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What Is Creativity?

 Authors and poets describe creativity with insight and eloquence. Rather than add yet another description, I take a different approach and describe what creativity is not.

First, some definitions (from Merriam Webster online): 

1. the ability to create
2. the quality of being creative

1. marked by the ability or power to create
2. having the quality of something created rather than imitated

1. to bring into existence

1. the act of creating


Creativity is not a Copy

The Zentangle Method is all about patterns. We deconstruct both familiar and novel patterns into their elemental strokes. Then we teach how to reconstitute those strokes so that you can “paint” with that patterned “color” which we call a “tangle.” New tanglers will say, “I see patterns!” as they become conscious of patterns which were always there.

Early oil painters made their own paints. I remember a scene in the movie “Girl with a Pearl Earring” where the artist ground a certain colored rock and mixed that powdered pigment with oils to make a particular color. In the Zentangle Method, we look at tangles as colors because, like paints, they are also made from basic elements put together in a particular way. We teach how to mix colors of patterns, but we do not teach what to paint.

More importantly, we encourage you to develop your own tangles. 

Every day, tanglers all across this world create something new and beautiful with existing tangles and create new tangles which they draw from the deep wells of their imaginations.

The Zentangle community is generous in its sharing of ideas and inspiration which inspire your own unique creations. Even when I follow the step-out (instructions) for a new tangle, I always interpret it, or add to it, in a way that only I could imagine and create.

As you learn the Zentangle Method and new tangles, please do not worry that yours do not look the same as someone else’s. YOU don’t look the same as anyone else. Why should your creations? 

One purpose of the Zentangle Method is that you can use it to develop trust in your own imagination and build the confidence to express it in your unique individual style.

I used to make wooden flutes and ocarinas. I strove for a particular tone and range in my flutes.   After several years, I was able to consistently get the results I wanted. Once I had solved the puzzle of how to make that flute of my dreams consistently, I did not have the same passion to make copies. I continued to make beautiful flutes for a while, but it was not long before I connected with Maria and I stopped making flutes.

Creativity is not External

Creativity does not come from outside you. Yes, you choose tangles just as a painter chooses colors. But what you create with those tangles comes from within you. 

That is one reason we focus on tangling "one stroke at a time." It is much easier to experience a creative flow energized by an engaged imagination if you don’t have a pre-planned outcome in mind. 

Inherent in the Zentangle Method is the knowledge that you can imagine and create beyond what is offered or observed. You may even begin to create your own tangles.

I like to play with the word “responsibility” because it sounds a lot like “response ability.” As an imaginative and creative individual you have “response ability.” It is a gift and a “responsibility.” That responsibility can seem a bit scary because our schooling tells us there is only one right answer and that “right answer” is already known. We often see that play out in new Zentangle students who want to make sure they are doing it “right.”

However, there are no mistakes in the Zentangle Method; only opportunities — opportunities to call forth a response that you might never have considered but for that so-called mistake.

Zentangle Practice as Metaphor

Maria and I live in the same way we tangle. We focus on what is the next, most beautiful stroke that each of us can make at the moment that we are making it. We trust our ability to respond creatively and beautifully in the unfolding artistry of our lives and we strive to do that with gratitude and passion.

We invite you to consider applying the principals of the Zentangle Method to the artistry of your own life, one beautiful, creative moment at a time. 

You have gifts to offer that only you can imagine and that only you can create. 

Rick Roberts


  • I’m feeling really discouraged at the moment. Working so hard to create my own Tangles but feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. I love the Zentangle Method. I strive to improve both my own practice and teachings everyday. I work so hard to try to make my online Sessions fun, different , unique but at the same time being mindful that I am retaining the Zentangle Method. I really needed to read this Newsletter. It has given me a renewed hope. I do feel very down around my Tangle creations. I will give that side of my practice a break and try and focus on more positive elements of my practice and teaching. I love listening to you both. You both have a way of bringing clarity when there are clouds. Thank you so much for all that you do for us. For all of your support. I am truly grateful I found Zentangle when I did. I still have long way to go but it is definitely helping. It has given me a purpose ♥️🙏☘️

    Angelina Arcari on

  • Ah! Never mind. I have found it. Thanks for all that you do.

    Donna L on

  • I would really like to know more about the picture that accompanies this blog and maybe see how it turned out.

    Donna F on

  • This is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you, Rick.

    Joyce BLock on

  • How I love the phrase: "We focus on what is the next, most beautiful stroke that each of us can make at the moment that we are making it". This is life; no mistakes, so much opportunities. Step by step, focus on here and now. And enjoy. That’s why I love Zentange so much, this is my life too.

    Irene Lammerse on

  • Such a wonderful post, Rick. I especially love the reminder that we may live the way we tangle, focusing on on stroke, this moment, at a time and trusting that what to do next will reveal itself. Thank you 🙏.

    Leslie Hancock on

  • Zentangle is very grounding for me & it triggers me to go back to doing different forms of art/craft work. When I do Zentangle, each stroke feels like a meditation. It opens the mind & heart to let flowing surprises come forth.

