Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

When One Door Closes, Another Opens…

After two years of writing the Tapping into Creativity newsletter (this is issue 24!), I have come to a fork in the road. I’ve had less and less time to write each month, and it’s finally become time to close this door in order to follow other opportunities.

Thanks to each one of you for your support – those who have only joined recently, as well as my longstanding subscribers, who have been here from the early days. I hope that your journey with me has been as rewarding and enriching as mine has been.

Departing Thoughts On Creativity
I have loved writing these newsletters; they have given me the opportunity to focus deeply on the nature of creativity universally – not just as it applies to me. I have always believed that we are all innately creative beings. What I have learnt is that while we think of creativity as an individual expression, there are fundamental basics and truths we can all use to find that which is unique to us. And that doing so is both a daunting commitment and an extremely exciting journey of discovery.

I’d like to leave you with some words that have been influential in my life for some years:

“We each have an infinite supply of love and happiness within us. We have been accustomed to thinking that we have to get something from outside us in order to be happy, but in truth it works the other way: we must learn to contact our inner source of happiness and satisfaction and flow it outward to share with others – not because it is virtuous to do so, but because it feels really good! Once we tune into it we just naturally want to share it because that is the essential nature of love, and we are all loving beings.” Shakti Gawain, “Creative Visualization”

When we get our creative juices flowing, they nourish not only our inner worlds, but our interactions with the rest of the world as well. Discovering, using and experiencing our creativity – through words, images, music, cooking, dancing or whatever expression comes naturally – is a step towards a richer lives for ourselves. By increasing our inner wealth, we naturally have more to share, and our outer worlds become richer, too.

Taking ownership of our challenges and opportunities, and knowing that we can face them creatively, turns our lives into what I think of as an interactive game. Knowing that we have choices, and that allowing ourselves to fail also allows us to grow, gives us the freedom we need to experiment with life. And a sense of humour is a great defense against all the things we just don’t have control over J

Wishing you all experimental, entertaining and enriching lives, and the ability to spot open doors when they appear!

When Work Gets in the Way

Since my fabulous holiday project last month, I’ve been thrown into the deep end of a late project, with long hours and stressful deadlines, which has unfortunately also eaten into my personal time. Although I love my ‘daily grind’, it’s easy to forget how valuable creative exercise is in refreshing and revitalizing us.

Creativity Quote
I quite enjoy the email signature of one of my colleagues: “One of the signs of work addiction is believing that everything you do is important”. At some point we need to be able to break off and get back into our groove – and this is before a project wears you to the bone 🙂

When Work Gets in the Way
Whatever work we do, when our thoughts are consumed by the demands of tasks, processes and planning, it’s easy to switch off to our inner needs, and leave them for ‘later, when I’m less busy’. However, our creativity is actually one of our most effective tools for regenerating depleted energy reserves, and can be a lot more effective than a nap or vegging in front of the telly / YouTube. When we spend time focusing on a ‘creative outlet’, we slip into a space where we can hear our own thoughts again.
While I don’t necessarily want to be learning anything new, and I’m too exhausted to think up something exceptionally creative (we do enough hard thinking under deadline), I am able to follow the ‘mechanical’ steps of familiar exercises, and these exercises usually provide a ‘hook’ that leads to new creative considerations.
I find it’s important to keep it fun, and not to use the time to try to achieve anything I’ve been planning for a while, because the pressure of ‘delivering’ is already great enough at work. This space is purely for exploring, discovering and unwinding, and there are no ‘results’ other than the experience itself.
How are we rejuvenated?

As we work through the exercise, we find ourselves asking questions that are in part technical but are really about ourselves – should the lines be heavy or light; should I include the cat; do I really want it to rhyme, or is meter more important, and so on. Solving these ‘problems’ leads to new questions and ponderings, which stir the imagination, and because the solutions we decide on are simply one possibility from a range we could have chosen, our awareness of our options and choices expands, and our curiosity about other directions is peaked. These exercises give us a focus beyond the here and now, making us want to engage with the world, not just as a recipient but in an interactive way.
Our creativity comes from our soul, and staying in tune with it helps us keep perspective on our lives, rejuvenates us, and provides us with the inspiration to continue exploring our world.
Wishing you balance and self-discovery through your demanding times…

The benefits of working with limitations

In most of our ‘everyday’ projects we are forced to work within constraints of time, materials, skills and budgets, as well as a range of highly specific client needs, giving very little room for experimentation – the focus is on delivery. When we’re experimenting creatively we don’t need to be anywhere near as rigid, but working within constraints is an excellent way to channel and focus our creative efforts.

 

Creativity Quotes

Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem. – Rollo May

 

Shakespeare wrote his sonnets within a strict discipline, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, rhyming in three quatrains and a couplet. Were his sonnets dull? Mozart wrote his sonatas within an equally rigid discipline – exposition, development, and recapitulation. Were they dull? – David Ogilvy

 

The benefits of working with limitations

Working within a set plan is as critical to developing our creative experience as the aimless doodling we’ve discussed in previous newsletters (Relaxing into Creativity). It offers us the opportunity to put into practice the abstract discoveries captured from our non-focused contemplations, and stretches our responses, ironically forcing us to be more innovative, rather than less.

