If you look back over your creative life, when were you the most creative? When did you feel artistically alive, inspired and committed?
If your first thought is “never”, I invite you to look again. Was it planning a party or a trip? Singing in choir? Decorating your first apartment? Sewing a Halloween costume? Pouring heartbreak into poetry? Making gifts? Refinishing furniture? Spending time in the garden?
Take It to Your Journal (1): Pull out your journal and write about a time when you felt creatively alive, when you were so ‘in it’ that time flew by. It doesn’t matter if you were 9 or 90, if it was last week or decades ago. Whatever creative memory feels rich and right is perfect.
We can look at these experiences to find clues about what brings us creatively alive. What was present? Who was present? What were we doing? What was happening in our mind, body and heart, as well as in the art?
Here’s an example from my creative life. This summer I decided to take a roll of paper and some paint out back for an afternoon of working big and messy. I put on my overalls and my headphones. I listened to music and danced in the sun. I fought with the wind, who constantly freed the paper from the weights I’d put down, and I (mostly) laughed when I lost that battle. I sprayed, spritzed, dabbled and glopped. I painted with a brush, my fingers, sticks and leaves. I created all sorts of fresh and ugly work, found moments of beauty and certainly a lot that held energy and interest. The afternoon passed in a heartbeat and when I was done, I couldn’t wait to do it again! I have been using bits and pieces of that wild and messy artwork ever since!
Reflecting on my experience, what can I discover about the keys to my creativity?
- Overall: The whole experience was steeped in a sense of freedom.
- The Space: There was room for me to move and it was okay for me to make a mess.
- Clothing: I could move easily in my clothes and had no worries about getting messy in them.
- Solitude: Being alone meant I only had to worry about my own judgments and expectations. If I could let those go, I was totally free.
- Music: Music bypassed my brain and spoke to my heart and body, inspiring me to dance and to open up to fuller expression
- Nature: The wind kept me from taking myself too seriously!
Take it to Your Journal (2): Now reflect on your own experience. Going back to your memory of creative aliveness, what keys can you discover? What was present? What was absent? What contributed to your creative energy and flow?
Finding these keys releases us from the belief that what we need is an exact replication. (Yes, that retreat in Bali was amazing but it’s not the only road to creative freedom.) Getting locked into the specifics limits our options and keeps us stuck in the past. If I believed the only way for me to be creatively alive was to work big and messy outside, I’d spend the entire winter in despair! Not helpful. Instead, I can use my keys. How can I create freedom of movement? Where else might it be okay to get messy? What playlists can I cultivate to nourish my expression? How can I create periods of solitude for the good of my creative heart? What else can help me take myself less seriously?
Take It to Your Journal (3): Now that you have found some of the keys to your creativity, how can you use them more and more? What’s one key that you can make use of this week?
This is a powerful exercise in getting to know yourself as an artist. Discover and use these keys to unlock your artistic freedom and bring your creativity to life.