We are continuing on with our exploration today with something a bit different, a few practical nuts and bolts.
Creating can be so simple and fulfilling (really if can!) It can be both a magical place to be whisked away to, and also a tool to help you make sense of the world... but only if we approach it with a supportive mindset.
That's what we have been building and challenging together over the past few weeks- our mindset! We have been creating a paradigm, adjusting how our eyes approach or creative practice, so that we can move away from being stuck and into a place of expression.
My belief is that the practical things I am offering here today and next week, will only serve you if you have cultivated a nourishing mindset about your creative practice. So, if you are just catching up you can check out the previous lessons here.
I like to think of this new paradigm about creativity like the ocean. For so many of us we feel a deep love, connection, and even a calling to the water. But what we find is that when we finally get there, when we dip our toe in its cold and harsh- not like we imagined it would be. When we jump in (if we haven't prepared ourselves) the waves can sweep us away, scare us, even harm us. The magic of the ocean is all there waiting for us, but it requires us to meet it with respect, presence, and a deep listening so we can attune to its power. This is what our creative practice requires of us as well.
Think of the tips and skills I am offering you today and next week as tools to support you as you wade into and make sense of this wild and alluring ocean of creativity.
If you have been with me so far in this journey, we have been attuning ourselves and listening to the power of our creative practice. Noticing our thoughts, choosing the ones most nourishing and challenging old stories so we can make space for new ones to emerge.
We have been employing lessons of mindfulness and making sense of it all through the expressive arts (both deep traditions full of wisdom and insight I have had the privilege of learning from!)
Today we are ready to get practical. If we have opened up space for our new story and continue to notice and choose our thoughts these strategies will help you to ride the waves of your creative practice.
So let’s jump in!
1. Just 5 Minutes
When you are toying with the idea of creating or trying to warm yourself up to it, it can sometimes feel big, scary, and overwhelming. Breaking it down and giving yourself permission to take it slow can be an incredibly powerful tool. Instead of planning to create for an hour, the afternoon, etc. Only plan to create for 5 minutes and mean it! Move into your process and if at the end of 5 minutes you want to stop then stop. Seriously. This technique allows you permission to move just a tiny bit, not feel the need to break off the whole thing at once. It’s a way for our minds to feel that things are manageable. Permission to create for only 5 minutes dulls our overwhelm and lets us move into a creative space with a sense of freedom. I use this strategy all the time (I shared a bit about my experience with it our introduction.) The truth is that most of the time I create much longer than 5 minutes, you likely will too. But giving yourself permission to take it slow and only take a tiny bite, helps to get the ball rolling when it otherwise would be stuck.
2. Plan and Prepare
You don't need to plan WHAT you are going to create; you just need to plan TO create. Mentally walk yourself through the space, time, and the resources you need. Don't leave it open ended or it will stay that way.
What conditions can you prepare to make it easy to get going so that you don’t get distracted with other things?
When will you create?Put it in your calendar if you must and if it gets bumped put that 5-minute chunk of time right back in.
What do you need? Can you prep it? Can you set it out? Organize it? Have it all ready?
For example, I always finish my embroidery by threading my needle with another string and mentally planning what part I will stitch next. This way when I sit down to embroider for my 5 minutes ;) each evening (which is my special time to create) it's all ready for me. I don't have to fiddle, search, make a plan or figure anything out. I simply need to pick it up. I often will even plan in advance if I will listen to music and what music I will listen to, where I will go in my home, if I will make a cup of tea etc. I walk my imagination through the experience of creating in advance and figure out as much of it as I can, so there aren’t any unknowns to distract me from my plan to create.
Do you share your work with other people? Do keep it to yourself? Sharing our work can be complex. We don't always want to display it or open ourselves up for feedback. But sharing our creations can help to make it real. It provides a witness who can see it and acknowledge its existence. It recognizes and respects this part of ourselves that only comes out through our creations which encourages it to grow. Having a goal to create a body of work to formally share is great if this is something important to you. Sharing on Instagram or Facebook can also be great. But if none of that appeals to you that’s ok. Mostly we need a safe witness, a trusted person who we can tell about our creative experience and share our completed products with. Consider making a plan to share some of your work with someone in a way that meets your needs. Do you want feedback or are you just wanting someone to see it? Can there be an exchange of witnessing? For example, my husband and I are planning to share our creative writing with each other once a month. A draft, a finished product wherever we are at. Our hope is that this sharing will function as both accountability and an experience of safe witnessing for our written expressions.
