Living a Creative Life

A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.— Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

As far back as I can remember, creativity has always been at the core of my being. I just haven’t always let it out.

There was a good chunk of my life that I spent trying to convince myself that, in fact, I wasn’t creative in order to hold down a soul-sucking job that required little more from me than my warm butt in a chair and three or four brain cells in order to, ahem, make all the money.

I’m sure you can imagine how that worked out — about as well as confining a lion to a 10′ x 10′ cage with no windows. The lion gets either destructively angry or morosely depressed, sometimes both, and ends up eating people. It’s not pretty.

So, as a gift to myself and to protect the people I love from being eaten on a daily basis, I made a promise to myself about a decade ago that I would live a bigger, happier, and hell of a lot more interesting life by honoring my creative spark, no matter what. That promise, naturally, led me to revisit and recommit to writing (after much angst and resistance), but prior to finally getting my head out of my ass about putting words on paper, I cultivated a few other creative avenues that I still walk on a regular basis.

And, lo and behold, I’ve found that walking those paths feeds my writing. Huh. Who knew?

So, in no particular order, here are a few of the ways I sharpen my creative knife.


Beautiful photography stuns me. As a person who tends to favor words (and the more the better) to convey a point or tell a story, someone who can do the same via nothing but a visual capture of a brief moment of time feels like the right kind of magic. One I am constantly trying (and usually failing) to bottle for myself.

Every once in a while I break out my ridiculously expensive and mostly-wasted-on-me fancy pants camera and snap some woefully inadequate photos, always aware that Photoshop usually saves my ass here.

Ellen Cordery: Post Abandoned
Missouri State Penitentiary (2016)
Ellen Cordery: Trail Runner
Recent snow on my running trails (2019)
Ellen Cordery: A Light In Prison
Missouri State Penitentiary (2016)
Ellen Cordery: Construction Methods
Ancient column broken into sections at Delphi, Greece (2011)
Interior Design

Did you know? I actually have a degree in interior design and ran my own firm for a minute. It was … interesting, to say the least (I could write a million best-selling novels about my experiences). But what drew me to the field was my absolute passion for transforming a disgusting, run down, unwanted, and unlivable space into something spectacular. My need to redecorate is a compulsion. Color, fabric, furniture, texture, accessories — sigh. Heaven. Even though I will no longer make my living doing interior design, I will always love remodeling and renovation.

Ellen Cordery: Interior Design Carriage House Project
One of my first projects — the redesign of a carriage house. This is the BEFORE of the bedroom.
Ellen Cordery: Interior Design Carriage House Project
And … the AFTER
Painting furniture

Along with my obsession with rehabbing rooms, I also love dumpster diving for old furniture and fixing it up. I even used to have a little side business doing this until my ancient bones told me it was time to stop. Come to think of it, I haven’t been to the thrift and antique stores for a while … hmmm ….

Ellen Cordery: Painted Furniture
Ellen Cordery: Painted Furniture

Graphic Design

I first learned Photoshop waaaaaayyyy back in 1999 and Illustrator soon followed. Again, like photography, I’m in awe of real graphic designers. I’m a dabbler, full stop. I’m under no illusions that the pictures I slap down on the digital paper are of any quality whatsoever. But that doesn’t stop me from indulging in the joy I get from trying. And, the thing about doing digital art, or photography, or interior design is that it improves my writing. It forces me to think visually, which translates into better descriptive imagery in my stories and poems.

So, why not, right?

Ellen Cordery: Digital Art
A cute calendar page I put together in Illustrator (I’m ridiculously proud of it)

I spent the better part of my younger days as a band and choir nerd. It’s a rare day that I don’t have some kind of music going in the background for whatever activity I’m doing — writing, cooking, running.

Once I reached adulthood, I gave up actually making music. About a year ago, I realized how stupid that was and bought a piano. I’ve been threatening to learn/relearn how to play, now that I’ve worked through the squirmies practicing scales gave me when I was a kid. At least, I’m pretty sure I have. Nah. Scales still suck. But it’s fun to tinkle around on the keyboard when writer’s block strikes.


