Stop Reinventing the Wheel! Take A Tip from Degas

Take a Hint from Degas:  Creative Efficiency

Art does not expand, it repeats itself.

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Stop Reinventing the Wheel!

A confession:  I struggle to not reinvent the wheel.

When it comes to my workshops and speeches, I’m often starting over from scratch in some way. There are probably a few layers to this.

All the way from poor organization to the need to be original and current.


Trusting that what I’ve done before is valuable, worthwhile, good enough maybe even brilliant.


My advice: Take a hint from Edgar Degas.

Edgar Degas was what I see as “creatively efficient.” That’s what I want to be too.

(Spoiler Alert: This might change your perspective of art)

Years ago, at a Degas Exhibit, I noticed there were similar images in his pictures.  Then I read that he would trace  images to copy his own art and use it again and again.

Wow, who knew? I sure didn’t. He’d actually use the tracings to add to different pictures, and (this is the part I loved) reverse the image.  He’d turn over a drawing and rub it onto a fresh page,  juxtaposing the images for greater impact.

Certainly history has proven that the way he went at his Art didn’t detract from his success.

My first thought:

Does this really count as art? I bet lots of people could do great work if they just traced or reused what they did well. It seemed like cheating.

Second thought:

Brilliant! Duh… doing over and over again what you do really well = Mastery

This is Mastery.

Mastery is one of the desires of my heart.

And the desire reminds me of a time I attended an Art Show with my daughter. I was talking about something I’d just painted. She said “Cool, Mom, but all you paint is hearts.” I said “Yes, I know,” feeling a little discouraged. Then we came to the next set of paintings on the wall of the Gallery, and guess what?

They were all of the same subject, only presented in slightly different ways.

That began a deeper discussion. I reminded my daughter that many of the great painters painted the same thing over and over again. Degas has an extensive collection of ballet dancers.  Monet is famous for his paintings of water lilies and haystacks. Van Gogh is known for his paintings of sunflowers.

It may appear to be the same thing over and over again but each image is different.

Different light.

Different movement.

Different experience.

Different interpretation.

A different moment in time.

Yes, in a way the same. But still different.

Moral of the story:  Don’t beat yourself for not being original!

How can you be creatively efficient and move toward Mastery?

3 takeaways:

1. What have you done that you can use again?

2. What can you use in a different way? Flip it over, turn it around and get a fresh view.

3. How can you add or combine your previous work in a way that creates something new?

My own struggle for creative efficiency has certainly lessened.

What about you? Is there a way you can repurpose or build on your previous work and success?”

I’d love to hear what you discover.


Digging deeper and discovering how to mine the gold of who you are and what you’re already doing really well Is what I love to do with clients. Contact me with an inquiry if you’d like to dig and discover together.