Early on I was told you’re not allowed to do it or you can’t do it and I was like, “I already did it.” It wasn’t out of rebellion it was more like, “You guys watch. You can do this. You can. I just did it. Check this out.”—Melody Ross
Melody Ross makes art for a living. When she isn’t making art she’s writing, teaching, and forever seeking all things beautiful and true. She is the founder of Brave Living (as well as Brave Girls Club and Brave Girl University), is a mama to five kids, and has a weakness for crème brulée. She lives in Idaho with her husband.
What time do you get up?
It depends on what I have going on. We host a lot of art retreats here at our ranch, so on those days I have to get up early to get everything ready. When I’m working on a big art or writing deadline I work late into the night and then I don’t get up until around 9 a.m. I try to sleep in a few times a month until 10 or 11 a.m. I love sleep.
What time do you go to sleep?
Again that depends. I try to be asleep by 11 p.m. most nights but sometimes my brain is just on overdrive and it takes me until midnight or so.
Is your creative work your full-time job?
Yes. And also what I am usually doing when I am not “working.”
Do you wait for inspiration before you begin or do you begin regardless of inspiration?
I just get going every day. Some days I am more inspired than others but once I get going it’s hard to keep up with all of the ideas and inspiration running through my brain and heart.
How many hours a day, on average, do you do your creative work?
At what point are you done for the day?
It is so hard to quit. I usually go until I can’t go any longer. Sometimes I am done for the day because I have other important things I’ve got to do. I have a big family all around me, lots of siblings. My husband and I have five children and three of them are married. We have three grandchildren. I am very close to all of my family so it’s important to me to make time for them. Sometimes I finish a project and I take the rest of the day off. I always have so many projects going at once that it is hard to know when I am done for the day. It’s probably the hardest part of my life – knowing when to quit.
Do you work primarily in the morning, afternoon, or evening?
Yes. Haha…all of the above. Holy moly I’m starting to sound like a workaholic! Ok. I am a workaholic. I love what I do.
Do you have a daily routine for your creative work?
Usually when I wake up I am already thinking about how to improve what I worked on the day before or I am ready to start something new. I usually start by writing down my ideas and then doing a bit of research if it’s something new. I like to check in with my close friends and family before I head into my “zone” and then I just get rolling.
How does it start?
I try to eat something first because once I get going I forget to eat. I also pick my music and sort of set the mood. I try to prioritize what has to be done first so I don’t get distracted by something I would rather do. I check in with my team at work and make sure my priorities align with theirs and then I just start!
How does it end?
Typically the day ends with sharing what I’ve done with my sister, who is my business partner. Often I try to photograph and scan and print out what I’ve done for the day so I can see it the next day and put it together with everything else. I end almost every day watching either an action or comedy flick with my husband so I can stop thinking about ideas and just think about something else. Then I usually go to sleep listening to an audiobook or podcast.
How has your creative process changed over the years?
I trust myself a lot more. I know what I like, I know what works for me, and what I am trying to do. I used to spend a lot more time getting opinions and feedback. I don’t do that much anymore because I am really comfortable with what I am trying to do and I feel like I am really true to that. It feels good to just create straight from my soul and be okay with it not being everyone’s cup of tea. It’s easy now…not so much striving.
Do you have a dedicated work space?
I have a few. I have a studio and an office at our headquarters but I’m typically creating in our open space collaboratively with my team when I’m there. I create mostly from home. I have a lot of windows and I live out in the country so I am usually just creating right in my bedroom, my living room, or my dining room. When I have a large scale project I work out in our art barn. I feel really fortunate to have so many places to create.
If yes, do you have anything in your work space to encourage creativity?
I sort everything into colors. I love color. Especially when it’s all grouped together. So all of my red paint is in one big wire basket, all of my yellow paint, etc. Same for fabric and paper scraps, I sort everything into colors. I love putting everything in rainbow order. Color is a big love language for me. I also love words. So I have a lot of inspiring words everywhere and I collect vintage sign letters so I have hundreds of alphabets that I arrange into words too. And of course I have pictures all over the place of my beloveds. I love beauty. So I have lots of flowers everywhere and just pretty things. I love pretty things.
How do you stay focused in a world of the internet, social media, interruptions, and other distractions?
I have to go on internet fasts. I just go off of social media for days or weeks at a time. I don’t really stay on the pulse of current pop culture, I just never really have time for it. I check in with the news every day for ten minutes or so and then I just don’t go back. Once I start working I forget about everything. So as long as I don’t get sucked into the internet vortex before I get started on a big project, I usually don’t even remember to check it. I used to have a really bad addiction to social media. I cured it with doing more art.
How do you maintain your creative energy
Oh man. I usually have to go away for a few days. Usually to somewhere remote, quiet, and in the mountains. I burn myself out. I wish I were more regimented with some kind of routine. I will go on week-long marathons and create massive amounts of art and then I will burn out in a huge way. I will have some sort of emotional meltdown and have to break away from everything and everyone for a while. It’s kind of hilarious. Why do I do this to myself? I’ve been doing it for years this way. I need to just schedule it in: schedule in the meltdowns, haha!
What other activities do you engage in to encourage your creativity outside of your creative work time?
I am a chronic researcher. I LOVE science. I love space. I love psychology. I read and study constantly. I also love to grow flowers and tomatoes. I have a huge garden but it’s mostly flowers and about 12 different kinds of tomatoes. I love to kayak. I love anywhere with lots of trees. I love to hang out with my friends. I have a lot of other artist friends but we live all over the world so three or four times a year we get together somewhere and just hang out and chill and talk and go to cool shops and listen to music.
The deeper stuff...To listen to the conversation with Melody on The Creativity Habit podcast:
Every Monday a new interview.Conversations about art, creativity, and courage.