|WEEK 11 | 6 IDEAS TO KEEP THE CREATIVITY FLOWING
Most days I face one of two scenarios in regards to my creativity:
Ali Edwards' passion resides in that special place where the images and stories of life intersect. Visit her online at www.aliedwards.com.
Here's six of my personal favorite ideas for getting into and keeping your creativity flowing:
I'm either out of the flow and want to get back in OR
I'm in the flow and I want to stay there for awhile.
1. MAINTAIN MULTIPLE PROJECTS | It would be rare that I'd have just one creative project in progress. I like having the option to work on what I feel most inspired to tackle on any given day. Some days I just feel more inspired to create new products and other days all I want to do is get my hands messy with paint and collage. I also like that maintaining multiple projects often allows one project to inspire and positively influence another. Sometimes having too many projects can feel overwhelming and become a distraction, making it more challenging to just get one darn thing done. When that starts happening I usually have a little meeting with myself and refocus on what my priorities are at that particular time. What projects can wait? Which ones are calling to me in voices I can't ignore? What really just needs to be finished even if it might not be as perfect as I want it to be? Maintaining multiple projects gives me choices and an opportunity to find creative flow in another project when it just isn't happening in another.
JUST A NOTE | I'm not big on guilt related to creative projects. Some work and some don't. Some get immediate attention and some I've actually had sitting on a shelf for years. Some I will likely come back to and others may never be completed. I'm okay with that. Part of the reason I'm okay with that is because I'm always working on something. Setting things aside for me doesn't mean I'm not creating, it means that something has moved up the list and inspired me in one way or another (or it's become something that must be done on a specific time line).
2. SHOW UP | I'm reading a really great book right now called The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. He focuses on the concept of Resistance - what it is and how to overcome those roadblocks in your life and creative work. He talks a lot about just doing the work (which is the title of another one of his books) - which is at the same time the simplest and most profound way to cultivate a creative life. Simply showing up to your creative work in some form every day creates a habit. "Put the hours in; do it for long enough and magical, life-transforming things will happen eventually." Hugh McLeod from his How To Be Creative Manifesto via Change This
From my own personal experience, I'm good at showing up. I literally show up just about every day. It's the action after the initial showing up that seems to be my current issue. I sit down at my computer and find all manner of things to distract myself before finally getting down to the project at hand. I'll answer email, check Facebook, check my bank account, get distracted by email, peek at Pinterest, check blog comments, etc (all pieces of my work-life, but not necessarily the most important in finding and maintaining creative flow). By then a whole bunch of time has passed that could have been used for actual creative work. I'm consciously working on this for myself right now - minimizing distractions (resistance) and getting the work done. Pressfield's book is helping. I mentioned "showing up" back in Week Four as a small act of courageous activity. In reality, consistently showing up is of the single most important things you can do to cultivate a creative life.
3. GO TO THE MOVIES | When I need to not show-up in the traditional sense of sitting at my computer or standing at my table (because let's face it, we all need breaks from showing up), I head to the movie theater. There's something about the movies that inspires me: the darkness of the theater, the visuals, the sound, the way stories are weaved together from point A to point B. I think what I love most is that I usually leave there thinking and feeling something - an emotional connection has been triggered whether sentimental, humor, outrage, wonder, etc. That can fuel me for days.
4. CONSIDER A SCHEDULE | At first glance a schedule may seem counter-intuitive to finding and maintaining a creative flow. You might imagine that living a creative life means you follow your creative whims effortlessly from one project to the next - super free and flexible. Sometimes it is like that. The problem with following whims, and sometimes with multiple projects, is that it can be a challenge to take anything to completion. Some people are naturally talented at generating ideas (the start of something), while others are skilled at the actual execution of an idea, and still others are the creative closers (the ones who get the job done). Because most of us aren't skilled at the whole package we need to practice each of those skills.
Lately I've found that establishing and attempting to stick to a schedule has been good for getting me in the flow and getting the work done. Maybe it's where I'm at in my life right now but I like knowing, for example, that I bring my past week of Project Life to completion on Mondays and work on digital products on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (from conception to completion). Rather than stifling my creativity I feel motivated and maybe even a little inspired to work within that framework. It hasn't always been that way and it will likely change again at some point. For now flow is happening for me within a schedule and I'm glad for it.
5. GO OUTSIDE | It's been awhile since I put my shoes on and just walked out the door but I know it's an excellent way to generate creative ideas and invite myself into that awesome feeling of flow. There's a clarity of thought that results for me - it's a combination of being outside, exercising my muscles and removing myself from my normal environment. Most often I head outside when I need to get back in the flow vs. when I'm already in it. If I'm in it, I'm working fast and furious to take something to completion before the kids get home from school (or at least complete the task at hand for the day). Going outside also helps to minimize other distractions I might have started entertaining (like mindless surfing) and instead of disconnecting I find I'm more able to reconnect with my creative energy.
6. CLEAN UP | Traditionally one of my favorite ways to get back in the creative flow is to take some time to clean up my work space. This usually results in a few things: (1) I find things I forgot I owned and I get excited to make stuff with them; (2) stories are generated in the process of putting things back in order; and (3) I'm one of those people that simply works better in a tidy space (clear head, clear heart, clear space). All that said, it's been quite awhile since my space has been tidy. Lately I've been working in the middle of the chaos, creating small working spaces for myself on my table by just pushing the mess to the side. This isn't optimal for me but it's another symptom of where I'm at right now - so much of what I'm doing is working in the middle of chaos (physical, emotional, etc). I'm actually okay with that for a limited duration because I'm aware of what's happening and I'm working through it. I don't want to make it my personal creative habit (working in the middle of chaos long term), but right now it feels necessary as I make choices about the ways in which I really want to spend my extra time (with my kids vs. cleaning up my space).
I'd love to hear about the ways you find and maintain your creative flow. Write up a blog post and send me a link, send me an email or post a message on my Facebook page.
More links on keeping the creativity flowing: