I began this year by honoring my creative urges in a way that I’ve done all too rarely in my life. Returning home from bringing in the New Year with creatively inspiring friends, Claudia Holt (who picked up the fiddle for the first time in her 50s and is now playing in a band) and her husband, Bryan Singleton (innovative permaculture maven) in Petaluma, California, I paid a visit to my friend, Elfa Gisla, actress, film and theatre director, impresario, passionate supporter of The Arts, and chatelaine of The Conway Muse, Northern Washington’s go-to destination for live music and good times. I heard myself telling her that I’d love to write a one-woman stage play. We talked about it for a bit and moved onto other subjects, but in the car on the way home, I got an idea for a story on which to hang the play.
In the past, I would have let the idea disappear into Neverneverland in order to attend to habitual homecoming tasks like unpacking, watering the plants, and checking the 487 emails, most of them spam, that had accumulated in my absence. But not this time. This time, I walked in the door, put down my bags, dropped my coat, headed straight for my laptop, and yes, gentle readers, I started writing the play. I worked on it for about an hour – long enough to get a decent start on it but not so long as to completely freak out my inner neatnik, who is used to running the show.
I’ve been continuing with the play ever since. I have every intention of finishing it, showing it around, marketing it, and seeing it performed on stage. As one of my creativity coaching clients, a wise woman of 80, said to me recently, “If not now, when?” Picasso puts it even more pointedly, “Only put off tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
On my 2011 Brush Dance calendar, I noted that the month of January is International Creativity Month. In honor of this grand occasion, here are twelve things that you can do to harness creativity’s revitalizing, transformative power.
1. Make a bucket list of the creative projects that you would like to complete and post it somewhere prominent.
2. Mess with the warden of your Comfort Zone. Change working hours, get to work or go home in a different way, take another route to do your errands, listen to a new radio station, read a magazine or book you wouldn’t typically read, go to a cafe you wouldn’t normally go to, vary what you eat for breakfast, follow someone on Twitter whose worldview is antithetical to yours, etc.
3. As I did when I started my play, act on your creative impulses. Stop whatever you’re doing – especially if it’s something potentially draining and mind-numbing like watching a reality show, surfing the web, gossiping, whining or complaining – and spend 10, 15, 30 minutes on a creative project.
4. Remind yourself that recognizing our creative capacities and those of our children may save us from destroying ourselves and taking our planet with us, by giving a few minutes of your time to Sir Kenneth Robinson.
5. Go for a walk on your own. As Raymond Inmon famously said, “If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” I can personally verify that Angels whisper to solitary female walkers as well. (By the way, if anyone knows who Raymond Inmon is, let me know – his quote appears to be more famous than he is.)
6. Do absolutely nothing for 10, 15, 30 minutes. Lie down, listen to music, and close your eyes. The best ideas come when the mind is relaxed. (Keep a notebook handy.)
7. Get offended. Watch the politically incorrect, brilliantly nimble-minded, creatively unbound, dangerously funny contemporary mystic, Billy Connolly, who has rightly declared, “There are people who need to be offended on a regular basis, I’ve always felt, and I’m the very boy to do it.”
8. If you have a problem, state it in reverse. If the statement is positive, make it negative. If it is negative, make it positive. For example, if you want to improve a relationship, list all the ways to make it worse. If you want a story to be less shallow, consider all the ways to make it more so. If you want to remedy a bad situation, make a list of all the ways the situation could be interpreted positively.
9. Take a poem, painting, short story, photograph, dramatic monologue, etc. that you love and create a tribute piece in which you emulate the artist’s style. Conscious imitation will enrich your own work and your unique slant will naturally emerge. Originality is an inherent outcome of sincere creative pursuit.
10. Recall and celebrate your moments of poor judgment. Picasso has said, “The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.” Such moments may inspire your next creative work. Great works of art don’t tend to be about people behaving sensibly.
11. Book a coaching session with The Creative Consuela to help you define your creative goals and overcome the barriers to carrying them out. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
12. Enroll in my upcoming six-week “Stoking Your Creative Fire” workshop that starts at 7 PM on Wednesday, January 26. The $180 fee includes a 30-minute creativity coaching telephone session with The Creative Consuela.
Remained attuned to subsequent blogs as I offer more suggestions for making our creativity matter.
“When we are writing or painting or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions, and are opened to a wider world where colors are brighter, sounds clearer, and people more wondrously complex than we normally realize.” Madeleine L’Engle