, and it continues to help me as an artist who creates feelings out of fiber.

I was born organized. I came out of the womb putting everything in neat and tidy order. Ha! Not really, but being organized did come naturally to me. Everything did and does always have its place and I keep clutter to a minimum. I consider this to be a productivity hack because when everything has a place, I don’t have to spend precious time searching for whatever it is I’m looking for. I group like with like in my studio, even storing my fabric stash along the ROYGBIV spectrum. (Nerd note: I do the same with my clothes closet.)

By organizing my tools in an order that makes sense to me, I can spend my time in the studio productively, rather than losing time searching for the next thing I need. When I walk into my studio, I know exactly where to go and what I’m doing next, maximizing my creative time.

I love a good to do list…

I’m also a prolific list maker. I really love a good to do list! I use a digital tool to capture all the tasks I need to complete and the projects I’d like to play with.

My list making has morphed into a much more efficient practice as I’ve grown older, particularly when I was balancing a full-time corporate job with my art making. I needed something to keep track of all the things I wanted to do when I wasn’t at my job so I could again maximize my creative time.

When I was exploring various ways to keep track of my to dos, I came across the “Getting Things Done” Method (GTD), created by David Allen. The principle behind this method is to write down (or type) every single to do or project that comes to mind. Do a brain dump and get it all out of your head. Whenever a task floats through your brain, write it down. Once a week, you sort through these items and organize them into various categories.

I adore this method and I’ve adapted it to work for me. I don’t use the categories Mr. Allen suggests because they don’t make sense for me, but I do keep my tasks and projects categorized. For this, I use Todoist, where I can even schedule my tasks, allowing me to easily plan my day and my week ahead.

An added bonus of following the brain dump suggestion of the GTD method is it frees up the brain. All the clutter of all the things that need to be done is removed and stored somewhere else, opening up space for greater creativity. When I’m looking for something to do, all I have to do is go to my list.

Processes are fun…

I also enjoy designing processes to create greater productivity. So I designed a process to create my art. From start to finish, each of my textured fiber paintings is created through a series of 25 steps. These steps take me from design through photographs of the completed piece, from stitching through entering it into my inventory log.

Each time I start a new textured fiber painting, I copy my project template and rename it with the name of the piece I’m going to make. The template is stored in Todoist, so I don’t have to try to remember what I want to do next. Truth be told, I’ve made so many of these now, I know what all my steps are, but I like continuing to use the list because I can schedule the date or dates I’m going to do each step in Todoist. Thinking is hard; why do more than I need to? 🙂

Seriously, though, by creating a template to follow, I ensure I can be more proactive and productive in the studio because I don’t have to waste time thinking about what to do next.

In closing…

The hacks I’ve mentioned above are just a tiny sample of the ways I use productivity to create my art. There are only so many hours in the day, right? The more productive I can be in the time I have, the more art I can make.

I’m always looking for ways to work smarter and not harder because, like I said in a previous article, I’m a lazy artist (add link). By leveraging processes, apps, and my innate organizational skills, I’m able to spend more time creating art and less time trying to figure out what to work on next. I call all of things I do The Hilary Method and I could teach it to you if you’re interested.

With The Hilary Method, I can help you find the processes, apps, and innate skills you already possess that work best for you, so you too can increase your productivity. By ramping up your productivity, you’ll find time to be more creative, spend more quality time with family, get more done at work, fit in time to exercise, or whatever it is you’d like to have more time to do.

P.S. If you could use help to be more productive, get in touch and we’ll set up time to talk about what I call The Hilary Method, my process to help you become more productive and proactive so you can be more creative.

P.P.S. If you liked what you read (or watched if you chose the video), please share with the one person you absolutely know would like it too!

What being an artist means to me

It took me a long time to figure it out, but being an artist means everything to me. I fought against this identity. When I finally surrendered, life got a whole lot easier.

If you’ve struggled or fought against your own creative calling, keep going to read the article. If you’re rather watch and listen, jump to the video at the end.

Image credit: Hilary Clark – detail view of “Crushed”

The journey…

Being an artist means everything to me. It’s who I am. But I didn’t always know this. In fact, I spent years actively denying it to myself.

Being an artist didn’t feel practical. It wasn’t a logical move. I questioned my ability to make an income. I wondered how I’d ever find the time to make art while working a full time job.

I came up with tons of excuses about why I couldn’t possibly be an artist. I even chose to take another career path in my obstinance, one that was just as distracting to creative thought.

