8 things to learn about being creative from Wendy Harmer (a podcast)

Posted on October 27th, 2011

I’ve decided to start an occasional series with creative people I admire who have a spark of unique “dive-into-life”-ness that I think we could all learn from. There. A long sentence for you.

Image by Tierney Gearon

Wendy Harmer is my first such guest. She is a MASSIVE spirit and her impact in Australia is huge. She’s a comedian, teen fiction writer, memoirist, blogger (you must sign up to Hoopla – smart women contributors talking important water cooler stuff) and…the rest. She’s playful and she creates from a very true and honest space. The best kind. I loved chatting with her about how she does what she does. Her words helped me enormously….mostly because she is so positive and accepting of the process. She plays. She explores.

Anyway, listen in.

Some of the salient mantras and points I took:

* She used to dive into big new things thinking “everyone will be much better than me”. Over time she’s realised no one really knows what they’re doing…they’re all just trying. “Most people are being average”.

* She always wanted to edit a magazine. So. She created Hoopla. Because now the internet means you just. Can. Very true and good for anyone with dreams they haven’t fulfilled yet.

* When she gets a bit nervous she says to herself: “I don’t have to do this for a living”. Bam. Expectations lessened!

* She works 9am-3pm. Sometimes she only gets 3 paragraphs down. Sometimes she scraps the lot the next day. 500 words a day is about fair, to her mind. Phew…

* When she gets stuck, she walks away. And hangs out washing.

* She quotes AA Milne: “and how to amuse them today”. This is her aim each day. To amuse. It guides her.

* She lives by this:  “Don’t eat anything bigger than your head. But cut it up into pieces and you can eat the whole watermelon”. Which is to say, do one step at a time. Just start. Just build it. Meander. “I don’t believe in dreams,” she says. She just starts.

* But my favourite bit is her dream (as in the nocturnal type) where she wanders through a house, from one exciting room to another and another. It’s chaotic, the rooms don’t match. But each room gets more and more interesting and her curiosity takes her in further and further. That’s what creating is to her. I love this idea: creating is about adding chaotic layers, or moving from one space to another to another. The point is, moving. Stepping into the next room. Always.

Do these help you with your creative journey? I’m chatting to author Kate Grenville next. Do you have any questions – be specific – about her creative process?

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  • Michelle

    Oh Sarah! That was a lovely interview and a great way to start the day – thanks for sharing! I’m heading over to The Hoopla now :)


  • Sarah Wilson

    Ooooh, I’m glad. She’s a gem!


  • Miss Jodi

    I’m in the process of finding inspiring people to listen to while I work on this painting I have a deadline for. So this post was perfect timing. I didn’t know about Hoopla either and I checked it out soon after the talk. Many thanks. Both were immensely informative, interesting and certainly connected with me on a personal as well as creative level. The podcast also gave an interesting insight, not only to Wendy but yourself as well, Sarah. I normally only read your posts and don’t hear you speak very often, but the questions you asked, and the way you asked Wendy also made me think about different processes that everyone has and the way they go about seeking information, and who from. Wendy was an awesome choice and I really enjoyed everything she had to say on the subject of creativity. I found many similar thoughts and considerations. Got me thinking about my
    own processes, what I do, who inspires me. It’s wide and varied, not always other painters. Thank you on a Thursday.


  • Sarah Wilson

    You’re welcome on a Thursday. My motives for these interviews are selfish…I soak up the advice!!!


  • annemarie

    This is such a brilliant idea! My guilty reading pleasure are literary biographies because I love trying to figure out how people embraced themselves as artists.

    I won’t be able to listen to this podcast ’til later tonight, but I HAVE THE EXACT SAME DREAM AS WENDY. It must be a common one? Anyway, there is one crucial difference between my dream and hers: in my dream I am scared as hell. This is extremely telling!! Also, my mantras– very unconscious ones, ‘learned behavior’ if you will– tends to be of the “shit or get off the pot” variety. They don’t allow for mistakes, or play, or exploration. No wonder I’m always in crisis.

    Can’t wait to listen to this later. Thanks love!


  • levi

    Sarah, you always say you’re going to do lots of things on this blog but never do.


  • Julie

    Hi Sarah,

    I think this TED talk will inspire you. It addresses the spiritual side of creativity and some of the issues you encounter being a creative person. It’s given by the woman who wrote Eat, Pray Love. It’s quite moving:




  • Sophie

    Kate Grenville is brilliant! I know she did a lot of research for The Secret River and would love to know what process she goes through to incorporate that into her writing. ie does she research struggle to stop researching and start writing? or does she keep researching as she writes?


  • Stephanie

    How lovely! I love people who are so wide-eyed and as open as the sky.


  • http://www.sosensational.com.au Sania

    aproching 3 pm I was afflicted with sweet cravings, hmm I ponder what to do… how I’d love an oreo cookie… but “I’m not eating sugar thanks!” open the fridge and I have 5 drinking coconuts staring at me. So of trott to find a hammer and screwdriver. approaching week 4 Sugar free!



    Sania Reply:

    oops wrong post!