Every day, I read at least one article, blog or excerpt from a book about creativity and innovation. It seems like a topic of the time we live in, and it has always been a priority focus in my life.
We often think of creativity as an ephemeral quality that belongs mainly to artists and inventors, but I have always believed that it is an inherent quality in human beings, something we’re born with.
I don’t believe there are ordinary people, only people who have let themselves blend in. Some people just seem to have more access to their creativity than others, and are able to be effective at using it to manifest new artworks, inventions, products, services or other expressions in the world.
Allowing one’s self to experience the full potency of one’s own creativity is indeed a powerful experience; it is the one thing that never fails to make me feel “empowered.” When other things in life have gone wrong, and I’ve felt discouraged, I could always count on the vibrancy of my imagination to carry me through. It’s like having a magical friend who’s always there for you, able to help you perceive a dark day differently, and to help you find a new way to do things so they will work out better next time. It’s like carrying around a bag of sunshine inside!
So how do I access my own creativity? It’s something I have to stop and think about, because it comes so automatically to me. We all get stuck in ruts, especially when we’re busy, overloaded with work and the stimuli of modern life. In the early years of my career, it occurred to me that I was becoming a “workaholic,” spending most of my time developing my expertise and trying to prove—to myself, as much as others—that I was highly competent and could produce the results demanded in the workplace. I would often work many more than eight hours a day, until I realized my life was way out of balance. It was time to shake things up and rekindle the flame of my inner artist, which had languished for too long.
Like any other skill or ability, we need to make time in our lives to be creative and to nurture our gifts, which we develop further by choice. We may be born with a particular talent, but unless we make time to keep learning about it, we will get stuck on a plateau. I felt that was happening to me, because I wasn’t taking enough time to sing, play my instruments, write poetry, draw, paint, or develop any of the other creative skills that came easily to me as a small child—maybe too easily. A wise person once said that the hardest gifts to value are those that you take most for granted.
To find your gifts, you have to step back until you can see yourself from a different perspective. You do not necessarily have to make a drastic move, such as abruptly quitting your job or moving to another location.
To live more creatively, you have to make a commitment to yourself to do it in small, regular, ongoing steps, every day, rather than thinking only in large, black and white pictures. We tend to do too much “either—or” thinking, i.e. “I’ll tell my boss to shove it, I’ll hit the road, and I’ll write the next Great American Novel, make the bestseller list, and be a star, and I’ll never have to work again.” It’s either that, or we tend to think of ourselves as a “failure,” locked into a job that holds little meaning for us, where we overwork and don’t do our artwork for years, or whatever truly gives us joy and touches our heart.
Fortunately, a growing number of people are rebelling against this mindset and are not waiting until “retirement” to rediscover those precious inner talents. Leading the rebellion are women—Spirited Women—everywhere, especially in the Western World, where a combination of affluence, education, feminism, a yearning for a more balance life, and an openness to self-discovery has led us to take strategic risks and set out on new paths toward our long-deferred inner dreams.
Often, the inner voyage to rediscover one’s spirit and hidden talents starts with a vacation, a weekend retreat or a workshop—such as the fabulous Spirited Woman Workshops, created by Nancy Mills—which we give to ourselves as a treat, much like going to a spa on a rainy day. We invest in our self for a few hours, or a day—and then, the trick becomes: How do I continue this joyful ride and keep it going after the workshop or retreat is over? How do I make that commitment to my own creativity, on a daily basis, in my regular life?
Every Spirited Woman must ultimately answer those questions for herself, but here are a few simple steps anyone can take anywhere, right now:
• If you are sitting at a computer, get up and go for a short walk—if you are not able to go outside, walk through your office building or home, and take a different path than usual. Take a different elevator, a different hallway, or walk past a different department—vary your routine.
• Look and listen attentively as you walk. Notice anything different than you noticed before. Use all your senses, and take deeper breaths. Notice all the sights, colors, sounds and smells around you. Carry a notebook or journal with you and take a few minutes to jot down some of your sensory observations. The main idea is to shake up your routine, be in the present, and notice new things, using all of your senses.
• Say hello and engage in a short conversation with at least one new person a day, if possible, or three to five new people a week. Don’t just choose them for business networking reasons. Try to notice more people who are different than those you would normally talk to—people of all different ages, genders, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Say hello to as many different kinds of people as possible, and enjoy talking with them, even if it only lasts for a minute. Find at least one quality about each of them that you especially appreciate, and write it down in your journal. Notice the range and tone of their voices, and if they have an accent. Write down any details like this that you notice.
• Do at least one thing a day to vary your schedule or routine—if you normally boot up your computer and check your email first thing in the morning, do something else instead for 15-30 minutes, such as standing up and doing simple stretches, listening to music, or taking a short stroll outside. If you can’t leave your desk, close your eyes for a few minutes and listen to all the sounds around you. Take ten deep breaths before you open your eyes, and then write down some of the sounds you heard.
I’ll bet when go on to a more routine task, you’ll have a slightly shifted perspective, and it will seem like a more joyful task to you than before. You may find yourself feeling strangely energized or at least, lighter, like a burden has been taken from your shoulders.
If you repeat the relatively non-threatening exercises above for a week or two, I guarantee you will start experiencing a subtle shift in your perception of your environment. Who knows, it could lead to other things, like taking a half hour every other night to do something creative that you’ve been avoiding or haven’t enjoyed for awhile, instead of just turning on the television.
You might read a chapter of a new book, do a simple doodle drawing, or make up a song about something happening to you, even if it feels really silly! Whatever comes naturally to you in your half-hour daily “retreat” is where you should start.
If you add up three or four nights a week where you spend a half hour on your inner self, you’ll eventually add hours of creativity to your life that you didn’t think you had. It’s time for a joyful reunion with your inner Spirited Woman, a gift you can give yourself every day or evening, wherever you are, no matter what else is going on in your life!
© 2006, Cathryn Hrudicka
Cathryn is Chief Imagination Officer of her own companies, Creative Sage and Cathryn Hrudicka & Associates.
Cathryn has attended two Spirited Woman Workshops in San Francisco and Berkeley, CA. Thanks, Cathryn.