Initially, I thought I’d be a writer, penning New York Times bestselling novels with ease. I’ve always loved to write, beginning with an introduction to poetry writing in the 4th grade, then creative writing classes in high school and college. I write well. I can tell a compelling story. I thought novel writing would be a breeze.

It wasn’t. I found myself resistant to writing, to putting my butt in the seat and fingers to keyboard. I’d get a good start with a plot, then it would die out for lack of imagination on where the characters might go next.

So I decided I wasn’t meant to be a writer, of fiction novels at least, because I told myself I didn’t have what it took to carry a plot line through 300 pages.

From novelist to children’s book writer…

When I gave up on writing novels, I thought, oh, I’ll write children’s books instead – they’re shorter; my imagination can carry a story line through to the end. I love fantastical creatures, so writing books to captivate children felt simple.

And I wrote one – for my niece as a gift for her 5th birthday. And I started another for my nephew that remains unfinished because he grew older and fell out of interest in superheroes.

So then I told myself I wasn’t qualified to write children’s books because I don’t have children of my own.

From writer to life coach…

I set writing aside, pretending I’d given it a good try and pretending it didn’t hurt my heart just a little bit to give up on my lifelong dream to write books. And I went on a quest to find another career.

I found life coaching. I got educated on what it means to be a life coach. I practiced and coached and tapped into all the personal growth I’d done on myself to help others. I found coaching satisfying – when the light bulb goes off for a client can be incredibly joyful.

But it wasn’t creative and it felt very much like it was in the way of what I really wanted to do.

Admitting it…

For over 20 years, I’ve been creating with my sewing machine. I started with traditional lap quilts, then began to make art quilts of my own design, and about 6 years ago, I shifted to what I call textured fiber paintings – densely stitched abstract fiber pieces.

Through my corporate career, through my exploration around being a writer, through my journey to train and practice as a coach, I continued to make my fiber pieces.

That’s all I really wanted to do. In fact, I thought becoming a coach would be the path to allow me more time to create my fiber art. But coaching didn’t. It distracted me instead.

And still I struggled and fought against calling myself an artist.

Then my partner and I moved across country in the middle of a pandemic and something shifted inside me. A door opened and through it, I saw opportunity. I saw that my struggle and fight were exhausting and it was time to surrender.

So I did. I surrendered so I could accept who I really am – an artist. I’m an artist who creates feelings out of fiber and it is everything.

A life of grace, ease, and lightness…

Eckhart Tolle wrote in The Power of Now, “To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness.”

That’s what being an artist feels like to me – a life of grace, ease, and lightness.

From the moment I surrendered to my calling, that of being an artist, everything got simpler. My mind exploded with creative ideas. I began to explore other ways to make art, like drawing and painting, which had previously held little interest because I believed I wouldn’t be any good at them.

My mood shifted from a state of frequent quiet gentle melancholy to one of constant simmering joy.

Most surprising of all, the story line for a novel came to me, complete with characters, the plot path, and easy breezy writing time with my butt in my seat and my fingers on the keyboard.

Being an artist means everything to me. It’s who I am.

But I never would have found this joy if I’d continued resisting what my heart knew.

In closing…

So many of us spend some portion of our lives struggling against what our deepest inner knowing calls us to be and do. I spent most of my adult life in that struggle. And then I stopped resisting and everything became easy.

If you’ve fought and struggled against what your deepest inner knowing is calling you to be or do, especially if it’s a creative calling, I’m here to tell you it’s time to surrender. In fact, I’m here to help you get there. Part of my definition of myself as an artist includes helping others who’ve struggled to claim that same definition for themselves. I can help you release the resistance and find your state of ease.

I promise you, when you let the struggle go, it will mean everything.

P.S. If you could use help to surrender to your creative calling, get in touch and we’ll set up time to talk about what I call The Hilary Method, my process to help you become more productive and proactive so you can be more creative.

P.P.S. If you liked what you read (or watched if you chose the video), please share with the one person you absolutely know would like it too!

I’m a lazy artist

The other day, I was speaking with a friend and I said, “I’m a lazy artist.” She asked what I meant by that; I thought I’d share what I said with you too.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re too lazy to do the creative thing that calls you, or conversely, you wish you could be lazy but you feel like you’re too busy, keep going to read the article. If you’re rather watch and listen, jump to the video at the end.

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

What I mean by lazy…

What I mean when I say I’m a lazy artist is I don’t want to work all the time, 8 or more hours a day and on weekends.

I cherish my down time. I cherish my self-care time. And I cherish my family time.

Because these pockets of time are so important to me, I’ve sometimes felt conflicted about having enough time to make my art, which is also critical to my well-being.

