BowtiePatrickby Patrick Guindon

Successful Creatives know that in order to succeed, you need structures in place. But wait! Doesn’t that go against everything “creative”? Don’t you need to live within an unorganized, tortured, magical mess in order to hit on the greatest ideas?

Um. No. You don’t need that. You won’t prosper with that.

I really like bow ties. I didn’t know that until I decided to be bold one day, and buy some bow ties, and wear them to work. I tried them. I loved them. I’m wearing one today!

Okay, your ideas and creative success are not like my bow ties. Noted.

But if you believe that your best ideas come during wild bouts of chaos, I dare you to try out some Accountable Creativity. You may end up loving it, like I love my bow ties.

As a firm believer that structures set people up for creative freedom, I want to share with you some Accountable Creativity Strategies that are working for me.

  1. Write/sketch them (all) down. They all count. Ideas are like avalanches. Once a few appear, you may feel inundated with ideas! SO MANY IDEAS. Great ones, weird ones, awful ones, incomplete ones. Write them down.
  2. Leave a sketchbook on the kitchen counter. If I don’t, I won’t. If it means going upstairs when my body is still mostly asleep, or sitting at the island and scrolling through social media feeds, I’ll pick the easier, fruitless option.
  3. Feel productive by being productive. Butt in the chair, and get creating. (Or in my case, feet on the ground at the standing desk. Anyone else with me?)
  4. Sharpen your pencils. Have your materials ready before you get there. See #5 for more.
  5. Keep a journal. I call mine an “art journal” even though it’s not for drawing in. Some mornings I have more time before work (“more time” in a parent’s life means: I have 20 unscheduled minutes). The night before, I open my book, write down 2-3 focus-tasks that I know are achievable in 20 minutes, and then I leave the book open on my desk. When I wake up, I know I’ve written a goal, and I don’t have to spend 20 minutes wondering what I should sketch or write. I never leave myself large, intense, or thought-heavy tasks. Attainable and achievable – those are the jobs for the 20 minutes before work. By investing this time, you’ll make room for nooks and crannies of time to appear throughout your day.


    This completed illustration is a direct result of the journaling I do, completed in just a week (whereas most take me longer than that). You can see the process work on my blog:

  6. Create a network that you trust. I have a critique partner. We send messages back and forth most days, and push each other to work harder. If I say, “I’m going to complete the girl illustration,” she is going to ask me about it all week, and send me back to the drawing board when I thought I was almost done. My wife also works as a true critique partner – she says what’s working and what isn’t. It’s sometimes painful, and sometimes hard, but in the end I have greater samples for my portfolio and stronger stories. (Hi Stephanie! Hi Jami!)
  7. Put in the time. You might have 30 ideas at the end of PiBoIdMo. You might have 3. If they sit in your notebook for the next year, then why did you participate? I always encourage people who say, “I have no time! I’ll do it when I retire!” to take FIVE MINUTES a day and spend it creatively. If you are retired and are diving into this world now, put in the time. You owe it to yourself. You might refer back to #5 for prepping for this. In my experience, five minutes often turns into 30 minutes.
  8. Work through the ugly. The most beautiful creative projects start out ugly, go through long bouts of ugly, and are ugly until just a few moments before completion. Roll up your sleeves and get to work, because those bad, awkward, weird ideas that you create this month? You’re gonna make ‘em beautiful.
  9. Balance. As a busy teacher-researcher, husband, dad, art teacher, writer and artist, I know that sometimes you stay awake until 4am with a screaming baby. Well, I do. Sometimes it’s Parent-Teacher Night. Sometimes you are just dang tired. So give yourself a break – but not forever. Find a balance. See #7.
  10. Invest in yourself. You’re a PiBoIdMo-er because you believe in yourself, and the idea that you are going to be a successful writer or illustrator, or both. Give yourself the time to create, improve and grow. Don’t stop believing. Hold onto this feeling.

Patrick Guindon is a writer/illustrator, teacher-researcher, and Creative Daddy. This is his FIFTH round of PiBoIdMo participation and he is shaking in excitement that he won the chance to write a Pre-PiBoIdMo blog. You can find him, and all of his social media links, on his website at You can also like his pages on Facebook, visit his blog, and follow him on Twitter @123patrickg.