    Rimona Gale on

  • I wear my “No Mistakes” T-shirt often to remind folks that I have accepted this philosophy in all the paths in my life… as I grow in my tangling skills, I find I am growing in other ways as well – patience, appreciation/gratitude, tolerance. I have even reminded one young person who tried to convince me she was a “mistake” being born that in fact the space she occupies in this world is essential because of her unique views and heart-filled energy. “We cannot do without the essential you,” I told her. I am personally so very grateful for Zentangle; it is as though my entire life was waiting for me to discover it. No mistake!

    Annie S. on

  • Rick your words really rang true with me. I often tell my students that “it is your artwork, not mine”. I have always thought my roll as a CZT is to offer suggestions and people must listen to their inner voice that tells them what to do. very early on in their Zentangle practice they loose the fear of not doing something right and take courage from what they are able to create. Working online has helped many people through these troubling times but I find I am unable to provide the support some people need when they believe what they have done is not right as it’s very hard to see what they are doing. I can’t wait until we can go back to face-to-face teaching.

    Lianne on

  • Rick, I am very new to The Zentangle Method. I’m loving it, first of all. But what really strikes me is that metaphor of living life as a tangle- no mistakes, one careful stroke at a time. I have to tell you it’s as though a lightbulb went on inside of my head! Eureka! much zen love to you and yours.
    Lori xo

    Lori Ann Dupont on

  • Thanks Rick. I have a class that struggles with the “Do I have it right” question. I’m going to invite them to read your your blog. You have expressed it so much more elegantly than I could.

    Lisa Hoesing on

  • Rick, your perspective is wonderful and most meaningful at this time. I especially love “no mistakes” and use it so often in my work. Amazing how a mistake that may have cost the project in the past, now becomes a challenge to ‘rework’ and suddenly becomes a new piece of art, even better than before. Sometimes this even surprises me how well i could ‘disguise’ the disaster into something altogether new. That concept has become most valuable to me now…among so many wonderful new thoughts and mindsets. Thank you for all you bring to the Zentangle experience.

    Carole Lape on

  • I always enjoy your reflections on the bigger picture, the philosophy of Zentangle. I seem to remember talk of a book you were working on, where you gathered your musings on creativity and the creative process. I’m really looking forward to it!

    Jennifer Sparrow on

  • Tus conceptos son maravillosos Rick, mil gracias! Creo que la creatividad no tiene límites y Zentangle lo confirma. Nunca existirá uno igual al otro, porque la creación de uno nos inspira para crear cientos de patrones propios y diferentes. Zentangle es mi mejor compañia!!!!

    Elsa Duenas on

  • .Zentangle has shown me there is such a sweet surrender making peace with the uncertainty, the letting go and accepting without fixing. There are no mistakes in Zentangle, only opportunities.Each tile can be reworked, collaged, painted on and turned into some new form of creation not previously thought of before. Thank you for this gentle reminder of acceptance and gratitude one stroke at a time.

    Jennifer on

  • Loved your thoughts, Rick. Especially response ability!

    SUsan on

  • Dear Rick,
    Once again you have given me inspiration and inspired contemplation. Thank you! I like the inclusion of thoughts on responsibility. Often we hear about freedom but not the other side of the same coin; responsibility.
    In middle life I took responsibility for helping victims of domestic violence. I had no idea that it would lead me to use my creativity and imagination to build the Alice Paul House, a shelter still in existence in Indiana County, PA. The Zentangle Method is a bridge for me to unlimited opportunities through simple steps. Mary

    Mary D'Angelo, CZT 32 on

  • I love this Rick! I have been participating in art whole heartedly most of my 64 years and still have flashes of doubt. Guess I must be human?! 🥴

    Kathy Y. on

  • In my world, creativity is tied to curiosity, and they are both indicators of intelligence which is everywhere present and in all things. I have found in my Zentangle meditations that if I introduce curiosity, such as, “I wonder what it would look like if I made this line curvy instead of straight?” that I can almost always come up with something new to fall in love with.

    Paula Schneider on

  • Thank you Rick!! I love this! I come from a family of artists. But I was never one, unless you count the drawings I did from a 3 y.o. to 9y.o. 🤓. I remember watching my dad mix his paints and CREATE amazing, beautiful oil seascapes… I wish he could see me now … and the joy I am having, experiencing with mixing tangles and being creative ❣️❣️

    Wendy Need-Beak on

  • Rick – One of your many talents is words – words that resonate with all of us. I am so glad that you and Maria met (how did you meet?), fell in love, and then created Zentangle and then shared it so we all could reap its benefits. Our world has always needed Zentangle – to offer us respite and optimism and moments of new growth. Today we need it more than ever to take our lives one stroke at a time – one moment at a time – and remind ourselves that our “mistakes” are just learning opportunities to look at our lives from a different perspective as we “turn our tiles” and find new and exciting creative paths in our lives.

    Claire on

  • Rick this was such a beautiful article! I loved it & truly try to live my life like you have described! Thank you for putting all this into the words that I couldn’t find.

    Leslee Feiwus on

  • I have trouble deciding what tangles go together. Do you find that it works best to stay with one type such as all organic, geometric shapes, etc? I’ve tried using a random pick app, but it never seems to work for me. Any suggestions?

    Thank you,

    Susie Falkler on

  • Thank you so much for sharing your talents and insight! I’m using Zentangle to keep me in a present, peaceful mind while there’s distress in this world.

    Pamela M. Pandolfi on

  • I do like thinking there are creative opportunities in all walks of your life.

    Jackie on

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