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10 Creative New Year’s Exercises for the Artist Within

Me Ra Koh

The final countdown of the year is here.  Over the years, I’ve collected 10 Creative New Year’s exercises for the artist within.  If you’re like me, your creative spirit needs some replenishing.

Love these! 10 Creative New Year’s Exercises for the Artist Within from Me Ra Koh.

Queenstown, New Zealand

What an intense year it’s been–full of high-highs and low-lows.  And yet somehow, we have not only endured but found moments to celebrate, believe in the impossible, keep loving when we felt empty, and wake with a sense of hope for the new day.  The resilience of the human spirit is breath taking.  The resilience of your spirit is amazing.  And if nothing else, you are worth celebrating!

To celebrate, here’s 10 creative New Year’s exercises for the artist within you!  I know…I REALLY get into this, so much so that I have a whole 5 week online course in January!  LOL!  If you’ve taken the course, you know how great it is to start the year nourishing your creative spirit.  The below exercises are like rituals that bring closure to my year as I prepare for the next.  They are exercises that feed my artist within.   Some are random in nature.  Some are thoughtful.  Some are easy, and some…I consider super, heavy lifting.  I thought I’d share a handful with you.

Take 15 minutes, or if you can 60 minutes, to yourself today or tomorrow.  Pick one, two, or more New Year’s exercises for the artist within, and let your artist child run free.  There is something powerful about starting a New Year with the innocence and possibilities that children possess.

10 Creative New Year’s Exercises for the Artist Within!

1. If you had to pick a color or colors, what colors would you use to describe the last year?  What colors do you want to begin the new year with?

2.  Take a 15 minute photo walk.  Look for something that catches your eye.  Something that reflects, represents, symbolizes the last year.  As you walk home be on the lookout for an image that represents your hopes for the new year.  Share the photos with someone you love and trust.

3.  Grab a handful of magazines and cut out any image that makes you smile.  Don’t over think this one.  If you smile, rip it out.  Then walk away from all your cut outs for a few hours.  After time has passed, return to your cut outs and write down the consistencies you find. What are the common threads?  What are these common threads saying about your heart’s desires?  How can the recognition of these common threads help you build dreams for the new year?

4.  One of my favorites from the Artist Way; write an encouraging letter to yourself.  Write the letter from a place of Great Love for yourself.  What do you need to hear as you step in to the new year?  How do you need to be encouraged?  You know your heart’s needs better than anyone.  What words of life can you give to yourself in this letter?  When your done writing, mail the letter to yourself.  What a wonderful gift to start the New Year with!

5.  What was your favorite recipe in the last year and why?  What is the recipe you were scared to try?  Any thoughts on why?

6.  Dreaming Big:  If you could wave a magic wand, what three dreams would come true?  Dream BIG for this exercise.  Don’t do necessity dreaming—like paying the bills.  But really push yourself to dream beyond your most urgent needs.

7.  For those of you who are feeling overwhelmed, find a way to go and see a movie by yourself.  (This is one of the toughest things for me to do, but when I’ve done it—it has made all the difference.)

8. This one is from two wise business coaches: As you look back, what motivated you to change and to move toward your heart’s desires and your goals?  Inner desires or intentions?  Outward events or people?  Necessities?

9.  Your Heart’s Garden:  With your journal, take inventory of your heart’s garden.  What is blooming?  What is dying?  What needs to be pruned back?  Are there any unexpected empty plots?  What is thriving in the garden of your heart?  Something you didn’t expect to survive the storm?  What does it feel like to lock yourself in the bathroom, turn the fan on, close your eyes for 60 seconds and picture yourself in that garden?  What sounds do you hear in your garden?  What scents?  Are you at rest in your own garden?   If not, what are things you could do to find rest?

10.  My favorite exercise with the family:  Take some time to sit together.  Each family member gets their own turn.  Set the timer for 60 seconds and be still together, waiting on God, opening your heart to any word or picture of encouragement for that family member.  When the 60 seconds is over, share your impressions one at a time, and have someone write them down.  Maybe even start a Family Prayer Journal for the new year.  We have filled up four of these treasured journals.  I can’t even describe how precious they are.

Happy New Year Friends!  With great excitement, we picture you on our left and right as we enter the new year together—supporting each other.  Here’s fun, creative ideas on how to start/end the New Year with your kids. This is a simple photography exercise for the soul to start the New Year.

Join a safe group of women who are coming together to Restart Their Creativity in my 5 week online course!  Registration and Details Here!

All my love,


p.s. Over the next few days, feel free to share your exercise results on my Facebook Page!

  1. kelly

    December 31st, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Me Ra,

    That has got to be my favorite post of yours EVER. I’ve read your blog for a couple years and never comment, but I just had to for this one. I love these exercises. I can’t wait to start them as soon as I’m done typing this comment. It’s so encouraging and motivating – JUST what I need right now. I prayed for the last 2 days for a “pick me up”, so I believe this post is an answer to my prayer. I just had to let you know. 🙂

  2. Rachel H.

    December 31st, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Hi! I agree with Kelly. I always follow your blog, but this post really spoke to me about making 2010 inspired and inspiring. Thank you! I’ve shared it with all my friends!

  3. Sara Elliott

    December 31st, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Great ideas, Me Ra!

    My family has a tradition (got the idea from fellow blogger) of picking a word to represent what they want & hope for the coming year. The whole family does it – and while the kids don’t exactly understand – one day they will get it and it’ll be fun to look back on what they said.

    For my Husband & I – it’s been wonderful to use this word to encourage each other.

    Everyone gets a week before New Year’s to ponder their new word and on New Year’s Eve….we reveal the word and why.

  4. Ariane Hunter Photography » My Image File (Repost)

    December 31st, 2009 at 7:36 am

    […] morning, after reading Mera Koh’s blog post titled 10 New Year’s Exercises for the Artist Within, I was inspired to write about exercise #3.  Six months ago, I wrote a post called Image File […]

  5. Dawn Beirnes

    December 31st, 2009 at 8:02 am

    WOW…..I almost cried reading this. Made me realize how empty my life is right now, but also gave me encouragement to hopefully make some great changes in 2010. I sure do hope so. Thanks so much, Me Ra.


  6. Feuza

    December 31st, 2009 at 8:51 am

    I am already crying thinking about these and will do some, need to~
    2009 was very rough, dark colors with some shades of fuschia and orange.
    will give feedback on my exercises, these are great~

  7. Sandi B.

    December 31st, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I woke up this morning and stared at the full moon on the snow. Lots of winter still left in Alaska. And even though we’re gaining on daylight (4 seconds a day) still lots of darkness. After my morning devotions I looked at the coming year and looked at all the things I hadn’t accomplished, some still things I’ve struggled with for years and sighed — “what’s the use”. I even got a new Sony SLR camera for Christmas and am struggling to use it — of course I want to be good NOW. Sort of wished I could have a “life coach” (what ever that is). I’ve only been reading your Blog Me Ra since before Christmas, but decided to see what was on it this morning. This was the encouragement I needed. Thanks for being God’s answer for me today. I look forward to doing the exercises today.

  8. Christina B

    December 31st, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Today i was so excited to get a 50mm lens (hubbs won some money from fantasy football) to find out the store didnt have any in stock. (the one that was $100) they had others for $250 to $400.. so i look at my husband and he sways his head no! Soo upset.. we argue and tells me how he is being “nice” buying our oldest girl cloths (that was needed!) and being “nice” to buy the cheep lens

    As i type he is out buying a game system that is $400+! that must be Nice. glad he is able to buy toys for himself and since i am a stay at home mom dont have the money to buy toys for myself.

    This exercise is something i definitely need to do. Will have to get myself straight for 2010. Work on myself and become strong! This gave me encouragement to hopefully make some great changes in 2010 =)

  9. Michelle T

    December 31st, 2009 at 10:03 am

    starting on this today to ring in the New Year
    going for a small cruise around the Newport Harbor, with two of my daughters and some friends
    so many fun things to shoot there, soooo looking forward to it.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL, and may this next coming year bring your hearts desire..

    I am already working on ideas for next yer…bring it on!

  10. Christiana Childers

    December 31st, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Ooo! I’m doing this. Perfect excuse to get a babysitter, I think. But I like that there are a few of these I could do with my kids as well. I find it funny that the one I’m most dreadful of is “Dreaming Big”. Why is that hard? Anyone else flummoxed by this?

  11. Joanne

    December 31st, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Me Ra,
    Just want to thank you for sharing your creativity and your heart in your blogs. I am new to this, it has only been since I received an email from a friend about your SOAR! Scholarship. I love who you are and what you stand for! You are a joy to follow. I look forward to following your blogs in 2010!
    Oh, and I can’t wait to dive in and spend time Exercising…..

  12. Rhonda

    December 31st, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for this MeRa. I think I shall start today.
    And have a Happy New Year!!!

  13. Calvin

    December 31st, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I love doing photo walks. And it really isn’t difficult. Grab your camera and slap on like a 50mm or something just as light. Keep it simple. Even your phone camera will do. I am will be getting back into the photo walk for 2010. Thanks for the encouragement Me Rah.

  14. Christina

    December 31st, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Wow, thank you for this post, I love it. I am going to do all 10 for sure. It sounds like a really amazing, eye opening exercise!!

  15. Hannah

    December 31st, 2009 at 11:39 am

    I’ve done a couple of these exercises before, but I really love all of the rest of the new ideas!

    In college, I was blessed to be a part of a theatre group called WorkOut (working things out with faith and trembling), where twice a week for about 2 hours we got to set aside the rest of our lives and simply BE. We were doing various acting exercises (of course), but there were often no words, and the first 15 minutes was always a time of checking in with yourself.

    In the past 3 1/2 years since graduating, I’ve found some time to do some of those exercises, but never consistently. I think that’s what I need for 2010 – to make more time for me. I need to remember that even though I may want to give, and give, and give, I can’t give endlessly if I’m not receiving, too.

    Thank you for posting this… and happy new year!

  16. Robin Fuehrer

    December 31st, 2009 at 11:52 am

    I’ve only gone as far as the color exercise and am blown away by how powerful that was! I asked my kids and husband the same question and cannot believe the thought they are putting into it! When my husband pinpointed his color for this last year it was like all of the emotion and the frustrations of the year all came together in one moment… very powerful… and it gave me such an intimate look inside of him that I realy can’t even write about it without revealing too much. He’s still contemplating the color for 2010. I’m breaking out the playdough to be able to carry this idea to my six year old.

  17. Lisa Kenning

    December 31st, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    You have a gift for giving people just what they need at the right time! Thank you!!

  18. Freida Hall

    December 31st, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Such timing MeRa, thank you for this post. <3

    I started with exercise #6

  19. mirela

    December 31st, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Happy New Year, Me Ra, to you and your wonderful family! Warm wishes from Michigan!

  20. Liz Kausteklis

    December 31st, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks for this wonderful post!! Happy New Year to you and your family! BTW…that is the cutest picture of you and your family 🙂

  21. Kari at MamaBloo

    December 31st, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    LOVE THESE! My post on MamaBloo tomorrow — Jan 1st — is another thing to do to think ahead for the new year.

  22. Ashley J

    December 31st, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    I haven’t READ the post yet because my attention span is broken right now :/ but I do LOVE your family photo. Ahhhhh…all the families I’ve photographed and no “complete” family photo of my own 🙁 THAT is one of my must do’s this year..I promise myself!
    Oh…and are your boots from Target? I’ve been on a search for my boots for several months now and I think I just found mine from Target and they look like yours. Vain…I know…sorry.

