The Creativity Series: 5 Pros Share Their Creative Essentials

In the second installment of The Creativity Series, I’m talking creative essentials. All of us have them— whether it’s that 0.03 millimeter pen you always carry with you, noise-cancelling earphones, or color coded post-its, most of us have something that we need to have with us to foster the creative process. In today’s post, not only will I be sharing my necessities, but I also asked five other rad creatives, who I admire greatly, what their creative essentials are. Read on to see what the founder of Design Milk, a Food Network star, a cookbook author, and more count as their must-haves!

Creative Essentials HP Spectre Flatlay

As I had mentioned in my previous post, coffee is one of my creative essentials. Even if I’m not tired, I can’t get mentally going without a ritual coffee. Something about its warm embrace and the physical action of bringing it to my mouth and taking methodical sips helps kick everything into gear. Tea also works. Essentially, anything warm that’s caffeinated is a godsend.

CreativeEssentials | © culturalchromatics-5

This also sounds counterintuitive, but I also need a slight distraction occasionally. When I’m writing and suffer a mental block, I need something to distract me— something I can fiddle with using my hands. This might be Buttah or tidying up my desk. Taking that short mental break helps refresh my thinking, and when I come back to my writing a few minutes later, I’m reinvigorated and the words flow more easily. Of course, there have been those times when it’s gone horribly wrong and I’ve taken a little too long of a break. I guess that’s part of the creative process ;).

CreativeEssentials | © culturalchromatics-7

Lastly, a functional computer is key. About 50% of my creative work involves a processor, so I’m thankful to have a slim and powerful laptop like the HP Spectre. I also like that it’s really, really, really ridiculously good looking and highly functional at the same time. The bang & olufsen speakers also make music streaming a much more pleasant and luxurious experience. One that often distracts me (and not in the ‘essential’ way) is when music sounds tinny and grating when using low-quality speakers.

CreativeEssentials | © culturalchromatics-6

Next, let’s hear what other seriously inspirational people count as their creative essentials.

Jaime Derringer, art + design lover, and Founder of Design Milk + Dog Milk + Adorn Milk /

I don’t know how Jaime does it, but she manages to somehow juggle an online magazine dedicated to design and an e-commerce store dedicated to architectural and modern jewelry, while also creating fine art and co-hosting a podcast. Her entrepreneurial achievements have been a huge source of inspiration to me, and I’m lucky to have her as a role model. She tells us what analog tools help spur her creative juices.

Jaime Derringer

Photo by Noa Azoulay |

Aside from all of the digital tools I use to run Design Milk, when I really want to get creative, I go analog and open up my sketchbook and start sketching. My main tool of choice is markers! With markers, I have total control over the strokes and saturation, and I have lots of blending capabilities. Sometimes I use pen, other types of ink or pencils in combination with my markers to create a mixed media sketch. The second tool that is essential for me is a scanner. Once I’m done with my drawing (and also typically when I do small paintings), I will scan it, bringing the analog sketch into the digital realm, which opens up endless possibilities.”

Monika Walecka, Cookbook Author, Food Photographer and Stylist

Monika is one of my hugest food photography and styling inspirations, and I’m honored to be able to know her online and offline. I first found a photo she took with no link back to her on Pinterest, and subsequently went down an internet rabbit hole to find her. Then, as luck would have it, she moved to San Francisco shortly after, where I eagerly emailed her to see if she’d be interested in meeting up. Not only is Monika a self-taught photographer and cook, she has an amazing talent with bread (ie one of my favorite foods). Monika tells us the one thing she has to have while working.

Monika Walecka

Photo: Aleksandra Pavoni

My creative essential is music. I cannot work when there is silence around me. Music is like my coffee in the morning and companionship during the day— it inspires me and gives me energy to turn into something even more creative. I like emotional electronic music, which I like to call music for dreamers.

Celine MacTaggart, Founder of 24 East, The East Bay’s First Lifestyle Blog

I greatly admire Celine’s ability to do it all. After having a successful career in non-profit work, she took a little ‘break’ and had three wonderful children in four years. Then, she decided to take her creative passions and turn them into a full-fledged career and launched 24 East, an online publication dedicated to highlighting the best of the East Bay. (I can barely take care of myself and a dog at the same time!) She is the sweetest person and has such a way with words and people. Also, I greatly admire her ability to quote Too $hort… Below, she tells us her requirements for creativity.


I love to have lots of blank pages of paper and a good inky black pen— there is something truly gratifying about making lists and actively crossing items off. It feels like I’m making progress. Even if I make mistakes, it’s essential to me in that I feel one step closer to a goal.

Jenny Dorsey, Professional Chef, Business & Culinary Consultant, and Entrepreneur

When you first meet Jenny, you can immediately understand how she manages to run a supperclub, a consulting business, and oh, be on shows like Cutthroat Kitchen and Oxygen Network‘s In Progress. Her enthusiasm and boundless energy is contagious— not only does she teach me to dream bigger and better, but also how to realistically achieve these goals. We were set up by her friend who suggested that my brother and I take her engagement photos. I knew immediately that we would be great friends when she told us she wanted to take photos in front of Smitten. See what she lists below as vital to her creative process.

Jenny Dorsey

My creative essentials for a positive, creative workflow start off with my small doggo, Gwenevere. Then, I like to use my large unlined Moleskine to sketch out plating and write down menu ideas and service flow. To keep myself hydrated, I love harmless harvest coconut water (I’m addicted and order them by the case). Lastly, I stay inspired by rabbit holing into Wikipedia about other cuisines and going to tiny ethnic shops every few weeks and buying random stuff to try!!

Vy Tran, Blogger, Instagrammer, and Writer at Design Milk

Me and Vy first met via Instagram, and I was quickly smitten with her minimal and calming style. She is a woman of many talents, from watercolor calligraphy to composition to style to writing (the list goes on). Most importantly, I admire her strong sense of dedication and ability to fully invest in whatever she’s working on. She is careful and deliberate about what she takes on because she knows that she will go above and beyond to achieve her goal, whereas other people (me) will just jump in right away without considering the consequences. Here, she tell us the two things she counts as her creative essentials.

Vy Tran

I have two creative essentials, Moleskine notebooks and sundown. The former to write down my creative brainstorms/to-do’s and the latter is when I do it. I think all creatives need to be learn to “be creative” at any given time (something I’m working on!), but I find that all my best ideas happen in the late of the night. I really wish I was a morning person! But I’ve come to recognize my habits and learned to work with them instead of forcing myself to come up with a genius idea at 7am.

Cultural Chromatics has teamed up with HP for this post. However, all opinions are our own, (and always will be). Thanks for supporting content that keeps the lights on here at Cultural Chromatics.

What are your creative essentials? Let us know in the comments below! 


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