So, these are my creative outlets, other than writing. I’d love to hear about yours. Do you have multiple passions like I do, or do you stick to just one? If you’re a multi, how do you find the time to fit all of your pursuits into a busy life?

Hit me up in the comments.


This post was my first entry in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. This month’s question was (er, obviously) “Besides writing, what other creative pursuits do you have?” You can check out other writers’ answers to this question here:

23 thoughts on “Living a Creative Life”

  1. Jan Morrison says:

    Hi Ellen, glad to meet you here on this hop. Yep, you sound like me – pulled in a million creative directions. Refuse to choose I say. Now I must go write for a bit…

    1. ellen says:

      Hi Jan,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment – it’s great to meet you, too! Wholeheartedly agree – refuse to choose! Happy writing …

  2. Roland Yeomans says:

    You and Michael de Gesu are kindred spirits. We must feed the soul within us or it withers. You certainly have quite a few interests! Best of success in whatever goals you set!

    1. ellen says:

      Hi Roland,
      Love me some kindred spirits! I’ll happily check out Michael’s blog. Thanks for stopping by and for the good wishes!

  3. Madeline Mora-Summonte says:

    Welcome to the IWSG! I love the idea of “honoring the creative spark.”

    The photos are stark and lovely. And that green furniture piece? Makes me happy. 🙂

    1. ellen says:

      Thank you, Madeline! That piece was my favorite, I think. I never could figure out what purpose it used to serve, but now it holds a television for a nice couple in Baltimore, lol. Appreciate you stopping by!

    1. ellen says:

      Thanks, Anna! It is, it really is. 🙂

  4. Jemi Fraser says:

    Scales do suck!! I inherited a piano a few years ago and I’ve loved getting back into the swing of it. It fills my soul.
    I’ve started with photography too. Not great, but I’m learning!
    I’ve just entered the wilds of Photoshop and there is a lot to learn there – but it is fun!!
    Welcome to the IWSG!

    1. ellen says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Jemi! If you ever need help with Photoshop, I’d be glad to. I’ve been using it for 20 years and feel like it’s now a second skin.

  5. Alex J. Cavanaugh says:

    Glad you got back into music. I did as well a few years ago and now play in a band.
    Welcome to the IWSG!

    1. ellen says:

      Thanks, Alex! I would love to play in a band — it’s a dream of my inner 16-year-old. LOL Appreciate you stopping by!

  6. Andrea Lundgren says:

    Your photos are amazing! Must be the camera (and photoshop). 🙂

    But in all seriousness, you are obviously a very creative person and I’m glad you’ve let your lion-self out of the box. Welcome to our group, and thanks for sharing!

    1. ellen says:

      Hi Andrea, HA! It’s definitely the Photoshop. 😉 Thanks so much for the comment and for reading.

  7. Shannon Lawrence says:

    Those photos are great! And love the refurbed room and furniture.

    1. ellen says:

      Thanks, Shannon! And thanks for stopping by …

  8. Yvonne V says:

    Love the photos!

    1. ellen says:

      Thanks, Yvonne!

  9. Michelle Wallace says:

    I too have multiple creative outlets.
    My strongest is piano/singing/dancing.
    The most recent one is the zentangle. I’ve noticed that creative outlets linked to drawing/illustrations are the most challenging for me.

    Wow! Those photos are beautiful! I also love the furniture painting.
    I’m a poor photographer. I’m also NOT a green-fingered person. I once killed a cactus. But that’s a story for another time.

    IWSG February Co-host

    1. ellen says:

      Hi Michelle! Thanks! Zentangles are soooooo interesting to me. Super cool! And, lol at your cactus story — everyone thinks they’re so easy, but they’re really not. You have to baby them.

    1. ellen says:

      Thanks, Ronel!

  10. Lisa says:

    Welcome and what a beautiful, visually and word-wise, post. You definitely belong with this group, which is full of creative folks like you. I’m visiting from the March IWSG posting and wonder what you’ll have for this month. Gardening for me is what helps me relax, write, create outside of writing. That and people. I love to meet people. Good luck and hope to hear more from you soon!

Leave a Reply to ellen

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.