  23. ajira

    January 1st, 2010 at 7:59 am

    I love these exercises! I think it was the perfect thing to share for this end of/start of year moment. I did the color exercise with my husband in the car last night as we drove around our little town getting pizza and movies for our big NYE celebration (lol). In seconds, we were connected with how much gratitude we have for the experiences we’ve had in the last year. It’s been intense in its highs and lows but the highs were so much higher… the birth of our son has been such an awe-inspiring, incredible gift… we are grateful from the depths of our souls and the bottoms of our hearts. He IS love. We are reminded by him that we are all love.

  24. Freida Hall

    January 1st, 2010 at 8:33 am

    I do hope others start sharing their exercises on here…

    Exercise #1

  25. Natalie Johnson

    January 1st, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Your inspiration always amazes me. I love all the exercises you posted so much that I printed them off on neon green paper and pasted each one to a page in a new journal. Today I am taking some time for ME to think, pray, and write what I want out of 2010. I am also starting a 365 day project of a photo a day to be taken only in manual. My first photo was of my journal and my computer file where I will store my 365 photos. I chose green because for me it represent new life, new growth, healthy nourishment to the body and the soul. Neon green because I want so much more intense color to my life this year. It is a little more difficult to find a color for 2009, I tend to look forward and not back, but I do need to see how strong I have been through surgery, recovery, bathroom remodel, and job loss. Wow, what does not kill us does make us stronger.haha I really like #7, to see a movie by myself, and now I can say because Mera told me to.

    I wish for you and your family the best year yet to come. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and inspiration with us.

  26. Jessica Robertson

    January 1st, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Me Ra,

    Thank you so much for your inspiration! I absolutely love this post and am looking forward to doing some of these exercises with my hubby tomorrow 🙂 Can’t wait for your OC workshop in April…so excited to finally be able to attend one after hearing so many great things about them from one of my best friends, Katie Schoepflin 🙂

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

  27. Feuza

    January 1st, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Wow, I did exercise #2 today and result is in my new blog post.
    I had so much fun, it was so peaceful, I would love some feedback, I tried commenting on pixs and telling my story and ideas. I love the idea of instead of doing best images doing new images telling past story,
    so cool
    thanks Mera

  28. janetswitzer

    January 2nd, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Hi! Happy New Year Soarettes! Well, I thought MeRa meant to e-mail the pix and results, so I did. Now I realize, that would be a whole other deal for them, like the video uploading thing. As I don’t have a blog, I’ll just tell you what I did. I didn’t have to go very far for a photo walk, went out the door, and there was this screamingly beautiful sunset the color of persimmons!! Sorta a year end tribute to that wonderful fruit that hangs on weathered trees, and how we carry that into the future, which is now, 2010!So, wishing you all a joyous and peaceful New Year!

  29. DawnS

    January 2nd, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration! The kids go back to school on Monday so I am going to try to do some of these when I have some quiet “me” time 🙂

  30. Rhonda

    January 2nd, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I have had huge dreams (God-sized dreams) lately, a lot of which have to do with photography – Dreams of being able to give BIG. I promised God at least 1/2 of everything I profit in my photography business and everything over 1/2 once my 1/2 is supplementing my husband’s salary enough that he doesn’t have to work 2 jobs. We don’t need extravagance, so I’m excited to even give more. Dreams of a photography group focused on using photography as an act of worship. Dreams of the images produced by that group being sold to raise money for clean water in Africa, to help care for more kids in impacted orphanages, and to help the plight of human trafficking. One of those dreams started in early fall, and was fueled by you (even though you didn’t know it.) I want to teach other moms how to use the cameras they have to get pictures they love. In September, I approached the director of First5 in my area about teaching a class through their program. I could teach moms while the kids are in their programs. She loved the idea, but isn’t sure if she can make it work with their program and will get back to me. I didn’t give up that part of the dream though and on New Year’s Eve we were invited by some friends to come to their cabin, play in the snow and ring in the New Year with them. We went and met some new friends while we were there. One of those new friends is the director of Champions and Hannah’s House in our area. (Another part of my photography dream is photographing the girls – and their families if they still have contact with them – that come through Hannah’s house as a graduation gift.) Well God is working out those dreams!!! The director is so excited about me photographing the girls for them AND she offered their work room as a space to teach a basic photography class. These were the small, tangible parts of my dream. I’m really looking forward to seeing how God brings more of those dreams to fruition this year. Thanks for the constant encouragement!