 

If we don’t have specific imposed constraints, one nice approach is to copy the way children make up rules for their games. These ‘rules’ generally take a reasonably simple exercise which offers little sense of accomplishment in itself but by adding daring elements and time limits, turn it into a series of challenges to pit their wits against. 

 

In a creative project, these rules create a kind of lens, temporarily distorting the way we view the world, focusing our attention to ‘draw out’ our creativity as we rise to the challenge of examining and representing our world from a new perspective. 

 

We also feel invigorated by overcoming challenges, and as we go along, set ourselves new and more stimulating ‘rules’ that allow us to grow from strength to strength. 

 

By forcing us to go beyond our comfort zone, these imposed ‘strictures’ allow us to experiment, push ourselves a little bit further, develop confidence in our ability to meet challenges, and develop whole new lines of interest.  

 

Wishing you all a stimulating and invigorating May.

Working Creatively with Dream Images

This month’s theme was inspired by a strange image in a dream I had recently. Our dream images are layered with information from every aspect of our lives, and when we’re stuck for inspiration, catching even a fragment of a dream can lead us down a whole new path of self discovery.

Creativity Quotes
Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning – Gloria Steinem

They say dreams are the windows of the soul – take a peek and you can see the inner workings, the nuts and bolts – Henry Bromel

Working Creatively with Dream Images
We use our dream images to make sense of our daily lives, to bring important issues to our attention, and remind ourselves of directions that are valuable to us. We do this by using highly personalized symbols, the products of our education, our experiences, and our most fleeting conscious perceptions, all mingling to form symbols that have meaning for us uniquely.

As the creative products of our psyche making sense of the world around us, these images are goldmines for accessing our creativity. But because they’re so dense, it’s often hard to access their meanings. Similarly, if we try to define a single “message”, the richness of the image can be lost.

So how do we make use of our dream symbols?
I particularly like the term “mining” images for meaning. Here are some questions that will help dig out some significance:

  • What is the image?
  • What feeling does it create?
  • What associations spring to mind?
  • Does the image have any universal symbolism?
  • What’s unusual about it, and what could this mean?

Picking out common threads can bring awareness to themes that are hidden below the surface of our consciousness. Focusing on small details and specific images can heighten our awareness of their meaning in our lives.

Dream images take us beyond logic, and allow for very open ended interpretations. Sometimes we can clearly identify a particular theme, but it’s important to avoid tritely pinning down a single explanation. Once we’ve identified a set of elements as a composite image, we give it the chance to build up meaning, becoming a complete symbol in itself, which can recur for future insight. And loosed from the realm of the dream, dream symbols can take on meaning in our conscious lives as well.

Our dreams are a window on the more mysterious aspects of our soul. When we pay attention to them, they provide us with an endless supply of inspiration for creative and personal growth.

Wishing you all a dreamy, insightful April.

My Pick of the Design Indaba 2008

There are still two days left of the Cape Town 2008 Design Indaba, so if you can get there, I heartily recommend it. I’m just back from a 3-hour walkaround, and here is my pick of the exhibitions.

Of course, with over 250 stands, all showcasing design of the highest quality, it’s all worth a look. The criteria for this selection was “it makes me smile” and all of the listed exhibitors raised a grin from me for one reason or another – listed simply in the order I encountered them.

Willow Lamp (stand B17) – I loved these beautiful and elegant beaded chandeliers www.willowlamp.com

Ibo Silver(A42) – intricate and delicate silver jewelry that struck me as having a sense of ceremony www.ibosilver.com

Bousquet Creations (A35) – fun, bold and colourful – really unique looking jewelry that reminded me of the ceramic work on display elsewhere (no web presence)

DME (Department of Mineral and Energies) (B23 – had a collection of incubator projects of great quality and design; Harmony Jewelry School (read more here) and Umfundiso (no web presence) stood out for me

YDA Walt (G27) – I enjoyed the felt bags with striking township-style images www.ydawalt.co.za

Hardware – Ernst Tolmie (A49) – Funky plastic jewelry – one of the Design Indaba ‘Emerging Creatives’ (no web presence)

Mingo Lamberti (A52a) – Great limited edition T-shirt designs (no web presence)

Kaross (A56) – beautifully embroidered textiles on bags, cushions; this is also an empowerment project – www.kaross.co.za

Woo-men Plush Toys (L3) – irresistibly huggable felt character-toys for kids of all ages www.woomen.co.za

Ba-Rok (A71) – Fabric art; I really liked the combination of symbols from different cultures (no web presence)

Gina Niderhumer (L17) – I liked the intimacy and collage look of these hand-stitched purses, cushions and other small items. (no web presence)

Will Designers Save the World? (J2 – J4) Woolworths schools design competition from recycled materials – I particularly liked the use of barrels to create bar-like integrated table-and chair (read more here)

ICON – CCDI (H1-H5) – The best of the Cape Craft and Design Institute crafters – www.capecraftanddesign.org.za

Ceramic Matters (C1) – witty use of ceramics for soft-looking doll-like sculptures (no web presence)

Duncan Larkin (N5) – Another ‘Emerging Creative’; beautifully drawn/painted canvases, definitely on the fine art side of design. (no web presence)

Mü&Me (G17) – comic-style notebooks, stickers, cards and wrapping sets http://muandme.net/

Interestingly, Creative Cape Town is running a “vote for your favourite stand” competition, which sharpened my focus, but I found that none of the stands stood noticeably head-and-shoulders above the rest – I recall two or three blinders from last year, so not sure why there weren’t any this year.

