Five Ways to Hang With Your Creativity
I noticed that when I hang out with my creativity, it wants to hang out with me. Just thinking about it can be enough for me to break through resistance to a tiny step which then leads to a momentum. Writing and reading about creativity does the same thing, so I thought I'd share these ideas, in case reading them helps you.
Five Ways to Hang with Our Creativity
- First wash out distractions.
They may be lodged deep in the fabric of our habits so we shouldn't fret if they don't come out immediately. Just expect 5% less distractability with each thought.
- Hang in Originality
Let's hang our creativeness outside our rut, our tired-out routines. Let's hang it outside any convention that keeps us silent, afraid, or superficial.
- Hang with Your Breath and with Mindfulness
Let's allow the breeze to wash over the tapestry of who we are. Silent the thoughts that continually play over and over, silent the judgments, and the self-torment. It's just static cling. Dye to the mundane, let's live for the extraordinary and reveal the brights that may have been dulled.
- And then Listen.
OVER HERE... the wondering mind needs to settle on the voice inside that's been trying to get through. If we take all the distractions off the line every now and then, originality has a chance to light our mind. Be patient. This may take practice if your mind has been stain away from creative matters. (okay, that pun might have gone a little too far but sometimes that's how I spin).
For Optional Genius-inducing Sheen:
Ask questions and don't expect an immediate answer. Questions start the creative spin cycle both consciously and sub-consciously. Here are some examples:
- What small fresh twist can I add to this idea?
- What if my idea could talk to me?
- What would I say if I was telling the world about my idea?
- How can I make showing up for my creativity easier?
What if I approached my idea:
- With really big gestures of action?
- With unfettered courage?
- From a really narrow point of view?
- With reckless abandon?
- With sympathy and tenderness?
- Pretending I'm the foremost world expert?
- As if I didn't care so much about it?
- As if my mission was to save the world with each tiny step I took?
- As if I was extremely confident?
- With as much love as possible
- As if I were a gypsy, boat captain, a goof-ball, superhero or 5 year old child?
Just let the answers incubate. Hang with the possibilities. Entertain the absurd because absurd often associates to genius. Keep your creative passion in your mind in between activities, while driving, walking, downloading, showering, and/or staring at your lampshade. The more you hang with your creativity, the deeper the colors.
Or just maybe your mind is on overwhelm, in static oblivion, on the multitasking freeway of focuslessness, beating yourself up, or expecting waaaay too much. I know what you mean. Relax, lower the pressure, start with five minutes.
Hang with your creativity, a little at a time, and after awhile it will become a habit. Let go of it having to be perfect, consider the fabric of you that is fun.
I'm Just Not Creative... Ugh
“I’m just not creative.”
“I can’t draw like that.”
“I wish I could write, but I can’t.
“This isn’t good enough.”
“I’m not good at art.. writing… etc.”
Being in the field of liberating the creativity of others, I hear these things all the time and it bugs the pistachios out of me. I want everyone to experience the province of creative delight the way I do… yet, I wasn’t always in this place of liberation myself, so… there’s that. Maybe you hear those things too, if so, consider passing this on. The world is a better place when we’re creative.
Most of these insecurities and untruths come from unmet expectations; expectations that are unrealistic, dare I say, to a delusional degree. These are expectations to immediately know how to do something and be good at it. Also included in this array of delusions is expecting that if you’ll get good at something, it will always be easy. And I’ve had those delusions myself but thank goodness the last 20 or so years they’ve scrammed from the vicinity. They could have discouraged my willingness to engage in the joy, freedom, healing, laughter, triumph, and connection in every area of my life that creativity gifts me with. Is that something you want to sacrifice for a delusion?
Understanding the psychology behind not feeling good enough can be liberating. Some of it comes from messages we got from parents, teachers, even friends that discourage us when we share expressions during the vulnerable and fragile stage of learning a craft. We may simply have shared with the wrong person which can cripple us for life. That seems kinda senseless – if we had shared with someone else, we might be soaring. The kind of reluctance to continue with a creative passion that comes from being criticized is understandable but can be overcome in the same way delusional expectations can be foiled so read on.
When we compare ourselves to others, we are also under the influence of delusional thinking. We compare ourselves to the work of people who HAVE put the work in. But comparison is a typical human punishment conspired by our fear-based consciousness. Let’s ascend the consciousness ladder a bit, into the realm of creative practicality where real progress can be made.
Common sense would tell us that it’s NOT realistic to be good at something right off the bat. It’s not only an unrealistic expectation, it’s self-sabotage. Painting and writing, music, dance, etc all take time. Believing that it doesn’t take time will discourage you from persevering. Yet, that doesn’t stop a huge majority of people from getting discouraged when their expectations of being decent or sometimes great at something at the beginning of the process leads them to abandoning a pursuit that could improve their entire life r. Here are some ideas about how to deal with this:
- Awareness of the Delusion
Understand that there’s not something wrong with you for having this expectation. It seems to be a feature of being human and coveting the idea of being creative. Many people have it, some due to the myth that some people are born with creative talent and others aren’t. It’s true, some people have a natural affinity for creative expression but that doesn’t mean they can’t be surpassed by another who has the passion, willingness, curiosity, and/or tenacity to practice and become even better. Practice, perseverance, and persistence are p’s you want to possess even if it’s not perfectly.
