A few years ago, as part of my recovery from depression and divorce, I began to explore my artistic side. As things got better and I became more engulfed in work, my creativity dried up. I miss it because not only was it personally satisfying, art also fed my creativity in other facets of my life.
As an antidote to my current dried up state, I'm now working with a friend on Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a sort of 12-step recovery program for finding your creative center. Interestingly, I'm seeing how some of the practices can be applied to our professional lives.
Morning Pages--I've written about these before, but the idea bears repeating. Morning Pages work like this. Every morning when you get up, you write--in long hand--3 pages of whatever comes to mind. The goal is to empty your head of all of your concerns, what's on your mind, etc. It's a practice that can clear the space for more creative thinking. It's really a sort of writing meditation.
I've been doing Morning Pages off and on for several years. When I stick with them, they help. When I don't, I start to dry up. Note to self--keep it up. If you want to try out the idea, check out this link for tips on how to start your own practice. Also check out this video of a discussion with Tom Tierney of The Bridgespan Group where he discusses how he's used a personal journal to drive his own professional practice.
An Artist's Date--Julia describes it this way:
"An artist's date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a., your inner child."
You will be tempted to put off or re-schedule or to bring a companion. You should resist these temptations and give your Artist's Date the same respect you would give to a business appointment--maybe more.
A Week of Reading Deprivation--As someone who can finish a few books in a week and who is constantly online reading blog posts, articles, etc. this one scares the crap out of me. A week without reading will, for me, be like a week without food. But Julia's premise is that depriving ourselves of reading "casts us into our inner silence." She argues that for most blocked people, reading is an addiction. "We gobble the words of others," she says, "rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own." I suspect this is true and I also suspect that this will be one of the worst weeks of my life. At least at the beginning.But I can also see how listening to our own voice could be a great key to re-claiming our own creativity. It helps us get clearer about what we want and need so we can return refreshed.
Take a Risk a Day--It's easy to get locked into our comfort zones. I know that if I'm not vigilant with myself, I lapse back into routine and focusing on what I know I can do well. But as we've discussed before, risk-taking is a form of learning. It's also something we have to get in the habit of doing. Thinking each day "Where did I take a risk" could be a small but powerful practice.
One of the most important things I'm finding in going through this process (which is just starting, by the way) is that what we resist is what we most need. That is, I'm reading some of these exercises and thinking "that sounds stupid" or "I don't have time for that." But then I realize that the fact of my resistance is actually a clue that this is the activity I most need to do. My resistance is simply my brain's way of trying to keep me locked in my comfort zone. So when I hear that little voice saying "You don't need that," I know that it means that I DO need that. Which means, friends, that in a few weeks I will be going without reading for 7 days. It's a good thing you don't live with me, because I suspect that I'll be extremely crabby then.