I’m a maker, a creative first and yet, I’m always seeking alignment between my calling and my personal and family needs. So for a while, I fought my laziness.

Doing that, fighting my laziness, backfired on me. I ended up feeling resentful towards the thing I most enjoy doing, being an artist.

So something had to change.

Embracing the lazy…

That change began with a decision to embrace the lazy, to stop trying to be someone I’m not.

Then I took two steps to set myself up for success, which you can do too.

These steps are:

    • Give yourself permission to be yourself
    • Put systems and structure in place to allow you to be productive and proactive

Give yourself permission…

The first step to success as a lazy creative is to give yourself permission to be yourself. Here’s what this looked like for me:

I’m a slow mover in the morning and always have been. But I was pushing myself as an artist and creativity trainer to get up and get moving as if I still had a corporate job. I was forcing myself to get up earlier than I like (around 4:30 AM), to rush through my shower, to shovel down breakfast, and be at my desk or in my studio by 7 AM. This left no time for self-care, which for me is journaling, meditation, and exercise, all of which I know I must do at the start of my day or they won’t happen.

So after deciding to embrace my lazy, I gave myself permission to be myself. I get up at 6 AM and journal for 20 minutes. I eat breakfast and catch up on social media and email. I meditate for 10 minutes, then I go for a 2 mile walk. I come home, I shower, and then I start my work day around 9:30 AM.

I work until I’m done, with the goal of never working past 5 PM, so I can relax before making dinner, and then enjoy down time with my partner in the evening, which includes reading and the occasional show.

Your permission will look different than mine. You’ll need to get clear on what’s important to you so you can choose what your lazy looks like.

Systems and structure…

The second step is to put systems and structure in place so you can be your most productive and proactive in the time you have available to you. Giving yourself permission to be yourself is important. To pull it off, however, this step is critical.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been able to complete my work in less time than others (and my results were stellar, so it’s not like I was cutting corners). What this meant was I accomplished more in four to six hours than others did in eight.

When I remembered this about myself, I realized I could continue to embrace my lazy even as an artist. All I needed to do was set up systems and structure, much like I’d done throughout my corporate career.

I’m a productivity and time management geek. One of my personal mantras is “work smarter, not harder”. I’m an expert at designing solutions and finding efficiencies where others only see obstacles and an endless road. So I decided to apply these skills to my own art career.

One of the most valuable structures I use is time blocking. It allows me to divide my work into similar chunks so I can focus on one thing at a time. I have two full days for administrative work, which includes creating and scheduling my marketing content. I have three full days for making art in my studio. By using time blocking, the pressure fell away to do all the things on all the days. Now, if I want to make art on a Saturday or Sunday, I do it for the joy of it, not because I didn’t have time during the week.

One of the most valuable systems I use is a task app. I use Todoist, where I dump every single to do that pops into my head. Each week, I go through it (I’ve got it organized into work segments) and schedule my work for each day of the following week. I don’t have to think about what I’m going to do on a given day or what topic I’ll write about for my weekly article – I’ve stored it all in Todoist. My lazy artist brain is free to be creative because it’s not loaded down with tasks and projects.

These are just two examples of the systems and structures I use. There are loads more out there to choose from, which means what I use might not be right for you.

In closing…

I’m a lazy artist. But by granting myself permission to be myself and then putting systems and structures in place that allow me to be my most productive, proactive, and creative, I’ve found success.

If this is something that calls to you, I can help. I work with people just like you who feel too lazy to do the creative thing that calls, or conversely, feel too busy. I work with you to grant yourself permission to be yourself and then train you on the systems and structures that’ll be most effective for your situation. Whether you want to insert creative time into your day, or you just want to be more productive and proactive at work, creativity training can help.

P.S. If you could use help to embrace your lazy, get in touch and we’ll set up time to talk about what I call The Hilary Method, my process to help you become more productive and proactive so you can be more creative.

P.P.S. If you liked what you read (or watched if you chose the video), please share with the one person you absolutely know would like it too!

You can reprogram your creative computer

If you’ve ever been told you’re not creative, this is for you. We’re going to talk about reprogramming the creative computer that is your brain. You can choose to read the article or you can jump to the video at the end and watch instead.

Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash
Everyone is creative

Everyone is creative. This is a Truth, an absolute. As children, creativity was the light that shined out of us in everything we did. From the first finger paintings your parents hung on the fridge to the poem you wrote that received a gold star to your amazing rendition of a tree in the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

You were creatively unfettered, imaginative, intuitive, and playful.

