Archive for the ‘imagination’ Category

Why making mistakes is good

We’re often told, correctly, that one of the ways to free our creativity is to stop being afraid of making mistakes. It’s easy enough to say, but even if you can get your head around the idea that perfectionism is a barrier to creativity, how do we go about accommodating them?

Creativity Quotes:
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams

Why making mistakes is good
Mistakes, errors, blunders, faults, imperfections – call them what you will; all our training has been to remove any reference to them – to erase if we’re drawing, delete if we’re typing; restart if we’re singing or playing an instrument.

We see mistakes as interruptions to our plan, even if we didn’t think we had one – they’re not what we intended, and therefore not good. But what mistakes do is offer us the opportunity to explore beyond where we thought we were going – they introduce that rare element of ‘chance’ into our work.

When we find ourselves with a slip-up, a really creative alternative is to leave it just as it is, and try to work it in.

It’s not always going to produce a beautiful result, so I don’t recommend doing this on anything you’re under pressure to deliver – it will simply undermine your confidence. Rather, set aside some “mistake making” time, a time in which you give yourself absolute permission to err, to make a mess, to stuff things up. If you’re musical, bang away without rhyme or reason for a while. Visual artists can scribble, draw, dribble paint and randomly combine images. Allow words to flow unselfconsciously if you’re writing – and if you’re cooking, it helps to find an equally creative audience J

The human mind is wired to find patterns, to look for logic, to find a repeatable path. This is to our detriment when we’re stuck in a rut of “proven methods”, but when we’ve silenced our critical voice for a while and given ourselves creative freedom, our logical mind will soon start to find new meanings and patterns from the seemingly random combinations we come up with. New sound combinations will resonate with different emotions, and new visual and literal images will create fresh associations, containing the seeds of new directions ready for you to explore.

Practicing making mistakes also makes it easier to be gentle with ourselves when we do make that colossal oops – when that off note can be left as it was without kicking ourselves; where the line out of place just doesn’t matter that much, and the wrong mix of herbs can be smoothed over with ice-cream. See the post below for some more ideas to get started with…

As we learn to be less critical of ourselves, we become more open to new possibilities that unplanned events might hold.

Wishing you a gentle and accepting month of discovery.


Being Creative Through the Silly Season

My festive season tends to be quite hectic, balancing work, family and general year-end celebrations. Even on holiday, we tend to rush around, but fortunately the ‘Silly Season’ gives us a bit of license to experiment creatively in a spirit of goodwill. And if you’re looking for a good creative gift, I’ve also included a list of inspiring books to bump up your Christmas wishlist…

Creative Quotes
Never ask whether you can do something. Say instead that you are going to do it, then fasten your seat belt – Julia Cameron, Author and International Creativity Coach

Life is “trying things to see if they work.” – Ray Bradbury, Novelist

Being Creative Through the Silly Season
We are increasingly beginning to value the truly authentic feel of handmade items over commercial, and appreciating the imperfections that tell us an item is indeed hand crafted – an indication that we are sharing in each others’ creative journeys. But we often struggle to find opportunities where we feel comfortable “risking” a result that isn’t of the highest quality.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, or are spending this time with a group, alone, or away from home, the year-end festivities give us an abundance of opportunities to put our creative intentions into practice – it’s one time when pretty much anyone can find a place to try out something new.

Creative Activities
Here are some ideas to get you going…

· Drawing & Collage: Handmade cards and decorations provide lots of opportunity to experiment; or frame your work as a gift for a friend…
· Photography: Play with portraits of family and friends, try out innovative subject matter themes, and document your holiday story.
· Cooking: Cooking, baking, savoury and sweet, this is a great foodie time to experiment with recipes.
· Music: Drag out your guitar, sing along or dance your appreciation.
· Writing: communicate your festive wishes in your own words – I have a friend who writes all but an essay in her handmade cards (fronted with her 2½ yr old daughter’s paintings), making each card not only beautiful, but a truly personal and memorable message.
· Events: take in a play, some live music or an art exhibition, and soak in the creative vibe J

Wishing everyone an adventurous silly season… whatever happens, you can always blame it on the festive spirit J

Gift Ideas – 6 Great Creativity Books

Whether you’re treating yourself or a friend, if you’re looking for a good creative gift, here are some of the books that I have found inspiring in focusing and developing creativity and originality:

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron 1992 – A timeless classic, now republished in workbook format
The Vein of Gold – Julia Cameron 1996 – An excellent follow-on from The Artist’s Way
Keys to Drawing with Imagination – Bert Dodson 2007 – Brilliant ideas for bringing imagination to drawing
The New Creative Artist – Nita Leland 2006 – Experiments with themes in paint and drawing media
The 10 Faces of Innovation – Tom Kelly 2006 – Excellent introduction to recognizing and developing innovation in a business environment
Purple Cow – Seth Godin 2002 Marketing focused book on finding your distinctive, “remarkable” identity

Finding Your Shining Light

As we wind down to the end of the year, many schools and universities have their final exhibitions of the year’s work. I had the fortune of visiting the False Bay College exhibition recently, and learnt something new for myself.

