Category: Creative Time Out

Preparing for the summer break

The festive break and summer holidays are looming large as we move into mid-December and January.  It is a very social time with lots of parties, end of year celebrations, family gatherings at Christmas or Hanukah or New Year.  It’s great to celebrate the end of the year with your friends and family and it can be as busy as you allow.  And whilst it can be exhilarating it can also impact on your regular creative routine, processes and productivity.

Summer breaks are a great opportunity to have that well-earned rest and put your feet up.  Resting is important as it lets you clear your brain, break with regular routines, do different things and engage with the world to find new inspiration for your creative endeavours.  Often it can be a chance to catch up on sleep or to do something physical.

So why not prepare and give yourself permission to stop and enjoy all you get up to.  Eradicate the guilt before it begins and when the break is over you can get back on track with your work.

Here are some tips to help you make the most your summer break.

  Set some creative goals and tasks for your first couple of weeks back at your desk, or in your studio, and outline what you want to achieve during this time.  It could be things like setting up your calendar and scheduling your creative milestones, or setting your goals for the entire year.  Make it fun so you enter the year looking forward to creating.

  Have your creative journal with you so when ideas arise you can record them.  That way you will have some new ideas to work on and put into play when you get back to you studio or desk.

  Remember to have things to hand that will relax, stimulate and inspire you – such as books, podcasts, DVD’s and TV series, your friends.  Things that will take you totally away from your work and enable you to unwind and return refreshed in the New Year.

  Set aside some time out for reflection.  Review your creative process – what is working well, what isn’t, where are the opportunities for improvement or change, what would you like to do differently in the coming year.  Look back and acknowledge all you have learnt and achieved over the last 12 months.

  Make time to get physical – swim, hike, run, dance, walk, play tennis, rock climb – whatever takes your fancy.  Just move and rejoice in your body.  It has supported you to get this far.

  Celebrate your success and uniqueness.  Pause, congratulate yourself and express gratitude for all you have created.  It takes courage to express your creativity and share it with the world.

  Spend the festive season with people who have supported you over the year – either in person or virtually.  They will enjoy seeing you away from your work, relaxing and having fun.  But do remove yourself from any family or friendship tensions if they arise – and they may at this busy time.  If you need some guidance on how to handle these tensions please see my counsellor colleague Reed Everingham’s blog.

Whatever you do – ENJOY IT ALL.  And don’t forget the sun block.  Best wishes for the festive season and the New Year.

Coaching can assist you to manage your creative life.  Please get in touch if you would like to explore the ideas above in more detail.

Pace yourself

Watching the Olympic games in Brazil I was again reminded of what elite athletes can teach us as artists and creatives, about life in general.

As we go about our life, practice and business there are many important things that we, like athletes, need to consider in order to live and create – building and maintaining our fitness, developing our practical skills and mental toughness, preparing for the big “race”, celebrating our successes, reflecting on and learning from our wins and losses, and importantly refreshing ourselves after our achievements.

Great athletes understand the importance of recharging and recuperating, of learning all they can from their performance whether they win or lose, and of refocusing on the next event, the next gold medal, trophy or premiership.  They understand how to manage their energy.

 

the challenge of great performance is to manage energy more effectively in all dimensions to achieve your goalsengagement is not simply one-dimensional.  The energy that pulses through us is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.  All four dynamics are critical, none is sufficient by itself and each profoundly influences the others.  To perform at our best, we must skilfully manage each of these interconnected dimensions of energy.” 1.

 

We need to manage our energy to ensure that we have the stamina to go the distance to fulfill our goals of becoming successful people, artists and creators, however we define such success.

How do you manage your energy across all your four energy dynamics – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual?  Do you give yourself time to rest, review and learn, recuperate and recharge on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis?  If the answer is no, or sometimes, then it may be time to rethink what you are doing.  Here are some suggestions to help keep your energy levels firing.

  Take regular breaks – Creating is a marathon and a good way to tackle the distance is with regular “sprints”.  Set interval targets for your creative endeavours, whatever they may be, over a day and then have a break to refresh. Write, compose, paint, draw etc. with no interruptions for an hour and then have a ten minute break.  It works and stops procrastination.

  Recharge – Identify things that bring joy to your life and make a commitment to do at least one of those things a day.  And make them achievable.

  Play – Feed the creative part of your life and make time to play2,  to do things that aren’t about projects and outcomes.  Go out and have some fun, and get caught up in living in the moment.

  Move – Move your body and exercise as it is a natural stimulant with both proven physical and psychological benefits.  Physically it increases your aerobic and anaerobic fitness; muscle tone and strength; energy levels; flexibility; sleep quality; plus more.  Psychologically it improves your confidence and self-esteem; reduces your stress levels; and increases your feeling of well-being.

