Archive for the ‘originality’ 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!

Dealing with Criticism

Creativity is one of the areas where criticism affects us most. Many people believe criticism is necessary to the creative process, yet no matter how strong we are feeling, or how many compliments we receive about our work, a single word of criticism can completely derail us. As creative people, it helps to be able to understand the context, and know how to respond when our worst fears are realised.

Creativity Quotes
Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud – Alexander Osborn

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots – Frank A. Clark

Dealing with Criticism
There are two kinds of criticism – the kind that helps and the kind that harms. Helpful criticism affirms our ability while opening up new avenues. We very rarely receive this kind of input, and when we do, we seldom call it criticism 🙂 Usually what we receive in the guise of “constructive criticism” might be well-meant, but is really harmful.

We might be told flat out “I just don’t like it” or “it’s rubbish” by someone who believes that their ‘honest’, ‘candid’ approach is the best route – note, they don’t say ‘helpful’ or ‘supportive’. Alternately we might receive criticism that stems from our friends / colleagues / mentors’ own fear of failure or rejection – we hear this as a reference to “what others may think” – too risqué, too busy, too subtle, too obscure – fill in your own adjective here.

This input can be very persuasive, but hold on to your direction – how are you going to learn how to be you if you don’t follow exactly your own instincts? It helps to remember that there is no single group of “others” out there – audiences shape themselves around the authentic output of people they resonate with. If your work doesn’t resonate immediately with your family’s sensibilities, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to add value to someone else’s life – or indeed, your own.

This kind of input needs to be understood as rooted in someone else’s fear – we can thank these well-meaning advisors for their concern, and even respect their feelings without taking them on (since we have enough of our own fears to deal with 🙂 ).

And finally, every now and again we might land up on the crippling receiving end of a destructive, scathing attack. Often this is more about the “critic” than it is about us – our work, in the course of following our expression, might hit someone else’s raw nerve, or they might simply have been out to pick a fight. However, there is nothing logical about our reaction in the moment – it hurts!

Sonia Simone, author of the marketing blog Remarkable Communication, wrote a brilliant post on this earlier this month, and I encourage everyone to read the original – Sonia is a compelling writer and handles this topic with humour, empathy and a great deal of wisdom. In summary, here is my take on her five points:

  1. Keep a testimonial file
    Where our creativity is concerned, we find it hard enough to believe compliments, let alone remember them. When you receive a compliment, keep a record of it somewhere easy to find, to have on hand whenever you need to remind yourself that you are okay, really. If you haven’t got one, trawl through your email (if you’re like me it can go back for years) looking for positive messages from friends and family.
  2. Resist the temptation to kick yourself for getting upset
    You don’t have to be strong in the face of adversity. When you acknowledge the hurt and give yourself permission to feel it (or “wallow in it”, as Sonia puts it), it stops lurking in the back of your mind, ready to attack the next time you’re feeling low. And once you’ve done this, you’ll find you can look at the information you’ve received objectively.
  3. Control your outward reaction
    Responding with bitterness and further insults is often satisfying at the time, but eventually leaves us cold, and carrying both the pain of the criticism and the harsh words we’ve let into the universe. Walking away is okay here; as is saying “Thanks for the input” if you’re at all able to. Chances are that down the line you’ll be able to pick out the positives you aren’t feeling right now – but it’s okay if you wait til then to feel grateful 🙂
  4. Don’t over-correct
    As above, your creative exploration is taking you somewhere. Don’t change your course based on someone else’s criticism – they may have something of value to add, but rather let that work itself into your work naturally and slowly, than swing over to ‘their way of seeing things’.
  5. Congratulations! You’re succeeding
    Yes, you have produced work, and it has produced a reaction. It really is worth a celebration, and while this is not the same as drowning your sorrows, it’s probably okay to do both at once 🙂

One thing I’d add is to learn how to give truly helpful criticism yourself (see the post below). This way you’ll know it when you hear it, and even be able to assist others in giving useful criticism.

Wishing you the courage to remain authentic and positive in the face of any challenge.

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

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.

Originality and Being Authentic

Originality is one of the most challenging aspects of creativity – we seem to judge and value people according to how original they are. This puts a huge pressure on our own creative activity, creating a block for our own expressions. Yet our creative work is made particularly our own through our choice of symbols, and how we feel about and represent them.

Creativity Quotes
Don’t worry about your originality. You couldn’t get rid of it even if you wanted to. It will stick with you and show up for better or worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do – Robert Henri 

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it – Clive Staples Lewis

Originality and Being Authentic
Our expression is not the technique we use, or the genre we fit into; it’s what is left over when these descriptions have been removed – it’s a bit like our attitude, reflecting the way we perceive and interact with the world around us. 
Although it is most obvious in our creative work, our expression permeates our lives. We choose symbols for the way we feel about them – they may be bold, brusque, entertaining, witty, objective, inquisitive, abundant, decorative, baroque, gentle, challenging, edgy, stark, lyrical, dramatic, provocative, nurturing, soft, muted, rough – and as our circumstances change, so we find different expressions. Over time the unconsciously recurring elements become our ‘signatures’ that can’t be changed or erased, no matter how hard we might try. In fact, at one stage the founders of Cubism, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, made every attempt to erase their own identities in their paintings, trying to create art that was truly ‘objective’. They used the same techniques, format, subject matter and colour palette, and the work is very hard to distinguish, but in the end, each artist’s style or touch remained – Braque having a softer, more feathery touch, and Picasso being bolder and more aggressive. Even when the most talented artists try to disguise their style, it will come through. Although we might worry that there is nothing that makes us distinctive, we can’t help but be unique, and the more space we allow ourselves for creative freedom, the more we reveal that side of ourselves. 

Creative Activities: 

  • Colour: list the colours that feature most prominently for you – in your wardrobe / jewelry / paint box / home décor / garden / office etc. What do they symbolize? Why do you choose them? 
  • Symbols: what images do you associate with the following concepts – they can be very personal or universal:
    Growth – Choice – Spirit – Search – Challenge
    Find a picture of one of them that you can save onto your desktop.
     
  • Think of famous personalities who represent the following concepts for you – what is it about their style that makes you say so?  Excitement – Excellence – Support – Rebel – Trust 
  • Choose a few of these words to describe yourself
    bold, brusque, entertaining, witty, objective, inquisitive, abundant, decorative, baroque, gentle, challenging, edgy, stark, lyrical, dramatic, provocative, nurturing, soft, muted, rough, searching, excitable, patient, curious. Continue with words from your own list.
     
  • If you’re feeling adventurous you can make an art work based around these concepts, representing yourself through symbols and style. 

We are challenged to be unique, and the path to that is to be authentic: we don’t become original by being different from others, but by truly being ourselves.  

May you discover and celebrate the things that make you unique.