Free Your Mind

Books, chai and a fergThis week I planned on setting some principles and guidelines to help free your mind and get ready for the ideas and crafty bits of what I hope to show and teach you. However, someone beat me to it in the forums. Her post Nurturing creative energy and productivity captured a lot of the things I was hoping to write about. So instead of doubling up on those ideas, I thought I'd add to what she started there and share with you 8 more thoughts on the things that help and nurture my creative spirit and process.

1. Be a sponge. Ideas can come from anywhere. Keep yourself open and receptive to whatever hits your "ooh" center. Listen to your inner selves (yes, I believe we all have different aspects to our personas that crave different types of creative and intellectual input and nurturing). Trust your intuition and allow it to guide you into places you normally wouldn't go to. Read lots; about anything and everything. Don't be afraid to try new ideas or mediums and see what happens when you mix and match.

2. Give yourself permission to play. Creating is a dirty and messy process. The art of recording your personal thoughts, brainstorming and emptying your head on paper is never pretty. The creative process is filled with scribbles, cross outs and messy handwriting that could make a doctor cringe. No one ever has to see every little thing you write down. Grab all your crayons and dump them on the floor and allow your intuition guide you to which colors to color the blank page with. Your planner is your space to sketch out new ideas, to record new thoughts. When that great idea strikes, you’ll be scribbling fast and furiously, doodling and making a lot of mistakes in the attempt to get it all down on paper. This is not school and you won't be graded on penmanship or for coloring outside any lines. There is no spell-check and no pretty fonts; so silence that inner critic and allow yourself to write big or tiny or be as scribbly as you want.

3. Keep a positive attitude. This is art class. You are cutting and pasting and maybe sewing books together to record your thoughts, activities and lists. Don't roll your eyes at the techniques. Keep a child's positive attitude and go with the flow. If you’re not having fun you’re not allowing yourself to be open to new ideas and having a closed mind is not going to help you get to where you want to be. Being silly, playing and recapturing your youth helps your inner spirit see things in ways that your adult mind won’t allow you. It also makes you live longer and laugh. If at first you feel things don’t turn out as you wanted them to, scrap it and start over or use the "mistake" in another project. Take a deep breath and realize that it's okay to mess up and make a few mistakes.

4. Be yourself. Look to what other's have made and how they've made it for inspiration; but take what they know and make it your own. Sometimes something that someone else has written or created inspires us to design one of our own. What works for others may not work for you. There are a lot of forms out there and not all of them will help or inspire you to keep everything together. Experiment with your forms and planners. Instead of rehashing it, take their ideas and make it personal. Make it yours. Share your art. Be proud of what you've made and want to share it with others. Look in the galleries, and see all the personalized modifications people have done. While they all share similar templates, the design and covers and bindings are completely unique. They reflect the personality and passions of their owners. I've seen a lot of ideas people have come up with while making and constructing their own Hipster planners. It's amazing what one little pack of Index Cards, a binder clip and a pen inspires people to make.

5. Step back and take breaks. Writers' block and inspiration fizzles happen. We all get stuck occasionally. What's important is how you deal with it. Many people believe that when you create, you have to keep moving. Well, sometimes it's okay to take a step back; go outside, get a change of pace and view. Recharge your creative batteries. Look at that painting from a different point of view. Slow down and drink a cup of chai with your coworker--who knows, they may offer a new perspective on your idea that pushes your plan into new directions. Go to the gym and give your body a work out. Give your mind a break while your body gets in shape. If you have a multiple projects going, I find that rotating from writing to editing or making a collage helps to break through any creative blocks I have.

6. Write or draw everything down. If you follow the Getting Things Done school of thought, you'll be writing or mind mapping EVERYTHING that comes into your inbox every day. You'll want to keep your pens and inks or crayons by your side to capture it all down. Believe it or not, a large chunk of the creative process is getting all the ideas out of your head and down on the page. No matter how big or small it is. Writing a story? Scribble all the notes you have for plot, character and setting. Even those first lines. It doesn't have to be in an outline or even make sense, you don't even need to write the whole story from the beginning to end yet. Just get it all down and date it so that you can go back to it later and process and massage the ideas into more coherent thoughts to use when you're ready to kick that project off.

7. Date everything. You may not think it, but dates are important. Knowing when you had the idea helps to keep things moving. Going back a month or a year ago can also help combat creative blocks. I know I'll go through my journals and see ideas that I've turned into stories and books as well as ideas that had never went anywhere. Time changes perception and a story idea you had 5 years ago that went nowhere may now be ready to write. Dating entries also allows you to learn and see how far you have progressed in life. We learn from the past and if you don't date your entries, sometimes it's hard to recognize where you have been and why it was important that you record that note to yourself about something you wanted to do. The same holds true for your collages and sketches. Date those too.

8. Make creative play sacred. Make your writing or creative practice a daily ritual. Set aside a special place in your home where you go and create. Set aside special time each day where you go into this sacred space. Light a candle, light some incense, listen to music that fills your head with inspiration. But most importantly, allow yourself to enter that space leaving the daily junk behind you. It may sound silly but the more you keep to a daily ritual and allow yourself to leave the cares of your "mundane" life behind, the more you’ll find yourself open to your intuition and ideas and the easier it is to write it all down. I have a room, dubbed the studio, that I've surrounded with art and books and candles and incense and all the things that help me play and be creative. I write and craft books and make collages in this room. When I enter this space, I leave all my cares behind. I light a candle, close my eyes and focus on the creative project I’ve set up for myself. And then, I see where the blank page leads me.

There is no perfect way to "be creative". No secret formula, no wonder pill. The creative process is messy and when you start using your planners to record your personal thoughts and images you'll notice your inner critic saying all sorts of mean and nasty things to get you to stop. Don't let it get to you. Keep writing or drawing, no matter how badly the words flow or the art may seem. Practice makes better and the more you flex and stretch your creative talents the better they'll be. The Mona Lisa wasn't made in a day and neither was the last Harry Potter book. Great literature and art take time and many edits to perfect. Allow yourself to have fun while using your new system and give yourself lots of time to settle into the new thoughts and patterns and habits of writing everything down. If you keep up with your system and track the things that are most important to you, you'll find that you'll have everything you need when you decide to write your next novel or write your first website proposal.

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What a wonderful write-up!

Thanks for this! It's becoming more and more clear to me how benefitial this worky-worky stuff (GTD, Planners, etc) can be to my artistic self. I'm learning to fight the urge to say "ah, but I'm being CREATIVE, I need no schedule, no planner, no GTD! I am moved by the creative spirit which cannot be confined by such trite trimmings." Thanks for teaching me to call BS on that. Sure, sometimes maybe it's true. But when I ain't Gettin' Things Done, then...well, it makes me think of another 3-letter abbreviation....WTF. :)