  Reflect – Allocate time in your day to reflect on your successes, how you feel about your work and its progress, on your life, those people who are important to you.  Do something that allows you to listen to what’s going on ‘inside’ you and to be grateful for all of it.

  Sleep and eat well – Develop and maintain healthy dietary and sleep routines.  Choose nutritious fuel for your body and eat at regular intervals to maintain optimum energy levels.  Too little or too much food at the wrong times can impact on your performance.  Schedule your work to ensure you get between seven and eight hours sleep a night to rejuvenate.

Give yourself the best chance to do your best and have a break.  You don’t just deserve it – you need it!

Coaching can assist you to pace your creative life.  Please get in touch if you would like to explore these ideas in more detail.


1.  Loehr, Jim and Schwartz, Tony (2005) The Power of Full Engagement – The Free Press, New York, page 9

2.  National Institute for Play at http://www.nifplay.org

Creativity rules!!!

As we move into a new age, a new way of thinking, creativity and innovation have become the ‘buzz’ words of the decade.  We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.1

Creativity means many things to different people and in different contexts.  It involves bringing ideas to life, making the imagined real.  It permeates our lives and affects how we live them.  Definitions of creativity and creators vary.  And creativity is not just for artist.  It is for business people looking for a new way to close a sale; it is for engineers trying to solve a problem; it is for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.Creativity is an essential part of being human and something that we all have the capacity to learn, or re-learn.  As children creativity is something that comes naturally – just watch any child at play and observe how they engage their imagination.  Often  we have this creativity “knocked out” of us as we move through life’s aging stages where greater emphasis is placed upon logic and reason.

In his research during the 1950 and 60s Professor Roger W. Sperry discovered that the brain divides tasks into two main categories within the hemispheres of the cerebral cortex.  The left hemispheres deals with tasks logically and analytically, with language and numbers, reasons sequentially.  The right hemispheres reasons holistically, interprets nonverbal expression and emotions, deals with spatial awareness, recognises pattern or whole picture awareness, and imagines and daydreams.Creativity stems from the right cerebral cortex, the “right brain” activity and in the Conceptual Age the tasks handled by this area of the brain will be valued as never before.

During his research Sperry observed that people trained in skills relying on one side of the brain as opposed to the other, formed dominant habits that favoured activities controlled by the favoured brain side, strengthening these activities and habits over time.  However, “When people who are weak in one area were trained in that area by experts, they invariably increased their skills and strength in that given area, and, what’s more, simultaneously strengthened their performance in other areas.”

In short, thinking from one part of your brain or another is really a function of habit.  Like all habits thinking can be expanded to incorporate new experiences and elements, and to increase access to and use of the “other” non-dominant side of your brain. It’s best to be using your whole brain

Try the following activities to stimulate your brain, your thinking, to change some habits and expand your creativity:

  Give yourself permission – first off give yourself permission to “play”, to create, to tap into avenues for self-expression different from what you usually do; and permission to enjoy whatever happens as a result of this “play” time.  Not everything has to be about an outcome.

  Sharpen your curiosity – take yourself on The Artist Date,  “a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.”Go off and do what brings you fun, joy and stimulates your curiosity.  Take a notebook and pen to record your imaginative thoughts along the way.

  Take a week off – from distractions that stop you from being creative.  Turn off the television, stop reading the newspaper, leave the computer or phone off when you are at home. See what happens as your imagination flourishes.

  Create a Mind map rather than a list – when faced with tasks/challenges/finding solutions consider doing a mind-map rather than a written list.  Draw up a map of all the ingredients and have fun accessing your right brain for ideas.

  Daydream or do nothing – both of these activities allow the unconscious to become conscious and the imagination to surface and flourish.  To get you started sit back and think about the first time you created something and what that felt like.  Let your mind drift from there.  If asked to explain what you are up to just quote Steven Spielberg and say ”I dream for a living”.

  Visualise – a very powerful tool to enable you to open up your thinking.  “In creative visualisation you use your imagination to create a clear image, idea, or feeling of something you wish to manifest.”   So take a stack of magazines, choose a central image to represent your goal or theme and then cut out and paste images to support that image onto card. It is fun to do, very relaxing and can yield surprising results.

Whatever you choose to do – enjoy.

Coaching can assist you to change your thinking habits and stimulate your creativity.  Please get in touch if would like to explore these ideas in more detail.


[1] Pink, Daniel H., 2006, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainer Will Rule the Future, Riverhead Books, New York, p. 2
[2] Tharp, Twyla, 2006, The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life, Simon & Schuster Paperback, New York, p.7
[3] For an amazing story about on the difference between right and left brained thinking check out the following site: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html
[4] Buzan, Tony, 2005, The Ultimate Book of Mind Maps, Thorsons, London, p. 53
[5] Cameron, Julia, 1994, The Artist’s Way, Pan Books, London, p.19