Back in December, I decided that my word for 2016 would be “creativity”. Other people I know have chosen “health”, “joy”, and “change” where they have decided to get their health back on track, to inject some genuine joy into their everyday living, and to make 2016 very different from the year before. For me, the time had come to reacquaint myself with my creative side, which had become muffled over the past few years under a whole pile of responsibilities, common sense, perfectionism, not forgetting frustration!
The idea of having a word for the year is to help bring some focus and purpose into my world.
You can hang goals off your word if you so wish, but for me it’s a simple one-word code to the Universe that I’m serious about pursuing this side of myself for 366 days (hey, I get a bonus day this year in which to play!!)
Naturally, once I told the Universe my intention, it threw a few things my way to spark my interest further, as well as to give me a better understanding of what I had allowed to block me for so long. Passages in books, snippets on the internet, all spoke to me one way or other to clarify what I needed to do.
For me, expressing my creative side is incredibly important to my health. If you suppress a side of yourself, frustration can build up, leading to a flood of stress hormones wreaking havoc through your body. Allowing yourself the freedom to express something from deep within, whether it is through writing, dancing, flower arranging, cooking, or some other avenue, can facilitate a free flow of energy, especially emotionally, and this is so vital for great health.
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book “Big Magic”, suggests that creative ideas are entities that invite individuals to co-create with them. It’s a magical idea, but there is a downside; however much you are taken with an idea, if you dither in the slightest, the idea may well go walkies to find a more dedicated soul with which to co-create.
Julia Cameron, in her book “The Artist’s Way”, says that art is not about thinking something up (which can equate to straining to reach something beyond our grasp) but is in fact getting something down. She proposes that our artwork already exists. We just need to listen and watch for it.
My thinking has for a very long time been quite similar. I believe that there is instead a big Universal Sea of creativity to which we all have access, if only we would make time to do so. In our crazy, techno, 24/7 world, with back-to-back activities, and numerous demands on our time and energy, it is difficult to quieten the mind sufficiently long enough to tap into this Universal creative resource.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), health comes from following the natural rhythms of our Universe. By adjusting our lifestyles in accordance with the seasons, we can make full use of the natural energy around us, not only to enjoy the best health, but also to fulfil our dreams and goals. If we see our creative projects in terms of a seasonal cycle, it all starts to make perfect sense, and carries even more oomph when we synchronise a given project with the actual seasons outside.
As spring comes to life, we can give birth to our ideas and plan, perhaps setting goals. As the year unfolds, we create and shape, refine, reflect and finally rest, the latter being an essential part of the creative cycle. It is during the “winter” of a project (governed by the WATER element in TCM) when the activity is over, that we can quietly reflect. We also reserve and rebuild our energy ready for the next project. It is during this non-activity phase that we can allow ourselves to dream, and it is then that our mind can wander in the Universal Sea of creativity to see what takes its fancy for the next project.
Below are a few of my thoughts on creativity.
- Follow your own heart and listen to your inner voice, NOT anyone else’s. I distinctly remember my father dismissing some bit of artwork I’d done as a child as a waste of time. Bless him, he only wanted what was best for me and considered education to be the road to happiness, but what a legacy that message carried. It has taken several decades to realise that that was his opinion and not my own!!
- A little obsession can make your heart-sing. Do whatever creative thing it is that you do, not for the promise of success or fame and fortune, but for the sheer heart-sing it provides. One of my happiest phases was when I took up canal boat painting. I adorned pretty much anything that didn’t move with roses and castles. Over years, I built up a collection of “rosified” enamel mugs, which served no great purpose other than to give me joy (although they did make very colourful pens holders!!).
- Create physical space in your life for it. I find that if my immediate environment is cluttered, it not only limits the space available for actual things to be laid out, but clarity of thought goes out of the window too. Space invites the creativity to flow in freely and stay awhile like a welcome guest.
- Create headspace for it. Similarly, if my head is cluttered with an endless stream of external chatter (TV, internet, social media etc) there is no chance of something uniquely me seeing light of day. Yes, it can provide inspiration but it puts me in reactive mode, being fed by offerings from others. I need to be in proactive – creative mode instead. For that I need simply to tune into stillness and see what comes to me.
- Dedicate time to it. This is SO important. If I don’t specially make time, other things and people will use that time instead, to the detriment of my project in hand. Having the luxury of a full day to myself is the ideal. This tunes into the WATER element beautifully. There is no structure to the day, and I can just go with the flow. This, though, is rarely possible!! Even setting aside just one hour a day (penned in the diary) at a time when interruptions are less likely, can get the ball rolling. If creativity, however, seems unwilling during that hour, don’t give up. I find that doodling or free-form writing (just filling a few pages with whatever comes to mind) often lead to something more meaningful. Even tidying up a space that can be used for your project tomorrow is an hour well spent.
- Flavours of meditation and how to tap into the Universe. “Meditation” is a great way to create space so that inspiration can come through, dance around your head and work its magic. It doesn’t have to mean 20 minutes of silence sitting cross-legged. Meditation can take different forms for different people. Taking a bath, going for a walk, pottering around the house, mindful ironing, and as I discovered recently, some uncomplicated knitting, can all act as a form of meditation and help generate lots of creative ideas. What meditation does is to help quieten the mind and heighten the senses, allowing creativity to flow more freely.
- Ditch perfectionism. It stunts creativity. I’ve spent far too many years being a perfectionist. I have a box full of pristine notebooks that are too good to write in. I have fretted over a slight mistake on a drawing that no one else would likely notice. I’ve allowed it to slow me down, drain my energy and, at times, even prevent me from starting!!! How crazy is that? Creativity needs free flow to do its stuff, not a series of road blocks along its path.
- Nourish your soul. Feed it with inspiration, knowledge and wisdom. Julia Cameron, in her book “The Artist’s Way”, suggests a regular Artist’s Date in your diary. Taking a day out to do something different helps to open up your eyes to different things, as well as brushing cobwebs away and giving fresh perspective. Reading inspiring books can bring fresh insights too.
- Nourish your cells. If you aren’t well, creativity is going to struggle. If you have headaches, lack energy or suffer from regular pain, creativity is likely to disappear into the ether. It pays to look after your health. Nourish your cells. These are your behind-the-scenes worker bees. If your cells are healthy high-vibrational beings, you as a whole being will be more open to the Universe and what it has to offer. Think diet, water, fresh air, exercise and quality sleep.
- If you clog your cells up with processed low-vibrational food and drinks, how can you expect high-vibrational ideas to come a-calling?
- Some form of exercise is essential. Movement facilitates flow at all levels. Creativity uses flow to dance gracefully around your body. Being sedentary can result in same-old, same-old thoughts – a form of creative stagnation.
- Sleep deprivation leads to jaded and sluggish cells which lack sparkle and flow and lead to stale and uninspiring thoughts. Our cells benefit from a little downtime to recharge, and creativity flourishes in the watery dreamland that is provided in sleep.
- Creativity doesn’t have to change the world. It can be small daily things expressed uniquely by you. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It can simply be the way we express ourselves in our homes or what we wear. The other day, I rearranged the furniture in our bedroom, mainly because I wanted to accommodate an old family chair which was so heavy it made opening my wardrobe a major production each morning!! With a bit of creative thinking, I moved a few things around and got a fresh new look. No artwork involved. It was just something which put a smile in my heart as part of my creative living.
Recommended reading ……..
- “Big Magic” – Elizabeth Gilbert (best known for her superb “Eat, Pray, Love”).
- “The Artist’s Way” – Julia Cameron
- “Simple Abundance” – Sarah Ban Breathnach