Creativity Quotes
A sense of curiosity is nature’s original school of education – Smiley Blanton, Psychiatrist and Author

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep – Scott Adams, Cartoonist

Finding your Shining Light
The joy of student exhibitions is the variety of technique, style and skill on display. Particularly in high school or early university years, the number of techniques covered is vast; I saw painting, drawing, graphic design, ceramic and wire sculpture, beading, fabric design and even journalism.

While there were a few students who produced fine work in most of the media, what was most interesting to me was how different individuals fared. Across the board there was strong and weak work, and the same within each individual exhibition. There was not a single display that didn’t have at least one ‘shining light’ – a work where the artist clearly felt comfortable with the medium, and was able to used it to tell a story – from a stern and foreboding self portrait, to a fantastical cat, to a still-life alive with colour.

The thought struck me that without trying all the different media, these artists-to-be would never have found the one medium or style that really resonated with them. Rather than being under pressure to excel every time, being allowed to ‘fail’ in some areas allowed them to produce work that helped them learn about their skills, and hone their natural talents.

From cooking to performance to music, literature, film and the visual arts, or any other form of expression, we all have at least one natural talent, but if we give up the first time we try something creative, we stop ourselves from finding that hidden treasure. Not only that, but when you experiment with different media and styles, you also discover which ones come easily to you, and which ones you struggle with – giving you a point of comparison that draws from experience rather than hopes and fears.

Creative activities
I’ve recently been experimenting with repetition, which as an exercise also allows you to compare differences and discover your preferences. I’ve made a few suggestions below for some of the media, but please adjust to suit your needs, materials and passions…I recommend trying as many of these as possible – who knows what new talents you might discover J

  ·  Drawing: start with a single mark and repeat it on a page until a form starts to develop. Fill in the details to create an image.
     [This exercise comes from Keys to Drawing from the Imagination – a highly recommendable book for anyone wanting to tap into their imagination.]
   ·  Writing: see how many different descriptions or settings you can have for one symbol
   ·  Cooking: try using a core set of ingredients in a variety of cooking methods
   ·  Music: take a chord or scale and try repeating it at different tempos
   ·  Photography: shoot the same subject in different locations
   ·  Theatre: tell the same story for different audiences

I’d love to see what you come up with! If you’re keen to share, please mail me your images or text, or better still – load them up as a comment here…

May you discover new perspectives and talents as you go.

Making Space for Daily Creativity

One of the difficulties we have with bringing creativity into our lives would seem to be the lack of creative projects available to us in our daily lives. A nice solution to this lies in looking at all aspects of our lives as part of one big creative project, and making the time to reflect on how we can bring creativity to what we do. 

Creativity Quotes
In my early life my mother tried to create a nurturing environment in which my mind could play. Her big rule was “Never lose in your imagination.” She told me that thoughts were things and that I would become the thing I thought of most. This kind of empowerment is crucial to creative thinking. – Joey Reiman, Founder of Ideation

I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life. – Miles Davis, Jazz Musician 

Making Space for Daily Creativity
Each of us is unique, and when we celebrate this, we encourage our creativity to flow. When we’re feeling special about ourselves, we have the most reverence for our ideas, and are able to give them full rein.  

I like the idea of creating a sanctuary space for yourself. This can simply be a space of time that you keep, or a physical space decorated to make you feel comfortable and remind you of the things that are truly important to you. Use this space to focus on how you can bring your creativity to meet your day to day needs.

 Although many of us feel panicky at the thought of making extra time, doing this will create the beneficial space we need. Nurturing yourself allows you to nurture the ideas you have, encouraging play between your imagination and the demands of your projects. And making time for creative play puts us in tune with our authentic and creative self, allowing us to resolve challenges faster – which makes more time for ourselves. 

Another significant benefit is that the quality of what we achieve is immeasurably improved when we bring our unique insights and ideas to the work we do – no matter what size budget we have. The results carry our personal touch, and each time we approach a project with this creative aspect, we get to know ourselves and our skills better, and grow in authenticity. 

And when you’re contemplating your tasks and projects in this sanctuary-like space, you can allow your imagination to extend – thinking best, not necessarily big. What would your most ideal solution for this challenge be? Don’t be limited by what you think you can do – before you bring in the practical constraints, take the opportunity to dream of the most interesting and satisfying possibilities. Once we’ve developed a new idea of what can be done, we can come back to the drawing board and apply our capabilities and resources to achieving the most viable solution.  

And because each of us is unique, no two solutions are the same, allowing abundant opportunity for personal expression in our daily life.

 May you find many new avenues of expression.

