It’s a Blue Flame in Your Heart

If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I take an intuitive painting class. Intuitive painting is about spontaneously painting what comes up from within you. The focus is on expressing yourself, not on form, technique or what your picture looks like.

Each student knows this, and yet we all still worry about appearances: the colours we’ve used, that something doesn’t look realistic, or that our paintings are just really weird.

One common issue is that we’ll see an image so clearly in our minds, but it refuses to translate into a painting. The same thing can happen with writing: the words you put on the page don’t match the ones you had in your head. It’s very frustrating.

One day, the image of a glorious blue flame came to mind. It was composed of different shades of blue – pale, sky and dark – and so bright and alive. I was energised and immediately began to paint. I couldn’t wait to recreate it.

You know where this is going. It didn’t look like a blue flame at all. It looked like a flower. A spiky flower. It was kind of a cross between a tulip and Bart Simpson’s hair. I don’t know why my beautiful blue flame turned out that way, but it did. I wasn’t happy at all.

When my teacher complimented my work, my response was to complain about the blue flower that was meant to be a flame. My teacher quietly listened to me, and I when I stopped talking, she said, “Don’t worry about what it looks like. It’s a blue flame in your heart.” She went on to explain that just because something doesn’t look like what you expect, doesn’t mean it lacks value or beauty. She added that this was the point of the class – it’s not what our paintings look like, it’s what they actually are; what they mean to us and what they represent. And who’s to say that my painting can’t be both a flower and a flame?

When I’m writing something and it doesn’t come out the way I imagined, I tell myself, ‘It’s okay, it’s a blue flame in my heart.’ I sometimes substitute the intention as well: ‘It’s okay, it was a funny story in my heart.’ ‘It’s okay, it was an examination of twenty-first century online culture and representations of gender in my heart.’ There’s a reason the piece turned out differently than expected. It’s up to me to figure out the reason why. I can then do any necessary rewriting, or just accept the result and enjoy it.

This doesn’t quite work for copywriting, of course. If a client wants me to write about computers, I can’t turn in a text about an apple tree in bloom and tell them it was about computers in my heart. But unexpected results for copywriting can still tell you something, if you’re willing to listen. (You shouldn’t submit those results to your client, of course. Just don’t dismiss them out of hand.)

So don’t be discouraged if what was in your heart doesn’t quite match what is on the page. Enjoy it, and then see what you can make of it. Maybe it’s perfect, just as it is.


This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words.

1. Confetti razor blades
2. A telemarketer called and wanted my…
3. The purple lotion flowed…
4. A simmering pot, filled with…
5. Scroll down for the…

Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to drop me a line at You can also follow or contact me via Facebook, Linked In, YouTube or Tumblr.


My apologies for the delay in posting. I’ve been working on creating audio versions of each newsletter. It took a little while to figure out the software, but the first two videos are finally complete and will be posted shortly. In the meantime, please enjoy this week’s newsletter.


 My intuitive painting instructor once gave an interview to a regional newspaper. This is what she had to say about her classes:

“Intuitive painting is painting what spontaneously comes up from within you. The classes are not very popular because many people are frightened of intuitive painting. You get to know yourself quite well through this form of art.”¹

My first reaction was surprise. I assumed she’d talk up her business and try to get more students, but my teacher told the truth for two reasons. First, she’s a truthful person. Second, she wants students who are willing to take the unpopular path. Some people will show up for one lesson and never return. Others will try, but they focus on making their painting attractive (whatever that means to them) rather than daring to paint what they truly want to paint. They become frustrated with the class and quit.

I understand their fear very well. Creative endeavours can be scary. They require a lot of courage, and it can take several attempts before someone makes their breakthrough. So many people give up because they don’t want to get to know themselves. No one wants to admit that they’re frightened. No one wants to admit that they’re embarrassed by their work, or that they’re worried about what other people will think of them.  Feeling that way means you’re shallow and vain, right? It’s much easier to not even try in the first place.

I know this feeling because I’ve been there. You don’t have to stay there, though. Not if you take the unpopular path. I have seen the results with my own eyes. I saw the work of the women who came to class every week. I saw them bloom and grow, moving from being embarrassed to being excited to share their work with the class. We’ve all created intricate, vivid pieces, filled with emotion that leapt off the page. We went from being anxious to a willingness to challenge ourselves, and be honest about our feelings and experiences. Our paintings aren’t always pretty. A few of mine freaked everyone out. But our work is always honest. It has depth and it resonates. It is truthful. When our paintings are both pretty and truthful, they take everyone’s breath away.

The popular option is to give up. But it’s the unpopular path that yields results. Take a step on that path today.


  1. NoordHollands Dagblad, 20 April, 2012; Halte Ijmond.



This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words.

1. Snapping back with resilience…

2. Red, plastic and tough…

3. Loofah birthday surprise!

4. “Guess what I bought today,” said…

5. The silver tin gleamed…

Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to drop me a line at You can also follow or contact me via Facebook, Linked In, YouTube or Tumblr.