This morning instead of getting up right away, I opened the shades, stared out at the morning sky and absorbed the beautiful sunrise colors. I was thinking about writing this essay: How can I help others be more creative? What gets in the way of being creative? What are some steps to begin the creative process? I let my mind wander through what I know about creative inspiration, and how to impart that information to others.
I thought that one of the first steps in being more creative was just what I was doing: taking some time to day dream, to think, to sit and stare and let the mind wander. This at times is counterintuitive to our super busy, “do it now” society. But creative inspiration needs time to grow, to incubate, to mushroom, snowball, balloon or build up. When we are too busy, it is often harder to create.
As a creativity counselor, I have met many people who want to be more creative. Often one of the first things they say to me is, “My job leaves me little time or energy to be creative.” I am sympathetic to this. Many successful “creatives” I’ve met have figured out some way to adjust the 9-5 job/creative work balance. Some have partners that support their creative pursuits, some just try to live on less money, some cobble together a couple of part-time careers that still leave them time to be creative. And others, well they just try to eke out their creative space when they can on their off time.
Unfortunately even our “off” time can be filled quickly with our things-to-do list or a busyness that makes it difficult to be creative. Modern society is vibing faster and faster with our connectivity also being a potential creative killer. Cell phones, social media, the constant checking of news, updates can also hinder creative thinking and work. I myself have run into this problem. I tell clients that I now leave my phone off until three o’clock on creative days and some of them look like I’m crazy. How can you do that? Aren’t you expected to answer things right away? No, you’re not. Answering messages by the end of the day is acceptable. Try it if you’re trying to be creative. You will be happy with the results.
Finally, another thing that gets in the way of beginning creativity is our belief that we should be doing something else. That housework or groceries or fill in the blank is more important. Tess Gallagher’s poem, “I Stop Writing the Poem” addresses this subject well.
I STOP WRITING THE POEM
to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I’m still a woman.
I’ll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
out tenderness. I’ll get back
to the poem. I’ll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there’s a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it’s done.
Creative Exercise: What gets in the way of you writing the poem? Or being more creative? Write a poem or journal entry about this.
30/30/30 Creativity Experiment: Turn off all electronics. No checking of email or texts. For 30 minutes, go to a quiet space and sit and think about a creative project. For another 30 minutes, pick up your pen and write out some thoughts on how to accomplish creative product. Finally for your final 30 minutes work on your project.
Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you try out these exercises and want to share your results!