Capturing fleeting impressions

Hi Everyone
It’s commonly assumed that you need to be creative to attempt any of the arts, but it’s more true to say that we need artistic media to be able to give shape to our creativity. Personal creativity is about capturing fragments of thoughts, focusing on them, and paying enough attention to allow them to reveal the reason for our fascination – a clue about ourselves.

Creativity Quotes
Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it – William S. Burroughs 

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift – Albert Einstein 

Capturing fleeting impressions

Why are drawing, photography, theatre, music and writing important for creativity? Because these media allow us to capture the fragment – to truly bring to life ideas that exist only around the edges of our imaginations. Without needing to have any one purpose, these pieces of  artistic expression fill a function nowhere else seen in daily life: just to expand our knowledge of ourselves.

Artistic freedom gives us the opportunity to come face to face with these snippets, to give them form and life outside of our minds’ eye, and therefore to engage with them in a meaningful way. Short bursts of poetry, a line describing the energetic push of a tree, or a branch through space – these quick sketches connect us to a deeper aspect of ourselves, and help us to get a handle on emotions that are otherwise obscured by the mundane day-to-day of what we call ordinary life. When we acknowledge them and pay attention to them, they are our clues about our true feelings, a kind of inner compass for direction.  

When we encounter the works of others that resonate with us, art both illuminates the shared human experience and elucidates our personal stories, broadening our scope for understanding ourselves and each other.  This is also why states such as meditation and daydreaming are important: these states create the spaces in which our minds are receptive to the impractical and irrational, when we are able to grasp those fragments of thoughts and feelings.

One way of bringing this practice into daily life is to take 20 minutes of your day to just sit and relax, watching the world go by (I like to do this over lunch, making sure I get a real break even if it’s short). Try to find one object each day to contemplate, from a stone to a tree to the patterns on a building. 

Paying attention to what appeals to you about it, what doesn’t, and what particular thing/s you notice about it, provides a framework for catching those edge-type thoughts unawares. Writing is one of the most powerful tools for this, where we often surprise ourselves with observations and opinions we hadn’t been conscious of thinking. Lurking just beneath our standard, ‘set’ thoughts lie a wealth of questions, queries and impressions waiting to be engaged.

As you embark on your creative journey, may your captured impressions become insights that transform the routine into a daily adventure.

Exploration and Play

Here in the Western Cape May started with a sudden cold snap, heralding the onset of winter. As a topic on everyone’s lips, it works perfectly as a theme to explore creatively. So this month we have a short discussion section, with the focus on ideas for creative exercise.

Creativity Quotes
The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working – Ernest Newman

Creative work is play. It is free speculation using materials of one’s chosen form – Stephen Nachmanovitch

Creativity – Exploration and Play
Creative exercises are a lot like play, and rewarding for their own sake. When focused around one subject or theme, they can also form the basis for creative exploration. Try out these ideas to stretch your mind and imagination… 

  1. See the difference: Collect three leaves from the same tree and examine them closely. How are they different, and which one appeals to you most? Why?
  2. Associations: How do you feel about winter? Do you like it, hate it, love it? Choose five words that describe how you feel in the cold. Ask your friends to do the same and discover the variety of ways we view and describe the world.
  3. Patterns: Grab a handful of stones and arrange them into patterns. Not only for winter, this semi-meditative exercise gets us thinking about the placement of each element as we go.
    Also look for changing patterns around you – in plants, streets, paint, everywhere that’s affected by the weather.
  4. Sounds: list the sounds that tell you it’s winter. If you’re musically inclined, you can also try imagining what sounds you’d use to describe the weather (rain, wind, hail, etc.).
  5. Look at colour, line and shade: choose a magazine photo depicting your theme and re-interpret it using small pieces of magazine paper. You’ll be amazed at how much more detail you see.

These simple exercises give us a fresh perspective on the idea or theme we’re working on, stimulating our curiosity and bringing our creative awareness into our daily lives. And by examining what really engages us about our theme, the discoveries we make also give us invaluable insight into ourselves. 

May you have the opportunity to bring creative play into your lives a little bit more each day.

Have an Imaginative Festive Season

Creativity Quote for the holiday season
The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable, because the imagination is where all invention is born – Nick Williams 

Five ideas to expand your imagination Here are some quick and not-so-quick ideas that are guaranteed to stretch your imagination…

  1. Change your perspective – look at things from high up and from lower down
  2. Spend time with a tourist, seeing your world through their eyes
  3. It’s a great time of year to do some colouring-in with a young relative, choosing colours with freedom and even making up the background
  4. Or go big and take up a creative pastime, from cooking to crafting to writing or music, even if it’s just for the holidays
  5. Try making something you’d normally buy – if you have internet access, take a scroll through Wikipedia’s how-to section at and discover a mind-expanding world of ideas for things to do. One page makes the encouraging statement “Nothing is as hard as anyone makes it out to be” and we only find out what we can do by trying J

Wishing you each a happy, rewarding festive season filled with opportunities to dream, imagine and play, and may you all start the New Year with flourish and zest.