Tag: Creativity

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.

Try a little tenderness

Creating of any kind takes you on many wonderful adventures and fills you with such excitement that you want to immediately jump into a new or existing project and just keep going, powering on.  Days when ideas flow easily and you know that this is the right path for you.

Equally there can be times when you are filled with self-doubt, paralysed with feelings of inadequacy, unable to come up with the right words or ideas for your project.  Times of confusion, frustration, self-loathing, periods when you question why you are dedicating your time to being a creative in whatever forms that takes.

One thing that helps get me through such times and subsequent challenges is practicing self-compassion – the art of being kind to me, of treating myself as I would a valued and close friend when they are having a hard time.

Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.

Dr Kristin Neff [1] at the University of Texas at Austin, a world-renowned expert is this area, breaks self-compassion into three main components:
1.  Self-kindness – looking after yourself and refraining from self criticism when experiencing challenges and personal shortcomings.

2.  Common humanity – understanding that you are not the only one experiencing such feelings or undergoing a challenging time, that suffering and personal failure is part of being human; and

3.  Mindfulness – getting in touch with your thoughts and emotions, learning to understand yourself, and then not “over-identifying” or suppressing these states.

Dr Neff has developed both a scale by which to measure self-compassion, and a series of exercises and meditations [2] to bring more of it into our lives.  Tara Brach’s short meditation is also helpful. [3]

The things I find most helpful when being kind to myself whilst creating are to:

Change my language – words have an impact so I take notice of my language and stop using harsh words when I speak about myself to others, when I speak to myself.

  Challenge my inner critic – notice when I am being self-critical – the words, the tone, the key phrases – and reframe the observations to be supportive rather than critical of my endeavours.

  Meditate – and calm myself down, get in touch with my thoughts and feelings, and get myself back on track.

  Accept – that I am not perfect, not always “on” with my ideas generation, my concentration, and my commitment to the task at hand.

  Stop pushing – for the creative process to move faster and to accept that it has it’s own timeframe; it cannot be rushed.

Developing and practising self-compassion has been helpful because it has allowed me to increase my self-belief, to become my own “backing band”.  I have stopped worrying about getting things right immediately, learnt to trust that I have the resources and that eventually everything will be OK once I re-align myself.  Importantly I know a lot more about myself, always a good thing, and how and why I create – or not!!!

Employing self-compassion is one nice way to support yourself when you are creating.  Give it a try.

Coaching can assist you to explore ways to bring self-compassion into your creative life.  Please get in touch if you would like to explore these ideas in more detail.


[1] Neff, K. D. (2003a). “The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion”. Self and Identity. 2 (3): 223–250

[2] Kristin Neff, Associate Professor Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas Austin and author – www.self-compassion.org 

{3] Tara Brach – meditation teacher, author and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC – www.tarabrach.com/meditation-the-rain-of-self-compassion/

The importance of your support team

Recently my long time friend Jai Waters and I released a book on how to affect positive change in your life.  It’s called MORE LEMON: How to transition to a life with more Zest and details can be found on our site.

In the book we talk about the importance of having a support team around when you undergo major change – a change of job, a major or minor life change, a relationship change, a change of direction.  Your support team is made up of trusted family and friends who wish to see you succeed in whatever you do.  Those who will stand by you as you face challenges, provide regular reality checks and morale boosts, and of course celebrate your wins.

On my support team is my great friend Reed Everingham, a therapist based in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.  Reed was also a beta reader for our book providing valuable feedback that enabled us to iron out doubts we had about some of our chapters and strengthen the overall impact of the book.  He has also written about the experience and the book on his blog, which can be found on his site.

Our support team of beta readers was important as it enabled us to gauge whether the book was “working” in the way we wanted it to, if people could fully relate to it and importantly would want to read it.  Our wider support team supported and nurtured us in other ways – cooking lovely food and sharing meals where we discussed ideas, making suggestions for inclusion in the book, keeping us stimulated by talking about events occurring outside our creative cocoon, taking us off to the movies, making us laugh to keep our sense of humour in place.  The list goes on.  They kept us connected to the bigger world as we immersed ourselves in our writing and creative processes.

As we say in the book “change does not occur in isolation” and all those close to you are impacted by whatever is occurring for you.  Creating is the same – we are all stimulated by the world in which we live, the people who surround us.  Invite your trusted friends and family to be a part of your creative and change activities as a support team.  They’ll value the invite and you’ll value their support.  Win-win.

Who will you welcome onto your support team?

Coaching can assist you to explore and enhance your creative process.  For further information about coaching please get in touch.

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

7 habits of mind to boost your arts career

Earlier this year I contributed to an article on ArtsHub called the Seven habits of mind that will boost your arts career.

Metalsmith and lecturer, Simon Cottrell, feminist organiser Karen Pickering, community cultural development practitioner, Susie Waller, and myself were interviewed and asked what behaviours and attitudes help artists to excel and survive in the demanding world of today’s arts practitioner.  The responses provide plenty of food for thought and focus on some of the important intangible aspects associated with creative practice.  Check out the article and enjoy.

Also check out my article on this site on self compassion.

Coaching can assist you to explore ways to increase your self-awareness.  Please get in touch if you would like to explore any of these ideas in more detail.

Inspirational writing

I just wanted to let you know about this wonderful book – Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life.  First published in 1994, it has been described as the bible of writing guides and it’s easy to see why.

It is full of creative strategies to take you through the various stages of the writing process – from getting started and beyond the panic of the empty page right up to publication – in a way that is refreshingly honest, uncomplicated and funny. It is also a wonderful meditation on life, and the importance of family and friendships.

Whether you are a writer or not, this wonderful book has some great insights that will make you laugh out loud. If you get through the chapter called Someone to read your drafts with a straight face I want to hear about it!! Hilarious.

 

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