But all in all a fabulously stimulating experience… I’ll be back again next year J

What to do when the lights go out

It’s been a month of frustration for most of us with power outages interrupting work and leisure plans alike, and causing a fair amount of damage. While I firmly believe this crisis should be resolved with the utmost urgency, once we find ourselves with the power out, there isn’t much we can do but sit it out. This month’s newsletter takes a look at some creative activities to help pass the time.

Creativity Quotes:
I really enjoyed these excerpts from last weekend’s Sunday Times:

“What we often call happiness is a ‘flow state’ of unselfconsciousness, the sort of thing that happens when you’re so engrossed in a hobby that you don’t notice time passing”
followed later by:
“Absorption in a single activity such as learning a hobby or skill, instead of wildly multi-tasking, creates a ‘flow’ state of unself-consciousness that helps to develop our higher-functioning cerebral cortexes, and to stem the nagging idea that ‘fun’ is always somewhere else, needing pursuing.”

John Naish, The Ignorance of Bliss, Sunday Times Lifestyle 27 Jan 08

What to do when the lights go out…
Okay, so it’s 12:00 and you’re in the middle of an important document / production cycle when *bam* – the lights, power and aircon go down. Very soon you’re hot, sweaty and bored…
Or you’re sitting with friends or family, watching TV and cooking a meal, when all comes to a sticky end, and you might actually have to make conversation…

What to do? Well, to avoid the trap of getting sucked into another round of heated discussions, here are a few things that should help pass the time in a really enjoyable way…

In last month’s newsletter I talked about being prepared for unscheduled time. If you’re carrying a notebook around, this is Planning and Doing time.

At work:
The funniest thing at work is that we’re now talking to each other! In a world of business-outcome driven communication, email and short phone-calls are our modus operandi. Spending half an hour or more chatting with our colleagues can be surprisingly enlightening, adding a nice social dimension to project teams. This won’t kill all your time though, and maybe your colleagues aren’t the kind you socialize with, or you’re on a pressured deadline. Informal planning and brainstorming sessions can be really beneficial instead – with no time deadline you can really talk things through, and pen and paper still work when our screens are blank J

If you can get out, it’s a great time to clear your head, and since I’ve taken to carrying my sketchbook with me, I’ve discovered it’s also a magic time to get stuck into a creative project. Wordsmiths, artists, crafters, musicians and anyone who doesn’t need powertools can pull out their projects and give them some quality attention… and become an object of fascination amongst your colleagues, who suddenly become inspired to take up their own hobbies…

At home:
If you’re in or responsible for a group of people, this can be trying time indeed. Again, the arts and crafts are all great activities if you can pull everyone together. Alone or in a group, collage is a great use of time – it’s amazing how quickly time passes when we’re collecting images and arranging them meaningfully on a page.

And when the lights are out, and it really is dark, huddled around candles we should steer away from eye-intensive activities (although I confess I often write by candle-light).
Music is a great night-time bonder – if you play, this is good practice time or the chance to show off your own ‘Unplugged’ sound. If you don’t, it’s a good time to bug your friends who do – or make it up as you go along…

Story-telling is also a good imagination stretcher if your group is good for it: I like the “And then…” game, where each person tells a quick ‘chapter’ following from previous ideas, and can have some hilarious results.

Personally I’m not that fond of being alone in the dark, so if you’re on your own, I recommend phoning a bunch of friends, or heading off to a restaurant to do some brainstorming, or have a new food experience, or going to see that movie you’ve been thinking about for a while.

If you have other creative ways of dealing with your power-free time, please let me know, and let’s share with the other readers out there…

And of course, all these can be done with the power up, so don’t feel you have to wait if inspiration strikes…

Wishing you all a peaceful and inwardly illuminating month.

Two Websites Worth Visiting

Great news for the Tapping Into Creativity newsletter is that we’ve been featured on a fantastic site – Creativity Portal. This is a Portal in the true sense, bringing together a huge variety of creative resources, and also features a great monthly newsletter that’s worth subscribing to.
You’ll find the link to our newsletter here, and we’ve already had some traffic – Hello to all our international readers!

And another great idea is Dream Big. It’s an O-Magazine initiative, giving South Africans a chance to put our most inspiring dreams into action – for ourselves, people we know, or our communities. A little assistance like this goes a long way, and I’ll certainly be submitting my big idea…

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

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.