This week launched the first of five segments of my courses in design. “Developing a Designer’s Eye” is all about embracing the creative journey and lifestyle, which is both astoundingly beautiful and tough inner work.
As part of our first Zoom gatherings, I invited the students to use Natalie Goldberg’s tried-and-true method of the timed writing exercise to dive into prompts on creativity that unearthed facets of the gem of what creativity is, what nurtures creativity, and what hampers it. We only gave ourselves 5 minutes per theme, but what came of those five minutes was powerful magic that sparked conversations, introspection, and clear sight. What a beautiful space to hold for each other!
I worked the same exercises along with the students, and I wanted to share my writing on these prompts with you as well, as an offering on your own creative journey. The class is meeting as two separate groups, to accommodate schedules, so I will include my writings from both groups, as they come at the topic from a slightly different slant. You are welcome to try these exercises and see what comes up for you! The only rule is once you start the timer, do not let the pen stop. Whatever needs to come onto the page, let it come.
With my mission of “Liberating the Creative Soul,” this feels like where the real work is happening.
First Prompt: Creativity is:
Creativity is a journey, it’s the wilderness of expression granted each of us at birth. It asks only that we show up and are ready, toned, and eager to listen, to see. Creativity is a river you can dip into, endless and boundless. We are the ones who become stingy. We are the ones who deny ourselves access and tell ourselves we aren’t worthy, that we can’t do it. Creativity is flow, it changes our perception of time and space. It is incredibly slow and wildly fast at the same time. The wildness of creativity can find a way to survive in domesticity, but it is not happy there. It needs times of freedom, of trying out the unexpected, of no longer being penned and hemmed and chained to a post. It wants to flourish out there and come back to visit, in fact it calls us to join it, not us reeling it in, like a bear on a chain. It is both so real and yet so intangible. When you are immersed in its energy, you know it in your bones.
Creativity is a blessing. It is a stream that flows in our lives, in our unconsciousness. It is a blooming, a flourishing, a process of bringing to life that which is seeking expression. It is an aspect of love, of a love of being alive, of being in a human form at this time, at this place, now. It is a love of both the mess and the serenity and of finding the magical in the moment. It is hope–it is finding our way even when we don’t really yet know what that way is. Creativity is expansive, is all-encompassing. It is a longing for us to join IT, to find our way through our doubts and our habits of self loathing to see that we can be a well-tuned instrument, ready to sing with wood and string and bone. Creativity gives us energy, keeping us up at night way past our normal mortal abilities. It feeds us in ways not accessible to food. It comforts us, allowing us to heal the unspeakable inside.
Second Prompt: Creativity is Nurtured by:
The act of showing up. The act of optimism, of being open to possibilities and chasing after them. Creativity is nurtured by opportunities, of taking time, and of having the materials at hand to express what is trying to make manifest inside you. Creativity flourishes with good companions that feed the best in you, as well as alone time without distractions. Creativity is nurtured by letting go of expectations or demanding performances. It does not want to be squeezed. It wants “what if” and the permission to chase after it. Creativity is nurtured through practice, through hope, is even an expression of hope. Creativity loves to know that you are there for it, that you honor it, that you care to have a relationship with it. It is like tending to a garden, with all the necessary tasks before any blooms or fruits arrive. Not all the jobs in the garden are glamorous, but all of them are worthy.
Creativity is nurtured by having someone who believes in you, and that includes you, which can sometimes be the hardest part. Creativity is nurtured by big questions and diving in, by making gaps in our busy lives for doing just that, by taking a breath and just being in the moment and noticing life in its tiny splendor. Creativity is nurtured by little things–a beautiful color of yarn, a warm cup of fragrant tea, a soul-cheering chat. Creativity finds its liveliness in the margins, not center-stage, where it is expected to perform right then and there. We must build a practice for it, a home for it, a nest. The tidiness of that nest matters very little in comparison to the value of having the nest at all. Creativity is nurtured by being ok with not knowing, with suspending judgment and a desire for specific outcomes. The nourishing of creativity comes with time and care.
Third Prompt: Creativity is Hampered by:
Creativity is hampered by doubt, by telling yourself that you are unworthy, that you are not good enough. It is hampered by procrastination, which is one of the masks for fear. Creativity is hampered by giving the inner critic too much of an ear, of letting it drag you away from your true nature. We are all worthy; we are all called. Crazy-makers and naysayers want to block you too, so they feel better about being blocked themselves. They will gladly eat your soul alive and think nothing of it. That is a reflection of their own pain, and not your burden to bear. In the end, though, we are often our own worst enemies in this way, crushing our own tender shoots.
Creativity is hampered by fear–fear of failure, fear of the unknown, even fear of success??, fear of ridicule and persecution, fear of not being enough or of being too much or of being mediocre. Creativity is hampered by lack of trust, by being gut-punched by betrayal and self-loathing and worthlessness, which is just a mask for the fear of being unlovable. Creativity is hampered by thinking we don’t have time, don’t have energy, don’t have money or resources. But guess what, we just need to show up, to move forward in faith and self-compassion and all the rest of it moves as well–moves aside or moves into place. Creativity is hampered by stinginess, thinking that our perception of not-enough-ness is actual reality. Instead, we can turn that around to gratitude, to hope, to compassion, even when in our humanness we stumble and fall. We can ask ourselves, “Can I love myself through this?” answer “yes,” pick up, and carry on.
Carry on my creative friends!
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