3 Ways to Discover Your Creative "North Star"

Creativity coach Dianne Ochiltree provides top tips on the creative life

Posted Mar 08, 2021 | Reviewed by Davia Sills

Eric Maisel
Creativity Coaches on Creativity
Source: Eric Maisel

I attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, a public high school specializing in math and science. One of our mandatory shop classes was telescope-making, an ironic idea for a New York school: as if you could see the night sky in Manhattan!

We ground our own lenses, built our own mounts, and did everything necessary to make a rather huge telescope, which I then had to lug home on the subway all the way back to Brooklyn. I could find no use for that telescope and gave it to a friend.

The stars did continue to interest me, however, and I thought that I might become an astronomer—a desire that left me soon enough. But I still enjoy the heavens to this day—and relish the metaphor that creativity coach Dianne Ochiltree employs in the following post, where she recommends that we follow our creative "North Star."

Dianne explains:

The North Star is not the brightest star in the night sky. But if you are lost in the woods on a dark night, it just might be the most important one. 

Why? Because the North Star is humankind’s original GPS system. Aligned with the Earth’s axis, the North Star is a fixed celestial point when viewed from anywhere in the northern hemisphere. Find the North Star, and you can find your way home.     

I believe we need that same sort of "North Star" guidance for our creative journeys, too. Discovering what truly matters to you is a valuable fixed point that you can use to bring more power and authenticity to your creative work. Ready to begin? Here are three ways to find your creative North Star:    

1. Ask yourself, “Why do I create?”

You know exactly what each creative project you undertake is meant to say—that’s your thesis or topic or subject. But when you look back on all your creative work so far, can you detect a common thread or two joining them? Likely, yes.

You might want to think deeply about this question, “Why do I create?” and listen carefully to what arises. Perhaps you create to “shine a light on truth” or “connect heart to heart” or “bring on the smiles.” Your answers about what gives you meaning as you create will give you a key to unlock your authentic self. When the going gets tough, it’s comforting (and motivational) to know why you’re slogging through the muck of the creative process.

2. Re-connect with your inner child.

Re-connecting with your inner child helps you re-connect with the playful nature of creation. What inspired you to dream, build, draw, sing, dance, and act out stories as a kid? We tend to forget, so we need to re-connect. 

Gather childhood photos of yourself. What was it like to be you at the age of 2 or 6 or 10? Close your eyes and breathe into it. Write a few lines about this younger version of yourself. You can use a simple prompt, such as “I remember…” to get you going if you like. Keep writing until you feel truly re-connected. Now, keeping the spirit of a mess-loving, failure-flaunting, valuing-process-over-product inner child close to your heart, you can get back on track with your project.

3. Notice what you notice.

What you notice is what you care about.  For a week, keep a running list of what grabs your attention as you surf the internet, which types of books or movies or artwork you like, what your eyes were drawn to on a walk, places where you do (or don’t) feel comfortable, and so on.

This gives you a good database for self-discovery. Can you detect some themes? Hmmm… now you may find it easier to understand why a certain creative project isn’t floating your boat and how to reshape it so that it will resonate with your true interests in a more passionate—and powerful—way. 

Think of your creative North Star often. Let your internal GPS help you plan your creative journey, stay moving in the right direction, and find your way out of the woods. 

You can visit Dianne Ochiltree at www.dianneochiltree.com.