PS: Those of you who respond to my emails are a key part of having these written expressions I email out witnessed… thank you truly for that, it really does mean so much to me…
4. Hold Space for Skill Building & Expression
It's important to have 2 arms to your creative practice. One arm is where you cultivate skills and learn new techniques. This is the arm that explores classes, tutorials, techniques etc. Our other arm is purely about expression. This is a creative place where you go to explore feelings, emotions, your body, your needs, and desires. This arm is all about having a sacred place where you can express yourself through your art. The intention behind each of these arms is completely different. Many people will conflate the two and get frustrated. They want to express, but they caught up in their skills falling short. Or they want to learn new skills but feel flattened and uninspired in their creations. Each arm serves a purpose and can work together but we need to hold space for each. Think of a child learning how to speak then later read and write. These are all skills they learn to help them express their inner experience. These skills help them express themselves but to think that you must have words to express yourself is silly. Expression happens with or without words. Your creative expression should happen with or without words too. Use each arm of your creative practice, make space, and hold intention to cultivate and honour each arm and watch how they support one another. Remember not to confuse them or neglect one over the other, you need both arms!
Do you have a creative ritual? A way to prepare and acknowledge the sacredness of what your practice is? If not, why not? Could it be time? Maybe you drink a cup of tea, begin by taking a few grounded breaths, write a quick poem, or even start with a journal entry to help you express what's going on for you in the moment. Perhaps it's a special pair of slippers or space you go to in your home, lighting a candle, or setting out a special object? It doesn’t matter what you do. It matters that you mark this space as sacred. It matters that you help yourself transition from the real world to the creative world. Marking this space and transitioning from one world to the next through a ritual, is something that human beings have been doing for as long as we have existed. It doesn’t have to be elaborate it just needs to be special. It needs to draw a line in your life in a way that helps you delineate that you are now holding space for yourself. What can you do to mark this transition? Doing this will help you notice your thoughts, soften your attachment to your creative story, and keep you grounded as to why you are creating. It’s essential. For me slowing down and breathing then physically preparing my space along with a cup of tea is essential!
6. Set an Intention
For any of you that have worked with me in the past you know how important it is to me that we set an intention first before we create. But what does it mean to set an intention? Is it just having a plan as to what you will make, explore, or get done in this allotted time? Don’t we kind of do that already? The Latin origin for intention is intentionem which means “to stretch out” or “lean toward.” And in Middle English intention went on to mean “heart, mind, and feelings.” So, when we set an intention we are stretching and leaning our hearts, minds and feelings in new directions. When you sit down to create (even if it is only for a few minutes) what do you intend to lean towards or stretch your inner self towards? Think of an intention not as a goal but a movement. You can’t check an intention off your list. You can only feel it. Maybe you intend to notice your body as you create? You intend to pay attention only line in your work and how it makes you feel? You intend to notice your thoughts as you create? Or maybe you intend to explore a feeling or emotion you are experiencing? You begin with this intention knowing that it is simply a movement in that direction, not necessarily resulting in anything more. When you set your intention, this can be a silent thought, written out or even shared verbally with someone. I make a silent intention to myself or write it out as a key part to my creative ritual mentioned above.
7. Get Out of the Box
If you feel stuck, stymied, uninspired or unsure this is a sure sign to get out of your box. This is a sign that you have a hunger that can’t be satiated by doing the same thing again and again. You have a deficiency that needs new input! If you tend to work in a sketchbook doing art journaling etc. then stepping away from the page and trying something new to bring back to the page is essential from time to time. For example, this could be formally inviting something back onto the page that intrigued you on a walk, in a book, or a conversation. Or beginning with some yoga or expressive movement and then taking one small part of that experience and translating back onto the page. Each medium of expression activates a different part of ourselves and we can take our expressions and explore them in different areas. Don’t confine yourself to one medium. You don’t need to be a master of them all, you can simply let expression move through you and have them feed your chosen medium. This is a core tenet to my work as an Expressive Arts Educator, I could go on and on. But for now, just consider how this idea of that music, sculpture, textiles, dance, words or any other medium can be an uncertain starting point for you that you can use to feed your regular practice. Give yourself permission to just even use your hands to explore a movement and then translate a bit of that experience back onto the page. Get curious!
8. Remind Yourself Why You Create
Take time and space to have a thoughtful conversation with yourself about why creating matters to you personally. Is it because you know it supports your mental health? It makes you feel alive? You feel a deep call to create? Is it connected to your spiritually? Why do you bother creating? Each one of us has a personal response to this, and each of us are at different parts of our journey with this question. If you are honest and clear about why you create, and you continue to have this conversation with yourself, deepening your response it helps make things clear for you when things get tough. When your inner critic bubbles up you can tell it why you are creating! When procrastination threatens you, you can remind it of the big picture. When it feels hard or other thing compete for your time, recall why you create as a way of remembering why you are bothering with this all anyway. If you look deep down creating isn’t about making beautiful things, selling your work, having accolades, or success. It’s a deeply personal, meaningful, and distinctly human experience- keeping your fingers on this will fuel you and keep you moving towards your intentions.
That’s it! All 8 tips. I tried to be concise really, I did! We could take our lives to unpack this all… in fact I think we should! Thanks, for being with me on this little journey.
I know we have so much more to do together and explore.
For now, we will close this chapter.
This is part of a larger series check out the rest below...