Last week’s post Transforming Self-Criticism and Lethargy Into Creative Flow generated a lot of comments both on my blog and on Facebook so I thought this week I’d address a couple that speak to what many people were saying, and add a bit more in terms of practical things you can do to cultivate and expand your creative energy.
WHAT IF YOU’VE SUPPRESSED YOURSELF FOR SO LONG YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
What about when you have done this to yourself for so long, so often, that you no longer know what inspires or pulls you forward? I am just existing and slowly dying in a j.o.b. that I need, but know I don’t want.
I think we can all relate to this – the feeling of being so exhausted by the responsibilities of our lives, or depleted by our routines, that we feel lost and don’t know where to start to get out of this.
The first thing here is that you need to boost your energy. When you’ve got the story that you’re dying in your job, you’re generating a lot of resistance to your life. Sure, your job may not be everything you’d ever dreamt of, but it does the one things jobs really need to do: support you. So, annoying as this may sound, what if you changed your story to being grateful for your job? What if instead of seeing it as a burden, you broke down all the parts of it and found aspects of it that you do enjoy and focused on those? We can’t be in huge resistance and great flow at the same time. It just doesn’t work like that. So the first step is to transform your resistance into something life-giving and expansive like gratitude. And, to further facilitate this shift, what if you started imagining that your job is temporary? What if you saw it as a stepping stone of support in your greater journey of self-realization and doing work that inspires you?
Beyond work, you’re only at your job 8ish hours a day, yes? You sleep another 8, have daily responsibilities and/or a commute for another 4, and are then left with 4 remaining hours. What are you doing with them? I love what I do but when I don’t take care of the things that nourish me, I get really run down. With those 4 remaining hours you have each day, you have to hold them like the golden seeds of nourishment and possibility they are and utilize them to your best ability. Remember when I said in last week’s post how I’d find my painting students lying on the ground “…caught up in (so much) resistance and self-judgment they were literally drowning in it, lying on the floor feeling unable to get up and re-engage with the flow”? This is a bit of what you have going on. So how do you break out of it?
Usually the things we did as kids are not far from the things that will enliven us now. What did you enjoy when you were a kid? Whatever it is, in those 4 hours a day you’ve got, you should do that. The sabotage thing EVERYONE gets into at this point is to say “When I was a kid I liked to color, play, make forts, dance, sing, bang on pots, etc. but I don’t feel inspired to do that now so I don’t know where to start.” To this I say: if you wait until you FEEL inspired, you will wait f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Inspiration comes WHILE being creative. So, it really doesn’t matter where you start. You just have to start. Sitting down with a fresh box of crayons and a coloring book could be your next best step, a way of nodding at the muse and saying “I’m willing and making an effort to engage” and you might find that after a few days of doing this, new ideas start to trickle in, and the flow that now feels very low will become increasingly stronger.
WHAT IF YOU THINK THE IDEAS THAT COME TO YOU AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH?
What if the only inspiring thoughts and ideas coming to you are super cliche and superficial? I can’t just go along with dumb ideas that don’t contribute to deepening the art, but those are the only thoughts that occur to me and if I go with those then I’m cliche and superficial.
Let me say it again: You can’t be in huge resistance and great flow at the same time. If you’re busy telling your muse what you will and won’t do and snub the inspiration she gives you, she’s not going to give you anything else. I say this from a lot of personal experience of feeling the flow of inspiration dry up because I’m so caught up in “perfection” that I won’t take a risk to go with what’s coming to me.
When we snub the inspiration we’re given, we’re overlooking that our muse’s give us particular inspiration for a REASON. Like: to get us to loosen up. Or, specific to this case, to show us where we’re so caught up in self-judgment and concern for how we appear to others that we’ve become unwilling to be open, receptive, and adventurous.
Not every inspiration is going to be a masterpiece. If you look at any long-term artist’s body of work, you’ll see that many pieces were warms up for future pieces, necessary steps that helped them develop a particular skill or perspective that informed a later work. This is what sketchbooks, simple works, and cathartic pieces we make only for ourselves and not to share with others are for – places to play with new ideas as well as work out the kinks in us that are blocking the flow from moving easily through us.
10 PRACTICAL THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CULTIVATE & EXPAND YOUR EXPRESSION
I have a friend who attended an experimental high school where instead of the students being told what to study and do all day, the faculty waited for the students to have an interest in something and then they’d teach the student through what they were interested in. Sounds great, eh? Well, what happened is when students would transfer to this school from public school they’d sit and do NOTHING for about six months. This would prompt the student’s parents to come in concerned about their child. The faculty would explain this was completely normal and that when children are placed in school and told what to do all day, from the minute they wake up to when they go to bed, they lose the ability to hear themselves, be inspired, or be creatively self-initiated.
Are you willing to enter into this kind of creative discovery process – where you let go of the rules you’ve been taught to play by, and instead open up to what wants to move through you now? If so, take this list on like a map that will guide you to the next level of your creative freedom. It will… if you show up and let it.
1. The Artists Way by Julia Cameron.
2. Do Morning Pages. Write 3 pages each day in your journal stream of consciousness and see what happens.
3. Sing for 10 min. a day without stopping and without directing it in any way. Set the timer so you’re not watching the clock.
4. Paint or draw for 30 minutes a day without any direction. Choose colors your attracted to, move your arm, see what happens.
5. Buy and read the book Life, Paint, Passion by Michelle Cassou. No matter what art form you pursue, this book will open you.
6. Drastically decrease your time on email and social media.
7. Put on music and dance for 30+ minutes a day in your house alone. It’s harder and more beautiful than you’d think.
8. Meditate daily. Practice deep listening and discerning your true voice from the cacophony of other voices within.
9. If you’re prone to being scattered, lie on the floor and wait until you feel deeply drawn to do something. When you feel it, do whatever it is. Lay back down when it’s over and wait for the next strong urge to direct you.
10. Go for walks and take pictures of what you see. Notice what you’re attracted to.
If you want to read more on this topic, check out: 5 Considerations to Get Your Creativity Flowing & Take it to the Next Level
Viva la creative revolution!