- Set off on an adventure of tolerance
Some things might come easier for you than others. Something might be easy the first time you do it then it’s a bitch. Other things will be a struggle and unless you can tolerance messes, screwing something up that was going well, complete awkwardness, feeling like you’re all thumbs, being unable to translate the idea in your mind to the page or canvas, or feeling like you can’t say anything meaningful you won’t persevere. Tolerating these things are requirements for being a creative hero. Where you might need to simultaneously begin with, in addition to honing skills, is developing your tolerance muscle. Embark on endeavors with this in mind – I’m going to try this drawing class to develop my tolerating not being good at the beginning. The tolerance you begin to acquire in one area of your life will be applicable to other areas and you will be willing to do more than you ever have before, emerging from your little box you may not realize you built around your possibilities.
- Accepting Compliments
In the classes I teach, I see people making wonderful art and writing terrific pieces. I will tell them so and they will dismiss my compliment completely with a facial grimace or an auditory groan. Their expectations for what they want to do don’t match what they’ve done, but that doesn’t mean what they’ve done isn’t wonderful. I wrote a whole piece on this area of self-rejection because it happened to me.
I don’t compliment things I don’t think are pretty cool, so they are also dismissing me. If this is describing something you, ask yourself what it would feel like to believe a compliment. See if you can just crack the door open to that compliment being true; you don’t have to believe it 100%, try believing it 20%.
Or put your work away and return to it when your expectation isn’t present. You might actually like what you see or read.
Any of this help?
Mary Oliver is a Gateway Drug
Poet, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg wrote, “[Mary] Oliver’s writing is a gateway drug to poetry, gently and fiercely cajoling would-be readers into the wilds of the shining earth and living poem… Oliver’s poems landed on thousands of refrigerator doors and in multitudes of journals, scribbled by people at wit’s end finding solace in the questions she asked, such as ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?’”
My poet friend, david brydges, shared that, “Much of Oliver’s inspiration was going for walks in the woods with her dog and observing. She even hid pencils in trees so she would not forget to write down anything.”
I’d like to complete the equation from two paragraphs above and surmise that one way this wild and precious life will come alive is to pay attention (and hide pencils in trees).
In other words, write things down!
They do not have to be the fantastic; the "normal" is filled with poetry too.
I don't know about you, but my attention is often captive to a habitual loop of required daily activities, chaos in the news, curious meanderings of social media, as well as teaching, marketing, healthy fats, hair balls, rock and roll, and the perplexing but delicate nature of relationships – and within that merry-go-round I can forget to pay attention to the creative possibilities inherent in everything. Including mundane trivial happenings.
When I amuse myself with creative inner commentary about my merry-go-round world, using humor to survive the chaos in the news, making social media a playground of prompts, stirring my passion with new approaches to teaching, and observing those nutty cats! -- I am at a low pressured vantage point of practicing paying attention to easy creative prospects. Thinking something different about the usual things in our lives is a gateway drug to poetry and art. People put so much pressure on themselves to produce astounding works when "simple" is the place to start.
What’s right in front of our noses is art and poetry waiting to alchemize a rut into an original. We can simply start with the question:
How can I think differently about the simple things in my world?
Take 30 seconds and write down three things you see right now. They can be simple, mundane things but add two specific details to each of those three things; perhaps add a feeling or commentary about them.
If you’re into sketching, sketch something right in front of you, but embellish it with an attitude or a random addition.
Take away any need to be brilliant, precise, or articulate because those are expectations that keep people from trying at all. Simply be curious, like an anthropologist studying the emanations of poetry and art waiting for you to notice them. Find a tree of pencils, pull one out, and record them without care that what transpires, wins a prize, or impresses your followers:
- A silk poinsettia leftover from Christmas is watching me from underneath my dresser, laughing at my laziness for leaving it there but pleased that it wasn’t stuffed in the box with the snowman ornaments.
- My chaotic bookshelf is my rebellion against becoming so ordered that my life is no longer an art installation of a messy human.
- My kitten fetches pipe cleaners obsessively like a huntress bringing the booty home, 100 times only to have it thrown out to retrieve again.
This exercise takes seconds, can turn the small things around us into poetry or art, (even if they are really rough first drafts that go nowhere), and is an act of healing creative transcendence. We are refusing to get lost in the blind hypnosis of routine and the fear-mongering media which erodes our creative capacity. We are choosing to exalt our existence by wrapping it in the attention of a Muse.
“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”
Escaping the Incarceration
I was in prison for eight years.