And then you grew older

You grew older and a teacher or some other authority figure told you that you’d better find some other thing to get good at because you were no good at drawing or singing or writing or acting or whatever creative thing you loved to do.

And you believed that person

You internalized the message you weren’t creative. You felt shame and embarrassment because you imagined everyone had been laughing at you behind your back while you’d been doing the creative thing you loved. So you stopped doing that thing.

And began to tell yourself you weren’t creative

In the telling, you created programming in your brain that this was true, that you weren’t and aren’t creative. You developed a belief in this lack of creativity. This belief holds you back from trying new things, creative or other.

Because if you don’t believe something’s possible, like your ability to draw or sew or develop a training program for your staff, you’re not likely to try it. Even if you do give it a shot, it’ll be a half assed attempt and when the result isn’t great, your belief that you’re not creative will be reinforced.

It’s possible to reprogram your brain

One of the zillion amazingly cool things about being human is our ability to constantly learn. That’s what reprogramming the creative center that is your brain is about – learning.

It’s about making the decision to ignore the belief that you’re not creative so you can take the opportunity to learn how to do something new. By ignoring the programming planted there by a long ago authority figure and reinforced by your own actions as you moved into adulthood, you can begin to dismantle the “truth” of the programming.

Options for Reprogramming

You have several options for reprogramming so you can learn how creative you truly are.

  • You can challenge this programming by asking yourself, “How true do I really believe it is that I’m not creative?”. Sometimes, this simple question is all that’s needed to break your tie to the belief that you’re not creative.
  • If asking the simple question above doesn’t break the tie, then look for proof of its truth (or lack of proof). Keep digging at the proof you find until you get past the circumstantial to the root.
  • Just begin to do something creative. Start singing. Start drawing. Start sewing. Start putting that training program together. Choose one thing that feels creative to you and just start. And then keep going. Even if the drawing sucks or the seams don’t align, if your voice hits the wrong notes or your staff has more questions after training then they did before. Begin, and keep going, because the more you do the creative thing you’ve chosen, the better you’ll become, with gives you evidence that you ARE creative after all.
  • Decide to accept you may not be creative with the thing that authority figure told you that you were no good at, and choose to do some other creative thing instead. The reality is you may really have a shitty singing voice (I know I do) but you could be an absolutely brilliant set designer. When you shift your focus from the creative thing you may not have the talent or skill to do to something else, you modify the belief in your creativity so it better serves you.
In closing…

Everyone is creative. Then we grow older and others tell us we’re not and we believe them. We suppress the imaginative, intuitive, playful part of ourselves in response to someone else’s opinion out of shame and embarrassment.

Then we take that opinion from the other person and make it our own personal opinion about ourselves, reinforcing the programming that we’re not creative.

But it is possible to reprogram your brain so you can see how creative you really are. Using one or more of the options shared above, you can take the first steps towards reprogramming the creative center that is your brain, reconnecting yourself to your innate creativity.

P.S. If you could use help to reprogram your brain so you can reconnect to your innate creativity, get in touch and we’ll set up time to talk about what I call The Hilary Method, my process to help you become more creative, more productive, and more proactive.

P.P.S. If you liked what you read (or watched if you chose the video), please share with the one person you absolutely know would like it too!

News from the Studio & a poetry reading

Welcome to the monthly update from the Studio! May was a busy month and there’s loads of activity to share with you. So keep reading to learn what I’ve been up to.

(Feeling) Isolated – My Latest Textured Fiber Painting

(Feeling) Isolated is complete!  This piece was made in response to the sense of isolation felt on a global scale brought on by sheltering in place during COVID 19 coupled with a personal cross country move to a new home.  It’s available to hang on your wall for $2,500.00.  Get in touch if you’d like to buy it.

(Feeling) Isolated (link to poem):

Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500
Detail View:
Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500
Detail View:
Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500
Detail View:
Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500
Detail View:
Isolated ~ May 2020 ~ 34-/14″ x 23-1/4″ ~ $2500

Next up: (Feeling) Connected – to recognize the universal connection between all of humanity, even in the midst of a pandemic.

As always, most of my textured fiber paintings are for sale. You can visit the Gallery page on my website for a closer look of every piece I’ve ever made or go straight to my online portfolio to purchase an item from my Feelings series. Eventually, my online portfolio and my Gallery will be combined into a single resource – until then, I hope you’ll bear with it as a work in progress.

I’ve started sharing progress on my textured fiber paintings online via Facebook Live a couple times a week. During these “Window Into My Studio” events, I demonstrate my process and sometimes share productivity and creativity tips, tricks, and ideas as food for thought. Think of me as the stitching version of Bob Ross. 🙂 I’d love for you to join me as often as you can.

