10 Rules for Taking Your Creativity to the Next Level

From a Hippie Nun.

Ryan J. Pelton

1/6/20242 min read

Corita Kent was a nun and artist in the 1950s — 1980s. She taught art at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. Her art has found a resurgence in the last fifteen years around the world.

This was her rules for the art department at the college:

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.

Art is hard, and so is life. Rules aren’t meant to stifle creativity, rather provide guard rails. A way to get our butts into the creative act. A way to fight the resistance and self-doubt. I appreciate the rules Corita developed for the students and teachers of Immaculate Heart College. Every day she could point to the vision, hopes, and dreams for her students.

These rules aren’t exactly like a Rule of Life, but have the same intentions. Rules of Life, made famous by monks in generations past, gave life intentionality and shape and form. Our lives aren’t meant to be random and haphazard. They are gifts to be stewarded for good.

A Rule can shape life into the directions we’d like them to go. Of course, we lean into redirection and understand the whole thing runs on grace. Nothing guaranteed. But whether rules for a classroom of art students, or a rule for a family of six for the shot at more joy, these are powerful tools in the creator’s tool box.

Life and art are already hard. Perhaps a Rule of Life will give the shape we need to navigate the rough waters.

Why not think through what an artful life would include? What are the rules you’d include in your Rule of Life? What practices and habits could shape your life? More prayer, creativity, rest, service, etc?

Share your Rule of the Creative Life in the comments.

*Originally published on medium.com.