Okay, I taught yoga in a military prison for eight years. The men in my classes weren’t hardened criminals like the big institutional reformatories. Just ones caught in drug and … sexual offenses. Okay, some of them were a little scary.
On the other hand, many of the women did really bad stuff because this particular facility was one of the only women’s brigs in the country. I wasn’t allowed to ask them what they did to receive a prison sentence but when one of the guards said, “She’s a lifer,” I had a pretty good guess. No judgment, I only had compassion for these women. My only concern was that they learn some yoga because I know what yoga can do.
Before the prison gig, I taught yoga for Jack-in-the-Box corporate headquarters and a smattering of women’s spas and wellness centers for many years, but the reward in those establishments was not even within a downward facing dog of teaching yoga to prisoners.
I taught two classes in a row every Monday night, one for “females” and one for “males,” as they were called to reduce their identity from the more personal “men and women”
In the prison yoga class, I instructed the prisoners to find the freedom inside of themselves. In a place where you first are stripped of your identity and then stripped of your freedom because of a crime you commit, finding freedom inside yourself can be a means of survival and reform.
The paradox was not lost on me nor the guards watching my class, when I instructed the prisoners to “reconnect with yourself by going inside to that inner sanctuary where you are undisturbed by anyone or anything on the outside. There you will find a freedom no one can take away from you.” The prisoners liked hearing this, I liked reminding myself of it, the guards … not so much on liking but they did get some eye-rolling in which can be considered a form of yoga if it's paired with a breath.
The stress of life itself can feel like wearing shackles, but with stretch, breathing, the invitation to let go, the physical feeling of relief, you can experience a freedom that defies words and walls… and depression.
Having no real incident preceding being depressed makes you look like a sadness imposter. Most people don’t realize that you can snap out of a depression in much the same way you can snap out of diabetes. You can’t. People also don’t understand why you are stuck in this place especially when your life looks so shiny from the outside.
Allie Brosh nails depression in her book Hyperbole and a Half. Here’s just one example from the two chapters those of us who experience depression are grateful she wrote:
“I tried to force myself not to be depressed. But trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn’t going to work. … I followed myself around like a bully narrating my thoughts and actions with a constant stream of abuse.”
If you’re doing it “right,” you cannot help but be kind to yourself when you are doing yoga.
Yoga is one of the only ways I can move from feeling rigidly stuck in a place of anguish and inertia to one where I fold, twist, stretch and move my body out of the immobilization I feel with the debilitation. Depression makes breathing shallow; yoga focuses on deepening the breath as a life force and meets you where you are with compassion.
The shackles melted and I was able to reconnect with that place where depression is an observation, not an incarceration. Even in the midst of despair, joy can be accessed without compromise, but it takes willingness, practice, and intention. It may not happen the first 10 times. Putting the body in a nurturing motion such as yoga strengthens the spirit. The spirit is resilient. Instead of holding onto the pain and discomfort of life, we can release it just as we release the tension of a yoga stretch and feel a surge of energy.
We can be freed whether it’s in a place or a state in which we have found ourselves stuck. It doesn’t need to be a formal hour and a half yoga class, it can be 10 minutes on our living room floor. I break my resistance to starting by giving myself permission just to do one dogward-facing dog. That’s the extrinsic motivation; once started, the desire to do more becomes intrinsic –- which is the more important and lasting motivation.
There’s a freedom to be found in yoga, whether it’s five minutes or eight years. It’s a breath and a stretch away. I wish that on you.
It is in those moments when our intuition can get through all the chatter in the monkey mind that we hear our soul entice us with possible stories alchemized from our hardships into prose, give us ideas on how we can breathe new energy into that landscape by painting the sky pink, and reinforce our place in the world of creativity.
To me, the feeling of words are powerful in shifting me from a stressed state of mind to one that is receptive to my inner world of creative wisdom. Here are some words I use, maybe they'll work for you:
1. Breathe in ... and as you breathe out imagine all your tension falling to the earth and melting like a snowflake. (Repeat as often as needed).
2. Imagine the chatter that is not serving you in your mind as scribbles on an Etch-a-Sketch
3. If you're practicing mindfulness, you can just be curious about this phenomenon of chatter-scribble, observing it from a compassionate witness consciousness. Our minds chatter, trying to get rid of it completely isn't realistic. Just observe and return your attention to the melting of the breath into the body.
4. Imagine shaking your etch-a-sketch mind gently and allowing those chatter lines to form a beautiful scene that reminds you of the masterpiece that you are:
5. Or allow your Etch-a-sketch to go blank then, close your eyes and imagine a benevolent soul writing a message on it that is kind and inspiring. What did you get? I got: "Make it easier."
6. Then ask a small question without needing an answer. Here are some I ask:
Pay attention. You may effortlessly gravitate toward answers.
- How can I make this easier?
- What's one small way I can do this project differently in line with my originality?
- How can I make this fun?
- What do I love about my creative time?