The videos are saved and uploaded to my YouTube channel so you can go back and watch anytime you want (none are longer than 30 minutes).

It All Started With a Haiku

I wrote a book!!! I published my book of poetry on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback. Titled “It All Started With a Haiku”, it’s a small collection of my favorite poems I’ve written over a span of 40 years. I’ve always wanted to write and publish a book and now I can say I have! If you’re interested in supporting me with this dream come true, you can purchase the book by clicking here.

Book Cover: It All Started With a Haiku

A Poetry Reading: Future Gwen

In this week’s video, I read one of the poems in my book and offer the back story behind it. I hope you enjoy.

Daily Drawings

I’ve told myself for years I have no ability to draw. Recently, I decided to put that belief to the test by adding a daily drawing practice to my schedule – because you can’t improve at something if you never do it.

I’ve had a small sketchbook for the last year and only occasionally drew anything in it. Most of what I’d drawn up until this last month was a representational image of something in my house. None of those are very good, although a bit better than I expected them to be. This wasn’t particularly surprising because…I wasn’t practicing regularly.

Then one day just a few weeks ago, no more than 4 or 5 days since I’d started drawing something every day, I was struck with the urge to draw geometric shapes in abstract composition. Mind blown! I love abstract work, so it felt like no wonder my drawings of real, tangible items were barely above young child level in terms of appearance. As soon as I began to draw triangles, circles, squares, and arrows, arranged in abstract ways, I felt like I’d found my drawing voice. I’m posting them on Instagram and Facebook in the evenings, asking people to tell me what they see in the drawing. It’s become one of the favorite parts of my day.

Pen & gel ink drawing

I firmly believe finding my voice so quickly with these drawings is the result of the regular creative practice I’ve followed for the past 6 years with my textured fiber paintings. Putting systems and structure in place to ensure there’s time to create consistently opens you up to greater creativity and easier connection to your inner child so you can let him or her out to play.

Once I can safely and comfortably visit an art store like Blick’s, I plan to buy a large canvas or two and some paint and convert these drawings (sketches, really) into acrylic paintings, which will be available for purchase. I’ll let you know when that happens.

Inspirational Message Signs

For over a year, I’ve been posting inspirational messages with corresponding captions on Instagram (you can find them at @harmonylifebalance for everything through May 22, 2020 and @hilaryclark13 for the more recent posts now that I’ve merged businesses). These messages were all downloaded during my morning meditations, where I was directed to share them with my audience. Just recently, I received an intuitive hit to turn these messages into inspirational message signs printed on an 8 x 8 canvas. I’m in the process of creating these signs using the messages that most resonated with people. If you’d like to purchase one (or more) for yourself, hop on over to my Instagram feeds (links above), select the one you’d like, and then drop me a message. Here’s a sample:

Steer with Joy 8x8
I’m Writing a Novel!

It’s shaping up to be an intrigue novel with a bit of romance thrown in for spice. I’m a huge Nora Roberts / JD Robb fan, so there are shades of her preferred writing genres in my work. I’m about 10,000 words in to what I intend to be a 60,000 word book and I’m loving every minute of it. In the past, when I’ve attempted to write a novel, I’ve hit a wall at about 3,500 words. This time, the story is pouring out of me every day when I sit at my computer to write.

The book features a female police detective, Helen Rich, on the hunt for an escaped murderer. The murderer kidnaps her own child and then taunts Helen with her freedom. With the help of Sam Wright, a journalist, she must rescue the child and put the criminal back in prison where she belongs, while battling her own demons and her secret crush on Sam. I’ll need beta readers at some point, so if you’re interested in reading the draft of my novel when it’s ready, let me know!

In closing…

My life is richer for being an Artist. The opportunity to share what I create with the wider world inspires me every day.  Making art connects me to the imaginative, intuitive, playful part of myself and life’s so much more fun when we play.

Before you go…

Want to catch up on “Window Into My Studio”? Watch past episodes here.
Interested in buying my art? See and purchase it here.
Feel like reading some poetry? Buy my book, “It All Started With a Haiku”!
Looking for inspiration to set on your desk or hang on your wall? Select a message for your inspirational message sign, then get in touch to place your order.
Would you like to be on the list to be a beta reader for my novel? Send me an email.


Don’t forget to stop by my Gallery before you go!  Once you’ve selected the piece that will look perfect on your wall, get in touch and we’ll schedule a private virtual showing.