I am currently facilitating an Artist’s Way group and one of the themes that continues to emerge from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way which serves as our text is making time for “play”. The exercises that we have been engaging in often include one that has all of us thinking about what we would do if a job or life’s circumstances provided us with amble time to do what we want. We have been really taking time to talk about this, especially all of the things that we feel we must do, often based on some kind of outside approval (our children, our job, our families, our friends) but not enough on our own desires.
In Scott Barry Kaufman’s and Carolyn Gregorie’s book, Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, they list “imaginative play” as one of the Ten Things Highly Creative People Do Differently. They share that research has proven that “imaginative play” is important to creativity in a variety of areas including science, technology, writing, music, and the visual arts. Play contributes to a “flexible brain” activity, which is “primed for creative thinking and problem solving”.
We live in a world where work and being “responsible” often moves discourages us from making time to relax and “play” freeing our minds for creativity and innovation. As the self-care movement continues to take hold, we should consider where we are short-changing ourselves with including more “play” into our lives.
One thing is understanding how play benefits us as adults. HelpGuide.org lists the following as benefits of play for adults:
Helps Relieve Stress. “Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.”
Improves brain function. “Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.”
Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. “You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and solve problems.”
Improve relationships and your connection to others. “Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to include a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.”
Keep you feeling young and energetic. “Play can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you function at your best.”
Now that you know how play can help you and enhance your creativity….here are some steps from the Mayo Clinic that can help you bring back a sense of play to your life:
• Schedule time for a hobby. “Always wanted to learn woodworking? Love gardening? Make time to do the things you enjoy. But make a point to find joy in the process, and not just focus on the end product.”
• Enlist social support. “Doing fun things with others is a key aspect of playfulness. Perhaps you'd love to join an adult soccer league. Or maybe a bird-watching club is more to your liking. Or, maybe you just like to meet a close friend for coffee to talk about life.”
• Play games. “According to one study, people averaged about 2,000 more steps a day when they started playing a mobile app game that used the device's GPS, rewarding players for finding objects in different places. You can create games in your nondigital life, too. Try racing people on the escalator while taking the stairs. Or pass the time on a car trip by playing a game of I spy.”
• Visit a park or playground. “Getting out in nature can improve your mood and can be a fun social activity. And there's no such thing as being too old for playing outdoors.”
• Stop and smell the roses.” Playful people tend to be those who take the time to appreciate beauty in the world. Practice mindfulness and catch a snowflake on your tongue, notice the changing leaves and how they look, feel or smell this fall, or allow yourself to jump in a puddle during the next rain shower (rain boots optional).”
Also, consider making a list of things you love to do or once enjoyed. Each week, make a goal to do one thing on that list and schedule time to do it. Play time isn’t a waste of time, when you reap the benefits of how it can help you creatively.
What kinds of activities do you engage in for play? How has it helped you creativity?
Sources: The Benefits of Play for Adults (HelpGuide.org) and 5 ways to bring play back into your life (The Mayo Clinic).
As creatives, we may tend to keep everything we want to do in our brain and not necessarily organized in a way that we can remember and follow. I recently discovered a visible and creative tool to help me keep my ideas and projects organized so that I can move forward with some sense of confidence and order. Creating a Mind Map is one tool that helps me to get the information from my head and out to the universe for me to clearly delineate how my creative projects will flow. It is a great way to include notes for your project as well as visuals that tie it together effectively to literally "map out" your ideas.
Mind Maps are structured to focus from the center...and raidate out using lines, images, words, colors based on simple, "brain-friendly" concepts. The design is based on using information that many of us would use for planning by converting them into a brain friendly way of taking in the steps and processes. There is no real "rule" in organizing your thoughts around the central idea. You can put down any idea that pops in your mind and then organize when it makes sense to include them.
According to Mindmapping.com, there are "Five Essential Characteristics of Mind Mapping" which includes the following:
How to Make a Mind Map
Your finished product should help you visually "map" out your thinking process in reaching your creative goal. Have you ever used mind mapping for your creative projects? How did it work for you? If not is it something you would try? Feel free to comment below.
Artists and other creatives have engaged in a variety of rituals to help them get into the creative “zone”. By engaging in activities to prepare for their creative practice, it helps to signal to the mind and body that serious creativity is about to occur.
First, what exactly is a “ritual”? The definition according to Merriam Webster that is appropriate when it comes to creativity is defined as “an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.” These are often associated with a religious or spiritual practice but it does not have to be aligned in that way. A ritual can just be specific daily habits that a person does to prepare for the day or to turn in at night. This discussion focuses on those habits or “rituals” a person may do to unblock or recover their creative side.
In the article, Can Rituals Trigger Creative Flow? in Forbes, Andrea Morris highlights a how Francesca Gino, a behavioral scientist at Harvard Business School, characterizes ritual as a pattern of behavior comprised of 3 central components:
Artists and creatives have been engaged in rituals to prepare for their work for centuries. In the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey provides a provocative survey of famous creatives and their daily rituals to prepare for their creative practice. Georgia O’Keeffe would wake up at dawn and make a fire, tea and sit on her bed to watch the sun come up. She often took a half-hour walk in the morning as well. George Gershwin would start the day with the same breakfast, compose work at the piano in his pjs, bathrobe, and slippers, take a mid-afternoon lunch, then a late afternoon walk . Louis Armstrong maintained a pre--show ritual which included arriving at any engagement two hours before starting,” dosing himself with the home remedies he always swore by: swigs of glercin and honey” to prepare his voice and lungs for performance.
For me, I start off lighting incense that gives me a sense of fresh aromatic, creative energy in my studio, followed by my favorite playlist on Spotify or Amazon Music, tea or coffee, and perhaps a snack. I find that if I don’t include at least one of the first three (incense, music or tea/coffee), I cannot concentrate on my writing or my art until all are in place. It signals to me that I am ready to create for the long haul (a couple of hours).
The main advantage of creating some kind of ritual or routine is to do something rather mundane to free yourself to creativity. “The main gist behind a creative ritual, regardless of the actual action used, is that the brain responds very positively to the routine.” states Addison Duvall in the article Developing A Creative Ritual (For Higher Productivity) published on HongKiat. “If you’re wound up about a project and are feeling scatterbrained, having a ritual can help calm you down. Something like meditation, reading, or listening to music can help you focus your mind and eliminate the jitters.”
Do you engage in a habit or some form of ritual to help you unblock and focus on your creative practice? How does it help? Share any thoughts on engaging in a ritual below?