  31. Jendi

    January 2nd, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Activity #3 helped me realize I need to be bold and brave–in my dreams, and every day. I downloaded the image of a mountain lion for my Blackberry wallpaper, so every time I look at it, I’m reminded to make decisions with the heart of a lioness.

  32. Rhonda

    January 2nd, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I’m chiming in again. I wanted to really think about some of these.
    Here’s my answer for #1…
    2009 was Blue and Green – so I guess that would be turquoise.
    I cried a lot in 2009, but those tears were met with growth.
    I want to start 2010 with Orange. As soon as I read this question, I said orange out loud and wasn’t really sure why. So I took some time to ponder it and realized that to me, orange is the color of fall. It represents the change of season. I know 2010 is going to bring about change for me – good change!
    And when I looked up what orange is actually supposed to represent – after I picked it as my color for 2010, this is what I found: “Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation.”
    That is a pretty good assessment of my dreams for 2010.

    I’m going on a photowalk on Monday morning and will post the pictures on my personal blog later in the week.

    Thanks again for these exercises!

  33. denise karis

    January 3rd, 2010 at 9:30 am

    wow – thank you!!! I went to see a movie by myself which was the easiest thing for me and then i wrote an encouraging letter to myself which was the hardest thing for me. I re read my letter and my inner voice said “Is this a joke?” in response. It will be hard encouraging myself but I think it was a great excersise and I’m so so so glad I took that step towards believing in myself – youre amazing mera and happy new years!!

  34. Genie

    January 4th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    2009 was a multicolored year – overfull with so many colors I have to put my hand up to block them out. 2010 is sparkly clear glass with sparks of beautiful jewel colors glinting in the sunlight here and there, occasionally intense and many soft, transparent and gentle.

    2009 was a great year of growth, many diverse activities and lots of running around/overwhelm. I got an opp to ’empty my bowl’ over the new year/new decade transition. And laid new directions for this next year and decade – it’s a NEW DECADE! Can’t wait to do more of these! And now I can actually go on a photowalk :D!!

  35. Julie Watts

    January 4th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Me Ra the questions here are utterly priceless…
    …when I was in San Francisco two weeks ago accepting the “Babe Of The Year” award from Fay & Karen @ The Wisdom Connection (whoo hooo!!!) I spent 3 hours roaming downtown all alone. I unconsciously purchased the symbol for 2010–a little $3.99 “jewel” encrusted ring in the shape of a lion’s head…we have so much to learn from ourselves and these questions are the way…

  36. Susan Reynolds

    January 5th, 2010 at 2:27 am

    What a beautiful way to reflect on a year just passed and usher in a shiny brand new year.
    After reading this tonight (I know I’m a few days into the New Year already, but was laid up with torn ligaments in my knee from a fall during my last photo shoot two days before NY. Getting up and around, still very stiff and sore but SO THANKFUL nothing was broken!)
    Anyways…after reading this tonight, I am going to do these things tomorrow…take the time and really reflect, ponder, and realize what it is inside of me that is trying to grow, and what needs to be uprooted or cut back.
    This will make for a beautiful memory book at the end of each year, especially with the family prayer journal included. Certainly a treasure for future generations….
    I love the way you think and write Me Ra, you have inspired me beyond what I ever imagined…I always had a dream…a big dream, but now I see that with perseverance it can become a reality! Thank you for giving so much of yourself and your family to others.
    Hugs through cyberspace!
    Susan Reynolds