Permission to Pause

Steps to pause and refuel creative energy.

Excerpt from Reframe Your Artistry, the book:

Picture the last time you powered down. If you cannot recall, I’m not judging. I very much relate. Nights pass with a neglected feeling of wanting to connect with my husband at bedtime, even if it’s a few highlights or lowlights from our day. Too often, we’re both scrolling through our phones for latest updates and what-nots. Take it from me, power down more often. It’s liberating! And it’s healthy. And your artistic growth depends upon this healthy freedom.

            Silence your cell phone and camp out in your make-shift art cave. Or just make eye contact with someone, anyone, or anything, during prime time.  Maybe this sounds too good to be true, right away. But like Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams, build it and it will come to you. Intend to make it happen! And it happens!


three part breath, three times: inhale – belly, chest, nostrils, exhale – nostrils, chest, belly

set an intention and visualize actions that embody that intention

make eye contact and follow a child’s or pet’s lead for ten minutes

journal for a few minutes, early in the morning or to engage creative circuitry during a lunch break

sketch a familiar spot

meander down an unfamiliar lane

back to the ground, study the sky

            With pausing practices under your belt, powering down is within reach. Pausing with natural elements, repurposing energy, or marveling at supposed mistakes shift our outlook. It warms up our brain to thaw technological chills. Pause and fresh point of view are some of the best nutrients for a twenty-first century brain. They are also vital nutrients to expand concentration to find your flow for art making. The practice of pausing is productive for the brain no matter what you’re engaging with. And I bet the time spent pausing off-line will translate into more time spent art making.

            Begin by setting aside pockets of time throughout the day and choose to pause. Some of these pockets may be straight-up pauses and some may be time for art making. Some pauses could be as brief as a drink of water or three even breaths. Some might be as simple as a two-minute shower or as long as thirty minutes meal. Length does not matter as much as mindful attention to one grace-filled thing at a time.


            Pausing becomes second nature like flossing rituals. The tool’s brand may change, and certain brands work better for some than others, but the effect is similar. Pauses clean out excess goop and create healthy foundations.  The more habitual the practice, the cleaner the space. I consider quality of mind, or the health of our mind-body-spirit connection, to be our mental ability to maximize intentional living and decrease distractibility or reactivity. Give pause, with or without art making, the same hygiene regard as flossing. Like any habit formation, after a matter of weeks, it becomes part of your lifestyle.

On Intersections of Trauma and Creativity

I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Tanner Wallace, @thisiscandykiss, last Friday. The inspiration for the discussion was her work on trauma, relationships, and intersections with artist dilemmas. I hope you will check out the wealth of output from that interview at Youtube, snipits via InstaTV, and via podcast format.

Since the discussion, my own clinical problem solving and imagination has creatively benefited. There was a moment, and it felt like the eye of the storm regarding the flow of our trauma discussion, when we discussed how to care for and what it tends to be like at that moment – retraumatized, flashbacked; as artist, as partner, as well intentioned isolated human – we feel utterly alone, hopeless, and re-aroused as if it’s the first or fiftieth time of our mistreatment.

The wise doctor gave some brilliant suggestions on shifting the self-talk. And, we discussed interpretations and minced experienced of mindfulness applications, and its sometimes severe ineptitude, at that hour.

And then I pitched and began to wonder, as she began to do the same, in the absence of a healing voice, an image of a healing other – might our imaginations, the stories we could tell ourselves (sometimes less based on this supposed 21st century the better), might we find a compatriot?

In my own aloneness, an in between of mixed ethnicity, mixed states of being between fitting in and so-far-out-there, I know this state. It has crept into my conscience, taken over and pulled me as far down as almost grave at times.

And then, I told the wise doctor – last Friday, I have experienced for myself, as I notice in clients with such damaged early life attachments in the shelters of Boston (that they prefer street or shelter to shelter life to any human proximity) I told her, art is usually there for me, no matter what.

It is, often, an inkling, a poetic line, that builds into a structure when I come to. Come to, my friends, what I refer to as moving out from under the heavy cloud of re-arousal and depression that follows. It used to be a gesture, that would build into a dance. And for many artists that I work with – it is a color, a brushstroke, that becomes a painting or beat, a lyric that becomes a song. When there is nor has there been any other safe introjects, as we call it in the psychology world; none of those things we can conjure from within nor our support network, maybe – for some of us, artistry remains.

I am neither art therapist nor a trauma specialist, acute trauma that is. I am a mindfulish human, artist, and psychotherapist. However, my lived experience of recurrent relational and system traumas – now coined either Complex Trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Complex – and the bearing witness of similar experiences of clients, I wonder if artistry does more, at times, for the artist than simply being that thing we do.

I wonder, as well, what sort of research does or could exist regarding art as the introject to save the wounded soul. I already see how it saves the world, and my own world, specifically.

Find Beauty in the Hornet’s Nest

This week, I am totally inspired by an abandoned hornet’s nest that fell from a tree outside our home. My spouse encouraged me to be brave and wait out the hornets, and here is my reward. Marvel with me, at the amazing talents of these tiny animals. Join me, as we zoom in on life, beautiful – just as it situates.

Share your natural wonders with me via a tag #reframeyourartistry. And follow my pursuits in the Instragram world @reframeyourartistry and @jesshonig.